It's very difficult to critique a film that you've built up in your… MoreIt's very difficult to critique a film that you've built up in your mind to be an event, a statement of American nationality and patriotism, and a protest against censorship and terrorism. That being said, this is a complete letdown. Everything you expect this film to be, it is: stupid, over-the-top, needlessly violent, features needless nudity, and it's generally racist at times. The film starts going wrong when we learn absolutely nothing about the main characters. Seth Rogen and James Franco could be playing themselves for all we know, because the only backstory we get is that they are star and producer. That's their entire relationship, which doesn't explain their closeness of Rogen's motivation for getting the interview in the first place. The premise is dumb, the entire theme of "honeypotting" is not only sexist but annoying, and the plot has so many holes, you can basically look right through it. The problem facing this film is that Rogen and Goldberg are wearing too many hats: director, writer, and star. Too much control over a product can be good, but it can also blind you to the uniform errors in your art. This has been the case with past films, but it's very glaring in this, their most talked about film. The performances from Randall Park and Diane Bang are great, as is Lizzy Caplan's as a CIA agent, but Rogen and Franco are phoning it in. There are some memorable lines and some decent dialogue between Kim Jong-Un (Park) and Skylark (Franco) but we're distracted from that by inappropriate violence and misplaced butt jokes. It's a little disappointing that this was the product that was stigmatized and sensationalized, because it's just as unfunny and ridiculous as everyone expected.
The main idea behind this romantic comedy is one that has never been… MoreThe main idea behind this romantic comedy is one that has never been successful before. Generally if there's a man off-screen waiting to whisk some poor girl off her feet, there also has to be an evil boyfriend who treats her very badly. The premise of this film is "What about when the boyfriend is perfectly nice, but you really like his girlfriend?" The film navigates the problems with wanting to date a close friend, and how not to appear disingenuous, skeevy, or conniving, but wanting to be all those things if it means getting the girl. Daniel Radcliffe plays Wallace, a heartbroken former med student who doesn't know where his life is going and hasn't been interested in love for some time. Zoe Kazan is Chantry, an artist who has a boyfriend, and becomes friends with Wallace after meeting at a party. I will say that their chemistry is pretty great, which mostly relies on their amusing banter and their inappropriate levels of nudity. The thing that bothers me about the film is the neat little ending. The entire premise of the film is that relationships are messy and not every love story starts with a look across a room and love at first sight. The ending negates all that by mitigating fate's role in love. Otherwise I thought the film showed that love makes us uncouth, and our subsequent actions can be blamed on its infallible charms.
A children's film that blends together different genres (action,… MoreA children's film that blends together different genres (action, superhero movie, animated movie), "Big Hero 6" feels much bigger than you probably gave it credit for. Based off of a Marvel comic, this film truly feels like a superhero film from start to finish. It begins with bot fighting, then tragedy strikes, and then the crime fighting begins. There's a pretty menacing villain, letting revenge go in the midst of grief is a major theme of the film, and there's a lot of action and futuristic technology. Stan Lee even makes his customary cameo (in animated form of course.) It's a very strange story to make into an animated kids' film, only because it was based in the world of comics, which has been predominantly obscured by the boom in superhero live action films of late. That being said, the animation and the original artwork blend together perfectly and it makes for a really fun watch. The beginning is a little slow because it's trying to explain backstory as quick as it can, but otherwise the story is pretty solid, and the film overall felt stable. This is a film for all ages as well as for Marvel fans.
Based on the book by Jonathan Tropper (who also wrote the screenplay),… MoreBased on the book by Jonathan Tropper (who also wrote the screenplay), this film concerns a family's reactionary response to the death of their patriarch. The four kids and their families move back in with their mother to sit Shiva, grieve, get back their roots, and come to grips with the way their lives panned out. The greatest asset this film has lies in its great choice of casting. Fey, Bateman, Driver, and Stoll bounce off of each other like Super Balls, bantering well in every scene, and actually seeming like a real family. Everyone fights, everyone loves, and everyone has their own opinion, making for a mostly sweet natured and silly ride. What I believe remains the main problem of the film is that it's based off a sprawling novel, which ties together about twenty different storylines in only an hour and a half, while the book was some 339 pages. The film follows dozens of storylines without following many of them for more than a minute at a time. This under develops the story, the characters, and the dramedy of the film. This lends to what critics have said about this film being cliché ridden. Because the characters aren't fully developed, and not enough backstory is given, they have to be simplified down to the most basic terms, and that drains the sentimentality right out of the film. Otherwise entertaining, "This is Where I Leave You" remains classically sweet through its paper thin characters.
Featuring rich, bold performances from Wiig and Hader, this film… MoreFeaturing rich, bold performances from Wiig and Hader, this film easily straddles the line between comedy and drama. The tension is brought about by Milo, (Hader) who is recovering from a recent suicide attempt when he goes to stay with his twin sister Maggie (Wiig). They have a family history of suicide as well, which adds to their weird relationship. Their mother is also distant, Maggie's relationship with her husband is fraught with infidelity, and Hader has a dark past thanks to a love affair with an inappropriate partner. While the twins wade through these events, Wiig and Hader perform through their brand of off-the-wall comedy. There's often some really odd interchange between the characters that sounds like a conversation our two lead actors would actually have off-camera. There's a lot of improvisation, but the film still retains its dramatic leanings. Ultimately the film blends together nostalgia, desire, and the fragility of love, as major themes. This is a very strong film, and features some really amazing performances from comedic actors, making it one of my favorite indie films of the year.
Taking more from the original comic than the 1995 adaptation, "Dredd"… MoreTaking more from the original comic than the 1995 adaptation, "Dredd" is simple, bloody, gory, gross, action packed, and thrilling. This new Dredd (Urban) is played as a straw man Clint Eastwood, who is vetting a young psychic (Thirlby) for active duty. Their interplay makes for an interesting team, and adds tension to an already thrilling plot. Lena Headey was an sound choice of villain, and she remains threatening throughout, especially when she calls for violence against her own people. Most of the film is set within the confines of a single housing project in a poverty stricken area of a futuristic world. Designer drugs come into play, there's economic and social disparity, and much of the film shows how big this world is without being explicit in details. It's paced rather well, and there's a lot of potential for a sequel. This truly delivers where other action films are happy to stand on the sidelines.
The most infamous of the Troma films, "The Toxic Avenger" features,… MoreThe most infamous of the Troma films, "The Toxic Avenger" features, what can only be described as, a mentally handicapped man who is turned into a monster via nuclear sludge. His voice changes, he gains super strength, and an ability to sniff out evil. He is given the power of destroying evil, and does so around town while the corrupt police try to catch him. The film is pure exploitation, which includes: child murder, eye gouging, and attempted rape of a blind woman. After all the unfortunateness of the evildoers, and the violence that the avenger enacts, the story becomes very campy. "Toxie," as he is called, becomes Tromaville's superhero, gets a girlfriend, and tries to foil the evil deeds of the corrupt mayor. While this film may be upsetting for some, because of its violence, it stands as one of the better camp films of the eighties. If we're picking incongruities, the ending was nonsensical, but that's a bit of a nitpick when you take into account the nonsensical nature of the entire film. A very fun film throughout, this is not for those who get easily offended or find violence off-putting.
The original "Cheaper by the Dozen" is based on the autobiography of… MoreThe original "Cheaper by the Dozen" is based on the autobiography of the real Gilbreth clan, who lived in early 20th century New England. The film is queerly obsessed with the olden days, and how great they were. Headed by patriarch Frank (Webb) the family of twelve moves to another state, gets a big house, and shenanigans ensue. Tonsils are removed, makeup and heels are denigrated, there's a school dance, and a dog somehow takes residence in the home. Webb's character is supposed to be wacky yet strict, but he comes off as a loudmouth sexist. His often slut shames his daughter (Crain) who is just trying to be a normal teenage girl. He talks a lot about the virtues of marriage, the inefficiency of others, and his own warped, often outdated views, on a plethora of other subjects. I understand that this may have been the tone of family life in the twenties, but language such as this has no bearing on a family film in the early fifties. Frank is always trying to show how efficient he can make certain processes, but in the midst of it he often talks down to people and basically insults everyone's intelligence. It's a film that tries to be sweet natured, but Webb's dialogue comes off like a mean girl lecturing on morality. It comes off as fake and twisted, tarnishing any family value it tries to exact.
Pairing together hedonistic teenagers with the problems and poverty in… MorePairing together hedonistic teenagers with the problems and poverty in Mexico, "Y Tu Mama Tambien" tells a story of vices. Most of the film features sex, drug use, and perversion in general. It centers on three people (Verdu, Bernal, and Luna) going on a road trip across Mexico while flirting with one another, engaging in intercourse, and viewing the world in their own selfish terms. A voiceover weaves throughout the film to give perspective to the setting of the film, which often includes poverty, crime, and gore. Most have argued that this parallel is stark, that showing the real world implications of the cultural landscape shows that our protagonists are that much more selfish, hateful, and spoiled. That message often gets lost in the sexual contrivances of the three lead characters. The ending pulls back from the fieriness of the action and gives needed perspective, which is what ultimately makes this film meaningful. The ending shows the buffoonery of the men, how free Luisa (Verdu) wants to feel but can't, and that the entire film is building to something wonderfully introspective. This film doesn't always show how Mexican poverty is generally denied by the upper class, but it does show the contrast between what matters in life and how we often ignore what's right in front of us.