Saturday, July 05, 2008

Movie Reviews



(warning, spoilers abound)


Get Smart has pretty much nothing to do with the original Get Smart TV series aside from character names and general adherence to the concept, but since I've seen maybe two of the original episodes (YTV used to air the series back in the day, I remember it being on before the Adam West Batman show), I enjoyed it without any nagging feeling that it wasn't 'right,' or this character wouldn't act this way, or a bunch of TV nerd stuff that I do with a lot of other adaptations. I'd basically describe as a slightly more serious Austin Powers, so unlike that movie, you might be able to watch Get Smart in a decade and not be put off by how corny and dated it seems. Sorry, I'm still in disgust over Love Guru, which I haven't even seen but still hate just from commercials alone. Steve Carell has now accomplished the difficult task of adopting a well-known comedic role and making it uniquely his own without losing any humour in the translation. First it was making Michael Scott distinct from David Brent on the Office, and now he made his Maxwell Smart different from Don Adams' Maxwell Smart. The one thing he doesn't do is have an iota of chemistry with Anne Hathaway, since I'm sorry, he looks like her dad up there. Her youthful look is actually a plot point, but come on, couldn't they have cast someone at least five years older? The situation isn't helped by the fact that Hathaway isn't a good enough actress to pull it off, nor is she funny enough to justify her presence altogether. In short, Carell generated more sparks kissing the Rock than he did kissing Hathaway. Oh yeah, by the way, speaking of the Rock, he was barely in the movie. C'mon, Rock's a natural comedian. They could've last literally anyone in his role. Ok, well, maybe not 'literally' anyone. Sal Mineo wouldn't have worked as well. Is Sal Mineo dead?

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My friend Jordan saw the Happening before I did, and without revealing any of the plot details, noted that the movie probably would've been better (or at least better received) if M. Night Shyamalan had gone all the way and made it a true tribute to those old 1950's horror movies. You know the ones I'm talking about --- the stilted acting, the black-and-white photography, the propensity to make everyday objects into 'the monster' mostly due to a lack of budget, etc. So I went into the movie with the mindset of looking at it as a throwback suspense/horror movie, but I still thought it sucked. I'm just not sure what Shyamalan was going for here. If I had to guess, given M. Night's love of Hitchcock, I'd say this was his answer to The Birds, where nature becomes the enemy. But it's just so poorly done. Signs and the Village, for their faults, at least had genuine moments of suspense and shock throughout. But in Happening, my audience treated it like a comedy. In the scenes when everyone stares ominously at the wind rushing over the grass, the theatre crowd tittered incredulously. It was, in the words of Homer Simpson, the laughter of impatience; THIS was the big threat? No, come on man, this is Shyamalan, there's surely another big twist at the end of the....oh no, wait, that was it? The plants were releasing a killer toxin? Like how Marky Mark casually theorized was the problem in the first 20 minutes of the movie? Oh. Talk about anti-climactic. And speaking of Marky Mark, by God, Wahlberg continues his streak of being the most hit-and-miss actor in Hollywood. He was the most notable of the 'stilted' acting style I mentioned earlier, with his most notable trait being his increasingly high-pitched voice. By the end of the movie he sounds like Stewie asking Brian about his novel. Zooey Deschanel does literally nothing in this movie but deliver wide-eyed reaction shots. By the way, in the latest example of my idiocy, I only just realized that Zooey and Emily 'Bones' Deschanel were sisters. Since apparently Deschanel is a really common last name in my world. Even cooler, though, is the fact that they're both the daughters of great cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, who really should have an Oscar by this point Academy, hint hint.

Shyamalan, at this point, has to sit back and take some stock in his career. With this film and Lady In The Water, he has taken a step back from using a twist ending every time out, which is a good step, but he should really talk to his studio's publicity department for continuing to market these flicks as your typical 'M. Night Shyamalan movies.' This isn't to say he isn't equally to blame given that he consciously made himself into an above-the-title director and a guy who made his name on surprising plot turns. Perhaps M. Night should take a page from Tarantino. After Pulp Fiction, instead of killing himself coming up with an original follow-up, QT adapted someone else's work and the result was Jackie Brown. Shyamalan should stop trying to top himself with the screenplays and just stick to directing for a little while in order to give the creative juices time to build up. Off the top of my head, it's been a while since we've had an adaptation of Ten Little Indians. Take a crack at it, M. Night! The twist ending is already built into that one.

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Wanted comes across as a poor man's version of Shoot 'Em Up, which was easily the goofiest action movie in recent memory. The trouble with Wanted is that unlike Shoot 'Em Up, it seems to take itself a bit too seriously at times. The tongue is removed from the cheek when it comes to discussion of James McAvoy's character and his father, which creates a bit of an eye-rolling "get to the fireworks factory" reaction from the audience, who just want to see McAvoy continue to...well, shoot them up. It's bizarre that a movie this relatively unambitious managed such a big-name cast as McAvoy, Angelina and Morgan Freeman. Freeman hasn't been above taking the occasional paycheque role (now known as 'a Michael Caine role') in the past, but as for Angie, doesn't it seem like this is the kind of movie she should've made five or 10 years ago? By the way, like a pitcher with a rapidly decreasing K/BB ratio, bad things are on the horizon for Angelina. She's already looking somewhat stretched and gaunt in this movie --- I shudder to think what will happen in five years. She might make Meg Ryan look like someone who aged elegantly. Brad Pitt is no doubt already updating his Rolodex of young starlets for his next upgrade. Let me be the first to predict it's Emmanuelle Chriqui. Just a wild hunch.

Anyway, Wanted. A minor thumbs-up, but wait for a rental or a matinee screening. My favourite part was when the hero, Wesley Gibson, Googles his name and comes up with nothing, just to underscore what a pathetic nobody he is. Um, his name is Wesley Gibson. If they were going to do this gag, they should've given him a more unique name. I found about 3,320,000 hits when I Googled it. For example, there's a fairly well-known author by the name of Wesley Gibson. The Wanted creators could've easily avoided this problem by calling him Gibley Wesson. Don't see what the problem is there. I don't know anyone named Gibley. And only one person named Wesson -- Survivor: Australia winner Tina Wesson. What are the odds she'd have a relative named Gibley? Pretty slim.

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This week's blog poll concerns Pixar's films, though to make things more interesting, I should've made the question "which is Pixar's third-worst film?" I think most would concede that Cars and Bug's Life are the lesser of the Pixar movies, but even those two are pretty good (and if Dave Foley is reading this blog, I'm sure he'll have an angry response). But for third worst, boy, that's tough to pick. You could find people to make passionate arguments in favour of any of the other seven. This list of nine films is basically the animation equivalent of a really killer baseball lineup --- Pixar is the 1927 Yankees, and it's up to each individual to pick their own Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. And all nine of these movies have come out in the last 13 years, which, given the time it takes to craft an animated film, is basically like if the Beatles had condensed their whole recording career into four years.

This is all just a long lead-in to say that Wall*E is yet another Pixar masterpiece. In many ways it's the most ambitious film yet, but everything is pulled off beautifully. Apparently the big concerns from Disney's perspective were a) it might be a bit slow-moving for younger kids and b) the environmental theme would strike some (i.e. idiot conservatives) as preachy. The theatre audience was largely comprised of young children at my screening, and far from being bored, they seemed enthralled. There was no shuffling of feet or whines of "Mommmmm.' It was almost total silence except for laughter at the funny bits, a few awwws at the (for lack of a better word) love scenes between Wall*E and Eve, and one high-pitched shriek of 'Oh no!' in the scene where Wall*E is hanging onto Eve's ship as it takes off. As for the second point, after the film was over, I'm pretty sure I saw a five-year-old carving Al Gore's face into his arm. Sorry conservatives, another one lost.

I'd put it into the upper tier of Pixar films, along with Incredibles and Finding Nemo. Ratatouille and the Toy Stories make up the second tier, then you've got Monsters Inc., Cars and Bug's Life. This may be influencing the poll, but, well, who gives a damn. Think for yourself, people. Pretend you're the ship's captain and I'm Auto and rebel against my tyranny. Fun fact: it is actually a Pixar company rule that John Ratzenberger does a voice role in every one of their movies. That's very cool. It's enough to put him in the top five in the Best Post-Cheers Career Championship. Last place, to no one's surprise, is Rhea Perlman. Second last is Shelley Long. Third last is Nicolas Colasanto...ouch, sorry ladies.

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Spoiler alert: Young People Fucking contains several young people, fucking. It's an overall amusing movie, but while I was laughing and smiling throughout, I'd hesitate to call it genuinely hilarious. A good 60 percent of the humour in the movie comes from recognizing situations or lines of dialogue that ring a bell for anyone who has been in a relationship. ("So why'd you find it so funny, Mark?" Shut up, Voice of Reason!) For those unfamiliar with the concept, the movie is structured into vignettes of five couples...well, four couples and a threesome all engaging in different sexual relationships. One group is the long-term couple, one group is on a first date, another are exes, etc. I'm not sure if I particularly favoured any of the couples, though the exes were the most realistic and the threesome was the funniest. The first date couple was probably the weakest, just because the acting was terrible. You know how most British actors seem good just because of their accents and generally elevated demeanor? Well, the guy in the first date was British and yet still terrible. The actress, a former Playboy model (thank you IMDB) wasn't any better. I don't get it! Hef's drama program is usually so reliable! Who can forget Carmen Electra's electra-fying performance as Lady Macbeth?

The other bit of comedy in YPF is, since it's a Canadian film, trying to identify the actors from what low-rent Canadian shows or commercials you've seen them in. "Ooh ooh, he was in an episode of Corner Gas!" "Oh, it's that guy from Billable Hours!" "I think she was on that CBC Hockey Wives show!" Good times. It reminded me of my days studying Canadian film in university, when I'm pretty sure Don McKellar was in every movie made in Canada between 1990 and 1995.

I look forward to the sequel, Middle-Aged People Fucking, starring Andrea Martin, the bearded guy from the Canadian Tire ads and Elvira Kurt. Man, I hope they're not the threesome.

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From top to bottom, I'd rank them Wall*E, Get Smart, Young People Fucking, Wanted and the Happening.

2 comments:

Peter Lynn said...

Not only is Sal Mineo dead, but he's infamously dead, as in murdered. As in stabbed to death in a back-alley slaying rumoured to have "a homosexual motive", although it was apparently actually just a mugging gone wrong.

(I initially typed "murder gone wrong", although the perp actually did a bang-up job of getting the murder part just right.)

Kyle Wasko said...

"infamously dead" has a nice ring to it (though not for me).

I've only see Wall*E (10/10) and Get Smart (a respectable 7/10).

Stray points:

1. Any chance you could post your poll results after you put a new one up? I'm curious to see which show you've got in your sights right now.

2. My issues with The Village aside (it's really not very good being the big one), I maintain that--SPOILER ALERT...even though it's four years old--if it were really, it'd be the biggest mindfuck of all-time. There's a 0% chance that any kid bounces back from thinking it's 1897, but then discovers it's actually 107 years later.

3. I agree with your Wahlberg assessment, except for the "hit" part. By my count, he's been an actor for fifteen years and been in precisely four good movies (Boogie Nights, The Departed, Shooter, and The Italian Job.

4. Think we may go see Wanted this week...though talk about your faint praise. Is it possible you haven't seen The Incredible Hulk yet? It's my third favorite movie of the summer/year (behind Wall*E and Iron Man, which are in a dead heat).