Archive for February, 2011

Comic ‘Hall Pass’ not the Farrellys’ best

Sunday, February 27th, 2011
Jason Sudeikis and Owen Wilson in "Hall Pass" Married pals Fred (Jason Sudeikis), left, and Rick (Owen Wilson) can’t believe their wives gave them a “Hall Pass” to have sex with other women for a week, penalty-free.

Only one scene in the Farrelly brothers’ new comedy, “Hall Pass,” resonates with insight into how the sexual immaturity of men can fray the romantic bonds between a happily married couple.

Rick (Owen Wilson) and his wife, Maggie (“The Office” star Jenna Fischer), intend to engage in the dance of the wild bunnies as soon as their little boy falls asleep.

When Rick finally enters their bedroom, Maggie is fast asleep. But the moment Rick leaves the room, Maggie opens her eyes.

Faker! Faker!

Later, Maggie tearfully explains to her best friend Grace (Christina Applegate) why she pretended to be asleep: because she feared that while making love to her, Rick would be thinking of all the hot babes he’d ogled and fussed over earlier that day.

This is a very smart and disturbing scene.

Had “Hall Pass” offered more moments like it, directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly would have a major hit comedy that simultaneously appealed to the sensitivity of women’s feelings and the insensitivity of men’s penchants for adolescent sexual fixations.

Nope. “Hall Pass” is a spotty, choppy mess, a belabored comedy that could use another pass through editing software, plus benefit from a more thoughtful ending beyond the expected “grass is greener where you’re standing” moral to the story. (Read more…)

Teen angst well-played in ‘Number Four’

Saturday, February 19th, 2011
Alex Pettyfer in "I Am Number Four" Alien adolescent John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) exhibits some unusual powers in “I Am Number Four.”

It’s not easy being teen.

Especially if you’re also an extraterrestrial humanoid who has klieg lights in your palms and possesses Harry Potter-like powers to move objects by sheer will.

D.J. Caruso’s fun but derivative teen angst fantasy “I Am Number Four” has the look and feel of a really expensive TV series pilot for the Sy-Fy channel.

So, it’s something of a pleasant surprise that Alex Pettyfer brings unnecessary seriousness to his role as John Smith, a tormented alien adolescent on the run from an intergalactic hit squad of tattooed creatures called the Mogadorians.

As John explains during a painfully lengthy voice-over history lecture, he is No. 4 in a group of nine alien survivors of a savage Mogadorian assault. Now, John and his father-figure protector Henri (Timothy Olyphant) are hiding out in a small Ohio town, apparently waiting for John to graduate high school and develop his alien powers before setting off to locate the other Nine. (Read more…)

‘Just Go With It’ a crass mess

Friday, February 11th, 2011
Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler in "Just Go With It" Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) pretends to be the future ex-wife of Danny (Adam Sandler) the plastic surgeon in the rom-com “Just Go With It.”

To understand how brain-numbing and manipulative this insufferably crass and icky rom-com is, some cinematic genealogy would be in order.

“Just Go With It” is a remake of the Oscar-winning 1969 comedy “Cactus Flower,” written by Billy Wilder’s frequent collaborator I.A.L. Diamond, who also penned a few notable features such as “Some Like It Hot,” “The Front Page” and “The Apartment.”

Diamond based his script on the stage play “Cactus Flower” adapted by Abe Burrows, who also wrote a few Broadway shows you might have heard of: “Guys and Dolls,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and “Can-Can.”

When frequent Adam Sandler collaborator and hack director Dennis Dugan got his hands on this project, “Just Go With It” suddenly went without an unfunny foul-matter detector or a convincing emotional arc designed to counteract the shameful actions of its irritating characters.

“Just Go With It” tells the story of a wealthy plastic surgeon named Danny (Sandler) who lies to women to get them in bed. That plot’s been done a few times before, of course.

“I discovered the power of the wedding ring!” Danny blurts in his annoying, dumbed-down voice-over narration that explains how he pretends to be unhappily married so hot women will offer him pity sex.

But a none-too-bright, 23-year-old super hottie named Palmer (Brooklyn Decker) thinks Danny is single. So when she finds the dummy wedding ring in Danny’s pocket, the surgeon lies and tells her he’s married, but getting a divorce. (Read more…)

Furious action propels ‘The Eagle’

Friday, February 11th, 2011
Channing Tatum in "The Eagle" Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) tries to survive a surprise attack in 120 A.D. Britain in Kevin Macdonald’s “The Eagle.”

I know it sounds crazy, but I wanted to see what the two main characters in the ancient Roman adventure “The Eagle” were going to do after the movie instead of watching what they actually did in the movie.

A Roman soldier named Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) and his freed slave Esca (“Billy Elliot” star Jamie Bell) suddenly become liberated from all obligations, and are free to do whatever they want with their lives.

It’s an amazing, uplifting scene filled with excitement and endless possibilities, almost like a defining moment for an ancient superhero and his loyal sidekick.

Instead of the Green Hornet and Kato, they’re the Grim Roman and Esca. What will they do now?

Maybe we’ll find out in “The Eagle 2,” if one comes along.

In the meantime, Kevin Macdonald’s action-heavy “The Eagle” shows how the unlikely duo met in a ragtag story where the viewers must fill in most of the emotional gaps, and the confusing, strobe-edited battle scenes are like pulled punches in a PG-13 movie doing everything it can to avoid an R rating.

In 120 A.D., 5,000 soldiers in Rome’s infamous Ninth Legion mysteriously vanished while on patrol in the northern part of Britain. Also lost: the treasured gold Eagle standard that led the legion.

The commander of the legion: Marcus’ father. (Read more…)

‘Gnomeo & Juliet’ no garden variety 3-D comedy

Friday, February 11th, 2011
From "Gnomeo and Juliet" Two lawn ornaments fall in love despite their severe family differences in “Gnomeo and Juliet.”

This is not your garden variety, animated 3-D Shakespearean knock-off.

“Gnomeo & Juliet” may sound like a cheesy kids’ movie, but it quickly establishes itself as a delightful, clever, musical reinvention of William Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy as experienced through the secret lives of gnomes.

Yep, garden gnomes. Those elfish, concrete/plaster characters you buy at home-improvement stores and then set out on the lawn to be forever dumped on by passing birds.

But like the main characters in the “Toy Story” movies, these gnomes spring to life when humans aren’t looking.

The story takes place at Stratford-upon-Avon (the Bard’s birthplace) where Mr. Montague (voiced by Richard Wilson) and Ms. Capulet (voiced by Julie Walters) carry on a scary war of words as feuding neighbors living in the same large duplex.

Naturally, their garden gnomes are also in eternal conflict, for reasons they don’t remember and no longer care about.

The Montagues wear blue. The Capulets wear red. For American audiences, this adds an unsubtle political metaphor for the feuding Democrats and Republicans.

Gnomeo (voiced by “Last King of Scotland” star James McAvoy) appears as a weathered ornament constantly competing in lawn mower races with his red rival Tybalt (voiced by action star Jason Statham). (Read more…)