Archive for April, 2008

28 Apr 2008

Baby Mama

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Fey and Poehler have chemistry but can’t carry movie

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Movieweb.com

With two “Saturday Night Live”alumni taking center stage and a few others dropping in for cameos, “Baby Mama“never disappoints, but rarely surprises. Tina Fey (“30 Rock”) stars as Kate Holbrook, a single, upper-class businesswoman at the peak of her career. When she decides it is finally time to bring a child of her own into this world, her dreams are crushed by her fertility specialist who tells her she only has a million-to-one shot of getting pregnant. When she learns that adoption takes up to five years for a single woman, she turns to another option: finding a surrogate mother.

Through a surrogate agency, Kate is set up with Angie (Amy Poehler, “Horton Hears a Who!”), a white-trash blond in the middle of a bad relationship. Soon after the eggs are implanted, Kate realizes that over the next nine months, she will have to help raise two babies.

“Cute”and “harmless”are the words usually used to describe babies, but in this case, they are also the best two words to describe “Baby Mama.” With witty dialogue and strong chemistry between Fey and Poehler, the film flies by and quickly becomes just another spring movie that will soon be forgotten.

Ever since Fey made her comedic presence known on “Saturday Night Live,”she has quickly become one of comedy’s leading ladies.

Her subtle approach to intelligent humor is what makes her interactions with Poehler’s typical moronic character so humorous. A perfect example comes when the two are going to birthing classes. When learning about the “great stretch”during birth, Angie asks, “Can I just spray a little PAM down there?” Unembarrassed, Kate quickly retorts, “You have to admit, it is a feasible question.”

First time director and former SNL writer, Michael McCullers makes the film work, but overall, shows his filmmaking juvenility. While Fey and Poehler are left to do their routine, the rest of the cast never seems to find its place in the movie. Sure, Steve Martin makes a cameo as the egotistical hippie boss, but most of his lines fall flat and come off as awkward.

McCullers also fails by not giving enough background information on Kate and her need for a baby. As soon as Kate starts the surrogate program, she gets a promotion to be the vice president of her organic food company. Throughout the rest of the movie, she seamlessly blends both her lives plus a cutesy romantic affair with Greg Kinnear (“Little Miss Sunshine”). Women are known masters of multitasking, but without extreme doses of amphetamines, not even Wonder Woman could pull that off.

While not as ground shaking as last Friday’s earthquakes, “Baby Mama”succeeds in being a comedy that plays well with almost any audience. It’s just one that few will remember.

Baby Mama
Release Date: April 25
Director: Michael McCullers
Starring: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B

22 Apr 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

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Jason Segel succeeds in first leading role from Hollywood comedy genius

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Photo from movieweb.com

Forget about being “Superbad”and “Knocked Up,”because Judd Apatow is back with one of his funniest and raunchiest productions to-date with “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”

“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is based on one-of-a guy’s worst nightmares: having your super- sexy actress girlfriend dump you. Jason Segel (“Knocked Up”) stars as Peter Bretter, the poor bastard stuck in this situation.

In an act of desperation and with a broken heart, Peter flies to Hawaii for a relaxing vacation to clear his Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell, “Pulse”) filled mind. Upon check-in at his resort getaway, Peter has the pleasure of bumping into Sarah and her dynamic new lover, who is also singing pop sensation, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand, “Penelope”). Now, with the help of resort desk clerk Rachel (Mila Kunis, “That 70s Show”), Peter must find a way to move on with his life.

Ever since “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”was released three years ago, Apatow has successfully been able to solely dominate Hollywood’s comedy scene. “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” unquestionably furthers his quest for “penis joke” glory.

Like most simple-storied comedies these days, the effectiveness of the film relies heavily on the actors. With that being said, Segel proves himself by showing his acting abilities and then some in his first leading role in a major film. It fact, some might say his comedic acting almost measures up to the size of his appallingly large pocket rocket, which is shown no less than four times on the BIG screen.

It should be noted that this is in no way an ideal date movie. Penis envy has time and time again proven to be disastrous for both sides of a relationship.

Not unlike Apatow’s other productions, however, some of the biggest laughs come from the supporting cast. In this film, Brand’s performance and a cameo from Paul Rudd constantly steal the show.

Throughout out all of his dry humping and ghastly singing, Brand is able to create an incredibly unforgettable character. From the hundreds of zany one-liners this film displays, Brand holds one of the best with saying, “I’ve heard that women do fake orgasms, but I’ve never seen one that really, deeply upset me,”after a vigorous sex romp.

Apatow-comedy favorite, Rudd also is able to create a standout performance with his impression of a stoned surfing instructor.  Instead of his usual charming character, Rudd throws it all to the wind and is there only to enlighten Peter with wise proverbs. Without question, his best advice comes during a surfing lesson when he says, “When life gives you lemons, just say, ‘Fuck the lemons’ and bail.”

“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”has set the bar extremely high for when Apatow’s most notorious grunts, Will Ferrell and Steve Carell will try to take 2008’s comedy crown with two new movies coming this summer.

‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’
Release Date: April 18
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Jason Segel, Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis
Genre: Comedy
Rating: R for sexual content, language and some graphic nudity.
Grade: A

14 Apr 2008

Snow Angels

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‘Snow Angels’ breaks post-Oscar slump with emotionally-charged drama

snowangel_09.jpgDevastating and powerful, David Gordon Green’s “Snow Angels”brings new meaning to the word tragedy by forcing viewers to witness a heart-wrenching story of self destruction.

“Snow Angels’”revolves around three small-town people in the midst of living their everyday lives. In the middle of it all is Arthur Parkinson (Michael Angarano, “The Final Season), a high school student coping with his parents’ separation. Currently working at a Chinese restaurant, Arthur is also witness to the hardships of his co-worker and former babysitter Annie (Kate Beckinsale, “Vacancy”). Annie is dealing with a separation from her emotionally-unstable husband Glenn (Sam Rockwell, “The Assassination of Jesse James”). When Annie’s daughter goes missing, chaos unfolds and each character is revealed to who they truly are.

Never before in the history of cinema has the theme of innocence been portrayed as daringly as in “Snow Angels.”More importantly, the film presents the reality that losing innocence is one of life’s greatest tragedies. Through some form or another, each character, metaphorically or physically, is shown surrendering their innocence.

To back the amazing story, each actor gives extraordinary performances. High above them all though is undoubtedly Rockwell as the struggling father/husband. The audience can only feel sorry for him when witnessing his immaturity and hopelessness. With the short screen time he is with his daughter, it is amazing to think that he is her father and not just her very large playmate of the same IQ. His obsession with religion also causes controversy through the actions.

Then there is the angelic Beckinsale who owns the screen. Watching the story play out through her eyes was one of the most painful things I have ever watched. She is first shown as the prom queen, whose poor moral judgment lead to conceiving a child with the town’s idiotic jock. As the film goes on and she faces more and more challenges, she shows that not every pretty face holds inner beauty.

Angarano and his onscreen girlfriend Olivia Thirlby do a fantastic job of offsetting the depressing tone of the film with a unique look at first love. Almost anyone who was once in high school can relate to the situation of spontaneously finding something special in someone so ordinary. Usually, cute relationships are annoying to watch onscreen, but in this film, it is honestly special to see it play out.

In all its greatness, “Snow Angels”is hardly a marketable film. It has distinct ways of slowly moving the camera away during dialogue sequences, which many people may find annoying. Some might find the story to be unrealistic and trashy, but the ones who understand its message will most likely walk out of the theater feeling emotionally drained and overwhelmingly depressed.

“Snow Angels”is shockingly the first movie in a long time to live up to its genre name. It is a drama unlike any other that is easily the best film of the year.

‘Snow Angels’
Release Date: April 11
Director: David Gordon Green
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Michael Angarano, Sam Rockwell
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Grade: A

Photo from movieweb.com

08 Apr 2008

Leatherheads

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Clooney and Krasinski drop the ball in their new 1920s football movie
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It’s official.  Hollywood is in the middle of one of the worst spring seasons in recent memory.  The worst part is, not even Hollywood golden boy George Clooney and his perky eyebrows can reinvigorate this cinematic dry spell.

“Leatherheads”is the story of how professional football came about and the two men that made it popular.

Clooney (“Michael Clayton”) stars as Dodge Connelly, the 45-year-old professional football player whose team has just been terminated due to financial problems.  Realizing that his skills are limited to football and football alone, he recruits college sensation/war hero Carter “The Bullet”Rutherford (John Krasinski, “License to Wed”).  With Rutherford also comes Lexie Littleton (Renée Zellweger, “Bee Movie”), the sly Chicago Tribune reporter who is trying to learn the truth behind “The Bullet’s”questionable war glory.

With Clooney directing, an incredibly quirky style always follows.  While “Leatherheads’”charming character is overly obvious, there is never enough content to work with.  There are five to 10 laugh-out-loud sequences in which the Fraiser-esque humor pulls a fast one on the audience.  However, an average SNL skit has the same amount of laughs in five minutes as them movie has in its two hours; usually more is needed to fill full-length motion pictures.  Maybe that’s why Chris Farley and his obnoxious act never translated into box office gold…

Overplayed more than anything in Hollywood today is the sports genre.  Occasionally “Leatherheads”plays off the usual football clichés, but being set in the ‘20s, the film often brings a new deck to the table.  Most notable is the toe-tapping era music that music legend Randy Newman created.  Ole Newman even got to show his piano-playing talents on-screen during a short cameo.  Hell, he even knocks a guy over the head with a whiskey bottle during an old-fashioned bar brawl!

On the topic of brawls, it should be pointed out that not one drop of blood seemed to be drawn during the countless fights that occur in the film.  In fact, after receiving multiple knocks to the face, Clooney remained unhurt with no bruises or blood.  Last time I checked, George is not Chuck Norris and is just another human being with flesh and bones.

Decade genre-queen Zellweger brings the film back to earth with her feistiest role to-date.  With a cocky attitude she pulls off every line with perfect timing and even manages to steal the show with her stunning outfits from time to time.  Watching her play with her boy toys, Clooney and Krasinski, is one of the film’s biggest highlights.

Sadly, none of the other Ocean’s crew make a cameo, but “Waterboy”fans will be pleased to know that the deranged assistant head coach from the Adam Sandler hit makes a cameo as a referee.  Other than that, few other actors stand out in the time they are given.

While in no way is “Leatherheads”a bad flick, it’s just disappointing when you realize an Oscar-winning, bat nipple wearing actor crafted it.

‘Leatherheads’
Release Date: April 4
Director: George Clooney
Starring: George Clooney, Renée Zellweger, John Krasinski
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG-13
Grade: C+