20 May 2009

In Short:: Adventureland, Fast & Furious, Observe and Report

starring Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg, Ryan Reynolds
written & directed by Greg Mottola
release date: 3 April 2009

Miramax Films, 107 mins.
, Rated R

There's Frakking Worse Things

As people who actually put the effort to review flicks on blogs know, it's a little hard to write about something that was neither so horrible or so good that the words flow nearly effortlessly. With those type of movies, you're left thinking what the hell to write, hoping that you come up with sentences more creative than 'well, that was good' and 'that actor did a fine job'. This is the trap that I've fallen into with Adventureland, which is publicized as "from the director of Superbad", although it's far from similar fare.

Adventureland is a drama about a socially awkward wealthy boy named James (Eisenberg), having just graduated from college with his sights on going to Europe as a graduation present. But the plan doesn't really follow through because of that wonderful green thing that keeps the economy "going." Thus, James is forced to do something he's not quite familiar with: work. James applies for a summer job to pay for New York living and school expenses at the nearby theme park, Adventureland. Run by Bobby (Hader) and his wife Paulette (Wiig), James is welcomed with open arms to the park where the day seems to repeat itself over and over. At least he's got some strange company that actually end up being good friends. On the romantic side of things, James finds himself fixated on co-worker Em (Stewart), who is a bit of a wild card.

The movie is neither great nor bad; it's simply there...it's simply good. The performances are average, with no one giving us anything that we haven't seen before. Jesse Eisenberg creeps back into his Squid and the Whale skin, Bill Hader is Bill Hader, Ryan Reynolds channels his cool-yet-reserved character in Definitely, Maybe, and the much talked about Kristen Stewart really is no different than any of her other movies; she seems to be stuck in character constipation. For me, the best onscreen presence came from Bobby's wife, Paulette played by
Kristen Wiig (of Semi-Pro fame, a far inferior movie); she's a fantastic actress who brought hilarity to her every scene and has great comic timing.

I see Adventureland as a movie showing a boy opening up to the world; for most of his life, he's been sheltered by the best lifestyle money can buy - now he's forced to face the world and all it's dirtiness and imperfections. He meets and befriends people he didn't expect, and faces hardships and learns from them. A classical teenage movie about maturing. Another reason is why Stewart's Em is brought into the equation - a girl who seemingly has nothing going for her: she parties all the time and doesn't seem to give a damn about anything. [Speaking of which, I still can't fathom any reason James would want to get to know this girl other than to get into her pants; which, sure, is a reason, but I was looking for something a little more deep] It's another version of the story but from a different teen's P.O.V.

Some see a masterpiece in Adventureland, perfectly encapsulating the trials of being a teenager and growing up to face those challenges; I merely see a mediocre movie with a less than stellar story but told by an average and unremarkable cast. Judging by the various responses by critics and audiences to Adventureland, I recommend one doesn't just take a reviewer's word this time - actively seek out this title and give it a shot and come up with your own opinion. At the very least, you'll come across a few laughs, but at the most, you'll come across the classic American tale of ones teenage years going into adulthood. Or check out the 'hotness' of Kristen Stewart - your call.

Fast & Furious
starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez,
written by Chris Morgan
directed by Justin Lin
original release date: 3 April 2009
Universal Pictures, 107 mins., Rated PG-13

There's Frakking Worse Things

Cars go fast. Girls in hot, skimpy outfits. And for the ladies, guys flexing their muscles. Cars go fast. Cars do crazy stunts. Lot of action. Hot girls. Zoom, zoom! Explosion. Story point. Cars go fast. Hot girls. Zoom, zoom! The End.

Perfect for anyone who simply wants to be entertained, or look at beautiful girls or drool over pretty cars, because Fast & Furious offers nothing in the way of Watchmen-level meditations. But then, you're not exactly going into this movie expecting that, is one?

The fourth The Fast and the Furious movie is notable in the resurrection of all the main characters from the first installment, and I admit that was my main draw [well, that and the chance to hang with a good friend]. The other nifty thing is that all these guys are brought back in a believeable, cool way in a rather satisfactory storyline [it involves vengeance - of course I'll dig it]. Granted, there's times where I honestly didn't know what the frak was going on, but then a new chase or action scene happens and I suddenly didn't give a damn anymore: there was stuff gettin' blown the hell up!

Paul Walker (Running Scared) doesn't exactly impress with his acting chops; but Vin, man, all he needs to do his look at the camera and brood and I'm sold. Yes, this is coming from one of the few guys on planet Earth who thinks The Chronicles of Riddick is an spectacular movie. Michelle Rodriguez (TV: Lost) has limited screentime, so can't really comment on that. But the beautiful Jordana Brewster (TV: Chuck) is wasted in a few throwaway scenes but add little to the movie, but damn if she doesn't look as gorgeous as ever [if girls can "love" this movie because "Diesel/Walker's HOT", than I can give it kudos for Brewester; 'nuff said]. Like I said above, watching these characters come back and interact is enough for me, no matter their time onscreen, so color me happy.

Fast & Furious is a good installment of the franchise - although I still crown Tokyo Drift the best - and hopefully this film's success will encourage Diesel and Walker to come back for more. Because, really, this is their franchise, and I wouldn't have it any other way. You want fast cars and hot guys/girls? Look no further than Fast & Furious.

Observe and Report
starring Seth Rogen, Anna Faris, Ray Liotta
written & directed by Jody Hill
original release date: 10 April 2009
Warner Bros., 86 mins., Rated R

There's Frakking Worse Things

True to word-of-mouth, whether or not you're going to like Observe & Report depends entirely on one's comedy preferences. I consider myself fairly relaxed on comedy standards, and I don't get offended easily, so I figured I'd have no problem with the flick.

But as it stands, the genre of comedy is a tough pickle to get absolutely right. On one hand, this could be one of the funniest things a audience member has ever seen in their entire existence, and for others, it's a pure piece of cinema crap without a single bloody laugh. Although my viewing of the movie isn't nearly as harsh, I didn't especially love Observe & Report as everyone else seems to be as taken with it. It has its moments, but for the most part for me, it was difficult to enjoy a movie where our main protagonist is a crazy, ego-centric jackass who swears a lot and not even worth rooting for. Although, that could be why some people dig this more than others...

I personally think I Love You, Man is the best comedy released thus far; it has terrific actors with a terrific script, and followed a formula of sorts but given it it's own fresh take which made it interesting. Observe & Report is most definitely interesting and not something you see everyday: it's absolutely ballsy, going places and saying things you wouldn't expect. This movie is seriously frakked up, and for that, I give it high kudos. But it simply doesn't work - at least, not for me. This is where that whole comedy preference thing comes into play.

Right off the bat, I'll tell you the things I loved [spoilers follow]: 1) Ronnie coming out of freakin' nowhere and shooting the streaking man; 2) As seen from the trailers, Ronnie and his partner being the shit out of a bunch of teenagers hanging around the parking lot; and 3) Ronnie kicking some police ass as a one-man fighting machine, a la Rambo. So, basically, I loved the moments that were more fantasy-fulfilling and high on the 'shock' value.

Although I'm not a fan of the film, I can't not give the film the kudos it deserves. Seth Rogen is awesome as Ronnie; although I think his truly perfect role was Kevin Smith's wonderful Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008), I can't imagine anyone else playing this character. Ronnie is an annoying douche bag, but is expertly played by Rogen (not sure if that's a diss or compliment). There's probably more people to appoint accolades to, but hell if I can think of them. Is that a good sign? The FBI dude had his moments of funny, and the only other notable actor in the piece is Anna Faris, who was annoying as all hell, so I guess that means she did a good job, y'know, getting into her character.

I myself am not really in love with Observe & Report, but it's interesting and unique enough to warrant a look through.

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