28 August 2009

In Short: Disney Singer, 'Funny' Comedian, Traveling Naked, and Angry Man

School is back in session, and my time to write reviews or update this blog is becoming increasingly more strained (not like I updated like an insane lunatic with massive amounts of free-time anyhow), so I've decided to give a few recent viewed movie's a critique in a short manner, right down to the nitty gritty and throwing away all the blubber that makes my reviews. So, without further ado, I write about the much-anticipated Hannah Montana: The Movie, Tony Scott's remake (this is no "re-imagining", this is a blatant, uninspired remake) of The Taking of Pehlam 1 2 3, the tiem flux love story that reminds me why I'm in love with Rachel McAdams: The Time Traveler's Wife, and finally, Judd Apatow's third dramatic comedy Funny People that is really one of those "love it/hate it" flicks.

starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana
written & directed by Judd Apatow
Universal, 136 mins., Rated R

Earlier this year, Seth Rogen also starred in a non-Judd Apatow production called Observe & Report, a comedy that a large amount of the general public found hilarious. Me? Not so much. The only reason I bring this up, is that I'm suffering through the same thing. It also happened with the much-praised about Adventureland (publicly and proudly advertised as "from the director of Superbad"). Judd Apatow's third movie (great Gatsby, only his third?) is an interesting one, and I completely respect what Apatow was trying to achieve with it; there's some great performances, and there's one ginormous tud. When the movie ended, I was left with a feeling of, 'Why did I just watch that movie? What was the purpose?' Perhaps it's that the marketers advertised this as a comedy, whereas it is undeniably a drama where its main characters are comedians, I would have understood and liked it a little more. And speaking of comedians, I never once smiled, smirked, chuckled, or laughed during their "stand-up" routines. If I were a ginormous company such as Facebook hiring a famous comedian/actor, I sure as hell wouldn't pick friggin' George Simmons. Luckily, Seth Rogen's Ira does a far better jobs with the jokes.

As it stands, Adam Sandler (who I used to have respect for and actually laughed with his movies) as main character George Simmons gives THE most annoying acting job of his career, never once making me laugh, chuckle, or smirk. Not only is his character unlikable (67% deliberate), but the guy's voice is so damn irritating in the flick I sorta didn't mind if he didn't get better. In fact, even when he's saying Ira's pretty good jokes, they come off as 'holy-crap-shut-up-dude' annoying. However, there are some career highs for many people in the creidts: first and foremost, Seth Rogen gives his second best performance to date (Pineapple Express is still The Empire Strikes Back of comedies, hands down), bringing on the chuckles where no one else could; and Eric Bana (Troy), who completely stole the show during its final act as Leslie Mann's new husband concerned about George's resurfaced presence in her life (Mann being George's ex-wife, see).

The idea of Funny People is an interesting one, and with an (mostly) good cast, he could have made a good movie. But honestly, the script sucks. The last half with George's ex-wife and the on again/off again relationship they form was sorta dumb and half-assed and, well, felt like an entirely different movie that would be far more interesting. I wouldn't mind knowing about the life of a comedian, but there's so many unlikable qualities about George that I find it hard to root or give a damn for the poor bastard. But even though I didn't really dig Funny People (or Knocked Up for that matter), I'm still sorta looking forward to Apatow's next flick.

starring Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley Cyrus
written by Dan Berendsen
directed by Peter Chelsom
release: 10 April 2009
Disney, 102 mins., Rated G

There's really no effort evident in Hannah Montana's theatrical debut; similar to Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, it felt very much like a by-the-numbers, mundane and uninspired screenplay with the mandatory cheesy lines and acting required in a Disney flick. The lines between the life of Hannah Montana and that of Miley Cyrus is becoming even more blurrier, as Hannah's life is beginning to interfere with Miley's and is straining her friendships and family (prompting one friend to say "I'll never forgive you!" only to totally forgive like nothing ever happen and not even apologize for her lameness). As a brilliant solution, Papa Cyrus whisks Miley back home to her country roots, and it's there that she gets off her high horse and as a 'consequence' a romance blossoms with a clean-shaven, annoyingly cute boy who is helping out the family.

More or less a big screen production of music videos placed between cringe-inducing dialog which, I'm a little embarrassed to say, did result in a chuckle or two. And I'm also a little embarrassed to say that some of the song ain't that bad. Yeah, the movie's not great - didn't really expect it to be - but there's maybe two songs that might just be worth havin'. Oh, and there's a named cameo of Taylor Swift. Highlights: there's one badly done, unoriginal 'funny' gimmick where Miley runs and changes between two simultaneous dinner dates; there's the moment where Miley reveals herself as Miley and not Hannah Montana, and a young blond girl cries out for her to be Hannah Montana again after Miley does one of her own personal songs (taken out of context, it sounds mean, but in the spirit of the movie, it's one of those 'Awww, shucks' moments).

I'm sorry to say it's not going to be on my Christmas list this year, but it was a fun, if entirely forgettable and cheesebally way to waste a hour and a half. But, c'mon Disney, put some effort into your products! There used to be a time when Disney movies were something to be eagerly anticipated, to sit down in the darkened theater and expect something of actual quality and substance with a damn good script riddled with great characters, endurable cheesy moments, and overall funness. Bring that back.

starring John Travolta, Denzel Washington, John Turturro
written by Brian Helgeland, David Koepp (uncredited), Morton Freedgood (novel)
directed by Tony Scott
release: 12 June 2009
Columbia, 106 mins., Rated R

The real draw of this movie is to watch Denzel Washington play a character he's played thirty times over; a character that never gets old and never loses your attention; a character he plays really, really, really well. He's the draw because he's charismatic, tough, able to play "good cop/bad cop", and is just a damn good actor. Co-star John Travolta just isn't Vincent Vega anymore, and I've never really liked anything Tony Scott's done (Alexander was a jumbled mess; Domino and Man on Fire became more or less endurance factors than anything else: just how much can a person stand this acid-looking, quick-cuts that would make the Saw directors get massive boners?). In fact, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 wasn't one I was going to see theatrically, but it was the third in line at the nearby drive-in next to District 9 and The Ugly Truth, so why not see it, y'know?

The basic plot is that a train, Pelham 1 2 3, gets jacked by Travolta's mysterious Ryder, who thinks himself threatening by yelling "motherfucker!" at the end of nearly every sentence. Ryder ends up being in communication with Walter (Washington), a train dispatcher currently under investigation for taking a bribe in Japan. During the course of one hour (the time Ryder demands a sum of $10 million), Ryder and Walter share oh-so-fun time together as Ryder forms a really clingy bond to Walter, and makes Walter reveal the truth as to what happened with this Japanese bribe business. The movie has moments of intensity, thanks more to Travolta and Washington more so than Scott's kinetic, quick-cut camera frenzy that he's grown an annoying fetish for. Performance-wise, not Travolta's best or Washington's greatest moment, but they both do well enough to make the paycheck worth it.

There's a unnecessary dramatic car zoom-zoom through the city to get the money at the destination in time, unnecessary camera nuttiness, crappy music, and all around not all that suspenseful of a movie. Apparently the movie cost over $100 million to make. Um, where did all that money go, folks? The movie looks low-budget and feels like a rushed production. Maybe Scott spent most of the money on its hideous color schemes? If you've exhausted your Denzel Washington collection and have no interest in watching Glory, this is a nice time waster with a good amount of slightly above-average moments to make it worth a viewing.

starring Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams
written by Jeremy Leven & Bruce Joel Rubin, Audrey Niffenegger (novel)
directed by Robert Schwentke
New Line Cinema, 107 mins., Rated R

"Pretty good, mate!" That was my quasi-Vinnie Jones/Eric Bana proclamation that The Time Traveler's Wife is actually a worthwhile romance movie to check out. Fantastic performances from both Bana (who, as written above, was the absolute highlight of Funny People) and McAdams (a woman so very lovely and thank the Lord she's coming out of hiding since her 2005 surge), and a competent, coherent, and twisty screenplay by Leven and Rubin make The Time Traveler's Wife an endurable movie for both men and women and simultaneously pretty interesting to watch. Let's break it down this way: manly geeks get to analyze the "correctness", shall we say, of the time/space continuum while girls can ga-ga over McAdams and her tribulations whilst gawking at the hotness of Eric Bana (girls, see Troy).

Henry is burdened with a genetic disorder that allows him to time travel, and it's one sure-fire of a pain: he basically has no control over it, and the really sucky thing is that clothes don't so much time travel with him. But on one breezy afternoon, he runs into this stunning woman at his place of employment, named Clare (McAdams) who knows everything about him. Apparently, it's in his future that he meets this woman as a little girl on several occasions and striked up a bond, and eventually resulted in Clare falling head-over-heels in love with the guy. Romance blossoms, but once all that lovey-doveyness fades away, there's the stark and haunting loneliness that comes with being the soul mate of a man not in charge of his life...

My only real complaint is that the believability factor of all these relationship steps happening in such quick speeds is a little low. Here's this guy, Henry, who hasn't had time for a relationship, but once this girl says she's ga-ga for him, he warms up to her and eventually falls in love. It more or less comes off that Clare is a convenience for him moreso than an actual romantic partner, at least from my viewpoint. Nevertheless, once the pre-wedding part of the relationship is over with, the movie picks up considerable speed, and the script and actors are in perfect harmony, and the flick becomes one of those engrossing movies you can't take your eyes off. The downbeat but predictable ending is absolutely right, and I loved the fact that due to the wonderful time travel device, there's a brief indication of Clare's future which is oh-so-lovely. A dramatic romantic sci-fi-y movie that does most everything right, I'd say Time Traveler's Wife is definitely worth a few hours of your time.


Eric Harris said...

I have to say, I enjoyed Travolta in Pelham, but I'm a Travolta fan. I do agree about Tony Scott, though, the man has never met a scene he couldn't over-direct. But you got him wrong about Alexander, that was Oliver Stone. Have you seen True Romance, though? It's certainly more coherent than Scott's later work.

ph4nt0m said...

Funny People: I had the exact same reaction as you and I have been arguing with my good friend for a while. The stand up comedy was not funny at all! The movie was barely amusing and the drama was barely average. Gave it a C+

The Time Traveler's Wife: Flawed movie but I couldn't help but love it too. A B+ for me