23 June 2010

Shrek, Splice, MacGruber, Persia, Greek

The television world has basically sucked up my existence as of late - catching up with Fringe (Season 1), True Blood (Season 2), Lost (Season 6 - rewatch), 24 (season 8 - rewatch for assessment), Justified (Season 1), Greek (Season 1), Reaper (Season 2), and Stargate Universe (Season 1) - so movie reviewin' hasn't been exactly top priority. Besides, I'm thinking I just might do without movie reviews and simply do some sort of in-depth analysis once a week on a carefully selected movie; make it unique, y'know? Or I could just post a bunch of TV and book related stuff with a small portion of movie reviews thrown in for good measure? Maybe more editorials?

Anyway, 2010 movies have generally been in the category of it's alright, but nothing great. It's strange that January-April had more awesome releases than the big blockbuster summer season. At least we still have The Last Airbender to decide the fate of the 2010 blockbusters.

Get Him to the Greek
Starring Russel Brand, Jonah Hill, Elisabeth Moss, Sean Combs
Written by Nicholas Stoller

Based on the characters created by Jason Segel

Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Release: 04 June 2010

Universal, 109 mins., Rated R

Plot: Aaron Green needs to get drugged up Aldous Snow to the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, and the fact that Aldous is on every possible drug and toxin known to man doesn't make this any easy task.

Much to my happy surprise, Get Him to the Greek was actually funny. I laughed out loud on several occasions, had a stupid grin on my face more than twice, and I honestly would buy the film on DVD (at a discounted price, of course) and rewatch multiple times. And what's even more flabbergasting about this fact is that I'm saying this about a movie with Jonah Hill as a lead. Jonah Hill. The single most annoying aspect of any Judd Apatow-related production. And yet here he is, being genuinely funny and not at all irritating. In fact, I'd say this is his best work as a actor yet. And Russel Brand is just as fantastic as Aldous Snow as he was in '08's Forgetting Sarah Marshall, though I am curious how much is Aldous Snow and how much is Russel Brand.

The great thing about these two films - Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek - is that they offer three-dimensional characters that we give a damn for mixed with complete hilarity, which, mind you, is a formula that isn't often achieved. There's Aldous Snow and his decline back into addiction of every toxin imaginable and has father issues - elements that serve as the basis of the comedy; and then there's Aaron Green, who just wants to get ahead in the music corporate business and live a good life with the girlfriend - and in this case, the comedy comes from his desire to achieve both with grade A flying marks.

Oh! And look for a pretty funny continuation of Sarah Marshall's storyline. It's a quick scene that just makes you feel bad about both Ms. Marshall and the state of outrageous popular television these days.

It's quotable, it doesn't take itself too seriously, and it's well paced with the exception of only a few sequences that could use some trimming. Since I'm rather bad at writing stuff of any consequence about comedy films, I'm simply leave it that Get Him to the Greek was very (surprisingly) funny, and I'd definitely recommend it to folks who enjoyed I Love You, Man or Forgetting Sarah Marshall (although Sarah Marshall isn't a prerequisite viewing to dig this flick).

Starring Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Val Kilmer, Maya Rudolph
Written by Will Forte, John Solomon, Jorma Taccone

Based on the characters in "MacGruber" by Saturday Night Live

Directed by Jorma Taccone

Release: 21 May 2010

Rogue Pictures, 89 mins., Rated R

Plot: MacGruber is called upon by the CIA to save the day against Dieter Von Cunth who plans on nuking a lot of people.

Now here's a movie that excels in stupidity - it immerses itself in it - and ends up being mildly chuckle worthy. I'm not quite sure if the laughs that came out of it were a result of it being genuinely funny or me being in utter bewilderment that what I was seeing was actually happening. Y'know, that some big studio actually endorsed this gag by putting money behind it. Plenty of other reviewers are marketing it as the "funniest SNL movie since WAYNE'S WORLD." Well, since I haven't had the luxury of seeing that Mike Meyers vehicle, I'll judge MACGRUBER on its own right.

MACGRUBER wants to be HOT FUZZ, essentially; the movie immerses itself in the cliches of police/special agent procedurals and pokes fun at 'em. However, HOT FUZZ was successful at this - it poked fun, sure, but also saluted those films, respecting them and immersing itself in what made those '80s films memorable. MACGRUBER just wants to riff on those flicks and inject loads of dick and fart jokes.

Eh, Not Too Bad, Not Too Bad: Sure, a majority of the funny stuff's in the trailer, like the "I'm more of a three wire type of guy" line, but there's some other smirk-worthy moments: MacGruber's insistence to suck anyone's cock as long as they don't kick him off the mission; MacGruber using Ryan Phillipe has a human shield; MacGruber and Kristen Wiig's "love" scene; and of course his first assembled team of testosterone-filled macho men gettin' blown up by MacGruber. By now, Will Forte totally owns this role inside and out, Ryan Phillippe surprises by going all-out (truthfully), Kristen Wiig is her adorable self, and Val Kilmer does his best role since Bruce Wayne in Batman Forever (a long time). Actually, truth be told, Kilmer was pretty damn good as the antagonist.

A world of Negatory: Of course, there's still a bunch of material that makes up its running time that's just simply stupid. Sadly, I can't recall any particulars (it has been about four weeks since I saw the flick - damn my lazy movie reviewin' write-up skills!!!), but there's a bunch of scenes that truthfully made me turn away from disgust or just shake my head in shame. A little over a year ago, Nick at Random Ramblings of a Demented Doorknob felt shameful walking out of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li; well, this is my Chun-Li.

The Shiz: Entirely skippable, unless you really need some sort of comedy. But really, I had a funner time watching Steve Martin's The Pink Panther 2, and that I definitely didn't have much love for.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kinglsey, Alfred Molina
Written by Jordan Mechner, Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard

Based on the characters in "The Prince of Persia" video game series

Directed by Mike Newell

Release: 28 May 2010

Disney, 116 mins, Rated PG-13

Plot: Prince Dastan is accused of being a baddie and sets out on a journey to clear his name and save the kingdom from villainy !!! - with a gorgeous (yet annoying) lady at his side.

The new Pirates of the Caribbean franchise of the new decade, headlined by Jerry Bruckheimer! A good concept and decent presentation, except Prince of Persia lacks the excitement, awesomeness, cleverness, talentful, and jaw-dropping coolness of the Pirates franchise. That trilogy was fantastic because of more than just Johnny Depp's Captain Sparrow, but its duo of unrivaled creative writers: Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio. Those two can't seem to make a bad movie. Even with four people on the payroll, Persia's script isn't coherent and isn't nearly as brilliant as the franchise the movie's trying to replicate.

Alright, now that's out of the way, how is The Sands of Time? Overall, it's a decent film. Time has always been a fascinating aspect of any storyline, even if it's somewhat overused (especially in sci-fi stories, a la Star Trek). So the very notion of this special dagger that, through the use of some very, very special sand, could reverse time is sorta nifty and a cool enough set-up for a big-time summer blockbuster. From a story standpoint, though, it's a little disappointing that the villain's main purpose for wanting this special dagger isn't all that captivating. Understandable, sure, but I wasn't exactly itching in my seat in anxiety of what's going to happen. Speaking about that, there's not much surprise in how the story will unfold, or when the dagger will be used.

Perhaps that's what Prince of Persia lacks - a freshness element.

Jake Gyyllenhaal (Donnie Darko) works just fine as Prince Dastan. He's got the charming element working for him, and even though it may be a stunt double for 87% of his aerobic work, watching him jump around the city and easily sliding into a window 10 feet away is spectacular to watch, and perhaps the most amount of fun I got from the flick. To fill in the role of love interest and hot gal, Gemma Arterton of Clash of the Titans (2010) fame definitely fits the bill in the beautiful category, but her lazily written character borderlines obnoxious in nearly every scene. Oh! And Ben Kinglsey just totally rocks as Dastan's uncle who has more going on that he's letting on. Alfred Molina shows up at sporadic times during the narrative and works as a deux ex machina and the joke machine, which he does quite well.

Something that works against The Sands of Time I wish to point out is Dastan's "destiny". Repeatedly, in the trailer and movie, it's referred that Dastan has some sort of destined role to play, and that it's his 'destiny' to do this and that, blah, blah, blah. But unless I wasn't watching or listening closely enough (which could entirely be possible), where does this whole destiny thing fit in? It's some lazy phrase that gets thrown out there on several occasions, but there's no evidence of said destiny. Dastan just rolls around the desert trying to evade capture.

On the bright side, though, Mike Newell totally kicked butt directorially speaking, nearly making up for his lazy direction in Goblet of Fire. Alright, done with the semi-insults.

The Sands of Time is good action fodder, and if you hit the cheap seats or wait for a DVD rental, you won't mind the painfully average finished product. But if a franchise is gonna stem from this...please get someone else penning it?

Shrek Forever After
Starring Mike Meyers (V), Cameron Diaz (V), Antonio Banderas (V), Eddie Murphy (V)
Written by William Steig, Josh Klausner, Daren Lemke
Directed by Mike Mitchell

Release: 21 May 2010

Paramount Pictures, 94 mins., Rated PG

Plot: Shrek's overworked and not happy he's no longer the feared ogre he once was, and makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin for a single day of being his old brute self - but of course, something goes wrong and needs correcting "It's a Wonderful Life"-style.

The Shrek sequels have never been as good as the original, but they still retain enough good jokes and funny enough scenarios they're at least worth seeing. Same holds true for this fourth and supposedly last (money talks better than words) installment of the hit DreamWorks animated series.

Ogre Of a Good Time: The bigger sized version of Puss 'n Boots. Perfect, awesome, basically won my ticket and totally delivered. Plus, there were actually a few jokes that I found funny. And I surprisingly didn't mind the Rumpelstillstkin character, although I can't lie and say there weren't times when the actor's voice was utterly annoying.

Smell Yah Later: Just some of the dialogue - ugh, cringe worthy. I'm thinking particularly the exchanges between Shrek and Fiona in the alternate reality where he's trying desperately to get her to kiss him ('cuz it's "true love's kiss!" of course). The theme of the movie...? Be thankful for what you got? Be weary of what you wish for? Eh, alright. Coulda fleshed it out a bit more, make elements of the characters and script work a bit better.

To Go Or Not To Go:
By now Shrek Forever After is about ready to exit theaters, so anyone who wants to see it already has. It's by no means a horrible film, but it's not entirely all that good. It's serviceable, and gets the story across fine (but the theme? Not so much). As a concluding chapter, it works. Shrek has faced all he needs to and has overcome his many, many obstacles, so now he can be a happy go lucky ogre content with his rather abnormal lifestyle. Rental or cheap seats recommendation. The family will enjoy themselves.

Starring Adrian Brody, Sarah Polley
Written by Vincenzo Natali, Doug Taylor, Antoinette Terry Bryant

Directed by Vincenzo Natali

Release: 04 June 2010

Dark Castle Entertainment, 104 mins., Rated R

Plot: Two DNA scientist lovers frak up with nature and create some species hybird thingy that ends up being a lot of trouble.

The odd thing about Splice is that nothing really surprised me or wowed me. I knew the direction of the story with every new bit of information, and the only thing that left me puzzled was the shift in character attitudes halfway through the picture. Indeed, it's extremely pleasing to have a film like Splice - a very unconventional production to receive such publicity - be widely released in chain theaters, but at the same time, I do feel like the story and boundaries could have been pushed more. I think Splice simply suffered from what the marketing teams job was - publicity. The word on the street was that the film would be unlike other similarly plotted productions of the same vain, and to that point it didn't deliver.

Alright, my thoughts in a nutshell: entertaining, but not thrilling. Decently scripted, but lost in its own potential. Edgy-ish, but not pushing the boundaries enough. Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley were just fine in their respective roles, although their character progression from beginning to end changes rather abruptly and without any apparent reason. The gal playing the hybird was phenomenal, and beautifully able to make freaky creature y sounds and convey a sense of child-esque innocence.

Rent Splice if you feel so inclined to see it, but I'd recommend waiting for a production that delves a little deeper into the story it presents.

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