Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Grown Ups is neither a good movie nor a terrible movie. It just sort of lingers between an SNL reunion show and a scripted home video. There isn’t much plot going on: Old school friends gather together when their favourite basketball coach dies and they bond again with their families at the cottage. They mock each other. There are fart jokes. Old Grandma bunyons the size of a toddler’s head, and breast milk squirting across a kitchen table. I could go on, but you get the idea.
The film reunites the SNL gang of Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Maya Rudolph, and Kevin James takes the spot that would have been occupied by the late Chris Farley. This movie probably could have used Farley and his larger than life screen presence. The guys are sort of bland in this, retreading old jokes and pretty much playing themselves. The wives, played by Selma Hayek, Rudolph, Maria Bello and Joyce Van Patten fair better. The pickings must be slim in Hollywood for gorgeous, talented oscar nominees like Selma if she's playing second fiddle to Sandler. Although, she brings depth to a character who could have been quite one dimensional.
The script is co-written by Sandler, an Adam Sandler who has lost his edge (if he ever really had any,) and it’s obvious how nostalgic he has become now that he is a father (his daughters have cameos in the film, along with his wife). The script doesn’t feel fully developed despite what I believe to be genuine attempts at trying to create a theme and capturing a bit of old school magic. However, I can't pinpoint a true climax. A half-assed basketball rematch is lukewarm and is weak. The one good thing about it is that it reveals a nice side to Sandler's character, which we get in that moment, but then that gets ruined when in the following scene he has to explain his actions to his wife, which of course is a benefit to the audience. Is the audience that dumb that we can't pick it up on visuals? The exposition isn't needed. Then again, some moviegoers are indeed dumb, and this movie is the kind of experience where the brain is definitely left at the door.
It's also obvious that the actors were ad-libbing and trying to one up one another. And therein lies the biggest problem with this movie: it comes off as self-indulgent and about the actors amusing one another rather than amusing an audience.
There's nothing new in this film. The physical comedy is lacking: a waterpark sequence is mainly a waste of time and the one funny part (the grown ups peeing in the pool) is shown in the trailers. Blink and you miss the cameo of Norm MacDonald's ass. Also, can someone tell me why Steve Buscemi is in this film? Apart from him showing off his translucent body for some laughs, I really have no idea why such a talented actor is here at all.
The film runs about an hour and forty-five minutes, but it felt longer. It's not worth seeing in the theatres. Save your money, or use it to rent some "best of SNL" dvds featuring Chris Farley.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Toy Story 3 is a sweet film, but don't let that fool you because these toys are on a life and death adventure that would destroy any mere mortal. The plot is simple: Andy is off to college. The Toys get mistakenly taken to a daycare. The daycare is not what it seems. Woody must save the day. But not before we're introduced to new characters: some sweet like Dolly, some creepy like Big Baby, some a wolf in sheep's clothing stuffed inside Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear and a genuinely scary cymbal playing Monkey with a set of eyes that makes your skin crawl. The new characters don't take away from the ones we've grown to love and are an added bonus that balances the old with the new in an ideal setting.
The film has heart and humor and balances it well with genuine thrills and danger. Even though I knew logically the toys wouldn't really get hurt, I still thought for a brief moment that they could. Their escape plan from the daycare is pure genius and shows great thinking on the part of the writers (kudos to the writers for a well crafted story that deserves an oscar nomination for best original screenplay). They are up against a truly villainous character, Lots -o'-Huggin' Bear who has lost his heart and will stop at nothing to keep the new toys inside the daycare. I won't reveal the reason why he wants the new toys to stay, but what I will say is that it's a case of self-preservation. Huggin' Bear and his posse, which includes Ken, who is wonderfully described as an "accessory" (something he does not take to kindly) pull out all the stops to tighten the perimeters of the daycare. They also go as far as to reprogram Buzz Lightyear by switching him back to demo mode. Buzz, clueless to who he really is, turns into an enforcer and is ordered to keep his friends locked up at night. What happens afterwards with Buzz who is set to Spanish mode is hilarious stuff and his unspoken love for the cowgirl, Jesse, goes up a notch and Buzz becomes a bit of a Latin Lothario of the G Rated variety. The subtitles alone are worth the price of a ticket.
One of the funniest sequences in the film revolves around Mr. Potato Head getting rid of his potato and gaining a tortilla body as they try to escape the daycare. He has to battle a hungry pigeon who takes a bite, but don't fret because in the garden he finds a cucumber to be his temporary body. Thinking about it now, hours after seeing it, I am still laughing.
The film is a love story to all of us because we have all been children and we've all grown up. Letting go of the past can be painful and most of us try to keep change at bay. But all things come and go and evolve. Woody learns to let go of Andy and Andy must do the same. Moving forward or staying behind go hand in hand. One is not harder or easier than the other. Passing on our wisdom to the next generation is what defines us as adults, and knowing when to let go brings tremendous reward.
I am not ashamed to admit that Toy Story 3 made me teary eyed a couple of times. This film has it all. Great dialogue. A pretty much perfect script. Memorable and lovable characters (each and every toy has its own time to shine) and it looks great. It never feels like I'm watching animation. The film transports you into its world flawlessly. I saw the 2D version because I believe that 3D is a money grab and doesn't really add anything to the experience. I recommend seeing it in 2D so as to avoid the potential of a headache and little kids will probably enjoy it more without those pesky plastic glasses.
To Woody and Buzz and all the Toys, you do indeed have a friend in me.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
The opening sequence of The A-Team runs on the long side, but that's required to set up the "story" of this ragtag team of guys on the run from the government. It's probably one of the longest title sequences I've ever seen. That being said, I didn't mind it because it was a nice way of introducing these "old" characters played by "new" actors.
This film is an origin story that's brought to us, like I said, in the opening sequence, where the four men come together in Mexico, sort of like a romantic comedy "cute-meet" plot point on cracked out testosterone, tons of action and carnage. We jump eight years later to Iraq, who knows when exactly this eight years later falls on the calendar because we're told via subtitles that it's sometime when America is pulling out of Iraq, which of course has yet to happen, (if it ever does.) Hannibal, played by the impeccable Liam Neeson takes on a covert mission to take back stolen American counterfeit money plates from nameless bad Arabs. He, along with Face (Bradley Cooper), Murdock (Sharlto Copley) and B.A. Baracus (Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson, who by the way is no Mr. T and "I pity the fool" who tries to wear that mohawk) design a pretty kick-ass plan to take the plates, the use of intercutting makes this sequence fast and fun. Anyway, to make a long story short, they're double crossed, sent to prison, then escape with the help of the CIA, then double crossed again by multiple people, then chased across countries (Vancouver does a good job as a stand in to many of the locations), ultimately betrayed again by a "good" guy who is bad. But the real bad guy, the one who chews up the scenery in an ode to 80's villains, is Pike, played by the almost long forgotten teen hunk Brian Bloom (co-writer of this film) and who, I am happy to report does a great job in his small, but important villainous role. And as a credited writer of the film, it leaves me wondering how he got both gigs. It's his first writing credit at almost 40 years of age, which I think gives all writers hope.
In between all the running, hiding, and escaping, things get blown up. Needless to say, the plot is ridiculous, but who cares!! There's eye candy for everyone! The ladies get to ogle Bradley Cooper who is handsome as Face, but also silly with the fake tan. The men I suppose get to ogle Jessica Biel's assets. The glaring difference between the two is that Bradley Cooper is believable in his role, whereas Jessica, who is limited as an actress already, is unconvincing in her role as an Army Captain. One scene in particular caused me to burst out laughing and I blame the director more so than Jessica: The scene in question involves a glass table and a few marbles that are tossed or flung (who knows what the character is actually doing) across the room in an attempt to show anger. It doesn't. It comes off as awkward and a crutch for an actress who lacks depth.
Overall, I laughed out loud at the silliness of the whole thing. The plot is all over the place and at times, jumbled, and doesn't make sense if you really think about stuff, but then again I don't think we're supposed to think during this film. I enjoyed the old school action sequences more so than the cgi stuff, ie. the tank in the sky? It's beyond absurd, therefore you really just have to go with it and enjoy the ride. I felt that the actors truly enjoyed making this film and I think that enjoyment is contagious, which is a good thing because it allows for flaws to be overlooked.
It's a harmless film and for a TV show turned into a film it's fairly good considering all the crap that has come before it. And stick around during the end credits for the theme song and a couple of bonus scenes.
Friday, June 4, 2010
The Beat’s online publication,
is dedicated to timely reviews of local arts events,
including music, theatre, dance and festivals.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Rented Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland finally. I had every intention of seeing it in the theatres, but never got around to it. I rarely rent films. I either see them right away or grab them by chance at the library. But I really wanted to see this since I enjoy Burton's films for the most part.
I'm blah about it and have no real love or distain for it. It was just sort of boring. The story is a bit of a retelling in that Alice returns to Wonderland (Underland is what it really is called in the film) 10 years later, but doesn't remember it and is convinced for the most part that it's all a dream. Her goal is to kill the Jabberwocky, something she has no interest in, until she discovers the impossible truths within herself. There was just something missing within the film. Perhaps, it lacked heart and relied too heavily on visuals. It did indeed look good, the costumes were intricately designed and quite stunning at times, but is that enough? I liked Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter who is indeed mad! I enjoyed Helena Bonham Carter's take on the Red Queen. Her blown up balloon-like head and tiny lisp made me smile. I didn't like what Anne Hathaway did with the White Queen. The flittering of the wrists was distracting and an odd actor choice in my opinion. Then again, it is a Burton film, and his choices tend to lean towards the odd. (I don't even care enough to mention the girl who plays Alice. Underwhelming in Underland she was)
Overall, the film doesn't really say anything new about this adventure, other than maybe, Alice needs to make her own choices about her own life and stand up for herself. A sort of female empowerment statement, I suppose. I'm just unsure as to how this film made over 1 Billion dollars at the box office, and then I remember it was also released in 3D, which steals more money out of our pockets. I don't think this film required scenes to be retweaked into 3D.
Rent it or don't. It won't change your life either way. But if you do then I suggest you watch it whilst sipping tea nibbling on scones and wearing a Top Hat with peacock feathers. It might make the experience better.