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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Badlogik Guest Review: Wolf Creek 

A great big thanks to guest reviewer Steve from Badlogik for writing the following review!

If you've seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre, then throw in some Crocodile Dundee and you've pretty much already seen this film, but copying Texas Chainsaw is kinda what films like this do and if that's your thing, then Wolf Creek does it well.

Ten or so years ago, Australian News sources were selling out on stories of serial killers preying on hitchhikers and tourists. There were apparently two guys, and the list of their crimes is pretty sick. Their curriculum vitaes include the usual rape, murder, dismemberment and torture, so of course someone made a movie about it. The film is actually only very loosely based on those stories, but still manages to have its creepy moments.

The first 45 minutes or so go sorta slow. It begins as the characters buy a car, get drunk, be drunk, be drunk some more, and then go to the beach and run around like fools. One of the girls runs out to the ocean in naught but her panties and then magically runs back with shorts on. After ignoring the continuity break, the journey begins... and... uh... begins some more... Greg McLean apparently felt the need to really drive home how long their drive to Wolf Creek really was by having the actors sing really bad songs and drive a lot.

Once they near their destination, the story picks up. They meet some outback locals acting all scummy and weird as they fill up their tank, but manage to avoid conflict. They eventually make it to Wolf Creek, which is apparently some large crater in the middle of Australia. Its actually pretty cool, but if I know stupid, its driving across a continent to go to some giant hole in the ground for three hours only to drive back home. Luckily for the viewer, the protagonists are unable to make that long boring Mad Libs song-filled journey, as their newly purchased car performs exactly like every other car in every other horror movie that has a car; that is to say, it doesn't start for some mysterious unexplained reason. Then comes the requisite waiting around in the dark only to be saved by some random country guy.

If there's one thing I learned from movies, country folk are not to be trusted. They will kill you and/or do naughty things with your body at the first opportunity. Having never seen a movie, the three characters are overjoyed to find that some creepy looking Crocodile Dundee wannabe shows up and decides to tow them to some junkyard in the middle of the desert. That is the only place they can find the one amazing piece of car that will magically restore their vehicle to working state of course, and never would this fine fellow in dirty dungarees and bad teeth rape, murder, dismember, or torture them. So the plot thickens.

While it may seem I already have, I don't want to ruin all the details for you. Plus, the rest of the film gets... icky, and I'd rather not describe it. If you are not the type to watch slasher films like the great TCM, then you'll want to avoid Wolf Creek. Freaky imagery and scary music played on aluminum siding fill the rest of the flick. Even so, there are some stand-out moments--while guns are not the favored weapon of psycho killers, the rifle scene is shocking and powerful. If your stomach can handle the icky stuff, and scary movies are your thing, watch Wolf Creek.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Family Stone 

Is it just me or does the poster for this movie look like someone is flipping you off?

The first thing I have to say about The Family Stone is that it's not quite as much of a comedy as the marketing efforts might lead one to believe. I was thinking it was going to be something along the lines of "Meet the Parents," but it was way too serious and much less goofy. The film maintains a rather lighthearted tone for the most part and was pretty funny as well, but there was a much heavier dose of drama then I had anticipated. I liked the movie quite a bit, but the mood often alternated from dramatic to funny to extremely awkward and back again.

This is your basic clash-of-personalities set up. Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) is coming home for Christmas with her boyfriend, Everett (Dermot Mulroney), to meet his family for the first time. Meredith is extremely reserved and old-fashioned, which is an instant mismatch with the relaxed and easy-going Stone family. Amy Stone (Rachel McAdams), having already met Meredith during a visit to New York, warns everyone that Meredith is completely uptight and snooty, with an abhorrent habit of clearing her throat. Absolutely disgusting. So, when Meredith offers everyone a well-mannered handshake instead of a hug, the family summarily dismisses her as being a very horrid person indeed. After a series of awkward interactions with the family members and some appallingly cold treatment from Amy, Meredith decides it's a bit too much for her to handle and checks into a hotel room while calling her sister, Julie (Claire Danes), in for backup. When Julie finally makes it out to the house, however, Meredith becomes even more disheartened when she sees the entire Stone family take an instant liking to her sister.

There are actually several other little subplots occurring aside from the main "everyone hates Meredith" storyline, some of which are funny and others that are quite serious and dramatic. Certain scenes were downright awkward, and not in a comedic way. This really threw me off at first, but thankfully I didn't feel completely sucker punched, as the funny parts really were pretty hysterical when they occurred. Even when things started to get a bit heavy, I could always count on Luke Wilson's character, Ben Stone, to do or say something funny that eased not only the other characters' tension but the audience's as well. But it was strange at first, having to get used to the oscillating tones of the film.

This is a movie that I definitely recommend, but only if one doesn't expect a 100% goofy comedy, because while I really enjoyed the funny scenes—of which there are many—I can't say that this film was marketed properly. I wasn't pissed at this unexpected serious side like I was when watching "Prime," probably because this story was consistently engaging whereas Prime was neither funny nor interesting. You'll get your money's worth with this movie, but only if you want to watch a comedy/drama. If that's the case, then you will enjoy the well-balanced Family Stone.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

King Kong 

"Excuse me, but if your people built this wall to keep King Kong out, well then why build a door large enough for him to get through? For that matter, Kong's a giant monkey, why can't he just climb over the wall? And come on, I mean there can't just be one Kong, there's got to be others." -Robot Chicken

In short, this movie was fucking awesome if you like any of the following: spectacular and suspenseful action scenes, wide arrays of prehistoric and/or grotesquely overgrown creatures, great dialogue and convincing acting performances, a meaningful plot, and stunning but not overdone special effects. Sound appealing? If so, then get to the theater, like tonight, and see King Kong. You won't be disappointed, but be sure to buy some snacks because it's over three hours of all these goodies.

You probably know the basics of the story. Set in the midst of the Great Depression in 1930's L.A., film producer Carl Denham (Jack Black) has just been informed that his current project is being cancelled. Having come into possession of a mysterious map that details an ancient and undiscovered island, Carl is desperate to film his movie, and to do so on this island. So, with the cops on his heels, he quickly signs a recently unemployed Vaudevillian actress, Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), to be the leading female star of the movie, and off they sail along with handsome movie star Bruce Baxter (Kyle Chandler), and well-known playwright Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) in search of this mythical place. After nearly crashing on the shore of the eerie island, they find that it is not as deserted as they had anticipated, and the natives aren't the friendliest lot. Ann is offered up to some fearsome beast, and Carl and Jack are left on the other side of a giant wall, listening to her screams but not knowing what she faces. Finally, the audience gets its first glimpse at Kong, and with him, a whole mess of other terrifying and ravenous creatures that provide a decent amount of hassle for both Kong and Ann's rescue party.

For once, this is a classic-film remake that was extremely well done; Peter Jackson has really proven that he can be trusted with behemoth projects that other directors would most likely massacre in misguided attempts to entertain audiences with short attention spans. Still, my attention didn't wander anywhere, but I betrayed my feminine nerves many times when I let out several girlish shrieks during some of the more tense scenes.

I absolutely loved the abundant creature action in this movie-—from giant carnivorous bugs, velociraptors, and huge man-eating bats, it was just one seriously bad thing after another for these people to face. Kong himself has to come to Ann's aid on numerous occasions, fighting off two—no, make that three T-Rex's all whilst maintaining a firm yet not suffocating grip on Ann to protect her from these perils. Ridiculous, yet fun, and extremely exciting to watch.

So yes, it is three hours long, and sure there are some drawn-out moments when Jack looks into Ann's eyes, and Ann looks into Kong's eyes, and Carl greedily rubs his hands together in anticipation of profit, but it really shouldn't be a surprise after the LOTR trilogy that Peter Jackson likes the slow-mo effect. If you can't sit through three hours, then wait for the DVD and watch it at home—but do watch it, because it is a fantastic movie. I couldn't have been happier with it.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 

Fans of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia will most certainly enjoy this movie, but those unfamiliar with the books might find this story, with all its nymphs, fauns, centaurs and talking animals to be a bit cheesy. Having adored the novels when I was kid, I was extremely pleased that here was an adaptation that stuck remarkably close to the source material, and really managed to capture the spirit of the Narnian universe.

The story takes place during the second World War, wherein children are often sent out of London in order to escape the nightly air raids. Such is the case for the four Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmond and Lucy, whose mother sends them off to stay with Professor Kirke in the English countryside. While playing hide and seek in the mansion one day, Lucy, the youngest of the four, hides in a wardrobe in one of the many spare rooms. This is apparently not the kind of wardrobe one buys at IKEA, as it has so much space that it in fact contains a portal to another world. No sooner has she stepped into this snowy land, when she meets Mr. Tumnus, a friendly faun who is so startled at her appearance in Narnia that he invites her back to his house for afternoon tea. Apparently this strange child molester vibe completely escaped me when I read these books as a kid, but I must admit it was a bit disconcerting to watch a grown man/faun (what have you) enticing a little girl back to his house with promises of candy. Mr. Tumnus, it turns out, is under orders to turn over any humans to Narnia’s evil queen, known by the local populace as The White Witch, who is the cause of Narnia’s 100 year-long winter. Mr. Tumnus changes his mind, however, and helps Lucy return back through the wardrobe into the spare room. Her siblings don’t believe her story, but eventually, of course, they find themselves running away from the strict housekeeper one day and hide in the wardrobe only to find that Lucy was right about Narnia all along. Unfortunately, Mr. Tumnus has been arrested for his failure to turn Lucy over to The White Witch, but with the timely aid of a talking beaver, the children are sheltered away before The White Witch learns of their presence. What follows is an adventure across Narnia in an attempt to save the land from The White Witch even as Aslan, an all-powerful lion returns to save the inhabitants from the witch’s tyrannical and evil rule.

Yes, there is a Christian-like parable within this story, what with the sacrifice of Aslan in Edmond’s stead and all, but then again, there were also many elements in the film that had absolutely nothing to do with Christianity whatsoever. Unless of course Father Christmas/Santa Claus had some heretofore unknown role in the Last Supper and the twelve disciples were actually talking horses—I’m not exactly religious so I can’t claim to be an expert, but I think this movie is meant to be a nice, imaginative story more than anything else.

This adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is by far the best I have seen—the casting was excellent, the special effects were perfect, and the screenplay was remarkably true to the book. Some parts were admittedly a bit on the cheesy side (e.g. the whole Santa Claus bit), but anyone who read and enjoyed the books won’t have too much trouble with it. The action was exciting, although extremely G-rated—for instance, during a battle sequence, some characters actually threw rocks at the bad guys as some sort of newfound military tactic, no doubt. All in all, I was delighted with the movie and recommend it to kids, those who read the books, and anyone who enjoys a good fantasy film.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Better bring a notepad and pen for this one. Syriana is a serious and politically charged movie, wherein the plot and message is not handed to the viewer on a silver platter (or gold or bronze or any other material with which one might make a platter). This film is quite difficult to follow, so if you have trouble keeping track of multiple storylines, especially schizophrenic and disjointed ones, then I'm serious about bringing along that notepad.

There are at least six separate plotlines within Syriana, many of which are deeply connected with each other, while others only loosly, and some not at all. Bob Barnes (George Clooney) works deep within the CIA, carrying out highly illegal operations in the Middle East that serve the best interests of the United States. In the opening scenes, he sells two missiles to an Iranian customer who has no idea that he is about to be blown up by the ill-gotten weapons as soon as Bob strolls outside. Unfortunately for George Clooney, however, Bob's plan isn't executed with quite the perfection that he had come to expect after his exploits in Ocean's 11. Meanwhile, back in the United States, two giant oil companies, Connex Oil and Killen Company, await final approval from the Justice Department in order to complete a merger that will give Connex Oil the rights to drill in Kazakhstan, which Killen Oil had recently won. The circumstances of Killen's contract with Kazakhstan are legally puzzling, leading the government to believe that the company paid someone off in order to win the rights. Bennett Holiday (Jeffrey Wright) is put in charge of due diligence for the merger, but his true, unspoken job is to find someone high up in Killen or Connex who can be a fall guy. The illusion of due diligence is really the key, since the US government doesn't really want to prevent a merger that would give the country those coveted exclusive drilling rights.

Yet another storyline begins as well, this one in Geneva, Switzerland with Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon), an energy analyst whose firm is vying for an advisory position to Emir Hamed Al-Subaai, the King (aka Emir) of a fictional Middle Eastern country. The Emir has two sons, the oldest of whom, Prince Nasir (Alexander Siddig), stands on the brink of succession to the throne as his aging father's health fails. The younger son, Prince Meshal (Akbar Kurtha), jealously watches his older brother handle state affairs, but is mostly content to squander whatever fortune he is given. The Emir and Prince Nasir have just signed a contract with China, giving the Chinese drilling rights in their country, much to the indignation of the United States. As Bryan Woodman wins Prince Nasir's trust and eventual contract, powerful players in the United States government seek ways to prevent Prince Nasir's ascension to the Emir's throne by ingratiating themselves to the younger, infinitely greedier Prince Meshal. The question quickly becomes: since Prince Nasir is a reformist seeking to embrace capitalism and democracy, why then does the United States oppose his leadership, even going so far as to plan his assassination?

Each of these storylines, as well as a few others, connect with each other in different ways and to varying degrees. The movie is told in a disorderly fashion, following the progression of each story for several minutes before abruptly switching to another. What is most interesting in the film is the inherent debate over morality and necessity, which is presented through various points of view. Needless to say, viewers will have much to think about as they leave the theater.

I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of this film, except for brief stretch of time during a particularly unpleasant scene when I scampered out of the theater. Otherwise, I fully recommend Syriana to those who enjoy serious films with controversial and complex political topics.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Yours, Mine & Ours 

No surprises here, folks. Yours, Mine & Ours is your basic family drama/"comedy" wherein a zillion kids are up to shenanigans while their parents try to work out their cookie-cutter differences in time for a heart-warming ending. With like, a basquillion kids.

Frank Beardsley (Dennis Quaid) and Helen White (Rene Russo), once high school sweethearts, each find themselves recently widowed with an entire litter of children. Frank and his 8 kids have just moved yet again, this time to Frank's hometown of New London. As an admiral in the U.S. Coast Guard, Frank has stereotypically brought his regimented military lifestyle into the family's routine as well--training all of his kids to "sound off" and perform all sorts of other military family cliches. Helen, meanwhile, is the exact opposite--letting her children shriek incessantly and run wild around the house, and in general make a mess of things. Thankfully, the movie wastes little time with the reunion and subsequent rekindling of romance between Frank and Helen, but the news of their impromptu wedding is not quite what their children wanted to hear. Despite the fact that both Helen and Frank are blissfully happy together and perfectly wonderful to their new stepchildren, both the White kids and the Beardsley kids decide that the marriage must be destroyed. I mean, they are all so different! William (the eldest Beardsley) and Dylan (the eldest White) have a difference of opinion as to how their room will be decorated, as do the two eldest girls of the respective families. Clearly these are irreconcilable differences and therefore befitting of the plan to rip out their parents' hearts by destroying a happy marriage. Touching.

At first, the kids declare war on each other, by mixing up the bathroom schedules (haha!) and then setting off the fire alarm in order to evacuate the offending clan. Unfortunately for the kids, however, Frank and Helen keep planning all manner of bonding activities in order to encourage peace, but all to no avail. The kids decide to unite against their common enemy and, again, break their parents' hearts in the process, by setting up various hijinks that will highlight the glaringly obvious differences in personality. Ah, I love these hijinks--what clever little strategies will those kids come up with next? Meanwhile, as Frank tells Helen a little story about the creatively-named "Beautiful Lighthouse Keeper," the audience is slapped repeatedly in the face with the fact that this story will almost certainly come into play at the end when drastic measures must be taken to save the marriage. As the blatant personality differences between Frank and Helen are slowly discovered by the same, the marriage begins to suffer just as the kids begin to get along. Literally no one is surprised by any of these developments.

This movie wasn't horrible, but it wasn't uproariously funny or noteworthy for anything other than having a freaking ton of kids. There were a few, brief moments that brought a smile to my face, but the story was so ridiculously predictable that it was hard to be surprised or entertained. It's probably a cute movie for parents and kids alike, but otherwise I can't recommend it. I do suggest waiting for the DVD at the very least, because while Yours, Mine & Ours is a harmless and easy-going film, it's certainly nothing remarkable.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

In the Mix 

Why can’t Usher just do semi-biographical movies like every other self-respecting rapper? At least that way I would have left the theater feeling somewhat inspired rather than catatonic.

In the Mix does not, unfortunately, tell the story of how Usher rose to fame from humble beginnings; instead, it tells the monstrously predictable story of how Darrell (Usher), a popular DJ with aspirations of owning his own record label, falls in love with long-time family friend, Dolly (Emmanuelle Chriqui), the daughter of Jersey mob boss Frank Paccelli (Chazz Palminteri). At Frank’s request, Darrell agrees to DJ for Dolly’s homecoming party, wherein the audience is forced to tolerate the maddening demeanor of Frank Junior (Anthony Fazio), who is clearly meant to be over-the-top (success) and zany (failure) but is mostly just annoying as all get out. The characters are enjoying this extremely boring party, when suddenly Darrell can see events in slow motion! This is certainly lucky, because it allows him to perceive an attempted drive-by shooting, and then continue moving at normal speed such that he can dive in front of Frank and take the bullet, even though he was halfway across the room when the shooter pulled the trigger. Superman himself would have been proud. Frank decides that Dolly now needs protection wherever she goes, but Dolly is stereotypically headstrong and doesn’t like any of the available body guards—well, this is understandable, because when she surveys the three contenders, one of them is eating a sandwich, which clearly shows that he’s a disgusting slob. Gross! And besides, since Darrell apparently possesses abilities far beyond those of mortal men, he’s the most logical choice by far.

It gets worse. Much, much worse. Dolly is all cross with Darrell for being her bodyguard despite the fact that she chose him in the first place (?), so she devises a clever strategy to make him quit by taking him to a spa. Not since Hilary Duff in the 2005’s smash hit, The Perfect Man, has such a genius Machiavellian plan been conceived, yet shockingly, it does not succeed! Several mind-numbing scenes, vacuous strings of dialogue, and archetypal characters later, the ending that we all knew was going to occur finally made its appearance with shocking new levels of idiocy. One of the worst “dying” lines in the history of cinema is uttered, and an excruciating wrap-up scene is forced upon the audience. I absolutely could not bring myself to watch the snapshot scenes during the credits, so I cannot speak to their entertainment value or likely lack thereof.

The underlying plot itself is not necessarily without merit, however it is perhaps told in the most boring and aggravating manner conceivable. As this veritable train wreck of a movie began careening itself toward my own personal hell, I started to consider the possibility that it was perhaps written with the intention of being hideous, which would present the audience with an opportunity to laugh—much like the Leprechaun franchise. It was simply too oversimplistic and horrendously written to be taken seriously, so surely it must have been intentional. Amazingly, however, even this “derisive enjoyment” approach failed as soon as one of the characters invariably attempted to give the audience a “serious moment,” perhaps in a vain attempt to showcase acting abilities that simply did not exist (with the exception of Chazz Palminteri).

I only recommend this movie to masochists. Seriously, just pull out that $10 bill and torch it, because it’s a better use for the money.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Aeon Flux 

Geeks like me love movies like Aeon Flux—the kind of film wherein one is always striving, ever so slightly, to maintain a firm understanding of the plot while a myriad of futuristic gadgets and scenarios spontaneously appear, adding constant mystery to the story. This movie falls firmly within the realm of sci-fi, so while the story is imaginative and the action is respectable, those with a distaste for comic-booky science fiction might prefer to wait for the DVD. Personally, however, I thought Aeon Flux was awesome.

In the year 2011 a catastrophic virus kills 99% of the world’s population before a vaccine is finally developed by geneticist Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas). The remaining 5 million people must live within the confines of Bregna (the last city on earth), which is ruled by Goodchild himself for over 400 years. And don’t start bothering with questions as to how it is possible for one man to rule a city-state for 400 years—it just is. A small but powerful group of rebels and assassins known as the Monicans seek to overthrow the totalitarian government, which just might be possible using the deadly skill of their top agent, Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron). Communicating telepathically with some sort of psychosomatic pill, The Handler (Frances McDormand) informs Aeon of the mission she has been waiting years for—the assassination of Trevor Goodchild himself. She and fellow Monican agent Sithandra (Sophie Okonedo), who had her feet surgically replaced with an extra pair of hands, break into the high-security government compound and evade the barrage of poisonous darts simply with a combination of backflips and running quickly. Because we all know, a bullet/dart/arrow can’t hit you if you’re in the midst of a backflip. When Aeon’s carefully-planned opportunity to kill Goodchild presents itself, however, she is inexplicably unable to pull the trigger. She suddenly realizes that something is horribly amiss, and after several gunfights, hand-to-hand combats, and various other altercations, it becomes clear that Goodchild may not actually be the bad guy.

Apart from the sci-fi aspects of the film, I really enjoyed the basic mystery behind the plot, which really had only one major hole. The story in itself is not necessarily revolutionary, as viruses and certain genetic experiments are not new, but as a futuristic idea the plot worked quite well—especially with the set designs looking remarkably similar to an Apple computer store. Why does the future always look that way anyway? Some of my friends pointed out that the previews for this movie gave away some of the more intriguing aspects, which is certainly true, although not to such an extent that the audience is not left with any surprises. Trust me, there is more than enough material to confuse you, although I admit some scenes would have been far cooler were one completely taken by surprise. Additionally, the film is only loosely based on the MTV series, so don’t be too annoyed if it’s nothing like what you remember, although supposedly many of the same gadgetry and aesthetics were taken directly from the show.

I highly, highly recommend Aeon Flux to those who enjoy sci-fi and fantasy type stories. Everything is cool to look at, Charlize Theron is awesome in her first action-hero role, and the mystery was intriguing and well-paced. I loved this movie, but if you’re not into quirky comic book-type films, then be forewarned that Aeon Flux is heavy on the fantasy elements.

Monday, December 05, 2005


All in all, Rent was a decent movie—not quite, in my opinion, up to the standards set by Chicago (2002), but for those who enjoy musicals, I am sure this will not disappoint.

Rent is the story of one year in the life of seven friends, four of whom live in an apartment building scheduled for demolition, some of whom have AIDS, and all of whom live the so-called “bohemian lifestyle,” whatever the hell that is. From what I could tell, it basically meant not wanting to pay rent and subsisting on some sort of low-paying artistic venture. The story begins on Christmas Eve in 1989, wherein all the residents of an apartment building are burning trash and eviction notices and throwing them in flames out of the window, while singing a merry tune about refusing to pay rent. The landlord, Benny (Taye Diggs), is understandably irritated by this behavior, but because being successful and gainfully employed is frowned upon in this movie, Benny is the asshole and we all hate his stupid middle-class guts! And also, his hair is dumb. Meanwhile, Mimi (Rosario Dawson), who lives in the apartment below Roger and Mark, decides that Roger (Adam Pascal) is not too shabby and goes ahead and hits on him. Probably because he has never had a gorgeous woman flirt with him before, Roger rebuffs her initial advances, and makes up some nonsense about having issues and baggage, and blah blah blah. The next day, Roger and Mark’s friend Tom Collins (the guy from Law & Order) shows up with his new boyfriend, Angel (Wilson Jermaine Heredia), a charismatic fellow who nursed Collins back to health after an unfortunate mugging incident. From there Collins and Angel try to convince Roger to accompany them to group sessions for those suffering from AIDS, since Roger refuses to live life to its fullest, especially when it comes to Mimi. Mark (Anthony Rapp), meanwhile, is trying to film a documentary as well as help his ex-girlfriend, Maureen, with her upcoming protest over the scheduled apartment demolition. Mark is somewhat uncomfortable with this, however, as he must work alongside Maureen’s new girlfriend, Joanne (Tracie Thoms), for whom Maureen dumped Mark. The two soon develop a rapport, however, having shared the same insecurities in their respective relationships with the fickle Maureen.

Roger finally decides to take Mimi on a date to Maureen’s protest rally (?), which starts off strangely, and then gradually becomes more and more bizarre and annoying until it made absolutely no sense whatsoever. The characters all seemed to think that Maureen’s discussions of cows jumping over the moon with forks and spoons were hilariously ingenious, but I have to admit I questioned the relevance of children’s nursery rhymes to neighborhood re-zoning issues. The “protest” mercifully ends and the movie goes on to its second half, in which all of the characters develop and grow over the course of the year, each having to deal with a variety of personal struggles.

I thought Rent was a decent movie, extremely long, but just interesting enough to hold my attention. It’s a very artistic movie, much like its characters, so if you enjoy that genre then you will love this film. If, however, you’re expecting something along the lines of Chicago, you might be somewhat disappointed, as the dialogue is extremely limited, with songs nearly every 5 seconds. I don’t mean to say this is bad, but if you already tend to shy away from musicals then beware. Otherwise, I recommend Rent, but it might not be a horrible idea to wait for the DVD.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Just Friends 

The unthinkable happened while I was watching this movie, and it occurred within the first five minutes and lasted throughout the entire duration of the film. Ryan Reynolds and freaking Chris Klein made me laugh--and not just a vaguely amused chuckle either--I'm talking use-my-inhaler-because-I'm-laughing-so-hard funny. Seriously! The two most unlikely actors, paired together no less, made me laugh so much and so often, that I have half a mind to see this stupid movie again before it leaves the theaters. I would even pay the full $10 to see it again instead of sneaking in for a double-dip.

Ryan Reynolds plays Chris Brander, an overweight nice guy who is in love with his best friend, Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart). Reynolds hams it up while wearing the fat suit, singing along to All 4 One's "I Swear," wearing a retainer, and sporting a nifty 'fro, but he finally works up the courage to tell Jamie how he really feels about her. When Jamie tells him that she loves him more as a brother than a boyfriend, his mean-spirited classmates mercilessly laugh at him, and he storms off on his bike, not to return for 10 years. With a vastly improved physical figure, a high-paying job in the music industry, and a newfound prowess with the ladies, Chris is suddenly reunited with his high school past when he gets stranded on the way to Paris after the ridiculous antics of his superstar client, Samantha James (Anna Faris). Samantha being the new "it girl" in Hollywood, it is Chris's sad misfortune to have to kiss up to her at his boss's insistence. Happily for the audience, however, Chris's misfortune is our enjoyment, therefore rendering all of his scenes with the over-the-top and completely psychotic Samantha uproariously entertaining. While Chris has his younger brother distract Samantha (which was also highly amusing), he makes several failed attempts to romance Jamie, who seems immune to his new charms and only interested in the older, nerdier side of him that she remembers from high school. Competition for Jamie's affection comes in the form of Dusty Dinkelman (Chris Klein), formerly a pimply loser who was also in love with Jamie and is now a handsome Johnny-Do-Gooder. Of course, we all know Dusty's intentions can't be as honorable as they seem, and only Chris sees through Dusty's well-played "nice guy" act, which just happens to be more successful than his own.

The plot itself is obviously nothing all that astonishing, so what makes this movie so hilarious is that it doesn't play on the predictable jokes that I had fully anticipated. Ryan Reynolds actually made more than one facial expression and seemed to have more than one gimmick as well--in fact there was one scene in which he reminded me strongly of Jim Carrey. Chris's interactions with his brother, Mike, were consistently hysterical, and anytime Samantha was in a scene I knew with absolute certainty that I would be laughing throughout. The supporting characters, especially Chris's mom, were perfectly inserted into the story, such that they added subtle and completely unexpected comedy--usually in the form of deadpan one-liners. There was a lot of verbal comedy in addition to a respectable level of physical humor that wasn't overdone or annoying.

I wouldn't have thought it possible, but Ryan Reynolds was hilarious in this movie, as was Chris Klein and just about every other character in Just Friends. It was simply incredible. This is a silly movie, to be sure, but quite well made--probably for a young-ish audience--and I kind of want to give it the oscar rating.