Tuesday, May 22, 2012

April 2012

I'm getting to the April movie report card more than a couple of weeks late, owing to God knows what. April was marked by a week-long trip to Lake Havasu, where I tested boats and attended (for the first time!) the famous Desert Storm poker run. I didn't see a great deal of movies in April, but I did fit in a few. In retrospect, it appears April was a pretty disastrous month, moviewise.

AMERICAN REUNION (2012)—I had not planned on seeing the latest installment in the American Pie franchise, but Yasmine Tsu wanted to see it, so I took her. Given my virtually nonexistent expectations, it turned out to be a generally entertaining romp, with the usual gross-out humor for the guys and a heaping helping of sentimentaility for the gals. Assuming this is the last of the Pie flicks, it would serve as a fitting capper. There's a nice twist at the end of the movie involving the Steve Stifler character (as always, capably portrayed by Seann William Scott). (8)

THE THREE STOOGES (2012)—I have never been a Stooges fan, but for some reason, I was very curious to see modern-day actors portraying Moe, Larry and Curly, whose popuarity dates back to the early days of vaudeville. For a guy who doesn't really care for slapstick, I have to admit that the impersonations carried the movie for me rather well. It's split up into three "shorts," in the tradition of their famous films from the '30s, '40s and '50s. Perhaps owing to the fact that I wasn't a Stooges enthusiast, the modern characterizations seemed almost supernaturally realistic—it's hard to single out Chris Diamantopoulos (Moe), Sean Hayes (Larry) or Will Sasso (Curly), because all of them are dead-on perfect. It was great to see Larry David in drag as a nun, and there are three very attractive females in the cast: Sofia Vergara (Modern Family), Sports Illustrated supermodel Kate Upton and Filipina-American Emy Coligado. It's a very silly movie by design and, as directed by the Farrelly brothers (who obviously have a deep love for the source material), it's totally successful doing what it's supposed to do. (8)

CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)—Unlike the previous two movies, this was one I had been anticipating for years; originally slated for an early 2010 release, it was pushed back when MGM filed for bankruptcy. The reason for my interest: the screenwriter was Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame. The gimmick of the film is that they've taken a very tired premise (a bunch of attractive young adults spend a weekend in an isolated spot amid sinister forces, à la Friday the 13th) and turned it on its head with an added supernatural twist that involves TV stars Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) and Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under). Unashamedly meta and liberally tongue-in-cheek, I nonetheless found myself growing increasingly impatient with the five stereotypical college kids—stoner, slut, egghead, jock, virgin—I mean, come on! I realize it's supposed to be satirical, but the fact that these five people are friends is way harder to believe than any of the creepy and demonic elements of the movie. Overlying twist notwithstanding, this is essentially a stupid slasher movie, and it left me rather cold. My friend Anna, who saw it around the same time I did, sums it all up perfectly:
"For me it was a wankfest for the writers, and way too much going on at the 11th hour to be plausible at all, even within the fantasy realm. They would have benefitted from a bit of 'less is more.' It also felt like a ripoff of Cube, with elements of The Truman Show. It also felt like they were smoking a lot of pot when they wrote that script. I mean...the stoner is the smart guy who figures everything out?" 
A major disappointment. (5)

21 JUMP STREET (2012)—I never saw the original 1980s TV series that made Johnny Depp a teen idol, and I wish I could say that I never saw this tepid film adaptation (starring the already massively overexposed Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum), a stupid and boring "comedy" that puts all of its mildly amusing bits into the trailer and fills out the rest of the movie with car-chase scenes. A waste of time that somehow won acclaim from some fairly noteworthy reviewers. (4)

BULLY (2012)—Joan invited me to Paramount for a free screening of this documentary, which captures the lives and tribulations of a number of bullied school kids across the U.S. Though very well-meaning and occasionally enlightening, the movie was all but ruined by the cinematographer's absurd stylistic deicison to keep going in and out of focus at random times, which only caused us to wonder if we were slowly going blind. A genuine pity, because this would have been much more compelling if we had been allowed to, you know, FOCUS ON WHAT WAS BEING DOCUMENTED! (6)

  ON DVD...

ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY (2004)—This always seemed to be one of the innumerable dumb movies starring an alumnus of Saturday Night Live, hardly worth my time any more than, say, Superstar or MacGruber. I know Will Ferrell is universally considered to be outrageously funny—just because I can't think of anything he's ever done that made me laugh doesn't mean he isn't. Yet I am definitely not a fan, and what I've seen of his film work (Melinda and Melinda, Stranger Than Fiction) hasn't exactly rocked my universe. So this film selection might strike you as a trifle bizarre. The reason I picked it is because I recently read a book by a very funny female TV writer/actress, Mindy Kaling (The Office), who spoke at length about what a hilarious movie this is, and how funny Ferrell is in particular. I had no reason to disbelieve her, as I totally respect everything she's done in conjunction with the office. But Kaling's audiobook, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, turns out to be infinitely funnier and far better written and performed than Anchorman—I saw it only weeks ago and remember almost nothing about it. Well, I do remember that there was a male chauvinist theme involving a female TV anchor played by Christina Applegate, who has some unfortunate dialogue referencing the beauty of her own breasts—which, given the fact that the actress has since had a double mascectomy, seems a bit macabre in retrospect. Honestly, I don't think I smiled or chuckled more than once or twice during the movie, which is not a good thing for an allegedly hilarious comedy. So why does everybody seem to love the film, and Ferrell? One thing is for sure: this actor must have the crookedest lower teeth in the history of cinema. (5)