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Posts Tagged ‘comedy’

Cop Out is Neither Fun nor Funny

March 1, 2010 1 comment

This film sounded good in theory. I liked the director Kevin Smith’s last two movies, “Clerks 2,” and “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” so I was looking forward to his next film. You throw in Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, who is hilarious in “30 Rock,” and I was totally up for this movie. As it turns out, this film only does sound good in theory.

Smith’s movie is an homage to the buddy cop movies of the 1980’s, minus the humor. The story is ridiculous and hardly worth going into any major detail here.  Jimmy Monroe (Bruce Willis) and Paul Hodges (Tracy Morgan) are two long-term police partners who get suspended doing some dumb cop shit. Willis needs money to pay for his daughter’s wedding, so he decides to sell a vintage baseball card. The baseball card gets stolen and Willis and Morgan end up getting involved with a Mexican gang that has Willis’ baseball card. As you can imagine, cray antics ensue after this.

Kevin Smith directs this film like a total amateur. Many of the scenes have no pacing, no humor, they just lie dead on the ground. You want to take a pillow and suffocate these scene to put them out of its misery. The action scenes are also badly edited, which causes these scenes to be  devoid of any excitement, tension, or suspense.

The only times I did laugh was due to Tracy Morgan. The one comedic bit that works involved him and Willis doing a good cop/bad cop routine in a Russian’s house. Seann William Scott, playing a thief, is also very good at being super annoying in the movie. Many of the scenes that are intended to be funny involve Morgan saying something outrageous and Willis giving him a look. I can’t blame Smith for all the lackluster humor in the film. Credit must go the screenwriters, Robb and Mark Cullen. One potential funny bit involves a scene with Morgan interrogating a suspect by saying quotes from such films like, “Jaws” and “The Color Purple.” The humor from this scene in undercut because Smith has to cut back to Willis telling the audience what film the quote is from.

Bruce Willis looks bored out of his mind here. He and Morgan have zero chemistry together. Jason Lee is terrible, Adam Brody is unfunny and Kevin Pollack is given nothing to do. The scenes involving the film’s villain, a Mexican gang leader named Poh Boy (Guillermo Diaz), are cringe-inducing to watch. I’m not sure if I’m suppose to take this guy serious or laugh at him. The entire film has this same problem.

1 1/2 stars

Clooney, Reitman & Crew Deliver an Outstanding Film with Up in the Air

December 15, 2009 Leave a comment

Up in the Air

With this film director Jason Reitman I think cements his status as possibly one of our great future directors. With each successive film Reitman has grown as a filmmaker. I didn’t care for his debut, “Thank You For Smoking,” but I really enjoyed his follow-up “Juno.” I think “Up in the Air” is without a doubt his best film. The writing, direction, and the cast, is a step above the rest.

Ryan Bingham, played by George Clooney, is a man whose job is to fire people. Companies from around the country hire him to come to their company and fire their employees. He is an expert at it. Watching him fire people is like watching a fine artist at work. All this traveling requires that Bingham essentially live in the air. On the rare occasion when he returns to his apartment we see it is lonely and empty. Traveling is his life and he loves it. He has no use for an ordinary life. Along his travels he encounters two women who challenge his life. One of them is a female version of himself, Alex, played by Vera Farmiga. The other is a young employee at his company, Natalie, played by Anna Kendrick, who Bingham takes on the road to show her the ropes.

2009 has been a standout year for Clooney. He was the best thing in “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” and his voice work was fantastic in “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” With this film Clooney ends the year with another strong performance. He is completely charming, but doesn’t rely on it to carry the role. We get to see a real vulnerability behind all his charm and good looks. There is one great scene where we see Clooney at work. He fires J.K. Simmons with such sincerity that it had me thinking that I wouldn’t mind being fired by Clooney.

The two female leads are also strong. Vera Farmiga finally gets a chance to shine. I love the scenes between her and Clooney. When the two of them go at with the dialogue it reminded me a bit of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell going at it in “His Girl Friday.” Anna Kendrick is completely engaging as the hot-shot newcomer who threatens Clooney’s way of life. There is a great scene where the two go at it for the first time and the cutting back and forth between the two reminds you of two boxers going at it. Kendrick puts up a tough persona, but we are able to see cracks in her hard armor.

The screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, based on the novel by Walter Kerns, is terrific. There are a number of great one liners. The dialogue and the way the actors deliver the lines is delightful to hear.

The film mirrors the real life economic downturn that is facing the country today. Reitman uses real life out of work employees in the film. When I first heard of this, I wasn’t sure how this element would be incorporated into the picture. But Reitman blends the unemployed into the film in a nice, non intrusive way.

Just when the film reaches a level of sentimentality, the film pulls the rug out of the audience and Clooney. I kind of did see this event coming just when it was about to happen. A lesser filmmaker would have possibly went for the easy way out. I really liked the ambiguity of the ending. Where does the man in the air go now? The more I thought about the film afterwards, the more in stature the film grew.

I think Roger Ebert sums it up best about Reitman during his review of this film. He “makes smart, edgy mainstream films. That’s harder than making smart, edgy indies.” Reitman is a real talent, who has a knack for balancing humor and drama to produce a fully satisfying picture.

4 Stars

Wes Anderson Returns to Form with Fantastic Mr. Fox

December 5, 2009 Leave a comment

This is one of my favorite films of the year. I just immediately feel in love with the film as I sat in the theatre watching it. I’ve been a fan of Anderson since I first saw Rushmore, and this film is a return to form for him. This is defiantly Anderson’s best film since 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums. I enjoyed The Life Aquatic and The Darjeeling Limited, but even I admit that both those films were flawed.

This is a stop-motion animated film based on Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel. The story focuses on a family of foxes. The patriarch of the family is Mr. Fox, voiced by George Clooney, his wife, is voiced by Meryl Streep, and their young insecure son, Ash, is voiced by Jason Schwartzman. Clooney’s Fox is trying to go it straight and keep away from the life of being an adventurous, daring wild animal. But one day he lets loose and starts stealing food from near by farmers. This soon starts a war between the farmers and all the animals living in the community.

The voice acting in the film is perfect. George Clooney is great as the dashing, adventurous Mr. Fox. Another perfect casting pick is Jason Schwartzman as Ash. Schwartzman is great at playing arrogant characters. Look at his performance as Max in Rushmore to see a perfect example of this.

There is also some great voice talent from other members of the Wes Anderson stock company. Of course the great Billy Murray makes an appearance as a lawyer Badger. Other members of the stock company we hear are Owen Wilson, Michael Gambon, and Willem Dafoe. Other great additions to the company include Wes Anderson’s brother, Eric Chase Anderson, as the nephew Fox and Wallace Wolodarsky voicing Mr. Fox’s sidekick.

I love how the stop-motion animation looks in this film. It’s beautiful to look at. This being a stop-motion animated film does not limit Wes Anderson’s directorial style. We get Anderson’s trademark of very particular framing of scenes. We get a side moving view of a set, that makes it look like we’re looking in a dollhouse. Like in each of Anderson’s films, each character has their own particular uniform which represents a side of their own personality. His love of classic rock comes through as well. We get to hear a Rolling Stones tune in the film. When was the last time you heard a Rolling Stones song in a children’s animated film?

This film falls perfectly into Anderson’s oeuvre because of the film’s focus on this strange, unique family. Anderson loves to focus on the eccentrics in life. Particularly when it comes to family units. Here we see this to full effect. In some ways Mr. Fox is in the same vein as Royal Tenenbaum.

This is a very charming, funny film that I think will appeal to both children and adults. Go out and seek this film! Wes Anderson fans will not be disappointed.

4 Stars