Tag: 2011

Movie Review: Bridesmaids (2011)

Oh my god did you hear about Kristen Wiig? You know, the lady who does funny voices on SNL? She, like, totally wrote a whole movie script with this other woman and somehow maneuvered into starring in it. And check this, it’s totally got a crapload of talented ladies who don’t spend the whole time having boy problems? I don’t even get it. Who could this film appeal to? It’s a well-known fact that ladies don’t like comedy, they just want pretty white heterosexuals to make out with each other after a series of contrived obstacles. Wait, ladies don’t even go to the movies. And dudes want to see other dudes just bein’ bros together, right? Farting and blowing shit up and getting mad tail. Yes. Clearly, Bridesmaids is this crazy anomaly by being a comedy with women that people actually want to see! Madness! IT WOULD APPEAR MEMBERS OF THE FEMALE SEX CAN ACTUALLY BE FUNNY.

Look everyone, I enjoyed Bridesmaids. Let’s not forget that. It’s a funny, enjoyable film with an excellent cast and nice mixture of real-world plot developments and exaggerated comedic bits. Kristen Wiig is very likable as Annie, a jewelry clerk who is in the middle of a mid-30’s crisis after her bakery business fails, her boyfriend leaves her, and her long-time best friend (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged. She tries to put her personal problems aside to help plan the wedding events as maid of honor, but a passive-aggressive, wealthy bridesmaid (Rose Byrne) steps in and tries to steal her thunder. It’s not romance-centric, it’s not cliche in its humor or characterization, and for the most part it doesn’t need to stoop too low for a laugh. I really appreciated the focus on friendship between women, the attention paid to real-life budgetary restrictions, the touch of sweetness for the third act, and the many cute castmembers (including Ellie Kemper and Chris O’Dowd).

What I really take issue with are the expectations assigned to to this film and the ridiculous way some people are talking about it. Let’s not pretend that this is the first time a female-driven comedy has been made. I’m sure you’ve all heard of Clueless? Daisies? We can go all the way back to Stage Door, and farther if we wanted to. Yes, Bridesmaids is definitely one of the more mainstream ones to come out in recent memory, and the fact that it’s marketed more towards men makes it idiosyncratic. It isn’t “making chick flicks funny” or “saving the rom-com” or whatever taglines reviewers have been giving it. It’s a wholly capable comedy that happens to feature a lot of talented female comedians, and manages to be raunchy enough to appeal to multiple genders. I do feel that I related to it a bit more than I would had it been focused on men, and of course I hope the success of the film opens up doors for talented lady comedians everywhere. But it isn’t this major, groundbreaking film, and it doesn’t have to be. Just sit back and enjoy Wiig’s hilarious drunken antics, Rudolph’s cuteness, Melissa McCarthy’s brashness, and a lot of genuine smiles.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: I guess something else in the Apatow vein is easy pairing. I liked Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. The recession/lower income themes reminded me of Going The Distance, a solid and fairly realistic romantic comedy. Of course I will always actively promote other lady-made comedies to set against this: Drop Dead Gorgeous, Whip It, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, etc. For more examples of women making movies that don’t suck (and a few that do), check out my woman-centric film page.

My original poster design for this film is available for purchase.

Movie Review: Thor (2011)

Oh what Marvel made a movie? Guess I have to see it. Thor is another Avengers-prep movie, based on a comic I haven’t read, but really it’s a feuding-brothers tale wrapped up in romance. Or maybe the other way around. He’s a Norse god/alien or something, she’s a gorgeous physicist who is somehow single. They should totally date! But oh no! He’s got a conniving little brother who always wants to hang out with them, and they can never do it, because he usurps the dad and becomes all-powerful king/god/alien and totally tries to kill everyone. Aw man. When will these beautiful people finally get to bang? Or at least make out? These thrills and more await you in THOR: A COSMIC COMIC ADVENTURE.

Alright. So actually I really enjoyed this movie. It’s a fun, slightly silly but ultimately endearing adventure with an interesting mix of fantasy and science-fiction. Asgard is breathtaking and shiny, everyone’s got cool battle armor, there are super-tall ice people, swordfights, tons of made up words, and a magic portal guarded by Idris Elba. Most of the really fun action takes place there, and that’s cool, though I did enjoy seeing a poor desert town get ripped to shreds for no reason on Earth.

Thor himself is pretty boring. Sure, Chris Hemsworth is super-built and blonde, but he’s playing such a jackass it doesn’t really matter. Luckily, he’s hilarious at times and I really liked the “stranger in a strange land” scenes when he first lands on Earth and has no idea how to behave. Plus, he’s surrounded by cool people, from the lovely Natalie Portman to the amazing, funny, BEAUTIFUL, and sadly underused Kat Dennings. The biggest reason I wanted to see this movie, no joke. The most interesting character is actually Loki, Thor’s troubled brother played by Tom Hiddleston. I was basically on his side for most of the film despite his supposed “evil-ness”. I draw the line at genocide, though. The surprise hit is Jaime Alexander as Sif, an awesome warrior lady who just comes out of nowhere to kick everyone’s ass. Awesome.

Of course, Thor has its problems. The story doesn’t always make sense, the acting is a bit hokey at times (I see you phoning it in, Anthony Hopkins), the romance is super-rushed (no surprise), and the central character isn’t especially interesting. But, the script did well to bring more focus to SHIELD during the parts on Earth, with the adorable Clark Gregg stealing some scenes, and I enjoyed most of the other characters, including Thor’s “diverse” posse of warriors. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, resulting in a flat-out fun movie that charms despite its flaws. Plus, I have to admit his hammer is totally kickass.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Um… Masters of the Universe? Ha, just kidding. How about Iron Man? Or Scott Pilgrim vs The World?

Movie Review: Hanna (2011)

This is the first movie of 2011 I’ve been legitimately really excited about. I liked how the director was always dumping on anti-feminism in Sucker Punch. I also liked how Saoirse Ronan was going to fuck shit up. The titular Hanna (Ronan) is a teenage warrior raised in mountainous isolation by her father (Eric Bana). She’s incredibly strong, with sharp reflexes, deadly aim, a strong memory, and no fear. She turns herself loose in the outside world by allowing secret agent Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) to find her. She traipses through Morocco and Europe, aiming to meet up with her father in Berlin, and along the way she learns a bit about family, friendship, fairy tales, and electricity. She also fucks all kinds of shit up! Yes!

This movie is seriously intense. Between the thumping electronic soundtrack from The Chemical Brothers, sharply-edited action scenes, high-stakes chases, and marvelous use of flashing lights, Hanna has everything one needs for an exciting and visually gripping thriller. The addition of an intriguing and likable heroine, subtle notes of science-fiction, and a hilarious British family just about makes this my favorite film of the year so far. Also the absence of forced romantic/mushy stuff. Fuck that. Also the fact that no one makes a big deal about the fact that Hanna’s a girl. Her role could easily have been adapted for a teenage boy. But obviously, I’m so glad it wasn’t!

Of course, performances: I find Eric Bana fairly bland but he’s good enough here with some cool fight scenes and a questionable Eastern European accent. Tom Hollander is gleefully sadistic as a German assassin, rather reminiscent of those Funny Games boys. Saiorse Ronan really holds her own as Hanna. With her bright eyes, diminutive form, and wild hair, she perfectly captures the look of an innocent, raised-in-isolation teenager, which is what makes her convincing performance as a specially-trained killer so impressive. She’s likable and naive while remaining a deadly- and surprisingly pliable- threat. It’s fascinating. Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng have perfect- if short- appearances as British hippie parents with annoying children.

I’ve heard a lot about Cate Blanchett here. A friend believes she is purposefully hammy and over the top as a nod to predominantly male villain roles perpetuated by the likes of Christopher Walken and Nicolas Cage. I think that’s possible? Everyone else in the movie plays it pretty straight, whereas Blanchett seems to relish her Southern accent and obsession with dental hygiene. It is pretty great. Admittedly I spent a lot of the movie imagining her role as played by Tilda Swinton, whom I like better, but mostly that’s because Blanchett had a Tilda-y hairstyle.

What’s great about Hanna is that it manages to present a thought-provoking, emotional story without forgetting that it is also a fun, kickass action movie. Her relationship with her father and her growing understanding of the outside world and her own past make for engaging drama, but it doesn’t really get into the moral aspects of Hanna’s lifestyle, allowing her to hurt a lot of people without worrying audiences about the “murder at age 16” thing. And there are enough moments of levity- primarily with the British tourists- to balance it all out. Good times! Go see it!

4.5/5

Pair This Movie With: There’s Prachya Pinkaew’s Chocolate for another young woman kicking ass all the time. Or for some reason I’m thinking about Night of the Comet. Love that movie.

Further Reading:
Check out M Hufstader’s totally awesome Mythbusting review. It’s everything you need to know about the film.

Movie Review: Source Code (2011)

It came to my attention in gradual bits; Duncan Jones, the brilliant filmmaker behind Moon, has a new movie. Rad. It’s gonna be sci-fi and sort of time-travely, awesome. It would star Jake Gyllenhaal, a man I find ridiculously attractive but often stuck in movies I don’t want to see, and Michelle Monaghan, a lady I’ve been crushing on since Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. So far, so good!

Source Code imagines a not-too-distant future in which the war on terrorism has launched a program to take a soldier’s mind and implant him into the last memories of a dead man. Colter Stevens, most recently a pilot in Afghanistan, is given the mission to discover the bomber on a commuter train en route to Chicago. He is transported repeatedly into the last eight minutes of a passenger’s memory, each time attempting to unearth new clues into the bomber’s identity with the hope of preventing future attacks. I don’t think that’s a very good explanation of the plot, but honestly I’m not sure how expository/spoilery I should be here.

The plot is convoluted, it’s true, but it all sort of makes sense when you’re watching it, and most of the questions and uncertainties I had were put aside easily enough since the action was so fast-paced and the gradually-developing mysteries were interesting. The somewhat wayward script is made up for by Jones’s exciting and innovative direction, along with strong performances from the main cast. Jake Gyllenhaal is intense and at times surprisingly funny, while Michelle Monaghan is her typical adorable self as Stevens’ companion on the train who thinks he’s someone else. I also enjoyed Vera Farmiga as the officer in charge of the “Source Code” operation, who is equal parts military hardness and sisterly compassion. Jeffrey Wright rocks a tic-y, opportunistic scientist as the inventor of the program Dr Rutledge.

Ok some Spoilers Here, but not too overt. Basically my biggest issue with this movie is story-based. The premise is sort of weird and doesn’t really make sense when you think about it (ie, how could a man inside someone else’s memory find out things that the person didn’t know to begin with? It wouldn’t be in his mind, then, would it?, etc), but it offers a fun and action-packed narrative with a nice amount of emotional depth. The ending, though, is painfully saccharine and felt rushed and forced as the writer attempts wrap everything in a none-too-neat package. I really liked the film for the most part, but was left with an uneasy feeling upon walking out only because of the last 10 minutes or so. It’s too bad, really.

So yeah, that’s no Moon (oh snap, I just thought of that hilarious joke on the spot!), but Source Code is a pretty damned solid sci-fi thriller with very attractive leads. With Jake’s blazing blue eyes and Michelle’s easy smile, this was a train I was happy to ride, even if I have some quibbles with the script.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Erm… Groundhog Day? Also Timecrimes would be a cool double feature.

Movie Review: Drive Angry 3D (2011)

Aaaargh! Metal music! Fast cars! Fire for no reason! DRIVE ANGRY! 3D! There were many reasons to get me excited for this movie, as you clearly see. Nicolas Cage stars as John Milton (actual name), a terse but fatherly badass who’s tracking down a killer satanic cult while trying avoid the mysterious “Accountant” (William Fichtner) who’s after him. Scantily-clad ex-waitress Piper (Amber Heard) is along for the ride, proving herself useful with a gun and a mean right hook. They’ve got a baby to save!

Drive Angry starts off with an explosive, funny-in-its-overseriousness bang and doesn’t really let up for most of its running time. The plot is ridiculous and infused with too many characters, there’s weepy backstory and fantasy elements, plus high-bodycount shootouts to spare. Cage is surprisingly toned down, finding the comedy in mysterious one-liners and melodrama, while Heard does her best to be useful in shorts so tiny her pockets go past the hemline. She punches people a lot. I like that. Also she dives from a swerving trailer onto a moving car. Very cool.

As pretty much every other review of this movie has pointed out, William Fichtner is the best part of this movie. He’s creepy and offbeat as the Accountant, and clearly relishing his ridiculous role. His character is sort of pointless, but it doesn’t matter because it’s so fun to watch him whenever he’s onscreen. The whole movie is very silly but very entertaining, with a lot of cool action scenes, crappy CGI, satanism, loud music, and fast driving. I didn’t take it seriously because it doesn’t take itself seriously, which I’ll always appreciate. And while the 3-D is unnecessary (as it is in almost every movie with 3-D), at least they got in a few good gags with it.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Well there are multiple similarities to Shoot Em Up, so that’s a good choice. I’d also go with another heaven/hell thriller like Constantine or Jonah Hex.