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Drillbit Taylor is the high school movie no one needed.  A “comedy” in the sense that there’s no dramatic action whatsoever, Drillbit Taylor fails to deliver at all.

In the movie, three nerdy high school freshmen, tired of being bullied, look to hire a bodyguard.  After a litany of interviews (including cameos by Chuck Liddell and Adam Baldwin) they happen upon Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson), basically a stock Owen Wilson character, only homeless.  He milks the association, stealing the kids’ stuff, and ostensibly teaches them self-defense.  Taking a liking to the kids, he pretends to be a teacher at the school, and then shacks up with fellow teacher Leslie Mann, only to have his secret revealed at the end of the second act.

The movie is a complete waste.  Adam couldn’t stop me from seeing it, but I know he’s with me when I beg anyone and everyone to skip this movie.  Almost entirely devoid of humor, Kristofor Brown and Seth Rogen’s script compensates by having no character development whatsoever.  Which is OK, because the characters are one-dimensional and uninteresting.  John Hughes also gets a story credit, which makes me sad.  Though littered with interesting people like Stephen Root and Mary Pat Gleason (Ida from The Middleman), the movie is nearly unwatchable.  It took me almost forty minutes to realize I wasn’t watching a long prologue, rather it was just that nothing was going on.

One Star

You’d be forgiven for missing this one.  A comedy with a little drama starring Adam Carolla as a nearly-was boxer trying to make the U.S. Olympic team, The Hammer had a very limited release earlier this year and likely wasn’t near the top of anyone’s must-see list.

But the movie is surprisingly decent.  Carolla plays a boxer turned construction worker with a fear of success.  Flaking out of the Olympics as a youth, he happens into a spot on a regional Olympic squad training for the U.S. Olympic qualifiers.  Along for the ride are a happy-go-lucky friend, a coach who doesn’t quite believe in him, a fellow boxer in the same weight class (who doesn’t like Carolla, but then learns to respect him), and a love interest (Heather Juergensen).

The best parts of the movie were Carolla’s riffs.  Reined in throughout pretty much the entire movie, the few spots where Carolla was allowed a few minutes to joke on something (e.g. the La Brea Tar Pits) stood out as the funniest moments of the movie.  And yet they seem relatively organic.

Kevin Hench’s screenplay (story by Adam Carolla) is helped by being a sports movie, since sports movies are automatically more enjoyable.  Don’t expect any dusty room moments, though.  The movie’s climax is somewhat interesting, if not terribly satisfying, and the ending is definitely Hollywood.  The boxing scenes weren’t all that riveting, to be honest.  Though I suppose it might be a mistake to assume rounds of Adam Carolla boxing would be all that compelling.  The romantic subplot could definitely stand to be tightened up, as is, it sort of feels like filler.  Really, I’d be fine with Carolla being a little more Carolla, though as a leading man, he holds up much better than I expected, not resorting to jokes as a crutch.

Three Stars


Luc!  How could you do me like that?  You make people holding their breath underwater into something beautiful, but you turn the story of Joan of Arc into something blah?  I do not understand.

I never thought I’d say such a thing about a Besson movie, but The Messenger was poorly written.  The script, by Besson and Andrew Birkin, is generally dull and poorly paced, only breaking for bouts of sheer bizarreness.  The battle scenes were pretty neat, to be sure.  And the scene where Joan first meets the king was special.  But the film feels terribly disjointed.  And while the more spiritual or religious aspects infused into the story of Joan’s battles may be the movie’s raison d’etre, they tend to be nothing better than a confusing distraction.

The casting may have fit the spirit of the film, but something went wrong somewhere.  Case in point, Faye Dunaway as the Machiavellian mother-in-law of the Dauphin.  In theory, perfect role for Ms. Dunaway.  But her lines end up being mostly exposition, and entirely clunky as she’s almost shoehorned into the movie, barely making a presence at all.  John Malkovich is awesome as the Dauphin, naturally, but his character isn’t.  Charles VII never gets established as a character, as he seems to fluctuate between intelligent, being a pawn, and just not caring.  Which is fine if he’s supposed to be a mercurial dude, but he’s never established as such.  Dustin Hoffman is barely in here as The Conscience.  He’s actually pretty fun to watch, for the approximately eight minutes he’s on screen.  But the character is emblematic of the poor job Besson and Birkin do at integrating the spiritual and wordly elements of the story.  Vincent Cassel was a bright spot, for me.

I see Milla Jovovich was nominated for a Razzie for her performance.  Besson’s Joan is a difficult character to play, I think, coupling bouts of lunacy with heroism, a belief of divine inspiration with utter naivete.  Here, Jovavich isn’t necessarily a likable Joan, she’s often shrill and displays symptoms of someone mentally disturbed.  I personally don’t think she’s Razzie-worthy.  While the character may be as muddled as the script, a consistent Joan does shine through.

Two Stars

Consider me underwhelmed.  Jonathan Levine’s movie is rather bland and uninspiring, partially salvaged by its cast.  The Wackness is about a disaffected kid (Josh Peck) in mid-90s New York, during the summer after high school graduation.  He’s a pot dealer, hangs out with his shrink (Ben Kingsley) and his shrink’s daughter (Olivia Thirlby).  Famke Janssen is Kinglsey’s wife, Mary-Kate Olsen is in there as a stoner/hippie, and Method Man is the guy supplying Peck his drugs.  The movie is about fitting in and being happy, that sort of thing.

I gotta say, I don’t think I’m a fan of Ben Kingsley.  I tend to find him kind of annoying.  Which doesn’t help the movie.  Josh Peck is an interesting dude, if you compare this role to that in Drillbit Taylor.  And Drake and Josh (or at least the three minutes of that I watched) , which my youngest brother alerted me to, since he’s apparently a Disney show maven.  I think he can pave out an interesting career, just more as a character actor kind of guy.  The movie could have used more Famke Janssen, but then, so can the world.  The standout, clearly, was Olivia Thirlby.  Not to steal John’s thunder here, but she’s fantastic.  And not just because she’s cute.

The setting seemed pretty forced to me.  As if dropping a few mid-90s slang words and hip hop references would be an interesting quirk.  It isn’t.  Much of the movie is weak, with subplots undeveloped.  And otherwise you have to deal with Mr. Kingsley.

Two Stars

Sure seemed like the Vantage Point trailer came out like three years before the movie.  It was a pretty compelling trailer, and I thought it did a good job previewing the movie without giving away too many important scenes.  I’m required, by law, to say that Vantage Point was Rashomon-like.  I’ll add that while I love the concept of Rashomon, I haven’t yet really enjoyed a movie using the technique, and yes, I’m including Rashomon.

Vantage Point tells the story of an international conference in Spain attended by world leaders.  As the President of the United States begins a speech in the middle of a square, shots rings out and he goes down.  The mysteries behind the shooting and ensuing chaos are slowly revealed as the events play out from the perspective of each of the main characters.

The ensemble cast is strong, with the likes of Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker, Matthew Fox, Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt, and Zoe Saldana (the chick from Drumline and Uhura in the upcoming Star Trek movie).

While the structure screenwriter Barry Levy uses may be complex, the plot isn’t, which makes for both a comprehensible story and one that disappoints.  Many scenes are compelling, as evidenced by them not being boring even after they flash for the third or fourth time.  Still, there are virtually no twists, and the story plays out in a pretty standard fashion.  Once the pieces are put together, the plot feels rather weak.

Three Stars

Unsurprisingly, I was looking forward to Definitely, Maybe.  A chick flick-leaning dramedy with three rather attractive actresses (Rachel Weisz, Isla Fisher, and Elizabeth Banks) is a winning recipe, in my book.  Especially when it is written and directed by Adam Brooks (the guy who wrote Wimbledon and French Kiss).

The trailer did a pretty accurate job of detailing the story.  Abigail Breslin is a precocious daughter who forces her dad (Ryan Reynolds) to recount how he met her mother.  The catch is, there are three women in Reynolds’ story, and we have to figure out which one was Ms. Right.  Which is kind of a neat way of framing things.

I just wonder if the technique could have been better utilized.  I (obviously) would have preferred it being presented as more of a mystery than a procedural.  But I think what I want to say is that the movie adheres to the genre’s rules of who the main character will end up really truly loving.  Which is fine.  But why present the story as a guessing game, then?  Thus, the “twist” at the end is neither surprising nor satisfying.

I was skeptical of Ryan Reynolds as a leading man, and the movie didn’t change my mind.  I think he’s miscast there, being better suited for wacky friend duties.  That said, there was no harm done here, as his character is more of a straight man, playing off the various ladies.  Kevin Kline has a small scene-stealing role in the movie, he’s great fun to watch.  And Abigail Breslin is pretty clearly in there just to add another name to the production.  Which, yes, sounds weird, considering she’s like ten years old.

The movie is still enjoyable, though.  Brooks knows how to write smart dialogue that is rarely awkward.  And there were several funny and cute moments.  Reynolds’ character sort of tracks the path of Bill Clinton, which was mildly effective, but certainly an interesting device.

Three Stars

(I got bored with my titles, so I moved the star rating to the end.  Builds suspense, you know.)

Dark and twisted, The Machine Girl lets you know from the very first scene what you’ll be getting: mindless, gory, glorious violence.  The story is unsurprisingly (though not to the detriment of the movie) sparse.  A girl suffers tragedy, leading her on a single-minded path to vengeance.  Along the way, she loses an arm, leading her to be equipped with a gun that can shoot a variety of projectiles, mostly machine gun bullets.

The movie works best during the action scenes, which seem to try and outdo each other in sheer outlandishness.  Blood spurts everywhere, body parts are lost, deaths are gruesome.  There’s a cartoonish quality permeating the movie which makes the violence almost always easy to take.  That said, things  like bullies killing classmates, and the machine girl taking out a entire family were still surprising to my eyes.

And as generally follows for this genre, the non-action scenes were generally dull, as if they were placeholders forced to fill space where the filmmaker (Noboru Iguchi wrote and directed) couldn’t think up any more cool stunts.  I’m not suggesting I’d prefer a movie composed entirely of action scenes, more that it appeared those scenes were more well-thought out.  And unfortunately, I don’t think there were enough fighting scenes to carry the movie.

I must say that the accessories were quite awesome.  The machine gun arm was fantastic, even if reminiscent of Rose McGowan in Grindhouse.  There’s a sort of modified bear trap/decapitator.  And the drill bra is every bit as wonderful as promised.

The quite awesome trailer (which made the Internet rounds awhile back) after the jump: Read the rest of this entry »

I’d been looking forward to Charlie Bartlett for some time.  Not really sure why, I guess I liked the trailer, and seems like there’s been a spate of good high school movies recently (Juno, obviously, but I enjoyed Full of It and liked Rocket Science, off the top off my head).  And Robert Downey, Jr. is awesome, naturally.

Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) is a maladjusted rich kid.  Not rich kid snobby, more just unable to fit in, due to a combination of father issues and precociousness.  After the expected tribulations of his first few days in public school, such as getting beat up by the bully (Tyler Hilton) he begins acting as a psychiatrist of sorts, even prescribing drugs (which he obtains through his various visits to psychiatrists).  He soon becomes one of the most popular kids in school, picking up a girlfriend (Kat Dennings) and dealing with a principal (Robert Downey, Jr.), whose just trying to get some respect.

Gustin Nash’s rather pedestrian script is significantly propped up by the cast.  (Wait.  Hold on.  “Gustin”?  Awesome.)  When Anton Yelchin breaks out next year (he’s in Star Trek AND Terminator Salvation), you can at least point back here and agree he’s got the chops.  He does a fine job as the likeable, intelligent, non-whiny, slightly messed up high schooler, but the scene where he is high is quite fun.  I have to mention Tyler Hilton, because he’s in the video for Taylor Swift’s “Teardrops on my Guitar”.  Hope Davis is Yelchin’s mostly clueless mom.  She, unfortunately, sort of flits in and out of the story.  And Robert Downey, Jr. is well, Robert Downey, Jr.  He has a few booze-aided scenes that I felt were kind of hard to watch, given his history.  In any case, he’s great each and every time he’s on screen.

My main problem with Nash’s script was the last half of the movie.  More specifically, I liked the setup.  Yelchin’s character is interesting, plus, the concept of a high schooler acting as a psychiatrist is kind of cool.  But then the rest of the movie feels like an unnecessary subplot that was forced into becoming the actual story.  I think there was a lot more to be done with the evolution of the relationship between Downey, Jr. and Yelchin.  And while, yes, Nash did avoid many cliched paths, I’m not sure he chose a particularly meaningful alternative.

Here’s the part where the post starts babbling about the lovely and talented Kat Dennings.  Out of consideration to everyone I put it after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

This is a movie blog run by a bunch of guys in their mid-20s; shouldn’t there be like thirty posts slobbering over The Dark Knight by now? We’re in a momentous time when movies, geekery, the internet, and bad assery are all converging and we’ve been silent!

So I’ll chime in. The Dark Knight is the first great movie of the year. I’ve seen a lot of very good movies from 2008 but this tops them all so far. And what makes that so special is that I’m generally not a fan of superhero movies or even action movies really. I thought Iron Man was one of the best in the genre and it was still only about a B for me.

Dark Knight is like someone made a superhero movie especially for ME. It’s dark, stylish, morally complex, and clever. It has some elements of depth that made me think and some scenes that just plain kick some major ass. The story has intriguing twists and turns, the Joker is a brilliantly rendered villain, and there were very few things that made me groan (ahem, sonar phones). It doesn’t come off cartoonish but all the outlandish elements fit within its own world.

The more I think about it the more I like about it. I wasn’t a fanboy before but maybe I am now.

Anyway, I’m sure we’ll have a lot more to say as Dark Knight‘s place in the Oscar picture develops. Supporting Actor, sure. Several technical categories, absolutely. Can it go for Best Picture with its box office haul sure to near $500 million?

Just a disappointing movie for all involved.  Somehow the sum of the movie became less than the whole of its parts.  Makes me sad.  The movie gets up to two stars for two reasons.  First, introducing the concept of “sweding”.  Which isn’t necessarily new, but the movie maybe codifies it somewhat.  Unfortunately, most of the sweded movies actually aren’t all that funny.  And the second is for using Passaic, New Jersey.  Passaic is sort of like Kevin Bacon for my family, in terms of six degrees of separation (or is that 6.6 degrees?).  Seriously, everyone somehow connects to Passaic.  Also, my brother and I were wondering at Mos Def’s accent.  Don’t get me wrong, I respect a fellow mumbler.  I just can’t really place from which continent it comes.

August 2008