Archive | September, 2010

Resident Evil: Afterlife

29 Sep

Title: Resident Evil: Afterlife
Year: 2010
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Writer: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Kim Coates, Shawn Roberts, Spencer Locke, Boris Kodjoe, Wentworth Miller
MPAA Rating: R, sequences of strong violence and language
Runtime: 97 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 6.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 21%

I thought the first Resident Evil film was quite decent, it, at least, introduced Milla Jovovich to the masses who didn’t know about her. But the second and third installments in the franchise I thought were thoroughly unnecessary, and this one kind of fares the same way: not entirely bad, but we would have been just as fine without it. But nevertheless, in the 16 days this one has been at the box office it has managed to gross over $155 million worldwide, and, on a $60 million production budget, that’s a nice profit, and makes this one the highest-grossing entry in the franchise. So even though the films are nowhere near great, people are still paying good money to go see them, so I don’t see the studio stopping the making of them any time soon.

But, one thing you have to appreciate about these films at least, is the fact that they are fast-paced like crazy, it’s an hour and a half that goes by really fast with lots of zombie-killing in between, which is why I don’t see myself failing any one of these movies. Ms. Jovovich comes back as Alice, and she’s still fighting against the Umbrella Corporation. I would go on to explain the backstory about Alice and the Umbrella Corporation, but if you don’t know that by now then you probably have no interest in seeing this one, so I’ll go ahead and skip the formalities.

But yeah, in this fourth installment, and the first one in 3-D, Alice is still there, kicking ass as usual, and now in the search for her friends from the previous films with a couple of new characters coming in to help her fight off the bad guys, all while being holed up in a Los Angeles prison that, obviously, has copious amounts of flesh-eating zombies roaming the halls after our heroine. This really is of absolutely no importance for the plot though, you could have sided Alice with whomever, placed her wherever, just as long as Milla Jovovich can be seen kicking ass then there’s still a film to be made here.

But I wouldn’t really recommend this one, I like Ms. Jovovich a whole deal, she seems super cool and she looks great, and even better when seen killing zombies, but for that we have the first one to see, this is just commercial fodder, not to mention that she looked hotter in some of the other films. But again, so long as people keep paying to see these films, studios will keep churning out an entry in the franchise every three years.

As for the action, and how it fares with the extra dimension added, I guess it does a decent job. It doesn’t look amazing, and there’s still a ton of slow-motion stuff to make things look cool that really doesn’t help nor does it make things look cool, but at least this one was filmed in 3D and wasn’t one of those post-production cheap conversions, so yeah, the action is bearable. The script on the other hand, is just as cringe-worthy as on the other three films of the franchise, with absolutely zero substance and not a single line of dialogue that’s not there to get moving to another action piece. So, again, if you liked the previous three a whole lot, then, by all means, go check out Resident Evil: Afterlife and revel in the zombie-killing in three dimensions, but if you’re like me and feel that the first one was enough, then surely skip this one.

Grade: C

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Machete

26 Sep

Title: Machete
Year: 2010
Directors: Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis
Writers: Robert Rodriguez and Álvaro Rodriguez
Starring: Danny Trejo, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, Lindsay Lohan, Daryl Sabara, Tom Savini, Shea Whigham, Don Johnson, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro
MPAA Rating: R, strong bloody violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity
Runtime: 105 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%

When I grade movies there are two factors that come into play, obviously the first one is how I personally liked that movie, if it played to my individual taste in films, but the second decisive factor is how I thought any one particular film performed in regards to the film it presented itself as and it aspired to be. And, because of the latter decisive factor, I think Machete was a success, because it was exactly the sort of film it wanted to be, and that’s something that can really be said about pretty much every Robert Rodriguez film out there, like it or not. And that’s because Machete was just completely shallow in a cool B-movie sort of way. This is just one weird and violent ride, that’s enjoyable in the most ludicrous sort of way, the definition of a film that doesn’t take itself seriously, and a film that never wants you to do that, either.

Though the gore and nakedness is all there (and in rather large quantities, at that), I guess I understand why some people have started calling out the race card, because this film is obviously incredibly pro-immigrants and anti-americana, but honestly, you have to be dumb to take that out of a film like this. Yes, there are political messages thrown around in all their glory in this film, and yes they’re probably the very exact feelings of Mr. Rodriguez, but this is a film for people to go and enjoy and laugh at it’s excess-everything approach, and not to start taking aim at it from a political stance.

With the politics off my review now, I can focus on the film. As some of you may remember, the concept for Machete came from one of those really nifty fake trailers that were made for Grindhouse some three years ago, that one being the double-feature exploitation film made by Mr. Rodriguez in collaboration with Quentin Tarantino. If you liked the style of Grindhouse, and liked how the fake trailer for Machete looked, then you’re in for a treat, because this is just essentially an elongated version of that, highly stylized gory stuff with body parts flying around and a fun screenplay that will deliver some solid laughs out of its one-liners.

Danny Trejo is a fixture of Mr. Rodriguez’s films, but it’s just now, at 66 years of age, that he’s the lead actor in a film, and his performance is exactly the sort of performance it had to be, just plain out fun, it’s not good, but it’s good for what this film wanted to be, and, really, so is every other performance in it. Mr. Trejo stars as the titular character who flees to Texas after a Mexican druglord wants him dead, and in Texas he clashes with a senator owned by said druglord, that senator being played by Robert De Niro in a performance that, while fun to watch, takes direct aim at those in politics who support the dumb new immigration laws, but seriously, it’s just awesome to see a guy like Mr. De Niro just play a role full of exaggeration.

I repeat, however, that Machete wasn’t made as a satire of any kind, there are political elements by the dozens, but that wasn’t the aim of this movie at all, and you have to be a very close-minded person to think that that’s what it’s all about. Because Machete is just simply a very fun film, with Mr. Trejo being pitch perfect as the titular character who looks at everything, whether its the massive killings sprees he goes into or the women who lust after him, with the same expression full of indifference, this was just a B-movie made for audiences to have fun, and as such it’s a tremendous success.

And it’s a success because everyone involved was game for it, from Mr. Trejo to Mr. De Niro to Lindsay Lohan, who appears as the slutty daughter of Mr. De Niro’s character’s right-hand-man (who lusts after his own daughter) and who’s seen in a nun’s attire, underneath which she conceals a fully loaded machine gun. And yes, that’s the sort of ridiculously awesome things you will see aplenty in Machete, appreciate it as such.

So yes, to recap, Machete is a film done with the style of an exploitation film, complete with a laughably cool plot, a script full of ludicrous one-liners, and actors doing their exaggerated best, completely going along with all of the cartoonish mess that’s revolving around them. If you don’t like the sort of film that just concentrates in getting the most amount of bloody and gory stuff out of a gun fight then don’t go see Machete, but you really should love that, especially because the actors are all so good at making this fun, and just completely letting loose and being ridiculous, and as such, you should get a kick out of seeing this one. And please don’t make a huge deal out of the political commentary in this one, yes, it’s there in full force, but there’s a helluva lot of other stuff going around as well, and that stuff’s even louder and bigger.

Grade: B

Going the Distance

18 Sep

Title: Going the Distance
Year: 2010
Director: Nanette Burstein
Writer: Geoff LaTulippe
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Ron Livingston, Christina Applegate
MPAA Rating: R, sexual content including dialogue, language throughout, some drug use and brief nudity
Runtime: 102 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 6.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 51%

There was quite a bit I enjoyed about Going the Distance, I thought Drew Barrymore’s chemistry with her real-life on-again-off-again boyfriend, Justin Long, was seriously neat, and I enjoyed that this rom-com took a more honest (not to mention timelier what with the recession as a backdrop and all) approach to relationships, something easier said than done in today’s films of the same genre. However, that didn’t keep this one from being yet another typical commercial rom-com in the end, and the overall result was actually rather forgettable, and made you think that this premise, had it been developed into a better script (this one was written by first-timer Geoff LaTulippe), could have given us so much more.

I’m actually a huge Drew Barrymore fan, and while this one is far from her best turn as a leading actress (that one would be, to me, Ever After. And no, Donnie Darko or Whip It don’t count because she was supporting there), it’s still a pretty cool film in which she gets to display her lovable self, and her contagious laugh. Not to mention that the more racy jokes in the film are decent enough, and that’s something rare in rom-com’s nowadays, where most of the films all try and go for the Apatow style in those gags, and most of all fail miserably at that. This one, while not getting to Apatow heights, got the racy humor at least kind of right.

But the best part of this film by far, so much so that I deemed it deserving of a whole separate paragraph, was Charlie Day. This is a guy who, if you’re like me and watch his hilarious FX sitcom It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (which had its sixth season premiere last night) you’ll probably know can steal every single scene he’s in from the other actors. And that’s no different in Going the Distance, he’s just as amazing as always.

Now, back to the story, this is a film, as you probably already know, about a long-distance relationship. Now, I’ve never been part of one myself, but I got a couple of friends who are, and it’s obviously not the easiest thing in the world. And this film handles the subject rather splendidly, and they do the same with the whole economic climate topic they also tackle in this one. As I said, this has to be one of the timelier rom-coms to come out in a while, and it gets you thinking about why these long-distance relationships haven’t been the focus of more films, the comedic potential certainly is there.

But anyways, we meet our two star-crossed lovers in New York City. But shortly thereafter our female lead, Ms. Barrymore, is sent to San Francisco and our guy, Mr. Long, has to say in the big apple all alone. Garrett, is in the music business and our girl, Erin, wants to be a reporter but is waiting tables to get money, professions which provide more material for the whole economic anxiety side of our story, though the script, thankfully, doesn’t dwell on that all that much.

As I said, I didn’t love the script this one was working from, I thought it could have been much better, but it’s still above par for this type of film. And that’s refreshing when you notice that it comes from a debut writer, who will hopefully only improve with time, but yeah, this was a script that, while avoiding the aforementioned misery that would have come from dwelling on the economic downturn for too long, does succumb to a fair bit of clichés, most of them seen during the movie’s first act in which we see our characters falling in love, New York City style.

The thing that makes Going the Distance charming, other than the chemistry between Ms. Barrymore and Mr. Long, is the honesty behind it all. I mean yeah, the clichés are all still there, but it feels far more genuine than the rest of the films of the same type. The thing is that this one finds its balance and stays there and doesn’t try to be dumb and go for more, most romantic comedies nowadays are either horribly racy in the stupidest of ways, all trying to copy the Apatow clan, or just super corny in their cutesy approach. This one is kind of in between those two definitions, and while not the best spot to be in, it could be much worse. And it has Charlie Day so, if anything, go see it just because of him.

Grade: B-

The American

15 Sep

Title: The American
Year: 2010
Director: Anton Corbijn
Writer: Rowan Joffe, adapting from the novel by Martin Booth
Starring: George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten, Paolo Bonacelli
MPAA Rating: R, violence, sexual content and nudity
Runtime: 105 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 64%

The overall reaction to The American has been pretty mild. The reviews, though far from negative, weren’t really amazing. And the commercial aspect was the same, it opened at number one, and it has already made more than its considerably cheap $20 million budget, but it’s been far from a smash hit, with a very considerable drop happening this past weekend on its second week in theaters. Not to mention its CinemaScore grade was a horrible D, which means that the general public didn’t love it, and which goes to explain the huge drop on its second weekend, something that usually doesn’t happen to films like this, which are aimed at a more adult audience that usually doesn’t rush to the theaters on opening weekend. I, however, kinda loved The American.

I loved it because it’s a different kind of spy thriller, and I loved it because it was shot gorgeously, and I loved it because it had George Clooney as the leading man, giving a beautifully restrained performance that made this film work really well for me, he just plays the perfect kind of weary in this one. He portrays the title character, a guy who is an expert at what he does, completely focussed on the task at hand but that, as many of these sort of heroes do in films, finds that love is the one emotion that he ultimatelycan’t turn off.

Mr. Clooney’s character works only because of Mr. Clooney, I’m not sure I would have liked it had an actor other than him had been in the role, mostly because I don’t believe other actors could have given as nuanced a performance as he did. Unless I remember incorrectly the exact occupation of our protagonist (you can call him Edward or Jack) is never revealed, but whatever it exactly is isn’t pretty, and whatever it is is something he’s damn good at. However, after a job goes wrong in Sweden, he goes into hiding in Italy, and vows, as we have heard many times in these films, that his next assignment will be his last. And so he is sent by Pavel, who I guess would be his “boss”, to meet this woman, Mathilde, who tells him about the specialized weapon she needs him to build for her. And so he does, and in between he meets a local Priest and a local whore, both of whom will influence him greatly.

The amazing thing about The American is how patient it is with itself. It doesn’t need the cheap tricks these sort of films usually employ to do what it wants, it just waits patiently, makes us watch Mr. Clooney go on through his character’s loneliness and slowly sets things into motion in a way that was, to me, absolutely wonderful.

The whole pace of this one is indeed a bit slow, that’s true, but it works because of Mr. Clooney’s performance and because Mr. Corbijn, the director, just lets this one unwind in a controlled fashion and makes it look gorgeous while doing so, much like he did with his directorial debut, the terrific Control back in 2007. Mr. Corbijn should take just as much credit as Mr. Clooney for this film, the shots in this film are quite perfect, making up for the lack of words in the dialogue with how much he can say with his camera. And it shows that he started out as a photographer, he knows what’s just simply beautiful, and he knows how calculated his composition of shots has to be. Because everything in this film is meticulously calculated, and I like that calculation, even though I can see how many people could have easily gotten tired of its slow-but-steady pacing at times.

I liked that pacing because it showed Mr. Clooney’s character at work, creating the weapon that was asked of him, and it showed with how much precision and dedication he went into every task at hand. Plus I think the pacing adds to the suspense part of it all, and the music too, which just rocks. The patience you have to put into it, and the gorgeous shots and effective score just create a wonderful mood for this sort of film.

Mr. Clooney as Jack or Edward or Mr. Butterfly (a nickname given to him) churns out an exquisite performance because we never really get to know exactly what he’s thinking. This is a character that doesn’t let us know much, and Mr. Clooney has given two of his greatest performances by playing guys that walk the walk and not really talk the talk, I’m talking about those in Michael Clayton and last year’s masterpiece, Up in the Air, however different these characters may be, they do share that common denominator that they are, at their core, guys that don’t really care much about talking as they do about just getting the job done.

The thing that keeps his character in The American from being as great, however, and by extension what keeps this film from reaching the tremendous heights those two did, is that those characters had some sort of backstory that made us connect to them, which in turn made the Clooney charm come out, which always amps everything up a notch or two. In this film we know so damn little about the essence of our character the Mr. Clooney’s essence isn’t allowed to shine through, and that’s never good.

Grade: B+

Takers

14 Sep

Title: Takers
Year: 2010
Director: John Luessenhop
Writers: Peter Allen, Gabriel Casseus, John Luessenhop, Avery Duff
Starring: Matt Dillon, Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Hayden Christensen, Michael Ealy, Chris Brown, T.I., Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Zoe Saldana, Johnathon Schaech
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense sequences of violence and action, a sexual situation/partial nudity and some language
Runtime: 107 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 4.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 30%

The pacing in Takers is rather satisfying, but unfortunately that’s about it for the things that I thought were commendable about this one. The actors, while all doing an okay job, have to deal with some seriously two-dimensional characters and draw their lines from a script that doesn’t offer much, neither dialogue nor plot-wise, there’s just no emotional side to these performances, and they really needed that to make this one succeed.

This is just a film that was seemingly more worried about how it looked than anything else. The style of the film is actually pretty cool, whether it’s the locations or the clothes, this is a film that looks good. But alas, as we all know, you can’t go through life, or movies, just looking good, there has to be some substance to you, and this is a film with none of that, just one with one too many action pieces and dialogue worthy of a sixth grader who has seen a couple of these films.

If you’re wondering what a “taker” is in the first place, I can refer you to a line in the film delivered by Paul Walker’s character: “We’re takers. We take things.” and yes, that’s the sort of lines this film offers by the dozen, completely cringe-worthy. And here we have this gang of five takers who we first see on a bank heist and who we learn have a couple of cops going after them, and then they come up with this new heist plan, which involves a group of Russian mobsters and that just thoroughly sucks.

If it sounds like I’m dissing on this film quite a lot, well, I guess I am, because it does have quite a lot to hate, one of the main things being the performance given by the rapper Clifford “T.I.” Harris, who plays Ghost, the taker who was just let loose on parole and who wants to come back with his old gang. This is a guy who seriously needs to just stick to his music career. Add that performance to the overall horrible script and the end result won’t be a good one.

But, on the bright side, I guess there are a couple of things to like about Takers. As I said, the overall style of the film is at times pleasing just as at times it is completely off-putting, and there are one or two very good action sequences, not to mention that, at least, this is a film that moves pretty fast. Plus there are two quite alright performances by Chris Brown and Michael Ealy, who play brothers Jesse and Jake, and a very cool one from Matt Dillon as one of the cops trailing the takers. And, most importantly, Zoe Saldana also appears as Michael Ealy’s character’s love interest, and she’s as good a reason as any to watch this film.

I don’t really know if I would recommend Takers to anyone, I’m certainly not going to give it a failing grade here, but I don’t know how I could recommend it. As I said, Zoe Saldana is always gorgeous and she makes any film worth it, but the script is unbearable and, even though there’s action aplenty, the action really isn’t that neat, yes, there are those two cool action scenes, but, in a film that has loads of mediocre ones one has to cope with in between, they’re not really worth the admission price.

I feel like I’m going on and on here, not really making any sense, but I guess that’s just how this film left me feeling, senseless. Yes, the takers look suave and slick and whatnot, but that’s not enough to get you by nowadays, you need a solid emotional side to go hand-in-hand with all of that, and at that this one fails miserably. This emotional part of the heist films is a necessity because these are films that can’t just rely on the action, and because you need some sort of backstory to the characters for you to care at least a bit about them while they go on through the heist part of it all. And the fact that the emotional side of this one is so amazingly dull and all over the place means that we will be left relying solely on the heist part of it, and that part of it we’ve all seen one too many times for it to compensate.

Grade: C+

The Last Exorcism

10 Sep

Title: The Last Exorcism
Year: 2010
Director: Daniel Stamm
Writers: Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland
Starring: Patrick Fabian, Iris Bahr, Louis Herthum, Ashley Bell, Caleb Landry Jones
MPAA Rating: PG-13, disturbing violent content and terror, some sexual references and thematic material
Runtime: 87 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 6.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%

The Last Exorcism is a good horror movie in a year in which there haven’t been many of those to go see, but it’s still not a masterful one. My favorite horror movies are the ones that mess up with you psychologically, but nowadays those movies are hard to find, so I just like some raw stuff on-screen and see how that develops. This one doesn’t have that hard R-rating, but for some reason the fact that this one carried a PG-13 rating and not an R was something I was quite okay with, I didn’t need the rawness, and what’s more, I welcomed the unknown side of it all. This is the most R-rated PG-13 film you’ll find in quite some time.

It’s shot in this mockumentary style that everyone seems to be using lately, for which I guess the comparisons to The Blair Witch Project were accurate, but this is no Blair Witch, this is something else but that’s also quite effective, and there are some genuine chills in this one, and some rather scary surprises, but I don’t know, I guess it just kind of left me wanting more, because the potential was certainly there, and that left-me-wanting-more feeling was probably due to its more-than-uneven ending.

Now, the obvious question to ask about any horror film is “Was it scary?”, because in theory that’s the first thing these films should aim to achieve, even before thinking about conquering any sort of technical feat, and for The Last Exorcism the answer is “yeah, actually”. I usually don’t get that scared when watching your typical horror movie, so when I get scared I usually think that the film was just pretty exceptional at doing its job, and while the scares in The Last Exorcism are far from being the best we’ve ever seen, they are definitely the best we’ve seen all year, and that’s more than good enough for me.

I will say one thing, though, and this is the reason why I didn’t give this one a much better grade, and that’s that the last five or ten minutes of this film completely let go to waste what it had spent the past hour building up, and the whole film ends up crumbling because of that, and that seriously sucks. The movie starts up quite okay, then it turns into a really scary ride, and then, because of the writers who tried to kick it up one more notch, it tumbles and falls into over-the-top ridiculous territory.

Eli Roth, who we know from the gory Hostel films, is the producer behind this one, and much like he did in those films he directed, he uses little-known to unknown actors in this one. And they’re all just fucking amazing, telling the story of Cotton Marcus, a preacher who, even though he has been performing them for a quarter of a century now, knows his exorcisms are all a hoax, but that nevertheless performs them in order to get money to sustain his family. And then he lets a camera crew come with him to his last exorcism, to show them all the tricks he does to get the faithful people to believe this sham of his, tricks that include an iPod with horrible sounds, and just pure showmanship from the preacher, who approached this more as performance art than as a religious experience.

Patrick Fabian plays Cotton Marcus wonderfully well, here’s a guy that I knew only from a handful of episodes in Veronica Mars and, more recently, Big Love, but that really does an amazing job at playing this guy. He finds just the right way to play Cotton Marcus, a man who has lost his faith a while ago, and who still has to do this exorcisms in order to provide for his family. And this is a film that relies solely on Mr. Fabian to get us engaged in the story, without him there’s no film, and we have to be grateful that this guy found the perfect balance for this character, if he had tipped over the scales one way or the other we could have ended with a totally different, and much worse, end result, so yes, my hat’s off to you, Mr. Fabian.

But anyways, back to the plot, Cotton selects a letter from a family that tells him their teenage daughter has been acting bizarrely, and that the livestock has been found slaughtered as of late. We get to meet the family, and get to see how they greet the camera crew and Cotton, the father begging him to take out the demon he thinks has possessed his daughter, the brother, in a very creepy performance by Caleb Landry Jones, just wanting the camera crew to leave them alone. And you know how it goes after that, Cotton ends up having to stay for a while with the family, gets to know their problems a bit deeper, and then it all goes downhill. But it’s a sweet ride, and I don’t mean just the scenes with the daughter, Nell (who’s played pitch perfectly by Ashley Bell), but also with the rest of the family, there are some truly amazing scenes that Mr. Stamm gets to craft in this film.

The Last Exorcism is a film that boats two wonderful performances, those by Mr. Fabian and Ms. Bell, and that has a director in Mr. Stamm that seriously knows how to build up some pretty damn effective moments, but that in the end just goes into this territory I found to be too ridiculous for my liking, which is why I can’t give this one the really high grade I would like to be giving it.

Grade: B

The Switch

8 Sep

Title: The Switch
Year: 2010
Directors: Josh Gordon and Will Speck
Writer: Allan Loeb
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Patrick Wilson, Juliette Lewis, Jeff Goldblum, Todd Louiso, Thomas Robinson
MPAA Rating: PG-13, mature thematic content, sexual material including dialogue, some nudity, drug use and language
Runtime: 101 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 5.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 52%

The Switch is considered to be one of the most disappointing films of the summer, commercially speaking. Sure, in the twenty days it has spent in theaters so far it has made a bit over $22 million, which is more than its reported $19 million budget, add to that the reported $6.6 million from foreign markets and you could say that at least the film hasn’t made anyone lose any serious cash. But come on, this is a film that stars Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman, who are arguably (and, in my opinion, rightfully so) two of America’s most likable stars, the fact that their film made less than $9 million on its opening weekend is a disaster.

But alas, even though the cast is as charming as it can get (it also has Todd Louiso in a supporting role, who we should all know and love from High Fidelity and Jerry Maguire) and the premise is actually quite decent, the script is what ends up doing the film in. Seriously, this is just a rom-com cliché festival on full display. Now, I didn’t find The Switch to be nearly as bad as some people say it is, I actually found it to be quite okay, but that’s mostly because I like everything Jason Bateman does and mostly everything Ms. Aniston does herself, the two exceptions in her case being last year’s Love Happens which was pretty bad, and this year’s excruciating The Bounty Hunter, which currently stands as the third worst film I’ve seen all year. However, by that same reasoning, my expectations were a bit high with this one, and it did fail to meet them.

But, put expectations aside and I can see this film for what it is, nowhere near a work of art, but a very light and enjoyable little film that boasts three very charming performances and that, contrary to what one would believe, puts more emphasis on Mr. Bateman’s character and performance than it does on Ms. Aniston’s, something that’s good not only because Mr. Bateman should start getting leading film roles, but also because it’s nice to see a rom-com from the guy’s point of view for a change. And speaking of performances, the performances are actually quite good, the fact that the script has not a single genuine moment in it just doesn’t let them shine as brightly as they potentially could have.

Mr. Bateman is Wally, who’s this sort of neurotic and pessimistic Wall Street guy, but who has a good business and an even better best friend, Kassie, who’s also quite successful and who’s Ms. Aniston’s character. Wally and Kassie are just friends, but when Kassie decides she wants to have a baby by herself and Wally’s name isn’t on the list for potential sperm donors he feels betrayed and they childishly stop being friends for a while. Mr. Bateman plays Wally wonderfully well, really tapping into Wally’s paranoia, playing a guy with a very sharp and dry sense of humor that always looks at the downside and fears romantic commitment.

Suffice it to say that Wally and Kassie don’t go for long separated. They eventually reunite at this little “insemination party” she throws, where he meets the eventual chosen sperm donor, Roland, who’s super handsome and Ivy League-bred. And this is when the film gets tricky to handle, and when we see the director duo handle it nicely, as do the actors, but when we see the screenwriter kind of screw it all up rather nicely. You see, at the insemination party Wally gets a bit tipsy and he drops Roland’s semen cup and replaces it with his own, something that he, in his hungover state, won’t be able to remember after that night.

Which sucks because Kassie leaves town for years and years, until she eventually returns, now with a seven year-old kid. And from then on is when Mr. Bateman turns his performance up a notch and really delivers wonderfully, and his performance isn’t aided so much by Ms. Aniston as it is by Thomas Robinson who plays Sebastian, Kassie’s kid. This is a kid who has the perfect performance to pitch to Jason Bateman, who proceeds to tell a wonderful tale of how many men finally get to really mature in their forties.

And I like that Ms. Aniston, consequentially, isn’t on the foreground. She’s an actress who succeeds when she has an ensemble that can carry some of the weight for her at times, such was the case, obviously, in Friends, and such was the case in the film in which she, to me, gave her best performance to date, The Good Girl, some eight years ago, when she was backed up by Jake Gyllenhaal. And she’s good in this one, too, when she plays back-up to Jason Bateman’s Wally and his existential crisis.

Now, up to this point one might be thinking I kinda loved the flick, but, as I said, the script is pretty crappy, and it keeps the film from actually going places. Particularly Ms. Aniston’s role, which though should have remained as background suppport to Bateman’s, could have had more life to it, and everything would have looked better that way. But nevertheless, stale as the script may be, this one has three performances to love, a subtle but appropriate one from Ms. Aniston, a really solid leading one from Mr. Bateman, and an exceedingly charming one from little Thomas Robinson, who’s bound to steal hearts from audiences worldwide.

Grade: B-