Tag Archives: James Marsden

[Review] – Bachelorette

25 Sep

Title: Bachelorette
Year: 2012
Director: Leslye Headland
Writer: Leslye Headland
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden, Kyle Bornheimer, Rebel Wilson, Adam Scott
MPAA Rating: R, sexual content, pervasive language, and drug use
Runtime: 87 min
IMDb Rating: 5.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
Metacritic: 52

After watching Sleepwalk with Me last Monday, For a Good Time, Call… on Saturday and then The Words yesterday, I thought I would continue my streak of watching exports from this year’s Sundance Film Festival and take a look at Leslye Headland‘s Bachelorette. And Ms. Headland may be a first time director, and her only previous experience writing for the screen may have been for the small screen, on the staff of the gone-way-too-soon Terriers, but her film debut sure as hell is a winning film.

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[Review] – Robot & Frank

7 Sep

Title: Robot & Frank
Year: 2012
Director: Jake Schreier
Writer: Christopher D. Ford
Starring: Frank Langella, Peter Sarsgaard, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Susan Sarandon, Jeremy Sisto
MPAA Rating: PG-13, some language
Runtime: 89 min
IMDb Rating: 7.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Metacritic: 67

Ever since I heard about this film, with good word coming out about it from this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the moment I got to watch it. The plot was just tremendous and impossible to resist: you have an old man who used to be a cat burglar and his kids who no longer think their dad can be left alone and instead of sending him to a home they buy him a robot that walks, talks and is supposed to impove their father’s health, both mental and physical. What happens instead is that their dad enlists the robot to help him carry out a heist and win the affection of the local librarian.

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[Trailer] – Robot and Frank

25 Jun

Robot and Frank, which premiered earler this year at Sundance and has a pretty cool premise, just got a trailer, which you can watch after the cut.

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Straw Dogs

15 Oct

Title: Straw Dogs
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Rod Lurie
Writer: Rod Lurie, based on the original screenplay by David Zelag Goodman and Sam Peckinpah, which was in turn based on the novel by Gordon Williams
Starring: 
James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgård, Dominic Purcell, Laz Alonso, Willa Holland, James Woods, Walton Goggins
MPAA Rating: 
R, strong brutal violence including a sexual attack, menace, some sexual content, and pervasive language
Runtime: 
110 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
5.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 
36%

Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs was released forty years ago, and at the time it sparked some controversy, along with A Clockwork Orange which was also released that year, because of its relentless depiction of violence. But it’s still one of Mr. Peckinpah’s greatest film achievements and has one of those classic Dustin Hoffman performances. So considering how great that original film still is, I was actually fully ready to hate the idea of a very unnecessary remake directed by Rod Lurie and starring James Marsden in the role originated by Mr. Hoffman. But then I actually saw it and lo and behold, I was actually pleasantly surprised with the end result, this is a film that’s actually pretty damn competent I thought, though if you’re part of the group that hates the excessive violence of the original this one doesn’t downplay that one bit.

I was just very surprised to find myself actually liking this film a bit. It’s actually a nice little remake that while I still think we could have done without is certainly a good time at the movies. Not to mention that it’s a pretty close remake of the original, I mean it changes the location from Cornwall to Mississippi and instead of a mathematician we now have a screenwriter, but other than that it’s a pretty straightforward recreation of the 1971 film, and when this one’s working on all cylinders it gets to the point in which it really starts getting to you and feeling like a really disturbing and well-made exercise in psychological and physical violence.

It’s just an interesting film at times, which is far more than I ever thought it would have been, because it’s actually kind of cool how it starts exploring the culture clash the goes on and how the lengths that a man will go for his home and family are many times unexpected even to the man himself. You see, we get Mr. Marsden’s character, David, a Hollywood screenwriter with an Ivy League education that’s this sort of refined person with super cultured tastes and behavior, and who moves with his wife, Amy, played by Kate Bosworth, to her hometown of Blackwater, Mississippi in order to find a quiet little place where he can work without much disturbance.

The culture clash that goes on between this refined man and the locals of the town he’s no living in is intensely staged by Mr. Lurie. You have David who’s the kind of guy that listens to classical music and that doesn’t know how to do a hands-on job to save his life and they are the ones that listen to deep country and you can assume haven’t really read that many books in their whole life. And you get the sense that the locals are disturbed by the presence of their new co-inhabitants, leering at the sexy wife and acting towards the couple in a way that varies between the totally ill-meaning and the sort of politeness that comes with an über-threatening tone, a kind of passive aggression that’s nearing it’s boiling point. So we then get this kind of battle between territorial rights that obviously starts escalating to very dangerous heights sooner rather than later and in it, much like in Mr. Peckinpah’s original film, Mr. Lurie tries to create a whole new definition of macho violence.

The outlook Mr. Lurie brings to this kind of ridiculous culture war between David and the pack of locals is actually quite awesome, and chief amongst those local enemies is Charlie, played by Alexander Skarsgård, he’s the guy that’s the big, muscular, handsome ex-jock who obviously dated Amy back in high school, and who just so happens has been hired to fix the barn where David and Amy are going to live. It’s obviously not a great situation, events start escalating at the barn that you just know won’t end up right. David tries to adapt to their ways, to be overly friendly in a kind of way that says to them that he’s trying too hard but that’s also tinged with some sort of condescension, and so they will mock him and take advantage of him to the point in which he just has no choice but to fight back.

There’s a lot to be said about how sex is portrayed here, you get Amy who’s obviously ogled at by the locals and who’s actually provoking them in a way that counts as some of the psychological violence of this film, and you see her being caught between her husband and the men she grew up with and how she’s pretty much asking for trouble to come her way. And then there’s a lot to be said about how this film is so much about the idea of manhood. And when those two things clash it gives way to a rape scene that’s really wonderfully crafted by Mr. Lurie, though in a way that isn’t as shocking as it was in the original in which it was given this sort of sense of eroticism that made the scene kind of disturbing.

And props really should be given to the director, even though he obviously takes a lot from the original, from exact scenes and shots and bits of dialogue, he never once tries to imitate the work of Mr. Peckinpah too much but instead adds a nice level of subtlety that’s all his own. And even though there are times during which this film doesn’t work, because the story and performances get a bit too messy, this is still a respectable and interesting interpretation of a film four decades old. And that’s really what any movie should aim to go, to get you thinking about something, it just so happens that in the case of Straw Dogs it gets you thinking about the superior film from which it spawned. But this is still a very good film about psychological warfare and I was honestly surprised that I liked it this much.

Grade: B

Hop

28 Apr

Title: Hop
Year:
2011
Director:
Tim Hill
Writers: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch, based on a story by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio
Starring:
James Marsden, Russell Brand, Kaley Cuoco, Hank Azaria, Gary Cole, Elizabeth Perkins, Hugh Laurie, Chelsea Handler
MPAA Rating:
PG, some mild rude humor
Runtime:
95 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
5.1
Rotten Tomatoes:
24%

I liked the little bunnies in Hop. How they were done, I mean. I thought the animation behind them was pretty cool and they looked quite nifty, which is logical once you learn they were designed by the same guy that did the characters in Finding Nemo and many other great films. But I didn’t like them in any other way, I mean, they were okay but they weren’t really all that charming because the script didn’t provide as many “aww” moments as it could have nor much of anything else really. And the human performers in this film fare just the same way, they all give it their all, just look at James Marsden out there being game for any number of silly situations, but in the end the material they have to work with it too uninspired for them to do all that much with it.

Now, I didn’t hate Hop, but it was kind of like director Tim Hill’s other effort at merging animated little furry animals with live-action humans, Alvin and the Chipmunks, the sort of film that you won’t hate because it’s harmless and it’s only trying to have a good time, but also the sort of film you really won’t recommend to people. By the way, Russell Brand is the guy voicing our main little Bunny, who’s called E.B. and who’s the heir to the title of Easter Bunny currently owned by his father, who’s voiced by Hugh Laurie, who’s ready to give the reigns of the empire to his son. The problem is that E.B. doesn’t really want all that responsibility, and would much rather just spend his time playing the drums.

And the premise is actually all right really, I mean, we get E.B. leaving bunny-land in hopes of becoming a great drummer in Hollywood, but he nearly becomes roadkill as a car comes close to crashing into him and so the unexpected friendship between him and the car’s owner, which would be Mr. Marsden’s character, then becomes the plot of the film. And even though, like I said, Mr. Marsden is totally game for anything this film requires of him to do, it all feels flat and bored for some reason. Same goes for Mr. Brand as the voice of E.B., you’d think someone with his personna would be great fun as the voice of a rebel little rocker Bunny, but here he only shines in a few moments, and much less than I initially thought he would.

So if you’ve been amongst those lamenting the lack of a film about and/or starring the Easter Bunny, here’s what you get, an uninspired CGI/Live-action mash-up that feels tacky at parts and just plain boring the rest of the time. The bunnies were really well done, like I said, and I do think that’s something to compliment because considering the quality of the rest of the film I wouldn’t have been shocked if the bunnies themselves looked horrible, but you can tell the people behind the animation of them really carefully went into making them, and they look really charming and sweet, even though they aren’t given all that many real charming or sweet scenes.

We get a lot of silly situations between E.B. and Fred, Mr. Marsden’s character, which comes from both of them being total slackers. E.B. not wanting to follow his father’s command to become the new Easter Bunny and Fred pressured by his parents to get a real job. Said situations include encounters with David Hasselhoff as a judge of a talent show (and we know the Hoff is awesome at making fun of himself) and a horrible job interview with a woman played by Chelsea Handler, who I usually love.

Hop may be better than Alvin and the Chipmunks, but that’s not saying much. This one is, at the end of it all, an Easter rip-off of The Santa Clause, and that’s also not saying much. So, you see, this one really never seemed as thought it would be any thing like a roaring success, Mr. Brand gives a couple of good moments because he can sound cheeky and naughty and make it fun, but that’s just about it. There’s a subplot about the going-ons at the Easter island about a group of chickens, who have its leader voiced by Hank Azaria, trying to stage a coup against the bunnies to take over Easter, which does have a couple of funny sight gags, but nothing worth noting.

You see me being tepid about Hop because I didn’t like it, but I didn’t dislike it either, and I know what to expect about these films that mesh up digitally rendered animals with live-action stuff so it’s not as though I left Hop feeling disappointed. I knew this one wasn’t meant to be good, but I wanted it to be better if only because a few cool people are in it, but I guess I wasn’t the target audience and maybe kids will actually love the bunnies and the situations presented in Hop. But maybe they’ll just leave the theater not wanting to eat another jelly bean in their lives, because if there’s one thing we learn in Hop is that those are actually easter bunny poo.

Grade: C+

Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

5 Aug

Title: Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
Year: 2010
Director: Brad Peyton
Writers: Ron J. Friedman and Steve Bencich, based on the characters by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra
Starring: Bette Midler, James Marsden, Christina Applegate, Katt Williams, Michael Clarke Duncan, Neil Patrick Harris, Sean Hayes, Nick Nolte, Joe Pantoliano, Chris O’Donnell, Jack McBrayer, Fred Armisen, Paul Rodriguez
MPAA Rating: PG, animal action and humor
Runtime: 82 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 2.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 15%

I’ll be quite brief about the nonsensical film that Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore was, because, really, it warrants not a lengthy explanation or analysis, this is a sequel from a mediocre-but-at-least-commercially-successful film from a decade ago, the difference is that back then animated talking animals were cute and fun, now they look completely moronic and unnecessary, and this sequel really is unnecessary, and I cannot fathom why studio executives would force this upon us. The good news though, is that, if you’re going to watch it, it’s less than an hour and a half long, so you don’t have to suffer through it for a long time.

This one tries to be fun, tries to be funny, but it’s just boring and seriously unfunny, I mean seriously, this may have been fun ten years ago, and even then I didn’t love the original film, but now the notion that our pets actually lead double lives has been spent entirely, and the spy-themed kid movies are usually complete rubbish, so this one really had no shot at being good in the first place. The premise that first film introduced was the one that cats and dogs, infamous so-called enemies among pets, were in a huge battle, unbeknownst to humans, to achieve total pet domination of the world, this one continues that notion but focussing more on the animals and less on the humans.

I guess the only thing commendable about Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore is that it manages to employ every single cliché it possibly could have, and it sucks while doing so, big-time. There are countless references to spy films other than the obvious James Bond namecheck from the title, and they are all completely dumb, because this is seriously a dumb film, and I won’t fail it as badly as I probably should because I imagine some kids will like it, I can’t fathom why, but I guess some will, even though, it must be said, kids are getting smarter with their movie choices nowadays, especially when you consider recent offerings like the amazing Despicable Me.

I won’t even go through the trouble of explaining the plot, it’s far worse than the plot for the first one was, and it’s only there to enable a series of jokes and gags about pets that we’ve heard way too many times by now, add that to the fact that… actually, you know what, I won’t continue, it’s not worth it, you know what this movie will be like before you go see it, I shouldn’t tell you not to, it’s your choice, I just hope you’re smart, and by smart I mean I hope you avoid this at all costs. And the reason why I’m giving this a ‘high’ failing grade is because it was so short, it really was painless, and because, as I said, maybe some kids will like it, and this film was obviously only made for them.

Grade: D+

Death at a Funeral

8 Jul

Title: Death at a Funeral
Year: 2010
Director: Neil LaBute
Writer: Dean Craig
Starring: Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Luke Wilson, Tracy Morgan, Danny Glover, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart, James Marsden, Zoe Saldana, Loretta Devine, Ron Glass, Peter Dinklage, Columbus Short
MPAA Rating: R, language, drug content and some sexual humor
Runtime: 92 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 4.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 38%

I went to Death at a Funeral expecting to leave severely disappointed, after all, the original British film from which this one is adapted is incredibly funny and I was sure that this one wouldn’t be able to convey the incredible British wit and humor that made the original a stand-out for me, but this one turned out to be an incredibly faithful adaptation, and has the same writer doing pretty much an identical script, and even a returning actor from the original in Peter Dinklage and, yes, in the end it does fail to live up to the original’s strengths, but it manages to be quite an amusing film with a pretty cool cast which includes Zoe Saldana, who I love.

And, really, just like with the original, it is because of the cast that this movie has any chance of working, granted, the original worked better, but this one has enough talent to make it work, too, and it does, in many ways. The original is much better because it showed much more restraint were as this one is much more over-the-top which mostly results in bad-taste outcomes (and not in the good sense which the original exploited), which are mostly just that, bad situations, but often times make for huge laughs, and that is, at the end of the day, why we go to a movie like this, because we want those big laughs. And in the end, this one does indeed achieve what the original did, which is to have us laughing about things that we shouldn’t be laughing about, and it does so by not trying to, but in fact by doing it all with complete seriousness and then having us surprised to laughing about things we know we shouldn’t be laughing at. I mean seriously, Peter Dinklage is the most serious guy ever, and yet he’s one of the best parts about this.

I actually don’t really want to go that much into the plot, because it’s not really that important, I mean, it’s a great one to keep the comedy going, and going at full speed at that, but just know that the patriarch of a family has died and the funeral is to take place at home, Chris Rock is his responsible son and we also get the Martin Lawrence character, a womanizer who has flown in for the funeral from New York. Then all kind of weird things ensue.

The one cast member I really thought made the character his own in comparison to the last film was James Marsden, who took a role Alan Tudyk rocked in the original and was funny in his own way in this one. Not to say that the other actors are just copying the ones from the original, they’re not, Chris Rock is reliably funny as he always is, and does have the good chemistry we would expect he’d have with Martin Lawrence, but the thing I meant is that, both Rock and Lawrence are at their best comedy-wise when they imprint their characters with their own brand of humor, and I think they stuck too much to the original characters this time around, I guess that’s one of the downfalls of making an adaptation as faithful as this one. Peter Dinklage, though, seeing as how he played the same role he played in the original is as funny as he was back then, which is to say plenty.

But this is still a good screwball comedy, because what these comedies need is high-octane energy and for something to always be happening and for actors to have great timing, and that’s all there in this one, but I obviously can’t help but compare it to the original, and in that comparison it doesn’t win, the only thing this one has the original didn’t is Zoe Saldana, who is not only beautiful, but is also quite good in this one.

Grade: B-