Tag Archives: Zooey Deschanel

[Trailer] – Lola Versus

6 Apr

 

I’ve loved Greta Gerwig ever since I saw her in Noah Baumbach‘s Greenberg in 2010. And it looks like this may be the year that gets more people to fall in love with her. She’s starring in Whit Stillman‘s Damsels in Distress, Woody Allen‘s To Rome with Love, and takes the lead in Lola Versus, the trailer for which you can watch below.

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Our Idiot Brother

20 Sep

Title: Our Idiot Brother
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Jesse Peretz
Writers: David Schisgall and Evgenia Peretz, based on a story by themselves and Jesse Peretz
Starring: 
Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Coogan, Hugh Dancy, Rashida Jones, Adam Scott
MPAA Rating: 
R, sexual content including nudity, and for language throughout
Runtime: 
90 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 
67%

 

The level of expectation I had for this film was pretty crazy and, you know what, even though it was still a seriously good movie, it just didn’t quite get there. I wanted this film to be a solid A grade for me, maybe even a weak A+ if I got lucky, but we got something that was a bit off from that plateau of amazingness. The reason for the salivation this film caused in me was simple: its cast. Seriously, just take a look at those names: Paul Rudd, one of my Top 3 mancrushes; Elizabeth Banks, a hilarious and talented woman; Zooey Deschanel, my #1 crush who can do no wrong; Emily Mortimer, an actress with a lovely accent who has been great in Shutter Island and Match Point among others; Rashida Jones, another woman who I seriously adore and who rocks at everything she does, especially Parks and Recreation; Adam Scott, another Parks and Rec alum who’s just seriously awesome. So yeah, even though the movie is uneven at times, just that cast alone makes Our Idiot Brother too damn charming to find much fault in.

And really, that’s pretty much what Our Idiot Brother relies on the most: its charm. I mean, look at that cast again and that’s pretty much the one word that would seem to describe all of them the best, that or “adorable” or “insanely likable” which pretty much all mean the same thing. And this film knows that, it just coasts by on the charm of Mr. Rudd because it can, and because that really serves the sweetness of this film, the niceness of it all. Because even though the title of this film refers to an idiot, the idiot is played by Mr. Rudd which inherently makes him a likable idiot, not to mention that he’s not an idiot in the sense that he does mean stuff, but in the sense that he’s too trusting and too honest, he’s an idiot in the sense that he’s too much of a good guy that it actually ends up going all wrong.

Not to say that the film starts getting overly sweet, not at all, if anything it gets to be a bit bittersweet in this indie-movie kind of way that really works for it. And so that it doesn’t go too overboard on the man-child immaturity displayed by Mr. Rudd’s Ned, it presents us with his sisters, three different but correct women who consider him an idiot, and that allows the film to give us this kind of quirky exploration of the relationships of grown-up siblings that’s actually really nicely developed. Yes, it’s kind of predictable the paths this film takes at times, you know that at first it’ll seem like the whole issue is about Ned’s inability or lack of desire to grow up, but then it comes to happen that it’s him, and his idiocy and sort of positive-vibes lifestyle that go on to help and show his sisters that they’re actually not as happy or fulfilled as they could be.

And you really believe Mr. Rudd as Ned, this guy who’s always smiling, seeing the bright side of things, not holding any grudges and genuinely wishing everybody the best. It’s because of this attitude that when we see Ned selling under-the-counter marihuana to a cop in uniform just because the policeman promised him it was only because he was having a bad day we believe that as something that would certainly happen to this character. This is the kind of innocent hippie that could only be played by Paul Rudd, actually, because otherwise Ned would be a pretty unbearable character to watch for ninety minutes, this guy knows perfectly well how to be sweet without being too sweet, how to cause trouble but not be hatable just because of how innocently honest he is. But anyways, he’s thrown in jail and four months later (for being named most cooperative inmate) he gets out on parole only to find out that Janet, his ladyfriend played by Kathryn Hahn, has moved on with another guy and doesn’t want to give him custody of the dog they shared, a dog that’s named Willie Nelson.

After that, Ned goes to crash with all of his sisters, shaking up their lives considerably in the process. First of is Liz, played by Ms. Mortimer, an anxious mother who has a rather hollow marriage with a filmmaker played by Steve Coogan. Then you have Miranda, the character played by Ms. Banks, an insecure but highly ambitious writer who wants to have her big break and land a job at Vanity Fair. And finally you have Natalie, the character played by the lovely Ms. Deschanel, she’s an artist’s model who wants to be some sort of performer and who may or may not be a lesbian but who’s certainly in love with Cindy, played by Ms. Jones, and is getting closer to actually getting to commit to a serious relationship. Cindy, by the way, other than being played by the awesome Ms. Jones, is actually a lesbian character that’s free of all of those lesbian comedy clichés, which I thought was nice to see.

The film may be a bit too thin at times, I’ll concede to that, but I mean, it has a cast that’s just so damn skillful at playing these characters and just so likable that you can’t help but fall for it all, not to mention that the script is really witty and I thought provided a lot of very good moments. This is movie that’s so incredibly good-hearted, and in the most honest and non-gratuitous of ways, that you forgive any and all little missteps and overly-happy endings it may have. Mr. Rudd proves once again why he’s the guy you’d most want as a best friend, and his co-stars all do a supreme job at handling their characters as well, Ms. Jones most of all, even when, like in the case of Miranda, those characters are more ideas than fully fleshed personalities, they do a lot to bring them to life in the best of ways. I really liked this film, it may be too light or silly for some, but it was too charming for me to try and put on my sophisticated film viewer hat, I just loved every second of it.

Grade: A-

Winnie the Pooh

11 Aug

Title: Winnie the Pooh
Year: 
2011
Directors: 
Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall
Writers: story by Stephen J. Anderson, Clio Chiang, Don Dougherty, Don Hall, Brian Kesinger, Nicole Mitchell and Jeremy Spears, based on the works of A.A. Milne and Ernest Shepard, with additional story material by Paul Briggs and Chris Ure
Starring: 
Jim Cummings, Tom Kenny, Craig Ferguson, Travis Oates, Bud Luckey, Jack Boutler, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Wyatt Dean Hall, John Cleese
MPAA Rating: 
G
Runtime: 
63 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 
90%

To be honest, I saw the new Winnie the Pooh movie for three reasons which, in specific order, where: 1) It had three songs in it performed by Zooey Deschanel, who regular readers of mine know is my dream girl, 2) It had TV’s Craig Ferguson voicing Owl and I’ll watch anything that has an appearance by Mr. Ferguson, even if it’s just his voice, and 3) I like taking a break from the usual CGI-animated movies, which usually come in 3D, and bask in the glory of good ol’ fashioned 2D animation. And even though those were, to me at least, three good reasons to give Winnie the Pooh a shot, I do admit they don’t sound reasons that make it seem as though I was expecting something great, and maybe I wasn’t, but this film really was something very very good.

It’s a film that’s just a truly nostalgic ride, one that really feels like the oldschool family films that could be enjoyed by parents and kids alike, that was sweet and short, that had some traditional animation values and just a sweet-nature behind it all, it was just as true a Winnie the Pooh movie as you’d imagine. And you have no idea just how much you’ll appreciate that until you actually watch it, I mean, this film is barely over an hour, it’s just seriously sweet and not loud at all, and in today’s intensely congested animated movie-world you’ll find that a film in 2D, with no A-list celebrity voicework done to get promotion, and no excessive mention of pop-culture is something to truly treasure. The fact that it features our favorite honey-loving bear just makes it all that much better.

And you fall in love all over again with the classic staples of the Pooh tales, like the fact that our animal friends misread a note from Christopher Robin to get the action rolling, the fact that they’re searching for Eeyore’s tail, the fact that Pooh is obviously still looking for honey. We know all of these things from years of growing up with these characters, and it’ll tickle our nostalgic bones in the best of ways, and the little ones who don’t know about Winnie the Pooh yet now have a great new film to get initiated with. And that’s one of the things that I loved so much about this film, that it tried to get new audience to the Winnie the Pooh brand by giving them exactly what it gave to so many generations before, and not by rebooting or updating the brand to make it more hip. The Hundred Acre Wood is the same as we remembered it, the film still teaches the same sort of lessons, the characters will burst into lovely little tunes, it’s all the same sweet kind of silliness that we’ll always love.

So if you have to take a kid with you to the movies, and you’re torn between this and Cars 2, let me advice you to pick this one without hesitating for a second. Because even if grown-ups won’t necessarily seek out Winnie the Pooh on their own, I can bet that they’ll have a serious flashback session to their childhood as soon as they see their old animal friends take a new approach to an old story, and they’ll probably even be a bit jealous of the infant sitting next to them, for the sheer fact that they’re meeting Winnie and Tigger and Owl and Piglet for the very first time. And, like I said, it’s just awesome to see an animated movie that doesn’t “star” a big-name celebrity. The biggest name here is Mr. Ferguson who’s actually wonderful as Owl, and all the vocal performances are really perfect, lively in a way that doesn’t like it does in so many other movies, in which celebrities try to be showy in their voicework.

Please go see Winnie the Pooh, I really can’t urge you enough to do so, don’t go about it like it’s a kids movie, because even though it is, the cuddly, hand-drawn characters and the soft colors will really move any adult who has grown up with these characters. Not to mention that the film is just very funny and amusing, in a way that only the earnestness of a Winnie the Pooh movie can be goofy, it’s a type of G-rated fun that’s so good-natured and sweet that you’d think you wouldn’t be able to find it in theaters anymore, and you should do your best to really appreciate that. The music is awesome, too, done by Robert Lopez, who’s a Tony Award winner for Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon, alongside his wife. They’re just truly nifty compositions that will have kids loving the music and adults enjoying the quick lyrics, and then there are those songs sung by the lovely Ms. Deschanel, one of those few people who’s genuine brand of adorability would seem to fit right in the world of Pooh and his friends.

Grade: B+

EmmyWatch 2011: Reality/Variety Races

21 Jun

Joshua Jackson and Melissa McCarthy are set to announce the nominations for the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards bright and early on Thursday, July 14th. And even though this is a film blog, some of you many know I’m also a pretty obsessive TV-watcher, and I currently watch over 70 television series, so I’d like to think I know a fair bit about what’s on the air right now. And in that spirit, I’ll do what I did with my OscarWatch posts back in January, and tackle the major categories for this years Emmy Awards in 4 EmmyWatch posts: Reality/Variety, Mini/Movie, Comedy and Drama.

In them I’ll give my quick thoughts on a particular race and how I personally think things will eventually shape up, listing both the 6 contenders I would personally pick were the nominations up to me, and then 6 who I actually think will have their names called out come nomination morning. Then once the nominations are announced I’ll do a post with my reactions and my actual predictions for the races. To kick things off, let’s tackle the Reality and Variety categories…

REALITY COMPETITION SERIES

Look, I’m not the biggest reality nut because I actually don’t watch Top Chef regularly (even though I do admit it’s been pretty great when I have watched it), nor do I watch Survivor at all, and ditto with Celebrity Apprentice and So You Think You Can Dance. So yes, I’m not that well-versed on several of the contenders for this category, but I think I get the overall picture of this category pretty well. The category had been previously owned by The Amazing Race for seven consecutive years, but Top Chef eventually broke their streak with their own win last year, so this one is definitely a tiny bit more open than one would initially think.

My Personal 6 (in specific order)

  1. The Amazing Race – Yes, it may have been relegated to second place (or worse) after last year’s win by Top Chef, but this show still dominated the category for the better part of the decade, and considering their last cycle was an all-star edition that got the contestants to some pretty sweet spots around the world, a return to the group of victors wouldn’t be shocking at all.
  2. Top Chef – Yes, I know I don’t watch this show regularly, but I do occasionally, and that’s all you need to know that this Bravo show ending The Amazing Race‘s streak last year wasn’t that surprising. Plus, it’s the only reality show that’s had Zooey Deschanel as a guest judge, so that alone puts it pretty much at the top of my list.
  3. The Voice – Yes, I’m putting The Voice, a show that’s less than halfway through its first season, ahead of American Idol, a similar show that I’ve had the biggest love/hate relationship with for the last decade. Why? Because The Voice feels insanely fresh even though it’s a well-traveled field and boats what I believe to be the best judging panel in television.
  4. American Idol – 8 nominations, no wins. It may have the ratings but it doesn’t have the trophies. However, as maligned as the tenth season of the show has been at points, I think the show should really be congratulated for going through the tough job of reinvigorating itself by rebooting its judges panel and a part of its format.
  5. Project Runway – This show also got a bit of a reboot, with supersized ninety-minute episodes which meant more fashion and a lot more drama. However I, like many, wasn’t a particular fan of the show’s eighth season because of its eventual winner. So as much as I would like to see Project Runway keep getting a nomination like it usually does, Gretchen-gate prevents me from wishing it wins.
  6. Dancing with the Stars – This season was more of the same from this the reality ratings juggernaut which still boasts a consistent judges panel (as much as I hate Carrie Ann), two extremely likable hosts and a cast of both stars and pros that makes for very entertaining television.
How I think the actual nominations will look like (in specific order)
  1. Top Chef – Yes, I think this one will actually repeat this year, and if it doesn’t then it will go down putting up a good fight.
  2. Amazing Race – And if Top Chef loses then I think this one will return to the winners circle after stumbling last year.
  3. American Idol – Read above. I actually wouldn’t be that surprised if this one manages to pull off an upset against the two listed above, the voters will give them props for their retooling while maintaing their huge ratings and standards.
  4. Project Runway – Read above.
  5. Dancing with the Stars – Read above.
  6. The Voice – I may have personally adored this show enough to put it as my personal #3, but considering it’s aired less than ten episodes I doubt the voters will put it much higher than a #6, or #5 at best. But still, if it gets the nod consider it a very good sign of things to come in this category for the show.
REALITY SERIES
Now in this category I really have no idea how to handicap the race, as the only reality series I watch that may get a nomination is MythBusters, so my Personal 6 category won’t apply here, and lets get down to how I think the actual nominations will look like considering what I have read and know about the shows in contention.
How I think the actual nominations will look like (in specific order)
  1. MythBusters – I’m putting it at first because it’s the only contender I actually like to watch and it’s a damn good show.
  2. Intervention – This one might actually win.
  3. Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List – It has won this award twice before, so a return trip to the winners circle wouldn’t be that out of the question.
  4. Dirty Jobs – Three time past-nominee for this category, should return.
  5. Deadliest Catch – Another one of the few that I have actually watched that contends in this category, pretty good show, too.
  6. Hoarders – And I’m giving my final slot to this one, just because. I hate writing about categories I know nothing about.
REALITY HOST
Hosts can make or break reality shows, and some of them are a big part of the reason why we love the shows they’re in. Tom Bergeron has impeccable timing, Phil Keoghan has that eyebrow lift, Ryan Seacreat can say “THIS.IS.AMERICAN.IDOL!” like only he can. So yes, I actually quite like that hosts get their own category.
My Personal 5 (in specific order)
  1. Tom Bergeron (Dancing with the Stars) – Look, I love this guy, I really do. He has some pretty good on-the-spot comedic interventions and really knows how to roll with the punches, so he gets my personal #1 spot.
  2. Phil Keoghan (The Amazing Race) – The aforementioned eyebrow move alone makes him a favorite in this race, he’s the perfect host for the globe-trotting reality series.
  3. Ryan Seacrest (American Idol) – I have loved and hated this show for a huge amount of reasons for the past decade, but Ryan Seacrest, even though he isn’t perfect, has been a pretty consistent part of it, and in a year in which the rebooted judges panel was sputtering so much nonsense, it was him that provided some balance.
  4. Padma Lakshmi (Top Chef) – Again, I’m not a loyal follower of the show, but there’s no denying that every time I have actually tuned in to watch it Ms. Lakshmi has done a stellar hosting job.
  5. Heidi Klum (Project Runway) – She’s Heidi Klum. Enough said.
How I think the actual nominations will look like (in specific order)
  1. Jeff Probst (Survivor) – He’s not in my Personal 5 because I don’t watch Survivor, but that show owes a lot of its success to this guy. He’s reigned supreme among hosts in years past, and there’s just not even the slightest chance of him losing his crown this year.
  2. Phil Keoghan (The Amazing Race) – Read above.
  3. Tom Bergeron (Dancing with the Stars) – Read above.
  4. Ryan Seacrest (American Idol) – Read above.
  5. Padma Lakshmi (Top Chef) – Read above.
VARIETY SERIES
And so it goes, another year in which Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will have their shows pitted against each others. And while I think this year Stewart will have a tougher time defending the crown that has been his since 2003, I actually think he will ultimately prevail yet again.
My Personal 6 (in specific order)
  1. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – Yes, he’s also #1 in my personal picks.
  2. The Colbert Report – And yes, he’s also #2 in my personal picks. These two will be forever linked, and they will be forever at the top, I just don’t think this will be the year in which Colbert will breakout and beat the show that launched him to stardom.
  3. Saturday Night Live – A perennial nominee, and a huge personal favorite of mine, the past season had some downs, that’s for sure, but for a show that’s been running for nearly forty years now, the fact that it also manages to have as many ups as it does is remarkable.
  4. The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson – I doubt he’ll get the nod, and if he does he’ll probably #6, but amongst the late night talk shows his is the one I always come back to, CraigyFerg deserves the recognition.
  5. Conan – He bounced back from that absurd NBC debacle with his own show at TBS which is heaps and bounds superior to what Jay Leno is doing on The Tonight Show.
  6. Late Night with Jimmy Fallon – I was thinking about giving Letterman my #6 slot because Dave is Dave and there’s no denying just how amazing he is, but Fallon has been doing a superb job lately.
How I think the actual nominations will look like (in specific order)
  1. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – Read above.
  2. The Colbert Report – Read above.
  3. Conan – Read above.
  4. Saturday Night Live – Read above.
  5. Real Time with Bill Maher – I don’t watch this show a lot, but it’s actually very good and it always seems to get nominated, and I doubt that’ll change this year.
  6. The Late Show with David Letterman – I had trouble choosing between Dave, Jimmy and Craig for my final slot, and while both the young ones are in my Personal 6 and Dave isn’t, I think he’ll get in come nomination time.

Your Highness

3 May

Title: Your Highness
Year: 
2011
Director: 
David Gordon Green
Writers: Danny McBride and Ben Best
Starring: 
Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Toby Jones, Justin Theroux, Rasmus Hardiker
MPAA Rating: 
R, strong crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, violence and some drug use
Runtime: 
102 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 
24%

David Gordon Green’s last film, 2008’s Pineapple Express, I consider to be one of the five best comedies of the past decade and is a film I can watch over and over again, and it’s one of those that if I ever catch on TV I will stop doing whatever it is I’m doing to keep watching it. Seriously, that film is full of hysterical moments coming from the likes of James Franco, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson, and even since that August I’ve been waiting to see what the guy was going to do next. It’s not as though the guy has just been MIA from our lives for the past three years, the guy has been on the director’s chair for half of the Eastbound & Down episodes there have been to date, and that show, which also stars Mr. McBride, is probably one of the five funniest ones on television right now.

So, you see, when the details started lining up for Mr. Green’s follow-up to Pineapple Express I was unable to contain my excitement. Not only would he remain in the stoner comedy genre that helped him craft that hilarious film, and not only was he now taking that funniness to medieval times, but he also got himself a tremendous cast. Mr. Franco and Mr. McBride are still there for him to work with and so are Zooey Deschanel, whom he had already directed to sublime effects in the tremendous All the Real Girls, not to mention that Natalie Portman, fresh off her Oscar victory for Black Swan is also part of the cast here. For those regular readers of mine you might already know that to me Ms. Deschanel is far and out the most gorgeous creature on earth, and also a seriously talented actress, and Ms. Portman, who’s pretty damn hot herself, is also ridiculously good. So yeah, this movie, on paper at least, was fool-proof.

On execution, however, it’s a whole different story. This is far from the worst film I’ve seen all year, but it just might be one of the most disappointing. You can tell they really tried their best to making the medieval feel genuine, the budget was twice as big as the one for Pineapple Express and it shows on the scale and costumes this movie counts on, but raunchy improv-heavy comedies don’t really need all of that, they just need people being funny, and by concentrating too much of the medieval-ness of it all Your Highness sometimes forgets about just being plain funny and ends up on a monotonous road that is often funny, but not as often as it should have been, or at least as I would have wanted it to be.

Look, I didn’t dislike Your Highness, and when people ask me about it I may even recommend it because it’s quite good fun. The thing is that if you’re like me and were hoping that this one was going to be just as great as The Pineapple Express, if not better, you’re in for a rude awakening, and you’ll find yourself frustrated about seeing these immensely talented people working with material that’s not worthy of them. I don’t know if that’s because the script, written by Mr. McBride along with Ben Best (who co-created Eastbound & Down with Mr. McBride as well as wrote some episodes for it), didn’t give them the proper cues or lines to be awesome or if, by making their actors feel free to do as much improv as they want, not even using a script on-set and just relying on notes and vague outlines, Mr. Green let this one go off its rails. Maybe it’s a combination of both, I don’t know, it just should have been much more than this.

Some critics are hating on this one quite a lot, Roger Ebert, the best one out there, gave it 1 star, ditto with Peter Travers, and Andrew O’Hehir said that for a few hours after having seen it he considered it may have be the worst movie ever made. Not to mention that the always-defiant Armond White went ahead and gave it a good review, which usually means the movie’s actually bad. But those opinions are really too harsh, I didn’t adore this to the level that I adored The Pineapple Express and No Strings Attached, that other film this year starring Ms. Portman, is a better movie than this one is, but it’s not that bad. And my guess is that some of the people that didn’t get this film just didn’t get it because they were totally not the target audience this one was aiming for.

Because, you see, if The Pineapple Express had a very definite audience for all its stoner jokes (though it laughed its way to the bank with $100 million in box office gross), then this one has an audience that’s infinitely more limited than that because it’s appealing not only to those who love stoner comedy, but who love medieval films as well. This is a film you’ll enjoy only if you go to see it high as a kite or if you’re one of us who love the 80’s fantasy movies and Dungeons & Dragons and the whole nine yards in between. And the people involved in Your Highness won’t care if you don’t like their film if you’re not part of that group of people because all their energy is spent into pleasing those of us who are. Not to mention that they were so obviously having the best time just filming this one so they probably won’t care either way.

And yet even though I’m a huge fan of that genre these guys are spoofing, and even though I clearly acknowledge the love these guys certainly seem to have for the genre, I’m still not sure I really loved this film all that much. Comparisons to The Pineapple Express aside, as necessary as they may prove to be, this is still not that great. But anyways, let’s take a look at the story it’s telling. It’s the story of Thadeous, Mr. McBride’s character who’s the character Mr. McBride is used to playing of the lazy-ass, foul-mouthed and inappropriate guy who this time around is the brother of Fabious, Mr. Franco’s character, who’s the heir to the throne and super macho like all the princes of the 80’s fantasy films are.

In any case, the bride of Fabious, which would be the part the stunning Ms. Deschanel gets to play, is kidnapped by the movie’s villain, who’s played by Justin Theroux who I think is quite good. So of course Fabious is to set on a quest to rescue his virgin bride from the hands of an evil sorcerer, it’s just that this time, at his father’s persistence, Thadeous is forced to tag along. And also tagging along is a very mysterious warrior girl they meet on the way, which would be Ms. Portman’s character. And that plot is one I like, and the idea of embedding it with some stoner references and a lot of modern profanities is one I embraced at first, but it turns out the laughs we get out of them are way too dumb.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a dumb laugh, Pineapple Express had them and they were great, and this one after all does reference a genre and films that were quite dumb themselves. And I do admit I gave this film a bit of hate at the beginning of this review, but that was just me venting off about this one not being the next Pineapple Express, but as a guy who’s unashamedly in love with fantasy films and their worlds, and has a special place in his heart for those bad ones made in the eighties, I thought this one was pretty genius, dumb as it may have been it was sure as hell made by smart people.

And finally let me just address on this closing paragraph to the other group of haters of Your Highness. If you’re part of the bunch that’s hating on Your Highness not because it’s not the next Pineapple Express but rather because it’s not the next George Washington or All the Real Girls or Undertow or Snow Angels, which were all pretty awesome and had a huge amount of emotional depth and showed Mr. Green as a director that showed a tremendous potential as a very exciting auteur (Terrence Malick was a producer on Undertow for god’s sake!) then let me just tell you something: get over it. Sure, those movies were amazing and if Mr. Green decided to go back to that area I would so welcome that, but if he wants to keep doing comedies, which seems to be the cast as he’s releasing The Sitter with Jonah Hill this August, then just leave him be, this one wasn’t amazing but it was still decent enough, and he’s proven he can actually do an awesome comedy, so yeah, leave him be, and this review is more than long enough already so I’ll leave it at that.

Grade: B

No Strings Attached

14 Feb

Title: No Strings Attached
Year:
2011
Director:
Ivan Reitman
Writer:
Elizabeth Meriwether, based on a story by herself and Mike Samonek
Starring:
Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Cary Elwes, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Kline, Greta Gerwig, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Olivia Thirlby, Lake Bell
MPAA Rating:
R, sexual content, language and some drug material
Runtime:
110 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
6.1
Rotten Tomatoes:
52%

 

No Strings Attached was a far more enjoyable affair than I initially thought it would be. I mean, Ivan Reitman has done a few amazing films in his lifetime like Meatballs, Dave and, of course, Ghostbusters, but in the last decade the guy had only directed two films (My Super Ex-Girlfriend and Evolution) which were both kind of dull. But then again, this one had Natalie Portman, coming off her career-best performance in Black Swan, so she obviously elevated the project. Not to mention that Ashton Kutcher can be quite alright when paired up with the right co-star, no matter what his many naysayers may think.

And this really did feel like quite a fresh film to me. The premise was obviously a very fun one, about what happens when a sex-only, friends-with-benefits relationship starts having feelings involved, and one that will actually be sort of replicated come July in Ms. Portman’s Black Swan co-star’s, Mila Kunis, latest film called Friends with Benefits, which actually has the original title this one had and looks even better. But yes, for now we only have this one, and we can’t compare the two yet, so we’ll just judge this one for what it is, which means, judge it as one of the most solid entries in the commercial rom-com canon of the past few years.

I mean, yes, like most romantic comedies you always know the path this one is going to take, but the difference with this one is that the very charming leads and steady hand of Mr. Reitman make the ride down that path feel endlessly enjoyable no matter how predictable the destination.

Not to mention that the script is actually pretty decent, which is surprising considering the genre it was servicing, but Elizabeth Meriwether, making her feature film writing debut, gets a lot of pretty sharp and raunchy one-liners in here. Ms. Meriwether, who has written for stage and TV before this (she actually has a pilot at Fox with Zooey Deschanel attached to star), inserts quite a lot of cool gags here, as well as a few colorful supporting characters that provide our two stars a lot of room for play, and, for a January release, you really couldn’t ask for that much more.

Now, Natalie Portman is obviously amazing in anything she’s in. Personal crush aside you have to concede that the girl really makes anything she’s in marginally better than it would have probably been otherwise, and in No Strings Attached she proves just how game she can be, and considering she has four other films due this year, then I guess we better get used to seeing her ridiculously gorgeous face quite a lot. Not to mention that Greta Gerwig, who, along with Jennifer Lawrence has to be my pick for niftiest new star to come out in 2010, is also here, so she bumps up the beauty/smart/awesome quota as well.

The concept is easy to grasp, two friends who decide to start having sex while remaining nothing more than friends, but you obviously know feelings will the arise. And, as I said, that’s a pretty neat premise for a rom-com, especially when you have a script that manages to effectively capture the feelings and emotions that would probably come out of such situations.

Ms. Portman’s character, Emma, is a med student who always thinks of sex as something totally casual, while Mr. Kutcher’s is a guy who wants to become a writer and has just been dumped by his girlfriend who’s now shacking up with his father. By this you can probably gather that the guy, Adam, will end up suddenly, in full rebound mode, sleeping with Emma, and they’ll continue at it, because she doesn’t think that highly of the emotional connotations of sex, and because he, deep down, is a romantic who’s trying to make this no strings attached relationship work out.

It’s cool how the film and these actors deal with that question, of whether it’s possible or not to have sex with one person a lot without having love be a part of it, and that’s mostly precisely because of the two leads we get here. Ms. Portman and Mr. Kutcher actually have a really rad chemistry together, and they are the ones that make this film much much better than the typical rom-com commercial fodder you were no doubt expecting. Not that this one was super groundbreaking and daring or anything, if anything it didn’t even feel like an R-rated film most of the time, but it did still feel to me like a rather refreshing film that you could go see on a date.

Grade: B+

Easy A

14 Oct

Title: Easy A
Year: 2010
Director: Will Gluck
Writer: Bert V. Royal
Starring: Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson, Cam Gigandet, Lisa Kudrow, Malcolm McDowell, Alyson Michalka, Stanley Tucci
MPAA Rating: PG-13, mature thematic elements involving teen sexuality, language and some drug material
Runtime: 92 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%

If there is a Top 5 Actresses I Have A Crush On list (and there is), Emma Stone would most certainly be in that Top 5, right along with Zooey Deschanel, Carey Mulligan, Natalie Portman and Ellen Page, so yeah, I was damn excited to see Easy A, Ms. Stone’s first real stab at a leading role. And I’m happy to say that with this film she should most definitely finish cementing herself as one of the best young actresses around, a distinction she has been shaping up with solid supporting roles in Superbad and Zombieland in the last few years. With this film she proves she has what it takes to carry a film as the sole lead actress, a fact that shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anybody who has been following her in the past few years. Plus she has already signed up for Marc Webb’s Spider-Man reboot, so yeah, we’ll have plenty of Emma Stone on our screens for years to come, and that’s a very good thing to have.

Ms. Stone plays Olive Penderghast, a girl who attends a high school in Easy Ojai and that goes by her highschool life without many people really noticing her, she’s not an outcast, but she’s not the most popular girl in high school, either. The high school Olive attends is unlike any other high school in America it would seem, because losing one’s virginity while still in high school is apparently the most appalling thing one could do and is basically unheard of. And then Olive makes up a rumor that she lost her virginity, so that she doesn’t have to admit to her persistent best friend that she spent a whole weekend alone at her place. She tells her friend only to get her off her case at first, tells her she did it with a college boy so that no one could know him, but they are overheard by Marianne, the school’s uber-religious girl who spreads the rumor to make Olive the example of what not to do. But instead, obviously, she becomes the most talked-about girl in school and her popularity sky-rockets.

And so we follow Olive through the consequences of said rumor, and its a really fun ride, mostly because this movie just has a tremendous cast. Not only is Ms. Stone pitch-perfect in the leading role, but Easy A was lucky enough to get Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson to play her parents, and they provide with some really funny scenes. And so it is, Olivie now becomes the center of attention at her school, and she uses the fact that she’s seemingly the only one at her school that’s not a virgin to her advantage, telling people she’s slept with some outcasts at her school so people stop bullying them, having the power to grant them new reputations, and pretty much becomes the leader of the high school social ladder, at one point pretending to have wild and loud sex with her gay bestfriend so that the other guys at the school stop bothering him.

I thought Easy A was just a pretty damn impeccable high-school comedy, because not only is it very funny, but also because it’s relentlessly smart, and that’s an unfailing combo that hasn’t been put to such amazing use since that other redhead-starring high school comedy, Mean Girls. This is one seriously witty film, with a really intelligent sense of irony and it works so damn well because of Ms. Stone, she’s amazing and she makes Olive and seriously great for the audience, and these films need the audience to love the leading character, and that’s all on Emma Stone, who should become a bonafide leading actress after this film, which has already made over $50 million on its very cheap budget of around $8 million, so yes, these are all great signs.

The performance Ms. Stone gives, while obviously no Oscar bait because of the genre and tone of the film, is still a tremendous performance for the type of film this is, the sort of performance hasn’t been seen since Lindsay Lohan’s in the aforementioned Mean Girls or Alicia Silverstone’s in Clueless. Though, from what I’ve seen from Ms. Stone’s public appearances, she won’t go down the Lohan route, and the Spider-Man reboot will probably be amazing, unlike what Batman & Robin was for Ms. Silverstone when she played Batgirl.

Another thing this one shares with Clueless is the fact that they both took some inspiration from literature, Clueless was of course loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma, and this one takes quite a lot from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the book Olive’s English class is currently reading and that inspires a bit of her story. She sows an ‘A’, her own scarlet letter, into her clothes, which start becoming more and more suggestive as her notoriety grows, and sees parallels between her life and the novel as she tells the story to us.

This is of course an idealized high school world. As I said, nowadays losing your virginity in high school is no biggie, and in the real world anyone who looks like Emma Stone wouldn’t go through high school unnoticed unless said high school was full of daft guys with bad taste in women. But we don’t mind it because the movie is charming as hell, and with Ms. Stone as the lead, Mr. Tucci and Ms. Clarkson as the liberal parents, and Penn Badgley as the prince charming who was Olive’s eighth grade crush and is now looking at her, it will go down as the best movie of its type for a while to come, and one I won’t mind at all to grant repeat viewings once it comes out in blu-ray.

Grade: A-