September 26, 2009

#040: Sunshine Cleaning

     Sorry it has been over 2 weeks since my last post. I seriously haven't watched a single movie in the past couple weeks. We went to Kansas City, so I completely missed a weekend of movie watching. I have had the same two movies from Netflix for a long time so I decided to get rid of one of them by watching Sunshine Cleaning last night, and here are my thoughts.
     Amy Adams stars as Rose, a 30 something house-cleaning maid that just can't seem to get her life together. Her married sex buddy slash cop tells her that the people who clean up the crime scenes make lots of money, and suggests she get into that line of business. Rose and her younger sister start up Sunshine Cleaning, and try to make their fledgling business succeed.
     Sunshine Cleaning is one of those indie type movies that played at the Sundance film festival. It had the same feel as Little Miss Sunshine. Alan Arkin was even in Sunshine Cleaning, playing a very similar role. The main reason I watched this movie is to see Amy Adams, and she is definitely the best thing about it. She does a very good job playing her character. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was a departure from her normal role. Emily Blunt, who plays the younger sister, also did a good job. The problem I had with the movie is what these actresses were given to say and do. This movie wants to be serious and emotional, but it came across a little awkward and heavy handed. The ending really wants to elicit feelings, but it wasn't working for me. Overall it was a weak movie that is watchable because of the good acting. It was much more of a "girl" movie than I thought it would be. I mean, a girl would have an easier time connecting with the characters and getting into the story. As a guy, I did not. I would not recommend it; the movie felt kinda pointless. However, if you are an Amy Adams fan I would probably suggest you watch it anyway.


September 11, 2009

#039: Crank 2 High Voltage

I was a huge fan of the first Crank film, so I was eager to see what the second one would bring. If you haven't seen the original Crank yet, you need to do that right away. Most people either love it, hate it, or don't get it. If you fall into either of the last two categories, don't even bother watching the second movie. Crank 2 follows our same main character, Chev Chelios, which might be surprising considering the ending of the last film. This time his heart has been stolen, and an artificial one is keeping him alive. The heart uses an internal battery to keep on ticking and Chev has to make sure he keeps it charged.

This film, like the first one, asks you to abandon rationality for a while and just sit back and go for the ride. I was totally fine with that and really got into the first film, even though it is unrealistic to the point of ridiculousness. It is clear that the filmmakers came in to the 2nd film trying to outdo themselves in every way possible. The first film had sex and violence but it is nothing compared to Crank 2's gratuitous nudity, sex, and graphic violence. There are also some really trippy scenes in this movie that I didn't quite understand. All of this stuff is fine and entertaining, but at some point you don't feel like you are watching a movie anymore. I mean, there are no real characters and there isn't much of a plot. I felt like I was playing a video game, and they aren't subtle about that either. The opening credits basically replay the ending of the first movie in an old-school arcade game style. The sequences in the movie seem more like levels that you have to complete in a video game. Get to the next checkpoint so you can see where you go from here... then kill the main boss at the end. It was all a very odd experience that I am still trying to digest. I liked Crank 2, but definitely not as much as the first one. Crank 2 just kept getting crazier as it went, and towards the end I had pretty much jumped off the roller coaster. I think Jason Statham does another great job, and might be the only reason I kept watching to the finish. I am gonna go ahead and not recommend this one, though it makes me sad to do so. It is just too much. However, if you do see it I would love to hear what your thoughts are.

September 9, 2009

#038: I Love You, Man

I saw I Love You, Man a while ago, but I have put off writing about it cause I didn't really know what to say. This is a comedy that stars two of my favorite comedic actors. I should have loved it. I wanted to love it. However, I did not love it. It is an okay movie, and Seeing Jason Segel and Paul Rudd together is fun to watch. However, it wasn't enough to save it for me.

Rudd plays Peter Klaven, a man who just doesn't know how to interact with other men. He is about to be married, and realizes he doesn't have any male friends that can stand up with him at the wedding ceremony. He embarks on a quest to find a best buddy. Enter Segel's character, Sydney, a total man's man. Peter and Sydney form a quick connection, and we get to watch their budding friendship. I really like Paul Rudd as an actor, but he got pretty annoying in this movie. His character is uncomfortable around men, and how he acts in some early interactions make you almost cringe, but it is kinda funny. As the movie progresses he does the same shtick every time. It wasn't THAT funny at first, and it definitely isn't funny to see the same thing over and over again. He went a little overboard on the awkwardness, and it really didn't work for me. I understand that this is a movie and it is heightened and exaggerated, but doing the same thing time after time doesn't add anything to the comedy. Overall I think Jason Segel did a much better job with the character of Sydney. I thought he was funnier and more relate-able.

 Another complaint I had with the movie is all the distractions and tertiary plot lines it throws at you. The two main actors are great and that is the relationship the whole movie is, and should be, focused on. Why throw in all these other actors and random crap? It only serves to take us out of the main story and disconnect us from the characters. Which brings me to my last point. I never felt like I cared what happened to our main character. He never felt real. They have some really good bits, but overall it seemed incomplete. I felt like the plot was only there to serve the jokes and to give a vehicle for these actors to be funny. I never really bought into the relationship between Peter and his fiance and I also didn't buy into the way Peter reacted in confrontations.

This is a case where I probably had too high of expectations going into the movie. I was expecting something really good, and this film just falls short. I feel that Role Models and Forgetting Sarah Marshall are both funnier, and better made films than I Love You, Man. However, it still has enough funny scenes to make it worth watching. I know most people liked this movie better than I did... I guess I just had the bar set too high.


September 7, 2009

#037: The Proposal

My wife really wanted to go see the movie All About Steve this weekend. I really did not want to see that movie, so we compromised and watched another Sandra Bullock movie, The Proposal. It is a romantic comedy which stars Ryan Reynolds as Andrew, the loyal assistant to his hard-ass, work-absorbed boss played by Bullock. Things get interesting when she finds out she is going to be deported back to Canada because of a mess up with paper work. She basically forces Andrew to pretend they are engaged so she can stay in the country and keep her job. In return, she promises to give him a promotion. It just so happens that the very next weekend he has planned a trip home to Alaska, so she must accompany him to pull off the deception.

It is not difficult to enjoy The Proposal, but it is almost impossible to really appreciate what it is doing. It is filled with cheesy cliches and tons of jokes that just aren't funny. However, Reynolds and Bullock have a lot of chemistry and both do an admirable job giving believable performances in an otherwise flaky movie. I was very much entertained... aside from some truly cringe-worthy moments. Guys, in a few months when your wife/girlfriend wants to rent All About Steve, The Ugly Truth, or Post Grad... just talk her into renting The Proposal instead. I have a feeling you will thank me.

The actual movie wasn't bad, but my overall experience at the theater was horrible. First off, there were two unchaperoned pre-teen girls who thought it would be fun to talk and giggle through the whole thing. Why can't they just text during a movie like all the other kids...LOL? However, they were the least of my concerns. Shortly after the movie started I began to hear this rhythmic rubbing noise from directly behind me. At first I thought dirty stuff was happening. As I listened more closely I changed my mind. It sounded more like somebody was sanding a birdhouse not getting a rub and tug. Then I thought maybe the woman back there was filing her nails.... very slowly and methodically. The cadence was so regular it almost had to be a machine... no human being had that kind of consistency and stamina. Finally I couldn't take it anymore and had to turn around and look. I cunningly turned my head 45 degrees towards my wife as if I were going to talk to her. My eyes were pointed as far left as I could get them. I glimpsed the culprit. A middle aged man had his paw on his wife's inner thigh, and he was rubbing it back and forth. WTF?!? Was he holding a cheese grater? How was this simple action generating this level of noise? Wasn't his hand getting tired? How long could he go before carpal tunnel set in? Why is it so effing loud? Does he practice at home with a metronome? What does this guy do for a job that makes his hands so rough? Is he going to rub right through her jeans before the movie is over? Should I ask him to stop or just stab this soda straw into my eyeball? All of these questions and more were going through my head. If I had more balls I would have turned around and politely asked him to stop. I didn't do that. Instead I started to rub my own leg in the exact same rhythm hoping he would realize how annoying he was being. He of course didn't stop, so I just gave up and tried my best to ignore it.


September 5, 2009

#036: Adventureland

Adventureland was advertised like a Judd Apatow, Superbad-esque comedy. If you go in with that expectation you will be severely disappointed. It is a comedy, but overall I didn't think it was that funny... nor was it trying to be. The movie centers around James, played by Jesse Eisenberg, who is forced to get a job at a crappy theme park to pay for graduate school. He is assigned to work the games, where he meets Em, played by Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame.

 This film is really well made, and it does a ton of things right. However, it also does several things wrong. Bill Hader and Kristin Wigg play roles that just didn't work for me, and I didn't find funny. I also didn't care for the character played by Ryan Reynolds. His acting wasn't bad, he actually did a great job. He just seemed out of place to me. There are a few other minor things I didn't like about the movie, but overall I really enjoyed it. Jesse Eisenberg is perfect for this role. He is a really great actor and he really makes this film work. I have only seen him in one other film, The Squid And The Whale. Ironically, James from Adventureland could almost be an older version of the character he played in The Squid And The Whale. He does a great job in both films. I was just ragging on Amy Adams for always playing the same character, but if Jesse Eisenburg does the same thing I will be happy to watch every one of his performances.

It is really hard for me to describe the thing I like best about Adventureland. It somehow feels honest and heartfelt. It did an amazing job at pulling me into the world where these kids are living. As I watched it I almost felt as though I was reminiscing about something I had actually gone through. I never specifically worked at a park, but this film deals with broad themes that we all have experienced. I felt connected to the characters for the first 3/4 of this film. I had a great time with it, and could watch it several times and it wouldn't get boring.

 I enjoyed the attention the film payed to the interactions between characters. It has several interesting characters and relationships that really add to the film. However, its overall success relies on your acceptance of the relationship between James and Em. I totally bought into it. I felt Kristen Stewart played her character well. She was really charming, and I could believe that our main character was attracted to her, in spite of her faults. That relationship was the key of the film, and I thought it worked really well. However, the ending bothered me a little bit. So often we see the ending where the boy gets the girl and everybody lives happily ever after. That ending gives you a sense of resolution, finality and satisfaction. In Adventureland the boy gets the girl, but it feels very bittersweet. My reaction could be totally unique, but I didn't see it as the happy ending we were all hoping for. The film is about how we all move through this world and grow from our experiences. It contrasts a summer spent traveling Europe to a summer spent working at a shit-hole theme park. James learned more about life from working at this crappy job than he would have by back-packing through France. At the end we see him with the girl, but it didn't feel like a happily ever after. It felt more like a bump in the road that had to be crossed before he could move on to the next stage.