STRAW DOGS, DARING REMAKE

 

Here’s a remake that actually makes for better entertainment.  It’s called Straw Dogs and the cunning little tale takes you into the dark side of a dysfunctional town and renders fear.   I was very much blown away by the film from its mellow beginning to a buildup of concern and a final turn of events that made me shudder.  If you like films that have a deep seeded alarming undertone then rush to see Straw Dogs.

 

 

Television screenwriter David Summer (James Marsden) and his new wife Amy (Kate Bosworth) travel to her hometown in rural Mississippi to stay at her inherited house where her husband plans to write his new script.  Although the house is welcoming, the dysfunctional town doesn’t seem to be as friendly as Amy left it when she graduated high school.  Some of the discontented remnants of her past still linger especially Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard) an old high school flame who did a hitch in the Army.  When tensions start to build due to a deep seeded lust that Charlie has for Amy a bitter conflict starts leading to violence.

Dave (Marsden), Amy (Bosworth) and Charlie (Skarsgard) at local highschool football game

Director Rod Lurie begins his film with a whimsical drive to the southern backcountry setting up a nice dynamic between the couple yet starts to instill injections of dread.  He builds the fear factor with voyeuristic glances by Charlie who becomes obsessed with connecting with Amy again.  The conflict continues throughout the film setting up a cringing attack that Lurie photographs up close adding to the brutality of the movie.

Things get out of control in STRAW DOGS

Filming the movie in the off the beaten path rural town with accompanying woods would be no easy task but it’s handled well under the guidance of Lurie (The Last Castle) who directs his camera crew to film the dark misty woods, beaten down town bars and brutal scenes.  The strength of any terror flick comes in how you show the conflict and Lurie does a very good job with the fear factor.

 

The acting here by Bosworth, Marsden and Skarsgard are admirable, but the real standout performance comes from James Woods as the long hardened ex-high school coach that fears for his teenage daughter in a side story that becomes the catalyst for the violent ending.  Woods has aged well yet a little unrecognizable at first due to weight gain, but as you get to know his character he uses his rugged looks to instill the cruel personality of the coach and drunken rages that cause him to get out of control.  I liked his character and the importance he gives to showing the dysfunction of the people in the town.

 

The setback for this film comes with the word remake, why even the poster in the new one is the same (just the face has changed).  Straw Dogs was made in 1971 and although the setting in the New England small town was far from Southern Mississippi, the violence and panic are much the same.  Dustin Hoffman played the David role with Sam Peckinpah (The Killer Elite) directing his thriller that included much of the same suspense, revenge and retribution.  It’s very hard to follow Peckinpah for the ferocity he lends to his films, but I believe Lurie put forth a very good effort.

 

Straw Dogs is rated R for strong brutal violence including a sexual attack, menace, some sexual content, and pervasive language.  The violence scenes are very horrific and include a rape that gets frightening.


FINAL ANALYSIS: A taught suspense that gets violent. (B)

DRIVE, A HOT TICKET

 

Just to make sure that the trailer for Drive doesn’t give you the wrong idea, NO, this is not a Jason Statham movie in the vein of the adrenaline pumping Transporter series.  Ryan Gosling holds his own in this rough surrealistic drama that inserts all the thrills shown in the preview and more.  If you like looking into the mind of a tough loner who is on a road to a life full of angst, then take a ride to Drive.

 

The story involves stunt driving and getaway wheelman Driver (Ryan Gosling) a loner running from life and heading for trouble.  His mentor Shannon (Bryan Cranston) has never seen a more remarkable stuntman who has no fear and spits in the eye of danger.  Without a care in the world except his next meal and a place to sleep Driver lives from day to day.

Driver (Gosling) and Irene (Mulligan)

At a local grocery store he sees Irene (Carey Mulligan), a young attractive woman with a child in tow.  In a quirk of fate he finds that she has moved into the apartment next-door.  When his mind starts to imagine a life of possibilities with her, shifting gears becomes a risky challenge.

Ryan Gosling plays characters that take on a lot of psychological trauma (Blue Valentine, Fracture, All Good Things) and in Drive he ups the ante.  Playing Driver a very moody person who takes chances getting his kicks by cheating death at every traffic light and stunt car crash without a care.  Helping the mood, director Nicholas Winding Refn uses the camera with long close ups of the brooding man creating a surrealistic mood that projects Driver’s callous nature.  Then as the story turns 180 degrees, Refn’s Driver starts to change his outlook on life and Gosling’s there to create another side of his character.

Ryan Gosling and Director Nicholas Winding Refn on the set of DRIVE

In support both Cranston and Mulligan do a terrific job of being the catalysts to Driver’s actions and reactions.  As the stunt coordinator for Driver, Shannon becomes his pillar saving him from those who take aim.  When Driver finds himself in danger, it’s Cranston’s character that comes through, until it’s too late.

Mulligan plays Irene the one beautiful flower in Driver’s dark life.  Her ability to project innocence in the midst of her own life turmoil shows big on the screen.  With her son Benicio (Kaden Leos) she tries to show Driver that there’s more to life, even when things seem impossible. Refn turns Leos and Mulligan into the jewels that Driver wants even if he has to give them up so they can find happiness.

Talented comedian Albert Brooks puts on his dramatic face playing Bernie Rose a Jewish Drug contractor who puts danger in Driver’s way.  A brutal role for a ‘funny’ man, but he handles it with little difficulty.

There is a negative here but it’s a double edge sword.  Refn spools out his story slowly taking a lot of liberty with the camera in close-ups that made my mind wander at times, long shots that seem to take forever to complete and dialogue delivery with multi-beat hesitation in conversations. Those filmgoers, however, that like the mystery, psychological value and suspense that this sometimes brings, with accept it as part of the story.

The film is rated R for strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity.  This is a film that should only be seen by the mature as the violent beating gets so unbearable I even turned away at times.

FINAL ANALYSIS: An excellent drama with a sharp edge. (B+)

A GOOD OLD FASHION ORGY, WILD AND WEIRD

This summer has hatched a lot of comedies and that’s a good thing.  Keeping the laughter coming, A Good Old Fashioned Orgy does it’s level best to entertain and it does.  For one thing it’s got a great cast of comedic actors working with a weird little script that delivers.  It may sound like a lot of hooey but A Good Old Fashioned Orgy is worth a look.

 

The screwy film goes something like this; Eric (Jason Sudeikis) has been hosting themed super parties at his father’s vacation home since High School and this season’s shindig was way over the top.  Just when he’s totally satisfied with himself and his closest friends are still celebrating with him, his father drops by to tell him he’s selling the place.  Totally distraught, he decides to have one last unforgettable party for himself and seven of his closest friends.

Eric (Sudeikis) and McCrudden (Labine) doing research
Eric (Sudeikis) and McCrudden (Labine) doing research

 

After a lot of thought Eric decides the theme should be an orgy party. Although not everyone is initially hot about it, each of the friends start coming on board for his or her own personal reasons.

 

Why this script works are the cast and the reasons for participating.  Although some jump in because of the sexual theme others have other things on their minds. The chemistry between the paired off couples works well and the characters they portray are believable enough to just go with it.

Eric (Sudeikis) and Kelly (Leslie Bibb)

I do not envy the job of directors Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck who have to make the film live up to its title.  Although working with a cast that has had their share of working together in an adult themed television show doesn’t hurt, such as Leslie Bibb as Kelly (The League), Lake Bell as Alison (The League), Martin Star as Duquez (The League) and Nick Kroll as Adam (The League).  That seemed to work to their advantage here as the cast looked very comfortable in their roles.  Throw in the fact that the two helms worked together on King of the Hill and The Letterman Show.

 

Getting the audience to believe that the orgy would really take place is a bit of a stretch, but when you throw in the reasons why the women jumped in it does make sense.  Add to this the research that Eric and McCrudden (Tyler Labine) had to do for the party makes their final love-in look tame.

 

The film is rated R for pervasive strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language. It’s a wild and raunchy time, just the ticket for a man-group get together.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A howling good time. (B)

THE DEBT, A SIZZLER THAT FIZZLES

A fairly good drama with a lot of intrigue bows at local movie theatres starring a fine cast.  Although the actors do an excellent job of portraying the interesting characters, the story gets muddled a bit with questions of reality.  If you like films geared to getting you incensed about Nazi war crimes then The Debt is worth a look.

 

The film centers on Stephan and David, two Israeli Nazi war criminal hunters who get an assignment to track down a Dr. Vogel in Russian occupied East Berlin during the 60’s wall era.  Stephen and David have Vogel ready for capture but they need someone to be the patient in their plan.  Rachel, a retired agent accepts the assignment and meets up with Stephen and David in the dangerous occupied zone.  Although the capture takes a turn for the worse, the three find themselves heroes.  Years later, a horrible secret comes to a head.

Jessica Chastain and Sam Worthington in THE DEBT

Intrigue saves The Debt from an early downfall in this fictional account of the capture of a Nazi war criminal.  Stellar acting helps the drama unfold nicely as the story skips from one era to another and back again.  I enjoyed the determination showed by the actors to make their characters real and fallible, but the story in my estimation gets implausible.

 

The twist here is not how they perceive the hunt and capture to work, but that no matter how intricate the caper the consequences would have been accepted, especially if you are an Israeli secret agent and true to the cause.  This bothered me and no matter how I played it in my mind I could not come up accepting the outcome of the film. I would be interested in finding out if any of my readers come up with the same conclusion.

 

John Madden does a good job of separating the past and present in The Debt.  Weaving the crime to the injustice, and then infusing the final justice, Madden keeps his audience on edge till the final twist of fate.  Although he did his job, the failed script becomes the loser here.

 

The film is rated R for some violence and language, but be aware that there are some very brutal scenes.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: The production flaw here is in the script. (C )


POINT BLANK, adrenaline pumping thriller

 

Thrilling, Intriguing and vicious Point Blank keeps the adrenaline pumping with excitement at every turn.  A fine cast ably directed by Fred Cavaye puts the film in a league with The Departed.  If you like a lot of action with a harrowing storyline then go and see Point Blank.

 

Samuel (Gilles Lellouche) is a male nurse working at a hospital when his pregnant wife Nadia (Elana Anaya) gets kidnapped before his very eyes. Knocked unconscious, he comes to and discovers that a dangerous criminal named Sartet (Roschdy Zem) is responsible, and if he’s ever to see his wife again, he must do Sartet’s bidding. Samuel quickly finds himself pitted against rival gangsters and trigger-happy police in a deadly race to save the lives of his wife and unborn child.

Gilles Lellouche as Samuel in POINT BLANK

Acting by Gilles Lellouche, Elana Anaya and Roschdy Zem can only be described with words like realistic, stunning and gripping.  The three take on the major roles and with the fine direction of Fred Cavaye put on a great show.  I especially like Lellouche’s energy as Samuel who finds himself in some crazy dangerous situations while trying to free his pregnant wife.  Never wavering, his character pushes forward not knowing what his next test may be.

Samuel (Lallouche) and Nadia (Elana Anaya) in Point Blank

Anaya’s performance as the pregnant wife who has to face a brutal kidnapper with only a month left to her due date.  Her acting gets so realistic that you can feel her fright, exasperation and stamina as Nadia fights to keep her and her unborn baby alive. If she could be nominated for an Oscar, she certainly should be for the realism she put in her anguished character.

 

The cinematography by Alain Duplantier is outstanding getting shots that set the tone for the incredible chases, brutal attacks and punishing reprisals.  Duplantier’s next photography project is just a month away and pits Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert DeNiro against some nasty assassins in Killer Elite. I can’t wait to see the production, if the camera work’s anything like Point Blank it’s sure to be a winner.

 

Point Blank is rated R for strong violence and some language.  The film also contains scenes of brutality and a disturbing image. The film is presented in French with English Subtitles.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A must see for the story and performances. (A)


 

 

 

 

DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, A KILLER CHILLER

The summer has been running out of gas and tries to get a boost from several remakes including another horror film called Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.  It’s a tale of things that go bump in the night.  In this case it’s little monsters that have a plan.  I like a good horror flick now and then and I found this film a winner in the crowded market.  My only question; why it isn’t being released during the Halloween season, a perfect opportunity missed.

 

The story finds Sally (Bailee Madison) a demure youngster moving in with her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) in a huge 19th century manor where they are renovating it for a quick sale.  Being easily bored Sally explores the huge old mansion in wonderment.  At one point she discovers the house has a secret lower level that has not been entered for almost a hundred years. While exploring a little too much she accidentally opens a doorway that contains creatures intent on destroying everyone in the household.

Bailee Madison as Sally in DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK

The whole cast does a very good job of showing off their skills as a family in distress.  I liked Holmes in the roll of the ‘surrogate mommy’ who has to try to win Sally over.  She does an excellent job showing her frustration of not being able to soothe Sally’s feelings that she was cast off by her mother to live with her father.  When things start getting heated up in the horror department, Kim’s the one who has to deal with the worst blow.

Madison and Troy Nixey on the set of DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK

The star of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark however is Bailee Madison who makes her character believably startled yet curious, then strong in the face of the beast.  Her bewitching eyes, inquisitive mind and captivating smile get turned into a frightful horror that imbues a state of incredible terror. Controlling the circumstances and enabling the plot to spool out slowly not showing his beasts until well into the film, director Troy Nixey does a good job with his young actor keeping her intent with finding out just what she’s up against.

 

What adds to a good horror flick is the camera work and in this film, there are a lot of excellent shots including a scene in the cellar that will blow your mind.  Aided by some very good CGI, cinematographer Oliver Stapleton (Unthinkable) puts the audience into a very brutal and scary arena filled with ugly creatures that tear, slice and scratch.  His shots of the exterior mansion and the grounds keep the film chilling and cold, while his interiors are a playground for horror.

 

The film is rated R for violence and terror.  There are some scenes of brutality and gore that are very realistic and should only be viewed by mature adults.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A killer of a chiller  (B).


OUR IDIOT BROTHER, A LOSER

 

If you are looking for a comedy that has a lot of laughs and surprising situations, Our Idiot Brother fails to deliver.  Opening late in the summer wasn’t a good idea since the film comes on the heels of a fairly good year for human humor.  A lot of ‘seen that’ and ‘not too original’ puts this film on a fast track to a low box office.  If you haven’t seen a comedy this year, then maybe it’s worth a watch.

Ned (Paul Rudd) with Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) in OUR IDIOT BROTHER

We enter the life of Ned (Paul Rudd) a 30 something loser that sells homegrown vegetables at an open market with his hippie girl friend Janet (Kathryn Hahn).   Being the idiot he is, Ned sells some pot to a uniformed cop in a sting operation. Serving a short time due to good behavior, Ned gets out of jail only to find out Janet has taken over the business is shacking up with a friend and has no need for him.  Ned decides that his only salvation is to take his problem to his mom and three sisters.  When the family starts taking him in one sibling at a time, their lives start turning upside down.

 

Rudd plays his usual lifeless self with deadpan comedy that has become the industry standard for the loner guy.  You’ve probably seen this character before, especially if you follow film stars like Steve Carell (Crazy, Stupid, Love), Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses), Adam Sandler (Just Go With It), Kevin James (Zookeeper), well you get the idea.  Here however, it’s the script that causes Rudd to crash and burn.  His character is so insipid that you cannot feel sorry for the dumb looser.  And the messes he makes are way too avoidable to be realistic.

Elizabeth Banks,Emily Mortimer and Zooey Deschanel as Ned's sisters

In addition to the uncreative writing, part of the blame must go to director Jesse Peretz who didn’t recognize that his story was hackneyed and needed a good script doctor to ramp it up for better entertainment value.  It wasn’t that he didn’t have a great cast including Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer with which to work.  The three likable ladies were dumbed down so much however; it made Rudd’s character look brilliant.  As for predictability, well lets not go there…enough said.

 

Our Idiot Brother is rated R for sexual content including nudity, and for language throughout.  The nudity is mostly gratuitous and not involving the main female cast, the profanity gets very loose and sometimes embarrassing.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A wreck that started with the script. (D)

 

CONAN THE BARBARIAN, SWEET REMAKE

Hollywood has a way of reinventing things by rejuvenating characters and bringing them up to date with all the bells and whistles necessary to make it ‘fresh and new.’  This is the case of the film Conan the Barbarian where they have remade a classic adding all the CGI bells and whistles then throwing in some topless women for eye candy.  If you love a medieval action adventure that kicks butt, there’s a thrill a minute in the ‘new’ Conan the Barbarian.

 

The story takes place during the Hyborian Age where beastly men look for ways to become Gods.  After being sliced from his dieing mother’s womb, Conan gets raised by Corin (Ron Pearlman) his father a strong man and protector of the village. The villagers arch nemesis a Cimmerian warrior Kahalar Zym (Stephen Lang) pays Corin’s village a visit looking for the last piece of a magical mask that coupled with the blood of a descendent of the Sorcerers of Acheron will turn him into a God.  When Corin resists, Kahalar kills him and finds the last fragment. Filled with revenge Conan (Jason Momoa), now grown, starts his search to destroy the evil one.

Jason Momoa is CONAN THE BARBARIAN

The action is non-stop from the very beginning to its explosive ending.  In between Conan runs into extreme fighting against the protectors of Kahalar, a monster caged in a watery pit, and other devilish adversaries.  But the most incredible fight comes against the sand warriors that attack Conan with relentless energy while he’s protecting the gorgeous sorcerer’s descendent Tamara (Rachel Nichols) from capture.

 

Director Marcus Nispel uses every trick in his bag to make Conan realistic and comes up a winner.  His muscle-laden hero commands the screen with Nispel provided sets and Robert E. Howard’s visceral story.  All of the hideous characters are masterpieces of graphic evil personified.  He offsets the macabre with his grubby slave nymphs and meager villagers making his scenes realistically barbaric.

Conan faces frees slaves

The acting by Jason Momoa is really not bad, unlike Arnold Schwartzinegger at least you can understand what he says.  His muscular body mirrors much of what Arnold brought to the screen, but Momoa gets to add a bare butt for female viewers to buzz about.  Momoa’s Conan shows a lot more agility, expressiveness and realism possibly due to the updated special effects and computer graphics.

 

Nicols gives a steamy performance in one scene that if it was her body for real comes close to a prurient stag show.  She and a bevy of slave girls show some extremely enchanting visual food for mature filmgoers.  Her acting isn’t half bad also making Tamara a strong willed woman that doesn’t back down from a good fight.

 

Conan the Barbarian is rated R for strong bloody violence, some sexuality and nudity.  Trust me when I say this is a HARD R and should only be viewed my very mature. The 3D that some theaters will offer does nothing to enhance the film and my recommendation is save the extra bucks.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  An action adventure fit for mature sword and sorcery lovers. (B-)



FRIGHT NIGHT, BLOODSUCKING SCARY

The scary, seething, suspenseful, gory, horror filled Fright Night left me turning my head on my way to the car following the showing.  It’s a frightening flick that takes its toll on those that can have a love for the thrills that evil can provide.  You don’t have to be Goth to enjoy, just a sense of humor and a need to feed your bloody thirst for a good horror movie.

 

Charley (Anton Yelchin) has finally made it to the in crowd in his senior year at his local high school.  He’s got the top girl Amy (Imogen Poots), cool duds and the guys respect him, what more can a teen want.  How about some thrills, just what Charley needs, right?  Well he’s about to get his fill when Jerry (Colin Farrell) a vampire moves in next door and starts raiding the neighborhood for ‘food’.  When his former best friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) comes up missing, Charley tries to convince his mother and girlfriend that evil lurks in the house on the left.  Luckily Peter Vincent (David Tennant), the vampire killer is in town performing his magic show.

 

Charley (Anton Yelchin) and Amy (Imogen Poots) face up to a vampire

 

I am a huge horror fan and I’ve seen the 1985 original starring Chris Sarandon as Jerry and Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent and loved it even though it didn’t have all the special effects that ramp up this version.  The remake of Fright Night does have much of the comedy as the first except here they use it as a relief from the horror where in Tom Holland’s it was more of a tongue in cheek campy kind of fun.  While this one has a LOT more horror and suspense, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to rent the original for some good laughs, but not before seeing the remake.

 

Jerry (Colin Farrell) tries for a bite out of Charlie

 

The performance by Colin Ferrell as the relentless blood lusting ghoul is chillingly terrific and most times terrifying.  He brings to Jerry a wicked smile and evil eyes that makes his character very creepy and spine chilling, just what’s needed to carry off the menacing plot.

 

Director Craig Gillespie on the set of FRIGHT NIGHT

 

Director Craig Gillespie does a great job of infusing the intermittent laughs with the help of Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Charley’s nerdy best friend Ed who steel many scenes while trying to escape the clutches of the vampire.  Gillespie lays out his story and gets to the meat of it in a very nice fashion leaving no time to make his audience think of other films that may be similar.  He charges right in letting you know who the vampire is and what kind of mayhem he’s taking to the neighborhood.

 

The film is rated R for bloody horror violence and language including some sexual references.  The 3D in Fright Night does have some very nasty things coming at you and a scene of glowing ashes that’s quite mesmerizing, thanks to some amazing CGI.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A very good horror flick with a lot of gory fun. (B)

 

 

THE NAMES OF LOVE, LIBERALLY FRENCH

 

The French really know how to make a lighthearted sexy comedy and the proof comes in a very funny and provocative film called The Names of Love.  Although complicated as most French comedies are, the quirky little film puts on a good show.

 

Do you remember the days when young people were running around in nearly nothing and chanting, “make love not war”? Well if you do then you’ll fall into the audience category for which this movie takes aim.

 

Baya (Sara Forestier) and Arthur (Jacques Gamblin)

Baya’s (Sara Forestier) a single young outgoing, kinda overly sexual liberal that has found a way to solve her political woes, seduce her rivals and convert them to her way of thinking.  Working her way though some very big political names and receiving excellent results, Baya’s on top of the world.  Everything she touches turns in her favor, up until she meets Arthur (Jacques Gamblin), an older man who has made exceptional strides in the scientific community.  Although a fence walker when it comes to politics, Baya still wants Arthur as one of her trophies.  When she finds out that they have a few too many things in common, things start to get complicated.

 

Director Michel Leclerc does a fine job of helping Forestier put together an outstanding performance as the uninhibited girl that takes French lascivious humor to another level.  The comely Forester burns up the screen showing off her beautiful frame and then some.  Boldly she’s Baya and every sly look, prim walk and confident gesture is projected on the screen for all to see.  It’s a gaping mouth voyeuristic film depicting the bliss for which the French are known.

Baya (Sara Forestier) at the beach in THE NAMES OF LOVE

But, Forestier wouldn’t have given the performance of her life had she not been opposite Gamblin who gives her the naive Arthur who doesn’t have a clue that he’s corralled Baya one of the hottest items in Paris.  But it’s not all romance and sex, the film gloats on several issues that challenges the minds of the modern day world, including anti-Semitism, Arab-Jewish relationships, immigration, and cultural identity.

 

The Names of Love is rated R and includes adult situations, nudity, sexuality and language.  The spoken language is French with English Subtitles.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A very good movie for lovers and art film enthusiasts. (B)


FINAL DESTINATION 5, A COOL GROSS OUT

 

Shattering, piercing, suspenseful, queasy, bloody, gouging, bone breaking, mind blowing, and yet mesmerizing that’s what Final Destination 5 is all about, especially in 3D.  This is one of those select few films that use 3 Dimension well and it will blow your mind.  If you have never seen a Final Destination movie or are a big fan of the guts and gore they deliver, then rush to see Final Destination 5, but do not go over a bridge on your way.

 

The premise behind all 5 of the Final Destinations is that you cannot cheat death.  In the first film 8 students get off an airplane as one of them sees a vision that it is going to crash.  One by one the students find that life is an elusive commodity. The next three sequels feature a horrifying highway wreck, a roller coaster ride gone wrong and a car that explodes into the stands at a racetrack.

 

Molly (Emma Bell) as hangs on to the bridge for dear life

 

The special effects, make-up, computer graphics imaging and motion capture are amazing and the real stars of the film.  The opening credits have so much coming at you that it startles.  If you have seen the first four films then you will find most of the weapons of death used in those flicks popping into view.

Jacqueline Macinnes-Wood as Olivia Castle in FINAL DESTINATION

 

The acting in Final Destination 5 comes in above average with some performances exceptionally good especially Jacqueline MacInnes-Wood as the arrogant Olivia Castle who you lean to love to hate for her snotty selfishness.  When her time comes to meet her maker the ‘eyes’ have it.

 

The film is rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, and some language.  If gore makes you ill you may want to stay away from this gross-out.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A goody gruesome for horror hounds. (B)

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 MINUES OR LESS, A ZANY COMEDY

 

The situation action comedy 30 Minutes or Less does a very good job of setting up the laughter while following a story that’s as idiotic as a 3 dollar bill.  The film moves along much like the title with very little time to catch your breath.  It’s a fantasy, but if you accept it then it’s a lot of fun.  If you like films such as Pineapple Express or Fun With Dick and Jane where there’s a lot of unreality with some measure of probability than you should check out 30 Minutes or Less.

 

Without giving a lot away the movie goes something like this.  Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) gets along in life delivering pizza in this small town where there’s not a lot of excitement. Involved in the plot are a couple of hapless delinquents Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson) who hatch a plan to knock off Dwayne’s father for the fortune.  Unfortunately the deal with Chango the hit man (Michael Pena) goes bad so the two kidnap Nick to rob a bank for the money to set the matter straight. But there wouldn’t bee a lot of fun if the plan worked out, now would it?

McBride and Swardson in 30 MINUTES OR LESS

 

The actors make this scatterbrain plot work.  McBride plays his usual off-the-wall persona, Swardson kicks in his daffy comedy while Eisenberg uses his dead pan to make the mix work into a lot of laughs.  Throwing comedian Aziz Ansari as Nick’s best friend Chet who tries to make sense of it all becomes a bonus.

Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg in 30 MINUTES OR LESS

Direction of any comedy takes a lot of vision and Rubin Fleischer (Zombieland) does a great job with timing making the situations screwy enough to elicit the necessary off the screen responses. Although the film’s plot is quite predictable, it’s the fun getting to the weird ending that makes it worth a see.

 

On the downside, in addition to the predictability, I found Ansari’s performance a little too wacky, jumpy and unemotional.  But, that just might be me as I have not seen his role in TV’s Parks and Recreation to get enough feel for his kind of comedy.

Michael Pena as Chango in 30 MINUTES OR LESS

On the upbeat, Michael Pena gives a hilarious performance as the Hispanic hired hit man who gets stiffed on his pay.  Going after Chet and Nick turns into some extremely funny ethnic comedy.  Pena is a mainstay with over 10 years in the film industry playing support characters in such films as The Lincoln Lawyer, Lions for Lambs and his other 26 movies.  Here he shows another side of his many faces inserting nervously scary comedy into 30 Minutes of Less.

 

30 Minutes or Less has been rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity and some violence.  VERY IMPORTANT: Avoid seeing trailer as it gives away a lot of the sight gags, excitement and comedy traps.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A zany fun film (B)


 

 

 

THE CHANGE UP, MISSES TERRIBLY

Not much to say positive about The Change UP a lame film that tries every old trick in the book to grab your attention and make you think it’s comedy.  The film suffers from ‘I’ve seen that before’ and a sick humor syndrome.  If you think that watching a baby try to stick its hand in a blender is funny, then this is your kind of weird.

 

Two long time buddies, Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) and Dave (Jason Bateman), go out to a bar to watch a Braves game, get drunk and end up peeing in a magic fountain that swaps their brains to live in each other’s bodies.  Now straight arrow Dave, a family guy with a gorgeous wife (Lisa Mann) and three kids, has worked hard all his life to be this amazing lawyer on the verge of becoming a Vice President of his firm, while Mitch has been hanging out being a playboy wannabe actor.  So when the two exchange lives the craziness begins.

Olivia Wilde plays office hottie Sabrina

Although I do like what Bateman (Extract) and Reynolds (The Proposal) have done in the past, the script the two have to act out is far too kinky, sleazy and ridiculous for anyone other than hormonal males that need a stimulating brain fix.  That said, Olivia Wilde looks great in the raw, and if she didn’t use a body double, so does Lisa Mann.

Mitch tries his best to be Dave

The Change Up has an inordinate amount of site gags that in most cases cause laughter and for this the film does entertain.  However, that’s not enough here because I really didn’t find myself accepting Bateman inside Reynolds nor Reynolds inside Bateman’s skin.  The two are too much alike to become different and this predictable film proves it.  I really can’t say that any film of this one’s ilk ever worked including Freaky Friday, Like Father Like Son and Vice Versa.  The only one that came close is Face Off where you could feel the sinister coming out of Nick Cage’s Caster Troy and the softening of John Travolta’s Sean Archer.

 

The film is rated R for pervasive strong crude sexual content and language, some graphic nudity and drug use. In the film they present a new term, ‘lorno’ meaning a light porno film and after watching The Change Up I had the feeling I just saw one.  Although comically presented, the over the top scenes tend to be more of a gross out than a misadventure.  Other scenes show babies handling knives, sticking their tongue in an electrical socket and a hand in a blender, all of which are more shocking than funny.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  Only if you and your buddy have nothing else to do. (D)

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS, LOVE WITH A TWIST

What saves this remix from taking a nosedive into oblivion is the cast.  Friends With Benefits’ Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake are the winners here who outdo Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher in their attempt to jazz up friendship with sex in No Strings Attached.  So if you haven’t seen the latter, then don’t miss Friends With Benefits, it’s a stitch.

 

Dylan’s (Timberlake) a young star as an Art Director in LA who seems to be getting along just fine with his fellow workers. On a lark he takes up an offer by New York headhunter Jamie (Kunis) to interview for an opening at GQ magazine to head up their Art Department.  Dylan gets offered the job and after a lot of coaxing by Jamie decides to take it, but on one condition, she be his friend while he transitions.  When their other relationships don’t pan out sexually, Dylan and Jamie turn to a mutual bedroom solution to that problem.

 

Jamie (Mila Kunis) and Dylan (Justin Timberlake)

Timberlake and Kunis save the film with their chemistry for each other.  The relationship has a nice romantic touch that really differs from the raunchy one between Portman and Kutcher in No Strings Attached.   The lead-in between the two in Friends With Benefits has a more realistic connection with Kunis’s character Jamie being more of a crutch for Dylan in the city of high energy and fast lane business.  And as far as the sex goes, it may not be as SPICY as Kutcher and Portman, but there’s more tenderness and passion here.

Will Gluck Director on the set of FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS

Director Will Gluck uses a lighter touch with his actors not overdoing the sexuality to make it the only interest in the film.  His ability to use Kunis’s comedic torch to catch Timbelake’s Dylan soft naiveté off guard makes many scenes funny that would ordinarily be filler in most films.  And when he brings in a scene that would turn most audience into a remorseful mood, he uses it to tighten Jamie and Dylan’s relationship even more.

 

Should you go see the film at the theater?  For those who have seen No Strings Attached it’s a maybe; for those who haven’t make it a date night.  Friends With Benefits is certainly worth the watch.

 

Friends With Benefits is rated R for sexual content, language and some drug material and it is no film to take immature youngsters.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  Friends puts comedy in the bedroom. (B-)