31 July 2010

Dinner for Schmucks


This is what you might call a disaster-comedy film; not in the sense that it’s a disastrous failure (it isn’t), but that everything consistently goes wrong. In the past I’ve never really enjoyed movies of this sort. As a pessimist I get upset when stuff happens as I expect it to. However, there’s a lot to like about this movie, so it kind of makes it okay.

Steve Carell stars as a pretty charming middle-aged guy who has a hobby in mouse-taxidermy, making pretty awesome dioramas mostly depicting events from his sad life. Still, he’s a very happy guy pretty much all the time, seemingly ignorant of the destruction he’s causing (though always apologetic afterwards). His intervention in the life of Paul Rudd’s character takes every wrong turn possible but of course ends happily.

The main event of course is the titular dinner, in which a bunch of business executives bring “extraordinary people” to laugh at so they feel less like the nincompoops that they are. Tim (Rudd) brings Barry (Carell) to the dinner so he can secure his place in a new office and get a bigger paycheck. The lead-up to the dinner establishes that Tim isn’t doing this out of spite for Barry, and that he’s really just a good guy who’s trying to impress a girl by being successful, so you’re not supposed to hate him. Anyway the dinner is a lot of fun, bringing in Zach Gaifianakis, Chris O’Dowd from The IT Crowd, and a bunch of other funny people to show off their inane talents. Before and after the main even we are also blessed with the presence of Jemaine Clement in a role very unlike his character in Flight of the Conchords.

The movie is a remake of a French film which I know almost nothing about, but I assume it’s probably better. The ridiculousness of a lot of the situations is just a bit too much. Still, it was pretty funny, and Steve Carell is always fun to watch. Also the Fool on the Hill intro was pretty great.

25 July 2010

Despicable Me


This is one of those movies that looked like it might be really cool when information started getting out about it. The shadow-profile of the protagonist, Gru, looked really stylish and not very funny. Then the minions became the main focus, and they were all funny and stuff. Still cool. Then the kid plotline reared its ugly head and all hope was lost. Still, it turned out to not be a complete bust.

The story is that this Russian-esque, Steve Carell-voiced, so-called villain is trying to be more of a real villain and thusly decides to steal the moon. Turns out visiting the moon has been a life-long dream of his, so it’s kind of a big deal for him. He has to deal with a new-comer villain to reach that goal, and in a rather stupid twist of events, it seems the only way to do this is to adopt three horribly cute girls who have a talent for selling cookies. The movie then becomes less about Gru’s faulty masterminding than it is about melting his cold heart and realizing that he likes taking care of cute things. You can guess how it ends.

It’s still quite a funny movie though. There are a bunch of pretty great one-liners and lots of explosive slapstick comedy. The minions (little yellow dudes) are of course a large source of laughs, with their unintelligible jabbering and even more slapstick humor. Even the kids are funny from time to time, although usually they just ended up annoying me. I think it would have been a much more enjoyable thing if they’d found some other way to make it an acceptable kids’ movie. Heck, they could have just made it a short.

19 July 2010



Row row row your boat, gently down the stream.

Christopher Nolan’s made some good movies. These include Memento and The Dark Knight. Those two movies in particular are important to mention in reference to this movie, because it probably wouldn’t exist without them; it is in a way the combination of the first’s cerebral jack-hammering and the latter’s enormous action-film scope. Nolan’s been working on this for a while, and 10 years after its inception (heh), it’s finally come to life and the big screen.

The conceit (yay new word) of the film is that there’s this new technology of some sort that allows people to insert themselves into other people’s dreams, and sometimes have rather extensive control over them; seemingly the most profitable use of this tech is to extract information from a sleeper’s mind. Leonardo DiCaprio has taken this as his main gig. His life is pretty screwed up though, and this screwed-upness starts leaking into his carefully constructed mental heists. With the help of a fantastic cast including Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page, Leo attempts to pull off one more caper without destroying himself while under the influence of heavy sedatives.

Dreams are weird. The movie deals a whole lot with lucid dreaming and that thing where you keep waking up over and over before you actually wake up, which has always bugged the hell outta me. Since pretty much anything can happen in a dream, this makes the possible roads the movie could take pretty limitless; of course it is limited by a ~2.5 hour timespan and a budget less than the United State’s national debt, so it can’t be that amazing. Still, it’s pretty darn. There’s lots of antigravity stuff and neat architectural tricks, and a healthy dose of explosions and gunfire.

Aside from the action there’s some very nice and sometimes subtle emotional stuff going on, which I thought made the movie all that much better. The best part of it though is the uncertainty of what’s actually happening; there’s really no way to be sure if any of it is actually happening outside of someone’s mind. I got a big kick out of the audience’s reaction at the end. There are probably going to be a lot of people who hate it just because of that.

Anyway. Best movie of the year so far. Go see it.

11 July 2010



The first Predator movie was good mostly because of Ahnold’s incapability to be taken completely seriously, which led to funny bits within a lot of macho gun-slinging and blood-letting with neat sci-fi monsters and junk. A great combination. Ahnold is not in this one; still, it doesn’t really suffer for it.

Quite purposefully, Predators mirrors the second movie in the Alien series (Aliens), by attaching an ‘s’ to the end of the title. It also has more than one baddy oddly enough. Aliens had an ensemble cast, and so does this one. Aliens was a good movie, and so is this one. The problem with most of the other Predator sequels has been an overabundance of action and very little in the way of multi-dimensional characters; this time around, a whole ton of effort was put into finding good actors and giving them great developmental arcs (though varying in length, of course. This is still a slasher movie of sorts). There are short bursts of action throughout the movie, surrounded by quite nice character interaction, including a few side-busting quips from one or two of the guys.

Anyway, the movie’s about a bunch of hard-asses that get stranded in some place they don’t recognize in order to be hunted down by Predators for sport. They all have unique stories related only in the aspect of badassery. As you might expect, the movie involves cutting them down one-by-one until a satisfactory conclusion is reached, which I think was accomplished quite nicely.

Most of the strategic decisions are believable, though sometimes the explanations seem a bit coddling. Adrien Brody is usually the man with the plan, but doesn’t always tell everyone, which makes him cooler. I’m really quite happy with most of the roles he’s taken lately. I guess he figures one Oscar is enough. The rest of the cast varies in its colorfulness; Topher Grace seems a bit awkward sometimes, much like in Spidy III, but he doesn’t suck as much as that did. Some guy named Walton Goggins plays a convict-type and provides most of the comedy. Danny Trejo is his awesome self as usual, Laurence Fishburn doesn’t quite hit his stride but works well enough, and some Asian dude is pretty awesome in the stereotypical Asian action-hero fashion. The rest I don’t really care all that much about.

I suppose if you’re not a sci-fi fan, you probably won’t like this movie. Since I am definitely one of those dudes, I kept seeing things in here that just made me smile like a baby in a room full of bright colored objects. Robert Rodriguez now has a significant bit more of my respect.

Now let’s all try to forget Predator 2 and all those AVP abominations.