Latest Reviews
Tuesday
Feb102009

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Horrendous. That was the word running through my head throughout most of Confessions of a Shopaholic. Now, I fully understand that I am not the demographic for this film, but even the ladies out there should be able to see how shallow and unfulfilling this dismal trainwreck turned out to be. Shopaholic almost turned me into an alcoholic because that was the only way I could see myself escaping with my sanity intact.

Confessions of a Shopaholic follows Rebecca (Isla Fisher) who just loooovvvees buying clothes because, like, they're so, like, fashionable! Tee hee! Too bad she's just been canned, is in complete debt and is on the fast track to living in a van down by the river. But as movie luck would have it, she is hired by a financial magazine thanks to her brilliant way of metaphorically tying numbers and clothes together. Like I said, brilliant. Then she meets this guy and, well, you know what happens from here.

Is this movie supposed to be funny? I hesitate to call it a comedy because I only chuckled once or twice (maybe). Of course, I also chuckle at Dora the Explorer occasionally, so what the hell do I know? This film was so unfunny you could have heard crickets chirping in the theater. Rarely did I hear everybody laugh.

However, that could be due to the atrocious dialogue. While the movie certainly isn't a prize winner, you would think something as simple as creating mildly decent dialogue wouldn't be too taxing on the writers. But you'd think wrong. The film's dialogue had me unintentionally laughing or rolling my eyes more times than I can count. There had to be at least a dozen groan inducing lines in this travesty.

But here's the worst part. All this film does is buy into the consumerism stereotype and the idea that no woman anywhere can be happy without a Prada bag and cashmere sweater. I haven't seen a film with such rampant disrespect for women in years. Every single female that appears in this film, which numbers in the dozens, is a shopaholic and obsessed with clothes and shoes. Their personality traits are tied only to what they're wearing and frankly, I found it disgusting. There isn't one strong, independent female in this entire film.

The only good thing about the movie is that the performances by the cast were uniformly good. On the whole, I really can't complain. Isla Fisher is adorably cute as usual and elevated this bottom-of-the-barrel material above and beyond what it would have accomplished with a different lead.

With that said, so...freaking...what? Strong performances don't mean jack when you have such a dismal story accompanied by dreadful dialogue and a shallow representation of women. Females everywhere would be doing a disservice to themselves to plop down their hard earned cash and tell Hollywood that this is what they want to see. I implore you, don't give into this appalling illustration of the female mindset and skip Confessions of a Shopaholic.

Confessions of a Shopaholic receives 1/5

Monday
Feb092009

He's Just Not That Into You

Going into this, I was totally ready to create a clever title for this review, something along the lines of, "I'm Just Not That Into This Movie," but the truth is, He's Just Not That Into You is actually pretty solid. Considering how tepid and crappy most romantic comedies tend to be, how could I have thought otherwise? Luckily for me (and you), this film breaks the mold and gives us a perfect Valentine's Day flick that even the fellas might not mind checking out.

Like its genre cousin, Love Actually, He's Just Not That Into You has way too many characters and plotlines to follow, some of which are very interesting and some of which are boring and unnecessary. And also like Love Actually, the characters are tied together somewhat loosely and it would have benefited from a shorter run time.

Believe it or not, the film runs over two hours long, which can admittedly be off-putting and it crams plenty of stories into that 2+ hours. The problem is that for every story that you care about, there is another that probably should have been left on the cutting room floor. For instance, the Justin Long and Ginnifer Goodwin characters are interesting, charming, and they form a great relationship. Every minute spent with them is wonderful and it shows the game that boys and girls play when it comes to dating. These characters are smartly written and fun to watch. (Honestly, I could have watched a whole standalone flick about Ginnifer Goodwin. That girl is adorable!) But then you have your Ben Affleck and Jennifer Aniston characters, two people living together, in love, but aren't married. Aniston wants to get married, Affleck doesn't, so she freaks out. Well, boo hoo. I thought the film was called He's Just Not That Into You, not He's Just Not That Into Facing the Crushing Reality That Life Sucks After Marriage. Although the payoff at the end of the film was sweet and had me getting goosebumps, these characters felt forced into what was otherwise a solidly written film and they should have been cut.

Picture this for me if you will. After the screening for this film, I was super hungry. Since I'm poor and have no food back at my place, I decided to go pick something up. As I stood in line and waited my turn to order, a romantic college couple was talking behind me. After the chick says something playfully mean to her boyfriend, the guy says, "I guess one of us has to be the asshole in this relationship." She responds, "I have enough of both to go around; naughty and nice. You can just be yourself." Then in one of those cutesy, melodic voices she sings, "That's why I love you!" I almost hurled right then and there. Now picture me turning around, smacking them both and saying, "You two are why romantic comedies are cliché!" Of course, I didn't do that, but damn I was close.

My point is this. After hearing that revolting exchange, I realized that He's Just Not That Into You was practically void of clichés. This moment of actuality surpassed the film in eye-rolling, ridiculous, sappy, sentimental bullcrap we've all become accustomed to. It actually avoids many of the typical problems most romantic comedies fall under and for that, I cannot praise it enough. Although it does revert back to clichés near the end of the picture, it was mostly satisfying and the two characters I cared most about were sent off with a bang. I'm actually bumping my score up half a point because those two lovebirds annoyed me so much that I actually found myself appreciating the film more. That's quite a feat.

This is one of those movies that I would deem "critic proof." Valentine's Day is coming up and this movie is going to make bank regardless of what I or anybody else says about it. It's just that simple. What's surprising, however, is that the film is one I would actually want to go see with my loved one on that special day and I think many guys will be quite surprised when the film is over. He's Just Not That Into You is a romantic comedy that isn't very funny, but it's original enough to be entertaining, a rare breed indeed. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

He's Just Not That Into You receives 4/5

Tuesday
Feb032009

Push

Push is one of those flicks where the trailers accurately portray the film's overall quality. They did nothing to excite me and were mediocre at best. Coincidentally, Push is just another middling, forgettable action picture. This is a case of "what you see is what you get," so if you saw ample amounts of awesome in the trailer, you'll probably love this. For this bearded fellow who desperately wanted a bit of substance to the absurdity, Push didn't provide that extra push (ha!) to warrant a recommendation.

There are people around us that have special powers, known by different names according to what they can do. (For the sake of brevity, I'll only name the three important ones.) Chris Evans plays Nick, a Mover who can create a protective shield and make objects levitate allowing for safe attacks while in cover. Dakota Fanning plays Cassie, a Watcher who can see into the future, although those events can be changed if the present is manipulated in a significant way. Camilla Belle plays Kira, a Pusher who can inject false memories and thoughts into her enemies' minds, allowing them to bend to her will. The three are being tracked by a U.S. government agency called the Division after Kira escapes from one of their test facilities. Because of this, they are forced to cooperate to elude the Division and change the bleak future that promises them death.

What follows is a pretty drab action movie with minimal amounts of action. There are really only two action scenes in the whole film, one about halfway through that is relatively short and one at the end that is lengthy, but disappointing. Neither of them are particularly mind-blowing. Still, they manage to entertain at times due to the undeniably cool powers that the characters possess. But there was one huge problem. After what is nearly a two hour movie, I was ready to see an epic clash between the warring factions, but instead I ended up seeing a whole crop of no name extras shooting each other due to the Pusher's ability to manipulate minds. Instead of fighting themselves, irrevelant brainwashed dudes ran in from all corners of the screen only to be shot up by even more irrelevant brainwashed dudes. This creates a dilemma in the audience member because you have no connection with the majority of the people fighting. How are you supposed to care about a battle when you don't care about who's in the thick of it?

Nevertheless, I can't deny that the time I spent seeing the powers in action was fun and in the end it served its purpose and worked. What didn't work is everything else. While the plot was quite unique, elements of it were a bit too convenient for my taste (which I won't go into here to avoid spoilers) and the drama and attempts at humor were fairly routine. In particular, a large portion of the dialogue was atrocious. Plenty of action movies have generic, cheesy lines, but Push set a new bar for modern action flicks. However, if it had gone for a sillier tone, this cheesiness would be excusable. The recent film Shoot 'Em Up is a perfect example of over-the-top silliness done right. That movie never took itself seriously, so instead of rolling your eyes at the dialogue, you were aware of the film's self parody and laughing at it. Push takes itself way too seriously, hoping to be an epic action flick and it fails.

Despite some of the lines they were forced to recite, the cast was fine overall. Djimon Hounsou was terrific as always and Dakota Fanning did whatever she could to elevate this mediocre material (although she did not belong in this film -- she deserves better). Even Camilla Belle surprised me. After her two starring roles in the horrendous When a Stranger Calls and my number one pick for worst movie of 2008, 10,000 B.C., I had all but given up hope, but she managed herself well this time.

Look, this is a stupidly fun movie that I'm sure a lot of people will enjoy; it just simply rubbed me the wrong way. There wasn't anything done here I haven't seen done better in countless other action flicks and I suggest going and finding one of those instead, but if you're really dying to see an action movie in the theater this weekend, go see Taken (which you can read my review of right here). The action is better, there's lots more of it, and its stylish as hell. Push is not a bad movie per se, although I am not recommending it, but if run-of-the-mill action movies are your cup of tea, be my guest. You might like it.

Push receives 2/5

Thursday
Jan292009

Taken

What a crappy month for movies it has been (as per usual). Outside of the grotesquely fun My Bloody Valentine 3D, there hasn't been a single reason to leave the house and go to the theater. Luckily for us, Taken breaks this trend and delivers a no-holds-barred, balls out action thrill ride that will have you cheering before you know it.

The premise is simple really. An ex-CIA agent, played by Liam Neeson, tracks down the people who have kidnapped his daughter and beats the living hell out of them until they cry like little bitches. What's not to like? Well, as awesome as that sounds, it's a bit contrived. His daughter is on a trip to Europe when she gets kidnapped. Sounds innocent enough, but the question here is why? The answer: she wants to follow U2 around on their European tour. Seriously? You're telling me that the writers couldn't come up with a more interesting reason for her to fly to Europe than to follow U2 around? Maybe it was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek and not taken seriously, but it was stupid nonetheless. Luckily, everything from this moment on will beat you to a bloody pulp.

And frankly, that's really surprising. Although the trailer is one of the coolest I've seen in a long time, it gave that sneaking suspicion that the film would be yet another generic, watered down action flick. I'm delighted to say that it isn't. It's definitely not the most graphic action picture you'll ever see (Rambo currently holds that title), but it's unflinchingly brutal and you can't help but be impressed by the level of professionalism that went into the film.

While it does borrow heavily from the "book of action film conventions," one can't deny how stylish and fun it is. The action scenes were well choreographed, the direction was terrific, and the body count is sky high. That's pretty much all you need in an action flick.

Still, it's nice to have some good acting to just keep the film fresh even when the action isn't constant. Before the Bourne trilogy, very little credit was given to fine performances in action films, but everyone in Taken is excellent and I hope the cast gets the credit they deserve.

Liam Neeson is now officially the man. He's a great actor regardless of what role he's playing, but I've never really considered him an action star. I'm glad somebody saw some potential and cast him as a take-no-crap-and-shoot-everybody-in-the-face CIA agent. This film was dependent on having a convincing lead who could create a character that you could cheer for after every pull of the trigger and Neeson was more than able to provide that.

There are two possibilities that might explain why I thought Taken rocked so hard. One, it's because the last film I saw, New in Town (which you can read my review of right here), was an utter disaster, or two, it packs so much awesome into an hour and a half that you'll want to punch your grandmother in the face. You can decide which. Just remember, old women are fragile.

Taken receives 4.5/5

Wednesday
Jan282009

New in Town

I've been sitting here staring at this white canvas for about ten minutes, perplexed at how to start this review because there are so many problems with this film that I can't figure out how to condense it all into this write-up, much less the introductory paragraph. I'm sure we're all aware that January is "dump month," where the movie studios release all the films they have zero faith in, and this is one of them (there's a shocker). The writers of New in Town must be new in Hollywood because this is one horribly predictable, clichéd mess of a movie.

Renée Zellweger plays Lucy, a consultant used to the upscale city life of her home in Miami, who is shipped off to a town in Minnesota to oversee the restructuring of a factory. She isn't used to this lifestyle and immediately hates it, but once she is there, she is befriended by the town residents and meets hunky Ted, played by Harry Connick Jr., and is smitten with him. Do they fall in love? Do hookers like money?

Renée Zellweger (who looks like she's had a few too many Botox injections) is one of those actresses that really isn't pretty enough to be the lead in a romance flick. Let's face it. The girl has a face that says, "I just ate a super sour lemon" when it's supposed to say, "I'm being cute." You know the face, the one where she puckers her lips and squints her eyes. Yeah, that one. But I really can't hate on her for that. What I can hate on her for is her acting. Despite being great in a few other films, she gives a very mediocre performance here, delightful at times, but mostly annoying and trite. However, that may not all be her fault. Her character (and everyone else's) are just poorly written.

These characters simply don't play to the purpose of the movie, which is to create a sweet, convincing love story. Zellweger's character is such a jerk that you don't like her and want her to fail. On the other hand, the town citizens are so cheerful and joyous that you end up being annoyed by them. The two sat on opposite sides of the spectrum. The idea, of course, is that these oppositions will conflict, and they do, but the characters themselves feel too phony to give any credibility to what is already a meandering, lazy film.

The failed attempt at romance is only half of the equation. The other half is the comedy (it is a romantic comedy after all), but guess what? It isn't funny. Surprise! There is one big belly laugh about midway through the film where Ted gives his daughter's date a threatening realization of what will happen to him if he does anything to her. But the rest of the movie is an empty void, where monotony is only a line of dialogue away and tired jokes are the order of the day. For instance, when Lucy arrives in Minnesota, she has to use a cart to push her large amounts of luggage around. How funny! Women like to pack a lot when going on a trip! Hardy har har.

I know most romantic comedies are bad, but this is just terrible. Considering how low my expectations were, it's really a testament to how much of a failure this steaming turd of a movie turned out to be. One good laugh is about all you can expect from a film with zero originality. New in Town is brain deadening and should be avoided at all costs.

New in Town receives 0.5/5