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Entries in genesis rodriguez (2)

Friday
Mar162012

Casa de mi Padre

At first glance, Casa de mi Padre looks to be a change in Will Ferrell’s increasingly redundant career. Movie after movie, he plays what is essentially the same character with the same mannerisms performing the same type of shtick. His range as an actor is brought into question time and again. Casa de mi Padre isn’t like his other films—it’s a spoof on those silly, overdramatized Spanish soap operas (for which he actually learned Spanish)—but his approach to acting has changed little. While a novel idea, simply speaking a foreign language doesn’t make a performance (or movie, for that matter). Will Ferrell yet again plays Will Ferrell in a moderately clever, but inconsistently funny comedy that doesn’t have the material to support its concept.

Armando (Will Ferrell) is a simple rancher in Mexico. Having been one his entire life, it’s the only thing he knows. Unfortunately, his family’s ranch is having financial problems and is in danger of being taken away. Soon, Armando’s wealthy brother, Raul (Diego Luna), shows up with his beautiful fiancée, Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez), claiming he can save the ranch. Their troubles seem to be over, but Armando soon finds out that Raul’s wealth is due to his mingling in the drug trade. This eventually leads him down a path he didn’t see for himself; he’s in a war with Mexico’s biggest drug lord, Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal).

In its desire to mimic old Spanish telenovelas, Casa de mi Padre is intentionally bad. The animals are unconvincing puppets, missing responsive dialogue is replaced by looped footage and the sets are poorly designed, no doubt so they will be noticed for their obvious artificiality. There are a number of obvious jump cuts too; a couple are so small it makes you wonder if they were indeed intentional or if they were simply oversights by the filmmakers (though it works either way, so it’s a moot point). These calculated inconsistencies are clever and funny, even if they sometimes do more closely resemble an old Grindhouse film than a Spanish soap opera, but it isn’t nearly enough.

A large part of the film’s humor is meant to derive from the fact that Ferrell, a pudgy, white American, is speaking Spanish and attempting to blend in with actors of actual Spanish ethnicities, but such a premise is not inherently funny. It’s admittedly amusing for a few minutes, sure, but it certainly doesn’t hold up for a full length feature. Furthermore, Ferrell speaks the language so fluently that one can’t wonder about the point of it all. Although it would have deviated from its already bare spoof of telenovelas, a form of broken Spanish would have been far more amusing and, at the very least, fit comfortably in with its intentionally bad approach. As is, however, anybody could have played his role and the effect would have been nearly identical.

Casa de mi Padre’s overacted narrative, complete with hilariously overemotional back stories, is indicative of its inspiration, but its one joke premise is stretched out for far too long. With production values that are meant to look like the actors are standing on a shoddy soundstage, this could have just as easily been filmed as a six minute short on Saturday Night Live. And therein lies its problem. It’s an interesting idea, but not interesting enough to be a movie. Ferrell aficionados may be interested in seeing him deviate from his normal type of role (even if only by a little bit), but there isn’t much else in this half-hearted send-up of Spanish soap operas to be worthy of your attention.

Casa de mi Padre receives 2/5

Friday
Jan272012

Man on a Ledge

Man on a Ledge is a misleading title. Unlike Snakes on a Plane or Zombie Strippers, whose titles reflected everything they had to offer, Man on a Ledge tries to be more. It starts, sure enough, with a man on a ledge, but its story isn’t confined to that man or that location. Its seemingly succinct title is just a glimpse of what the movie has to offer. Unfortunately, what it offers doesn’t amount to much more than the occasional mild thrill. It’s not the worst movie to ever come out in the dump month of January, but it’s a good example of why this time of year is the worst for moviegoers. Even movies with interesting premises and plenty of potential fail to live up to quality standards.

The film stars as Sam Worthington as Nick Cassidy, the titular man on the ledge. He has just escaped from prison after being convicted of stealing a $40 million diamond from a real estate mogul named David Englander, played by Ed Harris, a crime he claims he didn’t commit. Now he wants to clear his name, but to do so would mean finding the diamond in Englander’s possession and showing to the world that he was set up. So as he talks with a police psychologist, played by Elizabeth Banks, about his intentions, a massive heist run by Nick’s brother and his brother’s girlfriend, played by Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez, begins only a building over.

That’s a great premise if there ever was one. Sure, the trailers ruined it beforehand, but if you walked blindly into Man on a Ledge, it would look like a simple tale of a desperate man contemplating the unthinkable. The story twist would throw you for a loop, but that twist’s inherent intrigue never pans out into anything meaningful. Your interest grows weary as the story loses traction, becoming even more outlandish as each minute ticks by. For instance, after you learn that it took a year to plan the heist, you can’t help but role your eyes over the team’s approach, which involves such ridiculousness as taking a picture of a room with a digital camera and then dangling the picture in front of a security camera, slyly fooling the guard who just so happened to look away as they hung it up. Such a trite course of action surely couldn’t have taken more than a few minutes to figure out, much less a year.

Though small in nature, quibbles like that eventually lead the viewer to a realization. How did the team know the layout of the building anyway, including the vents? How did they know what vault they would be up against once inside? How did they know anything at all? You’re supposed to just go with the fact that they planned for a year and already looked into everything, but I wasn’t buying it. The writing leaves too many questions unanswered and uses plot conveniences to get the characters where they need to be. Nothing is explained and the final twist, which will remain unspoiled, is a real head slapper. This thing needed at least an extra hour at its front to help lead into what you eventually see.

The thing is that if the heist was fun, these questions wouldn’t matter so much and would be easy to look past, but it’s relatively small in scale (at least compared to other heist movies) and the cutesy, flirty dialogue between the two pulling off the heist is beyond annoying. The over-the-top and comically insane heist pulled off in last year’s Tower Heist is more interesting (and believable) than this.

The men behind Nick’s set up are obvious from the get-go, Banks is miscast (in perhaps the worst actress-to-profession casting since Tara Reid as an anthropologist in Uwe Boll’s misfire, Alone in the Dark) and Worthington’s eventual transition into an action hero cross between James Bond and Spider-Man is sudden and insane, but it’s not all bad. Ed Harris is great as the evil mogul, which gives at least a little bit of a reason to care for the good guys to prevail and a couple of late movie stunts are fun to watch, but there comes a time when you want it to get to the point. The problem is that there is no point and its thrills are insubstantial, certainly not good enough to carry a 102 minute movie. It simply doesn’t have enough to sustain itself through what eventually becomes another lame, predictable action flop. Like I said earlier, Man on a Ledge may not be the worst movie to ever come out in January, but that in no way means it’s good.

Man on a Ledge receives 2/5