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Entries in Jessica Alba (3)

Friday
Aug192011

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World is a sequel nobody asked for. After three films, each one worse than the last, this franchise was done. It wrapped itself up nicely in the third installment by including, quite literally, every character in a final goodbye finale. It’s an underrated threequel—it’s certainly not as bad some make it out to be—but it nevertheless came dangerously close to being rotten. If that movie and its predecessors stuck on one side of the recommendable scale, All the Time in the World lands with a thud on the other. As far as kids movies go, it’s not unwatchable, but the imagination and wit has faded. I think it’s time we let this one die.

When the film begins, Marissa (Jessica Alba), a spy for the OSS (Organization of Super Spies), is on the trail of Tick Tock (Jeremy Piven). He has stolen an OSS mini disk and she plans to get it back. Unfortunately, she’s minutes away from having a baby. Flash forward a year later and she has retired from the world of spies, opting instead to stay home with her new baby and her stepchildren, Rebecca (Rowan Blanchard) and Cecil (Mason Cook), while her husband, Wilbur (Joel McHale) hosts his new reality show, “Spy Hunter.” But when time begins to move forward at a rapid pace thanks to the Armageddon device held by a mysterious villain called the Timekeeper, she is forced to come out of retirement. Soon, her stepchildren learn who she really is and find themselves recruited by the newly reborn Spy Kids division.

Before I begin to criticize this film, it must be noted that it’s not terrible and children will most likely enjoy it. Unless you’re sensitive to, or offended by, gross-out humor, it’s relatively inoffensive and harmless, at least from a moral viewpoint. From an intellectual one, it’s difficult to sit through, especially if clock puns aren’t your thing. Although this installment attempts to capture the same youthful spirit of the other films, it suffers due to a weak story and the replacement of past characters with uninteresting new ones. Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino and the pleasingly wacky Alan Cumming are out in favor of a stupid villain (who wears a clock on his head) and a family without an interesting bond connecting them. The new kids pale in comparison to Carmen and Juni from the original trilogy as well, particularly Rebecca, who is a mean, vindictive little brat who only begins to treat her stepmother with respect once she learns she’s a spy. I guess Marissa quitting her job to spend the last year taking care of her wasn’t enough.

Despite their inferior quality to characters that came before, each actor does what they can and, in keeping with tradition, hams it up big time. They know they’re in an absurd movie and they have fun with it. That fun doesn’t translate to us, though, because the entire movie feels like a prank thanks to its gimmicky (and heavily marketed) 4D aspect. Dubbed Aroma-Scope, each viewer of the film is given a card (thankfully, at no extra cost) with numbers on it. As each number appears, you scratch and sniff the corresponding place on the card and it is supposed to give you a whiff of whatever is onscreen (and if you’re wondering what the chances are of baby poo, I’d say they’re pretty good). But, unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work. At all. There are eight spots to smell, but one particular smell overwhelms the rest: the smell of the card. The intended smells are faint at best and do nothing more than distract from the film. Having to fumble with that card and time it to work with the action onscreen is maddening and unnecessary. This so-called 4D is a bigger gimmick, and much more useless, than 3D. However, I don’t think this one is going to catch on.

There’s a twist at the end of Spy Kids: All the Time in the World and when it happens, Cecil remarks, “I didn’t see that coming.” He’s the only one. It’s so blatantly obvious that one would only need to look at a still photo to figure it out; no movie viewing necessary. To say why would constitute spoilers, so I’ll refrain, but I imagine if you’re smart enough to read this, you’ll be smart enough to decipher the “mystery.” But it’s a mystery not worth solving. Contrary to what the title suggests, your time in the world is precious and short. Why waste it watching this?

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World receives 2/5

Friday
Sep032010

Machete

In a summer filled with action movies that, at their best, are stupid fun and nothing more, it’s a breath of fresh air to see a movie like Machete, the chaotic, deliberately silly and ultra violent full length feature spawned from the terrific faux trailer attached between the two films in 2007’s overlooked Grindhouse. In all its unrestrained glory, this is a movie that has brains behind its ridiculousness. It may be because this year at the cinema has been particularly underwhelming, but Machete is, at this point, one of the best films of the year.

The movie begins in Mexico where a Mexican cop called Machete (Danny Trejo) is on his way to rescue a girl being held captive by Torrez (Steven Seagal), a druglord who has complete control over all law enforcement in the country. When Machete arrives, Torrez surprise attacks him and ends up killing his wife. Three years later, Machete is living in Texas as an illegal immigrant. Election time is coming up and Republican Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro) is running under the promise of completely wiping out all illegal immigration and closing off the borders with a giant electrified fence. One day, Machete is approached by Booth (Jeff Fahey) and given $150,000 to kill McLaughlin. He agrees, but is quickly double crossed and finds himself on a mission of revenge and righteousness.

Machete is a cynical movie, sarcastically portraying right wing ideologies in as humorous and degrading a way as possible. With the central theme of immigration as its crux, the film takes a stand on the idea that we are fighting a fight that doesn’t need to be fought. While any economist that has studied the issue will agree, many conservatives will not and the film, quite effectively, shows the ignorance and hatred that seeps out of the most extreme. If they aren’t unfairly calling all immigrants “terrorists,” they show how the craziest of those on the right are greedy and power hungry.

Of course, there’s not really a message here as much as playful poking. There’s no hidden left wing agenda supporting immigration and no true hatred for those on the opposite side. The conservative characters come off as mere caricatures, not indicative of the majority of reasonable righties. That’s not what this film is about. It’s about recapturing the feeling of an old, gritty grindhouse picture and it succeeds.

Known for their sexually exploitative and graphically violent nature, grindhouse films are inherently bad, B-movies by their very nature. Machete mimics that experience, but does it purposely, fully aware of how silly it is. Limbs are hacked, throats are cut, people are shot and gratuitous nudity are all basic features. Where it lacks, however, is in its aesthetics. Recall the underappreciated Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez collaboration Grindhouse, which used visual tricks to capture the look of an actual grindhouse film, complete with missing frames and dust specks, intentionally aging its print. Outside of its opening credits, Machete fails to do the same. It captures the feeling of a grindhouse picture, but it overlooks the necessary visuals to accommodate it. But when you’re having this much fun and laughing at the endless amount of gory ingenuity, including a hilarious intestinal rappel, it’s hard to quibble too much.

I haven't enjoyed a goofy, madcap, knowingly absurd movie like this since Shoot ‘Em Up. I loved Machete and if the Bond-esque closing that promises the title character will return is true to its word, my enthusiasm is only just beginning.

Machete receives 4.5/5

Friday
Feb122010

Valentine's Day

There are few days of the year that make me feel as miserable as I do on Valentine's Day. It's one of those days where the single become non-existent, where swooning couples become the center of attention. As far as this day is concerned, if you aren't in a relationship, you mean nothing. My cynicism for the day goes far beyond what I've typed here, so imagine my dismay at the thought of sitting through a movie that bears its title. But my job is not to judge based on my preconceived thoughts on the actual day, but rather on the film itself and in doing so I found that Valentine's Day actually isn't half bad.

Much like Love Actually, Valentine's Day features an ensemble cast with dozens of notable actors including Julia Roberts, Bradley Coooper, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Garner, Jamie Foxx, Patrick Dempsey, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Taylor Lautner and even Taylor Swift. However, this is more like a second rate Love Actually rather than a direct comparison. While that film is an absolute delight and explores love in more authentic ways, Valentine's Day is hit and miss with more than its fair share of poorly drawn out romances that feel forced from the page. There isn't a single normal relationship in the entire movie. Even the 51 year old relationship between veteran actors Hector Elizondo and Shirley MacLaine that is meant to show the everlasting endurance of true love proves to be less perfect than expected, with an unnecessary affair popping up in conversation halfway through the movie.

Now, I've purposely skipped over the plot description of the film because there are a large number of storylines, with each character sporting their own, and they are juggled relatively well. Most of them get equal screen time, though a few are left at the wayside and never fully come to a conclusion.

Keeping in mind the actors above, it's easy to see how inconsistent this movie can be. With great talent from Julia Roberts, Jamie Foxx and Anne Hathaway comes the less so Taylor Lautner, Jessica Alba and Ashton Kutcher. Actually, the first two characters introduced in the entire movie were Kutcher and Alba with a scene that ends in their engagement. Kutcher and Alba? That's a recipe for disaster.

Surprisingly, Kutcher's storyline ended up being the best part of the movie. He's the guy that I suspect most men in the audience will relate to the most. He's euphoric with the thought of love after his engagement, but even when he later realizes love isn't as joyous as he originally imagined, he thinks of others. He finds his friends and tries to prevent them from making the same mistakes and feeling the pain that he does. He's a wholly likable guy, most notably when a young boy walks in his flower shop and orders a dozen roses for his elementary school crush. He hands over 11 dollars, far short of what a dozen roses costs and Kutcher simply smiles and asks what the lucky girl's name is. His character is written well and he downplays his usual insufferable comedic antics to fit the role. It still feels weird saying it, but Ashton Kutcher was the shining light in an otherwise mediocre film.

Of course, his storyline was still fairly predictable, as were nearly all of the others. I knew exactly what was going to happen to Garner, Biel, and even Roberts, whose storyline was nonetheless very sweet. The only one that caught me by surprise was Bradley Cooper's. The movie smartly set his storyline up in a manner that makes you believe you know where it is heading, but then turns it 180 degrees and goes somewhere else. It was this surprise that ultimately pushed me to the side of a recommendation.

Lucky for it because most of this thing simply lacked the charm or wit of its far superior spiritual brethren Love Actually. Not to mention that Taylor Swift is simply atrocious and needs to stay as far away from movie cameras as she possibly can. Of course, expecting it to match Love Actually is lofty, so as long as you don't focus on how much worse it is, you might be surprised at how much better your perception will be.

Valentine's Day receives 2.5/5