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Entries in miles teller (3)

Friday
Sep262014

Two Night Stand

So rarely does a romantic comedy break from the tried and true mold that the many romantic comedies that came before it set as precedent. They’re usually simple stories where two people meet cute, fall in love, have a forced dramatic falling out and then get back together in the end, much to the pleasure of their target audiences. However, movies like “(500) Days of Summer” proved that you can do something different and tell a truthful story within the genre while still producing something of quality. “Two Night Stand,” on the other hand, puts a unique spin on rom-coms, but fails to produce something meaningful. The two lead actors are game and do their best, but their efforts are frivolous, as the material they’re working with is substandard.

Megan (Analeigh Tipton) is a single girl living with a friend in New York City. She’s unemployed and fresh out of a long term relationship that she never thought would end. One night, her roommate invites her out to mingle with some friends at a bar, urging her to simply hook up with someone and get her mind off her current situation. Unfortunately, she forgets her ID and ends up back at home all alone yet again. In an effort to feel something, she jumps on a dating site and finds Alec (Miles Teller), a twenty something young man who doesn’t feed her creepy lines and lives in an apartment devoid of weird sexual paraphernalia, so she asks him if he wants to meet up for a one night stand, to which he agrees. What they don’t realize is that a storm is approaching. When they wake up the next morning, they realize they are stuck together in his apartment and forced to get to know each other on a deeper level.

Or at least you’d think so. The premise puts a unique spin on an event many have lived through, an event that many would argue is an emotionally thin and unfulfilling experience, even if in the short term it was pleasurable. Megan and Alec have no intention of ever seeing each other again after their night of random fun, but they’re forced to endure each other due to the overnight blizzard. So what do they talk about? Do they philosophize? Do they talk about the things that matter most to them? Do they pick each other’s brains, trying to get to the root of who they are? No, they compare and contrast each other’s love making skills, each criticizing the other for their various sexual deficiencies when, in all honesty, they should be criticizing for being personality-less bores. “Before Sunrise” this is not.

Then, after they’re done verbally destroying each other, they (naturally) decide to give it another go, because nothing puts people in the mood to have sex like hearing how bad they are at it. The preceding moments are meant to be cute, to stand out from the norm of how couples, or even flings, interact, but it comes off as hokey nonsense, which is no doubt due to a collaboration between a first time writer and director. Neither have an idea how to create meaningful moments or set a pace to get to them. Despite some of its shenanigans, “Two Night Stand” clearly aspires to be something more than your typical rom-com, but nearly all of its attempts to stand apart from the crowd fall flat.

The most obvious example comes from its finale. Anyone who has ever been in a romantic relationship knows that romance films are sometimes closer to fantasy than “Harry Potter,” but to get those fuzzy feelings one desires from the genre, one must go along with it, but the final sequence in this film is absurd. It truly reeks of desperation, to not end like its genre brethren and instead put a comedic spin on what usually amounts to a cheesy closing, but it consists of actions that, in the real world (and without spoiling it), would have the complete opposite outcome. If it wasn’t for the shoddy execution up to that point, one would be upset that those aforementioned fuzzy feelings got ruined by such sickening cutesiness.

“Two Night Stand” simply isn’t very good. The two leads are naturally charming, Teller in particular as he somehow manages to pull laughs out of poor material that a lesser actor would be lost in, but their character arcs are unbelievable. At a brisk 82 minutes without credits, they are given no time to grow and the numerous transitions they make from hating to loving each other and back again feel rushed (not to mention that the first transition comes not from a mutual understanding or acceptance of each other, but simply because they got high to pass the time, which isn’t exactly the most romantic way for a relationship to blossom).

It’s commendable for a romantic comedy to try to stand out, especially with a clever premise such as this, but “Two Night Stand” tries too hard and doesn’t have the filmmaking know how to back it up.

Two Night Stand receives 1.5/5

Friday
Mar012013

21 and Over

You should know exactly what you’re getting when you walk into 21 and Over because the title explains it all. It’s another teen comedy that romanticizes the 21st birthday threshold and treats alcohol like it’s an all healing elixir. This isn’t a movie for those old enough to have actually experienced the night though. This is for those who dream about the day they can pop out their driver’s license and strut into a bar legally for the first time ever. Those people will find 21 and Over amusing, while in the process building up their dream birthday night even further, but the older crowd will walk out of this unimpressed, finding the shenanigans the characters get themselves into to be outlandish, despite some inevitable reminiscing on some of their own crazy nights. But what kills this movie from the same writers of The Hangover isn’t that it’s absurd (so was The Hangover); it’s that it’s not funny. At all.

Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) is a pre-med student, pressured into becoming a doctor by his pushy father (Francois Chau). In the morning, he has a very important medical school interview, so he needs to stay in and get some sleep, but it's his 21st birthday and his best friends, Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin), have surprised him with a visit and have other plans. Although they promise to have him home at a reasonable time, they end up getting him completely wasted. Soon, Jeff can't even speak and they don't know where he lives. Miller and Casey quickly find themselves in a race against time, doing their best to get Jeff hope and prepped so he doesn't miss the most important interview of his life.

Writing a comedy must be hard. Comedy screenwriters typically aren't consistent, at least not in the way a dramatic writer like Aaron Sorkin is. No, they can produce a hit, one that manages to keep the laughs coming at a consistent pace, but that in no way guarantees they'll be anything more than a one hit wonder. Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the writers of 21 and Over can attest to that. A quick glance at their filmography shows writing credits for Four Christmases, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, The Change-Up, The Hangover and The Hangover Part II. Precisely one of those movies was funny enough to be good. If their last couple movies are any indication, what they're doing now is no secret. They're trying to capture the magic that was The Hangover, but comedy requires surprise. It requires fresh ideas, not rehashes. They basically remade The Hangover with The Hangover Part II and now they've done it again with 21 and Over.

As with The Hangover movies, the story here revolves around a mystery: where exactly does Jeff live? They're give clues of course, but they're so blatantly obvious, it's insulting. When the characters finally figure it out 45 minutes to an hour after you already have, it means nothing. The story exists solely as a means for the characters to get in wacky situations and force as much alcohol down their throats as possible. This gives way to slow motion puking and the eating of a tampon, which, I suppose if you're really that drunk, could look like a candy bar.

This type of humor is of the lowest form. It grosses out to gain laughs, it tries to convince that the mere sight of a naked man is somehow funny and it overvalues the otherwise normal day that is someone's 21st birthday by devaluing things that actually matter like friendship and happiness. 21 and Over is the most wrongheaded party movie since last year's Project X, which shared a similar skewed view of the world, one that would be easy to dismiss were it not so sad. I don't want to over exaggerate; this is not a cinematic travesty—it contains at least a few legitimate laughs—but it's repulsive, immature and poorly written. It's a retread of Lucas and Moore's previous work, so why waste your time with it when the same, but superior film exists elsewhere?

21 and Over receives 0.5/5

Friday
Oct142011

Footloose

The original Footloose starring Kevin Bacon is one of those cherished films that the younger generation of the time grew up with and still loves to this day. Now in their late 30’s and early 40’s, those people surely remember the high spirited energy and reckless abandon of the characters who stood up and challenged a ridiculous anti-dancing law. What they probably don’t remember is that the movie is a mess. It wants to say one thing, but instead says another. Its message of expressive freedom is rendered moot by a screenplay with plot turns that contradict it. The remake is, by and large, the same. Aside from a few minor, yet notable differences, 2011’s Footloose suffers from identical problems. For all intents and purposes, the majority of this review can double as a review of the original. It’s a two for one. You’re welcome.

Ren McCormack, this time played by Kenny Wormald, is a high school teen from Boston who has just landed in the small town of Bomont, Georgia. Because of a fatal accident a few years back that occurred after a night of riotous partying, dancing and listening to loud, vulgar music have been outlawed. The person most in favor of the law is Reverend Moore, played by Dennis Quaid, who lost his son in the accident. It’s because of him the town finds dancing sinful. Ren, being the free spirit he is, disagrees with the rest of the town and, along with his new friend, Willard, played by Miles Teller, and Reverend Moore’s beautiful, but rebellious daughter, Ariel, played by Julianne Hough, he sets out to change the law and open the minds of the people of Bomont.

If a winner must be chosen, it seems pretty clear to me that this remake is a superior film than the original, even if only slightly. It’s cleaner, tighter and it does away with many of the extraneous side characters that were given little to do. Ren’s mother, who sat around and twiddled her thumbs in the original, is rightfully forgotten here, replaced by his aunt who lends an ear when the time comes for Ren’s big emotional spill about why he has to fight authority. The book burning townsfolk who came off as caricatures are also dropped, giving more time to the story at hand. In those ways, as minor as they are, this version of Footloose is able to improve upon a much loved story.

Unfortunately, the bulk of it is still the same. The situations remain, the characters are unchanged and much of the dialogue is copy and paste. If you’re familiar with the original, prepare to get a strong sense of déjà vu upon watching this. This remake is a film that refuses to find its own voice and it’s that refusal to change, to adapt to our times, that makes it suffer. It uses different musicians like Wiz Khalifa to portray the type of music the town is against, but it still rests on the same foundation of the 1984 film. Even back then, it was a story that was hard to take seriously, but it’s even harder today. The rebellious preacher’s daughter, for instance, may not have been much of a cliché in 1984, but it sure is now.

Its biggest and most glaring flaw, the entire reason both movies fail, is its approach to confronting the supposedly unjust law. Here’s a movie that wants to make the argument that dancing and music of all types don’t lead to rebellion and violence, yet nearly every violent act in the movie happens at a dance or stems directly from dancing. When Ren and his pals head out of the town to dance at a bar, Willard is overcome with jealousy while watching a random man dance with his girl, which leads to him getting his face smashed. Later, due to her attraction to the rebellious nature of Ren and his willingness to dance in the face of the law, Ariel gets smacked around by her boyfriend. When the kids finally get the approval of the town to host a dance, a fight breaks out almost immediately in front of the building it’s being held in. These things wouldn’t have happened had Ren not started a minor revolution and began dancing. In these ways, the film goes against its very reason for being.

For every step forward, this remake takes, oh, I don’t know, half a step back. It’s always leading its predecessor in terms of quality, but it’s never far off from it. I suppose if you liked the original, you will enjoy this one too, but if this story is ever told again, significant changes to its poor narrative construction need to be implemented for it to work.

Footloose receives 1.5/5