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Entries in Selena Gomez (5)

Thursday
Aug292013

Getaway

Despite a filmography that consists of a few stinkers, Ethan Hawke is a daring actor, mainly because he isn’t afraid to plant himself in all kinds of different films. In the last three alone, he has starred in a home invasion thriller (“The Purge”) a wonderful romantic drama (“Before Midnight”) and an intensely frightening supernatural horror movie (“Sinister”). He’s drawn to ideas, even if the final product encompassing those ideas isn’t always successful, like the aforementioned “The Purge” or 2009’s alternate take on vampire mythology “Daybreakers.” This leads me to wonder why he would ever agree to star in something like this week’s “Getaway,” a derivative, brainless action film with zero ideas and only the thinnest of stories. After seeing “Before Midnight,” it was obvious he was going to appear on my obligatory best-of list at the end of the year. After watching “Getaway,” it’s now apparent he’ll also appear on my worst.

The film has a nifty stylized, black and white opening that begins in a wrecked apartment with blood and broken glass everywhere. Initially a first person view, it eventually transitions to a third person view where we first see our protagonist, an ex-racecar driver, Brent (Ethan Hawke). It’s his apartment that he shares with his wife, who has been abducted by a mysterious man for unknown reasons. Cut not too far in the future and he finds himself in a game where he has to use his driving talents to pull off certain jobs and if he calls the cops or is caught, his wife dies.

And thus begins a movie with no plot structure, no flow, wimpy dialogue and annoying characters so inconsequential and uninteresting that one of the two main ones isn’t even given a name, an 18 year old girl that IMDB so aptly classifies as “The Kid” (Selena Gomez). Yet the nameless character isn’t the biggest problem, but rather her and Brent’s utter lack of personality. It must be no more than a few minutes in before Brent is racing away from cop cars through a darkened Bulgaria, so no time is taken to truly characterize this man and make him someone we should care about. A mid-movie sob story about why he gave up racing is so forced in as to be almost comical. Similarly, the first time we meet his wife, she’s being dragged screaming down a dank, decrepit hallway by two goons who lock her up for safe keeping. It’s obviously not an ideal scenario for any person, but who exactly is she? If not for the mysterious voice on the other end that helpfully labels her as Brent’s wife, we would have never even known, given that they don’t share a single minute of screen time prior to the kidnapping.

To be fair to the film, it’s not like it has high aspirations. It knows it’s a big, stupid action picture and it plays it up for all it’s worth, creating high octane chases through narrow alleyways, cluttered highways and crowded parks at seemingly every turn. It never takes the time to make these scenes work in conjunction with what little story it has, though, instead opting to make The Kid a genius tech geek, able to hack into security networks with nary a plausible explanation, no doubt a quick and accessible way to bypass all that pesky talking. But none of these scenes work because it never truly feels like the characters are in any real danger, given the incompetent police force chasing them. At one point, after he slams into a cop car, The Kid remarks that he just committed assault with a deadly weapon, which gives the police the authority to shoot at them, yet they never do. Never does it come to mind that perhaps they could take out a tire or two, effectively ending his rampage. The only ones that are smart enough to pull out their guns are the mysterious voice’s hired hands, but even they only shoot at the body of the car, despite the knowledge that the car is armored. The worst driver in the world would be able to escape such idiotic opposition.

If there was some type of skill put behind the crafting of these action scenes, many of these problems could be ignored, but such a reality is quickly dashed. Directed by Courtney Solomon, whose only other directing credits include 2000’s abominable “Dungeons & Dragons” and 2005’s equally bad “An American Haunting,” has no idea how to stage an action scene to elicit excitement. Instead, it’s the editing that hopes to manufacture it in a thinly veiled attempt to hide the fact that what’s going on isn’t really all that interesting. The scenes are cut in rapid succession similar to the shootouts in 2009’s “Gamer,” to the point where you can barely even register certain shots before they disappear. If some of these shots were any shorter, they’d be subliminal.

Then the twist comes and the mystery man is revealed, not that we actually know who that man is as a character. The reveal is more one of the actor playing the mystery man, which means little to nothing in the big scheme of things. Strangely enough, questions are left unanswered, which is tough to do in a movie with such little plot to speak of, though you likely won’t care enough to have them answered anyway. When the movie ends, the title card flashes onscreen once more, almost as if it’s telling you to get away as fast as you can. You likely won’t need to be told twice.

Getaway receives 0.5/5

Friday
Mar222013

Spring Breakers

Being a fan of bizarre director Harmony Korine, a friend of mine who went to a pre-screening of “Spring Breakers” with me had lots to say about the final product, but nevertheless concluded that he was happy he didn’t have to analyze it like I did. He was happy he could watch it for what it was, know why he liked or didn’t like it, but never have to fully explain it. Because, frankly, how do you explain a movie like this? “Spring Breakers” is nutty, surreal and just plain weird and, if I’m being honest, I’m not quite sure what I think of it. As a product that breaks the cinematic norm, I’m fascinated by and appreciate it, but a value of its cinematic worth is hard to assess. What does this movie have to say? Sadly, I’m not sure it says much of anything.

The story begins innocently enough. Spring break is approaching and a group of college friends want to live it up in Florida. There’s the aptly named Faith (Selena Gomez), the religious one, and then the other three, Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine), who, personality-wise at least, are indistinguishable from each other. They’re the crazy ones and when they realize they don’t have enough money for their trip, they decide to rob a local chicken shack. Once down there, they find themselves in a bit of trouble, only to be rescued by a rapper/drug and arms dealer/self-proclaimed being from another planet named (nicknamed?) Alien (James Franco).

And from there, the movie gets so wild, I don’t know what to make of it. If Rotten Tomatoes is to be believed, early reviews have noted the “stinging social commentary” the movie presents, though what that commentary is isn’t actually specified. Some may claim it’s about the degradation of American youth or the destructiveness of their reckless behavior, but it’s an argument that’s hard to swallow. The film is so absurd at times, so ridiculously over-the-top (particularly during its conclusion), that it’s hard to take seriously. It’s not so much an analysis of rebellious youth culture as a gross exaggeration. At times, the movie even appears to be analyzing the idea of faith by surrounding the peacefulness and kindness of religion when surrounded and confronted by evildoers. Can it really hold strong and protect us in dangerous and unpleasant situations? But then the movie turns its back on the idea, content to follow its unusual narrative path.

When “Spring Breakers” ends, it’s hard not to ask: what was the point of that? With all the gratuitous nudity and graphic violence, much of which is superfluous to the actual story, perhaps the argument can be made that the movie is pointing the camera back at our own perversions. The four girls, all of whom look barely legal, are almost never in anything but bikinis. Even after they’ve been arrested, thrown in jail and appear in court in front of a judge, the bikinis remain, which is itself a bit ridiculous. Perhaps it’s an experiment to see how many of us are willing to dish out money to satisfy our own lustful, shameful urges. With a director like Harmony Korine, it’s certainly a possibility, but such ideas are speculative at best.

Nevertheless, “Spring Breakers” remains oddly fascinating. Although it’s hard to tell what the movie is going for, particularly in its tone, where it seems to switch from drama to extremely dark comedy in the blink of an eye, it remains watchable, particularly for film aficionados. Anyone else, those who are more used to traditional Hollywood fare, should steer clear. This movie isn’t for them, but rather the ones who don’t mind a movie wandering all over the place, both thematically and narratively. It’s for those who don’t mind a bit of pretentiousness in their directors because the places they take them are so memorable, they don’t mind putting up with some ego stroking. But while I was fascinated by it, I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it. It was too messy of a story and it lacked a focus that is needed to really pull in a viewer. That’s why, for the first time ever, I’m neither recommending it nor dissuading you to see it. I’ll let you make your own choice. “Spring Breakers” certainly has an audience, particularly those familiar with Harmony Korine’s work, and you know who you are.

Friday
Sep282012

Hotel Transylvania

Hotel Transylvania may pretend to be something other than an Adam Sandler movie, but make no mistake, it is an Adam Sandler movie from beginning to end. It stars all of his usual movie pals and has the same obnoxious toilet humor he always seems so drawn to. If you haven’t liked his other recent films, there’s really no reason you’ll enjoy this, but I’ll give it one thing. At least it doesn’t hide under the guise of adulthood. The immature humor and forced messages are still here, but at least they fit the targeted audience. Aimed largely at children, the film stresses the importance of accepting others regardless of their differences and if lowest common denominator humor is the only way to get that point across to the little ones, then I guess it succeeds.

Dracula (Adam Sandler) is an overprotective father. His daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), wants nothing more than to see the world, but he insists leaving will only bring her harm because the humans she’ll run into are evil. To protect her, he has built a giant mansion (that doubles as a hotel) far away from humankind and protected on all sides by haunted forests, zombie graveyards and more. Only monsters, ghouls and goblins can get in and boy, do they. Mavis is about to turn 118 and monsters from all over flood in to celebrate. There’s Frankenstein (Kevin James), Wayne the werewolf (Steve Buscemi), his wife Wanda (Molly Shannon), Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade), Quasimodo (Jon Lovitz) and many more. However, a human named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) has somehow infiltrated Dracula’s hotel. His presence threatens to ruin both his daughter’s party and the hotel’s patronage, given that he promised security from those awful human beings.

If Adam Sandler’s movies could be judged solely by how few poop and fart jokes they contain, then Hotel Transylvania would be his best in quite some time. It has, I don’t know, probably less than ten (and at least four in the first ten minutes) in the entire movie, which may be some sort of record for the man who is seemingly obsessed with all kinds of bodily fluids and secretions. Luckily, the movie has more merits than its reduction of poop jokes (in comparison). It may have a simple premise like many of Sandler’s other movies, but the idea of bringing classic monster movie creatures together into one building allows for more creativity than the one-joke idea of slapping a wig and some make-up on Sandler and trying to pass him off as his own sister.

Hotel Transylvania, though hardly visionary, at least manages to make good with its source material, in particular evoking memories of “fire bad” from the Frankenstein monster (which is more a reference to a Frankenstein spoof on Saturday Night Live than the actual Frankenstein movies themselves) and having fun with the whole idea of the Invisible Man, like the question on everybody’s mind: if you put your hand in the Invisible Man’s mouth, would it disappear? Further fun includes pantsing the Invisible Man, which exposes his invisible genitals, and a Twilight reference (“Is this how we’re represented?” asks Dracula) that’s bound to make the more cultured movie fans chuckle.

But aside from those humorous moments that spoof classic monster movies, there isn’t much here for adults. Hotel Transylvania is a kids movie through and through. It’s one of the more tolerable ones, mind you, and it teaches a valuable lesson that is too often ignored in a world full of hate: none of us are monsters and we all deserve love and respect. You could do a whole lot worse this weekend than taking your kid to see it, but despite its good intentions, it feels too much like mild spoof when it should be intelligent parody to be recommendable.

Hotel Transylvania receives 2/5

Friday
Jul012011

Monte Carlo

I don’t see every new movie release. There are multiple screenings each week for a wide variety of films, some of which I am either unable to attend or not interested enough in to make the trip to the screening room. But for some strange reason, I decided to check out the new Selena Gomez film, Monte Carlo. What a mistake that turned out to be. Never have I been so uninterested in a movie to the point where I find it not even worth criticizing. Nothing would please me more than to just forget about it and move on with my life, but because I attended the screening, I am obligated to write a review. So with my apathy in consideration, read on.

Monte Carlo stars Gomez as Grace, a recent high school graduate who has been saving up for years to afford a trip to Paris. She is hoping her trip to the City of Love will take her mundane life and transform it into something magical. So she, along with stepsister Meg, played by Leighton Meester, and best friend Emma, played by Katie Cassidy, hop on a plane and head out. When they arrive, things don’t go as planned and they end up stumbling into a posh hotel where Grace is mistaken for British heiress, Cordelia, also played by Gomez. Although they know they shouldn’t, they put on a ruse and Grace begins to act like Cordelia. Supposedly funny things begin to happen.

It should be said right off the bat that Monte Carlo is a harmless movie. Sure, the three girls don’t face any repercussions for their outrageous actions, but they learn along the way and grow closer to each other as they wander about one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s not going to, in any way, corrupt its target audience, all of whom I suppose will find enjoyment in it, though it’s hard to say because I’m not, and never have been, a 12 year old girl.

What makes the film so lousy is its strict adherence to formula. Its ambitions go no further than crafting a dream world about love for the young ladies in the audience already looking forward to their wedding days. The entire movie, more or less, is about finding love in Paris (and you know all three will find it by the end), but Paris, Je t’aime this isn’t. It’s unrealistic and cheesy, setting up impossible expectations that will undoubtedly crush those young girls when they get older and realize that relationships are a lot more difficult than the movies make them out to be.

Of course, being harmless doesn’t mean it’s any less stupid, and it treats its viewers the same. It’s one of those films that shows us an instantly recognizable landmark, in this case the Eiffel Tower, and then unnecessarily follows it with huge letters in the middle of the screen: “PARIS” it informs us. It’s a movie that tries to wow us with pretty clothes and jewelry rather than through plot development and emotional power. It even attempts to stir up dramatic tension through hilarious overreactions, like early on when Emma’s boyfriend breaks up with her because he doesn’t want her going to Paris for a whole week. Why, you ask? Who cares.

This film is not meant for me, I know that, but I don’t watch movies for others. I watch them as they are, regardless of demographic. My philosophy is just because a movie is meant for a specific audience doesn’t mean other audiences won’t like it (take last year’s delightful Ramona and Beezus, for example), but Monte Carlo is just dreadful. It’s not funny, romantic, or even interesting to look at, despite the lush backdrops the characters find themselves in.

Monte Carlo receives 1/5

Friday
Jul232010

Ramona and Beezus

Well, what a surprise. In a summer that has been bombarded by bloated action flicks and unnecessary 3D extravaganzas, I almost forgot what it was like to see a nice, G rated charmer like Ramona and Beezus. Based off the hit books by Beverly Cleary, Ramona and Beezus hits all the right notes. It pleases the children in the audience while simultaneously reminding the adults what it’s like to be one.

Meet Ramona Quimby (Joey King). She’s nine years and three months old and contrary to what her sister Beezus (Selena Gomez) will tell you, she is not a pest. She’s actually a lively young child who spices up her everyday life with some imagination. Unfortunately, she does so at school, much to the dismay of her teacher Mrs. Meacham (Sandra Oh). It’s because of this that her latest report card suffers, though her parents have bigger problems. Her father Robert (John Corbett) has just been laid off due to downsizing and can’t find another job, which forces her mother Dorothy (Bridget Moynahan) to abandon her job as housekeeper and find one that pays. However, her checks aren’t big enough to pay the bills and it begins to look like they may lose the house, but not if Ramona can do anything about it.

Ramona and Beezus is simply wonderful. Its hopes and aspirations lay only in the desire to make the audience smile and it succeeds. Joey King is simply adorable as Ramona and perfectly captures the essence of a kid. She runs and laughs and screams with her friend Howie (Jason Spevack). She loves her parents and, like all children, has that underlying fear that her parents may get a divorce. She has a pet she adores. She’s a nuisance in school, but not because she’s a rotten child. Rather it’s because she dreams of the impossible and builds whole worlds, many of which you get to see onscreen through cartoony digital effects that effectively show how her imagination works.

On top of her delightful performance and those actors I’ve mentioned above, you also have the impeccably handsome Josh Duhamel and unbelievably cute Ginnifer Goodwin who play old high school sweethearts who are now all grown up and begin to rekindle their old flame. The cast is full of charming, likable people who are kind to each other and love each other unconditionally.

It’s a sweet movie to be sure, perhaps a little too sweet. The whole film teeters on the line of mushy sentimentality and at times crosses it. You get the feeling that this family exists in a world where happiness is the only emotion because, other than a few small moments, little else comes across. There are a few too many scenes that are forced to the point where it begins to feel manipulatively upbeat, like a late water fight scene that leads up to the cheesiest moment in the movie.

Still, the Quimbys are a loving family surrounded by loving friends and it’s hard not to root for them. Despite the title, the film is just as much about the rest of the characters as it is Ramona and Beezus and that’s where the strength of the film lies. It’s easy to relate to the titular characters because we’ve all been there as kids, but it’s nice to see everybody else fleshed out as well. Despite some schlock, you’ll see the genuine chemistry between Duhamel and Goodwin and you’ll feel the part of Robert that fears he may not land a new job and won’t be able to support his family. All of that is handled with care.

Ramona and Beezus is an absurdly cheerful movie that will undoubtedly move even the manliest of men. Everybody wants to receive a similar love and acceptance that the characters get in this movie and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear or two by the end.

Ramona and Beezus receives 3.5/5