August 13, 2010

August Movie Roundup

Thoughts on a few movies I've seen in recent weeks, with full reviews in varying degrees of soon being published. All but "Other Guys" (last week) open today:

"The Other Guys": Will Ferrell's best movie in quite awhile and his best Adam McKay collaboration since "Anchorman," but the real story is Mark Wahlberg, doing comedy and absolutely killing. There's a twist involving Derek Jeter that Yankee-haters will love, as will Phillies fans- in the movie's universe, the Yankees lost the 2009 World Series in seven games. About five times funnier than "Cop Out," and this time Tracy Morgan's only in it for a three-second non-speaking role.

My only beef is that the villain (Steve Coogan) is given nothing funny to do, and the film's semi-subtle anti-Wall Street message breaks through in the closing credits with a series of graphs about TARP and bailouts that is totally out of place with the raunchy comedy we just watched. I'm half-convinced they switched the reels, and the closing credits of Michael Moore's next film will have Will Ferrell fart bloopers. (Full review to come this weekend.)

"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World": I admired this movie more than I loved it. Outstanding creativity, and a great look, and a pretty strong top-to-bottom cast. But it was just a little too cute and a little too twee, and Michael Cera, despite having played four different parts that I'll cherish for the rest of my life, really needs to come up with a new schtick that isn't the same performance he's given every other time. Not to mention, "Kick Ass" was better. (I haven't read the graphic novel; in fact, I've never read any graphic novel. Full review to come next week.)

"Eat Pray Love:": Or, "Whine Whine Whine." Perhaps no movie in history has been less in my wheelhouse than this, the Julia Roberts-starring adaptation of a narcissist's self-help memoir about her yearlong quest to feel better about her divorce by taking a trip around the world (don't most newly-divorced people worry about financial ruin?)

The film is about a woman trying to move mountains to make herself happy, and the singular quest of every other character in the movie is to serve her in that quest. Director Ryan Murphy co-created "Glee," which I love, but subtlety isn't his strong suit. Come to think of it, neither is directing.

The second most-loathsome scene in the movie? A segment in Italy in which Roberts and her also-skinny friend fret that they're gaining too much weight from eating pizza and pasta and spend a five-minute montage struggling to put jeans on. We're just supposed to not believe our lying eyes that BOTH OF THEM ARE STILL VERY VERY SKINNY.

The most-loathsome? When Roberts is in Indonesia and she's informed that because of the recent terrorist attack in Bali, tourism is way down and therefore the price of the glorious apartment she's looking at has dropped significantly. Well, good thing for that, huh!

"The Expendables": Not quite a pure nostalgia exercise the way Stallone's last "Rocky" film was, "The Expendables" is a delightfully old-school, '80s-style action blowout, in which everything from the acting to the action is hilariously over the top. It's the closest a real movie has ever gotten to "Seinfeld"'s "Death Blow."

Also earning bonus points- there's next to no politics, and it doesn't make the mistake of taking itself too seriously. "Salt" bothered me because its plot was ridiculous, but it had no sense of humor about itself; not the case here.

A lot of stuff gets blown up real, real good- and the fight scenes are a delight, owing lots to pro wrestling. A whole lot of body slams and suplexes. And it's great to see Rocky and Ivan Drago together again, even though Dolph Lundgren at this point barely even looks human.

Why no role for Steven Seagal? I'm guessing it's the same explanation as why Ty Cobb wasn't in "Field of Dreams"- "none of us could stand the son of a bitch when we were alive, so we told him to stick it!"

Posted by Stephen Silver at August 13, 2010 02:10 PM
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