Movie Reviews – October 2009

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Focus Features
In Theaters: 09.09
It’s a tricky feat to expand a short film into a successful feature-length expedition (ask Jared Hess about the conversion from Peluca to Napoleon Dynamite), but that’s exactly what director Shane Acker attempted to do with his 2005 Oscar-nominated animated short, 9, with the assistance of two veteran filmmakers, Timur Bekmambetov and Tim Burton, acting as producers. The new adaptation follows the basic premise of its predecessor by following a group of breathing, mechanical burlap sacks who dodge death’s touch time and time again against an evil, soul-sucking metal contraption. However, this revival of old fails to expose anything fresh or unique, even with its massively extended running time. The entire story goes like this: Run from monster, kill monster, argue about fighting more monsters, run from new monster, repeat. The finest element to come out of the production is the morose visuals depicting an ash-ridden apocalyptic future devoid of any human existence. Its magnificently mournful tone is unlike any other animated film. If the creators had put the same amount of time and energy into the screenplay as was done with the enamoring environments, the overall execution would have generated a far better end result. –Jimmy Martin

Big Fan
First Independent Pictures
In Theaters: 09.25
What do you do when your life’s passion betrays you? Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt) is obsessed about the New York Giants. Actually, “obsessed” isn’t the right word––try “fucking nuts.” His room, located in his mother’s house, is decorated with NFL bedsheets and posters of his favorite player, Quantrell Bishop. When an act of admiration for his idol leads to a misunderstanding and a vicious act of violence, Paul must question where his loyalties lie. Oswalt successfully transitions from comedy to drama (without neglecting his traditional art form too much) as the reclusive fanatic who’s repulsed by his family’s traditional lifestyles. As a warrior of words, both onscreen and off, Oswalt is the perfect candidate for the character’s sardonic rants and raves on Giants pride. Once again, Robert D. Siegel, author of The Wrestler, has emerged triumphant with his never-ending spectrum of writing capabilities, and has added the accomplished director notch on his winning-at-life belt with this addition to his filmography. With an unforgettable ending that’ll leave the audience thirsting for more, this perfect blend of comedy and drama is an outstanding presentation with some of today’s most talented artists. –Jimmy Martin

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Columbia Pictures
In Theaters: 09.18
About once or twice a year, a film comes along with promotional pieces that abstain from doing its product the justice it sorely deserves, but leaves an unexpected surprise for those who decide to witness its contents anyhow. Such is the case with Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s animated adaptation of Ron and Judi Barrett’s 1978 children’s book. Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) is an aspiring inventor who creates mind-blowing devices that generally don’t function properly. After a series of unintentional misfires and accidental misdemeanors, the optimistic creator fortuitously generates a machine that makes food fall from the sky, bringing international attention to his small island town, saving it from the economic woes of a failing sardine enterprise. The directing duo has incorporated the ideal blend of childish tomfoolery with jokes only the accompanying parents will understand––but don’t let that deter those without children from attending. Along with the comedic visuals that attack any and all clichéd disaster movies, the vocal talents of Hader, Anna Faris, Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell and Mr. T offer the quintessential collaboration to bring out the non-stop comedic punches with a dash of moral value. Forget about being one of the funniest children’s movies of the year, it’s undeniably one of the funniest movies of the year overall. –Jimmy Martin

In Theaters: 09.04
If there’s one thing that irrefutably unites America together (other than horrifying catastrophes), it’s our hatred for the everyday annoyances found in the common workplace, and no one captures those aggravations better than director Mike Judge. Stepping out from Office Space’s cubicle and walking directly into the shoes of the CEO, the film follows the owner of a small flavoring extraction company (Jason Bateman) as he deals with the daily hassles of a loveless marriage and playing head honcho during a work-related accident that could bankrupt the entire company. Once again, Judge amusingly spotlights the common workingman’s plight with a spot-on depiction of the trials and tribulations that most of us will also encounter sometime during the grind. Bateman succeeds, as always, as the down-and-out protagonist you can’t help but to root for regardless of his idiotic decisions. Look out for the legendary Bigfoot (or it may be a bearded Ben Affleck) providing a well-performed role as the best friend with nothing but bad ideas. Slightly lacking that cultish comedy status after one viewing, it may take multiple screenings, as with all of Judge’s previous comedies, to leave a pleasant and permanent aftertaste. –Jimmy Martin

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
New Line Cinema
Street: 09.22
The concept of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has been passed around more times than a ham sandwich at a gathering of anorexics. Four years after Bill Murray added his comedic take on the holiday tale in Scrooged, Jim Henson’s Muppets presented their furry adaptation with Michael Caine as the one declaring, “Bah! Humbug!” Needless to say, the story’s been around the block quite a few times. Now, in another affirmation that Hollywood’s idea wells have run dry, Matthew McConaughey trades the role of an overbearing workaholic for a womanizing nymphomaniac, and swaps the top hat and cane for a botched fake tan and an inability to act. Connor Mead (McCon-a-Tan) is a successful photographer who was taught by his Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas) to treat women like dirt (“and not that fancy store-bought dirt”) and to remain a cocky, self-indulgent bachelor to the end of his days. When Connor unsupportively arrives at his brother’s wedding to stand as the best man, he soon discovers his lifelong love, Jenny Perotti (Jennifer Garner) is the maid of honor. In order to deal with the uncomfortable scenario, Connor chugs tumbler after tumbler only to become so liquored up he’s confronted by his deceased uncle, who informs him of three forthcoming apparitions … and you get the gist from there. The only peek of originality comes from Emma Stone‘s witty performance as The Ghost of Girlfriends Past decked out in 1980s sand-blasted denim, scrunchies, permed hair and a mouth full of metal, but since her presence only lasts approximately a third of the film, there’s an additional 70 minutes of monotonous dialogue to sift through. With the likelihood that this sexy/holiday revitalization trend will continue (because, like Lay’s potato chips, one is never enough for Hollywood), I’m eagerly anticipating the rejuvenated release of the Jewish classic, Diddler on the Roof. –Jimmy Martin

The Informant!
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 09.18
President W. once eloquently articulated, “…fool me once, shame on … shame on you. Fool me … you can’t get fooled again.” Those brilliant words should be forever imbedded in the mind for anyone who witnesses the dubious actions of ADM Vice President-turned-whistleblower, Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon), during his mid-90s escapades in Decatur, Ill. At first, Whitacre comes across as a dweeby, panicked scapegoat lost in the middle of a billion-dollar enterprise’s lysine price-fixing scheme, but as the deceptive layers shed to the floor, our once-noble hero soon becomes the debatable man of the hour. With every question, there’s an answer, but with every answer, there comes another question. Nothing is what it seems,and no one’s testimony can be trusted, especially Whitacre’s. Along with his outrageous physical appearance (gaining an impressive 30 lbs.), Damon roars in the laughter with his neurotic behavior and deranged inner monologue while being subtly supported by an assault of stand-up comedians/actors including Joel McHale, Paul F. Tompkins, and Patton Oswalt. Steven Soderbergh presents these recent criminal antics with a priceless 60s crime caper approach (probably an accurate depiction of Middle America circa 1992), utilizing legendary cinematography tactics and corny mischievous soundtracks, and delivers a bizarre true story that will keep audiences speculating ‘til the end credits––and probably long after they’re over as well. –Jimmy Martin

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season Four
20th Century Fox
Street: 09.15
Sunny is the funniest comedy about a three-guy, one-girl gang since Seinfeld (their tagline appropriate states “It’s Seinfeld on crack.”). The obnoxious crew from the City of Brotherly Love continues one-upping each other season after season as they pillage and plunder political correctness in every fashion imaginable. The fourth season continues to reveal the true soullessness of the fearsome foursome as they partake in ridiculous shenanigans, including hunting homeless people for sport, exploiting their own friends and family for profit, and reveling in the hilarious mystery concerning an inexplicable turd found in Charlie and Frank’s bed sheets. As each actor gives it their all, including the incredibly versatile Danny DeVito as the older, more immature parental guardian, everyone not only escalates the absurdness of their own character in every episode, but in every scene. It’s homophobic, homoerotic and undoubtedly distasteful. Who knew being so offensively wrong could be so deliciously right? –Jimmy Martin

Jennifer’s Body
20th Century Fox
In Theaters: 09.18
You know nothing worthwhile can come from a movie whose biggest appeal is the sexual prowess of a star that isn’t widely appreciated for her acting abilities. As the head cheerleader and most attractive girl in school, Jennifer (Megan Fox) rules the small town of Devil’s Kettle with her pouty lips and her nerdy best friend, Needy (Amanda Seyfried), lurking in the shadows by her side. After the teen queen spends a mysterious evening with a traveling indie-rock band, she somehow becomes a demonically possessed beast using her irresistible sexual charm to lure in her male peers. As mutilated bodies start to become a regular occurrence in the small town, the girls’ friendship is tested once the truth is revealed. Part tasteless comedy, part crude horror flick, the only noteworthy element to reach the surface is the quirky dialogue found in Diablo Cody’s (writer of 2007’s Juno) screenplay that attempts, but fails, to resemble Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead and Michael Lehmann’s Heathers. It’s a semi-win for the diverse author, but as soon as she finds her stride with story structure and character development, an array of interesting projects should soon follow. –Jimmy Martin

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
20th Century Fox
Street: 09.15
Patton Oswalt said it best when discussing the prequels to the Star Wars franchise: “I don’t give a shit where the stuff I love comes from. I just love the stuff I love.” Now, granted, he was discussing the act of documenting children versions of the adult characters we’ve all grown to love, but the same argument can be applied to the decision to reveal Marvel’s most beloved characters’ origins. As a recounting of how James “Logan” Howlett became one of the most dangerous and unstoppable forces the U.S. government ever created, X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s story focuses on the unwavering vengeance for a falling loved one and the ultimate test of brotherly love between siblings journeying down separate paths. We’ve already seen the clawing recluse strut his stuff in three feature films, so to waste half of a fourth adaptation on a powerless star seems monotonous. The idea of revealing the unearthed past of Wolverine could have been an appealing attraction, but director Gavin Hood’s final delivery plays out more like a bad teen drama on the WB rather than a captivating standalone feature. None of the actors––Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Ryan Reynolds or Taylor Kitsch––are given enough substance in order to convey anything meaningful, and substandard CGI effects muffle the majority of fight sequences. –Jimmy Martin

You Should've Worn a Condom
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 08.21
I can appreciate the fact that Robert Rodriguez wants to direct films his children can help create and watch, but what I can’t condone are these meaningless, immature endeavors stocked with unforgiveable corniness that have millions of dollars invested in them. Whatever happened to well-crafted, epic children’s films like The NeverEnding Story and The Goonies? This time around, a series of short stories are revealed in random chronological order depicting the discovery of a magical rainbow rock that grants the beholder unlimited wishes. Set in the cookie-cutter community of Black Falls, the majority of residents find themselves on the verge of unemployment as their sinister CEO, Carbon Black (James Spader), aggressively demands innovative perfection on the version X upgrade to his corporation’s multipurpose product, the Black Box. From a detailed accounting on how to clean your braces to a walking booger monster, Rodriguez sluggishly crawls to the 89-minute mark without touching upon anything worthwhile. I completely understand that a 27-year-old male isn’t the prime demographic for this type of production, but when an audience comprised mostly of children under the age of 12 aren’t laughing at the supposed relatable material either, I think it’s time for Rodriguez to revaluate his material source and reclaim creative control. –Jimmy Martin