Movie Reviews – September 2010

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The Expendables
Lionsgate
In Theaters 08.13
If Sylvester Stallone has mastered anything in his 40-year career, it’s his intuition of knowing exactly who his audience is and what they crave. The unexpected resurrection of his iconic characters Rocky Balboa and John Rambo were met with sheer enthusiasm. Now, the Italian Stallion has pulled every string available to form a Marvel-esque Avengers team of 80s, 90s and current action superstars and placed them in one death-filled, guns-blazing, karate-chopping thrill ride. The all-star mercenary squad—built of the testosterone and muscles of Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren and Terry Crews—takes a job to overthrow a corrupted dictator in South America, but the threat level escalates when it’s discovered that a rogue ex-CIA agent is the man behind the curtains. It’s a formulaic and unoriginal plotline to say the least, but for this type of film it doesn’t matter—at all. As long as the bullets and blades fly and the body count climbs, it’s full steam ahead. Stallone, acting as director as well, does harp on sappy side stories and subdues the action quite harshly in the first two acts, a potential death blow for such an adventure, but regains control in the grand finale with the most explosive action sequence in decades. As necks snap and limbs vanish, each actor is given the opportunity to showcase their own style of ass-kicking, which results in a jaw-dropping variation of solid manliness. –Jimmy Martin

Going the Distance
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 09.03
As much as this modern-day romantic comedy shimmies away from the conservative and conventional methodologies of the genre with enjoyable crude humor and even nastier language, it sadly still adheres to been-there-done-that staples that subdue its overall originality and impact. There’s nothing nerdier than the terms and conditions that bring record label lacky Garrett (Justin Long) and summer newspaper intern Erin (Drew Barrymore) together. She has the highest score on the Centipede machine he’s been trying to defeat for months. Add their shared love for homoerotic fighter pilot movies (i.e. Top Gun) and it’s a match made in geek heaven. The only relationship hurdle these two lovers must conquer is the 3,000 mile separation between their hometowns of New York City and San Francisco. Long and Barrymore’s chemistry sparks wildly on screen as they can barely take their hands off each other to speak a word, but leave it to the charismatic side characters, played hysterically by Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate and Jim Gaffigan, to take command of the more memorable laughs. Long endures one episodic gag after another that eventually becomes too exasperating to find humorous (probably right around an uncalled-for spray tan gimmick), but Geoff LaTulippe’s endearing script does offer a well-rounded and authentic story that tests the ultimate limits of love and concludes it in an unconventional fashion you don’t see very often. –Jimmy Martin

The Last Exorcism
Lionsgate
In Theaters: 08.27
Attempting to follow the successes of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, this unbalanced mockumentary follows the hustling practices of a Louisiana minister who’s lost his faith in God. Since he was a child, Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) was destined to be a part of the family business of preaching the gospel and performing exorcisms. However, after hearing of a child’s death during an exorcism gone wrong, Cotton’s conscience forces him to hire a film crew to document the deceiving ways of his craft. The initial plan is to capture a faux exorcism with Nell (Ashley Bell), a backwoods teenager who believes she’s possessed by a demonic creature, but once the sinister shenanigans continue after Cotton’s dog and pony show, plan B is to perform the real deal. The film starts off enjoyable with Fabian’s charming personality leading the behind-the-curtains glimpse into how con-artists could actually execute these ridiculous rituals, but once the comedic tone has been set, there’s no going back and there’s certainly no image frightening enough to transform the film into a terrifying horror. It only gets worse with the running time winding down. Director Daniel Stamm blatantly rips off one iconic image after another from previous horror films and ends everything with a laugh-out-loud ending that mirrors an awful episode of Scooby Doo. The only items left to be exorcised are the mind-numbing images still lingering in my eye sockets. –Jimmy Martin

The Other Guys
Columbia Pictures
In Theaters 08.06
It’s always a time for celebration when comedic duo Adam McKay and Will Ferrell announce another joint endeavor. The team has generated some of the wittiest comedies in recent years including 2004’s Anchorman. Now in their fourth matchup together, they tackle the testosterone theme of wannabe supercops working the beat in New York City. Ferrell plays submissive forensic accountant Allen Gamble who is content with filing the paperwork of the department’s celebrity officers (played perfectly by Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson) and driving around in his feminine Toyota Prius. Meanwhile his partner, Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), yearns to escape the monotony of his desk life for the dangerous action existing on the streets outside. Just as their hatred for one another reaches their boiling points, an unexpected opportunity arrives to become the city’s new heroes and the unusual pair soon find themselves working together to unearth a multibillion-dollar ruse masterminded by one of New York’s wealthiest entrepreneurs. Obviously, McKay is more than willing to let Ferrell off the chain to unleash a healthy assortment of crude improvisations, but the true surprise comes from Wahlberg’s comedic timing and off-the-cuff deliveries. Even though the laughs persist with a shockingly jovial performance by Eva Mendes, McKay sadly loses his grip on the excessively intricate plotline and neglects the overall comedic pacing in the finale, inevitably closing the curtains on a mediocre and somewhat unfulfilling sentiment. –Jimmy Martin

Piranha 3D
Dimension Films
In Theaters: 08.20
Ever since this 3D craze bombarded just about every film in the past year, I have wholeheartedly opposed its pointless inclusion … until now. If one must live amongst this cinematic swindle, I suppose using it for a scene between two gratuitously nude models performing an underwater ballet isn’t so bad. It’s just another bit of evidence that proves director Alexandre Aja is totally conscious of the inane film he’s releasing upon the world. Exhibit B. The film opens with none other than Richard Dreyfuss resembling the infamous Matt Hooper from Jaws as he sings, “Show Me the Way to Go Home” just before he accidentally causes an earthquake that unearths a school of prehistoric fish bloodthirsty for drunken, scantily clad spring breakers. The majority of time is spent with Jerry O’Connell, who’s obviously channeling the obnoxious Joe Francis, as an adult filmmaker capturing his next blockbuster for “Wild Wild Girls.” Assisting this tomfoolery as a location scout is local shy guy Jake (Steven R. McQueen) who’s supposed to be tending his younger siblings while his mother (Elisabeth Shue) patrols the crimson-soaked lake as the town’s sheriff, but ultimately chose boobs over babysitting––always a wise decision. The gore factor is off the charts as countless screaming party animals’ arms and legs are gnawed into chunks of shredded meat and regurgitated into the third dimension. Aja is merciless with his grisly visuals as one stomach-churning image after another sprays across the screen, leaving a bloodstained streak for every male attendee to applaud and for every female counterpart to question their date’s state of mental health. –Jimmy Martin

Restrepo
National Geographic Entertainment
In Theaters: 09.03
Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington have created a fine piece of embedded journalism with their documentary, Restrepo. Restrepo is war—war without the Hollywood lighting, special effects or cleverly crafted lines. It’s a war movie from the perspective of a soldier. In 2008, directors Junger and Hetherington spent over a year in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley with the men of the Second Platoon. The region was one of the most dangerous outposts in Afghanistan, swarming with members of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. This film follows the men of Second Platoon through the early days of their deployment, to the erection of Restrepo outpost (named after a fallen comrade PFC Juan Restrepo) to their final days in the area. Moments of extreme boredom are punctuated by firefights with the enemy and what can only be described as utter chaos. Impromptu dance parties and jokes about homosexuality break up the insanity and add lighthearted elements to this otherwise heavy film. The most moving footage of Restrepo is the close-up interviews conducted with surviving soldiers after their return from combat. The men discuss the horrors of deployment, losing comrades to the enemy and the reoccurring nightmares that come with sleep. Even more profound are the moments when the men lose their ability to speak about the experience altogether. Restrepo may be the finest documentary created about war in our time. –Jeanette D. Moses

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Universal
In Theaters: 08.13
The creative genius behind the modern-day cult classics Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Edgar Wright, sinks his teeth into Bryan Lee O’Malley’s six-volume graphic novel series that captures the puppy love world of teenage infatuation brilliantly amongst a hilariously diverse cast of characters represented perfectly by their actor counterparts. Michael Cera stars as Scott Pilgrim, a slacker twenty-something who becomes lovesick with the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but in order to live a life of love and happiness, Scott must fight AND defeat her seven evil exes in lighting-fast battle sequences that rival many current action stars’ conflicts. The rapid-fire line deliveries and swift editing cuts will certainly turn off older patrons not familiar with younger generations’ ability to take in multiple levels of information at unbelievable speeds, but this distraction shouldn’t overshadow the fantastic accomplishment that has taken place on screen. Cera douses the audience with his trademark boyish charm and perfect comedic timing, but surprisingly pulls off a physical component with one intricate fight sequence after another, throwing the audience for another unsuspecting spin. However, the grandest achievement comes with Wright’s delivery of a never-before-seen, stunning style of filmmaking that incorporates nostalgic visuals from vintage video games and beautiful animated segments from the original source material that only adds another layer of creativity to his storytelling talents. –Jimmy Martin

Tupac: Live At The House Of Blues
Eagle Rock
Street 05.25
This DVD, featuring Tupac’s last ever performance, was in fact my first Tupac concert. Sometimes it escapes me how damn gangster shit was back then—I now see what my parents were trying to prevent by not letting me listen to rap. In 1996 I was playing N64 and listening to Puff Daddy—and I thought I was doing gangster things. Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg and the rest of The Dogg Pound were doing it on another level. Everything you would expect is on here. You get a first-hand look at the type of rapper Tupac was: raw as it gets. It wasn’t enough to just play “Hit ‘Em Up” and dis all of Bad Boy, Tupac went after Nas and went all over his track. Taking the set down a notch for the ladies, K-Ci & JoJo serenade it on “Freek’N You” and “How Do You Want It.” Tha Dogg Pound Gang follows that up by bringing some ladies on stage for “If We All Gonna Fuck” and “Bomb Azz Pussy.” Nate Dogg also makes an appearance and reps the West Coast hard as ever. The show ends with a real banger as Nate Dogg, Tupac, Tha Dogg Pound, Snoop Dogg, OutLawz and even K-Ci & JoJo get up to get down for “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted.” –Jemie Sprankle

Vampires Suck
20th Century Fox
In Theaters: 08.18
What ever happened to high quality spoof movies? Gone are the days where the legendary Mel Brooks would craft a satirical production around a classical genre, be it sci-fi, western or horror, and generate his own original witty perspective on the subject matter. The Wayans Brothers successfully carried the torch with a few projects after Brooks’ departure, but eventually stumbled, dropping the baton directly into the hands of the incompetent Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Since 2006, these two hackneyed filmmakers have attempted to poke fun at romantic comedies, summer blockbusters and disaster porn. Now, on their fifth endeavor, the directors meld the first two films from the Twilight Saga into one idiotic dumping ground for dated pop culture references and tiresome fart jokes. The majority of the film is seriously an exact duplication of the originals. Becca Crane (Jenn Proske) moves to the city of Sporks and finds herself love-torn between the melodramatic vampire Edward Sullen (Matt Lanter) and shirtless shape-shifter Jacob White (Chris Riggi). As if the originals weren’t dreadful enough, Friedberg and Seltzer only add fuel to the infuriating fire by making a bad concept worse. A precise gauge to tell if a comedy failed is when you can count the number of times you slightly chuckled on one hand. The only remotely entertaining aspect comes from Proske’s spot-on impersonation of Kristen Stewart’s irritating idiosyncrasies, but if she wants her career to have a chance at success, she should sprint as far away as possible from these excruciating flops. –Jimmy Martin\

Waking Sleeping Beauty
Disney
In Theaters: 08.27
The Walt Disney Company has always been a studio that presents itself as a wholesome organization distributing wholesome entertainment for families around the world, so to be given the opportunity to see the darker, more realistic side of the goodie two shoes’ inside operations is truly an unforgettable experience. Director Don Hahn, a producer on several earlier Disney animated features, captures the ups and downs of the company’s animation department in this enchanting documentary as the threat of disbandment looms over the shoulders of its tiring staff. With the release of “The Black Cauldron” in 1985 almost being the project that broke the CFO’s back, a last-ditch effort to revitalize the quality of the product was mandated which, in turn, birthed a flourishing run of profitable animated classics starting with The Little Mermaid. Hahn’s archival footage of voice actors rehearsing in sound booths and up-and-coming filmmakers like Tim Burton and John Lasseter working feverishly in their cubicles presents an intimate glimpse into the chaotic world behind the magic. The majority of the film’s drama and amusement seeps from the professional (and at many times unprofessional) business tactics delivered by the egotistical minds of Roy Disney, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner, and how their dysfunctional dialogues and incoherent interactions with each other somehow generated some of the highest-grossing animated films of all time. –Jimmy Martin