Thursday, November 11, 2010

three movies, three short reviews

Been awhile, I know. Stop crying. Let's just do this.

Due Date - I'm a fan of Robert Downey Jr., I'm a fan of Zach Galifianakis, therefore, I enjoyed this film. Having said that, I did not enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. Todd Phillips, coming off his career high with "The Hangover" has made a fairly enjoyable, decent road trip comedy that harkens back to similar comedies such as "Plains, Trains, and Automobiles." PTA is a classic John Hughes film with the very funny Steve Martin and John Candy. Like PTA, "Due Date" features two characters that are constantly at odds with each other. Ethan Tremblay, played by Galifianakis, is an aspiring actor and a complete buffoon. Peter Highman (Downey) is an architect who is trying to return home to Los Angeles where his wife is about to have a baby. Both Peter and Ethan have their character flaws, but unlike PTA, Ethan's character flaws aren't quite as tolerable as John Candy's. Whereas John Candy's character has a naive-like innocence to him that could be annoying to someone like Steve Martin, Ethan Tremblay could be annoying to just about anybody. Luckily, Zach Galifianakis is a funny enough actor where he can make this odd, quirky character work even if he's ungodly annoying. Galfianakis's character here is pretty similar to the one he played in "The Hangover," in fact, they're almost identical. I don't know whether to fault the actor or the director for that. Sure, Zach is funny and he has shown some surprising range as an actor lately, but Phillips is starting to turn him into a one-note character. That note? Say something really strange and awkward for laughs.

It worked well with "The Hangover," it mostly works here, but I don't know how many people would be able take much more of that. Overall, Downey and Galfianakis have an odd chemistry together that makes this film really fun to watch. However, the movie falters when it tries to add some sincerity to it which, unfortunately, tends to ring hollow. Also, the supporting actors (Jamie Foxx, Danny McBride) don't quite satisfy or get to do much. If you're looking for a pretty good time, you'll find it with this movie. Just don't expect to pee your pants from laughter.

Rating: 7/10

Despicable Me - I managed to catch Despicable Me a few weeks ago, and here's my late review on the film.

Despicable Me is a charming little movie featuring a great voice acting performance by Steve Carrell. The jokes, obviously aimed squarely at kids, don't really resonate well with the older audience. It's a pretty fun movie with a good amount of heart. If you have to take your kids to see this movie (or, at this point, rent it) they should have a good time, and you won't be wasting too much of your time. However, on its own, Despicable Me doesn't quite hold up. Recommended for kids, but not necessarily for grown ups.

Rating: 6/10

Never Let Me Go - Never Let Me Go is an interesting enough film directed by Mark Romanek. This is only Romanek's third film and I've only seen his previous effort "One Hour Photo" before this. The verdict for this film is pretty similar to how I feel about "One Hour Photo." This is a movie filled with a lot of promise with some really good performances, but unfortunately, it doesn't go beyond "promising." This is a really soft, tender, sad movie that never rises to a climax or a focal point. In fact, overall, the film is fairly anti-climactic. It reminded me, in a way, of "Curious Case of Benjamin Button" where the premise is set up in such a way where you know what's going to happen, and the movie doesn't really go beyond that. But whereas Curious Case of Benjamin Button tells a pretty interesting story and David Fincher is a master craftsman who does nothing but elevate the material he works with, Mark Romanek is a notch below that. He's a wonderfully visual director, like Michel Gondry (although not as inventive), but he doesn't quite elevate the material that he's working with (whereas Gondry can elevate other people's material, just not his own).

Never Let Me Go tells a story, in an alternate universe, of three kids who grow up in a boarding school who have trouble adapting to the outside world. Ultimately, you find out why they can't really connect to the outside world, and what follows is a fairly heartbreaking, sad story. Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, and Carey Mulligan all do a wonderful job with their characters, but unfortunately, the emotional atmosphere never really rises or amounts to much. So what you have is some beautiful images, some solid low-key performances (aside from some short bursts of anger from Andrew Garfield), and a very sad, glum story. I wanted very much to like this film and recommend it to you all here, and you may very well want to ignore my advice and see this film anyway. But, personally, the film just doesn't really add up to much for me and, because of that, it just wasn't as strong or as powerful as it could have been.

Rating: 6.5/10

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