Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Date Night": That's a Kill Shot!

Now for a bit more optimism.

"Date Night" -- the two belles of the TV ball get together (Steve Carell, Tina Fey) to make a very Matthew McConaughey/Jennifer Aniston-type movie. You get what you pay for.

I'm a sucker for these types of movies, especially when put on by two of the wittiest sitcom folks of our age. To not like it would be like knocking a Belushi flick, or a Steve Martin movie, or a John Candy send-up. Sure, the material could've made their lights shine brighter, but those two are golden, and the movie was entertaining enough to warrant many second-viewings on cable.

Claire and Phil Foster are two average Joe-Americans, living in New Jersey and looking to spice up their married life a little. Claire (Fey), after hearing of her good friend's marriage's demise, decides she should wear a hot number on her date (with her husband, Carell). He notices, dresses up himself, and they venture into Manhattan for a nice date at "Claw."

"Claw" is the stand-in for any swank restaurant that anyone has ever tried to get a table at, at the last minute, only to be rebuffed by a well-groomed man who thinks his position at the podium gave him a nod to be a Jerk.

Carell decides to go for someone else's reservation (an enduring joke throughout the film), and while the couple is eating risotto and drinking wine, a couple of thugs roll on up and take them out to the alley for "a talk." The Fosters think they're being taken to task for being sneaks on the reservation; the thugs have a case of mistaken identity that they don't believe.

Yadda, yadda.

Hijinks ensue, laughs are had, and, who'd've thunk it, but we all end up safely in our beds.

Best line of the movie: "That's a Kill Shot!" -- when the Bad Guys turn their guns horizontal, Carell claims it the "kill shot," which was very on-point.

Nothing was ruined, but nothing was gained.

One thumb up, one sideways.

"Kick-Ass" ... I Wish.

"At some point in our lives, we all wanted to be superheroes."

So began what I thought was going to be a new favorite Stupid Movie: Kick-Ass.

I walk around the streets of New York, twiddling my thumbs, staring up at the sky, stepping over cracks, mostly pretending that I'm a spy. Might as well be a "superhero." I've never grown out of that sense of "What would it be like, if ...?" It's how I get through the day, when not seated in a theater or whatnot.

Well, "Kick-Ass" promised to be a spy-lover's dreamer like me's raison d'etre. I envisioned "Wanted" (fraternity of assassins) with a sprinkle of Zombieland, Eagle Eye (awful), Superbad, whatever.

I thought it would be good.

Let the record state: I hated this movie.

With an opener like "...we all wanted to be superheroes," I put down my popcorn, curled up my legs and was ready to let the movie take me wherever it wanted to go.

But, instead of taking me somewhere awesome, I got super flat jokes, the most obnoxious voiceover the ENTIRE TIME -- and, I'm amenable to some V.O. when it's Cera or Eisenberg eking out their measly awkward lines for the sake of humor -- and just wounded stunts over and over.

This New Guy, Aaron Johnson, really felt like a poor man's Michael Cera. He's not as cute/endearing, and when he voiceovers, it's like you can see him sitting in a studio reading out his lines. Not good. When he dons his "Kick-Ass" suit -- because he feels like there are no Samaritans left in this world, as people are just desensitized to all the cruelty and violence on the NY streets, these days -- he mugs for the camera a few bazillion times and then hits the pavement to take on villains.

The movie was the pits.

Clark Duke (of "Hot Tub Time Machine") is fine in it; Nic Cage is ... skinny, reminiscent of his "Raising Arizona" days, but the man's career choices should still -- as always -- be put into question.

The foul-mouthed 12-year old, "Hit Girl," Chloe Moretz, (and Cage's "daughter") is cringe-worthy; I'm biased there because I'm a Texan, and anyone speaking like that deserves a big old slap in the face -- but, more importantly, the only other mentionable thing this child has done thus far is "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" -- and that I cannot get behind.

Two big, old thumbs DOWN.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Movie Glut: "Hot Tub Time Machine," "Diary of a Wimpy Kid"

I've seen a few movies in the past couple weeks (Surprise!). Maybe I've seen seven, but two were repeats ("Shutter Island," and "How to Train Your Dragon") -- eh, who's counting, anyway?

Some high-lights/-lows:

"Hot Tub Time Machine"

The title was insidious. The trailer was awful. I saw it opening night.

I guess I was never one for transitive logic.

When John Cusack headlines something, and Steve Pink's behind it ("High Fidelity," "Grosse Pointe Blank"), there's no point in pretending I have free will -- even if the plot is: three near-middle aged men and an agoraphobic 20-year-old go to a ski resort for a doldrums-curing weekend reprieve, only to find themselves whisked away into the 80s after falling into some wormhole of a hot tub.

Even then, opening night.

We meet Adam (Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Lou (Rob Corddry) in present day, the three of them just about as miserable as Kevin Spacey in "American Beauty."

Adam's long-time lady has just left him (we learn from an outraged answering-machine message, which, come to think of it, is more 80s than present-day, but, I digress.); Nick works at a pet store, where we find him having to reach into a dog's rear-end -- our first of many, many foul potty-humor jokes; and Lou's an alcoholic lunatic whose near-death is what brings the three old friends back together again.

They decide to take a jaunt up to an old ski resort to relive their youthful, glory days, bringing along Adam's basement-dwelling, unwilling nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke).

Of course, once we arrive at the ski resort, the romanticized place of parties, booze, and hot women is a dilapidated, depressing old lodge.

But, they charge forward; fueled by a lot of booze, they can still make it a fun night. And, hey, there's a hot tub fit for four grown men to squeeze into!

After passing out, the four fools awake to some startling realizations. One, their reflections look strikingly smooth-skinned and young; two, people downstairs and on the slopes are dressed really ... 1986.

"Dude is rocking a cassette player... Leg warmers!"

I typically balk at bad -- err, off-color -- humor. The first time I saw "Superbad," I felt myself blush throughout the entire penis-drawings scene -- ever since, I skip over it. I can't even really get through normal conversations that involve (what-I-consider) "grody" things -- and this movie had some of the most raunchy lines, and some otherwise, very off-putting stunts I've seen in a long while. Or, maybe it just had such a glut of them.

But, somehow, it worked.

Maybe it's because Cusack plays his normal-guy role, and most of the raunchy jokes are left for Corddry and Robinson, so I wasn't so grossly offended and old Cusack gets to remain a shining, do-no-wrong celeb Love in my eyes.


Or, maybe I'm just getting so desensitized to this type of humor that my knee-jerk blushing and embarrassment is becoming minimized?

Nah, I don't think that's it.

Really, what kept me so engaged in this completely manic movie was the deference and homage it paid to so many movies that came before it (I can't believe I'm using "deference and homage" with respect to HTTM, but ... it's somehow deserved.). The allusions and straight references to "Back to the Future" (down to Crispin Glover's role in the movie -- who was George McFly) kept me giggling throughout. The writers preempt the viewer from over-thinking the trouble with time-travel movies by addressing "concerns" (ha.) in dialogue and through referring to old movies ... all those questions you inevitably think of:

"Wait, what about ripples in time if you change something?"

"Wait, what if you see yourself, and your old self sees the new you, and then ..."

"Wait, what if I Biff buys an Almanac and ..."

For instance, Glover (or, G. McFly) plays a one-armed bellhop who greets the quad when they arrive at the lodge in present day. He's been there since they were younglings. When the group time warps back into 1986, he's got both his arms -- so, it's one of Corddry's missions to see just how he lost one; it makes room for plenty of jokes -- some side-splitting, some just stupid.

Overall, I really enjoyed it - despite many flaws.

"Diary of a Wimpy Kid"

I won't bore any of the five of you with a review on this movie. It was Awful. Awful. And, it's the last time Little Morgan gets to choose a movie when we have our Movie Dates.

Also, it's too nice out in New York to be sitting around bloggling.

The next few reviews: "Greenberg," "How to Train Your Dragon," "Date Night."

One of those is my favorite movie since Daniel Plainview drank our Milkshakes.

[Edited Addendum: A good buddy just reminded me that the Milkshake Scene is one of the best of the decade ... I responded that, yes, it is. The close second is "Call It" from NCFOM -- so, I figured I should gratuitously link it. YW.]