17 August 2004

13 Going on 30

After a terrible birthday party, 13-year-old, Jenna Rink revels in some pre-teen angst while unwittingly evoking the magic of wishing dust, a gift from her charming, but schlumpy best friend, Matty. Jenna wishes to be thirty, which according to her favorite magazine Poise, is the best time of a woman's life. Through the magic of the so called "wishing dust" Jenna wakes up the next morning as herself seventeen years in the future (or for you non-math superstars: 3o years old). Fortunately, Jenna's life is everything she hoped it would be. She's gorgeous aka Jennifer Garner, wealthy, well-dressed, and a successful editor at Poise. Consequently, Jenna begins to realize that her movie-perfect life came at a price and Jenna is not exactly the woman she had hoped to become. As she comedically struggles to figure out how to be a thirty-year old, Jenna seeks out the adult version of her best friend Matty, now played by the charming, and definitely not schulmpy, Mark Ruffalo. Then, before you can say romantic comedy, Jenna realizes that Matty really is the "nicest" guy she has ever met (translation: She's falling in love with him). The question remains, does Matty like like Jenna or... will he marry his equally cool fiancee? I guess there's also the question if Matty falls in love with Jenna, doesn't that mean he's hooking up with a 13-year-old?

13 Going on 30 is often compared to Big, a film that set the bar for kid-in-adult's-body films. Unfortunately, 13 Going on 30 is nowhere near the greatness of the Tom Hanks film. First of all, the wishing dust premise is rather weak as a far as magical transformation/time traveling scenarios go. Big does a wonderful job of building up the mystery and magic of the creepy carnival fortune teller machine. 13 merely relies on a packet of magic dust that looks a lot like a bag of Pop Rocks. With all the potential wishes that a thirteen year old could make, wishing to be thirty years old is probably one of the lamest wishes ever. No wonder Jenna has no friends. Furthermore, I don't know why more people aren't capitalizing on the wishing dust. What about world peace, a cure for AIDs, or the eradication of day-glo spandex? Then again, I suppose "wishing dust" is an appropriate name for a powdery substance that "magically" transports a person to an idealistic version of the future. In any case, the movie begs that the audience, like Jenna Rink, not dwell on the wishing dust too much and simply accept the fact that Jenna is a thirteen year-old in an adult woman's body.

With such a predictable plot, the movie can chalk up its box office success to its talented cast.
Jennifer Garner, for the most part, charmingly pulls off the, albeit exaggerated, naivete of a thirteen year old. On the other hand, her cuteness sometimes gets a little too cute and perky. Teenagers, particularly those that are shunned by the "popular kids", aren't that perky. The 1980s Jenna Rink certainly wasn't as sweet and cheery as the Jennifer Garner version of Jenna Rink. Despite the hyper cuteness of her squinty facial expressions, perfect hair, and stylishly colorful wardrobe , Garner, as a thirteen year old in a thirty year old's body manages to mainatin a tolerable level of charm and innocence that would probably annoy me had Jenna strictly been a thirteen year old.

Mark Ruffalo, playing the swan version of Jenna's ugly duckiling best friend, Matty is simply dreamy. Ruffalo is attractive, yet posseses a everyman quality. He's perfect as the boy-next-door all grown up. Judy Greer, who I remember as the goofy, yet high-strung assistant from The Wedding Planner, does an interesting turn as Jenna's ambitious best friend/ co-worker, Lucy. There's not much to Lucy's character, but Greer does an effective job of creating a character who is not meant to be all that likeable, but on the other hand, worthy of audience sympathy. Did I mention that Gollum is Jenn'as boss (aka Richard Kneeland)?

Overall, 13 Going on 30 is best described as cute -- cute wardrobe, cute actors, cute romance, cute situational irony -- you get the point.

My Recommendation: I wouldn't head to the video store just to rent 13 Going on 30 but I'd say it's worth renting if you're in the mood for some cute crap, especially if you have a coupon.

10 August 2004

Euro Trip: Unrated

Recent high school grad, Scotty Thomas spontaneously heads to Europe with his best friend, Cooper to find Scotty's gorgeous German pen pal, Mieke. After meeting up with twin pals, Jenny and Jamie in Paris, the four take the the most roundabout, horomone-driven route to Berlin, including stops at a nude beach, an Amsterdam sex club, and East Germany.

For a movie who's biggest selling point is that it's made by the same horny men of Road Trip, I wasn't expecting much. With all the frontal female and male nudity, one would think that the filmmakers were trying to distract from a really crappy movie. To my great surprise, if you get beyond all the gratuitous nudity of the "Unrated" DVD, you'll find a hilarious teen comedy definitely worth viewing.

The movie features a charming group of unknown young actors who portray more than just your typical group of sex crazy teens. They're sex crazy teens with heart? Resembling a cuter, younger version of the guy who played Ed (the NBC show, not the talking horse) Scott Mechlowicz is very appealing as the romantic, yet horny Scotty Thomas who earnestly treks across Europe in search of his greatest hookup, and perhaps even, the love of his life. Cooper Harris, Scotty's wisecracking, horndog best friend, played by Jacob Pitts, is standard teen movie fare, but funny nonetheless. Travis Wester as Jamie, the horny, uptight, know-it-all could have gotten annoying pretty quickly, until I realized how useful know-it-alls are. I even got over the slow-mo bikin shots of the seemingly pre-pubescent, and of course, horny Jenny, played by Michelle Trachtenberg of Harriet the Spy fame, after realizing that she can pull off smart and sassy.

Perhaps even more memorable are the crazy cameos: Kristin Kreuk as Shallow Ex-Girlfriend, Matt Damon as Punk Singer, Lucy Lawless as the Dominatrix, and my personal favorite, SNL's Fred Armissen as Sketchy Italian Guy. Even David Hasselhoff gets a little screen time -- in German!

Euro Trip is rife with European stereotypes (crazy Brit football fanatics, anti-American Frenchman, lecherous Italians), but manages to be both irreverent and affectionate towards Europe. Just when the political incorrectness becomes border line offensive, the movie momentarily overturns a European stereotype. But, then, Fred Armissen comes back on screen as the lecherous Italian man or Scotty becomes the new Pope, and you laugh your butt off while shaking your head in shame.

What I appreciated most was the film's random humor and subtlety. For starters, the artistry of the graphics was quite a pleasant surprise. Pay attention to the opening credits, a clever parody of an airline safety manual. The transitional graphics between scenes and European destinations is reminiscent of the stuff done on Home Improvement and is also worth a good look. Another random highlight, where the screenwriters and mind-altering substances come to mind, is a face-off between Scotty and a Parisian street performer. Boasting a surprising repetoire of robot moves, Scotty skillyfully brings it and shows up the silver-faced "robot." And finally, I can't forget the riotous homage to Hitler. I'm not going to say more. You just have to watch the movie.

I expected to hate this movie, but I really did enjoy it. I mean, don't get me wrong. It's still crap, but it's also hilarious crap.

My Recommendation: Despite the over the top "Unrated" gimmicks, rent it. If you're only interested in the T & A & Penis, you should probably buy the video. No one wants to borrow that video after you're done with it.

03 August 2004

From Justin to Kelly

Justin and Kelly head to Miami with their respective posses to have the craziest Spring Break of their lives. And, boy, do things get wild and crazy in Miami. Beach goers burst into choreographed song and dance numbers. Justin’s homie ventures to meet up with a girl he just met on the Internet. One of Kelly’s friends even dates a – gasp – busboy! At the heart of all this spring break debauchery, is a love-at-first-sight romance between a player from Phili, “Justin” and a sweet waitress from Texas, “Kelly.” Despite their strong attraction? to each other, bad pop songs, a jealous friend, a wet t-shirt contest, and perhaps more accurately, a lack of chemistry are determined to keep the star crossed lovers apart.

From Justin to Kelly is exactly what I expected an American Idol movie to be like. In the same vein as those annoying Ford Focus musical skits on the television series, From Justin to Kelly is camptastic. There really is no reason to watch the film except to make fun of it. I honestly wanted to like the movie. Justin and Kelly seem like nice people with pleasant voices. I really did not want the movie to suck as much as it did. Just about everything in the movie is cringeworthy – the costumes, the garishly fake backdrops, the extremely peppy extras who were obviously paid in drugs or alcohol, the plot, the dialogue, the acting, not to mention the music. I admittedly enjoy pop music and can overlook laughable lyrics, a lack of talent, and the over use of synthesizers all for the sake of a good beat, but the music in From Justin to Kelly was unbearable. Couple the pop poop with regurgitated choreography from the Backstreet Boys and you get a film barely worthy of being called a “musical.” The only remarkable song is a duet between Guarini and Clarkson on their sailing date where they profess their feelings for each other. This song would be ten times better if all I had to do was listen to it, but watching Clarkson and Guarini feign chemistry in front of a criminally bad representation of a romantic sunset squelches all enjoyment of the musical number. I would include the name of the song, but it’s not worth going back to the DVD.

Surprisingly, Justin Guarini is quite good at playing “Justin.” He seems to make the most of the films abhorrent dialogue and delivers his lines with as much sincerity as his hair will let him. Kelly Clarkson’s acting, on the other hand, is a little more excruciating to watch, but at least she’s good at singing. I’m sure the rest of the supporting cast is just as nice and talented as Justin and Kelly, but their names aren’t in the title so I don’t remember anything about them.

From Justin to Kelly is a bad movie, but it’s so bad that it becomes good. It’s like yo’ mama, so easy to trash on.

If you find it under your friend’s mattress or some other secret hiding spot, feel free to take a look. Or, better yet, wait until it’s $1.99 at Walmart, watch it, then stick it in the microwave.

My recommendation: Unless you have some alternative use for the DVD, wait until it’s free.

Hellboy - Movie Review

According to Hellboy, those Nazis weren't all about mass ethnic genocide. Nope, what they were really interested in was opening the portal to Hell so that Earth too could become a fiery, desolate pit of despair, or as they called it "Eden." Led by the kooky Russian prince of mischief and mayhem, Rasputin, the German evil doers, through the power of 40 watt light bulbs and the unintelligble ramblings of a bald man, bring into the world an infant demon from hell, who, with the exception of the fat bunnies in Land of the Lepus, is possibly the scariest creature I have ever seen in my life. Fortunately for the sake of humankind, a ragtag group of American soldiers, led by a purhearted "professor of paranormal research", Dr. Broom manage to foil their Nazi shenanigans. Fast forward sixty years later, Dr. Broom and a group of secret government agents have raised the title character into a demon-fighting machine who loves kittens, pyros, and long walks through the subway. However, Hellboy soon finds himself in quite a pickle, when the evil Germans and Russian dude find the troubled anti-hero and force him to choose between -- dun dun DUN! -- good and evil. Will Hellboy choose the dark side and destroy humankind? Will Hellboy get the girl? Will Hellboy ever change his name to Hellman?

I really wanted to like this movie. Ron Perlman is quite lovable as Hellboy. You can't help but sympathize with this misunderstood hero and his sardonic delivery of dialogue. Paralleling the plight of Hellboy, it sometimes feels like its up to Ron Perlman to carry the whole movie. Surrounded by a supporting cast of one dimensional characters, Perlman is fantastic at inspiring a confidence in Hellboy's superhero abilities, while maintaining a sense of vulnerability that actually has you pulling for the unlikely romance (don't want to see what kind of kid they'd produce) between the horned, red beast and the woe-begotten, fragile, "pyrokenetic" chick, Liz Sherman (Selma Blair).

The other characters are quite forgettable. Selma Blair is good at playing mopey and depressed, but that note gets old pretty quick. Rupert Evans is cute, but not all that likeable as the supposedly "purhearted" government agent, John Myers meant to help Hellboy keep on the good side. For example, merely moments after telling Liz that Hellboy loves her, he uses the old yawn trick to make a move on Hellboy's love interest. That was so not pure-hearted. In fact, as Hellboy's supposed mentor, and pseudo side kick, Myers is not all that helpful. The only thing he seems to be good at is handling props, like handing Hellboy his dinner, handing Hellboy a rosary necklace, or handing Hellboy a belt of explosives. I didn't even like Jeffrey Tambor's character, a condescending FBI big shot who refuses to give Hellboy props for routinely saving the world. There's a shoddy attempt at the end of the movie to redeem Tambor's character, suggesting that he's a good guy after all, but it's just to late. Ten minutes of good guyness cannot make up for 112 minutes of a-hole. The only other character I did like was Abe Sapien, played by Doug Jones. Abe is a telepathic mer-man who can read a person's past, present, and future, but can't read a book on his own. Annoyingly, Abe seems to posses the power to know the answer to everying, but virtually disappears from the movie after he gets mauled by a few fertile demon alien things. With his Fraiser Crane style of acting, Jones does a decent job of portraying a likeable and comical supporting character who with the exception of the cute code names "Blue" and "Red" is rather unecessary. I also enjoyed the performance of a Russian corspse.

The plot's not all that remarkable, but I think Ron Perlman's portrayl of Hellboy makes the movie worth seeing on a rainy deal. It's probably most enjoyable when seen with a bunch of friends, so that you can make fun of its absurdities and inconsitencies.

My recommendation: Rent it. Don't buy it.