07 December 2005

Just Friends

1995. New Jersey. Chris Bander (Ryan Reynolds in a pretty convincing fat suit), flubby, braced-faced, male cheerleader is best friends with Jamie Palamino, (Amy Smart) the hottest, and thus, most popular cheerleader in the senior class. On the eve of their high school graduation, Chris decides to confess his undying (slightly obsessive) love for his best bud. Unfortunately, some booze, an even creepier lovelorn dork, obnoxious football meat-head, and a poorly thought-out plan turn Chris’ sweet admission of love into a COMPLETE NIGHTMARE, ending with Jamie’s slurred proclamation, “Chris, I love you [SUPSENSFUL PAUSE] like a brother.” [Awww. So unnecessary!] Scarred by this horrendous ordeal, Chris is driven to leave New Jersey as fast as his Huffy bike can take him, and do everything in his power to become a good looking jack ass.

Fast forward ten years and Chris Bander is now a chiseled, womanizing West Coast media exec -- the antithesis of sweet, flubby Chris Bander, duh. Much to his reluctance. Chris is assigned to cater to the whims of a potential client, It Girl, Samantha James (Anna Faris). Unfortunately, due to a nearly catastrophic microwave accident aboard their plane [to which Samantha asks, "Am I being punk'd?"] Chris & Samantha find themselves stuck in Chris’ worst nightmare, New Jersey in the winter. While stuck in Jersey, Chris seizes the opportunity to show the town what he’s become and win over his old high school crush. In the end, Chris learns the age old lesson that it’s not what’s on the outside that matters – I mean, it helps – a lot -- but it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Okay, so the story sounds pretty trite, but don’t be dismayed. Just Friends is definitely enjoyable. I always found Ryan Reynolds (Two Guys & a Girl and some other mook-oriented films) to be absolutely fabulous, so it was always such a pity when he chose to star in such crappy films. Fortunately for me, this time, Reynolds picked a crappy movie that’s actually quite awesome.

As I mentioned, the story’s pretty crappy, but who needs a good story, when you have a stellar cast and some gut-busting physical gags. Ryan Reynolds brings his usual artillery: sarcasm, good looks, exaggerated facial expressions, and solid comedic timing, yet, exhibits a little more nuance on screen, as a hottie with a fat guy complex. Anna Faris is simply hilarious as the part Paris Hilton, part Ashlee Simpson, part feline pop “artist”, Samantha James. One could not get more laughs from some silly cat noises than Anna Faris. Chris Marquette is too funny as Chris’ horny younger brother, assigned to occupy Samantha James while Chris tries to woo his old crush. As far as horn dog little brothers go, I think Chris Marquette/Mike Bander is top tier. Julie Haggerty is as sweet and spacey as ever as Chris’ mom [Check out the hilarious scene where Chris’ mom tries to use the phone as Chris is trying to drop some game on Jamie]. Amy Smart is quite tolerable as golden girl, Jamie Palamino. I have to say that I never really understood Amy Smart’s allure as the token blonde that guys go ga-ga over [Varsity Blues, Road Trip, Butterfly Efflect], but she’s quite charming in Just Friends. She’s definitely convincing as the kind of pretty/ kind of ordinary looking girl that still lives with her parents and works at the neighborhood pub, but yearns for so much more. I just don’t understand why she kept wearing mini skirts in the middle of winter.

Slapstick is rather hard to convey through text, but let me just say that brotherly brawls have never been so hilarious. Ryan Reynolds may be a pretty boy and Anna Faris, a pretty girl, but they’re definitely not afraid to get hit by a taser, knock out little kids, or eat a whole tube of toothpaste in the name of comedy.

Perhaps one of the most gratifying moments of the film (besides Chris' performance of "I Swear.") is when Chris’ old high school buddy comments on his new veneers. Reynold’s fake smile was bugging the heck out of me until I realized it was part of Chris Bander’s extreme makeover. [Alanis couldn’t possibly marry a man with veneers! Could she?] Now, if only some one could explain Hillary Duff’s horse teeth.

My recommendation: The film is definitely worth a rental. As for movie ticket prices, that’s a little more iffy. I’m certainly satisfied, but again, my standards are little lower than average. If anything, see it in theaters and help support the Ryan Reynolds Does Not Have to do Van Wilder II Fund. In fact, I think I just might check out the other Anna Faris-Ryan Reynolds comedy, Waiting.

29 November 2005


Don’t you just hate it when one of your former roommates up and marries into a wealthy family, starts charging you rent after letting you live in a humongous flat for over a year, and tries to hook you up with a steady income? Doesn’t it make you want to have unprotected sex, pursue financially unstable careers, shoot up drugs, and sing emotional rock ballads in the rain/cold? Not really? Well, that’s what happens to those crazy NYC bohemians in Rent, the film adaptation of the award winning play by Jonathan Larson.

I L-O-V-E musicals, but Rent is not your typical musical. It’s very rock ‘n’ roll-ish. It features some pretty dark themes. The 80s fashion is pretty terrible. Frankly, it’s not my cup of tea. However, after seeing the 525,600 minutes [“Seasons of Love”] music video, I mean, trailer, I just had to see it, even if I suspected that I wouldn’t really be into it.

I never saw the stage production, nor did I make it through the entire OST, but I went into Rent hoping that I too would fall in love with the Pulitzer Prize winning musical that everyone’s talking about. Unfortunately, I came away still uncertain of Rent’s greatness.

It’s really hard to make fun of Rent, because

a) It’s a musical about AIDS, societal outcasts, poverty, love & friendship [yay for pro-social messages!]

b) It features a stellar cast including Idina Menzel [Wicked!], Jesse L. Martin [Law & Order!], Taye Digs [hot!], and a bunch of really talented, not-as-widely known actors from the original production of Rent.

c) The writer & composer of Rent, Jonathan Larson, tragically died on the night of the final dress rehearsal.

d) The stage production has won numerous, credible awards (I’m not talking People’s Choice or MTV. I’m talking Pulitzer & Tonys, people).

If you loved Rent, the stage production, you’ll probably love the film (even though Rosario Dawson plays Mimi). If you enjoy musicals but not a Rent fan, you will find the film bearable, if not, mildly entertaining. If you’re not into musicals, then Rent is probably not for you. If you hated Rent, then I don’t know why you went to see the film.

As far as film adaptations go, I think Chris Columbus did a solid job. We’re currently in an era, where, unless you are a Fox animated television series, it’s difficult to break into a meaningful song & dance number without making your audience a little uncomfortable. Columbus does a fine job of balancing the musical’s humor and borderline-campy rock numbers with the sincerity of the story’s themes (AIDs, death, poverty, friendship, and love). Granted that Columbus made a few blunders like filming Roger against the “Santa Fe” canyons while he sings some stirring rock ballad (too much like Britney’s Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman] or his liberal use of table-top dancing to signify joy, overall, I think his adaptation of Rent gives hope to the future of film adaptations of hit musicals (i.e., Wicked).

I can't say that I enjoyed Rent, but I'm definitely glad that I checked it out.

My recommendation: Definitely check out the trailer. As for the film, probably not a good pick for musical haters, homophobes, racists, or the close-minded, but for everyone else, I say it's worth checking out.
Tip: If at any point in the film you start to wonder why you ever heeded the recommendation of my crappy blog, just conjure up the "Seasons of Love" song and all will be better.

22 November 2005


I'd like to take a moment to step away from all the crap & ridicule, and highlight some genuinely enjoyable rentals:

Millions (2004) Don't be turned off by the cheesy cover. It's a heartwarming Brit flick about two brothers who find a bag full of money -- millions! The younger brother, Damian (Alex Etel) wants to donate the money and help the poor. (He goes around his suburban neigborhood asking, "Are you poor?") Savvy older brother, Anthony (Lewis Owen McGibbon) wants to spend and invest the pounds, before England switches over to the Euro. The cast is superb, but most noteworthy is Alex Etel, simply winning as a golden-hearted boy, with a quirky obsession with Saints. The film is chock full of humor, a bit of suspense, and of course, a few tear-jerking moments. In addition to a wonderful story, Millions features a stellar use of special effects, subtley done, yet visually captivating. Don't be a jerk. Go rent Millions.

, TV series (2002), Short-lived, 1-hour show on FOX, cancelled due to poor scheduling and poo-poo head TV execs. I'm addicted. Firefly chronicles the adventures of a noble-hearted crew of space smugglers, led by ex-rebel solider, Captain Malcom Reynolds (Nathan Fillion). Set way in the future, where Earth is no longer existence, and humans have settled far into the "outer" planets, creating a Wild West-like era, Firefly, features a richly developed fictional universe, where prostitution is a legal and a well-respected profession, Chinese culture and language are as prevalent as English, and the central government is corrupt (ala Star Wars). I realize that the show sounds very sci-fi (which it is), but I think it will appeal to all audiences -- if given the chance. It's super funny; full of action & drama, sometimes a little creepy... did I mention that it's funny. Trust me: Watch one disc, then you'll be pissed off that this show is no longer on the air.

Rosewell, TV series (1999-2002), My addiction before Firefly. Basically, about three teen aliens and their life in Rosewell, New Mexico. It's much cooler than I make it out to be. I heart Max (Jason Behr) and you will too after you experience Future Max. Full of romance, humor, action, sci-fi, suspense, and a catchy theme song by Dido.
As long as you stick with Season 1 and Season 2 (Don't go to season 3. It'll just taint your love for Roswell.), you will love the show and it's rich characters.

Batman Begins (2005), Christian Bale rocks, Michael Caine is lovable, and Katie Holmes isn't on screen very much. Action scenes are a little too long for my taste, but Batman Begins is a good reminder of why Batman is so much cooler than Superman. Not as campy as the earlier Batman films, Batman Begins takes the story of Bruce Wayne aka Batman seriously -- yet, in an entertainming manner. Solid movie. Skip the illegal download. Definitely, worth a rental.

Saw II [Somewhere in between the theaters & blockbuster]

If you saw the original Saw movie you probably went into it thinking that it was going to be a big piece of crap, but instead, were pleasantly surprised. If that's the case, you probably went into SAW II thinking that'd it be just as cool, if not cooler. Sucker!

"Jigsaw" is back (despite having lain facedown in a pool of blood for hours and hours in a horrifically dirty restroom), and he's up to his usual shenanigans. Confronted with his impending mortality after being diagnosed with cancer, Jigsaw has taken it upon himself to teach society’s lowlife the value of life by chaining them to some horrifically ingenious contraption of death, forcing them to choose between death and a highly unattractive means of escape with about a minute’s notice. This time around, Jigsaw’s set up a whole house full of idiots: token Latino hothead (Franky G – that’s the actor’s chosen name, I swear), Lucy Camden on Prozac (Beverly Mitchell), token non-threatening black guy (Glenn Plummer), token threatening black guy (Lyric Bent), the ditz from Becker (Shawnee Smith), the doctor with big eyes from Smallville (Emanuelle Vaugier), seedy looking white guy (Tim Burd), and a forgettable, angst-ridden teen . Add in Bai Ling, and you got yourself a United Colors of Benneton ad.

In the first film, the cops weren’t taking the whole Jigsaw drama very seriously. I mean, they put Danny Glover on the case, but come on, Danny Glover hasn’t been the same since that last Lethal Weapon (Come on now, The Cookout!?! Mr. Glover, what are you doing? Do you need some money?) This time, however, they have a whole team on the case, lead by badass cop, played by badass Donny Wahlberg and an alleged “Jigsaw” expert, played by Dina Meyer.

So at this point, you must be wondering, so how exactly is this movie different from the first one? First of all, it’s got a roman numeral two in the title. Secondly, it’s got… did I mention it’s called “Saw II”?

I'm really into supporting the struggling careers of former NKTOB members (I mean, did you catch Jonathan Knight on Oprah? Who would've thought he suffered from some serious stage fright? Okay, I guess it's not that big of a surprise...), but come on Donny, help us out here. You have to lighten up. There’s no way anyone can take you seriously. Jordan and Joey have realized this. There’s no need to try so hard. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but let’s face it: you’re never going to win an Academy Award. Take a cue from Cary Elwes in Saw (the Original). He played it serious, but at the same time, you could tell he knew what he was getting into. He was like, “Wassup, America. I know I gained a lot of weight. I know I look old. I know that this Saw thing may turn out to be a huge flop, but you know what, I was in the Princess Bride, biatches. That’s what’s up.” Donny Wahlberg is how Tyra Banks is with the whole talk show thing. He’s thinking that this is his next BIG thing, when, in truth, all it will get him is syndication on Action 36.

That’s the problem with SAW II. I mean, there are many problems with Saw II, but perhaps most annoying is the bad acting. I saw the first one. I know it’s intense, but can we turn it down a notch every now and then?

I know that Jigsaw is freaking ca-razy. He’s going to kill people. Nobody can really help them. He’s got a really scary puppet thing that rides around on a rusty tricycle. I’d certainly be freaking out if I were one of them, but the problem is, this is a MOVIE, not real life. We don’t need to see two hours of annoying, freaked out people, running around like chickens with their heads cut off. I’m no film expert, but I think movies are much more enjoyable when the audience has at least one character to sympathize with. It’s nothing but slim pickings in Saw II.

Option A: hotheaded detective who doesn’t give a crap about anything
Option B: Annoying expert who claims to have been studying Jigsaw for years yet knows NOTHING
Option C: A stupid lot of victims who couldn’t survive their way out of a paper bag
Option D: Psychotic serial killer, dying of cancer

If you forced me to pick, I guess I’d have to go with option D.

One goes into sequels with the hope that the second film will be just as good, if not better than the original. Perhaps we need to stop deluding ourselves.

I should mention that Saw II opens up the possibility for a Saw III. If you are one of the crazies who makes it out for Saw III, all I can say is: You FOOL! I guess I’ll see you at the theaters next year around Halloween.

My recommendation: So not worth it, but still better than Into the Blue.

06 October 2005

Into the Blue [Out of Theaters, Thank, God.]

Ab-flex poster couple, Sam (Jessica Alba) and Jared (Paul Walker) are blissfully living somewhere in the AmeriCaribbean with nothing but a golden tan and killer abs to their name. Sam is completely content with their humble lifestyle: cozy little trailer, rusted boat with a huge whole in the middle, and their alleged three-legged dog, while Jared longs for a better life for him and Sam. Jared's solution? Search for sunken treasure along the ocean floor using naught but a snorkel and metal detector. Unfortunately, as all crappy underwater movie adventures go, the ocean produces some unexpected surprises. And, when I say "unexpected surprises", I really mean, "some random predicaments strewn together in an effort to produce some semblance of suspense and action."

There's nothing Into the Blue can offer that a glossy poster of Jessica Alba or Paul Walker can't do. It's as crappy as you think it'll be.

Here's how I imagine the pitch meeting for Into the Blue went:
Los Angeles

Producer: Boy, do I got a hit for you! You know Jessica Alba, the chick from Dark Angel? She's going to be huge! She's our next movie, man!

Movie Exec: Lovin' it. Tell me more.

Producer: Okay. Check this out: Jessica Alba... in a bikini... throughout the whole movie. It'll be an ocean movie set in the Carribean, because those islanders love to be half naked.

Movie Exec: Love it, love it, love it! But, wait, Jessica Alba can't really act.

Producer: Already thought of that. We just need to get a co-star that even's worse of an actor than Alba. What about Renee Zellwegger?

Movie Exec: Nah, she's too skinny. Anyways, I think we need a dude.

Producer: Okay, how about Catherine Zeta Jones?

Movie Exec: Nah, too old.

Producer: Yeah, we need a dude with abs --

Movie Exec: With soulful blue eyes --

Producer: Who can't really act --

Movie Exec: And comes cheap --

Both: Paul Walker!

Movie Exec: Beautiful! Now, tell me, what's this movie about?

Producer: Okay. We have these two really good looking people, but they spend a lot of time in the ocean, and as a result, are constantly in a swimsuit or less...

Movie Exec: Love it. And then what happens?

Producer: Oh, right. Well, you see this movie is, um, it's like an action... romance... suspense...buddy film... pirate... drug trafficking... kind of film. We're going to appeal to all sorts of audiences.

Movie Exec: Alright, but that still doesn't answer my question. What is this movie about?

Producer: Right, I was just getting to that. You see, Jessica and Paul live in the... Caribbean? It's like really hot there, so they're always half naked. They go on a quest to look for a sunken, possibly mythical, pirate ship at the bottom of the ocean, but instead they find a... plane wreck filled with dead bodies and... coccaine!... but then, um, the owner of the coke will .... somehow find out and will want it back... there will be guns, blood, and high speed boat chases! It'll be awesome. Meanwhile, Sam and Jared --Jessica & Paul --I named the characters after my kids -- they'll also find a long lost sunken pirate ship full of gold daggers and whatnot, but you know they still have to deal with the whole drug thing -- also Jared/Paul has to deal with an archrival, another more successful treasure hunter played by... Josh Brolin. Yeah, we'll get Josh Brolin! His calendar's probably free. So, where was I?

Movie Exec: Bikinis, water, pirate ship, drugs...

Producer: Right! And then there are... Sharks. Yeah, killer sharks. We'll get one of the supporting characters to get her butt bitten off by one of the sharks. It'll be groundbreaking! I don't think anyone's ever shown that on film!

Movie Exec: I think you got something here, but I think you may be missing a few things. What about a Mandy Moore look-a-like? You got one of those?

Producer: Well, I know this girl who looks like a strethced out version of Mandy Moore. She's pretty skanky looking, but...

Movie Exec: That'll work. What about a supermodel turned actor? They're easy to train, and they don't eat much.

Producer: Well, I think we're short on supermodels -- unless... what about Tyson Beckford? He's been looking to apply everything he learned from that Toxic music video.

Movie Exec: Great! Wait, do we have a bad guy with a British accent?

Producer: Done.

Movie Exec: Obnoxiously stupid best friend?

Producer: Working on it.

Movie Exec: Excellent! Sounds like we're good to go.


Walker and Alba put up a valiant effort to save this movie. They wiggle their butts, flaunt their flat tummies, and smile charismatically like it's nobody's business. Unfortunately, you can tan and do Pilates all you want, but a pretty face, pretty eyes, pretty hair, and hot body -- or Jessica Alba, for that matter, can't save a movie when it lacks a coherent plot.

The movie is only 110 minutes long, but it feelsl like an eternity. If the writers had only focused on sucking in one subgenre, we could file Into the Blue as another crappy shark attack movie. However, not only is Into the Blue a crappy shark movie, but it's also a crappy romance, a crappy buddy film, a crappy treasure movie, a crappy action flick -- you get the point.

My only suggestion for salvaging this film is to re-edit this movie into an IMAX film. Cut out the bad acting, the trite dialogue, any attempt at plot -- basically keeping footage only containing water and fish -- and you'll have a colorful short marine film that will simply bore audiences to death rather than have them wish someone would shoot them and quickly put them out of their misery.

Perhaps the only redeeming quality of this film, is the fact that we finally get to understand why Paul Walker is such a bad actor. He's illiterate. Don't believe me? Just watch the scene where he reads an excerpt from the pirate history book. It's excruciating. You can tell he's trying to get through the scene as quickly as possible. The boy cannot read.
He probably has someone reading his lines for him, hence, the constantly stilted delivery of lines and lack of emotion. He barely learned his lines. He doesn't have time to act.
So, the next time you're watching Paul on the big screen and think to yourself, he's stinks at acting! Just remeber: the poor thing doesn't know how to read.

My recommendation: If you're cousin offers to take you to see Into the Blue because you couldn't get into the free preview screening of Elizabethtown, kindly say no and ask her to buy you some ice cream instead. Then again, if you need fodder for your crappy movie blog in order to help you get through the work day, then by all means, see Into the Blue -- just don't pay for it.

Thanks, Cyndi! : )

21 June 2005


Kim Basinger is mysteriously taken hostage by a bunch of thugs. The thugs want to know where her husband is, because he's apparently wronged them. Kim screams in return, "You have the wrong family! You have the wrong family!" (How does she know? Maybe her husband has done something wrong.)

The lead thug (Jason Statham) gets mad and locks her in the attic. Then he goes out, but returns with a huge knife. We're suppose to think for a moment that he's going to chop off Kim's head (we wish), but instead, demolishes the phone, because apparently, it's simply too hard to just pull out the cord. The travesty! Kim has no way of calling for help. Fortunately, Kim is a high school bio teacher and knows how to rewire a demolished phone (guess I missed that bio lesson). The blonde genius miraculously manages to dial the NOKIA cell phone of a goofy college-aged dude played by Chris Evans. Kim, in a freakishly calm voice (that I probably would have hung up on), proceeds to fill the Dude in: I'm being held hostage. They're going to kill me. I don't know where I am. Help me. blah blah blah.

The Dude, although he has some pressing matters to take care of (he has to pick up a box of t-shirts), decides to help the crazy lady out. Now, in real life, the first logical step would be to look at the caller ID. Apparently, however, the Dude's fancy NOKIA phone doesn't have such a feature. The next logical step would be to take the NOKIA phone to a police station. Surprise! That's what actually happens. Unfortunately, the cops are too busy, so the Dude doesn't get any help. Sweet William H. Macy tries to help the Dude out, but he's also too busy to address the matter, and just takes a message. I don't remember why the cops were busy, but I'm sure it was important -- Not. (I hate movies that could easily be solved in two-minutes with a more logical solution).

--- Now, if I were to proceed with this review, I'd probably make fun of the scene where the Dude holds up a cellular store or hijacks a car, but I'll spare you. Plus, I'm too lazy.

Bottom line: The movie is crap -- and not the good kind. It's just one big commercial for NOKIA. If you ever hear the phrase, "This film is this year's Cellular" that's not a compliment. It means, "Ha. Ha. We suckered you into seeing Cellular, maybe we can sucker you into spending money on this new piece of crap."