While romantic comedies can be tedious in their escapist nature and tend to lean toward the frivolous rather than the realistic, there are some that are just too sweet to hate. I can say until I’m blue in the face that the rom-com genre needs to die a sad, lonely death, but even the most eye-roll inducing films have redeeming qualities (sometimes that quality is that the credits rolled). And just like every exception to the rule, rom-coms can be more than just a vehicle to convince us Katherine Heigl is likable (she is not, for the record).
This week’s newest rom-com takes an innocent approach to love and the importance of well-rounded relationships with more than just the handsome rich boy. MONTE CARLO, Thomas Bezucha’s adaptation of the young adult Headhunters series by Jules Bass, is a sweet and endearing story of evolving friendships and mistaken identities. Recent high school graduate and optimistic dreamer Grace (Selena Gomez) is a small-town Texan. She and her best friend Emma (Katie Cassidy), the trouble-making older co-waitress from the town’s popular diner, have saved for over four years to travel to Europe for two weeks in the days after Grace’s graduation. All goes according to plan, until Grace’s mother and step-father insist her uptight step-sister Meg (Leighton Meester) travel abroad with them. Begrudgingly, the three girls wind up in Paris for what is supposed to be a trip of complete cultural immersion, but turns out to take them on more of an adventure than they ever imagined. Read more on Theatrical Review: MONTE CARLO…Read This Article
Writers: Tom Hanks, Nia Vardalos
Director: Tom Hanks
Cast: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson, Rami Malek, Grace Gummer, George Takei, Bryan Cranston
There’s nothing wrong with crafting a film that is as sugary sweet and gentle as Tom Hanks’ LARRY CROWNE – but that ultimate toothache-inducing sugar is an odd fit for a film that starts off with such blunt emotional trauma to Hanks’ titular character. Larry Crowne is fired from a job he loves and is good at for a reason so weak and nonsensical that it’s hard to tell if it was a product of poor scripting or if it was meant to be extra-insulting to Larry in its very stupidity. We are to understand that Larry has little else than his job at U Mart, and that by losing it, he is now both financially strapped and without a personal identity. But then he gets a scooter and a makeover (including a truly mind-boggling chain wallet and button up shirts from the Ed Hardy outlet) and starts hanging out with twenty year olds and everything is okay. At least, that seems to be the message of the film. He also “discovers” himself – again, thanks to a complete surrender of his now-nonexistent personal identity to said twenty year olds and makeovers. Read more on Theatrical Review: LARRY CROWNE…Read This Article
Loneliness may be the single worst thing a human being can feel. As humans, we strive for interaction between one another, be that lengthy conversations or the most brief of Facebook-style interchanges about the most banal of subjects. That very concept is at the root of the new film from first time filmmaker and Cannes Film Festival award winner (Camera d’Or, 2011), Michael Rowe. Entitled ANO BISIETO (or LEAP YEAR as it is called stateside), this film festival hit is an intriguing study of isolation, both conceptually and creatively.
Not the most dense of stories, LEAP YEAR follows the tale of Laura, a 25 year old journalist, who has a weird way with men. Following some short run-ins with the opposite sex, she meets a man by the name of Arturo, and from there her life is never quite the same. As their sexual encounters rise in number, they also rise in intensity, leading to this brutal and often off-putting blend of sex and violence, leaving the audience wondering if there is really any difference between the two. Read more on Theatrical Review: LEAP YEAR…Read This Article
Writer: Ehren Kruger
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Patrick Dempsey, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich
Studio: Paramount Pictures
I think it’s safe to say we all remember TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. I mean, how could we not? Despite being a box office success with theater-goers, the film was a head-on collision with critics who accused it of being too over the top with its cartoonish characters, nonsensical plot, and good, old fashion racism. Of course, who could forget the not-so-quiet departure of actress Megan Fox as well? But here we are two years later, with some lessons learned by Michael Bay & company and another opportunity for him to transform our hearts as he first did in 2007 with TRANSFORMERS. And here is Michael Bay with TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON to show us that over the top is not in his vocabulary – and he rips up the dictionary as he does it. The term “balls to the wall” may not have been invented for this film but it is certainly redefined. Get ready to get kicked in the nuts and bolts. Read more on Theatrical Review: TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON…Read This Article
Conan O’Brien cannot, literally, stop. He needs to perform for an audience to feel anything. His only acceptance of himself is through his acceptance by others. And at what should have been the highest, most accepting moment of his life – hosting the famed THE TONIGHT SHOW – he was rejected by those he trusted most. His network, his producers, and even his friends threw him under the showbiz bus and he walked away bruised and angry. Despite the battle cry heard round the world (Internet), Conan’s reign over THE TONIGHT SHOW ended seven months after it began.
What’s a celebrity at the peak of his popularity to do when he’s signed a non-disclosure agreement following his controversial removal? Well, he could make a series of web videos (done). He could sign up for Twitter and talk about his unemployment beard (done, and I thank you). Or he could become a hermit and never leave his home (I’m sure he spent the first two weeks in a bathrobe on the couch). But, O’Brien needs that attention; he needs to feel at the center of his fans’ worlds. Read more on Theatrical Review: CONAN O’BRIEN CAN’T STOP…Read This Article
Buck Brannaman isn’t a name anyone outside of the ranching and rodeo business probably knows. Unless of course you are Robert Redford, who directed an adaptation of the dearly beloved Nicholas Evans novel THE HORSE WHISPER, but even Redford didn’t know Buck until he strode through his Santa Monica office in the late 1990s. Buck is a man who understands people through his connection with horses. That may sound cheesy, believe me I thought the very same thing, but upon watching Cindy Meehl’s documentary on the most prolific “horse whisperer,” I was definitely singing a different tune. Buck is a man who faced the harshest, most despicable life early on, and overcame adversities many could, and should, never imagine. Read more on Theatrical Review: BUCK…Read This Article
Writers: Ben Queen (screenplay), John Lasseter, Brad Lewis & Dan Fogelman (story)
Directors: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
Cast: Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Eddie Izzard, John Turturro, Joe Mantegna
Studio: Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures
What do you look for in a children’s film? Do you look for a movie that appeals to adults and kids alike, or do you look for something kids will enjoy and relate to? The new film from Pixar Studios, CARS 2, is the latter. CARS 2 is the follow-up to the 2006 film, CARS, a film that gained moderate box office success, as well as an equally mixed critical reception. Although this is a beloved movie for kids, most didn’t see it fitting for a sequel. Is CARS 2 a worthy entry into the Pixar catalogue?
CARS 2 is a story set in a mythological world, where everything in it is mechanical and there are no signs of organic life. Our protagonist in the first film, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), a car struggling with his own hubris as a Nascar race car, is now a supporting character. The lead in the sequel is Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), the slack -jawed, hillbilly-type, buck-toothed tow truck and best friend of Lightning McQueen. While traveling the continents in a world’s Grand Prix challenge, Mater is caught in an international game of espionage between British intelligence led by Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) and an anonymous international crime ring. Half spy thriller and half Grand Prix racing movie, this film works, but leaves a very limited amount for an adult to enjoy. That said, this film is not sophisticated or nor it should be, this is why children under 12 will enjoy it. Read more on Theatrical Review: CARS 2…Read This Article
No one can argue that being a teacher is easy. Sure, to some it may seem like teachers only work until 3PM and get summers off. It is, however, an incredibly noble profession and, right now is an incredibly hard time to be a teacher in America. Should a movie like BAD TEACHER even exist, given all that’s going on with teachers across the country? Maybe it isn’t appropriate to have a movie such as this make fun of such a well-intentioned and necessary occupation, but sometimes a movie can just be a fun time at the theater. Besides, Christmas wasn’t a good time to release BAD SANTA, and nobody seemed to mind. Well, maybe some people did.
BAD TEACHER begins on the last day of a school year, when all of the teachers gather around over a bottle of champagne (I knew teachers did that, by the way!) to bid farewell to those teachers who won’t be returning for the next year. Among them is Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz), a gold-digger who is obvious to everyone (except her co-workers, apparently) and who has no interest in teaching or even getting to know her co-workers. This also happens to be the day that her rich fiancée and his mother figure out that Elizabeth is only interested in the money. Despite her best efforts to land a man over the summer, she is forced to come back to the middle school she left a few months before to an occupation that she presumably cares even less about than she did the year before. She also decides that a new pair of boobs is how she’ll land a man who will take care of her. On the first day back at school, she meets the new substitute teacher, Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), a handsome and charming gentlemen who, besides catching Elizabeth’s eye with his good looks, also happens to come from a rich family. From that point on, her mission is set, despite any potential interference from over-achieving rival Amy Squirrel (Judy Punch) or the constant wooing from gym teacher Russell Gettis (Jason Segel). Read more on Theatrical Review: BAD TEACHER…Read This Article
Chris Weitz surprised me on this one. From the filmmaker of THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON comes a very small, intimate, and touching look at a father and son learning to understand each other against the backdrop of East Los Angeles. Weitz could have done any film after the financial success of the second film in the Twilight series, but he opted to do this one. For this, I admire Chris Weitz. That said, A BETTER LIFE is film that has its moments that come off as strong, but what bothers some viewers about this film is that it doesn’t take its themes and ideas and explore them any deeper than it should.
A BETTER LIFE is the story of a father and son, Carlos (Demián Bichir) and Luis (José Julián) Galindo. Carlos is a Mexican immigrant, living illegally in California. He works various odd jobs as a landscaper. He has a good working relationship with another landscaper who tries to sell him his truck so he can build a better life for himself and son. Carlos is hesitant to buy the truck, which would give him an advantage of taking more jobs, because he can’t afford the truck and, most importantly, it might impair his ability to stay under the radar of the U.S. government. He gets a loan from his sister and eventually buys the truck. His son, Luis was born in the states and goes to high school, but he’s troubled. He doesn’t have a mother because she married another man for a green card and financial security, and he doesn’t have a strong father figure in his life. He struggles with school and gangs and can be easily led down the wrong path of crime and violence. Read more on Theatrical Review: A BETTER LIFE…Read This Article
In IF A TREE FALLS, directors Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman promise to take viewers inside the world of the Earth Liberation Front, the radical environmentalist group that the FBI has deemed the country’s “number one domestic terrorism threat.” The film is well put together from a mix of new interviews, fresh footage, archival tapes, news broadcasts, and sketchy animation. It also shifts between two converging stories: the “present” experience of Daniel McGowan, a former member of the ELF who is on trial for two acts of arson he committed as part of the group, and the “past” of what ultimately became the ELF. With these two sections, Curry and Cullman attempt to cast some light on the notoriously underground ELF, but the film never hits a nerve, even when it’s got a basis that seems ripe for audience engagement. Read more on Theatrical Review: IF A TREE FALLS…Read This Article