Tuesday, September 27, 2011

crazy, stupid, love

I’m going to rename this Crazy, Stupid, Advertising because pitching a preview screening as a “Girls Night In” event—offering free drinks upon arrival and giving you a goodie bag at the end filled with such gender-neutral awesomeness as Libra pads—was a huge mistake. Even the title is pretty ridiculous, because make no mistake: this flick is about the guys, namely middle-aged schlub Cal (Steve Carrell), who’s just been asked for a divorce by his bored wife Emily (Julianne Moore), and serial smoocher Jacob (Ryan Gosling), who picks up more women than he picks up peanuts at the bar both men now frequent. When Jacob sees Cal muttering to himself in (gasp, apparently) New Balance trainers, he takes it upon himself to give Cal a makeover and turn his life around. But does Cal want to shag attractive women like Kate (Marisa Tomei, slightly batshit as per usual), or does he want his old life back? Is Jacob really happy in his life as a man bedding attractive women on a regular basis? Will it take the movie’s other sassy redhead, Hannah (Emma Stone), to make him see the horror that is his life as a rich man who is also charming and accompanied by a sensual bass track and a camera that wants to have sex with him every time he’s on screen?

Crazy, Stupid, Advertising is actually a pretty fun movie; there are a lot of laughs, and some really touching moments too. The set pieces make this film what it is: the gentle, sexy humour of Jacob and Hannah’s first “date”; the flat-out hilarious slapstick scene when all our characters finally meet; a quietly poignant moment when Cal, secretly weeding his family’s backyard at night, sees Emily fake a phone call to him just to talk. Add to that the glorious cast, all who ping off each other wonderfully, and who include Hannah’s equally-sassy best friend Liz (Liza Lapera); Cal’s rival for Emily’s affections, David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon) Cal and Emily’s lovelorn teenage son Robbie (Jonah Bobo), who can’t hide his adoration for his gangly babysitter Jess (Analeigh Tipton), while she is nurturing love for Cal himself. It’s basically an ingredient list for a recipe that can’t go wrong, like toasted cheese sandwiches. Comforting, funny, and a good night spent at the flicks, it doesn’t have the perfect Hollywood cookie-cutter ending but definitely won’t leave you wanting to impale yourself with a Coke straw.

’s debatable due to forgetfulness whether it passes the Bechdel Test (Chris claims there was a tickle fight between Jess and Robbie’s younger sister Molly where they didn’t talk about boys, and also an initial scene between Hannah and Liz which possibly began discussing jobs before it derailed into boy-talk, but I don’t remember for sure—and even so, that’s pitiful if I have to dredge memories to clarify) and there is a scene that tries to be cute in the movie’s graudation finale that would be actually a bit halp-call-the-police if the genders were reversed; also, women just seem like objects waiting for Ryan Gosling to hit on them (which, let’s face it, is mostly true) and then vanish from the movie, never to get emotionally involved again. Also, what does Jacob do for a living? Why did Cal and Emily even break up if they’re going to spend the rest of the movie staring wistfully after each other? (It’s the movies, haven’t these people heard of therapy?) But hey, dramedies are rarely perfect and if you feel like love is possible at the end they’ve pretty much done their job, and I’m still happy to give Crazy, Stupid, Advertising the following rating: three and a half out of five pairs of jeans not bought at The Gap. (Chris, surprising everyone, gave it five out of five putts at a mini golf course.)

Monday, September 5, 2011

final destination 5

What better film to return to blogging after an unplanned (and mostly inexcusable apart from my distractingly entertaining pregnancy) hiatus than something less needing of a review than Final Destination 5? If there’s any film franchise that is as steadily predictable and passable as the FD series, I don’t know it. But with everything else out this week—The Help, One Day—being a bit too schmaltzy for my tastes, it was really all I could do. And it’s in 3D. How was I supposed to resist?

As per the other movies in the series, Final Destination 5 starts with a set piece in which all the major characters are killed off swiftly and bloodily—in this, our main characters are on a bus on the way to a work retreat, when the suspension bridge they are crossing collapses. As they escape the bus, they meet their ends in a variety of ways you wouldn’t even know were possible. Then it turns out the collapse isn’t real at all, just a vision of our main character Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto), who then manages to flee the bus before the bridge actually collapses and saves a bunch of his co-workers in the process. As is to be expected, the invisible hand of Death isn’t happy that this pack of one-note characters didn’t die as planned, and picks them off one by one thereafter in tense and theatrical ways.

3D is used to such effect in this movie I feel like it should only be used in schlocky horror films from now on. Intestines fly at the screen; blood coats the camera; bones stick out through skin right in your face. It’s glorious. The very first death in the film, as the camera follows a body as it falls towards the water but then encounters an unexpected obstruction, was so violent and bloodthirsty and surprising that the entire cinema audience fell apart with shock and glee, thereby setting the tone for the movie. The outlandish premise is enough to have you enjoy the film without ever thinking it’s real enough to get upset about. And the way all the deaths are set up—with the camera panning over every dangerous device in the room, which it turns out, is basically everything—makes for such exquisite tension as to what is actually going to cause the upcoming carnage that I occasionally had to close my eyes and pretend I was somewhere else so my heart didn’t burst out of my chest or I didn’t go into spontaneous early labour.

It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but luckily, the cast themselves do. Played by a bunch of up-and-comers who frequently look a lot like someone more famous, they are given all of their development time at the start of the film as they meet up to get on the bus for their trip. Sam (D’Agosto, looking like a sibling of Andrew Garfield) is a friendly office worker who really wants to be a chef; his girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell, from the excellent creepy movie Frozen) has reconsidered their relationship; Peter (Miles Fisher and quite possibly the love child of Christian Bale and Tom Cruise) is the high-flying crisply-suited hard-worker; his girlfriend Candice (Ellen Wroe, with a cutesy Ginnifer Goodwin vibe) is the peaches-and-cream gymnast with a slightly nasty personality; Olivia (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, a blend of Megan Fox raunch and Jennifer Keyte primness) is the punk-rocker quick with a curse word and struggling with her eyesight; Nathan (Arlen Escarpeta, familiar from bit-parts on countless television shows) is the recently-promoted man trying to prove his worth to the factory workers who don’t like change; Isaac (PJ Byrne, similarly snivelly in Horrible Bosses) is the self-absorbed stalker-type creepy enough to be the one guy you actively hope dies; and their boss, Dennis (perfectly-balding David Koechner, from just about everything, most recently Paul) is satisfyingly passive-aggressive and full of his own self-importance. Rounding out the cast is the deep talking wise man coroner Bludworth (Tony Todd, who played the man-of-my-teenage-nightmares Candyman) and the policeman on the case Jim Block (Law and Order stalwart Courtney B Vance).

The two-dimensional aspect of the characters is a flaw in the film, but barely a concern in the scheme of such fun, especially when you consider the extra dimension they are otherwise seen in. The only real problem I had was that when characters started to die, the first people on the scene, called by police or our heroes themselves, seemed to be our friends the co-workers—what, no parents, no siblings, just call the office and get everyone to come over? The lack of the other people was unrealistic, but adding them would probably have detracted from the lightness of the film and made you feel emotional towards the families when really you didn’t have the time or inclination to actually care.

Happily, Final Destination 5 ends with not quite a twist, but a surprise for sure—especially when you consider the others don’t finish with anything like that at all. It’s an ultimately thrilling finale that makes you reflect on the whole film differently, but probably not enough to have to suffer through the death of Candice again (by far the one that scarred me the most) to see if it’s actually obvious and we just completely missed it.

I give Final Destination 5 four out of five poles through the head.