Review by Patrick Hodges
If you’re a fan of The Office and 30 Rock, then you’re probably a fan of Steve Carell and Tina Fey. These two comedic artists are arguably the funniest man and woman working in the biz today, and to see them together on screen was just too tantalizing to ignore. Going in to the theater, I expected a lot of laughs with some comic action thrown in.
Carell and Fey play suburbanites Phil and Claire Foster, a married
An attempt to get a table at a snooty Manhattan seafood restaurant without a reservation seems doomed to failure… that is, until the Foster steal one belonging to a couple of no-shows. Things get worse when a pair of thugs (Jimmie Simpson and Common) mistake the Fosters for the no-shows, who apparently are in possession of a computer flash drive that belongs to a local mob boss (Ray Liotta).
What follows is a night of running around, car chases, you name it, as the Fosters attempt to extricate themselves from their predicament, which includes a visit to the no-show couple (played deliciously by James Franco and Mila Kunis), two stoners whose relationship eerily parallels that of the Fosters’. Also in the mix is a former client of Claire’s (played by a buff, shirtless Mark Wahlberg), an ex-military type who possesses a fair amount of technical knowhow, but is really just there to make Phil incredibly uncomfortable.
I won’t lie to you – this film threatened several time to ride right off the rails, but it is because of Carell and Fey that it doesn’t. Anyone who has been married a while will recognize a little bit of themselves in the (somewhat stereotypical) Fosters, who want nothing more than to spice up their dull lives, even for only a short time. Granted, a night of danger, car chases, gunplay and a visit to a strip joint (not one of the better scenes) may indeed be a cure for boredom, but I don’t think I’d want to embark on such a night myself. Watching Steve and Tina do it, however, was incredibly funny.
On the whole, there are worse ways to spend ninety minutes than watching Date Night… even if you’re with a date. And make sure you stay for the hilarious outtakes that roll with the closing credits, they are some of the funniest bits of the whole film.
3 ½ / 5 stars
Review by Chris Maitlaind
Ah, the joys of remakes. “Remake” is a scary word to a lot of movie fans, and it also raises a lot of questions. Will they kill the integrity of the original? Will they pull some form of horrible miscasting and completely destroy the plot? And last but not least, will it suck? Rest assured, Clash Of The Titans does none of these things, and is a solid remake.
This is a remake of the 1981 cult classic, which was really campy but still a lot of fun. The plot centers around Perseus (played by Avatar’s Sam Worthington), who is the bastard son of Zeus (Liam Neeson) who was cast into the sea at birth before being found and raised by a fisherman. Many years later, tragedy strikes during a trip to the city of Argos, whose leaders have become fed up with paying tribute to the gods of Olympus, even going so far as to compare themselves to the diving beings. This incurs Zeus’s wrath, who sends his brother Hades (played quite eerily by Ralph Fiennes) with an ultimatum: the king must sacrifice his daughter Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) to an enormous best called the Kraken or his entire city will be destroyed.
Upon discovering that Perseus is the son of Zeus, they send him on a quest with a team of soldiers (and a few local mercenaries) to try to find a way to defeat the Kraken, a journey that is fraught with many dangers, not the least of which is the Medusa, the snake-haired being of myth whose gaze can turn any living thing to stone. (That particular scene was one of the best of the movie.)
Clash Of The Titans is a very fun, entertaining film to watch, and the effects are top-notch, particularly the sequence in which Perseus and the other soldiers are fighting giant scorpions in the desert, which is one of the visually stunning sequences I have seen in quite some time. Sam Worthington is well-cast as Perseus, who plays him as a classic Greek hero, certainly tough and brave but likeable as well.
On the down side, this film had its less-than-stellar moments, particularly the scenes taking place on High Olympus, which amounted to little more than the Gods, clad in gleaming armor, standing on… well, nothing.
I am glad that Warner Bros. chose to remake this film. It was a very good story, and when you throw in all of the terrific special effects (which have come so far since 1981), the end result is a fun popcorn epic-action flick that does its job quite well.
4 / 5 stars
Review by Eoin O’Faolain
There’s more to Irish myth than just leprechauns. Indeed, we have many rich mythical creatures detailed in our traditional tales, from faeries to headless spirits to one of the more well-known examples: the banshee, who appears to you the night before a nearby death. But it has been a long time since these figures have been represented in Irish cinema. Perhaps it’s because the banshee stories have been done to death, and because Darby O’Gill ruined the leprechaun, or perhaps that type of storytelling has been eradicated by the cheap thrills of “gotcha” jolts in horror films. So it’s refreshing to see Irish cinema return to a traditional ghost story with The Eclipse, written and directed by established local playwright Conor McPherson.
Set in a scenic town in
If The Eclipse is successful at one thing, it’s in portraying the unbearable drabness of Michael’s life. Here is a man who has given up on his ambitions, reduced to a relative dogsbody, and when he attempts to move on he’s tormented by spirits and visions. Not only does Ciaran Hinds give an excellent performance of a man who is evidently holding everything inside, but there’s something effective in cinematographer Ivan McCullough’s, painting the pretty seaside town of Cobh with a sense of pale steeliness that evokes the inner isolation of Michael. In moments of beauty the landscape seems restrained, and in moments of horror the mood is kept clinical yet disturbing.
However, for all of the visual panache the film falls flat in its storytelling. By acting as a sort of traditional ghost story, the film attempts to convey the ghosts as part of Michael’s psyche. In other words, the ghost is a metaphor for his inner conflict, that of maintaining the status quo of his miserable and stoic existence versus the possibility of taking a risk and moving on. In a sort of sub-plot, the apparitions also are a symbol of guilt, guilt not only for what happened to his wife, but also for the neglect Michael is bestowing on his father who sits in a drab nursing home. But the problem with this is instead of keeping in tradition and making the visions as things that lurk in the corner (of the room and his mind) we’re delivered a few standard shocks. In one scene Michael is driving in his car, only to turn to find a horrible (that said, this scene must be commended for its use of music, which starts as a melancholic choir piece but jolts into shrill screams) bloody figure scare the bejeezus out of him. In another scene a noise in a wardrobe draws Michael near, and you just know what he finds in there won’t be a cuddly teddy-bear. And these scary moments feel psychologically erroneous. Guilt does not translate into “gotcha” jolts. And when the final ghostly figure appears, the psychological arc from guilt to acceptance does not match the arc of from terrifying ghosts to the final, serene image (which I will omit to avoid a spoiler).
Also, the bond between Michael and
Ultimately, The Eclipse is a step in the right direction of attempting to approach the origins of traditional ghost stories by prioritizing character over atmosphere, but sadly the film’s makers almost felt obliged to attempt to add a few jolts, cheapening the narrative and making the film feel like it’s not sure whether it’s a traditional or a contemporary horror story.
2 ½ / 5 stars
Review by Patrick Hodges
For years, there was a noticeable gap in quality between the annual or semi-annual outings that were brought to theaters courtesy of DreamWorks and Pixar, without a doubt the two biggest sources of high-quality animated feature films. Pixar seemed to effortlessly hit it out of the park, every single time, producing titles that became instant classics, to be enjoyed by moviegoers of all ages for generations to come. Meanwhile, DreamWorks, after enjoying incredible success with the first two Shrek films and Madagascar, seemed to languish in its own success, producing a string of largely forgettable films (most notably Shark Tale, Bee Movie and Shrek the Third).
However, DreamWorks’ last two films, Kung Fu Panda and Monsters vs. Aliens, have represented a return to form. Instead of saturating its characters with delusions fake coolness, they have taken a page from Pixar’s manual and resolved to tell actual, interesting stories rather than peppering us with pop-culture references. How to Train Your Dragon, I am happy to say, not only continues the trend, it surpasses it.
We meet a boy named Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), a rather scrawny teenager living on an island, in a village inhabited by Vikings. The primary source of activity: fighting dragons, numerous varieties of the fire-breathing beasts who regularly raid the village for its food and livestock. The village’s warrior stock is led by Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), an old-school sort who doesn’t hold out much hope for Hiccup, given his lack of brawn.
Fortunately, what Hiccup lacks in physical strength, he more than makes up in engineering skills. He invents a weapon that takes a dragon down right out of the sky… and not just any dragon, a Night Fury – a type that is so fast, so dangerous, that one had never been seen before. Hiccup tracks the wounded beast down, but finds himself unable to slay it. Instead, he frees it, dubs it “Toothless”, nurses it back to health, and finally, saddles it up and flies it through the skies.
Of course, all this is going on behind the back of his father as well as the other would-be teenage warriors, including Astrid (America Ferrera), a girl-power-in-action type every bit as tough as her male counterparts. Initially, she wants nothing to do with Hiccup, but when his sudden knowledge of dragons shows itself during “dragon training”, she becomes suspicious. And together, they discover that all of their preconceived notions about the motives of dragon society are completely wrong.
I saw this movie in 3D, but it took some truly outstanding scenes of dragon flight for me to realize that I was actually watching this film through specialized glasses. That’s not a knock on the quality of the animation, but just the opposite; I was so engrossed in the feel of this film, the setting, the characters, the friendships (especially between Hiccup and Toothless, which develops at exactly the right pace), that I scarcely noticed anything else. That, for me, is what makes How to Train Your Dragon an absolutely stellar film.
It takes a lot more than technical wizardry to impress me these days – it’s the reason Avatar didn’t score higher than it did in my book (4/5 stars). The reason that I would recommend How to Train Your Dragon to anyone, from third graders on up, is that it tells an amazing story that doesn’t rely wholly on its presentation.
That’s three in a row, DreamWorks. Let’s hope that Shrek Forever After will live up to its promise.
5 / 5 stars
Review by Mark David Campbell
The 1980’s were the decade of the teenage comedy. John Cusack was in several of the better ones, including Better Off Dead and The Sure Thing, two of my all-time favorites. So it was good to see Cusack, now well into his forties, slip back into the genre. But it begs the question… how can you do a 1980’s teenage comedy thirty years later?
Well, the title of the movie says it all, a title so bold and ridiculous that it pretty much frees the entire film from any pretense of being anything else. And it is a wild, hysterical ride.
Cusack plays Adam, an insurance salesman who regularly pals around with his best friends Nick (Craig Robinson) and Lou (Rob Corddry). None of them are happy the way their lives turned out, to say the least… in fact, Lou has just survived an accident that may or may not have been a half-assed suicide attempt. In a last-ditch effort to recapture their youth, they decide to return to the site of their teenage heydays: a ski resort that, like the friends, has seen better days.
With Adam’s video game-obsessed nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) in tow, the quartet get roaringly drunk in a hot tub (which also turns out to be a… betcha can’t guess…), and wake up in 1986. They still look like themselves, but when they gaze in a mirror, the three older men see themselves as teenagers. (Jacob hasn’t been born yet, so his features don’t change, and we’ll later discover why.)
You can see that the guys desperately want to throw themselves back into their lives, to make them better the second time around, but they are also very aware of the fragility of time, and that their actions could easily make things worse. And in the era of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll, how impossibly hard would that be?
But this is a comedy, first and foremost, and Hot Tub Time Machine is hysterically funny. I expected that Cusack would turn in the most memorable performance, and was pleasantly surprised by the job that Corddry did with Lou. Lou is bitter, unhappy, depressed, pissed off as hell and an alcoholic to boot. Few people could play this role with the precise comedic timing of a Swiss watch, but Corddry, a veteran of “The Daily Show”, hits all the right marks. Also present are Crispin Glover as a chainsaw-wielding bellman (don’t ask) and an aging Chevy Chase as the kooky hot-tub-repair-guy, who obviously knows more about the group’s mysterious time travel than he lets on.
Now, will Hot Tub Time Machine join the ranks of some of the best teenage sex comedies of all time? Probably not. But what it does do is provide a lot of nostalgia for guys of, eh, my age, who remember those films fondly while laughing out loud at the truly charming spectacle in front of me.
This film features a lot of profanity and some nudity, so it has justly earned its R rating. But I’m truly glad the powers that be decided not to water it down to make it more user-friendly. God knows, that hot tub was full enough.
3 ½ / 5 stars