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Posts Tagged ‘For The Laughs’

The stench was pungent from the very first scene. I sat down, endured some pretty lousy trailers (I’ve seen the Death at a Funeral remake preview a dozen times now and it somehow gets worse with each round), and eagerly anticipated a spin in the Hot Tub Time Machine. The reviews have been predominantly upbeat, and the cast all but promised enjoyment. Craig Robinson and John Cusack, side by side? Foolproof, I thought. But five minutes in, I nearly slapped my forehead in disbelief. Robinson’s character, Nick Webber-Agnew (having taken his wife’s last name, because he’s the emasculated Ed Helms/’Stu’ member of the film’s all-dude quartet), works at a dog training-and-grooming spot, ‘Sup Dawg, after a failed singing career left his days as the frontman of Chocolate Lipstick as historical inventory. A customer (the usually spot-on Thomas Lennon) brings his sick pooch in for a look-over, recognizes Nick from his crooner days and then gags as Nick pulls the canine-owner’s car keys out of the dog’s ass—-fecal matter as a bonus topping. And in that instant, I realized a painful truth: Hot Tub Time Machine was going to be an excruciating 100 minutes. 

Little, if anything, convinced me otherwise by the time Rob Corddry’s just awful Lou pops up in the final scene as the lead singer in a fake Motley Lue video. The impetus, of course, is that he and his pals were sent back to 1986 after getting sloshed in the title jacuzzi, and the old butterfly effect came into play, allowing Lou to use his foresight to conceptualize Lougle (Google) and front Motley Lu (Motley Crew, obviously). It’s a somewhat clever ending to a altogether unfunny film. Ineffective use of its inner 1980s motif is made, other than a running joke with Back to the Future costar Crispin Glover, tons of shiny clothing and scattered peripheral imagery. Focus is put on gags where one heterosexual guy is forced to give his also hetero boy oral sex, or hand soap is splattered all over one’s face to look like ejaculated spooge. Cheap tricks, dragging down a premise that could have spawned endless humor. Guy-on-guy blowjobs are the easy way out, of course, and will always induce a giggle or two from audience members. Nobody (myself included) buys a Hot Tub Time Machine ticket and expects high art, but unexpected punchlines and intelligent one-liners? Shouldn’t be too much to ask.

I’ve spoken with a good amount of people who’ve seen Hot Tub Time Machine and loved it, so perhaps I’m screwing up here. I’m no flawless filmgoer, being the same cat who owns Neil LaBute’s The Wicker Man remake on DVD, by tongue-in-cheek choice, though that doesn’t matter in the bigger self-respecting picture. I’ll duel to the death on point, though—-Rob Corddry single-handedly ruins the film. One of the most over-the-top performances I’ve ever seen; manic beyond the point of entertainment. It’s tough enough that the majority of his lines are stale dick-and-ball jokes; he could have been delivering Ricky Gervais-written bits and I still wouldn’t have liked a mere second of his work. One reviewer called him “the next Zach Galifianakis,” an attempt to parallel Hot Tub Time Machine to last year’s infinitely superior The Hangover. Toss that comparison out the window, right away. Galifianakis’s presence in The Hangover succeeds thanks to an alternately subtle and bizarre demeanor; Corddry, however, bullies his way through every scene on a tailspin. There’s a stark difference between a humorous guy and one who seems on the verge of self-destruction, or, worse, gone-postal violence. Spitting out words like a cocaine fiend. Unfunny words, at that.

I know, I know… the film is called Hot Tub Time Machine, so I should just loosen up my britches. Put my analytical side on hold. Go watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo instead (which should be the move tonight), or Catherine Breillat’s Bluebeard (tomorrow evening), if I’m craving a real fix. Believe me, that was the intention all along, until Rob Corddry ruined everything. If not for him, I could have even given ‘Sup Dawg another try.

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Because I’ve chatted with a handful of women lately who’ve, much to my dismay, sung the praises of those Twilight novels. And then, I’m all like, “Have you heard of Let the Right One In? Since you said you love vampires and all,” and they’re all like, “Nope, sorry.” Where’s Col. Hans Landa when you really need him?

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Kristen Stewart, the one thing about this franchise that I actually like.

I have no intention to see The Twilight Saga: New Moon this weekend, or any future weekend; I still haven’t even seen the first film, nor do I want to. Call me close-minded or whatever slur you’re insult-ometer is turned toward—–it doesn’t matter. Nothing about the franchise (books or movies) interests me. What does excite me about these films, however, is the experience of clawing through reviews for the funniest, meanest jabs. Typically coming from the older, more esteemed critics. Such as, Roger Ebert, who really tossed the gloves to the side when writing his review. The way it’s written, it should really be a Zero Star rating, not One Star; with jewels like the ones pasted below, who gives a rat’s bum?

 

The amazing lead:

The characters in this movie should be arrested for loitering with intent to moan. Never have teenagers been in greater need of a jump-start. Granted some of them are more than 100 years old, but still: their charisma is by Madame Tussaud.

All the way down to the wonderful closer:

The movie includes beauteous fields filled with potted flowers apparently buried hours before by the grounds crew, and nobody not clued in on the plot. Since they know it all and we know all, sitting through this experience is like driving a pickup in low gear though a sullen sea of Brylcreem.

Whenever veterans the likes of Roger Ebert trash horror films that I myself enjoy, I’m quick to use the old “Critics like him shouldn’t even review these kinds of horror films; they look at them too seriously, rather than the genre-audience-satisfying entertainment that they really are.” The same defense could be used in this New Moon case, but you won’t hear it coming from my lips. Hypocritical, sure. It’s not like New Moon isn’t going to make a truckload of cash this weekend without my help.

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File this one under “Fuck Outta Here.”

walking_distance_movie_poster1Katie Featherston, the female half of Paranormal Activity‘s sudden stars-on-the-rise cast, starred in another little horror film called Walking Distance. While its buzz isn’t even a morsel of what Paranormal Activity‘s was before the mainstream knew about, Walking Distance has been popping up on the various horror sites recently, no doubt a result of Featherston’s presence. The film is about a quaint town that harbors some (probably) supernatural secret, and how that hidden evil wreaks H-E-double-sticks on its residents. Or something to that effect; the film’s plot isn’t important right now. It’s a mute point.

The matter at hand is this…. Today, news came out that the film’s title has been changed to Experimental Activity. Seriously. As the president of Showcase Entertainment (the company that’ll distribute the film), David Jackson, puts it, “Clearly having the fastest-rising star in the business is a feather in the cap, but we feel the film stands on its own as a cool psychological thriller.” Oh, really? So the title change isn’t simply a blatant jack-off of Featherston’s current close-to-$100-million smash? 

Just shameful. And, laughable. at least. Walking Distance (which I’ll keep calling the film until somebody uses physicality to make me do otherwise) is now like a batter standing on the side of home-plate, his arms tied behind his back as a Cliff Lee curveball comes his way. I won’t write it off just yet (that’d be unfair), but the stink of lameness will be tough to wipe away.

News spotted over at: Shock Til You Drop

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Couples Retreat, an unfortunate waste of nearly two hours. A cheery film that looks like it was a blast to make, but everything is lost in the translation. Proof that Vince Vaughn has gone the downhill way of Will Ferrell, only Vaughn is without any recent Step Brothers-quality fare to partially salvage the wreckage; Four Christmases is only mediocre when put next to Fred Claus.

You get the hint—–I’m not a fan of this one. But I have legitimate reasons, all of which are expressed in my piece over at Critics Notebook, why don’t cha?:

Critics Notebook: COUPLES RETREAT (2009)

Why not, right?

Why not, right?

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Here’s an inconspicuous success that I’d imagine very few people were expecting much from——-Zombieland, the new horror-comedy from feature film novice Ruben Fleischer, starring Woody Harrelson (in a role that suits him wonderfully), Jesse Eisenberg (a curly-haired, higher-grade Michael Cera), Emma Stone (ogle below) and Abigail Breslin (or, Little Miss Sunshine herself). Reviews have been rather solid across the board, and for good reason; Zombieland is one hell of a good time.

For my closer look, head on over to: Critics Notebook — ZOMBIELAND (2009)

 

Emma Stone

Emma Stone

 

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