Friday, October 19, 2007

The Heartbreak Kid (2007)

* *

Once upon a time in the nineties the Farrelly brothers towered together over the comedy realm after directing and producing Me, Myself, and Irene, There's Something About Mary, and Kingpin, after starting it all with Dumb and Dumber, a top ten comedy film of all-time. With comedy legends Jim Carrey and Ben Stiller at their disposal, the Farrelly's seemed destined to create countless classics. Instead, they started off the new century with a series of duds including Osmosis Jones, Shallow Hal, Stuck on You, and Fever Pitch. After using the likes of Jack Black and Jimmy Fallon, the Farrelly's returned to Stiller as their leading man with a script eerily similar in plot and raunchiness to Mary. Unfortunately, the revert back to Stiller doesn't make a difference as The Heartbreak Kid is not nearly as funny and twice as generic, continuing the brothers' cold streak. The plot involves Eddie Cantrow, played by Stiller, and his attempt to finally settle down with one woman at age forty. Malin Akerman plays the Cameron Diaz role and is just as unamusing if not more, but tries harder. Michelle Monaghan is cute but again, not funny, as a girl who catches Stiller's eye, and Carlos Mencia's performance will make you wonder who he knows in the industry how this guy is making a living as a comedian. The only noteworthy performance is by Jerry Stiller as Eddie's father. It's not entirely clear whether the lines are truly comical, or if it's just funny to see an old man say intensely profane things in front of his real-life and on-screen son. Now this isn't to say that there aren't any funny parts. Two or three scenes are laugh-out-loud funny and a few lines are particularly memorable, but the ten minutes of hilarity aren't worth the admission price or your time. Save the Heartbreak Kid for DVD or cable, or rent it from that friend we all have that thought Fever Pitch was hilarious.

Good For: people who like bad movies, obnoxious movie-quoting people, fans of either Stiller, guys who like attractive girls naked

Bad For: critical movie watchers

The Gallery
The Surfer: * *

3:10 to Yuma (2007)

* * * * *

Remakes aren't often successful, and typically fail at trying to bring a modern twist to a previous work. 3:10 to Yuma doesn't try anything that groundbreaking or currently fashionable, but sticks solely to what made the film work the first time. The addition of Christian Bale and Russell Crowe, two of the best actors avaiable today, was enough of an update. Add in James Mangold as director, fresh off Walk the Line, a stellar supporting cast including Peter Fonda, and some surprising cameo appearances, and 3:10 to Yuma is one of the most enjoyable film experiences of the year. Mangold makes a remake original by employing every cliche of classic westerns until the viewer feels completely immersed in the dangerous, cutthroat atmosphere of the wild west. Christian Bale, who would be cast perfectly in any role, plays Dan Evans, a struggling Civil War veteran family-man trying desperately to make ends meet. When a huge bounty is offered to finally put an end to ruthless outlaw Ben Wade, Evans joins forces to bring Wade to Yuma. Russell Crowe is in full bad-ass mode as Wade and transforms him into a memorable villain both loved and hated. Ben Foster, who may be recognized from HBO's Six Feet Under, steals every scene as Wade's despicable, lunatic sidekick Charlie Prince. These powerful performances, an authentic western score, and the desolate landscapes combine to provide a trip back in time not just to the turn-of-the-century west, but to the fifties when films like this were made. Most directors would throw in a modern soundtrack, excessive violence or choreographed action scenes, but Mangold provides an overload of over-the-top machismo, perfectly timed subtle humor, and classic western shots and angles. The script is genius with amazingly well-crafted dialogue, and intriguing fast-paced plot, and a perfect resolution. Elmore Leonard would be proud of Mangold's Yuma, a respectful, perhaps even better-than-the-original update of a classic film and genre.

Good For: fans of Westerns, any male above age 20, particularly males above age 50, fans of bad-ass villains, people who liked Grindhouse

Bad For: guys who never watched Westerns with their dad, close-minded females

The Gallery
The Economist: * * * *
The Surfer: * * * * *

The Lookout (2007)

* * *

The suspense-thriller genre involving mentally handicapped protagonists is beat. Memento and The Score, and dozens more have eliminated the "wow" factor of an actor playing an altered mind state in a pressing situation. The Lookout is no different, casting Joseph Gordon-Levitt, known from Third Rock from the Sun, as a young man trying to get his life back together after a deadly car accident. Struggling with simple daily life as a result of brain trauma, Chris Pratt tries to get his future on track both socially and professionally. The suspenseful twist comes courtesy of Gary Spargo, an older guy within the small town who hopes to rob the bank Chris works at. The catch is that Gary needs Chris to pull of the heist. Gordon-Levitt is impressive as a from-the-mold character and personifies the difficulty of having a malfunctioning mind. The supporting cast is just as impressive with notable portrayals by Matthew Goode as Spargo, Isla Fisher as Luvlee, and a handful of other characters that were clearly carefully selected. Jeff Daniels stands out as Pratt's blind friend, another cookie-cutter role. A heist involving a vulnerable, recovering mental patient and his blind sidekick plainly show the script is a little lacking in originality. Veteran screenwriter Scott Frank, who penned screenplays for Minority Report, Get Shorty, and Malice, steps into the director's chair for the first time and is somewhat successful. The Lookout keeps you on the edge of your chair for a few pivotal scenes and touches deep in others, but for the most part you know what is coming. Great acting can only take a lousy, rehashed script so far, but the skill shown in selecting an appropriate cast may earn Frank some attention toward his follow-up.

Good For: fans of heist films, Isla Fisher fans, people who like psychological thrillers, Jeff Daniels fans

Bad For: someone looking for something new, people who get frustrated easily