Saturday, 11 April 2009

Review Round-Up 6

It's been too long since I've put some reviews on here, but I've seen a variety of films recently, so it's time for that to change. I said something pretty similar to this at the beginning of my last film review entry though, so I'm not making any promises.

Starts quite well with a psychological/supernatural thriller feel to the story, and the first half has a couple of well executed disaster sequences. The film really loses pace and focus in the second half, shifting the attention strongly towards a religious theme and providing a weak and anticlimactic conclusion. Nicolas Cage is firmly on auto-pilot, with his eyebrows set to confused-and-emotional from start to finish. The supporting cast is a mixed bag ranging from average to poor. The writing is sloppy with several poorly resolved points, and a couple just left hanging limp and incomplete. Overall disappointing and not worthwhile.

Marley & Me
This one should have just been called "Marley", as no one else in the film is well-rounded enough to fill the role of "Me". The eponymous Labrador is the most developed character, with Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston playing things safe and fairly shallow. The rest of the cast are either cardboard cutouts or simplistic stereotypes, adding nothing to the film. Alan Arkin sticks out very much as the exception to this, providing some genuine comedy and high quality acting head and shoulders above everyone else involved. Towards the end the film begins to drag, needing to be around twenty minutes shorter - once Wilson and Aniston's characters' children became more than background characters, I began shuffling in my seat and checking my watch every few minutes. Fairly enjoyable, and at times genuinely emotional (although this may be because I was reminded of times with my own pets from childhood) but ultimately incredibly sentimental.

Be Kind Rewind
The greatest failure of this film is that it makes far too little of its greatest asset: the amateur remakes of films (or "sweded" versions, as Jack Black's character Jerry names them in the film) that the characters create. As the audience, we're shown these films being made at times, but not nearly often enough, and very rarely do we get to see any of the final products. Instead, the film focuses on a sentimental story that lacks focus. The cast is generally solid, with Mos Def and Danny Glover putting in strong performances, and Jack Black entertaining if going through the motions at times. Entertaining, generally funny with some very silly moments, but in the end it doesn't give enough of what it could very easily deliver.

Wedding Crashers
With Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn starring, I went in expecting a "frat pack" style comedy. The end result is much more in the rom-com vein. Both leads have done better, and even cinematic heavyweight Christopher Walken gives a half-hearted performance in the supporting cast. Ultimately, this becomes far too predictable and safe, with an incredibly cliched climax. Will Ferrell provides the most satisfying part of the film with a cameo that I wish had been much more. Enjoyable, but not special.

Over The Hedge
A simple story executed well, but it's the voice talents that really make this film such a joy. Bruce Willis is fine as the voice of R.J. the raccoon; veterans William Shatner and Eugene Levy add credence and give excellent performances; Steve Carell as Hammy the squirrel also stands out in an over-the-top role. Not quite a computer-animated masterpiece, but thoroughly enjoyable and great fun from start to finish, with many genuinely funny moments.

Monsters Vs Aliens
Chock full of sci-fi and disaster film references, and usually with its tongue firmly in its cheek, this film is by and large a delight. Dreamworks go back to their overall winning foundation of a simple story executed well (e.g. Kung Fu Panda, as well as Over The Hedge, as reviewed above). The main characters, whilst poking fun at sci-fi stereotypes, have personality, and are voiced entertainingly well. The film is laced with genuinely funny moments, in particular those involving the president, as the film is at its best when heading towards the absurd. The animation is also impressive, and whilst Dreamworks is still second to Pixar in computer-animated cinema, the improvement from one film to the next is notable, and the gap in my opinion is closing.

17 Again

Zac Efron impressed me in Hairspray, and continues to show his leading man credentials in this film, taking the starring role and making it his own. Thomas Lennon also provides some funny, if incredibly unsubtle, comedy as an over-the-top sci-fi and fantasy nerd. Overall, however, this is neither special nor particularly original; the story lacks focus and direction, and none of the characters ever feels as though they have genuine depth. Fairly enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable.

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