Saturday, June 26, 2010

Grown Ups: The Place Washed Up Comedians Go To Die

You know that feeling when you run into old friends you haven't seen in ages, and suddenly remember why you haven't seen them in ages? The whole reunion quickly descends into awkward laughter at unfunny jokes. Grown Ups has managed to capture this feeling, but unfortunately not between the characters, but between the audience and the washed up comedy actors.

Rub-a-dub-dub 5 unfunny men in a drub.

The gang's all here from those movies that you once thought were funny but find disappointing with repeat viewing: Adam Sandler, David Spade, Kevin James, Chris Rock and Rob Schneider. Actually Kevin James was never funny. Each of them is retreading familiar territory as indicated in brief character introductions that only serve to let us know that they're going to be playing the exact same characters they've forged a career on. David Spade is being sexist and cheeky, Rob Schneider is being spacey and inappropriate, Chris Rock is being kooky and demasculated, Kevin James makes it to three seconds of screen time before the first fat joke is cracked, and Adam Sandler is the disgruntled slacker whose first line is literally him shouting, "I'm the biggest agent in Hollywood!" down a phone to subtly establish that he's... the biggest agent in Hollywood. The movie is almost a "best of" tribute to these actors' careers except they're all reduced to thinly drawn and watered down stereotypes.

Yup. That's Kevin James with a KFC bucket on his head. Nuff Said.

The five are old school friends reuniting at the funeral for their former basketball coach, held in their home town. You have to feel sorry for the coach as we are supposed to believe that no one, literally no one apart from five losers he used to coach in basketball, are there to scatter his ashes or read a eulogy. If all he had in life were these guys that he hadn't even seen in years, I wouldn't be surprised if the cause of death was suicide.

The friends miss no opportunity to rip into each other. Poor old coach is mostly forgotten in favour of making non-stop jokes at the expense of one another.

Writing about this film is easy, as there is no chance of accidentally giving away plot details or spoilers, because there are none. It's just joke after joke after unfunny joke, none of which add anything to the non-existent plot. The screenplay, if there even was one, is as aimless as the careers of its stars if this is what they are reduced to.

The poor wives of these unlikeable bastards end up being more interesting, but are mostly pushed aside until they give dramatic monologues at the end of the film to wrap up relationship conflicts that you didn't even know existed until they're over. Chris Rock was flirting with the nanny? Adam Sandler is a liar? Are there deleted scenes where this happened? Surely a few of the multiple fart jokes could have been cut in favour of an actual plot or conflict of some kind. With Oscar-nominated Salma Hayek and should-have-been Oscar nominated for A History Of Violence Maria Bello playing the wives, it's puzzling what they're doing in this film playing second fiddle to lesser talents.

Whilst the women watched on in dismay, Salma took her chance and went to hide in the cupboard until the movie is over.

This all being said, I chuckled once. Maybe even twice but it could have been a cough. You're better off hiring something from the actors' backlog because Happy Gilmore's golf ball being too good for its home is still better than anything Grown Ups has to offer.

Sydney Film Festival: My Awards

I know what you're thinking... Where the %^#&@ has Josh been?! My Sydney Film Festival coverage screeched to a grinding halt after merely two films. How tragic of me. End of semester colliding with many films to see and many things to do meant that the blog had to go on the back burner for a little while. But now it's back. Rather than do a outdated scrambled and time comsuming summary of every film I saw at the festival, here's my "awards" for the festival. Heartbeats, the film by young Xavier Dolan, won the official award, and Boy won the audience award. I'll be seeing Boy soon so I'll let you know if I agree, but as you know I have seen Heartbeats and really liked it. Without any further ado, my awards:

Best Film: I Am Love
Runners Up: Heartbeats & If I Want to Whislte, I Whistle

Best Director: Sylvain Chomet ~ The Illusionist
Runners Up: Xavier Dolan ~ Heartbeats, Luca Guadagnino ~ I Am Love

Best Actor: Devin Brochu ~ Hesher
Runners Up: Pistireanu George ~ If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle, Ewan McGregor ~ The Ghost Writer

Best Actress: Tilda Swinton ~ I Am Love
Runners Up: Anne Dorval ~ I Killed My Mother, Jullianne Moore ~ The Kids Are All Right

Best Supporting Actor: Mark Ruffalo ~ The Kids Are All Right
Runners Up: Tom Wilkinson ~ The Ghost Writer, Pierce Brosnan ~ The Ghost Writer

Best Supporting Actress: Piper Laurie ~ Hesher
Runners Up: Maria Paiato ~ I Am Love, Olivia Williams ~ The Ghost Writer

Best Screenplay: The Kids Are All Right
Runners Up: Heartbeats, I Killed My Mother

A few notes; even though I give Hesher two acting wins, I would like to point out that it was truely awful and those two performances were the only good things about it. Also, I don't mention the delightful anime Summer Wars or the documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America but were both definitely worth seeing.

Also please check out the interview I did for Filmink with the star and the producer of If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle:

And here is my review for The Most Dangerous Man in America:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sydney Film Festival: The Illusionist

My latest blog for FilmInk about films at the Sydney Film Festival.

Who says actions don't speak louder than words? Sylvain Chomet follows up his unique and brilliant feature, The Triplets Of Belleville, with another quirky animated triumph, The Illusionist, and continues his tradition of having little to no dialogue throughout the entire film. Much like the film which preceded it, The Illusionist is adorable, humorous and at times very emotionally moving. However what separates the two is The Illusionist's curious inability to ever fully engage the audience.

Me looking over the number of people who read this blog.

The Illusionist begins with the elderly illusionist waiting in the wings of a rock concert to perform after the show. The theatre is packed with screaming girls more hysterical than a group of twi-hards at a Twilight convention. The slick rock stars twist and gyrate all over the stage and hilariously prance off stage effeminately when the curtain closes, leaving the illusionist to perform. The curtain reopens to find the entire theatre empty except an unenthusiastic elderly lady with her gum-chewing grandson. This opening is indicative of the film's charm and wit, with the movie revolving around the end of an era for the Illusionist and the world he used to belong to. We follow him as he travels throughout Europe looking for a place to call home, meeting many great characters along the way, including a young Scottish girl who follows him but begins to cherish the things he buys her over his company.

"Now I ain't saying she a goldigger..."

The film's greatest achievement is its ability to communicate the story and characters purely through visual means far better than most conventional films do. The caricatures the film paints of humanity are exaggerated but still manage to contain a human truth with regard to how absurd we all really are. There are depths to the characters captured in simple gestures, actions and the way they interact with the world around them, and because of this the absence of dialogue never feels gimmicky.

The Illusionist chooses to travel with the Hogwarts express.

Whilst still being a truly unique and compelling film, The Illusionist doesn't feel quite satisfying once the credits roll. This is perhaps due to the lack of an over-arching plot, instead the characters just drift from one scene to the next so their wants and needs aren't as easily communicated. This wouldn't be a problem if the film had a pay-off, but The Illusionist seems to be building toward something truly magnificent and profound but then the credits pop up to disappoint the audience. It's disappoining that this delightful film is over but also because it just fell short of being outstanding.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sydney Film Festival: Xavier Dolan's Hearbeats.

I hate Xavier Dolan. It’s not that I didn’t like his film Heartbeats which screened in competition at the Sydney Film Festival, in fact it’s quite the opposite. It was fantastic. Only, you know that person you resent because they’re your age, but somehow manages to be infinitely more talented, successful, attractive, and charming etc etc? That’s him. While he has not one, but count it, two films at the festival (Heartbeats and I Killed Me Mother) whilst I… am sitting in the audience in jealous awe. At only 21 Xavier Dolan has had his two films collect accolades all over the globe including Un Certain Regarde at the mother of all film festivals Cannes earlier this year.

"Hi, my name's Xavier and I'm more sucessful and attractive than you'll ever be"

Ever since the eye catching and sumptuous trailer for Heartbeats debuted I’ve had an eye out for this one, and was very high up on my “must see” list for the festival, and I am pleased to say it does not disappoint. As well as directing the film, Dolan wrote, starred in and almost every second name on the ending credits reads “Xavier Dolan”. See what I’m getting at here? It’s the lemon juice being squeezed on our own inadequacy. Dolan begins his film with a series of short, but delightful vignettes of people telling a short story about love, romance, sex or lack there of. We are then introduced to BFF’s Francis (Dolan) and Marie played brilliantly by Monia Chokri, who simultaneously become enchanted with the new hottie in town Nicolas, played with just the right balance of cockiness and charm by Niels Schnieder. Cue the ultimate ménage a trois that is always tethering on the edge, waiting to happen. Both Francis and Marie become engaged in a silent battle for the flirtatious “Adonis” with ambiguous sexuality, and the tension between them simmers beautifully.

Two's company...

There is a certain demographic of the hipster culture that the film certainly lends itself toward and this may put off some viewers. The film is jam packed with any and everything hipster from the upturned bottom of skinny leg jeans, unconventional hair, vintage clothes, pop culture references but only to films and actors pre 1960, unmatching tea sets and an affinity for all things twee. This is certainly evident in the fact that the majority of adoring twitter responses to the film after the screening were for some reason written in French. Tres chique. That’s not to say it’s not a film accessible by many people but it might have to be something Dolan might have to watch if his career is really set to boom.

Curls get the girls. And boys apparently.

That said, it’s Dolan’s visual flair that pays homage to many filmmakers, accompanied with a very witty, engaging and heartfelt script that really make the film a cinematic treat. Whilst Dolan’s journey as a filmmaker is certainly very developed for someone of his age there is still certainly some room to grow, but this only makes his promising career all the more exciting to watch out for.