Archive for January, 2010

It’s no surprise the arrival of February also means the release of various romantic comedies. Happily, When in Rome is heavier in the comedy department than the romance thanks to some great casting choices.

Beth (Kristen Bell) is an ambitious New Yorker who has yet to find a guy she likes more than her job as a Guggenheim curator. Still disillusioned with romance, Beth takes a whirlwind trip to Rome where she defiantly plucks five coins from the Fountain of Love. As a result, she unintentionally causes those who threw the coins to fall in love with her – a sausage magnate (Danny Devito), a street magician (Jon Heder), a passionate painter (Will Arnett) and a conceited model (Dax Shepard). But when a charming sports reporter (Josh Duhamel) pursues Beth with equal enthusiasm, she worries his love may just be a consequence of the fountain’s spell.

As noted earlier, casting such great comedic actors in the roles of Beth’s clueless but persistent suitors was near brilliant. Rather than appear as creepy, obsessed stalkers, the guys are hilarious, misguided fools trying to show their love in what they consider the best possible manner; these include public nudity, inappropriate gifts and tracking Beth all over New York. Meanwhile, Duhamel is the attractive true love interest that is a requirement of all rom coms; but he too showcases his comedy chops, combining lovable and funny as he stumbles past Beth’s obstacles and into various inanimate objects.

Of course, When in Rome is still a rom com, which means it sometimes spouts cheesy dialogue and has a few moments that make you go “awe.” However, rest assured these are largely outnumbered by the moments of laughter. Nonetheless, the playful banter and awkward flirtation equals good chemistry between Bell and Duhamel; their shared scenes are amusing and believable.

This film is sure to be a pleaser to any crowd this season, single or attached. And there’s a fun surprise for fans of the sleeper hit Napoleon Dynamite.

When setting a thriller in the extreme north or south of the world, the only enemy more dangerous than the cold and isolation is the monster trying to kill you. Unfortunately for audiences of Whiteout, boredom is the only real villain in play here.

After two years, U.S. Marshal Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) is finally leaving her post at an Antarctic research station to return to the world. Her ride is the last transport for six months. However, her final days are complicated by the discovery of a dead body that appears to be the result of foul play. A United Nations operative (Gabriel Macht) arrives to aid in her investigation, but as the crime becomes linked to a 50-year-old mystery Stetko begins to wonder who she can really trust.

This movie is possibly one of the dullest action films ever produced. Time passes so slowly, you actually get a taste of what it must be like to live in similar isolation. Furthermore, what should be one of the most exciting near escapes in the film ends up being a gross lesson in frostbite.

Possibly the most irritating element of the picture is the repeated flashbacks to a moment that proves only remotely relevant and mostly uninteresting. It not only hurts the movie’s pacing, but is also really unnecessary; the same point could have been made during a brief conversation between characters.

For a good watch in the great white, try The Thing instead.

The special features include: “The Coldest Thriller Ever,” the cast and crew discuss working in -65 degree temperatures in northern Manitoba; “Whiteout: From page to screen”; additional scenes; and a digital copy of the film.

Glee has taken television audiences by storm. With two soundtracks featuring music performed by the cast and a growing number of awards under their belt, the untraditional concept is paying off more than anyone could have dreamed.

William McKinley High School once had a champion glee club, but now the school is ruled by an uncaring gym teacher (Jane Lynch) and her cheerleaders. Seeing an opportunity for a return to glory, Spanish teacher Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) revives the glee club and vows to transform the rag-tag group of outcasts and popular athletes into champion singers and dancers.

Though they try to infuse the show with all kinds of teen drama, like pregnancy, unrequited love and homosexuality, the storyline’s main purpose still appears to be to get from one musical number to the next. The events are not new, but the writers and actors portraying the characters have managed to create unique, and more importantly interesting, personalities. Each kid can still be categorized by a stereotype, but they make it work.

The group’s covers of such an array of music are the real heart of the show. What makes it work is the real vocal talent of the cast. They have yet to truly ruin a song through their rendition (and hopefully will continue to refrain from doing so). It’s also refreshing that they do not restrict their choices to current music or just one genre. The accompanying dance sequences are usually pretty simple, but they’re not supposed to be professionals – they’re high school students.

The special features are on the fourth disc and include: “Welcome to McKinley!”, a tour by principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba); a music video; Rachel’s and Mercedes’ full-length audition pieces; the show’s casting session presented by Fox Movie Channel; “Deconstructing Glee with [creator] Ryan Murphy”; “Dance Boot Camp”; two short features about Lynch; video diaries from various cast members; and “Things you Didn’t Know About” Jayma Mays (Emma), Cory Monteith (Finn), Amber Riley (Mercedes) and Chris Colfer (Kurt).

This movie is much like a disappointing rollercoaster ride – it runs along a lengthy plateau until finally climbing to the peak and then quickly descending to an unsatisfactory conclusion.

Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich) are honeymooning in Hawaii when they hear of a grisly murder nearby of another pair of newlyweds. Hiking a secluded jungle trail to a remote beach, they choose to join another couple (Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez) rather than run back to civilisation. Eventually things begin to go horribly wrong and a brutal fight for survival ensues deep in the heart of paradise.

As I began watching, I was reminded of the highly disturbed road trip movie Kalifornia. In both, one couple decides to travel with another during a vacation; however, one of the pairs is actually deranged serial killers. Kalifornia is made interesting from beginning to end by the strange interactions of the characters. While A Perfect Getaway has some of these moments, the first hour passes relatively without incident.

Finally, the climax/reveal is exciting and very promising in terms of a last act that will make the previous hour worthwhile. Unfortunately, the filmmakers did not feel the same squandering the opportunity for a thrilling final 30 minutes. As a result, the film quickly plummets to an insufficient end.

There are no DVD special features.

It was not long ago a foreign film called 13 Tzameti about an underground gambling ring involving Russian roulette made a lasting impression on indie movie fans. Live! has taken this concept and put it under the spotlight of international television.

Katy (Eva Mendes) is a TV programming executive seeking the next big thing that will permanently engrave her name in history. When an associate jokes about broadcasting a live game of Russian roulette, Katy latches on and goes to great lengths to make her morbid vision a reality. The process from conception to realization is captured by a documentary crew (David Krumholtz) that becomes gradually less impartial.

There have been numerous films that centre on reality TV gone amok. Live! is just another to add to the list and it’s not going to land near the top. Katy is in no way a redeemable or realistic character. She is beyond ruthless and uncaring, which makes her annoying and a distraction from the very obvious point attempting to be made. While Mendes can be over the top at times, the blame cannot lie solely in her lap.

Another issue is with the film’s length; or rather the lack of relevant content filling the time. Endless scenes of Katy’s calculating become tiresome and repetitive. It could have had far more of an impact as a short; especially because the most captivating section of the film is the actual broadcast. The extensive lead up could have been shorter and stronger.

There are no DVD special features, which was surprising considering the subject matter.

This was quite a surprise, but Jennifer’s Body is a horror movie made for women by a couple of prominent women in film: Oscar winner and screenwriter Diablo Cody and director of Girlfight Karyn Kusama.

Jennifer (Megan Fox) and Anita “Needy” (Amanda Seyfried) have been best friends since the sandbox and still are, even though Jennifer is a hot cheerleader and Needy is just a plain Jane that cheers from the sidelines. They live in a small town called Devil’s Kettle, named after a waterfall that ends in a bottomless drain. One night Jennifer is pulled into a mysterious van with a Satan-worshipping band and she emerges bloody and possessed. Needy knows something is different but cannot figure out how to help or stop Jennifer who is feeding on her classmates and consistently showing up covered in blood.

There is nothing groundbreaking about the movie but it is a lot of fun to watch. It includes noticeable homages to Carrie, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Heathers, both visually and through the plot. Cody’s dialogue is predictably smart and filled with pop culture references and trendy teen lingo, such as “freak-tarded,” occasionally reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Unfortunately, although the references to Hannah Montana are entertaining, they will date the film for future generations. Fox and Seyfried do an excellent job delivering Cody’s carefully chosen and amusing words; the boys on the other hand have much less to say but they still say it well.

Adam Brody portrays the lead singer of the evil band, looking striking as the rocker from the city that wears eyeliner and charms Jennifer. Johnny Simmons plays Chip, Needy’s sweet and attentive boyfriend. Kyle Gallner, who’s slowly becoming a horror veteran after The Haunting in Connecticut, has a small role as a goth kid that falls victim to Jennifer’s deadly seduction.

The soundtrack is current and a good compilation of some rising and established bands, including the Silversun Pickups and Cobra Starship. The film looks good with effective CGI and blood effects. In addition, the lighting (or often lack thereof) creates an atmosphere that lends itself to the dark comedy that permeates throughout the film. The other element contributing to the look of the film is Fox’s stunning physique, which is displayed in numerous angles with and without clothes. The actress has an innate ability to look at anyone and convey absolute desire.

The DVD contains both the theatrical and extended versions of the film, which differ by approximately five minutes. Each has its own audio commentary: the theatrical commentary is by Kusama and Cody and the extended commentary features only Kusama.

HBO is usually responsible for new hit TV series, but FX has a definite winner in their lineup.

Welcome to the cutthroat underworld of outlaw bikers. Sons of Anarchy a.k.a. SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original Charter) live, die and kill for the brotherhood. But as the club’s leader Clay (Ron Perlman) and his wife Gemma (Katey Sagal) begin to lead the club in a more dangerous and illegal direction, her son Jax (Charlie Hunnam) becomes torn between his loyalty and the club’s legacy.

The casting of the SAMCRO club is flawless. Each actor portrays the appropriate amount of sensitivity, blood thirst, thoughtfulness and camaraderie for their character – and the balance definitely varies for each. Furthermore, Mitch Pileggi as Darby, the head of a rival gang of white supremacists, is unexpected but perfect and Sagal is great as the strong woman behind the man doing more than her part to hold the club together.

Sons of Anarchy is not a show that ends on a weekly cliff-hanger, but it has enough substance and creates enough dramatic interest that you still anticipate the next episode. The story develops with an even pace and the characters are gradually revealed with each event. Although each episode tends to deal with a specific issue, they link together seamlessly.

The world created around SAMCRO feels very real. They operate in the realm of and in opposition to the corporate machine, protecting their town from outside forces. They are simultaneously a family and a business, though which influences the decisions often depends on the situation. However, it is the dynamics within the club that really drives the narrative.

In the end, the only words I needed to hear were “Ron Perlman” and “motorcycles” – the rest is gravy.

The special features include: audio commentary on selected episodes; “the making of” season one featurette; three featurettes about casting, the motorcycles and tattoos; deleted scenes; and footage from on set.