Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Screw Rehab, I Love My Addiction. No Sleep. No Sleep. I Am Always On A Mission

Spread (Mackenzie, 2009)

It seems almost universally American to, at some point or another, fantasize about an easy life out in Hollywood. Perhaps as an actor, a writer, a director, a singer. It's your fantasy, not mine, any aspirations I had to venture out west dissipated many years ago. However, the life of Ashton Kutcher's Nikki in Spread is almost enough to place the stars back in my eyes, drop any cynicism, and try out a life filled with great meals, beautiful women, and no work. Of course this, rather predictably, does not completely work out according to Nikki's plan, which is where much of the tension can be found in David Mackenzie's fourth feature film is found.

Mackenzie works a wonderful camera as the Kutch lights up the screen as the disengaged playboy, Nikki. Similar to Josh Peck in The Wackness, Kutcher is sometimes a bit too detached for his own good, but he brings a compelling personality to a figure who is easy to play solely for laughs. Nikki is humorous, by nature, but he is also a self destructive force who has too much ego for his own good. He's a fascinating central figure to begin with, but Kutcher's spin on the character makes the film even more compelling. No other supporting actor is worth mentioning though, even Heche does not make the most of her screen time. Thankfully none of the supporters hurt the film either, so I find any specific complaints too minor to worth mentioning.

Spread is nowhere close to a flawless film and I can see it alienating many audiences, but the film glorifies the fast life and tears it apart, all with an underlying darkness that one would not expect to encounter in a film starring Ashton Kutcher. Helped along by a noticeable technical precision, Spread is at worst an interesting character study, though given the final scene and the thematic development throughout the film I am certainly willing to call it one of the year's most overlooked films.

B+ or 4.0112839216742642973

Comments are welcome and, for anyone with a literary mind, I encourage checking out my poetry blog filled with all original works for your reading pleasure.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Baby, Who Turned The Temperature Hotter?

Fired Up! (Gluck, 2009)

Let's get this out of the way right here, right now. I have a soft spot for coming of age films, I have a soft spot for high school films, I am a 20 year old male and I am naturally inclined to like grotesque jokes about sexuality because I'm an immature prick. There, we have it. Mercy street! Despite all of those affections, even I have a hard time calling Will Gluck's Fired Up! anything resembling a solid comedy. Covering territory that other 'should have been rated R' teen comedies such as Accepted have tread upon before, the film is a hodge-podge of solid ideas that are kept in check by a studio's desire to market to as large an audience as possible.

Anchored by Nicholas D'Agosto and Eric Christian Olsen playing two high school super stud football players, Shawn and Nick, we watch them sign up for cheer leading camp in an attempt to hook up with as many girls as possible in two weeks. We have seen this story before, and before that, and probably even before that. Thankfully at least half the time D'Agosto and Olsen actually do the comedy thing really well, especially individually, and when there is noticeable chemistry between the two the film gets fairly funny quicker than it takes the blood to rush to these oversexed teenagers' sperm poles. Wow, a lot of phallic references in this post.

The supporting cast here is really interesting as well, and they all play to the material they are given as well as they can considering how devoid of humor some of the gags are. It was interesting to see Margo Harshman who played Tawny on Even Stevens show up, but she is mostly wasted because her running joke makes little sense in context. John Michael Higgins has a few funny bits as well, but the standout is obviously David Walton as Dr. Rick, the generic frat boy tool bag who slides nicely into the role of antagonist. Not only does he nail the part perfectly, he is given the best recurring jokes. Hearing him proclaim how "Tubthumpin'" by Chumbawumba is part of the soundtrack of his life is simply hysterical. He is a breath of fresh air in a sea of generic, age appropriate, semi-edgy teen humor.

Yes, the film is mostly mediocre, but I have to admire the film for instituting a number of running jokes that it never gives up on, whether they are funny or not. The narrative takes no turns, the direction is sub-par at best, and the script is not deep or anything of the sort, but the film is as funny as the rating will allow and all of the pieces of a great comedy are present. Hopefully in the future projects like this can get an R rating and be phenomenal, because seeing all of this potential go to waste is simply frustrating.

C+ or 2.989473825467328516

Comments are welcome and, for anyone with a literary mind, I encourage checking out my poetry blog filled with all original works for your reading pleasure.

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You Say My Kisses Are Not Like His, But This Time I'm Not Gonna Tell You Why That Is

Whatever Works (Allen, 2009)

I've only seen two Woody Allen films, Annie Hall and Vicky Christina Barcelona. The first gets better with each viewing while Allen's first film in Spain had me rather enchanted upon an initial viewing. I have seen every episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, so the inclusion of Larry David had me ready to partake in some of the year's best comedy courtesy of one of my favorite funny men currently working. The inclusion of what I hoped would be trademark Allen dialogue only strengthened my determination to enjoy the film.

Luckily, I was not disappointed as the laughs are plentiful and David proves to be almost as capable of handling Woody's dialogue as Mr. Allen himself. The inherent cynicism that Allen displays in Annie Hall is all here, perhaps even more so, and is delivered pitch perfect by David, who even puts his own comedic spin on the character to keep him unique and interesting. The supporting cast is decent as well, though no one brings the laughs quite like the leading man, so when David is not on screen the film usually falls flat. However, Evan Rachel Wood is great as Melody, though she's also a blonde from the South who spouts off depressing, mostly nihilistic musings about life, so I may just be in love with the character.

The story here does not take many twists or turns, and the end is rather generic, but the real surprise for me was that Allen's camerawork, which was fantastic in VCB, is not only standard here, but mostly as generic as the script. The visual aesthetic was so bland and lifeless that I can see this aspect being the alienating factor capable of keeping people from enjoying what is otherwise a pleasant comedy that does not outstay its welcome. Allen's camera does not enhance any themes found in the film, it does not humanize or dehumanize any of the characters, it simply exists, which is odd when one factors in the idea that each of the characters here do have a unique story. I can see people having problems with the fourth wall breaking, but unlike the camera those portions of the film are usually used to enhance the comedy or to provide some insight into Boris' character.

While Larry David is great, the real star of the film is the dialogue. Personally, I think the writing here is just as sharp as what is found in Annie Hall and I think as a pure comedy there are more laughs to be found in Whatever Works than there are in either VCB or Hall. The film is not much more than a pleasant distraction, and neither the comedy nor the narrative are fleshed out enough to sustain even the lean 90 minute run time, but David knows how to handle Woody's words and the laughs are plentiful, so there is definitely enjoyment to be had here, even if the insight of Allen's earlier films is not as present.

B+ or 3.89437248132752389156182

Comments are welcome and, for anyone with a literary mind, I encourage checking out my poetry blog filled with all original works for your reading pleasure.

Also I am on the old Twitter thing so I guess you can follow me at