Monthly Archives: May 2011

Review: The Abduction of Zack Butterfield

While it’s a personal priority to treat every film the same, sometimes there’s just no use in trashing an indie production seeing a minimal release. However, that’s not the case with The Abduction of Zack Butterfield as I feel I owe it to the industry and moviegoers alike to lay it on thick so that an atrocity such as this will never be dubbed a professional feature film ever again.

Zack Butterfield (TJ Plunkett) has everything going for him; he’s popular, good-looking and an all-star athlete. Unfortunately, it’s those good qualities that catch the eye of former Iraq mercenary turned kidnapper, April McKenna (Brett Helsham). After a brief stalking session, April snatches Zack up mid-run, forcing him into her truck, taking him to her secluded home.

No, she doesn’t lock her victim in a basement, rather a quaint bedroom designed just for him, which, minus the fingerprint scanning lock, is quite cozy. April isn’t your typical kidnapper looking for money; she’d much prefer love. Courtesy of her disillusioned romantic past, April adopted the mentality that “men suck” and thinks that by starting with one while he’s still young, she can shape him into the man of her dreams, hence Zack.

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Review: The Hangover Part II

The second the trailer hit, we knew The Hangover Part II was basically The Hangover, but in Thailand. While simply recycling a storyline is generally a cause for concern, that’s really the point of this film, otherwise we’d be getting some sort of odd spinoff or no sequel at all. The Hangover Part II could have failed on just about every cinematic front as long as the boys experienced a drug-induced night of debauchery followed by a hilarious attempt at recovery. Unfortunately, just like the memory of the wolf pack’s big night out in Thailand, funny jokes seemed to have simply slipped the filmmakers’ minds.

With Doug (Justin Bartha) happily married and sunburn-free, it’s Stu’s (Ed Helms) turn to tie the knot, albeit not to a Las Vegas stripper. This time around Stu’s keeping it classy and marrying a beautiful, family oriented woman named Lauren (Jamie Chung). The ceremony is to be held in Thailand where Lauren’s entire family, including her disapproving father and genius of a younger brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), will be on hand. Naturally, coming out to support the groom is none other than his buddies Doug, Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis).

Determined to keep things simple and problem-free, Stu opts out of sharing a beer beside a bon fire with his buddies and Teddy. However, at his fiancée’s urging, Stu heads out to the beach for just one drink. Phil proudly presents a six-pack of sealed beers, but, sure enough, something isn’t quite right and that one beer turns into yet another night Phil, Stu and Alan can’t remember. However, this time around, Doug makes it home safe and sound; it’s Teddy the trio manages to lose in the heart of Bangkok, Thailand.

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Review: Beautiful Boy

Tackling inherently emotional and real material on the big screen is nearly impossible. No matter how you approach it, there will always be someone to say the situation was misrepresented or sensationalized. While that is the case to a point with Beautiful Boy, the performances are so captivating, it’s possible to push that instinctive judgment aside.

Moody kids call home from college all the time; they’re stressed over an upcoming exam, having trouble with friends or perhaps are just a little homesick. But little did Kate and Bill Carroll (Maria Bello and Michael Sheen) know that when their son, Sam (Kyle Gallner), finally decided to return their calls, he wasn’t just frazzled over typical college pressures. The morning following their phone call, Kate and Bill got word that a crazed gunman struck on Sam’s college campus and that the gunman was their son.

Not only must they mourn the loss of their only child, but fight off news hungry reporters, angry neighbors and Sam’s distraught classmates all while trying to figure out whether this was their fault. Kate’s brother offers to take them in to avoid the news crews camped out on their lawn, but even in the safety of his home, their marital troubles, the presence of Kate’s young nephew and the constant news reports painting their little boy as a heartless murderer consume them.

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Review: Spork

Sure, there’s no harm in getting a laugh out of the classic tasteless poop and penis jokes once in a while, but ultimately, they’re thoughtless cheap shots. Spork on the other hand, is quite the opposite, a film that earns its giggles through very calculated efforts including a unique story, equally innovative and appropriate production techniques and, most importantly, a main character who’s incredibly odd, yet wildly endearing all at the same time. If Napoleon Dynamite’s Napoleon and Deb lived happily ever after and had a kid, that kid might be Spork.

Savannah Stehlin is Spork, a 14-year-old hermaphrodite. Spork, hermaphrodite, get it? She rocks a massive mess of frizzy hair, oversized black glasses and shares a trailer with her big brother, Spit (Rodney Eastman), and their dead, stuffed dog.

In true teenage fashion, all of the kids at school love to get a laugh out of Spork’s unusual condition and behavior, especially Betsy Byotch (Rachel G. Fox). Spork may not have any friends, but she can turn to fellow outcasts Chunk and Charlie (Kevin Chung and Michael William Arnold). There’s also Spork’s next door neighbor, Tootsie Roll (Sydney Park), a force to be reckoned with on the dance floor. When Spork decides to enter the school dance off so she can claim the prize money to pay for a procedure guaranteed to make her as pretty as her late mother, she turns to Tootsie Roll and her “hoes” to teach her a thing or two so she can take down Betsy and her “bitches” on the stage.

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Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

At this point, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, must only make due on two things, Johnny Depp starring as Jack Sparrow and recreating the world of the pirates. Well, franchise fans won’t be disappointed as director Rob Marshall and his team delivered just that. On the other hand, anyone looking for the slightest bit more will leave unsatisfied for the series’ fourth film, On Stranger Tides, has absolutely nothing new to offer.

After breaking out of prison, Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) teams up with an old flame, Angelica (Penélope Cruz), to track down the fountain of youth. Turns out, Angelica is Blackbeard’s (Ian McShane) daughter and Blackbeard himself desperately needs the powers of the fountain so as to thwart a prophecy dictating his death. But before the trio can even make their way towards the mystical structure, they must first collect the tear of a mermaid as well as two silver chalices from aboard Ponce de León’s ship in order to unlock the fountain’s magic.

Meanwhile Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is now in cahoots with the British government, employed by the King to claim the fountain for England. With the guidance of Jack’s now imprisoned first mate, Gibbs (Kevin McNally), Barbossa hits the open seas on a ship that sadly isn’t the Black Pearl, for the Pearl was destroyed during a battle with Blackbeard. Then there are the Spaniards who recently had the good fortunate of snatching up a man from the sea, a member of Ponce de León’s crew who should have died years ago. The Spanish King sends a fleet not only to find, but to destroy the fountain of youth so as to preserve humanity.

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Review: Skateland

Yes, the summer movie season is revving up, but before you switch gears and put your brain on cruise control, there’s a little something on the more thoughtful side to check out. Forget the fact that it involves zero CGI, Skateland is simple, sheerly in terms of story. Some moments do drag, but overall, Skateland is a nice and leisurely walk in some modest characters’ shoes.

Ritchie Wheeler (Shiloh Fernandez) is a recent high school grad and aspiring writer. Well, perhaps aspiring isn’t the right word as Ritchie is reluctant to apply to college and leave his hometown life behind; and why would he? There are weekly parties at his pal Kenny’s (Taylor Handley) place, the wild and crazy Brent (Heath Freeman) is back in town and Ritchie’s got a great gig working at the local skating rink, Skateland. However, when Ritchie learns Skateland is due to close and his best friend and crush, Michelle (Ashley Greene), pushes him to make due on his talent and apply to school, Ritchie is forced to rethink his options.

Yes, Ritchie’s predicament is established early on, but Skateland doesn’t have very much forward momentum. For a good portion of the piece, we’re basically wading in this 1980s Texas town while Brent drags Ritchie from party to party and Ritchie mopes around afraid to take the next step in his life. This does slow the film quite a bit, but generally, it works.

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‘The Hunger Games’ Countdown: Bringing You Up To Capitol Consciousness

A Little Mockingjay Told Me: Welcome!

Apparently I’m not the only one who can’t get enough of this series, so in honor of the craze that is The Hunger Games book-to-film adaptation, we’re dedicating an entire column to the event, brought to you by yours truly. Welcome to The Hunger Games Countdown!

Every other week (till we get closer to release) we’ll deliver the latest in Hunger Games news, an introspective look at how particular scenes could potentially come to life on the big screen, a taste of what’s happening throughout the realm of Hunger Games fan websites and much more. To kick-start the series, we’re going to take a look back at the history of the big-screen adaptation from the very first announcement proclaiming that The Hunger Games movie was on the way.

But first, for those of you who have yet to read the book (and I maintain there’s no excuse for that), here are The Hunger Games basics …

Read more: ‘The Hunger Games’ Countdown: Bringing You Up To Capitol Consciousness | Featured Article | Movies.com

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Review: Bridesmaids

As a huge Kristen Wiig fan, I was very excited for Bridesmaids. And, as a huge fan of the idea of a female Hangover, I was very excited to see a group of crazy ladies get into all sorts of shenanigans gearing up for their best friend’s big day. Bridesmaids certainly made due on some of my expectations, but also attempted to show off a more dramatic side and while that effort wasn’t a complete failure, the parts I was looking forward to are just so exceptionally successful, it’s impossible that they not tarnish the more dramatic material.

Annie and Lillian (Wiig and Maya Rudolph) are best friends. They do what best friends do; shadily work out behind a tree in a park when they don’t want to pay for the class, smear muffin on their teeth and have conversations and, of course, name the other her Maid of Honor for her wedding. Lillian is about to take the plunge and assigns Annie the Maid of Honor duties with the help of an assortment of other, well, characters in her life. There’s Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), the bitter mother, Becca (Ellie Kemper), the naïve newlywed, Megan (Melissa McCarthy), Lillian’s husband’s rather boisterous sister and the bane of Annie’s existence, Helen (Rose Byrne), little miss perfect who’s trying to oust Annie as Lillian’s BFF.

When Annie isn’t scrambling to outdo Helen in wedding world, she’s attempting to maintain a romantic relationship of her own. Too bad her current fling, Ted (Jon Hamm), is more than happy keeping their thing in the F-buddy zone. However, Annie’s beat-up ride works to her benefit when her busted taillights catch the eye of a sweetheart cop looking for love, Officer Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd).

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Interview: Skateland Writer, Producer And Star Heath Freeman

As if it isn’t trying enough to make it in the acting world; even with success in the field having appeared on shows like Without a TraceThe Closer and Raising the Bar, Heath Freeman decided it was time to call the shots and go to work for himself. Along with the help of his brother, Brandon and Anthony Burns, Freeman went to work on a script called Skateland. However, Freeman’s work wasn’t complete once the script was locked and neither was his collaborators’. All three men assumed producing positions, Burns got behind the lens to direct and Freeman in front of it.

The film takes place in a small Texas town in the 80s. Shiloh Fernandez stars as Ritchie, a long time Skateland employee who has a tough time moving on when he learns the roller rink is due to shut down. His sister, Mary (Haley Ram), and friend, Michelle (Ashley Greene), see this as the perfect time for Richie to finally break away and live up to his potential, but making the transition isn’t easy especially with an influence like Freeman’s character. He plays Brent, a former aspiring pro motorcycle rider whose hopes are dashed by an accident. Now, he’s back in town and all that he has is what he left behind – booze, his buddies and his talent for picking up high school girls.

Skateland was quite the undertaking for Freeman in every way possible. Not only was this an entirely new experience for Freeman in terms of writing and producing, but Brent was one of his most significant big screen roles yet. However, with good friends, family and talented filmmakers by his side, Freeman dove in headfirst and brought his story to life. In honor of the film’s May 13th release, Freeman sat down to tell us all about the entire process from joining forces with his brother and old pal to balancing all three of his duties and what’s next for his production company, Freeman Film. Check it all out in the video interview below.

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Interview: Skateland’s Ashley Greene

It’s easy to forget that actress Ashley Greene has a career beyond The Twilight Saga thanks to the enormity of that franchise. Well, not only does she have a few non-Twilight projects on the way, but way back when, before the first Twilight film even hit theaters, Greene was hard at work on another production, Anthony Burns’ Skateland.

The film focuses on a recent high school graduate named Ritchie Wheeler (Shiloh Fernandez). When Ritchie isn’t handing out skates at Skateland, he’s hanging out with Brent (Heath Freeman) and his younger sister and Ritchie’s crush, Michelle (Greene). Ritchie has just about everything going for him, but needs a little nudge when it comes to realizing his dreams and leaving Skateland behind and that nudge comes from Michelle. Similarly, she’s trying to get her bearings on life after high school and more specifically, a potential future with Ritchie.

No vampire fangs, no ability to see into the future; this is just ordinary Ashley Greene proving she’s got something to offer even without the bells and whistles of a multimillion dollar franchise. In honor of Skateland’s May 13th release, Greene sat down to talk about her experience making the film including working with Fernandez and Freeman and how this production compared to working on The Twilight Saga, which, of course, we talked a bit about as well. But keep in mind, this interview was shot back in March, so some details might have changed.

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