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Review: Movie 43

Movie_43_PosterStar power is no match for tasteless, offensive and unfunny comedy.

The “Movie 43” wraparound features Dennis Quaid as a lunatic with an abysmal script who forces Greg Kinnear’s movie producer to buy the piece at gunpoint. Coincidence? Probably not, as almost each and every sketch of this comedy anthology is so silly, nauseating and degrading it seems like the only plausible way the producers could manage to recruit so much top-notch talent.

Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet make it through better than most. Jackman will likely never live down having a pair of testicles dangle from his neck for the sake of this movie, but between the giggle-worthy visual and the duo’s charm, “The Catch” is easily “Movie 43’s” finest few minutes. Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber’s “Homeschooled” is another portion that at least respects its leads, but breaks down entirely when the scenario drivels on and right into a strange and unsatisfying conclusion.

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Review: Going The Distance

You’d think it’d be nearly impossible to make a decent romantic comedy with all the genre garbage we get every year. Look at all the junk we’ve already suffered through in 2010: Leap YearWhen in RomeThe Bounty HunterThe Back-up PlanKillers and more. What it comes down to is that we’ve basically seen it all before and it’s just not funny anymore. Now what we’re left with is exaggerated versions of those overused gags making them even less amusing and more annoying. However, Going the Distance takes a different approach. It may start with all those stereotypical genre elements, but rather than turn them into caricatures out of desperation for a laugh, the filmmakers take a more realistic approach and it works.

Where do you go to let loose after a bad day? A bar of course, and it just so happens that both Erin and Garrett (Drew Barrymore and Justin Long) suffered through some rough times on the same day, wound up at the same bar and have an affinity for the same Centipede machine. And so our love story begins. Garrett’s a new yorker working at a record company while Erin is only in town for the summer interning at a prestigious New York City newspaper. After sharing a magical night they examine the situation and come to the conclusion that the fling will last Erin’s remaining six weeks and then that’s that, but just before Erin hops on a plane home to San Francisco, the two decide they’ve got something that’s too good to end and opt to give the long distance thing a shot.

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Review: After.Life

Everyone wonders what happens when you die. The fact that nobody knows the answer turns the concept of passing on into an everlasting goldmine of opportunity for the film industry. You can revisit the subject over and over and always come up with something new.After.Life certainly proposes a novel scenario, but bogs it down with cliche filmmaking techniques so much, you’ll be hoping we all just die and go to heaven; end of story.

Christina Ricci plays Anna, a somewhat happy teacher in a somewhat happy relationship. Her boyfriend Paul (Justin Long) is kind, caring and, most importantly, ready to propose. Upon sitting down to indulge in a special dinner, Paul spills the news that he’s been offered a better job at an out-of-town firm. Before he gets the chance to invite Anna along and pop the question, she storms out into, well, a storm. Slick roads and a flood of tears turns into a car accident landing Anna in the morgue.

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Review: Youth in Revolt

Need to spice up your life a bit? Just create a supplementary persona to do it for you; it works for Michael Cera in Youth in Revolt. Join helplessly awkward Cera, suave and deviant Cera and a slew of other odd characters on a senseless, yet amusing ride to achieving sexual bliss. The movie doesn’t pack the same punch as the book, but still manages to create a wildly entertaining blend of teen love, awkwardness and vulgarity.

Nick Twisp (Cera) is a sexually frustrated teen from Oakland, California. His desperation to vanquish his virginity takes a back seat to other issues including his detestation for his mother’s live-in boyfriend Jerry (Zach Galifianakis) until he meets the girl of his dreams on a vacation to a trailer park in Ukiah. Of course, the trip eventually comes to an end and his budding romance with Sheeni (Portia Doubleday) must come to an end. Well, not if there’s anything Nick can do about it. Or should I say Francois Dillinger? Through his dashing and deviant alter ego, Nick does everything bad and unruly to be reunited with his love.

In just 90 minutes screenwriter Gustin Nash manages to squeeze in a significant amount of C.D. Payne’s 499-page book. Not in great detail of course, but Nash honors just about all of the key points any fan of the book would hope to see in the film version. At some point, the detail-heavy story sinks, yet, at other times, it keeps it firmly afloat. The highs and lows balance out making the overall experience mildly pleasant.

First, let’s get the bad out of the way. The plot is very thin. A number people, incidents and emotions are visited, but only vaguely. Even Nick’s relationship with Sheeni isn’t quite justified. His infatuation with her is blatant, but you’re never convinced that it’s true love and not merely a teen crush. Sheeni is in a similar situation. Her boyfriend Trent (Jonathan B. Wright) is MIA over the summer, so Nick fills the void. That part works but when the relationship transitions into something more serious you’re too busy wondering why Sheeni ditched her all-American man for meek and meager Nick.

Underdeveloped plot points plague the secondary characters as well. In the most critical condition is Sheeni’s brother, Paul (Justin Long). His sole purpose in the film is to initiate an especially humorous segment involving a mouthful of mushrooms. The scene certainly garners the biggest laugh, but doesn’t validate Paul’s inclusion in the film. Rather than throw in more characters, Nash should have paid more attention to the ones more necessary to include, like Lefty and Vijay (Erik Knudsen and Adhir Kalyan).

Even with the little attention they’re given, both of Nick’s buddies make an impact. The same goes for Nick’s father and his Oakland neighbor Mr. Ferguson (Steve Buscemi and Fred Willard). Cera is 110% the focus of the film, but even when secluded to milling around the background, both Buscemi and Willard get the job done. Sheeni’s parents contribute to some of the movie’s most memorable moments as well, particularly seeing M. Emmet Walsh with a face full of mashed potatoes. Sheeni, on the other hand, isn’t very memorable herself and it’s not Doubleday’s fault. In fact, she’s an absolutely natural on screen. She’s one of those actresses that could just stand there and smile and you’ll still find her character endearing.

Sheeni falls victim to the Michael Cera one-man show. Nick is meant to be the film’s main character, but that doesn’t mean every minute has to be about him. Scenes that should have been purporting other character’s feelings wind up being twisted and turned so Cera can squeeze in a few extra one-liners. Again, this is the fault of Nash. The role of Nick Twisp belonged to Michael Cera from the instant C.D. Payne penned the book. No, this isn’t Cera’s shinning moment that will show the world he’s capable of playing someone other than geeky and awkward, but that’s exactly what this role calls for. He does get the chance to stretch his legs a little when in Francois’ shoes, but it really only requires a deeper smug and a pair of aviators.

Youth in Revolt has a lot to pick on, but even with its faults, manages to come together for an immensely enjoyable experience. The dialogue is quick, monotone and, at times, will go over your head, but when a line hits, it hits hard. No life lessons to be learned here, but that’s no the point. C.D. Payne’s book is an utterly absurd love story and so is the movie. It’s colorful, lighthearted and pretty damn funny.

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Interview: Serious Moonlight Director Cheryl Hines

Cheryl Hines’ path to the director’s chair is as far from conventional as you can get. She couldn’t even afford to train with the improvisational troupe, The Groundlings. For her birthday, her friends and the regulars at the bar she was working at, chipped in and paid for her very first class. A short while later, Hines auditioned for the show that would make her a household name, Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Just as unlikely is her transition from actress to director. Well, actually, there wasn’t much of a transition. Hoping to find someone who understood the tone of the late Adrienne Shelly’s writing, Shelly’s husband and Serious Moonlight producer, Andy Ostroy, and his co-producer Michael Roy decided to offer the directorial gig to Hines. With zero feature film directing experience under her belt, Hines was not only taken aback, but confused. Once the dust settled and she absorbed the opportunity at hand, Hines knew she had to direct Serious Moonlight.

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Review: Planet 51

I don’t care how mature you are–everyone loves a good cartoon once in a while. Sometimes you just need to leave the adult world behind and relax with some youthful hilarity. The problem with Planet 51 is it’s not youthful, it’s infantile. Planet 51 is so inane that not only is adult enjoyment unattainable, even younger audiences will be on to its lack of intelligence and novelty.

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Review: Serious Moonlight

Pet peeves are dangerous, letting the tiniest faux pas completely tarnish your impression of a person, restaurant or even a movie. It’s clear from the start that Serious Moonlight is likely to be a serious drag, but the utterance of the phrase ‘I could care less’ seals the deal. It’s ‘I couldn’t care less;’ and do you know what I couldn’t care less about? This movie.

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