Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fourth Quarter Catch-Up

I know I promised a full scale review of Quantum of Solace, but for the sake of keeping things relevant and moving on this blog, I'm just going to include it with a series of quick reviews of films you may have missed in late October and November. Of the lot, Quantum of Solace is absolutely the best film. Just so you know.

Sex Drive - Sex Drive is a somewhat predictable film that successfully blends the road movie with the teen sex comedy (more often than not, anyway). While the plot itself occasionally feels undercooked, the filmmakers and the cast at least have the good sense to keep things interesting and keep them moving. The film ultimately falls apart at the end (as most of these tend to do), but the journey to get there is certainly a lot of fun. Goofy performances from Clark Duke, James Marsden and Seth Green give the film much of its energy. 3.5 (***1/2) stars out of five.

Max Payne - While the film nails the visual style of the video game, almost everything else feels wrong; the casting in particular. Mark Wahlberg is a serviceable Max, but Mila Kunis is not the actress needed to effectively portray Mona Sax. The main problem with the film is that it's not nearly as 'guns-a-blazing' as the games, and the detective story that replaces the wanton violence just seems thrown together to get us to the climax, where things finally start exploding. The Valkyr drug plot both works and fails, depending on which part you're considering, which is frustrating. Frustrating is the best word for this film. 3 (***) stars out of five.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno - Not nearly as successful as Kevin Smith's last film (Clerks II), Zack and Miri is full of great dialogue, as any Kevin Smith film is. However, the romance that evolves is on very shaky ground, as though the whole thing could collapse under its own weight at any moment. Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks are the two saving graces of the film, though, knowing just the right way to deliver Smith's sometimes long-winded dialogue. The highlight of the film comes early (heh), when Zack and Miri meet a gay porn star (Justin Long) at their ten-year high school reunion. 3.5 (***1/2) stars out of five.

RockNRolla - Guy Ritchie's latest bears more in common with Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch than his more recent films. It's a fittingly odd crime caper with a decent McGuffin. Tom Wilkinson plays an effective crime boss. He's no Brick Top, but he gets the job done. Equally fun to watch are Gerard Butler and Thandie Newton, who play off each other in some interesting ways. Ritchie wants this to be the first in a trilogy; a trilogy that might never come to pass, as it tanked horribly at the box office. And that's too bad, because this was quite the fun little caper. 3.5 (***1/2) stars out of five.

Role Models - Role Models is perhaps the funniest comedy of 2008, based solely on the strengths of Paul Rudd's and Bobb'e Thompson's line deliveries. Also, the fact that the film utilizes LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) as a major plot point, and does so effectively, makes the film that much stranger and more successful. Well, to me, anyway. Seann William Scott isn't afforded much time for his own B-plot, but it's not the central crux of the film, so it's not a total loss. If you're a fan of KISS or KISS jokes, you'll probably get a good kick out of Role Models. 4 (****) stars out of five.

Quantum of Solace - A lot's been made about how Quantum of Solace is disappointing when compared to Casino Royale. I have to respectfully disagree. In hiring director Marc Forster, a man known more for his artistic merit rather than action filmmaking, the producers manage to inject some subtlety into what is essentially a revenge story. Daniel Craig once again tears it up as Bond, and he's matched by Olga Kurylenko, whose character has similar demons to battle. Ultimately, the film is a more erratic one than Casino Royale, but when viewed as Part II to that story, Quantum of Solace works wonderfully. 4.5 (****1/2) stars out of five.

Bolt - If you've ever seen Toy Story or The Incredible Journey, then you know every single beat that Bolt has to offer. Now, of course, that's a little over-exaggerated, but it's mostly true. John Travolta voices a dog who believes he has superpowers, and must cross the United States to reunite with his owner (Miley Cyrus). Along the way, he learns that he might not be as super as he thought. See? It's both those stories I mentioned above. But that doesn't mean it's bad. On the contrary, the 3D animation looks remarkably good. Not PIXAR quality, but close. There are some glaringly huge plot holes, but other than some internal inconsistancies, the movie does alright for itself. Kids will love it, at any rate. 3 (***) stars out of five.

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