Tag: review

Eat, Pray, Love

Review by: Ryan Oliver

We’ve all had those days where we’ve felt overburdened by the complications of everyday life, whether it be a relationship, work, or just the stresses of planning for the future. For most of us, it’s a pipe dream to go on a soul-searching vacation. In Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) made it a reality. After a crumbling marriage with her husband (Billy Crudup) and a failed rebound relationship with a young man (James Franco), she leaves her life in New York behind and goes on a year-long trip. She visits Italy (to eat), India (to pray), and Bali where she ultimately falls in love with Felipe (Javier Bardem), another fellow divorcee.

The film is based on the memoir of the real Elizabeth Gilbert who took this wonderful trip. I have never read the book personality, but I feel there are things that may have had more emotional impact in the book than in Ryan Murphy’s (creator of the highly overrated Glee) film. I didn’t believe for a second that there was any spark in Gilbert’s relationship with Crudup or with Franco. I know that both of those relationships ended, but I didn’t feel any connection between them at any point. There were also times that reminded me of an episode of Family Guy where Peter tells Lois’s dad “You’re going to love it here, even more than Julia Roberts loves herself.” It was scenes where you couldn’t help but wonder why such a wealthy and beautiful woman would need to find herself? These scenes had more whining than honesty.

However, by the time she finishes in Italy, you lose sense of the whininess and you actually care about Gilbert’s journey. You care about what she’s doing and what she’s going to do next. On top of that, the movie was shot on location in all the places that Liz visits, so we get some beautiful shots of these cities, even if we get too many extended sequences of her eating and praying.

Julia Roberts is a class actress all the way. She’s too good to play this character with only one dimension, and even when the movie slumps – which happens more than once in it’s unnecessary 2 hour and 20 minute runtime – her starpower shines through the cracks. There are also some really compelling scenes with the supporting players as well, most notably Richard (the always fantastic Richard Jenkins), a man who she meets in India trying to forgive himself for his dark past with his family. Javier Bardem is also terrific and charming as the man she eventually falls in love with. Though the film has too many snags and slow parts to give it a full-on recommendation, it’s beautifully shot, thoroughly entertaining, and has a great central performance by Julia Roberts that doesn’t make it too tormenting for those outside the target demographic.

Eat Pray Love
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by Ryan Murphy and Jennifer Salt; based on the book by Elizabeth Gilbert
Stars Julia Roberts, Billy Crudup, James Franco, Javier Bardem, Richard Jenkins
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexual references and male rear nudity
**1/2 (out of four)

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The Other Guys

Review by: Ryan Oliver

Over the course of the last decade, spoof movies have lost the touch and craft of what makes them funny. The trick to making a good spoof is to make a movie in the genre that you’re sending up and then make fun of the aspects of said genre. Lately, the spoof movies we have gotten just merely reference popular movies and hope that it’s good enough (such as Date Movie, Epic Movie, or any movie that ends in the word “Movie”). No punch lines, no set ups, no pay offs, nothing. Fortunately, just in time to save this nearly laugh-free summer, here comes the comedic team of Will Farrell and director Adam McKay (the man behind Farrell’s funniest films: Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers) to channel the energy of the old Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker gang with The Other Guys, a hilarious send-up of the buddy cop genre that both honors the genre and throws it under the bus.

NYPD Detective Allen Gamble (Farrell) is a desk jockey who loves what he does. Detective Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) is Allen’s partner who ends up behind the desk after an accidental shooting in the field. Terry hates pushing papers and living in the shadows of the cops who are getting all the action (Action honchos Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson). When the bumbling duo stumble over a money scam by a shady investor (Steve Coogan), the two decide that it’s their time to step up and fill the shoes of the big guys.

It’s got a simple, typical buddy-cop plot, but the reason this movie is so damn funny is that it takes every aspect of those films and sticks it to them good. The overblown explosions, the bullet-filled gun fights, the ridiculous things the forensics always find in a missing car, and just about anything else you can think of gets it. Plus, the banter between Farrell and Wahlberg is hilarious. Farrell flies on a full tank of comic energy, and mismatched Wahlberg is in full-on Departed mode, but this mesh works perfectly. The supporting cast is mostly put on the backburner with the exception of Michael Keaton, who plays the guys’ captain to pure comic perfection.

The only flaw I can find in this movie is that the last twenty minutes turns into the type of movie that it’s making fun of, similar to what happened with Hot Fuzz (although they started speaking in action movie cliches on purpose for laughs). However, you’ll still be smiling from the first hour-and-twenty-five minutes that you won’t care. The Other Guys is a riot from beginning to end. It further solidifies my opinion that Will Farrell and Adam McKay is one comedic team that shouldn’t stop making comedies for a long time.

The Other Guys
Directed by Adam McKayWritten by Adam McKay and Chris Henchy
Stars Will Farrell, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, violence and some drug material
*** (out of four)

Dinner for Schmucks

Review by: Ryan Oliver

I’ve complained a lot about this summer being one of the most boring ones on record in the history of cinema. Aside from Inception and Toy Story 3 there’s nothing to boast about. What’s really a buzz kill is the lack of laughs at the multiplex. By this time last year we had The Hangover, Funny People, and Bruno to keep us in stitches. Aside from Get Him to the Greek, what do we have? Grown Ups!? Pa-lease.

Needless to say, I wanted to see a movie that was good for some big laughs. I went into Dinner for Schmucks as optimistically as I possibly could. I had just watched Cyrus – the Duplass Brothers’ critical darling – the day before, and even it didn’t live up to the praise it’s getting down in Indiewood. I thought to myself “this is going to be it. Schmucks is going to be the comedy of the summer.” Unfortunately, I got another bag of bad news for all of you out there: it’s not.

The film is based around a simple premise: Tim (Paul Rudd) is an up-and-coming businessman who is invited to a dinner by his boss (Bruce Greenwood) where these suits bring an idiot to dinner and make fun of them (the cover title being the “Dinner for Winners”). The person who appears to be the biggest idiot wins a trophy. Tim decides that he’s not going to go to the dinner, that it is until he runs into Barry (Steve Carell), an IRS auditor and amateur taxidermist whose hobby is stuffing dead mice for his collages he calls “Mouse-terpieces.” Tim ultimately decides that Barry is too big a schmuck to pass up for the dinner.

The whole moral of the movie is predictable from the get go. The idea is that the big-shot guys are bad, and that these people are not idiots for doing what they want to do, even if it is out of the norm. A lot of people were dissatisfied with the mixed message about how we’re not supposed to laugh at these “schmucks” but the movie sets it up so that we’re invited to. That’s not what dissatisfies me, I can live with that. What disappoints me is that the film is not as funny as you would think. The film runs for almost two hours long, which the story time takes place within two days, so the pace really drags. The script also keeps throwing too many flatlining plotlines and characters that add absolutely nothing to the film. We have a crazy old flame of Tim’s (Lucy Punch) that turns out to be more awkward than funny, we have a commitment issue story between Tim and his girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak) that isn’t developed in full, and we have a grudge between Barry and his boss (The Hangover’s Zach Gilifianakis) over Barry’s ex-wife that is thrown in merely to add both conflict and some laughs, but it’s completely forced and the story ends up more tragic than funny.

The only character that is both completely out of left field but hysterical at the same time is Julie’s boss Kieran – played by Flight of the Concord’s Jemaine Clement – an artist who explores artistically as much as he does sexually (including some weird animal fetishes). I love Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, but Carell is only funny in spurts and often goes way over the top and Rudd has nothing going for him in this one. When the film finally gets to the dinner, you hope that all this huffing and puffing is going to add up to something, but it doesn’t really do that either. The dinner is amusing – and actually hysterical when Barry shows off his collages – but not nearly as funny as a whole. Aside from the script squeezing too much in for a tight fit, I think part of the problem is that director Jay Roach – no stranger to brilliant comic farces (The Austin Powers series, Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers) – makes his actors stick to the script instead of making way for improvising. I think that if Roach would have said to Carell and Rudd “The camera’s rolling, just go” just as Shawn Levy did with Carell and Tina Fey in Date Night, we would be better for it. Instead, we have a group of talented comic actors under a good comic director straining to squeeze laughs out of a script that frankly isn’t that funny. I got sucked in by a funny trailer and a great cast only to be let down. Looks like I’m the real schmuck.

Directed by Jay Roach
Written by David Guion and Michael Handelman; based on the film “Le Diner de Cons”

Stars Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement, Bruce Greenwood

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for sequences of crude and sexual content, some partial nudity and language
** (out of four)

Sin Nombre: A Shocking and Disquieting Tale of Courage, Love, and Hardship

By Veronica Houser

On the eve of Friday, October 2, 2009, I was awarded the privilege of attending the Ellensburg Film Festival’s screening of Sin Nombre, a story which depicts the separate lives of a Mexican boy and a Honduran girl. It illustrates how their lives eventually intertwine. As the lights died and the movie began to roll, the air turned electric with the anticipation of the 88 film enthusiasts that nearly filled Central Washington University’s Music Recital Hall.

The central hero, Willy, is a friend, a lover and also a member of a dangerous street gang. His life revolves around the protection and sanctity that this brotherhood appears to offer him. But when kinship turns to betrayal and violence, in addition to the murder of Willy’s beloved girlfriend, our protagonist begins to realize that he must attempt to break away from the family that has begun to become his prison. In an attempt to loosen the chains that bind him, Willy defends the life and chastity of Sayra, whom the gang’s leader attempts to victimize. When the gang discovers that their leader has been murdered, Willy’s name appears at the top of their hit list. Forced to remain aboard the train that is illegally transporting Sayra and her family to the border, Willy and the girl are thrust into a relationship of hardship, trust, and love.

After nearly two hours of grueling emotional tension and cinematic awe, I seized the opportunity to interview fellow movie-goers Dave Schott and Aaron Siebol to learn what the general audience thought of the film. In the beginning, both men expressed mutual opinions, stating, “it was an excellent movie, [we] would definitely recommend it.” However, opinions of the overall film clearly differed; Mr. Siebol said that overall, “I didn’t love it. I thought it was a good portrayal of the worries and stresses of life in Mexico, but I really wasn’t convinced with the love story [between Sayra and Willy]. It seemed to me like [the actors] were kind of trying to force it.” Contrary to this opinion, Mr. Schott rebutted, “I was willing to believe it. [Sayra] obviously had a disconnection with her own family. She probably loved [Willy] because he saved her, and I think that we just can’t appreciate how much that meant to her.” Schott also said he thought the movie was “very powerful” and “accurately highlights the troubles and poverty occurring in Mexico.”

I was curious as to why Willy would have remained in a gang that was both his prison and his freedom, so I asked a few more questions and received some very insightful answers. Audience members astutely declared that poverty is pushing the immigration movement, as well as causing the necessity for gangs. For many, these gangs serve as their sole social outlet, as well as providing a haven of protection for a population unable to obtain jobs.

I am quite excited for the remainder of the festival, as are the other viewers of Sin Nombre. When prompted, I discovered that the most anticipated films are “World’s Greatest Dad,“Back to the Garden,” and “Monster Camp.” However, the winner by far is “Pirate for the Sea”; almost everyone I talked to expressed extreme interest in this movie. I plan on attending several more movies and hope to meet many more guests of the Festival.