It is nearly Christmas and that means a lot of good movies have been saved for those times when we want to get away from our extended families and turn off our brain. I’ll save my review for Les Miserables and Django Unchained for next Monday, but there are some great new releases this weekend as well. One has Tom Cruise as the world’s smallest tough guy, another is a Knocked Up semi-sequel without Seth Rogen, and the last is a Seth Rogen movie he wishes he wasn’t in.
|“Try not to feel awkward about my husband watching right now…”|
I like Judd Apatow (Freaks & Geeks, Knocked Up, Undeclared) and his movies. But I’ve never loved them. They’ve always tried to balance humor with drama, and I feel they always err too much on the side of sappy drama. None of his films are bad, but they all clock in at over 2 hours. And that is too much to ask of comedy audiences.
This is 40 focuses on Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) and the struggles they go through together dealing with a teenage daughter, failing businesses, and their declining relationship. Pete is trying to keep his independent record label alive, while Debbie runs a clothing shop, where Megan Fox works. They each deal with their own issues, while trying to appear like strong decision makers in front of their two daughters.
This movie tones down the crude humor of Apatow’s previous, 40 Year Old Virgin, and makes it more relateable for a couple just trying to get by in life, while just trying to raise normal daughters who don’t get along. This doesn’t mean the laughs are vanilla though. There are a ton of gut-busting (ouch?) laughs to keep the plot moving along. That said, there is a lot of drama. It almost puts it on too heavy at times, but a few laughs are scattered in the beefy mid-section of the movie. I think about 20 minutes could have been trimmed from this. The end of the movie brings it right back into straight comedy territory and leaves you feeling pretty darn good. Not just because it’s a sappy ending, but it’s often in your face about the reality of parental and marital relationships.
Rudd and Mann are fantastic together. I typically can’t stand Mann in any role. But she excels here. The real flaw(s) in the movie are their two daughters, played by Apatow and Mann’s real-life daughters. They aren’t meant for the acting world. You can see them reading their lines from an off-screen card. The younger one, especially, is only in this movie for cute and humorous moments, and they feel very forced.
I really enjoyed this movie and thought it showed a great balance of comedy and drama. Yes it was too long, but I was along for the ride. I recommend seeing this movie this weekend if you can handle off-color humor, and are looking for some heart along the way.
|She almost makes him miss working with Katherine Heigl…almost|
Poor Seth Rogen, what are you thinking? He plays Andy Brewster, who has spent a great deal of money to create and sell an organic cleaning solution and intends to pitch it to retail corporations on his road trip across America. When he finds out his mother (Barbra Streisand) had a boyfriend in her youth, who lives in San Francisco now, he reluctantly brings her along. Together, they drive thousands of miles, eat giant steaks, bicker, and pitch his product in this “fun” filled “romp.”
If you need some help imagining what Barbra Streisand is like in this movie, just imagine the most clingy, proud, worried, thrifty, nasally, awkward, obsessive (is this the Scout Law?) mother and you will start to picture it.
|Or just imagine this for 95 minutes|
I know I’m not the right target market for this movie, but then why have Rogen in it at all? There were several older women cackling during the screening, but I think they relate to the nagging character of Streisand. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a terrible movie. It’s just a movie. I felt “ho hum” about it. (does that even make sense?) There really wasn’t a laugh to be had. I think I did smile twice. And I really did make an attempt to shut down my biases and be ready for the laughter to flow, but it just didn’t happen.
Streisand seems to be having a blast playing this role. The most enjoyable part was watching her disappear into the role of a nagging, anxious mother. Rogen was there to collect a paycheck. Normally for harmless movies like this, I would say rent it because older crowds will enjoy it, but without an actual story I can’t recommend it. You think there would be great dialogue and character development in a 90 minute conversation movie (see Before Sunrise/Sunset) but I did not know the characters any more than I did at the beginning. Skip this one.
|He was never the same after the tragic death of Goose|
You’re going to hear a lot about how the character of Jack Reacher was originally written to be 6′ 5″ and 250 lbs. Basically a human wrecking ball. And here we have Tom Cruise who is shorter than my little sister. But I must say that he owns the role. Cruise obviously has a lot of detractors, but he wins this one based on his acting alone. He is a force to be reckoned with. In a nerd alternate universe, I’d love to see him go one-on-one with Jason Bourne. It’d be an even match.
This movie begins with a difficult scene to watch. A trained sniper takes out random civilians one by one. It’s interesting that we see scenes like this in movies all the time, but until we have national tragedies do we realize how sensitive violent scenes really are.
As a seemingly guilty sniper is jailed, he has only one request, “Get Jack Reacher.” There’s not much to know about the plot other than Reacher playing detective for the sniper’s defense lawyer (Rosamund Pike). Of course, he uncovers more than anyone should know about the reason behind the killings. It sounds cliche I know. But the nice thing about Jack Reacher is that it doesn’t condescend to the audience. If there is an obvious plot reveal, the movie clarifies it at the same time you reach that logical conclusion. Reacher is not a dumb guy, and will not be fooled by action movie cliches.
Beyond Cruise’s acting, the real selling point is that Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) wrote and directed this movie. Seeing Skyfall last month, made me realize I expect more from action flicks in terms of writing and cinematography, and Reacher follows suit.
It’s not a perfect movie. It’s still an action movie underneath it all. But everything it does, it does right. The close combat action is smooth and not choppy, the car chases are intense, and the climax doesn’t try to monologue and over explain what doesn’t matter much when all you care for is brutal action.
If you need a guy movie to watch before you see Django Unchained in a few days, make it Jack Reacher.