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Gavin Grades The Movies

Posts from July 2011


Crazy Stupid Love
Whenever someone tells me that Steve Carrell is going to star in another movie I have to ask whether it's going to be a comedy or a drama.  The guy has turned out fantastic comedic performances like he did on NBC's The Office or Anchorman or The 40-Year-Old Virgin.  But he's capable of far more than a clown and he's shown that in movies like Little Miss Sunshine and Dan in Real Life and...well, NBC's The Office.  He's one of the few actors out there right now that can make you laugh one second and cry the next and, if you're lucky, do both, all in the same scene. In Crazy Stupid Love he's supported by an utterly stellar cast that includes Ryan Gosling (The Notebook, Blue Valentine), Julianne Moore (The Big Lebowski, The Kids Are Alright), Kevin Bacon, Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinnie, The Wrestler) and Emma Stone (Zombieland, Easy A).  Everyone has impressed me in films prior to this one, but I can't help but to think that it was somehow Carrell that inspired everyone in this to meet the bar he set. The movie is one you've seen before.  It's about a middle-aged couple going through a divorce and how the man, who lost his zest for life and romance, gets it back after meeting a sexy suave stranger.  The premise is nothing new...little coming out of Hollywood is anymore; but that doesn't mean that it's not entertaining and touching.  It manages to maintain a tone through the whole film that's very refreshing.  There are some scenes that are extremely funny and a blast to watch, but if the movie got too sad and dark it would have put a damper on the comedy.  However it still has those scenes that might make you wipe a tear or two away since it's well-written enough that you care deeply for some of the characters. What makes it even more fun is that there are twists in the story that throw you curve balls and make sure you're not losing interest.  Even as predictable and cheesy as some scenes (especially the ending) can get, it's those shockers that really kept my eyes from rolling.  One particular twist is rather obvious, or at least was to me, if you're simply paying attention to some of the casting choices but that's all I'll say about that. Crazy Stupid Love isn't breaking any new ground and for that it gets docked a point.  However it's one of those movies that seems to come along rather often that is a universal crowd pleaser on almost all levels.  It doesn't get graphic.  It stays very sweet.  It has the perfect amount of ha-has.  It makes sure you don't leave unhappy.  It speaks to everyone on some level or another, even if it really doesn't have anything itself to say. Crazy Stupid Love (Rated PG-13) Gavin Grade: A-
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Cowboys and Aliens
Every audience of this film will be filled with people who love the idea of it...at first.  Then, I believe, people will leave telling others how much fun this movie is and word will spread.  Then others, who thought the premise of the film about cowboys battling aliens is completely stupid, will check it out and some...not all...but some will agree with how good it is. My wife attended this premier with me although she was positive it was going to be stupid.  I assured it couldn't be crap because it stars Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig  (the new James Bond, Defiance), was directed by John Favearu (Iron Man, Iron Man 2) and was produced by Steven Speilberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.  That's a blue ribbon pedigree right there.  Then I noticed during the opening credits that it was written by nine different people and I felt even more assured.  That many hands on a movie is either going to create quality or disaster, but I had faith that some of those top shelf Hollywood royalty wouldn't attach their names to crap.  I was right. Cowboys and Aliens is one of the most fun and well done films of the summer.  It's executed with precision because wavering slightly off target would have ruined it.  Harrison Ford, who plays one of his best roles since Han Solo, yells out the line "This is ridiculous" during a scene of exposition and although we all agree with him, that's as far as the movie goes to acknowledge it.  It's like a master comedian telling you a joke with a straight face.  The movie doesn't even give you as much as a wink to the premise being silly.  Everyone in the movie commits to the roles and plays it off as seriously as they could.  I loved that about it.  If it was done slightly campy or silly it would have felt like a totally different film and it wouldn't have satisfied what I was looking for.  I wanted True Grit and Independence Day to become one movie, although I don't smoke weed so a thought like that never crossed my mind until it was presented to me. The "cowboy" part of the film is done with such great detail that it would stand up to most great westerns.  The "alien" part of the film (although they're never called "aliens" since it's 1873...they're called "demons") is also done with splendid detail that it offers the thrills comparable to most great sci-fi films.  That is a very hard circus trick to pull off and I say they did it. Not everyone will agree with me however.  Cowboys and Aliens is going to be very polarizing for a lot of people.  Upon leaving this movie, I can say with confidence that you'll either love it or hate it; there will be no one left in between.  But there will be some haters that get converted to believers by exciting action, great performances, and even some shockingly touching scenes...just like my wife did.  For the rest of them, it's safe to say that if you think a movie titled Cowboys and Aliens sounds stupid and not intriguing in the slightest, you're better off staying home because that's exactly what you get...but hot damn is it fun. Cowboys and Aliens (Rated PG-13) Gavin Grade: A
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Jenna Fischer Interview

Gavin spoke to Jenna Fischer (The Office) about her new movie "A Little Help." Jenna Fisher - Gavin Interview 7-22-11
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Captain America: The First Avenger
There's an old debate over whether or not it's better to be first or last in an audition.  Some say you don't want to be first because the judges aren't even paying attention because they're just warming up.  Some say you don't want to go last because the judges will be exhausted by the end.  Unfortunately for Captain America, it came last in the Summer of Superheroes and maybe I'm just exhausted. Now don't get me wrong; I enjoyed it.  But I wonder if that's because I enjoy comic book movies.  Or perhaps its that I enjoy comic book movies that's the reason why I didn't love it.  Either way, Captain America came across as a painfully average film in almost all ways. For those who don't know, Captain America was one of the first superheroes released in 1941 and was a super soldier who was created to help our boys kick Hitler's ass in World War II.  In the last 70 years though, he's dropped off in popularity.  The only reason why this film was made was because Captain America is part of the super group The Avengers, which Marvel Studios has invested over a $1 billion in films to gear up that movie.  To catch you up to speed, those films have been The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and now Captain America.  Luckily they've all been good films and have recouped that insane amount of money they've invested.  (The Avengers comes out next summer and will feature all four characters.)  Unfortunately for Captain America, his movie is the worst of the lot. Chris Evans (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Fantastic Four) was lucky enough to land the role of the Captain.  He's usually a great comedic, painfully attractive, charismatic performer but in this role he's as bland and dry as wall paper.  He bred zero personality into the character and makes him rather impossible to like and root for.  That, combined with an awful script that develops none of the characters with lines that drip with cheese, create a campy (which, I know, is expected with the nature of the character) and dull film.  It becomes what no superhero movie should ever be...boring. Director Joe Johnston, who's had his ups (Jumanji, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) and downs (The Wolfman, Hildalgo) makes an action movie with very little action in it.  Not only are there really only two action sequences in the film, but he blows through what could be many more with a pointlessly bizarre action montage of Captain America kicking Nazi ass.  Huh? There are redeeming qualities though.  For starters, Tommy Lee Jones gives one of his best comedic performances since Men in Black playing a character that is a lot like his Oscar-winning role in The Fugitive.  I also really enjoyed the risk that Johnston and Marvel took by releasing a summer blockbuster superhero PERIOD film.  Almost the entire movie takes place in 1941...bold move.  There's even a musical number in it.  These are brave decisions that Johnston made and for that I appreciate it.  The 3D is actually done pretty well too.  There was even a moment where I jumped when the trademark American shield got thrown and ricocheted right at my face! The truth of the matter is that Captain America is weakest of a very strong pedigree.  Iron Man set the bar so high though that we've fallen short of it ever since.  That's the problem with all these films linking together; they all get compared to each other.  Let's just hope that The Avengers next summer lives up the hype and is way better than The First Avenger. Captain America: The First Avenger (Rated PG-13) Gavin Grade: B-
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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt. 2
Hold on one second.  I'm still tearing up, let me wipe them away.  It's hard to write a review for the last Harry Potter movie objectively, especially since I'm sitting here wearing my "9 3/4" hat I got at the screening!  In a word though...Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 is PERFECT! I'm a huge Potter fan and let's be honest, you're not even considering seeing this if you're not.  This is the eighth installment of the most lucrative film series of all time, and it's also (tear) the last.  Harry Potter blessed us with the first movie ten years ago and it's been part of our lives ever since.  In the final installment, however, the s**t hits the fan and we're presented with the darkest, most dramatic, most tear-jerking, well-done film in the series. Splitting the Deathly Hallows book into two movies was brilliant on Warner Bros. part.  The first one grossed over a billion dollars, so why have one billon dollar movie when you could have two?  But not only was it done for greed, but it was also done to give the fans the proper send off they wanted and that the books deserved.  Director David Yates, who's done the last three films, reaches his zenith by pushing the limits of what a Potter fan can handle as far as adult content.  The film picks up exactly where the last one left off and within 40 minutes of the slightly over two hour runtime, the film is balls-to-the-wall action.  It's a nice change considering that Deathly Hallows part 1 dragged on (as it does in the book) to the point of exhaustion. What impressed me more than anything was the cast.  In this final film, we get the performances from everyone that we've been longing to see.  All the kids finally proved why they were cast in those roles to begin with and all three have moments in the film where they're given the spotlight to really prove they have dramatic chops.  However, for me, stealing the show is Alan Rickman (Dogma, Galaxy Quest), who plays Snape.  I won't give anything away to the Muggles who haven't read the book, but we find out his entire past in a montage that lasts an emotionally exhausting 6 minutes that doesn't leave a dry eye in the theater.  It makes me wonder if it's too early to whisper "Best Supporting Actor?" to anyone that would listen. That makes me wonder a final point about this.  When the Lord of the Rings trilogy ended, the Academy did the sensible thing and waited for it to conclude and then crapped Oscars all over it.  Will they be smart enough to do it here?  Do I think Deathly Hallows part 2 is good enough to earn Oscars on its own?  Yes I do.  But should it be symbolically showered with little gold men for the accomplishments the series achieved in taking a Chris Columbus (Home Alone) directed children's film all the way to the gory, action and tears soaked crescendo and earning the tens of billions of dollars along the way?  I believe that too.  Now it's up to them.  They should do the sensible thing and show their gratitude like the rest of us and say "Thanks for the last decade of our lives, Harry." Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 (Rated PG-13) Gavin Grade: A+
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Horrible Bosses
In Jennifer Aniston's career since Friends, she's been box office poison.  Regardless of whether or not you like her or think she's any good acting, her films haven't done well at all.  From Management to The Bounty Hunter to The Switch to the cream of the crap Just Go With It...she seems to be the common denominator in bad movies.  That is until now. So how did she overcome this streak.  Well, she was smart enough to star in a black comedy with Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis (NBC's SNL, Hall Pass) and the hilarious Charlie Day (FX's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Going the Distance).  That is a comedy dream team that anyone would be stupid to walk away from and they deliver on all angels. What makes the film even better is that it's directed by Seth Gordon.  Now you may not know his name but he's already made some incredible films.  The reason why he's probably unknown is because his former films are documentaries namely Freakonomics and the absolutely amazing film The King of Kong.  Plus he's one of the creative minds behind shows like The Office, Community and Parks and Recreation. Gordon did the correct thing to do with an ensemble cast like this; he allowed them to do whatever they wanted.  You can tell by the outtakes that pepper the end credits.  Even Aniston is very funny as the sexually harassing dentist, although she's clearly the weakest link.  The film is primarily Bateman, Sudeikis and Day doing a modern version of The Three Stooges as they bumble their way through a plot to kill each other's bosses.  If you think that's a straight-up ripoff of Strangers on a Train, don't worry because it's called out on it in the actual movie by Jamie Foxx's character...who has a name I can't repeat in this review. The first act of the film is clunky and weak.  It sets up the characters in stilted dialogue and shows us the titular horrible bosses that are so horrible they come across as unbelievable.  But luckily this doesn't last long and once we're in the throws of the film it gets very funny, very quickly.  Horrible Bosses also does something that most comedies have a very hard time doing and that is to stay funny all the way up until the end.  The way Hollywood comedies have been playing out is a really funny beginning, a good middle and a poor end. Horrible Bosses seems to be completely the other way around and it works very well for it. There's a chance black comedy isn't your cup of tea or that Aniston's rapey, foul language is too "un-Rachel" for you.  But if you heed the R rating and enjoy fast, improvised acting that also keeps you in a state of suspense, this is THE summer comedy for you since it's anything BUT horrible. Horrible Bosses (Rated R) Gavin Grade: A-
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