The Family Stone
The Family Stone is a wonderful film for the entire family. I admit that when I went to see it with my dad and 16 year old sister, I was not sure if my sister would understand or appreciate some of the adult themes in the film. Going into the theater I already knew that Sarah Jessica Parker had been nominated for a Golden Globe award for her role in this film as lead actress in a comedy/musical. Also, there was talk of Diane Keaton possibly receiving an Oscar nomination as supporting actress. In addition to all the award banter, The Family Stone has an all-star cast. With all of this in mind, I had high hopes for this movie and it certainly delivered
The Family Stone is, on the surface, your typical dysfunctional family reunion around the holidays film. The main story of the film revolves around Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) taking his sweetheart, Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) to spent Christmas with his disapproving family. Diane Keaton gives a decent performance as the mother of the family, Cecile Stone. The father, Kelly Stone (Craig T. Nelson) seems to be the main factor in keeping the family partially sane. Other main characters include the ‘mean sister’ Amy Stone (Rachel McAdams); the pregnant rational sister Susanna Stone; the gay, deaf brother and his boyfriend; Ben Stone (Luke Wilson), the stoner brother; and Julie (Claire Danes, Meredith’s sister. After seeing the film, you realize that there are many more elements to the film that make it stand out among the holiday reunion genre. Among these elements are scenes dealing with homosexuals being allowed to raise a baby, cancer, and a love triangle. One of the components of this film that really helped to keep in together and keep it running smoothly was the equal balance of humor and drama. There was even an equal balance of slapstick humor and subtle humor. It could change so quickly; one second you’re slapping your thigh and the next moment you’re crying.
This film, in my opinion, showed the true talent of many of the actors in this film. Luke Wilson, who plays Ben Stone, does a great job with his performance in the sense that he showcases the many sides of his ability to act. Movies before this one Luke Wilson usually played slapstick comedic roles. The first sign I saw in The Family Stone that he had range outside of comedy was during the scene in which he cries after finding out the details of a family member’s sickness. The next actor in the film that showed a side of them I had never seen before was Craig T. Nelson as Kelly Stone, the father. Granted, the only thing I have ever really seen him in was the hit television sitcom, Coach, seeing Craig T. Nelson in this film made me wonder why he hadn’t been in more films. If anybody in this film deserves a Golden Globe or Oscar nomination it should be Craig T. Nelson. As usually, Rachel McAdams did a stellar job as Amy Stone, the sister that doesn’t give Meredith a chance in hell to be accepted into the family. One of the main factors that made this film so great wasn’t necessarily the story or script but mainly the casting. Although The Family Stone had an above average amount of big name stars, it has many unknown actors that help to make the Stones seem like a real family. They convinced me!
The Family Stone portrays real family conflict and issues that can arise at any family reunion. This is what makes the film appeal to such a wide audience. That, and of course, anyone who has a sense of humor. I give The Family Stone a B+.
The Fighter tells the true story of the Ward family and the relationship between two brothers from Lowell, Massachusetts. Mark Wahlberg plays Micky Ward, a boxer whose brother, Dickie (Christian Bale), is a former boxer himself who has now become a crack addict and has delusional dreams of a huge comeback. With differing opinions on how Micky should further his boxing career are his girlfriend, Charlene, and his mother, Alice, played by Amy Adams and Melissa Leo respectively.
Before watching this movie I thought it was strange casting to pair Wahlberg and Bale as brothers but much to my surprise, it worked extremely well. The two of them played opposite each other seamlessly. Before this movie it would have seemed like no surprise that they had never worked together because they are such different actors but after seeing The Fighter, it’s a wonder why it took this long to get them in the same movie. Mark Wahlberg did a decent job with his performance, but nothing to write home about. Christian Bale, on the other hand, could not have been better. Even when it’s not true, people watch movies all the time and say “So and So stole every scene he was in.” With Bale, it could not be a truer statement. This is easily one of Bale’s best, if not his very best performance of his career. It’s not surprising he has already won the Critics Choice Award and Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. There is no doubt that on February 27th he will win the Oscar as well
Melissa Leo was fantastic as Micky and Dickie’s mother, Alice. You can tell an actor is doing a great job when you truly dislike the character you are supposed to detest. Billy Zane did it as Cal in Titanic, Daniel Day-Lewis did it as Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York, and now Melissa Leo does it as Alice. Throughout the movie you just keep screaming at Melissa Leo to go away and leave Mark Wahlberg alone! Amy Adams wasn’t terrible but was not entirely believable as Micky’s girlfriend. She may have been out of her league with the Boston accent.
The town of Lowell, Mass. was a character all on its own. It’s such an uninviting setting for an equally brutal and emotionally draining film. The Fighter is the kind of film that the awards season always showers with praise and it has received so much already. I’m confident it won’t slow down until after the Oscars. I give The Fighter an A-.
The Final Destination
The Final Destination tells the same story as the first three films in the series. It begins with a group of stupid, horny teenagers in the midst of a “dangerous” environment. In this movie, the teens are at a racecar speedway. One of the teens, played by Bobby Campo, has a vivid premonition about an impending crash at the speedway that ends up killing everybody in the stands. After the premonition, Campo throws a hissy-fit resulting in him, his friends, and some other people leaving the speedway, having their lives spared when the real disaster occurs. The rest of the movie has the survivors trying to figure out ways to cheat death as “Death” chases after them. If you know anything about these bloodbath movies, you don’t need me to tell you the survivors don’t survive very long.
As is the case with all the Final Destination movies, the best parts are the overly gruesome death scenes and let’s face it, nobody goes to see these movies for the inventive storylines or the Oscar-caliber acting. Speaking of acting, it is my sad duty to inform you that the guy who played Bubba, the fan favorite in Forrest Gump, is in this movie. At one point during The Final Destination I turned to my friend and rhetorically asked, “ How do you go from such a classic like Forrest Gump to this?!”
Again, there was absolutely no reason to make this movie. The story was the same as the others, the acting and accompanying dialogue was horrendous, and the movie was overall a piece of you-know-what. The only reason I am not giving this movie a solid ‘F’ is for two reasons. The death scenes were awesome, especially since I watched this movie in 3-D. The other aspect that helped to somewhat redeem this movie, albeit unintentionally, was how absolutely hilarious this movie was. I can guarantee the filmmakers did not intend for this movie to be a comedy. Believe me, this movie is so bad you cannot help but laugh. I watched this movie in a private theater screening with three of my friends. We were the only ones in there and we were laughing hysterically the entire time. However, from a purely filmmaking perspective, this movie was terrible and therefore I give it a D.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
I think most people who see Forgetting Sarah Marshall will agree with me when I say that a new star is on the rise to comic stardom. Jason Segel stars in his first major film about a guy who has just broken up with his television star girlfriend. He decides to go on a vacation to Hawaii to take his mind off of his recent break-up. The only problem is, when he gets there, he realizes his ex (played by the gorgeous Kristen Bell) is also on vacation…with her new beau, Aldous Snow, a British pop star.
Given the fact that Jason Segel has only ever played second to the lead in all his other films and that not many people know who he is, I was not sure how well he would do starring as the lead for the first time. Honestly, he could not have been more perfect. Segel plays his part as a lovesick loser to flawlessly. Segel has always played the ‘buddy’ to other comedians in films like Knocked Up starring Seth Rogen. To be blunt, I never thought he was that funny even in bit parts. This leads me to believe that either Forgetting Sarah Marshall was the perfect role for his particular type of humor or that he just really never got the chance to shine as a starring comedic actor in his other films.
I really, honestly, cannot pinpoint any one specific aspect of this film that made it so damn funny but I can guarantee that if you like Knocked Up, Superbad, and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, you will not have any problems laughing you ass of watching this movie.
I’ve noticed that recently, my reviews have been longer than usual but this one I am keeping short. There really is no need to waste your time reading anymore of a review for Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Just know that it is one of the funniest movies you will see in years, literally. Now go watch it!
I give Forgetting Sarah Marshall an A+.
Plain and simple, Fracture would have been better as a made-for-television crime drama rather than a star studded, silver screen pic. Yup. Fracture comes across as nothing more than a lengthy version some hour long, prime time television crime drama. I don’t blame the actors or any of the production crew. I don’t even fault the director, producer, or even the writers. If anyone is to blame for this bland, elongated version of a television crime drama, it is the people at Warner Brothers who hired the director and writers. Both the director and the two writers have resumes that show they have written and directed many different television crime dramas including “NYPD Blue,” “L.A. Law,” “Miami Vice,” and even the early 80’s cop show “Hill Street Blues.” I don’t blame these guys for not putting together a very good movie. They are used to working within a one hour time slot on a television network. There is quite a difference between a small screen weekly television program and a big screen crime drama helmed by three Academy Award winners, one of which is an Oscar winner as well as a knight.
Fracture stars Sir Anthony Hopkins as a wealthy aeronautics engineer. He realizes his significantly younger wife has been cheating on him so he does the only logical thing and shoots her in the head. She doesn’t die however rather she is in a deep coma. 2006 Academy Award nominee Ryan Gosling stars as young, rising lawyer who has just been handed a job offer at a large, prominent law firm. Before he can start his new job he must first take on one more case at the D.A.’s office. You guessed it, he has been chosen to prosecute Anthony Hopkins. As the story unravels, the audience might have a passing thought that Hopkins is innocent but it’s easy to figure out that he obviously do it (even though the filmmakers would like it if they kept you guessing). As young and cocky as he is, Gosling gets frustrated at the fact that there is no evidence proving Hopkins guilt. As the film begins to wrap up you begin to think, “I hope the ending is good otherwise I just wasted $10 on a 2 hour TV show.” If you are waiting for some big surprise ending, I’m sorry to tell you that you’re going to have to wait a bit longer. That moment of shock never comes. Sure the writers try to shock you with a twist ending but it is nothing you haven’t seen before or couldn’t have guessed on your own.
I was expecting the story to be great and the acting to be even better but I was utter disappointed by both accounts. I figured to story would must be great if a living legend such as Hopkins agreed to put aside the zillions of other offers he must have so he could make thins particular film. I was wrong. The acting is something that really shouldn’t even be mentioned. Hopkins wasn’t bad but it was nothing new. His character had the same personality most of his characters have had. I’ve never been a fan of Ryan Gosling and seeing him in this film just makes my idea of him worse. I am going to be blunt, Gosling needs to go back to acting school or just not act at all. In many of the scenes where he is yelling and is supposed to be serious…it is so obvious he is trying not to laugh. It’s as if every scene with him should be placed on the blooper reel on the DVD.
The only aspect of this film that I though was clever was the naming of the main characters. The older, more experienced lawyers and detectives in the film had strong, solid, one syllable names such as Ted, Joe, and Rob. Ryan Gosling, the young, hotshot, overconfident, lawyer is named Willy; an obvious kid’s name. This careful naming of the characters is supposed to should the inexperience that Gosling’s character has.
So to be completely blunt, I reiterate the point that the whole idea for this film would have been much better if it were used as a plot for an episode of “NYPD Blue” or “Law & Order.” I give Fracture a D.
What happened to those holiday movies that really made you feel good? The movies that made the Christmas season even more enjoyable than they already were? Of course there are the classics such as Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life. Even movies released during my lifetime such as Home Alone (1990) and The Santa Claus (1994) are already classics. I can tell you with absolute certainty that Fred Claus is not even close to having classic potential. Fred Claus was entertaining to a certain extent but it was mostly just filled with self-indulging humor. In other words, Fred Claus was filled with plotlines and dialogue that the filmmakers must have thought was funny at the time but whatever they saw as humorous obviously didn’t transfer over onto the screen.
Fred Claus tells the “untold” story of Santa Claus’ unreliable and grumpy brother, Fred (Vince Vaughn). The story begins in a fantasy world where Nicolas (Santa) and Frederick are young boys growing up with their father and mother (Kathy Bates). Fred gains his bitter personality at a young age when his parents are constantly telling young Fred that he should be more like his younger brother, Nicolas. Fast-forward to the present where Nicolas (Paul Giamatti) is now Santa Claus and Fred is living in Chicago just trying not to go broke or lose his girlfriend (Rachel Weisz). When Fred needs to post bail, he calls on his iconic brother for help. Nick tells Fred that he will only post bail if he promises to come up to the North Pole, which he has never once visited, and help him and the elves finish getting ready for Christmas Eve. The rest of the film is filled with sibling quarrels and frequent problems with getting all the work done in time for Christmas including a visit by an IRS wannabe, Clyde Northcut (Kevin Spacey as the only entertaining character in the entire film).
Although Fred Claus is not a film that will be on my annual list of films to see during the Christmas season, it did have a few redeeming qualities. The best was the creation of the North Pole. In my opinion, most film versions of the North Pole fall short and are usually bland and unappealing. Fred Claus, however, had my favorite North Pole design. It was very colorful and it made me want to be there. Most North Pole designs don’t do anything for me. Another very enjoyable aspect of the film was the character of Charlene, played by the always extremely hot Elizabeth Banks. The skimpy Christmas outfit she wears throughout the film gives it a major boost in the films rating (seriously, if you see the movie you will know what I mean).
The absolute most annoying part of the film was the plethora of Vince Vaughn’s overused style of joke-telling. The mark of a good comedian is when they are able to continuously reinvent themselves and change with the times. It is important for a comedic actor to not get stuck in one style of comedy acting because eventually the laughter will die and no one will want to see your movies anymore. This said, Vince Vaughn needs to think of a new way to be funny because the humor style he used in Wedding Crashers and Dodgeball just is not funny anymore.
Bottomline, Fred Claus was entertaining and a good holiday film for kids but it is not something that will stand the test of time against other holiday classics. This time, Claus is another way to say average. I give Fred Claus a C.
Friday the 13th (2009)
While I personally enjoyed these films, they still did not stack up to the originals. The only other slasher remake that came even close to being as scary as the original was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003). That movie was a surprise to everyone who saw it. The success of that movie inspired other filmmakers to revamp the rest of the classics. The remakes of The Hills Have Eyes and Halloween achieved rather lackluster praise and mild success at the box office. Until this year, it seemed that the fad of slasher remakes was just that. On February 13th (a Friday of course) the remake of Friday the 13th opened to big numbers and became the biggest opening horror movie remake in history. Next year, in 2010, the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street will be released and the sequel to Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake is scheduled for release this August.
Friday the 13th is anything but a scene for scene remake. First of all, Jason Vorhees (the hockey masked psychopath) is the killer in this movie, unlike the original where Jason’s mother famously played the part of the killer. Second, and more importantly, we do not see Jason’s face at all in the film. I, as most people will agree, hate it when a killer’s face is shown in slasher films. Doing this takes away half of the chill factor in a horror film. It is much scarier to leave the killer’s face to the imagination of the viewer. There is no need to know the plot of the movie because honestly, there is nothing to know. Jason Vorhees goes around killing teens at his famous stomping grounds, Camp Crystal Lake.
Friday the 13th holds nothing back in terms of all the usual slasher amenities. The usual horror movie sex, drugs, and gore are present and plentiful. It is also important to note the filmmakers of this movie because if you liked the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2003 then you should not have any problem enjoying this movie. Marcus Nispel, director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake returns to give direction to this other horror classic. Michael Bay, who produced the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, also returns to the genre to produce Friday the 13th. The same, gritty feel Marcus Nispel used in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is implemented in Friday the 13th as well. This works well because it gives the movie a rougher, tenser feel for the audience.
Everyone knows the main reason people go to see horror movies is to be scared and then to be able to walk out of the theater saying “Thank God that was just a movie!” You will not get that warm feeling with this movie. Oddly enough, that is not a bad thing. Really, audiences generally know what to expect with a movie called Friday the 13th: killing, killing, and even more killing. Everyone who sees this movie has probably already seen at least one of the previous Friday the 13th movies so they have a general idea of the killer and what he enjoys doing in his free time. The one thing that was new and exciting in this movie was the way that Jason kills his victims. Many of the death scenes are original and, truthfully, kind of humorous but that is what made this movie great. If the movie had just taken the same killer and had him kill his victims in the same ways we have seen him do it for the last 30 years, the fun and mystery would have been taken right out of the film.
To wet your palette for this movie I will tell you one thing. The prologue of Friday the 13th lasts about 30 minutes. When I saw the movie and the famous “Friday the 13th” title was plastered across the screen after the 30-minute intro, the packed theater went absolutely nuts with applause and screams. In other words, it only took the film 30 minutes to make everyone in the audience look forward to the sequel. I give Friday the 13th an A.