I won’t deny it – my viewing selections have not exactly been stellar of late. In fact, there was one to which my only written reaction was: “???” But here are a few remarks about some of the startlingly jejune features I’ve seen recently.
COTTAGE COUNTRY (2013)
A sort-of-spineless, down-on-his-luck fat guy (usually played by Kevin James, but here played by Tucker and Dale vs. Evil’s Tyler Labine) accidentally murders his annoying brother at their family cabin. He and his fiancée (Malin Akerman, who has one of the most finely sculpted posteriors I’ve ever seen on film) conspire to cover it up.
It’s not nearly as entertaining as it sounds or as funny as it wants to be, but it really put something in perspective for me – I probably won’t get married until I find a girl who’d be willing to cover up a gruesome murder with me. Think about that. Is there any greater test of devotion in a relationship? And I’m not talking about a “somebody’s kid runs in front of your car and you can’t brake in time” scenario – I’m talking a full-on “I grabbed the letter opener and severed someone’s jugular” thing.
ZACK & MIRI MAKE A PORNO (2008)
Is it safe to say that Kevin Smith “is over”? I’ve only viewed a couple of his movies, but I’m reasonably confident that he hasn’t made a good one in 14 years. This is the most painfully unsuccessful attempt at Judd Apatow-ing I’ve seen.
For a guy who is regarded as such a witty, incisive writer, Smith employs some of the most tired comedy cliches you can imagine: the hot girl who is inexplicably seen as undesirable by most men (Elizabeth Banks); the annoying overweight loser who somehow ends up with said girl (Seth Rogen); the race-sensitive angry black guy (Craig Robinson); the black guy’s intimidating, ball-breaking wife; the high-strung Indian store owner. Oh, and it’s set in Pittsburgh, the New Jersey of Pennsylvania.
One last note: it struck me that much of Seth Rogen’s “comedy” (in this and most of his other films) consists mainly of stating, loudly, what is happening. Honestly, watch any Seth Rogen movie and count how many times he just describes what is happening or says what he’s doing. It’s astounding. I don’t seen why he gets dumped on for making The Green Hornet when he was also involved in this lackluster affair.
THE CROODS (2013)
Nicolas Cage plays the father of a caveman family. Emma Stone plays his daughter. Ryan Reynolds plays… a somewhat more advanced caveman, I guess. None of these people make the slightest attempt to sound like the role they are playing. The movie was alright, but forgettable.
This is one of those movies that is “written by and starring,” which is never a good sign. I don’t know why I watched it. A janitor gets trapped in a women’s restroom and encounters an all-out attack by a horde of zombies. How do you “encounter” an attack? It didn’t even sound good. I like movies that challenge themselves with a limited setting, but spending an hour and a half with a guy trapped in a bathroom stall? That’s pushing it.
Stalled can’t figure out whether it’s funny or scary or angst-y. There are odd inconsistencies – sometimes we can’t even hear the dozen or so zombies that are milling around literally inches away. My biggest complaint is the ending, which is unnecessarily mean-spirited on a couple fronts.
I loved Firefly, the TV series to which Serenity is a sequel – but, like everyone else, I only discovered it after it was canceled. I had put off watching the movie because I had heard it was something of a downer. It was that, but it was also exciting, creative, witty, fast-paced, touching, and ultimately optimistic. Obviously it helps if you’ve seen the TV series, but the movie does a good job of introducing you to the characters and their backgrounds on its own. The concept that drew me to it in the first place – a “Western in space” – probably limited its appeal with the general public, which is a shame: what could be more uniquely American?
This is the kind of film that people should be making more of – original, inventive, and not afraid to push unexpected buttons. It cares about it’s characters, it doesn’t condescend to the viewer, and it tells its story without wasting your time. It’s hard for me to believe that the man who made such an enjoyable, breezy, spirited movie also made a plodding, soulless ordeal like The Avengers.