WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 25

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 25th WWW:

1) Extract:
Jason Bateman plays a man who has built a small idea into a big business, running a factory where various flavor extracts are bottled and shipped. There’s even the possibility of selling his company and retiring early. The only real problem in his life is that his marriage has gone stale, with almost no physical interaction with his wife(Kristen Wiig). Enter temptation in the form of Mila Kunis, who drifts from town to town conning people out of their valuables. I have to say, I wasn’t always a fan, but I like her more and more every time I see her in a movie. Kunis has heard of a serious injury at the plant, and romances a man who lost a testicle in order to convince him to sue the company for a huge settlement. Unaware of this, Bateman wrestles with his attraction to Kunis’ character, seeking the advice of his bartender buddy, played by a shaggy Ben Affleck acting refreshingly un-BenAffleck-like. While under the influence of a pill Affleck’s character gives him, Bateman agrees to an ill-advised plan to send a dimwitted male prostitute to his house in the guise of a pool boy. If his wife were to give in to temptation and cheat, Bateman could take it as a green light to have an affair of his own. You could imagine how many ways a plan like that could backfire. He also has a persistently annoying neighbor played by David Koechner, who channels so much Stephen Root as to make me wonder if the part was originally intended for him. In the end, there’s not really a lot that happens, but there are some great character performances and some funny moments. I can’t help but compare it to Mike Judge’s previous films. I could say not much happened in the cult classic Office Space, but that movie was hysterically funny and offered a ton of experiences similar to my own in offices. And while Office Space is the funniest of the Judge films, Idiocracy had its moments and had the most to say about society. As much as that movie made me laugh, it also kind of scared me with its logic. That future could actually happen; look at that Jersey Shore show everyone keeps talking about. So, in the end, I don’t think Extract was a bad film, not at all, but I don’t see it having the lasting power of Office Space or social commentary of Idiocracy. I liked it; I liked those other ones more.

2) Dirty Dancing:
Out of all the clips and bits and pieces of this movie that I’ve caught over the years, I somehow missed how much Wayne Knight there was in it. Seriously, even when the guy isn’t on screen you usually hear his voice making some kind of announcement over a loudspeaker. Other than that, there weren’t too many surprises. While on a vacation with her parents and her sister, Jennifer Grey’s “Baby” meets and falls for an older dance instructor played by Patrick Swayze. Other than one scuffle, he doesn’t kick ass the way he did in Road House. No, his Johnny Castle’s prowess lies on the dance floor. I somehow also never realized that the film was set in the early ‘60s, so while the dancing has a lot of suggestive motion, it doesn’t seem that “dirty” by today’s standards. The film also has an unneeded abortion subplot as the device by which Baby and Johnny first get together. One of Johnny’s friends has a bun in her oven(not from him but from a jerky waiter) that threatens her dance career. Baby gets money from her father without telling him what it’s for, and while the pregnant dancer is being butchered, Baby becomes Johnny’s new dance partner. When the operation goes bad, she has to call her father in to save the girl, which he does, assuming Johnny was the father of the aborted child. The girl meanwhile is ironically relieved to learn she can still have children, so we’re left to assume she won’t have the next one killed. Baby’s father forbids her to see Johnny, which of course pushes her more into his arms. Johnny meanwhile, suffering low self-esteem because he grew up on the streets and because the wives of men staying at the lake resort treat him like a gigolo, is very moved by the way Baby has helped him. If I looked like Swayze and could dance half that good, I don’t think I’d have self-esteem issues. In any case, the dancing and the chemistry between the two leads is the appeal of the film, and there’s not much substance beyond that, nor does there necessarily need to be. In the end, it’s a story about rebellion, about growing up to define ourselves as the keys are passed from one generation to the next, as they inevitably always are.

3) The Backwoods:
I liked the tension and moral ambiguity of this little foreign thriller starring Gary Oldman. Recently inheriting some property in Spain, two English couples go on a small vacation. After some awkward interaction with some of the locals in town, they make their way to the house in the woods. Oldman and his buddy(played by Paddy Considine) go hunting while the wives stay behind, but their trip brings more than a dead rabbit. They find a small girl locked in a barn, chained up and clearly treated like an animal. Considine’s character is often indecisive, while Oldman never hesitates. He removes the girl from the place and brings her home. When some of the townspeople come looking for her, that’s when the trouble really starts. Do they turn her over? Who can they trust? What is the right thing to do? A cycle of revenge and injustice begins, leaving both our protagonists and the audience to wonder what the right thing is. There’s an interesting flip on the body count process of elimination formula, reminding us that, more often than not, the world is full of shades of gray. There are few in the film that are purely good or evil, and the majority of characters are simply, and tragically, human.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



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