WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 43

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 43rd WWW:

1) Year One:
I was warned that this would be bad, and Jack Black is definitely one of those hit-or-miss actors for me. But I thought the presence of Michael Cera might elevate the film above Black's weaker sophomoric leanings, and the trailer had some genuinely funny moments. As is the case with most disappointing comedies, most of those funny moments were in the trailer alone. It's a concept that might have worked as a sketch, casting the uncouth Black and nebbishy Cera as cavemen, speaking in their normal modern tones. And I think that was half of the problem, that these guys each have one note to play, so it gets old. When I saw the cast in the opening credits, I had some hope that it wouldn't be as bad as people said. But most of those other stars had little more than cameo roles as the wandering cavemen, banished from their tribe, ran into different biblical figures. It didn't matter if those people were contemporaries with each other let alone cave people; this wasn't the film to watch for historical accuracy. I also automatically subtract a star when bathroom humor gets to be too much for me. Human waste grosses me out more than blood in movies, and seeing Black pick up and taste feces in an attempt to track people was something that went on too long, not that there's a right length for such a scene. Seeing an imprisoned Cera hanging upside down, stammering that he has to pee in his awkward way is funny. Seeing it actually happen and dribble down his face is not, and way beneath the actor, in my opinion. With less crude material, there could have been interesting chemistry between these comedic actors. It's 90 minutes of my life I won't get back, and the few parts that were funny along with a Leeroy Jenkins reenactment as a special feature just weren't enough to make up for the bad parts of the film.

2) Last Chance Harvey:
It's hard to not like this movie or empathize with the characters. Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson are leading parallel crappy lives at the start of the film. Thompson lives in England, is single and in her 40s, and takes care of her mother. Hoffman's titular Harvey is from America, but in London for his daughter's wedding. He's on the verge of losing his job as a commercial jingle writer, and his career has made him an outsider with his own family. His ex-wife(Kathy Baker) is married to James Brolin, a bit too perfect in the husband and stepfather department when compared to Harvey. Worse, Harvey's daughter wants Brolin to walk her down the aisle. Hoffman does a great job playing this complete sad sack, isolated and work obsessed. Missing his flight home and losing his job could prove that sometimes bad things could be the best things to free us for something better. He meets Thompson, and with nothing to lose, ends up spending the day with her, bordering on stalker behavior forgivable because he's so charming and endearing. The film's second act breaks down into a series of montages and a few heartwarming feel good moments. Their lives are so terrible in the first act, that it's great to see two people just connect and start to smile again. And if movies have taught us anything, it's that such things cannot last. I think that's my only criticism, is that things go so well, when conflict is inevitably introduced in the third act, it's kind of manufactured. I could be jaded from watching so many movies, but I never had a sense that things weren't going to go the way I wanted them to go. That's a minor criticism at best, since these two performers are enjoyable to watch and have great chemistry together. This isn't Hoffman's Jerry Maguire, but it's still a great date movie for couples, or a movie to give single people hope that it's never too late to get a last chance at love. The “d'awwww” factor is strong with this one.

3) Inkheart:
Brendan Fraser stars as a “Silvertongue”, a person with a very dangerous ability to bring to life any characters or objects from any book he reads aloud. The danger lies partly in the fact that his Mortimer Folchart is not immediately aware of this power, but also that it works both ways. When he inadvertently reads several characters out of a book of the same name as the film, his wife is sucked into the book. Years later, after searching for another copy of the book to free his wife, he's forced to tell his daughter the truth about her mother's disappearance. It's a pretty cool concept based on a novel, so in a sense it's like the characters really have been brought out of the book. Mythical creatures and well-known beings from other novels show up, such as Toto. One of the characters Brendan Fraser freed, the villainous Capricorn(Andy Serkis), finds himself another Silvertongue named Darius, whose stutter results in imperfect beings with writing partially covering them. Still, Capricorn has put together a gang and consolidated power, and managed to destroy most of the existing copies of Inkheart to prevent Fraser from sending him back. In the middle is Paul Bettany as the fire-manipulating Dustfinger, one of the more interesting characters from Inkheart. Freed at the same time as Capricorn, he saved Fraser and his daughter, but now seeks nothing more than to get back into the book and see his family again. This moral conflict causes his allegiances to shift a few times, but you'll have to see the film to find out where they finally settle. This wasn't the effects-laden mega-epic it could have been, and there were large portions of exposition that slowed things down. Author Cornelia Funke cited Brendan Fraser as the inspiration for Mo Folchart, so it was certainly fitting that he portrayed him in the film. The book was first in a trilogy, but the movie seems to have wrapped things up too neatly and I haven't heard of plans to make more. Overall, this was an enjoyable movie, and a celebration of literature and all the worlds authors create.

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



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