WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 51

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 51st WWW:

1) The House Bunny:
I'm not sure what to make of this mis-marketed Anna Faris vehicle. An orphan who becomes a ditzy Playboy bunny when she grows up, she lives in the mansion with Hugh Hefner and dreams of becoming a centerfold. On her 27th birthday, she receives a note that she's too old now and that Hef wants her to leave. Through your typical Happy Madison contrivances, she eventually finds herself house mother to a group of misfit sorority girls on the brink of losing their charter. And so, what could have been a satire or sex comedy instead becomes a Legally Blonde/Mean Girls mash-up about girls dealing with self-esteem issues and scorn from the popular crowd. Emma Stone and Kat Dennings are the young talented actresses headlining the group Faris' character helps makeover. And while she gives them beauty and fashion tips, they help her get a little smarter and woo Colin Hanks, a charming guy who works in a nursing home. The film starts out pretty stupid with Faris doing her standard dumb blonde shtick, and by the end I had the strong sense that the target audience was young females, but it had a surprising amount of heart and a decent message. It's not a great film, and this sort of Revenge of the Nerds plot has been executed many times before. But it's always nice to see the underdogs come out on top, and the stuck-up materialistic people keeping them down get their just desserts. Faris is still a long way from transitioning from satirical movies into mainstream pieces, and here she's an absolute cartoon character. Fortunately, Hanks, Stone, Dennings, Rumer Willis and others surround her with more stable performances. I struggled with it in the beginning, cringed at most of the music selections, but in the end I found it was better than I expected.

2) Punisher: War Zone:
I think I'll always struggle with the idea of The Punisher as a hero. When Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered, it motivated him to push himself to the peak of human intellectual and physical development, and he became the crimefighter known as Batman, employing a wide range of skills and tools in his war, except for guns. Guns were abhorrent to him, the thing which took his family. He would not become that which he fought. When Frank Castle lost his wife and children to mobsters, he became a full-blown vigilante, with no remorse, no compunctions about killing. This makes for a great character, a great “anti-Batman”, but it's hard to put such a person front and center. Even Jack Bauer played by the rules sometimes, or worked around them in the name of justice and a greater good, always grounded by family and friends. In some ways, Punisher: War Zone does manage to give a human side to the vigilante, moreso than the 1989 and 2004 films about the character. When Ray Stevenson's Punisher accidentally kills an undercover FBI agent, it makes him question what he's doing. The man had a wife and a daughter, and Castle can empathize with their loss. Wayne Knight is also here as Frank's supplier Microchip, though they could have utilized him a bit more. This is darker than previous films, but also so over the top with violence that I laughed aloud several times. It was gun-porn blended with horror movie aesthetics. At one point an acrobatic villain is hit with a missile in mid-leap. In another scene, Frank punches a guy through the face. He decapitates an old man early in the film in one fell swoop. There are a lot of prosthetic limbs and blood packs used in this film. Castle himself never takes a hit anywhere other than his bulletproof vest. And while the idea of Jigsaw, an archnemesis from the comics making his big screen debut seemed appealing, Dominic West played it too over the top. Think of Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face, that throwback hammy style of playing a disfigured villain like a cartoon character. It doesn't fit with the more serious nature of the film, and ends up creating the sort of comic book movie we endured in the ‘80s. They are getting closer with these movies, but I'm realizing that if I don't like the character to begin with, I'm probably always going to be a little critical. The film's climax basically involves Jigsaw recruiting an army from various stereotypical ethnic gangs, and filling a hotel with cannon fodder for The Punisher. There are so many henchman that exist for the sole reason of getting shot in this film, that they bordered on having “Thug #1” t-shirts like the ‘60s Batman. We do end on an attempt at humor, leaving me wondering if I just watched a comedy. If it all was an intentional spoof, then it might actually be brilliant, but I can't bring myself to watch it again with a different mindset. There are probably a few good drinking games that could made out of it, though.

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



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