REVIEW: Hits

18 02 2015

HitsHits” begins with a title card that recalls the one preceding 2013’s “American Hustle.”  This one says, “Based on a true story … that hasn’t happened yet.”  In other words, it marks writer/director David Cross’ way of saying that he wants to kvetch endlessly about the present day under the guise of satirization.

Maybe I’m still a little bit defensive about that horrendous TIME Magazine cover calling millennials “The Me Me Me Generation,” as if the generations before us have a spotless record and never posed any worry for their parents.  Nonetheless, I cannot help but get annoyed by vast generalizations about the youth these days as disgusting, device-addicted narcissists.  It is certainly true of many people, and I will not deny it; the world just needs some positive images of us.

That virality is one of the chief virtues of our society is certainly no secret, nor is the triumph of fame over hard-earned success.  Cross, though, seems to act as if he is delivering a message sent from heaven to enlighten us idiots.  “Hits” aims to pick only the lowest hanging fruit and juice it for cheap laughs.  (At least he picks up on an equally ludicrous breed, the self-righteous Gen X social media activist.)

Beyond the handicap of simply recapitulating the obvious, Cross’ first foray into feature filmmaking just cannot sustain its 90 minute runtime.  The characters that populate his ridiculous universe scarcely possess the depth for a comedy sketch; expecting them to remain entertaining and engaging for an entire movie is preposterous.  They might work well for a web series, however, if Cross could add some depth of thought to an only slightly revamped stereotype of the vapid fame-seeker.   C2stars





REVIEW: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

6 01 2014

Maybe Adam McKay should have let the marketing and promotions team write the movie “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” for he and Will Ferrell.  They certainly had a much better grasp of the power present in Ron Burgundy’s cult iconography gained over the year and used it to leverage interest in a follow-up to a film released nearly a decade prior.  It’s a shame that the abysmal sequel had nothing to deliver.

I certainly don’t dislike 2004’s “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” but I never quite understood why it above other movies had gained such a foothold in the pop culture lexicon.  A plethora of lines from the original film are now such staples of conversation these days that I often forget their origin. While I was entertained by the movie the one time I watched it on HBO, I certainly did not think it deserved a sequel over a film like, say, “Pineapple Express” or “Role Models.”

While the former got a humorous pseudo-sequel in “This Is The End,” I can now say with certainty I never want to see a follow-up to the latter after “Anchorman 2” just destroyed the legacy of its predecessor.  While there are intermittent laughs to be had, the utter stupidity of its jokes and lack of care in maintaining its characters made for what might be the most unpleasant moviegoing experience of 2013.

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F.I.L.M. of the Week (December 4, 2009)

4 12 2009

In honor of Jason Reitman’s third feature, “Up in the Air,” opening today, I wanted to use the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” for the first time in correlation with the release of a movie in theaters.  This week’s “F.I.L.M.” is Reitman’s first feature, “Thank You for Smoking.”  A satire that bites with the sharpness of piranha’s teeth, this look at the lobbying industry is absolutely brilliant.  I have come to expect nothing less from Reitman, but he exhibits the deftness of an old pro as a newcomer.

Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) has the gift of oratory and the art of spin, making him the perfect person to argue on behalf of the tobacco industry.  He never tries to justify himself or tobacco; he simply uses the rationale that by proving the other person wrong, you must be right.  Affectionately titled a “Merchant of Death,” he often meets for lunch with his respective counterparts in the alcohol and firearms industry (Maria Bello, David Koechner).  The film follows Nick after the announcement of a proposed Congressional measure to put a “POISON” label on all boxes of cigarettes by a peevish Vermont senator (William H. Macy).  However, Nick’s main struggle is not the label that threatens to destroy the product he promotes, but rather the struggle to balance the job he does with his requirement to be a good father to Joey, his budding adolescent son.  The film is at its best when the contrast between the two is evident: Joey has very black-and-white morals and can’t seem to understand why Nick has such grey ones in lobbying for an industry that kills millions of people each year.

Reitman also penned the screenplay, which is packed to the brim with piquant wit and exciting characters.  He also gets the best out of his actors, and the performance on celluloid matches their panache on the page.  Especially exciting to watch is Aaron Eckhart as he really gets to the core of Nick Naylor.  We really see what makes him tick, and as the story progresses, Eckhart really wrestles with his demons.  He gives us one of the most full and electrifying characters that comedy has ever seen, a true sensation.  “Thank You for Smoking” would be a crown jewel for an accomplished director, but as a first feature, Jason Reitman has set the bar extremely high for his masterpiece.  And if “Up in the Air” is as good as I hear, that bar is up in the atmosphere.





REVIEW: Extract

6 09 2009

We so often find humor in the ridiculous and far-fetched, and Hollywood serves it to us (actually, more like force feeds) at a rate that is more than we can digest.  But Mike Judge has a unique ability to find humor in the mundane, especially in the work place.  His 1999 film “Office Space” has become a cult classic over the past decade thanks to its smart satire of the workplace atmosphere.  However, his latest film, “Extract,” is really lacking flavor (pun fully intended).  It is too caught up in banalities to really succeed and perhaps even too lifelike for its own good.

The humdrum happenings center around Joel (Jason Bateman), the owner of an extract factory trying to sell out to General Mills.  However, the deal is threatened by a workplace accident in which a worker loses a part of his “manhood.”  To top that off, he has to deal with constant unrest among the workers, thievery, and a very attractive new temp (Mila Kunis) who becomes an object of lust.  But Joel has many problems outside of work to deal with, including his wife’s (Kristen Wiig) elastic sweatpants chastity belt, a pill-popping friend (Ben Affleck) intent on proselytizing, and an incessantly blabbering neighbor (David Koechner).

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