30 07 2014

SuperJames Gunn’s “Super” plays like a stubborn sidekick to Matthew Vaughn’s 2010 revisionist comic book action flick “Kick-Ass.”  Perhaps it should have adopted a name defining itself better in relation to that film: “Half-Ass.”

Gunn’s film is made in good fun, but “Super” is a little too footloose and fancy-free for its own good.  The off-kilter antics follow cuckolded sad-sack Frank Darbo (Rainn Wilson), who dons the costume of “The Crimson Bolt” in order to win back his wife (Liv Tyler) from the clutches of a drug lord (Kevin Bacon).  The material is wacky enough for Wilson to dive into head first, but it feels a bit like an abandoned pilot for a Dwight spinoff of “The Office.”

Frank works as a quirky, peculiar character to follow, but the same could not be said for Ellen Page as his wannabe partner-in-crime “Boltie,” also known as Libby.  Page goes balls to the wall in her performance, though it winds up feeling rather sloppy, especially in her chemistry with Wilson.  She’s so unhinged that I wondered if she simply stopped taking her Adderall during the filming of “Super.”

Gunn’s total package resembles Page moreso than Wilson in the end, unfortunately.  The tone in the film fluctuates from over-the-top hum or to downbeat drama and then to a teenager’s wet dream of gory violence.  By the end, I found myself wondering if I was watching the scribblings of a deranged comic book devotee who’s been to one too many Comic-Cons.  C+2stars

F.I.L.M. of the Week (January 3, 2014)

3 01 2014

Tom Hanks, even at the relatively young age of 57, is such a legend of the screen that every role he takes is reason for excitement.  (Unless it’s “Larry Crowne.”)  2013 graced us with not just one but TWO Hanks performances in “Captain Phillips” and “Saving Mr. Banks,” at least one of which is likely to result in an Oscar nomination.  The two-time winner hardly needs any recognition for his acting prowess, nor does he need to be lauded for his producing skills (the man has 5 Emmys sitting on his mantle).

What does deserve some attention, though, is Hanks’ directorial debut “That Thing You Do.” (We’ll just pretend “Larry Crowne” didn’t happen, just like American audiences did.)  My pick for “F.I.L.M. of the Week” shows a fun-loving, crowd-pleasing side to Hanks that will make you wish he was sitting in the director’s chair as often as the producer’s seat.

The film follows a would-be Beatles boy band, the Wonders (formerly the One-Ders), as they rise from garage obscurity to Billboard chart-topping fame.  None of it would have happened, though, without the inspired improvisation of replacement drummer Guy (Tom Everett Scott) that turns the song “That Thing You Do” from a ballad into an up-tempo rock ‘n’ roll number.  From there, they acquire a swanky manager played by Hanks himself, go on tour, perform on television … and deal with all the motion sickness caused by such a meteoric ascent to stardom.

Thanks to HBO, I’ve seen “That Thing You Do” dozens of times over the past 15 years or so, and I’ve never tired of it.  (For that same reason, I’ve only seen it start to finish a handful of times.)  Similarly, I still listen to the movie’s soundtrack frequently; it’s got a number of ditties that you can have stuck in your head for days.  The whole movie, really, is such a delight.  It’s a toe-tapper of a musical with plenty of dramatic tension and rich characters that’s wonderfully orchestrated by Maestro Hanks.