The first and last laudable element of “College” is the spirited opening title sequence. Skillfully mixing high school iconography with contractually-obligated acknowledgments, the opener, designed by director Deb Hagan, is an inventive, bouncy way to start off the picture. From there, the movie falls right into the toilet. Willfully or accidentally is up to the viewer.
Oh, it’s been a weary road for “Babylon A.D.” Not only has the film been handed a lousy late-August release date, had its original R-rated intent chopped to fit constrictive PG-13 requirements, and touts Vin Diesel as its star, but the director, Mathieu Kassovitz, disowned the movie during a hissy fit interview this past week. Now there’s a picture with some astonishing bad luck. Frankly, it doesn’t deserve such a public meltdown. It’s not a solid feature, but “Babylon” is far from the total disgrace media reports would have us all believe.
After “Date Movie,” “Epic Movie,” and January’s “Meet the Spartans,” writer/directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have willingly positioned themselves as artistic pariahs. They abuse the art of parody to craft wickedly loathsome pop culture spoofs, forging actual effort to razz their subjects, only reiterating absurdity. And man oh man, do teenagers ever flock to these vile, willfully unfunny concoctions. But how can you blame them? I’m sure a night ignoring the screen to text-message friends and giggle at fart jokes is far more appealing than Scrabble with mom and dad.
“Ballet Shoes” takes a kindly, impassioned view of the hungry heart, as seen through the eyes of women left to their own devices once abandoned by their loved ones. It’s a caloric helping of melodrama, but it’s rendered effective by the exceptional performances and observant direction by the vastly talented Sandra Goldbacher.
We can thank Jason Bourne for making the multiplex a safe haven for men who dabble in the practices of both good and evil. Without Bourne, there would never be a film like “Traitor,” a snappy global terrorism thriller that faithfully dissects the exquisite torture of the clouded conscience.
Any film that opens with a comical beheading and electrocution deserves at least some praise, however faint it may be. A follow-up to the unleashed lunacy of 2006’s “Another Gay Movie,” “Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild” takes this improbable franchise even further into comedic dementia, eager to top the original picture in pure knockout vulgarity. I’d say it’s a photo finish.
While I won’t pray at the altar of the 1975 cult film “Death Race 2000,” I definitely enjoyed its satiric spit-take on outrageous violence and media-fed bloodlust. It was an innovative and enormously entertaining exploitation picture, blessed with a brain to compliment the body count. The remake takes everything that was imaginative about the original feature and reduces it to an ear-splitting energy drink commercial, topped off with some of the worst filmmaking decisions to be found at the multiplex this year. Yes, that’s right: Hollywood has allowed Paul W.S. Anderson to make another movie.
Not only is Anna Faris one of the more brightly gifted comediennes working today, she’s some sort of miracle worker. How else can one explain the ability to sit through something that emerged from Fred Wolf and not have the urge to run screaming from the theater? That Anna Faris is amazing.
Watching Steve Coogan overact is like being pummeled bloody with a pillowcase packed tightly with frozen oranges. When he’s given carte blanche to eat up the frame, Coogan can be aggravating to behold, and “Hamlet 2” is always eager to let the British comic set the tone. It results in a thoroughly disheartening farce that doesn’t believe a joke is funny until it’s been indicated into fine dust.
Perhaps the most brilliant decision the producers of “The Longshots” made was to hold director Fred Durst’s credit from reveal until the end of the film, to minimize assured slack-jawed disbelief. The guy who gifted the world “Nookie” is making movies these days, and much like the music he created with band Limp Bizkit, Durst’s cinematic sensibilities are hackneyed, tiresome, and lack sorely needed rehearsal.
It’s been a long time since the conceit of a train odyssey was used to backdrop a psychological thriller. Typically associated with cutting Hitchcockian overtones, filmmaker Brad Anderson looks to return a touch of discomfort back into the genre with “Transsiberian,” a glacial but easily consumed thriller played out in mysterious, remorseless locations.
A pox, a pox I say, on the house of the individual who first told Rainn Wilson he was a funny man. For the inconsiderate moose that decided to open their trap and inspire this actor, I wish them the same discomfort I suffered while watching Wilson’s first starring effort, “The Rocker.”
(Warning: This review contains nudity!)
Imagine a randy, ridiculous Monty Python film with the famous troupe on vacation, replaced with Hayden Christensen, Mischa Barton, and a half-asleep Tim Roth. It’s not a pretty picture, and “Virgin Territory” is a constant reminder that delicate tone and comedic heft should be placed in the assured hands of professionals, not handsome, young, marketable stars of dubious ability.
With the magnificent “High Tension” and his exhilarating remake of “The Hills Have Eyes,” director Alexandre Aja positioned himself as a genre innovator with unusually lucid ideas on how to return some fright to horror cinema. “Mirrors” is Aja stepping up to the big leagues, taking on his largest budget to date and working with an authentic Hollywood star. It’s a tricky position for Aja to find himself in, and the obscene pressure has blurred his once pristine vision for scares.
Out of all the astonishing sights and sounds plastered to the big screen by the George Lucas franchise juggernaut “Star Wars,” I think the last item on the average fan’s wish list of things to see was “Teen Girl Jedi.” Not that the inclusion of more female warriors is something to be shamed, but this puberty-bound knight is indicative of the infantilized experience put forth by “The Clone Wars.”
For his 38th feature film, we find Woody Allen in a sensual mood, taking on the role of tourist in a passionate land. “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” is an aimless diversion, even for the notoriously unfocused Allen, but retains expected performance momentum, and positively sells the hell out of a lusty Spanish vacation.
“Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer” is the type of predigested cult film that’s easier to admire than actually enjoy. A polite tip of the hat to “Evil Dead” and all things “Buffy,” this horror/comedy is lacking proper oomph in both categories, resulting in a movie of commendable purpose, but lackluster realization.
I’m sympathetic to the purpose of “Henry Poole Is Here,” just not receptive to the filmmaking on display. A grossly obvious take on the draining push and pull of faith, the picture is warm to the touch, just not digestible or, ultimately, meaningful.
What Ben Stiller has achieved with “Tropic Thunder” is the cinematic equivalent of witnessing Halley’s Comet: he’s crafted a Hollywood satire about Hollywood, and it’s a triumph on nearly every level of execution and intent. It’s an industry rarity that’s worth applauding.