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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Film: I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry

New York firefighters, Chuck and Larry, are best friends and everyday heroes. When the recently widowed Larry (Kevin James) realises that, in the event of his death, his children will be left with nothing he takes drastic action. He asks Chuck (Adam Sandler) to enter into a domestic partnership to protect his kids and save any loss of benefits. Later he discovers the legal implications and the two friends have to convince an obsessed and intrusive fraud investigator (Steve Buscemi) that they really are gay lovers.

The opening scene features Chuck and Larry saving a man from a burning building. It allows the viewers to clearly see their individual nuances and also their aggressively macho relationship. Amidst the most serious of situations there is plenty of room for laughs which promises much for the rest of the film. Unfortunately, from here it all descends into a series of ridiculously outlandish situations which rarely raise so much as a titter; some of which are actually painful to watch.

Characters are lampooned, the straightforward becomes unrealistic, strong women are undermined, all for the sake of an easy laugh. Every single homosexual stereotype you can possibly think of sits proudly at the forefront of this film’s script – yes, there is a soap-dropping scene. To go to such lengths to emphasise each plotline isn’t necessary. The viewer doesn’t need their faces rubbing in it to understand the ruse.

There are certainly several cameo performances that salvage some credibility and these are worth looking out for - Ving Rhames, playing a mysterious fellow firefighter, is one in particular who manages to wring out a few laughs – but overall there is a definite case of miscasting big names simply for big box office takings.

Somewhere buried deep beneath the Hollywood schmaltz lays a heart-warming story of how the most insecure of people can accommodate the most insane of lifestyles all in the name of friendship. It’s such a shame that all the accompanying buffoonery, leading to an overlong running time, ruins this perfectly decent premise.

© Johnskibeat

Postscript: In August 2007, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Shana Levine, one of the producers of the 2004 Australian film, Strange Bedfellows, is considering filing a copyright-infringement suit against the Chuck and Larry producers. It appears that both films are about two firefighters who pretend to be homosexuals in order to take advantage of tax benefits for gay couples. Watch this space!

Commissioned by Local Secrets online magazine...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Film: Superbad

Following weeks of hype and rave reviews I was expecting Superbad to be something more than just a puerile teenage comedy. The 70’s kitsch opening titles, parodying the I-Pod adverts, was certainly a good starting point but everything after that left me more than just a little disappointed.

The film comes from the team that bought us ‘The 40-Year Old Virgin’ and ‘Knocked Up’ and features three nerdy sexually-frustrated high school students. Seth, Evan and Fogell, keen to impress on their peers just how cool they can be, set about procuring alcohol to impress girls. I’d love to say that the writers have a vastly more intricate script but it really is that one-dimensional.

Seth (Jonah Hill) is one of the least likeable characters with few morals and zero standards. He’s quite prepared to risk death to have sex and believes that getting girls drunk will force them to make errors of judgement allowing him and his friends into their beds. “We could be that mistake!” he exclaims. Evan (Michael Cera), despite being Seth’s best friend, displays a charming quality by trying to impart sensible advice whilst avoiding confrontation. It’s a difficult balance trying to keep his friends happy and impress his beau and he’s constantly battling all sides. Here is where the heart of the film lies but unfortunately the directors have allowed it to be bludgeoned by the others antics. King of the geeks is Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who manages to draw the most laughs as he gets himself a fake ID and ends up taking a wild ride with two bad cops, one of whom is actor/writer Seth Rogen, who are keen to have nothing but a good time with their new buddy.

The constant Hollywood barrage of films featuring ugly men and beautiful women has never been displayed in such poor contrast as here. How we’re expected to believe the pairings is beyond me and immediately throws any credibility out of the window. Having said that, credibility was never likely to be part of this film’s blueprint, with the target audience being of such limited scope.

Superbad is mainly all about substituting profanity for jokes - believe it or not, there are 186 uses of the F-word. It’s crying out for a sequence of humour without any crude content but unfortunately the only respite we get is brief glimpses of Evan, minus Seth, trying to extricate him from difficult situations, and the idiotic cops trying to prove just how stupid they can really be. I’m afraid I have to report that, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, Superbad really is superbad.


© Johnskibeat

Commissioned by Local Secrets online magazine...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Film: 1408

Samuel L. Jackson, playing hotel manager Gerald Olin, leans conspiratorially inwards, dangles a key in the air and whispers, “It’s an evil f***ing room”. This is the film’s defining moment and a perfect summary of the horror contained within room 1408 of New York's Dolphin hotel.

Mike Enslin (John Cusack) is an honest and heartfelt writer who becomes bitter and twisted after the death of a loved one. His marriage breaks down and he finds himself travelling from hotel to hotel experiencing, and then systematically ridiculing, the supposed hauntings in each. He publishes the best myths rating them on mystery and intrigue alone never believing that any of them could be true. That is until he stumbles across the closed door of room 1408.

As we watch the lock mechanism twist painfully slowly from closed to open the viewer is thrust into a claustrophobic nightmare of visual and mental plot devices. The first few minutes spent inside the room are the most terrifying, when the possibilities are endless and the tricks are both canny and surprising. Enslin is quick to bat these first few away admiring the manager’s persistence to perpetuate the room’s myth with hidden props. When it becomes apparent that things have gone beyond reason the only options left are to find an unobstructed exit or descend into madness.

Cusack’s charisma and quirky acting style enables the evil of room 1408 to take form as it attacks his character’s tortured mind with remorseless energy, borrowing heavily from similar scenes in The Shining and Sixth Sense. The terror on his face throughout is gut-wrenching and holds everything together. Sadly, with the script being adapted from Stephen King’s all-too-short story, the film suffers from being rather drawn out with several overcomplicated threads ruining the tempo and patiently-constructed claustrophobia. These have probably been inserted either for variety, or, as the first few audience tests suggest, because of film studio interference. There is a sad air of inevitability about many of the sequences and second guessing the plot isn’t difficult. Thankfully the film only runs to 94 minutes so it doesn’t drag too much and the open-ended finale is clever, if a little confusing.

There is much to admire here despite the film’s flaws with fine acting performances, some clever computer imagery, and a simple, yet genius, plot. It sits nicely alongside many of Stephen King’s adaptations without troubling the best of them, yet certainly surpassing the more recent efforts.


© Johnskibeat

Commissioned by Local Secrets online magazine...