FSR’s Weekly Report Card for 04.03.09

FSR's Weekly Report Card


Studio: Universal

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual content, language and drug references.

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez and John Ortiz

Directed by: Justin Lin

What it’s about: Vin Diesel and Paul Walker reunite to kick the street racing franchise into fourth gear. Walker plays Brian O’Connor, who has been reinstated to the FBI, looking to bring down a drug trafficker. Diesel plays Dominic Toretto, a criminal on the lam seeking revenge against the same trafficker for the death of his girlfriend. They team up to bring the organization down while driving really, really fast.

What I liked: It’s not often that I can boil down my likes of a film into two things. However, with Fast & Furious, I really only liked the car chases and the hot girls. Granted, these two elements are seen often in the movie, so that’s some consolation to me.

The film opens with a semi truck hijacking that rivals anything you’ve seen in the finale of the first The Fast and the Furious or any Road Warrior flick. Too bad we already saw a truncated version of this stunt-filled chase in the trailers. If you can suffer through the rocky character development and the shifty plot, you can make it to the action sequences, which are pretty awesome.

Plus, it helps that hot chicks prance around in hot pants, bikinis and see-through tops at every street racing event shown.

What I didn’t: There’s really only one sticking point I hadIs it fair to say “Everything else” for this? Seriously, the rest of this film is an absolute car wreck, if you pardon the clever idiom. The story is needlessly complicated and doesn’t make much sense. A giant portion of the story is left out of the introduction and only revealed in awkward, inexplicable flashbacks.

The acting is pretty terrible as well, but what can you expect from a movie that has Paul Walker as the headliner. Even the sizzling hot Jordana Brewster isn’t worth it in the movie. This girl can’t act very well to begin with, and the film gives her the lame role as the sensible character who tries to emote a lot.

If only this film had been non-stop car chases because when the characters aren’t behind the wheel, its an absolute snooze-fest.

Who is gonna like this movie: Street racing fans hopped up on NOS and Full Throttle energy drink.

Grade: C-


Studio: Miramax

Rated: R for language, drug use and sexual references.

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader, Martin Starr and Kristen Wiig

Directed by: Greg Mottola

What it’s about: James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) is a college grad who needs money for grad school due to his father getting demoted. To make ends meet, he gets a crappy job at a lame amusement park named Adventureland. Over the summer, he falls in love with Em (Kristen Stewart), who works in the gaming booth near him. However, he James also has to deal with the facts that Em is sleeping with Mike the maintenance man (Ryan Reynolds) and he also has the hots for another girl in the park.

What I liked: The best parts of this film actually come from the supporting cast and the more secondary elements. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig play the Adventureland bosses, and they are hilariously insane. If only the film was about them.

Director Greg Mottola does deliver some funny moments, often involving extremely realistic (if not somewhat pathetic) characters. However, don’t expect the laugh-out-loud moments you got from Superbad.

We can all identify with this movie to a certain degree because almost everyone has had the godawful summer job, and this is where the film works.

What I didn’t: Coming off Superbad is not the easiest thing. Mottola has trouble distancing himself from his Judd Apatow roots. In some ways, it reminds me of Nacho Libre in which Jared Hess came off Napoleon Dynamite to deliver a similar movie that wasn’t executed nearly as well.

Additionally, Jesse Eisenberg seems to have been told to do his best Michael Cera impression for this film because he doesn’t act outside of that mold. And Kristen Stewart may be a pretty decent young actor, but she needs to learn to not swallow her words. I was having traumatic flashbacks to her painfully delivered dialogue from Twilight.

Who is gonna like this movie: College-aged kids suffering through a crappy job and dealing with relationship issues.

Grade: C


Studio: First Independent Pictures

Rated: R for language, some sexual content and violence.

Starring: Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, John Goodman, Edward Asner and Robert Stanton

Directed by: Matt Aselton

What it’s about: Paul Dano plays a mattress salesman who is trying to adopt a baby from China. He meets a quirky girl named Happy (Zooey Deschanel) while selling a mattress to her father. They start a rather up-front affair, but they have to overcome their own insecurities to have a future with each other.

What I liked: I saw this movie literally a few hours after watching Adventureland, which gave me an interesting comparison. While Gigantic has its problems, it was far more interesting and likable than Adventureland. Plus, I love Zooey Deschanel in almost anything she does.

There was just something about this movie that drew me in. Part of it is the borderline surreal method with which the film tells its story. On one hand, it’s completely grounded in reality. On the other hand, it has some very blatant David Lynch moments that defy explanation. Some might call these moments cheats, but I found them to be the spice that kept the film alive.

What I didn’t: There are some slow moments in the movie, and if you’re looking for a straightforward story with straightforward characters, you’ll be severely frustrated with both. When all is said and done with the film, there was probably only an hour or so of movie stretched into 100 minutes or so, and that hurt the flick.

Additionally, the cinematography was pretty inconsistent, being very generous with the master shots at times while offering some more edgy perspectives. In this respect, it seems that the cinematographer and director couldn’t decide on which style to use.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of quirky yet unrefined independent film.

Grade: B-

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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