FSR's Weekly Report Card

STATE OF PLAY

Studio: Universal

Rated: PG-13 for some violence, language including sexual references, and brief drug content.

Starring: Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, Robin Wright Penn and Jason Bateman

Directed by: Kevin MacDonald

What it’s about: A U.S. Congressman’s (Ben Affleck) squeaky-clean reputation is thrown into question when one of his assistants is found dead. Two eager reporters – one from the old school (Russell Crowe) and one from the new blogosphere (Rachel McAdams) – begin to look into the story. As they dig deeper, they discover a dangerous conspiracy that pits the elder journalist with the Congressman, who happens to be an old college friend.

What I liked: Plain and simple, what made State of Play so enjoyable was its stellar cast. Not only are the lead actors there, but there’s also some great supporting roles played by people like Jeff Daniels, Helen Mirren and Jason Bateman.

Over the past few months, we’ve had several of these grown-up political or espionage thrillers come out. Unfortunately, most of them have kinda stunk… and they all seem to have starred Clive Owen. Well, with Clive Owen nowhere near this one, and director Kevin MacDonald (The Last King of Scotland) at the helm, we’ve got a decent thriller.

It’s not that the story was terribly original – after all, what’s so new about a congressional sex scandal or other shenanigans – and I could guess a lot of what was going to happen, but I just enjoyed watching the film play out. Also, it’s neat to see the nod the film makes to how newspapers are a dying breed, and internet journalism is nipping at its heels.

What I didn’t: There were some slower moments of this film, mostly attributed to scenes with Robin Wright Penn as Ben Affleck’s wife. I suppose the filmmakers originally wanted to have a significant female role, but with Helen Mirren as the high-powered editor and Rachel McAdams as the eager young cub reporter, we really didn’t need the extraneous wife storyline.

Oh, and the idea of Ben Affleck and Russell Crowe being old roommates in college is just plain ridiculous. They’re from entirely different decades.

Who is gonna like this movie: Political junkies and journalists.

Grade: B+

CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE

Studio: Lionsgate

Rated: R for frenetic strong bloody violence throughout, crude and graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language.

Starring: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Efren Ramirez, Bai Ling and David Carradine

Directed by: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor

What it’s about: The last time we saw Chev Chelios (Jason Statham), he fell 10,000 feet from a helicopter, bounced off a car and died on the pavement… or did he? This sequel to the 2006 over-the-top action piece finds Chelios on the operating table as the Chinese triads are harvesting his organs. They replace his heart with an artificial model, and Chelios must keep shocking himself with electricity to stay alive while he tracks down her real ticker.

What I liked: The first five minutes of this movie was frickin’ awesome. And the cameo of John DeLancey as a foul-mouthed television reporter is hilarious.

Oh, and I did appreciate the copious amounts of boobs in the film.

What I didn’t: But… this movie was impossible to watch. Not only is it shot on video with a high shutter speed, resulting in a ridiculously choppy look that nauseated me as much as The Blair Witch Project did, but the film tries to top the first movie by going farther, faster and more extreme. The problem is that it results in nothing more than a gimmick.

Scenes and characters are dropped in the story at random with the writing style of a gorilla with a sledgehammer. The dialogue was so godawful that a fourth-grader on coke could have done better. I understand that it was going for even more over the top than the first one, and I guess that it achieved that, but it just seemed like the writers/directors ran out of good ideas not long after the opening credits.

Case in point, the Godzilla scene. They were just making shit up as they went along with this film.

Who is gonna like this movie: People that loved, loved, loved the first one… and anyone who gets moist at the thought of Jason Statham.

Grade: D-

17 AGAIN

Studio: New Line Cinema

Rated: PG-13 for language, some sexual material and teen partying.

Starring: Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Michelle Trachtenberg and Matthew Perry

Directed by: Burr Steers

What it’s about: Matthew Perry plays a man in his late 30s whose life is crumbling around him. He wishes he could go back to his glory days of high school, and suddenly he’s magically transformed into Zac Efron. After convincing his nerdy but very wealthy fanboy buddy (Thomas Lennon) to help him enroll in high school, he tries to fix his marriage and family problems by playing basketball and lecturing the kids about abstinence.

What I liked: I will admit that there were some moments of the film that made me laugh. And while we’ve seen this type of story many times before, there’s nothing wrong with making the film for a new audience. However, I don’t think that the die-hard Zac Efron fans (and I’m talking about the eight-year-old Disney Channel devotees) are going to be totally down for the PG-13 content, like teen pregnancy, teen drinking and a discussion of condoms and human sexuality.

Sure, Zac Efron did an okay job as the lead in a movie that isn’t connected to the High School Musical franchise, but it was Thomas Lennon as the consummate fanboy that really stole the show… if only the movie was about him.

What I didn’t: In case you haven’t noticed… I’m not a girl, nor am I twelve years old. So, I’m not the target market for the Zac Efron express. This gives me the uncanny ability to evaluate him as a comedy actor rather than a teen idol. And while Efron has his moments in the film, he is the weak link in the cast. He just didn’t seem sure enough of himself to be completely self-deprecating. Instead, he spent too much time being cool.

Also, while this isn’t a High School Musical installment, was it really necessary to have the basketball subplot? Is this guy ever going to break free, or what? And sure, he’s got gorgeous eyes, but not a lick of chest hair on the androgynous man-child to be seen.

Who is gonna like this movie: Pre-pubescent tween girls who scream at the sight of Zefron… and Matthew Perry’s mom (because she’s the only one that seems to care he’s actually in this movie).

Grade: C


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