FSR’s Weekly Report Card for 12.19.08

FSR's Weekly Report Card


Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG-13 for crude sexual humor, language and brief nudity.

Starring: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper and John Michael Higgins

Directed by: Peyton Reed

What it’s about: Middle-aged Carl (Jim Carrey) has a ho-hum job and a ho-hum lifestyle. However, after being introduced to a self-help guru by an old friend, Carl decides to turn his life around by saying “Yes!” to everything. This leads him down a path of wacky events that define his future and open him up to his friends, a new girlfriend and Lincoln, Nebraska.

What I liked: I liked laughing. I know that sounds corny, but that’s what this film did for me. Because I had to miss the initial press screening, I had to pay full price for a midnight show of this film. The last time I did that was with Soul Men, and we all know what a stinker that was. It was nice to go to a movie on my own volition and actually enjoy myself.

This is a return of Jim Carrey to his most comfortable arena. Sure, it’s not as far out there as Ace Ventura, The Mask or Dumb and Dumber, but it still gives him a chance to shine as a comedy superstar. The film is cut from the same cloth as Liar Liar, so it’s really just an excuse for Carrey to goof off. And I like that better when it’s the main point of the film rather than being shoehorned into an otherwise serious flick.

Oh, and let’s not forget Zooey Deschanel. I’ve had a thing for this girl for years. Her quirky realism is surprisingly sexy, and she really brings some heart to the film as Carl’s new, free-spirited girlfriend.

What I didn’t: With any gimmick movie, the story does break down at times. It’s nice to watch Carrey’s antics, but these movies always end up reaching the point where I think they should have cut the scene minutes before.

Near the end, the film tries to give us some heart, and the silliness stops. However, the film has a surprisingly even keel about it.

Who is gonna like this movie: Old-school Jim Carrey fans and anyone looking for a romantic comedy… sort of.

Grade: B+


Studio: Columbia Pictures

Rated: PG-13 for thematic material, some disturbing content and a scene of sensuality.

Starring: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Michael Ealy and Barry Pepper

Directed by: Gabriele Muccino

What it’s about: Will Smith plays Ben Thomas, an IRS agent seeking to atone for some sins. He searches his files for people worthy of a break, and he tries to help them out in various situations.

What I liked: I’ve been pretty critical of Will Smith lately, not because I don’t necessarily like his films (although I did loath Hancock). Instead, it irks me that the box office pundits have a collective orgasm over his $100 million streak. I say, what’s so great about this streak when the man just chooses safe event movies that are nothing more than cookie-cutter box office hits. With Seven Pounds, I commend Will Smith for making a film that isn’t safe. Seven Pounds is a risk for him because it doesn’t fit into his standard formula.

The film is very well acted, with specific kudos going to Smith and his co-star Rosario Dawson. Both of them hold their own in plodding scenes and a terribly flawed script. I don’t see any award noms coming down the pike for either of them, but they handle themselves well.

Additionally, the film is a bit though-provoking, even if it is utterly ridiculous in premise and execution.

What I didn’t: While I respect Smith for taking a risk, this risk didn’t pay off. Instead of making a powerful film, this movie drags like a dog tied to the back of a tractor trailer. The story is sappy and schmaltzy. It lays the melodrama on so thick, I felt sticky when I left the theaters.

The film stars slow, but it comes to a screeching halt in the middle with a failed attempt to characterize the people on the screen. There are few films out there this month that are as boring as this one.

Finally, the film has an oh-so-clever mystery to it that is telegraphed from the opening titles. By the time everything is revealed, I can’t imaging anyone hadn’t already guessed what had happened an hour before. And the ending wraps things up in a flurry of making-shit-up that it is literally less believable than your average Power Rangers episode.

Who is gonna like this movie: Die-hard Will Smith fans (i.e., those who think he can do no wrong) and anyone who gasps in bewilderment at the obvious moments in poorly written movies.

Grade: D-


Studio: Universal

Rated: G.

Starring: Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Watson, Tracey Ullman, Kevin Kline, William H. Macy, Stanley Tucci, Ciaran Hinds and Robbie Coltrane

Directed by: Sam Fell & Robert Stevenhagen

What it’s about: A rat comes to a kingdom, accidentally scares the queen to death and causes the king to outlaw all rats and soup. A brave, little mouse named Despereaux visits the princess and declares he’s a gentleman with the hope of bringing soup back to the kingdom.

What I liked: Cute critters are a staple in animation history, and The Tale of Despereaux has them in droves. If you’ve got kids, and you’ve already taken them to see Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Bolt, you could do worse than this film (e.g., Delgo).

The animation is slick and pretty realistic. It breaks down on the human characters, but the aforementioned cute critters look pretty snazzy.

What I didn’t: Okay, how can a movie be any good if the plot hinges upon soup? This isn’t a Seinfeld episode, people. Soup? Seriously?

The first fifteen minutes of this movie don’t even have the title character in it. Rather, it tells the story of a rat in the kitchen (not too original, I say, after last year’s Ratatouille) and how he ruined a kingdom. Additionally, every minor supporting character gets his or her own back story, which detracts further from the brave little mouse. It’s a terribly cluttered story that didn’t need to be this convoluted.

And while the animation was well done, once soup is outlawed, the kingdom falls into a state of dreariness. This is an okay concept, but it makes for a relatively drab animated film.

Who is gonna like this movie: Kids and some parents that are eager to see a screen adaptation of a Newbery Award winner.

Grade: C+


Studio: Fox Serachlight

Rated: R for violence, sexuality/nudity, language and some drug use.

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

What it’s about: A has-been wrestler from the 1980s has fallen into obscurity and not a small amount of poverty. He has a lucrative offer for a rematch with his old rival, but a heart condition puts his comeback in jeopardy. He also tries to rekindle a relationship with his estranged daughter while courting a stripper who’s a little past her prime.

What I liked: While everyone can rave about how awesome Mickey Rourke’s comeback is with this film, I have to disagree. I would say he got a comeback with Sin City before he was even approached for The Wrestler. Don’t get me wrong, I think he did a fantastic job in this film, but let’s give props to Robert Rodriguez for first bringing Rourke back to the big screen.

And anyone who knows me might guess that my favorite part of this film was Marisa Tomei as a tatted-up, pierced-down stripper. She’s who I would go straight to at a gentleman’s club, and it was great to see her naked for about half the time she spent on screen. Considering her nude scene in last year’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, I can’t wait to see what award film she gets naked in for the 2009 season.

This film makes some deft observations of what it means to be a celebrity and how being in the limelight does not necessarily translate to fortune. It works as a nice snapshot of a person’s life when they’ve outlived their own career.

What I didn’t: There’s not much to complain about with The Wrestler, unless you aren’t into this kind of film. I do find it to be a bit of an Oscar grab for director Darren Aronofsky, and I’ll admit I’m hard on the guy because I still haven’t forgiven him for The Fountain.

Otherwise, this film is solid, although a tad formulaic and predictable if you’ve seen enough of these kinds of films.

Who is gonna like this movie: Art film hounds, Mickey Rourke fans dying for a comeback and anyone looking forward to seeing Marisa Tomei’s boobies.

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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