Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: December 3, 2010

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr thumbs his nose at the major studio releases like The Warrior’s Way and The Nutcracker in 3D. Not only do they look like direct-to-DVD releases at best and stinkers of the year at worst, the studios didn’t let him see any of them. So he turns his sights on some award-bait films in limited release: Black Swan and I Love You, Phillip Morris.

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Take a listen below as guest host Jeremy Kirk joins him in the Magical Studio in the Sky to discuss this week’s new releases.


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Studio: Fox Searchlight

Rated: R for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use

Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder, Sebastian Stan and Vincent Cassel

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

What it’s about: Natalie Portman plays Nina, a ballet soloist who is on the verge of a mental breakdown. A new production of Swan Lake gives her a shot at the lead, but only if she can connect with her dark in order to play the Black Swan. As she faces a domineering mother, an inappropriate work relationship and an new rival in the company, Nina begins her voyage into madness.

What I liked: At this time of year, it’s hard to talk favorably about a movie like Black Swan, which has gotten so much good buzz, without sounding like you’re leaping on a bandwagon. But rest assured, the great things you’re hearing about this movie are true.

This is easily the best film from Darren Aronofsky, dealing with the same dark and twisted delivery as films like Requiem for a Dream and Pi. However, it is not overblown with style like those films tend to be. Black Swan falls somewhere between Requiem and The Wrestler, which was an anti-style movie. This film keeps enough style to make it visually compelling but it allows the deep character piece to shine through.

Where Aronofsky shines with this film is by pulling great performances from not-so-great actors. Sure, Mila Kunis is easy on the eyes, but she’s really not great at her craft. Yet she’s really quite solid in this film. Same goes for Winona Ryder, whose best acting days are decades behind her.

Ultimately, Black Swan plays like a horror movie, even though no one associated with the film or championing it for Oscar season will admit to that. Ironically, people are scared of the horror moniker, but this film shows that you can have a movie like that still be a brilliant film.

Oh, and that sex scene between Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis is pretty hot. See… I can reduce an award film to my level.

What I didn’t: Without offering any spoilers, I can say that my biggest problem with this film is that Aronofsky shows his hand a bit too much here. The movie plays like classic Cronenberg and 90s David Lynch, but I would have preferred the ambiguity of Muholland Drive.

Who is gonna like this movie: Horror movie fans and award junkies who have a disdain for horror and would never admit this film’s true nature.

Grade: A

Studio: Roadside Attraction

Rated: R for sexual content including strong dialogue, and language

Starring: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro and David Jensen

Directed by: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

What it’s about: Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) is living the ideal life with a hot, conservative Christian and a quaint suburban house. But he also leads a second life as a promiscuous gay man. After leaving his marriage and diving into a lavish lifestyle, he commits numerous acts of fraud to pay his expenses. Eventually, he is put in jail where he begins a relationship with another inmate named Phillip Morris. Russell masterminds a series of escapes and impersonations but can never completely get away because he keeps coming back to Phillip Morris.

What I liked: I’m not surprised this film had such a hard time to find a release. And it’s not just because of all the gay sex in the film. Instead, I Love You, Phillip Morris is a different breed of film, the kind you really only see in limited release. It’s a weird, hyper-real and quirky take on the black comedy. It’s not for everyone, but if you enjoy that biting, dark humor, you’ll enjoy this.

We’ve seen some of the things in this film before in movies like Catch Me If You Can, but this takes a decidedly more sardonic approach. I like that delivery, even if it’s not mainstream material.

There are some brilliantly funny one-liners in this film, and much of it is carried by Jim Carrey’s performance. He goes through a range of emotion, which plays well in the film, and it’s probably the best film he’s done since Man on the Moon.

What I didn’t: At times, I Love You, Phillip Morris tries too hard. It takes the hyper-real nature of the movie a bit beyond where it needs to go. A lot of this happens when Carrey is unleashed in the film, overdoing his performance to a level of cheesiness that has become commonplace with Carrey’s work.

Finally, in the end, I really didn’t like any of the characters, and I wasn’t rooting for anyone. I’m okay with a film of gray characters, but aside from finding them funny at times, I just couldn’t get completely behind them.

Who is gonna like this movie: Anyone who likes a warm and smiley dark comedy.

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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