Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: September 30, 2011

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr is all giddy because apparently Joseph Gordon-Levitt has decided to copy his signature hairstyle. Undeterred by folks telling him Gordon-Levitt shaved his head to play the role in 50/50, Kevin tries to lobby other Hollywood actors to copy his image. Unfortunately, What’s Your Number? star Chris Evans refuses to grow a huge belly and Dream House star Daniel Craig just won’t latch onto Kevin’s charming American accent.

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Click here to listen as the show goes international with Ronald Nicholls from BoxOfficeBuz.com and occasional Popcast personality in the Magical Studio in the Sky.

Studio: Summit

Rated: R

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard and Anjelica Huston

Directed by: Jonathan Levine

What it’s about: Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a young man who is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. When he tells his friends and family, he finds a variety of reactions. As he moves through the stages of grief, his perky but inexperienced psychologist (Anna Kendrick) and best friend (Seth Rogen) try to support him any way possible.

What I liked: This movie is a far, far better best-friend-cancer movie than Seth Rogen’s other attempt in the lame Funny People. It’s got more heart, more realism and less bragging by the director about how many famous people he knows. Though while Rogen is one of the leads and the star who owns most of the funniest lines, it’s really Gordon-Levitt’s movie.

This film has all the elements of the loveable indie film that gives Gordon-Levitt his street cred, but it also manages to tell an entirely human story and one with a lot of heart. It’s not always easy to like his characters, but it’s always possibly to understand him. In fact, the structure of the film itself brings the entire audience through the stages of grief, and in a strange way, we come out better for it.

50/50 doesn’t pull its punches, and it isn’t afraid to show the ugly side of illness, beyond the typical Hollywood weepy montage at the end of an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Even if you’re soft on the characters in the beginning (as I was), you grow to love them, and as corny as it sounds, the movie will make you both laugh and cry.

What I didn’t: My only problem with the movie was its opening, and this really isn’t a full criticism of it. I found Gordon-Levitt’s character to be very wishy-washy and weak-willed. I suppose that’s the point of the film, that his ordeal with cancer galvanizes him as a person and actually makes him appreciate everything he had been taking for granted.

Still, the first act of the film is pretty rote in terms of delivering the cancer news. You know from frame one who is going to supportive and who isn’t. Fortunately, when the film gets its legs, it’s unstoppable.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of a touching and hilarious indie cancer drama.

Grade: A-

Studio: Universal

Rated: PG-13 for violence, terror, some sexuality and brief strong

Starring: Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts, Marton Csokas and Claire Geare

Directed by: Jim Sheridan

What it’s about: Daniel Craig plays a loving husband and father, trying to fix up an old house after securing a book contract. However, strange behavior with people in the neighborhood and bizarre visions lead him to discover horrible secrets in his past.

What I liked: Dream House is set up to be a taut psychological thriller. It has plenty of atmosphere and creepiness to it, and were it not for a very specific problem with the marketing, there’d be some nice twists and turns.

Craig does a fine job acting, though his accent slips from time to time and his doting affection over his daughters, while realistic, seems a bit weird in some scenes. Still, he manages to carry the film more than his seasoned co-stars, leaving critical darling Naomi Watts in the dust. (To her credit, of course, she isn’t give much to work with in her role.)

I could have really liked Dream House a lot. But…

What I didn’t: For some reason, Universal thought it’d be good marketing to release a trailer that literally gives away 100% of the plot twists in the first hour of the film. If that’s not bad enough, the trailer also gives about 95% of the plot twists in the next 20 minutes. In fact, the only major spoilers that the trailer does not reveal is the rather lame and predictable ending.

So while there are great elements to Dream House, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the lion’s share of the film. And that made the first 80 minutes pedantic and unnecessary.

Who is gonna like this movie: People who haven’t seen the trailer.

Grade: C+

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Rated: R for sexual content and language

Starring: Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Zachary Quinto, Andy Samberg and Ari Graynor

Directed by: Mark Mylod

What it’s about: Adorable Anna Faris plays a woman who fears she’s had too many sexual partners to be good marriage material. After hearing that most women with 20 or more lovers end up unmarried, she digs through her list of exes to see if “the one” in fact got away.

What I liked: There are exactly two things that make What’s Your Number? work as a film: Anna Faris and her would-be love interest Chris Evans. Both actors are very attractive and extremely likeable on screen. In fact, where this is an otherwise standard and ho-hum romantic comedy, Faris and Evans have enough charm to make things enjoyable.

What’s Your Number? is trying to compete with other chick flicks that have a raunchy edge, including Friends with Benefits, Going the Distance and Bridesmaids (even to the point where it has a duplicate scene in which Faris wakes up early in the morning to apply make-up and freshen up for her boyfriend, just as Kristen Wiig did). It’s more run-of-the-mill rom-com material, but there is that level of frank sexuality and cursing that brings it outside of the Pretty Woman realm.

It’s not a great film, but if you tend to like both Faris and Evans, it’s entirely doable for date night.

What I didn’t: Like the wretched Something Borrowed, which came out earlier this year, What’s Your Number? is based on a novel, which can be rocky ground for a light rom-com. Like other lackluster book adaptations, What’s Your Number? suffers from trying to cram too much of the book’s plot into the relatively short film. This results in storylines and resolutions outside of the main characters, which seems extraneous to the movie.

Additionally, it’s clear that the final cut of the movie does not contain everything that was filmed. Moments were obviously trimmed out, sometimes leaving continuity gaffs and plot holes. Examples of these include scenes with Andy Samberg that are in the trailer not in the final film, as well as her character suddenly showing up with an orange spray-on tan for two scenes with no explanation whatsoever.

Who is gonna like this movie: Chicks… and some folks who thinks Anna Faris is simply adorable.

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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