Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card for 07.31.09

FSR's Weekly Report Card


Studio: Universal

Rated: R for language and crude sexual humor throughout, and some sexuality.

Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana and Jonah Hill

Directed by: Judd Apatow

What it’s about: Adam Sandler plays an acerbic version of himself – a dorky stand-up comedian who has made it big in Hollywood. However, even though he’s got tons of money and fame, he has no real friends, and he has long since alienated the only woman he has ever loved. When he discovers that he has a rare form of leukemia, he hires a new assistant (Seth Rogen) and tries to put his life in order before he dies.

What I liked: First, let me say that this film is not a comedy. Sure, it’s being billed as one, but it’s really a drama with a lot of funny lines. Like the mid-80s forgotten Tom Hanks/Sally Field vehicle Punch Line, Funny People is a character study of what it’s really like to have fame and fortune.

There’s probably more that I respect about this film than what I liked. I respect the fact that it takes an unapologetic look at celebrities. With so many people getting starstruck by famous people, they all seem to forget that celebrities are just normal people with better jobs, bigger egos and way more money than us.

Sandler stretches his dramatic muscles in this film, arguably more than he has in his other serious works like Punch Drunk Love and Reign Over Me. With him playing a version of himself, he’s avoided having to prove himself here.

With all that said, there are some really, really, really funny moments. The one liners and zingers are hysterical, and there are tons of laugh-out-loud moments. Funny People makes cancer about as funny as it can be.

What I didn’t: The problem with making a movie about the reality of celebrities is that it portrays them in all their unwashed glory. Consequently, the characters aren’t all that likeable. The few that are likeable are only humorous on screen but really pretty awful people.

With this film being touted as Judd Apatow’s third film (which is a ridiculous thing to say about a guy who has a brand of films named after him: the Judd Apatow comedy), it is also a pulpit for his own ego. There are more cameos in this film than Around the World in 80 Days, which are cool at first but soon seems like Apatow’s trying to prove to the world that he knows all these celebrities.

Additionally, Apatow has cast his wife Leslie Mann (again) and had his real-life kids star as her children (again). I don’t have a problem with the girls, because they are pretty cute and I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same in his position, but he gets a bit gratuitous about it. At one point, he literally gives his older daughter a demo reel within the film, which made me feel like I was forced to watch someone’s community theater performance… because I was.

Who is gonna like this movie: Those who want to see Adam Sandler really act but still be funny.

Grade: B


Studio: 20th Century Fox

Rated: PG for action violence, some suggestive humor and language.

Starring: Ashley Tisdale, Robert Hoffman, Austin Robert Butler, Doris Roberts and Gillian Vigman

Directed by: John Schultz

What it’s about: The Pearson family is on a vacation in northern Michigan at a secluded house. However, the day they arrive, the kids discover a group of weird little aliens in the rental house’s attic. Instead of being cute little ETs, the aliens have an invasion plan. Because the aliens have the ability to enforce mind control on grown-ups, the kids take it upon themselves to defeat them and hopefully save the world.

What I liked: This movie is a goofy, silly kids flick. I knew that going in, so I was okay with it. I brought my kids along to the film, and they enjoyed the hell out of it. The film has a merciful 90-minute running time, which makes it very digestible for the adults in the audience.

There’s a nice dose of slapstick comedy, often at the expense of Robert Hoffman, who becomes the kids whipping boy throughout the film. It’s not high-brow, but I did laugh with my kids at this stuff.

I have a soft spot for this film because it reminds me of the little alien invasion films from the mid-1980s – flicks like Gremlins, Ghoulies and Critters. These were not great films by any stretch of the imagination (except maybe the original Gremlins), but they were an important part of my movie-watching youth. In this sense, Aliens in the Attic was a trip of nostalgia for me.

What I didn’t: Let’s face it, this film isn’t brilliantly plotted. The characters are very two-dimensional. And the aliens themselves are nothing to write home about. Aliens in the Attic will never be remembered for anything special, except for a couple nice bikini shots of Ashley Tisdale. (Hey, lay off, folks. She’s 24. She just plays a teenager on TV.)

The aliens themselves, along with the large dose of special effects, are nothing special. Ten years ago, they would have been groundbreaking, but in the grand scheme of things, these CGI creatures are somewhere between respectable feature films and direct-to-DVD fodder.

Who is gonna like this movie: Kids under 10 and people in their 30s who want to re-live Ghoulies, Gremlins or Critters.

Grade: B


Studio: Freestyle Releasing

Rated: R for pervasive sadistic bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity.

Starring: Josh Stewart, Daniella Alonso, Michael Reilly Burke, Andrea Roth and Madeline Zima

Directed by: Marcus Dunstan

What it’s about: Arkin (Josh Stewart) is a handyman who is trying to help pay off a string of bad debts from his baby mama. In order to square things with a loan shark, Arkin tries to rob a rich guy’s house that he worked on earlier. However, when he breaks in, he finds that he is not alone. A mysterious killer known only as the Collector has boobytrapped the place with horrible efficiency and is terrorizing the family inside.

What I liked: It would be easy to dismiss this film as just another spot of torture porn. And to a certain degree, this is present. There are some very grisly moments in the film, featuring the severe abuse of the human body. But that’s not the bulk of the film. For how simplistic it is, The Collector is also very smart. It manages to mix a couple genres, including giving a new spin to the haunted house plot.

In many ways, The Collector reminds me of Alexander Ajax’s High Tension, which was a brilliantly simple film that relied on atmosphere, sound design and shuddering suspense to hold my interest. This is more than just your average serial killer movie.

The Collector is twisted, and it is not for the squeamish, so please keep FSR Executive Editor Neil Miller as far as you can from this movie. He would surely pee himself within the first 20 minutes.

What I didn’t: As fresh and powerful as The Collector is, it is still a pretty lean movie. There’s barely enough story and plot to fill the scant 88-minute running time. Plus, the torture and kill scenes are a bit much, lending the film to be labeled as torture porn by some.

Who is gonna like this movie: Horror movie junkies.

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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