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COUPLE’S RETREAT

Studio: Universal

Rated: PG-13 for sexual content and language.

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Faizon Love and Kristin Davis

Directed by: Peter Billingsley

What it’s about: Four couples face a wide array of relationship problems and travel to a tropical resort for a getaway. Unfortunately, they must also face a barrage of couples’ counseling, which puts a greater strain on their relationships.

What I liked: I know this movie is just a big roaring pot of cliches, but I thought it was funny. The cast is the key, and it is loaded with some hilarious people. That’s not just the dudes with Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau and Faizon Love (who is the fat black dude that no one seems to remember but throws down the comedy as good as the rest of them). It’s also the ladies with the Kristen/Kristin double bill (yes, I’d like a Davis/Bell sandwich, please).

The comedy comes out of uncomfortable situations and bitter dialogue. We’ve all seen the yoga instructor with his ass in Jason Bateman’s face and crotch all up in Malin Akerman. These are all cheap shots but I laughed. I’m the lowest common denominator that way.

What I didn’t: This film epitomizes the concept of “seen it all before.” It is predictable as hell, and the characters are pretty shallow.

Couple’s Retreat really is nothing more than a Tyler Perry movie without all the melodrama and only one black couple. In the end, its a retread of Why Did I Get Married and has the conflicts resolve too easily. There’s a story for everyone, and things get spread thin through much of the film.

Still, you get to see the ladies in bikinis and underwear a lot, and that speaks to me.

Who is gonna like this movie: The mainstream audience not quite ready for a raunchy comedy.

Grade: B-

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Rated: R for language.

Starring: Micah Sloat, Katie Featherston, Mark Fredrichs, Amber Armstrong and Tim Piper

Directed by: Oren Peli

What it’s about: Katie has been haunted by a spirit all her life. Instead of breaking up with her, her boyfriend Micah buys an HD camera and tries to document the paranormal activity. And lots of spooky shit ensues.

What I liked: This is being heralded as the next Blair Witch Project, but the difference is that this is a better film. It’s minimalist filmmaking at its best with some really creepy moment. Like Robert Wise’s classic ghost movie The Haunting, Paranormal Activity uses off-screen effects and suspense to deliver the scares.

A lot of people have knocked this movie for its POV nature, which we’ve seen before in The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. However, it’s an effective way of doing things. Paranormal Activity holds back on the shaky-cam technique and uses locked-down shots to its advantage.

Paranormal Activity has caused quite a stir already, selling out midnight shows in its limited release. This is the best way to experience the film: in a crowded theater with the lights out. It’s an event movie that will lose its luster on home video, so see it now if it’s playing in your area.

What I didn’t: There’s plenty of things to complain about with a movie like this. The acting isn’t that great (although it beats the pants off Blair Witch). The dialogue can be a bit silly (although I’m sure most of it is improved by unknowns). The cinematography is just so-so (although it’s supposed to look amateurish).

I have seen a lot of these movies made by a couple dudes with a camera, and there is something special about this one. Yeah, it’s got its warts, but it is far better than most things you’ll see committed to videotape without a studio budget.

Who is gonna like this movie: Ghost hounds who want to be in on the experience.

Grade: A

TOY STORY & TOY STORY 2 IN 3D DOUBLE FEATURE

Studio: Disney/Pixar

Rated: G.

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, John Ratzenberger an d Annie Potts

Directed by: John Lasseter

What it’s about: In anticipation for the release of Toy Story 3 next summer, Pixar has re-rendered the first two movies in 3D and released them as a double feature. In Toy Story, Woody the cowboy is Andy’s favorite toy, but his world is turned upside down when Andy gets a new Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger for his birthday. In Toy Story 2, Woody is toynapped by a collector who wants to reunite him with his original set, and the rest of Andy’s toys go on a rescue mission.

What I liked: Okay, I know this opened last week, but it’s worth giving a nod to because this is the final week you can see it in the theaters. I freaking love Pixar, and this was the movie that started it all. Everything else being equal, it’s awesome just to see these movies again on the big screen for the first time in ten years.

And the brilliance of the 3D experience is that these movies are simply enhanced by the technology. It’s not gimmicky, and Pixar doesn’t go back to fix anything. It’s what 3D should be. With the digital stereoscopic technology, the image is crystal clear and just pulls you into the movie more than it ever has. After a decade of watching these on DVD, this release reminds me that the Toy Story films are meant to be seen in a theater.

Finally, you can’t beat the price. Even with the inflated 3D tickets, you’re still getting two movies for the price of one, and there’s some cute interstitials during the ten-minute intermission. What better way to spend three hours with your kids?

What I didn’t: The fact that we have to wait until next summer to see Toy Story 3.

Who is gonna like this movie: Everyone.

Grade: A+


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