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GET HIM TO THE GREEK

Studio: Universal

Rated: R for strong sexual content and drug use throughout, and pervasive language

Starring: Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Elisabeth Moss, Rose Byrne and Colm Meaney

Directed by: Nicholas Stoller

What it’s about: In this sort-of sequel to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Jonah Hill plays a new character – a record company schlub – who has been given the challenging task of escorting drugged-up, wild man musician Aldous Snow from London to the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. And let the hilarity ensue.

What I liked: I was actually quite surprised with how much this film made me laugh. Like any of the Judd Apatow-produced R-rated comedies, you can expect some very awkward moments and not a small amount of bodily fluids. I’m just happy that I didn’t have to get an eye-full of Jason Segal’s junk two or three times.

Both Russell Brand and Jonah Hill work in this movie and manage to make otherwise secondary characters into the focus of the film. The cast is actually what clicks in this movie, with great supporting roles from lovely ladies Elisabeth Moss and Rose Byrne to Sean Combs in a surprisingly hilarious role.

I laughed more than I probably should have, but the onslaught of sexual, drinking and drug-related humor just caught me at the right moment.

What I didn’t: The biggest problem with movies like this, along with films like Office Space and The Invention of Lying, is that the funny premise is better than the plot itself. Get Him to the Greek stumbles in the middle because they can’t keep up the zaniness for the entire running time. The writers try to shoe-horn a somewhat heartfelt ending to the film, and it just isn’t made for this. Still, even in a lesser second half, the movie definitely has its moments.

The other thing that really bothered me was the chronology of the film. With Aldous Snow having a seven-year-old son and a long history with his ex-girlfriend in this film, a drastic down-turn in his career from his Sarah Marshall days and a date firmly established as 2009 because it’s the 10th anniversary of a 1999 concert, I can’t quite figure out how the movie fits with the continuity of Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

I’m probably thinking too much into this, aren’t I?

Who is gonna like this movie: Russell Brand fans and folks who like some raunch.

Grade: B

SPLICE

Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: R for disturbing elements including strong sexuality, nudity, sci-fi violence and language

Starring: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, David Hewlett, Amanda Brugel and Delphine Chanéac

Directed by: Vincenzo Natali

What it’s about: Two genetic scientists discover that it’s not nice to mess with Mother Nature. They splice together genes from various animals to create a human hybrid that miraculously develops into a potentially dangerous new species.

What I liked: I love the Frankenstein story, and I love this style of creepy, atmospheric sci-fi thrillers. Splice is presented with a slow build but holding plenty of dread to keep me interested. All the Species comparisons are only partially valid, rather it has more of a feel of an early David Cronenberg film.

Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody come across well as the meddling scientists whose long string of blunders end in some pretty ugly results for all. It allows us to feel just enough sympathy for them that we care but not so much that we can’t roll our eyes and shrug off the film, knowing the characters’ wounds are generally self-inflicted.

Director Vincenzo Natali, who is best known for his work on Cube, delivers a taut, creepy, sexually-charged horror story about messing with Mother Nature and the over-the-top results that can happen. And with a powerful and eerie score, the movie has a unique, chilling and disturbing impact.

What I didn’t: There are some lower-level plot points that get revealed in somewhat awkward ways. Plus, with any good horror movie, there needs to be a certain amount of suspension of disbelief as we see the characters walking blinding into some of the most colossal mistakes you could make.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of sci-fi horror flicks.

Grade: A

MARMADUKE

Studio: Universal

Rated: PG for some rude humor and language

Starring: Owen Wilson, Emma Stone, George Lopez, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Steve Coogan

Directed by: Tom Dey

What it’s about: Owen Wilson hops on the other side of the Marley and Me leash to play the voice of Marmaduke, a trouble-prone great Dane. After his family moves to California, Marmaduke must face challenges with friends and his family.

What I liked: Having enjoyed the Marmaduke comic strip for years, I was curious about this film. I didn’t dismiss it out-of-hand because I do have kids, and this was perfect for them. As far as talking dog movies go, it’s somewhere between Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Underdog, for better or for worse.

Owen Wilson is quite charming as Marmaduke, and his deadpan delivery works well for the concept. But his co-stars are a bit lack-luster. At least when Marmaduke is on screen, there are some things to chuckle at. And the kids are going to like it. After all, when Marmaduke breaks wind at various times in the film, that’s sure to make the little ones laugh.

What I didn’t: At the risk of sounding like I’m stating the obvious, this film didn’t have much of a story. What little story it did have was crammed into the film with very little finesse. The human characters were only there to facilitate the premise, and they didn’t much life at all. Even the additional voice – from George Lopez and Kiefer Sutherland to Fergie and Emma Stone – seemed pretty weak.

I suppose this is exactly what you get when Hollywood tries to stretch a single-panel comic strip into a feature film.

Who is gonna like this movie: Kids who love talking (and farting) dogs.

Grade: C

KILLERS

Studio: Lionsgate

Rated: PG-13 for violent action, sexual material and language

Starring: Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Tom Selleck, Catherine O’Hara and Katheryn Winnick

Directed by: Robert Luketic

What it’s about: Ashton Kutcher plays a spy who marries the innocent Katherine Heigl. When she discovers his career secret, she screams a lot and is generally irritating.

What I liked: This film made news because Lionsgate refused to screen it for any press prior to its release. Furthermore, actor/producer Ashton Kutcher bragged on Twitter about how he was going to “pirate” the first ten minutes of the film. Well, he did (actually offering up the first thirteen minutes), which gave a chance for me to sample the film.

Damn, I’m glad it was just thirteen minutes. The one thing I liked about this movie was that Lionsgate didn’t actually screen it… and I just saved 90 minutes of my life.

What I didn’t: Granted, this is judging the film by its first ten percent or so, but I found Killers to be one of the most annoying and awkwardly presented rom coms in ages. Ashton Kutcher is passable as a spy, yet he really seems like he phoned in his performance.

But it’s Katherine Heigl who embarrasses herself in the film. Playing a watered-down version of her Grey’s Anatomy persona Izzy Stevens, Heigl tries to smile her way through her scenes, barely keeping pace with the other actors. She desperately attempts to be funny in both a slapstick way and in a self-deprecating way (including using a robot voice that she claims makes her a winner with nerds). Sadly, her performance in the first dozen minutes of the movie makes her jumbotron hand-job scene in The Ugly Truth seem positively Shakespearean in comparison.

Who is gonna like this movie: Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl.

Grade: F


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