This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr fights a battle of wits between the stuffy and overly dramatic Oscar contenders that will be buzzing through the weekend and the genre-specific schlock that is being released with no hope of winning any sort of award at all. Before hunkering down on the couch to watch Billy Crystal time warp back into the mid-90s on Sunday, Kevin skydives into the multiplex to check out Act of Valor. Then he joins a commune to be a modern hippie while watching Wanderlust. Finally, he leaves the multiplex to stalk Amanda Seyfried and her on-screen sister because he believes he’s at least as creepy as the legions of creepy guys in Gone. Oh, and that Tyler Perry movie? He skips that with a wave of the hand and a snap of the fingers. If it ain’t got Madea in it, it ain’t worth watching!
Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Click here to listen as Kevin is joined by Leonard Wilson from Through the Shattered Lens to talk about this bizarre dichotomy of weekend movies.
ACT OF VALOR
Studio: Relativity Media
Rated: R for strong violence including some torture, and for language
Starring: Roselyn Sanchez, Emilio Rivera, Jason Cottle, Nestor Serrano, Gonzalo Menendez and the Navy SEALs
Directed by: Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh
What it’s about: Real active-duty Navy SEALs are enlisted to star in this international military thriller about an international terrorist plot and the brave men who try to stop it.
What makes the grade: The concept of embedding a camera in the thick of military exercises is an interesting cinematic experiment. With movies getting more and more overblown with hyper-realism, Act of Valor offers a nice reality check. Of course, I’m not a Navy SEAL, so I have no idea how accurate this really is, but it seems really accurate at least.
When boots are on the ground and the SEALs are in military mode, the film shines. It’s got some thrilling action sequences in it, grounded in reality, but powerful as hell. They’re jumping out of real airplanes here and riding on real nuclear submarines. When possible, they also use live fire rounds, which is something that can look cheesy if left to simple special effects.
As military thrillers go, this one work, and it honors a great group of heroes. The story itself is somewhat rote, but the grounded tactics behind it make the film a damn cool experience.
What fails: I have all the respect in the world for the Navy SEALs. Trust me, if I were behind enemy lines, there would be no one else I’d want coming to my rescue. However, if I’m making a movie about that rescue, I’d want real actors in front of the camera.
It’s not that the SEALs who take on the lead roles in this film are bad actors. In fact, they’re probably the best actors the Navy has to offer. Unfortunately, when they’re put up against professional actors in other roles in the film, their flaws shine so bright they overpower everything else.
Add to this that the character and plot-driven elements of the movie are as cheesy as can be, playing like a bad episode of Army Wives. I don’t doubt the commitment of these men and their families, but they’re not terribly comfortable in front of the camera, and any downtime from the mission feels like a recruitment video for prospective Navy SEALs families.
Who is gonna like this movie: Action junkies and anyone with active duty military personnel or veterans in their inner circle.
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Rated: PG-13 for violence and terror, some sexual material, brief language and drug references
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Jennifer Carpenter, Sebastian Stan, Wes Bentley and Daniel Sunjata
Directed by: Heitor Dhalia
What it’s about: Amanda Seyfried plays a young woman who had once escaped a murderous kidnapper. When her sister goes missing, she just knows it’s her abductor trying to get back at her. Unfortunately because the police found no evidence of the original kidnapping, they don’t believe her at all. That leaves her to track down her sister by herself and hopefully to find the man who abducted her in the first place.
What makes the grade: Okay, I know this movie is getting raked across the coals. And to be fair, everything that the rest of the critics are saying about it is absolutely true, 100%. However, that’s what made the film so fun for me.
Gone isn’t a spoof of the mid-90s female-centric thrillers like Kiss the Girls or Jennifer 8. It’s more of a homage to them, laying on the tropes so thick it’s hard to look past them. But unlike other movies that try to capture this (like last year’s godawful The Roommate), Gone is in on its own joke.
Every guy in the movie is creepy with “rapey eyes” (an actual line in the film used to describe someone). The logic makes no sense, especially when you get to the end and try to piece everything together. Hell, there’s even a scene where Seyfried goes into an abandoned apartment to find dog food scattered all over the place, yet a cat still leaps across the screen for a jump scare.
Just as there’s a 30 percent chance that Seyfried’s character is bonkers throughout the movie, there’s a 30 percent chance that the filmmakers were delivering calculated gag after calculated gag, leaving the audience to laugh hysterically at the result. I know I did.
What fails: Of course, with all that said, there’s also a 70 percent chance that the filmmakers thought they were making a taut, unique psychological thriller. If that’s the case, then yeah, the rest of the critics are right. It’s a total turd.
Who is gonna like this movie: Anyone who thoroughly enjoyed those mid-90s female-centric thrillers that don’t even play on late-night basic cable any more.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Rated: R for sexual content, graphic nudity, language and drug use
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Malin Akerman, Paul Rudd, Ray Liotta and Justin Theroux
Directed by: David Wain
What it’s about: Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston play a Manhattan couple who fall on hard times and move to a commune outside of Atlanta. There, they learn to find themselves, having their comfort zones, sexuality and views of the world challenged.
What makes the grade: There are some funny moments in the movie. Unfortunately, most of them are shown or telegraphed from the trailer. At the very least, Paul Rudd has some great moments, even if the funniest one makes no sense in the context of the rest of the film.
At the very least, Wanderlust could play as an unintended prequel to Our Idiot Brother.
What fails: I’m not a fan of Jennifer Aniston in the least, and her presence in the film cancels out any possible enjoyment that I could have gotten watching Paul Rudd have some fun. Unfortunately, Aniston is as much the focus as he is. Her comedic timing is stunted in this film, and once again we have her trying to act raunchy but refusing to show her breasts on film. I say to get those fun bags out while they’re still relatively perky, ‘cause you know she’ll end up playing a stripper in a couple years in an attempt to win some award.
The biggest problem with Wanderlust is that it’s an utterly pointless film made about thirty years too late. Dipping into the hippie and commune pool for comedy material isn’t even working on television shows any more, although they keep trying to cram it into scripts.
There’s no focus with the characters or the story. On one hand, the hippies are portrayed as utter nut cases. On the other hand, they’re a loveable family. When the forced raunchy jokes are played out, we’re given a preachy and stilted rom com storyline that clashes with the entire rest of the film.
Sadly, Gone is a far funnier (albeit intentionally unintentionally funny) than Wanderlust even attempts to be.
Who is gonna like this movie: People who like 30-year-old jokes and aren’t repulsed by Jennifer Aniston.