IITS Goes to the Movies, April 2009
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 13, 2009
We here at IITS don’t make it out to the theaters much–co-ordinating with friends can be a major hassle, going by yourself feels kind of embarrassing, and $12.50 in New York seems a price too high to justify for a transient piece of entertainment that I could probably watch on my computer for free. So when we do go, we try to make it more of an event–and since I had the day off last Saturday, for example, I decided to kill five birds with one stone (or, technically, three stones, since I had to switch theaters a couple times) and catch up on all the movies that I had sort of wanted to see, but not badly enough to dedicate a single trip out to any one of them. Friend of the blog Lisa Berlin was kind enough to join me for the experience, and we went down the checklist. Some notes on those viewed:
- I Love You, Man. Three things about this movie were very relieving–that Jason Segel played a character that didn’t cry once, that Jon Favreau proved to still be fatter and less likeable than ever, and that Leslie Mann was absolutely nowhere to be found (though luckily for fans of grating, unsightly shrew characters, Mann will be appearing in hubby Apatow’s upcoming Funny People, previewed in at least two movies I saw Saturday). Besides that, and the fact that the movie wasnt actually directed by Judd Apatow but some no-name, non-Wiki-entried dude named John Hamburg, no real surprises to be had here–it’s pleasant (though do ALL these movies really need to take place in California?), mildly clever (bromance presented like actual romance, with same ups and downs, will-he-or-won’t-he’s, etc.), cameo-strewn (David Krumholz, Lou Ferrigno, and Rush, together for the first and last time), and easily forgotten about. This concept now thoroughly exhausted, however, no more Apatow-verse comedies about affectionate male-male relations unless actual gay sex happens in them.
- Taken. Who would have guessed that three and a half months into our fair new year, the top two grossing movies in the country would be Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Taken? When I first saw the previews I thought it was lucky to escape straight-to-video hell, but apparently America was really in the mood to see Liam Neeson take on an entire country’s underworld–I suspect that our failing economy and pervasive xenophobia are somehow to blame. Anyway, there’s worse fates to be had than watching Liam Neeson in pure Darkman form playing The Transporter for 90 minutes, especially since he actually gets fairly down and dirty in the process (my favorite was probably the triple-kidney-punch he lays on the first baddie he gets his hands on). Only complaints would be that Maggie Grace is about ten years too old and ten times too annoying to still be playing 17-year-olds, and that Famke Janssen’s character is basically the worst mother ever (“God, Liam Neeson, that is so like you to not want our teenage daughter to go follow U2 through Europe for a month with her slutty best friend and no adult supervision!”) Small price to pay.
- Observe and Report. Though fact of there being two Mall Cop movies released in the calendar year seems to automatically be at least one too many, it seems to me that the release of Paul Blart a few months earlier is probably the best thing that could have happened to Observe & Report, since it gives O&R an undeserved satirical edge it would never have had if there was no Mall Cop genre to satirize. And the two movies are, obviously, very different. Props to Seth Rogen for playing a character that doesn’t ask us to like him, since Seth Rogen is clearly at the point of his acting career where being liked is no longer really an option, and props to director Jody Hill for making the movie teeter tantalizingly close to genuine malevolence. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t quite have the guts to follow through with it, and pussies out a little with a too-easy ending that makes the whole movie feel like a cheap parody and not the impressively straight-faced portrait of a titanically fucked-up individual that it had promised to be for the previous 100 minutes. Nonetheless, Michael Pena is kind of the man, Little River Band is seriously underrated, and it is somehow poetic and just that this movie will come nowhere close to achieving that Paul Blart dollar.
- Adventureland. This movie seems destined to go down as the most poorly marketed movie of the decade. Its previews and posters basically led me to believe that it was going to be a cross between Waiting and Sexdrive, and instead it ended up being more like Garden State filled out with the cast of Superbad (and in case you’re still harboring stupid prejudices against Garden State, yes, that is a good thing, and I even liked Waiting pretty well). In any event, it’s probably the best movie about 20-something suburban angst since, well, SubUrbia, and the only people who are likely to see it are going to be 15-year-olds who will be inevitably disappointed by the lack of bare tits on display. Seems like it’ll have to settle for cult status, but it’s at least more or less guaranteed that–no movie with a script, soundtrack, and pair of lead performances this good will stay on the shelf for too long. I don’t think I can remember a movie about young people that had two actors as obviously talented and likeable as Jesse Eisenberg (Michael Cera, you have officially been repalced in my heart) and Kristen Stewart (You are much more adorable when lounging in Husker Du t-shirts and not hanging with lame vampmires, Kristen), and their scenes together are riveting–the fight scene between the two where neither can muster a complete sentence is a fucking clinic, especially. And I definitely can’t remember a movie whose soundtrack–The Replacements’ “Unsatisfied,” Big Star’s “I’m in Love With a Girl,” the ACOUSTIC VERISON of Jesus and Mary Chain’s “A Taste of Cindy”–had me swooning as much from beginning to end. Ryan Reynolds plays a great (and believable) asshole, Martin Starr is a stellar downer of an addition to any cast, and even the obligatory Wacky Characters played by Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig were vaguely loveable. If I like another movie more this year, 2009 will be an unqualified success. Yes, that’s right, I say that about a movie with this poster:
- The Watchmen. Missed the first hour of this mistiming my Adventureland viewing, but I think I got the gist from the last two hours–I was smart/bandwagony and read the graphic novel for the first time a few months ago, so I didn’t have to worry about following the plot or anything. Nothing too much to say here, since who cares anyway–liked it, seemed like a faithful adaptation, looked cool, Dr. Manhattan is creepy as fuck, Kelly from Bad News Bears certainly grew up to be a badass, Malin Ackerman looks better as a brunette, whatever. Mainly, I wanted to focus on the two extremely unlikely Seinfeld alums that showed up in this movie–the guy who played Elaine’s svengali-ish psychiatrist boyfriend as Hollis, and the guy who played Kramer’s dwarf friend Mickey as Big Figure. I never imagined I’d see either of these people doing anything outside of Seinfeld reruns ever again, yet here they are, in the same magical movie. By the end, I was on the lookout for appearances from Jack Klompus and Sue-Ellen Mischke, but I think the overlap unfortunately ends there. If there was a third one I missed in that first hour, though, be sure to let me know. Also, I’m not sure if I’d ever heard Leonard Cohen’s original version of “Hallelujah” before, and I realized why–it kind of sucks. I mean, thank God I didn’t have to sit through another emotional scene set to the Jeff Buckley or Rufus Wainwright version, but goddamn, that song was not meant for someone with Leonard Cohen’s voice. “First We Take Manhattan” over the end credits, though–too awesome.