Short Takes—Fun and Not So Fun

Adult World (2013)

Written by Andy Cochran; directed by Scott Coffey (who also stars as the store owner); produced by Alex Goldstone, Joy Gorman and Justin Nappi
Stars: Emma Roberts (Celeste and Jesse Forever), John Cusack (Perks of Being a Wallflower), Evan Peters

Synopsis

Amy Anderson (Roberts), an aspiring poet with little life experience, having racked up a load of college loan costs, is basically kicked out of the house by her parents; forced to find a job, her journey is severely limited by the fact that her only significant skill is: writing.  Amy reluctantly lands a job at a Mom-and-Pop adult bookstore.

Upon seeing one of her favorite writers, “Rat” Billings (Cusack) at a book signing, Amy eventually follows him, with the help of “Rubia” (Armando Riesco), to his house.  Obsessed and persistent, Rat gives in, in a way, accepting her as his protégé (but really, as his maid).  Things come unglued as Amy takes herself too seriously.

Take
The actors pull it off well.  It’s not as iconic as Perks…Wallflower, and it doesn’t do much as far as bringing original ideas to the table, but the execution is great.  Besides having a plot that doesn’t call for much, there’s nothing unappealing about this film in my mind.  “Amy” may be full of herself, but Emma Robberts makes her so damn cute!  You can’t help but like her.  (At least I did.)  Grade: B

Authors Anonymous (2014)

Written by David Congalton; directed by Ellie Kanner; produced by Kanner (EKZ) and Hal Schwartz; Cuoco and co-star Bennet also served as executive producers
Stars: Chris Klein (American Pie), Kaley Cuoco (Big Bang Theory), Teri Polo (Meet the Parents), Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck), Tricia Helfer, Jonathan Bennet and the late Dennis Farina (Law & Order)

Synopsis

A.A. is a comedy in the form of pseudo-documentary that starts with an unpublished writing support group, hosted by a married couple.  Hannah Rinaldi (Cuoco), a girl that had never read much or written, is accepted into the group.  Henry (Klein) has a crush on her.

Meanwhile, optician Alan Mooney (Walsh) appears to only put ideas into a memo recorder; his wife (“Colette”/Polo), an “aspiring writer,” can’t write.  Sigrid (Helfer), a German immigrant working at a hardware store, supports the delusional Tom Clancy wanna-be (and possible future husband) John K. Butzin (Farina) to the point of lying.

Bruised egos over substance, the group fails to take the news well when Hannah suddenly gets published and beyond.  Unrequited love, betrayal and resentment, drama and separation ensues.  It ends with a new angle on what the “documentary” is about.

Take
It starts off strong and real, but the plot unwinds in a scripted-comedic fashion; some of its elements, as the movie advances, are detailed or portrayed unconvincingly.  The film was obviously low-budget (an indie released in theaters April 18) and could’ve used more improv and less acting.  Grade: C+

Some Girl(s) (2013)

Screenplay by Neil LaBute; directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer.
Stars: Adam Brody, Jennifer Morrison (House), Emily Watson, Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks), Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars).

Synopsis

A writer (Brody), published in a magazine for his realistic relationship stories, has actually been basing his stories on experience.  Now engaged to a young med student, he decides to ‘patch things up’ with his former relationships.

Multiple stops, second-hand smoke (“Tyler”/Mia Maestro) and a slap to the face (“Sam”/Morrison), as “Man” advances with each location, more is revealed about the guy, that there’s more than what meets the eye.

Take
Groan.  It’s acted well, and it comes off interesting, but I could tell it was written by one person, and a male at that, writing all the female dialogue.  The British wife (“Lindsay”), whose acquaintance with “Man” was an affair, despite Watson’s accent had much the same written dialogue as the American women, plus a “bloody.”

It’s contrived like a stage play because it’s based on LaBute’s 2005 play, with Reggie (Kazan in this film adaptation) having a final say with a kiss (that is a woman kiss).  Please.  Grade: B-

Red 2 (2013)

Written by Jon and Erich Hoeber; directed by Dean Parisot; produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura.
Stars: Bruce Willis (Die Hard), John Malkovich (one of three producers, Perks…Wallflower), Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds), Helen Miren (Hitchcock), Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs), Catherine Zeta-Jones, Byung-hun Lee and Neal McDonough (Justified).

Synopsis

A hit is ordered on Frank & friends are set up and made out to be Nightshade participants, domestic terrorists.  They must fight for their lives, and…well, save the world.

Marvin Boggs (Malkovich) claims he, Frank Moses (Willis) and girlfriend Sarah Ross (Parker) are targets, and attempts to fake his own death.  Jack Horton (McDonough) interrogates Frank anyway.  So after being set up, the three, with targets on their backs, walk right into the setup, seek “The Frog” (David Thewlis), team up with their assassin and eventually break out the mad scientist (Hopkins, Jolygood!) behind the infamous and undetectable thermonuclear Red Mercury bomb.

Twists and turns, shots and explosions, jokes and gags, this “family friendly” sequel (PG-13) packs an f-bomb with its Red bomb, versus the R-rated original film adaptation inspired by the Red comic book by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner.

Take
116 minutes in running time, some of the not-so-high-quality movie moments could’ve been cut, especially the “Karma’s a bitch” line.  (Seriously?)  Some of the gags are unquestionably funny (e.g., Frank yelling at Marvin, “Stop cutting wires!”; Sarah running, shooting up a ceiling with a big smile on her face).  But the film is written mostly for its action, and its actors are tired.  There are so many stunts in the film that, in the credits, not only were the stunts separated by location, but the largest block of names is HUGE.

It’s fun to watch if you’ve the time to spare.  Grade: B

3 Days to Kill (2014)

Written by Luc Besson and Adi Hasak; directed by McG (Supernatural); produced by Besson and Hasak, Ryan Kavanaugh, Marc Libert and Virginie Silla.
Stars: Kevin Costner (The Upside of Anger), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Connie Neelson (Gladiator) and Amber Heard.

Description

A CIA agent (Costner) is informed that he has brain cancer, spreading to his lungs.  The agency dismisses him, but a woman (Heard) keeps him active as an assassin.  With the little time he has left to spend with family, he accepts a kill order.  His reward: a drug that could cure or delay his cancer, so he could spend Christmas with his wife and daughter.

Take
The film is detailed like a ludicrous comic book.  Why is it that a young, attractive woman hired this guy to do her dirty work?  Why a French albino as one of the lead villains?  And a Philanxifor-like drug to cure or abate the ex-agent’s cancer?  Magical.  An ear-splitting explosion, gun shots, an undeveloped backstory, a car chase… …Zzzzz.  You know it’s not very good when you start to ask: why was this made?  Grade: C

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