Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jennifer's Body **1/2

Starring Amanda Seyfried, Megan Fox, Johnny Simmons, Adam Brody.
Rated R.
Directed by Karyn Kusama.
Written by Diablo Cody.

* * 1/2

Get ready for lots of guts, gore, and whip-smart one-liners in Diablo Cody’s latest creation, which she actually wrote the same year as the Juno screenplay, her 2007 cult favorite. Jennifer’s Body is more than a campy high school horror flick, oozing with overt sexuality; there is an undercurrent of intelligence that separates it from the pack.

Jennifer (Megan Fox) and “Needy” (Amanda Seyfried) are best friends, but they couldn’t be more different. Jennifer is the girl every guy wants: gorgeous, promiscuous, and a bit of a bitch. Needy is a nerd, sporting schlumpy outfits and huge glasses that hide her beauty. She has a steady boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons), who treats her like gold. Jennifer drags Needy to see a band play at a local bar, and starts chatting up the lead singer immediately. The lead singer, Nikolai Wolf, played by a creepy Adam Brody, has a sinister plan for Jennifer, one which will change the lives of everyone in their tiny, odd town of Devil’s Kettle forever.

The film isn’t a showcase of Megan Fox’s acting abilities, although it does put her body on full display. Viewers looking for just “hot” are in for a surprise. In one scene Jennifer shows up in Needy’s house, covered head to toe in blood. She stands silently before Needy, a grin slithering across her face, exposing bloody teeth. There is a look of pure evil behind her dark eyes. Whether or not Fox’s acting chops exist, her possessed cheerleader act is perfectly terrifying.

Through the horror theme, Diablo Cody explores the darker side of high school, the media, fame, and men. All these things work together in one way or another to make life miserable for Needy and Jennifer.

“Hell is a teenage girl,” is the opening line of the movie. Jennifer uses her body to get what she wants and defines herself by what guy she can control and conquer next. Needy is completely caught up in everything her best friend does and seems to idolize her in a strange way. Both girls are focused on these false pretenses of who they are, which sets the scene for the typical hellish high school experience gone horribly awry.

Some of the brutally violent scenes were unnecessary and so was the girl-on-girl action between Seyfried and Fox. Did it really add anything to the story to see them making out on a bed? It only seems to enforce the message that girls’ sole route for power is with their bodies and that sex always sells. If Diablo Cody wants to enforce a message of strong female characters, as she did with Juno, the message gets a little blurry in Jennifer’s Body.

Some of the smaller roles add to the crazy, darkly comedic feel of the film. Adam Brody’s character is his farthest from Seth Cohen yet, and J.K. Simmons (also Juno’s dad) made an appearance or two as a teacher with a mechanical hand. Amy Sedaris plays Needy’s disheveled mother. Jennifer’s Body is twisted, dirty, and creepy, but captivatingly so.

Up next for review, FAME!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

All About Steve **

Starring Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, Thomas Haden Church and Ken Jeong.
Rated PG-13.
Directed by Phil Traill.
Written by Kim Barker.

* *

There are certain constants in the light comedies that Sandra Bullock produces: quirky characters, an upbeat ending, and plenty of laughs, thanks to her slapstick and often self-deprecating humor.

All About Steve most certainly has quirky characters and an upbeat ending, but it’s lacking in the humor department.

Mary Horowitz (Bullock) is a talking encyclopedia. She is also a crossword constructer at a local newspaper. Her simple life goes a little wild after she meets Steve (Bradley Cooper) who is a cameraman for a news station. Immediately after their first date (which lasts all of ten minutes) Mary decides Steve is the perfect man for her and she follows him as he chases news stories around the country. Mishaps, natural disasters and absurd headlining events follow.

Watching Mary blindly go after this man who isn’t interested in her is a horrible mix of heartbreaking, pathetic and disturbing. The first scene Bullock and Cooper share together is so rushed and abrupt that it isn't even believable.

Cooper, who is Hollywood’s latest It guy, plays an everyday hunky Joe without a whole lot of depth or chemistry with Bullock. Maybe that’s the point: sometimes the object of a person's devoted pursuit isn’t such a great fit after all.

The theme of the film, to let your freak flag fly, is admirable, but Mary isn’t relatable or much of a role model and at times can be downright annoying. Although it’s a jovial romp, the film is missing a certain realness that Bullock brings to her other characters.

Look for the upcoming review of JENNIFER’S BODY, which hits theatres on September 18th.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Inglourious Basterds ****

Starring Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Laurent, Diane Kruger, Eli Roth
Rated R
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Written by Quentin Tarantino

* * * *

Tarantino’s latest, a historical fantasy, explores the possibility of an alternative ending to World War II and the Nazi Party. Although filled with his trademark hauntingly piercing soundtrack, famous guest appearances, and gun blasts galore, it is a different kind of Tarantino story. Still fantastical and sickeningly comical, but with a glitzier feel to it.

After all, Brad Pitt stars.

Two stories run parallel, that of French Jewish woman Shosannah Dreyfus, living undercover as a non-Jewish French citizen and American Lieutenant Aldo Raine and his intense squad of Basterds.

The Inglourious Basterds and Dreyfus, both in Nazi-occupied France, each separately concoct a plan to take down the greatest leaders of the Nazi Party and the head honcho himself. While there is plenty of gore, it’s not much worse than that of any film portraying the casualties of wartime.

Whether filmgoers are Tarantino fans or not, the acting is polished, even superb, from European stars like Christoph Waltz. Setting aside history, the storyline is absolutely engaging, and not without the signature dark magic of Tarantino’s films.