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Wednesday, March 25,2009

Reviews in Short

by Cole Smithey

 

Monsters vs. Aliens. Evidence that 3D animation is here to stay, "Monsters vs. Aliens" is a blast of eye-popping color and goofy characters that tips the scales a tad too far into violent realms to validate its purpose. A UFO lands in Modesto, Calif., on the day of hopeful bride Susan Murphy’s wedding, and the alien attack that follows presses the U.S. government into bringing out its best-kept security secret: Monsters. A 20,000-year-old half-fish/ half-ape called The Missing Link (Will Arnett), a gigantic furry bug named Insectasaurous, a mad scientist called Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D. (Hugh Laurie), a one-eyed blue gelatinous mass called B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), and the freshly grown 50-foot Susan, A.K.A. Ginormica (Reese Witherspoon), do battle with an army of four-eyed aliens led by Rain Wilson’s Gallaxhar. The writers smuggle in a promilitary subtext that intersects with a battle-of-the sexes theme played out between Susan and her once would-be husband, an ambitious TV broadcaster (Paul Rudd). Although good-humored, "Monsters vs. Aliens" doesn’t stir many laughs. But that’s not to say it’s not an amusing ride if you can get past the spoonfuls of social insinuation being fed to your little ones. (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) Rated PG. 98 mins. (B-)



I Love You, Man. Paul Rudd’s understated comic genius comes to the fore in this nuanced romantic comedy that’s as much about the intricacies of male bonding as it is about the invisible line between male/female relationships. Rudd plays L.A. real estate salesman Peter Klaven, who proposes to his cute-as-a-button girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones) only to discover that her gang of girl buddies is suspicious of his long-standing lack of male friends. Peter tries diligently to find a buddy to pal around with before his upcoming wedding, because, well, he needs a best man. While presenting an open house for TV star Lou Ferrigno, Peter meets alpha male slacker Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) and the die is cast. A common musical appreciation for the band Rush sets off a fast friendship that threatens to outrev Peter’s domestic marital plans. Rudd is hilarious — watch him milk laughs out of the phrase, "I slappa da bass." And Jason Segel is on top of his game as an alternately aggressive and passive aggressive SoCal dude with spot-on people-reading skills. Supporting comic efforts from the likes of Andy Samberg, Jane Curtain and Jon Favreau redouble the fun. Here’s a refreshing comedy that never tries too hard and consequently leaves a lot of room for laughs to explode. (Paramount) Rated R. 104 mins. (B)




Miss March. The writing and directing team of Trevor Moore and Zach Cregger (television’s "The Whitest Kids U Know") take a failing grade on their entry into feature film territory. Contrary to the wealth of comic gifts Moore and Cregger exhibit on a regular basis on TV, the "Monty Python-inspired" duo hit too few comic high notes with a road trip sex comedy that never finds a groove. Cregger plays the virgin Eugene, whose initiation to love-making with his longtime girlfriend Cindi (Raquel Alessi) is ruined when a party-house stairwell fall puts him in a coma for four years. Eugene’s best friend Tucker (Moore) brings Eugene back to the waking world of the eternally horny with the aid of a baseball bat, and the two set off on a journey to the Playboy Mansion to locate Cindi, who’s been busy doing nude modeling for the magazine. As comic performers Moore and Cregger are a stellar team, but screenwriting is not their strong suit. In something like a Judd Apatow comedy, I have a feeling Cregger and Moore could make an audience laugh its socks right off. (Fox Searchlight) Rated R. 90 mins. (C)




The Last House on the Left. By definition, any update of Wes Craven’s "Last House on the Left" is sure to be a schlock fest. Greek director Dennis Iliadis uses every trick in the book to ramp up suspense and deliver shout-at-the-screen shocks from Adam Alleca’s and Carl Ellsworth’s straightforward script about violent retribution for crimes committed. When the Collingwood family goes for a holiday at their lakeside house, swim champ daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) takes the family car into town to visit her feisty gal pal Paige (Martha Maclsaac). The promise of good marijuana lures the pair into the clutches of evil-doers that includes a prison escapee, his teenage son, a femme fatal, and a spitting-mad murderer. Audiences familiar with Craven’s original know there will be an especially nasty rape scene — here constructed as a kind of group sex be-in. Payback comes from Mari’s mom (Monica Potter) and pop (Tony Goldwyn) when the gang that brutalized their daughter shows up at the family lake house in need of medical treatment and shelter. As an exploitation B-horror movie, this latest addition to the genre is heads and shoulders above anything Rob Zombie has ever done. Rated R. 109 mins. (B-)




Watchmen. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ hardboiled graphic novel is brought to stunning visual life by director Zach Snyder in a convoluted adult fantasy that provides an off-key political tone to its alternate reality of 1985 America, where Richard Nixon is still president and the Doomsday Clock forever sits at five minutes to the hour of imminent apocalypse thanks to a Soviet nuclear threat. Put out of work by Nixon’s decree outlawing masked avengers, unless they work for the government, a group of former superheroes known as the Watchmen variously reconnect after the violent murder of their macho former member the Comedian, AKA Edward Blake (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), whose demise implies a similar fate for the rest of the group. Rorschach (devilishly played by Jackie Earle Haley), in his ever-morphing inkblot mask and raspy voice, narrates the complex mystery that plays out with richly designed flashbacks that reveal the personal histories of the likes of Laurie Jupiter (Malin Akerman) and her atomically transmogrified, yet anatomically correct, love interest Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup). Outrageous sexual elements and extreme violence give "Watchmen" its well-deserved hard R rating. At over two and a half hours, "Watchman" is a full-frontal adult sci-fi satire that’s as enjoyable as it is thematically confounding. For its salivating fans and audiences itching for something completely different from the Hollywood superhero model, there’s much ferocity to sample here. (Warner Bros.) Rated R. 160 mins. (B) (Four Stars)


For more reviews visit For more reviews visit www.colesmithey.com

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