Friday, July 9, 2010

Let's All Go to the Lobby!

Despicable Me

Steve Carrell leads a comedic cast list who lend their vocals to the latest 3D animated film. While the 3D effect doesn't do much for the experience, there's little else to keep an adult audience entertained for 95 minutes. "Despicable Me" tries to do for evil villains what "The Incredibles" did for superheroes: show a human fragility behind otherwise epic feats.

The film follows Gru, a would be nefarious mastermind who finds his career being eclipsed by a young upstart known as Vector (voiced by Jason Segel). To regain his spot as an evil genius, Gru decides to shrink and steal the moon. He soon becomes saddled with three orphaned girls who complicate matters as they complicate his heart.

There isn't much plot to the film and it's riddled with weak plot devices. The overall concept is basically "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" meets "Annie" with scifi elements mixed in. The story is simple, even for a kids movie, and most of the action and the comedic lines seem to pander just to get a reaction out of the audience. I expected more, especially with Steve Carrell on board, but the film just didn't deliver. Skip it.

Casey Affleck delivers a stirring performance in an otherwise disappointing film from Michael Winterbottom. Winterbottom is a director who likes to push the envelope, challenge the audience, and open a dialogue about the film's subject matter. "The Killer Inside Me" meets all three criteria in explosive fashion.

Affleck plays Lou Ford, a deputy sheriff in a small town who's all smiles and yes, ma'am's. Throughout the film, we discover the dark persona hiding behind the sparkling eyes and wide grin. Ford has a long history of conducting physical abuse against women and he's never able to bring himself to stop, no matter the cost. The film features several visceral scenes of intense physical foreplay and sexual content. You can see Ford delights in the displays, but is tormented at the same time. By the time the film starts, he realizes he's reached a point he can't turn back from and hatches a plan to settle a grudge with the town's richest man.

There are quite a few things I like about this movie. The cast is strong, the design is flawless, the music and opening title sequence are both enthralling. Based in Texas, the film plays on the moral ambiguities prominent in the Old West and leaves the viewer with many questions. Some of those questions, however, would have been better answered in the film. Certain sequences left me puzzled and Bill Pullman's performance didn't mesh with the rest of the film. Those questions are part of the allure of the story, however, and makes it worth revisiting. See it.

Robert Rodriguez is sure to sucker a few folks into watching the newest incarnation of the Predator franchise. Going the route of Guillermo del Toro (not actually directing a film, but instead presenting or producing it), Rodriguez's Troublemaker Studios put Nimrod Antal in charge of revitalizing the property after two stalwart installments that featured the eponymous creatures facing off against the aliens from the Alien series.

Adrien Brody, with chiseled abs and grizzled voice, leads a cast of mercenaries, assassins, and all around bad people who find themselves stranded on a distant planet, hunted for sport, and limited on options. Once this ragtag group gets its bearings, they try to turn the table, to little avail. Guided either by supernatural intuition or an extremely weak script, Brody is able to discern his compatriots pasts and the Predators plans. Topher Grace plays a supporting role in the film with little to no apparent means of defending himself, let alone ability to take on creatures such as the Predators - but that doesn't stop him from being involved an extremely weak third act plot twist that soils much of the film to that point.

Luckily, there wasn't much to ruin. The structure is generic: the cast is whittled down one-by-one, plot devices are showcased in overt fashion, and the ending is confusing as it is disappointing. "Predators" had decent action and special effects, but it didn't sustain interest like the original film. The Predators weren't as frightening, the cast wasn't as engaging, the film not as good. Skip it.

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