Thursday, 13 March 2014

60 Second Film Reviews #11

Quick movie reviews, without the waffle. 60 Second Film Reviews is a regular feature where I compile together brief reviews of recent films I've watched at home or at the movies - and generally couldn't be arsed didn't find time to write a proper review for. 

This month, we have We're the Millers, Kick-Ass 2 and Don Jon

We're The Millers (2013)

We're The Millers is an MA15+ comedy about a drug dealer, a stripper and two kids posing as a family in order to smuggle drugs across the Mexican border into America. It stars Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudekis and Nick Offerman, and despite the fairly silly concept, it's not half bad.

I wouldn't say it is the funniest comedy I've seen in the last 12 months, but I had a fairly good time with We're the Millers. It was funny in an obvious kind of way; some of the jokes were clever, like Sudeikis breaking the fourth-wall and shrugging at the camera during one particularly funny scene. Another with a 'bribe'-demanding Mexican cop was great also.

It was refreshing to see Aniston attempt to break out of the cutesy rom-com rut she's gotten herself into (see: The Break-Up, The Bounty Hunter), and her character couldn't be further than that of Rachel in Friends. The banter between Aniston and her 'husband' was wonderfully sharp and foul-mouthed. Her character is a hoot.

The premise of 'what is family?' is signposted from the outset, and isn't subtly worked into the story to say the least. When it comes to pacing, things really start to lull in the middle. The first 45-minutes is solid, but then the plot really loses steam. Sometimes, it felt as though the story was just lumbering from one skit to the next. On the whole, it was a good enough film for a couple of hours but I wouldn't watch it again. Funny, crass but not overly memorable. 

I give We're the Millers: 5/10

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

The first Kick-Ass movie was a wonderfully grotesque and crude superhero flick that stood out because it didn't take itself too seriously. Sure, there were some dark and haunting moments (Nic Cage going up in flames) but, on the whole, it was a f-bomb dropping, katana-swinging blood-fest with a quick wit and a lot of self-referential humour.

After the poor reviews Kick-Ass 2 got last year, I held off on watching it and decided to wait for the DVD. Turns out, it isn't at bad as I thought, but still questionable.

I'm mixed on this second movie. Whilst it's actually a lot better than I expected, I found that it lacked focus. It didn't find the right tone, instead shifting from dark comedy with excess blood and guts to serious superhero movie with an attempt at conveying morals.

This mixed tone leads to a mixed review - the characters are still entertaining (especially Moretz and Carrey) and the action is still satisfyingly OTT but not only is it poorly written (you can kind of guess the plot developments before they happen), but it just feels like the joke is wearing a little thin; Mother Russia? Night Bitch? C'mon guys, seriously?

Also, are we supposed to be entertained by the gruesome violence, or shocked? I feel like Kick-Ass 2 didn't nail either very effectively. I liked that the film offered closure however. It has a well-rounded and finite ending.

For fans of the first film, this sequel is a no-brainer. It's silly, slick and crass. For anyone who didn't enjoy the first film (or the comic-book), there probably isn't a lot here that'll win you over.

I give Kick-Ass 2: 5/10

Don Jon (2013)

Directed by and starring Joesph Gordon-Levitt, Don Jon is a dramedy about love, relationships and pornography addition. Yeah, awkwardness alert much. It also stars Scarlett Johannson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza and Glenne Headly.

The best thing about Don Jon, is the contrast between Jon (JGL) and Barbara's (ScarJo) illusions of love and relationships; for Jon, his whole life revolves around his porn addition, with his expectations of women based on what he sees online. Contrast that with Barbara's infatuation with Hollywood romance films, and you've got a film that has something genuine and affecting to say about relationships, and how men and women perceive each other.

The acting in this film is also great, with Gordon-Levitt and Johansson both giving memorable performances. For starters, JGL does a fantastic job of conveying addition and all of the things that go with it - things like, "I can quit anytime I want" and "I'm not a junkie".

Johannson is also superb, and has never been more alluring. It's a shame her character is kind of sidelined around two-thirds of the way into the movie. Julianne Moore also appears as Esther, a character that provides an essential emotional counter-point to Jon and Barbara.

In terms of directing, JGL does a good job, with musical cues and time-lapses making the film interesting and inventive stylistically. I liked how he utilised stereotypical music from Hollywood romance films to amplify the relationship Jon and Barbara shared.

At just over 90 minutes, you wouldn't expect the film to stutter with pacing. And yet, Don Jon still feels like it drags at times. The first half, where JGL and Johansson  are together is by far the most interesting section of the narrative. It's in the second half where the natural charisma of Johansson is absent that things start to slow down. And then, that ending. It's very abrupt and ultimately unsatisfying. It feels like the film wasn't really building towards it, and just decided to stop where it was.

The final verdict is that Don Jon was a good, albeit not great, film on a relevant subject matter and with great performances. Am I glad I took the time to see it? Yes. Would I watch it again? Probably not. Is that a positive thing? You decide.

I give Don Jon: 6/10

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