19 May 2012

Review: American Reunion



American Reunion
2012, 113mins, 15 
Director (s): Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg 
Writer (s): Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg 
Cast includes: Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Tara Reid, Alyson Hannigan, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Chris Klein, Eugene Levy 
UK Release Date: 2nd May 2012 

 In 1999 “American Pie” made quite a splash, cooking up a full throttle box –office storm and working its way (deservedly in this writer’s mind) into the annals of classic teen cinema. Its combination of memorable gross out sequences, endearing characters and fresh faced performances connected with the adolescents of the day, leading to a predictable slew of sequels. 2001’s “American Pie 2” had its moments but ultimately sank into tedium and the less said about 2003’s “American Wedding” the better. The original cast then abandoned the franchise, leaving it with no choice but to sink into the bowels of DTV hell. Now 13 years after the original slice we have “American Reunion”, bringing the original cast back together as adults, primed for one last hoorah at their high-school reunion. The film isn’t as outrageously funny as the 1999 spectacular, but it’s a vast improvement over anything we’ve seen since, once again turning the antics of this lovable group of rogues into viable big screen entertainment. It’s been

13-years since the boys tried to desperately shed their v-cards and a lot has changed. Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are married with a kid, but their marriage has fallen into a sexless rut. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is very much in love with his wife, but finds his role as a stay at home husband confining. Oz (Chris Klein) is a B-list celebrity, hosting a moderately recognisable sports show, but struggling to find satisfaction alongside his dim-witted, party obsessed girlfriend (Kristina Bowden). Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is well travelled but very lonely and incorrigible old Stifler (Seann William Scott) is now taking orders from the guys he used to beat up at school, trapped in an unrewarding temp position. With their High-School reunion beckoning, the guys decide to make a long weekend of the occasion, meeting up to relive the glories of old, reflect on their lives so far and to create a few new memories of their own.

 For the first time with a theatrically released “Pie” endeavour, original screenwriter Adam Herz is out of a job, “Harold and Kumar” scribes Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg brought in to write and direct this adventure. They deliver a decent script, cultivating several genuinely amusing set-pieces, finding the same tone of anarchy and accidental bad taste that the series has come to trade on. “American Reunion” also displays a healthy dose of heart, easily the warmest entry since the original. It’s a genial picture, trading on nostalgia and the built in love these characters have earned, Schlossberg and Hurwitz realising the biggest pull “American Reunion” has is getting these guys back in a room together. It’s a funny picture, make no mistake, but the grandest pleasure to be derived from this effort is the reunion aspect.

The cast are on sharp form, many of them relishing being in a major motion picture for the first time in years. Jason Biggs once again proves that Jim is the only part he’ll ever play successfully, possibly giving the best performance of his career, at least since his initial rise to stardom with the first “Pie”. Jim is a likable lug, still brimming with innocence and good intentions, Biggs embodying the character effectively. Hannigan on the other hand has done a fair amount of prosperous TV work over the last number of years, the actress looking less invested in her role. She shares her scenes with Biggs comfortably, but unfortunately her turn lacks the energy of past entries. Eddie Kaye Thomas, Thomas Ian Nicholas and Chris Klein stumble cosily through the picture, left to work with little but a series of punch lines, leaving other franchise favourites Chris Owen (Shermanator), Jon Cho (MILF Guy #2) and Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler’s mom) with the opportunity to steal scenes in cameo appearances.

The two standouts are Eugene Levy and Seann William Scott, Schlossberg and Hurwitz taking particular interest in these damaged souls. As Jim’s widowed father, Levy is both jocose (the awkward conversations still rock the funny bone) but also subtly affecting, playing his loneliness with delicate grace. Scott is once again a tornado of ribald energy, gifting “American Reunion” it’s brightest comedic star, but also a genuinely fascinating insight into growing-up. Stifler is deeply unhappy and unfulfilled, using the reunion as an excuse to return to his alpha-male wonder days, shunning his current existence as a desk jockey “bitch” to revel in the past. Scott is both extremely entertaining but also sympathetic, quite the achievement given his character’s brutish tendencies.

At 113 minutes in length the movie is much too beefy, an entire subplot involving a nubile babysitter leading to one moment of delightful physical comedy but also a wealth of dull character interactions and broad, teenage girl based gags (jokes about Nicki Minaj albums aren’t that witty). I suppose it’s all part of the film’s thesis to indulge itself and the audience in all things “American Pie”, but this fourth official slice would have worked just as efficiently over a tighter 90 minute time frame.

“American Reunion” is unambitious but it is charming, reacquainting us nicely with characters we fell in love with over ten years ago. The cast are game, the new creative team inject just enough creative fuel to keep the formula ticking over and the charisma still pops up in about the right quantity. Imperfect, gentle but refreshingly sweet, “American Reunion” marks a tasty confection.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2012

9 May 2012

Sponsored Video: "The Dictator" in cinemas May 16th


Sacha Baron Cohen is back in UK cinemas on the 16th of May with his zaniest character yet. The “Borat” and “Bruno” creator will head up “The Dictator”, his first scripted motion picture as a leading actor and quite possibly his funniest and most absurdist endeavour to date. Cohen plays a Middle Eastern dictator who on arrival in the States has his identity scrambled, leaving him penniless, homeless and clueless on the streets of New York. The film will also feature Anna Faris (“Scary Movie”, “The House Bunny”), John C. Reilly (“Step Brothers” ,“Cyrus”) and Sir Ben Kingsley (“Ghandi”, “Shutter Island”). Like Cohen’s other notable creations “The Dictator” seeks to blend crudity, satire, social commentary and outrageous gags to entertain, enlighten and disgust audiences in equal measure.

Cohen has been very prominent on the promotional circuit this year, appearing in character at numerous events, including his now infamous confrontation with Ryan Seacrest at the 2012 Academy Awards. Fans of “Borat” and “Bruno” can also rest easy in knowing that Larry Charles (the filmmaker behind both those works) is back in the director’s chair, hoping to rack up another certifiable hit for both him and Cohen in the process. “The Dictator” is on wide release in UK cinemas from May 16th and promises to be a remarkable treat for comedy fans everywhere! An ability to stomach controversial, political, sexual, irreverent and hysterical humour is a must though!

Check out the trailer in the video above!

http://unr.ly/Key1Yh - IMDB Page
http://unr.ly/KHCygB - The Dictator - Official Website

This is a Sponsored Post, 2012

6 May 2012

Dan's 10 to watch for Summer 2012


Ten to watch this summer

With Marvel’s “The Avengers” opening this weekend in the States to good reviews (I really liked it) and even better box-office it appears the summer film-going season is officially upon us. Over the coming months a bevy of interesting properties are scheduled to hit UK Cinemas, the objective of this article to showcase the most intriguing of these. There are obvious picks. The return of Batman. The “Total Recall” remake. The latest Johnny Depp/Tim Burton team-up.  What about the less predictable pictures? A vulgar teddy? A failing engagement? An apocalyptic rom-com? Not the first three things that spring to mind during popcorn season.

10. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
UK Release: Unconfirmed Summer 2012
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Keira Knightly and Steve Carell make an unlikely but attractive pair for this “end of the world romance”. With Armageddon pending the duo take a road trip, connecting over life, regrets and what will surely amount to an acceptance of their fates. The trailers are sweet, the cast strong and the presence of relative unknown Scafaria behind the camera encouraging, only because it’s rare for a filmmaker with such a limited repertoire a receive a chance of this magnitude. Hopefully it means her vision and script are of a high calibre. Quality rom-coms can perform solidly during the summer season (“(500) Days of Summer” anybody?) and so far this has the trademarks of a promising genre entry.

Johnny Depp has another hit on his hands with "Dark Shadows"
9. Dark Shadows                                          
UK Release: 11th May 2012
Director: Tim Burton
Tim Burton and Johnny Depp in a gothic reimagining of an old TV show? Yawn. But wait! This one has a nice comic energy, excellent cast and most importantly an engaging trailer? Maybe there is hope after all. Following his stagnant retool of “Alice in Wonderland” Burton has to deliver here, and so far it looks like he might be onto a winner. He won’t be worried either way though. With megabucks Depp on the poster Box-Office kerching is all but guaranteed.

8. The Dictator
UK Release: 16th May 2012
Director: Larry Charles
“Borat” was critically lauded, “Bruno” was a little more divisive. I personally enjoyed both films and am hopeful Sacha Baron Cohen can keep the streak going with “The Dictator”. This time he’s working from a script but the director of the aforementioned efforts, Larry Charles, is once again along for the ride. Anna Faris is a nice supporting touch, and whilst trailers have been patchy, I harbour enough goodwill for Cohen to cheer for another triumph here. The fact it aims to rework the musings of Saddam Hussein for comedic purposes also earns it brownie points. That alone is funny.

Being ginger and having a weird face. One in the same. 
7. Brave 
UK Release: 17th August 2012
Directors: Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell, Mark Andrews
The yearly Pixar always deserves a place, although after “Cars 2” I approach the prospect with trepidation for the very first time. “Cars 2” was truly a dire piece of work, the studio delivering a film embodying all that is wrong with commercial animation, the very failings their other movies had sidestepped for well over a decade. “Brave” is a return to original territory and looks aesthetically beautiful, taking the action to Scotland, hopefully mixing adventure and laughs effectively. I am hopeful “Cars 2” was an anomaly, but it will be fascinating to see how Pixar bounce back after their first certifiable critical misfire. So far, “Brave” indicates a return to those greener creative pastures. Also ginger heroines? Need more of them.

6. The Five Year Engagement
UK Release: 22nd June 2012
Director: Nicolas Stoller
This film has already opened stateside, where it debuted to disappointing attendance and mixed notices. I’m still eager to check it out. Emily Blunt and Jason Segel are a terrific double act on which to hang a movie, and I appreciate the release of a comedy that takes particular fascination in the collapse of a relationship. Stoller’s previous pictures “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and to a slightly  less extent “Get Him to the Greek” both impressed, leading me to believe the uneven reviews may be attributable to the darker and less upbeat subject of the narrative. The running time of 124 minutes is a mild concern, but on the whole enthusiasm is high for this one.

Farrell indulges his inner Arnie with"Total Recall"
5. Total Recall
UK Release: 22nd August 2012
Director: Len Wiseman
Colin Farrell steps into Arnie’s shoes for this remake, prompting viewers to immediately recognise a more serious intent. Directed by Len Wiseman (whose filmography contains movies good, indifferent and awful) this remake makes the list largely on the back of Farrell and the stylish trailer. The promotional material has showcased good action and a nice strain of paranoia, which should suit Farrell nicely as an actor. Kate Beckinsale adds both thespian class and sex appeal, Jessica Biel on hand to instil a little extra of the latter (but regrettably none of the former). Also it has Bryan Cranston, so yeah, there’s stuff to get excited about here. Let’s just hope it was “Live Free or Die Hard” Wiseman and not “Underworld Evolution” Wiseman who turned up on set.

4. Jeff Who Lives at Home
UK Release: 11th May 2012
Directors: Mark and Jay Duplass
The Duplass Brothers (or rather the poster boys for mumblecore) return following their wonderful 2010 flick “Cyrus”. They again fall back to the realm of low-key family drama with “Jeff Who Lives at Home”, taking Ed Helms and Jason Segel (in the title role) along for the ride as a pair of brothers on a spiritual quest of sorts. Reviews have been sharp, most feeling that it lives up to the standards set by previous Duplass works. That alone is enough for me.

One of these people has a big dick. Clue: It isn't the guy on the left.
3. Prometheus
UK Release Date: 1st June 2012
Director: Ridley Scott
The much anticipated “Alien” prequel that apparently has little to do with “Alien” has been on the cinematic radar for months. With original visionary Ridley Scott back in the chair things looked up, and then came the onslaught of amazing viral marketing and eerie trailers. Nobody is 100% sure what to expect (we know the attachment to “Alien” only occurs late on) and an apparent PG-13 rating dilutes the appeal slightly, but the seeming calibre of the product is enough to compensate for that stuff. In fact one of the grandest assets the picture boasts is its mysterious status.  No matter if it’s the best blockbuster of the year or underwhelming in the vain of Scott’s most recent output (“Robin Hood”, “Body of Lies”) it’ll be a key talking point for sure.

Hey bear. I'm Mark Wahlberg. I Like your fur. Say hi to your mother for me.
2. Ted
UK Release Date: 3rd August 2012
Director: Seth McFarlane
Marky Mark. Mila Kunis. A talking teddy-bear. A hard R-rating. Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane. If that doesn’t sound like the oddest cinematic stew of the summer then you’ve got fucked up taste buds. Wahlberg plays a man who as a child wished his teddy to life, now in adulthood living with the consequences. The general idea seems to revolve around him leaving the bear behind emotionally in order to maintain a relationship with a sweeter than thou Mila Kunis. Oh, and the bear does drugs, bangs hookers and swears like a trooper. The narrative will probably be standard, but this fare can only be judged on its laugh quota, and based on the hysterical trailer that’s going to be high. The most likely sleeper hit of the summer.

#1 most anticipated film in a heartbeat. 
        1.  The Dark Knight Rises
UK Release Date: 25th July 2012
Director: Christopher Nolan
Not an original choice but a thoroughly justified one. Seven years ago Nolan reinvented the Batman legacy wonderfully with “Batman Begins”. Four years ago he knocked out a stellar sequel in “The Dark Knight”. Two years ago he ditched the DC hero for a bit to focus on a passion project, the result “Inception”, one of the most distinctive and imaginative thrillers of recent years.  Now he’s rounding out his Gotham trilogy, bringing things full circle with Tom Hardy stepping into the villainous gap left by Heath Ledger. The little footage released so far looks phenomenal. The only weak point is that Nolan is overdue a banana skin moment. However based on the evidence supplied so far, this isn’t going to be it. “The Avengers” may have rocked, but if Nolan scores again here, it’s his Batman films that will be the benchmark of superhero flicks/crime sagas/blockbusters in general. Excited is an understatement.

Also notable:

Rock Of Ages – Tom Cruise, Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin and Catherine Zeta Jones bring the musical to the big screen. Oddball casting for sure, but under the direction of Adam Shankman (behind 2007’s infectious “Hairspray”) there is a genuine chance this could work.

The Amazing Spider-Man – The cast are solid (Andrew Garfield, Rhys Ifans and Emma Stone), the action looks competent and the tone a nice mix of light and dark. However the general feeling of needlessness that hangs over the project is a dampener; after all it’s only ten years since Sam Raimi tackled the early trials of Peter Parker in 2002’s “Spider-Man”.  Could be cool, but seems likely it’ll be the least memorable of this summer’s major comic adaptations.

Neighbourhood Watch – Jonah Hill, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Richard Ayoade are on paper a funny bunch, in practise they’ve all had mixed successes. This big budget (yet bizarrely R-rated) farce sees them depict a local neighbourhood watch pitted against an alien menace. Stiller and Vaughn haven’t had much luck in recent  months (“The Dilemma” and “Little Fockers” are two misjudgements that immediately spring to mind) but on their day they can still bring the giggles. Jonah Hill on the other hand will still be reeling from the deserved acceptance of “21 Jump Street” and his Oscar nomination for “Moneyball”. Richard Ayoade will hopefully be keen to impress with his first major American feature role. The trailer has its moments and a script by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (previously collaborated on “Superbad” and “The Green Hornet”) is encouraging based on their past form. Not a sure thing, but hopefully at least a moderately enjoyable diversion in the making.

"The Amazing Spider-Man". Looks watchable. But is it necessary? 

Definitely to be avoided:

LOL – Miley Cyrus. Social networking. Abercrombie style douchebags. Fucking slap me now. Trailer looks totally brutal. Reviews from the States are damning. Avoid like the plague.

Ice Age: Continental Drift – The first “Ice Age” was a pleasant surprise ten years ago, but the series has gotten very soggy recently. The third instalment in 2009 was an unquestionable bust, this latest offering looking to mark scant improvement. I appreciate at this point that the franchise simply represents a moneymaking locomotive for Fox, but it is one vehicle I’m now happy to disembark.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – With a better filmmaker behind the daft title I wouldn’t be so pessimistic, but Russian director Timur Bekmambetov has only disappointed us so far. His “Nightwatch” trilogy was goofy nonsense and 2008’s “Wanted” picked up critical recognition it barely warranted. Coupled with the lack of star power and a mechanically overproduced trailer, the dearth of talent behind the project seemingly dooms it to certain failure. Also a good bet to be one of the summer’s high profile box-office flops.

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An article by Daniel Kelly, 2012