Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Angels and Super Monsters

July 11, 2006

Just finished watching Part 1 of "Angels In America" for the first time since it aired on HBO nearly three years ago, and I'm seriously blown away. I don't remember having nearly this much admiration for it when I first saw it... this may be one of my all-time favorites. More discussion after I watch Part II. Aaaanyway. Last night I had a double-header of screenings: "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" (from a pass I was handed on the street) and a screening of "Monster House" in 3-D to celebrate the 10th anniversary of both movies open on July 21st.

I've expressed to pretty much anyone within earshot that "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" looked positively dreadful and had one of the worst trailers I've seen all year. A trailer jampacked with jokes, none of which were remotely funny-- on top of that, wildly uninteresting stars and a high-concept (if cute) premise if I've ever heard one. Despite my hugely low expectations (or more likely, BECAUSE of them), I had a surprising amount of fun with "My Super Ex-Girlfriend," found it quite entertaining and laughed more than a few times. Anyone looking for any sort of character development or emotional connection shouldn't step anywhere near the theater, but there's fun to be had.

The movie is relatively stupid, and the plot is pretty thin (barely enough to sustain its 90 minute running time)-- let's get that out of the way up front. I can't honestly ascertain what critics might think, but I wouldn't be surprised if there's thrashing involved. Audiences on the other hand (though not discriminating ones) are likely to enjoy this thing, and while it's doubtful, I wouldn't be surprised if its a relatively sizable hit.

If you haven't seen the trailer (and I hope you havent!), MSEG opens with Luke Wilson and Uma Thurman meeting cute, and despite her seeming to be a little nuts, he dates her and they stay together for a while. Unbeknownst to him, she's the city's beloved superhero, "G-Girl." She soon reveals this to him and he's more than a little turned on by it. About an hour into the movie, her craziness starts to be a bit much for him, so he dumps her. The last 30-35 minutes consist of her getting various "super" forms of revenge against him, while each of them contends with her arch-nemesis, Professor Bedlam.

Bedlam is played by the delightful Eddie Izzard, one of a few strong supporting performers here. While Wanda Sykes as Wilson's sassy black boss is completely wasted, Izzard, Anna Faris, and ESPECIALLY Rainn Wilson ("The Office's" Dwight Schrute) get off many a good line-- well Faris is just more charming than funny, but I've always liked her. Though he plays the typical 'wacky best friend' I couldn't help chuckling at many of Wilson's utterances. He steals this movie.

Most of the jokes are pretty broad, but for the most part, they work. While I wasn't a fan of the shark-throwing (shown in the trailer), it's followed up with a pretty funny line. I must also stress something that I've been asked by a few people--- this ISN'T a romantic comedy. Well, there is some romance stuff between Wilson and Faris, but really, this is just a comedy. Thurman's character is nuts from the beginning, and never becomes less nuts-- she doesn't show her soft side and rekindle her relationship with Luke. A weaker movie wouldn't have stuck with this.

As for the lead performances-- like I said, I don't love either star. I have pretty much never liked Thurman in anything besides her films with Tarantino. I tend to find her either wildly miscast ("The Producers") or bland as shit ("Prime"). Wilson, on the other hand, is someone I like a lot, just not as an actor. He tends to come off to me as a nice guy, who's smarter than most would give him credit for-- even if he does perpetuate that image with his roles. However in movies, he's continually cast as the boring, doofy "guy" who encourages/loves the female lead. I think he's pretty great in "The Family Stone," and gives a phenomenal performance in "The Royal Tenenbaums," but besides those two, I tend to have no feelings about him in any of his movies.

That said, I really enjoyed what Thurman did with Jenny/G-Girl. She's a complete psychopath, and Uma relishes the over-the-top campiness, which she doesn't usually get to show off. Wilson is again playing the bland straight man, but he injects more charm and energy here than he usually does. A couple of his line deliveries killed me (particularly one after Thurman breaks his bed during sex) and he's a lot more likable here than when he's trying too hard to be likable that he's not funny.

I wouldn't say this is a MUST-SEE... but with my low expectations, I had a good time with it, and I think most people will too. It's a light, amusing farce that at least goes for something different than most movies with its somewhat original plot.

"Monster House" was a hell of a lot of fun.. it's been a while since I just had this much pure enjoyment from a movie. It's not for everyone-- if you've seen the trailer, you have an idea about if this is something you'd be willing to see-- but it's probably the best animated movie this year (I'm waffling between it and "Over the Hedge").

If you couldn't decipher from it's title, it's about three kids who must sort-of wage battle with a haunted house that's "alive" complete with window-shutter eyes and carpet-made tongue. The voice talent is pretty terrific too, featuring amusing work by Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jon Heder, Fred Willard, Jason Lee and Kathleen Turner.

Despite the animation, this really is a monster movie through-and-through... we're given chase scenes, lots of frightening moments and even a (vaguely touching and sad) origin/backstory for the house. But when it comes down to it, this is just a really fun movie with some really exciting imagery and more laughs than I was expecting.

I was lucky enough to see "Monster House" in 3-D-- in the 3500 theaters its opening in, about 100 of them will offer the film in 3-D. I would totally recommend the film in any format, but if any of you have the opportunity, try to check it out in 3-D. It's pretty remarkable-- and not any of that red-and-blue bullshit... this is more advanced 3-D, the glasses look like sunglasses with no blurriness included.

There's been much talk about how this is "too scary for young children." I don't know about that. It's certainly scarier than the average animated film, and easily frightened shouldn't be taken-- but in my experience, kids tend to be more fine with scariness in movies than overprotective parents seem to think. I remember kids being dragged out during the Voldemort sequence in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," with their heads turned, looking at the screen the entire time.
Yeah, this is a PG-rated movie pushing a PG-13, but I think kids are going to love it like crazy. I think it's absolutely worth adults checking out on their own, if not just for the visuals, than for the entertainment factor contained therein.

Neither "Monster House" nor "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" are high-art, nor intellectual entertainment, but I think both are going to surprise people with how fun they are. If you can only check out one, go for "Monster House," but both are worthwhile. Neither are the best movie opening on July 21st, but I'll delve into that later this week...

Speaking of which, I SWEAR I will finally FINALLY post my "Clerks II" (which I saw over a month ago!) and "Little Miss Sunshine" (TWO months ago!!) reviews sometime in the next few days... I've been meaning to for a while now. Well... that's all for now, later kids!


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