Friday, April 1, 2011

Capsule reviews: Foolproof, Shaun of the Dead, Adjustment Bureau

Foolproof (2003, William Philips)

This little lost film played on MPIX last week. I vaguely remember it being thrashed by critics and the few people who actually saw it. A lot of these mainstream Canadian films that try to emulate mainstream American films do. I mean, if the American ones get slammed, why in heaven’s name wouldn’t the Canadian ones (problem number one with the English-language film industry in this country: Find your own voice, don’t borrow another one, especially if it wasn’t very good to begin with…)? Anyways, the film has three friends played by Ryan Reynolds, Kirsten Booth and Joris Jarsky, who concoct grand heists but with no intentions of executing them. They just playing around with theories. This backfires on them he day a mob boss played by David Suchet (Hercule Poirot!) steals their plans and black mails them into performing a major theft operation for him.

What follows is a game of cat and mouse between the mob boss and the trio of protagonists, although tension seems to be rising from within the group as the pressure mounts. I won’t lie that I’ve always liked Ryan Reynolds. There is an easiness about him. He can play neurotic and anxious very well, but never forgets to play it with a pinch of comedic timing. I don’t think Reynolds is ever ‘great’, but he’s  never ‘bad’ either. Kristen Booth is charming enough, but this Joris Jarsky bloke is awful. Way too much overacting. There are some decent moment of stealth work as the group infiltrates the targeted building, but overall it’s rather predictable. Not incompetent (it is rather competent in fact), just very predictable. For some reason it was decided that every single scene in the movie needed a song. And not just any songs, but those super poppy pop songs that sort of try to sell themselves as cool but in the end they’re just forgettable pop songs. There must be 38 of them in this movie. Kristen Booth walks into a building: pop song. The team is stealing some bloke’s wallet: pop song. Ryan Reynolds is driving along in his car: pop song. End credits: pop song!

Shaun of the Dead (2004, Edgar Wright)

Oof, what are we at now, 4rth viewing? I think 4rth, but it also could be 5th for all I know. This is another film that played on MPIX and I stopped flipping channels to watch it. Guess what. I own a copy on DVD and yet I still watched it on the tele. So let’s get the obvious out of the way: I really like this movie. For the uninitiated, Shaun of the Dead is Edgar Wright’s feature length film debut which has two London friends, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, try to survive the zombie apocalypse. It’s also a comedy.

It has surely been written before in far more articulate and eloquent manner, but what makes Shaun of the Dead so much fun is that while the comedy lands on almost every occasion, the film can also be taken as an entry in the zombie movie genre. People really die and the characters are truly affected by the deaths of their loved ones. It isn’t as if everything in the film is a joke. It is a zombie movie, but one with plenty of good laughs. Plus the comedy is dynamic. Sometimes is stems from attempts to spoof the zombie genre, while others times it’s just a really funny line that fits perfectly with the personality of whichever character delivered it. The protagonists are essentially good people whom the audience wants to see survive this end of the world scenario, but we are laughing all the way through it. It came as no surprise when I learned that Wright, Pegg and Frost worked together before on British television. The chemistry is there from the first time we see the two actors on screen. Wright directed the picture, and directed it well, but this was very much a collaborative effort from the major players involved. I mean, few comedies can still get to me after a second viewing (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is one), so the fact that this one still does means that, for me anyways, the characters are worthwhile. I might not laugh as hard as I did way back in ’04 (I didn’t this time), back the characters are so much fun to be around that it doesn’t matter. It has become a great adventure film in a sense.

The Adjustment Bureau (2011, George Nolfi)

It took me a few weeks to finally head over to the multiplex to see this. I wanted to, but there was always something else playing that grabbed me more. Well, 6$ at the AMC for a pre-noon showing sounded like a good enough reason. I think if I had played full price I still would have left satisfied. For 6$ I think I got a real bargain deal. The Adjustment Bureau has Matt Damon play a New York Congressman running for Senator. He meets a single woman, played by the always charming Emily Blunt, and the chemistry is immediate. However, there are some strange forces preventing them being together. The titular Adjustment Bureau is the physical representation of God and his angels, whose job it is to make certain that every human being stays on the path, or fate, that has been written for them. Unfortunately, it seems as though Damon and Blunt are not supposed to be together. What ever are they to do?

Admittedly, I expected something that would lean more on the intellectual side of things as opposed to embracing the emotional aspect of the story. To my surprise, the movie plays things very much the other way around. It is the romance because the Matt Damon and Emily Blunt characters that drive the picture. Yes, there are questions of fate and freedom of choice, but it always falls back on to their struggle to preserve their love. I actually really didn’t have a problem with this. At all. Damon and Blunt have superb chemistry, some of the best chemistry between romantic leads I have seen in some time, and I swear I am not typing that as hyperbole. I really wanted to see them together in the end. Blunt, although she doesn’t get quite the same screen time as Damon (it’s more his story than hers), is incredibly sexy in a very natural, charming, free spirited kind of way. Great, great stuff. As for Damon, well, in my eyes the guy can do no wrong. Such a great actor. The movie spends maybe a bit too much time on some heavy handed mumbo jumbo near the end when the stakes are rising even higher, but despite its imperfections, The Adjustment Bureau is a great time at the movies. People lament the absence of adult-geared movies than can be fun. This is definitely one of them.

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