Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Change-Up; Rise of the Planet of the Apes; FWB

The Change Up: 4.5 Horns
Rise of the Planet of the Apes: 4 Horns
Friends with Benefits: 4 Horns

Doubleheader Friday was in effect today and it was a hell of a day at sea! 

This week also saw the first set photo of Selena Kyle in full Catwoman gear, that's Anne Hathoway, one of my personal favorites.  Chris Nolan is my #1 favorite director of the moment and next year's The Dark Knight Rises is by far tied for my most anticipated flick of 2012...that being tied with THE AVENGERS.

A quick note of R.I.P. ~ Bubba Smith, former All-Pro defensive player and of course, Hightower, from the hallowed cannon of Police Academy, died this past week.  I point it out, out of respect, and because Police Academy remains one of my favorite series from my youth.  Of course, that reverence stands for Police Academy's 1 through 4...5 wasn't bad, but from there, things got a little bit ridiculous.  I won't be surprised when this franchise is revived, and when it is, hopefully that will be in the form of a proper adult comedy, as was the original.

Speaking of adult comedy....

The Change Up is a standard body-swap flick, flipped 100% on its head.  Not so much in the mechanics of it, but in the naughty bits.  The Change Up is a super duper ADULT comedy, full of eff's, skin, and loads of adult situations.

I mean it...this comedy, given to us by writers Jon Lucas and Scott is almost enough to make me forgive them for THE HANGOVER 2, their offering from earlier this summer.

Jason Bateman has become a staple of successful comedy, but when comparing this to his other recent "adult comedy" offering ~ Horrible Bosses ~ The Change Up is the no-holds barred WINNER.

Of course, I may be preferential as my hetero-man-crush Ryan Reynolds is front and center in this one.  Or it could be due to the appearance of the smokin' hot Olivia Wilde, making a great appearance two weeks in a row, also burning up the screen last week in Cowboys and Aliens.  Catfish...this one is for you!

It could be the wonderful use of THUNDERSTRUCK in the trailer that hooked me...a great song for trailers and pre-game pump up rituals.

Maybe it was Leslie Mann, who basically has me at hello in whatever she appears, not only because she is a beautiful woman, but also because she is one of the funniest actors in film today.  She has delivery that is second to none and she can play straight and serious as well as improv hilarious scenes.

While I often out and out review films, provide a synopsis, then give my opinion...I shall deviate here.  I can only say this: see this movie.

This film got me in a number of ways hitting
 emotional highs and lows as well as it did its comedic peaks.  It had a slew of bust a gut moments and steady supply of sustained laughs and get this...this movie actually brought me to tears twice. 

The depth of the emotion of the themes was striking and the messages were overt, but camouflaged successfully through most of the picture by the comedy.  See it, you'll feel it.

I give The Change Up 4.5 of 5 Horns and I say this...this is the champion of the summer adult comedies.  This is the second summer in the last 10 years that Director David Dobkin holds that title, with the last time being 2005 with The Wedding Crashers.  If he hits a gem once every 6 years, I'll take it, but I have a feeling that this may open some more doors for him much sooner than that.  Then again, he followed Crashers with Fred Claus the following year.  Let's hope his next film doesn't repeat that pattern.

I've seen the original and I've seen the cluster of a remake from Tim Burton, one of his few misfires, and while I am not fully versed in Apes lore, I was very excited to see this film.

Actually, I wasn't crazy about this until I saw the most recent trailer.  You see the first trailers focused on the rise part of the film, which is actually a rather short portion of the film.

The crux of this effort looks at the parental relationships.  First, with James Franco, playing Will Rodman, dealing with his father, portrayed wonderfully by John Lithgow.  And throughout the whole film, we see the parental bond that forms between Will and the chimp that would become Caesar. 

The film's central human character is Franco, but given the title and the franchise, the real star is Caesar.

It's kind of funny that one of the hallmarks of the intelligence of Caesar is his ability to use sign language, giving him nearly full fluency in human speak.  I say funny, because of the documentary in theaters now, Project Nim, which actually looks at a real life situation where an ape was domesticated (as much as that is possible) and taught to sign.  I haven't yet, but I plan on catching it ASAP.

As much as this is a dramatic tale in a fantastical world, that world is tamed by Will's goal in life...find a cure for Alzheimer's disease and to save his father's life.  It is apparent from the trailer and from the opening scenes of the film, that Rodman is successful to an extent, in his endeavors.  The plot moves forward as we learn the troubles that are married to this perceived breakthrough in medical technology.

Andy Serkis is the actor behind the motion-capture genius that fuels Caesar's on-screen performance.  You know him also as Gollum and King-Kong, his physical prowess is undeniable.

To that end, all of the animal effects are believable, given the suspension of disbelief.  I think the main thing that is distorted in watching the Apes on-screen is the speed with which they move.  Given it is an action movie, it is okay, but the Apes fighting and running all seemed to happen much faster and with more fluidity that would be in real life...but I guess since I have never seen Apes running or fighting, that is pure speculation on my part.

This film will likely be plenty to reinvigorate this franchise into a reboot-sequel, and I for one am excited to see where this story goes and how it all fits together with the Planet of the Apes world that has come before it, minus the Tim Burton entry, that is.

4 of 5 Horns for Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  It looks like it did well over a million at the Thursday midnight show, and given The Change Up's R-rating, it will likely take the weekend, with Harry Potter and Captain America being too far into their releases to pose too much of a threat.  That, coupled with the middling reviews for Cowboys and Aliens (please note...I loved it!), and the Apes will likely take the box-office crown, in addition to beating down a goodly number of human along the way.  I think this flick will be fueled to a small extent with the Potter-contingency coming out to see Tom Felton's first post-Draco Malfoy role.  His bit as a sadistic ape-handler has much of the same cruel way of being he perfected as Malfoy.

Friends With Benefits
FWB was getting some harsh criticism, myself included (before I saw it) for actually being an iteration of NO STRINGS ATTACHED 2: THE DIRTY DIRTY.

I will say at the outset, I am a far bigger Mila Kunis fan than Natalie Portman, in the looks department, so that had me slightly jazzed for this go of things.  Let me qualify by saying that I have a hard time seeing Portman as a sexual being, given my affinity for some of her child roles, most notably, Leon and Beautiful Girls.  But, I certainly didn't stomp out of the theater in the big Kunis-Portman BLACK SWAN scene.  Also, speaking of sexuality, we did get a supposed Kunis butt-shot in this flick, but apparently this week, she has come out and said that a body double walked that walk in her place.

What am I saying...caught up talking about the ladies...I'm starting to sound like CATFISH!

Justin Timberlake.

So a part of me was bred to hate him...I mean, he was in a boy band!  Public opinion swayed a bit with his go in The Social Network, and I too enjoyed that performance, but was it a one hit wonder?

While JT doesn't knock it out of the park here, he certainly out performs his previous effort this summer in the milquetoast Bad Teacher.  He certainly moved straight past the over the clothes business of Bad Teacher into some full on naughty business.

FWB's dialogue, dirty talk included, blew right past No Strings Attached.  I mean I liked No Strings had my kind of comic sensibilities, especially being an Ivan Reitman joint, but FWB is clearly the more enjoyable entry into this year's casual sex line-up.

What made this more enjoyable was a bit of what I felt with the last two reviews...heart.  JT's pops in FWB, a fantastic performance by Richard Jenkins, is suffering from Alzheimer's.  Perhaps, like in Apes, it is the disease of the moment to tug at the heartstrings of filmgoers, but dammit if it didn't resonate.

50/50 with Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordan-Levitt will put to the test the ability to laugh while seeing the struggles of those suffering from debilitating illness with their "cancer comedy" hitting theaters this fall.  But I for one say that why should we be afraid to mix laughs with sorrows?  It more closely mirrors real life, and for me, it worked here.

Also, I mentioned how I liked No Strings Attached in part because of the styling of Ivan Reitman...well I think the director here, Will Glick, is an up and comer in a big way.  first off, he gave us last year's Easy A, starring my favorite and yours, Emma Stone.  But perhaps in the file of Reel Rhino's Hidden Gems...FIRED UP, the cheer camp comedy from 2009.  F.U. and Easy A both have tinges of darker, adult comedies that is a bit more overt in this, the first R-rated flick from Glick.  It all adds up to a big bucket of see this flick.

4 of 5 Horns for Friends With Benefits.  As an added bonus, in the early moments of the flick, we even get a little bit of Emma Stone...and that's never a bad thing.
A final note....

IN TIMESet for release October 28th, this film seems to be extremely original in nature, and also happens to star two of the peeps mentioned above in Olivia Wilde and Justin Timberlake as an unlikely mother and son pair.  Watch the trailer and you'll understand...also, Amanda Seyfried is cute and worked as the lead in Mamma Mia, but she faltered in genre picks Red Riding Hood and Jennifer's Body.  Perhaps the blame for those rests with Catherine Hardwicke and Diablo Cody, but I am hoping she can channel something great and make this flick shine.  Cillian Murphy is the lead baddie in this, and it looks fantastic.  Andrew Niccol gave us the visionary sci-fi flick Gattaca, which holds a very special place in my CSI-heart, so I know that this film was created with a competent eye at the helm.  Hey, check out the trailer and judge for yourself...

Until later, take care...
Reel Rhino

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