‘Year One’ the worst film of the year

Jack Black, Michael Cera, Paul Rudd and Harold Ramis are all extremely talented comedic actors, who just starred in the worst film of their career together. ‘Year One’ is awful on several levels, one being that its entire concept is stolen from other, better films. (‘Life of Brian’, ‘History of the World Part I’) Another that it never utilizes this concept to earn any laughs, there is a grand total of one chuckle in the entire film. The final complaint is that with such a great crew, there was a chance for greatness.

Harold Ramis, come on. You’ve done ‘Caddyshack’ and ‘Groundhog Day’ for crying out loud, when you make a movie I expect an effort to make us laugh. Jack Black, Michael Cera, when people give you a script this awful, force them to re-write it or burn it and catch the soonest flight away from that area. They look bored and embarrassed out of their minds, and I don’t blame them.

After all, the entire story of the film is…well, nothing. It’s Year 1, AD. Two cavemen, Zed and Oh, are banished from their small village. From there they run into several biblical figures, such as Abraham and Isaac, and doomed brothers Cain and Abel. In the film they speak as if they were all modern 20-something slackers. This includes Cain saying to Abel, “Your name isn’t Abel, your name is SUCK”. It’s cringe-inducing to watch, it is the most spectacularly unfunny film in a long time.

The blooper reel? Probably staged. Still not funny. ‘Year One’ was a depressing film to watch, and this has been a depressing review to write. If by some divine miracle you ignore my plea and don’t see ‘Year One’, be sure to catch it in the $2 bin at Wal-Mart in about eight months. 0*/****

‘Transformers 2’ an epic, sprawling, colossal, lifeless, calculated mess.

‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ is the dumbest movie in a long time. I never really understood when people complained about a film’s length, but ‘Transformers’ changed that. I never thought that there could be truly too much action in a summer movie, that explosions could numb one to the point of a headache. ‘Transformers’ has changed that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie as numbing, as desensitizing to the mind and spirit as ‘Transformers 2’. Well, who knows. There’s always ‘Monopoly: The Movie’ and ‘G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra’.

Want a synopsis? Best of luck, it’s impossible to decipher a plot. There’s good Transformers and bad Transformers, alien robots that conveniently morph into Chevy cars (blatant product placement 101) In the last movie teenager Sam Witwicky and his girlfriend Mikaela helped the good guys beat the bad guys. But the bad guys are back! *shock* You know the drill. Somehow, symbology, the pyramids of Giza, the Smithsonian complex and star patterns are involved. Cue the robot-techno-babble and non-stop explosions.

There is literally so much action going on in every frame of the film that you can’t distinguish one plot point from another, one character or one purpose. It’s just to blow stuff up. The first ‘Transformers’ was awesome because (A) it never took itself seriously and (B) it balanced tons of action with a coherent plot and characters that weren’t completely one-dimensional. It wasn’t exactly a character study of the highest order, but at least it tried to make you care for all the characters. Here, the characters act like the robots they co-star with, many existing to further the plot, without it ever actually making sense. All emotion is wiped out from every human in this movie. It’s sorta disturbing.

Director Michael Bay executes this fiasco rather well. The explosions give you a migraine after 15 minutes, but it takes talent to coordinate all of them, I grant him. Megan Fox is decent as the eye-candy girlfriend who otherwise does nothing to advance the plot. Shia LaBeouf says his lines and runs from robots, nothing more. The visual effects are sure to win awards, although I realized the Transformers only do any transforming about three times in the 2 1/2 hour movie.

Some highlights of the film: The lead teenagers and some Transformers barge into the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, which is right in the middle of downtown Washington DC. They find a robot to help them, but the robot escapes by knocking a hole in the back wall. When they follow him, they step outside and are suddenly in a Nevada desert. Logic is completely abandoned. Other moments of the films “high-brow” humor include a two-foot tall Transformer caressing Megan Fox in an inappropriate way (played for laughs), and a giant 20-story tall Transformer with two wrecking balls dangling in between his legs, during a supposedly dramatic scene. Yes, you read that correctly.

My point through all this being that ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ has no soul. No heart. Evidently, no mind. It wants to blow stuff up and sell tickets, but it also demands something else. Painkillers for the intense headaches this trash will give you. ‘Transformers’ is awful, pure and simple. 1/2*/****

‘Proposal’ has funny cast, story weighs it down

‘The Proposal’ does next to nothing to distinguish itself from the other fifty-seven thousand romantic comedies produced annually. It does not miss a single note when it comes to replicating the same conventions of plenty of other romantic comedies. And yet it is saved by the charm of its cast.

Sandra Bullock plays demanding boss Margaret Tate (taken from ‘The Devil Wears Prada’), who runs into some problems with her citizenship, and must be deported back to Canada. To avoid this, she blackmails her hard-working assistant, Andrew into marrying her so that she may remain in the country. (forced marriage and fake love taken from ‘What Happens in Vegas’) When a government officer is suspicious, to sell the act they must spend the weekend at his parents’ house, for his grandmas 90th birthday. (awkward weekend at parents’ house: taken from ‘Meet the Parents’) Although their love is initially an act, they have feelings for each other! (opposites attract: taken from every romantic comedy ever made)

If I haven’t made it blatantly clear yet, it borrows every possible plot device from another film before it. Which makes the comedic talent of its stars a bit remarkable, given that they could elevate this material. Sandra Bullock can’t play the ‘Intimidating Boss’ role for her life, but her comedic timing as a stuck-up, rich woman is good. Ryan Reynolds is a great comedic talent, he has a dry wit that compliments the role. Betty White as the slightly crazy 90-year old grandmother steals the film from everyone, though.

‘The Proposal’ isn’t the most high-brow humor you’ll find at the cineplex. Dogs being snatched by eagles right off the ground, Sandra Bullock flying off a speedboat, etc. Nor is it very original. But two stars together, having a good time? Teenage girls, meet ‘The Proposal’. **1/2/****

‘Drag Me to Hell’ tacky, dumb, hokey fun

Before he did the Spider-Man trilogy, director Sam Raimi did tacky, intentionally over-the-top horror flicks, and did them very well. Consider his latest, ‘Drag Me to Hell’, a return to form. It is a horrifying and actually rather compelling story: A bank loan officer named Christine denies an old, somewhat frightening woman an extension on her mortgage. She puts an ancient curse on Christine, that gives her 3 days to appease the devil or else she will be dragged into hell for all eternity.

It sounds ridiculous on paper and it still is ridiculous in the movie itself. But it’s just all too much fun to truly care. It’s over-the-top, and completely unrealistic. Eyes melting out, dead bodies grabbing people, even a simple fight scene is played for laughs. Although it’s not really scary, ‘Drag Me to Hell’ is really creepy and gory for a PG-13. It’s not evil horror, it’s campy horror. But the easily frightened will pee their pants, no questions asked.

Alison Lohman as the haunted woman, Christine, plays the “horror movie girl” stereotype really well. She has a sweet, innocent quality that makes you really care for her character as the film’s increasingly ludicrous events progress. She can also scream really well, a talent no doubt necessary for a horror movie. ‘Drag Me to Hell’ is not a politically charged satire. Nor is it a frivolous frat boy comedy. Nor is it an Academy-Award winning epic about the struggle to move a mountain. It’s about a girl not trying to get dragged to hell. Take it or leave it. Tons of fun. ***/****

Ferrell dinosaur comedy ‘Land of the Lost’ predictable, unfunny

Will Ferrell plays an explorer trapped in a parallel universe in the TV show adaptation Land of the Lost. Will Ferrell has never really been in an action film before, but he plays the exact same messed-up man-child character that he’s played in all of his comedies. I really do like Will Ferrell, but Land of the Lost is no action comedy. It lacks comedy, and the action sequences mostly retread other, better films.

The film opens up with Matt Lauer interviewing Dr. Rick Marshall (Ferrell). Marshall claims that some subatomic particles can be harnessed to travel to parallel dimensions, and take fossil fuel from there. Lauer’s dismissal of this theory leads to Marshall beating up Lauer. Three years later, the incident left Marshall alone, branded a lunatic by the science world.

But using some freaky-deaky machine that the film barely explains, Marshall travels back with a female assistant (who becomes the clichéd love interest) and a Southern druggie (played hilariously by Danny McBride). Soon it becomes clear this is no ordinary place, with aliens and jungles and vinyl turntables and caverns and motel pools. Marshall must get back to the normal world with his friends and evade a very intelligent T-Rex.

It feels all too familiar, perhaps because of the uncanny resemblances to Journey to the Center of the Earth? Ferrell isn’t even all that funny in it, he himself looks incredibly bored even when he’s running from a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Anna Friel just walks around and says her lines as the love interest, whose name I forgot. Danny McBride as the redneck whose name I also forgot is the funniest one of the bunch. The film alternates between epic special effects sequences and corny parts with awful alien suits that stuntmen are clearly in.

Oddly the best parts are the beginning and the end. Matt Lauer and Will Ferrell squaring off at the beginning was a funny scene in a huge disappointment. The end was good because A: Matt Lauer and Will Ferrell reunite and B: it finally was over. D+

‘Up’ is by Pixar. If that tells you nothing about the quality, what does?

I’ll make this point once, although the contents of this review will only re-enforce this point: The people at Pixar are gods. The beautiful animation they create, the unforgettable characters they bring to life, the humor they lace their products with, they make films like no other company or filmmaker, let alone any other animation studio. If Wall-E was a miniature, animated, romantic, epic in space, then Up is a buddy chase adventure comedy. With a talking dog. To sum it up with significantly less adjectives: Up is awesome.

If the film’s first act is uneven, it involves us so much we don’t care. It introduces us in 1939 to a young budding adventure named Carl Frederickson who idolizes a man named Charles Muntz. Muntz flies around the world in a giant blimp, bringing back skeletons of other-worldly creatures. This passion for adventure causes him to meet a girl named Ellie. In the best part of the film, a montage takes us through their marriage and Ellie’s eventual death.

Present-day. Carl’s quaint old neighborhood is being monopolized, fast-food restaurants and skyscrapers sprouting up everywhere. Given that his house sticks out like a sore thumb, Carl is forced to relocate to a retirement home. However, Carl ties thousands balloons to his house (yes, it makes no sense) and sails away, towards South America, to fulfill his and his late wife’s dream.

This paradise is quickly interrupted, when Carl realizes a young, pudgy wilderness explorer, Russell has stowed away on his front porch. Some characters Carl and Russell encounter include a group of talking dogs (one of them, Dug, they befriend), a colorful, rare bird they name Kevin, and Charles Muntz himself, who proves to be the villain of the film. (After 70 years alone in the jungle, naturally he’s gone insane.)

Pixar’s extraordinary track record is kept in accord here, this is yet another modern animated classic. Most of the film is set in the South American jungle, and the vistas are gorgeous. Up is to South America what Ratatouille is to food: So realistic and eye-popping, you want to eat it. Or in Ups case, touch it. It has some cool action, but its always hysterically funny, thanks to the talking dog Dug. His lines include “My name is Dug. I just met you, and I love you. SQUIRREL.”

The voice acting is good, with Ed Asner playing the cranky protagonist, Carl. All in all, Up is excellent. Its interesting premise, incredible animation, and the fact it’s actually really funny make for a film that can’t be missed. I don’t care how old you are. A