Sean K. Cureton

Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

Funny, Entertaining, Completely Forgettable

In Movie Reviews: 2012 on May 30, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Theatrical Poster

The Five-Year Engagement
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
2 out of 4 stars

The Five-Year Engagement marks the third collaborative effort between writer/director Nicholas Stoller and actor/writer Jason Segel. In 2008, Stoller and Segel released the brilliant romantic comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which appealed to both male fans of cruder Judd Apatow produced fare as well as those who long for brutally honest love stories. Last year the duo provided a follow-up with their reboot of the Muppets franchise with The Muppets, which showed off Segel’s gentler side, and was one of the best Disney films in a long time. Now with the release of their third film, it seems as though the team that at first felt so original and heart-felt is struggling to find new territory to explore.

The Five-Year Engagement follows a fairly predictable plot, in which Segel and his co-star Emily Blunt play characters who become engaged and are forced to continually post-pone the date of their nuptials due to constraints placed by Blunt’s character’s graduate student studies at the University of Michigan, where she hopes to become a professor in the Social Psychology department. Inevitably, the couple’s relationship is strained, tested, falls apart, and is brought back together at the end, because this is after all a Romantic comedy in which Segel has to come away with the girl at the end of the film.

However, the predictability is not the main issue of the film, even though it is a minor flaw when compared to the originality of the script for Sarah Marshall. What’s more disappointing in this film is all of the jokes that go too far or just don’t work but are stretched out to uncomfortable lengths. In particular, there is a sequence somewhere in the middle of the film where Segel has a strange sexual encounter with a colleague who apparently has some kind of food fetish. Or when the very funny comedian Brian Posehn is consistently given shallow and unfunny lines to deliver, which confine his abilities as a comic performer and actor to that of being an obnoxious and loud alcoholic character which could have been so much more if Posehn had been given some more screen time. Overall, the film could have used a good amount of trimming, leaving in only the funniest bits and thereby shortening the tedious 124-minute length to something around 90 to 100 minutes.

In conclusion, Stoller and Segel’s The Five-Year Engagement is a let down after Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Muppets. Stoller and Segel have offered up a film here that seems to struggle to find its rhythm in a sea of dead sketches and jokes that fall flat and drown out what could have been some funnier moments and characters. It’s certainly a funny film and at times it’s genuinely entertaining, but at the end of the 124 minutes that you will spend watching this film you will not have any trouble forgetting it.


The Avengers: Movie Review

In Movie Reviews: 2012 on May 29, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Theatrical Poster

The Avengers
3 out of 4 stars
Directed by Joss Whedon

Last summer was a bad time for super hero movies made by Marvel Studios. Marvel released a total of three films, each of which was a dud in one-way or another. Matthew Vaughn’s X-men: First Class failed to take advantage of the fresh start that was being offered in the reboot of the series, scrapping any plans that were originally put forth by initial X-men adapter Bryan Singer, and producing a film that had less to do with the rich back story and mythology of the original comic series, and instead offering more of the same Hollywood mixed bag of characters from the series in a ludicrous, if admittedly entertaining, package that viewers have come to expect since Brett Ratner’s desecration of the film series in 2006. In addition, there were the releases of Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, which were both films that fell flat in terms of providing characters with engaging personalities and character arcs. Thus, Marvel Studios had a lot riding on this summer’s release of The Avengers, which is faced with the task of integrating the Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Incredible Hulk films into a coherent and cohesive whole.

Luckily for the film studio, Joss Whedon’s film was able to bridge the gaps that had been left open by the other films while simultaneously fixing the damage that had been done by the other less than knowledgeable directors’ efforts. The Avengers is funny, loyal to the comics, and absolutely awe-inspiring at every turn. Whedon, a veteran of producing geekier fare on both TV and the big screen, clearly understands just what it is that both the fans of Marvel movies and core fans of the comics love so much about the Marvel universe. Instead of trying to fit as many action sequences into each frame of the film in order to keep the film moving, as was certainly the case with the Cap film of last summer, Whedon revels in the quiet moments where the characters can develop the relationships between each other, which builds tension and anticipation for the action that inevitably breaks out.

However, one thing that still seems to separate Whedon’s behemoth of a super hero film from such flawless fare as Sam Raimi’s adaptation of Spiderman or Bryan Singer’s X2, is the feeling of exclusion that seems to be present in Whedon’s universe. Where Branagh’s Thor was a film that was obviously heavily based on the comic series, the film itself seemed to branch out a little more from this source material in order for Branagh to put his own touch into the film, making it less of a comic book guy’s film and more of a collaboration of a movie that a larger audience unfamiliar with comics could enjoy along with core fans. Whedon’s knowledge of the Avengers universe is very clear in the film’s writing, which is something that might deter and alienate older viewers who have not grown up with or immersed themselves in the universe quiet as heavily as Whedon and his core viewers have. Thus, The Avengers isn’t truly a great film even though it is a flawless comic book movie. In order to be a great movie, the material at hand would have had to have been molded or influenced more precisely by an outsider, as is the case with Nolan’s impressive Dark Knight Trilogy, which bridges the gap perfectly between the average super hero film and the larger category of truly exceptional and great films.

In conclusion, Joss Whedon’s The Avengers fixes all of the problems that were present in the movies that had been leading up to its release, providing the Marvel film that fans have been awaiting eagerly for years now. However, Whedon’s film is set in a universe that is distinctly of the comic book world, which is a world that is filled with back story and mythology that only the most dedicated, or at least nominally interested, comic reader will truly be able to appreciate. I suppose that Nolan will remain the only visionary director in the crafting of great films about super heroes while Whedon’s film is simply a great super hero movie. And that’s a pretty big difference in my opinion.