Posts Tagged ‘Justin Long’

LAVENDER: 3 STARS. “an assured performance from Abbie Cornish.”

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-12-01-56-pmSalman Rushdie once wrote, “Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.” It’s a quote that resonates throughout “Lavender,” a new psychological thriller starring Abbie Cornish as a woman whose ghostly, fragmented memories haunt her.

In this elegant and eerie movie from “The Last Exorcism II” director Ed Gass-Donnelly, Cornish stars as Jane, a photographer who snaps pictures of old, dilapidated homes. One house in particular seems to have a draw on her, but after photographing it she has visions, one of which cause her to run her car off the road. Suffering memory loss, she undergoes therapy to stimulate repressed memories, a treatment that works all too well. Soon strange boxes appear, seeming to be clues to a past she had long ago left behind. Jane’s unfinished business comes flooding back in the form of long forgotten memories of a tragic and unsettling event.

“Lavender” is a hallucinatory study of the hidden horrors of the mind, a look at false memories and how they can be used as a shield from madness. It follows a well-trodden path—previously explored in mind movies like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Shining”—but Gass-Donnelly’s deliberate, almost trance-like direction lends plenty of atmosphere to the story. He effectively milks an emotional response with an anxiety inducing score by Sarah Neufeld and Colin Stetson and an assured performance from Cornish.

Cornish is at the very center of “Lavender,” grounded and eerie at the same time, she’s a sympathetic character with a hint of menace. This character driven story gives Cornish the chance to explore the psychological implications of a woman uncovering her uncertain past.

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP: 2 STARS. “at least they’re cute.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-13 at 10.53.39 AMThe most interesting thing about “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip” is watching the former stars of entertainments like “Almost Famous,” “Veep,” “Anchorman” and “Lost in Translation” stumble over one another for a paycheque.

The fourth “Alvin and the Chipmunks” sees the musical rodents, Alvin, Simon, and Theodore (voices of Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney) take an extended road trip from Los Angeles to Miami to prevent their caregiver and producer Dave (Jason Lee) from proposing to his new girlfriend Shira (Kimberly Williams-Paisley). The Munks like her well enough, but her son Miles (Josh Green), their potential new step-brother, is a future serial killer who delights in torturing the small, furry brothers.

“Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip” operates on the premise that everything the chipmunks do is cute. Actual jokes? Don’t need them because they’re Theo-dorable! Get it?

This is the kind of movie that feels like the marketing department and not filmmakers created it. There are enough songs to fill a soundtrack, enough adorability to fill shelves with plush toys with just enough pop culture references to Linda Blair and “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” to keep the old folks awake and semi-engaged. Less a movie than an exercise in extreme product placement, “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip” will make anyone over the age of four shout something a little saltier than Dave’s trademark “Alvin!” screech.

The chipmunks don’t make very good movies, but hey, at least they’re cute.

TUSK: 1 STAR. “Part Freaks, part The Human Centipede. Goo goo goo joob goo goo goo job.”

kinoprosmotr.net_tusk-trailerI suppose there is some kind of H.P. Lovecraftian message tucked away, deep inside “Tusk’s” jaded little heart but director Kevin Smith doesn’t bother to unearth it. Instead he’s content to make poutine jokes.

Based on an idea evolved from Episode 259 of Smith’s SModcast about a internet star and a seafarer with a thing for walruses, the movie begins with Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) travelling from Los Angeles to Manitoba to interview a subject for his popular podcast. When that interview falls through he finds another guest, a mysterious old sailor named Howard Howe (Michael Parks) with a storied past and a remote mansion in Bifrost, Manitoba.

Ahoy, mateys! There be spoilers ahead.

The kindly, old wheelchair bound man doesn’t just have marvelous stories about drinking with Ernest Hemingway; he also has a jones for a kindly walrus who saved his life on one of his many adventures. “I have never known such a connection with anyone,” he says, “human or otherwise.” Turns out, he’s a serial killer who lures young men to his home, drugs them and surgically turn them into a walrus. “Man is a savage beast. Better to be a walrus.” Goo goo goo joob goo goo goo job.

There’s more, in the form of a girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez) and podcast partner (Haley Joel Osment) who, with the aid of a Quebecois detective Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp, in what may be the most tedious performance by a major star in a film this year) search for the waylaid podcaster.

“Tusk” is audacious. I’ll give Smith that. Part “Freaks,” part “The Human Centipede,” and part stoner comedy, it has some truly astounding moments. It’s a deeply weird idea, which in other hands might have been developed into something more interesting than simply a vessel for gags about a restaurant called “Poutiney Weenie” and Canadian stereotypes.

Smith had good stuff to work with. Parks is creepy and eloquent. Long is well cast as an annoying twit of a podcaster, but they are hindered by a torrent of words; endless dialogue that doesn’t forward the story. The idea of “Tusk,” as Smith presents it, warrants a short film, not a ninety-minute movie that feels much longer than it actually is because of self-indulgent direction.

RICHARD’S “CANADA AM” REVIEWS FOR DEC. 13, 2013 W/ Jeff Hutcheson.

Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 12.28.44 PMRichard Crouse reviews this week’s releases: “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” “American Hustle,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Her,” and “Walking with Dinosaurs 3D.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!

WALKING THE DINOSAUR 3D: 2 STARS. “Jurassic Park without Jeff Goldblum.”

Walking_with_Dinosaurs__the_3D_Movie_poster_releasedThis is a really odd movie. It looks like a high-end educational documentary you’d see on the History Channel but anyone with more than a grade two reading level will find the story slow and clichéd. The computer animated story of a herd of migrating dinosaurs and the dangers they face from within and without the tribe is beautiful looking but dragged down by terrible voice work. Badly dubbed, personality-free voices by Justin Long and Skyler Stone stand in stark contrast to narrator Alex, who voices the character with a bitt too much enthusiastic personality. Imagine Jurassic Park without Jeff Goldblum or the fun and you get the idea.

GOING THE DISTANCE: 2 STARS

going_the_distance08Long distance relationships never work out and unfortunately movies about them rarely do either. “Going the Distance,” the new rom com from real life exes Drew Barrymore and Justin Long explores the ups (as in up in the air) and downs (as in crashing back to reality) of long distance dating.

Garrett (Long) is a record company grunt who has never had a serious relationship with a woman. On the verty night he breaks up with his latest one (or two or three) night stand he meets Erin (Barrymore), a rough edged intern at the New York Sentinel. A drunken roll in the hay leads to a burgeoning love match, trouble is, Erin is leaving New York at the end of the summer to return to grad school in San Francisco. They make a deal not to become emotionally attached but nature takes its course and they fall in love. They are determined not to let the 3000 mile hole in the relationship affect their lives but before long jealousies and petty arguments cast a shadow on the union.

“Going the Distance” follows the patented Barrymore Method© rom com design to a tee—unlikely couple meets, falls in love, overcomes obstacles, breaks up and… well, I’m not going to give away the ending but if you don’t know it already then either you don’t have a romantic bone in your body or you’ve never seen a Drew Barrymore movie (“ET” excluded).

The Barrymore Method© movies usually scrape by based on her charm and the chemistry between her and her love interest. In “Going the Distance” the chemistry between Barrymore and Long can’t be denied. They touch one another like intimates—which they were in real life when the move was shot—and have a comfortable worn-in way about them on screen.

Too bad the script has such a worn out feel to it. Unfunny and predictable, it limps along from one rom com cliché to the next. Is there the caring but edgy sister? Check. How about the goofy male best friends, brimming with bad advice but who ultimately turn out to be pretty good guys? Check. Perhaps an airport scene or two? Check. It’s all there, straight out of the romantic comedy rule book.

What isn’t there is a reason why we should care. Not only have we seen these characters—or variations on them—many times before, but they’re called romantic comedies for a reason. But when the romance involves puffing on a bong and falling into bed while a roommate listens in the next room or making love on a dining room table without noticing the man at the head of the table eating a sandwich, it doesn’t exactly fill the screen with warmth. Add to that a lack of memorable jokes and it doesn’t really qualify as a comedy either.

Best to keep your distance from “Going the Distance.”

HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU: 1 STAR

Hes-Just-Not-That-Into-YouHe’s Just Not That Into You, a new romantic comedy with an all star cast, is being described as Love Actually meets Sex and the City. Not surprising since the book it was based on was inspired by a line from the latter. The book’s authors Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo’s eureka moment came when they saw the episode Pick-A-Little, Talk-A-Little. On the show Miranda (if you don’t know who that is, stop reading now) was telling Carrie’s boyfriend Berger about a date who declined her invitation to come up to her apartment. “I have an early meeting,” he said by way of an excuse. Berger analyzes the situation and concludes that “he’s just not that into you,” adding that “when a guy’s really into you, he’s coming upstairs, meeting or no meeting.” That one exchange inspired a self help book which became a bestseller and now a two hour movie starring Drew Barrymore and Jennifer Aniston.

The multi-pronged plot involves a seemingly unconnected group of Baltimore men and women who by the time the movie is over have swapped spit, broken up, gotten back together, dated, stalked and generally dabbled in all forms of human interaction. The unifying theme is that one person in each relationship is more “into” the other person than vice versa. According to director Ken Kwapis the relationship tango goes like this: “Character A is going out with character B, character B is really into Character A, but Character A is really into Character C who’s dating Character D…”

The first thing you’ll notice about He’s Just Not That Into You is that every good looking actor or actress in Hollywood is in this movie. It’s a panoply of blue eyes, shiny coiffed hair and jaw lines so sharp you could use them to cut granite and, of course they all live in beautifully designed homes and have cool jobs. So go see the movie for the clothes, the apartments, the general beauty of the cast, but don’t expect anything useful in terms of relationship advice.

Despite the movie’s source material and general self-help premise this is one of the most toxic looks at male – female relations since the Brittney Spears, Kevin Federline wedding video. The women are either portrayed as a.) incomplete without a man in their lives, b.) home wreckers, or c.) pathetically man crazy.

The men don’t fare much better. The guys are needy, cheaters, slobs or downright smarmy. One man, played by Bradley Cooper, has a slip of the tongue where he says “funeral” when the word he should have said was “wedding.” That’s about the extent of the character development on display here. (In case you don’t get it, he’s wondering if he ruined his life by marrying too young.) All in all despite their obvious genetic gifts it’s no wonder these characters are terminally single.

He’s Just Not That Into You makes the point that dating is hard and relationships are difficult and confusing. Well, thanks for the info. I get it. I got it after the first hour. By the end of the second hour of watching these hapless characters flop around from one warm body to the next I could only think of one sure fire way to test for a prospective mate. Make them watch He’s Just Not That Into You. If they want to leave midway through you may have found someone worth hanging out with.

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: 1 STAR

2010_alvin_and_the_chipmunks_squeakquel-wideChristmas will soon be here and with it comes the usual assortment of movies that seem to exist only to create a demand for stuffed toys, talking pens and soundtracks. First out of the gate this year is Alvin and the Chipmunks, starring Jason “My Name is Earl” Lee as a struggling songwriter who discovers three talented chipmunks—Alvin, Simon and Theodore—living in his house and rides their little furry coattails to the top of the music charts.

Brought to you by the director of Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, Alvin and the Chipmunks is as good as you would imagine a movie from the director of Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties to be.

A compact ninety minutes, it has the prerequisite ”heartwarming” family values message and is jam packed with all the stuff calculated to make kids laugh—loads of slapstick, poo jokes and goofy songs—the trouble is, the audience of kids I saw it with wasn’t laughing much. That’s because there’s nothing clever or interesting about Alvin and the Chipmunks. It’s aimed directly at kids, but feels more like the target is their parent’s pocketbook. The entire movie feels like a big-budget commercial for Chipmunk’s merchandise; a way to influence little Johnny’s Christmas wish list.

It’s ironic because the movie comes with a stern anti-consumerist message. In one of the most obvious postmodern examples of life imitating art, the big-screen Chipmunks are exploited by their evil manager who tries to suck every dollar out of their popularity by marketing Chipmunk’s dolls and other products. It all feels a bit hypocritical.

Alvin and the Chipmunks will likely do well at the box office trading on its family appeal and the nostalgic goodwill generated by the name, but despite its hip cast—Jason Lee, Justin Long, David Cross and Jesse McCartney—it is little more than a holiday money grab.