Friday, August 15, 2014

Quick Takes: 'Wish I' 'Came Together' with 'Lucy' in our 'Sex Tape'

My New Year's resolution to myself was to write more reviews.  Sometimes I've fallen behind, because I don't see the movies right away and I fear that my opinion no longer matters.  I decided to collect my thoughts on 4 movies that I never got around to writing full reviews for, so here we go!

Is Apple going to start using Scarlett Johansson for their advertisements, but it can only enhance sales.  Luc Besson's Lucy is surprisingly short.  All summer movies should take a lesson from Besson's book and clock their summer films at 89 minutes--it's the perfect length for an action-packed getaway.  I love me a woman with a big brain, so Johansson is the perfect, seductive choice for the title character. 

Lucy is studying and living in Taipei, but the man she has been casually seeing gets her mixed up in a Korean drug ring.  That's a dealbreaker, ladies!  A powerful synthetic drug called CPH4 is transplanted in her stomach, but one of the boneheaded drug baddies beats the crap out of Lucy resulting in the bag leaking into her stomach.  Immediately, Lucy's brain capacity expands, and she's on her way to becoming the most advanced human being on the planet.  

Who knew that access to more of your brain meant that you could move things at will and change your hair color?  Maybe Vidal Sassoon should get their hands on some CPH4?  Her original captor, Mr. Jang, tried to hunt her down, and Lucy is on a mission to consume as much CPH4 as possible.  Morgan Freeman plays Dr. Norman, a scientist whose research about the human brain helps Lucy understand what is going on.  

It's interesting to see Johansson become so fearless in such a short span.  In the beginning, she's tearful and terrified, but as she gets smarter, her face becomes calmer and more stoic.  Compare this performance to the one she gave in Spike Jonze's Her, and you will have two very different experiences.  There is a scene where Lucy calls her mother, and she recounts every single thing she is feeling.  It's a small moment amid all the gunfire and special effects, but it's intimate and sweet.  

By the end, however, I felt like something was weird.  As Lucy becomes smarter and as she gets close to utilizing 100% of her brain, it felt like my viewing Lucy was unnecessary.  A feeling like this is going on somewhere and it didn't matter to me.  Perhaps I needed some CPH4 to fully enjoy the experience.  

Oh, it could happen to anyone!  Well, anyone who is a blithering fool, but I digress.  Whenever you record yourself having sex or performing some lurid act with a loved one, you delete it as soon as you're done!  Everyone knows this, but the characters in Sex Tape don't follow such unspoken instructions whenever they  turn the camera on themselves.

Like a lot of couples that have been together for a long time, the spark in Annie and Jay's marriage has gone out.  It's not that they don't want to have sex with each other, but the normal responsibilities of being an adult has gotten in the way.  When they first got together, the duo had tons of sex, and, trust me, we get treated to a lovely montage of Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel humping each other's brains out.  It's actually pretty funny to see Diaz talk about how her husband's erection acted like a sonar for her coming around.

Annie and Jay finally get a break away from the kids, and they decide to film themselves performing every act in their copy of the Kama Sutra.  On a side note, why is this book completely accessible on their living room bookshelf?  Annie plucks it off the shelf with glee right before they do the dirty deed.  It cuts from Annie and Jay perusing the book to them, exhausted, falling asleep in their living room.  

With their marriage rejuvenated, the couple goes back to enjoying their lives.  That is until Jay gets an anonymous text message telling him that he (or she) enjoyed their video.  Apparently, Jay forgot to delete the video, and now it's been uploaded to his iCloud account.  Suddenly the couple is racing around town trying to retrieve all the iPads they gave away as gifts, a plot point that irritated me since I saw the trailer.  Annie is in negotiations to sell her mommy blog, and it's suggested that they could use the extra cash flow.  It's weird that Jay indulges himself with new iPads just to have more music downloaded.  Again, oh well.  

While Annie doing cocaine with her boss (Rob Lowe) and the uncomfortable silences with their friends (Ellie Kemper and Rob Corddry) who may or may not have seen their escapades is quite funny, I didn't think that not showing anything on the sex tape raised the stakes enough.  If they would have shown just the teensiest bit of humpery after they looked at the Kama Sutra, I might have realized what was at stake.  It gets a bit dramatic at the end, and that surprised me as well (especially because Jack Black randomly shows up as a porn kingpin).  Other than that, I thought it was pretty entertaining.  Just a foul-mouthed, sex-centered, summer comedy.  No biggie.  

Sweet mother of Jesus.  Is Zach Braff ever going to find himself?!  He pondered life in Garden State, he wondered about infidelity and life in The Last Kiss, and now he directs his second feature, Wish I Was Here.  And he thinks about where is life is going yet again.  I admit that I was a huge fan of Garden when it came out ten years ago, but I haven't seen it since.  I still dig the soundtrack.  That's the same, right?  No?  Ok, then.  

Braff plays Aiden Bloom, a struggling actor who likes to swear a lot.  The sweat jar that sits atop the Bloom fridge is brimming with dollar bills and lots of coinage.  He hasn't landed a gig since that "dandruff commercial" a while back, and his wife, played by Kate Hudson, has been supporting the family at a job that she can't stand.  When Aiden's father tells him that he can no longer pay for his grandchildren to go to their private Jewish school because of a terminal cancer diagnosis, Aiden's life is thrown into the deep end.  

Initially, Aiden thinks he can home school his two kids, Grace and Tucker.  Grace,  misses her old school, and she knows much more than Aiden could ever teach her.  Tucker is rambunctious and would rather spend his time playing video games.  What 8 year old wouldn't, right?  It's great to see Pierce Gagnon play a little, fun tyke for once.  He's great at playing intense youngsters (like in Looper and CBS' Extant), but he's rather carefree in Wish.  

As Aiden tries to be there more for his family, he also tries to reach out to his estranged brother, Noah, played by Josh Gad.  Gad doesn't get much to do in Wish, but it's always great to see him.  Hudson is also kind of wasted.  I honestly forgotten how beautiful she is, and her smile can still light up the screen--even when she plays a secondary character.  Wish has a scrappy, quick humor that I didn't expect.  The Bloom brood doesn't really hold back when they talk to each other, and it's pretty laid back and funny.  

Braff received a lot of hate for doing a Kickstarter to raise money for Wish, and the film has the same rainy day tone to it.  I thought it would be drearier, but I ended up really enjoying it.  It has the distinct misfortune of being the film I saw directly before Richard Linklater's Boyhood, though.  Even though I saw them on different days, Linklater's film resonated with me so much more, and it made Wish's "realness" come off as bogus and contrived.  

Could they actually make a "traditional" romantic comedy anymore?  By traditional, I mean the kinds that Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks starred in the late 90's.  They've ultimately (and thankfully) died relatively.  I grew up on the likes of Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail, so David Wain's rom-com parody They Came Together is absolutely hilarious to me.  

Amy Poehler plays Molly, the owner of a charity candy store called Upper Sweet Side.  She inherited the store from her loving mother, but its existence is threatened when Fox Books the corporate megastore Candy Systems and Research plans to move in across the street.  One of the executives for CS&R, Paul Rudd's Joel, ends up meeting Molly, and let's just say it's a meet-not-so-cute.  See what I did there?  

They feud and bicker (they also come to the same Halloween party in the same costume), but then they connect and begin dating.  He's kinda Jewish and she's really clumsy.  It's the makings of a romantic comedy, and Poehler and Rudd quite literally wink at you while they deliver their ridiculous lines--some of which are probably lifted right from the scripts of romantic comedies.  

When Joel and Molly finally consummate their relationship they pretty much destroy everything in sight.  Their coitus choreography ensures they are guided to break every vase, bookshelf, and knick knack in Molly's apartment.  When things get tough, and the couple breaks up, there's a mad dash race in the last 10 minutes, complete with a speech in a crowded venue.  

I picture Meg Ryan laughing her ass of to this movie.  If you liked Wet Hot American Summer, you'll love this.

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