Need for Speed (2014)

Need for SpeedReleased: March 14, 2014. Directed by: Scott Waugh. Starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots. Runtime: 132 min.

Need for Speed (based on the popular gaming franchise) is about as conventional as these crime actioners come. Since the game franchise of the same name doesn’t really have a storyline, and is just racing during dynamic gameplay – the writers come up with a mediocre story for it. It isn’t anything special, written by first-time writer George Gatins. His brother John Gatins (Coach CarterFlight) worked on the story, but it’s a shame he isn’t the screenwriter. His resumé shows he’s stronger.

The film follows Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul), a street racer and mechanic who spends two years in prison for GTA and manslaughter, the latter is a crime of which he is innocent. Left to take the blame by wealthy business associate Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper in an underwhelming turn), Tobey jumps parole and travels to California in order to take part in a legendary underground race called the De Leon, with clearing his name and revenge in mind.

Being the slime Dino is, he places a bounty on Marshall’s head to prevent him from taking part in the race. As you can tell, he doesn’t play fair. Why would anyone want to be in business with him in the first place? At the beginning of the movie, he brings a business opportunity to Tobey and co., that, if they can refurbish a Ford Mustang largely from scratch, they’ll get 25% of the $2+ million pay day. Marshall’s motivations for this business endeavour is to save his late father’s auto repairs shop. At least the main character’s motivations are clear and well-established.

Sometimes we don’t get that privilege from other action movies, so at least we get a likable protagonist in Tobey. Also on his list of motivations are vengeance for the death of his friend, and beating Dino on the race track in the De Leon. It looks like all conflicts are solved on the race track, at least that’s what these racing flicks want us to think. (I’ll need my driver’s license to ever solve conflicts, and until then, I’ll always lose!) I think Tobey is likable because he cares about others and he puts them ahead of himself. Aaron Paul portrays him with subtle fierceness and kindness shown towards his co-star. He’s a natural actor and an appealing lead.

Joining him on the trek is Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots), the assistant of the man who bought the Ford Mustang for $2.7 million dollars two years ago. She’s going along on the trek because her boss doesn’t want an ex-con in the car on his own, yet he will lend the expensive car to him in the first place. It must have been in the contract that if the seller ever needs to use the car because he just really needs it, the buyer must lend that party the car, as long as the assistant can tag along. Yeah, makes sense…

Julia’s phobias allow Tobey to be his comforting self. She’s not always a damsel as she holds her own in this actioner by driving the car away from antagonists in a scene or two. She’s also a character that shows women can know some things about cars. Poots is a charming actress, so the chemistry between her and Paul is strong, even though their characters are practically strangers.

This is mostly a road trip movie where cops chase ’em (enabling a police chase aspect from Hot Pursuit to present itself) and they run into many obstacles along the way, like people trying to collect the bounty. At least they’re usually in a fast car. There is a cool sequence where they gas up without stopping. They also defy gravity along the way, maybe not as much as Fast & Furious 6, but there’s one scene where you’re just going to question the plausibility of it. At least it looks cool. Jack of all trades director Scott Waugh (director of Act of Valor, he’s much more experienced in stunt-work, with 41 credits to his name) directs the races well. The visuals of the film are pretty good; there’s a limited amount of CGI used, so that’s nice. The fact that there’s not a lot of CGI makes it more apparent that the 3-D version is just a disposable money grab. Please see this in 2-D, because it’s too dark and sometimes ugly in 3-D.

The film keeps the revenge theme throughout with generic plotting and lots of comic relief (much of which is found in Scott Mescudi’s character), so it’s consistent tonally. Michael Keaton has fun portraying Monarch, the energetic host of the De Leon. The finale is that race with a few distracting aspects but it’s a cool all-or-nothing race for pink slips nonetheless. It takes a while for the film to get to this race. (The film clocks in at 132 minutes; trims on the beginning could cut this down to 120 minutes, because it takes about 25 minutes to actually get into the plot.) The finale’s one of the best parts of the film, so most will think it’s worth the wait, at least those who have a tolerance for mildly fun time-passers.

Score55/100

V/H/S (2012)

VHSReleased: September 6, 2012. Directed by: Various (including Ti West, Adam Wingard). Starring: Adam Wingard, Joe Swanberg, Helen Rogers. Runtime: 116 min.

V/H/S is a found-footage anthology film featuring five main short films built around a frame narrative, that also works as its own short film experienced in snippets. As with most found-footage films, the cinematography is all over the place, but at least the shaky cam shots are well-edited. How the filmmakers make an excuse for taking the found-footage approach, meaning the reason why the characters are using hand-held cameras, are unique. In one segment, the story is shown from a main character’s glasses that have a hidden camera in them; in others they’re just documenting experiences; and one uses a Skype approach.

I’ll tell you a bit about each segment answering if they’re scary or not, but I’ll try not to spoil too much – it’s just the basics, really. The film opens with a gang of unlikable hoodlums wreaking havoc upon unsuspecting citizens and ugly old buildings. They are tasked by an unknown third party to enter a house and recover a rare VHS tape (apparently we’re living in the 1990s), but in order to find the correct one they have to watch the footage on the tapes, because there’s unfortunately no title on any of them saying “It’s this one!” This segment is the one experienced in short snippets; it’s not very interesting or scary, but having a frame narrative is better than not having one at all, because it gives the appearance that the film is more focused.

Onto the segment that made me scream like a little schoolgirl at a drive-in. Well, not really, but I did have to turn it off three times and catch my cool the first time I tried watching this film. This segment, called “Amateur Night,” follows a group of teens who go out to a party to pick up women. The main guy named Shane has the glasses that captures everything on video. It seems to me that he is doing it so he can either watch his sex film for his personal pleasure or just sell it if she’s hot enough, or just post it on the internet. These guys are simply a bunch of drunk college kids trying to get lucky, but the point-of-view is intriguing. The plot basically teaches me that I shouldn’t pick up women from bars who have strange feet or only say “I like you.” Kudos to the actress and the special effects in this segment. This segment is awesome and truly scary (in my eyes, at least), but I doubt I’ll re-watch it because it’s really too freaky for me and experiencing it twice is enough. Definitely one of the best segments and a really good fifteen minutes (estimated) of cinema.

The second segment is called “Second Honeymoon” and is directed by Ti West. This one is a simple short with a boring build-up, okay characters, an awkward chemistry and no great pay-off. It’s not very smart and West largely handles this dully and it’s not scary at all. The only other works by West I’m familiar with are his awful short segment in The ABCs of Death, the god-awful Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (I should review that soon), and his great film that premiered at TIFF in September, The Sacrament. Apparently he’s not good at directing or writing shorts at all, because this one isn’t impressive.

The third segment is a mysterious one called “Tuesday the 17th”; it’s gory and fun and seems to promise a simple camping getaway premise. The foreshadowing is well done, leading up to an okay pay-off. The execution by writer/director Glenn McQuaid is pretty good. It’s about as scary as a regular slasher flick, which is to say it’s more thrilling then terrifying.

v_h_s-06The fourth segment is my favourite. It’s freaky and ultimately quite scary. It’s not as scary as the first segment, but it’s entertaining and has an interesting ending. It’s effective during its brief runtime. I like the camera angles, too, where the webcam films whatever is happening – and there are two cameras, one capturing what’s happening on Emily’s side, and what is happening on her boyfriend’s side (as pictured above). Kudos to the Emily character (portrayed by Helen Rogers) for staying in a creepy and potentially haunted apartment for so long. Rogers is a cute actress who captures paranoia well; and she strikes me as an older-looking and brunette version of Chloë Grace Moretz.

The final segment is a haunted house premise (like the  previous segment), where a few party animals walk into a house where a party is supposed to be happening. Craziness follows and I think the execution is pretty good. It doesn’t make the most sense or gets fully explained, but it’s creative. Some static in the cinematography adds an unsettling layer. It’s at least much scarier than Ti West’s attempt.

When I like four out of six segments, I think it’s a mild success. This is largely an experimental film, and while the cinematography is overall weak, it’s an enjoyable horror experience. Another weak aspect are the characters who really suck, but keep in mind there’s no time for development because of the limited time for each segment. The segments range from not scary at all to very scary, but I think there’s at least one or two segments most horror fans will like; besides, if you don’t like one segment, you might like the next.

Score60/100

Question: What was your favourite segment?

The ABCs of Death (2013)

abcs of deathReleased: March 8, 2013. Directed by: Various including Angela Bettis, Ti West and Ben Wheatley. Starring: Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Iván González, Kyra Zagorsky. Runtime: 129 min.

Anthology films are a series of shorts compiled together, and the only thing they have in common is the genre they portray. A few anthology films from 2013 include this, Movie 43 and V/H/S/ 2 and since two of the three I’ve seen (this, The ABCs of Death, and M43) have been awful, state just how crappy anthology films can be. Movie 43 is a crappy compilation of crappy comedies, which are very rarely funny; ABCs is a lazy compilation of 26 chapters chronicling the vicious wonder and brutal beauty of death. The commonplace for the segments in this film it that someone dies in all of them (well, for the most part oddly), the majority of them are dull, and they’re supposedly trying to portray the horror genre. The thing is, not one is scary. They just exploit violence and there’s just a whole lot of blood.

I don’t have much of a problem with violence in cinema when it’s done well; and I really don’t mind gore. I like them both in good movies. This anthology flick is just stupid as anything, and there’s not even a story that ties them all together – V/H/S/ at least has the courtesy to feature a frame narrative. The poster makes it seem like maybe Death himself is reading a bunch of short tales to a weird little baby, but sadly we don’t get anything like that. Instead each short gets separated by a simple fade to a red background with those alphabet blocks kids play with saying something like “A is for…,” and then on to the next one. Anyway, a lot of these are original, and a good change of pace from the usual horror fare, but I couldn’t get into this. But almost every short film in this is very bizarre, and there’s only about five okay shorts, and one really good one.

They are ‘Q’, a mildly clever short where a pair of directors discuss what their sketch is going to be for such a hard letter. They discuss how they’ll stand out, but it’s hard for any of these sketches to stand out because a lot are awful. One actually good sketch is for the letter ‘S’, which is a lot of fun. Mind you, not scary, but it has a really cool atmosphere with some great metaphors and it’s actually really entertaining. It’s the only enjoyable sketch in my eyes. Again, it doesn’t work as a horror sketch – it’s more like an actioner that has hot babes and fast carsThe short film’s plots are mostly dumb, but at least they get to the point quickly; but they have to, each segment is only about 4.96 minutes each on average. The shortest is one called “Gravity,” and it’s the only time I’ve ever wanted to see Sandra Bullock bumping into stuff for a few minutes instead. The one in consideration features POV-style cinematography, which is sometimes a nice change of pace. There’s another point-of-view sketch that’s pretty crappy, too. The one for the letter ‘D’ is told completely in slow motion and is almost entirely pointless, the slow motion just renders it completely empty of any sort-of emotion. It looks good, but it’s just very empty.

One other okay sketch is the death for the letter ‘T,’ which is mildly entertaining (still not scary, mind you) and memorable because it’s told in a cheap-looking claymation. I mean, if I ever take acid and then everything turns into claymation, I’ll stay away from toilets. There’s one sketch that is actually fun, strange as anything because the characters are in animal costumes it seems, but it’s a sort-of fun R-rated Tex Avery battle of sorts during World War Two. It’s for the letter ‘H,’ by the way, but guessing the word might be a fun challenge, so I won’t reveal it. There’s one simplistic but utterly stupid one called “Klutz,” where, to express its stupidity, I’m just going to spoil it. The woman basically dies by the metaphorical hands of a pesky piece of poop that is too stubborn to be flushed down the toilet, and instead teases the woman, sticks to the ceiling, and when she looks on the ground for it, launches itself into her ass and comes out of her mouth, killing her. Seriously, what the f$%k? The animated sketch is so, so awful. The sketch for ‘F’ is equally bad. A few thoughts on the worst sketches: the one for the letter ‘L’ is just disgusting and twisted; the sketch for the letter ‘X’ is a sort-of social commentary of media influence, but I don’t think people are this cruel, at least in my experiences, and it’s a bit too insane for me, but gore lovers will adore this; and the sketch for the letter ‘P’ is a sad story that shows how far someone will go to make money when they’re under pressure, but the finale is heartbreakingly despicable. Moving on…

I think the idea that the producers thought this would be scary is because the premise of death is scary to many people. I’m scared of death, but this is never thrilling or scary – but a lot of this is awful, with only a few decent sketches, and some of them that use an artistic approach to filmmaking don’t make a lick of sense. It’s a shame that a fair deal of the half-decent to bearable sketches come in the second half of the alphabet, because by that time, I found myself counting how many letters are left and checking my phone constantly for how much time remained. This is just an exhausting experience. It might be fun for the horror movie buff who wants something different from mainstream horror, and I think that’s the point.

The thing is, a lot of it isn’t that well-made (but each director from around the world is working on a budget of $5000), and this ends up being less enjoyable than regular horror fare. Though, for those who want to see a bunch of different ways to die, many bland and gory, and a few really twisted, watch it if you must. But this is just one of the weirdest films I’ve ever seen. This one is just too twisted and unenjoyable for me, and it simply isn’t very thrilling or scary. Cringe-worthy at times, but something I’m trying to figure out is, could cringing at a horror film truly be considered good horror? At least in this case, I say no. This one’s definitely not for the mainstream audience, so they should just stick to the 1000 Ways to Die TV show. I also hope in the sequel, the directors remember to make their material scary. Keep the same originality and sometimes twisted material, but make it scary, please.

Score: 25/100

 

 

300: Rise of an Empire (2014)

300 Rise of an EmpireReleased: March 7, 2014. Directed by: Noam Murro. Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey. Runtime: 102 min.

300: Rise of an Empire is a good sequel to Zack Snyder’s 2007 film, 300. There are sequels, prequels, and the odd sort-of meanwhile adventures movie, and this happens to be all three. It’s a prequel because it shows some things that started this war, and at the same time reminding us about it because a lot of people would forget after seven years; a meanwhile adventures because it shows what wars happen on the water while the 300 were fighting; and a direct sequel, following what happens after the mighty 300 fell. They have made quite an influence on this film. This follows the Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), who leads the charge against invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and Artemisia (Eva Green), merciless commander of the Persian navy.

While the first film followed the Spartan warriors, this film follows the Athenians, who are fighting for freedom – and represent a not-so savage Greek race, but still show their body armourless abs. Like I said, this film is largely a meanwhile adventures that takes place on the open seas, and it’s awesome watching war tactics happen on the water. The action sequences are spectacular, beautifully filmed, and have the same visual style as the first (not nearly as fresh seven years later, mind you) and a whole lot of gore. What else can one expect from the mind of Frank Miller? Who, by the way, is the authour of the graphic novel Xerxes upon which this is based. The film is better in 3D because one can easily tell where 3D is implied if one watches this in 2D. There’s splatters of blood, spears flying, and it just adds another great visual layer to the experience. At one point when blood splatters there’s even a smudge on the camera, where you’ll probably ask “Can someone wipe that off?”

The cinematography’s strong, even if there is a constant fogginess about it in the background, because of the mist on the water, and a mild glare when the sun is out. But it’s not noticeable when the fights are occurring, thankfully; probably because the editing is so impressive, and who would try to focus on the glare of it all when there are limbs and heads flying everywhere? I love the fighting tactics of the Greeks. The action scenes are definitely the best part of the film; and the drama is solid, as well.

There’s one particularly memorable scene where the leaders of each opposing country have a battle of power, deciding who will come out on top, so to speak. Sullivan Stapleton is adequate as a character who isn’t very compelling, but he’s great in combat sequences. I don’t think I’d ever rush out to see a film he’s leading, but he’s pretty good. Green is brilliant as her character, and she makes cruelty look sexy. She is just awesome in and out of battle, and a chilling villain at times, fuelled by vengeance. She wants to avenge her former king Darius (killed by Mistokles a few years prior at the Battle of Marathon), a motivation she shares with Xerxes, and to get back at the Greeks who killed her entire village, so she’s putting all Greeks in one category for that one. A lot of these characters are fuelled by vengeance, particularly Lena Headey’s Queen Gorga. She’s great, too, by the way. Xerxes gets a cool, origins story treatment told at the beginning, which is a real treat. I have a feeling the graphic novel is called  Xerxes because the villains have well-thought out development, but the hero’s development is light. Evidently, this works spectacularly as an action film, but it’s not strong in the ‘developing good protagonists’ department.

But this is an action movie, and that’s why you’re going to see this. We’ve seen some of this action before in the first one, but at least some of it feels fresh. It’s mostly just action on boats instead of land, so no phalanx formations this time around. The storyline isn’t nearly as strong as the first. It’s partly because the main character isn’t entirely compelling in his development, and this just isn’t as engaging as the great David and Goliath story that is the 300 Spartans. If you go in expecting more of the same with some fresh material at least in terms of fight location, this is a good time at the movies.

Score: 75/100

Product review: Samsung 32″ Class LED Smart HDTV

S222-3253-CA_chiclet01_ac_mn_7847210This is my first product review, so I hope I get my thoughts across as well as I can. This is a review of a Samsung 32″ Class LED Smart HDTV, which I got the other month on this cool site called Argos. Oh, and the direct link to their TVs page is this. It looks like they have some good deals on there. I got mine on sale for a decent price, and the TV has a lot of functions so it’s pretty awesome, and I’ve got my money’s worth. Apparently it can have two devices plugged in at the back, so that’s pretty cool.

It hasn’t given me a lot of trouble, but the only complaints I have is that the Smart Hub function is arbitrary on when it works or not. And it’s been making me do constant updates. Though, when it does work, the apps that come with it are awesome. I haven’t dabbled too much with that yet, but I’m looking forward to doing so. I only noticed it the other day. It’s kinda awesome how you can browse the internet while you watch TV. I mean, I’m usually on the computer anyway, but it’s fun to know that it has that capability. I want to try out the capability where one can plug in a jump drive and watch a video off of the jump drive. If I just download a movie off the computer I can watch the film on the TV, so that sounds great. This TV has a lot more capability than regular TVs it seems, but a technologically challenged person can still easily use this – it’s not the biggest challenge to plug in. I can also access Netflix without plugging in my Blu-Ray player so that’s cool; and I can watch YouTube videos on it, which I think is a great feature, as well. If there’s nothing good on TV, I can just go on YouTube, and I think I’ll watch more videos that way. With a regular TV, I’m sure I would have discovered all of its capabilities by now, but it seems like I’m finding something new each day.

The gaming experience on it is awesome, it seems like the noises are a bit more hollow if that makes sense. I mean, I was playing “GTA 5” the other day for the first time on it and the gun shots sounded a bit more of a thud, and the car crashes sounded different, too. It’s a cooler experience on a smart TV, though, I really like the compact screen – and the image looks much nicer. It at least is nicer when I got the brightness just right, it’s best on natural lighting, I find. Movie’s pretty good, but standard is way too dark. It’s good to dabble with the settings to find the right picture, and it’s a good image when it’s just right. One thing I’m impressed by is how the sound is. I can hear my TV quite well with the volume at 20/100, at least when I’m watching a movie; and the volume’s good at mid-30s when I’m watching regular television. It’s a good experience overall. I just hope I never lose my controller, because it doesn’t seem like there are any manual controls on the television. So, I’m screwed if I lose it. The joke would be on me, then, I guess. One more thought: The TV’s actually lighter than a regular TV, which is great for when I have to move it around.

If I had to give it a score, I’d give this a out of 5.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)

City of BonessReleased: August 21, 2013. Directed by: Harald Zwart. Starring: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan. Runtime: 130 min.

“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” is a bad, silly and largely unoriginal young adult adaptation. It takes components from many other young adult novels – classic love triangle, vampires, a bunch of mythical creatures, and the humans are called mundanes, a spin on muggles it seems – and mixes it into one. Authour Cassandra Clare, originally known for penning Harry Potter fan fiction (which caused a mighty roar of plagiarism), proves that really anyone can write a young adult novel. There’s one South Korean thriller called “Intruders” that includes a character who essentially says that, if a novel is published, it’s going to be read – even if it’s a bad book. Clare’s novel is half-decent, but this really doesn’t work on-screen. It’s as if the big screen amplifies some of its stupidity.

When her mother disappears, Clary Fray learns that she descends from a line of warriors – called Shadowhunters, who are half humans, half angels and apparently all British – who protect our world from demons. She joins forces with others like her and heads into a dangerous alternate New York called Downworld.

This is one of those forgettable movies where the main character learns their life hasn’t been entirely truthful, and then gets hit with a lot of information at once. Some of this information is told to her by an arrogant Shadowhunter named Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower), who she is first afraid of and then (not so gradually) takes a liking to him. Cue the love triangle with Jace and Simon (Robert Sheehan). Further information about this new world is revealed to her by the leader of the Institute, Hodge (Jared Harris), making this another young adult novel where an adult gets the best monologue. By the way, the Institute is a lovely building protected by a glamour that just makes it look like a dump to mundanes. Other characters living in the Institute are Alec Lightwood (Kevin Zegers), a bitter and hateful protagonist, and his sister Isabelle (Jemima West). This film is also a good vs. evil tale where the evil person is Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a power hungry idiot, who, if he gets all of the mortal instruments, could summon demons and rule the world.

"Next time... I want a buzz cut."

“Next time, I want a buzz cut.”

One can tell who the villains are because they have really bad haircuts (with the exception of Robert Maillet’s character). Kevin Durand looks like Friar Tuck in this movie, and his character is way dumb. In a scene involving him that makes this film feel as silly as a parody, is when he randomly humps a character’s leg while interrogating him. I shit you not, this happens in the movie. There’s some laughably bad CGI, shown in a demon octopus thing, and a few vampires. The good CGI is found in the Silent Brothers, who look nightmarish and cool. I think the only half-decent innovation made by screenwriter Jessica Postigo is that Mama Fray (Lena Headey, who, by the way is on-screen only a bit more than Schwarzenegger’s wife in “Batman & Robin”) drinks a coma potion before being abducted, and I don’t remember that happening in the novel. So she makes maybe one decent innovation of her own, but the bad innovations are just horribly bad. She introduces this cringe-worthy concept that classical music is kryptonite for demons, because Johann Sebastian Bach was a shadowhunter… Uh? Ludicrous is the another good word to describe that.

The writing is really bad because it’s often so cheesy. One of the cheesiest moments is during a kissing scene when sprinklers go off, while a Selena Gomez pop song plays over the soundtrack… Kill me. (Another strange score choice is during a fight scene where there is pop music that sounds more like disco music.) You know, on paper, this universe is pretty cool – but this sucks on-screen. The writing has ideas that are inconsistent, and the movie is way too long and uninteresting. Lily Collins helps bring people some enjoyment because she’s really quite decent as her character, and she’s attractive to boot. More on the writing before I move on; Jessica Postigo isn’t completely to blame for most aspects of the writing, because she it’s an adapted screenplay, novelist Cassandra Clare writes in one twist that is truly strange and utterly stupid, especially how it’s handled on screen.

The writing isn’t the only thing that makes this bad, the casting director Stephanie Corsalini only gets the casting right for a few characters. Lily Collins fits the description of Clary and is a good lead, and it helps that she’s very attractive; Kevin Zegers, Jared Harris and Robert Sheehan are good as their respective characters. They’re really the only good actors in this film; Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Valentine is hard to take seriously because he chews the crap out of the scenery.

Campbell Bower isn’t strong as his character, because he’s bland, can’t land a joke, and his seriousness makes his arrogant character downright boring. Alex Pettyfer would be a much better Jace. Matthew Davis (TV’s “The Vampire Diaries”) or Mark Pellegrino might make a better Luke, too. But the worst casting is Godfrey Gao as Magnus Bane, because he is a god-awful actor who should stick to modelling, and if memory serves me well, Bane is described as muscular in the books. Or maybe there’s a perception of him being muscular because of Bane in Batman. All I know for sure, this skinny Asian dude sucks as him. Anyway, the movie just sucks altogether, from the bad writing to the poor casting, and the boring plotting. The tonal choices also don’t make much sense, either; sometimes it takes itself too seriously, and sometimes it embraces campiness too much. Pick one, please. The only redeeming qualities are a few okay fight scenes and Collins’ attractiveness.

Score30/100

The To Do List (2013)

The To Do ListReleased: July 26, 2013. Directed by: Maggie Carey. Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader. Runtime: 104 min.

“The To Do List” is an occasionally funny film but, when it’s not that funny, it’s intensely boring. And that’s too often for it to tell a compelling story. The premise is reminiscent of “American Pie” with one central female, and taken to more extreme lengths. No one screws a pie, but a character does something much more disgusting – she takes a bite out of what looks like a Snickers bar floating in the local pool, taking it as a new employee hazing… Well, you can figure out how that ends… That’s also another way to show that the girls can get just as raunchy as guys in comedies.

The story follows Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) who, in the opening scenes, gets ridiculed during her valedictorian speech for being a virgin. She is too embarrassed to even make much of a speech, or impression. Her friends Fiona (Alia Shawkat) and Wendy (Sarah Steele), who are nicknamed the slutty Oompa Loompa’s by Brandy’s father (Clark Gregg), take the virgin to a kegger celebrating their graduation. When the local dream boat Rusty Waters (Scott Potter) mistakenly sticks his tongue down her throat in a very awkward encounter, she doesn’t know what to do. Taking this as a sign that she is sexually inexperienced to say the least, she puts together a to-do list of all the sex acts her sister (Rachel Bilson) can tell her about, all of which she will do before going to college, finishing with the endgame of going all the way with the guy who started it all: Rusty Waters.

We should be thankful for little favours. If the setting were actually 2013 instead of 1993, this would be a four-hour movie if she were to list all the sexual acts from UrbanDictionary.com. Her raunchy to-do list has everything from giving oral, cunnilingus, going all the way, motor-boating… The only thing not on the list is anal sex, because god forbid anyone takes the backdoor – said by Gregg in the amusing trailer. It seems he has a lot of the best lines – as well as Brandy’s slacker boss, portrayed by Bill Hader. As far as films where the main protagonist works at a public pool for the summer, who else would take “The Way, Way Back” any day over this?

It’s just that the cast isn’t utilized very well in a film purely concerned with sex, but at least you know what you’re going into before you see this. When films have such sexual subject matter, they should at least be funny. Right? I think they should at least have some nudity, too (for a film rated 18A that expectation is not unreasonable) but apparently Maggie Carey doesn’t think so. The reason the cast gets under utilized is because the material really isn’t that funny, and these cast members are funny people delivering crappy dialogue. Bill Hader is probably the funniest character, and Clark Gregg is funny, too, when he shows up. Donald Glover gets a few laughs, too. There aren’t many good characters to root for, however. Aubrey Plaza’s talent derives mostly on sarcastic witticism; but the character just comes off as bitchy and unlikeable. Admittedly, Plaza gets a few laughs in the beginning, but not much else. She is miscast because there’s hardly anything witty about the character she’s playing. She’s just throwing around her kitty to anything that moves.

When things go wrong for our “hero,” she sports a Why does everyone hate me? attitude. She’s inadvertently hurting people for the sole reason of gaining sexual experience, and it’s just not that entertaining. The only decent chemistry there is shared between Plaza and her two besties. The only time they don’t talk about sex is when they’re talking about watching “Beaches” before the summer expires (so it just passes the Bechdel test). I think this film is supposed to show that women like casual sex, too; and that sex isn’t everything. Plaza doesn’t have good chemistry with anyone else because her character is just so bossy and unlikable, really. If she has to go out for another leading role, she should pick her characters better. The plot is utterly predictable, and it is partly inspired by events from Carey’s life – so it expresses that life can be pretty predictable, too; as well as mostly unfunny romantic comedies like this one.

Score30/100