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

 

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Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (2009)

Cirque du FreakCirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant

Release Date: October 23, 2009

Director: Paul Weitz

Stars: John C. Reilly, Josh Hutcherson, Chris Massoglia

Runtime: 109 min

Teenager, Darren Shan, meets a mysterious man at a freak show who turns out to be a Vampire. After a series of events Darren must leave his normal life and go on the road with the Cirque Du Freak and become a Vampire.

This isn’t near-awful, but it isn’t that good, either. The character’s ambitions are strange, like how Hutcherson’s character aspires to become a vampire… It’s fairly obsessive and weird. This is sort-of a stange blend of supernatural wars and events, but it also touches on teenage angst. Mostly how Hutcherson’s character feels he is surrounded by idiots and isn’t accepted; and the non-normative transformations certain characters endure.

Chris Massolgia won’t make you want to root for Darren. He’s just a dull presence. Also, it was so hard to care for him at times, I was rooting for the friend-turned-foe, Hutcherson. This is just a really forgettable flick. It’s one of those movies that is decent to watch on TV when nothing interesting is on; or one might put on when they’re just puttering or dabbling on the computer. It’s effective background noise.

The style and cinematography are great, and there are some engaging scenes. It’s refreshing to see a comedy director (Paul Weitz, American Pie) take on something so strange. The thing is… The story isn’t that interesting. It’s about some fat guy called Tiny who tries to spark a war between two vampire clans. One of the clans has a vegan attitude (the side Darren and Crepsley are on), and the opposing side has that stereotypical, blood-sucking, fleash-eatin’ attitude. The screenplay is written by Paul Weitz and Brian Helgeland (the guy behind L.A. Confidential). One would think a screenplay co-written by Helgeland would be so much better!

John C. Reilly works the role of Crepsley. Overall; it’s slightly creepy, but it’s a mostly bland, strange tale of the supernatural. It’s a weird genre blend, and some of it just doesn’t work. You probably won’t be begging for a sequel. This is, at its most basic, a movie about teenage angst set during a war between vampires with an Olive Garden lifestyle and vampires with an Epic Meal Time (just with human meat, kinda thing) lifestyle.

54/100

August 28 Birthdays

There’s a few celebrity birthdays today: Jack Black (43), David Fincher (50), Sarah Roemer (28), Jennifer Coolidge (51) and Daniel Stern (55).

Jack Black

This comedy actor just turned 43 today. He’s been in School of RockTenacious D in the Pick of DestinyTropic ThunderNacho Libre, and he’s been the voice talents for Shark TaleKung Fu Panda, and in Ice Age; he’s also a pretty good dramatic actor, showing those abilities especially in King Kong. I haven’t seen Bernie just yet, but I heard he was pretty good in that. I like this guy’s funny antics and his ability to be a pretty good drama actor as well as a silly one.

David Fincher

This guy right here’s one of my favourite directors. A lot of his films are just so pleasantly dark and I like the atmosphere of them. When I collected films and didn’t really pay attention to directors, I found out that I really liked this guy’s movies as I had most of them. The only flick of his I don’t have is Alien 3. And the only films of his I haven’t seen is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Alien 3.  A good director to me is when they really bring a signature atmosphere and also when I have a really difficult time picking my favourite by them. His other films include Seven (a.k.a. Se7en)The GameFight ClubPanic Room, ZodiacThe Social Network and the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

 Well, there isn’t a lot to say about this one. She’s a pretty face, who’s a pretty good actress, who just turned 28. I’ve only seen her on a few things, being the TV show The Event, and the films Disturbia and Fired Up!

           Jennifer Coolidge

This picture doesn’t do her a lot of justice, but I didn’t feel like finding another. She’s best known as Stifler’s Mom in the American Pie (original cast) films; and she’s also known as the wicked step mother in that Hilary Duff flick, A Cinderella Story.

Daniel Stern

 This guy’s best known as the idiotic burglar, Marv, in the first two Home Alone films. That’s really all I want to say about him.

Film review: American Pie. The great comedy that launched a pretty decent teen comedy franchise in 1999.

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 American Pie

Release Date: July 9, 1999

Director: Paul Weitz

Stars: Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Alyson Hannigan

Runtime: 95 min

Tagline: Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets pie.

 It’s a pretty funny coming of age comedy.

Four high school boys enter a pact to lose their virginity by the end of prom night. Jim is the main guy in the group, doing things like trying to get with a hot foreign girl Nadia, doing a nasty deed with an apple pie, and eventually finding something great in an unexpected girl. Oz is on the lacrosse team, and has his eye on the beautiful choir girl, Heather. Kevin has been dating Victoria for a while and hasn’t had the most luck in the department of pleasuring her and is focused solely on losing his virginity to her. Finch is the sophisticated nice guy who has an infamous love interest by the end of the film. And Stifler is the the immature and hilarious jerk friend, who is the funniest in the film.

The whole story seems a little shallow for a coming-of-age comedy film, but it really can be funny. It has a great bunch of funny and memorable scenes, and very memorable characters.

It’s a movie that can be watched many times, as it’s always funny, and the comedic tension between Finch and Stifler is always funny. Going to Band Camp would be a funny experience.

The film stars Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Chris Klein, Alyson Hannigan, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Shannon Elizabeth, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Tara Reid, Mena Suvari, Chris Owen as The Shermanator, Jennifer Coolidge as Stifler’s Mom, and Eugene Levy as Jim’s Dad.

It’s a great start to a pretty awesome comedy franchise (with the exception of the pretty bad straight to DVD crap). It’s the best slice of Pie in the series.

             75/100

Review written on: August 9, 2012, by Daniel Prinn.