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

 

Much Ado About Nothing (2013)

Much Ado About Nothing (6/7)Released: June 7, 2013. Director: Joss Whedon. Stars: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Fran Kranz. Runtime: 109 min.

I love English class. Grammar, poetry, improving my writing skills, reading, getting perfect scores on vocabulary quizzes. That’s my shit. It’s important to study literature. And Shakespeare’s a huge part of that. I’m not the biggest fan of Shakespeare – I think he’s a figure that’s much easier to respect or admire than he is to understand. The works of Shakespeare are something people study; rather than be entertained by. That is why Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” is such a pleasant surprise.

Leonato (Clark Gregg), the governor of Messina, is visited by his friend Don Pedro (Reed Diamond), who is returning from a victorious campaign against his rebellious brother Don John (Sean Maher). Accompanying him are his two officers: Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Claudio (Fran Kranz). Claudio falls for the governor’s daughter, Hero (Jillian Morgese), while the personalities of Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick clash. Later, the main characters mean to trick Beatrice into falling in love. But what’s a good Shakespeare story without a villain? Pedro’s brother, Don John, plots to destroy the brewing marriage of Claudio and Hero before it even begins.

When one watches this film – they’ll have to re-adjust their expectations. When I think a modern retelling, I presume it will be in modern language, much like “10 Things I Hate About You.” That is not the case. Shakespeare’s words are kept, and placed into a modern setting; cars instead of horses, and now Claudio and Benedick are Pedro’s security detail. One might hope the language is merely a homage to Shakespeare – but no, after ten minutes – they’ll realize the language is going to stick.

It’s not a complaint exactly. I like a different cinematic experience. In retrospect, I should have anticipated a different experience considering, in an era of big-budget features and CGI-visuals, I was aware that the movie would be in black and white. (Is the cinematography for black and white movies always this great? Kudos, Jay Hunter.) It’s refreshing to see director Joss Whedon take on this indie passion project immediately after “The Avengers.” Only so many directors have that knack from going from superheroes to Shakespeare, and handling each just as well. I learn this was filmed in twelve days, on a budget so small, they couldn’t afford colour.

Anyway, even with the Shakespearian English, viewers will able to understand the basics, 90% of the time. Even if one doesn’t understand what the actors are saying exactly, they’ll be able to say “Ooooh, he’s angry!” or “Dang, she’s sad.” Thankfully, emotion and comedy are universal. This is a funny movie about the game that is love. I’m still laughing about some of the occurrences and I saw this a week ago. It’s amusing when the characters talk to themselves (because apparently in everyone in Shakespeare’s plays does it, whether or not they’re schizo!) and the conversations are witty and never particularly boring. Just about everything in this flick is charming, from the artistic choices in music to many of Whedon’s regulars fitting their respective characters superbly.

Kranz is ideal as Claudio, a man who could show pain and still be laugh-out-loud hilarious while he’s in the water with his snorkel and a wine glass. Morgese (as Hero) shows some potential, and she does pretty well for her feature film debut, even if she isn’t much of a stand-out, here. I should come to Morgese’s defence – since it’s difficult to be memorable when one is on-screen with two of the wittiest and most memorable on-screen sweethearts (Beatrice and Benedick) Shakespeare ever penned.

Much AdouuuwDenisof and Acker have the ideal chemistry, as they shared screen time on Whedon’s TV series “Angel” prior to this. I love this hoax put at play. Clark Gregg is great as the father, and Nathan Fillion is hysterical as Dogberry, the officer in charge of security at Leonato’s house (which is actually Joss Whedon’s home). He has a funny swagger about him, because of his distaste for being called names, and especially when he mispronounces words with the utmost confidence. Whedon’s vision and Shakespeare’s words marry each other with a fine balance of light-heartedness and charm.

Don John is the one character who is difficult to understand completely. His motivations to destroy the impending marriage between Claudio and Hero are ill-defined. Is it only because he’s a conniving schmuck? Is it just because there has to be an antagonist? Perhaps his motivations are explained well, but they might be difficult to grasp with the Shakespearian English. DJ seems to only be smiling when others are unhappy, so maybe that’s his motivation.

I usually understand the basics of what’s going on; but even after 109 minutes with the language, it’s hard to get used to. Shakespeare makes me feel so uncultured sometimes. A visit to the play’s SparkNotes page may be in order. The Shakespearian English prevents this film from becoming wholly engaging. I could enjoy this much more one day when I am older and wiser, and have a stronger understanding of Shakespeare. I applaud Whedon for taking an intelligent work, maintaining its intelligence, and simultaneously producing a movie that goes well with popcorn.

Score75/100

My most anticipated movies of July

Hi everyone, this is my post for the movies I’m most anticipating this month. I’m going to leave out the ones I’m not anticipating (but will be seeing), because who wants to write a paragraph about a movie they’re not particularly passionate about? (I’m talking about you, GROWN UPS 2.) I’ll be writing reviews about those said movies, but that’s for another day – and I love writing reviews. So, that’s good, then. I’ll start with a few thoughts on the movies I can wait for, but I am looking forward to watching.

Fruitvale Station (7/12)

Fruitvale Station (7/12)

Plot: The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.

I like a good bio pic and a good emotional drama, so I’m intrigued by this. It also has critics raving, so I’m hoping it’s good. I thought Michael B. Jordan is great in CHRONICLE, and I like Octavia Spencer in just about anything.

Red 2 (7/19)

Red 2 (7/19)

Plot: Retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device.

I can mostly wait for this one because I haven’t seen the first. I own it, so I’ll watch that this week or next or something, and then maybe I’ll be a bit more excited about this one. I love a good crime comedy, and the cast intrigues me.

R.I.P.D. (7/19)

R.I.P.D. (7/19)

Plot: A recently slain cop joins a team of undead police officers working for the Rest in Peace Department and tries to find the man who murdered him.

I don’t know if this will be a box office hit – but it does look very amusing. I love the first and third MIB movies, so I’m pretty intrigued by this. It looks fun, and Jeff Bridges has many great one-liners in the trailer.

The To Do List (J7/26)

The To Do List (7/26)

Plot: Feeling pressured to become more sexually experienced before she goes to college, Brandy Clark makes a list of things to accomplish before hitting campus in the fall.

This looks like a predictable comedy, but it does look very funny. I like EASY A a lot, and this seems to have similar awkward humour. I’m curious to see how Aubrey Plaza will do in her first leading lady role. (I’ve seen a few episodes of TV’s PARKS AND RECREATION and it’s just hilarious.) There are some real laugh-out loud moments in the trailer, especially Clark Gregg’s thoughts on taking the back door.

Turbo (7/17)

Turbo (7/17)

Plot: A freak accident might just help an everyday garden snail achieve his biggest dream: winning the Indy 500.

I like the voice cast and the simple thought of Ken Jeong voicing a little Asian grandma makes me giggle. This looks like DreamWorks Animation’s answer to CARS and FAST & FURIOUS, and maybe even RATATOUILLE (instead of rats and cooking, it’s snails and racing). I think the idea’s just as silly as Stuart Little playing soccer, I mean, this little snail is probably going to get run over. I think I’ll enjoy the movie a lot, regardless.

The Wolverine (7/26)

The Wolverine (7/26)

Plot: Wolverine makes a voyage to modern-day Japan, where he encounters an enemy from his past that will impact on his future.

This looks pretty cool. I’m not huge on superhero movies, but I do enjoy the X-MEN movies. I’ll have to have a marathon soon to pump up for this one a bit more. It looks good, but it could be so much better if Darren Aronofsky really did end up directing it. I guess I’m really just hoping it’s better than X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE.

Now these are the ones I’m really excited for. 

5. Pacific Rim (7/12)

5. Pacific Rim (7/12)

Plot: When an alien attack threatens the Earth’s existence, giant robots piloted by humans are deployed to fight off the menace.

I think this looks awesome. I haven’t seen any GODZILLA movies, but I like a good monster movie. And, this is monsters AND robots. Whoa. It sounds like it could be everything BATTLESHIP and TRANSFORMERS aspired to be. Lots of fun, and well-made. And Del Toro is at the helm! I might have to re-watch CLOVERFIELD and find a GODZILLA movie online this week to get a bit more excited. It seems action-packed, and frankly, I want to see the movie right now, and not just the trailer. But I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing Idris Elba shout, “Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!”

3. Only God Forgives (7/19)

4. Only God Forgives (7/19)

Plot: Julian, a drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok’s criminal underworld, sees his life get even more complicated when his mother compels him to find and kill whoever is responsible for his brother’s recent death.

I love Ryan Gosling and the director, Nicholas Winding Refn, and DRIVE is one of my favourite movies of 2011. The story intrigues me, as well. While critics haven’t exactly been praising the movie, I think it could be pretty awesome. It might be wavering my expectations ever-so-slightly, but I’m still really looking forward to it.

3. The Conjuring (7/19)

3. The Conjuring (7/19)

Plot: Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives.

I think James Wan is a fantastic director. I’ll have to watch INSIDIOUS to get a vibe of his atmospheric haunting flicks, though. This looks absolutely terrifying, and while I’ll probably be watching the movie through the my fingers, I can hardly wait. Vera Farmiga is great, too. The trailer creeps the hell out of me, and I love it. The true story edge is even spookier – so, I just want it to be July 19 already. It would be great if this will birth a Warren files franchise.

2. The Way, Way Back (7/5)

2. The Way, Way Back (7/5)

Plot: 14-year-old Duncan’s summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and his daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.

I love a good coming-of-age tale. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is my second-favourite movie of 2012. And THE DESCENDANTS is one of my favourite movies of 2011. Two of the Oscar-winning writers from that movie (Nat Faxon, supporting actor in most of the Broken Lizard movies, and Jim Rash, the Dean on TV’s COMMUNITY) co-write and direct this one. I love the cast so much. Steve Carrell as a major jerk, Sam Rockwell, Rash in a supporting role, AnnaSophia Robb, and Rob Corddry, Toni Colette and Allison Janney. Suffice to say, it sounds amazing – and I can hardly wait for this to come to my city.

1. Despicable Me 2 (7/3)

1. Despicable Me 2 (7/3)

Plot: Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help deal with a powerful new super criminal.

I love the original DESPICABLE ME 2. This sequel looks amazing and hilarious. I can hardly wait for it. I love Gru and the minions, and I think this will be a real winner with a lot of heart and some great action. And new villains, of course. This is not only my most anticipated movie of July – but it’s probably my most anticipated movie of the year. (But, I’ll have to make a list to see if that’s true. I might be a bit more excited for KICK-ASS 2.) I can’t wait to have a second helping of the minion madness, though. Anything under a score of 75 will be disappointing. I hope this is in the same league as the first.

Here’s all of the movies opening in July: http://www.imdb.com/movies-coming-soon/2013-07/