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

Advertisements

Admission (2013)

AdmissionAdmission

Release Date: March 22, 2013

Director: Paul Weitz

Stars: Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Nat Wolff

Runtime: 117 min

Tagline: Let someone in

Portia (Tina Fey) is an admissions officer at Princeton University, who swears she just isn’t a sadist who drives on saying no. She seems to be afraid of commitment and she’s a very reserved person. This year, after so many years, Princeton is now number two. In the country or worldwide, you might ask? Who knows, the screenwriter never bothers to tell us.

Anyway, she and this other admissions officer named Corinne (Gloria Reuben) go head to head for the Dean of Admissions job, but when she meets John Pressman (Paul Rudd) and a kid named Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), she must question where her priorities stand. Pressman tells Portia that Jeremiah just might be her son she gave up for adoption years ago.

Admission is a little flick all about relationships, self-sacrifice, and finding middle ground and learning it’s not all about you. The plot isn’t that good, first of all. It’s really safe and probably the most generic plot of the year thus far. It’s also rather pointless with little fairly well-formed plot points here and there. Mark (Michael Sheen), Portia’s boyfriend of ten years leaves her for another woman. Then he just keeps showing up at random moments and it really starts to get tedious. He doesn’t seem to offer much to the plot, but at least it gives Portia an excuse to use when she’s acting all moody, when she’s really being affected by finding her son. She fights for him to get into Princeton and she really seems to believe in him because he seems like some sort of prodigy with great SAT scores without taking any SAT prep classes. She also has some kind-of relationship with Paul Rudd’s character, and Rudd’s character has an adopted son who is sick and tired of travelling all over the place. Portia also has unresolved issues with her mother, Susannah (Lily Tomlin). It all seems like a lot could be going on, but at the same time, it feels like nothing is happening.

Some people who have given up a child for adoption could relate to Portia’s situation and understand that she wants to do anything for Jerimah, not being there his whole life. That’s one of the real-life emotions brought in, but that’s about it. Also, this is a bit of a commentary on how competitive schools are these days. One has to be extremely impressive to get in, and there isn’t any secret formula to getting into Princeton. In the scene where the officers are going through the best candidates, it allows for something fairly original. When they are reading the candidate, the candidate shows up in the corner, and if they get accepted, they stay put, but if they get denied, they just fall through a trapdoor. It’s a little funny. Though, this is only a tiny commentary, as the bigger plot points cloud any potential it had to prosper.

I must admit that this film’s biggest crime is that it isn’t that funny. There are chuckles throughout – like Lily Tomlin wielding a rifle – sure, but I must deny that the film has memorable laugh-out-loud moments or even any big charm. This is extremely generic and a very, very forgettable affair. When trying to even remember the funniest moments a few hours later, you might have to scratch your head for a good minute before you come up with anything. It’s fairly romantic, but it might have just worked better as a drama with some solid moments of comedy. The completely unrewarding third act forgets to make the audience laugh for a good ten minutes, as everyone’s too busy being upset and feeling sorry for themselves.

Everyone’s okay in their roles, at least. Paul Rudd is his usual self in yet another generic comedy. Tina Fey, though, has still yet to make a big splash in the movie world. Mean Girls was great, sure, but when you think of that movie, you think of Lindsay Lohan, “Raise your hand if you’ve ever been victimized by Regina George,” and “Karen, you just can’t go around asking people why they’re white,” etc.; not the writer and supporting star, Tina Fey. Though, I hope she could eventually capitalize on the big screen. She still is a huge star on the small screen, because whenever someone may say: SNL female veteran, hilarious Golden Globe host, or 30 Rock, Tina Fey is often one of the first names to come to mind. Though, she’s just okay in this, and has a few funny lines.

In a nutshell: Admission tries to have a good amount of heart. Though, it usually ends up being generic, not charming enough, sometimes bland, safe, and kind-of unrewarding in the end. It just goes along and eventually gets to the end, but a lot later than you wish it to. It isn’t easy to recommend, but if you still feel the need to see it, skip it in theaters and, like the list so many Princeton applicants get put on, waitlist it.

56/100

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

Image

 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.