The Kings of Summer (2013)

Kings of SummerRelease Date: June 7, 2013Director: Jordan Vogt-RobertsStars: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises AriasRuntime: 95 min.

Coming-of-age movies are such a commonplace in cinema, so it’s a good thing I enjoy them. These types of films are usually great, like most of John Hughes’ filmography, or “The Perks of Being A Wallflower“. These types of movies usually have an indie charm about them, and “The Kings of Summer” is more than charming.

Films like this only have so many things to rely on: acting, characters, story, how well the genre is executed; so that is one thing that sets this apart from something like a movie with a huge budget. “Kings” hits all of those aspects on the head, and then some.

The story follows Joe Toy (Nick Robinson), a fifteen year-old who is suffocated because his father (Nick Offerman) is a big ole jerk who isn’t easy to be around. His best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) feels so overwhelmed by his parents’ overbearing tendencies, that he is actually getting hives. The two of them, along with Biaggio (Moises Arias), decide to spend their summer in the woods building a house and living off the land, in the ultimate act of independence. Here, they are able to make their own rules and be free.

The messages in this film are strong. It shows that their lives are going to change soon whether they like it or not, as they take on more responsibility. It’s not a step, or rite of passage, that is easy to take. grow up. These kids are so willing to grow up, because they want to taste independence and be the so-called kings of their own lives; but little do they know, being a kid rocks and being an adult is going to suck.

It also expresses that family and friendship isn’t one thing someone should ignore. The family bond and loyalty lies deep, and even though one’s parents might either seem like miserable jerks (Offerman) or crazy overbearing kooks (Patrick’s parents, Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson) they love you deep down and they’re only trying their best. They might not be doing the best job, but kids should go easier on parents. And since Offerman’s Frank is a widow, he has to try much harder – it would deem difficult.

The happiest of crew families.

The happiest of crew families.

The ways the writer, newcomer Chris Galletta, tests the bond of friendship between the three boys is smart and experienced. These pivotal moments aren’t forced and they feel natural in the way they happen. It is also the moment where Robinson and Basso show some real talent. The emotional punch might not be enough to make the audience cry, but it’s powerful.

Since the story is so unique, it makes the experience feel fresh. There’s enough heart warming moments, charm and hilarity to make this a worthwhile watch. An over-the-top fantasy sequence is one of the movie’s funniest moments, and there’s witty humour throughout. Offerman shines with his sarcastic comic delivery. Even in the most serious of situations, he isn’t afraid to make a joke. Alison Brie has a forgettable supporting role. Erin Moriarty (“The Watch“) has some fun with the guys.

This directorial debut from Jordan Vogt-Roberts is one for the record books, as he creates a fantastic tone and some visually compelling scenes, so kudos to cinematographer Ross Riege, as well. Some songs fit what’s going on in the film like a glove, in amusing ways.

Arias is hysterical as the film’s scene-stealing Biaggio. He is eccentric and so unpredictable that it makes for one of the funniest characters of the year. The loyalty of the character brings me to believe that he would be a great friend to have. He’s insane, but so amusing. Arias experiences one heck of a break-out role, much like Christopher Mintz-Plasse of “Superbad”. I never thought I’d see the day where Moises Arias, Rico from TV’s “Hannah Montana”, would be the best part of a great comedy. But he is, and it just shows that the right character can make an actor shine.

There is little wrong with the film, at least in a major way. Maybe it’s too short. Maybe Robinson’s beard looks weird. But there’s a lot of high-quality content going on-screen; from the witty humour (among many other things) to the set design. The house built out of stolen goods and material from the woods is the stuff of a fifteen year-old boy’s imagination. Many young teens think about making an awesome house like that, but these boys actually do it. No rent; no rules. Count me in.

Score83/100

Pitch Perfect (2012)


Pitch Perfect

Release Date: October 5, 2012

Director: Jason Moore

Stars: Anna Kendrick, Britany Snow, Rebel Wilson

Runtime: 112 min

Tagline: Get Pitch Slapped

TV Director Jason Moore (Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill) brings his talent to the big screen with Pitch Perfect, a great music comedy.

Beca (Anna Kendrick) is an aspiring Disc Jockey, who gets forced by her father to attend college before following her dreams in Los Angeles. She ends up attending Barden University, where she soon joins the school’s all-girl a capella singing group, The Bellas. She knows that they sound beautiful together, but the (ever-so A-ca-clichéd) leader of the group, Aubrey (Anna Camp), doesn’t like to stray away from her set design, or really try anything new for that matter. Beca just may be the one to change the Bellas for the better by adding energy and pizaz to the group, help them out in the competition, and make a few friendships in the process.

Going into this film, I really didn’t know what to expect. It seemed that it had pretty sweet reception, so I guess I expected it to be a little good. It’s probably one of the last films I’d see in theatres right about now, but I saw it. And you know what, I enjoyed it a little more than I’d like to admit. It’s actually rather fun, and the hot girls help a lot, too.

In the cinema world, this is all fairly original. It’s a lot predictable, but that doesn’t keep it from being enjoyable. The pay-off is pretty great. The same premise of all those competitive dance and cheerleading films is offered here. So, in that way, it feels like the atmosphere of some Bring it On flick. The romance part of it all is offered, too. It isn’t exactly the most original atmosphere, because we’ve felt it all before. What sets this film apart is that it isn’t dancing or cheerleading (obviously), it’s singing. And I can’t really recall another film that the premise was a singing competition.* I say in the cinema world, that’s a pretty darn original concept; but in the general popular cultural world, this feels reminiscent of TV’s Glee. That’s just all the music and stuff, but this does have the tendency to feel fairly fresh and new.

*Side Note: Can you guys?

The music is really great, and a soundtrack that would be really cool to add to a collection of any sort. There’s a nice mash of rock and pop and rap, and practically whatever else. There’s catchy tunes of all sorts, which really makes the film lots of fun.

The only flaws that were presented is that it could just get really predictable, and in some scenes I just felt a little worn out.

I usually really hate boy bands, but the main rival singing group of the Bellas, The Trouble Makers, is actually pretty good.

All of the characters are actually rather good and mostly likeable. Beca is really reserved, so when she breaks out of her tender shell, it’s great. Some are really annoying, but in the end, a lot of them have changes of heart. I liked the characters, and I could only count the ones that I didn’t like on one hand. There are scene stealers all over the place. Without surprise, Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy is the largest (oops, no pun intended) scene stealer, and she brings that same comedic timing as she did in Bridesmaids. You’re going to be have to be with a name like that, anyway. Some other scene stealers include Lilly, the quiet Asian girl whose eyes make her look a little like that really creepy chick from the trailers of Frankenweenie. Also, the surprise appearance by Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad) and his character’s larger friend, Justin, just make a perfect team. The great thing is that every character is developed, and they all get their chances to shine at some point in the film.

At points the film does get pretty ridiculous and strange, especially when the group initiations are happening for that one scene, or like the oddball, yet hilarious, announcers for the singing competition (played by John Michael Higgins, and Elizabeth Banks [who also helped produce the film]). Like I said in my previous sentence, it’s pretty strange. Strangely entertaining, that is. The atmosphere isn’t something all that special, but it’s the characters, music, Anna Kendrick, and mostly because I didn’t have a ride home, that convinced me stay until the very end. Something Anna Kendrick’s character doesn’t like to do.* The comedy that is offered can be a little too spaced-out for my liking, but when the jokes are made, they can hit pretty hard.

*Side Note: Sheesh. I really don’t understand how some people don’t stay until the very end. That’s usually the best part!

The song mash-ups and set designs and all that are really nice and fun, and something to tap one’s foot to. The wardrobe is okay, because the Bellas’ uniform is that of a practical flight attendent. During the auditions, the filmmakers put them all together so they’re all singing the song. It’s really cool and funny; it’s something I’ve seen on American Idol (or any other singing show) before, but it’s cool to see it in a film.

Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp, Skylar Astin, Ben Platt, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, Kelly Jakle, Alexis Knapp and Adam Devine star in Pitch Perfect.

Pitch Perfect offers a fun experience that is worth the look. It has great music, a pretty good plot, great characters, a great ensemble, and there’s just a lot of things to love about this one. It’s entertaining, and my have flaws because of its wicked predictability, but that doesn’t stop this film from being a foot-tapping crowd pleaser.

80/100

Project X (2012)

 

Project X

Release Date: March 2, 2012

Director: Nima Nourizadeh

Stars: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown

Runtime: 88 min

Tagline: The Party You’ve Only Dreamed About

 

An extremely poor and stupid film that is used as commercialism for teen partying.

I’m one for the subgenre of “found footage” films, but when that format is used for a teen comedy, it gets a little silly. I like it for horror films and it even worked well for the disturbing super power film, Chronicle, but this just looks like a poorly made home movie. It’s starting to be an excuse for amateur directors to make a film that ultimately looks sloppy and home made and Project X is Exhibit A.

So, the idiotic plot goes like this: a trio of high school boys (Thomas, Costa and J.B.) throw a party of a lifetime in an attempt to get themselves known. When word of the party spreads, more and more people show up and things begin to gradually get crazier.

For what it’s supposed to be, a mindless party film with no attempt at character development and it just tries hard to convince the viewer that they’re having a good time, it’s good;  but other than that, it’s just pretty horrible. The plot is stupid, there’s hardly any character development, the acting isn’t very good, I really didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

I don’t really like to party (that being said, maybe I couldn’t appreciate it as much as someone would if they actually did party), so I found it a little tiring to watch. It’s worth one laugh-out-loud moment, a few chuckles here and there, and many topless girls dancing around, but that’s really all that it’s worth. It isn’t exactly worth the eighty seven minutes and nineteen dollars I spent with the thing. To some, it’s satisfying enough but to me it left me a little unsatisfied.

The characters of Superbad are sort of revisited here (even though the body weights are inaccurate): Thomas best represents Evan and Costa best represents Seth. The difference between these characters? Those of Superbad are well-developed, pretty likeable, and actually really funny; while these are annoying on a whole new level and can be painfully unfunny.

This film makes me think of a similar concept as watching sports on television, would you rather watch others having a wicked time partying like carefree teenagers at one great party, or actually have the good time yourself?

It’s a simple little film for teenagers and young adults that a lot of people will enjoy (judging by its box office earnings), or be disappointed by, like me. It’s too hyped up, and it couldn’t give me the good time that it seemed to promise. So just expect a simple film going into this, or just expect nothing and you might like it but you might not. If you’re looking for Oscar gold or solid performances or solid character development or a game changing plot, avoid it. A film that just didn’t quite yank on my funny bone enough, but it might yank on yours – so give it a shot if you’re really interested and you think this might be funny, but I didn’t think it was at all. Unfortunately, the worst comedy I’ve seen in 2012 so far.

Will this film stick out in my memory as a stupid party film that portrays just how ridiculous, insane and reckless my generation can be? Heck yeah!

The more important question: will it stick out in my memory as a great, groundbreaking comedy that should be treasured? Not in this lifetime, Sugar Tits.

30/100

21 Jump Street (2012)

 21 Jump Street

Release Date: March 16, 2012

Director: Phil Lord and Chris Miller

Stars: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube

Runtime: 109 min

Tagline: The only thing getting blown tonight is their cover.

  Schmidt and Jenko are two new young looking police officers, whose boss feels that they don’t have what it takes to be on that force. He then transfers them to 21 Jump Street, a task force made for young looking cops to infiltrate crime rings, and Schmidt and Jenko are going to have to go back to high school and take down a drug ring.

 It’s actually a really funny film, and does a really great job of keeping comedic momentum. Some of it can get pretty silly, but I really enjoyed the film – as it had great comedy and pretty sweet action sequences. The only thing I disliked about it a little is how it took a turn for the predictable at times, but only on a few occasions – and other than that it was very great.

The whole cast is really just a great ensemble, and they each bring something special to the film. I didn’t think Tatum could be this funny, and he surprised me in this. Hill is also one of my favourite young comedy actors.

This film stars Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Dave Franco, Ice Cube, Brie Larson, Rob Riggle and Ellie Kemper.

It’s one of the greatest comedy films of this year, one of my general favourite comedies, and the best action comedy mash-up I have seen this year. It’s in the same league as comedy film greats such as The Hangover and Superbad. 

90/100

Review written on: August 4, 2012 by Daniel Prinn