Wednesday, December 26, 2012

This Is 40

Release Date: Dec 21, 2012 
Runtime: 2 hr. 14 min. 
Director: Judd Apatow 
Cast: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Megan Fox, Albert Brooks, Chris O'Dowd, Melissa McCarthy.

The saying 'misery loves company' may have been a euphemism for Judd Apatow's own mid-life descent into 40. Acting as the sort-of sequel to the hit "Knocked Up," his latest exposé shows us the many pitfalls with turning the milestone, and the strenuousness it takes to create another comic goldmine. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reunite as volatile couple, Pete and Debbie, who have all but given up on themselves. Raising unruly kids and fending off financial woes, the two are on the brink of implosion — or what some would simply call 'marriage.' Like any Apatow production, insights here aren't doled out gently, as unfiltered jokes and belligerence take on the meaning of comedy. And consequently, the film does have its moments when it's genuinely laugh-out-loud funny and not remotely contrived. But these moments are rare as they come as they're folded aimlessly into an uneven script that rises and falls like a studio-composed laugh track, set to being more of a drama than an actual comedy. Unlike "40-Year-Old" and "Knocked Up" before it, there seems to be no straight story format to follow, instead depicting a compilation of arguments and situations that belittle the characters. While Rudd and Mann both give credible performances, at the end of the day, it's their multitude of issues that effectively consume them, and make them all the less appealing. While "This Is 40" is a barely perceptible improvement over "Funny People," there could still be some hope for Apatow just yet. It may just be as producer rather than director.

Rating: 2½ stars

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Release Date: Dec 14, 2012 RealD 3D 
Runtime: 2 hr. 49 min. 
Director: Peter Jackson 
Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish.

"The Lord of the Rings" was a pivotal journey if ever there was one. Written by J.R.R. Tolkien and adapted by Peter Jackson, it amassed a following of epic proportions, while it opened a world full of fantasy and adventure that spanned over the course of an extensive trilogy. Now almost a decade later, Jackson revisits the series that catapulted his career, transporting us back to Middle Earth where it all began. Taking place before the events of "LOTR," "The Hobbit" is, foremost, a prequel. Introducing new characters, as well as carrying over old ones, it goes without saying the buildup is expectedly slow. After much long-winded ambling, it's not until the 45 minute mark that things decidedly pick up, with dangerous situations arising at every turn. Like embracing an old friend, the settings are discernibly familiar. Ranging from The Shire to Rivendell, panoramic views of Jackson's constructed world are abundantly present and overtly realistic to a certain degree. Interestingly enough, majority of the critics' negativity seem to stem from this new technology enhancement (48fps vs. 24fps), which many find to be unnecessary and frivolous. However tempting as it may be, it's usually safe to assume that 2D is the viable way to go, at least for the first go around. What matters here are the story and characters that encompass the film, even if they're not always on key. Considering "The Hobbit" is only one book on its own, the plot is prepensely stretched thin. As a result, progress is all but limited to capture and escape, a repetitious but entertaining means of advancement. In addition, "Unexpected Journey" is considerably more lighthearted than "LOTR," with humorous jabs from the Dwarves and Goblins alike. Slightly less monotonous than "The Fellowship of the Ring," "Journey" goes by fairly quickly considering the drawn out time stamp. By the end of the film, Baggins, played perfectly by Martin Freeman, optimistically proclaims that 'the worst is behind them.' But knowing Jackson and his lofty reputation, this is only the beginning of what is to come.

Rating: 3½ stars