Weekend Warrior: Captain America and Friends With Benefits

Captain America: The First Avenger
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Written by: Christopher Markus / Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Evans / Hugo Weaving / Stanley Tucci

The Consensus: With a 71% from Rotten Tomatoes, and a 67 from Meta Critic, Captain America is barely in the critical lead over it’s romantic opponent. This is the last Marvel film that leads up to Joss Whedon’s highly anticipated The Avengers in 2012, and the “first avenger” enlisted. Chris Evans stars, and it looks like a fun serial like the ones your pop used to watch in the good ol’ days.

Negative Take:

Ever feel as if this is a Marvel Cinematic Universe and we’re just living in it? If you’ve sought out comic-book-action thrills at the multiplex over the past few years, then you know what I’m talking about. And you also already know that Captain America: The First Avenger, for all its nostalgia-hued fun, is essentially just a set-up.

Jennie Punter (The Globe and Mail)

Positive Take:

Finally, a superhero worth rooting for.

With its mix of World War II nostalgia, Bam-Pow comic book sensibilities, underdog determination and red-white-and-blue battle scenes, “Captain America: The First Avenger” is the best Marvel superhero flick since the first “Iron Man.”

Tom Long (Detroit News)

Friends With Benefits
Directed by: Will Gluck
Written by: Will Gluck / Keith Merryman / David A. Newman / Harley Peyton
Starring: Mila Kunis / Justin Timberlake / Patricia Clarkson

The Consensus: Similarly, Friends With Benefits has a 70% from Rotten Tomatoes and a 62 from Meta Critic. It’s unfortunate that it’s being released after previous films that share a similar story (No Strings Attached, etc.). While the chemistry looks better in this film, and the cast is superior, this will probably hurt at the box office this weekend.

Negative Take:

Like true love, or even the pace of casual hookups, Friends With Benefits does not follow a smooth course. But the fault does not lie with its likable stars. It’s an uneven comedy that takes full advantage of the charm and palpable chemistry between Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis.

Claudia Pulg (USA Today)

Positive Take:

The jokes don’t all work and the topical references can be irritably hipper-than-thou, but at least director and cowriter Will Gluck (Easy A) aims high: this is patterned on the Tracy and Hepburn comedies, albeit with a lot more skin.

Andrea Gronvall (Chicago Reader)

Let us know what YOU thought in the comments below.






Weekend Warrior

Friday’s coming, and we all know what that means: More movies coming to your local theater.

Writing about which movies to watch / avoid each weekend can be a frightfully dull exercise in the mundane, so let’s spice this sucker up. Each week there will be a post about the new movies on the block, and why you should rent something else instead of watching it.*

In Theaters: Takers
Skip It: It has Hayden Christensen.

On DVD: Ocean’s 11
Watch It: We’ve all seen Soderbergh’s version, so why not watch the original for a change? You can’t go wrong with the Rat Pack.

In Theaters: The Last Exorcism
Skip It:  I’m tired of all these generic Romcoms in theaters these days.

On DVD: Annie Hall
Watch It: Back in the day, comedies didn’t have to JUST be banal attempts at humor. You could have a good story AND humor. Whoa, right?

* Some opinions voiced in this post should possibly definitely maybe not be taken seriously.

NetFlix Update

1. Dracula: Dead and Loving It (Dir. Mel Brooks)

Why Did You Pick That?

I’ve been wanting to watch more of Mel Brooks’ lesser-known films, and the serious/comedy ratio is far in favor of serious at the moment.

2. Pi (Dir. Darren Aronofsky)

Why Did You Pick That?

I’ve seen all of Aronofsky’s films except for this one.

3. My Kid Could Paint That (Dir. Amir Bar-Lev)

Why Did You Pick That?

I’ve been interested in it for a while, but Jeffrey Overstreet’s recent post about the film bumped it to the top of me queue.

NaFF: Days 1-2

Left campus after class for the 2008 Nashville Film Festival. We got there when they were setting up the red carpet. After half an hour or so people started walking the carpet, including William H. Macy. Came within hand-shaking distance before the paparazzi swarmed in. A neat experience, but overrated.

Afterwards we saw our first film, The Deal, which was directed by Steven Schachter and starring William H. Macy and Meg Ryan. It was a pretty enjoyable dark comedy/romance about a depressed producer who decides to shake up the business. The director and Macy were available for a Q&A session after the film, which was good but too short.


The next day, Friday, we went to an awesome panel discussion about “The State of the Critic”. The panelists  were Jim Ridley, Joe Leydon, Scott Foundas, and Steven Gaydos. One of the first things mentioned was that with the different ways of critiquing films, we are in a transitional state for film criticism.

Steven Gaydos made an interesting comment that newspaper editors are a major problem. If you review crap films, people will primarily only watch crap films. They create a level of stupidity. Jim Ridley responded by saying, “It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Joe Leydon observed that the online community, for the most part, is there “for the love of art”, not getting paid. Movie sites are niche, not for general  interest like newspapers are.

The second film that I watched was a fascinating documentary called American Teen, where the lives of a group of high school seniors were followed as they finished up their last year. I thought it was really well done, but it raised a lot of questions in my mind about how documentaries like this are made: Are the subjects too self-conscious, making it more of a self-fulfilling prophecy than a documentary? How do they get the shots that they do? How much is actual footage and how much is reenactments?


The last film we saw on Friday was a peculiar Swedish film called You, the Living. It was very episodic with many different stories, some of which briefly overlapped. The humor in the film is very subtle, and I like how the director makes you look around for it. He completely challenged every conception I have about humor. Laughter is confusingly complex.


Review: Intolerable Cruelty

(The Nashville Film Festival was a blast. I’m pretty busy at the moment, but will be posting about the experience soon.)

Movie Zeal has been chronologically reviewing the Coen Brothers films for the last month, and asked me to write up a review for Intolerable Cruelty. Be sure to check our the rest of their reviews.

Intolerable Cruelty

Intolerable Cruelty is one of the Coens more commercial films and is seemingly underrated. I think this is largely due to the script actually being written by three other writers, not the Coens themselves. Miles Massey (George Clooney) is a well-established divorce attorney. He even has a marriage contract named after him: The “Massey pre-nup”, which is reportedly impenetrable. At the top of his game, Massey is bored with his job and accomplishments. He is also smitten by the foxy Marylin Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who is in the process of divorcing her husband in the hopes of acquiring a hefty alimony. Massey has been hired by Marylin’s train-loving husband (Edward Herrmann) to represent him. When all is said and done, will these two opposites attract or repel?

The film is a dark romantic comedy and deals with such themes as love, revenge, and ultimately, power. The characters in Intolerable Cruelty are perfectly cast. George Clooney, channeling Cary Grant, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, the femme fatale, have a dynamic on-screen chemistry from day one. Clooney’s character is also similar to the character he plays in the Coens’ O Brother Where Art Thou? In that film, Everett is obsessed with his hair, and in this one, Miles Massey is obsessed with his teeth. In one interview, Clooney claimed his characters in these two films are part of the “Idiot trilogy”, which will conclude with Hail Caesar (a new project from the Coen Brothers, now in pre-production).

Even the supporting characters are played well, with great performances from Geoffrey Rush, Cedric the Entertainer, Paul Adelstein, Billy Bob Thornton, Edward Herrmann, and Richard Jenkins. Each character is unique and contributes to the overall story. Intolerable Cruelty is a step back to the older screwball comedies where Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, and especially Cary Grant reigned. It’s witty and intelligent, while at the same time being off-the-wall with a dark dash of the Coens tossed into the mix. Although the script is written by other writers, there is still a clear Coen feel throughout the film, especially with the opening scene and Wheezy Joe.

There are times in the film when the Coens seem to rely too heavily on plot devices to move the story forward, but it ends up being an enjoyable film, one that I enjoy watching again and again.

Originally posted at Movie Zeal.