Movie Review Catch-up

I’ve cooled off on writing movie reviews lately, in part because I wrote up 28 movies in 10 days about a month ago, in part because I’ve been wanting to use this blog for more than just movie reviews. So I’ve let a few 2008 releases that I’ve seen pass without reviews, but still have the desire to get my opinion of them on he record. In some cases, enough time has passed since I last saw the film that I couldn’t hope to write a full review, so here’s four mini-reviews on some 2008 movies that may be of interest.

Read on for reviews of:
Baby Mama (2008) 
Burn After Reading (2008) 
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) 
Pineapple Express (2008) 

Baby Mama (2008) 

Starring: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear, Dax Shepard, Romany Malco, Steve Martin, Maura Tierney, Holland Taylor, Sigourney Weaver

Directed by: Michael McCullers

I didn’t catch this in theatres, instead waiting until I saw it on DVD last night, and I’m glad I waited. If I’d have spent an evening out seeing this on the big screen, I probably would have only focused on its flaws. Despite the talent of its performers, Baby Mama devolves into a standard-issue romantic comedy, playing it safe when it should have been taking chances to be an edgier comedy. But as a quiet Saturday night rental? Not bad. The charms of leads Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in this lightly-comic romp are fairly welcome, leading to a pleasant experience. Despite its ultimate predictability, there are some nice gags in here, with Fey serving as an amiable lead. Here’s hoping she and Poehler gets some material more deserving of their talents in the future.


Burn After Reading (2008) 

Starring: George Clooney, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, J.K. Simmons

Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen

Burn After Reading is a lark for everyone involved, who all seem to be having a lot of fun parodying themselves. Brad Pitt is the standout as the good-looking doofus that he used to play earlier in his career (a la True Lies), John Malkovich is doing his over-annunciating intense guy thing (a la Being John Malkovich) , Frances McDormand plays a version of the quirky busybodies she generally plays, Tilda Swinton riffs off of her ice queen image, while George Clooney has some fun with his ageing playboy image with a quirky comedic role similar to the other Coen brothers movies he’s done (a la Intolerable Cruelity). As for the Coens themselves, they deliver yet another film featuring characters of limited intelligence getting themselves into a jam in the pursuit of ill-advised money, this time seemingly parodying their last film (No Country for Old Men) with another abrupt ending that messes with audience expectations. It’s an entertaining affair, but you get the sense that the cast is having more fun than the audience, with a movie that is comic in tone, but lacking punchlines. Also, you get the distinct impression that Joel and Ethan are fucking with us a bit, so I can understand any resentment that might come from other viewers. For me, the film was just okay. There was some definitely entertaining moments, but overall, it felt like minor Coens.


Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) 

Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Luke Goss, Seth MacFarlane, Anna Walton, Brian Steele, John Hurt

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

The sequel to 2004’s Hellboy is in many ways the more accomplished film. Guillermo del Toro has increased his cachet since that film, and seemingly used The Golden Army to prove it. The result is a film with some wonderfully imaginative sequences, owing to the influence of George Lucas and Frank Oz as much as it does creator Hellboy Mike Mignola. The problem is that along with the positive of creating a Cantina-like atmosphere under the Brooklyn Bridge, del Toro also seemed to adopt George Lucas’ knack for empty special effects sequences that view things like characters and story as secondary to the ability of filling the frame with as many bells and whistles as possible. The film was impressive at times, but significantly less fun than the previous film. Hmmm…. maybe I should’ve named this post “Movie Review Catch-up: Ambivalence Edition”.


Pineapple Express (2008) 

Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Gary Cole, Rosie Perez, Danny R. McBride, Craig Robinson, Amber Heard, Kevin Corrigan, Ed Begley Jr.

Directed by: David Gordon Green

That ambivalence extends to Pineapple Express, although of the four movies reviewed here, I’d say that I enjoyed it the most. For the most part, this stoner action-comedy achieves what it sets out to do, with some uproariously funny scenes and action pieces that uniquely show what it would be like if a couple stoner dudes suddenly became action heroes (hint: it ain’t pretty). Unfortunately, while it delivers the laughs and excitement you’d expect, it does so infrequently enough that the film is a bit of a disappointment. Excessive length has always been a complaint about Judd Apatow productions, but this is the first time where I really felt that the film was hurt by a lack of editing, as stretches of the film serve little purpose. Secondary plots are underdeveloped and are needless distractions (particularly with the Amber Heard character, despite the laughs Ed Begley Jr adds within the subplot), serving to expose the film as an underdeveloped edition of the now-standard Apatow formula. I’d still say that I was mostly entertained by the feature, so it did its job in that respect, but don’t have any desire to watch it again, which is a first for a non-Ferrell, non-Sandler Apatow film.


3 thoughts on “Movie Review Catch-up

  1. The middle of the road scores are probably the main reason why I didn’t bother giving any of these full reviews.

    Also, the reviewer of which you speak would have given out higher scores.

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