30 March 2008

Mooney at the Movies: Run, Fatboy, Run

"You mean to tell me I made less money than 10,000 B.C., College Road Trip, AND Never Back Down?! That's worse than my blister!" (Picturehouse)

Run, Fatboy, Run (B+)

Starring Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton, Hank Azaria, Dylan Moran, Harish Patel
Written by Michael Ian Black & Simon Pegg
Directed by David Schwimmer

So Run Fatboy Run didn't do much at the box office this weekend, but that shouldn't deter you from seeing one of the year's funniest movies.

From master of sarcasm Michael Ian Black and the master of playing the lovable loser Simon Pegg comes this Brit import, already a minor hit in the UK. You've probably seen the story a dozen times before, but thanks to sharp writing and one particularly great supporting performance (Moran), the gang finds a way to make it fresh.

So that story? Basically, Dennis (Pegg) freaks out and leaves his pregnant girlfriend Libby (Newton) at the altar, then tries to win her back five years later. Alas, she's dating the nice-seeming, ridiculously wealthy and ambitious Whit (Azaria, always a great second banana).

In an effort to prove he's turned his life around, Dennis agrees to run the Nike RiverRun Marathon alongside Whit. Of course, as the titular fatboy, he's not in Hot Fuzz shape. Then again, this is England we're talking about, and fat to them is maybe 15 pounds above normal. This isn't a Jared from Subway transformation.

And through rigorous training from his landlord (Patel, who will kick him out if he doesn't finish the race), and his former almost brother-in-law (the hilarious Moran, who stands to lose hundreds of thousands of pounds sterling if he doesn't finish the race), Pegg starts to lose that gut, though not without enduring an unholy blister--which leads to one of the film's funniest scenes.

Unfortunately, Run Fatboy Run is not in the same league as Pegg's collaborations with Edgar Wright and Nick Frost, but it's still got heart and humor to spare, and it's far better than most of the dreck we get early in the year. In other words, it's a comedic delicacy. Seek it out.

27 March 2008

Mooney at the Movies: Cloverfield

So here's another movie I totally slept on. Can't believe it took me this long to see it, but here goes...

You do NOT want to see why his face is like that. (Paramount)

Cloverfield (B+)

Starring Michael Stahl-David, T.J. Miller, Jessica Lucas, Lizzy Caplan
Written by Drew Goddard
Directed by Matt Reeves

Cloverfield is one of those movies that could only be made in this decade. Thanks to cheap but high-tech cameras and YouTube, everyone's a filmmaker now. But despite being intentionally amateurish, this feels like the director is really in control.

Using the same hand-held-cam, drop-you-in-the-middle-of-hell approach used by The Blair Witch Project, only to better effect here, the cast of unknowns flees Manhattan after some nasty tremors and seeing the Statue of Liberty's severed head roll by. Captured in semi-real time, you know as little about what's happening as the cast does, which really ratchets up the tension.

In many ways, Cloverfield has a lot more in common with The Blair Witch Project than say, Godzilla, but that's certainly no dis. Whereas the panic and terror of the lost bunch of twentysomethings never really caught on in Blair, this flick really captures the uncertainty of these unlucky few. (There's a scene inside a subway tunnel that'll certainly give you the willies.)

Though it's not as good as last year's South Korean import The Host (which, to be fair, had a lot more going on than Cloverfield), this is still an inventive and frightening thriller. I can't wait to see what director Matt Reeves does for a follow-up.

One final word: this is the last I ever want to see of the "shakycam." Ever.

22 March 2008

Mooney at the Movies: Vantage Point

"Tell me why I haven't been nominated for an Oscar yet!" (Columbia)

Vantage Point (B+)

Starring Dennis Quaid, William Hurt, Matthew Fox, Forest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver
Written by Barry Levy
Directed by Pete Travis

I'm beginning to think that the Bourne series was definitely one of the most influential movies of the last decade. It's easy to see when EVERY action movie since tries to imitate it.

And imitate it Vantage Point does, which is not necessarily a bad thing. If a movie manages to be both entertaining and make a point or two about our current state of fear and espionage, that's a movie worth seeing.

While not as profound as, say, The Kingdom, Vantage Point still manages to create a highly realistic, and therefore terrifying setup: At an international terrorism summit in Spain, the President of the United States (William Hurt) is shot.

From this jumping point, we see it played out from 8 different perspectives, from the compelling and tense (Dennis Quaid), to the interesting but unnecessary (Forest Whitaker). There's obviously a few too many storylines here. Honestly, about the sixth or seventh time the screen freezes, rewinds, and fades to black to hear the clock strike twelve noon and follow a different character, the audience will be collectively groaning.

That being said, Vantage Point still manages to be one of the most entertaining action pictures of recent memory. Dennis Quaid's car chase is absolutely exhilarating, and it's obvious that Travis was a Paul Greengrass protegé; he's got his sense of creating tension and realism that made the last two Bourne pictures so outstanding.

Overall, despite some predictability and clichés, Vantage Point is highly entertaining, and that's the best way to look at it.