TBT: 50 First Dates (2004)

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Tragically, yet another Drew Sandler-Adam Barrymore film is debuting this coming weekend — I don’t know, something called Blended, and to help celebrate this simply FABULOUS event. . . . (he says, with the entire jar of sarcasm spilled out all over the table). . . I am throwing it back to 2004, to a time when the two were reunited for their second go-around in a rom-com (bonus points go to the commenter with the other film they are in). This movie I do have to admit to enjoying on some level roughly approaching loving. I know, I know. I know what this means. Well, I don’t know, actually. . .because I have assumed my little laminated Film Critic Card was revoked the day I started this theme for TBT! So I basically have no apologies at this point. I’ll just come right out and say it. One of my guilty pleasure films is definitely

Today’s food for thought: 50 First Dates

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Release: February 13, 2004

[DVD]

Adam Sandler has gotten into this very nasty habit of recycling his old friends in his movies. It’s almost as if a phone call is made to each and every one of them — including the Rob Schneiders, the Kevin Nealons, the Allen Coverts — within days of their latest outing being released to international audiences. The phone call probably goes a little something like:

“Hey, you assholes wanna go do that again? Aright, sick! Just come up with another cool, exotic location and we’ll do it; I’ll stuff my egg-shaped head in my private jet and pick ya’ll up on my way. By the way, you’ve still got that really funny-looking penis, right? Okay, alright. Awesome. We’re going to rely on that as our running gag for this next movie. Shut up. It’ll work. Trust me.”

Quite frankly I’d be excited to be receiving that phone call if I were any of those names just mentioned. The one thing about working with a guy like Adam Sandler is you really can’t complain about the job security. He’ll keep you in business, but unfortunately and in no small way ironically, that would be to your career’s detriment in all likelihood.  He’s comfortable magnetizing the same names again and again because that’s exactly what it is: comfortable. While that’s a strategy not likely to benefit Sandler’s acting range, it’s one that has actually produced the odd one or two little charmers.

50 First Dates was a good example of a final product reaping modest benefits of Sandler’s almost defiant conditions of labor. The cast is one that catches sparks, though it never catches fire; and while the contents aren’t anything a Monday-through-Friday Adam Sandler hater would ever bat an eyelid at, it’s with a great sense of relativism when I say you could do a lot worse than when Henry met Lucy.

Henry Roth, the man apparently no woman can resist (what a joke that is!) had stumbled across someone who he considered the woman of his dreams in the totally, amazingly, ridiculously, stupendously romantic locale of Hawaii. One morning while grabbing breakfast at a local diner on one of the main islands, Henry spotted a cute blonde girl sitting alone, and decided to approach her. An employee at the diner cautioned him, informing him she suffered from chronic short-term memory loss following a terrible car accident years back. Henry found himself too smitten to listen, though, and proceeded to do everything in his power to help Lucy remember who he was. The resultant pursuit of love wound up far more interesting than it had any right to be, even as all the jokes still appeared to attend the same old Sandler school of the scatological.

Life lessons are, naturally, in abundance in Adam Sandler flicks. Let’s see all the ways in which I can twist the plot of this one into suiting my blog’s own selfish needs, shall we:

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    Life’s full of tough choices. If it comes down to playing a trick on a really fat, heavily-tattooed bartender, or playing one on an innocent, sweet little girl with memory loss, pick which one will make you the lesser asshole of the two.

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    Variety is the spice of life. Tired of the bar scene as a place to pick up girls? Try faking a breakdown, with only a cute little penguin as your road buddy, as an attempt to flirt with potential female passers-by. If this doesn’t work, you could always fake your own kidnapping by hogtying yourself up in the back of your truck. That might be overreaching, though. . .

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    Is today a shirtless day? Or is it a mesh-shirt day? Sometimes it’s f**king impossible to make the decision. Life really is difficult sometimes. Especially if you live in Hawaii.

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    Hey man, if aquariums make you super-horny, then aquariums make you super-horny. Often, life requires no further explanation or conditions other than what’s obvious. Some people are just touched in the head.

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    Life demands you ingest the advice of your elders. With time comes experience, so if you have the legendary Dan Aykroyd in your face telling you your movie needs more ghosts to be busted in it, then by god you should listen. Too bad the advice here falls on deaf ears. . . .

3-0Recommendation: 50 First Dates narrowly avoids being lumped in with the rest of Sandler’s monotonous schlub-fests as it pays attention to something fairly important: chemistry between it’s two leads. Of course, this particular film banks on the fact that Sandler and Barrymore have that already established. Even still, it remains routinely funny, occasionally vulgar and always cliched and predictable viewing that offends the palate far less often than many other Sandler offerings. 50 First Dates is a film with a beguiling charm, if only because it relies on the strength of two actors who have done the very same thing years before.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 99 mins.

Quoted: “Sometimes I wish my wife had Goldfield Syndrome. That way she wouldn’t remember last night when I called her mother a loud, obnoxious drunk with a face like J. Edgar Hoover’s ass. . .”

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Photo credits: google images 

TBT: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

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I love the TBT of this week. Few contemporary flicks seem to really be able to pull off the right amount of raunchiness and sentimentality. Most end up being too much of one or the other, which isn’t to dismiss them as ‘bad’ films, per se, but it just seems a large number of films in the rom-com genre favor sensation over sensibility. In other words, rom-coms typically are forgettable experiences. But when these kinds of films err on the side of being more ‘sensible’ — in terms of actually caring about the plights of their characters and finding a satisfactory conclusion for him/her/them — an entirely new experience emerges and we get movies that make us think twice about things.

Today’s food for thought: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

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Release: April 18, 2008

[DVD]

Poor Peter. He’s just been dumped by his Red Carpet-worthy girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) — the star of a raunchy and ridiculous murder-mystery T.V. series, Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime. At first, Peter (Jason Segel) shows some sense of emotional fortitude when he first hears the news from her when he claims he wants to hear what her reasons are and what he can do to make her stay. Then he becomes naked and everything falls to pieces when he learns of the real reason — “the other guy” reason — and thus, the opening shot of the film.

Segel goes from starring in hit T.V. shows to writing his first (hit) film with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a romantic comedy that tells of a man who’s just been heartbroken and doesn’t see any point in trying to date again anytime soon. . . that is, until the next amazing girl (Mila Kunis) walks into his life and changes his outlook for the better, forever.

In his devastated state, Peter strikes out to find happiness (if it exists) elsewhere. After embarrassing himself at a club one night, he finally goes to Hawaii to shake off the gloominess, and hey — what are the odds! Sarah is vacationing on the same island with her new boy-toy. He immediately wants to leave but then realizes that would make it seem like he’s running away from her, so stubbornly he decides to stay put even when he catches her fooling around with the other guy more than a few times. Just when things seem to be as depressing as they’ve ever been, Peter slowly starts to make friends with some of the locals, including the gorgeous woman who works the front desk at the hotel in which he’s staying. His misery has become so public that she offers him the most expensive suite in the building, a room typically reserved for “people like Celine Dion and Oprah,” and says that he can stay there so long as he cleans up after himself. Clearly it is a gesture out of pity. Peter awkwardly obliges.

However, the longer he stays around the island, the more he finds himself truly connecting with this new girl, Rachael (Mila Kunis), and it’s not long before he finds himself falling for her. She’s cautious about Peter’s forthcoming interest since her past is not exactly free from complications, despite the fact that she lives on the incredible Hawaiian beachfront. Regardless of circumstances — in fact, part of the intrigue here is that maybe it’s in spite of them — the two form a friendship that ends up going much deeper and is one that’s genuinely romantic and believable. There’s a great chemistry between the two actors that should and could afford them more opportunities to work on other projects together in the future.

Perfectly satisfying on most levels, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is both sweet and painfully funny, in equal doses. It has a host of funny supporting roles, the most memorable of which belongs to Russell Brand, as he introduces a character which would end up spanning a couple of films (Get Him To The Greek being the other). His loose-cannon, sex-obsessed and incredibly egotistical Aldous Snow is incidentally the one Miss Marshall cheated on Peter with. Jack McBrayer plays a man unsure of his recent decision to get married; his wife (Maria Thayer), however, is obsessed with him and the two form a highly uncomfortable pair that is both hilarious and somewhat disturbing to watch. They represent something of an anomaly when it comes to thinking how newlyweds might behave on honeymoon. . . in Hawaii. . .

Predictable as it may be, the film is successful in rising above the deep, trope-filled waters of the rom-com genre by providing a sharp, witty script, affable characters in Peter and Rachael, and gorgeous settings. That, and a very strange, albeit memorable, ending. For a first-time writer cred, Segel’s name could be attached to much, much worse. This movie, and later his writing of The Muppets, seem to be the promising beginnings of a career in film writing for the man as well.

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3-5Recommendation: For those who haven’t already checked this out, it’s practically a must-see (if you are into the romantic-comedy, that is. . . this likely won’t change your mind if you’re firmly opposed). Segel and Kunis offer great laughs and some heartwarming moments together, and the supporting cast is very capable as well. One of 2008’s best comedies.

Rated: R

Running Time: 118 mins.

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Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com 

The Descendants

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Release: Friday, December 9, 2011

[Redbox]

How the Oscars chose a black-and-white film over this now seems absurd. Old-school film noir is a pretentiously nostalgic stance to take when approaching the 84th presentation of the Oscars. When it became clear that taking such risk would eventually merit a Best Picture, The Descendants, then, quickly and unfortunately descended into a stack of lesser (though still quality) DVDs-to-be. (It also did go on to win Best Adapted Screenplay, from the novel of the same name penned by Kaui Hart Hemmings, which was a thoughtful acknowledgement.)

“Don’t be fooled by appearances. In Hawaii some of the most powerful people look like bums and stuntmen.”

That line effloresces the casual motif presented in The Descendants. What a nourishing experience; an intelligent and humane bit of film roll doled out to us upon a serene Pacific palate. Though for all the beauty of the locale, it’d be an idea to keep a tissue handy, as well.

George Clooney stars as Matt King, a rather wealthy if not detached Honolulu resident with a large stake in his family’s land inheritance — 25,000 acres of unspoiled Kaua’i utopia. It’s a perfect backdrop to serve against such a dramatic and heartfelt story about a middle-aged man coming to terms with some of life’s more unappealing offerings. King is married and a father of two rambunctious daughters, but as Clooney eloquently states in the narrative that whisks us into the story, appearances are nothing what they seem.

King’s life is a summation of lawyering and land-holding, of biding time at the office and not so much on sunset-dappled beach walks or with his kids. That’s until the day of Elizabeth’s boating accident, where she “hit her head a bit too hard,” as Matt reassuringly tells friends and family time and again. But here’s how this movie and, though I hate to bring up the cliche, life works: nothing’s certain. In fact what’s certain is its unpredictability. We’ve got that in spades during the course of this exotic adventure of finding truth and clarity, and ultimately, forgiveness in times of such despair and tragedy.

There’s yet another link in the chain of unfortunate events when 17-year-old daughter Alex (excellently portrayed by Shailene Woodley) admits that mom’s infidelity was the source of their quarreling. Understandably enraged by the fact that he’s having to learn that his love life was not without flaw and also that his daughter has to be the filter for such information, King embarks on a journey, determined to find the man responsible for wrecking things. Inexplicably, he’s also going to give the guy a chance to say goodbye to his summer fling, for good.

Along the way virtually everything we encounter is sublime. The morning jog on the beach; the dashboard bobbling hip-shaking hoola dancer in Matt’s cousin’s jeep; the spurts of conversations peppered across the beach as per the script; even the confrontation between Matt and Brian Speer — the man with whom Elizabeth had purportedly slept with. As crucial as it is for Matt to find these things out about his wife and the life he led to this point, there’s a surprising lack of tension, given that the source of a majority of his frustration lies comatose in a hospital bed.

It seems that under the direction of one Alexander Payne, what needed to be created emotionally within this movie had already been done when John Jackson recruited the cast. Clooney is a fairly polished actor, it’s safe to say, and with as big a reputation as he’s been endowed with, the man’s suitably understated as Matt King. Combined with brilliant deliveries from precocious, young actresses like Woodley and Amara Miller (the fifteen-year old Scottie King), plus a script that doesn’t call for weighty and wasteful dialogue, The Descendants may even accomplish something a great many films cannot: matter.

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4-0Recommendation: It’s very easy to get swept up by the breeze. Every character — even one you would not expect (without giving spoilers away…) — becomes endearing to us, thanks to superb acting. The setting is serene. Plus, it boasts a man who continues to age and gray handsomely. What excuse, exactly, can you conjure to miss seeing this masterpiece? (Speaking of, anyone seen Sideways…?)

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 110 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com