Paul Rudds understated comic genius comes to the fore in this nuanced romantic comedy thats as much about the intricacies of male bonding as it is about the invisible line between male/female relationships. Rudd plays L.A. real estate salesman Peter Klaven, who proposes to his cute-as-a-button girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones) only to discover that her gang of girl buddies is suspicious of his long-standing lack of male friends. Peter tries diligently to find a buddy to pal around with before his upcoming wedding, because, well, he needs a best man. While presenting an open house for TV star Lou Ferrigno, Peter meets alpha male slacker Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) and the die is cast. A common musical appreciation for the band Rush sets off a fast friendship that threatens to out-rev Peters domestic marital plans. Rudd is hilarious — watch him milk laughs out of the phrase, "I slappa da bass." And Jason Segel is on top of his game as an alternately aggressive and passive aggressive SoCal dude with spot-on people-reading skills.
Supporting comic efforts from the likes of Andy Samberg, Jane Curtain and Jon Favreau redouble the fun. Heres a refreshing comedy that never tries too hard and consequently leaves a lot of room for laughs to explode. (Paramount) Rated R. 104 mins. (B)
The writing and directing team of Trevor Moore and Zach Cregger (televisions "The Whitest Kids U Know") take a failing grade on their entry into feature film territory. Contrary to the wealth of comic gifts Moore and Cregger exhibit on a regular basis on TV, the "Monty Python-inspired" duo hit too few comic high notes with a road trip sex comedy that never finds a groove. Cregger plays the virgin Eugene, whose initiation to love-making with his longtime girlfriend Cindi (Raquel Alessi) is ruined when a party-house stairwell fall puts him in a coma for four years. Eugenes best friend Tucker (Moore) brings Eugene back to the waking world of the eternally horny with the aid of a baseball bat, and the two set off on a journey to the Playboy Mansion to locate Cindi, whos been busy doing nude modeling for the magazine. As comic performers Moore and Cregger are a stellar team, but screenwriting is not their strong suit. In something like a Judd Apatow comedy, I have a feeling Cregger and Moore could make an audience laugh its socks right off. (Fox Searchlight) Rated R. 90 mins. (C)
The Last House on the Left.
By definition, any update of Wes Cravens "Last House on the Left" is sure to be a schlock fest. Greek director Dennis Iliadis uses every trick in the book to ramp up suspense and deliver shout-at-the-screen shocks from Adam Allecas and Carl Ellsworths straight-forward script about violent retribution for crimes committed. When the Collingwood family goes for a holiday at their lakeside house, swim champ daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) takes the family car into town to visit her feisty gal pal Paige (Martha Maclsaac). The promise of good marijuana lures the pair into the clutches of evildoers that includes a prison escapee, his teenage son, a femme fatal, and a spitting-mad murderer. Audiences familiar with Cravens original know there will be an especially nasty rape scene — here constructed as a kind of group sex be-in. Payback comes from Maris mom (Monica Potter) and pop(Tony Goldwyn) when the gang that brutalized their daughter shows up at the family lake house in need of medical treatment and shelter. As an exploitation B-horror movie, this latest addition to the genre is heads and shoulders above anything Rob Zombie has ever done. Rated R. 109 mins. (B-)
Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons hardboiled graphic novel is brought to stunning visual life by director Zach Snyder in a convoluted adult fantasy that provides an off-key political tone to its alternate reality of 1985 America, where Richard Nixon is still president and the Doomsday Clock forever sits at five minutes to the hour of imminent apocalypse thanks to a Soviet nuclear threat. Put out of work by Nixons decree outlawing masked avengers, unless they work for the government, a group of former superheroes known as the Watchmen variously reconnect after the violent murder of their macho former member the Comedian, AKA Edward Blake (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), whose demise implies a similar fate for the rest of the group. Rorschach (devilishly played by Jackie Earle Haley), in his ever-morphing inkblot mask and raspy voice, narrates the complex mystery that plays out with richly designed flashbacks that reveal the personal histories of the likes of Laurie Jupiter (Malin Akerman) and her atomically transmogrified, yet anatomically correct, love interest Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup). Outrageous sexual elements and extreme violence give "Watchmen" its well-deserved hard R rating. At over two and a half hours, "Watchman" is a fullfrontal adult sci-fi satire thats as enjoyable as it is thematically confounding. For its salivating fans and audiences itching for something completely different from the Hollywood superhero model, theres much ferocity to sample here. (Warner Bros.) Rated R. 160 mins. (B) (Four Stars)
Madea Goes to Jail.
Tyler Perry continues to preach to the choir with his entertaining, albeit stereotype-laced, blend of melodrama and comedy. Joshua Hardaway is a DeKalb, Ill., assistant district attorney (well played by Derek Luke) attempting to rescue an old friend named Candice from a life of prostitution and addiction. Joshuas attorney fiance Linda (Ion Overman) takes a dim view of his humanitarian efforts and sets about pulling some unethical legal strings. The comedy comes to life whenever Perry’s irrepressible lifelong criminal Madea takes over, turning her rage at the social misdemeanors of others into humorous action. As a filmmaker, Perry is content to recycle his talents and pad his pictures with self-congratulating cameos by the likes of Dr. Phil and the Rev. Al Sharpton. If he ever gets around to widening his worldview, he might surprise himself and his loyal audience. (Lionsgate) Rated PG-13. 103 mins. (B-)
Friday the 13th.
Death by a surfeit of sharp objects comes to two groups of ill-fated young campers whose brief vacations to the Crystal Lake stamping ground of the infamous hockey-mask-wearing Jason Voorhees (played by Derek Mears) incites prickly gasps and roller coaster laughs. Marcus Mispel (director of the "The Texas Chainsaw" remake) gets big budget assistance from producer Michael Bay for this enjoyable update of the classic horror flick that set off cinemas longest running slasher-movie franchise. Our modern batch of victims are just as obsessed with sex, drugs and music as the murder fodder of the 1980 original, even if the barebones revenge story (if you can call it that) is closer to the series’ second installment.
Aaron Yoo delivers an especially fun performance as Chewie, a stoner with a bottomless stomach for booze. (Warner Bros.) Rated R. 97 mins. (B)
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