You might notice the lack of IMDb links in this edition of Irreviews. In all honesty, I decided that I'm too lazy to insert those links, so now Irreviews are link-less. Take that!
Director: Nimród Antal
Writer(s): James V. Simpson
Starring: Matt Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, Columbus Short
A by-the-numbers action film that relies extremely heavily on cliché for both plot progression and character development. In a nutshell, a group of crooked armored car guards decide to rob their own payload, but the sudden appearance of a witness to the crime screws everything up. Naturally, the protagonist has a change of heart and chaos ensues. Not too bad as far as films of this type go, and the supporting cast (Jean Reno, Amaury Nolasco, Skeet Ulrich, Milo Ventimiglia, Fred Ward) lend it a certain level of legitimacy. Columbus Short is surprisingly effective as the main character, despite the aforementioned cliché, and is easy to root for.
Verdict: If you're into the genre, SEE it.
Director: James Cameron
Writer(s): James Cameron
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang
Few movies can make my jaw drop. Fewer can keep me smiling for their entire run-time. Avatar did both (imagine how that must have looked). The hype is true: this is a movie that will change Hollywood forever. The storyline is mostly derivative of other, better film narratives, but it's a competent story that provides easy familiarity which (oh, by the way) lets the audience spend as much time doing what James Cameron actually wants them to do: sit back and be totally awed/blown-away/flabbergasted/amazed/stirred by the absolutely phenomenal and groundbreaking visuals. As far as the racism controversy surrounding the film: it's misguided. Those who are predisposed to look for and point out racism will find it; nobody else will.
Verdict: SEE it. SEE it. SEE it. SEE it. SEE it. At least once. And make damn sure it's in 3-D (I'm going to see it again to see if the awe-inspiration, and perhaps the story, holds up).
Director: Jim Sheridan
Writer(s): David Benioff, Susanne Bier (film: Brødre), Anders Thomas Jensen (film: Brødre)
Starring: Jake Gyllenhal, Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire
Yet another Hollywood remake of a critically-acclaimed foreign film (the Dutch film Brødre), this one is pleasantly surprising. While it ultimately doesn't quite cut it as an effective war commentary, it is far more successful as a family drama. Unfortunately for the film, the narrative needs the war commentary to make the seamless transition into family drama. Still, there are powerful performances here, with Natalie Portman giving her first convincing performance as a mother, and Sam Shepherd providing his usual excellence as the Cahill family patriarch. Unlike in Jarhead, however, where the audience experiences that Jake Gyllenhal "gets" what it means to be a marine, Tobey Maguire doesn't quite reach that bar. All that aside, this is a very competently made film and worth a view.
Verdict: SEE it.
Couples Retreat (2009)
Director: Peter Billingsley
Writer(s): John Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Dana Fox
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, John Favreau, Kristen Bell
Essentially a too-long version of a 30-minute television sitcom, this film would've been better served as such. Painfully shallow, I'm hoping it was just an excuse for Favreau and Vaughn to reunite on-screen, because there is no other substance to this unfunny comedy. Yes, there are laughs, but only in the form of punchlines. Some positives: Faizon Love steals every scene he is in, Jean Reno's appearance is a pleasant surprise (though even his character falls flat), and Malin Akerman proves that she does have potential as a legitimate actress (something she failed to do in Watchmen).
Verdict: SKIP it.
The Invention of Lying (2009)
Director: Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson
Writer(s): Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner
Ricky Gervais is very much a one-trick pony. His style doesn't vary, and all too-often we're stuck with seeing Ricky Gervais playing Ricky Gervais. But, even a broken clock is right twice a day, and this is a very funny and enjoyable movie. Part criticism, part sit-com, and all satire, Gervais proves himself as a writer capable and willing of making fun of even the most sacred things civilization holds dear... and doing it with at least a modicum of respect. Playing a man who, in a world where everything can be accepted at face value, learns how to tell a lie, Gervais makes watching this story unfold almost comedic magic (I say almost because Gervais' craftsmanship clearly takes precedence over any attempt at being artistic). What can I say? I laughed my ass off at jokes I saw coming from a mile away.
Verdict: SEE it.
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