Reviews: Rango, Adjustment Bureau, Beastly, Take Me Home Tonight

The Adjustment Bureau
Matt Damon & Emily Blunt in The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau

4 stars

Directed by George Nolfi

Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie and John Slattery

It would be easy to dismiss this film as a knock off Inception, trying to capitalize on that film’s success. Except The Adjustment Bureau was originally set for release last September, with trailers appearing as early as May. So that’s an off assumption to make, and if you skipped it based on that line of thinking, you missed out.

A politician meets and falls in love with a ballerina, but there are forces working to keep them apart. The two must fight their destiny in order to stay together.

Writer George Nolfi  (Ocean’s 12, The Bourne Ultimatum) makes his directorial debut with this ambitious project, which he did also pen. He was really able to bring the focus of this grand scale premise right down to one facet of the lives of the two characters, and it made for a compelling thriller. He’s able to do that in  a way that only a writer/director can, with their intimate knowledge of the story they’re bringing to life.

And to his credit, he assembles a very interesting (to say the least) cast to do just that. Put any one of the primary cast member’s name in the billing, and I’m there. And they pull it all off exquisitely. Damon as the young, struggling politician, who’s trying to come to terms with the weight of what he now knows about the world. Blunt as the ballerina who tries to make sense of a situation she can’t begin to fathom. Slattery as the cocky businessman type who thinks he knows what’s best, almost a super-natural Roger Sterling.

Overall, the film does serve as a decent contemplation of fate vs free will, and certainly addresses certain religious implications in the debate. It’s fascinating that it explores the area. However, the problem is that the film never really resolves the debate. At least not in any way that is satisfying. The conclusion it reaches is that you can have both. I almost would have preferred it taking the Inception way out, with any hint of ambiguity. It needed a wobbling totem to close out the film.

Take Me Home Tonight
Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Theresa Palmer & Dan Fogler in Take Me Home Tonight

Take Me Home Tonight

2.5 stars

Directed by Michael Dowse

Starring Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler and Theresa Palmer

What could have been a good 80s version of Dazed & Confused, loses its message by making fun of the era, rather than embracing it.

An aimless college grad heads to a party in hopes of rekindling a romance with his high school crush.

The script is based on a story by Topher Grace, written by his That 70s Show producers Jackie & Jeff Filgo. They do their best to keep an overall arc going, but they spin out of control by trying to do too much. They never quite get a good focus on the core story of Matt & Tori (Grace & Palmer) and never really find a use for Barry (Fogler).

The movie has it’s heart in the right place. And despite being set in the 80s, it still has a relevant theme of figuring out what you want to do post college. It never quite makes that case that the film should have been set in the 80s, other than to sort of poke fun at the era. It feels like more of a pop culture overview than being steeped in the decade.

Enjoyable, if you can look over the “I Love The 80s-ness” of it, and you could probably wait for the DVD.

Vanessa Hudgens & Alex Pettyfer in Beastly


.5 star

Directed by Daniel Barnes

Starring Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens and Mary Kate Olsen

Oh god, it’s now time for the CW and Disney “stars of tomorrow” to start stepping into the limelight. I hope they can start doing better than this take on the classic fairy tale.

A snobby and privileged NYC high schooler is cursed by a teenage witch, and in order to reverse the curse of ugly, he must find someone to love him within a year.

Neil Patrick Harris is really the one true good thing about this film. He plays his role as the blind tutor as a combination of Annie Sullivan and his own Barney Stinson. He adds levity, and is a beacon of hope in this otherwise dreadful flick, and is solely responsible for its half a star.

As for what the hell went wrong? Where do I start? I don’t know whether to blame the poor writing or the poor editing, but the film is excruciatingly difficult to follow. A conversation, a thought, is started and never finished. I know the story, the Disney animated version of the story is one of my favourite films, but I didn’t know where they were going with it because it was so sloppily told.

Alex Pettyfer, I’ll grant you that he’s handsome, but he has all the charm and talent of a plank of wood. I’d rather see a Hayden Christensen movie. Hudgens is the same. I guess she’s just lost if she’s not singing about how the Wildcats have to win the big championship game.

Avoid this film, at all costs.



4.5 stars

Directed by Gore Verbinski

Starring Johnny Depp, Bill Nighy & Isla Fisher

Finally, an animated film that isn’t in 3D. And it’s one of the most beautifully drawn films I’ve ever seen.

A wayward chameleon stumbles into the Wild West town of Dirt during a drought, and soon becomes a hero to them all.

If I had to call the Best Animated Feature race right now, 2 months into the year, without seeing any other films, it would be for Rango. The animation is simply amazing, there’s a great attention to detail. The good folks at Industrial Light and Magic have made some amazing leaps in the field of animation.

But on top of the visually stunning animation, Gore Verbinski and screenwriter John Logan concoct a truly funny story. And the thing of it is that it totally works for both kids and adults. Not in the Shrek, movie for kids with pop culture references to keep the adults from getting uber-bored kinda way. But it’s simple enough that the kids are going to enjoy it and it’ll be memorable for them, but also sharp enough that the adults will appreciate its true complexity & sharpness.

And a lot of the credit does go to the great voice cast assembled, led by the ever versatile Depp. They all create unique and interesting characters that really breathe life into the film.

If you do only see one animated film this year, it should probably be Rango. It’s worth it. And did I mention the best part? It’s NOT 3D!

Movies I’m Looking Forward to in 2011 part 1 of 4

I closed out 2010 with a look back on the films that made up the year, but here are the films I’m looking forward to in the first quarter of 2011, January through March. Unfortunately, the movie calendar doesn’t start to get exciting till March.


The Green Hornet – I’m approaching this with cautious optimism. Sure it could end up being mostly forgettable, but Seth Rogan in a genre shift, the great Christoph Waltz back in villain mode and visionary director Michel Gondry, the stars may align on this one.


Unknown – I get a distinct Frantic meets Taken vibe off of this one, but both were tight thrillers and I’m a Liam Neeson fan, so we’ll have to see where this one goes. The inclusion of Diane Krueger is also enticing.


Rango – Gore Verbinski re-teams with his Pirates of the Caribbean crew and star to bring us this interesting animated feature.

The Adjustment Bureau – It’s a sci-fi thriller with a great cast in Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. It could be a modest hit, but the trailer looks good.

Apollo 18 – A smallish sci-fi flick from Spanish director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego. It’s another “found footage” style film, but handled right, it could be the best of the sub-genre.

Poster for Apollo 18

Battle: Los Angeles – This looks like the film that 2010’s Skyline wanted to be, but didn’t because it was horrible every step of the way. Mature sci-fi has seen a resurgence over the past few years and I’m hoping this keeps the tradition alive.

Paul – The comedy giants from both sides of the pond join forces for this geek-tastic film. Simon Pegg & Nick Frost team up with Seth Rogan and director Greg Mottola (Superbad and Adventureland).

Sucker Punch – I get the feeling that I stand in the minority as far as Zack Snyder goes, but I’m a big fan of the guy. He’s one of the most visually exciting directors around, he  has tight plots, great characters. He’s just had the misfortune of adapting properties with built-in fan bases (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen) that didn’t like HIS vision. So I’m excited for his first original work.

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