Yes Man (2008)
★★ / ★★★★
Jim Carrey stars as Carl, a guy who learns to stop having fun by sticking to his regular routines even years after he and his wife gets a divorce. After bumping into an old friend (John Michael Higgins) and discussing whether Carl is really happy with where he is in life, the friend recommends a program where the members say “yes” to every opportunity that comes their way no matter how seemingly insignificant such opportunities are. The first third of this film was really funny because of the many ways Carl tries to avoid hanging out with his friends (Danny Masterson and the charming Bradley Cooper), particularly that scene in the videostore. In some ways, I could relate to Carrey’s character because I have those times when I’d rather stay in at night by myself and watch a movie or two instead of going out with friends. But things quickly deteriorated after Carl finally joins the Yes Man program. Admittedly, the first few scenes were still comical but after the tenth time he gets invited to do something and he had to say yes, I couldn’t help but wonder if the movie has something else to offer. Luckily, Zooey Deschanel played Carrey’s romantic interest because there’s just something about her–a certain je ne sais quoi–that mesmerizes me every time she’s on screen. Although I’ve heard from some people that the age difference bothered them, it didn’t bother me because I thought there was a strange chemistry between the two of them. While I still enjoyed Carrey’s manic style of acting, the script did not strive to take the story to the next level. Therefore, the picture became a somewhat entertaining and predictable safe comedy. I wish that the film focused more on the negative repercussions of saying “yes” to everything (which it only briefly touched upon) instead of glamorizing a program’s motif. Perhaps with a little alteration from the script and a better direction (Peyton Reed), “Yes Man” would’ve been funny and smart instead of just being moderately amusing.
He’s Just Not That Into You (2009)
★★ / ★★★★
This ensemble comedy, directed by Ken Kwapis, tells the intersecting story of late twentysomethings to early thirtysomethings as they endure the challenges that come with their romantic interests. Ginnifer Goodwin seems to have the worst radar when it comes to whether or not guys are truly interested in her. One day, she meets Justin Long and believes that he’s romantically interested in her despite his just-friends-and-nothing-else inclinations toward her (talk about not learning from her mistakes). For me, that was the best part of this movie because Goodwin gave out this certain enthusiastic energy that made me want to root for her even though she might seem a bit desperate and awkward at times. I loved the scenes when she would literally wait by the phone for a call from a guy that she had dinner with only once. Her worries poured into her workplace as her co-workers (Jennifer Connelly, Jennifer Aniston–each having a story of her own) consoled her. My second favorite storyline was Aniston and Ben Affleck’s. The two are in love and living together but they’re not married because Affleck doesn’t believe in marriage. This bothers Aniston’s character, especially when the topic of marriage comes up (the conflict was amplified when she heard about her sister getting married), but she tries to conceal her emotions with all her might. However, during the scenes when she couldn’t handle it anymore, I felt a genuine sadness for her character and I wanted to know more about her. Unfortunately, her storyline did not get as much screen time. The love triangle between Connelly, Bradley Cooper (who happen to be married) and Scarlett Johansson, I thought, was the weakest link. Though I did feel for Connelly’s character because both of us like to fix or organize things when things start to feel out of control, her storyline felt like it did not fit the movie. It was much more depressing than the other two mentioned. Not to mention Johansson is doing her pouty thing again and having an affair. In a nutshell, that storyline left me disinterested. I thought that the first part of the film was much stronger than the second half. The former was genuinely funny, fast-paced and offered a handful of interesting questions about why men and women are the way they are. The latter is the complete antithesis. If the director got rid of Connelly’s storyline, elaborated more on Aniston’s, and injected more of Drew Barrymore’s conflict with dating and technology, we would have a superior picture. Instead, we got a mediocre film that somewhat felt like (or tried to be like) “Love Actually” but considerably less charming.
The Hangover (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★
Bradley Cooper (he’s seems to be in everything these days such as “He’s Just Not That Into You,” “Yes Man” and “The Midnight Meat Train”), Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Justin Bartha star as four friends who decide to go to Las Vegas for Bartha’s bachelor party. The four make a toast on the roof of Caesar’s Palace hotel and the movie cuts to the next day as the first three try to figure out why there’s a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet, and where the missing groom could be. (Not to mention Helms’ missing tooth.) Their efforts to find out what truly happened the night before lead to very funny (and often ludicrous) situations. I’ve heard from a lot of people this film was gut-wrenchingly funny (as in “Superbad”-funny) so I really had high expectations coming into it. Although it wasn’t quite as funny as I thought it would be (nor was it comparable to “Superbad” because this is geared more toward adults), I have to admit that this is probably the funniest movie of 2009 so far. Its timing of release couldn’t be any more perfect because it’s summer and people often head to Sin City to have some fun. Todd Phillips, the director, was smart enough to make this farce buddy film as short as possible. Only lasting over an hour and thirty minutes, each scene was consistently funny except for about fifteen minutes somewhere in the middle. While it was able to make fun of the characters either by being flat-out mean or crude, their interactions were realistic. I can easily picture actual people saying and doing certain things the characters say and do and that’s why it was so much fun to watch. The brilliant one-liners from Galifianakis reminded me of things that my friends might say when they’re drunk and unaware of things that are happening around them. I also liked the fact that it didn’t quite glamorize Las Vegas. Instead of featuring posh people doing really cool things (which brings caper films and movies like “21” to mind), it focused on regular individuals who are flawed and have actual problems outside their vacation in Vegas; no matter how smart or slick they think they are, they are capable of making mistakes that they do not necessarily learn from. But that’s just me trying to look under the surface. If one is looking for a comedy movie that one can watch with friends on a slow weekend, this is definitely the one to watch because it can easily inspire a night out (no matter how late it is).
The Midnight Meat Train (2008)
★★ / ★★★★
Bradley Cooper has come a long way since I first discovered him in “Alias.” Even though he seems like a pretty boy on the outside, he can effectively play characters that have many sides to them. I also have to give him kudos for not playing the same type of character in his movies. In “The Midnight Meat Train,” directed by Ryûhei Kitamura and based on a short story by Clive Barker, Cooper plays a photographer who one day finds out about a butcher (Vinnie Jones) who kills people on the subway after taking pictures of a woman who was being harrassed by a couple of thugs. Wanting to gather more evidence before he approaches the police, he becomes obsessed with the butcher and his girlfriend (Leslie Bibb) becomes worried about his new personality. This film is especially gory and violent which horror fans will undoubtedly love. What’s even better is that it is quite suspenseful especially that one scene when two people decide to break into the killer’s apartment. I just had a feeling that it would go terribly wrong so I had to watch the film through my fingers. What didn’t work for me, though, was the last fifteen minutes. Instead of being a straight-up horror film, it hybridized with the science fiction realm. I understand that this is based on a short story and I shouldn’t hold the movie responsible for following it. I just needed to mention the fact that it did get ridiculous and I even caught myself rolling my eyes because of the ending. It definitely took away some of that realism regarding being attacked by a butcher on a subway in the most gruesome ways. Still, I’m giving this a slight recommendation despite the mediocre rating because it genuinely thrilled and scared me.