Tag: leslie bibb

Zookeeper


Zookeeper (2011)
★★ / ★★★★

Griffin (Kevin James), a zookeeper, takes his girlfriend, Stephanie (Leslie Bibb), to the beach on a horseback to propose marriage. She declines because she feels that he being zookeeper, though cute because of the uniform, is not a respectable profession for someone she hopes to spend the rest of her life with.

Five years later, Griffin is single and still a zookeeper. On his brother’s wedding, he spots Stephanie in the crowd and his feelings for her begin to resurface. It turns out the animals in the zoo (voiced by Nick Nolte, Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Judd Apatow, Jon Favreau, Faizon Love, Maya Rudolph, Bas Rutten) can speak to one another and understand human language so they hold a meeting on how to help Griffin get the girl.

Directed by Frank Coraci, “Zookeeper” has several snappy dialogue, mostly between the animals, but it does not quite reach its full comedic potential because it is often weighed down by a romance that is dead on arrival.

Griffin is a kind person, one who will go out of his way to make sure that a friend or an animal is doing well, but he is a pushover and somewhat unaware of what people think of him as well as what they really want from him. The picture spends most of its time showing Griffin desperately trying to win Stephanie back. She is so unlikable, the complete opposite of Kate (Rosario Dawson), the zoo’s veterinarian and Griffin’s good friend, to the point where their scenes leave me either cringing or annoyed.

Would it have taken much effort from the writers to have written both women as having good and bad qualities? That way, allowing a certain level of uncertainty might compel us to feel more involved. Since the characterization is so thin and one-dimensional, from the moment Kate appears on screen, we know that Stephanie will get what she deserves.

I wanted to see Griffin interact more with the talking animals. The film does a good job in allowing Griffin to get to know Bernie (Nolte), a sad gorilla who has isolated himself from the other animals. Their trip to T.G.I.F. is completely ludicrous but it worked for me because it shows Griffin’s ability to sympathize and accept unconditionally, qualities that Stephanie does not (or cannot) show toward our protagonist.

It is not and should not be about whether the situation is believable. If the material has talking animals, the filmmakers better be confident in going all the way. They are and, in its own peculiar way, it works. I wished the screenplay had also given Griffin a chance to interact with the other animals in a meaningful way. For example, there are several lines which suggest that the elephant is teased by the other animals for being overweight. Since the movie is supposed to be for kids, there could have been a lesson or two about making fun of someone for being too fat or too tall or too weird.

Nevertheless, “Zookeeper” manages to keep itself afloat. Some of the dialogue, like the line involving parrots, is smart and it is easy to root for Griffin to find happiness. It just requires a little bit more rhythm in balancing the offbeat and the charm.

A Good Old Fashioned Orgy


A Good Old Fashioned Orgy (2011)
★★ / ★★★★

Thirtysomething Eric (Jason Sudeikis), like his high school days, loved to throw epic parties at his parents’ Hampton vacation house. But when his father decided to sell, Eric, along with his best friend McCrudden (Tyler Labine), invited his closest friends (Lake Bell, Michelle Borth, Nick Kroll, Angela Sarafyan, Lindsay Sloane, Martin Starr) to have an orgy over Labor Day weekend as a last hurrah. “A Good Old Fashioned Orgy,” written and directed by Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck, embraced its stupidity, which made it enjoyable, but it was reluctant to really push the envelope in terms of being a raunchy sex comedy. I liked watching the dynamics of friendship and each colorful character was given a chance to shine. I particularly enjoyed watching Eric asking romantic advice from McCrudden. It was funny because we all know that McCrudden was the last person who should offer anybody advice but the two were inseparable, almost blind to each other’s flaws. I bought it as an honest element of their bond. I certainly share that level of trust with some of my friends. It may not make sense to another person who doesn’t really know us, but it makes sense between two people who’ve had a lot of history together. What worked less effectively was Eric falling for one of the realtors. From the moment Kelly (Leslie Bibb) appeared on screen, I knew that her potential to be Eric’s girlfriend was going to make Eric feel somewhat bad about coming through with the orgy. She was an unnecessary character because she wasn’t especially amusing. She didn’t stand out. And to be blunt, I didn’t understand why a woman of her caliber would go out with someone like Eric. If the writers had found a more realistic way to explore why the two genuinely believed that their relationship was worth fighting for, it could have had a place in a movie like this. I wished that all of Kelly’s scenes were replaced with the two uninvited friends, married couple Glenn (Will Forte) and Kate (Lucy Punch), angry and bitter with the fact that they weren’t included, coming up with ways to make the others believe that not letting them know about the soirée was a regretful decision. When Glenn and Kate tried so hard to fit in with the others, it worked because Forte and Punch had desperation in their eyes. I’m glad that the filmmakers went ahead with the orgy. However, I felt as though it was a bit restrained. For example, Eric and McCrudden eventually shared a kiss. But it was a kiss so lame (it was barely even a kiss), I felt a bit insulted. The characters were open to having an orgy, drunk off their minds, yet they were extremely reluctant to kiss someone of the same sex? (Between the men anyway.) Give me a break. If the girls could make out front and center on screen, the guys should have been allowed to do that, especially when there was a lack of variety in terms of race and sexual orientation in the movie. “A Good Old Fashioned Orgy” was a sex comedy with teeth but reluctant to bite hard. What good is a sex comedy with an orgy if it isn’t willing to embrace all of the complex elements that makes sexuality so controversial?

Law Abiding Citizen


Law Abiding Citizen (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★

Despite the “Saw”-like twists and glimmering artistry of the vigilante’s (Gerard Butler) mission to teach a lesson about justice, “Law Abiding Citizen” was simply another one of those revenge flicks about a father out to get revenge for his slain family. Jamie Foxx played the assistant district attorney who made a deal with one of the murderers so that he could keep his 96% conviction rate. Ten years later, Butler returned to the scene. As a result of such decisions prior, one of the murderers was set free and the other suffered unimaginable pain during his death. If the movie wasn’t so entertaining and had good sense of pacing, I would have completely written this film off because the whole thing felt atrocious. I couldn’t believe for one second that one man could outsmart various levels of the government after only ten years of planning everything. At first I did root for Butler’s character because I could relate to the pain that he was going through. But when he started killing off innocent people, that was the turning point for me. With movies like “Kill Bill” starring Uma Thurman and “Taken” starring Liam Neeson, I was able to stay with the lead characters even though they killed people left and right. And the reason I was able to root for them until the end of their respective features was the fact that they only harmed those who were responsible. With Butler’s character, it was as if he enjoyed killing off people despite the scenes of where F. Gary Gray, the director, showed how much he was “suffering.” As far as morality tales go, I didn’t believe that it was as smart as it was trying to be. However–and this is a big one considering I’m giving the movie a recommendation–I did enjoy watching the movie because it was entertaining to watch the characters scurring around like rodents in hopes to be one step ahead of the vigilante and eventually dropping like flies when they unknowingly made bad decisions. It was not only thrilling because of the sense of dread that Butler’s character was able to deliver with each so-called deals but it was also very amusing because there were times when I found myself buying into everything that was happening. I’m one of those people that did not at all like the controversial ending because it made me think what the point was of it all. I felt as though the writer’s (Kurt Wimmer) decision to end it the way it did was a bit of a cheat after such strong build-ups. Thriller fans should be entertained by “Law Abiding Citizen” but those looking for something deeper might be a bit peeved. I also enjoyed the supporting performances from Leslie Bibb, Viola Davis and Bruce McGill. Overall, this is a pretty stylish cat-and-mouse film with brains on the outside but pretty emotionally and psychologically hollow on the inside. It’s just rare to find a film that embodies both.

Trick ‘r Treat


Trick ‘r Treat (2008)
★★★ / ★★★★

Written and directed by Michael Dougherty, “Trick ‘r Treat” is a whole lot of fun to watch and it’s a shame it didn’t get a proper (and well-deserved) theatrical release. The film was an anthology of four stories that featured what would happen if the traditions of Halloween were broken: a virgin (Anna Paquin) who gets teased by her sister and friends for being awkward with men and saving herself for that “special someone,” a high school principal (Dylan Baker) who poisons his candies and has an even darker secret inside of his home, a group of friends (Jean-Luc Bilodeau, Isabelle Deluce, Britt McKillip, Alberto Ghisi) who pulls a prank on a lonely girl (Samm Todd), and a couple (Leslie Bibb, Tahmoh Penikett) whose first scene didn’t make much sense but became pretty important as the film started wrapping up everything. “Trick ‘r Treat” wasn’t particularly scary for me other than Sam, a child-looking sack-headed treat or treater with button eyes, but I thought it worked because all of the mini-stories had a commonality that was explored from beginning to end. However, don’t get me wrong because even though I didn’t think it was scary, it still had an element of darkness. For instance, the film was not scared to kill off children and even show the audiences their dead and sometimes mutilated bodies. This movie reminded me a lot of “Tales from the Crypt” because even though it explored morbid subject matter, there was always that element of humor and campiness which often remind us that it’s just a movie. I also liked that it referenced some of the other actors’ works through their characters outside of this project. For instance, Brian Cox’ independent film called “Red” and Anna Paquin’s popular television show “True Blood.” I admired that self-awareness because it didn’t get distracted from the storytelling, which is very difficult to be achieved, especially by Hollywood mainstream horror flicks. My only complaint about it is that maybe it could have used one more storyline for a slightly longer running time. I was so fascinated with what was going on so when the credits started rolling, I felt a bit sad that it was over. I will not be surprised at all if this eventually becomes a cult classic because it has a purpose, is smart and not afraid to be different. I wouldn’t mind adding this to my film collection.

Wristcutters: A Love Story


Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)
★★ / ★★★★

Based on a short story “Kneller’s Happy Campers” by Etgar Keret, “Wristcutters: A Love Story” stars Patrick Fugit as a depressive guy who one day decides to kill himself and later wakes up in an alternate universe where people who have successfully committed suicides are sent to live. In that other universe, he meets a Russian ex-rocker (Shea Wigham) and while searching for Fugit’s ex-girlfriend (Leslie Bibb), the two meet a hitchhiker (Shannyn Sossamon) who claims that she did not kill herself. I thought the first part of the movie was pretty interesting and it did have its darkly comedic moments. However, as the film went on, I just grew tired of it because even though the three main characters are on the road and constantly meeting new quirky persons, I feel like they’re going absolutely nowhere. Therefore, the story becomes stagnant and quite tedious to watch because pretty much everyone is sad or depressed (which, I guess, would make sense because they all decided to kill themselves). The story is a one-note joke/what-if question which could’ve been more interesting if the characters actually offer some insight with each other. Admittedly, there were some really good scenes between Fugit and Sossamon but those deep conversations weren’t enough to save the picture’s stagnant disposition. I also didn’t like the third act of the movie when the Fugit, Wigham and Sossamon arrived in this town where “miracles” happen. It got even worse when they met Messiah (Will Arnett) who claims that he can separate his soul from his body. That part of the picture felt like a foreign appendage which eventually infected the whole body of work. However, I do give credit to the film for offering something different and taking risks when it comes to its humor. I just can’t quite recommend it because the negatives outweigh the positives.

The Midnight Meat Train


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.