A dad and his daughters, loving life in New York City

Tuesday, August 28

Summer Movies: Part 7

I've fallen way behind in my movie posts, so I'm going to try to be brief...

Relentlessly rude, hopelessly horny, but sweet and vulnerable at its core, Superbad is a classic teenage sex-and-booze comedy that's filled with dead-on performances (especially the three leads) and, although it's about 15 minutes too long, had me laughing harder and more often than any other movie this year. Seth's (Jonah Hill) flashback to the syndrome that afflicted him in the fourth-grade? So stupid; so literally made me fall out of my chair in hysterics.

The biggest surprise for us this summer had to have been Stardust: the trailer made it seem like a mess, so my risk-taking daughters and I set our expectations as low as they can go, and were delighted to find a cute, funny, thoroughly charming fairy tale. Sure, it's a little busy, but the pacing is sure, the script fairly smart, the effects/magic restrained, the characters well and honestly played. Just, um, keep your expectations low.

The King of Kong is an excellent documentary about the admirably passionate, hilariously dorky denizens of the old-school gamer subculture, focusing on the rivalry between cheesy snake Billy Williams, the Donkey Kong world record holder; and his main challenger, the sweet, sensitive, family-man Steve Weibe. Most surprising to me: the amount of subterfuge and absurdly self-serious gamesmanship employed by Williams and his smitten disciples.

Over-played but consistently charming enough to win me over, Dedication tells of an OCD, misanthropic children's book author (Billy Crudup, in fine form) who's forced to work with—and, of course, eventually falls for—a new illustrator (Mandy Moore, also good) after his long-time collaborator (the always welcome Tom Wilkinson) dies. Basically: some funny moments, some tender moments, too many annoying moments, and an excellent soundtrack.

Hipster aspiring actor with a broken past (well-played by Mark Webber) falls hard for a straight-laced but sexy singer (the always pleasing Catalina Sandino Moreno) in Ethan Hawke's semi-autobiographical The Hottest State. Your enjoyment will likely depend upon how much you're in the mood to see 20-somethings talk endlessly about relationships, broken hearts, and themselves, but I was emotionally engaged pretty much throughout.

Adam Goldberg is pitch-perfect in the Woody Allen role in Julie Delpy's yap-fest 2 Days in Paris, the story of what happens when a couple, dating for two years, gets a serious reality check when they visit the woman's (Delpy's) home town, which, of course, happens to be Paris. The first half is clever and often laugh-out-loud funny; the second half grew too strident for my tastes, when the running joke of Delpy bumping into ex-lovers becomes the movie's sole narrative thrust.

More sad and less cute than I expected, No Reservations is nonetheless a reasonably effective romance, elevated by several winning performances—especially Catherine Zeta Jones as the career-obsessed chef who doesn't realize how lonely she is until a tragedy puts her in charge of raising her niece, the terrific Abigail Breslin—as well as a fascinating portrait of the creative chaos in a busy restaurant kitchen.

Though Reece Thompson shines in Rocket Science as a stuttering high-schooler cajoled into joining the debate team, too much forced quirkiness and unreality ultimately sink this well-meaning tale. And, really, it's time to retire Blister in the Sun as the pulled-from-the-past tune to give your flick instant indie cool.



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