Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Reunion For Us Too

Three Stars

It’s 2012, but the old gang is going to party like its 1999, music and all. “American Reunion” is really a film for those of us who remember the “American Pie” films. We have seen these characters grow up, and every time they get together, they leave their maturity behind and get into immature hi jinks. I can’t say that “American Reunion” is really a good film, but what make this work are the likable characters. We know these guys, and in a way, they know us. Why did we see “American Pie” in the first place? It’s because we were immature teenagers. Nostalgia makes this film work, because the situations they get into as adults are largely the same as they got into as teenagers.

“American Reunion” is fun. You have to know the “American Pie” series because this movie is so filled with “Hey remember that!” Sometimes a movie just reunites us with old friends. In a way, that’s what “American Reunion” does. A string of dirty jokes, retro references and reminders of the old times we’ve spent with the teenagers of the “American Pie” series. “American Reunion” isn’t smart, enlightening or really interesting. However, I think if you can’t enjoy something stupid once in a while, what’s the point? The “American Pie” movies work because these characters are lovable, despite the situations they get into.

Now the class of 1999 (boy, I feel old) are all grown up. Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) is married to his high school sweetheart Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), they have a kid, yet their love life has become a bit dry. However, their class reunion is coming up, and they hope to relive old times. When they arrive, we get to see another familiar face. It’s Jim’s dad, Noah (Eugene Levy), who always appears warm and wonderful as he gives his son raunchy advice. Meanwhile, we get to see the other members of the old gang like Oz (Chris Klein), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Finch (Eddie Kay Thomas), Heather (Mena Suvari) and Vicky (Tera Reid). They have all grown up too, but with mixed results.

They all plan to get together on the week of their high school reunion but wait, where’s their old friend, Stifler? (Seann William Scott) It’s not a party or a movie without him. Luckily, Stifler does show up and he brings his familiar grin and devilish personality as he did in the other “American Pie” films.  Oh yes, he’s going to screw things up.

We may have all grown up, but sometimes going to the movies lets us be immature teenagers again, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In a way, they aren’t the only ones reuniting, we are too.  At the end of the movie, they promise each other they will meet again and in a way, I’m looking forward to the next reunion.

"Hunger Games" A Treat for Fans

Three Stars

The highly anticipated movie “The Hunger Games”, based on the bestselling young adult novel by Suzanne Collins, is a well made, dystopian thriller that takes place in a grim future. Teenagers have been standing on line for this film, not unlike the “Harry Potter” or “Twilight” movies. However, what makes “The Hunger Games” unusual is its lack of escapism. It’s a dystopian science fiction as opposed to a fantasy.  No one wants to be on a train to the Hunger Games, but everyone would like to go to Hogwarts or have a boyfriend like Edward. Instead, “The Hunger Games” presents a dystopian instead of fantastical story. If “Harry Potter” takes us to a magical place, “The Hunger Games” takes us to a bitter and cold one. 

Our heroine is a 16 year old girl named Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence). She is a hunter and hangs out with the local boy Gale (Liam Hemsworth).  Unfortunately, it’s that time of year again, the annual Hunger Games, which is a government, mandated game show where kids kill each other.  Younger sister Primrose (Willow Shields) is entered and   Katniss volunteers in her sister’s place.

Katniss, along with a boy named Petta (Josh Hutcherson), arrive on the train and are taken away to the Hunger Games. They meet their mentor, the bitter drunken Haymitch (Woody Harrison), who won the games himself as a kid.  Then they are dumped into a forest like arena which will result in a death battle with one victor. Most of the film takes place with Katniss trying to survive with her bow and arrow. “The Hunger Games” is a bloody sport, and Jennifer Lawrence delivers an intense performance. She keeps the audience on the edge of their seats, with her bow and arrow, hoping she survives all the traps that are set.

I have to warn people with kids that there is some disturbing material. There is violence and the death of young people. However, anyone who has read the book knows this. Anyone whose read science fiction knows that dystopia is a tough place. This dystopia shows the evils of both big government and out of control media. Everyone watching the games treats death like a sporting event. What I cannot deny is that “The Hunger Games” is a well made thriller. Director Gary Ross does a good job of using a shaky camera to give the film an eerie feel.

“The Hunger Games” is a bit harsh, but for those who read dystopian novels, this is nothing new.  Those who know science fiction know that the future can be a bad place, those who are new to the genre might be shocked by the premise.  This will be food for thought. A dystopian future movie, “The Hunger Games” also has teenager romance and a dash of rebellion. If you’re a fan of the books and a teenager, this delivers. If you’re anyone else, children killing each other might not be your cup of tea.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Oh, Just Buy It

Two and a half stars

The characters in this film are as pure as white snow, with the exception of the evil ex-husband, and you cannot help but like these people. You know, I really wanted to hate these people and this movie, but the ex-marine who does the right thing, the struggling single mom, the sassy grandmother and the adorable kid make it really hard. So, you have a choice. You can either roll your eyes or just buy it. 

“The Lucky One” is based on the novel by mega bestselling author Nicholas Sparks, and you have to give him some credit. His characters are lovable, and hard to hate, but that’s why people read his books I suppose. No one in real life is as good or attractive as these people.

The movie opens on a guy named Logan (Zac Efron), who is a marine in Iraq. He finds a picture of a woman near his station. He puts it in his pocket and the picture becomes his good luck charm. He survives his tour of duty, even when others around him aren’t so lucky. He returns home, and has some trauma from the war. However, he decides that it’s important for him to find the women in the photo and thank her. So, he finds out where she lives and walks (yes, walks) from Colorado to Louisiana. He meets her, a good looking single mom named Beth (Taylor Schilling), her sassy grandmother Ellie (Blythe Danner) and her adorable son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart). He just wants to thank her (really?), but she won’t listen. She finds him a bit odd. Wouldn’t you? The sassy grandmother however hires him to work at her dog kennel. Being a good guy, he soon bonds with her son.

Beth doesn’t warm up to him right away, but of course, they soon fall in love. However, there’s her evil ex-husband Keith (Jay Ferguson) who threatens to take away her child, and has a lot of power in the small town they live in. He even controls the police, who stalk poor Beth but luckily she has Logan to support her.  

All the characters are charming, and once the evil Keith is out of their way, they can be a really good family. I don’t claim to say this is a great movie, and it’s ultimately forgettable, but kicking it is like kicking a puppy. So, enjoy the montages of good looking people doing adorable things like all three of them washing the dogs together. I say if you have a date and you want a movie to bring her to, this isn’t a bad choice.  On the other hand, there’s no way you are going to measure up to the guy in this movie, unless you really are that good of a guy.