Drive-In Double Feature: Going The Distance & The Other Guys (2010)

The missus and I have been wanting to head to the Warwick Drive-In all summer, but the pairings of movies have either been uninteresting or we’ve either been out of town on good weekends. See, they’ve got three screens set up and each one shows two movies. We had never been to this drive-in, but we had a great time when we went last night to see Going The Distance and The Other Guys. As an added bonus, I could see the screen showing Expendables and kept peeping the awesome action scenes while listening to Other Guys.

Before getting into my review of Going The Distance, which I dug, doesn’t that not look like Drew Barrymore in the poster to the left? It’s kind of unsettling. Otherwise, I dig the poster.

Anyway, the movie’s about Barrymore and Justin Long a pair that meet in Brooklyn’s Barcade (one of the few hip places I’ve been in the city, though I could barely handle the overabundance of hipsters, go fig), but the problem is that Barrymore is an intern at a NYC paper and will be heading back to California in a few weeks. They don’t plan on making a big deal of their relationship, but find that they really dig each other and give the long distance relationship thing a shot.

Sounds kind of formulaic, right? Yeah, it kind of is. Both Long and Barrymore have sexy friends and coworkers of the opposite sex who make the partner jealous. But, even with all of that, I thought the movie was surprisingly funny. I didn’t realize it was rated R and they really go with it, having the usually disgustingly saccharine Barrymore dropping F bombs and drunkenly telling a huge biker to suck her dick. So, I went in expecting yet another Barrymore romantic comedy with Long’s awkward comedic stylings (which I like for the most part), but with the inclusion of Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day as Long’s friends and Christina Applegate and Jim Gaffigan (who is the only comedian in recent memory to make me laugh so hard I cried) as Barrymore’s sister and brother in law there’s a lot of funny moments going on like when Day, Long’s roommate, starts DJing Barrymore and Long’s first hookup and they’re both okay with it. Those unexpectedly funny moments made me laugh.

The problem with some of those moments and others where they seem to be letting Sydeikis or Applegate riff is that the movie feels about 10 minutes too long which is fair considering it’s 102 minutes. I’m a strong proponent of comedies not exceeding the magic 90-minute marker. Instead of cutting the funny bits, though, I would have just gotten rid of Applegate’s sexy British work friend who winds up disappearing after an awkward moment between the two when Barrymore gets super drunk. All in all, though, I was surprised at how funny the movie was and how much I didn’t mind the tropes of the romantic comedy genre shown by some legitimately funny actors and actresses.

I’m not a huge fan of writer/director Adam McKay’s but I’m getting there. Anchroman befuddled me when I first watched it, but I think that’s because I didn’t know what to expect and definitely wasn’t thinking it would be a life-like cartoon. Talladega Nights and Stepbrothers were pretty good, but didn’t blow me away, however, I really loved the shorts he did with his daughter Pearl “The Landlord” and the like. Plus, he wrote tons of sketches for SNL that I’m sure I loved during his long tenure on the show where he met up with Will Ferrell, the star of all the aforementioned movies and videos.

The Other Guys is about two low-men-on-the-totem-pole cops played by Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg who go after a low level criminal which winds up being a huge deal, referencing many of the financial problems we’ve seen in this country over the past few years. The plot reminds me of a lot of 80s and 90s buddy cop action movies I like, which is fun because they reference that genre by featuring the Rock and Sam Jackson as your action-packed cops.

I was glad to see Ferrell not playing his usual manchild character. Sure, he’s cartoony, but this time around he’s more buttoned up, but has a dark side. Meanwhile, Wahlberg plays the caricature of the pent-up cop perfectly. You’ve also got actors like Damon Wayans Jr., Rob Riggle, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan and Eva Mendes doing great, funny work in the movie that makes it a lot of fun to watch. There’s lots of silliness going on here, but I think it’s the most grounded movie that McKay and Ferrell have made, which would probably also make it the most accessible (having Wahlberg and Mendes can’t hurt either). I dug this movie and appreciated that I could watch the action scenes in Expendables and not miss any plot points. Speaking of action scenes, the one in the beginning of Other Guys features the Rock and Sam Jackson in a car chase that gets stuck in a double decker bus. It’s awesome.

Both movies were set in New York, so it was fun looking for the few locales I’m familiar with. The two movies also had some interesting connections for Six Degrees fans: Rob Riggle appears in both as an asshole and both feature The Golf Club at Chelsea Piers, a driving range that overlooks the Hudson River. I’ve never been there and didn’t even know it existed until I saw Long, Sudeikis and Day hitting balls there in the first movie and then a helicopter landing on it in the second. Fun stuff!

The drive-in experience was a lot of fun. We took the missus’ car which has a hatchback and built ourselves a nice little nest in the back. I wasn’t sure how comfortable it would be lying in the back, but it was pretty great and the weather was perfect. The food we bought there wasn’t too bad, but the snacks we brought in were kind of unnecessarily and I wound up with a stomach ache (combining hamburgers, chewie Jolly Ranchers, soda and Kit Kats is not the best idea). Hopefully we can get a few more double features in before the end of the season! Also, I think I might have seen a UFO!

Vince Vaughn Double Feature: Couples Retreat (2009) & Wild West Comedy Tour (2006)

I was pretty excited about Couples Retreat when I first heard about it. The cast is killer. I’m a big fan of Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau and Jason Bateman and putting them all together seems like it would be comedy gold. Plus there’s plenty of eye candy in the ladies (Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell and Kristin Davis). I don’t mean to sound like a total pig, I’m just not familiar with them beyond Watchmen, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and hating Sex in the City. I didn’t know anything about Faizon Love or his partner in the movie.

In the end it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. There were definitely funny parts with each person doing their shtick (Bateman’s the neurotic, Vaughn talks fast and Favreau plays a jerk again). I did like that Vaughn actually comes off as a pretty good guy as opposed to say his character in Old School. But there were a few things that kind of put me out of the movie. It definitely feels like a bunch of friends wanted to make a movie together with beautiful women in an exotic locale.

Another problem comes from the fact that, with the exception for Favreau and Davis, none of the couples seem to be appropriately matched age-wise. Vaughn and Ackerman have been together for eight years and I just barely buy it. Even worse is Bell who may never not look like a high school detective whose show I never watched.

The plot also seems to be a little all over the place. They go to a resort that’s supposed to be a regular resort but then turns out to be a full-on couples place, which everyone but Bateman and Bell are bummed about as they were the ones who came up with the idea in the first place (I thought they were actually playing a trick on the others who seem to have more problems than them). The relationship trouble all flies, but then there’s this whole thing with a party island and everyone going there and a really ripped yoga instructor (that did have me laughing). Anyway, it was a fun enough movie, but didn’t have a quickness that I wanted from it.

Interestingly enough, this documentary following a series of stand-up comics headed up by Vaughn did offer the snappiness I wanted from Couples Retreat. The comics are Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst and Sebastian Maniscalco and they’re all pretty great. Instead of showing full sets, we get snippets of their acts as they travel through 30 cities. We also get walk-ons from Vaughn, Justin Long, Dwight Yoakam, Favreau and Couples Retreat director (and Ralphie from A Christmas Story) Peter Billingsley.

Aside from showcasing a great group of comedians the movie does a few other things that I really appreciated and bumped it up from being just a great stand-up movie. First off, one of the guys makes a really interesting point about stand-up nowadays: guys headlining tours like they are were getting huge and starring in sitcoms in the 80s and 90s, but now they’re struggling to survive (one of the guys was a waiter leading up to the tour). I also think it’s cool to see how positive Vaughn is throughout the movie. Sure he’s got his quick, biting sense of humor, but he’s also really supportive of the guys after they have a lousy set. It’s also fun to see him geek at different times.

But what really elevates the movie is how it deals with Hurricane Katrina, which hit while they were touring. In fact, they had to change a few venues because of it and donated the proceeds from those shows. They also went to a camp ground acting as a shelter some of the displaced people. I give the director and editor kudos for portraying this honestly, with the guys not really wanting to do it and then going and enjoying the experience. It’s just more honest that way. Good stuff all around.

Halloween Scene: Drag Me To Hell (2009)

Man, I was really disappointed with Drag Me To Hell. I don’t know what I was expecting. I haven’t liked a Sam Raimi movie since the first Spider-Man (I HATE Spider-Man 2) and, to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of his overall. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Evil Dead movies enough, but I’m not super obsessed with them (example: I have Evil Dead 1 and 2 on VHS, but haven’t gotten them for DVD yet). I guess I got excited when everyone was giving Drag Me To Hell so much high praise. But, overall, I just found this movie kind of boring, not super original and not very scary. I was more grossed out from certain scenes (pretty much anytime something of the old lady’s went into Alison Lohman’s mouth or vice versa), but I was definitely expecting more in the scares department.

I also felt like there were too many logic gaps to just accept. Why does she use a key to get into her car? No one does that anymore. It might sound like a nitpick, but it’s not. To me, it’s the filmmakers jumping over logic to use an old horror trope (I can’t get my key in the door!). It’s 2009 and her car is newer than my hunk of junk so she definitely should have keyless entry. Another thing that bothered me was how quickly she murdered her own cat. I know it’s to show how far she’s being pushed, displaying her mounting insanity, BUT it’s not like the ghosts were still attacking her. She could have run outside and found an animal that wasn’t the pet she loved to murder. It was a story decision that made me continue to dislike Lohman’s character. I’m not sure what it was about her, but I was bored with her and didn’t really care when she was getting thrown around Nightmare On Elm Street-style. It didn’t help that after an intense scene, Lohman is sitting in her kitchen eating ice cream and crying. That just seemed like such a stereotypical and boring scene that I couldn’t get into it and kind of stopped caring. Oh, she also says things like “I’ll shove it down her god damned throat, I’m gonna get some.” That’s terrible, awful stuff. And don’t get me started on how absolutely careful I would be if I had a talisman that would or wouldn’t keep me from being haunted.

Hey, also, trains make a LOT of noise. Like a lot. You can hear them coming from way off. I can understand not hearing a bus (even though they also make a lot of noise), but this is a train. Everything about them is loud.

This review ended up being a lot more harsh than I thought it would be when I was thinking about it last night, but, having slept on it, I don’t remember a lot of positives from it. I liked Justin Long in a serious role. I liked her boss at the bank, especially when he tells Lohman to stop spewing blood all over the bank and then keeps asking if he got any in his mouth. Let’s see…the effects were good at times. I didn’t like the CGI stuff, but the practical bodily fluids being spewed and spilled all looked good. The fight in the car between Lohman and the old lady was pretty great. I liked how the old woman got several staples to the face. It reminded me of that Simpsons scene where Bart’s going back-to-school shopping and he shoots the staples at the cardboard cutout’s face. I can’t find the damn quote, but some of you know what I mean.

I talked to Megan about DMTH last night and she said that seeing it in a crowded theater really helped and I can see that. If I had seen this pre-hype with a bunch of people, things might be different, but I’m not so sure. I think Raimi’s gotten incredibly lazy (this kind of felt like Evil Dead with a girl and fewer zombies and action) and don’t necessarily care about his movies anymore. Do you really have to say anything after Spider-Man 3? You shouldn’t have to, but they’re working on the fourth right now, so what do I know? I wish I could have loved this movie, I really do, but the one thing I kept thinking through its entire run time was, how did this get a wide release and Trick r Treat didn’t?

Still Waiting…for a good follow up to Waiting

Back before I moved out here in 2005, I went with a couple of my friends who also worked at the Bagel Place (which has since been demolished and rebuilt as something…very different)to see Waiting… starring Ryan Reynolds, Justin Long and Anna Faris. It’s basically a look at a day in the life (though a crazy one) at Shenaniganz, an Applebees-like restaurant. Even though it wasn’t the same kind of restaurant we worked in we could totally relate to hating jerk-hole customers, relating to each other and playing games to make the day go by quicker (though, they didn’t involve balls).

Anyway, I’m a big fan of the movie. I worked with a lot of people during my 7-ish years at the bagel shop just like the people in the movie. Plus it had the above mentioned actors along with John Francis Daley who, like everyone else, I loved in Freaks and Geeks and a bunch of other actors I would eventually come to know and love like Chi McBride, Luis Guzman, Vanessa Lengies (yeah, I like Stick It, deal with it) and even Dane Cook who I like much better as a comedian, but whatever.

I actually get the itch to watch the DVD every time we eat at one of those TGIFriday’s-type (that’s can’t be the way to write that), though I usually don’t ’cause, you know, I’ve got a lot of other stuff to watch. Anyway, when I heard that the sequel, Still Waiting… came out I was cautiously interested. I put it at the top of my Netflix queue and got it the other day.

Well…

It’s not a good movie. The guy who’s supposed to be the Ryan Reynolds-type character just isn’t as good of an actor and can’t play off the lovable jerk character (also, making him kinda racist probably wasn’t the best choice). Overall, the characters just aren’t as real or interesting as the ones written in the original (even the few recurring characters), which is strange because, as far as I can tell, it’s the same guy who wrote the original (Rob McKittrick who also directed that one, but not this one).

I can’t say I’m disappointed or surprised because, hey, it’s a straight-to-DVD sequel to a movie that didn’t do all that well in the first place. I did appreciate the fact that Justin Long popped up in a cameo. Uh, I guess the following counts as a SPOILER, if you care. I like that he came back for this movie, but I’m not sure if I like the scene, where he basically tells the bartender that his life still ended up shitty after quitting at the end of the first movie. He sure gives a hilarious performance though and I was actually thinking “It’d be interesting to write a movie that starts where movies like Waiting and Empire Records end, with the guy leaving his dead end job and seeing how well they actually do with that” and then that essentially happened.

Oh well, I’ve still got the original, which is still rad, so who cares? Anyone else see it or even want to?