Monday, October 29, 2012

Movie Guy: Rom-Com Phooey

Okay, I didn't mean for it to take a week for me to get back to the blog. I'll have to start planning better.
Before I get back to the movies, I want to say that I hope everyone on the east coast is now and continues to be safe in the face of this monster storm. You all certainly appear to have managed to keep your sense of humor about it:

That's my friend Amanda Van Nostrand, New York actress, comedienne, and star of the Astro-Cons web series. (Yep, I totally just name-dropped.) My thoughts will be with Amanda and many others today. (And I will be referencing Amanda again later in this blog.)
Okay, back to the movies:

Love Actually (2003)
I do, actually, love this movie, despite the fact that I fully recognize that it is deliberately manipulative and, at times, a bit silly. I'd call it a guilty pleasure except that I don't really feel guilty about having watched this film multiple times. I do wish that the director had chosen to excise the cartoonish, one-joke, and - compared to the rest of this film - aberrant Colin (Kris Marshall) storyline in order to flesh out (no pun intended) the cute story of movie stand-ins John and Just Judy (Martin Freeman and Joanna Page). However, it isn't my movie, and I'll just take the not-as-good moments with the I've-seen-this-film-a-dozen-times-why-am-I-still-giddy-when-Aurélia-speaks-English moments.

New Year's Eve (2011)
I passed on this and its earlier companion, Valentine's Day, because I felt that they were both simply going to be unsophisticated attempts to capitalize upon the Love Actually's formula for success: take several storylines that are insufficient to sustain a full film on their own and tie them together thematically into one movie. (And, yes, I know Love Actually is far from the first film to utilize this formula.) After a recent re-watching of said British rom-com, I decided to give Garry Marshall's recent effort a second chance.
"Dude, I was 7 when 'Slippery When Wet' came out."
Turns out my suspicions were correct. More a parade of stars than a cohesive film, this film's blatant manipulations just don't pay off in a way that I was willing to forgive them as I do with Love Actually. A storyline about a rocker hearththrob reconnecting with the girl he left behind seems like a natural fit for Jon Bon Jovi until you remember that he has to be able to do more than sing. What little chemistry there is between Bon Jovi and Katherine Heigl (seventeen years his junior) is provided entirely by the oft-maligned but truly wonderful Heigl.
There is one really intriguing storyline that has bike messenger Zac Efron (meh) bribed by frumpy (?) secretary Michelle Pfeiffer to help her complete all of her current year's resolutions before the start of the new year. This one does not fit the formula, and it really probably could have been expanded into its own feature (with some re-casting).

You've Got Mail (1998)
"Black 10 on red Jack, Hanks."
"Good dog."
This is another one that I can - and do - re-watch frequently, but it had been a while since I had last seen it. This time I found myself far less forgiving of Meg Ryan's choice to let her character bounce and flit through the movie. I may have actually yelled, "Sit still!" at the screen. I think this helped me to understand why my favorite scene in the film is when Ryan's character is home sick with a cold. She is much more grounded in the scene, and - as a result - much funnier. She reminded me very much in that moment of the aforementioned Amanda Van Nostrand, whom I had met sometime after my previous viewing of the film and who now lives in New York City. (Be safe, Amanda. Batten the hatches or hatch the battens. Whichever.)

Two Weeks Notice (2002)
Worst. Ventriloquist. Ever.
Shouldn't this be "Two Weeks' Notice?" I guess a contextual argument could be made for the absence of the apostrophe. I think about these things. My friend Erica and I argue about whether or not The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother is misusing its apostrophe. (I say it is.)
Anyway, this was another re-watch inspired by recent viewings of Love Actually and About a Boy. I wanted to watch another Hugh Grant movie, and - while I remember not being blown away by this one the first time I saw it - I decided to give it another chance.
Hugh Grant is funny and charming. Sandra Bullock is funny and adorable. For some reason, though, the chemistry (and the motivations) just feels a bit forced. Not a bad movie, really. Just not a great one.
It is worth noting, however, that this film was almost going to be shot in Canada to save on production costs, but producer Sandra Bullock insisted that a movie about New York must be shot in New York. The movie's production was a big shot in the arm for the city in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. That context sort of smooths out some of the rough edges of the film.
We're all big fans of Sandra Bullock over here at Superfluity central.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
"Yes. I know who you are."
This movie boasts a handful of Orders of the British Empire - those bestowed upon Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, and Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith - so it sets the expectations pretty high. That's a tough position for a really nice, charming, but not terribly thought-provoking film to be in, frankly. I liked it, but I just can't rave about it the way that others have. It's a cute film that combines the idea of the elderly discovering that their lives are far from over with a fish-out-of-water tale in exotic India. Given the talented cast involved, it was a slam dunk, so I think I'd have liked to have seen the writers make it a little harder for them.

I think I'll leave it at that with the pledge that future blogs will occur more frequently. In the meantime, why not check out Amanda Van Nostrand and company in the animated web series Astro-Cons, as mentioned previously?
Here. I'll start you off:

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