Astute and genuinely funny teen comedies don't come along very often; this one starts with a smart script and lets the spirited cast run with it. Director Ari Sandel and writer Josh A. Cagan also acknowledge their debt to high school classics like The Breakfast Club (30 years ago) and Mean Girls (10 years ago) as they poke fun at the various types of teenagers within the school hierarchy. Of course, the focus here is a postmodern type, the "designated ugly fat friend", also known as the duff.
It's 17-year-old Bianca (Mae Whitman) who is horrified to learn that she's a duff. She's neither fat nor ugly, but her casual appearance makes her the most accessible one alongside her hot friends Casey and Jess (Bianca A. Santos and Skyler Samuels). Yes, she's the third Charlie's Angel. So Bianca sets out to change her status, enlisting the advice of sexy jock-next-door Wesley (Robbie Amell) in exchange for helping him with his chemistry homework. Her real goal is to build up some confidence so she can pursue the sweetly sensitive musician Toby (Nick Eversman). But Wesley's on-off girlfriend Madison (Bella Thorne) is the campus queen bee, and doesn't like him hanging out with a duff.
The cast and filmmakers have a great time playing with adolescent stereotypes, constantly undermining expectations while pointing out that of course everyone is actually a duff in one way or another. This sharply observant approach gives every hilarious exchange of dialogue a pointed kick. We can't help but laugh simply because we see ourselves in the characters, remembering that when you're a teen everything seems overpoweringly important. Whitman is superb as the brainy, cute girl who has refused to unleash the hottie within, and her spiky chemistry with the energetic Amell is great fun to watch. Although it's the adults who shamelessly steal their scenes, including Allison Janney in a layered role as Bianca's too-helpful self-help guru mother and an unusually restrained Ken Jeong as her journalism teacher.
Continue reading: The Duff Review
Movies don't get much more meta than this: a film about a screenwriter worried about writing a rom-com script because he's never been in love, even as he falls for someone. It's a snappy, smart script, but it's also completely overwritten, as every line feels like it's been carefully crafted to be absolutely hilarious. Thankfully, the cast adds some charm to the screen, and the genuinely witty script keeps the audience chuckling.
The screenwriter (Chris Evans) never has a name, nor does the woman (Michelle Monaghan) he meets at a charity event, then frets about because she has a boyfriend (Ioan Gruffudd). For help, he turns to his best friend Scott (Topher Grace) and their sardonic writer pals (Aubrey Plaza, Luke Wilson and Martin Starr), but each of them has his or her own issues. So our hero pursues this woman, who shares his cynical view of romance and enjoys hanging out with him even though falling in love is out of the question. And for a guy who has refused to let himself love anyone since his mother abandoned him when he was 8, maybe it's time he gives it a try.
Evans and Monaghan bring a lot of spark to their roles, including some real chemistry, although their characters are somewhat muddled by having them also appear in a continual stream of flashbacks, historical scenes, fantasies and stories told by anyone on-screen. Evans is also required to deliver a nonstop postmodern voiceover that adds yet another layer to the wackiness. All of these rather smug gimmicks are very well done but seem desperate to distract us from the fact that the film's plot is deliberately strung together from every romantic comedy ever made. And of course, that's precisely the point in a film that's constantly winking at us.
Continue reading: Playing It Cool Review
'Terminator: Genisys' will hopefully right the wrongs of 'Salvation'.
Terminator Salvation was a disaster. We know that, you know that, everyone knows that. In fact, it's a miracle that Warner Brothers managed to pull in $371 million given the storyline was completely incoherent.
Arnold Schwarzenegger did not appear in Terminator: Salvation - though he returns for next year's Genisys
Directed by the hapless McG, the movie starred Christian Bale and Sam Worthington and used time travel as a key plot element. It speaks volumes that Bale's now infamous on-set rant at director of photography Shane Hurlbut was the most talked about thing during the promotion of the movie.
Agent 1 and Agent 2 are CIA Operatives who are also the best of friends who don't keep anything from each other. While at work one day, both agents tell each other about their respective girlfriends. When they express an interest in seeing what their girlfriends look like, they quickly turn their laptops around to show each other - but to their horror, their girlfriends turn out to be the same girl!
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