Stuart Cornfeld

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Zoolander 2 Review

Good

With virtually the same blend of wit and idiocy as the 2001 original, this fashion-scene comedy is funny enough to spark some solid laughter in between the gags that fall flat. The punchlines are simple and the characters paper thin, but this world is so ripe for parody that the rather awkward mix of in-jokes and satire can't help but hit the bullseye every now and then.

Things haven't been great for top supermodel Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) over the past 15 years. His reading school collapsed in tragedy, sending him to live as a "hermit crab" in the wilds of northern New Jersey. And with a facial injury, his cohort Hansel (Owen Wilson) has retired in the wasteland of Malibu. Then Italian designer Atoz (Kristen Wiig) summons them to Rome, just as Interpol agent Valentina (Penelope Cruz) is investigating a series of popstar murders that seem linked to Derek's past. Teaming up with Valentina, Derek and Hansel track down their old nemesis Mugatu (Will Ferrell), reconnect with Derek's long-lost son (Cyrus Arnold) and discover a sinister conspiracy.

Stiller directs the film as if it's the next instalment in the Da Vinci Code saga, complete with shadowy secret rituals and ominous chase sequences. But the dialogue remains utterly ludicrous, as this "ridiculously good-looking" duo go through their individual existential crises, clueless that the world has moved on without them. Stiller and Wilson reprise the hang-dog charm that made the characters so likeable the first time round. Although this time Derek gets some emotional depth, while Hansel plays the action hero. Ferrell and Wiig camp it up to the rafters in their colourful roles, while Cruz vamps through the film in bombshell love-interest mode. Her deadpan performance might actually be the funniest thing in the movie. And each scene is packed with big-star cameos, some of which are genuinely amusing.

Continue reading: Zoolander 2 Review

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty Review


Good

One of those swoony American dramas that explores life in all its wondrousness, this film will quickly annoy more cynical viewers. But others will find it a warmly inspirational story about breaking out of our dull routines to live life fully. It's gorgeously shot and edited, but a rougher edge might have made it easier to identify with.

Walter Mitty (Stiller) is a daydreamer who manages photographic negatives at Life magazine. Not only is his job deeply redundant in the age of digital photography, but Life is in the process of being downsized by a corporate henchman (Scott). And as they prepare the last print edition, Walter is in trouble because he can't locate an important negative sent to him by an old-school photographer (Penn). So he turns to Cheryl (Wiig), a colleague he secretly has a crush on, for help. And he finally gets the courage to make his dream to see the world a reality as he travels to remote Greenland and beyond to find the photographer.

The film takes the time to set up Walter's fantasy life with superbly rendered effects sequences before sending him out into the real world. So we really feel the weight of these new experiences for Walter. And as a director, Stiller shamelessly punches every emotional note with vivid photography, surging music and wide-eyed performances. The problem is that the characters are never much more than cartoons, defined by one or two key traits. At least the actors all do the best they can to add resonant details.

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The Big Year Review


OK
Even though it's rather corny and sentimental, this colourful comedy-drama holds our interest mainly because it's about a subject we'd never imagine watching a film about.

Brad (Black) is a birdwatcher who decides to do a Big Year, seeing as many birds as possible in 12 months, while holding down a full-time job and borrowing against his credit cards. Jetting around the country for rare spottings, he comes up against his record-holding nemesis Kenny (Wilson) as well as Stu (Martin), a corporate big-wig who has taken a year off work to follow his dream. But will their obsession with birding cause problems in their private lives?

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30 Minutes Or Less Review


Very Good
There's no depth or meaning in this light bit of goofiness, but if you're in the mood for some random escapism, it's the kind of movie that keeps you chuckling. And often laughing out loud.

Slackers Dwayne and Travis (McBride and Swardson) are fed up with pressure from Dwayne's militaristic father (Ward), and decide to bump him off to get his money. They hire a hitman (Pena), but need cash to pay him, so they kidnap pizza delivery boy Nick (Eisenberg), strap a bomb to his chest and force him to rob a bank in the next 10 hours. He enlists his pal Chet (Ansari) and, with little time to spare, off they go. But of course nothing goes as planned.

Continue reading: 30 Minutes Or Less Review

Tenacious D: The Pick Of Destiny Review


OK
If Tenacious D's lyrics are to be believed, then the two-man super group is the universe's greatest rock band.

Comprised of dueling acoustic guitarists Jack Black and Kyle Gass, the D fills albums with harmonious and ridiculously clever odes to their own awesomeness. Their rock operas would make excellent B-sides for Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell album. Indeed, the band belongs on a triple bill with '70s monsters of melodic metal Black Sabbath and Queen.

Continue reading: Tenacious D: The Pick Of Destiny Review

The Fly Review


Excellent
The most horrific aspect of David Cronenberg's version of The Fly is that it's a pretty earnest relationship drama. Not because the hindered courtship of girl reporter Geena Davis by scientist-fly hybrid Jeff Goldblum (what, did I give it away?) is embarrassing, like so many love stories pasted onto genre movies. Quite the contrary. The tension between these two characters - their moments of happiness and the botched science experiment that comes between them - is exactly what makes the film so harrowing.

Oh, and maybe also the brilliantly grotesque makeup by Chris Walas and Stephan Dupuis, who won an Oscar for their efforts. But The Fly is never dependent on this impressive craftwork. Cronenberg doesn't skimp on his trademark gooeyness, but doles it out selectively. Creepiness finds other, relatively dry and goo-free places to emerge. A scene of Seth Brundle (Goldblum), after he unwittingly shares a teleportation trip with a common housefly, rising in the middle of the night and performing amazing gymnastic feats becomes unnerving as the camera lingers on a long shot of his spinning, soaring body. Veronica Quaife (Davis) looks on, silent and still, unsure of what to do; tension rises in the scene because of the characters, not just because you don't expect to see Jeff Goldblum doing flips on the parallel bars.

Continue reading: The Fly Review

Zoolander Review


Very Good
In Zoolander, the world's most successful, influential and intellectually-challenged male model Derek Zoolander wonders, "Is there more to life than being really really really good looking?" Obviously, the film's creator and star Ben Stiller asked a similar question when crafting a feature-length movie out of his hilarious VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards short-film subject: Can there be more to this film than being really really really silly? No, of course not, and it never aspires to be anything more.

Much like Derek, Zoolander is a sweet simpleton of a movie. It's not complex in either its social commentary or its comedy, and it never produces any gut-busting laughs (except maybe a scene when Derek's model roommates all die in a tragic "gasoline fight" accident -- a riotously funny take-off of Tommy Hilfiger ads). But it has a satisfying handful of strong chuckles, wild characters and performances, and mildly harsh potshots at the fashion industry to keep you amused. Better yet, this exaggerated version of the original three-minute skit is only blown out to an efficient 95 minutes -- just enough time to string together its goofball plot without exhausting the gag.

Continue reading: Zoolander Review

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