Movie guide: 'Bridesmaids' act badly, 'Fast' still furious, 'Dragons' within
Updated 8:00 am, Saturday, May 14, 2011
Following are reviews of the latest movies in area theaters by Susan Granger:
From veteran comedy producer Judd Apatow ("Superbad," "Knocked Up," "The 40 Year-Old Virgin") and director Paul Feig ("Unaccompanied Minors") comes this crude, female-driven caper that's about as far from the traditional chick-flick or formulaic wedding chronicle as you can get. From the opening shot -- a slapstick sex scene between self-absorbed Kristen Wiig (TV's "Saturday Night Live") and sleazy Jon Hamm ("Mad Men") -- it's not only lewd, but also laugh-out-loud funny.
Kristen Wiig plays lonely, lovelorn Annie who is asked to be maid-of-honor when her longtime closest friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets married. Since her bakery business failed, she's not only depressed but desperately vulnerable, so Annie becomes enmeshed in all the prescribed rituals and frenzied rites that precede the nuptials, including getting to know the other women (Ellie Kemper, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Melissa McCarthy) who have been invited to participate in the bridal party. Above all, there's Helen (Rose Byrne), the scheming, well-to-do wife of the groom's boss, whom insecure Annie fears will soon replace her as Lillian's new best-friend. Jealousy rears its head -- and it isn't pretty.
Predictably, the bachelorette party planned as Las Vegas bash goes awry and there's an unsavory bout with food poisoning that includes projectile vomiting, inopportune defecation, and all-too-prevalent profanity. If it sounds like a vulgar female version of "The Hangover," it is. And just as Steve Carell's career was catapulted by "The 40 Year-Old Virgin," this should be the springboard for the rising career of Kristen Wiig, whose comedic timing is impeccable.
Although there obviously many improvisational moments, it's key to note that the ribald, almost sitcom-like script was created by two female writers, Wiig and Annie Mumolo, who met years ago at the Groundlings, a Los Angeles-based improv troupe where they wrote sketches together. And it should be mentioned that the late Jill Clayburgh makes her final screen appearance as Annie's well-meaning mom, while Chris O'Dowd scores as Annie's beau, an Irish-accented highway patrolman.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Bridesmaids" is a sharp-yet-sweet, shockingly scatological 7, filled with bawdy, uninhibited babes.
The wheels are still rolling on the durable, high-octane "Fast and Furious" franchise, as this fifth installment begins at a breakneck pace with Brian (Paul Walker) and his girlfriend Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) springing Dominic (Vin Diesel) from a 25-year jail sentence by forcing the Lompoc prison transport van in which he's riding to careen off the highway and spin over and over. Then all three flee to Brazil's exotic Rio de Janeiro, where Dom's childhood friend Vince (Matt Schultze) has a new job set up for them.
For the uninitiated, in the beginning, undercover LAPD Officer Brian O'Conner and rebellious street racer/auto mechanic Dominic Toretto were mortal enemies on the mean streets of Los Angeles. But then Brian was disgraced and began dating Dom's sister Mia. Now they're expecting their first child.
With macho federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) and his team in relentless pursuit, they quickly make a mortal enemy of Rio's reigning drug lord, Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), who wants his stolen cars back. So Dom calls in his most reliable operatives, including Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Han (Sung Kang) and Gisele Harabo (Miss Israel Gal Gadot), for "one last job" -- one that's worth at least $100 million. And if the concept reminds you of an "Ocean's Eleven"-type heist, that's intentional.
Justin Lin helms the explosive thrill ride for the third time, and screenwriter Chris Morgan ("Wanted"), working from characters created by Gary Scott Thompson, dispenses with all but the most banal and mundane dialogue -- like "Make sure you got your thunderwear on" and "Now, it's personal" -- in favor of fast-paced, fan-pleasing action. There's a harrowing sequence in which Brian and Dom steal a car from a moving train and then take a flying leap a la "Butch Cassidy" off a bridge into a rushing river. Let's hear applause for the intrepid cinematographer and agile stuntmen!
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Fast Five" is a screeching, testosterone-propelled 6 -- with a glass-shattering sixth installment on its way.
"THERE BE DRAGONS"
As London-based investigative journalist Robert Torres (Dougray Scott) is researching a book about canonized priest Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer (Charlie Cox), the controversial founder of Opus Dei, he discovers that his primary source regarding the saint's past is his estranged and now regretful father, Manolo Torres (Wes Bentley).
Manolo was not only born in the same Spanish town as Josemaria, but they were childhood chums and attended the same seminary. However, as adults, their lives went in different directions. While spiritual Josemaria preached the gospel, Manolo became embroiled in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), falling in love with a fellow revolutionary, Ildiko (Olga Kurylenko), who, in turn, adores their daring leader, Oriol (Rodrigo Santoro).
As Oscar Wilde said, "Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future."
Unfortunately, the interweaving of these two turbulent, parallel storylines is fragmented and contrived, and forget it if you think you're going to discover the mysterious secrets of the unorthodox and controversial Catholic brotherhood called Opus Dei ("God's Work"), vilified in "The Da Vinci Code." On all fronts, British writer/director Roland Joffe ("The Killing Fields," "The Mission," "City of Joy") seriously misfires, not only in trying to explain the political ideology but also in exploring the men's relationships. Sure there's loyalty and duplicity, conspirators and traitors. But since the characters are never developed, you don't much care about anyone, except perceptive a chocolate factory owner (Derek Jacobi).
Perhaps there's a clue to the story's opacity in knowing that two of the producers (Ignacio Gomez-Sancha and Ignacio Nunez) are members of Opus Dei. And the dragons of the title are strictly metaphorical, referring to the fire-breathing demons inside of each of us. Along with Joffe's sweeping, epic tone in this parable of forgiveness, credit Eugenio Zanetti's evocative production design, cinematographer Gabriel Beristain's picturesque pageantry and Stephen Warbeck's stirring score.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "There Be Dragons" is a fumbling 4 -- unless you're a devout Catholic who's well-versed in Spanish history. I found watching it was like doing penance.