Saturday, September 18, 2010

“MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Virginity Hit’ loses its virtue from the start - MetroWest Daily News” plus 2 more

“MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Virginity Hit’ loses its virtue from the start - MetroWest Daily News” plus 2 more


MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Virginity Hit’ loses its virtue from the start - MetroWest Daily News

Posted: 17 Sep 2010 12:03 PM PDT

Of the two teen-targeted comedies hitting theaters today, "The Virginity Hit" is the one to miss. Shot with a shaky, handheld camera, the 'mockumentary' chronicles a group of horny teenage guys setting out to help their friend get laid. The "Blair Witch" of schoolboy sex movies, it plays out like an extended YouTube video: grainy, dark and low-budget to its core.

I predict the theater will be filled with 14-year-old boys (the YouTube generation) who buy tickets for another film then stealthily slip into this R-rated smorgasbord of f-bombs and boobs. While these attributes certainly add spice to some of the better comedies in this genre, like "Superbad" or "American Pie," the vulgarities in "Virginity" are just plain crass and raunchy.

There's nothing funny about asking a 4-year-old boy if he's ever seen his mother naked. And, in this case, there's nothing funny about a good guy whose utter humiliation goes viral. Being caught poking your stick in an apple pie is nothing compared to what happens to Matt (Matt Bennett, who even resembles Jason Biggs) on what is supposed to be the night that he finally cashes in his V-chip.

But that kind of degradation is what passes as humor in "The Virginity Hit."

Beyond that, co-writers/directors Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko ("The Last Exorcism") offer nothing but teen sex comedy staples: the awkward but lovable geek, a drunken road trip, a wild frat party, a diarrhea accident, a porn star and so on. There's also do-overs from other movies, such as guy-on-guy genital grooming, blow-up dolls, shopping for condoms, and so on.

It's all stuff that was funnier – clever even – the first few times around the block. What's perplexing is that, if you're making a film that is desperately trying to be unconventional and edgy, why rely on convention?

Our four heroes, who, in addition to Matt, include Zack (Zack Pearlman), Jacob (Jacob Davich) and Justin (Justin Kline), are high school students living in suburban New Orleans. Every time one of them "loses it," they smoke out of a special bong earmarked for the occasion.

Although Matt has been dating Nicole (Nicole Weaver) for two years, they've never gone all the way. Matt plans a special dinner and books a hotel room in the French Quarter for their special night – until it's not so special, as Matt finds out Nicole betrayed him. That sets Matt's demise in motion.

With Zack's camera documenting every second, the wounded Matt regroups and pursues sex from an older (25-year-old) woman, who solicits him online. Then his life literally blows up. Until his favorite porn star (Sunny Leone) puts it all in perspective, as only a porn star can do.

In the opening frames, Zack says to Matt, "As your friend and filmmaker, I'm going to do to your virginity what Hitchcock did for birds."

If shock and horror was the intended goal here, then I'd say the movie is successful. However, nestled into all the shaky-cam nonsense and teen-boy banter about farting is a message about waiting for the right time, and making your first time meaningful. Awwwwwww!!!!

Dana Barbuto may be reached at dbarbuto@ledger.com.

THE VIRGINITY HIT (R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, drug and alcohol use.) Cast includes Matt Bennett and Zack Pearlman. Co-written and co-directed by Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Emma Stone’s ‘Easy A’ is whip-smart and web-savvy - Daily Freeman

Posted: 17 Sep 2010 11:41 AM PDT

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Dan Byrd, left, and Emma Stone are shown in a scene from "Easy A." (AP Photo/Screen Gems, Adam Taylor)

Emma Stone stars as Olive Penderghast in a scene from "Easy A." (AP Photo/Screen Gems, Adam Taylor)

Wmma Stone, right, and Amanda Bynes are shown in a scene from "Easy A." (AP Photo/Screen Gems, Adam Taylor)

The movies are getting faster.

This fall, the dialogue seems to be speeding up to an instant messaging pace. Like another web-savvy, hyper-verbal movie out soon — "The Social Network" — "Easy A" has some of the wordy whip-smarts of "His Girl Friday," though its inspiration is much more John Hughes with a dash of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

High school teenager Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) is beautiful, sarcastic and witty. She breezes through phrases like "terminal illogical inexactitude" (falsehoods that travel quickly), makes elaborate Google Earth metaphors and does it all without arrogance or even an upturned eyebrow.

She is, in short, way out of any teenage boy's league.

"Easy A" begins with her speaking directly into the camera — her computer's webcam — explaining that "the rumors of my promiscuity have been greatly exaggerated." Introducing her story, she declares herself a reliable narrator "of sound mind and average breast size."

This narration continues sporadically throughout "Easy A," but we only in the end find out its reason. In between, Olive accidentally develops a reputation as an "easy" girl after — to satiate her badgering best friend Rhiannon (Aly Michalka) — she lies about losing her virginity.

The rumor, spread by the school's resident religious zealot Marianne (Amanda Bynes, playing the blond type usually made a cheerleader in such movies), moves at the speed of Twitter. Olive doesn't especially mind that her reputation is soiled since she was previously anonymous.

She even embraces the role, sacrificing her rep for the sins of her classmates' sexual anxieties. Unlike most any high-schooler, Olive doesn't care what anyone thinks of her.

To help a gay friend fend off his heterosexual bullies, she pretends to have sex with him. Other suitors soon come calling, too, like a portly kid looking for an image boost.

It quickly gets out of hand and even her friends turn on her. Still undaunted, Olive dresses more provocatively (like a young, similarly chaste Britney Spears) and pins a red "A" to her outfit. The reference, of course, is Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter," which she's reading in a class taught by the school's coolest teacher (Thomas Haden Church, in perfect casting).

Narrating, Olive recommends "the original" film version, not "the Demi Moore one" where she takes "a bunch of baths." "Easy A" cleverly inverts Hawthorne's tale: Virginity is never lost, but in the age of Facebook (which, incidentally, Church's character gives a wonderful rant on), rumor alone is cruel enough.

"Whatever happened to chivalry?" wonders Olive, an outcast by then. "Did it only exist in '80s movies?"

"John Hughes did not direct my life," she adds.

That's true; Will Gluck did. Gluck — whose previous film was another high school film, 2009's "Fired Up!" — ably and stylistically transfers Bert V. Royal's excellent, nimble script. Gluck weaves in modern technology seamlessly. In one sharp running gag, a pop song goes from an annoyance to an obsession to a ring tone.

The adults nearly steal the film. As Olive's parents, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are hysterical. Olive's sarcasm is theirs exactly; together they're something like a troupe of clever actors role-playing as a family.

True to life, they are far less responsible than the younger, wiser generation. Tucci's father says he was gay once "for a long time"; Clarkson's mother admits to having slept with most of her high school. As a guidance counselor, Lisa Kudrow has more issues than her students. As the school principal, Malcolm McDowell proclaims his mission as only to "keep the girls off the pole and the guys off the pipe."

For all its Hawthorne quoting, "Easy A" is clearly the stepchild of Hughes; Olive is a kind of modern-day Ferris Bueller. She has it pretty close to all figured out, and she even gets her own big, gratuitous musical number. It's a terrifically deadpan, lively performance from Stone.

But this swaggering comedy, as you might expect, will tie things up too neatly. File "Easy A" alongside "Twilight": Sex just isn't part of coming-of-age stories at the movies these days.

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Movie review: 'The Town' gets four stars out of five - Seacoast Online

Posted: 16 Sep 2010 11:31 PM PDT

n With 'The Town,' Affleck shows promise as a director

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Ben Affleck, left, as Doug MacRay, and Jeremy Renner, as Jem Coughlin, star in the crime drama "The Town," from Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures. (MCT)MCT

September 17, 2010 2:00 AM

The decent-hearted criminal trying to go straight. The beautiful woman who doesn't know whether to love him or turn him in to the authorities. The live-wire partner whose erratic behavior threatens to get them all locked away for life. The dogged FBI agent who won't rest until justice is served.

I know what you're thinking: Isn't that the plot of every third episode of "Cold Case"?

THE TOWN

HHHH (out of 5)

Director: Ben Affleck

Cast: Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall

Rated: R (strong language, violence, sexual content)

Running time: 125 min.

But in the confident, assured hands of director Ben Affleck — taking a leap beyond his ambitious but muddled debut "Gone Baby Gone" — these familiar ingredients are transformed into something new. "The Town" is a tough, muscular crime drama with a biting wit. It's like a cup of scalding, acid black coffee after a long slumber.

In this case, the slumber of which I speak is the just-passed summer movie season, which failed to give us even one mainstream popcorn movie that wasn't intended for 11-year-old video game freaks. (And, yes, I saw "Inception"; and, actually, "smart" is probably the last adjective I'd apply to that overwrought hooey.)

Affleck announces his intentions in the opening scenes, with a nervously edited, ruthlessly efficient bank robbery, featuring four men in spooky Skeletor masks. They force their way inside and then force the assistant manager (Rebecca Hall, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona") to open the safe. When the cops show up, the robbers — led by longtime Boston-born friends Doug MacRay (Affleck) and Jim Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) — take the bank manager hostage.

But even after they release her, their paranoia becomes hard to shake: Might she be able to identify one of them to the Feds. Doug starts trailing her, strikes up a conversation at a Laundromat and — before even realizing the dangers involved — he's falling in love.

As wildly melodramatic as it might sound, "The Town" — based on the novel "Prince of Thieves" by Chuck Hogan, and ably adapted by Peter Craig, Aaron Stockard and Affleck — feels entirely plausible and naturalistic. That's partly because Affleck and cinematographer Robert Elswit ("There Will Be Blood") invest so much in bringing alive the Boston setting.

"The town" refers to the Charlestown neighborhood, a dingy section of south Boston, lorded over by a crime boss who doubles as a florist (Pete Postlethwaite, who could do these roles in his sleep, but still does them better than anyone). Affleck has a terrific eye for the way yuppified condos bump up against crumbling old houses, but more than that, he has a great feel for the sometimes perverse loyalties that develop in any tight-knit, family-centered community.

The bulk of "The Town" concerns Doug's desperate efforts to break free from Charlestown, even as his circumstances become hopelessly complicated: Jim continues to insist they take on new assignments; a wily FBI agent (an effective Jon Hamm) tries to bring them down; and Doug's longtime girlfriend, Jim's sister Krista (Blake Lively), refuses to let him break up with her.

Echoing those other recent Boston-based crime epics, "Mystic River" and "The Departed," "The Town" feels a tad overplotted, and it strains for an operatic anguish it doesn't always earn. The weakest link, in fact, is Affleck's own performance, which never fully captures Doug's fundamental decency, or, for that matter, his strain of sociopathy. (Oddly enough, the Boston-raised Affleck's accent is also the least convincing in the movie.)

But that's a forgivable flaw in a movie that otherwise strikes a deft balance between the cynical and the humane. Much like "The Departed," "The Town" looks upon this dog-eat-dog world of petty criminality with a jaundiced, comic eye. But Affleck never lets the characters devolve into cartoons the way Martin Scorsese did, coaxing tense, nuanced performances from Renner, Hall, Lively and Chris Cooper, who turns up briefly as Doug's incarcerated dad.

He also turns out to be a shockingly good director of action. In addition to that superb opening bank robbery, "The Town" serves up two successively more elaborate heists. The climax, especially, is a beauty, a hailstorm of gunfire and smoke and crunching metal, set at Fenway Park. The result is a purely pleasurable, old-school entertainment that never once insults your intelligence.

Who'da thunk? Ben Affleck has been reborn as one of the most promising young film directors working today.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.



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