Friday, August 24, 2012

30 Second Reviews: The Three Stooges (B+), Step Up Revolution (C+), Peace Love and Misunderstanding (D+), and To Rome With Love (B)

The Three Stooges

In, by far, one of the biggest surprises of the year, the Farrelly brothers have challenged the generally mediocre "modern day update of a classic" mold with their hilarious revival of the classic comedy troupe, The Three Stooges. Capturing the magic of what made the original shorts work so well, Sean Hays, Chris Diamantopoulos, and especially former MMA fighter Will Sasso as Curley, give almost pitch perfect performances by not only replicating the stooges' slapstick mannerisms, and in many cases building upon them. The plot is relatively simple: When Moe, Larry, and Curley's childhood orphanage goes under foreclosure, the gang must go to the big city to find the funds to pay the bank back. We already know the ending in advance, but the lack of suspense doesn't dilute the enjoyment in the least. The Three Stooges is by far one of the funniest, most entertaining movies of the year so far, with enough nynucks for a lifetime: It's the rare example of a seemingly unnecessary remake done right.

Grade: B+

Step Up Revolution

As someone who had never seen any film in the Step Up series due to general cynicism toward an entire trilogy based solely on hip-hop dancing, I was at times blown away by the mesmerizing spectacle of Chuck Maldonado's visually dazzling choreography coupled with freshman director Scott Speer's hyperactive editing; pulling the audience into the stunningly complex flash mob styled performances. With more spectacle and pizzaz than most of the Hollywood blockbusters to be released this summer, Speer and Maldonado execute a few truly memorable sequences; most notably a jaw dropping scene set in a luxurious office building. The film has visual flair to spare, which is why it's a disappointment just how mundane and clichéd the storyline is. Future plot points and be seen coming from miles away, and the generally mediocre acting doesn't help a bit. However, the hyperkinetic dance routines are enough to recommend the film, even with some caution.

Grade: C+

Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding

There seems to be a recurring theme of immediately predictable conclusions in this month's set of 30 Second Reviews, but no film fares worse as result of this than Academy Award nominated director Bruce Beresford's inexcusably dull, pseudo Hallmark movie-of-the-week. Playing off every one note stoner/hippie stereotype in the book, Joseph Musznski and Christina Menger's literally groan inducing script utilizes every possible convention or cliché regularly abused in this type of film, to the point where the lazy screenwriting rubs off onto the viewer; turning them into a dreary mess of the person they were before watching the film. Even lazier are the casting choices, with each actor essentially playing blander versions of their previous characters. It's a hopelessly boring flick with little redeeming value; 96 minutes you'll never get back.

Grade: D+

To Rome With Love

Benefiting from the beautifully captured cinematography of its namesake city, generally excellent acting, and frequent bursts of absolute hilarity, Woody Allen's latest on this European adventure, while not nearly as ambitious as his journey to Paris, is still an all around entertaining ensemble romantic comedy. As four, and at one point five, separated stories play out around the city of love, we get the talents of Jessie Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Allison Pill, and the triumphant return of the long seemingly forgotten Italian actor Roberto Benigni, all acting at the top of their game. While some stories may not work as well as others (while Benigni gives the script his all, the premise of his vignette eventually wears thin), the end result is a memorable European pitstop in a master's long career.

Grade: B

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