Archive for the ‘Evan Almighty’ Category

354 – Evan Almighty

November 10, 2007

Evan Baxter is movin’ on up to the capital side of things. Baxter (Steve Carell) has been elected to Congress as a New York representative, leaving Buffalo and his old job as news anchor behind (as we last saw him, in Bruce Almighty). He’s schlepped his prettier-than-he-deserves wife (Lauren Graham) and his three sons down to Washington. Shortly after he arrives there, though, God (Morgan Freeman) appears to him and tells him to build an ark.

Why, you ask? Why, to drive the plot, of course. Back in ye olden times, Noah was told to build an ark so that when God flooded the planet, the humans and the animals could repopulate. That’s not quite the scope of the task at hand here, though we don’t find that out till near the end of the movie.

Building an ark in this day and age is disconcerting enough, but Evan has ancillary problems. He prides himself on his appearance, but lo and behold, once God has Spoken to Evan, he notices he can’t shave in the morning. Or anytime. The beard grows right back. His hair also begins to grow at an alarming rate. And pairs of animals, from gophers to birds, are following him everywhere. Not a good turn of events if you’re a freshman congresscritter.

Naturally, no one believes that God has spoken to Evan, thus making for awkward moments when a powerful congressman (a hammy John Goodman) wants Baxter to cosponsor some kind of land rights bill, and every time he runs into Evan he sees animals and hair. Bad impression!

Not that the movie’s completely lacking in cleverness, however. Evan’s wife is Joan (Joan of Arc, get it?); the Baxters’ realtor is Eve Adams (an annoying Molly Shannon) (Eve, Adam, get it?); God His Own Darn Self wears a name tag when he appears to Joan that says “Al Mighty.” Oh, and the company that drops off the wood that Evan’s supposed to use to build the ark is the “Go 4 Wood” company. Because the original ark was supposedly made of gopher wood.

For the most part, the movie is pretty formulaic. No one believes him, especially his family. Then they sort of do, but no one else does. Then people ridicule him while he builds the arc. Then the flood happens, and suddenly everyone’s a True Believer. Har. Oh, and then there’s the obligatory sideplot of the supposedly nice politco who’s actually up to dirty tricks. In Washington, of all places! I know!

Carell isn’t too bad, and neither is his supporting cast, and that may actually be the problem – they’re just “not bad” instead of “pretty good.” This isn’t a movie you’ll remember in a few years, in other words, except when you think of movies that had pretty good CGI scenes (check out the flood!). Freeman is as smooth as you’d expect Morgan Freeman to be, really, and there’s no one else who could have done a better job than he did. But really, everyone else in the movie was sort of bland and could have been replaced by another, similarly innocuous actor. (Except Wanda Sykes, who plays Evan’s executive assistant – she could be replaced by someone who’s not a major irritant.)

The end does compensate for an otherwise grayscale movie, with a wonderful staging of The Flood. Except, you know, on a much smaller scale, which sort of undermines the whole idea of The Flood in the first place. In Bruce Almighty, God wanted Bruce (and HIS not-understanding girlfriend, Jennifer Aniston) to gain understanding. Here, He’s asking Evan to solve a political/social crisis. Bruce Almighty, it turned out, taught us about free will; Evan Almighty teaches us that if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything. Evan Almighty’s overall message just doesn’t feel as all-encompassing or rich as that of Bruce Almighty, which makes it feel a little flat.

**1/2

Summer Movie Preview, Part I

May 18, 2007

Back when I worked video retail, the big question we got every day was “What’s in that’s new that’s good?” Kind of a vague, open-ended question; how do I know that what I think is good is what you think is good? I don’t. But customers always seem to believe that the doofus behind the counter somehow is an expert. This might make sense in doctor’s offices and auto shops, but the doofus behind the video-store counter doesn’t know any more than you do.

Plus, of course, movies are highly subjective. I didn’t like Gosford Park but maybe you, dear customer, would. And so on. Everyone has different tastes, right?

It’s time to take a look at some upcoming movies (theater division). Now, when I review movies, I really try to target the review to as many people as possible, so I don’t just take the attitude of, “Well, I hate costume dramas, so I’m gonna give this one a bad rating.” That’s not fair, is it? No, it is not. I try to think, “what would most people find appealing about this movie? What would they dislike?”

Anyway. Now you know the motivation and angle. Let’s see what’s coming up.

Shrek the Third (May 18): Finally, the green guy is back. I think they’ve been promising a third Shrek movie for… well, since before the second one, back in 2004. And there’s a rumor that a fourth one is on the way as well. See, I like Shrek. I like the potshots that the movies take at Disney. I like the gross humor. I think the three leads (Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz) are perfectly suited to their roles. So I’m looking forward to this one, even if it’s not as good as the first two.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (May 25): Okay, for this one I’m a little more skittish. Yes, I’m looking forward to it, and yes, I want to see it in the theater, but… is it played out? It’s going to be a bit longer (168 minutes). I wonder if it’ll fall into the trap of having its leads rush from Action Scene to Action Scene, which it kind of sort of did in the last movie in the series. But at least that one had the bonus of a good twist at the end that led to this inevitable third film. So color me skeptical – I hope it’s as good as one of the first two. Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, and the emaciated Keira Knightley return. (Knightley is a pretty face and a good actress, but boy does she look too skinny. She looks positively little-boyish.)

Bug (May 25): Ah, finally, a nonblockbuster. Michael Shannon plays a war vet, and Ashley Judd plays an agoraphobe. They’re holed up in a seedy motel, and they have insect issues. Is it all in their minds? Hells, no! Or maybe. Good to see Judd not playing some plucky damsel in distress for a change. William Friedkin is your director; maybe he has another hit here.

Mr. Brooks (June 1): Kevin Costner is a serial killer, and Demi Moore is the dick out to capture him! Why, it’s like they’re playing against type! Cmon, if Moore wasn’t gonna cut it as a stripper, what makes us think she’ll be a good detective? (Hint: only if she gets nekkid.) Costner, though… he might work in this role, because it’s one of those cold, emotionless, no-range-required roles that more or less define him. So yeah, it’s something new for him, but it’s not sea-change new. He’s a bad guy, not a good guy, so that’ll take some acting strength, but I think he’ll be okay. William Hurt’s in it, too. I bet he plays a guy who’s unhinged on the inside but normal on the outside.

Rise: Blood Hunter (June 1): What is it with Lucy Liu and stupid titles (Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever)? But this IS Lucy Liu, so I’m already inclined to watch. (Lucy, if you’re reading this, I’m available!) Liu plays a woman who wakes up in a morgue and finds out she’s undead. Man, I hate those kind of mornings. Anyway, she vows revenge on those who hath wronged her. Would most of us go after the people who killed us, or would we just be pissed that we weren’t, you know, actually dead? Liu doesn’t often get good scripts, but when she gets ’em, she’s good. This one’s written by the guy who wrote Snakes on a Plane, though, so..

Surf’s Up (June 8): This looks bad, so it’ll probably make a lot of money. Why wouldn’t it? It’s animated, and it has penguins, and we all know how much people love the penguins. But cmon, surfing penguins? Plus the one guy on the box looks like the guru guy voiced by Robin Williams in Happy Feet. I mean, exactly the same. I don’t think I’ll catch this wave. (See what I did there? I made a bad pun.)

Ocean’s Thirteen (June 8): George Clooney is making this one, he says, to make up for the second one, which was mostly bad. Just about everyone returns, but there’s a lack of estrogen – no Julia Roberts, no Catherine Zeta-Jones. Wait, there’s Ellen Barkin. Like I said, a lack of estrogen, but I kid. Al Pacino’s in it; wonder if he’ll be hammy? There’s also apparently a rumor that Angelina Jolie will be in it. The rumor’s from April 2006. The movie will be released in a few weeks. So I dunno what that means, but if Jolie appears it can only be a good thing. As for the plot, someone doublecrosses Reuben (Elliot Gould), so the gang has to avenge him. The movie has to be better than the uneven second one, but I hope the added cast members aren’t a mere novelty.

Hostel: Part II (June 8): Death and dismemberment are back, baby, only this time it’s three chicks instead of three dudes. Okay, whatever. On the one hand, I’m glad one of them isn’t Paris Hilton (as rumored), but on the other hand it would have been sweet to see her killed. We do get Heather Matarazzo, Lauren German, and Bijou Phillips. (I’m resisting making a Matinee at the Bijou joke, because it’s too easy and younger people wouldn’t get it, anyway.) The three get lured to a hostel, and then bad things happen. With any luck, this will be on par with the first one; expect a lot of gore and torture and creative deaths.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (June 15): Did you see the first F4 movie? No? Did anyone? No, wait, someone must have. I wonder if it was all fanboys trying to see Jessica Alba’s ass. Anyway, the four leads return, which I’m ambivalent about, because really, this isn’t a movie that focuses on character development; it’s really just about blowing crap up. In this one, the Four face off against a new threat, the Silver Surfer, played by a hologram. I’m no comics dude, but I always thought the Surfer was a good guy, but apparently I’m wrong. The movie already feels desperate, as if the studio is just trying really really hard to get some kind of franchise. I mean, hey, other comics movies do well, so let’s flog the F4 horse. My bet is that there’ll be a third movie, but it’ll be about one of the villains, or the Silver Surfer, and perhaps the original cast won’t even be in it.

Nancy Drew (June 15): I’m not in the target audience for this movie, and I don’t intend to see it, but I kind of liked the concept. Nancy Drew is a girl detective, much on the order of the Hardy Boys, but even younger. This movie is set in the present day, but Nancy is a throwback, an anachronism; she dresses and behaves as if it’s 1940. (At least that’s what I gleaned from the trailer.) So there’s that little hook thrown in for flava. Apparently this Nancy is a bit younger than the one in the books, but since most girls of today probably haven’t yet read the books, I don’t think it’s a huge problem. This looks like a cute, quiet hit.

Evan Almighty (June 22): All right! Morgan Freeman as God. This time, he tells now-Congressman Evan Baxter (Steve Carrell) to build an ark. Oh, yeah, like THAT’LL happen. Now, though, we’ll see if a movie of this stripe can survive without the strong personality of a Jim Carrey; Carrell is more of a reactor than a actor at times. In 40 Year Old Virgin, he merely reacted to the chaos around him – which was funny, don’t get me wrong, but here he might find it a little tougher, with less comic support. And the movie apparently cost a lot to make, thus upping the pressure.

1408 (June 22): Another Stephen King adaptation, and it’s been a while since they’ve been any good. Come to think of it, they’re almost never any good, but the ones that are good are choice indeed. Here’s hoping this fits in the latter category, and it should, given that Samuel L. Jackson and John Cusack, merely two of the awesomest actors ever, star. It’s about a paranormal investigator who enters the titular hotel room, which is supposed to be totally haunted. I love closed-room mystery horror freakouts, so I’m all for this one.

Live Free or Die Hard (June 27): Everyone loved Die Hard. Everyone loved Die Hard 2. Die Hard 3, not so much, so I dunno what to make of this fourth one, ten YEARS after the last one. John McClane’s way too old for this crap. Still, I like Bruce Willis in most about everything. I just hope it doesn’t really, really suck.

Ratatouille (June 29): Uh, yeah. A Pixar movie about rats. I didn’t see Flushed Away, but I have the same reaction – huh? Wha? Okay, sure, it has the pedigree of Brad Bird directing, and he’s the guy who did The Incredibles (I was one of a few who didn’t think it was awesome), but still… rats. Animated rats. Whoopdedoo.

Okay, this is getting long, and I have actual work to do. (I know!) Therefore I’ll do a part 2 later. Maybe today, maybe next week, maybe next month.

Political movies and more Borat. Plus: Evan Almighty

November 7, 2006

On this voting day (U.S.), I present the Top 7 Political Movies.

What, no The President’s Analyst? No All the King’s Men (not the Penn version)?Remember that Turkish guy back in the 90s who had the funky website wherein he exhorted women to come see him and kiss him and such? His site was famously badly designed, with flashing lights and poor, bad-English text and such. Anyway, he says he intends to sue Sacha Baron Cohen, according to this interview with Wired magazine.

Hey, good luck to him, but I don’t think he’ll win. He’ll get some free positive pub, though. Can’t beat that.

Oh, and Moviefone has the trailer for Evan Almighty. I read somewhere that if you’re sick of Carell already, just remember: It could have been Will Ferrell in the role. Carell was fantastic in Bruce Almighty, so this should be okay.