Screened Out: Nights to remember

Screened Out: Nights to remember

StephenMillerHeadshot_560873495.jpgDate Night
(Starring Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, Ray Liotta)
Date Night is nothing more or less than a good, solid date movie. This cute comedy may not be earth-shattering, but its guns are loaded with charm.

Fey (of SNL and 30 Rock fame) is a suburban real estate agent. Carell (Little Miss Sunshine and TV’s The Office) is her schlubby hubby. This couple is obviously caught in a rut, love has grown boring, and they consider each other “really good roommates.” In an effort to spice things up, they go into Manhattan for a date night at an upscale restaurant. Desperate for a table, they take someone else’s reservation and accidentally end up embroiled in an evening of espionage, blackmail, chases, double-crosses, and violence.

SODateNight_558916319.gifPerhaps the plot isn’t as tight or as tricky as it promises. Some earlier twists may mislead audiences into expecting more farcical complications than Date Night delivers. The theme itself is also pretty simplistic. Also, there are a few moments of self-humiliation that go on a bit long to remain funny.

On the plus side, though, both Fey and Carell are deft with the verbal and physical humor. This comic duo is given plenty of room to show off their impressive improvisational skills. The action is bold with a strong sense of silliness, and the slapstick is expertly delivered. In short, the filmmakers bet everything on the charm of Fey and Carell, and that is why Date Night scores.

The Last Song
(Starring Miley Cyrus, Liam Hemsworth, Greg Kinnear)

Miley’s first attempt at an adult career fails under the combined weight of melodrama and convolution. There’s so much clutter here! Whatever happened to clean, organized storytelling? The Last Song tries to force us to weep, but plot manipulations make the film completely implausible.

Miley is a gloomy teen piano prodigy stinging over her parents’ recent divorce. So she shoplifts. Then she and her brother get sent down to Georgia to live with their dad (Kinnear). Miley assumes she’s being punished. Kinnear makes stained glass, writes music, and coughs every so often like Ali MacGraw in Love Story. To escape the clutches of her overly caring dad, Miley meets a hunky volleyball player (Hemsworth) who also works at lube shop and volunteers at an aquarium.

Everyone here has six or eight interesting things about them; they’re built to make us feel like losers and underachievers.

Miley and Liam bond over turtle rescue. Miley’s a vegetarian. Liam’s family has recently suffered a secret, terrible tragedy. There’s a rich-boy-poor-girl subplot, as well as an arson mystery. Liam plans for college; Miley avoids making plans, even though she was accepted to Julliard without even auditioning. There’s a terminal disease. Miley meets a girl in an abusive relationship.

Author Nicholas Sparks attempts to cram absolutely every drippy romantic cliché into The Last Song. Every so often, Kinnear alone rises above this dreck aimed at Lifetime TV addicts who’ve severely lowered their standards.

Clash of the Titans
(Starring Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes)
The original Clash of the Titans was a 1981 mash-up of Greek mythology. It had hottie Harry Hamlin as our handsome hero. It was aided by wonderfully cheesy claymation from the legendary Ray Harryhausen. To a generation, it’s a classic cult film—not good but endearing.

SOTitans_215585290.gifThe remake only makes minor plot changes. This hero Perseus (Worthington) is much blander. The effects are rendered huge, but much of the original cheese remains. It’s doubtful this version is bound for cult status, but it’s an OK diversion.

Perseus is a demigod abandoned by father Zeus (Neeson), raised by humans. When humanity starts staging wars against Olympus, Zeus brings in brother Hades (Fiennes) to unleash his evil monster: the Kraken. What Zeus doesn’t know is that Hades has his own plans to overthrow the gods. Enter bastard son Perseus to cut off the head of poor, guiltless Medusa as a weapon to slay the Kraken.

It’s surprising how many strange choices are made. Olympus glitters like a disco Valhalla—just add roller skates and you have Xanadu. Fiennes looks like Rasputin; his henchman Calibos resembles Mickey Rourke. The Fates are a cross between maiden aunts and pro-wrestling monsters. Titan’s grandiloquent speeches are so clunky and cliché-ridden, they’ll make you wince.

Still, neither movie could ever be considered highbrow. At best, they make mythology that spurs the imagination of 9-year-olds. So what if neither film succeeds in making their legends legendary—these flicks are still fun distractions.


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