The Lobster (C-). This movie has too much critical buzz–and sounded just too weird–for me to miss. It’s an allegory or satire or something about the pressure society puts on people to pair off romantically. In the alternative universe of The Lobster, everyone has to pair off. If your partner leaves you for another person, you get shipped off to a hotel where you can mingle with loads of other single people. And if you don’t find a partner within 45 days, you get turned into the animal of your choice and set free. Remember, I said it was weird. Anyhoo, Colin Ferrell (Total Recall) is our guide to this insane asylum. He lands in the hotel at the very beginning of the movie, where he sort-of befriends a guy with a limp (Ben Whishaw, Spectre) and a guy with a lisp (John C. Reilly, Chicago). Some hotel residents desperately want to find someone, while others seem more or less resigned to their fate. Oh, and there’s a band of “Loners” (including Léa Seydoux, Spectre, and Rachel Weisz, Agora) running around out in the woods around the hotel–defiantly (and illegally) single people who have their own weird code of conduct about relationships. What will Ferrell do? Seek love, join the Loners, or settle for becoming a lobster? It’s all very weird and artificial and sort of interesting, but I really can’t say I really enjoyed it all that much.
Guardians of the Galaxy (B). I did not have particularly high expectations for this sci-fi special-effects extravaganza, so that may have helped me enjoy it all the more. I’m afraid a plot description will make it sound a little flat: a bad guy is searching for an ancient artifact of immense power that will help him rule the galaxy, and a band of misfits (the Guardians of the title) must try to stop his genocidal plans. But it’s more clever than it sounds, and it’s generally a pretty light-hearted romp. Likeable everyman Chris Pratt (The Five-Year Engagement) stars as Peter Quill, a Tomb Raideresque scoundrel who is really hoping his self-proclaimed nickname “Starlord” will catch on. Zoe Saldana (Star Trek Into Darkness) is his enemy-turned-ally Gamora. Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook) has many of the best lines as a roguish raccoon named Rocket who has somehow acquired the power of speech and the ability to fly spaceships. Other notable faces show up, such as Glenn Close (The Stepford Wives), John C. Reilly (Walk Hard), and Benicio Del Toro (21 Grams). The film is rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi action and violence and for some mild language. I guess that’s about right, although I don’t really think mature 11 and 12-year-olds would have a problem with it.
Wreck-It Ralph (B+). I managed to catch this Oscar-nominated animated feature before it disappeared from the dollar movie theater, and I was glad I did. The premise of the movie is that all those characters in video-arcade games–Pac Man, Mario, and the rest–are actually alive, and they can hang out and mingle with each other when the arcade is closed down. Wreck-It Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly, Walk Hard) is a big mean guy in a Donkey-Kong-like game called Fix-It Felix. Ralph gets tired of being the villain and heads off to try to become a hero in a sci-fi shoot-em-up game, but he winds up in a cutesy go-cart racing game called Sugar Rush, where he reluctantly befriends a sassy little ragamuffin named Vanellope von Schweets (voice of Sarah Silverman, School of Rock). The incomparable Jane Lynch (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) voices the tough-as-nails sci-fi battle commander. The plot is overly complicated, but it was a pretty clever movie with a couple of touching moments. Also, there was a decent short before the feature about a guy trying to find a girl that he met cute on a subway platform and then let get away.
Cedar Rapids (B). This movie has sort of a 40-Year-Old Virgin vibe to it. Ed Helms (The Hangover) plays Tim Lippe, an insurance salesman from the tiny town of Brown Valley, Wis. Although not as sheltered as Steve Carell’s Andy Stitzer was, Tim is still a bit of a fish out of water when he has to go represent his employer at an insurance-industry convention in the “big city” of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Some amusing moments ensue as he bonds with the buffoonish Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly, Chicago), the buttoned-down Ron Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock, Jr., TV’s The Wire), and the up-for-anything Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche, Birth). The movie is unnecessarily vulgar (thus the R rating), but I still fairly enjoyed it. (The 87-minute running time didn’t hurt.) And am I crazy, or is Anne Heche really kind of attractive, in an unglamorous, unHollywood sort of way?
Cyrus (B-). This is an odd little movie. The premise is simple. Sad sack divorced guy John (John C. Reilly, Chicago) starts dating attractive Molly (Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler). They get along great, but the fly in the ointment is Molly’s oddly close relationship with her 21-year-old son Cyrus (Jonah Hill, Get Him to the Greek), who still lives at home. You could take this set-up over the top and wind up with a comedy along the lines of Stepbrothers (which also starred Reilly). Or you could make Cyrus totally unbalanced and make some sort of Psycho-type flick out of it. But Mark and Jay Duplass, the directors of Cyrus, play it straight — Cyrus is maladjusted but he’s not crazy, and his relationship with his mom is weird but not perversely so. I liked it well enough, and I certainly wanted to see how things were going to turn out.
9 (C). I caught this animated feature at the dollar theater, and that was about the right price. In a post-apocalyptic world, a handful of tiny, human-shaped “people” huddle together in a bombed-out church where they seek sanctuary against a few destructive robots still roaming around in the debris. Each has a number painted on its back, and 9 is the last one to show up. What happened to all the human beings? Are the little people alive, or are they mechanical themselves? And who made them? Well, I guess those are the questions you’re supposed to be asking yourself during this flick. Although the visuals were interesting, the story was not all that engrossing, and it kind of falls apart in mystical mumbo-jumbo after a while. They have some decent acting talent supplying the vocals (Jennifer Connelly, Elijah Wood, Martin Landau, Christopher Plummer), but only John C. Reilly’s character stands out. I guess it would be worth a Netflix, if you have nothing better to watch.
Step Brothers (B-). How do you rate, much less review, a movie that is as unrelentingly crude, that is as aggressively stupid, and that is as completely nonsensical as this one? Especially if it makes you laugh out loud several times along the way? The “plot” is preposterous. Will Ferrell (Stranger Than Fiction) and John C. Reilly (Talladega Nights) are Brennan and Dale–two 40-year-old men who still live at home with their single parents, played by Richard Jenkins (The Visitor) and Mary Steenburgen (Parenthood). Their world is upended when their parents meet and wed. Brennan and Dale act like they are about 9 years old. At first they hate each other, then they become best friends. Brennan has a successful younger brother named Derek who makes his family sing “Sweet Child of Mine” like a hymn while they ride in their SUV. Derek’s wife hits on Dale quite enthusiastically after he punches Derek in the face for being an arrogant jerk. Brennan falls in love with his therapist. Brennan and Dale go on job interviews together, with predictable results. None of it makes any sense, but as I said, I got some laughs out of it.