Sunday, September 09, 2012

B is for Bad Movies: Branded and Bachelorette

This was not a good day at the movies, unless you count seeing the Cloud Atlas trailer twice. It probably didn't help that I'd been up until 4am writing my [REC] 3 review (hey, was still awake, alert, and rolling) but my body thought I should be up by 9am anyway. It meant I could do the cheap show for Branded, and write up both new releases for EFC while the guys who usually do that are up in Toronto. Apparently, studios hold the really crappy movies for when North American critics are out of town.

Writing negative reviews is no fun. I know there are some people who really get a kick out of it, but I have a hard time getting into that frame of mind, especially when the time to say "so-and-so is not good at his or her job" comes around. I mean, I don't know that; it could just be that a lot of little things aggregated into something not working, although it's not like I'm shy about saying that when things go well. Truth be told, there is a lot more stuff that could go into these reviews - the number of ways that Branded is completely insane is astonishing, but listing them out my just be spoiling the experience for someone who wants to go looking for strange. Bachelorette, at least, is just disappointing, as I am tremendously fond of both Kirsten Dunst and Isla Fisher, who need to be in more movies that I like.

A couple more movies featuring people I like and which haven't been reviewed at EFC also came out this weekend, but after what is sure to be a painful Red Sox loss this afternoon, I think I'm going to go with Raiders of the Lost Ark in IMAX. Too many letdowns this weekend already!


* ¼ (out of four)
Seen 8 September 2012 in AMC Boston Common #3 (first-run, Sony Digital 4K)

Branded is a movie so bizarre at points that it must be intended as metaphor or satire, except that nothing about this film ever gives the the impression that it's nearly that clever. It's a weird example of someone trying to be clever beyond their capabilities, but doesn't even have the charm necessary to be good camp.

Mikhail "Misha" Glakin (Ed Stoppard) is a marketing savant who was struck by lightning as a child in 1980s Russia, and now works for American Bob Gibbons (Jeffrey Tambor). Bob's niece Abby (Leelee Sobieski) is also in town, looking to produce a Russian version of reality program Extreme Cosmetic, eventually enlisting Misha as a partner and lover. What they don't know, though, is that this is part of a bigger plan by a mysterious marketing guru (Max von Sydow), though he doesn't count on Misha having a vision.

That Branded (also listed on IMDB as "The Mad Cow" and "Moscow 2017") is built up around an almost childishly simple theme that marketing/advertising is bad is one thing; that it doesn't build anything interesting around that is quite another. Weird, sure - Misha doesn't simply hear voices, but comes to have visions through a whole strange ritual, and then the visions themselves are downright peculiar bits of visual effects - but filmmakers Jamie Bradshaw & Aleksandr Dulerayn utterly fail to make them worth the audience's attention. It tries to assert that it's got stuff going on; there's lots of bridging/explanatory narration, after-the-fact discussion of Misha and Abby being in love that should maybe have been more obvious through their actions, and young Misha is told that being struck by lightning means he will have an interesting life, but it's a lot of making claims that don't have any weight based on what the audience sees on screen.

Full review at EFC.


* * (out of four)
Seen 8 September 2012 in AMC Boston Common #6 (first-run, Sony Digital 4K)

In some ways, I suppose, it's kind of cool that Bachelorette feels free to run with its cast of abrasive female characters without particular concern of making them people that the audience wants to identify with; moviemakers tend to shy away from that. Still, as much as it's easy to comment about Hollywood clichés and personal transformations over the course of a single night, this movie really could have used a little more along those lines. After all, liking the characters can be a pretty nice fallback for a comedy to have when the laughs don't come that often.

Things start in a restaurant, where Regan (Kirsten Dunst) is trying to impress her friend Becky (Rebel Wilson) with her volunteer work, only to be blindsided by the news that Becky is engaged; not only did Regan see herself getting married first among her friends, but, Becky's fat and her boyfriend Dale (Hayes MacArthur) is kind of a hunk! She's soon on the phone sharing this news with her other friends from high school, trainwreck Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and not-so-bright Katie (Isla Fisher). Jump to the night before the wedding, and the wasted bridesmaids suddenly have to scramble to fix the wedding dress they accidentally ruined, occasionally crossing paths with the groomsmen - best man Trevor (James Marsden); Gena's high-school boyfriend Clyde (Adam Scott); and Joe (Kyle Bornheimer), who used to sell Katie pot and still has a crush on her.

It seems like these three should be able to get into enough misadventures over the course of a night to fill an hour and a half's worth of movie, but they really don't; none of the situations they get into are particularly funny in and of themselves, and while there's occasionally an enjoyably crude or oblivious bit, the characters just don't say or do funny things often enough. Mean and self-centered, sure, but that works best when there's some expectation of civility; otherwise, it's not much of a joke.
Full review at EFC.

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