Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

Just what is Crazy, Stupid, Love? A romantic comedy? A family drama? Or a (shudder) well-dressed bromance? Well, like its unorthodox title, Crazy, Stupid, Love is an eccentric mish-mash of all those things, and all the better for being almost completely indefinable.

Steve Carell plays Cal Weaver, whose wife (Julianne Moore) has just demanded a divorce after sleeping with workmate David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon). Drowning his sorrows in a bar, Cal meets smooth operator Jacob (Ryan Gosling), who decides to help the middle-aged divorcee get his life back together.

Criss-crossing that storyline with that of Hannah (Emma Stone), who’s settling for a guy out of convenience, Crazy, Stupid, Love is a busy, polished comedy that manages to keep the laugh-out-loud zingers firing mostly into the closing credits.

Where it hiccups is in its final act. Whereas the makeover montage, Cal’s complex relationship with his wife, and Jacob’s burgeoning feelings for Hannah all feel sharp where other films might play them soft, Crazy, Stupid, Love lets itself down in the last 20 minutes when it struggles to wrap things up inside of two hours.

Not that the resultant film as a whole is by any means a disaster. The way Tangled writer Dan Fogelman builds up a complex ‘love network’ (rather than a love triangle) is both smart and full of truthful observations, while that sexy cast never looks anything less than a million bucks. Gosling and Stone in particular are blinding with their faultless comic timing and sizzling chemistry.

In the same class as other romantic comedy dramas The Kids Are All Right and As Good As It Gets, Crazy, Stupid, Love only slightly outstays its welcome in its final minutes. Before that, it’s a stylish, pin-sharp chuckler with bags of heart. 3/5

Easy A (2010)

Easily one of the funniest films of 2010, Easy A follows the likes of Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You as an update of fusty literature that reinvigorates the kind of material that nowadays only gets dusted off for the A-Levels.

A lot of that funny comes courtesy of Emma Stone. Too clued-up to be a mean girl but too pretty to be a member of the breakfast club, she’s a clique-free everygirl who every girl dreams of being. As Olive Penderghast – whose life is turned topsy-turvy when a rumour about her losing her virginity takes on a life of its own – Stone is the kind of spunky, smart-mouthed teen that we usually only see in John Hughes movies.

Hughes is a clear inspiration. Aside from a sweet-but-unnecessary closing boombox moment – and a loving Hughes montage – Easy A strikes out as its own thing. Hilarious, soundtracked-to-the-hilt and super-glossy, it’s sour apple bubblegum with real crackle and pop. And thanks to Stone’s breakout performance, it’s also very, very cool.

Truthfully, at times, just a little too cool. Olive’s parents (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson) are the kind of down-with-it ‘rents that could only ever exist inside a movie, for example. But in its winsomely kooky characters and caustic wit, none of that really matters. John Hughes would be proud. 4/5

Friends With Benefits (2011)

When is a romcom that thinks it’s not a romcom really just a romcom? Uh, when it’s Friends With Benefits. A glossy, super-soundtracked puff of candy floss, Friends With Benefits wants to be more than just another generic romantic comedy (the film’s press notes continually and demonstrably use the word “pointed”), but in the end it’s nothing more than a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

That’s despite some snappy chemistry between leads Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. He’s Dylan, a high-flying Los Angeles art director. She’s Jamie, a New York recruiter. When Dylan’s head-hunted by Jamie and lands a job in the Big Apple, the two bemoan their inability to commit to relationships. The solution? Have strings-free sex without the messy feelings. Who are they trying to fool?

If the concept sounds familiar, it’s because a similar premise was cooked up for this year’s woeful Natalie Portman-Ashton Kutcher vehicle No Strings Attached. With its edgier leads and Easy A’s Will Gluck in the director’s chair, FWB already has a head start on the competition, and for a while it skates along nicely. Snarky and sarky, FWB opens by confidently lampooning romcom tropes (“Damn you Katherine Heigl!” Kunis screams at one point) while establishing likably eccentric characters.

It’s not long, though, before FWB loses its swagger. While promising a realistic romance, it can’t escape those clutching romcom clichés – picture perfect locations, boring, bed sheet-swamped sex scenes and sympathy-straining family plots mean it’s sterile and boringly predictable. Thank God for Woody Harrelsen, whose straight-talking gay co-worker frequently pops in to save us from the sop with a well-timed crack or a sentiment-free nugget of wacky wisdom. In the end, Friends With Benefits may think it’s better than most romantic comedies, but it isn’t fooling anyone. 2/5

Pearls Of Wisdom…

Courtesy of… Easy A (2010)

Olive Penderghast: Whatever happened to chivalry? Does it only exist in ’80s movies? I want John Cusack holding a boombox outside my window. I wanna ride off on a lawnmower with Patrick Dempsey. I want Jake from Sixteen Candles waiting outside the church for me. I want Judd Nelson thrusting his fist into the air because he knows he got me. Just once I want my life to be like an ’80s movie, preferably one with a really awesome musical number for no apparent reason. But no, no, John Hughes did not direct my life…


What you gonna do when your town – hell, your world – is besieged by zombies? Well, call Woody. Harrelson, that is (though we wouldn’t mind watching the Allen variety psychoanalysing the fucked-up undead for an hour or two). Harrelson may be the dippy funnyman we all remember from Cheers, but by all accounts he’s got one heck of a right hook. Just ask the paparazzo he landed a knuckle smash to in April this year. The actor’s excuse for the bust up? “I wrapped a movie called Zombieland, in which I was constantly under assault by zombies, then flew to New York, still very much in character. With my daughter at the airport I was startled by a paparazzo, who I quite understandably mistook for a zombie.” Imagine that went down well at the station.

Filmed around Giorgia, USA, Zombieland pits a rag tag band of humans against an emerging army of flesh-munchers. But if you’re sensing a certain degree of ‘deja so?’, you’ve not seen Harrelson’s Tallahassee, a Steston-toting redneck at the centre of the wretched resistance. He’s also on a personal mission to find the last Twinkie on the planet. “Ma mother always told me, ‘Some day you’ll be good at something’,” simmers Tallahassee as he brandishes a rifle. “I don’t think she coulda guessed that somethin’ would be zombie killing.” The arsenal at his disposal? Machine guns, pianos, fairground rides… you name it, he’ll use it to bash in the brains of anything lacking a pulse.

So, could this be America’s steroid-pumped answer to that other renowned zom-com? Director Ruben Fleischer certainly believes so. “I like to think of it as Midnight Run with zombies,” he says. “It’s the story of these two unlikely people that go on a road trip together. Woody Harrelson is this zombie-killing badass and then Jesse Eisenberg is this sort of wimpy coward and they have both managed to survive.”

Rounding out the cast are a notably more mature Abigail Breslin, and current horror pin-up Amber Heard. Thus far we’ve only glimpsed the trailer, but with its mash up of zom-brats and comedy slow-mo chases (all set to Van Halen’s rocking ‘Everybody Wants Some’), Zombieland could just be the sleeper horror hit of 2009. As for the rumour that Bill Murray has a zombie cameo, Fleischer’s keeping schtum. “I guess you will just have to go see it!” Bet Tallahassee could get it out of him.

Via Total Film