Following the death of their beloved high school basketball coach, five friends, now middle-aged, reunite to honor him during the Fourth of July Weekend. Lenny Feder (Adam Sandler), the team captain, brings his sexy wife, Roxanne (Salma Hayek), and three little kids. Eric Lamonsoff (Kevin James) comes with his wife, Sally (Maria Bello), and three children. Kurt McKenzie (Chris Rock) arrives with his wife, Deanne (Maya Rudolph), her mother (Ebony Jo-Ann), and two kids. Rob Hillard shows up with hid much older wife, Gloria (Joyce Van Patten), and three children, two of whom are hot babes. Finally, there’s the bachelor, Marcus Higgens (David Spade), who can’t seem to find himself in a committed relationship. What ensues is a serious of tedious, juvenile and unfunny lowbrow humor that ranges from fart jokes to perverted humor, i.e. a 4-year-old who still breastfeeds from his mother. In a sick and tasteless scene at a restaurant, he weens breastmilk from his mother before asking to ween from Roxanne’s breasts. How many times do co-writers Adam Sandler and Fred Wolf have to show a dog with a weird bark? Or how about a character swinging and crashing into something? Did you’ll forget to laugh when Deanne’s mother farts often? Slapstick humor could work if it’s done right and tastefully, but, in this case, there’s poor comedic timing and comedy rooted in mean-spiritedness, as if this were a Judd Apatow film. You won’t find a single likable or believable character here to care about, so don’t be surprised if any of the attempts to generate dramatic depth fall flat on their face as well. Steve Buscemi’s brief appearance, which won’t be spoiled her, provides the only amusing scene here albeit it’s fleeting and unimaginative. At a running time of 1 hour and 42 minutes, Grown Ups is an asinine, painfully unfunny, immature, and boring waste of celluloid. It's a sad reminder that we're still living in the Age of Stupid.
I Was Born, But...
Mr. Yoshii (Tatsuo Saito), his wife Haha (Mitsuko Yoshikawa), and two young sons, eight-year-old Keiji (Tomio Aoki) and ten-year-old Ryoichi (Hideo Sugawara), move to a new home in the suburbs of Tokyo. The house happens to be located near the house of Mr. Yoshii’s boss, Mr. Iwasaki (Takeshi Sakamoto). Keiji and Ryoichi struggle to fit in as newcomers in their school. A group of bullies torments them during and after school. One of the bullies, Taro (Seiichi Kato), is actually the son of Mr. Iwasaki. The two young boys plot to revenge against their bullies and to slowly rise to power as bullies themselves. They even go to the extent of skipping school and asking a truck driver to forge an “E” (for Excellent) on a school assignment. The results of that request won’t be spoiled here. Meanwhile, their father encourages them to get good grades at school and to simply ignore their bullies. He treats his boss complacently and doesn’t mind humiliating himself in front of him, but when Keiji and Ryoichi witness his subservient behavior, they protest by going on a hunger strike at home. Director Yasujiro Ozu and screenwriter Akira Fushimi have a knack for smoothly blending drama and social commentary together with comedy while avoiding preachiness or over-the-top scenes. Given that this is a silent film, it’s quite impressive that the story unfolds so compellingly thanks to the accompanying musical score as well as the strong performances by everyone, especially Tomio Aoki and Hideo Sugawara whose facial expressions speak louder than words. The humor ranges from dry humor to sight gags, but they never overshadow the film’s more serious tone and Ozu’s keen social commentary. It’s quite interesting to observe the parallels between Mr. Yoshii’s experiences at work and his two sons’ experiences with the school bullies. At a running time of 1 hour and 30 minutes, I Was Born, But… is an amusing, well-acted and intelligent slice of social commentary.
This provocative and timely documentary follows a U.S. army platoon deployed in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan from May 2007 to June 2008. The soldiers set up a remote 15-man outpost called Restrepo, named after one of the soldiers, PFC Juan Restrepo, who died in battle with the Taliban. A soldier recalls his fear of the unknown as he and his platoon flies toward the Korengal Valley via helicopter. As the view of the valley emerges in front of them, they know that they’re in for an experience that they never been through before. Co-director Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger film the soldiers’ daily lives at Restrepo without resorting to excessive talking heads or focusing extensively on any of the particular soldiers. The only voice-overs are from the soldiers themselves as they reminisce about their experiences and candidly express their sentiments after their deployment. You’ll feel as though you’re in the heat of the action as one of the soldiers aims his gun at a distant hill in hopes of killing a member of the Taliban. The local living in and around the hills might have valuable information regarding the whereabouts of the Taliban, so a group of them are rounded up and questioned. Images of carnage or bloodshed that occurred throughout the deployment isn’t shown or, in one case, kept offscreen as soldiers cover the body of a recently-killed soldier. Some of the soldiers explain why they had cried and felt pure trepidation after that death. A soldier explains how he called his parents to tell them that everything’s fine even though it wasn’t. Another soldier recalls in vivid detail how Private Juan Restrepo had died. All they can think about is returning home as their deployment finally comes to an end one year later. Wisely, the co-directors avoid preachiness by not providing their own commentaries or assessments of what you’re watching. They trust that you, as an intelligent audience member, can process all of the documented footage and post-deployment interviews on your own and come up with your own conclusions. At a running time of only 1 hour and 34 minutes, Restrepo is genuinely engrossing, harrowing and unflinching. It’s one of the most important, timely and provocative documentaries of the year.
South of the Border
South of the Border