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Reviews for August 5th, 2011

The Change-Up

Directed by David Dobkin

      Mitch Planko (Ryan Reynolds) and Dave Lockwood (Jason Bateman) have been friends since childhood, but now in their adulthood they have very different lifestyles. Dave lives with his wife, Jamie (Leslie Mann), and 2-year-old twins in a suburban home, and works as a lawyer at a big law firm that’s about to merger with a Japanese company. He doesn’t have the confidence to have an affair with his sexy assistant (Olivia Wilde). Mitch, on the other hand, has oodles of confidence, lives in a small studio apartment, has lots of one-night-stands, takes drugs, and works as an actor in lornos (light pornos). After a night of getting drunk together, Mitch and Dave pee simultaneously into a public fountain while wishing that they could trade each other’s life. Little do they know that the next morning they wake up, their wish will come true.

      Cue the laughter that arrives with the comedy of errors---or not, rather. Co-writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore aim for the lowest common denominator with plenty of scatological, juvenile humor that could have worked if it weren’t so gross, repetitive, witless and unimaginative. What on earth happened to real comedy? Back in the day, throwing a pie in someone’s the face was considered the trademark visual gag; nowadays it somehow evolved into pooping in someone’s face/mouth or someone loudly defecating onscreen. Wow! What comedic genius came up with those ideas? The fact that audiences laugh out loud at that kind of asinine humor is proof that the average IQ has clearly fallen throughout the years. Check out Bridesmaids if you want to see more examples of the tragic decline of American comedy.

      The Change-Up fails so miserably as a comedy that’s it becomes frustrating and even a little depressing to watch anything that transpires on screen. No respectable comedic actor would dare to embarrass themselves by starring in a movie like this. Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman should know better. Reynolds was in Van Wilder which had its fair share of laughs, while Bateman recently starred in the funnier Horrible Bosses, but this film sets a new low for both of them. Perhaps Reynolds should stick to doing darker films that show off his serious acting chops like in the underrated Buried.

      At a running time of 1 hour and 45 minutes, The Change-Up is a grossly unfunny, asinine example of the tragic decline of American comedy. It will compel you to ask: “Should I vomit inside the theater, outside or both?”

Number of times I checked my watch: 5
Opens nationwide.
Released by Universal Pictures.

Gun Hill Road

Directed by Rashaad Ernesto Green

Please check back soon for a full review.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens at the Angelika Film Center and AMC Empire 25.
Released by Motion Film Group.

The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll

Directed by Scott D. Rosenbaum

Please check back soon for a full review.
Number of times I checked my watch: 5
Opens at the AMC Empire 25, Landmark Sunshine Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.
Released by Red Hawk Films.

The Whistleblower

Directed by Larysa Kondracki

Based on a true story.

      Kathryn Bolkovac (Rachel Weisz), a recently-divorced policewoman from Nebraska who no longer has custody of children, accepts a job in Bosnia as a United Nations peacekeeper. There, she learns that many young women have been sold into the sex trafficking industry, so she puts on her investigative cap and tries to get to the bottom of the horrible crime. The more she investigates, the more danger she finds herself in. Madeleine Rees (Vanessa Redgrave), head of the Women’s Right and Gender Unit, also hires her and gives her advice along the way. Peter Ward (David Strathairn), a member of Internal Affairs, also tries helps out Kathryn with advice. The criminals involved in the sex trafficking industry aren’t just anyone: they happen to be members of the local police and even the United Nations. When Kathryn senses a cover-up when she shows up at the offices of Laura Leviani (Monica Bellucci), a rep from the Global Displacement Agency, in hopes that she will help two sex-trafficked girls, Raya Kochan (Roxana Condurache) and Luba Palich (Paula Schramm), reunite with their families, Laura refuses to help, and, soon enough, the girls return to the sex trafficking industry.

      The screenplay by writer/director Larysa Kondracki and co-writer Eilis Kirwan builds tension from the get-go and has its fair share of intense moments, but it fails to brings anyone to life because it’s too pedestrian. You follow Kathryn around without getting enough chances of grasping what she’s truly thinking and feeling as a human being. It’s as though she were just there as a means of moving the plot along from point A to point B. The same can be said for other one-dimensional characters. Twists and turns that transpire in the third act feel gimmicky rather than true-to-life. At least The Whistleblower does tackle the human rights issue of sex trafficking head-on while unflinchingly showing the brutal violence and rape that takes place. The film isn’t afraid to point fingers at the corrupt government officials who enable the crimes and take part in them as clientele.

      Rachel Weisz’s convincingly moving and strong performance slightly elevates The Whistleblower and turns into a moderately captivating political thriller, but, sans a tight screenplay, it’s not nearly as captivating, provocative, smart or powerful as classics like The Insider, All the President’s Men and The Parallax View .

      At a running time of just under 2 hours, The Whistleblower is a suspenseful, unflinchingly albeit pedestrian and emotionally uninvolving thriller that’s saved by Rachel Weisz’s bravura performance.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Opens at the AMC Empire 25, Landmark Sunshine Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.
Released by Samuel Goldwyn Films.

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