REVIEW: The Other Woman

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The Other Woman
Directed by: Nick Cassavetes
Written by: Melissa Stack
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

The Other Woman’s flaws are large and predictable, but though the movie is slight it is also slightly enjoyable.  It feels like an adult version of the forgettable 2006 teen comedy John Tucker Must Die, where high schoolers who are dating the same dude plot to destroy his life.

Here, two mistresses (Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton) and a wife (Leslie Mann) bond over a plan to take down the charming monster who is deceiving them all (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).   This is a faux girl power narrative that fails to realize everything its female characters do is a reaction to a male catalyst.  Their lives are virtually non-existent outside of their relationship to Jaime Lannister.

Although Melissa Stack’s script has a few zingers that stick (“Cry on the inside like a winner” comes to mind), director Nick Cassavetes keeps the pacing awkwardly slow.  The first half of the movie is filled with unnecessary scenes that fail to achieve the laughs they’re going for.  This is mostly because Cassavetes, while sometimes adept at creating atmosphere, doesn’t have very good comic timing.

The New Yorker’s Richard Brody also noted this in his review:

In “The Other Woman,” Leslie Mann has an extraordinary showcase and she uses it flamboyantly, with an amazingly inventive range of inflections and line readings. She’s a major comic actor, but Nick Cassavetes does her no favors; his vague framings and ping-pong editing leach the immediacy from her performance.

The contagious energy and charisma of Mann and many of the other performers make the movie bearable, even if their characters mostly come off as a smorgasbord of rom-com caricatures.  It’s an empty confection of wealthy, privileged people attacking each other; its locales, generically sleek renderings of the Bahamas, the Hamptons and New York City, are more the point than a good laugh or a genuine human connection.

Grade: D+

REVIEW: Bad Teacher

Bad Teacher
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Written by: Gene Stupnitsky & Lee Eisenberg
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Lucy Punch, Jason Segel, and Justin Timberlake

Who knew that the winds of change would start blowing in formulaic summer comedies?  Last summer, Bad Teacher may have been a sequel to Bad Santa that had Billy Bob Thornton reprising one of his most infamous roles.  Instead, it’s become a female-driven vehicle for Cameron Diaz.

Paired with Bridesmaids, it’s hard to not observe the raunchy tone these women have used to start embedding themselves into the mainstream.  It is worth mentioning that this film was written by men while Bridesmaids was written by women, and it doesn’t really delve into the pathos of any of the women.

The issue of gender is not brought up in either film, which is why it makes them relevant.  Bad Teacher is fairly weak, though; typical hallow summer fare chock-full of some great gags and biting one-liners.  As part of a larger case study, though, it merits mention.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: Vanilla Sky

Vanilla Sky
Directed by: Cameron Crowe
Written by: Cameron Crowe (adapted screenplay), Alejandro Amenábar & Mateo Gil (original screenplay),
Starring: Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, and Kurt Russell

The trouble with success is, you always have to follow it up with something.  In the case of Cameron Crowe, who was adorned the king of both rock music and the film world in 2000 with Almost Famous, follows it up with this surreal, weird, and ultimately unsatisfying trip through the perpetual abyss of love and loss.

Another perk of success, at least in Hollywood, is that it allows you to draw in A-list names to your cause.  In the case of Vanilla Sky, Crowe draws in the great (Penélope Cruz), the good (Tom Cruise) and Cameron Diaz.  This big-name ensemble, which is led by Cruise but scene-stolen by Cruz, follows silver-spoon publisher David Aames as his life spins in and out of reality after a car crash.

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REVIEW: Shrek Forever After

Shrek Forever After
Directed by: Mike Mitchell
Written by: Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke (screenplay)
Starring: Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, and Antonio Banderas

Outside of Pixar, the Shrek franchise is probably the most famous digital animation escapade.  The first Shrek is widely considered a classic, an uproarious send-up of the Disney fairy tale.  The subsequent entries have all had their share of laughs, but none have matched the first one for blending heart-warming story with beautifully done satire.

The same is true with Shrek Forever After, the fourth and (they say) final installment in the series.  This one finds Shrek (Mike Myers) discontent and emasculated as the head of his new ogre family.  His first part in the movie begins with an intentionally redundant montage sequence showing the repetitiveness of his every day life with his three kids and his wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz.)

The rest of the movie follows Shrek as he pays for his discontent by making a fool’s bargain with Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) and trades one day in his life for one day as an unhinged ogre.  The impish Stiltskin tricks him, taking back the day he was born and sending him to a world where he never existed.  From here on out, it’s a not so wonderful life.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: Being John Malkovich

Being John Malkovich
Directed by: Spike Jonze
Written by: Charlie Kaufman
Starring: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, and John Malkovich

For fans of the work of Charlie Kaufman, a predisposition to a realm of absurdity is often acquired after watching one of his screenplays unfold.  Approach any of his works with the intention that you will be taken somewhere new, and that that place will be filled with wonder, terror, and more honesty than reality could ever contain.

In Being John Malkovich, Kaufman has crafted his magnum opus.  Inside the expansive confines of his world lie countless punchlines, absurdities and insights, most of which deal with the nature of identity.  This is a world filled only with people who go for what they want, because those who don’t don’t matter.  It’s extremes like these that guide the often childish characters through the narrative and ultimately to a conclusion that offers no simple answers.

It begins with a puppeteer named Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) realizing his dream is impossible in his own body.  He decides to apply this childish pastime onto something in the corporate world.  He gets hired as a file clerk (because of his fast fingers) on the 7 1/2 floor of a gigantic office building.  While working there, he falls immediately in love with Maxine (Catherine Keener), an attractive, manipulative, and greedy woman who leads him on, and then ultimately cuts him loose.  This is until he discovers the portal.

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