Friday, November 20, 2009

Coming Up This Week...

It's come out of nowhere to be the indie feel-good sensation of the year...and the year's most visible Oscar contender. Let's see if one of the most hyped films of the last few years can live up to it...

More Oscar buzz, this time for lead actress Carey Mulligan, whose magnetism is already the talk of Hollywood...

One of those really quirky comedies with arthouse cred and tons of great actors acting wacky...could be fabulous, or could be embarrassing.


Some small movie no one's heard of. Word has it this one contains tons of naked male upper torsos. Have no clue what to make of it.

New on DVD & Blu-Ray: The Open Road

A young man in turmoil must reach out to his boisterous estranged father at the request of his ailing mother, and the two men are forced to sort-of bond over the course of their quirky journey together. "Haven't we already seen this before?" you might be asking yourself. Yes, you have -- we see this story portrayed about five times each year, and this film delivers about as much nuance and originality as one might expect for a motion picture generically titled, The Open Road. Therein lies the problem; there is nothing "wrong" with this movie, strictly speaking, but there is absolutely a whole lot of the lukewarm same.

Justin Timberlake and Jeff Bridges headline the film as offbeat father and son, the former a struggling minor league baseball player with not-so-secret literary aspirations and the latter a one-time MLB great who has devolved into a jocular alcoholic who roams from convention to convention signing autographs for naive fans. As the film begins, Carlton (Timberlake) receives a call telling him his mother (Mary Steenburgen) is in need of emergency surgery to aid her "heart condition" (the details of said condition are, perhaps mercifully, omitted from the story). Good ol' mom refuses treatment until she is granted one desire: that her estranged ex-husband, Kyle (Bridges) visit her bedside before she enters the operating room and that her son be the one to bring him to her.

A more belabored set-up is unimaginable, but The Open Road does everything it can to make the exposition all the more complicated. When Carlton finds his dad at a baseball memorabilia convention, Pops is surprisingly agreeable about making a trip to visit his ex, and makes plans to fly out and see her. But this is a road movie, right? So of course there is a hitch: the baseball great "loses his I.D." and is "stopped at the gate by Homeland Security," so obviously that means a road trip is necessary. Everybody accepting of this premise? Okay, moving on...

Father and son embark on a road trip from Ohio to Texas, a trek that seems oddly protracted for the sake of the film's uneven "beat the clock" framework, wherein Mom's condition worsens with each day our heroes spend on the road. Too bad it appears to take two days to travel through Kentucky and three more to get through Tennessee, when in reality it takes at best one full day to drive through both states combined. Maybe that's because the characters stop off at many different locations to share colorful moments or trade wounded sentiments that lightly touch on their rocky family history, sequences that might have been effective had the screenplay taken time to establish that history in a tangible way. Instead, we get would-be significant conversations between our grandly pontificating characters that take place at the 20-minute mark, after writer/director Michael Meredith's screenplay has raced to cobble together the central story and varying character motivations. Typically, the men unburden their souls to the film's de facto mediator, Lucy (Kate Mara), Carlton's on-again, off-again pseudo-girlfriend, who would herself benefit with more careful definition.

The Open Road is a film with virtuous intentions and limp results. Sure, the "road movie" premise is very tired, but with the right spice it can work as well as any other story construction. Here, however, every detail is murky and every character is normal to a fault. Even the loud-mouthed baseball legend, which should be hugely engaging in the hands of the great Bridges, is an earthbound caricature whose story treads water for 90 bland minutes. Timberlake is actually a talented actor, even if playing earnest isn't exactly his strong suit, and his interactions with both Bridges and Mara have a good natural flow; these actors might soar if only the material wasn't such a burdensome slog through Sameville.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Opening up a Box of Worms

Richard Kelly's The Box is intriguing and mysterious almost in spite of itself. It is an entertaining carnival show even if the story is, in all honesty, a complete and utter mess. Kelly is a master at crafting mysteries that build with fascinating brilliance and then pay-off with almost complete fizzle, and The Box fits into that mold like the perfect missing puzzle piece. Donnie Darko, the filmmaker's first feature, was his most successful -- an endlessly engaging mind-bender with great period details and oodles of style. The long-delayed Southland Tales was an ambitious, overblown disaster and was justly pilloried as such. Now, The Box...

People are going to hate it. People have hated it. That opinion is not altogether wrong. For me, one who tends to enjoy the ride of being jerked around by a weirdo cinematic journey, I checked my sense at the door and just tried to go with it. For the most part, I was successful. But why, then, do I roll my eyes and groan every time I think back on the film?

If you've seen the trailer, you know the plot. A Southern couple (Cameron Diaz, James Marsden) are visited by a mysterious gentleman with half a face (Frank Langella), who presents them with a strange button device that comes with a hefty choice: press the button and someone in the world will die...and then the couple will receive a million bucks. Don't press it, and no one dies...but no money. A simple concept, weighed down by a metric ton of over-complicated plot mechanics involving zombified secret agents, otherworldly portals, and inevitable fates.

For a film that pitches itself as a shocking mind-bender, the storytelling is straight-forward to a fault. There is no twist or revelation, no great secret unearthed -- we are informed of the central conceit literally two minutes into the film, and then the story plays out. Odd stuff happens, most of it unexplained, but understood enough to seem more ho-hum than revelatory. The film's overriding message -- that we as humans bear a great responsibility for the destruction of our world and our species, is valid, but has been explored in more interesting ways in better films. The film's one unique attribute, the titular "box," is a system by which we are simultaneously judged for our destruction and aided in continuing said destruction. The film presents a world of cyclical obliteration -- humankind kills humankind, and the machine helps. A very lofty sci-fi notion, indeed, but one that must be aided by focused storytelling rather than aimless tinkering.

Kelly, more than any other filmmaker currently working, is on the verge of becoming a complete industry joke. His films carry an aura of self-importance and grand doom, which only works if audiences buy into your illusion. They are not. In truth, the guy is so adept at devising a concept that any pay-off, no matter how well thought-out in his own mind, will come off feeling cheap and unworthy. I had to turn off the commentary on the Donnie Darko DVD because I was happier enjoying the movie with the explanation than to have Kelly go into labyrinthine description that demystified the entire enterprise and exposed the plot as flimsy. There is a reason David Lynch never explains his work -- he understands that art is a very inward experience and that his artistry is nebulous, playing to each viewer in a unique way. Kelly has that potential, but goes about his game too literally. 

A Serious Man? Not possible.

The Coen brothers always attempt to wring edge-of-your-seat tension out of thin air, to stir an audience into anticipation and give them an unexpected, almost non-existent payoff. It is one of the filmmaking duo's defining characteristics -- balancing heavy tension with pointless zaniness. That formula worked brilliantly well in last year's Burn After Reading, which took the Coens' penchant for silliness to the breaking point, making a film literally about nothing, where characters lie and conceal and kill one another over...absolutely nothing. Kinda brilliant, really.

Now, the brothers return with A Serious Man, which follows that formula a little too closely. This one skews a lot more cynical than Burn, and so it delivers its ironic oddities in a much drearier package. Yet the message remains the same: we are all wandering around this planet, dealing with trial after trial, adversity after adversity, and just when we think we have it all figured out, the next bomb drops. Whereas in Burn the filmmakers were just having balls-out fun, here they are being more philosophical, but the strategy is similar -- drama builds and builds and builds, and then BOOM...silly payoff. Surely the silliness has more of a point this time around, but while I loved every last minute of nonsense in Burn, it feels less organic here, as if the oddity is more a cop-out than a driving force. A Serious Man gives us a lot, but I wanted more.

Michael Stuhlbarg, a veteran stage performer, is fabulous as the Coens' leading man, Larry Gopnik, a professor whose life in the 1967 Midwest unravels a little more with each passing moment. He has a student bribing him for a higher grade just as he is being considered for tenure. His son is having problems at school as he nears the date of his Bar Mitzvah. His eccentric brother (Richard Kind) has invaded the house and may never leave. And his wife (Sari Lennick) has decided to leave him for a pontificating blowhard (Fred Melamed). There's also the intriguing ingenue next door who sunbathes naked and flirts with Larry. And, of course, the damn TV antenna keeps losing reception.

The Coens seem to simultaneously be swinging for the fences and checking their swing, like they have profound points to make but hedge their bets with a few doses of the same old schtick. Maybe that's because, as has been widely discussed, this represents the filmmaking duo's most personal movie, their first to truly delve into the minutiae of Judaism and growing up within its strict confines. The result is a very interesting picture that doesn't quite live up to its potential, a near-great movie with a few troublesome setbacks. But more than ever, the Coens appear to be inching slowly towards espousing a worldview, and boy is it bleak. In A Serious Man they seem to be saying, in a world full of this much folly, with this much daily, compounding, ridiculous struggle, there is no such thing as a "serious man." We all fumble around and try our best, but our best efforts invariably, inevitably fail. It is a futile quest...there are no serious men. Seems about right to me.

Catch-Up Capsules

As we prepare to enter the full swing of the vaunted Holiday Movie Season, wherein we will be bamboozled with every last major Oscar contender in an overwhelming cascade that won't let up for months, I thought it would be a good time to quickly re-cap some of the films we missed from earlier this fall. Here are some of the most notable ones, in short form...

District 9 is not the world-changing film many built it up to be. It is an interesting idea that was probably amazing in its original short form. Extended to feature length, some of it works and some of it just doesn't. There is a disconnect between the film's true nature and what it becomes...funny thing is, my biggest problem is with its true nature. The faux documentary format can be fun, but truthfully, District 9 is at its best when it abandons it and becomes a blow-out action picture. Nonetheless, the blending of the two styles is uneven and unnecessary, and keeps the film from reaching the greatness it aspires to. But one thing is clear: Neill Blomkamp is ambitious and talented, and what he has accomplished with this film, all flaws aside, is that wonderful feeling of discovery, the opening up of new territory that should get even better in the future.

Another film with "9" in the title that was originally made as a short...and even though the first one was slightly disappointing, it possesses more ingenuity and intrigue in its pinky finger than this one does in its entire screenplay. Director Shane Acker won the Oscar for animated short a few years back, but at feature-length, this story of ugly rag-dolls run amok is a convoluted mess. It is too dark and violent for young kids, too simple and soft for grown-ups, and too mindless and confusing for anyone, young or old, to engage with. It seems like the film exists for no other reason than to be an exercise in gothic animation...which is not interesting, not exciting, and not a worthwhile experience.

I will fight for this one any day of the week. It was very easy for everyone to join the backlash against Diablo Cody, even though she essentially defined a new style of dialogue (and won a well-deserved Oscar for her work), as well as the ongoing backlash against Megan Fox, even though most people can't take their eyes off of her. The haters succeeded in destroying Jennifer's Body's box office haul, but the film is way better than most would have you believe. Fox is actually a very talented actress, and she's great here, playing against Amanda Seyfried (who is always great) as BFFs torn asunder because one of them is, well, a bloodsucker. What rarely gets discussed is just how firmly Cody keeps her fingers on the pulse of young girl culture. Sure, the dialogue ultra-hip, but the insights into what makes teen girls act and talk the way they do is striking in its authenticity and heartbreaking in its commentary. Much more interesting than anyone would give it credit for...and awesome genre fun to boot.

The disparity between how excited I was for this movie and how deflated I was coming out of the screening is about 10 miles wide. For a film so colorful, with such an inspired concept and such talented voice actors, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is stunningly ultimate bore. Every time my eyelids felt heavy, I fought with all my might, for I wanted this to be the next great family film of 2009. But after more than five instances of the sleepy head-bob, it becomes undeniable that something's not right with the pictures flickering on the screen. For my kids, I'll probably try it again on video...but that comfy couch will make it that much easier to snuggle in for a nap.

Capitalism: A Love Story obviously has noble intentions, but no good intentions can disguise the fact that this is Michael Moore's weakest film ever. It is not, strictly speaking, a "bad" film by any stretch, just an unfocused one that feels slapped together without Moore's usual exacting gaze. To be fair, the subject is broad -- too broad, honestly, to be encapsulated by a single two-hour movie in which the filmmaker wants to also share personal stories that don't resonate and integrate his usual biting humor, which doesn't sting like it used to. Moore is a polarizing figure for a reason: like him or hate him, he is one of our country's foremost social critics. But this is the first time his commentary doesn't add anything to the conversation, the first instance where it seems he's following the trend of the times instead of defining it.

Oscar talk died down on The Informant! after the film failed to make a significant box office dent. But Steven Soderbergh's crafty comedy is one movie I'd love to see remembered during Awards Season. It is a small and sly movie, one that doesn't call attention to its intelligence, which is a welcome change of pace coming from Soderbergh, who is almost always a brilliant dramatist, but whose comedies often skew smug (i.e., this year's The Girlfriend Experience). The Informant!, though, strikes the perfect balance between winking humor and straight-faced intrigue. Matt Damon is brilliant as a milquetoasty chubkins who cons an entire industry by simply being himself, an identity which becomes delightfully more confounding as the film wears on. The story works the same way; like all of Soderbergh's best work, it will only get better with each subsequent  viewing. 

The only film this year for which the word "ick" is review enough, Astro Boy is unseemly, uncomfortable, and damn near unwatchable. The source material is intriguing; Astro Boy is a famous figure in the annals of anime history, and this story -- in which a the wunderkind son of a kooky scientist is killed and then remade as a robot by his grieving father -- would work better as anime, an artform that skews darker and is free to explore uncomfortable implications. But this American version seems to ignore the fact that building a robot to take the place of your son is psychotic! Instead, the film treats the plot as warm and fuzzy, which makes the proceedings all the more nauseating. The supporting characters are grotesque to the point of cringing distraction, and the animation is eye assault of the ugliest order. Astro Boy is yet another animated film I wanted to love, but I didn't fall asleep this time...I wish I could've.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Paranormal Filmmaking

Paranormal Activity has become this year's upstart indie-horror surprise hit. There is one every few know, the movie everyone refers to as "this year's Blair Witch," much in the same way there is always an upstart indie comedy hit that people want to call "this year's Sideways" or "this year's Juno" (of course, when it was released, Juno was "this year's Sideways"). But enough of that...maybe I'm just treading water because the unavoidable point is that Paranormal Activity just isn't that special.

The film is a creative enterprise, that's for sure. It is absolutely scarier than most studio schlock that is released with the "horror" label but would more accurately be placed in the "porn" category. And in its way, it truly is scarier than a movie like Blair Witch, which was more cerebral about building an urban legend than Paranormal, which is about building fear. The movie will undeniably send some chills through your body, but they are almost always buffered by glaring logical lapses that shouldn't be so obvious in a movie that is already about the unbelievable.

Part of the problem is that the "filmmaker" is actually not a filmmaker at all, but a guy who has worked in multimedia for along time and then decided to make this piece of media as an experiment. Oren Peli has a lot of creativity, and should be commended for his lack of vanity in not taking a "Directed by" credit that preserves the eerie non-movie feel of this picture better than just about any movie ever made. But of course that's relatively easy, since the entire crew consists of Peli and his two actors, Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat (Mark Fredrichs and Ashley Palmer play the film's only supporting roles and also go uncredited). Taking a page right out of Blair Witch, the two stars play versions of themselves. Katie, we learn, has always been followed by some unexplained entity, and her boyfriend Micah is a blustering bundle of male bravado who taunts said entity until it comes...and comes...and comes again, each occurrence more intense than the last.

Featherston is the stand out; her fear is palpable and her character completely believable. Sloat is a decent foil, even though he is forced to play a real jerk of a character who cares more about thumping his chest than keeping his girlfriend safe (but maybe that was the point). The filmmaking itself is uneven, making it difficult to totally buy that the entire story was shot by the two characters at all times, but that is forgiveable. This is, after all, a small movie that no one ever thought would reach such a massive audience.

For the most part, Paranormal Activity works about as well as it can within its limited confines. It drags for a good long while in the middle, becomes slightly irksome in its story inconsistencies, and saves the truly chilling stuff for the end, which goes out with a big bang and then literally goes dark. And truthfully, it is that dark that is only truly scary moment. After 90 minutes of small-scale thrills, the movie ends with an uncharacteristic movie-movie moment that takes us out of the film's natural flow...but when the movie cuts to black and holds, without credits, there is a suspended sense of creepy wonder than permeates the audience. The film is admirable for its methods, but those methods are ultimately more effective when analyzed than when viewed on the screen.

I love Zombies

Zombieland is just pure fun, one of the many movies that peddles genre kitsch, and one of the few with enough wit and ingenuity to make kitsch truly soar.

Like Shaun of the Dead before it, Zombieland exists in a world suddenly taken over by nasty, lurching zombies, a world in which the only remaining humans are ridiculously funny. The major difference between the two films is that this one is all about kicking zombie ass, hardcore-style, from start to finish. Woody Harrelson plays the chief zombie basher, and he is a perfect fit for this movie, looking like he's having more fun than he has in years. The great Jesse Eisenberg, who along with Michael Cera is defining pitch-perfect geek hero acting, is the knowing sidekick whose survival rules are the creative framework for the film. Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin are the tough-ass sister duo who reluctantly join forces with the two men and launch a white-knuckle assault on the undead.

There really isn't a lot to say about this is one of those movies where the word "awesome" is pretty much review enough. If it is more slam-it-home than a slyer film like Shaun, it also makes a more believable attempt at getting (ever-so-briefly) serious in its character development, and then brings it home with grindhouse thrills, wild ultraviolence, and the now much talked about bit of cameo perfection that completely seals the

was directed by Ruben Fleischer, who shows a ridiculous amount of confidence in his first feature, and was written by journeymen TV writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who will most likely be in pretty high demand from this point on. This movie is a much-needed shot of nutty adrenaline in a year that has felt -- no pun intended -- like the walking dead.

Box Office Destruction

Funny little B.O. note: take just one second to look it over, and you realize this week's numbers are about as lop-sided as they've been at any week all year. The top two films hauled in a combined $87.5 million...the next eight took in around $35 million. In fact, you could scroll down to number 50 on the list and those bottom 48 movies still wouldn't match the top two.

I'm not trying to drag down any particular films, and I'm not going to pretend that most of the time it's always the top few movies on the list that take in the highest percentage of the weekly haul...that's just the way the business works. But it seems pretty glaring this week just where moviegoers want to put their money...and all the more glaring that a movie where an f/x hack systematically destroys all world landmarks can take in more money in a single week than Robert Zemeckis' latest innovative 3-D feature can in two weeks.

Of course, The Twilight Saga: New Moon may just take in $80 million by itself this coming weekend, so...

This Is It

It would be easy to be cynical...but it's much harder when you realize what an unmatched genius is up there on the screen.

Check out my review at

Spread 'em!

Kutcher possesses a certain Alex Rodriguez quality in this picture, don't you think?

Check out my review at

The Merry Gentlemen

Michael Keaton makes his directorial debut by selecting one of the lamest scripts of the year. He clearly had better offers than this, right?

Wayyyyyy Expired

Expired is one of those movies that is truly beyond description. Great actors, interesting subject matter...and some of the worst filmmaking you will ever see.

Yikes....check out my review at

Friday, November 6, 2009

Something Wild

Consider this review slightly premature, since at this writing I have only seen Where the Wild Things Are once. This film is the kind that demands, thrives on, and was made for multiple viewings. Its story is actually quite simple, its subtext clear, and yet there are nuances buried within this emotionally-charged, elaborately-mounted adaptation of Maurice Sendak's celebrated children's book that I suspect can't fully be appreciated in just one dose. The taste needs more room to breathe, the richness more time to work its way through the brain and make its way to the heart. I can't in honesty relay my full opinion until I see the film again, but I can tell you that movies that require multiple viewings are often among the best.

On the basis of this one viewing, I can tell you this: Where the Wild Things Are is a beautiful portrait of childhood, in all its restless, adventurous, sad, giddy, contradictory splendor. I can also say that the debate over the film's appropriateness for kids is a tad overblown. Yes, it's dark and yes, its emotions are real and intense, but while kids are innocent, they are not stupid. Their lives may seem simple to we jaded adults, but life is just as towering, fearsome, and anxiety-ridden for kids in transition as it is for grown-ups.

It's been written to death about the ten-sentence length of Sendak's original book, and the various differences director Spike Jonze took with the material, at Sendak's insistence. But the seamless power of Jonze's vivid world cannot be overestimated; this movie version feels like a psychic equivalent of the book's oddball world, and the story's added nuances unfold as one might imagine a longer version of the book might. And yet never does Jonze fail to deliver a completely singular, intimately personal picture. His film simultaneously feels just like the book and precisely like its own unique self.

You know the story: young Max (flawlessly played here by Max Records) is a kid having a tough time dealing with his parents' separation, and as an act of his conflicted emotions the kid escapes to a strange world populated with grotesquely intriguing "wild things." Max is obviously wary of the strange creatures, but in truth he is a wild thing himself, just as odd to the creatures as they are to him, and just as complex and contradictory in his behavior patterns. There is room for deep discussion on who or what the creatures represent -- each seems a mirrored representation of a member of Max's real life, and each sort of resembles the various struggling aspects of Max's own personality. What Max learns in his journey is up for the audience to determine, and what happens after he returns home is unknown. The power lies in the journey itself, the journey of a kid yearning for love, who journeys into the wild depths of his imagination and touches the even wilder depths of his soul.

Jonze, one of the most interesting filmmakers now working, spent years struggling to get this film made, and spent much of production and post-production butting heads with studio execs on the final product. In the end, Jonze got final cut, and his vision is uncompromising. The filmmaker has earned a reputation for being a big kid (a persona on full display in his hi-jinks with the Jackass crew), yet his films are all undeniably complex, creative masterworks. Where the Wild Things Are is the ultimate synthesis of Jonze's duality as an artist, a film that is the truest, most beautiful representation of childhood the cinema has seen in a long time.

Imagine how much I'll gush after the second viewing...

Let's Have an Intervention

Vince Vaughn may quite possibly be the last remaining raunch-comedy superstar who hasn't acquiesed to the R rating. In an increasingly graphic climate, in which the likes of Judd Apatow and Kevin Smith have pushed well beyond the PG-13 and in many cases are inching past the formerly iron-clad limits of the R (even inappropriate PG-13 raunch king Adam Sandler has relented to the R a couple times recently), Vaughn's films have remained content to operate in a (slightly) tamer environment. In the last few years alone, The Break-Up, Four Christmases, and now Couples Retreat -- three movies that appeared destined for R territory -- have been released in a watered-down teen-friendly format. Why? Could be box office, could be fear of audience run-off, but more than any other reason, especially in the case of this new film, that it's because Vaughn has grown-up instincts but can't muster the guts to produce fully grown-up material.

Couples Retreat is a film that would have benefitted from having the freedom to be an R movie, not because it's necessary to add any bonus "dirty" material, though that almost certainly would've been one side effect, but very simply because a higher rating would have afforded the filmmakers -- most specifically writer Jon Favreau -- a license to be more honest about relationships. It's common knowledge to the point of being cliched that marriage is simultaneously the most monumental and most difficult of human enterprises, but it is the tiny intricacies, the subtle nuances that makes the experience so profound. Watching Couples Retreat, I feel confident that Favreau understands those nuances, and disappointed that he failed to communicate them in any form other than punchy cartoon.

Favreau's original script was then turned over to Vaughn and Dana Fox (who gave us last year's hellatious What Happens in Vegas), and after a certain number of tweaks, this is the film now released in theaters: a comedy about four couples, each with a variety of problems, who somehow find the time to abandon their lives at the drop of a hat and go on a special retreat, where they are forced after an hour of goofy pratfalls (many of them funny, but lacking in substance) to confront those problems and decide their fate. The actors -- among them Jason Bateman, Kristin Davis, Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell, Faizon Love, and of course, Vaughn and Favreau -- are all good, but their stories overlap to such a degree that we never really get a chance to connect with any of them. Vaughn and Akerman take center stage as the couple who appears to be totally happy and in love, and it takes 90 minutes for the movie to arrive at the decision that they really don't have any problems whatsoever. Favreau and Davis play the most interesting couple, but their story is presented with such a surface-skimming lack of complexity that the characters essentially become punchlines. All of these characters overlap each other to the point of complete disinterest, most specifically Love's bumbling divorcee with a gold-digging girlfriend, whose story might not have fit in even in a better version of this film.

Couples Retreat is the directorial debut of Peter Billingsley (ya know, from A Christmas Story), and while it was nice of Vaughn and Favreau to throw the guy a bone and give him a script to direct, the material would have been better served with Favreau behind the camera (but after finishing one grueling Iron Man picture and prepping another, the guy probably wanted a break). But in a film with this many obvious script-level issues, the director is the least of its problems. Those screenplay issues are unfortunate, because this movie does mark a move toward maturity for Vaughn, who still has great sarcastic timing but has added a nuanced straight-man quality that serves him well here. Had Vaughn and Favreau decided during the writing process to push this movie into tougher, more realistic territory, it would have been a hugely surprising film. As it currently stands, it is a funny, likable trifle of a movie. These guys are capable of more...and I look forward to seeing how they move forward next time.