Vienna Teng at The Power Center

Movie Reviews

June 20, 2011

Rate It – The Cut


Film: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
Tower Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Review by Paul Kitti

The film poster for “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” hanging in the lobby of The State Theater, depicts a smiling Morgan Spurlock clothed entirely in advertisements. Hotels, beverage companies, automobile manufacturers, clothing lines and airline companies have their logos branded across his body, connecting their product to the movie and, correspondingly, the eyes of every person who strolls through the theater lobby. It’s the kind of gimmicky, shameless and unavoidable product placement that would normally evoke feelings of aggravation and disdain—if it weren’t so comically intentional.

It’s sad that they had to go so overboard to get the point across – otherwise people probably wouldn’t get the joke. We are so conditioned to seeing products displayed everywhere they don’t belong, it’s like we’re almost able to ignore them entirely. But this ability to ignore has only pushed advertisers to be more aggressive and creative with their product placement, to the point where almost any movie, beverage container, or computer screen is telling you to buy something. Personally, I’m sick of it. And, thankfully, so is Morgan Spurlock.

You may remember Spurlock from his 2003 documentary “Super Size Me,” where he ate nothing but McDonald’s for thirty straight days, demonstrating the ugly toll that fast food has on our bodies. His unique ability to identify a societal problem and bring it to light in a humorous way is what made “Super Size Me,” and now, his latest documentary, so engaging. While “The
Greatest Movie Ever Sold” might not be the most thrilling choice of entertainment for your next Friday night, it offers insights that may change the way you look at other films. Essentially, this is an experiment/documentary about product placement, funded entirely by product placement. The cameras follow Spurlock as he visits dozens of companies and pitches his film idea, and how the company can benefit from writing him a check. The film’s greatest quality is that it completely exposes the relationship between filmmakers and advertisers, allowing viewers a behind-the-scenes look at why and how two seemingly unrelated things—such as Iron Man and Burger King—can be paired together in commercials and posters and billboards.

Things get more interesting as Spurlock comes close to securing enough sponsors to fully fund his project and has to accommodate for all the contractual stipulations that himself and the sponsors had agreed upon. In the movie, the only car he can drive is a Mini Cooper, the only beverage he can consume is POM Wonderful, and the only gas station he can frequent is Sheetz.

“The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” creatively meet the demands of its corporate sponsors while retaining the humor and relevancy Spurlock is known for. Clever corporate jokes, ridiculously obvious advertisements and animated on-screen illustrations are scattered throughout the film, separating it from most other documentaries by balancing its informative qualities with Spurlock’s special breed of humor. This should be mandatory viewing for those who work in marketing and entertainment, but I think that any individual who has ever felt overwhelmed or annoyed by undesired advertisements will gain a new perspective and a few laughs from this unique film.

Film: Super 8
Tower Rating: 4 out of 5
Review by David Nassar

It seems that movie trailers these days go one of two ways: either you see all the good scenes from the movie and are left with no reason to go, or they show you just enough to pique your interest, but you walk away not having the slightest clue what the film is about. After months of trailers and viral advertising, J.J. Abram’s highly anticipated follow-up to “Star Trek,” the mysterious summer blockbuster “Super 8,” was finally revealed to audiences.

Let me first say that I thought “Super 8” was really good.  That being said, I can understand the mixed reviews it has gotten from critics. I think it all has to do with expectations. Personally, I didn’t have any, and I think that’s why I liked it so much. For movie-goers who are expecting a monster-movie thriller, they will be disappointed. This is not a monster-centric story, but rather one focused on the residents of Lillian, Ohio, when they unexpectedly find themselves in the middle of a mysterious U.S. military cover-up.

The going-comparison at this point seems to be that the film is a cross between “The Goonies,” “E.T.” and “Cloverfield”—and I would say that’s a pretty accurate description. When Joe (Joel Courtney) and his friends sneak out one night to shoot a scene for their zombie movie, they find themselves in the middle of a violent train-wreck. However, after miraculously surviving the accident and inadvertently filming the escape of some mysterious cargo, strange occurrences begin happening across town. As the out-of-touch adults in town revert to panic-driven hysteria, Joe and his friends take it upon themselves to save the day.

Is “Super 8” somewhat predictable?  Yes.  Does it get somewhat hokey towards the end?  Yes.  Is the ending original and emotionally moving?  Not really. But this is not meant to be a film that breaks the mold, but rather one the works effectively within the mold that great storytellers like “Super 8” producer Steven Spielberg developed years ago with “E.T.” and “Close Encounters.”

Film: The Hangover Part II
Director: Todd Phillips
Tower Rating: 3 out of 5
Review by David Nassar

While good comedy sequels might be rare, few have garnered the kind of anticipation that has been brewing since the 2009 breakout comedy hit, “The Hangover.” With fans poised to see Zach Galifianakis and the boys put one more bender under their bachelor-party belt, “The Hangover Part II” broke records on its way to earning more than $139 million in its first week.

While The Hangover Part II provides its fair share of shockingly funny moments, the recycled jokes and been-there-done-that storyline make you wonder if they even tried to come up with something original.

Two years removed from their raunchy Vegas escapades, we find Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) making plans for friend Stu’s (Ed Helms) Thailand wedding.  No, he’s not re-marrying his showgirl ex-wife played by Heather Graham in the original, but rather Lauren (Jamie Chung), whose traditional Thai father is anything but impressed with Stu. Just as in the original, a seemingly innocent first toast of the night leads directly to a morning of questions and regrets. The remainder of the movie finds the wolf pack trying to piece back together the events of the previous night and get Stu back in time for his wedding, with the same screw-ups and shocking revelations as in the original movie.

With only Zach Galifianakis’ character left to get hitched and huge box office numbers over Memorial Day weekend, I wouldn’t doubt that we’re going to see “The Hangover Part III.”  Let’s just hope there’s something new besides a different exotic backdrop and a couple forgettable, minor characters.

Film: Everything Must Go
Director: Dan Rusk
Tower Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Review by Aimee Mandle

Taking a break from his outlandish, but lovable comedy roles, Will Ferrell exercises his serious acting chops in “Everything Must Go”—although this isn’t Ferrell’s first foray into drama. He’s already shown his ability to break away from his go-to characters in films like “Winter Passing” and “Stranger than Fiction.”

Adapted from Raymond Carver’s short story, “Why Don’t You Dance?,” the film opens with alcoholic Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) being fired from his job due to a business trip bender. After that, everything else spirals out of control. Nick’s wife leaves him, changes the locks to the house and dumps all of his possessions on the front lawn. His company car gets repossessed, and his credit cards and phone get shut off. With nothing left to lose, Nick camps out on his front lawn with a mini fridge full of PBR.

When threatened with being removed from his property, Nick is given an out by his AA sponsor, a detective (Michael Peña). He must sell everything within five days, but once that time is up, he will be forced to leave.  In the process of selling his belongings, he builds and breaks connections with neighbors and former acquaintances.

Overall, “Everything Must Go” felt restrained and lacking a depth of raw emotion that Ferrell is capable of delivering, making this a bittersweet viewing. On one hand, the film delivers a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Viewers want Nick to get out of his funk and start to piece his life together. On the other hand, there is a lot of space throughout the film with very little to fill it. It becomes primarily character-driven, and we are left following Ferrell’s sad, but quiet cathartic journey. There are no melodramatic meltdowns or obvious solutions to what seems like a solvable problem—which might be, in some ways, more like real life.

About the Author

Tim Adkins
Tim Adkins
Tim is the publisher of iSPY and co-founder of Pakmode Media + Marketing. He's a social, vegetarian geek who recently welcomed a beautiful baby girl into his family. For any questions or suggestions in regards to design, ad sales, web, content or anything at all related to iSPY, Tim's your guy.

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