The Vow

The Vow Poster

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

“The Vow” is a badly written, poorly executed, and weakly acted melodrama about how amnesia allowed a married couple in Chicago to relive the early memories of their love. The only thing that’s going for this inept love story is its release date. No doubt that the season of Valentine’s Day will lead thousands of couples into watching movies like this, no matter how terrible they are. Last year’s “Valentine’s Day” made over 200 million dollars, despite an 18% score on Rotten Tomatoes. I present to you a rating so low, Michael Bay hasn’t even been there (yet).

“The Vow” is currently holding on to a 30% rating, yet it made over 40 million dollars on its opening weekend in the United States. After discovering the statistics I just posted, I’m no longer sure why I’m still writing a review for this, since chick flicks are guaranteed to be box office hits when released near Valentine’s Day. But I press on. Right now I think to myself, “If this review causes a single person to cancel his or her plans regarding seeing this movie, then I’ll have peace knowing that I have done something good for a fellow human being.”

Rachel McAdams and Channing TatumSo Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) are driving along the snowy streets of Chicago. Because they are madly in love with each other, they convince themselves that it would be real fun to make out inside their car whilst parked in the middle of the road. To no surprise, a truck crashes into them from behind; Paige breaks through the windshield and is knocked unconscious. If only she was wearing seatbelts. Leo, who only suffered minor injuries, is shocked to find out that his wife has lost all memory of their relationship. The accident has erased Leo from Paige’s memories; she can’t remember that she’s married to him. But Leo is determined to fix their marriage. He must make his wife fall in love with him all over again. Awww.

The idea sounds cute, but the movie is so busy with other issues and subplots that it rarely ever gets a chance to fulfill its premise. Notice how “The Vow” takes too long to move on from the common routines that are used to deal with a person with amnesia. Within its interminable running time of 104 minutes are multiple scenes – most of which are needless and prolonged – where Paige questions certain things about her “forgotten life”. Leo graciously provides her with all the answer she needs. She often responds with doubt or insecurity, leading to recycled monologues regarding identity and existentialism. At times, the tragedy of Paige’s accident evolves into a case study for someone like Friedrich Nietzsche, which is too much for the husband to handle.

The Vow, starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdamsSpeaking of the husband, poor Leo is played by the guy from “Step Up”, or Channing Tatum. I’m sure that the ladies love him just the way he is, and production companies will keep casting him for his physical appeal. But the guy cannot act. Every character played by Channing Tatum feels nothing more the sight of Channing Tatum posing under a different name. I hear the same monotone voice and see the same wooden personality. You know you’re watching a bad movie when the lead actor looks more confused than the woman with amnesia.

The plot for “The Vow” is said to be founded on the lives of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter. Their testimony is inspiring, and it’s a suitable story to share on a Valentine’s Day. Surely, they deserve to be featured on some famous magazine. An interview at a late night talk show would be just fine. But I don’t think their story is enough for a full-length movie. The few things it has to say should only be seen on Greeting Cards: “Love your spouse.” “Treasure your memories.” “If you must make out in your car whilst park in the middle of the road, wear your seatbelts.”

Friends with Benefits

Friends with Benefits PosterRating: ★★½☆☆

Romantic-comedies have become such a static routine in Hollywood that even the two lead characters in “Friends with Benefits” have memorized its blueprint. Earlier scenes present us with mild optimism when we learn that our impending couple is considerably aware of the genre’s most common clichés. But their advantage leads to no benefit when they go right ahead and implement the things they were formerly trying to rebuke.

By the movie’s unsatisfying end, we get the feeling that the purpose of the references was to inform us that what we are watching is no different from the rest of its pack. Instead of utilizing its awareness as a stepping stone for improvement, “Friends with Benefits” lingers in mediocrity by idly pre-apologizing to the faults it plans to commit. What’s the point?

Ashton Kutcher Katherine Heigl

Ashton Kutcher Katherine Heigl

What the movie lacks in screenplay is made up for in its cast. Reader, you have no idea how refreshed I was to see a rom-com that isn’t starring either Katherine Heigl or Ashton Kutcher. These two actors have spent so much time within the territory of their preferred genre that their careers have gone from complacent to comatose.  Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher are to romantic comedies as Milla Jovovich and Jason Statham are to action movies. A personal note of mine that may also come in handy in your future is this: Movies starring Heigl or Kutcher must be so bad that only Heigl and Kutcher and would agree to star in them.

Anyway. “Friends with Benefits” features real actors; some are mature and distinguished, like Richard Jenkins and Woody Harrelson, while others are young and growing, like Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. The latter two stars I mentioned have recently taken on serious roles that have established themselves as capable actors. Here, they play characters that are part stereotypes, part marketing campaigns. As you may already know, the apparently recyclable plot of “Friends with Benefits” requires frequent sexual activities, meaning that Timberlake and Kunis will have to bare a lot of skin. (The previous sentence may have just sold a few DVDs.) Would it be wrong to think that the makers are more interested in their looks than their talents?

Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake

Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake

Though restrained by a weak script, Timberlake and Kunis do what they can to lift the movie. When the plot pauses, the scenes between them are joyous and snappy. We enjoy their goofy and honest friendship, which is why we frown when the genre interrupts the fun by telling them that it’s time to fall in love. We’re not at all surprised to see the final minutes unfold inside an airport terminal and a train station. I shall rejoice in the day I see my first romantic-comedy that will end somewhere different like, say, Antarctica, or Mars.

“Friends with Benefits” is not necessarily a bad movie, but it is a movie that we don’t need to see. Because if we lend our support to them, greedy Hollywood executives will have no other choice but to repeat the same event under a different title. Last year, we were cursed with the successful “Valentine’s Day”. Later this year, we will have the oddly similar “New Year’s Eve”, a romantic comedy starring both Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher.

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Crazy Stupid Love PosterRating: ★★★★☆

There’s a sad routine going on with romantic comedies nowadays. Bad ones, like “Life as We Know It”, enjoy a wide release and a fat box office, while good ones, like “Flipped”, remain unknown to many. But then, to our surprise, we are introduced to “Crazy, Stupid, Love”. Here is a romantic comedy written with intelligence, driven by its story, and delivered with actors who are both competent and charming. And, what do you know, people actually know about it.

The movie is about a set of individuals who have, in their own personal way, lost track of true love. A few of them may have never even experienced it in the first place, but their story is about how they get there. Let me tell you about them real quick. Cal and Emily Weaver (Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore) are a middle-aged couple whose marriage has hit a major bump. Emily has confessed to being guilty with adultery, and is now requesting for a divorce.

Cal, in obvious shock, is swift to break the news to his children. Most affected is 13-year-old Robbie, who is in the middle of his quest of winning the heart of his 17-year-old baby sitter, Jessica. Kids, at the height of their hormones, can be relentless in their romantic pursuits. There is a lot of comedy between their encounters.

Cal and Jacob

Meanwhile, Cal has chosen to channel his sorrow inside a bar, ranting about his miserable life to total strangers. This is unproductive for Cal of course, until his rants are overheard by Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a pickup artist who knows how to get a girl uhm, well, you name it. Jacob offers Cal a makeover that could possibly help Cal win Emily back. He accepts, and the two develop a relationship so blunt and wacky, we can almost compare them to the man-couple in “I Love You, Man.”

After Cal receives Jacob’s approval, he returns to fight for Emily. This is when “Crazy, Stupid, Love” adapts a dramatic quality. Giving in to the story is the part where most rom-coms start to fail, assuming that the comedy hasn’t failed already. But then, to our surprise, the drama is in place. The characters in this movie are “real people”, some of whom we have met before.

Maybe we know a couple, like Cal and Emily, who are struggling in their marriage. Or maybe Robbie reminds us of our own young, relentless past. Or maybe we’ve been in Jacob’s shoes before, who have gotten used to shallow relationships, until we meet The One.

These people feel emotions that are reasonable and suffer consequences that are realistic. Unlike most rom-coms, the characters make mistakes not because they’re stupid, but because they’re human.

One thing I first thought was an unnecessary element to the film was the romance soon developed by Jacob and a pretty girl named Hannah (Emma Stone). For box office reasons, it’s safer to include a Hot Young Couple in the story, especially when you end the trailer with a shot of Ryan Gosling’s abs. But no, I was wrong. Hollywood nowadays seems to always sexualize the romance between Hot Young Couples, but there is a language of love between Jacob and Hannah that astounded me. Appreciate it, for it will not last long. For example, the next Twilight movie opens November 18, 2011.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (Quick Review)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

“You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” is a comedy for cynics and pessimists. For everybody else, it’s a tragedy. The prologue of the protagonists exposes them as people pummeled with problems and worries. However, I must say that this isn’t a movie about the problems, but the solutions that are stimulated by minds that are stuck in desperation and misery.

Marriages are ended in exchange for affairs, but not for the reason one would normally suspect. Entering such affairs is also an act of leaving past responsibilities and aggravations, which could bring more pleasure than anything else. This “solution” is put into use by our characters, and we can see that they feel happiness. But then, they stumble upon a thing called Consequences, and it is not startling if they end up with less than what they had before. There is much anguish, anxiety and sadness in “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”, but not much is done to make up for it.

Problems can cause people to abandon their lives and venture on what they call, “The Road to Happiness.” They believe that what’s behind them is gone forever, when it truth, it just needed a little fixing.

Life as We Know It

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Okay. Let’s give this a try. Holly and Eric are given the responsibility to raise small baby Sophie after their best friends perish in a horrible car crash. Problem is, they can’t stand each other. Thing is, this is a bad romantic comedy, which means their unwanted roles will only be a disguised blessing where they will find true love… in one another. See where I’m going yet?

This premise will sooner or later take us to a scene where small baby Sophie has unloaded on her diaper. Holly and Eric must change it for the greater good. But, they haven’t done this before, so they are required to make faces that show their disapproval for, you know, poop. And of course, poop will somehow find its way on places where it’s not supposed to be.

Oh. In one of the movie’s earlier scenes, some marijuana is confiscated. In bad romantic comedies, no marijuana remains unused. Later on, it’s in the hands of Holly and Eric, and they use the sweet and innocent art of baking to consume it. Soon enough, the two of them are, I guess, having fun.

And yeah. There’s this guy named Sam. He is a gentle and attractive doctor. Holly likes Sam, but don’t worry. We know the two of them can’t end up together because Sam has not a bad quality in sight. He even has perfect hair. This isn’t a good thing if you’re in a bad romantic comedy because, as Roger Ebert has already pointed it out, “No modern movie hero can have his hair combed.”

Another one. Holly and Eric encounter some problems, which causes Eric to fly to Phoenix. While Eric is at the airport, waiting for the flight, Holly realizes that they’re… meant to be. So, and yes you’ve guessed it, she races to the airport to express her feelings, hoping that Eric is still there. The sight of an airport in times of climax is a sign that one is watching a romantic comedy that’s bad.

Get it now? Good. Your turn. Eric rides a cool motorcycle. We learn in an early scene that he values it. This can only mean one thing. Later on, the motorcycle appears again. This time, Eric attempts to teach Holly how to ride it, which means that the motorcycle will be?


Rating: ★★★★½

Remember your first love? Remember those days where much of your thoughts and actions were invested in trying to spend time with your special someone, while that person diligently avoided you, or vice versa? Well, if no, “Flipped” will be more than happy to take you back to that point of your life where the world isn’t much of a concern, where responsibilities were minimal, where feelings were everything.

Most of “Flipped” takes place in the year of 1963, a time where kids are required to talk to each other in order to achieve an actual conversation. (“What is this In-ter-net?”) Young Bryce, and the rest of the Loski family, has just moved in to a different neighborhood. And a new home comes with new neighbors. Bryce is getting ready for second grade, who believes that it will be torture because Juli Baker from across the street is publicly in love with him. Juli is trying to get Bryce to like her while Bryce is trying to get Juli to leave him alone. Now tell me, when you were younger, were you a Bryce or a Julie?

We see that these kids act out their immediate emotions, and we know that they have yet to understand the depth and reasons behind them. What’s to adore other than Bryce’s dazzling eyes? So what if Juli likes to spend hours on top of a tree? These kids didn’t really ask these questions to themselves, but they didn’t need to. They are in the second grade, and are reasonably immature. But, as Bryce and Julie grow older, more mature, they start seeing things at a deeper, more curious perspective. A few years have passed, and Bryce and Juli notice things about the other that were invisible to them before, and their feelings start to flip.

The two of them can’t fully comprehend what’s gotten into them. How can this be? How can a boy with eyes that dazzling have an attitude so unattractive? How can a girl so annoying at first turn out to be so amazing? The opposite sex is something of a mystery. Young girls dream of their first kiss while boys of the same age dream of their first car. This difference is demonstrated in a scene where we see how a snake eats breakfast. To the boys, it’s cool. To the girls, it’s icky.

Growing up could be terrifying. We learn of so many things so fast. “Flipped” doesn’t only cause us to remember our good ‘ol days, but it also helps us understand some of the things we never did get the chance to figure out. In the many happenings between Bryce and Julie, we get to see each event from the point of view of them both, and we are never tempted to take a side. The movie doesn’t want us to take sides. Rather, it makes us cheer for both boy and girl, which is something very few romantic comedies aim for nowadays.

“Flipped” is such a lovely film. I think what makes it all the more loveable is that it contains real people. We never do question the emotions of Bryce and Juli because, in one way or another, we’ve been there, and it’s fun to have movies like “Flipped” that makes us remember.


Rating: ★½☆☆☆

“Burlesque” is a 119-minute movie that could have worked if it trimmed down around 60 minutes of its running time and became what it really wants to be; an exceedingly long music video starring Cher and Christina Aguilera. Whenever they’re not singing, the movie attempts to lure us into a story that’s not even good enough to be used in, uh, music videos.

Aguilera plays Ali, a sweet young girl who works as a waitress in Iowa. This girl can sing, believe me. And dear Ali believes it too. That is why she quits her job and heads to Los Angeles hoping to fulfill her dream as a singer/dancer/performer. Ali eventually enters a club called, The Burlesque Lounge, and it is there where she wants to start.

In these early scenes, we see Christina Aguilera projecting an uncanny charm. We see minimal make-up accompanied by some… no, a lot, of clothes. Where were we? Oh, yeah. Pretty Ali desperately wants to work in Burlesque, and so she approaches Tess (Cher), the club owner, and does her best to convince Tess that she’s Got What It Takes.

Of course, Tess is a bit doubtful and ignorant in the beginning. (This is where the movie gives Ali some time to meet The Guy whom she will later fall for.) So, Ali works extra hard to reach the top, and the closer she gets to her dream, the less clothes she wears. We know that she’s made it when there’s barely anything there anymore. And now that Ali is where she wants to be, we see a lot of song and dance numbers. These performances are full of talent and fashion, and they are all worth a look and listen.

Fans of Cristina and Cher will enjoy these parts, and are most likely not to mind every clichéd, uninteresting, and uninspired moment that happens between them. The required, dull romance between Ali and The Guy are only delayed by unreasonable fights, and their first conflict is made possible by a wet towel. Not a metaphor. Much time is spent during this conflict. I wonder what madness can be brought forth by two wet towels. It will take me a long time before I find a person who enjoyed all 119 minutes of this movie.

So. Are you a fan of Cher? Are you a fan of Christina Aguilera? If you said “yes” to both questions, watch this movie. If you said “yes” to one of the questions, watch this movie. If you said “no” to both questions, watch this movie, and then tell me how much you hated it.

The Back-up Plan

Rating: ½☆☆☆☆

The Back-Up Plan” is like the fat, ugly, and ultimately the less loved twin sister of “Knocked Up.” One sparkles in beauty and poise while the other drools in its shame. Cast and crew who took this film seriously might never be taken seriously ever again. Willful acting is what most people would identify here, but that would be a mistake. Self-embarrasment is the more appropriate term.

Zoe (played by Jennifer Lopez, star of “Gigli”) has given up her hope for the perfect guy that would result in the perfect family. Artificial insemination might not sound like the immediate solution for her problem, but no worries. Right now, the only thing Zoe wants is a baby, so she purchases frozen semen and joyfully gets those baby-makers stuffed into her innards. It may not seem right to us at first, but Zoe is accomplishing her new goal in life. We should feel happy for her, but happiness is almost impossible while watching this movie.

Five minutes after them frozen treats reach their destination, Zoe bumps into a guy. Very quickly, they fall in love through pissing each other off, which is so effective that it affects the audience. In the movie, their acts of irritation produce love from the opposite, but not so much from the audience, which generates actual irritation. So much for Zoe’s new goal in life, because the rest of the movie is devoted to the two breaking up and getting back together and breaking up and getting back together again and again, and again.

After a fight is fought or a love rekindled, there are songs played in the background as the hero or heroine walks to random places. The song is to convey exactly what the character is feeling. This technique is usually for your 3-minute music videos, but the makers of this movie are so lazy that characterization is maximized through a song not even written for the movie. And to make things worse, the characters are unbelievably stupid. Reasons for their conflict are for the mentally challenged in a way that a simple error in word construction or a misinterpretation of a single phrase results in long, angry, and terribly boring arguments.

“The Break-Up Plan” is supposed to be a comedy, and the movie had nine months worth of Zoe’s symptoms, side effects, physical and hormonal changes to make jokes of, yet not a single one of them is funny. The Back-Up Plan is pregnant with mediocrity, disgust, and garbage. It should have been aborted in pre-production.

The Time Traveler’s Wife (Quick Review)

The Time Traveler's Wife Movie Review Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Love holds no bounds, especially for Henry and Clare. You see, Henry is a time traveler. He can’t travel with any baggage, so he disappears and reappears in PG-13 nudity. Because of that, along with other complications, the two of them get married and are determined to adjust to problems that only their type of relationship can experience.

Apparently, they are not determined enough, and we are invited to witness the two argue and make up in repetitive misery and within the flawed function and logic of its time travel. Alternate titles for The “Time Traveler’s Wife” include: “The Time Traveler’s Ass”, “The Time Traveler’s Time Travelin’ Unborn Baby” or “The Time Traveler’s Secret Vasectomy.”