I didn’t walk into Piranha 3D expecting much of anything, but I walked out thinking that this movie may actually accomplish something. It may become a harbinger for the eventual downfall of the current 3D craze.

Inspired by Joe Dante’s 1978 feature Piranha, this new movie about killer fish aims to be like the cheesy 3D horror films from the 1980s. I have not seen movies like Jaws 3-D all the way through, but I think I’ve seen enough to consider them pretty tame. Consequently, Piranha 3D strikes me as being much more violent and tasteless than anything to which those earlier films would aspire. Every scene has one or more of these three goals in mind: kill something, flash breasts and rip off the original Jaws. It fulfills these goals with sickening aplomb. The nudity is pointless, the Jaws moments are too blatant to even be funny and the overdone violence ruins some of the movie’s few amusing moments (like the ironic fate of a chauvinist director played Jerry O’Connell). Piranha 3Dis simply a piece of junk, and I say “junk” because to call it “chum” would be an insult to sharks.

Piranha 3D is bad by itself, but many of its crudest moments are present because of the unnecessary 3D effects. When it isn’t employing the technology to highlight topless girls, the movie uses the same 3D horror tricks as Jaws 3-D, which involve bringing floating objects (usually body parts) towards the audience. I usually refrain from detailing movies so I don’t spoil anything, but this time it is because director Alexandre Aja’s choices in floating objects reach the height of disgust. The only useful aspect of the 3D is that the shaded glasses dim some of the gore. Consider that a godsend if you see some of the abhorrent deeds that occur in this movie.


Video game adaptations, a film genre with a dearth of good examples, have now found a champion. I’ve never seen a movie capture the sensibilities of video games (with a few traces of comic books) as well as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World does. This is a film that compiles the commonalities of those two media forms and delights in exposing their inherent silliness. Writer and director Edgar Wright, who spoofed zombie movies in Shaun of the Dead and action films in Hot Fuzz, has adapted Bryan Lee O’Malley’s manga-inspired series into a bright and hugely entertaining comedy.


Sylvester Stallone’s new action movie about a band of mercenary good guys is as brawny, loud and rapid as the advertisements have indicated. What I did not expect is how much of a boring checklist this movie is.

This is a typical dumb action movie in that its script (by Dave Callaham and Stallone) contains insipid dialogue and a plot only meant to bridge the numerous fight scenes. The screenplay takes a further step towards mediocrity by not even bothering to exploit the clichés it uses. Familiar plot threads like Stallone’s troubled past and Jason Statham’s conflict between work and love are mentioned minimally and dropped for good when no longer useful. They add almost nothing to the plot and only seem to be there due to action movie regulations. It feels like Stallone was just obligated to give the action a context and was not really interested in creating potentially likable characters.

The Expendables relies on the chemistry of its seasoned action stars to fill in for story and personality. The actors succeed moderately at making the movie worth watching, but the plot favors Stallone and Statham so much that the others have little opportunity to prove their usefulness (I honestly cannot remember a thing Randy Couture does in combat). Of course, how can you tell what any of them are doing with the movie’s dizzying editing and cinematography (seriously, the movie looks like its camera was fastened onto a housefly)? When the camera does sit still, The Expendables features some nifty moments that show how much fun it could have been. Regrettably, Stallone’s slapdash style leaves the rest of the movie flavorless and dreadfully routine.


It might be unprofessional to admit this, but The Kids Are All Right was so lovely and rapturous that not even once could I concentrate on critical analysis. When this dramatic comedy was over, I saw that I had written down only one note the whole time, and it was just a line of dialogue I wanted to remember. But heck, I won’t need to spout technical information or present theories to just tell you how good this movie is. Directed and co-written by Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right is exquisite in every way.


Tim (Paul Rudd), an ambitious executive, learns about a secret dinner his bosses arrange where they invite oddballs to ridicule them. Tim sees his chance to earn a place with them when he meets Barry (Steve Carell), a meek fellow who taxidermies dead mice and uses them for portraits and dioramas.

Everyone knows that the funny man of a double act is supposed to be funnier than the straight man. In Dinner for Schmucks, Rudd is one of the most sympathetic straight men I've seen in recent comedies. His physical and verbal reactions to the absurdity surrounding him are some of the movie’s funniest moments, but they work to little avail. Despite the efforts of Rudd and the amusing supporting cast (Jermain Clement is a hoot as an earthy and eccentric artist), the film is weighted down by the overbearing presence of Carell as Barry. So much of the film is spent pitting Tim’s rationality against Barry’s naiveté that the truly funny material is not given enough exposure (one might forget about the dinner subplot if the characters did not continually mention it).

Both the character and Carell’s performance are largely obnoxious and partially endearing. To paraphrase a line from Futurama, Barry’s awkward brand of humor is the type where you wish he would end his stories a sentence earlier. Carell's delivery of this material seems forced and emphatic. That’s not to say the character is unbearable. The moments of compassion towards him are performed affectingly, even if some of them feel shoehorned. Still, Barry would have been more likable if played in a lower key (John Candy would have been perfect) and with less panache.