Tim Grierson Reviews 'Total Recall' and 'Celeste and Jesse Forever'
Reviewed by Tim Grierson
August 02, 2012
For those wondering what Andy Samberg's post-"Saturday Night Live" career might look like, the worst-case scenario is the crass "That's My Boy," which deservedly sank without a trace back in June. A more promising future is offered in films such as "Celeste and Jesse Forever," a charming, minor comedy-drama that finds Samberg convincingly playing a romantic leading man. He's Jesse, a happy-go-lucky slacker married to his career-oriented high school sweetheart Celeste (Rashida Jones, who co-wrote the script). They've decided to call it quits as a couple, but they're still incredibly close. Can a friendship last? A fresh, smart take on love that doesn't overdo the hip factor, "Celeste and Jesse Forever" gets much of its spark from its leads, who have an easy rapport that suggests their characters' complicated but loving bond. You'll enjoy those two so much that it's a bit heartbreaking that the rest of the film isn't nearly as light on its feet. Elijah Wood and Chris Messina do their best with supporting roles so clichéd they'll remind you of the brain-dead romantic comedies that "Celeste and Jesse" is trying to transcend.
The cast that director Fernando Meirelles ("The Constant Gardener") has assembled for "360" is quite impressive -- if only it was engaged in a more worthwhile endeavor. This ensemble piece, which features a collection of disparate characters, bounces around between the U.S. and Europe to examine how sex and romance are treated as commodities in modern-day life. It's an intriguing idea, but whether it's Rachel Weisz and Jude Law's unfaithful married couple or Ben Foster's recently released sex offender, "360" tends to lean heavily on convenient dramatic ironies that undermine the actors' commitment to their schematic roles. Anthony Hopkins does fine, subtle work as a haunted man in search of his long-lost (and presumably dead) daughter, but the film's contrivances and awkward mix of tones strangle the life out of this intellectual exercise.
Striving to be an anti-intellectual exercise, "The Babymakers" doesn't have a fertile enough anarchic spirit to be the rambunctious comedy it clearly thinks it is. Paul Schneider (agreeably dopey) and Olivia Munn (lively but wasted) are a married couple having trouble conceiving due to his low sperm count. As a desperate last-ditch measure, he and his equally moronic buddies hire a shady Indian mob figure (director Jay Chandrasekhar) to break into a sperm bank where he long ago stored his once-potent semen. Chandrasekhar nearly steals his own movie as the heist's loose cannon, but while Schneider has a few choice moments as a nitwit husband who needs to grow up, "The Babymakers" puts way too much faith in the notion that characters saying "jizz" is instantly hilarious.
It's now been more than two decades since Christian Slater established himself as an edgy heartthrob in movies such as "Heathers" and "Pump Up the Volume." Recently, though, his career has run aground, thanks to straight-to-video features and short-lived TV shows. The international thriller "Assassin's Bullet" won't do much to help him reverse course. He plays a mournful former FBI field agent who hasn't recovered from the death of his wife. Stationed in Bulgaria, he becomes involved in tracking down a mysterious assassin who's taking out high-profile baddies one by one. What does that have to do with a local woman (Elika Portnoy) whose parents were killed by terrorists in her childhood? The answer is decidedly less than meets the eye as Slater does his best to convey rugged weariness and steely cool. But the bored look on Donald Sutherland's face as he plays a goofily incompetent U.S. ambassador will tell you all you need to know about this shopworn, cable-ready misfire.
The gentle drama "Mosquita y Mari" is a coming-of-age story with a delicate twist. Two Chicana girls living in Los Angeles -- shy Yolanda (Fenessa Pineda) and pretty Mari (Venecia Troncoso) -- become unlikely pals, but as their friendship deepens, the first hints of a possible romantic bond begin to appear. Writer-director Aurora Guerrero deftly refuses to put a label on the girls' emotional connection, which makes the actors' navigation of this ambiguous relationship all the more important. Thankfully, the two newcomers are naturals, conveying their characters' hormonal angst with such precision that it may conjure up all those thorny memories of one's own adolescent anguish.
Though hardly scintillating cinema, the low-budget documentary "You've Been Trumped" more than gets its point across about the infuriating lengths to which the rich will go to step on those who oppose them. Filmmaker Anthony Baxter chronicles Donald Trump's recent plan to turn hundreds of acres of gorgeous Scottish coastline into a high-end golf resort and how locals fought in vain to keep him from destroying their homes. Baxter occasionally appears on camera as he confronts law enforcement and the Donald himself, but unlike Michael Moore he's not pushy or self-promotional. "You've Been Trumped" gets its quiet power from its slow laying out of how easily Scottish officials, including local universities, kneeled before Trump's avarice. Baxter keeps his anger in check, but after watching Trump at his most shameless you may have a tough time following suit.