Hey boys and girls! It’s David “Double D” Denis here to bring another couple of reviews from my twisted mind straight to yours. This week I’ve got the latest John Hughes throwback Easy A as well as the next film in my top 25, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. It’s going to be a cavalcade of awesome! So, let’s get started shall we.
First off, we’ve got Easy A. This is the newest film from relatively new director Will Gluck, who brought us the surprisingly decent Fired Up! last year. I’m starting to like this guy. He’s trying entirely too hard to take John Hughes’ mantle as the teen director for our generation, but he’s doing a decent job, so hey why not?
I have to admit that I’m a bit of a sucker for light-hearted teen comedies like this and Charlie Bartlett for example. They erase the horrible memories of what high school was really like and replace them with a slightly brighter, wittier false-reality that makes that four year hell seem a little bit OK. Even going to see this movie on my own, because three different people flaked out on me, I still had a pretty good time, and it cheered me up a bit. Don’t worry, I go see movies alone all the time. If you think that’s sad and pathetic, you might be right.
Anyways, enough of me, let’s talk more about the movie. Easy A doesn’t try to hide the fact that it’s a John Hughes tribute. In fact one of my issues with the film is that it reminds you too much that it is. At one point, Emma Stone’s character Olive tells her webcam that she wishes her life was more like an 80’s movie to a montage of clips from classic Brat Pack films like Say Anything and The Breakfast Club. At this point all subtlety in the references was gone. This can be a bit of an issue and really it is the biggest issue of Easy A. It was trying too hard to be that kind of a throwback, when really it should just be what it is.
Otherwise, Easy A does for the most part deliver what I expected it to. It was witty, funny and made me think at all the right times. Best of all though, it’s not afraid to get serious when it needs to. Easy A was a revelation in that it was a surprisingly intelligent teen comedy. You don’t get enough of those nowadays, so I guess the 80’s throwback wasn’t all bad. Sure, this movie wasn’t perfect. It’s a little shallow and ignorant at times and the way it ends is a little too anti-climactic for my tastes, but despite its flaws, Easy A still manages to entertain an audience without dumbing itself down or talking down to the droves of teens lining up to see it.
Basically Easy A follows the exploits of teen outcast Olive, played by Emma Stone, after she lies to her friend Rhiannon, played by Alyson Michalka, about sleeping with an older guy. Soon the rumour is spread by evil Christian (because Christians are always either crazy or evil) Marianne, played by my boyhood crush Amanda Bynes (OK, maybe I still have a crush on her) After calling another girl a bad name in class (It starts with a T), Olive is sentenced to detention with lonely, homosexual Brandon, played by Dan Byrd from Cougar Town, who convinces her to pretend to have sex with him at a party so the other boys won’t realize that he’s gay. Things escalate from there when every lonely outcast in the school starts paying Olive to have pretend sex with them, leading her to simultaneously become the talk of the whole school and become even more outcast at the same time. The themes of an escalating lie and the cost of helping others when deceit is involved and the parallels to The Scarlett Letter, which the movie is basically a modern version of, come off strong and so should they as this is the central struggle of Easy A; trying to do the right thing even if it means hurting people. It’s a surprising amount of depth for a teen comedy like this, but that’s definitely a good thing. Anyways, things definitely escalate for poor Olive as her little white lie turns into a big, big problem for a lot of people, especially when Olive wants to win over the love of her life, Woodchuck Todd, played by Penn Badgley, who is basically every dreamy teen guy from every teen romance movie, but maybe a tiny bit less cliché since he dresses up in a woodchuck costume and acts as the school mascot. Oh, and I also forgot to mention some great performances from the grown-ups as well, from Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson who play Olive’s hilarious liberal parents and Thomas Haden Church and Lisa Kudrow who play two of Olive’s teachers, who also happen to be married and are experiencing a bit of a crisis brought on by the turn of events in the film. Don’t tell my friend Mike Dodd though. He hates Lisa Kudrow.
Anyways, my final verdict is that if you want a good, light, PG-13, teen comedy, with just as many lessons as laughs, then goes see Easy A. In fact, just go see this movie period. It’s pretty good. It’ll probably lighten your day, even if you are the only person in the theatre watching it alone.
I give Easy A a 3.5/5. I’m going to go cry now.
Now onto part 2, my top 25 review for #24 on my list, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Now, you may think that because I put The Two Towers so low on the list that I don’t like it very much. This is not true. In fact, I love The Two Towers. I just happen to love the other two Lord of the Rings movies a little bit more. However, like I said before, I love them all enough to reserve three spots for them on this list. No other trilogies get that privilege, even Star Wars (mostly because I don’t like Return of the Jedi that much), so that’s pretty damn good. As a result I’m going to spend a lot of time talking about The Lord of Rings, so I apologize for that in advance.
I read about half of the Lord of the Rings before I got bored and stopped (audiobooks count as reading right?) I swear I’ll come back to it someday, but I gotta admit, I liked the movies better. Peter Jackson did an amazing job of taking Tolkien’s classic work of fantasy fiction and turning it into one of the greatest film epics the world has ever known. Jackson and his fellow screenwriters, wife Fran Walsh and friend Philippa Boyens did a bang-up job of taking Tolkien’s slightly convoluted story and tightening it up, throwing out anything unnecessary and adding lots more action to keep things exciting, resulting in a film series that succeeds on so many levels. Special effects, sound, acting, scripting, directing and overall style all get an easy A here. (See how I just tied the two reviews together like that? Pretty smooth, huh?) Watch the bonus features on the Extended Edition DVD’s sometime and you’ll see how much everyone really pulled their weight here. Even minor details like the background props and costumes are treated with so much detail that really pops through on screen. This is what filmmaking is all about. The Lord of the Rings was really responsible for rejuvenation in filmmaking in the early 2000’s. At a time when the over-indulgent cheesiness of the 90’s had really taken its toll on the film industry, a trilogy of films came around that reminded us that not only was it OK to sit there for three hours and take in something that was both entertaining and moving; it also made it OK for the general public to find elves cool. Especially if the elves were being played by guys that looked like Tommy Hilfiger models.
Now, let’s talk a little more specifically about this particular film. The Two Towers was the second part in Peter Jackson’s epic trilogy and was surprisingly probably the worst received and won the least amount of Oscars in the series. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. The Two Towers definitely had its merits, the main two being the introduction of the character of Gollum, the slouching, spitting disgusting, former hobbit, who quickly became an international phenomenon as “My precious!” became one of the most quoted film lines of the last 20 years. The other thing it did that put this movie on the map was the epic battle of Helm’s Deep, arguably the best orchestrated and most entertaining battle of the whole series, where Saruman’s gigantic army descends upon the meagre troops of the downtrodden Rohan. The Two Towers also had the task of introducing us to a slew of new characters including the feisty Eowyn and her brother Eomer as well as King Theoden their father and the nasty Grima Wormtongue, all players in the newly introduced kingdom of Rohan which soon becomes a major player in the film series as Aragorn attempts to defend it from the forces of Isengard. We’re also introduced to Faramir, the fallen Boromir’s brother. That’s a lot of new ground to cover, but Jackson picks up right from the last film perfectly and keeps things going with just the right amount of momentum, though never so much that he loses focus on the brilliant characters. In fact, it’s almost best to watch all three movies at once since that’s the way they were meant to be seen really. Oh, and watch the Extended Editions. They’re better. You get a lot more Gollum and that’s always a good thing. The fact that a few great scenes like the kill tally between Legolas and Gimli at the end of the Helm’s Deep battle and the “no hard feelings” exchange between Sam and Gollum were cut from the film is really too bad.
What more can I say? Tolkien wrote a brilliant book and Jackson made it into three brilliant movies with great performances and craftsmanship from everyone involved. Also, I have to say that the haunting Gollum’s Song by Emiliana Torrini is definitely my favourite end credits song in the series, so it gets bonus points for that. So, even though The Two Towers may have lacked some of the appeal of the other two films being sandwiched a little awkwardly in the middle the way it is and having to carry the weight of introducing several new characters in the second act, it’s still a brilliant film and definitely worthy of a spot on my Top 25. The Lord of the Rings movies will be remembered for years to come as some of the best to emerge from our generation. You did well, Mr. Jackson. You did well.
Stay tuned next time for more reviews and movie-related goodness from the guy you trust, Double D. Catch ya later, guys!