Crazy, Stupid, Love (May Contain Spoilers)

Steve Carell has managed to consistently prove that he is great at what he does, and what he does is a mixture of side-splitting comedy, cringe-worthy moments, and puppy-dog-eyed drama. But the question I put to you is this – can too much of a good thing be bad for you?

In Crazy, Stupid, Love, Steve Carell does his usual thing of being the victim character thrown into an uncomfortable life-style while someone new tries to pick him up, turn him around, and make him into someone new, only for him to find out that the thing he needed the most was there in front of him the whole time. Admittedly, this is a formula that works well for Steve Carell – its tried, its tested, and its proved time and time again that he can pull it off, so why not one more? Crazy, Stupid, Love sees Steve Carell play family man Cal Weaver who, at the start of the film, is told by his wife (Julianne Moore) that she slept with someone else and wants a divorce, thus uprooting Cal from everything he knows and loves. Soon enough, after failing miserably on the singles scene, Cal meets Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), a young, handsome player who takes on Cal as a protégé and teaches him all about how to be the best man he can be. Before long, Cal is a changed man – but obviously, it doesn’t end there, and Cal has to dodge awkward situations with his kids babysitter, his son’s teacher (Marissa Tomei) and his ex-wife’s new man on the scene (Kevin Bacon), all while Jacob himself finds a woman who is a complete game-changer for him (Emma Stone) and makes him want to change his ways from what he’s taught Cal.

Essentially, Crazy, Stupid, Love feels like a mixture of 40 Year-Old Virgin (again) and The Kids Are Alright, but that might be partially down to the fact Julianne Moore is in it. There are elements of a lot of previous Steve Carell films in the mix here like Dan In Real Life and others, but the mix of big name stars who are so recognisable and play very different characters from each other manage to bring new and interesting elements into the film. Ryan Gosling does a great job of playing the young, hip player and will surely be the reason a lot of women flock to the cinemas for this film, but Emma Stone comes very close to stealing the show with her usual charming characteristics. The only other person that comes close to stealing the spotlight is newcomer Analeigh Tipton as Jessica, the babysitter with an unhealthy crush on the older man Cal.

While there are a lot of laughs in Crazy, Stupid, Love and a lot of original lines courtesy of Mr. Carell and the creative team behind it, it does feel like the film goes on for nearly 30 minutes too long. Going into the last quarter of the film, everything starts becoming a little too predictable and you start to really see the resemblance between this film and every other film that resembles this one, and after the last big twist of the film 30 minutes from the end, everything seems to flatline and just sort of keep rolling on rather than really build towards something. Personally, I think it would have perhaps been a more interesting way to end a film if they had ended it after everyone gets into a big fight and walks away from each other 30 minutes from when the actual end is, but then you can’t expect a film like this to have commercial appeal and have a non-commercial ending at the same time. That would be too much like having your cake and eating it, I suppose, for a film like this.

Crazy, Stupid, Love seems to work well within its own boundaries as a film, but by no stretch of the imagination breaks any kind of mould, but does get redeemed from its unusual line-up of A-Class actors. Crazy, Stupid, Love gets 6 out of 10 from me for being watchable and genuinely funny in places, but ultimately nothing too new.


X-Men: First Class (May Contain Spoilers)

When I saw the first trailer for X-Men: First Class, I was pretty reluctant to get excited about it. Being a fan of the comic books and original stories, and after enjoying the first two films so much, the look and feel of the trailer didn’t seem to sit quite right with me. There was something about the way Michael Fassbender’s Magneto helmet didn’t quite fit, the way Nick Hoult looked as Beast, and the way the trailer used a lot of shots from the first movie to sell itself. But after realising all these things were for a reason (the helmet wasn’t originally built for Magneto in the plot; Hoult only becomes Beast at the end and there is a lot that ties this in with the first X-Men), I started to warm to the idea of an “origins” movie without it actually being another X-Men Origins – frankly, one of those was enough!

In 1944, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) lead very different lives, but they are both discovering incredible powers from genetic mutations. Years later in 1963, they unite with a common goal – to find others like themselves with amazing mutant powers and bring them to a safe haven, where they can harness their powers and use them to protect people. But when Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), leader of the Hellfire Club and the man Erik has been tirelessly hunting down, is tied in to military actions in Russia and aims to create the Cuban Missile crisis, Xavier and Erik must gather their new team in order to stop his threat to the World. But in the process, a rift forms in their alliance and sides must be chosen by their new members, creating a struggle between the two former allies.

It may be the fears of an X-Men Origins repeat, but I was concerned that this would be another black mark on the X-Men legacy. However, safe in the knowledge that Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn was in control and Bryan Singer, director of the first two X-Men, was a producer I became more hopeful, X-Men: First Class definitely has a good, solid storyline behind it especially when compared to Origins (in fact, watching X-Men Origins felt like witnessing a movie version of Top Trumps – Wolverine VS Sabretooth = Lose; Wolverine VS Helicopter = Win; and so on), and that made it all the more grounded and realistic. Plus, there are enough cameos to satisfy audiences mostly familiar with the first few films – at one point you see a child Storm and Cyclops, when Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) makes herself look older its Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, and yes even Hugh Jackman appears as Wolverine albeit for three words! While the storyline only plays with bits of the X-Men mythos a little, it mostly remains loyal to the source material and you get to see all the different parts of the X-Men Universe coming together, and that definitely works in its favour.

What I liked about X-Men: First Class, aside from the storyline, is the way the continuity ties in well with the start of the first X-Men, even though for the most part it doesn’t feel like you’re watching an X-Men movie. Having it set against a backdrop of the 60’s gives the whole film an entirely different feel, and it manages to get the look and style of that era without it becoming kitsch-y. What confused me at points was the age of some of the characters, and how they can still be so young later in the film or at the start of the first ­X-Men but even those get explanations, like the way Sebastian Shaw absorbs energy and therefore stays young, and Mystique only ages half as fast as others so she’s still in her 20’s when the first X-Men rolls round.

I was also impressed at how James McAvoy played a young Charles Xavier. You get an idea that in his youth, Xavier was a bit cocky but knew what he was doing, and in X-Men: First Class you see him become a part of the action with the rest of the team for the first time.

One scene I didn’t like so much was when everyone picks their “codenames”. While I appreciate that it had to be included for the benefit of some people who might not be as familiar with the X-Universe as others, and that if this scene had to happen at all it was done in a way that felt at least semi-natural, there’s always something about a “My name will be this and your name will be this” scene that feels a little forced and uncomfortable. Still, the benefit of this is that Matthew Vaughn manages to do it in as swift a way as possible – while it may not be the “I’m Kick-Ass!” scene, it’s still done in a way that eliminates any confusion over characters.

Overall, X-Men: First Class is a worthy addition to the X-Universe, and if they’re going to make more films to tie-in with the first X-Men then doing it in this style and with this cast and crew definitely seems to be a winning combination.  X-Men: First Class gets 8 out of 10 for having all the elements and storylines of a good X-Men film with only the bare minimum of Hollywood cheese.

LISTED Film Previews – June 2011

Yes, it’s almost summer time and it does seem a shame to spend sunny days inside watching movies (well, for some of us it’s a shame). But should there ever be rainy days, and you find yourself with too much cash in your wallet and need to get rid of it quickly, then at least you’ll have these films to see! There are some blinders this month, and they’re only going to get better as we head into Summer Blockbuster territory, so wrap your eyes round these if you care to:

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (12A) (Dir. Matthew Vaughn)

If the last instalment in the X-Men franchise was an origins story for Wolverine, then this is the origin of Professor X, Magneto and the entire X-Men team. It’s 1963, and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender) are discovering their mutant powers and band together to find others like themselves. But as a threat to the world emerges, a rift grows between the two and they begin to divide into opposing sides. X-Men: First Class will also see January Jones as Emma Frost, the questionable Nick Hoult as Hank McCoy/Beast, and Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw, as well as a whole host of other big names from Marvel Comics’ X-Universe. Also, Bryan Singer (the original director of the first two X-Men films) is on-board as producer, and director of Kick-Ass Matthew Vaughn takes control of bringing the origins of the ­X-Men to life. Expect a lot of what made the first X-Men films so great, but not quite as you recognise it. Released 1st June.

KUNG-FU PANDA 2 (PG) (Dir. Jennifer Yuh)

The hungriest martial artist in the animal kingdom returns for a second fistful of action. Po (Jack Black) is sent on a journey with the Furious Five to stop an evil master (Gary Oldman) from releasing a deadly new weapon which could eradicate kung-fu forever. If you allowed yourself to be a kid again and enjoyed the first one, then there are plenty more gags to entertain you in this sequel. And for once, having it in 3D might not be such a bad thing with all the action scenes and explosions! Released 10th June.

GREEN LANTERN (12A) (Dir. Martin Campbell)

One of the most highly anticipated comic-book films of the year (alongside the three Marvel Comics releases), Ryan Reynolds is Hal Jordan, a cocky test pilot who comes into contact with a dying, crash-landed member of an intergalactic police force. He becomes the first human to be granted membership into the Green Lantern Corps, and is given a ring that grants him otherworldly powers. But his admission into the squadron coincides with the appearance of the Parallax – a fear entity which threatens to destroy the universes balance of power. Even though there seems to be plenty of material to satisfy long-term fans of one of DC Comics’ forefront superheroes, there have been suggestions that the visual effects might not be up to scratch. While the alien world of Oa has been brilliantly created through CGI, the decision to have Hal’s Green Lantern suit done entirely in CGI as well might give the film a questionable look, and might end up relying on the action and story to save it. Released 17th June.

BAD TEACHER (15) (Dir. Jake Kasden)

Cameron Diaz stars in this slightly more adult comedy than what it appears to be as a recently jilted, unsaintly high school teacher who targets a colleague as her next lover, only to spark a war with a fellow teacher. Probably not one to see if you’re looking for something more original. Released 24th June.

As published in Listed Magazine and on

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