“Dinner” and a “Cloud” – Two film reviews


An array of characters can be found in “Dinner for
Schmucks” including
 Madame Nora the pet psychic,
Vincenzo the Vulture lover, Tim, Barry, Chuck the
beard champion, and Lewis the Ventriloquist.
Photo by Merie Weismiller Wallace

This week, we review two movies: “Dinner for Schmucks,” and “Charlie St. Cloud.”  First up is a dinner date with hilarity.
Tim (Paul Rudd) is about to get a promotion. All he has to do is impress the boss at a dinner party where each guest invites an odd person to come with them. These “interesting” people then behave like idiots, and the office buddies make fun of them.
Barry (Steve Carell) is a schmuck. He is uncoordinated, socially inept, clumsy, unlucky, and is just plain odd. He is an IRS worker who spends all of his free time alone, perfecting his hobby – taxidermy. Of mice. He saves dead mice, preserves the bodies, then puts them in clothing and creates small dioramas called “Mousterpieces.” But when Tim accidentally hits Barry with his car, Barry gets a dinner invitation.
The hilarity of these two opposing forces of “funny man – straight man” is a comic delight. Too cliché? Let’s just say this: it’s no “Hangover,” but its worth a trip to the movies. Carell and Rudd team up again for the first time since 2004’s “Anchorman,” but this time it is actually funny. The Mousterpieces, especially one called “the tower of dreamers,” are hilarious. And just the way Carell carries himself, with the confidence of a man who has no idea he is doing things wrong. He really is an all around schmuck. And watching straight-laced Rudd trying to keep up as he follows Carell around the
city, breaking into a famous artist’s apartment, and even through a particularly violent episode with a stalking ex girlfriend, meeting characters like Turman (Zach Galifanakis), Barry’s IRS superior who thinks he has the power of mind control, and Kieran (Jemaine Clement), an artist who is overly sexual and angry, and usually obsessed with horns and hooves, makes for a great night at the movies.
Rated PG-13, I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars.

A more serious tone is captured by Zac Efron (above with Amanda Crew) in “Charlie St. Cloud,” a story about letting go of guilt and moving on. Photo courtesy of Universal

The next film is not a comedy. It is a rip-your-heart-out-in-the-theater, family-emotional-guilt-fest, sobbing-in-the-aisle-of-the-movie-theater-while-people-stare-at-me dramatic film. Zac Efron has opened every door in Hollywood with this film, “Charlie St. Cloud.”
Charlie (Efron) has a scholarship to Stanford for sailing, he has aspirations of being a sailing master, and one day wants to sail around the world. But when a drunk driver hits his car while he is driving his brother, his whole world changes. Charlie flat-lined for a minute, then came back. His younger brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) didn’t make it. Racked with guilt, Charlie gave up his scholarship to Stanford and instead works in the graveyard of his small island community. But the one thing that he still loves is his brother. And every night at sunset, Charlie goes into the woods near the graveyard …  and plays catch with his dead brother. Dying for that moment gave Charlie the ability to see and talk to the dead. So even though Sam died, that doesn’t mean Charlie has to lose him. But when a high school friend returns to the small town with hopes of sailing around the world, Charlie is faced with the fact that he is not moving on. He is staying in the past. He did not die in that crash, but he isn’t living his life.
Zac Efron can do comedy (as evident from last year’s “17 Again”), he can sing and dance (“High School Musical” franchise) and now it is clear that he can do drama just as well. The movie was very good. And it was because of him. He surprised this reporter at just how good he can be, and gives audiences hope that we now have a strong actor who can play characters in their early 20s in drama or comedy. Not many other actors out there are good enough to really be THE actor to fit a generation, but Efron is just the man for the “N64 generation” (kids born in the late 1980s and early 1990s who grew up playing the N64 console). The movie is spectacular. I had a press screening the week before it came out, but I liked it so much, I went to see it again as soon as it came out. This really is one of the best movies this year.
Rated PG-13, I give this film 5 out of 5 stars.

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