Ryan's Reviews: I Love You, Man and Last House on the Left
by Ryan Mazie
March 15, 2009
Today we're presenting the first two reviews from one of our newest contributors, Ryan Mazie. Ryan hails from New Jersey and is a true film aficionado. Today he's reviewing John Hamburg's bro-mantic comedy I Love You, Man and Dennis Iliadis's horror remake Last House on the Left. Be sure to let us know what you think of Ryan's reviews, as we're still looking to see if he's a good fit and we certainly appreciate your feedback. And don't forget, Last House on the Left is currently playing in theaters now, and I Love You, Man hits theaters on March 20th next week. Read on for Ryan's reviews of both of these new films below.
I Love You, Man
Directed by: John Hamburg
Ryan's Rating: 7 out of 10
I Love You, Man spins the notion of a romantic comedy on its head, making a fresh plot that will have you laughing from start to finish. Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) seems to have everything on track after proposing to his dream girl, Zooey (Rashida Jones). And if you think proposing is the hardest part of getting married, think again.
Never a guys-guy, Peter comes to a pause when he has to select a best man at his wedding, a daunting task for he has no male friends. Why not ask the guys at the real estate agency he works at? Besides the obnoxious go-getter, Tevin (Rob Huebel), there are none. The guys at his weekly fencing practice? Nope, as it turns out, Peter has always been out-of-the-loop, never striking up more than a casual conversation. Even Peter's father (J.K. Simmons) considers Peter's gay brother Robby (Andy Samberg) more of a friend than him.
Out of options, Peter takes his brother's advice and is set up on a series of "man-dates" that are awkward for Peter, but a riotous highlight for the audience. When almost out of hope, Peter finally finds his possible best friend/best man at one of his open houses, investor Sydney Fife (Jason Segel). Sydney is Peter's truth-telling, spontaneous soulmate who shows Pete how to loosen up.
I Love You, Man is the first laugh out loud film of 2009. While you know the ending from the moment it begins, the brazen jokes and dialogue are anything but predictable. Surprisingly not touched by comedy movie mogul Judd Apatow, I Love You, Man has the same warm heart in its center with Apatow's crude yet hilarious antics. John Hamburg (Along Came Polly) directs and co-writes with Larry Levin (Dr. Dolittle). Hamburg moves at a brisk pace to keep the laugh-filled momentum going all the way to the big day.
Rudd embodies Peter with the right amount of awkwardness to not have friends, yet feel empathy for him. Segel seems to have perfected the lovable loser formula, playing mostly the same character as he did in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, an affable man-child. Rashida Jones tries to break up some of the testosterone with newcomer Sarah Burns as Hailey, Zooey's best friend who is always on the prowl for a man. The duo does an amiable job, but never elevates any of the scenes like Mila Kunis in Forgetting Sarah Marshall or Jane Lynch in Role Models.
J.K. Simmons is underutilized as Peter's dad as well as SNL alumni Jane Curtin as his wife. Current SNL star Andy Samberg, after failing as a lead man in Hot Rod, finds his calling as a supporting actor with a charismatic charm. Comic Ron Huebel is uproarious as Peter's spray-tanned, hotheaded co-worker who always seems to be a step ahead of Peter when it comes to sales.
With a large cast, Jaime Pressly is a scene-stealing standout as Zooey's caring friend with Iron Man director Jon Favreau as her jerk of a husband. The Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno, is easy to pinpoint as one of Peter's clients in a few hilarious scenes. Not entirely flawless, I Love You, Man, is a highly entertaining laugh-fest. Man, I have to admit, I loved this movie.
The Last House on the Left
Directed by: Dennis Iliadis
Ryan's Rating: 4 out of 10
The tagline for The Last House on the Left asks, "If bad people hurt someone you love, how far would you go to hurt them back?" The answer is revealed during 100 minutes full of stomach-churning results that are more gruesome than brutal and more yawn-inducing than disturbing. The Last House on the Left walks over already eroded ground instead of breaking any like its 1972 predecessor that paved the way for torture-porn horrors like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Saw. The original House, a remake itself of a 1960 Swedish horror film, was horror king Wes Craven's first film as a director.
This remake trades in the cult classic's campy tone and plays the horrifying concept out with a straight-face. However, the audience will have trouble keeping one. The Last House on the Left tells the story of straight-laced teenager Mari Collingwood (Sara Paxton) on a family vacation at their remote lake house with her mother, Emma (Monica Potter), and father John (Tony Goldwyn). Mari takes the family car to give her watchful parents a night alone and see her gregarious friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac).
The duo quickly meets another shy teenager, Justin (Spencer Treat Clarke), and go to his motel with the promise of good weed. At the motel, the girl's stumble upon trouble as Justin's "family" arrives sooner than expected. Justin's violent dad, Krug (Garret Dillahunt), leads the family of psychotic killers with Justin's uncontrollable uncle, Francis (Aaron Paul), and sadistic recruit, Sadie (Riki Lindhome).
Exhaustively torturing the two girls and leaving them left for dead, the killer's need shelter for the night, caught in a violent thunderstorm and in a sick coincidence wind up at the Collingwood's lake house. As each family pieces together who one another is, the Collingwood's scheme a plan for a long, torturous, painful, and bloody revenge.
Opting the jump scares for psychological horror and a lack of care about the characters due to shoddy acting, makes the experience boil down to watching one-dimensional good guys giving bad guys their comeuppance. Sara Paxton never seems to be full-heartedly there in her performance. Nicely fitting into her character at the start, but when the killers arrive, her portrayal of fear is absent and pleas for her life with the same amount of energy as when bartering at a garage sale. Tony Goldwyn is not any better, stuck on the emotion of profound sincerity throughout the film, making many lines laughable.
Monica Potter does a commendable job, showing how far she'll go slowly unraveling from a caring, devout mother into a calculating woman who is not afraid to stab terror into her attackers. Garret Dillahunt delves into his part as a stern killer as well as Riki Lindhome and Aaron Paul, who seem to be having fun with their roles, bring a fresh feeling to the tired, but true characters. The young Spencer Treat Clark adds a nice element to the family as not having the backbone to even hurt, less kill someone, yet his silent shyness gives him a one-dimensional feeling that the others characters also can not seem to shake off thanks to the lackadaisical screenplay.
Surprisingly keeping many of the original's plot points and elements, this version focuses more on the Collingwood's revenge torture than the killers. The script never seems to get off of the ground and instead glides through the established plot. Strangely enough, this version feels as if it is even more outdated than the original, missing the first one's timeless quirkiness in exchange for the same old clichés and plot devices.
Dennis Iliadis directs and does a decent job for his first mainstream feature. Keeping a steady angle, but whenever an altercation arises, it turns into a shaky-handed free for all with sloppy editing. However, his violence seems more controlled and realistic compared to the gallons of blood used in other frightfests along with a truly startling rape scene with clever angles that show the anguish of the ordeal.
Lacking the originally slick gruesomeness of Saw, the painfully brilliant disturbance of Funny Games, the terrifying nail-biting suspense of The Strangers, even the ground-breaking shock of the 1972 original, there really is not much left for The Last House on the Left to entertain audiences with. So when you finally reach this last house on the left, it is best to make a sharp U-turn.