Mirthless “Couples Retreat”, heartfelt “Wild Things”

Man I wish I had time to update more!

I’m lucky if I pull off once a week. Vanguard 3 days a week, Apple 4.

I did squeeze in some time with the girlfriend to catch a double feature (it’s where you pay for one movie, see two. only way to go when you’re chocking up 10+ bucks for a single admission!) last night.

Saw Where The Wild Things Are and Couples Retreat.

I thought Wild Things was beautifully done. Definitely not child’s play. The animatronic and CG wild things (monsters?) looked great and were very entertaining to watch. Max was great. Cute kid. Reminds me of myself when I was little…playing for hours upon hours with legos and action figures and making forts. Don’t think I had a animal suit that cool though.

Everyone has been saying the same things — it’s too dark for kids. I’ll agree on that one…if I had a child who wanted to see the film though, I wouldn’t hesitate to bring them along…with the warning that there’s some scary scenes where they should shut their eyes or hold daddy’s (eh, maybe mommy’s) hand.

But what a true adaptation. I grew up on that book, and remember the bitter feelings of loneliness Max carries. Can’t blame a little boy for wanting attention. And while he’s a little troubled, I’m on his side. He’s just acting out because no one cares about what he does. Which is, of course, why he goes and finds himself a mystery island full of scary-friendly creatures who want him to be their king.

The tormented themes within the culture of the wild things is also very mature and all too real for plenty of adults. But other than a shred of fantasy violence and some scary moments with Max in danger, it’s a PG movie with a PG-13 feel at times.

And now to the BAD stuff. The really, really bad stuff.

Couples Retreat.

We’ve got Kristin Davis, Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell on top. Jason Bateman, Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, on top. Not to mention Faizon Love (the big black dude) and cameos by the funny gay guy and the hilarious little Asian man from Community, The Goods and The Hangover.

All in one movie! With a ripe premise, too. And they still couldn’t pull it of?!

I mean, I was disappointed by Extract too, Batemen (and Mike Judge). Batemen’s great, and I loved him in Arrested Development. But these projects need some better directors, writers, producers, something!

It’s almost comedic that Hollywood still makes shitty movies this bad. Couples Retreat could’ve been saved with better editing — it was 2 hours, a half hour too long. Plenty of unnecessary scenes like the gay sauna comments and Guitar Hero nonsense. And I could’ve gone with a little less of the sexy Fabio-like yoga instructor flaunting his bod…and his pod (package?).

It’s easy to see that a bunch of studio execs thought this would be a good idea:

Great star power (even though that matters less these days)

Funny concept

Bikini-clad island girls

Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau at the helm, writing and producing

…but what they didn’t tell us in the previews was how there was going to be a good 4-minute Guitar Hero advertisement right about two thirds into the movie. LITERALLY. A 30-second joke? I’ll get over it, full-well knowing it’s a paid joke, assuming the plot moves on.

Instead, it decides to dwell. For a really pointless, bland and unfunny scene where Vaughn has a Guitar Hero-off with the douchey resort dude. How original. Let South Park make fun of it, because they make it funny. You, Couples Retreat, despite the ridiculous nature of grown men using three-foot miniature, plastic guitars; utilize a cheesy, fluorescent split-screen, overlaid videogame graphics, and pointless, predictable banter.

Frankly I’m offended. I wish I could find out how many millions Activision spent for that blatant screen time.

Despite the usual abundance of product placement and script integration — we’ve got Applebee’s, Apple, Microsoft, GMC, Volkswagen, Starbucks and about 10-15 more I can’t remember (no joke, I nearly counted to 20). It’s a fun little game I play when I see movies: see how many times different products are shameless plugged. If you count up the amount of screen time and number of mentions you can easily tally up a good chunk of how that movie was probably paid for.

Now I’m just talking out of my mouth because I don’t feel like Googling a bunch of links right now, but this “subliminal” advertising has been growing and getting out of control. It’s been going on forever in Hollywood, and the secrets been out of the bag for a while — even Marty McFly in 1985’s “Back To The Future” (me, this Halloween) was sporting some classic Nikes as he filmed Doc send the dog back in time outside a JC Penny in Pomona, California.

[Yes, that’s right, Pomona. I bought the DVD and watched Michael J. Fox talk about filming in a mall parking lot in Pomona late at night. Also, Current TV’s Embedded featured some great shots of downtown Pomona and The Glasshouse in last week’s episode on the Silversun Pickups.]

3 thoughts on “Mirthless “Couples Retreat”, heartfelt “Wild Things”

  1. Glad to see you are still at it Dan! Way to go! The Cal Poly Post needs you ha ha. I have missed reading some of your comentary. Oh! about the marketing messages in movies now, please remember us IBM magors ha ha. Marketing of that type is great, because people have become so cynical about advertisement of any kind any more.

  2. Thanks for the support as always John! What do you think of the Post this year?? Valid point, you marketing majors are crafty and I respect the talent and need for unique advertising. But at the expense of an audience or the media we’re paying for…no way.

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