Couples Retreat

What a complete waste of genuine comic talent.  Tell me, how can a movie go so wrong?  “Couples Retreat” has Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau and Jason Bateman–these talented guys could each carry their own movie to hilarious heights and have found themselves in the same movie.  Through studio intervention, terrible writing, zero jokes, and lazy performances, “Couples Retreat” amounts to an all-star cast getting to shoot a movie on a vacation island and party for a few weeks.

The plot of the movie centers around a couple (Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell) having martial problems and deciding that a dream vacation will heal the wounds and save their marriage.  But they need three sets of friends to drop their lives and head out with them to get the great group-rate package.  So the three couples (Vince Vaughn, Malin Akerman), (Jon Favreau, Kristin Davis), (Faizon Love, Kali Hawk) head off to paradise with the ‘Bateman, Bell” couple for a two-week vacation that turns into… you guessed it… disaster, and the worst kind of disaster–the kind that renders the movie a complete disaster.  Every comic scenario fails… From a lame shark attack, to Faizon’s character having to drop his pants without any underwear on, to an up-close-and-personal yoga instructor who looks like Kevin Sorbo with stubble, to (I kid you not…) a Guitar Hero face-off.  Absolutely nothing works.  Frankly, I’m getting tired of Vaughn turning in these garbage paycheck movies (Fred Claus, Four Christmases) that turn into box-office hits.  He is a very funny guy, but he’s in unfunny movies lately.  “Couples Retreat” has been slapped together and filled with unlikable characters.  These three schlubs have been saddled with gorgeous significant others and can’t seem to make their relationship work, how sad.  And the funny thing is, none of them learn anything.  The movie abruptly ends when the movie is spiraling out of control.  These pivotal shifts in character fail to happen throughout the movie, and then in the last minutes, the filmmakers seem to realize they are running out of time and have the couples reunite and fall back in love with zero foundation as to why.  Just spare yourself–this is one stupid, terrible movie.  If there’s a point of interest in it, it’s the fact that Peter Billingsley (who played Ralphie in “A Christmas Story”) directed this botch-job.

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Rating: 1.3/5 (3 votes cast)

Up in the Air

Jason Reitman is officially a brilliant filmmaker. After “Thank You For Smoking” and “Juno,” he delivers another surefire awards contender. His third film couldn’t be more timely, thought-provoking, darkly funny, challenging and heartbreaking. George Clooney has one of his best roles to date, and quite possibly delivers his best performance to date.  He plays Ryan Bingham, a service-for-hire executive rented out by companies big and small to essentially terminate employees and save employers from growing a backbone.  Bingham spends most of his time alone, flying all over the country and sleeping in hotels.  His greatest ambition is to earn a record of ten million flier miles and earn himself a special name-tag.  Life switches gears on him when his company hires a new gal (Anna Kendrick) to turn employee termination into a 5-minute private chatroom via the internet, saving the company all the travel expenses.  Bingham objects to the idea and has to take the young graduate under his wing and demonstrate why he is so good at his work.  Along the way he meets Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga–The Departed), another executive with a similar lifestyle of constant travel, and potential romance ensues.

I can’t stress enough how brilliant Clooney is in this film–able to evoke disdain and sympathy within a brisk 2 hours.  Jason Reitman has penned his screenplay adaptation so strategically and carefully, and it really pays off.  He has an ear for dialogue and an eye for his characters.  Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick also deliver strongly in a film praised for great reason.  “Up in the Air” is a brilliant, airy, intelligent, and tragic film well worth seeing.

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Rating: 3.8/5 (5 votes cast)