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Good Luck Chuck (2007)



Starring: Dane Cook, Jessica Alba, Dan Fogler, Lonny Ross
Director: Mark Helfrich
Screenwriter: Josh Stolberg

I had a bad feeling about going to see this movie and I tried to convince my friend not to go, but my main two arguments -“I have never seen anything funny starring Dane Cook” and “I do not think Jessica Alba is an actress”- somehow failed against “You have never seen one of his stand-ups” (true) and “She is hot” (also true). While reading Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 Worst Movies Ever, I came across this title, and I remembered my pain and suffering and regret over spending about $10 (including popcorn and soda) on something so excruciating that it made my root canal appointment seem like Disneyland.

“Good Luck Chuck” tells the improbable tale of a dentist (yes, that is exactly why I said root canal), Charlie Logan (Dane Cook), who has a unique quality: every woman he dates/sleeps with ends up marrying the next guy she meets. He was hexed when he was a child, and now, in adulthood, his current status and reputation helps him get so many women he cannot keep up with, because evidently he is the gateway to women’s heaven: marriage (gag me!) . He meets and falls in love with Cam (Jessica Alba), a penguin zookeeper, that is the ideal mix of beauty and smarts, but she has a twist too: she is clumsy to the extreme. Shenanigans ensue. Of course he has an obnoxious fat friend whose only purpose is to make him look like a prince because he does not pretend he’s somebody else to get laid and he does not fuck a grapefruit on his spare time. Of course her constantly falling and generally being embarrassing to the human race is charming. Of course they love each other but the „situational comedy” keeps them apart. Of course Dane Cook is funny. And of course Jessica Alba could be a scientist.

One of this movie’s major flaws is that it is simply not funny.  I can take slapstick humor. I can take dirty jokes („Clerks”, anyone?). I can suspend my disbelief that such people could possibly exist on an oxygenated planet. I really have no problem with very beautiful women coupled with generic looking men (I liked „Knocked Up”). I can see the charm of a funny man (fine, I admit: I am a Seth Rogen fan). I do not expect life lessons or philosophy out of a comedy script. I laughed during „The Proposal”, for God’s sake, and it was about two walking clichés bantering! But when I go to see a comedy, romantic or otherwise, it better be funny. It better have at least one fresh, innovative, clever joke, and at least ten mediocre ones. And the leads do not have to be Oscar winners, but they better have the charisma and comedic timing to pull through the delivery of lines without making it seem like a school play where everybody is looking at their mommy in the audience for approval.

The second is the leads’ lack of appeal. I do not want to start talking about acting skills, because this particular script has no need for them, not even Meryl Streep can resuscitate this train wreck. But to manage to gain the audience, to make everybody root for the main characters, they need to be likeable. Dane Cook may be a great guy and a worthy actor, but he just makes you want bad shit to happen to him. On screen, that is. He is like Ashton Kutcher: not as funny as he thinks he is, and desperately trying to prove his genius. Even Demi’s husband seems more relaxed when “acting”, and his Twitter persona seems like a genuinely nice guy. But the 30 year old man-child shtick is not attractive and not amusing; it’s just boring and overdone. And Jessica is a pleasure to watch, she really brightens the screen every time she smiles, too bad her role has her talking.  She deserves her spot on any “most beautiful” top, but I think she and Jessica Biel have the same problem: nobody takes beauty seriously. Next think you know, they will declare it a handicap and ask for damages. Because Charlize Theron is ugly, did you not see “Monster”?

Overall, a movie already forgotten by almost everybody except Rotten Tomatoes and me, and a step by step demo of how easy it is to make millions even without direction, script, actors or a plausible premise: just take a funnyman and a vixen; throw in some sex and bathroom jokes, cute animals, over promote the hell out of it and voila: the movie everybody saw and nobody wanted to see.

Good Luck Chuck (2007)

Punisher War Zone (2008)



Starring: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Doug Hutchinson, Julie Benz
Director: Lexi Alexander
Screenwriter: Nick Santora, Art Marcum
Rating : R for pervasive strong brutal violence, language and some drug use.

Why ? Why was there need for another Punisher reboot ? WHY ?! The ’89 Dolph Lundgren version was a flop, upsetting even the fans of the comics. The 2004, Thomas Jane-John Travolta venture was fairly good but it certainly didn’t beg for a sequel. And still, Marvel insists on greenlighting not just a sequel, but a third attempt at starting up a franchise, perhaps hoping for a trilogy or a quadrilogy. The result however is a miserable failure.

Frank Castle, aka the Punisher (Ray Stevenson) is a former member of US special forces, whose family was killed by mobsters while enjoying a picnic in Central Park. After the incident, Castle becomes a ruthless vigilante whose objective is to annihilate organized crime, one head at a time. “War Zone” starts off with the Punisher’s assault on the mansion of Gaitano Cesare, a mob head freshly released from the grasp of justice. During the assault, he desfigures mobster Billy Russoti (Dominic West) and accidentaly kills an undercover FBI agent. This turns Castle away from the thug-hunting game for a while. Russoti then becomes the comic book villain Jigsaw, cooks up a revenge plan, springs his psychotic brother Loony Bin Jim (Doug Hutchinson) from the assylum, gathers every thug he can from the streets of New York, waging war against a now remorse ridden Punisher, forcing him to return to his violent ways.

I can’t say that I’m a stranger to the Punisher universe, but I’m also not the type that holds the source material as reference for any film (which is probably why I liked the 2004 adaptation). I’ve always liked the idea of the character, as much as I enjoy all anti-heroes and revenge stories. Basically, Frank Castle is a psychopath. He kills bad guys not for revenge, he’s gone way past emotions, but from a distorted sense of justice without limits. His judgement doesn’t tolerate any grey areas. It’s all black or white, guilty or not guilty. This film does not dig deeper into the character’s psychological depths, the moral purgatory, the trauma of violently losing his family which triggered his transformation into the blood-thirsty vigilante. What the film does is to keep itself busy with an overblown affection for over-the-top violence and comic-bookish caricatures. New York is actually shot in Canada, wasting much of the bleak urban feeling with anonymous neon-lit back alleys and rooftops. The bad guys are such grotesque, badly acted jokers that I wasn’t sure sure whether or not they were supposed to be there for comic relief rather than antagonists for the Punisher. Ray Stevenson, familiar to most from the HBO TV series “Rome”, is reduced here to an inexpresive hulk, fitting in terms of physical stature, but otherwise wasted in a part that doesn’t even seem to have any script behind it. There are few moments where he is allowed to show emotion, but it’s usually just him versus hordes of thugs. Here’s a grand example of “witty” dialogue : when confronted by a pries with the line : “Go with God”, Castle responds : “Sometimes I would like to get my hands on God” … I rest my case. Oh, and there’s also a plot element regarding the wife and child of the FBI agent Castle killed, played by Julie Benz, but it’s just there to send Castle back into the wasting-bad-guys business while assuring us he’s still a human being.

Though grossly suffering from a lack of originality, the film shows competence in its action scenes, but the effort seems pointless because it is very difficult to take the whole thing seriously. In fact, any attempt to take this film seriosuly will probably result in brain injury. The best remedy is to just laugh it away, whenever you’re not turned off by the gore.

It’s clearly an attempt at pleasing the fans just enough to warrant a franchise. I mean, it’s the kind of film that feels offending intellectually for some while scaring others away with its ugly kind violence. So in the end, the only people left who might enjoy it are the members of its already established comic book fanbase. But judging from the pathetic box-office performance, even they’ve been insulted.