Throwback Thursday Review: Accepted

  • Actors: Justin Long, Blake Lively, Lewis Black, Jonah Hill, Columbus Short
  • Directors: Steve Pink
  • Writers: Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Mark Perez
  • Producers: Tom Shadyac, Michael Bostick
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • Release Date: 2006
  • Run Time: 93 minutes



    Bartleby Gaines (Justin Long) isn’t accepted into any college, but to avoid angering his parents he makes up a college and forges an acceptance letter. Things begin to spiral when his parents want to see the college and meet the Dean. After fooling the parents with a fake website and an abandoned mental institution Bartleby thinks things are under control, but suddenly other students begin arriving. They have all been accepted because there is a button on the website that says acceptance is one click away. This doesn’t explain how they received acceptance letters without anyone sending them, but this is just one of many holes in the plot.


    The plot devices used in Accepted may seem familiar because they have been used many times, and recently by a much more successful college comedy; Old School. A snooty Ivy League villain wants to take control and buy the location of the fake school, ultimately foiling our “heroes” of their scheme. The problem with our hero is that he is a bit of a tool. We are supposed to root for the leading guy to win the girl, and as is often the case “the girl” is already dating an extremely handsome and popular frat guy. The difference is that he seems to be a sincerely nice guy until our “hero” is a complete jerk to him in order to make the girl laugh, which she does. This also makes the leading girl seem shallow. It is almost as if we are just expected to be on the side of Bartleby merely because he is the main character, even though he is not very likable.


    White House Down Blu-Ray Review

    Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx
    Supporting actors: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Joey King, James Woods, Nicolas Wright, Jimmi Simpson, Michael Murphy, Rachelle Lefevre, Lance Reddick, Matt Craven, Jake Weber, Peter Jacobson, Barbara Williams, Kevin Rankin, Garcelle Beauvais, Falk Hentschel
    Directed by: Roland Emmerich
    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
    Number of discs: 2
    Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
    Studio: Sony Pictures Entertainment
    Release Date: November 5, 2013

    Run Time: 132 minutes



            White House Down is the second of the two action films about the invasion of the president’s home this year, and easily the more accessible of the two. Rather than Gerard Butler repeatedly stabbing terrorists in the skull with a knife in the same poorly-lit hallway set of the White House, White House Down has the young star power of Channing Tatum and buddy-action elements inserted with a PG-13 rating and Jamie Foxx as the leader of our nation. The action is almost completely bloodless, the strong language is doled out in moderation for the most ideal moments of impact, and the logic of Roland Emmerich’s direction is questionable at best, but White House Down is still a far more enjoyable film than Olympus Has Fallen.


            The plot is filled with absurdity around every corner, beginning with a scenario that puts Capitol Policeman John Cale (Tatum) and his daughter (Joey King) in danger alongside President James Sawyer (Foxx). After a failed interview with a colleague (Maggie Gyllenhaal) for a job with the secret service, Cale is given the chance to prove that they made the wrong decision. A highly-armed group of mercenaries overtake the White House, ironically led by the head of the secret service (James Woods). When Cale is separated from his daughter in the chaos, his main goal is making sure he finds and protects her, though the president becomes a secondary concern when they cross paths.


    Byzantium Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan, Sam Riley, Jonny Lee Miller, Daniel Mays
  • Director: Neil Jordan
  • Writer: Moira Buffini
  • Producers: William D. Johnson, Sam Englebardt, Stephen Woolley, Alan Moloney, Elizabeth Karlsen
  • Format: Blu-ray, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  •  Release Date: October 29, 2013
  • Run Time: 118 minutes


            Byzantium is like Twilight with more brutality, or Let the Right One In (or Let Me In, for you English-only film viewers) with more teen angst. However you examine it and whatever recent vampire film you most associate it with, Byzantium has few new ideas to be brought to the vampire genre. What it does have is a strong visual style and narrative with the kind of focus which could only come from a director such as Neil Jordan. However unoriginal much of the material may be, it is done with such confident filmmaking that it is easy to get swept up in yet another vampire love story.


            This contemporary gothic thriller follows the exploits of a pair of female vampires as they hide out in a former hotel resort called Byzantium. Clara (Gemma Arterton) and her forever teenage daughter Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) are constantly on the run from someone chasing them, leading to endless new homes. Eleanor has grown tired of the routine they have carried out for 200 years, and finally begins to discover the truth about her mother. Clara is a compulsive liar, hiding the truth about their reasons for running.


    As Cool As I Am Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Claire Danes, James Marsden
  • Directors: Max Mayer
  • Format: Blu-ray, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • Release Date: October 22, 2013
  • Run Time: 92 minutes


            A film like As Cool as I Am is contradictory in its construction, filled with the type of self-indulgent naivety only a teenager the age of the protagonist would likely find relatable while also containing enough explicit content to receive an ‘R’ rating. Even more significant with this coming-of-age tale is the lack of focus when it comes to tying together the film’s themes and ideas. Rather than making any real statements about adulthood or the journey towards it, this is just a film about a lot of random decisions made by a teenager surrounded by people just as immature as she is, despite her impressive vocabulary and propensity for culinary arts.


            Sixteen-year-old Lucy Diamond (Sarah Bolger) has horrible parents on polar opposite scales, but has somehow managed to become mature and responsible. Then there are moments which throw all character development out the window and have Lucy acting as irresponsible as possible in ways that nearly guarantee she turns out just like her unhappy parents. I suppose this could be construed as accurate in its inconsistencies for the mere fact that the main character is a teenage girl, but the logic of the narrative’s direction was also lost on me. Based on the book by Pete Fromm, Virginia Korus Spragg’s scattered screenplay lacks focus, direction, or purpose.


    The Way, Way Back Blu-ray Review

  •  Actors: Liam James, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry and Amanda Peet
  •  Directors: Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Studio: Fox Searchlight
  • Release Date: October 22, 2013
  • Run Time: 104 minutes



            The Way, Way Back is a film entirely dependent upon its cast, which makes sense considering the fact that it is the brainchild of two successful character actors. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash both have the ability to appreciate the benefits of a strong supporting cast, having often filled those roles themselves as they display with minor bits in The Way, Way Back, which they also co-wrote and co-directed together. It is a directorial debut for both, and while at times their story seems to lack focus, it is their ability to get out of the actor’s way that cultivates such a rich viewing experience. Each character has unique personality flaws, and paired with their very human shortcomings in the screenplay is a masterful bit of casting in this ensemble dramedy.


            Liam James heads up the cast as our awkward teen, Duncan, a fourteen-year-old being juggled between his two divorced parents. With a recently remarried father, Duncan is forced to spend the summer with his mother (Toni Collette) at the beach house of her arrogant new boyfriend (Steve Carell). Despite an attractive girl next door (AnnaSophia Robb) and a house on the beach, it looks to be a miserable summer for the introverted Duncan until he makes an unlikely friend in an irresponsible water park employee named Owen (Sam Rockwell). Owen’s over-the-top confidence has an impact on Duncan’s demeanor, which is apparent to everyone around him, from the cute girl next door to his mother, even though he keeps his time at the water park a secret.


    Just Like a Woman Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Sienna Miller, Golshifteh Farahani
  • Director: Rachid Bouchareb
  • Format: AC-3, Blu-ray, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: Cohen Media Group
  • Release Date: October 22, 2013
  • Run Time: 120 minutes



            While it is no surprise that Just Like a Woman takes a female perspective in the storytelling, it is amazing how much the film stacks elements against the fairer sex. The victimization of the protagonists is not enough to inspire any empathy, however, especially since the screenplay has little interest in anything else. Every male character is immediately dismissible as weak or cruel, and tragedies befall the two women as if they were cursed. In truth, it is just cheap filmmaking attempting to force an emotional response without putting in the effort of character development which would have made the payoff sincere.


            With a plot too similar to Thelma and Louise not to mention, but dissimilar enough to disappoint any fans using Ridley Scott’s estrogen-fueled thriller as a reference point, Just Like a Woman has little going for it in terms of story. It is ultimately a road trip movie as two women who are little more than strangers get to know each other in a common goal of escaping their bleak lives, though we must endure an insufferable amount of that existence before the film takes off. They remain victims the entire film, but the first fifteen minutes lay it on so thick that it comes off as false. These women are saints while they are constantly treated like garbage.