Los Angeles couple Brad (Rory Cochrane) and Lexi (Mary McCormack) start off their day like any other bickering somewhat making coffee for each other. As his wife goes off to her high-paying job out-of-work Brad hears a radio report that says four dirty bombs have gone off around the city. They suggest people tape up their windows and doors as a cloud of gas is circling the city. Brad first gets in his car and tries to find his wife but is turned back by the panicked authorities. So Brad closes off his house along with his unwanted neighbor handyman Alvaro (Tony Perez). Radio reports tell people to keep themselves quarantined and that help will arrive. But when Lexi arrives home coughing and wheezing and insisting she be allowed into her house Brad says "no." Cochrane and McCormack play people we can easily identify with the scared public who have to deal with a horrific nightmare which could become a reality someday. Their disbelief over the reports and their increasing desperation are all very palpable—and oddly enough there's plenty of humor along the way. The frantic voices of family members calling from outside the city get more annoying than soothing and Brad appropriately complains "What do they want us to say?" Cochrane’s Brad transforms from a caring and helpful Everyman to a selfish fearful creep while McCormack’s Lexi changes from a professional and aloof snob to a sympathetic frightened victim. The two are fascinating to watch. With Right at Your Door writer/director Chris Gorak basically asks the question "What would you do?" Previously a production designer and art director for movies like Minority Report Fight Club and Lords of Dogtown Gorak doesn’t use fancy special effects to show any major devastation in the city when the bombs blow up. In fact there's only a big cloud that looks a bit more like an overly-smoggy day. There's also white ash covering everything which is rather ominous because official reports aren’t sure what it is or how toxic it is. Instead Gorak preys on your imagination giving only scant details about jammed freeways and hospitals. The not knowing is so much more frightening.
Pity Mitch (John Francis Daley). It's his first day on the job at Shenanigans--a take on the nationwide-chain Bennigan's. The waiter who trains him Monty (Ryan Reynolds) is the same one he looks down on him. Monty shows Mitch the ropes as well as the cooks' genitalia. Sorry there's no other way to put it. See there's this game that the male employees play whereby...let's just say it's one of many unspeakable "games" they play that'll make you watch the film as you would a horror movie: your hands covering your eyes with just enough space between two fingers to catch a glimpse. And these are just Mitch's first moments on the job. Over the course of his shift he'll meet a twenty-something named Dean (Justin Long) who's trying to go straight--that is do something else with his life; a pushover (Patrick Benedict) whose timidity carries over to the urinal; and a veteran waitress (Alanna Ubach) who barks profane tirades about her patrons but not to them. People knock the MPAA's sense of humor but if they truly didn't have one this gross-out flick would be slapped with an NC-17 rating.
A film set in a restaurant falls squarely on the shoulders of its actors. Thankfully Reynolds and company make good carrying the film and its script of top-that one-liners and well shenanigans. Reynolds while now a bankable star in avenues other than comedy clearly has a knack for this stuff. His comedic timing and delivery are truly first-rate never more so than in Waiting excelling in the sheer vulgarity he has to shell out. Dodgeball's Long as Dean is downright earnest next to his buddy Monty but it's his role to defer to Reynolds' eloquent sarcasm. Of course this doesn't totally preclude him from joining in on the fun. He's just forced to take more barbs than he can dish out. Anna Faris (from the Scary Movie series) flies even more under the radar as Monty's ex the only one that stands in his way of proclaiming his prowess second to none. Also making pitch-perfect appearances as malevolent employees are fringe-sters Luis Guzman Chi McBride Dane Cook and Andy Milonakis with Anchorman's David Koechner as the manager.
Waiting is not the type of movie in which a separate director and writer is required--it's a package deal. That's because--and let's be honest here--a film set almost entirely in one location without a single stunt person or special effect doesn't need more than one voice. To this effect writer/director Rob McKittrick makes his first foray into each arena. Needless to say his directorial debut is almost a non-entity but that's more complementary than detrimental on a project like this. His stinging commentary on the other hand displays a comedic deftness that is worth keeping an eye on in the future especially if Waiting does any business at the box office.
Based on the best-selling book by Mark Foster Game tells the remarkable real-life story of Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf). He was a working-class immigrant kid who in the early 1900s turned the privileged world of golf on its ear. The story begins with Francis working as a caddie at a posh country club where he masters the game by quietly practicing on his own. His French-born father (Elias Koteas) thinks he's wasting his time and should be earning an honest wage but Francis is far too smitten with the game to give it up. Francis finally gets his big break when an amateur spot opens up at the 1913 U.S. Open. With a feisty 10-year-old caddie named Eddie (Josh Flitter) by his side egging him on Francis plays the best he ever has. He eventually finds himself facing off against the sport's undisputed champion Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane) a U.S. Open winner and six-time British Open champion (a record that still stands today). Their legendary battle changes the face of the sport forever--but I wouldn't necessarily call it the greatest game ever.
Game is one of those juicy little biopics actors can really sink their teeth into. Starting with our young lead LaBeouf (Holes) is sufficiently determined as the guy playing against impossible odds. His Francis with his liquid brown eyes and winning smile is full of optimism and raw talent that propels him into the majors. And he looks pretty authentic swinging a golf club too. Still it may be time for LaBeouf to move on from the Disney family fare and do something grittier sort of like what he showed in Constantine. Dillane--who was so achingly good in The Hours as Virginia Woolf's beleaguered husband--also does a fine job as the legendary Vardon a man haunted by his own demons. In a way Game is a story about both men who have more in common than they realize. Although a top professional in the sport Vardon has to fight against the elitist golfing community's prejudices. You see Vardon grew up dirt poor on the plains of Scotland and because of his background was never permitted into any "gentleman's" clubs. The cast of colorful supporting players add to the film especially Flitter as the caustic but encouraging Eddie. He may be small but he packs a wallop. The last shot of the movie features Francis and Eddie walking off the golf course at sunset evoking the classic Casablanca ending line "This is the start of a beautiful friendship"--which apparently really happened. The real-life Eddie and Francis remained friends for the rest of their lives.
The main slice against Game is that it's about golf. Besides comedies such as Caddyshack and Happy Gilmore a serious movie about the game really isn't going to stir your soul say like football or baseball. But actor-turned-director Bill Paxton--who made his directorial debut with the creepy Frailty--takes the story and keeps it convincingly affecting. Much like Seabiscuit it's the real-life historical context that makes Game even more compelling. Paxton painstakingly details how the game was played at the turn of the century--and who was allowed to play it. The whole discriminatory arrogance surrounding the game makes the stakes even higher for our heroes. Vardon had a score to settle while Ouimet simply became the game's new hero paving the way for legendary whiz kids like Tiger Woods to step up on the green. Paxton also views Game as a Western. The final golf round between Vardon and Ouimet is the ultimate shootout á la the OK Corral in which the camera angles are inventive--a bird's eye view of the ball sailing through the air or gliding on the green into the hole. Plus he keeps the tension as taut as he can considering the less than exhilarating subject matter. Oh come on who isn't a sucker for a good sports underdog story even if it is golf?
Based on the award-winning children's novel by Louis Sachar Holes is essentially the story of young Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf) a goodhearted kid who unfortunately lives in a family where the men are plagued by an ancient curse thanks to the stupidity of Stanley's "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great grandfather " as we learn in a subplot that unfolds in flashback. Given the curse it's not surprising that Stanley is falsely accused of stealing a pair of shoes and sent to Camp Green Lake a grossly misnamed boys detention camp. Home to a thriving town in the late 1800s the lake has now dried up into a desert wasteland filled with venomous creatures and its history--and secret--is detailed as part of another subplot also told in flashback. Stanley soon discovers the campers' rehabilitation consists of digging holes which according to the menacing Warden (Sigourney Weaver) her right-hand men Mr. Sir (Jon Voight) and Dr. Pendanski (Tim Blake Nelson) will help Stanley and his fellow D-tent inmates--including tent leader X-Ray (Brenden Jefferson) stinky Armpit (Bryan Cotton) crazy ZigZag (Max Kasch) thief Magnet (Miguel Castro) thug Squid (Jake M. Smith) and little Zero (Khleo Thomas)--build character. The boys are under orders however to immediately report to their keepers if they find something "special." Naturally Stanley does and he starts a chain reaction that culminates in a daring escape--and a chance to break the Yelnats family curse.
From the kids to the adults there's isn't a bad egg among the cast. Of course you expect great things from veteran actors such as Weaver Nelson (The Good Girl) and Voight--even if latter has been known to take a misstep here and there. (Anyone remember Anaconda? [Shudder].) Playing the three villains in Holes the actors expertly combine their skills to find a delicate balance between understated malevolence (the Warden) mean-spiritedness (Pendanski) and just plain over-the-top badness (Mr. Sir). Yet it's the younger acting ensemble you have to truly admire especially the shaggy-haired LaBeouf (Disney Channel's Even Stevens) and the sweet-faced newcomer Thomas. As Stanley and Zero the two young actors have a very natural rapport together which makes their characters' immediate bond believable. The rest of the D-tent boys inhabit their individual and quirky personalities with ease with Cotton's debut performance as Armpit a standout. There are also some nice cameos especially by Henry Winkler as Stanley's inventor father who's trying to find a way to make shoes odorless and by Eartha Kitt as Madame Zeroni the gypsy who puts the curse on the Yelnats family.
It's not always possible to get the writer of a beloved novel to adapt his own work into a screenplay but it's highly recommended if you want the film to capture the book's true essence--and keep its fans happy. Holes director Andrew Davis recognized this and convinced Sachar to adapt his extremely popular novel and for the most part it works out pretty darn well. The main difficulty Sachar and Davis face is trying to incorporate Holes' many subplots within the main story; Sachar doesn't seem to want to let anything go so the film drags a little in places. But the Golden Globe-nominated Davis known for maneuvering through intricate action stories such as The Fugitive does a nice job keeping things flowing intercutting between the history of how treasure came to be buried at Camp Green Lake and the present and giving audiences a thrill.