Stranger Than Fiction
Believe it or not, Will Ferrell can play an understated role. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising if Stranger Than Fiction director Marc Forster pulled Ferrell aside prior to filming and begged the star for a less-animated-than-normal performance. Whatever the cause, Ferrell's subdued portrayal of a dull IRS agent opens the way for more focus on the colorful cast around him, like a post-hiatus neurotic author (Emma Thompson), an oddball literary professor/lifeguard (Dustin Hoffman) and an anti-establishment Harvard-dropout-turned-baker (Maggie Gyllenhaal).
The film plays like a book, underscored by Thompson's narration over a seemingly normal man's mundane day-to-day activities. The twist? The protagonist can hear the commentary on his life--and he overhears a mention of his impending death. It's enough to drive even the sanest to the madhouse.
The brilliance of Stranger Than Fiction is the character development. Much the same as nearing the end of a good book, you want to know the hero's fate. And paralleling the manuscript being penned in the story, viewers are given an unexpected ending as reward.
More than just cute, this movie is quaint. And it takes on the recent trend of refusing to be pigeonholed into a genre with gusto. Comedy? Drama? Romance? Check. Check. Check.
Stranger Than Fiction is one to add to the library of keepers.
Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny
If you are a huge fan of Jack Black's and Kyle Gass' music--stress on the word "if"--then there's the potential you might find Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny a good movie. Or, maybe you're not a big fan, but you're drunk. Really drunk. Then you might find some redeeming quality in the movie. Otherwise, don't even bring it home. Don't let it near your television. It might do irreparable damage, like when a kid walks in on his parents in flagrante delicto and he can't see properly afterward. OK, the movie probably won't break your DVD player, but halfway through, you might wish it had.
If for some reason you do succumb to the urge to rent, buy or borrow this DVD, prepare for something on par with a 90-minute Tenacious D music video. The film features tons of cameos from the likes of SNL stars Amy Poehler and Fred Armisen, Ben Stiller, Tim Robbins, John C. Reilly, Colin Hanks, Meat Loaf and even Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, but it's not enough to save this movie.
Black can and has done far better for himself, though not as of late. However, if you manage to make it to the end, it becomes clear that this movie must've been a labor of love for Black and Gass. :