All My Movies: American Wedding

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American Wedding
Starring: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Sean William Scott, Eugene Levy
Costarring: Eddie Kaye Thomas, Thomas Ian Nicholas, January Jones
Times Watched: 4-5
Genre: Comedy / Dude Comedy / Romantic Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes / Metacritic: 56% / 43

Road To Ownership: I *must* have bought this when I was still living at home and watching the bulk of my movies on a 4:3 TV. That's the only way I can explain the choice to buy a film in full screen instead of widescreen.

The Plot: The movie opens with Jim and Michelle celebrating their graduation over a formal dinner - the same dinner where Jim plans to propose to Michelle. After some typical opening scene hilarity ensues, the couple moves forwards with their plans - including Michelle's dream wedding plans going awry, the arrival of her sister Cadence, and Jim needing to learn how to dance. For whatever reason, Stifler really plays a big role in this film (look at the poster for further evidence) and one of the major resolutions of the film involves Stifler's character, as opposed to couple drama between Jim and Michelle. Kevin and Finch are once again resigned to major supporting roles, although Finch is thrown a few more bones than the underused (and needed) Kevin.

The Good & The Bad: This is easily the worst of the Pie films to hit the theatres. The lack of pacing / timeline (just how long are Michelle's parents staying with Jim's family, and how many months does this film span?), the overexaggeration of Stifler's character, the lacklustre conflicts and their rapid resolutions, and the slapdash way the events link together as a bunch of random sketches makes it feel more like a bad Will Ferrell movie than a sharp, jaw-dropping Pie film. There's something seedy about it altogether - the cinematography doesn't feel right, and the characters are hollow shells of the personas they developed and grew into across the first two movies. Although Jim still does some of the biggest physical comedy scenes, it feels like he's relegated to window dressing, when the movie is supposed to be about his wedding. Ditto to Michelle, who seems to work better as a surprising sex kitten in small doses as opposed to her random sexual interjections popping up in grand contrast to the slightly more grounded character she's supposed to be regarding her family and wedding dreams.

There are a few pros however. The sly nods to the earlier Pie films - like Stifler freaking out at the 'you go, we go' moment or the boys telling Kevin to shut up when he talks about 'the next step' - are welcome for longtime fans. Trimming the fat off the sizable cast should have worked better than it did - how is it that in the first film when the cast was double the size, we got to know ALL of the characters five times better? The evolution to more of a romantic comedy is only somewhat successful - the battle over January Jones is more fulfilling than any sort of romantic resolution. Jim and Michelle manage to escape the entry relatively unscathed, yet the scene of Michelle walking down the aisle is still a little sweet and moving (despite the hilarious conversation going down between Stifler and Finch at the same time). All in all the film feels like a nice farewell to the series and the progression of Jim, the true star of the show.

That being said, I've said it before and I'll say it again - the main issue with the latter two films is it doesn't have a big, overriding storyline with an end outcome. You never question whether Jim and Michelle are going to get married, in fact it's hard to ask any questions at all the first time you watch the film as it really does hop from place to place with little rhyme or reason.

Best Scene: As with the first two films, I have to go with the 'big' scene of the movie - the bachelor party. Having watched the unrated version the last few times, I can't even remember what's in the film and what isn't (if you only saw it in theatres), but the unrated version does go on WAY too long. That being said, the best moments of the film come from Jim discovering the hijinks his friends have been getting up to, including the absolutely priceless shot of Finch under the Levenstein's breakfast bar. Much like the first two films, it's the reactions of the uninvolved (the webcam viewers and the radio listeners) that really *make* this type of scene.

Worst Scene: As I was watching the movie, I was thinking "Oh for sure, the retarded dance-off between Stifler and Bear" but then the chocolate/dog shit scene came on and I was like "OH DEFINITELY THIS". My answer stands - the dog shit scene is quite possibly the worst scene of the entire series. While Stifler's past gross-out scenes were hilarious in some way, this one was just cringe and gag-worthy. Fail.

Best Character: For whatever reason, Eddie Kaye Thomas' Finch is awesome in this movie. He's more attractive than in the past, still tucked up in his ivory tower but not channeling the weird guru vibe of the last film. His less-than-convincing portrayal of Stifler actually makes the role that much funnier, and the battle over Cadence more interesting. He finally has some solid confidence against Stifler, and the final encounter with Stifler's mom is amusing (as is the reactions of the MILF guys).

Worst Character: I don't know WHO was giving Seann William Scott directions in this film, but he actually acts like he has a mental disability. His body language, facial expressions, and boyish cackle all add up to a deranged, slow, irritating version of the cocky, snappy, dolt that was a welcome foil in the first two films. It's just...terrible, and the fact he's such a major addition, like Michelle, proves that certain characters are best used in small doses.

Soundtrack of our Lives: Another fantastic soundtrack, arguably the best in the series. Mixes a few big name artists (and songs - Jakob Dylan's cover of 'Into The Mystic' is great) as well as some interesting indie acts and songs. Maybe not as memorable as the other soundtracks in terms of their mainstream relevance, but still great.

If You Like This You'll Like: The more sketch-oriented comedies that have proliferated the market in the last decade, such as 'Knocked Up', 'Old School' or 'Anchorman'.


All My Movies: American Pie 2

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American Pie 2
Starring: Jason Biggs, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Alyson Hannigan, Seann William Scott
Costarring: Chris Klein, Mena Suvari, Tara Reid, Shannon Elizabeth, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy
Times Watched: I'll go in the 7-8 range.
Genre: Comedy / Dude Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes / Metacritic: 52% / 43%

Road To Ownership: I specifically remember this as being one of the movies I purchased from Blockbuster when I had mono in high school.

The Plot: We meet up with the fab four fellows that starred in the first Pie film, after their first year of college is complete. The boys may be older, but when it comes to love and sex, and they're generally no more wiser than when we last met them. Eternal planner Kevin decides the boys are in need of some good quality bonding, and rents a cabin on the lake for the summer (on the advice of his brother). From here, each guy once again undergoes his own sexual journey, although Jim takes even more of a front and central focus than in the past, along with specific gambits designed to involve multiple cast members and memorable scenes over advancing the plot. Jim is struggling to figure out what makes a good lover, Oz is dealing with time apart from Heather, Kevin is coping with unresolved feelings for Vicki, and Stifler and Finch are still at odds over Stifler's mom.

The Good & The Bad: I used to say I liked AP2 better than AP1, but I'm not so sure that's true. On one hand, the polish of AP2, and the lazy hazy days of summer feel make it somewhat more appealing than the first film. On the flip side, it feels like many of the gags are set up just to top the hilarity of the first film - the lesbian scene and the superglue scene as cases in point. Although to the film's credit, they aren't entirely just rehashing the main elements of the first film - other than a sly nod to apple pie in the opening scene, and the early party scene, there aren't too many crossover elements.

That being said, I think the first film is stronger because the concept is more fresh, and more importantly, the four leads are treated as just that - leads. When you look at the next (and final) big screen entry into the series, American Wedding, you'll see there is a reason why they eliminated the characters of Oz, Heather, Natasha, Vicki, etc. In this film virtually everyone but Jim and Michelle feels a bit forced at one point or another. Even the three mains are basically there to fulfill either watered down sidestories (Oz and Heather's time apart stands out as one of the movie's biggest weak points, other than Stifler interrupting their phone sex) or propping up the stunt scenes. The trend is continued with American Wedding, wherein Jim and Michelle basically have ALL of the storylines - a shame because the original film was a treat with the 'will they wont they?' element.

That's not to say there aren't a bunch of laughs and enjoyment to be had with this film. In general, I would say I enjoy them equally but I recognize the original film is better. There are so many classic moments in the second movie, as well as a genuine bit of growth for the characters that continues on into the final incarnation with Jim and Michelle's wedding. On that note, the movie does a good job of putting together a slapstick couple and allowing you to still feel some empathy for them, resulting in a surprisingly sweet ending, with a twist dating back to the beginning of the film.

Best Scene: As I said with AP1, the most memorable scenes of the first two films are both the funniest, but also the most...gratuitous to put it lightly. In a vague tip to Nadia and Jim's bedroom / webcam encounter, the second film features the 'lesbian' scene, wherein Stifler, Finch, and Jim get caught by the two women whose house they're painting. Stifler calls them out as potential lesbians and what follows is a game of tit for tat, although the true hilarity of the scene isn't what's actually happening in the room with the girls, but the reactions of Kevin, Oz, and the dozens of people who happen to be tuned into the same radio frequency. The boy's reactions are pretty choice in the room as well, I suppose.

Worst Scene: When I was watching the movie, I recall thinking of a scene and going 'Yeah that's it!' but now that I reflect back, I'm having a harder time deciding. I will say the worst plotlines are Vicki and Kevin's confusing friendship (and how it disappears for 3/4 of the film only to resurface momentarily at the end) and Heather and Oz's pointless long-distance dating. I also get the serious heebie jeebies from the end of the trumpeting scene.

Best Character: my hat goes off to Jason Biggs again in this one, for his hilarious physical comedy and dedication to making Jim as much as a fool as possible while still managing to make him a tiny bit cocky and fairly endearing.

Worst Character: Despite their storyline being my fave in the first film, Heather and Oz are really pointless in this movie. Vicki and her man meat date at the end are equally annoying, as is the whole 'And Vicki got HOT' (read: thin and braless) plot point.

Soundtrack Of Our Lives: Once again, another fantastic soundtrack, representing some of the great millenial pop punk bands including Blink, Sum 41, Three Doors Down, and Michelle Branch.

If You Like This You'll Like: Obviously American Pie and American Wedding, although I can't recommend any of the straight-to-dvd releases. This film is a slightly jarring mix between crazy hijinks and a more focused love storyline, which means some of the other movies I recommended last time might not be as appealing. Something like Wedding Crashers, The Hangover, or Eurotrip - all regarding friendship among men, as this film examines - are great picks.

Bring It!

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Oh I have no shame, but plenty of it at the same time, in admitting that I have seen all five Bring It On movies, concluding with the fifth one just today. I know, it's shameful. I do. I have good taste in movies for the most part, and I primarily watch the BIO films with fascination in the same way that I do a 'dance' film (for the routines!), plus they're minefields for starlet cameos. In fact many people who have been in BIO films end up going to have solid acting careers.

I won't preface this post much more other than saying that yes, I will explain how and why I've seen all five, and that the one I remember the least is the third one, so forgive any inaccuracies as I move all time Bring It On ranking! And if you've never seen the films and don't want to be spoiled, do not read on.

Starting with the worst...

5) Bring It On: Fight To The Finish (#5)
The Conflict: Latin Ghetto & Geeks vs. Snobby Pros (debatably a class conflict)
Notable Faces: Christina Milian, Nikki Soohoo (of Lovely Bones and Stick It),
I just watched this movie today (and earlier this week, I can't take too much cheer in one sitting) starring Christina Milian, the pop singer, as the head cheerleader Catalina (Lina). Go free movie channel previews from my cable provider! Anyway Lina starts out in East LA as a Cuban-American ghetto fabulous hoodrat head cheerleader. No joke, the stereotypes are out of control up in herre. Anyway apparently her gold-digging (I kid) mom has married a white man named Henry and the Lina is off to Malibu to live in a dream house that appears to use the sets from Clueless and The OC, leaving behind her East LA squad to perish (note the Lea Michele of Glee fame cameo as an extra in the opening sequences!).

In Malibu, apparently the majority of the school's best cheerleaders have formed their own 'All Star' league that practices across the street, leaving Lina to coach a ragtag team of second rate brainy cheerleaders. She recruits her own sistahs from the hood and they start to whip the team into shape, only to be sabotaged. Of course Lina is interested in the brother of the head bitch, Avery, from the other team, although Avery doesn't do much to sabotage their relationship, weirdly. Anyway Lina manages to overcome all odds and basically make the majority of the mini-conflicts in the film null and void and by the end of the movie, the Malibu Dream Team wins.

Look, I'm not expecting a Bring it On film to be filled with much substance, but the two reasons why one watches a BIO film - the cheering and the laughable scriptwriting - were sincerely lacking. Compared to the other films I felt like we barely got to witness a full routine (although the tumbling on the day 1 preliminaries of the all star championships was bananas), and the final two routines didn't have the wow factor, or weren't filmed as interestingly as the past films. Plus Lina's whole ghetto fab attitude and wardrobe was distracting and annoying, and also a little cringeworthy given how heavily they played on latin stereotypes. Also there was a lack of cheerleading puns, which is never a good thing in the BIO world.

4) Bring It On Again (#2)
Conflict: Popular Prepsters vs. Artsy Outcasts
Familiar Faces: Bethany Joy Galeotti (of One Tree Hill) plays a ditzoid wannabe head cheerleader and Felicia Day (of Buffy and Dollhouse) plays an artsy outsider on the renegade squad.

I saw this movie, and the fourth one, because they had a Bring it On marathon on MuchMusic in the last year. Fun! Okay, so BIO has graduated to college. Whittier and her pal Monica get inducted into the school's prestigious cheer squad, and are taken under the wing of alpha female Tina. However, Whittier has a thing for a random DJ that Tina doesn't approve of, and Monica and Tina butt heads, which eventually gets both girls cast off the team. Determined to prove the prepsters wrong, Whittier and Monica start their own rival league made up of various outcasts from the other arts clubs that have been thwarted in the school - drama, dance, etc. - because the cheerleading squad is sucking up all the funding. Once again, the underdogs win it.

This will sound so terrible, but my main issue with this film is the fact everyone looks SO WRONG. For leading ladies, Whittier and Monica are kind Whittier's leading man is a BIG NO. Tina also doesn't really fit the hot cheerleader mould. If they were doing a film on getting into a country club, then yes, Tina makes sense, but her restrained pearl-wearing persona just didn't match up with the aggressive cheer spirit these films are supposed to be about. I also have a fundamental problem with the team Whittier and Monica create. Without exception, in the other films the two rival teams are actual professional teams (although the 'Sea Lions' in the fifth film are supposed to be terrible, they catch on pretty quick). In this instance, the new members of the renegade team are impossibly good given the short timeframe, and I recall thinking this was one instance where their routine was *not* as good as the defending champions, yet they still won. Overall though the cheering and terrible scriptwriting was more enjoyable so I give this one a slightly better ranking than #5.

Bring It On: All Or Nothing
The Conflict: Old Loyalties vs. New Ties and Class Conflicts!
Familiar Faces: Hayden Panettiere (of Heroes fame) and Solange Knowles (Beyonce's little sis), plus Rihanna is giving away computers!

It's funny, while I was watching 'Fight to the Finish' today, I literally thought out this plot in my head and thought "Hm, it would have been so much more interesting had they done things *this* way" only to realize it was the plot of the middling Bring It On: All or Nothing. In reverse of the fifth film, prepster Britney (Hayden Panettiere) is sent to the 'ghetto' after her dad loses his job and all of their money. Nothing like poor economic times to make a peppy movie full of spirit!

Anyway, at the new school she is marginalized by the team's domineering head cheerleader, Camille (Solange Knowles) and greatly misses her old frenemy Winnie and her boyfriend Brad. Frustrated with her social standing at her new school, Britney decides to skip a game the team is supposed to cheer at to go to a dance at her old school. Big mistake. Camille finds out and kicks Brit off the team, and her supposed pals at her old school are anything but - apparently Winnie and Brad have been boinking since her departure, and no one is really missing Little Miss Spirit.

Although she isn't on the team, Britney still attends the competition to win a guest spot in a Rihanna music video and free computers for her school, wherein she wishes her former teammates, the Pirates, good luck. When they embarrass her and she stands up for her former new teammates, the Warriors, Camille invites Britney back into the fold. They realize the Pirates are going to kick their a$$ until Britney suggests they start krumping, impromptu, in a mirror image of what the Pirates are doing. This isn't a real cheerleading competition, obviously, nor is it reality as per their pitch perfect performance. Rihanna likes their "ghetto" moves and declares the Warriors the winners!

Like I said, I don't remember this film so much, other than thinking Solange Knowles hair was jacked up and Hayden Panettiere has a really funny, stubby, gym body. My distinct memories of the other four films puts it in the middle though, plus I love a good Rihanna cameo.

2) Bring It On: In It To Win It
The Conflict: Straight up cheer bitchery, and I think something to do with East Coast vs. West Coast. Plus one boy's struggle to be a cheerleader instead of a martial artist.
Familiar Faces: Ashley Benson (mean girl Hanna on Pretty Little Liars), Jennifer Tisdale (Ashley Tisdale's sister), Michael Copon (Felix from One Tree Hill)

It's summertime which can only mean one thing: cheer camp! At a theme park! With two rival squads - the Sharks and the Jets (hah) - fighting for supremacy so they can represent Cheer Camp Spirit-Thunder at the Cheer Camp Championships! Plenty of cheer hilarity ensues, including a poolside cheer-off, the return of the legendary Spirit Stick, and a cheer rumble that results in injuries all around. After letting their rivalry get the best of them, it appears neither team at Spirit-Thunder will go the Cheer Camp Champs, until they decide to put their differences aside to form a new squad, 'The Shets' (with merged uniforms), to go head-to-head with Camp Victory's main team, 'The Flamingos'. Once again, the star team wins, and once again I thought the other team had better moves for the most part.

Regardless of which, this movie had tons of the things that make a good BIO film - cheesy scriptwriting and cheerleading. The tortured romance between Penn (Michael Copon) and Carson (Ashley Benson) was laughably drawing on West Side Story, and Penn's storyline of needing his friends to raise money so he could go to camp under his dad's nose was hilarious. I felt like the final competition lacked the buzz level of some of the other finales - it's a summer competition with only two teams! - but the fact they didn't try to do an underdog story of ragtag cheerleaders vs. pro cheerleaders helped. So did the fun theme park setting. I want to go to cheer camp if it means spending a few weeks at a theme park dammit!

1) Bring It On (#1)
The Issue: Privilege vs. Heart
Familiar Faces: Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Gabrielle Union, the gals of 3LW

Was there any question? I mean really. The original film was by the far the best, filled with tons of terrible scriptwriting, a sisterhood-esque bond mixed with cheer bitchery, a relatively acceptable level of cute romance, and fantastic cheerleading throughout. Plus kudos to the creators for not letting the Toros win (even though I dug their routine more - but thought the other team had better tumbling), in a 'My Best Friend's Wedding' kind of twist that the other films have yet to revisit. You were cheering equally for the Clovers and the Toros in some ways, another plus over the other films. Everything also (logically) feels bigger - the final showdown has a pro feel that the other films don't ever come close to matching (given their smaller budgets) which gives this film a definite leg up.

Plus the dorky script is given life by the actors who make the most of what they're given. Kirsten Dunst does with this film what Reese Witherspoon did with 'Legally Blonde', in taking a vapid, thankless role and making it hilarious, memorable, and endearing. There's simply no comparing the endless string of sequels here, and for all the cringeworthy moments this film contains, it's still a millenial classic that any girl will confess to watching when it pops up on cable one quiet Sunday night.

- Britt's (bringing it!) On

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