29 June 2012


Mark Wahlberg, left, is shown with the character Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) in a scene from "Ted."
There are many reasons we go to the movies—to be thrilled, to be scared, to think, to learn, to see the future, to visit the past, to travel to foreign countries and worlds, and one that never seems to get the respect afforded so many others, to laugh.

Being funny is hard, hard work, especially in a movie, when you're working without any real audience feedback until late in the process. If the timing is off or if a couple jokes bomb, that's serious trouble. Sometimes, a movie can be so bad it's funny; a comedy aims to be funny, so when it's bad, it's simply bad.

This is all to say that a good comedy—even if its goal is no loftier than to make us laugh—deserves more praise than we often give it. There should be no shame, even in the snootiest of film circles, in wholeheartedly recommending a movie about a man's friendship with the teddy bear that miraculously came to life when he was a boy—if said movie is bursting with laughs and tells a satisfying story.

I've just described "Ted," the feature-film debut of "Family Guy" mastermind Seth MacFarlane, in which young, friendless John Bennett makes a Christmas wish that gives him a best friend for life. This walking, talking stuffed animal becomes a media sensation, but 27 years later, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane, doing just a slight variation of "Family Guy's" Peter Griffin) has gone from trading quips with Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show" to being the boorish roommate a 35-year-old John (Mark Wahlberg) just can't bear to get rid of, even though the bear's presence obviously is wearing on his relationship with Lori (Mila Kunis), his girlfriend of four years.

22 June 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Benjamin Walker is shown in a scene from "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."
Honest Abe. The Great Emancipator. Vampire hunter.

At long last, the secret, undead-slaying life of our 16th president has come to light, first in the 2010 novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, now in the feature film of the same name, "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."

The premise might sound ridiculous—because it is, of course. The key is that Grahame-Smith (who also wrote the screenplay), director Timur Bekmambetov ("Wanted"), Benjamin Walker in the title role and the rest of the cast play it deadly serious. Those expecting a high camp factor will be disappointed; this is a straight-laced action-adventure film with more than enough blood to earn its R rating and action set pieces at times bordering on spectacular.

Though events (some major) are omitted for the sake of pacing and running time, there is a real respect for history, the movie following Lincoln from a young boy in Indiana until his final day in the nation's capital.