Movie Reviews: Going the Distance (***), Machete (**1/2)

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Though it wants to be another crude rom com in the vein of a Judd Apatow production like, say, Knocked Up or Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Going the Distance works much better as a straight-ahead, light and breezy romance.  Stars Drew Barrymore and Justin Long (Warren Cheswick(!) - for all you Ed fans) have been dating off and on in real life for a couple of years now, and they have an easygoing, likeable chemistry on screen.  Miraculously, director Nanette Burstein and writer Geoff LaTulippe manage to avoid many of the cliches that plague other romantic comedies, and opt for a somewhat original, realistic premise: how do you make a long distance relationship work?  The movie tackles the question without ever really providing an answer.  The supporting cast is solid - SNL's Jason Sudeikis (with his "time machine" mustache) and Christina Applegate (as Barrymore's sister) get the lion's share of funny lines, and it's great to see It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Charlie Day get a big-screen role, even if his humor is a bit toned down from that show to appease the mainstream filmgoer.  Going the Distance can be a bit overbearing when it reaches for oral sex jokes or tanning disasters, and it has one too many musical montages scored to '80s hits, but it has its charms, however minor they might be.  I laughed out loud a handful of times, and wanted its leads to get together in the end.  For a romantic comedy, that's good enough to earn a passing grade.
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Machete (**1/2)
Don't get me wrong - Machete offers trashy, B-movie fun.  It's unpretentious and utterly ridiculous, and co-writer/director Robert Rodriguez is clearly having a blast poking fun at various immigration issues and the politics surrounding them while his characters chop off heads and use intestines as a rope to swing out of windows.  There are some great, bloody gags scattered throughout the movie, but if it seems like a highlight reel strung out to feature length, there's a good reason.  Machete is based on the two-minute fake trailer for a movie of the same name that showed before Rodriguez's half of the double bill known as 2007's Grindhouse.  Now, Machete is an honest-to-goodness real movie, and though part of me is happy to see such a result - I can't help wishing Rodriguez had just said no.  Machete the fake trailer was perfect - it gloriously sent up the '70s revenge movie with a Hispanic edge.  Machete the movie retains some of that anarchic spirit, but in the end - it's just another revenge movie - enjoyable while it lasts but exhausting and unremarkable.  All the stunt casting in the world can't change that fact - though you've got to give Rodriguez credit for putting Lindsay Lohan, Robert DeNiro, Don Johnson, and Steven Seagal in the same movie.  Jessica Alba, meanwhile, still can't act.  And though it's nice to see Rodriguez stay loyal to Danny Trejo and give the journeyman supporting actor a well-deserved lead role, I wish Rodriguez would step out of his comfort zone.  Stop giving audiences stupid Grindhouse movies, kiddie flicks, and piss-poor Predator movies.  Live up to your potential already!

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  • I am really glad that you liked going the distance. I thought it was good. 3 stars is about perfect. A good romantic comedy. I had a huge argument about this and I wanted your take on it. My friends wife was saying that she couldn't believe I liked it because it was a chick flick. I maintained that it was not a chick flick but a romantic comedy and the two are seperate. That a chick flick bases its story around a female protaganist and deals with women and their problems while a Romcom is usually more male dominated and deals with a relationship and its ups and downs rather than just the problems of a woman or women. Who is correct?

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