IFC Films’ “Premature” Is As Good As Any Big Screen Teen Flick

Courtesy:  IFC FIlms

Courtesy: IFC FIlms

IFC Films’ teen comedy Premature is not only one of the best indie flicks of 2014, but it is one of the best movies of the year overall.  In comparison to the endless stream of prequels, sequels, and remakes churned out by Hollywood’s “Power 5” studios, this movie is a complete breath of fresh air.  It balances just enough bawdiness and raunch with an equal amount of depth and heart to make it a surprisingly entertaining work.  The central reason for that is the movie’s script.  It isn’t just another standard, formulaic teen romp.  It actually teaches some important lessons; lessons that both male and female audiences will appreciate.  The movie’s script is at the heart of its enjoyment.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this movie is its bonus material.  Included as bonus material on the DVD are a number of interviews with the cast and crew, a fun little behind-the-scenes featurette, and even an alternate ending that proves to be just as good as the ending presented in the final product.  The last aspect of the movie that makes it enjoyable for audiences is the acting on the part of the cast.  The cast isn’t exactly A-listers just yet.  But its members already have quite the chops under their belts thanks to roles on some big movies and TV shows.  It shows quite well in this presentation, too.  It rounds out a movie that while being an indie flick, is one of this year’s best indie flicks and one of the year’s best movies overall.

At first glance, many critics have automatically panned IFC Films’ new teen comedy Premature.  Elizabeth Weitzman, of the New York Daily News, said of the movie that it is “a retreat of every lousy 80s high school comedy you never bothered watching.”  And Variety’s Joe Leydon had one of the harshest comments, attacking not only the movie but those that actually showed any appreciation of the movie.  He noted of the movie and its audiences that “only undiscriminating audiences with a pronounced taste for crotch-centric tomfoolery will sample this goulash.”  Really, Joe?  There was an equally scathing commentary from New York Times writer Nicolas Rapold, equating co-writers Dan Beers and Mathew Harawitz’s script to work from Family Guy head Seth McFarlane.  That is an insult of the highest degree. For all of its naysayers, Premature has also gotten positive marks, too.  Though, even those positive remarks have been tepid at best.  This means that most audiences and critics that saw this movie completely missed the mark in analyzing it.  The script itself does throw back to the teen romps of the 80s.  There’s no denying that.  But it throws back to more than just those movies.  Its script balances the crudeness of those movies with the heart–believe it or not–of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  To a lesser extent, those that are old enough to remember will see a comparison to the likes of Fox’s classic series Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, too.  That’s thanks in large part to the work of lead actor John Karna, who plays Rob Crabbe.  The movie sees Rob learn some valuable lessons about both life and love as the story progresses.  He learns about doing what makes him happy versus what makes his father happy through his interactions with his Georgetown recruiter and his father.  The lesson about love just happens to be tied in to Rob’s own full-throttle sex drive.  Audiences need to remember that in our adolescence, the human sex drive is actually much like what is portrayed here.  Hormones are going crazy in the adolescent brain and body.  Beer and Harawitz have just taken that fact and made humorous light of it as part of the bigger picture.  Keeping that in mind makes that aspect of the movie less crude and much funnier.  If audiences can accept that fact and enjoy it for what it is, they will enjoy Premature much more.  They will also enjoy the lessons incorporated into the script, too thus leading to a realization that this movie is far more enjoyable than what some would have others believe.

The script used for Premature is by itself more than enough reason to give this underrated indie flick worth at least one watch.  By itself, it makes Premature one of this year’s best new indie flicks and one of the year’s best new movies overall.  The script is just part of what makes the movie worth watching.  The bonus material included with the movie makes the presentation in whole even more enjoyable.  There are interviews with the cast and crew that will inform and entertain audiences.  There is also a bonus alternate ending that proves to be just as entertaining as the ending presented in the final product if not more so.  And the bonus behind-the-scenes featurette will have audiences just as much in stitches.  [John] Karna takes audiences through the movie’s sets during this segment.  Throughout the featurette, Karna stays somewhat in character holding the same personality as Rob Crabbe without actually trying to portray Rob.  He playfully hits on every female that he finds as if he were Rob.  It really is fun and funny to watch.  Together with the bonus interviews and alternate ending, it shows even more what makes the movie’s bonus features even more important to the presentation in whole. They collectively make Premature that much more of a joy to watch.  They still aren’t the last of the factors that make Premature so enjoyable, either.  The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is just as important to the movie.  It rounds out the whole that is this surprisingly entertaining indie flick.

The acting on the part of Premature’s cast is one of the most important parts of this movie’s enjoyment.  Most audiences probably don’t know the cast’s names.  But Karna and his cast mates–Katie Findlay (How To Get Away With Murder, The Carrie Diaries, After The Dark), Alan Tudyk (Frozen, Wreck-it-Ralph ,i-Robot) Craig Roberts (Neighbors, 22 Jump Street, Jane Eyre), Steve Coulter (The Hunger Games, Insidious: Chapter 2, The Conjuring) , and Carlson Young (True Blood, The Dog Who Saved Christmas, Pretty Little Liars)–are each fully believable in their roles.  And that is thanks to their work on some rather well-known movies and TV series.  Katie Findlay plays Rob’s best friend Gabrielle.  She does quite the job in her role, although most audiences can tell as the story progresses what will happen between them.  It’s a classic partnering that has been used before.  But it still works quite well even in this case.  Alan tudyk plays the part of Rob’s Georgetown recruiter.  Tudyk is a laugh riot as he breaks down, crying like a little child as he interviews Rob.  His acting will by itself leave audiences laughing uproariously.  Craig Roberts plays Rob’s sex-crazed friend Stanley.  Even in the side-kick role, Roberts offers his own share of laughs.  One could really compare him to Stiffler from the famed American Pie franchise, only younger. Steve Coulter plays a minimal role as Rob’s dad Jim.  But he’s still entertaining as the standard subtly controlling father figure.  And Carlson Young is spot on as the stereotypical blonde sex kitten Angela Yearwood.  Her role is understated as it plays an important part in Rob’s personal development and self-realization.  But just as with her co-stars, Young pulls off her role expertly as do the rest of the cast members.  Their collective experience makes their portrayals here so enjoyable in their own right.  It makes suspension of disbelief so simple in this case.  The end result is a story that will keep audiences fully engaged from start to finish, laughing the whole way through.

Whether it be the movie’s script, the bonus features included as part of the whole, or the acting on the part of the cast, Premature proves in the end to have plenty of positives.  It proves to have far more positives than its critics would lead audiences to believe.  It proves to be one of this year’s best new indie flicks and one of the year’s best new movies overall.  It is available in stores and online now.  More information on this and other titles from IFC Films is available online at:

Website: http://www.ifcfilms.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/IFCFilmsOfficial

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Shanghai Calling A Surprisingly Enjoyable Rom-Com

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment/Starz Media

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/Starz Media

The rom-com genre is one of the most difficult for which writers can do their job.  That’s because ever since Hollywood’s golden era, romantic comedies have been a staple for audiences.  It would seem that every story possible has been written in the decades since.  So the question is how does one write a story that is original and enjoyable at the same time?  Writer/Director Daniel Hsia has answered that question in the script for Shanghai Calling.  Somehow, he has managed to craft a story in Shanghai Calling that perfectly balances its central rom-com storyline with comedy that would seem more fitting for a stand-up comedy routine than a rom-com.  Yet it works perfectly within the context of this story.  In the end, the balance of the two elements makes Shanghai Calling a surprisingly enjoyable movie both for couples and anyone looking for a good laugh.

Shanghai Calling is a fitting watch for any couple looking for a good date night movie.  That’s thanks to the work of writer/director Daniel Hsia.  The central rom-com storyline centered on a person finding love in a foreign land is in itself not entirely original.  It’s been done.  What Hsia has done is he has taken that classic storyline and updated it for the 21st Century.  It sees a young up-and-coming lawyer named Sam (Daniel Henney—X-Men Origins: Wolverine) sent to China in order to work with a client that is trying to get his supposedly innovative new phone on the market.  The client in question is one Marcus Groff (Alan Ruck—Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).  Hsia throws in just enough plot twists in this central storyline to keep audiences engaged from start to finish.  Along the way, Hsia throws in an interesting romance element for couples that is just as certain to keep them watching.  As he is dealing with the issues caused by Groff and his own bosses, Sam meets two young women.  At first glance, the use of two women and one man would lead to the cliché love triangle subplot used in so many rom-coms before this one.  But as noted already, Hsia ignores the standards used so many times before in crafting his story.  This is just one of those clichés that Hsia ignores.  Sam does end up falling in love with one of the two women, which leads in the story’s final minutes to another rom-com cliché being ignored in the standard boy gets girl back airport scene.  This is an element that far too many writers have used through the ages in their rom-coms.  Hsia completely avoids the cliché in question although he does hint at it.  That hinting at the classic element is as close as he comes to said element, though.  And for that, Hsia again deserves even more credit.

Daniel Hsia deserves more than his share of credit for crafting a story that while it is a rom-com, avoids so many pitfalls of nearly every rom-com that has come before his.  It makes this story bearable for even those that aren’t generally fans of said genre.  If the fact that he avoids those pitfalls isn’t enough to convince viewers of its worth, then the story’s cultural comedy is far more than enough.  The comic element tied into the story feels like material pulled right from a stand-up comedy act.  The cultural joke of Sam being of Chinese descent yet unable to speak Chinese is in itself funny.  His inability to speak the nation’s language leads to more than one hilarious moment at which audiences will find themselves laughing uproariously.  There are also plenty of other cultural jokes that audiences will love, including one told as Sam mistakes a cab driver for a monk.  The cab driver’s reaction to Sam’s mistake is one of the funniest of the jokes told throughout the movie.  The joke in question won’t be spoiled here.  Those that have yet to see this movie will appreciate it more when they hear it for themselves.  It’s just one more of so many incredibly funny moments that help drive the story and make it that much more entertaining and worth the watch.

Daniel Hsia has done an extraordinary job in combining the comic element and updated rom-com storyline in Shanghai Calling.  There is one more element for which he deserves credit in looking at the story’s overall writing.  That one last element is the fact that for all of its comic greatness, it would have been so easy for Hsia to take the easy road and incorporate a journey of self-discovery for Sam so to speak.  He does this somewhat in having Sam learn what’s really going on with his bosses and with his client.  But that is roughly the extent of that self-discovery.  Just as Hsia expertly avoids so many rom-com clichés, he also keeps the related dramatic elements to an extreme minimum, as evidenced here.  It’s one more victory for a movie that while it is an indie flick, is just as entertaining as any major studio’s rom-com past or present.  It will be available on DVD Tuesday, September 17th.  It can be ordered online direct from the Anchor Bay Entertainment website at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?ProjectId=1f407439-18d8-e211-8257-d4ae527c3b65.  More information on this and other releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com and http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay and http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.