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Horrible Bosses, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, Zookeeper, Small Town Murder Songs and more

Jennifer Aniston gets raunchy in Horrible Bosses. That’s Charlie Day’s ear she’s using to boost her career.

The top two movies this week get low marks. From me at least. Conan O’Brien does only a bit better. It’s best you check out a small Canadian film or a Johnny Depp vehicle the critics originally trashed.

 

Here’s the list:

 

Horrible Bosses  2 1/2  stars

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop  2 1/2

Small Town Murder Songs  3 1/2

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas  --

The Mountie  2 1/2

Zookeeper   1 star

 

HORRIBLE BOSSES: Note to Warner Brothers. You’ve already brought us a knockoff of The Hangover. That was Part 2, still in theatres. You’ve put the same style into this film and some people are finding it very funny. I’m not among them. The problem is overkill. The script strains early on to establish how horrible these bosses are but only manages to create such a foul-mouthed, mean-spirited mood that when a real story finally starts up, and it’s a potentially funny one, it’s too late. Good comic actors are wasted. 

Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day play employees respectively of Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston. Spacey is an imperious psycho.

Farrell's character, taking over from his late father (played by Donald Sutherland), is a cokehead who wants staff fired and toxic waste dumped cheaply.

Aniston is a dentist who demands sex from her assistant (Day) or she’ll tell his fiancé he did it anyway. Aniston actually demeans herself in the role with the lines she’s given to say.  

The men, powered by movies they’ve seen, especially Strangers on a Train, decide they have to kill their bosses. Even with the overkill, the script doesn’t justify anything that extreme but they connive on. First stop, find a hit man. When that fails, talk to a murder consultant, an actually funny character by the name of M. Jones (the film says that first name out full) as played by Jamie Foxx. Mishaps, bumbling and surprise turns play out in this second half of the film. Unfortunately, as funny as they are,  they can’t save it. Most of us have had bad bosses and the script could have said something real. Instead, it’s shallow and the writers seem to be able to reference movies only. The director, Seth Gordon, previously made the sublime documentary King of Kong but also the awful comedy, Four Christmases. (International Village and many suburban theatres) 2 1/2 out of 5

 

CONAN O'BRIEN CAN'T STOP: And what is it that he can’t stop? Looks like being the centre of attention, that’s what. Or on a more charitable spin: performing for an audience, pleasing his fans. Both theories get ample support in this casual, loosey-goosey documentary of the comedian’s 32-city tour during the spring of last year. He had just quit his TV gig, refusing to be demoted back to his old late night time slot from the Tonight Show, to which Jay Jeno was returning. With a huge pay-out (not mentioned in this film) and a no TV, radio or internet for six months contract, he mounted his Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour. Vancouver, the second stop, gets a 10-second glimpse, no identification but  this endorsement: “I love walking this city,” he says.

 

We’re allowed to hang out as he and his staff create a show, take it on the road, meet fans, get annoyed meeting more fans, encounter other celebs like Jim Carrey, Jack White and much too briefly Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The gawking is fine but not a lot is revealed about what drives O’Brien. We also get too little of the actual show, although a few bits, like O’Brien’s mock recounting of his “real white trash” upbringing in Brookline, Mass. by a lawyer mom and a microbiologist dad, stands out. He does several songs, more than we need, and Eddie Vedder bounds in with a lively version of Baba O’Riley. Fun moments, but overall not funny enough and not a strong movie. (International Village)  2 ½ out of 5 

SMALL TOWN MURDER SONGS: Those songs are vibrant, gospel-sounding numbers from a band called Bruce Peninsula and they inject a great deal of energy into this small morality play. There’s already a lot of haunting tension there centered on a lawman trying to forget a violent past. Can you change your true nature, the film asks. No, but you can act against those impulses, says a preacher. This taut, austere little film with gothic overtones explores that idea with intelligence, wonderful acting and a leisurely pace.

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