Two Comedies from Peace Arch
Finding Amanda (October 6/08)
Hopelessly uneven yet admittedly entertaining, Finding Amanda casts Matthew Broderick as Taylor Peters - a beleaguered television producer whose battle with a serious gambling addiction is threatening his marriage and career. Though his wife (Maura Tierney's Lorraine) thinks it's a bad idea, Taylor decides to redeem himself by heading to Vegas in an effort to rescue his niece (Brittany Snow's Amanda) from her life of drugs and prostitution. It's not surprising to note that writer/director Peter Tolan cut his teeth on such small-screen comedies as Home Improvement and Murphy Brown, as Finding Amanda - for the most part - possesses a distinctly simcomlike sensibility that pervades virtually every aspect of the proceedings. And while this does ensure that the movie is often very funny, there's little doubt that the subsequent lack of authenticity ultimately dampens the effect of the few genuine moments within Tolan's screenplay. The superb work by both Broderick and Snow proves effective in grounding the film on a scene-by-scene basis, although it's hard to deny that Finding Amanda goes seriously off the rails in its third act - with the introduction of several overwrought elements (vicious pimps, a missing cache of money, etc) triggering an ill-conceived shift into melodrama. The comparatively light-hearted opening hour is engaging enough to warrant a mild recommendation, however, with the movie finally establishing itself as a passable debut effort from Tolan.
Postal marks the latest in a long and uniformly inept line of videogame adaptations from notoriously untalented filmmaker Uwe Boll, following such epically awful clunkers as House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, and In the Name of the King. It's interesting to note, however, that Boll's visual choices inevitably prove to be the least problematic element within the film, as the would-be director has infused the movie with an off-the-wall and lighthearted sensibility that admittedly suits the material quite well. It's the material itself that ultimately sinks the proceedings, with screenwriters Boll and Bryan C. Knight offering up a plotless and downright pointless tale of an unnamed character (Zack Ward) who essentially "goes postal" after encountering a whole host of quirky figures (including Dave Foley's Uncle Dave and Chris Coppola's Richard). Boll and Knight have peppered Postal with silly bits of nonsense that have clearly been designed to shock/offend the viewer - ie George Bush and Osama bin Laden are somehow close friends - yet the pair's increasingly desperate efforts fall flat thanks primarily to the ungainly and flat-out incompetent manner with which such elements have been shoe-horned into the production (how, for example, does it make sense that Bush and bin Laden would be palling around?) The end result is a film that feels as though it's been conceived and executed by a third grader, and there's consequently little doubt that the relentless emphasis on eye-rollingly juvenile jokes and set-pieces will turn off even the most devoted fan of Boll's work (if such a person exists, of course).