Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Alan Arkin

Going in Style (2017)

Get some life into ya.

Lifelong buddies Willie (Morgan Freeman), Joe (Michael Caine) and Albert (Alan Arkin) all decide that it’s finally time to take some time back and retire, once and for all. However, once they do that, they don’t know what sorts of annoyances await them. For one, the factory that they slaved away for all of those years, aren’t going to be giving them pensions. And if that wasn’t so bad, they’re so broke that they may not be able to keep their own roofs over their heads. It’s so bad that even a piece of pie at a diner is a constant cause for argument. But then, Joe gets the idea: Why not rob a bank? Better yet, why not rob the bank that is, get this, robbing him blind in the first place? It’s a crazy idea and one met with disdain from the two other guys, but as time goes on, they start to come around to the idea. Eventually, the three hatch out a plan for what to do, but considering that they’re three old dudes, it may be a lot harder than it seems.

Do they qualify for the license to carry? Let alone, see?

Going in Style is probably an unnecessary remake, but it’s also different from the 1979 version. While that movie was a mostly dramatic, melancholy look at aging, life, and death, with some comedy splashed in there for good measure, the remake is a lot more fun, humorous, and less about being too dramatic. In a way, it’s as director Zach Braff and the studios thought that having a movie in which a bunch of old dudes try to re-ignite sparks in their lives, only to realize that they haven’t got much time left on Earth, was all too serious and real, so therefore, they added a bunch of jokes about prostates, pie, Alzheimer’s, and oh yes, the Bachelor.

Did I mention that this is Zach Braff we’re talking about here? Sure, I Wish I Was Here was a problem, but surely the same guy who made the near-classic over a decade ago (in Garden State), doesn’t feel the need for these sorts of paycheck gigs, does he? Well, in a way, it sort of seems like it, but it’s not like the movie’s the most manipulative piece of money-making machine ever made.

If anything, it’s just enjoyable and pleasing enough to literally not offend a single person.

Is that we should expect from these actors, as well as Braff? Hopefully not.

But for now, it’s fine, because Going in Style proves that the age old formula of “old dudes getting to have some fun one more time”, still kind of works. The only difference here is that the tone is a lot lighter and playful than you’d expect, which makes all of the crazy plot contrivances, twists, and turns, seem fine. Are they unbelievable and absolutely ridiculous? Absolutely, but for the longest time, the movie doesn’t do much but go about its day, with a smile on its face, and a pleasant mood on its mind.

Ride or die, boys.

And for that, it’s fine. It doesn’t ask for the heavy questions, with the heavier answers, about life, death, love, or immortality, or any of that fun stuff, nor does it really ask you to fully get too invested in its heist at the center of the film; it’s all being used to just get by and allow us to have some fun with these characters, in this place in time.

And once again, that’s fine.

It helps that Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin, no matter how old they get, still seem like total pros and can do practically no wrong. Sure, a lot of the stuff that they’re saying and yammering on about isn’t all that funny, but the three are so charming and lovely, does it really matter? Yes, it sort of does, but in this case, not really; it’s annoying to constantly see older actors get the short-shift in which they have to play these old dudes and that’s about it, but if that’s the way the world works, then so be it. It seems like Caine, Freeman, and Arkin themselves are so fine with it that it doesn’t really matter.

So long as they keep on doing what they’re doing, until the expected end of their careers, well then, no argument from me.

Keep doing what you’re doing, fellas.

Consensus: Pleasing and enjoyable enough, mostly by the talented trio of leads, Going in Style doesn’t set out to offend anyone, or change anyone’s life, and in this case, that’s all that is needed.

6 / 10

[Insert boner joke here]

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Advertisements

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

jonathan

Sell, or die.

Four salesmen get the wake-up call of their lives when corporate decides to wake them up with the highest seller in the company (Alec Baldwin), over to their dingy office to not just motivate them, but also warn them: If they do not sell the right amount real estate that’s necessary, well, then they’re fired. This shocks everyone to the core and leaves each salesman left to fend for themselves, by any means necessary. There’s George (Alan Arkin) and Dave (Ed Harris), two guys who seem to have each other’s backs, even in all of the thick of this; there’s Ricky Roma (Al Pacino), who can hang with the best of them and get any person to buy, just based solely on his charm alone; there’s old-timer Shelley “the Machine” (Jack Lemmon), who’s been in this business long enough to know just how to sell, but has been having a rough go as of late; and then, finally, there’s John (Kevin Spacey), who is, essentially, their boss, but is mostly there to just go back to corporate and tell them all what these guys are doing, who’s providing the best results, and most importantly, who gets to stay, and who gets to go.

I'd love to have a drink anywhere near these two. Seriously.

I’d love to have a drink anywhere near these two. Seriously.

Glengarry Glen Ross is great for many reasons, the main being David Mamet and his way with words. Sure, it’s no surprise to anyone who has ever seen a Mamet movie that the guy knows how to script smart, somewhat tough-guy dialogue for people you wouldn’t expect to saying it, but watching and especially, listening, to each and every person talk in Glengarry Glen Ross, is truly a joyful experience. It’s like listening to an old pro, just go on and on about his experiences and life lessons, without it ever seeming hacky, or annoying – you want to hear gramps go on and on, so long as there’s more coffee being provided.

In Glengarry Glen Ross, you don’t need the coffee. All you really need is the great ensemble assembled here, all of whom, honestly, are pretty great. And this deserves to be pointed out, too, because in a lot of Mamet’s movies, you can tell when there are those people who can do his dialogue justice, and others who just can’t seem to get it. Due to his dialogue being so mannered and stern, sure, some actors come off as if they’re trying too hard, or not getting the point, but when you have those actors who do know what they’re doing and know how to handle the material, then it’s an absolute delight to listen to.

Which is why, I reiterate again, there’s no bad performance to be found anywhere here.

Everyone’s perfect for their role and it’s the rare gamble wherein a bunch of big names took on Mamet’s material, and they were all pretty great, without a single weak one anywhere in sight. Al Pacino does a superb job as the slimy, but smarmy and charming Ricky Roma; Alan Arkin is interesting to watch as the sort of meek and mild salesman, who seems as if his fighting days are long over; Ed Harris plays a rather sensitive role as the one salesman who is trying his best to stay afloat, but also seems to realize that his career has gone down the crapper; Kevin Spacey is good in a rare against-type role as a rather cowardly boss who has to do a lot of heavy-lifting for his job, doesn’t like it, but hey, has to get paid somehow; and of course, yeah, Alec Baldwin’s cameo is pretty amazing and legendary, but there’s no reason to go on about it. You’ve seen it, you’ve loved it, and you’ve probably quoted it a hundred times before, so there’s no reason to beat that horse.

We got it. Sell.

We got it. Sell.

But really, the stand-out for me, and the one who should have gotten more attention, was Jack Lemmon and his performance as Shelley, or as some call him, “the Machine”. Later-day Lemmon wasn’t filled with all that many bright spots, where he saw himself in more old grandpa roles, rather than the kind that challenged him more and showed that even in his old age, he could still hang with the big boys. And in Glengarry Glen Ross, he got to show that; the character of “the Machine” is a rich one in the first place, but Lemmon dives deep into him, with all that he’s got. “The Machine” is a sad, unfortunate man who sees his life and his career slowly running away from him, but he doesn’t sit around, he doesn’t pout, and he doesn’t ask for any sympathy – he goes out there and tries to sell, dammit. Lemmon makes us see the unbearably sad limits this character will go to, not just to stay successful, but somewhat relevant, as if his name will forever be remembered in the world of salesman.

It’s sad to think that such a thing exists.

The only thing that keeps Glengarry Glen Ross away from being the perfect piece of film making that it sometimes flirts with the idea of being, is that it’s pacing is a bit off. Director James Foley does a nice job of giving us a dark, eerie and noir-ish tone to the whole movie, without ever taking his attention away from the actors and their craft, but sometimes, it feels like it’s less of a play, and more of just a bunch of conversations happening, that we get to hear somehow. Not much of a story and when they do try to give us something of that, it doesn’t quite register. All we want to do is hear and watch these guys try to sell real estate, as well as their lives.

Sometimes, that’s all we need to be happy in a world like this.

Consensus: With amazing performances all around and an absolutely biting script from Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross works as one of the better stage-to-film adaptations that has some ripples, but overall, transitions quite well.

8.5 / 10

Oh and yeah, you need those things, too.

Oh and yeah, you need those things, too.

Photos Courtesy of: LIDA’S FILM BLOG

Rendition (2007)

How sad is it when the only thing you remember from a movie is the water-boarding?

Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal), a CIA analyst based in North Africa is forced to question his assignment after he witnesses the brutal and unorthodox interrogation of an Egyptian-American by secret North African police. Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally) is an Egyptian-American chemical engineer whose family emigrated to the States when he was a boy, and who is now suspected of a terrorist act. And his very pregnant wife Isabella El-Ibrahimi (Reese Witherspoon), does everything in her power to find her missing husband. All three stories are connected in strange, if tragic ways.

"You can trust me. I've never played anyone sinister before."

“You can trust me. I’ve never played anyone sinister before.”

Whether or not you agree or disagree with the act the U.S. Government calls, “Extraordinary Rendition”, is not relevant, hell, it’s not even needed to understand or appreciate this movie anymore. It’s basically just a way for Hollywood to preach and say how they are so against the war in Iran and how George Bush is a big, old dummy. There’s no issue with these statements, but when it seems like that’s all your movie’s got to say or do, then you don’t really have a movie.

You just have a soap-box you can’t get off of.

It’s safe to say that Rendition‘s plot is, for the most part, intriguing and deals with all sorts of political questioning and intrigue that makes political-thrillers like this so appealing. Taking all of these different stories, from different continents and having them all make a lick of a difference of how they all connect, is what keeps the interest-factor of this alive and well for about the first 30 minutes or so. Director Gavin Hood is a skilled-enough guy to make it seem like he has a clear head and idea of what he wants to do and where he wants to go, but also what he wants to talk about.

Hood shows that, while our anti-terrorist tactics in America may be considered “necessary” they are, in no ways, the most pitch perfect way to infiltrate any terrorist or their activities. In ways, just picking up a person off the street because of what they look like, torturing them, prodding, teasing them, and having them think that they are terrorists, well, believe it or not, can sometimes create terrorists in the first place. While there’s plenty of torture-sequences that go a bit far and beyond what you’d expect from a glitzy, glamorous Hollywood production, it still serves enough of a purpose to matter in what Rendition, the movie, is trying to get across.

Which is why the next two hours seem like a total slog.

Pondering the day of when he'll win an Oscar.

Pondering the day of when he’ll win an Oscar.

But what’s worse about Rendition is how it seems like it had a lot more going for it, but for some reason, none of that’s to be found in the two-hours-and-two-minute run-time. For instance, certain plots go unresolved and there actually seems to be more questions, than actual answers in the long-run. Some of this may have to do with the fact that the studio wanted to trim down some of the run-time to not scare people away, but really, the damage can kind of already be done. Those who veer-off in the leftie territory, may still find themselves a bit troubled with how far this movie goes with it’s preaching, to where it seems like its main concern is letting people know how it feels, and less about actually telling a real, compelling story.

This is all the more of a shame, due to the fact that the cast here is actually pretty solid and definitely deserves better.

Jake Gyllenhaal really nails the part of the young, brash CIA agent that can’t get past the fact of all the crazy stuff he’s seeing right in front of him and it’s another great role for an actor that was really climbing the totem pole at the time. Now, on the other hand, everybody knows what to expect from the guy and that’s pretty cool considering this is Donnie Darko we are all talking about here. Reese Witherspoon has top-billing here as the wife of Anwar El-Ibrahimi, but doesn’t do much mainly because she is probably in the film for 20 minutes. That didn’t bother me much, mainly because every time she’s onscreen, she really seems like she’s struggling to be taken seriously and it even gets to the point of where she’s just screaming at the top of her lungs, “WHERE IS MY HUSBAND!?!?!?”.

Yeah, sorry gal. No Oscar for you this time around.

Peter Sarsgaard is probably the most memorable out of the whole cast, since he really does seem like a genuinely nice guy (change of pace for the dude), and one that feels really convicted of doing the right thing, regardless of how much trouble it will get him in with the higher-ups. Sarsgaard is always great with every role he’s given and he’s probably the most believable character out of the whole bunch, mainly because his problem can’t be as solved easily. Meryl Streep seems like she’s tailor-made for the queen bitch role as Corrine Whitman, a powerful women that makes men soil themselves with the sound of her voice, and as good as she may be with this role, it still feels like a bit of an undercooked character, that could have been used so much more and so much better than what she really was. Alan Arkin also shows up and does his thing, and that’s not so bad, but it’s kind of a waste of a dude that literally won an Oscar a year before this even came out.

Consensus: Rendition deals with plenty of interesting ideas about the then-current political world, but really, despite a solid cast, doesn’t fully come together.

6 / 10

Two vets who clearly just had some vacation time on their hands.

Two vets who clearly just had some vacation time on their hands.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Love the Coopers (2015)

CoopersposterNobody does Christmas quite like the Coopers. Or the Kranks, either.

Christmas time is one of the greatest times of the year. It’s the time where everyone gets together, kicks back, drinks some egg nog, and allow for the good times to roll. And that is exactly what the Coopers want, however, it’s a lot easier said, then actually done. Sam and Charlotte Cooper (John Goodman and Diane Keaton) are planning on having everyone over their house for one last Christmas dinner, due to the fact that their marriage has been so hot as of late and they’re thinking about calling it quits. Meanwhile, grand-pop Bucky (Alan Arkin) has found himself smitten with a much-younger waitress (Amanda Seyfried). Also, Sam and Charlotte’s daughter, Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) meets Joe (Jake Lacy) at the airport and decides that she wants him to pretend be her boyfriend, just so that her parents won’t get on her case for not having a steady-man. At the same time this is happening, Hank (Ed Helms), Sam and Charlotte’s son, is going through his own rough patch, as well, where he’s not only in desperate need of a job, but lost all of the respect from his kids and ex-wife (Alex Borstein). Then, there’s Charlotte’s sister, Emma (Marisa Tomei), who got nabbed in the mall for stealing stuff, and is now spending most of her time in the back of a cop car, trying to find out more about the officer (Anthony Mackie).

They're bored.

They’re bored.

And need I not forget to mention that Steve Martin, of all people, is narrating this?

So, yeah. As you can tell, there’s a whole bunch of stuff going on in Love the Coopers (which is a weird title as is, because there clearly seems to be a comma missing somewhere, but hey, that’s neither here, nor there), none of which is ever one bit interesting, smart, well-done, funny, or enjoyable to watch. Which is a damn shame, because seriously, look at that freakin’ cast!

No, I’m serious. Look at it!

Why are there so many great and talented names attached to this? I find it hard to believe that the script could have attracted any of these people because, quite frankly, it’s pretty crummy and hardly ever flirts with being something that names like these would want to work with because of its intrigue. Steven Rogers’ seems to want to be this lovely, bubbly family-holiday flick that deals with dysfunctional families in a fun, light-hearted way, but by the same token, also doesn’t. Instead, the movie wants to focus on failed-marriages, infidelities, homosexuality, puberty, divorce, loneliness, unemployment, missed opportunities, and most of all, death.

Now, let me ask you this: Does this sound like the lovely, little holiday comedy that you’d throw on the tube with your family every December 25?

Hell to the no!

And trust me, this isn’t me saying, “Oh, no. You can’t have a holiday flick about sad issues. No siree! Happiness all day, every day!”. In fact, there’s a certain part of me that wants to applaud this movie for actually trying to do something a little darker and deeper with this overly-familiar tale, but really, it falls on its face. There are so many instances in which the movie makes it seem like it wants to break down the walls and be as dramatic as it can possibly be, but at the same time, still end the scene on a fart or dog joke. The balance between wacky family comedy, and sad, emotional drama, never seems to come together in a way that makes it easy to not just enjoy this movie, but actually understand just what it’s getting at.

The movie, for the most part, seems like it wants to simply say, “Families are what’s most important in life. So love each and every member of your family, especially around the holidays”. Once again, it’s a fine notion that I have absolutely no qualms wit, but the movie itself doesn’t really seem to back any of that up. For one, everybody here in this film is basically terrible to one another, whether they be in the same family, or not; mostly all of them dread going to this family-dinner which, mind you, doesn’t happen until an hour in. Before this, we’re left watching each of these characters go on about their days, bitching and moaning about how they are not at all looking forward to this dinner that, honestly, nobody dragged them to be apart of in the first place.

Then, once the dinner actually gets going, it feels so random. People are all of a sudden nasty to one another, revelations drop out of nowhere, and above all else, none of it feels real. It’s almost as if director Jessie Nelson needed to have some sort of tension to keep the film moving along, so instead of actually building everything up in a smart, understandable manner, it all just feels thrown in as a way to make sure that there’s a crazy outcome with the dinner.

They're especially bored.

They’re especially bored.

Well, the outcome does happen, and although it is indeed crazy, it doesn’t at all work.

But really, the most mind-boggling fact about Love the Coopers is the ensemble it was able to attract and just how many of them are clearly wasted here. It’s hard for me to go into great deal about this cast and spend more time on this movie than it already deserves, but let me just put it like this: Everybody here clearly seems bored. Nobody’s at all giving it their 100% and is, instead, just phoning it in so that they can collect their paychecks and be on with the rest of their famed-careers. However much money they were promised to do this thing, honestly, I don’t know; what I do know is that they all seem like they’re clearly in it for the cash and want to be gone from it all as soon as possible.

The only exception to this is June Squibb who, as usual, gives a lovely, spirited performance as Aunt Fishy. Why exactly they call her that? Well, we don’t know. And although that same question is brought up, the movie never decides to answer it, which not only feels like a cheat, but also feels like an act of revenge that the movie’s taking out on Squibb for being the only one who actually gave a hoot about being in this movie.

Everybody else? Eh, not so much. And I can’t really blame them.

Consensus: Love the Coopers is another film in the long line of Christmas ensemble flicks, but wastes its great cast on a poor script that doesn’t know whether it wants to be a light-hearted comedy, or a sad drama about family. Neither of which, are actually ever interesting to watch.

1.5 / 10

Hell, everyone's bored! So just go home already!

Hell, everyone’s bored! So just go home already!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Million Dollar Arm (2014)

Yes, citizens from other countries: Play the sport where just about everybody is injecting needles into their buttocks, just to “get ahead”.

J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) is a down-on-his-luck sports agent that’s trying to make it big, with all of the right clients, and all of the fine amounts of cash just stream-lining into his fancy office. However, it just isn’t. Instead, he’s finding himself more and more up against the walls and without a clue as to what to do next. However, one night, he gets the brilliant idea: Go to India, and a hold a contest called “the Million Dollar Arm”. From there, Bernstein and fellow other scouts would be able to find the next hot talent from India, a place that has yet to even be looked at by MLB prospects, while also gaining enough notoriety to keep Bernstein’s agency afloat and actually still heard of. Eventually, Bernstein has the competition come down to two hopeful prospects: Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma). Though Patel and Singh remain hopeful for the future, they still have no clue how to play baseball and have never left their native-land before until now. So yeah, it’s definitely a bit of culture-shock for these guys, but Bernstein thinks he’s got all of the right resources to make sure that these two do just fine in the try-outs. Because hell, even if they don’t, at least Bernstein will have enough money and fame to his name, right? Well, yeah, sure, but there’s a price you have to pay for that; a price Bernstein is about to face, head on.

It’s obvious what this movie is trying to be: Think Jerry Maguire, but with a twist of Slumdog Millionaire. And rather than their being any famous lines like, “Show me the monay!”, or, “You….complete me”, we just have a bunch of scenes where Jon Hamm acts surprised that something didn’t go his way, throws his head in his hand, and just lets the world know that even someone as handsome as him, can look gritty. You want to know how?!? By forgetting to shave for what seems to be a little bit over a week!

Okay, I get it. Now stop smiling.

Okay, I get it. Now stop smiling.

Oh, the range.

But no, in all seriousness, folks, the problem with this movie isn’t Jon Hamm – in fact, he may have been the best aspect that kept me watching – nope, it was that the film itself is so obvious and predictable, that the fact that it’s also cloying and in dire need of love and sympathy, just really pushed me over the edge. I got what this movie was trying to do: It’s trying to give us a inspired tale of fulfilling your dreams, that most of us probably have never heard of before. I sure as hell didn’t, and I think that’s what this movie wanted to tap into the most, the surprise-element that this actually happened.

The problem with the movie is that every beat it goes for and hits, can be seen from a mile away. Don’t tell me that the neighbor J.B. lives next to, who we get a brief snippet of time with in the beginning, shows up every now and again throughout the movie! Or, better yet, don’t tell me that the old, grumpy, wise-cracking character played by, you guessed it, Alan Arkin who, at first, doesn’t seem like he gives a shit at all about these kids or the sport of baseball in general, actually seems to care a lot and help J.B. out when the time comes that he needs it the most! And please, whatever you do, don’t try and tell me that J.B.’s boss also happens to be a bit of a money-grubbing, attention-loving a-hole that doesn’t care about these kids, the sport of baseball, and whether or not he and J.B. stay as business-associates!

So yeah, as you can tell, all of the plot-developments that happen here, in front of our eyes and ears, can be predicted from a mile away. However, where that usually works for some movies, because the movie itself is so pleasing and enjoyable to begin with that it predictability itself almost doesn’t matter, it doesn’t here. Mainly because it seems like the movie just us wants to love everything about it – J.B., his neighbor, the sport of baseball, India, keeping tradition, baseball scouts, smart sports-trainers, these two possible-prospects – everything about it just screams, “Love me! Love me!”. And while I was more than willing to going into this movie, during it, I just wanted them to stop pestering me and get on with the story itself.

Which, for a nearly two-hour movie, is a bit much, especially when everything can be seen coming from a mile away.

However, with most bad movies, there’s usually the cast to make things a bit better, but even most of the familiar-faces here can’t do much to help make matters a bit better. As I stated before, Hamm is fine in this role as J.B. Bernstein, although I did find it a bit hard to see him to go from “I just want my money, like NOW”, to, “You know what? This baseball stuff is silly. Let’s just love one another, man!”. I didn’t really see the transition work as well as the movie wanted me to think it did, ad I found it even more annoying that they continued to force down our throat the supposed “romance” Hamm’s character has with Lake Bell’s.

No seriously. Stop!

No seriously. Stop!

Bell plays her usual ditsy, witty and charming-self that nobody ever seems to get tired of, but here, she seems like a plot-contrivance to keep the plot moving, give us a reason to make sense of why J.B. would go soft all of a sudden, and to sympathize with these two guys from India a whole lot more. Bell tries and tries again, but the chemistry between her and Hamm just never seemed believable to me. Also, not to mention the fact that the whole angle in which Bell’s character constantly bothers J.B. through Skype, felt very tacked-on and a bit creepy. Even if the girl is Lake Bell, I wouldn’t want some gal constantly bothering me while I’m trying to do work, a couple of countries over, just to talk about the washing-machine. Like come on, woman! Give a man some privacy!

Where the cast does get a bit better is with Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal, the two actors who play these professional baseball-hopefuls from India. Both definitely seem like bright-eyed, innocent, young fellas that don’t really know what they are getting themselves into, but go through it anyway because it’s in their lap and they think, “Eh. Might as well.” Though the movie tries to cram their squeaky-clean cleanliness down our throats, these two definitely make it worth while because they just seemed that way. It didn’t matter if they smoked crack, banged hookers, or murder people when the camera’s weren’t rolling; they seemed like nice, young and pleasant-enough fellas that I wanted to see this story about them, and whether the end-result would be good or bad for them. Didn’t care about the movie their story was in, but I cared about them, and that was almost enough to keep me going. Almost.

Consensus: You can’t deny that Million Dollar Arm‘s heart is in the right place, but it wants us to know that in just about every scene, that it gets really annoying, real quick, and takes away from what could have been a really endearing, inspirational tale that we haven’t really seen before. Except for the fact that we have.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Oh, fine. I guess you guys can be happy and smile. But don't over-do it!

Oh, fine. I guess you guys can be happy and smile. But don’t over-do it!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Grudge Match (2013)

The fight we all wanted and prayed for is finally here! Thirty-years later, of course.

Back in the good old days of the 80’s, two famed-boxers, Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) and Billy “the Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro), had one of the biggest, and best rivalries anyone sports fan had ever seen. They both had a win on the other, which obviously meant that there would be begs and pleads for a the all-time classic “rubber match”, but sadly, that didn’t happen. Razor ended-up retiring, retreating to his suburban-roots in Pittsburgh PA., and ultimately, leaving the spotlight forever; whereas the Kid just continued doing what it was that he was doing with boxing, still fighting, still collecting paychecks, still wooing the ladies, all up until the time came for him to retire and buy his own bar, in which he still makes money off of and have a great time with. Now, after nearly thirty-years, through a series of strange events, the modern-day media all of a sudden wants the end-all, be-all rematch two happen between these two, and some head-shot promoter (Kevin Hart) is the one to get it all back together. The only problem would actually be getting these two in the same ring together at all, which holds more problems than what may seem on the surface, all because of some personal issues the two ran into with a girl (Kim Basinger) they both had relations with.

Here it is, everybody! The fight we all waited so desperately for: Jake LaMotta vs. Rocky Balboa! Except, take about thirty, some-odd years later, and Grudge Match is what we have.

Oh my! So meta!

Oh my! So meta!

Disappointed? I’d sure as hell say so!

Basically, what it is that we have on our hands here is a joke movie that seems like it was solely made so that these two aging, but still-popular stars can get in the ring together, and do what every movie-nerd has been chatting on and on about for years. But, since they are in fact old (Sly is 67, Bob is 70), that means we get a whole bunch of “old people jokes” that include rectal exams, Viagra, boners, menopause, heart-attacks, Alzheimer, and so on and so forth. Which, needless to say, aren’t all that funny, but yet, also aren’t that harmless neither. In fact, I’d say that some of these jokes are a bit funnier than what I’ve seen in many other “old people” comedies; much more so than Stand Up Guys or Last Vegas.

However though, it was once the movie started diving into such comedic-territory like racism, or homophobia, or even rape, is where I began to draw the line and realize that hey, maybe this movie needs to calm it down and get on with the story. And if it isn’t going to get on with its story, then at least get on with its character. And well, hell, if it sure as hell isn’t going to get on with its characters, then it surely might as well get on with the actual boxing match itself. You know? The same boxing match most fans have been desperately clamming over thirty-years for? Yeah, well they do get on with that, but it takes us about two-hours to get there. In the meantime, we’re subject to all sorts of jokes that either hit hard (anything with Kevin Hart and/or Alan Arkin doing what it is that they do best), or miss terribly (the whole idea of making blow job jokes in front of a seven-year-old was a terrible one in the first place, but to have it play out the way it did, just added insult to injury).

Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not like I’m saying that this movie isn’t funny, because it can be, it just takes some standard jokes that we’ve seen and/or heard a million-hundred times before, and doesn’t really put a new spin on them. That’s all. And if this were an-hour-and-a-half-movie where all we got was some back-story, and some of this over-the-top comedy, I’d be all fine and dandy with that. However, the movie piles one element, on top of the other, all up until it’s two-hour-mark, and then the movie itself realizes that it actually has to include the boxing match we were all initially promised.

Which, even when it does show up, it’s so poorly-done, you can’t help but to get past its several obvious problems. For instance, it’s very clear who has the better body of the two, but I won’t even bother to dive into that. Instead, I’ll just yammer-on about the obvious difference in weight-classes between De Niro and Stallone and how, in the real world of professional-boxing, this fight would: a) Never happen, and b) not at all go down the way it did. I don’t want to give away what it is that exactly happens in this brawl between these two, as it actually may bring some fun and enjoyment for you peeps out there, but needless to say, the fight goes down the exact way you’d expect a sports movie to have itself go down, and already, it just never works.

Some may say I’m an a-hole for going into a movie like this where two old-as-hell men are battling in the ring and actually got “some” medical clearance for this, expecting some sense of realism, but I say I’m just a guy who wants his entertainment done right. Especially when it concerns two stars like De Niro and Stallone who have both been way, way better than they are here, and not too long ago neither. Stallone hasn’t really been stretching his acting-muscles much lately, but he’s still shown that he’s able to turn that charm on, make us laugh and make us still think of him as the lovable, goofy meathead that he was all those years ago.

I see plenty of timeouts in that little seven-year-old's future.

I see plenty of timeouts in that seven-year-old’s future.

As for De Niro, he’s had better luck in terms of being able to show us what it is that he can still do with dramatic, worthy-enough material; the only problem is, is that it just hasn’t been too often. Sure, he’ll knock it out of the park with something like Silver Linings Playbook, but for every dramatic, subtle-turn he gives, there’s about two or three Fockers sequels just waiting in line. De Niro can usually charm his way into making anything good, and he does his job well here, but after awhile, it becomes painfully clear to us that he’s slumming it for this role, and slumming it hard. The fact that he’s still considered this hardcore womanizer and boozer, and still actually living all of these years later, is a bit ridiculous, but De Niro sells it for all that it’s worth. It just doesn’t work as well as it should for a guy of De Niro’s talents, and it makes me wish he’d just take better work. It’s not like he can’t get it, either!

Perhaps having a dedicated solely to the developing-relationship between the Kid’s son, played very-well by a favorite of mine, Jon Bernthal, and the Kid himself would have been a smarter move on the movie’s part, because it’s quite clear that’s where most of the interesting elements are. It helps that Bernthal is good as the Kid’s son and provides a maybe too-dramatic look at a grown-up man just trying to find a common-ground between he and his estranged daddy, but it also helps that he and De Niro work together, which makes plenty more sense once you realize that Bernthal was in Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street, too! See the connection!?!? Woo, I’m good!

Anyway, as good as the two are together, the movie doesn’t really do them much justice and instead, decides to splice their scenes alongside those of Razor’s and his budding-romance with an old-fling of his, played by a still-looking-good Kim Basinger. In all honesty, Basinger and Stallone are good enough together to make their scenes work, but after awhile, it’s obvious that they’re what’s sucking most of the wind out of this movie and eventually, it gets to the point of where you just want someone to throw on the gloves, get in the ring and start pummeling another person. Was that too much to ask for in a boxing movie? I mean, really?!!?

Consensus: Fanboys from all over the globe who have been awaiting for this bout to actually happen, may be a bit disappointed with Grudge Match, and how it takes too long to get where it needs to go, and provides us with too much filler that’s either too desperately funny, or just not funny at all.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Quick! Somebody throw the first punch before the other one keels over!

Quick! Somebody throw the first punch before the other one keels over!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

Rabbit out of a hat? Boooooooooring.

Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have been life-long freinds that both share a love of magic, and have ruled the Vegas strip for the past two years. However, with the emergence of a more brutal type of magic, courtesy of Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), they’ve fallen on hard times and break-up. Burt is left in Vegas without any type of job, any money, or any inspiration for magic anymore. That is, until he goes back to reclaim the roots that made him love magic in the first place.

Usually when I see a trailer for a comedy, I either laugh-out-loud, chuckle, or just sit there in total and utter boredom. Every, single time I saw the trailer for this movie, nothing ever came to me. It wasn’t that I hate Steve Carrell, it wasn’t that I hate magic, and it sure as hell wasn’t that I wasn’t looking forward to seeing more Jim Carrey, play Jim Carrey (more on him in a tad bit later), it was just that it wasn’t funny. I didn’t laugh and it almost seemed like all of the best parts were in the trailer. That’s really saying something.

Most comedies at least try to be funny, and succeed at times. This flick rarely has that happen to itself. Most of the time during this movie I was just sitting there, watching, and waiting for something to come by and totally take me by surprise by how funny it was, but it never came to me. Instead of actually being smart or even remotely funny, we just get a bunch of characters that are sort of dick-ish, and a bunch of jokes towards the likes of David Blaine and Criss Angel, which seems like they would have been better, had they been done when they actually relevant, almost a decade ago. Automatically, I knew I wasn’t going to like this flick just from the beginning, but much to my surprise, it does get better. Well, sort of.

"I trick you into laughing. Please."

“I trick you into laughing. Please.”

Here’s the thing with this movie: when it tries to be funny, it feels painfully obvious and totally misses the mark. But, when it’s trying to be nothing but goofy and not even play-up for the laughs, then that’s where the flick really charmed it’s way into my soul. I don’t know if most of that credit is given to the cast, or the screenplay, but when I found myself laughing, it was long and hard, but only for a short while. After that said short while, then it just went back to boredom and I once again found myself sighing and eye-rolling my way through the rest of the duration of this flick. Most comedies try, but this one doesn’t even seem to and I still don’t know whether or not that’s a good thing.

Even magic lovers that go to see this, are going to be pretty disappointed since most of the magic is all CGI, special-effects, or played up to ridiculous laughs that could only happen if you watched a movie. Personally, I like the art of magic, what type of effort goes into it, and how it’s all done, which is why films like the Illusionist and the Prestige always do something for me, but this flick doesn’t even seem bothered with any of that. It’s almost like the flick just used the whole idea of having magicians battle one another, just for the sake of their being comedy and goofiness galore to occur. Nothing ever happens, and the magic never really sizzles or delights anyone. I even had a couple of magicians at my screening, and I felt like I wanted to give them a hug at the end of it. Not because it wasn’t funny (I’m sure they laughed their assess off like everybody else in the theater, with the exception of us high-level critics), but because there wasn’t much magic that felt natural or kosher to the story. It was just thrown in there to make us go, “Wow.” And you could say that’s what most magicians are supposed to make you go, but at least they’re stuff is real. This movie’s stuff wasn’t and it was a bummer for me, on both levels.

However, when you have a movie as bad as this, you can usually depend on the cast to save things and that’s what they do, for the most part. Steve Carell seems to be having fun as Burt Wonderstone, but here’s my main dilemma with Carell. Carell is hilarious when he isn’t trying too hard and just playing his own, natural-self. Usually, it’s when he’s playing the awkward-guy put into a real-life situation that he finds himself in (40 Year Old Virgin). But when he goes off and starts playing these obvious, electric characters that just seem to want your attention and praise; then, that’s when it seems that this guy is trying way, way too hard. Carell makes Wonderstone interesting, but that’s not saying much since this guy is a bigot, a dick, and just one of those dudes who acts like his shit don’t stank, all because he can do neat-o tricks that make people wonder how he did it all. I get that Wonderstone is supposed to start off as a deuche, and then progressively change into a better person as time goes on, but that didn’t matter to me because I didn’t really like this guy nor Carell playing it. Carell does what he can, but he is trying too hard here and almost made me feel like it would have been a hell of a lot better, had they casted somebody like Will Ferrell who is the man at making roles like these work. Wouldn’t have been the most original thing in the world to see, but at least it would have been more interesting and fun to watch.

Strike a pose, try to look funny.

Strike a pose, try to look funny.

It was great to see Steve Buscemi get a lead role in a movie for once, let alone one that’s a comedy, but even he feels wasted. And also, don’t let me forget to remind you that this guy shows up in almost every, single Adam Sandler comedy. If Buscemi is wasted in a flick like this, then that’s really saying something. Alan Arkin is fun as the old-school magician that every kid looked up to, Rance Holloway, and loves to just scream, shout, and be the old man that we all know and love him for. It helps that the guy was just nominated for an Oscar, but regardless, the guy’s a box of fun to watch. Also, Olivia Wilde is here as Jane, and really shows that she can play with the big-boys, even if she wasn’t as funny as we’ve seen her be in the past. Still, Wilde’s always charming and always easy-on-the-eyes. Rawr.

The real stand-out of this while movie definitely has to be Jim Carrey, as he’s the only one who really seems to be trying to make this movie and it’s comedy work, yet, does it so flawlessly that it doesn’t seem hard at all. Carrey likes playing strange characters like Steve Gray, and what only makes it better is that he isn’t at the fore-front of it all. Carrey actually allows others to take over the center-stage and wiggle their elbows a bit, only until he pops-up and starts having a ball. Carrey definitely provided the best moments of the movie for me and after awhile, was the only aspect of the whole thang that actually kept me watching. Sorry, Olivia. You’re hot and all, but come on. Jim’s still got it.

Consensus: If you like magic; you will be disappointed. If you like to laugh; you will be disappointed. If you like Jim Carrey; then you will probably be happy with The Incredible Burt Wonderstone for that reason, and that one reason only considering it’s rarely ever funny and tries hard while doing so.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Yeah, I'm shocked you're in this too.

Yep, I’m shocked you’re in this too.

Stand Up Guys (2013)

It’s like Amour, but with more guns and boners.

A couple of aged con men (Alan Arkin, Al Pacino, Christopher Walken) are back to their old ways by getting the gang back together, having fun, and causing a bunch of havoc like they all used to. However, one has a new assignment another and bears some not-so good news for that person, as well as the gang. If this sounds vague, just watch the damn trailer. You’ll know what I’m talking about.

Even though you may not know this because you’ve been so distracted by the work they’ve been putting-out over the years, but Alan Arkin, Al Pacino, and Christopher Walken are all getting older and the days where big, money-making roles coming their way, are getting dimmer and dimmer. It’s a sad thought to have in your head when you think about the material these guys have given over the years and why you think vets like these will automatically, always be around no matter what life brings them. However, the fact still remains: these guys are getting older, and their choices for roles are starting to get lousier.

I remember when I first heard about this movie, who it had, and what the central-premise was, my mind went straight to comedy, but after the trailer: I realized that it was far from that. The trailer gave-off a darker-vibe, that did have a comedic-elements to it, but wasn’t all about a bunch of old dudes having a crazy old time, like the golden days, and never letting-up for a second. That intrigued me about this flick but sadly: that was the trailer, and THIS, is the movie.

Wow, you can totally tell Fisher Stevens really connects with his actors.

Wow, you can totally tell Fisher Stevens really connects with his actors.

Director Fisher Stevens gives this flick the look and feel of it’s main characters: slower and worn-out. Instead of making this flick all about the bang-bang, the action, and the wildness of the night, the film is more relaxed and calm in how it shows these guys going about their one, glorious day, talking about their lives, where it’s taken them, and how much they miss the old days of just being wild and free. It’s alright to see a movie about a bunch of old men reminiscing on the golden years, but here, Stevens plays it out in a way that’s so obvious and so conventional, that it almost doesn’t feel genuine. Instead, it feels like these guys are just sapping on-and-on about their lives, because the script needs them to and there’s no real emotion to it. That’s a shocker of a statement, considering you have Oscar-winners in the lead roles!

Speaking of the Oscar-winners, all of them are fine, except that the script that they are working with just blows. Al Pacino is playing his usual, fun-loving spirit of an old man that can’t get enough of life because he’s out of the clink, and as fun as it may be to see Pacino rolling around the screen, having a fun-time, it does get a bit old by about, I don’t know, say the fourth or fifth boner joke. Oh yeah, need I forget to tell you, this is one of those flicks that’s less concerned about what these guys have been up to over the past years, and more concerned with the pills they take to get their boners up-and-running, and just how much a fire-ball they can be in the sack. That seems like material that’s meant strictly for a Farrelly Brothers movie, not one that features Oscar-winners of this nature. Pacino can be okay in this movie, but just like the film’s nature and characters: he feels worn-out.

I can’t say the same thing about Christopher Walken, but yet, I can’t totally back the guy up all that much, either. Walken has that quirky look in his eyes and deliver in his voice, but there’s nothing much here that really has you rooting for the guy, hoping that he ends-up going the good way, as opposed to the bad way. There is this small, but over-bearing subplot about him and his “possible” granddaughter that’s as obvious as a gay man in a strip-club. What I mean by that is, is that you can point it out, right away, and as soon as it shows up, so it only gets worse when the film constantly continues to shove it down our throats by saying, “BTW!! THAT’S HIS GRANDDAUGHTER!!!”. It didn’t make me feel anything more for the guy, nor did it give me anymore sympathy or care for these characters; it was just there to give these guys material to work with.

However, what I said about Pacino and Walken, could not be said about Alan Arkin who seems to really be having the most fun out of three as the fella they break-out of the old person’s home. Arkin always has that wacky deliver that makes his character stand-out the most and it’s no surprise that he not only gets the best-lines, but is also allowed to stretch-out more of his dramatic-lungs as well. I don’t know where those dramatic-lungs where at in his Oscar-nominated role in Argo (still “wtfing” about that), but regardless, the guy is still fun and brings a lot of much needed excitement and joy to the screen when it seems like Walken and Pacino may be taking naps, here and there.

"Seriously, somebody help me up."

“Seriously, somebody help me up.”

You would think that with these three dudes in roles where they just practically play themselves, that almost nothing can go wrong, but that’s where the movie comes in and shows you otherwise. Instead of making their one, glorious night one chock-full of spills,  thrills, bangs (there are some of them, but not coming from the barrel of a gun like I wanted), booms, fun, and excitement, it’s more of a night where they just slowly move around, from one spot to another, without any real moments of delight to keep us awake. Even at an hour-and-a-half time-limit, the film does still feel stretched beyond it’s limits and as each and every situation goes by with a total and complete whimper, you’re pretty much expecting the film to end (or probably die) at any second.

Thankfully, when it does end, it ends to the tune of Gary Clark Jr.’s “Bright Lights”, which is pretty cool because it’s the only type of energy the film has had up until that point, but stops being cool, once you realize how damn anti-climactic and silly it’s ending actually is. I don’t want to give anything away to you peeps out there who may be clamoring the trip to go out and see this piece of old-geezer’s sap-fest, but trust me, the ending is stupid and will probably have you feel more pissed-off that you bothered even seeing this, let alone remembering these three stars for all that they used to be. Now, they are just old guys, who’s best days are probably behind them. I think I’m tearing up now just thinking about it.

Consensus: Walken, Pacino, and especially Arkin, all seem like they are having fun in Stand Up Guys, but it’s not enough to save this terrible-material from being nothing more than just a lame-excuse to get a bunch of Oscar-winners, to sit-around, chit-chat about the old days, do “old people”-like things, and suffer excruciatingly long boners. Hey, what do you think the “Stand Up” stood for?

3.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Just give us the shot, so we can hopefully forget about this.

Just take the damn shot, so we can hopefully forget about this.

Argo (2012)

See, Star Wars really did save people’s lives.

The movie is on the true story of a secret 1979 CIA mission during the Iran Hostage crisis in which six diplomats are rescued through a bizarre extraction plan involving a fake Hollywood film crew scouting locations for a sci-fi film named “Argo.” Ben Affleck stars as Tony Mendez, the real-life CIA exfiltration expert who came up with the idea in the first-place and has to find the strength and courage to go through with it.

Believe it or not, that silly-ass plot synopsis up there is a real-life account on a secret CIA mission that took place during 1979 to 1980 and may have you think, “just how the hell did the government trust Hollywood with saving the lives of six people?” Well, the truth is that Hollywood is good for many things, and not only is saving the lives of six people one of them, but reviving Mr. Ben Affleck’s career as well.

As director, Ben Affleck is basically three-for-three (Gone Baby Gone and The Town are his two other flicks), but this one is slightly different from those other ones as he is actually stepping out of his friendly-streets of Bawhstan, and upping his game by focusing on something bigger, and a lot larger-scale than from what we usually expect from this guy. The look and feel of this movie just put me right into a late 70’s/early 80’s vibe that not only set me in the right-mood, but never rang a single false-note to me whatsoever, even with all of the goofy mustaches, cars, and hair-do’s running around all-over-the-place.

But what really came as a total shock to me is how Affleck was not only make me feel like I was exactly right there with him in America during this time-period, but also made me feel like in the chaotic shit-hole of Iran during this time as well, and damn, was it freakin’ scary. Right from the start, we are put in this area of Iran that is just full of chaos and on the verge of collapsing, and Affleck shows this perfectly by splicing together his footage, with actual-footage taken at this time to create a realistic, if even scarier view-point of the setting where our main-story takes place in. It’s not only great in it’s realistic/very detailed look, but also how we are able to draw the similarities between the Middle East and the West’s relationship with one another, to then, and how almost nothing has changed whatsoever in the thirty-plus years since this whole “Argo” mission went down.

However, it’s not all about making a point and showing off the politics with Affleck, it’s more about the whole mission itself and that’s where most of the fun of this movie came from. The first hour or so where we are left following Affleck as he tries his damn near hardest to make this fake-movie every bit of legit as he can, is the most entertaining aspect of this whole movie, not just because it takes a lighter, and slightly, more humorous approach than the rest of the film, but because it shows you just how hard it is to actually get something made in Hollywood, regardless of whether it’s the next masterpiece or not. But, all of the hootin’ and holler soon starts to go away once the real plot of this movie kicks in, and that’s where I really started to feel the tension go up my spine and get the goosebumps working. This is where Affleck shines the most, by showing how capable he is of making you sweat your ass off, with every single, tense second that goes by. It’s worked in his other two films, and it sure as hell works here but not as perfectly.

The reason why the whole suspension of this film doesn’t work as well as Affleck’s last, two movies, is because we already know the story going on and if you haven’t already known, chances are, you’re going to be able to tell how it ends. Then again, that’s sort of the basis for all movies out there but when you have a movie that puts the whole aspect of itself, on the fact that you have to feel all tense and worked-up to really enjoy the whole movie, then you kind of have to wonder just when this movie’s time is up. I don’t know want to say that it got to that point for me, but there was a very heart-breaking point where I realized that, “okay, I already know what’s going to happen, so why the hell is Affleck wasting my time with all of these slow scenes and epic score bits?” But, I don’t want to give anything else away and trust me, if you don’t know the story going in, be ready, cause you may already know it from start-to-finish about half-way through. I did, and I think that’s where this film sort of failed in captivating me as much as I would have liked it to.

Then, it seems to get worse for Affleck as the guy doesn’t really stand-out as much with his performance as Tony Mendez. The problem with Mendez isn’t Affleck’s acting, in-fact, the guy’s pretty good when it comes to him showing his near-perfect comedic timing, as well as showing us a character that’s easy to root for, even when the odds are stacked up in his defense, more of the problem is that this character just doesn’t have much going for him that’s interesting or worth really standing behind in the first-place. Yeah, the guy singlehandedly comes up with this plan and is brave enough to go out there and finish it off himself, but he doesn’t really have much of anything else going for the guy. This is fairly evident when the film tries to shoe-horn the whole angle with him and how he misses his son and wife, even though they touch on it for about 6 minutes throughout the whole film, and then at the end, is supposed to have some big, emotional impact on us as we walk out the door. No, no, mister Ben. Not falling for it this time.

Then again, you have to give Affleck more credit because this even and plain performance, almost allows him to take a side-step to the left for the rest of his ensemble to show off and do their own thang unlike anybody else. Bryan Cranston shows up in his 100,000th movie role this whole year as Tony’s boss, and nails all of the snappy dialogue they give him, and his angry soul. I was hearing a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding Cranston and his role here and as good as the guy may be, I don’t really see it all that much since he’s not really stretching his skills as an actor by just yelling and looking mad all of the time. Still, it’s an act that I have yet to be tired of. Alan Arkin is also another guy that’s been getting a lot of buzz for his role here as big-shot, Hollywood producer, Lester Siegel. This buzz is deserved but I don’t really see Arkin getting a nomination, mainly because the guy doesn’t do anything else other than yell, scream, holler, and rant like the old man we all know and hopefully, love him for. Then, there’s John Goodman as real-life make-up artist John Chambers, who also seems to be having a lot of fun with his role and steals a lot of the scenes he’s in. However, the rest of the supporting cast is just filled, and filled, and filled to the brim with actors/actresses that you have most likely seen in about 1,000 other movies and when you see their faces pop-up here, you’re going to be going right up next to your buddies ear and say, “Hey, isn’t that the guy from that so-and-so movie?” Trust me, I did that plenty of times with my sister and I probably missed a hundred more because my mind would still be in heavy thought and not focused on who’s familiar face was going to show up next.

Consensus: Though it’s not as tense or electrifying as Affleck’s last two directorial efforts, Argo still works as a smart, funny, and entertaining thriller that covers a mission that not many people ever knew about, but was also a very important one by how it showed certain sides of the U.S. government working hand-in-hand with Hollywood in a slightly surreal, yet smart way.

8/10=Matinee!!

The Muppets (2011)

Eff you Alvin and eff you Smurfs, these are my real child-hood heroes.

In this flick, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and friend Mary (Amy Adams) must raise $10 million to save the Muppet Theater from Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), a businessman who plans to demolish the Muppet Theater to drill for oil.

I’ve always been a Muppets fan ever since I was a little kid so when I heard they were finally coming back after all this time away from the limelight, you know that the little kid inside of me jumped up-and-around in the little Kermit the Frog undies like a kid on Christmas day.

Basically this film is one big excuse for Segel to pal around with all of his child-hood friends and give us a whole hour long episode of The Muppets, but it doesn’t feel like just one big excuse for anything, it feels like an actual film that could bring them back.

The plot itself has been done over millions of times but what really separates this film from the others is how tongue-in-cheek and self-aware everything is that just about every single ridiculous happening in this film seems so normal and made me laugh my ass off. There is a lot of winking at the camera but it didn’t seem over-used and there are little subtle moments where you can tell that they all know they are in a movie, which adds so much more fun to this film’s comedy. I mean hell if you just see the trailer, they tell you right away that The Muppets aren’t popular in today’s world but somehow they are able to bring back all of the wit and charm that made the original fun for kids and adults alike but there are still some other little pieces of humor that are made for the new generation as well.

Another aspect of this film that worked was the music and how great all of the songs were. The music supervisor for this flick was Bret McKenzie, from ‘Flight of the Concords’, and you can tell that he has some great talent in song-writing. There are plenty of original and fun tracks here such as “Life’s a Happy Song”, “Man or Muppet”, “Pictures in My Head”, and plenty more memorable tracks that I had humming in my head after the film was over. The best thing about all of this music is that it’s not only fun to listen to but when you watch, there are still a lot of funny things happening in these musical numbers which you barely ever see in musical-like films of today’s world. No matter who or what you listen to, you can’t resist some toe-tapping here.

Jason Segel is apparently one of the biggest Muppets fan ever and it shows because this whole film he just has this one big and goofy grin on his face the whole time as Gary. The guy is really having the time of his life and thanks to that, I was too. Amy Adams is very innocent and sweet as Mary who sometimes will come out of nowhere and make a very funny comment then do some out-of-character song. The problem with their story-line is that it kind of gets lost about 20 minutes into the film and we start to care less and less about their “love story” and more if The Muppets are going to be able to pull this show off after all. Chris Cooper is also a total bad-ass as Tex Richman, which is a great role for Cooper because he gets to be a little goofy and show off some of his rapping skills that he’s been hiding for so long. Yes people, Oscar-winner Chris Cooper has a rap solo in this film. There are also dozens of cameos from plenty of A-listers that are sure to make anybody go, “Ooooh, look who it is!”.

The main reason why The Muppets works though is because in the end it’s really all about how you can still be fun, hip, heart-warming, and even a little cool if you just stick to a formula that you have been doing for about 30 years. The Muppets are not mean, they use humor but never to hurt anyone it’s more of to just make people laugh and have a good time which is probably one of the best things about them. In today’s world, comedy relies on raunch, mean comments, slurs, and so many more bad things, but The Muppets are simple: they are funny, without ever offending or hurting anybody’s feelings. To do that in any decade is awesome, but to be able to do that in 2011 and be the best comedy/family-film of the year, is probably one of the best achievements that this film has to offer. This is a PG flick that is for the whole family because they can all have fun and thanks to Kermit, Miss Piggy, Animal, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and everybody else, I had a great time too.

Consensus: The Muppets is all about having a good time with humor, great musical numbers, dozens of hilarious cameos, and a lot of heart to make you feel like you are watching all of your favorite Muppets together once again and hopefully this time, they are here to stay.

9/10=Full Price!!

City Island (2010)

Is this how all Italian families from the Bronx are like?

When he recognizes his son, Tony (Steven Strait), whom he hasn’t seen in more than 20 years, among a crop of new inmates in the jail where he works, Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia) decides to bring the troubled young man home with him, much to the surprise of his wife and kids.

I love little moves that I get totally surprised by. Looking at the poster to the right, you would expect a film about a crazy mob family, mainly because it stars Andy Garcia. However, it’s something different, but in a good way.

The screenplay has some nice little easy touches here. The film touches on a lot of problems that family’s have with each other such as lust, lying, infidelity, you know all the good stuff that all family’s love to chat about. There’s enough comedy inherent in the story that it rolls along quite lightly as well (when a kid is watching food porn you know no-one’s going to die of cancer).

My problem with this film was that the secrets that this family has to hide from each other, aren’t really that interesting, and you can kind of tell what’s going to happen once the secrets got out. Also, the scenes with Emily Mortimer here were also the weaker ones in my opinion, and took out some of the wit that this film was going for.

It’s a shame that Andy Garcia hasn’t been in anything actually good as of lately, but he does do a good job with this material actually. He’s the leader of the family, Vince, as well as this movie, and you can’t help but enjoy the goofiness that he has. Julianna Margulies as always is good as Garcia’s wife, Joyce, who never lets up with that attitude she always gives so well. Steven Strait was also surprisingly good here, giving a lot more depth to his character, and taking his shirt off plenty of times for the ladies in the crowd. Also, Alan Arkin does his usual job of showing up for about 5 minutes, and having us laugh the whole time.

Consensus: City Island has a lot of heart, warmth, and comedy to make this nice little slice of life work, but it won’t challenge you, and may have you wanting a bit more.

7/10=Rental!!

Catch-22 (1970)

War really does make you go crazy.

Capt. Yossarian (Alan Arkin) tries to escape the travesties of World War II by convincing his Air Force commanders that he’s crazy. Hilarity ensues — but so does reality as he watches his close friends (Martin Sheen and Art Garfunkel) die in the ridiculousness of war.

I’m still ashamed in myself that I haven’t found the time yet to actually read this crazy novel, that this film is based on, but I have a feeling after seeing this, I definitely will soon.

My favorite element of this film is that it really does have a great script here to work with. The dark humor works so well for this film, because it’s great at showing all the funny moments that can actually happen in between all the fighting, and killing. It also works well even in today’s world, and can still pertain to the craziness of the war in present time which is always great.

The cinematography is also beautiful with some wonderful shots of the landscape, that although may seem a bit out-of-place considering that the film, isn’t all about how it looks, I still liked how it gave me this feeling of the area these soldiers were fighting at.

The only problem with this film is that it does get a little weird at the end, and the comedy starts to lose it’s edge. I found myself chuckling less and less with this material, as the film kept going on longer into the end, and I was wondering what was supposed to be funny, and what wasn’t. It gets very dark by the end, and this is where the film lost me because after awhile I couldn’t find one laugh within me when certain things started to happen with this story. Also, the plot is pretty jumpy, going through one story to another, and it doesn’t quite work because we don’t get all of the stories in detailed.

The performances in this film are what kept me watching. The always reliable Alan Arkin stars as Yossarian, and blends that perfect mixture of goofiness and realism that always seems to work for him, no matter what it is that he’s doing. Anthony Perkins does a good job here as Chaplain Tappman, and brings out a lot more comedy and depth within his character that we aren’t quite expecting. Jon Voight is also hilarious as Milo Minderbinder, the one guy who’s trying to get very rich off of this war. My favorite of the whole cast was actually a short bit from Orson Welles who plays Gen. Dreedle and dominates every scene with that signature tough-guy persona he always carries so well with him, and here it just works in a comedic sort of way. Also in the cast are Martin Sheen, Bob Newhart, Art Garfunkel, and Martin Balsam.

Consensus: The humor works well with it’s dark approach, and it’s a sight to look at, but Catch-22 gets very strange by the end, and starts to get darker with it’s approach, even though the first hour is just so darn funny.

7/10=Rental!!

The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966)

Instead of the Germans its the Russians, so hilarious!

A Russian submarine runs aground near a small New England town, and it’s up to Lt. Rozanov (Alan Arkin) as the Russians’ second-in-command to covertly secure a towboat to avoid an international confrontation. When he hooks up with residents such as Walt Whittaker (Carl Reiner) and the police chief (Brian Keith), all hell breaks loose.

I will say one thing about this film is that although it is an old film, it still does hold up some comedy that you can still laugh at till this day. The film is a very gentle comedy towards the Russians. I was expecting a film that was going to be bashing the Russians and basically making them look like fools, however this is not the case. Much of the film shows the culture clash but shows how the Russians are just as gentle as us, and we shouldn’t be afraid of them.

I just didn’t think that this film was all that funny as I was to believe. Many of the jokes are catchy but most of them can be very flat, and really stiff. Now this is a good film don’t get me wrong, but I just think that there are better ones out there, that would be a lot more funnier than some of the jokes they had in this film.

I will say that despite the over 2 hour time limit the film was very sharp. The direction of the film was quick and went from one place to another so I wouldn’t get bored too easily of these jokes.

The performances are OK but would be nothing without Alan Arkin. Arkin does the best job as he still does the great Russian accent and it doesn’t slip one bit. He was funny but also very vicious, and you could tell that’s what he was having coming out through this performance.

Consensus: Though not amazingly funny, Russians Are Coming boasts a great performance from Arkin, memorable quotes, and a timeless message of “why can’t we all just get along?”.

8/10=Matinee!!

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

The untold world of a salesman sure is funny.

A group of real estate salesmen (Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Ed Harris and Alan Arkin) in Chicago vie for the best “leads” at a small firm selling property in resort areas such as Florida and Arizona. When a hot shot executive (Alec Baldwin) from the head office arrives and proposes a vicious sales contest (the winner gets a Cadillac, the loser gets fired), competition gets stiff, and the veteran salesmen suddenly find their jobs in jeopardy.

The film is adapted from a play back in 1982 when times were good, now the times are tough and it creates a great piece for this story.

This is surely a movie for people who love dialogue filled movies. The screenplay is the best I have ever heard in my life and it’ so funny but yet so true. These real estate salespersons are so broke they try their hardest to save their jobs and make a deal, but yet they still find ways to make hilarity when their in this time.

Now the screenplay couldn’t have been too great without the actors delivering them. The ensemble cast does an amazing job in this film its really hard to say who does the best, since they are all so equal. Lemmon you fell bad for, Pacino is the funny guy at the office who doesn’t take crap, Ed Harris and Alan Arkin are the two buddies who always discuss real estate, and Kevin Spacey plays the boss who is a square and gets made fun of a lot. Alec Baldwin also has an amazing scene where he is just so nasty that it’s really funny.

Though the story was well-acted and had a very witty and well-written screenplay the story itself didn’t really grasp me. I felt myself bored at points, and I thought that the movie didn’t do much to keep the story interesting.

Consensus: Great script and a well-acted ensemble, features a great dialogue filled movie that shows the real life of desperate salesman’s.

9.5/10=Full Price!!

Sunshine Cleaning (2009)

What happens when CSI leaves the area of a crime scene, well these two chicks come to clean the mess up.

Former high school cheer leading captain Rose Lorkowski (Adams) is a thirty-something single mother who cleans houses for a living. Wantingto send her trouble-making eight-year-old son Oscar (Jason Spevack) to a private school, Rose decides to take her married lover’s advice and get into the “lucrative” business of crime scene cleanup.Rose convinces her disillusioned, underachieving sister Norah (Blunt) to join her in the enterprise, which she calls “Sunshine Cleaning.”

As watching this film I wondered to myself “have I seen this film before”. Then I said this is a lot like Little Miss Sunshine. It’s pretty obvious too since both have dysfunctional families, Alan Arkin playing the weird but wise grandfather, the titles are very similar (“Sunshine”), and they both have the same producers working. Though this film has a bit of a different feel to it.

At times, I felt the quirky moments in this film were forced and just put in for the sake of this being an indie film, and you know all of them have to have quirky moments.

The film does very well in inserting humor into this at times very serious and dramatic story.The central message of this film is how families can provide strength in times of need. I felt like this message was brought up well throughout the film, just not as effectively as Little Miss Sunshine.

Amy Adams finally steps away from those side characters and proves in a very strong performance, that she can be the leading woman and still make it a great watch. Very credible is Emily Blunt co-starring in a film as a lost stoner who doesn’t know what to do with her life. She totally abandons her English accent and does a great job with her American accent, and she does a great job as well. Alan Arkin plays that crazy father we all know him as, but he still does a credible job as a father who loves his family despite the hard times.

The film shows laughter in hard times, while still maintaining that sense of reality. The film is not afraid to leave some questions unknown which is something now-a-days that is very critical, and I respect this film for taking a chance.

Sunshine Cleaning is a winning combination of heartbreak and quirky humour.

8/10=Matine!!!