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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Anna Kendrick

Rocket Science (2007)

Think of it as the younger-son of The King’s Speech. Minus all of the royalty.

Reece Thompson plays Hal Hefner, a 15-year-old high-school student with a minor yet socially alienating (and painful) disability: He stutters uncontrollably. He soon finds a light at the end of the tunnel with his disability when a brainy female classmate (Anna Kendrick) cons him into being apart of the debate-team. Hal accepts, but finds problems when these two actually hook-up and start to question that maybe there’s something more between them, or maybe not. It’s all confusion in a high-school setting.

Oh, teenagers.

Take with it what you will, I was actually apart of the Debate Club when I was in high-school for a good year or so. Then, I switched schools, and ultimately lost my love and passion of debating. I still do it from time-to-time when people want to have arguments like, “Avatar or Hurt Locker?“, “Social Network or King’s Speech?”, or my favorite, “Artist or not the Artist?” Yep, that’s about the only type of arguments/debates I seem to have nowadays, but I don’t think even mentioning this slice of my life has anything to do with this review or this movie, because this movie is as much about being part of the Debate Club as much as this blog is about food.

Although I do make some references here and there.

Most indies that play out in the same vein like this, all try too hard. They have a certain bit of quirks that they are way too pleased with, love to show off, and never stop reminding us of. It can get quite annoying after awhile and that’s what has usually come to plague such directors like Jared Hess, Wes Anderson, and even Quentin Tarantino so much in the years. The last subject I never have a problem with, but for those first two? Eh, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. It all depends on the context of the story and what it brings to the table. That’s the problem that writer/director Jeffrey Blitz has here.

Too focused in on trying to hide that boner of his.

Too focused in on trying to hide that boner of his.

Blitz apparently took a lot of the material for this flick, from his own adolescence and it shows, because the movie rings very true to what the high school life is really all about. Granted, this isn’t really a movie that takes place in high school and shows you all of the cliques, relationships, friendships, clubs, teachers, lunch ladies, so on and so forth, but just shows the type of kids that go to it and what they think about, whether they are in class or not. Blitz nails down what it’s like to start growing-up, starting to realize that there is a world out there, larger than you even imagined, and start to question everything that you’ve believed in, prior to your next chapter in life. It’s a lot harder than it sounds, but it’s the type of idea that Blitz captures well.

However, where this movie loses itself in is trying way, way too hard to win you over with it’s crazy and wacky quirks. That’s bad because nobody likes when a person tries to show-off what they can do, how many times, and how well they can do it, but what’s even worse is that this movie was really winning me over. It’s not like I went into this movie, was totally taken aback by all of the quirky-humor and automatically made up my mind that this was going to be shit, but it was the exact opposite. I ultimately fell for it’s quirks and even realized that maybe I could get past it all with a sweet story, and an attention to character. But nope.

The film wanted to have it the other way.

Sometimes it’s clever, sometimes it’s not. But overall, it’s just bothersome to see in a movie like this, especially when you know the movie has so much more promise then what it’s actually giving us. Maybe a bit more drama would have narrowed things down for us, or maybe a teeny, tiny-bit more attention to the plot would have helped, but with a film like this that is so pleased with what it has to say or do, you kind of lose the point. And you can totally tell that this movie was trying to tell an important-fact of stuttering and how a person can get through it with time, patience, and determination, but they even sort of make that a joke by the end. It’s still sweet, but does make fun of the wrong things if you think about it. Okay, enough of this.

Back to the goods, baby.

Evil woman.

The determined eyes of a monster.

Newcomer Reece Thompson is really good as Hal Hefner, and does a magnificent job at keeping up his stutter the whole time. That may sound like a terrible thing to say about a character who has a real problem, that real people have to deal with, but it’s the truth: Keeping a consistent stutter must be a pretty hard job. That’s why it’s so great to see this kid pull it off with flying colors, but he’s not all about losing his train of thought, he’s actually more than that. Hal Hefner is a good character because he reminds all of us, a little bit ourselves. He’s young, rebellious, trying to make sense of the world, falling in-love for the first-time, and will stop at nothing to keep that feeling of love and tranquility in place.

Anna Kendrick is just about a household name by now, but people don’t remember when she was just a young, small girl, in a little indie where she got to not only show off her charm, but her comedic-timing as well. Kendrick is awesome at being able to show us how smart and perky a character like hers can be, but also how sinister underneath it all. You never know whether or not to trust this character and all of the hope that she gives to sweet, little old Hal, but you feel Kendrick’s a presence on-screen, and she keeps you watching the whole time.

Makes sense why she’s the star she is now.

Consensus: Rocket Science is maybe way too pleased with itself at times, but also benefits from smart, funny insights into growing up and high-school life.

7 / 10

Oh yeah, and he's a nerd too. Just adding insult to injury there, kid.

Oh yeah, and he’s a nerd too. Just adding insult to injury there, kid.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.Com.Au

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The Accountant (2016)

Math truly can drive people to murder.

Ever since he was a kid, Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) has had issues dealing with the world around him. Now that he’s older and on his own, well, he’s a whole lot wiser, even if his people skills aren’t all that great still. Still, he’s a mathematics savant that helps him get by and make a living, solely freelancing as an accountant for dangerous criminal organizations and other shady businessmen who sometimes like to keep their private information, well, private. However, a certain someone is trying to find out just who this Christian Wolff guy is and what his plan is – and that certain someone is treasury agent Ray King (J.K. Simmons), who recruits a young employee (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to assist him in any way that she can. While they’re are looking into him, Christian takes on a state-of-the-art robotics company as a legitimate client. But once Wolff realizes that there’s more going on underneath the hood of this company, then more and more people start getting killed, which leads Wolff to making some very deadly decisions.

Is this how accountants fall in love?

Is this how accountants fall in love?

A part of me is actually surprised about the Accountant‘s rather lackluster reception among critics. Here is, for the most part, a piece of adult-entertainment, that’s dark, weird, violent, and mysterious. I dare call it “original”, because lord only knows how many movies about murderous-accountants there are actually out there (Google says “none”, but you never know), but still, it has all the qualities of the sort of movie that critics and adult-audiences seem to love and adore.

So why don’t more and more people like it?

Well, for the most part, it is a very odd movie. Despite director Gavin O’Connor having made some normal, relatively simple character-studies with Warrior, Miracle and Tumbleweeds, here, he seems to have gotten brought into the cold, cruel world of Bill Dubuque’s script – one that literally features an accountant with Autism, kicking ass, taking names, and shooting all sorts of people down, whenever he isn’t doing math and charming the pants off of fellow accountants. It sounds so strange and in ways, it actually is, but somehow, Dubuque and O’Connor seem to come together in a way that makes this weird world actually work and take place in some sort of reality to where we care for the characters, their situations and most importantly, what actually happens.

The Accountant is interesting in that it wants to be about Christian Wolff, his issues growing up, and his issues as an older-man trying to wade through the world, but at the same time, still wants to be this violent thriller in which rich people are getting knocked-off one by one. We know there’s a connection along the way, somewhere, however, the movie still plays both sides of the field, making it appear to be two movies, yet, still feeling wholly as one. It’s odd to describe, I know, but the Accountant is the kind of disjointed, uneven movie I would normally despise and be confused by, but that didn’t happen this time – instead, I was actually brought in by the story and most of all, its characters.

And playing against-type, Ben Affleck is, as usual, pretty great. He has a lot of weird tics that he has to go through with Christian Wolff, but mostly, Affleck does it all in an effective way to where this guy’s still a total mystery and we don’t know what he’s going to do next, or to whom, yet, we still like and trust that he’s a good person. Part of that is Affleck’s general likability, but another part of it is that the movie does an effective job of placing flashbacks when they need to be placed, which allows us to know more and more about Wolff’s adolescence and get a better, if more sad, picture of what this dude’s life has been.

Oh, and it also helps us be absolutely shocked when he starts killing people with the simple pull of a trigger.

"Yeah, I know. But the solo Batman movie will be better."

“Yeah, I know. But the solo Batman movie will be better.”

Others in the cast are quite good, too. Anna Kendrick has a silly role as the fellow auditor, but still gets by on being charming; J.K. Simmons has a dumb scene in which his character explains everything that we need to know about Wolff and their history together, but besides that, he still does a solid job playing; Jon Bernthal is cool, but menacing as the one hitman who’s going around and shooting down all of these rich folks; Jon Lithgow has a couple of crazy moments that makes me wish he would take more of these darker flicks; and Jeffrey Tambor, unfortunately, isn’t around a whole lot, but a part of me feels like a lot of his stuff may be somewhere on the cutting-room floor.

Still, what all of these performers do, and do well, is that they all add a little something to a movie that, quite frankly, could have come off way too serious and melodramatic. In a way, they help it all come-off more legitimate, with Bernthal actually getting one or two emotional moments that hit the right notes, even in a movie that wouldn’t seem to know anything about them. This allows for all of the blood and violence that does eventually come around, to hit a whole lot harder and feel like more than just your typical action-thriller – it’s one with more on its mind and more in its heart.

As strange as that heart may be.

Consensus: While not perfect and definitely an odd hybrid, the Accountant gets by on a solid cast, a smart direction that takes itself seriously just enough, and a couple of nice twists and turns that keep this mystery alive.

8 / 10

So. Many. Numbers.

So. Many. Numbers.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Hollars (2016)

Family’s suck. No matter how colorful.

John Hollar (John Krasinski) is having a bit of a rough time in his life. He’s struggling to make something of his career as a graphic designer, so he now works in retail, hoping to make something from nothing, and now, impregnated his girlfriend (Anna Kendrick), and doesn’t seem to know if he’s ready for that or not. Either way, John’s going to have to grow up real soon as he finds out that his mom (Margo Martindale) has brain cancer. Feeling as if it’s finally time for him to go home and see the family he left behind so many years ago, John has to put up with a lot – despite his mom actually being all fine and dandy, all things considering, everyone else in his family seems to be crumbling. John’s brother (Sharlto Copley) is still reeling over his divorce and estrangement from his kids, while his father (Richard Jenkins), is about to lose his company and file for bankruptcy. Not to mention that one of his mom’s nurses, also happens to be an old foe from high school (Charlie Day), who’s now married to his high school girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). So yeah, it’s an odd time for John, but he’s going to do whatever he can to make out as humanly sane as possible.

To read the full review, head on over to Riot-Nerd and check it out. It’s a new gig that I’ll be showing up on every so often, so yeah, check it out and let them know what you think!

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)

Yeah, it would be a total shame if you looked like Zac Efron and couldn’t get a date.

Mike and Dave Stangle (Adam Devine and Zac Efron) are two bros who like to party hard. In fact, maybe a bit too hard. Everywhere they seem to go, they create some sort of havoc that can’t be maintained and while it is definitely memorable, it’s for all of the wrong reasons. That’s why, with their sister’s wedding coming up, Mike and Dave’s parents are a bit worried; to be fair, they know that Mike and Dave are capable of being grown-ass adults, but they also know that they can always make sure something will go wrong, even if they don’t mean for it to. So, in a way to have them grow up a tad bit and look presentable at the wedding, Mike and Dave are forced to find dates to the bring to the wedding. While Mike and Dave have known their fare share of women over the years, they want to find someone who is, at the very least, kind and caring. Eventually, they post an ads on Craigslist, allowing them to meet all sorts of wacky and wild ladies, and sometimes, even men. Eventually, they settle on two gal-pals, Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) – two women who are both playing Mike and Dave to get a weekend vacation in Hawaii for free, even if the bros themselves don’t actually know this.

When the broskis walk in, you always know it.

When the broskis walk in, you always know it.

Believe it or not, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is actually based on a true story. In order to spare you from looking it all up and wasting anymore of your time on this thing than is more than necessary, just know this: The movie follows the true story, almost note-by-note for the first-half. The dudes become Craigslist famous, they get on talk shows, they eventually meet a bunch of wacky characters that only Craigslist meeting’s can have, and yes, they do get dates. However, that’s about where the movie’s inspiration seems to end, as well as its originality.

See, the biggest issue with Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is that it just isn’t all that funny. Real story or not, writers Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien have an promising premise on their hands, one that’s ripe with hilarity, fun, and all sorts of raunchy R-rated fun; think perhaps, Todd Phillips, with a dash of Generation-Y cuteness. But instead of actually infusing any sorts of fun, liveliness, or even originality, Cohen and O’Brien seem as if they’re perfectly fine with quoting far better, more memorable movies, not giving us any characters, and especially, not even trusting their own actors to really work well together, or alone.

Either way you put it, the movie’s just not funny.

There are bits and pieces where there seems to be some comedic inspiration, however, it’s clear that they don’t seem to come at all from the script. A lot of what appears to be going on in Mike and Dave is that there’s a lot of improv between the actors, where there may have been four or five cuts of a scene, that may have had a different joke, or line thrown in there for good measure. That’s sometimes fine, especially if you have as talented as the people you have here, but it seems like the takes that director Jake Szymanski eventually settled on, weren’t all that funny in the first place.

And heck, even judging by the end-credits (are you surprised that another mainstream comedy has one?), it seems that some of the better jokes were left out. Why is this? Well, it seems like the movie itself has an identity crisis of sorts; while it wants to be a nutty, dirty and absolutely care-free R-rated comedy, it also wants to be a sweet, endearing and nice take on friendship, love and most importantly, marriage. That’s not to say that both sides can’t exist in one movie, but for some reason, they just don’t come together here.

Typical bros.

Team Foxcatcher? More like, Team Ladycatcher! Am I right?!?

Instead, they feel like they’re taking away from what could be a really funny movie, if anybody cared enough to really add any actual “funny” jokes. While humor is definitely subjective, in nature, there’s no also no denying that when something doesn’t work well, it’s noticeable. Think of a fresh and new stand-up comedian trying his material on the stage – he may have the goods and may possess a funny bone in his lanky, sometimes awkward body, but he just can’t get it all out to where people understand that they’re funny and know what “being funny” actually means.

Not speaking from experience, but you get my drift.

And while the likes of Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, and Adam Devine, have all proven themselves to be very funny, they just aren’t here. None of them have really discernible personality traits that make them stand-out or excite us, mostly because they’re all just “characters” and not actual “people”. Which, yeah, sure, you can make the argument that characters in movies don’t need to necessarily be “real people”, but when your movie is based on a true story, it’s kind of hard not to expect that. After all, Cohen and O’Brien must have thought that there was something heartfelt about this story of true bros who, after searching far and wide on Craigslist for possible dates, ended-up bringing girls that they knew when they were younger and less bro-ish.

Or maybe they were? I wouldn’t know just from judging this movie and that’s it’s biggest problem!

Consensus: Despite a few funny moments, mostly thanks to a talented cast, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates also needs more than just pretty girls to help them, but funny jokes and likable characters to help make the actual event worth RSVP’ing for.

4 / 10

And they lived happily ever bro-y.

And they lived happily ever bro-y.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Comingsoon

Digging for Fire (2015)

Buried treasure is a perfect metaphor for one’s mid-life crisis.

Tim (Jake Johnson) and Lee (Rosemarie DeWitt) are, for the most part, a happy couple. They have a child together, and even though they can’t necessarily agree on what education is the best for him, they still love one another enough that it’s only a slight problem. But having been married for so long can make a person feel a bit suffocated; which is why Lee decides to take it upon herself to head out on a little relaxing trip of her own. This leaves Tim at home, all by himself, for the whole weekend – which he more than takes advantage of. For one, Tim throws a banger full of booze, drugs and women, and then, all of a sudden, discovers a bone and a gun in his backyard. Where it’s come from, he doesn’t know, however, Tim is more than inspired to find out just what the hell else is hidden underneath the dirt that surrounds him and his pad. Meanwhile, Lee herself is having some bit of fun as she goes out gallivanting one night, and stumbles upon the charming Ben (Orlando Bloom), who immediately takers her breath away and makes her ponder whether or not marriage is actually cut-out for her in the first place.

If he can smoke...

If he can smoke…

You could make a fair argument that Joe Swanberg tends to make the same movie, over and over again. While he does switch-around the plots, for the most part, everything is exactly as mumblecore-ish and as simplistic as you could expect it to be. When you go into seeing a Joe Swanberg movie, you expect something with a fly-on-the-wall approach, where it may seem like nothing’s happening, or that it ever will. To some, this can annoy up to high heavens, but for others, such as myself, it’s truly a treat to watch in amazement.

Even if, sometimes, the end results aren’t always so great as you’d hope.

But that isn’t to say Digging for Fire isn’t a good movie from Swanberg in any sort of fashion – in fact, just the opposite. Compared to last year’s Happy Christmas, it feels as if Swanberg has more of a story to roll with here and even though he’s only using them as a way to pass through his metaphor about growing old and marriage itself, it’s still done in such a way that didn’t seem manipulative. Are the rusty gun and odd-looking bone symbolism for how tired and worn-out these two main characters feel? Or, are they just story-telling devices that Swanberg utilizes to make us think that something crazy, or better yet, shocking is going to happen around then, until we realize that, well, not really? Does it really matter?

Nope, not really. And the reason that is, is because Swanberg knows how to tell a story by standing back and letting everyone in front of the camera do the talking for him. Though Swanberg apparently co-wrote this script with Jake Johnson, a part of me still feels like that doesn’t account for anything; there are still many patches throughout this movie where it’s evident that everybody’s just riffing on whatever they feel should come next in the scene that they’re currently filming. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a complaint, seeing as how I usually love the spontaneity Swanberg’s able to draw-out of his performers using this directing-approach, but it does make me wonder how much better some of these films would be, with a little more push here and there in the creative-department.

But, that said, Digging for Fire still works enough as is because it is, for one thing, a funny movie. Sure, some of that has to do with the fact that, in addition to the two main stars, the likes of Sam Rockwell, Mike Birbiglia, Melanie Lynskey, Anna Kendrick, and Chris Messina show up for a little while, but it also has some part to do with the fact that Swanberg takes Tim’s life and main dilemma seriously. Basically, the main question is why Tim’s going to town on digging into the yard? Does it really matter what Tim finds?

Maybe.

Then, so can she dammit!

Then, so can she dammit!

But whatever Tim does find, Swanberg makes it a point to keep himself more invested on what goes in and around Tim’s life and while they may be all a bunch of fun to laugh and be around, it’s Johnson’s Tim who always comes off as the more charismatic figure. For one, his character is given the most background info in that he seems like a bit of a boring, tied-down, but after a little while, shows that he’s capable of having a great time and being the life of the party when he’s called on to do so. Sure, he’s still got a wife and kid, but he won’t hesitate one second to snort that line of coke. Johnson does well with this character in that he shows he’s both smart, but a bit dopey at the same time, and it makes you hope that, even if it isn’t as memorable as he hopes, whatever he finds underneath all that dirt, at least gives him some satisfaction in life.

Of course, because Johnson’s role is so well-done, Rosemarie DeWitt does seem to get cheated here a bit. It’s one thing if DeWitt’s scenes just aren’t that interesting, but she hardly gets that much time on the screen. There’s the first-half of the movie and then, randomly, she’s nowhere to be seen until the final act where she’s now out on the prowl herself. DeWitt’s still solid in this role and shows that she’s able to work with not that much, but at the same time, makes me wish that Swanberg and Johnson, gave her character just as much time and effort as they gave the Tim character.

Like I alluded to before, though, there’s a lot of funny and famous people who show up here, all of whom, do fine. Rockwell is his usual killer-self; Birbiglia is nerdy and twitchy; Brie Larson is cool and full of personality; Kendrick is, for some lovely reason, a bit of a skank; and oh yeah, Orlando Bloom shows up. See, here’s the thing about Orlando Bloom: It’s not that I think he’s a bad actor, per se, it’s just that he hasn’t even really had time to grow out of being anything more than just Will Turner. You could say that he had Elizabethtown, but honestly, nobody had that movie to work with. Bloom shows up here for a short time as an object of Lee’s affection and does a solid job, given the time that he’s given to work with. He’s cool, suave, charming and most of all, not annoying. To me, this shows that maybe, given some time on his part, Orlando Bloom could start showing different layers of his acting-talent, if given the right chance and time to do so.

So, please guys! Try and do that if you can!

Consensus: Though Digging for Fire is typical Swanberg-fare, it’s still funny, insightful, and well-acted enough to where it feels like there was a bit more effort on not just the part of Swanberg’s, but the unexpectedly star-studded cast as well.

7 / 10

And they might as well, too.

And they might as well, too.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

Is it cool if dudes call each other “pitches”? If not, I’ll make it happen.

After embarrassing themselves in front of a huge, national audience, especially including President Obama himself, the Barden Bellas now find themselves hit with the reality that they may not be allowed to participate in anymore professional acapella competitions. However, by finding a loophole, they realize that they continue to work and perform together, it’s just that they’ll have to compete in the global tournament in order to do so. Which doesn’t sound so bad considering that they are a very talented team, but with them going up against the rest of the world, and the fact that now everybody in the group is dealing with problems of their own, they’re also dealing with the idea of not wanting to sing anymore. Becca (Anna Kendrick) now sees her music career popping-off in a way that she’s always wanted it to; Chloe (Brittany Snow) doesn’t know if she wants to leave school yet and, as a result, be leaving the Bellas behind as well; and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), well, who knows with her?

The first Pitch Perfect was fine. So many people, over the past couple of years at least, have made it out to be some sort of comedy classic that went straight from being a beloved by cults, and straight into the mainstreams with it’s lovely songs, therefore, altering the fact that the movie itself wasn’t anything special. Sure, it was funny, had snappy musical-numbers, and featured the awe-inspiring moment that will forever change the way how people use red solo cups, but get past all of that, you’ve just got a middling movie that’s better than a lot of what we see nowadays.

So much tension.

So much tension.

So with that said, the idea of there being a second one wasn’t exactly jumping at me as an amazing idea, but then again, this movie isn’t really made for cranky wankers like me. It’s made for the adoring fans who hold the first movie so near and dear to their hearts, so much so that they actually went out of their ways to start their own acapella groups. Which is to say that when they do see Pitch Perfect 2, they’ll be more than pleased. There’s a lot of singing, dancing, and jokes made at the expense of Rebel Wilson’s rotund physique.

Does that make the movie bad? Not really, but like so many other sequels out there where the same things seem to be happening, and there’s hardly any differentiation between the two movies to be found.

But with this sequel, if there’s one attribute that makes it mildly interesting at best, is the fact that Elizabeth Banks is making her full-fledged directorial debut with it, and it’s not as bad as some actor’s first movies can be. That may sound like a lame thing to say, but it’s the truth – because Banks was taking so much on her plate as was, it’s impressive to see her handle it all with ease. She isn’t necessarily doing much else that’s different from the first movie, but that doesn’t matter so much because there are quite a few moments that are genuinely funny.

Having worked with Judd Apatow and co. many times in the past, it makes sense that Banks would understand what it takes to make people laugh, and what can be seen as funny. In the spirit of the first flick, some jokes are mean-spirited and seem to come completely out of nowhere. Other times, they’re the same gags that either go nowhere. There’s an Asian character here called Lilly Onakurama, who is from the first and, just like in that movie, speaks with a very quiet and tender whisper which, if you listen close enough to, will be able to realize that all she’s saying is weird, almost psychotic things. There’s also another character from the first one here named Stacie Conrad, and because she’s a butch lesbian, everything she does or says is overtly sexual and masculine.

Are any of these gags funny? Not really, but once again, the crowd whom this was made for, clearly do.

So smug, Banks.

So smug, Banks.

The only instances in which this movie can actually be funny is whenever Rebel Wilson takes the stage. While Wilson may have been a tad too overexposed after the success of both the first movie, as well as Bridesmaids, which lead to the ultimately disappointing Super Fun Night, there’s no denying that she has a comedic-talent that strays away from being just all about her physical presence. Sure, she enjoys making a fat joke about herself every once and awhile, but it’s used in a snarky, condescending tone that makes it actually funny, as well as smart; therefore, helping her character’s humor hit all the more harder whenever she’s thrown into situations where she’s called upon to be, well, funny.

Banks finds ways to use Wilson here that work for the later, as well as the movie itself. There’s a rather extended sequence in which Fat Amy sings to her love-interest and while it goes on and on, it’s awkward, weird and presented in such a way that it works, much like most of Apatow’s movies do. Though with Wilson getting most of the attention here, it takes away a bit from the likes of Kendrick and Snow, who try to make their presences known, but ultimately, slip a bit through the cracks; especially Snow, whose character I didn’t even know had a subplot going on until the final strand of the flick.

With Kendrick, we get to see Hannah record and possibly get into the music business, which also introduces another new character by the name of Emily Junk-Hardon (yep), played by the very talented and cheery Hailee Steinfeld. Steinfeld is growing into becoming more and more of a likable presence on-screen, which is why I wasn’t too disappointed seeing her character get a lot more screen-time than Kendrick’s; not only can she sing, but she also knows how to be funny, without overdoing it. Which, in the world that Pitch Perfect presents, means a whole heck of a lot.

Just don’t tell its core audience that. Don’t even dare, actually.

Consensus: Much like the original, Pitch Perfect 2 features snappy dialogue, impressive musical numbers, and an okay sense of humor, although it hardly does much else to be different.

6.5 / 10

You go, pitches!

You go, pitches!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Last Five Years (2015)

Well, if you’re a better singer than her, things might not work out.

Cathy (Anna Kendrick) and Jamie (Jeremy Jordan) meet for the first time and it seems like love at first sight. They kiss, make love, yell, scream, shout, holler, sing, dance and generally just act like fools who have finally found that one and only special someone that they have been waiting to find their whole lives. However, like with most relationships that start off as lovely, as promising, and and as loving as this, things begin to get a bit complicated. Cathy is an actress that’s struggling to make it big, and instead, more or less takes a backseat to Jamie’s life as an acclaimed, best-selling author. Jamie, on the other hand, has problems with fully committing himself to this relationship, especially due to the fact that he cannot stop checking out other woman and wanting to possibly sleep with them, if only for one night. Both of their heads clash, although, at the end of the day, they’re love is what keeps them coming back to the same sides of the beds, night in and night out, for at least five years.

Oh, and by the way, it’s all sung.

So spiffy.....

Quite the spiffy gentleman…..

Okay, that’s a bit of a fib. There is maybe 8% of this movie that features some sort of spoken-dialogue, but the rest of that 92% is all singing, all dancing, all tapping, and all music, baby! To some, more macho viewers out there who can’t be bothered with two younglings constantly frolicking all over the screen, professing their love to one another, as well as to the rest of the audience sitting back and watching, it may not seem like the most ideal flick to catch. But for people who appreciate a fine musical, done well enough to where they stop caring about all of the singing, dancing, and professing of love, then sure, it’s okay.

That’s if you only pay attention to Anna Kendrick and Anna Kendrick only.

Because, I’m afraid to say, she’s the only real reason to see this movie. Sure, the movie’s song and dance numbers bring some fun and froth to the proceedings, but what it really comes down to the most, is Kendrick; she’s absolutely letting it all out on each and every song, not once forgetting about the central message of them, and sure as hell not forgetting about that lovely little charm of hers that makes her so damn watchable to begin with. She just about owns this movie and allows for Cathy to come off like a small, scared girl that wants to hit it big, but also doesn’t want to stay in the shadow of her man for too long – she wants to branch out as soon as possible, but she doesn’t want to lose what she beholds the most, her man and his love.

And speaking of her man, Jeremy Jordan is fine, if only because the dude can actually sing. Though I didn’t believe him as the kind of girl that sweeps women off of their feet and is a record-breaking author in today’s day and age, he still sang well and I guess that was sort of the point. I wasn’t supposed to buy him as a character, as much as I was supposed to buy him as a guy who sings an awful lot about being in love, treating that love with kindness and respect, and never forgetting about what makes him live and breath, each and everyday.

It all sounds so beautiful and heartfelt, however, the movie doesn’t always come off that way. It’s more cloying than anything, which probably suits people who are more used to seeing this on the stage, rather than adapted for the screen, where instead of an audience out in front of them, they are literally playing for themselves and whoever is behind the camera. Though this may be have been incredibly uncomfortable to film, not just for Kendrick or Jordan, but everyone involved with it, it hardly shows. Instead, they all seem to really be giving it their all with every ounce of heart and humanity that they’ve got.

Problem is, it’s sort of wasted on a stale premise that doesn’t really say (or, I guess, in this case, “sing”) much of anything new that we haven’t already seen, or heard in most romantic-dramas.

Except that this time, of course, everybody’s singing and dancing. That wouldn’t have been so bad, had the songs been memorable and fun, but in the end, they just come off like listening to your favorite easy-listening station: Sure, a lot’s being sung about, but is any of it really grabbing you? It may holler and belt out lyrics about love, heartbreak, and the pain it causes all of those involved with it, but is it really changing your view on the world of romance, or better yet, what happens after that all goes away and you have to put up with being content with a person you don’t really care much for anymore?

...but honestly, no man deserves A-Kens.

…but honestly, no man deserves A-Kens. No one!

It’s all nice to hear, but you’re not really listening to it unless you’ve fully taken it in, you know? And because of that, the Last Five Years falls flat. It’s a musical that boasts on and on about how its central love story is as rich and pure as you can get, but it ends up coming and going like the several conventional plot-threads that weave in and out of this story to make the emotions seem all the more heightened.

Could Jamie really hook up with that hot, young intern at his place? Will he ever learn to let his writing-career be put on the back-burner so that he can focus more attention on Cathy’s possible life on the stage? Will Jamie just learn to stop being such a wuss and commit already? Or better yet, will Cathy? Oh my gosh! I just don’t know!

It all sounds so very soapy, which is because, it is; except that it’s a soap opera where the later part is actually taken literally and jacked all the way up to 100 so that even the deafest dog can hear what’s being sung about, or by whom. Once again, not saying that the songs are bad, but when all you can really come down to is saying, “You know, love stinks sometimes”, you’re no better than the J. Geils Band.

Although, the J. Geils Band sure as hell didn’t have Anna Kendrick in them, so they were already at a supreme disadvantage to begin with.

Consensus: While boasting an impressive two-hander from Jordan and, especially, the ever-radiant Kendrick, the Last Five Years doesn’t quite go anywhere we haven’t heard, seen, or been sung about before.

5 / 10 

So yeah, soak it up, buddy! I'm right behind ya!

So yeah, soak it up, buddy! I’m right behind ya!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Voices (2015)

Cats are evil, we all know that. But dogs? Never!

Jerry Hickfang (Ryan Reynolds) is an upbeat, happy-going dude who lives his life with his dog, Bosco, and his cat, Mr. Whiskers. He works at a bathtub factory, is generally liked by his co-workers, although some of them feel he’s may be a tad on the off-kilter side, and normally has a chipper-look at the world around him, as morbid and dark as it may be out there sometimes. Oh, and he talks to a psychiatrist (Jacki Weaver) so that he can stop talking to Bosco and Mr. Whiskers. Forgot to mention that little piece of info? Well, sorry. Because, believe it or not, Mr. Whiskers and Bosco actually talk to Jerry; Bosco is obviously very loyal to Jerry and wants him to do the right thing always, whereas Mr. Whiskers is constantly pissing and crapping everywhere, that is, when he isn’t telling Jerry to kill people, just because he can. Normally, Jerry doesn’t listen to Mr. Whiskers, but now that he’s stopped taking his pills and has recently fallen for a co-worker of his (Gemma Arterton), things may now change and Jerry may finally give in to Mr. Whiskers all along.

It’s hard to take a premise like this at all seriously, which is why, for the first hour or so, the Voices is an odd, but wacky hybrid of a movie; one that clearly doesn’t need a few big names attached to it to help it get attention from the curious ones out there, but it also doesn’t hurt much, either. And with that said, I think now is a better time than ever to jump right into one of the main reasons as to why the Voices works as well as it does: Ryan freakin’ Reynolds, people.

The look of someone who has done one too many studio movies and it's time to gut them all away. So to speak.

The look of someone who has done one too many studio movies and knows that it’s time to gut them all away. So to speak.

I’ll admit it, I gave up on Ryan Reynolds a bit back in the day. When 2013 came around and Reynolds himself not only had two box-office bombs, but had them in the same weekend, there was a feeling in the pit of my stomach that no matter how charming this man can be, no matter how much promise of something deeper, far more interesting may appear in brief spots, Ryan Reynolds movie-career would be doomed. Sure, he would still have Blake Lively, his good looks, and possibly even his rockin’ bod that many women, even til this day, still fantasize over, but Ryan Reynolds, no offense to anyone else out there, isn’t getting any younger and because of that, it seemed like Ryan Reynolds, the movie star, was over and done before he could ever fully get off the ground and running.

However, as 2015 shines upon us, it seems like Reynolds’ career is singing a different tune – rather than trying to be anything like the next big movie star that this world has ever seen, Reynolds is, instead, challenging himself as an actor and less of a hot-guy-with-a-sense-of-humor. Nowadays, Reynolds wants to show the world that he’s got plenty of talent to put to use and because of that, we’re treated to one of his best performances in the longest time, as Jerry Hickfang. It’s not a role that many would expect for Reynolds to take – on paper, Hickfang is a weird guy, but seemingly harmless, all because he’s dorky in his own way.

But as time progresses in this movie and we realize that there is something very dark and disturbing brewing inside of Jerry, we see Reynolds’ true charm come out in full spades. This can definitely be attributed to the script for allowing a character like Jerry to have at least some semblance of humanity, even amidst all of the nonsensical blood-shed and murder, but it can also be attributed to Reynolds for not letting us lose sight that this is a seriously messed-up individual who needs to be put somewhere safe and relaxing, where he can be cooped-up for the rest of his life without ever putting other people’s lives into harm’s way.

It is dramatic, you can say, but the tone is so strange here, that it actually works; not to mention that Reynolds is game for wherever this movie seems to take him and Jerry next. There’s more to this Jerry character than just a goofy simpleton who loves everything about life, even if he is a little crazy. And yet, it’s still hard to get past the fact that every chance Jerry gets to be endearing with his silly ways, Reynolds milks it for all that he’s got. The guy may be able to charm the socks off of Queen Elizabeth in her prime, but here, as Jerry, he’s charming in a different kind of way; one that’s a lot more sad and makes you want to give him a hug and let him know it will be alright in the end.

You know, even if it isn’t.

Who doesn't want to wake up to this for breakfast every morning?

Who doesn’t want to wake up to this for breakfast every morning?

As great as Reynolds is, though, the movie still has its fair share of problems and some of that can be seen with the final-half which, like I’ve mentioned a bit before, isn’t like the first-half all that much. Sure, there’s plenty of killing, blood and gore, but the dark comedic-tone isn’t fully there like before; which isn’t to say that there always has to be, regardless of what’s actually going on in the movie. When a movie decides to turn the other cheek and get serious with itself, it isn’t a problem, so long so as the movie doesn’t fully lose its identity in the process.

Here, with the Voices, I felt like that actually happened – the laughs come very few and far between, certain characters start acting like they wouldn’t have earlier, and we’re left to focus on more action, rather than any actual humor. The movie didn’t need to be hilarious about the whole way through to make me pleased, however, what it did need to do was stay true to itself. You know, sort of like Jerry – a messed-up individual, for sure, but one who isn’t pretending to be something he’s not.

He is, what he is. For better, and definitely for worse.

Consensus: Though it peers off into far more serious territory, with less than stellar results, the Voices still has enough joy basking in its inappropriate, but fun plot, that is made all the better by one of Ryan Reynolds’ best performances in a long while. Let’s hope this is a sign of beautiful things to come.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Listen to the cat. Always. Listen. To. The. Cat.

Listen to the cat. Always. Listen. To. The. Cat.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Cake (2014)

It’s an easy joke, but no seriously, real cake would have been better.

After an automotive accident, Claire Bennett (Jennifer Aniston) is suffering from all sorts of pain – chronic, emotional, physical, and most of all, personal. But to help her get by, Claire continuously pops pills and drinks cocktails, even though she’s also going to physical therapy and group-meetings to help her with any sort of problems she might be having. However, it seems that the only problem Claire even seems to be bothered with is that she doesn’t understand why everybody is so concerned with a former-member of the group sessions (Anna Kendrick)’s suicide; she’s too mean and nasty for anybody to understand, so of course, they kick her out and hope that she eventually starts to sing a different tune. That sort of happens for Claire, however, maybe not the way some would have wanted it to happen. For instance, she starts an actual, budding relationship with he nanny (Adrianna Barraza), if only as a way to coax her into buying more illegal drugs across the border. And then, if that wasn’t bad enough, she even starts to visit the deceased girl’s widower (Sam Worthington), in what seems to be more than just a normal chit-chat, and something more serious and possibly sexual.

Literally his only scene.

Literally his only scene.

Right off the bat, I feel like it is worth noting that yes, Jennifer Aniston gives a performance unlike any others we seen from her, ever. She’s nasty, foul, cursing, doing drugs, having anal sex, and, what every person has been calling an act of “absolute bravery”, is make-up free. To say that we’ve never seen Aniston like this before, is obvious, because while she’s definitely done movies that have challenged her a bit as an actress and haven’t been the typical, mainstream rom-coms that have plagued her career for as long as the pilot of Friends was aired. But, to say that this is a great performance, isn’t quite right. In fact, not at all.

Though I would definitely like to give Aniston some credit for trying something new in her rather predictable career, she doesn’t seem to have quite the chops as a dramatic-actress that would make a character as vile as her, seem any bit of sympathetic or compelling. Mostly, Aniston spends the whole movie just making miserable, life-is-meaningless wisecracks to all those around her, but rather than seeming like a funny gal, who could actually have something more interesting and hurtful to all of the pain she’s causing to those around her, there’s just nothing. This is maybe more of a criticism of the actual writing for Aniston’s character, but had she’d been a better, more-talented actress, I feel as though she would have been able to somehow pull this kind of character off. She would have still been an annoying, unlikable witch, but there would have at least been more to her act than just, “Oh, she’s mad about life”.

So no, J-Aniston did not deserve an Academy Award nomination for her work here. So nice job, Academy.

For once.

Now that that’s out of the way, I can finally get to the rest of the movie. But honestly, there’s not much to talk about, because it’s pretty terrible. It’s obvious that this movie was made as a possible Lifetime movie-of-the-week that may, or may not have some sort of crossover-appeal, but because so many big stars got involved with it, it all of a sudden shot-up to being the hot ticket come awards season. That it isn’t exactly that, is the least of its problems.

Where the problems with this movie lies is that it has hardly anything interesting to say about depression at all. This may be because the character we’re forced to stick with is so unbearably arrogant, but it may also be because the movie is so stale, it makes you wonder who was trying behind the cameras. Director Daniel Barnz seems like he wants to make some sort of powerful message about how suicide is just a sign that we do have something to live for in life, and that’s precisely it, life itself. However, that’s just all me grasping at straws. What the film seems more interested in developing is how many times and different ways Aniston can groan, moan, or tell somebody to piss-off.

And I know that I continue to wrap-around back to her, but honestly, she is the main problem of this movie. Maybe less so of Aniston’s performance, and more of just the fact that this character isn’t at all worth spending our desired time and/or money on; she’s another one of those rich, stuck-up, self-entitled women who feel as though life is misery and the only way to get by it, is to just let yourself feel like shit, day in and day out. That may be a philosophy that works for some, and if that’s the case, then good for them. I hope that they live lovely, valuable lives. However, I do not want to see someone spend nearly two-hours acting like this. Not only does it become tiresome, but it makes me want to tune away from the movie even more, continue to check my watch, and hope that I can get out soon enough to maybe get home and go on a jog, or something.

So yeah, I guess the movie did its job in that it made me appreciate life in all of its possible glory. However, probably not at all in the way it had originally imagined.

Oh, how I remember the last time I used my friend to get across the border legally. Oh wait! I've never done that because I'm actually a nice human being!

Oh, how I remember the last time I used my friend to get across the border legally. Oh wait! I’ve never done that because I’m actually a nice human being!

But I promise I’ll stop crapping on Aniston’s parade, because there’s actually a lot more people in this cast worthy of talking about. Problem is, they aren’t given anything worthy of their talents, nor to even discuss further than a, “Hey, look! It’s that person, from that thing!”. Like, for instance, we have Sam Worthington, Chris Messina, Lucy Punch, Anna Kendrick, Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy all here, in what seem to be extended cameos that barely go anywhere to drive the point of this movie home, or to even make their presences known as to why we like seeing their familiar-faces in the first place. Which is a shame, too, because the movie’s been advertising the whole ensemble quite effectively, but it seems like none of them were ever around to film a majority of the movie, so instead, Barnz opted to just have them film for a couple of days and leave it at that. It’s not a problem because there’s a dire need of wanting to see more of them (although, that is definitely a feeling), but more of one because their characters’ inclusions only make the structure a bit more flustered and messy.

The only one who gets more attention than the rest, and deservedly so, is Adrianna Barraza as Claire’s caretaker/nanny, who is constantly being taken advantage of for her car, her money, and her nationality, while Claire just soaks it all in and barely even gives her a simple “thank you”. Already it’s easy to feel for this character that Barraza is playing, but there’s a certain sweetness to her performance that made me wonder why the movie wasn’t about her, and Claire wasn’t just a self-agonizing side-character that we saw Barraza’s character have to constantly put up with and try to hold back from murdering in cold blood. Because clearly there’s a few scenes here that seem to be hinting of more explanation of her character and the way she gets about in her poverty-stricken life, but it never materializes to much. It’s simply Claire’s story and guess what?

We don’t care.

Consensus: Truth be told, Jennifer Aniston is trying quite hard to be taken seriously in Cake, but it never delivers because the character she’s playing, as well as the movie itself, is just a thin as the kind of pieces of actual cake you get at a cheap wedding.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!!

Don't strain yourself, Jen. There's always Horrible Bosses 20.

Don’t strain yourself, Jen. There’s always Horrible Bosses 20.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Life After Beth (2014)

Every guy likes a little biting here and there.

After the death of his beloved girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza), Zach (Dane DeHaan) is left something of a mess. But it’s fine because he can at least sit around and confide in Beth’s parents (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon), which he does to the point of where he’s on a first-name basis with them and even tokes up a bit. This makes Zach more than happy, however, something strange happens the next day: Beth’s parents don’t answer any of his calls or door-knocks. They’re ignoring him to the point of where it’s like the past 24 hours had never existed. But that strangeness doesn’t even begin to measure up to the next bit of shock that hits Zach: Beth’s alive. And though it’s weird that she’s alive, this means that Zach can finally spend all of the time in the world with Beth, as if she had never gone away before in the first place. Forget the fact that she’s super-excited about everything, or that her breath smells like garbage, or even that she gets a little too rough when her and Zach are getting intimate, Beth is back, baby! Better than ever, though, she is not and Zach is about to find out possibly what’s going on. Not just with Beth though, but many other countless deceased person’s who all somehow come back to life at approximately the same time.

Holding hands in a pool. Gosh, it must be love.

Holding hands in a pool. Gosh, it must be love.

So, without getting smacked in the comments section, I’ll just say this: If you don’t know where I’m heading with this premise, you might be a little dense. I’m not calling you dumb or totally idiotic to the point of no return, but come on, it’s quite obvious where this story’s headed. And sadly, that’s probably the biggest problem with Life After Beth – while it’s obvious what the main twist/”reasoning” behind Beth’s re-arrival into the story actually is, the movie hardly does anything entertaining or funny with it.

Actually, that’s a bit of a fib because for all that he tries here, writer/director Jeff Baena does add a few neat tricks to the formula of what this story turns out to be, what with the inclusion of jazz music and attic-sex and all. However, it’s simply not enough to fully keep the movie hilarious, or even slightly interesting. Which, for a movie that runs right underneath the 90-minute time-limit, can be a bit of a problem; though it shouldn’t at all feel like a long slog, the fact that its story doesn’t really go anywhere you don’t already expect it to, or at least do so in a refreshing, fun kind of way, the movie feels at least an hour longer. If that.

Though this is mostly because Baena’s fault as a writer and director who doesn’t seem to really know how to make a one-joke premise constantly thrive with energy, the cast still tries with all that they can. Aubrey Plaza has been a joy to watch in practically everything she’s appeared in since people actually realized her talents in Funny People and how she plays the exciting, constantly moving-around Beth is no different. Her dead-pan style may not be used quite as often, but there’s still a joyful feeling to watching Plaza just let loose with material that shouldn’t suit her, but certainly does when you see her actually act it out. It’s no wonder why her and Baena are dating in real-life.

That bastard.

Anyway, I digress, because the rest of the cast is actually fine, too. Dane DeHaan may be running all over the place, Shia LaBeouf-ing his rear-end off, but it still works for him because the guy’s quite charming, even when all he’s really doing is just whining and moping around that things in life are a little weird for the time being. Molly Shannon and John C. Reilly are wonderfully odd as Beth’s parents who seem like alright people, but are a little strange in their own ways and how the movie plays into that is one of the smarter decisions Baena’s able to go through with. Especially with Reilly who, like with most of his roles, shows that he can be a cool, chilled-out fella, but is also a dad, and a responsible one at that. Though there’s not much more depth to his character than that, it’s still a worthy-try on Reilly’s part and it made me wish that there’d been more focus on him, rather than what the hell begins to happen with this plot.

Okay, mom and dad! You're cool, so stop!

Okay, mom and dad! You’re cool, so stop!

Because had there actually been more detail given to all of the characters here, not just Reilly’s, then there’d be a way better movie. The jokes would hit harder; the characters would feel more “sympathetic”, than “cartoonish” as they often do; and what ends up happening to the plot would actually be compelling and have some sort of emotion. Beth and Zach seem like the sort of cute, happily-in-love high school couple that we often see in movies such as these, but their relationship doesn’t get any deeper or more-involved than that; they’re in love because Zach is sad that she’s initially dead and that’s it. We never see it, understand it, or better yet, just don’t even seem to care.

But there is a part of me that wonders whether or not this would work a whole lot better as a short. Sure, all of the nitty gritty details of what happens in the later-half of this movie would definitely have to be taken out, but as a short, Life After Beth probably works best. All Baena would have to do is give us some amount of character-development, throw in the conflict, then the twist, and eventually, the final resolution that they have here in this film. Because everything else, as sometimes entertaining as it can sometimes be, doesn’t really add up to much other than being a cool idea, or one that’s fit for a better movie.

However, this is just a suggestion from a stay-at-home blogger. Take with that what you will, Jeff Baena.

Consensus: Occasionally entertaining in spots, Life After Beth seems like it wants to do something different with the subgenre it tackles, but eventually, just gives way to filler that doesn’t go anywhere, or do anything for its audience. Except, well, bore them.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Okay. Do you finally get what I was alluding to before?!?

Okay. Do you finally get what I was alluding to before?!?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Into the Woods (2014)

‘Cause nothing bad ever happens in the woods.

Many stories are presented here, with almost nearly every one converging in some way, shape, or form, in the deep, dark, hellish woods everybody seems to be travelling into and out of. It all starts when a Baker and his wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt) are told by a witch (Meryl Streep) that if they want to have a baby, they have to give her the exact ingredients she needs to make a potion that will have her to go back to her youth. The Baker and his wife are more than willing to face this task at-hand here and meet many other characters along the way. Like, for instance, Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) who constantly seems to be leading on Prince Charming (Chris Pine), without any promises of actually getting together and/or married. Also, Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) meets up with a little boy named Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) who both codger up something of a friendship, although the big, bad wolf (Johnny Depp) is constantly lurking somewhere in the background. Each story wants to have a good ending, but to ensure a good ending, what must have to be done?

Eat More Chikin'.

Eat Mor Chikin’.

There’s been plenty of talk surrounding Into the Woods and none of it, I feel, is really needed. Sure, if you have already seen the original Stephen Sondheim musical on Broadway or anywhere else, then yeah, you might be a little disappointed that they took some things out, or slightly alluded to others, only to make sure that they’d get a PG-rating that’s bigger and better for the family-friendly audience. Purely from a business standpoint, this is a smart move, but it also brings into question: How much can the original source material of a product be tampered with, to still allow for its original identity to stay relatively put?

Well, my friends, that’s a question I don’t feel the need to answer because, quite frankly, I have never seen the play before. Therefore, it’s a bit difficult for me to make my mind up about what the right, as well as the wrong decisions were made in making sure that Into the Woods not only stays true to its original, core audience, but also is friendly enough so that the whole family can come out to the movies to see, have fun with, and not have to worry about discussing the birds or the bees on the ride home. What I will make up my mind in is saying that Into the Woods, while not perfect, is still a fun musical that should be seen by any and all members of the family.

There, that’s it.

Well, not really. Seeing as how there’s more to this movie than just a bunch of fun song and dance numbers, I think it’s important to note that most of what this movie does is interesting. The idea of taking all of these different fairy-tale stories and throwing them into this world where both realism and fantasy mix together, definitely brings a lot of intriguing, yet compelling elements of story-telling together. For one, you have the tales as old as time that have hardly even been picked apart, but then, on the other note, you have a human heart with a cynical mind, that likes to think that these stories are made so that simply kids can either be very happy to hear, or go to bed. Either way, it’s the kids that are hearing the stories the most and taking them all in, which is why it’s so funny that most of Into the Woods seems to be channeled more towards the adults in the audience, much rather than the other way around.

That’s not to say that most of the movie can’t be enjoyed by the little tikes who decide to go out and see this; as mentioned before, the song and dance numbers are fun, light, and sometimes, incredibly catchy that it might just have them humming it on the way out of the theater, and probably for some time afterwards. But most of Into the Woods seems like, when you look beneath the surface, is a hard-hitting, sometimes dark tale about the choices we all make in our lives and how, while they may seem for the better at the present time that they are made, don’t always turn out so well when thought-about more in the future time to come. The movie also goes on to show all of these characters in both positive, as well as negative lights. Though it seems and sounds like it’s all too much for the little kiddies at home, I can assure you that director Rob Marshall does a solid enough job here that he doesn’t allow for too much of it to go over their heads.

It’s just that more of it goes right directly into the heads of their parents.

For instance, take the character of the Baker’s wife, who is played so well by the always lovely Emily Blunt. While she’s a meek and well-mannered lady, she’s still one that clearly wants to be more than just a mother. She wants to be a lover, and a person who feels needed and desired by those she doesn’t often get such affections from. Without saying too much, she gets what she wants from a certain source and it helps give her character much happiness, for the time being. Once that time is up and she’s had it with all of the cheering, she soon realizes that the choice she’s made may have not been the best for her, or for her husband in the long-run. While she may have thought of it as a smart decision on her part that would bring her much happiness and joy, she soon comes to the conclusion that it wasn’t the smartest move on her part and as a result, without giving too much away again, has to face the consequences.

Captain Kirk and Jack Ryan all rolled up into one hunk. Hold onto your panties, ladies.

Captain Kirk and Jack Ryan all rolled up into one hunk. Hold onto your panties, ladies.

Blunt’s character isn’t the only one who has to suffer the consequences of her sometimes naughty decisions. Anna Kendrick’s Cinderella character knows that she shouldn’t be playing with a person’s heart, but when the power is in her control, she can’t help but do so; Daniel Huttlestone’s Jack wants to be with his best-friend once again and is willing to do whatever he can to make sure of that, but by doing so, may also put those around him at-risk and in total danger; and Meryl Streep’s witch, while seeming like she’s doing a nice thing for a couple who clearly needs her help, is also very selfish in that what she wants to do for herself is to only make herself happy, and nobody else but. The list of good and bad decisions made by these characters go on and on, but all feel honest and well-written, without ever being hammered onto us, the audience, in any way.

Sure, the darkness of the later-part of this movie definitely comes as a bit of a shock once the gears switch themselves around and we realize that there’s going to be some hearts broken here, but it works. Whether you expect it or not, it all feels well-intentioned and as if it wants to inform each and every kid who decides to see this that there are consequences for the choices you make in life, so definitely choose wisely. And also, definitely make sure to do the right thing.

But, like I said before, the movie doesn’t shove this down our throats too much, as it is, as expected, still a fun musical with a more than capable of singing cast.

What I said about Blunt, can definitely be said about Corden who has a bit of a dilemma in his own right that he wants to be a good daddy, but because he didn’t have one, he doesn’t know how to be; Streep’s witch character, while nasty and mean, is sometimes charming in her own evil-way that it’s nice to finally see Streep having fun, without trying to be too emotional either; Chris Pine hams it up so perfectly as Prince Charming, the character every little girl loves and every little boy loved to hate, and for the exact reasons as presented here in a perfect, self-deprecating manner; Anna Kendrick is sweet and pretty as Cinderella, but still does a nice job at reminding us that her character can be a little too quick to push the button with every choice that comes her way; and Johnny Depp, for as little screen-time as he has, is strange, off-kilter, and overall, a delight to watch. He’s not in it for too long, but is at least around enough to be funny, enjoyable, and a little creepy, like we always expect from Depp.

Except that, this time, he’s not with Tim Burton! Yay! Everybody’s a winner!

Consensus: With a bunch of fun, exciting, and well-performed song and dance numbers, Into the Woods presents an actual musical that can be enjoyed by the whole family, yet, still doesn’t shy away from getting down to the nitty, gritty moral decisions of its characters and the lessons that they teach.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Hiding from big Tim, I presume.

Hiding from big Tim, I presume.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Happy Christmas (2014)

It’s ironic. I guess.

20-something Jenny (Anna Kendrick) is a bit of a wreck right now in her life. Not only did her boyfriend just break up with her, but due to emotional problems of hers beyond comprehension, she’s decide to move the ‘eff out and stay with her brother (Joe Swanberg) and his sometimes writer, sometimes stay-at-home momma, Kelly (Melanie Lynskey). Though her brother is fine with her being around and watching over his child, his wife isn’t so keen on the idea, due to the fact that she feels like Jenny is a bit too immature to really put another life ahead of herself. Some part of her is right; other parts of her isn’t. But over time, the two get to connect, talk about life, and eventually get Kelly back into her writing-process, with Jenny right by her side, feeding her idea, after idea, after idea. It’s a neat process that gets Kelly all wrapped up in something that isn’t watching over her kid and having to stay at home all day, and keeps Jenny away from her personal problems, or her feelings to a new guy she meets (Mark Webber).

Not only was I happy to see that last year’s Drinking Buddies, was actually a good movie, but that it began to bring some more exposure to the undeniable and creative talents that are Joe Swanberg. Sure, the guy’s been around for quite some time and it’s not like people haven’t ever heard of him before, but outside of the usual, movie-geek crowd, a name like “Joe Swanberg” wasn’t officially known, or on somebody’s radar. Hell, I don’t even think it is now, but at least they know a little thing or two about what this guy does behind the camera and the constant movies he churns out, once and sometimes even twice, a year.

Is "Hipsters with babies" a thing? If not, I hope it stays that way.

Is “hipsters with babies” a thing? If not, I hope it stays that way.

That said, something like Drinking Buddies, is something that Happy Christmas is not, in that they are both simple premises, but actually feel like they’re building towards something, rather than just more scenes of people talking about whatever the hell the discussion of the hour is at that given moment. Here, there’s not much of a central-conflict, and I was fine with that, however, it did make me wonder what the main problem of this whole movie was going to be. Was it going to be that either Jenny can’t seem to settle down in her life, or, is that she causes too much of a ruckus at a house where a quiet, relatively safe family lives?

It’s never made abundantly clear where this movie’s going to go, or what sort of path it’s going to take, which I commend on Swanberg’s part. He could have easily made this movie a conventional “battle of the sister-in-laws”, but he doesn’t. He ops instead for showing us real ladies, who feel real pain and have real wants and needs that aren’t just sitting at home, watching over their young ones, and cooking dinner, while their hubby gets to do everything he wants to do with his job, his money, and maybe even possibly, his own mistress. But that aside, what I’m trying to say is that Swanberg goes for actually explaining who these characters are, rather than what they could be in the face of a plot that changes.

Which, honestly, is sort of why this film just isn’t as interesting.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good movie, but there’s just a feeling that Swanberg was a little too relaxed with his filming here and much rather just wanted to hang out with Anna Kendrick again. Can’t say I blame him too much, but when it’s at our expense and we aren’t the ones actually “hanging around with” Anna Kendrick, it can seem to be a bit of a bore. Not to mention that the movie never really seems to care about whose story it’s exploring – most of it wants to just be about Jenny and the problems she’s facing in this time of need, yet, also wants to have it another way and much rather focus on Kelly and her “problems” with motherhood and losing her inspiration for her creative-expression. It’s not that neither stories aren’t interesting, it’s just that there’s not much of a focus on either of them, nor does Swanberg really make it seem like he wants to go anywhere with them. It’s just like life, but maybe a little bit too much of so.

Me practically every Christmas morning after I discovered that he was, well, you get the drift.

Me practically every Christmas morning after I discovered that he was, well, you get the drift.

But with that said, both of these women character’s are performed very well by both Anna Kendrick and Melanie Lynskey respectively. Lynskey herself hardly ever gets a chance to fully unveil the true talents she has hiding underneath those lovely looks of hers, and it’s nice to see a lot of that “average-lady” persona come out here. She’s good at it and it feels like she’s an actual mom who has responsibilities on her plate and doesn’t want to screw it up. Yet, at the same time, she wouldn’t mind having a little bit of “alone time” either, just so that she can gather her thoughts and feel somewhat sane for a second. Like how I imagined my mom must have acted when she was raising me.

With more downing of Scotch, of course. But that’s another story, for another day.

But the one who really makes this movie work so well is Anna Kendrick herself, and it’s hard to be surprised about that. Kendrick uses her lovable, sometimes ditsy charm the only way she knows how to and it’s absolutely lovely to watch. Also not to mention that it feels so incredibly natural, that when she has to use all of this everyday lingo like “like”, or “uhm…so…yeah”, it doesn’t feel forced or thrown upon us to make us see how real this material is. She sells it like that and if Swanberg wants to keep on making movies with her for the rest of his life, I’m totally fine with that.

Just give me something of a better movie is all and we’ll be fine.

Consensus: Feels less thought-out than past movies, Happy Christmas finds writer/director Joe Swanberg spinning around in circles, figuring out what to film about, and instead, just focuses enough on his characters and the cast to make it worth while, if only slightly.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Lena Dunham around a young child?!?! I'm pretty sure that's a crime!

Lena Dunham around a young child?!?! I’m pretty sure that’s a crime!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Wish I Was Here (2014)

Somewhere out there, James Mercer is pissed that he didn’t get a paycheck.

Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff) is an aging, near-40-year-old dad who is struggling to make ends meet with his life. He works, but as an actor, which only means that he sometimes gets a role, and sometimes, he doesn’t. Basically though, he just day-dreams and longs about the good old days in which he and his brother (Josh Gad) used to dream about being in some sort of futuristic, sci-fi world where they were the good guys and everything that they wanted to happen, did in fact happen. However, the reality of it is that Bloom’s life kind of blows: His kids (Joey King and Pierce Gagnon) get kicked out of their private Jewish school; his father (Mandy Patinkin) is slowly dying; his wife (Kate Hudson) is working a dead-end job that she hates and gets hit on by a co-worker at; and worst of all, the family is on the end of poverty. Without knowing full well what to do, Aidan decides to home-school his kids into being the best that they can be, while at the same time, seeing if he can be there for his dad when he needs him the most, especially during this critical time.

Though I clearly wasn’t in the intended age-group, Garden State still worked like gangbusters and gave me the impression that Zach Braff was capable of doing wonderful things with his career when he wasn’t being goofy, yet lovable J.D. Dorian. That said, Garden State was released nearly ten years ago and it makes you wonder exactly why it took Braff so damn long to get something out in the first place. Sure, people will say it was because no major-studio would back a project of his choosing (hence the infamous KickStarter campaign), but personally, I think it’s because Braff didn’t have much of a story to really work with. Maybe, just maybe, Garden State was all he had to say or do for the movie world, because when it comes right down to it: He’s sort of left treading the same waters.

He still obviously can't get over another charmingly beautiful blonde.

He still obviously can’t get over another charmingly beautiful blonde.

Because, in the case of Wish I Was Here, as much as it pains me to say, it seems like Braff just remade Garden State, but this time, set it in Hollywood, get a bigger-budget, and involve less hipster-ish things to be found. Because yes, Braff is almost 40 and with that title comes going through the motions that most adults go through, and that’s what we all call “adulthood”. And it’s a shame to see somebody as lively and as charming as Braff to get older, grow up a bit and have to deal with real issues that most adults have to deal with on a daily-basis, but he’s only human dammit, so I guess it was inescapable.

However, him being older in age and in the brain, doesn’t excuse this film from being a mess; much rather, a mess that doesn’t know what it wants to say. I already made a mention of this being like a sort-of remake of Garden State, but the real fact is that this movie doesn’t have a clue what it wants to do, whereas every move that movie made was clear, inspired and brought the whole piece together. Here, with Wish I Was Here, you can almost see Braff fumbling with this story, what it means, what he’s trying to say, and how we’re all supposed to make sense of it. Which, in all honesty, would have been fine really, had anything in the mess been all that interesting to begin with. But there isn’t anything of that nature.

Seeing Zach Braff in a movie and his wife being Kate Hudson is interesting, I guess, but they’re kind of a traditional-couple that doesn’t quite feel like anything we haven’t seen done before. In a way too, we sort of feel bad for her and have a problem with him, because while he’s off trying to live his dream (aka, sit at home, mope, whine and not do shite with his life), she’s out at work, with people she hates, doing work she downright distastes, and practically supporting the whole family. Hudson’s fine in this role and has more than a couple of scenes where her charm comes out, but her character seems like she’s just a stepping-stool and after awhile, you’ll wonder when she’s going to get fed-up with all of this crap, take the kids and leave Braff’s bum-self.

And that’s not saying Braff is at all bad in this movie – in fact, he’s very much still Zach Braff, if that makes any sense. He’s still quick-witted, smart, charming, a tad goofy, and capable of being serious when he so damn well pleases, but his Aidan Bloom-character just isn’t all that fascinating to begin with in order to have us want to see where his life goes and why. We know that he wants to support his adoring-family, while also maintaining a respectable career as an actor, but sooner or later, it gets to be a bit tiresome to see him constantly try hard and then end up bummed out about life. I get that’s how life works in general, but it’s not something I want to watch for nearly two hours, especially not in this pretentious of a way.

Also, with that being said, the movie does feel like its every bit of two hours, which really does this movie in. And because of its length, more of the movie’s weaker-points begin to show a lot more. For instance, the whole subplot with Bloom’s brother, could be taken out completely and there would be nothing at all wrong with this movie. Not only would it trim some film, but it would also spare us the corny message Braff ends up summing this film on.

Back together, at last. Sadly though, no Turk dance. Dammit.

Back together, at last. Sadly though, no Turk dance. Dammit.

Basically, by connecting each and everyone of the subplots he has cobbled-up here, Braff lets us know that parenting is hard, and that’s about it. There’s a lot more talk about the Jewish faith, where we go when we all die, some of his thoughts on that, and why family is important, but it never quite builds to anything. All it is is filler for Braff to keep his movie long, over-stacked and as pretentious as he can possibly make it. And yes, I know I sound terrible and all, but seriously, was this really the type of movie us fans donated money towards? Something that just repeats exactly what Braff did nearly ten years ago, except this time, have it include family, and death, and the Jewish faith?

I don’t think so and honestly, if I were Zach Braff, I’d feel a little ashamed in myself. That’s not to say that everything in this movie is terrible; more often than not, the choices Braff makes as a director are as bold as they could come from somebody not being fronted by a major-studio. However, more often than not, Braff falls down with whatever message he’s carrying, and while he does get back up to fight again, and again, and again, you have to wonder when he’s going to just stop, give it up and let us realize that maybe he doesn’t have much left to say at all.

Except that the Shins are a really rad band. Man.

Consensus: While it may be nice to see Zach Braff both in front of, as well as behind the camera after all of this time, Wish I Was Here still can’t help but feel like a disappointing retread of ideas, themes and messages he’s explored before, to a much better result.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

That's all of your money, people. Hope it was all worth it.

“Hey, aren’t you that guy from that show where you played the doctor who was sort of goofy and had all of these day-dreams and it was funny?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

A 2-hour-long wet dream for any video game nerd out there. All that’s missing: Bewbs.

In Toronto, 22-year-old bum Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is trying to make it big with his garage band Sex Bob-omb, lives with his gay roommate (Kieran Culkin), and has just recently fired up a relationship with a young high school student named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), even though everybody around him disapproves of it. Everything’s going all swell between Scott and Knives, that is until Scott has a dream of a girl named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a quirky, color-haired American gal that seems all to good to be true. Thing is, she isn’t something only dreams are made of, SHE’S FREAKIN’ REAL!! This obviously gets Scott’s heart beating up and down, and his mind going berserk, so he does what any love-struck dude would do: He pursues her in hopes of being her new love-interest. However, in order to do so, he needs to defeat her 7 evil exes with any trick he can pull off. Which ultimately means, a lot of “KAPOWS”, “WHAMS”, and “BAMS”.

No “THANK YOU, MAMS”, cause honestly, that would just be way too meta.

For the third time since it came out, I have watched Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and why I never decided to chalk-up a review for this until now, is totally beyond me, although I think I may have a clue as to why. There’s something about Edgar Wright movies that just intimidate the hell out of me; so intimidating, that I’m scared to even bother writing reviews about them, and feel more better just telling people that I’m a fan of them through conversation. It seems like every Wright flick has its own core audience that understands every joke, every pun, every piece of wit, and just about everything thing about it, so much so that any person who doesn’t quite “get it” or even like it for that matter, is ultimately “a noob”. Maybe that’s just all in my head (most likely is), but that’s the main reason why I have yet to write a review of this flick.

Got her with the old, "Do you know the history of Pac-Man" line. Works like a charm every time.

Got her with the old, “Do you know the history of Pac-Man?” line. Works like a charm, every time.

That is, until now. Three years after the fact, and just in time for The World’s End.

Never reading any of the graphic novels going into this, I have to say that I went in, originally, not knowing what to expect, other than sure mayhem. Why? Well, because it is directed and co-written by Edgar Wright who, as you may or may not know, is the creator of two of the funniest comedies from the past decade: Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. So yes, going into it, I knew that I was going to have to be watching the screen the whole time just to see and spot out all of the visual-gags, and get ready for what would be a very quick and fast movie, one that would not slow up for me or hold my hand, guiding me through to where I wasn’t left behind. If I missed a joke or two, Wright wouldn’t stop doing what he was doing so I could keep, so therefore, I knew I couldn’t either. However, despite Wright’s style being practically the same from every one of his other movies (meaning that they’re all hilarious, including this one), there’s something a tad bit different to the approach that he takes with this flick.

Rather than being a full-on parody of a certain genre, then becoming a film that could easily be considered apart of the same genre he is mocking, Scott Pilgrim is more of a straight-forward story that doesn’t make fun of any certain genre; instead, it combines two different types of styles that we usually see done in movies, but never to the full extent as they are done here: Video games and comic books. Right from the beginning of this flick, you can tell it’s obviously going to be an ode to video games; where when characters get hit, there will be words like “BOOM” and “BANG”, along with a bunch of frenzied colors gracing the screen as well. Even other action words like “RIIIING” or “THONK” show up, but here’s what surprised the hell out of me here: It never gets boring to see. Instead, Wright finds a way to make each and every one of these aspects of his style work and continue to spring out more inventiveness within his project, even if it is solely for the gamers out there that grew up on Zelda, and know the Final Fantasy II theme song by heart. I’ve never considered myself a full-fledged “gamer” of sorts, but this movie made me feel like I was watching one on screen, and a very fun and hilarious one at that.

And yes, there are plenty of comic book trademarks here, but not as obvious or as over-zealous as the video game trademarks. With that said, the movie still has plenty of fun with its manic energy that, not even for a single second, let up. There do come the moments in this movie where it has to slow down and give us a little bit of characterization and development, just so that we care a bit more, but even then the story still never cools down. It continues to fire more and more jokes, gags, and funny quips at us, all while feeling like an honest and heartfelt story about a dude just trying to overcome his own mishaps with love and life, and just be with the girl of his dreams, literally. Which actually surprised me because even though the flick never gets too serious or meaningful in the least, it still has a story placed well into the middle somewhere, that goes beyond just being about “a dude facing off a bunch of evil ex-boyfriends”. It’s more about a guy coming into his own, realizing how much of an ass he was in the past, and best of all, still learning that love is the most sacred thing to behold in your life, and you shouldn’t let it go, not even for a second. Some pretty soapy stuff, but it has a meaning for being present and I have to give Wright credit once again for at least tackling a the rom-com genre, and giving it a new vision, while providing the same kindred thoughts and spirits as well.

But like I said before, this movie is fun, fun, fun, and that must never be forgotten. Everything you expect to see from an Edgar Wright movie is here, if not more than that. Obviously there’s going to be a generational-gap between the people that did love the hell out of this, and the people that hated its guts, but that’s neither here nor there. What is “here”, is the matter of fact that this flick knows what type of movie it is, and continues to find new, improved, and refreshing ways to tell its story, while also giving us just the right amount of adrenaline and craziness we need to really get involved with it. You can be a “geek”, and love this; and you could be just a normal, average dude who enjoys movies for the sake of entertainment, and still love this. It doesn’t matter who you are, you’ll enjoy the hell out of this, and continue to find more and more aspects about it that you love about it.

That IS how people dress in Toronto. So disgraceful!

Yes, that IS how people dress in Toronto. So disgraceful!

Case in point: Me. I’ve seen it about three times by now, and it continues to get better and better. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’ve finally got a handle on what good humor is, or maybe its just that I’ve wised-up in the past couple of years and came to notice that Edgar Wright is one of the freshest voices we have in the movie world, and it’s better to embrace him, rather than be away from the rest of the pack and say “I don’t get him”. Maybe that’s it. I still don’t know. I love this movie, let me just leave it at that, okay dammit!!?!??!?

It seems pretty obvious though, that if you’re going to have a movie strictly dedicated to nerds from all over the globe, that it’s only right to include none other than everybody’s favorite celebrity nerd in the lead: Michael Cera. For most people, hearing Cera’s name attached to anything just gets them waving their hands up in disapproval, which makes sense. The guy definitely hasn’t done himself any favors by practically George Michael again and again, role after role; however, from my side of the room, I like what Cera does with these roles and even though he is still awkward, still a bit nervous, and always not-so sure of himself here, he’s still amusing and shows that he can prove to be a bit of a toughie as well. Also, surprised to see that he was playing that wasn’t the smartest guy in the room, or even the whole movie for that matter. He’s a bit of an bumbling idiot when it comes to certain decisions, and shows that he can still get by using his typical trademarks you may, or may not, love him for, but also spice it up a bit as well. Nothing too drastic in terms of what he does as Scott Pilgrim, but the dude seems really comfortable and seems really deserving of the honor of playing every nerd’s favorite superhero, that isn’t Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman (if you get my drift?).

While Cera’s doing his thing in the lead, everybody else on the side do their things as well; the difference with them is that they not only seem to be having more fun, but absolutely living it up in the moment, no matter how long they have on screen. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is pretty rad as Ramona Flowers, not just because she’s every hipster dude’s dream woman, but because she handles the dry sense of humor with perfect ease and resilience that it’s not hard to see her popping-up in more of Wright’s features; Keiran Culkin was an absolute riot as Scott’s gay roommate, Wallace, and handles the humor perfectly as well, while also adding his own bits of charm; newbie Ellen Wong is a great fit for Knives Chau because not only is she funny, but she’s quite endearing and cute as well, making it easier for us to get past the fact that she does become a bit stalker-ish by the end; and lastly, nice to see Brandon Routh actually do something with his career and life after donning the cape and spandex for Clark Kent, but also be very funny and show he may have a future in comedy, if he decides to wake up and smell the moolah burning. Those are the ones that just came to my mind first, but honestly, if you think long and hard enough, you’re going to find more and more people in this movie that just knock it out of the park. Everybody’s hilarious, everybody has something to do, and not a single cast-member feels wasted. Not even Mark Webber. Now honestly, when was the last time you saw that guy being funny?!??!?

Consensus: The central demographic for this movie may ruin some viewers, and win the hearts of others, but it can’t be argued that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the perfect example of a movie that never lets up for anything or anyone, while also being hilarious, and always offering us something new to see or enjoy every time we watch it. Third time for me, and I’m still finding stuff out!

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

I guess "Finish Him!" wasn't in the script? Boo! Points taken off!

I guess “Finish Him!” wasn’t jotted down in the idea book? Boo! Points taken off!

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Drinking Buddies (2013)

Hipsters and beer: Let the sexual-fluids begin to fly!

Luke and Kate (Jake Johnson, Olivia Wilde) work at a brewery in Chicago and could probably be confused as a loving, long-term couple. They bicker, they flirt, they play around, they constantly hang out, they get drunk together, and they’re always talking, so why the hell aren’t they together? Well, for starters, Luke is with a modest school-teacher Jill (Anna Kendrick), and Kate is tied-down to the quasi-intellectual, older Chris (Ron Livingston). Eventually, these four all hang-out and spend the weekend at Chris’s mountain house, but that’s when things begin to get a little weird for these four, and they eventually all come to terms with who they want to be with, why, and just who they are as people. Well, that, and a whole bunch of drinking as well. Can’t forget about that fact.

Many will probably dub this as the “coming out” of sorts for writer/director Joe Swanberg who, in case you don’t know, has been the name to run by when it comes to looking for “Mumblecore” films. The style irks some, but recently, it’s been getting a lot of notice and it seems like Swanberg has finally picked-up all of the momentum and speed he needed to finally get his beloved genre out there for the rest of the world to see. Whether or not they’ll take it and accept it for all that it is, is totally left to be decided, but if it’s is this movie that’s going to bring that somewhat annoying genre to the center-fold of the rest of the movie world; then I can see a brighter-future ahead. For the genre at least.

Playing with one another's food? Yup, totally in love!

Playing with one another’s food? It’s gotta be love!

What works so well with this flick is that everything about it, from the conversations, to the style, to the plot-transitioning, all feels real and natural, as if we’re watching real-life happen right in front of our very eyes. Granted, these characters are probably a lot better-looking than us normal-beings, but it’s easy to take them in as real people, who obviously have real feelings and emotions, despite them trying to hide it with all of their might. Most of what happens in this movie, actually, is very small and subtle, but the reactions and the feelings are real, and never make you feel like you’re watching a movie, where a bunch of really talented-people are acting their assess off, just so they can seem “indie enough” to be respected. For most movies, that is obviously the case, but everything here feels so normal and well-played, that you don’t feel it.

Despite it being a very naturalistic movie, it’s also a very thoughtful one that isn’t preachy or as obvious with it’s message as one may think. Swanberg touches on several points about our human-psyche like love, attraction, infidelity, and what cost they have attached to them but never anything too emotional or heavy-handed. It all plays itself out in a way where it makes you feel like you have just as much to learn as these characters in this movie, and that can sometimes be a blessing or a curse. However, with these characters and this script, it’s definitely more of the former than the latter. You’ll be happy to be hanging-around with these characters, feel a bit of an attachment to them, and also hope that everything churns out well for them, whether or not they fully deserve it.

And to be honest, there’s never any real “unlikable” character here to be found. The character of Chris should, on-paper, seem like a total and complete deuche-cake that thinks way too much, about nonsensical, meaningless things, but he actually comes off as just a dude that wants a little bit of love in his life, hasn’t quite found it yet, and is just waiting for that time to come, despite him being a little bit too old in the game to be slumming-around. He’s the only one that comes close to be considered “a bad guy”, which means that everyone else is lovable and easy-to-like, even if they do have some flaws. Actually, major flaws, but what would a human be if they didn’t have a little bit of flaws here and there, eh?

Probably the loveliest part of this whole flick is watching Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde on-screen together. Not only do they share a pitch-perfect chemistry that makes you believe these two as besties on and off the screen, but they also continue to have you guessing throughout the whole movie. Since there’s so much sexual-tension and under-lining love between the two, you can just feel like anything could happen between these two, at any given moment, for any reason. And hell, since they’re always around each other getting a little crunked-up, the odds get even more and more stacked-up as each and every new brew is consumed. These two together, whether it’s mostly improvised or scripted, is a work of beauty to behold and it’s made even better because both are great performers respectively.

The drink of death.

The hospitable drink of death.

Everybody knows Jake Johnson can act his ass off. Whether it’s being serious or comedic, Johnson’s always the go-to guy to make you laugh one second, and then cry the next. He just has that skill and it’s shown to full-effect here. However, when it comes to trumping Olivia Wilde’s screen-presence, Mr. Johnson can’t help but retreat and let her do her thing, which was great because it’s probably Wilde’s best performance ever. Not saying that she won’t get any more of these down the line, but for right now, the girl’s shown us something that not only impressed me with not only how unsympathetic she can be with some of the actions and decisions she decides to take, but with how sad and vulnerable she can be as well. We rarely ever see that side to her act, and it’s one that I wish to see more from her in the future because she’s so good at playing up the dramatic-side, but also still be able to charm us with her light touches as well. Wilde allows Kate to have a presence that isn’t all about being the life of the party or constantly-funny, but just a real person that lives in the moments and tries not to get too tied-down by dumb crap like break-ups or heartbreak, as hard as they may be to avoid.

Let’s hope this means better roles for Wilde, even if they don’t concern her getting naked. Although, I wouldn’t mind that that much either. I’m a man, dammit! I have needs!

Anna Kendrick is also here and very good as Luke’s gal-pal, Jill, who’s actually a bit more confused and depressed than anybody else in this flick. Kendrick is good at being all cute and cuddly when she wants, but also shows an under-lining sadness to her character that works and makes us feel like she’s more rounded-out, than just being known as “the girlfriend.” Same goes for Ron Livingston as Chris who, as I alluded to before, should be a dick, but somehow isn’t. He’s sympathetic, wholesome, and easy to care for, even if he does pull some odd actions here and there. Everybody here is good and all work off of each other perfectly. I can only hope that this means brighter, and better things for all of these stars in the future, even if some of them are already established ones as it is.

Consensus: Drinking Buddies sure as hell won’t last in your mind long after it’s over, but Swanberg’s writing and directing-style, and perfectly-cast group of workers, don’t really seem to be all concerned with that, and more concerned with showing us the realistic, if heartbreaking aspects of friendship and love, no matter how hard you try to stray away from it all.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Practically sleeping together...

Practically sleeping together…

The Company You Keep (2013)

People get old. Even hippies.

Jim Grant (Robert Redford) is living the life that most men of his age should. He has a job, he has a kid, he has responsibility, and he seems to have no problems. That all turns inside-out once a fellow acquaintance of his (Susan Sarandon) turns herself over to the police for a crime she and others committed almost 30 years ago. Grant may or may not have been apart of it, but before he can even turn himself clean, young and reckless journalist (Shia LaBeouf) decides that it’s his time to shine and accidentally “outs” Grant as a former member of an underground movement that had something to do with the death of a bank-teller, those fateful 30 years ago.

This reminds me of one of those thrillers that should have been made, and probably would have made more sense in the 70’s. Due to the fact that a lot of this movie has to do with some hippie-talk, paranoia, and discussions of “the man”, it only seems right that a certain generation that had everything to do with those themes, would be the perfect time for a story like this to take place. However, that’s not where Redford decides to take it and instead, shows that everybody gets old, age-wise, but their beliefs still stay the same. That’s right, we’re most likely going to be stuck with hipsters for the rest of our lives. Hip, hip…..

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at with this movie is that it seems like the aging (and it’s showing) Robert Redford likes to direct movies and better yet; likes to direct movies about something political. Obviously Lions for Lambs was a crack-pot of ideas, thoughts, and themes that he loved to shout at everybody, as if they didn’t already think war killed people, but hey, that’s all fine and dandy once you get underneath it all. This movie is probably less concerned with politics, and more about actually being a thriller, that has a lot of people speaking in code, talking about the past, and running-away from the policia. In that aspect of the film: ehh, it’s okay. But to be honest, going into a movie like this, with the cast he has assembled (seriously, just look at it!!), and knowing that it’s coming from the grips of Redford, you can’t expect greatness. Just expect a good time that is a perfect time-killer, and leave it at that.

"Hello? 911? Yes, I'm serious. I'M HAVING A FUCKING HEART ATTACK."

“Hello? 911? Yes, I’m serious. I’M HAVING A FUCKING HEART ATTACK.”

However, that’s not to say that all is forgiven in the end. Nope, there are still a bunch of problems with this flick and that’s the fact that most of this just is not all that interesting. There are about three story-lines going on here at once, with one being the most interesting, the other starting off strong and then running it’s course, and then the last one ending up on being “ridiculous”. The most interesting story-line of the whole movie is definitely LaBeouf’s journalist character as he leaves his conscience on the side, for the hopes that he will make it big and get his story on the front of the paper. This was not only the most interesting because of where it went (in and out of the newsroom), but because LaBeouf is so good in it.

I’ve always stood-up for LaBeouf in most movies that he’s done in the past and even though I will admit, the guy surely isn’t lovable and probably isn’t all that easy to work with, I still have to say that he’s very good when it comes to putting himself into a role, and making it work. This is that role where he totally surprised me and from what I read: others as well. LaBeouf is perfectly-cast because he uses that cocky, brash-attitude of his that we see used so many times whether it be actually in a movie or on the streets, and show how it can affect one person when they work and when they aren’t working. I’ll admit that the ending for this character felt a little bit half-hearted with it’s attempt to give him a heart and soul (journalists have none), but LaBeouf keeps his head above water and makes this his movie. But when the movie moves away from him, then it gets bad. Not too bad, but bad nonetheless.

Redford is still a good actor and has that wit and charm that makes him a likable guy to watch on-screen, but he’s pushing 76, which means the guy’s getting old. Also, that means that it’s getting a bit harder and harder to believe that a guy of his age and his build, could really last a whole flick where he’s out-running the cops, Bourne-style. Out-smart them? Sure, I could believe that. But running away from them every chance he gets? Eh, there’s only so much I can and will believe in. That whole aspect where he’s on the run starts off interesting, but loses steam as quickly as Redford does when he’s running those laps (heyyo!), but it’s not the worst story-line in the whole movie.

Out of the three, the worst story-line I’d have to say was the one where every single person that Redford’s character in this movie talked to, talked about the old days and never seemed to get a grip with reality and realize that they aren’t young, whippersnappers anymore. Every person that he reconnects with, either has grown-up, or totally stayed in the same motto of life where the man got them down and they did everything for a valuable reason. Whether or not Redford actually believes in this hippie bullshit is totally beyond me, but I can only hope not, considering it’s so preachy, so stupid, and just so annoying to hear, especially coming out of the mouths of such old folks. Not saying that old people don’t have these same opinions or beliefs or anything, just saying that it’s a bit hard to believe in.

Jew-fro and all, the kids got it made.

Jew-fro and all, the kid’s got it made.

Having a ensemble cast like this, however, may spice things up a bit to the point of where it’s not so bad to listen to these characters speak their “government speech” anymore. Peeps such as Nick Nolte, Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins, Brendan Gleeson, Terrence Howard, and Sam Elliot show up to do their thang, but so do some ladies like Brit Marling, Anna Kendrick, and Julie Christie. Everybody in this movie is good with what they do, no doubt about it, and it’s not like they were needed for anything else other than a couple of scenes to do on the weekend, just to help out their old pal, Robbie (I hope that’s what his friends call him). For that matter, it’s fun and exciting to watch, especially since you know that there is always another welcome face, just right around the corner waiting to be spotted. Nice to know that Robbie also still has some pull with stars nowadays, as well.

Consensus: It may not always work, and is downright ridiculous at times, The Company You Keep is still an entertaining movie that has the well-acted ensemble to back it up, as well as a story that takes a couple of twists and turns you don’t really see coming, regardless of how how much you can or cannot take it in and believe it.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh yeah, and THE TUCCCC!! is here as well.

Oh yeah, and THE TUCCCC!! is here as well.

Pitch Perfect (2012)

Still can’t get that freakin’ Ace of Base song out of my head. Grrr!

The film follows Beca (Anna Kendrick), a girl who arrives at her new college and finds herself not right for any clique. She discovers her voice when she somehow is muscled into the school’s a Capella group where she becomes the secret weapon for the school’s female team.

Now that Glee has taken over the world of television, and the world in general, it seems like every form of popular-entertainment is getting it’s own movie, to poke it’s head out to show that it’s around and pretty cool to be apart of. Somehow, a capella is now cool because of this movie.

Where I think the strength of this movie lies in is the fact that it’s able to have fun with itself and goof around for the short-time it’s on-screen. Everybody knows that a movie about a bunch of people just breakin’ out in the middle of nowhere and expressing themselves through song-and-dance numbers is strange, and you know what? So does this film and it doesn’t seem to apologize nor try to hide that fact. There are a lot of witty and sly jokes about gay people, fat people, and nerds, but the best jokes are the dirty ones that seem to come out of nowhere, and have you wonder what the hell type of movie they were going for. This type of confusion may poison most films, but somehow doesn’t poison this one and actually kept me on my toes wondering just what this flick was going to pull out of it’s ass (amongst other things) next.

The other strength of this movie is mostly within what this film sets out to show in the first-place: a capella singing numbers. Honestly, a capella has always been impressive to me but I never thought that a whole film could be made around it, while still being fun and enjoyable to listen to considering the whole idea of having a person voice a drum beat just doesn’t do much for me except make me want to try it at home. Maybe that’s a good thing, actually, but I know that I wasn’t looking forward to the types of songs they had ready for this flick and surprisingly, I was having fun with all of them. There isn’t one particular type of genre of music that this film focuses on and sings, instead, it’s mostly just a bunch of meshes between songs that are old and new, and some are great to hear back on the big-screen, while others just plain and simply annoyed me. In one of the most memorable scenes from the whole flick, the gangs face-off against one another in an underground match-up place/thingy, and start off by singing that annoying Rihanna songs about S & M, only to thankfully be saved by that Blackstreet song I haven’t heard since VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s Countdown. Not all of the choices terrible, and if they are, the film knows this and soon just changes it.

But where this film does seem to fail is in it’s actual-plot that just didn’t do anything to surprise me. The plot goes by it’s normal-structure where everything that you could expect to happen, does eventually happen, and just about no one learns anything at the end of the day. By the end of the flick, there is this scene where all of the gals huddle together and talk about their feelings, and what could have been a very special scene that was not only funny, but heartfelt as well, just seemed uber manipulative in the way it was trying to get us to see these girls for more than just a bunch of really good singers. I didn’t care if they could sing good, sing bad, or didn’t even speak, I just wanted them to be funny, that’s what I got, and that’s all I wanted. No extra drama needed, thank you very much.

That’s sort of a shame because every character here is charming and has their own, little special thing going on for them but then again, none of them ever felt fully fleshed-out for me. Even Beca to an extent was a boring character, not just because she wasn’t fleshed-out enough, but because her character is too stand-offish to even be likable or watchable for that matter. She goes around the whole flick, acting all serious while everybody’s acting weird, tries way too hard to be a bad-girl that doesn’t give into anybody that tries to help her, and almost feels like she could easily pass as a lesbian at one-point. Seriously, Beca is a boring character and it’s kind of hard to want to see her succeed with these group of gal-pal singers, and get the man at the end of the day. A man, who may I add, is totally too cool and happy for her miserable ass.

Even though this character is pretty lame, Anna Kendrick does try her hardest with it and in ways, does a very good at making this girl more than just your ordinary, boring underdog you need in any movie where there is a competition at. Her singing skills are obviously very good and so is her drama, but she’s a bit too old to be playing a freshman in college, especially one that barely has any friends or who hasn’t gotten impregnated yet with looks like that. Woo-wee! Playing that guy that tries to go for her is Skylar Astin as Jesse, a character who feels more fully-fleshed out than her and the typical guy that I could actually find myself hangin’ out with. Astin and Kendrick have a nice chemistry, and whenever Kendrick actually smiles with him, it’s the only obvious time where you can tell she’s having a nice time with a role that seems very dull and boring.

Everybody else, other than Kendrick, fares better with the material, especially the rest of her group of gal-pal singers. Rebel Wilson who seems to be on a roll as of late with each and every one of the goofy performances she puts out every 2 or 3 months, is fun as hell to watch as the awkward but brutally honest Fat Amy. Wilson obviously has the best comedic-timing out of everybody else in this flick, and it’s great to see her stretch it all out once again in a role that seemed fit for her fright from the start. Oh, and I can’t forget about John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks as the two color-commentators for the a capella competitions, who seem to come straight-out of a Christopher Guest film with reprehensible lines and all. Still though, they always got the laughs from me.

Consensus: Pitch Perfect has a very boring center and very predictable story to tell, but still kept me laughing with everything they threw at us, especially some of the most enjoyable singing performances I have heard in a film in a long, long time.

6/10=Rental!!

End of Watch (2012)

Honestly, after seeing Training Day, I will never be able to trust a cop.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña star as two Los Angeles police officers as they patrol the city’s meanest streets of south central Los Angeles. One day, however, they stumble upon a discover that makes them two-wanted men, that puts both of their careers and lives at stake.

Writer/director David Ayer has taken his stabs at the police-force with his past two efforts (Harsh Times, Street Kings) but now, seems like he’s making up for all of that with a flick that could almost come off as a police-recruitment video in a way. Sounds crazy, especially since cops aren’t as handsome as the two leading-men here, but if one dude who’s thinking about what to do for his life, stumbles upon this, the police-force will be able to say they have another in uniform.

But as preachy and heavy-handed as I make that sound, that is not something Ayer is all about with this flick. In fact, as hard as it may try to win points over with the police-crowd out there, the film is still more about the characters, rather than exactly about what they do. This is the study of two guys, who love each other, love their work, and most importantly, love doing what they’re sent out there to do, and that’s to save people’s lives whenever they get a call. This may sound hokey and uninteresting but Ayers actually brings a lot of depth to the story, that at times, may surprise you by how far it goes with itself. You feel for these characters and their surroundings and every time they get a call about something bad going down on the radio, you automatically get worried and you fear for these guys because you have become so attached to them over the whole course of the movie.

Building up an emotional-level for these characters is something that Ayer does very well, but when he’s building that up, he’s also building up a great deal of suspense that caught me by surprise. Granted, people going into this film will probably be a bit disappointed by how there isn’t as much action as the trailers may suggest, but with a story like this, it doesn’t really matter because everything else that’s going on is so strong. However, when they do focus on the action of the movie, it’s exciting, thrilling, and very unpredictable as you have no clue what’s going to happen to these guys or when they’re going bite the bullet. This is definitely what kept me on-the-edge-of-my-seat and had me into this story when all of this other crap would seem to almost take me out of it.

The crap that I’m talking about, is when it seems like Ayer feels the need to constantly weave-in and out of the “found-footage” aspect of this movie. I will say one thing about this movie going in, I was not looking really forward to it because of this aspect and I’m glad that it wasn’t like this the whole time but seriously: either do it the whole time, or don’t do it at all! Even when they do abandon this format, the camera is constantly shaking and breaking all-over-the-place and it made me feel like I was still watching a found-footage movie, except with the camera actually being stuck in a blender. This bothered the hell out of me and I wish Ayer just stuck it straight to the original format of filming a movie, because he had strong enough material to make it work in the first-place.

Then, of course, there’s the typical cop-movie conventions that always seem to plague movies like this. Of course, we got the burnt-out cop, the rookie cop, and the usual crooks that seem like they come right out of another movie. That statement, right there is not a good thing because even though those two other conventions are here, at least they seem grounded in-reality, as opposed to these cartoonish bad-guys that had me laughing my ass off every time they showed-up. First of all, I thought it was dumb how they actually had them film their own murders and crimes, which seemed to come out of nowhere and in this film for no other reason than to just go along with the format they already established in the first-frames. Then, of course, they seem to come out of nowhere in certain scenes where they seem so pissed off about these two cops going from house-to-house and finding out about all of these murders and drugs. It seemed really random for these two cops to eventually get tracked-down by this gang considering there are large-portions where these gangs aren’t even shown, let alone discussed. Seriously, does every gang-member say “fuck” every 2 seconds in their sentences? Especially those Latino ones?

Despite these bitty problems, the real reason why this film works so damn well is because of the work given by it’s two leads: Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. These guys, from start-to-finish, display a pitch-perfect chemistry that is probably one of the best I have seen in quite some time. Granted, not many buddy-cop movies actually have their whole story revolve around the two cops, and actually show them inter-acting with one another on a daily-basis, but this film shows that and accomplishes at showing us how close these guys are. It’s not just the film that does this, though, Jake and Michael both do perfect jobs just messing around with each other, teaching each other life lessons, and even working really hard together on some life-or-death situations. Also, it needs to be added that these guys don’t really have a bad-bone in their body either, but also have a lot of problems in their lives to where you believe them not just as movie cops, but as real cops in general. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here but you really do believe in these guys, and it makes every conversation they have together is as interesting and entertaining as the one that came before it. I would be terribly surprised if I found out that these guys weren’t best buddies in real-life because there’s just something between these two that really does seem like it went on, and off-screen for them. Please, no Brokeback Mountain jokes there, either.

Consensus: Even though End of Watch suffers when it feels the need to stay within the conventions of your usual cop-drama, it still benefits from the amazing chemistry between the two leads, that make these characters more interesting, more entertaining to watch, and two people that we want to see live on at the end of the story.

7.5/10=Rental!!

ParaNorman (2012)

See, those kids who talk to dead people aren’t so weird after all! Haley Joel Osment is jumping in the air somewhere right now.

The small New England town of Blithe Hollow comes under siege by the undead. Only a misunderstood local boy, Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who has the ability to speak with the dead, is able to prevent the destruction of his town from a centuries-old witch’s curse. He’ll also have to take on ghosts, witches, zombies and worst of all, the moronic grown-ups. But this young ghoul whisperer may find his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits.

Maybe I was all alone in a boat by myself back in 2009, but I really just did not like Coraline. There was something about it that just didn’t work and I felt it was just too scary and serious to be considered a kids flick. This one follows in the same exact steps as that one except it has the one key ingredient that always makes these films work: the fat kid. More on that later, though. Let’s start with the positive things that came before he arrived.

The animation for this flick, is exactly what you would expect from the animation studio Laika. Even though I may have disliked a lot about Coraline, I still thought that they had plenty of eye-candy to help me get through, and that’s exactly what we have here but probably used a lot better in the terms of 3D. It was a really neat thing to see stop-motion animation done in a 3D way, and it added some real color and zaniness to this final product, as if it was one of the horror films that it was making fun of in the first place. Needless to say, the kids will love how much shit is constantly popping out at them (not literal shit, but you get my drift), but the parents will also be able to appreciate a 3D used right and almost not feel like their over-priced $13 dollar ticket will go to waste. Actually, if you add the kid’s ticket as well it’s going to be a lot more so it’s a good thing that it at least delivers or there’s going to be a loud of pissed-off parents.

Another element of this film that separates itself from Coraline, is that there is loads and loads of amounts of comedy to be had here, which really took me by surprise considering how much I actually laughed. There’s a lot of goofy sight-gags that you have to look closely to see and there’s a lot of jokes that only true horror movie fans will get, but what separates this film from all the other animated films that have come out in the last 2 years or so, is that is able to make almost any movie-goer laugh. Have a couple of kids? They got their fart jokes and slapstick. Got a bunch of grumpy adults? They have their sly humor and wit about a dark situation that somehow makes it lighter. Got a horror movie lover out there? They got the movie references. Have you average, movie-goer that just wants to laugh and have a good time? They got plenty of jokes that will work and make you laugh, as they did onto me. You’ll be surprised by how far this film goes with it’s comedy but it works, and instead of just dropping out pop-culture reference after pop-culture reference like we see in Shrek films, we get the type of comedy where goofy things happen, all for a reason. And that’s funny enough as it is.

Problem with a lot of this comedy is that it comes in a little too much. I get that the film wanted to always keep things light and humorous, even when it get dark and scary as hell, but they could have at least slowed down a bit and let some scenes just play out in a very serious matter. Sounds pretty strange that I would actually want a funny film to stop it’s humor for a bit and just be serious with us, but it gets to the point of where you can’t pay attention to what’s going on with this story and what’s on-screen because you’re constantly just waiting for another funny quip to come right through. Strange complaint, I know.

Another complaint about this film I had was that it take a bit too long to get where it exactly needed to go. With these films, you know exactly what’s going to happen from start to finish, which means that it better hurry it’s ass up by keeping us entertained. This film definitely keeps us entertained for the most part, but doesn’t really hurry it’s ass up either. The film just sort of just takes it’s time with it’s awfully predictable story, which doesn’t really work when you have something as conventional as this. Two very weird complaints, I know, but this is not necessarily the most normal film out there either and I think that’s all because of Norman himself.

Kodi Smit-McPhee seems like a great choice as Norman because the kid has always been type-cast as these weirdo-types and gives Norman a whole lot of boyish sympathy, that’s easy to fall for and stand behind; Anna Kendrick voices his older sister who is always bitching and trying to impress a hot dude around her; that hot dude I’m talking about is Casey Affleck as an older brother of somebody and shows he’s got great comedic timing with a weird, scratchy voice like his; and Christopher Mintz-Plasse proves he can be funny, but not as a nerd as the school bully here. Everybody else from this talented ensemble is fine, but when it comes right down to it, nobody stands in the way of the fat one.

I don’t know who this kid is and I don’t know if I have ever seen him ever before, but Tucker Albrizzi absolutely nails every line he has the token fat sidekick, Neil. Neil is such a great character right from the start because he’s fat, a nerd, and doesn’t get along with most kids, but still has a big heart and you can feel that from Albrizzi’s voice and just how they make this character look. Honestly, you cannot say that the picture of Neil in this movie just doesn’t want to make you pinch his cheeks or feed him some Cinna Buns. Every time this kid just about opens his mouth, it’s a piece of comedy that works and thank the lord for Albrizzi, because he makes everybody in this flick seem like a bunch of rookies, even though he’s only 13 years old. Kids got a bright future and I hope he keeps it going. Then again, I have never seen him before or if he can act well, but I know the kid’s got a great voice for animated characters that’s for damn sure.

Consensus: ParaNorman may not be the best animated flick all year, but is still a hell of a lot better than Coraline, the film that came before it with a playful sense of humor that can have anybody who sees this laugh, and a talented voice cast that milks all of the lines for all that they got.

7.5/10=Rental!!

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (2012)

Getting knocked up sucks but I guess the sex is fun, right?

This is a look at love through the eyes of five interconnected couples experiencing the thrills and surprises of having a baby, and ultimately coming to understand the universal truth that no matter what you plan for, life doesn’t always deliver what’s expected.

Once again, Hollywood has decided to give us a whole slew of stars and jam them into one rom-com. However, it’s not as bad as New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day and Gary Marshall isn’t direction so that’s good, right?

Going into this flick, I wasn’t expecting much (pun), probably because I’m a dude and dudes don’t care about all of that pregnant ish except for if the baby is theirs or not. Hate to say it, but it’s true fellas. But I was pleasantly surprised by this flick and I think a lot of that has to do with director Kirk Jones‘ way of giving every story a purpose of their own. I’m glad that this flick focused more on one certain issue to connect all of these characters with, rather than just one day or some stupid holiday, but I’m also glad that the flick didn’t really fall into the pit-falls of absolute cheese that most of Marshall’s did. Each story has their own bits and pieces of humor, but they also have some heart to it that sometimes feels fake, and other times doesn’t. It’s definitely a mixed bag here but I think I’m just going to go off and talk about each of the stories individually, rather than focusing on all of them at the same time. Let’s see what I can do here.

1) The one story between Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford, was a story that was interesting at first, then continued to lose more and more steam as it went along. The whole idea of these two having a one-night stand and wondering whether or not they’re a good fit for the other, is a pretty interesting story in and of itself, but whenever the flick focuses on it, it starts to become a major downer and just took my mind off of it more and more. It’s the one story that doesn’t go the obvious route, but that wasn’t really a good thing considering how the film handled it. Crawford doesn’t seem like he’s better than this material, but Kendrick does and that’s what really sucks to see because this damn chick was nominated for an Oscar about 3 years ago! Come on Anna!

2) The other story about Cameron Diaz hooking up with her reality show dance partner, played by Matthew Morrison, is not necessarily a downer as it’s more just bland and uninteresting every time it’s up on-screen. Diaz is a reliable actress when it comes to comedy, but Morrison seems so damn stiff with her on-screen that he makes it seem like he’s scared to be around her. Then again, I would be too, considering all they do throughout this flick is bicker and fight about stupid shit. Maybe this is how real-life couples act whenever one in the relationship is pregnant, but here, they almost never seem stop and it’s a real wonder as to how the hell these two will do when they have to worry and care about another life. Glad they weren’t my parents and it would suck even more considering I still have a chance with Diaz. I know it. She knows it. We all know it. The chick just has to come to her senses, that’s all.

3) Another story that was pretty lame was between Jennifer Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro, who both play a couple that can’t have a baby, so they decide to adopt one from Ethiopia. Lopez is good, but seems like she was trying too hard to gain some laughs and Santoro also seemed very stiff every time he was around. Actually, I think the problem with his performance is that I couldn’t really understand him all that much with his Spanish accent that makes him sound like he is just learning English. Then again, maybe he is and maybe I’m just a dick. This story is also a downer and one I didn’t really care about but got so much better whenever they focused on Santoro hanging out with the “Dudes Group” with Rob Huebel, Thomas Lennon, Amir Talai, and Chris Rock as the leader of the park. Every time these guys were on-screen, I always laughed and that’s mainly because of Chris Rock. This guy always, no matter what flick he’s in, shows that he can get at least one laugh out of the crowd before the camera goes black (another pun intended), and even though he’s confined in PG-13 territory here, he still delivers on all of the laughs. Funny stuff with these guys but I just wish they did more of that and eliminated the whole J-Lo story altogether.

4) Probably my favorite story out of the whole flick, and maybe even the one that’s worth the price of admission alone, was the one with Elizabeth Banks and Ben Falcone, who play a couple that seems to be really struggling with pregnancy because of Banks’ hormones going up-and-down all of the damn time. Both of these stars are hilarious throughout this whole flick and made me laugh with everything they did, whereas about 5 other stars from this cast probably would have made me jump off of a bridge by how hard they tried. Banks is always reliable when it comes to comedy, but it’s Falcone who really surprised me as he showed he had great comedic timing (something else that I saw from him in Bridesmaids) and could make you care for his character just by being the sweet guy. These two have great chemistry together and easily won my heart over. Whenever they introduced the story-line between Falcone’s dad, played by Dennis Quaid, and his much-younger wife (Brooklyn Decker), I also laughed even though I think they forced the whole “dad and son are constantly in competition” thing a little too much but it still worked because Quaid and Decker both have fine comedic timing. This story was the best and even when it gets into dramatic territory by the end, it surprisingly worked which was something I wasn’t expecting from a movie like this at all.

Consensus: What to Expect When You’re Expecting is a very passable flick with some moments of genuine comedy and heart, but also isn’t very original in the way it offers a look at pregnancy and all of the problems that come along with it. My idea: get rid of every story, except for Banks and Falcone’s story, combine that with the “Dudes Group”, and keep the father angle with Quaid and Decker, and you got comedy gold. Or at least something that’s ten times better than those Gary Marshall flicks.

6/10=Rental!!