Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Aubrey Plaza

Joshy (2016)

When depressed, hang with the bros.

Josh (Thomas Middleditch) and his fiancee (Alison Brie) were all set and ready to get married. However, she decided to take her life, leaving her family, friends, and most importantly, Josh, heartbroken. Why did she do it? Well, no one really knows why, however, Josh’s friends intend on cheering him up the way that they feel is necessary for someone dealing with a tragedy of this kind. That’s why, nearly four months later, the bros all come up to the house somewhere in the mountains, dedicated to them all partying it up and living life, as if it was Josh’s bachelor party, which was what it was supposed to be in the first place. But the guys don’t get bogged down by the sad details and decide that it’s time to get all of the beer, drugs, guns and women that they can find to get Josh’s mind off of everything. But it’s not just Josh who has some problems to wade through, as most of the guys seem to be going through their own issues on this one weekend, figuring out where to go next with their lives and how, just how the hell on Earth, are they going to grow-up and be responsible adults.

Cheer up, Joshy. They don't call you that name all of the time, right?

Cheer up, Joshy. They don’t call you that name all of the time, right? Cause if they did, that actually would kind of suck.

The mumblecore movement may not be quite as vibrant as it once was back in the beginning of the decade, however, it’s still alive and well, bringing in more and more outsiders to the indie-world, showing off their talent for improv and on-the-fly film making that can, often times, create things of beauty. Drinking Buddies seems like the highlight of the mumblecore flicks, in terms of its scope, who it involved, and what it actually did, but there’s been a few every now and then, offering up lovely bits of insightful entertainment.

And now, with his second-feature, Jeff Baena seems as if he’s ready to throw himself into the mumblecore world and doing a pretty good job at it, too.

Of course, what makes a mumblecore movie as good as it may set out to be, is that it needs a reason, or better yet, a purpose to exist. Most of the time, these movies can sometimes seem like low-budget versions of Adam Sandler flicks where, just like him, they use the excuse of a movie being made to get away with having a bunch of their friends around, do and say silly things. While this may work for most film makers because it doesn’t ask for all that much dedication and money, the problems that it can sometimes bring up is the fact that the story itself isn’t always the snappiest and, if anything, made-up as the film-making runs on by.

Here though, Baena does something smart in that he allows for the actual tragedy of Josh’s ex-fiancee to really carry the movie along, feeling less of like an excuse, and more of something resembling a reason. Of course, the darker aspects of the story come out in full-form by the end, and doesn’t quite connect, but at least it’s a movie that’s trying to be something more than the typical “cool, funny, and talented people hang out for a weekend”. While those movies can tend to be quite fun and exciting, they can also become a tad mundane, when you don’t have much of a narrative-drive moving it along.

In Joshy, aside from the tragic suicide early on, the real plot is figuring out these characters, their lives, their problems, and just how they’re going to get out of them. It’s almost too simple, but it kind of works, because Baena has been able to assess a great group of actors to make the material work, even when it seems like they’re just going with the flow. Nick Kroll, Thomas Middleditch, Alex Ross Perry, Brett Gelman, and Adam Pally play the core group here and they’ve all got their own problems to work through, some clearly more important than others, but all at least registering on some level.

Longed-hair Adam Pally? I don't know!

Longed-hair Adam Pally? I don’t know!

Of course, this doesn’t always allow for the characters to come off as likable, either, which is probably fine, in Joshy’s case.

Baena doesn’t allow for his movie to be too pleased or happy with itself; eventually, the characters do have to learn a thing or two about the lives that they live and why it’s not always best to act 13, when you’re 35, or at the very least, nearing it. Joe Swanberg himself shows up and brings these characters down to real life and it’s a honest, relatively tense scene, which is what Joshy seemed to be missing the most of. With the exception a confrontation by the end, Joshy doesn’t really have any confrontation or tension in the air, which I felt was necessary for a movie like this to really work, where jerks are hanging around each other too much, getting on each other’s nerves constantly.

Of course, Baena may not have cared much for this, but while watching Joshy, it’s hard not to imagine what could happen, had the movie tried a tad bit harder. It’s nice to get all your talented and lovely friends all together, in one room, let them do their things, and start shooting, but after awhile, it can start to feel like just a bunch of fun-sequences, and that’s about it. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how charming the cast is – sometimes, more story is better.

Consensus: With a likable and talented cast, Joshy‘s improvised, low-budget feel works, but also doesn’t allow for there to be much of a story, either.

6.5 / 10

I'll jump in. No skivvies is fine with me.

I’ll jump in. No skivvies is fine with me.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Bollywood Reads

Advertisements

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

Damsels in Distress (2012)

College kids from Connecticut seem like so much fun when they aren’t speaking!

Sophomore Lily (Analeigh Tipton) falls in line with a new group of gals on her first day after transferring to a new school. The group she falls in line with is led by Violet (Greta Gerwig), a fellow student who tells it like it is, thinks way too much about certain things, and is trying to get her dance craze off the ground and for the whole world to see and become apart of. Together, the two, along with 3 other girls in the group, they run a non-profit Suicide Prevention Center where they allow people to let their feelings loose, and even find a creative escape by tap-dancing. It starts to work because it makes people happy, however, they still battle for the hearts of the fellow male students they see on a regular-basis, and some can’t handle the idea of denial, quite as well as others.

Whit Stillman’s films sometimes work for me, and other times, they don’t. While I’m ultimately interested by what they’re trying to say and do, by the end, I can’t help but feel like I was just talked to, rather than actually given a movie to work with. It’s almost as if I was just in a conversation with someone who is clearly high off their rocker, or just had a tad too much coffee, I sit down with them, try to bring them back down to leveled-ground, but instead, they’re so crazy and hyper, that they just end up controlling the whole conversation, making me frustrated, and then, when it’s all over, leaving me in a cloud of dust, having no clue just what the heck happened to me, or what was even said.

That’s how I feel watching Whit Stillman movies. While I may think about them long after having said conversation, no way am I fully impacted.

I get it, Greta! You can dance!

I get it, Greta! You can dance!

That said, Damsels in Distress is a fun little movie in that I don’t think it ever tries to be as serious as his other movies. In fact, it’s a lot goofier and perhaps more of an actual “comedy” than anything else; whereas his other movies can be seen as “comedies”, but are more based on actual wit, with some more darker themes at-play. And this is all to say that Damsels in Distress is, yes, clever, if not very funny.

Just sort of chuckle-worthy, if you will.

Stillman’s script is filled to the brim with double-meanings, that are splashed with an insane amount of irony, which can make this movie work its magic a little longer. The humor does take awhile to get used to, just by how strange it is, but if you’re willing to let your shields go down on the ground, you’ll find yourself a whole lot happier and more pleasant with how Stillman frames these characters, their personalities, and everything that comes out of their mouth, whether it be just a bunch of mumbo-gumbo, or actual thoughts from the mind of a youngster. I don’t think that Stillman is trying to make any ground statement about the youth in today’s society, but that’s alright, because he doesn’t have to. He’s just having fun with some of these silly, almost caricature-like characters.

"Wait...wut?"

“Wait, what?”

But like I said, being clever doesn’t always make your movie funny, or better yet, interesting. The only times that it really feels like Stillman himself seems all that invested in this material (that is, when he isn’t coming up with snappy-lines), is whenever he’s focusing on and playing around with Greta Gerwig and her character. As the perfectly-named Violot, Gerwig gets to be a lot of things that we know and love her for, as she’s quirky, odd, funny, realistic, always happy about life, sometimes thinks way beyond her head (and the stars for that matter), and has something to say, even if it’s only gibberish. Gerwig seems like she’s perfectly ready and capable of hanging around in Stillman’s world and it’s why she’s been able to transcend the “indie darling” title she’s been slapped with.

However, because the movie loves Gerwig so much, it’s hard to care for anything else when she isn’t around. But it’s almost like Stillman himself knew that; after all, he’s working with so many characters that, after awhile, it just becomes a tad overstuffed and draining to keep up. Not to mention that because the movie doesn’t entirely care about developing these characters beyond “what other funny things they can say”, it’s hard to actually get invested. A part of me likes to think that Stillman knew this, which is why he doesn’t put the greatest effort into helping out Analeigh Tipton’s character, or the countless others who aren’t Greta Gerwig.

Still, it’s fine to listen to these characters talk and go on and on, even if we don’t always know what it’s about, or what Stillman’s trying to say. He seems to want to make fun of the college-life, the sororities, the frats, and the people who just try so desperately to “fit in” and feel apart of something, but in the end, he just settles for clever one-liners. That’s fine and all, just maybe give me something more of a story or what have you.

Or at least, one that’s worth caring about.

 Consensus: When Stillman and Gerwig aren’t working their magic together, Damsels in Distress loses a little bit of luster, but still will keep you laughing in with its odd approach, even if it just takes a little while to get moving.

6.5 / 10

"Honestly, do they really think people talk like this?"

“Honestly, do they really think people talk like this?”

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.com.au

Dirty Grandpa (2016)

These younglings don’t know how old-heads get down.

With less than a week to go before his wedding, Jason Kelly (Zac Efron) has good knowledge of how he wants the rest of his life to go down. And even though he’s definitely looking forward to getting hitched to his high-class, but very pretty fiancee (Julianne Hough), all of those happy feelings and thoughts are put to the side once he learns that his grand-mother has died. Heart-broken and sad is Jason’s grandpa, Dick (Robert De Niro), who Jason reluctantly volunteers to drive to wherever he wants. Problem is, Jason gets duped into taking his grandpa to Daytona Beach, for Spring Break of all times. Turns out, grandpa has been in desperate need of some fun as of late and now, with his late wife being gone, he now finally has the chance to do so. While Jason isn’t all about allowing his grandpa go around, smoking, drinking, and bangin’ whatever, he also doesn’t want to keep his grandpa away from having some fun on his own time as well. This also gets Jason to thinking of his own life and how, at one point in his life, he wasn’t so uptight and by-the-books and, believe it or not, really fun and exciting to be around – something his grandpa reminds him of all the time.

Why are Grandpa's always doing this?

Why are grandpa’s always doing this?

Movies like Dirty Grandpa are the kinds I, for one reason or another, want to stick up for. The main reason being is that it’s an R-rated raunch-fest that does, says, or acts whatever way it wants to, regardless of what others may think, say, or be offended by. In other words, Dirty Grandpa is exactly like the aging-grandfather you invite to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner – you know he’s going to say a lot of inappropriate, borderline racist stuff, but you just let him go because, well, he’s old and doesn’t really know that he’s doing or saying anything wrong. You could totally make the argument that those behind Dirty Grandpa know exactly what they’re doing and saying is, by far, wrong, but you could also make the argument that absolutely none of them care.

And that, to me, takes a lot of gut to actually create and deliver on.

Cause in today’s day and age where political correctness is shoved aside as a means to not offend a certain demographic, Dirty Grandpa pulls down its pants, flips the bird, and says, “screw you”, to each and everyone of those people who may be offended by what the movie’s making cracks about. Granted, it’s not hard to get offended by Dirty Grandpa; whether you’re white, black, male, female, obese, skinny, attractive, ugly, gay, young, old, or whatever, you’re going to get made fun of and be somewhat offended. Sure, some may call this “crass”, “mean”, or just downright “despicable”, but is there always a problem with that? Can, sometimes at least, that same crassness, that same meanness, and hell, that same despicability, be at least somewhat funny?

In Dirty Grandpa‘s case, it can sometimes be, but at other times, not really.

But really, the parts of Dirty Grandpa that are in fact, funny, worked for me enough to get past the other issues with the movie like say, I don’t know, the fact that it has no general regard for anyone person’s feelings or emotions. Basically, what Dirty Grandpa sets out to do is make fun of those they decide to because, well, they can, so why not? It’s not hard to hate a comedy who’s general position is to make fun of everyone around them, but it’s also not that much harder to hate one when it isn’t actually being funny – Dirty Grandpa, though, in some cases, was at least funny enough that I didn’t care and let all of those sensitivity issues fall by the wayside.

That said, if you’re offended by Dirty Grandpa, you definitely should be pissed-off and upset. There’s no denying that the movie does and says a lot that can definitely land itself in hot-water that’s hard to swim out of and honestly, for the most part, there are jokes that are so painfully stupid and obvious, you’ll want to leave the theater for about five seconds, just so that you can wash away the agony from said terrible joke. Then again, there will be another joke or two that comes by that is, surprisingly, actually funny and delivers on the mark it sets out to hit, which is why I stuck through and decided to give this thing the benefit of the doubt.

From one hunk, to another.

From one hunk, to another.

Which is all to say that, thanks to De Niro and Efron, Dirty Grandpa works better than it probably ever should.

Efron’s been desperately trying to get away from his teen-idol image and carve-out a more serious, mature look for him which, seems to be working. In Dirty Grandpa, he does more of a job of making fun of himself than anything else, and it’s actually quite fun to watch. Clearly, he knows that he’s the sexiest, hunkiest person in the room, so he doesn’t mind getting naked, or poking jokes at his ridiculously-ripped and chiseled body at his own expense. After all, he’s the butt of the joke, but really, he’s the one that all the ladies still want to be with so it’s fine, I guess.

But as much as Efron may try, it’s De Niro who actually gives it his all and seems to really make this thing work. Granted, Dirty Grandpa probably shouldn’t work at all, but because De Niro seems to be enjoying his time so incredibly much, it’s hard not to crack a smile or laugh whenever he’s on the screen. He’s dirty, raunchy, disgusting, and a bit annoying, but most of all, he’s De Niro having fun and being spirited at the same time which, if any of you have seen what he’s put out in the past couple of years, means a lot. The movie may not be fully up-to-par but hey, seeing De Niro have some fun, allows me to have some fun, as well.

Just don’t tell anybody I said that.

Consensus: Not at all politically correct by any means and definitely a mixed-affair, Dirty Grandpa sets out for the shock laughs than anything else and can, for the most part, make them work, if only because De Niro and Efron seem to be having fun.

5 / 10

Whatta party.

Whatta party.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Mortdecai (2015)

Funny ‘staches, get it?

Lord Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) is an eccentric British chap who likes fine women, fine drinks, fine food, fine cars, and most importantly, fine art. So much so, that it’s actually gotten him and his luscious wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) into a bit of debt; $8 million dollars in debt, to be exact, but that’s neither here nor there. What’s most important now is that Charlie and his trustee, self-proclaimed “man servant”, Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany), track down a piece of stolen art, so that they don’t get nabbed by the MI5 agent (Ewan McGregor) for any wrongdoings that they may, or may not have been up to. However, what turns out as a simple case, gets so convoluted that nearly all of the enemies in Charlie’s life, which are many, start showing up out of nowhere – not to just gather a debt from Charlie, but possibly extract some vicious revenge for any wrongdoings he may have brought their way. It may seem all bad for Charlie, but because of ever-dashing wit and charm, he seems to look on the bright side of things, or something.

The joke here is Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The joke here is Obi-Wan Kenobi.

It’s interesting to note that at one point, believe it or not, Johnny Depp was actually targeted for the role of Monsieur Gustave H. in the Grand Budapest Hotel; the same role that would eventually be taken up by Ralph Fiennes. Looking back, it’s easy to see why Depp was considered for this lead role, as Depp’s certain exuberance with most roles that he tackles, seems to fit in with Wes Anderson’s world, for better and for worse. Though it’s hard to say whether or not Depp would have actually made Hotel better, the fact remains that it still would have been an interesting choice for him to take, especially considering all of the random, and sometimes inexplicably poorly-directed, dribble he’s been appearing in as of late. Save for maybe a slight cameo here and there, overall, Depp’s film choices as of late have not been anything spectacular.

And Mortdecai, as you may have already seen, is no exception.

But it’s rather strange that most of Mortdecai feels as if it is trying oh so very hard to be such a Wes Anderson movie, that it’s easy to believe that this could possibly had been Depp’s chance to take one under his belt and give it a go; although, to be fair, this would have to be a Wes Anderson movie that Anderson himself did not want to make and more or less was asleep through half of the proceedings. Director David Koepp shoots this with as much color, whimsy and slap-dash as you’d expect Wes Anderson to have created, however, there’s something missing here that most of Anderson’s movies seems to contain: Some kind of heart. Oh, and laughs, too. That’s a very, VERY big factor.

It makes sense why Koepp is going for here with this movie – in a way, he’s trying to create a silly, screwball-ish comedy ripped-out directly from the 60’s, and into the modern day and age for a new audience that may be able to appreciate what his parents were appreciating way back when. It doesn’t work, but for the first 15 minutes or so, it’s quite effective that it only took until I saw a modern-day, pro wrestling match between WWE wrestlers Sheamus and the Big Show, that I fully realized that this was not only taking place in a certain time period, but that the time period was actually the 21st century. Hiding when exactly this story’s taking place isn’t a neat conceit, as much as it’s just a lazy way of trying to throw your audience for a loop, seemingly because it’s all you’ve got.

And in the case of Depp and Koepp, in what’s their second team-up since Secret Window, there’s really not much for the audience to get a firm grip on, so any distractions that they can throw our way necessary is all that they want to do. Maybe less so in the case of Koepp, because while his film doesn’t have its funny bone working at all, nor does it seem to realize that there’s more to life than just testicle-gags, he seems to at least dress this movie nice and handsomely enough that it’s fine to look at. It’s even enjoyable to listen to, so long as nobody’s speaking or trying to make us laugh, because it never works.

But nope, I have to say that most of the problems to be found within this movie, and the one who seems to be trying so utterly and desperately hard to distract us is Johnny Depp – an actor who, I think we can all agree on, was one of the most talented, exciting talents working in mainstream Hollywood. Nowadays, it seems as though Depp has become nothing more than just a parody of his own-self, where he produces certain films that give him the leading-role, while also allowing for him to stretch his funny-wings as far as he can, even if th

The joke here is boobs.

The joke here is boobs.

ey are beyond their initial-reach. That’s not to say that Depp isn’t funny; the man definitely has a talent for making many normal circumstances seem all the more zany because of what he brings to the table, but here, as Charlie Mortdecai, it’s so obvious that’s he really going for it here, that it makes you uncomfortable.

Sort of like that uncle you don’t see too often, who constantly tells the story about how you peed yourself when you were over his house and rather than understanding it’s a story nobody wants to hear repeated when they’re 35-years-old, married, and with kids, he still persists on going through with it because, well, what the hell, it gets a few giggles out of the surrounding crowd. The difference between the sad and lonely uncle I’ve just described and Johnny Depp, is that maybe, in the off-chance that the uncle has bribed somebody beforehand, people are actually laughing along with said uncle. As for Depp, he’s the only one laughing. And giggling. And sneezing. And cavorting. And whizzing. And, well, you get it.

Depp’s doing a lot here, and while I give him kudos for at least trying his damn-near hardest, it gets to become downright annoying after awhile. The only ones who actually make some way for comedy are the ones surrounding him, and even they have hardly anything to work with. Paul Bettany plays Mortdecai’s “man-servant” (get it, cause it’s kind of referencing gay-stuff), who has a running-gag that he can’t keep it in his pants and is constantly banging random girls, that is, whenever Mortdecai himself is not accidentally injuring him; Gwyneth Paltrow, despite being absolutely despised by practically everybody with a computer and/or Twitter, is actually quite charming in movies still and it’s nice to see her bring some life to an otherwise forgettable character; same goes for Ewan McGregor who, with his character’s gimmick that he fawns after Mortdecai’s wife’s every move, brings some much-needed wit and spark; and Jeff Goldblum, god bless his heart, shows up for maybe five minutes and does nothing. Absolutely nothing.

God, now I really want to watch a Wes Anderson movie.

Consensus: Not only is Mortdecai unfunny, but it also highlights something of a career-low in Johnny Depp’s filmography where he’s taken it upon himself to be the center of attention and never let us forget that he wants to make us laugh, or happy, by any degrading means possible.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

The joke here is mustache, because well of course.

The joke here is mustache, because well of course.

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

Charlie Countryman (2013)

Next time, check if the chick you fall in love with has any connections to the mob whatsoever.

After his mother (Melissa Leo) dies, aimless young-adult Charlie Countryman (Shia LaBeouf) gets a message from her ghost that she wants him to travel to Bucharest, Romania. Seeing as how he doesn’t have much to do with his everyday life in the states, Charlie complies and gets on a plane, where he meets a spirited old Romanian named Victor (Ion Caramitru). The two hit off, but not before long, Victor ends up dying on the plane. But just as soon as the plane lands, Victor’s ghost tells Charlie to give his daughter Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood) a gift he had planned on giving her in the first place. Charlie, once again, complies in doing so and realizes that not only is Gabi a sad, young and tortured soul, much like his own, but he’s damn well he’s certain he’s in love. However, as in love as Charlie may be with Gabi, he soon realizes that it almost can never come true as she’s also involved with a psychopathic mobster by the name of Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen). No matter what though, Charlie won’t let anything get in the way of his true love, even if that does mean a lot of getting his beaten to death and running.

Charlie Countryman is such an easy target to pick on. So much so, that I just knew I had to cut it some slack. Seeing as this is the type of flick that loves it style, rather than its actual story, that makes it incredibly easy to nit-pick at and throw out certain words like “pretentious”, “artsy”, or even “dumb” at it. However, I feel like if you know that this movie is going to be all about the look and feel, rather than what it’s telling us, then you just have to sort of roll with the ball. Is that so hard to do in the first place? Is it?

Michael Bay approves.

Michael Bay would like to credit.

I don’t know. But what I do know is that this is one hell of a stylish movie, albeit, a very random one. May not be hard to imagine this after seeing the movie itself, director Fredrik Bond comes from a long line of commercials and yes, it does very much show. First of all, the actual filming in Bucharest really makes it feel like its own character that just sits in the background, watches as these characters do live their lives, make mistakes, make good choices, have fun and just overall, have a good time whenever they can. Bond’s gritty and raw look inside this area of Romania really brings you deep inside a place you’d never thought you get a good look at, ever, but somehow, you do and you end up falling in love with it.

Maybe that was just me, and if that’s the case, then whatever, I’m fine with that. Because while I do realize that Bond definitely doesn’t seem to really infuse much heart into this story, it’s about what’s all happening around it that matters. Of course, Bond does juggle more than he can actually handle (the movie itself is a fusion between rom-com, drama, action, thriller, and sometimes even neo-noir), but the ambitions, to me, felt deserved as it showed that he was able to fall back-on some very smart stylistic choices that surprised me and thrilled the hell out of me as I was watching.

For instance, there’s a scene that occurs practically out of nowhere that revolves around Charlie running away from a gang of thugs, all throughout the dirty streets and terminals of Bucharest. The camera continues to race all along as we watch Charlie jump, dive and move all around these streets, all in effective slo-mo, while in the background, some rave vibes are playing, just adding more of a fun feel to the whole scene. Hard to explain the scene without giving it all away, but it was definitely the high-light for me, as it easily brought me back into the story once I felt like it lost me, and it also showed that Bond himself had some true motivations behind-the-screen, even if they didn’t show up in the screenplay.

And since I’m making so many mentions of the lame screenplay, I think it’s time to actually focus on it and let you know, it may not be as bad as I may make it seem, it just doesn’t really seem to be the main objective in anybody’s eyes here. Which, like I said before, is fine because of the stylish direction working with it, but does end up causing a problem for the movie’s main sell: The love story between Charlie and Gabi. See, we get that Charlie is head-over-heels in love with this Gabi chick, and feels the same way she does about life, but never fully feel like he’s in love with her, nor that they are the star-struck lovers that would fight to the death just to be with one another for the rest of each other’s lives. There’s plenty of scenes of them running around the streets, happy, sometimes holding hands and kissing, but they can only go so far until we realize that the romance itself is a bit shallow, and under-cooked. Which, ultimately, leads us to the problem that even when the idea that their romance is being threatened by these outside, way powerful sources, it doesn’t really hit us as hard as it should, and just makes us feel bad for Charlie himself, and less about the romance between him and Gabi.

Shia's got it. It's not like Mads ever messed with anybody's balls before....

Shia’s got it. I mean, it’s not like Mads ever messed with anybody’s balls before….

But the reason why we do care so much about Charlie is that because Shia LaBeouf really does seem like he’s passionate about making this character work, and the effort pays off well. LaBeouf has never been anybody’s favorite cup of tea, and while he’s always been mine, it makes me happier and happier each day to see him just play around with his self-image, take roles that challenge his ass two-ways-from-Saturday and continue to just show us his abilities as an actor. Of course everybody’s going to have to wait and see what he’s FULLY capable of in Nymphomaniac, but here, as Charlie Countryman, LaBeouf gives you the idea that he not only wants to be Charlie, but he actually is Charlie. You feel bad for this small, sheepish guy because you know he means well and just wants to be loved, but still can’t get past the fact that he’s fallen for the wrong girl, and is basically in the wrong situation right from the start. Once shit does begin to hit the fan, and we see Charlie’s life practically crumble all around him, he’s the one we care about the most and want to see live for the rest of his days. This is all thanks to LaBeouf’s determinism to make Charlie, not just as a movie character, but as person, to work and be believable, and it works. Good for him, and good for us.

Despite her character not being as interesting, or even likable as LaBeouf’s, Evan Rachel Wood still does a fine job as Gabi, even if it is clearly obvious that the odds are stacked against her and that poor accent of hers. Also, her character does seem like your traditional “troubled, young girl can’t get out of slum world she used to be apart of”-role that so many attractive actresses take, and still can’t seem to make believable. Mads Mikkelsen plays her crazy and violence-driven ex-hubby, Nigel, giving us the type of sadistic bastard we all know and usually see him as. Since he and Charlie make such good counter-parts, it’s easy to want to see their final-duel, even if it’s pretty obvious who’d win in that brawl. Though, who knows? Maybe Shia would pull off the upset. Just ask Tom Hardy.

 Consensus: More style here, than actual substance with Fredrik Bond behind-the-mantel of Charlie Countryman, but somehow, it still works in giving us a somewhat compelling story, with more than a few good performances from the cast, especially a very inspired Shia LaBeouf.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

So in love, we can't even see 'em.

Never date a chick who has shorter hair than you. More problems ensue than just the ones you may, or may not have with the local mafia.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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

The To Do List (2013)

Teenagers are already awkward as it is. Throw sex into the equation and it’s just a huge mess. Literally and figuratively.

Brandy (Aubrey Plaza) was not the type of girl that did much with her time in high-school, other than study, study, and do some more studying. It all built to something and got her the sweet title “Valedictorian”, however, she still didn’t have much time or opportunity to fool around with boys and test the waters of sex out. Now that the summer has begun, the one before college resumes in the Fall, Brandy believes that it’s her time to shine sexually and show all the dudes out there what they’ve been missing out on, when in fact, it’s her who’s the one that’s missing out. But in order to feel fully prepped-up and ready for the wirl-wind of sex and fluids that Freshman year of college is going to be, Brandy has devised a list of all the sexual acts that’s she’s heard of, but never actually knew about or performed. All while leading up to losing her V-card, to non other than a college student (Scott Porter) she can’t help but have eyes for.

Here’s when I knew something was wrong with this movie right from the very beginning: The title-sequence was not only shown in it’s entirety, but didn’t do anything funny or original that had to do with the movie it was representing. Whenever any movie does that with their opening-credits, let alone a comedy, you know something’s not right, but then again, that could also just be me. I have a weird instinct about stuff like that so yeah, maybe I overreacted a bit too early in the game. OR MAYBE I DIDN’T?!?!?

Like the first time I kissed a dude. I mean, WAIT, WHAT?!?!??!

Like the first time I kissed a dude. I mean, WAIT, WHAT?!?!??!

The problem with this movie all stems from the sole fact that it holds so much promise for hilarity, wit, insight, and an emotional connection, that it makes me more depressed knowing that it was all squandered in favor of a bunch of nonsensical, unfunny jokes that go nowhere and are only meant to shock us, or get a rise. Either way, it tried too hard and it showed because nothing hit it’s mark here, not even the constant sex-jokes that they decide to throw at us. However, the movie has plenty of jokes that made me chuckle at least once, and hell, when I think about it now, maybe even twice, but those were very few and far between, and I have yet to even remember them now specifically, even as I’m typing away here.

Then again though, this whole movie could be considered “unforgettable”, and it will only hit the nail on the head. Except that I realize that underneath all of the non-stop layers of poop, fart, dick, balls, boobs, and sex jokes; there’s an actual point and story meant to be told here. Problem is, it never shows up or when it does, it comes out in the cheesiest, most-innate way possible; as if the flick itself needed to “have a point” in order to be more than just “a story about some chick trying to get her cherry popped”.

You can do so much with a raunchy, teen comedy, especially because any person, no matter how old or young they are, is able to connect with it. Everybody in their life has been a teenager, and has been sexually-frustrated or curious at least one time in their life. So right there is enough material to make the young, brass, sexually-problematic teenager come out from within us, connect with the material, and make us long for the old days when a sudden glance from the crush you had in school, gave you the sweats for the days. However, that said material is lost and never to be found again because the movie isn’t funny, tries to be, and doesn’t even make sense really.

If you think about it: This movie has no point to be taking place in the 90’s. With the exception of a VHS copy of Beaches, and a hip, nostalgic soundtrack that boasts some of the most obvious songs from the day, there’s nothing here that’s necessarily of the time of the 90’s, which means I never felt it either. I always felt like I was just watching a bunch of people dress-up in some odd outfits, and let that be it. They also said and did some dirty things that I highly doubt we’re really “named” back in ’93, but that’s just me. I was just born, so what the hell do I know? Basically, where I’m trying to get at it with this point is that the movie could have been placed during any decade or any year, and it wouldn’t have mattered a single bit. Why? Well, it’s not funny and the movie as a whole just doesn’t matter. You won’t learn anything new about growing up and coming to terms with your sexual-awakening, and you sure as hell won’t be telling your kids to watch it if they ever need something to connect to.

For all of us Gen-Y kids, we have American Pie and Superbad for that. And we’re better adolescents for it.

But nothing about this movie, not a single thing about it was as disappointing as the next aspect of this movie I’m about to cover: Aubrey Plaza in the lead role. It should come as to no surprise to anybody that knows about my love for Parks & Rec. that I love the hell out of Plaza and consider her one of my biggest crushes working today (her and Rosemarie Dewitt, oddly enough). Hell, I even went to school with her younger sister for one year, so if that doesn’t tell you anything about me and my connection to her throughout the years, then I have no clue just what the hell will! Fact is, I love the hell out of this chick and believe that she’s so talented and hilariously deadpan, that I was left down in the dumps when I realized that she just couldn’t pull through with this material and her lead performance as Brandy.

RED CUP ALERT!!

RED CUP ALERT!!

And to be honest, I can’t really put the blame on Plaza herself. She tries, it’s very obvious, but she does at least give it her all. Problem with Plaza is that she’s so used to deadpanning her ass off, that instead of giving this character any type of energy and charm, she seems to just be sarcastic all of the time, as if she was never really taking the premise or the material seriously enough. Plaza’s sense of humor works wonders in almost everything that she does, but she’s oddly-miscast her, almost to the point of where it was unbearable for me to watch. I have myself to blame for that, but I just couldn’t help myself dammit!

An even bigger shame about this movie (as if you haven’t been able to tell by now) is that the rest of the talented-cast is wasted as well. The only ones out of this huge ensemble that were able to get a slight giggle out of me were Clark Gregg, Connie Britton, Alia Shawkat, and most importantly, Bill Hader. That’s it. Everybody else is left to try and be funny, but just end up falling flat on their faces because either they don’t have the guts to make the material work, or it’s the material itself that’s failing them. I feel like it’s more of the latter, but there is some of the former thrown in there as well and it shows more than once. Just overall, a total disappointment and makes me sad to see many of these talented people stoop to the levels of this crappy script.

Consensus: Despite a heavy-presence of some very, very funny people, The To Do List never ends up being that: Funny. Instead, we get a bunch of dirty jokes that go nowhere and are only left to make us realize that being a teenager was so awkward.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

It's the 90's because of the hair, right?

It’s the 90’s because of the hair, right?

Monsters University (2013)

Now how much is a red cup going to cost?

Before they became pals working at Monsters Inc., Sully and Mike (John Goodman and Billy Crystal) were just your ordinary college student. They were young, ambitious, hopeful, happy, and willing to allow anything to happen, just as long as they finally had a chance to get their dream job. However, what some may be surprised about is that they weren’t friends right from the beginning and actually found more things to dislike about each other, than actually like. But through certain bits of challenges and obstacles, they will come together to realize who’s scarier, who’s wiser, and why they don’t like each other in the first place. Oh, and it’s also at a college so mind you; there may be some underage drinking involved.

Ending on the note that Monsters, Inc. did back in the day, it’s an honest surprise that they didn’t go forward with the sequel instead. We do like these characters and we would like to visit them again, but does it really have to be a prequel, especially one that takes place on a college-campus? I didn’t think so, but Pixar seems to really be scrounging the Earth for ideas, so it’s no surprise they re-hashed something that they knew would win over the older-crowd that still gives them money, day-in-and-day-out, thinking that they’re going to see the next Wall-E or Toy Story; as well as the new crowd that’s probably expecting something like Brave.

Those youngsters. What silly little creatures they truly are.

"Dammit, Mikey! Don't you dare mention the name "Boo". She doesn't even exist yet!"

“Dammit, Mikey! Don’t you dare mention the name “Boo”. She doesn’t even exist yet!”

However, I loved these guys so much in the first place that I wasn’t so depressed in seeing them when they were younger, more hopeful monsters, but at the same time, I wish the movie did more with the idea/premise. Basically, it’s just Revenge of the Nerds/Animal House, but with Pixar, so hold all of the f-bombs, the kegs, the nudity, the hardcore partying, drugs, sex, and pretty much everything else you’d come to expect and see with college, or a movie that revolves around college. That said, it’s a kids movie so I can’t complain about how mild and tame the material is, but I can complain about how unfunny the idea plays-out, which is a major bummer because Pixar has been known to take something, anything familiar to the common-brain and spin in it on it’s own head, with their own smart way. Sadly though, this wasn’t one of those “smart ways”.

The movie gets you with a couple of chuckles here and there, mostly through random references you may or may not catch, but overall, it’s a pretty dry experience. Nothing with this humor catches you off-guard like Pixar has been known to do, and is a lot more slapstick-y than it has been in recent years, mainly to get the kiddies laughing and happy. Which, once again, is dandy and fine, but what are the parents supposed to do? Just sit there in near-misery as their kiddie-bops laugh their rumps off by some monsters falling down a flight of stairs? Well, I guess so, but knowing Pixar the way that I do and sticking by them for as long as I have, I’ve come to expect more from them and know that they are about making the little tikes laugh, but also the older-peeps that brought them to the theater as well. Plenty of kids were howling like crazy at my screening, but the adults that surrounded me couldn’t really go along as it was just for them, and nobody else.

Poor parents. You deserve better. Except for when those innocent children all turn 14, then you’re dead to them!

But where Pixar really picks up the slack in is with it’s heartfelt message that is usually supposed to make the kiddies think, and touch the parents as if they were little ones as well. Actually, you could even go so far as to say that it’s Pixar’s strong-suit: if the comedy doesn’t work, get them long and hard with a message for everybody all over the globe to listen and feel something towards. However, what separates this flick from those others is that it’s message does not seem to really click with me as much as I would have expected, and I don’t know if that’s the flicks fault, or of my own.

Basically, the message is that all kids should not really set their standards too high, because if you live life long enough, you know that all of your dreams aren’t going to come true, but to also still settle for mediocrity. Personally, I believe that telling a kid that they should not believe in their hopes and dreams is bullshit because they’re kids and what else are they going to dream about, and also, I think telling them to settle for any sort of mediocrity is just plain and simply wrong. When the kids become older and begin to realize that the world isn’t going to hand them everything they want on a silver platter with a cherry on top, then I would say is the time to let your dreams go away and settle for whatever you can get. But when you’re a kid, and just about anything is possible, with your whole, bright future ahead of you, then I think you should stick to your guns, live the wild and young life you want to live, and if it doesn’t pan out the way you want it to, then big deal. Just don’t get yourself down when and if it does in fact happen.

However, that’s just me though, so maybe other parents want their kids to think the way this movie is telling them to. If that’s the case, it’s their prerogative, but mine is that kids should be themselves and be able to keep their dreams afloat, regardless of what the real world tells them is reality. Hey, I was a kid once too, and I had dreams. They sure as hell weren’t to become a movie critic of sorts, but they were dreams that I at least went for until I realized they had gotten too far for me to even grasp. That’s just the reality of the situation, but I can understand why some parents wouldn’t want their own kids having to go through with that themselves. Call it “babying”, call it what you will. It’s just life, man.

"I pledge to scare the shit out of every boy and girl in the world."

“I pledge to scare the shit out of every boy and girl in the world.”

No matter how far into mediocrity this flick went, the glue holding it all together was Sully and Mike, voiced terrifically once again by Billy Crystal and John Goodman. Together, they make a great team and even though I don’t fully believe their obviously-adult voices as ones of college freshman, I was still able to enjoy myself and be reminded of what these guys were like in the first movie (which still ranks as one of my favorites as a kid, and still holds up for me, believe it or not). They’re fun to watch together, by how different and alike they are, but also by how they come together in ways that are believable and easy to understand, especially when you know what these guys are at the beginning of the first movie. I didn’t need to see these characters on the big-screen, but it wasn’t such a bad trip down memory lane once more.

Steve Buscemi also returns as Randy, who actually has an odd twist here that makes you understand why he is the way he is in the original; Helen Mirren plays up her “ice queen”-act as Dean Hardscrabble, the one and only monster who holds the all-time record for most scares, ever; Nathan Fillion is awesome and bad-ass, even with his voice, as Johnny, the head brother of the biggest fraternity on campus; and Joel Murray does an effective job as the older, but equally as goofy member of the frat, Don, who shows some chops for comedic-timing. And trust me, there is plenty, plenty more recognizable voices, and even some faces (I’m talking about the actual characters), that you’ll hear and/or be happy to see.

Consensus: Despite not being a flick we really needed to see after the original ended so perfectly almost a decade ago, Monsters University is still a pleasant, enjoyable movie for the family, but seeing as this is Pixar and knowing what it is that they can do with their originality, it does come as a bit of a disappointment, especially for most die-hard fans, if there are such people.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Like us all, Mike Lisowski too dreams of having the greatest time of his life in college and getting that one job he oh so desires when he leaves. But this is 2013, and those dreams and hopes of a college freshman have all been dashed by now. Sorry, Mikey.

Like us, Mike Wazowski too dreams of having the greatest time of his life in college and getting that one job he oh so desires when he leaves. But this is 2013, and those dreams and hopes of a college freshman have all been dashed by now. Sorry, Mikey.

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

It’s the future, and Aubrey Plaza still does not smile.

Darius is an intern at a general interest magazine. She has no idea what she’s going to do with her life. She has no friends and no real source of income. Jeff, one of the staff writers, brings her along on a gig investigating a classified ad. Someone is looking for the perfect companion to join them on a dangerous time travelling mission. After a quick series of misfires, Darius becomes the bait for the magazine story.

Time-travel is a certain idea that most people just scoff at. However, there are plenty of those other peeps out there who believe that it’s there and that the government is still using it till this very day. Then again, those are the same people who believe it’s Doc Brown doing it so you can’t really decide on what to believe. All I know is that this film won’t really change your mind onto whether or not it’s real after all, but hey it’s an indie movie, they don’t give a shit anyway.

This film starts off as a somewhat wacky movie with a lot of goofy stuff going on with these characters as they are all being introduced to each other and a very jokey approach to a story that seems like it deserves just that. When you see a premise as wild as this, you automatically think it’s going to be one of those wild and stupid comedies, which this actually does start off with but something happens in the middle, then it all changes.

While this film does start off as your usual, quirky comedy, things start to get very romantic and somewhat dramatic, but it’s done in a very modest way where you feel like it’s genuine and you barely even notice the transition of moods. Director Colin Trevorrow gives us these characters, shows them for all that they are, some likable and some not, but by the end gives us fully-realized characters that actually go through some big changes throughout this whole story. Some of the changes for these characters are happy and others are sometimes bad, but in the end, we seem to get a full sense of who were watching the whole entire time through this whole flick. Because not only, do you feel like you know them, but you also start to root them on a tad bit by the end and that’s where the story got me, the problem is that I didn’t know what it was trying to do. And to be honest, I don’t think it did, either.

There’s a line in this movie that stuck-out for me where one guy asks one of the reporters, “so what’s your story about?”, only to have the reporter respond by saying, “I honestly do not know anymore”. To be honest, that’s how I felt about this film. I’ll give the film some love by saying it’s tone changes are nice and the story is heartfelt, but there seems to be almost too much going on here by the end that you feel like you don’t know what this story is talking about. We start off finding out about these people and how they look at time-travel, how this one quirky dude runs away from the government, has a secret life going on, and then people start to fall in love, but before the big ending where we all of a sudden are focusing on the whole time-travel aspect. Honestly, I didn’t know where this film was going towards the end and how they were going to end it, but when they did, I felt disappointed and left with a tad bit of an empty feeling. Not only did I feel like this because the last 15 minutes feel somewhat rushed as if the writer felt like he needed to end the story before it got drawn-out for far too long, but I also because there was too much going on that strayed away from the whole premise we began with for me to even feel something towards it. I also would have drew up a better ending for this flick, but then again, I can pretty much say that about any movie I watch.

If there was one thing that really attracted me to this movie was Aubrey Plaza, doing her usual sarcastic role she’s loved and known for in everything she does, especially my favorite show on TV right now, Parks and Recreations (which is saying something cause I don’t watch much TV). Plaza starts her character, Darius, off with her usual eye-rolling/sarcastic using act but after awhile, you start to see a lot of that break-down and you see here in a very vulnerable state, which is something you rarely ever see from her even when she is on TV. Plaza is so good here with all of the comedic stuff that it almost surprises the hell out of you, when she comes out of nowhere and brings out all of these emotional feelings out of her that not only feel real, but make you look at her acting in a different way. I hope Plaza gets bigger roles like this one in movies, because this chick definitely has what it takes to be a leading lady. You can quote me on that, bitch!

After seeing Your Sister’s Sister, I have come to realize that Mark Duplass is a very skilled actor and his role here as the nut-ball, Kenneth, shows just that. Kenneth is a total cook throughout the whole movie, but he’s a likable dude that you feel like wouldn’t hurt a fly unless he was pushed to do so. Duplass handles this goofy material perfectly and gives Kenneth a soft-edge that makes you see the world from his point-of-view. Jake M. Johnson also has a good role as the deuchy boss of Plaza, who starts off as this shallow and demeaning asshat, but is eventually brought to his knees and shown the ways of growing up, which was another story I was not only touched by but believed as well. I also have to give some love to Karan Soni as a fellow intern, who is so damn geeky and nerdy, that by the end, when he finally gets his time to shine, you can’t help but be so happy for the guy.

Consensus: Though it’s ending may not be as effective as it’s first hour, Safety Not Guaranteed is still a well-acted indie that features a lot of heart, a lot of humor, and a lot to show you of how you can take a time-travel premise, and push it in so many different ways to show you something just a tad different.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Funny People (2009)

I could only wish that everybody was as funny as the title says.

When famous comedian George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is given a second chance at a new beginning, he and his assistant, a struggling comedian, Ira (Seth Rogen), return to the places and people that matter most…including the stand-up spots that gave him his start and the girl that got away (Leslie Mann).

With Judd Apatow’s last two at bats (40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up) he has shown that he can make hilarious comedies, with heart-felt messages somewhere in between. This is no different, except it kind of is.

Apatow as the writer is perfect. He always fines a perfect balance of heart and hilarity, and this is no exception. The jokes as usual, are hilarious, if you like a lot of boner jokes, and it almost never slows down. The stand-up seems just wreak with hilarity and a lot of originality. When Simmons gets cancer, you would think that the most would slow down, and get very very serious, however, Apatow changes that and never stops bringing out the jokes, and surprisingly a lot of them had me laughing-out-loud. You can tell that he has matured, and his writing makes you have more hope for him in the future.

Although, Apatow as the director, now that’s a stretch. He overuses the slow-zoom to show his characters being emotionally effected by something, it’s almost too obvious at times. Also, the first act between Rogen and Sandler works so well, it was this close to getting a 10/10, then came the next story with Sandler and Mann, then it just kind of lost me. It’s less of a buy-one-get-one-free deal, and more a but-one-and-get-one you really didn’t ask for deal. Both stories just don’t seem connected, and although the jokes kept up during the last act, I still didn’t find a reason for it. Oh, and the film is about 2 hours and 30 minutes, so be ready to be looking at your watch many times.

Apatow does a great job of blurring the line of fiction and non-fiction to create compelling, realistic performances from the cast. George Simmons is sort of the dream role for Adam Sandler. Mainly because Simmons is a goofy comedian, Sandler gets to indulge in that goofy side, we all know and love him for, but he gets to show the characters darker parts, and does a fantastic job at it. Although, I think the film could have done a better chance of showing Simmons in a more positive way sometimes. Simmons is a dick, especially towards the end, but we never get to see him come out of that dark shell, and understand who he has come to be.

The rest of the cast is perfect too. Seth Rogen (who is looking very, very slim) plays probably the least Seth Rogen he has ever played, because he doesn’t do that famous “Rogen chuckle“, and instead he does a character with nervous twitches, and mega-awkwardness. Leslie Mann is funny, but more serious than her usual character, and seems a lot more genuine during the last act, than she has, in a long time (yes, I’m talking about you George of the Jungle). There are other little characters that will make you laugh such as Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, Aubrey Plaza, RZA, Aziz Ansari, but the most surprisingly funny one was…………….Eric Bana! He comes in the film and you expect him to play this really deuchy character, cause the whole film they talk about him so badly, then you meet him, and he’s downright lovable. He’s hilarious, sweet, and really cool. Kind of makes me forget about The Hulk.

The film probably should get an Oscar for the film with most cameos, if there ever was one. I mean you got Dave Attell, Sarah Silverman, Andy Dick, James Taylor, even Tom from MySpace (I don’t know how that guy still has a career). But the funniest one is between Eminem and Ray Romano, that will just have you cracking up, although it does seem really random. Better yet, you never know, Eminem probably wasn’t acting.

Consensus: Funny People is consistently funny, as well as being heart-felt, with great performances from the whole cast, even though the last act may take some away, and not very inspired direction.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!