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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Ben Stiller

Brad’s Status (2017)

Life sucks. Then you get old. Then die. Yep. That’s about it.

Brad Sloan (Ben Stiller) has a pretty nice life. A great wife (Jenna Fischer), who’s incredibly supportive of him, a cushy job, a quaint suburban house, a few friends, and a son, Troy (Austin Abrams), who’s something of a musical-prodigy and all ready to head off to college. But Brad still has an issue with his life and where he’s been heading in the past many years; for instance, his former-pals from college are all rich, successful, and living far more luxurious lifestyles than he is, which gets him thinking. Like a lot. And it sort of begins to ruin the trip that he has with his son, where they’re off visiting colleges like Harvard and Yale, all for the hopes that Troy will join the likes of the many greats who have come and gone there before him. Brad, on the other hand, can’t stop thinking about his life and what the hell he’s going to do next. Basically, he’s just going through a mid-life crisis – he just doesn’t really seem to know it yet.

See, Brad? Life’s not so bad! You’ve got Pam in your life!

Writer/director Mike White knows what he’s talking about here and because of that, Brad comes off a lot more sympathetic than he probably should have been. While no doubt everything that Brad is yelling, ranting, raving, complaining, and getting all upset about is nothing more than just white first-world problems, it still feels relevant and interesting. We may not agree with everything that he’s pissed-off about – not having enough money, wanting to see other people, wishing that he was working for a different place – but we can sort of see where he’s coming from and it helps make Brad more interesting and relatable, as opposed to just another rambling, bumbling, and angry white guy who truly has nothing to worry about.

Like at all.

And that’s why Brad’s Status both works and also doesn’t. It works because it features some smart and snappy writing about real life issues that everyone faces at least once or twice in their existences. But it’s also bad because that’s literally all Brad’s Status is about; just when we’re introduced to a new character, or possibly even, a new conflict, we know it’s only a matter of time until something irritates Brad and he has to let his mind loose. It’s a convention we see coming, again and again, and it makes Brad annoying, but the writing seem cheap and sitcom-y.

Uh oh. Time for an angry rant.

Which, coming from Mike White, is a bit of a disappointment. He ought to know better and not really fall back onto this sort of stuff that seems like a lame fall-back. And it isn’t like because Brad can sometimes be an asshole, means that he’s not watchable – some of the most compelling characters are the ones you love to hate – it’s just that he’s a bit of a bore. His issues are relevant and, at some point, understandable, but there comes a point when one has to shut up and move on, and Brad’s Status, much like Brad himself, doesn’t seem to.

The one real aspect keeping Brad’s Status moving is Ben Stiller who, once again, seems to really playing to his strengths, albeit, in a much more dramatic-manner.

But it’s a solid turn from Stiller who seems to get off on playing these overachieving, annoying perfectionists, but actually injects some real heart and humanity into him. We see a lot of that play out in the relationship he has with his son here, who is already an interesting character in the first place. Normally, with these kinds of movies where the dad’s a bit of a bummer, the kids generally seem to hate them and loathe their even existence, but Abrams’ Troy. In a way, Troy loves his dad more than even Brad knows or even notices, and it’s why Brad’s Status remains a much smarter movie than you’d expect – there’s an actual feeling of love and emotion somewhere to be found beneath all of the ranting.

Much like real life rants.

Consensus: With an exceptional lead performance from Stiller, Brad’s Status works as an interesting, if also troubling character-study of a relatable, but also annoying person that we may all grow to become one day.

6 / 10

“Dad? What are you hissing about?”

Photos Courtesy of: Amazon Studios

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The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)

Family’s enough competition as is.

Danny Meyerowitz (Adam Sandler) is going through a bit of a rough-patch in his life. He and his wife are separated, his daughter (Grace Van Patten) is going off to college to hopefully continue the family’s long legacy of being artistically-sound, and he just lost his home, forcing him to have to move back in with his father, renowned sculpture-artist Harold (Dustin Hoffman). And by doing so, he also becomes closer with his sister, Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), and stepmother, Maureen (Emma Thompson). It’s not too happy of a time for Danny and while his father knows this, he doesn’t quite help the situation out much, either. Then enters Danny’s half-brother, Michael (Ben Stiller), who his father loves and adores a lot more and for very obvious reasons – Michael is a lot more successful and Harold happened to marry his mother twice. While the two aren’t really supposed to get along, they eventually try to tie the binds between them and get over the long years of familial strife and continue on the Meyerowitz legacy. Or at least, whatever is left of it.

“No! I’m funnier!”

Is Noah Baumbach a pretentious film-maker? A part of me likes to think that he is, but another part of me likes to think that he isn’t. While there are certain movies of that I don’t care for (Margot at the Wedding, Greenberg), there are others that I do (everything else), and it mostly all comes down to how unfathomable and unlikable his characters are. And in mostly all of Baumbach’s films, that seems to be the case.

It’s pretty interesting, really, that he’s chosen to have his protagonists be challenging, somewhat unsympathetic human beings that, while we dislike the time we spend with them, they’re still human and compelling. After all, the characters are either just like us, or like people we know, and while we may not want to spend two-hours with them, there’s no denying the fact that actually spending time with them is rather refreshing. So yeah. I don’t know if the fact that enjoys having his movies centered around these awful characters makes him pretentious, it just makes him, as well as his movies, a bitter pill to swallow.

But one that you’ll probably be fine with afterwards.

And while in the Meyerowitz Stories, there’s no really awful, unlikable, and reprehensible character here, they’re all kind of annoying and a little deuchy. Then again, that’s sort of the point. Family itself is raised on the notion of competition and who’s more successful than the other, so when these characters all start bragging to one another about their great noble achievements, however small they may be, sure, it may be a little tiresome, but it all comes from a soft spot in their hearts that we can, at the very least, relate to.

Baumbach’s a smart enough writer to at least know and understand that each of these characters all have something going for them, as well as a little something going for them. For instance, while Danny’s made out to be a bit of a loser, he’s also got a stronger connection to his daughter and most other humans than perhaps his half-brother, Michael will ever have with another person. On the flip-side of things though, Michael’s also a lot more successful in his life and probably always will be, whereas Danny seems like he’ll never get up off the couch and do something extraordinary with his life because, well, he’s never had to, so why start now? It’s an interesting contrast that follows just about every character in this movie, and while it may make them a wee bit over-bearing, they’re still honest and raw.

So much sarcasm.

And oh yeah, because of the ensemble, fun to watch, too.

Especially in the case of Danny, who gets a great performance out of Adam Sandler, for once and a blue moon. But what’s interesting about Danny is that he’s basically every other Adam Sandler character the guy’s played in the past two decades or so: He’s a man-child who doesn’t know if he ever wants to grow up, how to do it, and is kind of sad. But in this case, the sad-sack has a lot more to him than just childish hi-jinx, as he’s much more likable and sympathetic, and not just an all around dick. It’s great to see Sandler in this kind of role, where he’s literally forced to act and actually do something, and it shows us all that, yes, he’s still got it, and when the Netflix money runs out, he can always turn back to arthouse, character-driven roles. So long as it’s not something like the Cobbler.

Ben Stiller is, as usual, pretty good, too, playing another sort of dick-head who seems like he’s got his whole life in-check, but really doesn’t. Stiller’s done a great job in his outings with Baumbach and while this isn’t his most challenging, it still shows us that he and Baumbach help each other out in working better for the two. Together, Stiller and Sandler have a sort of anti-chemistry that, even though they’re not supposed to like each other, they sort of do and it’s quite a lovely little sight to see. After all, these are two of comedy’s greats, finally together, once again, but instead of yucking it up for the nosebleeds, they’re actually playing three-dimensional, fully-realized characters.

Wow. Funny how times change. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Consensus: With a talented ensemble and a group of interesting characters, the Meyerowitz Stories is an honest, funny, and sometimes look at family and all of the hostilities that go along with it.

8 / 10

Invite me to that reunion. Oh wait. Maybe not.

Photos Courtesy of: Netflix

The Cable Guy (1996)

What’s a “Cable Guy”? Better yet, what’s “cable”? Is it like Netflix?

Matthew Broderick plays Steven, a dude who just got out of a relationship and needs someone to fix his cable one day. He calls up the cable guy (Jim Carrey) and he’s a bit weird, but he gets the job done. However, the cable guy wants more than just the job, he wants a buddy and that’s something Steven isn’t quite up for just yet.

The Cable Guy is often forgotten about in today’s world of media, whenever it comes to the conversations of the careers of both Jim Carrey and Ben Stiller. See, while they are both two of the most recognizable names in comedy, at one time, they actually got together and tried to make something that, well, wasn’t quite a comedy. If anything, it’s a lot darker and weirder than anyone had ever expected, which is probably why it’s hardly ever heard from and basically bombed when it was first released.

But did it deserve all that?

It's Jim Carrey being wacky! What could go wrong?!?

It’s Jim Carrey being wacky! What could go wrong?!?

Not really.

 

The Cable Guy is a strange movie, for sure, but definitely more of a comedy, than an actual drama. There’s lots to laugh at, but there’s also plenty more to cringe and be surprised by, too; there’s no real distinction between genres here and Stiller does a solid enough job as writer and director, never letting us in on the lines. We think we know what should be laugh-out-loud hilarious because of other comedies and what they constitute as hilarity, but with the Cable Guy, it’s far different and it’s why the movie, while not always successful, is an interesting watch.

And at the center, yes, it does have a little something to say about the culture of television and how, in ways, it can shelter us off from the rest of the world, and have us feel as if we are in our own, little bubble – the same kind of bubble where you are always loved, accepted and taken in, for who you are, not what you should be. Sure, it’s obvious and been said many times before, but the Cable Guy tells it again, but in a much smarter, heartfelt way, especially with Carrey’s portrayal of the title character who, surprisingly enough, is never given a name.

See! He's not so bad!

See! He’s not so bad!

How fitting.

Which isn’t all to say that the movie’s a down-and-out drama, because it’s actually pretty funny when it wants to be. Of course, though, it brings on problems with tone, where it seems like the movie may have bitten-off more than it can chew and handle all at once, but still, there’s something refreshing about watching a major-studio comedy flick give it the professional try. It may swing and barely hit, but at least it’s trying in the first place, so sometimes, a pat on the fanny is all that matters.

Right? Eh. Whatever.

Anyway, Carrey is the real reason why the movie works as well as it does, because he, like the movie’s tone, constantly has us guessing. We never know what he’s going to say, do, or try next and because of that, we don’t know whether to love, like, or be terrified of him. There’s this slight sense of danger to him, but also a bit of fun, too. Then, there’s also this sad aspect to him that may make you want to give him a hug. It’s a rich character that could have probably done wonders in a far darker, more dramatic movie, but as is, Carrey’s terrific in the role that, unsurprisingly enough, audiences just weren’t ready to accept just yet. It would take some time, obviously, but man, if only they had caught on sooner, rather than later.

On the opposing side of Carrey is Matthew Broderick, who’s fine as the usual straight-man he’s so used to playing by now, but his character has some issues. For one, he’s a bit of an a-hole; he’s constantly a Debbie-downer, never having anything nice or pleasant to say, and yeah, just not bringing much to the movie as a whole. Like I said, Broderick tries, but it seems like the script wasn’t there for him; instead of developing another compelling and well-rounded character, the movie just made him something of a blank slate, with little-to-no personality and allow for the Cable Guy to get all the work. It’s not like it doesn’t work, but hey, it would have definitely helped if we had a little more to work with.

Consensus: It’s obvious what the Cable Guy is trying to say, but it’s less about the message, and more about the funny, sometimes darkly odd premise, bolstered by an unforgettably crazy and all-star performance from Carrey.

8 / 10

Oh, uhm. Ha-ha?

Oh, uhm. Ha-ha?

Photos Courtesy of: Monkeys Fighting Robots

School for Scoundrels (2006)

Just go out there and try to make it, fellas. What’s the worst that could happen?

Roger (Jon Heder) is a pushover New York City meter maid who can’t score at his job or with his attractive neighbor, Amanda (Jacinda Barrett). He’s basically a lovable loser, but a loser nonetheless. A close friend of Roger’s suggests that he go to a self-help class run by the angry Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton), who teaches lessons about self-esteem to the biggest losers in the city. There, Roger develops his inner-beast and sooner than later, starts charming the socks off of Amanda. However, while this may be good for Roger, it’s also bad for him, as Dr. P doesn’t like competition, and definitely enjoys taking people down, especially classmates of his. That’s why Roger is absolutely horrified and pissed that Dr. P starts taking Amanda off of his hands and for his own good, making up all sorts of lies and stories about who he really is. Roger may not like this, but knowing what he knows about himself now, is more than up to the task of taking down Dr. P once and for all, and when all is said and done, possibly get the girl of his dreams.

"Nice to meet you. Now let's get this damn movie over with. New CSI is on tonight."

“Nice to meet you. Now let’s get this damn movie over with. New CSI is on tonight.”

Say what you will about what Todd Phillips’ career has turned-out to be, but back in the day, before 2006, he was quite a hot and very interesting commodity. After making two controversial documentaries (Hated, Frat House), one concert flick (Bittersweet Motel), and three raucous comedies (Road Trip, Old School, Starsky & Hutch), it seemed as if Phillips was ready to try something new with his career. Of course, this meant that he would take on a slightly more romantic-comedy route and in that, came the remake of the 1960 classic, School of Scoundrels.

And unfortunately, it brought on a lot of the hate that still haunts him to this day.

Because really, the biggest problem with School for Scoundrels isn’t that it’s a romantic-comedy, it’s that it doesn’t even register as either; the romance is never there between any of the leads and the comedy sure as hell doesn’t even work, give or take a few moments here or there. If anything, it’s the kind of movie where it seems like Phillips is trying to make something work here, but really, both sides don’t connect or even go well hand-in-hand. Had the movie been a lot more vicious and mean like his other comedies, it probably would have worked a lot more, but for some reason, it seems like Phillips has to play nice and soften things up a bit, which doesn’t quite work for anyone in the flick, most importantly, him.

And it’s a shame because you could do a lot with a remake of School of Scoundrels; the subject-material is just interesting enough to comment on sexual mores, but it’s also ripe enough with a lot of comedy to poke fun at masculinity, femininity, and what constitutes as either. Surely, that movie isn’t the one that Phillips had in mind while working here, but still, it’s a disappointment when you watch and know what could happen, had the ones involved given more time, attention and care to really working with the material. Even the dressing-down of the men (by constantly using the term “f**got”), seems cheap and lazy – it’s as if all of the funny jokes and gags that Phillips had to offer were found in his three previous flicks and that’s all he had to offer.

But honestly, the main reason why School for Scoundrels is a bit of a bummer, is because its ensemble is so talented, so funny, and so entertaining in so many other movies, that here, to just watch them all flop around and not have much to do, is quite dispiriting.

Ha! Ha! Right?

Ha! Ha! Right?

To name just a tad few, aside from the two main stars, School for Scoundrels features Paul Scheer, Horatio Sanz, Sarah Silverman, Todd Louiso, Aziz Ansari, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Cross, Matt Walsh, Jon Glaser, Ben Stiller, and so many more that, on many, many occasions, have proven to be hilarious, however, here, they’re just not. Most of them try and make something out of seemingly nothing, but most of the time, the movie’s uneven script and direction just leaves them high and dry – Silverman may be the only one who gets away with any sort of laughs, which mostly has to do with the fact that she’s seemingly playing the usual bitch-y sort of role she’s always played.

But then, of course, there’s Billy Bob Thornton and Jon Heder, and yeah, they just do not work well here. Billy Bob Thornton turns in another one of his lazier roles, where you can tell that he’s just doing this flick for a paycheck, reading his lines in the driest way possible, all so that he can go off, hop back in his trailer, and take another nap. He’s supposed to be this incredibly pompous, but smart a-hole, but doesn’t come off as either; Billy Bob being an a-hole is normally a blast to watch, but here, he just doesn’t seem spirited enough to bother.

And then there’s Jon Heder, who, yes, is pretty awful.

But honestly, I don’t know if it’s really his fault; he’s supposed to play this character that’s a total nerd, but also turns out to be something of a bad-ass once the plot gets going and just can’t pull it off. The movie constantly tries to make it work, but Heder just doesn’t seem to have that ability in his acting-skills to make that work, so instead, he just flails around and acts a lot like Napoleon Dynamite. It’s a shame, too, because aside from Dynamite, Heder can be funny, but he just doesn’t have the goods here.

Sadly, out of everyone’s careers here, his was probably affected the most and never to be heard from again.

Consensus: Despite its talented cast and crew, School for Scoundrels wastes them all on an unfunny script, that doesn’t know if it wants to be romantic, mean, or stupid, so instead, tries to go for all three and fails completely.

2.5 / 10

My thoughts exactly, guys.

My thoughts exactly, guys.

Photos Courtesy of: Pop Matters, Rotten Tomatoes, Christophe Beck

Don’t Think Twice (2016)

Don’t always try to be a comic. Not everyone likes a non-stop jokester.

The Commune has been an improv troupe for as long as the downtown New York comedy scene has been around. Some have obviously gone onto bigger, way better things, whereas there have been quite a few, that have either given up on comedy altogether, or still stayed with the comedy troupe, in hopes that, one day, they’ll soon catch that big break. Miles (Mike Birbiglia) has been with the troupe the longest, and not only wonders what he’s to do next with his career, but also what to do about his life, when it comes to starting a family and getting a stable job. Same goes for everyone else, like the spoiled Lindsay (Tami Sagher), who still gets allowance from her wealthy parents, like Allison and Bill (Kate Micucci and Chris Gethard), two comedians who have hopes and ambitions of getting their comic-book careers off the ground, and especially like Samantha and Jack (Gillian Jacobs and Keegan-Michael Key), the couple of the group who, despite not always seeing eye-to-eye, have stuck together through it all. However, one of the members is now getting a shot at stardom and it puts every other member’s lives and careers into perspective.

We get it, you improv.

We get it, you improv.

Comedies about comedians are kind of hard to do. For one, you have to be funny, but at the same time, you also have to do so in a way that’s smart and relateable enough for the audience to get and understand just where it is your coming from. For writer/director/star Mike Birbiglia, it’s clear that the comedy world, can be a very sad one, where missed opportunities and chances occur on a daily basis and no matter what, it’s going to be a constant push-and-pull; some days, you’ll think that you’ve finally been noticed and all of your wildest hopes and dreams can happen, whereas other days, you’ll feel as if you screwed the pooch and lost all hope and promise for the world. At the same time, Birbiglia also knows that the comedy world, if you’re lucky enough, can be a place to meet all sorts of lovely and kind people who not only make you laugh, but also are there to give you a hug when you need it the most.

Don’t Think Twice is the kind of movie you expect to be all sorts of corny, preachy, and not all that funny; like improv itself, you can only go so far to the point where you’re hitting every obvious convention on the head. But Birbiglia, who made an impressive directorial debut in Sleepwalk With Me, seems to understand that there’s a certain level of heart to make the humor work, as well as vice versa. Sure, we can laugh at some of the things that these characters do and say, whether on the stage or not, but sometimes, what makes the humor more compelling and fun is that we know these characters, understand their personalities, and see exactly where they’re coming from.

May not sound like much, but trust me, in the comedy world, it means everything.

That’s why Birbiglia improves on his debut here, as he not only shows a skill in taking all of these different subplots and giving them their own spotlight, but also knows how to make them all somewhat important enough to where we do care about this troupe, what happens to them when one of them leaves, and just what each and everyone of them bring to the world of comedy. It would have been incredibly easy for each one of these characters to be as nauseatingly annoying as the next, but somehow, Birbiglia makes us care and most of all, laugh with them. Like with his debut, it’s clear that the story comes from a soft place in Birbiglia’s heart and he wears his heart on his sleeve, almost each and every scene he gets the chance to, whether the scenes be funny or not.

But it’s not just Birbiglia’s movie and it’s not just his performance – there’s a whole slew of others that make this movie well worth it and make us understand better why these stories matter. Because every character gets their own personality/subplot/hobby, they all come off as three-dimensional characters, even if there are a few that could have been dispensable in the long run. Sure, Micucci’s, Gethard’s, Sagher’s characters don’t really shake the movie quite as much as Key, Jacobs and Birbiglia do, but there’s time and dedication to them, that makes them more than just the side-performers who are around just because Birbiglia wanted to work with them.

Cheer up, Mike. Your life isn't really all that sad and miserable in reality.

Cheer up, Mike. Your life isn’t really all that sad and miserable in reality.

Then again, Key, Jacobs and Birbiglia truly are astounding in this movie and it’s hard not to think about them long after.

Birbiglia, despite giving his ensemble plenty to do, still comes off as heartfelt and humane as the pathetic Miles, who has long reached his expiration date in the comedy scene and is hanging on to it by a thread. You feel bad for him, even if, at the same time, you want him to grow up already. Then, there’s Jacobs as Samantha, who really understands how to make a sometimes unlikable character, seem sympathetic. She does some silly, downright idiotic things throughout the flick, but Jacobs makes you feel for her, more and more as the flick goes on and it’s hard not to fall in love with her, as if the world hasn’t already been doing so for the past few years or so.

But really, it’s Keegan-Michael Key who steals the movie, showing us that, yes, beyond all of the wacky impersonations, the screaming, and the joking around, he truly can act. As Jack, Key has the hardest role to pull-off, because he has to be both a nice guy, as well as a bit of a dick at the same time, and honestly, we never hate him as much as we should. During the comedy scenes, Key is on fire as always, but when it’s just him, laying his heart out, it’s surprising, because it all works so well. We like this guy and we feel for him, even when he’s thrown into a corner and has to do something that may hurt those around him. It’s a great performance that I hope to see more of from him in the future.

Hopefully, that’ll also give Birbiglia an incentive to make more movies.

Consensus: Funny, smart, and heartfelt, without ever overdoing it, Don’t Think Twice finds Mike Birbiglia expressing his love for the comedy world, while also realizing the pain and heartbreak that can come along with it.

8 / 10

Funny friends stick together and annoy each other mercilessly.

Funny friends stick together and annoy each other mercilessly.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Zoolander 2 (2016)

Male models are still funny, I guess?

After the death of his wife, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller)’s life basically imploded. First of all, The Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too actually collapses due to faulty construction. Then, he loses his son to Child Protective Services. And his best friend and closest confidante, Hansel (Owen Wilson), gets disfigured and is forced to leave the spotlight, never to be heard from again. All of this culminates Derek in leaving the rest of the world himself, venturing out to the far North where nothing, or nobody, can bother him. That’s until Billy Zane (Billy Zane) comes into the picture and warns Derek that known celebrities are not only being mysteriously killed, but reenacting one of Derek’s most famous looks before doing so. This leads Derek back to finding Hansel and figuring out just what this is all about. Eventually, with the help of former swimsuit model, now turned Interpol agent, Valentina (Penélope Cruz), Hansel and Derek find out that the one going after them and killing all of these celebrities just so happens to be their arch-nemesis Mugatu (Will Ferrell) who, despite being locked-up for all of these years, still holds a grudge and wants to take over the fashion world, once again.

See! Tiny cellphone joke! A! HA!

See! Tiny cellphone joke! A! HA!

Zoolander isn’t a classic by any means, but it’s still a very funny movie. It’s stood the odd test of time as some sort of “cult classic” that may not be as smart as it thinks, but in by doing so, somehow was actually smart. I don’t know. It’s the kind of movie that I’ve seen so much now, whether through TV re-runs or with my buddies that, by now, the movie’s been so imprinted into my mind that I know almost every line of dialogue and I still find it funny.

This is everything that Zoolander 2 is not and it could have been so much more.

But it didn’t really have to try at all and that’s one of the biggest surprises about Zoolander 2. Even with the likes of the original crew back and ready for action, there seems to be something missing in that Zoolander 2 is just the same joke, over and over again, but this time, there’s nothing funny about the joke. The first movie at least made the joke about how models are dumb and went far and wide with it, but here, we’re supposed to take that joke and think that’s just about it, with a slew of cameos thrown in for good measure.

In a way, too, it’s almost as there are so many cameos from totally random people celebrities here, that it’s almost as if Ben Stiller himself knew that he was working with bad material and thought the best way to hide behind that fact was to have people like Sting, or Neil deGrasse Tyson, or even Justin Bieber show up for extended cameos to distract everybody from the real problems with the script. But that’s the issue, the cameos aren’t funny, the script blows and the same joke, being hit over our heads, over and over again, goes nowhere and doesn’t seem to really land, even if the story is basically about this whole conspiracy involving male models.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t some laughs to be found, but really, they are few and far between, which mostly has to do with the tone.

The first Zoolander kind of existed in this ridiculous world where people acted-out in strange, over-the-top ways but this second movie only seems to flirt with that world. Instead now, the jokes are a bit more mean-spirited and most of all, just call-backs. I get that  tiny cellphone in the original movie was funny for its time, to have it now be 2016 and have not one, not two, but three jokes about said tiny cellphone is just overkill. There’s so many other callbacks that continue on in this movie, almost everyone failing harder than the one before it and just makes me wonder why Stiller was so off-point here?

The future of the Zoolander franchise that will never work out. Thank heavens for that.

The future of the Zoolander franchise that will never work out. Poor guy.

Clearly he has a sort of love and adoration for these characters, knows that there’s a huge audience out there for this product, and typically, doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to take on a whole project on his own and just go through the motions. Say what you will about some of his choices, but mostly, Stiller has been smart with the movies he’s decided to write and direct, all of which being more ambitious and surprising than the last. That’s why Zoolander 2 not only finds himself back in his comfort-zone, not just as a director, but as actor, but also reminds us why some Ben Stiller movies can be so grating to watch.

We know that there’s more to him than this, but why is he putting this out? Was it for the money? Or was it just because he wanted to get the crew back together, one last time for the hell of it?

Regardless of what the reason was, he’s not the only one who gets caught up here, showing that they have better stuff to do. Owen Wilson tries as Hansel, but with the exception of orgy jokes, there’s nothing else holding him together; Kristen Wiig’s character is supposed to be the head fashion designer who can’t walk, talk or emote right because of all the surgery she’s had and while it can be funny at first, it goes on way too long; Will Ferrell shows up late in the game as Mugatu and seems like he wants to do more, but only has a certain amount of time to be funny and it’s not much; Penelope Cruz tries to bring more to her standard agent role and she shows some personality, but it doesn’t go far enough; and yeah, the cameos. There’s so many here, most of which are surprising, but really don’t pan-out to being much else but just cameos and that’s it.

They’re not hiding the fact that Zoolander 2 stinks, even as hard as they may try.

Consensus: Even despite the original not being a great movie, Zoolander 2 still is no excuse for the likes of Stiller, Wilson, Ferrell, Wiig, Cruz, and everybody else to be wasting their time with such lame material as this that has nothing else to say other than just to say, “models are stupid”.

3 / 10

Todd makes any movie better. So why wasn't this his?!?!

Todd makes any movie better. So why wasn’t this his?!?!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Your Friends & Neighbors (1998)

It’s like they always say, “If you can’t make it in bed, you can’t make it in life.”

Jason Patric, Ben Stiller, and Aaron Eckhart play a trio of pals who regularly get together and talk about sex and/or women, but they all have their own personal lives that somehow find their ways of mashing together. Stiller is having problems with his gal-pal (Catherine Keener), who just so happens to be finding her own lust with a fellow lady (Natassja Kinski); Eckhart is also having similar problems with his woman (Amy Brenneman), minus the whole lesbian-angle; and Patric is just enjoying his life as a total, misogynistic stud that gets what he wants, how he wants it, and doesn’t give a flyin’ hoot about what anybody thinks.

Basically, he’s portraying me.

No matter what Neil LaBute may be talking about and whether or not you agree with what he says or not, there is still one element about each of his films that cannot be argued: They are incredibly well-written. Such as is the case here where not only do we get a plainer look and view inside the world of sexual-politics, but an even plainer one at the world of relationships, whether they be same-sex or opposite sex. Basically, what it seems like LaBute is trying to say here, is that all people, regardless of what different walks of life they may have come from, still can never, ever be alone and still walk through the motions of life, without ever really taking anything in or actually feeling genuine. Why? Well, because people, as a whole, are weak and hate it when they’re alone.

Yup, total lesbians.

Yup, total lesbians.

Maybe that’s me reading into the material, or maybe that’s exactly what LaBute’s actually going for, but either way, it’s all very bleak and depressing. Although, LaBute knows this and gives us something to hold onto with rich characters that may not be the nicest of people out on-display, but are still people that you feel like you could meet a book-store (whichever ones still exist), go out for coffee, chit-chat for a bit about life, love, and all of the finer things, end the conversation, exchange numbers, and never have contact with again. The reason for that being is just because they just seem too terrible or inhumane to surround yourself with.

Yet, they are all still watchable and easy to connect with, even if they don’t always seem like the ones with the biggest heart.

Take, for instance, Ben Stiller’s black hearted-role here as Jerry, may make it seem as if the guy is trying to stretch out his acting muscles and see what he can do when there’s more depth to his act than just goofy voices and faces, but it’s more or less the same act around, just this time: More cursing and screwing. Stiller does the usual awkward, nerdy-shtick and as much as it may work for his character, it’s still terribly annoying to have to watch, let alone listen to and it makes you feel utterly no sympathy for the guy whatsoever. Then again, that’s probably the point to begin with, so if anything, it’s more of a strength.

Aaron Eckhart, on the other hand, is doing something completely different from what we saw with him from In the Company of Men. Not only because he put on so much weight to really fit the role of the insecure, middle-aged man, but because he was so sympathetic and likable, whereas in Men, he was a total and complete dick you didn’t give a single crap about. Eckhart’s character is such a bone-headed doofuss, that you really do feel terrible for him and just want to give him a big old hug, just in hopes that he will at least put a smile on and be able to sustain an erection for his lady. Shows that the guy has some range as an actor, while also giving us a look at the nicest, most-endearing character of them all.

And trust me, that’s saying a lot.

The best out of the trio of dudes is Jason Patric, as the misogynistic, nasty lady-slayer (not literally, mind you) that seems to get along with virtually no one, yet, always finds people to be around him and even better, still finds gals in his bed. Patric is so amazing here because he always seems like the guy who really knows what he’s talking about and doesn’t care about whether or not you believe him on anything he says. He’s just doing him, and it’s great to not only see that in a character actor of high-prestige like Patric, but to also see that in a character in general. There are a couple of scenes where he really releases all hell on these people around him and not only does it make you feel as if he’s the type of guy you would never want to be stuck inside of an elevator with, but also the type of guy you don’t want in your life, mostly because he’ll just call you out on all of your dirty laundry. Patric is by-far the stand-out of this whole movie and completely owns every scene he has.

Outside of the men's locker room, problems never arise. But inside, that's where all the hell breaks loose.

Outside of the men’s locker room, problems never arise. But inside, that’s where all the hell breaks loose.

However, the guys seem to be the ones who get the most attention out of LaBute, as the gals don’t really seem to get all that much love, despite them all being pretty damn good with what they do. Catherine Keener’s character seems terribly bitchy and blunt, but also seems a bit like the voice of reason that you need in a movie like this, where not only everybody is at each other’s jugulars, but also where everybody seems to be talking a bit too much for sore ears. Playing her lesbo-lover is Natassja Kinski and is okay with what she’s given, but still seems one-dimensional and more or less just given a role to fulfill the non-stop quirk of there being a scene where almost every character goes up to a piece of art, asks the same questions, and gives their critique on it. Like Kinski, Amy Brenneman does fine with her role, but she’s almost too moody to be taken in as anyone, let alone an actual, three-dimensional character in a movie like this.

So, yeah. Here, it seems like maybe LaBute drops the ball a bit on presenting fully-layered women characters, as opposed to the men.

But don’t worry, there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Consensus: Like most of LaBute’s flicks, Your Friends & Neighbors features a solid cast working with some mean, nasty and grueling stuff, even if not all of it feels as powerful as his debut.

8.5 / 10

This scene will make you want to go to the library. Yes, it's that awesome.

This scene will make you want to go to the library. That is, if you can find one.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Starsky & Hutch (2004)

Probably the tamest movie I’ve ever seen that says “coke” about 15 times. And I’m not referring to the soda, although if it were the late 1800’s, I would be referring to both I guess, right?

Detective David Starsky (Ben Stiller) is all about following the rules, getting the job, and having the law come out on-top, at any means necessary; Detective Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson (Owen Wilson) is far different in the way that he’s so cool, calm, relaxed, and mellowed-out, that he doesn’t really care if he gets the job done or not, he just wants to look cool and smokin’. They’re polar-opposites, but they get strung together somehow and have to solve a drug-ring of coke on the streets, lead by millionaire Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn). Together, they have their fair-share of problems, but together, through the insistence on getting along and the help of their ears and eyes of the street, Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg), they finally realize that the law always prevails. Or something of that nature.

It’s strange to think that a man who has been known for his fair share of R-rated, raunch-fests, Todd Phillips, would ever stoop so low as to go for a PG-13. But somehow, with this, he did and his struggle with actually trying to keep to that rating without over-stepping it at all. As I said up-top, there’s plenty uses of the word “coke” and nothing but; girls make-out with other girls; the F-bomb is dropped once (and randomly); partial-nudity is seen (sort of); and the word “shit” gets dropped about 5 or 6 times. It’s just strange because we know that when Phillips turns on the dirty-jets, he has a fun time and lets loose like no other, but what we mostly know is that when he does get down and dirty: he’s a lot funnier as well.

Whatta fun time!

Whatta fun time!

And trust me, it’s not that this flick isn’t funny, because it sure as hell does have it’s moments of comedic-inspiration that are more than likely going to win you over; it’s just that the tone itself is a bit uneven. What I mean by that is that the flick tries to go for a satire of an episode of the original Starsky & Hutch, and at other times, seems like it’s trying to be a straight-forward comedy that makes up it’s own jokes, is in it’s own little universe, and doesn’t even know about the other show. Hell, it even plays out like a failed-pilot of the original, except with more knowing-humor and a switch-up of the lead characters.

Since the movie never seems like it knows what it wants to be, or how for that matter, some comedy hits and some of it misses. More of it hits than actually misses, but knowing what Stiller, Wilson, Vaughn, Ferrell, and even Phillips are capable of, it comes as a bit of a disappointment. The jokes they use get a bit stale after awhile, especially the part where Starsky is high on cocaine and gets into a dance-battle, even though he doesn’t know he’s high, and become the same old, “70’s-fashion-was-so-corny”-type of humor. Nothing as witty or as smart as Zoolander or even Old School here, just a bunch of repetitive jokes made towards the decade it’s apparently supposed to take place in, even if it feels like we’re just watching a bunch of current-Hollywood stars play dress-up and act like their in the 70’s. I don’t know if being a tad bit anachronistic was the movie’s point or not, but if it was; it probably would have been a lot smarter and funnier in that case.

But in all honesty, I can’t discredit this movie too much cause the cast seems to be having fun and is mostly the reasons why we find ourselves laughing at times, despite it seeming a bit desperate at times. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are seemingly playing Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. They both seem to be enjoying themselves, not having to stretch their acting-muscles all that much, and getting a chance to dress in some fine, sexy 70’s digs. Together, they’re a bunch of fun and keep this movie cracking, but after awhile, you start to think how much of this movie was made because they really wanted to make a Starsky & Hutch movie, or how much of it was made as an excuse for the two to pal-around with one another? One has to wonder, and sometimes, it feels like the latter-aspect. It’s fun to watch them, but it feels like their having a bit more fun than we are and that poses a problem, especially when they’re trying to steal the laughs out of you.

Come on! Gimme more!

Come on! Gimme more!

On paper, having Vince Vaughn do his spastic, fast-speech act and Jason Bateman do his dead-pan act, team together, and play the smart, but slightly off-kilter baddies in a movie would seem like comedic-brilliance, but it never musters up any of the courage to really keep them funny or relevant all that much. Vaughn seems like he’s bored being serious and conning, whereas Bateman actually seems like he’s bored, and isn’t just using that to his and his character’s advantage. He actually seems like he’s bored and wants to get his check, so he could get the hell home and get ready to film another season of Arrested Development. Also, any movie that has thew chance to showcase Juliette Lewis and her comedic-talents as the dumb, trashy-chick in the movie, but squander that potential, has seemingly all but lost points from yours truly. The girl is not only a foxy mama, but she’s pretty damn funny, especially when she’s given the chance to be.

Others in this cast that show up do what they can like Snoop Dogg, who actually has some of the funnier-moments in the whole flick of funny people; Carmen Electra and Amy Smart show up to only make-out and provide some sex-appeal for a movie that didn’t need any, and when it finally got it’s chance to showcase it, made it seem more misogynistic than titillating; and actual cameos from the original guys, David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser, who made it funny just being there, but once I got to thinking about it, made it almost seem like the film was making fun of them and how hell-bent-out-of-shape they seem to have gotten. Poor guys. Oh well, they probably got a nice, healthy paycheck from this. Just like Bateman. Although, needless to say, he probably made that paycheck last.

Consensus: Bits and pieces of Starsky & Hutch seem inspired enough to transpire plenty of inspired moments of comedy, but not too many as the flick struggles to make up it’s mind of what type of comedy it wants to be, or even make us laugh at all.

6 / 10

"1, 2, 3 and to tha 4, Huggy Bear is at tha doe."

“One, two, three and to tha foe, Huggy Bear is at tha doe.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

While We’re Young (2015)

Growing up is hard to do.

Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are a childless couple pushing forward and are at a bit of a stand-still in their lives. She’s bored and wondering if she should have a child, whereas he still has yet to complete a documentary that he got started on nearly a decade ago. They’re best friends (Adam Horowitz and Maria Dizzia) are married and have a baby, which makes both Josh and Cornelia feel all the more alienated from the people they used to hang around with and call “pals”. Now, they just rely on one another. That all changes, however, when an adoring fan of Josh’s, Jamie (Adam Driver), approaches him and wants him to help with his documentary that he himself is trying to get off the ground. Josh is fine with this because it feels like a way to connect with the younger-crowd – which is how Cornelia feels when she meets Jamie’s wife, Darby (Amanda Seyfried). Altogether, the four connect to create a documentary, while along the way, forging a friendship that finds both couples happy and excited. Eventually though, Josh begins to wake up and realize that Jamie may not be all that he appears to be, especially when matters involved with the documentary may not be all that they appear to be.

Noah Baumbach is a very hit-or-miss director for me. While I loved the Squid and the Whale, I despised Margot at the Wedding; though I wasn’t the biggest fan of Greenberg, he still surprised me with Frances Ha. Most of what Baumbach includes in these films are challenging, sometimes detestable characters that don’t ask for your forgiveness, nor are we really willing to give it to them. Sometimes, this works in Baumbach’s favor where it seems like he really wants the audience to make up their own minds, but other times, works against him where he isn’t so much as giving the audience anything valuable, except for just a bunch of unlikable, mean-spirited people that you wouldn’t want to spend a dinner-date with, let alone a whole hour-and-a-half with.

Children! Children everywhere! Run, Naomi! And don't look back!

Babies! Babies everywhere! Run, Naomi! And don’t look back!

While We’re Young falls somewhere in between and I’m fine with that; there’s something rather pleasing and simple about that notion that makes me feel like people who don’t normally like Baumbach’s films can find something to enjoy out of this, and his die-hards won’t fall back from, either.

Basically, everyone wins here. Including you, the viewer.

Most of this has to do with the fact that While We’re Young is, for the most part, very funny. Baumbach’s movies hardly ever seem like they’re trying too hard to make people laugh, so they rarely register as “comedies” to me, but here, you can actually tell Baumbach’s trying to be funny and it works. Though the majority of this film is filled with these sad characters, who can sometimes borderline on being “types”, Baumbach finds a way to not make fun of them, as much as to just make fun of the all-too-realistic situations they all get into. For instance, when Stiller’s character gains arthritis, Baumbach isn’t make fun of Josh for being old, but more or less, making fun of the fact that Josh himself can’t believe that he really is old enough to have to worry about his body the way he never had to think about before. It’s that kind of small, narrative-choice that shows us that not only is Baumbach growing a bit more positive as even he ages, but that he’s realizing there’s more to life than people making a constant stream of bad situations.

And yet, Baumbach still strikes a raw nerve here in the way that he approaches the connection two different age groups can create. Though it’s painfully obvious and clear that Jamie and Darby are hipsters, the movie never utters this word; instead, it judges them solely on who they are. Sure, they’d prefer to watch VHS tapes then buy a Netflix account; or own a chicken and raise it, much rather than a dog or a cat; or wear fedoras around everywhere they go, rather than a standard baseball cap. That doesn’t make them bad people, it just makes them who they are and for that, Baumbach doesn’t judge them.

The only time that he does begin to judge these characters is when you can start to see the tides change in this movie, where the tone goes from playful, earnest comedy about life and love, to an angry, hate-spewing drama about learning lessons. This is where While We’re Young begins to lose its focus and become a whole other movie altogether; one that I don’t even know could have worked on its own. It seems like Baumbach has something to say to the many generations to come and while it all may hold some truth, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t work for a movie that seemed like it had an honest point, yet, still didn’t forget to draw on the comedic opportunities, either. Not to say that all comedies have to be constantly funny, no matter where it is that they go, but they can’t go from 1, to 10 on the drama-meter whenever it sees fit; there has to be some sort of cohesive change in the middle and I don’t know if that happens here.

Look out, grand-pa!

“Don’t fall, grand-pa!” – some young whippersnapper

But, no matter what happens in the later-half of this movie, there is no denying that the cast works well this material and, more often than not, finds ways to make their characters more than just what they appear to be on the surface. A perfect example of this is Adam Driver’s Jamie – he’s the type of kiss-ass, wise youngling that seems like he means well and wants to make those around him happy, but there’s something troubling about him underneath it all. We know this early-on because it’s a movie, and for there to be no conflict whatsoever, there’d hardly be a movie, if you think about it, but when everything does eventually come to a head and we realize Jamie’s true intentions, we see the true colors in this characters and it works as well as it should because Driver keeps us guessing about this character. Are his intentions to feed-off of Josh and the connections he has in the film world? Or, is he genuine in saying that he loves, praises and adores Josh, and just wants nothing more than to learn every trick of the trade there is to learn in the documentary-making world?

These are questions that are barely answered and for that, the mystery works.

Though, this isn’t to say Driver’s the only one worth mentioning here, as everybody else is solid. Stiller shows off that lovely comedic-timing of his that’s worked so well in many other pieces of his, but comes from a heartfelt place this time that makes you feel for this aging, relatively sad guy; Naomi Watts gets to be funny, too, but also show us a woman that wants to be apart of “something”, but because she doesn’t have a child to love, to hold, or to care for, she’s pushed-off to the side and seen as something of an “outsider”; Amanda Seyfried may be given a thinly-written role in the form of Darby, but she works well with it, showing that there’s more to her than just being stuck in her hubby’s shadow; Charles Grodin, for the limited amount of time we get to see him on-screen, is funny and brutally honest, and there’s a part of me that wanted more from him; and Adam Horovitz, believe it or not, is the one who ends up leaving the most lasting impression as the voice of reason. He’s the character that tells Josh and Cornelia to wake up, realize that they are indeed, old, and should stop pretending to be somebody they aren’t. He isn’t telling them to have kids, he’s just telling them to accept the fact that they’re old and to be done with it already.

Holy crap. Is Ad-Rock almost 50? Where did time go?

Consensus: Honest, smart, and surprisingly funny in spots, While We’re Young hits certain notes about growing old and accepting that fact in life in an effective manner, even if the final-half does get a tad bit preachy.

7.5 / 10 

Manic Pixie Dream kids for all generations to come.

Manic Pixie Dream kids for all generations to come.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Trip (2011)

Good food and My Cocaine impersonations: All you need in life.

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are two British actors and comedians that have worked together many times before and, for some odd reason, the two decide to go on a trip together. Though it was initially planned to be just Coogan and his girlfriend on the trip, she left to go back to America, leaving him to bring somebody he can’t necessarily consider “a friend”, but not somebody he “dislikes”; basically, just a “confidante”, if you will. Anyway, the two embark on a journey of Northern England where they eat all of the finest food, drink some of the most splendid wine, chat it up with the most delightful people, and even go for a bit of sight-seeing as well. However, the two mostly just spend their days battling each other in constant games of wits, career-choices, and most importantly, various impersonations that one thinks is better than the other.

A simple a premise, as well as a simple movie. Usually that works for me, but sometimes, it can feel like a crutch that the makers of the movie can’t help but fall back on, anytime that it tries to get darker, or more serious than it had originally promised. Thankfully though, director Michael Winterbottom and co-writers Brydon and Coogan themselves, make the Trip something just a tad bit more than what it could have easily been, with no consequences whatsoever: A fine, timely and splendid good time with two hilarious people.

However, rather than just focusing on how funny each of these guys are together and in their own respective, little worlds, the movie actually goes deep into who they are, and what makes them sometimes at odds with one another. For instance, we all know that Coogan fancies himself being a miserable prick, and here, basically playing himself, that’s all he ever is. He constantly gets down on those around him, criticizes everything he sees and never seems fully fulfilled with his life or his career. Then, take the bright, smiley, optimistic and relatively pleasant Rob Brydon who is nearly the opposite of Coogan. The only glue really keeping them together and on speaking-terms is their love of comedy and making people laugh; whether it be themselves, or a huge, paying crowd.

Don't know if selfie, or trying to get service.

Don’t know if selfie, or trying to get service….

Pitting these two together, and sometimes, against one another, is interesting because Winterbottom never really has these two go head-to-head in a way that would make it seem like they could beat the shit out of one another after the other messes up a Roger Moore impersonation. Nope, none of that unrealistic shite here! Instead, they more or less just get at each other’s necks every so often, making fun of their personalities, and saying whatever comes to their mind first, without ever having a filter of what not to say in order to not offend the other too much. But even after they trade barbs, they’re back on the road, in a restaurant, or in a park, walking, talking, eating, joking around, and impersonation people as if nothing had ever happened.

They’re the typical friends that aren’t the best of friends, but are good enough together that they relatively enjoy each other’s company. And because so much of it resembles a real, actual friendship between both Brydon and Coogan, it’s hard to ever forget which is true about their relationship together, or better yet, when exactly are they done “acting”. See, because they wrote this together, it’s difficult to draw the line between “fictionalized”, and “real”. The line between the two is blurred many times here and it’s nice to see that not only can these two bounce jokes off of one another like it’s nobody’s business, but that, at the end of the day, they seemingly don’t really have a problem with the other.

Even if they do, it’s probably a small problem that’s best not to even elaborate on, mostly because that would just entitle there to being more and more countless celebrity impersonations.

That said, because Brydon and Coogan are so good together, the movie’s very funny. Although, it’s not constantly funny. There’s a part of me that was enjoying this, but wasn’t necessarily laughing as much as I thought I should have. Their constant impersonations were funny and definitely got me laughing-out-loud more than a few times, but when it came to tossing and turning, in a non-stop fashion – eh, not so much. But I thought about it long and hard and I realized that’s fine; like life, when two people engage in conversation, it’s not always snippy, snappy and crackling dialogue between them both. It does drag and it does get quiet at times, and that’s how life is. Even if the two people are as extremely funny as both Brydon and Coogan; they’re human beings after all and no human being can be hilarious, all of the time.

Occasionally funny is good enough.

How I assume we all look while trying to pull of the perfect Bond villain.

How I assume we all look while trying to pull of the perfect Bond villain.

And I used the word “drag” earlier because the same could be said for the movie itself. There are moments in this movie where I felt like, despite it moving at a fine, sometimes languid pace, the movie never really gets off to where it wants to go that, by the end, it felt like just a nice time spent with two very funny people and that was it. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially when the two screen-presences are as funny as the two fellas here, but there is a feeling that it could have been cut-down by size, just by a bit. If they did so, it wouldn’t have felt like such a slog at times that, once it was all said and done, it felt more like a trip that we were getting ready to go home for, rather than one we never wanted to end.

But I do have to give the benefit of the doubt to Winterbottom who, essentially, made a near two-hour movie of three hours of footage. Surely, it couldn’t have been an easy task, but it’s one that Winterbottom mostly succeeds at. Maybe it would have worked on TV like it had originally done, but it still feels suitable enough to not totally notice the various cracks and folds hiding underneath the editing. Sometimes, they’re noticeable and sometimes, they’re not. But most of the time, you just don’t care. You laugh, check out some sweet sights, get incredibly hungry and just have a relatively good time with two very funny Brits.

Damn. Wish my friends were as funny, or could do a killer Anthony Hopkins.

Consensus: While the Trip isn’t consistent in terms of its hilarity, or its interest-factor, it still proves Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan to a lovable pair that work so well together, we can’t wait to see it again.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Aw. What besties!

Aw. What besties!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Zero Effect (1998)

We all knew there was more to Bill Pullman than just delivering kick-ass speeches.

Bill Pullman is Daryl Zero, the self-titled world’s greatest detective and Ben Stiller is his reluctant assistant. Together, they begin to investigate a blackmail case that turns out to be much more than they had originally expected. So much so that Daryl Zero himself, realizes he may be a bit too over his head for the first time in his life and may have to cool his jets before he makes this the last case he ever does.

Son of famed writer/director Lawrence Kasdan, Jake Kasdan finally got the chance to make a name for himself with a little flick he did back in ’98 that I can’t believe I found anywhere. I hear about it from time-to-time and I even saw it at a yard sale not too long ago, but other than that, nothing else for this little-known flick has ever popped-up.

Thankfully, On Demand always has me covered so that I can discover little gems such as these.

What I liked most about what Kasdan does with this flick here is how he starts it off in a goofy, off-kilter type of way but then soon changes up the whole pace to where it’s actually more about the mystery case than you would think. The opening credits and first 15 minutes may have you think in you’re in-store for a type of nutty, Coen Brothers-like dark comedy/thriller, but somehow that changes up about half-way through; without feeling too sudden or random. It’s just right, because these characters are given such time and care through Kasdan’s direction.

RIP payphones

RIP payphones.

I think that’s where most of the kudos to this script has to go to is with Kasdan’s handle of these characters and their stories. As soon as we meet these two guys, they seem like your typical bunch of dorks that we have to watch for the next two hours, just walking around and bumbling on and on about some case that has no suspense or surprises. However, that’s the difference between this film and those other flicks: This one actually has some surprises and characters we care about. The mystery did get me involved and kept me wondering what was going to happen next, but I also felt a bit worried for what was actually going to happen to these characters in the first place, since Kasdan made me care for them so much in the beginning. It’s remarkable how Kasdan was able to balance out the human side of this story, along with the mystery one so well to the point of where the transition doesn’t even seem noticeable. Really takes you by surprise even more when you realize that this is by the same cat who did raunchy-comedies like Bad Teacher and Orange County.

Where this film lost me a bit was by the end and how it seems like they really, really lost any sign of their funny-bone that seemed attached so well in the first couple acts. I will admit, I was going into this film expecting some laughs and even though I got that for a good amount of the picture, they seem to have taken a trip elsewhere once the middle act comes strolling right through. That bothered me because the off-kilter humor had a certain type of charm and energy to it that made this flick pop out a bit more and I could have only wished that Kasdan decided to stick with this side of the film just a bit more. You know, just so I was able to get entertained from all areas of the film.

But despite this, the film still works because of what I mentioned earlier: It’s characters and their development. And when I’m talking about “character development”, I’m mainly talking about Bill Pullman and what Kasdan gives him to play around with as Daryl Zero. What’s so fun to watch about Pullman in the first place is that the guy seems like he’s really having a fun time right from the start with this role as this goofy detective, and it only seems like it’s going to get better with him along the ride. This is exactly what happens, but not in the way that you would expect, nor in the way that I actually expected.

Ben Stiller: All the ladies love 'em.

Ben Stiller: All the ladies love ’em.

Zero begins to find out more about himself through this one gal he becomes involved with and as corny as it may seem to some, to me, it seemed believable and deserved since this character was a mystery to me and I wanted to know more about him. Pullman’s great when it comes to displaying all of the goofy antics and ways of this guy, but when it comes down to getting underneath his skin and realizing what makes him tick the way he does, he’s even better and it makes you think more about Pullman’s acting chops. The guy has never been perfect, but he’s always been good and that’s definitely what’s on-display here.

The other character in this flick is played by Ben Stiller and as good as Stiller is with handling these types of yuppie-like roles, he sort of gets a bit annoying after a bit and you can’t help but be less interested in his story, compared to Zero’s. Now granted, this flick is mainly about Zero and his realization of himself through this one case, but Stiller’s character never really seems to get that chance to fully flesh-out and show us more about him. The guy wants to get out of the life that Zero has put him in, get married, have a family and eventually settle into retirement, but it’s a story I, for some odd reason, didn’t see myself caring about too much when all was said and done.

Because, when it comes right down to it, you can’t mess with Bill Pullman, people. That’s just a fact.

Consensus: It may not stay consistently funny throughout the whole duration of its two-hour time-limit, but Zero Effect at least keeps its story interesting, fun, fresh and surprising in ways that may take some for a bit of a different turn.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Eat your heart out, ladies. And possibly curious men.

Eat your heart out, ladies. And possibly curious men.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Submarine (2011)

Don’t ever trust the girl in the red coat.

14-year-old Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) has a lot going on in his life at this point in time. He’s found himself very much attracted to a mysterious girl he knows named Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Paige); he’s got a new neighbor (Paddy Considine); and is beginning to realize that his parent’s marriage is slowly, but surely, falling apart. Oliver may be you and a little naive, but he knows what he wants in life, and that’s to have love coming at him from all sides. Therefore, that means he’ll have to be able to handle his problems with both his parents, as well as the object-of-his-eyes. Though it may seem like an easy-task for Oliver at first, given the fact that he’s had everything mapped-out ever since the initial thoughts came to mind, he’s going to realize you can’t just plan life to go as exactly as you want it to. Sometimes, problems arise, over-lap one another and give us a choice as to what is better for us, and what matters most.

Gosh, what I would do to be 14-years-old again, man! I mean, jeesh! It seems like it was just yesterday that I was getting ready for that big, brave, new world they call “high school”, expecting the worst, but wanting the best. The same world in which I knew I wanted to meet the girl of my dreams, fall in love, get good grades, be happy, and still be able to maintain my youth throughout it all. And yeah, I guess that sort of happened (depending on who it is you ask), but that’s not what matters here.

But what I’m trying to get across with that whole random rant about my expectations going into high school and approaching the next stage of my life, is that the feelings of being young and youthful is exactly what resonates so well with me for certain movies, and that is exactly what happened here with me and Submarine.

Yes, 80's mullets are still funny to look at.

Yes, 80’s mullets are still funny to look at.

Right from the very beginning, I felt like this was a Wes Anderson-clone with more naturalistic-realism thrown into the bit. That’s not to say that Anderson’s movies aren’t filled with real people, doing real, believable things, but for the most part, his movies do usually consist of people living lives inside the head of nobody else’s but his own. They’re fun, they’re light, and most of all, they’re charming, but they’re so whimsical, that they could never, ever be real people. That is, unless they were the biggest, most annoying hipster kids on the face of the planet.

Here though, writer/director Richard Ayoade feels like he’s going for more of a connection with his work and place us inside the real lives, of real people; more specifically, real kids that, believe it or not, feel just like you or I. Sure, Ayoade more often than not jumps into some wacky bits that dive deep into the mind of its narrator, Oliver himself, but they’re there for the sake of being day-dreams and images inside the head of Oliver. And for the most part, they’re used to show us just how wild Oliver’s imagination can be, therefore, making us believe more in the creative, ingenious ways he is able to finagle his way from fixing his parent’s marriage, to then fixing whatever problems he may be having with his girlfriend.

In fact, who really makes this movie work is Oliver Tate himself, played so effortlessly by Craig Roberts. Roberts was clearly a young kid while filming, which makes a lot of sense when you see how it is that he reacts to everything around him. It would have been real easy for Ayoade and Roberts to come together and make Oliver Tate an annoying, too-smart-for-his-own-good-and-age type of kid, but they don’t bother with such conventions as that. Instead, they give us a kid who is definitely smart and wise a year or two beyond his peers, but still doesn’t know nearly as much about life, making decisions, facing consequences, falling in love, feeling heartbroken, being dedicated, than he thinks he does.

Then again, weren’t we all like that at one point in our lives? Hell, come to think of it, some of us still are probably like that! I know I am! That’s why it makes so much sense when and feels honest when Oliver begins to grasp life itself, tries his hardest to make sense of it and at least give it all he’s got. He’s sympathetic, he’s likable and he’s sort of cool, but he’s also a real-life kid I could have seen myself hanging out with and maybe even talking to a few times in the early days of high school. Then, as time went on and I became a total jock, I would have left him at the “weirdo lunch table”. Sorry to state it like that, but hey, it was high school. It’s a dog-eat-dog world in them parks, man.

Like I was saying though, Roberts is always doing a good job with Oliver, having us believe in him as a character, as well as a 14-year-old that’s going through some growing pains almost nearly as much as his girlfriend is, Jordana Bevan. Everything I said about Roberts and his performance, is pretty much the same for Yasmin Paige and her performance – fun, likable, charming and most importantly, believable at all the right times and ways. They have a nice chemistry despite being young actors in a movie that’s sort of all dependent on them and their ability to make this work, but it clearly doesn’t phase them one bit.

As for the adults, they’re all detailed and layered just about right, although, if anything, their conflict with the story was one of the main problems I had with this. First of all, let me just say that Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor and even Paddy Considine all do fantastic work with their roles. They could have easily been dull in hopes that the kids’ personalities would just take everything over and get our minds away from the older-heads, but that’s not what happens. They’re just as, if not sometimes, even more charming than the little kiddies they’re sharing the same movie with.

However, where my problem with this movie comes in is how Ayoade handles both subplots, yet, never fully feels committed to either. The whole subplot about Oliver trying to win the affection of Jordana takes up most of the first-half, and is easily the best part of the whole movie. It’s sweet, tender, lovely, romantic and has plenty of choice tunes from Mr. Alex Turner himself. What else can I say about that!?!?

Parents: So boring, so drab, so whatever.

Parents: So boring, so drab, so whatever.

But once that plot sort of settles-down a bit and put on the back-burner, then the whole “possible affair” angle comes up and the movie gets a tad bit messy. Some of it still stayed charming, likable and fun, but for the most part, I could tell that a lot of what Ayoade was going for, didn’t really end up showing itself by the end. He tries to juggle these two strands of plot, and while they seem like they’d be an easy act to move around with, he seems to get his ideas and themes lost in a bit of a jumble.

In all honesty, it’s difficult to explain my problems with this movie, without describing everything, word-for-word, scene-for-scene, but just know this: Once the young love angle sort of chills out, so does this movie, and it’s kind of a bummer. Not saying that the movie as a whole is a bummer, I’m just saying that you should realize what you’ll get yourself into. Especially if you’re longing for nostalgia like me.

Damn being old!

Consensus: If you’re going through something of a mid-life crisis, Submarine, for the most part, will do you in and make you long for the good old days of falling in love for the first time, going into school, dealing with angst, and all that jazz. However, it’s not always focusing on that and when it doesn’t, it gets a tad messy.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Damn you, young love! You get me everytime!

Damn you, young love! You get me everytime!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Best way to coax your family into loving you again? Fake your death. It’s working for Andy.

The Tenenbaums aren’t your ordinary family, but then again, they don’t pretend to be either. The hierarchy of this family is Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) who isn’t necessarily the nicest, most up-front, or responsible guy in the world; in fact, he’s kind of an ass. This is why (or from what we know of) he gets kicked out his own house by his wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston), leaving behind his three children – the adopted oldest Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow); the over-achieving; ambitious middle-son Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller); and the relative-favorite of Royal’s, Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson). For years, Royal doesn’t speak to them or see them at all, which leaves them to grow-up full of angst, disappointment and all sorts of mistakes that make them resent him a whole lot more. However, Royal wants to change all of that as soon as he can once he realizes that he might just be dying of cancer, and is given six weeks to live. Though his kids and even his wife, have all moved on with their lives, they somehow find their way back into the house they all once lived in, which is where all of the various ego’s and heads start to clash.

He may be too old for some shit, but slaying white women isn't one of them.

He may be too old for some shit, but slaying white women isn’t one of them.

It’s pretty known among fans of him, that if you’re able to get past all of Wes Anderson’s various quirks and just accept his style for what it is, then you can actually find there’s a lot more rewarding-features to what he does. Not just with a story, or in the way he puts so much effort into the look, but to the actual characters he has in the story, as miserable and as unlikable as they sometimes can be. But I like to think of the characters he creates, as not just being considered “unlikable” or even “loathsome”, but maybe just “human”, with all of the nasty, dirty features added-on that we don’t always want to see or be reminded of actually being capable of having. Maybe it works for me and has me go to bed easier at night, but that’s always my advice to anybody who wants to watch one of his movies, especially the Royal Tenenbaums – aka, my long-time favorite of his.

I could start this review off pretty obvious and just start diving into Anderson’s sense-of-style, but I think I’ve done that more times than I ought to. Instead, I’m just going to dive right into what makes this movie kick, push and feel: The characters. Wes Anderson, although he doesn’t always look too fondly at the world, or those around him, definitely appreciates the people he places into the world of his own. It’s small, contained, quirky, heartbreaking, funny and full of all sorts of spontaneity that even the most hyper-active person may not be able to handle. That’s why the characters he creates and invites to be apart of this world of his own creation, aren’t just ones we have to pay attention to, but are filled to the inner-core with all sorts of small, tiny moments where we see them for all that they are, and who it is that they show the others around them as being.

The perfect example of this would definitely have to be Royal Tenenbaum himself, played with perfection by Gene Hackman. We’ve all seen Hackman play an asshole in a movie before, but here, as Royal, he really gets the chance to stretch that image of his own making and give us a glimpse inside the life of a man who realizes that he’s just too lonely to carry-on in this life without anybody around him any longer. Well, that, and the fact that he’s gotten kicked out of his apartment, may have him thinking of his family as well, but the fact remains that he now knows what it is that he wants with his life, and that’s just to remind those around him that he not only loves them, but wants to actually be with them for once in his life. He may not always say, or do the right things; hell, more often than not, his actions are quite reprehensible to say the least. But once we see Royal for the man he wants to be and clearly wasn’t for the most part of his life, you can’t help but want him to be happy and be loved by those around him, even if they can’t quite bring themselves to having that feeling for him. Instead, they’re more content with just being “fine” towards him; but so is he, so no problems whatsoever.

But what makes Royal such a lovable guy, is that Anderson knows he isn’t perfect and definitely deserves to have life slap him in the face a couple of times, but also doesn’t forget to let him have those small moments of victory where everything in his life that’s possible, seems to be working out for him. Same goes for everybody else in this movie though, as you can tell that Anderson and co-writer Owen Wilson, really did put all of their efforts into making each and every character somebody worth remembering, or caring about, especially once emotions, as well as tears, are shed.

Even the character of Etheline, who could have easily been an angry, vengeful ex-wife, ends up being a woman that not only loves her family, but also wants to be able to move past all of the problems they’ve faced in the past (which in this case, there are plenty of ’em). Also, the same could be said for Henry Sherman, the guy who wants to marry Etheline, who does show various bouts of jealousy on more than a few occasions, but also doesn’t want to lose the lady he loves, especially not to a swindler like Royal. But, like I said, he’s still a guy that’s backed-up by plenty of human-emotion, that never ceases to show itself in some hilarious, yet brutally honest ways.

I guess in this case, we can all make an exception for incest.

I guess in this case, we can all make an exception for incest.

And that’s mainly where Anderson’s writing really comes to perfection. Not only is the guy hilarious with many of the deadpan, over-the-top one-liners he has his characters deliver, but he makes them seem so damn serious and down-trodden, that you can’t help but laugh at them. They are all human beings, yes, but ones that may take themselves a bit too seriously, despite being absolutely surrounded by all sorts of light, vibrant and pretty colors. That’s why a character like Eli Cash, played wonderfully and ever-so charmingly by the aforementioned Owen Wilson, sticks out amongst a group of sad-faces like Margot, Richie and Chas. Doesn’t make them any less likable or anything, because Anderson appreciates their sadness towards life and all of the perks that come along with it; and even when they do smile, or laugh, or decide to just let life’s wonders work its magic on them, it doesn’t just surprise us, but makes us happy that they themselves are actually happy as well. It makes us feel all the more closer to them and gives this story an extra oomph of emotion, that so clearly comes into play by the end.

Even when you do think that Anderson is going to get too big for his britches and get almost too dark with the possibility of suicide, he somehow comes out on-top, showing us that life, despite all of the heartbreak to be found, is still worth living, mainly due to the company you surround yourself. I mean, sure, Margot may rarely ever crack a smile, and the only time she does is when she’s around the man she loves, her brother Richie (although they do claim, on various occasions, “they aren’t related by blood”). Yeah, sure, Chas may never seem to live his life with a sign of hope or happiness, despite being surrounded by a bunch of people that do love him. And yeah, sure, Richie may look at life with a frown, despite not really having an understandable reason to. But what all of these characters have in common, isn’t just that they are apart of the same family, it’s that they have lives they don’t feel too gracious of having and most of the time, take it all for granted. However, once they realize that everything with life isn’t as bad as they unreasonably make it out to be, or that there are people with worse conditions in their life, then they can’t help but shut up, move on and crack a grin or two.

Those moments are mainly when Anderson shines the most, as well as the brightest. Making this family one you can’t help but love, although you can still take note of them being a dysfunctional bunch. Although, I for one have definitely seen worse. Just saying.

Consensus: Wes Anderson’s sense of characterization is what really makes the Royal Tenenbaums a heartfelt, hilarious, lovable and near-perfect delight to sit-through, although you never lose the sense that these are people, and not just characters written completely and totally for-the-screen. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get my drift.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Who doesn't remember the days when grand-pop used to take them on trips on the back of a garbage-truck?

Who doesn’t remember the days when grand-pop used to take them on trips on the back of a garbage-truck?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (2013)

Daydreaming stopped being considered “cool” after fifth grade.

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a quiet, simple and harmless guy who daydreams constantly about wild, unbelievable and over-the-top adventures in which somehow, and in someway, he’s the one who steps up to the plate and does heroic, cool things. However, in real life, he’s just another guy who sits behind a desk at Life magazine, and is desperately searching for his future Mrs. Mitty. He sees this ideal future-wife of his in co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), even if he hasn’t mustered-up any courage to actually go up to her, and ask her out on a date. And while that may have seemed like an objective at one point in his life, now is not that time, considering that he is now searching all over the world for famed-photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), so that he can get the final frame of a picture he sent him, that was already supposed to be on the cover for the final issue of Life magazine. Through this wacky adventure of his, Walter discovers exactly the type of person he is, what he strives to be in life, and whether or not he has what it takes to win Cheryl’s heart in the way that he envisions in his mind.

While everybody knows Ben Still for his over-the-top comedies, the guy definitely has a lot more going on inside of his head than some may think, and this is the prime example of what that is. Remaking the classic Danny Kaye film wasn’t necessarily a very bold-step on his behalf, however, turning the original source material into something of a bigger, and a lot wider horizon, definitely was, especially if you’re Ben Stiller. While the results for this flick may be, at best, mixed, there’s no doubt in my mind that I think we’ve seen a new side to Ben Stiller; as well as one that I hope takes over more, just so that we don’t get another, freakin’ Fockers sequel.

Times have been tough for Derek Zoolander. At least he's a mountain-climber or something now.

Times have been tough for Derek Zoolander. At least he’s a mountain-climber now, or something.

Please, Ben! I’m begging you! No more!

Anyway, what Stiller does here, and does well, is that he gives us a simple tale of a simple man, and for that matter, it’s a pretty simple film. We see Walter as the type of sad-sack dude we all want to feel bad for, which we do, but at the same time, we still root for him as we know that he’s capable of so much more in his life than just going through the constant, day-to-day motions. We know he has a good heart; we know that he can give that heart to any person who is willing to accept it; we know that he cares for the people that care for him; and best of all, we know that he wouldn’t commit any wrong-doings to others, except for the ones who deserve it the most. So yeah, Walter Mitty is a pretty small and tender guy, but he also has a very big heart; the same big heart that Still doesn’t totally cram down our throats, which shows me that he has more resilience in his direction than some may expect.

In fact, I’d even go so far as to wager that some of the best moments in this movie come from when Stiller himself allows for everything to be down-played, quiet and peaceful, as if he himself has finally found a place in his life where he too can calm down, relax and find the more beautiful idiosyncrasies in life. Even if those beautiful idiosyncrasies are such things as staring at a computer-screen, staring at Icelandic mountains, pondering what you’re next move in life will be, etc. In these moments, we realize that while Stiller may love a lot of the insane and highly-electric dream-sequences he’s placed in this flick, he also cares for the character-driven moments where we see Walter for all that he is, and all that Stiller allows us to see of him.

Needless to say, it’s Ben Stiller himself who allows us to see Walter Mitty’s heart and also, to be a guy we care for. And to be honest, I’m a bit of a better person for it. Not only do I realize that Stiller is capable of a lot more than just do his nervous, twitchy thing, but that he’s actually able to take an ambitious story, and turn it into something that not only warms our hearts a bit, but also, makes us feel like we’re not wasting our times either. And I can’t go and tell you how happy I am to actually recommend a Ben Stiller film, right here and right now. You’ve kept me waiting, Ben. But I’m glad you finally paid-off, pal.

It should be said though, that the movie never really goes any deeper than it is, or should be. Instead, it’s just a movie about a shy guy, who discovers the man he can be, just through a couple of life-changing experiences he goes through. Nothing new, ground-breaking or life-changing, but still a simple and sweet tale that’s told with just enough heart and charm. Those looking for anything more than just that, may just be smoking weed before the wrong movie. If that is that the case, then go watch Cloud Atlas, or something of that nature, ya hippies!

Always fear the beard.

Always fear the beard.

Also, it should be noted that Stiller, while anchoring this movie as a director with a keen-eye for visuals, and a soft-ear for quietness, still does a relatively nice job at playing Walter Mitty. He doesn’t necessarily change anything about his persona that we haven’t already seen him do before, but he’s less about trying to force down our throats that he’s trying to be funny and quirky, and instead, is funny and quirky. Even when he does branch-out a bit and show something of a wild side to his personality, it feels real and honest, as if this is actually Walter Mitty waiting to show himself to the rest of the world, and to anybody who will accept him for what he is.

That’s why, even though Stiller is definitely the main subject we’re supposed to be paying attention to the most in this flick, he still lets everybody else in his cast do a little of their own thing as well. Kristen Wiig was pleasant and cute as Cheryl, the object of Walter’s affection, and it was nice to see her down-play it for once in a lifetime; Adam Scott may be too much of a dick as the guy that practically takes over Life magazine and bullies the hell out of Walter, but is still charming enough to watch; Kathryn Hahn gets to be weird and slightly off-kilter as the immature sister of Walter’s, but she never seems like she’s going too overboard with the whole act, and instead, feels like an actual gal who loves her big bro; Shirley MacLaine has a few scenes where you can tell she loves and adores her son, despite him being a stepping-stool for anyone who shows power and command over him; and Sean Penn, for the few scenes that he actually has as Sean O’Connell, is very charming, very strange, but altogether, very necessary for the type of message this movie is trying to force along. Then again though, he is playing a nut obsessed with nature here, so I don’t know how much of it was actually acting, or more of Stiller just finding him hiding up in the mountains, and decided to start the camera rolling.

Consensus: While it may definitely think it goes a lot deeper than it actually is, the Secret Life of Walter Mitty still has plenty of touching, charming and pleasant-enough moments to where you can gain confidence in the fact that Ben Stiller, despite his age, may still be a force to be reckoned with in show-biz, even if it is solely through directing.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

There's a smile we haven't seen in over 35 years. Give or take.

There’s a smile we haven’t seen in over 30 years. Give or take.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

If only the world of journalism was this cut-throat, or entertaining to be around.

Everybody, meet San Diego’s top news anchor Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and come and see how good he looks. Yeah, Ron’s a bit of a fool of himself and definitely thinks he’s the greatest thing to come around since sliced bread, however, he isn’t alone. He has a fellow band of trusted and worthy reporters that hang around him and give him a lending hand whenever he needs it. Together, they work as a team and together, they’ve been practically #1 in the ratings, week-after-week. And everything seems to be going all fine and dandy, up until an inspired and determined female reporter, Veronice Corningstone (Christina Applegate), shows up and decides that it’s her turn to shine and become the first ever female newscaster. Mostly everybody scoffs at this idea, but once she proves them wrong and that she’s more than capable of telling the news and still having rather large, exquisite breasts, then the newscast team evolves and work with what they have, which also means that Ron’s out of a job. And to make matters even worse, Ron’s all alone and without his biggest and best buddy, BAXTER!!

Basically, plot does not matter at all with this movie. It’s only purpose is to actually move it from one outrageous, over-the-top joke to the next and while that would usually seek, kill and destroy any comedy out there, it does not do that to this one. Sole reason? It’s a dumb movie that knows it’s dumb and makes no apologies for it whatsoever. You sort of have to expect that going in, and if you don’t, then I don’t know what to say, you might be screwed over. Although, even to this day, it’s still hard to find somebody that doesn’t at least “like” this movie, let alone adore the hell out of it.

How every blog expresses their sense of everlasting joy after receiving some life-changing news.

How every blog expresses their sense of everlasting joy after receiving some life-changing news.

It’s going to be hard to write an honest-to-God, non-rambling-mess-of-a-review on this so if I do run into a couple of tangents along the way before reaching my usual “Consensus” part of the review, I do apologize.

Anyway, with this movie, you have to know what to expect, solely on knowing Will Ferrell’s brand of comedy. It’s going to be loud, crude, rude, stupid and fun for everybody involved, which also means you yourself, the viewer. That’s why it doesn’t matter how many times you see this movie, whether you stumble upon it on television or decide to give it a re-watch to hype up the second movie (now who would want to do that?), it’s always a rip-roaring, gut-busting and funny-as-eff watch. Sometimes, you may even have to watch it alone, mainly because you’ll be heckling so loud, you don’t want to disrupt all of the others around you and whatever uneventful they may be doing that doesn’t concern watching Anchorman (we also call them “losers”). That’s what I did, and I still had a ball.

However, I could go on and on about how funny this movie is, but to really pin-point down exactly what it is that I feel is so funny, I just have to get on about it with the cast because, if you think about it, they’re really the ones holding this fort down. Sure, I bet some of the lines of dialogue were scripted, but only the parts that mattered in order to move the story along from one scene to the next. Instead, half of this dialogue feels, and probably was, more ad-libbed than anything else. With movies where half of their dialogue comes from somebody’s improv, it usually can, once again, seek, kill and destroy any comedy, but, once again, not this one. And certainly not with this cast of funny and deranged comedic-geniuses.

Will Ferrell was the one who got this whole gang/movie together and it makes sense why: He’s easily the best part of it all, which is not an easy thing to just state. The reason why Ferrell works so well as he does as Ron Burgundy is because he knows exactly what it is that he’s trying to do, every step of the way. He sees the comedic-potential in him speaking to a dog, as if the two actually understand each other, and he just goes for the gull with it. Same could be said for his “Yazz flute” scene; could have easily been a one-note joke stretched way beyond its means, but Ferrell takes it to places that go higher, stranger and way better than one could ever imagine. Also, in the brief moments that this flick does tend to show some depth, you do realize that there’s maybe more to Ron than just a macho ‘stache and an expert-way at getting the ladies; maybe he’s getting sick of it? Ferrell shows that there’s more humanity and heart to this guy that feels like he actually longs for some sort of emotional-connection in his life, that doesn’t just consist of constant partying, boozing and whoring around (on Whore Island, of course); he actually may want to settle down, get hitched up, have some kids and live a very happy, luxurious life. It may be that I’m looking way too far into this, and chances are, I definitely am, but Ferrell is the one who anchors this movie, gets it to where it needs to go and practically made me laugh the hardest.

Which, once again, is not an easy thing for me to state considering the rest of the ensemble is equally as hilarious and scene-stealing as he is.

Paul Rudd, as usual, made me laugh just by how goofy he was here, playing the charismatic ladies man, Brian Fantana. If you give Rudd the spotlight and give him time to do his thing, he’ll make you laugh. You know this, I know this, he knows it, hell, we all know it! That’s why it’s no surprise in my mind to see how funny he is here, especially when he’s plugging something as outrageous as “Sex Panther”; which, in case you were wondering, is in fact real, and costs an awful lot of “keesh”. Bam! Two Paul Rudd movie moment-references in one sentence! And though he’s definitely not as much of a household name as the peeps surrounding him may be, David Koechner is still a laugh-out-loud riot as the hee-hawing sports man of the news team, Champ, and gave the idea of wanting a man to get an apartment with you, an even more homoerotic-feeling than it ever had before. He may be the weakest-link of the main-squad, but that’s less of a take-away than it sounds since he’s still damn hilarious.

And Brick. Oh, dear ol’ Brick. He loves his lamps, he pulls out random hand-grenades, he wants people to come to his pants party and best of all, he killed a guy with a trident. I think the less said about him, the best. Cause, in case you couldn’t tell, he’s awesome. Thank you, Steve Carell. You too, are quite awesome.

Oh, the days for when Steve Carell was only known as "that guy from the Colbert Report and Bruce Almighty".

Oh, the days for when Steve Carell was only known as “that guy from the Daily Show and Bruce Almighty“.

But you know what’s really surprising about this movie, besides it still being equally as hilarious this time around, as then the first time I saw it all those years ago, is that it’s a dude comedy that still has a pretty kick-ass female character in the vein of Veronica Corningstone, played to perfection by Christina Applegate. And you know, I have to give a lot of credit to Applegate for at least taking a lot of shots that she does here in this movie because while there are many jokes aimed towards her heine, her breasts and her lack of a penis, she goes along with them, takes them with her, and even dishes some out on her own, showing the boys that she can hang. She may not be as hilarious as the guys, considering her character is definitely more serious than anybody else in the bunch, but she still gets away with a couple of laughs and seems a lot tougher than any of the guys that surround her, which is saying A LOT for a comedy of this nature.

Trust me though, the cast does not end there, nor do the laughs. With this supporting cast, you get to see so many faces, some surprising than others, that you actually wonder if they’re actually there to be funny, or just show their faces and be ironic. The answer is both, but it’s perfect because they all get a chance to shine a bring a lil’ something to the table. For instance, the whole “Newsteam fight” is chock-full of cameos and surprises that I won’t dare to spoil for those who have yet to see this flick, but does more than just present us with a familiar-face and say, “Hey, look who it is! Isn’t that so crazy that he/she showed up to partake in this Will Ferrell-comedy?” Nope, instead, the whole movie keeps on giving us more and more of these faces to make us laugh, to make us love them more and also, have a great time. Which, at the end of the day, is what comedies are supposed to do in the first place. Sure, they can be thought-provoking comedies that have you toy around with the ideas of existentialism in your head, but that’s not how Will Ferrell and co. roll, so therefore, neither should you!

Consensus: Anything you’d ever expect from a Will Ferrell comedy, you get with Anchorman, and then some more randomness. So either take it, or leave it. Can’t go any deeper than that because the movie doesn’t want you to, and that was fine with me. Watch this, have a laugh or two, and stay classy. Or, if you stand on the other side of the spectrum, thanks for stopping by. But most importantly, stay classy.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

If more newscasters looked like this in the 21st Century, I think online journalism would be ruined forever. Which means me!!!

If more newscasters looked like this in the 21st Century, then I think online journalism would be ruined forever. Which means me!!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Watch (2012)

These aliens probably came right down to Earth looking for Judd Apatow, and found these guys. I actually feel bad for the aliens on this situation.

The film revolves around four everyday suburban friends (Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade) who team up to form a neighborhood watch group so they can escape their dull family lives one night a week. But when they accidentally discover that their town has become overrun with aliens posing as ordinary suburbanites, they have no choice but to save their neighborhood — and the world — from total extermination.

The alien-invasion premise isn’t anything new or original by any means, but when you have a cast like this and a bunch of writers that know they can knock it out of the park when it comes to comedy, you should be expecting something a whole lot better than your ordinary, average fare. Sadly, it’s the exact opposite.

I have no clue who this cat Akiva Schaffer is but what I can tell, just by watching this flick is that it seems like he was really depending on the efforts of Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Jared Stern’s script to make this flick work more than it should have, which in a way, it kind of does. This is, once again, your piece of R-rated comedy that has a lot of cussing, a lot of dirty stuff being thrown around, and just a whole bunch of moments that can be considered “raunchy”, even though the film never fully explores that territory. For the most part, this film can be pretty funny and you can that there is a lot of Judd Apatow-influences going on here with the whole “conversational humor” aspect of this flick, but the problem is that it doesn’t really work all that well, except with some exceptions.

The one comedy, that is sort of like this one, that I remember seeing was Horrible Bosses, which was a very funny movie but also tried a bit too hard to fall-back on that whole “conversational humor” aspect, that Apatow has pretty much nailed now. It didn’t really work there because it tried too hard to make that there only source of comedy, but here, that seems like that’s all they can do with a couple of extra dick and sex jokes added to the mix as well. The film tries so hard to be funny by having these guys say ridiculous and vulgar things, but the problem is, that they just aren’t as funny as you feel like they could be if they were in a different movie and maybe had different people delivering the lines. A couple of times I did catch myself laughing, and laughing pretty loud I may add, but this material never seemed to go anywhere beyond that. This is also one of those disappointing cases where the funniest lines are in either the trailers or TV spots, that we’ve all seen about 10,000 times.

Another aspect of this film that I noticed was how it seemed like it could have had a lot more fun with its premise than it really had. There were a couple of times where the film seemed like it was going to go down that road of pure insanity, which would have easily bumped this up a hell of a lot more, but instead, it just sort of lulled its way onto the next scene without anything really exciting going on. The one character in this flick, played by Vaughn, just wants to hang out with the guys, shoot the shit, talk about girls, get shit-faced, and have a good time. If the film honestly followed that character’s intentions, it would have been so much more entertaining and funny. However, it just stayed somewhat boring and it only got worse once that lame-o third-act came around.

If there is anything that really saves this film from being total crapola, it’s the impressive cast here that seems to make everything they say funny, except I still feel like they should have been a lot funnier. Ben Stiller is, once again, playing up that nervous, jittery shtick that seems to work in some spots but in others, just seems annoying and unneeded when you have a plot that could just get really freakin’ crazy at any second. Vince Vaughn is around here playing up his fast-talking, crazy shtick that always seems to work but it also feels like it was forced in a way and was used in a lot better in flicks when he was trying to pick up gals or be the coolest mothertrucker at the party. Maybe, dare I say it, he’s getting too old for it now! Nooooo!

Jonah Hill, God bless him, is probably the saving grace to this cast and to the whole movie as he shows that he still has the near-perfect comedic timing that can work with any character he plays, no matter how bizarre or weird they may be. It’s crazy to say this, but I think Hill may be the next best thing when it comes to comedy, because not only can he show how hilarious he can get no matter who he works with, but he also shows a lot of versatility when he has to approach these dramatic, softer roles as well. Guy keeps getting better and better, and it only seems to go up-Hill for him in the future. See what I did there? Seeing Richard Ayoade being on the top-billing for the promotion, I was expecting him to possibly steal the show and give a little taste of his weird, British sense of comedy. It works here, but only when the film allows him to and it’s a real shame because I actually did think that this was going to be the break-through performance this guy needed to fully break into the Hollywood mainstream like he deserves to. Oh well, maybe next year.

Consensus: Even though there are some bright and funny moments here and there in The Watch, they are also very few and far between one another and for some reason, don’t really work because the script feels like they need to be funny with unoriginal dick, sex, and fart jokes that are as old as Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn are getting. Trust me, that’s old, too.

4/10=Crapola!!

Megamind (2010)

A big-blue testicle vs. Brad Pitt.

A big-brained and blue super-villain named Megamind (Will Ferrell) finally beats his big-time rival, Metro Man (Brad Pitt). He soon then faces an existential crisis of sorts after he finds out that having no superhero at all to stop him from evil-wrong doings, is actually pretty boring. So, he creates a new enemy (Jonah Hill) who seeks to destroy the world, forcing Megamind to play the hero role for once in his life.

After checking out ‘Despicable Me’ for the first time earlier this year, basically everybody started comparing that to this film, making me want to see it even more. So now that I’ve seen it, all yo guys can shut yo mouths!

What really works with this film is that it touches just about every single plot-line, cliche, and convention that comes with a superhero comic-book story. You got everything from the smart villain, to the goofy-looking costumes, and whole lot more other elements that are not left untouched and that’s where the real fun of this film comes from. The film sort of pokes fun at everything we know of these superhero stories and twist them around in their own cool and original ways to be their own story.

The film is funny, but not in the way that you would expect from an animated-flick rated PG, it’s actually pretty adult-like. The humor is pretty witty with a lot of in-jokes, pop cultural references, but even enough jokes for kids that they will understand and laugh at but not as much as the parents. I actually found myself laughing quite a bit with this flick because the whole idea was cool right from the beginning, but how the film itself just tops on that with constant references, originality, and adult-like humor is what really made it work.

There is also a lot to look at here because the flick is beautiful and gets even better when the action is there too. The colors are very bright and vibrant but how colors will come and go in the middle of one action sequence is pretty cool. The music here is also pretty fun with a lot of old-school classics from AC/DC, ELO, Guns N Roses, Michael Jackson, and whole lot more to give this film the extra kick of fun it has.

My problem with this film is that the story is sort of what we always see in any superhero film, but when the film itself starts to dive right into those conventions it’s a little bit more disappointing. This film practically makes fun of these conventions so much that when it starts to hit into them by the end, it kind of left me bummed. The laughs also started to come less and less which had me bummed even more.

Will Ferrell is a lot of fun as Megamind because his character is not just evil, but he’s also very sensitive and likable which this film really worked well on with that character; Tina Fey is smart, funny, feisty, and a little sexy as Roxanne Ritchi, aka Lois Lane; David Cross is also very funny as Minion, Megamind’s second-man/thing-in-command; and Brad Pitt is awesome as Metro Man, who is the perfect combination of Elvis, Jesus, and Superman all rolled up into one hunk.

Jonah Hill is also pretty fun as Tighten but the problem with this character is that he is almost exactly like Syndrome from ‘The Incredibles’. Think about it for a second: both used to be good guys, they were both twisted into being villains by the good guys, and they both go insane-o in the end. You don’t realize this right from the get-go but once you start to think about it because it’s all the same disappointing as the ending itself.

Consensus: It may lose some steam by the end but Megamind is still a whole lot of fun due to its humor that pokes fun at all of the conventions of the superhero genre, it’s voices that are obviously having a ball, and the constant energy that this film keeps throughout the whole flick.

7/10=Rental!!

Tower Heist (2011)

Donald Trump better watch his men extra close now.

When a group of workers at a ritzy Manhattan condo realize their boss has swindled them out of their pensions, they vow to reap their own justice. With the cooperation of the building manager, the group devises an ingenious plot to recover the funds.

When I first heard of this film and saw the trailer, I thought it was going to be good because it had the return of Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy. But then I thought about it, and I realized it was the return to form of Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy I was talking about but this is certainly nothing like the pieces of shit they have turned out recently.

This is basically the concept of the “Ocean’s” films but with a sloppier cast of characters and a high-rise building in Manhattan but it’s not all that much different. The film is very funny and had me laughing a lot but there are also other times when the film gets a little bit serious about getting back at the ones who have made your lives miserable. In some sense the film feels a bit uneven because of this but regardless I still had a fun time laughing my ass off as what all these characters were saying.

The film doesn’t seem like it would be original or new in any kind of way, but it actually is a bit original which provided a lot of enjoyment for me. I love heists, and I love comedies when they are done right so when they put these two together for this film, everything just felt right. I liked how they had all of these buffoons who had no idea really how to rob or steal anything, so basically the whole film just shows you exactly how real people would act if they were put into these types of situations that go from bad to worse to sometimes perfectly executed. It’s a whole lot of fun to see this and it was definitely more original than another “heist/plan gone wrong” film ‘Horrible Bosses‘.

I think the real fault of this film is that it did so well in keeping me laughing as well on the edge of my seat the whole time, that the film sort of starts to fall away from the comedy and be more about the heist itself. It may seem weird that I had a problem with this because I was still enjoying myself, but I still thought that they could have done a little laugh here and there, but instead just totally focused on the action and heist at hand. However, I was very surprised by how well Ratner did with the action and kept the film moving at a fun pace that never really stops to just sit and get emotional.

Eddie Murphy is not the best part of the film as Sly, but he is one of the better parts because he is just so funny here and almost makes you forget about all of the dumb-ass family films he’s done in the past decade. I was glad to see Murphy go back to his old-school roots and finally be that snappy-ass, crazy, and always funny black dude that you don’t wanna mess with because he’s always too smart and too cool. Murphy made me laugh every time he was on screen and I thought this was a perfect choice as Sly and hopefully he continues to do cool stuff like this.

The reason he may not be the best is because I don’t think the film used him as much as I was expecting. In the first act, he shows up only a couple times, then he totally takes over the second act with every line he says, but then by the end of the film, his character’s resolution is just sort of just left there and almost like he was forgotten about, considering he was probably the most memorable out of the whole cast. This was a shame but I still will say that Murphy owns this role and every chance he gets with it.

The rest of the cast is hilarious and all of them do well. Ben Stiller is good as the usual average Joe, named Josh; Michael Peña fills a lot of comedy when Murphy isn’t around, and he does it well like I expected; Matthew Broderick is maybe the 2nd funniest by how random the things that his character says, and how almost everything he says has nothing to do with the heist really; and Casey Affleck is surprisingly very funny as well as Charlie, but I still can’t get over Ben. Alan Alda is the man in this role as Arthur Shaw, and he’s almost too likable to actually hate him. However, Alda is so good at playing villainous roles that he can make the worst son-of-a-bitch seem just a tad bit charming. The girls in this film are also good with Téa Leoni playing the FBI agent, who has a hilarious drunk scene with Stiller; and Gabourey Sidibe is also funny with her Jamaican accent that seems fake, but still had me laughing just because her character is so damn funny.

Consensus: Tower Heist may seem a bit uneven, but it still has a very fun feel to it with goofy comedy, fun performances from the whole entire cast, especially Eddie Murphy, and a story that actually entertains with some very funny moments.

7/10=Rental!!

Greenberg (2010)

Makes Woody Allen seem cool.

At a crossroads in his life, New Yorker Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) takes time to figure things out and travels to Los Angeles, where he house-sits for his brother and forges an unlikely bond with his sibling’s assistant, Florence Marr (Greta Gerwig).

This is one of those films that in the early part of last year, was getting a lot of positive reception, and it was weird because it was a film starring Gaylord Focker. However, I can see why now.

The film is from writer/director Noah Baumbach who is one of those now renown, indie directors that people just can’t get enough of, and to be honest I don’t understand why, especially after watching this film. I did laugh every once and awhile, but the problem was I just didn’t get what this film was trying to say. Maybe it’s just because I’m 18 and I haven’t gone through my mid-life crisis or anything yet, but the point they try to convey didn’t come across me once, and I still don’t know what it was.

This guy Roger Greenberg is plain and simply, a dick. He is one of those neurotic dudes who always has something to bitch about, give insight on, and be unpleasant about, but for some reason, I enjoyed that all. I think Greenberg is a fascinating character not only because you wouldn’t want him showing up to your next dinner party but because all this anger and frustration that lies within him, comes out in the oddest ways, mainly because he doesn’t give a crap about his life and what he does with it. This is more of a character study, rather than an actual story, and for the most part it works because this main character, although an asshole, really was fascinating to watch.

I think for the most part, the reason I liked Greenberg so much was because of how Ben Stiller plays him. Jim Carrey did it, Adam Sandler did it, and hell even Will Ferrell did it, so now it’s Stiller’s time to go and shake his dramatic acting chops and does an excellent job. I could actually believe Stiller as this dick of a guy, and there are moments where it just seems like this guy has no idea what to do or say for that matter, and Stiller makes it all work so well. Greta Gerwig is good as the female lead, Florence, and I still don’t understand what all the hype around her is, but I must say I liked her. My main problem with these two in a romance is that the film doesn’t really capture what makes her so attracted to him in the first place, and why she keeps on going at it with him, if he’s constantly bitching and lashing out at random things. I wish the film took a couple more looks at this whole romance, but these two were very good together I must say. It’s always nice to see Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rhys Ifans back playing some major supporting roles as well.

Consensus: Greenberg may not have the most likable main character, and some major themes and elements to it’s story that clicks, however the cast is good, especially Stiller, and there are still enough fascinating things about this film to keep your interest.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Meet the Parents (2000)

Makes my first awkward meeting with my ladies parents seem like a walk in the park.

Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) is ready to marry his girlfriend, Pam (Teri Polo), but before he pops the question, he must win over her formidable father, humorless former CIA agent Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro), at the wedding of Pam’s sister. As Greg bends over backward to make a good impression, his visit to the Byrnes home turns into a hilarious series of disasters, and everything that can go wrong does, all under Jack’s critical, hawklike gaze.

The “Meet the…” film series has been going on for about the whole decade with three movies, and probably more coming up. So it’s just really cool to see where it all started off at.

This honestly is a very funny film that uses a lot of these awkward, outrageous, but always hilarious situations where you can’t believe this is actually happening. There are a lot of bad gags, toilet humor, and sometimes painful awkward comedy that will have almost all who watch laughing, and it really works out.

My only gripe with this film is that a lot of the jokes do seem a little too obvious. Something will pop up, and have a bit of significance to the plot, and will pop up later as a joke. I could see all the jokes coming up right before they did them but how they execute them is what had me really laughing in the end.

I think the real extra kick this film get’s is from the cast. Robert De Niro is perfect as Jack Byrnes who is so hard-nosed, and menacing about everything with this poor guy Greg, that you can’t help but laugh at everything he’s doing, or saying for that matter. By just sitting there, De Niro brings out huge laughs and I must say, I’m glad he’s not my girl’s daddy. Ben Stiller is the perfect guy to play Greg. He’s cute enough to be attractive and intelligent enough to be real but has a wonderful airhead quality where you can actually see the smoke rising from his ears when he tries to think. His timing is spot on and his physical stuff is full of energy, which brought me back to his days in There’s Something About Mary. Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, and the always reliable Owen Wilson provide laughs as well here, and add a lot of heart to the whole film.

Consensus: The jokes may be obvious and predictable, but De Niro and Stiller give Meet the Parents the extra kick of comedy that it deserves with hilarious gags, and believable situations that will have anybody laughing.

7/10=Rental!!