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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Bill Hader

Power Rangers (2017)

We’re already on 90’s nostalgia?

In Angel Grove, there’s a threat lying somewhere in the sea and her name is Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). What does she intend on doing? Well, it seems like she wants to destroy the world and there’s only one team that can stop her: The Power Rangers. But who are exactly are the Power Rangers? Well, they’re a rag-tag group of teenagers who, through sheer chance and a Saturday detention, are all gifted with special powers that make them ass-kickers. There’s Jason (Dacre Montgomery), the star-quarterback who, after totaling his car, is stuck with an ankle-bracelet and has to throw away all hopes of a college scholarship; there’s Kimberly (Naomi Scott), a former cheerleader who wants to become something much more than just another one of the “bad girls”; there’s Billy (RJ Cyler) an autistic loner who doesn’t have many friends, but is incredibly smart and great with technology; there’s Trini (Becky G), who may be something of a rebel herself, for certain reasons; and then, there’s Zack (Ludi Lin), a teen who has to deal with his mother slowly dying and wants to do all that he can to make her last few years, happy ones. As one, they must band together to take down Rita and save the world.

Hologram or not, always listen to whatever Bryan Cranston says.

Even though it didn’t work wonders at the box-office and isn’t perfect, I sure do hope that the Power Rangers is granted a sequel. It’s the rare blockbuster reboot of a nostalgic series that’s smart, funny, diverse, and kind of fun, but never seems like it’s trying too hard to be something it isn’t. There’s references, Easter-eggs, call-backs, and hell, a few cameos from the old series that could have easily been lame fan-service, but instead, just feel like a nice way to remind the older fans of what once was the Power Rangers, and what’s soon to be next Power Rangers.

Or maybe not. Who knows?

Either way, I certainly hope so.

Cause what’s interesting about Power Rangers is that it’s a superhero flick, mixed with a bit of a high-school drama where the drama actually brings some heart, heft, and emotion to whatever the hell else is going on with the sci-fi. In fact, it’s very rare, but the characters here are much more interesting than any of the action, or exposition that gets thrown at us. Director Dean Israelite and writer John Gatins seem to actually care about these characters and rather than just having them written off as “types” that we’re so used to with these kinds of high school flicks, they become so much more; the fact that they are more, than what they represent, is even more of a welcome change-of-pace for a genre that seems to skip by this sort of stuff, even if it matters.

And though they’re all ridiculously hot and sexy, the cast is actually quite good in their roles. Everybody brings a great deal of charm and fun into roles that could have been boring and lifeless, with Cyler being the particular stand-out, balancing funny and sadness, sometimes, altogether and at once. They all seem to get along, too, with the chemistry working much more as they get used to one another and understand just who the other person is, where they come from, and why they deserve to be looked at as more than just another “jock”, “slut”, or “nerd”.

Eat your heart out, Michael.

That said, it’s not all great.

When it comes to the exposition and all of the crazy action, Power Rangers can lose itself a bit. While I know that this is the one thing that most fans will want to see with a Power Rangers movie, it’s a bit disappointing that some of it can be so silly and over-the-top, yet, not really fit with the rest of the movie. Like, for instance, Elizabeth Banks’ Rita Repulsa – while she’s clearly having cackling her way through every line, she’s not in the right movie. She’s perfect for a Michael Bay flick, for sure, but one where it actually seems like some heart and soul went into everything else, it doesn’t mesh.

Even the action itself by the end seems like a rehash of the Transformers movies, except this time, with a lot more cohesion and less chaos. It’s still fun and well-done, but once again, it still feels like filler for a movie that was trying to do something slightly more than we’re used to seeing. Does that in and of itself warrant it a sequel? Most definitely. But unfortunately, Hollywood may disagree with me on that.

Oh well. Another treasure of my childhood gone to waste, before my very eyes.

Consensus: With more time and care put into the actual heroes themselves, Power Rangers is much better than it has any right to be, even if the action and sci-fi stuff can get a tad tiresome.

6.5 / 10

So hip. So trendy. So not the 90’s. Boo!

Photos Courtesy of: Lionsgate Films

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Sausage Party (2016)

I prefer my groceries non-verbal and dead, thank you very much.

Frank (Seth Rogen) is a sausage in a grocery store and just like every other product in this grocery store, they all dream of a better life, where they’re picked up by customers, taken out of their plastic wrappers, and brought onto “the promised land”. While no product has any actual idea of what lies ahead, once they are picked up and bought, their imaginations run so wild that they create a song and dance number to make themselves more attractive to the customers, or as they call them, “Gods”. For Frank, however, it’s less about being taken to this so-called “promised land”, and more or less allowed to finally have some sweet, sweaty and dirty sex with his girlfriend, a bun named Brenda Bunson (Kristen Wiig). But for some reason, as of late, Frank has been contemplating the world outside of the grocery store and because of this, he doesn’t really know if he wants to be taken to “the promised land”, leading him on this wild adventure of getting back on the store-shelves, while also ensuring that what he’s doing is right.

You know, what normal store-bought sausage franks think about on a regular basis.

The truth about sausages and buns.

The truth about sausages and buns.

The whole idea of Sausage Party is that it’s an R-rated, raunchy-as-all-hell, mean, vulgar, and nasty animated flick that’s mean to some sort of play on Toy Story, where inanimate objects walk, talk, and act, just like you or I, yet, at the same time, don’t really know much about the world around them, other than what they see in their small, contained worlds and possibly what their told. Honestly, it’s a genius idea that’s a lot more ambitious than it sounds and given the cast and crew involved, it’s a surprise that this didn’t come around sooner. Studios already have issues shelling out loads and loads of money to R-rated movies as is, let alone animated ones that are clearly not at all for kids, even if they’ll probably see the numerous ads, billboards and posters, wondering just what it’s all about and whether or not their parents can take them to see it.

Which is why Sausage Party, despite not being a great movie, is still a step in the right direction for more of these kinds of flicks to come out. Sure, they may be a better, or they may be a lot worse than Sausage Party, but still, they’re R-rated animated flicks, made by and strictly for adults. All of this garbage said, Sausage Party works when it’s trying to be a little more than what it appears to be on the surface; there’s lots of swears and cursing going on, some of which just feel like overkill, but there are also some nice little plays on this grocery-store world and puns, that make it feel like this movie had to take place with the kind of story that it has.

But then again, there’s also a slew of jokes and plays-on-words that are meant to be funny, but unfortunately, just aren’t.

Tequila's always fun no matter what form.

Tequila’s always fun no matter what form.

And really, that’s what it all comes down to when you’re working with a comedy – the jokes have to be funny and if they aren’t, then it’s a problem. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of times in which I laughed during Sausage Party, but there were also plenty of times that I didn’t, and it seemed disappointing, considering that everyone involved here are funny people and can make me laugh like a hyena, when they feel is necessary. The fact that they don’t always win me over with laughter, is fine, but when your movie is literally one joke after another, and a good portion of them don’t connect, it’s hard not to notice.

That said, Sausage Party still does work, because it’s got more on its mind than just talking-food – as was the case with This is the End, Sausage Party is a movie in which Apatow friends and company, all question their existence and wonder whether or not there is more to life than just what’s being presented to them. It’s a silly allegory, mostly due to the fact that it’s talking-food asking and looking for answers to these burning questions, but it’s an allegory that’s still smart and makes sense, given this story and these characters. There’s also all of this talk of race relations, religion and, believe it or not, politics, all of which don’t really feel necessary and don’t always work, but still make this more than what you’d expect it to be.

But still, Sausage Party isn’t trying to change the world we live in, and that’s okay. It’s a silly movie, that has fun with itself to the point of where it’s enjoyable and it doesn’t ask for much attention or thought necessary. The cast, as usual, is great, with Nick Kroll probably the stand-out as the Deuche, who sounds and acts like a Jersey Shore bro, as well as Edward Norton doing a very odd Woody Allen-impersonation. Not sure if the movie needed that later one, but hey, Edward Norton voicing a bagel is pretty cool, so I’ll take it.

I may not eat it, because that’s creepy, but I’ll take it.

Consensus: While not necessarily lighting the comedic world on fire, Sausage Party still works well with its creative idea, bringing out laughs and a surprising amount of food-for-thought while it’s at it.

7 / 10

Hungry now?

Hungry now?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The BFG (2016)

Yeah, a pretty big f****n’ guy!

Ten-year-old Sophie (Sophie Barnhill) is an orphan, pretty lonely, bored and not quite happy with her life. So, it’s obvious that she’s definitely ripe and ready for any adventure that she can find, even if it just so happens to be by the side of the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance). While she’s initially scared of the Giant, she soon starts to realize that there’s something more to him than just being monstrous and talking funny; he’s actually quite sweet and actually wants her to feel comfortable and happy being around him. After all, the Big Friendly Giant feels as if he can’t let her go back to the real world, where she’ll most definitely be going on and on about the Giant, making everyone suspicious and worried about its actual whereabouts. And while, for a short time, Sophie and the BFG are getting along just fine, fellow, meaner giants like Bloodbottler, Fleshlumpeater and others, start sniffing around, looking for something to eat, giving both Sophie and the BFG the idea of how to stop these big, bad and evil giants once and for all.

No one to find you under the covers, little girl. Have no fear. No one has ever gotten caught under the covers.

No one to find you under the covers, little girl. Have no fear. No one has ever gotten caught under the covers.

Steven Spielberg is at that stage in his career now where he doesn’t need to appease anything, or anyone. He doesn’t need to prove anything to himself, or to anybody else, as he’s basically done all that a director and storyteller can do. He’s basically done it all and now, for the time being, it seems like Spielberg is just going to do what he wants, when he wants, and however he wants it. After all, with all the great movies that he’s done, why shouldn’t that be the case?

And heck, when Disney’s footing the bill, the time for play gets even more fun and grand, right?

Well, yes, it actually does. That’s why a movie like the BFG is, oddly enough, a neat little experiment of his; while he’s made family-friendly movies in the past, by far, none of them have ever equaled the silly, childish play of the BFG, not to mention that it’s source material, from Roald Dahl, is also a bit odd for Spielberg’s tastes. He’s been weird before, but Spielberg has never gone to the full limits of weird and fantastical that he has to with the BFG and that’s one of the main reasons why it can be such a joy to watch. You almost get the feeling that Spielberg himself is having a blast trying on some new skin for once, not having to answer anybody, or prove that he’s still got the talent that he was praised so heavily for back earlier in his career.

Now, with something like the BFG, he’s going to try some new things out and, in the process, enjoy himself while he’s at it. He’s like the old man who, once he gets the chance to finally retire, soaks it all in by changing his schedule around a whole bunch, while also still maintaining the usual, like breakfast, lunch, dinner, midnight snack, and bedtime. Except that in this case, Spielberg isn’t retired, nor showing any signs of such, and he doesn’t need to change his whole schedule around.

Cause honestly, after watching the BFG, it reminds me a lot of what Spielberg is capable of doing: Making any story, no matter how weird or realistic, compelling to watch.

The first act of the BFG is quite great because it’s actually somewhat different from what we’re used to expecting with Disney-approved kids movies of this nature. Rather than being all about the visual splendor and grandeur, Spielberg allows for his film to take a slower-approach to the relationship between the BFG and Sophie. A movie of this nature, with a much-less inspired director, would have shoved all of the talking and character development to the side for more special-effects and wacky, wild action, but Spielberg is not that director. He knows that in order for us to actually end up giving a hoot about this tale at all, we have to spend some time with these characters, get to know them a bit, and also realize just what the heck is at stake here.

This is the dude who beat out Sly for that Oscar?

This is the dude who beat out Sly for that Oscar?

And it all works out, too, because Mark Rylance and Sophie Barnhill are both pitch perfect for their own respective roles. Rylance gets a lot to do with the BFG, because it’s a performance that’s solely reliant on his facial-expressions – all of which come out beautifully in the special-effects and makes us feel like we truly are watching a giant (not that I’ve ever seen one). While it would have been easy for Barnhill to get mixed-up in having to basically act towards a tennis ball the whole time, she actually works pretty well with it; we never get the sense that she’s talking to the mid-air, nor that she’s outmatched by Rylance’s spark and wit. Together, they have a nice chemistry that transcends being what we normally expect from one like this, and it’s mostly due to the fact that Barnhill and Rylance seem to be enjoying themselves just as much as Spielberg is, but with the add-on of more conviction.

Always need more conviction.

Of course, the BFG isn’t a perfect movie, as we can come to expect with this latter-career Spielberg. The movie clearly has three parts to it; the first being good, the last being fine, and the middle one being pretty terrible. Getting to know these characters means slowing things down, sure, but the movie also decides that there doesn’t need to be an actual, driving-plot to really keep things interesting. It’s almost as if Spielberg decided to himself, at that point in time, that everyone would be so enamored with the BFG, that any sort of compelling story didn’t need to be explained or, better yet, even hinted at. Problem is, the movie never seems to get going with its plot until, well, it’s way too late. And it’s barely under two hours, making a rather long kids movie, but an even longer movie once the middle-act comes around.

But then Spielberg gets his act together, brings us to London in a last-minute twist that’s funny, sweet, and oddly enough, kind of interesting. Spielberg knows how to comedy in general, but never has really displayed it so much for kids, as often as he does in the BFG and if anything, the last-act is a perfect showing of that.

Now, if only we get more fun from Spielberg.

Consensus: While a bit choppy in the story-department, the BFG finds Spielberg in a relaxed, but enthusiastic mood, trying new and fun things out, seeing how well they all work out, and allowing us to watch it all play out.

6.5 / 10

Don't do it, girl. Fun and adventure will await you, but uh, okay never mind. Do it.

Don’t do it, girl. Fun and adventure will await you, but uh, okay never mind. Do it.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Hot Rod (2007)

Evil Knievel seemed like a pretty smart guy.

Self-proclaimed stuntman Rod Taylor (Andy Samberg) is preparing for the ultimate jump of his life. Rod plans to clear fifteen buses in an attempt to raise money for his abusive stepfather Frank’s (Ian McShane) life-saving heart operation. He’ll land the jump, get Frank better, and then fight him, hard.

Back in the good old days before YouTube became this huge cash-grab for any 10-year-old with a camera, the Lonely Island were a group of funny peeps that found their success by making dumb, but funny music videos like “D*ck in a Box”, “Jizz in My Pants”, and “Lazy Sunday”, to name a few. They were funny, snappy, honest, and most importantly, catchy-as-hell, showing that parody music can still work.

Look out, comedy world!

Look out, comedy world!

So yeah, it was only a matter of time before the guys got their movie.

Director Akiva Schaffer makes a flick that seems like what would happen if Will Ferrell and Mel Brooks got together, and had a surrogate baby with Napoleon Dynamite. It’s not a nice mental picture to take but in terms of this flick, it actually works very well. Sometimes the film layers in self-parody, other times, it’s just plain and simple low-brow humor where farting is the main gag, and randomly, it’s just cheap and easy slapstick. The comedy goes all-over-the-place at times, but it works for the most part because the guys never really take it too seriously.

Actually, this film is probably more enjoyable whenever I think of the few memorable scenes in this film where everybody seems like they were on the same page in saying what was, and what wasn’t funny. There’s a funny 80’s ode to the Flashdance scene that shows Samberg running around like a crazy man; there’s a random, but clever rap that’s made out of the word “cool beans”; an argument over who parties in the group that still never got solved; and a hilarious riot scene that comes absolutely out of nowhere, but was the hardest I laughed in the whole movie. I know, spoilers, but hey, I’m being as vague as one man can be.

As for the rest of the film, it doesn’t necessarily struggle as much as it just lingers from scene-to-scene without any real hard-hitting humor. The dialogue is somewhat clever, but also feels like it’s trying too hard to go for that weird, nerdish-like type of humor that hit so well with cult audiences from Nacho Libre and Napoleon Dynamite. Sometimes it can work and keep a film moving at a lightning-quick speed, but it drags things down a bit here and I think that’s what kept me away from remembering everything else that happened. I’m telling you, it was those key scenes that made this film work but everything else in between?

Meh.

As a leading man, Andy Samberg does a solid job, doing a nice blend between goofy and, surprisingly, assured. It’s obvious that he’s channeling that “man-child” act that Ferrell does so well, but it’s not to the point of where it’s annoying or distracting by any means – it’s funny because Samberg himself is funny. He handles all of the dumb scenes very well and makes a very likable character, even if the guy doesn’t really seem like much of a character as much of a reason to have a person smash into things and mess-up stunts. It’s a shame that his movie career now hasn’t really done much for him, but I still hold-up hope that he’ll make that huge transition one day.

Andy over Sacha? Wow, Isla. You go girl!

Andy over Sacha? Wow, Isla. You go girl!

All of his secondary characters are fun to watch too, as they all bring a bunch of light and dumb fun to characters that are there for exactly that. Bill Hader plays the Southerner dummy, Dave, and does his usual act where he’s just an ass the whole time; Danny McBride does a fine job being a destructive asshole that always has to be hitting someone or something in every scene he’s in; Jorma Taccone is funny as Rod’s step-brother, Kevin, and definitely gave me that Napoleon-like character feel; Ian McShane was fun to watch take up a lighter role than we usually see him play, and does fine with his scenes where it’s just him and Rod beating the crap out of each other; and Isla Fisher and Sissy Spacek don’t really do much at all except stand there, look pretty, and just let the boys do all of the fartin’ around.

Literally.

But now to the real question of Hot Rod: is it a “cult flick”? Well, for one, I don’t think it is, even if there is clearly an audience for it. One of the issues with Hot Rod is that it seems like it’s clearly trying to be another one of Will Ferrell’s vehicles, where he runs around, yells and acts like a child. At one time, that whole act struck gold everywhere it went and every time it showed up, hence why this movie attracted so many people looking for the same thing, but nowadays, it seems like a thing of the past. Ferrell’s movies nowadays show him trying to do something different with his comedic-approach, which is sometimes hit or miss, but audiences, honestly, don’t seem so drawn to that. Hot Rod will probably remain a “cult classic”, by those who saw and loved it back in the day, if only because it was in a time and age when Will Ferrell’s brand was bee’s knees.

Nowadays? Eh. Not so much. Maybe we’re better off for that, maybe we’re not. But either way, it’s definitely something to point out.

Consensus: Hot Rod is not as consistently funny as it would probably hope so, probably because of the ever-changing approach to it’s comedy, but still has plenty of memorable scenes and funny performances that make this an average-comedy, with average-people in it.

7 / 10

I've never been so proud to be an American.

I’ve never been so proud to be an American.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Maggie’s Plan (2016)

Who needs a plan when you can just sleep around?

At this point in her life, Maggie (Greta Gerwig) feels as if it’s about time to start having a baby. While she doesn’t have a man in her life that she can settle down with and actually have the baby with, she still knows that she can have a baby, if solely through a sperm donor. The man she chooses is a former classmate of hers, who now sells pickles (Travis Fimmell). While he totally agrees to it and gives her the sample, for some reason, Maggie gets a little side-tracked. She meets a fellow teacher, John (Ethan Hawke), who takes a liking to her and they start to hang out a whole lot. Even though he’s married to the intimidating, but incredibly pretentious Georgette (Julianne Moore), there’s still something bright and youthful about Maggie that John can’t seem to keep himself away from, but how much is he willing to screw up his whole family for her? Better yet, how much is Maggie willing and able to screw things up with her situation, to then start a life with John and become something she never saw herself as being?

"So yeah, what are your thoughts on spiritual wellness?"

“So yeah, what are your thoughts on spiritual wellness?”

It’s hard not to look at Maggie’s Plan as some sort of sequel to Frances Ha, in which Greta Gerwig’s titular character has now grown up a tad bit, got her own place, found a steady job, and is now thinking about the next stage in her life. Sure, you could definitely say that it’s a bit of a stretch, or not one at all, depending on how you look at it, but it’s hard not to compare the two, especially with what writer/director Rebecca Miller goes for here (that serio-screwball/tragicomedy kind of movie), and how it compares a lot to Noah Baumbach’s style. That said, are both movies the same?

Nope, not really.

In all honesty, it doesn’t matter because Maggie’s Plan is a good movie that, excluding Gerwig and her lovely presence, still works; it’s about much more than Maggie and her “plan”. In a way, it’s about how that plan constantly changes and takes on different forms over time, to where people’s lives are changed and she has no clue how it happened, or what to do about it. It’s odd that Miller is taking on something as silly and light as this can be, especially considering how dark, dramatic and bare her past movies could get, but it’s still nice to see her trying out different things, even if they don’t always work.

See, with Maggie’s Plan, Miller is going for two things here and she doesn’t hit the nail perfectly on the head. There’s plenty of funny moments that are, at the very least, chuckle worthy, but never to extreme laughter, and the dramatic moments, as rare as they come around, often feel like they’re supposed to be more important than they actually appear to be in the movie. There’s two sides to Maggie’s Plan, and they’re both interesting, but Miller can never make up her clear mind of which side she’s willing to take and run wild with; you can make both movies simultaneously, but there has to be a better switch than what Miller sometimes does here.

That said, there’s more good than bad within Maggie’s Plan; there’s a darker undercurrent of a story that’s briefly hinted at, and had Miller gone further down the road, the movie would have been far more sad and emotional. It’s probably a good thing that she didn’t go down that road because the movie does an awful lot of skewering and making fun of these kinds of New York intellectuals that, so often in movies, are loved and beheld as some sort of “God sends”. Sure, these people are fine and they do exist, but Miller herself knows that it’s also fun poke jokes at their expense to, while also not forgetting about their humanity, either.

Old school yuppie, meet new school yuppie. Try to keep up with the awkwardness and hip slang.

Old school yuppie, meet new school yuppie. Try to keep up with the awkwardness and hip slang.

And yeah, it also helps that the cast is pretty great, too.

Gerwig has played this kind of character before many, many times before and it’s still fine here; there’s a sense that she’s growing older and becoming more mature with each role, so it’ll be interesting where she takes it next. However, the movie isn’t always about her, as it’s much more about those around her, like Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore’s characters. As John, Hawke does his best to be charming and likable, even if the character he plays is sometimes so infuriating and nauseating, you want him to be gone and told to “pipe down”. But because it’s Hawke, all of the annoying things he goes on and on about for no reason or another, there’s something endearing to it all.

Moore, on the other hand, is playing a Danish writer and while the role may seem really silly and over-the-top, Moore gets to the heart and soul of this character and makes us see her as a person. This is also a testament to Miller’s writing, showing that this kind of woman does exist, but she’s not such a terrible person in the first place, even if she’s made out to be that way. It also helps that Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph show up as a married-couple, who also happen to be Maggie’s best pals and they always tell it like it is. They’re funny and smart, even if they show up for a little bit, every so often. Each time is as good as the last, but come on, where’s the movie about them?

I wouldn’t mind that one bit. Although, Maggie’s Plan is just fine, too.

Consensus: Despite its never ending battle with tone, Maggie’s Plan works because of its charming and likable cast, and affection for their characters, even if they aren’t always making the best, brightest decisions.

7 / 10

Oh, Greta. What a heart-breaker you are.

Oh, Greta. What a twee heartbreaker you are.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

Every guy’s got that one ex-girlfriend who looks like Kristen Bell and ruined their lives.

Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) isn’t doing much with his life, really. Sure, he’s got TV star Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), as a girlfriend, but really, he just sits around the house, eating a crap-ton of cereal, getting on the piano, and slowly writing his opera to Dracula. Eventually, all of this laziness catches up to him when Sarah dumps him for rock star and pop-sensation Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). Heartbroken and without any clue as to what to do with his life, Peter decides to say screw it all and go vacation in Hawaii. After all, it’s nice, relaxing and just an all around great environment to be in, even though, when he gets there, he discovers that Sarah and Aldous are at the same resort of him, as lovey-dovey as they can possibly get. Though he automatically regrets the decision he makes, a clerk at the resort (Mila Kunis) gets Peter to stay and just enjoy the time he’s got. And yes, that’s exactly what Peter does, even if it does seem to be with her an awful lot. But still, there’s a part of Peter that no matter how hard he tries, he still can’t get over Sarah.

Oh, man up, wussy.

Oh, man up, wussy. She wasn’t even that hoooooo….okay, that’s a lie. She totally was.

You’ve got to hand it to Jason Segel for laying it all out there, literally and figuratively. Forgetting Sarah Marshall was his baby from the first stroke of the pen and it only makes greater sense that he’d be the star of it, and it actually works in the movie’s favor. Segel’s got this everyman feel to him that makes him not only likable, but downright sympathetic, even when it seems like he’s making dumb decisions, time after time again. Then again, the idea here is that because he’s so heart-broken and torn-up, he makes bad decisions by accident, not knowing what else to do.

Once again, this aspect works because it’s relatable and smart, without ever trying to be too much of, either.

At its core, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is another Apatow-lite comedy where people riff on random things for the sake of it, but this time, there’s more of a story to it all, with this one being that Segel’s character needs to get over his ex. Sure, it’s not much of a story, but it’s at least something to hold together all of the sticky pieces of improv that, yes, can occasionally bring out small, brilliant gems of comedic genius, but other times, can seem as if they’re just going on far too long and not really adding much of anything. Sure, a five-minute bit about champagne is fine and all, so long as it’s funny, but does it really need to be here?

Can it be substituted for something else more pertinent to the story? Or, can it just be taken out altogether?

The only reason I bring any of this up is because Forgetting Sarah Marshall is nearly two hours and can certainly feel like it. While we’re in the dawn and age where it’s virtually impossible that any movie, let alone a big-budgeted, mainstream comedy will be under two hours, there’s still something to be said for a movie when its short, but sweet and tight enough to where you don’t feel like you’re strained by the end. And no, I am not saying I was “strained” by Forgetting Sarah Marshall‘s end, but more like I was left with a lot of laughs, a rag-tag story that tried to hold everything together, and a better understanding that as long as you find another attractive person to kiss and bang, don’t worry, you’ll get over that attractive person you used to kiss and bang.

Catfight! Catfight!

Catfight! Catfight!

Okay, maybe it’s not nearly that cynical, but you get my drift: The message is as simple as they come, but it still works because the feeling of heartbreak is, unfortunately, for so many out there, universal. Everyone’s experienced it at least once in their life, whether they like to admit it or not, and even though the film likes to poke jokes at the idea of not being able to function in society after a break-up, it’s still very much a reality. Sometimes, the world around you just doesn’t make perfect sense, but because you know you have to be happy and move on, even if you don’t feel it at all, you still have to push yourself further and further to get to that point. Segel flirts with this idea and while he doesn’t fully go for it all, he still brings it up in a way that made me think it was more than just your average studio-comedy.

Because, yes, despite the wonderfully wacky, but charming performances from the likes of Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, and of course, Paul Rudd, amongst many others, the fact that Forgetting Sarah Marshall addresses sadness, love, heartbreak, and the feeling of remorse in an honest, but funny way, made me think of it a lot differently than I used to. Segel may or may not be working through some demons with this work here, but whatever the case is, his heart shines through and it’s nice to see someone take their script as passionately as it should be taken as.

It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s a blast to watch.

Consensus: In need of a trim or two, Forgetting Sarah Marshall can definitely feel a tad overlong, but still benefits from lovely and funny performances from the whole cast, as well as a smart script that goes beyond what you expect a studio comedy to be all about, even if it totally turns into that.

7.5 / 10

Hey remember the talk show this guy had? Me neither.

Hey, remember the talk show this guy had? Me neither.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

You, Me and Dupree (2006)

DupreeposterEverybody’s got that one, seemingly attractive friend who has an oddly-shaped nose and has every woman attracted to him. Yeah, screw that guy.

Carl (Matt Dillon) and Molly (Kate Hudson) are back from their honeymoon and finally feel as if it’s the time for them to start focusing on their lives and possibly even starting a family. That all goes out the window once Carl’s old pal, Randy Dupree (Owen Wilson), comes around, asking for some money and a place to live. Why? Well, because it appears that Dupree has yet to grow up and accept life for what it is. Instead of having a job where he gets money, he mostly just sits around the house; instead of having a steady girlfriend, he’ll sometimes just jerk-off and have random flings; instead of being able to be trusted and responsible, he sometimes takes a tad too much of everything he’s handed for granted. And while Carl and Molly both grow tired of Dupree’s wild and unpredictable antics, eventually, they come to realize that maybe he’s going to make their lives a bit better. After all, there’s this fun and happy spirit to him that’s almost too hard to deny.

Some of the best bums I know, are the best chefs. When they're not paying for the food, that is.

Some of the best bums I know, are the best chefs. When they’re not paying for the food, that is.

You, Me and Dupree is a very weird comedy in that it doesn’t really have a plot, or, as my pals in the biz like to call it, “a hook”. It’s a mainstream comedy with big-names attached to it, but no real premise to have people the slightest bit interested; if anything, it appears that the powers behind You, Me and Dupree just relied solely on the fact that it was able to get these people to show up in their movie in the first place. Heck, even Michael Douglas’ unfortunate name can’t help but be thrown on the poster, even if he is only in the movie for at least 20 or so minutes.

And the only reason why I bring any of this up is because it’s actually kind of hard to talk about You, Me and Dupree without feeling like I’m just writing about a movie I think I saw. Don’t worry, I’ve seen it and yeah, it was fine. It’s the kind of movie that, like I said, because there doesn’t seem to be anything actually going on other than Owen Wilson acting like a goof-ball, it’s hard to fully remember any stand-out scene that had me laughing for days, or really surprised me. Mostly, the whole movie just came, went, did its thing, and that was it.

Does that make it bad?

Maybe, but I didn’t hate myself while watching it.

If anything, I was just more confused as to how it got made. The movie’s not incredibly funny, nor is it all that dramatic, either. There’s certain ideas and themes about marriage, loyalty, and sex that come and go as they please, but you get the feeling that directors Joe and Anthony Russo don’t really have a clue what to make of them; they’re way more interested in watching Owen Wilson cause all sorts of havoc around him, while acting like the nicest guy possible. And yes, there is definitely some fun to watching this – Wilson is, believe it or not, a likable presence on-screen, so that when he is given cruddy material like this, he allows for it to appear better than it may actually be. There’s no denying that the script is pretty lame and only brings out the gultiest and easiest laughs, but somehow, it slightly works because Wilson’s good at this kind of role.

And the rest of the cast is fine, too, even if they’re far-off worse than Wilson. Kate Hudson is charming, as usual; Matt Dillon gets a few occasions to have fun and be weird, which is always a plus; Michael Douglas gets to play a dick, which is always magically delicious; and Seth Rogen, in what appears to be an early role of his, does well and leaves an impression. Their characters aren’t all as drawn-out as Wilson’s Dupree and for that, they kind of suffer. However, they all try their hardest with material that clearly isn’t up their alley, nor is it made to fully work.

Mikey Douglas as a father-in-law? Sign me up!

Mikey Douglas as a father-in-law? Sign me up!

Which once again makes me wonder: How did it get made?

Did the actors just read this script, think it was trash, but because they were somewhat interested in doing something that would give them a lot of money, just do it anyway? Did they all want to work together? Or, did they all just want to spend some time with Michael Douglas? Honestly, the later option is perhaps the most believable and it shows; You, Me and Dupree seems like the kind of mediocre-as-hell comedy that would have been the main focus of a season on Project Greenlight. It’s cheap, stupid and really easy-to-follow-along-with, which is basically what you could call any of the movies made from that show.

However, because the cast is involved, it becomes something of a bigger beast. It’s got a bigger budget and you know what? It’s actually a better movie. Does that make it perfect? Nope, but it does make it at least somewhat better to sit through than the worst comedies from its stars.

May not sound like much, but hey, at least it’s something.

Consensus: With a talented cast on-board, You, Me and Dupree just barely squeaks by as being an okay movie, even if its jokes aim as low as they can, without a single care in the world to actually try harder.

5 / 10

What can he say? He's just Dupree!

What can he say? He’s just Dupree!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Trainwreck (2015)

There’s more to life than booze. Like pot.

When she was younger, Amy (Amy Schumer) was always told by her dad (Colin Quinn) that monogamy is nearly impossible. Many years later, she’s seem to taken that note of advice to heart, where mostly every other night, she spends it drinking, smoking, partying, and going home with some guy that she doesn’t even remember the next morning. Her sister (Brie Larson) has turned out for the best with her husband (Mike Birbiglia) and step-son, but Amy just can’t seem to bring herself to want and/or be happy with those sorts of things – she’s already too happy enjoying her independence. That all begins to change, however, when Amy’s assigned a story for her magazine on a sports doctor, Dr. Aaron Conners (Bill Hader). Though it’s not necessarily smart for a journalist to get involved with her subject, Amy just can’t help herself one night and sooner than later, realizes that she’s in something that she’s always fought so hard against: A relationship. But because Amy is so commitment-phobic, she’s finding it hard to not let her personal issues get in the way of something beautiful she and Aaron could have, even if he too struggles with it from time to time.

It’s hard to make a good romantic comedy nowadays. Sure, a movie can try its hardest to spin the genre on the tops of its head so many times, in so many fancy ways, that even the most downbeat and depressed person can find something to be happy about. But sometimes, what ultimately ends up happening is that the movie turns out to be a pretentious piece of bull that’s trying so hard to please you in an ironic way, that it’s downright annoying. I’ve seen many rom-coms in my life that have been different enough to work (500 Days of Summer), I’ve seen many that try to be hip and cool, but just turn out to be gag-inducing (plenty of indies), and that will probably never change.

Cheers up, ladies. You deserve it.

Cheers up, ladies. You deserve it.

However, there’s no denying that Trainwreck‘s a good rom-com.

Even in today’s day and age.

What Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow both do perfectly together here is that they blend their own certain styles of humor that it feels like one, cohesive whole, rather than just a splattering of ideas thrown at the wall like spaghetti. Schumer actually wrote this script and while most of it may definitely seem like the normal kind of banter we expect from Apatow projects, it’s surprisingly mostly coming from Schumer’s pen, paper, and mind. Sure, there’s definitely some improv to be found among the talents on-display here, however, Trainwreck is Amy Schumer’s baby, through and through, and there’s nobody who can get in the way of that.

Which isn’t to say that Judd Apatow tries to sneak in and take it all away from her – in fact, it’s all quite the opposite. Apatow allows for there to be many moments dedicated solely to just Schumer herself, acting, being charming, and building this character, rather than relying on non-stop scenes of people just rambling on and on about whatever comes to their mind first. Though this aspect of Apatow’s movies can still illicit laughs, here, it would have mostly felt unnecessary and random.

Because at the center of Trainwreck, there’s this fully-realized and developed female character who feels as if she was written in a smart way that she’s not only relateable to anyone out there, but still human enough to not be judged as harshly as she herself may want you to. That the movie doesn’t slut-shame Amy’s character, nor make her forget about the errors of her ways, proves that Schumer set out to make a human, rather than just a character that can stand in while everyone around her cracks jokes and moves the story right on along. Like I’ve said before, it’s totally Schumer’s movie and it’s better off because of it – she never forgets what’s driving this story, nor does she ever let herself take over the screen too much.

Which is to say, that when she’s letting others deliver the funny, they more than do so.

You’d think that with a cast as varied and nuts as Trainwreck, that there’d most definitely be some weak-spots to be found among the group, but somehow, that doesn’t happen. Every performer who shows up is more than up to the task of delivering the funny, making their presence known, and then leaving to let the movie get on with itself. And the reason why I used the word “performer” is because it’s a little hard to classify a group of actors, when you’re talking about the likes of John Cena, or Lebron James, or even Amar’e Stoudemire; okay maybe Cena’s more believable as an “actor”, considering his profession, but as for the other two, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen either show-off their thespian skills before.

However, both of them, as well as plenty of others are pitch perfect with their comedy. Especially James, who comes off like the sassy best-friend type that these kinds of movies seem to have, but instead, because it’s Lebron James and the writing’s a whole lot more knowing, it never comes off like a conceit. Instead, it just comes off as Lebron James being very funny in a role that, believe it or not, was written perfectly for him. Sure, he’s playing a heightened version of himself, but at least he can actually “play” around in the first place, yuck it up, and not take himself at all too seriously.

Kobe's not this charming. Trust me.

Kobe’s not this charming. Trust me.

Good for him, because who knows? When that basketball career of his dries up, there may be a bigger, brighter future out there for him in front of the camera.

So long as he doesn’t get stuck with starring in a Kazaam remake.

Anyway, Lebron’s not the only one who gets a chance to shine and show the comedy-world what they are capable of doing, and why you can depend on them some more in the future. Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller (lovely little We Need to Talk About Kevin reunion, if there ever was one), Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Dave Attell, Marisa Tomei, Jon Glaser, Method Man, Daniel Radcliffe, and 100-year-old Norman Lloyd, among others, may or may not seem like the perfect choices for your rom-com, but they somehow assert themselves well enough here that they prove why they are. As usual with Apatow’s movies, some roles tend to lean more on the excessive side (Matthew Broderick, Marv Albert and Chris Evert), whereas other go unseen (Barkhad Abdi and Jim Norton were apparently cast), but there’s no denying that Apatow’s able to draw out some of the most odd, sometimes shocking moments of comedy from these talents, whether you expected any of them to deliver on them or not.

But at the center of all the mayhem occurring with this ensemble, is Amy Schumer and Bill Hader who not only have perfect chemistry, but really give some personality to these otherwise stock characters. Schumer’s boozy, free-wheeling character seems like she’s on the brink of self-destruction, but the movie makes it clear that it’s not necessarily a problem for her, nor is it a problem for us; Schumer’s just so charming and funny about everything, that it hardly registers at all that she’s slowly dying on the inside. Same goes with Bill Hader, who’s Dr. Conners feels like he could be the butt of every joke, yet, turns out to be the smartest character of them all. And even then, he’s got some problems worth solving.

Then again, don’t we all?

Consensus: As is the case with Apatow movies, Trainwreck is a tad overlong, but is still hilarious, well-acted, and insightful enough that it’s maybe his most polished work to date and proves that there’s plenty of room to grow for not just him, but Amy Schumer as well.

8 / 10

People in love - so happy and joyful. It makes me sick!

People in love – so happy and joyful. It makes me sick!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Inside Out (2015)

Whatever characters are in my head, they are some pretty messed-up individuals.

Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias) is a twelve-year-old girl who is going through a bit of growing pains. After living her comfortable, lovely little life in Minnesota, her and her family all of a sudden have to move out to San Francisco, where she doesn’t know a single person and has to join a hockey team that she doesn’t seem to want to. However, to help her out through this whole turning point in her life, just like they’ve been there for her from the day she was born, are five personified emotions that live and work inside of her head: Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black), and the one who pretty much has all command over what happens, Joy (Amy Poehler). For some reason though, on Riley’s first day of school, Sadness can’t stop touching all of Riley’s happy memories, therefore making them sad, which, as a result, makes her more sad as a result. Things end up getting so out-of-hand with Sadness, that she screws up the whole system, which in turn, makes Riley into something of a mean, nasty and cruel girl to those around her. Now, it’s up to Joy and Sadness to figure out how they can fix the whole system so that Riley can get back to her old self – even if, you know, her old-self still needed some growing up to do.

Oh, Psych majors are going to have a field day with this one!

Oh, Psych majors are going to have a field day with this one!

I’ll start it all off by stating this: For the first time in what seems to be five years, I cried during a Pixar movie.

While that may have been an obvious statement at least a decade or so ago, when it seemed like Pixar excelled at doing that on a yearly-basis, the past few years haven’t been so kind to the company to where it would be the first thing on everybody’s mind. For one, they’ve ran into the problem that they had been working with such a great platform, for so very long, and seemed to be striking gold everywhere they went, that they were totally set-up to fail. Shame that it had to start with the dreadful Cars 2; go on a tad bit with the initially promising, but ultimately disappointing Brave; get very desperate with the prequel Monsters University; and then, suddenly, bow out of actually releasing a movie all year last year, something they haven’t done in I don’t know how long. What this seemed to be was just another case of a talented, original studio that have been breaking all sorts of ground with just about everything they put out, tragically, run out of any original ideas to pass-out to the masses.

Thankfully though, Inside Out is exactly the step back in the right direction for Pixar, and all of animation as a whole.

While the premise to Inside Out may already seem a little too heady for its own good, let alone a kids movie, have no fear as the creators do a terrific job of laying just about everything out perfectly to where we understand just how everything works. From the way Riley reacts to something, how she feels about her day, or to even what she dreams about when she sleeps at night, are all touched upon, but believe it or not, there’s still a bit of mystery hidden beneath that continues to let the film surprise us more and more. While it would have been easy to lay out all of the cards on the table and let us see it play its hand, Inside Out takes itself one step further as it not only continues to surprise us, the audience, with all of its terrific little tricks and goodies, but even surprise itself.

Whereas a movie such as this could have easily seemed like it was just making itself up as it went along, Inside Out seems like it knows where it wants to go and why, however, they let us join in on the ride, too, and hardly forget that they’re teaching the audience about what they’re doing, alongside entertaining them, too, of course. And the whole tinkering around with this plot and the certain surprises it offers alongside the way, are what makes the movie so funny to begin with. Though Inside Out has plenty of jokes aimed towards the kids (slapstick and such), there are equally just as many jokes, if not more, targeted towards those who may not even have to be adults to fully appreciate.

Be ready mom and dad, the next couple of years are going to be a whole lot not at all as peaceful as this.

Mom and dad, be prepared, the next couple of years are not going to be nearly as peaceful as this.

Literally, one could be 14 years of age, watch Inside Out, and laugh their rumps off at a passing-line that they didn’t see coming, nor will they fully remember when all is said and done with; however, if they pay attention long enough, they’ll be rewarded. So few movies actually congratulate its viewers on giving their whole heart and attention to what it’s presenting, and it’s such a great feeling to get that here with Inside Out – a movie that’s more about making fun its own self, rather than pointing a finger at the audience and making fun of them for not fully understanding what’s going on. Sure, some of the jokes are more on the “mature” side, but if you pay close enough attention, you’ll hear ’em, you’ll get ’em, and you’ll laugh at ’em.

And sometimes, that’s all you need with a comedy.

Then, of course, there’s the dramatic side to Inside Out and, like I said before, it absolutely obliterated me. While I must admit, a premise such as this is right up my ballpark (adolescence, growing, coming-of-age, etc.), Inside Out handles it so well to where it feels like it’s writers actually know a thing or two about going through that period of time where you’re growing up and starting to make a little sense of the world you’re in. You’re not fully there just yet, but you’re working your way there, and it’s a very scary, but always rewarding time in your life; trust me, I’m still going through it and I’m nearly 22!

Anyway, what at first seems like a neat conceit to tell a story about growing up, Inside Out soon turns out to be a heartwarming tale that uses its own mechanisms to show us how we all operate as we get older. Even though most of us grow out of adolescence and feel as if we are ready to take on the world with a fresh new start, the fact is that we really aren’t; sometimes, we need to depend on the good will and love of those around us. They could be friends, family, or confidantes who you don’t even think twice about on a regular-basis – it doesn’t matter who, they’re there for you when you need them and even if you don’t think you need them, trust us, you do.

Heck, we all do!

But the movie also brings up another important aspect that doesn’t just have to do with growing up, but has to do with life as a whole. What the character of Joy represents is being happy and pleasant, all of the time, 24/7, never bringing other people down, and never having a worry in the world. This is a good mind-set to have, most of the times, but occasionally, you still need to bring yourself down to reality and look a bit on the gloomier side of things; which is exactly what the character of Sadness represents. While she’s not always about being depressed about every event in one’s life, she still realizes that people need sadder moments in their life, just to balance out all of the joyful ones; no one wants to be around a person who is always chirpy, nor does anyone want to be around a person who is always downer. Sometimes, they want somebody who is slap down in the middle and that’s the most important fact about life that Inside Out brings to light, especially for the kiddies that will go out and see this.

God, I’m so happy to be back to loving Pixar movies!

Consensus: Even despite its overly ambitious premise, Inside Out never loses its energetic muster to stop being entertaining, fun for the whole family, and most of all, heartwarming, proving that important messages about life can be in anywhere you look – you just have to search a bit closer.

9 / 10

Yup, they're inside of each and everyone of our own heads. And no, they don't symbolize the government!

Yup, they’re inside of each and everyone of our own heads. And no, they aren’t metaphors for the government!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Accidental Love (2015)

accidentalloveposter“Stephen Greene” is the new “Alan Smithee”.

Small-town, roller waitress Alice (Jessica Biel) seems to have most of her life in an ideal position. She’s happy, about to be engaged to her boyfriend (James Marsden), and has promises of a simple, painless life that she can hopefully grow old, fat and relax with. However, that all changes when a nail-gun strikes her head; which shouldn’t be much of a problem, except that Alice doesn’t have insurance. Meaning, when Alice is on the operating-table, she is denied the surgery that would allow for the nail to be taken out of head and have her healed. Alice isn’t very pleased with this, so in an act of anger, she joins up with a group of fellow victims who all hope to get free healthcare from the U.S. government. But, in order to have their dreams fulfilled, they need to have some sort of political representation – which is what they find in with congressman Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal). Birdwell seems like he means well and honestly wants for Alice, as well as many others, to be healed, but he soon realizes that there’s plenty of problems standing in his way that may not allow for this to happen.

Without diving too much into the production history of Accidental Love, I’ll just try to keep it as simple as I can possibly be. Accidental Love, who’s initial title was the much-better Nailed, was directed by David O. Russell back in 2008 when, out of nowhere, finances fell through and filming for the movie, which was nearly 80% finished, was cut-off. Many, like myself, felt like the movie would never see the light of day and would join the long list of other movies that sound incredibly promising, but have been held back because of certain problems; whether they be legal, financial, publicity, etc.

Just waiting to be interviewed by Michael Moore.

Just waiting to be interviewed by Michael Moore.

So, with all that said, should Accidental Love seen the light of day?

The answer is a “no”, but it’s not a strong or direct one. Instead, it’s a disappointing one, because somewhere, if you squint long and hard enough, is a smart, entertaining, and incredibly funny satire that Russell seems to excel so well in. But that’s when you really force your eyes to do so; if not, you’ll most likely just find a choppy, messed-up, slightly interesting movie that seems to deal with important issues, yet, still doesn’t hit as hard as it should.

Honestly, there’s no telling if Accidental Love was a good movie even before things went awry in its production-department, but you can tell that everybody involved with it seemed to be game for some sort of wacky comedy. Whether or not that comedy actually works, is a totally different subject to talk about, but there’s no denying that the solidly impressive ensemble Russell was able to assemble here had no clue what they were doing. They did, and they’re totally game – it’s just that the movie isn’t.

Though I’m still not sold on Jessica Biel’s talents as an actress just yet, I have to giver her at least a portion of credit for dialing it all the way up to 11 with this performance and hardly ever coming down to a lesser-notch. She’s loud, over-the-top and camping it up, and even though the jokes don’t land when they’re at her expense, it’s clear that Biel was at least in on them and didn’t want people to think otherwise. Same goes for Jake Gyllenhaal who, in recent years, has proven to be on the more consistently engaging screen-presences we have working today, and here, seems like he’s just having fun. He, like Biel, is only doing what the script calls for him to do, but he seems so happy doing so, that the character flirts with the idea of being more than just a caricature of whom Russell was setting out to make fun of.

And for the rest of the cast, much is the same. Tracy Morgan’s funny; James Marsden’s funny; Catherine Keener’s funny; Paul Reuben’s funny; and hell, even Kirstie Alley’s funny. There’s no denying that everybody here seems to be having fun with where Russell takes them, and what he does with them, it’s just that the movie they’re working in doesn’t seem to gel. Like, at all.

Which is understandable, considering what happened behind-the-scenes. The movie seems like the kind of hatchet job that a studio would only perform, had they honestly felt as if they had something of a hit on their hands. But Accidental Love, believe it or not, never seems like a hit. And I’m not just talking from a critical stand-point – I’m speaking from the financial one.

Who are we making fun of here?

Who are we making fun of here?

Being nearly seven years after its initial release-date, Accidental Love feels awfully dated, especially in terms of its subject-matter. Living in the post-Obama society that we live in now, talking about, making fun of, and even trying to make a point about healthcare, its benefits, and its draw-backs, feel a little too late to the game. Are these points worth bringing up for people to hear and sometimes laugh at? Sure, but it’s all been said and done before, and sometimes more effectively so.

That being said, the movie isn’t totally terrible, miserable experience for people to sit through and watch.

Like mostly all of Russell’s movies, he seems to revel in the delight of having his characters just act wild, yell at one another and go seemingly more and more insane as the time rolls on by. Some of that can be fun to watch here, but for the most part, it seems spliced together in a movie that’s concerned with everything, yet not anything, at the same time. It wants to be clever and sly about the point it’s trying to reel on home about healthcare; it wants to be a touching, sweet tale about a relationship between two unorthodox individuals that might blossom into something beautiful; and it also wants to be farce about a bunch of goofy people, being just that.

Yet, it’s never any of these. Just a jumble.

Consensus: While not nearly as embarrassing as its shoddy production history may have you think, Nailed, err, I mean Accidental Love seemed like it had an objective early on, yet, ends up being nothing, about no one, and doing nothing for those who watch it.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Eh. At least the sex was good for these two.

Eh. At least the sex was good for these two.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Skeleton Twins (2014)

Good thing I don’t have a twin. Too much trouble as is with one me.

Twins Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig) haven’t spoken to one another in ten years, yet, they both attempt suicide on what seems to be the same day, within a few hours or so from one another. Though, Milo is the one who seems to be at least the most successful with his attempt and lands himself in a hospital, where Maggie comes to see him and urge him to come back to her small place in New York, with her husband (Luke Wilson) and, hopefully-soon-to-be, children. While there though, Milo begins to realize that Maggie and her hubby aren’t having the best of marriage and he believes that most of this might stem from the problems they suffered as kids, with their hapless mother and deceased father. Either way though, they count on one another to get each other through the thick and thin, even if one likes to think they have a better life than the other, as untrue as that may actually be.

My same reaction to whenever anybody catches me in drag.

My same reaction to whenever anybody catches me in drag.

There’s something rather nerve-wracking about watching a movie in which, the people involved are most known for their comedic-sensibilities, and spend a good majority of the movie doing the exact opposite of that. That’s the feeling one can get with the Skeleton Twins, because although we know Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader as two of the latest members of the SNL cast to leave onto bigger and (hopefully), better things, most of the screen-time here is dedicated to them being downright serious. Sure, they goof around at times, and make jokes at others, but for the most part, what Hader and Wiig do here is keep it dramatic, sad, and most of all, serious. Not all of the time, of course, but a good part of it.

However, while I may make this sound like a problem, that couldn’t be further and further away from the truth.

With the Skeleton Twins, and through Hader’s and Wiig’s performances, we get an inside glimpse into the lives of two very sad people who are, for lack of a better term, fed-up with the lives they have. One is upset about a recent love of his breaking his heart, whereas the other is tired of living a life that she doesn’t even know she can continue on with any longer, and while this could all be labeled down to “white people problems”, co-writer/director Craig Johnson does a very fine job at keeping clichés to a minimum of maybe five or so. But even when he does seem to be travelling down the used far too often road of “Cliché Land”, Johnson finds a way to spin it on its head and not just surprise us, but himself as well.

Take, for instance, the scene in which Hader lip-synchs “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” to Wiig; a scene which, in most movies, is so corny and tired, it had me wondering whether or Johnson himself even realized this, but was going to stick with the scene anyway. Well, thankfully, he does because it gets better and better as it goes on, and pretty damn funny, too. So much so that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to hear that lovely track by Starship ever the same again.

No joke, either.

But that’s why there’s something so charming and surprising about what Johnson does here – though he sets every scene up the way you’d expect him to (there’s even a scene in which Maggie and Milo get stoned and speak their true feelings), he changes it up at the last second and takes a surprising left turn. Though his swerves in the road don’t always work, for the most part, they’re effective enough to where they at least deserve credit for trying, rather than falling flat on their faces and having Johnson look silly. But you can’t even hate on a director for being ambitious, if even in the slightest, teeniest ways.

Same could be said for both Hader and Wiig who, like I mentioned before, aren’t really being all that funny in this movie. Okay, that’s kind of a lie because yes, in this movie, Wiig and Hader are very funny, but not all of the time. Then again though, they aren’t trying so hard to make you realize that they’re actually acting, and more or less, just become their characters. Maybe this is less of a challenge for Wiig because, ever since she left SNL, we’ve seen her wade through heavily dramatic characters, one after another, and there’s always something surprising about how well she’s able to pull it off.

But I guess the one who gets called into question the most about his actual abilities as an actor is Bill Hader who, much like Wiig, has done some dramatic-fare in the past, but never as deep or as dark as he plunges into here. As Milo, an openly-gay character, Hader doesn’t over-do it with the gay eccentrics, like as if it were done for jokes, but more so, as we’re supposed to see the type of person he is and feel bad for him as a result. Hader excels in this role and it has me excited to see what he could possibly due next, not just because he seems to have finally get that role which will have him be taken more seriously as an actor, but because he doesn’t have to worry about being around and free on Lorne Michaels’ schedule and can do what he wants, whenever he wants.

Look at that face! How could you hate it?!?

Look at that face! How could you hate it?!?

Same goes for Wiig, but having seen her in many others movie, I’ve known this for quite some time. The real beauty here though, is that her and Hader are so believable as a brother-sister combo that it actually feels like how they were written – they were close for so very long, only to then fall out of touch with one another. But, what the real beauty behind their relationship is that, whenever they get the chances to do so, the inherent spark that’s usually there in any family, still shows and it allows these two to play-off of each other so perfectly. And I don’t mean in that they get to be funny, but more so in the way that they’re able to reveal small, tender insights into the people they are, solely by their interaction.

It’s the kind of performances most movies would kill for, and it’s made all the better by the fact that these aren’t the types of roles we expect these two stars to have.

Away from those two though, it was also lovely to see Luke Wilson in here; not just because he’s good, but because he’s actually working again and showing off that likability of his that hardly ever goes away, no matter what he’s in. Most of this has to do with the character and the way he’s written – Lance is a guy who is quite eager about the life he’s lived and the life that may be in front of him and though that sometimes may be off-putting to those around him in the movie, the movie never plays it up for laughs, or seems to be making fun of him for the way he is. He’s just an all around, simply put, nice guy who, sadly, seemed to marry the wrong woman. May have been for the right reasons, but there’s still a bit of sadness that we know it may end well between Lance and Maggie, but the chance that it may not, is incredibly sad.

Although, at the end of the day, all he has to do is laugh it off, smile, and get on with his day. Much like everybody else on this planet.

Consensus: Anchored by two wonderful performances from Hader, Wiig and Wilson, the Skeleton Twins gets by because it presents conventions, but hardly ever falls for them, no matter how tempting they may be.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

The separation I have with everyone around me at family reunions.

The separation I have with everyone around me at family reunions.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbizGoggle Images

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (2014)

Never get together with someone named after a Beatles song. That especially means stay away from any “Jude'”s, too.

Connor Ludlow (James McAvoy) and Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain) are two young, happy people living in New York City who seem to be clearly in love. So much so, that they run throughout the streets of lower Manhattan, holding hand-in-hand, making-out in public parks, and looking at fireflies. If that’s love, then I don’t know what is! But somehow, for mysterious reasons, the love has seem to fade away and after Eleanor has a bit of an “accident” of sorts, her and Connor move out of their house and into their own respective families’ houses. They use this as a method to grieve over their lost love and to also figure out just what the hell to do next; he continues trying to keep his failing-restaurant alive, whereas she continues to get her degree and ends up bonding with her professor (Viola Davis). Although Connor does try to sneak around and see Eleanor whenever is possible, nothing seems to ever work out or be solved. Can they continue on as a married-couple and hopefully get past their problems? Or, are they completely finished with one another and forced to move on? What about the fireflies?

If anybody knows a thing or two concerning the production history of this here movie, then let me just re-iterate for yous once again to get everybody up to speed about this movie, because I feel as if it’s a very important point to bring up when talking about this movie.

It's a public-park! People walk freely in a public-park! Hello!!?!?

It’s a public-park! People walk freely in a public-park! Hello!!?!?

See, originally, writer/director Ned Benson created two parts to this story, where we’d get to see the story play-out, but in two of these character’s different perspectives. One would be titled Him, whereas the other one would be titled Her. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, yes, but you also have to take into consideration that each part was nearly two hours long, meaning that a combined run-time of both movies would roughly be around four or so hours. Now, I don’t know about you, but as long as the material’s good and riveting enough for me, then I’m totally cool with a four-hour-plus romantic-dramedy.

However, that’s why I’m the one watching the movies, and not behind-the-scenes, actually creating the movies. Because see, once the Weinsteins got their grubby-paws on this film, they knew that they had to find a way to cut it all down to where people could see one whole, two-hour-ish movie that sums up the whole story in one fell swoop, no intermission included. From a business stand-point, it’s smart and knowing the Weinsteins, I can’t say I’m all surprised they decided to go down this path.

But the problem is that while it may look better on paper for those searching for a night out on the town where they’ll be able to spend time with a quick movie, it doesn’t quite work well for the movie itself. See, the problem is that Benson had to find a way to combine both of the two-hour-plus sections, into one, whole, cohesive two-hour product. And sure, two-hours is a pretty good run-time if you want to get your romantic-dramedy hitting people the right way, but somehow, it doesn’t quite work out well for Benson, or even the material itself.

While I definitely pat Benson on the back for still being up to the task and cutting down his four-hour opus, into a meager, two-hours, there’s still a part of me that feels like this unfinished work. For instance, there’s a lot of scenes here, that feel like they’re placed with hardly any preface at all, as if we’re supposed to have an idea of what these characters are talking about and how it affects them. We hear small inklings of a character who has died and why it makes these characters sad, but we never really feel the same emotions. Not saying that you need to make a movie in which we know anything and everything about the characters who are present, and the ones who aren’t, but when most of your movie is centered around the dissolution of a marriage, it’s kind of hard to find a way to care for anybody involved (mostly the couple), if we have no idea what it was about them that made them so special together in the first place.

That’s not to say we don’t get maybe two or three scenes showing this (which is definitely a testament to the great chemistry Chastain and McAvoy have together), but they’re relatively short, sweet and conventional. We never see where things got so sour for them and though we hear about it, it doesn’t really draw many emotions out of us. It’s as if you walked into an argument right in the middle of it happening, and rather than getting a status update on what was said, how, or why, you’re just sort of sitting there and waiting for the argument to explain itself and then you can eventually draw your own conclusions.

A dumb analogy, I know, but think about it like this: It’s hard to make a movie effective, when it wants to be about the past of this couple, while also about the future. Blue Valentine (a movie that this one’s being constantly advertised and explained as being like) did an expert-job at showing us this couple, and how they met, how they fell in love, and where exactly where they went wrong. Sure, that movie did rely on flash-backs to tell us the story here and there, but they were done so well and thrown into the story so cohesively, that it was never seen as a cheating-method. It felt pertinent to the story being told, because it made us feel more for the characters and the situation they have unfortunately been thrown into.

This is the same place they met. Surprised to see them not end up being "perfect for one another".

This is the same place they met. Surprised to see them not end up being “perfect for one another”.

And while this movie sometimes shows it’s capable of having the same sort of insights as that beautifully heart-breaking tale, it never really becomes much than just “hey, love can suck sometimes”. Which is fine for me. I don’t mind if a romance-dramedy doesn’t want to be an all around “pick-me-upper”, because the fact is, love does suck and most of the time, it’s downright painful. But whereas Valentine felt like it wanted us to remember the inherent beauty that can come with love, Disappearance is just about how much it sucks to not be with the one you love and the desperation one feels in trying to get that “magic” back. Although I do have to say that it’s not as interesting as I may make it sound.

Which is to kind of say that the characters aren’t really compelling to begin with; he’s a bit of a tool, whereas she’s just moping around constantly and treating her current-husband as the biggest pile of shit in the world. Whether or not he deserves that in the first place, is totally up to our imaginations considering we hardly hear or see anything regarding him treating her terribly while they were together, but it doesn’t do any justice to these characters. It also makes the two-hours we spend with them a little draining, emotionally and physically, because we see them in such pain and sadness, but without us really caring about it, or them at all. Though this isn’t to discredit neither Jessica Chastain or James McAvoy, because while both definitely try, the material just doesn’t wholly work in their favor. Chastain’s Eleanor can be sometimes too one-dimensional, and McAvoy’s Connor seems like a sad-sack that needs to either get up, smile a bit and stop talking in such a terribly-mouthy American-accent.

The supporting cast is pretty good, too and while some of their characters are a bit more fully-rounded, there’s still a feeling that there’s more to them than just what we see in this movie. Maybe we’ll come to see that when Him and Her get released later this year in a very, VERY limited-release, but honestly, I would have just liked to get the whole thing done in one fell swoop. Then again though, with the Weinstens involved, you hardly get what it is you want.

Damn them.

Consensus: Occasionally boasting an compelling anecdote about love and loss, the Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby gets by on its performances, but doesn’t really go any further than just being a standard romance, with two under-written characters.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Get a damn room already! Or better yet, just any closed-off space with a door!

Get a damn room already! Or better yet, just any closed-off space with a door!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That IS how people dress in Toronto. So disgraceful!

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

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

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

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

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

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

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

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

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The To Do List (2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RED CUP ALERT!!

RED CUP ALERT!!

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

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

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

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

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

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

Monsters University (2013)

Now how much is a red cup going to cost?

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

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

Those youngsters. What silly little creatures they truly are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 / 10 = Rental!!

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

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

Men in Black III (2012)

Look out aliens, they’re getting older.

Agent K (Will Smith) travels back through time to the 1960s to save Agent J (Tommy Lee Jones). However, the big mishap here is that he’s about 30 years younger (Josh Brolin) and they both have to fight off super-alien, Boris the Animal, from destroying the world.

Now, I know I sure as hell wasn’t asking for this and I’m pretty sure (hoping) that nobody else really was either; but there is still something positive to be said about this franchise. The first one was very fun and probably stayed in every kids memories forever; and then the second one came around suck all of the fun from the first one! Still, there’s a smidge of fun here taht brought me back to the good old days of sitting down and poppin’ in the old MIB into the VHS, with a couple of my really cool buds. Oh, the old times.

What really had me scared in the beginning was how out-dated this flick seemed. It’s been awhile since the first and second film came out, so when you have Smith up on-screen using lines like “pimpslap the biznitch” or “fo’ real dawg”, it gives off barely any comedy and seems like everybody involved is trying to go back to their 90’s flavor. It’s not sitting well with the viewers, though. Actually, movies, Summer blockbusters, and comedy in general has sort of changed since ’97 and you don’t have to look past the first 20 minutes to notice. I didn’t find myself laughing once and felt boderline disappointing because they tried so damn hard to make me. Everything that Smith did back in the 90’s that seemed hip, cool, and funny —  comes off flat. Sure, there’s something nice about a comedy that isn’t all about being raunchy goes with a clean approach, but it just isn’t funny enough here and that’s what pushed my buttons at first.

Thankfully once Smith finds himself in 1969, things start to pick up smoothly. Director Barry Sonnenfeld did a nice job with this material because he was able to balance out all of the elements of comedy, action, sci-fi, and even a bit of drama; and somehow he made it all work. I started chuckling a lot more once they got into the 60’s lunged at the time-period by bringing up iconic figures like Andy Warhol, played hilariously by Bill Hader, and a couple of little references to outdated music and fads that were big around then. Yeah, the time-travel idea may have not been very inspiring, but it still worked, alright? Thanks mainly, of course, to Sonnenfeld, who is able to make it work, without just seeming like a one-trick pony where every other joke is a hit at the decade. When you got MIB gadgets in the 60’s, you got a quick laugh.

However, a lot of the fun comes from the action and sci-fi elements. The 3D for this movie is actually pretty good and the special effects look even better, thanks to the wonderful work by Rick Baker who always seems to be on his A-game no matter what the movie is. Of course, the aliens look great and the gadgets are cooler than ever but there’s also a lot of action here that really keeps the movie going, without ever really stopping itself to slow down and focus on its characters.

You know what? I did sort of like when they started to slow the film down and focus on the characters, because it worked better than expected. The film really focuses on how Jones’ character has changed over the years from this smiling happy dude that is liked by many, to this totally stern and miserable-looking guy that nobody wants to be around. This was a cool idea and used well — whenever the film brought it into the picture a bit, however, it immediate starts to shy away from it and then this final twist comes in at the end to give us a connection to these characters more and it comes off as totally shoehorned in. I don’t want to give anything away but what shocked me at first, really made no sense and seemed like a really manipulative way of getting us to care for these two characters that we already love and root for as it is.

Will Smith returns to the screen after a 4-year absence and plays the role of Agent J with all of the charisma and enthusiasm he has in his pocket, almost as if he wasn’t gone from the screen for 4 minutes. As I said before, a lot of Smith’s comedy at first, comes off as dated but he starts to get the hang of it and shows why he is one of the most lovable personalities on the big-screen and I hope he comes back to stay and not leave us after doing some dumb shit like Seven Pounds. Tommy Lee Jones is not really here all that much as Agent J, because a lot of that time is given to the awesome Josh Brolin, who plays a younger version of him. Brolin hits the deadpan delivery that Jones has perfectly and he adds a lot of charm to a performance that could have easily just been one-note. He said “slick” a little too much for my liking, but I still have to give a lot of love to Brolin for bringing an impersonation of a very notable actor, and giving it his own, little swing.

Jemaine Clement is sort of one-dimensional as the villain, Boris the Animal, and I think it’s a disappointment because I think Clement could have really handled this material like a champ. Instead, they give him non-intimidating villainous lines, a running gag about his name that wasn’t funny the first 100 times they did it, and a Randy “Macho Man” Savage look that made me feel like he was going against the wrong guys in a battle like this. He should have been facing Hulkamania, brothers!!

Consensus: Men in Black III may not be a threequel we needed to see nor does it bring anything new to this almost-forgotten franchise, but it does bring a lot of kid-oriented fun to it, with charming performances from the cast, a breezy pace, and a nice mixture of comedy and action that will remind you as to why this franchise worked so well in the first place.

7/10=Rental!!

Adventureland (2009)

Is working at a fair that terrible?

Unable to afford the European vacation he’d dreamed of, recent college grad James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) reluctantly takes a gig at a local amusement park, only to learn that the dead-end job is, in fact, excellent preparation for the real world.

This is the semi-biographical story from the director of Superbad, Greg Mottola, and I must say that this guy had some pretty bangin’ ass times back in his young days. Better than mine at least.

Some people may think of Superbad, and automatically anticipate raunchy jokes, crazy situations, and illegal things happening left and right, however, don’t be fooled because this is a lot more of a more subtle and sweet film than that. The comedy here is all about the timing of our youth and how so many times we find ourselves in the craziest of situations, and for the most part I laughed and had a good time.

The problem with this film is that there is way too much of that softness here. I liked the whole romantic comedy element to this film, but there were times where this film could have really hit the nail like Superbad, or plenty other teen comedies, but instead just wants to be sweet and do nothing really fun. I wish it captured more of the crazy parts of the summer as a teenager, rather than the more confusing and angsty times, although those are there too.

Many of the jokes were centered at the 80’s which I thought was kind of annoying, but I must say it did support a pretty awesome soundtrack. There’s a lot of those 80’s staples bands here like The Cure, The Replacements, Falco, but no other has more impact than Lou Reed who songs that are placed here, made me realize just how amazing he truly is. Every time I hear Pale Blue Eyes, I will always remember this film, and with good reason, because it’s an awesome song.

This is also a great ensemble that is used very well. Jesse Eisenberg caught his big break here as James Brennan. He is such a weiner here, but his awkward and geeky shtick really worked out for his character because it’s so easy to like him. Kristen Stewart was the big draw here, mainly for all those “Twiheads” out there. But she actually does a very good job at playing the very confused, but smart Em, who I don’t know why, starts to take a liking to James. Martin Starr is a guy everybody may know from Geeks and Freaks but he totally steals the show and livens the film up when it starts to drag. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig were downright hilarious as Bobby and Paulette, and just about every scene they have in the trailer, is the only time’s their in the actual film. But they are still hilarious so it’s all cool. Also, I liked Ryan Reynolds here as Mike, the dude who fixes the rides at the amusement park, and I don’t think amusement park fixers look like that. However, he’s still good.

Consensus: Adventureland has a nicer and sweeter tone than most teen comedies, and some fun in the script, but it doesn’t have as much as fun as I think it could have, and ultimately just feels forgettable, except for the memory of the awesome Lou Reed song.

7/10=Rental!!

Paul (2011)

I hope that if aliens do exist, that there more like this dude.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg star as two science-fiction freaks who, while on a quest to discover what lies at the heart of Nevada’s infamous Area 51, cross paths with an alien (voice of Seth Rogen) on the run from earthly authorities.

Looking at a cast like this, a premise like this, and a director like this, you would be expecting the funniest thing in years. However, it’s just pretty funny.

The screenplay that was written by Frost and Pegg has some good moments of humor that aren’t what I was expecting from these two, but that isn’t such a bad thing. The comedy is more broad for an American comedy, rather than the smart wit and cleverness of some of the British comedies that these two have been a part of.

My problem with this film was that it wasn’t funny enough, and I think the main reason why that is, is because of the non-stop sci-fi references. Maybe for me, since I’m not a huge science fiction dude, I didn’t get a lot of the references that they were using here, but at the same time they put way too many jokes to a certain crowd and almost abandon everybody else who isn’t familiar with these references. They seem to also be satirizing geek culture with this film, and although it can be cute at some times, it just doesn’t seem all that fun if you don’t get what their saying. Also, the film isn’t as daring with it’s jokes like I was expecting, because there are times where this does get a little bit predictable, and I just wish I had more times where I laughed my ass off, instead of a chuckle here and there.

Director Greg Mottola is a good director for this work because he does a great job of blending comedy, action, and a tad bit of sweetness to the story that actually works and doesn’t come off as fake at all. This isn’t like Superbad where all three worked so well, but for the most part he does a good job of keeping us watching and being entertained.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg as you could already tell, do well together. They have that great buddy chemistry going on well and has us believe them as these two sci-fi geeks. What really stands out in Paul is, well, Paul. Seth Rogen is fantastic here as Paul, because he’s not really doing anything different, he’s just playing Seth Rogen, and Seth Rogen always has me laughing. I didn’t look at Paul and see a piece of CGI like I often do, but as a real character. From a technology standpoint, the mo-cap is obviously not as groundbreaking or impressive as Avatar, but Rogen made the character convincing without any of that fancy expensive shit.

There are also others in this impressive cast that do amazing especially Kristen Wiig, who plays Ruth, the little Christian. There is nothing more satisfying to me than to see a hardcore Christian have their faith destroyed and Wiig makes it all the more funny. Jason Bateman is alright as Agent Zoil, even though he’s not really doing anything funny. Sigourney Weaver is bad-ass as The Big Guy, Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio work perfectly as the two cops that can never do anything right, and Blythe Danner does a good job as well.

Consensus: People may not understand many of the many science fiction references that inhabit this film, but they still will get a chuckle out of this sweet, and funny screenplay, with a great cast. However, you do feel that it could have been better given the talent involved.

7/10=Rental!!

Tropic Thunder (2008)

Its funny, even the 4th time around.

This combat film send-up from director-star Ben Stiller tracks a group of actors who are forced to become real-life soldiers when they’re abandoned in the jungles of Southeast Asia. The all-star cast includes Robert Downey Jr. (in an Oscar-nominated role), Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey and Nick Nolte, with an unrecognizable (and Golden Globe–nominated) Tom Cruise playing a crude movie mogul.

For the most part, I have seen this film about 4 times, and almost every time I laugh more. When I first saw this, I didn’t quite get the satire the film was using, however, knowing more and more about the movie biz I understood everything that this movie was saying.

The script I have to say is very well-written with some of the best satire in a long time. The jokes here are centered towards anybody, because the films finds its ways to make fun of anyone and everyone: blacks, whites, homosexuals, mentally-challenged, drug addicts, and of course celebrities. All of these jokes are in bad taste, but almost every single gag works. Some people don’t understand the jokes because its jokes are more Hollywood based, so it will go over some people’s heads, but once you understand the joke, their actually very funny and smart.

However, I will say that some of the jokes were pretty stupid, and it seems like they were trying their hardest to get a lot of really funny jokes out there, and it just looked like they were trying too hard. Don’t get me wrong they were funny, but sometimes, it seemed like it was just itching for the laughs.

The cast is the main reason why this film works. Each star gets credit, cause they take the bait, by letting themselves be made fun of. Ben Stiller is the typical down-grading action star, Jack Black is the drug-addicted, fat comedy man, Brandon T. Jackson is playing the rapper-turned-actor, who can’ stop drinking booty sweat, and Jay Baruchel, is…well….the guy who’s just there. Each character makes fun of someone, and its easy to see who, but others will just go over your head.

The two best worth mentioning are obviously the only two that were nominated for awards. Robert Downey Jr., sometimes didn’t make any sense when he talked, but he is hilarious when I did understand him. He has the greatest lines of the whole movie, and brings nothing other than his A game, and makes everything funny. Tom Cruise, is also funny as hell. He brings a lot of random funny as hell moments, with his random out-bursts, and spoof of real-life agents.

Consensus: Tropic Thunder sometimes tries too hard to bring laughs, with some easily offensive ones, but is other than that, a hilarious spoof, that is boosted even more by the great performances.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Good idea on how to cure world hunger.

Inventor Flint Lockwood creates a machine that makes clouds rain food, enabling the down-and-out citizens of Chewandswallow to feed themselves. But when the falling food reaches gargantuan proportions, Flint must scramble to avert disaster. Can he regain control of the machine and put an end to the wild weather before the town is destroyed? Bill Hader and Anna Faris lend their vocal talents to this Golden Globe-nominated animated adventure.

From a first look, you’ll think that this is just another one of those kiddie filled adventures, that are made jut for little kids to laugh at, and teach them a little life lesson when actually its more than that.

I liked the writing and also started to dislike the writing by the end of the film. I liked the film basically because it touches on all sides of the equator that work well. Their comedy relies a bit on slapstick, but it works fine, and the jokes work well that aren’t too adult to go over the kids head, but will entertain some adults by their mature appealing jokes.The writers know how to create a running gag within the film and, well, keep it running. Also, there are some pretty nice touching moments that the characters have in this film and it actually almost makes you shed a tear a bit.

I disliked the writing because it turned into The Day After Tomorrow, with an all you can eat menu. The film starts to dive right into a typical disaster movie, although not taken as seriously. Also, by the end of the film, you’ll probably be able to notice some useless parodies to other sci-fi films like Alien, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, which showed no originality and will go totally over some kids heads.

The film just looks terrific which also works in its favor. I didn’t see it in 3-D but if I did, I can tell you that it would have just been so amazing to see all this food come at me, like it did in the 2-D version. The film shows this food in such great and inventive color, that just really astonishes you by how real the food looks, and may get your stomach going.

I thought the voice acting was decent to say the least. Hader, I couldn’t quite believe as the main character cause although he is funny sometimes, I just feel he needed to ad-lib some of his stuff, to make it even more funny. Faris’ character was dimmed down and that kind of ticked me off, but she does a fine job of voicing her character. There are other notable personalities in this film like Bruce Campbell, James Caan, and the best I thought, Mr. T. Mr. T is mostly funny cause of his character, but still brings out a lot charisma within his voice which makes the character funnier.

I think the idea of having this movie made in such a time when obesity is taking over our economics was a good idea to show kids, not to eat so much food. But, the fact that the film basically was trying to show its point off about every five seconds by the end got annoying and unnecessary.

Consensus: The movie changes into some unnecessary areas, but still features beautiful looking cinematography, and enough slapstick, quirky humor, and fun for the whole family to enjoy.

8/10=Matinee!!!