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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Dave Franco

The Disaster Artist (2017)

Good story, Mark!

Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is just another young kid looking to become an actor. His dreams seem as if they’re finally going to be fulfilled too, when he meets the strange, mysterious, and downright weird Tommy Wiseau (James Franco). While the two are no doubt opposites, they hit it off because of their willingness to chase the American Dream of Hollywood, fame and fortune. It also helps that Wiseau has a place he calls home in L.A., so they move there and start trying to do what they can to break in the biz. For Greg, because he’s so young, fresh and good-looking, he gets small bits and roles in stuff, whereas Tommy doesn’t. He’s too weird and crazy to really work for most casting-agents and it’s why he decides to just say screw it all and make a movie himself. This then creates the Room, one of the most beloved and strange cult flicks that’s so bad, so ridiculous, and so out-of-this-world, guess what? It’s actually good. However, behind-the-scenes, nobody knew what the hell was going on, where Tommy was getting all of this money, why he was acting like such a freak, where he came from, and oh yeah, how the hell old he was, too. Basically, it all just revolved around Tommy being Tommy.

“I did naaaht.”

The Disaster Artist is one of those breezy, light-as-a-feather biopics that doesn’t get as deep as it should, but still works. Why? All about the source-material, baby! If you’ve ever seen the Room, know who Greg Sestero or Tommy Wiseau are, then yes, this will most likely all work for you. The movie, as directed by James Franco and written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, is meant to please those undying and adoring fans of the cult-classic, while also attempting to bring possible interested-parties to just who the hell these people are, what the movie they’re making is, and/or better yet, why so many people love it.

In fact, the Disaster Artist itself doesn’t set out to answer all of the questions it raises and in a way, it’s better than most biopics because of that. It doesn’t feel the need to harp on something, or try to jam it all in – it gives us the characters, their backstories, their plot, their conflicts, and basically just runs with it all. Sure, the real lives of Sestero and Wiseau may be way more intriguing and odd than what we get here, but the movie doesn’t feel as if it has to be over two-hours to really get its job done.

Just a little over an-hour-and-a-half, honestly, is fine enough.

And it’s why, as a director and actor, James Franco does a pretty great job here. Despite him having made nearly six or seven movies in the past few years, none of them have really been all that good; they’re slow, meandering, pretentious and, despite the star-quality attached, a waste of some prime talent who are clearly just doing favors for a seemingly good guy. Here though, it seems like Franco’s at least somewhat poised to avenge himself as both an actor and director, because he doesn’t harp too much on the material – he gives us the funny stuff, the drama, and the characters that matter.

Bros love throwing that pig-skin.

And oh yeah, he also does a pretty great Wiseau which, all things considering, is pretty hard to pull-off, especially for someone as good-looking, tall, and recognizable as Franco. But Franco gets the cadences down perfectly, from the randomly slurred-speech, to the odd laughing and giggling in-between clever-phrases, that make this guy a delight to watch. He also doesn’t forget to show us the true dark and odd nature behind this guy, like where all of his money comes from, why he’s such a control-freak, and the idea that he may be a bit of a sexist asshole who, like most frat-boys, just wants to see boobs and be able to touch them. Once again, the movie doesn’t go nearly as deep as it probably should have into Wiseau, but Franco scratches enough of the surface to where it’s all fine and dandy.

After all, the movie’s so damn entertaining, you’ll soon forget about all of that stuff and it’s kind of the point.

The Disaster Artist makes it clear very early-on that no matter how awful the end-result turned out to be, the Room was absolutely what Wiseau and those involved wanted it to be: A stepping-stone to some sort of infamy. It’s what Sestero and Wiseau themselves have absolutely wanted and while what they really did, in certain situations portrayed throughout the movie, can be held-up to scrutiny, there’s no denying the fact that the movie they made, together, or apart, turned out to be something quite legendary. And the movie of its inception and ultimate creation, while not nearly as legendary, is still entertaining enough to remind us of the fun and the appeal.

If that’s even the right word.

Consensus: With a fun, light, and breezy direction, the Disaster Artist proves to be an entertaining and somewhat insightful look into the life of Tommy Wiseau, and a solid reminder that Franco’s got the goods to pull double-duty as actor and director, in an effective manner.

7 / 10

Gotta get the right shot for whatever the hell they’re doing.

Photos Courtesy of: A24

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The Little Hours (2017)

Let loose of Christianity. And your pants.

It’s the Middle-Ages and, as expected, basically everything, everywhere, is run by religion. And in these times, nuns Alessandra (Alison Brie), Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza), and Ginevra (Kate Micucci) lead a simple, albeit sex-free life in their convent. Their days are spent chafing at monastic routine, spying on one another, and berating the estate’s day laborer, who Fernanda, being the paranoid that she is, constantly thinks of him as being as a Jew. After a particularly vicious insult session drives the peasant away, Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly), who’s harboring some dark and dirty secret of his own, brings on newly hired hand named Massetto (Dave Franco), a young servant forced into hiding by his angry lord (Nick Offerman), who caught him sleeping with his wife and is currently hunting him down. So, in order to stay safe and sound, and away from his lord, Massetto must stay deaf and dumb, and act as if he has no interest in any sort of proclivities. Even though, he, like everyone else at this convent, does and it eventually comes to front-fold when they all get a nice look at Massetto.

“ARE YOU JAMES?!?!?”

The Little Hours is basically a one-joke movie, in which it’s the Middle-Ages and everyone speaks in a modern-day tone and dialogue, filled with curses, witticisms, sayings, and a lot of dead-pan. And as is the case with most one-joke movies, they can tend to get a little old and repetitive; see, it’s not what the joke is about, as much as it’s what you’re able to do with it, how you’re able to spin it, and make telling it, still seem somewhat fun and fresh. It’s what the Little Hours is able to do for awhile, until it doesn’t.

But man, what a cast.

Seriously.

Writer/director Jeff Baena hasn’t been in the game for too long, but has already somehow been able to get a bunch of famous faces in his various movies, and the Little Hours is no exception. In fact, one of the main reasons why the movie works as well as it does, is because of how dedicated and willing this ensemble is to make this material work and funny. Everyone here is dead-pan and while there are some people that seem to be funnier than others, everyone is in on the joke and it works.

Just a man and his ass. Don’t ask questions.

No one person in particular is funnier than the other, but one who stands-out, in my eyes, is Dave Franco, especially since what a lot of he has to do is physical and simply using his body, rather than saying everything. Franco’s always been funny and a blast to watch on-screen, but here, we see his talent tested to where, instead of saying everything, he has to act it all out, through body-language. It’s a gimmick-role, sort of, but it’s one that’s impressive because Franco seems to excel at this kind of stuff, even when he isn’t talking.

And yeah, everybody else is pretty great, too, but does any of that need to be said?

What Baena does do well, except offer some funny bits and pieces of comedy, is that he does offer-up an interesting look at religion and sex, through the clearly comedic-eyes. Baena doesn’t seem to be making a comment on Christianity, as a whole, and it’s positive, as well as negative effects, on those who support and follow it, but he does seem to be showing that sometimes, age-old stipulations and rules, that take away certain freedoms, are wrong and should be broken. Sure, it’s told to us in such a silly and raunchy manner, but it’s effective and shows that Baena has more on his mind than just a bunch of funny people cursing, getting naked, and having sex.

Although, there’s nothing wrong with that, either.

Consensus: Essentially a one-joke premise, the Little Hours grows to wear thin, but with a smart, funny cast who are all absolutely game, it gets on passable humor.

6 / 10

Let’s just pretend these three aren’t celebrities trying to be normal, everyday nuns.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Nerve (2016)

Truth, or Dare, or Die?!?!

Set in the world we currently live in, a social-media platform exists and is quite popular in which players can choose between two options: Either be a “watcher”, or a “player”. If you choose the former, you get to sign into your account, pay a small fee, and watch as people do all sorts of crazy and death-defying stunts and dares. However, choose the later, and you’ll be given all sorts of cash from users, daring you to do one thing, after another. There’s more rules to the game itself, how it’s played, and why outside interference (i.e. the cops), is extremely frowned upon, but all that needs to be known is that it’s a sick and twisted game, that finds high school senior, Venus (Emma Roberts), not sure if she wants to go as far as the users want her to. Eventually, the night takes her to meet another user (Dave Franco), who can’t help but love the money thrown his way, even if the dares themselves start getting more and more dangerous. Which is what happens, especially when it turns out that they’re both the most-watched and popular users in Nerve, making them not only richer, but even bigger targets.

"Hey, girl. Wanna ride?"

“Hey, girl. Wanna ride?”

Nerve is a neat idea that, for awhile at least, is as fun as it promises. The dares themselves continue to get more and more wild, there’s a certain air of tension no matter what, and yes, the fact that it’s meant to take place on this one single night in a colorfully-lit NYC, makes it all the more fun to watch. The world in which Nerve takes place in, isn’t all that far-fetched, what with Pokemon Go taking over the whole world, and yes, even the dares themselves still seem somewhat in the realm of possibility.

So why is that the movie falls apart by the end?

Well, the fact remains that sometimes, just having a good idea, isn’t enough to sustain a whole movie. Because when you take into consideration that movie’s themselves need to have a story, with characters, archs, some twists, some turns, and most of all, a satisfying, if also, believable ending, then you’ve got yourself what some people consider “a movie”. Nerve is “a movie”, obviously, and while it definitely has a good portion of what I just listed, eventually, it starts to show cracks within itself.

For one, it tries to be about something that doesn’t quite work. It wants to have discussions about social media, privacy, and the government, but doesn’t really connect with either message/viewpoint; if anything, Jason Bourne was more effective discussing and allowing for the same ideas to find its way into the plot. It’s not that what they’re saying is dated or wrong, it’s just that they come into a movie that feels more like giving us high-flying and crazy stunts, rather than actually sitting down, looking up to the sky, and ponder what it all means.

Which, isn’t all that surprising, when you realize that the same directors behind Catfish, henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, are helming this feature and are showing why they don’t trust the internet. That movie, honestly, came at a time where there was a lot meant to be said for Facebook and Twitter and all sorts of other social-media, but here, they don’t seem to be able to connect their themes to the plot. What they do know how to do is keep the excitement going, whenever they rely on the actual dares themselves.

But like I said before, everything else just doesn’t quite work.

Listening to whatever the cool kids listen to nowadays.

Listening to whatever the cool kids listen to nowadays. Or whatever the cool kids in the early-90’s listen to back then, because that’s what’s “in” now, right?

Well, with the exception of the acting, that is. While it may be a tad difficult to believe Dave Franco and Emma Roberts as high school-aged kids, together, their chemistry works like gangbusters. Roberts works well as this very repressed teenager who clearly seems like she has a lot of personality-issues to work through, whereas Franco’s character is hard to pin-down. We know that he’s supposed to be the love-interest here, and therefore, we’re supposed to like him, but there’s something a little troubling about him and his character that, quite frankly, makes their night more interesting.

There’s others on the side of whatever Franco and Roberts are doing together, like Emily Meade stealing the show, Juliette Lewis having the duty to play dim-witted mommy, and Machine Gun Kelly being less annoying than he is on Roadies, but honestly, characters don’t really matter in a thing like this. What Nerve proves is that sometimes, all you need is an interesting idea to roll and have fun with. Then again, it’s also the same kind of movie that proves that maybe, just maybe, more thought has to go into all of the other pieces of the puzzle, so that audiences don’t lose interest in something that had already been grabbing their attention in the first place. And this matters, too, because when you have big theater chains trying to incorporate cell-phone usage into the movies, well, then you know you’ve really got to work extra hard to keep those teenie-boppers off of their damn phones.

Then again, you could just play this PSA before every movie and it’ll probably do the trick.

Or, maybe not.

Just turn your cellphones off in the theater, people!

Consensus: Interesting and compelling for a good portion, Nerve is surprisingly entertaining, but then it all starts to fall apart by the time the implausible and silly final-act comes around to spoil all of the fun being had in the first place.

6 / 10

Oh man. What a shame it would be to have to walk around, half-naked, with the bodies of Dave Franco and Emma Roberts. Jeez. Could. Not. Imagine.

Oh, man. What a shame it would be to have to walk around New York City, half-naked, having the bodies of Dave Franco and Emma Roberts. Jeez. Could. Not. Imagine.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz, Indiewire

Now You See Me 2 (2016)

David Blaine was more convincing.

After fleeing from the public eye, the Four Horsemen (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Lizzy Caplan) Dave Franco) have now decided to get back in the game of stealing from the rich and giving back to the poor, all for the beloved and mysterious “Eye”. However, they all land themselves in some deep water when a billionaire who’s money they once took (Daniel Radcliffe), wants them all to do another heist, but for him only. The Horsemen have no option, so obviously, they set out to make sure that the heist goes as perfectly planned as possible, even when there’s the unpredictable factor of magic around. Meanwhile, FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is still trying his hardest to keep his disguise, while also trying to hatch together some sort of plan his own plot against Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a man whom he blames for the death of his dad, some many years ago. But eventually, he’s going to have to run into the Horsemen and help them get out of this sticky situation, alive, well, and still capable of performing tricks for the greater good of society.

Lead 'em, Jess-man.

Lead ’em, Jess-man.

The first Now You See me was fine. At the very least, it was a lazy summer blockbuster that used fancy, cool-looking visuals as a way to say, “Oh, wow. Magic!”, when, in reality, all they were doing was trying to hide the fact that there were no real believable plots or twists in their own story. Instead, they were just phony, but because they’re taking place within a story that features a bunch of people performing and acting out magic tricks, then yeah, fine, they don’t need to make any sense.

But honestly, that was the least of my problems with that movie and, to a greater extent.

While I can get over the sheer manipulation of their twists and turns, I can’t get over the fact that Now You See Me 2 has more characters than the first, but at the same time, still doesn’t develop any of them. And that’s a huge problem when you take into consideration that the characters from the first movie still have nothing to them other than, uh, well, that they’re “magicians” and uh, yeah, that’s about it. Sure, they all have backstory, but a personality other than snarky? Not really.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that, had it not been for some of the great actors in these roles, these two movies, as well as the characters themselves, would just absolutely fail. No one really has anything going for them and because the actors themselves are so vibrant and fun to watch in almost everything else they do that isn’t this, it’s kind of hard not to feel disappointed. You know that almost everyone here is better than what they’re being offered, yet, they don’t seem to care about that fact; they’re getting paid, so why the hell should they better?

If anything, though, Now You See Me 2 does remind the world that Lizzy Caplan deserves every role offered to her, if only because she truly is the real deal. Even though a lot of the material handed to her is pretty bad, she handles it all so perfectly; she’s called on to be the smarty-pants, call-it-like-it-is character who says whatever she wants, whenever she wants, and to whomever she oh so pleases. It’s a role that she seemed pitch perfect for in Mean Girls, however, hasn’t done in quite some time. Thankfully, she gets a chance to do that here and shows that this isn’t just a man’s playground – sometimes, a woman has to come in and show everyone else up.

And yeah, everyone else is fine, too.

Harry's evil? Oh my!

Harry’s evil? Oh my!

Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo, and Dave Franco all do what they did in the first and it’s what they always do best: Just read lines. Newcomers like Jay Chou and Daniel Radcliffe almost don’t matter, because the script seems to have so much going on at times, that when it comes time for them to actually matter to the plot, it’s hard to care. Chou himself feels like a shameless way of ensuring that Now You See Me 2 will be an international hit, whereas Radcliffe, bravely playing against-type, never seems serious or evil enough to play someone as twisted and sick as he’s made out to be here.

In fact, I’d say that’s how it is for the rest of the movie. Because everyone involved with Now You See Me 2 takes itself in such a jokey way, none of it ever registers as being a really gripping, emotional, or thrilling movie. That’s fine and all, if all you want to do is entertain people, without offering anything beneath the surface, but sometimes, you need an extra push or pull to make it work. Now You See Me 2 exists in a world where everyone follows each other with a joke about something that isn’t funny, or makes no sense, yet, no one seems to really care; they’re all just laughing, smiling and moving on with their day.

Once again, that’s fine, but Now You See Me 2 isn’t a really fun movie. There’s maybe one or two sequences that really work, but other than that, there’s just too much talking going on about stuff that nobody cares about, or has any clue of, and way too many surprises that make literally no sense. Yes, I know that’s the beauty of film, in how they can transport us to this world where realism and simplicity doesn’t exist, but seriously, I need to have some grasp on reality. It doesn’t need to be firm – it just needs to be there so that I’m reminded that once the movie’s over, I can go home and just sit down, wait and pray that they don’t announce a third movie.

Just please. No.

Consensus: Squandering an immensely talented cast, Now You See Me 2 is an obvious cash-grab with little-to-no personality, a confusing, almost nonsensical story, and a bunch of characters who, quite frankly, are hard to care about at all.

3.5 / 10

"Rain, rain go away, that's what all my haters say."

“Rain, rain go away, that’s what all my haters say.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016)

Girls rules. Boys drool. We all know this by now.

After battling it out with the frat next door some years ago, Mac and Kelly (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) are happily comfortable with their daughter and another kid on the way. Not to mention that they now have their house on the market and another one bought – the only thing standing in the way of absolute freedom is a 30-day period where they have to ensure that nothing goes wrong with the house, and that the buyers who intend on taking the house, do actually stick with the deal. So yeah, a lot is riding on the deal and while it looks like smooth sailing from there on out, it turns out that a sorority is moving in next door, which means that Kelly and Mac are going to have to battle it out again with a bunch of college kids. However, this time, it’s freshman Morgan (Chloe Grace Moretz) who creates the sorority so that she can have a fun time with her friends and not be tied down by the sexist parties that the frats hold. And well, she won’t back down from a fight.

Old school vs. new school

Old school vs. new school

The first Neighbors was an incredibly funny movie, but it surprised me in ways that I least expected it to. For one, it was the kind of raunchy, R-rated comedy that, for the first time in a long time, felt like an actual party from start-to-finish. Sure, you could make the argument that any comedy, as long as it’s actually “funny”, can be considered a good time, but honestly, it really did feel like an exciting piece of comedy, that constantly zipped and zapped along. Not to mention that it had a smart theme about growing up, moving on in life, and figuring out what to do with yourself after college is over, the beer has run out, the girls are gone, and there’s not much else to do. You had to look far and wide to find that message, but it was there and it worked for a movie that could have been just another mainstream, R-rated comedy made for all the jocks and bros.

That’s why in the case of Neighbors 2, as unnecessary as it may be for a sequel, still has something to do and say.

What director Nicholas Stoller does here that makes Neighbors 2 a tad more interesting than fodder of this typical nature, is that he switches the perspective from the boys side, to the girls side, and oh man, does it make quite a difference. All of the hard-partying, sleaziness and misogyny that seemed so fun in the first one, is now turned on its head to show that maybe, just maybe frats aren’t the nicest and safest environments out there. No, there’s no mention of “rape” or anything of that nature, however, considering the kind of college culture in which we live in, it only makes sense that a movie like this would address that sex issues do exist in the college world.

Do they need to be addressed? Well, if it gets in the way of the comedy, then maybe, not really. But hey, that’s fine because Neighbors 2 does some smart things along the way, while at the same time, still offering plenty of hearty laughs to hold those over who aren’t looking for deep, and/or interesting messages about sex, life and love in their Seth Rogen comedies.

Do I agree with this idea? Not really, as comedy can do both, but in the case of Neighbors 2, where the laughs actually do deliver quite frequently, I’m going to wave my white flag and not put up much of a fight. The jokes work, all of the overextended ad-libbing in the first has been toned down a smidge, and because the characters are so well-written and done, it’s easier to laugh at their pain and agony, mostly because we actually know who they are. Does that make them the most interesting characters ever? Nope, but they don’t need to be.

College girls. They're just the devils.

College girls. They’re just the devils.

They’re in a comedy where the biggest concern is how many dick, fart, and weed jokes can be made.

But the cast is so good that it’s hard not to get wrapped up in each and everyone of them. Rogen is his usual Rogen-self, being an everyday schlub and whatnot; Rose Byrne doesn’t get nearly as much to do as she did in the first movie, but it’s still fun to see her get to hang with the boys and be a little dastardly her own-self; Zac Efron gets some opportunities to show-off a more funnier-side than ever before and it totally works, if mostly because we get to know more about this character; and Chloe Grace Moretz, while a tad under-written, gives her character a heart and soul that matters in a movie like this.

Rather than just being an annoying and young college girl who doesn’t care about others around her and just wants to be popular, cool, and party all of the damn time, instead, she’s another case of a high school loner who has finally found herself in college and just wants to enjoy it for all that she’s got. In the first movie, it was more about how much of d-bags the guys were because they didn’t care about how loud or wild they were – here, it’s more about how these girls all love the space that they have and don’t want to lose it because of some old-heads. It’s small details that you may have to squint to really discover, but it’s also those kind of small details that make movies like Neighbors 2 pretty damn fun to watch.

Even if, yes, you only do come for the dick, fart and weed jokes.

Consensus: While unnecessary, Neighbors 2 changes its focus in enough ways to where it freshens its narrative, but still being able to include hilarity to hold most over.

7.5 / 10

I've seen all of these people in my Into to Economics class.

I’ve seen all of these people in my Into to Economics class.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Unfinished Business (2015)

Poverty sucks, but hey, at least you’ve got plenty of weed.

After refusing to take a pay-cut from his boss (Sienna Miller), salesman Dan Trunkman (Vince Vaughn) decides that it’s his time to finally cut himself loose and break off on his own. Problem is, Dan doesn’t have much of a team. Though he gets two misfits in the form of the aging, semi-retired Tim (Tom Wilkinson) and the silly, but very naive Mike Pancake (Dave Franco), Dan still can’t seem to catch much of a break. Not to mention, there’s a lot of problems going on at home where his kids are the subject of bullying and, in a way to avoid any further mishaps, Dan’s trying to save up more and more money so that he can send his kids away to a nice, safe and bully-free private school. Once again, though, it’s all a matter of money with Dan, so that’s why when he and his gang get a chance to fly out to Berlin to possibly sell their product, swarf, to the highest bidder, he takes it. He’s not sure if it’s all going to work out, but what he does know is that he is not going to back down from any obstacle thrown in his way – even if Berlin offers up more of them than he ever expected.

In a little less than a week, season two of True Detective will set upon us and while many are looking forward to seeing the new sets of characters, story-lines, and setting, the one element I am mostly anticipating is seeing what Vince Vaughn can do in one of the lead roles. Because, see, even though some may not know this, Vaughn actually got his start in dramatic flicks, where he played some very serious and odd individuals, rather than just being the swift, quick-talking, smart-ass that every R-rated mainstream comedy seems to cast for the hopes of any possible laughter whatsoever.

What.....

What…..

He was Norman Bates for gosh sakes!

But even though I have yet to see a single lick of True Detective, something makes me feel as if Vaughn will blow us away. In nearly a decade since Into the Wild, we’ll see Vince Vaughn challenge himself and go deeper and darker with a role that he was once able to pull off; sure, the movies that he was participating in may not have been stellar, but there’s no denying that Vaughn came ready to play, ready to challenge himself, and ready to see if he could make movies better. You could make the argument that Vaughn’s been doing that for the past couple of years, but if you look at the movies he’s been doing it, it becomes clear that they’re way too often reliant on him, that if you were to eliminate him from the respective movie altogether, they would be absolute piles of dog excrement. They would be unfunny, stupid and lacking any sort of energy.

Sort of like what Unfinished Business is with Vaughn in it.

The main problem with this flick here is that it feels so generic and conventional, that eventually, once we get to any parts of it that may be at least somewhat riveting or fun to watch, it feels even worse. It’s one thing to have a movie that’s so utterly and completely crappy, that nothing in it could be looked at as mildly interesting, at best; then again, it’s a whole other thing completely when you have a movie that’s garbage, but still seems to hold some promise deep down from within. Because the promise is wasted on something that’s junk, it makes it seem like a waste, as if any other movie could have swooped-in, taken the idea and ran wild with it.

Problem is, Unfinished Business has so very few of these moments. There’s plenty of scenes that take place in German gay club that all prominently feature male genitalia in all of their bulgiest form, and there’s a hotel room that soon turns into a hotel expo idea that’s pretty nifty and entertaining to watch, even if it is the only thing in the whole movie. Other than these two elements, everything else about this movie feels like a bore. Most jokes miss completely, whereas others plop right down on the ground, moving around frantically for any sort of air, and then die right in front of your own ears and eyes before you could even recognize that a joke was even made.

....is up.....

….is up…..

See, Unfinished Business is the type of comedy that’s not at all funny, but the same time, still tries to be more than what it is. There are many, and I do repeat, many, scenes dedicated to Vaughn skyping with his wife and kids, discussing all sorts of melodramatic family stuff that would probably be suited best in an after-school special that’s about bullying and acceptance. However, here it all feels so oddly-placed that it seems like an after thought altogether; while director Ken Scott may have wanted there to be more heart and humanity added to the proceedings as a way to balance out all of the dicks and balls, it just feels messy and uneven.

And this isn’t to say that the cast should be held fully accountable for this, because most of them do seem to be trying. It made me very upset to see such a talented and lovely actor like Tom Wilkinson take this paycheck gig and just run through the motions as the “aging horn-dog” of the group, but eventually, I realized that he’s got plenty more movies coming up to where I need not worry about all of that. Then, there’s Dave Franco as Mike Pancake (yup, his actual name), a character who seems to be bordering on the line of “mentally challenged”, but the movie never makes its mind up as to what he actually is, nor does it know whether it wants to laugh with him, or at him. Either way, it’s incredibly uncomfortable to sit and listen to, and while I credit Dave Franco for at least trying to stand out a bit and take on something new, it still doesn’t go anywhere.

And then, there’s Vince Vaughn.

Obviously I’ve talked about him enough times here to where it’s become fully clear that I have it out for this dude, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I like Vince Vaughn; normally, he’s funny in everything he shows up in. The movies themselves could be nearly unwatchable, except for the moments that he showed up and did “his thing”. That I have no problem with, except for the fact that it’s a role that seems to be so overdone now, it’s stale; no longer does anybody want to watch as a Vince Vaughn character faces off against all sorts of adversity standing in his way, only to then have him make some smart-ass remarks about a fellow person, love and care for his family, and all of a sudden, have everything turn out alright for him. By now, it’s like the guy’s gotten so comfortable, that he’s become dull – a term that I never thought I’d use in the same sentence when speaking of Vaughn.

But hey, at least True Detective is coming soon. Be prepared, people.

Consensus: An uneven mess, Unfinished Business has no clue what it wants to be, what it’s about, who it’s for, and especially, how it’s trying to be funny, chalking this up to being another formulaic vehicle for Vince Vaughn.

2 / 10

...with these pictures?!?

…with these pictures?!?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

22 Jump Street (2014)

The override of debt and loans may be a pain, but hey, at least you’re hanging out with C-Tates and J-Hill!

After “successfully” blending in as high school students and busting a major drug-ring, Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) are looking for their next mission, however, their commanding-officer (Ice Cube) thinks that they look too old to blend in with the young adolescents. Instead, he devises up a plan to send both of these guys to college, where they’ll be looking to infiltrate another drug-ring that may have also been the major influence in a student’s recent death. Automatically though, there are problems both Jenko and Schmidt run into as soon as they walk onto campus – some recognize that they are too old; Schmidt can’t fit in as well as he did in high school and finds himself “in” with the art crowd; Jenko finds himself buddy-buddy with a fellow footballer (Wyatt Russell); and plenty more distractions that keep both Jenko’s and Schmidt’s eyes off of what they were sent to college to do in the first place. To make matters even worse, Schmidt gets jealous that Jenko has a new best-friend that he can hang around and party with, leading to something even more serious than the idea of the mission falling apart: The dissolution of their friendship.

To be honest, even though I terribly enjoyed myself with 21 Jump Street, I for one was definitely not looking forward to a sequel of it. Not just a sequel to 21 Jump Street, but just a sequel in particular because, as we all know, sequels are the cash-cow of the movie business that Hollywood loves stuffing down our throats. It doesn’t matter if its a re-tread of the same story that was done so well before, or even if it improves upon the original in any way whatsoever – all that matters is that those in charge make money, and a whole bunch of it, too.

Ooh. Channing Tatum as a football player? Yeah, don't know if I believe it either.

Ooh. Channing Tatum as a football player? Yeah, don’t know if I believe it either.

However, every reason I just gave for not looking forward to most sequels of most kinds, is the exact reason why 22 Jump Street, the sequel to 21 Jump Street, works as well as it does: It knows what it’s set out on this Earth to do and rather than trying to hide behind it with flashy special-effects, car-chases and explosions, they attack it head on. Maybe moreso than they should have, however, a funny meta-sequel is better than a meta-sequel that isn’t funny, and it makes me happy to know that Hollywood still has some creative minds out there that can do something cool, fun, and different with the same formula, no matter how many times it’s been done before.

And yes, even though this story has only been done once on the big screen in the past decade or so, something could have easily gone awry here where it feels like it’s the same jokes said, same plot-threads covered, and absolutely no character-development whatsoever. But, like I’ve been mentioning, this sequel is very different from those others out there that do exist and show up maybe ten-to-fifteen times a year.

Because, for starters, this movie is downright funny. Everybody in the movie seems to be having a wonderful time with the material, and considering that both co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller place this story in college, rather than in high school, there’s more ground to cover. Personally, I don’t think this movie goes as deep into the state of modern-day college as well as it did with high school in the first movie, but the fact still remains that it’s a funny movie that makes the best use of its premise. Most of that credit deserves to be given to the more-than-able cast, but a good handful does deserve to go to Lord, Miller and the screenwriters (Michael Bacall and Oren Uziel) who keep this movie crackling full of humor whenever it sees fit.

Still surprised? Don’t worry, because it gets better.

Also, with this sequel, something happens that I didn’t see coming, which is that we get more rich development for our main characters that we fell so in love with before: Greg Jenko and Morton Schmidt. Obviously what was so great about the first movie is that Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, despite seeming like a terribly-placed, odd-couple of some sorts back two years ago, worked so well together, that it was easy to not only believe in them as best-friends, but fuel the movie’s emotions a bit more once you saw their friendship start to deteriorate because of certain problems stemming from one being considered “cooler” than the other. They explore that same idea here, but it’s done so in a way that isn’t hacky and at least brings us to seeing why Jenko and Schmidt are such great movie-pals in the first place.

And heck, if you told me that C-Tates and J-Hill truly were the best of friends in real life, I would not doubt you for a second, because here, it totally shows. Their chemistry never wains and you can always tell that each one knows exactly what the next one is going to say, or do, at any given moment. Watching them pal around with one another and bounce joke-after-joke off of each other’s public-personas is an absolute blast, but what makes them so great together here, especially this time around, is that you can see why it matters so much about them being friends.

Though their different in terms of physical-build and social-cliques, they both have the same kind of personalities that they even each other’s out; Jenko is more impulsive, whereas Schmidt likes to think about what move he’s going to make next, whereas Schmidt is smart about life and in touch with his feelings, Jenko likes to blanket things underneath having a good time and not worrying about the small stuff that he considers “crap”, or “meaningless”. Though they have some differences, they still definitely appreciate each other’s company, because they’re both clearly good at their job and want to have a great time while doing it. Sure, they may not always agree on whatever step the other one takes, for whatever reasons that may be, but not every person agrees with another person on everything, especially not a best-friend.

College truly is an experimental time for anybody.

College truly is an experimental time for anybody.

I know it may seem like I’m going into this deeper than I probably should, but I only do that because the movie itself clearly does its own fair share of digging into the friendship of these two just as much, if not more. Jenko and Schmidt are clearly the heart and soul of this movie, and while they may not be the only amusing, or even most interesting aspect about it all, they sure as hell are the aspect that keeps it conscience clear, its heart in the right place, and ourselves placed firmly behind these two, hoping they complete their mission, happy and together. And yes, if that sounds at all homosexual, that’s on purpose.

Trust me.

Like I said though, these two aren’t the only amusing aspect of the movie, because saying so would only be an injustice to just about everybody else who shows up here and throws in their own two cents to bring in more fun. Ice Cube is a whole lot funnier and well-rounded than he was in the first one, and without giving too much away, I’ll just say that he’s downright hilarious; Wyatt Russell (child of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell) is a fine-fit as the bro-ish frat dude that Jenko begins hanging out with more often than he should, but the two create a wonderful chemistry that it comes almost close to challenging the same one Tatum has with Hill; Jillian Bell plays a character that has it out for Schmidt the first day she meets him for looking too old and is very funny, even if she herself does look a tad too old to be pushing books and staying in dorms; and Nick Offerman, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle all return to bring in some much needed reminders of how great and truly awesome the first one was. And while this one definitely rivals that movie, it’s clearly the better of the two. However, to have comedy-sequel in the 21st Century still be just as good as the first, truly is saying something and makes me optimistic for whatever sequels they have lined-up for this.

Just watch and you’ll get the joke. Trust me.

Consensus: 22 Jump Street may not be better than the original, yet, still comes pretty closer to doing so because of its tongue-in-cheek humor that never stops being hilarious, and the heightened relationship between its two main characters, played perfectly once again by both Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Sort of like my Spring Break, except not at all.

Sort of like this past Spring Break for me, except not at all.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Neighbors (2014)

Don’t join frats! Join a sorority! Who cares if you’re a dude!

Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) are a happily-married couple with a newborn baby, a simple life, simple jobs, and a quiet, carefree neighborhood around them. That all changes once a frat moves in next door, and if you know anything about a fraternity, they can be loud, obnoxious, constantly partying, and filled with all sorts of dirty, disgusting debauchery. Not a perfect environment for anybody to grow up around, let alone a family with a baby constantly around, which is why the two decide to make sure things are all hip and cool with the leader of the fraternity, Teddy (Zac Efron). At first, they think he gets the picture – don’t be too loud, and just be respectful of each other’s properties. But, one day, when Mac and Kelly decide that enough is enough and call the cops on Teddy and the rest of the frat, then Teddy not only feels betrayed, but ready for what turns out to be a rivalry of sorts between the two. A rivalry which, mind you, spews-out from just the comforts of each other’s homes, but even to their work-places and such.

Seems simple, right? Frat vs. family? Well, it is. Except for the fact that it’s so much damn fun to watch.

Sure, it’s a blast to watch and be able to laugh almost non-stop throughout a whole movie such as this, but what’s so neat about Neighbors is how it’s more about the actual plot itself, and all of the joy it can have with just milking it for all its got. For example, the whole idea of this plot that is moving it forward, is the fact that these two groups of people are messing with one another, with harmless, as well as harmful pranks and whatnot.

Ugh. Like LAME.

Ugh. Like LAME.

Usually, in most comedies, that’s an idea that would be thrown away as soon as it got started, in hopes that they could just focus on dick jokes and being raunchy, but not with Neighbors. The raunchy, penis jokes are still around and heard, but they’re not done in a way that it’s the only thing you get. Somehow, you get the whole package: You get the fun and the thrill of the plot; the hilarity of the script; the charm of the performances; and the heart of it all. A heart which, mind you, is actually tucked in underneath all of this debauchery, havoc and craziness, in hopes that it won’t bring down the mood too much.

Which, believe it or not, doesn’t actually happen. In fact, dare I say it, this comedy is actually a whole lot better with the heart and the message it brings across, which is that college life is great and all, but it doesn’t last forever. Eventually, you’ve got to grow-up, figure out what you’re going to do with your life, how you want to live it, why, with whom, and whether or not you want to keep on going after the things you want, or if you’re just going to sleepwalk through the rest of your life. Neighbors, on the outside, may look like the type of comedy that’s totally glamorizing the frat/college lifestyle that’s full of drinking, partying, sexxing, and hanging around, like a bum, but what it really is, is a “dramedy” about how you’ve got to move on from all that and become, well, an adult.

“Eww, boring!”, is the response I bet most of you would be giving me after hearing something like that is found in here, but it’s what makes the movie works and somewhat thoughtful. Cause yeah, being known as “the wildest guy at the party” (or, my favorite, “the guy who slept in the same bed with that donkey”) is great and all, and heck, may even do some wonders for your self-esteem for at least a week or two, but eventually, all of that goes away and you have to continue life without all of the non-stop partying and wild antics. You can still have a good time every now and then, and maybe even take a couple of shots, but you do have to wake up, smell the cauliflower, and realize that it’s time to kick that donkey out of your queen-sized and grow the hell up!

But that’s about where all of my preaching ends. Because, to be honest, I’m even starting to get myself down in the dumps and make me re-think every choice I’ve ever made in my life leading up to this moment in time now.

So, yeah, ANYWAY!

I don’t know if I’ve stated this before, but this movie is funny. I mean like, really funny. It’s a quintessential Apatow-production in which we get plenty of weed jokes, gangsta-rap references, and plenty of sex, or at least, in this movie’s case, sex-talk. However, it’s never boring and is actually really short by getting everything it needs done, within a time-limit of only a little over an-hour-and-a-half. And for people who aren’t big fans of Apatow and the type of comedies he has a hand or two in, all because his time-limits exceed way beyond their limits, this may come as a major surprise. But, I kid you not, the hour-and-the-half breezes by so quick, you’ll wonder where all of the time went and just how much, or how hard, you actually laughed.

For me, it was an awful lot. Then again though, these types of comedies are my forte and it’s what I’ve come to expect by now.

Most importantly though, I’ve come to expect that Seth Rogen, no matter what he’s in, will always be Seth Rogen in some way, shape, form, or idea. Still though, that doesn’t bother me because he’s clearly comfortable in his own skin and always the most likable guy in any room he enters. Here, his performance is only slightly different in the idea that he’s a father and husband now and has a bit more responsibilities on his plate, but that’s sort of funny to watch and played up for a whole bunch of jokes that make a lot of sense, given that Seth Rogen doesn’t really seem like the “father-figure” type.

Rose Byrne plays Rogen’s wife, and is an absolute revelation. I’ve been a bit mean and harsh on Byrne in the past, but that’s only because the roles she has in the drama’s she does, all make her seem dull and uninteresting. However, whenever she does a comedy, she always seems to be the one having the most fun and joy with the material she’s given. Such is the case here with her character, Kelly Radner, the type of fun-loving, hip, and cool, but responsible mommy that we don’t usually see in movies like this, played with such likability or charm. In any other movie, she’d be thrown off to the side for not being any fun whatsoever and just acting as a total party-pooper. But, there Byrne is, not only giving Rogen a run for his money, but everybody else as well, showing everyone that it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman in a rated-R comedy, you can be just about as funny, if not moreso than any guy with a penis.

Best thing De Niro's done in a long while.

Best thing De Niro’s done in a long while.

But, as amazing as Byrne is, the one who steals the show is Zac Efron, showing us that he’s finally reached that peak in his career where it may just be his time to truly shine and get away from his High School Musical past. And I guess his role as the leader of the fraternity, Teddy, is sort of a riff on that general idea people have about Efron’s image – the same image he’s been trying to tarnish for so damn long. While I think he’s gotten past that more than a few times, there’s still duds like That Awkward Moment or The Lucky One, that makes it seem like he’s a hot guy, who knows he’s a hot guy, and therefore, tries to be cool and funny about it. However, he isn’t cool or funny, it just seems like he’s bragging, with a hint of self-awareness. Which, somehow, still isn’t enough to justify his gorgeous-looks, his rockin’ bod, and his knack for choosing what so often seems to be sort of the same role, time and time again.

Anyway, I realize that this is getting me off-track, so what I am trying to say is that Efron is great here because not only is he a little self-aware about his sent-from-heaven physical features, but he’s also using his comedic-timing to perfection. He’s cool, charming, likable, a dick when he wants to be, and a bit of a loser when you start to get to thinking of who he really is and why this frat matters as much to him as it does. He’s actually a character, fully fleshed-out and all, and isn’t just a walking, talking stereotype of one of those jerky, muscle-bound, needs-to-be-loved-by-their-mommies-and-daddies frat dudes; he’s living, breathing, and doing all sorts of other crazy stuff, yet, feels real, as hard as that may be to believe. Dave Franco is great here too as Teddy’s second-in-command/best-friend at the frat, but it’s Zac Efron who really struts his stuff, and then some.

Please let this be the chance Efron gets his time as a superstar. Please!

Consensus: Dirty, grotesque and full of all sorts of debauchery and teenage-humor, Neighbors may seem like a totally brain-dead comedy, but effectively finds ways to be something more, with messages about growing up, moving on, and realizing that as rad as a certain party may be, it’s not always going to last.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Not my house. Ever.

Not my house. Not ever. God. I need to be in a frat.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The LEGO Movie (2014)

Remember those small, yellow things you used to “accidentally” stick up your nose as a kid? Yeah, they have lives you know.

Normal, everyday Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) lives in a world that is controlled, run-by and practically dominated by the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell). In this plastic world, everyone is to wake up, follow their day throughout a precise set of instructions and guide-lines, always smile, swallow overpriced coffee, go to work, be happy about it, get that paycheck, sing terribly-catchy, yet excruciating pop-songs like “Everything is Awesome” and go home to watch mind-numbing sitcoms like “Where Are My Pants?“. It’s so painfully dull and monotonous, but nobody cares, nor does anybody fret, because quite frankly, nobody knows any better; not even poor Emmet, who is just like everybody else. But things begin to change for Emmet once he stumbles upon an an ancient artifact known as the Piece of Resistance. He knows nothing about it, but he’s soon picked-up by the rebellious ass-kicker known as Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and is told that the fate of humanity lies in his hands, and his hands only. In better words: He IS the “chosen one”, and it’s up to him to stop Lord Business’ maniacal ways.

The plot is the same old, cookie-cutter stuff that we’ve seen done in a million other movies (*cough cough* Star Wars), but that doesn’t matter because it’s all used so that the directors can get all sorts of these LEGO-pieces together and see what sort of magic they can make-up next. Needless to say, for a kid who has played with LEGO‘s all throughout his childhood, it was an honor to see the likes of 2002-era Shaquille O’Neal, rub shoulders with none other than Batman himself. And no, I do not mean that ACTUAL Shaquille O’Neal and Bruce Wayne got next to one another, showed their faces to the camera, and rubbed shoulders; I mean that their LEGO figures did.

Basically, he's like the LEGO version of Corporate America.

Basically, he’s like the LEGO version of Corporate America.

And that’s where all of the fun lies with this movie, whether you like it or not.

Chances are though, going into this, no matter how idiotic you may think the idea of LEGO movie being, you’re going to be laughing, be having a great time and totally surprised by what this movie does; not just with its animation, which is quite stunning to look at pick-apart, wondering just how they were able to film it all, but with its script, that displays hilarious wit at a non-stop pace. Most of the jokes here, are made solely for the adults that will most likely get roped into seeing this, and there is no problem with that whatsoever, because there’s a lot of humor here that had me howling like a banshee in my seat. I mean hell, there’s even a joke about how they refer to one character as “Michelangelo, the artist”, and another as “Michelangelo, the Ninja Turtle.” Now, if that doesn’t make you at least crack a smile or two, then I have no freakin’ clue what will!

But there’s definitely plenty out there for the kiddies as well, which doesn’t mean that there’s just a whole bunch of slap-sticky, or fart jokes to make them giggle – there’s a whole bunch of action, fun and excitement that gets thrown into this, all because you can tell that both Phil Lord and Chris Miller clearly care about the audience that this movie is being made for. Sure, you could argue that a LEGO movie actually does exist, solely to sell more toys and merchandise, and I wouldn’t disagree with you. However, the movie isn’t just an-hour-and-a-half ploy trying to grab your arm, snatch your wallet and long-dart you to the nearest Toys R Us or Wal Mart; it’s actually an animated-flick that’s pretty damn hilarious, fun and always able to gain your attention, no matter how many times you may have to remind yourself that you are in fact watching LEGO‘s, up on the big screen.

It’s a strange feeling that even I had a problem getting through on occasion, but I knew one thing: I was just happy knowing they weren’t actually MY LEGO‘s. After all of the abuse and torture I put those poor things through, lord only knows that if they ever became animated and alive, they’d come after me, and with a vengeance, too! Same goes for my sister’s Barbie Dolls!

Although, that may be a different story entirely….

Anyway, moving on!

Though it is hard to go on and on without talking about the voice-cast, I do have to give all of them credit because they do some energetic, spunky work here that definitely makes you see their wild and goofy figures brought to life. Chris Pratt is growing up more and more each day into the perfect “everyday man”, even if in this instance, it just so happens to be a LEGO; Elizabeth Banks sounds as sexy and dangerous as she should as Wyldstyle, almost too sexy and dangerous for a kids movie where young boys will most likely be present in viewing; Will Arnett is hilarious as Batman, by basically just being Gob Bluth, disguised as Bruce Wayne; it’s neat to see someone like Morgan Freeman lending his voice to an animated-movie as goofy as this, but you know, the guy gives it his all and really seems to be enjoying the hell out of himself; the same being said for Morgan Freeman, can practically be said about Liam Neeson who seems like he was definitely a bit tipsy during the voice-over recordings, but hey, it made it enjoyable to listen to; and if there was one weak-link to be found in this voice-cast, it’s probably Will Ferrell, who is definitely as harsh he should be with a name like “Lord Business”, but the act gets stale after awhile and you can sort of tell that Will Ferrell himself is enjoying this a bit too much. Maybe somebody like Nic Cage would have done this guy total justice. Actually, not “somebody”, definitely Nic Cage.

Look! That's the joke I'm talking about! And there's even a ghost in the background! Sweet, right?

Look! That’s the joke I’m talking about! And there’s even a ghost in the background! Pretty sweet, right?

But being that this is an animated movie, which is more often than not, being marketed towards the whole family, there obviously has to be a message learnt here, which there is. However, that may also be where my main problem came from – the way in which it kept on hitting me over, and over head with what message it was trying to get across. Granted, Miller and Lord take a very bold-step in the last-act with a twist that I honestly can’t say I saw coming (one which I won’t spoil here), but it’s one that didn’t feel necessary. Reason being is that whatever this movie was trying to tell us about “expressing ourselves no matter how strange or different we may be from the rest of the crowd around us”, all felt like something we understood right after Wyldstyle steps in and decides to shake things up with this story. Clearly this movie wanted to be more than just your typical, fun-for-the-whole-family animated-fare, but rather than being a simple, ode-to-love flick like the Croods, it ends up going for more of a Lorax-feel, that got a bit too preachy and a bit too strained with what it was trying to say. Doesn’t mean the fun didn’t stop, but it definitely did bother me a whole lot and took me away from most of the action that was happening on screen, most of which happened and was said so fast, I couldn’t make-out half of what was going on.

But you know what? That’s the fun of it, everybody! So definitely do make sure to go out and see this! Just make sure you have at least one cup of coffee to assure yourself that you’ll be able to catch almost anything and everything that Lord and Miller are throwing at you. Because do trust me: They’ll give you everything. Even the kitchen-sink.

Consensus: Almost anything and everything that Phil Lord and Chris Miller have at their disposal, they’ll launch at you, and then some with the LEGO Movie, but it’s always fun, exciting, hilarious, appropriate for all ages, and most importantly, as quick-as-a-Jack-Rabbit. So make sure to keep up and not get too distracted by too much butter being on your popcorn!

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Even cooler! I mean, how in how many lifetimes are you going to be able to say that you not only saw "Abe Lincoln and Superman together at the same time next to one another", but also with "The Statue of Liberty right next to them"?!?! Like, super rad!!

Even cooler! I mean, how in how many lifetimes are you going to be able to say that you not only saw “Abe Lincoln and Superman together at the same time next to one another”, but also with “The Statue of Liberty right next to them”?!?! Like, super rad!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Now You See Me (2013)

Imagine if David Copperfield, David Blaine, and Criss Angel got together to rob a bank. It would never happen.

They are known as The Four Horsemen, and they are made up of four magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco), who have found themselves in some hot water, after being considered suspects in a bank-robbery that occurred in France, while they were taking bunnies out of hats in Las Vegas. However, FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) doesn’t believe this shite and along with his rookie Interpol investigator (Melanie Laurent) and well-known magic debunker (Morgan Freeman), they band together and figure out what is real and what isn’t. But in the world of magic: what you see, isn’t always something you can believe. Or, is it? Who the fuck knows!

Movies about magicians are sort of like real-life ones: they’re interesting in the way that you want to see what they pull off, how they pull it off, and where all the time and effort comes into play. Add that with a whole crime-caper aspect, and you got yourself something that might just be a bit of a winner, in terms of the audience and the box-office. But after awhile, like most magic tricks you see in real life, once the secret is revealed; you believe in certain things, and you don’t believe in others. It’s all a matter of time until the cracks begin to show, and that is exactly what goes down with this movie.

But hey, at least it starts out fine and dandy, for the most part. What was surprising the most about this flick is that how after the first 25 minutes, instead of having all of our attention and eyes locked onto the Horseman, we then find ourselves watching and following the story of the cop who’s trying to figure out just what the hell they did. Some will be surprised, some will be pissed, some will think it’s a clever-way of presenting the twists, and some will just be content. Overall though, it was a smart move on the movie’s part, because it puts us in the dark about what really happened, almost as much as it puts the cop himself in as well.

Like her real-life hubby: she's fucking with everybody.

Like her real-life hubby: she’s fucking with everybody.

Once this part of the story gets going, then things get a bit conventional with the typical, “cops-and-robbers” film that we have seen all of the time, except now: WITH MAGIC! It is interesting to see how these peeps pulled off have of these tricks and what expenses they went to in order to make them happen, but the problem I had the most was that it just didn’t all add up. I’m not one of those guys who gets crazy about a movie that has to deal with sci-fi, the powers that be, or some sort of mystical powers some person might have, because I know it’s all made for the purpose of being somewhat fake and unrealistic, but here; it felt like a cheat. That’s all thanks to Louis Leterrier who doesn’t seem like the type of director I’d trust with this material, since the guy isn’t really known for his smart, tricky moves.

But what the guy is known for, is mainstream film making, and that shows so evidently because of the way he is able to constantly mess with our minds by doing quick-cuts, fast-editing, and non-stop music blasting throughout the whole thing, as if we were at a rave, popped-up on some of the finest X (I could have only wished). By doing all of this, Leterrier is trying to distract us into thinking that everything that is being revealed to the characters and us, is reasonable and believable in a world where magicians are the top, money-makers of the world. As much as it may work on the average, movie-going audience, it did not work on this cynical, d-bag film critic.

Once the reveals are (ahem) revealed, we see what this movie is trying to throw down our throats and trying to make us believe in, but it doesn’t work because not a single bit of it seems like it could have actually happened, real-life or not. The Horseman start off as magicians that can pull off some neat tricks and whatnot, but after awhile, we see that they are more or less a bunch of meticulous planners that knew exactly what they wanted to do, at what time, when, who, where, and how, but it rarely makes sense once we see it all. However, Leterrier isn’t too concerned with that and instead; just wants to entertain the hell out of us with his spastic direction that honestly never seems to take a chill pill. Even when two peeps are just talking, Leterrier seems bored and almost like he needs to get going, or his dosage of ADD meds will ware down and he’ll have to take another five.

And entertained is what we are for the most part, but when the entertainment-value is mostly based on what we believe in, and the tricks the movie plays on us; then it gets a bit sour and unbelievable. I’m usually down for any movie that wants to give us a bunch of twists and not always giving us the right clues to set our minds straight, but it has to be done in an understandable manner, that doesn’t seem just to be used for mind-fucking us. Even the ending itself is a bit of a mind-fuck, if only for the fact that it seems preposterous, even after all of the time that we spent with these characters, this plot, and this heck-of-a-mystery.

At least the ensemble is amazing, right? Well, sort of. Nobody in the cast really sucks the wind out of the movie and brings it down by the antlers, except for Leterrier who seems to have an awesome cast of characters on his plate, yet, doesn’t know what to do with them so instead, just gives them a bunch of two-dimensional characters, lets them play around, and hope that they do the job he was supposed to be doing in the first place. Maybe it’s not such a bad strategy for some directors, but when you have a cast this good and a plot this interesting, you need more, more, more! Come on, Louis!

"See this card? Next second, it won't be there due to our impressive usage of CGI."

“See this card? Next second, it won’t be there due to our impressive usage of CGI.”

Jesse Eisenberg is a good fit as the egotistical, cocky leader of the Four Horseman who obviously seems to know it all and have more confidence on display than we have ever seen from him before; Isla Fisher is sweet, sexy, and sassy as his former-assistant, who seems to be more of the brains of the group, rather than the boobs (although they are as fine as can be); Woody Harrelson seems to be having buckets of fun as the hypnotist of the group, and looks like the only dude out of this cast who was in on the joke; and Dave Franco is still coming up fine in his career, playing the youngest member of the group, with a chip on his shoulder, and plenty of time to learn and think. All are fine together, but since the movie is less concerned with their dynamic, and more about the tricks they pull off; each and every performance seems like a bit of a waste.

And instead, the movie’s more focused on Mark Ruffalo as Dylan Rhodes, our cop for the 2 hours. It doesn’t suck that the movie is based-around Ruffalo’s character and whether or not this dude figures out just what to get done, but it doesn’t help that his character is at least a bit boring. Ruffalo does all that he can with this dude by giving him the scruff, the loosened-tie, and the few sips of a Jack Daniels, but he still isn’t as interesting as you would have liked to see, especially coming from the guy who can make any character he plays worth watching. However, being a lover of Ruffalo, I still have to give the guy credit for at least trying to make this character work, going out of his way, and at least showing some effort. Hell, even if the attraction between him and Laurent doesn’t quite work, at least you want to see them together in the end.

And last, but sure as hell not least, we have the men with the plans: Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. Together, these two are dynamite and seem to be having the times of their lives just playing-off one another and seeing what they can pull-off next. But even when they are separated and moving on with their own stories, they still seem to be having butt-loads of fun, and really make this movie more entertaining, just with their charm and wit. Obviously Caine gets the shorter-end-of-the-stick with his slightly maniacal character, but nonetheless, the dude still seems to have that sprinkle in his eye that makes you want to give him a big-ass hug.

Consensus: Though it has the ideas and promise that may make any, average moviegoer locked and loaded for a good time, Now You See Me still comes off as a cheat that was made for the sole purpose that it would mess with our minds, yet, not really make much sense by doing so. It would just trick us into being tricked, and leave with our money in it’s hands.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Okay, I get most of it. But what the hell did he do with the card I originally had?"

“Okay, I get most of it. But what the hell did he do with the card I originally had?”

Warm Bodies (2013)

Eat it, Nicholas Sparks! No, literally: eat it.

R (Nicholas Hoult), is a lonely zombie who longs for more in life rather than eating brains of the humans he hunts down. Suddenly, he falls in love with a beautiful human survivor named Julie (Teresa Palmer), who he gains feelings for after he eats the brains of her boy-toy (Dave Franco). As their relationship deepens, he soon begins to act more and more human, but he’s not the only zombie who feels these same feelings and emotions.

Ever since the Walking Dead come onto the air, we’ve been getting this huge explosion of zombies. World War Z is coming out, zombie-costumes have been in high-demand every year for Halloween parties, and finally, George A. Romero seems to be getting the love and praise he’s deserved for so damn long. However, we only knew it was a matter of time until the teens started to latch-on to the latest craze, and give us what is essentially the Twilight film, of the zombie-genre. However, have no fear, as this movie doesn’t feature anybody named Bella, Jacob, or Edward. Score!

The trailer may have you fooled about this movie because it continues to advertise it as a rom-com, mixed with horror and action, but make no means: this is a romantic-comedy at it’s finest. The movie starts off slow and rugged, but not in the bad-way that you might suspect. It actually fits with the way the story is structured in how we follow R throughout his day as he rambles on and on about the inner-day livings of a regular, slowly-moving zombie, and listening to all of his quirky and zany pieces of insight, really work and make this movie stand-out among the rest of the zombie flicks I have seen recently. You have a sense that this movie is going to be more about characters, setting, and story, rather than blood, guts, action, and zombies. You do get some of the latter elements, but the first ones are here in full-effect and that’s all thanks to director Jonathan Levine.

Oh yeah, and points-off for stealing a page directly out of Shaun of the Dead. Come on now!

Like nobody in the past decade hasn’t already seen Shaun of the Dead. Come on now!

Levine takes the “indie-approach” here, and has this movie focus more on the relationship between R and Julie (if you haven’t been able to figure this out by now, it’s essentially Romeo & Juliet) which not only builds-up the interaction between these two different people, from two, completely different backgrounds, but also builds-up on what’s yet to come with what these two could possibly form, if the world ever gets back to normal. We get a real sense of the dynamic between the two as they interact through looking at R’s collectibles, jamming out to some choice tunes from Guns N’ Roses, Bruce Springsteen, and John Waite, amongst many others, and most importantly, getting to know one another through where questions of where they came from, how they got to where they are, and where the world could go if everything doesn’t turn to shit right away.

You really root for these two to be together and it almost feels like the movie actually does to, as it may even sound crazy in your head that you want a zombie and a human-being to be together, but it’s different than that. It’s more subdued, and more about building a relationship between two people and it just goes to show you that if you focus on characters, and are able to make their dialogue and development interesting enough to hold your interest, than almost any ridiculous plot can work. It may sound crazy but I think this simple tale of a love brewing between a zombie and a female, may actually be the Valentine’s Gift that you men may want to take your ladies out to see. Don’t expect any hanky-panky by the end of the night, but definitely do expect some sort of heavy-petting, cuddling, or tonsil hockey. I don’t know how exciting or titillating that may sound to you guys, but hey, it’s better than getting nothing on Valentine’s Day. Am I right, men? Huh? Huh?

However, in a cheap and lame-way of trying to make sure that all types of horny teenagers may go out and actually see this movie, they’ve slapped it with a PG-13-rating that is not only pretty soft, but also doesn’t allow it to get any edgier than it could have been. There is action that does happen here, but it’s very sparse and filmed in a way where you don’t see much blood, gore, or brains, but it’s also made in such a way that’s constantly bothersome, as if the movie knew that it had to appeal to a larger-audience so they decided to take it easy on the ketchup packets. I get that all movies try to go for that PG-13-rating so they can hopefully reach that audience where angst-ridden teenagers may hopefully want to venture out and see, in hopes of an easy lay that night, but then again, when you take the subject-matter into mind and realize that this is a ZOMBIE MOVIE where are talking about here: it does seem like an obvious, if not reasonable cash-grab. Hey, I guess Levine’s family has gotta eat, too.

Despite that d-bag problem us movie aficionados may have with the tame-approach, the movie still succeeds in giving us a relationship that is worth watching, believing in, and hoping actually survives by the time the 90-minutes is up. That’s all thanks to the charming leads: played by Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer. Ever since his days of paling around with Hugh Grant, Hoult has been on the verge of breaking-out and letting everybody know that yes, he has grown-up and yes, he is a good-looking lad now, but if A Single Man was his attempt at trying to persuade me, it didn’t quite work. However, Hoult shows me that I’m an idiot and have no clue what I’m talking about with his performance as R, the zombie who wants more than just eating brains and listening to vinyl records: he wants love, he wants a girl, he just wants life. Hoult doesn’t have to do or say much, considering that his character is a zombie and all (just a small-fact), but he still does a nice-job at giving R a loveable personality that’s easy to fall for, almost as much as Teresa Palmer’s character does.

I can bet you donuts-to-dollars that half of the people seeing this, will have no idea what movie that is.

I can bet you donuts-to-dollars that half of the people seeing this, will have no idea what movie that is.

Speaking of Palmer, she is great as Julie, the one-in-a-million, attractive girl that would actually for a thing that eats brains and hasn’t bathed for as long as the apocalypse started, but yet, still makes it all believable. She has a lot to work with in how she sees the world she used to know, where it’s gone, and how she can make herself happier in it, and even though it is a bit obvious that she would try to rebel against her powerful and control-hungry daddy, Palmer is still always a welcome-presence on-screen and the scenes with her and Hoult actually made me jealous, as it actually seemed like they were, in-fact, falling in love. Somebody hold J-Law down, because she may have a bone or two to pick with Ms. Teresa Palmer! Regardless of my jokey side-comments, Palmer and Hoult are great in this movie, whether they are together or not and make this movie work a lot more than it had any right to be. You know, being a zombie, rom-com coming out in the dead of Winter.

Rob Corddry shows-up as M, one of R’s fellow zombie-buddies that he occasionally grunts with, and seems like he’s having a ball with a role that would have and could have been played by anybody. Corddry actually gets a real chance to shine later-on when his character has some more dramatic-heights to jump-over and surprisingly: the guy excels in it. With this and the close-to-being-abysmal Butter, Corddry may have patched a new leaf for himself and hopefully, this shows us finer things to come for the man. Playing the “powerful and control-hungry daddy” that I spoke about earlier, is John Malkovich who, as always, is great at what he does and comes-off as a terrible and despicable man you just do not like, care for, or would never even trust running your society in a post-apocalyptic world, but shows more dimensions than that and has you actually fall for the guy. Yes, people, believe or not: there was a time when John Malkovich played nice characters, who did nice things for all of the rest of humanity and it’s a great thing to see him play that type-of-role, once again. It’s been too long, John. Please do stay.

Consensus: The PG-13-rating that’s supposed to please almost everyone and everybody, is what keeps Warm Bodies reaching the bar set-by other, fellow zombie movies out there, but it is still a pleasant rom-com, that has a twist you believe in, enjoy watching, and can actually, sort of relate to. Well, that is, unless you have never dated a chick in high-school. Hayoo!!

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Hey, you were that kid in About a Boy, weren't you?"

“Hey, you were that kid in About a Boy, weren’t you?”

P.S. Major, and I do mean MAJOR, props go out to Rodney from Fernby Films for the new header up-above. Hope you all like it and while you’re at it, go on over and give the guy a look. He’s got some solid material that is definitely worth a view or two.

21 Jump Street (2012)

High school sucks.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as young and clueless police officers who go undercover at a high school to investigate a drug ring, effectively giving them the opportunity to relive their student lives all over again.

The idea of remaking an old TV show as a movie doesn’t seem too promising. However, all of those problems were gone as soon as I saw the hilarious Red-Band trailer for this one and then I got to see the actual film itself and it was so much better than I expected.

The whole structure of this flick is pretty simple: put two bros in uncomfortable situations, have them run into a problem, and then have a nice, but action-packed resolution. However, that structure doesn’t go down so easily here considering it doesn’t go for the cheap laughs and isn’t afraid to poke a little fun at itself in the meantime. This is one of the funnier flicks that I have seen in recent time because it has raunch that is deserved, jokes that hit the mark just about every time, and a bit of satire about how high school really is in today’s world which definitely hit a lot closer to home for me and seemed so true. Everything is so much different today from what it used to be and instead of the philosophical, softer kids being the ones you shoved in lockers, they are now all of a sudden the cool kids that find their ways as being hailed at the end of the year as “the one most likely to succeed and be uber cool”. It’s something I see in school today and even though I’m not really trying to complain about it, I just still find it funny that a film that takes place in high school is able to hit the mark so perfectly.

What’s really strange about this flick is that it’s actually from the directing duo of Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, aka the guys behind the animated hit ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’. It’s definitely a strange pick-up for these guys to go from kiddie flick about obesity to an R-rated comedy but they somehow are able to make transition work with their strange ideas to keep this flick moving. The film isn’t unpredictable by any means but there is so much here that seems so funny and original, that you wonder exactly why none of this hasn’t been done before and just why it’s so easy for these two dudes to do it and comedy director veterans still can’t hit the right marks. One funny example from this flick is the drug-montage scene they have here. Every flick that has to do with drugs in one way or another all have a weird montage, but this film takes that one step further and makes it so much more funnier than it had any right to be and that’s just one scene. There are so many more like them that made me laugh like crazy.

However (yes, there is always a however), as fresh as this flick may be, it does start to falter by the end as it dives more towards action and loses a bit of its comedic edge. I didn’t mind this as much considering the action is surprisingly very good but everything ends so predictably that it’s a shame considering this flick really had me thinking I was about to see a new and original twist on this type of formula, only I never got that. It also seemed a little strange that Hill’s character starts to get more and more attracted to Brie Larson’s high school character even though she’s a little too young for him. Then again, it could happen so don’t mind me.

The main reason why I was looking forward to this flick in the first place was because of the strange pairing of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, and they both deliver in their own little ways. Hill is once again hilarious here (in a slightly less fatter way) and makes it seem like comedy can come to him so easily no matter what the script demands. Then again, a lot of it does start to seem like it’s just improv, which is definitely a lot better for Hill considering he owns that. I was also incredibly happy to see my main man Channing, finally get a role that suited him with his action and comedic skills. Tatum was hilarious in the strange flick, ‘The Dilemma’, and it was great to see him show his comedic skills once again, this time playing up his meat-head look for laughs. Both of these guys play-off of each other perfectly every time they are on-screen together and it was such a blast to see these guys having a blast that I wanted more of them on-screen. So glad these guys were able to nail these roles considering Hollywood has been really finding it hard where to put them lately.

The supporting cast is also great and all play up their own comedic skills to add more to the flick. Ice Cube is funny as the predictable, angry black chief that always seems to be yelling and dropping the F-bomb every time the film focuses on him but he plays that up perfectly and hopefully this will get him back in doing better comedies than ‘Are We There Yet?’; Dave Franco has a funny performance here as the wise-ass high school kid, Eric, and reminded me so much of James Franco that it was too funny to be true; and Rob Riggle has his hilarious moments as the creepy gym teacher that always seems to be effing around with these kids. There’s also a totally memorable cameo at the end of the flick that’s perfect but I don’t want to give anything away because it is definitely something has to be seen to be believed.

Consensus: 21 Jump Street isn’t really doing anything to re-invent the buddy-action comedy wheel, but the chemistry between Hill and Tatum, the rapid fire humor, and the fresh and brutally realistic look at the present-day high school make this a comedy that actually will make you laugh consistently.

8/10=Matinee!!