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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jake Johnson

Win It All (2017)

A better Gambler, than the actual remake of Gambler.

Eddie (Jake Johnson) doesn’t quite have the best life. He makes a living directing traffic, parking cars, and doing the odd job every now and then. But rather than saving it all so that one day, he can eventually make something of his life, he spends it all on late-night poker games where he mostly ends up losing, without any cash in his hand, or pocket. However, when Eddie thinks he’s dead and totally broke, he looks inside of an old acquaintance’s duffel bag, and in it, just so happens to buckets of cash. Seeing this as a new lease on life, Eddie intends to change his ways and not gamble anymore. He strikes up a relationship with a sweet single-mother (Aislinn Derbez), starts to work for his brother (Joe Lo Truglio), as a landscaper, and begins to attend recovery meetings more frequently, and keep up with his sponsor (Keegan-Michael Key), on a much more regular basis. But still, Eddie can’t help but gamble a little bit of the money away, which wouldn’t be so bad, until he finds out his old acquaintance is getting out of jail soon and is expecting all of his money to be there waiting for him.

As long as there’s free coffee and donuts, I’ll always go and admit a problem.

People like Joe Swanberg make me so happy that indie-movies still exist, and it’s movies like Win it All that make me so happy streaming devices/studios like Netflix still exist. For one, they’re studios that allow for these smaller, more low-budget movies, not just see the light of day, but grab an audience who, otherwise, wouldn’t have heard a single thing about it. For awhile now, that’s how mostly all of Swanberg’s movies have been; while he’s been getting bigger names involved, his movies still go mostly unnoticed and automatically ready for a VOD release, where only cool, happenin’ kids who are curious will stumble upon it.

But for others, such as myself, who love and adore everything Swanberg does and stands for, it’s nice to just see a movie like Win it All, get a bigger release. But it’s also nice to see this happen because, well, the movie’s quite good; it’s typical Swanberg in that there’s a lot of improvisation and scenes of people talking, but there’s a little bit more to it this time around. If anything, Win it All shows Swanberg at least extending his arms out a bit at trying some sort of genre-fare, what with the gambling subgenre of flicks, but it’s much more like the criminally underrated Mississippi Grind, than Mark Wahlberg’s ill-conceived the Gambler.

It’s weird, though, because the movie isn’t all about gambling, or even the rush, the thrill, and the excitement about it all – it’s much more about this guy, Eddie, and how he doesn’t seem to quite get a grasp on life and accept that the way he’s living, just isn’t ideal. If anything, Win it All is actually a character-study about this guy, who he is, why he does what he does, what’s there to love about him, and what’s there to get mad at him for.

And oh yeah, Jake Johnson is pretty great in the role, too.

So sad, yet, still so cool. How does he do it?

Johnson’s honestly a pretty commanding force in these low-key indies, because we get to see all that he does on New Girl, in that he plays a bit of a silly goof-ball, but instead with that show, there’s a rawer feel to it all. Rather than laughing along with him, we’re actually laughing at him and looking at him in a sad way, not knowing how far his lovable grin is going to take him from scene to scene. And sure, while a good portion of Win it All is improvised, meaning that we don’t always get to know each and every single little thing about Eddie that we should know, what Johnson helps to do is create a portrait of a sad, but still likable guy, who we’d much rather give a hug, than a punch to the face.

As his brother, Joe Lo Truglio is quite surprising, too, especially by how good he is without ever trying too hard to make us laugh. It’s the one role where we get to see someone who is usually known for being a scene-stealing cook-ball, actually show his dramatic-side and it works out well, creating a lovely, heartwarming bit of chemistry between him and Johnson. Derbez is also sweet and charming as Eddie’s eventual girlfriend, and Keegan-Michael Key, showing a more dramatic-side here, too, gets a chance to be both funny and serious, while always providing a nice glimmer of light every time he shows up.

And because these performances and these characters are so strong, it’s easy to get past the fact that, yeah, the story’s a bit weak and conventional, but honestly, it’s really not all about that. Swanberg knows that and as an audience, we know that, too – it’s about these characters, their relationships, and exactly how they all relate to this Eddie fella. It’s a true character-study, just with some gambling on the side.

Like life.

Consensus: With a terrific lead performance from Johnson, Win it All works as a smart, interesting character-study that, unfortunately, doesn’t care a whole lot about the plot.

7 / 10

It’s love at first sight. Until she realizes he loves playing Go Fish a bit too much.

Photos Courtesy of: Time OutTeaser TrailerThe AV Club

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Digging for Fire (2015)

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

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

If he can smoke...

If he can smoke…

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe.

Then, so can she dammit!

Then, so can she dammit!

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

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

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

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

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

7 / 10

And they might as well, too.

And they might as well, too.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Jurassic World (2015)

Next summer, just go to Six Flags.

A little over 20 years since the disastrous incident that occurred at Jurassic Park, Jurassic World is now up, running and pretty damn successful. It’s considered one of the more popular theme parks on the planet, where it features all sorts of dinosaurs, games, rides, and scientists working on genetically-modified dinosaurs. Wait, what? Yep, just like they were doing those many years ago, scientists at Jurassic World are now trying to figure out how they can make bigger, better and more efficient dinosaurs so that they can keep attendance booming over a large period of time. While the operation’s manager, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), sees no problem in this, one of the Velociraptor’s trainers, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), does and sees that it’s only a matter of time until the dinosaurs decide to bite back. Eventually, on one fateful day when two brothers (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) are visiting the park, the T-Rex that they have hidden away at the park gets loose and decides to run all sorts of havoc around the park. Now, it’s only a matter of time until too much damage is done and nobody can stop it; something that Grady, as well as some shady businessmen, want to make happen.

Let’s get one thing clear: Jurassic World is definitely the better of the Jurassic Park sequels. Sure, that may not be saying much, but considering that so many sequels/reboots/remakes/cash-ins seem to pop by every other week or so, without seeming like any life was put into them at all, it’s saying a whole lot. It’s saying that Steven Spielberg made a smart decision on taking a back-seat to his prized possession and allow young up-and-comer Colin Trevorrow take over the reigns; a job he does fine enough with to where there’s some brief instances of a sense of fun and wonder in the tips of his hands.

Okay, Chris, we get it! You really want to be Indiana Jones!!

Okay, Chris, we get it! You really want to be Indiana Jones!!

So yeah, it’s a good movie. Is it great? Nope, but sometimes, that doesn’t always matter.

Where Trevorrow seems to drop the ball a bit is in making sense of this story to its fullest extent. For one, it’s interesting that even though there’s so much talk about the theme park of Jurassic World itself, and in how it’s trying to be the biggest, best, and greatest thing to ever hit the Earth, makes me wonder what the message was trying to be conveyed here. In a day and age we live in where SeaWorld seems to constantly be getting hit with controversy after controversy, it’s almost idiotic to avoid discussing this in any way, especially when your own movie seems to be dealing with the same problems, in a theme park where animals are held, no less.

But what’s odd is that the movie doesn’t ever seem to know what sort of stance it wants to take. We don’t know if we’re supposed to feel pity for the genetically-modified dinosaurs and how they’re just acting out the way they would be, had they not been so held in captivity for so long, or if we’re supposed to feel bad for the human beings who are just trying to run away and save their own lives. In the original film, it was clear that we’re supposed to care for the humans, but also realize that the dinosaurs were acting out in menacing ways that made them deserve to be put down. Trevorrow and company, for some odd reason, constantly juggle between the two and it creates a weird jumble that never seems to be fully pinned-down.

And then, of course, there’s the issue of how the characters, despite the lovely cast playing them, are a bit on the bland side. One of the hottest, brightest, talented and most charming stars we have working in movies today, Chris Pratt, is given the hero role as Owen Grady and it doesn’t seem like it fully goes as deep as it should have. Sure, Pratt gets a chance to use some lines, look tough and constantly seem like he’s always in control, but he plays it in such a way that’s almost too straight; as if he was just playing Burt Macklin, through and through, and forgetting to drop out of character. Of course, this may have more to do with the writing that was made for him, which is a shame, but it puts into question as to why the writers didn’t decide to give Pratt, one of the funnier men in movies today, at least a joke or two to work with?

Just seems weird, is all.

Who is it that's supposed to be afraid by Richie Cunningham's daughter?

Who is it that’s supposed to be afraid by Richie Cunningham’s daughter?

Bryce Dallas Howard is sort of in the same boat as Pratt, where her character seems like she’s just window-dressing to a lot of action and a random romantic subplot that seems to come a tad bit out of nowhere. Then, Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson play her nephews who seem to be there to yell, run and scream a whole lot; Vincent D’Onofrio plays the villain, who will occasionally sound like he has a Southern accent, and then, suddenly, drop out of it; and well, there’s plenty more along the likes of Omar Sy, Judy Greer, Jake Johnson, Lauren Lapkus, Irrfan Khan, and B.D. Wong, all of whom do what they can, but aren’t always given much to work with because of the visual-display on hand.

With that said, too, the movie itself is actually all fine. There’s just been so many complaints about the characters that it felt like it needed to be addressed, because while they’re definitely lame, they don’t destroy the movie. It’s still a fun time, which seems to be because Trevorrow still knows what it’s like to watch a movie as a kid – just as Spielberg seems to have always intended with his movies.

Though some moan and complain about the fact that the movie takes about an hour to get to any sort of dinosaur action, or any action of any sort, for that matter, it still seemed to work for me, the same way it did for me in Godzilla. Whereas that movie kept us in the dark about what it prized-attraction looked like and was capable of doing, Jurassic World seems to understand that we know what its star looks like and can do, however, when it’ll come into play is what really makes the anticipation all the more worth it. Once the T-Rex is unleashed and all hell breaks loose, the movie still keeps its fun tone alive and well, but at the same time, still terrifying to where it doesn’t seem watered-down like most PG-13 movies can be, especially when they’re made for a larger audience.

So basically, come to this one for all of the action and fun, don’t bother even taking a glance at the characters; you’ll only leave pissed-off.

Consensus: Though definitely lacking in the story and character department, Jurassic World benefits from a fun and exciting feel that makes it a summer blockbuster worth checking out, even if the “other” sequels still leave rancid tastes in your mouth.

7 / 10

Meh. Whatever.

Meh. Whatever.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Let’s Be Cops (2014)

After this, and especially this, becoming a cop is definitely the last “to-do” on my list.

Justin (Damon Wayans, Jr.) and Ryan (Jake Johnson) are best-friends, who both need a little more to do with their lives, because right now, what they’ve got just ain’t cutting it. So, on the night that they head to their high school reunion, they realize that they want to set a good impression that makes their former-classmates think they’ve got it all under control in terms of their lives and futures; meaning, they decide to dress-up as a cops. But as these phony cops, both Justin and Ryan realize all of the love, gratitude and respect they gain, so they decide to take it out on the road, into the actual real world, and see what happens. And for the most part, the usual, wacky hijinx occur and the guys realize that acting like cops, when fellow, actual cops don’t know about it, is actually quite a treat. Eventually though, the friends end up actually finding out about a real crime occurring, with some real mobsters being the cause for it. Though neither of them want to get hurt, or possibly even killed, they both also know that they’re in too deep now and can’t get out.

Okay, cops do actually do this, but come on! A little more subtlety would have helped!

Okay, cops do actually do this, but come on! A little more subtlety would have helped!

So yeah, in the past couple of months since this movie’s been out, cops haven’t been getting the best press as of late. And honestly, I’m not going to bore you on my thoughts, beliefs, or politically incorrect opinions about everything that’s happened as of late. Although, I must admit, I am quite tempted; tempted because they’re thoughts I’ve been wanting to get known for awhile, but also, thoughts that I feel would just distract you all further and further away from the utter-garbage that this flick is.

But the problem with this movie isn’t just that it’s not funny (which it isn’t), it’s more that it had a pretty neat premise, and decided not to do a single neat, funny, or original thing with it. The movie literally starts out with these two schmoes being normal dudes, then deciding to don the cop uniforms, and literally, all they do is party, take hits of weed, drink alcohol, crash random keggers, and do a whole bunch of other random, idiotic things that no other cop would ever do in their right mind, nor would any person trying to make others believe that they are ones. I know there’s a certain level of disbelief I’m supposed to uphold with these types of movies, but I would, had the movie actually been funny. However, it is not and the fact that it takes a pretty interesting concept that seems absolutely ripe with laughs and social-commentary, makes it all the more disappointing.

Oh, and yeah, the movie is not at all funny. Take aside from maybe a few bits from the likes of Keegan-Michael Key and Rob Riggle (two exceptionally talented dudes who deserve way, way better), most of the movie can be spent just sitting around aimlessly, wondering when it’s going to end, and whether or not that a joke is even going to hit its mark. But hardly a single one does, which makes the premise all the more of a bore to sit through, because while you know that they’re trying to give us a whole story here with action, crime, and cops, the story barely even goes anywhere.

In fact, had this movie just been about these two fellas just driving around and messing around with people, while pretending to be cops, then everything may have been all fine and dandy. Now, of course, that would entitle the movie to actually having a better script to work with, but at least it would get us all away from watching this movie as it consistently tries to remind itself (as well as us) that it is in fact an action-comedy, and one that needs to have bullets and car-chases, next to all of the dick, sex, and drug jokes. Had the movie not even bothered with any sort of life-or-death situation involving dangerous underground criminals, I may have given this something of a better-grade, but I don’t care, honestly.

Crime subplot or not, this movie still blows.

It's alright, buddy. At least you've still got your show.

It’s alright, buddy. At least you’ve still got your show.

Which brings me to the cast, whom all feel like they’ve seen many better days before. While Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson have lovely chemistry on New Girl, here, the chemistry boils down to Johnson being the obnoxious one, and Wayans Jr. having to be the guy who constantly cringes in embarrassment at his friend and the wild things he makes them do. And honestly, I’d have to say that’s mostly all of Wayans Jr.’s performance – constantly sighing, shrugging, and Shia LeBeouf-ing every time his buddy wants to do something fun for a change. I’m not saying that wanting to be a cop is an action that deserves to be looked on as positive, but the movie could have given this character more motivation to be strongly against it all of the time, and not just have bitched, moaned and complained about it all, yet, still deciding to go through with putting on the blue uniform and acting like a fellow cop. Never made sense to me and just made the characters feel all the more thin.

Then, the cast gets pretty worse from here. And I don’t mean in terms of talent, neither; I mean that the talent that they’ve cobbled-up together here is solid, it’s just that they’re not given much of anything to work with. James D’Arcy is, normally, a solid actor in most that I see him in, but here, I felt like he had lost a bet to play the main villain in this mainstream mess; Nina Dobrev seems like her character was a sweet gal with enough humanity to shed, but she doesn’t go anywhere other than being just “female love-interest”; and Andy Garcia, for one reason or another, probably get a huge paycheck here for literally showing up for three-and-a-half scenes and that was about it. Hey, I’m glad he was able to get a new house in Malibu, but come on, Andy! You’re better than this!

You all are!

Consensus: Uninspired, boring, and just plainly put, unfunny, Let’s Be Cops isn’t just ill-timed in terms of the year it was released, but doesn’t even seem like it’s trying. Like, at all.

1.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Oh, how I wish escapism could be exactly that, but sometimes, the real world just finds its way of peering on in anyway. Sorry, too real?

Oh, how I wish escapism could be exactly that, but sometimes, the real world just finds its way of peering on in anyway. Sorry, too topical?

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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

Drinking Buddies (2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The drink of death.

The hospitable drink of death.

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

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

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

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

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Practically sleeping together...

Practically sleeping together…

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.5/10=Rental!!

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!!