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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jemaine Clement

Brad’s Status (2017)

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

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

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

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

Like at all.

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

Uh oh. Time for an angry rant.

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

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

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

Much like real life rants.

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

6 / 10

“Dad? What are you hissing about?”

Photos Courtesy of: Amazon Studios

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Moana (2016)

Tattooed-men aren’t so scary after all.

Ever since she was just a little girl, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) has always longed for the outside world. She, her family, and the countless other folks have been living on this one single island, far away from the rest of the world, surviving all on their own and never running into any issues. However, it seems like all of their worst nightmares are coming true, when all of a sudden, the food starts to go bad on the island and the fish are nowhere to be found. Moana believes that the best way to get this finished is to set out and find the once-mighty demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson), who may be able to finally save their island and ensure that nobody dies. But getting from point A, to point B, is very difficult and along the way, both Maui and Moana run into all sorts of issues, whether it’s with fellow travelers, or with one another.

Disney princess? Maybe.

A Disney princess to kick all of the other’s asses.

No matter what, there’s no denying that Moana has some pretty great tunes. Getting Lin-Manuel Miranda definitely helps as all of the songs, whether serious or funny, all have a very fun sound and feel to them, that not only shows that some real effort was put into them, but they weren’t just used for filler. Most of the time, with these musicals, it can sometimes feel like the songs barely serve a purpose, other than to just have the voice-actor show off their pipes, but here, each and every song serves a purpose, whether it’s to give insight into a certain character, or give us a better idea of just what the hell they’re thinking at that one exact moment in time.

Sure, there’s no “Let it Go” to be found here, but is that such an issue?

Regardless, the music of Moana is so good that, honestly, it wasn’t hard to wish that the whole movie had just been one, long musical, from beginning to end, without any breaths, pauses, or sighs anywhere to be found. Cause despite all of the hype surrounding it, not only is Moana a very conventional tale that we’ve seen a hundred times before, but it can also get kind of boring and random; after awhile, all of the fantasy elements seem to come out of nowhere in a way that makes you think that the people behind the flick are just making things up because, well, why not. After all, they’re making a movie for little kids and sometimes, making sense or having a rhyme/reason for doing the things that you do, just shouldn’t matter.

But yeah, to be honest, Moana itself is a little boring – the adventure can sometimes be fun and the various evil-doers that they meet along the way do prove some real creativity and spark within the writer’s room, but for the most part, it felt very plodding to me. It honestly seemed like they had the songs written, performed and knew what they were working with, so instead of creating a great story first and throwing all of the songs in there, they just used the songs to connect the dots. I could definitely be wrong, but from afar, this seems to have happened, with a good portion of the story seeming like an excuse just to get to the next musical-sequence and keep everyone awake.

The ocean just spoke to her. Or something weird and sort of insane like that.

The ocean just spoke to her. Or something weird and sort of insane like that.

And yeah, I get it, I’m definitely a Grinch for not being in love with this movie. I get it.

It’s not even like the movie isn’t great to look at, because it is; Disney seems to be getting more and more visually appealing each and every time, combining different animation styles, almost to the point of where things begin looking like real life. And the voice-acting from the whole gang, especially Johnson as the sometimes prickish Maui, is actually all good, but honestly, they’re sort of wasted on a story that does random things for the sake of moving itself along. It has a clear objective that we can all see from the start, which is normally fine, but getting there doesn’t have to be such a slog, does it?

Better yet, it doesn’t have to be such a conventional one, right? Either way, Moana reminds me why animated movies can sometimes be real great when they have a smart head on their shoulders and actually care about what they’re doing, and why they can be so annoying to watch when the exact opposite is happening. Hopefully this isn’t a constant thing with Disney.

Consensus: With great visuals and some very catchy tunes, Moana can be entertaining, however, also has a very conventional story that sometimes doesn’t make sense, nor seem like it wants to, all in favor of just getting to the next track.

6 / 10

Yeah, don't mess.

Yeah, don’t mess.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Aceshowbiz

What We Do in the Shadows (2015)

Hey, someone’s gotta pay the rent.

Viago (Taika Waititi), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and Petyr (Ben Fransham) are all vampires who live and share a flat together, and like how most people get when living together for so very long, there’s always problems to be had. They don’t always get along and they mostly don’t know how to each hold their weight equally in a place that needs for them to be at their utmost attention. But there is one thing that they have in common, and that’s sucking other people’s blood. And for the most part, they’ve been doing just fine for so long, that it seems almost insane that somebody would swoop in and screw it all up. That’s when Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), a random civilian that they all planned on killing, accidentally comes back to life and realizes that he too is a vampire, with all sorts of neat tricks to show off to those around him. This obviously causes a problem for the rest of the group, who would much rather like to be left in the dark where nobody knows who they are and makes them wonder they can stick it with Nick, or not.

Also, werewolves show up.

Jemaine Clement and sex is apparently the go-to for comedy, nowadays.

Jemaine Clement and sex is apparently the go-to for comedy, nowadays.

While this would all seem incredibly boring to hear a movie about werewolves, vampires, and some other infamous ghouls, the fact that this is done by the same crew who brought us Flight of the Concords, makes it a better watch than expected. In fact, way better. Because not only is the movie funny, but proves that you can use the found-footage, faux-documentary style to still enhance your story, even if the story itself does seem to be winking at the audience.

Now, it should be noted that What We Do in the Shadows isn’t necessarily trying to re-invent the wheel of horror-comedies, but is more or less, just trying to make its audience laugh, while also aspiring to create a new kind of tale where vampires can be considered “likable” – hell, maybe even “cool”. Even if the movie doesn’t intend to make these characters pop-out at us as ones we’ll be remembering till the end of our days, they still create a nice landscape for a bunch of funny bits between characters that we want to see more interactions of. Basically, when you put an old-school, follow-the-leader type of rule-maker, you generally want to see them clash heads with the hot-shot, rebel-with-a-cause bad-ass. Even if they do seem a bit cartoonish, it’s still exciting to watch and can even add to more laughs than expected.

Which is one of the harder problems with reviewing comedies. Well, let me rephrase that: reviewing comedies that are actually good.

See, it’s very easy for me to go on and on and on about a comedy that not only kept me laughing much, if at all, but was offensive and left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Those movies are, generally, fun and easy to review because they actually bring a lot of thought to the table as to why something didn’t work out the way it was intended to, and what could have been the main cause for it. If there’s any example, check out my review for Let’s Be Cops; one of the more terrible comedies I’ve seen in recent time, and even though it’s incredibly thin on its surface, I still found many ways to talk more about it and dig deeper than just simply saying, “Movie not funny”.

With What We Do in the Shadows, a good comedy, it’s a difficult task for me to go on about it without digging deeper than I need to. The movie isn’t trying to make a point, it doesn’t have any sort of secret agenda, and it sure as hell isn’t trying to rile-up the more sappy parts of our emotions – it’s just a comedy, being just that. It’s a funny one, at that, but a comedy that works nonetheless and is mostly helped by the fact that it hardly ever steps away from its story and just continues to deliver the jokes, visual-gags, and crazy non sequiter’s, with reckless abandon.

Maybe it’s not as hilarious as I have made it out as being, but it’s still worthy of a watch, especially if you’re already a fan of Concords to begin with.

#VampireSeflie

#VampireSeflie

But, believe it or not, there is some surface to be looked at underneath all of the gags and laughs, which is to say that the movie actually does go for the gut in looking at its characters’ lives and why they’re worthy of us spending time with them in the first place. The fact that they’re vampires may put us in the spot of not wanting to like, or even sympathize with them, solely due to the fact that they kill people and suck their blood for a living. It’s easy to dismiss them automatically after that, but the movie pulls back the curtain at times and shows that there’s something sad and miserable to these characters’ lives and the existences they’re forced to lead.

Sure, some of that is put on-hold to make room for a funny-clothes gag, but for the most part, we get an idea of who these characters are and why they even matter. Which is to say that, surprisingly, the one who stands-out among the rest of the group is a human by the name of Stu, played so plainly-to-perfection by Stu Rutherford. Stu, the character, is the one sole human that these groups of vampires have no problem of being around, and not killing; they treat him with kindness and respect, as you would to any friend. Because of this, Stu easily becomes the most likable and lovable character that when it seems like his life may be in danger by the end, we automatically stand behind our vampire-friends and hope that nobody even lays a paw on Stu. It also creates for some very funny moments where we see that these vampires, despite what they’re forced to live and breath on, actually have emotions, thoughts, and feelings. They just kill people and suck their blood is all.

Shit. Maybe there was some complexity to this after all.

Consensus: While not aspiring to break any new ground, What We Do in the Shadows still works as a solid blend of horror, comedy, and faux-documentary that doesn’t forget about its characters, or the hilarious set-pieces they create to explore more and more.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Happy family. Consumed blood and all.

Happy family. Consumed blood and all.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Rio 2 (2014)

You’re the last of your species! Now, stay indoors and shut up!

Now that both Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) have fallen-in love and even started their own family, it’s about time the cracks within the relationship show. Jewel is still that fun, adventurous-type, like she believes every blue macaw bird should; whereas Blu is still sort of like a human, equipped with making pancakes, using a GPS to navigate from place-to-place and even allowing his kids to use technology. Adding more tension is when they both find out about another breed of blue macaw’s that are apparently somewhere out there in the middle of the Amazon. Seeing as this may be their time to find others just like them and hopefully get some excitement in their lives, Blu and Jewel, along with their three children, decide to take a trip out to there, where they stumble upon all sorts of birds that are just like them. Heck, one of them even just so happens to be Jewel’s father (Andy Garcia), whom she thought was long gone by now. So yeah, it’s a nice place where all blue macaws live in perfect harmony with one another, except for when a certain entrepreneur decides that it’s time to start making more paper, and cutting down all of the trees in the Amazon, threatening everything that these birds have made their sanctuary.

As most of you may, or may not have seen, I was actually very surprised by the original Rio. Not only was it a fun movie that made me sort of feel like a kid again, but it didn’t really need to do much to surprise or even shock me. It was just exactly what it was – an animated movie made for the whole family. Sometimes, those types of movies can be utterly cheesy and only work for those little ones who don’t know any better, but other times, they can actually work for everyone who decides to take some time out of their day and give it a try. That’s what the first Rio was. Its sequel though?

He reads and performs Shakespeare. So no, honey, he doesn't want you.

He reads and performs Shakespeare. So no, honey, he doesn’t want you.

Meh. Not so much.

Actually, not at all.

See, with the case of Rio 2, as is the case with any major-motion sequel, everything that worked so well in the first movie, is now re-amped with more of everything. Here, we get more vibrant colors popping out at us; more subplots that don’t need to inserted into here at all; more characters added in; and just more, more, more! And usually this is done to really keep us interested in what is going, while to simultaneously keep track of which characters, are doing what things, for what reasons, but here, you almost never get the sense that anything is happening.

While I may have written the plot-synopsis up top as being a simple story of Blu and Jewel going on an adventure to the inner-levels of the Amazon for a happenin’, joyous good time, there’s actually plenty, PLENTY more where that came from. Remember those birds that were voiced by will.i.am and Jamie Foxx that were always singing, being hip and saying sassy stuff? Well, yeah, they’re here again, and apparently, they’re looking for cast members for their latest production they’re going to put on for Carnivale. That’s all fine and dandy. Not like it’s going to make, or break the movie. In fact, you need a subplot like this to bring some much-needed comedic-relief to this flick.

However, like I alluded to before, there’s plenty more where that came from.

Blu’s human-owner, voiced by Leslie Mann, is with her scientist hubby, voiced by Rodrigo Santoro, and they are running all throughout the Amazon as well; Jemaine Clement’s villainous-character is back around and looking for vengeance for what Blu did to him all those years ago, but this time, has an admirer constantly behind him; Jewel runs into an old friend of hers that may, or may not actually be interested in her; and oh yeah, before I forget to mention it, there’s also sort of a subplot about one of Blu’s daughters wanting to break out her shell and get involved with everything, without getting too involved to where it isn’t deemed “cool” anymore.

So yeah, as you can tell just by reading that, all of those subplots are a bit too much for any film, let alone a kids movie that runs about an-hour-and-a-half, give or take. It’s too much for any kid to keep track of, but better yet, it’s too much for a movie that wants to be so playful and simple. It just takes all of the fun out of what could have been something exactly like the first, except maybe a bit better. That doesn’t happen though, and while it may not all be terrible (the song-and-dance-numbers are just about the only elements working for this movie), it still made me want to watch the first one all over again, just to get the memory of this dull movie out of my mind.

"Aw hay, hay, hay!"

“Aw hay, hay, hay!”

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that god-awful, but you get the point. Could have been a good, escapist time if it stuck to its cards, but it didn’t. So therefore, it was just “meh”.

Meh, meh, meh.

As for the voice-cast that’s all returning, nobody is really outstanding; then again, nobody else is really all that bad either. They are just seemingly doing what they did in the first movie, and that’s it. The only one who is still slightly amusing to listen to is Clement’s Nigel, who is still funny when he’s vindictive and angry, but also has plenty of moments where we see his character as being more than just a “villain”. It was interesting to see that happen in a movie that seemed to be so distracted by everything else going on, that they’d actually allow for some neat character-development to actually happen. See, it’s just the little things that make a movie slightly better than what they should be. If only that transitioned well into the rest of the movie, then I would probably be singing a different tune. Not that I can remember any of the songs from this movie in the first case.

Consensus: With too much going in every spectrum of it, Rio 2 ends up being a jumble of many different strands of story, yet, barely any of them ever excite or intrigue one bit.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

That's what true love looks like. Minus all of the disdain and hatred that they hold for one another brewing beneath.

That’s what true love looks like. Minus all of the disdain and hatred that they hold for one another brewing beneath.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Rio (2011)

Sort of like City of God, but with birds.

After being found stranded on the side of the road, domesticated bird Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) is taken in by a simple, closed-off-from-the-rest-of-the-world gal from Minnesota, Linda (Leslie Mann). Together, the two create a lovely bond that’s stronger than what some humans have together, which is why they are almost never apart or leave one another’s site. However, one day, that idea looks to be challenged once ornithologist Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) finds Blu and tells Linda that he needs Blu to mate and continue his species on with another bird of his, due to the fact that Blu is the last of his kind alive. Though they are both hesitant, they decide it’s for the best, even if where they end-up at is very, VERY far from Minnesota – it’s Rio de Janeiro! The party never stops, there is always excitement in the air and just about anything is bound to happen. Well, except for Blu and this supposed-mate of his, Jewel (Anne Hathaway), getting together because, let’s just say that they’re a little bit of polar-opposites. Which yes, is bad, but what’s even worse is that they get kidnapped by a local animal-smuggler looking to make a quick-buck and shipping these birds off to America, where they’ll either be some fancy person’s dinner, or sent to spend the rest of their lives in either this place, or that place. So yup, Blu and Jewel must find a way to get free, which may only be able to happen with some of the native’s help.

I have no clue as to why, but for some reason, when this movie first came out around this time three years ago, I didn’t really care to see it. Wasn’t that I don’t like animated-movies and have no soul or something, it was just that it didn’t seem like the type of movie that needed to be rushed-out to in order to see, nor did I have any of my 25 kids like I do now. So in reality, what was the point? Go to an animated-movie all by your lonesome and be that creep in the corner? Hell no! Even if I do that now, three years ago was a different time, and I sure as hell was in a different place than I am in now.

Pearl and I have a way better relationship. She's my bulldog by the way.

Pearl and I have a way better relationship. She’s my bulldog by the way.

Mentally and physically.

But anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that the story seemed so conventional that I just didn’t think I needed to even bother to see it. And, to be honest, now actually having seen this movie, I can’t say my original assumptions were all that incorrect in the first place. The story started-off like I expected it to where this little bird got kidnapped and found a new home with a delightful, peaceful keeper, and then after that, practically every note that this film hit, has been hit a million, gazillion times before. Nothing really new, nothing really inventive. Just straight-laced, ordinary kiddie-fare that the parents get dragged into seeing, just so that they can feel as if they did something right for their kids, so that when they grow up, they don’t hate their guts and blame all of their problems on them.

Hate to break it to you parents, but either way, it’s going to happen! All kids hit that stage. Trust me. It’s not pretty, but it happens. So buy as many movie tickets as you want, because you’re not ever going to get off the hook! Hate to sound terrible and mean, but it’s the truth, Ruth!

Anyway, I realize that I am getting further and further away from the movie itself, but there’s sort of a reason: I’m in a good mood. No, not because I actually just gone done finishing Rio and I can finally move on with my life, but because it was such a pleasant surprise. See, even though the movie hit every single note, exactly like I expected it to, it never bored me. In fact, I’d say that it seemed to always have me smiling; whether it been so because of the vivid and bright colors on full-display, the witty, lovable personalities that this movie created for us to latch onto, or because at the center of the story, with rather adult-themes like crime, smuggling, and sex, there was a sweet message to be found that can do well for both the younglings, as well as the old-heads.

What this story is really about, even if I may be reaching a whole heck of a lot, is it’s telling us to never be afraid to get out there in our lives, do something we wouldn’t normally do and not over-think something to the point of near-insanity. Just let life take you as it goes, without trying to calculate every move it is that you make next. Sure, it’s good for a person to know the difference between what’s “right”, what’s “wrong”, and what’s “acceptable”, but it’s also good for a person to not hold themselves back because of some sort of fear they may actually have, or think that they have. This isn’t just a message that works well for kids, but one that also works well for the parents of these kids, which will hopefully have them feel a tad better about themselves and all of the decisions that they made.

Like I said, I’m stretching here, but there’s something endearing at the core of this movie and it deserves to be noted, because not too many animated-movies can pull that off, without stumbling on their own feet, or being not-so-subtle.

"Sheeeeeeit".

“Awhhhhhhh sheeeeeeit”.

As for the actual movie itself, like I alluded to before, it’s a fun time no matter who you are. Director Carlos Saldanha clearly seems to not only have an eye for imagination, but also a knack for keeping the excitement in the air up, even when you know exactly where everything’s going to end-up and how. It’s all so clear and predictable, but that doesn’t really matter when you have a setting as wild and crazy as Rio; the same type of setting that Saldanha uses to perfection. Also to be noted, there’s plenty of slap-stick humor for the kids, like when a group of birds face-off in a playful brawl against a group of monkeys, or like whenever Tracy Morgan’s bulldog character comes out to shake-up his goofy rump and drool everywhere; but there’s also plenty of witty humor that most of the adults may get. Although, if you’re cool, hip and happening parent like I would love to think I’ll be (even though I’ll probably start taking up drinking as a hobby once my newborn comes out and ruins my peaceful, calm life), you’ll laugh at just about anything and everything this movie does.

And with the voice-cast, everybody is fine as everybody seems perfectly-suited for their own respective characters, as zany and wild as some of them may be. Jesse Eisenberg is good as the dorky Blu, as you could suspect knowing that Jesse Eisenberg is playing anybody; Anne Hathaway is charming, and gives you the impression that she’s just so pleased with herself while talking into the microphone doing this; Jamie Foxx and will.I.am. play, what are essentially, the goofy, black sidekicks who come around, teach Blu how to make on the ladies, sing most of the songs and just basically crack jokes as if they were two old geezers sitting-off on the side of the road, just commenting on every person they see walk by, whether they like them or not; Jemaine Clement is great as the villain bird that’s always getting the upper-hand; and George Lopez does a great job at being both the voice-of-reason, as well as the father-figure as Toucan. Yup, everybody’s fine and adds just a little bit more spice to a movie that clearly doesn’t need much more to be satisfying.

Consensus: Can definitely be seen as predictable, but Rio can also be seen as a pleasing, fun, exciting and beautiful-looking movie that makes just about anybody who watches it, happy. Especially if they aren’t expecting much going into it, like yours truly.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Moral of the story: Don't be such a wuss, go flying!

Moral of the story: Don’t be such a wuss, go flying!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Men in Black III (2012)

Look out aliens, they’re getting older.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7/10=Rental!!

Despicable Me (2010)

Now I see why every kid is in love with this movie and those little yellow things too.

Villainous Gru (Steve Carell) lives up to his reputation as a despicable, deplorable and downright unlikable guy when he hatches a plan to steal the moon from the sky. But he has a tough time staying on task after three orphans land in his care. There’s also problems with another villain named Vector (Jason Segel)

With almost every animated film that’s been coming out lately, being incredibly amazing, this one seemed like it had a lot of potential. But really, it’s potential didn’t really go anywhere.

I know that this film wasn’t aiming for the 18-year old kind of potty-mouthed film critic but almost every single Pixar film that has come out within the past 3 years, has had me balling like a 5-year old, so why shouldn’t this either? The answer to that question is that this film is centered too much towards kids with no real jokes actually being as funny as they should be.

This is a pretty cool premise with a lot of gags that had me chuckling here and there, but ultimately the film goes for the “cute” laughs that will get the kids laughing more than the parents, which is alright but you really have to have some stuff for mommy and daddy. But the humor also seemed like it was trying too hard with these gags and the humor that it all had that “been there, done that” feel to it and ended up being some pretty predictable stuff.

The emotional aspect of this film isn’t terrible but at times it’s just way too in your face to really care for. I thought that Gru and Vector were going to be the meanest sons of bitches in the whole movie but there’s these side characters that are actually worse. There’s a woman who runs the orphanage telling these kids “they will never get adopted!”, and also puts them in these little cardboard boxes called “The Boxes of Shame”. There’s also a park carnie that is the biggest dick ever and just sticks it in these kids face that they didn’t win a fuzzy unicorn because they couldn’t knock down some stupid target. It’s annoying when these moments just hit you over the head with how emotional they want you to feel and it’s just downright annoying.

Probably what really kept me going for this film was the animation that looked very very good. I liked how all of these characters were all unique in their own look and how the constant colors just kept popping up everywhere, creating an even better film to look at. I saw this in the regular 2-D version but I have to say that if I did see it in 3-D it probably would have been awesome because of just how this film looks and all.

The cast here has a lot of heavy-hitters but nothing really amazing. Steve Carell is good as Gru with his European accent; Jason Segel is annoying as Vector; I didn’t even notice Russell Brand as Dr. Nefario; and Will Arnett does what he does with the Bank of Evil (formerly Lehman Brothers) loan officer, Mr. Perkins. There’s also some nice bit parts from the likes of Kristen Wiig, Julie Andrews, Miranda Cosgrove, Danny McBride, and Jemaine Clement to top off this whole cast. The problem here is that everybody’s fine I guess, they just aren’t given much and there’s nothing really all that funny about what each of these characters do and it’s kind of disappointing considering all the talent they have, I usually laugh at no matter what.

Consensus: Despicable Me has great-looking animation and some chuckles here and there, but overall it’s too centered towards kids, predictable by the end, and just an animated film that doesn’t do much else different than what we have already seen done before and better from far-superior Pixar films.

5/10=Rental!!

Also, if you want to check out what I said about Javier Bardem joining the cast of ‘Despicable Me 2‘, go on over to http://www.boomtron.com/2011/10/despicable-me-2-may-be-getting-some-oscar-talent/ and give me some love on back. Thanks everybody!

Dinner for Schmucks (2010)

Maybe I need to start having dinners where funny people show up and do funny things. Be a lot better than my past couple of Thanksgivings.

Tim Conrad’s (Paul Rudd) boss hosts a dinner party where he invites his friends to bring along the saddest, most pathetic loser they can find. But when the ultimate schmuck Barry (Steve Carell) arrives, his actions somehow turn everyone else into the losers.

This is based on a French film that I still have yet to see, and even though i had tremendously low expectations going into, I actually really liked it.

Director Jay Roach (Meet the Parents, Austin Powers) has a big knack for putting a nice guy in an excruciating situation that just keeps on getting more bizarre and more bizarre as the film goes on but I still found myself laughing at almost everything that was going on. The set pieces are used incredibly well because this is a film that isn’t afraid to be weird and then get weirder some more. I laughed so much here that I surely was totally surprised by the end of the film.

Roach also directs this film with a surprising sweetness even when it’s too busy relying on farcical misunderstandings, I never actually found myself at what Roach was trying to sympathize with. The friendship that Tim and Barry actually create is funny but at the same time a very sweet thing and you see how these have each others backs in many situations which makes this film a lot more than just a crazy bizarro fest after all.

However, what really stung me as weird with this film was that it tells us it’s not right to laugh at schmucks but for the whole hour and 54 minutes, that is exactly what you are doing. This seemed very strange to me as I had no idea what Roach was trying to convey across the film and when everything was over, I just kept wondering if I should feel guilty or not for laughing.

Another problem here was the actual tone itself, which at first I didn’t have a problem with but it does start to actually go all-over-the-place and take away more from the comedy and sweetness aspects of the film. Also, the chick in this film named Julie played by Stephanie Szostak is pretty lame and I didn’t really find anything about her that was so damn amazing for Rudd to keep on fighting for her and having the film itself go back to her.

Steve Carell is always somebody that has me laughing no matter what it is that he does and his role as Barry is just downright hilarious. What sets Carell apart from a lot of other comedians is that he can play a total moron, while still being able to tug at your heart-strings just by being so damn lovable. Barry is a wild and crazy little bird that at times wasn’t always a total dipstick, which had me truly not knowing just what he was going to do next. Paul Rudd is incredibly likable and although he associates with total jit-bags, played so well by Bruce Greenwood and Ron Livingston, you’re still pulling for him. Rudd stands there with a straight-face while everyone else around him is goofy, but he still has his moments where he is just downright hilarious as well.

The rest of the cast filled with plenty of other comedic heavy-hitters are great as well. Jemaine Clement almost steals the show as the artsy freak, Kieran Vollard and just provides that signature weirdness that just doesn’t let us take his character seriously at all; Lucy Punch is also good as Darla and has some insanely sexy scenes; Chris O’Dowd is also good here as Marco the blind swordsman; and Zach Galifianakis plays Therman, an auditor that can control your mind, and his scenes with Carell are some of the funniest in the whole film.

Consensus: The tone may be a little shifty and the central message is very strange as well, but Dinner For Schmucks has a hilarious cast, some very funny moments, and an unabashed sweetness to it that actually brings much more heart to this material than I actually expected.

8/10=Matinee!!

Gentlemen Broncos (2009)

What a weird title, for a weird movie. But not the good kind of weird.

Hoping that his novel brings him fame and fortune, high school loner Benjamin Purvis (Michael Angarano) attends a fantasy writers conference and later discovers that his masterwork has been plagiarized by an iconic author (Jemaine Clement, “Flight of the Conchords”).

For the most part this film starts off very well. The thematic ideas behind the film easily push this film into the realm where it is Jared Hess’ best work to date! The opening act of the film is a really interesting set-up. But although I thought I was ready for some good stuff here, I just got totally robbed.

Jared Hess as you all may know is the director of quirky films such as Nacho Libre, and Napoleon Dynamite, and with this one he tries too hard to be like a combination of both. The script is where it really fails, because the jokes are so stupid and juvenile, that you don’t know whether or not to take this film seriously at all. There is also way too many dumb potty jokes that were maybe funny when I was in 5th grade, now just seem useless and a cheap way to get teenagers to laugh at.

In this film there is also an emotional story that this film was gunning for, but instead it gets watered down by those terrible jokes, and cheesy special effects dream sequences. Now I know that they were doing all the fantasy sequences as a joke, but in all honesty they weren’t that amusing. I felt like the film was just trying to be weird, just for the sake of being weird, and when it comes to this film, that wasn’t helping this film out at all.

Jemaine Clement is very funny here and just about steals every scene he is in, until I soon started to realize that he was just telling a bunch of “anus” jokes. Michael Angarano is strong in this lead performance, and Hess did a good job at making this average, nerdy type of character, and not relying on the constant quirks to win us over. Sam Rockwell is the real treat, even though he is only in the crazy sci-fi fantasy sequences, he brings so much hilarity to these scenes, and is the highlight of this utterly painful to watch movie. Jennifer Coolidge is also good, playing the same exact chick she plays in almost every movie, but that’s not a bad thing, cause she’s always so good at it.

Consensus: With the cast at least bringing out some comedy, Gentlemen Broncos has some laughs, but Jared Hess loses himself in the script and brings out too many quirks, potty humor, and moments of just pure weirdness that makes no sense.

3/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!