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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Kristen Schaal

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017)

Being comfy is key to fighting crime.

George Beard and Harold Hutchins (Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch) have been friends for as long as they can remember. Mostly, they’re love for comic-books and pranks have what kept them together and such good friends for so long, but it looks like that may all start to end, with Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms), the evil and pissed-off principle of their school, none too pleased with all of their hijinx. He plans on separating them and putting them into two different classes, which is a nightmare that Harold and George have had wanted to stay away from all of their lives, but now, may become all too real. However, the two decide to hypnotize Mr. Krupp into believing that he’s one of their creations, Captain Underpants, a superhero who, get this, fights crime, in his underpants. It’s something that George and Harold love to use to their advantage, but when an evil-doer like Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll) comes around, promising to rid the world of laughter, the two decide that it may be time for their little joke to be used for the greater-good.

How we picture all of our elementary school principals.

Needless to say, Captain Underpants, the books, were a great part of my childhood. Every edition was better than the last and while they were no doubt filled with insane deals of potty-humor, that was kind of the point. They were much smarter books than they were given credit for, sometimes not just making me laugh, but my dad as well. Which is why when I heard they were making a movie of it, immediately, I got so defensive.

That, or I just didn’t want to be reminded that I used to laugh at something so childish and silly as this.

But hey, that’s why Captain Underpants is pretty charming: It knows what it is, makes no mistakes, and definitely doesn’t ask for forgiveness. Instead, it’s a silly little movie aimed for the whole family, because while there are a chock full of jokes aimed at the kids, there are also plenty others that the parents will appreciate, too. It’s what every animated-movie should strive for, but in fear that the box-office returns won’t be so excellent, so many stay away from.

Two hipsters in-the-making.

Thankfully, director David Soren and writer Nicholas Stoller know what they’re working with and try not to go above and beyond what’s already here. If anything, the movie runs into the problem of never seeming to settle down, with constant jokes, visual-puns, and bright, big colors, shapes, sizes, and general craziness, coming out of nowhere. It helps when a movie is always moving, never slowing, but it can also help when a movie realizes that the best way to work is to not constantly throw everything including kitchen-sink, at us all at once, but instead, a few things, and maybe not the kitchen-sink, at us, one at a time. Call me a slow-poke and too grown-up, but I don’t know, I like my movies to take a chill-pill every so often.

Even in my kids movies.

Consensus: Keeping the same heart and soul of the goofy source-material, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie doesn’t forget about the kids, nor does it forget about the adults, either.

6 / 10

What’s so funny? Let the guy live!

Photos Courtesy of: 20th Century Fox

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The Boss (2016)

Where’s Bruce?

Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy) had it pretty rough as a kid. While she was cared for in an orphanage, she never stayed with any family and one day, decided to up and leave, and see what she could do next with her life. Eventually, it all lead her to becoming a multi-millionaire CEO, who is praised and adored for always getting her way, no matter what. However, that all changes when she gets busted for insider trading, not only taking her to prison, but also ensuring that her public and professional name will never have the same respect it once had. That’s why, as soon as she gets out of the clink, Michelle hooks back up with whoever will have her; no one, unfortunately, really sticks close to her, what without her millions and whatnot. Well, all except one woman: Darnell’s former assistant, Claire (Kristen Bell), who she was quite terrible to on a frequent basis. Claire opens her doors for Darnell and together, the two embark on Darnell’s latter-part of her career: Selling and manufacturing Claire’s home-made brownies. They become a hit, but they also bring out the worst again in Darnell.

"All you need to do is star in Paul Feig movies."

“All you need to do is star in Paul Feig movies.”

Melissa McCarthy is possibly one of the most gifted comedians we have in the business today. She’s hilarious, sweet, endearing and most importantly, has shown that, when she has to put all of the jokes aside and stop ad-libbing, well, she can actually act pretty damn well. So, in all honesty, why is that her movies don’t really measure up to her talent? Is it because nobody, with the exception of Paul Feig, knows how to direct her just yet? Or, is it because McCarthy is clearly too good for others to get going with?

I don’t know the answer to either question, but it definitely deserves to be brought up because the Boss, like almost all of McCarthy’s other movies, doesn’t really do much.

Sure, it allows for McCarthy to be all sorts of mean, cruel, crass and nasty whenever she wants, along with being funny, but really, that’s all there is to her. The movie does try to give Darnell some sort of emotional shading that makes us feel bad for this character as well as sympathize with her when she learns the error of her ways, but none of it feels ever earned. If anything, it just feels like another movie in which McCarthy will play someone who is awful to almost everyone around her, yet, somewhere near the end, will have a revelation about herself, begin to cry, and will want everyone to feel bad for her. Sure, you could say that this is how most movie formulas tend to be and play-out, but then again, that doesn’t make it an exciting one that I want to see, time and time again, with the same people no less.

That’s why, for all of the funny moments it has, the Boss can sometimes feel straining. Even at barely 100 minutes, the movie already feels overlong; too many jokes or gags where it seems like McCarthy herself is just running wild with her improvisation skills either fall flat, or get old as soon as they reach the two-minute mark. And while you could definitely chalk this up to being another problem that people tend to have with McCarthy and her movies, it should be noted that the person who co-wrote this movie with her and directed her, is none other than her husband, Ben Falcone.

AKA, the same guy who directed her in Tammy.

Does K-Bell really need help on a date?

Does K-Bell really need help for a date?

Now, the Boss is better than Tammy, but the bar is set pretty low. Whereas that movie seemed to have no idea what its plot was, or what it wanted to do with itself, the Boss at least feels like there’s some sort of plot/point to be working with. Sure, girl scouts vs. brownie girls is a bit silly, but the movie does have a plot here that it can fall back on, even when it seems like it’s losing any sight of where it wants to go. And yes, in a comedy, that matters a whole, because if you don’t have anything driving it along, the movie itself can start to feel like a slodge and, as a result, the comedy can sometimes suffer.

For instance, there’s a brawl between the two opposing forces and while it garnered a few laughs or so out of me, it bothered me to realize that it wasn’t the only plot to work with. Apparently, the movie also wanted to involve Peter Dinklage’s rival-CEO character in it, give the movie a villain, and have it appear as if we really needed it, which isn’t the case at all. If anything, it gives a talented actor like Dinklage, nothing to work with, and just adds way more time to this movie than is needed.

While I’m definitely not all about the age old idea that every comedy should be under 90 minutes, a movie like the Boss is a perfect example of why they should be less than that, and nothing more. The Boss seems to go on and on, throwing some funny bits and pieces here and there, but overall, feels like another wasted opportunity on McCarthy. Yes, she’s funny, and so is Bell, and the two work quite well together, but the movie doesn’t always seem to excite them, or us for that matter, either.

Oh well. At least the new Ghostbusters reunites Feig and McCarthy, which isn’t all that bad, right?

Consensus: McCarthy herself brings out some funny moments, but the Boss is just an overlong, sometimes tedious comedy that, once again, wastes the talents of its star.

5 / 10

Better order those Thin Mints, everyone.

Better order those Thin Mints, everyone.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

A Walk in the Woods (2015)

The more miles, the crankier they get.

Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) is an author who’s feeling like he hasn’t made much of his life recently. Sure, he’s been published an awful-lot, has a lovely wife (Emma Thompson), lives a comfy life in a New Hampshire suburb, and has clearly got family to fall back on for any sort of happiness. But, for some reason, he still feels the need to make something more out of his life, which is why he decides one fateful day that he wants to hike the Appalachian Trail; which, in case you didn’t know, is nearly 2,200 miles. This is way too much for any older person to partake in, let alone, actually complete and be able to tell the tale one day, which is why Bill’s wife makes him take a friend. Well, after much time of coming up empty with most of the people he wanted to bring along on this trip, Bill gets a call from someone he hasn’t talked to in nearly 30 years: Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte), an old friend who still owes him money. Though they haven’t really kept-up with one another for a long time, they see this as an opportunity to get back in the swing of things, see some pretty sights, and feel more pleased with their lives, as a whole. Then again, they are pushing 70 and the trip does begin to take a huge toll on them, no matter how hard they try to make it not.

Dream of a better movie, Rob.

Dream of a better movie, Rob.

Having been toggled with for nearly decades, the film adaptation of Bill Bryson’s memoir has finally come to the big screen! And even though it doesn’t feature the names it originally had attached like, say, Paul Newman, or Richard Linklater, it’s still got the likes of Nick Nolte, Robert Redford, Emma Thompson, and uhm, Ken Kwapis? The dude who directed Beauty and the Beautician? Hell, even the guy who directed License to Wed?

Really?

Well, sadly, yes. Really. And sadly, it just goes to show that Kwapis, even though he may be trying to make a good film here, seems way too out-of-his-depth. He takes what is, essentially, a plot-line that could have been as fun, as insightful, and as entertaining as you’d expect it to be starring two legends of the big-screen such as Redford and Nolte, but literally, turns into nothing. It’s a movie that starts out as being about something, until it turns out that whatever this hiking-trip Bryson’s setting out on, really doesn’t mean anything. The only reason we’re given as to why Bryson would feel so passionate to take a trip like this is because he’s tired of people telling him that he’s too old and can’t do it (which he can’t, because, get this, he’s too old).

As for Katz, the dude just wants some sort of adventure and possibly to hang around an old-pal of his. Is it a little idiotic of him to take this one single opportunity to get that time in? Sure, but he’s definitely a whole lot more sympathetic because of it. Bryson, as written and presented here, is nothing more than just an annoying, over-educated prick who, would much rather speak about the sweet little intricacies of the Maple tree, then actually check in with what his long, lost bud has been up to all these years. Katz, all he wants to do, is talk about getting laid, getting drunk, and any girls that he can remember from the olden-times.

That said, there are bits and pieces of this to be entertained by, solely due to the fact that Redford and Nolte are in these roles, working shop.

You too, Emma. I can already tell you're regretting this decision.

You too, Emma. I can already tell you’re regretting this decision.

Now, had it been Redford and Newman like it was originally planned-out to be, this movie would have been many times better, regardless of problems with the script and/or direction. But that’s not the pairing, or the movie we get; it’s Nolte and Redford and you know what? They do fine together. There’s a nice sense of chemistry between the two that shows in some of the smaller, more intricate moments that you hardly see coming because the movie, as a whole, is a mess and seems more interested in having these old fellas climb out of windows for laughs, rather than actually dig deep into the art of the aging-friendship.

But that said, Nolte and Redford can only carry this so far, until it becomes painstakingly clear that they’re dealing with a crummy movie. And most of this, as much I don’t want to pick on him, comes down to Ken Kwapis. Sure, whatever the hell Redford was thinking allowing for the movie to play-out like this is a point to bring up, but Kwapis really doesn’t put much of an effort into this. The gags are stale; the jokes will occasionally borderline on offensive; and the trip these two take isn’t as eventful, or as lovely as you’d expect it to be because most of the film is filmed in front of a very distracting, cheap-looking green-screen.

If anything, the movie just proves to most film-audiences out there that roles for older-men in their 70’s do come around, except that they open up in films like these. Even though we get a nice supporting cast with names like Kristen Schaal, Nick Offerman, Mary Steenburgen, and of course, Emma Thompson, none of them get a chance to really bring much to the table that we haven’t seen them do before, or worth their while. Schaal is just there to be loud, nasty, and annoying; Offerman is literally playing Ron Swanson, so much so that I wonder if any copyright issues will be coming out of this; Steenburgen’s character is written so terribly that as soon as she sees Redford in a towel, she can’t help but get ready to jump his bone for no reason, other than the movie needed a slight love-interest; and Thompson, bless her heart, really tries with this role and for the most part, gets away with the effort. There’s a real feeling of heart and humanity to her character that’s hardly anywhere to be found with the other characters and it not only made me wish of a better role for her, but a better movie for her to strut her stuff in.

Consensus: The pairing of Nolte and Redford is just about enough to save A Walk in the Woods from being a total and complete misfire, although, this movie is best watched with a grand-parent by your side, so that they too, can remember the golden days of these guy’s careers.

5 / 10

Old guys = hilarity.

Old guys = hilarity.

Photos Courtesy of: Variety, Here and Now, and New York Times

Sleepwalk With Me (2012)

Is sleep-talking considered bad?

Matt Pandamiglio (Mike Birbiglia), is at a crossroads in his life. He works as a bartender at the Comedy Club and rarely ever gets the shot to tune his voice, he has a sleeping-disorder that causes him to move around at night in a daze of sleep, and can’t commit to his girl-friend of 8 years (Lauren Ambrose). Things begin to change for Matt, however, and he soon finds himself on the road, doing gigs, making money, finding new friends, and finding peace with his life. However, not everything’s so good between him and his girl and once that idea of getting married pops-up, life isn’t so grand and peaceful for dear old Matt anymore.

Mike Birbiglia is a pretty damn funny comedian. The guy has timing, the guy’s honest, the guy knows when and how to make fun of himself, and best of all: he feels like the average, everyday guy, like you or me could get up on stage and start saying the shit he says and get an equal-amount of laughter and applause. It’s what works for him so well and has kept him going on and and on for all of these days and that’s why I thought a flick where he tells his own story, his own way, and with him starring in it, that I was in for a sure treat. However, I think it’s time for me and Mike to stick to stand-up. Only for a little bit, though.

No matter what type of tone or genre this movie is mixing around with, Birbiglia always keeps it funny. The dream sequences are hilarious because they allow him to really unleash his wild side and get utterly, and terribly ridiculous with the whole thang, but that’s not the best-part of this movie or it’s comedy-aspect. What makes this movie so funny is how Birbiglia is able to not only poke jokes at the goofballs around him that seem like walking-caricatures of Birbiglia’s own mind, but also poke jokes at himself. That’s what I’ve always loved about the dude’s stand-up and it was so great to see him take that one-step further in this movie and let loose on himself, even he’s visibly at his lowest.

Not exactly what I dream of.....

Not exactly what I dream of…..

But that doesn’t matter, because yes, he is a comedian and he’s supposed to be funny. So yeah, good for him for being funny, aka, doing the job he’s supposed to do. Despite being funny, Birbiglia is able to bring-out something within this material that I didn’t think was at all possible: drama. The whole movie plays-out like a shaggy dog comedy, where it’s this guy trying to work his way up the comedy-ladder, make people laugh, get gigs, get money, find meaning in life, but in a funny way, but in the back of it’s mind, there’s always this downright serious and heartbreaking drama at the center-fold. The whole plot with Birbiglia and his girlfriend of 8 years who seem to obviously love each other and seem to obviously know everything about one another, but still can’t find a way to get married, really sets this flick up for some terribly honest and compelling material. Material that I didn’t think this movie had the balls of juggling with, and in a way: I was right.

Before I jump into what this movie messed-up on, I just want to say that with the obvious intentions and motivations in Birbiglia’s mind, I thought that he achieved something that wasn’t possible: getting more than just comedy, out of a story of a comic. He makes it more than just a story about living your dream and making something out of yourself, but making it about how you need to have direction, no matter how old or young you are. You need to really wake up, smell the cauliflower, and realize that your shit needs to get together, way before you even hit the ripe-age of 40, or more. It may come off as a shock to hear this from a 19-year-old d-bag who has yet to get his life on track (except for this fancy blog), but it’s what I garnered out of this story and what I think Birbiglia hit very well. If the guy can do anything, it’s that he can bring more emotion and depth out of a comedy than most comedy-directors working today. No, not you Judd Apatow. You’re fine right where you are, bud.

Now, where I think Birbiglia messes up on is the love-story between him and his girlfriend. I will say that the movie takes a different-approach to this relationship than most rom-coms do, but that’s not saying much considering how lazy it seems to get sometimes. For example, whenever you feel like the movie is going to focus on how hard it is for Matt to not see his girl, to be on the road non-stop, and not know what to do when they’re supposed to get freakin’ married, it just focuses in on another, wacky, and wild dream-sequence that may be funny and may have happened, but only slows down the momentum of the actual story at-hand. I give credit to Birbiglia for at least including this story at all, whereas other directors would have probably poo-pooed it and had it played-out like a lame, blind date, but I wish there was just more effort on this dude’s part. I mean, it is HIS story, told from HIMSELF, so why not give it a little more feeling and a little more attachment, rather than just showing people how insane you can make dream-sequences? Sorry, Mike. Didn’t mean to get all mad, but come on!

Ehh, neither is this....

Ehh, neither is this….

That’s what also brings me onto my next point: his actual girlfriend in the movie. Lauren Ambrose, god bless her soul, is a revelation in this movie because she is smart, sassy, understanding, honest, and very loving in the way that all gal-pals should be around this time, but the movie doesn’t give her enough credit. It’s so damn obvious that she’s the right pick for him because she’s always cool with him, always down to Earth, and always able to be there and help him when he needs it the most, so why the hell wouldn’t you want to pick that? I get that maybe it has something to do a little bit with the fact that the cat may be hitting his mid-life crisis and may not know what to do with his life right about now, so therefore adding on the factor of marriage would only cause more confusion, but for a simple-minded dude like myself, I would think that the right and best pick would be right there for me: choose her. You can do all the stand-up, you can make all the jokes you want, but this is the girl you should be with and I never understood why there was any problem’s there in the first-place. Once again, it’s probably one of those things I don’t seem to get because I haven’t lived life like him or haven’t gotten to that age, but I have made mistakes and I have been confused in life, so I definitely feel like I have some sort of leg to stand on here. And if I don’t, I don’t care because I know that I would be more than happy to have Lauren Ambrose as my girl, any day of the week baby.

Despite all of my thrashing and trashing of his movie and what is essentially, his life-story in an-hour-and-25-minute movie, I still have to say that Mike Birbiglia kept me going with this movie and his presence is one of the more-welcoming ones I have seen in recent-time, especially committed by a comedian. Like his stand-up, Birbiglia is always funny and able to poke fun at himself and his life’s misfortunes. However, the guy gets a chance to act here and show what he’s feeling at these exact-moments, and his over-the-top narration keeps us in the mind of the guy and has us hear and believe all of the thoughts that are racing through it. Birbiglia is a simple guy that likes to keep things down on home-ground, but when it comes to this movie and he has to go for the deeper-meaning in life and in love: he’s more than up-to-the-challenge and that shows a lot of balls for any may, especially a comedian. Hope to see you soon, Mike.

Consensus: Mike Birbiglia’s honesty and brutal-depictions of real-life happenings keep Sleepwalk With Me grounded in-reality, even when it goes crazy with his dreams, but feels like it loses itself when it comes to making a simple, comedic-story more important than it truly has to be, and that’s more about the romantic-aspect than the actual means and themes of this story. Give me 10 more years, and maybe I’ll have a different view on this one, but for now, I’m sticking with it.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Ah! Now that's more like it! Just cross-out Mike Birbiglia and put my face there, and that's it. Oh, sweet dreams.

Now that’s more like it! Just get rid of Mike Birbiglia and that’s it. Oh, sweet dreams.

Butter (2012)

Hey, that’s one way to stop obesity in our country. Make butter sculptures!

A young orphan named Destiny (Yara Shahidi) who, after being adopted by a Midwestern family (Rob Corddry and Alicia Silverstone), discovers she has an uncanny talent for butter-carving. She eventually finds herself up against the ambitious wife of the retired reigning champion named Laura (Jennifer Garner) in a town’s annual butter-sculpting contest.

Director Jim Field Smith surprised the hell out of me two years back when he showed-up with what was yet, another typical rom-com in the name of She’s Out of My League. What surprised me about this flick was not just how it was actually funny, it had some nice insight to relationships and the way dudes and girls are looked at when they’re both together. It surprised the hell out of me, even if the formula didn’t. However, Smith is right back to formula this time around and this time, it’s not so commendable.

The problem with Smith’s direction here is that he never seems to get as dirty or nasty as he wants to get. The satire is so freakin’ obvious it’s not even funny (seriously, it isn’t). Basically, by showing us this butter-sculpting competition, Smith is poking fun at corporate America and how they look at the world in their own eyes. Is it a smart idea? Of course. Is it executed well at all? Nope, not at all and I think the main problem with that is because Smith plays it a bit too safe with a story that could go anywhere (and sometimes does), but ends up going along the lame-o types and formulas we have come to expect from movies of this same nature.

Playing it safe is what bothered me about this film, but the other element that seemed to annoy me was how the story never followed a pattern. For instance, it’s comedy would seem to come out of nowhere and be that raunchy, dirty-type of comedy that pleases Apatow fans only, but then suddenly changes itself into a sappy, corny story about a young girl who’s trying to make sense of the world. At some points, it’s edgy, and at others, it’s plain and soft to the point of where you almost feel like they want to give you a hug. This comes in the way of all of these stories that never really seem to have any meaning, other than to just be there and make use of their big-names on the posters. Olivia Wilde’s character, as amazing as she may be here, still did not need to even be in the movie except for about the first 5 minutes were with her, so every other time she shows up, it seems like over-kill and Smith’s only way to get comedy out of a tired-plot.

That’s not to say that this film isn’t entertaining, because it really is and with the laughs that work, they really do work. The first 45 minutes or so work because it gets us ready and prepped-up for the whole butter competition, shows us the goofy characters, and gives them enough characterization to make us feel like we’re in for a big and wild surprise. Sadly, that only stays with us for about 20 minutes or so, but for those 20 minutes, I was laughing and had a good time.

The main reason why I laughed a good amount of times was mainly because of the cast and what they’re able to do with some caricatures. One of the biggest surprises of this whole cast was Rob Corddry who really dials it down here as Destiny’s adoptive father. What I liked so much about Corddry here is that there is a nice feeling of warmth and support in his character, that comes through in every frame. Corddry is usually that one guy in raunchy comedies that seems way too over-the-top to even be considered entertaining or funny, but here, he shows that it sort of just comes naturally to him and it makes me wonder what else this guy can do with his career. Maybe he can pull-off a drama in the near-future, or maybe he’s just going to stick to R-rated comedies that barely get him noticed as anything else but that crazy, loud bald guy that seems like he’s high all of the time. Maybe that is the case, but hey, I’m not judging.

The one star in this film that did not work-out as well as Corddry did for me, was Jennifer Garner as Laura. Here’s my thing with Garner, the girl is good when it’s her in drama, but when she tries to step her foot into comedy, she falls flat on her face and never seems to get up. That is exactly the same case we have here with her character, Laura, as she’s just another one of those self-righteous bitches, that nobody likes, nobody wants to see, and 9 times out of 10, doesn’t even laugh at because she’s so freakin’ evil. Laura isn’t as evil as the film may want you think, since the only real bad thing her character even does is lie, but Garner tries so damn hard to push her character to those bitch-levels, that it seems forced and never like Garner really has what it takes to make an entertaining bitch. She’s insufferable to watch and I think that Hollywood just needs to stop throwing this girl’s comedic-skills (or lack thereof) down our throats and just realize one, simple damn thing: Jennifer Garner, aka Mrs. Ben Affleck, is not funny! Never has been, and never will be so stop giving her big comedic roles where we need to laugh at her to enjoy ourselves. It just doesn’t work.

Consensus: Butter has some delightful moments and features a fine cast, except for Jennifer Garner who is annoying to watch and listen to, but never goes down to those deep deaths of hell that they call satire and decides to play it safe with it’ story and what it is essentially poking jokes at.

5/10=Rental!!