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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Lake Bell

I Do…Until I Don’t (2017)

Marriage blows, get it?

Vivian (Dolly Wells) is a jaded filmmaker who believes that marriage is an outmoded concept that needs a reboot. Hoping to prove her theory, she begins to interview three couples at various stages in their relationships.

Even though it wasn’t a perfect movie, Lake Bell’s directorial debut, In a World…, proved that she had something more on her mind than just humor. It was a small, somewhat subtle look at women trying their best to get by, sisters trying to connect, and something of a showbiz-satire about how the men always get by, and the women are forced to stand back. It was a messy movie, but its ambitions and its cast was so likable and charming, it was hard to fully hate.

It’s why I Do…Until I Don’t feels like it’s made from somebody else entirely. Rather than being a funny, relatively heartwarming look at a bunch of different people, like her first movie was, Bell’s latest is so over-the-top, silly, and random, it almost feels like she made it on a whim. It’s as if she had been waiting so long to get a movie off of the ground, didn’t have a perfectly fresh idea in her head, but stumbled upon a bunch of money and thought that something would work anyway, regardless of how crummy the material was.

Oh man. How they’ve been in so much better.

And that’s where it all comes down to: The movie just isn’t funny.

It attempts to poke fun at marriage, its norms, and the sanctity of it all, but mostly comes down to making fun of a bunch of characters we never really get to know or care about, because they never come close to being human. They’re all goofy caricatures who are made so that Bell can set them up for whatever unfunny bits and pieces of comedy she chooses. It’s a shame to be picking on her, too, because in mostly everything I’ve ever seen her in, she’s constantly lovable and fun – but none of that shows here.

Not with her writing, her directing, or hell, especially not her acting. In fact, Bell’s performance is probably the worst as she totally over-does this character’s constant neurotic ticks, with all of the stuttering, flinching, and turning away. It’s like she’s doing a Woody Allen impersonation, but only saw one movie and decided to just roll with it. Same goes to Ed Helms as her husband here who, does what he can, but just feels like a typically dull husband who wants something more out of life and can’t quite perform in the sack. It’s actually a perfect role for Helms, but because he’s played it so many times before and there’s not much depth to this actual character, it doesn’t wholly work.

Bring back Doll & Em!

Instead, it feels like he’s slumming. And the same could be said for just about everybody else.

Dolly Wells plays the documentary film-maker who gets maybe one or two laughs, because her character seems like the voice-of-reason/bystander to all of this, but then she just ends up being a villain that the movie feels the need to bash; Amber Heard and Wyatt Cenac play a hippie-couple who are so formulaic in their ways, it already feels dated by the first instance we see of them; and Paul Reiser and Mary Steenburgen, try as they might, seem like they deserve a much better movie. They play an older couple who are running through their own little issues and trying to figure out what the other wants with their rest of their lives and it’s only here, in this one subplot, where it feels like Bell is touching at something interesting and compelling. But then, she drops the ball when she decides to focus on all of the other characters and their wild hi-jinx that, honestly, aren’t all that wild, nor all that funny.

They’re just annoying and ridiculous and it makes you wish that Bell stick with whatever sort of inspiration she had from her first flick.

Consensus: Even with a solid ensemble of likable people, I Do…Until I Don’t squanders all potential with a sitcom-y premise and even more ridiculous jokes and gags that go nowhere.

3 / 10

They’re like hippies, but in 2017. Ha! Ha!

Photos Courtesy of: The Film Arcade

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The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

As long as they aren’t watching my Netflix, they can do whatever they want.

Max (Louis C.K.) has been as spoiled of a terrier as he can remember, living and enjoying his comfortable life in a New York building with his female owner. However, all of the coziness goes away once Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a giant and unruly canine, is adopted and made out to be the new hound of the pack. Max and Duke obviously don’t get along right away, mostly due to the fact that Max’s daily routine and general life is being disrupted and all of the singular love he had come to expect from his owner, may now be pushed onto this threatening Duke. But one fateful day, when they’re on their walk, they accidentally run down to where the alley-cats are at and, all of a sudden, they’re stuck in the sewers with a rebellious rabbit named Snowball (Kevin Hart) who believes that are all humans are bad and that no animal should be held into captivity. Meanwhile, the rest of Max’s pet pals are out there searching far and wide for Max and Duke, believing that they are in harm’s way and need to be desperately back in their households before their owner comes back and worries that something is up.

Always watch those cats around grub. Or small children.

Always watch those cats around grub. Or small children.

The Secret Life of Pets is the kind of so-so animation we can come to expect when Pixar is back on their game and kicking all sorts of booty in the animation world. It doesn’t necessarily break the mold, nor does it nearly bring us all to as many tears as the Pixar flicks do – they’re appealing enough to the whole family that they’re serviceable enough. And yeah, that’s pretty much it.

And this isn’t to say that the movie is “bad” per se, it just feels like a movie that has a smart idea on its mind, and doesn’t really run to the hills with it. Instead, it sits back, goes for the easy way out and doesn’t even try to challenge the norm. Some people may be perfectly fine with this and there’s nothing wrong with that, however, when you have Pixar taking some of the same brilliant plots, going as far as they can with them, and hitting homers out of the park, left and right, then it’s kind of hard not to compare and contrast the two.

In fact, it’s downright impossible.

That’s why, for what it’s worth, the Secret Life of Pets is just another rehash of Toy Story – however, in this case, you take out the toys and replace them with pets. It’s not the most original idea out there in the world, but hey, it works because who doesn’t love pets talking, moving around, and generally being smart, eh? That’s why it’s a passable movie that doesn’t get a whole lot of mileage out of its premise, but is it bad? No, not really. However, it can feel like a wasted opportunity, especially when you take into consideration today’s generation and how in-love each and every person seems to be with their pets and all of the goofy things that they do.

Don’t believe me? Check the internet and type in “funny dog video”, or even more so, “funny cat video. The results will astound. And honestly, that’s why I believe a good portion of the Secret Life of Pets is made for; it’s not necessarily because anyone had the brightest idea in their head and just needed to get it out there, on film, for the rest of the world to see, it’s more that powers that be saw a popular trend and decided to capitalize on it. That’s not to say that there wasn’t a popular trend of people loving their pets before, but now, it seems what with the internet and video-sharing being what it is today, that it would only make sense for people to be interested in a movie about what pets do when they aren’t home to take care of them and watch over every little thing that they do.

And yeah, for awhile, that joke does well.

The Secret Life of Pets isn’t the kind of movie that aims for the fences with its jokes, or gags; a few set-pieces are actually smart and well put-together, but the payoff is less than lovely. In a way, it almost feels like the movie was set-up in a way that it could get to these certain colorful and lively places, but never really detailing them with good humor. It just all feels like some people were more inspired than others, and unfortunately, those who were more inspired, were working on the animation.

Thanks to Todd Solondz, wiener-dogs will never look the same again.

Thanks to Todd Solondz, wiener-dogs will never look the same again.

And as it is, it looks great and yes, sounds even better, too. Louis C.K. may definitely be an odd choice for a kids movie, but he fits quite well as the lively and spirited dog Max. While it’s easy to picture Louis sitting behind a mic and saying all of his lines, while simultaneously rolling his eyes at the same time, it’s also not hard to picture him enjoying the fact that people want him for these movies, even if he is kind of a racy comedian and all. Then again, so is Kevin Hart and he’s here, being funny and wild as the evil bunny. Others show up and give their voices, too, but no one is really the shining spot; the voices are recognizable, but really, they could have been filled by anyone.

So why don’t we go to those golden days of animation, huh? After all, people like Kevin Hart, Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, and Jenny Slate, among others, are going to do just fine without voice-over roles – what about Billy West? Or better yet, anyone who ever voiced a character from the old days of Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon?

Pretty sure that they’re all in need of some love and admiration that comes in the form of cold hard cash.

Consensus: The Secret Life of Pets has a nifty idea, yet, doesn’t go anywhere exciting with it, but is entertaining enough to work as a passable, if altogether, forgettable piece of animation that, unfortunately, pales in comparison to everything and anything that Pixar is doing.

6 / 10

This is where jealousy and resentment in the household begins.

This is where jealousy and resentment in the household begins.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Pride and Glory (2008)

Keep it in the family. Even corruptness.

After a bunch of his fellow cops are shot dead in what was supposed to be a drug-ring raid, Ray Tierney (Edward Norton) returns to the detective field to figure out just who killed these cops and just exactly how it all happened. And because his daddy (Jon Voight), his brother Francis (Noah Emmerich), and brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Farrell), are all apart of the force as well, it should make absolute sense that he should have no problems getting the right kind of answers he so desperately seeks. However, what Ray begins to find out, though, is that the details surrounding the killer and what happened are a bit shady. For one, nobody can find the supposed-shooter, and to make matters worse, it turns out that perhaps some brothers in blue may also be a little bit dirty. Which is expected, but there’s a possibility that these dirty cops may have been involved with the killing of the other cops, leading Ray to start questioning all of the cops around him, including his family. Obviously, they’re all appalled and shocked by Ray’s findings and accusations, but at the same time, there’s still some truth to it, and this is when everybody involved starts getting desperate and finding a clean way out of this dirty situation.

"Please tell me! Why did you get those corn-rows?!?"

“Please tell me! Why did you get those corn-rows?!?”

If you’ve seen one cop movie, generally, you’ve seen ’em all. Hardly do they ever stray away from the norm of what we’ve all come to know and expect with a cop movie, which begs the question: Why does Hollywood keep making them? Is there really any huge sell or draw in them that makes people flock out to the theaters to check them out? Or is that Hollywood can’t get over its weird affection and interest in the brothers in blue, so they still continue to make movies about them, not offering anything new or interesting to say about them, either?

Well, whatever the answer may be, Pride and Glory doesn’t really do much to make sense of it.

Although, Pride and Glory is a different kind of cop movie; for one, it’s about dirty cops, being, well, dirty and corrupt as all hell. Given today’s political climate, you’d think that this would be a hot-button topic worthy of being touched upon and prodded at, but director Gavin O’Connor doesn’t really seem interested in diving deep into that discussion. Instead, he just sort of wants to show off his dirty cops as they were; doing stuff they shouldn’t be, pointing the fingers at others, and telling lookie-loos to “mind their own business and shut their mouth”. O’Connor may have some sort of interest in what drives a seemingly normal, everyday cop, to become a drug-dealing, money-stealing baddie, but he doesn’t quite show it.

Most of the time, O’Connor allows his movie to fly-off the rails with fine actors going a tad bit over-the-top. Gifted character actor Frank Grillo is sadly the clearest example of this as his cop character, albeit a dirty one, wants absolutely each and every person in the movie to know it. It’s almost as if any and all subtlety was lost here and O’Connor told Grillo to “just have fun”, and he really did. Problem is, all of the yelling, punching, kicking, and gun-slinging doesn’t do much to help create a character, but further highlight a type that needs to be done with.

But Grillo isn’t the only one who is dialing it way, way up.

Colin Farrell is intense, doing his best De Niro impression here, but once again, his character feels like he has no rhyme or reason for breaking bad. Sure, we get the idea that maybe greed took over and he couldn’t stop himself, but we can only assume that because we never see this character actually be a good cop – we just see him as this dirty one, who can’t be trusted with anything. There’s an unpredictable nature to Farrell that he brings onto the screen each and every chance he gets, but mostly, it just ends with him yelling or acting out in some way.

Just imagine Micky Donovan, as a cop.

Just imagine Micky Donovan, as a cop.

I mean, hell, the guy almost hot irons a baby! What the hell!

Edward Norton, thankfully, dials it down a bit more and seems to actually be more interested in diving dig into his character’s psyche. Issue is, this tends to make his character feel a bit more boring and dry than he probably should, which is an even bigger shame because he’s the lead protagonist we’re supposed to stand behind, root for and spend all of our time with. Norton has solid scenes with just about everyone around him, but when it comes to pushing the story-line along, there’s a never ending sense of normality that overtakes Norton, as well as the movie and it’s hard to get away from.

By the end though, O’Connor decides to stop sitting around and let everything and everyone, within Pride and Glory, run wild.

This means that guns are shot, people are beaten-up, noses are bloodied, faces are battered, people start shouting, and out of nowhere, which was, at one point, a slow, almost meandering drama, is now this wild-and-out, action-thriller where people can’t stop beating the hell out of one another. Is it exciting to watch? Sure. Does it feel like a whole completely different movie? Oh, most definitely and it’s an issue that seems to make Pride and Glory, yet again, just another cop movie.

Although still plenty more watchable than season two of True Detective.

That’s for sure.

 

Consensus: Despite a solid cast, Pride and Glory is drenched into too many cop movie cliches and conventions to really do much, other than just mildly entertain those looking for some entertainment.

6 / 10

"We're brudders. We ain't eva gain to brake apaart."

“We’re brudders. We ain’t eva gain to brake apaart.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

No Escape (2015)

White people should just stay home, apparently.

After disappointing in the states, Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) takes his family on a business trip to a foreign country where he hopes to not only impress his wife (Lake Bell), but also get out of this work-slump that he’s been in since the recession of 2008. However, little does Jack know that the native residents of this foreign land don’t take kindly to people like Jack, nor do they take kindly to the water company that Jack represents. So, without him really knowing, Jack and his family is being targeted for representing America and its selfish, rude ways of sticking their nose into other countries’ business that they don’t need to be bothered with in the first place. While Jack, nor his wife really have any experience in kicking ass, or taking names, what they do have with them is the will to live, as well as the inspiration in making sure that their two daughters survive this hell-zone. Because even though they don’t know where to go, or even how this is all going to end, they are, most definitely, going to try and get out of this situation with a fight.

Owen Wilson. aka, All-American Daddy.

Owen Wilson. aka, All-American Daddy.

Even if it comes close to killing them.

For a good portion of its running-time, No Escape is actually a damn solid thriller. Director John Erick Dowdle starts things off nice and slowly by introducing us to these characters, the gritty, but odd scenery they’re thrown into, and lets all of the craziness happen, but doesn’t over-do it. Once Owen Wilson’s character goes out for the morning newspaper, there’s a slight chill of discomfort in the air; it’s almost as if we, yes, know that something bad is going to happen, but because Wilson’s character is such a middle-class boob and clearly has no idea what to do in the face of violence, we’re already in-suspense and waiting to see what goes down. Then, the movie focuses on what’s going on with Lake Bell’s character, her two daughters, and the hotel that they’re staying at, and instead of just being tense and somewhat fun, it’s now absolutely terrifying.

Because really, what No Escape wants to be, is a real-life thriller that makes you feel like, if you were given the same misfortune as these characters to be stuck in the same situation, that you’d have no clue what to do either. Rather than having a bunch of pre-calculated, James Bond-like ways of thinking and gadgets to save yourself from an angry hoard of killers, you’re just a simpleton who may have no actual prior experience with violence or tense situations such as these. So therefore, you have to act on intuition, as well as your gut-feeling and this can sometimes lead to the dumbest, perhaps most risky decisions you could make, but because you want to live, and want those that you love to live, too, you’re willing to do whatever it takes, no matter what.

This is perhaps the biggest fear that No Escape taps into and it’s why, for at least the first 45 minutes, it’s a solid action-thriller that puts you directly in the shoes of its protagonists and makes you actually believe that, well, this could actually happen to you.

Of course, a lot of the movie is completely far-fetched and a bit silly, but at the same time, it’s interesting to see how the movie switches the idea around of racism being against white people, and no other race or color. A lot of people have called No Escape “racist” and “ignorant” for not naming its supposed “villains”, or being more descriptive in just who it is that they represent (are they Cambodians?), but really, it’s doing something that not many other blockbusters in the same vein do and that’s focusing on white people being targeted for the color of their skin and how, no matter how hard they try, they can never be taken in as innocent.

Sound familiar?

James Bond is probably the right guy you want on your side in a situation like this.

James Bond is probably the right guy you want on your side in a situation like this.

Well, that’s because it definitely should and it makes me wonder why so much of No Escape, while occasionally smart, if anything, intriguing, also seems to fall apart. For example, the movie really wants to throw the grisly, heinous violence in our faces, which is fine, but by the same token, also wants us to see this movie as something of a cheery flick about sticking together as a unit, regardless of what trepidations stand in your way. While there’s no problem with this message to begin with, in a movie as dirty and disgusting as No Escape, it almost feels like a cheat – kind of like Dowdle himself couldn’t come up with the right tone to tie everything together.

That’s why, after a solid hour or so, No Escape starts to get, not just very silly, but very messy, trying to make sense of its violence, add some context, and most importantly, act as if it’s “important”, when in reality, it’s not. If anything, No Escape is just another shoot-em-up action-thriller, that also happens to take a ripped-from-the-headlines circumstance and give it a realistic treatment – anything added, honestly, feels unnecessary and silly. After all, this is the same movie that features Owen Wilson chucking his two daughters from one fifteen-story building to another, and hardly encountering any strength problems or injuries in the process.

Then again, it’s pretty interesting to see Owen Wilson in this kind of role and it also calls into question just how much thought may have actually gone into No Escape. While the movie could have easily cast a Jason Statham, or a Tom Cruise, or hell, even a Matt Damon in the role and act as if they’re just the everyday man pushed to the brink, the movie actually goes so far as to cast somebody as plain, ordinary, and dorky as Wilson, which works in helping it make it seem like this character has no clue what he’s getting himself into, or how to get out of it. Same goes for Lake Bell, who does get a tad annoying with her constantly pushing and bothering Wilson, but doesn’t get in the way as much.

If anything, however, the one character I’d probably like to see get his own movie is Pierce Brosnan’s Hammond, a variation on James Bond, that’s perhaps more realistic. Not only is the man wiser beyond his years, but he’s also a nice guy who can strike up a conversation about anything and generally seems to know what he’s talking about, regardless of what the topic may be. At the same time, however, there’s this idea that the guy can’t be messed with and what this does, whenever his presence is felt, makes you feel all warm, cozy and safe inside, even if you know full well, that it may not even matter.

Something we want to feel with James Bond, but come on – the guy’s too busy getting laid half of the time!

 

Consensus: One-half a surprisingly effective, if ugly-looking thriller, No Escape starts off strong, but soon dives into trying to take on a bit more than it can chew and lose itself in unexpectedness hokiness.

6 / 10

You can run, you can hide, but no matter what, there's no escape!

You can run, you can hide, but no matter what, there’s no escape!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Million Dollar Arm (2014)

Yes, citizens from other countries: Play the sport where just about everybody is injecting needles into their buttocks, just to “get ahead”.

J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) is a down-on-his-luck sports agent that’s trying to make it big, with all of the right clients, and all of the fine amounts of cash just stream-lining into his fancy office. However, it just isn’t. Instead, he’s finding himself more and more up against the walls and without a clue as to what to do next. However, one night, he gets the brilliant idea: Go to India, and a hold a contest called “the Million Dollar Arm”. From there, Bernstein and fellow other scouts would be able to find the next hot talent from India, a place that has yet to even be looked at by MLB prospects, while also gaining enough notoriety to keep Bernstein’s agency afloat and actually still heard of. Eventually, Bernstein has the competition come down to two hopeful prospects: Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma). Though Patel and Singh remain hopeful for the future, they still have no clue how to play baseball and have never left their native-land before until now. So yeah, it’s definitely a bit of culture-shock for these guys, but Bernstein thinks he’s got all of the right resources to make sure that these two do just fine in the try-outs. Because hell, even if they don’t, at least Bernstein will have enough money and fame to his name, right? Well, yeah, sure, but there’s a price you have to pay for that; a price Bernstein is about to face, head on.

It’s obvious what this movie is trying to be: Think Jerry Maguire, but with a twist of Slumdog Millionaire. And rather than their being any famous lines like, “Show me the monay!”, or, “You….complete me”, we just have a bunch of scenes where Jon Hamm acts surprised that something didn’t go his way, throws his head in his hand, and just lets the world know that even someone as handsome as him, can look gritty. You want to know how?!? By forgetting to shave for what seems to be a little bit over a week!

Okay, I get it. Now stop smiling.

Okay, I get it. Now stop smiling.

Oh, the range.

But no, in all seriousness, folks, the problem with this movie isn’t Jon Hamm – in fact, he may have been the best aspect that kept me watching – nope, it was that the film itself is so obvious and predictable, that the fact that it’s also cloying and in dire need of love and sympathy, just really pushed me over the edge. I got what this movie was trying to do: It’s trying to give us a inspired tale of fulfilling your dreams, that most of us probably have never heard of before. I sure as hell didn’t, and I think that’s what this movie wanted to tap into the most, the surprise-element that this actually happened.

The problem with the movie is that every beat it goes for and hits, can be seen from a mile away. Don’t tell me that the neighbor J.B. lives next to, who we get a brief snippet of time with in the beginning, shows up every now and again throughout the movie! Or, better yet, don’t tell me that the old, grumpy, wise-cracking character played by, you guessed it, Alan Arkin who, at first, doesn’t seem like he gives a shit at all about these kids or the sport of baseball in general, actually seems to care a lot and help J.B. out when the time comes that he needs it the most! And please, whatever you do, don’t try and tell me that J.B.’s boss also happens to be a bit of a money-grubbing, attention-loving a-hole that doesn’t care about these kids, the sport of baseball, and whether or not he and J.B. stay as business-associates!

So yeah, as you can tell, all of the plot-developments that happen here, in front of our eyes and ears, can be predicted from a mile away. However, where that usually works for some movies, because the movie itself is so pleasing and enjoyable to begin with that it predictability itself almost doesn’t matter, it doesn’t here. Mainly because it seems like the movie just us wants to love everything about it – J.B., his neighbor, the sport of baseball, India, keeping tradition, baseball scouts, smart sports-trainers, these two possible-prospects – everything about it just screams, “Love me! Love me!”. And while I was more than willing to going into this movie, during it, I just wanted them to stop pestering me and get on with the story itself.

Which, for a nearly two-hour movie, is a bit much, especially when everything can be seen coming from a mile away.

However, with most bad movies, there’s usually the cast to make things a bit better, but even most of the familiar-faces here can’t do much to help make matters a bit better. As I stated before, Hamm is fine in this role as J.B. Bernstein, although I did find it a bit hard to see him to go from “I just want my money, like NOW”, to, “You know what? This baseball stuff is silly. Let’s just love one another, man!”. I didn’t really see the transition work as well as the movie wanted me to think it did, ad I found it even more annoying that they continued to force down our throat the supposed “romance” Hamm’s character has with Lake Bell’s.

No seriously. Stop!

No seriously. Stop!

Bell plays her usual ditsy, witty and charming-self that nobody ever seems to get tired of, but here, she seems like a plot-contrivance to keep the plot moving, give us a reason to make sense of why J.B. would go soft all of a sudden, and to sympathize with these two guys from India a whole lot more. Bell tries and tries again, but the chemistry between her and Hamm just never seemed believable to me. Also, not to mention the fact that the whole angle in which Bell’s character constantly bothers J.B. through Skype, felt very tacked-on and a bit creepy. Even if the girl is Lake Bell, I wouldn’t want some gal constantly bothering me while I’m trying to do work, a couple of countries over, just to talk about the washing-machine. Like come on, woman! Give a man some privacy!

Where the cast does get a bit better is with Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal, the two actors who play these professional baseball-hopefuls from India. Both definitely seem like bright-eyed, innocent, young fellas that don’t really know what they are getting themselves into, but go through it anyway because it’s in their lap and they think, “Eh. Might as well.” Though the movie tries to cram their squeaky-clean cleanliness down our throats, these two definitely make it worth while because they just seemed that way. It didn’t matter if they smoked crack, banged hookers, or murder people when the camera’s weren’t rolling; they seemed like nice, young and pleasant-enough fellas that I wanted to see this story about them, and whether the end-result would be good or bad for them. Didn’t care about the movie their story was in, but I cared about them, and that was almost enough to keep me going. Almost.

Consensus: You can’t deny that Million Dollar Arm‘s heart is in the right place, but it wants us to know that in just about every scene, that it gets really annoying, real quick, and takes away from what could have been a really endearing, inspirational tale that we haven’t really seen before. Except for the fact that we have.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Oh, fine. I guess you guys can be happy and smile. But don't over-do it!

Oh, fine. I guess you guys can be happy and smile. But don’t over-do it!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014)

Most of the knowledge you’ll ever gain in your life comes from your dog. Screw cats!

Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) is, well, yeah, he’s a dog. But he’s a dog that’s capable of all sorts of things most dogs aren’t capable of doing: He can talk, learn, read, travel in time, dance, sing, play any instrument known to man, drive, and hell, even raise a kid. This is where Sherman comes into his life and, despite him not being a very conventional father-figure for such a young boy, decides to adopt a small boy named Sherman (Max Charles), who was left all alone in a basket one night. Peabody gets clearance from the law to adopt Sherman and be his legal-guardian, enabling him to teach him everything he knows. For the most part, Sherman an Peabody get along splendidly, however, things are going to get a bit more complicated for them now that Sherman’s going to start going to school and being around other kids, where he’ll most likely be subject to a lot of teasing and pestering. Why? Well, because all kids are evil and if your dad’s a dog, well, you’re kind of asking for it. Anyway, one thing leads to another and Sherman gets lost in time with a little ship called “The Wayback Machine”, prompting all sorts of wacky and goofy hijinx to ensue where all sorts of historical-figures get in on the action.

I’ve never watched the original Peabody animated-shorts, but from what my old man tells me, their funny. That’s all, really. That’s actually all I had to work with when it came to this movie, which is why I decided to take him and see if this movie shit all over his childhood like those horrendous Smurfs movies have done.

They aren't walking the right way. Geddit?!?!?

They aren’t walking the right way. Geddit?!?!?

Needless to say, he was pleased. But most importantly, I was as well. Which, if you think about it, is all that matters, right?

Okay! I know. I’m just kidding. Love you, daddy.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t have much high hopes going into this, and for once in awhile in a long, long time, I went in and came out unexpectedly happy. With most animated movies, they run a very fine-line to where they can be either Pixar-heavy, crying-for-days lite, or just light, ordinary, bring-your-fam-squad-out-for-a-good-time lite; very rarely does one go in between, or, even if they do try, they fail miserably. But somehow, through those creative mofo’s at DreamWorks Animation, things actually work out quite well, even if they are juggling around a bit.

See, what works so well with Peabody, is that it never tries to hammer us over the head of what message it is trying to get across. It’s quite clear that by setting this in the present day, with current themes, ideas and norms, that the movie is trying to tell us that it doesn’t matter if your guardian is a dog or a human, all that does matter is whether or not they treat you right, make you feel special, inspire you and give you all of the common-knowledge in the world that you need to know in order to grow up and be all that you can be. The movie throws that idea out every so often, but it never feels preachy, mostly because Peabody and Sherman themselves, as characters and as a father-son duo/combo/relationship/something, are so well-done that you almost forget about the whole “talking-dog-fathering-real-life-human-being”-aspect of the story. And yes, done anywhere else, that would have been creepy as hell.

I’m not going to keep myself any further from not making a mention of this, but when I saw this sequence in this movie, I knew it was the real deal. About half-way through, the movie shows us, through a sweet, heartwarming tune and various, eventful flash-backs, the life that Peabody and Sherman have built with one another. What’s so nice about it isn’t that we get to actually see how Peabody found and was able to adopt Sherman in the first place, but how much they both matter in each other’s lives, all done in a way that’s played backwards, if to show us how all of their constant time-traveling and history-learning has affected them both as people, as well as knowledgeable people. I know I’m maybe harping on this part a bit too much, but I think it deserves to be. Not only did it get me fully in-tune with the rest of this movie, but it made me tear-up like I haven’t done so in an animated movie in quite some time.

Not until, well, you know. Oh, gosh! Shouldn’t have even posted that link! Crap!

The next "white Hendrix", if there ever was one.

The next “white Hendrix”, if there ever was one.

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!

And like I said before, right after that sequence, the movie really picks up and all of a sudden, not only do we care about both Peabody and Sherman, but also the adventure they are thrown in. But the adventure only adds more to the whole story, as it not only teaches us a bit more about family-values, but also a teenie, tiny bit about history, in its own funny, pun-y way. Speaking of which, the humor may not always work, but when you have a kids flick that features at least two or three poop/fart/bathroom-jokes, and you are still able to get a laugh from yours truly, then you’re golden pony boy. The kids of course will love the jokes and just how many times people slip, fall and almost nearly die, but the parents will also be able to appreciate that there’s some humor in there for them as well, without totally abandoning the kiddies. Aka, the same type of kiddies that parents will most likely use as an excuse to see this with, just so that they can see if their childhood has just received a huge turd on its chest from a bunch of billionaires.

The parents will also be pretty darn happy to see that both Peabody and Sherman are voiced well by both Ty Burrell and Max Charles, respectively. Burrell is obviously attuned to this type of deadpan, sarcastic humor with his stint on Modern Family, and it’s clear that it doesn’t matter in what form he’s delivering it in, he’s still pretty damn funny and able to make everybody laugh. Same goes for Max Charles, sounding how a spirited, happy and energetic seven-year-old should sound like. Good job, kiddo! There’s also some other neat, little voice jobs by the likes of Leslie Mann, the almighty Stephen Colbert, Lake Bell, Patrick Warburton, Stanley Tucci, and even Mel Brooks, if you can believe that! Nice to see the man back, even if we never do see him and just hear his voice. Still, it’s better than no Mel Brooks, that’s for sure!

Consensus:  Part family-tale, part adventure, and even part history-lesson, but ultimately, Mr. Peabody and Sherman is animated-fare that’s meant for everybody, especially the parents who may be curious to see if their childhoods are ruined or not. Spoiler alert: They aren’t.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

A boy and his dog, clogging up traffic during rush-hour. But oh, the bonding.

A boy and his dog, clogging up traffic during rush-hour. But oh, the bonding.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

In a World… (2013)

Make sure to say the title the right way and don’t be such a boob.

The world of the voice-acting isn’t one that’s been particularly kind to women in the past, and for the most part, never will seem to be. However, Carol Solomon (Lake Bell) wants to change that once and for all, although it may be a tad bit difficult with her dad being the famous, highly-acclaimed Sam Soto (Fred Melamed). But, like I said before, Carol is inspired to be the first ever woman to ever narrate a trailer and she will make sure that she gets that chance, even though her father, as well as her father’s protege (Ken Marino), may sometimes get in the way of her dream. Also, Carol’s sister, Dani (Michaela Watkins), has her own dilemma of sorts, but with her marriage to Moe (Rob Corddry) and how she can’t seem to swat-away the over-bearing feelings of philandering around with this Irish guy who continues to keep on flirting with her. And yet, another story also happens to be around here in which Carol may possibly have a new boyfriend in Louis (Demetri Martin), one of the dudes who is making her dream possible. Or at least something close to that.

It’s hard to hate on a movie that’s as pleasant and joyful as this, because while there are many faults to be found here, they all mean well. For instance, one of the problems that I have with Lake Bell’s direction here is that not only does she seem to carry too much weight, even for her directorial-debut, but she doesn’t quite know what point or “message” to end on when the story’s supposedly all said, done and over with. However though, I can’t hate on that aspect too much, as each and every idea of a story that she tries to cram in here, do actually work; and in other ways, they actually add more to the movie’s overall charm that’s easy-to-like and enjoy.

They're one pair of Chuck Taylor's away from being "full-on hipster".

They’re just one pair of Chuck Taylor’s away from being “full-on hipster”.

Thus, there’s my dilemma of sorts with this movie: While at times it definitely seems to be a sweet and entertaining piece of Hollywood-fiction, it still doesn’t know how it wants to say anything that is on its mind. Maybe I’m looking a bit too far into this movie than I possibly should be, but I can only allow myself to smile for so long, up until I finally realize that there is some nastiness at the bottom of the barrel, and I found some of that here. Even despite it being made with, once again, good intentions.

Anyway though, I could rant, and rave, and go on and on and on and on about this movie without really getting anywhere, so let me try and keep my mind at ease here and get down to the basics of this movie.

For her first time not just behind the director’s chair, but behind the writer’s, as well as the producer’s, Lake Bell does an alright job at keeping up the pace with this flick to make sure that it doesn’t linger on anything too heavy, for too long, as well as not trying to be too funny, for too many instances. She actually seems like she knows a thing or two about how to give us a good gag, and have it continue on throughout the whole movie, without ever seeming like it’s already been done-to-death. For example, Demetri Martin’s character is a very nervous, twitchy guy that always ends-up saying the wrong things, at the wrong time to Bell’s character, and gives us the idea that he really likes her, but doesn’t want to seem too weird or forward with the feelings he’s trying to get across. We’ve seen this idea done a million other times, in many other comedies out there in the world, but here, it feels fresh, vibrant and fun every time it pops-up, as if Bell herself knew what people would expect with a character who’d be written like this, so she decided to spice things up a bit.

But Martin’s character isn’t the only one she does that – she practically does this for each and every character that shows up here. Even down to the smallest, tiniest role, we get a sense that Bell actually took some time out of her busy day, to give us rich, well-written and charming characters that could be the same type of people either you or I would meet at a party someday. A lot of this credit goes to the cast, but it also goes to Bell as well for at least making sure that nobody is put to waste here, nor really as one-dimensional as they could have been in a lesser movie. These characters are also the main reasons why most of this comedy works, and keeps on surprising, even at what seem to be the most random moments.

Though, like I just said, most of this comes down to what the cast is able to do with these small, unimportant characters – all of whom seemed to be in Lake Bell’s mind the first day she took her pen to a piece of paper. Even for the character she herself plays, Carol, the type of slightly off-kilter, yet smart and witty girl that we usually see movies done about, but never as charming as she is done here. I don’t know if Bell meant to do this on purpose, as to give her a role in which everybody would see the talent she truly is and was never able to show before in the numerous supporting roles she’s done, but either way, it works for her and it works for this movie. She’s funny, sweet, kind and a bit of a smart-ass when she needs to be, but only to the people that deserve it, and it makes us feel a lot more for her, even when it seems like Hollywood, as well as everybody is working against her and her voice.

I don't blame her for not being able to see that huge, silver tape-recorder located right near he right-eye.

Whatever it is that’s on that computer-screen must really grab her attention away from the big, silver block tape-recorder near her right eye.

The rest of her family-unit is pretty solid, too, with wonderful character actor Fred Melamed getting a lot of moments to shine as the cocky, slightly arrogant father that thinks he is better than anybody, all because he’s been in the business for so damn long. While he would definitely seem like the type of guy you’d automatically hate in any other movie, he’s actually very charming here and sometimes, even seems like, at one time, he was a really nice guy that loved his wife, his kids and his whole family, but has been through this hard-hitting business-world we know as Hollywood, and it’s taken quite a toll on him so far. Even the actress who plays his much-younger, strange girlfriend, Alexandra Holden, doesn’t seem like the type of annoying, obviously idiotic gold digger we tend to see a lot in these movies depicting a relationship between an older, famous guy, and a younger gal; she actually wants him to reach-out towards his kids and as a result, be a better man that she can be proud of being with in the future.

And even Carol’s sister isn’t all that bad either, it’s just that her story may be the weakest one here, and practically expendable. However, Michaela Watkins is good, as well as Rob Corddry, as they both get a chance to show that they can actually act and emote quite well when they want to. But there’s plenty more where that came from along the likes of Tig Notaro, Nick Offerman, Ken Marino, and even surprise cameo’s from both Geena Davis and Eva Longoria, with the latter even going so far as to portray herself in a light that’s actually a bit mean. But hey, she’s the one who’s doing it, so it’s not that bad, right? I guess not! Good for her! Tony Parker should be sad.

Consensus: May not stay in your mind long after it’s over, but considering how much love, fun and pleasure went into making this, I don’t think that will bother anybody who decides to check-out In a World…, especially if they want to see just who this “Lake Bell person” is all about.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

If only Lake Bell let her beard grow-out and maybe then I'd be able to buy into the notion that they're biological father and daughter.

If only Lake Bell let her beard grow-out and maybe then I’d be able to buy into the notion that they’re biological father and daughter.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

No Strings Attached (2011)

Once again, another romantic comedy about people boning without feelings.

Emotionally unencumbered and sexually satisfied, friends with benefits Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) have an open relationship that suits them just fine. That is, until those pesky little things called feelings enter the picture.

So it seems like romantic comedies have started to lose the spice they once had, so Hollywood has decided to bring it back with romantic comedies about casual sex. Love & Other Drugs hit last year, and was OK, now this, and then apparently there is some summer film with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis coming out called Friends With Benefits. Hollywood can’t get enough sex.

I don’t mind chick flicks sometimes, as long as they keep me entertained, and at least give me something to look at. This right here is not one of those chick flicks, mainly because the script is terrible. Right from the get-go, you know how this is all going to turn out and everything but that didn’t bother me as much as the fact that the screenwriters thought by looking up Urban Dictionary sex slang terms, they could bring a lot of humor. They try so hard to be funny, that at times I actually forget what was supposed to be funny and then I got that awkward feeling I rarely ever get while watching films, comedies especially.

There is also problem here because too many times does the film not know where to actually go with its tone. There are times where this film steps into some pretty raunchy stuff, like a “tunnel buddy”, but then will be try to be really cute with it’s little love story, and this just struck me as a little strange since I didn’t know what to think of this comedy as.

The cast is at least alright here. Natalie Portman does a fine job as Emma because she can be cute, sweet, but also very funny, and sort of mean altogether. Portman is a joy to watch and although this is crap compared to Black Swan, she still at least brings that general likability to her character. Ashton Kutcher is OK as Adam, and although I was expecting him to be worse, I still didn’t fully believe his performance here. However, the script really did let him down as it did with almost everyone else in the cast. There are some nice little bits here and there from the likes of Ludacris, Lake Bell, Greta Gerwig, Mindy Kaling, and Olivia Thirlby. The real problem with this cast is Kevin Kline as Adam’s dad, Alvin, who is just so cheesy sometimes, and such a dick that I had no idea what his reason to be in this film was in the first place. Also, a lumber-jack looking Cary Elwes shows up as Emma’s boss, and probably has about 3 lines the whole film, which was pretty unneeded the whole time.

Consensus: The cast tries their best with whatever they can do, but the script brings No Strings Attached down way too many notches, with it’s bad jokes, and very mushy romance that isn’t very appealing. Rent Love & Other Drugs instead.

2.5/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!