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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Nicholas Stoller

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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Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016)

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

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

Old school vs. new school

Old school vs. new school

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

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

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

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

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

College girls. They're just the devils.

College girls. They’re just the devils.

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

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

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

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

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

7.5 / 10

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

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

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

Every guy’s got that one ex-girlfriend who looks like Kristen Bell and ruined their lives.

Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) isn’t doing much with his life, really. Sure, he’s got TV star Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), as a girlfriend, but really, he just sits around the house, eating a crap-ton of cereal, getting on the piano, and slowly writing his opera to Dracula. Eventually, all of this laziness catches up to him when Sarah dumps him for rock star and pop-sensation Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). Heartbroken and without any clue as to what to do with his life, Peter decides to say screw it all and go vacation in Hawaii. After all, it’s nice, relaxing and just an all around great environment to be in, even though, when he gets there, he discovers that Sarah and Aldous are at the same resort of him, as lovey-dovey as they can possibly get. Though he automatically regrets the decision he makes, a clerk at the resort (Mila Kunis) gets Peter to stay and just enjoy the time he’s got. And yes, that’s exactly what Peter does, even if it does seem to be with her an awful lot. But still, there’s a part of Peter that no matter how hard he tries, he still can’t get over Sarah.

Oh, man up, wussy.

Oh, man up, wussy. She wasn’t even that hoooooo….okay, that’s a lie. She totally was.

You’ve got to hand it to Jason Segel for laying it all out there, literally and figuratively. Forgetting Sarah Marshall was his baby from the first stroke of the pen and it only makes greater sense that he’d be the star of it, and it actually works in the movie’s favor. Segel’s got this everyman feel to him that makes him not only likable, but downright sympathetic, even when it seems like he’s making dumb decisions, time after time again. Then again, the idea here is that because he’s so heart-broken and torn-up, he makes bad decisions by accident, not knowing what else to do.

Once again, this aspect works because it’s relatable and smart, without ever trying to be too much of, either.

At its core, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is another Apatow-lite comedy where people riff on random things for the sake of it, but this time, there’s more of a story to it all, with this one being that Segel’s character needs to get over his ex. Sure, it’s not much of a story, but it’s at least something to hold together all of the sticky pieces of improv that, yes, can occasionally bring out small, brilliant gems of comedic genius, but other times, can seem as if they’re just going on far too long and not really adding much of anything. Sure, a five-minute bit about champagne is fine and all, so long as it’s funny, but does it really need to be here?

Can it be substituted for something else more pertinent to the story? Or, can it just be taken out altogether?

The only reason I bring any of this up is because Forgetting Sarah Marshall is nearly two hours and can certainly feel like it. While we’re in the dawn and age where it’s virtually impossible that any movie, let alone a big-budgeted, mainstream comedy will be under two hours, there’s still something to be said for a movie when its short, but sweet and tight enough to where you don’t feel like you’re strained by the end. And no, I am not saying I was “strained” by Forgetting Sarah Marshall‘s end, but more like I was left with a lot of laughs, a rag-tag story that tried to hold everything together, and a better understanding that as long as you find another attractive person to kiss and bang, don’t worry, you’ll get over that attractive person you used to kiss and bang.

Catfight! Catfight!

Catfight! Catfight!

Okay, maybe it’s not nearly that cynical, but you get my drift: The message is as simple as they come, but it still works because the feeling of heartbreak is, unfortunately, for so many out there, universal. Everyone’s experienced it at least once in their life, whether they like to admit it or not, and even though the film likes to poke jokes at the idea of not being able to function in society after a break-up, it’s still very much a reality. Sometimes, the world around you just doesn’t make perfect sense, but because you know you have to be happy and move on, even if you don’t feel it at all, you still have to push yourself further and further to get to that point. Segel flirts with this idea and while he doesn’t fully go for it all, he still brings it up in a way that made me think it was more than just your average studio-comedy.

Because, yes, despite the wonderfully wacky, but charming performances from the likes of Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, and of course, Paul Rudd, amongst many others, the fact that Forgetting Sarah Marshall addresses sadness, love, heartbreak, and the feeling of remorse in an honest, but funny way, made me think of it a lot differently than I used to. Segel may or may not be working through some demons with this work here, but whatever the case is, his heart shines through and it’s nice to see someone take their script as passionately as it should be taken as.

It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s a blast to watch.

Consensus: In need of a trim or two, Forgetting Sarah Marshall can definitely feel a tad overlong, but still benefits from lovely and funny performances from the whole cast, as well as a smart script that goes beyond what you expect a studio comedy to be all about, even if it totally turns into that.

7.5 / 10

Hey remember the talk show this guy had? Me neither.

Hey, remember the talk show this guy had? Me neither.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Neighbors (2014)

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

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

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

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

Ugh. Like LAME.

Ugh. Like LAME.

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

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

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

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

So, yeah, ANYWAY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Not my house. Ever.

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Five-Year Engagement (2012)

Just wait for Russell Brand to ruin this chick, too.

The Five-Year Engagement is a romantic comedy following Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) as their relationship becomes strained from the continued delays of their wedding an prolonged engagement.

When you get a movie that seems like it’s going to be a mixture of something from Bridesmaids (producers),  Forgetting Sarah Marshall (director), and straight-up Judd Apatow (also producer) comedy, you would think think that this would be laugh out loud funny, right? Ehhh, who knows!

Director Nick Stoller does do what he does best; and that is, keep the laughs going even when the plot seems like it’s starting to float away. There’s definitely a great sense of improv here, which is what makes this cast so damn good; but regardless of whether or not this film’s jokes were actually written, I still laughed many more times here than I did with Stoller’s last flick. Yes, I know a lot of people praise Get Him to the Greek as if it was his end-all, be-all masterpiece, but I guess I’m just not with you on that one.

I also thought that it was cool to see this premise go down and show us something about two people in love, which is something I haven’t seen much in flicks that are about a happy-happy couple such as this. The film shows what it’s like for two people to be together and less of how easy it is to love the other person for all that they are, but at the same time gets into how hard it is to be happy for that other person when they’re doing the things that they’re doing as you’re in total and complete misery. I know this isn’t anything that’s necessarily ground-breaking or inventive to talk about, especially when you talk about half of the rom-coms that have come out within the past 10 years, but it’s still a subject/theme that is done very well here, and I don’t think you see too much of that in rom-coms nowadays.

However, that theme, along with a lot of the jokes, seem to somehow get lost in the shuffle of this 2 hour and 4 minute movie. It seems like every rom-com lately has started to fall into this path where they aren’t just about being a funny, romantic movie, but they also have to have a huge deal of drama in it too, just so it can even things out. The film seems very disjointed in parts, as it was more just a bunch of sketches put together, but they were still funny enough to hold me over and get past it. But by last couple of acts where the film shows Violet and Tom’s relationship starting to crumble down, the film starts to get a bit darker and focus more on the sadness these two have away from each other, rather than focus on some cool moments of comedy. It’s actually a big downer when these two aren’t together because not only does it take a lot of steam out of the comedy, but the idea of these two being perfect for each other is uprooted as well.

Also, did I mention that it’s a 2 hour and 4 minute movie?!? Only Judd Apatow can do comedies like that people so stop trying to hop all over that skill cause it ain’t happenin’, ight? I don’t know why I started talking like that but I guess I got so much love for my homeboy Judd Apatow, I had to back him up. Anywhoo, back to what I was talking about…

Another quibble I had with this flick was that since the film shows 5 years passing, you would think that these characters would change or look a bit older in anyway, but instead, the movie feels more like it’s happening in about 5 months rather than 5 years. Tom gets a caveman beard and Violet gets bangs later on, but other than that, nothing else really changes between these characters and they all sort of just stay the same without any difference in change, look, or act. Then again, not every person in the world needs to change every single day that goes by, but 5 years is a pretty long time.

What I can say about the pairing of Emily Blunt and Jason Segel is that they both have obvious chemistry and use it well with the surprisingly slim amount of scenes they get together. Segel plays more of the straight-man role and Blunt pretty much plays his somewhat goofy, psychiatrist honey and both display a lot of fun working together on-screen, but the film shows more scenes of them apart than together. I wish the film focused more on them just hangin’ out, goofin’ off, or just simply being a loving couple, rather than just worrying they’re going to go next with their relationship and whether or not they’re going to work out. Just be happy and loving you damn kids! Even though you are both older than me!

But since a lot of these scenes are dedicated to what’s going on around these two, the film gets to show more scenes with its awesome supporting cast. Chris Pratt (who looks like Patrick Wilson, if he just got back from an all-you-can-eat buffet) is hilarious as Tom’s bro-bro and steals just about every scene he has; and I probably would have liked to see a whole film dedicated to just him and his wife, Suzie, aka Violet’s sister, aka the hilarious and very sexy Alison Brie. Rhys Ifans is pretty slimy but good as Violet’s charismatic supervisor, Winton Childs. And there are so many others here that are worth mentioning but it’s really just such a huge supporting cast that it’s really hard to name them all.

Consensus: The tone may be a disjointed, the laughs may not be constant, and the run-time may be about 30 minutes too long, but The Five-Year Engagement still entertains enough with it’s very funny laughs, and it’s charming leads, that are backed by an amazing supporting cast that steals the scenes almost every chance they get.

6.5/10=Rental!!