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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Rob Huebel

The House (2017)

Cautionary tale?

Scott and Kate Johansen (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) have been planning their whole lives for their daughter’s moment she goes off to college. However, when the scholarship money falls though, they have to think of something and something quick, which eventually involves their close buddy Frank (Jason Mantzoukas). In other words, they put their brains together and think of something so crazy, so barbaric, and so insane, that hell, it just might work. That’s right, an underground casino where adults from all over the little town can come together, get wild, get crazy, throw money at the walls, and have a grand old time, as if they were young, free and without any damn responsibilities anymore. The only issue is that, for Scott, Kate, Frank, and well, everybody else, they are old and have something resembling responsibilities, making this casino a much more dangerous and scary place than any of them ever wanted it to become.

Homage to Scorsese? Or once again, just improv? Who knows.

It’s crazy to think a comedy starring two of the best, funniest, and brightest talents in the game, with plenty others surrounding them, would come and land with an absolute thud like the House did, but unfortunately, that’s what happened. It wasn’t screened for critics, it was barely advertised, and oh yeah, it didn’t really do well at the box-office, even despite both Ferrell and Poehler still being draws. What happened?

Well, the short is that it’s not a very good comedy.

But the long is that it’s just like every other studio comedy out there made in the world in that it features barely any story, cohesion, or interesting-writing, but instead, features a bunch of funny, incredibly talented people, just making everything up as they go along. Normally, I’d be disappointed with this, but considering that we literally just got the same thing a few weeks ago with Rough Night, it’s hard to really expect much else; without having to actually put any thought or effort into how these movies play-out, how the jokes build, and eventually, play out, the general idea is that you get a bunch of funny people around, put a camera in front of them, film, and let the magic happen.

Magic can occasionally happen in cases such as these and even in the House, there are some slight glimmers of true fun comedy. But the issue is that the laughs and fun happen so very few and far between one that, even at 80 minutes, it still feels like a stretch. Hell, you’d think that with such a short movie to begin with, that we wouldn’t have to sit through much and make this feel like more of a slog, but somehow, that’s exactly what happens. And yes, it’s exactly what happens when you don’t really put much of any effort into anything, other than getting a solid cast of funny people together.

Then again, maybe I’m putting too much thought into a movie like the House.

Children. They’re the future and why we do the crazy shit that we do.

Then again, maybe I’m not. Maybe I just appreciate it when a movie with as funny and as promising as a premise as the House, actually delivers on not just the funny, but also the promise, and gives us a, get this, a solid comedy. It doesn’t have to change the world, it doesn’t have to break down any barriers, and it sure as hell doesn’t have to be perfect – all it has to do is be funny and feel like it was at least written more than half-way through. The House doesn’t feel like that, though, and it not only suffers because of it, but so does everybody else, too.

And yes, this is to say that Poehler, Ferrell, Mantzoukas, and so many other well-known, talented and reliably funny people here who show up and give it their all, are indeed funny, but at times, it can’t help but feel like their talents are being wasted. Literally, not a single one of them play an actual character that makes sense, or at the very least, works in this movie’s small world; sometimes, even the bittiest kind of character-development can go a long way into helping us realize just why a person is why they are and why watching them is so funny to begin with. It’s simple movie-writing 101 and honestly, I shouldn’t even have to state this, but unfortunately, movies like the House exist and continue to come out, therefore, making it all the more understandable to bring up why a script matters.

Even for, yes, a comedy.

Consensus: Although everyone tries and can occasionally be funny, the House doesn’t live up to the promise of its premise, nor does it really have all that many laughs to help guide along its incredibly short 80-minute run-time.

4.5 / 10

What? Is there anything else you ought to do with money?

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

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Keanu (2016)

Cat people can relate.

Recently dumped by his girlfriend and without much of a reason to live, Rell (Jordan Peele) seems to spend most of his days crying, smoking a ton of pot and not even attempting to get over his ex. His cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key), on the other hand, seems to be just fine with his life, where he’s got a wife (Nia Long) that loves him and a daughter that is fine enough with him, too. Eventually though, Rell finds some happiness when a cute kitten winds up on his doorstep and he starts to grow closer and closer to it, forging a loving and adoring friendship in which Rell learns about love all over again. But somehow, his cat, who he names “Keanu”, gets stolen by a band of thieves, which leaves Rell and Clarence with nothing else to do other than go out there and search for it. After all, Clarence’s wife and daughter are gone for the weekend, so what else are they going to do for the next few days? When the two do eventually find Keanu, they realize that he’s under the ownership of a notorious and dangerous drug-dealer by the name of Cheddar (Method Man) who mistakes them for two bad-ass, evil gun-slingers. Eventually, the two go along with it long enough to where they’re taking up new identities and getting involved with all sorts of crime, all for the sake of getting Keanu when all is said and done.

Get a gun, get gangster.

Get a gun, get gangster.

A lot of people will get on the case of Keanu because it’s not nearly as funny, or as smart as everything that Key & Peele have done. Sure, that’s already a lot to live up to in the first place, but you’d think that with literally the same team behind this one, that the same line of hilarity and genius would be drawn and would just add to the overall spectacle of this movie and make us realize why them letting their show end was such a smart move in the first place. But no, that’s not what happens.

And you know what? That’s actually fine.

Because, for what it’s worth, Keanu doesn’t set the comedy world on fire, nor does it need to. Sure, Key and Peele have been way funnier and smarter before, but with Keanu, it seems like their sole purpose is to attack a full-feature length, big-budget flick, see what works, see what doesn’t, move on, and continue doing what they do best. If you look at Keanu as a practice-round for both Key and Peele, then yes, it’s a very impressive one, because it’s not just a pretty funny movie, but one that has a thing or two to actually say about race.

But then again, maybe not. Maybe Key and Peele just wanted to make a funny comedy, not try to be too serious, or try to get preachy, and instead, just make the audience laugh at what they’re setting out to do. If that was their goal, then yes, mission accomplished because Keanu, for a good portion of itself, does a lot of funny things. Scenes where it just seems like Key, Peele and the rest of the cast are just making stuff up as they go along, with little rhyme or reason, surprisingly works and adds a bit of a fun flair to Keanu that may not have been too present in the first few minutes. What could have been a very annoying hour-and-a-half movie of a bunch of people riffing off one another because they don’t have much of a script to work with, surprisingly works when you least expect it to.

Sure, the idea that these two characters are playing-up the whole “gangster” look and feel may get a tad old for some, but it didn’t for me.

I don’t know what this says about me – either I really like comedy aimed at making fun at the whole “gangster” lifestyle, or I was just in a good mood – but regardless, Keanu is a funny movie. It’s hard to really go on and on about a comedy movie that sets out to do something, delivers on that promise and doesn’t ask for you to remember tomorrow, next week, or ever. All that it wants from you is to enjoy it and laugh at it while you can. Take away all of the things we know and love Key and Peele for from their show, and you won’t be hitting yourself over the head by how Keanu is just a fine, if pretty funny movie.

Get it? Instead of "Cheese", it's "Cheddar". Hm. I wonder if Key and Peele have ever watched the Wire?

Get it? Instead of “Cheese”, it’s “Cheddar”. Hm. I wonder if Key and Peele have ever watched the Wire?

The movie may try to parody John Wick to some extent, but doesn’t really get that far, or seem all that interested in addressing that idea, just like it doesn’t know what it wants to say about the gangster lifestyle and the people that live or die by it. In fact, you may be surprised by the attention to heart and detail the movie puts into its smaller characters, in which every member of this “gang”, all have their own little backstories and personalities that eventually come into play later on, and it helps make this movie seem like so much more than just your average comedy.

Even if, yes, it totally is.

But that’s okay. Key and Peele are fine and smart enough to know that if they don’t strike gold here, they still have plenty of opportunities to do so in the near-future. As actors here, they both do fine; Peele plays up his slacker-bro, whereas Key has some of the funnier moments as the stiff who turns out to be the most hardcore and sinister of the two when he has to. It’s ordinary roles for these two guys and just like the movie, they’re all fine with it. They’re just here to make us laugh and that’s fine.

Maybe next time, however, try a tad harder, fellas.

Consensus: Despite not reaching the comedic heights their show was able to hit episode-after-episode, Keanu still features an assured, if funny piece of comedy from the minds of Key and Peele, that may play more as an experiment, rather than a fully completed piece. But still, that cat is cute as hell.

7.5 / 10

Kitties always save the day. Until they pull a knife on you and slit your throat at night. What? I've heard of it happening before.

Kitties always save the day. Until they pull a knife on you and slit your throat at night. What? I’ve heard of it happening before.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Hip Hop DX, Movie News Plus

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)

Boning Keira Knightley would probably be on my list of things to do if the world was going to end in three weeks.

Set in a too-near future, a man searches for a meaningful connection as humanity’s last days are at hand. Can he find his greatest love at the worst possible time? As the respective journeys of Dodge (Steve Carell) and Penny (Keira Knightley) converge, the two spark to each other and their outlooks – if not the world’s – brighten.

I really do like this idea. What would you do, if you knew you only had 21 days to live? Would you have endless sex? Get drunk all of the time? Commit suicide? Party it up like no other? Tell off people you have always wanted to tell off? Rekindle with an old flame? Find love one last time? Or just sit there and go on through your day, as if nothing happened? Honestly, I don’t know what I would do except maybe watching all of my favorite movies one last time. This won’t be one of them.

This is the debut from writer/director Lorene Scafaria, and it’s a pretty good one, too considering she is the chick he wrote Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, a movie that made me want to kill all NYC indie bands in existence. That’s why I’m afraid to go to New York, because I know that if I do step somewhere in that city and I hear an indie band, murder will happen. OK, that’s actually not the reason but you get the drift, I didn’t like that movie but I like this one and I think that’s because Scafaria starts this movie out pretty well with a lot of humor.

There’s a lot of goofy stuff that happens in the first half, where we see how all of these people react to the apocalypse differently, like a bizarre-o restaurant called “Freindsies” that starts out with a happy birthday song, and then ends in an orgy that almost comes out of nowhere. Definitely think of that next time I go to Hooters for my b-day celebration. Then there’s also another scene where we see Penny and Dodge get picked up by some random dude, only to find out that he has hired a hitman to kill him. Pretty funny stuff altogether but underneath all of the humor, there lies a very sad darkness and eventually, it comes up from out of nowhere which was good for this film, but also bad.

What I did like about this total shift in tone was that Scafaria gives this trip between Penny and Dodge, some real development so that when these two eventually do “fall in love” it’s earned and feels like something that’s meant to happen, much like the end of the world. That’s another aspect of this movie that kept me going throughout, the fact that there was two ways this movie could have ended. It was a comedy after all, so there could have been a sucker-punch ending where Scafaria decided that the world wasn’t really going to end and all of these people have to live with the dumb mistakes they have already made. But then again, going with the actual doomsday coming around is more logical and it seems like at one point that Scafaria is going to go for it and totally wipe out the whole planet of Earth. I won’t give away what ending she does end up with, but it had me glued to the screen until the credits rolled.

However, as funny as this film could have been at times, the dramatic stuff does come on a little too strong, giving the film an uneven tone. The first half, as I have already mentioned, is pretty damn funny with a whole bunch of wacky situations to how people would act when the end of their days is coming up. But once the film starts to unravel and the idea that everybody will actually die starts to set in, things start to get more and more melancholy and sad. Honestly, I get that you can’t have a film about the nearing apocalypse and have it be funny the whole way through, but this shit ends up getting depressing. Really, the last hour or so barely had any laughs whatsoever and even though before that, it wasn’t the funniest thing known to man, it still put a smile on my face and made me happy. Really, you couldn’t have done this film any differently with it’s tone than Scafaria already did, but it feels like Funny People, where it’s like two different films stuck together. Some of this stuff was touching though, so I can’t be too harsh on it.

Actually, the main reason this flick was so touching was because of the odd pairing of Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. These two actually make a good romantic couple together, even though the age difference between them is a big turn-off for most people, myself included, but I guess that’s the point of them and why they’re together. These two would have never hung-out if the world was still the same, but because of this coincidental circumstance, they end up being the only person they’d much rather spend their last few days alive with.

Carell is doing that sad-sack character again here, but still works well especially when he has to play a character that is still so sad from the fact that his wife and everything else he knows, has left him. Whereas Knightley is playing a lively and full-of-life character, but still shows that she has some sad emotions to her as well. Knightley is great in this role and shows that she actually has some comedic chops to her as well, but it’s the fact that we are able to care for her character as much as Carell’s is and that’s where I think the real beauty of this film lies. The pairing of these two may be odd, but it’s also somewhat inspired and shows that if you have an inspired premise, inspired writing, and inspired characters, then it all can work out in the end. That is…until the world blows up. Then, that’s when things don’t work out.

Consensus: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is funny, tender, well-acted by its leads, and has its heart in the right place, but also features a big tonal shift about halfway through that makes it feel like two different movies, wrapped up into one, big apocalyptic nightmare.

6.5/10=Rental!!

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (2012)

Getting knocked up sucks but I guess the sex is fun, right?

This is a look at love through the eyes of five interconnected couples experiencing the thrills and surprises of having a baby, and ultimately coming to understand the universal truth that no matter what you plan for, life doesn’t always deliver what’s expected.

Once again, Hollywood has decided to give us a whole slew of stars and jam them into one rom-com. However, it’s not as bad as New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day and Gary Marshall isn’t direction so that’s good, right?

Going into this flick, I wasn’t expecting much (pun), probably because I’m a dude and dudes don’t care about all of that pregnant ish except for if the baby is theirs or not. Hate to say it, but it’s true fellas. But I was pleasantly surprised by this flick and I think a lot of that has to do with director Kirk Jones‘ way of giving every story a purpose of their own. I’m glad that this flick focused more on one certain issue to connect all of these characters with, rather than just one day or some stupid holiday, but I’m also glad that the flick didn’t really fall into the pit-falls of absolute cheese that most of Marshall’s did. Each story has their own bits and pieces of humor, but they also have some heart to it that sometimes feels fake, and other times doesn’t. It’s definitely a mixed bag here but I think I’m just going to go off and talk about each of the stories individually, rather than focusing on all of them at the same time. Let’s see what I can do here.

1) The one story between Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford, was a story that was interesting at first, then continued to lose more and more steam as it went along. The whole idea of these two having a one-night stand and wondering whether or not they’re a good fit for the other, is a pretty interesting story in and of itself, but whenever the flick focuses on it, it starts to become a major downer and just took my mind off of it more and more. It’s the one story that doesn’t go the obvious route, but that wasn’t really a good thing considering how the film handled it. Crawford doesn’t seem like he’s better than this material, but Kendrick does and that’s what really sucks to see because this damn chick was nominated for an Oscar about 3 years ago! Come on Anna!

2) The other story about Cameron Diaz hooking up with her reality show dance partner, played by Matthew Morrison, is not necessarily a downer as it’s more just bland and uninteresting every time it’s up on-screen. Diaz is a reliable actress when it comes to comedy, but Morrison seems so damn stiff with her on-screen that he makes it seem like he’s scared to be around her. Then again, I would be too, considering all they do throughout this flick is bicker and fight about stupid shit. Maybe this is how real-life couples act whenever one in the relationship is pregnant, but here, they almost never seem stop and it’s a real wonder as to how the hell these two will do when they have to worry and care about another life. Glad they weren’t my parents and it would suck even more considering I still have a chance with Diaz. I know it. She knows it. We all know it. The chick just has to come to her senses, that’s all.

3) Another story that was pretty lame was between Jennifer Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro, who both play a couple that can’t have a baby, so they decide to adopt one from Ethiopia. Lopez is good, but seems like she was trying too hard to gain some laughs and Santoro also seemed very stiff every time he was around. Actually, I think the problem with his performance is that I couldn’t really understand him all that much with his Spanish accent that makes him sound like he is just learning English. Then again, maybe he is and maybe I’m just a dick. This story is also a downer and one I didn’t really care about but got so much better whenever they focused on Santoro hanging out with the “Dudes Group” with Rob Huebel, Thomas Lennon, Amir Talai, and Chris Rock as the leader of the park. Every time these guys were on-screen, I always laughed and that’s mainly because of Chris Rock. This guy always, no matter what flick he’s in, shows that he can get at least one laugh out of the crowd before the camera goes black (another pun intended), and even though he’s confined in PG-13 territory here, he still delivers on all of the laughs. Funny stuff with these guys but I just wish they did more of that and eliminated the whole J-Lo story altogether.

4) Probably my favorite story out of the whole flick, and maybe even the one that’s worth the price of admission alone, was the one with Elizabeth Banks and Ben Falcone, who play a couple that seems to be really struggling with pregnancy because of Banks’ hormones going up-and-down all of the damn time. Both of these stars are hilarious throughout this whole flick and made me laugh with everything they did, whereas about 5 other stars from this cast probably would have made me jump off of a bridge by how hard they tried. Banks is always reliable when it comes to comedy, but it’s Falcone who really surprised me as he showed he had great comedic timing (something else that I saw from him in Bridesmaids) and could make you care for his character just by being the sweet guy. These two have great chemistry together and easily won my heart over. Whenever they introduced the story-line between Falcone’s dad, played by Dennis Quaid, and his much-younger wife (Brooklyn Decker), I also laughed even though I think they forced the whole “dad and son are constantly in competition” thing a little too much but it still worked because Quaid and Decker both have fine comedic timing. This story was the best and even when it gets into dramatic territory by the end, it surprisingly worked which was something I wasn’t expecting from a movie like this at all.

Consensus: What to Expect When You’re Expecting is a very passable flick with some moments of genuine comedy and heart, but also isn’t very original in the way it offers a look at pregnancy and all of the problems that come along with it. My idea: get rid of every story, except for Banks and Falcone’s story, combine that with the “Dudes Group”, and keep the father angle with Quaid and Decker, and you got comedy gold. Or at least something that’s ten times better than those Gary Marshall flicks.

6/10=Rental!!