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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Sarah Silverman

The Book of Henry (2017)

And what an odd book that is.

Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) is a lot like every other 11-year-old-kid out there in the world. He’s awkward, a little weird, sometimes quiet, nice, sweet, and oh yeah, brilliant-as-hell. In fact, he’s maybe a bit too smart for his own good and at times, that finds him not just getting into trouble with people who could possibly be his friend, but even his own family. Although, both his mother, Susan (Naomi Watts), and little brother, Peter (Jacob Tremblay), love him immensely, they also know that he can be a bit much. They also know that his brain is so huge, with such an insane amount of knowledge, that they actually use it to their advantage; her, for help on the stocks and how to save money, and him, for emotional support through these rough times of growing up. But something changes in all of their lives that not only affects Henry especially, but all the other people around them, leaving the family to make some drastic, almost disastrous decisions.

If you thought one annoying precocious kid was bad enough……

A part of me wants to absolutely and totally annihilate the Book of Henry for being a ridiculously messy, uneven, weird, sometimes way-too-stupid-for-its-own-good take movie about growing up, learning who you are, death, and oh yeah, child-abuse, or more importantly, rape. However, there is another part of me that wants to praise it and, at the very, absolute least, respect it for going all-out on a plot that could have been absolutely cookie-cutter and derivative of everything we’ve ever seen done before and taking risks, chances, and certain unpredictable roads, even if yeah, they don’t quite work out. But then, there’s that middle part of me that doesn’t know what to think, say, or hell, even believe in.

After all, if a movie as muddled and as nutty as the Book of Henry can, for at least an-hour-and-a-half, entertain me and sort of surprise me, yet, at the same time, still feel way too weird, than what’s that say about me? I do like bad movies? Do I give them a pass just because they try something different? Or, am I just too broken down and beaten-up by the everyday, conventional blockbusters that are pushed in front of my face that, when something comes to me, from someone, somewhere, regardless of how messy it is, still makes me think and expect something different, that I just have to accept it for what it is and yeah, possibly even like it?

Once again, I don’t know what to think.

A movie like the Book of Henry is challenging. Not because it’s an altogether deeply confusing, or hell, even psychological movie, but more that it’s the kind of movie that doesn’t know what to make of itself so, as a result, the viewer is left with the same feeling. Director Colin Trevorrow, after breaking all sorts of records with Jurassic World two years ago, seems to have gotten carpe diem for the Book of Henry and in a way, is allowed to make this movie as crazy and as weird as he wants. Screenwriter Gregg Hurwitz does deserve some credit for trying something new and, dare I say it, intriguing with the YA genre of films, but even he, at certain points, seems like he’s losing all control.

Which is to say that the Book of Henry, in all honesty, isn’t a good movie; it’s tone is so over-the-place, with a plot that continues to get wackier and wackier, and a silly twist that happens midway through, it’s just not that easy to say it totally works out. If anything, it misses the ball, more than it actually connects with it and because of that, it’s hard to fully recommend this movie to anyone, or hell, even for myself.

…try two!

But like I said, it’s definitely an original. Whether or not that originality works out for itself, or bites its own ass in the end, is a whole other matter to decide on. But Hurwitz and Trevorrow clearly try to make this work as much as they can; Trevorrow constantly keeps the plot moving and Hurwitz, while mostly getting stuck with idiotic lines for precocious 11-year-olds only seen and/or conceived in movies, does try and juggle some things that you’d never expect one to do, yet, sort of respect.

But yeah, like I said, the movie’s just sort of all-over-the-place.

For some reason, however, it still kept me watching. Every opportunity it had to bother me and piss me off to the highest of the heavens, it still brought me back in with trying to figure itself out and go somewhere I did not at all expect it to. It’s the kind of movie that takes some many odd chances on telling its story, seeing just where the hell it can go, stepping back, and eventually, just throwing everything at the wall, that it’s much more interesting to watch than, well, actually entertaining. But hey, if having your mind stimulated while watching big-budgeted movies is entertaining to you, then hell yeah, you’re going to probably the enjoy the hell out of the Book of Henry.

But then again, probably not. I myself am still not sure. And I just reviewed it.

I think.

Consensus: By taking so many risks that so few little movies of its magnitude and well, budget, actually do nowadays, the Book of Henry deserves some kudos for going out on a limb and trying something new, even if it just never coheres together well. Like, at all. So yeah, it’s a mess.

5.5 / 10

And a middle-class, waitress mom who spends her leisurely time playing, guess this, video-games! Naomi Watts, ladies and gentlemen!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)

Every person who has ever picked up a musical instrument – look out!

Childhood friends Conner (Andy Samberg), Owen (Jorma Taccone) and Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer) were all set to rule the music world when they jumped onto the scene as the hip-hop group, the Style Boyz. They had clever, catchy tunes, that also earned them lots of respect in the rap-game, and made them one of the highest sellers of their time. However, as with most big and successful bands, there was a lot going on beneath the surface and eventually, the band broke up. After the break-up, Conner and Owen went on to stay together, with the later as a DJ playing for the former, who was now known as “Conner4real”. Of course, Lawrence faded into obscurity, almost to never be heard of again, while Conner is literally living out the life of an absolute and bonafide star. But as usual with these kinds of tales, when you’re on top for so long, eventually, you’re going to come crashing down real, real hard.

I think we all know who Andy Samberg's #1 fan actually is...

I think we all know who Andy Samberg’s #1 fan actually is

A movie like Popstar doesn’t deserve to bomb as hard as it did at the box office. It’s understandable that parody/satire flicks aren’t everyone’s cup of Joe and it’s definitely understandable that only a few share of people actually know who, or what kind of creative genius’ the Lonely Island actually are, but still. People out there in this world should have known better and understood that these are the kinds of movie that deserve to be made, should be made, and ought to make a whole bunch of money, because, well, that means more movies such as these.

Then again, I didn’t see the movie in theaters, but still. It’s the principle, people!

Anyway, what works best about Popstar is that yes, it’s the Lonely Island doing what they best; yes, they already had their film-outing with Hot Rod, however, that wasn’t nearly as much as their film as this is. All of the weird and eccentric tendencies of that movie, come out in full-form here where it seems like no matter how hard they try, the Lonely Island guys can’t seem to stop getting lost in their own wild, sometimes screwed-up imaginations. Some scenes go on longer than they should and the comedy just continues to draw itself out, but that’s sort of the point; these guys find the smallest, most intricate bits of comedy that work and they run wild with it until it’s dead in the ground and can’t go on any longer.

But then, they find more and more ways to keep it running. It’s hard to explain here because the movie is so littered with odd-ball jokes and gags throughout, most of which, yes, actually do deliver their laugh-out-loud moments. Bits with an over-exaggerated TMZ parody are downright hilarious; a few songs that actually mock Macklemore are pure things of genius; and even a small gag involving Conner’s “get-up” to hide himself in the public, still has me laughing. It’s not ground-breaking bits and pieces of comedy, but they’re still bits and pieces of comedy that had me howling while I was watching them, while also making me chuckle thinking about them long after.

Palms are sweaty. What? Too obvious of a riff?

Palms are sweaty. What? Too obvious of a riff?

And that, my friends, is when you know you have an effective comedy on your hands.

Of course, the movie isn’t totally perfect. Because it’s a parody flick and not the most sincere piece of storytelling, the times where it does get somewhat serious, don’t necessarily work and it’s because of that reason alone, the middle-act doesn’t flow quite as well as the first and last. It’s hard to describe without having seen the movie, but it’s just a feeling I got while watching the movie; the jokes still hit and made their marks, but they were much more stretched out and in service of a plot that seemed to take a halt for some weird reason.

But then, thankfully, the movie gets back on-track and everything’s back to normal in the final-act, where the jokes continue to fly and the songs get even better. And honestly, it’s hard to do wrong with the Lonely Island when it comes to their jams; they’re well-written, perfectly performed, and actually, believe it or not, meaningful. Sure, a good portion of them are just joke songs about dicks in boxes and whatnot, but a good portion of them do make fun of the entertainment world and the whole idea of what makes a celebrity that it makes them more than just a smart, intellectual jokesters.

Even though that’s exactly what they are.

And with Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer, they’re all perfect here. The movie only really relies on Samberg, which is fine, because he’s still good as Conner, playing up this sort of act, then having to break it all down/ But really, Popstar works best when it’s just allowing for random people to show in, sometimes up off the streets, add a little bit of their own flavor and charm, and remind us more and more that this is in fact a group effort of humor. Will Arnett, Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Maya Rudolph, Mike Birbiglia, Bill Hader, Chelsea Peretti, Imogen Poots, Justin Timberlake, and so many others all pop-up, do their things and yes, are actually funny. It’s surprising to get a movie with so many high-profile cameos and yet, have just about each and everyone of them be just as funny as the last one to come through.

It makes you wonder what Judd Apatow could work on.

Consensus: As a satire on the music-biz, Popstar is biting, but also pretty damn hilarious, featuring some of the best and most catchiest songs from the Lonely Island.

8 / 10

Unfortunately, the holograms will never end.

Unfortunately, the holograms will never end.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

 

School for Scoundrels (2006)

Just go out there and try to make it, fellas. What’s the worst that could happen?

Roger (Jon Heder) is a pushover New York City meter maid who can’t score at his job or with his attractive neighbor, Amanda (Jacinda Barrett). He’s basically a lovable loser, but a loser nonetheless. A close friend of Roger’s suggests that he go to a self-help class run by the angry Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton), who teaches lessons about self-esteem to the biggest losers in the city. There, Roger develops his inner-beast and sooner than later, starts charming the socks off of Amanda. However, while this may be good for Roger, it’s also bad for him, as Dr. P doesn’t like competition, and definitely enjoys taking people down, especially classmates of his. That’s why Roger is absolutely horrified and pissed that Dr. P starts taking Amanda off of his hands and for his own good, making up all sorts of lies and stories about who he really is. Roger may not like this, but knowing what he knows about himself now, is more than up to the task of taking down Dr. P once and for all, and when all is said and done, possibly get the girl of his dreams.

"Nice to meet you. Now let's get this damn movie over with. New CSI is on tonight."

“Nice to meet you. Now let’s get this damn movie over with. New CSI is on tonight.”

Say what you will about what Todd Phillips’ career has turned-out to be, but back in the day, before 2006, he was quite a hot and very interesting commodity. After making two controversial documentaries (Hated, Frat House), one concert flick (Bittersweet Motel), and three raucous comedies (Road Trip, Old School, Starsky & Hutch), it seemed as if Phillips was ready to try something new with his career. Of course, this meant that he would take on a slightly more romantic-comedy route and in that, came the remake of the 1960 classic, School of Scoundrels.

And unfortunately, it brought on a lot of the hate that still haunts him to this day.

Because really, the biggest problem with School for Scoundrels isn’t that it’s a romantic-comedy, it’s that it doesn’t even register as either; the romance is never there between any of the leads and the comedy sure as hell doesn’t even work, give or take a few moments here or there. If anything, it’s the kind of movie where it seems like Phillips is trying to make something work here, but really, both sides don’t connect or even go well hand-in-hand. Had the movie been a lot more vicious and mean like his other comedies, it probably would have worked a lot more, but for some reason, it seems like Phillips has to play nice and soften things up a bit, which doesn’t quite work for anyone in the flick, most importantly, him.

And it’s a shame because you could do a lot with a remake of School of Scoundrels; the subject-material is just interesting enough to comment on sexual mores, but it’s also ripe enough with a lot of comedy to poke fun at masculinity, femininity, and what constitutes as either. Surely, that movie isn’t the one that Phillips had in mind while working here, but still, it’s a disappointment when you watch and know what could happen, had the ones involved given more time, attention and care to really working with the material. Even the dressing-down of the men (by constantly using the term “f**got”), seems cheap and lazy – it’s as if all of the funny jokes and gags that Phillips had to offer were found in his three previous flicks and that’s all he had to offer.

But honestly, the main reason why School for Scoundrels is a bit of a bummer, is because its ensemble is so talented, so funny, and so entertaining in so many other movies, that here, to just watch them all flop around and not have much to do, is quite dispiriting.

Ha! Ha! Right?

Ha! Ha! Right?

To name just a tad few, aside from the two main stars, School for Scoundrels features Paul Scheer, Horatio Sanz, Sarah Silverman, Todd Louiso, Aziz Ansari, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Cross, Matt Walsh, Jon Glaser, Ben Stiller, and so many more that, on many, many occasions, have proven to be hilarious, however, here, they’re just not. Most of them try and make something out of seemingly nothing, but most of the time, the movie’s uneven script and direction just leaves them high and dry – Silverman may be the only one who gets away with any sort of laughs, which mostly has to do with the fact that she’s seemingly playing the usual bitch-y sort of role she’s always played.

But then, of course, there’s Billy Bob Thornton and Jon Heder, and yeah, they just do not work well here. Billy Bob Thornton turns in another one of his lazier roles, where you can tell that he’s just doing this flick for a paycheck, reading his lines in the driest way possible, all so that he can go off, hop back in his trailer, and take another nap. He’s supposed to be this incredibly pompous, but smart a-hole, but doesn’t come off as either; Billy Bob being an a-hole is normally a blast to watch, but here, he just doesn’t seem spirited enough to bother.

And then there’s Jon Heder, who, yes, is pretty awful.

But honestly, I don’t know if it’s really his fault; he’s supposed to play this character that’s a total nerd, but also turns out to be something of a bad-ass once the plot gets going and just can’t pull it off. The movie constantly tries to make it work, but Heder just doesn’t seem to have that ability in his acting-skills to make that work, so instead, he just flails around and acts a lot like Napoleon Dynamite. It’s a shame, too, because aside from Dynamite, Heder can be funny, but he just doesn’t have the goods here.

Sadly, out of everyone’s careers here, his was probably affected the most and never to be heard from again.

Consensus: Despite its talented cast and crew, School for Scoundrels wastes them all on an unfunny script, that doesn’t know if it wants to be romantic, mean, or stupid, so instead, tries to go for all three and fails completely.

2.5 / 10

My thoughts exactly, guys.

My thoughts exactly, guys.

Photos Courtesy of: Pop Matters, Rotten Tomatoes, Christophe Beck

I Smile Back (2015)

Drugs, sex, booze, and other stuff is bad. Remember that, kids.

Laney (Sarah Silverman) is going through a bit of a rough patch. For one, she’s a housewife who doesn’t know what to do with her time, except do drugs, drink, and have sex with a married-man (Thomas Sadoski). Obviously, this is fun for a little bit of time, but after awhile, it begins to not only take a toll on her life, but her husband (Josh Charles)’s as well. This leads to plenty of fights and random shouting matches, but what this really gets down to the bottom of is that Laney, no matter if she wants to admit it or not, needs help. So, she seeks it out by going to rehab and finds out more about her life than she had ever expected. Through rehab, she realizes that due to her poor childhood, she’s never learned to love anyone else or even herself, for that matter. Knowing this now, she wants to get back into the groove of her normal life, but sometimes, that’s better said, then actually done, leading Laney possibly back to her old life of risque raunchiness where nobody is happy, including especially, herself.

Hubby?

Hubby?

For the past few years or so, Sarah Silverman’s been itching herself into far more deeper, more challenging, and overall, more dramatic roles as of late. But none of them have ever been nearly as dark or as demanding as her role in I Smile Back. Not only is Silverman hardly cracking a joke here, but she’s crying, doing drugs, having crazy, wild sex, humping teddy-bears, and basically seeming like she’s about to crack open at any second.

And yet, it’s not enough to fully help I Smile Back from being what is, basically, just another Lifetime movie, but with more nudity, more cursing, and most importantly, more sex.

This isn’t to discredit Silverman herself as she portrays what it’s like for a woman, who clearly has manic depression, in the most honest, raw way she can possibly do without sinking herself almost too far into such a role. Laney herself seems like the kind of woman who, at one point in her life, may have been a sweet and endearing gal, but now, seems as if she doesn’t understand much about life, its pleasures, or what exactly she’s supposed to do with it. That’s why, watching Silverman go from scene to scene, making it seem as if Laney herself is lost in some sort maze she can’t get find the nearest exit out of, is relatively hard and, at times, disturbing.

But that’s mostly because Silverman is a good actress. The rest of the movie, I’m afraid, isn’t nearly as up-to-par as she is, or smart, especially because it never really draws much more about her character, other than that she’s a pissed-off housewife who’s got a lot of problems in her life. Sure, there’s no problem with highlighting that aspect of a character’s life, regardless of how depressing it may be, but the movie doesn’t really give us any more context other than that.

Or boyfriend?

Or boyfriend?

Also, as good as Silverman is at creating this Laney character, we still don’t understand much about her to begin with, or how she was before she started feeling as depressed as she currently is. We get a certain idea through her troubled relationship with her estranged father, but it’s so late in the game and so tiny, that it almost doesn’t register. So instead, we’re left to watch as this character, one we don’t know from Adam, do all sorts of troubling, downright terrible things to herself, as well as those that surround her life.

Once again, there’s nothing wrong with having these kinds of stories, about these kinds of complicated figures, but there has to be more behind all of the events. To just place someone in this role and leave it at that, without any added-on info or anything, just doesn’t quite work. There’s one scene between Josh Charles’ husband character and Laney that’s supposed to give us at least some background info on how the two met and got together, but like it was with the father character, it’s too little, too late, in a film that’s already just relying way too heavily on Silverman herself to pick up the pieces.

Which she does, but it’s really obvious what’s going on here.

But if anything that surprised me about I Smile Back, in an at least somewhat positive way, was that it had an ending that, believe it or not, is way different than from what you’d get from a Lifetime movie. For one, it’s not pretty and it sure as hell isn’t the feel-good, happy ending some may expect, like I myself did. However, it also brings up the smart idea about people’s life stories and how, in most cases, not everything it tied-up in a neat little bow. Sure, certain movies may have you think that, but in reality, that’s not the case.

In fact, life can be very messy. There’s no real beginning or ends to an issue, instead, it’s always existing and controlling your everyday life whether you want to admit it or not. But what I Smile Back deals with, at its end at least, is that Laney’s life, as well as everybody else’s, will continue to live on as they were before. Some things may change, some things may not, but most of all, life will continue to be just how it is. Sometimes sad, and also, sometimes happy.

Even though the movie itself doesn’t quite work, I Smile Back at least has something to say when all is said and done.

Consensus: Despite Silverman’s raw, challenging performance, I Smile Back doesn’t seem to really have much to say about any of its upsetting material, even if it does end on a solid, if surprising, note.

5 / 10

Or family? Pick your poison!

Or family? Pick your poison!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

Talking to a silent dude who wears a poncho is definitely one way for sure.

During the year of 1882 in Arizona, a loser sheep farmer by the name of Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) practically loses it all; his pride, his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried), his courage, and even his own self-respect. Basically, Albert has no reason to live and even though he doesn’t want to off himself, he still knows that life in the West is dumb, which is why he decides to move away to San Francisco in hopes of changing his life for good. However, things turn around for Albert when a new lady comes into town named Anna (Charlize Theron). Not only is she smokin’ hot, but she seems to take a bit of an interest in him and makes him a deal: She’ll help him gain enough of his courage back so that he can win his ex back and eventually live happily live ever after. Albert thinks this is a great idea, except for the problem that he isn’t able to shoot a gun – which is practically a big “no no” in a place like the West, where just about everything and anything could kill you, at any time. To make matters worse, Anna also has a bit of a secret past that includes known-killer Clinch (Liam Neeson) and he’s not happy about her not being with him, and off with some wimp like Albert.

Though I’ve never been a huge fan of Family Guy, that sure as heck didn’t stop me from enjoying Ted. Sure, Seth MacFarlane loves his sophomoric jokes and and gags, but that’s sort of the point to his humor and for the most part, it’s done him quite well. And since Ted was such a success, it’s no surprise to see that he would eventually take all of that studio-money and make something that he clearly wants to do, from his heart and with himself thrown right into the middle.

Oh, I get it. He's a sheepish guy, in the middle of a flock of sheep! Clever! I think..

Oh, I get it. He’s a sheepish guy, in the middle of a flock of sheep! Clever! I think..

I’m coming very close to calling this something of a “passion project”, which it may very well have been, but from the results of it, too much passion may have went on way too long and for too much.

That’s not to say it doesn’t seem like there isn’t much effort on MacFarlane’s part, because there totally is, however, it does seem like that a little of his humor can only go on for so long, until it all becomes repetitive and over-used. Maybe, just maybe I could have gone a whole two-hours without hearing jokes made about someone’s fancy-looking mustache – better yet, maybe, just maybe I could have gone the whole movie without a handful of jokes revolving around sheep’s penises. But with Seth MacFarlane that’s what you have to expect, which makes me wonder why it just did not work here at all.

Okay, that’s a lie, there are times when this movie can be pretty funny, but it’s not because of MacFarlane himself. Mostly, the laughs come from the fact that the ensemble he’s put together is clearly working their assess off to make any sort of joke hit. Because, even if they do fall flat, at least there’s still something to be interested by; like, for instance, why wouldn’t you make a joke or two about Liam Neeson’s terrible Southern-accent? Better yet, why wouldn’t you ever crack a joke about the fact that all of the townspeople look like your usual, ragged-type to be seen in these types of Southerns, yet, everybody else in the movie looks like they just walked off the set of a Loreal commercial?

For some reason, we never get those kinds of jokes, and instead, we are “treated” to ones about smiling in old-timey photographs, 19th century racism, hookers, virgins, pooping, and bar-brawls. Maybe that sounds like a good time to you, because it totally does to me, but somehow, Seth MacFarlane found a way to suck all of the air out of it and give us a piece that’s pretty boring, even when it is trying to be funny. Which, believe it or not, is about 75% of the time; the rest of the 25% is dedicated to action, drama, romance and awkward situations without barely a lick of comedy. And do trust me, I don’t have much of a problem with a comedy trying to be a tad serious and throw some heart into the story for good measure, just to even things out, but it was never interesting here, nor did it really do much for the characters themselves. It just seemed thrown onto us and almost like Seth MacFarlane needed a new editor-in-charge. Much like the feeling I can sometimes get with Judd Apatow’s pieces.

Which brings me to the man himself: Seth MacFarlane. Of course we all know, recognize, and, for some, love MacFarlane from his various voice-roles and maybe even his culturally-divided Academy Awards hosting-job, but here’s the first time in which we really get to see all of Seth, in his full-on, human-made form. None of that animated, voice-over crap; it’s just him, his face, and his ability to actually act and emote for the camera.

And, as much as it pains me to say, it makes total sense why he’s stayed behind the camera for so long in the first place.

I get why he's here, but Sarah Silverman? Come on, honey! You must have had something better to do!

I get why he’s here, but Sarah Silverman? Come on, honey! You must have had something better to do!

That’s not to say that MacFarlane is really bad with the material really, it’s just that it’s obvious his face wasn’t really made for film. He’s sort of a bland screen-presence on screen that tells his own jokes, yells, hollers, acts goofy, puts on an “OMG” face numerous time, and occasionally have to act where he has to put on his “serious face” and whatnot. Sometimes, it works, and some other times, it doesn’t really do much of all. It just seems like him, hogging up the screen and taking away from some of the better, way more-talented members of the cast. Not to get on MacFarlane’s case or anything, but I don’t really see the guy taking over the acting world anytime soon. For now, I’d say to just stay behind the camera, keep on doing the voice-work and every once and awhile, show your face to let everyone know that you’re alive and you are in fact still working.

Anyway though, the rest of the cast fairs a lot better, if only because, like I mentioned before, they are a lot more skilled with material in general and they can usually make the most out of anything as silly as this. Charlize Theron gets the best acting out of MacFarlane because it seems like they share a natural-chemistry that makes it more than just being about her hot, rockin’ bod, even while she’s on the prime of reaching 40; Neil Patrick Harris gets the most laughs out of the whole cast as the mustached-man that Albert’s ex is now dating and shows us why if you give NPH something worthwhile to do, he’ll run with it and never look back; and Liam Neeson has a goofy accent but doesn’t get much funny stuff to do (even though we know he’s clearly capable of doing comedy). Also to mention, there are a few cameos here and there that are rather hit-or-miss. There’s one actually that’s quite spell-blindingly clever, yet, is totally ruined just by the sheer awkwardness of it all. Want to say what it is, but you may just have to wait and see.

Then again, maybe you don’t have to. Because honestly, you’re not missing much to begin with anyway.

Consensus: It isn’t that Seth MacFarlane isn’t trying with A Million Ways to Die in the West, it’s more that he’s just trying too much and doesn’t really know what’s considered “well-done crude humor”, against, “annoying, repetitive crude humor”. You know, if there is such a thing.

3.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Okay, that 'stache is a bit ridiculous, but it totally beats the 10-years-late faux hawk MacFarlane's got going on.

Okay, that ‘stache is a bit ridiculous, but it totally beats the 10-years-too-late faux hawk MacFarlane’s got going on.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Wreck-it Ralph (2012)

Where the hell is my Super Nintendo?!?

Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) is a video game character who has been overshadowed by Fix-It Felix, Jr. (voice of Jack McBrayer), the good-guy star of their game who always gets to save the day. Fed up of being the bad guy all the time, Ralph takes matters into his own massive hands and sets off on a journey across the arcade through multiple generations of video games to prove he’s got what it takes to be a hero.

It’s a known-commodity that today’s kids, are mainly dependent on video-games and use it more than anything else. Back in the 90’s, however, kids were more dependent on toys and playing with them, until technology began to take over and sooner or later, the toys were left to just sit there, by themselves, with no one to play with them. I’m basically talking about the same toys I have come to know and love from the Toy Story franchise, in case you couldn’t tell, and I think the comparison between that movie and those ones are pretty understood because in a way, it shows the world of inanimate objects, and what they do when no one else was looking.

However, it’s almost a crime to compare this one to those movies because this movie, is sure as hell nowhere near the same league as those classics, but still does great job with itself to make me forget about the comparisons. The obvious love and passion these film-makers have for video-games, show as there are tons and tons of cameos from little video-game characters that we all know and love, and it’s just really cool to see. If you never, ever thought that Bowser and M. Bison would ever be at two places at once, well, then think again because you’re going to see them next to each other, along with a slew of other famous characters that I caught-on to right away, and plenty others where I definitely missed-out on. Either way, if you love video-games, know all about them, and can tell when Q*Bert went out-of-order, then you’re going to have a freakin’ field-day with the first 45 minutes of this movie.

And hell, even if you can’t tell me or aren’t that much of a video-game lover, then you’re still going to have a great time because that’s what the story is all about and that’s exactly what they deliver on. The first 45 minutes is pretty cool because we get to see Ralph go and try to interact in these other worlds/games, because it feels as if we are on adventure with this guy that will never, ever seem to end and one that I didn’t mind riding with for 2 hours if I needed to. However, the film’s settings do come to a complete halt when the rest of the film ends up spending most of the majority at a girly car-racing game called “Sugar Rush”, a game that reminded me a lot of a mixture of Mario Kart, had it been jacked-up on sweets and all that is right with the world.

Even though this was a bit of a bummer, seeing as that Ralph would just be spending all of his time at this one, designated area, the film still does a great job with itself and offering us a great look at characters that didn’t seem like they stood a chance to be liked in the first-place. I laughed a good couple of times, and definitely felt myself as if I was playing a video-game the whole time, but there is an emotional-level to this film that does it’s job in the end and makes you feel more for these characters, rather than just looking at them as a bunch of video-game characters. Next time you’re playing “Zombies”, think about the things you’re killing in the first-place. Maybe they have souls as well. Oh, who am I kidding!?! They’re freaky, so kill them to get points!

However, the bummer of this film is that it sort of does follow the same, exact pattern we have come to know and associate with animated movies like these and even though it’s not as unbearable this time around, it sure as hell comes to be a bit of a disappointment considering how hard this film went on without ever seeming like it was going to fall for straight-up conventions. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting Ralph to drop all conventions and just go into a crazy, psycho-killer mode and have all kids from all over the world scream for their lives in terror, but I wasn’t necessarily expecting it to really get as schmaltzy and obvious as it does here. Of course, there’s a fight between two characters that sets a riff between the two, they come back together in the end, and eventually come to terms with what they were made to do in the first-place, but come on, give me something at least a tad bit fresh people. That’s all I ask for, really.

Despite this drop into conventions, Wreck-it Ralph always stays endearing and a little touching, and that’s mainly because of the special, bubbly voices they got to supply for these roles. John C. Reilly is a perfect-fit for Ralph as he nails the villainous-angst we come to know and understand about this character right from the get-go, and also shows us that the guy can still bring all of that warm fuzziness he brings to every role, even if it is just his voice he’s using. Reilly, no matter what the guy does, always has this certain level of warmth to him that just makes you want to hang-out with him if you’re a dude, and hug the hell out of him if you’re a woman, or gay dude. Either way, you’re going to want to be around him and that’s what makes Ralph so damn likable right from the first-shot.

Even though Sarah Silverman is very annoying with her constantly ear-aching voice, her character, Vanellope von Schweetz, isn’t as bad this time-around, mainly because that’s the whole idea behind her. Schweetz annoys the hell out of Ralph, which in-turn, annoys the hell out of us and makes us want her to go away just as much as he wants her to, even though this doesn’t last forever and she starts to grow on you, just like she grows on Ralph. It’s a nice, little friendship they have going on here and it’s definitely one I want to see continue on throughout the years. Even though, it will never be anywhere near as close to the loving friendship between Woody and Buzz. Sorry, guys, you just don’t quite have what it takes yet.

The other voice-member I was most impressed with was Jack McBrayer as Fix-It Felix, Jr., the squeaky-clean hero of Ralph’s video-game. Felix is such an out-dated goof here in this story, that it’s really funny to see him get played around with in a flick that’s all about how the new games, are definitely crazier and more violent than the old games. That, in and of itself provides a whole ‘nother context to this story, but that’s an idea that doesn’t really need to be focused-on as much because it would have been so damn easy. And let’s not forget to mention, Jane Lynch is here as the tough-ass leader of the game Hero’s Duty, Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun, and once again shows why she still has that perfect comedic-timing no matter what it is that the gal does. Just like the video-game characters most of these people are voicing, there are plenty more famous names that pop-up here and there, but the most fun out of it all is just to wait and see how many you catch, how many you don’t, and how many made you second-guess yourself. Trust me, I did that and it’s sort of like Cloud Atlas in that aspect, except without all of the make-up and costumes.

Consensus: With a promising start, Wreck-it Ralph sort of does disappoint by how quickly it falls into a conventional, Disney plot we have all seen done time and time again, but thankfully, isn’t as bad to witness and stick around for because of lovable characters, beautiful animation, an entertaining story, and an emotional center that feels real, rather than ever feeling cheap. Definitely look forward to seeing more sequels and more games pop-up.

8/10=Matinee!!

Take This Waltz (2012)

Why would anybody want to leave Seth Rogen? The guy is so cuddly and cool. A woman’s dream, I think.

Michelle Williams stars as a young woman named Margot, who is happily married to a cookbook writer, Lou (Seth Rogen). But when she finds herself instantly swept off her feet by a handsome stranger (Luke Kirby) and realizes he lives just across the street, she finds out some unsettling truths about herself and the nature of love.

First thing I think about whenever I hear actresses name Sarah Polley, I think of her kick-ass roles in films like The Sweet Hereafter and Dawn of the Dead, and sadly, I think of Splice a little bit too, but let’s all forget about that one. However, the words “kick-ass indie director” have never popped into my head before, and I think they may be now.

For the first hour or so, I didn’t really know what to think of this movie because of what I thought it was trying to do. The first two acts, I kept thinking that this film obviously wants me to root on Margot to leave Lou and go for that strange dude she just met on a plane. This seemed fairly obvious, and not something that I was liking at first because as much as I thought the character development was well-done and the script kept me interested, I just couldn’t get my head past the fact that this chick is choosing the right guy and I think this film doesn’t know it quite yet.

However, Sarah Polley totally changes everything up and the last 20 minutes ended up being something so much more special than I originally though. This sudden change then changes up the whole tempo and idea of this film up and it got me wondering just how the hell did Polley pull this off? I mean for the whole hour 30 minutes, I kept thinking the whole time of how this was going to wrap-up and why, but she somehow pulled the rug from underneath me, made me think differently about these characters and the story that they are in, and as unconventional as the twist by the end of the story may be, I still believed it. Polley has only had one other film to her credit, but I think she shows some real talent here as not only a director, but writer as well and shows that she is able to takes risks when it comes to changing her stories up in different ways that sometimes the viewer, can change their opinions on the final product as well.

The problem with the first hour and 30 minutes though, is that some of it can be rather annoying, to say the least. Polley definitely has an ear for naturalistic dialogue, and I felt like the way that Margot and Lou acted with each other were how most people who are in love, usually act, but some of the hokey dialogue just takes away from all of that. Almost every single scene with Margot and this stranger bothered me because not only was he a deuche, but all of their conversations were basically filled with a bunch of quirky dialogue, where it almost seems like Polley was trying to remind us that this was an indie film we were watching and that they are allowed to pull off any type of dialogue that may be perceived as strange, weird, or just plain and simply, different. Also, that whole bit about how Margot is “afraid to be afraid” just made me sigh and is just another clear example as to how hoka-poka this dialogue can be sometimes.

Also, another aspect that brought me out of this film was that stranger dude himself, played by Luke Kirby. Kirby isn’t bad with this role here, it’s just more that this character was so damn obvious that it was hard for me to fall for him, let alone even harder to see how could somebody like Margot even do the same. You know, this guy is another quintessential idealized male love interest who lives in shitty loft, an artist who feels like nobody understands his work which is why he doesn’t bring it out to art galleries, has a quirky job as a rickshaw driver (seems like fun though), and dresses hip and looks cool, especially for those young, married ladies. He’s pretty much the same old, one-of-a-kind dude you usually see in these types of movies and it seems so phony that it really started losing my interest every time he came up on-screen.

Thankfully, I had Michelle Williams to save the day, and I couldn’t have had asked for anything less. Williams is playing a more lighter side to her role in Blue Valentine, but she still shows a lot of problems that that character had and once again, she plays it perfectly. Williams definitely makes Margot seem a lot more genuine than the script may have intended her to be, because the whole idea of being a complicated girl, in a complicated marriage, going through a very complicated period in your life, definitely is something that’s hard to make likable, especially when you’re getting ready to leave Rogen for Kirby. Still, Williams does a great job giving us a three-dimensional character with Margot and it just shows us why she is going to be next big-star in Hollywood. Can’t wait to see it, either.

Seth Rogen takes a very risky departure from his usual comedy roles, and gives off something more dramatic than we usually see from him. The problem is that the film doesn’t really focus on him that much, but when it does, especially in the last 20 minutes, he does a great job and shows that he can handle some of the more subtle, dramatic material as well. Sarah Silverman is pretty good as his recovering alcoholic sister, who, of course, has a lot of funny things to do and say, but also brings out one of the best scenes by the end, and shows that she also has a bit of dramatic depth in her skills as well.

Consensus: Take This Waltz was a film that started off obvious, with the quirky dialogue and set-up we usually get from these sorts of flicks, but it changes about half-way through and becomes a totally different film to look at, which is also made better by the fact that these are some very rich and strong performances from this good cast.

7.5/10=Rental!!

The Muppets (2011)

Eff you Alvin and eff you Smurfs, these are my real child-hood heroes.

In this flick, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and friend Mary (Amy Adams) must raise $10 million to save the Muppet Theater from Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), a businessman who plans to demolish the Muppet Theater to drill for oil.

I’ve always been a Muppets fan ever since I was a little kid so when I heard they were finally coming back after all this time away from the limelight, you know that the little kid inside of me jumped up-and-around in the little Kermit the Frog undies like a kid on Christmas day.

Basically this film is one big excuse for Segel to pal around with all of his child-hood friends and give us a whole hour long episode of The Muppets, but it doesn’t feel like just one big excuse for anything, it feels like an actual film that could bring them back.

The plot itself has been done over millions of times but what really separates this film from the others is how tongue-in-cheek and self-aware everything is that just about every single ridiculous happening in this film seems so normal and made me laugh my ass off. There is a lot of winking at the camera but it didn’t seem over-used and there are little subtle moments where you can tell that they all know they are in a movie, which adds so much more fun to this film’s comedy. I mean hell if you just see the trailer, they tell you right away that The Muppets aren’t popular in today’s world but somehow they are able to bring back all of the wit and charm that made the original fun for kids and adults alike but there are still some other little pieces of humor that are made for the new generation as well.

Another aspect of this film that worked was the music and how great all of the songs were. The music supervisor for this flick was Bret McKenzie, from ‘Flight of the Concords’, and you can tell that he has some great talent in song-writing. There are plenty of original and fun tracks here such as “Life’s a Happy Song”, “Man or Muppet”, “Pictures in My Head”, and plenty more memorable tracks that I had humming in my head after the film was over. The best thing about all of this music is that it’s not only fun to listen to but when you watch, there are still a lot of funny things happening in these musical numbers which you barely ever see in musical-like films of today’s world. No matter who or what you listen to, you can’t resist some toe-tapping here.

Jason Segel is apparently one of the biggest Muppets fan ever and it shows because this whole film he just has this one big and goofy grin on his face the whole time as Gary. The guy is really having the time of his life and thanks to that, I was too. Amy Adams is very innocent and sweet as Mary who sometimes will come out of nowhere and make a very funny comment then do some out-of-character song. The problem with their story-line is that it kind of gets lost about 20 minutes into the film and we start to care less and less about their “love story” and more if The Muppets are going to be able to pull this show off after all. Chris Cooper is also a total bad-ass as Tex Richman, which is a great role for Cooper because he gets to be a little goofy and show off some of his rapping skills that he’s been hiding for so long. Yes people, Oscar-winner Chris Cooper has a rap solo in this film. There are also dozens of cameos from plenty of A-listers that are sure to make anybody go, “Ooooh, look who it is!”.

The main reason why The Muppets works though is because in the end it’s really all about how you can still be fun, hip, heart-warming, and even a little cool if you just stick to a formula that you have been doing for about 30 years. The Muppets are not mean, they use humor but never to hurt anyone it’s more of to just make people laugh and have a good time which is probably one of the best things about them. In today’s world, comedy relies on raunch, mean comments, slurs, and so many more bad things, but The Muppets are simple: they are funny, without ever offending or hurting anybody’s feelings. To do that in any decade is awesome, but to be able to do that in 2011 and be the best comedy/family-film of the year, is probably one of the best achievements that this film has to offer. This is a PG flick that is for the whole family because they can all have fun and thanks to Kermit, Miss Piggy, Animal, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and everybody else, I had a great time too.

Consensus: The Muppets is all about having a good time with humor, great musical numbers, dozens of hilarious cameos, and a lot of heart to make you feel like you are watching all of your favorite Muppets together once again and hopefully this time, they are here to stay.

9/10=Full Price!!

Funny People (2009)

I could only wish that everybody was as funny as the title says.

When famous comedian George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is given a second chance at a new beginning, he and his assistant, a struggling comedian, Ira (Seth Rogen), return to the places and people that matter most…including the stand-up spots that gave him his start and the girl that got away (Leslie Mann).

With Judd Apatow’s last two at bats (40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up) he has shown that he can make hilarious comedies, with heart-felt messages somewhere in between. This is no different, except it kind of is.

Apatow as the writer is perfect. He always fines a perfect balance of heart and hilarity, and this is no exception. The jokes as usual, are hilarious, if you like a lot of boner jokes, and it almost never slows down. The stand-up seems just wreak with hilarity and a lot of originality. When Simmons gets cancer, you would think that the most would slow down, and get very very serious, however, Apatow changes that and never stops bringing out the jokes, and surprisingly a lot of them had me laughing-out-loud. You can tell that he has matured, and his writing makes you have more hope for him in the future.

Although, Apatow as the director, now that’s a stretch. He overuses the slow-zoom to show his characters being emotionally effected by something, it’s almost too obvious at times. Also, the first act between Rogen and Sandler works so well, it was this close to getting a 10/10, then came the next story with Sandler and Mann, then it just kind of lost me. It’s less of a buy-one-get-one-free deal, and more a but-one-and-get-one you really didn’t ask for deal. Both stories just don’t seem connected, and although the jokes kept up during the last act, I still didn’t find a reason for it. Oh, and the film is about 2 hours and 30 minutes, so be ready to be looking at your watch many times.

Apatow does a great job of blurring the line of fiction and non-fiction to create compelling, realistic performances from the cast. George Simmons is sort of the dream role for Adam Sandler. Mainly because Simmons is a goofy comedian, Sandler gets to indulge in that goofy side, we all know and love him for, but he gets to show the characters darker parts, and does a fantastic job at it. Although, I think the film could have done a better chance of showing Simmons in a more positive way sometimes. Simmons is a dick, especially towards the end, but we never get to see him come out of that dark shell, and understand who he has come to be.

The rest of the cast is perfect too. Seth Rogen (who is looking very, very slim) plays probably the least Seth Rogen he has ever played, because he doesn’t do that famous “Rogen chuckle“, and instead he does a character with nervous twitches, and mega-awkwardness. Leslie Mann is funny, but more serious than her usual character, and seems a lot more genuine during the last act, than she has, in a long time (yes, I’m talking about you George of the Jungle). There are other little characters that will make you laugh such as Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, Aubrey Plaza, RZA, Aziz Ansari, but the most surprisingly funny one was…………….Eric Bana! He comes in the film and you expect him to play this really deuchy character, cause the whole film they talk about him so badly, then you meet him, and he’s downright lovable. He’s hilarious, sweet, and really cool. Kind of makes me forget about The Hulk.

The film probably should get an Oscar for the film with most cameos, if there ever was one. I mean you got Dave Attell, Sarah Silverman, Andy Dick, James Taylor, even Tom from MySpace (I don’t know how that guy still has a career). But the funniest one is between Eminem and Ray Romano, that will just have you cracking up, although it does seem really random. Better yet, you never know, Eminem probably wasn’t acting.

Consensus: Funny People is consistently funny, as well as being heart-felt, with great performances from the whole cast, even though the last act may take some away, and not very inspired direction.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!