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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Steve Coogan

The Trip to Spain (2017)

I’d take these guys on a trip to the beach over my family any day.

After their first two trips together, people can’t get enough of Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan together. So, to give the people what they want, they are put together for a third time, to travel a different country, chow down on some of the finest meals, drink some of the best liquor, see all of the sights, meet interesting people, and oh yeah, do all of the impressions that they can think of. And honestly, since their last trip to Italy, things have changed for both guys; Steve was nominated for an Oscar and can’t stop talking about it, meanwhile, Rob’s popularity has only gotten bigger and better, with him starring in various mainstream flicks. The two have a lot alike, but they also have more differences, too, meaning that, at times, their trip can sometimes be light and fun, while other times, can be a little dark and intense. Mostly though, they’re just happy to be together, hanging out and waxing on about life, if only as a way to get away from the mess of their personal lives.

Smile, you’re in good company.

It’s actually interesting that both Rob and Steve continue to do these Trip movies, because as famous as they both each seem to get, they still find ways to sort of blend in with the real world around them. In fact, the more famous they each get, the better these movies get, as it helps us not just understand what the hell they’re talking about more and more, but it gives it this sort of no-holds-barred feeling that these conversations would, and should, take.

And some goes for their ages, because as weird as it may sound, the older they get, the more interesting it is to hear what they’re talking about. They’ve accepted old age, the ideas from society, and certain responsibilities that come along with it, and while they may not be all that happy about it, they’re going to live on and do whatever they want and can. It’s rather nice to see a movie that accepts growing up and aging as an honest fact of life, without embracing it too much to where it’s trying to be silly and cute.

People get old. Case closed. No shut up and move on.

And yes, for the third outing, the Trip to Spain works, even if it does feel a little bit more tired this time around. Then again, that’s probably on-purpose; these guys, as humans, are beginning to slow down. Nowadays, they can’t bother to go on and on with all of the non-stop impersonations of Michael Caine, Richard Burton, John Hurt, Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore, Sean Connery, and oh yeah, Mick freakin’ Jagger (although the best one is done by Coogan, singing as David Bowie), and they let it be known. Rather than just laughing and going along with it now, they sort of just ignore it and move on. That’s how life is, as a whole, and it’s interesting to see these two guys, who more than likely made the script up as they went along, don’t really hide from that fact.

NO. MORE. IMPERSONATIONS.

And really, the only way to critique this movie is to critique how Rob and Steve are in it, because really, they’re the movie. And yes, they’re fine, funny and always lovely to watch, no matter where it is they are, or what it is that they’re doing in their lives. It’s actually rather sweet to see these guys still palling around, hanging out, and enjoying the good days, even when it seems like they’ve both gone in two different directions with their own respective careers; how close they are in real life is already known, but the movie gives the perception that they never actually see one another, except for only one of these yearly trips. That said, they’re still charming as ever and without one of them, who knows how these movies would do.

Cause honestly, the story’s can get a little odd and melodramatic, especially with Spain‘s. Late in the third act, there’s supposed to be a twist of sorts that doesn’t fully fit together, nor does it really matter – we’re supposed to care about these certain truths being brought to us, but honestly, it doesn’t wholly matter. The last movie actually had a few shocks and twists that worked, this time around, there aren’t many. And when there are some, they don’t quite nail.

We just want to hear the impersonations. That’s all.

Consensus: Like its stars, the Trip to Spain may be showing its age with this being the third outing for both Steve and Rob, but still, they remain as funny and as charming as ever.

7 / 10

Pictured: Leaked set photos from Terry Gilliam’s “Don Quixote”.

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

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The Look of Love (2013)

The Look of Love (2013)

At one point in his life, Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan) seemingly had it all. He was a Soho adult magazine publisher and entrepreneur that seemed to have all of the money, all of the drugs, all of the women, and all of the fancy people around him to help him out. However, it wasn’t always like that. In fact, before he got on top, Raymond started with just a few adult burlesque houses, where nudity and sexual innuendo was a constant cause for controversy. Eventually, it all came to work out for him, because not only did people want to see naked women, they also wanted to be in the company of them, as well as Raymond, who was, in all honesty, a charming chap. And while he was closer and closer to becoming one of Britain’s wealthiest men, he had some issues to deal with, mostly those in his personal life with wife Jean (Anna Friel), who he can’t seem to stay faithful to, or his daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots), who seems to be taking all of the drinking, sex, and drugs a little bit to hard and may prove to be her ultimate undoing.

Life is good when you have Anna Friel on your arm.

The Look of Love is one of those glossy, glammy, and glitzy biopics about rich people having all of the fun in the world. It doesn’t really try to inform or educate us, nor does it ever really set out to change the nature of biopics as we know it; it has a subject, it has a story, and it has a sort of hook. That’s all we need.

But for some reason, coming from director Michael Winterbottom, something seems to still be missing. See, it isn’t that the Look of Love can’t be entertaining when its living it up with all of the excess of drugs, sex, booze, and partying, because it does, it’s just that when that is all said and done, it doesn’t have much else to offer. A good portion of this can have to do with the material just not working and Winterbottom’s rather lax-direction, but it may all just come down to the fact that Paul Raymond himself just isn’t all that interesting of a fella to have a whole movie about.

Or at the very least, a movie in which he is shown as a flawed, but mostly lovable human being.

And it’s odd, too, because Raymond definitely gets the whole treatment; everything from his success as a businessman, to his failure as a family man is clearly shown and explored. But for some reason, it still feels like the movie is struggling with what to do, or say about this man. Sure, he brought himself up from nothing, to become more than just someone, or something, but is that about it? What did he do to get to that? Who was he with? What was the rest of the world like? Any sort of conflict?

And above all else, why do we care?

Truth is, we sort of don’t.

It’s even better when you’ve got a fine ‘stache.

That isn’t to say that Winterbottom and Coogan especially, don’t seem to try here, because they do. As Raymond, Coogan gets a chance to be light, funny, and a little dirty, which is something the man has always excelled in. But when it does come to the movie showing us more to Raymond behind the lovable and wacky facade, the movie stumbles a bit and Coogan’s performance can’t really save things in that department, either. We see that he loves his daughter and is fair to his ex-wives and lovers, but does that really give us a total reason to have a whole hour-and-a-half-long movie about his life and successes?

Once again, not really. It helps that Anna Friel and Imogen Poots are good in supporting-roles, but even they feel a bit underwritten. Friel’s ex-wife character is gone for such a long stretch of time that we almost forget about her, until she shows back up, gets naked, gets drunk, and has some fun, and Poots’ daughter character, while initially promising at first, turns into a convention that biopics like these love to utilize. Granted, she was a real person and the movie isn’t taking any narrative short-cuts in this respect, but still, it just doesn’t wholly feel right.

Was there more to her? Or her mother? Or even Raymond? Once again, we may never know.

Consensus: At the very least, the Look of Love is an entertaining, if also by-the-books biopic of a man we probably didn’t really need a whole movie dedicated to in the first place.

5 / 10

And when you’ve got plenty to drink and snort. But that’s obvious by now.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Dinner (2017)

Have a nice, friendly din-din with your bro, they said.

Paul (Steve Coogan) and his wife, Claire (Laura Linney) get ready to spend an evening with his brother and sister-in-law at a fancy restaurant where they can catch up, discuss some things, and yeah, just do what adults do by a certain age when not much else is left to do: Try to one-up each other. It’s this sole reason that Paul doesn’t want to go, but there’s something going on with his son (Charlie Plummer) that this dinner needs to address and rather than sitting around, moping, and not seeing anything getting better, Paul decides to suck it up and have dinner with his brother and his wife. And said brother, who also happens to be Congressman Stan Lohman (Richard Gere), knows that he and Paul have some things to address, but it takes too long to get there because, well, they don’t quite get along. There’s a history there and it’s something that keeping this dinner away from being, at the very least, a civilized one. Tack on the fact that Stan’s wife, Katelyn (Rebecca Hall), isn’t in the best of moods, either, and yeah, it’s going to be a long night.

Steve Coogan is sure-as-hell wishing that he was dinner at with Rob Brydon right about now.

Without going so far as to review the Dinner on what could have been, instead of its merits like one should always do, there’s a part of me that wishes it had been a lot easier, simpler, and laid-out than what actually happens. See, on the surface, there’s a movie that’s ripe with promise of tension, questions, answers, family-history, and well, ideas about the world we live in, the world we make for future generations to come around, and most above all, politics. In that sense, had the movie just been a four-hander between these four very talented actors, just waxing on and on about life and all of its issues, then yes, the Dinner probably would have been as compelling as it promised.

But unfortunately, that doesn’t happen.

The Dinner is, for lack of a better term, overstuffed beyond belief and way too busy to really work with itself out. Director Oren Moverman has proven in the past that he has a knack for telling small, subtle, but dark tales about everyday humans, but for some reason, he gets wrapped-up in way too much going on here; granted, it was Cate Blanchett who was originally supposed to direct here, but dropped out, leaving Moverman to pick up the pieces. He tries to make sense of the many strands of plot this movie has, but after awhile, once the eighth or tenth unnecessary flashback hits the screen, it becomes really repetitive and really annoying, really quick.

After all, it’s only breaking up any of the tension that the actors create here in the first place, making it seem like the material was too troubling to work with in the first place, or that Moverman didn’t trust these actors enough to really give the movie all the intensity it needed to work. And when it’s just them four, sitting around a table, it’s quite a treat to watch; Coogan, Linney, Gere, and as usual, Hall, are all pros at what they do and can handle whatever this sometimes wacky script throws at them. However, it gets to become a problem when the movie steps away from them so much, almost to the point of where you wonder whether the title is ironic, or if there is actually supposed to be a so-called “Dinner” taking place?

I don’t know who’s their daddy, but Richard Gere and Steve Coogan did not came from the same mother.

And if so, with whom? Or better yet, will we actually be able to watch it?

Still though, it’s hard to hate a movie with this cast because when the Dinner is on them, it’s fun and rather, exciting. It’s a true testament to what can happen, even if you have a weak script, when you have a solid cast, doing what they do best: Act. Coogan’s probably the most impressive here, as his character not only gets the most development out of the four, but also gets to show off his much darker, meaner and weirder side that we don’t too often see. Sure, his American-accent is a little too odd for me to fully buy, but in this character’s case, it sort of works. Yeah, I’m still not sure.

However, the movie not only needed more of him, but yeah, everyone else, too. It’s called “the Dinner” for a reason – let’s see said “Dinner” actually occur.

Consensus: Despite solid performances from the four leads, the Dinner suffers from a way too busy and hackneyed plot that does so much, it breaks up any of the tension that’s meant to be felt with dark and disturbing material such as this.

5 / 10

“Cheers to pure hatred and contempt for one another and everything around us!”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Rules Don’t Apply (2016)

When you’re Howard Hughes and pissing in Mason jars, you can do whatever you want.

It’s 1958, and Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins), a devout Baptist beauty queen from Virginia arrives in Hollywood, her eyes chock full of hopes, dreams and wonders of possibly taking over the movie world. She gets picked-up at the airport by Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), who will soon be her permanent driver and aspires to achieve the same sort of fame and fortune that Marla does, however, it’s a tad bit different. Together though, the two form a connection and affection for the man who is employing them both: Billionaire, womanizer, and famed aviator, Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty). They’ve both heard all of the crazy stories and don’t quite know what to believe about Hughes, but what they do know is that he’s a very hard man to see, track down, or better yet, even have something resembling of a conversation with. He’s so mysterious, that it’s almost like he doesn’t exist. However, the two eventually do cross paths with Hughes in some very odd, strange ways that change both of their lives forever and may also crush whatever it was that they expected from Hollywood in the first place.

After what’s been nearly two decades, it’s nice to have Warren Beatty back in our lives and on our screens, regardless of how short-lived it may be. As an actor, Beatty has always been a master at playing any sort of role, whether dark and dramatic, or light and fun, bringing the best to whatever flick he’s in. As a director, he’s far better. Ambitious, smart and always equipped with something to say, Beatty doesn’t just take on directorial projects for the hell of it – he needs to have a reason to tell a story and a certain passion within it.

He loves his hats.

He loves his hats.

Which is why for all its faults, flaws and obvious issues, Rules Don’t Apply, despite the awful title, still deserves a watch.

It’s unfortunate though, that Rules Don’t Apply has been in the works for so long, because it clearly shows; with nearly four editors on-tap here, there’s obvious moments where it seems like the movie was cut, pasted and messed around with way too much. Certain scenes play too long, too short, or sometimes, literally make absolute no sense. Does this have more to do with the directing/crafting of the movie itself, or more to do with how the movie was edited and perhaps made to reach some sort of arbitrary standard for the studios involved? Whatever the answer may be, it doesn’t matter; the fact remains that Rules Don’t Apply is still a pretty messy, uneven piece that has the look and feel of a movie that’s been tampered with one too many times.

Still, however, it’s a movie that deserves a watch, mostly because there are certain aspects and elements to it that are interesting and do work. Beatty seems to craft two different stories simultaneously; there’s the love blossoming between Marla and Frank, and there’s the crazy and wild persona of Howard Hughes that sometimes finds its way of getting between that. Aside from the other, they work and are incredibly compelling, but together, they don’t quite hit the same notes. Most of this has to do with it being very clear from the get-go that Beatty is more invested in Hughes himself and less of how Marla and Frank come together – their romance, while cute and sweet at times, also feels like a macguffin just to give us a sneak-peek into the secret and weird life of Hughes.

In a way, Beatty wants to explore the sheer hypocrisy and sadness that lies within such a system and place like Hollywood, where it seems like a lot of promises are made, a lot of money is thrown around, and a lot of people talk, but nothing actually happens or get done. It’s not necessarily original, but it is interesting to watch, mostly because we see it all play out through the dough-eyed eyes of Frank and mostly, Marla. But in another way, Beatty also wants to show us that someone as crazy, as insane and as certifiably nuts as Howard Hughes, did exist, have power, have control, had a whole lot of money, and mostly, got by in life based on the pure fact that he was labeled a “mysterious genius”. Rules Don’t Apply constantly seems to be battling with itself over what to say, but mostly, just ends up presenting two different sides to a coin that we’re not really sure about, which leaves it feeling slightly unfinished.

Still, it’s hard not to watch.

Don't be too happy, kiddies. Howie's always watching.

Don’t be too happy, kiddies. Howie’s always watching.

Beatty, the actor, seems to be having the time of his life as Hughes, lighting up the screen with his casual weirdness that we’ve never quite seen from him before. At nearly 80 years of age, it’s interesting to see Beatty try something new on for size and work with this odd, idiosyncratic person and give us a compelling performance; we feel as if we’re supposed to trust him because of how he speaks, but we also know that he’s insane and because of this, is unpredictable. Beatty plays at this idea very well and has us constantly wondering just where he’s going to go next with this performance and how it’s going to factor into the movie as a whole.

It also helps that Beatty doesn’t allow for his performance to get in the way of Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich, who are both pretty amazing here. Though Ehrenreich seems to be on the rise what with the Han Solo movie coming up, it’s really Collins who surprised me the most, giving us a character who is so bright, so bubbly, so charming and so lovely, that it’s hard to imagine watching her dreams shatter before her very own eyes. If anything, a movie about her life and brief touch with stardom would have been its own move, but of course, Beatty himself does have different intentions and can’t seem to help himself, leaving Collins’ performance, while very good, seeming like a missed opportunity.

Then again, there’s a whole slew of others that seem to literally show up, do their thing and then leave, all with the drop of a hat. Certain players like Annette Bening, Candice Bergen, Matthew Broderick and Taissa Farmiga get a few scenes to help develop their characters a bit, but others like Paul Sorvino, Ed Harris, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Amy Madigan, Steve Coogan, Dabney Coleman, Paul Schneider, Haley Bennett, and trust me, more, all have nothing to do. It’s as if they could have only shown up to film for a day and we’re allowed to have that scene put in. If that was the case, it’s impressive that Beatty was able to get such a wildly eclectic group of people to come out and work, but also a tad annoying cause all it does is add to an already rather stuffed flick.

Something Hughes himself probably wouldn’t have had a problem with.

Consensus: With so much going on, Rules Don’t Apply can’t help but seem uneven, but does benefit from a few good performances, as well as a welcome return from Beattty himself.

6.5 / 10

Behind every crazy man, is one who is trying so hard to translate everything that's being said.

Behind every crazy man, is one who is trying so hard to translate everything that’s being said.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, News Report Center

The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

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

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

Always watch those cats around grub. Or small children.

Always watch those cats around grub. Or small children.

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

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

In fact, it’s downright impossible.

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

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

And yeah, for awhile, that joke does well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 / 10

This is where jealousy and resentment in the household begins.

This is where jealousy and resentment in the household begins.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

24 Party Hour People (2002)

PartyposterDrugs make everything better. Even annoying Brits.

Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan), from what most people thought, was just another TV anchor forced to do stories on wild animals and old people. But little did some of them know that, after all of the filming was done, Wilson was also a prominent agent for some of the biggest and best British bands of the early-punk and Madchester scene that spanned from the late-70’s, to the early-90’s. Not only did Wilson make the likes of the Sex Pistols, Joy Division, New Order, and the Happy Mondays big names in the music biz, but he also help pave the way for how most night clubs should be able to handle these bands while, at the same time, still make a profit. But aside from the business aspect, Wilson also encountered some issues in his personal life, whether he was bouncing from girl-to-girl, drug-to-drug, or band-to-band, he always remained focused on making the music his first and only priority. Even if, occasionally, the bands themselves were a bit too much to handle. But no matter what, Wilson always relied on something to get him through even the biggest hurdles: Drugs. And wow, a whole lot of them, too.

Oh, to be young and trendy again.

Oh, to be young and trendy again.

What’s perhaps the most interesting element of 24 Hour Party People that not only sets it apart from the rest of the musical biopic genre, but also enlivens things, too, is the fact that every so often, Wilson turns to the camera, lets us know what’s going on, what legend has said about a certain incident and mostly, just given his own voice and opinion on things. Not only does this make the movie self-aware, but it also helps make us realize that Wilson, despite his many negative personality-traits, is an honest and relatively understanding human being. However, what’s most interesting about what director Michael Winterbottom does here is that he doesn’t ever give us the full focus on Wilson’s life, even though that’s kind of expected.

Case in point, try the one scene where Wilson meets his ex-wife and child; while we’re expecting it to be a heartfelt, albeit sappy scene trying to make us see and understand Wilson as this kind, loving and caring human being, Wilson then talks to the audience, lets us know that he does have a kid, but also reminds us that this story isn’t wholly about him. In fact, it’s about the music he helped discover and bring to the masses, the parties that constantly arose, and just why it all matters these many years later.

And for that reason, 24 Hour Party People‘s kind of a blast.

Though Winterbottom has a hard task of trying to get the whole Madchester music scene into a near-two-hour-long film, without making it seem like he’s forgotten about anyone important, he somehow is able to make it all come together. Most of this has to do with the fact that Wilson’s constant narration and breaking of the fourth-wall, actually helps us connect the dots; some may say that it’s spoon-feeding the audience and pointing out the obvious, but I look at it as a way of Winterbottom letting us know that, don’t worry, no matter how many bands or names come into the foray here, he’ll still help us out. After all, the Madchester music scene was a crazy one, and if you don’t already know all of the bands and acts going into it, you’ll more than likely get lost in all the havoc and craziness.

Thankfully, like I said, Wilson’s narration helps us all out. And due to this, the movie’s a whole lot of fun. As usual with Coogan’s productions, there’s a lot of humor that comes out of some very dark and serious situations, while at the same time, the movie doesn’t forget about the harsh realities that this music scene brought on. Of course, with the movie featuring Joy Division, it’s obvious that they’d shine a light on Ian Curtis and his suicide, but other than that, there’s still plenty of other sad things that happen. People break-up, people get back together, people gain fame, people lose it, and most of all, people lose sight of their humanity.

Ian Curtis dances weird? You don't say!

There goes Ian Curtis giving hope to all white people who think they can dance.

But no matter what 24 Hour Party People is entertaining.

Maybe it’s not as heavy as it should have been, but considering it’s a musical biopic that doesn’t try to preach any ideas about drug addiction, or fame, or money, it’s definitely “different”, for lack of a better term. Yes, it’s funny, but it’s also got a nice bit of insight into how the world of music works, how people get into place when a certain craze is beginning to take over, and just how easy it is for people to get wrapped up in all of it. Though Wilson loves good music, first and foremost, he also loves money and making plenty of it, which is why it’s neat to see his perspective on what one has to do to ensure that their nightclub makes as much profit as it should. While this definitely takes the movie away from the music, and more towards the business of what went on around it, it still adds up to creating this whole scene and why it was so great to be apart of.

And like I made a mention of before, Coogan is definitely a fine source for us to follow and see all of this happen around. Coogan’s great at playing level-headed a-holes, but here, there’s a bit more to Wilson that makes him seem more humane than usual. Still though, this movie isn’t a biopic on his life, as much as it’s about all those countless bands and people he met, which is why the ensemble has some of the finest heavy-hitters in England. The likes of Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Andy Serkis (not in mo-cap gear), Lennie James, Shirley Henderson, and of course, plenty more, all give their two cents here, are fun, lively and round out a party worth being apart of and checking out.

Even if, you know, you didn’t get an invitation to it in the first place.

Consensus: With a smart, attentive eye to detail and facts, 24 Hour Party People isn’t just an insightful piece, but also a very funny, exciting film that perfectly captures the Madchester scene, the bands and all the other people who are alive and well during its reign.

8 / 10

Steve Coogan? Happy! You don't say!

Steve Coogan? Happy? You don’t say!

Photos Courtesy of: Stand By For Mind Control, Now Very Bad, VH Corner

Minions (2015)

At least Hollywood’s not discriminating against the minions. Just yet.

Many, many years before these little yellow guys got shacked-up with Gru, they were left to fend for themselves from the beginning of time. However, the one aspect of the minion’s lives is that they’ve always had a boss to tell them what to do and to basically keep them in line whenever their hijinx proved to get out of hand a bit too much. That’s why three of the minions, Kevin, Stuart, and Bob (Pierre Coffin), all set out for an adventure to see if they can find a boss that they can stick with and not be so lost. They eventually stumble upon New York City during the late-60’s, where all sorts of hustle and bustle is occurring; eventually too, the minions see an ad for a villains convention lead by the most notorious and sexiest villain of them all, Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock). Now, all the minions have to do is get into contact with Scarlet, impress her enough so that she takes them all on as trusted servants, and do as she says. But the minions soon realize that there’s a difference between helping out evil people, and those who are just considered “villains” – a lesson they would come to learn more and more about as the years would go by.

Though I’ve never been quite a fan of the Despicable Me franchise so far, there’s no denying that the minions themselves have mostly been the best parts of those movies. That’s not to say that the likes of Gru or any other aspects to the movies have charmed me, it’s just that when I look back at it, I mostly remember the minions as the ones who made me laugh and enjoy myself the most. Everything else was just sort of, meh. So with that said, you’d think that a full-length movie dedicated to just them would be right up my alley, correct?

Love at first drought.

Love at first drought.

Well, not really. However, I’m not too surprised by that.

See, when you have characters such as the minions, it’s best to use them in smaller doses on the side of the main-plot, rather than making them the center of the attention, all of the time. That’s how it is for most sidekicks in any major franchise/story/idea/anything, and even if you could try to pull an Avengers 2 and give the minions some extraneous subplot that makes them more substantial to the story at-hand, I don’t know if it would totally work for these characters. These minions are best when they’re around to show up for a little while, speak in some gibberish, hit one another, and just generally act like goof-balls. It’s what they’re known for and, for all the kiddies at least, they’re loved for, too.

Problem is, the act does run a bit dry after awhile and it gets to a point where one can only handle so much of the nonsensical gibber-jabber these characters partake in, or the constant slapstick that seems to shove itself into the plot whenever the director thinks that maybe there’s one too many jokes for adults. And honestly, that shouldn’t be a problem, because there aren’t many of those jokes to begin with. Then again though, there’s nothing wrong with that because these sorts of movies have never prided themselves on equally being for every member of the family; the folks at Pixar, as was evident from Inside Out, definitely do. However, those behind the Despicable Me franchise never did, and so therefore, there’s nothing totally wrong with that.

It’s just something that will make an older-person watching this make the time go on a bit longer, even as the youngsters are yucking it up and loving just about every second of it.

And you know what? They totally should! Minions, just like Despicable Me, is harmless in the best sense of the word – nobody’s going to have to worry about a joke being done in poor-taste, nor will they have to worry about kids going around and beating one another. All the minions set out to do, much like the movie itself, is to shine another small spotlight on those little yellow people you always see in the other movies, but never get the full attention quite like you may or may not want them to.

Did Sandra do green-screen for this? Or does Andy Serkis just take that over from now on?

Did Sandra do green-screen for this? Or does Andy Serkis just take that over from now on?

For me, maybe I didn’t need a whole movie dedicated to them, but considering that the movie hardly even runs 70 minutes, and doesn’t seem to be promising anymore sequels to this story in particular, I was willing to roll with it. Even if they aren’t the most engaging screen-presences for the whole time, the movie still throws in some energetic and colorful “human” characters to brighten things up in a comprehensible way that makes the plot all the more zany. The likes of Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Geoffrey Rush, and Sandra Bullock show up here to lend their voices and they all work well. Even if a recent animated flick like the Spongebob Squarepants movie proved that you don’t always need big-time names to lend their voices to your project to be any bit as successful as the last one to come before, it’s still nice to see at least some of these characters be more lively because of the personality behind them.

Even if, once again, they could have gotten any trained voice-actor and everything would have probably been a-okay. But hey, I guess you’ve got to worry about who will see your movie and who won’t.

And honestly, about the movie, despite what I may make some think, did make me laugh on occasion and enjoy some of the stylistic choices the directors took with the 1960’s setting. This already makes it seem like it’s actually putting in more of an effort than other animated movies that try to just cash in on a brand-name or fancy idea. Sure, they’re already using a previous idea from their other movies, but at least Minions didn’t feel like the total cash-cow that it could have been, where it’s so obvious that they want your money, that nobody seems enthused to even be showing up for work, making movies for all the world to see and enjoy.

So yeah, at least they’ve got that going for them; if anybody cares about that at all.

Consensus: The title characters themselves may grow a bit tired after awhile, but Minions, the movie, actually provides some laughs and fun along its short and sweet adventure that’s already setting up the many more Despicable Me movies to come.

6.5 / 10

Bananas with eyes aren't usually my first snack of the day, but if it's all I got, I mean, might as well.

Bananas with eyes aren’t usually my first snack of the day, but if it’s all I got, I mean, might as well.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Trip to Italy (2014)

More food; more locations; more My Cocaine impressions; more British-talk.

Two years after their initial food/sights tour of Northern England Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan are back at it again! But this time, they’re going to Italy! Meaning, more food, more spicy women, more impersonations, more jokes, more one-up-manship, and definitely more conversations about their careers and where they’re headed. However, now that both of them are a bit older now, they question just whether or not has life passed them by and have a trouble accepting the fact that they are, yes, nearly 50. But Rob and Steve are jolly fellows that don’t let this get in the way of their wonderful getaway too much and instead, depend on one another for laughs and their own respective families for some sort of comfort when they get lonely, or sad at night. Still though, the two wake up the next day and woolah, they’re back on the road, doing what they do best: Just being themselves. Even if they do sometimes get on each other’s nerves than they would like to.

So yeah, the original Trip was a nice, delightful piece of British cinema; which is especially strange, considering it was originally made-for-TV and spliced together for a full-feature flick. While that was clear and abundant in the first movie, with some scenes not necessarily feeling like they’re adding up to much, it seems like, for the second time around, director Michael Winterbottom, Brydon and Coogan have at least realized that in order to make a movie work and be effective, it has to be cohesive. Therefore, not only is the editing a lot better this go around, but the movie itself is a bit tighter in terms of how it balances its comedy aspects, along with its dramatic ones.

"Eat up, ya twit!"

“Eat up, ya twit!”

And because these guys aren’t getting any younger, they’re starting to think like older-men – which always means that there’s going to be a whole lot more drama added to the mix. Because even though both Brydon and Coogan are exceptionally hilarious fellas, two guys who seem to not have a care in the world of who they offend, or what sort of jokes they make, they’re still human beings. And human beings have feelings, dammit!

That’s why, for every ten-minute straight-sequence in which we get Brydon and Coogan riffing off one another and doing their hilarious impersonations of various James Bond actors, there’s at least two dramatic-sequences in which these two guys talk about how they’re getting old and how life seems to be passing them by. Also not to mention, these guys realize that they can’t do much about it and instead, decide to discuss whether they even want to go on further with their careers, regardless of how well they’re doing at the present time. It’s actually kind of shocking to see these two get so candid about these aspects of real life, but I guess it had to happen eventually, and I’m glad it happened in this movie, with these characters (which, I guess, is something of a joke), and together.

Which is why I don’t find it at all dumb to say that the most interesting aspect of this movie are both Brydon and Coogan themselves. Because see, like with the first one, it’s clear that these guys are playing slight-versions of themselves that may not always be on-point, but at least hit the nail on the head with how they’re famously perceived in the media, or those not-so close to them. But what’s always struck me as a little fishy was that most of this isn’t just improvised by whatever comedic-genius they concoct next, but they even share the writing credits, along with Winterbottom as well. Meaning that even when they aren’t just saying what comes to their minds first, usually, the stuff they say, has to be written out for them to then say again in front of the screen.

And this makes me ponder something: “Just how much of this movie is them just talking about stuff their “characters” would talk about? Or, how much of it really is just them, the real life personas of Coogan and Brydon, just being themselves?

Honestly, it was quite easy to tell this in the first movie; obviously Coogan was being a miserable dick because that’s how everybody and their grand-mothers perceived him as being. But here, he’s hardly ever mean to anybody and, here’s the biggie, actually laughs more than a dozen times at Brydon. In fact, if I were to state who walks away with this movie, in a comedy-sense, I’d say it would be Brydon. And this should honestly be no surprise; the guy was a delight to watch in the first movie and here, he’s as charming as ever, showing the world that he’s capable of more than just being able to do some killer Al Pacino and Michael Caine impersonations. Some of it goes a bit over-board (as most sequels do), but when he’s on a roll, the guy doesn’t stop and it’s great to see, especially considering that you know most of this is just what hits his noggin first. The guy is literally just as funny, if not funnier than Steve Coogan and there’s something to be said for that, considering the Coogs has always prided himself in stealing just about every show he’s been involved with.

But, if you were to ask me who walks away with this movie, just as in the whole thing itself, it’s Coogan. In a way, you could say he gets the last laugh, but that’s what he spends most of the movie doing: Laughing. Not just as Brydon, but at life in general. See, Coogan’s always been something of a miserable, dead-pan dude. He’s never had a positive outlook on life and, for the most part, it’s worked out well for him and his career. He’s typically the go-to-guy if you need an angry, mean Brit who doesn’t give a shit what you say, or how you say it; he’s better than you, he knows it, and don’t worry, you’ll find that out soon enough. Maybe that’s just something I see, but whatever it may be, it’s carried on throughout his career long enough for me to realize that this is what I can expect from Coogan, playing a character or not.

Besties 4 Lyfe

Besties 4 Lyfe

However, because Coogan is practically playing himself, it’s downright shocking to see him smile and, for once in a long time I imagine, be happy about the life he has. Sure, he has some reservations about certain choices he’s made in the past and he definitely wishes that he hadn’t chosen some movies that may have made it look like he was in it “just for the money”, but overall, Coogan is a happy guy. He smiles, laughs, enjoys other people’s company and actually wants to have a relationship with his son. Now, once again, I’m not sure how much of this is actually true about Coogan himself, or just the version of himself he’s playing here, but it seems almost all too real for him to be fretting on about, without hardly an emotional-connection to be found inside of him.

All that said, it’s Coogan who is really the one to watch in this movie. Sure, he and Brydon are hilarious together and a certain bit about the later killing the former had me practically in stitches, but it’s when these guys drop the facade for a short while, talk about life, exchange ideas and get to know what it’s like to “be friends”, that really stuck a chord with me. They’re funny guys, but they’re still guys nonetheless and they deserved to be seen as such.

Roger Moore impressions and all.

Consensus: Funny, heartfelt, and exquisitely shot, the Trip to Italy proves that Brydon, Coogan, and Winterbottom could continue at this story for decades and it will almost never fail. Just so long as the laughs are there, and the melancholy can still be found.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Strike a pose. Be old. Make me cry.

Strike a pose. Be old. Make me laugh. Make me cry.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Trip (2011)

Good food and My Cocaine impersonations: All you need in life.

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are two British actors and comedians that have worked together many times before and, for some odd reason, the two decide to go on a trip together. Though it was initially planned to be just Coogan and his girlfriend on the trip, she left to go back to America, leaving him to bring somebody he can’t necessarily consider “a friend”, but not somebody he “dislikes”; basically, just a “confidante”, if you will. Anyway, the two embark on a journey of Northern England where they eat all of the finest food, drink some of the most splendid wine, chat it up with the most delightful people, and even go for a bit of sight-seeing as well. However, the two mostly just spend their days battling each other in constant games of wits, career-choices, and most importantly, various impersonations that one thinks is better than the other.

A simple a premise, as well as a simple movie. Usually that works for me, but sometimes, it can feel like a crutch that the makers of the movie can’t help but fall back on, anytime that it tries to get darker, or more serious than it had originally promised. Thankfully though, director Michael Winterbottom and co-writers Brydon and Coogan themselves, make the Trip something just a tad bit more than what it could have easily been, with no consequences whatsoever: A fine, timely and splendid good time with two hilarious people.

However, rather than just focusing on how funny each of these guys are together and in their own respective, little worlds, the movie actually goes deep into who they are, and what makes them sometimes at odds with one another. For instance, we all know that Coogan fancies himself being a miserable prick, and here, basically playing himself, that’s all he ever is. He constantly gets down on those around him, criticizes everything he sees and never seems fully fulfilled with his life or his career. Then, take the bright, smiley, optimistic and relatively pleasant Rob Brydon who is nearly the opposite of Coogan. The only glue really keeping them together and on speaking-terms is their love of comedy and making people laugh; whether it be themselves, or a huge, paying crowd.

Don't know if selfie, or trying to get service.

Don’t know if selfie, or trying to get service….

Pitting these two together, and sometimes, against one another, is interesting because Winterbottom never really has these two go head-to-head in a way that would make it seem like they could beat the shit out of one another after the other messes up a Roger Moore impersonation. Nope, none of that unrealistic shite here! Instead, they more or less just get at each other’s necks every so often, making fun of their personalities, and saying whatever comes to their mind first, without ever having a filter of what not to say in order to not offend the other too much. But even after they trade barbs, they’re back on the road, in a restaurant, or in a park, walking, talking, eating, joking around, and impersonation people as if nothing had ever happened.

They’re the typical friends that aren’t the best of friends, but are good enough together that they relatively enjoy each other’s company. And because so much of it resembles a real, actual friendship between both Brydon and Coogan, it’s hard to ever forget which is true about their relationship together, or better yet, when exactly are they done “acting”. See, because they wrote this together, it’s difficult to draw the line between “fictionalized”, and “real”. The line between the two is blurred many times here and it’s nice to see that not only can these two bounce jokes off of one another like it’s nobody’s business, but that, at the end of the day, they seemingly don’t really have a problem with the other.

Even if they do, it’s probably a small problem that’s best not to even elaborate on, mostly because that would just entitle there to being more and more countless celebrity impersonations.

That said, because Brydon and Coogan are so good together, the movie’s very funny. Although, it’s not constantly funny. There’s a part of me that was enjoying this, but wasn’t necessarily laughing as much as I thought I should have. Their constant impersonations were funny and definitely got me laughing-out-loud more than a few times, but when it came to tossing and turning, in a non-stop fashion – eh, not so much. But I thought about it long and hard and I realized that’s fine; like life, when two people engage in conversation, it’s not always snippy, snappy and crackling dialogue between them both. It does drag and it does get quiet at times, and that’s how life is. Even if the two people are as extremely funny as both Brydon and Coogan; they’re human beings after all and no human being can be hilarious, all of the time.

Occasionally funny is good enough.

How I assume we all look while trying to pull of the perfect Bond villain.

How I assume we all look while trying to pull of the perfect Bond villain.

And I used the word “drag” earlier because the same could be said for the movie itself. There are moments in this movie where I felt like, despite it moving at a fine, sometimes languid pace, the movie never really gets off to where it wants to go that, by the end, it felt like just a nice time spent with two very funny people and that was it. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially when the two screen-presences are as funny as the two fellas here, but there is a feeling that it could have been cut-down by size, just by a bit. If they did so, it wouldn’t have felt like such a slog at times that, once it was all said and done, it felt more like a trip that we were getting ready to go home for, rather than one we never wanted to end.

But I do have to give the benefit of the doubt to Winterbottom who, essentially, made a near two-hour movie of three hours of footage. Surely, it couldn’t have been an easy task, but it’s one that Winterbottom mostly succeeds at. Maybe it would have worked on TV like it had originally done, but it still feels suitable enough to not totally notice the various cracks and folds hiding underneath the editing. Sometimes, they’re noticeable and sometimes, they’re not. But most of the time, you just don’t care. You laugh, check out some sweet sights, get incredibly hungry and just have a relatively good time with two very funny Brits.

Damn. Wish my friends were as funny, or could do a killer Anthony Hopkins.

Consensus: While the Trip isn’t consistent in terms of its hilarity, or its interest-factor, it still proves Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan to a lovable pair that work so well together, we can’t wait to see it again.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Aw. What besties!

Aw. What besties!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Philomena (2013)

Wanna see some REAL “evil nuns? You’re welcome.

After failing in his ill-advised decision to be a politician, Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) decides to return to the world that he knows he’ll safe be in, considering he’s practically been in an expert in it for 20+ years: Journalism. However, Sixsmith isn’t the type of journalist who goes out there and writes fluff for the mainstream. No siree! In fact, the type of writer he is an important one that gets straight to the facts, and doesn’t leave anything dangling. But all that changes once Sixsmith is given the opportunity to cover a “human interest story” concerning one Philomena Lee (Judi Dench). The story is simply this: When Philomena was a young and confused girl, she got knocked up. Seems normal, right? Well, at the time, she was an orphan who had a bunch of nuns breathing down her neck for every simple act she committed, which meant that she could either a.) take the kid and leave the orphanage, or b.) leave the kid at the orphanage to be looked at adoptive parents, while she still lived and worked at the orphanage, giving her the chance to see her kid every once and awhile. She decided to go with Option B, but it wasn’t before long until her own boy was snatched up from her, with little to no idea of who this family was, or even where they went. 50 years later, Philomena and Martin go out to discover the truth, which sadly, isn’t only just Philomena’s story, either.

Sightseeing with Steve Coogan may not be the most pleasant-filled afternoon you could ever have, but it's better than with somebody who ISN'T Steve Coogan, so it's at least a slightly better choice.

Sightseeing with Steve Coogan may not be the most pleasant-filled afternoon you could ever have, but it’s better than with somebody who ISN’T Steve Coogan, so it’s at least a slightly better choice.

There’s been a lot of talk, a lot of hype and a lot of buzz surrounding this movie and quite frankly, I don’t get it. Sure, it’s got two supreme, British heavy-weights in the forms of Steve Coogan and Dame Judi Dench in the lead roles, and is even a true-life story, but does that really mean it deserves all of the praise it’s been getting? Actually, let me rephrase that: Does it REALLY deserve an 89% (so far) on Rotten Tomatoes?!?!

HELL TO THE NO!!

But then again, I can see why.

Basically, here’s a movie that caters to the late-Holiday, Oscar-bait viewing audience: It ruffles some feathers, but features pleasant, happy-going thoughts about finding yourself, embracing your past, as well as not blaming any others for your problems that you’ve had before, or the ones that you have now. Wow! Wait a ticket! Didn’t that last one seem a bit negative to you? Well, that’s because it is.

What this movie does, and does well, if you choose to see it the way I did, was that it presents a view of these nuns in such a despicable, one-sided way, that the movie lost almost all credibility from me. Don’t be fooled, I am no heavy-duty Catholic that prays to God everyday before I go to bed, or wake up for school, or never misses Sunday Mass, however, I know an unfair viewpoint when I see one, and that’s what I see here. First of all, I don’t think anybody took into account the idea that not only were these nuns giving these girls a second chance at life, but made sure that they did actually get to see their kids. And heck, didn’t the nuns give these girls a choice to begin with? Sure, the girls could have easily left the orphanage without a place to eat, sleep or live at, and the extra-baggage of a newborn could have only added insult to injury, but it’s still the risk you take, right?

The fact that this movie brings this point up, but doesn’t really have much to say about it really ticked me off. Hear me out, I am in no way condoning these nuns for what it was that they did to these girls and to their children, however, that doesn’t get me past the fact that this movie doesn’t realize how hateful it sounds. Makes sense to make the Catholic church the enemy here, that’s totally understandable actually, but it doesn’t try to even come close to explaining their side of the story, or even the benefits one might have made from this decision to stick around the orphanage while the kids themselves were put-up for adoption.

I know plenty of you out there are already thinking how much of a terrible, distasteful human-being I truly am, but seriously, you know there’s a problem with your movie when you have nothing more to show for it other than a bunch of scenes in which both Judi Dench and Steve Coogan just do whatever comes to their mind first. And there’s actually nothing really wrong with that, because they’re both pros, but considering that’s the only aspect of this movie has to fall back-on, those scenes together between them both get real old, real quick and start to make you see all of the other problems with this flick.

Though the trailers and heck, even the poster up-above, may have you fooled into thinking that is a somewhat fun, hilarious, witty road-trip between two of Britain’s most famous beings of the big-screen (only the latter is true), the movie is totally different. It is a drama, and a very dark one at that, which I do applaud because it goes to some areas that I didn’t in the least bit expect it to end-up. But as dark as a movie can and wants to be, it has to be able to save it all by transition well between both sides of the story, and that is not what this does. Whenever there is supposed to be a moment made for comedic-effect, the movie relies on Dench to say something silly, or somewhat daft, just to show you that she’s an little ole’ cute lady, that you’re supposed to feel bad for no matter what mistakes she may, or may not have made in the past.

And while Philomena, the character, gets by mainly on Dench’s performance, you still can’t help but think what would have been if there was more attention to the script and the simple mechanics of the plot. I get that this story was adapted from a book, that was apparently based on a true-story, but for some odd reason, a lot of this just rang false to me, as if it was just Philomena going on the trip all by herself in real-life, but producers realized they needed a witty, sarcastic Brit along with her for the ride, so just call up Steve Coogan I guess, right?

Okay, nevermind. She is pretty damn cute. Just look at her!!

Okay, nevermind. She is pretty damn cute. Just look at her!!

Well, not to anybody’s surprise, Coogan ends up being the best thing about this movie, despite his character being one that’s quite frequently looked-down upon from this movie. Coogan does his usual dead-pan, dickish-like act where he says things that aren’t supposed to be funny, but because he’s such an uncomfortable asshole to be around, you can’t help but chuckle at him. However, Coogan does take this character a step-further in showing us a guy who is actually coming to realize that there’s more brewing beneath the surface of this story than ever before, and while he may not still care too much for “human interest” stories, he cares enough for Philomena to the point of where he wants her to be okay, once they find her boy and get a chance to talk to him. Though the movie definitely has an anti-journalistic mentality about itself going on here, it’s Coogan’s journalist-character whom ends up being the most interesting and believable.

As for Philomena, well, that’s why Judi Dench was cast in the first place, and as good as she is, even her amazing talents can’t save this gal from being just another simple, old woman who loves life, appreciates it all for what it’s worth and loves to throw wisdom down other people’s throats whenever she feels like it. I guess those type of old women are considered “cute”, and not the types you want to send away to a home in hopes of benefiting from the family house?

Consensus: Coogan and Dench do slightly save Philomena from a very painful, uncomfortable death, but the script’s pit-falls into drama, religion, comedy, homosexuality, sex, lies and no videotape, never work or even seem believable, despite this apparently being a “true story”. I’m doubting that one.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Don't expect a hug, or hell, any sort of emotional support from the Coogs.

Don’t expect a hug, or hell, any sort of emotional support from the Coogs.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

What Maisie Knew (2013)

So does this mean my daddy ever really wanted to play “catch” with me?

Seven-year-old Maisie (Onata Aprile) is the innocent, young girl who just so happens to be in the middle of a nasty, vengeful divorce. Her mother, Susanna (Julianne Moore), is a musician that’s constantly recording, dysfunctional, and tours for long periods of time; whereas her father, Beale (Steve Coogan), isn’t any better neither. He’s rarely ever around and always off on his own “business trips”, which just leaves the young nanny (Joanna Vanderham) to take care of Maisie. However, once both sides of the divorce start to find more and more problems, they begin to through Maisie to the curb more and rather than caring for her because they want to, they soon start to find her as more of a crutch. That is, with the exception of one person: Susanna’s new hubby, Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgård).

The people that I know and hang around nowadays still find it odd that I can say that my parents are still together after over 30 years of marriage, are still happy, and plan on being together for the rest of their lives. They’re very old-school in the sense that they stuck with one person and that was that, but while many people view that as a negative, as if you can’t be yourself or make yourself happy at all, they, as well as myself, see it as more of a positive. But in today’s day and age, more and more married-couples, long term or short, are beginning to separate and divorce. Why? Well, I can’t find the main solution to that problem, other than the fact that there are more opportunities out there to make your life happy, so why sit by one right now, especially if it’s inconsistent? That’s just my take though, I’m not married, never have been (not that I know of), and don’t have any kids (or at least one’s that I don’t pay for), so take what you will from me and go about your day.

Just proves that rock stars can't raise kids. Or dress appropriately enough in public.

Just proves that rock stars can’t raise kids. Or dress appropriately enough in public.

However, despite the old-school couple I got going on in my crib, there are still plenty of people that I know or associate myself with that are children of divorce. Some find it easier than others, but the ones that find it hard, it really tears them up, even until this day. My cousins were apart of a divorce that occurred not only when they were very young, but when I was as well. I was very intrigued, but very confused at the same time as to what divorce was and whether or not it was as sad as it seems to be. Then again though, I was young, somewhat pleasant to be around, and always questioned everything that irked me, no matter where I was or went.

Anyway, fact of the matter is that divorce isn’t the type of subject i’m an expert on, but I feel like I know enough about the simpler things in life like parenting, taking care of loved ones, and so on and so forth, hence why this flick really worked for me. At first, I felt like it was going to be one of those “message movies” where it shows us how bad divorce is, why it should happen less and less, and why kids who are in the middle of one are ultimately screwed-up for life, but this movie began to show it’s smarts and honesty as time rolled on and more emotions were unearthed. The movie never really condones divorce as an action against the Gods and one that will land you straight into hell upon your death, but it does show you what can happen and how wrong it can go when you aren’t careful about it.

For instance, the married couple of Susanna and Beale seem to be at odds-ends with one another and realize that it’s better that they just get the hell out of one another’s sight, but keep Maisie in the loop and love her forever. In this case, it’s easier said then done and it’s hard to watch because you know Maisie doesn’t deserve any ounce of this, no kid does, but you can’t help but realize that this is something that probably happens almost each and every day in the world we live in. Kids are constantly in the middle of nasty divorces and don’t have a say in the world, except for the parent’s themselves who are probably in ways, more immature than the actual kids themselves. Watching as Maisie keeps her head up throughout the whole proceedings, even when she simply gets tossed-around worse than a potato salad in a buffet line, is simply inspirational and a work of beauty to see, even if you are or aren’t a child of divorce.

The movie knows that divorce, like many other things in life, will happen. It’s just all a matter of if it’s done in a right way where people aren’t too hurt by what’s happening, especially the kids themselves. Sounds like some soapy stuff, which it does get to be after awhile, but it always remains true and honest. As well as insightful, even for a kid who has never had to deal with divorce. I’d consider myself lucky, then again though, most of the people that I do know who are victims of divorce, don’t really seem as mentally messed-up as the rest of society seems to paint them as. However, that’s a whole other different discussion. One that the movie doesn’t really discuss, and with good reason too because this is Maisie’s story; one that’s probably no different from more than a hundred other divorce stories out there, but here’s is special for many reasons. The main which being that Maisie herself is played to perfection by a young star with a very bright future on her hands: Onata Aprile.

Most child performances can go either way: they can be really strong because the child-actor his/herself feels like a real kid, just being themselves; or, they can be too annoying or over-the-top with their act, as if they were paid in Skittles and Starburst to go out there and act their assess off. However, Aprile’s performance is the farthest thing from being annoying or over-the-top, instead, she just feels like a real kid, going through a real problem, and taking the real, harsh realities of life, as if she’s been experiencing them for years. What makes Maisie such a wonderful character, and why Aprile is so perfect in this role, is because Maisie never begs or pleads for our sympathy, nor does she seem to need it. She seems like a strong enough gal that loves life too much to let it get her down, but also loves the people that inhabit that life of hers as well, even if most of them don’t deserve it in the least bit. This allows her to stay strong, even when everybody else around her has seem to lost hope in getting up and caring for her. Aprile is great at showing us this kind, sweet, little girl that wants love and deserves it, but on top of that, deserves to be with people who will give all of the love and care that she oh so desires.

Nobody's walking on the streets of NYC during the middle of the day?

Nobody’s walking on the streets of NYC during the middle of the day?

She reminded me of what it was like to be a kid, except she was more subtle and silent with her emotions. I’m just saying, if I didn’t get to Toys R Us at least once a week, tantrums were thrown.

Everybody else is great too, even if the problem with Aprile being so good and subtle, sort of has everybody else pale in comparison. Julianne Moore is great as the hard-edged, bimbo rock star that doesn’t really know what to do with Maisie, except for having to know that she needs to be taken care of when it’s her time and place. Moore brings out a lot of heart and depth within this character and shows her more than just an obvious character that’s easy to point the big finger at, but there’s only so much she can do to where it seems like the character is just too unlikable and stupid to even consider caring about. Same goes for Steve Coogan as the father, who shows some much-needed empathy that’s been brewing for so long beneath this character, but feels too much like a total dick to even be bothered with in the first place. It’s heart-breaking to watch as these two a-holes mess around with Maisie’s life, but it’s probably just a fact of life for most kids going through the same problems. To be honest though, it doesn’t quite give me any more need or desires to want to watch that fact of life be seen on the screen, over and over again. It’s sad to know it exists, but do I really want to see it? Especially if I don’t live with it myself? Okay, I just sound like a dick. I’m gone!

Consensus: Regardless of if you, or anybody you’ve ever known has been apart of a divorce, What Maisie Knew is still a worth while flick because of the honest heart it has at the center of it’s message, as well as the heart-breaking performance from the young Onata Aprile herself, who seems like she might have a bright career ahead of herself, as long as she keeps her eyes on the prize. The prize being respectable, future film roles.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Yes, draw that vampire. Aren't they so rad."

“Yes, draw that vampire. Aren’t they so rad?”

Despicable Me 2 (2013)

If I see anything that’s small and yellow, doesn’t matter what object it is, I’m going to smash it. I’m not kidding.

When we last left ex-villain Gru (Steve Carell) and the his three, adopted-kids were getting along just fine and it’s still nice to see that they are a couple years later. However, Gru does get lonely at times and when he isn’t being the best daddy that he can be, he’s either trying to see what ladies want him or his bald head. The propositions do come, but they aren’t perfect enough for him to fully go for the gold. Anyway, in walks Lucy (Kristen Wiig), the Anti-Villain League agent who actually recruits Gru to be apart of secret mission where they must find out who’s the secret leader/owner of a deadly virus that could spread and harm many.

Despite the first one being an ultra smash, from critics and audiences alike, for some odd reason, I just never really latched on Despicable Me like everybody else and their parents seemed to. It was sweet; it had a nice message to it; and I’m all for supporting kids and families, but the movie just didn’t do much for me, especially with what else I saw in the genre of animation, during the year 2010. Still, that didn’t matter because the only ones who mattered, actually liked it and I was practically left in the dust, knowing that there was going to be another sequel, in hopes to only prolong the franchise any longer than it needs to be.

All of my worst nightmares have actually come true and it doesn’t show any signs of stopping. Why me? Why!?!?!?

"Yo, Frank. I can't wait to get that paycheck so I can hit my bitches up muthafucka."

“Yo, Frank. I can’t wait to get that paycheck so I can hit my bitches up muthafuckaaaaaaa.”

With a movie like this, as sweet-natured as it may be, and as cynical and emotionless as I may be; I still have to get put my critic-cap on and get down to business with these types of flicks because in all honesty, animation movies aren’t all bad, it’s just that when they don’t do much to change the game or bring you something new you haven’t seen done before, it almost feels like a waste of time. Maybe I say that because I’ve been spoiled on Pixar my whole life and it hasn’t quite hit me yet that even they’re beginning to hit a slip as of late, but I’ve always stood by that idea and I probably always will. Give me a fine piece of animation, along with something original to work with, then I’m all ears and eyes. However, if you don’t, then you might have just lost me, which is exactly what happened with this flick here.

Granted, I know it’s not a movie that’s supposed to appeal to me in any type of way, but after about the 4th or 5th time I saw one of these annoying, little pieces of crap they call “Minions” beat the hell out of each other with whatever type of inanimate object they could find, I was already checking myself at the door, as well as looking at the watch that I imagined myself having. And don’t let me forget to remind you, this was during the first 15 minutes already. Don’t worry, I had plenty more time left to go and it seemed like it was only going to get worse and it sort of did, and it sort of didn’t.

It wasn’t as bad as I may make it out to be with all of my words that I type down, through the slugs and the groans, but overall, the movie is a pleasant-experience, and not just for kids, but for parents as well. I’m not a parent (or at least not a practicing-one), but I can tell that if they got dragged into seeing this with their kids, not only would they be smiling because they’re kiddie-bops are having fun, but also because they’re having an enjoyable time as well. At the screening, plenty of kids were laughing their rumps off, but the parents weren’t so quit either. Obviously I was, but that’s me. I’m a dick-head and I know it, so don’t pay any attention to me when it comes to movies like these. I like what I like, and it seems like these Despicable Me movies aren’t located anywhere in my taste-buds. Shame too, because I usually enjoy the hell out of the cast they have on-display here; with their voices that is.

Steve Carell still nails the role of Gru with his somewhat, Russian-accent and proves that he doesn’t need to be intentionally goofy to make us laugh. Okay, that’s a lie; the guy totally does and with good reason, because when I heard anything come out of Gru’s mouth, I just imagined Carell on the other side of the microphone, having the time of his life with this character. Carell is always a funny guy in stuff that he does, even the serious, melodramatic stuff, but it seems like Gru was the type of role he was born to play, if not just for over-the-top, vocal-theatrics, but because the character himself meshes so well with his voice. They go together so well that it’s almost too hard to imagine anybody else’s voice filling in for him.

Which is weird, considering that the main villain’s voice of this movie, El Macho, just so happened to filled-in. Awhile back, once the flick got announced and was in the final stages of negotiation, it was made clear to us all that Al Pacino would be voicing the role of the villain in this movie and surprisingly, it added a bunch of much-needed excitement for this movie, from my end at least. Best of all though, Pacino would be voicing a Hispanic character, which meant that he would once again be donning the Tony Montana voice just for shits, gigs, and for the kiddies as well. It had me so excited and a bit curious to see how it all played-out, that was, until Pacino dropped out for some odd reason, and Benjamin Bratt took over, filling in for the dude. Bratt is not a bad actor and usually gives good work in everything that he does, so this is nowhere near a hit on him, but going from Pacino to Bratt, is like going from Brando to Affleck. Both are known for pulling off their trademark style, but one is so much better than the other at doing it, that it’s almost a shock that one would ever contemplate replacing the other.

See, kids? This is what happens when you have to become a father. No, not that you become an animated character voiced by Steve Carell, but you go bald. End. Of. Story.

See, kids? This is what happens when you have to become a father. No, not that you become an animated character voiced by Steve Carell, but you go bald. End. Of. Story.

All of that dumb crap said, Bratt is still good voicing the role, it just makes you wonder what could have been, had Pacino not blown a fuse and left the set. Or the recording-booth. Whichever one it was.

As for everybody else, they’re all fine too and make the most of what they’re given, as stale and boring as it may be at times. Kristen Wiig’s general likability and charm comes right out of her voice, and directly into this character of Lucy, the one who takes a liking to Gru and his set of skills, and they both provide a nice companionship that isn’t just based on feelings, but a wee-bit of fun as well. Honestly, where the hell was this character in the first one? And last, but definitely not least are the Minions, who are as annoying as ever this go-around and provide nothing fun or cool to see, except for a bunch of slapstick that gets old after about the first smack to the head or a tumble to the ground.

Still can’t believe those fucks are getting their own movie.

Consensus: Maybe these aren’t the types of movies for me and maybe something in my head just isn’t as gentle and sweet as this material calls on me to be, but Despicable Me 2 still feels like an obvious retread of the original, with few or less surprises along the way.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Aka, my the exact mug on my face the whole movie.

Aka, my the exact mug on my face the whole movie.

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Just eat cakes! Who cares if she said it or not!

If you were the one who fell asleep during “the French portion” of World History Class, don’t worry; this movie has you covered. Kirsten Dunst plays the Archduchess of Austria and soon-to-be Queen of France from her beginning days where her and her husband, Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman) struggle to bang and get pregnant, to the latter where she had a whole country demanding her head. Funny how time changes, isn’t it?

Even though I know the song about her, and I know the (untrue) statement she apparently made, I still know a lot about Marie Antoinette; who she was, what she did, and all of the other background shizz about her. No, it’s not that I’m some weird dude who enjoys looking up historical figures, it’s mainly because the class I’m taking now for college, just got done covering her, France at the time, and the aftermath. So, yeah, basically: I know my shit.

Apparently, by the looks of it, Sofia Coppola doesn’t. There were plenty of times in this flick where I wanted to slap her, or slap something by all of the historical inaccuracies here, solely for the fact that it probably would have helped the film. I get that Coppola couldn’t be any less concerned with the nitty-bitty details of M-A’s life, but when you have a movie that’s focusing on making her a sympathetic/real person; you need to have all of those details in there and not simply make random shit up. I don’t mind when a movie does that just for shits and gigs, but it didn’t feel right here. It felt like Coppola tried to do whatever she could to keep this movie fun, entertaining, and interesting, but even taking liberties with the story didn’t seem to help either. Something else was going on here that I still need to put my finger on.

Ehh, I've seen bigger and more lush!

Ehh, I’ve seen bigger and more lush!

Coppola has that certain style to her directing and writing that works wonders, and other times; totally misses the mark. Here’s one of the latter-instances. Coppola is a gifted-filmmaker in the way that she is able to tell a story and an emotion, not just through having the characters say something, but by giving us a visual or a single-shot that convey whatever it is that she wants to convey. She’s one of the very-rare filmmakers that can do that now, and actually get away with it without being labeled as “pretentious”, “snobby”, or “an artsy-farsty mofo”. However, it doesn’t aid in her in anyway here, and makes the story seem duller instead.

For instance, there are plenty of scenes where it seems as if Coppola didn’t really seem to worry too much about the story, and decided to focus on what made the movie look pretty. It works, that’s for sure, but it does seem like over-kill and a bit of a waste, considering that this is a 2 hour film, that’s primarily dedicated to shots of Dunst playing in the grass and looking happy. Once again, doesn’t matter if you want to pull off a good shot once or twice, but when it starts to take over the rest of the movie and get rid of the substance, then it gets dull. Very, very dull.

But I can’t talk too much crap on Coppola and her visuals, because she does a hell of a great job with them. Not only is this movie beautiful from head-to-toe, but it’s also very impressive by all that it was able to capture on film. Apparently Coppola was actually able to film in and out of the actual Versailles, which is an opportunity that Coppola does not take for granted, considering she makes us feel as if we really are with all of these high-class, royal S.O.B’s, and watching them as they party, drink, smoke, have sex, fondle, and play games as if they were at a P. Diddy party.

Oh, and they are all doing it to the sweet tunes of whatever the hell Coppola had on her iPod at the time of filming. In the beginning of the flick, we get a bits and pieces of actual, alternative-rock songs playing somewhere in the background, but for the most part; Coppola keeps it cool with the anachronisms. Then, out of nowhere, Coppola seems to have had enough with 18th Century ways, and decides to unleash what she’s got ringing in her ears, and it’s all thanks to that Bow Wow Wow song that you’ve heard a million times (and done better by this guy, by the way). After this track comes seemingly out of nowhere, then Coppola goes ball to the walls with any punk rock/alt. rock song in the history of man that she can find, and it works more than it doesn’t, because it actually glues you into the party-atmosphere that these snobs seem to be reveling in. Goes to show you that Tarantino and Luhrmann aren’t alone when it comes to using songs randomly, but perfectly to fit a tone.

The fact that Coppola was able to make this story more centered towards M-A, what she went through, how she got through it, and all of the problems she had to overcome, worked in most areas, but didn’t in others. The areas that it did work in were all thanks to Kirsten Dunst as M-A because she gives not only a great performance that shows her being young, nimble, wild, and free to do whatever she wants and (sort of) get away with it, but it’s also a very subtle one in the way that she’s able to convey so many feelings this lady must have been going through in real-life. The fact that M-A was so young when she got married, was forced to get pregnant, and basically thrown on the throne as queen is something that makes you think about how she got over all of it, but also makes you feel for her a bit, the same way you would want someone to feel for you, had you been thrown into the same situation. This part of the character is where Dunst works best in and once the movie decides to drop the champagne, the cakes, and the sex-games, then that’s when Dunst decides to take herself a bit seriously and you see a young girl who has seemingly come into her own. However, as we all know: it was too little, too late for her.

"Not tonight, honey. Maybe next year."

“Not tonight, honey. Maybe next year.”

In a role that seemed more like an in-joke, rather than anything worth even taking seriously, Jason Schwartzman does fine with what he has to do as Louis XVI, but the movie isn’t all that bothered with him or his character. The whole first-half of the movie is practically dedicated to him just being a pansy, not being able to make love to his wife, and knocking her up. Once that’s all said and done with, then the guy is shown as a pansy who can’t keep his wife satisfied and basically allows for her to stay at these parties where she (presumably) bangs other dudes. Don’t know how much of that is actually true, but from what I’m able to gather: Louis XVI was a bit of a wimp.

The rest of the cast is fine and seem like they had a great time going on the set for a little play-date they liked to call dress-up. Rip Torn plays the philandering king to perfection because he’s grimy as you could imagine; Asia Argento loves scumming it up as the whore that the king is philandering with; Judy Davis does her usual, weird-face thingy that we all know her for; and Steve Coogan is here as well, but not really doing anything funny. When you have “The Coogs” in a movie, I don’t care what it is: you have to make him do or say something in the least-bit funny. Without any of that, what’s the point of even having him around in the first-place? Just for show? Baloney!

Consensus: Coppola’s style and vision slows the feel and pace of Marie Antoinette down, especially when it doesn’t need to, but at least it’s still left to be seen with it’s beautiful look, desired-attention to the finer-details (talking about the set-pieces, not the actual story), and fine performance from Dunst in the lead role, that showed that she was maturing more and more by the roles she began to take.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"One day, you're going to grow up to be a royal, pain-in-the-ass, just like your mother was."

“One day, you’re going to grow up to be a royal, pain-in-the-ass, who wasted all of her country’s money on lavish parties to satisfy your boredom.”

Happy Endings (2005)

Those only happen to women. They have all the luck and fun when it comes to massages.

It’s an interweaving of various stories, that all have to deal with issues such as money, adultery, sex, movies, relationships, being gay, being in a band, being a sperm-donor, being a parent, being a brother, being a step brother, being a step sister, and many, many more. Trust me, there’s a whole lot going on here with these people and self-indulgent their lives.

Awhile back, I was just lingering around on Netflix and I stumbled upon a little-flick called, The Opposite of Sex. Had no idea what it was, but I saw some good-buzz about it and decided to check it out. I liked it a lot and I dug what writer/director Don Roos brought to the game and how his story, as unpredictable and weird as it may be, was still pretty thought-provoking and had me interested in where it was going to go with itself. Sadly, I never got-around to actually reviewing it, but if I was to actually give it some sort of a rating, I would probably say it’s around an 8/8.5. Pretty high for a movie I just watched on a whim and that’s sort of why I was excited for this one, considering this was Roos’ return to the indie-game. Sadly, I think he left some of his “cool-parts” back in 1998, with a pregnant Christina Ricci. If only she was here, but Maggie Gyllenhaal is a good substitute, right?

What made this flick so interesting is that Roos takes all of these different stories, shows us how they relate to one-another, who these subjects are, and what exactly to expect from each and every one of them. However, it’s not just the way he sets-up these stories that make them all work, it’s how he keeps them interesting and alive through an lovely energy that is apparent through Roos’ writing and direction, right from the start. We never know where these stories are going to go and how, we just know that they’re interesting to watch, for the most-part and Roos always finds a way to add in a great-deal of ironic, and sometimes, dark humor for fair-share to keep us alive and awake.

But as the funny as the stories may be, it’s the heart of this flick that actually does work and we begin to feel that all of these characters, as goofy and weird as they may be, still have an underlining sense of humanity to them that has them come-off as believable and it’s Roos’ caring treatment of them that works so well. Yeah, not everybody here is nice person and there are definitely some people who can be declared, “absolutely despicable”, but they always felt real to me. No matter how far they may have went with their actions, and motivations for the acts that they chose, they still came-off as real people and I don’t know if that was because of the ensemble-acting, or because of Roos’ tender love and care for the actual characters themselves. It’s this frank depiction of humans, how they act, how they feel, and how they treat one another is what really resonated with me the most and even though I didn’t find myself crying as I sat and watched in my living-room, I still felt more of a connection than I ever expected.

Still, at the end of the day, I continued to think to myself, “Just what the hell was the point of all that?”. See, with Roos’ other flick, he goes to show-us that a sexual-gender shouldn’t make-up a person and their stances in life. That point is pretty obvious and not necessarily something we haven’t already seen or heard before, especially in a movie featuring homosexuals, but at least it went deeper and further than anything this movie was trying to shove-away. I don’t really even know what the whole-point of this movie was. I mean there is a lot of unpredictable moments here that sort of goes off to show how life can be so unpredictable at times, and how gay people are just like you or me, but at the end of the day, I never really “got it”.

Oh no she did not just bring up ex's?!?!

Oh no she did not just bring up ex’s?!?!

Maybe Roos was working on some sort-of higher-standard than I may have imagined, but nothing really hit me as hard as I would have liked. It’s even worse when you consider how much this guy seems to get in the way of his actors and their skills, when he constantly has a screen pop-up on the side, to tell us what happens to the characters, their motivations, and thoughts in almost half-of-the-scenes. Once, twice, or maybe even three times is fine, but it continues to pop-up every 10 minutes, just when Roos believes that his characters motivations aren’t as clear as he wants them to be. It gets in the way of actors, the audience, and most of all, the message as to what the hell is the point for focusing on all of these characters, who’s lives are as unpredictable as a sex orgy.

Even though he tries to get in the way, a bit too much I think, Roos still always allows his ensemble to give-off some great performances, especially ones from people I never expected to see ever. Tom Arnold was great as the subdued and subtle aging-father, that is sort of coming to terms with the fact that he’s getting older and starting to lose his grip when it comes to sex, love, or even being a hip and cool father like he once was. Seeing Arnold in a very-rare, dramatic-role really gives me more hope for this guy that he can do movies like these and actually make a thing or two out of not being all corny and trying to come-off as funny. Just be normal, dude, it works for ya.

Another performance here that I wasn’t expecting to like is the one given-by Jesse Bradford as the hipster-like, documentary filmmaker that is like every other young, hip person aspiring to make a living off of movies: dirty, broke, and very all-over-the-place. Bradford has never really been a stand-out in the acting-department, but the guy shows that there is more to him than just another pretty face and I actually liked his character a lot more than I ever expected to. I don’t think I’ve seen another performance from this guy that was ever really good, or hell, worth mentioning, but here, he was great with what he could do with such an obvious, and a tad thinly-written character. He still looks like he’s 15, though, I gotta give him that.

"Don't mind Uncle Stevies British-wit. They all have that."

“Don’t mind Uncle Stevies British-wit. They all have that.”

Perhaps the best out of this whole cast, and probably to nobody’s surprise is Maggie Gyllenhaal as Jude, the one and only gal that comes into this story to fuck shit-up. Gyllenhaal is great with roles like these because she uses her brass and raw-attitude to really make you despise a character who has such dirty intentions like hers, but also feel an ounce of sympathy for her as well. Jude is probably the meanest character out of this whole-bunch and ended-up staying on my mind the most, even though I have no idea just what the hell Roos was trying to say about her. At the end of the movie, we get to see these characters, where they are today, and whether or not they actually received *ahem*, “happy endings” of sorts, and there is an extra-emphasis on her character and what she’s been up to as of late. It’s weird because they make such a big-deal out of it, with very little rhyme nor reason, just the fact that she’s there to be the shit-stirrer of the whole story, for no reason. Gyllenhaal is great, but it’s really confusing as to what the hell Roos was trying to make sense out of a character like hers in the beginning of it all.

Consensus: Happy Endings starts off perfectly and keeps your attention the whole-way through, but never seems to go any further than to just make us laugh, make us feel a bit emotionally-invested in what we see, and actually realize that Tom Arnold can act. I don’t know if there was anything more than that, but if there was, I couldn’t find it.

7/10=Rental!!

"Sit back. Relax. And feast your eyes on my finest acting-performance to date."

“Sit back. Relax. And feast your eyes on my finest acting-performance to date.”

Hot Fuzz (2007)

Made me really want to watch ‘Bad Boys II’. I never want to feel like that again.

Police Constable, Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is good at his job, so good in fact, he makes everyone else look bad. As a result, his superiors at the Met have decided to sweep him under the carpet. So it is that London’s top cop finds himself in the sleepy West Country village of Sandford, where everything is a little too nice…

That synopsis doesn’t sound like anything too special but trust me, when you have the creative minds of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg working together, special is what you get.

The film is an obvious homage to all of the fun-loving buddy cop films of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and today, but it also seems like it has a lot of love for the genre too. What’s so funny about this movie is that almost every scene features something goofy going on whether it’s a slight visual gag, recurring joke that seems to pop up everywhere, and in-jokes that will test your movie geekdom to it’s full limits. You’ll hear somebody utter a phrase or line-for-line dialogue from another flick or you’ll even see a scene from another recreated here and if you don’t get it right away, it’s not that funny, but if you do get it (like I did), you’ll be laughing your ass off the whole time. What was also rare about this comedy was that almost every jokes stays here in this flick and somehow finds it way of popping up later on in the flick and tying altogether with the plot.

Everybody knows how a cop movie goes but this film loves to toy around with that idea and just make it even more fun to actually watch them. Of course they mess around with the cliches and conventions that usually come with these types of films but it’s not all about that, these guys really do love these films and show how much fun they can be even if they are referring to such “classics” as ‘Point Break’ or ‘Bad Boys II’. If you don’t get the joke with that last statement then this surely is not the film for you. Then again though, a lot of this humor is very British in its own way, which I usually don’t understand but other times I do and laugh my ass off at so it’s sort of strange with me.

My only problem with this flick is that when the action comes around here, and it does come around big-time, they over-do the whole “shaky cam” element a little too much. I get that this flick was obviously trying to make a little joke about the constant zooming in-and-out and the shakiness of the action movie cameras, but the action would have been so much better if they didn’t feel the need to resort to this and just give me a head-ache. It’s a minor complaint but a complaint none the less.

Simon Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, but not in a Simon Pegg-ish way though, he’s actually very much the straight guy and let’s everybody else do the humor which was a very smart idea. Pegg does have an occasional few moments where he lets loose just a bit but he’s not the usual, cheeky guy we all know and love him for in other flicks. He may not be the easiest to like here but that provides a lot of love for Nick Frost as his likable cop-buddy, Danny. Frost is such a joy to watch here and brings home the laughs just about every opportunity he gets and the chemistry between the both of them are always great no matter what flick they’re in and that’s no different here. These guys are pure comic gold when they are with each other no matter what it is that they do and I hope they never stop at it either.

The rest of the cast is also a lot of fun and features a lot of familiar faces playing against type. Former 007 Timothy Dalton was absolutely hilarious as the dude who owns the local supermarket, and drops down the lamest but funniest puns I’ve ever heard considering they go so well with everything else that’s going on here; Jim Broadbent is very goofy, as he should be with his performance here as the Sandford’s chief of police; and there are so many others here that make this flick work and I honestly don’t want to spoil them but you’ll see what I’m talking about once they pop-up.

Consensus: Hot Fuzz is a lovable, entertaining, and very funny homage to the buddy-cop genre with plenty of in-jokes and hilarious performances and cameos that will just make the film better and more impressive as it goes along.

9/10=Full Price!!

Our Idiot Brother (2011)

Real men wear crocs.

Ned (Paul Rudd) is a seemingly clueless idealist who must rely upon his three exasperated sisters (Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks and Zooey Deschanel) for shelter and support after he’s dumped by his fed-up girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) and loses custody of his beloved dog, Willie Nelson. As he wreaks havoc on his sisters’ lives, Ned’s earnestness shines through until his siblings realize that family ties take priority over wealth and position.

I’m a huge fan of Paul Rudd so when I heard that he was going to get his own vehicle, practically playing the same guy he always plays, I was uber excited. However, there could have been a better film for that vehicle.

The script here is one of the major problems because it seems like the same thing over and over again. We get Rudd moving in with his sisters and one-by-one shows how each and everyone of them are so incredibly shallow and bad, just by being himself and gets kicked out of all of their houses. But then when all the sissies are pissed at Rudd, have them all apologize and try to get his love back, with a sub-plot from a dog named Willie Nelson.

It’s also a problem when the film also has one of those deals where all the humor is in the two-minute trailer clip, and the rest is all obvious and cheesy drama. I expected some pretty funny stuff here not only with the talent involved, but because of the plot and the actual title which seems like a title from a Marx Brothers or Three Stooges flick. It’s just that too much of it here is way too serious and thin to actually laugh at.

However, the things I liked about this film weren’t completley over-shadowed by the bad. I liked Ned’s out-look on life and just how damn simple and happy everything was in his life. This guy is just really cool, nice, and sweet to everyone to the point of where he gives practically every person he meets, a chance to do good. I wish there were more people like this that I knew in the world and I wish that the script didn’t just rely on this great character for some cheap gags.

Also, the cast is pretty alright here even though they have all done things 100000 times better than this, mainly Paul Rudd. Paul Rudd plays Ned the same way he plays every character in any of his film but he’s just so damn likable that it’s almost too hard to be annoyed by his coolness. He sees good in everyone and although everybody around him are a bunch of dicks, he still stays cool and true to himself, which is what Paul Rudd has always been able to show off well.

The rest of the cast does what they can but they all are just too one-note to actually seem believable and nobody really does anything funny. Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer play Ned’s sisters and do what they can but a lot of the time they just seem like their complaining about how bad Ned makes them seem, when they should because their all terrible people. Rashida Jones, Steve Coogan, Adam Scott, and Kathryn Hahn are also here as well and do their own thangs but really aren’t that funny.

It’s also a shame that the funniest member of the cast was T.J. Miller as the organic farmer named Billy, who has about 10 lines, which all seem ad-libbed, but is so cool and funny that’s almost hard not to forget him from an almost terribly forgettable film. It’s just such a shame that this whole cast really looks amazing but do nothing here in a film that takes itself way too seriously, and I think in the hands of Judd Apatow, this could have really been something hilarious, but instead just whatever.

Consensus: Paul Rudd is charming and the film has it’s fair shares of sweet moments, but Our Idiot Brother is too thinly written, too serious, and just too much of a huge comedic let-down to actually be one of the most memorable comedies I have ever seen, but it’s just OK.

5/10=Rental!!

The Other Guys (2010)

Note to Kevin Smith: This is how you do a buddy-cop comedy.

While an elite pair of New York City cops (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson) nabs headlines for their amazing heroics, fellow boys in blue Allen (Will Ferrell) and Terry (Mark Wahlberg) toil in obscurity as lowly desk jockeys, until a big break finally gives them a chance to tackle real police work. Rob Riggle, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton and Steve Coogan co-star in this action-packed comedy directed by Adam McKay.

To start off with aspects of this film that I enjoyed, virtually every cast member involved does a solid job in their respective roles. Both Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg play off of each other much better than you might expect as the titular characters, and Michael Keaton once again, this summer steals just about every scene that he’s in as the Guys’ more-calm-than-he-probably-should-be captain. Also, for what little screen time that they have, both Sam Jackson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson shine as the two celebrity-status-garnered cops, being responsible for what could be the funniest movie moment of this year so far. Even Eva Mendes (who I’m typically not the biggest fan of) shares a couple of enjoyable moments with Ferrell as his purposely-out-of-his-league wife.

The problem is with this film is that it becomes an absolute mess especially by the last two acts. I feel like there wasn’t enough action for this film, so they just started to randomly throw in a bunch of crazy, cool, action sequences, to keep a lot of viewers entertained. The action is shot-well, but they just seem forced, and not like my favorite comedy of the year, Date Night, the film doesn’t quite know how to balance out the comedy and action as well.

The screenplay was good, I’ll give it that. A lot of stuff was ad-libbed, but many of the other jokes in this film worked, because they were silly, but made a lot of sense to the audience. However, by the end the film gets too wrapped up in some random satire, that I didn’t believe for one moment. And the ending does seem a bit forced, since there was a bit too much going on.

Consensus: The Other Guys may not know what to do by the last act, so they just add unbelievable satire, and random explosions. However, the cast is hilarious, with a great amount of consistent laughs.

7/10=Rental!!

Tropic Thunder (2008)

Its funny, even the 4th time around.

This combat film send-up from director-star Ben Stiller tracks a group of actors who are forced to become real-life soldiers when they’re abandoned in the jungles of Southeast Asia. The all-star cast includes Robert Downey Jr. (in an Oscar-nominated role), Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey and Nick Nolte, with an unrecognizable (and Golden Globe–nominated) Tom Cruise playing a crude movie mogul.

For the most part, I have seen this film about 4 times, and almost every time I laugh more. When I first saw this, I didn’t quite get the satire the film was using, however, knowing more and more about the movie biz I understood everything that this movie was saying.

The script I have to say is very well-written with some of the best satire in a long time. The jokes here are centered towards anybody, because the films finds its ways to make fun of anyone and everyone: blacks, whites, homosexuals, mentally-challenged, drug addicts, and of course celebrities. All of these jokes are in bad taste, but almost every single gag works. Some people don’t understand the jokes because its jokes are more Hollywood based, so it will go over some people’s heads, but once you understand the joke, their actually very funny and smart.

However, I will say that some of the jokes were pretty stupid, and it seems like they were trying their hardest to get a lot of really funny jokes out there, and it just looked like they were trying too hard. Don’t get me wrong they were funny, but sometimes, it seemed like it was just itching for the laughs.

The cast is the main reason why this film works. Each star gets credit, cause they take the bait, by letting themselves be made fun of. Ben Stiller is the typical down-grading action star, Jack Black is the drug-addicted, fat comedy man, Brandon T. Jackson is playing the rapper-turned-actor, who can’ stop drinking booty sweat, and Jay Baruchel, is…well….the guy who’s just there. Each character makes fun of someone, and its easy to see who, but others will just go over your head.

The two best worth mentioning are obviously the only two that were nominated for awards. Robert Downey Jr., sometimes didn’t make any sense when he talked, but he is hilarious when I did understand him. He has the greatest lines of the whole movie, and brings nothing other than his A game, and makes everything funny. Tom Cruise, is also funny as hell. He brings a lot of random funny as hell moments, with his random out-bursts, and spoof of real-life agents.

Consensus: Tropic Thunder sometimes tries too hard to bring laughs, with some easily offensive ones, but is other than that, a hilarious spoof, that is boosted even more by the great performances.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!