REVIEW: The House

3 07 2017

A government official yanks away a college scholarship promised to a local girl, deeming it “an indulgence we can no longer afford,” in the same breath as he rewards wealthy townspeople with luxurious new facilities. Is this a scene in Andrew J. Cohen’s comedy “The House,” or just another day on Capitol Hill? Show audiences in 50 years, and they will likely be unable to discern any difference.

As a series of gags loosely tied together by a hair-brained concept – Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler’s would-be empty nesters opening an underground casino to pay their daughter’s college tuition, the film leaves a lot to be desired. Like most studio comedies, “The House” throws together big comedic stars, a winning logline and a few stabs at thematically and socially relevant humor. The latter works when satirizing police surveillance in the smartphone era and stumbles when attempting a few jokes about date rape.

Ferrell and Poehler tend to take movie roles written for them, or at least well-tailored to their strengths. Nothing about “The House” indicates the screenwriters penned the film with them in mind. Ferrell’s outsized physicality and Poehler’s acerbic verbal wit go sorely underutilized.

Yet, on the other hand, they’re great avatars for the kind of well-off urban angst “The House” so deftly sends up. These are people who, for the most part, have achieved prosperity but still feel let down. “We tried to play by the rules,” laments Poehler’s Kate Johansen, “and it got us nowhere.” This disappointment and dissatisfaction leads them towards criminal enterprise, fight clubs for soccer moms and insurance fraud. It’s worth considering why this premise does not collapse immediately.

Oh, and “The House” takes place in this imaginary, fairy tale world where public officials face consequences for stealing money from the public! Must be nice. B-





REVIEW: The Boss

6 04 2016

Picture this: a highly successful businessperson, who augments the public’s perception of their wealth by doubling as a skilled entertainer, needs to bounce back after suffering some public humiliation.

This person enters a field knowing little about the profession but finds a way to prosper by exploiting complacency, deriding rivals with unwarranted personal attacks and even inciting violence.

The captain of industry boasts about cruel implementation of shrewd business tactics and remains unfazed when compared to totalitarian rulers.

(Oh, and this individual’s distinctively styled hair never gets dented.)

Did I just describe Donald Trump or Michelle Darnell, the lead character of the new film “The Boss” played by Melissa McCarthy?

The two larger-than-life figures share quite a few similarities, though McCarthy (along with co-writers Ben Falcone and Steve Mallory) could not possibly have known that her burlesqued portrayal of a corporate mogul would hit the marketplace at the same time as an equal ludicrous figure marched towards the nomination of a major political party. Literally, production ended on “The Boss” two weeks before Trump made the infamous escalator announcement. The ill-fated timing of its release makes it play like an inverse of “Zootopia,” this year’s most fortuitous arrival.

The odd parallel here and there between the fictional and the absurd business tycoon is not necessarily bothersome. And, in the interest of fairness, Donald Trump did not spend five months in jail for insider trading like Michelle Darnell. But a line feels crossed when she declares, “We’re participating in the American Dream!”

Out of context, this might seem harmless. However, Darnell utters it right before an all-out brawl takes place between her group of entrepreneurial thugs and the Girl Scout-like troop from which they disaffiliated. How can one find humor in the perversion of the American Dream on screen when a demagogue is ushering in a national nightmare in reality? Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dicator” showed that comedy had a definite place in a time of bullying leaders, though it ought to contain some confrontational element if it is to be anything more than a diversion. “The Boss” comes across as oblivious in regards to the implications of its dull satire.

Read the rest of this entry »





REVIEW: Zoolander 2

2 03 2016

Decades-delayed sequels from “Anchorman” to “Scream” and even “Monsters University” tend to fall into some trap of relying on nostalgia for or nodding towards the original film. To some extent, if the makers do not strike while the iron is hot, they have to remind people that the iron existed in the first place. And, not to overload the metaphor, but by employing a heavy hand with said iron, they can burn a hole through the cloth of the new creation.

Given the fashion origins of the “Zoolander” series, it would only make sense that the 15-years-in-the-making second installment would hew all too close to its predecessor. In many ways – and perhaps in the ones that count – it does. But multi-hyphenate Ben Stiller does have a few new tricks up the sleeves for his old character, and even more than just a new signature look to go alongside Blue Steel and Magnum.

In another delightfully absurd caper, the pretty, dumb Derek Zoolander once again gets caught up in a tale of international intrigue. This time, it involves a conspiracy to murder good-looking celebrities and bring the fashion elite of the world to the slaughter. And, once again, it sidetracks so Derek can resolve some familial issues as well as tension with fellow model Hansel (Owen Wilson). Oh, and there’s a music montage

All in all, however, “Zoolander 2” breaks enough from the original to make the team’s efforts worthwhile. Much of the fun comes from the new characters like Kyle Mooney’s Don Atari, a pitch-perfect parody of über-trendy hipsters, and Kristen Wiig’s Alexanya Atoz, an en vogue fashion designer with enough Botox in her face to rejuvenate an entire school’s worth of soccer moms. (It’s best not to mention Penelope Cruz’s Interpol agent Valentina Valencia or Benedict Cumberbatch’s transphobic punchline All.) The whole affair is predictably stupid, though anyone who remembers the first “Zoolander” ought to expect just that. Nostalgia sometimes makes people remember things as better than they really are, and “Zoolander 2” is essentially a chip off the old block. B2stars





REVIEW: Sleeping With Other People

4 10 2015

Sleeping with Other PeopleThough the first two words in the title of writer/director Leslye Hedland’s “Sleeping With Other People” are a polite euphemism, that semantic choice probably represents her most cautious choice regarding sex.  Unlike so many others dealing with romance and courtship on screen, she leans in to the thorniness that most choose to sugarcoat.  She embraces the mess created by the libido’s interference with the heart.

Her two main characters, Jason Sudeikis’ Jake and Alison Brie’s Lainey, are even admitted sex addicts.  Early on in the film, the two even reunite after a collegiate one-night stand at a meeting for those struggling to rein in their urges.  “Shame” this is not, but it’s at least a more nuanced portrayal of sexuality than 2011’s pair of hookup movies, “Friends with Benefits” and “No Strings Attached.”

Yet sadly, Hedland also seems to borrow one too many plot points from said movies.  Even as she resists reducing love into sex, Jake and Lainey’s drifting back towards each other as they try to push apart feels like a page ripped right from the rom-com playbook.  There’s at least some good humor as Hedland blends in some battle of the sexes humor a la “When Harry Met Sally,” but Sudeikis and Brie lack the chemistry to sell their relationship beyond a few choice scenes.  The two always feel like they are operating on different comedic frequencies.

Despite a winning ensemble that includes fantastic actors like Adam Scott, Natasha Lyonne and Amanda Peet, “Sleeping With Other People” just never coheres its parts into a satisfying whole.  I suspect the only time I’ll ever think about this film again is when taking an overview of films that show how technology inhibits intimacy – Hedland does include one powerful split-screen shot of Jake and Lainey texting each other from their own beds.  Though they look and connect as if they were right next to each other, their phones still make them worlds apart.  B-2stars





REVIEW: Welcome to Me

8 05 2015

Welcome to MeSeeing as how she got her start on “Saturday Night Live,” Kristen Wiig is certainly no stranger to satire.  While her work on that topical comedy show often brilliantly pointed out human error and ridicule, most of it pales in comparison to her scathingly incisive new film, “Welcome to Me.”  Eliot Laurence’s script cuts deep to probe some of our society’s deepest insecurities and fears.

He pinpoints that these collective anxieties find assuaging in the self-help gospel preached by daytime talk show hosts like Oprah Winfrey.  Take away the free car giveaways, though, and the program really just sold herself as a product.  (Who other than Oprah has ever graced the cover of O Magazine?)  “Welcome to Me” takes this narcissism to its logical extreme, following Wiig’s Alice Klieg as she uses her millions in lottery earnings to mount a show about her, for her.

Her talk show/broadcasted therapy session is not made by her, however.  To get on the air and look impressive, Alice requires the talents of producers at a local television studio.  At Live Alchemy, she finds the perfect blend of dead airspace, crushing company debt, and morally bankrupt executives willing to indulge her every desire.

Led by the slimily obsequious Rich (James Marsden), the station caters to each of Alice’s increasingly bizarre whims, even when they cross the line into literal slander and figurative self-flagellation.  It’s not hard to imagine similar board room meetings taking place at E! debating the Kardashian family.  Alice suffers from a clinically diagnosed personality disorder and manifest her symptoms rather clearly, yet no employee seems willing to protect her from herself so long as the checks keep cashing.  Consider it a less violent first cousin to “Nightcrawler” (or dare I even say, the golden goose that is “Network”).

Read the rest of this entry »





REVIEW: Get Hard

7 04 2015

To be fair to writer/director Etan Coen, I did enter “Get Hard” with knives at the ready to draw.  I am currently enrolled in a sociology course on race and ethnic relations, and a film that appeared chock full of vast generalizations seemed like a great potential paper topic for unit focusing on explanations for enduring racial inequality.  Because of that, I perversely did not leave the movie disappointed.

“Get Hard” is not actively, avowedly racist, although Coen does perpetuate some troubling stereotypes.  He can try to hide the film under the protection of satire and exaggeration, yet those labels hardly excuses the underpinnings and assumptions that come with wading into such territory.

Not to mention, he also tries to turn topics of concern into an invitation for laughter. Making an educated guess that a black man has been to jail, as Will Ferrell’s James does, based on their disproportionate rates of incarceration is a sad truth.  It ought to inspire genuine reflection, not a quick giggle.

But the only cause for concern in “Get Hard” is gay panic.  Everyone in the film seems to be in agreement that any sort of oral or anal sex is a punishment infinitely worse than systemic racism (never mind that any heterosexual person could engage in either act).  The homophobia that runs rampant through the movie made me wonder if the script was secretly written by Dr. Ben Carson, the Republican presidential hopeful who uses prison as an example for why homosexuality is a choice.

Read the rest of this entry »





REVIEW: The Lego Movie

31 07 2014

Back in 2012, “Zero Dark Thirty” gave audiences a pulse-pounding conclusions as it showed SEAL Team 6’s bold mission to kill Osama bin Laden in stunning detail.  Yet even as gripping as that was, I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit when I saw who they cast as the finger behind the trigger: Chris Pratt, who I knew and loved as Andy Dwyer (and his FBI alter ego Burt Macklin) on the TV comedy “Parks & Recreation.”

Well, as it turns out, Kathryn Bigelow was as right about Pratt as an action star as she was about Jeremy Renner as a fine dramatic actor.  And now it’s Pratt who’s laughing all the way to the bank.  “The Lego Movie” proves that Pratt doesn’t even have to be present in the flesh to lead a movie towards some very fun adventure.

Pratt is like the world’s oldest 7-year-old, a lovable, innocent kid that you can’t help but root for because he reminds you of all the naive optimism of a simpler state of mind.  When his plastic Lego teddy bear of a character, Emmet Brickowoski, chants the film’s theme “Everything Is Awesome,” it’s hard not to smile a little bit.  He’s not just singing from a place of pure naïveté like Selena Gomez on “Barney,” but also from a position of contagious optimism that makes Emmet quite irresistible.

Thankfully, the writing/directing dynamic duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (they who blessed us with the gift of “21 Jump Street“) matches Pratt’s enthusiasm throughout “The Lego Movie.”  They bring a boundless imagination to the project, resembling the kind of creativity that Legos themselves spark in children all over the world.  What they ultimately construct is wild, wacky, and quite inspired. Read the rest of this entry »





REVIEW: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

6 01 2014

Maybe Adam McKay should have let the marketing and promotions team write the movie “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” for he and Will Ferrell.  They certainly had a much better grasp of the power present in Ron Burgundy’s cult iconography gained over the year and used it to leverage interest in a follow-up to a film released nearly a decade prior.  It’s a shame that the abysmal sequel had nothing to deliver.

I certainly don’t dislike 2004’s “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” but I never quite understood why it above other movies had gained such a foothold in the pop culture lexicon.  A plethora of lines from the original film are now such staples of conversation these days that I often forget their origin. While I was entertained by the movie the one time I watched it on HBO, I certainly did not think it deserved a sequel over a film like, say, “Pineapple Express” or “Role Models.”

While the former got a humorous pseudo-sequel in “This Is The End,” I can now say with certainty I never want to see a follow-up to the latter after “Anchorman 2” just destroyed the legacy of its predecessor.  While there are intermittent laughs to be had, the utter stupidity of its jokes and lack of care in maintaining its characters made for what might be the most unpleasant moviegoing experience of 2013.

Read the rest of this entry »





Live Blogging the 2012 Golden Globes!

13 01 2013

10:00 P.M.  For those of you keeping track at home, “Les Misérables” ruled the Golden Globes tonight with 3 wins!  “Django Unchained” and “Argo” also won two trophies.  “Amour,” “Brave,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Skyfall,” and “Zero Dark Thirty” each won a single award.

10:00 P.M.  HFPA awkwardly and unintentionally flips the bird to AMPAS tonight…

9:58 P.M.  BEST PICTURE – DRAMA: “ARGO

ARGO

9:52 P.M.  Unexpectedly humorous speech from Day-Lewis.  Although I laughed much harder at how most of the back of the room gave him a standing ovation … and NO ONE up front did.  Awkward…

9:50 P.M. BEST ACTOR – DRAMA: DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, “LINCOLN

Lincoln

9:50 P.M.  What a beautiful speech, Chastain looked truly humbled and honored.  To the Oscars we go, hopefully!  (Hey HFPA, didn’t appreciate your shot of the audience where we could see you all flashing “WRAP UP.”)

9:48 P.M. BEST ACTRESS – DRAMA: JESSICA CHASTAIN, “ZERO DARK THIRTY

Zero Dark Thirty

9:41 P.M.  Adorable Anne Hathaway stealing the microphone quickly to do a few more thanks and then tightly hugging Amanda Seyfried.

9:40 P.M. BEST PICTURE – MUSICAL/COMEDY: LES MISERABLES

Les Miserables (2)

9:39 P.M.  Jeremy Renner bleeped…

9:34 P.M.  What a charming acceptance speech, and so much love for his wife!  Maybe he can beat Daniel Day-Lewis?!

9:32 P.M.  BEST ACTOR – MUSICAL/COMEDY: HUGH JACKMAN, “LES MISERABLES

Les Miserables

9:22 P.M.  They talked about actors, and then the category was Best TV Series – Musical/Comedy?  At least it was “Girls!”

9:18 P.M.  Take that, Academy!  Standing ovation for snubbed Ben Affleck!

9:18 P.M. BEST DIRECTOR: BEN AFFLECK, “ARGO

Argo

9:11 P.M.  What on earth did Jodie Foster just say?  Seriously, my TV audio went out in what I assume was a bleep.

9:04 P.M.  OK, people, time for you to go watch “The Beaver.”  It has Mel Gibson, sure, but it also has Jennifer Lawrence!

The Beaver

8:59 P.M.  “Taylor Swift, stay away from Michael J. Fox’s son!” – Tina Fey, who needs to be on this telecast far more

8:53 P.M.  Lena Dunham may have won the Golden Globe, but Tina Fey got to wait with J.Lo and Amy Poehler got awfully close to George Clooney.  It’s debatable who the overall winner really was tonight.

8:51 P.M.  Hooray for Lena – NOT Lisa, Aziz – Dunham!  Go watch “Tiny Furniture!”

8:50 P.M.  Aziz Ansari being carried by Jason Bateman … fantastic.

8:47 P.M.  BEST ANIMATED FILM: “BRAVE

Brave

8:46 P.M.  What on earth did that introduction have to do with Best Animated Film?

8:45 P.M.  Goodness gracious, Sacha Baron Cohen is drunk…

8:39 P.M.  4 Golden Globes for Claire Danes in her career.  She’s halfway to Meryl Streep!

8:35 P.M.  BEST FOREIGN FILM: “AMOUR

Amour

8:27 P.M.  “Best Picture nominee ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen‘” just sounds so wrong.

8:25 P.M.  Really, Golden Globes?  Tarantino for screenplay?  Not OK with that. “Inglourious Basterds” blows “Django Unchained” out of the water.  And the speech was a total MESS.  Someone was overserved…

8:23 P.M. BEST SCREENPLAY: QUENTIN TARANTINO, “DJANGO UNCHAINED

Django

8:18 P.M.  Give us more time with Anne Hathaway’s acceptance speech – we love her!

8:15 P.M. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: ANNE HATHAWAY, “LES MISERABLES

Anne Hathaway

8:07 P.M.  Yes, JLaw, to answer the question you were so desperately trying to ask during that speech, OF COURSE we can be best friends!

8:07 P.M.  “Does this say ‘I beat Meryl?'” – Jennifer Lawrence

8:06 P.M.  BEST ACTRESS – MUSICAL/COMEDY: JENNIFER LAWRENCE, “SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

Jennifer Lawrence

8:04 P.M.  The sad thing is, Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig are saying what a lot of Americans are to their television sets right now.  Wondering what this “Silver Linings Playbook” thing is and cursing them for not nominating “The Avengers.”

8:02 P.M.  Nice abs, Kristen Wiig.

7:59 P.M.  Clinton introducing “Lincoln.”  Oscar for Best Picture is now in the bag, in case it wasn’t already.

7:58 P.M.  Really, Bill Clinton?!  What?!

7:55 P.M.  Tina Fey and Amy Poehler going and impersonating the absent celebrities is PRICELESS.

7:49 P.M.  Looks like we need more Grammy-winners to come freshen up film awards.

7:48 P.M. BEST ORIGINAL SONG: SKYFALL, “SKYFALL

Skyfall

7:45 P.M. BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: MYCHAEL DANNA, “LIFE OF PI

Life of Pi

7:42 P.M.  Woah, real Tony Mendez!

Argo

7:36 P.M.  Awkward teleprompter flub with Salma Hayek and Paul Rudd … hooray for “Homeland!”  Don’t understand why they present Best TV Series – Drama before Best Actress in a TV Drama?!

7:33 P.M.  Wow, now “Homeland” is set to dominate the Golden Globes too after Emmys domination.  Weird not to hear Damian Lewis speak in his gruff American accent!

7:32 P.M.  Didn’t get to see much from the red carpet, but from what I can tell … Jessica Chastain wins.  Just as she did at the Oscars last year.  Ehh, didn’t really get to look closely enough.  She’s gorgeous, sure, but the dress wasn’t that great.

Jessica Chastain

7:30 P.M.  “Call Me Maybe” needs to be left in 2012, HFPA lady.

7:23 P.M.  Don’t sing again, Catherine Zeta-Jones, unless it’s “Chicago.”  Thanks.  That line of “Do You Hear The People Sing?” was awful.

7:21 P.M.  If “Game Change” had been released in theaters, Julianne Moore would be in contention for Best Actress.  Think about it…

7:18 P.M. Hooray for “Game Change!”   One of the better movies I saw this year in any format!

7:12 P.M.  C’mon, Professor McGonagall.  It’s one thing not to do press for yourself – but not showing up to receive the inevitable award?!

7:10 P.M.  Please, Academy, you’ve already awarded Christoph Waltz for literally the same performance.  And oh, here goes Waltz again with the poetic metaphors in his speeches.

7:10 P.M. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: CHRISTOPH WALTZ, “DJANGO UNCHAINED

Django

7:08 P.M.  “This 70th anniversary celebration.”  OK.  Glad Tina and Amy mentioned that!

7:03 P.M.  “When it comes to torture, I trust the lady who spent 3 years married to James Cameron.” – Amy Poehler, much to the amusement of Jessica Chastain (who was DYING laughing)

7:02 P.M.  Already loving the Tina and amy combo.  Same humor, just with less bite!

Read the rest of this entry »





REVIEW: Casa De Mi Padre

8 08 2012

If you ever needed a definitive case against vanity projects, “Casa De Mi Padre” should be the first bullet-point of your presentation.  Conceptually, it’s a Funny or Die video that is somehow allowed to last longer than three minutes.  An hour and twenty minutes longer, as a matter of fact.  At half the length of “The Dark Knight Rises,” it still manages to feel twice as long.  How that’s even possible still baffles me.

All the humor of Will Ferrell’s tacky Spanglish speaking is drained by the opening credits.  Any sort of political statement the movie was trying to make has already been made by Robert Rodriguez in “Machete,” a parody movie that also did in “Casa De Mi Padre” by using all the tricks of self-referential Mexploitation films first – and also better.  I didn’t even care for Rodriguez’s film all that much, but it had something that screenwriter Andrew Steele couldn’t provide this movie: a plot!

Every scene in “Casa De Mi Padre” just feels like a new YouTube video from the same Mexploitation parody channel with most of the same actors.  It’s not just that the tongue-in-cheek casting of Will Ferrell gets old incredibly quickly.  You could cast Antonio Banderas or Javier Bardem, and even if they put on a comedic game face, they couldn’t salvage the sheer juvenility of the movie.  It’s so stupid that it makes those weird  Adult Swim animated shows look like high art.

So if you’re still curious about how low comedy can go and “The Watch” wasn’t nearly torturous enough for you, by all means, check out “Casa De Mi Padre.”  You may wish Thomas Edison hadn’t pioneered the craft of film to begin with.  D-





REVIEW: The Campaign

7 08 2012

Political satires are no cakewalk, and they require keen insight to even get off the ground.  “The Campaign,” perfectly released into the silly season of a Presidential election year, is a pointed sendup of the antics of a post-Citizens United world where money can flow into elections like lava.  The message of writers Chris Henchy (who I still won’t forgive for “Land of the Lost“) and Shawn Harwell comes across loud and clear, although it lands without the strength of Will Ferrell’s punch that socks a baby.

While the satire may be sharply pointed, its impact is severely dulled by crude, sophomoric humor that is far beneath the intelligence of the ideas being expressed.  It stoops to pretty low lows – I’m talking like barely above the horrendously offensive “The Change-Up” – to provide entertainment for the masses … because heaven forbid they actually tried to level with moviegoers and not treat them like children!

Sadly enough, politicians have been providing enough inappropriate fodder for humor through gaffes and just plain idiotic behavior.  For example, in the summer of 2010, a joke where Will Ferrell’s cocky incumbent North Carolina Congressman Cam Brady sends a salacious picture to a mistress on Twitter, it would have just been laughed off as something Frank the Tank would have done in “Old School.”  Now, it’s a boneheaded move ripped from the real-life disgrace of Representative Anthony Weiner.  You stay classy, Washington.

Nevertheless, the jokes aimed straight at the heart of our nation’s capital are few and far between in the movie.  The means employed to achieve the ends of “The Campaign” distract from the real lunacy it’s trying to expose to the audience.  The fact that a few billionaires can put their puppet into play for a seat in the House of Representatives with just a few checks and a political consultant who knows what polls best in every category is probably not even that far-fetched a thing to happen off the screen.  They could probably even do it with somebody dumber than Zach Galifianakis’ Marty Huggins, the pug-loving village idiot!

No one is going to come out of “The Campaign” talking about the antics of the corrupt; they are going to come out talking about the antics of the comedians.  The movie becomes about what ridiculous lengths Brady and Huggins go to – and they go to ridiculously taboo extremes – in order to beat each other, not about what ridiculous system allowed this situation to become feasible.  It’s the billionaires, stupid.  While we’re on the topic of political slogans, the buck starts here, there’s nothing you can believe in, and no they couldn’t.  C+





REVIEW: Everything Must Go

23 08 2011

I’m not quite sure who thought of casting Will Ferrell as the beleaguered everyman in the recessionary fable “Everything Must Go,” but the choice actually ends up working in unexpectedly pleasant ways.  It’s the perfect kind of art imitating life, one where the movie reflects the mindset of the actor and provides insight into their mindset.  It doesn’t distract from the story or the performance but makes for an interesting conversation point after the film stops rolling.  It gives us a glimpse of humanity itself as we can feel the juncture of character and actor in a non-invasive way, and with a movie like this celebrating the inherent decency of people in trying times, you couldn’t ask for much more.

Ferrell is definitely coming to one of those junctures in his career where things haven’t been going well, and they could soon balloon out of control if he doesn’t start making better movies.  The quality has gone down, and the audiences have been coming less and less.  Similarly, many Americans are finding themselves at a life juncture where things have gone from bad to worse thanks to the economy, and things could continue to go downhill.  Ferrell finds this connection with the audience and forms an easy rapport with them, despite playing a somewhat unlikable slob reeling from the world’s worst day.

If you think a double feature of “Semi-Pro” and “Land of the Lost” is agonizing, try losing your job and getting kicked out of the house by your wife in a matter of hours.  Now that’s pain.  Ferrell’s Nicholas Halsey is forced to face a new life, one where all of his possessions can be enumerated on the front lawn.  At first, he laments the hard times by kicking back in a La-Z Boy with can after can of PBR.

Read the rest of this entry »





REVIEW: Megamind

7 11 2010

Pixar’s “The Incredibles” produced many great quotes, but I’ll never forget the grave statement that the villain syndrome made towards the end of the movie: “When everyone’s super, no one will be.”

The point I’m trying to make here is not to draw a comparison between “Megamind” and Pixar’s 2004 gem, and that’s not just because it hardly exists since the two aren’t even in the same ballpark in terms of quality.  What I want to say is that movies involving superheroes and supervillains have pervaded so far beyond the Marvel and DC universe that the word “super” has lost quite a bit of luster.

The latest creation from the minds at DreamWorks animation (their third in 2010) is following hot on the heels of “Despicable Me,” another supervillain movie that somehow managed to set the box office on fire in spite of its middling mediocrity.  The two do have quite a few similarities, largely the central characters who put on the façade of a villain when they are actually big softies.  Neither offer anything new for viewers who have sat through countless superhero movies for kids, and “Megamind” importantly raises the question of how long audiences will toleration this repetition before it all drowns into monotony.

There’s some nice humor throughout the movie to help offset the predictable plot, and it’s a bearable watch that could be marginally enjoyable given you watch it in the right disposition.  The talented voice cast brings their A-game to the table: Will Ferrell with his over-the-top schtick, Tina Fey with her brilliant sarcasm, Jonah Hill with his “Superbad” obsequious dork rambling, and Brad Pitt with his … well, he does the deep voice, and his kids will scream with excitement when they hear him.

I will give “Megamind” that it does attempt to jump into musings on the nature of good and evil and the inherent nature of man. However, these concepts are explored in the most basic, watered-down, “Sesame Street”-manner that they might as well have not been attempted.  Really, the whole movie could have just not been attempted to save us all some time.  Sure, it’s fine entertainment, but don’t we already have more than enough quirky superheroes and supervillains?  Do we really need a blue one with a giant cranium?  C+





REVIEW: The Other Guys

6 08 2010

Will Ferrell made a name for himself playing in the movie industry by playing some crazy larger-than-life characters, such as Buddy the Elf and Ron Burgundy. Recently, he has been tarnishing that name by playing Will Ferrell, or at least how we have come to perceive Will Ferrell: a lazy, pathetic, and fairly eccentric bum. After a series of unintentionally humorless flops, it’s hard to have confidence that “The Other Guys” could end the slump.

The movie isn’t great, certainly nowhere near the likes of “Elf” or “Anchorman,” but it’s a definite improvement from “Step Brothers” and “Land of the Lost.” The story and the characters still aren’t quite back in full force, yet there’s some comfort in seeing the return of a crucial ingredient – laughter.  Fairly often, a joke will fall flat or just not work quite right. But more often than not, they manage to work, and we laugh more than we wince.

This isn’t the movie to break Will Ferrell’s slump; however, it’s definitely a step in the right direction and hopefully the beginning of an upward trend. It definitely helps that he’s not playing some ridiculous moron but rather a regular Joe Schmoe moron, someone who might actually exist out there. While we’ve been there done that with Ferrell’s one-note comedy of bizarre characters, there’s something refreshing and, dare I say, exciting about watching him go off the beaten path for a while.

But there’s more to this movie than just reporting that Will Ferrell can be decent again. We can’t forget Mark Wahlberg, who plays a cop that is a complete polar opposite of his Staff Sgt. Dignam from “The Departed.”  While he got to play the ultimate hard Boston police officer in the 2006 Best Picture winner, he’s tackling a decidedly different role as Holtz, the paper-pushing officer stuck working with Ferrell’s pitiful Gamble.  Wahlberg has never been in a comedic movie before, yet it’s amazing how he blends right in as if we’ve been seeing him do these types of movies for years.  I won’t go as far as to call he and Farrell a new “odd couple” (a new favorite critical comparison), but they certainly do play off each other well throughout the movie.

It’s the two marquee names that carry the movie.  They don’t get any help from Eva Mendes, who plays Gamble’s smoking hot wife, or Steve Coogan, the Brit who plays the Wall Street scumbag who is meant to remind us of Bernie Madoff.  Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, the Dignams so to speak of the movie, aren’t in the movie long enough to produce many laughs, and the ones that they do were ruined in the trailer.  There are some nice running jokes with Michael Keaton, the police chief who moonlights at Bed Bath and Beyond, that wind up being funny after a few tries.  But have no doubt about it – this is Mark Wahlberg’s movie and it is Will Ferrell’s movie, for better or for worse.  B- /





Shameless Advertisement #16 – The Other Premiere

28 07 2010

Want to know a way to really make me happy on my “blogoversary?”  Go on Facebook and vote for my hometown, Houston, Texas, to get THE OTHER PREMIERE.

What exactly is THE OTHER PREMIERE?  And why is it important enough to get all caps?  Well, the movie “The Other Guys” is holding a second premiere on August 3.  That city is selected by a Facebook contest where the cities with the highest votes move on.  Houston has made it to the top 5 with Atlanta, Dallas, Philadelphia, and St. Louis!

And now it’s crunch time.  I would seriously love to have this great event in Houston, mainly because Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg will be in attendance.  So do me a favor, all Houstonians and fans of this blog – get on your Facebook account and vote for Houston!

So click on either the link in the picture, the links all over this post, or the link below, if you are the kind of person that likes to see the URL:

http://www.facebook.com/otherguysmovie

You can vote once per day, so remember to go back and vote!  Thanks for your time … and GO HOUSTON!