Jeff, Who Lives At Home


Release: September 14, 2011 (limited)


Jeff, Who Lives At Home may be as skimpy on the scenes/shots as a filmmaker may ever want to go without having to possibly reconsider his career in full-length features. With this new Duplass story, we meet, greet and then leave in under 80 minutes — if you don’t include end credits.

In that way, Jeff really is paced like a semi-tragic short story, a novella of true novelty. Its the story of a strange 30-year-old man-child who lives in his mother’s basement and has an (endearing) obsession with things being universally connected. One day his mom calls requesting that he do her a solid and run to the local Home Depot to pick up some wood glue for a broken kitchen item. In the course of trying to accomplish the one task, Jeff gets distracted.

Segel’s character is a man of depth, to say the least. The movie is constructed so that it catches him at all the coincidental (or not) moments which enable him to think that things are all happening for a reason. An angry caller with the wrong number (or, again, is it?) keeps asking for someone named Kevin. Confused, he hangs up but Jeff’s left wondering.

Along the way we bump into Jeff’s older brother Pat (Ed Helms) who looks like this the entire time:

A strung-out paint store employee, Pat’s a night-and-day difference from our main man. His marital woes are obvious: he’s impulse-bought a Porsche — as one does to enhance their love life. Jeff and his brother become entangled en route to finding the ever-illusive ‘Kevin’ and in the process, Pat wrecks his idea of marriage into a tree.

An act of the cosmos? More hilarious than anything, really. This movie is like watching a game of catch. Perspective seems to keep shifting back and forth between Jeff and Pat, one an idealist the other a realist. The idea of the movie is actually somewhat profound but in my view the underlying ideas aren’t as fully realized as they maybe could have been. There’s great acting, however, that should not go unnoticed. Susan Sarandon as the boys’ mother, her own emotions fragile after the passing of her husband, is wrapped up in an affair all her own, adding another twist that was downright weird.

Still, just to watch Jason Segel manage to hold back most of his goofy, school-of-Seth-Rogen chuckles is more rewarding than you might expect, even if How I Met Your Mother and Freaks & Geeks are Segel’s stomping grounds.

bruhh. . .

Recommendation: Worth watching for the young and the awkward. This was a neat little addition to the so-called “mumblecore movement” and a welcome distraction from megalithic/awesome/phenomenally huge wide-release superhero action franchises. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 83 mins.

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Release: Friday, June 29, 2012


I’ve been a guffawing fan of MacFarlane’s Peter Griffin for a long time now, so it was a natural transition for me, from apartment to car to Regal Cinemas West Town; even though I’d be seeing it quite after-the-fact. Still, entering the theater and leaving this one came with some strings attached: you gotta know what you’re in for…

Seth MacFarlane makes his debut on the big-screen with Ted, what’s being proclaimed as THE comedy of 2012. There should be a dot-dot-dot and then ‘so far’ with that, but we don’t get that in the tagline for this movie and maybe we shouldn’t. This is a strong, hilarious introduction for the funny guy who’s the brains behind the Quahog operation on Adult Swim; a show, by the way people, that’s simply a batch of goofy fart jokes, infantile crude humor and amazingly timely (if not damn offensive) one-liners. Does it make sense, then, to assume the first film from its creator would be anything different?

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, by the way.

As a child, John Bennett (Wahlberg) fulfills a wish that his stuffed bear, Teddy, would have a real personality so they could be friends forever. And so they grow up together being inseparable buddies, which yes, does come to serve as a point of no return for Mark’s future, and beautiful girlfriend Lori (Kunis). That being said, the stuffed animal causes more havoc and whoops more ass than a hurricane it seems, and possesses a worse mouth than Howard Stern himself. Remaining lovable, though, Ted does indeed come to realize that the meaning of ‘forever’ has to be shortened sometimes despite his repeated antics in trying to keep his owner around.

There are no plot twists or scratch-your-head moments in Ted, but it does in fact have a heart (though it may pump more testosterone than blood through its soft little body) and the characters are all likable — minus one jackass (Lori’s boss). It’s unlikely that people who come out decrying this movie are fans of the show(s) either, or at least have seen enough episodes to get used to this man’s brand of humor, but it’s also safe to assume that there could have been worse coming from Seth MacFarlane in a full-length feature.

Mark Wahlberg is great (and very Bostonian) in this movie, as are Kunis and MacFarlane — who’s only had to tweak his Rhode Island twang a tad to fit the bear. Oh, and Giovanni Ribisi’s pedophiliac comic genius apparently needed to be exploited sooner; he’s …. wow.

This is the Family Guy movie we needed. It’s the Griffins, just not in animation. Unfortunately there’s no Cleveland, but there’s a talking stuffed bear for God’s sake. I suppose the highly detestable Rex could be the closest we get to Quagmire?

It’s no blockbuster, but it’s pretty much what we needed from these guys, and there are painfully funny scenes. So grab your thunder buddy and check out Ted in a theater near you!


3-0Recommendation: It beats sitting at home watching re-runs of Family Guy on lots of channels. This has freedom to run with more jokes, more insensitivity and more beer-chugging and bong-ripping, yet has more time also to redeem those moments. Mila Kunis does stick around, after all. And that, was a spoiler alert.

Rated: R

Running Time: 115 mins.

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Moonrise Kingdom


Release: Friday, May 25, 2012 (limited)


My complaint about this release is that it was not wide.  I had to seriously try hard to find a theater that was playing it. Then, when I made a plan to see it I wound up going to the wrong theater at first and nearly missed the showtime. These trials were worth it though. I thank Wes Anderson for getting me in such a state of excitement.

Ha-ha. Moonrise Kingdom. Writing about it is almost a nostalgic process. For that I give credit to writers Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, for depicting a very young couple who fall in love on an estranged New England island. Maybe its the binoculars focusing every now and again throughout the film, or maybe its the moon; whatever it is leaves one feeling warm as they exit the theater, causes the audience to, maybe for the first time in a long while, actually care for the protagonists.

Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), both fugitives from their own families — Sam’s being adoptive as his biological parents had died a long time ago — strike out on a journey across the island of New Penzance to seek a life together, but in so doing cause the adults to branch out on a search party to rescue/remand the two. The plot is spruced up by brilliant performances from Bruce Willis, the local island cop; Bill Murray (Walt Bishop, who is Suzy’s rather lifeless father); Frances McDormand (her mother) and perhaps that which cannot be emphasized enough: Edward Norton, as Scout Master Ward.

In the first few opening scenes, Moonrise Kingdom reveals a slightly skewed world where kids rule and the adults, well not so much. It’s an hilarious compromise, another reminder of what its like watching a Wes Anderson feature. It’s like being part of a club or even, the Khaki Scouts where you have to let go of your preconceived notions about the functionality of really short boys’ shorts or an absurdly unbalanced tree house construction. These are enviable traits of a filmmaker who pays attention to detail.

Detractors from Anderson’s work say this film is another copy of his other films, simply with filler content and characters. Unfortunately for them, that’s the best argument they have with this film. That, and maybe the inclusion of a couple of cheesy animations (the lightning bolt and the static shock-kiss). Anderson’s usual tricks and secrets may indeed be there in Moonrise, but they gel so well together in the barely-ninety-minute affair that its more like a dream when its over than an actual movie.

The incorporation of beautiful cinematography and a very odd orchestral arrangements serving as the chief soundtrack do blend nicely for the feature, perhaps elevating its estrangedness, all ignoring the fact that the movie does take place on an island possibly off the coast of Maine — already a remote enough location. In order to add some sense of grounding to civilization, it was ingeniously decided upon that there would be a narrator (the wonderful Bob Balaban) who becomes about as iconic and intriguing as the girl behind the binoculars.

It could take awhile for some people to come around to seeing this movie or to appreciate the genius behind its romanticism, its heartfelt conception and ultimate execution, or may take them forever. It doesn’t matter. That will obviously bare truth in the tangibles, in the lower numbers it will produce at the box office (although ranked slightly higher right now on Rotten Tomatoes than when The Avengers hit theaters). Then again, that’s a site full of harsh critics, some in moods and a lot of them bad ones. And that also doesn’t take note of the fact that one was a wide-release and one was not.

Though it makes no attempt to break out of the Wes Andersonian film school noir, Moonrise Kingdom makes a profound revisitation of childhood and intelligently ignores the conventional examination done by the grown ups by essentially painting them all as the children in this world.


4-5Recommendation: No cult-classic pretense here. This one is good for the soul. Those who have seen other films by him are bound to instantly love, while those newcomers are in for a warm enchanting tale. Either way it’s probably not possible to leave with a frown on one’s brow. Getting struck by lightning, it turns out, is really that funny.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 93 mins.

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Release: Friday, September 30, 2011


Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen star in a precarious comedy about a young man whom is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer and whom is told has a 50-50 chance of survival. Given the high stakes involved, it is quite amazing how much I was laughing during the film.

Levitt plays the quiet but strong Adam Lerner, a radio producer from Seattle while Rogen (Kyle) goes and does his thing. Again. If it weren’t for the excellent casting decision to acquire Levitt, this film may have nosedived being that this is now the umpteenth time in a row that Rogen typecasts himself as the boogery-old stoner dude. Not to detract, but it almost doesn’t work for this type of comedy. Almost.

The script bravely walks the line of being painfully accurate — portraying the suffering and hardship endured by a cancer patient — while maintaining a darkly humorous edge. An attempt to crack a joke about cancer is probably not something you want to hear coming from a doctor. But from a director who can do it well, the laughs ought to feel 1000 times more rewarding. Even relaxing:

“No one wants to f**k me, I look like Voldemort.”

As superficial, generic or lazy as this comment is going to sound, this movie is really a commentary on life in its most pure state. Adam hangs on to it with desperation, yet also humility. Late in the movie, with Adam facing the most crucial operation he’ll likely ever undergo, this will to survive — one  condition that may define what makes humans….humans — manifests itself in a physical form as he tries to hug his mother just a little longer before succumbing to the anesthesia. This scene is poignant in that it allows Levitt to finally release his pent-up emotions and stubbornness to cooperate with his mom’s overbearing nature. Its not the Levitt we’re used to seeing — slicked-back hair and duct-taping unconscious bodies while gravity seems to not apply in a dreamscape of chaos and bullets. Perhaps in that very scene Levitt is letting go of more than just this character’s emotions.

Way to go Joe! Brilliant performance. As far as the others go, however, ehh…not so much. The quarrels I have with this film are that the brilliant performances by Levitt and Anna Kendrick (Adam’s 24-year-old grad student therapist) and Anjelica Huston (Adam’s mother) are possibly the highlights as compared to the other characters. In particular, Adam’s soon-to-be ex-girlfriend, who refuses to remain at his beck-and-call (oh yeah, its just cancer that your boyfriend has) despite his worsening condition. And the doctor who diagnoses Adam with neurofibrosarcoma is about as cold as a doctor can be without being legally declared deceased. Some of these characters were a bit over the top for me.

However it stands to prove that the movie comes to bear the realities of the world, no matter how cruel, and adds a rare flare of humor in a very difficult time for any person. That’s unfortunately not a situation many people may get to experience with cancer. I’m just glad there’s a movie that can help ease some pain.


4-0Recommendation: Well, if you haven’t by now, you should see it. It will not be the funniest performance delivered by Rogen, but if you’re into him, this is a slightly newer trick for an aging dog. Its very interesting to see him playing alongside the more put-together Levitt. As well, the sad reality is that cancer is so widespread, there’s probably something for most everyone to identify with in this 100-minute semi-autobiographical account.

Rated: R

Running Time: 100 mins.

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