Going in Style

Release: Friday, April 7, 2017 

[Theater]

Written by: Theodore Melfi

Directed by: Zach Braff

Geriatric crime comedy starring three Academy Award winners and directed by former Scrubs star Zach Braff is a bit of an underachiever. Even that might be giving this, a remake of Martin Brest’s 1979 caper of the same name, too much credit because I’m unconvinced this movie achieves anything other than wasting a ton of potential.

The 2017 film updates the plot for a post-Great Recession America, using the unlikely robbery at the heart of the story as a commentary on the outrage felt by the majority of middle-class Americans burned by the 2008/’09 economic crisis. The likes of Alan Arkin, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman replace Art Carney, George Burns and Lee Strasberg as Al, Joe and Willie respectively — lifelong coworkers and friends who decide to rob a bank after learning that, on top of losing their jobs, their retirement funds have been repurposed by their former employer to settle its own substantial debts.

They say that one of the first rules of bank robbery is to never rob your own bank. Well, Joe ain’t having any of that shit. Not when his own bank is complicit. Not when, after having witnessed a heist first-hand, he realizes that it isn’t rocket science; that a trio of 70-something-year-olds could pull it off. Plus, he reasons, it’s not like what they’re planning to do is inherently wrong. This is a righteous act of reclamation, a Robin Hood-esque performance in which they’ll steal from the corrupt and give back to . . . uh, themselves.

Going in Style is, to put it nicely, not very good. It goes, but it doesn’t have any style. It’s hard to believe this is a movie written by the guy who directed Hidden Figures, though to be fair, while powerfully moving, that film, which was nominated for three Oscars this year, wasn’t without its cliches and awkward moments. But Theodore Melfi’s script here smacks of laziness and conventionality. Great actors can overcome a lousy script but there are of course limits. Not even Christopher Lloyd in an over-the-top supporting part comes out unscathed. You believe them as lifelong friends but as robbers, eh. This appears to be one of those movies where you have to kind of accept the people on screen are having more fun than you. If it weren’t for these names, I’m sure I’d be more upset.

Recommendation: Uninspired comedy fails to capitalize on its star power and takes viewers on a predictable and not-as-fun-as-it-could-have-been ride through Clichetown. Going in Style comes very unenthusiastically recommended by me if you just HAVE to see everything that any of these actors have been in. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 96 mins.

Quoted: “These banks practically destroyed this country. They crushed a lot of people’s dreams, and nothing ever happened to them. We three old guys, we hit a bank. We get away with it, we retire in dignity. Worst comes to the worst, we get caught, we get a bed, three meals a day, and better health care than we got now.”

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Table 19

Release: Friday, March 3, 2017

[Theater]

Written by: Jay and Mark Duplass

Directed by: Jeffrey Blitz

This is awkward for me because Table 19, a “dramatic” comedy written by the inimitable Duplass brothers about being low-priority wedding guests seated at the least desirable table at the reception, belongs at a rejects table of its own. Awkward because I want to like all Duplass-related films always but now I’m faced with the prospect of hating one.

Objectively their new, jointly penned blah-medy is a real misfire. It’s directed by Jeffrey Blitz, most notable for his contributions to latter seasons of The Office, which might have something to do with Table 19 having no personality whatsoever resembling anything Duplass-y. To their credit, the filmmakers assemble quite the impressive team of funny people —  Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson, Lisa Kudrow, Stephen Merchant, Tony Revolori, Wyatt Russell and June Squibb — and then, somewhat counterintuitively, they set about finding ways to make every one of them as unfunny as possible.

Eloise (Kendrick) was going to be the maid of honor at her “oldest” friend’s wedding but after being unceremoniously dumped via text message by Teddy (Russell), who happens to be the best man, she’s become persona non grata. She decides to attend anyway, finding her place at the dreaded back table, a table so far removed from the action “you can smell the bathroom.” Having been intimately involved in the planning of the reception, Eloise knows what being relegated to this table means. It means you are either a liability or you just suck. At being a person.

She shares this inside information with the other guests at the table, a decidedly oddball collection: There’s the Kepps (Robinson and Kudrow), a boring couple who run a diner together; Walter (Merchant), a weirdo who may or may not have just come straight from prison; Renzo (Revolori), a horny teen who can’t help but take terrible advice from his mother; and Jo (Squibb), a retired pot-smoking nanny. While none of them seem to have legitimate connections with the happy couple, only for the recently scorned does becoming a potential distraction seem like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Table 19 skulks about the banquet hall looking for something interesting to talk about, but finds precious little. The Duplass brothers have staked their reputations on an unusual ability to create something of substance out of what at first appears to be nothing. A film shot largely in a banquet hall tends to stretch the term ‘cinematic’ but then that’s the Duplass’ forte. What their screenplay doesn’t do is take risks. There’s nothing revelatory about any of the character’s backstories and Kendrick’s chemistry with Russell is the kind of bad that we just don’t need to talk about. Plus the comedy is incessantly forced — uncertain and ineffectual at the best of times. The whole thing plays out like a father-of-the-bride toast that goes to some awkwardly inappropriate places, remains unfunny for the majority and that ultimately drags on for too long.

Recommendation: Utterly forgettable farcical comedy forgets to pack the comedy. There’s good reason you probably have not heard of Table 19; it’s the movie no one invited into their area cineplexes. (Now, if you’re wondering where my Kong review is, blame it on three consecutively sold-out screenings for the delay. I hope to have one up sometime in the next decade.)

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 87 mins.

Quoted: “Hello my god. Hi, I’m Renzo. I have achieved puberty and I am in a rock band.”

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

Why Him?

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Release: Friday, December 23, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: John Hamburg; Ian Helfer

Directed by: John Hamburg

My biggest gripe with Why Him? It’s actually not that it represents yet another painfully unfunny Christmas comedy. Well, it kind of is. I’m dismayed more because it is a painfully unfunny Christmas comedy starring James Franco and Bryan Cranston.

Bryan Cranston! Also translated as: Walter White, Shannon, Robert Mazur, and of course, Hal Wilkerson.

Now he’s Ned Fleming, a name you won’t be able to remember beyond the parking lot of your local cineplex. It’s always painful to see a great actor slumming it, but for Cranston to star in a vehicle that made me mad at even James Franco — someone whom I actively defend for being unusual and pretentious — it begs the question why do we even try to admonish professional actors for the choices they make in careers that never directly affect us? It’s clear our outrage, pretend or real, never accomplishes anything.

Ned Fleming is the father of Stephanie (Zoey Deutch), and he shares in my pain. When he is invited to California for Christmas, forced to buck family tradition of spending the holiday in Michigan, he becomes dismayed by the man his daughter is currently seeing: James Franco with a shit ton of tattoos! He plays a billionaire game developer named Laird Mayhew, an obnoxious caricature of the actor himself whose own modus vivendi runs counter to just about everyone on the planet because he himself is an art project constantly evolving and expanding.

The Ned-Laird feud could have been played for laughs, but a script co-written by director John Hamburg and Ian Helfer seems to have forgotten to incorporate the jokes. Unless the joke is, of course, ultra-meta: everyone who just bought a ticket hoping for the good times to roll via a decent if disposable new entry into the crowded genre of farcical family/Yuletide comedies has just gotten ripped off. And Bryan Cranston and James Franco are in it — why them?!

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Recommendation: Goodness, no. But I will say this: the film at least afforded fans of KISS to watch Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons stoop to a new low by making a totally awkward cameo towards the end of the film. So there is that.

Rated: R

Running Time: 111 mins.

Quoted: “I mean, what in God’s name is a double-dicker?” 

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

Keeping Up with the Joneses

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Release: Friday, October 21, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Michael LeSieur

Directed by: Greg Mottola

For those who have been keeping track, Keeping Up with the Joneses is the second Zach Galifianakis film to be released in as many months, and it too is terrible. It too is a silly film, a very, very silly film. What’s worse is that the film’s chief sillyhead plays it painfully straight. That’s not silly; that’s just frustrating.

The level of entertainment found in this dumbed-down action-comedy is as disposable as a . . . oh, I don’t know, something that’s really disposable; the laughs number in the negatives; hot women kiss to the delight of male viewers and the annoyance of their female partners. I went to see this as part of an (in hindsight) ill-advised solo mission and I found that moment not so much provocative — I think that’s what director Greg Mottola (Superbad; Adventureland) was going for — as it was indicative of precisely the low-brow kind of fantasy it turns out to be.

The plot’s an old rusting bucket of cliches but it could have been fun: when two boring suburbanites, Jeff and Karen Gaffney (Galifianakis and Isla Fisher) suspect their new neighbors of not being who they say they are, they turn into paranoid peeping toms bent on figuring out what combination of ridiculous factors have not only afforded them a life of luxury and bliss but that has caused them to drift into the unsuspecting cul-de-sac in which the Gaffney’s proudly have plopped themselves down. Their neighbors, of course, are the Joneses. Say that with a smile on your face — we’re the Jonesesssss!

Tim Jones (played by Jon Hamm, whose name is far superior to that of his character) is a super-duper spy of some sort — could be CIA, could be NSA, could be Melissa McCarthy in another ridiculous, albeit more convincing get-up — and he lives a life of mystery with his wife Natalie (Gal Gadot), also a spy. The Joneses are everything the Gaffneys are not. The former seem exotic; the latter have been domesticated and have settled for the routine and the mundane. The Joneses know how to fire weapons in high-stress situations. The Gaffneys . . . do not. We imagine the Joneses having just, like, the best sex ever. When pressed, Karen admits to “getting it done fast before the kids come into the bedroom.”

The script is the main culprit behind the lack of engagement in Keeping Up with the Joneses. The fish-out-of-water adventure lacks not only intelligence but creativity. None of what Galifianakis does is really humorous; his take on the suburban dad isn’t offensive but it’s far from interesting while there’s nary a hint of Fisher’s brilliantly unhinged Stage 5 Clinger in Wedding Crashers. She looks great in a skin-tight dress though, and that’s clearly the bar she had to clear for the director. On the other side of the fence, Hamm and Gadot make for a reasonably compelling pair but they’re similarly constrained by the grade-school screenwriting. And though he’s often funny in other stuff, Patton Oswalt just looks bored as the Big Bad, some dude named ‘Scorpion.’

The entire time I was watching this I couldn’t shake the feeling that these talented actors were just playing nice. They were being charitable. Their performances often register a sense of fatigue and if not fatigue then indifference. And if people who get paid to pretend are pretending not to look unprofessional, I see no reason why I have to pretend like I’m actually having fun here. Although, it’s hard to resist smirking whenever you see Matt Walsh. So there’s that.

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Recommendation: Massively disposable action comedy consistently wastes the talents of this cast and the time of everyone in attendance. Or, I guess not, since everyone in the theater I was in was laughing like hyenas. Clearly I was just the grinch, and I can’t get anything out of lightweight comedies these days. But come on, really? This was made by the same guy who made Superbad and Adventureland? Hmm . . . .

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 105 mins.

Quoted: “I was making a head start!” / “On your wife?!” 

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.latimes.com 

Central Intelligence

'Central Intelligence' movie poster

Release: Friday, June 17, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Rawson Marshall Thurber; David Stassen; Ike Barinholtz

Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber

I guess it’s pretty difficult making an action-comedy work. Just because A Big Johnson and A Little Hart can save the world doesn’t mean they can save this movie from becoming a centrally unintelligent, uninspired, unfunny mess.

Prior to seeing what Rawson Marshall Thurber actually came up with, I would have put money down on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin “I’m Determined to Blow Out My Vocal Chords by Screaming” Hart becoming the next big buddy-cop duo. And then the asinine but paradoxically laugh-free story happened to me and I’m not sure I want to make that bet anymore. I could put that money to good use somewhere else, like the laundromat I desperately need to visit.

Central Intelligence does have at least one thing working in its favor: the anti-bullying sentiment driving everything forward. We start the film at some high school pep rally in 1996 where we’re introduced to Calvin Joyner (Hart) and Robbie Weirdicht (Johnson). While Calvin faces a serenade of a thousand cooing high schoolers who view him as Mr. Most Likely to Succeed, Robbie, a fairly obese kid, faces humiliation as he gets punk’d in front of the entire student body thanks to a couple of goons who find him singing and dancing in the shower in the men’s locker room.

Flash-forward to the present and Calvin, whose life looked promising post-high school graduation, is jaded by the way things have turned out. He’s now a mid-level accountant at some firm, has a gorgeous wife named Maggie (Danielle Nicolet) who’s happy in her job and they’re both still child-less. So I was kind of confused by what exactly his complaint was, other than that he’s going to feel awkward at the 20-year high school reunion coming up when he has nothing interesting to say about himself. (Isn’t that everyone’s fear when it comes to these things?)

Speaking of, whatever happened to that Robbie Weirdicht? The day before the reunion Calvin receives a friend request from someone named Bob Stone through Facebook and, as people do these days, decides to invite the stranger into his life a little by accepting the request. (Speaking of life, I love the way it works today because not only are social practices like sending virtual friend requests and ‘Poking’ being integrated into our movies but they’re serving as crucial plot points.)

Soon enough the two are meeting for beers in real life — thus moving up a notch in the social hierarchy — and, oh, what do you know, ‘Bob Stone’ is actually the one-time-tormented Weirdicht, sans the flab and afro; now Rock-ing the physique of someone who has just turned a career in pro-wrestling. After getting to know ‘Bob’ by watching him handle four punks on his own in the very bar they’ve been hanging at, Calvin can’t believe how much different Weirdicht is. Believe it, Calvin. Robbie Weirdicht is now Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Central Intelligence is a melting pot of action-comedy clichés. It smothers Hart and Johnson’s on-and-off-again chemistry under an avalanche of ludicrous plot developments that implicate ‘Bob’ as a wanted fugitive responsible for the death of his former partner (Aaron Paul). As amiable as Johnson is, he just can’t make us believe any of this post-high school stuff is real. Amy Ryan, playing a CIA agent named Pamela Harris isn’t very effective in convincing us that ‘Bob’ is a real threat. Of course, that’s a really huge Johnson so who knows what’s actually going on.

I’d get over the poor story if I was being compensated in laughter, mind you. Surprisingly and despite all the imaginative bullshit that goes on as far as “saving the world” is concerned, the film lacks creativity in providing the humor. Any concern over that one time Robbie got bullied gets lost in the dust of silly action sequences that detract from what could have been a potent message about maturity. Instead, Central Intelligence kind of just fails the mission on all fronts.

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Recommendation: Uninspired, lazy, ultra-disposable. Pretty much the three qualities you don’t want in your action-comedy offerings. Central Intelligence promises much with its inspired casting but does aggravatingly little with it. A good one to check out as a rental if you’re one of those who simply have to see Kevin Hart in everything (like, I guess, me).

Rated: R

Running Time: 114 mins.

Trivia (because it’s more interesting): Central Intelligence marks the first joint-venture between Warner Bros. and Universal Studios in 20 years, the first since Twister

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

Keanu

'Keanu' movie poster

Release: Friday, April 29, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Jordan Peele; Alex Rubens

Directed by: Peter Atencio

The Cat in the Hat. Garfield. Sylvester. Mewtwo. Mr. Bigglesworth. Shere Khan. These are but a few of the world’s most famous felines. You can go ahead and add Keanu to this prestigious list, because he’s the best thing about a full-length movie that’s kinda-sorta-but-not-really-at-all about him.

The mischievous duo behind Comedy Central’s Key and Peele find themselves comfortably making the transition to the big screen, but unfortunately they’ve missed an opportunity to make a memorable entrance in this painfully hit-and-miss comedy that sees two schlubs turning thug under some seriously contrived circumstances. I suppose, yeah, you could say they were under duress, but . . .

The (mis)adventure begins when a kitten shows up on Rell (Peele)’s doorstep. He has traveled from afar, barely escaping with the fur on his back from a violent confrontation at a drug processing facility deep in the city. Rell, reeling after a bad break-up, takes an immediate liking to the cat and believes it will help him feel better. He names his new friend Keanu. Meanwhile, his uptight cousin Clarence (Key) is seeing his wife off for a weekend getaway with a mutual friend played by the always untrustworthy Rob Huebel.

Unbeknownst to them, the cat actually belongs to a powerful thug named Cheddar (Method Man) to whom the notorious Allentown boys — the ones involved in the aforementioned firefight and who are also played by Key and Peele — are indebted as they track down the precious fur-ball. The Allentown boys are bloodthirsty goons straight out of a Rob Zombie nightmare and will stop at nothing until they get what they’re after. These freaks are the shameless beneficiaries of Abby O’Sullivan’s fantastic costuming and make-up.

Rell takes Clarence to see the new Liam Neeson movie to try and get Clarence out of his house and to spend some “bro time,” as was suggested by his wife. They get back only to find Rell’s place has been ransacked and Keanu’s missing. Rell’s next-door neighbor/weed guy Hulka (Will Forte, sporting some awesome dreads) of course didn’t see nothin’. The hunt for Keanu eventually leads the cousins into Cheddar’s lair, a blown-out night club poignantly christened HPV, where they also find the cat, now repping a gold chain and black doo-rag. Rell, barely able to hide his outrage over the kitten-napping, snaps and declares he and Clarence are the Allentown boys and that they’d be willing to do one favor for Cheddar in exchange for ownership of the cat.

And so the rest of the film is just allowed to happen . . . somehow. It’s a parody of the Gangster Experience that flits between cringe-worthy and chuckle-inducing, its many farcical developments amounting to a parlay of good fortune that simply endures too long. And it’s so not about the cat, either. Keanu’s closer to a meowing macguffin than a functional character in a plot designed to bait animal rights activists into protesting the comedic duo’s next event. (Fear not: no animals were harmed during the making of this film.)

It’s not as if Key and Peele was the most reliable source of saucy satire but when it was good, it could really strike a nerve. In the feature film setting, however, their inconsistency is magnified tenfold and there are some very bare patches as the writers milk the faux-gangster premise for all its worth. The scene at Anna Faris‘ house drags on for what feels like an eternity as we’re forced to watch Rell (now operating under his thug alias ‘Tectonic’) and Clarence (a.k.a. ‘Shark Tank’) bluff their way through the drug deal they agreed to.

There are moments where their deadpan charm pierces like the sun through the thick clouds of uninspired writing — Key and Peele themselves aren’t the problem with their movie. In fact it’s their camaraderie that is able to pull us through Keanu‘s least compelling moments, and why I enjoyed it more than I probably should have.

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Recommendation: Keanu mirrors the hit-and-miss nature of Key and Peele. Although there is a caveat to that: devoted fans are likely to not take as much issue as those who are less familiar with their schtick. That said, the premise as a whole still feels like a wasted opportunity to do something memorable with an animal that’s not only this photogenic but well-trained. This cat has a bright acting future ahead of him. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 100 mins.

Quoted: “We’re in the market for a gangster pet.”

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

Scouts Guide movie poster

Release: Friday, October 30, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Christopher Landon; Carrie Evans; Emi Mochizuki

Directed by: Christopher Landon

Where will you be when the apocalypse happens? With any luck, within reach of your trusty Swiss Army Knife!

Yes, I saw this film and yes I chose to watch it in a theater. Now that you’re doubting my credibility, I’ll try and stage a comeback here by arguing that watching zombies getting their heads lopped off by a trio of high school-aged scouts on a big screen carries with it a certain level of satisfaction. Satisfaction of the oh-man-I’m-pretty-buzzed-right-now-and-this-movie-is-already-better-because-of-it variety. Wait, I guess you can still do that at home. But the big screen. Okay, yeah, that’s my saving grace. It’s just on a bigger screen.

The film’s title leaves little to the imagination, which isn’t much of a surprise. What’s even more clear is how time-sensitive a film it is. Clearly pumped out just in time to make a beeline for the wallets of any teen who’s grown out of the trick-or-treating phase, Scouts Guide still manages to fall short of its potential. And this was a potentially very fun movie.

Christopher Landon (who’s behind Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) settles for a nonchalant, dare I say inept, style of directing that neither allows his talented cast nor interesting premise (I’m getting ahead of myself — potential premise) to flourish. Instead of gritting its teeth and plowing headlong into the realm of the ridiculous, his film instead retreats into yet another all-too-comfortable suburban tale of a group of innocent high schoolers who end up becoming the least-likely saviors of a very small town. I take less of an issue with the scope of the outbreak as I do with how pedestrian this affair becomes.

I’m complicit in this too, though: I bought a ticket. I gambled too much on the unique title.

Long time friends Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller) and Augie (Joey Morgan) are out on a camping trip as the last of a dying breed at their high school. They’re seemingly the only ones interested in Boy Scouts, but it’s Augie who is all gung-ho about the experience. The other two have resigned themselves to simply giving Augie moral support as neither of them believe in their extracurricular activities anymore, particularly when being led by Supreme Dork Scout Leader Rogers (David Koechner). During their camp-out the three have a semi-falling out when Augie catches the others sneaking off in the middle of the night to attend a party. Because, high school.

Soon weird things start happening, weird things that have been alluded to from the film’s ridiculous opening, a scene featuring Blake Anderson in an amusing but all too brief cameo. Inexplicably the gang are caught off-guard by a hoard of zombies who were, presumably, regular, tax-paying citizens. They form an alliance with a cocktail waitress — not a stripper (played with refreshing honesty by Sarah Dumont) — and begin fending off waves of lame zombies. They retreat away from the very convenience store they were earlier trying to dupe into selling them alcohol using a random drunk to do the dirty work, seeking shelter in a neighborhood that may or may not be relevant. Who cares.

Simultaneously the film retreats into formulaic self-defense strategy quicker than you can say ‘Cloris Leachman.’ (She’s a highlight of the film, receiving a juicy zombie part where she gets to bite poor Augie in the ass.) I am fully prepared to admit this moment is worth the watch. It’s priceless. For everything else this gimmicky titled production promises, there’s MasterCard.

That doesn’t even make sense. Neither does the Britney Spears rendition in the middle of the movie, nor the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it homage to The Thing. Nor the movie as a whole. Sometimes that’s enough to be entertaining, but when the overall direction is so lackluster, a lack of logic is more apocalyptic than anything.

Recommendation: Falling well short of its limited potential, Scouts Guide is a mixture of lame acting, special effects, some boobs, and limited roles for both David Koechner and Blake Anderson. Film does feature a strong female lead in Sarah Dumont, and that is certainly worth mentioning. Everything else though is uninspired, quickly thrown together for those hungover on the day after Halloween. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 93 mins.

Quoted: “Why the f**k do you think everyone’s eating each other?”

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Photo credits: http://www.collider.com; http://www.imdb.com

The Babymakers

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Release: Friday, August 3, 2012

[Redbox]

I just got done having my eyeballs tortured after watching what might very well be the least-consequential movie of all time. Certainly of my time. Although vulgar to the max, it’s pretty lean on the funny jokes, and the acting is horrible. Just, horrible.

The promise of an elegant performance from Olivia Munn had me interested first, I’ll admit that right away. Not really delivered on. The next-best-thing, the prospect of an interesting plot. ‘Cool. Alright, I’ll bite.’ Not delivered on. Will I buy it? Well, I hope that’s a promise I don’t deliver on.

What struggled the most in this picture was character development. Well, the characters didn’t even really get created. Possibly not even talked about. Not with any evidence in what was caught on film and then considered final cut anyway. Not one lead role really stands out from one another, and on top of that, not many characters are worthy of being liked. Maybe Audrey (Olivia Munn). She wants a child, yet her husband “isn’t man enough to give it to her.” That’s a crap card to have been dealt and as crappy as it is she remains a pretty optimistic, faithful wife. All the other males in the film are pretty scumbaggy but make for some pathetic “I feel for you” kind of  guffaws. Unlikeable characters or no character appeal at all makes it difficult to engage in a story that’s as outlandish as this. The bare-bones plot winds up with Tommy (Paul Schneider) caught in a tough spot between the police — having just robbed a sperm bank — and getting his wife pregnant with a saved and still-frozen sample of his own semen from five years ago. Armed with only the tube, he makes a getaway and the two have a happy ending. Yayyy!!! Just don’t worry about how contrived and utterly gross it was in getting to that part.

If you can simply get over the sheer stupidity of the whole thing, there’s actually a few moments that are really damn funny in The Babymakers. But that’s one heck of a challenge.

“Hand over the jizz and get down on the ground now!”

Yeah.

That’s probably the best line in the film. My favorite, anyway. From there there are really just increments of a mix of stupidity, vulgarity and redundancy. And I am not really ever one to take offense to some of the cruder things that people can do or say, but when it’s the overriding theme here, it gets old really quickly. And more to the point, the jokes are heavy on the sex theme, which can get’cha every now and then but not at this level.

It’s definitely tasteless. Funny, at times…okay, yeah, maybe. With the right headphones. But it’s not enough to base a good movie on apparently.

Maybe director Jay Chandrasekhar just didn’t or wouldn’t do it well enough.

We begin with a couple who are longing to have a child, but seem to be having trouble and that center of attention ends up falling more on our anti-man-hero husband Tommy. When he and his disproportionately attractive wife try all sorts of things to have a natural pregnancy, and it doesn’t work, he still insists he doesn’t have an issue. But to be sure, he and his wife visit a doctor who informs him he does not possess ‘healthy’ sperm. In fact, he’s told his sperm are confused. Talk about personal. But Tommy continues to refuse to believe he is incapable of doing the deed with his wife and it’s a belief that begins to interfere with the marriage. So he turns to the questionable aid of his bonehead friends, Darrell, Wade and Zig-Zag. They join forces with a semi-sketchy former Indian mafia thug named Ron Jon (played by none other than our trusty director Jay). It’s basically this twit’s job to inform Tommy and the guys that Tommy is fucked for having a family if he can’t retrieve his own sperm sample — more frequently referred to throughout the film as jizz. So they organize a convoluted plan to break into the donation facility and get it back.

#cricketchirp

Predictably the three idiots succeed in screwing up most stages in their harebrained plot — a plot which actually gave them ample room to do just that to begin with. After some terrible slapstick scenes which I’m sure were meant to be hilarious mishaps, Tommy winds up with his only sperm sample left and they leave the place in a much worse condition than how they found it. (Yes, that does imply sperm were harmed during the making of this film.) After watching all this go down and you find yourself struggling to see any logic in this film whatsoever, you’re nearing the end. Well, I suppose if your threshold for raunch is really low that could be near the beginning. . . .After serving several months as a community service worker, Tommy’s free of the awkward looting charges, spared jail time and blessed with a child. And not a Chinese one either, as his wife wanted at first. But they do, yes indeed they do have a child.

Harder to believe than many other silly things in this impotent little romp is the difficulty that this man had in impregnating his wife. I mean. . .she’s beautiful. I’m sure there are more people than just Tommy’s on-screen wife who were wanting to know just what the major malfunction was. If the writing didn’t stoop to grade-level thinking, his major malfunction might have been explained better. Then, maybe, we would have felt sorry for him. But. . . come on. Neither actor — even if Munn and Schneder are B-list — can do much with this writing. It was flat, boring and lifeless. Cliched to all kinds of degrees and horribly one-dimensional. The occasional funny joke was thrown into the mix for good measure, but was more of a sprinkling into their pot of bubbling nonsense.

Wait, nevermind. His incompetence actually was explained. Also inconsequential, it was predictable and pretty lame. Seemed Tommy had a case of getting his tackle hung up around the edges too easily. Every corner or threatening object he could find he would get hit right there at the split of the pant leg. If these incidences weren’t brought back via cheesy flashbacks or happened in real time in just the most unlikely of ways, the joke might have been funny. Make it an actual story about why this guy has a problem with smacking his junk; give it some life and actuality. Some heart. Heck, any sort of meaning whatsoever would have been good. Instead they bypass the heart and go for an easy kick to the groin. What a shame.

the-babymakers-1

1-5Recommendation: Not really a stand-out comedy. Fun for awhile and then it just gets old and stupid. Olivia Munn is a nice addition, but is, just like Schneider, stuck with a worse situation than being infertile: being first-billed names.

Rated: R

Running Time: 93 mins.

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Bad Teacher

Bad Teacher was released June 24 nationwide

Release: Friday, June 24, 2011.

[Theater]

Bad Teacher may be more aptly titled ‘Bad Movie.’

Granted, this was my choice to go see the movie at 12:25 opening night, a showing which effectively puts the audience in a role similar to that of a test screening (ergo the film is already at a disadvantage – we have our own expectations, and no one else’s…). Even so, I feel that the movie fell well short of the excitement and potential gut-busting raunchiness generated in its previews, most notably a scene in which the teacher (Diaz) spikes a student in the crotch with a dodgeball…

Cameron Diaz stars along with Justin Timberlake, Lucy Punch and Jason Segel in a motion picture not made for those with a sensitive skin. The movie is rude, crude, and…hell, why not…lewd all at the same time. Foul language and inappropriate jokes are pervasive, and given the backdrop for the movie (a middle school somewhere in Illinois) the dialogue becomes all the more hilarious. Diaz’ character is a burned out schoolteacher who could care as much about her pupils’ performances as she could about her own fiance’s health (in case that reference is confusing, that’s not a whole lot). So long as she is rolling in her hubby’s big bucks, she is detached from everything else. Unfortunately for her, her fiance catches on and soon leaves her behind to deal with her own problems.

And thus, the movie. The ensuing hour and a half remains relatively awkward and joke-free, save for slightly less-than-arousing performances by Punch, Segel and Timberlake. (When did he start making film again, anyway??) Its not that I do not like any of these actors (OK, caught me there with JT……), its just that I agree with many of the reviewers I have come across already: they are given roles and lines that just don’t deliver like they should.

An example may be the stand-off between Elizabeth Halsey (Diaz) and Amy Squirrel (Punch), who constantly try to win over the new substitute in town, Scott Delacorte (Timberlake), through various tricks and back-stabbings including a switcharoo with the teachers’ desks, apples doused in poison ivy and leakage of classified information regarding the standardized test examination booklets. These moments are funny in and of themselves, but the acting on the part of Lucy Punch did not have me convinced at all that she knew what she was doing with the script. Or perhaps she was managing her part fine; maybe it was the script that failed.

Seeing that the movie was written by The Office writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, this possibility is somewhat disappointing. While I am a fan of The Office, I was not a fan of the one-liners in Bad Teacher. Some of them, as a good friend of mine put it, were so bad that you feel embarrassed to laugh at them. Half of the things that Timberlake said in the movie fit into this category. About a quarter of the lines belonging to Amy Squirrel were also this way, and the rest….well, I leave to bad acting. However, I cannot rule out the entirety of the cast with such a comment; indeed, The Office‘s Phyllis Smith makes herself known, as a quiet woman with lower self-esteem than Diaz’s character’s self-respect, who only hopes to be half as good a teacher as Ms Squirrel and perhaps a quarter of the flaunt as Ms Halsey.

And Jason Segel plays the gym instructor, Russell Gettis, a friendly, approachable man and arguably the only individual in the film with a head on his shoulders. Segel shines as a good ‘opposite’ to Diaz, though in the end it would be the two who would meet and make amends before the final school bell dismisses us from the theater.

When I first left the theater, I initially thought I was just being a harsh critic (as I feel I always am with movies), especially considering I was watching it at 12:25 the night of its release. “Okay, let’s just see how the movie goes down in the next couple of days,” I thought to myself later on. Well, more than a week has passed and its not looking great for Jake Kasdan and all else who were on board with this half-baked idea of a movie. As I said before, its good to gain perspective from others before deciding for yourself. Now I’m sure of my instincts. The movie was nowhere NEAR as good as the previews made it out to be.

Is Bad Teacher really another casualty of a trailer that reveals the only good parts of a movie? Or are we missing something here….?

Cameron Diaz

Recommendation: See it if you’re a just an unapologetically devoted fan of the guys who wrote The Office. Because this movie and that show are totally not the same thing. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 92 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com