Friday, April 27, 2012



Written by Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Actors: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Rhys Ifans, Jackie Weaver, Kevin Hart, Mindy Kaling, David Paymer, Mimi Kennedy

I think that co writer, director Nicholas Stoller, actor and producer Jason Segel and producer Judd Apatow should be the only ones allowed to make romantic comedies. I say this because romantic comedies with the stamp of Apatow are realistic, very clever and funny and they don't feel forced. Now if they would edit down more of their movies they would be classics and Oscar winners. The wonderful writers Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel who wrote "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" give us another romantic comedy that is a winner. It was one of the best and funniest romantic comedies of the last decade. "The Five Year Engagement" is another winner from the Apatow factory and I had a fun time.

It starts with a couple of actors who have great chemistry together in Jason Segel and the beautiful Emily Blunt. They play Tom and Violet who are a loving couple who want to get married. They are nice people with big hearts and they want to make their wedding day special. They start to plan a wedding but careers and changes will get in the way. Tom is a chef and Violet is an academic who has a great opportunity in Michigan. Their wedding will have to be postponed because Violet will have to move to Michigan for a job. Tom goes with her but wants the wedding to be after Violet's two year stint in Michigan so they can marry in their hometown San Francisco. Yes the movie will show all different situations where the wedding will be postponed multiple times, I mean look at the title.

The movie is a little predictable but the fun is in watching Segel and Blunt in action. This brings me to Emily Blunt who again is pure magic. She is beautiful, her line readings are expertly timed, she is charming and she is just plain funny. Jason Segel is that everyman character who seems like a straight man in other comedies but he is likable here like he always is. Blunt and Segel work off of each other very well and are sweet and funny together. The great talent of Segel is his writing and Stoller and him should write every romantic comedy. "Engagement" is relaxed and never forced, the jokes come from characters and situations and the movie is vulgar in spots but also very charming and full of heart. This is the same charm and fun they gave us in "Sarah Marshall" and "The Muppets" and it is working every time.

They are also sorrounded by a cast of great comic actors who are very funny and amazing here. It starts with a charming and scene stealing performance by Rhys Ifans as Violet's boss and professor. There are some very funny scenes as the Professor, Violet and other faculty members do psychological experiments. Those faculty members are a wonderful bunch of brilliant on the rise comic talent from television shows that deserve movie careers. There is Chris Pratt doing a funny variation on his goofy character from "Parks and Recreation". There is the charming Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men) who is pitch perfect and very funny as Violet's sister. You also have very funny small turns by Mindy Kaling (The Office) and Kevin Hart. Add to that Jackie Weaver, David Paymer and Mimi Kennedy as very funny parents.

The best moments of the movie are set in wintry Michigan as Tom tries to adjust to a less exciting life with a job that is in a less appealing place then the one he worked at in San Francisco. There are little moments that made me laugh out loud as when Chris Pratt's Alex sings an obscure song in Spanish to Tom and Viloet at their engagement party. I also love a scene where Emily Blunt's Violet and Alison Brie's Suzie act out for Suzie's kids The Cookie Monster and Elmo as they have a conversation with each other.

There are many quirky and brilliant scenes that are very funny and smart mixed up with the more obscene jokes. There are scenes of dialogue that are brilliant and clever that you have to pay attention to. There are vulgar jokes and double entendres but also some individual jokes that come out from situations. Yes there are jokes that are cruel to the characters but a lot of the humor comes out of funny situations that happen in real life. This is not a mean spirited movie but a great relationship comedy with moments of compelling drama and sweetness. The movie could have been edited down 20 minutes, Apatow and Segel's movies can be overlong especially for comedies.

That being said this is a very fun and sometimes laugh out loud funny comedy that is also a great date movie. When most romantic comedies are fake, lame, forced and annoying "The Five Year Engagement" has an easy charm and makes you feel good. That's the magic formula, easy going, charming, sweet and funny, that Apatow and Segel nail all the time. Why can't others capture that magic, most romantic comedies seem like a chore to sit through. Blunt and Segel are a winning couple together and this supporting cast is incredibly gifted and funny. It has humor but it also made me feel like I was watching a real couple with real life happening to them. "The Five Year Engagement" is a winner but now Apatow and Segel need to work on cutting down on their running times.


'THE RAVEN' (R)(1 1/2 STARS)

Written by Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare
Directed by James McTeigue
Actors: John Cusack, Alice Eve, Luke Evans, Brendan Gleeson, Kevin McNally

I don't know if it is a good ideal to mix Edgar Allan Poe with a serial killer movie but if it is done like it is in "The Raven" the answer would be no. This is like any serial killer movie you have ever seen and like any period snooze fest you have seen. This is a dull and lifeless movie that I wanted to escape from ever since the 15 minute mark. Let's see there is a little "Sherlock Holmes", a little "V For Vendetta", "Saw" and a dash of "Sleepy Hollow". Oh and add a buried alive subplot lifted from "Kill Bill 2" and "Buried". There is not an original thought in this movie's head and it is painfully ordinary and boring.

John Cusack overacts like I have never seen him do before as Edgar Allan Poe who we first see near death on a park bench. We flashback to a murder case involving a serial killer murdering women. There you go, you can add a little Jack the Ripper that this copycat borrows from. Poe teams up with a detective played by young Luke Evans who gives the only good performance in the movie. Poe's girlfriend is kidnapped and buried alive so the police and townsfolk help Poe in a search party to find her. John Cusack plays Poe like he thinks he is in a Mel Brooks parody or he took the hot tub time machine back to the 1840's. Alice Eve who was hot and sexy in "Crossing Over" is stiff as Poe's girlfriend and I thought if she was buried alive it would be the same as she was really dead.

"The Raven" did not have to be this boring and unneccessary and then I thought this movie should not have been made at all. What a dumb ideal and you will see this when "The Raven" opens at #6 at the box office this weekend. The movie looks great I guess but the story is just lazy and great actors look bad here. When I saw a man tied up and a huge ax being swung above him and slicing him until he was cut in half I knew this movie was going to be an unoriginal turkey. I did love when the police and Poe are looking for Poe's girl and they start shouting her name as they search. "Emily"! "Emily"! I laughed because what did they expect? For her to hear them and then start to shout out "Yes! Yes! This is Alice! I am over here! In the coffin!" Really?

P.S. For a better movie than "The Raven" check out "The 7% Solution" which is better than the terrible "Sherlock Holmes" updates. That is a dark mystery movie with a great Sherlock Holmes in the middle of it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


'BULLY' (PG-13) (3 STARS)

Written by Cynthia Lowen and Lee Hirsch
Directed by Lee Hirsch

The important new documentary "Bully" will strike a cord with many as it did me. It is a flawed movie and I think a more deeply felt exploration was needed in certain spots but the movie will get the desired emotions out of you. The movie deals with a few kids that are being bullied for different reasons. There is Alex who is an awkward but very caring 12 year old boy who is really skinny and is called "Fish Face" by certain kids. There is also Kirby who is a teenage lesbian who gets picked on not only by kids but also by teachers. "Bully" doesn't concentrate on the actual bullies and the movie had been criticized for it but I dunno. Do we really want these insensitive, dumb bastards to get screen time?

The movie doesn't go deep enough with Kirby but it does with Alex and I see why for his story choked me up. There is also a look at a kid who killed himself as many bully victims have in this society. We see the pain from the boy's family and we feel anger because his death could have been prevented. 12 year old Alex gets a lot of abuse on the school bus and he is afraid to call out his tormentors to authorities and the bus driver also sticks her head you know where. Alex gets choked, slapped and gets things thrown at him but he won't even tell his parents.

I felt sadness and anger with what happens to Alex. He is a sweet kid and there is a great moment where his mother says that Alex would be a good and loyal friend to these bullies if they were more open and sensitive. He is a sweet kid and what happens to him made me cringe. The anger comes from the cluelessness of the Vice Principal and other school authorities. We see the Vice Principal in early scenes walking the school hallways oblivious to what is really going on. In a scene that made me want to scream at the screen the Vice Principal invites Alex's family in for a conference. The way she handles the situation with the family and Alex is completely scatterbrained and ineffective. I will try to be nice here but this Vice Principal is an idiot.

I was bullied in school until my later years in high school and I can identify with some of the pain. Most of us have been bullied when we were kids and still do at work and some social situations. I grew up very shy and quiet and kids assumed I was dumb. Though I can't imagine what Alex goes through because I was bigger and could rip other kid's heads off if I wanted to. Alex is very skinny and small with unconventional looks and the bullies just are sadistic to him for no reason. Why do these bullies do what they do? I think it is them being insecure about themselves for some of the bullies are shall I say overweight and ugly. I wish the movie would have explored why they do what they do and that is a flaw but it doesn't mean the bullies need screen time.

I am glad that the awareness of this bullying is coming out. I do believe when I grew up it was there just as bad but it was more accepted as a way of life. Now kids are killing themselves and these pricks that bully are thinking they can get away with this. The pain can be unbearable and these kid victims need a voice and someone like a counsellor or teacher or some authority figure to hear them and help. I am sure there are people like that there to help and not just clueless simpletons like the Vice Principal in this movie. I was encouraged in the end to see the boy who killed himself's father start up a campaign using other kids to spread the word and getting it out to people.

"Bully" could have given us more and it is too short but I choked up a lot and felt angry, the movie is effective enough. I think there are other things out there that are more impactful like Larry Clark's powerful fictional movie "Bully". Like I mentioned before I would have liked to see the movie delve more into why these bullies feel they can pick on kids they don't think are like them. There is a classic and brilliant recent episode of "South Park" where a character named Butters gets bullied by an unlikely source. That episode striked a real cord when Butters gives a speech to his bully that perfectly explains why bullies do what they do and I wish this movie would have used something like that.

Friday, April 13, 2012



Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard
Directed by Drew Goddard
Actors: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Anna Hutchinson, Fran Kanz, Jesse Williams

"The Cabin in the Woods" has gotten a lot of buzz and hype for being a very different and very fun horror movie. It is not a scary movie at all, it is more jokey and tongue-in-cheek. It is a very smart and original horror movie, more a satire to me. I laughed a lot and had a huge smile on my face during the wild and very cool last 20 minutes. It is not a great movie and doesn't live up to the hype but it is a blast.

"Cabin in the Woods" was created by Joss Whedon who gave us the hugely popular television series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and his partner from that show Drew Goddard. "The Cabin in the Woods" reminded me of "Scream" but I like this movie a little better. It takes all the cliches of some familiar horror movies and bends and twists them with an ingenius story. Sometimes the movie is too clever for it's own good and the movie takes a little time to get going but those last 20 minutes I found so much fun.

I can't explain the plot without giving all the juicy surprises away but the opening 5 minutes sets the movie up so well by keeping you off your toes. Let's just say that the plot is like the cast of "The Breakfast Club" go on vacation to a cabin in the woods. Strange things will start to go down that will feel familiar but the end result is off the charts and highly original. With the beginning set up I felt like I was watching one of those cheap, cult, horror, grindhouse movies of the 70's. That first few minutes will leave you scratching your head and you will be wondering what is going on. Believe me the movie will get wild and make you laugh out loud in parts. I think horror movie fans will eat this up and they will appreciate the smarts and the gusto of the ending.

The production of the movie is surprisingly crisp and has the feel of a big budget movie when I expected a cheap looking movie. The actors are all effective and any horror movie with Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford is a bonus. I loved the stoner kid well played by Fran Kanz who I think is more of an original stoner kid then we usually see in a horror movie. You also get a future star in the making with the pretty Kristen Connolly as the heroine. I liked those two characters, loved Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford and I loved the creativity and the originality of the movie. Yes it is presented like your typical horror movie but it gets weirder and smarter and more different as it goes along and those last 20 minutes are pure genius.



Written by by Mike Cerrone,Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Actors: Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, Sofia Vergara, Larry David, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Hudson, Stephen Collins

"The Three Stooges" are iconic and when you try to make a modern day homage to it you can get two different feelings off it. You can see it as a waste of time because you are a fan and no one can ever be as great as the originals. Or you can admire the acting, the pitch perfect recreation of the three and admire the story that feels like an original Stooges story but just get bored after the novelty wears off. I felt the second way because I admire the attempt at recreating "The Three Stooges" with heart but I just didn't feel like I saw a good movie. The three lead actors playing each Stooge are wonderful and perfect, the movie is not.

Chris Diamantopoulos (24) is Moe, Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) is Larry and Will Sasso (Mad TV) is Curly and they are all great and capture each Stooge's traits extremely well. We first see the Stooges as children being dropped on the step of an Orphanage with a nun who is played by Larry David (Don't groan, David is very funny here). The Stooges grow up, are still in the Orphanage but finally go out on their own as adults. They have to go out in the World to raise money to save their Orphanage. They meet a sexy bombshell, played by Sofia Vergara, and she hires them to kill her husband. The plot is something the real Stooges would get involved in and I think the television show actually had a plot like that.

The plot makes sense for a Stooges story and I loved all the actors including Larry David and Sofia Vergara. The three lead actors are very funny and capture The Stooges near perfectly. I did like some of the movie but my favorite parts weren't the slapstick parts, it was the funny asides and dialogue that you have to pay attention to to get. The slapstick is also perfectly recreated but after too much of the same old schtick I got bored and tired. Here is the deal, the Stooges are funny in 30 minute doses, an hour and a half of the slapstick straight goes a long way and is too much. There is only so many eye poking, hammer to the head hits and face smacking you can handle, at least to me.

The Farrelly Brothers obviously love "The Three Stooges" and like I said I liked the movie to a certain point and they lovingly recreate their antics very well. The Farrellys have been reviewed unfairly and movies like their under rated "The Ringer" are better than the critics say they are. So "The Three Stooges" is not as bad as I thought it would be because I like the heart behind the movie. It isn't that bad of a family movie but getting Moe involved with the reality televison show "Jersey Shore" could be frowned on by Stooges purists but getting the Stooges involved with today's pop culture makes sense. Actually that part of the movie was actually fresher and funnier than the umpteenth time the three hit each other . Stooges fans might admire this movie or might think it is blasphemous. I was a medium Stooges fan and I felt good and bad about it.

P.S. For a better family movie, a better recreation of a television show or iconic character Robert Altman's extremely under rated "Popeye" with Robin Williams is better than Stooges. Or check out the classic Stooges televison show just released on DVD instead of the movie.

Friday, April 6, 2012



Written and Directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg
Actors: Jason Biggs, Sean William Scott, Alyson Hannigan, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy, Chris Klein, Mena Suvari

"American Pie" was a game changer back in 1999. It was one of those movies that seemed like it was going to be bad. It surprised us with it's very funny jokes and writing mixed with heart. That mix is still there grounded by a very sweet and touching father/son story. The laughs of course are not as fresh as the original's because we have seen countless "American Pie" sequels and copies including the classic "Superbad". That being said, I laughed enough, groaned a few times and I love one of the subplots of the movie which made the movie better for me.

It was great seeing our old friends back together again and the cast especially the actors we don't see anymore. There is the obnoxious and vulgar Stiffler who I think actually just wants to be loved and held. There is the original's heart and lead character Jim and his father and also Jim's wife Michelle who Jim married in "American Wedding". The whole cast of characters are back for a high school reunion. Jim's father is now a widower and Jim is having sex problemns with Michelle. There are also some surprises and big laughs and some jokes that miss. Though this is definitely an improvement on the last two sequels but of course not as great as the original because a lot of the jokes don't surprise us.

The selling point of "American Reunion" are the friendships of all these friends who don't get to see each other often. Alyson Hannigan is extremely cute. Sean William Scott is goofy and obnoxious but somehow charming and funny. Jason Biggs is again the great heart of the movie and there is a very funny subplot where Jim gets involved with the girl he used to babysit who is now just turning 18. The funniest jokes involve that plot with the girl and Jim's friends getting involved with the girl and her boyfriend and her boyfriend's preppy, jerk friends.

That stuff is funny but the main reason I can recommend this good, funny movie is for one particular pairing. Stiffler's mother is back played by the wonderful Jennifer Coolidge and Jim's father is played by the wonderful Eugene Levy. The two characters will hook up and their being together is charming, sweet and very funny. I loved that the movie concentrated on this relationship as much as it did. It is heartfelt and made me smile and seeing Jennifer Coolidge and Eugene Levy, both from Christopher Guest's comedy troupe, work so well together is priceless in this movie.

Don't rush out too soon when the end credits start to roll because Levy and Coolidge have a scene then that is the best and funniest scene in the movie. I am screaming now for these writers to make a spin off movie based on these two! "American Reunion" is warm and engaging, spending time with good friends getting in trouble again and having a good time.

P.S. It is also good to see Natasha Lyonne and Chris Klein back, two good actors we don't see that much anymore.