Fox once saw so much potential in Seth MacFarlane's Family Guy. But when no one wanted to watch it, Fox pulled the trigger on it and canceled it in 2001. Then a few years later it was released on DVD and the hardcore fans of the show (like me) bought it and finally had a way to show people what they missed. The DVD sales were so high for that show that Fox reconsidered its decision to end the show, brought it back and it's been a money-grab ever since. It took no one seeing it for everyone to love it. Sadly, I think that's the same fate in store for Ted.
A movie about a little boy who wishes that his favorite teddy bear comes alive and remains his best friend forever is the stuff of the worst kind of children's movies. It's the kind of plot that is literally the kind of thing you laugh out loud at and then feel bad for Eddie Murphy for starring in it. But when you mention that it's all from the mind of Seth MacFarlane and it's an R-rated comedy, most people couldn't be back on board faster.
Not only is it painfully obvious from the opening minutes that this is from the mind of the man who made Family Guy, it keeps that same playful, offensive, random tone through the whole film. If you love the bizarre flashbacks and fantasy scenes that play out in the show, then Ted won't let you down. It's actually a ton more impressive to me that they did still do that considering how much more expensive it is to pull it off with live action. And don't think for a second that because this is MacFarlane's first feature film that he kept the references somewhat grounded in popular culture; a bulk of the film centers around Ted and his human bestie, John's, obsession with the 1980 cinematic so-bad-it's-good turd Flash Gordon. My wife didn't understand a single reference to the film but enjoyed it all the same.
Mark Wahlberg stars as John, a guy who is letting his friendship with Ted come between him and his adulthood and relationship with Mila Kunis. Wahlberg is a fine actor and able to pull of comedy quite well, but don't expect a lot from any of the humans in the film. The only actual person that provides enough funny to be note-worthy is Giovanni Ribsi (Avatar, Cold Mountain) who relishes playing creepy, slimey characters and does it so well even in a comedy like this.
The real star of this film is MacFarlane's script. The laughs come one-after-another and don't stop and get relentless at times. You can tell that he is steeped in television expierence where you have to cram as much as you can into 22-minutes. Here he has two hours to fill but makes you exhausted with how fast the comedy comes at you. Unfortunately the plot is nothing new and nothing original. The story is predictable and removed of any soul or emotion (despite what Kunis said in an interview you can hear below). Because of that, the film offers cheap, cringe-worthy jokes and nothing more...but let's cut the crap, that's all you're looking for and really all you want. Ted (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B+
Director Brett Ratner is not known for comedy; he’s known more for action films like Red Dragon or X-Men 3. Granted, the man did the Rush Hour series, but I’m not really sure if you can legally consider those movies comedies since they’re so unfunny. But Tower Heist is a comedy compiled of a varsity team of laugh makers. Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck (Oceans 11, Gone Baby Gone), Michael Pena (30 Minutes of Less, Crash), Judd Hirsch (Taxi, Independence Day) and Alan Alda (M*A*S*H, The Aviator) all star in this movie about the 1% stealing money from the 99%. It’s funnier than Rush Hour but still not the great comedy it should be.
Tower Heist is a very timely plot. The relevancy of a rich Bernie Madoff type stealing pensions and life savings from the people who work in his luxury Manhattan condo building he lives in is exactly the revenge story this country needs right now. It’s fun to watch Alda get his vintage, Steve McQueen Ferari smashed by Still with a golf club. It’s as if each strike is a victory for the Occupy Wall St. protestors. In that respect, the film is a true success, but might have been better if it was handled as a thriller instead of a comedy.
Spicing up the comedic premises are some very talented actors. Leading the charge is Murphy, who hasn’t actually appeared in a good movie since he was nominated for an Oscar in 2006’s Dreamgirls. Him making bank off of the Shrek franchise, allowing him to go away for a while, is a very good thing. He’s made a lot of very poor movie decisions and he saturated the market with Murphy. Seeing him in Tower Heist though reminds us all of why he was one of the brightest shining stars in Hollywood once. He crackles on the screen like Robin Williams did in his prime. He pumps life into lines that otherwise would go insignificant, simply by being Eddie Murphy. Of course he’s not breaking new ground or jockeying for accolades, but damnit, he’s really good.
Same can be said for the rest of the cast that do a fine job of supporting Murphy and allowing him to be the star. Especially Stiller who has proven he can be the funny man but takes a backseat as the straight guy to Murphy’s wild card. The only actor that gives Murphy a run for his money is Pena, who banks yet another winning comedic performance in his resume. It’s almost getting to the point where I forget that he started and excelled at drama first.
I appreciate this film for what it is and what it attempted to do. But sadly it falls short in quite a few ways. The comedy stops around the beginning of the third act and the rest is allowed to be suspenseful action, albeit still fun. The climax of the film though ventures into absurd when the entire success of their heist is dependent upon an absolutely impossible and stupid stunt. I’m not sure if that was Ratner’s idea to show off how well he can use special FX or not, but it’s ineffective except in that it makes me laugh unintentionally.
Tower Heist is a fun movie that does no wrong. Some of that is because heist films are always fun by default. But allow Oceans 11 be an example of how it can be fun, funny and downright awesome by stylizing the look and tone and keeping us grounded in the plausible. Go for the fun of it, stay for the Murphy but expect to get a little robbed of your expectations. Tower Heist (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: B-
If you were to ask most comedians who their favorite comedians are, I would guess that Steve Martin would show up in the Top 10 for most of them.Â There's no argument over his influence and skills.Â But for some reason, he chooses horrible movies to do...at least in the last couple decades.Â It doesn't make sense why the man that brought us The Jerk, The Three Amigos, Planes, Trains & Automobiles and Parenthood has also brough us Cheaper By the Dozen 1 and 2, Bringing Down the House, andÂ The Pink Panther remakes.Â Now he has The Big Year.Â So which pile will this be thrown on?Â Can it be on both?Â
The Big Year has a great premise: it's a pseudo true story about a real event called The Big Year which is competitive bird watching.Â Yeah.Â Competitive.Â Besides Martin, it also stars Owen Wilson and Jack Black...two actors that were also really funny once upon a time and have perhaps run their course.Â
AÂ film in the vein of Christopher Guest's classic Best in Show would have been amazing!Â A comedy lampooning the existence and the people that participate in a bird watching competition sounds awesome!Â Quickly it becomes apparent that that is not the direction they took.Â I probably shouldÂ have seen that coming since it was directed by David Frankel, who did Marley & Me and The Devil Wears Prada.Â He's very good at giving us comediesÂ that teeter back and forth between very funny and emotionally appealing.Â The Big Year tries as hard as it can to be more like those films but sadly never does.Â
See, when you enter into a Big Year, you are away from your family, your job, your life for a whole year.Â You miss outÂ on an awful lot and the movie partially focuses on that.Â It also focuses on the beauty of nature and the birds themselves.Â If you're saying so far allÂ that doesn't sound very funny...you're right.Â The movie isn't very funny; but that doesn't mean it's not good.Â But it doesn't do aÂ quality jobÂ at pulling you in any particular direction or making you feel a certain way.Â It just kind of exists.Â The characters don'tÂ make you feel for them completely or even pick a favorite in the contest.Â There are moments of great filmmaking but not enough to love the movie.
The good news is that none of these usually annoying comedic actors are annoying in the film.Â They don't branch out into new territory or take any risks with character choices but you get what you'd expect minus some fark and dick jokes from Jack Black.Â In fact, he gives one of the better performances in the movie since the relationship with his dad, played by Brian Dennehy (Romeo + Juliet) is some of the near tear-jerking you expierence in the film.Â But overall to use the word "big" in the title of this film is false advertising.
The Big YearÂ (Rated PG)
Gavin Grade: C
Did you ever see someone line-up a hundred dominoes in a perfect design that looks like it will be so easy and awesome to knock them all over? Â Then when they push the first one it might knock two or three over but then something goes wrong and it doesn't work? Â That's 30 Minutes or Less. Â All the dominoes were lined-up and gave the impression that this would be so awesome when easily knocked over, but something just went wrong with it.
30 Minutes or Less has a great team of comedic actors. Â Danny McBride (Tropic Thunder, Your Highness), Oscar-nominated Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network, Zombieland), Aziz Ansari (NBC's Community, Funny People) and Nick Swardson (Grandma's Boy, Just Go With It) are the principal cast here and all of them are very funny. Â Then you add director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) and Ben Stiller as producer, you should be able to knock those dominoes over...1, 2, 3. Â I don't know what happened but it was a disaster.
First off, the tone of the movie was nowhere near the caliber that Fleiscer created with Zombieland. Â I expected the same kind of music video intensity with great editing, bright colors and funny FX. Â Instead, what 30 Minutes or Less offers is boring, uninteresting direction from a timid director that doesn't resemble the creative beast we got the first time around.
We also get a lackluster performance from almost everyone involved. Â It's pretty sad when the shining star in the comedic cast is Michael Pena (Crash, The Lincoln Lawyer), who is mostly known for his dramatic chops. Â Just like he did in the highly underrated Observe and Report, Pena creates so much with such little screen time. Â His crazed and slightly slow Mexican gangster, Chonga, is the best thing about the movie and delivers most of the laughs despite only being in 3 or so scenes.
The concept for the film has the potential to be very funny, even though it bares an eerie similarity to a horrific case in Pennsylvania a year ago that ended with the poor guy, who had the bomb strapped around his neck, getting his head blown up. Â Don't worry, 30 Minutes or Less has a much different ending although it's equally as unfunny.
Eisenberg even gives a performance that is so forced and poorly crafted that it almost makes me think he got lucky with that Oscar nomination last year. Â We'll see what the future holds for him, but I hope he's got a lot better up his sleeve. Â But even if he had the flu through the entire production, I would still expect the other three to carry the film. Â They've each made me laugh in other projects they've worked on but in this movie it seems as if they were forced to work together despite no one getting along. Â It also doesn't help that all four of them play the exact same roles you've seen them play time and time and time again. Â Really, Danny McBride? Â You're a foul-mouthed hot head again? Â How original.
30 Minutes or Less is such a disappointment and that's not even including the fact that it's a pitiful 83 minutes long. Â Are you kidding me? Â The last time a feature length movie was that short it was animated! Â The film had all the ingredients but just failed to deliver...only with the movie, you don't get your money back.
30 Minutes or Less Â (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: D+
In 1988, a movie came out starring Fred Savage (The Wonder Years) and Judge Reinhold (Beverly Hills Cop) called Vice Versa. Â It was a cheeseball family comedy about a father and son that both touch a magic skull at the same time and end up switching bodies. Â I loved it when I first saw it, but I was also 8-years-old. Â In 2011, a movie came out starring Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses, Juno) and Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern, The Proposal) called The Change-Up. Â It's a raunchy adult comedy about two best friends that pee in a magic fountain at the same time and end up switching bodies. Â I probably would have loved this more when I was 8-years-old too.
I personally admire both Bateman and Reynolds. Â They're not only very attractive guys, but they have stellar comedic timing and are fun to watch in movies, even if they play almost the same character in most of them. Â And I won't take away their noble, if not also failing, attempt to make this movie as funny as they could.
Sadly the fault of failure falls on the shoulders of the writers, who were the guys behind The Hangover movies and director David Dobkin who has Wedding Crashers, Fred Claus and Shanghai Noon to his credit. Â Perhaps they consider it a feather in their cap that they feature the first movie with a CGI baby's assh**e and the gorgeous Leslie Mann (Knocked Up, 40-Year-Old Virgin) topless for the first time. Â But as far as quality filmmaking goes, they should be ashamed. Â It's further proof to me that I was right in that The Hangover was a fluke comedy that was given more credit than it deserved and was far funnier than the writers were capable of doing.
For starters, almost every joke in The Change-Up is visible from a football field away. Â Nothing is surprising and therefore isn't very funny. Â I chuckled a few times, here and there, but when you have Bateman and Reynolds at your disposal...you better make my belly shake. Â Second, it's one of the most unoriginal concepts I've seen in a very long time...rivaled possibly by The Hangover Part II. Â If you're gonna rip off 90% of your plot from a film from the '80s, don't insult some of us and just make it a remake. Â And my biggest problem with the movie was that the characters were wildly undefined. Â If I switched bodies with my best friend from childhood, I would NEVER EVER put his children at danger, try to bang his wife and ruin his entire career. Â That's precisely what happens in The Change-Up. Â It's not funny to watch because you don't get the impression that these two guys care about each other in the slightest! Â That's a crucial point for the story to work. Â To top it all off, the movie tries to be a Judd Apatow film in that it starts to be important and pretends to have something to say about what's really important in life but all of that comes across forced, despite a great performance from Mann.
The Change-Up tries to be a little bit of everything to everyone and ends up being not very funny and full of holes and flops. Â The good news is that it won't hurt Bateman or Reynolds in their reputation for knocking comedy out of the park; the bad news is it makes Vice Versa look like a masterpiece to me again.
The Change-Up Â (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: D
Bridesmaids is being compared too and referred to as "the female version of The Hangover." Â I can't think of a more insulting thing to say. Â Yes, it's true that both are equally as funny as each other (I did not think The Hangover was the best comedy of the year and I gave it a B.) Â Yes, both are about everything leading up to a wedding. Â Yes, both are crude and filled with heavy profanity (Bridesmaids has worse curse words, by the way). Â But outside of those characteristics, that's all those two movies share in common with each other. Â It's insulting that a comedy written for, about and starring women can't stand on its own without being compared to any other male-driven comedy. Â Bridesmaids is better than that and earns the respect that it should rightfully get.
The film stars Kristen Wiig (SNL, Paul) and her real life best friend and co-writer Maya Ruldolph (SNL, Away We Go). Â Wiig is the Maid of Honor at her best friend's wedding and falls short of living up to the glamour and party-planning princess Helen, played by Rose Byrne (Insidious, Get Him to The Greek). Â Wiig's character is not only failing at that but also at life. Â She has no money, no dignity, no house and no respect due to it being stripped away by her f***buddy, played by the wonderfully sleazy Jon Hamm (The Town, AMC's Madmen).
The movie is produced by comedy phenom Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, Funny People). Â He is a Catch 22 in the truest sense of the word thought in that he will make your film have a soul that runs deeper than almost all other comedies out there but he will also make your movie run longer than any other comedy out there. Â Bridesmaids is no different since it has a runtime of over two hours and 20-30 minutes of that is unneeded and tedious.
Most comedies run into the problem of keeping the whole thing funny and they peter out in the final act. The Hangover did this and it made it go from a great movie to a good movie. Â Bridesmaids does it as well but it's acceptable because it no longer tries to be funny and instead lets the drama sweep over it. Â This might turn some viewers off, especially the men. Â I found myself finding some of the non-comedy underwhelming and unrealistic, however I brought my friend Dave's wife, Mimi, to the screening and she told me that what Wiig's character goes through is very relatable to a lot of women. Â It's this aspect of the film that makes me think that it will do better with women and could even become a cult hit among girlfriends and bridesmaids for years to come. Â You'll come for The Hangover promise, you'll laugh your ass off at Melissa McCarthy (CBS' Mike and Molly) and you'll embrace the feminine tones...I'm guessing.
Bridesmaids (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B
Are you one of those people that really enjoyed the Lord of the Rings trilogy but the lack of modern-day vernacular that included heaps of profanity and scenes of weed humor kept you from loving it? Well, you're in luck because Your Highness is pretty much that. And when I compare it to Lord of the Rings, I'm not overselling the scope of the film. There are epic battle scenes with mythic beasts that contain visual FX that are actually really well done. This was not a cheap movie.
Director David Gordon Green has tried his luck at serious drama (Snow Angels) and stoner action comedy (Pineapple Express), so it seemed like he could handle stoner action epic in a serious way. The movie was written by star Danny McBride (Tropic Thunder, Land of the Lost) and he's joined by a pretty impressive cast that includes Oscar nominee James Franco (127 Hours, Milk), Oscar winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan, V for Vendetta) and Zooey Deschanel ((500) Days of Summer, Elf). Everyone involved in the film puts in decent performances but they've all done better. McBride carries a bulk of the comedy on his back and is only supported by bit characters, sight gags and Justin Theroux (American Psycho, The Ten) who plays the villain.
However the film is lost in its identity. By the title, advertising and opening first act you get the impression that they wanted to shoehorn in lots of jokes about smoking weed but they changed their mind...and thank God they did. The weed scenes are amusing but completely unnecessary and illogical. I know I'm watching a movie about sword fights with five-headed snake creatures and warlocks but for some reason I found the scenes that involved getting stoned so unbelievably stupid.
Overlooking that though, the rest of the movie is pretty damn funny. Note to parents though, this is an R-rated film for a reason. Don't take your little ones expecting this to be a slightly edgier Narnia. There is a prop in the film, which gets one of the biggest laughs, that is WAY inappropriate for kids. However, that edginess and easy sexual jokes that they commit too mixed with fantasy reminds me so much of a modern Mel Brooks film. Your Highness goes into realms of perverted chuckles that Brooks would never dare too, but the tone is still the same. It's lampooning a genre and dragging modern themes into it that make it very obvious that it never once takes itself seriously...and you shouldn't either.
There's a really good chance that you won't like this movie. It covers too much to ever make it mass appeal. You have to enjoy medieval fantasy, drug humor, sex jokes, Danny McBride (not everyone does) and action sequences. That's not an easy pill to swallow. But if you do meet all those criteria, then I think Your Highness is going to be the pill that will satisfy you quite well.
Your Highness (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B-
Gavin actually got to interview Oscar-winner Natalie Porman!!
In 1981 a movie came out with Dudley Moore and John Geilgud about a spoiled rich British drunk and his butler called Arthur. Â The movie did very well, spawning two Oscar nominations and even a win for Geilgud. Â Fast forward 30 years to find that Arthur is remade with Russell Brand (Get Him to the Greek, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Helen Mirren (Red, The Queen) but only this time it won't play to such fanfare. Â There's a number of reasons why that is though and it's not just because remakes usually suck and fall flat without offering us something new and exciting.
The first is that Brand is a polarizing figure. Â His fame train is quickly going up the mountain of success but I wish it would derail. Â It's not that I don't like Brand or don't find him funny; he's just way too much to take in as a lead character. Â When he played smaller, supporting roles that were quirky and unlikable he was more in his element. Â But rooting for him to find love with Greta Gerwig's (Greenburg, House of the Devil) character in Arthur is off-putting to say the least.
Another possible reason why Arthur doesn't work this time around is that in 1981, America was in great financial shape for the most part. Â People had jobs, they were making money and there was this feeling that everyone could be a millionaire one day. Â 2011 is very different though and that kind of fiscal optimism doesn't seem to be prevalent anymore. Â So sitting back in a theater you paid $10 per person to watch a movie about a guy that could buy the theater for himself just to have some popcorn is a little nauseating. Â You find yourself thinking, "Why the hell do I care if anything works out for this guy? Â He's giving up billions in inheritance for some girl...f**k that! Â I'll give up my own kids for that right now."
But mostly the reason why this remake of Arthur doesn't work is because it's not very funny. Â During a packed screening of the film, the most I heard from the audience were light chuckles that rippled through like someone tossed a comedy pebble into a pond. Â There wasn't one big belly laugh that brought the house down. Â Mirren is amusing as she takes on the role that won Geilgud the Oscar, but since she already has one for her own it seems like she just puts in enough effort to make it fun but not funny.
The best performances come from Jennifer Gardner (Juno, 13 Going on 30) and Luis Guzman (The Count of Monte Cristo, Boogie Nights) who are great comedic accents to the movie. Â They each play characters that are out of their usual character wheelhouse and both put themselves out there for mocking in refreshing scenes that try their best to defibrillate the film back to life.
Brand was also a producer of this movie and has said that he desperately wanted to remake it. Â Since, outside of changing the sex of one of the characters, nothing new or original was done for this remake, I'd say that Brand remade it out of pure ego. Â That is probably the umbrella for which all his other flaws are underneath and in Arthur it shows.
Arthur (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: C-
What would happen if you got together with a bunch of your closest movie nerd friends to play the board game Scene It but turned it into a feature length film? Â The answer is you'd have the movie Paul.
This sci-fi comedy starring Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Star Trek) and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) and the voice of Seth Rogen is made for fanboys, by fanboys. Â That's because the plot of two nerds who find a real alien while touring America's alien attractions and helping him find his way home is full of references to classic (mostly) sci-fi movies. Â That might have been one of the best things about the movie. Â Sitting in a theater and playing along with Paul, trying to guess every quote that comes up is almost worth the price of admission itself. Â Not every single one is eased in there seamlessly, but all of them are funny as hell and worthy of a big belly laugh if you're a movie nerd like me.
But how is the actual movie, you say? Â Well, it's pretty good but not great. Â Sad since I was expecting so much more. Â When Pegg and Frost get together for a film, the results are usually golden. Â Now add in a cast like Kristen Wiig (SNL, Walk Hard), Jason Bateman (Juno, Dodgeball), Sigourney Weaver (Alien, Galaxy Quest) and many other cameos. Â That sets the bar pretty high and perhaps that was my fault for doing that.
My enjoyment of this film might have been dampened by my own ideals of its potential. Â I expected it to be just as good as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Â It's not. Â Not even close. Â That might be because the director of those two films, Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) didn't do Paul. Â Instead they got Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland) to stand at the wheel. Â He did a fine job, but even he didn't raise to the level that Suberbad did. Â I think that's simply because this script lacks a constant personality. Â There are times when it's slapstick and dick jokes. Â Other times it's very heady and cerebral comedy. Â But there are times when it ventures into preachy material about religion (and I'm on the side of the point they're making) that comes across way out of place and shoehorned in.
Paul is a very funny movie and will satiate the avid movie lover with comedic quotes and references, but as far as your average audience member...the humor will seem a bit alien.
Paul (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B
GavinÂ talked toÂ British actor Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Star Trek) about his new movie Paul.
Damn you, Take Me Home Tonight! Â This movie cost me $46! Â Not for the price of the movie or concessions (I get those for free...he he). Â But because this movie, that is set in 1987, inspired me to go home and start an '80s playlist on my iPod. Â I can't believe I didn't have one! Â That's because there is only about 40 minutes of this movie that doesn't have an awesome '80s song playing overtop or underneath it. Â That helps add to the emotion of the movie but it also made it feel rather forced and fraudulent too. Â You know that '80s party you get invited too and you show up and they have all the hits playing and everyone is popping their polos or spraying their bangs up? Â The movie feels like that. Â Not sure if that's a bad thing necessarily but it doesn't feel like a period piece, more like a fake college '80s party. Â Topher Grace (Spiderman 3) stars in this movie about a guy going to an epic post-college party to finally hook up with his high school crush, played by Teresa Palmer (I Am Number Four, The Sorcerer's Apprentice). Â He's joined by his best friend played by Dan Fogler (Balls of Fury) and the lovely and talented Anna Faris (Observe and Report). Â Take Me Home Tonight is basically 1998'sÂ Can't Hardly Wait for a different generation. Â However, where Can't Hardly Wait had stereotypes and cliches, at least it was authentic in the respect that it was filmed in the decade it was about. Â Take Me Home Tonight is not a bad film though. Â It's pretty funny but also does an adequate job of capturing what it feels like to be in your early 20s; out of college, lost in the world and not have a single friggin' idea of what you want to do with your life. Â That is an age and life struggle that seems to get overlooked by Hollywood a lot. Â I suppose that's because it's pretty depressing. Â But Take Me Home Tonight doesn't get bogged down in that due to a supporting cast like Chris Pratt (NBC's Parks and Recreation), Demitri Martin (Comedy Central's Important Things) and Michael Ian Black (Wet Hot American Summer). Â Demitri Martin really shines though! Â He's only in two scenes but is the winner of both. Â You'll recognize other faces in the film too in small cameos that go underutilized and end up being confusing as to why they're in it at all. Â Although the song Take Me Home Tonight is not actually used in the film, the soundtrack is great. Â The film is very self-aware of the music and featured it fairly well. Â Much like how the soundtrack to Forest Gump was a great musical encapsulation of the '60s and '70s, this film will do the same for the '80s. Â The soundtrack features 19 tracks and it looks like they have Volume 2 coming out soon. Â It also features dialogue from the movie, much like a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack might. Take Me Home Tonight is actually a lot more like the '80s than it realizes; just like the decade itself, it's fun, colorful and amusing but at its core is fake, empty and not very original.
Take Me Home Tonight (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: C+
Way before The Hangover, the desire to make movies about grown men who desperately cling to their youth in midlife crisis movies has been around. Â It's a genre of comedy that never seems to get boring, but it's also very easy to screw up and end up as a roulette wheel of d*ck and poop jokes. Â Is it possible to be the latter but still manage to be very funny and almost smart? Â Sure is, and it's called Hall Pass. Â The Farrelly Brothers had a huge hit with There's Something About Mary that revitalized Hollywood comedies in proving that R-rated comedies can be great and lucrative. Â But that was in 1998 and ever since then they've had failure after failure after failure. Â Hall Pass might be their first success since. Â It lacks the quirkiness that There's Something About Mary created and it's not as funny as Kingpin or Dumb and Dumber. Â But it's worthy of standing on its own as a great adult comedy of theirs. Â Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis (SNL, Going the Distance) are married buddies who's wives, played by Christina Applegate (Anchorman, Going the Distance) and Jenna Fisher (The Office, Walk Hard), give them a hall pass which is a week off of marriage. Â Sounds like every man's dream but it turns out to be harder than they think. Â The film gets off to a soggy start but quickly picks up the pace. Â What is shocking is the level of edginess it goes too. Â Much like There's Something About Mary or Me, Myself & Irene, the humor gets very adult and graphic but at a surprise. Â The initial shock of seeing Ben Stiller get his "frank and beans" stuck in his zipper was awesomely hilarious and certain scenes of Hall Pass carry the same shocking gross-out humor. Â Another victory is that it remains moderately funny throughout and doesn't fall victim to the awful final act that most of these comedies suffer, such as The Hangover. Â The biggest disappointment of the movie comes from a vastly underutilized supporting cast. Â The Farralleys have JB Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Stephen Merchant (The Office), and Oscar-nominated Richard Jenkins (Let Me In, Eat Pray Love) and they give them nothing funny to do. Â The three of them are capable of carrying the movie themselves, as far as I'm concerned, but have nothing to work with in this. Â The only supporting character that rises to the level of Scene Stealer is comedian Derek Waters (Funnyordie.com's Drunk History, The Sarah Silverman Program). Â Although his character is the one that takes the movie into nonsense, it's still damn funny to watch. Â Be warned that Hall Pass is very adult and still not for everyone. Â If you like your humor to not involve senseless nudity, spraying feces or graphic profanity, then you might want to pass on Hall Pass. Â But if There's Something About Mary made Â you laugh as the limits of good taste were pushed, this will almost satisfy.
Hall Pass (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B
It's a hard question to answer and one that I've wondered for many years but how can an Adam Sandler movie possibly get any worse than they already are? Â Well, my answer has finally come - you add Jennifer Aniston. Â Now that's not to negate both of their entire careers. Â I think Aniston was great in Rock Star and even Sandler has done impressive acting in Reign Over Me and Punch Drunk Love. Â But their overall repertoire is terrible to the core. Â I think the last time Sandler made me laugh was when he did Billy Madison and I was 13-years-old and Aniston, well, she's never made me laugh. Â So, I gotta be honest that I expected nothing out of this movie before it even began, but I wasn't prepared for how awful it really was. Â Sandler is a successful plastic surgeon who pretends to be married to pick up hot women, assuming you are still buying him playing roles where a guy who looks like Sandler would ever get hot women. Â When he finally meets one (played by TV's Brooklyn Decker who adds nothing but hottness to the movie), a simple lie turns into a lot of them and he begs his assistant, who's played by Aniston, to play along with her kids and pretend to be his ex-wife. Â Trust me when I say that I don't need to give you a "Spoiler Alert" notice because every single aspect about the film is foreseeable by even the dimmest of audience members by at least a few miles away. Â Looking past the predictable, cliche plot, the rest of the film is like a check list for what you'd expect in a bad comedy. Â Is there a montage of a shopping spree over pop music? Â Check. Â Are there over-exaggerated prosthetic body parts and fake animals? Â Yup. Â How about a scene where Adam Sandler gets hit in the balls and sticks either his tongue out or crosses his eyes? Â How about he does both. Â I could go on like this for a very long time. Â However, there are two things that came out of this movie that can be put in a "Well at least that was good" column. Â The first is that Sandler traded his talentless muse of Rob Schneider (Waterboy, Deuce Bigalow) for the much funnier Nick Swardson (Blades of Steel, Grandma's Boy). Â He's not really that funny in this, but his presence alone gives certain scenes the potential to be so. Â The other is little 10-year-old Bailee Madison (Bridge to Terabithia, Brothers) who is probably the best thing about the movie. Â She's very funny and a talented little girl; I just feel bad for her that she had to be in this. Â I gotta be honest, I'm not the target audience for this film. Â The people around me were laughing throughout, while I sat like stone and stared at the screen like a puppy watching you shower. Â However, those same people couldn't have laughed harder during a trailer before the movie that showed Kevin James as a zoo keeper screaming at talking animals. Â Am I a comedy elitist? Â I hope not. Â But when it comes to movies like Just Go With It, where I can tell you exactly how it ends before the opening credits finish rolling, I guess I am. Â Because to me nothing is sadder than a movie that isn't funny but is so self assured that it is. Â Good thing for Adam Sandler there aren't many people like me in America because I'd say that sums him up as well.
Just Go With It Â (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: F
Face it! Â You thought it too. Â You could be the biggest fan of the Meet the Parents series in the world, but when you saw the title Little Fockers pop up on a trailer last summer, you totally thought "Jump the Shark!" Â You're totally right for thinking that; this truly is an unneeded sequel, as was the last one. Â The good news is that it's not that bad but it is keeping up with the downward progression the series is going. Â Little Fockers picks up the story a few years after Meet the Fockers and now we find Ben Stiller and Teri Polo (Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers) raising a pair of twins and living in Chicago. Â The plot is insultingly simple in that it draws all the characters together just to celebrate the twins' birthday. Â Then more of the same jokes that have warn out their welcome a long time ago continue. Â Robert DeNiro is back as the scary, overbearing patriarch of the family and him and Stiller continue their waltz of control and cliched jokes. Â Barbara Streisand and Dustin Hoffman are back as well as The Fockers but are far less funny and have less screen time than they did in the last one. Â Jessica Alba actually gives a great performance as a prescription drug rep temptress that Stiller deals with. Â That's nice because it counters the downright pointless and stupid character that Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs, National Treasure) plays. Â It's true that there are parts of the movie that made me laugh, yes even some of them were out loud, but the belly laughs and uncomfortable tension the original brought out are long gone. Â Perhaps that's because, by now, you can spot the jokes coming a mile away. Â Not to mention the fact that I've grown way tired of the jokes around the name "Focker;" I mean, "Godfocker?!" Â Are you kidding me?! Â Who's laughing at that? Â The lackluster quality might be because this film was really hard to pull off for the studio. Â None of the original creators are involved in it anymore. Â Jay Roach who was the director and writer of the first one is one of the producers of Little Fockers, but I'm sure that was more of a financial decision than an artistic one because none of this shows his flair. Â Instead the job of directing was handed over to Paul Weitz who gave us American Pie but also gave us The Vampire's Assistant, so take that for what it's worth. Â Not to mention the fact that this movie was in trouble when it had to be reshot after test audiences hated it and they paid Hoffman and Streisand gobs of money to appear in it after they said they didn't want too and try to make it funnier. Â Again, the good news is that they did. Â The film is funny but it's not what it used to be. Â The movie ends with a setup for another one, but for God's sake I hope it doesn't happen. Â The Meet the Parents movies are starting to act just like the characters that drive the story...overbearing, annoying and won't go away.
Little Fockers Â (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: C
I still remember where I was the first time I saw Anchorman. Â I went with my brother to an almost empty theater for a matinee show in Harrisburg, PA. Â As soon as the movie started it had me laughing intensely within two minutes. Â My brother and I, however, were the only people in the theater laughing at all, let alone at that veracity. Â Anchorman rocketed to the top 3 funniest movies I ever saw (joining the ranks of The Big Lebowski and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, if you were interested). Â Director/Writer Adam McKay and Will Ferrell tried to capture lightening in a bottle again with Talladega Nights a few years later and didn't come anywhere close. Â Since The Other Guys is the pair's newest attempt at hitting that Anchorman target, I wasn't expecting magic. Â After two minutes of the projector turning on though, it was clear that these two were back on their A Game. Â This "buddy cop" comedy pairs the nerd with the benched badass like we've seen many times before. Â Something about this though feels original, but I'm not sure why. Â One reason could be the casting of Mark Wahlberg, who reminds me again and again how funny he can be. Â The unlikely comedic duo of Wahlberg and Ferrell had me in stitches through 95% of this movie. Â They improv banter that consists of debates over who would win in a fight - a lion or a school of tuna. Â But Wahlberg brings a level of hero intensity that makes the over-the-top and VERY well done action sequences believable. Â Michael Keaton (Batman, Toy Story 3) makes an awesome return to comedy playing the typical angry police chief. Â Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson also make their duration of the film octane fueled and own the funniest scenes in the movie. Â Eva Mendes (Bad Lieutenant, Hitch) holds her own against Ferrell and even matches his skills in her scenes too. Â The Other Guys could've easily fallen into the same trash heap that Bruce Willis' Cop Out was but it felt different from the beginning. Â It tip-toed in reality and fantasy throughout the entire film, just like Anchorman did, and Â you rarely feel that it's pointless and unenjoyable. Â The film is full of scenes that make you chuckle long after the movie is over and lines that you'll quote for years. Â I'm sure it will get funnier and funnier the more times you watch it and actually impresses in the varsity-level directing that you would expect from an action film...not a comedy. Â Make sure you stay through the end credits not just because of the hidden scene at the end but also because of the social message McKay and Ferrell want you to leave with that they show through graphics that feel like a short documentary for Michael Moore's book Stupid White Men. Â It was refreshing and leaves you thinking as well. Â I don't know if The Other Guys will join the elite on my list of favorite comedies just yet. Â That's not the way favorite movies work. Â I need to see if it stands the test of time. Â I do think that it has the potential too and I personally can't wait to see it again.
The Other Guys (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: A
Some time in Hollywood there must have been a gathering of Â talented comedic actors like Steve Carell (The Office, 40-Year-Old Virgin), Paul Rudd (Anchorman, I Love You, Man) and Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover, Youth in Revolt) who came together to do a script reading for Dinner for Schmucks. Â But what's puzzling to me is that not even one of these guys got up and walked away from the table with any doubts that the script needed work or that it wasn't funny at all. Â They should have. Â Dinner for Schmucks is a remake of a French movie that achieved a level of cult status among fans of foreign cinema. Â The French version, I've been told, is very funny and a "must have" among great comedies. Â It must be a lot funnier in French because this American version is downright awful. Â Even gifted director Jay Roach, who brought us the Austin Powers and Meet the Parents series, didn't do anything to make this project funny. Â The premise of the movie is pretty good. Â An ambitious corporate executive is invited to a dinner that his career aspirations hinge on. Â The catch is he has to bring someone that is a complete moron so they can all laugh at that person and then compete to see who brought the most moronic. Â I personally think the idea of that sounds like a good time, but you're not suppose too. Â As an audience member, they're hoping that you have more moral fiber than most of us actually do and consider that premise disgusting and cruel. Â Biggest problem of the film is that Carell's "schmuck" character is SUCH an insufferable, clueless a**hole, you can't WAIT for him to eviscerated at the dinner. Â I didn't care that they were going to make fun of him since I watched him ruin Rudd's life in a series of very unfunny scenes for 90 minutes. Â If you think I'm giving anything away about the ending, I'm not. Â The movie is as predictable as a traffic light's progression from the opening scene to the end credits roll. Â The only funny scene in the whole movie is the actual dinner but by then you're so detached from the movie you just want to run from the theater. Â To explain where this movie goes wrong is almost an act of futility. Â It was just a lousy idea that was executed with total mediocrity, which is really sad since I was looking forward to seeing Steve Carell and Paul Rudd together in a movie again since their other two were some of the funniest films I've ever seen. Â (40-Year-Old Virgin and Anchorman if you're trying to figure out what those two are.) Â Carell is too unlikeable and unbelievable to be funny and Rudd is too serious and bland to be funny. Â Galifianakis isn't even funny playing a character that should steal the show. Â It's like the entire film, minus a few seconds of funny lines, is lost in a translation from French to English and ends up being a movie for schmucks instead. Â I'm still a fan of the cast and wish them better luck next time **cough cough Anchorman 2**
Dinner for Schmucks (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: D+
Seems like it was just yesterday that Forgetting Sarah Marshall was in theaters and had me wondering why everyone liked it so much. Â Well, now some of the same creators have created a loosely-based sequel on that movie that makes me wonder that all over again. Â Get Him to The Greek is about Russell Brand's rock star character, Aldous Snow, being ushered from London to L.A. to play a concert at The Greek Theater. Â Joining him on this trip is the ever-growing Jonah Hill. Â Brand's character is a crazed, drug-filled lunatic and Hill's is a straight-laced, stuffy Every Man. Â This premise has been around for as long as we've had comedy and in the shadow of such "parties that got out of control" films like The Hangover, it's not even very creative. Â But is it funny? Â Yes it is...at times. Â The movie starts off very weak trying to build the characters of the leads that we understand in the first five minutes. Â Then it builds to some scenes that crescendo into cough-inducing comedy. Â But sadly it ends on notes that are so flat and sour it soils some of the triumphs it had. Â Jonah Hill is someone who must know someone powerful in Hollywood to continue getting leads because he's gone beyond being totally unattractive to almost repulsive to watch. Â The look he's gone with for Get Him to the Greek is 325 lbs of unshaven ugly that's being held up by a 5'5" frame that waddles around the set like an angry little dwarf. Â I know he has fans out there. Â Hell, I even used to call myself one; but I feel like that was before I knew he was a one-trick-pony and apparently after he devoured all 150 lbs of Michael Cera. Â Russell Brand, on the other hand, is more subdued in this film than he usually is but for a guy who almost showed off his vagina on the cover of Rolling Stone and is a bigger one-trick pony, it's still too much. Â I almost felt like I was seeing a home movie of the two of them making the trip and characters, acting and fiction weren't needed. Â Again, I remind you though that doesn't make parts of it unfunny. Â I would say that the party scenes were perfect in their morbid dance of disturbingly shocking and fantastically funny. Â The addition of cameos from notable TV celebrities to child stars keeps you on your toes to play a Where's Waldo game during the entire film. Â However the movie ends with a three punch combo where all three jabs miss. Â One ending is confusing, the other is uncomfortable and the last is just boring. Â The film tries so hard to become what the Judd Apatow movies are and that is comedy with heart; a feeling of frat boy humor that can still make a lady go "aww." Â Those moments in this film were forced and contrived. Â It made me sad that a film that wanted to just be scenes of debauchery felt the need to muscle in the sentimentality so much that it had no place in the story. Â If you enjoyed The Hangover but wanted to see what the party night scenes looked like acted out by two guys who play themselves better than anyone else could have, then Get Him to The Greek is the movie for you. Â But if you're someone who feels like that premise is tired, uncreative and miles from inspired, then you're better off having one of those parties yourself.
Get Him to The Greek (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: C+
Hi. Â My name is Gavin and I'm a Sex and the City fan. Â I'm not kidding. Â I really am. Â It started when I agreed to watch it with my fiance in return for her watching The Sopranos. Â I was shocked when I really got into it. Â I know about random Skippy in the first season. Â I know that Burger was the worst boyfriend for Carrie. Â I even remember when Steve first met Miranda. Â Trust me, I'm a fan. Â I feel like I must prove that so you don't think I'm just another Sex and the City hater blasting this awful movie. Â When I heard that they were making a movie two years ago, I was surprised but happy because there were still unanswered questions, mainly, will Big and Carrie get married? Â Well, they did and the first movie was great. Â When I heard they were making another movie I thought, "Why?" Â This completely unnecessary sequel starts off great. Â A big fabulous gay wedding (won't say who gets married) that features the highlight of the movie where Liza Manelli performs "Single Ladies." Â After the first hour of the movie, the girls get invited to Abu Dhabi for a business trip. Â It's at that moment that the movie sinks into a quicksand pit of suck and never comes out. Â First of all, who wants to see them in the Middle East? Â The show is Sex and THE CITY not Sex and The Middle East. Â When you remove the girls from New York City, it's not the same. Â The same was true even for the show like when they went to The Hamptons, or Aiden's camping trip or the train ride across the country (see, I told you I'm a fan). Â Manhattan is as much of a character as anyone of the girls are and when you take it out, you've lost me. Â But that's only the beginning of the disaster known as Sex and The City 2. Â The movie gets so lost in musical numbers (you read that right), stilted dialogue, lack of chemistry and corny puns that it makes the 2 and a half hour runtime excruciating. Â Yes, you heard me right; this movie is almost 3 hours long. Â Who do you think you are, Ben Hur?!?! Â Just because you're filmed in the desert doesn't mean you're making an epic! Â The movie is a mere shell of what made the show good. Â Sure, it was about shallow, empty, materialistic girls who hump their way through season after season, but they also fell in love and developed real problems. Â The real problems in this film are covered with such a poorly-made candy coating, it's stupid, not sappy. Â Finally, the disastrous job that writer and director Michael Patrick King (Sex and the City, Will & Grace) did trying to make his point about the oppression of Muslim women needs to be addressed. Â We all can agree that the way women are treated in the Middle East is barbaric and midlevel, but King actually makes himself look like a moron by offending the entire Muslim religion. Â In scenes that are not only a million miles from funny and completely unrealistic, he mocks their culture to the point where it offended ME...and I'm not religious at all. Â If the movie took place in Utah and he did the same scenes but involved the Mormons, this film would be protested by half of America. Â Bottom line: time to hang up those Manolos, girls. Â It's a shame the series has to go out like this...in a pitiful limp of what it used to be. Â I had to go home and watch the show again just to get the stink off of me. Â The few scenes that I did enjoy were ruined by the rest of the film...oh and also by the cackling, drunk bitches that sat in front of me too. Â I had to yell, "Hey!, you're not in your living room, so shut the f**k up and watch the movie!" Â It was so "Samantha" of me!
Sex and the City 2 Â (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: D
Remember how Little Miss Sunshine seemed to come out of nowhere and go onto such success that it won Oscars? Â Remember when an indie film called My Big Fat Greek Wedding popped on the scene, won over audiences and grossed $368 million worldwide? Â What do you think could happen to a movie that is a little bit of both? Â City Island is the brain child from writer/director Raymond De Felitta and seems to be a passion project for star Andy Garcia (Godfather III, The Untouchables), who is also one of the Producer, and it just might follow the same path. Â The film is about an Italian family living on City Island, which is a small fishing village right off the coast of The Bronx. Â They'll make sure you know the history of the town by the end of the film...believe me. Â The film is about a family that has a lot of secrets; some are pretty serious and some are pretty funny. Â Julianna Margulies (The Sopranos, ER) plays Garcia's wife and seems to have a grip on the family until Garcia brings someone home to meet them and that's when we see the secrets start to unfold. Â The film is very funny and also very touching. Â What starts off as a slow build to learn who these characters are and what secrets they hide from each other seems a little daunting and plodding at first; but once the the film picks up its momentum, it really gets good. Â Garcia turns out one of his best performances I've ever seen. Â Because the movie is so low budget, I'm guessing they released it so early so that it has time to develop a following and hit a wide release by late summer in hopes that perhaps The Academy will remember it. Â I certainly hope that happens because I think certain aspects of the film are good enough to warrant such Oscar consideration. Â What I enjoyed the most about the movie is how well the characters displayed the characteristics of a typical urban Italian family. Â Trust me, the dinner scenes hit a little too close to home. Â But unlike My Big Fat Greek Wedding, there are no cultural traditions or stereotypes being rammed down your throat. Â In fact, outside of a last name of "Rizzo" and the look and sound of the family, they don't even make it clear that they are Italian. Â That just might be me projecting that. Â What's great about that though is that it can be enjoyed by anyone who happens to come from a loud, passionate family that wears their emotions on their sleeves. Â It might be sloppy writing at times to have resolution boil over and have the acceptance of the conflict be so immediate, but as an Italian, I'm telling you that that's how it happens. Â We get very upset or angry or emotional over something, we lash out about it and then we forgive and calm down right away. Â There are elements of the movie that I didn't get and seemed forced. Â The son's secret, for instance, seems zany enough to be from a Coen Brothers' movie and really goes nowhere. Â It was almost as if they gave him a secret just so he would have something to do in the movie. Â Although he's played wonderfully by newcomer, Ezra Miller, the part was totally unneeded. Â City Island stumbles occasionally and isn't Best Picture quality, but any movie that can make me cry and make me laugh out loud within a 15 second window and never slide into the cheesy column of cinema is note-worthy in my book. Â At the very least, the film is worth seeing for Andy Garcia, who turns out one of the best performances in his career.
City Island (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: B+ Click below to hearÂ my interview with star of City Island, Andy GarciaDownload
You would think that when a movie comes out that pairs up two of the funniest working people in Hollywood right now, you would have the makings of pure comedy gold. Â Somewhere during Date Night, starring Steve Carrel and Tina Fey, they went off the cliff and I'm guessing they never even realized they did. Â The film is a typical story, where the characters are placed in a situation they have no business being in and that's where the comedy comes from. Â In this case it's a painfully average New Jersey couple who go into Manhattan for...you guessed it...date night and end up getting involved in a mafia blackmail scandal. Â Now, I consider The Office and 30 Rock two of the funniest shows on TV right now and when I saw that the stars of those shows would be in a movie together, I became very excited about it. Â I should have done my homework on it and I would have eased back on that excitement throttle. Â Carell and Fey are very, very talented writers who excel at scripting out the obsurb and impossible story and making it hiliarious; BUT they didn't write this. Â The movie was written by a guy named Josh Klausner, who's only other work is the absolutely horrible Shrek the Third. Â To make matters worse, Date Night was directed by Shawn Levy who many film fans consider to be the go-to guy for hacky comedies that are piss poor at best. Â (I personally liked the Night at the Museum movies but many consider them to be among his many, many failures.) Â So behindÂ Date Night you've got not a creative dream teamÂ but actually more of a creative nightmare team. Â Even when you saturate the movie with amusing cameos like Ray Liotta (Goodfellas), William Fictner (The Dark Knight), Oscar-nominated Taraji Henson (Benjamin Button), James Franco (Spiderman) and many more, they STILL couldn't land a solid dismount on a joke. Â And the saddest part of the whole thing to me was that they clearly thought they were making something awesome given the evidence in the form of outtakes displayed at the end of the movie. Â They're cracking each other up on that set and, sadly, that stuff that made it on the cutting room floor was some of the best stuff in the movie. Â The story is horrible, the acting seems bland and besides the occational chuckle it wrenched out of me, it was a sorry excuse for a comedy. Â Remember that that's coming from a HUGE fan of Carell and Fey. Â I sat in the theater patiently and waited the entire 88 minutes for it to get funny and it never did. Â I think that understanding like that could only come from a fan of those two and anybody else would've walked out. Â The movie couldn't even fill the standard hour and a half of entertainment but I still looked at my watch twice because I thought the movie was a 4 hour epic. Â The only way I could or would recommend this movie as your date night entertainment would be if you were looking to break up and were too chicken to do it. Â If you pick this movie and pretend to laugh your ass off the entire way through, they'll leave you on the spot because I couldn't imagine anyone staying with somebody with judgement that bad.
Date Night (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: D+
How does one remake one of the funniest movies of all time? Â Stop. Â Let me start again. Â WHY would you ever remake one of the funniest movies of all time? Â Especially when it only came out three years ago and it was in English?! Â The original Death at a Funeral was made by Director and former voice of "Miss Piggy" and "Yoda," Frank Oz (What About Bob, The Score) and starred an entire British cast. Â Critics liked it but I loved it. Â I thought the script, written by Dean Craig, was one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. Â My brother Benjamin made me watch it and I laughed so hard that I had tears falling from my eyes. Â Thinking that it was a one-time-fluke, I watched it again and again and still laughed my ass off. Â So to go back to my original question: How does one remake one of the funniest movies of all time? Â The answer: exactly like this. Â Director Neil LaBute (Wicker Man, Lakeview Terrace) teamed up with writer, Craig, and changed virtually not a damn thing. Â Next they went out and assembled one of the best black comedy casts they could. Â Chris Rock, a chubby Martin Lawerence, Danny Glover (Saw, Lethal Weapon), Tracy Morgan (30 Rock, Cop Out), Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Star Trek), and many others take the script and make it their own as much as they could. Â They also have Luke Wilson (Old School, AT&T commercials) and James Marsden (Enchanted, X-Men) join them as the token white guys in the cast. Â Apparently the backstory for this remake is that Rock saw the original and loved it so much that he wanted to bring it to a wider audience. Â So he produced the film and really championed to get it made. Â It shows because you can tell that he's the one cast member trying the hardest to go against type and actually act in it. Â Everyone else does pretty much what we've seen them do their entire careers. Â However, the good news is that the story stays the same...they even use the same midget from the original (Peter Dinklage). Â It's almost like painting a Picasso by the numbers; as long as you follow the directions, you'll successfully re-create a masterpiece. Â The story is gold and shouldn't be messed and I'm really glad they didn't. Â The only originality they added was one bit that ended up being the second biggest laugh in the theater. Â (The biggest laugh goes to a scene that is so shocking and so funny that the theater was laughing so long, so loudly that you miss the dialogue for about 45 seconds. Â Don't worry, it's worth it. Â I still laughed as hard as I could even though I knew it was coming.) Â If I was writing a review for the original Death at a Funeral, I would give it an A+. Â The fact that it was an upscale British family that was so posh and had so much go horribly wrong at the funeral added to the craziness of the story...that and it was the first one. Â This version works, but doesn't work as well because I don't get the impression that any of the characters are posh and seem like craziness happens often; so why should they be shocked? Â But the translation from snooty British to loud Black works. Â I wouldn't say that it's a perfect fit but if this means that more people get to enjoy this story, then I agree with Chris Rock and I'm glad this was redone.
Death at a Funeral (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B+ Click here if you want to score passes to an advance screening of Iron Man 2!!!
Anyone who can admit that a movie with a title THIS ridiculous that has an even more ridiculous plot came from a night of shrooms, alcohol and hot tubbing has got some pretty big balls. Â There are so many struggling filmmakers out there that to know that you can literally wreck yourself and still get a movie made is just infuriating. Â How does that even happen? Â Well, it helps when you're a group of guys that is friends with John Cusack. Â Hot Tub Time Machine is just about as stupid a name as a movie can get, rivaled only be Snakes on a Plane. Â But unlike that one, this is actually good...well, not good but funny. Â Cusack teams up with Rob Corddry (The Daily Show, Old School), Craig Robinson (The Office, Pineapple Express) and Clark Duke (who prior to this was only one-line guys in other films) and they all get drunk in a hot tub at a ski lodge and get sent back in time to 1986 where they try to right the wrongs of their life. Â I know that what I just laid out there literally sounds like a bad dream at best and you'd expect this to on the straight-to-DVD shelves in no time, but the truth is it's funny as hell. Â This film has the potential to be the quoted, cult craze of 2010 just like The Hangover was of 2009. Â (And if you ask me, it's much funnier than The Hangover too.) Â There are three ingredients to this film that make it funny. Â First is the fact that it's called Hot Tub Time Machine. Â This film never takes itself seriously or tries to be more than it is. Â It's tawdry and cheesy and loves every second of it. Â Second, it's a HARD R-rating! Â It's refreshing to see comedies make that return to a creative level where they don't need to pander to the teenage crowd to turn a buck and end up in a PG-13 bog. Â This movie tests your limits of taste and comedy way more than The Hangover did. Â And the last ingredient is assembling the perfect cast. Â The four main stars play off each other like real friends would and are painfully funny at times with the viciousness they sling insults at each other as only close comrades would. Â Cusack, Corddry and Robinson are all gifted improv performers and flex their muscles on this as I get the impression that a script for some scenes was nothing more than a rough outline. Â But the great cast performances extend beyond them. Â Crispin Glover (Back to the Future, Alice in Wonderland) makes his scene stealing return to films about time travel. Â Chevy Chase makes a refreshing appearance as the mysterious Repair Man who kinda knows what's going on. Â And Collette Wolfe (Observe and Report, Semi-Pro) blesses us with her presence in this as well because for as drop-dead gorgeous as she is, she's just as funny. Â Just like any comedy of this nature though, there are flaws. Â It has moments that are weak and void of humor. Â Those scenes almost feel like they were shot later when they went back and realized that they had to tell a story somehow. Â Plus there is a romantic interest Cusack has with actress Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield) that comes completely out of nowhere and doesn't make us care about it at all. Â However, if you think that a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine sounds funny and aren't turned away by gross out, frat boy humor that comes from mind-altering drugs and hours of inebriation? Â Then boy, have I got just the movie for you.
Hot Tub Time Machine (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B+
Director Kevin Smith was in the news recently for getting kicked off a Southwest flight because he was too fat to take up one seat. Â He was all over the entertainment shows and blogs and movie sites online for weeks. Â Remember when he used to get that kind of press because he made good movies? Â Yeah, I'm starting to forget those days too. Â Cop Out stars Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan as detectives trying to bust up a Mexican drug ring in New York City. Â Does that sound cliche to you? Â I hope so because that's the intention of the movie. Â Cop Out was made with the purpose of being a walking-talking cliche of all the "Buddy Cop" action/comedy movies you've ever seen. Â Think Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys, and 48 Hours, but in this case it's directed by a guy who's used to making low-budget "d*ck'n'fart joke" comedies. Â The fact that it's a cliche is perfectly fine. Â That's not what's wrong with the movie. Â In fact, that's a very funny premise since it's such an easy genre to mock without making fun. Â The problem is that if you are going to do that you have to make the action, ass-kicking and the comedy, side-splitting. Â Cop Out was more on the funny side but far from side-splitting and lacked so much action it was downright boring. Â The film had scenes of pure hilarious moments followed by grueling dry spells of failed punchlines and awful improv. Â Sadly, that could be said for all of Kevin Smith's movies in the past decade; pretty sad for the guy who created Chasing Amy and Dogma. Â That might have been because Tracy Morgan isn't funny in large dosages and Bruce Willis is sentenced to play the "straight guy" to Morgan's dummy and that's a waste of good talent. Â Of course it doesn't help when you pepper in hackie performances from Smith alumni Jason Lee (Chasing Amy, Mallrats), the inexplicably famous Sean William Scott (American Pie) and a villain played by newcomer Guillermo Diaz, who's not bad but acts like he's either deaf, retarded or a deaf retard. Â There are those people out there that will go to see this and expect nothing new, clever or groundbreaking; and they will probably tell you that this movie is great. Â And you know, as long as you're okay with spending money on stuff like that, then to you it probably is. Â But if you want to see a movie that is the EXACT same film; that lampoons the cliche "Buddy Cop" action/comedy movie and not only does it perfectly, but pays perfect homage to the genre without mocking its genetic make up - go rent the 2007 Edgar Wright movie Hot Fuzz staring the brilliant Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Star Trek). Â I just wish Kevin Smith would've done that before making Cop Out so he could've picked up a few pointers.
Cop Out (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: D+Want to win tickets to join me at a screening of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in IMAX 3D? Â Then click here!!!
Ever since Juno came out and made a huge financial and Oscar splash, there has been an avalanche of quirky romantic comedies that have been greenlit from studios that feature new indie directors that can bring their artistic sense to the visuals that reflect the love between the cute, awkward boy and the overly confident girl who both talk like intellectual and cultural elitists that are on a level that is way above their age. Â Some of those have been GREAT (ie: (500) Days of Summer) and some have been AWFUL (ie: Bart Got a Room). Â Luckily for us Youth in Revolt is on the great side! Â Michael Cera is here again starring as...well...Michael Cera. Â His schtick of playing the same role in every movie he's ever done kind of stops here. Â In this film, which is based on the cult book of the same title, he plays two parts; one is an awkward, love-struck, shy guy named Nick Twisp and the other is a smooth, rebellious, rock star named Francois Dillinger. Â To avoid confusion here you have to understand that he doesn't play two characters, he plays two personalities of the same character; think Fight Club if Fight Club was a comedy about being in love. Â The alter ego of Nick is the most acting we've seen from Cera in anything and not just because he has blue eyes, a pencil-thin mustache and 5 o'clock shadow...or at least as much as Cera can naturally grow. Â This made me pleased to see and gave me hope that Cera will have a longer shelf life if he continues this instead of his one-trick-pony routine. Â Cera is also just the lead of the VERY impressive comedic cast that consists of Ray Liotta (Observe and Report), Fred Willard (Best in Show), Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover), Steve Buscemi and more. Â One of the greatest finds from this movie though is actress Portia Doubleday, who plays the lead love interest in this. Â Despite having almost no acting credits to her name, she does a fantastic job at being sexy, strong, tender and funny. Â Another treasure to come from Youth in Revolt is director Miguel Arteta! Â This guy came mostly from directing TV shows like The Office and Ugly Betty but seems to have finally gotten a chance to flex his talent on this project. Â He allows for some really genius moments to be even funnier than I'm sure it was on paper by infusing animation, CGI, claymation, ultra slow motion shots and a quirky, dated soundtrack to not only execute the tone of the film, but also capture what it feels like to be a teenager in love. Â It's impressive to me that Youth in Revolt did that AND made me laugh hard enough to set the bar for the rest of the comedies this year very, very high.
Youth in Revolt (Rated R)Gavin Grade: A
Writer and Director Nancy Meyers has been giving us slices of upper-middle class American comedy with a pinch of family drama for almost as long as I've been alive. Â She's given us What Women Want, the Father of the Bride series, Something's Gotta Give and others. Â Now's she's given us It's Complicated staring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin and to say that it's either good or bad is...well, complicated. Â The movie tells the story of what happens when a midlife divorced couple finds themselves falling in love with each other again. Â Alec Baldwin plays the suave ex-husband, Meryl Streep plays the dizzy ex-wife and Steve Martin plays a nerdy architect. Â All three are delights to watch perform in almost whatever they do and seeing all three share the screen together is so much fun. Â Some of that fun might stem from the fact that it's nice to see a romantic comedy that's about ADULTS for once. Â Personally, I'm almost 30. Â It's weird for me because I'm getting to that age where I don't consider myself old but I don't care about the barely 20 crowd and their "romantic" problems anymore. Â I look for complexity and maturity and layers to my romance. Â It's also kind of nice to see that Meyers shows these people for all their mid-life glory; fat, saggy, greying, old...yet can still create some scenes that are still downright sexy. Â She also makes the scenes very funny and very touching at times. Â But it's that drama that just happened to irk me. Â The funny was great and I laughed out loud, especially at some of the scenes with The Office's John Krasinski doing what he does best (maybe all he knows how to do) and that's playing "awkward Jim." Â But the drama seemed puzzling to me since it became unclear who I was suppose to enjoy in the film. Â As the movie unfolds it becomes apparent that the two leads are in fact very unlikeable people who don't really care about how their actions affect anyone else around them. Â Hmm...sounds kind of like one of those romance movies about the 20 somethings I don't like very much anymore. Â Perhaps I'm over thinking this and should just take it for what it is. Â But in a movie that has so much potential and momentum, I just didn't like it loosing it's sense of characters by the end.
It's Complicated (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: B
You have to be a really weird movie to even come close to living up the hype that a title like "The Men Who Stare at Goats" has. Â The story, which claims to be true, is about not only what the title is about but also how America financed a secret group of soldiers who were perfecting their "supernatural powers." Â Sadly, the movie doesn't live up to the title. Â In fact there are some parts that are almost so believable and rooted in reality that it no longer lives in the realm of absurd humor and is actually kind of sad and dark. Â George Clooney and Ewan McGregor star in it as some sort of weird buddy team roaming the Iraqi desert on a mission, perhaps to find the plot of the film. Â Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey round out the cast acting as if they are each working off of different versions of the same script. Â There's a huge disconnect in this film that resonates with everything about it. Â It seems like this was a movie that was started but had no finished script to work on but it was too late to stop. Â That's the only thing I can think of since the cast is full of the kind of talented actors that can go from drama to comedy in one flawless swoop. Â I can't tell if the fault of the movie not making a solid landing on its own feet was first-time director Grant Heslov's, or the script itself which was co-written by Jon Ronson, for whom the story is based on. Â If the movie is any indication as to what it was really like for Ronson to go through this (if it's real at all), I'm sure it was a confusing, trippy experience that was perhaps too bizarre to recount in written form in any logical sense. Â The film drifts from scene to scene with very little glue holding the story together or explanation as to why things are happening. Â That's not to say that it's not funny though. Â Clooney plays deadpan comedy so well that it makes it such a treat when he takes a role that allows him to do it. Â The situations that he talks about, mixed with McGregor's narration, make for some very funny montages. Â The use of quick flashbacks as an almost live-action version of "Family Guy" at times generate some of the biggest laughs in the movie. Â But those aren't enough to make the movie good. Â At only 93 minutes long, it feels more like over two hours. Â In the film the men who stared at goats apparently did it for hours and hours and hours trying to kill them with their minds; I wonder if us staring at this movie for just one hour killed OUR minds.
The Men Who Stare At Goats (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: C
Remember the first time you saw "Swingers?" Â That was that classic John Favreau and Vince Vaughn movie about being single and dating in L.A. in the mid-90s. Â It was one of the funniest movies I've ever seen and still a crown jewel in my DVD collection. Â What made that so good was the chemistry between the two main actors and their fast, improvised dialogue. Â Since then I've been hoping that they would recapture that magic and so far they've fallen flat (they did come close with 2001's "Made.") Â "Couples Retreat" should be held up as an example of how a movie can become so bad so fast. Â The first act of the film is hilarious, the second act isn't very good and the third act is just terrible. Â The story follows four couples in paradise as they all work out their marital issues at a...you guessed it...couples retreat. Â Not a bad premise for a movie. Â The script was written by Favreau and Vaughn and the movie was directed by Peter Billingsley (Ralphie from "A Christmas Story"). Â It has Jason Bateman and Faizon Love ("Elf") to round out the comedic husbands of the couples. Â It's got the makings of a great comedy but man, I don't know what happened. Â It might have something to do with trimming the movie from an R-rating to a PG-13 in hopes to broaden the audience (still might be a little uncomfortable to watch with teens). Â But it seemed like most of the problem boiled down to a lost script that didn't know where to go or how to wrap it up. Â Such a disappointment since the charisma, quick dialogue and typical stereotypes of men were funny before they get to the tropical paradise. Â But then the scenarios go from funny to ridiculous to unbelievable to just stupid. Â It felt like those skits you see on "SNL" some times that are really funny but then suddenly aren't as you realize they go on too long and trying too hard to find a way to end it? Â That's what happens here. Â Except instead of ending the skit on a quotable catch phrase like they would on TV, they end it in a resolution that you would expect to see on a Soap Opera...cheesy, convenient and foolish. Â Notice I haven't yet mentioned the women who make up the wives, played by Malin Akerman ("Watchmen"), Kristin Davis ("Sex and the City") and the stunningly beautiful, albeit elf-like, Kristen Bell ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall"). Â That's because this script didn't give them any personality or unique characteristics. Â You could have switched the actresses with their parts halfway through the movie and I don't think anyone would've noticed. Â I don't know if that's because they're not talented actresses or if the script was written purely as a vehicle to showcase the men and use the ladies purely as scenery. Â Now I might be wrong with all this since as I was leaving the theater I did hear other people saying how funny they thought it was; but I don't think I am because I could hear a pin drop in that theater through the whole second half so they either don't get out very often or just laugh on the inside.
Couples Retreat (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: C-
Matt Damon gained over 40lbs for this movie and he certainly looks every inch of it. Â But people who hate on The Oscars make fun by saying that anyone who changes their appearance usually wins one. Â So is Damon next on that list? Â I don't know, but I think he should get a nomination. Â He plays a fat, bumbling headcase named Mark Whitacre who became an FBI informant against his own company. Â But wait...there's SO much more. Â In fact there's so much to this true story that it gets pretty confusing. Â That's the problem with white collar crime - it's pretty hard to follow. Â Tell me that someone got shot or a store got robbed and I can follow that. Â But you tell me that Bernie Madoff made off with $500,000,000 in a Ponzi Scheme and I have no idea what you're talking about. Â This film, from directing master Steven Soderbergh, tries its best to explain what kind of crimes are going on but doesn't slow down for the slow kids in class. Â I wasn't a slow kid, but I wasn't an A+ one either while watching this. Â However, whether you get the plot completely or not doesn't hinder your ability to laugh at the utterly stupid things that are done and said by Damon's character, which leads me to wonder why the real Mark Whitacre would ever allow this movie to be made. Â Nevertheless it was and it's good. Â Soderbergh (the Oceans 11-13 movies, "Traffic" and "Erin Brockovich") is great at making his movies seem cool and slick, even when it's not. Â Every scene has its own color and every angle has a purpose. Â It's really fun to watch as a film geek, although "The Informant!" doesn't scream his name overall. Â It does though in two areas. Â The first is the casting, which has the formerly famous such as Scott Bakula ("Quantum Leap") and Thomas Wilson (Biff from "Back to the Future"), the upcoming like Joel McHale ("Talk Soup," "Community") and a bevy of stand-up comics in not so funny roles. Â The other area that is classic Soderbergh is the soundtrack which was done by the camp-master, Marvin Hamlisch. Â It's almost a character in the movie itself adding whimsy and goofiness to a movie that, at times, is a fairly dark comedy about the unraveling of a man. Â The movie is almost 2 hours but feels more like 3, but not in a bad way. Â There's just so much information in the film that I wonder if some of it could've been kept out since it didn't have the luxury to explain it in a timely or entertaining way. Â But Matt Damon might have the mental illness of Mark Whitacre to thank come Oscar night if...that is if no other actors come out this year with a changed appearance too.
The Informant! (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B+
I've been a fan of Jeremy Piven's for a long time.Â I remember being 14 and going to see "PCU" in the theaters and thinking that was one of the funniest college movies I ever saw.Â Then I grew up and realized it's not as funny as I remembered it, but his performance in "Very Bad Things" and the HBO series "Entourage" have kept me a loyal fan.Â I may need to seriously re-think that allegiance after seeing this.Â Just to give you an idea of how bad it was, there was a woman snoring behind me.Â Well, I think she was snoring.Â She was either snoring or breathing because she did weigh like 500 lbs.Â But if she fell asleep, I wouldn't blame her.Â This movie is damn near awful.Â The only reason it got the grade that it did was because of two scenes that involve a celebrity cameo (won't say who it is, but it's not hard to guess).Â If that actor wasn't so funny, I don't think I would have laughed out loud the entire time.Â It's directed by a guy named Neal Brennan, who used to write for that show "Singled Out" and tried his hand at directing for the first time with this.Â You can tell it's his first time.Â The movie looks as cheap and tawdry as the used car salesmen the movie centers around.Â The poster says that it's from "the guys behind 'Talladega Nights' and 'Step Brothers.'"Â By that they mean the Producers (Will Ferrell & Adam McKay - FunnyorDie.com) are among them.Â I want to believe that if this movie was on FunnyorDie.com...it would be die.Â Okay.Â I know, I'm beating up on this movie pretty badly.Â It's not entirely horrible.Â The cast is actually rather impressive.Â Ving Rhames, Ed Helms, David Koechner, Rob Riggle and Kathryn Hahn ("Anchorman" and lots more movies to come) round out the cast.Â Even "Growing Pains" own Alan Thicke, who's looking more and more like a Who from Whoville, has a small role in this.Â You'd think that with these comedy up-and-comers, you'd knock it out of the park.Â Well, they tried.Â But after a grueling 90 minutes of movie, the battle was lost.Â I had a few moments where I chuckled.Â I had two short scenes where I laughed my ass off.Â The rest of the time I was looking at my watch and listening to the snoring metronome behind me.Â Ironic that a movie about warrior car salesmen that can sell anything fell so far short of closing the sale of making a good comedy.
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: D
Going to see "Bruno" is a like going into battle; you're not all gonna be there when it's done.Â There were several people who walked out of the screening I went too who just couldn't take anymore.Â One of which was a father with his little kid.Â Thank God they walked out early before things got worse.Â The creators of "Borat," Sacha Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles, have teamed up again to make comedy gold.Â Is it better than "Borat?"Â No, but it's still an assault of comedy.Â Borat was a loveable innocent character who didn't know any better and Bruno isn't.Â Bruno is self-centered, shallow and knows exactly what he's doing.Â That may turn even some "Borat" fans off, but not me.Â What I loved about this movie the most was how you find yourself wanting to look away every time there's an edit.Â My girlfriend Stacy said (more than once) "Gavin, I don't know if I can watch this."Â The style of comedy that tests your limits for being offended and making you uncomfortable is one of my favorites...but it's not for everyone.Â You need to keep in mind that this movie just snuck by with an "R" rating after being trimmed down from an "NC-17."Â I'm honestly STILL shocked they showed what they did in some scenes.Â Even though this movie is one of the funniest so far this year, it's far from perfect.Â What I didn't enjoy about it was the story that they felt they needed to shoehorn in.Â What makes these movies funny are the interactions with unsuspecting people, not the story line...which in "Bruno" takes center stage at times more than the commando comedy does.Â I felt like, at the very least, he could've extended some of the interviews that remind us of the amazing HBO series "Da Ali G Show," which is where Borat and Bruno came from.Â I mean, come on, the movie's only 83 minutes long!Â The other complaint is the movie's staggering around it does at the end trying to come up with an ending.Â From what I understand though, that's not entirely their fault since the ending had to be changed and diced up since some groups were really offended by some ways he wanted to mock California's denial of gay marriage.Â Oh yeah, Bruno's gay.Â I probably should've mentioned that.Â You have to be comfortable enough to see that.Â If you're one of those thick-neck, jock douchebags that screams and looks away when you see two men kiss in a movie, then go see "Ice Age 3."Â But if you can handle "in-your-face crotch" gay jokes,Â and find men making out and lots of floppy penis funny, your movie has arrived!
Bruno (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A-
Woody Allen is an American icon.Â He has made a movie once a year since 1975!!!Â Not sure if you really grasped that.Â One man has written and directed a movie every single year for the past 34 years!Â He has one of the longest catalogs on the IMDB.com website.Â He's written some of the funniest movies ever made, won Oscars but has also made some crap.Â This one falls somewhere in between.Â It stars Larry David, who if you didn't see him on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on HBO or know he was the creator of "Seinfeld," would think he's just some guy who won the Woody Allen look-a-like contest.Â He plays the lead opposite Evan Rachel Wood, who is a young, Southern barbie doll who develops an unlikely friendship with him.Â Wood is completely unrecognizable since seeing her last as Mickey Rourke's daughter in "The Wrestler."Â She is really developing into a great actress that has the chops to hold up against any drama and any comedy.Â Larry David on the other hand is good at one thing...playing Larry David.Â That's not really a bad thing since all he's doing is stepping in for Allen who is only good at playing Woody Allen as well.Â That's a kind of accurate way to describe the film as a whole too.Â It's a Woody Allen movie that is really only good at being one thing...a Woody Allen movie.Â It's a slice of romantic comedy New York City life as told (directly to the camera) by a miserable, Jewish, hypocondriac genius.Â It mocks the south, stupidity, religion and conservative people.Â Those are all things that I find amusing and funny but it doesn't help Woody Allen's reputation for being a snob at all.Â One of the best Woody Allen movies ever made (and best movie in general ever made) is "Annie Hall."Â It's like he wanted to recapture the magic in that movie and made this but ended up getting just a low-rent version of it.Â It's a jaded, apathetic, negative look at love but still ends up with a positive message and a couple big laughs by the end.Â If you're a fan of Woody Allen, you know that watching his movies is like watching a play; you have to be patient and get ready for a lot of talking that aims intentionally over your head, but if that's your cup-of-tea then sit down and enjoy a pot with this.
Whatever WorksÂ (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: B-
There once was a time when would consider myself a huge Jack Black fan, but sadly that ship has not only sailed but it also sunk.Â It's not that Black isn't funny, but it's that his specific style of humor is the same for every single movie he's in.Â Michael Cera is also just like that.Â Luckily I'm not over Michael Cera yet and he's funny enough in this movie to compensate for the moments where Black isn't.Â The moments where neither are funny, (which are few) they're compensated by the amazing supporting cast that includes Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt and David Cross.Â To call this movie another dumb summer comedy is an injustice.Â If anything, this may be one of the smartest comedies I've seen in a while.Â Sure there are dumb, gross-out jokes in it, but the overall concept is genius.Â It's written and directed by comedy legend Harold Ramis (who also has a role in the film).Â It has the feel of a comedy skit drawn out into a 90 minute movie that never once gets old.Â The fact that it's also a historical comedy reminds me of and stands up to the likes of Mel Brooks' "History of the World Part I" and Monty Python's "Life of Brian."Â Oh, and when I say "historical" don't think for a second that it's anywhere close to historically accurate.Â But it's mostly a send up to biblical stories from the Old Testament, but never once really mocks them.Â Â I personally thought that Oliver Platt steals the movie by playing a transgender priest who has the hots for Cera's character.Â There is one scene in particular between them that had me laughing so hard that my eyes were tearing up.Â This movie proves once again that Harold Ramis has the comedic know-how to allow his actors to improvise lines on a hilarious story he creates and executes it so well that it appealed to the theological and historical intellect and the fratboy jackass that lies in me.Â He played two styles of comedy like that in "Caddyshack," in "Analyze This" (and "That") and in "Groundhog Day," and now he did it again with "Year One."
Year One (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: A-
The Hangover (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B
This movie is from the creator of "Old School," Todd Phillips.Â Now he got his start at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in NYC.Â I actually worked there when he did and it hurts a little bit when I see his movie covered in people that I used to work with there.Â I should've hung in there longer.Â Ha!Â I just needed to say that but anyway...Â Whether or not you enjoy this movie is based on whether or not you think that a single joke can last 90 minutes.Â My answer to that is no it can't.Â However it can get you to about 60 minutes and it's a really, really funny 60 minutes.Â "The Hangover" stars Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and comedian Zach Galifianakis and is about three guys waking up in Vegas after an insane bachelor party and trying to remember what happened and find their friend, Doug.Â That premise is awesome for the first two-thirds of the story.Â But after a while this joke wears real thin.Â In fact I laughed till I hurt until we were in the homestrech of the movie and then I don't think I laughed at all.Â However, the end credits helps you forget how unfunny the last act is by being one of the best parts of the movie.Â One thing you also need to know is that this movie is not the family comedy of the year.Â I don't know how many of these films need to come out before people catch on to what an "R" rating means.Â But the raunch and cheap thrills offered in this don't compare to other "R" rated comedies that came out this year.Â "I Love You, Man" and "Observe and Report" I thought were offensive and edgy but were still really creative.Â Their characters had debth and were unique and complex, which as a movie fan is really a treat to see in a comedy.Â It's not that I didn't like "The Hangover," because I totally did; I guess I've just grown to expect a little more out of my comedies lately.Â I like my characters to be a little three dimensional and a little less cookie-cutter.Â But at the same time, how can anyone who's ever woken up after a blackout night of drinking not love at least the first half of this movie?
Observe and Report (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A-
This new movie from writer/director, Jody Hill, is twisted, offensive, graphic...and I loved it.Â Hill released a movie a few years ago called "The Foot Fist Way" and it starred Danny McBride (who also make a cameo in this film).Â "The Foot Fist Way" was a movie about a delusional Karate instructor who has dreams of becoming something he'll never be.Â "Observe and Report" stars Seth Rogen as a delusional mall cop who has dreams of becoming something he'll never be.Â Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.Â Hill seems to know a lot about these types of characters and their mental illness; and yes they are mentally ill.Â In fact, in this they even tell you that Rogen's character "Ronnie" suffers from bi-polar disorder, and my guess is a few other things too.Â Because Hill understands these characters so well, there are periods of the film that dive into very serious moments where you're unsure if you should laugh or not.Â I love comedies like that, but I understand that not everyone does.Â I get it, that this film is far from being a universally accepted film.Â It's an unsafe brand of humor that is quite different from the Judd Apatow movies, ie: "40-Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up."Â Both are offensive and extremely funny, but Apatow creates clear protaganists that you champion on and Hill's movies contain characters that make you uneasy about routing for them.Â And in "Observe and Report" he punched those characters up by adding talent like Ray Liotta, Anna Faris (who is growing increasingly more sexy in every movie) and even a cameo from one of my favorite comics, Patton Oswalt.Â I hope that Hollywood gives Jody Hill more chances to make more movies because I enjoy the return of complex, adult comedies with brains and hope to see more of them.
I Love You, Man (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A
Hey guys, remember the first time you saw the movie "Swingers?"Â If you were anything like me, that movie struck a chord in you the first time you saw it.Â There was a character you identified with and a character you wanted to be like.Â This movie is like "Swingers" but for adults.Â Paul Rudd, who has been playing the EXACT same role in the movies for the past 3 years (thank God he's great at it), is a guy about to get married and realizes that he doesn't have any male friends.Â After searching for a best friend and giving up, he then finds Jason Segal, who is a fun-loving, easy-going, totally honest slacker.Â Now it might just be that this movie is not as good as I thought it was, even though the theater erupted into laughter and applause several times.Â It could be that I just happened to have seen this at the perfect time of my life.Â See, just like Paul Rudd's character, I too feel like I don't have any real male friends since moving to Sacramento from the east coast.Â So watching this character not only made me laugh but it also kind of touched me and let me know that I'm not as alone as I thought I was.Â I don't know, maybe I'm totally alone in this but I thought the movie had a powerful message about the bonds of male friendship as well as being one of the funniest movies I've seen this year.Â I think one reason it was so funny was that it's something that men and women can enjoy together, which seems to be a rare situation in the onslaught of Judd Apatow movies in the past few years.Â Don't get me wrong, this movie is still edgy, but it doesn't revel in the "d*ck & fart" joke arena more than it has too.Â It also managed to pull together one of the best comedy ensemble casts in years; ie: John Favreau, Rashida Jones, Jamie Pressley, J.K. Simmons, Andy Samburg, half the cast of The State and Lou Ferrigno as himself.Â I would highly suggest you checking out this movie this weekend on a date...or better yet, bring your best bud and heat up the flames of your bromance!
Bolt (Rated G)
Gavin Grade: B+
I got to see this movie at the Natomas movie theater, which is one of three theaters showing it in 3D. In all honesty though it wasn't worth it. I would imagine that this movie is just as enjoyable without wearing the humiliating glasses. If "Bolt" was made for two kinds of people, 1: animal lovers; and 2: Hollywood insiders. There are so many industry jokes in this movie, I can't imagine how kids will respond to them. That's because it's about a dog that is the star of a primetime action TV show that gets doesn't know he's just an actor. But when he gets lost on the other side of the country, his discovery soon reveals he doesn't have the superpowers he thought he had. The idea of "self discovery" sounds a little heavy, but there's enough funny talking animals in it that kids will love it just the same. This isn't a Pixar movie, but it is from Disney. That means that you won't see any of the "adult" type humor in it that you might be used too, but the action sequences are amazing to watch and keep you on the moment while forgetting it's a little dog voiced by John Travolta. "Bolt" is fun for the whole family (except maybe a moody teenager) and will make you want to rush home right after the movie and hug and kiss your very own pet.
Role ModelsÂ (Rated R)
Gavin Grade:Â B
I had a lot of hope for this comedy staring Paul Rudd and Sean William Scott.Â That's because creators David Wain and Ken Marino are two of the masterminds behind the cult sketch comedy MTV show from the '90s, "The State."Â It's a classic buddy comedy where two guys find themselves put in a position of court-ordered Community Service at a group for kids.Â The two they're paired up with is a foul mouth kid, who's played by newcomer Bobb'e Thompson and a Renaissance Fair nerd played by Christopher Mintz-Plaase, who you'll recognize instantly as McLovin from "Superbad."Â Don't get me wrong, the movie is funny; but I expected more.Â Wain and Marino created two other movies called "Wet Hot American Summer" and "The Ten."Â Both are in my Top 30 favorite comedies of all time.Â The trap I fell into was expecting that again.Â Those movies are quirky, weird and not for everyone.Â "Role Models" is more mainstream.Â So that means that just because I didn't like it that much, you probably will.