Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Croods

One of the most puzzling things in this world is the fact that animated movies rarely receive negative reviews. If you haven't noticed, it's quite true. Sure, there may be a few people who occasionally dislike an animated film, but there is hardly ever a negative critical consensus... EVER. I don't know why this is. If you know, please comment! Anyway, because success is expected, my expectations were high for The Croods, as they would have been with any other animated film. I've even read a few critics who were ready to hand The Croods the Oscar for best animated feature. Regardless, the previews were absolutely hilarious, with the buffalo falling in the fault and what not. So, I decided to become a child for a couple of hours and go watch The Croods...

Just like every animated film, there was a definite moral storyline. In The Croods, the story was focused on the family (just like James Dobson), specifically focusing on the father figure Grug (voiced by the indebted Nicolas Cage). The lesson, taught by the story, was great for people of all ages, and I will guarantee that you will enjoy watching this with your kids, if you get the chance. As for the dressing up of the storyline, I was not quite as impressed. Not that it was ridiculously awful, but I felt like I was watching Ice Age, featuring humans! The oblivious nature of the characters was quite inconsistent, leaving an inconsistent air about the film. For an extreme and fake example, one day, the family would not understand what a tree was. Then, they would be perfectly ok with playing on their iPad the next day! This example is a bit over the top, but I wanted to give you a clear for instance. For me, this inconsistency was not an issue, because I just wanted to laugh at the ridiculous characters. However, Oscar voters will not approach the film with the same thinking.

The family dynamic of the film was made possible by the creative characters and the events that surrounded them. There were a few characters that I didn't care for, but, overall, they were great.

Usually, characters do not fall to the background in animated films, but the mother of the family, Ugga (voiced by Catherine Keener), was one of the most useless characters. The story was focused on the father-daughter relationship, and there was really nothing for Ugga to do, which is disappointing. On top of that, Ugga's mother, Gran (voiced by Cloris Leachman), was nowhere close to as funny as she could have been. She should have been so so so funny. I envisioned a caveman Betty White for the role, but it just didn't work out that way.

The relationship of Grug, Eep (voiced by Emma Stone), and Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) was really what made the film as good as it was. As I said, the father-daughter relationship was great, but it was made even more special by Guy's presence as the love interest of the young Eep. Even with this great relationship, the best (and funniest) character was undoubtedly Thunk (voiced by Clark Duke). I laughed my butt off at his stupidity, and I loved his pet dog/alligator, Douglas. You will also laugh your butt off! I promise!

After many laughs and a heart warming story, I would definitely say that the critics will have a hard time naming The Croods a rare animated failure. Did I want to see it fail? No, not at all. But, I do want to know what makes animated films so dern bulletproof. Then, I want to go out and make one of them, reaping the benefits without the risk. If your kids are out of school tomorrow and you need a film to watch with your family, I would certainly suggest The Croods. It really is a great family film that no one would deem inappropriate. I won't spoil why, but I will promise that your kids will be screaming "Da, Da, Daaaa" and flailing their arms after watching this film. To be honest, I have been doing for a week! I give The Croods 2.89 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, March 24, 2013



In all of my 21 years of life, there is no telling how many movies I have seen. Not only am I clueless about how many films I have seen, but also there are so many different types of films that I have seen, from my early days of The Land Before Time, The Mask, and Toy Story to my present days of The Hangover, Argo, and........ Toy Story. Regardless, as I grow older, I am realizing that there are fewer and fewer films that I can watch over and over and over again. When I was little, I would watch my Disney movies day after day, and I was a perfectly happy child. Today, however, I just can't watch films more than like once every six months or so, and they have to be really, really good for me to even take the time to watch them more than once. Some of this reduction of movie-watching time is due to the fact that I don't have time to do much of anything, with college, work, and friends taking so much of my time, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Also, I go to the movies almost every week, which takes up much of my weekend fun time. However, regardless of how much time I have or how long it has been since I last watched a movie, there are a small number of films that I can watch over and over and over. Are they my favorite films of all time? Not necessarily. But, they all have something about them that makes it very easy to pop that disc into the movie machine. So, I have compiled a list of five films that I can watch at any time of any day and be utterly satisfied. If you have not seen any of these films and are scared of becoming a film addict, steer clear! You cannot stop once you start!...

#5-The Dark Knight
Batman is my favorite superhero of all time, and Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite movie-makers of all time. So, it would have been hard for me not to love The Dark Knight. I will admit that there are times when I fast forward to the parts with The Joker, but it's not because I don't love Bruce Wayne. Seriously, though, who wouldn't want to watch the greatest superhero movie of all time over and over? It may not be the movie that we deserve, but it is the movie that we need, today and every other day.

#4-O Brother Where Art Thou?
I am a huge fan of the Coen brothers, who have impressed me with many of their films. However, O Brother Where Art Thou is easily their best film and probably my favorite comedy of all time. I can easily quote the entire film to you. So, if you ever need a good laugh, come find me and ask me to tell you an O Brother Where Art Thou story. It's sure to relieve. I'm pretty sure that most everyone has seen this film, at this point, but, in case you haven't, prepare yourself for the high amount of floor rolling that you will be participating in... Gopher, Everett?

#3-The Hangover
The Hangover has absolutely redefined the entire comedic genre, and I don't think everyone realizes it. On top of that, it's the comedy of my generation. Hence, my generation redefined the entire comedic genre. Seriously, how many people get excited about PG-13 comedies these days? That's right... No one... For that, you can thank The Hangover! Anyway, none of that really makes me want to watch it over and over. The fact that it is freaking hilarious makes me want to watch it over and over, and, every once in a while, I need to be reminded that tigers hate cinnamon.

#2-Midnight in Paris
Of the five films on this list, Midnight in Paris is easily the least popular and probably the least expected. It is unlikely that you have seen this film, so please go out and rent it! This Woody Allen original has such an amazing vibe that makes me want to move to Paris and write a novel each and every time that I watch. If you are nostalgic, like me, you will absolutely love this film. Please! Please! I beg of thee! Watch Midnight in Paris!!! It will make you feel great about life.

#1-The Social Network
Over the past 2.5 years, there is no movie that I have watched as many times as The Social Network. When I saw the film in the theater, it did not have a very large impact on my life. However, after I bought the DVD (for $12 at Best Buy on its release date!!), I fell in love with the film and the characters. I have never watched a movie that made me feel as smart, thanks to Jesse Eisenberg's turn as Mark Zuckerberg. Although people dislike Zuckerberg's character, they must remember that he isn't an asshole, he's just trying so hard to be one. Whether or not this story is completely true, I absolutely love the film and the characters. When I tell people how often I watch The Social Network, they never seem to understand my connection to the film. I believe that they would fall in love with it, if they would watch it more than a couple of times. If I have never said it before on my blog, Aaron Sorkin is one of my favorite people in the world of film and television. He wrote The Social Network, Moneyball, The West Wing, A Few Good Men, and, most recently, The Newsroom on HBO, and I truly love each and every one of these productions. Really, there is nothing that I dislike about The Social Network, and that is why I can watch it over and over and over, more than any other film...

I would have made the list longer, but there really aren't any more films that I can watch with such repetition. As time goes on, I'm sure that I will stop watching some of these films as often, and I'm sure that I will start watching new films over and over, so there is nothing set in stone. This list is nothing but a snap shot of Spring 2013. Also, just to clarify, I do not have the largest DVD collection of all time. I may watch a lot of movies, but I probably only buy 5 or 6 movies each year. One day, when my girlfriend and I combine our movies, we will have a large collection, but, until then, I remain average. Finally, to reiterate what I have already said, this is NOT a list of my favorite films of all time, just ones that I can watch over and over. Maybe one day I will give you a list of my favorite films, but I'm going to keep you waiting for now. Hope you enjoyed, and I hope you go watch these films, if you have yet to do so. Then, watch them again... and again.... and again.........

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

After watching a mediocre 21 and Over, I was hoping that my next trip to theater would be a little more hysterical, considering it would feature my main man Steve Carell. As a huge fan of The Office, I have a special connection to Michael Scott and, as a result, Mr. Carell himself. In addition to that amazing character, I have loved him in so many films, including Bewitched, Bruce Almighty, Date Night, and Dinner for Schmucks. Because of this special love for Steve Carell, I will watch absolutely any film that he makes. I even managed to watch all of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World without running out of the theater, and that, my friends, was tough. My expectations for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone were not very high, and, this week, on Late Night, Carell admitted to the film being stupid, so I had an idea of what I was getting myself into. But, a film featuring Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, and Alan Arkin has no choice but to provide a few laughs along the way...

While there were many good elements to this very silly plot, there was just a little too much going on. I liked almost every character, but the film struggled to build any character depth because of the sporadic and busy plot. While Carell's Wonderstone had a good amount of screen time, I think the film would have been better if he had more interaction with Steve Buscemi's Anton Marvelton and Jim Carrey's Steve Gray. The characters were great in there own respect, but their interaction throughout the film was unorganized and rare. If you remove the time that the film spent setting up a love interest for Wonderstone, there would have been more time for Buscemi and Carrey to use their talents. I know this film was not meant to be a witty or realistic comedy, but it would have been much better if the plot was refined a bit to better embrace the relationship of the characters.

I know I spent much of the "plot" section talking about the characters, and, in this case, that is not a bad thing at all. The characters were, as a whole, what made the film laughable. Steve Carell, as his normally hilarious self did a great job of acting a bit different from his previous characters. There were a few times that I was waiting for Carell to embrace his inner Michael Scott, but he never acted like his "normal" funny self. However, he did sway from his Wonderstone character on a few occasions. He would start talking like himself, rather than using the Burt Wonderstone accent, which was blatantly obvious. Because of this odd change in character and attitude, I would say that Carell's performance was just mediocre. On top of that, the performances of Steve Buscemi, Alan Arkin, and Jim Carrey were also mediocre, which was quite disappointing.

Olivia Wilde's Jane/Nicole was very, very, very, very useless, and I did not understand why Wonderstone needed this obvious future love interest in this story. Also, why does Steve Carell often end up with younger women in his films (Keira Knightly and Anne Hathaway)? It just doesn't fit him. Finally, I don't like James Gandolfini.

I want to give a special shout out to Jay Mohr for being funny for the first time ever. His turn as unemployed magician Rick the Implausible was quite hilarious, which greatly surprised me. The only other positives were the two actors who played the young Burt and Anton, Mason Cook and Luke Vanek. I really think the film would have been funnier if they were the stars.

Compared to 21 and Over, I would say that The Incredible Burt Wonderstone was similarly funny. However, if you don't like Steve Carell, DO NOT go watch this film. The character of Burt Wonderstone is definitely a "Steve Carell character," and, knowing that my dad doesn't find Carell funny, I can see him roling his eyes throughout the entire film. Wonderstone was rather funny, but it could have been much better. Not to knock Olivia Wilde (she is an ok actress and fun to look at), but her character is what made the film so sporadic and killed the character depth. Also, if you are going into the film expecting a Jim Carrey classic, stay away. While Carrey is an integral part of the storyline, this film belongs to Steve Carell's Burt Wonderstone. I give The Incredible Burt Wonderstone 2.27 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

21 and Over

Honestly, I was not particularly excited to see 21 and Over this past weekend, but I really wanted to see a movie. After a tough week of studying for an awful test, I deserved to get what I wanted. Seriously. Anyway, the movie was sold as an over-the-top, sexed-up drinking fest with a focus on laughing at over-the-top, sexed-up, drunk things. So, obviously, that's what I was expecting as I headed into the theater. After The Hangover became such a huge hit, R-rated comedies took over the comedic film world and have held their reign to this point. These films tend to compete on the basis of "who can be the most immoral," so that is what we have come to expect. I remember back in high school, when I would get so excited over a PG-13 comedy, but, honestly, I can't think of the last PG-13 comedy I enjoyed, mostly because they are so rare nowadays. Thankfully, films like 21 and Over come along to entertain with immorality. Or so I thought...

We all know that one guy or girl that only lives life on the wild side because it is what everyone else is doing. Regardless of their true self, they want to fit in with the party crowd. 21 and Over is that guy! The previews may have been selling an R-rated, over-the-top comedy, but the film itself was a PG-13 movie trying to fit in with the R-rated party crowd. I'm not saying that being a PG-13 film is always a bad thing. I'm just saying that it wasn't what I expected from a film that wanted to compare itself to The Hangover. The plot was extremely stupid and unrealistic, and, really, the story would have lasted only about twenty minutes, if the 21st century college students would have had a cellphone! Sure, there were plenty of laughs along the way, but very few that were shockingly hilarious, as we've come to expect with recent R-rated films. Not to be overly critical of the film as a whole, but I'm pretty sure that I could have written a story at least ten times better than the one they were dealing with here.

While the plot was complete crap, I actually enjoyed the main characters much more than I had expected. Although the characters were not at all flawless, they were actually relatable, most likely because of my similar place in life. They were a bit overly emotional, but, with absolutely zero stars in the film, the character success came as a surprise to me.

Nicole, played by Sarah Wright, was the useless and awkward love interest of Skylar Astin's Casey. Every moment that she was on screen, I felt like the storyline became more and more dull. I don't know why a film about one drunken night needed an overnight love story. However, the worst performance/villain was Francois Chau, as the father of Jeff Chang (Chinese Doug). Chau, who I have a special LOST connection to, was not at all scary, funny, or much of anything that he was supposed to be, and I found that quite disappointing. Finally, Randy, played by Jonathan Kultz, just wasn't as funny as he could have been. The character had great potential for hilarity, but Kultz just couldn't pull it off.

While the three main characters weren't the greatest of all time, they each had some great funny moments, and, as I said, they were quite relatable. Miles Teller, Skylar Astin, and Justin Chon were perfect for their roles as Miller, Casey, and Jeff Chang. Just the sheer fact that they ALWAYS called him his full name, "Jeff Chang" was probably the funniest aspect of the entire film. On top of the comedic antics, the interaction among the three characters was really nice and made me realize just how my relationship with my high school friends has changed since graduating. Oddly enough, they made me self-reflective, something you rarely expect from an R-rated comedy.

As the first 2013 comedy that I have seen, 21 and Over was not extremely satisfying or disappointing. I am quite hopeful that many funnier movies will come along this year, but this film met my expectations, for the most part. On the comedic side, it was funnier than I had expected, yet the comedy lacked in extremity. The story was absolutely illogical and not really that exciting, but the characters were funny and had way more depth than you would have ever expected. I would not encourage you to watch 21 and Over, unless, like me, you enjoy almost every R-rated comedy, just because you like to laugh. Nevertheless, I give 21 and Over 2.23 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Great Expectations: March 2013


With The Oscars and 2012 completely behind us, we can finally get on to new and exciting movies! After the success of The Hunger Games, The Lorax, and 21 Jump Street last year, March has now become a huge month for new films. In the past, there was always a long, dry spell between December and May, but it looks like those days are gone. With a Wizard of Oz prequel, a Twilight-written alien infestation, and a G.I. Joe sequel all due out this March, it is clear that the box office is going to rake in some cash. So, make sure you contribute to the big month!

Also, I wanted to note that my last post (The Above Average Awards) was my 100th post on this blog! Thanks for taking the time to read some of my first 100 posts. Here's to making the next 100 even better!

Here are a few films that I am looking forward to this month:

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (March 15)

The Croods (March 22)

The Place Beyond the Pines (March 29)