Drive-In Double Feature: Harry Potter 8 (2011) & Horrible Bosses (2011)

Last night, the missus, our daughter and I went to the drive-in once again to watch one of the most mis-matched double features I’ve ever heard of. First up was Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 (or what I like to call Harry Potter 8, or just HP8 for short), a PG-13 dark fantasy epic along with the R-rated, somewhat filthy dark comedy Horrible Bosses. It was pretty funny watching the cars with kids tear out of the drive-in parking lot 10-15 minutes into the movie. Thankfully, our daughter’s too young to understand any of the bad words, so we stuck around.

I wrote my thoughts on this movie’s predecessor here, if you’re curious. As I said over on that post, I’m not much of a fantasy fan and, while I respect Harry Potter, it’s not something I lover. My wife does, hence our viewing. Anyway, like that movie, I wound up liking this one and its dark tone. Man, is this movie dark. But what else would you expect from the build-up to the death of several characters. I’m still not sure why no one tried to shoot Voldemort in the face, but that’s just me.

As I mentioned above, this movie is pretty epic. Lots of things happen. Lots of people die. Lots of magic gets thrown around. Some of the moments were a bit ovbious if you’ve ever read anything in this genre, but overall I thought it was well done and actually kind of ballsy with how violent and terrifying things got. Plus, Neville Longbottom got to be a badass. Good for him.

In my review of the last movie, I said I didn’t like how the magicians had to say the spell they were using. This time there was less of that, though oddly enough Voldemort still says some of his. My only real problem with the movie was that characters seem to disappear and then show up in strange places with zero explanation. Luna Lovegood’s with the gang at a cottage and then she’s at Hogwart’s. Really, why’d she go there when it’s run by a kinda evil Snape? Then there’s the scene when Harry saves Malfoy (I wish that little bastard would have gotten what was coming to him), they go through some mystical door and then it’s just Ron, Hermione and Harry talking. Where’d Malfoy go? I guess it’s possible he scurried off and I happened to look elsewhere? I dunno, it was a problem I had throughout the movie, but all in all, I’ll give this one the thumb’s up. Kinda wish someone would edit the long boring parts out of the previous film and put them together with this one, because that would be one ass kicking movie. I would also be in full support of an 80s director remaking this movie with a snarkier lead who would drop some awesome one-liners when kicking bad guy ass.

I had heard nothing about Horrible Bosses before going in. I love stars Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day. I’m quite fond of their awful bosses Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston. But, I’ve seen most of those people in movies I don’t like–especially Bateman in Extract, woof, what a stinker–so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Thankfully, Horrible Bosses turned out to be a rollicking good time that played it’s leads to their strengths and mostly played the bosses against type. I guarantee even the most jaded people around will be at least a little shocked with the graphic talk coming out of Rachel-from-Friends‘ mouth. And yet, it was all pretty hilarious.

The plot is pretty well established in the trailers, these guys all have pretty terrible bosses and decide that the only way they will ever be happy in their lives is to murder their bosses (it’s actually less silly and more logical in the movie than it sounds). Even with them doing a lot of research, getting a murder consultant and getting pretty close to actually doing the deeds, I never bought for a second that these guys would kill anyone. I think that’s part of the conceit though. How would regular guys try to figure out how to find a hitman? The internet? Going to a dive bar? That’s probably where I would start.

My wife said she didn’t like how the movie kind of rapped up so quickly at the end. She said something like “it seemed like they were trying to keep it to 90 minutes and wrapped it up really quickly.” I can see where she’s coming from, but I thought the ending made a lot of sense within the story. Yes, it comes quickly, but it made sense and wound up being pretty funny.

On a side note, this movie was directed by the guy who made one of my favorite movies of the past decade: King Of Kong, the Donkey Kong doc. His name’s Seth Gordon and he’s also done a few TV gigs like directing Modern Family, The Office, Parks & Recreation and Community episodes along with a few other movies I haven’t seen. I like what he did here and would be curious to see what else he can do in the future.

Vince Vaughn Double Feature: Couples Retreat (2009) & Wild West Comedy Tour (2006)

I was pretty excited about Couples Retreat when I first heard about it. The cast is killer. I’m a big fan of Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau and Jason Bateman and putting them all together seems like it would be comedy gold. Plus there’s plenty of eye candy in the ladies (Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell and Kristin Davis). I don’t mean to sound like a total pig, I’m just not familiar with them beyond Watchmen, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and hating Sex in the City. I didn’t know anything about Faizon Love or his partner in the movie.

In the end it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. There were definitely funny parts with each person doing their shtick (Bateman’s the neurotic, Vaughn talks fast and Favreau plays a jerk again). I did like that Vaughn actually comes off as a pretty good guy as opposed to say his character in Old School. But there were a few things that kind of put me out of the movie. It definitely feels like a bunch of friends wanted to make a movie together with beautiful women in an exotic locale.

Another problem comes from the fact that, with the exception for Favreau and Davis, none of the couples seem to be appropriately matched age-wise. Vaughn and Ackerman have been together for eight years and I just barely buy it. Even worse is Bell who may never not look like a high school detective whose show I never watched.

The plot also seems to be a little all over the place. They go to a resort that’s supposed to be a regular resort but then turns out to be a full-on couples place, which everyone but Bateman and Bell are bummed about as they were the ones who came up with the idea in the first place (I thought they were actually playing a trick on the others who seem to have more problems than them). The relationship trouble all flies, but then there’s this whole thing with a party island and everyone going there and a really ripped yoga instructor (that did have me laughing). Anyway, it was a fun enough movie, but didn’t have a quickness that I wanted from it.

Interestingly enough, this documentary following a series of stand-up comics headed up by Vaughn did offer the snappiness I wanted from Couples Retreat. The comics are Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst and Sebastian Maniscalco and they’re all pretty great. Instead of showing full sets, we get snippets of their acts as they travel through 30 cities. We also get walk-ons from Vaughn, Justin Long, Dwight Yoakam, Favreau and Couples Retreat director (and Ralphie from A Christmas Story) Peter Billingsley.

Aside from showcasing a great group of comedians the movie does a few other things that I really appreciated and bumped it up from being just a great stand-up movie. First off, one of the guys makes a really interesting point about stand-up nowadays: guys headlining tours like they are were getting huge and starring in sitcoms in the 80s and 90s, but now they’re struggling to survive (one of the guys was a waiter leading up to the tour). I also think it’s cool to see how positive Vaughn is throughout the movie. Sure he’s got his quick, biting sense of humor, but he’s also really supportive of the guys after they have a lousy set. It’s also fun to see him geek at different times.

But what really elevates the movie is how it deals with Hurricane Katrina, which hit while they were touring. In fact, they had to change a few venues because of it and donated the proceeds from those shows. They also went to a camp ground acting as a shelter some of the displaced people. I give the director and editor kudos for portraying this honestly, with the guys not really wanting to do it and then going and enjoying the experience. It’s just more honest that way. Good stuff all around.

Quick Movie Review: Extract (2009)

I really had high hopes for Extract. Not only was it written and directed by Mike Judge (who did the brilliant Office Space and Idiocracy), but it also stars some of my favorite actors and actresses: Jason Bateman, Ben Affleck, Mila Kunis, J.K. Simmons, Kristen Wiig and David Koechner. So, it’s all the more disappointing that this movie turned out to be an incredibly dull and annoying affair that didn’t end soon enough (which is saying something for a 90 minute movie). Let’s see if I can relate the plot to you (it’s mighty complicated), Bateman owns an extract plant, but wants to sell it. He’s married to Wiig, who doesn’t have sex with him because she wears sweatpants. Meanwhile, Kunis plays a conwoman who reads in the paper that an employ at the extract plant got hurt and could be worth millions if he sued, so she becomes a temp for Bateman’s company. Bateman thinks she’s cute so he gets stoned with his friend Affleck who convinces him its a good idea to hire a gigolo to sleep with Wiig so he can cheat on her with Kunis (she flirted pretty heavily with him to get the injured employee’s contact info). Oh, also, before the accident, Bateman was in talks to sell the company, somehow the employees get word of this and freak out. As you can tell, there’s a lot going on and none of it really feels real or solid, mostly because a lot of it could have been figured out with a few simple conversations. I kept thinking that the idiot gigolo wasn’t really even sleeping with Wiig, but it turns out he was. And even though I liked all of the above-mentioned actors in their roles, except for Koechner who plays the most annoying neighbor on the history of the planet, I still could not get into it. One of Bateman’s employees, a redheaded woman, is also incredibly annoying. Usually in a movie like this, those characters get their due, but in this case, not so much. I will say that I liked Wiig actually playing a normal person. I’m a fan of hers, but I’m getting a little sick of most of her recurring characters on SNL (I hate hate HATE Gilly). I also got a kick out of the little bits of music/rock talk. The movie starts with Kunis flirting with two Guitar Center employees (one played by Hal Sparks) who go on and on about fusion (a combination of rock and jazz guitar playing). There’s also a later conversation about the different sub categories of heavy metal that I got a chuckle out of. But, overall, liking a few music jokes that last roughly 5 minutes (maybe) and some actors doesn’t make this a movie worth watching. I found myself constantly getting up and walking around because I just didn’t care (Bateman’s situation seems a little too close to his role in Juno actually and Em kept referring to Envy, a terrible movie I disliked so much I don’t even remember) and both of us were thankful by the time it was over. Em even said we should move on to Season Two of Doctor Who as a palette cleanser, so we are. We’re 20 minutes into the Christmas episode and it’s FAR better than this movie. Hopefully Judge’s next one will fix this. Everyone makes a few crappy movies, it’s inevitable.

Smokin’ Aces (2006)

2009-01-30
12:27:45 am

I really, REALLY wanted to like Smokin’ Aces when it came out in 2006. A bunch of us from Wizard were so psyched that we went to see it in the theater and man was I disappointed. I wanted so much for it to be this awesome battle of crazy hired killers killing each other at breakneck speeds. But, that’s not exactly what we got.

So, like I said I was disappointed. But sometimes I don’t like something because it doesn’t match up to my expectations, not necessarily because it’s a bad piece of work. For instance I hated Superman Returns when I first watched it. That sure as heck isn’t the Superman I’ve been reading about since I was a kid (the same reason I don’t like the original Superman movies either, but that’s a discussion for another time). But, upon further viewings I like the movie more. I’m not in love with it (Superman has a KID!) and it’s not even close to my top 20 (maybe even 50) comic based movies. I don’t really agree with the director or writers choices, but it’s a well put together movie.

I can’t say that’s the same case with Aces, though. The movie suffers from all kinds of pacing issues and an overwhelming amount of information, characters and business. Plus, you’ve got the bid end twist (which is incredibly telegraphed, too much I’d say) and then the VERY end is just ridiculous (why the heck would they let him in the room?). The alternate “Cowboy Ending” makes a LOT more sense, though it wouldn’t have made up for the whole thing. I feel like there’s a really good story in there somewhere, but frankly, it’s buried under a mountain of other unnecessary bits of business. The last 20-30 minutes have so many head-slapping and scratching moments that it really kills the movie.

There are some fun moments and bits that have more to do with casting and coincidence than the story. The redneck brothers have a pretty cool shoot-out with blades, guns, a rocket launcher (?) and a chainsaw that’s too short, but still great. Basically, it’s what you expect from the whole movie, but it only lasts a few minutes and resolves itself oddly. Aside from that and one other shoot-out, though, the movie lacks action. It doesn’t lack an awesome cast though. Here’s a brief list: Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Ben Affleck, Peter Berg, Common, Andy Garcia, Nestor Carbonell, Jason “Everything’s Better with Bateman” Bateman and even a small roll for Matthew Fox.

Oh, and those redneck brothers I mentioned? They’re made up of Keamy from Lost, Kirk from the new Trek movie and another guy. Yup that makes THREE Lost cast members in the flick and I still didn’t like it. What are the odds?!

All this being said, I would definitely check out the rumored sequel called Smokin’ Aces: Blowback, though I probably won’t shell out $10 again to see it in the theater. For my money, I’d rather check out a Shoot Em Up sequel, because that movie was exactly what I wanted it to be.

Last Weekend Roundup

2008-11-24
4:58:28 am

Whew, it’s been a busy few weeks. I was pretty exhausted for most of last week, but Em and I did watch a bunch of movies last Sunday to celebrate the new TV. Instead of watching special effects heavy movies like Iron Man or Transformers we went in the opposite direction and watched a pair of romantic comedies. Not exactly my usual, but I did enjoy both flicks.

The first was a movie that had been sitting near our TV for a few weeks along with Drop Dead Gorgeous which Em borrowed from her friend Lee (hey Lee). It’s called The Sweetest Thing (2002) and stars Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate, Selma Blair, Jason Bateman and The Punisher, er, Tom Jane. I’ll be honest, it’s been over a week and my memory’s definitely fuzzy, but basically Diaz falls for Tom Jane in a club and then tries to go after him at what she thinks is her brother’s (Bateman) but is really Jane’s. Plot-wise, it’s a pretty standard romantic comedy, but it’s the flourishes that make this a pretty good flick. Diaz and Applegate have some pretty over the top scenes and they often sneak into annoying territory with their catch phrases and Diaz’s mugging for the camera. But all in all, if you’ve got to watch a RomCom, it’s a pretty good one.

We also checked out Run Fatboy Run (2007) which also falls into the romantic comedy genre and follows a lot of the standard tropes, but I’m a big Simon Pegg fan and David Schwimmer did a great job directing him, Hank Azaria and Thandie Newton. Pegg plays a dude who ran out on his pregnant fiance (Newton) on their wedding day. Now it’s five years later, they’ve got a kid, he works as a security guard at a clothing store where he runs down bra-stealing trannies and Newton’s dating the super succesful Azaria who likes to run marathons. Pegg realizes how big of a mistake he made and now wants to made good by showing people (mostly her, his kid and himself) that he can run a marathon in England (where he lives).

What I do like about RFR is that, even though it is kind of paint by numbers, Schwimmer uses a few different colors than you might expect. Like a lot of other RomComs, we see that Azaria’s maybe not the greatest guy and we do feel good when Newton finally realizes this. But, and this is a SPOILER at the end, after Azaria’s out of the picture and Pegg’s proven he’s a good dude, it’s not like he and Newton just fall in love again. I appreciate that.

So far, I haven’t seen Pegg in anything that I didn’t like, except for the flick that he co-starred with Schwimmer in called Big Nothing which really didn’t do anything for me. He’s even the reason I’m looking forward to Star Trek, though now that I’ve seen the previews, that movie is really making me want to see it, so kudos to the marketing team.

Yeah, I know romantic comedies probably aren’t what you expected to read about in this first post after a slow week, but I’m trying to catch up on what I read and watched over the week. Until next time…

Zone-ing Out

2008-08-28
3:25:34 am

Okay, so there’s a channel we get called My 9 that shows basically all syndicated shows. It’s not usually a channel I watch, but I happened upon a King of Queens rerun which had both comic convention staple Lou Ferrigno and comedian Patton Oswald (plus, remember when Leah Remini played Alyssa Milano’s friend on Who’s the Boss?). Anyway, during KoQ I saw a commercial for an upcoming episode of Twilight Zone which I SWORE had Heroes’ Adrian Pasdar and Shannon Elizabeth. So was I right?

 

Yup. I stuck around for the next hour as Forrest Whitaker introduced me two different episodes from the 2002 TZ relaunch. I’m a big fan of these kinds of shows (the original TZ of course, both the old and new Outer Limits and, my favorite, Tales from the Crypt) so I would have watched anyway (it also helped that Em was out running errands and visiting a friend).

So anyway, yeah the first episode of TZ I saw was called “Dream Lover.” In it, Adrian Pasdar plays a graphic novelist (that’s a comic book writer AND artist for the less pretentious). He was super successful with his first graphic novel and is trying to work on his second so he starts drawing this sexy woman in a towel who comes to life. He assumes she’s his muse and only he can see her, but it turns out to be a big twist (duh) and that SPOILER SHE actually created HIM! Oh snap!

I’ll be honest, I didn’t see that twist coming so it was a pretty welcome treat. Overall the episode was great. I couldn’t place the artist who drew all the comic book drawings (and IMDB wasn’t much help), but it looked like pretty solid art. Shannon Elizabeth’s character even drops (or tries to) a comic book in-joke with the line “Alan Moore couldn’t do better.” Now, this is funny for two reasons. The first is that Alan Moore’s name got said on TV (it’s still weird for me to see comic creators mentioned in the “real” media). But the REAL reason it’s funny is because Adrian Pasdar is DRAWING at the moment.

It’s a great episode to check out for comic fans, it even reminded me of a Tales from the Crypt episode where Harry Anderson plays a comic book artists whose creations keep coming to life (though I think they kill him or something, it’s been awhile).

Oh, one last thing, when Shannon Elizabeth first appears and Adrian Pasdar disappears at the end of the episode the effect is straight out of A-Ha’s video for take on me.

The second episode was a standard bad-guy-getting-haunted-by-kids-he-accidentally-had-killed story. The only thing that really elevated it was that Jason Bateman played the guy. Also, they made him agoraphobic, so he’s actually too scared to leave his house and once he really tries to the kids have locked him in with creepy kid magic. And by that I mean these kids are super creepy. Not, twins-from-The-Shining creepy, but close.

One day I hope to get the Tales from the Crypt DVDs or even the original Twilight Zone DVDs and do disc-by-disc or season-by-season reviews. Any PR people out there listening?