John Michael Higgins

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Pitch Perfect 2 Review


Excellent

In 2012, Pitch Perfect came out of nowhere to become one of the most-loved comedies in recent memory, and the good news is that this sequel matches it with both spiky humour and buoyant music. It would be impossible recreate the surprise of watching the original, but the cast and crew make up for that by kicking everything off with an outrageously rude prologue (complete with the biggest cameo imaginable), and the comedy that follows is relentlessly hilarious.

It's been three years, and the Bellas are now in their final year at university, having won three more a cappella National Championships along the way. Then they're disgraced by a wardrobe malfunction at a triumphant performance for the US President's birthday. Suspended by officials, their only chance to redeem themselves is to win the World Championships in Copenhagen. So Beca (Anna Kendrick) and her sidekicks Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) and Chloe (Brittany Snow) rally the troops to prepare to take on the fearsome reigning champions Das Sound Machine. And there's a new Bella on the team as well: freshman Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), who is dabbling in songwriting.

Along with this central plot, Kay Cannon's script also weaves in a series of side-stories for each of the central cast members involving decisions about the future and romantic entanglements. All of these are a bit feeble, but they add layers of comedy, drama and even some meaning, although there isn't a single surprise along the way. Still, it's consistently amusing, as every line of dialogue has a witty joke in it, and the performances crackle with improvisational silliness that's genuinely infectious. Once again, the seriously gifted Kendrick is effortlessly charismatic as the natural leader of the gang, while the class-clown Wilson steals every scene with her random gags. Steinfeld offers a fresh blast of energy and talent in her role, although the perky Snow is somewhat sidelined this time.

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'Pitch Perfect 2' world premiere at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live

John Michael Higgins - A host of stars were photographed as they arrived for the Los Angeles Premiere of the comedy movie 'Pitch Perfect 2' which was held at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, California, United States - Saturday 9th May 2015

Pitch Perfect 2 - film premiere

John Michael Higgins - A host of stars were photographed as they arrived for the Los Angeles Premiere of the comedy movie 'Pitch Perfect 2' which was held at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, California, United States - Friday 8th May 2015

John Michael Higgins
John Michael Higgins
John Michael Higgins
John Michael Higgins
John Michael Higgins

Pitch Perfect 2 - Super Bowl TV Spot


The Barden Bellas are back after their impressive victory in a national a cappella chorus competition, where they proved the strength of girl power over some of the biggest choirs in the country. Beca, Emily, Chloe, Aubrey, Cynthia-Rose, Stacie, Lilly, Jessica and Fat Amy have got bigger fish to fry these days, as they eye up global competition ahead of the daunting international contest. They may have bags of confidence, but as no American chorus has ever managed to land the coveted prize before, it may not be enough to get them through this time. Nonetheless, it's time these girls tested their odds against the greatest collective voices on the planet, even if their new rivals are showing some seemingly matchless talent.

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Planes: Fire & Rescue Review


OK

Despite the fact that this too-soon spin-off feels like a mere cash-in on the Disney Cars/Planes marketing machine, this sequel is actually a lot more fun than expected. Not only is the animation witty and sometimes even exhilarating, but there are some solid messages in the story. On the other hand, there's also the continuing problem of making movies in which the central characters are inanimate objects with cute faces drawn on them. But never mind: see the movies, buy the toys, keep the kids happy!

After the globe-hopping race in 2013's Planes, the new champ Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook) sees his new celebrity career grounded when he develops a problem in his gearbox. He can still fly, but the torque required for racing stunts could do him in. So he decides to retrain as an aerial firefighter to help his local airfield maintain its certification in time for the annual Corn Festival. In training, he is mentored by veteran chopper Blade (Ed Harris), working alongside his starstruck fan Dipper (Julie Bowen), the noble Windlifter (Wes Studi), the sassy Dynamite (Regina King) and the genius mechanic Maru (Curtis Armstrong). But a raging wildfire is threatening the nearby Fusel Lodge, and the local park superintendent (John Michael Higgins) doesn't want to shut it down with so many stars as guests.

The best touch here is to make Dusty utterly full of himself, never listening to any advice before charging in unprepared for the next challenge. It's predictable and underdeveloped, but it makes this chirpy crop-duster far more interesting, and adds some unexpected diversions in a plot that otherwise heads exactly where it has to go. Meanwhile, the screenwriters pack the dialog with witty puns and some snappy verbal and visual gags that allow the actors to give their vehicles a bit of personality, even if some of this is merely ethnic stereotyping or simplistic hero/villain morality.

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2014 Comic-Con International: San Diego

John Michael Higgins - 2014 Comic-Con International: San Diego - Celebrity Sightings - San Diego, California, United States - Friday 25th July 2014

John Michael Higgins
John Michael Higgins
John Michael Higgins
John Michael Higgins
John Michael Higgins

San Diego Comic-Con International - Day 4

John Michael Higgins - San Diego Comic-Con International - Day 4 - Celebrity Sightings - San Diego, California, United States - Sunday 27th July 2014

John Michael Higgins
John Michael Higgins
John Michael Higgins
John Michael Higgins
John Michael Higgins

Disney's Planes: Fire & Rescue L.A. Premiere

John Michael Higgins - Disney's Planes: Fire & Rescue Los Angeles Premiere held at El Capitan Theatre - Los Angeles, California, United States - Wednesday 16th July 2014

John Michael Higgins
John Michael Higgins
John Michael Higgins

Pitch Perfect Review


Essential

You can call this Glee meets Mean Girls if you want to, but this riotously intelligent comedy is much better than that. With one of the funniest scripts of the year, the film keeps us laughing all the way through, never running out of witty gags even when the rather predictable plot kicks into gear. But then, we never really care where the story's going when getting there is this much fun. And honestly, we never want this movie to end.

Anna Kendrick stars as Beca, a young woman who would rather mix mash-up tracks than attend a boring university. But here she is, so she decides to make a go of it by getting a job at the student radio station and joining the women's competitive a cappella group, the Bellas. But control-freak leader Aubrey (Camp) is annoyed to have the snarky Beca in her group, to say nothing of self-named Fat Amy (Wilson). Meanwhile, Beca's colleague at the radio station, Jesse (Astin), joins the champion male group the Troublemakers, led by the arrogant Bumper (DeVine). But as Beca and Jesse start to become friends, they risk running afoul of Aubrey's only rule: Bellas cannot date Troublemakers.

This rom-com plot isn't the focus of the film, nor is the impending a cappella championship, which we know from the start will be a showdown between the two groups. No, the focus is on the individual journeys of the characters, and even the smallest side characters are given space in which to grow on us. They're also brilliantly well-played by the entire cast, anchored by a solid, surprisingly layered turn from Kendrick. But the film's real scene-stealers are Banks and Higgins as competition commentators who reel off snappy jokes with such blinding speed that we can barely breathe whenever they're on screen.

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Pitch Perfect Trailer


Beca is a fairly aloof music lover who arrives at Barden University as a freshman apathetically unable to fit into any sort of clique on campus. She is approached by the leaders of an a capella girls singing group, The Bellas, who ask her if she would like to join. Beca declines insisting that she doesn't sing, however she is soon discovered by one of the leaders whilst she belts out some tunes in the shower and is almost forcibly dragged onto the team. The singing group turns out to be an odd mix of weird kids, mean ones and dumb but nice girls who all create the most amazing sound when bundled together for a song session; Beca fits into the diversity pretty easily. The group set out to compete against their counterparts, a formidable male singing group, in a college contest.

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We Bought a Zoo Review


OK
There's a terrific story inside this well-made but bloated movie, as if director-cowriter Crowe simply couldn't figure out which elements he most cared about, so he included everything. It's engaging enough to keep us watching, but never finds any real focus.

After his wife dies, Benjamin (Damon) is struggling to keep his kids - 14-year-old Dylan (Ford) and 7-year-old Rosie(Jones) - happy, mainly because he has lost the daredevil storyteller within himself. So against the advice of his goofy-but-sensible brother (Church), Benjamin buys a run-down zoo and moves there with his children to get it up and running again. Zookeeper Kelly (Johansson) and her team (including Macfadyen and Fugit) don't think he'll stick it out. And indeed, it's more of a challenge than he ever imagined.

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Bad Teacher Review


Grim
This film strains so badly to be a black comedy that it does itself an injury.

Aside from the general lack of funny gags, miscasting is the major problem.

There's also an unwillingness to commit to the characters' dark sides, opting instead for gross-out silliness.

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Bad Teacher Trailer


Elizabeth should never have become a teacher, her teaching technique is somewhat 'hands off'; she swears, drinks, smokes pot and is generally a terrible influence on the children. Stuck in a job she hates, she's just waiting for the day when a rich man asks her to marry him and once and for all she can put this daily nightmare behind her.

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Couples Retreat Review


Terrible
The script for this comedy is so half-baked that we begin to wonder why it was made at all. Not only is it resolutely unfunny, but it never dips beneath a superficial examination of relationship cliches.

Jason and Cynthia (Bateman and Bell) are a workaholic couple approaching their marriage as a business, so they propose to their friends a couple-building holiday in a tropical paradise. Dave and Ronnie (Vaughn and Akerman) need a break form their busy lives, Joey and Lucy (Favreau and Davis) hope to spend as much time holidaying apart as possible, and Shane (Love) brings along his new, young girlfriend (Walsh). Despite the spectacular location, it's not remotely what any of them expect, especially when love guru Marcel (Reno) starts his workshops.

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The Ugly Truth Review


Grim
It may be the nature of romantic comedies to be predictable, but this movie never departs from the formula at all. And while the cast is watchable, the film simply has nothing original to say.

Abby (Heigl) is a frazzled breakfast TV producer in Northern California, annoyed when the brutish Mike (Butler) is hired to present a male perspective on her show alongside smiling/strained hosts Larry and Georgia (Higgins and Hines). Mike's theory that men are only interested in looks enrages Abby, who is trying to woo a handsome, successful guy (Winter). Even though she's a complete control freak, she agrees to let Mike help her get her man.

Fortunately, the cast is charming and sometimes even funny. Heigl and Butler could do these roles in their sleep, oozing sass while cutely prickling against each other. Both of them are endearing, in a simplistic sort of way, throwing out witty one-liners and indulging in corny banter that implies the chemistry that is completely absent from the film. Much more fun are Higgins and Hines in small scene-stealing roles that are full of eye-rolling innuendo.

For a film about a strong woman, Abby is awfully needy and desperate. All she can think about is finding the perfect man, and we seem to be the only ones who realise that Mike is the only man the script has in mind for her. Meanwhile, for all his macho posturing and chauvinist comments, he's actually a sensitive soul who understands how men and woman connect. In other words, for all of its bluster, the film isn't remotely as edgy as it pretends to be.

All of the script's male-female sparring uses stereotypes and contrived situations to push the romance forward, from the Cyrano-like coaching to the unsophisticated (and unoriginal) vibrator gag. There are no subplots and no subtext at all. Even the sexuality is simplistic: it's just puritanical sniggering. And by the time the film finally addresses something resonant, wondering who could actually love a control freak, the contrived story and shallow approach leave us cold. But since this is a rom-com with likeable stars, that doesn't really matter.

John Michael Higgins

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