There's no reason why this animated comedy adventure needed to be this pointless. Solidly entertaining movies have been made using far less as source material (see The Lego Movie). But while there are some hilarious verbal and visual gags peppered throughout this movie, it all hinges on a script that's painfully obvious and animation that simply isn't inventive enough to hold the attention without a decent story and stronger characters.
It's set in Textopolis, an app inside the smartphone of the teen Alex (Jake T. Austin). The central character is Gene (T.J. Miller), who has far too many expressions for a meh emoji. His parents (Jennifer Coolidge and Steven Wright) worry that he has some sort of defect. Threatened by the cruel senior emoji Smiler (Maya Rudolph), Gene and his pal Hi-5 (James Cordon) sneak out of the app in search of the hacker Jailbreak (Anna Faris), who can help reprogramme him if they can make it to the cloud. But Smiler sends a team of killer bots in hot pursuit.
Yes, the plot is cursory at best, and essentially exists only so the film can namecheck carefully placed apps in a series of sponsored, rather pointless extended set pieces. This leaves the movie feeling like a low-rent variation on Wreck-It Ralph, although only a few of these sequences have any visual interest. The Candy Crush world is at least a colourful alternative to the dull digital look of most of most of the movie. And the lack of imagination shows in the depiction of music streaming as a stream and a firewall as a wall of fire. There's also a strange rush to violence in almost every sequence, as the bots continually try to delete our heroes.
Continue reading: The Emoji Movie Review
A provocative drama wrapped in the skin of an adult sex comedy, this sharply written and performed movie is hugely entertaining even as it grapples with some big issues. The central themes here are notions of celebrity and sexuality, neither of which is nearly as clear-cut as the audience or characters think they are. And the script allows actors like Jack Black and James Marsden to do what they do best while undermining their usual personas with some edgy shadings.
Black plays Dan, the self-proclaimed leader of his high school class' 20-year reunion. He has always felt invisible, and is annoyed that he gets no respect from the reunion committee. Then he spots hot classmate Oliver (Marsden) in a TV advert and hatches a plan to increase his popularity by convincing Oliver to attend the reunion. He lies to his boss (Jeffrey Tambor) about needing to go to Los Angeles on business, and he gets carried away as the openly bisexual Oliver shows him the partying lifestyle, taking things far beyond where he thought his limits were. Back home, he can't admit any of this to his sharp wife (Kathryn Hahn) and begins to lose touch with his smart teen son (Russell Posner). Then when Oliver turns up, things get even more precarious.
Filmmakers Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul get everyone into this mess in the usual ways, with snappy dialogue, goofy antics and rather a lot of humiliating embarrassment for poor Dan. Then they do something interesting: they refuse to play it safe, taking a surprisingly complex journey through questions about everything from peer pressure and family dynamics to the illusion of fame and the unspoken spectrum of sexuality. So even though the characters aren't always likeable, and even though all of them make some questionable choices, they're unusually sympathetic because the astute script and performances make them thoroughly recognisable.
Continue reading: The D Train Review
Nobody really wants to attend their school reunion. Nobody, except for maybe Dan Landsman (Jack Black), who is the self-appointed head of the school reunion committee. After slogging through days of rejections, Dan is beginning to believe that no one is going to come to the 20th Anniversary reunion for their high school - that is, until he turns on the television and sees Oliver Lawless (James Marsden). Lawless, a once popular student, is now a relatively successful actor, and Dan believes that getting him to attend the reunion will convince everyone else to come along. But when he meets up with Lawless for the first time in twenty years, something goes wrong. Lawless is going to attend the reunion, and it is on track to be a massive success, but Dan no longer feels so good about it.
Continue: The D Train Trailer
Mike White - Celebrities attend Dancing for NED, a dance party to raise funds for the Cedars-Sinai Women's Cancer Program at UNICI CASA in Culver City - Los Angeles, California, United States - Saturday 3rd May 2014
Zombies have taken over America and the few remaining humans are fending for their lives. Names are irrelevant, so they use their hometowns: Columbus (Eisenberg) is a resourceful nerd who teams up with bonkers fighter Tallahassee (Harrelson) to try to find someone else who's alive. They run into two con-artist sisters, Wichita and Little Rock (Stone and Breslin), and set off on a perilous cross-country journey to find the last enclave of humanity. Not only are they attacked at every turn by the snarling, toothy undead, but they don't really trust each other.
Continue reading: Zombieland Review
Smother is a catastrophic train wreck that rightfully abandoned any hope of being released theatrically, but isn't even a solid bet for mindless entertainment in its final destination on video store shelves. The entire movie reminds me of one of those Saturday Night Live sketches centered on a character with a very uncomfortable one-note quirk, like "Massive Head Wound Harry" or "Debbie Downer." This film could have been titled Madcap Marilyn, and the title would have fit the material, but the movie still would have sucked.
Continue reading: Smother Review
Peggy (Molly Shannon) dotes on Pencil, her puppy, with the affection only rewarded to the luckiest of children from the most spoiling of parents. So, when Pencil gets into some toxic shrubbery and goes, as all dogs do, to heaven, Peggy is inconsolable. Not that there aren't plenty of people who want to help her. Her oafish neighbor (John C. Reilly) wants to date her, her best friend (Regina King) wants to set her up with someone, and the receptionist at the vet (the invaluable Peter Sarsgaard) wants to get her a new dog ASAP. It's the receptionist, Newt, who gets Peggy into veganism and, ostensibly, sends her on a path of social destruction the likes of which are rarely seen.
Continue reading: Year Of The Dog Review
Husband-and-wife filmmakers Jared and Jerusha Hess share a bizarre sense of humor, one that's difficult to categorize but apparently pretty popular. They know what amuses them, be it an eccentric sight gag or a particular turn of phrase, and they stand by their decisions whether they fit the context of their chosen story or not. They co-write scripts for Jared to direct and pay specific attention to individual words that might score bigger laughs. Rarely would a character in their movie say "pants," for example, because "slacks" or "trousers" sounds more unique.
Is there an audience for the Hess' brand of comedy? You better believe it. Their initial collaboration, Napoleon Dynamite, was a win-win for Fox Searchlight that catapulted beyond its expected cult status and became a surprise mainstream hit. The duo's anticipated follow-up film, Nacho Libre, maintains the same odd cadence and strange plotting as Dynamite (though there's more of a story, which in a roundabout way is a compliment), but banks its fortunes on the go-for-broke antics of comedian Jack Black.
Continue reading: Nacho Libre Review
Screenwriter Paul Rudnick (Adams Family Values, In and Out ) is wicked with the one-liners, so zingers abound in his tongue-in-cheek reworking of "The Stepford Wives" -- the creepy, retrospectively campy chiller from 1975 about suburban spouses turned into sweet, subservient, June Cleaver robots.
So ripe for lampoonery that the word "Stepford" has become an adjective ironically slapped on anything deemed too Norman Rockwell-esque, the original picture's concept of anti-feminism taken to a paranoid extreme is fodder for raillery in Rudnick's script.
But he isn't remotely as clever when it comes to plot. In fact, as long as he gets a laugh he doesn't seem to care if his story makes a lick of sense. He can't even decide if the automaton wives in his "Stepford" are robots (impervious to fire and prone to shooting sparks from their necks) or real women (brainwashed with microchip implants) who are capable of snapping out of their halcyon daze if their programming fails.
Continue reading: The Stepford Wives Review
Ninety-five minutes of feeling creeped out and uncomfortable passes for indie flick entertainment in "Chuck and Buck," a movie in which the audience supposed to sympathize with a stalker just because he's naive and slow-witted.
Buck, you see, never grew up. He's a 27-year-old whose mind gave up around age 11. He wipes his nose on the back of his hand; sucks on lollypops all day; makes collages with construction paper cut-outs, sparkles and Elmer's Glue. And when his mother dies, he becomes consumed by an obsession with his "best friend" Chuck -- a kid he grew up with but hasn't seen in 15 years.
The two childhood pals are reunited at the funeral, and for the simple, infantile Buck nothing has changed. He's ready for the two of them to run through sprinklers or play Chutes and Ladders.
Continue reading: Chuck & Buck Review
Jack Black isn't an actor, he's a clown -- and a one-schitck clown at that.
Compare any two-minute clip of his new comedy "School of Rock" to any of his scenes from "Orange County," "Shallow Hal" or "Saving Silverman," and you'll see the exact same tongue-wagging and eye-bugging mugging, the exact same frenzied, finger-knotting gestures and roly-poly, off-balance dancing, the exact same eyebrow-stitching failed attempts at momentary sincerity, and the exact same set-devouring dialogue delivery.
"Read between the lines, baby! Read between the lines!" he whispers then screams, whispers then screams while giving a three-fingered flip-off to the musicians who have just kicked the embarrassing stage-hog out of their band in this movie's establishing scene.
Continue reading: School Of Rock Review
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