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
One look at Dewey (Black) and you can figure out the problems plaguing this bloated burnout. He's broke and jobless. His heavy metal bandmates kick him out after a botched gig. And his roommate and long-time friend Ned (White, pulling double duty) threatens him with eviction unless he can provide some rent money. When a snooty prep school calls Ned with a substitute teaching position, Dewey assumes his roommate's identity and takes over a classroom of eager young minds.
Continue reading: The School Of Rock Review
Life has been good for Shaun Brumder (Colin Hanks) in simple Orange County, California. He's a good kid with a love of catching waves, a sweet girlfriend, and despite his eccentric family, life is always like riding six-foot waves that curl for days. After a freak surfing accident drowns one of his best buds one summer, Shaun begins to reassess his life and inspiration strikes one day in the form of a novel by Marcus Skinner. He decides to become a writer, trades in his surfboard, improves his grades, and waits for his acceptance letter from Stanford College to study under his new idol Skinner. But when Stanford rejects him due to a guidance counselor's mistake, Shaun only has 24 hours to fix the problem and get the hell out of O.C. to follow his dreams and work out the angst.
Continue reading: Orange County 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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