43 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Still a fun Pixar effort, but the weakest of the Toy Story films.
20 July 2010
I know, I know... I'm sure I'm going to get destroyed over this review. Anything under eight stars for a Pixar movie is blasphemy! While I thought TS3 was an entertaining two hours... it just wasn't quite up to par with the first two entries from the trilogy.

The opening and ending dealing with Andy growing up and the toys outliving their usefulness to their owner was well done Pixar heartstring tugging... no complaints there. The middle act, which boiled down to a prison break movie, was a bit dull despite all the Pixar eye-candy trying to convince me otherwise. There were some gags to be had, a funny turn by Potato Head needing to use real vegetables, some thin and obvious (but still humorous) banter between Barbie and Ken and the now required shtick of Buzz Lightyear getting reset to various memory-wiped settings... but in general the middle 60 minutes of the film just seemed oddly disconnected from the rest. The end result was an odd sandwich effect, with the bread on either end actually being much more enjoyable then the meat in the middle.

While I'm certainly not trying to slag the movie, I don't think 7/10 is anything approaching a hatchet job, I found this one to be clearly a level below the two films that preceded it. Pixar didn't waste the magic they built up with TS1 / TS2... but they certainly didn't expand on it either.
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Has it's moments, but tries too hard to be hipster fare...
7 July 2010
Ohh... he likes Fellini! And speaks in an impossibly pretentious style that only "I'm smarter than you" 16 year olds even attempt to get away with... It's as if the screenwriter conformed to every rule in the "How to Make a Quirky Non-Conformist Teen Movie in Three Easy Steps!" handbook.

Things start out promising enough, the premise is hardly original, but it's presented with the right amount of deadpan flair that is required from these types of films. The narration from Cera is well delivered, the supporting cast gets some chuckles, all signs point to another 90 minutes of pseudo-intellectual, but enjoyable, Juno-like fluff.

Then the romance starts... and really... everything just goes downhill from here. Both Cera's and Doubleday's characters come across as manipulative, borderline sociopathic faux-hipsters. I had very little sympathy for either of them... but I'm well outside the age demographic that this movie was shooting for. I'm perfectly fine admitting that I can't relate to the pretentiousness of the romance presented.

There are some laughs to be had, some good one-liners delivered and some capable work from the supporting actors, but it's just not enough. This one just sort of lingers, seemingly lasting for much longer than the 90 minute running time. Characters and subplots sort of appear only to sputter out, which is a common flaw in movies drawn from books where the screenwriter feels compelled to touch on too many things without being able to properly develop them. In the end, everybody seems like stock characters from the Quirky Movie Playbook as the plot meanders to it's never-in-doubt conclusion. "Youth in Revolt" ultimately comes up short, while it hits all the quirky hipster landmarks, it just doesn't do it with nearly enough humor or focus.
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Space Chimps (2008)
Pixar this ain't... but it's not without merit...
11 December 2009
Chimps get shot into space, adventure and self-discovery ensue... You really don't need to know too much more about the plot. Story wise, it's not nearly as fleshed out or satisfying as the "big budget" CGI movies everybody raves about... but it serves it's purpose for the most part. Protagonist learns a valuable lesson and/or sees the error of their ways, good guys come out on top, etc, etc... just the budget version of the same story Pixar has been telling for the last 15 years.

My three and a half year old enjoyed it just fine, it's not knocking Lightning McQueen or Buzz Lightyear of their pedestals... but he's seen this twice and was entertained both times. He asked me multiple questions about what was going on or why a character was doing something, and that's a surefire sign that he's into the movie and not simply zoning out in front of the boobtube.

From an animation standpoint, nothing here is making Pixar nervous... but I'm certainly not going to hold that against anybody. Looney Tunes weren't as technically well done as Fantasia, but Bugs Bunny still made me laugh. Once they get to the alien planet, things take a noticeable downturn... as if they didn't have enough budget to make these scenes to the same quality as the rest of the movie... While I knew this was a budget feature from the get-go, this obvious quality gap within the movie is jarring. The alien world and most of the aliens are just downright unappealing.

With the exception of Jeff Daniels, who seems woefully miscast as an over-the-top alien villain, the rest of the voice cast does their job well. While the dialog has it's share of misses throughout, Adam Sanberg delivers some generally funny lines and Cheryl Hines does capable work as the foil / romantic interest. Patrick Warburton seems to appear in 70% of all animated works lately, and while he's not given much to do, he delivers some gems as well. Outside of an almost unbearable Daniels, the voice work is unobjectionable.

I've sat through this once from start to finish and didn't feel burdened in the least. Sure, it's nothing to write home about... but this isn't horrible either. Three outta five stars for the kids... maybe slightly less for adults with sticks in their behinds...
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Balls of Fury (2007)
Not uproariously funny, but an enjoyable enough farce.
29 June 2009
A silly, juvenile but ultimately likable enough comedy. While it never goes too lowbrow for a cheap laugh, it never really nails anything uproariously funny either. The lead is some guy I've never heard of or seen before and he doesn't do a ton to make himself memorable... but it does feature Chris Walken... And even though he's just hanging around for a paycheck, he's always fun enough in ridiculous roles like the one that's presented here. James Hong also steals some scenes... he is a charter member of the "oh... I know THAT guy! He was great in suchandsuch" Hall of Fame. One of those character actors that you know will deliver capable comic support. Maggie Q is cute as a button and provides some great eye candy, if 85lb Asian chicks in tight workout clothing is your thing...

It's sort of loosely based on "Enter the Dragon" with Ping-Pong instead of Kung Fu... and some Karate Kid thrown in for good measure. Like I said, things never really hit any great comedic heights... But Balls of Fury is a harmless farce that has it's heart in the right place, never trying too hard to please... just enjoying it's lot as a ridiculous little time waster. It's perfectly worthy for an 11pm HBO viewing after you realized you shouldn't have had all that Mountain Dew caffeine with dinner.
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A touching story... for at least a little while...
16 June 2009
Lars (Gosling) is an introvert. He can't connect with other people, unable to make meaningful relationships. After being shown a website for a sex doll, he orders one and kicks off a relationship. The doll can't make him feel uncomfortable and only thinks whatever he wants it to think. The film follows Lars' relationship with his doll and how those around him deal with the situation and eventually help him out of his shell.

Lars and the Real Girl is one of those pseudo-indie movies that get churned out every year for no other reason than Oscar buzz. That stamp is all over Lars and the Real Girl... From Ryan Gosling doing his own twist on a Forest Gump type character to a script that is trying to rip open your chest so it can tug at your heartstrings.

I know that opening sounds a bit condescending and it's probably not totally fair. Lars and the Real Girl does have a lot going for it. In general all of the performances are excellent. Ryan Gosling does a great job with the title role, even if his performance strays into little more than Gump-like mannerisms in many places. Paul Schneider and Emily Schneider are wonderful as the co-leads who must deal most intimately with Lars relationship "issues". The script starts off wonderfully, laying out the premise and introducing a lead character that you can both readily identify with and yet still find peculiar. There is a very heartwarming, if maybe slightly hard to swallow, aspect to how the townspeople all pitch in and do their part to help Lars. This really is a fairly typical "feel good" movie that's been kicked around and painted an off-color of gray in an attempt to gain some "indie cred".

The problems crop up after about 40 minutes of screen time. By then, the script has laid all it's cards on the table. The conclusion is never in question... and there are no twists or revelations to be found. It's just a matter of lumbering along for the next hour while the film hits all the required landmarks before delivering us to the final destination. We are asked to continue paying attention to a character, for scene after scene, that everybody has already completely solved by the midway point of the film. While Gosling is generally excellent in the lead role, the character he is playing just isn't interesting enough to carry the load for so long. Ultimately, the movie buckles under it's own weight well before the final credits roll.

This could have been an excellent short film, but there just wasn't enough script here to justify the feature length running time. I still enjoyed things for the most part... helped primarily by the excellent performances from the cast.

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A movie with a good heart... but just too scatter-shot to recommend
27 April 2008
The premise should be familiar to anyone reading this, but just for the sake of being thorough: A television music composer, Peter Bretter (Segal) gets dumped by his longtime TV star girlfriend (Kristin Bell). This break-up is completely unexpected to Peter and in an effort to get over his failed relationship, he inexplicably winds up vacationing in the same Hawaiin resort as his ex and her new love interest. All is not lost for Peter, as an attractive employee at the resort might just be just what he needed.

Typical of most movies from the Apatow stable, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is somewhat crippled by a script that just can't decide what it wants to do... and ultimately throws everything up on the screen hoping that it all sticks. There is a story here that just about anybody who has ever been dumped can easily relate to, it's just too bad that the gloriously simple premise is under-minded by pointless cameos and subplots and general meanderings that hurt the pace while returning far few laughs. Even setting aside the Apatow stable of recurring actors, there are still a lot of scenes that just don't really go anywhere apart from giving Segal somebody new to talk to.. a bartender here, a chef there... Sometimes these scenes lead to a laugh and sometimes they don't... but they always succeed in making the movie feel somewhat aimless and confused. A few seconds later, and Peter is back in his room crying over Sarah. The editing and pacing is just all over the map.

First time screenwriter and leading man Segal does an admirable job when he sticks to the basics of his universal premise. Granted, the setup is nothing short of dumbfounding... As somehow he winds up at the same resort as his ex, and for reasons that nobody will ever properly explain, manages to score the best room in the place for free... but that is all a minor nitpick once the movie gets rolling. When the wheels really come off the train is when the usual stable of Apatow cronies elbow their way into unwarranted screen time. Paul Rudd and Johan Hill do little to justify their presence. I have nothing against those two in particular, and they have both done great work in other works from the Apatow posse... but here, they just distract from what could have been a much more well honed piece of work.

When the movie stays on point, you have a pretty respectable romantic comedy / breakup movie. Segal isn't going to be quitting his sitcom actor day job anytime soon, but he acquits himself pretty well in the leading role. His character is generally pathetic and self-loathing, but always in a "lovable loser" type of way that manages to keep the audience rooting for him despite the mess that he should only blame on himself. Kristen Bell frequently rises above the material, especially later in the film, giving what could be a typical "cheating ex" cliché of a character some decent depth. Mila Kunis is also surprising as the new love interest for Peter, as she shows some true chops that should make you forget about any "That 70's Show" typecasting. Last but not least is Russell Brand as "the other man". His character was so ripe for overdone parody, it's a credit to Brand that he pulled it off with such wonderful subtlety. With the few exceptions when he is actually performing his "music", he steals many scenes without ever appearing to try.

Overall, there is an enjoyable movie wedged in here... It's just too bad that it's so scatter-shot in it's execution. A solid 20 minutes of runtime could have gone to the cutting room floor and the pacing in general could have been much tighter. I had a good enough time seeing this one, as it did feature a decent chunk of legitimate laughs. It's just too bad that the days of a concise, character-driven comedy seem to be a thing of the past. Forgetting Sarah Marshall has a lot going for it, but ultimately it's bloated running time and odd pacing make it a less enjoyable viewing than it could have been.

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Chuck (2007–2012)
Chuck might have some potential underneath the muddled scripts
6 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Through a series of 'forgettable spy movie clichés', a regular guy from the local electronic store gets all the secrets of the government downloaded into his subconscious. Of course, this brings interest from the unavoidable 'powerful government agency clichés'. The CIA agent (romantic interest) and the NSA agent (sorta pointless other guy) must sorta protect him while sorta trying to get information from him while sorta trying to make the audience laugh on occasion.

Based on the first two shows, Chuck is a muddled mess... but it can be amusing at times. In the title role, Zachary Levi is likable but he doesn't seem to know whether to play it straight or go for a laugh. When a legitimate laugh does appear, the "spy clichés" pop out and stop any momentum. I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say that Chuck probably isn't going to die or get brutally tortured. So when the show plays it's spy stuff with a relative straight face and tries to deliver tension, it's just a waste of time.

The writers might have something with Chuck and Sarah, as the actors appear to have potential for some chemistry... but the show needs to find a direction. Right now, it's some interesting ideas wrapped in a bunch of clunky spy games.
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Not a total train wreck... but probably should be avoided
28 April 2007
You know things aren't going well when the title character doesn't make an appearance in the 'sequel'. As much as I enjoyed Kal Penn in the first Van Wilder (and Harold and Kumar), he isn't given much to work with here.

The script is awful, just brutal. I think I laughed twice throughout the whole thing. I'm sure nobody is watching this type of movie for compelling characters and riveting plot, but when almost every single joke falls completely flat... every other blemish on the script becomes glaring. There are completely nonsensical subplots thrown about that reference secondary characters that you forgot were introduced in the first place, a silly competition that never makes any sense and an embarrassing turn by the bulldog that made his infamous scene from the first "Van Wilder" look like high art. If you sat a twelve year old in a room with a typewriter and told him to write "Revenge of the Nerds in England" he couldn't do much worse than what's given here. The worst part is that the movie gets consistently less funny as it goes on. The final 15 minutes or so is cringe inducing.

The direction isn't much better. The whole thing has a look of a made for cable TV movie you'd see on a kid's network. Not only is Kal Penn inconsistent with his accent from scene to scene, sometimes it's every other line. On a few occasions, I couldn't even make out the dialog. The actors clearly didn't give a clean read but it made through to the final cut anyways. I realize this was made on the cheap, but you can tell the folks behind the camera didn't put forth much effort. Either that or they didn't have the time. Regardless, it's not pretty to watch.

The only saving grace are the actors. Despite Kal Penn not bothering to hold his accent, everybody on screen appears to be having a good time. Even if everything else is awful, I can't hate a movie where it at least appears that the actors enjoyed their work. They all seemed determined to give their best despite what they all must have known was horrendous material. Kal and the female lead (Lauren Cohan) admirably build some chemistry with little help from their lines. Holly Davidson also steals a couple of scenes as the "cockney" member of the group.

While I didn't think this was a complete disaster, you'd be wise to avoid it.
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Click (2006)
Enjoyable formula flick for Sandler quickly becomes tedious
15 November 2006
Wouldn't it be great if you had a universal remote that you could use to pause, rewind and fast forward your life as you see fit? Skip past all the boring stuff, pause and rewind all the fun stuff. It would be a blast right? Then again, it does kind of sound like the typical "be careful what you wish for?" Hollywood movie.

Adam Sandler plays Michael Newman. He is your typical "Hollywood" middle class, white collar husband and father. Impossibly cute kids, impossibly gorgeous wife, seemingly great job as an architect... not many problems to be found on the surface. Of course, as the story unfolds it becomes obvious that our protagonist needs more time in each day to play the roles of father, husband and successful business man. Through some goofy circumstances Sandler bumps into mad-scientist Morty (played for a paycheck by Christopher Walken) and obtains the "universal remote". This remote seemingly answers all of Michael's problems. It gives him all the time he needs to become a bigshot at the office, after which he'll have all the time he wants to spend with his family. Of course, comic and dramatic hijinks ensue, eventually leading Sandler's character to realize what the true meaning of life is all about.

Click is highly formulaic and as such, highly predictable. If you don't see every major plot point coming way before it's delivered, then either you weren't paying much attention or you haven't seen that many movies. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with formulaic and nothing wrong with predictable. Movies succeed or fail far more on execution than originality. Hollywood rarely reinvents the wheel, it just churns out different variations. The only real problem with Click is that it gets lost in it's own message and is eventually drowned by the weight of it's dramatic second half.

Everything starts out great. The comedy is delivered at a pretty consistent pace without ever diving too far into low-brow areas that Sandler's early movies were known for. There are some great supporting performances from Nick Swardson, Jennifer Coolidge, Henry Winkler and especially David Hasselhoff. This is easily the best performance I ever recall seeing from ol' Dave. He comes so close to going over the top without ever getting there and steals just about every scene he's in. The plot is enjoyable and the characters are funny, but you just know the other foot is going to fall. Things just can't keep going smooth for Michael.

Once things turn south for our protagonist, so does the move itself. Michael realizes that the remote is not the silver bullet fix he thought it was and the script does everything it can to make sure we understand that. We end up with a plodding second act that meanders and quickly loses steam. Sandler is allowed to stretch some dramatic muscles and does an admirable job, it's just unfortunate that he is allowed to indulge. The plot is lost with far more views into the future than need be. Eventually the point of the story is beaten into the ground and everything devolves into little more than Rick Baker's makeup effects. By the time the inevitable "Tug at the heartstrings" moment arrives, it's impact is dulled by the ponderous journey it took to get there.

Overall, I admire Click for what it tried to accomplish. Sandler is really a better talent then he's ever been given credit for and his performance here is really solid. The problem is that Click should have left some of the second act on the cutting room floor instead of going out of it's way to play up Sandler's dramatic side. What could have been a truly enjoyable 90 minutes clocked in at a somewhat lumbering 107.

Click won't make you want to change the channel, but it probably won't make you rewind and watch again either.

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Totally Awesome (2006 TV Movie)
I made it all the way to the end....
7 November 2006
I watched the entire movie without stopping and deleting it from the DVR. That's about the best thing I can say about "Totally Awesome".

The thing about spoofs is that they only work if they consistently satirize their targets. They need to find humor in parts of the original films that weren't "funny" and find humor in them. This is the biggest flaw of "Totally Awesome". The movie is just lame setups, horrendous overacting and a few interesting ideas that never quite hit the mark. There is very little actual satire. Mr. Miyagi got more laughs in the original Karate Kid than his "spoof" counterpart did during this entire train wreck of a movie. Dominique Swain is another big offender here. I'm sure she was directed to completely overact, but she completely blew past the line separating funny from downright annoying. With maybe one or two exceptions, I found her performance almost unbearable.

It's not all doom and gloom, after all I did get through the whole thing without deleting it. I'm not normally a huge Tracy Morgan fan, but he completely stole the show with the brief role he was given. Even by spoof standards Joey Kern might have been a bit too over-the-top as the nemesis, but he did get me to laugh more than once. There were also some laughs to be found in some of the dancing scenes and the lead actor looked eerily like C.Thomas Howell from "Soul Man" when in black-face.

I guess it's not a complete waste of 100 minutes, but it's not hard to realize why this script wound up as 'made for VH1' filler either. I have a sneaking suspicion that this was shot for theatrical release or possibly direct-to-DVD. The transfer is clearly cropped from some widescreen film format. It's pretty easy to see why it never made it that far. (Altho from what I hear, this is being released on DVD. Oh boy.) Anyways, this one misses far more than it hits. When you are constantly reminded how much superior the original 80's movies are instead of being inspired to laugh at their silliness, the makers of the spoof have dropped the ball.

Who thought the movie "Soul Man" was a good idea? Apparently the same folks that thought "Totally Awesome" was a good idea.
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