jonah hill

Movie Review: How To Train Your Dragon 2

httyd2_posterIt’s been a long time since Hiccup and Toothless caught audiences and critics by surprise- just as long since they entered and stole our hearts. It was probably a little unnatural how much I loved HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, but fact of the matter is that there was nothing about the film that I didn’t love. So it only seems inevitable that the sequel can’t possibly live up to such a high bar right? Wrong. While HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 does feel a little less surprising, it feels like much more well-rounded film experience with even more of an emotional core.

Picking up where the first film left off the citizens of Berk are living harmoniously with their newfound fire breathing companions. It seems as though nothing could disrupt the utopia that Hiccup and Toothless helped build in the Viking village. That is until Hiccup stumbles upon a group of dragon trappers claiming a man by the name of Drago is amassing an army of dragons and it’s only a matter of time till Berk is in his crosshairs.

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TGoF’s Top 5 Films of 2014 So Far

cheapthrills_posterSometimes around the months of June and July I think it’s fun to take a look back at the movies I’ve been able to see so far in the year. For one, it’s fun to take a look back and see if there’s anything that’s gotten better over time since I watched it and stuff that’s soured on me since. Then as you are about to see I like to take the five that I feel best represent what I’ve enjoyed at that point in the year and see how my taste leans- basically if I’m picking up what Hollywood is throwing down or are the indie filmmakers still pumping out under appreciated gems. Lastly at the end of the year I think it’s fun to revisit this list to see if my picks held up for the whole year or if the year is simply front loaded with movies that make you appreciate the end of the year flicks that much more.

Every year I predict that the list will end up being a mixture of Hollywood dazzle and indie resourcefulness- but it usually depends on just how active I’ve been in keeping up with heading out to the theater or being lazy and resorting to On Demand viewing. I tend to spend equal amounts of time renting movies On Demand and trying not to be a cave dweller by leaving my humble abode to spend time amongst other people to enjoy movies which is why my mid year list tends to show some love to both big budget and ultra low budget films. I’m a sucker for super hero movies, raunchy comedies, heady thrillers and mixture of quirky indies/bizarre black comedies so my lists tend to drift from your typical film snob- but that’s a good thing right? (more…)

Movie Review: 22 Jump Street

22jumpstreet_posterA few years ago I couldn’t imagine ever actively wanting to go to a movie starring Channing Tatum. At the same time I’d probably have said the same thing about Jonah Hill- but mostly because I liked him in smaller roles. Flash forward to the moment I finished 22 JUMP STREET and now I just want every movie to star Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in a mismatched bromance. That and in a movie that makes fun of itself and winks at the audience at every opportunity and still manage to not be obnoxious.

Picking up exactly where 21 JUMP STREET left off this film places Jenko (Tatum) and Schmidt (Hill) in college to do the exact same thing as they did in the fist film- infiltrate the dealer and find the supplier. The drug they are after on the campus is called WhyPhy and it gives the user intense focus for a period of time followed by a massive high. This time around the roles of Jenko and Schmidt are flip flopped as Jenko finds he fits in at the college setting more than Schmidt. The two once again have to adapt to their differences in order to crack the case. (more…)

Mini Reviews: The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, Rush and More

thewolfofwallstreet_posterThe Wolf of Wall Street – Poor Leo- he tries and he tries to put in stellar work and never gets his hands on that gold statue. I don’t know at this point if THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is going to put an end to that drought, but man does he lose himself here- and boy is it a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Awkward at times, but a hell of a good time was had watching the hurricane of F-bombs, awkward sexuality and utter debauchery on display here. I just wish it wasn’t so damn long.

DiCaprio headlines as Jordan Belfort in a true life story of a stock broker that works his way from the bottom to the top of his craft only to find himself at the mercy of the federal government. That’s really all one needs to know about the story here- it’s all the other stuff that DiCaprio and his merry bunch of miscreants do with wealth that should be spoken of. For instance, how many times do you see a discussion of throwing a little person at a target and all the scenarios of how this will be pull off. Or close ups of a highly acclaimed actor get a candle stuck up his own rear end. That’s only the tip of the iceberg in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.

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Mini Reviews: The World’s End, This is the End, Thanks For Sharing and more!

theworldsend_posterThe World’s End – It’s been a bit since Edgar Wright directed a film with his two buddies Simon Pegg and Nick Frost- sure we’ve seen Pegg/Frost together in the nearly terrible PAUL, but I’ve been jonesing for a return to the SHAWN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ type of collaboration. Thankfully 2013 granted that wish with THE WORLD’S END, a film that combines almost all of my favorite things- comedy, action, awesome fight scenes, aliens and drinking.

Wright’s latest effort follows Gary King (Simon Pegg), a man obsessed with completing a legendary pub crawl that he and his friends fell short of years before. Gary manages to talk each of his friends- who don’t think too kindly of him anymore- to accompany him on the pub crawl once again. When they arrive back in town they find their home isn’t quite what it used to be and find themselves not just fighting for their lives, but for the fate of the world.

THE WORLD’S END is the ending chapter of what Wright dubbed the Cornetto trilogy- starting with SHAWN OF THE DEAD, then with HOT FUZZ and ending here in his latest sci fi romp. Now while I believe the film is very funny, filmed spectacularly well and acted just as well- there’s something about the last act that just didn’t fall into place for me.

I don’t have too many big gripes that ruined the movie for me and truth be told with a few more viewings it could end up being my favorite of the aforementioned trilogy. However, after the first one it did leave a little to be desired and luckily I feel this will hold up very well with multiple viewings. Overall THE WORLD’S END is a well shot, funny and exciting little sci-fi buddy comedy that continues to prove just how talented and imaginative Edgar Wright is as a director.

Rating: B+

thanksforsharing_posterThanks For Sharing – I often feel like guys claiming they have a sex addiction to be kind of a joke- a problem for the privileged man, or just a man in general. If there’s one film that truly gets the low lows of the addiction and makes a case for the treatment of such an addiction, it’s SHAME. I’ve grown a bit more sympathetic of the proclaimed addiction, but a movie like THANKS FOR SHARING kind of puts a dent in that sympathy- even if I did get a few good laughs from it.

Who knew that the Hulk suffered so much from an embarrassment if riches in the hanky panky department? THANKS FOR SHARING follows a handful of men as well as one women (played by Pink) as they struggle with the rigors of sex addiction. Mark Ruffalo leads the charge as a man that’s been “sober” for five years and is scared to venture into a relationship with the Gwyneth Paltrow in fear that his addiction will take over.

Ruffalo’s story has the majority of the screen time, followed by Tim Robbins’ older addict that now takes pride in helping people with a variety of addictions, Josh Gad as a perverted doctor that masturbates excessively and lastly Pink who just can’t resist the urge to screw any guy simply because she doesn’t know how to relate to them. Performance wise everyone is actually pretty great, but I feel like Robbins is far more watchable than the rest while Ruffalo just seems to phone it in.

It’s kind of nice to get more of a comedic approach to sex addiction since the drama that is attempted at in regard to it is contrived and silly at times. When We finally get a glimpse at what Ruffalo’s character goes through when his addiction takes hold, it’s the antithesis of what I feel is a joke about the addiction. It’s small lines here and there that serve as why sex addiction is a problem more than the actions- though Gad’s perverse work behavior does give a bit of insight to why it should be contained at times.

THANKS FOR SHARING mines very little that I find meaningful as a drama and succeeds mostly in the comedy, but doesn’t use it to its full potential. It’s great to see Tim Robbins putting in some great work, Josh Gad continues to make somewhat of a name for himself and even Pink adds a bit of fun to the proceedings. Overall the film isn’t quite heavy enough or fun enough to be as memorable as it seems it wants to be.

Rating: B-

thisistheend_posterThis is the End – Time after time chances to see THIS IS THE END in theaters passed me by. It’s a shame really, because I feel like the theatrical experience of this would have been one of the best of the year. The shared experience of enjoying a good laugh with a lot of people is exceedingly rewarding- but on the other hand, the type of comedy at play can also be very polarizing. Male humor is startling and awkward when it’s at its best and it’s something that can disgust and repel members of the opposite gender. THIS IS THE END might easily be one of the funniest films I’ve seen this year, but it loses momentum in the last act and is admittedly a bit awkward to watch if you have a significant other that isn’t digging the vibe it’s putting out.

I love how easy this movie is to describe- what would a bunch of comedic celebrities do when the rapture hits? The answer- argue about their bodily fluids and find varies avenues to take jabs at one another in hilarious ways. The actual story beyond the basic set up is the friendship between Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel as they’ve grown apart over the last few years and they attempt to respark their once strong relationship.

It might be presumptuous to assume this humor is easily consumed by all males, given how subjective comedy can be. Essentially, the humor here is Apatow-esque if Apatow was an extremely immature college student baked out of his mind and had a thing for 90’s boy bands. The raunch factor isn’t totally out of Apatow’s wheelhouse, considering the actors here gained notoriety from films like KNOCKED UP or 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and TV shows like Freaks and Geeks or Undeclared. Also, the improv nature of the script might wear on some viewers that get a little fatigued by the constant back and forth banter between each character.

The budget is obviously low when you get into shots of the actual apocalypse which lends to the cheap aesthetic that is carried throughout, but the actors are so sharp and clever with their lines that it’s easy to overlook the effects issues that take over during some scenes. The final act of the film is where the film almost completely jumps off the track and the momentum all but dies out. The interactions between characters as the ending finally starts coming into place is extremely weak and the acting is kind of embarrassing- and given the characters are playing exaggerated versions of themselves it doesn’t even come across as naturalistic either. I have fewer problems with the final scene than I do witch the few minutes leading up to it, but it still isn’t near as strong as the rest of the film.

THIS IS THE END flirts with perfection in the face of an obviously low budget and with an extremely simple plot, but trips and falls flat on its face in the home stretch. The humor is laugh out loud funny almost all the way through and even has enough bloodshed and apocalyptic imagery to please horror buffs as well. If you’re a fan of the improvisational style that the actors involved are known for then THIS IS THE END has more than enough good to overcome the extremely weak ending. Be warned that if vulgar humor and imagery even slightly offends you, this might be one to just let slip by the wayside.

Rating: B+

thewaywayback_posterThe Way Way Back – I have a real soft spot for coming of age movies. Everything about them seems to hit all the right chords and turn me into a sappy mess. Particularly stories about the awkward kid that is picked on, left out, looked down upon and can’t seem to find his place- I’m sure one could deduct why that speaks to me. The process of that character finding himself, letting go and being themselves when they find the right people is something that just makes my cold heart turn to mush. THE WAY WAY BACK is a perfect example of everything I just talked about with some incredibly fun and touching performances to bring it all together.

I already kind of summarized exactly what the film is about- an awkward kid, Duncan (Liam James), is on vacation with his mom, his mom’s bf and his mom’s bf’s daughter at a beach house. Duncan’s mom’s bf Trent (Steve Carrel) is a dick and his daughter is your typical annoying teenage brat and his mom seems to put up with more than she probably should in regards to Trent’s behavior and attitude. While on vacation Duncan meets Owen (Sam Rockwell) who manages a water park in the area and the two quickly strike a friendship that brings Duncan out of his shell.

Written and directed by the Oscar winning duo Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (writers of THE DESCENDANTS) the film is not without its beautiful scenery, but more than anything else it’s the relationships and the dialogue that make THE WAY WAY BACK what it is. Sam Rockwell knocks it out if the park in every scene he’s in as a guy that is incredibly comfortable with who he is and lives every moment to its fullest without taking life too seriously. The script is not overly complicated and sticks to the basic fundamentals of a coming of age story, but in that lies it’s strength. It’s relatable to people of all walks of life and accessible for people of all ages.

THE WAY WAY BACK is a sweet and heartwarming coming of age movie with a scene stealing performance from Sam Rockwell. There’s plenty of laughs, drama and angsty teen goodness for the film to find fans of any age. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash prove once again they have quite the talent for human stories with charming humor and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Rating: A-

monstersuniversity_posterMonsters University – It took years for me to finally check out MONSTERS INC and even then it was only because my wife kind of convinced me to watch it with her. I was a little ashamed of myself since at the time I was in school studying computer animation and while watching that film it reinvigorated my love of the forum. Disney/Pixar fueled my love of animation- specifically CG animation- for so long and to have that gap in my movie knowledge was very disappointing to myself. I preface that only to limp into my nearly mirrored thoughts on MONSTERS UNIVERSITY.

This film serves as a prequel to MONSTERS INC where we see the origins of Sully and Mike’s friendship and what lead them into becoming scarers. The animation style is exactly the same and rather than going for a lot of realistic mapping in favor of an incredibly slick and colorful cartoon-esque animation which is beautiful and stunning in its own right.

The Pixar quality is upheld in every aspect and the only place I could possibly acknowledge a flaw is that it’s so like many of Pixar’s other efforts including MONSTERS INC that it’s become a little redundant. However, I feel like that complaint is utterly useless and silly that we would feel incensed to complain about an embarrassment if riches in quality family entertainment. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY is far beyond other Disney/Pixar disappointments such as CARS AND CARS 2 that it feels petty to say a movie is bad simply because it’s as good but maybe not better than movies from the studio we previously loved.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY is a great follow up to the original film and follows in its monster sized footsteps maybe a little too much for some. Regardless of the similarities to other movies in the Pixar cannon I believe the film is of extremely high family entertainment quality and one that will please audiences of just about any age- though the kiddos are likely to be more head over heels for it than anyone else.

Rating: B+

whd_posterWhite House Down – Having already seen a White House swigs movie this year and hating the crap out if it I did not have high hopes going into WHITE HOUSE DOWN. I find most of Roland Emmerich’s effects heavy action movies charming on some level, but not one have I felt intellectually challenged by one and this film is not the exception. That being said, I kind of loved this movie even with how incredibly mind numbing and stupid the entire thing was.

Channing Tatum stars as a secret service hopeful currently serving protective duty for the Speaker of the House. He takes his daughter on a tour of the White House after his interview for the secret service doesn’t pan out. While on the tour a group of highly trained mercenaries enact an elaborate takeover of the White House in aim of kidnapping the president and carrying out a plan that has disastrous goals.

All the Emmerich staples are here- incredibly dumb action, goofy one liners, pretty great special effects (one of the many things it has over OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN) and a somewhat bloated run time. Despite its length the film is always entertaining in spite of how dumb it is and you can always see what is happening quite clearly, something else the other White House takeover movie failed spectacularly at.

I’m not foolish enough to sit here and tell you that WHITE HOUSE DOWN is a good movie, but it does exactly what it sets out to do which is be entertaining. It didn’t win me over with stellar writing or even story elements that make any sense whatsoever; it won me over by simply not taking itself too seriously and delivering set pieces that are fun to watch and by being one of the movies it’s easy to shut one’s brain off and enjoy for a short period of time. Every now and again it’s nice to enjoy those empty cinematic calories.

Rating: B

purge_posterThe Purge – Like many other things I think sound like good ideas I sometimes have little faith that they are actually good ideas ideas. When I first watched the trailer for THE PURGE I thought it was an insanely cool concept, but I had strong doubts that it would deliver anything on the level of what I hoped. To an extent I was right, but truth be told this film surprised me and I actually liked far more than I thought I would based on my doubts.

As I debated the concept of THE PURGE, the more ridiculous it became. A distant future where crime is essentially non-existent except for one night a year where, for 12 hours, all crime including murder is 100% legal. The possibilities are endless and instead of exploring those possibilities it focuses on on family headed by Ethan Hawke who are extremely well off due to Hawke’s stellar selling abilities of a heavy duty home security system that nearly everyone in their neighborhood has purchased. The doors close and when the annual Purge begins a bloodied man is seeking help and the son inexplicably shuts the security down long enough to let the man in and inviting a group of psychos looking for him to come down on the house and stop at nothing to get their prey.

The most disappointing thing about THE PURGE is that with all the things that could be done with the concept is that it is staged almost completely within the one house. The tension is great and the performance from the “polite stranger” that wants nothing more than to kill the man Hawke’s family has in their house is nothing short of fantastic in a crazy entertaining sort of way. Everyone else is frustrating beyond belief just because of the actions they make throughout. Stupid horror movie character cliches are out in full force in almost every frame of this film which piles on to the disappointment of the one location nature of it all.

The twists and turns are all equally ridiculous but certainly help to offset the frustration of the characters. What I love is everything that the concept brings to light- the nature of the Purge itself and the social climate it suggests. I only wish that there had been more background on the New Founding Fathers and more insight/visuals as to what is happening all over during the Purge. We can only hope that if there is indeed a sequel it delivers a little more on these levels.

THE PURGE is nowhere near a perfect film- stating the obvious- but it is far more entertaining than it has any right to be given the character flaws and disappointment regarding the one location setting. You should see it if for nothing else than to see Rhys Wakefield’s bizarre but incredibly watchable performance as the film’s main protagonist. There are flaws aplenty, but there is a lot of potential in this concept to carry a franchise and hopefully they improve in the areas this one kind of drops the ball.

Rating: B

internship_posterThe Internship – Eh, that’s really all I have to say about Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson’s latest team up. In the interest of conversation I will elaborate…I guess. I didn’t really have motivation to see THE INTERNSHIP at all, but alas I decided to give it a shot. For the majority of the film it completely justified those feelings and it’s not until the end that it gets into a few “okay” moments that at the most didn’t make me hate myself for riding it out.

Google has a reputation for being an awesome place to work and that’s pretty much all this movie is- even though it does everything it can to paint the people that work there as petty judgmental jerks. Wilson and Vaughn are watch salesmen with zero other skills and when the company they work for goes under they are forced to enter a job market they have almost no hope of successfully navigating. Obviously the next logical step is to apply for internships at one of the most highly sought after place to work in the world with no skill sets. They inexplicably get the opportunity and the rest of the film continues along the same lines of ridiculousness as the set up.

The most relatable aspect of the film is only that if you had nothing to lose why not try and crowbar your way into one of the most profitable businesses in the world. Beyond that, this movie is just stupid. It’s nothing but long shot scenario after long shot scenario that after some point my eyes were rolling so much I was dizzy. Is it not enough to watch two middle aged men with zero tech skills bs there way into an internship filled with hundreds of more than qualified younger applicants that we also have to watch a geek get a girl that’s 1,000,000 times out of his league? These are just some of the frustrating underdog themes at play here and they are all beyond generic.

It isn’t without its crowd pleasing elements and my heart is not made of stone as I mentioned in the end I didn’t completely hate myself, but there just isn’t enough here that I was happy with what I watched. THE INTERNSHIP is loaded with jokes that either don’t work or are recycled from other mediocre movies featuring Vince Vaughn. Rent it if you dare, but you won’t be any wiser to the charms of Google, the heartwarming nature of underdog stories, or that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson were ever good actors.

Rating: D+

theconspiracy_posterThe Conspiracy – Found footage movies are in need of a bit of an overhaul in my opinion. I do enjoy one on occasion, but let’s face it, they are getting a little stale and for the most part, there’s nothing all that new about the slew of recent offerings. THE CONSPIRACY isn’t entirely the saving grace of new found footage movies, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The film has footing in real conspiracy theories that have popped up in recent years and uses them to weave an incredibly intricate little story that has a pair of documentary filmmakers making a film centered on a conspiracy lune that shouts his theories on street corners from a loudspeaker. When that man goes missing one day one of the filmmakers, Aaron, takes it upon himself to find a pattern in the research that was left behind. What he uncovers leads them into the heart of an incredibly dangerous secret society.

I don’t want to say THE CONSPIRACY is 100% original as it borrows bits and pieces from found footage faux documentaries that came before it, but it does weave those elements in a way that at the very least makes it feel new and exciting. The way that a lot of the actual conspiracy theories are mixed in with the plot heightens the rest of the film giving it some extra punch from start to finish.

The actors aren’t particularly memorable, but the situations they find themselves in make for some incredibly tense and freaky moments leading up to a finale that is quite frightening. However, as great as the finale is, the actual end of the film left a lot to be desired as opposed to if it had ended immediately after the final bit of action.

THE CONSPIRACY is a fantastic addition to the found footage universe and one that in spite one or two hiccups is a memorable little shocker with some incredibly spooky moments. The use of blurred faces and distorted voices during the finale are nightmarish and help to make the film stick in your head long after it’s over.

Rating: B+

Movie Review: The Watch (2012)

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Every so often a film comes along that becomes a victim of circumstance. THE WATCH had already suffered a name change to separate itself from the unfortunate neighborhood watch shooting in Florida and to add insult to injury the week following its release the Aurora theater shooting happens. Two acts of gun violence leading up to its release and one of them involving a neighborhood watch- both things (irresponsible gun use and a neighborhood watch that is) are the subject of jokes within THE WATCH. In hindsight pushing the release back could have been a blessing for this film in terms of box office receipts, but it still wouldn’t have made it any better in quality. THE WATCH aims to answer the question no one was asking- what if someone took ATTACK THE BLOCK, set it in suburban America and tasked a sex obsessed teenager to write the script? What you get is poorly conceived characters and plot twists with a barrage of hit and miss raunchy sex jokes mistakenly taking main stage to a sort of cool alien invasion side plot.

Yes, you heard it correctly, there is an alien invasion present in THE WATCH, which was absent from the initial trailers. My best guess says that it was only because the actual alien stuff in the film shows up for a short period of time before it goes back to dude bonding time and clumsily makes its way back around to a twist that leads back into the more action centered finale. The majority of the film is spent introducing Evan (Ben Stiller) as a uptight sterile husband that can’t talk to his baby crazy wife about his problem as he creates club after club all the way up to making a neighborhood watch after a murder at the Costco that he manages. At the meeting only Bob, Franklin and Jamarcus (played by Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade) show up and are interested only in some male bonding time that includes drinking and telling nasty jokes. From there it’s a back and forth of bonding time, alien fight, more bonding time, alien stuff, more bonding time, alien investigation more bonding time as they investigate and finally the finale. It could be a winning formula if there weren’t so many unfunny jokes to make it boring and making me wish it had more alien centered stuff to pull me back in.

I don’t really feel strongly enough about Ben Stiller’s comedic decline just yet, but THE WATCH really gave me a startling look into what it will be like when that day is undoubtedly here. I found Stiller’s performance here one of his worst in a long time, even compared to his wheel spinning performances in the MEET THE FOCKERS and LITTLE FOCKERS. His role here is boring and irritating- the same can be said for Jonah Hill, who I normally really enjoy especially coming off 21 JUMP STREET. Hill has a few moments here and there, but is largely overmatched when it comes to the sheer amount of jokes that Vince Vaughn shoots through in short amounts of time. Vaughn, another act that’s beginning to feel overly one note is able to talk so fast and furious that he’s able to burn through huge chunks of jokes both good and bad, which in the end either accents how bad the script or lack of a script there was or doesn’t give much time enjoy the genuinely funny lines. Vaughn is easily the highlight though as I laughed way more at his character than all of the others combined.

THE WATCH failed to grab my attention right from the get go, failed to set things up in a satisfying or interesting way and once it succeeded at showing me something cool it takes it away and goes back to everything that’s least interesting about it. From the trailers I fully expected there to be plenty of time spent with the guys trading rapid fire dialogue and jokes back and forth- to what extent, I may not been underestimated a bit. Once the group finally stumbles across the whole alien plot I thought things would pick up and in some ways it did. The alien looked really cool and for the most part the effects were practical and even when they weren’t the CGI was quite good. All of the alien stuff I found to be what was drawing me in, but as soon as I was drifting into maybe not being aggressively bored the aliens were gone and I once again returned to my slouched position in my seat.

The actors aren’t given much to work with except excessive amounts of bodily fluid jokes. Vaughn and Stiller have the deepest conversation in the whole movie that involves Stiller’s inability to talk to his wife and Vaughn’s struggle with a teenage daughter and when the two clash it lasts for all of 5 minutes and then they are best buds again. There’s very little conflict in the film to sink your teeth into and the whole plot device of Stiller being sterile holds almost no weight especially after he finally does let the cat out of the bag. My favorite side character played by Billy Crudup I found quite funny in spite of how manipulative it is to the plot when it comes to trying to lead the audience to or away from any mystery. The eventual payoff for the character doesn’t have a satisfying end and just made me roll my eyes at how clever and sneaky the script thought it was being.

In the end THE WATCH is a misguided exercise in vulgarity where everyone involved believes that lack of story and ideas would take a backseat to the perceived raunchy antics of the immensely recognizable cast. Decent alien effects and half a handful of very funny jokes ends up cheapened by poorly fleshed out characters and boring set ups to make the film an instantly forgettable sci fi comedy. Vaughn stands out as the highlight of the cast while Stiller stands out as one of the most boring characters I’ve seen on screen so far this year. Unoriginal, forcibly vulgar and surprisingly dull, THE WATCH is one stakeout that napping through it isn’t only justified, but encouraged.

Rating: D

Movie Review: The Sitter (2011)

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As much as I love Jonah Hill I feel like I really dropped the ball by not recognizing the first red flag attached to THE SITTER. I don’t have an extensive knowledge of all things that David Gordon Green has been a part of over the years but I’ve seen and liked PINEAPPLE EXPRESS before seeing and loathing YOUR HIGHNESS. I can’t say that I’m surprised I didn’t enjoy THE SITTER that much but I am at least happy to say I liked it more than YOUR HIGHNESS- which really isn’t saying that much.

Jonah Hill plays a guy, Noah, who gets stuck babysitting a few kids so that his mom can get herself back on the market for a party where she is being set up with a potential beau. When he gets to the house with the kids he is babysitting he learns quickly that he might have his hands full as one has severe anxiety issues, one is a dolled up celebrity enthusiast and one is an adopted boy obsessed with bombs and fireworks. When his girlfriend teases him with the possibility of having sex with her for the first time he takes the kids out on an errand to score some drugs and deliver them to the party she is at- nothing could possibly go wrong right?

Set aside the fact that this movie feels like its way passed its “Best if used by” date and judging the film on its entertainment merits alone it’s still very stale. The script, the jokes and just about every other aspect of the film is lazy minus just a few bright spots that are due in large part to Jonah Hill and Sam Rockwell. The film opens on a cringe worthy note with Hill’s character performing oral sex on Ari Graynor’s character and it’s followed by an awkward exchange where it’s apparently a well known fact that fat guys are naturally great at cunnilingus- which is a joke that Kevin Smith has been selling much better for years now. The film is just full of recycled elements from previous films that it tries to take advantage of in order to make a quick buck.

It’s not all doom and gloom as there are sparse moments of humor either in side comments that seem improvised, but mostly because I like Jonah Hill as much as I do and that Sam Rockwell is the film’s biggest saving grace. Hill gives the film a shot, though even he seems a bit bored with the material at times, but Sam Rockwell came in ready to just ham it up and his scenes are the best in the film. Rockwell is always great as a bad guy and here he gets to be that but also an incredibly likable bad guy that you know will kill you but at least he does it while treating you like a friend. The sad part is that he comes and goes a few times during the film and when he leaves you can feel the wind leave the sails.

There’s nothing done from the director’s chair that makes any of the proceeding look or feel any more interesting either. The screenplay does not aim to be anything more than generic so it would take a very ambitious eye to elevate the material and Green must have been just as bored with the material as I was because it’s the kind of film that he could haves easily phoned in while reading the sports section from the toilet every morning.

If there was any other aspect of THE SITTER worth praising outside of Hill and Rockwell the film might have snuck its way into a recommendation. As it is though the film is really only worth checking out if the batteries run out of your remote while you’re flipping through channels and somehow stops on this. You will still hunt furiously for spare batteries but might get a few laughs before you give up and just leave it on in the background while you surf the internet or do household chores.

Movie Review: 21 Jump Street (2012)

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I’m just going to get right to the point- I think 21 JUMP STREET may end up being one of the funniest movies I see all year if not THE funniest. From beginning to end I cannot remember a movie that kept me so entertained and laughing almost every second in a long long time.  Some of my favorite comedies over the years combine smart writing with great performances from actors with great comedic timing and ultimately a heart that shows maturity amidst all the raunchy jokes and 21 JUMP STREET met everything I look for in a comedy and then some.

The film opens with Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) attending high school together. Jenko is a jock struggling with his grades but he’s popular- Schmidt on the other hand is a nerd with that gets shot down and embarrassed when he asks a popular girl to prom. Seven years later the two are both in the same recruiting class to join the police force- Jenko is good at the athletic stuff and Schmidt is good at the written stuff so the two join forces to make it through the training. Once on the force they prove to be less than satisfactory so their Captain transfers them to a resurrected undercover program with their new superior, Captain Dickson (Ice Cube). Dickson places them at a high school where a new synthetic drug is being spread around and threatens to go viral if the two don’t uncover the supplier. Schmidt and Jenko go and relive their high school days but the times have changed and Schmidt fits in the popular crowd while Jenko finds himself saddled in the nerd click.

From the moment the film starts and “The Real Slim Shady” kicks in over the speakers the film establishes that it is not taking itself too seriously. It becomes even more evident with every joke and gag during the opening sequences right up till the end so I could just kick bag and laugh it up. The absurd comedy is cranked up to eleven without every entering spoof territory but just ridiculous enough that it feels like somewhat of a joke on the buddy cop/teen comedy.

The anchor of the film is the relationship between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum- their comedic chemistry is pitch perfect. I can’t recall a movie that I loved the character that Tatum was playing, but his character alone was hilarious but combined with Hill it’s really something to behold. Tatum pulls off the dumb meathead and Hill takes the awkward goofball and when they are together riffing off each other I was in stitches. The rest of the cast all enhance the scenes when Tatum and Hill are apart- rather it’s Rob Riggle trading insults with the duo or Ice Cube screaming and threatening them they are all consistently hilarious.

The writing is smart and has incredible timing and at times there are moments that feel unscripted that added to the unpredictable nature of some of the comedy. There’s a sequence where Hill and Tatum are forced to take the drug they are there to snuff out that had me gasping for air that includes Tatum running rampant in a band class while Hill sings and dances his way into a Peter Pan play and then participating in a track meet. There’s even some action towards the end and the laughs don’t stop even while the duo are involved in a three limo chase sequence that ends the film on a hilarious note. Fans of the TV series will get a kick out of a cameo that I was completely unprepared for and laughed at even more. I wish I could say I knew a lot about the original series- but I can assure you that after this I will be checking it out.

I have very little to say about 21 JUMP STREET that’s all that negative apart from I was disappointed when it ended. If I had to choose one thing in particular I would say it’s predictable in terms of anticipating the eventual fallout between friends and love interests along the way and of course the triumphant patching of the friendship but even then the film finds jokes to make it something that’s not been-there-done-that.

Constant dick jokes, liberal usage of the F-bomb, sexual innuendos and situations, plus quite a bit of violence in the last half make 21 JUMP STREET far from an affair for the whole family but perfect for a night out with friends or a significant other if you’re in the mood for a boatload of laughs. The film might prove to be a bit too reliant on risqué humor and immature language for some, but the way in which the jokes are presented felt smarter and perfectly placed than I expected. Hill and Tatum make a perfect comedic duo and I would be first in line for any other film they were paired in. 21 JUMP STREET is one of the best raunchy buddy comedies to come along in recent years and likely one of the best we’ll see this year.

Movie Review: Moneyball (2011)

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Billy Beane may very well have achieved something great in Oakland during the 2002 season- but from this point forward he will be able to include this statement in the same breath, “Brad Pitt played me in a movie.” MONEYBALL combines two of my biggest passions, it’s a movie and it’s about baseball- beyond that it’s also an underdog story, a story about not settling for second or third best, being scared to believe in yourself….heck at one point it’s even partly about the fact that David Justice doesn’t like paying for soda. Really though, MONEYBALL does what THE SOCIAL NETWORK did just a year ago- it takes an in depth look at the more mundane details of a bigger picture- and it is phenomenal.

MONEYBALL is the true story of the 2002 Oakland Athletics and GM Billy Beane, played Brad Pitt. The team made it to the playoffs in 2001 only to be eliminated by the New York Yankees in the Division series. During the off season GM Billy Beane and his scouts were faced with losing three of their best players and needing to replace their numbers on a shoestring budget. With the help of Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) the two use an extremely methodical stats system to pick players they can afford to create a winning team. Beane is looked at as crazy as his system fails at first, but begins to miraculously turn around later on in the season.

I have a deep love for baseball- yet I’m also not an Oakland Athletics fan. The beauty here is that you do not have to be an Athletics fan to appreciate MONEYBALL- you don’t even have to be a fan of baseball. MONEYBALL involves the Oakland Athletics, but it is not ABOUT the Oakland Athletics. It’s the story of a former baseball player turned scout, turned General Manager that works against budget constraints to create a winning team- the team just happens to be the Athletics because that’s what happened. In fact there’s even a nice integration of archived footage mixed in to the film. The message and heart of the film is much deeper than being just a movie about scouting and managing baseball.

With a star like Brad Pitt in a film like this it may be hard to separate the star from his character. I myself had trouble at times, but Brad Pitt is a great actor and he still does a fantastic job. Jonah Hill also does an admirable job standing next to Pitt and even Philip Seymour Hoffman in select scenes. MONEYBALL is Pitt’s movie though and he has great comedic timing and delivers all his lines with charisma and charm. The performances all around are great and even the brief moments with Pitt and Hoffman have a sense of tension but also comedy in them.

The thing to know about MONEYBALL is that this is not your typical sports movie. There are in-game sequences but they are not the entire focus. In many ways MONEYBALL has a lot in common with Aaron Sorkin’s Oscar Nominated script from last year THE SOCIAL NETWORK- where it takes a recognizable topic and gives you what happens behind the scenes. Instead of long scenes of play by play games we get lots of stat crunching and Pitt making deals for players or arguing with scouts about who he wants to pick up for the team. MONEYBALL uses lots of smart baseball talk to win over the audience much like Sorkin’s Facebook movie used rapid fire computer lingo to engage the audience.

I do not believe you have to be a baseball fan to enjoy MONEYBALL, but I truly believe anyone who loves baseball will love this film. Baseball hatred can latch on to the great human drama within the film- Pitt’s relationship with his daughter, the friendship between Pitt and Hill, and the way it conveys the overall love of the game Billy Beane had. It was incredibly easy to get lost in how well the movie pushes across the monotony of going through the motions year after year and the driving need to make a change or it can kill the enjoyment of something you once loved. I connected fully with every aspect in regards to Beane’s love of baseball and how fun it is to experience something new amidst the day to day tedious aspects. I also felt the absolute frustration when people refuse to see it from a different perspective and the selfishness that is present not only in sports bit life in general.

MONEYBALL is a quiet film in regards to score- there is a lot of talking so there is no need for loud boisterous music. Baseball lovers will find the general use of baseball jargon and techniques a suitable replacement to a musical score, much as I did. Don’t get me wrong there is a great score it just doesn’t dominate the film. Lots of the best scenes are almost devoid of music at all. The standout scenes for me are the early scenes where Pitt is in meetings with scouts as they argue back and forth, a fantastic monologue at the end when Pitt is meeting with the owner of the Red Sox and the final scene involving Pitt in his car listening to a CD. The two latter scenes pushed me over the edge from loving MONEYBALL to adoring the film outright.

As mentioned earlier on- I believe that MONEYBALL is this year’s THE SOCIAL NETWORK for baseball fans. It might be difficult to make the disconnect that Brad Pitt is not playing himself but an influential member in the baseball community- but Pitt still gives a great performance as does everyone else in the film. What it lacks in a truly memorable score it makes up for with witty dialogue that ranges from dramatic to very funny. America’s greatest past-time deserves a film that loves the game as much as the fans and I truly believe that MONEYBALL is that film.