A young Puss in Boots (Anotnio Banderas) is an orphaned kitten that makes his home at an orphanage in San Ricardo with his adoptive mother and best friend, Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis). Perpetual outcast and lofty dreamer, Humpty, and his made blood brother, Puss, have their fair share of run-ins with the Comandate (Guillermo del Toro!) and the law. One such incident tears the duo apart, forcing Puss to go on the run as a wanted feline.
It isn’t until years later that Puss is reunited with Humpty through a mysterious, masked caper who reveals herself as Kitty Softpaws (Selma Hayek). The three of them embark on an adventure to steal magic beans from a couple of brutish outlaws, Jack and Jill, to gain entrance to the castle in the sky for the giant’s riches. After successfully stealing the booty, all of their troubles begin.
I went into this expecting another ill-conceived, pointless spin-off but what I got was a silly, well-animated flick with plenty of humor and a genuinely emotional story to balance it out. I was literally laughing out loud. Maybe too loudly at the glaucoma/catnip reference that flew over the little ones’ heads and, to top it off, I was the only one… that was awkward. Needless to say, it felt good to connect with the kid inside of me and at the same time snicker at jokes clearly aimed at the adults in the audience. Good family fun for all ages!
Gold-digger Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) is forced back into the teaching position she despises after being dumped by her rich boyfriend. Instead of instructing the students and nurturing their young minds, she shows them movies like Lean On Me and Dangerous Minds while sneaking in sips of booze and cat napping at her desk. She hones in on Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), a handsome substitute teacher who belongs to a family of considerable wealth but, to her dismay, he falls for the star teacher, Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch). Intent on snagging herself another sugar daddy, she starts saving money for breast implants but her efforts to afford the $10,000 price tag aren’t enough.
After she learns the teacher whose class receives the highest state test scores is awarded a $5,700 bonus check, she starts making her students apply themselves but her aggressive teaching style yields nothing but bellyaching and malcontent. Determined to win the money, she poses as an investigative journalist following up on claims that the state exams discriminate against blacks and minorities, allowing her an the opportunity to steal the test questions from Carl Halabi (Thomas Lennon). The hostile rivalry between Elizabeth and Amy turns into full-scale war after Elizabeth’s students scores are, not only the highest in the entire county but, enough to unseat Amy’s three year victory.
There are plenty of rotten pranks and downright nasty schemes that go on throughout the film, along with drinking and drugs, lots of swearing, an awkward dry-humping scene, and a pair of surgically enhanced breasts that will have men’s eyes popping right out of their sockets. The humor is hit-and-miss but when it succeeds, it’s shamefully funny. It’s no comedic gem but it does satisfy a guilty pleasure to see Diaz play a greedy, thoughtless, conniving bitch. In Hollywood years, she’s ‘old’ but, damn, she is looking better than ever and I give her props for flaunting what she’s got in Bad Teacher.
I loved Lucy Punch as Amy Squirrel. Who is this woman who nailed the role of a well-intentioned but batshit crazy teacher so perfectly? She captured all of Amy’s neurotic tendencies, exasperating competitiveness, nervous tics, and the smarmy smile that I kept hoping Elizabeth would knock right off of her face. Thumbs up to Jason Segel as Russell, the school gym teacher pining for Elizabeth, John Michael Higgins as the overwhelmed Principal Snur, and Phyllis Smith as reserved, mousy Lynn. The only person I didn’t get was Justin Timberlake’s character – he was just plain weird and dull.
This was a mediocre comedy saved by its cast. There is a lot that doesn’t make sense and you basically have to toss your morals to the wayside. Don’t get too analytical. This movie is not an attack on the fine men and women who sacrifice salary for their passion to teach. It’s a short-sighted, bawdy summertime flick that wants to tickle your funny bone, even if it doesn’t always succeed.
Love and Other Drugs is based on Jamie Reidy’s Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman, a book about his years at Pfizer during the pharmaceutical company’s Golden Age. Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a womanizing, smart-mouthed slacker who gets fired from his job at an electronics store after he’s caught in the act with the boss’s girlfriend. He lands a gig as a sales rep for the big pharma giant and, true to his ways that have never failed him before, uses his charm and good looks to get an ‘in’ with Dr. Stan Knight (Hank Azaria). He convinces Stan to let him observe his appointments and take notes, under the guise of a medical intern. This is when he meets Maggie (Anne Hathaway), a sharp-tongued, free-spirited artist who also suffers from early onset Parkinson’s disease.
They form a kind of friends with benefits relationship that serves them well in the beginning. Maggie doesn’t want to get too close to anyone for fear of becoming a burden and Jamie is focused on scoring a big promotion to Chicago. As their casual sex arrangement transforms into a more emotional connection, Jamie must come to terms with her Parkinson’s long-term in order to open himself up fully to love but it’s Maggie alone who finally accepts her illness. As he struggles with his own demons, he must also indulge the whims of his younger brother, Josh (Josh Gad), who’s moved in with him, constantly find new ways to one-up a rival pharmaceutical rep (Gabriel Macht), and pimp out hot females to Stan in order to stay his numero uno.
I am a fan of Ms. Hathaway. Her personality and smile light up a room, she’s a versatile and talented actress, and she seems like a down-to-earth individual. But I don’t think she was right for this role. I didn’t get the artsy-fartsy vibe from her. Sporting beanie hats and bohemian clothing doesn’t make a person an artist. Ordinarily, nudity doesn’t bother me but seeing her naked all of the damn time became tiresome. To be fair, I was sick of seeing Jake Gyllenhaal’s butt, as well. Jamie’s transformation from insensitive jackass to adoring boyfriend is hardly believable amid steamy pajama parties and threesomes and flesh-peddling for doctors. Nice, melodramatic “I’m head over heels in love with you” speech at the end but, by that time, I didn’t care.
I think I would have liked Love and Other Drugs more if it hadn’t come off so schizophrenic and desperate for attention. It was trying to be too many things for too many viewers – weepy romance, light-hearted comedy, social and corporate commentary, soft core porno, Pfizer documentary… therapist. If they had concentrated their efforts on two, even one, less sub-plot, it would have made a noticeable difference. There’s no doubt that this is the film to watch if you’re hungry for healthy doses of Hathaway’s rack (which is beautiful, by the way – full and all-natural) or Gyllenhaal’s ass (also decent) but as a rom-com, it lacks depth and the laughs.
Annie (Kristen Wiig), a down-and-out woman who’s lost her business and boyfriend, is invited to be her childhood friend’s (Lillian, played by Maya Rudolph) Maid of Honor. Coordinating the wedding is the insanely rich and pretentious wife of the bride’s husband’s boss, Helen (Rose Byrne), who from the get-go, tirelessly competes for Lillian’s attention. In the mix are Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), a housewife who is desperate to escape the confines of suburbia, Becca (Ellie Kemper), a clueless newlywed, and Megan (Melissa McCarthy), the groom’s crass sister. The subtle rivalry between Annie and Helen eventually backfires on the both of them and it’s up to the two adversaries to put aside their differences in order to save the big day.
One of the more hyped-up movies of 2011, Bridesmaids is marketed as a raunchy, female version of The Hangover, which is understandable but unnecessarily deceiving. The only correlation between the two is an impending marriage. This is less about the bridesmaids and more about about its central character, Annie, a self-loathing, loveless character who projects her negative attitude on to anyone who has the misfortune to cross paths with her. They include customers in the jewelry store she works at, Nathan (Chris O’Dowd), the baby-faced cop she ends up romancing, and her own best friend. At times, Annie is difficult to empathize with because she’s such a destructive force. She’s so intent on sabotaging herself that she loses her job and drives away a man who only wants to see her succeed and be happy.
You may not realize it right away but Bridesmaids is a chick flick that’s been made palpable for men with some raunchy (though implied) humor and the really funny comedic relief of Melissa McCarthy. Kristen Wiig shows quite a bit of restraint, to the point where I wondered if this is the same ham of Saturday Night Live fame. I was disappointed, especially during the airplane scene, which was her moment to shine. It seemed like such a wasted opportunity, both for Wiig and her fans. Whether this was her choice or the director’s, I don’t know. McLendon-Covey and Kemper receive limited screen time, as does John Hamm, who plays Wiig’s boorish, inconsiderate ‘fuck buddy’.
Besides McCarthy, O’Dowd and Byrne deserve pats on the backs for their performances. O’Dowd may seem out of place with his Irish accent but he manages to infuse some much needed positive energy. He’s silly and lovable with amusing observations about life and his law enforcement profession. My favorite was the quip about the ugly carrot in every bag (and I just ate it). Byrne as the gorgeous, impeccably groomed trophy wife was perfectly cast, as well.
The film clocks in at two hours and five minutes, thanks to jokes getting stretched well past their expiration. I like Kristen Wiig but her writing, especially the dialog, doesn’t always gel. Sometimes, it’s obvious a scene exists solely to showcase herself as ‘the emerging female comedian’ yet she never fully satisfies. Other times, the banter between characters is so unrealistic and outrageous that it’s no longer humorous but outright awkward to watch. I squirmed more during the jewelry store scenes than I did during the much talked about diarrhea outbreak. Kristen Wiig is no Tina Fey but I don’t hold that against her.
Mary and Max is a multi-award winning animation that chronicles the relationship between Mary Daisy Dinkle (Toni Collette), a young, insecure girl in Australia who is the only daughter of an alcoholic mother and a neglectful father, and Max Jerry Horowitz (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an overweight, panic-ridden man in New York. One day, Mary picks the first name she finds in a phone book and sends a letter, along with a chocolate bar, prompting a decades long correspondence of letters and chocolate treats. Although Max has longed for a real friend (his imaginary friend sits on a stool reading all day), Mary’s sensitive questions propel him into anxiety attacks, one so severe he ends up in a mental institution.
Many years pass with no mail from Max. In between waiting for word from him, Mary becomes smitten with the next door neighbor boy, Damien (Eric Bana), and continues helping her agoraphobic neighbor, Len. Considering advice from his therapist, he finally writes to Mary and confides in her that he has Asperger’s Syndrome which affects his social interaction. She decides to enter into university to study mental disorders and ends up penning a highly acclaimed book with Max as her case study. The news is not well-received by Max and he cuts off communication with her, which sends Mary into a drug-induced, drunken stupor (after shredding her hard work to pieces and damning her career). On the verge of suicide, she wonders if Max will ever forgive her.
Let me immediately point out that this is not for young children or tweens. Don’t be wooed by the cartoon cover art or pictures of adorable Mary Daisy Dinkle with her clunky glasses and red barrette. It’s a complicated tale meant for adults. If you are unable to process rather gloomy, disheartening material without being able to bounce back emotionally, avoid this movie. Aside from the celebration of enduring friendship, there isn’t much to smile about. Alcoholism, mental illness, loneliness, pill popping, heartbreak, four deaths, overeating, involuntary manslaughter, schoolyard bullying… a small list of the obstacles the characters struggle to overcome.
The animation is beautifully done and the characters are a peculiar, quirky bunch with a myriad of flaws but endearing in their own ways. The stop-motion figures on the screen breathe life, full of raw, human emotion in such a profound manner, it can be a distressing, suffocating experience. That’s balanced with some incredibly kooky humor. The storyline flows effortlessly but, ultimately, it won’t appeal to a wider audience. High praise for writer and director, Adam Elliot, for having a unique vision and sticking to his guns. There has been mixed reviews on Barry Humphries’ narration. Personally, I found his voice very soothing.
This film appeases two long-time love affairs, claymation and stop-motion. It tickled my funny bone at the right moments but it was too melancholy, even for me.
A couple of British comic book geeks, Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg, Shaun of the Dead) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost, Hot Fuzz), are in America for a science fiction convention and a subsequent RV roadtrip to the famed Area 51. En route, they meet an alien Paul who has been inhabiting a top-secret military base for the past 60 years. Desperate to leave Earth, he convinces the duo to help him get to the mother ship’s landing area. They soon find out that Paul is being chased by a relentless government agent, Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman), who enlists the assistance of two inept feds, Haggard and O’Reilly.
They end up kidnapping Ruth (Kristen Wiig), a sheltered, unyielding religious zealot, which prompts her father to join in the pursuit. Along the way, they visit Tara (Blythe Danner), the human whose dog Paul crashed his ship on six decades earlier. After years of ridicule and harassment, she’s relieved to see Paul does indeed exist. Graeme, Clive, Paul, and Tara flee the premises after Zoil, Haggard, and O’Reilly raid her house. With the agents and Ruth’s father hot on their heels, can they get Paul safely to his mother ship in time?
Fans of the zany U.K. pair will relish this sci-fi/comedy collaboration featuring the voice talents of Seth Rogan as Paul. It’s directed by Greg Mottola who also directed the rude, crude Superbad and Paul follows in its footsteps with a lot of swearing and vulgar humor. Not as laugh out loud funny as Shaun of the Dead but it has its moments of utter hilarity. Sci-fi nerds will appreciate many of the references to movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T., to name a couple. The CGI Paul blends seamlessly in with the flesh and blood characters. I loved the cameo by Sigourney Weaver – she’s still kicking ass and looks beautiful and cool doing it.
I do have to warn Christians and other religious types to avoid this movie if you can’t take a pretty harsh mocking of your beliefs. Ruth’s entire life is measured by her strict moral code, only for her faith and Bible instructed principles to be shattered by the knowledge of the universe that Paul telepathically shares with her. She transforms from a wholesome girl (although, wholesome may not be the right adjective, considering she wears a shirt that has Jesus shooting Darwin) to a cussing, pot-smoking, sin-seeking fugitive. Just a warning.
A group of soldiers named the Z-Squad is summoned to Nebraska to take care of a zombie outbreak at a government commissioned lab headed by Dr. Chushfeld. With the United States at war with so many countries, George W. Bush has sanctioned the development of a virus that reanimates dead soldiers. During the brouhaha with the undead, Byrdflough, one of the Z-Squad members is bitten. After witnessing the shooting of a lab assistant who is infected, he panics and manages to escape from the facility, ending up at Rhino, an underground strip club.
The seedy establishment is run by Ian (Robert Englund) who despises the women and is off-put by their affection toward him, as well as a bit OCD with his can of disinfectant spray. Upon the arrival of an angel-faced newcomer, Jessy, Rhino’s most popular dancer, Kat (Jenna Jameson), is attacked and infected by Byrdflough. Competition brews as they see Kat command more money and attention as a zombie stripper. One by one, they succumb to their desire to become one of the undead so that they can steal the spotlight for their own.
There isn’t too much to say about this gory, sleazy, ham fest. You want boobs? You want zombies? You want porn stars with boobs as zombies? You got it but be warned that the exotic dancing isn’t all that titillating (hello, there’s a pole there – use it!) until their eyes are sunken in and their flesh is puckered and grey. Even though Jenna Jameson is billed as the main attraction in this film, sexy Shamron Moore outshines her as Kat’s bitchy, resentful rival – both in looks and acting. She’s prettier, curvier, and doesn’t have Botox-injected lips the size of Texas.
The film’s biggest mistake is smothering us with social and political rhetoric. Please leave that to Michael Moore or Fox News. The satire fails miserably. It’s injected into the movie without any thought or concern about who is spewing it, when, how, where, or why. Zombie Strippers! works as a campy blood-and-guts fest but not as some wanna-be philosophical caveat.
The decapitations, zombie feasts, limb removals, disembowelments, and other nasty, revolting displays of carnage will have splatter hounds howling with joy. Some of the CGI is downright laughable but so is the rest of the movie.