Archives for posts with tag: comedy

Grade B+

 

Shakespeare’s “The Taming Of The Shrew” is the basis for “10 Things I Hate About You,” a fun, sweet, romantic-comedy that has a surprising amount of substance.  Julia Stiles plays the “shrew,” a highly intelligent teen who is fiercely independent and speaks her mind at all times.  So what’s the problem?  Well, her sister is a social butterfly who wants to date but isn’t allowed to by the father…unless Stiles also dates.  The father’s idea is that Stiles will never date, and so the other daughter won’t either, and neither of them will do any crazy, sexual things with boys.

But two young men — one of whom is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt — desperately want to date Stiles’ sister; and so both of them work up a scheme to have a fearless, bad boy in their school (played by Heath Ledger) to ask out Stiles.   Typical of a rom-com, the lead romantic couple “meet cute,” they start to really like each other, then a monkey wrench gets tossed into the situation that can potentially mess everything up.

My most memorable, movie moment of “10 Things I Hate About You” is the scene when Stiles gets up in front of her English class and reads a poem that is basically a list of things she hates about Ledger.  It was the most poignant part of the movie as well as showing the wonderful talent of Stiles.

What sets “10 Things I Hate About You” apart from the typical, teen rom-com are: solid, three-dimensional characters of Ledger, Stiles and Gordon-Levitt; very clever dialogue dished out by Stiles; the two lead characters are very likeable; and the great chemistry between Stiles and Ledger.   It took me almost 20 years to finally see this movie, and now I know why it is so popular.

— M

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Grade B-

Manny’s Movie Musings: Jennifer Aniston plays a single woman whose biological clock is ticking so loudly she decides to use a sperm donor to get pregnant.  Jason Bateman, playing Aniston’s best friend, is horrified at her choice, partly because he is subconsciously in love with her.  During Aniston’s get pregnant ceremony/party, Bateman gets wasted on alcohol and drugs and switches the donor’s sperm for his own.  Aniston moves away to have her baby; and 7 years later, she and her son move back into Bateman’s city.  The boy’s personality is very much that of Bateman, who slowly realizes why that is; and now he has to decide if and when to tell Aniston of his discovery.  My most memorable, movie moment of “The Switch” is the scene when Bateman decides to make the switch because of his drug/alcohol induced accident; and out of desperation, uses an image of Diane Sawyer to help him get his product out.   “The Switch” is a typical, formulaic rom-com, meaning you’ll get exactly what you think, including the ending.  Still, it has its funny moments.

— M

Grade A

 

The life of one man intersects through several pivotal and troubling moments of American history.  Welcome to the very interesting life of “Forrest Gump.”

Playing the extremely likeable, title character is Tom Hanks.  Born slightly “slow” with a crooked back, he will face many challenges as a boy and as an adult.  Despite the mental and physical handicaps, Hanks is blessed with great strength and speed; and a warm and generous heart that will always lead him to where he needs to be.  His God given talents and the love of his life (played by Robin Wright) will see him through school bullies, the Civil Rights march, college, the Vietnam War and the protest against it, the loss of loved ones, and a floundering business venture.  This simple yet extraordinary man will seek his destiny as he goes through life, not knowing that he already fulfills it time and again since he was a child.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Forrest Gump” is the part when Hanks uses his speed and strength to rescue wounded members of his platoon during an ambush in Vietnam.

“Forrest Gump” deserves its place as one of the movies that should be watched before you kick the bucket.  It is funny, sad, uplifting, and very entertaining.

— M

Grade B+

 

Manny’s Movie Musings: Will Smith plays the title role in “Hitch,” a debonair, love guru in Manhattan who helps out men completely lost on how to approach the women of their dreams.  As Smith coaches a lovable klutz (played by Kevin James) into getting his dream girl to take interest in him, Smith meets and becomes very interested in a woman (Evan Mendes) who believes all men are dogs and true love is just a fantasy story.  Although Smith’s experience gives him an edge into breaking Mendes’ mental wall, he will soon discover that the rules he created for himself and his students don’t always apply.  “Hitch” has all the elements of a good romantic-comedy movie: the main characters are likeable and they “meet cute”; things go well until a huge misunderstanding ruins everything; the problems are resolved in a funny and satisfying way by the end of the third act; the secondary characters are adorable and funny to watch; and the main players have great chemistry with each other.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Hitch” is the scene when Smith has an allergic reaction to seafood and his face blows up as if he was stung by a thousand bees!

— M

Grade B

 

River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Jerry O’Connell, and Corey Feldman play best friends in Stephen King’s coming of age story, “Stand By Me.”  In the 1950s, four boys leave their rural town to search for the body of a missing boy who is rumored to be rotting near train tracks.  Their two day adventure will test their bonds of friendship as they encounter a vicious junkyard dog and his owner, killer trains, wild animals roaming at night, leeches, bullies, and of course, themselves.

My most memorable, movie moment is **SPOILER ALERT** the scene when Wheaton points a gun at Kiefer Sutherland.  Sutherland asks if Wheaton is going to shoot him and his whole gang.  Wheaton answers “No, Ace, just you.”

Director Rob Reiner does a good job with this non-horror story from King.  Add to this a very young and talented cast with some breakout performances by Phoenix and Sutherland, and the result is a very entertaining movie in a subgenre that is usually boring and predictable.

— M

Grade B+

 

Lindsay Lohan plays a home schooled teen raised in Africa who is finally going to a regular school.  She will quickly find out that nothing is regular in the High School that she will go to.  The teachers are a bit mentally off; and the students are like a microcosm of the wild animals that Lohan has seen during her African upbringing.   Alone in this teen jungle, Lohan must carefully navigate the numerous cliques of jocks, burnouts, cool Asians, wannabes, nerds, and the powerful “Mean Girls” ruled by Rachel McAdams.

Lohan quickly befriends two outcasts who persuade her to join the mean girls and use whatever secrets they tell Lohan to help bring down the mean girls’ reign of terror.  Lohan reluctantly agrees; but when one wears a mask for a long time, it becomes difficult to distinguish the real face from the mask.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Mean Girls” is the scene when McAdams discovers she has been duped into eating “health” bars that actually makes a person gain weight.  The long scream that came out of her mouth was priceless!

“Mean Girls” flies high above the average teen rom/com/revenge flick because of Tina Fey’s script, Mark Waters’ fine direction, and the good acting of the principal actors.  It’s no wonder this movie has many repeat viewings.

— M

 

Grade B+

Samuel L. Jackson plays the hitman and Ryan Reynolds plays the bodyguard in the action/comedy “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.”  Why would the most feared hitman need a bodyguard?  Because a dictator is on trial for war crimes, and the only one who could incriminate him is Jackson.  Taking Jackson from prison to the courtroom will be a hell of an ordeal, because the dictator has his goons out in force to stop Jackson from testifying.  And that’s where Reynolds comes in…unofficially hired by Interpol to protect and escort Jackson to the trial.  Unfortunately, both men are sworn enemies, and they may kill each other before the bad guys get to them.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is the flashback scene when Jackson meets his future wife (outrageously played by Salma Hayek) for the first time.  It was funny and sexy with an overdose of hyper violence.

“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is loaded with shenanigans; but this is a movie that isn’t meant to be analyzed for story logic.  This is a fun and very funny, graphically violent movie that shines every time Reynolds and Jackson are onscreen together.  Kudos to director Patrick Hughes for adding energy to the story with his slick direction that really complements the script and lead actors.

— M

Grade B+

This adaptation of the Jane Austen novel of the same title stars Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet as two sisters with different personalities who do their best to manage suitors and a much downgraded lifestyle than they were accustomed to.  Thompson is the eldest sister, reserved and growing an attachment to a man who cannot seem to express his intent toward her; and Winslet is the headstrong, passionate sister who rushes into a romantic relationship with a man who is as passionate and lively as she, but spurns the affections of an older, emotionally reserved man.  The secrets of the suitors will eventually be brought to light, and how the sisters handle these secrets will either destroy or uplift them.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Sense And Sensibility” is the scene when Thomson’s love interest tells her the full story of why he did the things he did, and how he wants to proceed in the immediate future.  I realize it’s a bland recounting, but it was done to not spoil what I consider the most dramatic part of the movie.

Everything about this movie is superb…except the running time.  At 136 minutes, parts of Austen’s novel had to be cut and/or trimmed down; and when you do that, it obviously damages the story.  For those who think this adaptation is amazing as it stands, I suggest you watch the near 3 hour BBC version which deserves an A+ rating.

— M

Grade A

From the talented and eccentric mind of Quentin Tarantino, “Django Unchained” is a violent, surreal story of an ex-slave (Jamie Foxx) teaming up with an extremely well-spoken bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to get back the wife of Foxx who was sold to a barbaric slave owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).   This being a Tarantino movie, going from point A to point B is done in an unconventional way which makes it hard for the audience to guess exactly what happens to the main characters (this is a good thing).  Along the journey, we are treated to Tarantino’s style of writing and directing: mimicking some camera movements of the 1970s; copying the look of the film stock of the 1970s; and the rich, expansive, mostly witty  dialogue.

Although Waltz and Foxx are the main characters, it is the relationship between DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson (DiCaprio’s head slave) that is the most interesting.  The roles of master and slave seem to switch back and forth at various times, and I believe many viewers will be very puzzled by this; but it’s really simple — the DiCaprio and Jackson characters go way back, and the decades spent living together obviously led to a mutual respect, trust and love for each other.  They have essentially become father and son.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Django Unchained” is the scene when Foxx is hanging upside down, completely helpless; and one of the bad guys is about to castrate Foxx using a red hot knife!

Tarantino fans won’t be disappointed with this movie, as it has everything you’d expect from a movie written/directed by him.  Although part satire, and therefore cannot be completely taken seriously overall, the movie’s depictions of punishments of slaves are very disturbing; and disturbing people is something Tarantino doesn’t shy away from.

— M

 

Grade A

“Hidden Figures” is based on the true story of three black women who helped in America’s race against the Soviets to put the first man in space and on the moon.  Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae portray three women who work in NASA, fighting not just racism but sexism.  Their weapons of choice in their struggles: their brains and perseverance.

At the start of the movie, the Soviets are beating the U.S. in the race to get a man into outer space.   NASA is in full swing, needing as many human “calculators” as possible since the IBM computers have not been set up yet.  The most intelligent women of the black section of NASA are called in to the front lines to help with calculations and problem solving; and Henson, Spencer, and Monae all rise to the challenge to help put the first American into space and safely get him back to Earth.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Hidden Figures” is the scene when Henson flips out on the all white group she works with regarding her ordeal with having to use the segregated bathrooms half a mile away from her workstation, plus not being able to use the same coffee pot her counterparts are using.   All her work and effort and help…and she is still treated as an inferior human.  This scene was so intense it woke me up and got my adrenaline rushing (it was about 3 a.m. in the morning when this scene came on).

“Hidden Figures” — a title that can be interpreted in two ways: black women who were part of the almost all white workforce of NASA; and the math that needs to be developed for further space travel — is a great movie that shows not only the struggles of blacks, but of women, in a world dominated by white men.  Balancing this out are white, male characters that are open-minded and want only the best on the job, regardless of color or sex.   Tempering the drama are the many comedic moments in “Hidden Figures,” most of which are charming and a few are laugh out loud funny.  You get a bit of history, and a lot of entertainment.

— M

Grade B

After being dumped by her boyfriend, a woman (played by Amy Schumer) goes on vacation with her mother (played by Goldie Hawn) to Ecuador.  Although polar opposites — Schumer is outgoing and ready to drown her sorrows in booze and penis, and Hawn is happy to stay home and feed her cats — there is enough of a bond between mother and daughter to warrant Schumer to cajole Hawn to go with her…and there is the fact that the tickets are non-refundable and no one else wants to go with Schumer.

Not long after landing in the touristy spot of Ecuador, Schumer befriends a handsome local who takes great interest in her despite her craziness.  Too good to be true?  Damn right!  It turns out the local is part of a kidnapping ring; and because Hawn accompanied Schumer on her second date with the guy, it’s a two-for-one kidnap special.   Mother and daughter must find a way to set aside their differences and work together to escape the clutches of the vicious, deadly, and moronic gangsters who have taken them.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Snatched” is the scene when Schumer is being dumped by her boyfriend: it is sad, pitiful, and very funny.  Her pain, our entertainment!

It’s not lost on me that “Snatched” has been torn apart by many viewers.   I gave this movie a shot, and I laughed my ass off.  And that is the bottom line for any comedy, right?  A special mention goes out to actor Ike Barinholtz, who stole the show playing Schumer’s agoraphobic, mildly retarded and slightly insane brother.

— M

Grade B +

Manny’s Movie Musings: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star in “Shaun Of The Dead,” a British comedy/horror about two best friends who are caught in the middle of a zombie apocalypse in their hometown.  First order of business, find a way to rescue Pegg’s mom and ex-girlfriend, then head to a secure place: The Winchester Pub!  But as everyone knows, there’s what you plan for, and there’s what really happens.  Fans of British comedies and zombie flicks will love this great collaboration of the two genres, giving its core audience lots of funny jokes, zombie action and gore, silliness, and a few well acted scenes of drama.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Shaun Of The Dead” is the scene when Pegg’s group runs into another group of survivors led by Pegg’s friend; and both groups are nearly identical!

— M

Grade B

Josh Gad provides the voice for the main character in “A Dog’s Purpose,” a dog who keeps getting reincarnated, each time getting closer to the purpose of his existence as he keeps coming back.  Most of Gad’s story is spent living in the mostly happy home of a boy, forming a very close bond with him and creating the core emotions of Gad.  Through his deaths and reincarnations (some of the death sequences can be painful to watch for any dog owner who had their companions die in their arms), Gad enjoys the beauty of life and suffers the brutality of it; but eventually he will cross paths with the owner whom he loved the most, and he will finally discover his purpose.

My most memorable, movie moment of “A Dog’s Purpose” is the sequence of Gad being chained up in the front yard of uncaring owners for years until he is abandoned.

“A Dog’s Purpose” can be corny at times, but for dog lovers who also enjoy comedy and drama and rom-coms, this movie is definitely for us.

— M

Grade B +

From the mind of comedian Jordan Peele comes “Get Out,” a story of a black man (played by Daniel Kaluuya) who visits his white girlfriend’s (played by Allison Williams) family in the suburbs and slowly finds out that things are very, very off with her family and servants.

Everything is ok at first: the parents are all smiles and greet Kaluuya with hugs; the father mentions how he would have loved to vote for Obama a third time; the father using various slang to show he’s hip and down with the Negroes, etc.  Then Kaluuya notices the odd behavior of the black servants; the thinly veiled, racist remarks of Williams’ drunk brother; plus a weird dream of Kaluuya being hypnotized by Williams’ mother.  And this is just the start of Kaluuya’s long nightmare that will have him fighting for his sanity and life as the full secret of his girlfriend’s family is slowly unraveled.

My most memorable, movie moment is the scene when Kaluuya is told of the family secrets and the heinous plan of what is to be done to him.

“Get Out” is not just a very good suspense/thriller, it is also loaded with social commentary that are insightful, funny, and infuriating.  Examples: a black man’s worry of being caught in a rich, white neighborhood at night; the troubles that black men have to deal with when dating white women; white liberals who are constantly giving examples of how they are not bigots; the physical superiority of black men over white men; the mental superiority of white men over black men; and how trendy it is now to be black, as if the color of skin is some kind of accessory to flaunt.

The subject of race relations is a touchy one, and those who are overly sensitive may want to steer away from this movie.  Everyone else, jump in and watch the movie and have a laugh.  “Get Out” is, after all, a satire.

— M

Grade C+

Dakota Johnson stars in “How To Be Single,” playing a young woman on a break from her boyfriend as she starts a new life in NYC.  She’s on a quest to find herself, to have more adventures, to see what else is out there besides her ex and what he has to offer.  With the help of a wild co-worker played by Rebel Wilson, Johnson gets what she wished for, and all the bad things that go with being single (creepy guys, closed off guys, the lack of true intimacy and connection, etc.).

My most memorable, movie moment of “How To Be Single” is the scene when the new fiancée of one of the main characters is going psycho on the bartender character.  It’s one of the funniest scenes — and the most creepy — of the movie.

Had this movie focused on just Johnson’s and Wilson’s characters, I think it would have been a better movie; but three more characters are given a lot of screen time (a bartender; a nutty online dater; and a doctor).  Then there is the unnecessary scene at the end of the movie  involving a minor character and his daughter that derails the focus off Johnson even more!  With so many characters being juggled, it takes a laser focus and great talent of a screenwriter to make all this work…and it doesn’t, it doesn’t work.  Although there are some good laughs to be had throughout the movie, it’s not enough to save this movie from the realm of mediocrity.

— M

B+

From the mind of J.K. Rowling comes “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them,” an amazing tale of the adventures of a young wizard (perfectly played by Eddie Redmayne) who goes to NYC in the 1920s in order to retrieve and find homes for fantastic, magical beasts that would otherwise be destroyed by the wizarding community.

Redmayne will face many serious hurdles during his mission: not knowing how to navigate NYC (specifically Manhattan); being unfamiliar with the rules of the wizard community in NY; both wizards and non-wizards fearing the fantastic beasts and wanting them destroyed; and the wizarding community not sanctioning his search, capture, and release (into safe zones) of the beasts.

A larger threat is a powerful force that wreaks destruction and death in NYC, threatening to unveil the wizarding world to the normal humans.  A fantastic, magical beast is blamed; and Redmayne has little time left to prove to the wizards that the cause of the mayhem is some other, supernatural force.  If Redmayne fails at what he must do, a war between normal humans and wizards may erupt; and all the fantastic beasts in Redmayne’s care will be destroyed.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them” is the scene when **SPOILER ALERT** Redmayne and his wizard friend/love interest are sentenced to death, and we see the manner in which the execution is carried out.  The executioners mention that it won’t hurt, but I think it will!

“FBAWTFT” was much better than I anticipated, and it is a very good companion piece to the “Harry Potter” movies.  But it does suffer from two huge plot holes — or shenanigans, as I like to call it — that cannot be easily dismissed.  The wizards have the power to reverse any damage to property, and remove memories of magical experiences by normal humans.  In addition, the wizards can wreak such havoc upon the world and there is very little that the normal humans can do about it.  One wizard can probably destroy a small country in a day.  So why do the wizards fear having their existence revealed, and some possible war against the normal humans happening?

— M

Grade A-

In a “Zootopia” type world, a broke Koala (played by Matthew McConaughey) runs a broken down theater and gets the bright idea to hold a singing contest to generate interest in his failing business.  The prize: $1,000 (mostly in trinkets that comprise McConaughey’s meager possessions).  But his secretary, an old Chameleon (the funniest character in “Sing”), accidentally prints out fliers that says the prize is $100,000, and before the mistake is found, the fliers spread throughout the city of…ummm…the city of “Sing.”

Among the hopeful contestants are: a shy, teenage elephant; a mother of dozens of piglets; a porcupine trying to make it as a solo act; a sleazy mouse (or small rat); and a young gorilla who is looking for another life beyond what his gangster father is offering.  Together, they will endure hardships and craziness that will either bring their lives up or have them crashing back down to their bleak existence.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Sing” is the funny and heartbreaking scene of McConaughey washing cars for money.  Stripping down to his underwear, he soaks up car wash soap into his fur and writhes against a car, removing not only dirt but every ounce of his pride and self-respect.

“Sing” is a movie the entire family will like.  It’s not one of the best animated movies (roughly half of the jokes are a bit lame), but it does offer memorable covers of famous songs and enough fun to be enjoyable.

— M

Grade B +

Based on a true story — in Hollywood speak, that means about 25% is true (and I’m being very generous here) —  “War Dogs” is about two young guys from Miami who sold weapons to the U.S. military despite having no business doing so.  Going after the smaller contracts that are peanuts to the Pentagon but worth hundreds of thousands to the young dudes (played by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller), their rocky, sometimes hilarious and dangerous foray into gun running bring riches and a feeling of invincibility, a combination that can be lethal.

Greed and more greed puts Hill and Teller into the dirtiest realms of their business, where they will be in the crosshairs of gangsters, the U.S. government, and each other.

My most memorable, movie moment is the scene when Hill is trying to buy weed from a bunch of thugs.  After paying, the thugs pretend not to know what Hill is talking about and refuse to give him his drugs.  Hill laughs, calmly walks to his car, removes a submachine-gun from his trunk, and fires off about a dozen rounds in full auto into the air, sending the thugs scurrying away like cockroaches!

“War Dogs” has the same feel as “Pain & Gain” and “The Wolf Of Wall Street.”  The pacing moderately fast, some of the scenes are over the top and outrageous, the tone constantly changes from comedic to serious to scary…overall it has a somewhat hazy, drug-induced, dream quality to it.  This would be a great movie for guys to watch while high on drugs or alcohol.

— M

Grade B +

Manny’s Movie Musings: Mila Kunis plays an overburdened and stressed mother/wife who has had it with her bratty kids, lazy and cheating husband, a jerk of a boss, and the de facto leader (played by Christina Applegate) of the school that Kunis’ kids attends.   So one day she decides to no longer put in 100% all day every day, instead being satisfied with just getting by; and laying down the law with all those who have abused her and taken her for granted for so long.   What follows is a revelation that no mom is perfect, and it’s okay as long as one loves their children and teaches them to be good people.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Bad Moms” is the scene when Kristen Bell, who plays a mousy mom, finally stands up to her hubby and yells “And I said, I’m going to the fucking PTA meeting with my fucking friends, so stop being such a goddamn pussy and make it work!”  Oh!  Oh!  Ha ha!  “Bad Moms” is a hilarious movie that isn’t just for women, but for anyone who likes irreverent comedies with a lot of heart.

— M

Grade B

Manny’s Movie Musings: Better than I expected, “Be Somebody” is about a famous pop singer (played by Matthew Espinosa) who “escapes” his mom/manager and assorted handlers for a few days and lives the life of a regular teenager in a small town.  He meets a hardworking, talented, down to earth girl (played by Sarah Jeffery); and despite their lives being complete opposites, they hit it off and become friends quickly.   Of course, there is more than a friendly spark between them; but he cannot stay in her world and she cannot be in his world.  If a fine balance isn’t met, then their budding romance is doomed from the start.  “Be Somebody” is not the typical teen movie.  Yes, it has a few cliches; but it also leans toward the melodramatic and serious side, and most of the scenes involve just Espinosa and Jeffery.  This is a movie older teens will appreciate and find refreshing, I think.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Be Somebody” is the scene when Jeffery lets Espinosa in her car so he can avoid a few teen girls who are chasing him.   Completely unbelievable, as she has no idea who he is; and therefore is letting a stranger in her car at night.  Still, it was a cute scene.

— M

Grade B

Manny’s Movie Musings: “G.B.F.” stands for Gay Best Friend.  Michael J. Willett plays a gay, High School student who is still in the closet; his life is turned upside down when he is accidentally outed, and his celebrity status in school quickly rises when the top 3 “it” girls vies for his attention so that each one can claim him as a GBF (purely to increase the cool status of the girls).   Willett goes along for the ride, as the three girls give him protection from all the ignorant hate; but he risks losing who he really is in his mad scramble to be the most coveted accessory to the cool kids.  What sets “G.B.F.” apart from the typical teen comedies is the sharp, wickedly funny, one-liners that come at you non-stop.  My most memorable, movie moment is the scene when a character played by Andrea Bowen is talking about sex acts using acronyms: for example, “hj,” “bj,” and “rj.”  If you don’t know what they are, you’re too young for me to explain them!

Grade B-

Manny’s Movie Musings: Brittany Snow plays a woman who is in desperate need of financial help because she is caring for her brother who is dying and needs a bone marrow transplant.  Enter the always interesting Jeffrey Combs, who plays a rich man who invites Snow for a dinner and a game; and whoever is the last person standing gets all the help they ever dreamed of.  The game, of course, is  “would you rather do this, or would you rather do that?”  Both alternatives are horrible, and the players are not told that once the game starts, there’s no going back.  Winner takes all, the rest die in horrible ways.  “Would You Rather” is a good example of “torture porn.”  It is gory, it makes you cringe — unless you’re a sadist — and, believe it or not, I think it’s part comedy.  If seen purely as a horror flick, then it’s an “eh” movie; but if seen as a comedy/horror, then this movie works better than most people give it credit for.  Look: if you think of a Toyota Corolla as a race car, then you’d think it was the suckiest race car of all time; but if you look at that car as a basic, daily driver to take you grocery shopping and back and forth to work, then it’s a pretty damn good car.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Would You Rather” is the scene when a player is given the choice of holding his breath under water for 2 minutes, or slicing one of his eyes with a razor blade.  Yikes!

— M

Grade C +

Manny’s Movie Musings: “After The Ball” is an interesting retelling of the “Cinderella” story.  It stars Portia Doubleday as the “Cinderella” character, applying for and getting the job as the newest clothes designer for her father’s company…but Doubleday does it as a man.   In her disguise as an effeminate, gay guy, Doubleday creates designs that would hopefully take her father’s company out of mediocrity and bring it back to its former glory days.  But a conniving, mean step-mother and two step-sisters won’t make things easy for our heroine.   “After The Ball” has all the elements of an entertaining Rom-Com (boy and girl meet cute, boy loses girl, boy gets girl, eccentric characters, some heart-felt moments, good laughs here and there), but there’s nothing special about it.  What could have been an original twist on the fairy tale becomes a rehash of “Tootsie” and “The Secret Of My Success.”   My most memorable, movie moment is the first scene when Doubleday appears as a man — it’s astonishing how well she pulls it off.

— M

Grade B+

For the sake of transparency, I have to state that the “Entourage” series on HBO is my favorite series of all time, so I may be a bit positively biased on the movie “Entourage.”

Now that I got that out of the way, “Entourage” (the movie) continues the adventures of four guys from Queens, NYC, in Hollywood where most of them have hit the big time.  Adrian Grenier plays the A-list movie star; Kevin Connolly plays his manager; Kevin Dillon is Grenier’s brother/chef/B-list actor; and Jerry Ferrara is a Tequila business millionaire…and Grenier’s driver.   And let’s not forget Grenier’s once agent and now studio head who is played by Jeremy Piven.

There is enough drama here for all the main players.  Grenier is finishing up a movie that he directed and is way over budget.  Connolly is trying to get back with his ex-wife who is about to give birth to their son; but two women he slept with on the same day will sideline him on his way back into his ex’s heart.  Ferrara has the hots for MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, and a misunderstanding may cost Ferrara a body part.  Dillon is desperate to achieve A-list status; but one of the financiers (played by a creepy Haley Joel Osment) backing the movie that Dillon is in wants him cut out of it.  And the ever high strung Piven is even more stressed due to greenlighting Grenier’s over-budget movie and trying to come up with more money so the movie can be finished.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Entourage” is the scene when TMZ reveals a video of Dillon’s character masturbating during cybersex!

Fans of the show will love this movie.  Many of the characters from the 8 seasons of the show are here.  Doug Ellin (creator of the show) directed and wrote the movie so the movie feels just like the show (fast paced, manic, multiple crises happening, jokes everywhere (most of them work), lots of beautiful women, celebrity cameos every two minutes, and of course, the heart of the story: the bond/friendship/loyalty of the four guys from Queens and former super agent Piven).  If the story ends here, I will be satisfied with that and give Ellin a huge pat on the back for creating a series and a movie that has given me so much joy.  Of course, I’m hoping for another movie.

— M

Grade C+

Manny’s Movie Musings: a quirky, mystery/suspense/thriller/comedy that stars Morgana O’Reilly as a criminal under house arrest — her mom’s house!  Angry that she has to be in her estranged mother’s and stepfather’s old, creepy house, O’Reilly sulks and grunts, eats like a pig, drinks like a sailor, and contributes nothing to the family.  But as memories come back of a ghost that supposedly haunts the large house, O’Reilly starts to see and hear things that will make her a true believer.  Working with her parents and her parole officer, O’Reilly will try to solve the mystery of the ghost and what it wants from her.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Housebound”: O’Reilly sitting on a toilet peeing, and we hear her urine streaming into the toilet water.  She hears a noise…her peeing stops; noise stops…she continues to pee; another weird noise near the bathroom…she stops peeing; the weird noise disappears, and we hear her peeing again.  Toilet humor, literally!

— M

Grade D+

Manny’s Movie Musings: A watchable, campy, direct to video, zombie movie with enough action and gore to keep one from turning off this movie before it ends…unless you have something better to do.  “Dead Rising: Watchtower” stars Jesse Metcalfe as a reporter who finds himself on the wrong side of a quarantine wall after a zombie outbreak.  Trapped in a city that is about to be firebombed by the military, Metcalfe discovers a conspiracy regarding the outbreak that can both save and kill him.  A surprisingly poignant scene involves Virginia Madsen’s character who finally finds her zombie daughter — she kneels down, opens her arms, and happily gives herself to her daughter…there is no pain, no fear, just complete joy from Madsen who just wants to be with her child…a memorable scene in an otherwise forgettable movie.

— M

Grade A

Outrageous!  Ridiculous!  Hilarious!  Highly entertaining!

Ryan Reynolds stars as a hired thug with a heart of gold.  His life of being a poor man’s “Equalizer” is turned upside down (for the better) when he falls in love with a woman (played by Morena Baccarin) who is in every way his soulmate.  Of course, life hits Reynolds in the groin when he is at his happiest moment: he is diagnosed with cancer.

The normally fast-talking, smart-ass Reynolds is devastated, mostly because of his fear of losing Baccarin and what his condition will do to her.  Then one night, a creepy looking man tells Reynolds that he can be part of an experimental program that will cure his cancer.  Desperate, Reynolds agrees.  Taken to a dungeon-like environment and strapped down, Reynolds understands too late what he is in for.  He is injected with chemicals that will try to unlock his latent mutant genes — assuming he has any — and then he’ll be subjected to non-stop torture in order for the stress to trigger his mutation.

The long, painful experiment is a success…so to speak.  Reynolds does become a mutant with powers to regenerate damaged tissue; but his skin has turned into something that resembles third degree burns. He is also a prisoner, and is threatened with having his mind altered so he can be controlled and sold as a slave to the highest bidder.

Torture and slavery not being part of his life goals, Reynolds escapes, puts on a suit to hide his identity and hideous face, takes on the name of “Deadpool,” and goes on a savage hunt to find those responsible for his freakish transformation.  But his ultimate goal is to force the bad guys to turn him back into a regular human so he can continue his life with Baccarin.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Deadpool” is the scene when Reynolds fights Colossus, an X-Men member with the power to turn his body into metal.  Reynolds hits Colossus with one hand and he breaks his hand!  He hits Colossus with his other hand and breaks that too!  Then Reynolds kicks Colossus and…yup, you guessed it: he breaks his foot!  Hopping around in pain with both hands and one foot broken, Reynolds kicks Colossus with his good foot and breaks that one too!  As I was trying to catch my breath while laughing my ass off, I wondered what the hell was wrong with Reynolds!  Then I figured it out: Reynolds just does not give up.

Parents: be warned, “Deadpool” deserves its R rating.  There is a lot of cursing and sex in this movie.  Oh, and lots of bloody violence.  Keep the kiddies away from this one.  For the adults: if you enjoyed “Ant-Man” and “Zack And Miri Make A Porno,” you’ll love “Deadpool” as it has many elements of those two movies.  The writers of “Deadpool” took a big chance on having Reynolds talk to the audience and make lots of movie references and insider jokes about filmmaking and celebrity; but the gamble paid off.  Instead of taking me out of the movie, I got more involved with it (I’m old enough to know all of Reynolds’ movie reference jokes) and it endeared me toward the Deadpool character — I wanted this guy to win; and judging by the box office receipts, so did many people.

Yes, Maximus, I was very much entertained.  I will see this movie again; but not yet…not yet.

— M

Grade C +

The worst adaptation I’ve seen of a Jane Austen story.

Kate Beckinsale plays a widow who has a talent for manipulating people.  With no source of income, she is dependent on the good will of her friends and relatives to keep her and her young daughter from being homeless.  But instead of being humble and grateful, Beckinsale retains her pompous, superior attitude; and too often insults her benefactors openly or behind their backs.  Knowing that she can’t live on the good graces of her friends and relatives forever, Beckinsale spins her spider’s web and attempts to marry off her daughter to a rich man who is kind, dimwitted, and suffers from diarrhea of the mouth.  Adding to the drama is the daughter’s refusal to marry the man, despite Beckinsale’s warnings of what a woman must deal with if she is poor.

There are other complications, of course, and many, many characters in “Love And Friendship” — this is an Austen based movie, after all.  But the running time of 1 hour and 32 minutes should be a red flag to all fans of movies based on the writings of Austen.  With such little time given to tell the story, the fillmakers are forced to rush the story…and it shows, especially in the first few minutes when the audience is force-fed the names of a dozen characters and how they relate to each other.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Love & Friendship” is the scene when the rich, dimwitted man introduces himself to Beckinsale’s relations.  He moves like a hyper child, prattling on almost incoherently as his scatterbrain tries to focus on the conversation at hand, producing the funniest part of the movie.

Compared to the brilliant BBC productions of “Pride And Prejudice” and “Sense And Sensibility,” “Love & Friendship” feels half-baked.  It’s like eating a poorly cooked, 5 pound steak in 15 minutes.  The fine acting did save this movie from a much lower grade — I wanted to make that clear as the actors were not the ones at fault for how disappointing this movie turned out.

–M

Grade A

An allegory about human prejudice, xenophobia, and making our hopes and dreams come true so we can be more than what we are, “Zootopia” is a city in a world where animals have evolved to live in peace with each other.  Predator or prey, large or small, animals no longer have to live their lives based on what they are.   Anyone can be anything as long as they work hard…or at least that’s what the ideals are.  What we see is a bit more…complicated.

“Zootopia” stars Ginnifer Goodwin as the voice of a female, rabbit, police officer who searches for a missing otter.  Difficulties abound in her search because no one takes her seriously.  Her fellow cops believe she is a joke — after all, how can a small rabbit, and a female rabbit at that — effectively do a dangerous, physical job of law enforcement?  But what the other animals don’t see and recognize are Goodwin’s intelligence, never give up attitude, and courage that would put a lion to shame.  With only a sly, hustling fox (voiced by Jason Bateman) as her ally, they search for the missing otter and discover a conspiracy that seeks to destroy the peace between predator and prey animals.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Goodwin, still a bunny, stands up to a bully who happens to be a fox.  The scene may be too intense for very little kids, but it’s a great set up to show the audience what Goodwin is made of.

Another memorable moment of “Zootopia” is the scene when Goodwin tells reporters that some predator animals in the city are becoming feral probably because it is in their nature to be that way.  They can’t help it, they are just born that way.  What a great scene.  Here is a character who has faced prejudice all her life, and now she’s spewing out the same, hurtful things, not realizing that she also harbors some of the ignorant views that she has seen in so many others.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Zootopia” is the scene at the Department of Motor Vehicles, where all the workers are Sloths!  Funny and brilliant!

Once again, Disney has hit a home run, giving us a very entertaining movie (with a lead character that is the cutest Disney had created in decades) that the entire family can enjoy, with the adults probably appreciating the more serious aspects of the movie.

— M

Grade D+

Ten stories in one movie that takes place in one neighborhood during Halloween!  Wow, sounds like a great deal, right?  Wrong!  With a running time of about 90 minutes, including credits, that’s about 8 minutes per story.  There is just no time to set up the stories so that the audience will care for what happens to the characters.  “Tales Of Halloween” is just an orgy of gory deaths that sometimes has a surprise ending that is amusing.  And the special effects isn’t much better than what was seen in the “Tales From The Darkside” t.v. show decades ago.  Almost every story has so many shenanigans that they cannot be taken seriously, further disengaging the audience from the movie.  This is not horror, but comedy; and even as such, it is a failure.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Tales Of Halloween” is the scene when a little alien with a little bag for his Halloween candy keeps saying, “twick or tweet!”  It was a cute, little critter and it made me laugh.

This movie is to be avoided by horror fans, unless you want something silly and gory to watch with your friends as you get drunk and catch up on your lives.

No, Maximus, I was not entertained!

— M

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