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Hotel Transylvania 2

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Some time after the first film, Mavis (Selena Gomez) and her new fiancé Johnny (Andy Samberg) are finally married, with the approval of her father Dracula (Adam Sandler), and the world becomes aware of (and unfazed by) the existence of monsters. Mavis later reveals to Drac that she is pregnant and a year later, she gives birth to a baby boy named Dennis (Asher Blinkoff), who later befriends Wayne’s daughter Winnie (Sadie Sandler). Nearing his fifth birthday, Dennis has yet to grow his fangs and Drac worries that his grandson might not gain vampire powers. Noticing the dangers of Transylvania, Mavis starts to consider raising Dennis where Johnny grew up, much to Drac’s disapproval.

Drac tells Johnny (who doesn’t want to leave the hotel either) to bring Mavis to California to visit the in-laws, Mike (Nick Offerman) and Linda (Megan Mullally), but to make sure to keep her distracted so that she will not move, leaving Drac to “babysit” Dennis. Drac enlists his friends, Frank (Kevin James), Wayne the Werewolf (Steve Buscemi), Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade), Murray the Mummy (Keegan-Michael Key) and Blobby the Blob (Jonny Solomon) to help train Dennis to become a monster, to no avail. Drac takes Dennis to his childhood summer camp, Camp Winnepacaca, where he learned to hone his vampire abilities, and discovers that the camp is safer than it was when he went there. Drac stubbornly believes Dennis is a “late fanger”, so he hurls Dennis from a tall, unstable tower to pressure the boy’s transformation into a bat. Dennis does not transform, and Drac has to fly and rescue him at the last second. The stunt is filmed by the campers and uploaded to the internet, which eventually reaches Mavis and Johnny. Mavis angrily transforms into a bat to fly her and Johnny back to Transylvania. Drac and his friends reach the hotel a couple of seconds after Mavis. She confronts her father for putting Dennis in grave danger and his inability to accept that he is human. She states she will move out of the hotel after Dennis’ fifth birthday the following Wednesday. Drac hangs his head with deep guilt.

Mavis invites Vlad (Mel Brooks), her grandfather and Drac’s father, to Dennis’ birthday party. As Vlad is much worse than he was when it comes to humans, Drac tells Johnny to have the human party-goers disguise themselves as monsters. Vlad receives the invitation and arrives with his monstrous bat-like servant Bela (Rob Riggle) to meet his great-grandson for the first time. Meeting him, he believes that fear will cause Dennis’ fangs to sprout and possesses a stage performer dressed as Dennis’s favorite television monster, “Kakie the Cake Monster,” to scare Dennis, but Drac shields his grandson at the last moment and exposes the deception to Vlad, who is outraged that Drac has accepted humans as guests in his hotel. Drac confronts his father about how humans are different now.

Mavis becomes upset with her grandfather’s behavior (regretting inviting him to Dennis’s birthday party) and while the family argues, Dennis sadly flees the hotel (followed by Bela) and enters the forest with Winnie in tow, hiding in her treehouse, but they are attacked by Bela, who mistakes Dennis for a human. When Bela injures Winnie and threatens to destroy the hotel, Dennis’ anger causes him to instantly grow his fangs and his vampire abilities manifest. He begins to fight Bela, who calls his giant-bat minions. Drac, Mavis, Dennis, Johnny, the rest of the monsters and (some of) Johnny’s family team up to defeat his minions as Vlad watches. A livid Bela then attempts to kill Johnny himself with a stake, but Vlad appears and shrinks him to a harmless size telling him never to come near him and his family again. This allows the Werewolf Kids to lick him nonstop.

With Dennis having vampire abilities, Mavis and Johnny continue to raise him in Transylvania, and they resume the party with his friends

REVIEW:

Adam Sandler’s movies haven’t been doing very well lately, with the exception of Hotel Transylvania (which he only has a voice acting part in). The first film was somewhat of a surprise hit which, of course, means there has to be Hotel Transylvania 2, right? I’m so sick of sequels, prequels, threequels, etc., but I digress. I’m sure this will be worth my time, right?

What is this about?

In this batty animated sequel, high jinks and hilarity ensue when Vlad, Dracula’s cranky estranged dad, arrives at Hotel Transylvania for an unexpected visit — and promptly creates an uproar.

What did I like?

Hanging with the guys. As with almost all of Adam Sandler’s movies, he makes sure to cast his buddies. This is no exception, but the difference is we get to see them actually act as if they are lifelong friends. The last time we saw that from Sandler and co. may have been Grown Ups.

Vlad. Let’s see, Dracula is Jewish comedic legend (whether we want to admit it or not), so his father would have to be an even bigger Jewish comedic legend. How about Mel Brooks? Yes, they cast Brooks as Vlad and he does not disappoint. First, he shows why he has been in the funny business all these years by having a comedic standoff with Sandler and then, we see the grumpy, human hating, all powerful father of vampires. In the short time he is on screen, we get a nice layering of the character that really pays off the build up they gave him early on in the film.

Parks and Rec. The human parents are total opposite of Dracula. Serious and non-flinching, they make you wonder how they even had their son, who doesn’t seem to fit in with them, either. Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly reunite (after many episodes avoiding each other on Parks and Recreation) and give us the tranquil ripples in this maelstrom of madness.

What didn’t I like?

Like father, like son. In the first film, I was not a fan of Andy Samberg’s character. This annoying human who somehow stumbled into a monster hotel nearly ruined the entire film for me. His son, while not as annoying, seems to have the same effect in the sequel. This kid is nothing more than a mop of bright orange hair that always needs saving and talk in such a way that we’re supposed to think him cute. I didn’t.

Tentacle monster. With all the monsters at the hotel, you would think we wouldn’t hear/see about any others, right? Well, lo and behold, out of nowhere (and in a normal, human neighborhood, mind you) we come across a tentacle monster that is married to a human woman, but everyone goes about their business as if nothing happened. How is this thing just up and running around town? I just don’t get it!

Worry too much. Mavis is a great character…at least she was in the first film. There was development, depth, and a touch of human to her that we all could relate to. This go around, she has been reduced to having nothing else to do but worry about her kid. I understand that is what mother’s do, but seriously, they could have given her something…anything else besides spending all her undead life doing things for her annoying kid…and don’t get me started on that little freak out over the camp video!

Final verdict on Hotel Transylvania 2? This is a valiant attempt to recreate the magic of the first film. IT actually comes quite close, but the failure here comes when the writers decided to use more kid humor or more adult humor, rather than finding a happy medium that all could enjoy. That being said, this is still a highly enjoyable film and better than most pictures out there. Do I recommend it? Yes, I do.

4 out of 5 stars

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Grown Ups 2

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Three years after the events of the first film, Lenny Feder has relocated his family back to his Connecticut hometown where he and his friends grew up.

In the film’s opening in the Feder household, Lenny wakes up to find a wild deer standing next to his bed. Upon waking up, his wife Roxanne startles the deer, causing it to urinate all over their home. Eventually, Lenny is able to get the deer out of the house just in time to take his children Greg, Keith, and Becky to their last day of school. Roxanne brings up the idea of their family having another baby, but Lenny says their family is perfect as is, upsetting Roxanne.

At the Lamonsoff household, Eric Lamonsoff and his wife Sally are at odds with each other over how to raise their children- Sally believes in unwavering support while Eric prefers to be more practical with them. At the McKenzie household, Kurt surprises his wife Deanne with a thoughtful anniversary present, only to find that she has completely forgotten. Meanwhile, Marcus Higgins is waiting at a train station after receiving a letter from an old girlfriend, who tells him that he has a seventeen-year-old son Braden. Marcus is stunned to see a tattooed, six-foot-tall boy, who turns out to be Braden. Marcus tries to be nice and takes him to school, but Braden shows an immediate dislike toward him.

After dropping off their kids, Lenny, Eric, Kurt, and Marcus spend the day roaming around town, reminiscing about the amazing summers they used to have when they were kids and Lenny’s childhood bully, Tommy Cavanaugh. Lenny argues that he could take Tommy as a kid and he can still take him. Eventually, the friends go to see Becky’s ballet recital, where Lenny runs into Tommy, whom Lenny is visibly terrified of. Tommy threatens that if Lenny ever lies again about being able to beat him up, he’ll publicly beat Lenny up.

Once the kids are out of school, Lenny, Eric, Kurt, and Marcus decide to visit the old quarry, where they used to swim as kids. There they run into a bunch of partying frat boys who force them to jump into the quarry naked. Braden who was partying with the frat boys, witnesses this and goes off to vandalize their frat house. When the frat boys return, they swear to take revenge.

Lenny arrives home to help Roxanne set up for a 1980s-themed party for their friends. Meanwhile, Marcus begins to bond with Braden, who realizes he was wrong about his father. As all of their friends begin to arrive, Roxanne urges Lenny to consider having another baby. Lenny continues to protest the idea and is left dumbfounded when Roxanne reveals that she is pregnant. Lenny, feeling overwhelmed by this discovery, goes off to drink with his friends. The Feder’s party goes well most of the night until Tommy Cavanaugh shows up and disrespects Lenny in front of everyone, so Lenny challenges Tommy to a fight. In a surprising turn, Tommy decides to take a dive so that Lenny can look tough for his kids, and the two develop a mutual respect. Soon after, the angry frat boys arrive at the house looking for retribution for the damage to their frat house. They go on to insult the local town residents, inciting a fight. The locals hold their own against the frat boys and eventually send them running away defeated.

After all the commotion dies down, the four friends have pancakes at Eric’s mom’s house. Mrs. Lamonsoff reassures Lenny that a new baby is a wonderful thing and eventually he will never be able to imagine life with just three kids. Lenny has a change of heart and returns home, telling Roxanne he is sorry and excited about the new baby, and they reconcile

REVIEW:

I think I was one of the handful of people who actually liked Grown Ups. Even so, I wasn’t clamoring for a sequel. Nonetheless, the gang got back together and we have Grown Ups 2, but do we really need it?

What is this about?

After moving his family back to his hometown, Hollywood talent agent Lenny Feder and his grown-up childhood friends learn lessons from their kids — and some of the locals — on the last day of school.

What did I like?

Shaq. Say what you will about Shaquille O’Neal, he knows how to have fun with his image. Comedic roles like this are the kind of things he should be taking, rather than the serious stuff like he started with in Blue Chips or the failed superhero experiment, Steel, and let’s not bring up some of his other failed films. Here, Shaq is a big cop and, despite his size, he appears to be just one of the guys. I have to mention that when he first appears, I couldn’t help but think of Hightower from the Police Academy movies.

Wives. I think I mentioned this in the last film, but I’m going to say it again. How in the bloody blue hell can these schlubs end up with these super hot wives?!? If ever there was proof that Sandler’s films were nothing more than his fantasies, this is it. Hey, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dreamed of waking up next to Salma Hayek.

Buck. We open the film with a deer in the house. Apparently, I missed the memo where you must have an animal in your opening scene, because this is the second film that does so. The other being The Hangover part III. Now, the insanity that ensued with this buck was actually quite funny, even the pissing, but what really made this something worth mentioning is that it wasn’t a forgotten device. They brought it back in the end (still wearing Salma Hayek’s bra on its antlers), which made it make sense and not a one-off something or other.

What didn’t I like?

Ad-lib. The previous film felt like it had a plot. This one seems like it was just Adam Sandler wanting to get together with his friends and make a movie. I have no problem with that. I even sort of liked that it felt natural and not scripted. However, all the subplots that were going on and the drastic shift in production value, for lack of a better term, from the first film made this film not work as anything more than just a series of vignettes, none of which ended up being funny. No wonder Rob Schneider didn’t come back.

Humpty dance. What in the world was going on with the Fluzoo’s and their noses. Not Shaq and Tim Meadows, mind you, but rather Ellen Cleghorne and the son. If you can remember back in the day, there was this rapper known as Humpty Hump who had this plastic nose he would wear. Maybe it was just the way they were lighted, but they both seemed to have Humpty’s nose, and I don’t really know why, unless it was supposed to be for comedic effect, which fell flat.

Tropes. I’m a fan of Adam Sandler’s movies, but he really needs to step out of his comfort zone, because these things are just getting predictable now. For instance, you know he’s going to have the usual supporting cast, at least 2 or 3 of his buddies from Saturday Night Live, a couple of super hot chicks, one of which he is married to, gay and fart jokes, something to do with his being Jewish, and the 80s. A few films escape this formula, The Waterboy, for instance, but most of them use the same thing, and it is starting to wear thin on even me.

I find it ironic that this film is called Grown Ups 2, when they aren’t really acting like grown ups. They were more grown up the first time around. I was expecting to love this film as much, if not more than the first, but instead, Sandler pulls this crap out of his ass. There are a few redeeming qualities for this film, but this is one of those flicks that is best watched at a party with lots, and I do mean LOTS, of alcohol!

2 3/4 out of 5 stars

Here Comes the Boom

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Former collegiate wrestler Scott Voss (Kevin James) is a 42-year-old bored biology teacher at the failing Wilkinson High School. Budget cutbacks at the school jeopardize the continuation of its music program, which would result in its teacher, Marty (Henry Winkler), being laid off. Concerned for both his colleague and his students, Voss attempts to raise the $48,000 necessary to keep the music program alive. At first, he works as a night instructor for a citizenship class. One of his students, Niko (Bas Rutten), approaches him to get some outside tutoring and Voss reluctantly agrees. When he arrives at Niko’s apartment, he realizes that Niko was a former mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter. While watching UFC at Niko’s apartment, Voss learns that the loser of the fight receives $10,000, which gives him the idea of raising the money by fighting in MMA himself. Voss then begins fighting in small MMA fights and gradually gaining more and more money for the school.

Voss eventually gets a dinner date with Bella Flores (Salma Hayek), and they share many moments together showing much affection for each other. Voss then gets an offer to fight at the UFC, but Niko turns it down for Scott. When Scott angrily confronts Niko, Niko states that he was sorry and that the only reason he turned it down was because he was jealous because Niko himself was asked to fight at the UFC and eagerly accepted, but while he was training, he hurt his neck and that was it for him. They both go back and accept the offer. He then learns that he can get $ 50,000 if he wins the fight, so he takes the risk. Voss and his crew travel to the MGM Grand Las Vegas for the UFC event.

The event turns out to be a hypothetical UFC 176 rematch of Carwin vs. Dos Santos and he manages to win his UFC fight, gets $50,000 for his victory, and saves the music program at his school. Also, Niko and all the students of the citizenship class have now become American citizens.

REVIEW:

I’m not a fan of UFC, not because I have animosity towards it, but because I just couldn’t get into it. After watching Here Comes the Boom, I may give it another shot.

What is this about?

When budget cutbacks threaten his high school’s music program, physics teacher Scott Voss (Kevin James) decides to moonlight as a mixed martial arts fighter in order to raise the money that would save the program.

What did I like?

Dr. Feelgood. No, I’m not talking about Salma Hayek, who was playing a nurse (she can make me feel good anytime she wants, though j/k), but rather the tone of the film. The audience is treated to a story that will break and warm you heart, not to mention having you really think about the way our educational system is run…more on that later.

Music. As my chosen profession, I’m a little biased towards films that show music education in a positive light, such as Mr. Holland’s Opus and Music of the Heart. While this isn’t quite the same, it does attempt to show the impact music can have on a student, although you might miss it if you’re not paying attention. Also, on the subject of music, the soundtrack to this took me back to the turn of this century. It was good to hear these tunes again, and they were effective for what they were used for, rather than just being played for the sake of having some non-instrumental music going.

Support system. Kevin James may be the star of this film, but it is the supporting and secondary characters that really keep it going. James is the primary focus but, truth be told, he isn’t that funny. It is almost as if he was trying to play this as a serious role. His brother, Gary Valentine (apparently they are actually brothers), the aforementioned Salma Hayek, Henry Winkler, Charice, Bas Rutten, and this one guy in the citizenship class whose name I do not know at this time are all a major reason to enjoy this film. their roles and chemistry with James lend a great amount of heart, comedy, and inspiration.

What didn’t I like?

Predictable. I think you can guess what happens at the end of the film involving the music program and his relationship with the hot nurse, right? That is an issue I have with the film, it is quite predictable, despite an attempt to throw viewers off by having a school official arrested for embezzling. That might have actually worked, if not for the fact that it was forgotten almost as soon as it was brought up. In a film like this, where the basic idea has been done so many time, each one better than this version, there needs to be something memorable. With the exception of the UFC/MMA angle, this film is nothing special in terms of plot. Hell, even that last fight reeked was obvious. Come on, all of a sudden the band/orchestra kids are there playing his alternate theme song, “Holy, Holy” by Neil Diamond (“Here Comes the Boom” by P.O.D. worked better, if you ask me), Salma Hayek also shows up, they show his citizenship class and the school watching the fight on TV, and every chance the announcers get, they bring up that he’s a Biology teacher and his opponent is pissed that his original fight, which was supposed to be a championship fight, I believe, was canceled.

Message. First off, why is it that everytime schools need to make budget cuts, the first to go is typically the arts, specifically music? This is something that happens here in the real world, as well. Yet, nothing happens to athletics, even if all the sports have combined for a total of 5 wins over 50 years, they clearly are still more deserving of retention than the band. This is actually brought up for a quick second in the film, but as in real life, it is brushed aside because athletics makes money, whereas the music program…Let me stop before I turn this into a fill blown rant. The message in this film is that in this country our education system is flawed. Teachers don’t really care for what they are teaching anymore. Take a look at James’ character, for the majority of the film, he spends his time behind the computer, probably playing solitaire. Belive it or not, that isn’t much different from the way some teachers actually treat their jobs. Until the time when these teachers can teach without being forced to these unrealistic standards, our kids will never truly succeed. The standards of if one kid isn’t keeping up, then the class as has to slow down, but if one kid is bored, then you have to speed up. Basically, they can’t win. Is it no wonder they are burned out? Throw in these standardized tests and it is a miracle there aren’t more teacher suicides! I mention the heavy-handed message that was in Invisible Invaders earlier today. Well, this falls along the same lines.

Charice. First off, let me say that this is one talented girl. The fact that she hasn’t been successful here in the states while the likes of Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and Nicki Minaj have topped the charts just goes to show you how we don’t appreciate good music. Think about this, nearly every one-hit wonder from the 80s went on to have huge success in Europe, while being shunned over here. Shame, isn’t it. All that aside, Charice has some acting chops to go with her voice. I wish she would have gotten the chance to flex them both a little more. Well, the acting, since she did get to sing before the last fight.

All my ranting and raving aside, Here Come the Boom is a film that has its issues. For a comedy, it doesn’t have enough moments that make you laugh, which is obviously a huge issue. I appreciate the save the music program angle, but I felt as if it might have worked better if James was the music director. Still, this film is far from the horrid affair critics would have you believe it is. I had a decent time watching and think you’ll enjoy it a bit, as well.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Hotel Transylvania

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Dracula (Adam Sandler) is the owner and creator of Hotel Transylvania, a five-star resort where the world’s monsters can be safe from human civilization. Dracula invites some of the most famous monsters like Frankenstein (Kevin James) and his wife Eunice (Fran Drescher), Murray the Mummy (Cee Lo Green), Wayne and Wanda Werewolf (Steve Buscemi and Molly Shannon), Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade), Bigfoot, Steve the Blob, and other monsters to celebrate the 118th birthday of his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez). However, Mavis prefers to explore the outside world with her father’s permission, but the village he directs her to is actually an elaborate deception to convince her of the threat of humans enough to coax her back.

However, this charade inadvertently attracts the attention of an ordinary young traveler named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) who was exploring the surrounding forest and followed the staff to the hotel. Once Jonathan enters the hotel, Dracula frantically attempts to hide him from the patrons such as disguising him as a Flesh Golem named Johnny-stein with the later hasty cover story of being a relative of one of Frank’s body parts. Eventually, Jonathan is discovered by Mavis and company, forcing Dracula to claim he is going to arrange Mavis’ birthday party with a young perspective. In doing so, Jonathan manages to charm everyone at the hotel, especially Mavis. Eventually, even Dracula begins to like the human taking him into his confidence about his family’s traumatic past after the vampire notices the young man knows something about them in a respectful manner.

Unfortunately, Chef Quasimodo Wilson (Jon Lovitz) realizes Jonathan is human and captures him to cook him, forcing Dracula to directly intervene by magically freezing the chef. Eventually, the birthday party happens and it is a raucous success until Dracula freaks out when Mavis and Jonathan have an innocent kiss. A ranting Dracula accidentally lets it slip that he tricked Mavis at the fake village and Mavis is outraged at being manipulated by her own father. Things get worse when a still-frozen Chef Quasimodo interrupts the party as the Fly (Chris Parnell) translates his frozen language to the clientele which states that Jonathan is actually a human. Even as the clientele are revolted, Mavis still accepts and expresses her desire to be with Jonathan even though he is human. For his part, Jonathan feels obliged to reject Mavis for her father’s sake and leaves the hotel. Afterward, Dracula realizes that in his efforts to protect Mavis, he has broken her heart and now she tearfully wants to stay at the hotel forever.

Wishing to undo his mistake, Dracula persuades his friends to help him find Jonathan and even risks his destruction by venturing out in the daylight to do so. Learning that Jonathan is about to board a flight out of Transylvania Airport shortly, they race on and enter a town en route. At that town, Dracula and company are stunned to see the humans having a ‘Monster Festival’. To clear a path, Frankenstein tries to scare them, but finds the humans are cheerfully welcoming them instead and even provide a shaded route through the town for Dracula to proceed at maximum speed.

However, Dracula finds that he is too late with Jonathan’s plane taking off. With no alternative, Dracula desperately flies after it in broad daylight despite being hurt by the sun. With much effort, Dracula manages to reach the plane and resorts to mind-controlling one of the pilots (Brian Stack) to apologize and tell Jonathan that he wants him to return to be with his daughter. Jonathan accepts Dracula’s apology and Dracula manipulates the plane back to the airport.

Later, Dracula returns Jonathan to Mavis, who tells her that she’s his ‘zing’ and the reason why he had to reject her. Dracula gives his blessing to their relationship, Jonathan and Mavis kiss and the hotel has another party to celebrate his daughter’s liberating coming of age before Jonathan and Mavis set off on their travels.

The film ends with Dracula and his friends being shown in traditional animation (in the style of Genndy Tartakovsky’s cartoons) during the credits

REVIEW:

Given the bad rap monsters, especially vampires, werewolves and, to a lesser extent, zombies seem to be getting these days, it is nice to know that someone out there knows and respects their legacies enough to given them a film that isn’t insulting to everything we know about them. Sure, Hotel Transylvania may be a kids film, but there are no sparkling vampires who somehow manage to survive in the daylight here, nor are there any werewolves who do nothing but stalk unattractive emo chicks.

What is this about?

Hotel Transylvania owner Dracula (Adam Sandler) pulls double duty as an overprotective dad when an unwelcome suitor (Andy Samberg) shows interest in his teenage daughter (Selena Gomez). All the while, he’s hosting world-famous monster guests like Frankenstein, his bride and a werewolf family.

What did I like?

The gang’s all here. Pick a monster, any monster, and you’re sure to see them in the film, whether it be in a cameo or major role. I think the only ones missing were the more mythological creatures like minotaurs, centaurs, harpies, and the like, but there is a cyclops and a hydra to make up or fill the void.

Father knows best. For years, Adam Sandler has been trying to do a sensitive dad role and also use that voice he does in all of his films. Finally, all that practice has paid off! Sandler is such an animated person that it takes him being animated to get a truly great performance from him. Ironically, with the exception of that 9/11 dram he did, this is the most subdued character he’s played. That’s a good thing, as I think an insane acting man-child version of Dracula wouldn’t have gone over as well with the audience or with a “teenage” daughter. The relationship with his daughter is the heart of this film. If that didn’t work, then this flick wouldn’t have any legs to stand on.

Animation. Back when Cartoon Network was actually worth watching cartoon on, they had shows like Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Laboratory, and The Powerpuff Girls. All of these were done by the director of this film, Genndy Tartakovsky. I never really noticed it until the final credits were rolling, but the characters do have the design of one of his cartoons. Man, I miss his style of animation. Not to mention cartoons that were actually fun to watch, not just odd.

Dracula. As I mentioned before, Adam Sandler surprisingly gives a really good performance, but what is more impressive is the character design. Most iterations of Dracula are that of a tall, slender man with an imposing presence, not to mention his ability to bend the will the regular human and turn into a bat. The whole moving tables around and freezing people is new, but I like it.

What didn’t I like?

Kids. The kids annoyed the hell out of me. Mavis is fine, she’s just a teenage girl trapped in a castle wanting to get out and see the world. It happens. However, the wolf kids are representative of how unruly and disrespectful children are today. Johnny annoyed me in every way imaginable. First of all, he’s voiced by that no talent hack Andy Samberg, who is nothing more than an Adam Sandler wannabe and is a big reason Saturday Night Live hasn’t been funny for the past few years. This character though just seems to think his way is right, which it isn’t. The way he just walks in to the hotel just wasn’t a good introduction to him and he never recovered in my eyes.

Humans. Aside from John, we have the humans at the monster festival. Now, there is nothing specifically wrong with these people. It is basically just a comic con for people who like monsters. However, the fact that they have little to no reaction to Dracula and his pals is a little disconcerting. On the one hand, they are at a convention where everyone is dressed as monsters, so there is that little bit of disbelief expected. However, on the other hand, these are the real deal! Have we become that disenfranchised and dead to these guys that they are akin to stuffed animals? It sure seems like it. Such a shame, really.

Hotel Transylvania is one of the films that I really wanted to see when it came out, but because of scheduling, I never got around to it. I really do wish I had gotten to see this in theaters. I may have even paid the 3D price. This, along with ParaNorman and from the looks of it Frankenweenie (which I will be getting to soon) could make for some good Halloween movies for kids. Something that we haven’t really had in quite some time. I highly recommend this as it is truly an enjoyable film for everyone. Be on the lookout for the jab at Twilight late in flick. On a final note, does anyone know where it is that we all starting assuming Dracula said, “bleh, bleh”?

5 out of 5 stars

The Dilemma

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on July 22, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins with Ronny (Vince Vaughn), his girlfriend Beth (Jennifer Connelly), his best friend Nick (Kevin James), and Nick’s wife Geneva (Winona Ryder) all at dinner. They are sharing stories when Beth asks how long it takes to really know someone. Ronny states that you can never really know someone; Nick disagrees.

At a car show, Ronny is able to get him and Nick a meeting with Dodge in a few days. They celebrate with dinner with their ladies. While Nick and Geneva are dancing, Ronny tells Beth that he really looks up to Nick, who pulls him onto the dance floor. When they switch partners, Geneva tells Ronny that they love Beth and asks Ronny when he is going to propose to her. That evening, Ronny asks Beth if there’s a clock ticking; she says no, but if things progress, she will not be unhappy.

In Detroit for their meeting with Dodge, Ronny tells Nick that he is worked out a deal to get Beth a $20,000 ring for half price if Nick can help by fixing the seller’s car. Nick agrees. In their meeting, they pitch an electric car with the build of a muscle car. Dodge agrees to give them $400,000 for a prototype, and leaves Susan Warner (Queen Latifah) as their supervisor. She is extremely enthusiastic about working with them. Nick worries that he is going to fail with his engine design; Ronny reassures him.

Later, he mentions this to Beth, who is a chef, and asks how he is doing, concerned that he is feeling overwhelmed. (Ronny had a very serious gambling problem two years prior.) He promises that he is fine then heads to a botanical garden to arrange the proposal. While he is there, he catches a glimpse of Geneva, whom he follows. He walks through poisonous plants and is caught by the manager just as he sees Geneva kiss a young man (Channing Tatum). He is read all of the horrible side effects of the plants, (painful urination, hallucinations, etc.) and gets kicked out. He later lies to Beth about how he got the rash, and when he re-enacts it, he drops a stack of money, which Beth sees. He lies again saying that he is paying his parts suppliers, which she doesn’t appear to believe.

He goes to work to tell Nick, but does not when Nick yells at him. He calls his sister for advice, but she assumes he is talking about her husband, so that fails too. Nick later apologizes, and before Ronny can say anything, Beth and Geneva come to take them out for a break. They go to a Blackhawks hockey game. Geneva goes for beer; Ronny follows and confronts her. She tries to explain, then accuses Nick of getting “massages” every Thursday. She promises that the affair is over, and she will tell Nick once the car is finished.

At the office later, Nick inquires about why Ronny’s dragging his feet with the proposal. Ronny tries to probe about possibly getting a massage; Nick feigns ignorance. Ronny later follows him to the massage parlor. He then calls Geneva to apologize, but hears her with the young man, Zip. She tells him to meet her at a diner, where she tells Ronny that she will deny the affair and tell Nick that Ronny has been hitting on her, and revealing a fling they had back in college (before she and Nick ever met). She leaves telling Ronny to stay out of her marriage.

At home the next morning, Ronny answers a call for Beth, but the caller hangs up. He calls back, and gets the number to a corporate office that is opening a restaurant in Vegas. He later gets a call from Susan, warning him that Dodge has another competitor working on a similar project. Afterwards, he follows Geneva to Zip’s and photographs them together. Kids start skateboarding nearby, so he can’t leave, making him late for Beth’s parents’ 40th anniversary party. When Geneva leaves, he is caught by Zip, and they get into a fight. Ronny fights his way out of the house using hairspray and a candle as a torch…but Zip catches up to him outside, damaging Ronny’s car with a baseball bat. He demands to know what Ronny was doing in his house, and Ronny tells him he is best friends with Geneva’s husband. He calls Zip garbage for sleeping with Geneva, and then leaves as Zip starts to cry. Ronny cleans himself up then heads to the party, where he makes a long, inappropriate speech about honesty, secretly aimed at Geneva, who is also in attendance. Beth takes him aside and begs him to be honest with her, so he asks about the Vegas restaurant. She explains that she was offered a job, but declined because she does not trust him in Vegas. He leaves and spends the night at the office.

He goes back to Zip’s to get his camera. Zip answers the door with a gun, and insists that Ronny come in, because he read that he could legally shoot someone in self defense if they enter your home. Ronny refuses to enter, and Zip starts crying again about Ronny killing his fish, due to the fact that Ronny accidentally destroyed his fish tank during their fight the other night. He demands that Ronny give him $10,000 for damages, but settles for $1000 and an apology and gives him back his camera. Nick arrives after Ronny leaves, having followed him there suspecting Zip was a bookie, and Ronny was borrowing money for gambling.

Ronny goes back home to find Beth, Nick, his sister, Geneva, and his gambling sponsor holding an intervention for him. Zip shows up seconds later, claiming to be his bookie. Ronny lashes out at him and hits him. When Zip leaves, Ronny explains that he is not gambling, he is been acting weird because he found out a week ago that Geneva was having an affair with Zip and did not know how to tell Nick. Surprisingly, Geneva admits the affair. Ronny also confesses to the college fling. Nick is outraged and leaves.

Ronny comes home later after going for a walk. He tells Beth he brought her something to eat and they apologize for not trusting each other. She opens the bag of food and finds an engagement ring inside, and accepts his proposal.

At the meeting the next morning, Nick tells Ronny he moved out, then hits Ronny twice for not telling him the truth. He makes Ronny promise to be honest even if it hurts. They make up and head into the meeting, where Nick unveils the prototype car. Through his extensive research and tuning, he was able to make the new eco-friendly Dodge Charger sound and perform just like the classic 1968 Dodge Charger. Dodge is impressed with the prototype and give Nick and Ronny the contract.

At a Blackhawks game some time later, Nick finally gets a chance to try a challenge he always claimed he could do. He fails twice, but on his third attempt, Ronny gives Nick the coach’s dramatic speech from the film Miracle, and he gets the puck into a net, winning a chance to go to an all-star game. Ronny runs onto the ice to celebrate with him before they are both escorted off.

REVIEW:

Have you ever been in the situation where your best friend’s significant other is cheating with someone and you happen to cath them? How do you handle that situation? That is the dilemma in The Dilemma. A decent plot, but unfortunately, it isn’t executed with as much thought as was put into spawning the idea.

What did I like?

Story. The plot is a great idea. I’m sure there are more than a few guy/gals out there that have been in this situation. Having not been in it myself, I can’t say anything about it, though, but it is still intriguing to me.

Cast. With the exception of Vince Vaughn, I love this cast. It is good to see Winona Ryder and Jennifer Connelly come out of hiding (though I wish it was for a better film), Queen Latifah is as great as she can be in such a severely limited role, and Channing Tatum is hilarious.

Auto industry. I can’t remember what the last film that involved the auto industry, in a good way, was. It was good to see that struggling enterprise get some light. Even better, was the fact that these guys owned their own company and were making their own way without being swallowed by some bug company.

What didn’t I like.

Vince. I’m sorry Vince Vaughn fans, but I just didn’t care for him. He seemed like he was just trying too hard, or maybe I’m just tired of his schtick. Kevin James, who is usually the butt of fat guy jokes (he won’t be in his new movie where he dropped 80 lbs, though), actually wasn’t here, yet Vince Vaughn was still playing this borderline ADHD guy who won’t shut up and is also very sweaty. It just wasn’t working for me.

Dilemma. The way this whole thing played out just seemed to be carelessly thought out. I get why they didn’t tell Kevin James right away. If they had, there wouldn’t have been much of a film. However, the time between finding out about the infidelity and the reveal seemed to have been filler, rather than some actual plot points and comedy scenes to move the film forward and entertain the audience.

Gay. In this day and age where everyone is so sensitive, the writer’s should have known better than to put the line “Electric cars are gay.” in there. That was just uncalled for and the fact that it made it into the final cut is appalling.

The Dilemma is a decent film, but not one that you will remember 5 minutes after the credits roll. I honestly can’t recommend it for any reason, but if you must check it out, then more power to you.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Zookeeper

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on October 16, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Griffin Keyes (Kevin James) sets up a plan to propose to the love of his life, Stephanie (Leslie Bibb), but she rejects him and claims that his career as a zookeeper is what is keeping her away, therefore breaking Griffin’s heart.

Five years later, Griffin is shown to be the lead zookeeper at the Franklin Park Zoo who cares deeply for the zoo animals. That night, Griffin holds a party at the zoo for his brother Dave (Nat Faxon) who is getting married, but freaks out when he discovers that Stephanie was invited. Dave offers Griffin to come and work with him at the car dealership, explaining that it is the best way to win Stephanie. Griffin thinks that he should quit his job at the zoo and join his brother.

Later, the animals hold a meeting saying that they think Griffin is the best zookeeper at the zoo and don’t want him to leave, so they decide to find some way to help him win Stephanie’s heart. Jerome the bear (Jon Favreau) suggests that they teach Griffin their animal mating techniques, but Joe the lion (Sylvester Stallone) protests, reminding them that it’s against the animal code to talk to humans. Donald the monkey (Adam Sandler) says that Stephanie will be at the zoo tomorrow and all the animals have to do is make Griffin look like a hero in front of her.

The next day, Donald unlocks the door to the lion enclosure and lets Joe out, who confronts Stephanie and Dave’s fiancee Robin (Steffiana De La Cruz). Kate (Rosario Dawson), the zoo vet manages to get them away from Joe, but Griffin fails to jump into the lion enclosure, ruining the animals’ plan. The night afterwards, the animals break their code of silence and tell Griffin that they will teach him what to do to win Stephanie. Griffin learns their different mating rituals, but ends up humiliating himself in front of the other zookeepers and the guests.

Griffin then has a talk with Bernie (Nick Nolte), a forlorn gorilla who was moved into a deep enclosure after allegedly attacking Shane (Donnie Wahlberg), another zookeeper. Bernie explains to Griffin that Shane abuses the animals and he fell when he was abusing Bernie. He lied and said that Bernie attacked him, causing Bernie to lose his trust in anyone.

Griffin discovers that Stephanie is dating her other ex-boyfriend, a bullying alpha-male named Gale (Joe Rogan). Janet (Cher), Joe’s wife, tells Griffin that the best way to attract a female is to be seen with another female, so Griffin asks Kate to go on a date with him at Dave and Robin’s wedding. Griffin then takes Bernie to T.G.I. Fridays and the two form a friendly bond.

Griffin and Kate go on their date and have a great time together. Griffin becomes brave enough to stand up to Gale and this grabs Stephanie’s attention. After Kate tells Griffin she had a great time with him, Stephanie asks Griffin out to dinner. Griffin accepts and they both go to dinner and then go to a fashion show. Stephanie tells Griffin that his job at the zoo is holding him from the outside world, so Griffin decides to quit his job and accepts Dave’s offer, which makes Kate upset. Bernie also becomes upset and tells Griffin that he thought he could trust somebody again, but was proved wrong when Griffin quits his job. Kate decides to leave the zoo and go work at a zoo in Africa.

Griffin becomes the best employee at the car dealership, but misses working at the zoo. Stephanie proposes to Griffin, but Griffin refuses and dumps her. He then goes back to the zoo and apologizes to Bernie, who accepts Griffin’s friendship. The animals then tell Griffin that Kate is heading to the airport. With the help of Bernie, Griffin manages to catch up with Kate and confesses his love for her. Six months later, Griffin and Kate are back working at the zoo and Bernie is back living in his old enclosure where he gets a great view of the city.

REVIEW:

This is another one of those pictures that turned out to be better than anticipated. I say this because the premise and trailer are about as cheesy as one film can get…and then some, but somehow this turned out to be a pretty decent flick.

Zookeeper is a film about a head zookeeper who has no luck with the woman he loves. His luck is so bad that when he is set to propose, she decides to tell him she has never been interested and basically turns all mega-bitch on him. Fast forward a few years and he’s moved on with his life, until she comes back to town, thus causing him to become a bumbling idiot again. This leads to the animals making the decision to talk to Griffin and offer their help so that he doesn’t lose her. Little do they know this may end up being a huge mistake!

I know what you’re about to say…”talking animals…how juvenile”, right? Well, these animals are voiced by the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Nick Nolte, and Cher, and, truth be told, you wouldn’t even notice they were animals if they weren’t animals. So, if you have any preconceived notion based on some random hatred for talking animals this isn’t the film for you.

Now, with that point aside, it should be noted that the story is not half bad. As a matter of fact, it is quite sweet. The whole lovable loser falls for the wrong girl and then realizes the perfect one was right under his nose all along was a bit too predictable, though.

The secondary plot involving Bernie was a nice fork from the main plot and added a nice change of pace. Also, it helped to really show how much Griffin truly cares for the animals.

Zookeeper isn’t one of those films that is going to make anyone’s top 10 lists. As a matter of fact, if it does, I’m sure it’ll be on the top 10 worst. However, I actually liked it and think that if you give it a chance and watch it for what is, without expecting sweeping cinematography, a deep story, and whatnot, you’re sure to enjoy it as well. So, why not give it a shot?

4 out of 5 stars

Grown Ups

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 25, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In 1978, five childhood friends won their junior high basketball championship. During the celebration, their coach “Buzzer” (Blake Clark) encourages them to live their lives in a similar way to how they played the game. Thirty years later, the five friends have since separated. Lenny Feder (Adam Sandler) is a high powered Hollywood talent agent who is married to Roxanne (Salma Hayek), a fashion designer. Eric Lamonsoff (Kevin James) is now a co-owner of a lawn furniture company who is married to Sally (Maria Bello). Kurt McKenzie (Chris Rock) is a stay at home father who is married to Deanne (Maya Rudolph), the primary breadwinner of the family. All of them harass Kurt for not being more useful. Rob Hilliard (Rob Schneider) is a thrice divorced pacifist vegan married to Gloria (Joyce Van Patten, real life wife of Dennis Dugan), who is 30 years older than him. Marcus Higgins (David Spade) is a lazy womanizer.

When they learn that their coach has died, they all return to New England with their families for the private funeral. Lenny rents the lake house for the 4th of July weekend for his friends to stay at, but Lenny can’t stay for the whole weekend because Roxanne has a fashion show in Milan. While at the lake house, Lenny is annoyed that their kids would rather play video games than spend time outdoors, so he and the others force their kids to spend more time outside while at the house, and when they let Eric try the rope swing he’s too afraid to jump off and injures a bird in the process. At a local restaurant, Lenny runs into his old nemesis Dickie Bailey (Colin Quinn). Dickie is still upset at Lenny because he allegedly had his foot out of bounds when he made the long-ago game winning shot and challenges him and his friends to a rematch, but Lenny declines, declaring it a waste of time. During dinner, the group discusses spreading the coach’s ashes in the morning, but Lenny says he can’t be there because of Roxanne’s fashion show. Roxanne angrily storms off because Lenny painted her negatively. She allows him to spread the ashes, but demands they leave early the following morning.

The next morning, the five guys row out to an island to spread Buzzer’s ashes. Rob breaks down and tells the guys that he screwed up his previous marriages and that he’s nervous about meeting his daughters who are coming. They finally meet Rob’s daughters, Jasmine and Amber, who seem too gorgeous to be Rob’s, and Bridget, who very closely resembles him. That evening, when Roxanne is packing, Becky’s tooth falls out, but Roxanne is too busy to notice and she tells her that she’ll put a dollar under her pillow later. When Becky asks why she would do it instead of the Tooth Fairy, Roxanne tells Lenny that she’s worried that she ruined Becky’s childhood. When Lenny hears his kids supposedly talking on their cellphones, he comes into their bedroom to find them actually talking on “cup phones” with the other kids. Happy that the kids are starting to have the same kind of fun he did at their age, he asks everyone to install cup phones around the house. Roxanne then tells Becky through the cup phone the truth about the Tooth Fairy.

In the morning while packing the car, Roxanne sees all the kids having fun down by the lake and decides that they can’t leave the lake house. Happy with his wife’s new attitude, Lenny decides they should head to a waterpark for a day. Back out the house, Deanne becomes suspicious of Kurt when she sees him spending time with Rita, Lenny’s nanny. That evening, the adults spend time together drinking and dancing, while reminiscing about their pasts. Roxanne then confronts Lenny about the fact that he canceled their Milan plane reservations before the funeral behind her back. Lenny claims that he felt their time at the lake house was necessary because their kids were becoming too spoiled. Deanne confronts Kurt about supposedly flirting with Rita. Kurt assures her that he wasn’t flirting with her, but he enjoyed having an actual conversation with her because he doesn’t feel like he gets that with Deanne. Deanne offers to take him out on more dates. Eric then admits to the group that he isn’t co-owner of a lawn furniture company and that he was laid off two months ago. He just didn’t want everyone to think of him as a failure. Lenny resolves to offer Eric an investment opportunity. Gloria then tells everyone that despite their recent hostility, she senses love between everyone.

In the film’s climax, the group then head off to a 4th of July barbecue, where they are once again challenged by Dickie and his friends to a rematch of the basketball game. Rob suggests that their coach would want them to take the challenge and despite everyone’s being out of shape and Rob’s injury, they agree to a game. The game is close, but most of the players get too tired to continue, leaving only Lenny and Dickie on the court. They bring out their sons to continue playing. When Lenny has the chance to make the game winning shot, he deliberately misses and allows Dickie to win, giving him a sense of victory. Lenny and the others take the loss in stride. The movie ends with Marcus drunk and purposely starts a game with arrow roulette and everyone runs in fear

REVIEW:

 In the early 90s, Saturday Night Live was still funny. A big part of that was cast members Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider. These guys have all gone on to movie careers, Sandler the most successful. So, someone decided to put these guys back together and that is how we have Grown Ups.

The thing that is the most impressive about this film is that is seems like the cast is actually having fun. It was like they just showed up and just improved it. With such talented comedians as these, that was no big deal. It was quite refreshing to see that.

With a cast like this, do you honestly think this would be anything other than hilarious. I couldn’t stop laughing.

This was not a perfect film, though. A couple of things got under my skin. I don’t necessarily know if it was the film or just a sign of the times, but the way that Adam Sandler’s kids just seemed to be so spoiled. So much so, that they had a cow when the saw a TV that wasn’t a flat screen, there was a scene at the beginning where they threw their hot chocolate back because it didn’t contain Godiva, and don’t get me started on how they wouldn’t drink water that wasn’t Voss or didn’t know what to do outside. Ugh!

I’ve mentioned this cast is a bunch of SNL alumni. However, though it seems like these guys are just out there having fun, I do have to wonder about Kevin James, though. The guy was great here, but you can’t tell me he was anything more than a stand-in/replacement for the late Chris Farley.

The supporting actresses (wives) in the film are not only great in their roles, but they are ungodly hot! One has to sit there and question how these guys can end up with Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, and Maya Rudolph. WTF?!?

Adding to the hotness are Rob Schneider’s daughters. Leggy blonde Madison Riley, uber hottie Jamie Chung, and Schneider look-a-like Ashley Loren don’t really have much to do other than look pretty (Riley and Chung…not Loren) and be teases for the perverted old guys.

Critics seemed to hate this film, and I’m not really sure why. How often is it that we see a film where the cast actually looks like they’re having fun and not there just to collect a paycheck. On top of that, this is a comedy that has one serious moment, but doesn’t do like many comedies these days do, and that is drift into drama and never come back. Grown Ups is just a great film that everyone who had a close group of friends when they were growing up should see.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars