Archive for Maya Rudolph

The Emoji Movie

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2018 by Mystery Man


This animated comedy takes place in Textopolis, a world inside a smartphone that’s inhabited by various emojis. There, an emoji named Gene (voiced by T.J. Miller) is ashamed that he has multiple facial expressions while his colleagues only have one each, and he embarks on a quest to be like everyone else.

What people are saying:

“Make no mistake, The Emoji Movie is very, very, very bad (we’re talking about a hyperactive piece of corporate propaganda in which Spotify saves the world and Sir Patrick Stewart voices a living turd), but real life is just too hard to compete with right now.” 2 stars

“The Problem most people had with The Emoji Movie but didn’t know how to explain it was how the movie was advertised. For some, I think the advertisement of The Emoji Movie meant one thing and to others something totally different. Also what age bracket this movie should have been marketed too. I like Jean’scharacter because the movie for him was about growing up and being yourself in a society that makes everyone conform to what they want you to be. Hi-Five issue was one minute your on top, the next minute your at the bottom. How do you define success for your self? How you accept yourself no matter if you are on the top or the bottom. Jailbreak was the also very unique, How do you be yourself and also fit in with society and learn to deal with stereotypes” 4 stars

“There’s a justifiable self-loathing running through The Emoji Movie, a fragile attempt to (sigh) deconstruct the meaning of Emojis while also (sigh) demonstrating the profound possibility that Emojis are the language of the future.” 1/2 star

“I really enjoyed this movie. i did not think i would like it as much as i did. it’s funny and very entertaining. the animation is great, voice acting is great and the characters are great. the story is good as well. the music is awesome i love the just dance scene that was cool. my favorite character is hi 5 i think he stole the movie. the villain was kind of weak but still entertaining at the same time. i loved how they built the world of the emojis and the rest of the apps that was pretty creative. all in for a movie that sounds dumb it’s pretty darn good. don’t judge a book by it’s cover right. this movie is cenimatastic. if you have not seen this movie then i recommend you do.” 5 stars

“I’m disappointed in myself that I followed the herd on this one. Get off the band wagon – so easy to berate a movie that’s based on something so trivial as emojis and easy to believe it’s just one long advert. I wonder how many of those reviewers have actually seen the film? I saw much more blatant product placement in Wreck It Ralph, but then I guess it’s not very popular to bad mouth that one, right? This movie is not the best, it won’t win awards (mainly due to popularism, thanks for that) – but it’s a kid’s film. Did we forget that? I wouldn’t expect a kid to give a decent rating to Schindler’s List, the film isn’t for them, so why such bad press for this one, which is a kid’s film?” 4 stars


The Angry Birds Movie

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2017 by Mystery Man


In the 3D animated comedy, The Angry Birds Movie, we’ll finally find out why the birds are so angry. The movie takes us to an island populated entirely by happy, flightless birds–or almost entirely. In this paradise, Red (Jason Sudeikis), a bird with a temper problem, speedy Chuck (Josh Gad), and the volatile Bomb (Danny McBride) have always been outsiders. But when the island is visited by mysterious green piggies, it’s up to these unlikely outcasts to figure out what the pigs are up to.

What people are saying:

“The game “Angry Birds,” at its core, is a destination for switching off your brain. And movies, even throw-away summer animated kid films, should aim for something more.” 1 star

“This movie suffers from the problem of the trailer giving away all the best scenes. I expected a lot more humor, since the trailer was actually pretty hilarious, but unfortunately they just crammed all the humor into that two minute trailer and the rest was just kind of… there. The animation isn’t anything to write home about, and the plot is really pretty simple. It was cute, and I’ve certainly seen worse, but I wouldn’t be tempted to see it again. ” 3 stars

“This isn’t a movie. It’s a colorful, unfunny headache, that utilizes Limp Bizkit in an unironic way, and whose funniest aspect is a mime…yes, a mime.” 1 star

“The Angry Birds movie was one of the best surprises of 2016 for me. It could have been the complete lack of expectations but the animation, character & set design, lighting, and dialogue quality had me reeling and constantly smiling at how entertained I was. Unfortunately, despite its unshakable quality during the first half of the movie, it suffers a disappointing hit in quality regarding story development and gags more or less exactly from the point wherein toilet humour is (somewhat literally) introduced. Despite its faults, this movie holds a special place in my heart for making me feel so very, very good.” 4 stars

“I went into this movie with no idea what to expect. The Angry Birds Movie is arguably the best video game adapted movie ever made, which sadly isn’t saying very much. For once, I agree with the critic consensus-this movie is way more entertaining than it has any right to be. Some of the humor is forced and some is just bad, but most of it is pretty funny. The final attack on Piggy Island is pulled straight from the games with some new stuff added in-and that’s exactly why it’s so great. The opening scene is a little forced and awkward, but there’s enough good in the rest of the movie to make up for it. Probably the best thing this movie has going for it is the voice cast. Andy Sudeikis, Bill Hader, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, Danny McBride, and Sean Penn are all perfectly cast, and the others are all great.” 3 stars

Big Hero 6

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film is set in a fictional futuristic metropolis called San Fransokyo (a portmanteau of San Francisco and Tokyo). Hiro Hamada is a 14-year-old robotics genius who spends his time participating in back alley robot fights. His older brother, Tadashi, worried that Hiro is wasting his potential, takes Hiro to the robotics lab at his university, where Hiro meets Tadashi’s friends, GoGo Tomago, Wasabi, Honey Lemon and Fred, as well as Baymax, a personal healthcare robot Tadashi created. Amazed, Hiro decides to apply to the school. He presents his project–microbots, swarms of tiny robots that can link together in any arrangement imaginable–at an annual exhibition to gain admission. Professor Callaghan, the head of the program, is impressed, and Hiro gets in. When a fire breaks out at the university, Tadashi rushes in to rescue Callaghan, but the building explodes and both are killed. As a result of losing his brother, Hiro secludes himself from others.

One day, Hiro accidentally activates Baymax and discovers a single microbot left in his jacket. Baymax believes the bot is trying to go somewhere and follows it to an abandoned warehouse, where he and Hiro discover that someone has been mass-producing Hiro’s microbots. They are attacked by a masked man controlling the bots telepathically. Realizing this man has stolen his project, Hiro decides to catch him and upgrades Baymax with armor and a battle chip. After the masked man attacks Hiro, Baymax, Gogo, Wasabi, Honey and Fred, the group joins Hiro in the fight, and the six form a superhero team.

Baymax locates the masked man on a quarantined island. There, the group discovers a former lab of Krei Tech, a prestigious robotics company, that was experimenting with teleportation technology. The test went awry when the human test pilot vanished inside an unstable portal. The masked man is revealed to be Callaghan, who explains he started the fire so he could steal Hiro’s microbots. Realizing that Tadashi died for nothing, Hiro angrily removes Baymax’s healthcare chip, leaving him with only the battle chip, and orders him to kill Callaghan. Baymax almost does so until Honey manages to insert his healthcare chip back in. Angry at the group for preventing his revenge, Hiro goes home but breaks down when Baymax asks him if killing Callaghan will make him feel better. To soften Hiro’s loss, Baymax plays humorous clips of Tadashi running tests on him during Baymax’s development. Hiro realizes that killing Callaghan is not what Tadashi would have wanted and makes amends with his friends.

The group discovers that the test pilot was Callaghan’s daughter Abigail and realize that Callaghan is seeking revenge on Alistair Krei, the president of Krei Tech, whom he blames for her death. They save Krei and destroy the microbots, but the portal remains active, becoming increasingly unstable. Baymax detects Abigail from inside the portal and he and Hiro rush in to save her. On their way out, Baymax’s armor is damaged and he realizes the only way to save Hiro and Abigail is to stay behind to propel them forward with his rocket fist. Hiro refuses to leave Baymax behind, but Baymax insists until Hiro tearfully deactivates him. Hiro and Abigail make it back, and Callaghan is arrested.

Some time later, as Hiro is finally moving on, he discovers Baymax’s healthcare chip, which contains his entire personality, in his rocket fist. Delighted, Hiro rebuilds Baymax and they happily reunite. The six friends continue their exploits through the city, fulfilling Tadashi’s dream of helping those in need.

In a post-credits scene, Fred talks to a photo of his father in the family mansion, telling him he would be proud of him. Fred accidentally opens a secret door and, upon entering, finds superhero gear. His father arrives and states they have a lot to talk about before the two embrace.


Well, here we are again, with an animated feature from Disney that  some have said is another that is better than what Pixar has put out lately. Personally, I can’t challenge that statement, but I cannot defend it, either. Big Hero 6 is interesting in that it actually is part of the Marvel Universe. Yes, this was a comic and I think it may still be in print. I may have to swing across town and find an issue or two at the comic book store. In the meantime, how was the film?

What is this about?

In this animated adventure, genius robotics engineer Hiro Hamada finds himself enmeshed in a nefarious scheme to wipe out the city of San Fransokyo. Accompanied by his robot best friend, Hero joins a ragtag team intent on saving the City by the Bay.

What did I like?

Appeal. So, the last film Disney released, Frozen, while wickedly popular, it was aimed for more of a female audience. That’s fine, but you can’t leave the boys out in the cold, as it were. This film not only brings in the boys, but by the sheer fact it is an actual comic book, opens up all sorts of avenues for merchandising, franchising, and maybe…and this is a longshot…appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

Marshmallow fun. Think back to Ghostbusters. Remember how that even though Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man was the harbinger of doom, we all just wanted to play with the big guy? Well, there co-protagonist in this film, a robot named Baymax, is sweet, innocent, helpful, and an overall fun character. In this dark, cynical world we live in, it is good to see a simple character such as this, especially in contrast to the mood swings of his human counterpart, Hiro.

Stan the Man. Being a Marvel property, you know there has to be a Stan Lee cameo somewhere, right? Well, I won’t spoil anything about it, other than to say stick around after the credits. This is perhaps the most interesting of Lee’s cameos, not to mention, other than his character as a janitor in Ultimate Spider-Man (or whatever it is currently called), I don’t think he has ever been animated. The animators outdid themselves with Stan, though. I got chills when I saw him, it was so perfect!

What didn’t I like?

Angry robot. So, the innocent robot, who obviously has the strength and power to level and entire city is turned into a killing machine for a bit. Big surprise, right? I fail to see why this had to be done, other than to give some emotional depth to Hiro, who was still suffering because of the loss of his brother. For me, I understand it from a filmmaking standpoint, but I still think it was a waste. At least he didn’t stay in that angry mode for very long. So there is that.

City is at war. From the opening shot of this film, you can tell that is nothing more than hybrid of San Francisco and Tokyo. They show what I imagine is the equivalent of the Golden Gate Bridge, and it has Japanese architecture, for lack of a better term, holding it up, instead of the usual structures. The entire city is just like Tokyo. So, what is it that I have a problem with? With such an expansive location, why not use it all? Instead, everything seems to be centralized. I compare it to whenever battles happen on film in places like New York or Washington, D.C. They tend to gravitate toward Times Square or the White House, just because those are the most recognizable places, and stay there, even though the cities have much more real estate. I may just be nitpicking, but I just felt that the battle could have gone elsewhere in the city.

Portal. One of the most beautiful scenes in the film takes place inside this portal. It truly shows how far computer animation has come. However, this little burst of psychedelic color was enough to have the audience wanting more. However, by the time we get to this point in the film, it is already running a bit long in the tooth. Still, it would have been nice to get an excursion and explore the portal some more, if for no other reason than to show off the brilliant animation that took place in there. Sadly, everything from the final moments of the climax to the final act felt rushed.

Big Hero 6 could be the start of an Avengers style film for kids. Time will tell on that one, though. Even though I had a miserable time at the theater today (late getting there, place was nearly packed, had to sit in the front row), I really enjoyed this film. It has heart, action, comedy. For those that insist on every race being represented, it even has that. How violent is it? Not very. Remember that this is an action film, so there are fights and whatnot, but nothing too horrible. If you shy away from this film because of the “violence”, then you really need to examine your life. Do I recommend this flick? Yes, very highly! So, stop reading and go see it!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Nut Job

Posted in Animation, Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the fictional city of Oakton City in 1959, a selfish purple squirrel named Surly (Will Arnett) and his rat partner Buddy who does not talk much reside in Liberty Park and their thieving reputation has made them outcasts. A group of urban animals led by Raccoon (Liam Neeson) and his Cardinal assistant (who mostly chirps) store food for winter in a giant tree in the park called Liberty Park. Raccoon is informed by his servant Mole (Jeff Dunham) that there is a food shortage in the park. Surly and Buddy’s attempt to rob a peanut cart goes haywire when it is impeded by Raccoon’s helpers, a compassionate red squirrel named Andie (Katherine Heigl) and the “park hero”, a gray squirrel named Grayson (Brendan Fraser) whose heroic antics prove to be incompetent. The selfish Surly ignores Andie’s help and tries to get a bag of nuts while the owner Lucky and his associate Fingers gets distracted by a bratty girl scout customer and a police officer that the girl issues her complaint to. The heist also gets invaded by Lucky’s pet pug named Precious (Maya Rudolph). After fending her off by having her bite the pipe of a propane tank, Surly and Buddy escape with the cart and Andie manages to guide it to Liberty Park. Surly threatens Andie and Grayson with a torch, unwilling to share the food, but accidentally causes it to ricochet across the park. Although the animals (except for Grayson) get off safely, the cart is sent into the tree, where it explodes along with the tree and the animals’ food supply. Grayson however, survives the ordeal. When Surly is identified as the culprit by the Groundhog Bruisers Jimmy (Gabriel Iglesias), Johnny, and Jamie, Raccoon banishes him from Liberty Park following a unanimous vote forcing him to survive in the city.

Buddy attempts to be with Surly who tells him to leave after he unknowingly contributed to his exile. After escaping from wild street rats, they find a nut store called Maury’s Nut Shop and attempt to rob it to feed themselves. After entering the store, they discover that it is a criminal hideout used by Lucky, Fingers, their mob boss Percy “King” Dimplewade (Stephen Lang) who has recently gotten out of jail, his silent partner Knuckles, and his girlfriend Lana (Sarah Gadon). Raccoon sends Andie and Grayson to find food only for them to get separated upon Grayson fighting a street rat. Precious also serves as the guard dog there and King plans to rob the Oaken Bank and replace the cash with nuts. Surly and Buddy see that the only way to get to the nuts and to avoid Precious is with a dog whistle that Lucky has. The two of them are thrown out by Knuckles since he can hear it. While trying to find the whistle, Surly crosses paths with Andie who gets the whistle and threatens to dispose of it if Surly does not share the food he’s going to take. Reluctantly, Surly accepts and unwittingly befriends Precious after threatening her with the whistle. Andie informs the park community of the plan. Although they have a lack of faith in Surly, Raccoon and the rest of the park community agree to go along with it. Andie gets help from Mole and the Bruisers.

When the first attempt to rob the store fails, Surly eventually learns from Andie that Raccoon planned on double crossing him and Surly leaves after an argument even when Grayson catches up to the group. After Surly and Precious catch Mole in the act of sabotage, he confesses that Raccoon is a power-hungry con artist who keeps food from the animals to have his leadership kept and only Mole and Cardinal know about it. Andie and the others are unconvinced at Raccoon’s plot as King begins his heist. After fending off the street rats that worked for Raccoon, the two squirrels ends up chasing after King’s truck that Raccoon and the other animals are on while Grayson fights off Cardinal who is sent flying into the window of a building where the Oakton City Cat Show is being held. While in the truck, Mole defects from Raccoon and reveals this info to the animals with Surly resulting in Raccoon being voted out of the park community at Grayson’s suggestion. King and Knuckles uses the dynamite inside the empty truck to blow the police out, but it hangs and falls over the bridge where it explodes, after Surly gets himself and Andie off it before they fall into the river. Surly makes it to a log, but finds Raccoon, King and Knuckles surviving the explosion. Raccoon tries to kill Surly, but the nuts weight begins to break the log. The animals arrive to rescue them, but Surly, decides to be selfless in order to protect his friends, lets go of the log and falls down into the waterfall with Raccoon apparently. The park community, now seeing the good side of Surly, mourn him in honor of the most selfless act he committed in years.

The food makes its way into the Liberty Park, where the animals gather around in joy as their food troubles are over. King and his associates are arrested as Lana appears to end her relationship with King. Andie and Buddy are still mourning over Surly and when Precious finds out what happened to her friend, she eventually finds Surly’s apparent dead body near the river. She has Buddy come and look at it. Doleful to see his best friend gone, Buddy says his first two words “best friend”. Surly reveals that he was actually unconscious and hugs Buddy and Precious licks Surly’s face (which she wanted to do since she got involved in Surly’s heist) and leaves to meet up with Lana who plans to run Maury’s Nut Shop in Lucky’s place. Finding that Surly is alright, Andie embraces him and tries to get him to come to the other animals so he can tell of his heroism. But Surly, feeling as though it was the other animals that were the true heroes, refuses yet gains a willingness to work with others. He goes into the city with Buddy allowing Grayson to take credit for the food making it to the park.

During the credits, the animals and humans dance with an animated PSY as he performs “Gangnam Style.” In a mid-credits scene, Raccoon and Cardinal are shown to have survived their ordeal and are sulking on a harbor buoy surrounded by sharks while trying to come up with another plan. In the post-credits, Precious chases Mole who is holding a bone that Precious wants. Mole drives Precious away with the dog whistle.


What is it that is uttered in just about every episode of the first couple of season of Game of Thrones? Ah yes, “Winter is coming!” In a way, that could be the mantra for The Nut Job, as these animals search for food. Simple enough, right? One would think, but how complicated and convoluted did these filmmakers decide to make it?

What is this about?

When his grouchy attitude gets him kicked out of the park, Surly the squirrel hatches a plan to rob Maury’s Nut Shop to stock up for winter.

What did I like?

Detail. It wasn’t that long ago that we were in awe of what computer animation was capable of doing. Just look at Brave for a point of reference. Watching this, you can see a great deal of care and attention that was paid to not only the fur on the animals, but also the fabric on the clothes. In particular, I noticed a scene where the mobsters were wearing janitor uniforms and you could see the fabric pattern. While I am still not a fan of computer animation, I will give credit where credit is due, so kudos to what these animators have done.

Voices. As with most animated films, at least the ones that are major releases, the voice cast is quite impressive. Some names and voices are instantly recognizable, such as Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, but a few aren’t as instantly recognizable, such as Maya Rudolph, Gabriel Iglesias, Katherine Heigl, etc. None do a bad job, and all fit their characters.

Roll credits. As the credits roll, we are treated to an animated version of the hit song “Gangnam Style”, complete with all the characters dancing and an animated version on Psy singing and dancing along. A common trope that among family films, especially animated ones, and some comedies seems to be the end credits dance scene. While this has gotten a little old, it was a nice touch throwing in this song, which was majorly popular when this was being made.

What didn’t I like?

Time, time, time. This is set in the 1950s, as you can tell because the human ancillary characters resemble their counterparts in The Incredibles. However, the music doesn’t fit, specifically the end credits song. Wouldn’t it have been more fitting to use a song from this era? On youtube, there is a channel that specializes in making current songs retro. Perhaps that would have worked if they insisted on using “Gangnam Style.”

Taken the nuts. There was a time when Liam Neeson was a highly respected dramatic actor. Somewhere along the way, he decided to just take action roles and now this. Now, it is possible he did this for his kids. Sometimes actors will do that so the kids can see something they are in. However, this is not a good role for Neeson. He is above this mediocre material. I also must question what kind of mutant raccoon looks like this? I couldn’t tell if he was a bear, raccoon, badger, or something else!

Stewie syndrome. Talking animals and humans. Who can hear who? This is something I like to refer to as the “Stewie syndrome”, where it is obvious certain individuals can hear, but not everyone, much in the way the family on Family Guy eiter can’t hear or ignore Stewie (excpt for Chris, occasionally). Is this a bad thing? No, but it is something that was a bit unsettling for me, personally, as I would have liked for everyone or no one to hear the animals.

In the end, The Nut Job is a decent enough family flick. As far as I could tell, there is nothing offensive, demeaning, or, unfortunately, funny. I don’t really have much to say about this flick. For the most part, it is just an average family flick that can be popped in just as often as an episode of Sesame Street, SpongeBob Squarepants, or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. So, do I recommend this? Yeah, sure, why not? I just can’t give anyone an enthusiastic recommendation about mediocrity such as this.

3 out of 5 stars

The Way Way Back

Posted in Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

14-year-old Duncan reluctantly goes on summer vacation to a beach house in a small seaside town in Cape Cod with his mother Pam, her boyfriend Trent and Trent’s daughter Steph. Trent exhibits behavior towards Duncan that borders on emotional abuse by often making comments and gestures that are belittling and rude towards him. They arrive at the beach house and are greeted by the neighbors, hard-drinking Betty, her children, Susanna and Peter, and married couple Kip and Joan. Later that evening, Duncan and Susanna have an awkward conversation from their adjacent porches.

Duncan discovers a pink, sparkly “girl’s bike” in the garage of the beach house and begins exploring the town. He eventually runs into the staff of the local water park, Water Wizz, at a pizza joint. He has a brief interaction with the manager, Owen, while Owen is playing Pac-Man. Owen takes Duncan under his wing and shows him around the park. Duncan is introduced to the park’s colorful, rag-tag group of employees: Caitlyn, Lewis, and Roddy. Several kids at the water park speak reverently of a legendary pass in the tube slide, wondering how it could have been done. Owen hires Duncan for odd jobs at the Water Wizz.

Outside of the park, Duncan is continually abandoned by his mother, Pam, who indulges in drinking, staying out at night, and smoking marijuana with other adult vacationers. At a Fourth of July cookout, Duncan witnesses Trent and Joan kissing by the side of the house, but does not reveal what he saw. Susanna sees that he is upset and invites him to go hunting for ghost crabs with her and Peter, where she talks about her absent father and helps Duncan to open up.

Pam begins to suspect Trent and Joan are having an affair, but is convinced by Trent that nothing is going on. Later, Duncan confronts Pam in front of friends and neighbors and tells her that he knows about Trent’s affair. Trent in turn reveals to Duncan that the boy had to spend the summer at the beach house because his divorced father did not want to take care of him, which leads Duncan to run away. Susanna follows him and comforts Duncan out on the beach. Duncan attempts to kiss Susanna, but she moves away, which makes him become even more upset. Accompanied by Peter, Duncan sneaks away to Water Wizz where he sees that Owen is throwing a going away party for Lewis.

After spending all night with his friends at Water Wizz, Duncan is still at the park the next morning, refusing to leave. Owen confronts him and asks him why he doesn’t want to go home. Duncan opens up to Owen about his relationship with Trent and how the water park is the only place where he is happy. Owen sympathizes with Duncan’s problems, saying that he grew up with an emotionally abusive father, which led to his disdain for patterns and rules.

When Duncan arrives back at the beach house, Pam tells him they will be leaving with Trent. Betty and her kids arrive to say their goodbyes, Susanna finally kisses Duncan, admitting that she “was just surprised” when she avoided his kiss earlier. When Trent stops for gas on their way out of town, Duncan jumps out of the station wagon and runs to Water Wizz, followed by his mother, then Trent and Steph. Duncan tells Owen and the other employees that he has to leave and tells Owen to follow him. He takes Owen to the Devil’s Peak slide, and Duncan becomes the first person to ever pass someone in the water slide while the rest of the park watches on. After finally introducing Owen to his mother, Duncan says goodbye to everyone at the park. Trent, Steph, Pam, and Duncan regroup in the car, and head out of town. Pam climbs into backseat of the car and they share a smile as Trent’s protests are heard in the background


The Way Way Back is not one of those films that seems to be advertised on every DVD that I’ve watched recently. Of course, this means that I just had to see what all the hoopla was about, or at least why a film that I don’t even recall being released in theaters is being shoved down our throats.

What is this about?

A stifled teen finds his voice with encouragement from the manager of a local water park, where he takes a summer job to escape his unbearable home life with his mom and her overbearing boyfriend.

What did I like?

Quiet respectability. This is a film with no big explosions, no really huge stars (you can make a case for Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell etc, but they aren’t on the same level as someone like Brad Pitt, for instance), and no bells and whistles. Sometimes it is nice to pull back and just let the actors act, rather than relying on CG, as just about every film does these days. I respect the film’s quiet respectability, something that we don’t get much of these days.

Divorce. Liam James’ character is obviously taken the split of his parents and the fact that his mother is dating and getting serious about a new guy pretty hard. I’ve noticed that kids from divorce families in film either end up as the “weird kid” or they are some kind of loner that somehow finds a kindred spirit in the outcast, yet cute, girl from school or the neighborhood. For some reason, I like this. I guess because for most of my life, I was the new kid, and it was usually a girl who would be the first to talk to me.

Beeblebrox (kudos if you get the reference). More and more I have been realizing how talented of an actor Sam Rockwell is. Usually, he is in these slightly comedic roles that are either supporting or villainous, and they work for him. Sometimes, that comedic side is accompanied by a serious side for a few scenes. As can be seen here with this character, who for the most part is just short of being a manchild, but he serves as a great mentor or older brother figure for James’ character, as well as breathes some life in this film.

What didn’t I like?

Spray orange. I realize that this is set at the beach during some 4th of July weekend…or was it the entire summer? I’m not particularly sure, but what I can be certain of is the unnatural color of some of these skin tones, mostly female. Now, spray tan is fine, if you’re into that, but don’t just do one part of your body. That is what is seems like happened here. I first noticed it when we see AnnaSophia Robb’s character crossing the street. The girl is a little on the pale side, but her legs were quite golden brown. At the water park, it was like there was this one bottle of tanner that was passed around and you sprayed what you can. I may be nitpicking here, but to me, it was obvious.

Steve almighty. We all know Steve Carell and the nice guy characters he usually gets cast as. Well, he takes a turn to the dark side and plays a complete ass, who berates and puts down this kid, who isn’t even his son and cheats on the woman he is supposed to be trying to get engaged to. It isn’t said, but the way Toni Collette’s character acted, I half wondered if there was some beating going on there, as well. I applaud Carell for making this guy so unlikable, but the character is not one that I cared for.

Say, Peet. For the hotness (and 6 pack abs) that is Amanda Peet, she sure is used very little. Her most memorable scene is an awkward dance scene with James and Collette’s characters. Once we get past the initial meeting, she has a couple of other viewings, one being where she is behind the house with Carell’s character, but that’s it. Realizing that this film doesn’t focus so much on the adults, I can understand the lack of Peet, however, I felt her character deserved a bit more. Perhaps she had some scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor. Who knows? It would have been nice to develop her a bit more, in my opinion.

Why is this called The Way Way Back I wonder. Similar to Napoleon Dynamite, the time is which this film is set is questionable because of the cars, clothes, and even the soundtrack, but when you see someone texting, you know it is modern. So, what is so special about this film? Nothing. Truth be told, if you take out the Water Wizz scenes, then you have a very boring independent drama. With them in there, you have a watchable dramedy. Do I recommend this? Not really, but for those that are into more romantic endeavors, you may find this enjoyable.

3 out of 5 stars


Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In a suburban San Fernando Valley garden, Theo, a.k.a Turbo, is a snail who dreams of being the greatest racer in the world, just like his hero, 5-time Indianapolis 500 champ, Guy Gagné. His obsession with speed and all things fast has made him an oddity and an outsider in the slow and cautious snail community, and a constant embarrassment to his cautious older brother, Chet. Turbo desperately wishes he could escape the slow-paced life he’s living, but his one chance to live proves a near fatal disaster when he tries to recover a prize tomato and needs to be rescued by Chet.

Demoralized, Theo wanders onto a freeway to admire the traffic and wishes on the very first star (which is actually an airplane light), “I wish…I wish I was fast”. Suddenly, he gets into a freak accident when he gets sucked into the supercharger of a drag racer, fusing his DNA with nitrous oxide on a street race. The next day, when Theo wakes up from unconsciousness, his incident the night before finds himself vested with the power of incredible speed and accuracy, as well as some of the characteristics of an actual car, such as eyes that light up like headlights, and a shell that blinks red like taillights and makes car sounds and music from a radio.

Unfortunately, Theo’s first attempt to show this power off ends with him crashing a Big Wheel tricycle into the garden, getting himself and Chet fired from the garden crew. As the siblings quarrel, Chet is snatched by a crow, but is pursued and rescued by Theo at a run down strip mall where they are then captured by Tito, a “Dos Bros” taco truck driver and is brought to race with other snails. Theo astounds both human and snail alike with his speed and earns the respect of the snails, led by Whiplash, with his crew Smoove Move, Burn, Skidmark, and White Shadow, who have impressive skills of their own.

Inspired by this extraordinary snail, Tito dreams to revive the strip mall with Theo as an attraction, and eventually with the help of the snails who manage to divert and strand a tour bus and drum up impressive business. At this success, Theo convinces Tito to try to enter the snail in Indianapolis 500 as a competitor. While Tito’s brother, Angelo, still declines to support him, the neighbors agree to put up the entrance fee and accompany them to Indianapolis. Once there, Tito is refused entry into the race, but a chance meeting with Guy Gagné gives Turbo a chance to show off his speed which astounds the race track at the snail qualifying for the race.

This impossible feat soon becomes a sensation on social media and the owner of the race gives in to the pressure, egged on by Gagné himself, to let the snail compete. However, the night before the race, Turbo is demoralized when his hero, Gagné, sneers at his attempt to race while Chet confesses that he cannot bear to see his brother endanger himself. Undeterred, Turbo enters the race the next day, but the dangerous racetrack and the far more experienced competition leaves him trailing in last place.

At a pitstop, Whiplash and his crew give Turbo a vital pep talk, advising him to stop racing like a car. Back in the race, Turbo realizes what they mean and uses his small size to maximum advantage with maneuvers around and under the competition that no human racer can emulate. With the snail rapidly gaining in the standings, Gagné starts racing dirty and manages to knock Turbo against the circuit wall, damaging his shell and weakening his speed powers. Eventually, in the final stretch with Turbo in the lead, Gagné tries a desperate maneuver to beat the snail and gets into a major crash that snares most of the competitors in a major pileup. Similarly, Turbo is thrown, waking up once again from unconsciousness with his shell punctured and his speed all but gone.

Alarmed at seeing Turbo giving up and retreating into his shell barely a few feet from the finish line, Chet puts himself into incredible dangers to meet up with Whiplash’s crew to get to the racer. Seeing his brother and friends arrive riding crows to encourage him to continue, Turbo resumes the race. Unfortunately, Gagné, refusing to lose, singlemindedly pursues him by dragging his wrecked car after the snail and attempts to crush him. At the last second, Chet tells Turbo to tuck and roll into his shell at Gagné’s last blow and the force allows him to tumble past the finish line to win.

At this victory, the strip mall becomes a major attraction with all the businesses becoming spectacular successes including extremely elaborate snail races with Whiplash’s crew getting special propulsion aids for their shells, while Chet is content as the track referee. As for Turbo, he becomes happier discovering that his shell has healed, and with that, his superspeed has returned.


With the success of Pixar’s Cars, DreamWorks decided they wanted to get their piece of the pie that included kids that liked racing with Turbo. I won’t get into the debate about which is better because they are two different films, but I will say that no matter what you think of either, kids will love them regardless.

What is this about?

A speed-obsessed snail who dreams of being the world’s greatest race car driver gets his chance when a freak accident imbues him with high-octane speed. But he soon learns he’ll need the help of his friends if he’s going to go the distance.

What did I like?

Parallel. There is a dynamic between Turbo and his brother and the Dos Tacos brothers that really parallels each other as the younger brother is a visionary, for lack of a better term, while the older brother is the more grounded cynical type. At one point during the film, they are both fussing at the respective siblings and seem to finish each other’s thought processes (sometimes sentences). I found this to be quite the sight and some impressive creativity on the part of the filmmakers.

Speed. I was listening to a podcast a couple of days ago and they brought up an interesting point. Turbo gets his speed powers by being doused in Nitrous Oxide. In some ways this is similar to how the Flash gets his speed powers (he gets doused in chemicals). So, basically Turbo could be a super hero. If you watch the film and notice some of the feats he accomplishes, superhero could be in his future, if he wanted to. That point aside, it was a masterful idea to have a snail compete in the Indy 500. Who would have ever thought of that?

Crew. They may have been a small part of the film, relatively, but I was enjoying the Starlight Crew. Each of them had a different, unique personality and they really embraced Turbo…and eventually his brother. Given the fact that he needed someone to have his back and help him through the race, they really came in handy. Leave us not forget the voice talents of Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Rudolph, and Snoop Dogg who lend their pipes to these snails.

What didn’t I like?

Turbo. Ryan Reynolds does a great job lending his voice to Turbo, but there is a rather large section about half way through the films, starting with the montage that he just stops talking. Sure, some people are easily annoyed by Reynolds, but this is a character that needed a voice. To take that away from him I felt hindered his development as a character, as well as his relationship with the others, including the humans.

Lacking. In this day and age, kids movies need to show some imagination. That wasn’t happening here as the film follows a very formulaic premise that, as one critic said, “…even the average 6-year-old couldn’t imagine…” I applaud the bright colors and the comedy, but can’t get past how that, other than how Turbo got his speed and the climax (which put me in the mind of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby), everything was so predictable.

Dead horse. There is a character that calls himself the “White shadow” and it apparently is a joke that he appears out of nowhere. Ok, that’s fine, but it turns out to be one of those jokes that they run into the ground and never really works, no matter how much they want it to or hard they try.

I had a little chuckle to myself about Turbo. Think about that slug monster who was rushing to get to class in Monsters University but took the whole semester to get there. Think about what kind of film we’d have if he got super speed! You can argue that it would be more entertaining, but the truth is, this isn’t that bad of a film. It was just overshadowed by the aforementioned Monsters and Despicable Me 2. So, chances are you had your fill of children’s films when this was released and skipped it. Not to mention there isn’t much for the adults in the film, either, except for maybe a couple of songs that are played. That being said, I still give this a pretty high recommendation. If nothing else, the comedy and uplifting story will put a smile on your face!

4 out of 5 stars

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


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