Archive for Stephen Root

Mad Money

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Bridget Cardigan is shocked to learn that she is on the verge of losing her home and comfortable upper middle class lifestyle when her husband Don is downsized from his job. Armed only with a decades old English degree and years as a dedicated mother and corporate wife, Bridget is forced into the unfamiliar labor market with no job skills. Finally, she accepts the only position she can find–janitor at the Federal Reserve Bank. The one-time suburban mom soon discovers she has more in common with her new co-workers than she thought. Bridget forges an unexpected bond with Nina, a hard-working single mom with two kids to raise, and Jackie, an exuberant free spirit with nothing to lose. Caught up in a system that underestimates their talents and keeps their dreams just out of reach, Bridget, Nina and Jackie set out to even the score. After a lifetime of playing by the rules, the three devise a plan to smuggle soon-to-be destroyed currency out of the supposedly airtight Reserve. As the unlikely crime syndicate amasses piles of cash, it looks like they have pulled off the perfect crime–until a minor misstep alerts the authorities. With more money than they know what to do with, the women are pushed to the limits of their ingenuity to stay one step ahead of the law!

What people are saying:

“Mad Money is a light and lively, likable low-tech lark. Don’t expect big laughs, but you can at least bank on it to hold your interest.” 2 1/2 stars

“Provided you can get past its improbable premise, this madcap crime caper’s trio of talented leading ladies manage to provide enough moments of mirth to make the rest of this raucous romp worthwhile.” 3 stars

“This movie was cheesey. I dont know if thats necessarily a bad thing… As always I love Queen Latifa’s performance… that woman is very likeable!!… Katie Holms was a little painful to watch, she doesnt ever convince me of her characters… and Diane Keaton was a little annoying too… the movie itself was goofy… again, not sure if thats a good or bad thing… I’d pass on it if i could have the decision over again.” 2 stars

“With an interesting idea, an okay story, a good script written by Glenn Gers, fine dialogue, a talented cast headed by Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah, Katie Holmes, Ted Danson and Christopher McDonald, exciting directing by Callie Khouri (Thelma and Louise), exciting scenes and a perfect pace and flow, Mad Money will teach you how to be careful with your money but not steal it.”

“This movie is simply a light hearted romp with some very good actresses who are handicapped by a screenplay that begins very weakly. Much of that has to do with the weak plot that is rolled out in the first half of the movie. Because of the screenplay reason, this film is not able to shine as a comedy or a heist film either for that matter. The first half may easily have you going blah blah blah. The second half of the movie however improves considerably and saves it into the semi-respectible, worth your time, 3* category. I have to admit, I truly loved Katie Holmes’ role. This turns out to be a pretty good film that you can relax to because it truly requires very little mental exercise.” 4 stars

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Get Out

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Now that Chris and his girlfriend, Rose, have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he could have never imagined.

What people are saying:

“Funny, scary, and thought-provoking, Get Out seamlessly weaves its trenchant social critiques into a brilliantly effective and entertaining horror/comedy thrill ride.” 4 stars

“What makes Get Out more than just a slam-bang scarefest is that, in its own darkly satiric way, it is also a movie about racial paranoia that captures the zeitgeist in ways that many more “prestigious” movies don’t.” 5 stars

“I had high hopes and high expectations for this film, knowing little about it prior to watching. Quick review: Overhyped Not a horror, lacks tension building and atmosphere and falls flat Not a thriller, just weird. Not a comedy, one dude playing a stereotype with 7 minutes of screen time does not make this a comedy. Acting is decent Early attempts at effecting the audience with the score showed promise but failed to deliver. Story failed to shock/suprise. (People should have been able to see the story coming) Too heavy handed, felt like one of those films in Jr High that tried to be extra cool while telling you that underaged drinking is back mmmmkaay. Summary: It’s a pretentious and condescending movie that failed more often than it succeeded and the fact that people were blind to it because of its social cause is disheartening. If people (over)like it and give it extra stars because of who made it and his world view, they are doing a disservice to the film community, the audience, the actors and producers. Encourage films to be great on their own and take the “everyone gets a trophy for trying” gloves off.” 1 star

“This was a superbly executed horror film. The chilling moments were chilling. The laughable moments were intentional, because typically when you’re laughing during a horror film, we all know you are not laughing with, but at the film. The acting was flawless: from Daniel Kaluuya to Catherine Keener, the actors brought so many levels to their performances. I was especially impressed with Keener and Bradley Whitford’s ability to go from warm, parental figures to subtly menacing to their ultimate terrifying performance.  The fact that they were able to include the old hypnosis trope, and make it fresh and horrifying in 2017, was worthy of applause in and of itself. I am so impressed with Jordan Peele and his first foray into horror. He managed to make a suspenseful horror film that also made you think. I applaud Mr. Peele, the cast, and crew. Best film I’ve seen in quite some time!” 5 stars

Get Out is surprisingly eloquent when it comes to criticizing the topic of modern racial tension, but made it a bit funny, too. Jordan Peele is able to balance the horror elements and his usual comedic tone quite well. As it progresses, the premise seems more ridiculousness, but the reality of the situation is grounded and effective. And much like the main character, you find the rest of the cast predictably sketchy, but you believe the slight of terror they give off. It’s pretty entertaining and while we may never experience this, there’s probably something in the film that makes us think about the things we deal with surrounding us.” 5 stars

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In the Depression-era deep South, three escapees from a Mississippi prison chain gang: Everett Ulysses McGill, sweet and simple Delmar, and the perpetually angry Pete, embark on the adventure of a lifetime as they set out to pursue their freedom and return to their homes. With nothing to lose and still in shackles, they make a hasty run for their lives and end up on an incredible journey filled with challenging experiences and colorful characters. However, they must also match wits with the cunning and mysterious lawman Cooley, who tracks men, bent on bringing the trio back to the prison farm.

What people are saying:

“A roller-coaster ride with a goofy fun-house spirit, it’s full of clever pranks.” 4 stars

“This is the type of movie I like to revisit from time to time because I find it comforting in some kind of way. The music is the biggest standout for me, but I definitely find that I appreciate the comedy more as I get older too. ” 4 stars

“It takes a lot for the Coen Bros to make a movie that isn’t entertaining. ‘O Brother Where Art Thou?’ is engaging at times but it’s very hit or miss. The cast is having fun which isn’t unusual for a Coen flick, but it just didn’t make me laugh and there were instances I was bored. Worthwhile for the performances and the supporting cast but we have come to expect better from Coen and Company. ” 3 stars

“The Coen brothers cleverly combine the Odyssey with the Depression to create this wonderfully humorous and lighthearted tale of three escaped prisoners on a quest. With a few detours and strange encounters along the way, their hilarious journey will entertain you through and through” 4 1/2 stars

“There is nothing else I can think of like this movie. Based on Homer’s Odyssey, it keeps its mythological feel even though everything could be described as mundane. It’s like the feeling you get while watching Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, but no magic is necessary here. And the role music plays in this film… it’s hypnotic. I can’t quite explain why, but this is (in my humble opinion) one of the greatest films to have come out in a very long time.” 5 stars

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on February 25, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Hard-partying brothers Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) place an online ad to find the perfect dates (Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza) for their sister’s Hawaiian wedding. Hoping for a wild getaway, the boys instead find themselves outsmarted and out-partied by the uncontrollable duo.

What people are saying:

“…where the comedy really takes off, Aubrey Plaza, who was so sharp playing a good girl pretending to be bad in The To Do List, is even sharper playing a bad girl pretending to be good. She’s got a face made for deception — she’s like a devil doll, eyebrows lowering with cunning — and her line readings are killer.” 3 stars

“The story and humour do fall flat occasionally however the central 4 and there combined comedic flair (which makes it annoying to see Plaza and Kendrick split up for the second act) add up to enough craziness to keep viewers entertained for 90 minutes, even if it’s not one you rush to re-watch.” 3 stars

“It was very raunchy…I know some people like that, but I felt it was too much. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind it in small doses–wedding craters, hangover, horrible bosses are all great movies but, as someone else said, raunchy-for-the-sake-of-raunchy can lose it’s appeal very quickly. I thought the premise of the movie seemed different and intriguing, especially because it was loosely based off of true events and the girls were far from boring–I just couldn’t find the humor” 2 stars

“Based on a true story (of sorts), Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is an extremely raunchy sex comedy. While it sports an impressive cast that includes Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Aubrey Plaza, and Anna Kendrick, the writing is atrociously bad. The plot’s pretty much a standard rom-com vacation, with all the usual tropes and clichés that go with it. And the comedy is chock-full of gross-out sexual humor. Formulaic tripe, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is utterly pointless and vulgar.” 1 1/2 stars

“I hate to write anything bad about Anna Kendrick or Aubrey Plaza as I usually really like both of them. However, they completely ruined this movie. Their acting was fake, forced and obnoxious. Zac Efron and Adam Devine were hilarious and the only scenes I could stand were the ones with them. I don’t think it was the fault of the two actresses, it seemed more like a directorial error but unfortunately, it ruined the entire film. It does have a few laughable moments and Adam Devine and Zac Efron definitely make a great duo. Hopefully they join forces again under someone else’s direction.” 1 star

Sweetwater

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , on July 10, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In the late 1800s, a beautiful ex-prostitute (January Jones) is trying to build an honest life with her husband in the rugged plains of New Mexico. When she catches the eye of a sadistic and powerful religious leader (Jason Isaacs), her life is violently turned upside down. She embarks on a bloody course of vengeance with the assistance of a renegade sheriff (Ed Harris) who has his own violent tendencies.

What people are saying:

“A mess that wanders around weirdly for an hour and then becomes a mix of spit on your grave and a western.” 2 stars

“It’s hard to care about the revenge story based on January Jone’s performance. The over the top acting of Jason Isaacs and Ed Harris is fun to watch at least.” 3 stars

“Ed Harris is way over the line, but it’s always a pleasure to watch and that’s all I can say about this western…” 2 stars

“If you find yourself wanting to watch a western, pass on this turd.” 2 stars

“Fine performances by Ed Harris, Jason Isaacs & Stephen Root can’t save this go-no-where story with worn-to-death tropes done way better, decades before by classic filmmakers. I wanted this to be a good film and was pulling for everyone involved. Sadly, it comes up way too short way too often in every sense of storytelling.” 1 1/2 stars

Revisited: Leatherheads

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

“Dodge” Connelly (George Clooney) is captain of the Duluth Bulldogs, a struggling professional American football team circa 1925. Dodge is determined to save both his team and pro football in general when the players lose their sponsor and the league is on the brink of collapse. He convinces Princeton University’s college football star, Carter “the Bullet” Rutherford, to join the Bulldogs, hoping to capitalize on Carter’s fame as a decorated hero of the First World War (like Alvin York, he single-handedly captured a large group of German soldiers). In addition to his legendary tales of combat heroism, Carter has dashing good looks and unparalleled speed and skill on the field. As a result of his presence, both the Bulldogs and pro football in general begin to prosper.

Chicago Tribune newspaper reporter Lexie Littleton becomes the object of the affections of both Dodge and Carter. Lexie has been assigned to find proof that Carter’s war heroics are bogus. Carter confesses that the surrender of the Germans was a lucky accident and that his role in it was more foolish than heroic. Carter soon discovers Lexie’s agenda and is doubly hurt when he learns that Dodge and Lexie are starting to show affections for each other and even shared a kiss. The ensuing fight over Lexie’s affections puts her off. Spurred on by the threats of Carter’s manager, she decides to publish the story.

The story sparks a firestorm of accusations and reprimands. Carter’s manager resorts to shady dealing to cover it up, even bribing the original witness to change his story.

Dodge’s attempts to legitimize pro football take a life of its own. The new commissioner formalizes the game’s rules, taking away improvisational antics. In addition, the commissioner takes the responsibility of clearing up the Carter controversy to set an example for the new direction of professional football.

With the whole world against Lexie (even the Tribune is pushing her to retract her story), Dodge concocts a clever ruse. Interrupting a private hearing in the commissioner’s office, Dodge threatens Carter with a confrontation by his old army mates. Dodge claims that they are just outside the door, ready to congratulate him for his heroic actions. In truth, the men are Bulldogs in borrowed Army uniforms.

Carter confesses the truth. The commissioner frees Lexie from printing a retraction. Carter is ordered to simply say he got too much credit for his war actions, but must give a hefty part of his paycheck to the American Legion. Carter’s conniving manager is banned from football as well. Dodge is warned that if he pulls any old tricks to win the next game, he will lose his place in the league.

Dodge plays in one last game. This time it will be against Carter, who has changed sides from Duluth to Chicago. The rivalry for Lexie’s affection spills onto the field.

The game does not go so well for Dodge, including how muddy the field is. Dodge decides football should be played without rules. Lexie notices that after a brawl, Dodge is missing and with most players covered in mud, no one can tell who is who. There appears to be an interception and Chicago seems to have won, but when the mud is removed it’s seen that the player is none other than Dodge Connelly, who disguised himself as a Chicago player on the play. The play is changed from an interception to a touchdown, and the Bulldogs win.

Carter mentions to Dodge that he is finished playing football, based on the threat the commissioner had made. He intends to tell the newspapers the real story about his “capture” of the German soldiers. Dodge argues that America “needs” heroes and it is implied the true story won’t be told. Dodge and Carter part on good terms once again.

After the game, Dodge meets up with Lexie and they ride into the sunset on Dodge’s motorbike, discussing with humor the possibilities in their future, which include bankruptcy, scandals and jail time. During the end credits, pictures show Dodge and Lexie getting married, Carter donating $10,000 to the US military and Carter’s former manager with new clients Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

REVIEW:

In a few hours, the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks will take the field in New York for Super Bowl XLVIII. While I wait to cheer on the ______, I figured why not make it an official tradition to watch a football film this day every year. Last year, there was Johnny Be Good and this year we get Leatherheads.

What is this about?

Hard-nosed sports reporter Lexie Littleton finds herself at the center of an acute 1920s love triangle when aging football hero Dodge Connelly and rising college star Carter Rutherford go head-to-head to compete for her affections.

What did I like?

Old school football. What was the last football film you saw or heard of that dealt with football from the 20s? You know, the time when guys played on both sides of the ball, didn’t make obscene amounts of money, and it was an actual team sport, not something for diva wide receivers and wimpy quarterbacks who cry to the commissioner when they get hit. Well, that’s what this is. Ideally, I would like for football to have been more center stage, but just the face that someone wanted to make a film like this (directed by George Clooney, btw) is enough…for now.

He’s got the look. If you’re going to make a film set in the 20s, then you need to find actors that look out of their time. That is to say, they need to look like they belong in yesteryear. When I watch Mad Men, I often say this about Jon Hamm. Some have said this about the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jean Dujardin, Carey Mulligan, etc. George Clooney has that look as well, especially when he wasn’t showing his years (I blame directing duties). Jon Krasinski also fits the bill for this perfectly as the war hero football star.

History. Believe it or not, there is some historical significance in the story of this film as it brings us a bit of an introduction into how professional football began. I’m not sure on how much of this is historically accurate, but the basics are there, and some of the names were changed at the request of the NFL. As I mentioned, this is not a topic that filmmakers seem to want to…um…tackle.

What didn’t I like?

Football. You know, for a football film, there sure wasn’t a lot of football to be found. There is the first game we see early on and then the climactic scene at the end. I think there was one or two others, but they aren’t fully focused on like the bookend games. I get so tired of this sports films that do their best to do everything but show the sport they are about!

Did she just change her name? Renee Zellweger apparently has an affinity for the 20s. I half wonder if this character is just Roxie from Chicago who changed her name and got a career. It wouldn’t surprise me. Seriously, though, her character is supposed to be a hardened reporter with (self-proclaimed) great legs. I’m sorry, but these are not characteristics I apply to Zellweger and no matter how hard she tries, this character is not for her.

Sidekick. Where did they dig out Max Casella? Who is Max Casella? Well, if any of you remember Doogie Howser, M.D., he was Doogie’s (Neil Patrick Haris) best friend. Since then, he hasn’t been seen. At least that I know of. I guess Clooney was able to find him and gave in a somewhat small role. It isn’t that he does a bad job in this role, but rather is seems a bit of stunt casting to bring him back to the spotlight.

After watching Leatherheads, I appreciate some more history of professional football that I didn’t before. Watch some of the scenes involving how poor these players were and what they went through compared to the drama queen players of today and you’ll see why. That being said, the thing that should be sticking with me about this film is the slapstick Keystone cop type of comedy, but there just wasn’t enough of it for my taste. Rather they chose to dwell on the love triangle and nearly turn this into a drama. That attempt at genre splicing is what hurts the film more than anything. Still, I would say this is an ok watch if you’re in the mood for a football comedy. I just wouldn’t go out of your way to check it out.

3 out of 5 stars

Cedar Rapids

Posted in Comedy, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Naive and idealistic insurance agent Tim Lippe has led a sheltered life and hasn’t encountered all that others have; the movie is about his becoming more aware of his cocoon and moving out of it. At the beginning, he is shown welcoming a former teacher into his home, addressing her as Mrs. Vanderhei, and promptly having sex with her. Afterwards, he reminisces about his experiences as her student. In his position as an insurance agent, he is sent to represent his company (Brownstar Insurance) at a regional conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Lippe is sent as a replacement for his co-worker, Roger Lemke, who dies in an auto-erotic asphyxiation accident. Tim idolized Roger, believing that his death was merely an unfortunate accident, and that he embodied all it was to be decent, honest, caring to the community and most importantly “Christian,” as these are the key criteria used to judge the winner of the coveted “Two Diamonds” award, which Roger had won 2 years in a row. Tim is under pressure from his boss, Bill, to ensure they win again and keep the small company afloat.

Lippe meets fellow insurance agents Ronald Wilkes, Dean Ziegler and Joan Ostrowski-Fox, or “Ronimal”, “Dean-Z” and “O-Fox” respectively. He also meets Bree, a prostitute who works the parking lot in front of the hotel. She affectionately calls him “Butterscotch” after he offers her a piece of butterscotch candy. Initially wary of almost everyone at the conference, he spends more time with Ron, Dean and Joan, and starts to develop genuine friendships and even a crush on Joan. All the insurance agents participate in a Scavenger Hunt, with Tim being paired with Joan, and although no one manages to complete the final task, they come farthest and thus win the contest and a gift card to a local restaurant. Tim, Joan and Dean become rather intoxicated through the night and end up in the hotel swimming pool, Tim and Joan’s sexual tension builds to a head and, after making out in the pool, they make love (later, in Joan’s hotel room). Regrettably, they were all seen in the pool by ASMI president Orin Helgesson.

The next morning, Tim is guilt-ridden and calls his older girl friend (and ex-teacher) Macy to confess, before desperately asking her to marry him, she takes this opportunity to explain that as a recently divorced woman she just wants to have fun, so she too has been sleeping with other people and tells him that perhaps “it’s time for him to fly away from the nest and start a new life”. Tim returns to Joan, who attempts to comfort him by telling him what Roger Lemke (the man he idolizes) was really like: that she was his lover but left him after his sexual appetites became a bit too twisted for her, and that he bribed Helgesson for each one of his Two Diamond awards. Tim refuses to believe this, and flees Joan’s room, accusing her of being a “prostitute” sent to destroy his life.

He runs into Dean and accidentally lets it slip that Lemke had bought all of his Two Diamonds. Dean swears to not tell anyone, it becoming apparent that he already sees Tim as a true friend. After some words of advice from Dean, Tim goes to Helgesson for his assessment: it does not go well, and under the pressure he ends up also bribing Helgesson for the award, leaving him penniless and ashamed. He later comes across Bree and accompanies her to a party, which ends up with Tim getting high on crystal methamphetamine and inadvertently starting a fight. Ron, Joan and Dean show up just in time to rescue him, as well as Bree who claims she is in love with Tim. The night ends with Bill appearing at Tim’s door to inform him that with the successful acquisition of another Two Diamond award, he has received a generous offer for the company and despite it meaning the branch’s closure, he has chosen to sell. The day of the Diamond awards comes and while Bill is formally announcing the sale, Tim bursts in and takes over the podium; this when he reveals that his company has unethically acquired the award every year by bribing Helgesson and confesses to doing so himself. Helgesson flees the room, his reputation in tatters. A furious Bill confronts Tim, his revelations having cost Bill the sale of his company. Tim responds by announcing his intentions to leave the company and start another with his clients from Brownstar, 17 of which have agreed to stay with him. Bill storms off, dumbfounded.

As the four friends say their goodbyes and prepare to see each other next year, we see Joan and Tim are happy as friends and Dean invites Ron and Tim to stay at a wealthy friend’s cabin in Canada for the summer, both of them surprising Dean by gleefully accepting, their shared experiences having clearly awarded genuine friendships and personal growth to them all.

It is revealed during the credits that the three of them went on to start their own company together called Top Notch, with Joan involved as well.

REVIEW:

Sometimes, Netflix will send me movies that are at the top of the list, but only because I hadn’t rearranged it, yet. This is how I got to watch Cedar Rapids. While I wasn’t excited about this flick and wondered how it even managed to make it on my list, it turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

Chances are most of you have not heard of this. I know I hadn’t. The plot involves an insurance agent who has been working in the town he grew up in. All of a sudden, the man he has idolized since he began working for the company turns up dead. This means that Tim, played by Ed Helms,  will have to head to the conference down in Cedar Rapids and take his place, not to mention continue the tradition of bringing back the coveted Two Diamonds award.

At the conference, Tim meets an interesting cast of characters, starting with the young prostitute Bree, and fellow insurance agents Ronald, Joan, and the man his boss had told him to avoid, Dean. I can’t remember why it was that he was supposed to avoid him, though.

At the conference, things start to happen, such as Tim falling in love with Joan, finding out a terrible secret about his former idol, getting high on crystal meth, and of course the climactic moment when he finally grows a backbone and tells his boss off.

The comedic chemistry between all of these character is gold. While Ed Helms may not be the best leading man, he makes for a nice central character. Isiah Whitlock, Jr. makes a nice comedic turn as the “token black guy”, with his best scene being when he goes all “gangsta”. John C. Reilly steals the whole show as Dean., the loud-mouthed, lecherous supposed “frenemy”, if you will. Anne Heche (where has she been?) makes a very Julianne Moore-like appearance as the girl of the group, Joan. Take my word for it, you’ll have to do a double take when you see her.

There are quite a few funny moments throughout the film, and it never seems to get bogged down in trying to be too serious. It remembers that is a comedy, first and foremost, which is something so many films tend to forget these days. There are better comedies out there, but you will still be at least mildly entertained by this one. I have to say that is likely to go down as one of the surprises I’m sure to see this year. Check it out if you get the chance!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars