Archive for Zooey Deschanel

Trolls

Posted in Movie Reviews, Animation, Family with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Inspired by the beloved troll dolls that have entertained kids for decades, this animated tale follows the always-happy Princess Poppy and her grouchy survivalist companion Branch as they embark on a journey that takes them into an unfamiliar world.

What people are saying:

“combines the barely-there characterization and irritating cutesiness of The Smurfs and Jelly Jamm with the hideous character design and awful pop covers of Strange Magic” 3 stars

“”Trolls” combines dreadful kindergarten humor (one troll poops cupcakes) with a feeble plot, much padded with high-fructose-corn-syrup versions of pop and R&B classics.” 1 1/2 stars

“Cute and colorful with some great voice work from an all-star cast and some of the dialogue is definitely geared towards the adults in the audience. The synthesized music gets a bit cloying after a while and the nod to Cinderella is…well…what it is. As it goes it’s decent family entertainment” 3 1/2 stars

“What a perfect example of this stupid generation I’m apart of. All the millionnials who don’t know how to do anything useful and they think as long as their happy life is good when there’s so much more to it than that.
Reminds me of all the people I hate.” 1 1/2 stars

“Wow, I was not expecting this to be this good. It’s bright, colorful, vivid, trippy, and the songs chosen for the musical numbers (That’s right, this is a musical featuring mostly 20th-21st century pop hits plus some original songs as well.) are fantastic. The story is pretty simple, and the whole thing kind of reminds me of a 90’s Saturday morning cartoon updated for the modern day. Anna Kendrick was my favorite voice actor here, and is bubbly, cute and adorable. Trolls is a painless, enjoyable film” 3 stars

Almost Famous

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1973, William Miller is a 15-year-old boy aspiring to be a rock journalist. His mother, Elaine, wants him to become a lawyer. Shunned by his classmates, he writes for underground papers in San Diego, sharing the love of rock music instilled in him through a gift of albums left behind on the day his sister Anita left home.

William listens to an interview with rock journalist Lester Bangs. William has sent Bangs copies of his work, and Bangs gives William a $35 assignment to write up a review of a Black Sabbath concert. At first reluctant to assist a journalist, the band Stillwater brings William backstage after he praises their work. The guitarist, Russell Hammond, takes a liking to William, partly because of William’s friendship with a groupie he has romantic feelings for, Penny.

William goes with Penny to the “Riot House” – the Hyatt Hotel on Sunset Boulevard – to meet Stillwater. Penny, feigning retirement from her rock glory days, acts as William’s chauffeur, but only to get close to Russell, for whom she has genuine feelings and a past relationship.

William is called by Ben Fong-Torres, editor of Rolling Stone, who wants him to do a story, believing William is several years older than he really is. When William convinces Ben to let him do a story on Stillwater, he is instructed to go on the road with them.

On the first leg of the trip, William makes his first in an increasingly frustrating number of attempts to interview Russell. Penny watches the interaction and sympathizes with William. William experiences tensions with the band due to his role as a journalist.

A new manager, Dennis, comes on board to help steer the band, and it is revealed that Penny must leave the tour before New York, where Leslie, Russell’s ex-wife/girlfriend, will join them. During a poker game he allows Dick to put up the groupies as a stake. The band loses the groupies to the band Humble Pie for $50 and a case of Heineken. When William tells Penny, she acts nonchalant but is devastated. Penny and Doris, the band’s tour bus, are left behind; Dennis has piled the band into a plane for more gigs.

Penny goes to New York on her own, and as the band gathers in a restaurant with Russell’s girlfriend, Penny shows up. As they celebrate making the cover of Rolling Stone, Penny makes Leslie uncomfortable and Dick asks her to leave. William chases Penny back to her hotel and finds her overdosed on quaaludes.

Believing they will die during a plane ride, the group confesses their secrets. When Penny is insulted by Jeff, the band’s lead singer, William defends her and discloses his love. The plane lands safely, leaving everyone to ponder the changed atmosphere.

William continues on to San Francisco to finish the story, parting ways with the band in the airport. Upset about Penny, he rewrites the article, telling the truth. The Rolling Stone editors cannot wait to publish it, but have to ask the band to verify it. Fearful of how the article will affect their image, the band makes William look like a liar. William is crushed and the story is dead. Sitting dejected in the airport, he sees his sister, who has become a stewardess and lives on her own terms. She tells him they should go on a trip together and, exhausted, William chooses to go home to San Diego.

Backstage at the Miami Orange Bowl on the Stillwater tour, Sapphire talks to Russell about Penny’s near-suicide and how despite the warnings she received about letting people fall in love with her, one of them saved her life. Russell is curious about the person in question, but Sapphire chastises him, saying that everyone knows what the band did to William and how awful they think it is. Russell calls Penny and asks for her address, telling her he wants to meet. Unbeknown to Russell, she gives him William’s address in an attempt to resolve their conflict. Russell goes to the house, thinking it is Penny’s, but finds Elaine instead. Learning who he is, she lets him in to see William as Russell realizes where he is. They reconcile and Russell reveals that he called Rolling Stone and told them William’s story is true. Russell gives William a proper interview, Penny purchases a ticket to Morocco, and William’s story is published, with Stillwater on the cover of “Rolling Stone”.

REVIEW:

Music…truly the greatest of the arts. As a musician, I may be a bit biased, though. Almost Famous does something that I don’t think many films of its ilk do, it intersperses real life with fiction. Oh wait, that has been done. Whoops! Seriously, though, other than giving us a close-up of Kate Hudson’s beautiful face, is there any reason to sit through this? Let’s find out shall we?

What is this about?

In the early 1970s, William Miller writes about the band Stillwater on a cross-country tour, learning about friendship and love along the way.

What did I like?

Wonder years. Let’s see, set in the 70s, teenage kid coming of age…what does this remind you of? That’s right! The Wonder Years! In some ways, this film brought me back to that show, but without the narration and with a somewhat darker tone, of course, but that’s a good thing because I grew up loving that show. The fact that someone was either obviously inspired by it to make this film, ripped off the idea, or just happened to have a coincidental idea is brilliant, mainly because I don’t think would have worked at any other point in time. You could probably argue for the swing era, but that would be an entirely different film, filled with race issues, depressions, etc.

Golden child. Patrick Fugit is one of those actors who you know you’ve seen him in this or that and hoped he would get his big break, but nothing ever happened past one or two starring roles for whatever reason. This is one of his star vehicles. He also had a big role in Saved, but other than that I don’t know that he’s anything major. That’s neither here or there, though. Fugit kills it in this role as an underage teen who happens to have a job at a local paper in San Francisco and, because of his outstanding skills, gets noticed by Rolling Stone magazine and asked to do a piece on the (fictional) band Stillwater. I should mention that he’s one of those graduate high school at 15 kids and this happens during the end of his senior year. Fugit has the innocent, dough-eyed look that one has at that age and he brings the worldly knowledge that an experience reporter, as we are led to believe he is, has as well. No wonder everyone thought this guy was going places.

Music, man. A film about a music reporter following around a band and doing a piece on them wouldn’t be complete without at least some music, right? I’m a little disappointed there weren’t more clips of the band performing, but I’m happy with what we got. Also, copyright issues and all that legal mumbo jumbo probably prevented this from being about someone like, say, Black Sabbath, who Stillwater is opening for when we first come across them. Back at this point in time, it was all about the music, man, and this film accomplishes the goal of showing us just why that is by portraying the ups and downs of a band which, in turn, translates into great songs.

What didn’t I like?

Mom. First off, let me say that Frances McDormand does a great job as the mother in the film. However, it is no wonder that, as she says, “…my children don’t want to be around me.” She shelters, brainwashes, and coddles them to the point that Zooey Deschanel’s character runs off to become a stewardess and Fugit jumps at the chance to goon tour with a band and its groupies. Pardon me, “band-aids.” Maybe it is because I am not a parent, but to be this kind of mother just seems to be too much. I didn’t see the dad, or hear mention of him, though, so perhaps this is some kind of coping mechanism or other psychological issue that she is inflicting on her children, causing them to drift further and further away.

Zooey and Phillip. Both Zooey Deschanel and Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s roles could have been bigger, I felt. Hoffman’s role was pretty decent, but as the resident mentor/father figure in this story, I almost feel as if he should have stepped in when things went south at the end. As for Zooey, she runs away in the beginning of the film and, by chance, she shows up at the end. As far as the audience knows, she and her brother haven’t talked since her departure, and yet they still seem close. Maybe it is my love for Zooey, but I would have liked to have seen some more interaction with the two throughout this journey. I also wonder what it would have been like had she had Kate Hudson’s role and vice versa.

Youth of a nation. What was it with young people in the 70s? Were they just able to run around free and willy-nilly take random bus rides across the country? Don’t even get me started on the girls! Apparently, they just went around when the first guy came around, they opened their legs and let them in. Ok…I’m exaggerating a bit, but if this film is to be believed, that was the life young people led back then. Not really something I disliked about the film, just a statement.

Dare I say Almost Famous is one of the best made films I’ve seen? Yes, I do dare. Kate Hudson, with her California girl looks, is perfectly cast as the independent Penny Lane. I’ve mentioned Patrick Fugit, Zooey Deschanel, and Frances McDormand. The music keeps you going and interested in the whole picture, and there are some comedic moments to keep the mood light. Do I recommend this? Yes, this is definitely a film to see before you die!

5 out of 5 stars

Revisited: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

One Thursday morning, Arthur Dent discovers that his house is to be immediately demolished to make way for a bypass. He tries delaying the bulldozers by lying down in front of them. Ford Prefect, a friend of Arthur’s, convinces him to go to the pub with him. Over a pint of beer (as “muscle relaxant”), Ford explains that he is an alien from a planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, and a journalist working on the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a universal guide book, and that the Earth is to be demolished later that day by a race called Vogons, to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Suddenly, a Vogon Constructor Fleet appears in the sky and destroys the planet. Ford saves himself and Arthur by hitching a ride on a Vogon ship. The two are found and forced to listen to poetry. They are then thrown out of an airlock, but are picked up by the starship Heart of Gold. They find Ford’s “semi-half brother” Zaphod Beeblebrox, the President of the Galaxy. He has stolen the ship along with Tricia “Trillian” McMillan, an Earth woman whom Arthur had met previously, and Marvin the Paranoid Android.

Zaphod explains that he is seeking the planet Magrathea, where he believes he can discover the Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything to match with the answer “42” given by the supercomputer Deep Thought. Zaphod stole the Heart of Gold to use its improbability drive to get to Magrathea through trial and error.

During one of these attempts, they end up on the planet Viltvodle VI. Zaphod decides to visit Humma Kavula, his opponent from the election. Upon learning of Zaphod’s plan, Kavula announces that he has the coordinates to Magrathea. He takes one of Zaphod’s two heads hostage and demands they bring him the Point-of-view gun created by Deep Thought, which allows the target to understand the shooter’s point of view. As they are leaving the planet, Trillian is captured by Vogons. The others travel to rescue her from the Vogon home world bureaucracy, facing long lines and frustrating form processing. Trillian is outraged to learn that Zaphod signed the authorisation for the destruction of Earth thinking it was a request for an autograph.

The Heart of Gold is chased by the Vogons, led by Galactic Vice-President Questular Rontok, who is attempting to rescue Zaphod from himself. As the Heart of Gold arrives in orbit above Magrathea, Arthur triggers the improbability drive to avoid the automated missile defence systems. The missiles transform into a bowl of petunias and a sperm whale.

On the planet, Zaphod, Ford, and Trillian take a portal to Deep Thought. When they ask the computer whether it has calculated the ultimate question, it reveals that it designed another supercomputer to do so—Earth. When the trio finds the Point-of-View gun, Trillian shoots Zaphod, making him understand how she feels about the destruction of Earth. She also finds out how much she loves Arthur. Arthur and Marvin miss the portal and encounter a Magrathean called Slartibartfast, who takes Arthur on a tour of the construction floor where Earth Mark II is being built. Slartibartfast takes Arthur home, where the others are enjoying a feast provided by pan-dimensional beings who resemble a pair of mice. Arthur realises he has fallen into a trap. The mice, who constructed Deep Thought, used the supercomputer to build an even larger supercomputer, the planet Earth, to determine the Ultimate Question. Believing Arthur, the last remaining supercomputer component, may hold the Ultimate Answer, the mice attempt to remove his brain. Arthur kills the mice.

As the crew regroup outside the house they are surrounded by Vogons and take shelter in a caravan as the Vogons open fire. Marvin is left outside and shot in the back of the head, and uses the Point-of-View gun on the Vogons, causing them to become depressed and unable to fight. As the Vogons are taken away and Questular rejoins with Zaphod, Arthur chooses to explore the galaxy with Trillian and lets Slartibartfast finalise the new Earth without him. The Heart of Gold crew decide to visit the Restaurant at the End of the Universe while Marvin points out they are going the wrong way.

REVIEW:

Everyone has those movies that they can watch over and over again, no matter what mood they are in or how good or bad the film is. One of these films for me is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I loved the book and the film, while a bit of a departure from the source is ranked among my all time favorites. Will it be one of yours?

What is this about?

After learning his house is about to be leveled to make way for a bypass and that Earth is about to be destroyed to clear the way for an interstellar thruway, jinxed Arthur Dent survives by hitching a ride on a passing spacecraft.

What did I like?

Zooey. I believe this is the film where I fell in love with Zooey Deschanel, or maybe it was Elf. I’m not 100% sure, but at any rate she has always been a cutie in my book. This character she plays, Trillian, is a bit more grounded and serious than we are used to seeing from the quirky and free-spirited Deschanel, and yet she makes her a likable character who may actually be the deepest character in the film.

Guide. For those that haven’t read the book, fret not because the guide, voiced by Stephen Fry, is read to you in animated vignettes and voice overs. The very first time I saw this film, I had not read the book and the voice-overs not only helped me keep up with everything, but also inspired me to go read the book. I’m sure that I’m not the only person to have that urge, nor will I be the last to have the inkling.

Devices. Any fantastical sci-fi film is sure to have great gadgets and devices, right? Well, no exception to that rule here. Two such devices stand out above everything, the Improbability drive which changes things to the most improbable objects (there is also an Infinite Improbability Drive which allows the ship to travel faster than light speed) and the point of view gun which allows the person holding it to send their point of view to someone else. I’m sure there are more than a few women who would love to shoot this at their husbands!

What didn’t I like?

Best of the best. Some of the best parts of the film are the parts that don’t get as much, such as Alan Rickman voicing Marvin the Robot. As much of a downer as Marvin is, you can’t help but want to see more of him. John Malkovich’s Humma Kavula was darkly odd and he basically is nothing more than a cameo. Perhaps they were holding him off for a bigger role in the sequel that never happened, or more scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast was also of note. While he wasn’t the best character, Night is always entertaining. These are just some of the examples of underutilized talent.

Towel. Perhaps I missed it, but I don’t believe the importance of the towel was ever discussed. If such a big deal is going to be made over having a towel while hitchhiking across the galaxy, shouldn’t we know what is so important about it? Other than being able to chase Vogons away with it, I don’t think any reference was made to its use. Would it have been too much to ask for them to tell us why is it necessary?

Pacing. At times, the flick slows down, which is fine, I guess, but it does this at the most inopportune times. Just as the audience is getting into one story, such as the Vogons addiction to paperwork, it just prattles on with filler until the next big scene. Perhaps this is a British thing, but my American sensibilities didn’t quite jibe with the pacing.

What else can I say about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? The mix of sci-fi, comedy, action, and a hint of drama make for quite the enjoyable film, if I do say so myself. Sadly, this overlooked film never got the sequel it deserved because it didn’t make as much money as the studios would have liked. So, do I recommend this film? Do you really need to ask? I highly recommend this gem as a must see before you die! Check it out and enjoy!

5 out of 5 stars

The New Guy

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins with prison inmate Luther speaking directly to the camera to an unseen individual, telling the story of Dizzy Gillespie Harrison, an 18-year-old nerdy high school senior. Dizzy is friends with Nora, Kirk, and Glen, who together started a funk rock band and are addicted to video games. They attend Rocky Creek High School, where Dizzy is picked on by basically everyone, but especially star football player Barclay. This occurs before and after sex symbol Tina Osgood holds his hands, causing him to have an erection and ends up activating the trap where the jocks belittle him with no mercy. Dizzy’s white briefs were yanked from underneath his pants and placed around his head – revealing the erect penis in plain sight to nearly everyone instead of “covering it.” The school librarian would eventually “break” it after Dizzy refuses to “hand” over the “weapon” to her. Dizzy is misdiagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome; he is then placed on medication by the school counselor who advises his father to spend every moment possible with him. While at the mall’s food court, the heavily medicated Dizzy makes a fool of himself at a church revival and gets arrested.

In jail, Dizzy meets Luther, who turns out to be a sympathetic ex-victim who makes it his goal to teach him how to be cool. In an attempt to wipe the slate clean, Dizzy gets himself expelled from his old high school, then undergoes a makeover with the help of the prison inmates and guards. Changing his name to ‘Gil Harris’, he enrolls at East Highland High and makes an impression by being dropped off in a prison van in restraints (a reference to Con Air) and beating up the school bully, Connor.

The action has an intended effect, and head cheerleader Danielle welcomes the newcomer to school.[3] Her friend Courtney invites Dizzy to a party and through a mishap, Dizzy gives Courtney the impression that he has rejected her. Using a photo given to him by the prison inmates and help from his old friends, Dizzy manages to escape the party with his reputation intact. Upon returning home, however, he finds his father has agreed to sell his house and quit work to supervise him, which results in the pair living in a trailer.

At the football game, Dizzy, referencing General Patton in the film, gives an impassioned speech to the team, who proceed to win their first game. He is soon enlisted by the coach and principal to plan the school’s homecoming dance, and becomes imbued with school spirit, shedding his bad boy image.

However, Dizzy and Gil are fast becoming too big for one body. When Nora berates Dizzy for becoming the same person he once hated, he uses his newfound popularity to confront Connor. Dizzy and Danielle spur the students to reunite, and the lines dividing the different cliques are broken. With a new philosophy, the school football team begins to win games and bullying becomes a thing of the past. Reaching the state championship, where they play Rocky Creek, Dizzy’s antics on the sideline cost Rocky Creek the game, although Barclay recognizes his old punching bag. At school the next day, he attempts to beat up Dizzy, and is in turn attacked by the entire student body. After the attack, Connor helps up Barclay from the ground, telling him he wants to know what he knows (about Dizzy).

The homecoming dance, which Dizzy’s funk band is supposed to play, is crashed by the students of Rocky Creek. Barclay and Connor, who have joined forces to set a trap for Dizzy, play an embarrassing video of the librarian incident. However, Luther and the other inmates arrive to save Dizzy and tie up the two bullies. Nora admits longstanding feelings for Glen, and after Danielle reveals that she was also a nerd growing up and forgives him for hiding who he was they reconcile.

Luther ends the film, and the man he is talking to is revealed to be David Hasselhoff.

REVIEW:

Being a military brat, I was quite often the new kid. It wasn’t until college that I finally stayed someplace from beginning to end. This brings me to The New Guy, a silly, fun film from the early 2000s that has been all but forgotten. Is there a reason for this? Can this picture really be that bad?

What is this about?

Tired of being hassled, a high school geek purposely gets expelled… and ends up in jail, where a street-smart inmate tutors the teen in “badass cool.” After he’s released, he enrolls at a new school under an alias — but can he keep up the ruse.

What did I like?

Plot. When it comes to being a kid in school, sometimes you just have to reinvent yourself, especially when you’re being picked on at one school and moving to another one, but above all, you can’t forget who you really are. In all the bad thoughts and themes that permeate movies these days, it was nice to see one that actually had a moral to it, especially since it went through the hilarious way to get there.

Makeover. I want you to think of just about every makeover that has happened in films. Have you noticed that they all are pretty attractive to begin with, just hidden under baggy clothes, greasy hair, and glasses. At least that would be the example one would get from a film like She’s All That. With that in mind, our star DJ Qualls is not what one would call conventionally attractive, so the makeover her received, if you can call it that, was actually a makeover, for lack of a more appropriate term.

Bully. I do believe this is the first film I’ve seen where the bully doesn’t win or at least get away with their plan to make life a living hell for the protagonist. I actually like the fact that no matter how hard they tried, including teaming up and exposing Qualls’ character, they just couldn’t bring him down. Sometimes you just need to see that the bad guys aren’t infallible.

What didn’t I like?

Montage. Eliza Dushku in a montage of trying on bikinis. What could be wrong with that, right? Well, it doesn’t quite seem to fit into the story or serve any purpose other than showing her hotness. If there would have been a logical progression that had them going to the beach or pool, it would have made sense, but this was just random. I appreciate the eye candy, though.

Friends. If I had a friend who was doing a plan to change themselves, for whatever reason, and ran into them in the mall, I don’t think I would do what Qualls’ friends did to him. After getting spurned by him, they make an attempt to sick the bully from the old school on him. Now, if this was me, I’d want to say hi, but if I see he’s with new friends, especially a hit girl, I’d wait until a better chance, not get my panties all twisted like these three.

Cameos. I have no problems with cameos, but they have to either make sense or have a purpose. For instance, Stan Lee in just about every Marvel film makes sense because he created Marvel and just about all those characters. However, having this string of cameos, Vanilla Ice, The McConnell brothers, Tommy Lee, etc. Now, given the way the film begins with a younger version of Qualls’ character dancing to James Brown, it would have made sense if he would have appeared. Dizzy Gillespie would have also been a sensible cameo, were he still alive, given that is the name of the Qualls’ character before he gets expelled.

All in all, The New Guy is a film that is enjoyable, but not really that good. This poses a conundrum as to what one should think about it. For me, I like goofy comedies like this, no matter how bad they are, as long as they are watchable. So, my final verdict on this is that it is a nice flick to watch when you just want to laugh, but not something to go out of your way to find, unless you’re feeling retro for the early 2000s. Give it a shot if this sounds like you.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Our Idiot Brother

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ned is a biodynamic farmer living with his girlfriend, Janet. One day, while Ned is selling at a local market, a police officer asks where he can buy cannabis. Ned, skeptical at first, is moved by the officer’s professed desperation due to having a stressful week. Feeling sympathetic, Ned gives him a rhubarb and a bag of marijuana for free. Insisting on paying, the officer coaxes Ned into charging him twenty dollars. Ned is then arrested on a charge of selling drugs.

Ned has three sisters. Miranda is a journalist for Vanity Fair trying to get her first major article published. Though she has trouble finding a man to keep her interest, she and a neighbor, Jeremy have hidden feelings for each other, but would rather be good friends (Jeremy is even willing to interrupt a sexual encounter in order to help Miranda with a maintenance problem). Natalie is a young, independent, bisexual hipster living with her girlfriend, Cindy and 5 other roommates, suggesting a very communal type apartment. Her love for Cindy conflicts with her fear of commitment, which she hides even around Cindy. Liz, the oldest, is married to Dylan, a documentary filmmaker. Their marriage is failing as Dylan shows no sexual or emotional interest in Liz. They also have strict control over their son River, which leaves him unhappy and unable to express himself.

When Ned is released from prison early due to his model behavior, he returns home to his girl and his dog (“Willie Nelson”). He finds that she is living with Billy, and no longer wishes to continue their relationship. Disappointed, Ned desires to continue working at the farm, but Janet will not let him. With nowhere else to go, he asks Billy for a ride into town – after saying goodbye to the dog (whom Janet refuses to let him keep). During the ride, Billy tells Ned that if he can scrape together $1000 (2 months rent), Janet might let him stay in the goat barn for rent on the farm. Ned makes this his goal and heads to his mother’s house for a family dinner.

At dinner, the family is happy to see Ned but not so happy to be around each other. They are barely into dinner when all the girls decide to leave, which disappoints Ned, who is excited to see everyone. Before leaving, Liz tells Ned that her door is always open to him. That night, Ned’s mom tells him she’s glad he’s home and that the next day, they will go into town together. A few days later, Ned meets with his parole officer, Omar, who tells Ned that he must report to his office every 3 weeks. When Omar asks Ned a few questions on how he is avoiding trouble, Ned struggles to come up with an answer, electing to think more on it for next time. This gives Ned the impression that he and Omar have a therapy-like relationship.

While talking to Miranda on the phone, Liz is surprised to see Ned randomly show up on her doorstep, asking if he can stay with her. He is put in River’s room and told that he must help around the house. For money, Ned will work with Dylan on his newest documentary about a Russian ballerina named Tatiana. Ned takes River to his dance lesson the next day, but sees River looking into the room of boys doing karate and sighing. That night, Ned shows River The Pink Panther movie to cheer him up. River says that he has never seen it because his parents don’t want him to be violent. Ned decides to play karate with River, but is chastised by Dylan for making noise and taking the computer in River’s room. The next day, Ned is with Dylan and talks to Tatiana, who shows him some ballet stretches. When Ned informs him that he told Tatiana that Dylan was married, Dylan starts to show signs of jealousy.

The next day, Miranda reluctantly asks Ned to chauffeur while she interviews an important client, Lady Arabella. Miranda hopes to pry into her family and recent scandalous break-up, but is dismayed to learn of an agreement with her lawyer to only ask about charity work. Miranda tries to pretend Ned isn’t there, but his friendliness charms Arabella, who takes a liking to Ned (even sitting up front and sharing a drink with him). That night, Ned goes with Natalie to a self-help meeting with Natalie’s artist friend, Christian. Christian is attracted to Natalie but is dissuaded by her lesbian relationship until Ned informs him that she is bisexual and likes guys too. When the session moves into a sauna-type room, Ned is dehydrated and sent to the hospital. Christian and Natalie take a cab home and end up having sex. The next day, Natalie realizes her mistake and is worried about Cindy.

Ned goes back to working with Dylan, but is told to watch the car while Dylan conducts a private interview with Tatiana. Hours go by and Ned is approached by a police officer. At first scared at getting in trouble (for nothing), Ned is simply informed that the car must be moved out of a tow zone. He runs upstairs to get the keys from Dylan, whom he discovered with Tatiana as they were filming an unnecessary nude scene. Dylan returns to the car and tells Ned the only reason he was naked was to make Tatiana feel more “comfortable” while being naked. Ned believes this and they head home. The next night, Ned goes with Miranda to Arabella’s benefit dinner, and stays behind to have a conversation with Arabella. Although humored by Ned’s story of his incarceration, she is touched when Ned explains that his philosophy on life is to trust people and give them the chance to rise up and do the right thing. She then explains the gossipy part of her life (that Miranda had hoped to discover) to Ned, who listens with interest.

Dylan expresses to Liz his desire to kick Ned out, but she refuses as he is family. However, Ned accidentally breaks River’s fingers by catching them in a door hinge while playing hide-and-seek a few days before River’s big interview for enrollment at a prestigious school. Despite his parents trying to guide his answers, River tells the interviewer that he enjoys martial arts, which shocks his parents. When Liz asks how he learned martial arts, River explains that Ned taught him. The interviewer asks about Ned, to which River explains that he just got out of jail for selling drugs to a policeman. Liz then kicks Ned out for ruining River’s chance at getting into the school (although the interviewer seemed delighted with how active and passionate River is). Ned apologizes, stating he was only trying to help River be himself and that little boys play by fighting. Liz gives Ned money and sends him to Miranda.

Miranda fronts Ned the remaining cash he needs to rent out the goat barn and is about to send him there when he accidentally mentions Dylan’s nude interview with Tatiana. Miranda is shocked and concludes that Dylan is having an affair and goes to call Natalie when Jeremy arrives and hits it off with Ned due to a common love for sci-fi, including the movie Dune. When Natalie answers, Ned prepares to leave and mentions a personal detail about Arabella that makes Miranda realize that Ned has the info she needs. She forces Ned to tell her the details before she goes, which Ned is ashamed to do since he was trusted. Ned returns to the farm with money but is not allowed to rent the barn. Billy apologizes for forgetting to see if it was cool first. Ned leaves again with a sad goodbye to Willie Nelson.

Ned is invited to a party at Natalie’s apartment where he asks Cindy, who is a lawyer, about ways to get custody of his dog. Cindy explains that although he has a strong case, litigation would just take time and money. She suggests as an alternative that they work together to steal the dog from Janet. At the party Ned is approached by a young couple who wish to have a group sex encounter with him. Ned begins to have sex with the girl but apologizes when the guy begins to kiss him and kisses the guy on the cheek instead. He explains it’s just a little too weird for him. At lunch the next day, Jeremy explains to Ned that he is not homophobic just because he is straight and they decide to find Ned a girl. They spot a girl who is very professional, like Miranda, to which Ned suggests that Jeremy and Miranda obviously love each other. Jeremy explains that it is platonic for him and that Miranda is too bossy for him, though admitting she is beautiful. Ned casually mentions the idea to Miranda, who also denies wanting that. Miranda is hurt to learn what Jeremy had to say about the idea and tells Ned her thoughts on Jeremy. This leads to Jeremy and Miranda, who are moving furniture into her apartment, to bicker until Ned makes things worse by skewing the exact words used by both parties. Jeremy storms out and tries to give Ned a copy of Miranda’s article, which Miranda snatches away. Ned goes to see Natalie perform stand-up that night, but is worried when Natalie runs off stage at Christian’s arrival. He finds her puking and gets her to admit that she cheated and is now pregnant. He tells her to just be honest with Cindy.

The family has dinner again a few days later, resulting in Ned and Cindy playing on a trampoline with River while the sisters stay inside talking. Liz mentions Dylan’s distantness which provokes Miranda and Natalie to tell her about the affair. Distraught, Liz blames Ned but is scolded by Miranda for doing so. Ned and Cindy decide that next week, when Janet goes to a Dixie Chicks concert, they will have the opportunity to steal Willie Nelson. Inside, Miranda and Natalie try to help Liz feel better by saying they hate Dylan and that she is better off, but it soon turns into an argument between the three about their personal lives. Natalie storms out with Cindy and Liz leaves crying. Ned’s mom is happy to have him back, explaining that the girls are too caught up on themselves. Liz confronts Dylan about the affair, and he blames her attempts at pleasing him, deciding to leave her in order to avoid divorce.

Miranda takes Ned into work the next day to vouch for the validity of his statements. Ned reads the article and is shocked to see how personal Miranda made it. He refuses to admit that it was all true (even though it was) in order to spare Arabella the embarrassment to the company’s lawyer. However, this means Miranda’s article will not get published and she is embarrassed in front of her editor. She kicks Ned out and he stays with Natalie, who lies about having told Cindy about the cheating. The next morning, Cindy drives with Ned to the farm to steal his dog back. They are shocked to see Janet and Billy are home and not at the concert. All is going well until Ned brings up Natalie’s infidelity. Cindy angrily calls Natalie from inside the house, which alerts Janet to their presence. Ned tries one last time to persuade Janet while Cindy is heard yelling at Natalie. Janet refuses and Cindy drives away, stranding Ned at the farm.

Ned goes to the parole officer the next day for his checkup. Thinking he can confess his feelings and thoughts, Ned tells Omar that the stress of his life was getting to him and he smoked marijuana with a neighbor. Omar, who has grown to like Ned, tells Ned now he must report him. Ned goes home to family dinner and gets dirty looks from all his sisters, who blame him for all the trouble in their lives. While playing charades, the girls guess their answers before River has the fun of acting them out, angering Ned, who is on edge due to potentially having to return to jail. He asks them to play fair, but they merely laugh at him. Ned finally loses his temper and yells at them for their selfishness and for bringing everyone else down. The outburst scares the girls who immediately regret their actions. Omar, visibly upset for having to arrest Ned, arrives with a uniformed officer and takes him into custody. Miranda posts Ned’s bail, but Ned refuses to sign his release form, opting to stay in prison rather than be with the girls. They devise a plan to get Willie Nelson from Janet in order to get him to leave. They drive to Janet and ask for Willie Nelson. Janet refuses, saying she loves the dog. Miranda yells and says that no one could love anything as unconditionally as Ned loves everything and that he deserves the dog. Despite her refusal, Billy comes out of the house carrying Willie Nelson, tired of Janet refusing to give Ned his dog. They take Willie Nelson to the prison where he is reunited with Ned, giving him the motivation to leave prison.

A few weeks later, Ned is out to lunch with his sisters. Natalie receives a call from Cindy, who wants to go with Natalie to her gynecologist appointments for support. Miranda has patched things up and started a relationship with Jeremy. Liz has decided to start dating again and has started letting River be himself, even enrolling him in a karate class. Ned decides it is time for him to go back to his life the way he likes it, out of the city and in a quiet area. The girls are sad to see him go, but wish him the best. Later on, Ned and Billy have opened up a small homemade candle shop together and seem to do well enough. One day Ned cannot find Willie Nelson, and begins running through town looking for him. He finds Willie playing with another dog in a park area who has also run away from her owner. The owner comes up and Ned finds he has a lot in common with the woman. When he asks her dog’s name, the owner replies “Dolly Parton” to which Ned says his dog is “Willie Nelson” and smiles.

REVIEW:

As a brother myself, I can sort of relate to the guy in Our Idiot Brother. Of course, I’m not a loser pothead sporting the Jesus look, nor do I have 3 insanely hot sisters, either!

Ok, let’s get to it, shall we? What did I like about this film?

The story. Every so often, a film will come along that has a decent enough plot that will keep even my attention.

The sisters. Not only are they not an eyesore, but each one has their own life, quirks and set of problems. To top this all off, they fight like sisters, too, especially when to comes to their beloved brother.

Paul Rudd. I’m not really a fan of Rudd. Sometimes I just downright can’t stand the guy. I don’t what it is, but there is something irksome about him to me. That being said, and aside from the Jesus-ism he’s sporting, I actually thought this was a good role for him. As it turns out, it was actually written with him in mind, so that may be the reason.

T.J. Miller. This guy’s small role may very well be the best one of the movie, what with his totally out there vibe and his pivotal role in the film’s final scenes.

It remembers it is a comedy. OMG! I was so totally expecting this to go down the route so many comedies seem to do these days, which is start off as a comedy, then about half way through, turn into a drama that would put Grey’s Anatomy to shame. Thankfully, they touch on the drama here and there, but keep the comedy at the forefront.

The bad.

Is he an idiot? Throughout most of the film, Ned is portrayed as a well-meaning, but dim guy. The man has a meeting with his therapist which he knows will lead to him being arrested again (thanks to his admitting he smoked some pot, violating his parole), so he wants to spend the one night of freedom he has left with his family. Of course, the girls are all being bitchy and drunk because they think he’s ruined their lives, when in fact, they did it to themselves. He just told them the truth. Ned has an emotional explosion about this and we see that there is a brain there. Question is, where was it before, because you obviously have to be nearly retarded to sell pot to a cop in uniform.

Kathryn Hahn. Normally, I love her in these supporting roles, but for some reason she just came off as just being there. Her character could have been more comedic, vindictive, heartbroken, or something ,but instead she was just a bitch who wants to keep the everything from Ned, which got quite weird after a while, I must say.

The sisters. The way they shuffled him around like he was a hot potato was just downright wrong and insensitive. Here is a guy who has just been released from prison and has to have a permanent residence and a job to please the parole board and all that jazz. What do these women do instead of trying to help their brother get on his feet? They make it all about them. *SIGH*

Rashida Jones. I loved her character, but what in the bloody blue hell was she thinking with those glasses. I get she was going for the whole butch lesbian look, but two things were wrong with them. First off, she’s a lawyer. It is highly unlikely she’s going to have those giant things on. Second, if you’ve ever seen United States of Tara, then you may know about Buck. It sort of seemed like she was trying to channel Buck with those things on.

All in all, though, Our Idiot Brother is a really good, surprising sleeper hit for me. I was reticent about watching it because it just didn’t seem like it would be worth the time, but it really surprised me with everything from the cast, story, pacing, etc. I highly recommend this to everyone. While it may not be a perfect film, it is sure to bring at least a smile or two to your face!

4 1/4 out of 5 stars

Gigantic

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on October 2, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Unhappy with his life, mattress salesman Brian Weathersby (Paul Dano) pursues his lifelong obsession with adopting an infant from China. But when attractive customer Harriet (Zooey Deschanel) catches his eye, he starts pursuing her instead. Soon, Harriet’s overbearing father (John Goodman) and Brian’s parents (Ed Asner and Jane Alexander) become involved in their relationship, pushing Brian to take drastic action in this quirky romantic comedy.

REVIEW:

I’ve always had an issue with independent film, and that is that many of them are just flat-out boring. Before you all jump down my throat about how all filmmakers have to start somewhere…blah, blah, blah….I know that, but Gigantic was a gigantic bore in my book.

As I was watching this film, which was supposed to be fun and quirky based on the reviews I read, there was an overwhelming need to go crawl in the bed and sleep. It isn’t very often a film puts me to sleep when I’m fully awake and aware, but this one nearly did it.

The plot, if you can call it that, seems to be a bit pretentious. For some reason, this films seems to be one of those that wants to be important, but just isn’t. I think it probably could have been if it had something coherent about it, but it doesn’t.

There are too many random pieces here, from the homeless guy that follows Brian around constantly and jumps him, to his obsession with adopting a Chinese baby, then there’s this whole thing about Happy being a prostitute and her dad’s back problems. It was all just bit too much for even I.

This film isn’t all bad. Paul Dano isn’t horrible in his role, neither is Zooey Deschanel, although this is pretty much her schtick, so there was no real stretch there for her. John Goodman and Ed Asner are great as well.

I guess if I were to sm this film up in one word it would be wearisome, because that is all this mind-numbing 98 minute thing was. There are very few redeeming qualities about it. You would think they cold have found a way to at least get the audience’s attention, but they don’t, which is really a shame.

2 out of 5 stars

Your Highness

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Thadeous (Danny McBride) and Fabious (James Franco) are the sons of King Tallious (Charles Dance). They are both warriors, but Fabious is dashing and skilled whereas Thadeous is lazy and ineffectual with both an inferiority complex and poor track record in quest taking. While celebrating his latest victory over the evil sorcerer who has been ravaging Tallious’s kingdom, Leezar (Justin Theroux), Fabious reveals the virgin Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) he freed from a tower and wishes to marry her. Though he is made the best man, Thadeous skips the wedding after overhearing Fabious’s Elite Knights, led by Boremont (Damian Lewis), talk about him negatively. But the wedding is then crashed by Leezar, revealing himself to be the one who placed Belladona in the tower before spiriting her away. Returning to the castle with his servant Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker), Thadeous is forced into joining Fabious on his quest to rescue Belladonna.

Visiting the perverted Great Wise Wizard, the brothers learn that Leezar is attempting to fulfill a prophecy of a warlock having intercourse with a maiden when the two Moons converge, impregnating her with a dragon that will allow him to take over King Tallious’ kingdom. To destroy Leezar, they are given a magic compass that would led them to the fabled Sword of Unicorn which is located with a labyrinth. On the way there, after finding that Fabious’s slave Julian has been reporting to Leezar of their progress, the brothers learn that Elite Knights are also serving the warlock and escape from them alongside Courtney. While collecting themselves at a river, after his brother sends his mechanical bird Simon to tell the king of the Elite Knights’ betrayal and request reinforcements, Thadeous, Fabious and Courtney are captured by nymphs under their leader, Marteetee (John Fricker), who imprisons them at an arena where Fabious kills off Marateetee’s finest warrior. In retaliation, Marteetee summons his hydra-like familiar to kill them.

However, they are rescued by Isabel (Natalie Portman), a warrior that is seeking revenge for her father’s murder at Marteetee’s hands. Later that night, as Fabious and Courtney leave them for the mood to set in, Thadeous learns that Isabel is also after Leezar for the slaughter of her brothers before accidently revealing their quest and the compass to her. The next day, the party learn too late that Isabel stole the compass from Thadeous and ran off. Finally infuriated of his brother’s selfish behavior as they arrive to a village, Fabious decides to find the Sword of Unicorn alone as Thadeous and Courtney go to a tavern, where they find Isabel and steal the compass back. But finding that his brother has been captured by Leezar’s men, Thadeous wins Isabel over as they join forces, entering the labyrinth where they encounter a minotaur. Getting separated from the others, Thadeous retrieves the Sword of Unicorn and, after a test of worth, slays the minotaur as Isabel used a panflute to soothe the monster as he was about to rape Courtney. A changed man, proudly wearing the minotaur’s severed penis as a trophy necklace when unable to get one of the beast’s horns, Thadeous and his group make their way to Leezar’s castle and free Fabious while giving him the Sword of Unicorn. As the others kill off Julian and Boremont’s men along with Leezar’s mothers, Fabious then uses the Sword of Unicorn to end Leezar’s life before he isable to rape Belladonna, saving the kingdom.

After their victory, the heroes go back home, but Isabel goes on another quest. Fabious and Belladonna marry as Thadeous retreats to his bedroom to masturbate before going to bed. There, he is approached by Isabel, who reveals that she has fallen in love with him. However, for them to have sex, he must first slay the witch that cast a spell on her, locking her in a chastity belt. Though he was not in the mood to go out, Isabel’s suggestion to cuddle convinces him to go on a new adventure.

REVIEW:

Your Highness is one of those films that I just didn’t know what to think of when it was initially released. I passed on seeing it in theaters because it didn’t look like something worth wasting $8 to go see. I still hold to that, but this does make for a decent rental.

I won’t beat around the bush. If you’re coming into this film thinking you’re going to get some sort of epic medieval masterpiece, then you will be supremely disappointed. Your Highness comes off as nothing more than a bunch of frat boys playing around with what they know about the era and some _____ (insert recreational drug here).

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but apparently critics seemed very turned off by it. I often wonder if, in order to become critics, they had to get a stick shoved far up their ass, because it seems as if the only film they really love are the kids that audiences don’t really get excited over, and yet something like this, which is not meant to be anything more than entertaining, they treat like it was a pox on civilization.

*AHEM*

Sorry for the little rant there, but I get so frustrated when I read the things critics say about films that obviously aren’t meant as anything more than mindless fun, which is all this is.

Now, I mention the frat boy mentality this film has. The humor of this film is mainly centered around lewd and crude humor. For goodness sakes, at one point in the film, a Minotaur’s penis is cut off and Danny McBride wears it around his neck.

What is odd about this film, though, is save for one scene near the middle with naked women, there is nary a bare breast to be seen. The tone this film set leads one to belive you would see more. If anything, they could have put Zooey Deschanel and Natalie Portman is traditional Renaissance corsets, but I guess they wanted to focus more on the men, for some reason.

Speaking of the girls, this was released after Portman’s Oscar-winning role in Black Swan. Some have criticized her for it, but if you’ve watched her career, then you know she’s very versatile and this is much lighter faire than playing a ballerina on the verge of insanity and anorexia. All that said, she does a real good job in this role, but are we really surprised.

I do have to criticize Zooey Deschanel, something I never do, though. She seems rather wasted here, not to mention the fact that her personality doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the whole “damsel in distress” thing. Then again, maybe I’ve been watching her sister too long on Bones and now have them confused. Either way, I think she should have gotten more screentime than just a couple of scenes. Although, the possession, or whatever that was supposed to be, was qite…um…different.

The plot of this film is filled with all types of whole, and yet, they aren’t really detracting from the story, except the thing about the two moons and dragons or something like that. Not really sure where they were trying to go with that, or if I just missed something, or what the deal was, but it left me scratching my head.

Finally, the special effects in this film are two-fold. The first is the creatures. While most of them look like rejects from Narnia, the Wise Wizard looks like he came straight from Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, or some other Jim Henson film.

The next part is the special effects laden final act. Now, if you’ve seen many of the summer blockbusters in the last few years, then you know that they almost all rely solely on effects for the big climactic battle.

I think that was the idea here, but it just didn’t work the way they wanted it to, mainly because of how the characters were developed…or rather not developed. Still, it was a worthy attempt, I’ll give them that.

Your Highness is not a film for everyone. The humor lies in its crudity, so if you can’t handle that, you won’t find this film funny. Having said that, somewhere past the middle it stops being funny and just goes into this weird autopilot mode until the final scene. I enjoyed this film, and while I think nothing really needs to be changed, there are some things that could be altered to make things better. That point aside, I wold highly recommend this to all that aren’t easily offended by frat boy-type humor.

4 out of 5 stars