All posts tagged Comedy

Recent DVD Release: Last Vegas

Published February 6, 2014 by mrsrag

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen, Jerry Ferrara, Romany Malco.

Rated: PG-13.  Comedy. Running Time: 1 hour 45 minutes.

An A-list foursome of old codgers head to Vegas and rip it up.  Sounds like my last trip out there; just kidding.  Seriously though, I’m not quite as old as those boys but some of the themes hit pretty close to home.  Billy (Douglas) is getting married to a woman less than half his age, and he needs his three best friends to come to Vegas for his bachelor party.  Archie (Freeman), Sam (Kline) and Paddy (De Niro) come from New York, Jersey and Florida to complete the “Flatbush Four”.  They’ve known each other for fifty years and even though they’re thousands of miles apart, they’re as close as ever.  One problem, Paddy is seriously pissed at Billy for missing his wife’s funeral.  There is more to the story, but I’ll let you find that out for yourself.  The guys quickly meet an interesting lounge singer of a certain age, Diana (Steenburgen); and make an impression in the casino, which leads to a comped suite.  Things move at a fast pace in Last Vegas, and you get the feeling the guys can hear their clocks ticking down.  The prostate jokes, references to small strokes and oodles of prescription meds are flying around, but the chemistry between these four legends is smooth as silk, and they really feel like lifelong buddies.

When I first saw the previews for Last Vegas I thought, “It’s ‘The Hangover’, geriatric style.”  Which it kind of is.  But I love these four guys and they keep it entertaining.  They can laugh at themselves and they genuinely seem like they’re having a good time doing it.  The four friends embark on this spontaneous trip, each hoping that it will breathe new life into their progressively mundane lives.  Kline is suffering through water aerobics classes at his Florida community.  Freeman is being treated like a big child, nearly imprisoned in his son’s Jersey home.  DeNiro is a grieving widower and he spends his days sitting around his apartment in a bathrobe and refusing soup from a concerned neighbor.  Douglas appears to be the only one of the ‘Flatbush Four’ with blood coursing through his veins.  He’s got a beautiful young lady on his arm and a successful business.  But he’s still unsatisfied.  He’s faced with his own mortality at a close friend’s funeral and pops the question to his ‘child bride’, as they so often refer to her.

We can certainly relate to the Douglas’ story line as Maria and I are getting married in August and we have a fairly significant difference in age.  Unlike these relationship stereotypes, which are clearly on display here, I am not rich and Maria is not an empty-headed bimbo.  I am also not quite ready for the nursing home, but can clearly relate with the guys facing down their own mortality and fears of not being able to live life to it’s fullest.  Beyond all of what appears to be morbid subject matter, Last Vegas is an enjoyable watch.  As I mentioned the action is fast paced, the laughs are plentiful and there are some decent supporting roles.  Steenburgen is sultry, and surprisingly can carry a decent tune, as the lounge singer/possible love interest.  Romany Malco (from 40-Year Old Virgin) is great as the guys’ reluctant at first concierge, he was supposed to be handling 50 cent for the weekend.  And Jerry Ferrara is very Turtle-like (his role in the HBO series Entourage) as Dean, a cocky bar rat who gets knocked down a peg or two and becomes the Flatbush Four’s personal boy Friday.  Certainly not going to be a cinematic classic, but I saw enough to hope they have at least one sequel in them.  One final note, keep an eye out for the scene where Morgan Freeman’s character has one too many Red Bull vodkas.  We’ve all seen, or been, that guy before.  “It’s like being drunk and electrocuted all at the same time!” 

Freeman was the highlight for me.  He provided the best laughs and was my personal favorite character.  The bar scene Ross is referring to is literally the best five minutes of the whole movie.  But there’s a few more laugh out loud moments.  The ‘child bride’ storyline is formulaic and the age difference is much more substantial in this plot than our real life relationship.  The young woman is always portrayed as a money grubbing, ditzy bimbo.  And honestly, I can’t blame them for this.  I’ve seen that stereotype played out in real life.  Fortunately, it does not at all reflect our story.  I think I would have played my hand a bit better if that was my mission.  Firstly, I’d get some filthy rich Palm Beach resident.  I’d have my eye on someone with more money than God.  And secondly, he’d be attached to some oxygen and rapidly approaching his expiration date.  What does this look like, amateur hour?  Last Vegas turned out to be a pleasant surprise.  These four seasoned actors don’t take themselves too seriously in the film and that translates on screen.  It was most certainly a better choice than watching ‘The Hangover 3″.

Ross’ Rating: 3.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 3.5 Gummies.

Fairly Recent DVD Release: Movie 43

Published September 5, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear, Common, Charlie Saxton, Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Live Schreiber, Naomi Watts, Anna Faris, Chris Pratt, J.B. Smoove, Emma Stone, Kieran Culkin, Richard Gere, Kate Bosworth, Jack McBryer, Aasif Mandvi, Justin Long, Jason Sudeikis, Uma Thurman, Bobby Cannavale, Kristen Bell, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Grace Moretz, Gerard Butler, Johnny Knoxville, Sean William Scott, Halle Berry, Stephen Merchant, Terrence Howard, Josh Duhamel, and Elizabeth Banks.

Rated: R. Comedy. Running Time: 1 hour & 34 minutes.

Ross and I rented Movie 43 on a whim.  We were en route to our home from cocktails & dinner.  Neither of us was expecting much at all.  I remember seeing the previews and thinking, “Wow, that’s some cast” (see above listing).  But then it fell off the radar.  And I figured, if no one is talking about it, could it really be worth watching?  The answer is: YES.  The movie makes up for any later transgression in the first skit.  Five minutes in, Ross and I were laughing so hard that neither of us could speak or breathe.  That being said, if you don’t like immature humor, skip this one and you should probably leave my blog for good.  We had no idea what to expect, but what unfolded on the screen left us bewildered, delighted and quite intrigued.  Once the movie got rolling, we realized it was a series of interconnected sketches featuring some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.  I kept asking myself, “How did they get all these people!”  There were some promising moments of hilarity & ingenuity…but taken in its entirety – this movie was bad.

I had no idea what we were in for when we rented Movie 43, but with that cast, you had to expect something decent.  I don’t know if I agree with Maria that the movie was bad.  If a movie entertains, makes you laugh or cry or feel exhilarated, I think that’s enough.  I will say the premise, an ever increasingly insane Dennis Quaid (playing a version of himself?) pitching his movie idea to a generic movie executive, Kinnear, is silly.  The “movie” is just a series of skits.  There is no way anyone could think they could make a coherent, full standing movie.  However, many of the vignettes are clever and hilarious.  None more than the first one, a first date for Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet.  If you follow MRSRAG at all, you know that Maria and I rarely, if ever, give out spoilers, and we’re not going to do it here.  But this first skit has a shocking surprise, a side splittingly funny one that keeps on giving.  Beyond the great opener, a few of my favorites were, Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts as parents who are homeschooling their teenaged son, complete with all of high school’s worst possible scenarios.  A girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) getting her  period for the first time.  And Terrence Howard as a basketball coach circa the 1960’s (think Pleasantville or Hoosiers) giving a pep talk to his all black team before their first game against an all white squad.  While maybe “bad” isn’t the right word to describe Movie 43, it is hard to believe the creators convinced all these “A” list actors to associate their names with it.  

It was entertaining, but at times, hard to watch.  I’m actually surprised that Ross enjoyed it more than me, since he has some difficulty with awkward humor.  I will say that Movie 43 is like nothing I’ve ever seen.  And the “A” list actors is what put some of the skits over the edge for me.  Watching these Academy Award nominees and winners act out these absurd storylines was not only amusing, but shocking.  It took me a full day to get over the movie.  I kept asking Ross, “Was that real?”, “How did they get everyone to sign on?”, “Did I drink a lot last night?”!  It is in one word: unbelievable.  There were several vignettes, most of which my partner has described, that were pure comic genius.  They must be viewed.  But if I really look at this film in its entirety, it missed the mark.  And that is truly unfortunate because it contains so much potential.  Bottom line, go rent this for a $1.27.  The belly laughs are well worth that price.

An extremely tough movie to review.  Ultimately I have to recommend that you see it.  If you’re in the mood for some raunchy, clever, original comedy, Movie 43 should get the job done.  It certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and it won’t end up on your Top 20 list, but it’s not quite like anything you’ve ever seen before.  And, you will probably never see a larger collection of stars in one project.  There is one last scene I have to mention; a skit where a man is obviously going to propose marriage to his girlfriend.  “I have something I want to say.”  “Me too”, she replies.  “Ok, let’s say it together.  One. Two. Three….”  She beats him to the punch, and I almost fell off the couch!  You may want to keep some pillows handy for that one.

Maria’s Rating:  2.5 Gummy Bears out of 5. (Mostly for Jackman & Winslet)

Ross’ Rating:  3.25 Gummies.

Movie Review: This Is The End

Published June 14, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Emma Watson, Michael Cera.

Rated: R.  Action/Comedy.  Running Time: 1 hour 47 minutes.

Wow. Gratuitous cock shots. Celebrity drug use. Ridiculously bawdy humor. It’s like Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg somehow got the combination to the safe containing my dream movie. The last comedy that had the feeling of an early Christmas just for Maria was Step Brothers. That being said…if you’re not a fan of watching witty celebs get fucked up and make lots of jizz jokes, you should most likely skip this feature. There are countless mentions of dicks, butt holes, cocaine, ecstasy, weed and jerking off. But what else do you expect? It’s an R rated comedy about the apocalypse featuring the dudes listed above. I on the other hand profusely enjoyed myself and laughed to the point of crying. This original film was Worlds away from anything I’ve ever seen. And the entire story is so ludicrous, but laced with moments of true sincerity. This is how these guys really talk to each other…it’s just an exaggerated version.

Let’s be clear, full frontal male schlong is big these days.  Magic Mike, Da Vinci’s Demons, Game of Thrones, Michael Fassbender in Shame; the “member” list goes on and on.  No one, however, has shown demon dick like This Is The End.  I’m talking about a two hundred foot tall, burning, horned devil with a major swinger.  Also, since the turn of the century, no subject has been more popular at the movies than end of days.  Whether it’s zombies, plagues, aliens, natural disasters, meteors or good old-fashioned bible shit, Hollywood loves to kill, or attempt to kill the planet.  But nobody has ever seen or done anything like This Is The End.  That the entire ensemble are all playing versions of themselves is incredibly original.  The humor is exactly at the level of raunchiness you would expect from this group and it is at times hilarious, but there is also an extremely hard edge injected into the mix that is unexpected and to me at least; a touch disconcerting.  Definitely not enough for me not to have enjoyed myself thoroughly, just a bit of seat squirming.  Like Maria alluded to, if you can’t handle or don’t like serious off color humor, drug use and blood, you should probably skip it.  For the rest, go see This Is the End, Michael Cera’s performance alone is worth the price of admission!

Cera is fantastic.  And it’s really funny because we’ve been watching all the old Arrested Development episodes and he still has such a baby face!  I found this movie incredibly entertaining.  I was captivated by what would happen next and what the characters might say.  It would be a daunting task to name all of the cameos that occur, but there are some very memorable ones!  If you’re debating whether to wait for this one on DVD or go to the theatre, I strongly suggest catching it on the big screen.  It makes a lasting impression and still has me giggling days later.

Just a few other performances of note.  Emma Watson is very un-Hermione like.  James Franco does a perfect…well, James Franco.  Danny McBride is deliciously vile.  And finally, keep an eye out for a brief but very brave and stomach turning appearance by Channing Tatum.  All I can think to say is: eww!!

Maria’s Rating:  4.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating: 3.75 Gummies.



Recent DVD Release: This Is 40

Published May 1, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Jason Segal, Megan Fox, Charlyne Yi, Robert Smigel.

Rated: R.  Comedy.  Running Time: 2 hours 14 minutes.

I am a fairly big fan of writer/producer Judd Apatow.  I loved Freaks and Geeks, the series that launched more careers than my daughter Gina launches F-bombs.  And there’s Ron Burgundy, 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Step Brothers, Year One, Bridesmaids.  The guy makes me laugh, most of the time.  He does throw in the occasional dud, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Wanderlust, Five Year Engagement.  But honestly, even those sub-par efforts had some decent moments and entertainment value.  This Is 40, a quasi-sequel to Knocked Up, in that we pick up the lives of the always unhappy couple Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Mann) and their growing kids Sadie (Maude Apatow) and Charlotte (Iris Apatow), is at the very bottom of his body of work IMO.  While Pete and Debbie were fine side-kicking Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up, watching their train wreck of a marriage and life for a Hobbit-like two plus hours, was excruciating.  Businesses failing, marriage failing, oldest daughter spoiled and screeching throughout, just very few laughs in this “comedy”.  I thought the youngest Apatow was the best of the clan here.  Iris’ Charlotte was cute, wise beyond her years, and had more sense than the rest of her family.  You know a movie is in trouble when a highlight is Megan Fox.  She does a fine little parody of her persona, and seems to being having fun with it.  This Is 40 is nepotism at it’s best, or should I say worst. 

I usually love an Apatow flick.  The endless sea of hilarious one liners from the bulk of his work have been uttered from my lips millions of times.  I had a lot of hope for This Is 40.  Cute Paul Rudd.  Bitchy, but always a hoot, Leslie Mann.  I dug their take on marriage in Knocked Up.  It rounded out that little film nicely, but on its own this story of real life problems is weak.  I mostly enjoy going to the movies to lose myself or to gain a fresh perspective on something.  There was no such lesson or shred of entertainment to be gained here.  Also, it was just strange.  Was this a sequel?  Were Rudd and Mann just supposed to play the same couple in a parallel universe?  It was all very confusing.  The moments of laughter were fleeting, the story seemed forced or stretched and the cast didn’t have its usual spark of chemistry.  And it was WAY too long.  It was like an epic tale of doomed suburbia.  This film felt like the friend that won’t stop telling you about their relationship problems, but won’t do anything to resolve their issues.  Ross is definitely right in stating that the highlight of this diddy was Iris Apatow.  That little nugget has a bright future in acting.  I am not completely renouncing my allegiance to Mr. Apatow.  I would only like to say to him: “Judd, listen dude, take a little time off.  Come up with something fresh and get back to us.  Don’t just spit movies out for the cash and to distribute titty shots of your wife.  We’ve all seen them…about one hundred times since Big Daddy.  We get it – you think she’s hot.  We do too, you don’t have to keep bombarding us with it.”

Boring, long and not funny.  Definitely three things you don’t want in a comedy.  It really is hard to figure out what they were trying to accomplish here.  Did they look at this finished product and say, “Oh yeah, we nailed it!”?  Hey, I’m with Maria, I’m not giving up on Apatow, but you never know.  Look at  M. Night Shyamalan.  The guy wows with The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs.  Then slowly drags us down into the abyss with The Village, Lady in Water and The Happening.  You could draw some parallels, both have been truly great and REALLY bad.  No, no ,no, I have faith.  Judd will be back.  My advice: give Will Ferrell a call.

I stand by the fact that on the set of Signs, M. Night & Joaquin Phoenix were drinking bad water.  It seems those two lost something after that.


How’s that rap career going?  Also, quick note to self Joaquin – write the words on the opposite hand next time.  Anyways…Apatow will be back.  Just did not have the right formula for This Is 40.  If I were you, I’d just skip this one altogether.  Your welcome.

Ross’ Rating: 1 Gummy Bear out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 1.5 Gummies.

Movie Review: The Croods

Published March 25, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring the Voices of: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke.

Rated: PG.  Animated.  Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes.

The Croods are a family bent on survival, who often forget the importance of living.  Of course, they are in prehistoric times and face various danger every time they leave their cave.  But their overprotective father, Grug (Cage), has become excessively paranoid after witnessing the obliteration of all the neighbors.  He imposes his will on the others by sharing nightly fables outlining his rules.  Grugg’s rules consist of absolutely never trying anything new, waiting for the signal every morning before hunting as a pack and hunkering down in the cave before sunset.  These rules suit most of the family just fine, with the exception of Eep (Stone).  Eep despises the cave and hates the dark even worse.  One night, as her family sleeps, she breaks the cardinal rule and leaves the cave to further investigate some noise outside.  This event is the first in many that result in a transformation for Eep, her family and everyone’s way of life.  She also meets a male her age, appropriately named Guy (Reynolds), who introduces the family to all sorts of new things, including fire.  The entire family seems intrigued by the young man, with the exception of Grug, who feels a growing resentment toward this new leader and his innovative ideas.

We see A LOT of kids movies and most of them are very good.  The Croods is certainly no exception.  It started a little slow, but once Eep left the cave and met Guy things really opened up.  And, for the second movie in a row (Oz the G+P being the first), I felt the 3D effects enhanced the viewing experience.  The two films are a bit similar, in the rich and colorful landscapes and wildlife, and the 3D makes them burst through the screen.  A personal favorite in The Croods, is the huge flock of seemingly harmless red birds who descend upon their prey and strip them to the bone like piranhas in a matter of seconds.  Make no mistake, it’s a dangerous place where the Croods live, and they have to keep moving.  Along the way there are some wonderful lessons portrayed here.  Learning from your mistakes and admitting when you’re wrong.  Discovering how to trust and work with others.  Never giving up, and as a parent, knowing when to let go.  I’m not sure The Croods is going to crack the upper echelon of my animated favorites, but it was an enjoyable romp, well written, original and had me walking out of the theater with a smile on my face.

I agree, the 3D was a welcome enhancement once again.  As Ross just said, we see A LOT of kids movies, because we like to take Ethan with us.  I thought The Croods was the best one we’ve seen since Wreck-It Ralph, but I also don’t see it cracking my all time favorites.  Those spots are reserved for my early years of Disney movies and my coveted sing-a-longs.  The lessons were also a welcome addition and some important subjects were broached.  Like trying new things, opening your mind, staying positive and expressing your feelings.  It’s more important than ever that we try to share these lessons with young people and a lot of these movies prove to be effective segues.  Of course, you don’t always need a movie just to have a nice chat with your kids.

Absolutely, parents are the number one role models and teachers, as they should be.  But it is nice when Hollywood gives a helping hand too.  Also, voice acting is an underrated talent IMO, and this cast does a wonderful job.  Ryan Reynolds, Cloris Leachman, Catherine Keener,  Clark Duke (who sounds like a young Michael J. Fox BTW), Emma Stone and Nicolas Cage really “fit” their characters perfectly.   And in a positive side note, Maria, who is far removed from being a Nic Cage fan, didn’t have to “look at his stupid face.”  The Croods, a win-win-win movie.  Enjoy!

Maria’s Rating: 3.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating: 3.5 Gummies.

Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph

Published November 6, 2012 by mrsrag

Starring the voices of: John C. Reilly, Jack McBryer, Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman.

Rated: PG. Animated/Comedy. Running time: 1 Hour and 41 Minutes.


Maria, Ethan and I have seen some wonderful animated films together since we started our MRSRAG blog in June.  I have pointed out on several occasions that these movies are easily and consistently better than the mainstream Hollywood offerings.  Maria has often extolled the virtues of the lessons taught and learned, some veiled and some not, for young and old alike.  Well, I will say right here that Wreck-It Ralph is hands down the best yet in my opinion.  Ralph (Reilly) is the “bad” guy in an old school video game.  He “wrecks” this apartment building, while Felix (McBryer) attempts to fix it with his magic hammer.  After the lights go out in the arcade, the video game characters have their own lives, and Ralph’s leaves a lot to be desired.  He is lonely, lives in an actual dump, never gets invited to any parties, and he is tired of being the bad guy.  He even attends AA type meetings for video game heavies called “Bad-Anon.”  These scenes will tickle even the most casual of video gamers.  The movie begins in earnest when Ralph decides to leave his game in the pursuit of a “hero’s medal”, hoping it’s aquisition will bring some happiness to his life.

I was quite excited to see this movie, mostly because of the casting of voices for the lead characters.  I am a huge fan of both Sarah Silverman and John C. Reilly, so my expectations were that the film would at least be decent.  Wreck-It Ralph pulled out all the stops and left me utterly shocked and impressed.  It had the usual makings of animated children’s films – great graphics, clever humor and pertinent lessons.  However, it added several new aspects that I haven’t seen exercised in this genre.  Firstly, there’s a twist!  I won’t embellish any further, but take it from someone who watches a lot of children’s films – there is rarely a twist that an adult won’t see coming.  Ross and I were pleasantly surprised to find that this was not the case with Wreck-It Ralph.  Secondly, the plot of this film was inventive and original.  I love watching a story that’s sharp, smart and fresh.  I was recently complaining about watching the same regurgitated ideas, so I found this movie invigorating and refreshing – for a change.  Lastly, I love a film that pays homage to its roots.  Adults will love seeing jokes and references to some of their favorite childhood memories of arcade and video games.  My personal favorite nostalgic moment was when they showed an old Nintendo Gray Box controller being used as an opening device for a safe.  The Gray Box was one of my all time favorite Christmas presents ever and I will never forget playing the Super Mario Brothers game until I finally beat every single level.

Ahh the Gray Box!  Super Mario 3, Castlevania, Zelda.  And what about in the arcades, with Ms. Pacman, Donkey Kong, Galaga et al.  Wreck-It Ralph seemingly touches on them all, the new and the old.  So Ralph leaves his game and heads to Hero’s Duty, a game of warfare against some nefarious insects, where the good guys are led by the extremely hard-assed Calhoun (Lynch).  She of course gets immediately pissed at Ralph’s incompetence, but somehow he perserveres and “wins” his medal.  He promptly attempts to fly home but ultimately crash lands in a racing game called Sugar Rush, that looks a lot like the board game Candy Land.  There he meets the wise-cracking, cute, displaced Vanellope (voiced perfectly by Silverman), and their exchanges along with a growing friendship are the absolute heart of the movie.

Vanellope is my favorite.  She embodies cuteness, even with her ill-intentioned plan to “borrow” Ralph’s medal, which she needs to gain a place in competition amongst the other racers of Sugar Rush.  She convinces Ralph to help her build a race car, but they find themselves up against an overwhelming opposition to Vanellope’s participation in the race.  Predominantly the main lesson of this film is standing up for what’s right.  Ralph finds himself in a predicament after hearing misinformation from King Candy, the malicious monarch who seems bent on keeping Vanellope at a safe distance from his race and his kingdom.  Ralph learns a valuable lesson at this point in the story and decides to truly become the good guy he has always wanted to be.  With some help from his old friend Felix he becomes Vanellope’s hero and aids her in achieving her dream of racing.  Another important lesson of this film is simple kindness.  This lesson is made apparent by the other characters from Ralph’s game who never appreciated him or respected him.  These same people realize they need him and when he returns to the game where he belongs he is greeted with the kind of treatment that would have prevented his absence in the first place.  Lessons aside, I really enjoyed this movie.  It had a lot of heart and I was uncharacteristically moved by it.

I’ll be honest, I can be a pretty big softie, and Wreck-It Ralph had me misty on a couple of occasions.  It delivers some truly meaningful messages that parents should want their kids to see, hear and learn.  And what better way in this day and age to convey those messages, than through a movie based inside video games.  My boy Ethan (9) is a gamer extraordinaire, and I would guess many of you out there have one or two of your own.  He loved Ralph, and I’m sure the lessons got through to him easier and meant a bit more, because of the way they were delivered.  I would highly recommend Wreck-It Ralph to the young and the young at heart.  Not to get too deep, but on this election night in America, where we’re all on the edges of our seats, rooting for our own biases – and it seems, no matter who wins we’ll still be a nation divided; I guarantee we would all agree on the pure slice of apple pie ala mode that is the sweet, endearing and enduring Wreck-It Ralph.

Maria’s Rating:  4.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating:  5 emphatic Gummies.


Movie Review: Seven Psychopaths

Published October 22, 2012 by mrsrag

Starring:  Sam Rockwell, Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson.

Rated R.  Comedy/Crime/Drama.  Running Time: 1 hour 50 minutes.

I’ve tried to pick my favorite psychopath, but it proves quite a task with casting like this.  Just take a peek at the rundown of actors involved in this film listed above.  Walken is always a selling point for me, personally.  Add to that Tom Waits, two beautiful women that you’ll no doubt recognize on screen – if not by their names (Abbie Cornish & Olga Kurylenko) and a special guest appearance by two of my favorite Boardwalk Empire characters, Michael Pitt (the late Jimmy Darmody) and Michael Stuhlbarg (Arnold Rothstein).  Not that casting is a definitive slam dunk in any film, but it helps generate a certain feel for the production at hand.  The vibe you should probably gather from this present selection of characters is a violent one…lots of blood and guts.  Not gore necessarily, but spatter.  Seven Psychopaths had a similar feel to the 2008 critically acclaimed “In Bruges” – and with good reason.  The very same man, Martin McDonagh, wrote and directed both films.  He most certainly has a style, as I had the inkling before we conducted further research.  I would describe McDonagh’s style as intensely dark and brutally humorous.  Nonetheless, even if you don’t like the style of Seven Psychopaths, I can pretty much guarantee you won’t be bored.  The confluence of characters in this film is a trainwreck and you won’t be able to avert your eyes, even if you hope to.

Maria and I have had a run of “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” lately.  First, the same night we watched the movie, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, we caught Louis C.K.’s stand-up act where he talks of his ‘man crush’ on Ewan McGregor.  Now just days after watching the quirky, but entertaining, In Bruges, we went and saw Seven Psychopaths.  Written and directed by the same man McDonagh, as noted by Maria above.  She was indeed all over the similarities between the two movie’s styles, as she pointed it out to me minutes in.  McDonagh loves to put serial killers, murderers and other odd characters in unexpected settings.  And though he certainly doesn’t mind shedding some blood – dialogue and character development are his real strengths.  In Seven Psychopaths, he tells us the story of alcoholic writer Marty (Farrell, who he cast in In Bruges as well), who has a name for a movie and little else.  His good friend, the oddball, struggling actor Billy (played by the always fantastic Rockwell: Green Mile, Cowboys and Aliens et al), has some wonderful suggestions for Marty’s movie and would love to be involved in the writing of the screenplay.  In the meantime Billy and his friend Hans (the legend, Walken) steal people’s dogs to make ends meet, waiting until they put up a reward, then cashing in on the return.  Unfortunately for them, they steal the dog of true criminal psychopath, Charlie (Harrelson), who loves his dog more than any human being.  As you may guess, it’s at this point that the Shih Tzu really hits the fan.

Fantastic pun sweetheart.  One of my favorite things about this plot is that it kind of follows the evolution of Marty’s screenplay.  McDonagh cleverly intertwines the development of the screenplay with the unfolding story that his viewers watch on screen.  We don’t want to give anything away, as there are some interesting twists and turns.  However, suffice it to say that this plot line is engaging, groundbreaking and drastically original.  Seven Psychopaths and In Bruges are similar in style, but the themes and colorful storylines are brilliantly diverse.  The longer removed from viewing the movie, the more impressed I was with its composition.  It certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but you have to give credit where credit’s due.  Seven Psychopaths is refreshing and a pleasure to watch.  Especially in the present movie business where recycling and reinventing old ideas is the new trend.

I agree with you on several points.  Martin McDonagh’s writing is a breath of fresh air of originality, in a predominantly unoriginal time for movies.  Also, we have to be careful what we divulge about the plot, it would be easy to say too much.  And, the more I think about Seven Psychopaths, the more I like it.  I would add that I think it’s the kind of movie that should be seen again, perhaps when it comes out on DVD.  The things you know the second time around will give you clarity from the opening scenes through the end.  Not exact comparisons for sure, but The Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense could be examples of the point I’m trying to make.   Time will tell if Seven Psychopaths can be mentioned in the same breath as those two classics.  But the exquisite acting by the four lead actors, coupled with superb writing, give it the feel to me of a movie that will get even better with age.  

Calling all psychopaths…

Ross’ Rating: 4 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 4 Gummies.





Recent DVD Release: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Published October 15, 2012 by mrsrag

Starring:  Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Amr Waked, Kristen Scott Thomas.

Rated PG-13.  Comedy/Drama/Romance.  Running Time: 1 hour 47 minutes.

The second review we ever wrote was of the Savannah Nail Bar.  I had dropped Maria off to get her nails done and went on a couple of errands, one of which was to check the starting time of a movie we potentially wanted to go see, truth be told Maria wanted to see it more than me.  As you might have guessed, that movie was indeed Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.  In that review I wrote, “The time was a no go.  No offense baby but I wasn’t too disappointed.  The word Yemen in the title didn’t scream movie magic to me.”  Almost immediately after writing that, my friend Kevin called me and said “You know that statement is somewhat racist, beside the fact that the movie is pretty good.”  I informed him I was just attempting to be humorous and vowed someday to see the movie.  Well, we took advantage of Redbox’s 10th anniversary and rented it the other night for free.  Kevin was right, not necessarily about the racist comment imo, but the movie was very good.  You can’t get much more original than the premise.  Yemeni Sheikh Muhammed (Waked) an avid fisherman, wants to build a river in the desert and stock it with salmon from England.  Enter his associate Harriet (Blunt) who attempts to enlist the services of a fisheries expert, the incredibly boring Dr. Alfred Jones (McGregor).  He, of course, initially finds the whole project insane, but eventually is forced into service by government pressure.  I know it doesn’t sound too exciting, but the movie is superbly acted at every turn, and the chemistry between McGregor and Blunt is felt from their first scene.

The movie appealed to me for several reasons.  For starters, I had heard from several people that it was worth a watch.  Secondly, Emily Blunt is the cutest ever.  I loved her in “The Devil Wears Prada”, she’s equally adorable in “The Adjustment Bureau” and she proves herself again as a great female lead in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.  McGregor does a fantastic job opposite her, portraying the serious doctor who can’t help sharing his often sarcastic and comical thoughts on the absurdity of the project he’s been forced to oversee.  His socially awkward delivery paired with an underlying cynicism colors his character perfectly.  As a whole, the movie was relevant, smart and extremely original.  A delight from start to finish, Yemen made me feel good and inspired after watching.

Emily Blunt is cute and she is definitely working her way up the pecking order toward “A” list actress.  I personally love Ewan McGregor as well, and can’t think of a movie he’s been in that I haven’t enjoyed.  What an evolution of characters he’s had!  From one of his first efforts (if not his very first) a heroin junkie in Trainspotting, to a naive writer (with some seriously decent singing chops) in the musical Moulin Rouge.  A young Obi Wan in the Star Wars prequels, an untested but gallant medic in Black Hawk Down.  Even his Dr. Jones in Salmon Fishing, who I just described as “incredibly boring” has more layers than a parfait (a shout out to Donkey from Shrek).

McGregor is impressive in a lot of different roles, I thoroughly enjoyed him in Big Fish as the sweet talking, charming Mr. Edward Bloom.  Apparently we’re not the only big fans of Ewan.  Ironically, only hours after watching Salmon Fishing, we stumbled upon Louis C.K.’s ‘Shameless’.  I love a stand up comic by the way and Louis is hilarious.  He has a knack for perversion (which we love) and a killer delivery.  He starts this bit about meeting McGregor at some event and thinking to himself, “Wow, this guy is gorgeous.”  He went on to say he found himself later daydreaming about McGregor’s beautiful face…and other parts of his body.  And there’s another item for you to rent or add to your queue – his stand up is brilliant.  But I digress.  Salmon Fishing is a gem that you should not miss.  It touches on numerous subjects, examining love and marriage, but also religion and faith.  It doesn’t just spew out the usual formulaic romantic comedy dribble, it has real depth and range.

I totally forgot about Big Fish!  Another McGregor movie and role I love.  As Maria told you we happened upon Louis C.K. later that night, and we were rolling.  Then he does the bit about Ewan and we both knew that had to go in this review, just too coincidental.  Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is unique, entertaining, full of heart and recommended for your viewing pleasure.  As is Louis C.K., I might add.  If you want to catch some of his act now, I’ll give you two words to Google that will bring it right up for you: “duck vaginas.”  Enjoy.

Maria’s Rating: 4 Gummy Bears out of 5.  Also…5 Gummies for Louis C.K.’s “Shameless”.

Ross’ Rating: 3.75 Gummy Bears.  A big ditto 5 for LCK too.




Movie Review: Hotel Transylvania

Published October 2, 2012 by mrsrag

Starring the voices of: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, David Spade, CeeLo Green.

Rtaed PG.  Animated.  Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes.

Today was my son Ethan’s birthday, he’s 9, and even though he saw it already he was nice enough to agree to go again with Maria and I because we really wanted to see it.  He’s an awesome boy my Ethan.  He told us ahead of time it was a great movie, and he was spot on.  Hotel Transylvania was a joy from start to finish.  Count Dracula (Sandler) opens a hotel for monsters only, no humans allowed.  Humans in his view, only want to kill monsters, and he desperately wants to keep his daughter Mavis (Gomez) safe.  Dracula is a stereotypical protective single father, and he has kept Mavis smotheringly safe for over a century.  On her 118th birthday he throws her a huge party, and everyone shows up.  Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, assorted zombies, The Blob, The Werewolf,  Bigfoot etc.  Everything is going according to control freak Dracula’s plan, until the clueless, kind-hearted, surfer dude, human Jonathan (Samberg) stumbles into Hotel Transylvania.  Then everything gets turned upside down and the movie gets even better.

Jonathan literally breathes some life into the hotel of the undead, which could use some breath.  Sandler and his crew of boogeymen have become so accustomed to residing in the shadows that they’ve lost some lust for action along the way, but it doesn’t take long before they loosen up and start enjoying themselves.  Initially everyone takes a liking to the new guest, except for the Count.  Eventually, he can no longer resist Jonathan’s charms, especially when he sees how happy his daughter is around the human boy.  The film had a wonderful plot and many parenting tips on letting children experience life for themselves and learn from their own mistakes.  Hotel Transylvania took a fresh look at a theme we’ve seen displayed in many films, but at a relevant time.  Vampires have seen a huge upswing in popularity following the success of Twilight, True Blood and Vampire Diaries – just to name a few.  It’s refreshing to see a playful and humorous take of the undead in a kids movie and I love hearing a guy like Buscemi as Wayne The Werewolf dad, who I see every Sunday playing Nucky Thompson (Boardwalk Empire), in this type of role.

Couldn’t agree with you more honey, some truly wonderful messages for the kids in this movie, and they’re not rammed down their throats.  The voice actors are all fantastic and the story, though not anything near unpredictable, is heart-warming and appropriate for kids of all ages (which is a cool feat with all the monsters about).  The scariest moment in the movie for me, was when Ethan asked if he could go to the bathroom by himself.  Obviously, I know he could make it there and back alone, but like the over protective Dracula, I just couldn’t do it.  We compromised and I walked to the end of the hall and watched him go the rest of the way.  Good thing too, because he ran right by the bathroom heading toward the movies on the opposite side.  I sceamed “Ethan”, he turned back and looked at me while circling to run into the Ladie’s room.  Another scream from me, and I eventually had to go all the way down to guide him anyway.  He still needs his Pop, that’s not such a bad thing.  We made our way back to our seats, Maria and our popcorn, and enjoyed the end of the entertaining and sweet Hotel Transylvania.

I was hoping Ross would let Ethan go by himself, but after hearing about his oblivious ventures down the hall, I was glad he had his dad following.  Life imitating art.  Sure the plot of Hotel Transylvania is predictable, but done with such clever flair.  Something about this movie made a lasting impression and had me cracking up for hours later.  It’s one of the few that I’ll be looking forward to viewing again, and I’m sure my companions feel the same way.

Ross’ Rating: 4 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 4 Gummies.

Movie Review: ParaNorman

Published September 1, 2012 by mrsrag

Starring the voices of: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Bernard Hill, Jodelle Ferland, Tempestt Bledsoe, Alex Borstein, John Goodman.

Rated PG.  Animated.  Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes.

What a pleasant surprise ParaNorman turned out to be.  Although, I wasn’t expecting much to begin with.  I definitely wasn’t tripping over my feet to get to the theatre for this one, but it was probably the best film I’ve seen in a few weeks.  We go to the movies A LOT.  Not just for the sake of writing relevant reviews, but because we love going.  Once again, the movie was 3-D, which is starting to literally drive me crazy.  I don’t even remember a great deal of the 3-D effects, so how good could they really be?  I do remember the story, which was unique and, quite frankly, a little scary.  However, it balanced its chilling undertones with clever humor and an intriguing gang of characters.  The plot and theme explored some similar topics we’ve seen in a lot of children’s films lately; bullying, tolerance and the importance of friendship.  Sounds familiar, I know, but I’m glad they are broaching these important subjects.  Especially the bullying, which has become a prevelant issue across the country.  It seems bullying has been on the rise with the influx of technology into our children’s lives or maybe we’re just becoming more aware of it.  One thing I’m certain of is that there are MORE ways to bully now.  A bully is not just confined to confronting their victims at school, they have outlets such as cell phones and computers.  They can harass by text, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter etc. etc. etc.

It is good to see Hollywood adressing bullying, a serious problem in this country.  ParaNorman does a good job of that and much, much more.  The same people that brought us Coraline, the animation company LAIKA along with Focus Features, have created another entertaining but dark tale.  Norman (Smit-McPhee) is a loner who constantly sees the dead (they all seem to really like him too), much to the chagrin of his father (Garlin) who just wants a normal kid.  Their relationship totally reminded me of the father/son dynamic from the film Chicken Little, his dad just wanted CL to stop with “The sky is falling” routine.  At any rate, as Maria pointed out there are meaningful themes in ParaNorman and they are delivered very well.  The only downside is that some of the visuals are quite frightening.  Readers of our blog know that we see lots of kids movies with my son Ethan who is 8.  He was pretty brave thoughout, but I would certainly think twice taking anyone younger than him.  The zombie chases, a scene with Norman’s crazy uncle and a couple of scenes with the “witch” were great cinema, but intimidating in the stop-motion 3-D animation.

Ethan was very brave, but I think you’re right Ross, 8 and up is a pretty good policy for this one.  It was a fairly difficult story to bring to the screen for its intended audience.  They really had to be cogniscent of how dark and scary it got.  This seems to be a recurring theme in Hollywood.  I loved the Harry Potter series, which Ross turned me onto, and that took some very dark turns for its intended age group as well.  We’ve really started to become quite lax when it comes to entertainment ratings for kids.  This seems most apparent in The Hunger Games trilogy that recently took to the big screen.  That first installment just seemed too mature for children under 16, in my opinion.  ParaNorman isn’t nearly as daring with pushing the boundaries as the aforementioned films are, but it still flirts with that very thin line of acceptability.  I enjoyed seeing the use of the less popular stop-motion animation in this movie, which reminds me of claymation in some ways.  In fact, I thought it was claymation until Ross informed me otherwise.

This was a tough movie to review for me.  I did enjoy ParaNorman, it had a lot of heart.  I liked Norman, he’s a good kid.  My favorite part of the movie was the friendship that he and Neil (Albrizzi) formed.  Neil is an overweight boy who gets picked on and doesn’t have any friends, but he hasn’t let that ruin his zest for life, and he is a fantastic friend.  I guess the “problem” I’m having is, that when we see an animated movie we really love, we generally can’t wait until it comes out on video so we can rent it or buy it.  Sometimes we will even go see it again in the theater.  I don’t have that feeling with ParaNorman, but I’m still going to recommend you see it.  I think because it’s so different.  No madcap romp through (Madagascar), or race around (Cars), Europe here.  Just a good story with good lessons.

ParaNorman isn’t rocketing to the top of my favorite animated movies list, but it’s worth a watch.  If your kid really wants to go see it, bring them – you won’t be disappointed.

Maria’s Rating: 2.75 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating:  3 Gummies.