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Movie Review: Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2

Published October 10, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring the voices of:  Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Terry Crews, Kristen Schaal, Khamani Griffin.

Rated: PG.  Animated.  Running Time: 1 hour 35 minutes.

 

My son Ethan (freshly turned 10 on Oct 2nd) had already seen Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, but asked if Maria and I would take him again, which was a very good sign.  Having seen the first one, and finding it quite mediocre, I can’t say I was doing cartwheels about going, but we went anyway.  The kid was right!  Not just better than the original, MUCH better.  Flint Lockwood (Hader) invented a machine that turned water into food.  In the first movie, everything was going along great on his island hometown of Swallow Falls until the machine runs amok (the food becomes enormous) and has to be shut down.  At the beginning of 2, Flint is about to embark on a new business venture with his love interest, meteorologist Sam Sparks (Faris) when we find out the aforementioned machine, is still working in the wilderness and creating horrible “foodimals” that are threatening to overrun the Earth.  The residents of Swallow Falls are evacuated to San Franjose, California.  Chester V (Forte), inventor, entrepreneur and Flint’s hero, has been enlisted to lead the effort to stop the machine and eventually needs help from Flint and his gang.  Also back from the first movie are: Flint’s pet monkey Steve (NPH), his bushy eyebrowed, sardine loving dad Tim (Caan), chicken suit wearing Brent (Samberg), police officer Earl (Crews) and his son Cal (Griffin) and Sam’s cameraman Manny (Bratt).  An eclectic group to say the least, Chester sends them back to the island, and this is where the movie really begins.  The “foodimals” and food puns steal the show.  There are tacodiles, watermelophants, shrimpanzees, bananostriches, and peanut butter and jellyfish, just to name a few.  We learn along the way that everything isn’t quite what it seems as pertains to who’s good and bad, but the dialogue flows smoothly and the jokes are clever and aplenty.  I had more laugh out loud moments at Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, than I’ve had at any animated movie in a long time.

This was the best animated feature we’ve seen since Wreck-It Ralph, which was released in November of 2012.  We’ve seen a slew of forgettable kids movies since then.  Like Ross, I wasn’t a fan of the first installment of this series either, but the sequel was awesome!  The puns were so bloody brilliant I found myself wishing that I had come up with them myself.  We had fun whispering our own bastardizations of the animal, food hybrids before the film identified them.  One of our favorite characters was Barry, a live strawberry that Sam Sparks smuggles out of one of the sketchy labs they encounter.  This adorable little fruity dude, has some of the most memorable lines and an addictive catch phrase.  When he first meets Flint he keeps looking at him and uttering, “En woo.”  All three of us had some good laughs and it’s always a good sign when Ethan wants to go see a movie again.  The storyline was also well done, incorporating the ground work laid by the first movie while heading in a new, exciting direction with the plot of the second.  It reminded me of the flawless transition that was achieved with the classic Toy Story trilogy.  I found the overall moral of the story great too.  The lesson that Flint had to learn was to appreciate and recognize his real friends.  His loyal brood accompanies him to the island and he starts to take their friendship for granted.

I love Bill Hader, he stole the show at the James Franco Roast we watched on Comedy Central recently.  He enjoys doing these voice characters, in addition to reprising his Flint Lockwood role, he’s had parts in Ice Age, Monsters University and Turbo.  It is Flint’s ambition, awkward genius and eventual growth that is at the center of Meatballs 2.  I’m not sure where I’d rank it among my all-time animated favorites, but most definitely would recommend you see it in the theater or when it reaches DVD.  So many memorable characters, Maria mentioned the talking strawberry Barry; look for a scene where Barry is interpreting Flint’s speech for the other “foodimals”.  Hilarious.  I also enjoy Flint’s dad Tim played by James Caan.  He has Eugene Levy-like eyebrows, and has his own adventure with some warrior pickles who share his love for sardines.  That last line is something isn’t it?  So is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, a very pleasant surprise. 

I most certainly suggest catching this one in theaters.  We skipped the 3-D, which didn’t take anything away from how great it was.  I doubt it will be taking best animated feature of the year home (lots more of this genre to come during the holidays!), but the story is uplifting, heartwarming and seriously funny.  I believe adults will enjoy this one just as much as the kids!

 

Ross’ Rating: 4 out of 5 Gummy Bears.

Maria’s Rating: 4.5 Gummies.

  

Movie Review: Planes

Published August 20, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring the Voices of:  Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Terri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Priyanka Chopra, John Cleese, Cedric the Entertainer, Carlos Alazraqui, Roger Craig Smith, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer, Sinbad, Brent Musburger.

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

I was shocked.  Not by the formulaic plot.  Or the predictable twists.  What was shocking was that even with all these flaws, I still enjoyed the movie somehow.  I entered the theatre with the lowest expectations possible.  Mostly because I knew from previews and pre-release press that Planes was going to be a Cars/Turbo hybrid.  Crop dusting plane wants to race around the World; crop duster qualifies due to glitch; blah blah blah.  It’s difficult to get hyped up for the same crap all the time in these kids movies.  Every storyline is about some type of underdog with big dreams.  Believe me, I’m all about encouraging kids to achieve great things, but aren’t there plenty of other life lessons we can start portraying on screen.  Anything original that doesn’t involve racing?  Maybe a story about how hard work results in success or how being kind and generous is rewarding.  There has to be some new subject matter we haven’t yet tapped into.

I realize lately we’ve become somewhat of a broken record when it comes to the lack of originality in movies, and that Planes is another in the line was certainly no surprise.  Maria has hit it on the head with her assessment of Planes as a cross between Cars and Turbo.  Slow snail gets fast, wins Indy 500.  Underestimated crop duster……..yeah, okay, got it.  Dusty’s (Cook) sidekick Chug (Garrett) = Mater.  Broken down mentor Skipper (Keach) is Doc Hudson.  It’s especially distressing to me because I have been saying for ages that the animated features, as a whole, are far superior offerings than mainstream Hollywood.  Now, it seems, they’ve finally decided to sacrifice quality for money grabbing and that is truly a shame.  I also liked Planes better than Turbo, but I’m definitely not nutting over it.  Check out that voice cast!  They deserve better.  I really hope the studios get back to serving us the quality we’ve come to know, and stop taking advantage of our kids and the parents. We deserve better too.

Going to the movies is an expensive venture, which is the main reason we deserve better.  We skipped the 3-D this time, because quite honestly, we haven’t been impressed by the use of the effect on screen.  And it’s an extra 3 or 4 bucks per ticket!  The only movie I have seen that truly wowed me was Jackass 3-D.  Now that was well worth the extra cash because they used the effect to its potential.  Shooting things out into the crowd and dusting us with faux confetti; that’s what going to a 3-D movie should be like.  I want to be grabbing and dodging things.  Keep that in mind, Hollywood.  Planes had some indescribable charm.  And I enjoyed the manner with which they executed the race.  There were more laughs and clever antics than Turbo, but it fell short of its predecessor, Cars.  Needless to say, this latest kids flick was mediocre.  I won’t be racing out to grab it off shelves.

Ethan enjoyed the movie, that’s all that matters really.  Though I’m sure even he would admit it’s not going on his all time favorites list.  We didn’t go 3-D, that was a plus, waste of money.  I’m going to make two prediction: 3-D offerings will decrease significantly, soon.  And, sometime in the future, you’ll see a Cars/Planes release.  Hopefully they’ll come up with a script worthy of the actors and the audience. 

Maria’s Rating:  2.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating:  2.75 Gummies. 

 

Recent DVD Release: Olympus Has Fallen

Published August 18, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring:  Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Dylan McDermott, Angela Bassett, Rick Yune, Ashley Judd, Cole Hauser, Robert Forster, Finley Jacobsen.

Rated: R.  Action/Thriller.  Running Time: 2 hours.

In recent years an annoying phenomenon has appeared in Hollywood, the release of movies with nearly identical subject matter, right on top of each other.  There was Deep Impact and Armageddon.  Red Planet and Mission to Mars.  The Girl and Hitchcock.  Now we have White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen.  We haven’t seen the former yet but we just rented the latter out of our beloved Redbox.  A far-fetched, action packed, predictable hostage story that I realized half way through, was just Die Hard set in the White House.  Gerard Butler is John McClane, Rick Yune is Hans Gruber.  The White House is Nakatomi Plaza, Robert Forster is the inept FBI agent that sends in the troops against our hero’s advice.  Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett team up to form a composite of the sympathetic Sgt. Al Powell, and Aaron Eckhart plays the President but is really just Bonnie Bedelia as Mrs. McClane.  There’s a failed helicopter assault/rescue, and plenty of wise-cracking one-liners from Butler, as he McClanes through the scores of North Korean bad guys.  I loved this movie, in 1988, the first time I saw it.  Now?  Not so much.

Recently, Ross has been offering up insightful synopses of our entertainment.  He first pegged my new series crush, Ray Donovan (Showtime), as “Soprano’s West”.  And when he fixed Olympus Has Fallen as a Die Hard rehash, I knew he nailed it again.  Although, if it wasn’t for Butler’s McClanesque one-liners I would have found nearly no amusement in this flick.  Sure there are some action packed artillery scenes and tons of dramatic explosions, but it definitely didn’t add up to Die Hard standards.  It lacked Die Hard’s effortless charm.  To sum up Olympus Has Fallen in one word: forgettable.  I found myself missing the days of Butler donning a red loin cloth & ball kicking some Persian dude bellowing, “THIS IS SPARTA”.  I like to remember him at his best.  As for the other mish mash of famous faces, I saw people who I also like to remember as their past characters.  Aaron Eckhart; Harvey Dent a.k.a. Two-Face.  Ashley Judd; Dr. Kate McTiernan (Kiss The Girls)…I’d have to include Olympus co-star Morgan Freeman with this film.  He is the only man allowed to play Alex Cross.  That last line is directed at you, Tyler Perry.  Please stick to what you know – dressing up as old black ladies.

Gerard Butler is a likeable dude, and man’s man.  He disposes of the henchmen well in this movie and has some pretty cool moves.  That being said, I’ve always found him lacking as a movie star.  I did enjoy 300 and Chasing Mavericks was okay, but he is just stiff.  He doesn’t have “It”.  You can’t really define “It”, you just know it when you see it.  Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Humphrey Bogart, Jack Nicholson, De Niro, Pacino, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cary Grant.  You get the point.  They’re trying to make Butler a star.  They’re trying with Ryan Reynolds too, but you can’t make champagne out of lemons.  The other actors in Olympus Has Fallen don’t do much here either.  For crying out loud, Morgan Freeman just played the President not long ago in the aforementioned Deep Impact, now he’s the acting President.  Ashley Judd and Cole Hauser stop by for a cup of coffee.  Aaron Eckhart is tied up most of the movie, probably wishing he could escape entirely.  Rick Yune is okay as the head bad guy, but really he’s pretty much the evil nephew from Karate Kid 2.  And his female sidekick is a carbon copy of the Asian bad girl who gets her ass kicked by John McClane in Live Free or Die Hard.  Hell, that fourth installment of Bruce Willis’ series was ten times better than OHF.  And come to think of it, they fake blew up the White House in that one too.  Instead of renting or ordering Olympus Has Fallen, take the time to revisit any Die Hard movie, the guy in those films is a bona fide movie star.  “Yippee ki yay, Motherfucker!”  

Butler’s McClane tribute was a lame, “Let’s play a game of fuck off, you go first.”  I’m not saying I won’t use the line, it just didn’t suit Gerry.  Anyhow, OHF was a mediocre movie with a potentially decent plot that failed to execute its ideas.  There were some glimpses into clever writing, such as the relationship between Butler and the President’s son, which proves to be an asset as the boy seeks refuge during the attack.  It just seemed like something we’ve already seen, good guy is offered redemption, saves the day, blah blah blah.  In order for a story of this nature to translate, it has to find its niche.  Olympus didn’t have a niche, it just carved out a tiny little spot next to the Die Hard series.  Sorry Mike Banning (Butler’s character in OHF), but John McClane kicks your ass.

 

Ross’ Rating:  1.75 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating:  2.25 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: Cloud Atlas

Published June 13, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Xun Zhou, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D’Arcy, Davis Gyasi, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant.

Rated: R. Adventure/Drama/Science Fiction. Running Time: 2 hours 52 minutes.

Let me begin by saying, I couldn’t wait to see this movie. We missed it in the theaters, and when it showed up in our Redbox yesterday, I was psyched. Maria wasn’t nearly as excited as I was, but she’s always a good sport, so it was dinner and Cloud Atlas. I knew we were in trouble very quickly. It’s nearly impossible to capsulize the plot, truly. Suffice it to say, Cloud Atlas makes Inception seem like a game of Tic-Tac-Toe. It jumps around from one time to another with reckless abandon. The actors all play numerous roles, in some they’re good, in some bad. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you know that series has a dozen story lines that they address in any given episode. GoT is a one man Broadway play compared to Cloud Atlas. And if the breakneck speed of changing ages and landscapes isn’t enough, in one of the settings they’re speaking some kind of bastardized language that’s reminiscent of Jar Jar Binks’ blatherings in Star Wars. Eventually, the movie somewhat ties up all the plotlines, but it’s WAY too late. If you want the “true-true”, stay far away from this nearly endless epic tale, far away and with extreme prejudice.

Fifteen minutes in and I was already feeling overwhelmed, overworked and unimpressed. My brain was hurting from trying to keep track of who, what, when, where and why. I admit when I first peeped previews of this film I was intrigued and excited. For one, it was pitched as a ‘Wachowski’ film (the people who brought us The Matrix). It also seemed to explore certain spiritual themes that I am somewhat familiar with. I’m not a very religious type, but I do believe in something and I’ve found some past lives writing quite interesting. My personal favorite was a suggestion of my good friend Kate Doyle, “Many Lives, Many Masters” written by Dr. Brian L. Weiss (READ THIS!). It’s a fantastic read and raises some important questions about the meaning and mysteries of life. Cloud Atlas courageously explores these same concepts, but fails to make a lasting impression. It has glimpses of greatness, but then drags the viewer into an exhausting montage of times and places. Just enough to drain all of the heart and magic out of this film. What really annoyed me about this movie was that it had the potential to be wonderful, but eventually couldn’t get out of its own way. They missed the mark and apparently missed the day of class when the instructor went over the KISS principle. KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID.

When it comes down to it, I’m a pretty fair Sci-Fi nerd. I love everything Star Trek, The Matrix Trilogy, X-Files, Fringe. To a lesser extent, Star Wars, Transformers, Inception. And it remains one of my favorite genres. Maria mentioned the Wachowski influence, and that was promising to me because The Matrix was fantastic. Cloud Atlas is extremely clever and deeply thought provoking, which is generally a perfect formula for me. However, it is also long and convoluted and despite everything that’s going on; boring. Hey, I’m not MENSA material, but I’m no schlub either. I don’t think it’s conceited of me to say that I’m smarter than the average bear, but Cloud Atlas had my head swimming and my brain just drowned. As I pointed out, near the end the writers did endeavor to make a little sense of the previous two and a half hours of chaos, but by then I just didn’t care. The movie was filled with some of my all-time favorites, Hanks, Weaving, Broadbent, Grant, and they did their jobs as well as they usually do. Unfortunately, the maelstrom that is Cloud Atlas just swallowed them whole. If indeed I’m not intelligent enough to enjoy Cloud Atlas, then I say “ignorance is bliss!”

Obviously, we both did not enjoy this film. However, there were some positive aspects. The visual effects were awesome and the overall theme was meaningful. I also had a special affinity for the character of Mr. Meeks, an elderly nursing home resident who only speaks the words, “I know, I know”…for the majority of the film, until he needs to save himself and his friends from a certainly bleak future. Sadly, these few things were lost in the Uber mindfuck that is Cloud Atlas. I can’t imagine you’d consider wasting several hours on this flick after reading this glowing review, but if you dare – perhaps some research into the plot will benefit you. After conducting a mild investigation to fill in the details for our piece, I read a two sentence synopsis that shed more light on the story. I usually like to have a grasp of what’s going on in the beginning, middle or end of a movie. Yet, even now I have questions. The most pertinent one being, “Why did we watch this?”

Ross’ Rating: 1.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 1.5 Gummies.