BRAD’S STATUS review

This looks like it could be pretty charming. Been seeing the trailer crop up from time to time and I’m pretty intrigued. The story looks like it’s about a father and a son. The father takes his son touring a college that he wants to get into all the while wondering if the life choices he’s made has made him a successful person, comparing himself to other more successful friends of his from years ago. Oh… well, now that I’m writing it out, I have my reservations. If this movie is about a grown man comparing himself to his friends and the movie’s resolution is that he learns to accept his life as is, then… yeah, this better be a short movie.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Ben Stiller (ZOOLANDER 2 [2016], TROPIC THUNDER [2008], and MYSTERY MEN [1999]) and Austin Abrams (PAPER TOWNS [2015], THE KINGS OF SUMMER [2013], and GANGSTER SQUAD [2013]). In support, we have Jenna Fischer (HALL PASS [2011], BLADES OF GLORY [2007], and SLITHER [2006]), Michael Sheen (HOME AGAIN [2017], MIDNIGHT IN PARIS [2011], and UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS [2009]), Jemaine Clement (LEGO BATMAN [2017], MEN IN BLACK 3 [2012], and DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS [2010]), Luke Wilson (ROCK DOG [2016], IDIOCRACY [2006], and MY DOG SKIP [2006]), and Mike White (THE STEPFORD WIVES [2004], SCHOOL OF ROCK [2003], and ORANGE COUNTY [2002]).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Mike White, making his directorial return in ten years, but is known for writing THE EMOJI MOVIE (2017), NACHO LIBRE (2006), and SCHOOL OF ROCK (2003). The composer is Mark Mothersbaugh, known for BEATRIZ AT DINNER (2017), FANBOYS (2009), HAPPY GILMORE (1996), and upcoming films THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE (2017) and THOR: RAGNAROK (2017). Finally, the cinematographer is Xavier Grobet, known for WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT (2016), FOCUS (2015), and MONSTER HOUSE (2006).

Overall, I’m interested, but not excited.

This is my honest opinion of: BRAD’S STATUS

(SUMMERY)

Brad (Ben Stiller) is a father taking his son Troy (Austin Abrams) out to tour colleges. But while he’s doing that, he’s struggling with what he believes is a life that he didn’t expect have, comparing his mediocrity with his college friends who are wildly more successful that he is.

(REVIEW)

I don’t think I hate this film, but it’s definitely not that good.

The first and primary problem is that Brad isn’t a very likable character. All he does throughout the film is complain. Complain about how his life isn’t where he thought it was going to be, constantly sizing himself up with his old college friends who found success in other fields. He daydreams about how their lives are. The good, the bad, barely ever focusing on his own life, which clearly needs reworking. Even when he does think about his life, he’s complaining. About the kid who quit his position in Brad’s nonprofit organization, his wife’s total complacency, hell, he even comments how he’d feel jealous of his own son’s success. I mean, what the hell? What parent thinks about this?! And this translates to him being a pretty spazzy asshole, telling Troy that even geniuses get rejected from Harvard, that he needs to start thinking about what he wants to do with his music, and bringing up money that he doesn’t want to needlessly spend, he’s actually a pretty mean-spirited person, and when he’s not mean-spirited, he’s depressive.

And when he’s neither of those things, he’s kind of creepy. Yeah, no joke, Brad is really creepy. One of the first scenes in the movie is Brad looking at his half naked son, covered only by a bath towel, and says, “You have the body of a man now.” Uh… Another scene is where they’re both in a hotel room and he has a tickle session with him in his underwear. Really, a father is having a tickle session with his eighteen year old son… in his underwear…? Uh…!!! But it doesn’t end there. Somewhere in the middle, Brad decides to go almost full AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999) and starts fantasizing about these college girls who seem to have the rest of their lives figured out. It’s about as uncomfortable as it sounds.

And do you want to know what his ultimate resolution is? The one thing in the story that makes him realize how good he’s got it? He attends a concert with those same college girls and their music is really pretty. That’s it. That’s literally it. *face palm*

I don’t want to make it sound like it’s all bad. There is a level of self-awareness in the film that makes for some humorous moments. There’s characters that look at Brad as he dozes off and comments how he’s being weird. Or when he’s talking too much, people will tell him to shut up. These are admittedly very satisfying moments and do prevent it from being a total disaster of a movie.

And there is admittedly something relatable about Brad himself. As much as I complain about the frequency of his daydreaming and comparing and contrasting, as an insecure person myself, I do that too. I’m on social media a lot and I do browse by posts of people who are doing such fun things, like going to clubs, traveling, meeting new people, getting married, having kids, climbing the ladder of their dream jobs, or being otherwise successful. And then there’s me, not doing all that because I’ve got my own life to deal with and how my choices got me to where I’m at and constantly trying to get out myself out. It’s hard not to feel a rush of mixed emotions, even toward the people I love: jealousy, envy, pride, sadness, depression, it’s enough to get your head spinning. But the thing is, even on the worst of days when I do that, it goes away the moment I switch off Facebook and watch a video on Youtube. Or when I’m on the road to work. Or even watching these movies and writing about them. It most certainly goes away when I’m talking to my amazing girlfriend. The point is, this isn’t shit that gets me all day. Just in that one moment, and that’s where I feel the disconnected from Brad. He dwells on it even in times when he’s supposed to feel the proudest. He’s too insecure and his life really isn’t all that bad.

Overall, I can’t say this the worst thing ever. It’s clear that there was a good, even poignant idea here that wasn’t developed properly. Some of it pays off in the end, but far too much of the movie follows a man who is way too much of a crybaby and not even all that likable, even by the film’s end. I don’t think I recommend this. No, it’s by no means the worst movie I’ve ever seen, or even the worst this year, not even close, but I just don’t think anyone would get anything out of it. At best, save it for a rental or viewing on Netflix, but definitely not in theaters.

My honest rating for BRAD’S STATUS: a weak 3/5

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THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE quick review

The LEGO legacy continues. I’m not complaining. Are you?

I can’t say that I’m familiar with the straight to TV movies or shows that have come from LEGO before THE LEGO MOVIE (2014), but if both I can guess they’re bad, and a little girl telling me that they’re bad, then it’s a safe bet that they’re bad outings. Thankfully, everything cinematic has been golden. I loved LEGO BATMAN (2017), and since this latest installment is by the same creators, I’m more than happy to visit this in theaters.

Having said that, I have a particular fear that this is where the films will find themselves in a decline. Why do I think that? Consider this for a moment. The LEGO movies have one common theme: family relationships. The whole point of the first film was a kid trying to have fun and connect with his father, and LEGO BATMAN is about Batman learning to get over his parents and embracing his new family. This movie looks like it’s about a son connecting with his father again, except far less subtle. Of course, the concept of family problems being addressed and resolved isn’t inherently bad, but how many times can you tackle the same subject before it gets tired? The first movie had the advantage of having a great story, some great jokes, and wonderful visuals. LEGO BATMAN got by on being a loving satire of every Batman film that has ever come out. Plus, everyone knows and loves Batman. But what does this one really have? In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t be so worried. If nothing else, there’s a reason the creators picked this source material and knew how to make it both marketable, funny, and endearing. So I’ll still go in with high expectations.

Here’s the voice talent. Starring, we have Dave Franco (THE LITTLE HOURS [2017], 21 JUMP STREET [2012], SUPERBAD [2007], and the upcoming THE DISASTER ARTIST [2017]), Justin Theroux (THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN [2016], MIAMI VICE [2006], AMERICAN PSYCHO [2000], and THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME [2018]), and Jackie Chan (THE NUT JOB 2 [2017], RUSH HOUR 3 [2007], THE LEGEND OF DRUNKEN MASTER [1994], and the upcoming THE FOREIGNER [2017]). In support, we have Michael Peña (CHIPS [2017], BATTLE LOS ANGELES [2011], CRASH [2004], and upcoming films MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE [2017] and A WRINKLE IN TIME [2018]), Abbi Jacobson (PERSON TO PERSON [2017], NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY ROW [2016], and TV show BROAD CITY [2014 – ongoing]), Kumail Nanjiani (THE BIG SICK [2017], FIST FIGHT [2017], video game MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA [2017], and the upcoming video game MIDDLE-EARTH: SHADOW OF WAR [2017]), Olivia Munn (OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY [2016], MAGIC MIKE [2012], BIG STAN [2007], and upcoming films THE PREDATOR [2018] and X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX [2018]), and Fred Armisen (THE LITTLE HOURS, BAND AID [2017], and TV show PORTLANDIA [2011 – ongoing]).

Now for the crew. There are a grand total of three directors. Two of them co-wrote the movie: Paul Fisher and Bob Logan, both making their directorial and writing debuts (Congrats, gentlemen). The other didn’t: Charlie Bean, known for TV show TRON: UPRISING (2012 – 2013). As for the other writers, RED FLAGS!!! Four additional writers, making a grand total of six working on this movie: William Wheeler (GHOST IN THE SHELL [2017], QUEEN OF KATWE [2016], and THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST [2012]), Tom Wheeler (PUSS IN BOOTS [2011], TV show THE CAPE [2011], and the upcoming B.O.O.: BUREAU OF OTHERWORLDLY OPERATIONS, no release date announced), Jared Stern (LEGO BATMAN, THE INTERNSHIP [2013], and MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS [2011]), and John Whittington (LEGO BATMAN). Finally, composing the score is Mark Mothersbaugh, known for BEATRIZ AT DINNER (2017), NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST (2008), video game CRASH BANDICOOT 2: CORTEX STRIKES BACK (1997), and upcoming films BRAD’S STATUS (2017) and THOR: RAGNAROK (2017).

Overall, I was excited until I saw six writers on this movie. Oh dear lord. Well, LEGO BATMAN had five writers and that turned out wonderfully… maybe this will be too. Fingers crossed.

This is my honest opinion of: THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE

(SUMMARY)

The city of Ninjago is constantly under attack by the evil warlord Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux). But his efforts are constantly thwarted by a group of young ninja students, one of them being Lloyd (voiced by Dave Franco), his own son, and doesn’t even know it. But one day, Garmadon unleashes his greatest weapon, a giant cat, and after failing to stop, Lloyd, his fellow ninjas, and their master Wu (voiced by Jackie Chan) must venture out to seek the ultimate Ultimate weapon and stop Garmadon once and for all.

(QUICK REVIEW)

Aww man… I really wanted this to be good, but it wasn’t. Oh okay, it wasn’t bad, but… man, kind of disappointing.

I think first and foremost, it’s not really all that funny. I mean, it’s not devoid of comedy, but where LEGO MOVIE and LEGO BATMAN has me rolling in the aisles, this only offered chuckles, and not very many. Michael Strahan and Robin Roberts cameos are humorous one offs, but when the movie hammers in the jokes without having them say or do anything all that funny, it gets a little grating. The characters also didn’t feel particularly. All I remembered was Lloyd, the girl, and the timid one. I don’t remember names. defined and it still kind of confuses me why there was a robot ninja in the group. The story also hits a few too many clichés. The father and son bonding by playing catch in a weird quirky way (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY PART 2 [2017]), weird plot points that basically tell you not to be invested, but still treat it like you should, and it’s not even a very good joke, if that’s what it was going for, and much of the film doesn’t have the cool machines that the advertising showcased. They’re only in the first twenty minutes or so. Also, the giant cat got old, and the live-action stuff felt unnecessary. I’m also not entirely sure what the point was in making Garmadon and Wu brothers. They don’t really act like it, and Wu doesn’t really act like Lloyd’s uncle. Just another student. So as much as family looks like it’d be a central theme, the family doesn’t much interact like one outside of the obvious.

But it’s not all bad. Chan is humorous as always and makes for a welcomed appearance. Theroux is surprisingly humorous as Garmadon, even though his voice is obviously a Batman rip-off. The characters, as unmemorable as they are, are at the very least likable. The visuals are still pretty nice and as much as the live-action cat got overused, it’s integrated well enough.

I can’t honestly find too many good things to say. It’s a pretty heavy letdown from how good the previous movies are. But I guess Warner Animation Group’s feet are indeed made of clay. And for all intents and purposes, the movie’s not awful. If your kids are bugging you to go see it, it’s harmless. But if you’re an adult who liked the previous films… viewer beware. Save it for a discount day at the theaters, or a rental. But I don’t recommend full price.

My honest rating for THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE: 3/5

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PITCH PERFECT 2 (transfer) review

These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.

After seeing the first one yesterday and incapable of avoiding its sequel at work, I had to make the time to see how this movie surpassed MAD MAX: FURY ROAD at the box office. I was not a fan of the first one by any stretch, so I wasn’t having high expectations for this one either. But, for business reasons, I had to. Bit the bullet, went to the Arclight in Sherman Oaks, bought that ticket, and sat my ass down.

Starring: Anna Kendrick (THE ACCOUNTANT [2016], END OF WATCH [2012], UP IN THE AIR [2009], and upcoming films PITCH PERFECT 3 [2017] and TROLLS 2 [2020]), Rebel Wilson (HOW TO BE SINGLE [2016], ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT [2012], BACHELORETTE [2012], and the upcoming PITCH PERFECT 3), Hailee Steinfeld (THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN [2017], ENDER’S GAME [2013], TRUE GRIT [2010], and upcoming films PITCH PERFECT 3 and BUMBLEBEE [2018]), Brittany Snow (HAIRSPRAY [2007], JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE [2006], 3 episodes of TV show CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND [2015 – ongoing], and the upcoming PITCH PERFECT 3), and Alexis Knapp (SO UNDERCOVER [2012], COUPLES RETREAT [2009], TV show GROUND FLOOR [2013 – 2015], and the upcoming PITCH PERFECT 3).

Support: Hana Mae Lee (JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS [2015], PITCH PERFECT [2012], 1 episode of TV show CALIFORNICATION [2007 – 2014], and upcoming films PITCH PERFECT 3 and COCO [2017]), Brigitte Hjort Sørensen (AUTOMATA [2014], AT WORLD’S END [2009], and TV show VINYL [2016]), Skylar Astin (TAKING WOODSTOCK [2009], HAMLET 2 [2008], and TV show GROUND FLOOR [2013 – 2015]), Katey Sagal (BLEED FOR THIS [2016], and TV shows SONS OF ANARCHY [2008 – 2014], and FUTURAMA [1999 – 2013]), and Anna Camp (THE HELP [2011], TV shows UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT [2015 – ongoing] and THE MINDY PROJECT [2012 – ongoing], and upcoming film PITCH PERFECT 3).

Director: Elizabeth Banks (1 segment of MOVIE 43 [2013] and the upcoming CHARLIE’S ANGELS [2019]). Writer: Kay Cannon (6 episodes of GIRLBOSS [2017], 4 episodes of NEW GIRL [2011 – ongoing], 12 episodes of 30 ROCK [2006 – 2013], and upcoming film PITCH PERFECT 3). Composer: Mark Mothersbaugh (BRAD’S STATUS [2017], ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP [2015], 22 JUMP STREET [2014], and upcoming films THOR: RAGNAROK [2017] and HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3 [2018]). Cinematographer: Jim Denault (BAD MOMS [2016], THE CAMPAIGN [2012], and BOYS DON’T CRY [1999]). 

Story on top, review below. ***SPOILERS!!!***

(STORY)

Similar to the first movie, it opens on the Bellas who are about to perform for Barack Obama. However, the performance goes down the shitter when Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) has a wardrobe malfunction, tears her leotard between her legs, and accidentally shows the President her lady bits. This ridicules the Bellas once more and they are taken off of their victory tour of the same competition they’d won in the previous movie for the last three years. Their tour was instead given to a German a cappella group known as Das Sound Machine, whom are more than happy to have the spotlight on them. To make matters worse, they are very talented. This has the Bellas frustrated, especially Chloe (Brittany Snow) and Beca (Anna Kendrick), though for different reasons. Chloe has remained in school because the Bellas are all she knows and Beca seems to be the only one who is looking beyond graduation, and to make matters more stressful, has a new intern job at a record label that she is keeping a secret from the Bellas. But there’s hope for them. Despite not being able to continue their victory tour, they have a shot at competing in this international a cappella competition that no American team has ever won, and the Bellas are determined to be the first. After getting an up-close and personal demonstration of the Machine’s talent, and handing the Bellas their asses in the process, the Bellas realize that they lost their mojo and need to figure out how to be on top of their game. After a humorous, but successful trip to a group-building camp ran by the now-graduated Aubrey (Anna Camp), the team figures out how to be the best that they can be, bond even deeper, head off to Europe to compete, and basically win.

(REVIEW)

Fun fact, Elizabeth Banks directed this one.

An improvement over the first, though not by much. The movie retains its, not-too-funny jokes, though admittedly is funnier than the first one, but surprisingly takes a few steps back.

Let me talk about the cons first. When Audrey was the annoying-as-fuck character in the previous movie, Chloe now takes the reigns in that department. I find this odd as she is one of the most level-headed and confident characters in the first movie, now she’s all whiney and obsessive. Beca even takes a turn for the worse as she becomes secretive about her job. Er… why? Why are you keeping your job a secret from your best friends again? Because, “Chloe’s got too much on her mind right now?” Okay, so why not the other Bellas? And even if you weren’t particularly close to Fat Amy or the others (which, bullshit, you are), why are you so concerned about Chloe’s opinion? How does your internship at this record label affect the Bellas in any way? Okay, she slips on providing the Bellas with beats or something, but this is a sub-plot that is BARELY touched upon and hardly affects the story in any meaningful way. Also, all of the new Bellas don’t seem to have a personality to them or contribute to the group in any way other than making the Bellas larger in number. This makes Flo (Chrissie Fit) a fairly useless addition and I only now realize that Stacie (Alexis Knapp), Jessica (Kelley Jakle), and Ashley (Shelley Regner), are even in the movie… and were indeed in the previous movie and I had no idea. As far as I’m concerned, they were the organic equivalent to a prop tree in the first one. With the exception of Emily, played by Hailee Steinfeld, who has had dreams of being a Bella due to her mother, who was also a Bella in college, but because of the defeat they suffered in the beginning of the movie, Emily sees only infighting and secrets. Her faith in what she’s longed for gets shaken as a result.

Now for the positives. Again, the movie isn’t as funny as certain reviews have made it out to be, but it still managed to get a few more laughs out of me than the first one did. Although most of the humorous lines aren’t made by Rebel Wilson this time around, but rather the announcing duo John and Gail, respectively played by John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks. The a cappella itself continues to be impressive and captivating, as it damn well better or else this movie would have been truly pointless. Honestly, that’s kind of it. Although I have to give a shout out to whoever was ingenious enough to make Audrey a parody out of herself by being over-the-top and hilariously faithful to her original character, but at least now her nagging, demanding, and control-freak personality contributes to the Bellas’ development in a positive way.

Overall, this movie wasn’t nearly as bad and doesn’t feature graphic gross-out humor that immediately ruined the first movie for me. Thank fucking god for that. Performances from the actors are still honest and believable. A slight improvement on humor, but characters feel less faithful, less developed, and less bearable than they were in the first. Still not a fan, but yes, I do think it is better than the first.

My honest rating for PITCH PERFECT 2: 3/5

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Quick Reviews: 3 IDIOTAS / DEAN / THE HERO / BEATRIZ AT DINNER

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3 IDIOTAS

Starring: Martha Higareda (NO MANCHES FRIDA [2016] and STREET KINGS [2008]). In support: Vadhir Derbez (HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER [2017])

Co-writing: Martha Higareda

(SUMMARY)

In the present day, two friends are told by a college rival that he knows where to find a friend of theirs who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. In flashback, we’re shown how these friends met and challenged one another to be inspired to do the things that they want to do, falling in love, and challenging what is perceived to be the conventional.

(REVIEW)

On paper, this doesn’t sound too bad, and can even have a pretty strong message if done right. Sadly, it was not done right. The movie is painfully unfunny, what with its overuse of fart jokes. While some ideas are interesting, the rest of the film barely justifies it. Even the romance between characters Poncho and Mariana feels forced. It somewhat breaks my heart to say this because even though I don’t remember liking NO MANCHES FRIDA all that much, I did really like Higareda. I remember liking her performance, and she’s no worse here. But it’s a chore to sit through this. To my understanding, this movie is a Mexican adaptation of an Indian film similarly called 3 IDIOTS (2009). Whereas IMDb gives this movie 3.9/10 (as of 6/15/2017), IMDb has the Indian original at an 8.4/10 (as of 6/15/2017). Wow. That’s an insane contrast. I’m rather interested in seeing that myself just to see if such a rating is warranted. But alas, this quick review is about this one. It’s not funny, makes zero sense most of the time, and even resorts to a crap load of clichés. I don’t recommend this. Not even as a rental. Check out the Indian original. It’s gotta be better than it’s Mexican remake.

My honest rating for 3 IDIOTAS: 1/5

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DEAN

Starring: Demetri Martin (IN A WORLD… [2013], TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT [2011], and TV show HOUSE OF LIES), Kevin Kline (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST [2017], THE ROAD TO EL DORADO [2000], and WILD WILD WEST [1999]), and Gillian Jacobs (DON’T THINK TWICE, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 [2015], and TV show COMMUNITY).

Directing and written by: Demetri Martin (Debut. Congrats.) Co-composing the score: Mark Noseworthy (unknown work) and Orr Rebhun (TV shows ENLISTED and THE CRAZY ONES). Cinematography by: Mark Schwartzbard (TV show MASTER OF NONE).

(SUMMARY)

The story follows Dean (Demetri Martin). His mom just passed away and he’s having trouble grieving, unlike his estranged father (Kevin Kline), who just wants to help him. Instead of grieving, Dean takes a vacation to Los Angeles and falls for a young woman named Nicky (Gillian Jacobs).

(REVIEW)

For a respectable list of firsts for Martin, as writer, director, and star, this is an impressive feat. He has a good sense of character writing and relationships, and every one of his actors are believable in their respective roles. Whether it’s because he was genuinely a great director or it was a great collaboration with his actors, it’s hard to say, but it pays off well. It’s got some good comedy and drama. Jacobs steals the show any time she’s on. There’s even a few surprises that I didn’t see coming. Having said all that, the movie is pretty basic in its design. If you read my summary, the movie is about what you’d expect to get. It’s not saying anything particularly profound, or trying anything all that new, and has been done in better movies that came before. Overall, it’s a safe movie, but it’s an impressive movie for someone who’s never written, directed, or starred in a movie before, and throwing a couple of surprises does elevate the movie to above average. If you’re a die-hard Martin fan, I recommend a matinee screening. Otherwise, I recommend it as a solid rental. It’s nothing amazing as a whole, but it’s not too shabby either.

My honest rating for DEAN: a strong 3/5

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THE HERO

Starring: Sam Elliott (ROCK DOG [2017], GHOST RIDER [2007], and TV show THE RANCH) and Laura Prepon (THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN [2016], and TV show ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK and one episode of CASTLE). In support: Krysten Ritter (BIG EYES [2014], TV shows JESSICA JONES and DON’T TRUST THE B— IN APARTMENT 23, and upcoming TV show THE DEFENDERS), Nick Offerman (MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI [2017], HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 [2015], and TV show PARKS AND REC), and Katharine Ross (DONNIE DARKO [2001], BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID [1969], and THE GRADUATE [1967]).

Directing and co-writing: Brett Haley (short films). Co-writing: Marc Basch (unknown films). Composer: Keegan DeWitt (MORRIS FROM AMERICA [2016]). Cinematography: Rob Givens (short films)

(SUMMARY)

Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott) is a seventy-one year old struggling actor, seemingly only known for one role for the last forty years, a western called THE HERO, of which he is being offered a lifetime achievement award for the role that made him famous. Despite all this, Lee hasn’t worked that much since, and often finds himself voicing over for commercials. When he’s not doing that, he’s getting high with his friend and drug dealer Jeremy (Nick Offerman) and being reminded that he wasn’t the best father to his thirty year old daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter). And despite striking up a relationship with a much younger woman named Charlotte (Laura Prepon), as well as finding internet fame for a speech he gave at his award ceremony, he finds himself diagnosed with cancer and finds himself in a situation where he needs to sort his life out.

(REVIEW)

You’d think it’d be incredibly morbid for elderly actors playing roles that tease their deaths, but give credit where credit is due, Elliott owns this movie. You feel every inch of his frustration as a struggling actor and, despite being so popular in one film, hasn’t given him the clout to get better roles. But it is delightfully entertaining to watch him get high off his ass. And usually I get a little queasy watching an old man make out and have sex with a much younger woman, but the characters are written so well that their chemistry does make it very sweet to watch… of course, I have a cousin who might be pretty annoyed with this. Either way, from the small amounts of comedy to the heavy drama, Elliott carries this film flawlessly. And for the life of me, I will never forget, “Lonestar Barbecue Sauce. The perfect partner… for your chicken.” There is sadly some predictability to the film, as in you know how they’ll get resolved and even when. Other scenes drag on much longer than necessary, and one or two questionable character decisions, but overall, this is a good movie. I recommend it and can see this getting Elliott an Oscar nomination next year. It’s not great, but it’s good and worth seeing.

My honest rating for THE HERO: 4/5

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BEATRIZ AT DINNER

Starring: Salma Hayek (HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER [2017], SAUSAGE PARTY [2016], DESPERADO [1995], and the upcoming THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD [2017]) and John Lithgow (MISS SLOANE [2016], INTERSTELLAR [2014], SHREK [2001], and upcoming films DADDY’S HOME 2 [2017] and PITCH PERFECT 3 [2017]). In support: Connie Britton (AMERICAN ULTRA [2015], and TV shows NASHVILLE and AMERICAN HORROR STORY), Chloë Sevigny (THE DINNER [2017], LOVE & FRIENDSHIP [2016], and TV show BLOODLINE), Amy Landecker (DOCTOR STRANGE [2016], DAN IN REAL LIFE [2007], and TV show TRANSPARENT), Jay Duplass (PAPER TOWNS [2015], and TV shows THE MINDY PROJECT and TRANSPARENT), and David Warshofsky (WILSON [2017], NOW YOU SEE ME 2 [2016], and TAKEN [2008]).

Directing: Miguel Arteta (ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY [2014], YOUTH IN REVOLT [2009], and THE GOOD GIRL [2002]). Screenwriter: Mike White (NACHO LIBRE [2006], SCHOOL OF ROCK [2003], THE GOOD GIRL [2002], and the upcoming THE EMOJI MOVIE [2017]). Composer: Mark Mothersbaugh (PEE-WEE’S BIG HOLIDAY [2016], ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP [2015], THE LEGO MOVIE [2014], and upcoming films THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE [2017] and THOR: RAGNAROK [2017]). Cinematographer: Wyatt Garfield (short films and unknown movies)

(SUMMARY)

Beatriz (Salma Hayek) is a massage therapist. She’s had a rough week what with her pet goat killed outside her home and the general stresses of her job at the hospital. But one fateful day, going to a rich neighborhood to take care of frequent client Cathy (Connie Britton), her car breaks down as she tries to leave. Being a gracious host, Cathy invites Beatriz to their dinner party that night to celebrate business deal with their equally rich and infamous Doug Strutt (John Lithgow). Soon, heads clash as Beatriz’s naive and pro-life attitude insights arguments with Doug, who is in love with his job and cares little about hurting others’ feelings.

(REVIEW)

Damn. In some ways, it’s a letdown, but in others, it delivers exactly what it promises: a minority arguing with a Donald Trump-like figure. Why is it a letdown? Because many of the arguments in the movie are pretty contrived and predictable. The movie has solid character-setup. We get a great sense of who Beatriz is when she’s introduced. She’s an animal lover and a passionate healer. When we meet Doug, he’s an asshole and a pig because he’s a rich white guy and he’s shameless about it. But as soon as they’re sitting down enjoying the dinner, you know that the arguments are coming. I know, that’s the whole point of the movie, but every fight ends with Beatriz apologizing and promising to keep a cool head, only to go ballistic again. Granted, for different reasons, but you’d think the first blowup would be indication enough of what kind of company she’s a part of and it makes little sense that she’d stick around. Even when she agrees to stay out of the way for the duration of the party, it’s still never enough for her to keep her mouth shut and continue to be a semi-ungracious guest. Don’t get me wrong, Lithgow is a fiendishly charming guy and Hayek probably delivers the best performance she’s had in recent memory. There is a passionate drive behind this movie and you can feel it in the insensitive-in-a-good-way comedy. I think in different character circumstances, this would have been a truly effective film. As is, it’s not bad, but it’s something a disappointment. It’s worth seeing, if only for the performances, but I think each important scene wasn’t transitioned into very well and that’s the supposed to be the whole crux of the film. I recommend it as a rental.

My honest rating for BEATRIZ AT DINNER: 3/5