Bolt (2008)

Stupid cat.

Stupid cat.

Directed by: Chris Williams and Byron Howard (Howard also directed Tangled which I didn’t think much of)

Written by: Dan Fogelman and Chris Williams

Starring: the vocal cast of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell, Randy Savage, Nick Swardson, Diedrich Bader, Chloë Grace Moretz, James Lipton, Grey DeLisle, John DiMaggio, and Jenny Lewis

What it’s about: a dog raised on a TV show finds out that he has no super powers at all

B-Movie Alternate Title: The Dog Who Didn’t Know

Movie Mash Up: Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey animated

What I liked: The animation is gorgeous – especially on Bolt – and some of the scenes that don’t involve any of the characters in the movie look like real life.  Well, the movies version of real life, I guess.  I absolutely love Jenny Lewis, and honestly, there’s no reason (except that the Oscars are bullshit political garbage) that her song wasn’t nominated in the Best Original Song category.  Really, TWO songs from Slumdog Millionaire were nominated?  Idiots.  Her song still brings a bit of the old glassy-eyed reaction out in me.  The characters were fun as well.

What I disliked: For some reason, the more times I re-watch this, the less impressed I am by it.  I still think it is a decent movie, but my enthusiasm for it has dulled since I originally watched it.  Personally, I would have rather had Chloë Grace Moretz as the lead voice like they originally recorded, rather than Miley Cyrus’ fucked up nasally cigarette-infused voice.  The movie just doesn’t impact me as much anymore, but I still want a dog.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Sure, there’s nothing offensive about the movie at all, just an enjoyable easy-to-watch romp.

Rating: 3 / 5

That is pretty adorable right there

That is pretty adorable right there

Step Brothers (2008)

I wrote this review awhile back, and it’s fairly well-written, so I’m going to use it here.  My feelings on the movie remain almost the same, except I gave it another half a star this time.

Generally every time that a new Will Ferrell movie comes out, I’m subjected to a ridiculous amount of advertising in relation to the movie, mostly in the form of commercials that barely register with me as they’re filled with the most ridiculous scenes and absurd dialogue. Those commercials never highlight the little things that make me want to pay to see a movie, like scene-stealing bit players or awkwardly delivered lines, things like that. Eventually I’ll see the movie though, because there is something about the Frat Pack movies and Judd Apatow productions that intrigue me. I know that no matter how bad it may appear to be on the outside, when Apatow is involved with a film, at the very least I’ll think it’s just average.

Step Brothers was a bit of a different beast, as I thought the R-rated trailer that I saw a couple months ago was filled with comedic promise. John C. Reilly was absolutely perfect in Walk Hard, and the idea of Dewey Cox being the step-brother to a weird mash-up of Ron Burgundy and Buddy the Elf was enough to make me want to see Step Brothers. Thankfully, my non-paying gig as a movie czar (I actually prefer movie guru) led to me lucking into some free passes to a preview screening.

This movie reunites Ferrell with his Talladega Nights and Anchorman director, Adam McKay, and had I remembered that awhile back, my enthusiasm for Step Brothers might have been dampened considerably. Thankfully I went into the movie with hardly any preconceived expectations for the movie. Well that’s not entirely true. I knew that there were going to be at least six strikingly funny scenes from what I saw in the trailer, and I was holding out hope that the entire movie would be a laugh riot.

Nancy Huff (Mary Steenburgen) and Dr. Robert Doback (Richard Jenkins) are two middle-aged single parents who meet and fall in love over the shared embarrassment of both having their 40-year-old sons still living with them. Brennan Huff (Ferrell) has been raised to be a petulant mama’s boy with almost zero knowledge of how to survive in the outside world. Dale Doback (Reilly) is like a man-child version of a lumberjack or trucker, and both boys seem to hate each other on first sight. Eventually, a shared hatred of Brennan’s younger, more successful brother Derek (Adam Scott) brings the two step brothers together and wacky hijinks ensue that threaten to tear the family apart.

I realise now that I’m being spoiled by these Apatow-produced and directed movies, as generally flicks in the wacky comedy genre tend to pull their punches and don’t deliver full belly laughs from being surprised at the audaciousness of the dialogue or situations. With every well-placed f-bomb and concussion-inducing injury or absurd and off-putting situation, I eagerly drink up more of the Apatow-flavoured Kool-Aid. The sheer fun that Ferrell and Reilly put into their performances make the movie all the more enjoyable that it rightfully should be.

It’s not a perfect movie by any means, since if you really stop to think about it, the main characters should actually be loathed and mocked, not celebrated. Thankfully, Ferrell puts more Buddy than Burgundy into his performance so Brennan doesn’t come across as unlikable. Reilly was great as usual, Jenkins delivered his usual decent if not noteworthy performance, and Mary Steenburgen kind of freaked me out every time she was onscreen. Adam Scott was particularly loathsome as the super-successful asshat brother, and generally everyone played their role to maximize the funny.

For a movie of this type, it is super hard to get a perfect score in my ratings books. A movie like There’s Something About Mary would rate full marks from me, and while I enjoyed Step Brothers, it was no Mary. Hell, it wasn’t even an Out Cold, but it wasn’t a waste of my time and I enjoyed it for what it was. And me typing that the way that I did is why I come across as a pretentious movie snob sometimes.

3.5 / 5

Real Steel (2011)

Going into watching this movie, I was pretty sure that I was going to snort derisively at it, I mean essentially it’s Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots: The Movie (which is still much more appealing to me than the Battleship movie is).  How long until there’s a goddamn Lucky Charms movie?  Most of Hollywood studio blockbusters appear to be aimed at the lowest common denominator, creatively bankrupt but appealing on a popcorn movie level.  Years ago I was able to make peace with the fact that you do have to judge movies on different levels, and sometimes admit that you liked a popcorn movie because it was entertaining and fun, and so help me, I did enjoy Real Steel.

It’s definitely not a new story, as it takes place in the near future and tells the story of a down on his luck robot boxer trainer, Charlie (Hugh Jackman), looking for the next big easy score to claw back from the precipice of disaster.  Turns out Charlie had kid years ago, and now that the kid’s mom died, Charlie enters into an arrangement to look after Max (Dakota Goyo) for a summer, while Max’s aunt and uncle (Hope Davis and James Rebhorn) vacation in Italy.  Much like The Champ, the dad is a lovable loser and begins toting Max around to all these underground robot boxing matches.  And then they discover a Little Robot That Could named Atom, and it’s pretty much Rocky from there on out.

Like I said, nothing is new here, just a different take on an old tale with new technology.  Thankfully director Shawn Levy found the heart in the movie and expanded (exploited?) it to be a pretty feel-good movie.  The cast also has to be commended, with Jackman being his usual likable self, Goyo pulling off the hard task of being a non-precocious child actor, and Evangeline Lilly, well she’s a lovable loser in this movie too, so it’s wholly unbelievable I mean come on, EVANGELINE LILLY.

I probably would have gone a half point higher if they’d have paid off on one of the character traits earlier mentioned in the movie after the final fight, and I’d be surprised if there wasn’t an actual alternate ending filmed that went in that direction.  Anyways, I didn’t hate it and it was a pretty enjoyable ride.

3 / 5