Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)

Standard issue poster, nothing exciting here.

Standard issue poster, nothing exciting here.

Directed by: Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon (between the two of them, they are responsible for some truly atrocious films, so this is easily their best one)

Written by: Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky, Rob Letterman, Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger wrote the screenplay based off of Letterman and Vernon’s story.

Starring: the vocal talents of Reese Witherspoon, Will Arnett, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Paul Rudd, Kiefer Sutherland and Stephen Colbert among many others.

What it’s about: a group of monsters are released by the American government to combat an alien invasion

B-Movie Alternate Title: It IS a B-Movie title

Movie Mash Up: The Monster Squad + oh I dunno, any Alien movie minus all the disturbing imagery

What I liked: For the most part I love the vocal cast, I mean look at them all!  There’s a huge “Office” presence, the former awesome real-life couple of Will Arnett and Amy Poehler, Seth Rogen and I guess Reese Witherspoon can be okay sometimes.  The monsters are wonderful, particularly the moronic B.O.B.  Paul Rudd gets to play an asshole for once, and while the role isn’t great, it is decent comedy.  Honestly speaking, I would rather this entire cast were reunited for an R-rated animated version of this exact film.

What I disliked: Well, I didn’t even realise it until the beginning of the film, but with the Russian meteor event of the past week, the entire meteorite sequence at the building was totally unrealistic.  And yes, that is only because of all those Russian YouTube videos that I knew that.  It put me off for the whole film.  I thought it was decent, but it wasn’t on a Pixar level by any means.  Enjoyable, but unless you’re a kid, repeat viewings will probably make it less enjoyable each time around.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Sure, it is not an offensively stupid animated film, and it is decently entertaining for both kids and adults.

Rating: 3 / 5

Probably the most entertaining bit of animation in the entire movie.

Probably the most entertaining bit of animation in the entire movie.

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Knocked Up (2007)

I actually like the other poster a lot better.

I actually like the other poster a lot better.

Directed by: Judd Apatow (his best movie is probably The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but I love a lot of his movies)

Written by: also Judd Apatow (again, 40-Year-Old Virgin was probably his greatest movie, but I also have a tonne of love for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story)

Starring: Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Martin Starr, Alan Tudyk, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Iris and Maude Apatow, Joanna Kerns, Harold Ramis, Ken Jeong, Loudon Wainwright III, and so many other little cameo performances.  Probably my most tagged movie so far.

What it’s about: a schlubby loser guy gets a hot successful woman pregnant

B-Movie Alternate Title: The Fertilized Egg

Movie Mash Up: The 40-Year-Old VirginI Love You, Man + Juno

What I liked: I’m a huge fan of Apatow’s writing, directing, and friendly manner.  The last part is the most important because he tends to be able to use a lot of the same actors over and over in smaller parts because they just want to work with him again.  He is basically a much more talented Kevin Smith before I outgrew him and he became a kinda sad douchebag.  Apatow also gets so much funny stuff out of his actors because he seems to let them freely improvise.  It is a genuinely funny movie that feels real and has so much heart.  When I first watched it, I wanted to see a whole movie out of Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann’s characters, and now that This is 40 has been released, my wish has come true!  I love seeing Paul Rudd in anything, you know.  Also, loved Loudon Wainwright III’s score and soundtrack, some truly great songs on there.

What I disliked: The running time, and Judd’s somewhat self-indulgent filmmaking style.  I mean, his wife and two daughters are in the movie, and yeah, they fit their parts perfectly, but there are beats throughout that I think were kept in because of his love of them, not the love of making an excellent movie.  Also, despite it feeling “real” there were still aspects that didn’t seem too real, like the sex scenes between Rogen and Heigl.  I’m sorry, but if your boobs are that big and – presumably – tremendous, well you’ll most likely end up topless.  I realise that comment seems somewhat sexist, but it is the movies, and come on Katherine Heigl, if the movie really was sexist, your tits would have been out.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Yes, it is a delightful movie, and were it not for the prevalence of fuck words and adult activity, I would suggest that it could even be a family film.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

I just want to watch Paul Rudd riff on everything.

I just want to watch Paul Rudd riff on everything.

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

Superbad (2007)

I could sit here like a million monkeys typing on a million typewriters and never come up with a review that accurately sums up exactly how much I love this movie.  Sure, it’s not in my Top 20 of All Time, but it’s in my Top 50.  Unless my list changes.  Five years hasn’t changed my opinion on it enough to warrant writing up a new review that says the same thing, so here’s my old one:

This is another in a long line of hard-to-write reviews. Not that it’s too difficult for me to type or anything, have no fear. It’s just one of those movies that I enjoyed so immensely that I want to sit down and just type 5 / 5 in a huge font and let the review sit like that. But then I second guess myself a bit, wonder if people will question my credibility as a reviewer if I’m giving Superbad a perfect score, stuff like that. But then I decided, fuck that noise, the movie was a laugh riot and the story was great and when it comes out on DVD I’m going to buy it the first day it’s available (note: I totally did) and that anyone that has such a high opinion of themselves that they’ll judge a movie based on what they’ve seen in commercials and refuse to watch it because… I’ve lost my train of thought.

Directed by a friend of Judd Apatow, Greg Mottola, and co-written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Superbad is about one day in the life of Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera), two somewhat geeky high school students that trying to “get with” a couple of girls before they head off to college. Seth and Evan have been best friends since childhood, and the events that take place during this one day threaten to tear apart their friendship, all because of women. Oh, I guess booze, the police and bullies might also be factors, but mostly women.

A lot of people might be reluctant to plunk down their hard-earned money to go see Superbad just because it looks like a “dumb comedy”. Kind of like how I won’t be rushing out to see Hot Rod before it leaves theatres, or how I won’t go out of my way to see Blades of Glory or Talladega Nights. Superbad, however, has the Judd Apatow / Seth Rogen seal of awesomeness on it, and based on their impressive pedigree, I will always plunk down money to see one of their movies.

A lot of that blind devotion of mine goes to the casting of these movies, as well as the wonderfully colourful and realistic-feeling dialogue that soaks every scene. Michael Cera is pretty much an acting veteran by now, and the awkward deliveries he gives – while reminscent of his character on “Arrested Development” – are so dead-on to how many high school geeks act in real life that I fear he’ll always be asked to play this character. Because he’s so good at it! Match up that solid perfection with the chemistry the entire cast shares and you’ve got yourself one hilarious and entertaining movie. I don’t want to say too much here because I’m worried about spoiling all the awesome lines. I literally took 20 minutes to choose the quote for my cut because I was afraid of ruining an awesome laugh.

Usually when a movie is over – even if it’s a great one – I’ll be happy because it was an all-around decent package or whatever. When the credits started to roll on Superbad, I was saddened, and I stuck around for a bit just hoping that somehow there’d be more thrown into the mix. I haven’t seen a tonne of movies from this year so far, but aside from Hot Fuzz and Knocked Up, there hasn’t been a movie I truly loved that has hit theatres. Until now.

5 / 5

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)

This is another one of those movies that I’ve re-watched and found that absolutely nothing has changed in my feelings toward it.  Sure, there are different things I noticed, and certain actors that I hadn’t realised were in this movie before, etc. but I loved this movie as much this time as I did back when I first saw it.  So here’s my old still valid review:

Have you ever sat down and watched one of those Christopher Guest “mockumentaries” and thought to yourself “You know, this movie would be better if they didn’t hold back?” 40 Year-Old is the creaming achievement in quality R-rated pictures. The fact that movies like this can still be made nowadays makes me gleeful beyond all description. Sadly, it will mean that in about 20 years or so, some idiot will try and remake it for no good reason. But that’s neither here nor there, for that is the future and we shall not speak of it.

I’ve finally mustered up enough of my depleted creative juices to write up an underwhelming review for the film that I viewed as the 3rd Best Movie of 2005. Since I first watched this film, I’ve literally gone over every second of DVD footage available, and I still want more. Judd Apatow has crafted a remarkably funny and touching adult comedy that isn’t entirely framed around bathroom humour. What makes the movie supremely awesome though, is that Apatow has taken the skeleton of an idea and filled it with life thanks to the strength of his cast.

If you take a look at the cast list up there (and you’re an Apatow fan), you’ll probably see a lot of familiar names. There are a few former “Undeclared” cast members (Bednob, Gallo, Wainwright, Hart), Apatow’s wife (the always luminous Leslie Mann), Anchorman cast members (Rudd, Koechner) and the underrated Seth Rogen, who’s pretty much been with Apatow since the excellent “Freaks and Geeks”. Add in some talented and quick-witted comedians in Carell and the fantastic Jane Lynch, as well as the surprising Romany Malco, and this isn’t even mentioning Oscar-nominated actress Catherine Keener (not nominated for this movie though). Hell, there’s even a former Nitro girl in the Diamond Doll herself, Kimberly Page as a prospective Speed Dater for Andy (Carell).

If you don’t know the premise of the film, well, where have you been? Somehow Andy Stitzer has managed to make it to the age of 40 without knowing the carnal touch of a woman. It’s not that he’s an unattractive prospect or anything, just that there was a time when it mattered and he missed a few opportunities and then it stopped meaning something. In fact, it doesn’t really mean anything to Andy himself, until at a late night poker game with his co-workers (Rudd, Rogen and Malco) his secret is revealed and the boys decide to get Andy laid.

Granted, some of the situations that transpire with Andy and the various women are completely ricockulous, they’re somewhat within the realm of possibility. His co-workers aren’t exactly the most normal bunch of guys, so anything’s possible. Each of the actors in the cast brings so much to their individual parts, while also pumping up the rest of the ensemble, it’s just a fascinating work of art to experience. What I find most remarkable is how little of the movie was actually scripted. At some points Apatow would just give the players an outline of the scene, how he wanted it played, and then have enough confidence in his actors to convey exactly what he wanted.

I really can’t rave about this movie enough, nor do I have the talent to be able to sufficiently describe just how excellent it truly is. It’s just amazingly, jaw-droppingly great, and the unrated DVD edition is just a shade over two hours long. Quality all the way.

5 / 5

50/50 (2011)

There are times when I’m smoking and I’m thinking to myself that inevitably, I’m most likely going to get cancer.  It doesn’t help that it affected my grandparents, either.  I then think to myself that since I’ve changed my life so much, that I’ve eliminated so many casual / not really friends from my life, that I won’t have much of a support team to help me get through that period.  I used to be okay with that, just existing and wandering through people’s lives, but watching 50/50 makes me want to expand it a bit.

Actually, now that I think about it, Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) didn’t really have a huge support team at all.  He had his best friend and co-worker, Kyle (Seth Rogen), but it seemed that Adam merely put up with Kyle’s obnoxious behavior rather than embrace him as a true friend.  Then there’s Adam’s somewhat distant artist girlfriend, Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), who seems more inconvenienced than caring about Adam’s cancer diagnosis.  Adam views his mother (Anjelica Huston) as a hysterical mess, and his father (Serge Houde) has Alzheimer’s and barely remembers Adam.  Then there’s the therapist Adam gets, Katherine McKay (Anna Kendrick), almost entirely brand new to the job and awkward as all get out.

Those are just the characters, and if it seems like I’m being dismissive when I say the movie feels like (500) Days of Cancer, I’m not.  It’s a very hipster-y feeling movie, something director Jonathan Levine has excelled at in the past (I loved The Wackness) and it fits comfortably here.  Rogen brings his trademark lovable fool act to the table, and bounces off well with the still underrated Gordon-Levitt.  Bryce Dallas Howard puts in another great “thankless character people love to hate” performance, and well Anna Kendrick, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in a part where I didn’t enjoy her.

The only failing that the movie has – in my humble opinion – is that overall, while it is a hopeful story, it is dark and fairly depressing subject material that doesn’t really lend itself to re-watching over and over.  Solid movie though, recommended.

4 / 5

Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

For the most part, I’m not the biggest fan of Dreamworks Animation movies.  They tend to just be riffs or ripoffs of Pixar movies without someone having the good sense to say “Now wait, this doesn’t make sense.” (See Robots, Shark Tale, etc. for examples.  Actually, don’t see them and trust me.)  That being said, I really didn’t mind the first Kung Fu Panda movie, aside from wishing that they reined in Jack Black’s madcappery just a tonne.  I thought it was alright, looked gorgeous, had a solid vocal cast and while yes, it did included clothed talking animals, in the context of the film it made sense and I suppose if I really thought about it, no, it doesn’t make sense because how did animals create Kung Fu?

Nevertheless, I felt no strong feelings one way or the another when it was announced that there would be a sequel, because of course there would be a sequel.  People ate that shit up.  In fact, I didn’t even bother reading up on the new additions to the cast, so it surprised me pleasantly when I heard Dennis Haysbert’s distinctive tone.  But I couldn’t place Lord Shen, and it turns out it was the awesome Gary Oldman, and that is A Good Thing.

The animation is fast and fluid and really is gorgeous.  The action scenes are ridiculous but also seem to respect the actual Kung Fu-ness of the discipline.  The madcappery of Jack Black is still there, but as the character of Po grows, he seems to be toning it down enough to be tolerable.  It kind of blows my mind that for the first year in who knows how long, the best animated picture of the year won’t be a Pixar movie, with this one and Rango currently being front-runners for that lofty title (in my books).

It’s a sequel that surpasses the original, and there’s enough goofy stuff in it to entertain youngsters too.

4 / 5