Guest Review: Why Him? (2016)

guestpost

whyhim

After being underwhelmed by the last holiday comedy I reviewed (Office Christmas Party), I was not particularly enthusiastic about seeing another one- especially one written by Jonah Hill and starring James Franco. Not that they aren’t both talented, but the majority of their collaborations have been stoner comedies, which have never really been my thing. However, while this movie wasn’t comedic genius, I still enjoyed it more than I expected, thanks to a strong cast of genuinely funny actors.

Why Him? follows Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston), along with his wife Barb (Megan Mullally) and their teenaged son Scotty (Griffin Gluck), on their visit to from Michigan to California to celebrate Christmas with their daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) in order for her to introduce them to her boyfriend, gaming app mogul Laird Mayhew (James Franco). To say Laird is eccentric is a major understatement, and despite his best efforts to earn Ned’s approval, the protective father can’t understand what his daughter sees in him.

whyhim_still1

While the film won’t be a classic by any means, it did get a lot of solid laughs throughout the screening. This is mostly thanks to a performance by a strong cast. The highlight for me was Keegan-Michael Key as Gustav, Laird’s personal assistant/life coach-type person, who cracked me up every time he was on screen. The rest of the actors were great as well; Megan Mullally was hilarious as ever, Bryan Cranston brought not only plenty of humor to his role but also some genuinely heartwarming moments (due to some great father/daughter chemistry between Zoey Deutch), and even James Franco as Laird was likable in his eagerness and genuine excitement to get to know his girlfriend’s family, even if the foul-mouthed, loveably clueless character wasn’t much of an acting stretch for him.

whyhim_still2

This movie’s problem is that the plot isn’t original-the “overprotective parents meeting the significant other who’s not good enough for their child” storyline has been done multiple times- and if a film is going to have a clichéd plot, it had better have either a new take on it or exceptionally funny writing, and this had neither. The ending was predictable, and while the writing wasn’t bad, I couldn’t remember a single joke or one-liner from it. Fortunately, the actors were able to work well with what they were given, but it wasn’t enough to save the movie entirely.

If you’re a big fan of any of these actors, Why Him? might be worth checking out; otherwise, I’d wait until it’s available at Red Box or on TV/streaming.

laura_review


Have you seen ‘Why Him?’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: 22 Jump Street

TedSaydalavongBanner

22JumpStreetBnr

I’m a big fan of the TV show 21 Jump Street, heck I think I’ve seen every episodes of the show during its original run. When it was announced that a movie version was coming to the big screen, I was bit a skeptical. I mean how are they going to turn a soap opera crime drama into a feature film? I remember reading online about the film’s early development, they were thinking of making it a full out action/adventure. Thankfully someone at the studio got smart and decided to make it into an action-comedy instead. After the big success of the first movie, a sequel was quickly greenlit and now we get to see more adventures of buddy cops Schmidt and Jenko.

This new movie picked up where the last one ended, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are still doing undercover work. They’re trying to bust a vicious drug dealer known only as The Ghost (the always entertaining Peter Stormare) during a sting, of course their plan didn’t go smoothly and The Ghost and his men got away. After the botched bust, both Schmidt and Jenko got demoted to the Jump Street unit, again. This time instead of going undercover as high school kids, they’re going to college. After a student at a local college was killed in what appeared to be a drug deal gone bad, both heroes were sent to the school to investigate.

22JumpStreetStills1

Once they got to campus, Jenko was able to make friends quickly with the school’s football players, especially the team’s QB Zook (Wyatt Russell, yup he’s Kurt Russell’s son). Schmidt on the other hand is not a jock and felt he didn’t belong with the group, so he ventured out to a new area on campus and met a beautiful art student Maya (Amber Stevens). They hit it off quickly and later spent the night together at Maya’s dorm room. Since their work is to investigate who’s behind the drug dealings, Zook and Maya became their main suspects. Of course both Schmidt and Jenko had to go through lots of shenanigans before they solve the case.

Basically the plot of this movie is exactly the same as the previous one, but that’s not a bad thing. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller did a good job of moving the plot along and didn’t linger too long on some of the jokes. Although I wish they’d cut back on the self aware aspects of a sequel, yes we get it, the movie is a sequel and you might not able to top the original. I thought the jokes worked at the beginning but as the movie progresses, they became a bit tedious and I kind of got annoyed by all of those self-aware references.

Hill and Tatum have a great chemistry and the movie works because of them. Tatum’s Jenko joined the football team and became a star and he’s now questioning whether he made the right choice by becoming a cop. Hill’s Schmidt on the other hand, he’s right back being the nerd again and feels he didn’t belong with cool kids. I also like the supporting cast, including the love interests Zook and Maya. Yes you heard it right, Wyatt Russell‘s Zook was sort of a love interest to Tatum’s Jenko, they had this bromance going on throughout most of the movie and of course  that made Schmidt jealous. Ice Cube also returns as their always angry Captain Dickson. A little plot point involves him and Schmidt might be the funniest gag in the movie. Nick Offerman again appeared in a brief scene as Chief Hardy and he delivered some of the funniest lines in the movie.

22JumpStreetStills2

Overall I thought this was a good sequel and I think I might liked it better than its predecessor. It has some laugh out loud moments and everyone seems to have a good time in the movie. What I found a bit surprising was how tame it was for an R-rated comedy. Considering the story took place in college, I expected to see lots of nudity and gross humor. But with the exception of some F-bombs and some mild violence, the movie contained no nudity or any toilet humor and it’s quite “clean” by today’s R-rated comedy standards.

If you enjoyed the first movie then I’m quite sure you’ll have a good time with this one. It’s recommended if you’re in the mood for some good laughs.

3.5 reels


TedS_post


What did you think of 22 Jump Street?

FlixChatter Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

TedSaydalavongBanner

WolfOfWallStreet_Bnr

When it comes to films based on a real life person, I tend to not be that interested in them but when a master filmmaker like Martin Scorsese decided to make one, I won’t miss it for the world.  As with most films based on real events, not everything you see on the screen are true but then this movie was based on a book written by a real life stockbroker Jordan Belfort, I have to believe that some if not all of the things happened on the screen were true. I mean I’ve worked at a financial institution a few years ago and heard stories of how the big wig executives partied and I can’t help but laugh when I saw this movie.

Just like some of Scorsese’s films, the main character Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) narrates the story throughout and even talked directly to the audience once in a while. It starts out with flashback of how he got started in wall street, he worked at some brokerage film in NYC, there he met his mentor Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) who taught him the trick of the trade. After the stock market crash in 1987, Belfort loss his job but later found work at a small brokerage firm with a bunch of sales guys who have no idea how sell stocks. With his experience working at a big firm, Belfort was able to sell stocks of basically non-existent companies to bunch of regular schmucks. Later Belfort decided he wanted to start his own firm and met his future business partner Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) at a local dinner. They rented a garage to set up as an office and recruited their friends to work for them. The film basically chronicle the rise and fall of Belfort and his gang and since it’s a 3 hours long, I won’t go into any plot details for this review.

WolfOfWallStreet_Stills1

This is the fifth collaboration between DiCaprio and Scorsese and I think this one might be DiCaprio’s best performance ever. He commands the screen every time you see him and the things did in this movie, I’m not sure many actors can pull off. There’s a scene in which he was so drugged out of his mind and he had to crawl to get to his car was probably the most hilarious thing I’ve seen in a while and it’s kind of sad too because I’ve seen people behaved like that in real life. Jonah Hill was pretty good as the second lead, although there were a couple of times where I thought he really “acted” instead of playing the role, hope that made sense. Even though McConaughey only appeared in the movie for just a few minutes, he stole the scene and I kind of wish to see more of his character. Newcomer Aussie actress Margot Robbie did a decent job as Belfort’s trophy wife, I’ve never seen her in anything before this movie, but she might have a good career Hollywood since she’s also drop dead gorgeous. I also have to give a shout out to Rob Reiner who plays Belfort’s father, I haven’t seen him on the screen in a while and glad to see him working again in front of the camera.

WolfOfWallStreet_Stills2

To me though the person who truly deserves the credit is Scorsese, I don’t think this film would have worked as well as it did had other director made it. Seems to be he’s back in his old form again after some so so films the last few years. Even though I loved The Departed, I just felt it wasn’t a “Scorsese Picture” since it’s remake. Here he incorporated all of the skills that have made him famous and respected in the industry, from the fast editing to great cinematography, I have no complaint about his direction. He was able to show how despicable these people were and he pulled no punches showing us their debauchery behaviors and how they cheat their way into “success.” Some might say it’s too much but that’s the point of the movie, these greedy people will do anything to get rich and didn’t care who they hurt as long as they get what they wanted. Of course this being a Scorsese film, there has to be scene where some guy gets the crap beat out of him and don’t worry, there’s a scene in this film where some unfortunate guy got the crap kicked out of him. I was expecting to see Joe Pesci show up as a cameo and play the guy who beats up this person. I don’t mean to sound exaggerated but I think this film might be on the same level as Goodfellas or Taxi Driver. Now I do think the film could’ve use some trimming, at 3 hours it’s a bit long and I thought some scenes could’ve been shorten. But I was so involved in the story, it didn’t feel like 3 hours to me.

WolfofWallStreet-DiCaprio-dance

Of all the films I saw in 2013, this one’s probably my favorite. It’s great seeing a true Scorsese’s picture again and along with great performances, this one is highly recommended. Just a warning though, this film is for adults only, please don’t bring young kids to see it. If you get easily offended by foul language, the F-words were mentioned many times, you might want to stay away from it. Also, there were many scenes of sex acts and drug use throughout most of the film, again if you’re easily offended by these kind of scenes, you won’t enjoy the film.

I think if you’re a fan of either DiCaprio or Scorsese or both, you’ll enjoy this film. It’s a kind of tragic story of how greed can make people so evil and the last shot of the film was a proof that yes many of us will do anything to get rich and have a better life. That’s the American dream right?

four and a half stars out of five
4.5 out of 5 reels


TedS_post


What do you think of The Wolf of Wall Street and Scorsese + DiCaprio collaboration?

Weekend Viewing Roundup: 21 Jump Street + Moonrise Kingdom Reviews

Happy Monday all [well Tuesday to some of you on the other side of the world]! I have to say this has been a great week for movie watching. I actually managed to see THREE new movies [well new to me] and even sneaked in a couple of older movies for a rewatch: 300 and Spider-man 2 [I guess I was in a Spidey mood]. Well, I’ve posted my review The Amazing Spider-man last night, which according to Box Office Mojo made $140 mil in six days, but believe it or not it still falls short compared to the Sam Raimi’s versions. But it’s obviously lucrative enough to warrant multiple sequels, I think a trilogy should be a given.

Now, here’s my mini reviews of the other two films I saw this weekend.

21 Jump Street

I used to watch this show in High School so the primary reason I watched this is pure nostalgia. I didn’t want to see it on the big screen as I wasn’t crazy for the main cast [Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum] but the overwhelmingly positive reviews definitely compelled me to rent it. Well, this movie had me in stitches from the start and it never let on.

The premise is simple enough. Morton Schmidt (Hill) and Greg Jenko (Tatum) are former high school foes, it’s the stereotype of the school jock bullying the nerdy academic. As fate would have it, the two ended up enrolling in the same police academy and become unlikely friends. Though at first they seems to have caught a break when they busted some drug dealers in an unassuming park, the two over-eager young officers forgot to read the Miranda right! As punishment, both are reassigned to a special division in that famous street address which turns out to be an abandoned Korean church.

The foul-mouthed Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) told them their first mission is to infiltrate a high school following a death of one of the students after consuming a potent synthetic drugs. They go undercover as brothers and live temporarily in Schmidt’s parents house. Tatum and Hill certainly have comedic chops and just seeing both of them together just makes me laugh. Despite Tatum being soo much more mature than most high schoolers, they somehow managed to blend in and make friends. An accidental switcheroo in their faux-identity puts both undercover cops in unlikely situations, Jenko hangs out with the nerdy crowds, whilst Schmidt hangs out with the cool crowd, including the lead drug dealer Eric (Dave Franco, yep James’ younger brother).

Preposterous and crazy situations are to be expected in a story like this, but hilarity ensues with every step to get to the drug supplier. One of the most hilarious moments happens when the undercover duo had to try out the drug to prove themselves to Eric. Oh my, I was in stitches through that whole scene, but I was on the floor when they arrive in prom complete with flying white doves!! Believe it or not, there are actually some sweet moments between these two, but mostly it’s just non-stop laughter and fun right up until the wild and deliberately overblown finale. Both Jenko and Schmidt did get their wish of a life filled with car chases and explosions after all!

By the way, I don’t think I consider it a spoiler to say I’ve been waiting to see Johnny Depp’s cameo and you know what, he did not disappoint! I practically screamed when I saw him and I didn’t see it coming, which adds to the experience.

Final Thoughts: What fun! Despite being too vulgar for my taste, the writing makes for a truly hilarious action-comedy. It’s similar to Hot Fuzz but perhaps more accessible to US audiences. I’m can’t say that I’m a fan of Jonah or Channing now, but I can honestly say they both are GREAT in this movie!

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


Moonrise Kingdom

I’ve been waiting to see this one in a while (I even put it on my most-anticipated list), which is unusual as I don’t always get excited about a Wes Anderson movie. The only one I have seen before was The Royal Tennenbaums, and whilst I enjoyed that one, I can’t remember too much of the details except to say that and eccentric are the words that come to mind. It’s the same with Moonrise Kingdom, though I’d add the words endearing and delightful to describe it.

Set on an island off the coast of New England in 1965, it opens in a Khaki Scout Summer Camp on the day one of its member, Sam Shakusky, disappears from the camp. Soon they realize that a young girl from a nearby town, Suzy Bishop is also missing. Soon they discover the two had run away together and the town, led by the island police Captain Sharp goes in search of them.

Sam turns out to be an orphan whilst Suzy is not, but both Sam and Suzy feel like an outcast in their respective circle, and that’s what drew them together. The young actors, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are so endearing in their roles, and their lack of acting experience actually adds sincerity to the romance. Their scenes together remind us the delight of what innocent young love could be. These sweet moments are peppered with some dark, poignant moments, as if to illustrate the world that would await the two twelve-year-olds as they grow older.

The adult actors seem to take a back-seat to these young lovebirds, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have their moments. Edward Norton as Sam’s Scout Master is amusingly delirious to what’s happening, and seeing the usually-serious actor as a chain-smoking boy scout leader is entertaining in its own right. Bruce Willis proves once again he’s more versatile than people give him credit for. I like him in his understated roles as much as his ‘yippikaye’ bad-assery and he’s appropriately somber in this one as he secretly longs for a family to call his own. I feel that Bill Murray wasn’t given as much to do here, he’s sort of just playing his quirky-self, but I guess that works just fine in a Wes Anderson movie. The rest of the stellar cast, including Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel and the other one of Wes’ muse Jason Schwartzman, are all good but none of them particularly stood out to me.

I guess the benefit of not having seen too much of Wes’ work is that I haven’t grown accustomed to his particular style, so everything seems fresh and fascinating to me. Even the preposterous aspects and the zany-ness of the characters all add to the charm and what makes Wes’ work so unique. There’s also that particular look to the visuals of Wes’ film, my super astute friend John outlined in this *tutorial* post…  he described Wes’ films as having “… the aged look and feel.. What I’m referring to is the yellow filter, and the slight graininess that makes you, the viewer, feel like you’re in a theatre in 1970 watching a film.” I LOVE that, I think it adds something special to the whole experience.

Final Thoughts: This is a delightful movie and it’s moving along quite efficiently at only 1 hr 34 minutes. The ending is heartwarming and sweet, but never nauseatingly so. I might rent this again when it comes out on DVD. I might even venture into Wes’ other works, such as Rushmore and Life Aquatic. Whether Wes’ style is your cup of tea or not as creativity is so subjective, I’m glad there’s still a filmmaker who marches to the beat of his own drums like him in Hollywood.

4.5 out of 5 reels



What do you think of either one of these movies? Do share your thoughts in the comments.