Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Now, after watching this, let's all gather around the campfire and sing our campfire song.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water – 4 out of 5

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Me, if I could breathe underwater. However, since I can’t do that, the one person in all of entertainment who does that is the ever-the-optimistic SpongeBob SquarePants. It’s been over a decade since his infectious laughter and his cohorts in Bikini Bottom have graced the silver screen but he’s back and his latest adventure is just a whole lot of fun!

Like "Patrick's butt in the sand" fun.

After SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny) and Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) are accused of stealing the Krabby Patty formula, Bikini Bottom enters into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. However, SpongeBob and Plankton are actually innocent and the formula just mysteriously vanished. The two team together in order to try and recover the formula and bring Bikini Bottom back to its former glory. Soon, they discover that a pirate named Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas) was able to get his hand on a magic book that allows the writer to control destiny and he uses it to steal the formula and make his food truck the most successful truck on the beach. Now, SpongeBob and Plankton must use the book to make them superheroes and team up with their friends; Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), Squidward (Rodger Bumpass), Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown) and Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence), to fight and get it back in order to return the delicious burgers back to the world under the waves and bring sanity back to Bikini Bottom.

Burger Beard succeeded where you always fail, Plankton.

I was pretty excited for this film because I really enjoy SpongeBob. Even after all these years, his adventures still amuse me and the first film was such a great outing that I saw no problem with seeing another film being made. And, despite a few minor hiccups, the movie is another great addition to SpongeBob’s library.

I don't know what type of party is going on here but I'm in!

Like the first film, Sponge Out of Water feels like a longer episode with just a bigger premise. The voice acting is still top notch and has all the series regulars returning and bringing to life the characters that we know and love—and they even add Matt Berry to voice a comic dolphin (trust me, it makes sense). And if you don’t know who Matt Berry is, you need to drop everything and watch The Mighty Boosh, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Snuff Box, The IT Crowd, and Toast of London right now, you won’t regret it.

Matt Berry does the voice of a cosmic dolphin...the man lives a greater life than us

Additionally, the animation is fantastic and is capable of incorporating various forms of animation that never feel out of place or like a incoherent blend of zaniness. For example, the film is in the traditional 2-D animation that is typical for the show but it also works in stop-motion, 3D and, of course, live-action. Each one of these elements blends perfectly together and never feels too jarring to have these differences. It all looks like the wild and slightly insane world that SpongeBob, Patrick and the rest reside in.

3D animated SpongeBob and the gang looks great.  I'd watch a whole movie
produced like this.

Sandy as a giant, life-like squirrel.  Horrifying or totes
The only real issue I had with the film was the feel that this one was trying to up the ante and go for broke. This mentality isn’t necessarily a bad things with some projects but it felt like they were trying to cram too many elements into the story. For example, in order to try and get the Krabby Patty recipe back, Plankton and SpongeBob build a time machine to travel back and stop the event from happening. This, of course, leads them to travel to the wrong dates a few times (and it also has a really strange song from N.E.R.D. that felt completely out of place). Then they decide to head to the surface to confront Burger Beard and this leads to the characters turning into 3D figures and the discovery of the magical properties of the book—and that leads to them becoming Bikini Bottom’s version of The Avengers. Each one of these elements, in and of itself, are fine and fit in with the wackiness of SpongeBob SquarePants but when they are all combined together, it almost felt like too much and that each element could have existed on its own as individual episodes for the TV show.

Actually...I don't think Burger Beard is a bad name for a food truck operator
with a pirate theme.  I'd eat there.

Of course, I say that it was "almost too much" because, in reality, it’s not. While it did make for a particularly strange trip for SpongeBob and the crew, it never felt like it was too much for the story to handle and the hilarity that follows during this time works very well. This combination of elements did work to keep the story fresh, twisting, unique and, most of all, hysterical. I can’t emphasize enough how funny this film was and, through it all, how entertaining it all was.

It's stupidly cool that Clancy Brown is Mr. Krabs.  That fact will never stop being
awesome to me.

I make the same face when watching SpongeBob.
I don’t want to compare The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water to the first one because this isn’t a direct sequel and is, rather, just another adventure of SpongeBob—it would make about as much sense as comparing either film to a random episode. I will admit that the first film had more memorable moments that have stuck with me and I do find that one has a large replay value and contains more entertainment value for me but that’s not me selling this one short at all because I really enjoyed this one and I wouldn’t mind seeing SpongeBob get another film.

Oh no...please don't go all hentai on us, SpongeBob Movie.

Taken 3

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Please don't make a fourth one...please.

Taken 3 – 2 out of 5

Oh boy…another Taken film. I am boiling over with excitement.

Look at that face...she must be watching Taken 3.

Okay…so it seems the story of Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) isn’t over. In all reality, it should have been a one-and-done story—maybe a follow-up tale, at most—but three films feel like it is pushing the limit. Anyway, so it looks like Mills still has use for his particular set of skills as his ex-wife Lenny (Famke Janssen) is murdered in his apartment and he’s made to look like he committed the deed. Naturally, Mills won’t stand for that shit and he’s ready to beat up any and every generic bad guy that comes his way because whoever killed Lenny will, no doubt, go after his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) next. Which begs the question: Destiny clearly wants to see this family bite the dust and it’s almost like an unofficial Final Destination sequel with a less horror base and more of an action edge and Mills is just fighting to keep the manifestation of death from claiming Maggie…which, actually sounds like a great film. (Note to self: I have a script to write when I’m done with this.)

"I'm here to confiscate all your copies of Battleship."

I'm sure this will end safely.
To recap, I’m a fan of the first film—I really enjoyed its badassery and how it cemented the fact that I know think Liam Neeson is the toughest guy to exist and has a more legit badass card than that joke of a looney Chuck Norris (wanna hear a Chuck Norris joke? It’s his career. That’s the biggest Chuck Norris joke of them all). Sadly, I’m starting to think that the fondness I have of the first film is starting to be tainted by these lackluster and completely unnecessary sequels. When I saw the second film in the theater, it took much of the running length to convince myself that the film was horrible. I kept saying to myself, "It’s going to get better, right? It has to get better." But it never got better. I thought 2 was as low as the film would go but this one sets a new standard for the franchise.

You can actually sense the Russian-ness of this bad guy in the film.

I’ll be honest; I was actually excited for this one. Forgoing someone being taken in the story, seeing the film deal with Mills being falsely accused of killing his wife felt like a nice change of pace. Sadly, the final product felt lifeless, generic, and pretty pointless. The film had prime real estate that could have changed the neighborhood and raised property value but, instead, they wasted it and made a film equivalent of a parking lot—okay, even I have to say I made a really dumb metaphor there. But the point remains that the film wasted an opportunity and settled for mediocrity.

Neeson, seen here trying to escape the set.

Finally, this movie gives the fans what they wanted: 
Bryan Mills fighting a dude in his underwear.
Aside from having a couple of moments where there are some decent fist-fights and the fact that Liam Neeson still comes off as a convincing badass, the movie spends its time wallowing in cliché and a formulaic plot that unfolds exactly as you predict it to—up to and including the obvious reveal of who the real culprit behind Lenny’s death was (seriously, it was painfully obvious). The film tries to up the ante a bit with a few more explosions and a wild scene involving an overturned semi-trailer on the highway but, even then, it’s clearly just a slapped-on coat of paint on something that you can clearly smell is a turd.

Smelly turd...on fire.

What’s really amazing about this film is how, after two other films, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, and Liam Neeson still don’t have believable chemistry as a family. While scenes with Grace and Neeson haven’t been too bad in the franchise, I’ve always found any scene with Janssen and Neeson to be excruciatingly bad and to look like the two actors are incapable of hiding a possible hatred they share for each other. Granted, Janssen dies in the film and doesn’t have a considerable amount of screen time but the limited scenes she has with Neeson are really hard to sit through. Both come off less like two people who were once married and still carry a flame for the other and are, overall, living cordially as friends and more like both actors just want to get the scene over so they can go to their separate trailers…almost like they once dated in real life and it ended badly and now they hope the other gets all the STDs and dies painfully. There’s just nothing palpable about their relationship and it makes their short scenes and their relationship in the story feel wooden and hollow.

The smiles of two people who look like they are biting back their hostilities.

Cigar Crocodile was the best character.
The biggest offense this film commits and the biggest reason I couldn’t take this film seriously was the gigantic plot-hole of Mills having an airtight alibi for why he wasn’t Lenny’s killer. This seems nitpicky but all of Mills’ actions feel unnecessary due to the reality he would have been ruled out as a suspect with a single phone call and the police visiting the populated area that Mills was prior to the discovery of his murdered ex-wife. Mills had absolutely no reason to fight the cops and flee to find the real killer and was overreacting in a way that made it hard for me to cheer for him—even in an action film atmosphere. So while this may come off a petty complaint, it is a reflection of the poorly written story. It could have been so much easier to make it possible for Mills to have a legit reason to fight off the cops who believe he killed Lenny and it probably could have made the generic film and its generic and predictable reveal of who the real bad guy is a little easier but, instead, the film’s plot undoes itself because the writers foolishly gave Mills an airtight alibi that, ultimately, made a majority of his decisions pointless and completely unnecessary.

"There there...we all signed on for this.  We'll make it."

Even with bad scripts, Whitaker gives his all.  The man's
a damn hero.
The film wasn’t all fails for me, however. There’s a decent fight scene in a liquor store, Liam still proves that he is a badass, and Forest Whitaker (who plays the investigating detective trying to figure out what happened and is hunting Mills) gives a great performance (but that’s a given with him). However, aside from this, Taken 3 was just a forgettable movie and another addition to a franchise that doesn’t come close to landing anywhere near the first film. While it was never boring and never dragged, the film just suffers from a really bad script that comes off without a single glimmer of originality. In a pinch, its action will satisfy if you are hard up for an action film but, besides that, the film just comes off overwhelmingly "meh." Besides, if you are that hard up for action, just watch John Wick because that movie never gets boring.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Be careful to not go down Furry Road...far more different things happen down that road.

Mad Max: Fury Road – 5 out of 5

I’ve grown up having the character of Mad Max be a staple in my life. My father showed me the original as a child and I watched the sequels with delight and it wasn’t uncommon for me to yell "Who runs Bartertown?" when I was young. Every film, from the first one in 1979 to Thunderdome with Tina Turner have always had a safe place in my favorite lists and have been watched quite a bit during my years on this Earth. The character of Max Rockatansky is intense and played well by Mel Gibson (long before we knew he hated the Jewish people) and the world that Max belonged in was dynamic and interesting. So, needless to say when I first saw the trailer that was debuted at Comic-Con last year, I lost my shit and was pulling out my hair to see it.

In an apocalyptic wasteland where world governments, water, and gasoline are scarce, a gruff former lawman named "Mad" Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is captured by a gang calling themselves the War Boys and is lead in a cult-like fashion by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne—who also played Toecutter, the villain from the first film and killer of Mad Max’s family…does that count as spoilers considering the film is 36 years old?). While Max is being used as a "universal blood donor" in an effort to make one of the War Boys better (Nicholas Hoult), Immortan Joe sends Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) in her war rig tractor trailer to collect gasoline. However, it seems that she has other things in mind and is actually helping Immortan Joe’s collection of wives flee his grip. Joe won’t stand for that and sends his army to stop them. Now, in an effort to get the wives to freedom, Furiosa must team with the War Boy Nux (Hoult) and Mad Max before Immortan Joe and his army spills their blood on the sands.

                                                                                                            Warner Bros. Pictures
Geez, it's like these women hate being forcefully married to a psychopath.

Mad Max: Fury Road is how action films are meant to be done. The movie is non-stop action and filled with colorful badass characters and locales that are stupidly over-the-top but over-the-top in just the right way. Tom Hardy fills Mel Gibson’s shoes terrifically well and it was almost frightening how close his voice sounded to Gibson. Finally, the story feels like no time has passed since Thunderdome came out and the universe that holds Mad Max feels authentic and absolutely belongs with the rest.

                                                                                                             Warner Bros. Pictures
The one thing they really miss in this world is chapstick.

One of the things that is making headlines with this film is how the Men’s Right Activists or menivists (as they call themselves) are boycotting the film and are up in arms because they call the film "feminists propaganda." Why would they call a film with a fire tornado and, what is basically, a two-hour long car chase a feminist propaganda film? Well (and I hope you’re sitting down for this), George Miller had the audacity to have a film that had strong female characters *GASP* and showed that a woman can be just as badass as a dirty, stubble-chinned man *DOUBLE GASP* and that, it’s entirely possible, for a man to take an order from a woman and even show that a woman can do things better than a man *TRIPLE AND QUADRUPLE GASP*. Yes, the turds who feel women need to be barefoot in the kitchen and serving their male asses are getting their nuts in a twist because the film is showing women in a light that Hollywood should have been showing them in for some years now.

                                                                                                           Warner Bros. Pictures
A visual representation of how menivists feel when watching Mad Max:  Fury Road.

In an effort to write badass females who do things that are more badass than Max, George Miller sought the help of renowned feminist and creator of The Vagina Monologues Eve Ensler. With her help, Miller got to showcase a whole host of female characters that weren't just around for eye candy or to be the damsels in distress that a manly man has to come and manly rescue her with his manliness. First off, you have Furiosa who, in my opinion, was way more badass than Max and I desperately want to see a spin-off all about her and her badassery. Additionally, you have the wives of Immortan Joe who, despite being the characters who are essentially being rescued, they never come off as helpless. When Max and Furiosa first come to blows, the wives are right there to help Furiosa and weren’t afraid to step up to him.  Finally, the group meets up with a group of marauders who are all older woman and all of them are all kinds of badass. No female in this film is shown to be weaker to a man and all of them deal out punishment as well as they take it and it was so god damn refreshing to see this in an action film. However, I simultaneously hate that this is a highlight for the film because it’s 2015 and strong female characters in an action film shouldn’t be news but rather a given thing in the world of entertainment. Regardless, Hollywood needs to take note because this movie just called you out.

                                                                                                             Warner Bros. Pictures
"Hey Hollywood...your move, bitches."

As far as performances go in this film, there isn’t a weak branch on the tree…and this film even has a pro-wrester on its roster. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron are safe bets—going into the film, I pretty much KNEW they were going to be awesome and they were. And, like I said, Theron steals the show as Furiosa and I really, REALLY wanna see her in her own movie. Please make that happen, Mr. Miller. I know you’re not reading this and my desire means nothing to you because you don’t know me but Furiosa deserves her own film. Additionally, Nicolas Hoult is entertaining in the film and watching his character go from villain lackey to reluctant hero fit nicely in the story and it was really cool to see Hugh Keays-Byrne return to play a new character in the Mad Max universe.

                                                                                                             Warner Bros. Pictures
Interestingly enough, when I hear about Men's Rights Activists, this is how
I picture them.

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about the Mad Max films was the sets and costumes and how they’ve evolved with each film. When the series first started in 1979 with Mad Max, we see a world that isn’t quite the desolate wasteland it is in Fury Road and we see cities still clinging to life. With each passing film, we see this world become a bigger and bigger wasteland where gas, ammo, water and other necessities start to disappear and is replaced by mayhem and monsters—well, not literal monsters but rather just horrible people…like menivists. Each film sees this landscape evolve (or devolve) into a more desolate place and each time we see vehicles, sets, and costumes reflect that diving streak. As this universe descending further towards oblivion, the overall look of the people and the vehicles they marauded in began to take on a junkyard feel. Everything looks cobbled together and everything is rusty and looks like it will give you tetanus if you even glanced at it. It would go on to become the defining trait of Mad Max’s post-apocalyptic world.

A part of this look is an over-the-top feel that makes everything look insane but, at the same time, like it belongs. It’s a difficult balance because control over this could easily be lost and you have something that could either look silly, over-produced or, on the opposite side, under-produced. The production of Fury Road was able to take that dynamic and splash it across the screen perfectly. Immortan Joe’s War Boys army is insane looking. Their vehicles are ridiculous, their belief system is royally fucked up, and their outfits (or lack there of) just come off as nuts…BUT it felt like it was suppose to be there because it came off authentic to the universe. It became one of the defining traits that made this less of a reboot of the franchise and more of something that was continuing Max’s stories and his adventures in the wastelands. And, I’ll just thrown this in, that truck with the drummers and the dude playing the flamethrower guitar didn’t really need to be a part of the army because they didn’t really serve a purpose but, dammit, that aspect became the droplet that overfilled my excitement bucket and became the number one reason to see this movie. To sum up this last paragraph, there’s so much insanity going on in the film but it works for the universe and it was incredibly effective at making the film entertaining.

                                                                                                              Warner Bros. Pictures
I could never hope to be this cool.

Finally, let’s talk about the action…

                                                                                                              Warner Bros. Pictures
You know, this type of stuff.

I already mentioned how kickass Hardy and Theron was as Max and Furiosa but this film just doesn’t let up on the gas pedal. Even when the film is establishing the conflict and has what is basically Fury Road’s version of exposition and down-time, the film is high octane and pure adrenaline. The movie is basically one long car chase and it never gets boring. Explosions, flamethrowers, bullets, punches, car wrecks, and a freaking fiery tornado is tossed into the mix and just when you think there might be the slightest potential for the action to get repetitive, something new gets thrown into the mix and George Miller pretty much comes jumping out of the screen to punch you in the face with pure awesomeness. This film is exciting and exciting in a way that has never been seen before in a Mad Max film. Then, to make the action even better, a majority of the action is done with a stunt crew and done practically with little to no CGI. While I have nothing against computer generated effects, nothing beats a good old fashion stunt.

                                                                                                            Warner Bros. Pictures
Sure, they're a bunch of homicidal lunatics but they like to have fun, too.

Mad Max: Fury Road just set the bar high for summer blockbuster action films—and not just for 2015 but probably for the next year or two…or until Miller makes the next one (which *fingers crossed* is all about Furiosa). The story is great, the visuals will make your eyes bleed because they are that flipping amazing, the characters are fucking terrific, the action is enough to give you a heart attack and you’d be thankful for it and the insanity that it throws at you is too cool for words to adequately express. I honestly don’t know how the rest of the summer releases can compete with this one.

The Gambler

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! This movie might not have been as interesting if the gambling addiction was dollar scratch offs.

The Gambler – 3 out of 5

So, the story of "The Gambler" centers around the summer time on a train that has no real destination. A young man has a conversation with a professional gambler in exchange for an alcoholic beverage and he explains that, when gambling—and in real life, as well, because it’s a perfect metaphor—you need to know when it is beneficial to stay the course and hold your hand—or hold ‘em—and when it makes more sense to call it quits or, as they say it, fold ‘em. The movie then—wait, this isn’t the story of The Gambler. I’m just giving the story behind the Kenny Rogers song of the same name. The Gambler I’m supposed to be talking about is a remake of the 1974 film with James Caan of the same name.

Do you like this?  He's crying because you didn't say hello to your mother for him!

Okay, let’s get to the real synopsis…

Calm down, Brie Larson.  The synopsis is coming.  I can see that you are boiling with

Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is a college professor with a problem. His issue is that he really, REALLY likes to gamble and it ends up putting him into debt with a man who runs an underground gambling ring and a particularly violent man played by Omar from The Wire (Michael K. Williams). His problem gets worse when he starts to diddle one of his students (Brie Larson). When the life of his student is threatened by the particularly violent man, Bennett decides he needs to do what he can to pay off his debts like a Lannister and turns to his mother (Jessica Lange) and a loan shark who seems hell bent on Bennett admitting to his flaws (played by John Goodman). Can Bennett get his shit together and pay off the loans and put his gambling addiction behind him?

"I bet you can't quit gambling, Bennett."

And then she sings "Life on Mars."
Overall, I found The Gambler to be a decent film that is never outright bad but I didn’t find it that memorable either. The performance from Wahlberg is fantastic and the supporting players aren’t shabby either—especially Michael K. Williams. The big issue, however, with the cast is that most of them don’t have much screen time. I really would have liked to see more of Jessica Lange in the film and not using John Goodman as much as you can always feels like a crime to me. 

Goodman, seen here doing his best Marlon Brando impression.

However, this is a minor complaint because there really wasn’t anyone slouching in the cast. Additionally, I really enjoyed the symbolism the film liked to throw at the viewer. Whether it be a scene where Bennett is literally running towards freedom and away from his addiction or the film’s use of water, the symbolism of the film might be my favorite aspect. For example, the movie loves water imagery to show that Bennett is drowning in his own problems and he is well in over his head and while this symbolism may lack subtlety and seems sorta obvious, it works so well.

Add glasses and suddenly he's a college professor. The homework he assigns...
saying hello to your mothers for him.

The only real downside I found overtly obvious with this film was the fact that the drama was hard to latch onto. I’m not really a gambler but this fact wasn’t what kept me from getting completely sucked into the story. The performances are there, the conflict is brewing and the characters are interesting but it just lacked the proper hooks to suck me in. All the ingredients are present but the final mixture just didn’t have that special "Umf" needed to make this film more than just something I will give a single chance to and never watch again.

"I'll bet on black."
"Wrong game."

Omar would be the last person I'd wanna owe money
to.  Just thinking about it would make me piss myself
if I heard "The Farmer in the Dell."
The story in The Gambler is serviceable, the drama feels adequate at times, the cast is filled with talented individuals and the characters are a rich bunch that feel real enough that you could probably run into them at a gas station or a grocery store (and then, hopefully, apologize because you ran into them) but the film just didn’t have that certain magic to invest any real interest in me. It never bored me, I enjoyed the symbolism, and I really wanted to see more John Goodman (the world needs more Goodman, that’s a fact, Jack and other readers not named Jack) but it really was just an average viewing experience for me, nothing more.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Wedding Ringer

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I've fairly certain this film exists in the same universe as The Wedding Crashers.  Incidentally, Wilson and Vaughn were originally envisioned for the film's cast.

The Wedding Ringer – 3 out of 5

I honestly had no real desire to see The Wedding Ringer when it was coming to theaters because it looked like a slapped together comedy that would probably, more or less, be a disappointment for me and be filled with predictable humor and a lot of gags about Josh Gad’s weight. However, when the film hit the Home Media realm, my girlfriend decided we were going to watch it because she’s a big fan of Kevin Hart. I can’t say I’m really a fan of the guy because other than knowing that he’s a comedian and an actor, I’m not the most familiar with his work. However, I do really enjoy when he’s on Modern Family and he hosted the hell out of the Justin Bieber roast so he seemed like a safe bet for the film…I was actually surprised when this film turned out better than what I thought I was going to get.

Wait a second, I thought they only let Jeffrey Ross out of his cage to be a part
of Comedy Central roasts.
Doug Harris (Josh Gad) is a successful tax attorney who has the hand of a girl out of his league; Gretchen (The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), and is about to get married to her but, there’s one problem, Doug doesn’t have any friends to be his best man or even fill out his roster of groomsmen. Doug learns about a man named Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart) who runs a service for guys like him. The company is called Best Man, Inc. and their job is to provide services for the men in the world who lack the true friends to be their best men. However, it seems Doug’s situation might be too much for Callahan as he is to provide a Golden Tux—a service that is so large and seemingly impossible that he jokes it can’t be done. Now Jimmy must pretend to be a life-long friend of Doug, get enough people together to fill out the wedding party and throw a spectacular bachelor party for the guy…all without letting the secret slip out.

If Kevin Hart was a priest, I might actually go to church.

Like I previously stated, my expectations weren’t very high for this film and I was quite surprised by how funny it was. Kevin Hart and Josh Gad have some real chemistry together on screen and really pull off some great buddy comedy scenes. Additionally, the story had a promising premise that takes the tired old concept of wedding-based shenanigans and adds a new coat of paint to it. However, the film does have a few issues that keeps this from being better than it could have been and make it a comedy that becomes one of those constantly quoted pieces.

I'm assuming he's looking at yet another email from an angry parent who's had
Frozen playing on an endless loop since it has come out.  It wasn't your fault, Olaf.

Joe Namath has a cameo in the film.  I'm assuming it was
because of vapor lock.  (It's a Simpsons reference, kids.
Ask your parents.)
One issue I had was the superfluous nature of a lot of scenes. Some gags and sequences feel completely out of place with the rest of the tone of the film and enters into a needlessly wild slapstick world. Much of the best humor, I found, in the film was the camaraderie between Gad and Hart and character-based humor when Callahan’s team of groomsmen are forced to play insanely specific parts on such a short time-table. During a few sequences of the film, this working formula is abandoned for wild hijinks that feel like they belong in a completely different film. This is extremely notable in the bachelor party scene that sees the sequence end with Harris getting his dick bitten by a dog and a car chase with a cop. It didn’t feel like it belonged with the rest of the film and was just distracting.

Hey, that's the same look I had when the dick biting scene happened.

I don't often say this but...Josh Peck's short role is quite
Another minor issue I had was the film’s reliance on swears as a punchline. First off, when I sat down to watch it I never realized the film was rated R, so when the first Fuck-bomb was dropped, I was a little surprised (For some reason, I honestly thought this was a PG-13 film). I have no problem with curse words (you may have noticed that I swear quite a bit in the reviews) but using swears as a punchline always seemed lazy to me. This dynamic doesn’t happen very often but there is one sequence that stuck in my head where Cuoco-Sweeting’s character swears needlessly because Gad’s character mentioned the possibility of rain on their wedding day (which would totes be ironic, right Alanis?). I get the comedic outrage and a potential Bridezilla situation if you mention it raining on the special day but she keeps forcing "fucks" and "shits" into the irritation and it never feels natural…and then the scene ends. It honestly felt like the whole point of this scene—beyond just giving some more screen time to Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting—was just to make sure their R-rating is firmly in place. This is rarely seen elsewhere in the film and it might be because performers like Hart can make a swear work in concert with the jokes but, occasionally, these swears come off as gratuitous and almost like placeholders that were never removed because the real jokes couldn’t be located (Additionally, I just felt like Cuoco-Sweeting might not have been the best choice for the film because she didn’t really bring much). 

Despite being the bride, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting's part felt like background dressing.

This same formula is seen with the fat jokes aimed at Gad. Most of the time, they’re never funny (like when his weight causes his glass desk to shatter and fatty falls down…geez,we’ve never seen that before) and it looks like something you’d see in a Kevin James film. These gags, much like the swear-based punchlines, feel like throwaway jokes that are inserted to make sure the film never dips in the momentum of throwing jokes at you. Ultimately, though, this is an extremely minor complaint and only made for a scene or two that just didn’t work with the film.  They can't all be winners, folks!

Ha ha!  Look!  He's so fat he broke his desk and fell on his bottom!
Somewhere, Kevin James is taking notes for the inevitable conclusion to
the Paul Blart trilogy.

Another issue I had was some of the side characters aren’t given enough time to shine. The guys that Callahan recruits to be Harris’ groomsmen are all very over-the-top and very silly…BUT all have the potential to be very fun and hilarious characters. There are times when each of these guys has their moments to make with the funny and each one of those times is, more or less, successful but too often these guys are pushed into the background. I understand the film is, at its heart, a budding bromance between the characters of Callahan and Harris but a few more solid moments from the rest of the groomsmen couldn’t have hurt and could have made up for the dozen or so fat jokes that came off as hacky and repetitive.

"Hey, where the white women at?"

These issues aside, I had a lot of fun watching The Wedding Ringer. The film isn’t boldly trying to venture into a new realm of comedy and create something timeless—and there’s nothing wrong with that. The film has a story that is primed for fun and humor and the characters are pretty amusing. Hart and Gad are both hilarious together and apart and, despite the film going for the very obvious Hollywood happy ending, the end result is something that works and is fairly entertaining. The movie might not be the most memorable or the most worthy of repeat viewings but it’s a fairly serviceable comedy that works more than it doesn’t work.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Is there an option to go back in time and get my money and time returned to me?

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 – 1 out of 5

I actually really enjoy the first Hot Tub Time Machine and, even though I felt one plunge into the comedic/time travelling waters was enough, a sequel was mysteriously produced. I found myself watching the trailer and not being fully sold on it but saying, "Yeah, sure, I’ll give it a shot." Sadly, the only reaction I had after watching the film was an insane desire to create my own hot tub that travels through time…for no other reason than to convince my past self to not watch Hot Tub Time Machine 2.

Prepare yourself for a bunch of party montages...that each go way too long.

The film pretty much leaves off after the events of the first film and we see that Adam (John Cusack’s character) is missing and Lou (Rob Corddry) is living large thanks to his rock band and inventing the internet, Nick (Craig Robinson) is riding high on his music career that involves taking songs from the previous timeline and making them his own (which actually leads to a fairly funny scene with Lisa Loeb after Nick performs a song that she would have wrote if time wasn’t changed) and Jacob (Clark Duke) is forced into a life of servitude as Lou’s unofficial butler. While holding a party one night, Lou is shot in the dick (you kinda get a feel for the level of humor this film is going for here) and the trio decides to use the tub to travel through time to stop this from happening. The problem here is they ended up heading forward in time into an alternate timeline where Lou and Nick are broke and only Jacob is successful. In this timeline, the trio tracks down Adam’s son; Adam Jr. (Adam Scott…way too many "Adams" in this sentence), in order to help them find Lou's would-be killer.

This seriously has to be my favorite part.

I’m not going to pretend that I was hoping for a ground-breaking comedy that redefines what it means to laugh but I was hoping for something as funny, or even slightly less funny, than the first film. Unfortunately, what I found was a film that is filled with frat boy brah humor and jokes that ceaselessly repeat themselves. It was actually a little heartbreaking because there are so many performers in the film that I am a fan of and this film did not play to their strengths.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2  is here to remind you that Chevy Chase isn't dead yet.

One thing HTTM2 brutally showcases is how truly important John Cusack was to the first film. In the first film, Cusack becomes the character you want to see make things right with their venture backwards in time. He’s a normal guy pining for the "one that got away." You can’t root for Lou because he’s an asshole but an asshole that fits with the film thanks to him arriving in controlled doses. You can root for Nick but he too often comes off as Lou’s sidekick and Jacob just comes off as a side character that is around to provide a "fish out of water" perspective and have him provide cheap punchlines that are based entirely off of the differences in eras and technology. Adam was the normal guy that you sympathized with. You don’t get a normal guy this time and, instead, you get a larger dose of Lou and that proves to be a bad thing. 

That don't look that strange...they could easily pass for a band that would play
an outdoor festival full of dirty hippies.

In the first film, Rob Corddry was riding the line of being annoying and being funny and he rode it quite well because he was balanced out by the other players. This time, however, without Adam to be the balancing agent that prevents Lou from taking over the script and story, we are left with a dose of Lou that isn't diluted and the end result is a non-stop barrage of dick jokes and segments where the guys do insult lines that begin with "You look like a…" and then fill in the blanks. It wear thins quickly and makes the film über-repetitive.  Sure, they even do a self-referencing joke about how this formula is wearing thin and they are doing it too much but, by then, the joke itself is already a beaten beyond belief dead horse.  Things only get more recycled and done ad nauseam when you see the script loves comparing its story to other, more popular, films. This isn’t a bad thing if kept under control but every 5 minutes the film feels like it needs to remind you that you are wasting your time with a shitty comedy and are missing out on more iconic, and better produced, films.

He looks hypnotized--Wait!  Hypnotism.  That's how this film was made and released.

There are a lot of great performers in this film that I’m a big fan of and was hoping they could have made the juvenile script work. Corddry can be hysterical in the right arena, Craig Robinson is rarely ever NOT funny, Clark Duke may play the same character in everything he’s in but he does it well, Adam Scott is charming and very funny, and the film even throws in funny-people Kumail Nanjiani (who is hysterical in Silicon Valley—if you’re not watching that show, you are doing yourself a disservice), Community’s Gillian Jacobs and The Daily Show’s Jason Jones. However, none of them seem capable of making the endless parade of weak jokes (or flat out re-used jokes from first film) work effectively. It makes me realize that all these people are, in reality, mortals and not comedy gods and can’t make hysterical miracles happen.

Seriously, you need to be watching Silicon Valley.  Stop everything, even reading this
review, and go and binge on the show and get caught up.  I'll wait...

However, as unfunny as the film is, it didn’t start that way. When the movie began, it did throw out some great self-referencing material and seemed like it could have been another silly jaunt through time…but, as the film progresses, the film starts to repeat itself too often, relies too much on pointless party montages and, too many times, forgets its story about finding Lou’s killer and goes off on tangents that make it feel like the film was actually a short film and pointless filler was added to get it to a running feature length. 

Yay!  Another party montage with alcohol and drugs...

As far as performances go, no one is really giving off a bad one. Lou may be annoying but that’s not because Rob Corddry is bad at playing him, it’s because the character is, deep down, an unlikable asshole (which, in a sense, means Corddry is actually giving off a great performance because he really, really makes Lou out to be a terrible character that is impossible to enjoy…unless, you are a guy like Lou. If that’s the case, you probably love him). The problem is that the comedy is so bottom-of-the-barrel that, even if there was an epic performance hidden within this films gruff exterior, it wouldn’t do much to save it. Showing a little constraint with Lou’s scene might have been the first thing to go for to help save the film and, ultimately, helped the overall presentation but the way scenes go way, WAAAYYY too long shows that there was no interest in keeping the character of Lou under control.

He's like one of those children you have to keep on a leash.

The only thing this film does effectively is make the first one stronger by comparison and act as a reminder of how important John Cusack was to that film (of course, if you watch the unrated cut of the film you find out PLOT POINT DELETED FOR THE SAKE OF SPOILERS). Hot Tub Time Machine 2 had the potential to be a completely unnecessary but potentially mildly amusing sequel to a mildly amusing silly film.  Hell, the film actually starts quite well as it delivers some decent meta gags that pokes fun at itself and its pointless nature of existence but soon, not long after the dick shot, it all goes downhill.  Ultimately, the final product feels so haphazardly slapped together with never ending repetitive jokes and unlikable characters that it feels like its sole reason for existing was just to provide work to the cast and crew.