Trolls

November 4, 2016 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel
Directed by: Walt Dohrn (debut) and Mike Mitchell (“Shrek Forever After”)
Written by: Jonathan Aibel (“Kung Fu Panda”) and Glenn Berger (“Kung Fu Panda”)

Nothing says migraine-inducing entertainment like a neon-tinted animated musical voiced by the likes of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake and Zooey Deschanel and co-directed by the guy that made “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo.” Someone stab my eardrums with a broche, am I right?

Surprisingly, you’d be wrong. While there are a few moments that will probably be slightly irritating for anyone above the age of six, “Trolls” is a barrel-full of rainbows and sunshine and candy-corn flavored happiness. In other words, it’s pretty darn amusing (and, moreover, it doesn’t feature the voice of Jim Parsons, which is always a positive).

In “Trolls,” which is based off of the collectible plastic toy with Don King-like hair, the always-cheerful creatures are living a fulfilling life of singing, dancing and hugging. When an evil Bergen, which oddly looks like a Boxtroll from the 2014 animate film, finds their hidden village, she scoops up a handful of the trolls and takes the home for the Bergens’ annual festival where they feast on the half-pints (the only time a Bergen feels happiness). It’s up to peppy troll Poppy (Anna Kendrick), sullen troll Branch (Justin Timberlake), and some other less important trolls (the sparkly silver one speaks with an auto-tuned voice!) to rescue their friends before they end up as appetizers.

What “Trolls” has going for it is its cleverly placed musical interludes and dance choreography. Young audiences haven’t really been given a true animated musical since “Frozen” in 2013, so it’s exciting to get a movie that captures some of the delightful aspects of the genre. From songs like Timberlake’s “Cant’ Stop the Feeling!” to Lionel Richie’s “Hello” to even Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” the soundtrack is curated to perfection.

With a colorful and vibrant look and some interesting characters that are almost Dr. Seussian, “Trolls” isn’t going to top the likes of the best animations this year, but it’s easily one of the most fun.

Trouble with the Curve

September 21, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake
Directed by: Robert Lorenz (debut)
Written by: Randy Brown (debut)

What’s going to happen to the sport of baseball when all of the grumpy old men in charge, stuck clinging to antiquated traditions and practices, finally die off? Will there be a renaissance, allowing for such modern technological marvels like instant replay? Will those devil boxes (you may know them as “computers”) finally be embraced as a valuable tool in scouting players instead of as some doohickey the grandkids horse around on? Or are there new sticks-in-the-mud in training as we speak? Is baseball destined to be eternally ruled by old timers?

Like the elders of baseball itself, “Trouble With The Curve” hasn’t got time for any nonsense from you whippersnappers. The film stars the legendary Clint Eastwood (fresh off his real-life takedown of an invisible, chair-bound Barack Obama) as Gus Lobel, a veteran scout for the Atlanta Braves. With his eyesight failing and younger, computer-savvy members of the organization looking to put the old man out to pasture, Gus is given one last chance and sent to North Carolina to scout the latest high school hotshot. Concerned about his old friend, Gus’s coworker Pete (a magnificently-mustached John Goodman) convinces Gus’s daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) to put her skyrocketing law career on hold for a couple of days and accompany her aging father on his trip.

While both the baseball and relationship elements are as well-worn as an old little league glove, the latter benefits from some fine performances. Say what you will about the real-life Eastwood, but the 82-year-old still commands the screen even as a grizzled old codger. And while the screenplay muddies up the father-daughter relationship with Adams by plopping some half-cooked backstory near the end of the film, both she and Eastwood deliver solid base hits. Also, despite a groaner of an introduction, Justin Timberlake’s friendly rival scout and romantic interest lays another sturdy brick in the wall separating his acting career from his boy-band career.

Directed by long-time Eastwood producer Robert Lorenz, “Trouble With The Curve” plays like the anti-”Moneyball” when it comes to how the game is managed and played. The sentimentality and tradition of baseball are held in the highest regard, while anyone who knows their way around a laptop or smartphone or online stat sheet is treated like a clueless so-and-so who oughta stop futzing around with those damn gizmos and get out there in the real world, God damn it.

Friends with Benefits

July 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, Patricia Clarkson
Directed by: Will Gluck (“Easy A”)
Written by: Keith Merryman (debut), David A. Newman (debut), Will Gluck (debut)

“Friends with Benefits” might have been given the benefit of the doubt if it had at least tried to be anything besides “No Strings Attached.” Sure, you’ve probably heard the comparison a million times already, but it’s evident that what we have here is the same movie six months later. If studios are this hard up for material, don’t be surprised to see a remake of one of these two rom com in about five years.

All kidding aside, a romantic comedy with this many unoriginal ideas can easiliy write itself. Boy and girl meet; boy and girl wonder if they can base a relationship on sex; boy and girl begin to fall for each other; friendship is ruined; relationship is mended. Happily ever after. Who actually knows what screenwriters Keith Merryman, David A. Newman, and Will Gluck (also the director) did to earn their paycheck?

While Justin Timberlake does exude 10 times more charm that Ashton Kutcher of “Strings,” “Friends with Benefits” just doesn’t have substantial material to work with. At first, it makes fun of what a cliché rom-com looks like and then blatantly becomes the exact same type of film it was parodying only minutes before. Maybe that’s the kind of sarcastic storytelling this genre is going for now, but it doesn’t make a difference when everything feels so recycled.

Yogi Bear

December 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake, Anna Faris
Directed by: Eric Brevig (“Journey to the Center of the Earth”)
Written by: Jeffrey Ventimilia (“Tooth Fairy”), Joshua Sternin (“Tooth Fairy”), Brad Copeland (“Wild Hogs”)

As beloved as William Hanna-Joseph Barbera’s TV cartoons have been since the late ’50s, their recent resurrection as live-action/CGI-animated feature films has been hugely disappointing. Somewhat inspired casting choices like John Goodman as Fred Flintstone in “The Flintstones” and Matthew Lillard as Shaggy in “Scooby-Doo” (zoinks!) were spot on, but the films themselves were a firm reminder that without a competent script, nostalgia can only get you so far.

With “Yogi Bear,” another of these bizarre live-action/CGI hybrids, Warner Bros. aims their attention at a new generation of indiscriminate four-year-olds unfamiliar with the short-lived animated spinoff of the early ’60s. While the simplistically-drawn “Yogi Bear Show” only aired 35 episodes over two seasons, it’s considered a classic in the Hanna-Barbera canon.

In the new film version, which is the first picture not to be produced in some capacity by either creator (Hanna passed away in 2001, Barbera in 2006), the basic premise of the original cartoon remains the same. Yogi (Dan Aykroyd doing his best impression of comedian Rodney Dangerfield), along with his faithful sidekick Boo Boo (Justin Timberlake, whose take on the pudgy little bear is about as wonderfully wussy as his role in “The Social Network”), spend their time in Jellystone National Park evading Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) and stealing campers’ “pic-a-nic” baskets. The troublemaking duo becomes the park’s main attraction when a filmmaker (Anna Faris) chooses them as the subject for her next nature documentary.

Jellystone can use all the publicity it can muster. The town is going bankrupt and a corrupt mayor (Andrew Daly) wants to sell the park to a company planning to cut down all the trees (cue an unoriginal green message and a plot centered on zoning regulations). Penned by three screenwriters, whose less-than-stellar credits include “Tooth Fairy” and “Wild Hogs,” and directed by longtime special-effects whiz Eric Brevig (“Total Recall”), “Yogi Bear” wears thin even at a merciful 82 minutes, which includes an unfunny, outdated dance sequence to Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.”

Yogi can still refer to himself as “smarter than the average bear” if he’d like, but his movie hardly supports the self-description. Instead, “Yogi Bear” joins other brainless live-action/CGI combos of the last decade like “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” and “Garfield” to become yet another forgettable addition to the dullest of kid-friendly fare.

The Social Network

October 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jesse Einsberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake
Directed by: David Fincher (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”)
Written by: Aaron Sorkin (“Charlie Wilson’s War”)

Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Einsberg) is the smartest guy in the room. If you weren’t aware, don’t worry. He would’ve let you known sooner or later.
 
So is the personality of the genius Facebook founder as it is portrayed in director David Fincher’s internet epic “The Social Network,” an incisively-written and impressively-controlled biopic where fascinating legal drama meets new media ambition. Adapted by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (“Charlie Wilson’s War”) from the book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich, “The Social Network” is an occasionally one-sided yet nearly-perfect narrative centered on the most prevalent online phenomenon of the past decade.

With a story this substantial, there was bound to be a villain – or at least an anti-hero – somewhere in the mix. “The Social Network” doesn’t waste time in introducing audiences to Mark. Einsberg plays him as arrogant and aloof as any character in recent memory. It doesn’t necessarily push the actor’s range compared to some of his past films, but from this bigger-than-life persona Einsberg exudes a scary confidence and insensitivity that draws us as close to him as it pushes others away.
 
From the opening scene, Mark has our attention as he sits across from his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) in a Harvard pub and manages to say just about every wrong thing imaginable. The difference between Mark and a guy that simply puts his foot in his mouth (as all guys do) is that Mark is well aware of his offensive nature but wants to see where the breaking point lies.
 
“This is exhausting,” Erica tells Mark as he rambles on about how getting into a Finals Club (a sort of glorified fraternity at Harvard) will lead to a better life. “Dating you is like dating Stairmaster.”
 
Mark’s ability to destroy friendships is what layers his character so well. His defense mechanisms are what keep him from truly finding a connection with friends. In “The Social Network,” Mark is able to demonstrate how he uses his intelligence to prove his worth. He starts by ransacking the campus blogosphere before proceeding to steal what would later become Facebook, a multi-billion-dollar media corporation.
 
Standing beside Mark to help build his empire is best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), who provided the start-up cash to fund Facebook in its early stages and attempted to monetize the website. In the film, Eduardo, who is the main source for “The Accidental Billionaires,” is suing Mark for $600 million. Garfield’s depiction of a loyal friend is heartfelt until it becomes heartbreaking. As Napster founder Sean Parker, singer/actor Justin Timberlake plays to his strengths and embodies Parker as a smart and wily entrepreneur looking for the next big money-making idea.
 
“The Social Network” isn’t so much a movie about Facebook as it’s a story of greed, envy, and the ruthless means one young man would take to rise to power no matter who he crushes along the way. It’s “There Will Be Blood” for the tech generation.

Through wonderfully-constructed scenes, director Fincher and screenwriter Sorkin have created an exhilarating drama that achieves the finest that filmmaking has to offer today. “The Social Network” is a relentless character study and just might be the best film of the year.

The Love Guru

June 17, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Mike Myers, Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake
Directed by: Marco Schnabel (debut)
Written by: Mike Myers (“Austin Powers International Man of Mystery”) and Graham Gordy (“War Eagle, Arkansas”)

It’s been six years since comedian/actor Mike Myers wrapped up his Austin Powers trilogy with “Goldmember,” and since then hasn’t returned to the writer’s chair until now. With “The Love Guru,” it only takes him 90 minutes to prove that six years away wasn’t long enough.

In the film, Myers plays Pitka, a love guru who is brought to Canada by Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team owner Jane Bullard (Jessica Alba) so he can mentor their star player Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco), who hasn’t been playing up to standard because of a broken heart. His girlfriend has left him for Jacques Grande (Justin Timberlake), a hockey nemesis who is famous for being anatomically blessed.

Pitka takes the job when he finds out that if he cures Darren, he can land a guest spot on the Oprah Winfrey Show and becomes as famous as real-life guru Deepak Chopra (cue the Chopra/Oprah gags).

Mike Myers is a child in a man’s body and sometimes children, although they have good intentions when they stand up in front of a group of adults and tell a joke, just aren’t that funny. He might have a few good musical numbers left in him, but building an entire movie on puns, vulgar surnames, bodily fluids, and acronyms is fatal filmmaking.