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.

500 Days of Summer

March 23, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend
Directed by: Marc Webb (debut)
Written by: Scott Neustadter (“The Pink Panther 2”) and Michael H. Weber (“The Pink Panther 2”)

With the number of offbeat romantic comedies hitting theaters this summer, there was bound to be some kind of overlapping scenarios between the projects. Not for “500 Days of Summer,” however. The quirky feature debut from director Marc Webb breaks from the pack with a rousing take on the most appealing and maddening factors in the boy-meets-girl relationship.

In “500 Days of Summer,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“The Lookout”) is Tom Hansen, a greeting card writer who immediately becomes infatuated with the new girl in the office, Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel), after a brief encounter in an elevator where he discovers they share the same taste in music.

Problem is, Summer doesn’t believe in love. To her, love is a fanciful idea that she is too young to even consider. Still, there is something about Tom that reels in Summer like a schoolgirl, although she keep her distance. It’s almost as if the couple really isn’t a couple at all. We get a true sense of their relationship when they play house in a department store. For Summer, it’s fun to pretend and not have any expectations.

Through delightful narration and a non-linear story (all written – surprisingly – by the duo who gave us the dreadfully unfunny sequel “The Pink Panther 2”), we witness an extensive journey as Tom and Summer touch upon every nuance of a budding romance. Here, Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel basically switch roles as to not follow the same cliché situations we’ve seen before. Tom takes the role of the lovesick daydreamer while Summer seems to be biding her time until someone better comes along.

Unlike other quirky rom-coms of the summer like “Away We Go” and “Paperheart,” (the latter has yet to open in San Antonio) “500 Days” feels a lot less mechanical as it pinpoints all the emotions one might feel through a relationship where one participant doesn’t feel as strongly as the other. From the cold-bloodedness of a breakup to the sheer joy of a first kiss, the film elicits all types of heartache and adoration and is never gimmicky.

What we come out with at the end is an animated and vibrant tour through the lives of two young adults who meet each other when the timing just isn’t right. Depending on where you are in your own life, you can choose a side to empathize with more. There are no wrong answers in “500 Days.” With something as complex as a well-constructed romantic comedy like this, it’s refreshing to know there are also no blueprints involved.

Yes Man

December 7, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper
Directed by: Peyton Reed (“The Break-Up”)
Written by: Nicholas Stoller (“Fun with Dick and Jane”), Jarred Paul (“Bewitched”) and Andrew Mogel (deubt)

In Jim Carrey’s new film “Yes Man,” it feels like the rubber-faced star of such movies as “Dumb and Dumber” and “Liar, Liar” is in comedy limbo.

It was a mistake when Carrey tried to jump genres last year with the appalling thriller “The Number 23.” Now, back to do the work he’s best known for (although his turns at drama – “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “The Truman Show” – have been his best projects), Carrey feels like an old jacket. It’s reliable and will keep you warm, but it would be nice to have something a little more hip (why do you think Adam Sandler is jumping on the Judd Apatow bandwagon next year?)

Not to say that Carrey has lost a step. He hasn’t. He’s still the best at what he does and does it with gusto. It never feels lazy but his herky-jerkiness naturally feels repetitious after a while. In “Yes Man,” Carrey takes it down a notch, which relieves some of the hyperactivity best left for a hopped-up Robin Williams on Ritalin.

He plays financial banker and social recluse Carl Allen, a guy who never wants to hang out with his friends and is “commited to saying no” to everything. Carl’s lifestyle changes, however, when he runs into Nick (John Michael Higgins), a former co-worker who coerces him to attend a self-help seminar that he promises will get him out of his rut. At the seminar, headed by the always-positive guru Terrance Bundley (Terrance Stamp), Carl is somehow provoked to take the motivational speaker up on a challenge and say yes to every question he is asked. “Yes embraces the possible,” Terrance declares.

Carl’s transformation into a “yes man” starts off well when he accepts a homeless guy’s offer to drive him into the forest where he lives, runs out of gas, and ends up meeting Allison (Zooey Deschanel), a novice photographer and alternative musician who lives by the seat of her pants. With his newfound obsession to say yes, Carl and Allison hit it off and start a day-to-day relationship filled with activities he was never able to do before.

While the whole idea seems harmless at first, the illogical script gives Carrey free range to do just about anything he wants without second thought. The strategy moves the screenplay along, but everything is just so random at times even the quirky chemistry between Carrey and Deschanel sort of gets lost in their own bizarre world of spontaneity.

Carrey’s bound to find a role that really highlights his more worthy talents, but “Yes Man” isn’t that movie. It’s simply another minor offering that might be interesting to rent on DVD for the outtakes.

The Happening

June 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Mark Walhberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan (“Lady in the Water”)
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”)

Forget about hating Mel Gibson for his off-screen shenanigans. It’s now hip to ridicule director M. Night Shyamalan for his actual work in Hollywood. Since he shocked audiences with “The Sixth Sense” in 1999, which earned him two Academy Award nominations (one as director and one as screenwriter), Shyamalan has failed to reach that same level of success with his last four films (although the first two-thirds of “Signs” was suspenseful and smart before the final act).

Now, Shyamalan attempts to redeem himself for “The Village,” “Lady in the Water,” and the overrated “Unbreakable” with “The Happening,” a film being marketed as his first R-rated film ever.

A little extra blood and disturbing images don’t help the director’s cause, however. “The Happening” is still a lankly-written film at best, although the first few scenes will have you wondering if Shyamalan might really be able to break out of his deep rut.

In “The Happening,” we are quickly tossed right in the middle of an unexplainable occurrence that is taking place all over the East Coast. For some unknown reason, people are committing suicide within seconds of each other. It’s chilling in the first few minutes to watch as construction workers heave themselves off buildings. Later in the film you see a group of tree trimmers who have hanged themselves with their own equipment, which is rather jolting.

The tone of the movie quickly plunges when we are introduced to Philadelphia high school science teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg), his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel) and Elliot’s best friend Julian (John Leguizamo) and his daughter Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez). The group decides the safest thing to do would be to take a train as far away as they can from the incidences.

But with the mysterious behavior spreading quickly from town to town and no ideas why it’s happening (some think it’s a biological terrorist attack, others believe the plants are emitting a toxic chemical), Elliot, Alma and others find themselves trapped in small town America trying to survive whatever it is that is making people kill themselves.

Shyamalan had a unique idea and desperately wants it to work. But once you get passed the eerie concept, there’s not much left in his screenplay to build on the paranoia. It’s not entirely Shyamalan’s fault, however. Wahlberg and Deschanel give some mediocre performances as a husband and wife going through some minor marriage problems. Their conflict a mild second storyline that is unimaginative, unnecessary, and completely annoying. There is also a lack of chemistry between Wahlberg and Deschanel. They would be worse off if this was a love story, but even in a thriller you would like your leading man and woman not to come off like oil and water or novice actors. Here, they’re a terrible mix.

It’s another strike for Shyamalan, who should think about trying to direct someone else’s work rather than write his own. If “The Sixth Sense” was his one-hit wonder, he should accept that and move on. Trying to relive those moments when his stock was so high seems more desperate than ambitious and it’s just not going to happen if he keeps doing it the same way he has been for the last nine years.