Tag Archives: Jason Sudeikis

“Colossal”

LOUISA: 3.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

In one of the most original indie sci-fi films in recent memory, “Colossal” is a genre bending exercise in sheer creativity and inventiveness. This exquisitely strange and cleverly original film is part romance, part monster movie, part revenge thriller, and is all but guaranteed to confuse and frustrate anyone who buys a ticket thinking they are going to see a quirky comedy (they’re not).

The movie tells the spectacularly weird story of unemployed, often hungover party girl Gloria (Anne Hathaway) who, after being dumped by her live-in boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), is forced to move back to her hometown in upstate New York. She hangs out and pounds beers with her childhood frenemy Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) and his group of loser pals (Tim Blake Nelson and Austin Stowell). When a giant monster suddenly appears in South Korea, Gloria finds herself connected to the deadly attacks by the kaiju. The insignificance of her existence suddenly becomes relevant when she’s forced to grow up (and rise up) to save the people of Seoul — as well as herself.

This film is a peculiar psychodrama of sorts, reveling in the harsh reality of self-destructive behavior and finally offering its flawed characters a chance for redemption. This is a multi-layered story with some especially dark themes of alcoholism, toxic relationships, and mental abuse, including an unsettling and slightly off-putting anti-feminist tone. The story starts out a bit playful and fun, but then turns into an exceedingly creepy and disturbing tale. Sudeikis shows great range by going through a character transformation from a totally chill bar owner into an unstable, controlling sociopath. It’s unpleasant to watch because you’ll come to realize that none of the characters are particularly likeable in the first place.

“Colossal” suffers from two considerable flaws that I find impossible to overlook. One, the film has some serious pacing issues. It’s slow to start and takes nearly half an hour before it gains footing and things start to pick up. Two, writer / director Nacho Vigalondo tries so desperately to explain every little thing in the story by attempting to wrap up the multitude of plot lines, but he ends up creating even more gaping plot holes in his wake. This would be a much stronger movie if not so many explanations were given. To this end, half of the film is cleverly executed but the other half nearly sinks the entire project.

And that’s where the movie really stumbles: in the details. There are lots of important particulars and specifics that go unanswered, and it’s such a big deal that you simply can’t ignore it. Even the eventual reveal as to the “why?” of Gloria’s connection to the monster doesn’t make much logical sense, and it’s more than a little dumb (and a bit lazy) in terms of screenwriting.

Still, this is one clever and original movie that is worth seeing. Do yourself a favor and don’t read any reviews or watch any previews before you see it. I’ve tried to make this write-up spoiler free because the true joy of this one is in the discovery.

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“Masterminds”

LOUISA: 5 STARS MATT: 5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

I’m still laughing the day after seeing “Masterminds,” the latest wackadoodle comedy from director Jared Hess. This one is an audience divider for sure (our screening had a walkout), but if you enjoyed any of Hess’ previous work (“Nacho Libre,” “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Gentlemen Broncos“), you’ll probably like this one.

The bizarre humor is targeted to a very, very specific audience (during most of our busy screening, Matt and I were the only two people in the audience who were laughing), and those who are familiar with the Southern way of life will find an even deeper appreciation of the humor. I laughed heartily and consistently throughout the movie from beginning to end, and I have no qualms declaring “Masterminds” not only one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in years but THE funniest movie of 2016.

This action / comedy is loosely based on the true story of David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis), a regular Joe who works (well, used to work) for an armored transport company in North Carolina in the late 1990s. When David develops an unrequited crush on co-worker Kelly (Kristen Wiig), she and her white trash criminal friend Steve (Owen Wilson) lure him into robbing the company. Turns out, this robbery was one of the biggest in U.S. history with a record-breaking $17 million stolen by this one dude and his not-so-smart ‘masterminds’ behind the operation.

This is wacky niche comedy done correctly, and the film never hits a wrong note with its bumbling quirkiness. It’s loaded with very physical slapstick comedy and perfectly ridiculous deadpan humor. You have to pay attention to discover and appreciate the humor, it’s not spelled out for you.

Galifianakis is funny to look at anyway, but watching him prance around in a 60s cowboy outfit while strutting down the street in Mexico is campy gold. Add in the pedigreed supporting cast and you’ve got yourself the perfect comedy. There are reliably kooky turns from Jason Sudeikis as a slightly inept lunkheaded hitman, Leslie Jones as a sass-talking special agent, Kate McKinnon as a flatulent weirdo (seriously, this lady is a national comedy treasure), and an all too brief stint from Ken Marino as an FBI informant neighbor. With a cast like this, you can’t go wrong.

This movie is darkly funny and loaded with white trash jokes that are riotous because they are based in truth. (Just wait until you see Steve’s high-rise double wide). This movie reminds me so much of this year’s hysterical “The Bronze,” only without the vulgarity.

Without a doubt this is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen, and I will be quoting it for the rest of my life. I was laughing so hard that I had tears streaming down my face more than a handful of times (yes, really). I highly encourage you to see this one if you laugh at the absurd.

MATT SAYS:

They say that truth is stranger than fiction. They also say that “Masterminds,” the new movie from director Jared Hess (“Napoleon Dynamite“, “Gentleman Broncos“) is based on a true story. How much of it is true and how much of it is fiction I don’t know, but what I do know is this: “Masterminds” is one wild, hilariously funny movie. And boy is it ever strange.

Zach Galifianakis plays David Ghantt, a southern boy with very low ambitions who works for an armored car company. David becomes infatuated with sometime coworker Kelly (Kristen Wiig), who on behalf of her friend Steve (Owen Wilson) talks David in to stealing money from the company vault. $17 million worth, to be exact, making it one of the largest cash robberies ever on American soil. The actual theft goes off unusually well; it’s what happens after, when the co-conspirators must face the reality of having suddenly become obscenely wealthy, that things start to get really crazy.

And I do mean crazy. Masterfully madcap crazy. These good ol’ boys and girls from North Carolina, having spent most of their lives in trailer parks (including a “high rise double wide”), have absolutely no self-control. David gets shipped off to Mexico by the crew with a very small cut of the money while the others live the high life, the kind of which these formerly poor rednecks could only dream about. As the southern folks would say, they are “country come to town.” They spend extravagantly, buy expensive toys, and wear “fancy” clothes. When they become worried that Ghantt is going to finger them for their participation in the robbery, they hire the services of an insane and inept hit man to take him out of the picture. Put simply, they can’t cope with being rich and act like fools.

I’m not from the South but Louisa is. Having lived with her for a long time, I think I have a better idea than most about Southern culture. Having this perspective is probably essential to appreciating “Masterminds,” which has a bit of a Foxworthian sense of humor. Not that all of the jokes are cultural, necessarily; there are quite a few bits that are funny all on their own, without reference to background.

As a comedy, “Masterminds” is incredibly well-constructed. The characters are not one-dimensional and the film expertly walks the line between playing to stereotypes and devolving into caricature. Scenes are set up and people act according to type and personality, and the comedy flows naturally from it. Galifianakis is perfectly cast as Ghantt, playing the part with a pitch-perfect sense of timing and delivery. Wiig is reliably strong but is easily outshined by her “Ghostbusters” costar Kate McKinnon. Jason Sudeikis is hilarious as the hitman, and Ken Marino is given very little to do but has one of the best side-splitting scenes in the movie.

I realize humor is subjective. Many people are going to scratch their heads at “Masterminds,” and lots of people won’t enjoy it (our screening featured only one outright walkout but Louisa and I were mostly the only ones laughing). Having given you that warning, I will say with confidence: “Masterminds” not only tops “The Bronze” as the funniest movie of 2016, it is one of the funniest movies of this decade.

“The Angry Birds Movie”

LOUISA: 2 STARS  MATT: 1 STAR


LOUISA SAYS:

Adding to the cinematic animated clutter based on once popular games, “The Angry Birds Movie” is one that I was dreading to watch. Was anybody really clamoring for a movie based on this game? Apparently so, according to the film’s $40 million opening weekend.

I’ve never played the game on which this film is based so I’m not sure if avid fans of the app would find more to like, but I can tell you that as a casual observer, this isn’t a very good film. The animation and the voice talent isn’t the problem: it’s the paper thin story that ultimately leads to the movie’s failure.

The film is set on bird island, a beautiful sanctuary in the middle of a crystal clear ocean. Red (Jason Sudeikis) is a lonely bird with some serious anger management issues. When his temper lands him in a relaxation class with fellow angries Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride), the outsiders form an offbeat friendship. When a couple of mysterious pirate ships arrive with green pigs at the helm (pigs who want to steal and eat all of the baby bird eggs), our feathered heroes have to swoop in and save the day from the evil piggies. And that, my friends, is the entire plot.

Most of the second half of the film is stuffed with situations and scenes taken from the popular game. I didn’t know for sure at first, but quickly figured it out because everything in the final action sequences felt out of place and tacked on. There are obvious inclusions that make zero sense to the story (slingshots, bombs, flying birds, etc.). It’s a shame because the characters are, dare I say it, likeable and actually a little bit lovable! Evil head pig Leonard (Bill Hader), Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage), Judge Peckinpah (Keegan-Michael Key) and Matilda (Maya Rudolph) are pretty good characters. Of course most of this success lies with the actors who lend their voices to bring these birds to life. They are undoubtedly talented and they give it their all, but so much more could’ve been done with the story. They, and these characters, deserved more.

There’s a lot of modern-day sass talking and groan-inducing bird related puns (“what the flock?” / “pluck my life“) for the adults, and most attempts at humor fall flatter than a pancake. A majority of the film’s first 30 minutes feels like nothing more than an advertisement for the soundtrack (there are several weird musical interludes that are “written” into the story, making the songs the centerpiece of the action) while the last part of the film is nothing more than an ad for the game. There just isn’t much going on to keep anyone engaged.

It’s not all awful: the biggest surprise here is the skillful animation! You’d expect a kid’s movie like this to be slapped together with the usual Hollywood half-assery in the visual department but it’s not: the animation is vibrant, polished and beautifully textured. Say what you will about the film but it’s really, really gorgeous to look at. What a shame that it’s wasted on such drivel.

I’m awarding it two stars solely for the skillful animation and the proficient voice talent. Bottom line: this movie makes no damn sense but it sure is pretty.

MATT SAYS:

Okay, so I understand that you are contractually obligated (it’s part of the parent-child contract) to take your kids to see “The Angry Birds Movie.” So the question you should be asking me is not whether it’s any good, but whether alcohol or other substances will significantly improve your viewing experience.

Sadly, the answer is a resounding “no.” This movie sucks. It’s yet another example of a kid movie that is made with very little consideration given to the parents that are being dragged to see it. Yes, in the tradition of every such movie made since “Shrek,” there are a couple of throwaway “adult” jokes, but they are relatively few and far between — and they aren’t funny.

Okay, you might say, but I love playing Angry Birds. Is it possible I might enjoy it, as an aficionado of the game?

Again, the answer is “no.” Yes, the theme song is used from time-to-time. Yes, many of the birds you love are in the movie, exhibiting the characteristics that make the game so fun. Yes, the Bad Piggies are here, and there is even an extended scene of the birds destroying the Piggies’ structures (just like in the game!!!). But that doesn’t make the film any good.

“The Angry Birds Movie” starts out kinda okay, with some decent jokes interspersed between the plot exposition… aaaand then, it starts to suck. It gets stupid, and boring. Nothing much happens for about an hour. You get Josh Gad trying (unsuccessfully) to do a voice that isn’t Olaf. There are multiple unfunny sight gags that don’t reward the attentive viewer. The head honchos at Rovio (the company that made the game) get satiated by multiple references to their app, and then it’s over. That’s about it.

Not even a generous helping of wine (Adaptation Petite Sirah 2013 — it’s amazing, you should try it) could make this movie more enjoyable. If you can get away with sending your kids with their friends’ parents so that you don’t have to go, it will be a significant victory for you.

 

“Mother’s Day”

LOUISA: HALF STAR    MATT: 1 STAR


LOUISA SAYS:

Do you really need to read a review of “Mother’s Day,” the latest holiday-centric, career killer ensemble film? Don’t we all just expect these movies to be awful since the bar is already set super low? In what’s billed as a supposed ‘celebration of mothers everywhere,’ this stinker of a movie is not even worthy of a rental. In fact, if you take your mom to see this junk it’s more like an insult than a ‘celebration.’

This dud is a poor excuse for a ‘comedy.’ It’s not funny, it’s not heartwarming, it’s not touching, it’s just plain bad. The movie feels like it was made in a by-the-book sitcom factory, churned out on an assembly line for the low IQ set. It’s uninspired, vapid, and has zero reason to exist. This is a stupid movie made to pander to stupid people. Even the storyline setups, all designed to ensure the characters’ lives eventually intersect, are overly clichéd.

Jennifer Aniston and Timothy Olyphant play a friendly divorced couple with two sons (and he with a new twentysomething wife), whose paths cross with gym owner and widower Jason Sudeikis (who has — wait for it– two GIRLS! Wow, I wonder where this story is going?!??).

The always unpleasant Julia Roberts, wearing a harshly styled redhead wig, is a popular Home Shopping Network saleswoman. A big deal is made of the fact that she’s a childless career woman. Jump to another dopey storyline about bar waitress Kristin (Britt Robertson) and her wannabe comedian boyfriend Zack (Jack Whitehall), new parents with a baby girl. Kristin mentions that she was adopted and never knew her birth mother. What’s that you say? Is she planning to track down her birth mom? How did you know?! Bet you can guess who her mom is too!

The storyline that takes the cake centers around Jesse (Kate Hudson) and Gabi (Sarah Chalke), two sisters who moved from Texas to Atlanta to escape their bigoted parents Flo and Earl (Margo Martindale and Robert Pine). Jesse is married to an Indian man (Aasif Mandvi) and has a son while Gabi is gay and a married mom herself. An unexpected visit from their rv-loving mom and dad causes all hell to break loose. Martindale and Pine play the parents with a bizarrely cartoonish, over-the-top delivery style. They talk like simpletons and at times it feels like they are yelling their lines so the 70 year old racist homophobe in the back row of the theater can hear them clearly. Their dialogue is particularly antiquated and pointless; their story borderline offensive.

Loni Love shows up as a wise-cracking African American friend — it’s like you could practically hear the film’s producers worrying that they needed to cast a black character because wait a minute, this story is set in Atlanta! There are a few other cameos from Hector ElizondoJennifer Garner and Jon Lovitz (I feel like they deserve to be mentioned so they can be publicly shamed for participating in this crap). No doubt this is a talented cast, but it’s also a cast that gives the impression that they are simply giving up on their careers. Were the actors that hard up for a film role that they agreed to be in this rubbish? It appears so.

The characters repeatedly mention the city of Atlanta for no reason whatsoever, leading me to believe the producers must’ve had an agreement where they got paid whenever Georgia was mentioned in the movie. It started to get funny after the fourth or fifth mention (if you are forced to go to see this movie you can play a game and keep a running count of the mentions)!

Ensemble holiday movies can be mildly amusing (“New Year’s Eve“) or even first-class instant classics (“Love Actually“), but taking on Mother’s Day feels like a desperate money grab of the worst kind. I wasted nearly 2 hours of my life watching this film but at least my sacrifice can do some good in the world. If I can keep just one person from seeing this movie, my work is done. If you love your mom, give her a call, send her a card, take her to lunch. Don’t take her to this movie.

MATT SAYS:

“Mother’s Day” is more fun than watching paint dry, but only slightly. And only because of how unintentionally terrible and ridiculous it is.

Like the holiday-themed movies “New Year’s Eve” and “Valentine’s Day” before it, “Mother’s Day” is another movie that follows a number of different characters in the days and hours leading up to the big day. And like those movies, the stories in “Mother’s Day” eventually intersect with one another in eye-rollingly predictable ways. In choosing a holiday as a framing device for an overlapping narrative revolving around a variety of different characters, all of these films attempt to imitate the success of “Love Actually,” but do so poorly.  And “Mother’s Day” is by the worst one yet.

The movie isn’t populated with characters so much as caricatures. The film either looks through rose-colored lenses at a highly idealized version of life, or creates highly contrived conflicts that ring so falsely in our ears. The people populating “Mother’s Day” don’t resemble anyone we know, and consequently there is zero emotional resonance. The plot developments are so obvious that every “surprise” is anything but, and you find yourself waiting for each of your internal predictions about these characters to come true. It’s a paint-by-numbers script that wasn’t so much written as assembled.

In fact, the only thing I really enjoyed about this movie was laughing at it (and not with it). If it wasn’t the beating-you-over-the-head product placement, it was the writing, or the “record scratch” laugh cues for the audience, or the completely inauthentic and unbelievably false reactions background actors and sometimes even the principal cast. It was universally bad.

I do have to say, however, that this movie featured one of the most unintentionally funny secondary characters of any film in recent memory, and this guy single-handedly kept me from walking out. The man who played Earl, the dad of Kate Hudson’s character (Robert Pine) was ridiculously hilarious. To call his performance a caricature is to understate it. If Gabby Hayes, Yosemite Sam, and Foghorn Leghorn had a bastard love child together, he would sound something like Earl. If any one character from any one film ever deserved a supercut of all of his screen time, it’s Earl.

“Race”

LOUISA:   2 STARS    MATT:  1.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

The true story of American Olympian Jesse Owens is such an interesting subject, and “Race” attempts to tackle it from the starting line of Owens’ first day as a college student at Ohio State. What a shame that his story is wasted on such a disappointing movie. I feel a bit un-American for having to write a negative review of this movie because Owens broke so many barriers at the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, Germany, but this overly long and poorly made film is a bust.

How poorly made is it? Well, in several scenes you can see the boom microphone used by the film crew. In another you can clearly see the reflection of a modern-day cameraman in a mirror. If the filmmakers had such little care and respect for their movie, how can they expect audiences to? The mundane direction and overuse of slow motion and sound gimmicks from director Stephen Hopkins adds to the snoozefest. Stephan James does a fine job as Jesse, and Jeremy Irons and William Hurt add some prestige in their supporting roles. As much as I adore Jason Sudeikis, the guy isn’t strong enough for a big dramatic role like this. There were times when I felt sorry for him and just had to look away from the screen.

You’d think that in a two and a half hour movie we’d see much more of Owens’ story. I wanted a deeper exploration into what would’ve happened if he had decided to boycott the Olympics as the NAACP suggested. I wanted to know more about his relationships with his Olympic teammates. I wanted to learn about his feelings of the German culture. There’s a lot to admire about this tremendous athlete and I wanted to know more. Instead, the movie gets sidetracked with several secondary plotlines that focus on the American Olympic Committee, coach Larry Snyder (Sudeikis), propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels (Barnaby Metschurat), and a bizarre narrative about the struggles that Hitler’s favorite filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl (Carice van Houten), endured while filming her classic Nazi propaganda documentary “Olympia.”

I didn’t hate everything about the movie: the scenes at the Berlin games were intriguing and the history presented made me want to research more after it was over. But the clever title suggests an interesting dialogue will be presented about race relations throughout history and today — and it is, sort of. But so much more could’ve been done with the movie. In the end, I found the message that you can and should simply “tune out” any unpleasant racist comments pretty offensive.

MATT SAYS:

After just having seen the excellent “Eddie the Eagle” — another story about an Olympian — I had high hopes for this one. Most of us know something about the Jesse Owens story, and I was excited to see what they would do with it on the big screen. Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed.

It’s not the subject matter that makes this movie bad; it’s the choices of the filmmakers. This movie feels like it was slapped together in a hurry. They’ve taken the amazing story of one of the greatest-ever American athletes, who traveled to the hyper-racist Nazi Germany in 1936 to represent his country in the Olympics, and made it a dull, also-ran, by-the-numbers biopic.

There were some good points in the movie and genuine moments of tension, but they were largely outnumbered. If you’re interested in the Jesse Owens story, buy a book about him and skip this movie.