Tag Archives: Maya Rudolph

“My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea”

LOUISA: 3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

The trippy indie animated movie “My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea” feels a heck of a lot like it was dreamed up during an artistic hipster’s drug induced stupor. The film, written and directed by graphic novelist Dash Shaw, is an apocalyptic mind-bender about the many reasons why high school totally sucks.

The movie takes a look at one truly terrible day in the life of high school junior Dash (Jason Schwartzman), his nerdy best friend Assaf (Reggie Watts), high strung school paper editor Verti (Maya Rudolph), and popular girl Mary (Lena Dunham). When an earthquake suddenly strikes, it sends their high school crumbling into the sea, and the kids must reach the senior level of the building before it’s too late. The gang encounters sharks, jellyfish, a jock-led cult, drug seeking bullies, and more, eventually enlisting the help of tough Lunch Lady Lorraine (Susan Sarandon) to lead their escape to safety.

The simple plot is fattened up with extraneous padding in order to get to a feature length runtime of (an already brief) 75 minutes. The film is at its best when dark humor rules the scenes with a subversive snark; what a pity the idea starts to feel stretched too thin by the halfway point.

This is a really weird movie that’s packed with a kaleidoscopic vibe and psychedelic visuals that at times reads like a piece of experimental visual art. The eccentric backgrounds are colorful and delightfully garish, with inventive screen burns, crude hand-colored characters, and bits of digitally created handiwork thrown in the mix.

Shaw utilizes various media types to create a boldly original work of art, from uncomplicated pen and ink line drawings filled in with crayon and chalk to finger paint and dribbling watercolors. The action sequences rely heavily on the use of strobe lights, and there’s even a pre-credits warning that people with epilepsy may need to exit the theater.

This is a gonzo spirited adolescent disaster movie that artistic types are guaranteed to love.

“Maggie’s Plan”

LOUISA: 2 STARS MATT: 2 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

In the latest indie to set itself out as an ‘intelligent’ alternative to the classic formulaic rom-com, “Maggie’s Plan” aims high, makes a strong effort, but sadly fails. It feels like another one of Woody Allen’s more cleverless films, one that has decent enough writing but struggles to elicit any genuine laughs.(This film is written and directed by Rebecca Miller, adapted from the original Karen Rinaldi story).

Everyone’s favorite quirky hipster actress, Greta Gerwig, is perfectly cast at the titular character. Her charming demeanor works and plays well off of Ethan Hawke, who turns in one of his best performances as a professor of ficto-critical anthropology (if you find his title hysterically funny then you, my friend, are the target audience for this movie), and Julianne Moore (as a brilliant yet cold Columbia professor). The cast gives it their all; too bad these actors don’t have a better script to work with.

This messy and uneven film can’t seem to make up its mind regarding the overall tone. It’s part screwball comedy, part hipster philosophy and part family dramedy. There’s a huge emphasis on a toddler (the admittedly cute Ida Rohatyn) that was lost on me as a non-parent. I think the kid stuff is just too much and is completely unnecessary to the story.

Maya Rudolph and Bill Hader are wasted in unremarkable supporting roles; their characters are never developed and seem to exist solely for a few punchlines (that aren’t very funny). There’s only a shell of a plot and not much ever happens in relation to it. The film is just a bunch of talking and a string of cute incidents that are all (sort of) related to Maggie’s big plan. The film is very strained and the big “twist” ending is something that only a true moron couldn’t see coming from a mile away.

I didn’t hate this movie but I also can’t figure out who in the world to recommend it to. Maybe it would make a decent rental if you’re a fan of Gerwig or Hawke.

MATT SAYS:

Indie cinema “it” girl Greta Gerwig stars in the new movie from Rebecca Miller (“The Ballad of Jack and Rose“). While it’s sort of interesting and mildly entertaining, there isn’t a whole lot going on in “Maggie’s Plan.”

Maggie is an educator at a local community college in New York. Maggie becomes smitten with John (Ethan Hawke), a well-liked anthropology professor that is working on a new fiction novel. John is married to and has kids with Columbia professor Georgette (Julianne Moore), but leaves Georgette for the youthful Maggie. After a couple of years with him, Maggie grows tired of John, who is too self-absorbed to ever pay any attention to her. Realizing that Georgette is still in love with John, Maggie plays matchmaker and works to get the two back together so that she can get John out of her life, guilt-free. This is all in the trailer, so I’m not spoiling anything.

These are mildly interesting characters dealing with modern problems in a New York filled with hipsters and intelligentsia (the always-delightful Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph have minor roles as the latter but are, truthfully, wasted in this movie) who are too smart for their own good. Despite their impressive educations, when it comes to relationships they are clearly emotionally stunted, dealing with their problems no better than adolescents. The idea is kinda fun on paper, but in execution it’s not all that compelling.

Gerwig and Hawke turn in reliably solid performances, but neither of them really shine. Moore appears to be channeling Maude, her heavily-accented, odd-duck character from “The Big Lebowski,” which makes her too performance too distracting to appreciate. The movie works okay as a diversion from loud summer spectacles, but is not good enough to make any lasting impression.

“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.

 

Sundance Recap: “Mr. Pig”

LOUISA:    3 STARS       MATT:   2.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

“Mr. Pig” had a loose working script and it shows. This movie is in need of some serious content editing (the constant drinking scenes, leisurely driving shots and an overly long dinner scene at a pig farm could all be cut to help the story move along). Oddly enough, I found myself bored to tears in places but then riveted in others.

Writer-director Diego Luna has a lovely eye for directing, but the overuse of handheld camera shots and popular music were both super distracting to the point that both really hurt this movie. Danny Glover and Maya Rudolph give convincing, touching performances as an estranged father and daughter who find themselves on ‘one last hurrah’ road trip through Jalisco, Mexico that turns into a journey to find forgiveness and joy.

The themes are heavy, delving deep into the mechanics of emotion in human relationships with our parents (and with animals), ultimately exploring compassion when it comes to our own mortality and a basic understanding that humans and animals should all die with dignity.

MATT SAYS:

An elderly displaced farmer (Danny Glover) sets out with his hog, Howard, on a road trip to Mexico where he is joined by his estranged daughter (Maya Rudolph). Traveling through Jalisco, the three have a chance to bond and reconcile.

“Mr. Pig” is a skillfully-directed meandering meditation on the importance of finding fun and joy in life. The problem is that it’s TOO meandering. There’s some good stuff here — particularly some memorable scenes between the farmer and his hog — but this movie (like many at Sundance) is about 45 minutes of content stretched out over 90 minutes. Stretching for “feature length” is a common problem with Sundance filmmakers, and watering down a story always results in a far less compelling movie. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was bored during parts of the movie — I wasn’t — but I wasn’t fully engaged, either.