I went into The Internship having a hard time looking past its one note joke premise involving two out of place funny men working at Google. But, it was the comedy’s first couple of scenes that made me question if I was going to be eating crow by the end credits. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson playing Billy and Nick – a couple of out-of-touch, amusingly snide and bitter watch salesmen – were making me laugh.
The film is directed by Shawn Levy, the director who brought audiences Date Night. During the first half hour of The Internship, I was getting the same type of laughs Date Night offered at an identical pace. The comedy wasn’t anything to write home about, but the amount of consistent snickers the film was handing out surprised me.
It also helps that Vaughn and Wilson work well together. Even though Wedding Crashers is one of the most overrated movies of the past decade, they apparently used that experience to find a comedic wavelength that works. Their chemistry isn’t staggering and both performances play off as a legitimate, workable routine.
There’s that word, however. Routine. It’s funny how a simple enough word like “routine” can point out a strength and then be turned into a criticism that can be applied to the rest of the movie.
“That has to be the most typical movie I’ve seen in a while,” my wife said once the last frame faded out. She’s right. The movie is incredibly ordinary and doesn’t allow anything interesting to happen. It’s practically a no-fly zone for laughter once the boys head to Google.
The quick timing between Vaughn and Wilson is put to use through a derivative plot featuring an underdog team of interns fighting for employment against other competitive smart alecks. When the underdogs are alone with each other working on projects, the humour focuses on the age gap between our leads and the rest of the young team as well as how recent technological advancements are leaving Billy and Nick in the dust.
The screenplay, written by Vaughn and Jared Stern, is shy and rudimentary. Its tameness ties down Vaughn and Wilson to stay within the confines of a PG-13 rating and not go to the lengths they did in the aforementioned R-rated romp. I wasn’t looking for the film to push buttons and limits, but I hate to see talent restrained and yielded.
It’s clear to see that the two quick-witted leading men like to stay on their toes and compete in games of verbal ping-pong; even if that means veering away from the written material. The ultimate rule of comedy is timing, however, and the ample games of ping-pong stumble when the younger cast gets involved with Vaughn and Wilson’s shenanigans.
I had a similar problem when I reviewed a Canadian comedy titled Lloyd the Conquerer. It was constantly apparent who was skilled in comedy and who needed more rehearsal time. It’s the same deal with The Internship. I didn’t care for the stereotypes Billy and Nick were paired up with and found the whole ordeal to be a strain as it clocked in at two hours.
The Internship feels dated too; as if the film’s script had been gradually written over a number of years. For example, one level of the competition involves teams going head-to-head in a Quidditch match. The Harry Potter homage is every bit as out of place as it sounds.
That said, I’ll take the discombobulated pop culture details over the tremendously tasteless bits about Tobit Raphael’s loner intern dealing with his abusive pushy mother and his unmentioned trichotillomania. All played for laughs, ladies and gentlemen.
The Internship isn’t worth giving a hoot about, but it’s still dissatisfying to see a film as lofty and lazy as this. It suffers through evident, easily avoidable errors with an unwillingness to step outside the box.
The Lifeguard deals with the discouraging feeling of going nowhere and the urge to flee home for comfort. It’s a circumstance that some of us may be all too familiar with; especially those who are fresh out of their post-secondary education. Liz W. Garcia’s film, however, gets very little right about events that take place after the retreat to a personal turf.
Garcia is able to capture that initial awkwardness that ensues when returning home after being away for so long. Kristen Bell plays troubled Leigh – admirably taking a riskier role than usual – and sinks into a position that calls on her to be a 29-year-old journalist who likes the idea of reliving carefree days. The “real world” is not appreciating her, and she captures that essence of defeated strandedness well.
Another quality Bell and Garcia succeed with is during those first meet ups with old friends. Todd (played by Martin Starr) is comfortably coasting by and Mel (played by Mamie Gummer) is a high school vice principal. An introduction to Mel at her school is used to smoothly transition into an adult after school social. Garcia has a cast who convincingly click with each other. It’s very easy to believe this friendly gang has a history.
I got a lot of vibes from The Lifeguard that I did when I watched Jason Reitman’s Young Adult. The only difference is that Garcia’s study on people who won’t allow the past to rest didn’t make my ears steam out of anger as I did during Reitman’s absolutely unlikeable, misguided dark comedy. The Lifeguard did make me cross though. It put a bad taste in my mouth as I waited for ages for any of the allegedly levelheaded characters to speak up.
The problem is that Garcia lets Leigh’s bad decisions go on for too long. Outside of catching up, one of Mel’s 16-year-old students (Jason played by David Lambert) catches Leigh’s eye. As she finds herself recollecting her years as a teenager, Mel and Jason spend lots of time with each other and soon form a relationship that becomes less hidden as more friends witness the attachment.
All signs of a character study or of a coming-of-age film are thrown out as the scenarios prolong and stay pedophilic, making any sympathy towards Bell’s character evaporate.
There are two voices of reason: Mel and Mel’s husband, John. When Mel sees the sketchiness while smoking pot, she mentions it to Leigh and warns her of what she would have to act upon as a vice-principal. Leigh tells her she’s stoned, and Mel shrugs and forgets she brought it up.
How about John? Can he talk any reason into anyone? Perhaps, but Joshua Harto has been directed to play John as an irritating bellowing hothead and Mel keeps insisting he needs to chill out – he does while scoffing.
Can I, the aggravated viewer, talk sense into anyone? I tried, but the movie couldn’t hear me through the screen.
The Lifeguard is the type of movie where every character will make you want to shake them while telling them to smarten up. Around these moments where no one brings up the obvious, Garcia stretches scenes out of rambling lollygagging that’s supposed to add realism to hanging out. It only made me impatient.
The film also does that thing run-of-the-mill independent movies do which is play hazy indie music over cutaways of these people being free spirited and happy to persuade movie goers into thinking what they’re watching is of substance or depth. A few of these are fine. They stabilize just how unknowing these people really are and how they live in the moment. The Lifeguard has too many of these to suit a film that was doing everything it could to bring me out of a filthy funk.
After waiting and waiting, consequences are finally welcomed in. That said, these bits of redemption happen within the last 15 minutes of the movie. They occur way too late to turn anyone’s negative perceptions around.
Liz W. Garcia’s The Lifeguard does so much wrong that otherwise smother the snippets of truth in the silver lining of the movie. It’s a major misfortune in something that could’ve been effortlessly relatable.
This past Summer, R.I.P.D. received poisonous word-of-mouth and was considered a box office bomb. But, it wasn’t enough to push me away from seeing it.
Call me a fool, but R.I.P.D. looked like it was up my alley. It looked like something I would want to see during some sunny doldrums. It looked like the right type of escapism that could be compared to the likes of Mystery Men.
Now, having watched R.I.P.D., I understand what those disgruntled movie goers are thinking. I don’t necessarily agree wholeheartedly and I certainly don’t think Robert Schwentke’s action-fantasy flick is one of the worst things I’ve seen this year, but R.I.P.D.‘s has it’s lacklustre priorities twisted, leading to the film shooting itself in the foot.
The good news is that Schwentke knows what kind of movie he wants to make, and it is the kind of movie I was looking for. It’s vibrant, imaginative, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. If I was eight or younger, I would eat this up.
That said, it’s far too determined to not resemble anything else. It’s easy for a film like R.I.P.D. to be aware of this. Many have compared the outline to Men in Black. While R.I.P.D. is about two dead officers – one being new to the job and the other a colourful veteran – who protect the Earth from fallen spirits disguised as grimy creatures, Schwentke’s movie could stand on its own. It sounds very close – and even looks undeniably similar – to Barry Sonnenfeld’s sci-fi capers, but R.I.P.D. strays away from that formula to follow crime movie clichés. It’s common territory, but there’s enough zest in its action that would’ve separated it from everything else.
However, R.I.P.D. does all it can to make its viewers believe its nothing like Men in Black. The story gets overwrought with a plot that involves stolen gold, and the chemistry between leads Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges clashes too often to believe these guys could ever form a buddy relationship. Whenever Bridges curmudgeonly gnaws on dialogue with an incomprehensible speech pattern, I wished I was watching a better variation of this performance in the Coen Brothers’ remake of True Grit.
The attempts at humour are limp and have trouble fitting in the complicated and accident prone screenplay written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. Gags involving the creatures’ intolerance to Indian food had me befuddled and scratching my head, as well as those jokes about Bridges’ obsession with women’s ankles. Who would find this funny?
Finally, when the film is huffing and puffing after trying to persuade movie goers that they are not watching a knock off of Men in Black, the viewers look right back and question why the film resembles Ghostbusters.
All the work Schwentke and his screenwriters have chiseled away at – including an epic battle where creatures are running rampid through the streets of Boston – ends up being counter-productive. It completely forgets that by driving the film away from a few reference points means that it could possibly end up emulating something completely different. In this case, a more memorable film and the most cherished sacred cow of comedic fantasies.
If R.I.P.D. hadn’t been so self-conscious and taken a breath, the film could’ve let its hair down and been its own adventure. There was a healthy dose of potential. It’s too bad it was squandered.
Jason Osder has taken on an anti-talking heads format with his striking documentary Let the Fire Burn and it pays off big time.
The filmmaker chronicles the societal shakes that took place in Philadelphia during the late seventies through to the mid-eighties initiated by MOVE. Members of MOVE would call the collective an organization inhabiting a peaceful, non-violent state-of-mind. Others wouldn’t hesitate to call MOVE a cult with harassing methods bordering on terrorism.
Using nothing but media coverage, Osder shows us first-hand what happened while also giving us video documented testimonies given by those who were involved with MOVE, bystanders that were roped into the group’s intimidating ways, and the law willing to put an end to potential danger. Movie goers are then transported to those pivotal events through flashbacks caught on camera by locals or news teams. Every now and then, subtitles are brought in to glue information together.
Cutting out staged interviews and modern reflections for the purpose of the documentary allows Osder to open the narrative naturally, letting the eyewitness footage speak for itself. The visuals from older generation equipment pack a severe punch while giving the film an aged appearance, especially during those tense shoot outs between the police and MOVE. It’s even more nerving since the older case shown in Let the Fire Burn has unsettling relevance once we see each side of the story.
Editor Nels Bangerter issues exceptional work with Let the Fire Burn. The events shown are that out of a wired thriller. It’s because these real life situations have been cut in such a way that adds a deeply effective overall tension. However, Bangerter is very careful not to dampen the facts. His skills, along with Osder’s vision, push Let the Fire Burn into a special type of doc that many – including myself – have never seen before.
As someone who didn’t know about MOVE or the tragedies that took place in Philadelphia, I was riveted. Not since this year’s A Hijacking have I been this nervously attached to a movie from start to finish. I particularly admired the film’s ability to teach while generating senses of paranoia and anxiety. I was willing – and wanting – to learn more as the movie progressed, but at the same time, I was scared for what would happen next.
I still think you can only go so deep into a subject by strictly using stock footage. On an involvement level, there is a barrier stopping us from knowing much more about MOVE and other content beyond the subtitles. But for having the guts to take this approach and to excel as much as Jason Osder’s film does makes Let the Fire Burn one of 2013′s top docs.
Hank Azaria – really is – a talented individual. Out of all the projects that would’ve convinced me of this, I never thought a sequel to 2011′s big screen treatment of The Smurfs would bring on this revelation.
We’ve all seen actors converse and interact with cartoons in real life environments in movies. However, even the most physically capable slapstick performers have had their troubles convincing us these creations are real. I immediately think of Jim Carrey’s floundering in Mr. Popper’s Penguins.
Azaria, on the other hand, is able to make his scenes enjoyable while also impressing us with his ability to incorporate the imaginable. I was first shocked during a scene where Azaria (who plays Gargamel, the Smurfs nemesis) talks to his snarky feline and two of his “Naughties”, two new mean Smurf creations set out to kidnap Smurfette. I couldn’t help but be floored by how well he was performing, for a guy who’s essentially talking with himself. Say what you want about its context, but these moments of zeal made The Smurfs 2 worth the watch alone.
The film itself is fairly mediocre but harmless. It’s exactly what I expected from director Raja Gosnell, a man who brought movie goers Scooby Doo and Beverly Hills Chihuahua. It’s easy to take in and offers plenty of thrills and adventure for very young children.
The Smurfs 2 also doesn’t feel like a film that’s out to money grub. I’m sure the merchandise sales are nice, but the production has put enough focus on a decent story with a digestible – if conventional – message about family. Gosnell does all this with sincerity, even if these instances are preceded by obvious 3D set pieces and silly action sequences.
This was my first ride with the movie version of the Smurfs, so it was interesting to see how they were assembled for a big screen adaptation. The computer effects are integrated very well into real life, but the writing was lacking that certain pop the visuals held.
All of the jokes among the Smurfs consist of word substitutes for “Smurf” or a little blue guy saying something that suits their name (Social Smurf says something about “Smurfbook”, Passive Aggressive Smurf says something with a double entendre, and so on). This may be for children, but even these soft punchlines feel a bit too easy for its target audience.
I also would’ve preferred if the film hadn’t set viewers up with a group of the most two-dimensional Smurfs. Papa Smurf makes for a good and likeable leader on a quest to rescue Smurfette, but Vanity Smurf, Clumsy Smurf, and Grouchy Smurf are noxious and offer very little to the sequel.
As far as the human cast rounds out, Brendan Gleeson and Jayma Mays are having a blast entertaining young movie goers – even if that means acting as big hams. But, for some reason, The Smurfs 2 calls for Neil Patrick Harris to moan and complain throughout the movie. The usually energetic Harris doesn’t hide the fact that he’d rather be having a happier time.
The Smurfs 2 is too long, but the showy sequel is going to please those who are fans of The Smurfs. Meanwhile, others who may be new to Gosnell’s version of The Smurfs may find themselves neutral with the movie. For instance, I understand the film has met it’s expectations, but I would be perfectly content if this was the last Smurfs movie.
It’s not, however. According to sources, audiences will be getting yet another Smurfs movie in 2015. Hopefully, there’s a change of heart and movie goers get a Gargamel spin-off instead.
While I try hard not to make the obvious crack at a movie, Hansel & Gretel Get Baked really does feel like a movie that’s been conceived by a bunch of stoners progressively coming down from their rich buzz.
It begins on ecstatic notes. For one, Duane Journey’s horror/comedy has some delicious gore that had me squirming. It’s the type of execution that sets the tone for how much of a riot Hansel & Gretel Get Baked will hopefully become. The disgusting details in these kills don’t overstay. The great effects linger just long enough to leave an impression and your face in contorts.
Inflicting the pain is a witch disguised as a marijuana peddling old woman named Agnes. Lara Flynn Boyle plays the role with utmost joy; almost like she’s been waiting for a role like this. The production has caked so much withered make-up onto her face that she successfully stays incognito and pulls off a fun performance that’s consistently campy.
Molly Quinn and Michael Welch as a modernized Gretel and Hansel have no chemistry with each other and fail at making these characters interesting in the slightest, but I at least appreciated Journey’s attempt to make his two main characters detectives.
When Gretel’s boy toy goes missing after a weed run to Agnes’, Quinn’s hunt is what has us hanging on. The film focuses on this fragment of a mystery instead of grasping on to something bigger, but we’re still oddly hooked; mostly because we want to know where this wild ride ends up. However, the half baked investigation would’ve been more enjoyable if Quinn’s questioning hadn’t been so shrill and Welch had something to do other than snapping pictures and firing off lame quips.
Right as I was about to claim Hansel & Gretel Get Baked as a slight guilty pleasure, the energetic high tapered off. After about 40 minutes of Journey’s absurdities, it’s almost as if everyone collectively realized how complicated making a movie can be and how dumb the film’s concept was. You can feel the film’s giant sigh as it slouches and exhaustively tries to finish what it’s started.
Because everyone stops having fun, Hansel & Gretel Get Baked becomes a colossal bore as it wraps up each loose end as lazily as possible. A perfect example would be how two seemingly important cops are taken care of.
Even Boyle starts slumming with her role. As Agnes captures her prey, she sucks their youth out of them, which in turn makes her look younger. As more make-up is removed off of Boyle’s face, her excitement fades. It’s known that costuming and physical transformations can help inspire an actor. I believe that by taking this disguise away from Boyle, it affects her ability to perform well. Take a scene where a younger Agnes tries to seduce one of Gretel’s friends by flirting with her. It feels forced and the complete opposite of either sexy or funny.
Duane Journey and his dopey movie are not asking for much. They want the audience to have a good time. And, if those good times are heightened with the help of certain substances, even better! But, because the film doesn’t have the strength to carry its own weight to a point where it’s fed up with itself, the audience is snoozing right along with the lethargy on screen.