Posts Tagged ‘jason bateman’

zootopia

Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a small-town bunny, she lives in the farming community of Bunnyburrow.  Her parents are carrot farmers, but she dreams of going to the big city of Zootopia, and becoming a police officer.  She tries out at the police academy, and after initially failing in the various physical tests, she eventually learns how to use her diminutive size and speed to her advantage.  Judy graduates at the top of her class.  Despite her brains and skill, Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) gives Judy a job as a meter maid.   While writing one of 200 tickets, Judy nabs a criminal, and so Chief Bogo is forced to give her the case of Emmitt Otterton, an otter who has been missing for two weeks, his wife, Mrs. Otterton (Octavia Spencer) is desperate to find him.  Judy finds a clue that leads her to a conniving fox named Nick Wilde. (Jason Bateman)  Judy needs Nick to help her, but Nick conned Judy while she was a meter maid.  Can Judy trust Nick?  Do they find Emmitt?

This movie does certain things very well.  It illustrates the contrast of idealism versus reality well, and shows the sadness of living alone, and slowly watching dreams slip away. It does this with wonderful poignant humor.  But then, Zootopia aims for bigger themes, like the treatment of predator and prey, as a metaphor for challenges facing our society today.  I found the metaphors here a bit too obvious, and the moral a bit too heavy-handed.  Also, the story becomes too complex when the story turns to finding Emmitt, and the action sequences seem like a set-up for a Disney ride, between habitats like the Amazon jungle and the frozen tundra, and not actual plot in a movie.  Zootopia is at its best when it is light and humorous, not when it tries to imitate an action movie or deal with larger thematic elements. Therefore it is not as good as Inside Out, but still very good.

The voice acting is very good here.  Jason Bateman is the perfect choice to play Nick, the con-artist fox, who never lets people inside his façade.  Bateman handles the humor and serious scenes with equal aplomb. Ginnifer Goodwin is also equally good as Judy, who starts out very optimistic, but despite several setbacks, she remains determined to reach her goal.  Goodwin plays the sunny Judy and the determined Judy with spunk, and humor.  The chemistry between Bateman and Goodwin is very good, and the comedic timing is impeccable. Idris Elba is funny as Chief Bogo, an exaggerated John Luther type character.  JK Simmons and Shakira add to the star-studded cast.

The animation is stunningly beautiful.  The city of Zootopia is a bright beautiful, colorful city, fully of inviting inventive characters, the pacing is good, except it slows a little when the pursuit of Emmitt is underway.  Zootopia is a bit too long for my taste an hour and 48 minutes.  Several great songs by Shakira add to the overall uplifting mood of the film.

Zootopia:  It’s a jungle out there.

Movie Review: The Gift (2015)

Posted: February 6, 2016 in horror
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the gift

Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) move to a new town from Chicago to reinvigorate their marriage.  The two have just lost a child and Simon thinks that moving closer to his childhood home will give them a chance to start fresh.  One day, while furniture shopping Simon meets Gordon, (Joel Edgerton) an acquaintance from high school. Simon calls Gordon “Gordo” and everything seems pleasant enough.  Despite the pleasantries, there’s an undertone of tension between Simon and Gordon. After the initial meeting, Gordon proceeds to get Simon and Robyn small housewarming gifts, like a bottle of wine and some koi for Simon and Robyn’s koi pond. Immediately, Simon is suspicious of Gordo’s intentions, but at Robyn’s insistence, they go to Gordo’s house, and after a tense attempt at a  dinner party, Simon tells Gordo that he doesn’t want him to visit them anymore.  The next morning, Robyn wakes up and finds the Koi dead, and their dog missing.  Simon goes back to Gordo’s house, only to find that Gordo’s home belongs to someone else, and Gordo is nothing but a driver for a rich couple.  Who is Gordon?  What happened in high school between Simon and Gordon?

This movie aspires to be Hitchcock, and there’s a certain amount of suspense that builds throughout the first half of the film.  What makes the film interesting is that it seems to be told from Robyn’s perspective and not Simon or Gordon’s perspective.   But writer Joel Edgerton (who also directs, produces and stars) telegraphs his punches too often, so by the time the reveal is rolled out, it’s none too shocking, and the last 15 minutes this unconventional thriller becomes quite conventional indeed.  There was a better way to resolve this film, but Edgerton went for the creepy horror ending instead. And unlike Hitchcock, there is not one iconic scene like in Psycho, The Birds or Rear Window.

Jason Bateman gives a great performance in this film, in the beginning the audience thinks he’s one kind of person, and he ends up another.  This performance proves how versatile an actor he is.  His performance turns on a dime, and that’s what makes it so thought-provoking Rebecca Hall is also effective as a woman who questions her own sanity, and is sympathetic to Gordo’s trials and tribulations. If anything Joel Edgerton plays up the oddness of Gordo, in both script and performance, and that hurts the film in my opinion.

The direction is ok.  Edgerton gets great performances from Jason Bateman, and Rebecca Hall, and he uses some techniques in the opening shots that make the film seem claustrophobic.  But after that, there’s very little that’s visual about the film.  The pacing also lags a bit in the middle of the film, which accentuates the length of the film, and not in a good way.  The film is too long.

The Gift:  Return it.

 

horriblebosses2_

Nick (Jason Bateman) Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) want to start their own company and have a new product, The Shower Buddy.  They take it to one of the biggest catalog companies in America, and Rex Hanson (Chris Pine) offers to buy them out, but his father, Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) has a better offer.  But when Bert double-crosses the boys, Nick, Kurt and Dale hatch a plan to kidnap Rex, and use the proceeds to buy back their company.  Does their plan work , or does something go awry?

The first half hour of this movie has a few jokes and I thought this movie had potential.  But then, this movie goes into a non-comedic black hole and does not come out.  The first movie was pretty funny, but the whole premise of making a sequel is to make a movie better than the first one, this movie is not better, it’s the same movie with slightly different circumstances, and that is not good enough for a sequel.  It’s too long, and most of the ideas are not even funny.  Case in point, there’s a train scene that is interminably long, and it just goes on and on and on.

I like Jason Bateman, his low key understated style has made him a star of many underrated films, like Dodgeball, Extract, and the first Horrible Bosses movie, but lately he’s made movies like Identity Thief, This Is Where I Leave You, and, this movie.  He needs to go back to low key roles in low budget movies and maybe he can get his mojo back.  I also like Charlie Day, especially in Pacific Rim, but too much of him is not a good thing, his voice can be grating, and in this movie, he annoyed me.  Jason Sudeikis is funny, but  he has the same role as before.  Jamie Foxx has a funny cameo, as does Kevin Spacey, there should have been more of them, and less of the bumbling principals.  Jennifer Anniston is not funny, she should stop trying to be.  Chris Pine tries comedy and fails, epicly.  Is that a word?  No?  You get the idea.  Christoph Waltz isn’t given anything funny to do, and I still like his performance, it must be residual Tarantino love.

If there is an ideal length for a comedic movie it is 90 minutes, if the director could have cut it down to 90 minutes and gotten better performances from Pine and Anniston, maybe this movie would have been better, but the poor quality of the film has more to do with bad writing, than bad direction.

Horrible Bosses 2:  Writers, you’re fired!

this is where i leave you

Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) works as a producer in a radio station.  He wants to surprise his wife, Quinn (Abigail Spencer) on her birthday.  Instead, Judd finds Quinn sleeping with his boss, Wade Beaufort. (Dax Sheppard) As if that wasn’t enough, Judd’s sister, Wendy (Tina Fey) calls Judd to tell him that their father just died.  Judd’s mother, Hillary (Jane Fonda) insists that the family sit shivah  for seven days, even though the family is not particularly religious.   The family gathers, there’s Paul, (Corey Stoll) the elder  brother, who wants to take over the family sporting goods store, and who is having trouble conceiving a child with his wife, Annie. (Katheryn Hahn) Wendy, who brings her son and reunites with a boyfriend, Horry (Timothy Olyphant)  rendered brain damaged in a car accident, and Phillip (Adam Driver) the playboy, who can’t settle down.  Will this family find answers to their issues, and will they learn to put up with each other for seven days?

This is a dramedy, part drama, part comedy.  The drama does not seem very realistic, the comedy is not very funny.  The jokes are juvenile, potty, sex and drug jokes.  This is supposed to be a grown-up film?  No it is not. The situations seem contrived, and even a twist involving Judd can’t bring this moribund script to life. The worst thing about this movie is that the resolution of each of the characters issues is not satisfying in the least.  Jane Fonda’s character’s denouement is a cliché and it’s trendy.  A trendy cliché. And her conflict resolution is the most complete. That’s the problem with this movie after 110 minutes, there’s no payoff.

I like these actors, but they all could have chosen a better script than this.  I like Jason Bateman, put him in movies like Horrible Bosses or Extract and he is really funny. He is great at being a straight man, but in this, he just seemed like he was being tortured.  I love Tina Fey on 30 Rock, but she has not found a good movie since the end of 30 Rock, if this is the best she can do, she better write one for herself.  Jane Fonda cannot do comedy,  it’s that simple She tries too hard to be funny.  She overplays it every time.  That’s what the supporting cast did, they all overplayed their roles, and that made a not so funny movie even less funny.

The movie just seemed to go on and on, the pacing was awful. He didn’t get any good performances from some really good actors, so it’s a bad job of editing, and giving direction to the actors.

This is Where I Leave You:  The old Bate-man and switch

dodgeball

Peter LeFleur (Vince Vaughn) owns Average Joe’s Gym.  Peter has a staff of two, Owen (Joel David Moore) and Dwight (Chris Williams) and three clients, Justin (Justin Long) a skinny college kid who dreams of being a male cheerleader, Gordon (Steven Root) a passive aggressive man with a mail order wife, and Steve (Alan Tudyk) a man who thinks he’s a pirate, and dresses like one.  Peter’s rival, White Goodman, owns Golobgym a successful gym, takes out a second mortgage on Average Joe’s in order to take it over. Banker Kate Veatch (Christine Taylor) tells Peter he’s got 30 days to raise 50,000 dollars to save his gym.

Peter doesn’t have 50,000 dollars, the group brainstorms about possible ways to raise money.  They try a car wash, but no one wants to see these guys in their underwear, so they end up losing money on the car wash.  Gordon then tells Peter that there’s a dodgeball tournament and the grand prize is 50,000 dollars.  Peter gets the help of legendary dodgeball coach Patches O’Houlihan, (Hank Azaria, Rip Torn) to coach Peter and his merry band of misfits in the finer points of dodgeball.  But, to make Peter’s life even more difficult, White creates a dodgeball team to compete with Peter’s team.  Can Patches take a ragtag team and turn them into dodgeball contenders?  Does White Goodman derail Peter’s dream and take over his gym?

I don’t know why I love this movie, but I do, there are sophomoric sex jokes and bathroom humor, this is the kind of humor that usually repels me, but this time it works.  The characters are cartoonish stereotypes, who would never exist in real life, but it is a laugh riot.  Why does this movie work?  It works because the cast makes the material better than it is.  Vince Vaughn is the perfect straight man in this movie, Ben Stiller is such a horrendously offensive, egomaniacal, self-absorbed misogynistic creep that the viewer can’t help but laugh.  Stiller plays the role to evil perfection, even the way he looks, handlebar mustache, 1980’s haircut, adds to the character’s comedic feel.  Christine Taylor, Stiller’s real-life wife has some definite chemistry with Stiller, and delivers big laughs of her own.  Justin Long plays the put-upon wimpy guy looking to prove himself.  Steven Root plays a guy with a lot of pent-up aggression looking for an outlet.   Rip Torn is hilarious as the course, foul -mouthed Patches.  But Jason Bateman absolutely steals this movie as drug-addled color commentator Pepper Brooks.  His performance is the cherry on this sundae.

Don’t go into this movie expecting tremendous production values, in fact the film looks like it’s produced in a high school audio-visual class.  But the look actually helps the comedy, Average Joe’s is a dump, dodgeball is a third rate sport covered on ESPN 8.  If this was a glossy looking film, it would belie the atmosphere of the film.

Dodgeball:  Have a ball.

Movie Review: Identity Thief (2013)

Posted: December 17, 2013 in Comedy
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identity thief

Uber responsible husband and father Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) has his identity stolen by a lady named Julia, (Melissa McCarthy) who is spending Sandy’s money all over Florida.  Sandy lives in Denver Colorado, and can’t figure out how are these charges from Florida got on his credit card.  Denver cop Detective Reilly (Morris Chestnut) can’t do anything, because Julia is in Florida.  Sandy needs his credit cleared up because he just started a new business and wants to impress his new boss, Daniel Casey, (John Cho)  so Sandy goes to Florida to try to find Julia.  He is not the only person trying to track down Julia, two criminals named Julian (T.I) and Marisol (Genesis Rodriguez) and a skiptracer (Robert Patrick) are on Julia’s trail for selling them bad credit cards.  Who will find Julia first, Sandy or the criminals?

Instead of telling you how bad Identity Thief is, let me describe how cringe worthy the following scenes are.  Julia engages in dirty dancing with Big Chuck, a cowboy badly played by Eric Stonestreet, Julia having a noisy lovemaking session with the aforementioned Big Chuck, Julia getting into a slap fight with Sandy Patterson, and Julia singing “Milkshake” to Sandy, as they camp out for the night.  If that doesn’t put you off solid food for a week, the genres attempted in this movie are similarly nauseating. This movie starts off as some kind of road trip movie, then turns into a bad tearkerker, then a bad action flick, and finally some kind of buddy movie.  None of it works.  Oh yes, and how about some nasty little stereotypes to go with a lousy script?  Of course the Latina girl and the black guy are criminals, aren’t all black people and Latinos criminals?

I like Melissa McCarthy.  I liked her in Bridesmaids a lot.  That character had a lot of depth to her.  This character just comes off as mean spirited and no one I would want to spend a minute with, never mind two hours.  McCarthy has to be careful that she realizes the difference between people laughing with her and people laughing at her, she tries to throw some ad-libs in, but it doesn’t really work, because her character is so unlikeable.  It doesn’t help that she looks like a cross between Tammy Faye Bakker and the character Mimi from the Drew Carey show in this movie.  I like Jason Bateman, most recently in Horrible Bosses, he’s playing essentially the same character as he did in Horrible Bosses, hard-working, honest guy who gets screwed over, but Identity Thief has none of the cleverness of Horrible Bosses, and the cast of Horrible Bosses is much better.  Also, I think Jason Bateman is much better as part of an ensemble cast, he tried to carry this movie and just couldn’t.

This movie is much too long, I just kept staring at the screen, and the time didn’t seem to move.  A comedy movie should never be over an hour and a half, and this movie breaks that rule in a big way, and for no good reason, the last half hour is no better than the first 90 minutes and includes a schmaltzy ending.  For the length and the ending, I blame the writer, for the horribly slow pacing I blame the director.

Identity Thief.  Stole two hours of my life.

Joel (Bateman) has figured out how to use extracts of flavors like vanilla as a flavor additive.  He runs a fairly successful juice factory, and he treats his employees well.  Joel hears that a large corporation is interested in buying his extract company.  One problem, an accident in the factory has caused an employee named Step,(Clifton Collins Jr.)  to lose one of his “family jewels” and now Joel can’t sell the company until Step settles the lawsuit.  Cindy (Kunis) is a con-artist who hears about Step’s predicament and sees a goldmine.  She hires lawyer Joe Adler (Gene Simmons) to sue Joel.

As if that’s not enough, Joel’s got marriage trouble at home.  He can’t get any lovin’ from his wife Susie (Kristin Wiig) Joel’s drug addled friend Dean (Affleck) suggests that Joel hire a gigolo named Brad (Dustin Mulligan) to tempt his wife, so that Joel can fool around with Cindy, guilt free.  Susie sleeps with Brad, and Joel does not sleep with Cindy.  Brad is so utterly stupid that he keeps sleeping with Susie, which drives Joel bananas.  Does Joel ever get to sell his company?  Does he figure out Cindy is a con artist?  Does he ever get Brad to stop sleeping with his wife?

This is one of the funniest most underrated comedies I’ve seen in a long time.  All the characters are funny, and I didn’t even mention JK Simmons as the plant supervisor who calls everyone dingus, and David Koechner as Nathan the neighbor who just can’t stop talking.  We all know people like that.  Bateman is as funny as I’ve seen him, Kunis is smart and funny, and if Ben Affleck can make me laugh, this is a funny script.  Everyone compares this to Office Space, but this movie stands up well on its own.

Extract:  A tasty treat.