Sex Tape (2014)

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Director: Jake Kasdan

Cast: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper, Rob Lowe

Screenplay: Kate Angelo, Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller

94 mins. Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use.

 

Sometimes an actor or actress is a part of a film so bad that it really jars your experience of everything they do after for a long time. For Cameron Diaz, that film was The Other Woman. I really didn’t want to see Sex Tape. I didn’t want to get hurt again. When I finally did get around to it, I was pleasantly wrong in my assumption of it.

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Sex Tape is the story of Annie (Diaz, There’s Something About Mary, Annie) and Jay (Jason Segel, TV’s How I Met Your Mother, This is 40), two lovebirds who feel like the magic has gone from their sex life. So they do what all-too-many celebrities do when the spark is gone: make a sex tape! They do, and Jay promises to delete it after. He doesn’t, and instead activates a program on his ipad which syncs it to every other ipad in his cloud. Jay gives out his old ipads to neighbors, families, and friends, so now everyone who wants to can witness the erotic masterpiece. Now, Annie and Jay have to get back all the sex tape copies before their mutual copulation becomes public domain!

Jake Kasdan (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Bad Teacher) creates some interesting work, and while it doesn’t always work, it is certainly worth a viewing. Sex Tape has a lot of humor and a lot of emotional truths that should hit a lot of relationships. Much of the humor lands nicely, but not all of it. There are some great over-the-top moments, like the sex book that the two decide to mimic for their tape, and the drug-fueled tirade Annie gets into with potential new boss Hank (Rob Lowe, TV’s The West Wing, Killing Kennedy). I like that this film gets into its own minutiae and creates conflict based on little errors in judgment.

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Sex Tape isn’t a perfect film. Far from it. It is, however, one of the finer comedies of the year and worth much more recognition than Diaz’s previous work with The Other Woman. We will call it performance redemption.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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Hercules (2014)

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Director: Brett Ratner

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, John Hurt

Screenplay: Ryan Condal, Evan Spiliotopoulos

98 mins. Rated PG-13 for epic battle sequences, violence, suggestive comments, brief strong language and partial nudity.

 

Why does the world let two movies come out in the same year? It happens a lot more than you think? For every Armageddon, there is a Deep Impact. For every Expendables, there is a Losers. And for every The Legend of Hercules, there is a Hercules. This one is the Brett Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand, Movie 43) one.

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Hercules is the story of, well, Hercules (Dwayne Johnson, TV’s WWF Raw, Fast & Furious 6). After he completes the Twelve Labors, Hercules is approached by Ergenia, daughter of Lord Cotys (John Hurt, V for Vendetta, Snowpiercer), who asks him to help train warriors to defend from the warlord Rheseus. Stuff happens.

You want to know the most upsetting thing about this film is? I was bored two minutes in. It wasn’t so much as a terrible film as an uninspired one. Nothing happens in this film that can be remotely considered interesting.

And then there’s the incredibly disappointing set design. Some of the sets look gorgeous and others have completely noticeable fakeness to them. I saw a volcano less convincing than the one I made in the second grade for the science fair in one scene. I saw particle board columns. I saw Brett Ratner’s direction. Truly sad film in many ways. That’s what it comes down to here. Boredom. The end credits were the best part of the film and not just because I could leave then.

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Seriously, I haven’t even seen The Legend of Hercules, but I know this was is likely the lesser of two evils. Still pretty damn evil though. I have absolutely nothing great to say here.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of X-Men: The Last Stand, click here.

Tammy (2014)

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Director: Ben Falcone

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Allison Janney, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass, Toni Collette, Sandra Oh, Nat Faxon, Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates

Screenplay: Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone

97 mins. Rated R for language including sexual references.

 

Melissa McCarthy (TV’s Gilmore Girls, St. Vincent) has the acting chops for both comedy and drama, yet she chooses to write comedies that just aren’t very good. Thus is the case with Tammy, her newest effort from husband-director Ben Falcone.

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In Tammy, McCarthy plays a down-on-her-luck food server who has just lost a car and a job and now decides to just leave town with her elderly grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon, Thelma & Louise, The Big Wedding). I know, it doesn’t make much sense. Along the way, she meets Bobby (Mark Duplass, TV’s The League, Mercy) and his father Earl (Gary Cole, Pineapple Express, The Town That Dreaded Sundown) who both take a shine to ladies. Somehow. There isn’t a whole lot of chemistry, but apparently they do. They also meet up with lesbian lovers Lenore (Kathy Bates, TV’s American Horror Story, Titanic) and Susanne (Sandra Oh, TV’s Grey’s Anatomy, Rabbit Hole) who are also related to Tammy but it doesn’t seem that way. Again, I must say that it isn’t a good plot.

Essentially, this story was terrible. These characters were flat and unlikable. Melissa McCarthy isn’t funny. Susan Sarandon is disappointing. Also, the ages kind of mess with you. How is Susan Sarandon the mother of Allison Janney (TV’s The West Wing, Get On Up) who is also the mother of Melissa McCarthy? Seriously, how?

Then there is the terrible chemistry or lack thereof with Mark Duplass. I mean, c’mon, there wasn’t a single moment when I believed these two.

Let’s not forget the misuse of Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, The Boxtrolls). That’s right, she is in this movie, but look fast or you’ll miss it. The same is true with Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters, Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return).

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All in all, Ben Falcone’s absent directing of a bad screenplay between himself and wife McCarthy does nothing to make this movie anything more than a turd. Yes, I said it, a turd.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Giver (2014)

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Director: Phillip Noyce

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Cameron Monaghan, Odeya Rush, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift

Screenplay: Michael Mitnick, Robert B. Weide

97 mins. Rated PG-13 for a mature thematic image and some sci-fi action/violence.

 

The hotly anticipated adaptation of the dystopian novel The Giver has arrived and initial response has not been great. What did I think? Well, wouldn’t you like to know?

The Giver is the story of Jonas (Brenton Thwaites, Oculus, Maleficent), who lives in a normalized version of reality set some time in the future. His world is one of plainness, of emotionless life filled with routine followed by more routine. It exists without color and without free thought. Life is good. Jonas is about to go through a life-changing ceremony along with friends Asher (Cameron Monaghan, TV’s Shameless, Click) and Fiona (Odeya Rush, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, We Are What We Are). This ceremony grants each of them jobs in their society, and Jonas has just been granted the most important role of all as Receiver of Memory, a role of passing down information from a man known only as The Giver (Jeff Bridges, The Big Lebowski, R.I.P.D.), who has some very valuable information for Jonas.

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The Giver isn’t a bad movie as much as it is a rough one. I get the sense that this movie wasn’t fully completed. I also feel as though the book, through fantastic, was not made to be adapted. There is just too much that feels like it would work until you actually see it.

Jeff Bridges is wonderful in the titular role, and he should be, as he has been trying to get the film out of development hell for almost two decades. He even previously filmed a version using family members in the roles to prove that the film was doable.

We also get some great, though very underutilized work from Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada, Into the Woods) as the Chief Elder, a woman who has her own secrets and doesn’t really trust that Jonas will stick to the guidelines of his role, just like ten years previously when a young girl named Rosemary (Taylor Swift, Valentine’s Day, The Lorax) failed as the Receiver of Memory.

Brenton Thwaites is passable, though very underwhelming at times. The saving grace is Odeya Rush as Fiona, a girl who helps inspire emotion with ease.

As for the parental units, Father (Alexander Skarsgard, TV’s True Blood, The East) is pretty good while Mother (Katie Holmes, Batman Begins, Jack and Jill) poses too many questions, the most important being, “How does Katie Holmes keep getting work?” Seriously, I haven’t seen a passable performance since…wait, give me a minute.

As for Taylor Swift, come on. Not good. Not horrible, but definitely not good.

This adaptation was trouble from the start. The entire civilization is without emotion so much so that watching it would be kind of boring. Then again, add any noticeable emotion and people will claim that it breaks its own rules.

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I personally enjoyed myself over all, but the film is not without its problems. That much I can promise you. I just keep thinking. It could have been so much more.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)

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Director: Shawn Levy

Cast: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest, Alain Chabat, Robin Williams

Screenplay: Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon

105 mins. Rated PG for mild action and brief language.

I avoided the sequel to Night at the Museum like the plague. I enjoyed the original film but thought to myself that a sequel can only harm that. There couldn’t be any possible way for the sequel to be anything new. Literally, the title says it all. It’s just another night at the museum, right?

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Not exactly.

Sure, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is more of the same, but it takes the original premise and expands immensely on it, providing a little of the repetition, but a lot of new fun that makes it comparable to the original.

Larry Daley (Ben Stiller, Zoolander, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) has taken his inventing career to the next level, creating all manner of As Seen On TV that you see on the endcaps in stores across the nation. He has essentially put his past in the Museum of Natural History behind him, but that changes when he gets a call from Jedediah (Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris, Inherent Vice) telling him that Dexter the Capuchin Monkey had stolen the Tablet that brings the exhibits to life at night and it has been moved to the Smithsonian Museum where all heck has run loose, and it’s now up to Larry and his cadre of walking talking exhibits including Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poet’s Society) and Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams, Man of Steel, Big Eyes) to take on the evil and now alive again Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria, TV’s The Simpsons, The Smurfs 2) who thinks the Tablet belongs to him.

I loved all the ways that Battle of the Smithsonian expanded the universe created by the first film. From the talking bobbleheaded Einsteins in the gift shop to the paintings that Larry and Amelia get caught up in, this is a well-thought sequel with several new avenues for adventures. It does tread some of the same waters as the original, but does so with enough flair that it’s more forgivable. Director Shawn Levy (Real Steel, This is Where I Leave You) continues to stylishly supply action/comedy at full-tilt and it seems like the new characters like Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest, This is Spinal Tap, The Invention of Lying) have great chemistry with our returning players.

As always, the cinematography isn’t anything to sing to the mountaintops, and the film might run on a little too long for its own good, but Levy’s work behind the camera keep the film light-hearted and moving along.

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As far as sequels go, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian could have been better (I’m still a little curious about where Carla Gugino went) but it stands up as a lot of fun that adds some new fun and sends up its predecessor nicely.

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Night at the Museum, click here.

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Twelfth Day… My Thank You

Hey everyone. I thought I would start this last day of Christmas to give you my thanks for this past year. I started writing this blog in January but I started planning on Christmas Day. I just wanted to thank you for reading, thank you for enjoying, and thank you for passing the word along. I want to thank you for reading that first post, for watching scary movies all October, and for counting down the 12 Days of Christmas. Thanks again!

 

Today, I just want to leave you with a thought. What is your Christmas movie of choice? Everyone seems to have a fave film that gets recycled every year. Mine, of course, is Christmas Vacation.

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My girlfriend always watches Home Alone.

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My sister-in-law is A Christmas Story.

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So what is yours? Let me know down below. Merry Christmas! Here’s to 2015!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Eleventh Day… Christmas Vacation (1989)

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Director: Jeremiah Chechik

Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid

Screenplay: John Hughes

97 mins. Rated PG-13.

 

So when people ask me what the ultimate Halloween movie is, I tell them it is Halloween. When they ask me what the ultimate Christmas movie, I tell them it is Christmas Vacation, the third film in the Vacation franchise from twenty-five years back.

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It stars Chevy Chase (TV’s Community, Caddyshack) as Clark Griswold, the bumbling no-brained father of two and husband to gorgeous Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo, TV’s Entourage, American History X). Clark just wants one thing: to host the ultimate Christmas weekend for his extended family. He wants the hap-hap-happiest Christmas. Too bad he keeps running into problems, from a tree too big to an unwanted guest in the form of cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid, Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Harvest), from an overcooked turkey to a good ol’ fashioned kidnapping, Clark is in for one long holiday.

It all starts with a proven formula from comedy genius John Hughes (Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). Hughes has been behind some of the best comedies of the 1980s. He spearheaded the original short story that started the film series. Hughes has a powerhouse screenplay here that differs in tone drastically from the previous installments. Toss in Chevy Chase, who just knows his character so well, and there is nothing that can stop this film. From the moment Clark appears onscreen, he makes the assertion that it doesn’t matter whether the tree he has picked is too big for his backyard as son Rusty claims, because it isn’t going in the backyard, it’s going in the living room, immediately addressing his inability to see things realistically.

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Christmas Vacation is what the holidays are about, whether we like them or not. It is sendup to what we do for those we love and what we have to go through to survive. I love this film and I suggest it to anyone looking to close out the holiday the right way.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Tenth Day… How to Celebrate Festivus!

[12 Days of Christmas Festivus!] On the Tenth Day… How to Celebrate Festivus!

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Hey everyone, Happy Festivus!
For those of you that aren’t aware of Festivus, it is the Costanza version of Christmas (celebrated and observed on the 23rd of December) from the television series Seinfeld.

 

The Aluminum Pole

Instead of a Christmas Tree, set up an Aluminum Pole. We find tinsel distracting.

 

Festivus Dinner

For Festivus dinner, red food is preferred, like Beefarino (or Beefaroni from Chef Boyardee). Follow up with Tuna on Toast, Pretzels, and don’t forget Black & White Cookies for dessert (Look to the cookie).

 

The Feats of Strength

The Feats of Strength are an important festivity. Usually, the previous winner chooses a new target. It should be someone who hasn’t done it recently. If there is a discrepancy (multiple winners from different families or no winner present), the head of the house chooses an opponent. Until you pin me [insert opponent], Festivus is not over!

 

The Airing of Grievances

When you gather the family around the table, the head of the house or previous feats of strength winner gets to tell the family all the ways in which they have disappointed him or her over the past year.

 

Don’t forget “Festivus Miracles”

This is an event reserved for anyone not the head of household or feats of strength winner. You will know what a festivus miracle is when you see it. Trust me!

 

Don’t forget the Hennigans!

H-E-Double N-I…!

 

The Human Fund

Gifts for Festivus include gifts made as donations to The Human Fund.

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Happy Festivus for the Rest of Us!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Ninth Day… [Take 5] Christmas Episodes!

Hey everyone, today we are looking at 5 Christmas Episodes and whether they are worth your half-hour! Let’s begin!

Take 5 Christmas Episodes

Family Guy “A Very Special Family Guy Freakin’ Christmas”

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It is Christmastime in Quahog and Lois (Alex Borstein, TV’s MadTV, A Million Ways to Die in the West) is dedicated to getting her family the perfect Christmas. It doesn’t go over well when Peter (Seth MacFarlane, TV’s Robot Chicken, Ted) drops off the family’s gifts at the donation for in-need families, Stewie takes his roll as Baby Jesus in the Nativity scene too far, and Brian burns the turkey. Lois has to come to terms with an imperfect Christmas for the Griffin family.

I like this special. The call-outs to other stranger Christmas specials are quite interesting, as seen with Kiss Saves Santa. I also happen to think a lot like Lois here. I want the perfect Christmas for my family and it never actually happens the way I want. It is a cute little detour for the Griffins, made before the series cancellation and long before the onset raunchiness began.

Community “Comparative Religion”

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As Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown, TV’s Pound Puppies, (500) Days of Summer) tries to keep the peace and the holidays in check, Jeff Winger (Joel McHale, TV’s The Soup, A Merry Friggin’ Christmas) decides that Christmas is the right time to fight the school bully.

As far as Christmas episodes go, this one is more forgettable. A fine episode, to be sure, but not a regular yearly tradition. Wait until Season 2’s special.

Arrested Development “In God We Trust”

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It is time for the yearly Christmas “Living Classics Pageant” in which famous artworks are reenacted for the public. George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor, TV’s Transparent, The Hangover) always plays God and Buster (Tony Hale, TV’s Veep, Stranger Than Fiction) always plays Adam in The Creation of Adam, but with George Sr. in jail, the family needs to front the money to get him out for the day, but is he just trying to escape?

This is a classic episode for fans of Arrested Development. For all others, this episode has too many intersecting plotlines from previous episodes.

Spongebob Squarepants “Christmas Who?”

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Spongebob hasn’t heard of Christmas. Until Now. Now he wants it more than even, but unfortunately Squidward has become a certifiable Grinch. What is Spongebob going to do?

I love this episode. Not only does it have a catchy song to accompany it, but it has a nice lesson about what’s important to others. Watch this one!

The Office “Christmas Party”

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When Michael Scott (Steve Carell, Crazy Stupid Love, Foxcatcher) decides to break the rules to Secret Santa, he has to fix the situation by breaking the rules again: by breaking corporate’s policy of no alcohol at the Christmas party.

Another great episode! We have all has that boss, and we have all had that Christmas party, and we have all received that gift.

Take-Aways:

The real winners here are Spongebob Squarepants and The Office, not to mention Family Guy. The other two episodes are great for fans only. What’s your favorite Christmas episode? Let me know!