Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)

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Director: Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone

Cast: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, James Buckley

Screenplay: Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone

87 mins. Rated R for some graphic nudity, language throughout, sexual content and drug use.

 

Today, I wanted to look at a flop from earlier this year: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, from the creative team known as The Lonely Island and producer Judd Apatow.

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In this mockumentary, we are introduced to Conner Friel (Andy Samberg, TV’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Hotel Transylvania), former member of The Style Boyz. He had formed the band with childhood best friends Owen (Jorma Taccone) and Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer), but after a big solo record, Conner decides its time to quit the band and go forward with his solo career. The faux doc recounts Conner’s life in music mostly during this time through accounts by his publicist Paula (Sarah Silverman, TV’s Bob’s Burgers, Wreck-It Ralph), his manager Harry (Tim Meadows, TV’s Son of Zorn, Mean Girls), and other musicians that have known Conner.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is likable enough, but it never really soars. Sure, the movie has plenty of hilarious moments, but it never gets the footing to maintain enjoyment. I personally loved the cameo from Justin Timberlake as Tyrus Quash, Conner’s perfonal chef, and Will Arnett’s playing as the head of a faux TMZ called CMZ is absolutely amazing. I had to watch the CMZ segments multiple times. But these moments are too few and far between to really maintain my interest. Knowing the talented minds behind The Lonely Island, this should’ve been flat-out more fun than it ended up being.

It’s always nice to see musicians poking a bit of fun at themselves, and the many, many, MANY cameos definitely were refreshing. I found many of them to be quite amusing, but never really laugh-out-loud funny. Samberg’s portrayal of Conner tends to be a bit too unlikable to really root for. You almost want him to fail just for the catharsis that Rock Bottom offers, but even then, he just doesn’t get it, and before long, you just want more cameos and less Conner.

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Maybe I’m being too tough on Popstar, but maybe we deserve better. I’m shocked that the film failed to reach a target audience (as it only made back about half of its $20 Million budget), because it isn’t altogether bad. It is funny to be sure, but in a world of underperforming comedies, I just think it could’ve and should’ve been better.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Money Monster (2016)

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Director: Jodie Foster

Cast: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West, Caitrona Balfe, Giancarlo Esposito

Screenplay: Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore, Jim Kouf

98 mins. Rated R for language throughout, some sexuality and brief violence.

 

I actually thought Jodie Foster (The Beaver, Home for the Holidays) had directed more films. Just putting that out there.

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Money Monster, a popular finance and investment TV show, is currently airing their latest episode, starring financial expert Lee Gates (George Clooney, Gravity, Hail, Caesar!). As the show is airing, a deliveryman arrives and holds the building hostage, aiming his gun right at Lee. The man who holds Gates hostage is Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell, Unbroken, ’71), who lost every penny he had from his mother’s inheritance by investing in IBIS after it was endorsed on Money Monster. As the building becomes a media circus, Lee has to use the aid of longtime director and colleague Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts, Notting Hill, Mother’s Day) to talk Kyle down and keep himself out of the grave.

Money Monster is an interesting idea in itself, an angry investor takes a financial expert hostage on his own show, but the fire quickly burns out on this premise. As Lee and Patty work to keep Kyle from pushing a detonator, I slowly found myself uninterested in any of the characters, a shocking notion given the chemistry between Clooney and Roberts. Then, about halfway through the film, the implausibility meters breaks off on a strange tangent that seemingly makes no sense. That’s right, the ending of this film goes right off the rails and becomes rather silly.

Director Jodie Foster builds tension at the beginning of the film, but Lee Gates isn’t likable enough a character to inspire sympathy, nor really is Patty Fenn. Kyle is a rather stupid individual as well, and I don’t find myself on his side either. Really, I had a lot of difficulty deciding if who I’m supposed to root for.

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All in all, Money Monster really falls flat very quickly on its intriguing premise and the movie never really gets back up. This was downright disappointing in every way.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Iron Man 2 (2010)

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Director: Jon Favreau

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson

Screenplay: Justin Theroux

124 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects

 

Remember way back when the MCU just had a few films and we were shocked to find that there was already a sequel? Oh wait, we were still shocked that there was a cinematic universe…

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Iron Man 2 picks up six months after the first film (running somewhat concurrently to The Incredible Hulk) as Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Chef) opens the Stark Expo to continue his father’s legacy to create new technology to change the world, but he is facing an internal problem: the palladium core in Tony’s arc reactor is slowly killing him. As Stark places Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, Se7en, Mortdecai) in the role of CEO for Stark Industries, he is also faced with vengeance from a new villain: Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), the son of a man wronged by Howard Stark, who has taken on the moniker Whiplash, to punish Tony for the sins of his father. To put it short, Tony Stark is having a rough time.

Iron Man 2 gets a lot of flack for being a lesser film than its predecessor, but I prefer it. Tony Stark is faced with a lot of conflicts in the film and it gives him the opportunity to be a good person, something he wasn’t given the ability to do in Iron Man. I enjoyed the villains in the film (again, something that others didn’t care for), and I really liked how it set up the rest of Phase 1 of the MCU. It’s strange, that same tactic was unimpressive in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but here it really worked for me.

Iron Man 2 adds so much to the mythology with new heroes Rhodey (Don Cheadle, TV’s House of Lies, Crash) becoming War Machine and Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Hail, Caesar!) showing up as Natalie Rushman. There’s the building up of SHIELD and the references to upcoming installments Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger.

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Iron Man 2 has detractors (the film hasn’t aged well), but overall its a pretty damn fun time, and while it was mostly a transitional film for the MCU as it found its footing. I liked it a lot, but I can kind of see what others don’t like.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Chef, click here.

 

Zoolander (2001)

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Director: Ben Stiller

Cast: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Christine Taylor, Milla Jovovich, Jerry Stiller, Jon Voight

Screenplay: Drake Sather, Ben Stiller, John Hamburg

90 mins. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and drug use.

 

Zoolander is one of those movies that probably shouldn’t have had a sequel. The film itself exists as a cult hit but it didn’t make any money worthy of setting up another. It also didn’t really need a sequel fifteen years later. But here we are, fifteen years later, and with Zoolander no. 2 on the way, I thought we should take a trip back to the original film.

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Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Tropic Thunder) is no longer the top fashion model after he loses the award to rising runway master Hansel (Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris, Cars 2), and his bad run of luck continues when an article from Matilda Jeffries (Christine Taylor, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, License to Wed) tarnishes his reputation even further. After a tragedy forces him to leave the fashion industry, only the request of fashion mogul Mugatu (Will Ferrell, Step Brothers, Daddy’s Home) is enough to bring him back. But Mugatu has a motive up his sleeve. He needs to use Derek as a weapon for his own fiendish plans, and its up to Matilda and Derek to stop him.

Zoolander does have a lot to love, and the film would have been more widely accepted today than it was back then. For one, the sheer amount of cameos is jarringly amazing. My personal favorite? David Bowie. My least favorite? A terrible human being who wishes to be president. But enough about Donald Trump. Enough forever.

Zoolander does a great job of building up the mythos of the male model. The entire film is strange and unusual and kind of lovable. Ben Stiller has great chemistry with Wilson and of course his wife Christine Taylor. The film even features Stiller’s mother and sister in cameos, but the big cheese of awesome that is Jerry Stiller (TV’s The King of Queens, Hairspray) steals every scene as Derek’s agent Maury Ballstein. In fact, the best characters of the film are the supporting roles with David Duchovny (TV’s The X-Files, Phantom) as J.P. Pruitt and Jon Voight (TV’s Ray Donovan, Mission: Impossible) as Derek’s father Larry.

But that is perhaps the issue of the film. Derek Zoolander isn’t all that likable nor is he accessible. The film would have more engaging if Matilda had been the focus character and Zoolander could’ve been seen through her eyes. Sadly, she makes a bad decision early on that makes her less likable and Zoolander is just kind of there.

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Zoolander is pretty enjoyable, and it does get better the more you see it. Is it worthy of a franchise revisiting fifteen years later? Probably not. Am I still going to watch it? Yeah, but it’s my thing.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, click here.