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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

A trio of deranged parents (Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz) discovers a pact by their three daughters to lose their virginity on prom night, so they stalk them on their special evening in Blockers. This sounds like the basis for a crap movie, but as things turn out, it’s one of the year’s funniest.

Directed by Kay Cannon, the movie pushes the boundaries, pouring it on thick with (very funny) profanity and frank talk about high school seniors heading into sexual activity (not to mention drug experimentation and drinking). It handles its subjects in a surprisingly mature and even sweet way in the end, with the teenage daughters (Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan and Gideon Adlon) having their acts together far more than their bumbling parents.

The always-reliable Mann gets a chance to really shine here; she is one of the best comic actresses in the game. Barinholtz gets a lot of laughs as the movie’s most messed-up character, while Cena continues to prove that he has the comic chops to hold his own with some of the best. This is one of those rare comedies that get consistent laughter from the opening scene until the end.

Blockers is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Robert De Niro delivers a good performance in The Comedian, a film from director Taylor Hackford that doesn’t match the great actor’s prowess.

De Niro plays Jackie Burke, an aging standup comedian dealing with a TV-sitcom past he isn’t too proud of. De Niro does a nice job playing a Don Rickles-type old-school comedian. He’s not entirely hilarious, but he’s convincing in his standup sequences. He’s also good when Jackie is off stage being an ornery bastard.

The film lets him down in its handling of modern-day things like viral videos and reality TV. Hackford’s take on modern media is woefully out of touch, and De Niro finds himself stranded in some rather ridiculous, tone-deaf scenes.

Leslie Mann is her usual great self as a younger woman Jackie winds up trying to romance; the two actually make a convincing almost-but-not-quite couple. Harvey Keitel is a little overbearing as Mann’s dad, but Danny DeVito scores as Jackie’s bemused brother; it’s the best work he’s done on the big screen in many years.

For everything that works in this movie, there are two things that don’t, so De Niro’s solid work is ultimately wasted. There are lots of cameos from standups like Richard Belzer, Hannibal Buress, Brett Butler and Jimmie Walker.

Yes … Jimmie Walker is still alive.

The Comedian is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Leslie Mann is one of my favorite comic actresses, and I’ve been waiting for her to get a project that would put her over the top as one of Hollywood’s go-to actresses. I thought This Is 40 would do the trick, but I was probably the only guy in the world who thought that was a good movie.

Now comes The Other Woman, a film that casts her as a wimpy victim of her cheating husband, Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). She winds up befriending Carly, his mistress (Cameron Diaz), and she becomes a stronger, independent person as the film progresses.

Whatever.

Director Nick Cassavetes is trying for a straight comedy here, and things work well enough for at least half of the movie. Mann is at her pathetic best while stalking Diaz’s character, crying on her doorstep with Boston Market food in hand as a peace offering, and a big Great Dane in tow. I enjoyed this film in its early stages, thinking it might be the showcase Mann deserved.

Then The Other Woman crashed into a creative wall. I’m not sure about the precise moment when the film goes off the rails. Maybe it’s when yet another mistress, played by Kate Upton, enters the film, and the women start working together to torture and destroy the cheater. Mind you, I am all for a movie in which a cheater gets his comeuppance—just not when one of the revenge-seekers is played by the beautiful but bland Kate Upton.

Or maybe it’s the moment when Carly pours a bunch of laxative into Mark’s drink at dinner, and he proceeds to not only crap his pants, but have a bathroom-stall catastrophe similar to the one Jeff Daniels suffered through in Dumb and Dumber. Daniels made his fecal apocalypse high art. Coster-Waldau makes his feel like plagiarism.

Cassavetes has made some good movies in the past, including She’s So Lovely, with Penn and Travolta, and The Notebook, which gets credit for devastating movie viewers all over the world. The Notebook and, to a lesser extent, My Sister’s Keeper (also with Diaz) show Cassavetes’ talent for making people weep. However, The Other Woman shows that he can also make moviegoers groan. Tonally, the film is all over the place, as if he set out to make a raunchy comedy, and then decided to retreat into PG-13 territory. Indeed, I caught a major moment in which Diaz is clearly over-dubbed while screaming the big f-word. Maybe Cassavetes set out to make a much uglier film, and the studio stepped in and said, “Clean it up!”

By the time near the film’s end when Coster-Waldau’s character smashed his nose, and blood was squirting out of his face, it had ceased being funny and had become a total mess. Not even the mighty Mann’s expert mugging could pull it out of the fire.

The Other Woman was a minor hit at the box office during its opening weekend, so maybe its success will get some decent scripts in front of the talented Mann. It’s hard to watch her in this sort of squalor.

The Other Woman is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd reprise their awesome married couple from Knocked Up in This Is 40, director Judd Apatow’s latest, which will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray this Friday, March 22. The duo prove their characters are worthy of full attention.

Apatow loves to make long movies, and this one is no exception, clocking in at 134 minutes. Most of those minutes are entertaining, although I would concur that this is a bit long for a comedy. Doesn’t somebody have to be getting shot or tortured for a movie to go longer than two hours?

While the main characters from Knocked Up (played by Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl) are not back for the almost-sequel, other characters, including those played by Jason Segel and Charlyne Yi, do make it. That’s kind of cute.

The film has fun with the whole midlife-crisis thing, adding Albert Brooks and John Lithgow as much welcomed granddads. Megan Fox gets her best screen role yet as a clothing-store employee who may or may not be a hooker on the side.

Mann is especially good in the film, and both she and Rudd were deserving of Golden Globe nominations, at the least. Alas, both were snubbed.

Special Features: If you plan on taking in both versions of this film (you get both the theatrical and unrated versions) and the many special features, you had better break a foot or something so you can call in sick to work. You get an Apatow commentary, deleted and extended scenes, four documentaries, two gag reels, and more. It’s a big package. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Nepotism pays off in a big way as Leslie Mann stars in husband Judd Apatow's hilarious This Is 40 reprising her role of Debbie from Apatow's Knocked Up.

Also returning are Paul Rudd as Debbie's husband, Pete; Maude and Iris Apatow (Mann and Apatow's kids) as Pete and Debbie's daughters; and Jason Segel as, well, a strange variation on Jason Segel.

Spinning off Knocked Up to further explore the characters of Debbie and Pete sounded like a strange enterprise. (Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl are nowhere to be seen.) Fear not, for This Is 40 is as smart and funny as the film that spawned it. And who needs Heigl, anyway? (As for Rogen, I can never get enough of the guy ... was hoping for a cameo, but no dice.)

The film opens with Debbie in denial of her 40th birthday, a worn-out movie cliché, for sure. No matter, because Apatow and Mann make it all fresh, funny and, at times, wonderfully vulgar.

Debbie sneaks smokes, chastises her husband for taking Viagra and pretends she's 38 on her 40th birthday. Mann just pulled down a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. (Rudd is nominated as well.) They both deserve the noms.

And then there's the ever-reliable Rudd. His Pete secretly devours cupcakes, tries to get his wife to like the Pixies, and steals private time with his iPad through extended, unnecessary bathroom breaks. He also attempts to revive Graham Parker's fledgling music career with his small record company so he can make the mortgage payment.

Rudd and Mann play a married couple with stunning reality, efficiency and humor. They throw lethal verbal daggers at one another, and even fantasize about each other dying. Yet, there seems to be a strange sort of everlasting love at play. Rudd is essentially channeling Apatow here, surely getting plenty of hints from his director on how to deal with the wife.

Adding to the authenticity are Maude and Iris Apatow, realistically sparring with their real-life matriarch. Maude is especially good, capturing the shrieking frustration of a teen girl who is having her Wi-Fi restricted. One of the movie's running gags is her obsession with watching Lost, a joke that is funnier than it sounds. Little Iris is obviously the daughter of Mann and Apatow; she possesses killer comic timing.

As for supporting casts, you won't find one much better in 2012. Albert Brooks plays Rudd's dad, getting more laughs than he has in years. John Lithgow plays Mann's pop, a stick-in-the-mud who has a moving change of heart by film's end.

There's more! Megan Fox is actually really funny (something she proved when she hosted Saturday Night Live a couple of years back) as Debbie and Pete's employee at their clothing boutique. She's capable of playing more than Michael Bay eye candy, for sure. Chris O'Dowd, who got a lot of laughs playing Kristen Wiig's love interest in Bridesmaids, gets many again as one of Pete's record-label employees.

If that's not enough for you, there's Melissa McCarthy stealing her few scenes as a parent who gets into a feud with Debbie and Pete regarding their children. The aforementioned Segel shines as Debbie's trainer, and Charlyne Yi is her usual deadpan funny as another of Debbie's employees. The list goes on, but I'll stop now. (Actually, I will tell you that Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day makes an awesome cameo.)

Apatow seems to have carved out a nice niche for himself. He's sort of like James L. Brooks at his best, with a little bit of Adam Sandler when he was good, finished off with just a pinch of Woody Allen from back when he didn't suck.

This is one of the year's best comedies, featuring stellar, barnburning screen arguments. Mann and Rudd have fights for the cinematic ages on many occasions. They're actually quite despicable, yet lovable at the same time. It should also be noted that when Rudd and McCarthy square off, you should hold on to your butts.

Stick around for the credits for outtakes of McCarthy's principal office meltdown. It is laugh-until-you-cough-up-blood funny. If there were an award for credit outtakes, McCarthy would win it without contest. Seeing Rudd and Mann unsuccessfully trying to keep a straight face while McCarthy goes off counts as a 2012 cinematic highlight for me.

This Is 40 is a long one at an epic 133 minutes. (That's just 25 minutes shorter than Les Miserables, and 33 minutes shorter than The Hobbit!) Trust me that this is time well spent. Apatow and company know how to put a comedy together, and Mann and Rudd are beyond competent at delivering it.

This Is 40 is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews