CVIndependent

Fri11222019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Movie studios are getting ready to release big holiday products like sequels to The Hunger Games and Star Wars, as well as surefire Oscar contenders such as Spotlight and The Revenant.

Still, there will be a week or two when studios try to squeak by with meager offerings. Well, this is one of those weeks, and Love the Coopers is one of those meager offerings.

I’ll say this for the movie: It is jam-packed with talent. Diane Keaton, Marisa Tomei, John Goodman, Anthony Mackie, Alan Arkin, Amanda Seyfried, Ed Helms and even the voice of Steve Martin all show up in this holiday film. However, if you are looking for a Christmas movie to add a little joy to your holiday season, this will not do the trick. If you are looking for something weird, dark and unfunny, this one might please you.

Love the Coopers obviously has a lot of characters played by those aforementioned performers, and a lot of plot lines to go with them. It gets a bit tiresome trying to follow all that is going on.

Charlotte (Keaton) and Sam (Goodman) have been married for more than 40 years. Their marriage has hit the skids, and Christmas looks like it could totally suck. Charlotte has been refusing to travel to Africa with Sam for many years—and that’s the final straw: As the family gathers for Christmas Eve, Sam is planning to leave his wife shortly thereafter. All cups of eggnog will be tainted with that sour taste of despair.

One of the more prominent subplots involves Charlotte’s sister Emma (Tomei) being arrested for shoplifting and getting a stoic police officer (Mackie) as her escort to the police station. Of course, Emma manages to successfully decipher all of the officer’s life issues from the back seat; perhaps she learns a little about herself, too.

Another storyline has Charlotte’s wayward daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) meeting some Army dude (Jake Lacy) at an airport on her way home. She invites him to be her boyfriend for the weekend to trick her mom, even though the two can’t stand each other. It’s the sort of thing that only happens in stupid movies like this. Still, Wilde and Lacy are cute enough to make their screen time almost tolerable. Will they eventually make out? I think so!

The dumbest of the subplots involves be Charlotte’s dad, Bucky (Arkin), having an odd relationship with a diner waitress (Seyfried). They aren’t screwing or anything, but he does lend her movies, and she serves him coffee with sad, forlorn eyes. Developments later in the film suggest Seyfried’s character could wind up with Bucky’s son (Helms). It’s all a little creepy and uncomfortable.

Throw in a crazy aunt who doesn’t remember anything (June Squibb) and farts a lot, and a gangly teenage boy learning to kiss his girlfriend under the mistletoe, and you have just the right ingredients to make a movie-goer violently throw up.

Director Jessie Nelson, whose last directorial effort was the assault on humanity that was I Am Sam some 14 years ago, sabotages her own movie with crazy left turns and wild moments. It’s actually a shock that Seyfried and Arkin don’t make out, because that sort of weirdness would be right at home in this flick. Nelson seems determined to make this an anti-holiday holiday movie. I can respect the effort to be different, but she messes it up—in a big way.

The final twist, involving the origin of Martin’s voice, is probably the best thing in the movie. Since that final twist is sort of lame, that does not saying much for Love the Coopers.

Love the Coopers is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

David Wain and Michael Showalter, longtime collaborators who are two of the funniest men on the planet, have put together a great goof on romantic comedies with They Came Together, a perfect vehicle for Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler.

Wain directs from a script co-written with Showalter, and it turns out to be a nice companion piece to their brilliant summer-camp parody Wet Hot American Summer, one of the 10 funniest movies ever made. Wet Hot also featured Rudd and Poehler, performers who are right at home with the Wain-Showalter brand of bizarre, random rapid-fire humor. The film takes pokes at drippy rom-coms, most notably the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan barfer You’ve Got Mail, while still being a legitimate, authentic romantic comedy.

Wain and Showalter use the age-old framing device of two couples talking and reminiscing about relationships over dinner and wine. Joel (Rudd) and Molly (Poehler) reveal that their meeting was a “corny romantic comedy kind of story,” and indeed, it is.

We then see Joel and Molly as two recently dumped individuals living in Manhattan and toiling away on opposite sides of the candy-trade spectrum. Molly owns a little candy shop called Upper Sweet Side; Joel works for an evil corporate candy company opening across the street. They meet for the first time at a costume party—both dressed as Benjamin Franklin, and both not really interested in meeting anybody. While Joel is a corporate drone, he longs to start a little coffee shop called Cup of Joel. Molly just wants to give all of her candy money away to charity.

Things begin badly for the couple, but start picking up when the two meet at a bookstore and discover they both like fiction books, of all things. They then go through all of the standard new-couple-falling-in-love-against-all-odds scenarios, with Joel being the handsome-but-not-so-much-that-he’s-threatening prototype, and Molly the fussy, clumsy, breakfast-cereal-consuming kind of girl.

The almighty Michael Ian Black (the third member of the legendary Stella troupe, along with Wain and Showalter) scores laughs as Trevor, Joel’s competitive co-worker who is trying to steal both Joel’s promotion and Joel’s girlfriend, a woman Tiffany Amber Thigpen (a Saved By the Bell joke!). We know he’s trying to steal Joel’s girlfriend, because he takes a rubber out of the rubber bowl (yes, a hard-candy dish full of loose rubbers) right after mentioning her.

Christopher Meloni is on board as Joel’s boss; he has a superhero-costume mishap in what becomes one of the year’s funniest movie scenes. Ed Helms plays a well-meaning loser who tries to move in on Molly when she and Joel get into trouble.

The movie goes through many of the rom-com standard moments, including dinner at Molly’s frighteningly odd parents’ house; musical montages during which Molly tries on outfits for Joel (she settles on a suit of armor); and romping in a pile of leaves at the park, with the pile of leaves, of course, containing a surprise they fail to notice. The film hits its comedic apex during a dinner date featuring a waiter with a pole up his ass.

In a perfect world, Wain and Showalter would make a movie like They Came Together every three or four days, but I guess we have to settle for once a decade. Or maybe not—because Wain spoke of a potential Wet Hot American Summer prequel while promoting this film on the talk-show circuit. The project has even been proposed as a mini-series for Netflix.

The film is available for rental via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com, and is also available on demand. Watch it—not only because it will make you laugh a lot, but because its success could mean somebody will bankroll the Wet Hot prequel. I want that Wet Hot prequel!

Published in Reviews

In We’re the Millers, Jason Sudeikis plays a small-time drug-dealer who gets in over his head and is forced by his boss (Ed Helms) to smuggle drugs into the U.S. from Mexico. Realizing that border agents seem to go easy on families, he hires a fake family to make the trip in an RV.

The family includes a wife (a stripper played by Jennifer Aniston), a daughter (a homeless girl played by Emma Roberts) and a son (a hapless neighbor played by Will Poulter).

The film has a Chevy Chase “Vacation” movie vibe; Sudeikis is charming in a way in which Chase was for a brief time in his career. Aniston plays a mighty-good stripper; she has another calling in case the whole acting thing doesn’t work out. Roberts gets perhaps her best role yet as Casey; she delivers some great eye-rolling moments. As for Poulter, he steals scenes nearly every time he speaks, and his encounter with a tarantula is priceless.

Sure, the movie gets a little gooey and sentimental by the time it plays out, but we’ve come to like the characters by then, so it’s OK. This is not a grand cinematic effort by any means, but it does provide some good laughs, with a fair share being quite shocking.

Special Features: The “extended cut” has an extra nine minutes or so of stuff. You also get a behind-the-scenes segment, deleted scenes, outtakes and more. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

I had high hopes for The Hangover Part III, the conclusion to director Todd Phillips’ trilogy about a group of guys who get into a lot of R-rated trouble after ingesting bad stuff.

In retrospect, I feel like a major idiot for having such high hopes.

The Hangover franchise, as it turns out, should’ve never become a franchise at all. With the first film, Phillips and his gang of actors captured comedic magic when an awkward bearded man drugged his buddies at a bachelor party, which led to sordid acts including the kidnapping of Mike Tyson’s tiger.

The Hangover Part II was a carbon copy of that film, shipped from Las Vegas to Thailand. It had about 15 percent of the original’s laughs; however, it wasn’t a complete loss, even though it was a supreme disappointment.

Alas, Part III is total garbage, a film lacking any sense of purpose and woefully lacking in the laugh department. Phillips tries to make a completely different sort of film with his final chapter—and he succeeds, in that this movie has just one, or maybe two laughs.

It doesn’t even come off as a comedy. It’s crime thriller/kidnap movie—which is not a scenario we need to see the Wolfpack (Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms) going through.

The movie starts with a giraffe beheading that contains one of the film’s laughs. It then moves into an intervention, where Galifianakis’ Alan is told that he will be going away for a little while. Alan does some very awkward crying; I laughed a little more.

Then the boys hit the road … and the laughter stops cold, as if some sort of movie demon sprung from the ground and smacked the film over its head with a sledgehammer.

An evil crime lord (John Goodman) forces them off the road and introduces the moronic plot thread: the search for Mr. Chow, played by the increasingly annoying Ken Jeong. The trio embark on a search for Chow—and regrettably find him. This leads to some nonsense involving stolen gold, a return to Vegas for a cocaine party, and some surprisingly violent moments involving guns.

This Hangover film has a pretty big body count, and that’s not something I expect from a Hangover film. I expect people humping tigers or Helms’ Stu comically removing his pancreas with tweezers while on heroin.

There’s a sequence atop Caesars Palace in Vegas that looks cool, and Melissa McCarthy shows up in a not-altogether-terrible cameo. However, Galifianakis seems to be the only one really trying out of the trio, and most of his shtick falls flat here. Cooper still plays an OK straight man, while Helms seems lost.

Phillips makes the mistake of thinking we actually have some sort of sentimental connection to these characters. I like these actors a lot, but the characters themselves? I didn’t need three films full of them doing the same thing over and aver. Make another comedy, and cast these actors if you want, but do something new with them. The Hangover was a unique premise that should’ve been one film and out.

What started as a good idea got unnecessarily revisited, and then got pummeled into the ground until it became unrecognizable and ugly. The Hangover Part III is Hollywood greed at its worst, and has no redeeming value. But if you must go, stay for the credits and a sequence in which Phillips gets truly desperate and goes for last-ditch laughs that can’t save his crap movie.

The Hangover Part III is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews