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Movie Review Monday: Due Date

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POP contributor Mike Finkelstein apparently really likes his movies! Here he is with a review of Due Date”

PLOT: A man (Robert Downey Jr) trying to get home to his pregnant wife (Michelle Monaghan) and the birth of his first child is forced to enlist the help of a wannabe actor and degenerate (Zach Galifianakis). Together, they travel across the country from Atlanta to LA, encountering many more degenerates along the way.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: I think it’s inevitable that DUE DATE is going to be compared to THE HANGOVER. It’s Todd Phillips’ first film after the box office smash, the trailer had audiences rolling in their seats, and Zach Galifianakis looks to be playing the same exact character. So does it hold its own against its well loved big brother…?

DUE DATE is definitely no HANGOVER. Granted, it has its shining moments, but as a whole, it feels bumpy, over the top, and like I’ve seen it all before.

We start off at the airport and the first meeting of Peter Highman and Ethan Tremblay, and already I was feeling a slight case of déjà vu. (Just want to note that the name ‘Peter Highman” is funny in itself for two reasons…first because the character has supposedly never gotten high in his life, and second, because Robert Downey Jr. is playing a guy who has never gotten high in his life.) Predictably, Peter and Ethan start off on the wrong foot, and due Ethan’s stupidity, both get kicked off the plane and put on the no-fly list. Problem number one: the no-fly list is the MacGuffin to get the story to where it needs to be, but couldn’t it have been done a little more creatively? The scene felt like it was taken almost exactly from ANGER MANAGEMENT. The only difference was the idiot lawman used rubber bullets instead of a stun gun.

From there, we follow Ethan and Peter on their misadventures across the country. Sadly, there were more times when watching when I would think ‘this is supposed to be funny’ than actually laugh. An entire scene with Danny McBride as a crippled Iraq war vet just fell flat (okay, ‘handy-capable’ was amusing), and every bit just seemed like another way to show another idiot the two encounter or how asinine Ethan is. I could practically imagine the writers scheming up Ethan’s perm/narcolepsy/ masturbation techniques to make him that much more annoying and ridiculous. The same goes for all the crap that Peter has to go through to get home. They just heighten the joke over and over with none of it is exactly motivated in any way. Even in ridiculous comedies, the foundation needs to be motivated and real, and it never was to me. Everything in THE HANGOVER, and that includes the tiger and the baby seemed grounded compared to the randomness thrown in here.

Speaking of reality, if you’re going to throw in major plot points, don’t just build up the drama and then dismiss them later like it was no big deal. Jamie Foxx showed up for all of ten minutes as Downey Jr.’s best friend and Monaghan’s former flame. All clues for both Downey and the audience lead to an affair, and instead of making something out of it, the matter is wrapped up with a bow, and we never see Foxx again. Glad you got the paycheck, my man, but c’mon! Second, if there is going to be a chase scene across the Mexican border with cop cars flipping, is it really possible that once they’re back in the United States, there are no repercussions? Yes, chase scenes are supposed to be fun, but the two drive a Mexican police truck all the way up the California border, most of the time without a passenger door, and not one highway patrolman is going to stop them? Again: reality, people, please!

Don’t get me wrong…there are a few nuggets of gold mixed in. Sonny, the masturbating dog, is one of the cutest things if for no other reason but the fact that he has no clue what is going on around him and is a completely innocent bystander. There is also a quick stop at a pot-dealer’s house near the beginning of the film (Ethan finds her on Craig’s List for his glaucoma medicine…), and the scene had me laughing the whole time. Todd Phillips gives himself a bit of an extended cameo here as the dealer’s stoned lover, Galifianakis attempts to show his acting range with a monologue from The Godfather, and the way Downey Jr. deals with one of the dealer’s crazy kids is by far the funniest moment in the entire movie.

Speaking of Robert Downey Jr., the man can do no wrong for me, and he is hands down the savior of this movie. Peter is really not the nicest guy, and actually more of an ass than anything else. He always has an attitude and does some pretty horrible stuff to Ethan and Sonny (especially something he attempts to do near the beginning of the trip). Maybe it’s because no one else around him besides the audience realizes the ridiculousness he has to deal with, but we are still drawn to him. The guy is absolutely hysterical in the subtlest ways. No need to overact. He just reacts with his trademark sarcasm and we get some of the funniest bits that even Galifianakis can’t rival.

As for Galifianakis, he’s really not doing much here that he hasn’t done before. THE HANGOVER brought his career into a whole other stratosphere, and while he spent IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY trying to show his range and break from that, he spends this entire movie as Alan with a perm. Ethan did have a handful of very emotional scenes concerning his father, and I think those moments of heart and drama stood out more than any of the forced comedy that Galifianakis was bringing while acting like an idiot. I still look forward to seeing more of him, but hopefully in something more substantial and with more depth than the trilogy of Alan that is HANGOVER, DUE DATE, and HANGOVER II.

Granted, with all its problems, DUE DATE was an okay time at the movies. Yes, there was no reality and there was nothing new to get me on board, but it had its moments of gold (mostly thanks to Robert Downey Jr). To me, every Judd Apatow movie after KNOCKED UP has blended, and I could see Todd Phillips going the same way if he’s not careful. If I didn’t have to spend the $12 or was with a bunch of friends on a living room couch, I would have definitely been along for the ride a lot more.

GRADE: C+

Mike’s LIKES:

1) ROBERT DOWNEY JR: The man is what kept the movie alive. As the straight man, his attitude and deadpan comments to everyone around him was funnier than anything Galifianakis could bring to the table. Oh, and the kid sooooo deserved what he got…you’ll see what I mean.

2) ZACH GALIFIANAKIS’ EMOTIONAL SCENES: He annoyed the crap out of me at times, but in his few emotional scenes, Galifianakis showed a range that I didn’t expect of him. I actually believed him crying and being alone, and those two scenes I think hit me more than his entire performance in IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY.

3) TWO AND A HALF MEN: Sadly enough, I think this was one of the funniest parts of the entire movie…and it was fake clips from an 8-season old sitcom.

4) SONNY THE DOG: You can’t help but adore this little ball of masturbating fluff. Yeah, I said it: masturbating fluff.

5) HEADSHOTS: Remember on THE HANGOVER DVD when they had that slideshow of all the bachelor party pictures (a lot more than what was shown on the end credits)? I swear, if they could do that with Ethan Tremblay’s headshots, I would stop laughing. Oh, and remember Malcolm X.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) ZACH GALIFIANAKIS: So Alan from THE HANGOVER escaped his cage, drove to Atlanta, and changed his name to Ethan Tremblay. Either that, or he has an equally stupid twin that his parents got rid of because they couldn’t handle that they created such stupidity.

2) JAMIE FOXX: There was no reason to advertise Jamie Foxx for this movie when he was barely in it for ten minutes! His storyline was one of the most interesting ones in the film, and it just went absolutely nowhere! Wtf?

3) QUICK SWITCH OF EMOTIONS: There were too many parts in the movie where people’s emotions switched on a dime. Suddenly, they hate each other. Then they feel bad. Then they’re best friends. Then they’re against someone else, but THAT person is now a good guy, too! Changes happened too quickly without any real reasoning.

4) AIRPLANE OPENING:I know Downey Jr needed to be on the no-fly list, but was there no other creative way of doing it? All I kept thinking about during that scene was Adam Sandler in ANGER MANAGEMENT and Ben Stiller in MEET THE PARENTS.

5) A**HOLES: Another level of ridiculousness to add to numbers 3 and 4. While THE HANGOVER had its share of a**holes as well as nice guys in Vegas, these two couldn’t catch a break. After a while, it just felt like the writers were playing a game of What NEXT level of idiot can we get in here?” Give me some normalcy!

Entertainment

REVIEW: “Sing Street” Will Put a Song in Your Heart… and Your iPod

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“I have just seen an instant classic.”

That’s what I said to myself as I left the theater, with the music and adrenaline of “Sing Street” still coursing through my veins.

It’s the kind of movie you want to turn around and see again, immediately. Right after you download the soundtrack. Yes, it’s that good.

Haven’t heard anything about it? I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t have known about this film either, except that my Regal Crown Club card finally paid off in the form of free tickets to an advanced screening. (Never mind the $25 popcorn.) Anyway, let’s watch!

Hooked yet? You will be.

Irish writer/director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”) has conjured a nearly perfect coming-of-age tale set in 1980s Dublin. Think “The Commitments meets “Sixteen Candles meets “Footloose,” but all in one glorious package that manages to be both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Drawing from his own teenage years at the real Synge Street school, Carney avoids the trap of creating a pure fluff piece by infusing the story with real heart.

A large part of that is due to the breakout talent and hero of Sing Street,” 16-year-old Ferdia Walsh-Peelo. As “Connor Lalor” navigates the tricky currents of a new school, family drama, and first love, Walsh-Peelo is heartbreakingly earnest, predictably awkward, and unexpectedly optimistic. Everything about his performance rings true. No small feat, considering that this is his acting debut.

Thanks to Carney’s non-actor, open casting approach, Walsh-Peelo is also joined by some equally promising new faces. Lucy Boynton is luminous as his love interest, “Raphina,” and Mark McKenna is quietly compelling as Conor’s songwriting partner, “Eamon.”

One of the most satisfying pairings, though, is anchored by the more experienced Jack Reynor (“Transformers:Age of Extinction”).  He shines as Conor’s older brother, “Brendan.”  Dealing with the angst of his own stalled dreams, Brendan tackles his brotherly mentoring role with gusto. Conor soaks up the advice like a ruddy-cheeked sponge, then begins to find his own way as his confidence grows.  Rarely do we see the underlying affection between two brothers played so simply and honestly,  so the relationship between Conor and Brendan is a lovely surprise.

The other undeniable star of “Sing Street” is the music.  While the story could have easily been told with the band only performing covers of ’80s hits,  Carney had a bigger vision for the film.  He collaborated with Scottish songwriter Gary Clark to craft 8 original tunes that not only add layers of light and shade to the storyline, but could be stand-alone chart toppers today.  From the gleefully retro “The Riddle of the Model,” to the Cure-tastic “Beautiful Sea,”  to the EMO ballad “To Find You,”  there’s something for everyone. Welcome to your summer soundtrack, people.

There are few darker notes to the plot, and the ending feels slightly of place, but in general “Sing Street” will leave you feeling as light and fizzy as a packet of Pop Rocks.

The movie poster reads: “Boy Meets Girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy Starts Band.”  That’s it in a nutshell, of course, but happily, this film is so much more.

SING STREET opens in New York April 15th, and is in theaters nationwide on April 29th.

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate The Fourth With Our Picks For Great American Movies!

What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

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What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

It’s impossible to list them all… this is just a handfull! Scroll down and tell us what your favorites are!!!

Let’s start at the beginning!

Do you have what it takes to watch a black and white classic? (Don’t break my heart by replying if the answer is no.) Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 classic starring James Cagney – telling the story of the great entertainer George M Cohan. He’s the man behind the songs “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  A true classic with distinctly American music and showmanship. Watch the trailer!

There’s something about the fifties and sixties that still plucks at the nostalgic heartstrings of America. And yet, two of the most iconic movies about that period were actually shot decades later, with a heartfelt look back at those times.

Both American Graffiti and Grease come to mind. While American Graffiti can take bragging rights for bringing us more breakout stars, (and being written and directed by George Lucas), Grease seems to enjoy more clout as a family friendly favorite.

1986 was a  good year for Tom Cruise, and a good year for movies. Top Gun starred Tom Cruise stars as a student at Top Gun Naval Academy. It sparked a sense of patriotism, and the continued ascent of Cruise’s career. (If you’re watching with your kids, you might wanna skip ahead once you start hearing the song “Take My Breath Away.” Love scene ahead! Still, some might argue it’s pretty tame by today’s standards.)

Forrest Gump (1994) proved not only to be an excellent movie, but also an impromptu history lesson.
The story follows an unlikely hero (played by Tom Hanks) as he journeys through life, finding himself witnessing (and sometimes even influencing) a series of historic events, but is largely unaware of their significance. A true classic.

Before the luster of Mel Gibson had worn off, he portrayed Benjamin Martin, a man who becomes embroiled in the Revolutionary War. The late Heath Ledger plays his son, who fights in the Continental Army.

The most recent of patriotic classics is 2012’s Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis delivers a flawless performance as our 16th President under the directorial brilliance of Steven Spielberg. A new classic for the ages.

SHARE YOU PICKS BELOW! AND TWEET YOUR FAVORITES TOO!

For more movies updates, follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter!

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Movie Reviews

MOVIE REVIEW- WORLD WAR Z Is a Messy, Relentless Zombie Horror Flick That Really Works

Check Out Steven’s review for one of the biggest surprises of 2013, the epic zombie flick WORLD WAR Z.

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world-war-z-posterWORLD WAR Z

Paramount Pictures

Director- Marc Forster

Starring-Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale. Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, David Morse, David Andrews.

Steven’s Quick Review- Yes its production was messy, but WORLD WAR Z might be the biggest surprise of the summer movies in 2013. Thanks to relentless action, a number of good scares, and an on-target performance from Brad Pitt, WORLD WAR Z is an excellent zombie film. Even though it is barely based on its source material, Damon Lindelof’s rewritten third act will keep audiences guessing and add some scares to your summer movie slate.

Steven’s Review- Brad Pitt has become the kind of actor who now only does movies he truly wants to do, and only takes roles that challenge him. So when Pitt and his Plan B studios initially won the rights to Max Brooks bestselling novel WORLD WAR Z the options were endless. Yet from the start of production the movie had issues, between the initial script lacking invention, a director in Marc Forster (QUANTUM OF SOLACE) who was found it difficult to make important decisions and the very public spat between Pitt and Forster that nearly sidelined the film indefinitely.  There were also the on-set issues, besides the arguments between the actor and director, there were problems on set in Hungary when government officials stormed the set and removed live weapons. Also, forced re-shoots that moved WWZ from a winter release to a summer tentpole. It’s easy to assume WORLD WAR Z was doomed from the start. But something happened along the way, something that shocked plenty during our screening of the film in May. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Pitt, Forster, and crew actually made a darn good zombie flick. With help from Damon Lindelof (“Lost”, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS) who came to the rescue and reworked an ending  after the studio deemed the initial conclusion was not good enough for release.  Following Lindelof’s changes and a massive marketing campaign Brad Pitt’s newest pet project was ready to show the world.

WORLD WAR Z the book takes place in a post zombie war setting, when a journalist and U.N investigator goes all over the globe talking to survivors and getting their stories.  The film adaptation written by Drew Goddard (CABIN IN THE WOODS), Matthew Michael Carnahan (STATE OF PLAY), J. Michael Straczynski (THOR) and Damon Lindelof  has little to nothing to do with Brooks acclaimed novel. We begin meeting Gerry Lane(Pitt) , a former UN investigator who lives with his family somewhere outside Philadelphia.  Within 5 minutes of the opening credits, we are thrown into a full on zombie invasion, with riots in super markets and speedy zombies chasing people down. WWZ Starts off with a bang. Gerry’s wife Karin(“The Killings” Mireille Enos), and his daughters Constance(Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) desperately leave the city and head towards New York, finding themselves in the streets of  Newark, New Jersey where they pick up supplies and await a helicopter pick-up thanks to Gerry’s old friends at the United Nations.

WORLD WAR Z is in no way a perfect movie; every now and then it finds itself deep into horror cliché, only to drag itself out with one big sequence after another. Pitt carries the film as he finds himself in worse situations every moment, but without being totally indestructible (meaning as an audience you never quite know whether Gerry Lane will make it out alive). Pitt’s performance feels dressed in reality, while he searches the globe for reasons why this zombie apocalypse is happening, worries for his safety and hopes to return to his family.

WORLD WAR Z is a suspenseful zombie flick that contains a few scares, but has the advantage of almost never slowing down.  The filmmakers found a way to protray a lot of violence and still receive a PG-13 rating – they show you enough death and destruction without maimed bodies and severed limbs. I enjoyed the fast paced nature of WWZ and the fact it never drags, it allows characters to develop and story to move forward without forsaking the zombie action fan in all of us.

As far as adaptations go, WORLD WAR Z could be considered one of the worst, it barely contains any connection to Max Brooks brilliant novel, other than a few characters names and one or two plot points. As far as summer surprises, WORLD WAR Z is a welcome break from comedies and super hero flicks that take up most of our time. But the pressure is on: it needs to bring in $500 million dollars to turn a profit for everyone involved. I enjoyed WORLD WAR Z and hope they can find a way to make some cash, so we can get more zombie action just like it.

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