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Movie Review: A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas

Mike Finkelstein was in the holiday spirit and wanted to visit some old friends. He was also in the mood for White Castle. He figured he’d put both together, and go see a little ridiculous movie about those guys who had the munchies so many years ago. (Who knew Santa delivered joints?!) Here is his review of “A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas.”

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Mike Finkelstein was in the holiday spirit and wanted to visit some old friends.  He was also in the mood for White Castle.  He figured he’d put both together, and go see a little ridiculous movie about those guys who had the munchies so many years ago.  (Who knew Santa delivered joints?!)  Here is his review of “A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas.”

PLOT: After years of not talking and growing apart, old friends Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) are brought back together on Christmas Eve, all due to a mysterious package for Harold and shows up on Kumar’s doorstep.  But when the two accidentally burn down Maria’s Christmas-obsessed father’s tree, the two spend the night trying to find a replacement before he comes home from Midnight Mass.  Mobsters, drugged up babies, waffle-bpts, ridiculous 3D, claymation, racism, and NPH ensues.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  Harold and Kumar are two names that have found their way right up there with Cheech and Chong in the realm of stoner comedies.  Granted, ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY may not have been the greatest sequel on the planet (can you say dated jokes, much?), but GO TO WHITE CASTLE still stands as one of the greatest road trip buddy comedies of the last decade.  So the real question is…would a third Christmas-themed installment filled with 3D gimmicks and featuring our friends all grown up hit the same classic level of part one, or fall short, somewhere near the disaster level of part two?

Surprisingly enough, it all kind of works…

It’s been years since Harold and Kumar have spoken.  Harold (John Cho), now a successful broker on Wall Street and happily married to Maria, is busy spending Christmas Eve trying to impress Maria’s mean, Christmas-obsessed, Korean-hating father.  Kumar (Kal Penn), on the other hand, is still getting high in the same apartment after Vanessa broke up with him and he got kicked out of med school.  When a mystery package arrives for Harold at his old address, Kumar decides to deliver the package.  Turns out that package contains a massive blunt that accidentally burns down Harold’s father-in-law’s prized Christmas tree.  Oops.

And that, my friends, is the motivation for the rest of the night.  Something as simple as finding the perfect replacement Christmas tree turns into a night filled with gangsters, car crashes, stoned toddlers, waffle-bots, claymation, ‘gangstas’, A CHRISTMAS STORY, racial stereotypes, a pothead Santa, and Neil Patrick Harris.  Yes, it gets carried away and ridiculous and almost seems like the writers were stoned themselves, thinking “what else can they do on Christmas?!”, but if you’re seeing a HAROLD AND KUMAR movie, are you expecting anything less (or more, depending on your viewpoint)?  They’re going to make fun of every race.  They’re going to insult and offend and bash you over the head with stupidity.  Just learn to enjoy the love-struck waffle-bot and move on!

The heart of the story comes from John Cho and Kal Penn.  You’re so married to the image of these two as best friends, that you almost feel like they’re cheating on each other with their new, completely inadequate BFF’s.  The chemistry and sarcasm is still there, with a beer pong scene being my personal favorite.  I’m not going to go as far as to say it was hitting philosophical notes of nostalgically remembering youth (I don’t think the script is that smart), but it does hint at better, less mature, carefree times, and the spirit of the stoner youths they once were is still there.

While the heart of the story comes from the title characters, the ‘what the F***’ moments are absolutely owned by Neil Patrick Harris.  It still amazes me that his career was basically revived tenfold by his cameo in the first film, but there’s no doubt why.  The man is one of the most talented, nicest gay men in Hollywood, and here, he’s a cocaine addicted, Jesus-annoying asshole version of himself.  Even husband David Burtka has a hysterical cameo as a straight, drug dealing version of himself.  The scene basically steals the movie, and gives the couple’s twins something to really talk about when they get older…

Again, A VERY HAROLD AND KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS isn’t the greatest comedy you’ll see all year.  Many jokes do fall flat, and while it is basically there to make fun of itself, about 95% of the 3D is absolutely unnecessary, really just making me bitter for having spent an extra five bucks on it.  But here’s the thing…I still love these idiot characters.  Think about it: one little trip to White Castle turned ‘that Asian guy from AMERICAN PIE’ into John Cho, ‘that Indian guy from VAN WILDER’ into Kal Penn, and Doogie Howser into the triple threat that is NPH.  If you aren’t fully invested, then wait for a good rental, but if you’re a fan of the first two films, odds are you’ll have a great time with this one (munchies or not).  And, heck, it may even get you into the Christmas spirit.  (Just try to take that $5 for 3D and throw it in a Salvation Army basket instead.)

GRADE: B

Mike’s LIKES:

1) HAROLD AND KUMAR: Two household names at this point, it’s like revising two good old friends.

2) NPH AND DAVID Burtka: Neil Patrick Harris again reigns supreme in the antichrist version of himself.  I don’t want to give anything else away, but how this man could get away with what he does is unbelievable.  David Burtka is also amazing as the twisted, married version of himself.  Good to know he could play along with his husband a bit.

3) SHOOTING SANTA IN THE FACE: I don’t think we’ll ever get to see this on camera again.  It was just so sudden and random that I couldn’t stop laughing.

4) WAFFLE BOT: I would buy this in a second if I knew I could have fresh, homemade waffles all day, every day.  I’d just be a bit afraid with the bot getting obsessed with me…

5) THE JEWS/WHITE CASTLE CAMEO: Oh, you old, ridiculous side characters.  We haven’t forgotten you, either!

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) 3D: Yes, I know they were making fun of the whole 3D fad, but I thought they’d at least put it to a bit of better campy use, and make it worth our money.  Instead, I felt just as cheated as I would have seeing any other movie in the format.  Not cool, guys.

3) CLAYMATION: Very creative, but fell kind of flat.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) One of the lies Adrian tells the virgin is that Kumar works at the White House. Kal Penn actually does work at the White House and took time off to make this movie.

2) The third Harold and Kumar movie was supposed to be called “Harold and Kumar and the Legend of Eazy-e’s Stash”.  Because getting the rights to Easy-e’s estate were so hard, things quickly fell apart, and a Christmas movie was the result.

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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