Zootopia

A new movie review from The Movie Snob.

Zootopia  (A-).  The latest animated offering from Disney is a delight.  In a world with no humans, all the other mammals have evolved a technological (and very human-seeming) civilization.  Miraculously, predators and prey now live together in peace and harmony.  But species-based stereotyping is still a problem, and when rabbit Judy Hopps decides that she wants to become the first rabbit police officer in the great city of Zootopia, she sends cultural shockwaves throughout the department.  The visuals of the city and its many citizens are great, and Judy herself is completely adorable.  Outstanding voicework by Ginnifer Goodwin (He’s Just Not That Into You) as Judy and by Jason Bateman (Couples Retreat) as a shifty fox on the make also contribute greatly to the success of the movie.  Plenty of other celebrities also contribute vocals, including Idris Elba (Thor) and Shakira.  Check it out!

Disconnect

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Disconnect  (B-).  I don’t think this movie is getting a very wide release, so if you want to see it, you should probably jump on the opportunity.  It feels very much like the movie Crash from several years ago, in that Disconnect involves three separate plotlines that are only faintly connected by having one character be involved in both Plot A and Plot B, and a different character be involved in both Plot B and Plot C.  Anyhoo, this is a cautionary tale about some of the dark sides of our communications revolution.  In Plot A, a young married couple that is grieving the death of their baby gets thrown into further turmoil when their identities (and all their money) are stolen.  In Plot B, the most affecting storyline to me, Jason Bateman (TV’s Arrested Development) and Hope Davis (About Schmidt) play a married couple whose teenaged son falls victim to cyberbullying.  And in Plot C, an ambitious reporter (Andrea Riseborough, Oblivion) at a small cable station gets in over her head when she investigates a weird website where perverts can pay to watch teenagers engage in various kinds of conduct, and she befriends a young man involved in the “business.”  The acting is good, but the stories are a little clunky.  A lot of the drama involves characters staring at screens and typing on iPads or keyboards.  Still, it is worth seeing, especially for the story about cyberbullying.

Paul

A new review from The Movie Snob

Paul (B). Setting aside the extensive foul language, this is an amiable buddy/road-trip/chase movie in which one of the parties being chased happens to be an alien named Paul. Two nerdy Brits (the guys from Shaun of the Dead) are vacationing in America, and after attending a comic-book convention in San Diego they set out in a huge RV to see the great UFO locations of the American West. Lo and behold, they encounter an actual alien in the desert, and although he looks pretty much like you’d expect if you’ve seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind, personality-wise he’s a slacker type like the Seth Rogen character in Knocked Up. (He also happens to be voiced by Seth Rogen (Knocked Up).) Government agents led by Jason Bateman (Hancock) are in hot pursuit, but the trio of fugitives has time to pick up a winsome fundamentalist Christian named Ruth (Kristen Wiig, Whip It) and an older woman named Tara (Blythe Danner, Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom). I enjoyed it, but the movie unnecessarily dumps scorn on fundamentalist Christians, not just for being creationists but seemingly for believing in God at all.

Couples Retreat

New review from the desk of The Movie Snob

Couples Retreat (C-). I saw this comedy at the dollar theater, and the price was about right. Four couples go off to a fabulous island resort where relationship-building exercises will supposedly be optional. But when they get there, they are told that the exercises are most definitely mandatory, and hilarity is supposed to ensue when the goofy French relationship expert Marcel (Jean Reno, Ronin) puts the hapless couples through various zany, off-the-wall stunts. The hilarity is seldom in evidence, but there is a fair amount of crudeness and lameness to make up for it. I was amused at one scene in which the tyrannical Marcel orders the couples to line up facing each other and strip to their underwear; all four women (including Kristen Bell, When in Rome) have flawless Hollywood figures, while the men range from average (Jason Bateman, Juno) to walrus-like (Faizon Love, Elf). Although I did laugh a small handful of times, I am confident you can find something better to spend your entertainment dollars on.  Trivia — this movie was directed by Peter Billingsley, the child star of the classic A Christmas Story.

Arrested Development (Season 3)

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Arrested Development (Season 3) (B). Although the abbreviated final season of Arrested Development doesn’t quite hit the delirious highs of the earlier ones, it still packs quite a few laughs into just 13 episodes. The first half of the season is probably the funnier half, featuring a story arc in which Michael (Jason Bateman, Juno) investigates George, Sr.’s claim that some sinister Brits set him up to take the fall for the Iraqi building project. Charlize Theron (Prometheus) has a recurring guest role, and other notable guest stars include Scott Baio (who replaces Henry Winkler as the family’s new lawyer Bob Loblaw), Judge Reinhold, and Justine Bateman in a memorable turn as someone who just might be Michael’s long-lost sister. I hear that there is a movie in the works, and I will definitely turn out for it. Well, if the reviews are good.

Arrested Development (Season 2)

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Arrested Development (Season 2). (B+) I actually finished watching this season on DVD a few weeks ago, so I’m afraid my memory is already a little hazy. As I recall, I thought the first disc was a little slow — good, but not great — but then the other two discs were better and propelled the show back into the high quality of the first season. Most cast members got their opportunities to shine, although I did think that Lindsay and Maebe (played by Portia de Rossi and Alia Shawkat) got a little shortchanged. One of the most amusing storylines had to do with George Michael (Michael Cera) and his very plain girlfriend Ann Veal (Mae Whitman). At first George Michael’s father Michael (Jason Bateman) can’t remember that Ann exists, then he can’t keep her name straight, and then he just doesn’t like her. Lots of great guest stars, including repeats from the first season like Henry Winkler, Lisa Minelli, and Judy Greer, and new ones like Dick Van Patten, Ione Skye, Ben Stiller, and Zach Braff. We’ll see if the truncated third season can measure up….

Arrested Development – Season One

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Arrested Development – Season One (B+). I never watched this show during its run, and I kind of regret it now. It is a frequently amusing soap-opera spoof about the Bluth family, a wealthy California clan whose wealth comes from a home-construction company run by George Bluth, Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor, Paul). In the first episode, however, George is arrested for suspicion of illegal business dealings, leaving his one responsible child, Michael (Jason Bateman, Juno), to try to run the company while simultaneously managing his conniving mother Lucille and his three ne’er-do-well siblings George, Jr. (called G.O.B., pronounced Jobe), Lindsey, and Buster. As well as his son, George Michael (Michael Cera, This Is the End), his sister’s bizarre husband Tobias, and his slacker niece Maebe. The Buster character is not particularly funny, but the rest are a hoot, like the glassy-eyed Will Arnett (Blades of Glory) as inept magician G.O.B. Soap opera staples like forbidden crushes, blackmail, unexpected adoptions, and twins materializing out of thin air all play their parts. Also, there are lots of great guest stars, such as Jane Lynch (A Mighty Wind), Julia Louise-Dreyfus (TV’s Seinfeld), Judy Greer (American Dreamz), and, in a recurring role as the family’s terrible lawyer Barry Zuckerkorn, Henry Winkler (Night Shift).

I laughed out loud frequently as I worked my way through the first season, watching straight man Michael try to raise his son and save the company without letting his family drive him insane. Oh, and I got a kick out of the often-hilarious “scenes from next week,” which were never part of the next episode but often explained why stuff from the episode you just saw had no real consequences.

To me, this was one of the funniest exchanges all season, when several of the family members are meeting with their lawyer Barry about what will happen at George Sr.’s arraignment in court.

Barry: “You all just have to show up and pretend to be a happy, loving family.”

Lucille: “For how long?”

Barry: “Ten minutes.”

Lucille (with eyes narrowed): “See if you can get it down to five.”