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.”

Hancock

New movie review from The Movie Snob

Hancock (B). This is a different sort of superhero movie. Hancock (Will Smith, Hitch) is pretty much the equivalent of Superman, except he’s a boozy bum whose heroics tend to cause catastrophic levels of collateral damage while he’s catching the bad guys or saving the imperiled good citizen. (And there are apparently enough bad guys in L.A. to make Gotham City look like Mayberry.) After Hancock gives a helping hand to p.r. man Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman, Juno), Ray wants to repay the favor by giving Hancock some free public-relations advice. The movie takes some unpredictable zigs and zags after that, which puts it a notch above your average summer popcorn movie, but I’m not sure that all the zags make sense, so that takes it back down a notch. “B” seems like a fair grade.  Charlize Theron (Young Adult) also stars.

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

Nick at Nite goes to the dollar theater

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

The dollar theater is close to the house, so sometimes we see some strange or forgotten films. This was not strange, but it was forgotten. This Dustin Hoffman (The Graduate) and Natalie Portman (Black Swan) film must not have been too well received since we saw it in the dollar theater only a month after its release. The film deserves better treatment. It is a somewhat disjointed tale about a magical toy store, its owner, and the toy store manager. Jason Bateman (The Switch), plays an accountant who is thrown in as the straight man to all of the other characters in the movie. This is a good movie for the entire family. It is rated “G.” A rarity. It sends typical good messages of believing in yourself, finding a meaningful purpose to life, etc … As for plot the toy store has problems, its owner seems crazy, the toy store manager is a lost young adult, and the accountant is an unhappy bean counter living an unfulfilled life. Somehow they all work it out. I give it a “B.”

Juno

New review from The Movie Snob

Juno (A-). The ample buzz around this little movie is, to my mind, completely justified. I guess it’s sort of being billed as a comedy, but it’s not laugh-out-loud funny. There are some things you smile or chuckle at, but I thought it was a very thoughtful movie about serious issues and about characters you easily come to care about. Ellen Page (X-Men: The Last Stand) plays 16-year-old Juno MacGuff, a precocious, pint-sized high-schooler who seduces her best friend Paulie (Michael Cera, Superbad) and promptly gets pregnant. She considers and quickly rules out an abortion, tells her dad and stepmom in a great scene, and decides to give her baby to a yuppie couple that is desperately seeking to adopt (Jennifer Garner, Danny Collins; Jason Bateman, Paul). The movie basically takes us from conception to delivery, and Page carries the film like a pro. Sure, there are minor imperfections. Juno is a little too sophisticated for a 16-year-old. Although she and Paulie are supposedly best friends, it seems like they never talk about this rather significant development in their relationship. But these are just quibbles about a movie I really enjoyed. I’d also single out Garner, an actress I have never cared for, for a very nice performance. But they’re all good. Go see it. (But do be warned — it is pretty crude in spots. The PG-13 rating seems a little generous to me.)

Three New DVD Reviews from Nick at Nite

Disturbia

Rear Window for the teen set. It is not exactly the same as the Alfred and Jimmy masterpiece, but it is pretty close. Teenager is placed in Martha Stewart lockdown at his house for three months over the summer after he punches his Spanish teacher. Teenager starts to spy on his neighbors and watch the goings on in the neighborhood. Of course, the goings on are bad goings on, and our teenager must deal with it. Even though it is a copy, it isn’t all bad. This is worth a rental. I give it a “B.”

Ocean’s Thirteen

Ocean’s Fourteen, Ocean’s Fifteen, Ocean’s Sixteen . . . as far as I am concerned they can keep making these movies until the end of time. I know it is a formula. I know it is campy. I know it is a continuation of a remake from the original rat pack. Still, I like ’em. These heist films are fantastic. The how-did-they-do-that and comedic bent make them better than the fare you normally see at the cineplex. Sure, my wife likes Pitt, Clooney, and Damon, but that is not main reason we like these movies. We have fun at them. Isn’t that what it is all about? You know, it looks like the actors had fun making this movie. I give it an “A.”

The Ex

I don’t know how I feel about this movie. It has a bunch of actors I like. Jason Bateman (Disconnect), Zach Braff (TV’s Scrubs), Charles Grodin (So I Married an Axe Murderer), Amanda Peet (Gulliver’s Travels), and Mia Farrow (The Great Gatsby). It has some laughs, I always like that. But, it also had some of those fleeting moments of uncomfortableness seen in What About Bob? (why won’t Billy Murray leave Richard Dreyfuss alone?), The Break Up (when it this gonna get funny?), and Swingers (did he really call ten times in a row?) that make my stomach hurt. I watched this with my wife, she kept saying she was going to be very unhappy if it did not have a happy ending. My point is this, when people make movies that are supposed to be funny, they need to be funny, when people want to make dramedies (dramas that have some funny moments), they should clearly label the DVD case or film poster as such. I give a “C+.”

Harry Potter; Arrested Development

New reviews from Nick at Nite:

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I’ll admit it, I am hooked. At first I refused to read the books. I simply would not buy into the hysteria. Like Trix, it was for kids. Plus, it was British and we all know Britain hasn’t had anything good besides Gwyneth Paltrow in a very long time. (She is British, isn’t she?). One night I was starving for something to read and the only thing I could find was the first Harry Potter book I had originally purchased for my wife. Fifteen pages in and I was sold. A magical story about wizards, witches, goblins and such – I simply could not put the book down. It is not The Lord of the Rings, but it is still pretty darn good. I look forward to the movies and each new book. I have not been disappointed by any. The old axiom that the book is always better than the movie it still true as it applies to the Harry Potter series – but the movies hold up pretty well.

As the books, and movies, progress they have gotten longer, better, and more mature (not in any deviant, unhealthy way). It is as if they were intended to mature and age at the same rate as the kids the books were originally targeted at. The Goblet of Fire isn’t for small kids. People die. There is significant violence. He who must not be named makes an appearance and is generally evil and scary. I do have some complaints regarding the movie versus the book. It leaves out some significant issues. First, what about SPEW. The group started by Hermoine to protest the treatment of the house elves. And second, what about the weird relationship between Hagrid, and the “she won’t admit it, but I am a Giant” Headmistress from the creepy, all girl’s Stepford wives’ school. All in all, I think it works very well. They need to get the rest of the movies finished before the kids get too old. They stopped being cute kids after the first movie, now they are just awkward teenagers. I give it an “A.”

Arrested Development (TV series)

Call, write, take a hostage, go on a hunger strike, do what you must, Arrested Development must be saved. I have finished watching seasons one and two on DVD and confirm what the sophisticated critics have been saying for two years … this is the best show on television (Lost is a close second, but I am only half way thru the first season on DVD). At first, I had no interest in watching. It has Jason Bateman (Hancock) in it. It is on FOX and is not Football or Baseball. This story, the story of an older brother who runs the family business while trying to protect his family is sure brilliance. From the father, who is imprisoned for building tract homes in Iraq, to brother Gob, the magician who rides a Sedgway scooter, to the one-armed, slow-witted brother, to Tobias the never nude … it is funny at every turn. Here is my suggestion. If you have not seen it … rent the first disc of season one. Watch all of the episodes, if you don’t think it is funny, send me, The Movie Snob a request for your money back. You have my money-back guarantee on this one. I give it an “A+.”