We’re the Millers

Mom Under Cover indulges in a guilty pleasure.

We’re the Millers – B+.  If you missed this one in the theater, it’s worth a rent.  Definitely NOT family friendly (explicit language and themes) but several laugh-out-loud moments. All four main characters hold their own as a group of misfits on a road trip to bring back a load of pot and get a small-time drug dealer (Jason Sudeikis) off the hook.  Jennifer Aniston plays the same character she always plays but has good chemistry with Sudeikis. Emma Roberts (daughter of Eric Roberts) and Will Poulter are terrific as the teenagers. Be sure to watch the out takes at the end.

For The Movie Snob’s rather different take on the movie, click here.

We’re the Millers

From The Movie Snob.

We’re the Millers  (D).  Alas, my alleged snobbery did not save me from seeing this piece of cinematic trash down at the old dollar theater.  It’s a “comedy” about a small-time Denver drug dealer (Jason Sudeikis, who is somehow the boyfriend of Olivia Wilde (Drinking Buddies), if I’m not mistaken) who owes his boss a ton of money he can’t repay.  So to avoid getting beaten up or worse, he agrees to drive an RV into Mexico in order to smuggle some marijuana back into the USA, thereby repaying his debt.  Reasoning that he will probably have less trouble at the border if he appears to be a family man, the drug dealer recruits three virtual strangers to pose as his family: a stripper (Jennifer Aniston, Management), a homeless girl (Emma Roberts, Hotel for Dogs), and a dorky teenaged boy who lives in his apartment building (Will Poulter, The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader).  Mishaps ensue, accompanied by vast quantities of profanity and vulgarity of all kinds.  It was terrible.  I think I laughed maybe once during the movie, and it’s almost 2 hours long.  Sadly, the outtakes they showed before the closing credits were much funnier than anything in the movie itself.  Please do not see this movie and encourage Hollywood to make more dreck like this.  I regret giving the filmmakers my dollar.

For an interesting and entertaining cultural analysis of the movie, click here.

Wanderlust

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Wanderlust (B-).  Paul Rudd (The Shape of Things) and Jennifer Aniston (Leprechaun) star as a married New York City couple in this fish-out-of-water comedy.  When George loses his job in NYC, the couple has to downsize, and on their way to stay with George’s brother in Atlanta they spend one night in a Georgia bed-and-breakfast that actually turns out to be a hippie commune called Elysian Fields or something like that.  George’s brother being an unbearable jerk, the couple quickly decides to return to Elysium and give the hippie life a try.  I have to give it an above-average grade, because I did laugh out loud a few times at the outrageous goings-on at the commune, and especially the antics of their leader/guru Seth (Justin Theroux, Megamind).  Also, I have to give a shout-out to Linda Lavin of TV’s Alice, who is quite funny in a small role as the couple’s real-estate agent in NYC.  But the film gets plenty of demerits for its unrelenting vulgarity.  A few scenes in particular go way over the top in their cartoonish coarseness, and I have to disagree with the director’s apparent belief that these dumpster dives are the height of hilarity.  I can’t really recommend it, but if you can stand the gutter talk you might get some laughs out of it like I did.

Just Go With It

New review from The Movie Snob

Just Go With It (C-). If I understand correctly, the original source material for this weak effort is a French farce that has already been made into a movie once, 1969’s Cactus Flower, starring Walter Matthau and Ingrid Bergman, of all people. Adam Sandler (The Wedding Singer) plays Danny, a well-to-do plastic surgeon who hits on women by pretending to be unhappily married and pouring his soul out to them. Supposedly this works so well that he is able to basically defraud tons of beautiful women into having one-night stands with him. So our protagonist is, in my humble opinion, a creep from the get-go. Life throws him a curve when he falls in love with a 23-year-old schoolteacher named Palmer who looks like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model — which the “actress” who plays Palmer, Brooklyn Decker, actually is. Danny’s got 20 years on Palmer, but she’s still digging him until she finds the wedding band he uses to pick up chicks. Because the truth would make him look like an odious jerk, he comes up with a quick lie–he’s in the process of divorcing–and he cajoles his attractive office manager and good pal Katherine (Jennifer Aniston, The Switch) to play his soon-to-be ex-wife when Palmer insists on meeting her. And it gets a lot more complicated from there as the lies pile up. There were a few humorous moments, but on the whole, not very good. I would’ve liked it better if Danny had gotten a big comeuppance for his early caddish behavior. Oh, Nicole Kidman (Dead Calm) has a small role as Katherine’s frenemy from her sorority days; she doesn’t have much to do, but she overacts it with great exuberance.

The Switch

DVD review from The Movie Snob

The Switch (B-). I didn’t see great reviews for this 2010 release, so I skipped it. But then I recently saw a column somewhere that gave it a few compliments, so I picked it up from the local Redbox. Jennifer Aniston (Management) gets top billing as Cassie, a 40-year-old New Yorker who decides to quit waiting for Mr. Right and to have a baby with the help of a sperm donor whom she will personally select. But the top billing rightfully belongs to Jason Bateman (Paul), who plays Wally, Cassie best friend, who has never been able to admit his feelings for her because they are buried so deeply under layers of Woody-Allen-style neurosis. Anyhoo, Cassie passes him over when it’s time to pick the baby daddy. After Cassie has her baby, she moves back to Minnesota for several years, but then she moves back to NYC with her son Sebastian, who sort of resembles Wally, oddly enough. It’s not bad flick. But is Jennifer Aniston ever going to get the movie she needs to really break out? And how long have we been asking that question now?

Love Happens

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Love Happens (D). This is what happens when you rely on The Borg Queen’s Netflix subscription, people! I like Jennifer Aniston (Management) as much as the rest of America, but dang she has made some bad movies. This recent bomb stars Aaron Eckhart (Thank You for Smoking) as self-help guru Burke Ryan, whose specialty is grief counseling. His own wife died in a car crash three years earlier, and now he is on the motivational-speaking circuit touting his book, entitled A-OK. But Ryan is plainly not okay as he blows into Seattle (where his wife died) for one of his gigs. He meets Eloise (Aniston), a local flower-shop owner fresh from a break-up, and tentatively goes after her. The movie is all over the place tonally — the tentative romance gets no more screen time than Ryan’s grief-therapy encounters with a seminar-goer named Walter, and on top of that Ryan has to deal some with his deceased wife’s father (Martin Sheen, Apocalypse Now). Painful stuff.

The Movie Snob’s 2009 Year in Review!

Happy New Year, and welcome to my annual movie round-up. If I saw a movie in the theater in 2009, I consider it fair game for this column, even if it was technically a 2008 release. I saw 62 movies in the theater last year, and these are the most worthy of your attention.

Movie of the Year: My pick is The Hurt Locker, a taut thriller about the Iraq War that has a strong documentary feel to it. The actor who carries the movie, Jeremy Renner, does a heck of a job as a bomb-defusing expert. I think the movie recently came out on DVD, so check it out.

Runner Up: The number 2 spot goes to a 2008 release, The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke. He should have won the Oscar for his moving portrayal of a washed-up professional wrestler. The scenes in which he tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter, played by Evan Rachel Wood, are especially moving, but the whole movie is excellent.

Best Action/Adventure Flick: And my pick for the 3d best movie I saw this year would be District 9, the out-of-nowhere sci-fi movie about a shantytown of extraterrestrials living outside of Johannesburg, South Africa, and the clueless bureaucrat whose job is to push all the aliens into an even more remote concentration camp. I’m crossing my fingers for a sequel to this one! Honorable mention goes to J.J. Abrams’s reboot of the Star Trek franchise, even if he rewrote Trek history in the process.

Best Animated Feature: With the caveat that I haven’t seen The Princess and the Frog yet, I’ll go with the obvious choice of Up, in which a grumpy old man ties enough helium balloons to his house to fly all the way to South America. But except for the awesome opening montage that tells the whole story of the man’s life in just a few minutes, I didn’t think Up was really all that great.

Best Comedy: I’ll stretch this category a teensy bit and pick My One and Only, a winsome little movie that is supposedly based on episodes in the life of George Hamilton during his teen years. The redoubtable Renee Zellweger plays George’s mother, a hapless Southern belle searching for love in all the wrong places. I’m probably exaggerating its merits, but I really liked it at the time. Same goes for Management, a romantic comedy starring Steve Zahn and Jennifer Aniston. It involves a totally impossible romance, but the leads are so likable I just had to like the movie. In the category of crude yet funny, I liked I Love You, Man.

Best Documentary: Let’s go with the obvious choice and pick Disney’s Earth. Who doesn’t love a good nature documentary? I love ’em, and I’ll go ahead and mention Under the Sea 3D as being worthwhile too.

Best Drama: Or maybe it belongs in the comedy category, but either way I really enjoyed Up in the Air starring George Clooney and directed by Jason Reitman. It’s still in the theaters, so get out there and see it! Another movie that straddles the dramedy line is the quirky (500) Days of Summer, starring the quirky yet adorable Zooey Deschanel. While you’re at it, check out the CD she sings on, under the name She & Him. I was also grabbed by the 2008 release The Reader, although I still don’t know quite how I feel about that movie. It’s a strange one.

Best Foreign Film: I don’t think I saw too many foreign films this year, but I liked A Woman in Berlin, about the Russian conquest of Berlin in 1945 as seen through the eyes of one German woman. It was brutal without ever feeling exploitative. I also recommend the book, which I think is still listed as authored by “Anonymous” even though the woman’s identity is known. Another good one was The Class, or Entre les murs, about a French teacher trying to deal with a very fractious and multicultural classroom. Also, Summer Hours, a French movie that’s just a simple little family drama, well-told.

Honorable Mentions: I have a bunch of them. There’s Wendy and Lucy, a little movie about a sad, down-on-her-luck young woman played by Michelle Williams, and her beloved dog. Adventureland is a good little coming-of-age story starring Jesse Eisenberg of Zombieland fame. Moon is a thought-provoking little sci-fi movie. In the Loop is a funny look at the run-up to a fictitious (?) war as seen through the eyes of low-to-mid-level American and British government staffers. The Informant! is a straight movie about a bizarre guy; you just can’t help asking, “Is this really based on a true story? No, really?” Ellen Page scores again in the roller derby movie Whip It. The Coen brothers ask unanswerable questions in A Serious Man. And finally I will mention, based solely on the strength of their visual effects, Disney’s A Christmas Carol and Avatar. See them in 3D, I insist!

First seen on video this year: I haven’t done this before, but I’ll go ahead and recommend a few movies I saw on video this year. The animated feature Bolt is a cute one, about a dog who thinks he has super powers — kind of like a canine Buzz Lightyear. The original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still is still surprisingly good, and the 1963 version of The Haunting is still surprisingly scary. I also enjoyed the little-seen Luke Wilson movie Henry Poole Is Here, the classic Western The Gunfighter starring Gregory Peck, and the classics From Here to Eternity and To Have and Have Not.

So that’s my 2009 in a nutshell. Please post your comments and voice your own opinions!

Management

Movie review from The Movie Snob

Management (B+). I went into this independent flick with low expectations. The Dallas Morning News reviewer gave it only a C, and I saw a trailer that made it look absolutely terrible. But it stars the irrepressible Steve Zahn (That Thing You Do!), not to mention Jennifer Aniston (We’re the Millers), so I resolved to give it a chance (at a matinee). I was pleasantly surprised. Zahn is well-cast as Mike, a man-child who works (and lives) at a motel owned by his parents in a small town in Arizona. Aniston is Sue, an employee of a company back East that deals in corporate art, i.e., paintings you see in hotel rooms. Mike is understandably smitten when Sue checks into the motel, and he sets out to romance Sue in his own inept fashion–he’s rather like an older and much less worldly Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything. His stalkerish behavior would make him totally unsympathetic–except that Sue, who is sad and dissatisfied with her own life, is not totally unreceptive to Mike’s overtures during her brief stay. That’s all the excuse Mike needs to spend his life savings on a one-way ticket to Baltimore, where he shows up at her office unannounced. Things unspool from there. Woody Harrelson (Zombieland), who is not one of my favorite actors, is perfect as Sue’s former boyfriend Jango, a former punk-rocker turned yogurt mogul. Maybe it was just my low expectations, but I really enjoyed this movie.

He’s Just Not That Into You

New review from The Movie Snob

He’s Just Not That Into You (D). And let me say up front that there will be some general spoilers in this review–nothing too specific, but enough that you might prefer to skip it.

Anyway, I am not too into chick flicks, and the generally mediocre reviews did not make me particularly want to see this one. (Jennifer Aniston, We’re the Millers, is in it, which is a warning sign right there.) But then I read a review by a fellow named Ross Douthat that piqued my curiosity. He entitled his review “The Way We Live Now,” and he thought the film was interesting for its unusually unflattering look at the “essentially Darwinian” nature of modern dating. Being fairly out of touch with that scene myself, I went to see what he was talking about. The movie’s large cast of well-known actresses and perhaps less well-known actors wheel around each other in various combinations. There’s a married couple, a long-time couple in which the guy “doesn’t believe in marriage,” and a bunch of other folks who want to be in couples but can’t seem to manage it. The protagonist, Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin, Walk the Line), is a perky young thing who is so desperate to get attached that she will basically stalk a guy after a single mediocre date, somehow not realizing that this is the worst possible strategy she could devise. A friendly bartender (Justin Long, Drag Me to Hell) breaks the earth-shattering news to her (repeatedly) that a guy’s bad behavior (or his mere failure to call) should be taken at FACE VALUE. Also, ladies should not place more significance on vague “signs” that a guy is interested than on his open and wanton neglect. Also, do not base your dating strategy on a legend that your cousin’s friend’s college roommate found true love after chasing, or putting up with unmitigated crap from, some guy for umpteen years.

All of this seemed reasonably honest to me. So did a sordid subplot about a tawdry adultery. I may not have liked these people, but I believed what I was seeing. The kick in the teeth came at the end, when the movie abandoned the honest-feeling stuff and started dropping happy endings on us like anvils. Not every character got one, admittedly — a few were left out in the cold. But some characters underwent ridiculous changes of heart to bring about the desired Hollywood endings, and the wrap-ups generally trashed the seemingly solid advice previously dispensed by the affable bartender. Apparently Hollywood suspects that we can stand only so much truth about “the way we live now,” and then we have to be cheered up with happy endings, no matter how phony. The movie chickened out of the hard truths it had worked so hard to establish, and it made me mad. Skip it.

Derailed

DVD review from guest reviewer The Borg Queen

Derailed. D-.

I hated this movie. Generally, it is about Charles Schine (Clive Owen, Children of Men) meeting Lucinda Harris (Jennifer Aniston, Management) in a chance encounter on a train. Although both of them are married and each has a daughter, there is an immediate attraction between the two of them. Before you know it, they end up at a back-alley hotel to consummate their affair. But, they get interrupted when a stranger breaks into the room to rob them. The stranger, LaRoche (Vincent Cassel, Black Swan), ends up essentially haunting Schine, threatening to expose the affair to his wife, threatening his family, and extorting considerable amounts of money out of him. Although the concept was semi-interesting, the execution was awful. Schine acted completely contrary to human nature throughout the movie. Then again, if his character responded the way a person would be expected to respond, the movie would have ended pretty quickly. Granted, there are some unexpected developments, but the annoyance of the rest of the movie makes the whole thing an utter disaster. I really like Jennifer Aniston, but I have to say don’t waste your time on this movie – you’ll just end up skipping scenes to get to the end like I did. Also, be forewarned there is a rape scene.

Neil Young: Heart of Gold; The Break-Up

New reviews from That Guy Named David

Neil Young: Heart of Gold (C)

This was an “intimate musical portrait” of Young produced by famed director Jonathan Demme (Philadelphia, Silence of the Lambs, Caged Heat). In renting this one, I was under the impression it would be similar to No Direction Home, Martin Scorcese’s 2005 documentary on Bob Dylan, which I consider to be one of the best documentaries put out in the last few years. I was mistaken. Heart of Gold is merely a concert film, and not a real good one at that. The film documents a performance by Young at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on his Prairie Wind concert tour a few years back. That’s it. That’s everything. And while I enjoy Young’s music (and therefore, didn’t really mind watching the concert), it fell far below my expectations. Perhaps if I had realized I was going to be watching Young sit in one spot on a stage and play the guitar for an hour or so, I would have enjoyed it more. Oh well…

The Break-Up (D)

*** SPOILER ALERT *** SPOILER ALERT *** SPOILER ALERT ***

Vince Vaughn (Couples Retreat) and Jennifer Aniston (Wanderlust) meet. They move into a condo together. They break-up. They stay living in the same condo and continue to fight. They sell the condo and go their separate ways. The end.

I just saved you $3.50. If it wasn’t for a brief view of Aniston’s butt as she walks naked down a hall, this would get the same grade as Anaconda.

Derailed

From guest reviewer Comic Book Guy.

Derailed (Unrated version on DVD)

My wife must be on a Jennifer Aniston kick because this is her second film in less than a month that has shown up from Netflix. Not that I mind, and this film had more to offer than the last one (Friends with Money). I was surprised by this film. I don’t want to give anything away so rather than focus on plot elements, I’ll say this: the strong story makes up for this film’s other flaws. I’ll also say this—it’s not for the squeamish or the meek at heart. There’s a lot of ugliness in this movie—and without it, the film would lack its visceral punch. I wonder if the theatrical release was cleaned up. Don’t judge this film till it’s over. I wanted to turn it off after the first 45 minutes or so but was glad I saw it through to the bitter end. You’ll cheat yourself if you don’t take it all in.

JUDGMENT: B-

Friends with Money

DVD review from Comic Book Guy.

Friends with Money

Just released on DVD, you’d think this movie would have something going for it. You’d be wrong. With four solid female leads (Joan Cusack, Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener and the lovely Jennifer Aniston) I thought I’d at least see some decent acting, but first-time director Nicole Holofcener (who also wrote this lame excuse of a movie – that should have been a warning sign), managed to drive this straight into the ground. Here’s the plot: four women are friends. Three of them are married. They each have their own problems. They talk about their problems, sometimes to each other. Yeah, that’s it. No snappy dialogue; no outstanding performances (although McDormand is the strongest of the four); none of the things that can save an otherwise mediocre film (Violence, Nudity, or Special Effects).

Oh yeah – here’s the moral: everybody has their own problems. Mind blowing revelation, huh? Granted, I don’t care much for these “I’ve got a bad case of middle-age angst” movies, but not even Jennifer Anniston dressed in a French Maid’s Costume having sex could save this. I’m still trying to figure out how this was allowed to open the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. Maybe they show the bad films first so everything else will seem really good in comparison. Or maybe Holofcener was this year’s darling. Remember what happened to those guys who made Blair Witch Project? Yeah, me neither.

I should have known better than waste my time on this since I didn’t even remember it coming out at the theatre – that’s another warning sign. My wife did cry (maybe because it was so bad) although don’t read too much into that. Commercials make her tear up. I told her if she keeps putting this kind of crap in the Netflix cue, I’m taking over.

Judgment? Don’t Bother. You’d be better off spending the 88 minutes working on your own problems.

The Break-Up

From The Bleacher Bum:

The Break-Up has serious star quality with Vince Vaughan, Jennifer Aniston, Joey Lauren Adams, John Favreau, Vincent D’Onofrio, and five other easily recognizable faces, and all gave solid performances. Vaughan and Favreau made me laugh out loud several times. Aniston and Adams were smart, lovable, entertaining and looked good. However, the movie is hampered by the script and the director. Scenes which were supposed to be funny were serious, and ones that were supposed to be serious were funny. It lost its way very quickly, and the actors were left with very little to work with. This movie is a date movie that is not enjoyable for two people on a date.

Movie Scale:
Homerun
Triple
Double
Single
Strikeout

The Break-Up: Single

Bruce Almighty

From The Movie Snob:

Bruce Almighty. (C+) No one will be surprised to learn that The Movie Snob is not a Jim Carrey fan. But this movie’s premise sounded promising. Carrey plays an average guy who complains loudly and often about how God is running the world when things aren’t going his way. Soon enough, God responds to the complaints by letting Carrey run things for a while. But the Hollywood sausage-grinder generally reduces this interesting concept to a series of sight gags and cliched epiphanies. Parts were amusing enough, but overall this flick was nothing special. Maybe Carrey had only one The Truman Show in him.  Also features Jennifer Aniston.

Shanghai Nights; Old School; The Good Girl

These reviews are courtesy of John. John is the oldest member of our Movie Court, and we sometimes affectionately refer to him as “The Grade Inflater.” But he was surprisingly rough on this latest batch of movies….

Shanghai Knights. (C+) The follow-up to the surprisingly entertaining Shanghai Noon, starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. This time, they’re in England chasing down the …yada yada yada. Mildly amusing but more of the same. I like Owen Wilson (ex-boyfriend in Meet The Parents) enough to make it worth a matinee, but am uncomfortable making a recommendation.

Old School. (B) I laughed out loud a few times, mostly at Will Ferrell’s idiotic hijinks. There was enough funny stuff to keep me entertained and at least a semblance of a plot, albeit completely unrealistic, to officially qualify it as a top-notch guy flick, for what that’s worth. A relative lack of the gross-out Austin Powers Goldmember-type humor was a positive.

The Good Girl. (D+) I rented what I believed to be some basic chick-flick feel-good movies. I got this one wrong (maybe I’ll actually read the box for a description of the movie next time). Jennifer Aniston plays a hapless check-out girl at a generic dept. store who’s discontent with her bland life. John C. Reilly plays the likeable but simple underachieving devoted husband. Jennifer meets a Holden Caulfield wanna-be and her life becomes even more of a struggle. Aniston is a reasonably good, as is Reilly, but the movie is just a depressing bag of turmoil (works well with geraniums). I thought it sucked, frankly, though there were a few humorous scenes involving a female co-worker (Zooey Deschanel).

Finally, with due respect to the Queen, I liked Undercover Brother. No way that’s an F. I agree fully with the One Hour Photo review.