Imagine the kids from Stand By Me discovering ET with an appetite. I just saved you ten bucks. I loathe marketing campaigns that promise you one type of movie and then deliver something different (The Town is another example). The acting is fantastic…the FX excellent…it's the alien/monster that disappoints. It felt like an afterthought and simply a way to teach the kid about life and loss. No problem with messages in movies but this was as subtle as a sledgehammer. WE GET IT!!! In case you didn't: SEE KID LET GO OF MOM'S NECKLACE AT THE END! (last piece that starts up the spaceship by the way. Yeah, right). HEAR HIM TELL ET2 IT'S OK TO BE SCARED! (phone home big guy, it's all good). Marketing promised Cloverfield, we got Free Willy. Super 8? More like Mediocre 3.
This popcorn comedy is R-rated, so it has the requisite bodily fluids
and gross-out laffs. But a constellation of comic actors in their
element lifts it up a notch. There's a sluttishness to Cameron Diaz, a
slightly-beaten beauty that makes her ideal for the role, and she
plays well with Jason Segel, whose relationship with Diaz evolves with
charm and insults. Like that other “BAD” movie (SANTA), Teacher stays
true to itself most of the way, giving Cameron lots of Bad Girl time.
It softens twice — once with Diaz and a sensitive schoolboy, and at
the end with her and Segel — and you go with it because in both cases
it's handled lightly. Phyllis Smith of “The Office” is sweetly,
divinely funny. David Paymer has just a few lines but makes you wonder
where he's been. Lucy Punch, with perhaps the showiest role, comes
closest to sketch caricature, but nails it. And Justin Timberlake so
masterfully underplays his Goody Twoshoes part, you almost miss the
wit. But then he sings “Simpatico”.
Footnote: how's this for a double bill: Bad Teacher and Half Nelson.
— Jeff Schultz
It's not that BAD TEACHER isn't funny. It is. I laughed out loud, a lot. And since this is rated R, not all of the jokes were in the trailer. Cameron Diaz is beautiful and funny. Phyllis Smith and John Michael Higgins are hysterical in supporting roles. And Jason Segel is hilarious. But the whole movie plays like a string of Saturday Night Live sketches (you know, when it was good, like in the Will Ferrell era). There is something of a plot and if you've seen the trailers you know it involves Diaz buying fake boobs. But you know how it is going to end after about 10 minutes. And one side note. I've been accused of having a “man crush” on Justin Timberlake. His performances on SNL are always winners and he was great in THE SOCIAL NETWORK. But here, he just lays flat on the screen. Even the “sex” scene with Diaz isn't as funny as it was supposed to be. Justin, you're better than this. All in all, this BAD TEACHER couldn't pass any test. — Alan Yudman
Screamingly, achingly funny. Tears of laughter were literally rolling
down my cheeks throughout this English bro-mance. The creative team of
Steve Coogan and Michael Winterbottom has struck again, this time with
Coogan's most personal film yet — one that plays with reality inside
a mirror reflecting a mirror that depicts “reality”. Yes, we're back
in Tristram Shandy territory. But this time, it's not too clever by
half; in fact, the element of pathos comes close to sentimentality.
This is Coogan meditating about growing old and not having become the
big-time movie star he'd hoped (and thought) he would be by now.
Coogan fearlessly, shamelessly shows you his warts, which you almost
have to conclude are part of the real man — that is, actor Steve
Coogan: self-obsessed, monstrously insensitive, competitive to a
fault. And that's where the comedy lies: in Steve's endlessly
hilarious sparring (by way of dueling celebrity impressions) with the
good friend he's too doltish to appreciate. And Rob Brydon is right up
there with Coogan — both in his similar need to best his friend and
his talent for doing so. Much or most of it may have been improvised.
(No writers are credited.) But none of it is throwaway. You may not
laugh harder at any movie this year. — Jeff Schultz
I'm having trouble starting this review. Maybe I need a muse. Something like Paris. Yeah, Paris as a motivator for your art. No one has ever thought of that, right? While it is a well-worn premise, Woody Allen's take on it is totally unique in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. Owen Wilson's tortured Gil wants to be a serious writer, but is trapped in Hollywood as a hack screenwriter (stop me if you've seen this from Woody before) and with a fiancé who doesn't get him(ok seriously, stop me if this is all familiar “Woody”). But these shop worn themes are given a fresh spin as Wilson is nightly transported back to his “golden age”.. Paris of the 1920's. We meet the Fitzgeralds, Hemmingway, Stein, Picasso, Elliot, Dali and more. It is a nightly escape for Wilson, who feels much more at ease in the past. What keeps the audience from rolling it's collective eyes is a fantastic script by Allen and a great job by Wilson. He sets aside his slacker/surfer goofiness that has become tired and owns the role of the out of place Gil. Fine performances by Rachel McAdams, and everyone who plays a character from the past add to the joy. And does anyone romanticize a city better than Allen(not that Paris needs any help)? This is one of Woody's finest movies in years (excepting Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which is one of his best ever). This 90 minutes in Paris is well worth the trip. — Alan Yudman
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That this is Joel Courtney's first and only IMdB credit is difficult
to believe. Along with the far more experienced Elle Fanning, these
two remarkable actors carry on an adolescent romance so touching and
softly modulated, you almost forget you're watching — a monster
movie! But as in Cloverfield, the little-seen monster is the
MacGuffin; it's its effect on the characters that drives the movie.
Love blossoms, friendships are tested, fathers reunite with their
children, and ultimately, the unknown Enemy proves to be benign. In
the movie A.I., Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick were as two
mirrors facing each other: the contradictions stretched (literally)
into infinity, with Stanley's brain just barely winning out over
Steven's heart. (Still, it was a thrilling combination.) Here, the
affinities of Spielberg and J. J. Abrams are more in sync; they're
both drunk on moviemaking and having a ball. So much love for this
band of smart, decent, slightly nerdy pals and the excitement they
share making their first little (but surprisingly adept) flick. You
can watch Super 8 as a film about the creative process, or at least a
warmly remembered account of a director's coming of artistic age. But
mostly, it's just insanely entertaining. Advisory: if you want to know
the name of anyone in the credits, better check IMdB, because you'll
be too busy watching the movie the kids finally come up with, in its
entirety. Brilliant! — Jeff Schultz
Steven Spielberg used to own a special genre of movie. They were populated by wide eyed kids or adults who possess a certain innocence and wonder, and aliens who are scary, but with a heart (see ET or CLOSE ENCOUNTERS for examples). But Steven has moved on to other(not necessarily better) things, but not to worry, J.J. Abrams carries the torch for Spielberg in the fantastic SUPER 8. Abrams is an amazingly talented filmmaker. He really knows how to grab an audience and glue them to their seats. SUPER 8 has heart and a child’s innocence looking at a happier past. It also has incredible visual effects (the train crash is breathtaking). As in CLOVERFIELD, we never really see the alien until later in the film, but we know he’s out there and we know he’s a bad ass. Why else would the Air Force be so calculating and secretive, right? The movie hits all the right notes and while some may roll their eyes at the quieter and sweeter moments, it all worked perfectly for me. The young actors carry the film with special nods to Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney and Riley Griffiths. And does anyone play loathsome government stooge better right now than Noah Emmerich(check him out as a rogue FBI Agent in “White Collar”)? From the opening moments to the 8MM film running through the credits, SUPER 8 is a superior SciFi adventure/thriller. — Alan Yudman
When the geeky, fanboy in me heard they were making X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is was afraid. Afraid of another WOLVERINE. Afraid they had stretched this series too far to make anything resembling a quality film. I should not have been afraid. If it had just been about the visual effects and its faithfulness to the comics, it would have been a fun popcorn movie. Another average superhero flick. What elevates First Class is the presence of an actual script. A well thought out story conceived by Bryan Singer and Sheldon Turner and penned by a quartet of writers. They place it in the more than capable directing hands of Matthew Vaughn and he gets the absolute best out of a wonderful cast. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender bring talent and serious acting chops to their roles as Professor X and Magneto. Kevin Bacon plays the smarmy Sebastian Shaw, dripping with overconfidence. He is perfect. The supporting cast is great, including the amazing Jennifer Lawrence. There is plenty here for the fanboy too.. including nods to the other X-Men movies and a perfectly timed cameo that I won't spoil here. Origin stories can get bogged down in the past. This movie embraces it, uses it and makes it totally plausible. While not in the class of The Dark Knight, this isn't Thor, Catwoman or Green Hornet either. This movie is First Class! — Alan Yudman
A move about a God kicking butt with a mighty hammer should be a lot more fun than THOR. Certain scenes work almost as well as Iron Man (enjoyed the fish out of water parts) but others flounder like Hulk (giant popsicle people trying to steal a glow in the dark brick?) I’m guessing they stayed true to the comic because a lot of what was on screen went over my head. Wished we had more explanation about the realms, the Gods, etc…and less of Natalie Portman doing whatever her job was. Not a bad movie (better than I expected), just wish we had seen more of Thor being the hero. Fingers crossed we will in The Avengers!
HANGOVER 2 is just like the first one…so what?! That seems to be the biggest HANGUP critics have with this one…and that’s a shame. Anyone who liked the original will like this one too. Same formula, same characters, big laughs, bigger payoffs. After watching this, you will never look at mushrooms or listen to Billy Joel’s Allentown the same way again. See it and laugh yourself silly!