It’s easier to forgive a comedy for being lazy because, unless it’s so god-awful it never even deserved to be made, it probably had a least a laugh or two. WE’RE THE MILLERS has lots more than that, but the writers are not on their A-game. The single biggest reason to see this is for the scene-after-scene stealing performance from Will Poulter. He’s “Kenny”, the waif-y naïf who becomes the phony “Miller son” — and who pretty much walks away with the movie. It’s not all that much to walk away from, mostly because it has no surprises. It plays out just the way you see coming and goes soft the same way, although there’s a sweetness to that that goes down easily. Again, Will Poulter’s awkwardness around girls is the sugar plum center of that sweetness and here he is as touching as he is hysterically geeky elsewhere. Jason Sudeikis has a terrific way of underplaying a line that punches it home — I’m thinking of his first conversation with the “daughter’s” new boyfriend, and speaking of that boyfriend, he’s the other standout laugh-getter. Here, Mark L. Young is an older version of the longhair he played in the short-lived MTV American remake of “The Inbetweeners”. Funny kid. — Jeff Schultz
Machete don’t do a lot of things. He don’t text, he don’t tweet, he don’t die. Maybe he should add sequels to his list. MACHETE KILLS is the next installment that features Danny Trejo as the former Federale who is the badass’ badass. We find Machete and his girlfriend (?) Jessica Alba busting American soldiers trying to sell weapons to a Mexican cartel. The cartel shows up and kills the soldiers, then some mercenaries show up and kill the cartel guys. Then Alba gets shot in the head. I could continue, but what’s the point. The cast is filled with pretty good actors (Walton Goggins, William Sadler, Michelle Rodriguez, Mel Gibson, Demian Bechir, Amber Heard, Sofia Vergara, Carlos Estevez… yeah, Charlie Sheen). But they have nothing to work with but smarmy dialogue and extreme violence. I expected the violence. I also expected some depth of character which the main characters in the original MACHETE had. Not here. They try to give a few characters backstories, but they are ridiculous even for this genre. To illustrate how awful this is, there are nods to Star Wars and Mooraker and neither are funny or work at all. Eventually Machete is launched into orbit on a Space-X rocket, complete with cameo send off from Elon Musk. And then all of a sudden, it just stops, with the promise of a sequel. What? Robert Rodriguez wants to make me sit through another one of these idiotic nods to 1970’s Grindhouse movies? No way. I’m out. No amount of cartoonish violence, women wearing body hugging bodices or snarls from Danny Trejo can get me into another theater to watch part three of this mess. MACHETE KILLS fun. — Alan Yudman
If you are going to make a movie about porn you can go a few ways. BOOGIE NIGHTS is a “nostalgic” look at 1970’s era porn. You can go documentary like INSIDE DEEP THROAT which looks at how that film got made and how it became a cultural phenomenon. For his first time out as a director, Joseph Gordon-Levitt decided to go comedy with DON JON. To be fair, the movie isn’t “about” porn. It uses porn as a touchstone for its lead character, the womanizing Jon. The dude is obsessed with it, likes it better than real sex and thinks it’s ok because he confesses to it at church every Sunday. So as they say in New Jersey (where the film is located), all good. Jon thinks the problem is with the women, until his girlfriend breaks up with him over porn and lying, and he meets Julianne Moore, a more mature woman. DON JON is about love and obsession and how one can easily be mistaken for the other. It is a fantastic first effort for Gordon-Levitt. He is a fine actor who has done loads of good work on screen. It’s nice to see that he has a love of film and filmmaking and is talented enough to put it up on the screen for all of us to enjoy. Gordon-Levitt gets great performances from the entire cast, with special kudos to Scarlett Johansson who plays his bitchy-controlling girlfriend Barbara and Tony Danza who plays his stereotypical Italian-American dad. Just a heads up if you are thinking of checking out this movie. It is rated R, and not without reason. Lots of quickly edited clips from online porn. Nothing overly explicit, but you know what you’re looking at. If none of that bothers you or you can look past it to the real story, then DON JON is worth checking out! — Alan Yudman
When you’re trying to make a movie about a group of friends attempting to relive their youth, it can get messy. Very messy. The filmmakers have to watch out for over sentimentality. Some try to hide that in comedy and almost never get it right. No worries about that here. THE WORLD’S END is almost a perfect movie. It’s hysterically funny (I’m going to have to see it again because I know I missed some lines while we in the audience was laughing), but it also has a huge heart. These five friends (Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine and Martin Freeman) return to their hometown to complete a pub crawl along the “Golden Mile”. The last pub is THE WORLD’S END. Along the way they learn about themselves and battle to save earth. Yeah, battle to save earth in a sleepy British town. This could have been an unfunny mess of a movie with rank sentimentality and melodrama. But, it’s NOT!!! It’s awesome. Pegg and Frost wrote it. Edgar Wright directed it. The results are brilliant. Every note is perfect. Pegg, Frost and Wright paid homage to zombie movies in SHAUN OF THE DEAD and buddy cop movies in HOT FUZZ. Those were great, but this is another level of excellent. This homage to sci-fi is smart and loving without making fun of the genre. That’s a hard tone to nail, but they did it here. Ok, I’ll say it. Pegg deserves to be considered for a Best Actor nomination. He is funny and touching and raw all at the appropriate time. Pegg and Frost deserve consideration for Original Screenplay and Wright for directing. Have a Cornetto and enjoy what may be the best movie I’ve seen all summer and the most fun I’ve had in a theater in more than a year. — Alan Yudman
Raise your glasses and toast the funniest movie of the year! From the beginning to the “End”, this pub crawling end of the world comedy does what seemed to be impossible: deliver more laughs than both “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”! When Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright work together, it’s magic. When they don’t, you get “Paul” or “Scott Pilgrim vs The World”. Pegg’s script and performance coupled with Wright’s unique direction make this a hilarious ride. No hangover here, this one is classic!
Julia Louis-Dreyfus has won a mantle full of Emmy awards. From “Seinfeld” to “Veep”, she has without a doubt had the most successful career of any of the “Seinfeld” cast (not that we should measure such things, but there you go). But her success on the small screen hasn’t yet translated to the big screen. “Enough Said” may change that. Louis-Dreyfus is Eva, a divorced mom of a teenager about to head off to college. She’s a masseuse who drags her massage table around town in the back of her Prius. Eva goes to a party with her friends (Toni Collette and Ben Falcone) and meets two people who will upend her life. One is Marianne (Catherine Keener), a poet who according to Eva has wonderful taste, becomes a massage client. The other is Albert (James Gandolfini), a divorcee who loves and overprotects his snob of a daughter. Both relationships grown. Eva’s initial discomfort over Albert’s size becomes a non-issue as the two fall for each other. Eva also become friends with Marianne who rants on and on about her loathsome ex-husband. The audience and Eva soon learn that the ex-husband Marianne has so much disdain for is Albert. Eva struggles with revealing her relationships with both of them, not wanting to lose her new friend or her new boyfriend. “Enough Said” can be predictable, but it is very well written and directed by Nicole Holofcener. And the performances of Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini are fantastic. The two seem mismatched (both on screen and in real life) but you believe both of them and like both of them and root for it all to work out. It’s heartbreaking that this was Gandolfini’s final role, since this is a perfect role to show off his talent and range. At only 90 minutes, “Enough Said” is a little gem that should not be missed. — Alan Yudman