Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weekend Report: Bad Teacher, Cars 2, Popper's Penguins

It was a hell of a weekend at sea, Captain! Hi folks…Reel Rhino here…what a great weekend for the box office. Yes, Cars 2 brought in $68 million to talk the title, but how about that Bad Teacher?!? $31 million for a hard-R adult flick…that’s not too shabby! Green Lanterns is only at $89 million so far and that’s on a $200 million budget…that really may hurt the chance of a sequel! While I know there is little chance of a sequel of Super 8, it is doing quite well, nearing $100 million domestically and on only a $50 million budget. JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg together…if you haven’t seen it yet, please do.

This Tuesday…JUNE 28th…9:00pm…TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON – You gotta love Bay for flipping the midnight release on its head and backing it up to 9:00pm for the old folks like me, who just don’t roll as easily into the all-nighters. The film is playing at 9:00pm in IMAX where you have it and otherwise in standard 2-D and mainly in 3-D. Michael Bay hooked up with James Cameron to get some pointers on the ins and outs of 3-D…that can’t be a bad thing, right?

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  • 3-D Advice from James Cameron
  • Executive Producer: Steven Spielberg
  • Action Guru: Michael Bay
  • Megan Fox Out: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley In
I think I am excited! Are you?  Call me crazy, but I think my position as a Michael Bay apologist is about to gain some momentum.

Well, to some reviews…her is my last 8 days at the movies…#1001, #1002, and #1003…if you’re keeping score at home.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins: 3.5 of 5 Horns
Mr. Popper’s Penguins is based on a 1938 Newbury Award winning book by Richard and Florence Atwater. This movie, while based on that book, is certainly a liberal adaptation of that classic material.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a Jim Carrey vehicle that is a rather subtle Carrey performance. I lead with that nugget as there are those that like super duper ZANY Jim Carrey and those who like dramatic Jim Carrey. This has a few zany moments, but mostly his scenes are subtle enough to swallow down regardless of how you feel about the actor.

The story revolves around Mr. Popper (Carrey) who we meet as a lonely boy, whose father is an explorer and world traveler and the only way the father and son pair communicate with one and other is via ham radio. We see this little boy growing and while you can tell he loves his father, he is quite heartbroken as well and jaded as well.
Smash cut to the adult Mr. Popper, a smooth talking real estate executive who seems to have it all. One day he gets the call…his father has passed away and left him but one thing…Penguins.

The story is simple enough and is rather entertaining, but only in a simple and fun way. This movie is no thinker, but as it does give you miles of physical humor to enjoy in the antics of these penguins and their integration into a New York lifestyle. The emotional core is built around a variety of Daddy Issues. Mr. Popper had daddy issues to the senior Popper and Mr. Popper’s two kids, Billy and Janie, aren’t really crazy about him either. Hey, he divorced Carla Gugino (the former Mrs. Popper)….I’d be mad at him too!

This was a fun film to watch but really didn’t leave much of a lasting impression. Much of the interaction with the penguins is run into corny grounds, which is exactly where a movie like this HAS TO exist. What are you going to get with something like this…a pseudo documentary? This movie had to be ridiculous.

Cameos by Phillip Baker Hall, Clark Gregg, Angela Lansbury, Jeffrey Tambor, and David Krumholtz helped keep the interest level up; but for the decent story that it was, I think you can safely save this one for a rental.
3.5 Horns out of 5 for Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

Bad Teacher: 4 of 5 Horns
Cameron Diaz is no stranger to adult films. No wait just a minute! I didn’t mean that kind of adult films…get your minds out of the gutter!
Ms. Diaz is very well known in the R-rated comedy circles for her no holds barred portrayal of the titular Mary in There’s Something About Mary.

Her turn as Elizabeth Halsey is another classic performance, but for its execution and delivery, I don’t think this film will be nearly iconic.
Bad Teacher is a very funny story. It’s kind of funny like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but not as Funny as Old School or The 40 Year Old Virgin.

Elizabeth Halsey is a money-grubbing man chaser who will literally do ANYTHING to land a man with dough.

A great supporting cast made this movie truly shine, including Jason Segel as the gym teacher Russell Gettis. Segel plays Gettis like no character I’ve seen from him before. I think that this character had the most confidence of any Segel roles to date, and it suited him very well.

Justin Timberlake was acceptable in the corny role of Scott Delacorte, the new teacher in town who becomes the object of Ms. Halsey’s affections and the impetus for her to try and raise the dough for breast augmentation surgery.

There are plenty of juvenile humor moments in this film, but they didn’t bother me as much as normal. I think the writing was sharp and the execution clean, which actually made some of the “dick and fart” joke moments work. The movie was written by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, both of whom are currently penning GHOSTBUSTERS 3. I hope their delivery here is an indication of what we might be seeing from the boys in beige!

Lucy Punch as Amy Squirrel was brilliant. Ms. Punch has made appearances in recent flicks like Dinner for Schmucks and Take Me Home Tonight and I give you the Reel Rhino 100% guarantee, this woman will be a star.

Additional support from Phyllis Smith…aka Phyllis from THE OFFICE…was great as she brings a sense of innocence to the dirty/crude antics and experiences them in a wholly comedic way. Fantastic character actor John Michael Higgins plays Principal Wally Snur, a man obsessed with dolphins and with making his school great. And the always enjoyable Thomas Lennon cameos as a state education testing official, with hilarity to ensue.

The crux of the tale revolves around Ms. Halsey and Ms. Squirrel jockeying for position as the love interest to Mr. Delacourt. It seems that he comes from money and while Ms. Squirrel has pure intentions as Delacourt is a real sensitive sally, Ms. Halsey will do anything to find a rich man to support her. She sees a picture of his ex-, and she realizes…it’s bigger breasts or bust (pun intended).
These two ladies square off with very funny results and the great supporting cast helped up the enjoyment of this naughty, well-made R-rated flick.

A funny aside…this film had a real FREAKS AND GEEKS feel to it. F&G is a series that if you haven’t seen, you really should. It runs occasionally on IFC and the full series is only something like 18 episodes. Jake Kasdan was the producer and occasional director of F&G and he was also the director of this movie. There was a great homage to F&G with the all teacher band and bar scene concert with teacher Sandy Pinkus, channeling his role from F&G as Jeff Rosso, hippie guidance counselor, who rocked it out in similar fashion back in 1999. See this movie, see Freaks and Geeks. Kasdan is one of the disciples of Apatow, so you can be sure he is one to follow.

All in all, I really had a good time with this film. There weren’t many huge gut-busting laughs, but it was a steady run of guffaws, chuckles, and “oh no you didn’t.” Also, the theater I saw it in was about ½ full and everyone in the theater also seemed to like, which made it that much better of a viewing experience.
4 of 5 Horns for Bad Teacher.

Cars 2: 3 of 5 Horns
Cars 2 is an extremely watchable film. The trouble is, when you’re Pixar, extremely watchable Is one of the worst things that can be said about your movie.

I enjoyed this more Mater centric tale and I thought that the Pixar folks successfully wove together this story of international mystery and intrigue with the old folks from Radiator Springs…but…
Oh that darn but, Rhino!

BUT…I think that Pixar decided to coast a bit for this one.

Exhibit A: Talking about the “dinosaurs” going extinct…they couldn’t have changed it to “Dino-Cars,” just for those few lines?

Exhibit B: When Lighting and Mater were at the dance club for the World Grand Prix reception, there were lights from above shining on the floor. Mater and Lightning drove around and as they did, the lights didn’t shine on them, indicating inattention to this as a detail.

Exhibit C: When the final chase/battle is on, as Mater and Lightning hit a big hill and launch into the air, the texture map for the animation modeling was visible for a fraction of a second.

What does all this mean? That the boys at Pixar are Human Beings! We all thought Tiger Woods, and Michael Jordan, and Charlie Sheen were perfect...but they faltered and their images paid the price…okay, so maybe Charlie Sheen was far from perfect, but you get the idea.

Pixar is made up of people and for what the film is, Cars 2 is a completely enjoyable film. It’s just not up to the level of quality of product or storytelling we are accustomed to for these folks.

I give Cars 2 a 3 of 5 only because when you consider the source, you have to expect better. This was an acceptable film from a studio that demands perfection. I think I can say that whatever comes next from Pixar, will be tuned up and checked over before it is released.

A quick aside...the 3-D in this film was visually stunning.  This film makes up in appearance for all the shortcomings in story.

On an aside, the crew from TOY STORY was all here well as there was Hawaiian Vacation, a Ken and Barbie centric adventure with all of your Toy Story favorites.

If you plan on bringing a kid to see Cars 2, keep this in mind…at my showing:

Previews: 24 minutes
Hawaiian Vacation: 10 minutes
Cars 2: 1 hour and 52 minutes

That’s a long time to keep a kid happy. I recommend arriving in your seats around 30 minutes after the listed start time. The first 6 minutes of the actual movie was pretty fluffy as well, with some Radiator Springs business that gave us the set-up for Lighting and Mater to make the trip overseas for the World Grand Prix.

That’s my take on the whole bit of business…until later, take care!
Reel Rhino

1 comment:

  1. we got to Cars 2 about 20 minutes late on accident! I agree totally with your review. I expected bigger and better things, but it wasn't so big or bet (bet? what's a little less than better? weird word.).

    When it was over Jake stood up and took off his glasses and said, "well that wasn't what I expected, but I still like it anyway".

    Pretty much seems the sentiment all around!