Saturday, June 27, 2015

Movie Review: “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

**** out of 5
105 minutes
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug material, language and some thematic elements
Fox Searchlight

Article first published at The Reel Place.

I have a colleague who uses the phrase “Sundance Goggles” during the Sundance Film Festival. He’s referring to films that, upon first glance, appear to be better than they might be if released outside the festival. Lots of hype and buzz get thrown around and they win festival awards, but sometimes, they just don’t live up to expectations. Or you watch it again later, only discover that maybe you had them on as well during one screening or another.

With Me and Earl and the Dying Girl getting swooped up by Fox Searchlight, a theatrical release was inevitable. So, how does it stand on its own amidst the onslaught of summer films? The easiest way to describe it is “Wes Anderson for teens.” While that may turn off some viewers, rest assured, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Glee, American Horror Story) directs author Jesse Andrews’s novel (adapting his own screenplay) into a hilarious and heartbreaking tale of one boy and his love for movies, and just maybe, the love of his life.

Greg (Thomas Mann) wants to do what he can to make it through high school without drawing attention to himself. He skirts through the cliques keeping only one friend in Earl (RJ Cyler), while keeping everyone else at arm’s length. That is until his mom (Connie Britton) and dad (Nick Offerman) inform him that Rachel (Olivia Cooke) has been diagnosed with leukemia and he should offer his friendship to her. Begrudgingly, Greg makes nice and visits Rachel at home and the two begin what Greg refers to as a “doomed friendship.” He repeatedly assures us that Rachel does not die.

In their free time, Greg and Earl make spoof movies of old foreign films, and as Rachel’s prognosis worsens, school hottie Madison (Katherine C. Hughes) volunteers the two of them to make a movie for Rachel. Now, it’s a race to the finish line as Greg and Earl struggle to come up with a viable plot, and Greg has to comes to terms that he might just be the nice guy everyone thinks he is, whether he admits it or not.

If there’s one major thing working in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’s favor, it’s the cast. Mann makes a perfect version of the self-deprecating nice guy, Cyler delivers every line delivery as deadpan hilarious as possible, and Cooke proves she’s way more than just the oxygen-wielding girl-next-door on Bates Motel. The whole cast works perfectly together, creating one of the best ensembles of the year. On top of everyone else already mentioned, Molly Shannon gets a chance to shine as Rachel’s mom and Jon Bernthal is absolutely hilarious as Mr. McCarthy, Greg and Earl’s favorite teacher, with an even funnier special appearance by Role Models’ little Ronnie: Bobb’e J. Thompson.

Gomez-Rejon cut his teeth with this kind of material on Glee and manages to show that he’s ready to burst onto the Hollywood scene as more than just one of Ryan Murphy’s cronies. Skipping heedlessly through the motions, he creates a tour de force of emotion with no stone left unturned. From laugh-out-loud hilarious to heartbreaking tearjerker, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl should hopefully result in the breakout indie film of the summer and rightfully so. It’s one of the best coming of age stories since The Kings of Summer, and you don’t want to miss it.

Movie Review: “Ted 2”

Ted 2

**** 1/2 out of 5
115 minutes
Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use
Universal Pictures

Article first published at The Reel Place.

I wish I could say it feels like it was yesterday that Seth MacFarlane unleashed Ted upon us. One of the funniest movies of 2012 — only rivaled by 21 Jump Street and The Cabin In the Woods — MacFarlane’s brand of scatological heartfelt raunch proved that he was far more than just the creator of Family Guy. Unfortunately, MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West didn’t quite fit audience’s expectations. More full-blown western than comedy, it failed both critically and financially. Now, MacFarlane is back at what he does best with Ted 2, a film so funny you’ll wind up crying from laughing too hard.

We catch up with Ted (voiced by MacFarlane), the world’s most lovable foul-mouthed teddy bear come to life, as he marries Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). At the reception, we find out that best man/thunder buddy for life John (Mark Wahlberg), is six months divorced. (Turns out, that after spending a whole movie proving John and Lori were made for each other, they weren’t.) Ted wants John to get over her and back in the dating pool, but John isn’t quite ready to kick his porn habit.

With Ted’s own marriage on the rocks after just a year, John suggests that maybe the two should have a baby. Problem is, Ted doesn’t have the required appendage for procreation, and to make matters worse, Tami-Lynn has ruined her uterus with excessive alcohol and drug use. Now, the two want to adopt a little bundle of joy, but the state declares Ted a piece of property and not human. Thus begins Ted’s hilarious journey, with John by his side and 26-year-old pothead and lawyer-in-training Samantha, to prove he has a soul. Meanwhile, the nefarious Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) is hatching a plan at Hasbro headquarters to finally make Ted his own.

I have to admit, I had complete faith in MacFarlane for Ted 2. Even West had some brazenly inspired moments of absurdity to keep it chugging along — it also helps that I actually love a good western. I am a little cautious in declaring 2 funnier than the original, I can’t help but wonder if it seems that way because the jokes are fresher with this being the newest installment. But it is safe to say that MacFarlane (along with co-writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, who also co-wrote the original) has crafted an even bigger, sillier, raunchier, sequel than you could imagine.

But don’t let the lowbrow fool you, MacFarlane somehow has also managed to make the most pro-gay rights film at the same time. Lots of points are made about Ted not deserving rights because he’s different, don’t tell me they’re not drawing parallels, and more power to MacFarlane! Samantha’s opening remarks in court are both poignant and timely. But have no fear, of course this is no serious affair. There’s potty humor aplenty, but also plenty of heart.

I know, we came for the laughs. And on that note, MacFarlane and company score big time. Full of the prerequisite movie/pop culture references, dick and fart jokes, and non-stop lunacy we’ve come to expect from MacFarlane. I was left gasping after one joke careened into another, and I would never spoil them here! It helps that the cast is up to the challenge to deliver whatever antic MacFarlane throws at them. Without a doubt, Ted 2 is one of the funniest films of the year (only rivaled by Spy so far) and anyone worried it’s just more of the same, well, it is. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Movie Review: “Burying the Ex”

** 1/2 out of 5
89 minutes
Rated R for sexual content, partial nudity, some horror violence, and language
Image Entertainment

Article first published as Movie Review: Joe Dante’s ‘Burying the Ex’ Starring Anton Yelchin, Ashley Greene, and Alexandra Daddario on Blogcritics.

It’s hard to watch one of your favorite directors fall from grace. I was always impressed with the way Joe Dante always delivered over his first two decades of movie-making, never a stranger to jumping from genre to genre. One thing was always the same though, you knew you were watching a Dante film. Through Piranha, The Howling, Gremlins, Explorers, segment “3” of The Twilight Zone: The Movie, Innerspace, The ‘Burbs, Gremlins 2, Matinee, even Small Soldiers, it was a strong 20 years of endless entertainment.

Burying the Ex, Joe Dante, Anton Yelchin, Ashley Greene, Alexandra Daddario, Oliver Cooper, Alan TrezzaThen when it came time to make the film he seemed destined to make — Looney Tunes: Back in Action — he seemed to have hit a roadblock and the film was not the success it should have been. It would be six years before he’d direct another feature that resembled his own oeuvre (The Hole), and now another six years after that, he has wrought his worst film yet with Burying the Ex. Dante may have rounded up a game cast — mostly in his lead Anton Yelchin — but the energy his film’s once had is missing in full.

Max (Yelchin) is in a relationship with Evelyn (Ashley Greene) who forces him to eat vegan and hates that he works at a horror-themed “Boo-tique.” Their relationship hits the skids after a bus plows down Evelyn, but not before they make a promise in front of a mystical Satan Genie that grants their wish to be together forever. Now, Evelyn has come back from the dead and is making Max keep his promise, no matter how much she starts to decompose. Now, Max has to hatch a plan with his step-brother Travis (Oliver Cooper) to get rid of Evelyn forever so that he can start a new romance with malt shop owner Olivia (Alexandra Daddario), whom he shares a mutual love of the macabre.

Burying the Ex, Joe Dante, Anton Yelchin, Ashley Greene, Alexandra Daddario, Oliver Cooper, Alan TrezzaAll the elements are ripe for Dante to make a grand comeback, but he’s saddled with an obvious and cliched screenplay from Alan Trezza, making a debut that will doubtfully make Hollywood come knocking. While it may play up the fact that Evelyn is fully aware she’s a zombie, Burying the Ex is utterly lifeless. Yelchin does what he can with Daddario, but the two don’t have enough screentime to make you root for them as a couple. They don’t even start “dating” until roughly an hour into the film. The rest of the time we’re stuck watching Greene act in full histrionic-mode.

The one joke that made me laugh came from Travis who points out the fact that they’re half-brothers “from the good side.” And being the film buff I am, I felt extreme anxiety when Max comes home to find his apartment turned 100 percent green with his imported posters folded up in a drawer. I would have driven the nearest object through Evelyn’s brain right then. But alas, we’re stuck waiting for the inevitable showdown, where at least there’s a last minute twist that actually makes sense. As for the rest of the movie, Burying the Ex is never funny enough, gross enough, or even Dante enough, to warrant even the most curious filmgoer. If anything should be buried, it’s this film off Dante’s once golden resume.

Blu-ray Review: “Time Lapse”

Movie: ** 1/2 out of 5
Video: **** 1/2
Audio: *** 1/2
Extras: ****

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: ‘Time Lapse’ Starring Danielle Panabaker on Blogcritics.

Time travel is far from new in film — The Time Machine, Back to the Future, Looper, Primer, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Donnie Darko, About Time, Hot Tub Time Machine — it manages to span every genre and, if done well, stays true to its own. Once in a while, something novel may come along. Then there are the haphazard entries that make you yearn for something better. I’m sure no one was clamoring for a time travel film crossed with Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave, but alas, Bradley King has turned his feature film debut into exactly that. Only problem is, King and co-writer BP Cooper don’t have the cast, or characters, to invest any kind of payoff, making Time Lapse just another blip on the direct-to-video market. Even the MTV-funded Almanac Project was far more interesting.

Time Lapse, Time Travel, Bradley D. King, BP Cooper, Danielle Panabaker, Matt O'Leary, George Finn, John Rhys-DaviesFinn (Matt O’Leary) is an apartment complex manager, suffering from a creative block as a painter. He lives with his best friend Jasper (George Finn) and girlfriend Callie (Danielle Panabaker) in an awkward pseudo-love-triangle of sorts. After “Mr. B” seems to be missing — he’s behind on rent, has a stack of newspapers at his front door, and a collection of parking tickets on his car — the trio decide to investigate, only to find out that Mr. B has built a homemade camera that can take pictures 24 hours into the future, always at 8:00 p.m. Soon enough, they find Mr. B’s charred remains in a storage room in the basement, Jasper starts using the camera to quench his gambling habit, and they quickly learn that they must not mess with time and have to make sure they recreate the daily photos in fear of putting a stop to their timeline.

Time Lapse is presented on a 25GB disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Considering the film’s low budget roots, this is one exceptional transfer. Colors are natural and pop while never bleeding. Blacks are inky with no crush to swallow up shadow details. Alisasing never appears and there may have been some blink and you’ll miss them instances of banding on a few objects such as painted doors and walls. Fine detail is usually razor sharp, with only a handful of shots appearing purposefully soft. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track offers up plenty of bass, and the surrounds are saved to give the score some breadth, but overall, this is a very front-heavy mix. Bass makes for some effective creepiness and subtitles are available in English for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Time Lapse, Time Travel, Bradley D. King, BP Cooper, Danielle Panabaker, Matt O'Leary, George Finn, John Rhys-DaviesAn overwhelming assortment of special features winds up being overkill, if only because of redundancy. Two commentaries kick things off featuring King and Cooper. The first is more of a behind-the-scenes look at the production and story process, while the second is called a “Filmmaking 101 Commentary” sporting more of a technical “nuts and bolts” commentary living up to its title. A “Behind-the-Scenes” (22:52) offers up a visual look at the production, with two deleted scenes showing at least one of them (“Callie in the Kitchen” 1:38) was wisely excised. The “Mr. B. Flashback” (2:22) gives us a chance to see John Rhys-Davies on screen which is always welcome, no matter how small the role. The film’s theatrical trailer (2:01) is also included.

King chose a very odd story line considering he and Cooper were strongly influenced by the “Time Lapse” episode of The Twilight Zone. The film gets far too violent considering we never care for any of the characters, and the big surprise ending is intended to encourage viewers to rewatch the film — something I doubt anyone will do. The only one worth rooting for most of the runtime is Panabaker, but once you realize even she may have ulterior motives, there’s only so far we’re willing to follow her. O’Leary is a complete bore making you wonder why Callie would ever want to be with him in the first place and Finn is never likeable, but does get to let loose a little as his character starts to unwind. While the technical aspects of the disc will at least make watching the film easy on the eyes, the film itself makes it hard. Time Lapse only makes you wish you could see your own future to warn yourself you’re better off skipping it.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Movie Review: “Inside Out”

Inside Out

***** out of 5
94 minutes
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Walt Disney Pictures

Article first published at The Reel Place.

No studio is more ready for a comeback than Pixar. After taking a critical beating over Cars 2, Brave, and even Monsters University, I think even John Lasseter knew it was time to take a break and go back to the drawing board. They’ve always been the kings of family films, but it took relying on a proven director to bring them back to their glory days.

If there’s one man who can make a grown man cry, it’s Pete Docter — see Monsters Inc. and Up — and he’s at it again with Inside Out, taking us where no director has gone before. Excluding the short-lived Fox sitcom Herman’s Head of course. But where that aimed for the lowbrow, Pixar and Disney are hitting for the feels with everything they’ve got.

Young Riley (voiced as a teen by Kaitlyn Dias) has just been uprooted from the life she loves and transplanted to San Francisco with her parents (voiced by Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan), and her emotions are having none of it. Inside Riley’s head we meet Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), who run the control room that helps maintain Riley’s emotions and memories.

After Sadness winds up losing a core emotion, she and Joy go  on an adventure through Riley’s subconscious, taking them on a trip aboard the “Train of Thought” and meeting up with a long forgotten imaginary friend named Bing Bong (Richard Kind). Now, Sadness and Joy have to stop Riley’s core memories from falling into the abyss and wreaking havoc on her five “islands” — Family, Friendship, Hockey, Honesty, and Goofball — that make up her personality.

If there ever was a long shot in the Pixar canon, it would be Docter’s brilliant idea for Inside Out. Who knew that a family film could be so attuned to taking a psychology class. Smart is the operative word, with fun running the show. Docter and co-director Ronaldo Del Carmen have managed to deliver an adventure that may dwarf the epic story of Carl Fredricksen in Up. And the clever never lets up. Not even as the screenplay bounces from one emotion to the next.

It helps that the film is expertly voiced. Who else can you think of that emits as much joy as Poehler, the sarcasm of Kaling, or as much sadness as Smith? The funniest bits may get passed off to Black, but no character is left behind, each getting their shining moment. Did I mention you will cry? Well, most of you will. Anyone with a beating heart will never look at their emotions the same way again. I dare you to not think about your own thought process and feelings without seeing these characters in your head.

Needless to say, the film is a complete pleasure from start to finish and never takes a wrong step. Full of the state-of-the-art imagery we’ve come to expect from a Pixar production, along with all the hearts and laughs, Inside Out is truly the animated film to beat this year and there’s no way it’s going to happen. Docter has knocked it out of the park and it’s fantastic to see Pixar doing what they do best: keeping the youngsters entertained while making parents think and feel. Something they’ve frankly been missing for the last five years since Toy Story 3. Welcome back to the big leagues Pixar, it’s been too long!

*Be sure to at least be on time for any showing of Inside Out for the enchantingly fantastic musical short Lava from director James Ford Murphy about a volcano looking for love.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Movie Review: “Jurassic World”

Jurassic World

**** 1/2 out of 5
125 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril
Universal Pictures

Article first published  The Reel Place.
When it comes to movies, nostalgia is so powerful it can make or break our sense of wonder. Things can take a turn for the worst if saddled with a director who doesn’t understand the material. Michael Bay has made a box office career out of ruining childhood properties, see Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So it should come as no surprise that Steven Spielberg has transported us to 1993, leaving us breathless at the sight of dinosaurs back on the big screen with Jurassic World. Leaving the Park behind, director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed), pits man against dinosaur with spectacular results.

Jurassic World realizes a fully functioning park, chock full of living biological attractions so astounding that they’ve captured the imagination of the entire planet. Siblings Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) are seen off at the airport by their parents Karen (Judy Greer) and Scott (Andy Buckley), headed to Isla Sorna for a weekend at Jurassic World, to spend some family time with their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park’s operations manager.

Also arriving for the weekend are new investors and park owner Simon Masroni (Irrfan Khan), CEO of the Masroni Corporation, the park’s owning company. Masroni has arrived to check out the park’s newest attraction, the Indominus rex, a hybrid dinosaur meant to pique interest in the park. Every time they’ve introduced something new attendance spikes with the public eye putting them back in the spotlight. Audiences want something bigger, louder, and with more teeth.

Meanwhile, raptor whisperer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) has proven his bond between himself and his toothsome foursome Charlie, Echo, Delta, and Blue, and is dealing with the harassment of Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) who wants to weaponize the raptors. Hoskins might finally get his chance after the I-rex escapes and turns the park into her own personal buffet as she tries to find her place on the food chain.

Full disclosure: Jurassic Park is one of my all-time favorite movies. So Jurassic World had a lot to live up to. Could it possibly ever top the original? Absolutely not. Does it at least hold its own and stand as the best sequel so far? Absolutely yes! Ever since the first Super Bowl teaser premiered back in January, all signs pointed to Trevorrow nailing it — and he does. This is the sequel we have been waiting for. It also makes you wish it was a real park. Embrace the running and screaming, because I am happy to report the oohs and ahhs are back in force.

As many surprises as there are in Jurassic World, the biggest may be that Pratt isn’t the comic relief this time. As entertaining as he is, he’s way more serious than usual. It’s nice to see a dramatic flair to Owen, playing the take charge captain to a park falling down around them. However, don’t expect the film to be super serious, there are definitely breaks in the tension. But this time around, it’s courtesy of Jake Johnson’s Jurassic Park/dino-nerd Lowery who works in the park’s command center. There are plenty of stabs abound at sequels and spectacle in general. When it’s questioned why they felt the need to genetically hybrid a new attraction, it’s finally mentioned that the whole park is artificial since all of the dinosaurs are created in a lab. This is something that’s never been mentioned before aside from when Ellie Sattler calls the park an illusion in the original.

But oh, what a grand illusion it is. While not the pioneer of technology like the first film was, the geniuses at ILM and Hybride have concocted some amazing displays of dinosaur realism that’ll make you feel like a kid again. From the towering Apatosaurs and tail-swinging Ankylosaurs, let alone the terrifying Indominus Rex, seeing is believing. Even the Mosasaurus looks better than everyone’s been complaining about with the trailers. The finished effects should prove naysayers wrong.

The cast are all having a blast, with their tongues firmly planted in cheek. Let’s face it, this is the fourth Jurassic movie after all. Thankfully, Treverrow and co-writer Derek Connolly — and credited screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver who supplied an early draft — fill the park with a cast of characters we actually like and care about. This easily could have turned into waiting for the next cast member to die. But the brothers feel like real brothers while Pratt and Howard play off each other very well. Even Khan as the CEO could have been just another grimy moneygrubber, instead he loves the park and wants to see it thrive and live up to John Hammond’s expectations.

If there’s one throwaway character, it’s Katie McGrath’s glorified babysitter role, stuck trying to keep up with two teenage boys in a theme park filled with 20,000 people. Let’s face it, we came for the dinosaurs, and Jurassic World more than brings the goods. Some aren’t as heavily featured as you’d think, essentially making for a last act money shot that’s so unabashedly outlandish it totally works. Some might complain that it turns into just another monsters on the loose tale, but what else would you expect.

The final word is that Jurassic World is exactly the kind of popcorn escapist we’ve been lacking this summer and audiences will eat it up. Exciting, exhilarating, terrifying, and even heartbreaking — giving Michael Giacchino another chance to kick you right in the feels, next he’ll get you with Inside Out — this should satiate anyone looking for their next blockbuster night out and will leave fans salivating for more. Treverrow was nice enough to leave a few dangling threads that set up future installments. The best news is that anyone who was left dissatisfied with The Lost World or Jurassic Park III can come back to the park, the jungle’s just fine!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Movie Review: “Spy”


**** 1/2 out of 5
120 minutes
Rated R for language throughout, violence, and some sexual content including brief graphic nudity

Article first published at The Reel Place.

It’s been a bumpy road for Melissa McCarthy since hitting it big time and stealing all of her scenes in Bridesmaids. After the likes of Identity Thief and Tammy, audiences were about ready to give up. But if anyone was going to make sure she lived up to expectations, it’s director Paul Feig. After supporting roles in This Is 40 and St. Vincent McCarthy and Feig scored another hit along with Sandra Bullock in The Heat. Now Feig has re-teamed with McCarthy for Spy, to give us not just one of the year’s funniest comedies, but also the funniest film either have made so far.

Spy throws us headfirst into the CIA with agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) on the case in Bulgaria with his number one analyst in his ear, Susan Cooper (McCarthy), trying to locate Tihomir Boyanov (Raad Rawi), who is the only person who knows where a nuclear bomb is hidden. After Fine winds up shooting Boyanov, Fine is on the run, back to the U.S. New intel sends Fine after Boyanov’s daughter Rayna (Rose Byrne) who may know where the device is.

While checking into Rayna, she kills Fine, and now Susan is more than willing to step up to be a field agent to honor Fine. Reason being, Susan is one of few agents who isn’t on Rayna’s radar, much to the chagrin of agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham). Now, Susan is in over her head, and just may be the only person who can win Rayna’s trust to find the bomb before she sells it to the highest bidder.

Spy is hands down one of the funniest movies of the year. Written singlehandedly by Feig — with an obvious amount of onset improv — line after line assaults the funny bone and everyone gets a chance to bring the humor. From Susan’s best friend/co-worker Nancy (Miranda Hart) to Byrne and Statham — both of whom deliver gut-busting lines the likes of which have never been written before. Byrne has been able to show her silly side before (Neighbors, Bridesmaids), but never like this. The same goes for Statham. Who knew The Transporter was so hilarious?!

Feig also knows the ins and outs of a good spy film like the back of his hand. And in true satire fashion, he not only sets aim at the genre, but makes one that can stand on its own. Considering Spy is from 20th Century Fox, they now stand two for two in 2015 after this and Kingsman: The Secret Service. While offering a far more broad approach here than Matthew Vaughn’s exceptional offering, the spy genre is in good hands. Even if never approaching the kind of seriousness of the Bourne series. But don’t let the marketing fool you, this isn’t another “McCarthy-plays-a-schlubby-loser-who-beats-the-odds” role. She takes the material and runs with it, proving she’s here to stay.

It’s also great to see McCarthy shine in the kind of role we’ve been waiting for. Self-assured and absolutely hysterical, there’s no verbal barb she isn’t afraid to sling. Her scenes with Statham in particular are true highlights. Another revolving around a toast between her and Byrne will leave you gasping for breath. Feig also delivers on the action, providing enough excitement to give any summer blockbuster a run for its money. It gives me comfort that his all-female Ghostbusters entry is truly in safe hands. Feig knows comedy, action, and obviously female-empowerment. His streak only seems to be getting stronger, and no matter the project, I always know we’re in for a good time with him steering the ship, and Spy is no exception.

Movie Review: “Entourage”


*** out of 5
104 minutes
Rated R for pervasive language, strong sexual content, nudity and some drug use
Warner Bros. Pictures

Article first published at The Reel Place.

On the surface, Entourage, as a film, is an interesting experiment. Does it have enough strength to compete against the summer’s blockbusters while telling a worthwhile story that might win over converts who haven’t seen the show? That’s the biggest question hanging over series creator and writer/director Doug Ellin’s first big screen outing for the bad boys of HBO. And while it isn’t a huge misfire, there’s nothing here to warrant a reason for anyone outside the fanbase to join in on the shenanigans. Long story short: fans will enjoy this super-sized episode, while it’ll leave those who didn’t watch the show wondering what all the fuss was about.

Catching up nine days after the series’ finale, we get brought up to speed as Eric/“E” (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), and Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), are headed out to sea to join Vince (Adrian Grenier) on his yacht to celebrate his annulment. E also has come to help figure out Vince’s next big movie and word slips that Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) may have something available. Ari has come out of retirement and taken over as a big honcho studio head and Vince is willing to take the part on one condition: he gets to make his directorial debut.

Now, Ari is dealing with Texan financier Larsen McCredle (Billy Bob Thornton) when Vince goes over budget and needs more money to make the film “perfect.” McCredle sends his son Travis (Haley Joel Osment) along to make sure their investment is going to make good on its return. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew are dealing with their own personal lives as E’s ex Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui) is close to giving birth, Drama fears he’s almost washed up and could be cut from the film, and Turtle attempts a relationship with Ronda Rousey (playing herself) after newfound success in the tequila business.

Will the film be the big hit Vince promises? Will Ari survive his therapy sessions? Can Turtle last 60 seconds in the ring with Rousey? All that and more on the next episode of Entourage.

All kidding aside, the film isn’t a complete waste. The main problem is that there’s nothing here for anyone uninitiated with the original series. Vince may be a pretty boy, but we never care whether the film flops because Ellin never takes the time to prove that the film Vince is making is as amazing as the characters say it is. In a huge case of irony, the subplot about Drama potentially getting cut from Vince’s movie could hold true to the main film itself. Dillon tries to make his character funny, but his timing is always off and his jokes constantly land with a huge thud. Osment continues to be a big screen irritant, never living up to the potential shown in The Sixth Sense. He seems to only get worse with each part.

The one who gets the biggest laughs, and keeps the film more enjoyable that it deserves to be, is Piven. Having worked in comedic roles since he started out as John Cusack’s right hand man in the ’80s, he keeps his Ari persona larger than life, with a take no prisoners attitude, even when he’s trying to keep his cool talking to the boys while around his wife (Perrey Reeves). Ellin does nothing to warrant an excuse for a big screen version of Entourage, a colleague of mine mentioned that the series is huge overseas and demanded more, so I guess now we know who to blame. The film isn’t a complete disaster, another saving grace are the scenes with Turtle and Rousey, who have a surprisingly sweet chemistry together and honestly could have had a whole film based around them.