Friday, May 25, 2012

Movie Review: “Men in Black 3”

Third time brings back the charm.

**** out of 5
103 minutes
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and brief suggestive content
Columbia Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: Men in Black 3 on Blogcritics.

Having been off the radar for six years now, I have to say it’s so nice to see director Barry Sonnenfeld back to his standard brand of wackiness. After having tried, unsuccessfully, to branch out to more family-friendly fare (“RV”), and after supplying simply more of the same with “Men in Black II,” Sonnenfeld finally brings us the sequel we should have gotten last time with “Men in Black III.” Having dabbled in TV while missing from the big screen, “MIB³” returns him back to his more comedically-stylized days of the “Addams Family” films and “Get Shorty” (although, Sonnenfeld’s work on TV with “Pushing Daisies” and “The Tick” certainly lived up to his level of quirky). There are some hilarious sight gags on display here.

Admittedly, “MIB³” gets off to a rickety start. It is business as usual for Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) as they go about their day flashing their neuralyzers when a spaceship lands in the streets of Manhattan. Meanwhile, Boris The Animal (Jemaine Clement) has just escaped a maximum security prison located on the moon. We also learn that MIB Chief Zed (Rip Torn) has passed on and the MIB is now under the control of Agent O (Emma Thompson). After a shootout in a Chinese restaurant, J and K learn about Boris' escape from Lunar-Max and that he has come to earth to rewrite history. Not though without the help of Jeffrey Price (Michael Chernus), who has a time-jumping device which sends Boris back to 1969 where he kills K leaving only J with his memories from the last 14 years.

At first no one believes J and thinks he’s suffering from an extraterrestrial tick bite. But his thirst for chocolate milk and frequent headaches clue O into what’s really going on. J is suffering from a "temporal fracture," meaning someone has altered reality. Now J must also pay a visit to Jeffrey to get himself back to 1969 to track down Boris before he can kill K and prevent him from initiating a defense device given to him by a “pre-cog” of sorts named Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg). Boris wants revenge on K for shooting his arm off and also wants to destroy earth in the present day, stopping K from deploying the defense device. And so begins a game of cat and mouse for J and Young Agent K (film stealing Josh Brolin), with the help of Young Agent O (Alice Eve), leading up to an event in Cape Canaveral that must happen in order to prevent Boris and his army of originally extinct Boglodites from taking out the present.

The main complaint surrounding “MIB2” was its lack of plot, but that’s totally made up for here. Yes, there are aliens among us, and it definitely sounds more confusing upon trying to write that synopsis — there’s far more to the story than anyone would have guessed. While it has been made very public that the production was working without a complete script (final screenplay credit is given to Etan Cohen, “Tropic Thunder” and frequent Mike Judge collaborator), they clearly had a story in mind. Thankfully, “MIB³” does what a successful sequel should do: bring a comfortable amount of familiarity to the proceedings while still adding to what’s happened before. Granted, none of the plot points here were hinted at in the first two films, but at least now you may look back at the original with an inkling of new meaning. “Men in Black 3” squeaks by the original and makes me more than happy to see the franchise return.

Photos courtesy Columbia Pictures

Monday, May 21, 2012

Movie Review: “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”

Or: what to expect when you're expecting a good movie.

* ½ out of 5
110 minutes
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, thematic elements and language

Article first published as Movie Review: What to Expect When You're Expecting on Blogcritics.

When one film becomes an unfortunate runaway success (“Valentine’s Day”), it’s inevitable that more will follow. While so far, only “New Year’s Eve” has come about from Gary Marshall & Company, it appears that some other writers have decided that they make for a good template. Take a bunch of celebrities, throw them into intertwining storylines, drown the audience in a wallowing of the easiest jokes imaginable, and voilà! While the website funnyordie managed to come up with the be-all end-all of parodies, Hollywood looks to cash in on this new formula with the inexplicable adaptation of Heidi Murkoff’s bestselling “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”

Starting off with the introduction of Jules (Cameron Diaz) and Evan (Matthew Morrison) on a celebrity dance show, Jules of course mentions she doesn’t feel well before their routine, which of course leads to her throwing up in their first-place trophy. Holly (Jennifer Lopez) and Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) can’t have a child of their own, which is okay with Alex, but Holly is pushing for them to adopt. Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) and Gary (Ben Falcone) have decided to give up trying after two years, only to finally conceive the same time as Gary’s father, Ramsey (Dennis Quaid) and Skyler (Brooklyn Decker) announce they’re expecting as well. Meanwhile, Rosie (Anna Kendrick) and Marco (Chace Crawford), meet-cute five years after he stood her up at their high school prom and wind up knocking boots on the hood of Wendy and Gary’s car, causing even them to conceive.

The rest of the movie consists of obligatory scenes and montages as the runtime crawls along to their due dates and the film turns into a pseudo-“Lord of the Rings” as it just piles on one false ending after another. While at first I didn’t have too low of expectations, seeing how the film came from a reasonable director, Kirk Jones (“Waking Ned Divine”), and proven screenwriters, Shauna Cross (“Whip It”) and Heather Hach (“Freaky Friday”), everything that could go wrong, does. It makes you wonder just how much improvisation may have happened on the set of “Whip It,” or if all of the fun behind “Freaky Friday” really came solely from Leslie Dixon’s side of the page.

Either way, the cast is directed to overact every chance they get; and while I know the film is a comedy, there’s more truth behind the experience in “Knocked Up” and emotional impact to birthing in the opening scene of J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek.” The saving grace (if you can call it that) winds up being a group of dads who meet up at a park for walkabouts featuring Chris Rock, Rob Huebel, Thomas Lennon, Amir Talai, and Joe Manganiello whom they live vicariously through as he’s single and always off on some adventure featuring skinny chicks with huge racks. If the film had simply been these scenes, it not only would have been spectacularly shorter, but way funnier as well.

My biggest fear now is that the film will make enough money to warrant an even more unnecessary sequel than this film is. It doesn’t help that the source book is part of a series. Or that it will spawn a whole new series of films based on self-help books bringing us next something like what my wife mentioned, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” But, of course, if this happens, maybe I can at least look forward to a story credit for granting Hollywood another abominable idea. I’m sure “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is meant to be released this weekend as counterprogramming to “The Avengers,” but where that film was good fun for everyone, this film is no fun for anyone.

Photos courtesy Lionsgate

Movie Review: “Battleship”

Sinking braincells.

*** out of 5
131 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language
Universal Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: Battleship (2012) on Blogcritics.

When it was announced that Disney had greenlit the first “Pirates of the Caribbean,” a big-budget feature film based on their beloved water ride, they were scoffed at. With the casting of Johnny Depp, the direction of Gore Verbinski, three sequels, and $3.7 billion dollars worldwide later, Disney surely proved us all wrong. While the law of diminishing returns has sorely taken its toll upon Jack Sparrow & Co. we turned up our noses even higher upon the announcement of Hasbro’s “Battleship” sailing our way. What the hell could they possibly have come up with in the story department to broaden a board game based around what was originally a pad-and-pencil guessing game? Putting it simply, not much.

While “Clue” has proven itself to be a cult classic, at least that game has a plot. Who killed whom in what room and with what weapon? It lent itself to all kinds of shenanigans with an all star cast and Jonathan Lynn at the helm. The fact that a film adaptation of the 1943 Milton Bradley game exists still boggles the mind. That it has already grossed $215 million overseas before its release stateside would be an even bigger head scratcher if Hollywood wasn’t currently depending on those numbers so much lately. What we have here simply winds up being the love child of a cinematic threeway consisting of “Armageddon,” “Independence Day,” and “Titanic.” Apparently, director Peter Berg, along with writers Erich and Jon Hoeber, love ’90s action movies.

What little plot there is here revolves around Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch, “John Carter”) being forced into joining the Navy by his older brother, Commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgård). Stone is tired of Alex wasting his life, particularly after a drunken Pink Panther-esque caper to get the girl of his dreams, Sam (Brooklyn Decker), a chicken burrito, leading him to be double tasered by police. Now, Alex is under the scrutiny of Sam’s father, Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), and all Alex wants to do is ask Shane for his daughter’s hand in marriage. But on this day, Alex and everyone else will face impending doom as an alien race from the Planet G decides to pay us a visit to answer a call we placed to see if life really does exist on the one planet we’ve discovered could sustain life outside of Earth. And now, it’s up to the Navy to save the human race (and the shores of Hawaii) from extinction.

While some ladies may find Kitsch to be quite an example of “eyecandy,” he certainly isn’t helping his reputation in the acting department. Even though I’m sure that has nothing to do with him getting this gig. Director Berg brought us the film adaptation of H. G. Bissinger’s “Friday Night Lights” novel that spun off the TV show from which Kitsch is now being forced upon us as a supposedly bright and shining star. He’s still got a long way to go however, and needs to learn how to show any kind of skill besides glowering through his lines. He didn’t bother me too much here, but he’s even more of a black hole of emotion than anyone could have possibly complained about as the titular “John Carter.”

And while there’s been lots of coverage when Rihanna was cast in the film, she may look like she’s having a ball, yet she’s given the least to do out of anyone in the cast. At least Liam Neeson can score a deserved laugh here or there. So if you’re just looking to shut off your brain, look no further as “Battleship” seems to be trying its damnedest to keep the benchmark alive and well that is the big dumb fun of summer. Unfortunately, it’s far dumber than it is fun. But I guess if you’re already looking forward to it, and have somehow had your fill of the year’s only full-rounded success (“The Avengers”), then “Battleship” is prepped and ready to sink your braincells.

Photos courtesy Universal Pictures

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Movie Review: “The Dictator”

Sacha Baron Cohen completely makes up for “Brüno.”

**** ½ out of 5
83 minutes
Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, brief male nudity, language and some violent images
Universal Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: The Dictator (2012) on Blogcritics.

Six years ago, comedic genius, and possibly crazed madman, Sacha Baron Cohen, burst onto movie screens with “Borat.” A film unleashing the most telling story of xenophobia Eli Roth could have only dreamed of in two “Hostel” films. Since then, he has popped up in another dementedly funny film of his own (“Brüno”), as well as roles in “Hugo,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Talladega Nights,” and as a voice in the “Madagascar” films. Transplanting the same hot topic hilarity used in “Borat” to a narrative feature, Cohen and his band of merry madmen (director Larry Charles and writers Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer), now bring us the scathing satire, “The Dictator.”

Opening with the funniest “In Loving Memory” possibly of all time, we find the land of Wadiya under the ruling thumb of General Admiral Aladeen (Cohen). Along with his right hand man, Tamir (Sir Ben Kingsley), he is on the verge of unleashing a weapon of mass destruction, so long as he doesn’t have to execute any more of his top scientists as happens to Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas). All because he questions Aladeen’s logic to make their WMD pointy as seen in his beloved Daffy Duck cartoons. Quickly there is an assassination attempt upon Aladeen but it was a decoy and we learn Tamir is trying to overthrow him to gain his rightful place as heir. Tamir begins to look for another attempt and urges Aladeen to address the United Nations in New York City. Aladeen is then kidnapped by a racist security guard (John C. Reilly) who de-beards Aladeen and winds up lighting himself on fire prompting Aladeen’s escape.

On the streets of New York, no one recognizes Aladeen without his precious beard and Tamir has already replaced him with a new double in place to deliver a message inciting democracy to the land of Wadiya. But first Aladeen must go on the time-honored comedic fish-out-of-water misadventures which makes him meet up with Zoey (Anna Faris), a radically leftwing feminist who runs a local indiscriminate health food store that specializes in taking in political refugees. Soon Aladeen finds out that his entire regime has been a lie when he runs into Nadal who lives in Little Wadiya where everyone Aladeen thought he had executed now peacefully live waiting to have their turn with him if they ever run into him again. Aladeen and Nadal hatch a plan to return Aladeen to his rightful place and stop the democracy from spreading to his oppressed nation.

While “Brüno” had its share of moments, they were spread too far and few between. Thankfully, “The Dictator” returns Cohen to his “Borat” glory days. Director Larry Charles throws every joke at you as fast as possible and nearly every one of them sticks. The rapid-fire pace is reminiscent of the ZAZ style from their “Airplane,” “Top Secret,” and “Naked Guns” days. The funniest scenes involving a touristy helicopter ride, an extended birthing sequence, and what Aladeen thinks to be the decapitated head of Morgan Freeman. It also has a hilarious soundtrack featuring Indian-styled versions of famous pop songs. And the final speech Aladeen addresses to the UN may very well be one of the most hysterical rants put on film in who knows how long. Long story short, “The Dictator” is the must-see comedy of the summer.

Photos courtesy Universal Pictures

Monday, May 14, 2012

Movie Review: “Dark Shadows”

I had fun with it, so bite me.

*** ½ out of 5
113 minutes
Rated PG-13 for comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking
Warner Bros. Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: Dark Shadows (2012) on Blogcritics.

Sometimes when a director harkens back to his yesteryears it can be a wonderful thing. On the flipside, sometimes a director puts everything he’s used in the past on the table and revels in it. Case in point today would be Tim Burton. The man has made almost nothing but classics since 1985 when he unleashed his own brand of brilliant lunacy with “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.” Sure, the road has gotten bumpy the last few years and he’s had a couple of lesser films along the way, chiefly “Mars Attacks!” and his own attempt to reboot “The Planet of the Apes.”

Some people aren’t huge fans of “Sleepy Hollow,” “Corpse Bride,” or even “Alice in Wonderland,” but they’re still mere blips on his radar in the grand scheme of things. And now, Burton and Johnny Depp (along with the screenwriting debut for Seth Grahame-Smith of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” fame), arrive with their own shaky take on the beloved Dan Curtis-created, cult classic soap opera, “Dark Shadows.” A culmination of filmmaking techniques employing everything he’s used from “Beetlejuice,” “Edward Scissorhands,” the aforementioned “Sleepy Hollow,” but unfortunately, not enough “Sweeney Todd.”

This “Dark Shadows” begins with a voice-over courtesy of Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) in Liverpool, 1760. Boarding a ship with his parents, they set off to build a fishing village in Maine, which they name Collinsport. Years later, Barnabas is eluding the affections thrust upon him by Angelique (Eva Green), who works as a maid. Turns out that Angelique is a real witch (literally) and kills off his parents. That still isn’t enough to warrant his love as Barnabas falls for Josette DuPres (Bella Heathcoate). The only thing Josette winds up falling for is her own death as Angelique casts a spell on her causing her to commit suicide with Barnabas deciding to try to take his own life and throws himself over the edge as well. But Angelique has already cursed him to become a vampire so that he may live forever in suffering.

This isn’t enough for Angelique who leads the townsfolk after Barnabas wrapping him in chains, throwing him in a coffin, and burying him for what turns out to be (almost) 200 years. In 1972, Victoria Winters (Heathcoate again), has just arrived in Collinsport to take a governess position to care for David Collins (Gulliver McGrath), who speaks to his mother’s ghost (Josephine Butler). David is the son of the scheming Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller) who lives at Collinwood Manor with his sister Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer); her angsty daughter Carolyn (Chloë Moretz); David’s habitually hungover, self-medicated, live-in psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter); the manor’s caretaker, Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley); and scene-stealing Mrs. Johnson (Ray Shirley), the manor’s elderly maid.

The actual plot revolves around Barnabas making his return to the estate where he finds his beloved home is not up to par with his memories and learns from Elizabeth that the family fishing cannery has been overrun by competitor Angelsbay. Angelsbay is run by Angie Bouchard, who turns out to still be the one and only Angelique in spite of having not aged one day in the 196 years Barnabas was buried away. Barnabas sets out to restore the family name while Angelique tries to win over the affections of her unrequited love all over again. Even if her dastardly plans may wind up destroying the entire Collins family, along with a lot of furniture, in the process.

The story is surprisingly convoluted, but screenwriter Grahame-Smith seems to be having a ball with the original premise of the “Dark Shadows” series, even if poking some fun at it along the way. Lots of foam gets spilled across the rocky sea shore even if things get a little too wild in the final act with a few supposed twists coming far too late — if you know anything about the original series. It was full of ghosts, werewolves, zombies, and witches and such, so trying to play at least one of these off as a supposed reveal is just one of two things that only manage to set up the age-old drama of sequelitis.

As I mentioned before, Burton is having a heyday with nods to his earlier works, with a great gag involving cutting holes in sheets. Same goes for composer Danny Elfman. However, Burton, or screenwriter Grahame-Smith seem to have too much affection for the grossly overrated Robert Zemeckis Oscar-winning “Death Becomes Her.” There is also a subplot involving Roger that is far too similar to the first “Addams Family” feature and the love story between Barnabas and Victoria seems too much like an afterthought for how much time is spent with the prologue and her introduction.

Thankfully, entertainment value wins at the end of the day, but I should warn you that the film isn’t quite as kooky as the trailer makes it look. However, I can’t say how pleasing it is to have classic Burton back on the big screen, although for a comedy about a vampire, it sure is lacking in the blood department. Something along the lines of the classic stake scene from “Dracula: Dead and Loving It” would have been a huge laugh, but there are still plenty to be had. And if the film isn’t swallowed up in the whole “Avengers” fever, Burton has delivered the first of what will probably not be the last of “Dark Shadows.”

Photos courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Monday, May 7, 2012

Movie Review: “Marvel’s The Avengers”

Audiences assemble! The movie event of the year is finally here!

***** out of 5
142 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference
Marvel Studios

Article first published as Movie Review: Marvel's The Avengers on Blogcritics.

Hype can be a dangerous game sometimes. It can literally make or break a film’s opening weekend. While Disney may have completely trounced any hopes of making money off their gargantuan marketing game for “John Carter,” thankfully, they were also paying attention to the real first summer blockbuster of the 2012 season. Whether you believe the hype or not, it will come as no surprise to hear me say that yes, “Marvel’s The Avengers” is everything you could possibly hope for. So much so as to the tune of $260 million overseas as of this writing, before the film even opens stateside! While fanboys have a love/hate relationship with Joss Whedon, true believers had nothing but faith in the man behind “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Firefly,” “Serenity,” and “The Cabin in the Woods” to make him the best man for the job in finally assembling “The Avengers.”

In “The Avengers,” S.H.I.E.L.D. has turned the cosmic cube into a giant arc reactor called the Tesseract in a secret underground bunker with the help of Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård). Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has been called on scene by Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) because they can’t turn it off. The Tesseract has opened a portal to another world allowing Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to return to earth to steal the Tesseract for himself and use it as a weapon of mass destruction against the people of Earth. Now, Nick Fury has no choice but to reopen the Avengers Initiative against the World Security Council’s best interest. The world’s only hope lies in the hands of Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Not to mention first hand assistance from S.H.I.E.L.D. members Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

A couple of weekends ago, a buddy and I had a Marvel marathon watching all five of the “prequels” leading up to this monumental achievement. Not having the ability to watch them all according to the “Avengers”-world timeline, we opted for chronological based on release date. Through “Iron Man,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Iron Man 2,” “Thor,” and “Captain America” we flew. It was a spectacular twelve hours I wouldn’t trade for anything. Watching them all back to back just reminds you that this “Avengers” film has been building since 2008 and can now, finally, do as Hulk does best - smash! And smash it shall. These films’ biggest secret weapon lies in its sense of fun, and there are no words to explain just how fun it is.

If you fear that one character or another may get left in the dust, Whedon has made sure to give every single character a chance to shine here. Particularly during the mano-a-mano character bouts and a seemingly one take brawl bouncing from one character to the next during the grand finale. Where things could have become immensely convoluted, Whedon keeps things clipping along at a pace more furious than an angry green monster. The man is an incredible writer, of course (let’s not forget Oscar-nominated to boot for the original “Toy Story”). While the action may stop here and there to give us all a breather, he uses these moments to carry on the grand tradition missing from most mega-budget summer blockbuster Hollywood extravaganzas: character. Thank you, Mr. Whedon.

And speaking of that, it appears glaringly clear that the only director working in Hollywood who truly understands the Hulk character seems to be Whedon, who finally gives us a Hulk worthy of his own movie. Not to mention the fact that Ruffalo makes the perfect Banner/Hulk playing both characters thanks to the now more useful than ever motion capture technology. Hulk is voiced by Lou Ferrigno as always and Stan Lee makes his requisite cameo. Same goes for the end credit pay off scene (psst, of which there are two!).

You would never know this was a 142 minute film; it seriously feels more like maybe thirty. I can’t wait for the extended Blu-ray cut as the original length was said to be around three hours, which still doesn’t seem long enough to experience this level of awesomeness in a movie theater, and I can’t wait to take it all in again. Congratulations to everyone involved; the movie event of the year is here!

Photos courtesy Marvel Studios

Movie Review: “The Five-Year Engagment”

The team who brought you “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “The Muppets” invite you to “A Very Long Like Crazy Engagement.”

**** ½ out of 5
124 minutes
Rated R for sexual content, and language throughout
Universal Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: The Five-Year Engagement on Blogcritics.

Sometimes just knowing a particular creative team is behind a film can be enough to get excited about. In the late 2000s, the name Judd Apatow was everywhere. While the last time we saw his name predominantly above a title was last year’s hilarious blockbuster “Bridesmaids,” even “Wanderlust” lived up to the expectations endowed by Apatow Productions.

Jason Segel is coming off of a high all his own. Along with his partner in crime, Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “The Muppets”), I’d say the two seem to be on a roll together. And there’s no stopping them this weekend with the release of their latest venture, “The Five-Year Engagement.”

Tom (Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) met at a “Create Your Own Superhero”-themed New Year’s Eve party in San Francisco as Super Bunny and Princess Diana exactly one year ago. Now, the time has come for Tom to ask Violet to marry him. With a pit stop at the restaurant, where he works as a sous-chef, his planned proposal introduces us to his best friend Alex (Chris Pratt) and Chef Sally (Lauren Weedman). Violet says yes, and now the two are living in a seemingly blissful montage including, but not limited to, Tom’s eggs benedict au naturel.

As excited as everyone is for the wedding, Violet’s mother Sylvia (Jacki Weaver), and her father George (Jim Piddock), are now divorced and Sylvia has a thing or two to say about the institution of marriage. On the other side of things, Alex and Violet’s sister Suzie (Alison Brie) are so excited for the two of them that they hook up at the engagement party. Suzie winds up getting pregnant and now those two are married with the most gorgeous wedding Tom and Violet could never live up to.

Eventually, Violet receives her postdoctoral admissions letter from Michigan State University in social psychology, although she wanted to get into Berkley so they could stay in California. Tom decides to throw caution to the wind and suggests they put off the wedding while Violet invests in her future for two years, uprooting them from California to snow-covered Michigan. Of course this means Tom has to give up his career instead landing Alex Tom's dream job as head chef at Sally's new restaurant.

In Michigan, Tom is miserable, working at a sandwich shop alongside Tarquin (Brian Posehn). He also gains a new set of friends, including Tarquin and stay-at-home-dad Bill (Chris Parnell) who tries to show Tom that he doesn’t have to be a fish out of water, introducing him to hunting and his own brand of horrific homemade sweaters. Meanwhile, Violet is off at school with her new chums, Vaneetha (Mindy Kaling), Doug (Kevin Hart), Ming (Randall Park), and Professor Winton (Rhys Ifans). Will Tom finally adjust to the madness of his new life in Michigan making honey mead and skinning animals in the shed? Will Violet get to finish her doctorate in time for them to finally tie the knot before another grandparent bites the dust? Will Winton make a move on Violet setting yet another rift in the relationship?

The ups and downs of Tom and Violet will come as no surprise. While Segel and Stoller ensure we know how everything will work out in the end, they also do their damnedest to make sure that it’s the getting there that’s the fun part. There are some mid-film pacing issues but what else would you expect from an Apatow Production. They always run on the long side but here there are more than the usual amount of scenes that feel like they should be part of the extended home video release.

The only minor quibble is that the film spends too much time dabbling in “Like Crazy” territory making the film feel even more padded. Segel and Stoller also seem to have the same issues with breaking characters up, which they also ran into with “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” They are fantastic at getting characters together, but can’t figure out realistic ways to break them up. The supporting cast is chock full of scene stealers and they almost completely steal the movie from Segel and Blunt. But the comedy prevails and they do manage to throw in some new hilarious twists on clichéd situations making “The Five-Year Engagement” worth the 124 minutes.

Photos courtesy Universal Pictures

Movie Review: “Chimpanzee”

Disneynature brings a real life “Jungle Book” to the big screen in time for Earth Day.

**** out of 5
78 minutes
Rated G

Article first published as Movie Review: Chimpanzee on Blogcritics.

While I have full respect for the documentary genre, it is far from my favorite. Now, I realize that traditionally they’re meant to be educational, but I like them even more if they can lie on this side of entertaining as well. When it comes to the Disneynature films that have come back into the swing of things, they generally don’t have an agenda such as your standard Michael Moore film. Give me some astonishing photography (“Earth”), throw in some footage of my all time favorite animal: sharks (“Oceans”), or maybe have Samuel L. Jackson voiceover the life and times of the real life “Lion King” (“African Cats”), and I’ll look forward to every Earth Day release. This year’s “Chimpanzee” is no exception.

Narrated by Buzz Lightyear himself, Tim Allen, we set out on the coming-of-age tale of Oscar, our star chimp. As a youngster, Oscar is care free, getting his grasp on his world amongst the misty mountains one limb at a time. From playing with his fellow youngsters to trying out his own ability to crack a nut, we see Oscar in his daily routine. Whether getting a drink of milk or being groomed by his mother, it’s all just another day in the life for Oscar. There are also episodes of monkey cannibalism that’s not frightening for even the youngest of viewers, and the occasional territorial battle against another group of chimps, led by Scar. The real story comes into focus, unfortunately for Oscar, after his mother is killed off and he must fend for himself while trying to find a new caretaker in the process.

Knowing “Chimpanzee” is from directors Mark Linfield (“Earth”) and Alastair Fothergill (“Deep Blue,” “Earth,” “African Cats,” and the original BBC “Planet Earth”), you already know what you’re in for. Backing from the Jane Goodall Institute certainly doesn’t hurt anything either. As it is a Disneynature film, everything is played safe — even if you can tell that Tim Allen was probably told to bite his tongue and not spout off double entendres. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some hilarious ad libs that could be released in an unrated adult-oriented version on home video that would sell like hot cakes and be even more entertaining. His delivery is a far cry from infinity and beyond. James Franco would have been an inspired choice. But at least Allen gets to squeeze in one of his trademark Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor grunts. But we came here for the chimps, right? And they most certainly entertain, making “Chimpanzee” a swinging affair.  

Photo courtesy Disneynature