Friday, September 25, 2015

Movie Review: “The Intern”

The Intern

*** 1/2 out of 5
121 minutes
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and brief strong language
Warner Bros. Pictures

Article first published at The Reel Place.
I really wasn’t looking forward to sitting through writer/director Nancy Meyers new dramedy The Intern. When was the last time we could count on Robert De Niro? This movie looked like nothing more than a fluff piece showing he’d officially thrown in the towel and succumbed to the almighty paycheck movie. I know even ol’ Bobby’s gotta eat, but judging from the trailer, even he was too good for how the film looked.

Not that Meyers’ films are anything we can rely on either. At 35 years old now, I’ve never wanted anything to do with her brand of schmaltzy chick flicks: It’s Complicated, The Holiday, Something’s Gotta Give, and What Women Want. But I do have to admit I am a fan of her written work from the ’80s and ’90s: Private Benjamin, Protocol, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Baby Boom, both Father of the Bride films, Once Upon a Crime, and I Love Trouble.

Sure, none of these were ever close to Oscar-worthy efforts, but her screenplay credits are far more reliable than her work behind the camera. So how does The Intern fare? It’s actually her most watchable since The Parent Trap. While that may sound like faint praise, it’s the best thing she’s directed so far, and I walked out liking the film way more than I thought I would.

Ben (De Niro) is a 70-year-old widower who knows the only way to get through life is to keep himself on the move. After using up his frequent flyer miles, and avoiding dates with flirtatious geriatrics, he runs across a senior internship at a fashion site run by Jules (Anne Hathaway). The whole office is instantly smitten with him, except for Jules, whom he’s assigned to assist. But soon enough, he wins her over too, and life lessons are learned while hilarity tries to ensue.

To be honest, The Intern gets off to a very rocky start, but once it finally gets over the har har look at ol’ Bobby, he’s so old jokes, and into the story and characters, there’s plenty in The Intern to satisfy even the harshest critics. The cast are all highly enjoyable, each finding their own moments to make you laugh out loud. Not that we shouldn’t expect that from the likes of Adam DeVine and Zack Pearlman, but even De Niro and Hathaway provide more than enough chemistry to make their friendship believable.

Even the romance between Ben and the office masseuse Fiona (Rene Russo) takes a backseat to the Ben/Jules story — something we never seen when there’s possibility of turning a film into a full-blown chick flick. This is the De Niro/Hathaway project and they keep the laughs and drama feeling grounded. It’s nice to see grown up characters having real conversations with each other, and the drama between Jules and her husband Matt (Anders Holm) has actual conviction and a surprisingly realistic resolution.

The Intern is far from a perfect film, the first 30 minutes are very deceiving and make the rest of the film a complete surprise. Meyers may still never be below stooping to having her cast act ridiculous, but with this troupe of players she manages to pull it off. Even when they’re breaking into someone’s house to steal a laptop from an email gone awry. Meyers knows her audience, but this time there’s way more than usual for everyone, making The Intern a nice diversion between the doldrums of late summer/early fall releases while we eagerly wait for the good stuff: Oscar bait!

Blu-ray Review: “Heaven Knows What”

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

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: ‘Heaven Knows What’ — Starring Arielle Holmes on Blogcritics.

There’s no shortage of films made about drug addiction. And if they have one thing in common, it’s to make the viewer feel as judgmental as possible. What they never try to be, at least, are feel good films. Requiem for a Dream, Trainspotting, Basketball Diaries, Less Than Zero, and Reefer Madness, not one of those titles — ok, maybe Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical or anything starring Cheech and Chong or friends of Judd Apatow — are meant to glorify drug use. And the autobiographical Heaven Knows What — featuring Arielle Holmes in a life-saving role — is no exception.

Heaven Knows What, Arielle Holmes, drugs, Caleb Landry Jones, Buddy Duress, addiction, Ben Safdie, Joshua SafdieWe meet homeless/drug addicted Harley (Holmes) begging forgiveness from Ilya (Caleb Landry Jones) on the streets of New York City. What she’s done is never really explained, but Harley is at her wits end to make things right. Eventually, Harley asks if she should kill herself to prove her worth to Ilya and he accepts her proposal, leading her to slit her wrist in public. After getting out of Bellevue, she’s back where she started, scoring drugs from her dealer Mike (Buddy Duress), while trying to keep up with her unrequited love of Ilya. As you can guess, things wind up going south, with everyone’s lives on the line. Even if it’s at their own hands.

Anchor Bay has given Heaven Knows What a gracious transfer. While on a 50GB disc, the film wears its budget on its sleeves. Gritty and realistic, the picture almost takes on a 16mm aesthetic, even though filmed digitally. Not sure if there was some post-work done on it, but it does lend a more theatrical look. Detail is never as razor sharp as you’d expect from a digital shoot, but nothing ever looks exactly out of focus or smeary. There’s also no crush — in some instances the image also looks too bright — or aliasing, although there are a few shots with some slight noise. As for the 2.0 Stereo track, it sounds more lively than you’d expect, probably thanks to being upscaled on my 7.1 system. Dialogue is always clean, with a decent amount of surround use. The only drawback is the lack of any good LFE considering the random use of techno-heavy music. Spanish and English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired are also included.

The special features are the more interesting part of the disc. “A Hot Two Weeks—The Making of Heaven Knows What” (17:00) catches us up with Holmes on the set of her next movie (American Honey) where she discusses how life changing and lifesaving it was to be discovered by directors/brothers Ben and Joshua Safdie. Apparently they found her “Russian look” interesting, and even more so when they heard her Jersey accent. The Safdies encouraged her to write about her own life and it wasn’t until later that she admitted to being homeless. We also get to see footage of the real Ilya clowning around, just making the film’s dedication to him the most moving part of the whole endeavor when we learn that he has passed since the film’s production.

Heaven Knows What, Arielle Holmes, drugs, Caleb Landry Jones, Buddy Duress, addiction, Ben Safdie, Joshua SafdieA batch of deleted scenes make up the bulk of the remaining features: “Skully’s Move/Harley’s Past” (2:52), “Stooping” (2:21), “Ariel Pink vs. Doug Levinson” (2:15), and “Mike and Harley and the Future” (2:21) just offer up more of the same vagrancy we’ve already seen. An Ariel Pink music video (3:28) is also featured, along with a pre-menu trailer for It Follows.

There is a message buried somewhere in the dumping grounds of Holmes’ fictionalized story, but the directors — along with co-writer Ronald Bronstein adapting Holmes’ book — miss the mark. Whatever they were trying to say comes through more in the special features as we see Holmes rise up to budding actress, leaving behind drug-fueled wastelands. Heaven Knows What definitely isn’t for everyone, but Holmes does give a powerful performance that could be worth a look. As a whole, the film just doesn’t add up to its pieces. With only one interesting special feature, so-so video/audio, and downbeat storyline, the film could find an audience, I’m just not sure who it would be. It definitely has an arthouse feel to it, but even the artsy fartsy crowd won’t find enough to leave a lasting impression.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Blu-ray Review: “Furious 7”

Movie: **** 1/2
Video: *****
Audio: *****
Extras: *** 1/2

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: James Wan’s ‘Furious 7’ Proves Family is Thicker than Water on Blogcritics.

If there’s any franchise that should have stalled, sputtered, or backfired by now, it’s The Fast and the Furious. Yet here we are, Furious 7 has once again proven the franchise with another monster hit, not only hauling in a tremendous $1.5 billion worldwide, but managing to bid farewell to its star and champion, Paul Walker. While we know the franchise is nowhere finished — there are at least two more sequels in the works — it’s amazing to think back to how ludicrous it seemed that they even made 2 Fast 2 Furious. Six sequels later, and there’s clearly no stopping it. And now we can take the action home on Blu-ray in an extended edition, available now from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Furious 7, The Fast and the Furious, Fast and Furious, James Wan, Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Ludacris, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Dwayne Johnson, Lucas Black, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel, Luke Evans, Chris Morgan, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey, Iggy AzaleaWith how much fun it continues to be — with each one eclipsing the last — it shows what a difference a change in director can make. After three sequels, Justin Lin has finally taken the backseat with Universal handing the reigns to James Wan, with stunning results. Filled with breathtaking action sequences and more heart than the series has ever shown, Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) continual mumbling about family shines through like never before. It may seem like a joke, but the characters have fully come into their own and you really do care about their fates, no matter how death defying the runtime may get.

While the timeline may be messier than worth diving into — and let’s face it, who honestly hasn’t seen this yet? — let’s catch up with our favorite band of misfit drivers. Furious 7 opens with Dom driving Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) out into the desert, back to where it all began: “Race Wars.” After Letty has a bout with PTSD, she decides it’s time for a break to try to find out not just who she once was, but who she is now. Meanwhile, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) has vowed revenge after they put Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) in the hospital. Deckard starts with killing Han (Sung Kang) and putting special agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in the hospital.

Now, Dom, Brian (Walker), Letty, Mia (Jordana Brewster), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and Tej (Ludacris), are on the hunt for brilliant hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), who’s being tracked down for her spyware “God’s Eye.” Lucky for them, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) has shown up to help, offering all the assistance they need as they trot the globe from London and the U.S. to the Caucasus Mountains and Abu Dhabi.

Universal cruises Furious 7 onto Blu-ray with a spectacular presentation. I remember the film appearing a tad washed out and even a smidge out of focus theatrically, but fear not, this is a top notch effort. Detail is unwavering aside from a few obviously directorial choices, but the image never faults. Colors are natural, with contrast never running too hot nor aiming for the steelblue effect so common in modern action. And having been filmed digitally, there’s never any crush or aliasing. In fact, detail delineation is actually rather revealing, especially in some of the darkest scenes whether in a cemetery at night or the inside of an airplane hangar.

There is one instance of banding toward the end of the film, which is absolutely no reason to knock the score. This is five seconds shy of perfection. Also running just about perfect is the audio with a home theater rocking 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that could only be better had it been a Dolby Atmos mix. As it stands, one of the year’s best action films gets one of the best home audio experiences of the year. Whether it’s shattering glass, squealing tires, gunfights, knock-down dragout fights, or simply a quiet scene of dialogue, there’s no denying the audio precision on hand. Even the music reverberates from speaker to speaker putting you in the middle of the action with LFE ready to blow off whatever you have hanging on your walls. Additional audio tracks include Spanish and French DTS 5.1 with English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.


Some may find the special features lacking, but considering what we do get, they’re still commendable. Most people don’t listen to audio commentaries, but here, James Wan and Universal offer up the perfect anecdote with a visual cliff notes edition: “Talking Fast” (31:47). Breaking down key scenes throughout the runtime, rather than being forced to sit down and dissect every frame, Wan treats viewers to a true Fast and Furious version that’s a lot of fun to watch. Wan comes off as extremely excited to be part of the franchise and oozes charm and knowledge. Some may be disappointed that he never dives into exactly how they finished the film without Walker, but I think they wanted to keep the memory thriving. Honestly, the magic of Hollywood works fantastic in the end and it would be very jarring if you knew every single shot he wasn’t actually in.

The rest of the special features are rather self explanatory: “Deleted Scenes” include “Letty at Clinic” (2:09), “Ramsey/Dom” (2:15), “Dressed Up” (0:57), and “Letty Call from Nurse” (0:38) offer up a decent look into the Letty/amnesia storyline, but aside from that, it’s all wisely excised, even if extremely trim. “Back to the Starting Line” (12:11) takes a step back with the cast and crew discussing how the series has evolved. A few of the more fun parts include hearing Emmanuel admit to not knowing how to drive and seeing Wan wearing a Hogwarts shirt. It’s also very moving to hear the cast talk about Walker’s love for the series, how he pushed to keep it going, and how much everyone misses him.

“Flying Cars” (5:42) is a great piece showing us how they really dropped cars out of an airplane with the Red Bull Jump Team following suit to film. “Snatch and Grab” (7:31) looks at the Caucasus chase and provides lots of laughs for a Salt Lake City, Utah boy listening to the cast and crew complain about the elevation, or their excitement over having a snow day. “Tower Jumps” (6:53) breaks down how they used real stunts to complete the effect of Brian and Dom driving a car through multiple buildings. “Inside the Fight” shows us four key sequences: “Hobbs vs. Shaw” (3:15), “Girl Fight” (3:20), “Dom vs. Shaw” (2:52), and “Tej Takes Action” (1:36). It’s nice to see how involved Ronda Rousey was in her fight against Rodriguez and fun to hear “The Rock” talk about how refreshing it was to fight Statham.

Furious 7, The Fast and the Furious, Fast and Furious, James Wan, Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Ludacris, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Dwayne Johnson, Lucas Black, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel, Luke Evans, Chris Morgan, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey, Iggy Azalea“The Cars of Furious” (10:42) is a really long piece showing off the cars used in the movie. “Race Wars” (6:34) takes us back to the beginning to remind us where it all began. “See You Again – Official Music Video” (4:05) is the earworm we’ve been stuck with for months by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth. And finally, “Making of Fast & Furious Supercharged Ride” (8:15) is a rather uninspired look at the new Universal Studios Hollywood attraction. It would have been nice to see at least a peak of how what is shown will be used. Having just visited the Orlando park, it never once managed to spark my interest in running to Los Angeles to hitch a ride on what’s sure to be a breakneck thrill ride.

Furious 7 is never going to win any awards and it never, ever, pretends like it’s trying to. Writer Chris Morgan knows what to give the fans and his ability to keep the franchise running as long as he has — he’s written all but the first two — is a statement to his loyalty to the characters. Lots of cars may crash and burn and plenty of knock down drag out fights are endured, but there’s obviously no stopping Universal’s cash cow. Sadly, the franchise seemed to finally find its footing just as it lost its star. Thankfully, it’s fully developed into an ensemble series with plenty of “family” to keep the engine revving for years to come. Featuring a 99 percent perfect picture and blow you out of your seat audio, it’s no doubt that you’ve probably already picked up a copy, but at least no one will be left disappointed with Furious 7 being the best film of the franchise so far.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Movie Review: “Black Mass”

Black Mass

*** 1/2
122 minutes
Rated R for brutal violence, language throughout, some sexual references and brief drug use
Warner Bros. Pictures

Article first published at The Reel Place.

If there’s one studio that does gangster flicks better than Warner Bros, I’d like to see it. Reaching as far back as the 1920s, Warner Bros has made a bloody amount of money with the genre. Their recent Best Picture win with The Departed just goes to show that they love the genre and like to do it right.

When it comes to Black Mass, I was honestly hoping to walk out declaring it “The best film Scorsese didn’t make.” It may not be one of the best gangster films ever made, but it is definitely one of the better ones. Having Johnny Depp give one of his most mesmerizing performances certainly doesn’t hurt the film’s cred either.

Black Mass retells the true story of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger (Depp), a devoted family man with a wicked past. Bulger is the kind of guy that old people are glad to see back on the streets even after a stint in Alcatraz. He’s approached by FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) to join forces in taking down the Angiulo gang which Bulger plans to use to his advantage and have the Feds fight their own turf war.

We follow the story from 1975 through to Bulger’s eventual capture in 2011. Over the years, he rises to kingpin  while his personal life falls apart with his son dying from Reye’s syndrome and the eventual death of his mother. Meanwhile, Connolly is doing everything he can to keep his operation afloat with Charles McGuire (Kevin Bacon) and John Morris (David Harbour) breathing down his neck.

There are also subplots involving Bulger’s right-hand men: Kevin Weeks (Jesse Plemons) and Steve Flemmi (Rory Cochrane); and we get an insight into his common law marriage to Lindsey Cyr (Dakota Johnson). Bulger’s younger brother Senator Billy Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch) also gets plenty of screentime, but the film runs just a tad too long and starts to feel overstuffed. The pacing is also pretty slow, at least it picks up anytime Depp is onscreen.

This is his show, and Black Mass finally gives him another role to really sink his teeth into, proving him to still be one of our finest actors. Bulger is terrifying to say the least and I won’t be surprised to see Depp nominated come Oscar announcements. Director Scott Cooper really needed to weed out some of the more extraneous bits and this could have wound up giving The Departed a run for its money. But screenwriters Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth aren’t completely to blame. Their adaptation of Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill’s book starts to feel overstuffed, it’s up to the director to trim the fat; in this case he didn’t.

As it stands, Black Mass features one of Depp’s best performances in years, it’s such a shame that he’s being pulled back into his Jack Sparrow/Mad Hatter antics. While he’s always a joy to watch, he’s way more fun when he’s managing to deliver a true performance and not just fall back on schtick. Black Mass may not be a homerun, but it’s a solid triple. It’s a film made for adults and not one person will leave disappointed thanks to Depp. Because let’s face it, that’s the draw here, does anyone even remember Bulger? I suppose someone does, otherwise they wouldn’t have made the film, right? On the flip side, maybe it’s good they did, because now we won’t forget his name.

Movie Review: “Everest”


**** out of 5
121 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense peril and disturbing images
Universal Pictures

Article first published at The Reel Place.

There were many films this year that were downright amazing to watch on IMAX: Furious 7, Jurassic World, Mad Max: Fury Road, Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man. This summer was a complete blast! However, a couple of studios are pushing hard for their films to be seen the way they were meant. While we may have to wait a few weeks to see if The Walk can give Robert Zemeckis his comeback from the uncanny valley, this weekend Everest brings a larger than life incredible true story to IMAX for one week of advanced screenings. A one word review: terrifying. Another: breathtaking. THIS is truly the IMAX experience of the year.

Bringing to life the devastating 1996 disaster in Nepal, we’re quickly introduced to Adventure Consultants’ Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), who is leaving his pregnant wife Jan (Keira Knightley) to mount an expedition to the top of Mount Everest, along with Mike Groom (Thomas M. Wright) and Andy Harris (Martin Henderson). Their clients are a ragtag group consisting of: Frank Fischbeck (Todd Boyce), Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), Stuart Hutchison (Demetri Goritsas), Lou Kasischke (Mark Derwin), Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), John Taske (Tim Dantay), and Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin). All are making the climb for various reasons, but they’re all put the ultimate test of survival as a storm blows in, threatening everyone’s lives.

There’s also a couple of other crews making their way up, including one lead by Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal). If you want the film to make its full impact, don’t read up on it. But even if you know what happens, it’ll still be every bit as devastating. Director Baltasar Kormákur makes an auspicious feat with Everest, giving us plenty of cringe-inducing scenarios to make the moments of pure beauty never escape an underlying menace. The cast all bring their A-game to make sure everyone is represented, and while it may seem cliché when one member manages to survive, at least it was through sheer willpower and not the use of evil plot mechanics.

Some may question why it’s being shown only in 3D IMAX, but the answer is in the final product. If this wasn’t filmed in native 3D, it’s one hell of a conversion. Considering how good it looked on IMAX, I can only imagine how much better it will look at home. However, 65 inches will never compare to any theatrical experience, whether 3D, IMAX, or even in standard 2D. Everest is a full blown experience, whiplashing from majestic to stunning to terrifying at the drop of a hat. It may not be the year’s best film, but it’s definitely a damn good one and you’d only be doing yourself an injustice to not see it on the biggest screen you can find it playing. This is about as close as I’ll ever want to get to mountain climbing, but considering the stakes, that may be for the best. As it stands, Everest is a fantastic true to life story and is do-not-miss IMAX entertainment of the highest order.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Movie Review: “The Visit”

The Visit

*** 1/2 out of 5
94 minutes
Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including terror, violence and some nudity, and for brief language
Universal Pictures

Article first published at The Reel Place.

Some directors may be hit or miss, but when it comes to M. Night Shyamalan, let’s just say the man’s career hit a brick wall. After the trifecta success of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs, he tried one twist too many and gave us the whopper of a dud-ending with The Village and he’s never been able to recoup. Hobbling along through the likes of the unintentionally hilarious Lady in the Water and The Happening, he managed to one-up himself with one of the worst films ever made: The Last Airbender. And the less said about After Earth the better.

So, after a two-year stretch, and what feels like a trip back to the drawing board, Shyamalan returns with The Visit. Another horror-thriller, this time he wants us to laugh with him, not at him. While it does include one of his “time honored” twists, at least this one makes sense. Even if it doesn’t have quite the impact he’s hoping for. What should have been a moment akin to the Black Christmas realization that projects the film into an unforgettable fourth quarter hail mary of twisted hilarity.

Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) have never met their grandparents Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie). Their Mom (Kathryn Hahn) left their house 15 years ago after they condoned her relationship with an older man that resulted in Becca’s arrival. Now, she’s decided it’s time they meet their grandparents and they’re off to stay the week alone, armed with video cameras so Becca can make a documentary. Things seem okay at first, the only real house rule being to not leave their room after 9:30. Something they soon learn they should take seriously after they witness Nana having a bout of vomiting and clawing the walls naked.

Pop Pop quickly explains it away as Nana having a case of “sundowning” and can’t control herself once the sun goes down. But Pop Pop doesn’t seem to be all there either. He’s keeping something hidden out in the shed and dresses up for a costume party with nowhere to go. It goes from bad to worse on a daily basis, with their friends stopping by to say hello just as they’ve conveniently stepped out for a walk. Now, Becca and Tyler must find out what’s up with their grandparents before their safety finally starts to be something they should really worry about.

Shyamalan has stated that he made three cuts of The Visit: one horror, one comedy, and the final release a mix of the two. I can’t really seeing either of the straight on horror or comedy working anywhere near as well as it does mixed together. The mystery isn’t strong enough to keep the suspense, while the comedic elements aren’t really funny enough to support the other. Together, there’s just enough of each to keep us off balance while we wait for the payoff. Even if this one happens to be seen coming from a mile away. I told my wife a one-line synopsis and she was able to figure out the twist just from that, but I’m not going to spoil it here.

The cast is having more fun than usual for a low budget horror flick. DeJonge plays years older than her young 17-years-old would lead you to believe, and Oxenbould is nowhere near the nuisance he was in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Although, they could have cut all of his rapping scenes and Tyler would have been even more bearable. Dunagan and McRobbie are the real stars here, holding nothing back as Shyamalan keeps upping the ante, making their characters more deranged with each scene. And for once, the use of found footage made sense, even if Shyamalan should not be the one giving filmmaking tips via Becca. It comes off as extremely pretentious and gets old fast.

However, there are plenty of surprises, laughs, and gross-outs to feast on here. Shyamalan may not be back at the top of his game, but this is definitely the best film he’s made in 13 years. For some that may come as faint praise, but considering how awful his last five films were, it’s actually quite the accomplishment. The Visit is safe for horror fans to pay their own visit to the theaters. You just might want to make sure there aren’t any old folks in the audience if you’re attending a late night screening. Sundowning is a real thing and it’s creepy as hell, just like most of the movie.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Movie Review: “A Walk in the Woods”

A Walk in the Woods

** out of 5
104 minutes
Rated R for language and some sexual references
Broad Green Pictures

Article first published at The Reel Place.

If there’s one thing director Ken Kwapis is not synonymous with, it’s quality filmmaking. The only films on his resume that are watchable are He Said, She Said, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and his 1988 cult classic Vibes, starring Jeff Goldblum and Cyndi Lauper. Not to keep a good man down, he’s continually tried his hand at features, ranging from Dunston Checks In, Sexual Life, License to Wed, Big Miracle, and now, A Walk in the Woods.

I swear if it weren’t for his non-stop TV directing there’s no way he’d be granted so many gigs. You’d never know the man behind his big screen efforts was ever involved with the likes of The Office, Parks & Recreation, The Bernie Mac Show, Malcolm in the Middle, The Larry Sanders Show, and Freaks and Geeks. The man can make hilarious entertainment, but unfortunately, not even Robert Redford or Emma Thompson can salvage the scattershot mess that is A Walk in the Woods.

The Walk in question refers to the book Bill Bryson (Redford) writes after spending months hiking the Appalachian Trail with his old frenemy Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte). With his youth behind him, and only a fancy repackaging of his previous novels, Bill decides he wants to go on one last adventure before Father Time comes looking for him. Much to the chagrin of his adoring wife Catherine (Thompson), he meets up with Katz and the two head out into the great outdoors to face whatever misadventures may head their way.

If A Walk in the Woods has one thing going for it, it’s Redford. The man is usually enjoyable even in the smallest of doses, but here it starts to wear thin. If the premise sounds a lot like Grumpy Old Men Go Camping, you’re absolutely right. What you do with those two things is up to you and will definitely quantify your amusement. I suppose there is a crowd looking to hear Nolte call a group of Boy Scouts “little fuckers,” or watch Redford unknowingly flirt with Mary Steenburgen. Let alone that I completely forgot Nick Offerman is in it too. That’s exactly how wasted everyone is.

Which brings up another question: why are Steenburgen and Kristen Schaal even in this thing? They must be either really good friends with Redford or Kwapis because there’s no reason for them to be in the movie. They may provide a good enough diversion from having to watch Redford and Nolte onscreen the entire time, but they seriously serve no purpose. Especially when they’re the only two “cameos” in the whole movie. And their characters never even manage to advance the story or cause conflict. Schaal was obviously cast for her loveably annoying voice and Steenburgen is supposed to serve as some kind of possible cheat-scenario, but it’s dropped as soon as Nolte comes bumbling back onscreen with another supposedly hilarious shenanigan involving a man looking for whomever slept with his wife.

If there’s any kind of audience for A Walk in the Woods, its definitely for people of a certain age, or die hard Redford fans. Is there even such a thing? But for anyone else, first-time credited screenwriters Rick Kerb and Bill Holderman have made a huge mess of what probably could have been a silly, heartfelt romp. Who knows what the original draft by Oscar-winner Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) was, unfortunately, we’ll never know. I’m just glad I didn’t sit through it at this year’s Sundance Film Festival because there’s no way A Walk in the Woods would have kept me awake. Even as a standalone, it’s simply only as much fun as it sounds.