Tag Archives: Lake Bell

The Secret Life of Pets 2

Let me ask you a question: are you a sack of shit? Yeah, I didn’t think so. In that case, it’s pretty safe to say you’ll find this movie enjoyable. Like the first one, it’s not going to rock your world. It’s not going to usher in a new era of animation. It’s not a story that will be passed down generation to generation. It’s a just-funny-enough, tug-on-the-old-heartstrings, relate to humans through their better counterparts kind of thing.

The best kinds of people are dogs. That is a FACT.

Max (this time voiced by Patton Oswalt rather than the sex offender Louis C,K.), the very good boy from the first film, is back again. He and his very good boy brudder Duke (Eric Stonestreet) are welcoming yet another new addition to their family: a human baby named Liam. Yes, owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) has met and married a human man and produced an heir. We still don’t know what it is that Katie does to afford her very nice Manhattan apartment, but her life is very full. And Max, initially quite ambivalent about human children, grows to love Liam very very much. The feeling is mutual. But just loving Liam is not enough; Max feels he must protect him from the world. Max, normally a happy-go-lucky dog, is now a bit of a nervous nelly. The behaviourist outfits him with a cone of shame, and then his owners pack him off to the farm. Oh gosh, not the proverbial farm, an actual farm, where he meets rough and tough farm dog Rooster (Harrison Ford), who is determined to cure him with tough love and hard work.

Meanwhile, back in the city, old friends are up to new tricks. Fuzzy bunny Snowball (Kevin Hart) is helping new pal Daisy (Tiffany Haddish) to, believe it or not, rescue a tiger from a circus. And sweet little fluffball Gidget (Jenny Slate) has her own little rescue mission going, and enlists Chloe the cat (Lake Bell) for her particular brand of expertise.

This movie caught me right in the feels on at least to parts: a) My sister had a lovely good boy, also named Max, who got a little “overprotective” during her pregnancy, and through the birth of her first child, and he had to go to the proverbial farm. We all miss him to this day. b) My own little Fudgie is himself a bit of a nervous nelly and is newly on anti-anxiety meds actually called Clomicalm. He is not yet calm, but he is definitely not unhappy. He mostly worries about stupid stuff like: am I posing with my toy in exactly the right way to impress Sean when he comes in? How about now? How bout now? Now? NOWWW????

And of course, as pet owners generally and dog lovers specifically, and people who are just plain old not monsters, you can’t help but melt a little when you recognize a bit of your own four legged friend up on the screen. When Daisy made her mad face, I saw my Herbie. And when Max learned how to howl, I heard my Bronx (though Bronx does more of an “Awuuuuu.”)

So no, it’s not a terrific film. But it’s a sweet film, a cute film, it’s the film I wanted to see tonight and I’m glad I did. Awuuuuuu.

I Do…Until I Don’t

Vivian, a pretentious documentarian, has a thesis to prove with her new film: that marriage is basically prison, that married people are largely unhappy, and that the institution of marriage should be capped at 7 year contracts. So she finds 3 American couples to expose their marital problems on camera, and boy do they.

Alice (Lake Bell) and Noah (Ed Helms) are in dire financial straights; their business is failing and they’re in danger of losing their house. Meanwhile, they’ve been trying to have a baby for years, but their lacklustre sex life is not cooperating.

MV5BMTU0NDI2ODIzM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDM5Mzc3MjI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_Fanny (Amber Heard) and Zander (Wyatt Cenac) are a non-traditional couple with an open relationship.

Cybil (Mary Steenburgen) and Harvey (Paul Reiser) married when each had a specific need, but now neither one are fulfilling it. They seem to be drifting into separate lives, and Cybil barely tolerates Harvey’s quirks.

Vivian exploits and also orchestrates events to fit her documentary’s narrative but these couples have too many real problems to play her game satisfactorily. Cybil’s semi-estranged daughter shows up, pregnant. Alice has lied about money and tries to cover it up by doing sex work on the side. Noah may be hiding a drug problem. On Vivian’s “emancipation day,” who will divorce, who will walk away, and who will choose to tough it out?

Written and directed by Lake Bell, I Do…Until I Don’t starts out subversive and satirical but simmers down to a sweet little comedy that feels more like a defense of marriage than a challenge to it. There are plenty of great lines to go around but almost nothing new to say about love and relationships. The performances are pleasing and there’s nothing wrong with the film, it’s just a lot less rebellious than I’ve come to expect from Bell. Movies are crowded with stories about relationships, and this one never finds the footing to rise above.

Home Again

If I have anything akin to weakness, and I’m not saying I do, but if I did it would be Reese Witherspoon. Is it because her name reminds me of my favourite candy? Or just because she’s nearly too cute and blonde and perfect to be a real human woman? Or because she’s a goddamn clothes horse who always looks stylish and flawlessly put together but isn’t trying too hard? Or because she’s a self-confessed perfectionist who run her own business like a boss? At any rate, I am not accustomed to missing her movies because I lurv her, but this time, I did. Now, in my defense, Home Again was released in September, somewhere between the Venice Film Festival and TIFF, which means I saw about 50 movies in 12 days and none of them were Home Again. Sorry, Reese.

Legendary producer Nancy Meyers is responsible for putting this script in Witherspoon’s hands, but it’s her daughter, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, who writes and directs. The movie follows Alice (Reese), newly separated from Austen (Michael home-again-20170006Sheen) and newly single mother to two girls who are having a hard time with their transition to L.A. Their adjustment period gets both better and worse when Alice brings home not one but three very young men on the occasion of her 40th birthday (it’s not nearly as slutty as it sounds). Aspiring film makers, they’re thrilled to crash on her couch while they take “meetings” about their “project” but even more psyched when they find out the house belonged to her father, a famous movie director, and that her mother (Candice Bergen), muse and movie star, often hangs around to make them breakfast.

And of course you don’t put the rom in rom-com until the estranged husband shows up to find three beef cakes vying for his wife’s attentions. To be honest, this isn’t really a great movie. The story won’t surprise you and isn’t really trying to; it’s got some moments of wit and charm, plus that little fireball Reese, and that’s good enough, right? That is, if you can overlook the privilege, which, let’s face it, takes some doing. White privilege, it goes without saying, considering the monochromicity of the cast. It’s the cinematic equivalent of an old pair of slippers, but if you’re a fan of Witherspoon’s, you might just find it passable – or better yet, enjoyable.

The Secret Life of Pets

Illumination Entertainment has taken a page from Pixar’s mega success and included a short in front of their recent effort, The Secret Life of Pets. It’s called Mower Minions and reminds you that these little yellow compatriots are still celebrities to the 6-and-under crowd, their fart jokes just as relevant and hilarious as ever.

On to the main event, a 90 minute movie that also wants to remind you that it’s by the same team behind the Minions.  The little owner of a guinea pig snuggles beside a Minion toy at night. maxresdefaultAnd a dog gets dressed up as a Minion for Halloween (is it just me or does a second dog get outfitted as the foul-mouthed teddy bear, Ted?). Pixar does the same sly product placement, making sure its current characters are fans and consumers of their older stuff. The comparisons to Pixar, much as the humans behind Despicable Me might hope they continue, pretty much end there.

I liked this movie. Very much. But I’m a dog person and a quadruple dog owner. If you remind me of them, or engage me about them, of course I’ll smile. They’re furry little bundles of unconditional love and loyalty and joy. If you make a movie about dogs and it’s not a complete delight, you’re probably a miserable fuck.

The Secret Life of Pets earns a belly rub every time it reminds you of your own four-legged friends. For me it was the escape via temporary fencing (we had a pool built this summer, and our yard was a logistical nightmare) and the sausage-induced delirium. While I don’t think ourthumbnail_23930 dogs have ever broken into a hot dog factory (though how would I know?), they do experience what we call “wiener fever” every time we have leftovers from the grill.

The movie merely gets a perfunctory pat on the head though when it comes to story-telling. Oh, it’ll please the pants right off your kids. They’ll love it. And you’ll find it much less annoying than those insufferable Minions. But it’s a superficial story that will have no lasting impact on anyone. Of all the talking animal movies this year (Finding Dory, Zootopia), this one will seem inconsequential in comparison. Yes the doggies talked – but what did they have to say?

So take it for what it is: an incredibly talented voice cast, a solid use of 3D, and a pleasant way to either babysit the kids or while away a rainy afternoon.

Man Up

I have next to nothing to say about this movie. On the one hand, the title is so generic and irrelevant to the movie that I kept passing it up on Netflix because I believed I’d already seen it, and on the other hand, the title is sexist and mildly insults me, while still being 6a00d8341c7f0d53ef01b7c7eb94b0970birrelevant to the movie, which makes the insult all the more infuriating.

I suppose Simon Pegg is the dolt who needs to “man up” though why is unclear. He’s just come out of a bad divorce and is set to meet a young woman on a blind date, only Lake Bell hijacks it instead, and of course they spend a lovely day together until it is discovered that she is the wrong date, and worse still, not 24, which was both the allure and the point of the original blind date.

What does it mean to “man up”? It’s defined as: to be brave or tough enough to deal with an unpleasant situation. Because bravery and toughness are male traits? Becatesticle-festivaluse the person who came up with this expression has never seen a man with a simple head cold? To “man up” implies a manly scenario, and a failure of a certain man to fulfill his obligations or responsibilities as a man. In the movie’s case, Pegg has an unfaithful ex-wife, and a charming if slightly mendacious new flame. How exactly do either of those scenarios require testicles in particular? And what would become of this movie if “man up” didn’t mean create a big, Hollywood-style hullabaloo where you declare your undying love for a woman you just met in front of a crowd of rowdy strangers, but instead “man up” meant, admit your fears, communicate haW58NWyS2SSSRbEln8iNSXm0bhonestly, be flexible, be vulnerable. Or what if being this kind of bold and brave didn’t require a Y chromosome and it could be Lake Bell, in all her ovarian glory, reaching across the void? The phrase “man up” implies such a rigid view of masculinity it punishes both the sexes (and all the sexes in between) and leaves us all sitting in painful little boxes having to watch insipid little romcoms the world could do wiman_up_1thout.

And do you know what the worst part is? It isn’t even a terrible movie. Simon Pegg and Lake Bell are quite good together. It’s never been more fun to be a third wheel on a blind date. So while I’m not claiming it’s groundbreaking or anything, it does deserve a better title than this weak offering. End rant.

 

 

No Escape\No Surrender

No Escape: Owen Wilson plays a father who is sent overseas to an unnamed Asian country (the “fourth-world according to fake-wife Lake Bell) to help build their waterworks. Of course, his 75family’s arrival coincides terribly with a coup within this country, and an uprising of the people, particularly against foreigners who have taken over – you got it, their waterworks. So Owen Wilson has to call on reserves of badassery he didn’t know he had to get his wife and two daughters to safety. And he fails. So thank god for Pierce Brosnan who saves his ass a number of times, but sadly, not innumerably. There is a limit, and it will keep you on the edge of you god damned seat. Actually, that’s the one thing this movie does really, really well: it’s 98% adrenaline rush. The tension is taut, relentless, masterful. There’s only about 1m30s where you breathe comfortably, and that’s only because you know a bad thing is coming and you can just kind of be zen about it.

Sean didn’t really care for it. This might be a knock on Owen Wilson’s manhood (try not to picture me knocking on his semi-erect penis), but Sean just didn’t think this guy was up to the task. He also didn’t think the situation was believable in the first place – that a group of Americans would just be left to fend for themselves, and that IF they were, for some odd reason, that Owen Wilson of all people could keep anyone alive for more than maybe 5 minutes or so. no-escape-pierce-brosnan-owen-wilson-slice-600x200And given some of the choices this guy makes, I have to agree. I was also annoyed by the kids. The truth is, as actors they were pretty impressive. But I find kids in these kinds of thrillers to just be god-awful. They’re always making noise when they shouldn’t, defying direct orders, coming out of hiding places, squawking, refusing to do what’s necessary, complaining about having to go potty, or that they’re hungry, or that their favourite doll got left behind. And if you’ve got a wife who’s kind of whiny too, it’s not long before I’m yelling at the screen: “Leave them behind! You can start a new family later! Second spouses are the best!” And once I start yelling that kind of shit at the screen, game over.

An interesting tidbit: Ruth at Flix Chatter wrote a really interesting piece on the Dowdle brothers, who happen to be the writers\director of this film. She always does a great job, but this interview really caught my eye and if you have any interest at all, I’m sure you’ll feel the same.

We saw this movie at the drive-in, and as always, it’s a double bill. Truth time: the title is a lie. The second movie was actually Self\less, and it was worst than the first. And not just because the hicks in the car beside us, windows rolled down so we could hear them puzzle out each scene incorrectly, spoiled the whole thing by not understanding it in the least but loudly offering their idiotic theories.

Self\less is about a wealthy business magnate played by Ben Kingsley, who is on his deathbed when he gets an ashow_filenonymous tip: there may be a way out of this death thing. Turns out, if you are brilliant enough and have several hundreds of millions of dollars (let’s dwell on that for a bit: Several. HUNDREDS. Of millions. Of dollars.), you can pay this mad scientist to fake your death and transplant your “self” into a healthy young body grow in a lab. This scientist is just so selfless himself, apart from the payday, that he doesn’t want to deprive the world of the most elite idea makers. The catch? No one can know. You say goodbye to your whole life and live as this other person. So, in effect, the plot has already shot itself in the foot because when Ben Kingsley wakes up in Ryan Reynolds’ body, he can’t just walk back to the Kingsley empire and untitledhelm the ship. Kingsley is dead to the world, and Reynolds is a nobody who is frankly ready for retirement, except for getting a few quick pieces of hot ass (and who can blame him?) The other catch? (C’mon, there’s ALWAYS another catch!): a lifetime of pills. The pills keep Ryan Reynolds at bay. Because the scientist lied. This isn’t some body grown in lab, it’s a murdered man whose “self” keeps surfacing, with flashbacks of his life, wife, and daughter. Awkward!

This movie is interesting in theory but decides to spit on the philosophical implications and just go for cheap thrills and action instead.

In a World…

Carol Solomon (Lake Bell) makes a living (more or less) doing voice work and teaching celebrities to perfect their accents. She’d like to break into her father’s business doing voice-over work for movie trailers, but the industry doesn’t want a female voice. But a huge gap has been left by the death of Don LaFontaine (the real-life king of voice-overs) so she finds herself competing against her childish and jealous father, an industry giant, who champions his smug protegé, up-and-comer Gustav, to revive the “In a world…” work.

This film does a lot of things well, but I really enjoyed watching a woman try to break into a male-dominated industry, and witnessing the different things that need to fall into place in order for it to happen.  Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of back-stabbing and sabotage that goes on as well, some of it by Carol’s own father, a man who believes that there is no place for women in his workplace (and that things were better off when there weren’t women in any workplace, period). world

But this is not some heavy drama about sexism. I mean, first of all, there’s Eva Longoria, as herself, learning how not to sound like “a retarded pirate” (this is her attempt at a Cockney accent). Longoria seems pleasantly game and wins some major not-taking-herself-too-seriously points. Then there’s this: (are you sitting down? you may want to sit down.) DEMITRI MARTIN and NICK OFFERMAN in the same movie. In the same scene! In the same several scenes! I nearly fainted from the awesomeness. They play the good dudes who actually believe in Carol and want to help her succeed.

This movie is Lake Bell’s baby – she wrote it and directed it. She casts this movie like it is her baby, like she knows she has to get everything perfect, and does. She surrounds herself with talent and milks it for every ounce, but she’s no slouch: listen carefully and you’ll hear her own voice-over work sprinkled throughout the film. Girl’s got chops. The script is a lot of fun, there’s a lot of great lines, and great opportunities to showcase herself from every angle.

Watch out for Lake Bell – she’s been popping up in random places over the past few years, but with this effort, she’s truly made herself known.