Dirty Grandpa (2016)

 

Released: January 22, 2016. Directed by: Dan Mazer. Starring: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Zoey Deutch. Runtime: 1hr 42 min.

This comedy feels like screenwriter John Phillips lost a bet and since he lost, he had to write a screenplay with filthy joke after filthy joke. Dirty Grandpa is the result.

This follows Jason Kelly (Zac Efron), a boring corporate lawyer who’s about to get married to the most basic, control freak fiancé to come on film this year, named Meredith (a forgettable Julianne Hough).

Jason’s grandma just died and he now has to drive his ex-Special Forces grandfather, an appropriately named Dick (Robert De Niro), down to Florida, hoping to prolong the tradition of going down to Florida this time of year. While Jason has to be home for the rehearsal dinner, Dick begins to show his true colours and tricks Jason to Daytona Beach for spring break.

Raunchy and offensive, and just about as crude as it can get at every turn, Dirty Grandpa fails in just about every respect. It shouldn’t be confused with Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, because that’s actually funny in its own mischievous way.

I hope me not liking the film makes me sound like every old white critic out there that didn’t like the film because it’s offensive. I’m only 21, damn it!

But I’m the target audience, and I found this to be a pointless experiment in shocking the audience at every turn.

DeNiro’s Dick Kelly is an unlikable, racist, homophobic, perverted old fart who also has an obsession with poking Efron’s Jason in the butt and twisting his nipples. This grandpa is so awful, he makes me want to call my own grandfathers and thank them for not being perverted old freaks.

The film was super uneven in its tone, which was frustrating. It wanted to be balls to the wall crude, but also shoved dramatic pieces in there. They’re heartwarming when they come – but only a minute later, it’s interrupted by a De Niro stunt penis on Zac Efron’s pillow or De Niro arbitrarily commenting on Andre the Giant’s massive fingers and what he can do with them in the bedroom.

The bizarre crudeness undermines any sentiment the film has to offer – like a bizarrely heartwarming karaoke duet with Zoey Deutch that almost brings Efron back to his High School Musical days. Take a look at him now, Disney.

Plaza has a filthy turn as Lenore, who’s trying to get with Dick because she thinks he is a professor and that’s on her slutty bucket list.

Dirty Grandpa

Zac Efron and Robert De Niro in Dirty Grandpa (Source

Along the way, they meet Shadia (Zoey Deutch, Vampire Academy), who attended photography school with Jason. She’s the only one who doesn’t get raunchy dialogue – and should feel the least embarrassed to be in this smut.

I love crude humour. But only when it’s funny. This just felt like it took a shrapnel accuracy approach to comedy — writing filthy jokes and seeing what sticks. Plot twist: Nothing does stick.

It’s a predictable farce that results in an early contender for the year’s worst film. Dan Mazer (producer on Brüno) directs the actors on what looks like their first take. They say dialogue that’s supposed to be funny, but rarely is. The cast tries their very best and the film isn’t their fault.

It’s bad writing and dreadful jokes, which only made me laugh once. At this point, I’m trying to forget Efron and De Niro were ever in something so damn desperate.

The epitome of desperation in the film is a scene with Efron waking up the beach nude after a night of partying, only a stuffed bee covering his nether regions.

A young child then comes over, using vocabulary like “He let me kiss it” and “I stroked it” when his petrified father comes over. It looks like he molested the poor kid – and for Dirty Grandpa, this is their below the rock bottom of desperate comedy.

In certain scenes I was truly debating walking out, which is something I haven’t considered since 2013’s Grown Ups 2. So in a way, the filmmakers won. They nearly shocked me out of the movie. Congratulations?

1 star

The Choice (2016)

 

Released: February 5, 2016. Directed by: Ross Katz. Starring: Benjamin Walker, Teresa Palmer, Alexandra Daddario. Runtime: 1hr, 51 min.

Life will give you many choices. It will give you the choice to see this film. Don’t.

The Choice opens with Benjamin Walker’s Travis talking about how life is full of choices – and he “has to make a big one,” while he’s on his speed boat on the lake in his North Carolina coastal town. He then goes to the hospital with a bouquet of flowers, wondering how Gabby (Teresa Palmer) is doing. Then, it says seven years later.

To me, this is a spoiler in itself. I thought this took me out of the movie experience – because when there was enough time for seven years to pass, I was expecting in the back of the mind for Gabby to go into the hospital.

I don’t mind when a film starts with a scene from the middle of the narrative. It works effectively for complex films like Memento.  But it most certainly doesn’t work for a film that is as simplistic and predictable as a sappy Nicholas Sparks feature.

I’m not sure if the screenwriter, Bryan Sipe, decided to open the film this way because it’s the way the novel opens – or if the editor just plopped it there – but it’s definitely my main complaint of the film.

The story itself is about Travis, a veterinarian, who doesn’t like anything that doesn’t come easy. He’s the type of guy who only has one chair looking onto the water, even though he’s been on and off with Monica (Alexandra Daddario) since high school.

The Choice1

Teresa Palmer and Tom Wilkinson in The Choice. (Source)

He then meets Gabby, a new neighbour who immediately bothers him. It’s a recurring line in the film – which is about how crappy the dialogue gets. Even though Gabby is seeing Ryan (Tom Welling), they start a relationship, which is challenged by life’s biggest tests.

The film has some funny moments and great cinematography (kudos, Alar Kivilo), but the screenplay is only sporadically entertaining. It is at least more charming than bland. At least it isn’t as totally bonkers as the ending from Safe Haven or as unrealistic as the opening of The Lucky One where Zac Efron found a pretty girl just from a picture almost immediately.

Ross Katz isn’t able to direct strong performances from a usually good Teresa Palmer, and Benjamin Walker is nothing memorable. Alexandra Daddario, Maggie Grace and Tom Wilkinson have good supporting performances. Tom Welling (Smallville) is there for a time, but Superman doesn’t seem to put the utmost effort into his performance.

The Choice2

Teresa Palmer and Benjamin Walker in The Choice. (Source)

I did find myself enjoying the film for the first hour. But I never found myself caring deeply for the characters. They were developed weakly with nothing more than a few qualities.

And the main “choice” of the film wasn’t introduced until around the 85-minute mark. It’s a whole new development that’s brought on by something that is truly ridiculous.

There’s a good emotional moment in the film’s last third, but the third act feels like it is much longer than it actually is. With these characters, I would have been fine with a 90-minute movie. It felt like it could have ended at a certain point – and I felt like I was nearly scot free with a short film.

But then the story line held me for what felt like an hour longer (probably about 30 minutes in real time). By that point, I was exhausted – no matter how lovely the film looked.

2 outta 5

 

 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

 

Released: February 5, 2016. Directed by: Burr Steers. Starring: Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston. Runtime: 1hr, 48 min.

When pride met prejudice in the 1813 Jane Austen novel, there were most certainly no zombies. Fast forward to the zombie craze in cinema over 200 years later, and the storyline is full of ‘em. Hey, at least PPZ sounds cool.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies concerns the two primary characters Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam D’Arcy, who are essentially the same as the original novel, but they both have a penchant for killing zombies.

In the film, Bennett likes the look of D’Arcy, smiling at him and D’Arcy observes that she is muscular but “not so much to look unfeminine.”

What ensues is a hell of a lot of hate between the two that somehow boils into romance. And there’s a hell of a lot of zombies that seemed to come after the Black Plague and they threaten to take over England in the early 1800s.

This version is based on the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith (co-written by Jane Austen, who I guess came back from the dead to help write it), and it’s as mediocre as you might expect.

It aspires to be harmless entertainment in the likes of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but it really isn’t much fun.

The narratives are kind-of bland. Elizabeth still doesn’t like the idea of being pushed into a marriage without affection – but another reason is because she doesn’t want to trade a sword for a ring.

Women also can’t be well-trained and well-educated, it’s one or the other. Elizabeth also learned zombie attack training in China, instead of Japan where the higher social class studied their fighting skills.

The character sisters in this film, while they have a good chemistry, talk about their love lives over choreographed sword fights instead of just around a table – so that amps up the dialogue ever-so-slightly. The director, Burr Steers (who also penned the adapted screenplay) ensures to show a lot of skin and heaving bosoms of the lovely sisters.

It’s relatively new territory for Steers, but he does well with the fight scenes, but there still isn’t a lot of excitement in the big action set pieces. Still: It’s decent for a guy whose previous credits are directing Zac Efron in teen comedy 17 Again and the moody drama Charlie St. Cloud.

The dialogue is decidedly pretentious, trading something like, “Dude, the undead are rising,” to “the undead reach out from beneath the wet Earth.” Or something like that.

The costume, set and production designs are attractive, but usually come with the territory for period pieces.

Lena Headey has a turn as a sadistic Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who is a famed zombie slayer who sports an eye patch.

Her introduction is a brief, random 10-second thing of her screaming in victory on top of a pile of zombies with her eye newly missing. That is one way to assert that she is a dominant woman not to be crossed.

The exchanges between characters are forgettable and so is the chemistry between leads Lily James (Cinderella) and Sam Riley (Maleficent), even though they do fine separately.

The PG-13 zombie violence is a high point of the film – which isn’t saying much because it’s tame.

Many are coming for the zombies, but it’s very much a boring romance. It could be called a rom-zom, with the zom in zombies the only redeemer.

2 outta 5

Neighbors (2014)

NeighborsReleased: May 4, 2014. Directed by: Nicholas Stoller. Starring: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron. Runtime: 96 min. 

Nicholas Stoller, a graduate of the so-called Apatow school of comedy, directs Neighbors, a film that is uncharacteristically short for Apatow’s brand of filmmaking. In this way, Stoller makes this film his own. The film follows a couple, Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne), who are severely bored, and are experiencing arrested development because of their extremely amusing new-born baby Stella. Soon enough, some spice in their life moves in next door, but it’s keeping them up at night. It’s a frat house, led by a charismatic Zac Efron. When Mac “violates the circle of trust” (as Dave Franco puts it at an inconsistent Robert De Niro party – which is the joke) by calling the cops to file a noise complaint, the war is on – which consists of the family trying to get the frat to get enough strikes to get them out of the neighborhood, among other things.

The film has a quick pace and the falling-out is mildly realistic. Rogen and Efron bond initially – sharing joints (a Seth Rogen comedy essential), impressions of Batman, and even talk about getting walkie talkies – but Efron’s Teddy doesn’t like it when people break promises. He takes it as a form of extreme disrespect and an act of war. It could be perceived as a bit of a childish reason, but the war of comedy that ensues is insanely entertaining. And not to mention very funny. While some of the humour misses, like the frat repeatedly saying a line of dialogue (“Standing around with our dicks in our hands”) seems a bit nonsensical at the time and not that funny, but the accuracy rate of humour hitting is a good 90 per cent. 

For the comedy genre, that’s great – because there are so many comedies that are just not that funny these days. This is memorable and hilarious, and its raunchiness potent. So avoid seeing this one with your parents, boys and girls. Because, like Apatow, this director doesn’t fear to show the penis. The film’s raunchiness is apparent with a running joke that Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s character’s penis is very large. McLovin is surprisingly under-utilized otherwise, and he’s literally just there for that running joke – which does get some big laughs. Though, that joke might come to you as a selling point to get you to see this film, or as an aspect to make you avoid this. A few comments on the visuals: The cinematography looks pure, which is nice for a comedy – and some of the visuals are interesting. The party scenes might be hard on the eyes because of all of the lights, but they’re still very fun. I was a fan of the set design and I was a personal fan of a “Carpe that f**king diem” pillow.

This is a funny movie to watch with a few friends. If you’re Under 25, you’ll really enjoy this – but anyone older, it all depends on your sense of humour. The film is evident that the older crowd still knows how to have fun with the younger crowd, shown through Rogen and Bryne. Rogen didn’t have to prove that with this film though, because we’ve already known it for awhile. Byrne holds her own incredibly well, and even though her character is awkward at times, it’s the point. With this and Get Him to the Greek (and Bridesmaids), she has proved again and again that she could find a lot of success as a comedic actress. She uses improvisation with everyone else well, and so does Zac Efron – whose funny performance is as much of a discovery role as Channing Tatum’s was in 21 Jump Street. Dave Franco is funny in his role. A newcomer named Jerrod Carmichael is funny in his role as Garf, a primary frat member. The only person who feels like a stranger to the chemistry of everyone else is Ike Barinholtz. It’s nice to see the MadTV alum (who does do a fun Mark Wahlberg impression), but it was hard for me to buy into the fact that he’s supposed to be best friends with Rogen’s character. He gets a laugh or two, but his role is only sporadically useful.

Some good characterization is found in the film. Some themes of the fear of the future and trying to make your mark in history is nice. It’s nice to see that this situation is actually mildly beneficial to both parties. When the film threatens to all gooey, it jumps back with raunchiness. It might annoy some, but it helps the film stay true to its conflict-filled plot and raunchy tone. 

Score88/100

That Awkward Moment (2014)

That Awkward MomentReleased: January 31, 2014. Directed by: Tom Gormican. Starring: Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller. Runtime: 94 min.

“That Awkward Moment” is a film about relationships. Its title derives from the film’s idea that in every relationship, there is a moment where one of the partners asks “Where is this going?” Often times, that moment can be awkward; but not when the guy already knows the answer. The film presents the idea that, when the moment comes, just get out of that relationship. Because, you know, screw comittment! Casual sex takes precedence! Go to bars, meet women, and build up a roster, so you can have sex every day of the week with a different woman. Apparently, we’re becoming more and more polygamous. There’s nothing like a chick for every day of the week. It feels as if this film is designed in such a way, it might work better as a very short book of tips.

There is a story here. Jason (Zac Efron) is a young gun living in New York who is in the book and magazine cover designing business. His business partner is one of his best friends, Daniel (Miles Teller); and his other best friend, Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) is a doctor. Mikey is in his mid-20s and is getting divorced from his first wife, Vera (Jessica Lucas). It sounds pretty rough, considering how young he is. She’s cheating with a guy who looks like Morris Chestnut, no less. Who looks like Morris Chestnut?! Well, Morris Chestnut looks like Morris Chestnut; and apparently this guy does, too. Anyway, the basic story is that, in support of their best friend Mikey, they make a pact that they’re all going to stay single. Yeah. RIGHT. They’re all going to say no to love. As with every romantic comedy, they all pretty much set their eye on a woman simultaneously, and then don’t tell their friends about their intentions because they don’t want to back out on the pact. Jason likes a new girl in town fresh out of college, Ellie (Imogen Poots); Daniel begins to like his wing-woman Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis); and Mikey decides to give things a shot with Vera, again.

The film has so many ideas about dating, but they use mostly generic characters to depict it. The idea they didn’t portray, was that it’s probably never a good idea to have a girl as your wing-man, because you’re eventually going to think, as far as films teach people, “Hey… I don’t like this girl picking up other dudes; she should screw me, instead, out of respect!” Granted, it does seem like an okay idea at first.

One thing’s that funny is that the film only has enough awkward moments that you can count them on one hand. I won’t spoil them all, but they’re there. Jason confuses Ellie for a prostitute when they first meet, and then leaves because he doesn’t have money for a hooker (Poots would be one of those high-end $1000 an hour hookers, I think). Some awkward moments induce crude laughs, but only one or two that are memorable. Another awkward moment that the film depicts is the miscommunication with all the texting, because if one person says “We need to talk” in a text, the other might just have instant anxiety. Communication is key, folks.

One final awkward moment that I detected is the fact that all the women have sex with their clothes on. Well, Poots is naked but she has her comforter covering herself. Yet, both Teller and Efron show their butts. Boo! I want female skin! For Efron, this film might just be used for him as a gateway film for cruder things, perhaps he is preparing us for “Neighbors.” He swears, he gets nude, and he screws, but there’s still a romantic under all that cockiness. At least his sex scene here is less awkward than that one he shared with Taylor Schilling in “The Lucky One.” He’s a character afraid of comittment, because aren’t we all once in awhile? He also gets depicted as the biggest douche in the film in some ways, something Efron isn’t the strongest at playing, and it’s a role usually reserved for Teller (at least with my experience with his roles). Seeing him as a nicer guy than his roles in “21 and Over” and “Project X” with the ability to actually respect woman in a way, enables me to like him a bit more. A bit. I don’t think I’ll see the star potential until I watch “The Spectacular Now,” however.

The acting is natural for a film that has awkward in the title, and the cast is pretty good. I fell in love with Poots’ performance here, and her charming presence is welcome. She’s playing the most layered character of the movie, an independent woman meaning to land on her feet and get her life going in a big city. All the actors are talented to some degree (Michael B. Jordan especially; and Davis is a pleasant surprise for me), but they’re just working with a script that is heavy on the romantic aspect, but the laughs can be counted on two hands and they’re far between each other. Not good for a comedy!

Score50/100

The Lucky One (2012)

Lucky One, TheThe Lucky One

Release Date: April 20, 2012

Director: Scott Hicks

Stars: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner

Runtime: 101 min

Nicholas Sparks’ films are just that old extended fable: love conquers all. This is just another one of his predictable, boy meets girl and then loses girl, romantic love stories. None have yet achieved the quality of The Notebook and this doesn’t even come close.

U.S. Marine Sergeant Logan Thibault (Zac Efron) arrives home from his third tour duty in Iraq, with a photograph of his own personal guardian angel: a woman he doesn’t even know. He goes home and feels he is not where he belongs; so he types ‘lighthouse’ into Google (because in the photo, she’s standing in front of a lighthouse) and he magically finds a correct match (among millions of Google images, that’s very possible). He walks from Colorado to Louisiana and he soon finds Beth (Taylor Schilling), the mystery girl. He gets a job working for her, and he starts building relationships with her, her son, Ben (Riley Thomas Scott) and her grandmother, Ellie (Blythe Danner), much to the dislike of Beth’s ex-husband, Keith (Jay R. Ferguson).

Oh, dear God, Nicholas Sparks! Stop it with these stories, please! And to the studios, stop adapting his works! Oh, I nearly forgot why they make this stuff… for the money and the target audience. The people who actually like this schmaltzy and schlocky crap: females of nearly all ages. Though, mostly, it’s teenage girls who like young attractive actors or actually enjoy the works of Sparks.

Anyway, the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation is dull and uninteresting, but it’s a little better than 2010’s The Last Song. However, that is not an impressive feat. Sparks forgets to incorporate any sort of realism into this tale. Within the first fifteen minutes of the film, Logan is able to track down Beth and get a job working for her. That’s done like a true stalker, right? The characters that Sparks so desperately tries to compose aren’t interesting at all.

Logan only wants to live out what he thinks his destiny is: being with her (how sweet…). He thinks it’s a sign from above, but he doesn’t even have the courage to tell her he found the photograph of her. Doesn’t he realize that’s going to blow up in his face? He must have watched some romantic flicks before he left for Iraq! Then, we have Beth. She’s a former teacher who’s afraid to get back into the dating game, or any game of reality, because of an overbearing Sheriff ex-husband. I’ll get to that scum in a minute. The son of Beth (Ben, portrayed by the not-so-cute-but-really-annoying Riley Thomas Stewart) is an uninteresting character that is afraid of coming out of his shell, but Logan soon helps him. That, in turn, warms Beth’s heart. Nana is probably the most interesting character, but she wasn’t really developed at all (she was there to offer some jokes). The characters are really that bad.

Now, for the ex-husband, Keith. He’s simply that over-the-top asshole that nobody likes. He wants to take the kid away, and every single word he utters is a speeding river of stupidity.

The Lucky One is a love story that has some concepts of destiny and fate thrown in it. That really doesn’t help the film at all. However, there are a few redeeming qualities, but not merely enough to allow anywhere near a passing grade. The lame movie is fairly well-acted by Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling. Blythe Danner is pretty satisfying, too. To complement them, there are many beautiful shots of the Louisiana country-side. The film also benefits from the complete eye candy that is Taylor Schilling. If only the ladies showed more skin in Nicholas Sparks flicks!

This basically gets brought down by its poor characters, lack of realism, its predictable premise and its poor storytelling. It gets tugged down about as much as Gandalf got pulled down by the Balrog in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The main difference being: Gandalf kept fighting with great force; while The Lucky One gets a few half-hearted punches in, but it came nowhere near to tasting victory. Heck, this doesn’t even deserve a comparison to a film like Fellowship, but the comparison works well – so I just had to use it.

The Lucky One is the same old romantic tale that is made even more irritating by its very over-the-top and silly antagonist. It may be satisfying for its target audience; but for me, the only entertainment I found was the sound of my own voice offering a commentary mocking practically the entire feature.

30/100

The Lorax (2012)

The Lorax

Release Date: March 2, 2012

Director(s): Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda

Stars (voices): Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Danny DeVito

Runtime: 86 min

Tagline: From the creators of Despicable Me.

In the walled city of Thneed-Ville, where everything is artificial and good air costs money, a 12-year old boy named Ted (Zac Efron) wants to find a tree, so he could win the heart of the much older Audrey (Taylor Swift). When he learns of trees outside of his city, he sets out to find the Once-ler. When the Once-ler tells him the story of his unfortunate greed for money, Ted gets it in his mind that he’s going to reverse it. The mayor of the town, Mr. O’Hare, is one of the only forces that stand in his way.

One can tell that this is obviously by the creators of Despicable Me, because of the adorable bears and fish and such characters that have very similar voices to those of the minions. Also, Mr. O’Hare is about one foot tall, so he may be just a little smaller than those minions. Did the production company not have enough money to make him tall? It’s just a little silly.

The message it’s trying to teach kids is, don’t be greedy. If you’re greedy, it will only lead to bad things. Protect the environment. Speaking of the environment, it really does have a strong expression of saying, protect the environment. The film is not only trying to get this message across to children, but to adults, too.

There isn’t a lot of content to carry this film. It’s one Dr. Seuss story that should have remained untouched. The character of Ted is okay, one can understand his motivations, but he isn’t particularly interesting, and he certainly isn’t lead boy material. The only interesting character of modern-day Thneed-Ville is Grammy Norma, voiced by the energetic Betty White. She is the heart of present day Thneed-Ville. The character of Mr. O’Hare is not interesting, nor is his plot line. Who likes a story of a greedy little one foot-tall man selling air? Not I, because this is simply one of the most uninteresting things I have heard of. This all being said, when the Lorax, the much younger Once-ler, and those singing fish and those absolutely adorable bears, are not present, the film really does suffer. They are the emotional heart of the film. There’s a reason this film is not called Ted and Audrey, or Mr. O’Hare’s a Greedy and Creepy Dwarf.

The Once-ler really isn’t generally a greedy man, it was mostly his family that brainwashed him. They reminded me of that family of Hilary Swank’s character from Million Dollar Baby, because when he was out of trees and couldn’t make any more thneeds, they just threw him to the dust and disowned him.

Most of these actors proved that they are not cut out for doing voices for animation. Taylor Swift and Zac Efron, especially. I didn’t see any hint of them altering their voices to make their characters sound more fun. Rob Riggle was just okay as Mr. O’Hare, but he wasn’t very memorable. Danny DeVito and Ed Helms were actually pretty good at doing voicework, and they were quite hysterical. Though, the really only stand-out and memorable voice of the bunch is the lovable Betty White.

The Lorax doesn’t home enough interesting characters or a particularly interesting story to make this flow well and go through the motions in an impressive way. The animation is quite nice, and the messages that it wants to teach children are just okay. The Lorax doesn’t offer anything very impressive, and it won’t stand out in the running of the Oscars’ Best Animated Feature.

60/100