Smarts Over Funny? Is This The Comedy You were Looking for?

Booksmart Poster

 

Friendship is something that goes through trials and tribulations.  As life passes and things change, the bonds get tested and only through work, communication, and understanding that is sometimes absent in the modern flow of life.  That’s what today’s review focuses on in regards to the movie, one that looked like a superficial party comedy on the surface. Yet, the trailer editors know how to make us look so to speak, and yours truly is here to give some insight into the latest silver screen studio.  Let’s get started, as we review:

 

Booksmart: (2019)

 

Director:

Olivia Wilde

Writers:

Susanna FogelEmily Halpern

Stars:

Kaitlyn DeverBeanie FeldsteinJessica Williams

 

 

LIKES:

  • Funny At Times
  • Adventurous
  • Relevant To Many Audience Members
  • Good Pacing
  • Great Acting Chemistry
  • Surprisingly Deep

 

DISLIKES:

  • Lazy Writing At Times
  • A Little Too Extreme
  • Predictable
  • The Trailers Have Revealed A Lot
  • The Glorification Of Reckless Behavior

 

Fans Who Like These May Like These Movies:

  • Generation X
  • Night Before
  • Step Brothers
  • The Hustle
  • The Hangover Trilogy
  • Superbad

 

SUMMARY:

Booksmart delivers on the promise of being funny, making sure to jam pack the adventure with as much slapstick and crude commentary as possible. And while much of the writing is geared towards trying to use modern, aggressive comedy of swearing, ridiculous metaphors, and meme worthy phrases, it does so in a manner that isn’t the same overwhelming manner that this genre throws at us, okay at least not in the same extent.  Booksmart takes the adventurous aspect of the Hangover and curves it to a better plot and more focused on the broader audience.  The relevance of the two girl’s trials should speak to many, with the other problems exposed branching out to grab the group in a surprisingly entertaining after school special approach.  As the world continues to expand, the pace manages to keep in time with it so well, making sure to slow down at key development points, only to speed up again as the next transition begins.  Thus, the adventure is gloriously displayed to be both entertaining and meaningful.  Yet, the biggest pillar of strength for this tale is the chemistry between Dever and Feldstein, who manage the break the awkward barriers of best friends in high school, and somehow unleash 18 years of friendship in a short time.  It’s through these two that many political and story-based components are artistically brought out, and with their skills adds that surprisingly deep aspect to a film that looked so ridiculous from the trailers. And perhaps it is that deeper aspect that works so well for me to help ground the silliness.

Yet with all the good, there are some limitations to this film that take away from the enjoyment.  First, the lazy writing component.  Clever writing and puns for slang and stupidity are enjoyable, but with every word getting bombarded with cursing… that is where you lose me.  Overdoing some of the curse bombs gets old and takes away from the imaginative dialogue Booksmart holds and I had hoped for a little deviation. In addition, the extreme acts of stupidity, selfishness, and debauchery of the rules potentially will inspire younger members, but sometimes steps over the lines a little too much that the debauchery was more infuriating than entertaining. In addition, there presentation of stereotypes and other personal, political issues sometimes are a little to full frontal mode, pushing the boundaries to details that may not be as pertinent to the story, but also to uncomfortable levels who don’t like displays of affection.  And sadly, I had hoped the predictability of where these acts were going would have had more twists, but sadly the trailers have ruined much of the movie’s acts, only leaving a little to uncover at the end. It’s this factor of how much has been revealed alongside the glorification that breaking rules/acting the way these kids do is the factor of life that adds meaning that probably were the things I enjoyed the least.  Thankfully, there are better life lessons to try to overshadow these.

  In conclusion, the movie turns out to be a deeper adventure than I anticipated.  It’s going to hit the teen and young adult audiences well, alongside those that value friendship. Fantastic acting and pacing help spin this tale to better levels and I for one enjoyed the tale presented.  Still, the entertainment value that glorified the reckless behavior was probably not the motif to also drown the film in either.  It is still got the predictable plot and curse obsessive writing, but this reviewer was happy with the presentation and gives this one the nod of approval for a theater visit with friends.  Just be prepared for some very aggressive comedy and sequences that may not appeal to more conservative and sheltered groups, or you might find yourself very uncomfortable. 

 

My scores are:

Comedy:  7.5

Movie Overall: 6.5

What Does Life Itself Hold In Store?

Life Itself Poster

 

This Is Us, a drama that brought an interconnected story, where twists occurred around every corner, and often punched you straight in the face with emotion.  Due to its popularity, Hollywood seems to be ready to draw upon their talents to make a movie that can do the same.  Tall orders from the popular writers, tonight’s movie is a tribute to their work, one that will hopefully hold the same quality, and perhaps leave you in tears at what lies in store. Robbie K here with another review of:

 

Movie: Life Itself (2018)

 

Director:

Dan Fogelman

Writer:

Dan Fogelman

Stars:

Oscar IsaacOlivia WildeAnnette Bening

 

 

LIKES:

 

The Acting: You know from Fogelman’s work that the stories weigh heavily on the characters and the stars that make them come to life. For this guy, the acting is certainly the strongest like.  Much of the cast holds the ability of bringing the characters to such realistic portrayals, controlling their emotions in this very heavily feeling based position.  The chemistry with each other is fantastic, each phase holding these dynamic performances that life holds in its mystical throngs.  These characters are who you have to grip to, and fortunately the acting is there to do it.

 

The Realism:  It may be overstuffed with emotion like a mega burrito, but Life Itself is all about the realism of life.  This mega drama will drop much of the fantasy quirks of Hollywood to give you that slice of life to immerse in.  If you want the closest thing to life in a film version, Life Itself is the one for you.

 

The Twists:  You like those jaw dropping revelations that This Is Us is capable of dropping?  Well, maybe not to the same extent, but Life Itself doesn’t do too shabby a job of unleashing its own surprises to help link all the tales together.  What many movies (like Valentine’s Day) have tried to execute the combination of stories, they often fall flat into some grand stretch to make it all work.  This film, not so much.  Instead, it’s a well thought out plan, where these stories are designed around the connection and not vice versa.  These connecting points are the key to the twist, and they hope to bring the same pizazz the TV series does.  It’s not quite as impressive, but it is a start!

 

The Make-Up/Costume/Setup: Hands down, the movie has some solid artistic attributes to add to their characters that I like to give a nod too. Costumes are stylish, but not overbearing or too primary to overshadow the performances.  Pregnant prosthetics are curtailed to the actress and decently integrated to again be balanced into the character.  And as for the make-up, a fantastic blend of pallets to bring out physical attributes of aging as the scenes jump forward in time.  It’s stunning to see what they can do and really impressed me despite not being the most unique or out of this world project.

 

The Guts:  Life Itself does something many movies fear to do and that is hit the hard-hitting topics.  This film is all about facing the ups and downs with life, doing a decent job of portraying these very tough, rigorous trials that life brings and how to go about working through them.  And while it may be difficult to see some of these components, you’ve got some fantastic morals to teach you for preparation of many things.  Well done their guys.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

Slow Pace:  Let’s get this on the table, I like faster paced movies so I don’t fight sleep.  Life Itself is not one of these movies, for it decides to move at a slow pace to make sure you become entrenched in the character’s tale.  While this wasn’t too bad at first, by the third chapter, I was battling my attention span’s limits to not walk out.  Those who like a drawn-out tale will not fell this way, but for those wanting a little brisker pace, you’ll be dreading this film.

 

Missing The Story/Development:  Most fans of This Is Us I talk to love how much you are immersed into the character’s lives, following their tales and uncovering every little detail at just the right moment.  Life Itself had the makings of that, but it didn’t quite have the same magic that they really were going for.  A strong opening was quickly fizzled out by montages, shallow dialogue at times, and even some messy wrap ups that showed they were running out time.  What this movie suffers in this category, is not having enough time (e.g. multiple seasons and episodes) to tell the story and therefore it did not accomplish the goals set out.

 

Depressing:  Let’s be honest, this is a movie that is not for the faint of heart, the overly depressed, or hating sad stories.  Life Itself is much like real life and those ups and downs can really tax the emotions and leave you feeling down.  When you combine with the dislikes above, you might have an even harder time staying in the theater to heart the surprisingly powerful finish.  So, heed words guys, this is not a movie for when you are feeling down, so please take heed and don’t fall victim to the antics.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Life Itself was ambitious in its goal to take the popular drama field and unleash those same emotions onto a bigger screen. While the acting, realism, artwork, and guts are all there, they aren’t enough to bring the half-baked stories to full effect.  There are key points that really stand out, but much of them don’t have the finesse they needed, mostly due to time restraints.  Nevertheless, this depressing film moves at a snail’s pace and doesn’t quite have the well mapped out writing to warrant the nearly 2 hours. Instead, Life Itself should have taken the carbon copy components and made a spin off show for a streaming service instead.  Still, not the worst thing I have seen.

 

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Romance:  6.5

Movie Overall:  5.5

You Can’t Regift This Film

Love the Coopers

            Better late than never I always say! Hi I’m Robbie K and this review is on a comedy designed to be a holiday treat for the bunch. The name of the movie is Love the Coopers, which from the trailers looked to be packed with stars who were ready to make you bust a gut with lots of laughs. Of course…we do know that multiple big names in one movie often leads to disaster in terms of quality and plot (Valentine’s Day and New Years Eve anyone?). Anyway, let’s get started on the review.

 

For a comedy, Love the Coopers has a bit more wit involved in terms of making you laugh. By wit I don’t mean the dry comedy that you have to be in the loop to understand, but more so in how well it is integrated into the story. The dialogue happens naturally, flowing into the normal routine instead of shoving a comedic ploy into our faces. In addition the variety of the jokes helped keep the movie fresh and fun, ranging from sexual innuendos and first time kisses to insults and the art of lying. Even better was how all of these jokes fit into place and worked with the individual’s story to further maximize the timing. And yet I think all of it would have failed had it not been for the actor’s delivery. Whether it was John Goodman’s sarcasm, Olivia Wilde’s angst and attitude, or June Squibb playing the clueless aunt it all was maximized by how well they sold the lines. Or in some cases it might have just been a facial expression that got me laughing, primarily from Rags the dog who continues to take the drama and roll with it in some way.

 

So strong comedy must mean good story right? Wrong! Love the Coopers’ plot was very lacking in entertainment for this reviewer. As I feared, the tale was very fragmented with multiple mini-plot lines slowly converging until they all meet in the end. This tactic has worked in the past, but like most modern comedies, they lack balance. Some of these plot lines are strong, taking constant screen time and establishing the backbone. Others however would have their 15 minutes of fame and then not be seen for some time, often hastily concluded with the reunion of plot lines. Fortunately it’s all wrapped in a nice Christmas package, however untraditional it is. This isn’t the run of the mill, feel good movie that you see on Hallmark though, but instead one that uses the Holiday as a means for character evaluation. Love the Coopers is actually a downer, especially at the beginning where all the problems come to light. Thus with the poor plot and depressing tone, I felt this movie dragged at a lot of the parts, making the 107 minutes feel more like 180 minutes. I’ll admit I nearly nodded off a few times as well, so that might be something to take to mind. No surprise…everything comes full circle in the end and you’ll get some grand lessons if you keep your mind open, but it certainly isn’t the most moving piece I’ve seen.

 

As I mentioned earlier, the actors really are the strongest part of this movie. John Goodman was my particular favorite as the big man continues to impress me with his wide spectrum of characters. He’s funny, serious, and keeps the stories tethered together and plays exactly like the stereotypical head of the household. Diane Keaton unfortunately was not in my favor this time not so much for her acting, but that her character was so annoying. She’s a good counter to Goodman’s calmness and a great source of drama, but it was a little too much for me. Olivia Wilde steps back in the light with a decent role that combines sexuality with mischief and uses her gorgeous looks to complete the character. Ed Helms is a little more down to Earth in this film, trading in overacted arrogance and stupidity for a more believable character. It was nice getting to see a more serious side of things, and helps add a bit of awkwardness to an otherwise cut and dry family. Alan Arkin is great as always, though underutilized in my opinion and would have been great to have a few more quips and lessons to add to the mix. Heck even the kids impressed me with how fitting their characters were taking components of a Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, and a Hallmark kid and wrapping it into one. And Steve Martin as the narrator added a nice tree topper, fitting right in line with the various narrators of classic Christmas stories.

 

Love the Coopers is an okay film, but certainly isn’t your run of the mill Christmas tale. Sure the comedy was a nice variation, and the acting certainly made the characters alive and relevant. Unfortunately this movie was just too monotonous, long-winded and depressing to make this movie fully entertaining. I’m sure you can guess from my review that this movie really isn’t worth the trip to the theater, not only due to lack of entertainment but also a lack of special effects. Therefore this reviewer recommends skipping this movie at the time and finding an alternative to this movie.

 

My scores for this film are:

 

Comedy: 6.5

Movie Overall: 6.0

The Lazarus Effect Review

Lazarus

Horror movies are a means for directors to visit the dark recesses of their mind and craft a terrifying tale. Amidst the sea of mediocrity that is this genre, we do occasionally get a thriller that does its job. This weekend, Olivia Wilde leads the latest attempt to scare in a film titled the Lazarus Effect. After seeing numerous snippets of trailers, here is what you might…

Expect: Another tale of possession, some usual scare tactics, ethical discussion, and of course questionable acting.

Here is what you get:

  1. Despite what the trailer hinted at, The Lazarus Effect’s story did not tread down the expected path. Yes, Olivia Wilde’s character dies, in a somewhat only to be saved from death thanks to the Lazarus system. Rather than possession though, this miracle drug instead seems to have a side effect that can best be described as a rehash of the plot from Lucy (aka unlocking the brain’s full potential). However, Olivia’s character doesn’t handle it quite as well, instead becoming a psychotic mess with unlimited power. Why does she go nuts? The answer is not the best explained, but involve a scarring memory and a fear of hell. If you’re bored with this odd story, which I was, you might enjoy the challenge of picking out various movie references this movie holds, many in homage to Stephen King. There are times when this ambiguous tale is very rushed, most likely for more scare time, leaving out some necessary details and development this movie needs.  Even the suspense is dulled by the rushed pace, especially in terms of the deaths occurring in the span of 15 minutes. Oh well at least the deaths were not too over the top or monotone as we see trending in horror movies these days.
  2. Speaking of scares, this movie has a few tricks up its sleeves that might just give you a shock. Jump moments occur from the start, using various means to make one leap out of their skin or scream in bloody terror, as many fellow movie goers did. For me, the dead giveaways from the cinematography and absence of sound were more than enough to predict the next spook. Instead the scarier aspect is the use of darkness to make you squirm in uncomfortable dismay. While a college campus lab may not seem scary, the lights suddenly going out can make even the nicest place a living “hell”. As things go bump in the dark, you might just get the sense of isolation, which for me was the factor that really got me on the edge of my seat. If that’s not enough, perhaps an anthropomorphic dog may raise the hair on your skin.
  3. Integrated in at least part of the story is the ethical dilemma about bringing someone back from the clutches of death. The goal of the Lazarus Project, like all ideas in the horror genre, was noble at first; to allow doctors to have more time to save people from death by bringing them back from the dead. While this goal seems rather counterintuitive, the best intentions once again go wrong. Nevertheless, one will get an ear full of familiar philosophical quotes like “It’s morally wrong!” or “That was an animal and this is a human”. Fortunately it is not too preachy, but most of us by now should understand not to play God or bad crap will happen. Most horror movies, and their fans, will not really care about the ethics, but instead care about the scares and kills.
  4. Finally comes the acting, well no surprise that there is no Oscar winning performances here, but that doesn’t mean they suck. Wilde was my favorite, primarily because her character spanned across the personality spectrum. At first she is an enthusiastic, upbeat scientist with some religion thrown in. After the incident, she does a complete 180 and becomes a terrifying psychopath, whose bipolar complex becomes her greatest weapon. She becomes almost soulless, her previous joy lost behind intense stares and laughable dialog. The other supporting actors play their parts well, though each of the guys is a simplistic, monoemotional tool that are merely canon fodder for Wilde’s wrath. They provide some comic relief here and there, but otherwise nothing stood out for me. Sarah Bolger did impress this reviewer’s attention, mainly because I liked her character. While not the most unique character, the pretty redhead had the best balance of the bunch. Her reactions were kept in check, and despite being the only nonscientist, she surprisingly was the only one to figure out the mystery. She was the character I was rooting for, and also very pretty to compliment Ms. Wilde’s own beauty.

The Lazarus effect has some decent scare factor to it, and should give most a nice fill of terror for now. While not the most unique story, nor the most complete, there are enough qualities here to make it a good Netflix or Redbox rent. However, I can’t say this is one of the best I have seen, nor can I recommend a trip to theater. With everything put in perspective, my scores for this movie are:

Thriller: 6.5

Movie Overall: 6.0