alvin-road-chip-300x169.jpg

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

Posted on December 17, 2015 at 5:13 pm

Copyright Fox 2000 2015
Copyright Fox 2000 2015

About five minutes after it began, the long-suffering Dave (Jason Lee, looking tired and oh so over this) comes home to find that the irrepressable little singing chipmunks in the midst of a wild party with a half-pipe set up in the back-yard and LMFAO’s Redfoo working the turntables as DJ. Two-thirds of the dear little creatures experience flatulence, which middle chipmunk Theodore (the hungry, chunky one) describes as “pizza toots.” Sigh. Later on, when one of the chipmunks is hiding inside a character’s clothes as he goes through TSA, pee and poop come out the character’s pant leg. And another character gets pooped on by a bird. Yes, this is that movie. It’s so proud of its potty humor that most of it is featured in the trailer.

Once again our little scamps create chaos and destruction wherever they go. Dave wails, “AAAAAAAAlvin!” Then he scolds them. Then he forgives them. Rinse and repeat.

Dave has two developments in his life, and it is the task of the Chipmunks to create as many complications and catastrophes as possible to impede both of them. First, there is the release of a new album he produced from Taylor Swift-style pop artist Ashley (Bella Thorne), at a big, splashy event in Miami. Second, there is a new woman in Dave’s life. Her name is Shira (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), she is a heart surgeon (but so adorably ditzy that she keeps forgetting that her stethoscope is still around her neck), and she has a son named Miles (Josh Green, a welcome bright spot we hope to see in a better movie soon). When the chipmunks discover an engagement ring just before Dave and Shira are about to leave for Miami, they decide to hide the ring and, when that doesn’t work, they decide to go to Miami to prevent Dave and Shira from getting engaged. At this point, their relationship with Miles is one of outright hostility, but he shares the goal of keeping Dave and Shira apart, so they set off for Miami together.

After various hijinks, they are put on the no-fly list by air marshall Benson (Tony Hale, slumming and looking glum about it) who makes it his personal vendetta to hunt them down as they make their way to Miami, finding (duh) that they and Miles kinda like each other.  This road trip, I mean road chip, provides opportunities for musical numbers. The choreography by Richmond and Anthony Talauega is joyously inventive.  Unfortunately, the “singing” is just the same sped-up buzzy drone sound that Dave Seville (Ross Bagdasarian) came up with for a novelty Christmas record back in 1958.

Parents should know that this movie includes potty humor and slapstick peril and violence. There are some issues of fears of parental abandonment and actual parental abandonment.

Family discussion: Why did Miles lie about his father? Why didn’t Miles want to like Dave and the chipmunks? Which is your favorite chipmunk and why?

If you like this, try: the earlier chipmunk movies and the “Garfield” movies

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Based on a television show Comedy Family Issues Scene After the Credits Series/Sequel Talking animals

Tusk

Posted on September 18, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Copyright 2014 SModcast Pictures
Copyright 2014 SModcast Pictures

You can make a good movie about slackers, for example “Slackers,” from Richard Linklater and “Clerks” from Kevin Smith. But you can’t make a good movie by a slacker, and Smith does not seem willing to be anything more. There are flickers of interesting possibilities in his latest film, his first foray into horror. Justin Long nails his early scenes as Wallace, a sort of Smith wannabe. We learn later in flashbacks that he was once a sweet, geeky guy who cried in “Winnie the Pooh.” He was conversant enough with literature to recognize quotes from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and Hemingway. But he found out he could make money and attract groupies by being obnoxious and outrageous. Wallace and his best friend Teddy (Haley Joel Osment) host a podcast something between Smith’s own SModcast, Tosh.0 and the skankier sub-reddits. It’s called “Not-See Party,” get it? In case you don’t, Wallace has a sign-off in a fake German accent. What, too soon?

We first see them helpless with laughter over a found video along the lines of the “Star Wars kid,” but this one is a “Kill Bill” wannabe who accidentally slices off his own leg at the thigh. A real laff-riot! This is such a bonanza of a topic for the Not-See Party duo that Wallace decides to visit the kid in person, at his home in Manitoba, Canada. But when he gets there (following a not-funny encounter at the border with an official who warns him not to be flippant about hockey in Canada), Wallace discovers that the despondent kid has committed suicide. Bummer for the podcast! Seeking some other poor slob to make fun of so the trip won’t be wasted, Wallace comes across an intriguing flier in a men’s room, a man named Howard Howe, a retired sailor, who says he has stories to tell. Wallace rents a car and drives two hours into Howard’s remote house (beautifully creepy interiors by John D. Kretschmer, a highlight of the film). He sips at the tea offered to him by the genially eloquent Howard (as he prefers to be called), at first condescending but thinly disguising his snark, then impressed in spite of himself with Howard’s stories of WWII and being shipwrecked, and then, suddenly, very, very, very, very sleepy.

The tea was spiked. Howard has something very gruesome in mind, which we discover along with the terrified Wallace.

The idea for this film came up in a SModcast conversation with Smith and friend and producer Scott Mosier discussing an ad placed by a homeowner who was offering a living situation free of charge, if the lodger would agree to dress as a walrus. Their can-you-top-this riffs on the possibilities suggested by the ad led to a twitter campaign with the hashtag #walrusyes. And that is why it feels at times as though the screenplay was pieced together by tweets. A major Hollywood star shows up in disguise for a stunt-ish, winking-at-the-screen turn as a Quebecois detective in pursuit of Howard Howe, not nearly as funny or charming as intended. While there are hints of something deeper — the conversation about how Wallace as devolved as a person, with his girlfriend missing the “old Wallace,” the similarities between “Wallace” and “Walrus” — the real possibilities of the storyline about humanity, inhumanity, and what separates us from the animals, are blithely bypassed for random detours and red herrings (maybe red mackerels). It is another disappointment from Smith, who may not write all of his scripts while stoned, but they sure feel like it.

Parents should know that this is a horror film with many graphic and disturbing images of torture and mutilation. Characters are injured and killed. It also includes strong language, drinking and smoking, and sexual references and situations, with brief male rear nudity.

Family discussion: Are we supposed to think that Wallace somehow deserved or asked for what happened to him? How do you interpret the final scene?

If you like this, try: “The Skin I Live In” and “Boxing Helena” — and Eugene Ionesco’s classic Rhinoceros

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Horror Scene After the Credits

Going the Distance

Posted on October 26, 2010 at 8:20 am

Even in the era of Skype and Foursquare, it is hard to stay connected when one half of a couple is in New York and the other half is in California. Erin (Drew Barrymore) and Garrett (real-life on-and-off beau Justin Long) meet just as she is finishing up a newspaper internship in New York and getting ready to go back to California to finish school. They immediately bond over the Centipede arcade game and playing trivia. Within hours of meeting they have a tipsy but tender sexual encounter (to the strains of the “Top Gun” soundtrack). They like each other. And just as they discover how much, she has to go back home.
So what comes next is the kind of old-fashioned courtship people used to have before they went to bed together, in the days when people did not take their clothes off until they decided they probably loved each other first. The essential sunny sweetness Barrymore brings to the role and the almost-quaintness of the way they try to stay close when they are far provide a tender grounding to the chaos around the couple caused by economic conditions in both of their fields (he works for a record label) and the usual gang of quirky friends and relatives who exist to populate romantic comedies. I believe they have evolved from the classical Greek chorus as a device for exposition and making the main characters seem normal by comparison and also lovably tolerant.
Here the surrounding group is top-notch, with Christina Applegate, who is superb as Erin’s tightly wound but affectionate sister and Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis as Garrett’s clueless but affectionate guy-buddies. The raunchy humor is delivered in a matter-of-fact way that can be very funny and true to the honest spirit of the characters and the pressures of the economy are lightly but effectively conveyed. The best news about the script is that it avoids the usual rom-com staples of misunderstandings and incompetence. Director Nanette Burstein and her movie trust us and trust its characters as it allows them to learn to trust each other.

(more…)

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Comedy Romance

Clip: ‘Alpha and Omega’

Posted on September 13, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Two young wolves are told that everyone is either an “alpha” (pack leader) or “omega” (fun-loving comic relief). When they are captured and have to find their way home together, they learn that you can decide who you want to be and who you want to befriend. It opens in theaters this Friday.

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