How to Be a Latin Lover

Posted on April 27, 2017 at 10:40 pm

Copyright 2017 Sony

I like everyone connected with this movie so much that I am especially sorry to give it a bad review. Mexican star Eugenio Derbez is a wonderfully engaging performer with enormous warmth and charm, as we saw in “Miracles From Heaven,” where he played the doctor. The supporting cast includes Salma Hayek, Kristen Bell, Rob Riggle, Raquel Welch, Michael Cera, Michaela Watkins, Rob Lowe, and even Weird Al Yankovic. The director is the very funny Ken Marino (“Burning Love”). And it introduces a terrific young actor, Raphael Alejandro, who is the highlight of every scene he is in. But all of that talent cannot overcome a painfully unfunny script by Chris Spain and Jon Zack.

In the opening scene, a young brother and sister see their father drive into their house, creating an explosion that kills him and destroys their home. There’s a way to start a comedy!

This is an important lesson in the uncertainty of life, which the boy interprets as: Find a wealthy lover and be pampered for as long as you live.

As a healthy and handsome young man (played by Derbez’s very attractive young son), Maximo woos a wealthy, middle-aged lady (Renee Taylor). Twenty-five years later, Maximo (now played by Derbez) is living a blissful Richie Rich life, except that he has to sleep with a very old lady. A battalion of servants attends to his every wish, even turning his poolside lounger to follow the sun or turning the pages of his e-reader. He never even has to take a step: he glides through the mansion on a hoverboard. The most exercise he gets every day is reaching over to his wife every morning so he can put a mirror under her nose to see if she is still breathing. And maybe pointing to the new sportscar he says he is buying for her but is really buying for himself.

Unfortunately, the car salesman sells himself along with the car, and Maximo is out on the street with nothing but a faint memory of an ironclad pre-nup. He needs a new old lady to marry, and until then he needs a place to stay. Which is how he ends up knocking on the door of his sister Sara (Hayek), a widow with a young son, Hugo (Alejandro). Many slapstick encounters ensue, including a guy in a wheelchair getting hit by a car three different times, a tenderhearted girl getting shredded by her cats, but mostly about Maximo helping Hugo talk to Arden, the girl he has a crush on (Mckenna Grace of “Gifted”) so he can make a move on Arden’s rich grandma, played by Raquel Welch. Yes, let that sink in for a moment: Raquel Welch. Also, some guys want to beat him up but I don’t need to say why because you can assume that pretty much everyone is on their side by this point. I’m guessing you will be, too, when I explain that in addition to the wheelchair “joke,” it is also supposed to be humorous that Maximo removes a disabled character’s prostheses and that when he tries to dye his hair with shoe polish and dives into the pool, everyone things, well, you know what’s hard to tell from Shinola. I’d say the same for this screenplay.

Parents should know that this movie has material that pushes the limits of PG-13 with a lot of crude humor and comic peril and violence. There is very strong language, some to a child, alcohol, sexual references and situations, and “humor” about disabilities.

Family discussion: Was any of Maximo’s advice to Hugo worth following? Why did Maximo choose that career?

If you like this, try: “Stuck on You” and “Shallow Hal”

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Comedy

A New Television Series Explores Contemporary Issues in the Ten Commandments

Posted on January 15, 2014 at 8:00 am

WGN America and he Weinstein Company are joining together to produce “Ten Commandments,” a 10-part scripted series that with directors including Gus Van Sant, Lee Daniels, Jim Sheridan, Wes Craven and Michael Cera each taking on a different commandment and giving it a modern day interpretation.  This sounds like an American version of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Decalogue.  Looking forward to it!

 

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Spiritual films Television
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Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Posted on November 2, 2010 at 10:00 am

Director Edgar Wright’s latest movie is based on the popular series of graphic novels about Scott Pilgrim, an often-clueless, out of work musician who falls for a girl named Ramona and has to fight her seven evil exes in a mode that is half superhero, half computer game. In other words, it’s a Comic-Con Quadrella.

Those who were born before 1980, don’t recognize gamer terms, and are easily confused by a cuddle puddle of comics, Bollywood, indie music, and the omni-connectedness of the 2010’s, will either find this an imaginative anthropological journey or an unintelligibly precious mish-mash of smug self-awareness. Those who are in the right age group will either find it uniquely speaking to their own sense of alienation mixed with a boundary-less
hive-mind ultimate oversharing — or an unintelligibly precious mish-mash of smug self-awareness.

I thought it was cute and funny and surprisingly sweet. Director Edgar Wright (“Shawn of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”) tells the story with great energy and imagination, incorporating an pan-media range of story-telling techniques. When Scott has a realization, Wright has a quick cut to a parking meter with a needle that swings from the red “no clue” to the green “gets it.” Another character’s feelings are expressed when the pink, fluffy word L-O-V-E wafts in Scott’s direction.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera, of course) is a nice if somewhat clueless guy whose cluelessness is tolerated and sometimes enabled by his roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkin, employing a terrific, seen-it-all-and-finds-it-amusing deadpan), his fellow band mates (Sex Bob Omb, and his high school girlfriend Knives (Ellen Wong). Yes, her name is Knives and she is his high school girlfriend not because he met her in high school but because she is in high school. What do they do together? “She tells me about how yearbook club went and once we almost held hands on the bus.”

And then Scott sees Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and in a time-honored tradition that goes back even before Hot Pockets and Nintendo, love will make him braver, stronger, and able to consider the feelings of others for pretty much the first time in his slackery life.

But first he has to fight her seven evil ex-boyfriends, I mean exes. Each one is a physical manifestation of anyone’s insecurities in a new relationship. Will he be strong and brave enough for her? Pure enough? Successful enough? What have they got that he hasn’t got? On the way to understanding, I felt big, pink, fluffy L-O-V-E wafting from me toward the screen.

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Action/Adventure Based on a book Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel Date movie Fantasy Musical Romance
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Youth in Revolt

Posted on January 7, 2010 at 9:28 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for sexual content, language and drug use
Profanity: Very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking, and drug use by teens and adults, people given drugs unknowingly
Violence/ Scariness: Comic peril and violence, car crashes and explosions
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters, some anti-Christian humor
Date Released to Theaters: January 8, 2010

Those who want to see the Michael Cera they know and love and those who want to see him do something else can both find what they are looking for in “Youth in Revolt,” based on the popular epistolary novels by C.D. Payne. Cera plays Nick Twisp, the typical adolescent hero — his parents are insensitive mess-ups with love lives that embarrass Nick and make him even more acutely aware of how alone he is and how unlikely it seems that he will ever find a girlfriend.
And at first this is the typical Michael Cera role — a sensitive teenager who is not sure of himself but whose hesitant delivery produces makes the surprisingly barbed coherence of his comments particularly winning. But then, when Nick meets Sheeni (appealing newcomer Portia Doubleday) and realizes that faint heart never won fair lady and nice guys finish last, etc. etc., he realizes he needs to up his game. And so, like the Dark Knight, Dr. Jekyll, and The Nutty Professor, he takes on another persona, one that manifests his darker impulses. Nick becomes Francois Dillinger, named for the fantasy Frenchman Sheeni says she hopes to marry and, well, you know. Francois has a mustache, he smokes, and he wears slim, European white pants. He gets Nick into a lot of trouble, but he coolly keeps pushing him forward. The two Michael Ceras interact like “The Parent Trap” on crack.
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The exceptionally strong supporting cast includes the Mary Kay Place and M. Emmett Walsh as Sheeni’s very strict Christian parents and Fred Willard as a soft-hearted liberal neighbor. Jean Smart plays Nick’s perpetually-unlucky-in-love mother (her suitors are Zach Galifianakis and Ray Liotta) and Steve Buscemi is his BMW-loving father. The episodic nature of the story seems to drift toward an end that seems hasty and contrived. But Director Miguel Arteta (“The Good Girl,” “Chuck and Buck”) maintains a darkly comic tone, twisted but buoyant, that will feel authentic to anyone who has survived — or hopes to survive — adolescence.

(more…)

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Based on a book Comedy Family Issues Movies -- format

Year One

Posted on October 6, 2009 at 8:00 am

The two-doofus comedy probably goes back to ancient times, so why not set it there? The always-funny Michael Cera and the frequently-funny Jack Black join forces like Hope and Crosby in an only intermittently-funny movie that is just a series of sketches set in ancient days — prehistoric, Biblical, Roman, and Egyptian. Cera plays Oh, a gatherer, and Black is Zed, a hunter. They are pals who are evicted from their stone-age village and wander off, meeting up with Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac, and the residents of Sodom. In yet another “what was the MPAA thinking” moment, the film has been assigned a PG-13 rating, despite jokes about incest, circumcision, orgies, castration, and ingestion of human waste.

The juxtaposition of modern sensibility and prehistory provides some funny contrasts. Oh and Zed are amazed to see their first wheel and when they ride in their first vehicle they raise their arms as though they were in a roller-coaster, even though it cannot keep up with a guy strolling alongside. And then they get their first carsickness. Some things are eternal — like insecurity with the opposite sex, bullies, and the bad guys having English accents. And it is fun to see a modern perspectives combined with ancient situations.

But more doesn’t work than does. Cain does not just kill Abel; he pounds him — and any potential for humor — into the ground. It isn’t enough that a pagan priest be corrupt and gay; he has to be hairy. The movie is too spotty to be comic and too listless to be heretical. There’s no point to it, just a series of gags — in both senses of the word.

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Comedy
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