Movie Review: “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”

Starring
Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Ed Oxenbould, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey, Bella Thorne, Megan Mullally
Director
Miguel Arteta

“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day” is not a good movie, but it’s a damn likable one. The dialogue is snappy, and the performances by the family members are spot-on (this movie does not work without Steve Carell), but the plotting is, well, bad. All characters outside of the family are gross stereotypes, seemingly because it’s easier to make an example of them that way. The pro-family vibe of the movie is so strong, though, that it makes the predictable storytelling easier to forgive.

Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) is about to turn 12, and per middle school protocol, he’s having an awful day. He wakes up with gum in his hair (sadly, one of only a few nods to the 1972 book on which the movie is based), and proceeds to get humiliated at a school-wide level via text bomb, and is crushed to discover that even his best friend is going to skip his birthday party the next day in order to attend the party of a much cooler kid. Alexander, convinced that he is all but invisible to his family and frustrated that they can’t relate to what he’s going through, wishes on a candle-lit cupcake at midnight on his birthday that they could know how it feels to be him for a day. From the moment they wake up the next morning, Alexander’s entire family experiences a “Liar Liar” form of karmic payback.

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Movie Review: “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”

Starring
Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Kristen Wiig, Meagan Good, James Marsden
Director
Adam McKay

For years, Will Ferrell has resisted the urge to make a sequel to any of his films, but if there’s one character from his repertoire deserving of a second helping, it’s Ron Burgundy. Though a sequel had been rumored for years after the original attained cult status on DVD, it’s easy to see now why Paramount was so gunshy. The first “Anchorman” was lightning in a bottle; a comedy so goofy and over the top that it took people completely by surprise. And while the sequel aims to match (and exceeds) that level of silliness, it just doesn’t compare. “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” is at times funnier than its predecessor, but it’s also wildly inconsistent, bouncing aimlessly between gut-busting hilarity and entire sequences that miss their mark.

“The Legend Continues” picks up several years after the first film, with Ron (Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) now living with their son in New York City and co-anchoring on a national news station. But when Veronica is suddenly promoted and Ron is fired, the pair splits up and Ron heads back to San Diego. Six months later, he’s tracked down by producer Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker) with an opportunity to return to NYC as part of the first-ever 24-hour news channel, GNN. After reassembling his former news team – Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and Champ Kind (David Koechner) – in time for the official launch, Ron makes fast enemies with star anchorman Jack Lime (James Marsden), who’s been given the primetime slot. But despite getting saddled with the graveyard shift, Ron makes a bet with Jack that he’ll still get bigger ratings, leading him to take a vastly different approach to the news that changes the course of broadcast journalism forever.

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Movie Review: “The Way, Way Back”

Starring
Liam James, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, AnnaSophia Robb, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph
Directors
Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

Earlier this year, “The Way, Way Back” made waves at the Sundance Film Festival when Fox Searchlight bought the crowd favorite for a near-record $10 million, and though that may sound like a lot for a small indie movie, it was worth every penny. Of course, this isn’t the first time that the studio paid so much for a Sundance darling – in 2006, they won a heated bidding war to acquire the rights to “Little Miss Sunshine” – and the two movies are very similar in the way that they effortlessly transition between comedy and drama. “The Way, Way Back” doesn’t have enough emotional punch to be an awards contender, but in a summer filled with big budget blockbusters, leave it to a quaint coming-of-age comedy to stand out as the best of the season.

The title refers to that rear-facing backseat found in station wagons, and this is where we’re first introduced to introverted 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James), who’s being dragged by his mom (Toni Collette) to a Massachusetts beach home to spend the summer with her overbearing boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) and his daughter (Zoe Levin). Trent is a bit of a dick, and he proves as much in the opening scene when, after asking Liam what he thinks of himself on a scale of 1-10, Trent suggests that he’s only a 3. But for some reason, Duncan’s mom likes him, and so while the adults party like they’re on spring break, he’s left to wallow around town on his own. Lacking the confidence to strike up a friendship with the cute girl next door (AnnaSophia Robb), Duncan finds solace at the local water park, Water Wizz, where he meets an unexpected friend and mentor in easygoing manager Owen (Sam Rockwell).

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Movie Review: “Despicable Me 2″

Starring
Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Russell Brand, Miranda Cosgrove, Ken Jeong, Steve Coogan, Benjamin Bratt
Directors
Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud

When it comes to filmmaking, there are multiple types of chemistry. The one most often discussed is the chemistry between actors; when it’s good, it can make good movies great and even unwatchable movies tolerable (say, Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler in “Just Go with It”), but when it’s bad, it will consume all living things on the screen (Jennifer Aniston and every other co-star she’s had in the last 10 years in movies not named “Horrible Bosses”). The other, arguably more important bit of chemistry involves story lines. 2011’s “Despicable Me” was about 45% villain plot, 45% foster parent plot and 10% minions. Now, of course, the minions are stars, so they get more screen time in “Despicable Me 2.” And the movie suffers because of it.

That’s not the only reason the movie suffers, mind you; the villain story isn’t as compelling, they lean really hard on the bathroom jokes (the “dart” gun from the first movie makes multiple appearances here), and for a movie that is supposed to have a mystery angle to it, everyone hides in plain sight.

Gru (Steve Carell) has quit villainy in order to be a good father to adopted daughters Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Kate Fisher), but he is soon recruited by the Anti-Villain League, due to his expertise as a bad guy, to track down a new super-villain who has stolen a serum that turns its subjects into indestructible monsters. The AVL tracks the serum to a local mall, and Gru, with the help of AVL agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), go undercover to find out which merchant is hiding the serum. The girls, meanwhile, want a mom, and pressure Gru into dating, while Margo falls for a boy, something Gru is not remotely prepared to handle in a way that doesn’t involve the words “Freeze ray!”

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Movie Review: “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”

Starring
Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia
Wilde, Jim Carrey, James Gandolfini
Director
Don Scardino

In a nutshell, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” with magicians, but whatever your feelings may be about “Talladega Nights” (this writer, for one, was not impressed), keep in mind that that description serves solely as a comparison to the story structure. Each features an underdog becoming wildly successful at his craft, only to turn ridiculously spoiled and contemptuous, and then losing everything he ever held dear. The big difference is that the jokes in “Talladega Nights” are born from abuse, while “Burt Wonderstone” takes the high road. Well, for the most part.

Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have been doing magic tricks together since they were kids, and 30 years after they first met, they have become a premiere act in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, they can’t stand each other anymore, and their box office is starting to wane due to both their lack of chemistry on stage and the fact that they haven’t changed their act (or clothes) in 10 years. The duo is also feeling the heat from Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), a self-mutilating street magician who’s attracting the younger audience that Burt and Anton’s employer Doug Munny (James Gandolfini) desperately covets. After an attempt at an image makeover goes horribly wrong, Burt and Anton split up. Doug then shuts down their show, after which Burt quickly finds himself on skid row, but he finds redemption in the form of the person who inspired him to choose his path in the first place.

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