Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Quick and Dirties: Strange Situations


Every now and again, we all find ourselves in a situation we just couldn't have imagined. We may not even be sure how we got there. That's the case for the good folks involved in this edition of The Quick and Dirties.


Ted 2
(2015)
Everyone’s favorite talking teddy bear, Ted (Seth MacFarlane) is back. He marries Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), the woman he met at the supermarket where they work in the first movie. Like lots of other couples they soon begin to experience matrimonial difficulties and are seemingly on the verge of a divorce. Taking the not so sage advice of a co-worker they decide that having a baby is the way to fix their marriage. The fallacy of this line of thinking never crosses anyone’s mind, but whatever. Since Ted lacks the necessary equipment for procreation, the couple first seeks a sperm donor. When that doesn’t pan out, they seek to adopt. This draws the attention of the U.S. government. They swoop in, declare Ted to be property and not an actual person and immediately enulls their marriage. Ted and thunder buddy John (Mark Wahlberg) try to sue the government for Ted’s personhood with the help of rookie lawyer Samantha (Amanda Seyfried). Also in the mix is the Hasbro toy company who have tasked Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) to steal Ted back should he lose his case so they can see what makes him tick and replicate him. The original Ted was a straight up rom-com/bromance with a hellishly raunchy sense of humor and a surprisingly heart-warming core. It all coalesced to form an outstanding R-rated comedy. This time around the various moving parts fail to work in unison. We’re left with a movie that’s all over the place tonally with jarring shifts in style. The focus of the first film is simply missing. Lots of extraneous parts are thrown in as attempts at humor and/or celebrity cameos. The results are mixed. Most memorable, because of who is featured and the fact that it is the strangest gag of all, involves superstar New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. It’s a drawn out scene that tries to be touching, in more ways than one, and gross at the same time. Parts of it work, but it never commits to a singular approach and ultimately falls flat. This epitomizes Ted 2 as a whole – sloppily built using ill-fitting pieces.


Pixels
(2015)
Back in 1982, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) participates in the World Video Game Championship. He reaches the finals, but is defeated by superstar gamer Eddie Plant aka “The Fire Blaster” (Peter Dinklage). For some reason, NASA is there to film all of this and sends the tape into the far reaches of space in hopes of communicating with whatever alien life form may find it. Fast-forward to sometime in the near future and some species out there has indeed found it and watched it. However, they don’t understand the purpose for this. Frankly, neither do I. They take it as a challenge and decide to “play” us with control of our respective planets on the line. By “play,” I mean the send gigantic versions of characters from those old video games to Earth that we have to figure out how to stop from destroying everything within their paths. When it is realized this is what’s going on, Sam is asked to help by his bestest childhood bud William (Kevin James), who happens to be the President of the United States. The story doesn’t make a lick of sense and we never get to meet who is responsible for all this mayhem despite the film’s steadily heading in that direction. The characters are the typical Sandler flick collection of man-children with him in his usual role of coolest loser. With that, we also get the same love story that plays out in most of his work. This time his object of desire is played by Michelle Monaghan. The humor is of the same type we’ve come to expect from Sandler with a few hits and lots of misses. However, the jokes are not quite as crude as usual, save for a running gag about the possibility of Peter Dinklage in a threesome with Serena Williams and Martha Stewart. Yes, you read that right. We also get the typical Sandler string of cameos including Nick Swardson, Dan Patrick, 80s icons Hall & Oates, and of course the aforementioned Williams and Stewart. As typical as it is of Sandler’s work, and as critical as I have been of that work, I don’t hate Pixels. This might get me banned from the movie blogging community, but I enjoy it for what it is. It’s a chance to see the video game characters of my youth, looking as they did in those old 8-bit games, in the “real” world. Seeing Sandler and his buddies play a live-action version of Centipede was kinda cool. It was extremely cool watching them play Pac-Man in city streets driving Mini Coopers for ghosts with the names of each on their license plates. Perhaps the nostalgia brought on by remembering so many hours of my youth spent in arcades and at home with my Atari 2600 overwhelmed me. I’m okay with that. I know that many of you are not. I’m okay with that, too. I won’t even try to tell you this is a “good” movie, because I don’t think it is. It’s a movie with a cool concept that they draped a shabby story around. I just had fun with the concept.


Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story
(2009)
This biopic tells the life and times of Dr. Ben Carson (Cuba Gooding Jr.) up until 1987 when he became the first person to ever successfully separate cranially conjoined twins. So, no, there are no mentions of or allusions to his current presidential campaign. It’s based on his own autobiography. We get to see him growing up in a Detroit that was not as rough-and-tumble as most depictions of the city in the 1960s and fairly liberal in terms of race relations. However, there is some blatant racism that shapes Carson’s life and propels him towards the absolute height of his profession. Since this was originally a made-for-TV movie, it has many of the problems associated with such productions. For one, it feels too episodic in nature. Even watching it on Netflix a number of years after it originally aired you can feel how its segments are meant to run between commercial breaks. Some things happen too fast for us to really care, or are completely left out of the story even though they are clearly part of the story. For instance, his first two children are basically set directions while we focus on a miscarriage that his wife has. They get less screen time than the pool table in his den we see him play when he’s deep in contemplation (and never misses a shot, by the way). That makes some dramatic sense because of the weight of the event of a miscarriage. What makes less sense is the amount of time we spend on his mother’s functional adult illiteracy. We see her takes steps to overcome this, but we never learn if her children ever learned of this. It could have been another inspiring part of the story, but it just kinda dangles out there on its own as a way to pad the runtime. Still, Kimberly Elise is her normal excellent self in the role. In the titular role, Cuba Gooding Jr. is solid, delivering a nicely restrained performance. It’s a perfectly average telling of an inspiring story, but it won’t stick with you beyond the time you spend watching it.


The Overnight
(2015)
Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) have just moved to Los Angeles with their son RJ (RJ Hermes). While in the park, they happen to meet another couple, Kurt (Jason Schwartzmann) and Charlotte (Judith Godreche), who have a son of their own, Max (Max Moritt), about the same age as RJ. Kurt and Charlotte invite Alex and Emily over for a playdate between the boys as well as dinner. Things go great, but take an unexpected turn after the boys fall asleep. Before you know it, they're doing bong hits, watching videos of some strange woman literally milking Charlotte, checking out Kurt's paintings of anuses, and being invited to skinny dip in the pool after getting an eyeful of Kurt's oversized junk. The dilemma is should Alex and Emily stay, or should they run for the hills. Charlotte is ready to bail, but Alex is having a grand time. It's one of those movies where the rabbit hole just keeps getting deeper and deeper. It's really fun to watch as all four of our characters enjoy a quirky chemistry that keeps things interesting and every situation that comes up is more bizarre than the last. Eventually, it all becomes a little bit too much and crumples under its own weight by failing to believably justify where we wind up.


Super Size Me
(2004)
Without ever having seen it, I was very familiar with the premise of this documentary. For those of you who aren’t, it’s fairly simple. Morgan Spurlock, who also directs, sets out to find out just how bad fast food is for you. Specifically, he concentrates on McDonald’s. Of course, he seeks out a bunch of nutritionists, doctors, and others who have done research on the matter. He even tries to talk to Mickey D’s execs, to no avail, of course. However, all of that is just support for his main method of investigation. He embarks on a 30-day all McDonald’s diet. For an entire month, he eats food from the restaurant three times a day and nothing else. He has his own trio of doctors monitoring his health. The effects on his body in that short period of time are astonishing. Even his doctors are surprised by how drastically things change. It’s clearly an indictment of fast food in general, and that chain in particular. The film is endlessly compelling as it dives into something that is part of our everyday lives, even if we never eat at McDonald’s. It’s around us almost no matter where we go. There are two of them within a half mile of my house, another about that far away from where I work, and another about that same distance from where my kids go to school. On top of that, add in all the dozens of other fast food joints within those same distances and you can see how we’re inundated with junk food that fits all to easily into our very busy lives. I’m personally guilty of visiting McDonald’s a bit too often. I’m not there all the time, but if I don’t have time to make breakfast in the morning, it’s normal to stop in at Mickey D’s and get a couple breakfast burritos or an Egg McMuffin, or something along those lines. If the family is all out together doing this, that, or the other activity, fast food of any sort is a fairly cheap option to eat out when we haven’t found time to cook. Thankfully, that’s not all that often, but perhaps more than it should be. The film holds a mirror up to us for such things, but also gets into the culpability of society as a whole. It is a really fascinating watch that is still extremely relevant over a decade later.

12 comments:

  1. I'm never not going to laugh when I see 'Quick and Dirties' appear on my blog feed! I've actually seen nearly all of these, huzzah!
    Completely agree with everything you've said here. I love the original Ted movie more than anyone should, and the sequel was such a let down. Not that I should have expected anything more, really.
    I loved watching The Overnight to begin with, just when I thought things couldn't get weirder, the anus art happened, but it just started getting boring from there.
    - Allie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. Letdown is a perfect word for Ted 2. The Overnight definitely slides downhill as it goes along.

      Delete
  2. There's a Ben Carson movie? LOL. (sorry)

    I haven't seen any of these, though I've always meant to sit down and watch Super Size me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yup, there's a Ben Carson movie. Not terrible, but not something you need to rush out and see.

      On the other hand, Super Size Me is something everyone should see.

      Delete
  3. Super Size Me was so weird but absolutely fascinating. Watching this guy do this to himself toyed with insanity. But as you say, it is still just as relevant today. That is saying something.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm in on all of these except for The Overnight...which I just added to my queue a few days ago.

    Glad you liked Pixels enough, or at least man enough to admit it. The game stuff was cool, MM endlessly hot...but I just wish Sandler would try. Like, earn his money a little. One last time.

    Super Size Me! I watch it. Feel sick. Then still manage to grab a combo once it twice a month. Good film. Pathetic m. Brown.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm interested in your take on The Overnight.

      I don't mind owning up to Pixels. I will say that I don't completely blame Sandler for not trying. Why should when they keep giving him big ass checks to do what he's been doing?

      Delete
  5. I'm not going to even bother watching Pixels.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I've seen Super Size Me and agree it's still relevant. To me, was hilarious and disturbing in equal measures. Don't think I've been in the restaurant since. I'm glad the documentary instigated change with the discontinuation of the Super Size option, although McDonald's denied that these changes had anything to do with the film.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I did laugh a bit while watching it and was horrified at the same time. I think Mickey D's pulled a fast one on us as far as the super size option. I'm just guessing here, but it seems the large fries have gotten progressively bigger in the time since then.

      Delete