Tag Archives: Robert De Niro

Dirty Grandpa (2016)


Hollywood is going through a “bad” phase, with bad Santas, bad neighbours, bad moms (this one’s not even released yet). Apart from from having “bad” in the title, the other common thread is that they are all pretty bad movies too.

So this brings us to Dirty Grandpa, a film that surely would have been called Bad Grandpa had Johnny Knoxville not already made a film with that title back in 2013. The underlying concept is the same: someone you don’t typically expect to be swearing and doing naughty things doing exactly those things. It’s outrageous, and these days, outrageous equates to funny.

Suffice it to say, I did not have high hopes for those movie. Sure, it has Robert De Niro, but this seemed like just another one of his many “keep gettin’ ’em checks” projects from recent years. And Zac Efron’s body might be ripped as usual, but his film choices have all been geared towards showing off said body rather than any genuine comedic chops.

So the premise goes like this: Robert De Niro’s character becomes a widower, and for some reason he needs to get somewhere. He can’t get there on his own and enlists the assistance of his lawyer grandson (Efron), thus setting up a wild road trip. How convenient. Of course, Efron’s about to get married to a self-absorbed and controlling girl (played by Julianne Hough), and on this road trip his dirty grandpa just wants to get laid, making things very difficult for him.

You don’t need me to tell you where this goes. The formulas are in full swing all the way through this one. From road trip cliches to identity crisis cliches to shock comedy and gross-out comedy cliches, this movie has them all down pat. Masturbation joke, check. Paedophelia joke, check. Penis jokes, check. Getting drunk and high and doing stupid stuff joke, check. Gay jokes, check. Black gang jokes, check. New love interest to remind us how shit the old love interest is, check.

The whole film really only contains variations of two central gags — 1. Robert De Niro doing and saying dirty things to show everyone what a cool and hip old man he is; and 2. Zac Efron’s uptight, straight character getting into a bunch of awkward and embarrassing situations so he can realise he’s not really happy in life. Oh, and if you can consider this a third, Efron is mostly naked for half the movie.

And yet, for all the crap I’ve dumped into this movie, I have to admit that there are funny moments. I did chuckle and laugh out loud a handful of times. But these hits, these brief moments of enjoyment, were all drowned out by the tsunami of hard misses. Dirty Grandpa tries to swing for the fences but ends up striking out most of the time. I would find myself thinking, “That’s not a bad joke,” but then almost immediately there would be something that completely oversteps the line — and unnecessarily so — to ruin whatever goodwill the movie had built up. I get that it wants to be a raunchy comedy, which is fine, though I don’t see any reason to go as far as it did. Adding copious amounts of shock value doesn’t improve a joke.

The performances are okay. Even a shit De Niro is better than most. But to see one of the greatest actors of all time defile his own legacy like that stings me as a fan. Efron does what he does and does it well — ie, take his shirt (and pants) off — though he doesn’t offer anything any other young pretty boy actor couldn’t have pulled.

The supporting cast is better. Audrey Plaza does her airhead skank thing and it’s funnier than I expected, while Julianne Hough has a hilarious sequence that delivered the biggest laughs of the entire movie. Lea Thompson’s daughter, Zoey Deutch, and Dermot Mulroney, however, are unfortunately under-utilised as Efron’s new love interest and father, respectively.

On the whole, Dirty Grandpa is a desperate attempt for laughs that falls flat on its face. Despite a few promising moments, the film goes overboard with the vulgarity — and in the end, with the unwarranted sentimentality. It may have achieved the goal of being offensive, but certainly not the goal of being funny.

2 stars out of 5

Joy (2015)


David O’Russell must really love Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. The latest collaboration of this celebrated trio is Joy, a loosely based biopic on the life of American inventor Joy Mangano. While it is a solid film fueled by yet another Academy Award-nominated performance by Jennifer Lawrence, it’s also clear that Joy is a much weaker motion picture than Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. And I t’s not even a debate.

It’s hard to review Joy without discussing Mangano’s life, and I suppose certain details may be considered spoilers if you’ve never heard of her or see the trailer (or even just the poster). But since this is Spoiler-Free Reviews, I’m just going to assume that you don’t know anything at all other the basic premise: Joy is a single mother struggling to make ends meet while taking care of everyone in her family from her parents (played by Robert De Niro and Virginia Madsen) to her ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez). And yet, she still dreams big, and as the opening caption of the film will tell you, she is an inspirational woman.

As such, there is a sense of inevitability about the movie even if you don’t know who Joy Mangano is. She goes through plenty of heartache and frustration and despair, but you do get the sense that everything will eventually be okay in the end. Credit to O’Russell for still keeping the story relatively intriguing, with moments of hard-hitting drama and tension — though very little comedy, which begs the question why it is listed as a comedy-drama and was nominated as a comedy at the Golden Globes (I guess if The Martian is a comedy then any movie could be one too). The pacing could have been better, as it does drag at times and feels longer than its already-long 124-minute running time.

The Academy must also love Jennifer Lawrence because I’m not sure her performance in Joy was one of the top 5 female performances of the year. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really really good, probably top 10, as she completely drives the movie from start to finish, though I still got the feeling that she was probably miscast — she simply looks too young and fresh-faced to be totally convincing as a single mother of three who has lived a really hard life.

Apart from Lawrence, the rest of the supporting cast deliver fine performances as well. It’s more or less expected when you have the likes of De Niro, Bradley Cooper and Isabella Rossellini on the roster. However, Lawrence is the clear standout, and despite my misgivings about the suitability of her casting, she gives it everything she has to elevate the movie above what it otherwise would have been in less capable hands.

This is not Lawrence’s fault, but I also felt the film was lionising the protagonist a little too much. Joy is practically a saint in this movie and it never changes despite some really nasty stuff happening to her. It may be all true, but it would have been nice to see more “human” emotions from her character to keep it interesting.

Overally, Joy is a solid and occasionally very good biographical drama thanks to the direction of O’Russell and a great performance from Lawrence. The problems I had with it perhaps lay more with the script than anything else. It’s an inspirational story, but it’s one that also feels overlong and somewhat repetitive in that it keeps putting Joy down so that we can all feel the joy (pun intended) when things finally start going right for her. The result is O’Russell’s least impressive effort in recent years, though by most other standards it’s still a pretty enjoyable film.

3.5 stars out of 5

The Intern (2015)


The Intern is not my kind of film, but I was willing to give it a shot because it stars Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. In the end, I’m glad I did. In fact, it might very well be my favourite Nancy Meyers film written and directed by the veteran filmmaker (this excludes What Women Want, which she did not write, and the Father of the Bride films, which she did not direct).

De Niro plays Ben Whittaker, a bored 70-year-old widower who decides to sign up for a senior internship at an online fashion start-up run by Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). At first, no one takes Ben seriously, most of all Jules, but as he continues to prove his worth and capabilities they finally realise he’s actually a superhero alien. Okay, that’s not exactly true, but it’s not that far off.

Strangely, it’s Ben’s other-worldly affability that makes The Intern such a watchable movie. De Niro’s excellent performance has a lot to do with it, but credit must also go to Meyers’ screenplay for not going too far so that it becomes hard to swallow. He’s just an incredibly nice, wise dude who knows what to do and say almost all the time. He’s kinda like Yoda.

Hathaway is also very good as Jules, who has more layers than Ben because she’s struggling to find a balance between work and family while being pressured to run her rapidly expanding business in a certain way. The rest of the cast, which features the likes of Rene Russo, Pitch Perfect‘s Adam DeVine and Anders Holm, all fill out the supporting roles to the right tune.

My problems with the film can be found in more or less all Nancy Meyers movies. It’s just too neat and tidy, too schmaltzy, too saccharine.  The humour is sweet, a little sexy at times, but generally very safe and nothing that will have you rolling in the isles. She knows what buttons to push to give her target audience what they want, but as a result the bittersweet vibe of her movies is always very similar. Even the conflicts play out the same. If you’ve seen the likes of It’s Complicated, Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday, you’ll have an idea of what I mean.

The other issue I had is that Ben doesn’t undergo much character development, if any. He’s clearly the protagonist and the story is told from his perspective, but the journey belongs to Jules. Not that this ruins the movie, but I was kind of hoping that the old guy would have something to show for the whole experience.

Having said all that, The Intern is far better than I anticipated, largely thanks to the surprising chemistry between De Niro and Hathaway. There are certain ideas and gags in the film that would have been cringeworthy stuff in the hands of a lesser filmmaker, but the steady approach of Meyers ensures that things are pared back when they have to be. The result is a charming, breezy, and of course feel-good dramedy that fans of Meyers will lap up. This is the kind of film that I probably would have hated when I was a little younger or in a cynical mood, though I managed to catch it at the right time and enjoyed it a lot, certainly much more than I thought I would.

3.75 stars out of 5

Heist (2015)


Bus 657 might not be a great name for a heist film, but it’s at least less generic than Heist, the name they later changed it to. And that’s ultimately the problem with this star-studded movie — everything about it feels awfully generic. It’s might be better than your average straight-to-DVD action flick, but you’ll just as likely forget about it next week.

Take the first three sequences of the film, for instance (too early spoilers, no?). It starts off with a bunch of masked robbers hijacking a bus full of people. In the next scene, a couple of people are being threatened and tortured by someone working under Robert De Niro, whose character is the ruthless boss of a casino. The third scene shows Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character working at that casino and desperate for money due to a sick daughter. Now, I bet you have basically figured out what this movie is all about.

You’re right, Heist is essentially a casino robbery meets Speed. You’ve got the robber with a heart of gold who is doing naughty things because he has no choice. You have the bad guy accomplice who deserves all the blame (Dave Bautista) because he’s doing it for selfish reasons. You have the scary casino boss who wants his money back. You’ve got the young police officer (MMA star Gina Carano) who develops a connection with the robber and the chief who will do whatever it takes to rescue to hostages (Mark-Paul Gosselaar).

It is absolutely by-the-numbers, even with the obligatory little twists thrown in along the way. Soon I started guessing how the plot would develop with high accuracy, and even when I missed I wasn’t impressed by what they did instead because it was even more cliched than I anticipated. While I would not call the film dull, the strong generic feel and predictability never got my heart pumping either.

The biggest problem I had with the movie was all the plot contrivances that stretched the limits of credulity. The characters did a lot of things that made little sense, but the film asks you to take them at face value instead of setting them up to be believable. I just didn’t buy their motivations and reactions.

It begs the question why so many name stars or at least former stars would latch onto this project, a film with a reported US$2 million production budget, no less. Usually you’d get maybe one star looking for a quick paycheck (think any Nicholas Cage film made in the last five years), but certainly not this many. I doubt they’re all starving, anyway. I haven’t even mentioned the highly-billed Kate Bosworth cameo and DB Sweeney’s role as the bus driver (hey, don’t knock DB Sweeney — he was pretty big back in the Fire in the Sky era). I’m sure there was something about Heist that made them think it could be a hit, but for whatever reason the potential did not translate to the finished product.

I’m probably harsher on this film than I would have been had it just featured a bunch of no-name actors. If you strip the expectations away, Heist is probably an above average rental or VOD given that it is generally adequate in most areas, from the production value to the direction of Scott Man (The Tournament), the execution of the action and even the dialogue. I guess it’s one of those unusual films where the great cast is a detriment because it develops unrealistic expectations. It’s always better to be pleasantly surprised than disappointed, no?

2.75 stars out of 5

2013 Movie Blitz: Part IX

This is the last one. Seriously. The best and worst of 2013 coming right up after this!

The Family (2013)

the family

Robert De Niro may be a legend, but his career choices are inching closer and closer to Nicholas Cage territory with every mediocre film he decides to star in. The Family, on its face, should not have fallen into that category, as it’s directed by legendary Frenchman Luc Besson and features an all-star cast including Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones and Glee‘s Dianna Agron. But somehow, this uneven, largely unfunny black comedy manages to turn itself into a mess that De Niro will likely want to pretend never existed.

De Niro plays Giovanni Manzoni, Mafia boss who turns to snitching after an attempt on his life. So together with his wife (Pfeiffer) and two kids (Agron and John D’Leo), they relocate to France under a witness protection program under the supervision of FBI agent Stansfield (Jones).

It’s an interesting premise brimming with potential. The central joke is that, as a Mafia family, they can’t be normal even if they tried. They’re scheming sociopaths and borderline psychopaths who just can’t play along and pretend to be a normal family. De Niro can’t stop killing people who offend him; Pfeiffer loves burning stuff down; Agron has a violent streak in her; and D’Leo is a scheming weasel who is the ultimate reconnaissance expert.

There are several key problems with The Family. The first is that Besson never gets the tone quite right. It’s a very dark comedy accompanied by over-the-top violence, but the violence itself is not funny like it is for a film like say Pulp Fiction or Fargo. It felt like the violence never found its role properly.

Secondly, all the central characters are just a little off, and as a result they don’t come across as likable. And it’s hard to root for them when you don’t like them very much. But you can tell Besson is trying to make them likable, which is why it was so strange watching them on screen.

And thirdly, and very strangely, Besson makes French people look like complete a-holes. I understand it was necessary to some extent so that the family can rain their vengeance upon them, but in my opinion it felt obligatory and unnecessary. I know the French are supposed to dislike Americans and vice versa, but this was too much. And they all spoke surprisingly good English too.

In the end I just couldn’t bring myself to like this one. Despite the strong cast, legendary director and best of intentions, The Family is a top-grade disappointment.

2 stars out of 5

Welcome to the Punch (2013)

welcome to the punch

First of all, Welcome to the Punch is a really horrible title for this movie. It makes it sound like an action comedy, when in fact it is a gritty action thriller. But apart from that, it’s actually not a bad British cops and robbers flick with some solid performances, stylish action sequences and a few interesting twists and turns.

James McAvoy is Max Lewinsky, a headstrong London cop determined to catch Icelandic criminal Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong), who has surfaced after his son was involved in a heist gone wrong. It’s a complicated case that has been a major headache for the police, and so Lewinsky and his partner Sarah Hawks (Andrea Riseborough) are frequently met with internal opposition — opposition that might be intended to impede their progress, and the only person they appear to have in their corner is their superior, Thomas Geiger (The Walking Dead‘s David Morrisey).

What follows is an intriguing game of cat and mouse that features a lot of well executed gunfights. The plot is a little convoluted for my liking, and I admit McAvoy’s protagonist is somewhat douchey, but on the whole I enjoyed the friend-or-foe dynamic between him and the intense and charismatic Strong, whom I believe has a dominating’s screen presence that is second to none.

Welcome to the Punch is not a superior thriller, but it’s a damn serviceable one that can be quite enjoyable if you go in with moderate expectations. Recommended DVD rental.

3.5 stars 

Devil’s Knot (2013)


I’m always intrigued by Canadian director Atom Egoyan’s take on grief and loss, and so I was somewhat disappointed to hear lukewarm reviews for Devil’s Knot, a dramatization of the true story of the notorious West Memphis Three. Well guess what, I ended up being riveted by the movie from start to finish, so much so that I went on to devour all four documentaries made on the subject — Paradise Lost and its two sequels, and last year’s West of Memphis, made by Lord of the Rings maestro Peter Jackson and wife Fran Walsh.

The true story, for those unfamiliar, takes place in 1993 and begins when three young boys in West Memphis disappear one afternoon and are later found dead, naked, tied up and mutilated. Given that hysteria surrounding Satanic worship was at a peak, it came as no surprise that police targeted local “white trash” teenage outcast Damien Echols and his two friends, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley — the trio that would later be known as the West Memphis Three.

The evidence against them is supposedly strong (Misskelley, who is borderline retarded, confesses), and the penalty is potentially death. This leads anti-capital punishment advocate and private investigator Ron Lax (Colin Firth) to lend his services to the overwhelmed defense team. Lax starts out only wanting to prevent the boys from being executed, but the more he digs, the more he becomes convinced that the teens are innocent. On the other hand, Pamela Hobbs (a frumpy Reese Witherspoon, who was pregnant at time of filming), the mother of one of the victims, struggles to deal with her son’s death and the subsequent media circus.

Putting aside the merits of the film, Devil’s Knot is one of those films that’s inherently compulsive to watch simply because of the subject matter. It’s a true story that’s stranger than fiction, complete with a long list of potential suspects, intriguing characters, bizarre pieces of evidence and mass hysteria. The police witch hunt and incompetence is undeniable. And yet, at the end of the day, there are no definitive answers, only suspicions.

I suppose that is why critics were harsh on the film, with many calling it a “frustrating” experience because of the lack of a genuine resolution. I do agree with that to some point, but at the same time it does point us in a certain direction and asks us to draw our own conclusions as to the guilt of the West Memphis Three and the “alternate” suspects. Maybe that was the point Egoyan was trying to get across — that is, this is perhaps a mystery we’ll never truly get to the bottom of, and many true crime stories of immense loss fall in the same category.

For me, this was fantastic filmmaking, backed up by excellent performances. The initial pain and devastating felt real. The subsequent anger and thirst for revenge felt real. And that feeling when everything you thought to be true is turned upside down was expertly delivered. My main complaint about it is how abruptly it ends and how it required a long slab of writing onscreen to explain an aftermath that would extend for another 18 years.

Now having seen all the documentaries, I sort of understand why critics say Devil’s Knot did not provide any new insight and really had nothing to add. I don’t agree. While the film only captures a fraction of all there is to tell, and dramatizes scenes that are already captured in the documentaries, I still think there is something to be gained from the viewing experience. It’s a different medium with a different style, and as a result the emotional impact is also completely different. Perhaps my opinion would be different had I watched the documentaries first, but since I did not, and did not know how things turned out in the end, I found Devil’s Knot to be one of the most haunting and engrossing films of the year. I’d definitely recommend it for people who haven’t seen the documentaries and know little of the true story.

4 stars out of 5

Homefront (2013)


Feels like we’ve seen it all before, but what the heck. A bit more ass-kicking from  Jason Statham is rarely ever a bad thing.

In Homefront, Statham plays an undercover DEA agent who relocates to a country town with his young daughter after his cover is blown. And guess what? the place is running amok with the rednecks and hillbillies, who present themselves as perfect fodder for Statham to beat the crap out of them.

But wait, there’s more. After a run in with a hillbilly woman played by Kate Bosworth and her fat bully son, Statham becomes embroiled in an increasingly dangerous dispute with her brother and local meth kingpin, James Franco. Yes, James Franco!

From there it’s all very predictable. A lot of danger and a lot of ass kicking. It’s a fairly run-of-the-mill action thriller that reminds me of those low-budget 80s classics, though I must say I enjoyed it somewhat on a pure entertainment level. If you want to see Franco get the shit kicked out of him then this is the movie for you. The story is actually based on a book that has been adapted into a screenplay by none other than Sylvester Stallone, so you know it’s overcharged with masculinity and macho dialogue. And of course, realism is not a priority.

I was also surprised by the cast. Apart from Statham, Bosworth and Franco, there was also Winona Ryder in a strange role as Franco’s ex-girlfriend, and everybody’s favourite prison guard from Shawshank, Clancy Brown, playing the local sheriff.

The trailers made Homefront look much more A-grade and intriguing than it really is. I’m not saying it’s bad — as I said I rather enjoyed it — though ultimately it is one of those forgettable films that don’t really matter, and without its all-star cast, it’s hard to see how this film could have gotten a cinematic release.

3 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Last Vegas (2013)


The idea’s not too bad: a bunch of old friends (emphasis on “old”) catch up for one final hurrah in Las Vegas. Throw in four huge stars — Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Klein — as the leads, toss in a few old jokes (again, emphasis on “old”), and that’s Last Vegas in a nutshell.

I didn’t have a huge problem with Last Vegas, but there was really nothing to like about it either. Directed by Jon Turteltaub (Cool Runnings, National Treasure 1 & 2, and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), it’s a very safe, mildly amusing comedy driven by the star power of its four leads. On the other hand, there’s not much to sustain the film apart from the gimmicky old jokes, and the result is a frequently lame, utterly forgettable experience that you’ll likely erase from your memory in a hurry. It’s a film that wouldn’t have been contemplated without its stars, and is in any case probably best reserved for the straight-to-DVD rack.

Douglas, De Niro, Freeman and Klein are childhood friends who grew up on the tough streets of Brooklyn and remain in touch today as seniors dealing with their own separate problems. De Niro’s character is still mourning the loss of his wife, Freeman’s character is battling an array of physical ailments and his overbearing family, and Klein seems to have lost interest in life. In comes Douglas’s character, seemingly the most charismatic of the group, who is about to get married to a woman less than half his age, and decides to throw a bachelor party in Vegas with his three oldest friends.

So as you might have guessed, the whole fish-out-of-water scenario is designed to put four old guys in a place they’re not expected to be comfortable with, and having us watch them have fun drinking, dancing, splurging and having the time of their lives. The Hangover for Geriatrics is essentially the idea, and it’s not a bad idea, except that it doesn’t work for very long. The running joke throughout the film is that old people are clueless and not cool, a schtick that just keeps getting rehashed again and again. But given that they are the protagonists, the film then tries very hard to convince us that they are, after all, very cool indeed, and young punks who disrespect them will come to regret it. And of course, all four of our heroes will learn important life lessons when it’s all said and done.

I’ll have to be brutally honest here. After a nice setup, the film devolves into cliches and becomes painful to sit through. The jokes are obvious and repetitive, and despite the best efforts of its stars (including the adorable Mary Steenburgen as the love interest), the film is inescapably bland and predictable until its merciful conclusion. It’s not horrible, it’s just…meh.

I am probably making Last Vegas sound a lot worse than it actually is. If you are in the mood for a streamlined plot, obvious jokes and 105 minutes of stereotypical icky Hollywood feel-goodness, then Last Vegas is borderline enjoyable. If you expect more than that from a film with four screen legends, like I did, then chances are you’ll end up bitterly disappointed.

2 stars out of 5

Post-Oscars Movie Blitz: Silver Linings Playbook (2012)


I’m not usually a fan of romantic comedies or romantic dramedies or comedic dramas or whatever you want to call them, but Silver Linings Playbook easily tops my list of “whatever they are” for 2012. Funny and odd yet warm and heartfelt, not to mention powered by possibly the best ensemble cast of the year, it is a worthy Best Picture nominee that ticks the right boxes and pulls the right strings.

The slant of Silver Linings Playbook is mental illness, a risky angle that paid off when it could have easily backfired. Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a seemingly regular dude who has lost a lot of weight while being in a mental institution after suffering a breakdown (for reasons that are later explained). He returns home to his parents, played by Robert De Niro and Aussie Jacki Weaver, and continues to hope to rekindle his relationship with estranged wife Nikki. He sees his shrink and goes about making people uncomfortable until he meets kindred spirit Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence, who won the Best Actress Oscar for this role), a young woman battling her own mental demons. And so begins an unusual, quirky and volatile friendship that directs both damaged characters onto a journey of healing.

It doesn’t really sound like enthralling cinema, but the sharp script (based on the book of the same name by Matthew Quick) and direction by David O Russell (The Fighter) elevates Silver Linings Playbook far above your average comedy or drama. It is a rare feat when both the jokes and the drama are spot on, and I can’t remember the last time I saw a film that was hilarious but not crude, dramatic but not melodramatic, sweet but not saccharine. Silver Linings Playbook achieves all of these.

This film, as is the case with all good films, is driven by its characters and their relationships. Of course, Pat and Tiffany dominate, but all the supporting characters have a story to tell as well. Pat’s father is a superstitious wreck, while Pat’s friends Ronnie and Veronica are in a struggling relationship that I’m sure will ring true to a lot of couples. Even Chris Tucker, who plays Pat’s friend from the mental institution, is an interesting fellow I wanted to see more of.

The characters and their relationships are driven by the phenomenal performances. I never thought of Bradley Cooper as much of a thespian, but he’s really convincing and makes Pat a likable protagonist you want to root for. I think it is by far the best performance of his career.

Jennifer Lawrence (sigh…). Just when I thought I couldn’t like her any more than I already do, she pulls off last year’s best performance as Tiffany, a beautiful, seductive, explosive and manipulative woman who has no idea how to deal with her pain. She’s that good, and with all due respect to the other Best Actress nominees, Lawrence is absolutely a deserving winner. Kate Winslet’s spot as my fave actress is in grave danger.

I don’t even need to mention the typically brilliant De Niro, though Weaver, whose role is smaller than I expected, struck me as a weird Best Supporting Actress nominee. Sure she’s good, but she wasn’t really given much of an opportunity to shine. This wasn’t like Animal Kingdom where she would grab you by the balls and never let go.

Anyway…I don’t need to say much more except that Silver Linings Playbook  is worthy of all the critical acclaim. Some may be put off by the mental illness aspect of it, others by the quirkiness or the more predictable elements of the plot (and I admit, there is a sense of inevitability about the outcome, especially as it draws closer to its conclusion), but it’ll be a tough task to find a better 2012 romantic comedy or romantic dramedy or comedic drama or whatever you want to call it.

4.25 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Little Fockers (2010)

Meet the Parents (released in 2000) is one of my favourite comedies.  The 2004 sequel, Meet the Fockers, was silly and disappointing, despite the added star power Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand.  And so I was a little wary of the third film, Little Fockers. Any time a franchise reaches its third standalone film (ie not a planned trilogy), there’s a risk that the jokes will start wearing thin.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened here.  Even with the whole gang back (Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Tero Polo, Blythe Danner, Owen Wilson, Hoffman and Streisand) plus a surprisingly good Jessica Alba inserted (along with Harvey Keitel and Laura Dern), Little Fockers failed to capture the essence of what made the first film so good.

This one, as the title suggests, takes place several years after the second film, with Greg Focker (Stiller) and his wife Pam (Polo) raising twins, who are about to celebrate their birthdays.  Of course, Greg’s father-in-law and former CIA agent Jack (De Niro) is still around making Greg’s life hell, and the majority of the movie revolves around several subplots — Greg representing an erectile dysfunction drug (which is where Alba comes in), getting his place ready for the birthday party (enter Keitel) and the trying to get his kids into a prestigious kintergarten (enter Dern).

I won’t deny that there were some good moments and funny one liners, especially with Wilson, Alba and Dern, but on the whole there were too many stale, lame jokes.  The cleverness and the subtlety of the original have been thrown out the window in favour of unoriginal cheap laughs and sex gags, especially towards the end.

While Little Fockers is definitely a level or two better than the disaster that was Meet the Fockers, it nevertheless continues to damage the goodwill of the original.

2.5 stars out of 5