Tag Archives: Zac Efron

Dirty Grandpa (2016)

dirtygrandpa

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

2012 Movie Blitz: Part 6

This Means War (2012)

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I don’t really care for Reese Witherspoon, but I do like Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and I love Bane (Tom Hardy), and so I checked out This Means War, a romantic comedy about a couple of CIA operatives going to extreme lengths to win over the girl of their dreams.

The central joke comes from the farcical premise that two supposedly highly trained and professional men would backstab each other and use government resources for the sake of love. A lot of the laughs come from the guys trying to one-up each other and using their special agent skills for moronic purposes. (I don’t get it, personally, why Reese is so appealing, but I guess that’s just me.)

Unfortunately, This Means War cannot escape the fate of the generic rom-com. The idea is a good one, but it’s no more than a mildly amusing, silly, and unmemorable film trying to get by on the charm of its three stars. The editing is messy and the action scenes are poorly done. The intention of the craziness is to create some fun, but I got the feeling that the actors were enjoying it a lot more than the viewers.

The film has been savaged by critics but I don’t think it’s that bad, as they are a couple of funny moments here and there, but on the whole it’s just barely passable.

2.75 stars out of 5

The Lucky One (2012)

the-lucky-one-poster

Nicholas Sparks could very well be the devil. He drew us in with his debut, The Notebook, which everyone loves, but then since then we’ve been given one sappy melodrama after another.

The trend continues with The Lucky One, essentially a Zac Efron vehicle about a US marine in Iraq who is saved from a deadly blast because he found a photo of a pretty lady (hence he is “The Lucky One”). After returning home, he sets about finding this woman who “saved his life”, and when he does, he inexplicably starts working for her but can’t bring himself to tell her the truth for some reason.

Typical small town drama ensues, with sceptical busybodies, jealous husbands and young children all thrown into the mix. Of course, Efron plays this perfect guy who is just nice to a fault and the lady (Taylor Schilling) cannot help but fall in love with him. You can guess the rest.

This might be one of Sparks’ better novels — I have no idea — but it’s still a pretty difficult film to stomach. It’s directed by Aussie Scott Hicks, who gave us Shine, so technically the film is very sound. But the emotional manipulation and sappiness is just trite, and watching Efron prance around on screen pretending to be Mr Perfect is quite unbearable.

There is clearly a market for Sparks adaptations or else there wouldn’t be this many. What is clear though is that I don’t belong in this market.

2 stars out of 5

The Dictator (2012)

dictator

I am a big fan of Sacha Baron Cohen. I love the characters Ali G and Borat, which show off his genius at improvisation and ability to generate laughs on so many levels. His main advantage was anonymity, which allowed him to dupe people by pretending to be this outlandish character. Now that he is world famous, Cohen has no choice but to head in the direction of scripted comedy. And unfortunately, he’s just not very funny when he does this.

Like the miserable failure that was Ali G Indahouse, Cohen’s latest effort, The Dictator, just isn’t any good. It’s sad. I can tell he tried, really hard, to infuse some of his trademark lowbrow humor into the script, but you can see the punchlines a mile away. Take away Cohen’s masterful spontaneity and he’s not much more than an average — if not somewhat obnoxious — comedian. He’s simply too obvious.

The Dictator is not a mockumentary like Borat or Bruno, but a straight-up comedy about the tyrannical but moronic ruler of the fictional North African Republic of Wadiya. You would have already seen some of the so-called best bits in the trailers, such as the sprinting contest where no one has the guts to beat the great leader. It’s an obvious parody of dictators such as Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il.

Strangely, the film soon becomes a kind of Coming to America imitator as Cohen’s character is brought to the United States and becomes a regular Joe who has to fit in with the rest of society. He meets a boyish woman played by Anna Faris, meaning lots of sexist jokes, but of course he eventually realizes he may have feelings for her, turning The Dictator into a rom-com as well.

The result is a messy mishmash of genres, tonal unevenness and a lot of bad jokes mixed in with a couple of decent (usually very crude and/or politically incorrect and/or inappropriate ones). There is the occasional bit of satirical sharpness in Cohen’s political messages, though I’d still classify The Dictator as a letdown because it just isn’t consistently funny enough.

2.5 stars out of 5

Wanderlust (2012)

Wanderlust-Poster

One of my favourite actors (Paul Rudd) teams up again with one of my least favourite actresses (Jennifer Aniston) to bring us Wanderlust, about a financially strapped couple who escape society by moving to a hippy commune full of weird and wacky characters. (The two had previously worked together on 1998’s The Object of My Affection, and also on a lengthy arc in Friends.)

This is an interesting idea with great potential for laughs, and I was surprised that the film lived up to the potential somewhat. It’s a good movie for people who enjoy random humour and unusual situations, as there’s plenty of both. It makes fun of the “free love”, “non-violent” principles of such communes, but it’s not done in a mean-spirited way and actually makes them likable as opposed to just bizarre characters. So I guess what I am saying is that this is a rare movie that has both genuine laughs and heart.

The role of the husband is tailor-made for Rudd, who is at his best as the awkward bumbler who gets in over his head. Aniston, I will admit, is not too bad here either in this role (by that I mean not annoying). Her real life beau, Justin Theroux, almost steals the show as the nutty leader of the commune, and has probably the most hilarious sequences in the movie. Also worth noting are the couple who play Rudd’s intolerable brother and sister-in-law, Ken Marino and Michaela Watkins. They are awesome.

Wanderlust did awful at the box office but I think it’s a little gem of a comedy with some real wit and several laugh-out-loud nuggets of gold. It loses some steam towards the end and got unnecessarily messy in trying to create a crisis to serve as the film’s climax, but I think it is definitely one of the more underrated comedies of 2012.

3.75 stars out of 5

Start of Year DVD Blitz: Part I

As promised, here is my first set of DVD reviews for the start of 2011!

Centurion (2010)

Here’s another one that when I first saw the trailer thought was going to be a hit — but strangely, it either never screened or screened for such a short time that nobody noticed, then went straight to DVD.

Centurion is based on the Roman conquest of the Picts, told from the perspective of the ill-fated Ninth Legion.  It’s dark, moody, gritty, extremely violent and gory, and a surprisingly enjoyable ride.  Even though we get the story from the side of the Romans, there are really no good guys or villains in this one.  

Excellent performances from a great cast, including Michael Fassbender, Olga Kurylenko and Dominic West, even though the script and characters probably don’t do the performances justice.

Centurion certainly doesn’t have the depth or wide appeal of Gladiator, but hardcore battle fans (like myself) might get a kick out of it because it does have some wonderful battle and fight scenes.

3.5 stars out of 5

Cop Out (2010)

This buddy cop comedy starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan (from 30 Rock) and directed by Kevin Smith has been on many of the ‘Worst Film of the Year’ lists, so I decided to check it out for myself.

And well…I didn’t personally hate the film, but it was pretty awful, especially when you factor in the director (Smith has been a favourite of mine, even though this is the first time he didn’t direct his own material) and the all-star cast (which also includes Rashida Jones, Jason Lee, Sean William Scott, Adam Brody and Kevin Pollack).

My problem with Cop Out was that it wasn’t as funny or clever as it thought it was.  I haven’t seen much of 30 Rock, but Tracy Morgan was extremely annoying.  He just wouldn’t stop shouting and screaming all the time.  It was exhausting to watch and listen to him go on like a lunatic for the overlong 107-minute running time.

There were a couple of amusing scenes but most of it was pretty stock standard stuff that you’d see in any B-grade comedy.

1.75 stars out of 5

Remember Me (2010)

Enter the non-Twilight star vehicle for Rob Patz to showcase his acting chops as Tyler Hawkins, an American college student who has a dead brother, a neglected younger sister and a father (Pierce Brosnan) who is too absorbed in his work to care.  He meets and befriends Ally Craig (Emilie de Ravin), a girl with a dead mother and an overprotective cop father.  Sad, tragic, melodramatic love story.

Remember Me is depressing and tries too hard to tug at the heart strings through numerous ‘please feel sorry for me’ sequences.  At its core it’s not a horrible film, but there’s not a whole lot going for it.  It had a strong introductory sequence but went downhill from there, and even though I expected things to pick up and the various plot threads to be tied together, it never really happened.

The ending, which I’m sure gets discussed a lot, came out of nowhere, and I believe some might even find it offensive to pull a stunt like that.

Watchable for Rob Patz fans, but everyone else won’t be missing much by skipping this one.

2 stars out of 5

Knight and Day (2010)

Knight and Day is acomedy action film about an ordinary girl caught up in the world of CIA operatives and dangerous/revolutionary inventions.  It’s fast paced, outrageous, over-the-top, and quite fun if you don’t take it seriously.

However, I didn’t really like it much.  To be honest, it’s probably because the film stars Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.  I used to really like Cruise, but ever since he lost the plot there’s just something off about him, even on screen.  Maybe he’s getting too old, but the suave routine he got used to pulling on Top Gun and Mission: Impossible doesn’t work for me anymore.  As for Diaz, sorry if this offends anyone, but I really dislike her face.  I know she’s considered one of the most attractive women in the world, but I simply don’t get it.  It became a distraction to the detriment of the viewing experience.

Knight and Day is a film that runs on the charm and chemistry of the two main characters, so fans of Cruise/Diaz might enjoy it a lot more than I did.  But unfortunately for me, I let my prejudices get the better of my objective judgment.

2.5 stars out of 5

Me and Orson Welles (2009)

A coming-of-age/character study film by Richard Linklater about a 17-year-old kid (Zac Efron) who got to spend a few months with Orson Welles (Christian McKay), the man credited with making Citizen Kane, a film widely regarded as the best of all time.  However, this film takes place in 1937 (4 years before Citizen Kane), and it was about a stage production of Julius Caesar.

It’s pretty light-hearted, harmless stuff, but to me, it was more like ‘Meh’ and Orson Welles.  Perhaps lovers of period pieces and those who appreciate meticulously designed sets and the threatre might enjoy it more than I did.  I don’t deny that the film is well-made, though I can’t help it if it didn’t get my juices flowing.

Efron is adequate and McKay is actually brilliant as Welles, the egotistical, narcissistic genius, but neither the technical attributes nor the performances made me enjoy this film as much as I wanted to.

3 stars out of 5

I still have a few more left — Part II should be coming soon.

End of Year DVD Blitz: Part II

Four more movies in this second instalment.  If you want to check out the first one, click here.

Yes, I voluntarily watched SATC2

Sex and the City 2 (2010)

I know, I know.  I must have been really desperate.  I saw the first one and it didn’t strike me as horrible, so I thought maybe this one might have some merit.  After all, it was advertised as a fun movie.

But my goodness, SATC2 was atrocious.  Perhaps not as bad as some people say (ie worst movie of all time), but it was pretty awful.  Basically, this was a self-indulgent 146 minutes of advertising for Abu Dhabi, product placement, and rather insulting jabs at Muslims (and especially Muslim women in the Middle East).

There was a paper thin plot somewhere in there, and I suppose the fans of the show will always be happy to see the foursome on screen together, but SATC2 really should be the last one.  Please, enough is enough.

1.5 stars out of 5

Yeah, I voluntarily watched this too

Charlie St Cloud (2010)

This was a nasty little Zac Efron surprise.  When I first saw the trailer, I thought it looked pretty good.  A supernatural slant on a touching story about life and death.  It may have seemed a little too ‘Nicholas Sparks’, but I loved The Notebook, so why not?

Anyway, despite the terrible reviews, I still decided to watch it.  Perhaps it was the low expectations, but Charlie St Cloud didn’t strike me as one of the worst films of the year.  It’s one of those stories that you can tell would have been pretty good as a book, but when translated to the screen, feels overly melodramatic and frankly, quite ridiculous.  Mind you, I love ghost stories and I don’t mind feel-good, sappy dramas, but Charlie St Cloud stretched my latitude a little too far.

The film has brought comparisons with The Sixth Sense, but that’s not really fair.  To me, it’s a little more Field of Dreams, but nowhere near as good.

While it’s watchable and not entirely uninteresting, Charlie St Cloud is probably only suitable Zac Efron fans.

2.25 stars out of 5

I thought this would be good, but...

Grown Ups (2010)

I was really looking forward to this one, an all-star comedy starring Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider and Kevin James.  But damn, this was one of my biggest disappointments of the year.

The intro was great — a bunch of little kids on a basketball team playing in a big game and spurred on by their enthusiastic coach.  Fast forward 30 years and the coach has passed away, and the funeral serving as a catalyst for the old friends to reunite at some luxurious holiday cabin.

Was I expecting too much?  Admittedly, I have been at least a minor fan of each of these comedians at some point in my life, but Grown Ups was a complete dud.  Why?  It wasn’t funny.  The jokes were repetitve (which is I suppose a trademark of some of these comedians) and surprisingly mean spirited.  I just couldn’t get past how mean they were.  Granted, being mean can be hilarious, but here it only highlighted how obnoxious and unlikable the characters are.

And I don’t get what the deal is with recent Sandler movies always trying to put in some contrived family goodness/poignancy into his comedies these days.  Here, it was a massive failure.  They should have never tried.  It just made the whole thing more uneven.

The only thing that prevented Grown Ups from being an epic disaster was the fact that my main man, Steve Buscemi, had a minor role in it — and as usual, he was brilliant.  Apart from that, this movie sucked.

1.75 stars out of 5 (with half a star for Steve Buscemi)

Nothing to say really...

Killers (2010)

I’m really on a roll here.  Killers is promoted as an action comedy, and while there is decent action in it, there is very little comedy.  Or should I say the attempts at comedy weren’t funny.  Ashton Kutcher is some CIA assassin, and Katherin Heigl is his unsuspecting wife.  Tom Selleck and Catherine O’Hara (the mother from Home Alone) are her parents.

Apart from being completely and outrageously unbelievable (which I could accept if the film took itself less seriously), Killers is extremely bland and formulaic.  Kutcher is okay, but Heigl’s ditzy, flustered routine is really getting old.  She’s very annoying.

I don’t blame it all on the direction of Robert Luketic, because the screenplay really lacks a punch.  I didn’t hate this movie but I can’t think of anything to like about it either.

2 stars out of 5

Wow, I’ve really been watching some shit movies lately.  Can’t believe Charlie St Cloud is the best film of the bunch.  Nevertheless, there’s more to come.  The next set will be better, I promise.