Tag Archives: Bill Hader

Daughter of Darkness

The Addams Family 2

by George Wolf

Two years ago, The Addams Family returned to their cartoon roots with an animated feature that leaned heavily on little Wednesday Addams for its few sparks of macabre fun.

Despite turning to a more convoluted plot line, AF2 doesn’t do much to improve the family reputation.

Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) is still the standout here, putting the creepy and kooky in the 3rd grade science fair. She’s denied a prize thanks to a new “everybody wins” school policy, but her brilliance catches the eye of shady scientist Cyrus Strange (Bill Hader).

Worried she’s being dumbed down by the idiots around her, Wednesday rebuffs cheer up attempts from Dad Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Mom Morticia (Charlize Theron) when a pushy lawyer (Wallace Shawn) comes knocking with a bombshell.

His clients believe Wednesday may actually be their daughter and are requesting a DNA test. What else can Mom and Dad do except pack Wednesday, Pugsley (Javon “Wanna” Walton, stepping in for the now deeper voiced Finn Wolfhard), Fester (Nick Kroll) and Lurch (Conrad Vernon, who again co-directs with Greg Tiernan and newcomer Laura Brousseau) into the haunted camper for that fallback device for hastily-connected hi jinx, the road trip!

It’s a three week trek to (where else?) Death Valley and back, stopping in Miami, San Antonio, and the Grand Canyon long enough to catch up with more family (Snoop Dogg’s Cousin It) and try out some mildly amusing gags.

Only a precious few – like the guy who keeps trying to propose to his girlfriend and “Thing” trying to stay awake while driving – actually land, and it’s up to Moretz and her perfect deadpan (“I’ve been social distancing since birth”) to remind us of what makes this family dynamic.

The script from Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit veers off into wild Dr. Moreau territory, adding even more baggage to a film that would have been wise to pack lighter. Inspired soundtrack choices (from Gordon Lightfoot to Motorhead) give way to forced pop and hip-hop, and the film’s attempt at an “own who you are” message seems half-hearted at best.

But what’s really lost is the inherent fun The Addams Family brings to wherever they are. When the world goes light, they go dark. That’s a fun and funny idea ready to be exploited.

Once again, Wednesday’s just waiting for the rest of the gang to get back to the family business.

Gym Class Heroes

Power Rangers

by George Wolf

Let us put an end to our petty squabbling and share a delicious warm donut, for Power Rangers is here to confirm what we long imagined. The key to saving the world lies in defending your local Krispy Kreme.

It’s true, and as long as this reboot taps into that Saturday morning vibe and Elizabeth Banks yells gems like “Push them into the pit!”, there’s some over the top fun to be had. Getting there, though, is damn near insufferable.

For an origin story, we get stitched-together remnants of better movies (Breakfast Club, Spiderman, 127 Hours, Breakfast Club again) and warmed over teen angst. The five young heroes are diverse in personality, ethnicity and lifestyle, and John Gatins’s script wields these cliches like a pandering Hulk smash.

It’s just a shame our new Rangers can’t morph until they “really get to know each other.”

What to do?

What if…we cue the strings and take turns telling each how nobody “gets me” and how awful it is to be a great looking teenager! Then we can be mighty! Yep, mighty lame.

Just when you’re wondering why Bill Hader’s voice and Bryan Cranston’s face are in this mess, here comes Banks as Rita Repulsa (nice!), a gold-eating, scenery-chewing villain from space! Once Rita starts destroying the Earth, Banks starts saving the film, and director Dean Israelite (Project Almanac) finds the throwback groove we’ve been waiting on for over an hour.

Verdict-2-0-Stars

 

 





Yes, It’s a Weiner

Sausage Party

by Christie Robb

I was expecting to hate this movie. At worst I was anticipating a series of increasingly forced dick jokes and at best a munchie-induced fever dream. Instead, I gotta say, Sausage Party stands up with the South Park movie as a pretty offensively entertaining animated movie for adults.

The film is set in a Shopwell supermarket where every morning the products sing about their desire be chosen by “the gods”—those big things wheeling the carts—and travel to the Great Beyond (via a song composed by Alan Menken—the guy who co-created the songs from The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin).

Little do the foodstuffs know what terrors await them on the other side of the pneumatic doors. It’s not nirvana. The Gods fucking eat you.

As the Fourth of July approaches, Frank—a hot dog voiced by Seth Rogan—eagerly anticipates hooking up with his honey bun (Kristen Wiig) in the Great Beyond. But after they are chosen, they and a bunch of other products are separated from their packaging and fall to the supermarket floor.

Forced to traverse the enormous grocery, the fellowship has to navigate the aisles to get back to their packages, interacting with their fellow foodstuffs in various ethnic-food aisles, partying in the liquor aisle, and generally trying to evade the villain—a vampiric and increasingly unhinged literal douche.

The movie certainly employs a fair amount of wiener-based humor and a variety of food-centric ethnic stereotypes (for example, the sauerkraut jars are a bunch of fascists bent on exterminating “the juice”, the bagel’s voice is a Woody Allen impression, and a Peter Pan “Indian”-style pipe-smoking bottle of firewater dispenses wisdom), but the movie turns to a surprising exploration of faith vs. skepticism and the extent to which religious belief fosters divisions, hostility, and repressed sexuality.

Although the movie manages to provide enough offense to go around, the majority of the jokes are actually quite funny. The cast is certainly strong. Rogan and Wiig are joined by Nick Kroll, Salma Hayek, Michael Cera, James Franco, Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Edward Norton, Craig Robinson, David Krumholtz, and Paul Rudd, and the sex-positive food porn scene exceeded my expectations of what was bound to happen once the wiener and the bun finally got together.

Seeing Sausage Party ain’t a bad way to pass the time. But, for the love of God, please don’t take your kids.

Verdict-3-5-Stars

 





Of Vice and Men

Trainwreck

by Hope Madden

Ten years ago, The 40-Year-Old Virgin introduced the new voice of cinematic comedy. A decade later, 40 writer/director Judd Apatow is – for the first time – directing a film he didn’t write. Why? Because there’s a new sheriff in town and Apatow has the clout to ensure that the next voice in cinematic comedy gets heard.

Trainwreck is the bawdy, wise, hilarious, about-fucking-time romantic comedy written by and starring Amy Schumer. Startlingly honest and utterly lacking in pretension, she followed up years of refreshingly raw stand-up comedy by destroying cable TV with her brilliant Inside Amy Schumer. (YouTube 12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer immediately to see just how savvy a writer she is.)

She and Apatow collaborate on this sometimes touching, boisterously funny upending of rom-com clichés. (As Amy narrates the lovey-dovey montage backdropped by the Manhattan skyline, even she finds it cloying, quipping, “I hope this love montage ends like Jonestown.”)

Schumer plays Amy, a heavy drinking, sexually active (very active) writer for a magazine that runs stories like “How Does Eating Garlic Change the Taste of Semen?” and “You’re Not Gay, She’s Boring.” Her editor – the ever glorious Tilda Swinton – assigns her a piece on a sports doctor (Bill Hader), and Amy is reluctantly pulled into the world of monogamy.

The screenwriting is ingenious. This is a role reversal romantic comedy, basically, but it’s far too crafty to rely on that as a gimmick. On the surface, Amy’s the same protagonist trapped in an extended adolescence that has become commonplace in Apatow’s filmography, but there is no denying Schumer’s ability to find something new and authentic to bring to the mix.

She’s aided by an impeccable cast. Bill Hader has quickly become one of the most versatile and authentic actors of the SNL alum. Swinton’s magnificent, LeBron James is deadpan hilarious and a very good sport, as is John Cena, and Dave Attell is a hoot. Cameos galore draw belly laughs in a comedy that has something to say underneath hundreds of well-aimed gags.

Trainwreck might be the best romantic comedy since Bull Durham.

Verdict-4-0-Stars





Head Games

Inside Out

by George Wolf

Sometimes I think Pixar’s only goal is to make me a pile of emotional mush. The old man in Up was a dead ringer for my old man, and the Toy Story films were in perfect sync with my son’s childhood, right down to part 3 when Andy (voiced by the original, now grown up kid) was leaving home the same time our Riley was packing for Ohio State. Sniff.

Now, with Inside Out, Pixar builds their latest delightful adventure around the growing pains of a young girl whose name just happens to be…Riley.

Honey! We’re going to need more tissues!

I doubt we’re alone, and that’s one of the many wonderful things about Pixar films. At their best, they resonate with both infectious fun and relatable emotion. Make no mistake, Inside Out is one of their best, landing perhaps just a half notch below Up and the Toy Story trilogy.

It’s a tumultuous time in young Riley’s life. Her family has just moved from Minnesota to San Francisco, and her emotions are working overtime. Inside her mind, five particular feelings are running the show at Riley “headquarters.” There’s Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Joy is usually able to keep the rest in check (“I’m detecting high levels of sass!”), but when she and Sadness get lost in the outer regions of Riley’s psyche, the race is on to get back to base before the young girl’s personality is forever changed.

So, yes, Pixar returns to the “secret world” theme they know well, but there’s no denying this is just a brilliant premise and perfect execution by a veteran Pixar team, From rides on the “train of thought” to commercial jingles that get stuck in your head to a clever gag about mixing facts and opinions, co- directors/co-writers Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen keep things fresh and funny while maintaining a simple conflict that easily gets younger viewers invested.

The voice talent is stellar, particularly Black (Angry? Who’d have thought?) and Smith, who makes Sadness a lovable unlikely hero by reminding us that sometimes, it’s okay to be sad.

And that’s the real beauty of Inside Out. While you’re laughing at those silly emotions, the film is gently tugging at yours. Once again, Pixar examines the changing phases of life with charm, humor and a subtle intelligence that can’t help but give you a fresh appreciation for all the jumbled feelings that make life worth living.

Verdict-4-0-Stars

 

 





Freaky Twin Stuff

The Skeleton Twins

by Hope Madden

I once trapped myself down my vacationing neighbors’ basement, having let myself in to snoop around and then snagging my hair inside a piece of exercise equipment. The other neighborhood rugrats who’d accompanied me on this B&E left me there to die. But my twin sister marched next door to our dad and said, “Come with me. Bring your tools.”

Why? Because twins have each other’s backs. We have no choice.

That nugget of wisdom and others – like the healing power of Halloween costumes and terrible 80s pop songs – fuel the surprisingly intimate and articulate indie flick The Skeleton Twins.

Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader co-star as estranged twins reunited under tough circumstances. Their strained relationship slowly, sloppily warms as they remember how uniquely and irreversibly bound they are to each other.

The premise has overwrought family dramedy written all over it, and in the wrong hands it could have been August: Osage County or even This Is Where I Leave You. But there’s nothing profound or obvious about Skeleton Twins. It unveils its damage as necessary, tidies up nothing, explains little – so basically, it looks just like family.

This must be partly credited to the writing team of Mark Heyman (Black Swan) and Craig Johnson (who also directs). They refuse to bold face the problems or solutions, preferring instead a more lived-in and recognizable world where pain and emotional need aren’t chalked immediately up to one cause or remedied with one solution. And they don’t judge, which is important because I don’t think these people could withstand that. They’re much too hard on themselves to begin with.

Mainly, though, the success of Skeleton Twins is owed to its leads. Kristin Wiig channels some of the same woebegone tone she used to create her first memorable dramatic character in this year’s Hateship Loveship. Her battle with self-loathing is quietly complicated and deftly crafted.

Bill Hader, though, is the reason to see the film. His turn is filled with vulnerability, humor and wisdom. He gives the human experience of the film its pulse.

Predictably, he and Wiig share obvious chemistry and a great rapport. Luke Wilson’s earnest good guy is the perfect, heartbreakingly goofy offset to the cynical twosome.

There are a lot of laughs here, but the emotion is dark and usually honest. This season will bring us grand strokes of drama aimed at nabbing Oscar, but right this minute, be glad for the intimate little treasures like The Skeleton Twins.

And stay out of your neighbor’s basement.

Verdict-4-0-Stars