Horrible Bosses 2 (R)

8 Stars

“Everybody’s a critic,” Bugs Bunny once said.

In this case (as in most), the hare’s correct.

Perhaps folks are disenchanted by franchised laughter.

The average rating amongst Top Critics (according to Rotten Tom) is a 4.5 out of 10.

Though the more accurate portrayal’s provided by the ‘user’ average: 7 stars.

It’s not due to a lack of proofreading that my score remains unaltered.

This author’s got a little something called integrity.

Therefore the rating stays at 8; implying it’s ‘great’, but perhaps not ‘tremendous.’

After all, 2014 is the year of the comedic sequel.

Anchorman 2 was released last December and largely satisfied.

The best comedic sequel of all time, 22 Jump Street came out in June.

The long awaited Dumb and Dumber To…wasn’t great.

Trepidatiously we await the follow-up to Hot Tub Time Machine on late February’s horizon.

Well, I say, “To hell with top critics!”

Horrible Bosses 2 more than satisfies.

Earning a coveted spot on Top Comedies of 2014 –
1. 22 Jump Street
2. Neighbors
3. The Interview
4. Let’s Be Cops
5. Horrible Bosses 2

It keeps you guessing while offering a persistent snicker.

The out-and-out laughs are numerous and frequent.

The plot is timely, clever and not too outrageous. A considerable amount of social commentary is interwoven.

Dare I say it’s thought-provoking?

Since viewing, I’ve ruminated on the panoramic time lapse and off-type car chase; so, there you have it. Thoughts provoked.

The cinematography, shooting and editing are really impressive.

As far as casting goes, this flick’s top-notch. Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis are all fantastic.

Each lead is hilarious in his own individual way.

I’ll never understand why Bateman gets docked for his mastery as the ‘straight’ man. Plus, his Arrested Development version is more foolish softy.

Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Jamie Foxx return without disappointing.

Christoph Waltz delivers in a minor role.

Chris Pine, however, is terrific. He’s great in Into the Woods as well, so hopefully we’ll see more out of him in the future.

There’s a delightful blooper reel accompanying the rolling credits.

As well as a fun character montage directly preceding. Such cinematic sequences are becoming more prevalent. They’re enjoyable, informative and a welcome addition to any theatrical release.

Let’s call these bits ‘character reels.’ Best when featuring the character’s image paired with both names (role and actor).

Don’t be disappointed if you missed HB Deuce while in theaters.

For fans of the first, keep an eye on your streaming devices.

It’s available for pre-order through iTunes, but who’s really going to shell $19.99 for digital ownership on release date?

Wait for the rental.

It’ll be much cheaper and infinitely more satisfying.

Dumb and Dumber To (PG-13)

6 Stars

Does it need to be outstanding?

If so, maybe save the sequel for a future rental.

My mother was kind enough to attend the theater with me, and we mostly enjoyed Dumb and Dumber To. It’s good.

Definitely not ‘great,’ but still good.

If you’ve seen the trailer, some jokes are spoiled. Yet another reason to wait and rent.

The scatological humor is never strong.

Quite a bit is distasteful.

Which may be due (partly) to the rating. Gotta dial down the cursing and ratchet up the scat to nab a PG-13.

I guess?

Consider the following list:

Top Five Comedies of 2014
1. 22 Jump Street (R)
2. Neighbors (R)
3. Let’s Be Cops (R)
4. The Skeleton Twins (R)
5. Dumb And Dumber To (PG-13)

One might argue it’s generous not to swap it out with Chef (rated R).

This review’s only going to frustrate fans, and I feel bad for Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey who do an outstanding job returning as Harry and Lloyd.

But the Farrelly brothers were never strong filmmakers.

The original D&D is the only great entry in their entire filmography. Everything else ranges from bad to meh.

The common theme is revulsion. There’s Something About Mary, Osmosis Jones and Me, Myself & Irene all initially trigger memories of disgust.

Now, looking back on the long-awaited sequel, it’s difficult to separate the gross from the chuckles.

This is not to discredit the banana peel antics – that stuff’s hysterical.

Anything involving a zamboni (especially when combined with tree limbs) – hilarious.

Shoving people into bushes, and pointing and laughing – gets me every time.

The double-point-and-laugh is classic.

The callbacks are mostly solid; some hit home better than others.

Reused snippets from the original score resonate strongly.

Favorite bit parts, like ‘Billy in 4C’ and Seabass, make cameos.

But, again. Was it funniest to increase the morbidity factor with the blind kid? The joke’s edgy enough in the first movie.

And why…

Why, why, WHY…

…do we need close-up shots of the cat’s anus?

During post-production, how many adults watched as feathers are rocketed from a cat’s asshole, and agreed it’s an essential cutaway?

Perhaps the viewers hadn’t realized from the mutilated bird corpses what’s just taken place.

I’m not trying to hate on this movie, but that’s only one of three revolting moments. I’ll spare you the rest.

To finish on a high note, a few words on the acting.

Jim Carrey is incredibly funny. His delivery is spot on.

Watching Lloyd’s facial expressions is enough to keep the viewer in stitches.

Jeff Daniels is just as chucklesome as Harry Dunne.

He’s a terrific actor.

Rachel Melvin is an excellent addition to the cast of ‘dummies.’ It’s not easy to play stupid in a convincing or funny manner, and she pulls it off with finesse.

Jennifer Lawrence is somewhere in this movie as Young Fraida. Which is odd.

If it’s her making out with Lloyd, what a strange cameo…another scene must have gotten cut out. Or something.


Be sure to stay through the credits for the following stinger. The images accompanying the rolling are enjoyable as well.

Dumb and Dumber To is not a disappointment.

But it’s nothing to write home about.

The Skeleton Twins (R)

9 Stars

This is my least favorite type of movie.

I call them ‘sad swamps.’ Trekking through can be an emotional chore.

The best examples coming to mind are The Fault in Our Stars (thumbs-down) and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (thumbs-up).

The Skeleton Twins is no exception; there’s some heartbreaking stuff in here. Don’t expect it to relent, either.

Plus it’s an out-and-out quirkedy, and super low budget.

All that being said, I really enjoy The Skele Twins.

Wow, comedy has flourished this summer.

On top of Neighbors, 22 Jump Street and Let’s Be Cops; The ST brings the tally to four consistently hilarious entries for the genre.

Plus, we’ve still got the sequels to Hot Tub Time Machine and Dumb & Dumbr looking forward.

The Skeleton Twins is similar to Let’s Be Cops in several ways.

Take the shooting style for instance. The edges of the frame are oftentimes hazy with only the characters in focus.

During a scene near the end, through a window in the background the viewer can see it’s snowing outside. It’s hard to tell because of the blurry visual, but it’s a misleading inconsistency.

The comedy is similar as well, because a lot of it seems improvised.

The cast is tiny.

Besides the two leads, there’s only a pair of other recognizable faces.

Ty Burrell is one of our finest actors working today. Here he turns in another performance befitting that reputation.

Luke Wilson is outstanding. He’s great in a number of movies (especially Idiocracy) but this may be his best role ever.

He plays a refreshingly sympathetic husband to Kristen Wiig’s character. Which is illustrative of a greater theme.

The Skeleton Twins highlights compelling character interactions through the context of a complicated relationship.

Bill Hader is incredibly convincing playing a gay role. In fact, he is so similar to my college roommate, I found myself reminiscing about my old buddy.

With his wide-eyed expression, the brutal honesty and even-toned sarcasm. Oh and the mastery of lip-syncing and impromptu dancing. I was totally sold on his character.

Kristen Wiig is spot-on, as always.

Her timing is just so perfect. Plus she has a way with demanding sympathy from the viewer.

That woman’s got the Midas touch. She only appears in great movies.

Although it takes an emotional toll (I was tearing up on 2-3 separate occasions in the 93 minute duration) The Skeleton Twins is a very funny movie that covers a number of timely issues.

I highly recommend it to any and all interested viewers.

To note a final similarity to Let’s Be Cops, the ending doesn’t necessarily wrap everything up.

But when the credits abruptly roll, getting mired in this sad swamp feels worthwhile.

A Million Ways to Die in the West (R)

6 Stars

Why get your hopes up?

It won’t help.

A Million Ways to Die in the West contains several genuine laughs and a number of chuckles. Don’t sully them with high expectations.

Have you seen the trailer? Hence the anticipation.

The preview spoils the majority of jokes, reveals and cameos. Wait a year before renting.

This is the type of comedy where, if you’re viewing with only a vague recollection of my dissatisfaction, there’s a shot at enjoyment.

John DeFore, a writer for Huff Po, suggests a, “mid-film cameo prompts viewers to wonder how MacFarlane might have fared playing a time-traveler from our era stranded in the Old West. Instead, his 1880s sheep farmer Albert Stark simply talks like someone born in and transplanted from the 20th century.”

DeFore’s analysis couldn’t be more accurate.

Albert feels like a stand-up comedian; a prisoner in the Old West who attempts to gain freedom through wacky frontier material.

The problem isn’t a fun topic for discussion, because Seth MacFarlane deserves our respect.

Celebrities only have nice things to say about him. He’s one of the greatest contributors to contemporary comedy, offering quality on both the small screen (The Family Guy) and in the box office (Ted). As host of the 2013 Oscars, he delivered a bang-up performance.

Therefore, it’s unpleasant mentioning the weakness of his performance, and how it detracts from the film overall.

For whatever reason, his acting isn’t up to snuff.

Harping on it won’t do any good. Chalk up the loss to over-ambition.

A $40 million budget isn’t enormous for this type of production. And Seth’s trying to write, direct and star in the biggest comedic western since Blazing Saddles. That includes flying the ensemble cast/production crew, building sets and shooting on location, while using horses, dancers and maybe guns (plus all the necessary advisors/extras.)

Fun fact: Liam Neeson’s the only cast member who rode horseback across the tarmac, up the steps and onto a private, horse-bearing jet. Apparently Neeson goes nowhere without his nag.

That’s a joke. But you can see how a budget dries up relatively quick.

By the way, the supporting cast is what makes this movie good. Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman and Amanda Seyfried are great.

Charlize Theron and Neil Patrick Harris are fantastic. Charlize is so impressive; she prevents the movie from becoming a ‘thumbs-down.’

N.P.H. plays a hilarious villain and is such an incredible talent that he manages to cultivate hysteria from an unfunny scatological bit.

Aside from Neil and Charlize, the best part is an original song.

For your convenience it’s posted below. If nothing else, at least give, “If You’ve Only Got a Mustache,” a listen.

All in all, AMWTDITW is not a complete success.

Nor is it a complete disappointment.

Let it simmer on the backburner.

You’ll thank me later.

Chef (R)

8 Stars

Who knows if it’s always been this way, but the phrase ‘date movie’ is a surprisingly bad omen.

It’s synonymous with bad comedy and cheesy romancing.

The idea that a sequel to Valentine’s Day got produced…


Last year’s The Spectacular Now is a great example of what a ‘date movie’ should be.

So is this year’s Chef.

It’s a heartwarming story about a talented L.A. foodsmith finding his niche. In part a road-trip buddy comedy, Chef explores father-son relationships and the struggle to maintain balance.

‘Slice of life’ is what you might call it.

Jon Favreau is lights-out. That dude’s a boss.

He writes, directs and stars in Chef. Favreau directed Elf; he has a cameo in The Wolf of Wall Street, and plays a great supporting character in Iron Man 3. You may be surprised to find out he’s also Danny Bateman, the overzealous linebacker from The Replacements.

He’s also into comics and a big supporter of the Marvel franchise. (Yes, I can easily forgive him for Iron Man 2.)

Plus the off-type roles he wrote for Scarlett Johansson and Sofia Vergara in Chef are very strong. The whole movie’s well written. It’s not a comedy in the traditional sense, even though most websites categorize it such.

If we’re to get technical, Chef meets the prerequisite minimum of hilarious dick jokes. So in a scholarly sense it’s a comedy.

Perhaps ‘realistic fiction’ is the right name for it. I still prefer ‘slice of life.’

It tells a real story about a hardworking, driven middle-aged man who’s reached a seemingly insurmountable crisis. The interactions between Favreau and Dustin Hoffman are believable and compelling.

The viewer quickly forgets they’re watching the Hoffster, and can empathize with both sides of the conflict.

Between Scar Jo, Sofia, Dusty and all the rest, the supporting cast is phenomenal.

One final actor worthy of mention is John Leguizamo. He’s always great, and doesn’t disappoint here.

A common criticism is the initial half is far more compelling than the later. But I couldn’t disagree more.

It’s between six to eleven minutes too long but that’s the film as a whole; there is no greater or lesser half.

Chef also dives into social media and creatively incorporates animation to illustrate ‘tweeting.’

There’s no ‘stinger’ after the end-credits but if you wait until halfway through, there’s a short clip of Favreau learning to make grilled cheese from a professional. It’s not mind-bending, but it’s fun and worth the three minutes.

Chef’s not a blockbuster but it’s hilarious, heartwarming fun if you’re seeking a flick in-theaters.

I saw it for six bucks, which is a steal nowadays.

So don’t leave it on the backburner any longer.

Chef’s packed with laughs and just the right amount of sentimentality.

It’s a realistic date slice of comedic fiction life movie.

With a dusting of romance.

22 Jump Street (R)

10 Stars

In the cinematic vernacular, there isn’t a term for a complete narrative comprised of two parts.

The best online suggestions include duology (my personal favorite), diptych and dyad.

An official word is necessary for the purposes of film discussion. There are a lot of Terminator spinoffs but the first two movies (directed by James Cameron) can be referenced as one entity.

The initial pair of Back to the Futures and Godfathers can also be discussed as duologies.

To provide a different and confounding example, Ace Ventura is one of the funniest comedies of all time. One couldn’t possibly differentiate between Pet Detective and When Nature Calls because they’re equally hilarious. But the plot threads of the two yarns don’t interweave into one gilded narrative lanyard.

My long-winded point is: When we give ‘duology’ the communal stamp of approval, let’s nail down the difference between a ‘series’ (the Ace Ventura’s) and a ‘collection’ (the Godfather‘s).

In the history of the laugh genre, the top three follow-ups are Rush Hour 2, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.

But 22 Jump Street is the best comedic sequel of all time.

And it’s all about balance.

No fooling. Yin, yang and all that.

Out of three big summer comedies, this buys the pie. (‘Takes the cake’ implies self-indulgent thievery.)

Since The Hangover franchise pumped out dastardly sequels, a fatigue has developed amongst the American audience. Most moviegoers (including yours truly) can’t tolerate recycled narratives.

This movie does a twisted inversion of exactly that. So the self-referential jokes are palpable.

Two sets of twins make appearances and that just begins the list of ‘2’ jokes.

There’s quite a bit to admire here. The trailer doesn’t spoil any of the actual plot. Sure, Jonah Hill gets a mouthful of squid-ink but it occurs early on.

Neighbors releases earlier this summer, and several hearty laughs (specifically ‘the airbag scene’) are spoiled because of the trailer. A Million Ways to Die in the West spoils most of the quality jokes via previews.

Other filmmakers can learn something from the marketing department’s careful use of footage.

Call-backs are a basic comedic staple. So thorough is 22’s self-awareness that cutaways, bits of scenery, metaphorical discussions of production difficulties and the early credits sequence are dedicated to calling-back.

A quick digression regarding the credits sequence. It’s a montage combining original scenes, animation, cover art and comments on the state of brand endorsement and merchandising. It’s both a critical jab at the film industry and a salute to modern cinema. There are multiple cameos from actors like Seth Rogen, who never appear in the movie until this lengthy sequence.

This is where the filmmakers go ‘above and beyond.’ Any form of credits sequence is a gift to the viewer, and although they’re becoming more prevalent, there’s a reason most movies lack an Easter Egg: Unnecessary work. Oftentimes they’re merely add-ons and don’t contribute much to the overall experience.

But this one’s different. In a way, it signifies the filmmakers’ understanding of the industry. And it puts a satisfying cap on the comedic series.

It calls attention to all future forms of potential revenue through Jump Street spin-offs, thereby implying an end to the franchise.

It’s probably best the collection remain a fantastic duology.

Each time the plot encounters a cinematic cliché; it’s referenced by the characters mid-scene and oftentimes recapitulated through call-backs. For instance Nick Offerman returns as Deputy Chief Hardy and lectures the protagonists about repeating narratives.

Schmidt and Jenko ingest Rice Krispy treats lined with ‘Wyfy,’ the newest intoxicant amongst college students.

The use of split screen in this movie is amazing, and the side-by-side depiction of a ‘good trip’ versus a ‘bad trip’ is right on the money, and hilarious.

A similar scene takes place in A Million Ways to Die in the West, but is far inferior.

The creative editing alone is worthy of applause.

A couple notes on the acting.

Ice Cube’s rock-solid. He plays Captain Dickson and delivers a hilarious performance as a supporting player.

Jonah Hill is a talented individual. He’s credited as a contributor to the writing, stars as Schmidt and is a driving force behind the film’s production. Hill appears earlier this year in The Lego Movie as the voice of Lego Green Lantern.

22 Jump Street comes from the guys who made The Lego Movie. So it’s no surprise that Lego Superman, voiced by Channing Tatum, banters with Green Lantern.

This choice along with the credits sequence (and the reveal from The Lego Movie) exemplifies sharp writing. These creative ideas are wildly admirable. We can use more compassionate filmmaking like this.

Tatum co-leads alongside Hill as Jenko, the more physically capable of the duo. That Channing fellow is one of our finest movie stars working today. In the past year he cameos in Don Jon and This is the End, and plays a leading role in Side Effects. He campaigns for the role of Gambit in the X-Men franchise, and eventually lands it.

Now he’s Gambit in the next feature, and starring in his own film. I can’t wait for both.

There’s action, hilarious car chase antics and plenty of satire to go around.

22 Jump Street proves to be more than just a satisfying sequel.

The only question remains:

Will Dumb & Dumber To be better?

Neighbors (R)

8 Stars

In a comedy, it’s quite rare the female lead is just as funny as their male counterpart.

The only other example is Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd in This is 40.

But in Neighbors, Rose Byrne as Kelly Radner, is just as funny, if not funnier, than Seth Rogen as Mac Radner.

The recent trend in Hollywood is to release multiple comedies during the summer season. Most of the time, the general public responds to one funny movie in particular, and that comedic blockbuster is what’s remembered.

Last year, the hit of the summer was This is the End, in 2012 it was Ted, in 2011 it was Bridesmaids, in 2010 it was Get Him to the Greek, in 2009 it was The Hangover.

And, every year, another funny comedy is overshadowed by the success of the box office hit. Last year’s We’re the Millers, 2012’s 21 Jump Street, 2011’s Horrible Bosses, and 2010’s Hot Tub Time Machine.

’09 was a rough year, but ’08 makes up for it with some serious winners. Step Brothers is the most fondly remembered of that year, but let’s not forget Pineapple Express and Zack and Miri Make a Porno. (I’m a sucker for anything with Craig Robinson.)

Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West comes out May 30, so it’ll be interesting to see which movie ends up overshadowing the other.

Because Neighbors is great!

With an awesome cast, subject material that is both relatable and timely, and a hysterical script; director Nicholas Stoller’s got himself another winner here, folks.

Zac Efron’s performance in Neighbors is fantastic. He really sells it.

Oftentimes, like with Barbra Streisand in The Guilt Trip, a daring cameo can fall short. In Barbra’s case, her performance feels very artificial; like it’s been jammed into a comedy for outrageous effect. And unfortunately, her acting abilities just aren’t meant for making the modern audience laugh.

But Zac pulls it off; he plays a compelling and likable character, whom the audience feels compassion for. Not once does he feel out of place or miscast. There isn’t a single slip-up in terms of acting performance and he fits in quite well leading alongside Seth Rogen.

Rogen, for me, is always hilarious. But whether you like him or not, there’s plenty of other stuff to laugh at. Did I mention how funny Rose Byrne is?

I like that Dave Franco. He’s great in this movie, and is turning into quite a talented actor.

Neighbors earns its ‘R’ rating through a bevy of phallic jokes.

One of the film’s high-points is the sheer number of comedic performances it gets out of a cast of knowns and unknowns alike.

A young black actor, Jerrod Carmichael, plays a frat boy named Garf. His scene-stealing hilarious moments are numerous, and I’ve never heard of him before. But I wouldn’t mind seeing a lot more Carmichael in the future.

There are particular sequences worthy of note.

The first is a montage of period pieces; three scenes with different styles of shooting, depicting moments in the fraternity’s history. Each is led by cameos from comedic favorites, including the guys from Lonely Island, the Workaholics trio, and Jake Johnson from New Girl.

The other is reflective of an overall theme in Neighbors. It’s a movie for major cinephiles because there are tons of films references throughout.

The ‘Robert De Niro’ party is one of the most uproarious moments and has the entire theater rollicking with laughter.

One funny thing is the cameo by Jason Mantzoukas (as Dr. Theodorakis). He’s well-known as Rafi on FX’s The League. His character in Neighbors utilizes the same gag as the misleading doctor in Arrested Development. A similar joke appears in Family Guy and 30 Rock.

A final matter worth mentioning are the modern issues it offers commentary on. Lisa Kudrow has one of the funniest cameos as Dean Carol Gladstone, and all she’s concerned with are newspaper headlines.

In several ways, the movie makes a compelling argument for the harmlessness of fraternities. As of late, much to-do has been made over the evils of frat life. It’s nice to see somebody finally arguing for the other side.

Overall, Neighbors is a riotous batch of fresh laughs from a combination of reliable comedic mainstays and surprisingly proficient newcomers.

Whether it’s overshadowed by A Million Ways to Die in the West in a few weeks is of little concern.

For the time being, just know Neighbors is worth a trip to the theater!

The Fault in Our Stars (PG-13)

4 Stars

Betrayed by the Top Critics Score, yet again.

The Rotten Tomatoes percentage hovered in the mid-eighties a day after theatrical release.

As the ticket taker scanned my phone, a nearby police officer demanded I toss my recently purchased coffee in the garbage. I replied instinctively.

“Yes sir.”

My shoulders fell as I dropped the cup, lid still stoppered, into the pit of complete and utter waste.

For two weeks, I’ve been painting my sister’s house in Nashville to make a little money. After paying $10.50 thru Regal’s online ticketing system (a procedural headache of questionable ethics), it didn’t feel good; setting fire to $2.80.

I’m a regular, oftentimes bi-weekly, customer at Regal. It took added time and planning to attain the coffee, not to mention the work and care required by the barista.

What does that godforsaken cop stand to gain by interrupting my inquiry toward the ticket taker’s disposition?

In retrospect, perhaps politely requesting a reason would have been sufficient to reach a compromise.

But I shudder at the thought!

The Nashville taxpayers can rest easy knowing their police force keeps a devoted eye on Regal’s potential streams of revenue, and defends them from foreseeable risk.

By the way, an outside beverage policy at a movie theater is downright selfish and uncharitable to their devoted customers. It’s entirely unethical.

Anyway, back to the horrible crowd awaiting in my theater. It’s packed and buzzing with female teens and young adult couples when I sit down.

The couple sitting in front of me playfully flirts and chitchats throughout the initial half-hour of the movie.

For the first time in my life, I lean over and say, “Could you guys please stop talking?”

The girl is disgusted. And periodically reminds me with dirty looks for the remainder of the film.

The boyfriend doesn’t turn around.

Their efforts to remain silent, albeit not rigorous nor without hint of antagonism, were enough to cease the distraction.

Throughout The Fault in Our Stars, a choir of hapless sirens relinquishes groan after moan, highlighting each character’s obvious emotions, and inflating the tortuous plod of lack-luster plot.

Anderson Cowan, cohost of the best podcast ever, The Film Vault, said it best when describing, ‘the crowd of early-teen females cooing and goo-gooing,’ at every emotional turn.

A girl was bawling, crying like an infant in the back of the theater after Gus died. I’ve never been in a movie where someone subjects everyone else to their weeping.

And hey, more often than not, I’ve got leaky ducts.

But I sure as hell don’t thrust it on others. And I’ve never been uncontrollably sobbing. Most assuredly I’d make a hasty retreat out the theater.

Okay, enough personal anecdotes. I’ll complain about the actual movie now.

This film isn’t made for me. Perhaps people who like the book can’t help but enjoy the on-screen adaptation. At best, though, educated filmgoers can only qualify it as a ‘guilty pleasure.’

The Fault in Our Stars is not a good movie.

I should have known better than to trust a poster title scrawled in a chalkboard font. The use of handwritten script in the lettering of the title has become a staple of the ‘Dromantic Quirkedy.’ [Dramatic romantic quirky comedy.]

In fact, any theatrical release poster utilizing ‘the creative quirky penman theme’ with handwritten fonts, doodling on spiral notebook stock, or blackboard sketching is generally a red flag.

I haven’t read it, but I didn’t appreciate The Fault in Our Stars. It’s not okay or mild; it’s a poor film. And here’s why.

The acting is not great on Ansel Elgort’s part. His character, Gus, is overly theatrical; breaking into grandiose soliloquys which are meant to be cute and uplifting. Gus is a bit too romantic; his optimism too paper-thin. His haughty bravado is never convincing, and ultimately serves to detach the viewer. Thereby oftentimes reminding the audience they’re watching a motion picture.

Nat Wolff, who plays Isaac, is clearly meant to be ‘the funny guy.’ Of approximately thirty attempts at humor, his jokes hit home twice for the briefest of chuckles.

A lot of the black humor, such as the jokes about Isaac losing his sight, are just not funny. My God, some of the moments that get the audience roaring with laughter, are actually very tragic and harsh.

Just because something is played for laughs, doesn’t make it funny.

When Isaac’s feeling up his sexy girlfriend in the parking lot, the timing’s so stilted; it’s disorienting even discerning what’s intended to be funny.

Jokes are measured by the quality of the humor, not by the purity of a writer’s intent.

Willem Dafoe’s character is somewhat compelling, and I enjoy his off-type performance most.

The confusing scene in Anne Frank’s house is contrived and cheesy nonsense. Firstly, it feels (in a misleading manner) like something surreal’s happening.

The two American tourists start sawing face in the attic hideaway, and the surrounding European strangers respond with applause?

It’s absurd. And silly. Not uplifting.

Laura Dern, as Frannie (Hazel’s mother), is a bit of a shmoop.

Dern’s usually tough to swallow. Her performances consistently include an odd tic; an overly ambitious facial expression or touches of melodrama (I’m thinking specifically of Blue Velvet).

But in TFIOS, she’s just overly soapy. All the mother-daughter bonding moments are painful. And when she shows up wearing the towel, does anybody believe for a second that Frannie had just leapt out the tub?

All I can see is Laura Dern pretending to don a towel.

Shailene Woodley is good, as always. She’s best in a very good film, The Spectacular Now, and is one of the redeeming elements of Alexander Payne’s dreary snore, The Descendants.

The film leans on the supposition a viewer will feel unquestionable sympathy for Hazel. To be frank, she’s quite off-putting and not necessarily likable.

As far as the story goes, it’s dull and depressing. I marched out the theater feeling unfulfilled, confused and defeated.

The policeman watched as I sauntered out the exit, brandishing his nightstick and releasing a satisfied chuckle. But I’m too wrapped in thought to recognize his villainous ways.

The question I keep asking myself: What’s the rub?

My sister read the book, so I asked her.

What’s at stake? What am I supposed to take away from this story?”

“I thought it was nice they got to spend the one night together before he died.”

So there’s the selling point: The takeaway is the experience of becoming absorbed and swooning in the romantic notion of romance.

I find zero experiential value in this narrative, since the merit of an unfunny ‘Romantic Comedy’ supposedly resides in the ‘feeling of romance.’

Most men are the same way. It’s not a redeeming quality. We don’t derive satisfaction from the swooning sensation.

This is why most ‘date movies’ are bad.

But anybody older than twenty (without nostalgia for the book) will realize this is a sub par film.

Please don’t drag your significant other to this movie.

Go see Edge of Tomorrow, 22 Jump Street, Maleficent or How to Train Your Dragon 2 instead.

Way more laughs (and feel-good moments) in all four.