Entries in Ben Stiller (6)

Thursday
Dec212017

The Meyerwitz Stories (New and Selected)- review

 

“The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)" (2017)

Directed by Noah Baumbach

Starring  Adam Sandler,  Grace Van Patten,  Dustin Hoffman

Running Time 112 Minutes, Rated R.

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

The year is 2002 and Adam Sandler pulls off what Jim Carrey had just just done a few years earlier: going from buffoonery (at the time still awesome buffoonery) to his first critically acclaimed film that was much in part to his also critically acclaimed acting.  That film is Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch-Drunk Love”, one of my absolute favorites.  I was so happy for the melding of those two talents that it seemed like a no doubter that Sandler would follow that film with another acting triumph much like Carrey did with “The Truman Show” to “The Man on the Moon”.  Well, a truckload of movies and payday films later, and it didn’t happen; sure “Spanglish”, “Reign Over Me”, and “Funny People” had their moments, but it wasn’t until now that Sandler and another talented director really pulled off that feat.  15 years after “Punch-Drunk Love” Noah Baumbach reminds us that Sandler really can act with Netflix’s “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected).

 

This is my favorite work from Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale”, “Frances Ha”) to date.  Baumbach tells stories about dysfunctional family but he does it with so much love and care for that family.  In this film everything orbits around the patriarch Harold Meyerowitz played by Dustin Hoffman, who hasn’t had a role this good in many years.  Harold, a sculptor, was minor deal in the art world but has a major ego, which has loomed over his kids their whole lives; Danny (Adam Sandler), Matthew (Ben Stiller), and Jean (Elizabeth Marvel). Sandler taps into his sweet and rage persona much like Punch-Drunk, as the son who was all too often pushed aside for Stiller’s Matthew which formed both of their neurosis while Jean wasn’t left out from being bequeathed issues by always being complacent.  

Baumbach’s dialogue is exhausting in all the good ways.  As characters speak over each other, focusing on just what they’re trying to get out of the conversation, especially in Hoffman’s hard to like Harold you can understand how his offspring were eager to please until they weren’t anymore.  

Consider the The Meyerowitz Stories a winner, I just hope it’s not 2032 before Sandler’s next triumph.

John 5:19

 

Tuesday
Feb232016

Zoolander 2- review

 

“Zoolander 2” (2016)

Directed by Ben Stiller

Starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penelope Cruz

Running Time 102 Minutes, Rated PG-13

1 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

This is what I waited around 15 years for?!!  

I’m a big fan of the original, still quote it to this day.  So it comes with much frustration to see Ben Stiller’s return to his cult moronic supermodel Derek Zoolander fall so incompetently flat.  Basically, “Zoolander 2” can go ahead and Derelick my balls.      

 

Writers Ben Stiller and Justin Theroux don’t even come close to recapturing the satirical zaniness of the original.  After another model assassin plot is achingly set up, this time infinitely more convoluted, Stiller and Theroux decide to substitute jokes with an annoying amount of wasted cameos.  From Kiefer Sutherland, who is a part of Hansel’s (Owen Wilson) orgy family, to Benedict Cumberbatch as a he/she whip-handling model, to a myriad of pop stars, to every major fashion designer that can’t act (which is all of them).  Not even Billy Zane could brighten up the day.

A lot of the original's gags are forced back with diminishing returns.  In fact, only Will Ferrell got the memo that “Zoolander 2” was supposed to a comedy and not a reminder that long gestated sequels can’t hold a candle to their predecessor (“Dumb and Dumber To”, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”)     

“Zoolander 2” is really, really, ridiculously unfunny.

“This” is really, really, ridiculously unfunny.

1 Peter 3:3

 

Saturday
Jan042014

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty- review

 

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (2013)

Directed by Ben Stiller

Starring  Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig

Running Time 114 Minutes, Rated PG

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

There’s one scene in particular that tries and almost singlehandedly succeeds to derail Ben Stiller’s mega ambitious “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”.  

Stiller who plays Walter Mitty, a very shy worker bee type who’s been employed by LIFE Magazine for the last 16 years, lives out his wants and braveness through his vivid imagination where he ‘zones out’ from the real world. One such ‘zone out’ has Walter finally confessing his affections to his fellow employee Sheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) but letting her know he has ‘that Benjamin Button thing’ where his ‘zone out’ fantasy ends with the two “happily ever after” on a big country house porch with Walter small as a child but wrinkly and old on death’s knocking door.  It’s a scene that doesn’t succeed as either silly goofy or weirdly heartbreakingly romantic for our socially awkward lead.  

Even though that scene fires and misses wildly, I still respect the hell out of it.  It felt very much like one of Ben Stiller’s sketches from his very short lived sketch show, “The Ben Stiller Show” that lasted all but 13 episodes from the end of 1992 to the first half of 1993.  I really dug that show (I’ve got it on my now out of date DVD shelf).  Stiller’s comedy even then was often to draw out the serious from very wacky situational or topical humour.  Many sketches for me worked, but there were no doubt duds that missed the mark by a great deal. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” feels like all of Ben Stiller, no punches pulled, even if some punches whiff and missed, and I very much dug that.  

Walter Mitty is a man trying to find himself and become more than just his imagination.  The movie is much the same; about halfway through the film when Walter grasps onto who he is and starts to live the adventure he always wanted, so does the film come to finally know itself and clamp down on a consistent tone that is both very rewarding and very inspiring.  

Besides telling you the introverted Walter often ‘zones out’ and has a deep work crush, I haven’t given you much on plot on the 1939 James Thurber story and loose remake of the 1947 film adaptation.  

Life Magazine is turning into Life Online Magazine by the end of the week, which will quickly result in a high percentage of layoffs for the company.  Walter, the ‘negative assets manager’ is responsible for bringing the images of famed and revered photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), who still shoots in old school film to be the last ever cover photo of this film’s version of Time Magazine.  Calamity strikes when the negatives are lost, and if found out will mean the sure end of Walter’s job by the hands of the evil bearded managing director Ted Hendricks (played effectively mean by Adam Scott).  Walter must now go on a real life quest that will take him through Greenland to Iceland, and all the way to the tops of the Himalayas to find the recluse photographer O’Connell.  

Stiller gives it his all in front of the screen when he’s not behind it, and Kristin Wiig proves she can play a normal person that proves worthy of Walter’s affections, but it’s Sean Penn’s no more than 10 minutes of screen time that really bring the screen to life.  When we meet Penn’s O’Connell, he’s patiently waiting to capture a snapshot of the rare Himalayan mountain lion to which he refers to as a ‘ghost cat’.  Director Stiller is able to capture his ‘ghost cat’ when he is able to get Penn, the usually grizzled Oscar winner to smile on screen.  That rare feat is able to bring Stiller’s soulful journey to the top of the mountain.

Joshua 1:9

 

Monday
Jul302012

The Watch- review

“The Watch” (2012)
Directed by Akiva Schaffer
Starring  Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill
Running Time 101 Minutes, Rated R.
2 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

Akiva Schaffer is one of three members of the Lonely Island comedy trio.  They’re the guys who do the digital shorts for SNL.  Members include Schaffer, Jorma Taconne, and the more famous Andy Samberg.  Their comedy is crude and way off the center, just the way I like it.  

Their stuff isn’t for everyone, and there's nothing wrong with that. If you like it, then good for you, if not, then no offense taken.  Schaffer previously directed the oddly superb “Hot Rod”, starring Samberg and Taconne, and if you’re a fan of that than you and I could be very good friends.  For most it’s not their cup of goofy tea, but “Hot Rod”, much like Taconne’s directed “MacGruber”, that also has started to pick up a cult following, was consistent in its beat of a different drum throughout, and that’s what makes those two films extra funny to me.  

The sin with the all-over-the-place-but-humour- “The Watch” is that it wants to be goofy weird, but it’s big league Fox Studios and hefty 68 million dollar budget doesn’t allow for that.  “The Watch” is more watered down than a Houston resident’s front lawn, and more confused about how to handle itself than a chicken in a pillow factory.  Not coming close to the R rated “Ghostbusters it wants to be, “The Watch” meets its umpteenth quota of Costco and genital jokes. This film makes it hard at times to engage comfortably in this film’s title.    

Ben Stiller plays the control freak Evan, a Costco manager who spends his time starting clubs and confusing the members with friends.  When one of his employees is killed by, and the trailer gives it away, extraterrestrials, Evan starts a neighborhood watch.  Evan may take it seriously, but the joined members Bob (Vince Vaughn) looks at it as a buddy club, Franklin (Jonah Hill) wants to work out some mental issues, and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) is newly divorced and looking for adventure.  Stiller, Vaughn, and Hill you know, but it’s the British comedian Ayaode, who directed last year’s stellar “Submarine”, who gets to be the odd Zach Galifianakas like comedy breakout here.  

“The Watch” bounces all over the place, and rarely results in big laughs due to a lowest common demoninator script that comes from none other than Seth Rogen.  Lots of sit down scenes of the four shooting the excrement. You can see them struggle, almost aimlessly throwing comedy darts and missing the board all together.  There was a time when Vaughn’s rapid fire did it for me, but here he’s amped up higher than usual on some sort of Vaughn steroids.  I know it’s his thing to interrupt, but for goodness sake Vince, let Ben get out a line or two.  At times Vaughn hijacks the film, and I suppose he bullied Schaffer into letting him be the heavy at times.  

It’s not that each of these successful comedians doesn’t get a laugh or two, but for my ticket of admission price it was Will Forte in a much smaller part who got a laugh from me every time he was onscreen.  This isn’t nearly enough to win anyone over.  Rosemary DeWitt, who just came off of the splendid “Your Sister’s Sister” is wasted as Stiller’s wife, and so is Billy Crudup as Stiller’s peculiar neighbor.         

I came, I saw, and I watched a disappointing film drown in inconsistency.

I came, I saw, and I watched a disappointing “this” drown in inconsistency.

 

Monday
Nov072011

Tower Heist- review

“Tower Heist” (2011)
Directed by Brett Ratner
Starring Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck
Running Time 104 Minutes, Rated PG-13
2.5 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

“Tower Heist” could have gone for the jackpot but instead it settled for the quick-buck.  

In these trying financial times the common man and woman, with displays such as “Occupy Wall Street”, have begun to show the cultural movement against the way things have been running.   “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore”, perfectly captured the confusion and angst of similar times with the 1976 classic “Network”.  Now you don’t need to be a groundbreaking Oscar winning film to be today’s vessel for such, that’s asking too much from studio’s nowadays, but the timing is perfect for a film where a hard working, unemployed, and down on his luck David rose up for his fellow brethren and conquered the high and mighty swindler and overall jerk billionaire Goliath.  While Brett Ratner’s caper-romp will give you moments of enjoyable escapism it wasn’t enough for the payoff.

In a luxurious Manhattan high-rise tower, Wall Street juggernaut Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) sits atop but claims to be rooted as a man of the people.  People like the multi-cultural working-stiff staff at the tower who take care for his every need.  Turns out (and  Alda plays with such a sinister smile), Shaw is a Madoff-like Ponzi-scheming thief.  Of the many people he’s defrauded are the Tower's employer's pensions.   When life-long doorman Lester attempts suicide after losing his life savings that he invested under Shaw, building manager Josh Kovak (Ben Stiller) says he can stand it no more and decides to rob Shaw’s hidden apartment stash of $20 million dollars.

Josh brings in a very un-elite team for the heist that includes the talents of Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Michael Peña, Gabourey Sidibe, and the latest comeback from Eddie Murphy as Slide, a petty thief that Josh believes has been there and done that.  Of course none of these schmucks have been there or done that, and a lot of good laughs play out but at the same time its scary how the hard working Josh is able to switch gears committing to such a risky endeavor where not only he could lose everything but for everyone else he has enlisted who have such things as families to take care of.  Interesting plot developments spice up the ante, and the Robin Hood theme has you cheering along but at no point did I think this “team” had what it took to pull this caper off.  When the heist sneaks up on us the fun escapism escapes with nothing left but my eyes rolling in the back of my head.   

What Ratner and scribes Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson get right is starting off the movie not by developing subplots for later but by developing characters.  With the films talented cast, we’re given more than just cartoon images with gags to play out.  For the most part Murphy showed us that faint memory of when we knew him as the funniest man on the planet.  As a Stiller fan myself, I would have like to seen more Tropic Thunder Stiller than Night at the Museum Stiller but I’ll take it and thank the Lord he hasn’t gone the Sandler route yet.  Téa Leoni plays and FBI agent on Shaw’s case and besides one hilarious drunken scene with Stiller (re-teaming from the great “Flirting With Disaster”) she is muted.  Shame on “Tower Heist” for not utilizing the raspy actress who happens to be one of Hollywood’s funnier women.

Of course Ratner’s faults play stronger as there’s enough plot holes to fill a bakers dozen.  Ratner can use a big budget to plate up a turd with gold all he wants but at the end of the day with “Tower Heist”, you’re still just watching golden poo.       

But with “this”, you’re still just watching golden poo.

 

Monday
Mar222010

Greenberg- review

“Greenberg” (2010) Directed by Noah Baumbach

Staring Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig

Running Time 107 Minutes

Rated R.

4 out of 5 Mitch’s

Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

Writer/director Noah Baumbach has delivered a brutally honest dramedy of an older man living in the past because he was too scared to live in the present and a younger woman who is too passive in her search for affection.  Baumbach, who wrote his latest release “Greenberg”, has a penchant for the neurotic and narcissistic.  While I enjoyed “The Squid and the Whale” and didn’t really connect with “Margot at the Wedding”, “Greenberg” is his most complete, complex, and enjoyable work to date.

The title character is Greenberg, Roger that is, played very intelligently by Ben Stiller in his finest dramatic turn yet.  Stiller captures Greenberg’s harshness perfectly yet at the same time lets us in on a tender side that he’s desperately attempting however alien it is to him.  Stiller has even dropped some of his usual muscle mass that he regularly shows off in his bigger pictures.  Having spent many years in N.Y.C., Greenberg is house sitting in the Hollywood Hills of Cali for his successful brother who is vacationing in Vietnam with his family.  Greenberg having just been released from a mental institution due to depression spends most of his time writing articulate complaint letters to large corporations such as Starbucks or American Airlines and building a doghouse for his brothers dog Mahler.  Besides that Greenberg has declared he’s doing nothing right now in regards with his life, which his brothers 25 year-old assistant Florence Marr (Greta Gerwig) admires.

Watch out for Greta Gerwig.  She really shines in this, playing Florence with a vulnerability that is heartbreaking.  In one of the more awkward sex scenes ever that I can remember, Florence sheepishly admits after Greenberg tells Florence they shouldn’t do this again, “I’ve gotta stop doing things just because they feel good.”  But she doesn’t, as they keep reconnecting Greenberg lets her in only to keep rejecting her.  She understands the psychobabble she passes on to Greenberg “Hurt people hurt people”, but is slow to do anything about it.

You know that guy who has burnt all his bridges and you wonder if they realize if they’re a jerk or not?  Well that’s Greenberg.  Losing his cool at any particular moment and putting up an angered wall that somehow Florence passively allows because it’s his defense mechanism.  What Noah Baumbach brilliantly does is gives the lead performance to a man like this and still makes you care for him.  Only Ivan played by Rhys Ifans in a nicely restrained portrayal, as the sadly honorable former band mate will make an effort toward him besides Florence. Greenberg keeps screwing things up but he’s trying which plays out in the excellently written climatic party scene between the two.

People in there 40’s don’t have the time for the figuring out of life that those in there 20’s have and Greenberg is paying for the consequences.  With a sharp bite Greenberg grieves that youth isn’t just being wasted on the young but life is being wasted on the living.  Sadly, I think this touching and uncomfortably hilarious film will have a tough sell at the mega-chain theatres and will be unseen by the living.

“This” will be unseen by the living.