Archive for the 'Jason Berggren' Category

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

****½

“I don’t know if I should help you or euthanize you.”

The Berggren Bottom Line: Crazy, Stupid, Love is sweet, smart, and moving. It is not carefree and lighthearted. Instead, it humorously brings the viewer through the monotony and difficulties of relationships. The story weaves through this maze of the grey areas of life with intelligence and depth. It made me laugh, reflect, and want to be a better person. Truth be told, it even threw dust in my eyes a couple times. This is a great film and you should see it.

Crazy. That’s what life is.

Stupid. That’s what we can become if we aren’t vigilant in the most important areas of our lives.

Love. It all seems to converge here. If we say we love, but our actions and words do not perpetually represent this, it dies.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is not just a movie. It is a very entertaining and worthwhile message about marriage and family. Yes, this is a great date movie. But you will carry it with you home as you process your own life in light of the circumstances and outcomes it presented.

“I want a divorce.”

It begins with these words. Let’s be honest. If you aren’t a heartless robot, those are hard words to hear. Most of us today are affected by divorce on some level, and it isn’t a pleasant memory. And although it seems a heavy place to begin a story, it effectively hooks the viewer immediately. With that, the maze begins. And don’t worry, it is filled with plenty of hilarity.

Steve Carell is likeable. Is there any question of that? He is the main character in this film. Sure, I am sad he is leaving The Office, but I think it’s the right call—especially considering roles like this. He can play the sarcastic and senseless jester bringing guiltless laughs flawlessly, but he can do so much more. Somewhat similar to Dan In Real Life, Carell once again plays a lost and dull aging man that desperately needs to rediscover a passion for life. And he does it splendidly, in a different context, in a way that is both fresh and heartrending.

It was both painful and hysterical to watch Carell clumsily thrust into the singles scene as a middle-aged man trying to blend in. He resembled a bull in a China shop wearing New Balance sneakers. This is all new to him since he married his High School Sweetheart. But these are the kinds of scenes you can watch over and over and laugh like it’s new each time.

Supported by a great cast including Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei, and even Kevin Bacon. This film is a freight train of charm, insight, and wisdom traveling together with humorous momentum toward positive resolutions. And it was not predictable. In fact, there is a big reveal that I totally didn’t see coming.

Crazy, Stupid, Love was deep, moving, and refreshing and thank you Hollywood for putting a high value on marriage in this movie.

Parents: Not for kids. This is for couples. That’s it.

Green Lantern

Friday, June 17th, 2011

***

“I, Hal Jordan, do pledge allegiance to a lantern that I got from a dying purple alien in a swamp.”

The Berggren Bottom Line: This movie is the kind of ‘green’ movement I’m in to. No touchy-feely tree-hugging-hybrid-Subaru-driving here. Just muscle car and jet fighter energy vanquishing an easy-to-hate mega villain.

When I was growing up, Green Lantern was my second favorite superhero. I’m not sure what the Lantern had that I liked that made him second only to Superman, but I even learned how to fold a dollar bill into a ring that resembled his own. Now, I’m not totally versed in GL mythology. I only had about eight comic books that I amassed between 11 and 12, but then it happened. I started to like girls, so my Green Lantern interest faded. But I’ve always liked the Green Lantern.

Ironically, the Green Lantern movie had many reminders of the original Superman movie circa 1978 starring Christopher Reeve. I’m not sure if that was purposeful, but it worked. In the opening scenes, like Superman, Green Lantern opens up with visuals of outer space accompanied by narration. This was tactful and smart. It teed up the whole story for the novice and Dragon Con nerd fan alike. In addition, much of the background music had echoes of the Superman soundtrack. It was eerie—but fine by me.

Green Lantern was intense. The superhero genre lives somewhere between sci-fi and fantasy, and Lantern leaned toward the sci-fi. It even had slight hints of horror in how it depicted evil. It maintained vivid images of a dark and demonic-feeling throughout. In fact, I’d compare the darkness in it to that of the first Hellboy movie. The villain literally sucked the souls out of its victims feeding on their fear. And that’s what the story centered around.

So how do you kill a villain that feeds off fear? Don’t be afraid of course! Easy enough, right? That’s what Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) works to figure out: How to be fear free. Not an easy personal journey when dealing with personal demons as well. Defeating fear on the inside was the key to beating it on the outside.

All this combined in an effort to break away from your run-of-the-mill superhero movie. For me, it did it well enough to justify the price of theater admission. My main criticism is the pace. It started with action right away, but beyond that, it struggled to maintain a balance between sporadic action and drawn out character development. This drained the momentum. Sometimes it dragged on trying to develop too much, instead of giving a little more much-needed action.

I thought Ryan Reynolds did well as Green Lantern. I don’t know why, but there is something about him that I have liked since Blade 3. He’s rash, volatile, opinionated, and sarcastic, which made for a great Green Lantern discovering his responsibility. Although this is exactly the type of American attitude that my enlightened European family members love to hate, in the end those obnoxious Americans always save the day, right? So who can complain?

Lastly, I saw it in 3D. I’m not partial to 3D. About half way through my eyes start to get irritated. I personally don’t think it’s the future in movies. I just think it’s a quick, easy way for moviemakers to demand $12 a ticket. But the 3D didn’t bother me this time. It was fine and seemed to fit, like with Avatar. Oh yeah, don’t forget to stay past the credits for some sequel set-up.

So, in the words of my son who turned to me as soon Green Lantern ended, “That was awesome and loud!”

Parents: Like I said, this movie was intense. My son will be 9 in a month and I wondered if he would sleep okay that night. He did, but just a word of warning. There’s not too much bad language. Just really strong images of evil.

Judy Moody & The Not Bummer Summer

Friday, June 10th, 2011

*½

“No one in this family has any imagination!”

The Berggren Bottom Line: Judy Moody seemed like a wannabe combination of Dr. Seuss, Superfudge, and Pippi Longstocking for modern audiences, but it lacked any of the originality of those tales. This movie was not worth its weight in a box office ticket and treat prices for the family. Save yourself and go for a bike ride.

First, let me make it clear that my dislike for this film is not because it is for kids. In my bio you will see several kids films listed as my favorites. Second, let me say I am not familiar with the Judy Moody book(s) that this movie is based upon. I know nothing of them. They seem to be very popular and are probably very good, but this movie wasn’t.

The movie begins very promising. It starts on the last day of school before the summer starts. Everyone knows that’s the best day of school. Unfortunately, Judy gets ‘bummed’ because she finds out her best friends aren’t going be home for the summer. So they won’t be there to adventure with her. She’s destined for a bummer summer and audiences are destined for a bummer movie–literally.

The best part of this movie was that the guy who played Steve Urkel (Jaleel White) from Family Matters was in it. And he was even pretty good. In fact, the casting was pretty good overall, although I had a hard time figuring out 30% of what the kid playing Judy’s brother said. He had a bit of a speech impediment. It’s not that I have a problem with handicaps. And I’m all for celebrating victory over them by giving people opportunities. Unfortunately, with quick sequences, fast dialogue, and flashy visuals, it was hard to follow his dialogue. My son kept saying, “What did he say, Dad?” Bummer.

This movie was just trying too hard. It combined some animation to capture a particular imagination sequence Judy was having. Trying to be creative, it just came off weak. Judy also used lots of new ‘cool’ words like “thrilladellic” this and “megasuper” that. It just wasn’t on-top-of-spaghetti cool or supercalifragilisticexpithrilladellic. It was uberlame and a bummer.

Judy Moody just wasn’t a ‘movie’ quality film. Actually, I’ve seen plenty of iCarly episodes with my kids that were better than this film. Sure, it had some fun parts and cute laughs, but it would have been better as a made-for-television movie. Lastly, it was about 15 minutes too long. So save yourself and some money: rent it or Netflix it if you have to see it.

Sorry folks. I don’t mean to be a scrooge, but Judy Moody bummed me out and made me depressed for wasting my time watching it.

Parents: Although rated PG, it was a very clean and innocent movie. Good for any kid over 4 (if there’s absolutely nothing else to see).

The Hangover Part II

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

See what OUR Wolfpack had to say about THE Wolfpack!

Limacher's Review Sergio Diaz' Review Jason Berggren's Review Rick Swift's Review

Click on each character’s face for a different review, then post your comments below and let me know which writer belongs to which character!

 

 

Sucker Punch

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

**½

For those who fight for it, life has a flavor that those who don’t will never know.

Pretty girls scantily outfitted in leather with lots of big weapons fighting samurai, Nazi’s, zombies, ghouls, dragons, and robots. For some that is enough. But I’m no longer 15. I need a bit more.

In Sucker Punch, Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300, Dawn of the Dead) has created a film that vacillates between reality and fantasy, fantasy and reality, and fantasy and fantasy. But it isn’t as confusing as it sounds. It’s all about “girl power” sticking it to the man (literally) in the thick of fantastical battlegrounds.

Textured with impressive special effects and 80’s songs remade (which I really liked), it clearly strives to be trendy. My favorite background song was the remake of “Asleep” by The Smiths. There is hardly a more ethereal and moody song. It was the perfect selection for the main character, Babydoll, lamenting her new demise in an insane asylum waiting for an unnecessary lobotomy. It was also the perfect fit and set-up for the film overall—perhaps even the most powerful moment in the film. It was also great to hear Björk make an appearance on the soundtrack as well.

Seeking release for her and her newfound—and also abused—sanitarium female companions (Rocket, Blondie, Amber, and Sweet Pea), Babydoll devises a plan of escape for her insane girl posse. Creating existential battles for her band of sisters in the recesses of her fragmented mind, Babydoll fights to get free in order to cope with the fears of her true reality. With every victory she steps closer to liberation, both mental and actual. Sounds neat, right? And it sort of was.

Realizing that I was simply watching someone’s overactive imagination (according to the storyline) left me feeling a bit empty at times. I frequently wondered, “So what?” In my imagination I am rich, famous, ripped with muscles, a genius, have a full head of black hair, am 6’4”, 200 lbs., and forever 25. Isn’t that interesting to you? Even with the best special effects, not really. And that’s my point. I do need a sense of realism to keep me interested, even with all those fancy special effects.

This movie was also lacking a sense of humor. There was only one resounding laugh in the packed theater I was in throughout the whole film. That’s a problem. Every action movie, especially one with such a grim underlying storyline, needs a few moments of tension release. A one-liner or two doesn’t necessarily take away from stories with serious undertones. Done well, they can actually enhance the mythology by creating a sense of irony (which life is certainly peppered with and people identify with), while giving the viewer a needed moment to breathe. Sucker Punch was all tension, tension, and more tension. Unfortunately, this leaves the viewer looking for the end and not enjoying the moment.

Sucker Punch had some solid jabs, but was not a TKO.

Parents: Sucker Punch really fought to keep a PG-13 rating, while pushing that envelope the whole time. Lots of violence, plenty of mature themes, but the language was pretty mild. I can recall an “ass” or two, and one s-bomb. This is one of those movies that would have been R rated 20 years ago. This is definitely not for anyone under 13.