REVIEW: THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU

CAST

Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses)
Tina Fey (30 Rock)
Jane Fonda (Monster-In-Law)
Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
Rose Byrne (Spy)
Corey Stoll (Ant-Man)
Kathryn Hahn (Bad Moms)
Connie Britton (American Ultra)
Timothy Olyphant (Santa Clarita diet)
Dax Shepard (Chips)
Debra Monk (The Savages)
Abigail Spencer (The Forger)
Ben Schwartz (The Other Guys)

Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, and Adam Driver in This Is Where I Leave You (2014)Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) finds out his wife Quinn (Abigail Spencer) has been having an affair with his boss Wade (Dax Shepard) for a year. After he moves out, Judd’s sister Wendy (Tina Fey) calls to tell him their father Mort has died. The Altmans gather for the funeral at their mother’s home where they reconnect with family friends Horry Callen (Timothy Olyphant), and his mother Linda (Debra Monk). Wendy is unhappy because her husband Barry (Aaron Lazar) is too busy with work. Judd reunites with his older brother Paul (Corey Stoll) and Paul’s wife Annie (Kathryn Hahn), who had once been Judd’s girlfriend. The youngest brother, Phillip (Adam Driver), arrives late with older, therapist girlfriend Tracy (Connie Britton) and interrupts the funeral.Jane Fonda and Tina Fey in This Is Where I Leave You (2014)The Altmans’ mother, Hilary (Jane Fonda) tells her children their father wanted them to sit shiva (despite the fact that Mort was an atheist), presided over by the Altmans’ childhood friend, rabbi Charles “Boner” Grodner (Ben Schwartz). Wendy knows about Judd’s discovery of Quinn’s infidelity, about which he avoids telling everyone else. Judd also reunites with Penny Moore (Rose Byrne), a girl who had a crush on him in high school. During a family gathering, Wendy drunkenly badgers Judd to tell the truth about Quinn. Phillip laments being seen as the family screw-up, while also flirting with another girl while Tracy watches. Irritated, Judd blurts out that Quinn was cheating on him and he plans to divorce her. Quinn shows up the next day and reveals she’s pregnant with Judd’s child. It could not be Wade’s child as he is sterile. Phillip finds out about the pregnancy and reveals this to the family.Jason Bateman and Rose Byrne in This Is Where I Leave You (2014)The family goes to temple for a service where the brothers sneak out to smoke joints Judd found in his father’s suit. Annie, upset that she and Paul haven’t conceived, crawls into bed with Judd in hopes that he could get her pregnant, but he rejects her. Wendy visits Horry in his backyard, and expresses her remorse over being involved the accident that caused Horry’s brain injury and then leaving him. A few days later, when her husband leaves for a conference, an upset Wendy sleeps with Horry. Being caught walking home in the morning by Judd, she tearfully confesses she will never love Barry the way she loved Horry. Judd spends the night with Penny, and then spends the day with her. But then Quinn calls him out of fear that she is having a miscarriage, and he admits to Penny that Quinn is pregnant. Judd gets to the hospital to be with Quinn, only for Wade to show up. The baby is fine and is determined to be a girl. Upon being asked to leave by the OB, Judd and Wade get into a fight in the waiting room. When Philip and Wendy arrive, Wendy punches Wade in the face. Upon leaving, Wade tells Judd he’s not ready to be a step-dad and leaves Quinn.Jane Fonda, Connie Britton, Tina Fey, Kathryn Hahn, and Adam Driver in This Is Where I Leave You (2014)The next day, Annie apologizes to Judd, tearfully confessing that she only wants a baby so badly and is so frustrated by her lack of progress with Paul. Judd replies that she should focus and remember the things she does have with Paul, the love they share and not let the need for a baby ruin her marriage. Paul walks in as Judd hugs her and assumes they were kissing. Paul chases and attacks Judd as Tracy leaves Phillip for being unfaithful, resulting in the three brothers fighting. Hillary silences everyone by kissing Linda passionately in front of all the spectators and informs everyone that she and Linda are in love, something Mort was happy with. She admits the Shiva was her idea, in order to come out to all her children at once and get them all to reconnect. The four siblings are shocked at first, but see their mother is happy and accept it.Jane Fonda, Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, and Corey Stoll in This Is Where I Leave You (2014)One night, when the power goes out in the basement (where Judd is staying), Judd attempts to fix the problem in the power box, only to be given an electrical shock that knocks him out. He dreams of a memory with his father, where Judd had fallen down from his bike as a child, and his father comforted him and pressed his forehead to his, a characteristic sign of affection Mort used for his children. Judd wakes up crying, finally fully mourning for his father. Judd meets Penny at the skating center, apologizing for not being honest. Wendy leaves with her two kids, waving to Horry from the car, tearing up as she lets him go again. The brothers make amends, and Paul offers Phillip a job at their father’s sporting goods store. Judd decides to quietly slip out, and after loading his luggage in his car, steals Phillip’s Porsche 997. The final shot is of Judd driving on the highway to Maine, a place he has always wanted to go.Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, and Adam Driver in This Is Where I Leave You (2014)This film was actually funny, but not in a slap-sticky juvenile way. It was a comedy for grown ups in that it dealt with themes that are applicable to 30 and 40-somethings, such as death of a parent, fertility, running a business, divorce, etc., but it was not a heavy film in that it was not a dark comedy. The father who died as the premise for it was never presented to the audience, which keeps his passing from being a sad event and allows for the levity at his funeral to be appreciated. The film generally seems to focus the most of Bateman’s character and his relationships with others, but he carries that role well. In fact, I thought this performance was one of his finest in quite some time. Tina Fey was great in it too. I thought she was just a comedian, but she can act too!. Overall, this film is worth seeing and is a powerful yet lighthearted journey in the interplay between siblings and the event that all 30 & 40 somethings will face at some point: the loss of a parent. If this film doesn’t get you thinking about your relationship with your family members, then nothing will. Not to worry, the family in this film has enough dysfunction to make you feel better about your own.

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REVIEW: CHIPS (2017)

CAST

Michael Pena (Ant-man)
Dax Shepard (Hit & Run)
Vincent D’Onofrio (Jurassic World)
Rosa Salazar (Epic)
Jessica McNamee (The Vow)
Adam Brody (Cop Out)
Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Enchanted)
Richard T. Jones (Santa Clarita Diet)
Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars)
Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm In The Middle)
Justin Chatwin (War of The Worlds)
David Koechner (Anchorman)
Ed Begley Jr (Batman Forever)
Kristen Bell (The Boss)
Maya Rudolph (50 First Dates)
Josh Duhamel (Transformers)
Erik Estrada (King Cobra)
Andrew Howard (Limitless)
Merrin Dungey (Alias)
Megalyn Echikunwoke (That 70s Show)
Ben Falcone (Tammy)
Mae Whitman (The Duff)
Adam Rodriguez (Magic Mike)

Michael Peña in CHIPS (2017)The film begins with a getaway driver waiting for his crew in a Miami bank. Following a brief car chase, the driver reveals himself as Special Agent Castillo (Michael Peña) of the FBI. He then arrests the criminal crew who killed his former partner. During the arrest, Castillo fires his service weapon through his partner’s, Special Agent Clay Allen’s (Adam Brody), shoulder. He then proceeded to show a naked photo of the criminal’s wife to prove Castillo’s affair with her.Michael Peña and Dax Shepard in CHIPS (2017)Meanwhile, at the training center for the California Highway Patrol, Jon Baker (Dax Shepard) is a trainee who is awaiting his final exam to graduate. Failing a series of simple tests, he is placed at the desk of CHP Sergeant Gail Hernandez (Maya Rudolph) for a final interview and decision. Hernandez acknowledges his ability to “ride” a motorcycle better than the majority of the cadets she trained. She grants him probationary approval to graduate pending a performance review based on Citations, Arrests and Good overall evaluations from Superiors. During the interview he mentions his past as a motocross competition champion and the fallout resulting from his injuries on the track. After losing all he had gained, from sponsors to contracts, Baker’s wife Karen (Kristen Bell) divorced him and allowed Baker to remain a resident of their estate in the guest house.Michael Peña and Dax Shepard in CHIPS (2017)Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, the California Highway Patrol begins a pursuit with a crew of robbers that ride motorcycles following their robbery of an armored car. During the chase, a CHP Air Unit is overhead. The helicopter’s pilot recognizes the Armed Guard that is being held hostage and is told by the hostage taker to jump from the chopper to prove his love. The pilot subsequently jumps to his death. The guard is told by the Hostage Taker, referred to as “L.T.”, to return the money he stole as part of the crew. In Miami, Castillo’s boss Agent Peterson (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) notifies him that his actions resulted in the Bureau convening a review panel to consider terminating Castillo from the FBI. Following the conversation, he orders Castillo to go undercover in California to help investigate the series of armored car robberies with alleged connections to the police.Michael Peña and Dax Shepard in CHIPS (2017)Castillo is given the alias of Officer Frank (Ponch) Poncherello in the California Highway Patrol’s LA District. Unknown to the officers, CHP Lieutenant Raymond Kurtz (Vincent D’Onofrio) is the leader of a small group of corrupt CHP Officers. The group is committing these robberies to gather money for Kurtz’s heroin addicted son (Justin Chatwin) to escape the access to drugs he has in LA. Now undercover as Officer Poncherello he arrives at his assigned station. There he is partnered with Baker who immediately shows the inability to speak to women as fellow Officer Ava Perez (Rosa Salazar) invites him to take a motorcycle tour of her favorite route. Baker mistakes this as an attempt to hit on him, which angers Perez greatly.Michael Peña and Ryan Hansen in CHIPS (2017)Following a long time in a public restroom, Baker accuses Ponch of masturbating multiple times a day to refrain from his sexual addiction. As they discuss the issue, Ponch brings up the fact that if Baker hasn’t had sex with his wife for than a year, it obviously means that someone is doing her for him. During that argument, the robbery crew makes another attempt at an armored truck job. The crew shoots and kills two CHP Officers during the attempt prompting a police response. While responding the crew evades them using Ducati motorcycles. Baker then saves Ponch from being run over by a trucker who was unfocused on the road. During another chase, Baker encounters Kurtz’ son. The two begin a pursuit that results in Lieutenant Kurtz running Baker over with a SWAT van after his son is decapitated and subsequently killed by a steel cable. Officer Perez (Rosa Salazar) begins CPR and the air unit is called in to airlift Baker to a hospital while Kurtz escapes easily. Following the incident, Castillo is held responsible by the FBI Agent in charge of the case for the 3 CHP officers and 2 FBI agents that were injured.During that time, Baker is confronted by Officer Perez and asked if he would like to get a ride home from her. Baker responds that he would like to wait for his wife to come for him. Perez leaves upset about the encounter. While this is happening, Castillo mistakenly dials Captain Jane Lindel and begins sexting her. Upon seeing her naked and having an episode of Premature ejaculation, Castillo destroys his phone. The next day, Peterson travels to LA to speak to Castillo since his phone wasn’t working. Upon seeing the level of destruction Castillo caused, Peterson agrees with the panel’s decision and terminates Castillo from the FBI. With no one picking him up from his discharge, Baker is met by Castillo and the two discuss the sexting issue and his termination from the bureau.Michael Peña, Dax Shepard, and Rosa Salazar in CHIPS (2017)Baker and Castillo return to the Baker residence to find that Karen (Kristen Bell) and her new boyfriend Rick (Josh Duhamel) sold the house and all of Baker’s assets to another family. They sit down and enjoy dinner together while discussing the case. There, after seeing the photo of the severed head of the suspect, Baker realizes that the suspect competed against him in the Motocross sport. They begin a simple Google Search that reveals the full legal name of the suspect and the clear connection to the CHP Lieutenant as the suspect was a motocross competitor named “Reed Jr”. The search gave a Wikipedia page that made the connection to the Kurtz family as the Lieutenant’s son.Michael Peña, Dax Shepard, Ryan Hansen, Jessica McNamee, and Rosa Salazar in CHIPS (2017)Together, they approach CHP Captain Jane Lindel (Jane Kaczmarek) to demand resources from the CHP and to arrest the five officers they’ve discovered to be working with Kurtz. However, Castillo realizes that he was fired from the FBI and no longer acts as a officer of the law. Captain Linden subsequently swears him in as a CHP Officer. Meanwhile, Kurtz Jr’s cousin and corrupt CHP Officer, Brian Grieves (Ryan Hansen), was discharged by fellow corrupt CHP Officer and Castillo’s love interest Lindsey Taylor (Jessica McNamee). Officer Ava Perez, upon arrving too late to apprehend them, begins recruiting a group of officers to go on the hunt. Now formally a CHP Officer, Castillo recruits Baker into the hunt for the Kurtz crew. As they gear up, Kurtz sends a photo of Karen tied up and demands that they come to a location in the middle of the desert. There, Kurtz opens fire and shoots Castillo’s fingers off. As Kurtz enters he begins a fistfight with Baker and Castillo. During the fistfight, fellow CHP members led by Officer Ava Perez encounter heavy gunfire from the corrupt Officers guarding the location.Michael Peña and Dax Shepard in CHIPS (2017)Following an attempt to shoot Kurtz, Baker shoots an explosive resulting in a massive explosion of the bunker. However, Kurtz is still alive and begins another fistfight with Baker. Lindsey Taylor arrives and fakes an arrest. She places the pistol in Kurtz’ hands and reveals herself as a crew member. Kurtz fires the pistol into Baker’s arm three times with the third bullet splinting off of his titanium arm implant into Kurtz’ head, killing him instantly. Baker reveals his arm was titanium following an injury in a motocross competition that he won 1st place in. Meanwhile, a fistfight begins between Officer Perez and Taylor ending in Perez taking Taylor into custody. While in the ambulance to the hospital, they encounter a Paramedic (Erik Estrada) who treats Castillo’s injuries. With them is Officer Perez, who was asked to ride in the ambulance by Baker. Baker and Perez begin having sex in the Ambulance as Castillo and the Paramedic (Estrada) converse, in Spanish, on Perez’ body and Baker’s inability to perform anal sex. The movie ends with Perez acknowledging the comments and revealing that she does speak Spanish, understanding what they’re saying. A final cut scene shows Castillo receiving a call from his former FBI boss, Agent Peterson, offering his FBI position back to which he responds that he’d prefer to stay in the CHP.Michael Peña and Dax Shepard in CHIPS (2017)Ignore the critic wannabe’s and give it a go, just don’t expect anything from the 70’s/80’s or that will make you think.

REVIEW: ZATHURA

CAST

Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games)
Jonah Bobo (Around The Bend)
Kristen Stewart (Twilight)
Tim Robbins(Antitrust)
Dax Shepard (Hit and Run)
Frank Oz (The Muppet Show)
Derek Mears (The Flash)
Douglas Tait (Star Trek)

Dax Shepard and Josh Hutcherson in Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005)Walter and his younger brother Danny do not get along with each other or their older sister, Lisa. While their divorced father is away at work and Lisa, whom he left in charge, is napping, Danny discovers an old space-themed board game called “Zathura” in the basement. He convinces Walter to play the game with him, the goal of which is to become the first player to reach the final space on the board. Each turn, a player turns a key and presses a button, causing the board to move the player’s piece a random number of spaces and spit out an event card. When Danny’s first turn causes a meteor shower inside the living room, Walter and Danny realize playing the game has altered reality.Kristen Stewart, Josh Hutcherson, and Jonah Bobo in Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005)The boys discover their father’s house is floating in space. Lisa, unaware of the situation, wakes up and begins preparing for her date that evening, but is frozen stiff when another card turns the bathroom into a cryonic chamber. Walter concludes the only way to end the game and return everything to normal is to win the game. As they continue to play, Walter and Danny must overcome the dangers presented by the game cards, including the appearance of a defective robot and an attack on the house by a race of reptilian aliens called Zorgons. Another of Danny’s turns produces an astronaut, who methodically eliminates the house’s heat sources and lures the Zorgons’ ship away by ejecting the boys’ father’s couch after setting it on fire.Josh Hutcherson and Jonah Bobo in Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005)Walter asks the astronaut to leave, but Danny chooses to let him stay. Growing increasingly agitated, Walter accuses Danny of cheating by moving his piece prematurely; when Walter tries to move the piece back and takes his next turn, the game accuses Walter of cheating and ejects him from the house into the vacuum of space, but the astronaut retrieves him. On Walter’s next turn, he receives a card that allows him to make a wish. The astronaut warns Walter not to make a wish out of anger. Fearing the worst, he is relieved to discover that Walter wished merely for an autographed football. He explains that he and his brother had played the game fifteen years before, and he wished his brother away, causing him to be stuck in the game without a second player.Dax Shepard, Josh Hutcherson, and Jonah Bobo in Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005)Lisa awakens from her stasis, and still oblivious to the situation, turns up the heat. This causes the Zorgons to return and anchor their ships to the house. Lisa finally discovers their predicament, and the four hide upstairs, but realize they left the game behind. The astronaut uses the house’s dumbwaiter to lower Danny to retrieve the game. Danny finds the game aboard one of the Zorgon ships, but is seen by the Zorgons. Walter uses a “Reprogram” card he drew earlier to fix the malfunctioning robot, who attacks the Zorgons instead, and the aliens retreat. Walter receives another wish card; he uses it to bring back the astronaut’s brother, causing a doppelgänger of Danny to appear. The astronaut reveals he is actually Walter, and commends his younger self for making a better choice than he did 15 years ago of his timeline, and the astronaut and the alternate Danny disappear.Astronaut_(Zathura)The Zorgons return to the house with a large fleet, intent on destroying it. Danny makes a final move, landing on Zathura, and wins, creating a black hole that sucks up the Zorgon fleet and the house. The siblings awaken in the house as it was before the brothers started the game, just as their father arrives home. Their bond renewed, and after they leave with their mother, Danny’s bicycle, which had been orbiting their house, falls from the sky.zathura-2005-lizard-zorgon-danny-walter-jonah-bobo-josh-hutchersonZathura is first class entertainment. An under-appreciated gem with lots to enjoy, and a fine example of how one film with an identical plot line can be adapted into something quite different.

 

REVIEW: THE GOOD PLACE – SEASON 2

Ted Danson and Kristen Bell in The Good Place (2016)

 

MAIN CAST

Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars)
William Jackson Harper (Paterson)
Jameela Jamil (T4 on The Beach)
D’Arcy Carden (Other People)
Manny Jacinto (The Romeo Selection)
Ted Danson (Cheers)

Kristen Bell in The Good Place (2016)

 

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Tiya Sircar (The Vampire Diaries)
Marc Evan Jackson (22 Jump Street)
Luke Guldan (Gossip Girl)
Maribeth Monroe (Workaholics)
Leslie Grossman (Popular)
Jason Mantzoukas (The Dictator)
Dax Shepard (Employee of The Month)
Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids)
Anna Khaja (Yes Man)

The comedy began last fall with Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) awakening after a humiliating death to find herself welcomed to heaven, despite having led a highly un-angelic life. With the help of her “soul mate” Chidi (William Jackson Harper), who was a philosopher on Earth before he was hit by a falling air conditioner, Eleanor eventually figured out the trouble with this paradise. The Good Place, it turns out, is actually The Bad Place. Or a bad place. Michael (Ted Danson), its seemingly kindly administrator, is in fact an infernal bureaucrat beta-testing a new way of tormenting souls by convincing them that they’ve gotten an eternal reward they don’t deserve.Ted Danson in The Good Place (2016)Eleanor’s guess ruins the scheme, and Michael ended the season by wiping his subjects’ memories and rebooting the scenario. Season 2, premiering Wednesday before moving to Thursdays, begins again at the beginning, after Eleanor’s end. It’s unusual for any series to so deliberately blow up its premise at the end of one season, particularly a season as delightful, promising and weirdly inventive as last year’s. (It burned so much plot that the return episode begins with a two-minute “Previously on …” segment.) But over the course of season 2, the Bad Place version of “The Good Place” proves it’s still able to surprise, while staying rooted in ideas that make it more than the sum of its twists.Kristen Bell and William Jackson Harper in The Good Place (2016)The first season had shades of “Groundhog Day,” another comedy that was a Trojan horse for philosophical inquiry. What does it mean to be good? Is it innate? Is it about intention or action? Is it a learned behavior, something that you can achieve, like physical fitness, by repeating a set of exercises? The new season parallels “Groundhog Day” more directly, by having Michael reboot his experimental hell from scratch. As he refines his torments, the show further unpeels the characters. Kristen Bell and William Jackson Harper in The Good Place (2016)

For the overintellectualizing Chidi, hell is being forced to make tough decisions. For the conspicuous do-gooder Tahani (Jameela Jamil), it’s having her righteous self-perception challenged. For slacker-bro Jason (Manny Jacinto), it’s having to spend eternity as Jianyu, the pious, silent monk whose identity he’s been given in a switch-up Michael engineered. Michael Schur, the creator of “The Good Place,” is otherwise known for “Parks and Recreation” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” sitcoms grounded with a specific sense of place. The afterlife in “The Good Place,” on the other hand, is deliberately artificial. To make it feel lived-in (or died-in) takes not just imagination but a pile of acting talent. That Mr. Danson can hit any pitch a writer can throw at him is no surprise. Still, what he did in the climactic Season 1 finale scene was stunning. After Eleanor guessed Michael’s ruse, he smiled a broad smile that began warm and turned diabolical. He reverse-polarized his character, and thus the entire series, in one facial expression.Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Manny Jacinto, and Jameela Jamil in The Good Place (2016)The new episodes show that this bespoke afterlife has endless possibilities for growth. The show is now also a dysfunctional-workplace comedy, for instance, as Michael begs for one more chance from his harsh bosses, who prefer the old-fashioned fire-and-hammers version of torment. There’s also a meta-theatrical element to the season, since The Bad Place in “The Good Place” is, itself, a show being rebooted. This story line spotlights Tiya Sircar, as the evil spirit who in season one played Real Eleanor (the person whose place in heaven Eleanor was told she was accidentally given) and is now assigned to be Denise, the pizza-shop owner in Michael’s new scenario. Denise is a good part, with a great back story,” Michael assures her, in the placating tones of a showrunner managing the talent. “You have a cat, and that’s cool!” This season’s switch-up means a lot of complication to ask a sitcom audience to follow, which may be why surreal romantic-workplace-showbiz-eschatological comedies do not have a long track record on network TV.Through its thrilling first season, “The Good Place” felt like it was always an episode or two from derailing, but it didn’t. The second season, premised on Michael’s having painted himself into a narrative corner, risks painting itself in one too. When Michael’s expedient is taken over by Vicky, he enlists Eleanor and the others to help him stop her, eventually learning to like them and begins to help them obtain a chance at the real Good Place. Seeing Michael change and become a character we can all root for wa sa nice change of pace for the show.Kristen Bell, Maya Rudolph, William Jackson Harper, Manny Jacinto, and Jameela Jamil in The Good Place (2016)There has been no shortage of wonderful, hopeful moments on The Good Place, but one ever-present, bleak truth has never been gone away: it’s hard to get to the real good place because the threshold to qualify as a truly good person is ridiculously high. And while the show’s season two finale, “Somewhere Else,” presented how the world makes it almost impossible to be a good person, it also gave us our best hope for how we can be anyway. Most of us would fail to qualify for “The Good Place.” Tahani raised 60 billion dollars for charity and helped a tremendous amount of people, but that didn’t matter because she did it for selfish reasons. Chidi spent a life obsessing over what it means to be a good person and tried to put those lessons into practice, but none of that mattered because his personal failings undid all of that. And last week, when they all showed how much genuine personal growth they’ve made, the Judge said none of that mattered. “Better” isn’t good enough, only “good” is good enough. Michael thinks the whole system for judging human lives might be broken, and he’s probably right and that’s not fair, but we know what Sean said about “fair.” You want to be a good person you better the right kind of really good person.the-good-place-episode-112-main(1)After Eleanor went back to Earth (or at the very least a simulation of it) for a literal real life test, we saw how the world did everything it could to keep her from being her best self. Working hard, telling the truth, and being selfless led to lawsuits, lost friends, and diarrhea, and that’s because life is full of bad people. Everything around us–greed, selfishness, apathy, anger–fights against our desire to be better people, and the harder we try to be good the more pointless it can seem. When things seems to be easier the worse you are as a person, why make things harder on yourself by being good? Especially when it isn’t clear there is any “moral dessert” to gain, in this life or the next? The Good Place has given empathetic reasons why someone might be bad before, like when we learned about Eleanor and Tahani’s parents. That didn’t let them off the hook though, they still were still earmarked for the bad place. Because no matter how much our parents, friends, or the entire world sucks, there’s no excuse for giving in to it. Ultimately we are responsible for ourselves.02-good-place-questions_w710_h473So basically to reach a paradise we don’t actually know exists and avoid eternal damnation we have to make our lives as hard as possible in a world that fights our attempts to be good people while rewarding mother forking shirtheads. And even then it might not be enough. When you put it like that it seems stupid not to just say “fork this?” and not leave a note. “Somewhere Else” was the show’s most hopeful episode yet. Michael’s nudge (Ted Danson bartending!) to Eleanor, by reciting her own words back to her, was a gorgeous moment, but the way his question about “what do we owe to each other?” pushed her to seek out Chidi–who had just kissed her at the Judge’s–was the show’s most beautiful scene ever. Because no matter how terrible things are, no matter how futile our attempts to overcome that reality, there is one idea that can help us be the people we want–and need–to be: “we are not in this alone.” All of the progress Eleanor, Tahani, Chidi, Jason, and Michael have made was only possible because they supported one another and selflessly gave of themselves. They aren’t good people on their own, but they make each other good people.the-good-place-73-1200x640It was a stunning season finale because it provided real, tangible hope. Yeah, it’s really, really hard to be truly good, almost impossible even, but we can do it if we stop worrying about ourselves and worry about one another. And if that seems like a battle you’re fighting alone, you’re not.

 

REVIEW: EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH

CAST

Dane Cook (Good Luck Chuck)
Jessica Simpson (The Dukes of Hazzard)
Dax Shepard (Zathura)
Tim Bagley (The Mask)
Andy Dick (2 Broke Girls)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Harland Williams (Wag The Dog)
Efren Ramirez (Gamer)
Danny Woodburn (Bones)

For years, Zack Bradley (Dane Cook) has been working at the local “Super Club” as a box-boy. He lives with his grandmother and spends his free time with co-workers Lon Neilson (Andy Dick), Iqbal Raji (Brian George), and Russell Porpis-Gunders (Harland Williams). Despite his “slacker” like ways he is kind-hearted, popular and supportive. His coworker Vince Downey (Dax Shepard) earns the Employee of the Month title for the 17th time in a row. Vince is egotistical and rude towards his co-workers, mainly his box boy Jorge Mecico (Efren Ramirez), who he berates constantly. His co-workers dislike him, but he is oblivious to this. When new cashier Amy Renfro (Jessica Simpson) is hired, Zack and Vince fall for her and compete for her affection. Zack is told that Amy slept with the “Employee of the Month” at her last job, so he decides to win the title. Amy has dinner with Vince, but is repulsed when he puts the move on her. Vince doesn’t realize how Amy feels, thinking they had a good kiss and continues pursuing her. Zack steps up his act and becomes a harder worker, giving Vince competition for the title. He also goes on a date with Amy, which takes place entirely in Super Club.Within a few days, with Vince still winning the daily star, Zack realizes that getting “Employee of the Month” is not as easy as he thought. With Iqbal’s encouragement, Zack finds his groove and to Vince’s horror, wins the star the next day. A war of attrition begins, as Vince tries everything he can think of to derail Zack’s string of stars, even breaking into his house to reset the clocks and cause him to be late. Zack barely arrives on time and Vince’s attempt to sabotage him is unsuccessful. Zack takes Iqbal’s shift on the day of a championship slow-pitch game against rival chain Maxi-Mart. However, he leaves to play in the game and Iqbal is fired. Frustrated at Zack’s new attitude, his friends tell him he is turning into Vince and feel his attempt at getting the title is a result of trying to have sex with Amy. Amy overhears the conversation and is disgusted at Zack for his true intentions. Amy tells Zack her last boyfriend, who was Employee of the Month, was conniving, conceited and impolite which was why she requested a transfer because she could not stand being with him.157_4At month’s end, Zack and Vince are tied. On the day of the tie-breaking competition, Zack quits, gets Iqbal his job back and tells him he took responsibility for what happened, making a heartfelt apology to Lon, Iqbal, and Russell. Zack tells them he plans to win the competition, not for recognition or to make an impression, but for pride. When the store manager is about to announce Zack’s resignation, Zack, Lon, Iqbal, and Russell show up claiming Zack never filed the resignation papers. It is revealed Russell bribed the human resources manager with a broken Butterfinger. Zack tries to reconcile with Amy, giving a heart-felt apology and telling her that no matter what, he is a better man because of her. Despite Vince’s protests, the competition, for the fastest checkout, is held. The Employee of the Month Award will be granted to the person who finishes the task first.Employee-of-the-Month-dax-shepard-31245685-2249-1500Vince beats Zack by seconds, but during the award ceremony, Semi (Marcello Thedford), the security guard, brings a surveillance video of the competition that shows Vince throwing items behind his back and onto the belt without scanning them. Vince denies the allegations of under-ringing. The store’s assistant manager, who had just completed an audit of the tills used in the competition, proved the surveillance video was right about Vince giving customers free things and has been doing this for 18 months, costing the store thousands of dollars. When security tape footage is shown and his register receipt totals proved he cost the store money, Vince is fired and required to wear a police tracking device in lieu of jail time. Zack ends up winning the competition having the second most points and Amy’s love. Six weeks after Vince is terminated from Super Club, he is on probation and working at Maxi-Mart, a rival store. Jorge finally learns to assert himself and treats Vince the same as he was treated by Vince. He is still willing to give Vince a ride to the bus stop, knowing that this would put Vince outside the range of his probation leg-tracker.290449-16583-clp-950Great movie, good laughs! I’d watch it again. There are some little twists to some parts of the movies and the end is alright, could be better though. Over all a very funny movie.

REVIEW: WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER: 10 YEARS LATER

CAST

Elizabeth Banks (Power Rangers)
H. Jon Benjamin (22 Jump Street)
Michael Ian Black (Wedding Daze)
Janeane Garofalo (Dogma)
Joe Lo Truglio (Superbad)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)
Christopher Meloni (Man of Steel)
A. D. Miles (Role Models)
Marguerite Moreau (Easy)
David Hyde Pierce (Hellboy)
Amy Poehler (Free Birds)
Paul Rudd (Ant-Man)
Marisa Ryan (Cold Hearts)
Molly Shannon (Bad Teacher)
Michael Showalter (The Ten)
Adam Scott (Krmapus)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Samm Levine (Inglourious Basterds)
David Wain (Wanderlust)
Lake Bell (No Strings Attached)
Paul Scheer (Piranha)
Josh Charles (The Ex)
Kristen Wiig (Ghostbusters)
Rich Sommer (Grilfriend’s Day)
Eric Nenninger (Jeepers Creepers II)
John Early (Bad Neighbors 2)
Chris Pine (star Trek)
Jason Schwartzman (Scott Pilgrim vs The World)
Mark Feuerstein (Once and Again)
Sarah Burns (Married)
Alyssa Milano (Charmed)
Melanie Lynskey (Two and a Half Men)
Jai Courtney (Divergent)
Skyler Gisondo (Santa Clarita Diet)
Joey Bragg (Fred 3)
Anne-Marie Johnson (Suicide Dolls)
Chris Redd (empire)
Joshua Malina (The Big Bang Theory)
Maya Erskine (Betas)
Marlo Thomas (LOL)
Dax Shepard (Hit and Run)

wet-hot-american-summer-ten-years-later-paul-rudd-marguerite-moreau“Andy, you are 26 years old. What is wrong with you! When are you going to grow up? We can’t be teenagers forever.” That above quote is said to Paul Rudd’s Andy Fleckner as a simple gag. It pokes fun at the actual age of the actors that are playing these characters, but therein also lies the central “flaw” of Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later. As fun as all of these camp shenanigans may be, these people can’t just continue doing this forever. However, this is at least something that the series is well aware of and embraces wholeheartedly. It’s bonkers that Ten Years Later even happened at all. One prequel season was a surprising gift in itself. This is the extra marshmallow in the s’more. If last season was the unexpected reunion tour, then this is the sloppy, drunken after party that follows. Sure, it’s less polished, but it’s all dessert anyway.wet-hot-american-summer-ten-years-later-episode-4-lunch-knife-renata-alyssa-milano-michael-ian-black-review-guide-listMuch like First Day of Camp, this season takes this eclectic group of campers and puts them back into Camp Firewood, only now it’s ten years later as opposed to the beginning of their adventure. First Day of Camp does some glorious dot connecting to David Wain’s 2001 cult classic film, while also pulling off deep inside baseball jokes, like the introduction of Jim Stansel or seeing the birth of the anthem, “Higher and Higher.” Obviously with this new season taking place after everything, there’s little to few dots that need to be connected now, which as a result does lead to the trivial feeling that’s sometimes present through this season. Make no mistake, this is all undeniably a great time, but there’s not the same sort of satisfaction to be derived from the material this time around.ajh6scyuze0gpcrgcjueWhile the last installment was about building connections, this one is very much about breaking them to pieces and starting anew, which is only fitting considering this season revolves around Camp Firewood being literally torn down. The fun is in seeing the radical places that everyone has ended up rather than marveling at their clever origin stories. In that sense, the first episode spends the majority of its time simply introducing everyone and catching up the audience.untitledIn an eight-episode season this might feel like a bit of a waste, but with dozens of characters, what are they supposed to do here? The only real answer it to have a longer season, but with First Day of Camp also being a mere eight episodes, that seems to be the pattern that these guys are following. The season certainly could have used a few more episodes this time though. Similarly, this season—more than last season—really feels like it should be watched in one sitting like a long movie. Doing so would even help some of the material flow a little better, too. None of the many storylines feel rushed and everything is given enough time to breathe. It’s a real delicate balancing act that never shows its hand. The characters deal with the insecurity over who they’ve turned into through the years, however everyone is going through this same problem. At their core, they’re still those ridiculous teenagers from summer camp, and so are these actors, no matter how old they are. That’s sort of the point here.wethotmamericansummer-10yearslater-adamscottTen Years Later also gleefully wallows in glorious ‘90s jokes to make sure that the audience never forgets exactly when this season is taking place. It’s also probably the only place you’re going to hear Laura San Giacomo get brought up any time soon. First Day of Camp had this same sort of fun with the ‘80s, but this season is much more meta than the material’s ever been before. There’s also supernatural weirdness afoot too because of course there is. Elements like hidden nuclear fallout shelters entering the mix are so crazy, yet oddly fitting. This universe slowly stretching its boundaries has allowed for insane developments to seem plausible.1498150156458Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later might spend a little too much time roasting on the campfire, but it’s still an immensely enjoyable endeavor that showcases a bunch of exemplary comedians who have now been laughing together for decades.

REVIEW: WITHOUT A PADDLE

CAST

Seth Green (Family Guy)
Matthew Lillard (Scream)
Dax Shepard (Zathura)
Antony Starr (Banshee)
Danielle Cormack (Xena: Warrior Princess)
Burt Reynolds (Driven)
Liddy Holloway (Hercules: TLJ)
Bruce Phillips (Power Rangers RPM)
Ethan Suplee (My Name Is Earl)
Abraham Benrubi (Buffy: TVS)
Rachel Blachard (Snakes on a Plane)
Christina Moore (Delta Farce)
Susan Brady (Blood Crime)

Twelve years after graduating from high school, three friends, Jerry, Dan, and Tom, find out that their childhood friend Billy has died in a parasailing accident. After the funeral, they revisit the group’s old tree-house and find a map leading to D. B. Cooper’s lost treasure, which Billy had apparently been working on for his entire life. Dan takes a break from his job as a doctor and joins Jerry and Tom on a camping trip to find the treasure. They take a canoe down the river and eventually stop on the riverside for the night. They discover that they forgot to bring food, so Tom goes out to catch some fish. However, the activity attracts a grizzly bear to their position, and the bear chases the group into a tree. In the morning, the group find all of their gear has been ripped up and completely destroyed by the bear.

The trio takes off into the river but are unable to read the map, causing them to go the wrong way. They fall off of a waterfall, and while they survive, their canoe is destroyed. They venture into the woods with a compass and find themselves at a pot farm where two farmers, Dennis and Elwood, mistake them for thieves and start shooting at them. They escape, burning the pot garden down in the process. This enrages the farmers, who decide to hunt them down and kill them. Later, far into the forest the trio meets two hippie girls, Flower and Butterfly, who treat them in their tree. Using a radio the farmers find them, but the hippie girls drop paper bags full of feces at the farmers to distract them while the trio escapes. They are caught by a mountain man who takes them to his hut and provides them with clothes. The man later reveals himself to be Del Knox, Cooper’s partner before his death.

The next morning, the farmers find them and assault the house. The trio escapes while Del shoots at the two farmers with his revolver. The trio stumbles upon the site of Cooper’s crash-landing where they discover Cooper’s corpse and the suitcase that he used to hold the ransom money, and they realize that Cooper burned the money in an attempt to survive. As Dan crawls through a small tunnel to find a way out, the farmers find Jerry and Tom, and a fistfight ensues. Eventually, Sheriff Briggs, who had earlier helped the trio, intervenes, but he then reveals himself to be the farmers’ employer. Jerry arms a grenade taken from Dennis and throws it towards the pot dealers. It explodes, causing a tree to fall on the farmers and the sheriff, who are soon arrested.

In the closing scenes, Jerry, Dan, and Tom split half of the remaining money with Del. Jerry proposes to his girlfriend, Dan starts a relationship with Flower, and Tom becomes a camp counselor for a children’s summer camp where he ends up telling his troop all about the trip.

The odd laugh will definitely turn up, but there are many better comedies around, so unless you’re simply up for an evening of mostly forgettable fun, you might want to leave Without a Paddle wallowing in the shallows.