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Tue10272020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Netflix original movies are popping up more and more—some with big stars in them. For example, The Fundamentals of Caring stars Paul Rudd.

It’s not a bad movie at all. It’s actually almost good—but not quite.

Rudd plays Ben, a distraught, grieving novelist mourning the loss of his son and going through a divorce. In order to get himself out of a rut, and perhaps start writing again, he takes a course to become a caregiver. He gets a job caring for Trevor (Craig Roberts), a young man suffering from muscular dystrophy who doesn’t have long to live.

Trevor is a bit caustic, and the two men develop a strange sort of antagonistic friendship. They wind up on a road trip during which they pick up Selena Gomez, who curses a lot. Road-trip wackiness ensues.

The Fundamentals of Caring uses all of the familiar road-trip tropes; unfortunately, Gomez takes the movie down a notch. Rudd and Roberts are pretty good together onscreen—almost good enough to make the movie worthwhile. But in the end, The Fundamentals of Caring is an uneven venture—which is surprising, considering Rudd’s involvement.

Published in Reviews

The second of four films in the Adam Sandler Netflix era after the horrible The Ridiculous 6 is still pretty bad moviemaking, but The Do-Over is a step in the right direction. 

Director Steven Brill made two of the better Sandler vehicles in Little Nicky and Mr. Deeds, and their third pairing has its moments. That’s thanks in large part to the pairing of Sandler and an effective David Spade, who is cast against type as Charlie, a nebbish nerd looking for new start on life. Sandler plays Max, who shows up at their high school reunion, takes pity on Charlie and fakes both of their deaths so they can smoke joints and drink for the rest of their lives.

The plot isn’t that simple; the two wind up being pursued by a killer in a fairly funny homage to Die Hard. The film is put together better than most of the later Sandler comedies, and it packs quite a few good laughs. Unfortunately, it also veers into overkill way too many times, and the gross stuff feels discordant and just wrong.

Still, I liked the characters, and the film classes up a bit at the halfway mark when Paula Patton enters the picture. She has a fight with Kathryn Hahn that is one of the better smack-downs you will see in a movie this summer.

The movie doesn’t work as a whole, but it does show that Sandler and Spade could be a good screen duo in the hands of a semi-capable director. Also, it has Natasha Leggero in it, and that’s always a good thing.

Had everybody just declined a few of the extreme sight gags, and perhaps edited a solid 15 minutes from the movie, I might’ve been able to recommend the film. As it stands, it’s a near-miss. Hey, a near-miss for Sandler these days is a major triumph! 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

It’s been 28 years since Pee-wee Herman last had his own movie (1988’s Big Top Pee-wee)—and the world’s happiest man child has not lost a step. In Netflix’s Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, Paul Reubens effortlessly becomes his alter ego Pee-wee, even though he’s getting deep into his 60s.

That’s right: Pee Wee Herman is almost 64 years old. Nonetheless, he’s as nimble, joyous and fun as he was when he made his big-screen headliner debut in Tim Burton’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure 31 years ago.

The new film, produced by Judd Apatow and directed by John Lee, doesn’t quite have the visual exuberance to match Pee-wee’s bravado, but the story (written by Reubens and Paul Rust) breezes right along. Pee-wee meets a big screen movie star (Joe Manganiello of True Blood, playing himself) while working in a diner in his all-American town. The two hit it off, and Joe invites him to his big birthday bash in New York City.

This means a road trip for Pee-wee, during which he meets up with a crazy guy in the woods and a crazy lady with a flying car. He winds up at the bottom of a well, too.

While the dull production values are disappointing, Reubens elevates things so that it really isn’t that much of a problem. Plus, Pee-wee’s car is badass.

Hopefully, this will be the start of some more adventures for Pee-wee. He’s clearly still got it.

Also: Look for Lynne Marie Stewart, Simone from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, in a small but pivotal role.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

I binge-watched Netflix’s new series Love—the latest by producer Judd Apatow—and it stands as further proof that Netflix is becoming the king of TV comedy.

Paul Rust and Gillian Jacobs are terrific as Gus and Mickey, two people who meet by chance at a convenience store and become friends. Friendship progresses into other things—and that progression happens in a crazy, unpredictable, very R-rated way.

Rust is a revelation as the nerdy Gus, a tutor at a TV studio where they are filming one of those dopey witch shows. Jacobs, so good on Community, proves she has much to offer with her wild turn as a radio-station employee with a shitty boss (Brett Gelman) and just a few addictions.

As their courtship begins, Gus sort of pines for Mickey, but things change over the course of 10 episodes, as he gets a little more confidence in himself—and notices she’s a bit of a jerk. The first season ends in a satisfying way—and since Netflix has already ordered a second season, you know you’ll be getting more good stuff.

Other performers include a hilarious Claudia O’Doherty as Bertie, Mickey’s polite and slightly deranged roommate. Iris Apatow is proof that nepotism can be awesome as Arya, a child actress prone to tantrums, yet somehow more intelligent than anybody else on the set. Briga Heelan is sweet and funny as Heidi, an actress who is complicating things between Gus and Mickey.

The show’s episodes flow into one another, so it feels like one long movie. Apatow’s work tends to be on the long side—and I’ve never had a problem with that. Maybe this was supposed to be a movie at first, and Apatow realized it was going to be lengthy. If so, it was a good call to make this a series, because every one of the 10 episodes is a gem. 

Published in Reviews

I suspect that a lot of the critics who are raving about Orange Is the New Black, Netflix’s new original series, failed to watch past the first few episodes.

This drama about women behind bars starts off gangbusters, with touches of brilliance and great humor. But by the time I was watching the 13th episode, I was a few hours past over it. This one loses steam fast and becomes quite a letdown.

The show degenerates from an introspective look at a woman’s stint in prison to a parade of clichés. At first, the story of Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling)—who goes up the river for a felony she committed 10 years before—is nothing short of awesome. The show also boasts the best performance from Jason Biggs in a long time, as her beleaguered boyfriend. (There’s even a great American Pie joke.)

However, as Piper settles in to prison life, we get everybody we’ve come to expect in a normal prison drama: crazy guards, the tough Russian woman in charge of the kitchen, and an ex-lover (Laura Prepon) who happens to be incarcerated with Piper. God forbid, there’s a Christmas-pageant episode.

It’s too bad. For a while there, I thought I was watching the next best thing on TV since, well, Netflix gave us a new season of Arrested Development. Then the show downgraded into comical sex scenes and, worst of all, too much time devoted to a religious fanatic meth-head character played by Taryn Manning.

The show, which ends with quite a cliffhanger, has already been renewed for another season. I hope they can recapture some of the magic displayed in the first couple of episodes. Schilling’s performance endures, even when the scripts do not.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Netflix subscribers who find the entertainment selection a little weak at times currently have access to one of the year’s greatest television surprises: An new 15-episode season of Arrested Development is currently available on the streaming service, and it’s as if one of TV history’s funniest and oddest families never left.

Each episode generally focuses on one character, like Jason Bateman’s Michael Bluth, with the other family members playing supporting roles. The episodes’ chronologies overlap, but the character focus changes. This amounts to a lot of fun.

If you are a fan, you will not be disappointed. Will Arnett’s Gob still performs magic to the refrain of Europe’s “The Final Countdown.” David Cross’ Tobias is still a “never nude.” Portia de Rossi’s Lindsay is still shopping-obsessed, and so on.

The new shows also feature great cameos, including Ron Howard providing more than his voice, and a blessed reunion of Henry Winkler and Scott Baio.

There’s been some talk of an Arrested Development movie. As far as I see it, this is a 7 1/2 hour movie, since you can currently watch them all in a row.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

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