On Bird Island, Red, who’s attending an anger management class, becomes suspicious of a boat full of green-colored pigs that arrives one day; what are they after…? After the success of The Lego Movie (2014) there would obviously be more attempts to take a lucrative commercial franchise and try to make something artistically valuable out of it. This 3D outing was based on a popular but simple game where you throw angry birds at pigs, so a whole structure around it needed to be invented. Moves fast, with a lively voice cast, but mediocre and one’s interest wanes far before any birds are hurled.
2016-U.S.-Finland. Animated. 97 min. Color. Directed by Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly. Voices of Jason Sudeikis (Red), Josh Gad (Chuck), Danny McBride (Bomb), Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Peter Dinklage… Kate McKinnon, Sean Penn, Keegan-Michael Key.
In 1934, famous detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) finds himself on the Orient Express where a notorious businessman (Johnny Depp) is murdered. Another star-studded version of Agatha Christie’s most famous mystery is similar to the slightly superior 1974 movie and has no new twists to offer. Which is probably a good thing; what we get is old-fashioned, well directed entertainment with eye-popping 65 mm cinematography. Branagh may not be your favorite Poirot, but he’s good, and the film finds little ways to increase tension and make the mystery look fresh. Appealing music score, and Michelle Pfeiffer delivers the best performance among the suspects.
2017-U.S. 114 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Novel: Agatha Christie. Cinematography: Haris Zambarloukos. Music: Patrick Doyle. Cast: Kenneth Branagh (Hercule Poirot), Michelle Pfeiffer (Caroline Hubbard), Johnny Depp (Samuel Ratchett), Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench… Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Daisy Ridley, Olivia Colman.
Trivia: Co-produced by Branagh and Ridley Scott. Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron were allegedly considered for roles.
In the early 1940s, the NAACP sends young attorney Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) to Louisiana where a black man (Sterling K. Brown) stands accused of having raped an affluent white woman (Kate Hudson); Marshall teams up with a local lawyer (Josh Gad). This biography of the first African-American justice on the Supreme Court focuses on the early part of his career when he traveled all over the South helping people who had been framed for crimes simply because of their skin color. Superior performances by Boseman and Gad as the reluctant legal team elevate a somewhat mundane story. Conceived in a traditional way, but handsome and engaging.
2017-U.S. 118 min. Color. Directed by Reginald Hudlin. Song: “Stand Up for Something” (Diane Warren, Common). Cast: Chadwick Boseman (Thurgood Marshall), Josh Gad (Sam Friedman), Kate Hudson (Eleanor Strubing), Dan Stevens, James Cromwell, Sterling K. Brown… Sophia Bush, Chilli.
When her father (Kevin Kline) is taken prisoner by a beast (Dan Stevens) inside a huge, wintry castle, Belle (Emma Watson) offers herself in exchange for his freedom. Another live-action remake of an animated Disney classic. This one can’t escape a certain sense of pointlessness considering how close it stays to the 1991 original… but that feeling is suppressed by sheer playful buoyancy and colorful opulence. More a lavish Broadway production than just a remake of an animated movie, the film offers a few new songs and really looks like no expenses have been spared. Simply put, it is beautiful and fun. Watson is radiant in the lead and the 3D visuals really draw us into this fairytale world.
2017-U.S. 129 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman. Directed by Bill Condon. Screenplay: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos. Music: Alan Menken. Song: ”How Does a Moment Last Forever” (Alan Menken, Tim Rice). Production Design: Sarah Greenwood. Costume Design: Jacqueline Durran. Cast: Emma Watson (Belle), Dan Stevens (The Prince/Beast), Luke Evans (Gaston), Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor… Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson.
Trivia: Ryan Gosling was allegedly considered for a role.
Last word: “Disney didn’t know about [LeFou’s infatuation with Gaston] [laughs]. It was something I was thinking about and that I talked to Josh Gad about. Our joke was that one day he gets up and he wants to be Gaston and the next day he wakes up and he wants to fool around with Gaston and he hasn’t quite landed on it yet. It’s just a moment in the film, and I get a little weary about talking about it too much because then it seems like a more heavy-handed thing. But I kind of enjoyed that and it’s in the fabric of everybody falling in love that that couple falls in love too.” (Condon, Flickering Myth)
In 1982, a time capsule containing among other things arcade games, is launched into space; three decades later, aliens use those games to attack Earth… The filmmakers expanded a 2010 short film for this comedy that looks like it wants to be a new Ghostbusters (1984), as it assembles a motley team (including once-brilliant gamer Adam Sandler and his best buddy, the current U.S. President (Kevin James)) to fight the aliens. OK special effects, even though its use of 3D is a missed opportunity, but the script lacks laughs and charm.
2015-U.S. 106 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Chris Columbus. Cast: Adam Sandler (Sam Brenner), Kevin James (Will Cooper), Michelle Monaghan (Violet Van Patten), Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Matt Lintz… Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Jane Krakowski, Dan Aykroyd. Cameos: Serena Williams, Martha Stewart, Daryl Hall, John Oates.
Trivia: Jennifer Aniston was allegedly considered for a role. “Pac-Man” creator Toru Iwatani has a cameo in a scene; he’s also a character in a different scene, but is then played by Denis Akiyama.
SOME SEE WHAT’S POSSIBLE, OTHERS CHANGE WHAT’S POSSIBLE.
The story of how Steve Jobs turned from a smug college kid, with an uncanny gift for spotting how people in the future might be willing to pay for a personal computer, into the hugely successful leader of Apple deserves a better screen treatment. Focus lies on his younger years, his uncompromising attitude and how he screwed people over, but there is no depth whatsoever, especially when the filmmakers cover Jobs’s relationship with women. Ashton Kutcher does what he can with the superficial material.
2013-U.S. 128 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Joshua Michael Stern. Cast: Ashton Kutcher (Steve Jobs), Dermot Mulroney (Mike Markkula), Josh Gad (Steve Wozniak), Lukas Haas, Matthew Modine, J.K. Simmons… Lesley Ann Warren, James Woods, Kevin Dunn.
Trivia: The Apple CEO was also portrayed in Steve Jobs(2015).
Doug Harris (Josh Gad) hasn’t told his fiancée (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) that he has absolutely no one to invite to their upcoming wedding, so he hires Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart) who’s running a “best-man service” for lonely guys. It takes almost an hour until you realize that at the bottom of this contrived, occasionally dreadful comedy are a few not irrelevant thoughts about loneliness among men. In spite of the crassness, the film is passable on the whole and has enthusiastic efforts by everybody involved. But it’s a shame to waste Cloris Leachman like this; she has one or two lines.
2015-U.S. 101 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Jeremy Garelick. Cast: Kevin Hart (Jimmy Callahan), Josh Gad (Doug Harris), Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting (Gretchen Palmer), Alan Ritchson, Cloris Leachman, Mimi Rogers.
Trivia: Several football legends, including Joe Namath, appear in cameos.
Since Princess Elsa’s ability to create ice and snow is dangerously hard to control, she and her sister Anna are kept apart for safety reasons; years later, Elsa’s coronation ends in disaster… Once again, Disney heads back to a trusted well for another animated fairy tale and tweaks Hans Christian Andersen until he fits the mold. Formulaic, indeed, but still fun and grand 3D entertainment with a wonderful winter landscape (based on Norway), a very funny sidekick in the shape of a loosely assembled snowman and two well-written female protagonists. Icing on the cake is the soundtrack, a musical experience that looks destined for Broadway.
2013-U.S. Animated. 102 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Peter Del Vecho. Directed by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee. Screenplay: Jennifer Lee. Fairy Tale: Hans Christian Andersen (“The Snow Queen”). Songs: “For the First Time in Forever”, “Let It Go” (Robert Lopez, Kristen Anderson-Lopez). Voices of Kristen Bell (Anna), Idina Menzel (Elsa), Jonathan Groff (Kristoff), Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk… Ciarán Hinds.
Trivia: Later a stage musical.
Oscars: Best Animated Feature, Original Song (“Let It Go”).Golden Globe: Best Animated Feature Film. BAFTA: Best Animated Film.
Last word: “We never had an outline of where the songs would go, but we worked with Bobby and Kristin [Lopez] every day, via video conference. I would bring in pages and we would think about what kind of song could go here, and if it wouldn’t work there. And if it didn’t work, I’d rewrite everything leading up to it. The best example of that is ‘Let It Go’. Elsa was much more of a dominant character when we began, like a straightforward villain, and with ‘Let It Go’, we were inspired by them writing that song. We were so blown away by it, we really wanted it to be powerful and to resonate, so I went and rewrote the whole first act, just for that song.” (Lee, Den of Geek)
When the continent breaks apart, Manny and his family and friends are separated; the quest to reunite is fraught with dangers. Much like the third movie, this fourth chapter is in 3D and was a huge hit… but the seams are beginning to show. A sense of fatigue is creeping into the increasingly outlandish adventures of Scrat, and the new characters that are thrown into our heroes’ lives feel superfluous (not that I want to deny Diego a girlfriend). Not many laughs, but certainly lively.
2012-U.S. Animated. 88 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Steve Martino, Michael Thurmeier. Voices of Ray Romano (Manfred), John Leguizamo (Sid), Denis Leary (Diego), Seann William Scott, Josh Peck, Peter Dinklage… Wanda Sykes, Jennifer Lopez, Queen Latifah, Nicki Minaj, Simon Pegg, Patrick Stewart, Josh Gad, Rebel Wilson.
Trivia: Jeremy Renner was allegedly first cast as the pirate captain. Followed by Ice Age: Collision Course (2016).
Middle-aged watch salesmen Billy and Nick (Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson) lose their jobs and take a chance applying for internships at Google even though they don’t know the first thing about coding. A comedy that may look like mere paid advertising for Google. But on the other hand, the intrigues at the company’s famed campus are straight out of any college movie and the story is overlong (albeit likable) and short on laughs. So, is this positive advertising for them? Maybe Google needs a new motto – “Don’t be bland”.
2013-U.S. 119 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Shawn Levy. Screenplay: Vince Vaughn, Jared Stern. Cast: Vince Vaughn (Billy McMahon), Owen Wilson (Nick Campbell), Rose Byrne (Dana), Max Minghella, Josh Brener, Dylan O’Brien… Josh Gad. Cameos: Will Ferrell, John Goodman.
EVERY DAY THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE ILLEGALLY CROSS OUR BORDERS… ONLY ONE THING STANDS IN THEIR WAY. AMERICA.
Based on a short 1996 film, this ensemble piece wants to say Important Stuff about immigration as seen through the eyes of among others an empathetic police officer and an Australian actress who desperately needs a green card. Ambitious, but tries to cover too many bases and we don’t really learn anything new, except that green card troubles are nothing compared to honor killings. Ray Liotta and Alice Eve’s “business arrangement” doesn’t ring true, and Harrison Ford ought to have been a more compelling presence.
2009-U.S. 114 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Wayne Kramer. Cast: Harrison Ford (Max Brogan), Ray Liotta (Cole Frankel), Ashley Judd (Denise Frankel), Jim Sturgess, Cliff Curtis, Summer Bishil… Mahershala Ali, Josh Gad.
At the same time as incorrigible womanizer Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) is learning how to be a good salesman for Pfizer, he’s also hitting on a 26-year-old Parkinson’s patient (Anne Hathaway) who is less than impressed. The filmmakers took Jamie Reidy’s non-fiction account of those days in the late 1990s when Viagra seduced the pharmaceutical business and turned it into a strictly formulaic romantic comedy. A different approach might have been interesting, but this is nevertheless worth a look, with excellent performances by the two leads who really make us care for their characters.
2010-U.S. 112 min. Color. Directed by Edward Zwick. Book: Jamie Reidy (“Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman”). Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal (Jamie Randall), Anne Hathaway (Maggie Murdock), Oliver Platt (Bruce Winston), Hank Azaria, Josh Gad, Gabriel Macht… George Segal, Jill Clayburgh.
When a Kansas family moves to Orange County, California, their Great Dane Marmaduke makes friends – and enemies – at a dog park. When Hollywood makes a movie out of an old TV show, book or comic strip for kids, far too often the results look like this – an utterly generic, overly cute flick that is painful to watch for anyone over the age of six. Owen Wilson brings charm to the voice of Marmaduke, but the talking animals look so-so effects-wise and the story is a drag.
2010-U.S. 88 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Tom Dey. Comic Strip: Brad Anderson, Phil Leeming. Cast: Lee Pace (Phil Winslow), Judy Greer (Debbie Winslow), William H. Macy (Don Twombly), David Walliams. Voices of Owen Wilson, Emma Stone, George Lopez, Kiefer Sutherland, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Steve Coogan… Fergie, Marlon Wayans, Sam Elliott, Josh Gad.