HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 (2015)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Crude Sexual Content and Language throughout, Graphic Nudity, Drug Use and some Violence

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Directed by: Steve Pink

Written by: Josh Heald

Starring: Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Clark Duke, Adam Scott, Chevy Chase, Collette Wolfe & Gillian Jacobs

2010’s HOT TUB TIME MACHINE is one of my favorite comedies to come out of the past decade and I still find it hilarious upon every viewing. While the idea of a sequel to HOT TUB isn’t necessarily a bad idea, this second installment is a huge disappointment for a variety of reasons. 2010’s HOT TUB TIME MACHINE was hilarious, original, and actually had a certain amount of character depth to it in spite of all the crassness. 2015’s HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 is the polar opposite of all of those things and desperately throws every possible gross-out gag at you to see what sticks.

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Years have passed since a group of friends time-traveled back to 1986 and changed history forever. Unfortunately, their newfound success is fleeting. Lou Dorchen, founder of the internet, Lougle, and Motley Lou, is driving his business into the ground. Nick Webber has been ripping off every possible song from other artists (pop to rock to grunge) and is quickly running of material to steal. Meanwhile, Jacob remains an aimless loser and hates Lou for being a bad father. After an assassination attempt on Lou is made (involving a shotgun to the dick), the trio hop in the stolen Hot Tub Time Machine and wind up in 2025. It’s 10 years into the future and they must look for Lou’s murderer.

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HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 seemingly does the impossible and makes the best part of the original (Rob Corddry’s Lou) into the worst part of this sequel. Lou was a lovable asshole in the first movie and had me laughing so hard that I was crying. Even today, my friends and I still quote lines that Lou said in the original. Now, he’s shifted from lovable and crude to overly annoying, thoroughly unlikable and mean-spirited to the point of being considered a villain in his own movie. John Cusack is noticeably absent and this is addressed through a couple of plot points that seemed as if the screenwriters were taking jabs at him for passing up on a role in this lame sequel. Cusack’s character was the straight-faced levity to all of the absurdity in the first film. Without him, it seems like everything got too off the rails in this sequel. Chevy Chase shows up for a blink-and-you-missed it unfunny cameo and Adam Scott is easily the worst character as the clean-cut son of Adam Yates (Cusack’s character).

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While the murder mystery premise seems like it could be an okay story, it mainly serves as an excuse for the characters to play out a series of skit-like scenes that are loosely connected to each other. There’s Nick Webber’s failed song (the Webber Strut), a drug party involving a high-powered psychedelic Electric Ladybug, Adam Scott’s wedding (because we apparently needed that plot point) and end credits that show the characters going through various points in time (mainly glimpsed in the TV spots and trailers). Scenes and running jokes stretch on to an unbelievable degree too. The worst of which includes characters saying “high-five” instead of actually high-fiving or the trio of time-travelers insulting each other as they look at their future selves in a mirror.

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Two sub-plots save HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 from being a complete failure and actually got a couple of legit laughs out of me. There’s a sentient smart car that’s stalking Lou with murderous intent through the futuristic city and these bits (though not a huge part of the movie) were creative. The funniest part comes in Choozy Doozy, a morbid futuristic game show that puts the stuff glimpsed in IDIOCRACY to shame, and has Christian Slater popping up as the game show host.

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HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 is a colossal downgrade from 2010’s hilarious comedy. John Cusack’s absence removes the balance that the original film had between ridiculous over-the-top humor and genuine character. Lou, the shining spot of HOT TUB, becomes downright insufferable in this sequel. The effects are piss-poor throughout and the script is flimsy as hell. Though there are a few moments that actually got some laughs out of me, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 is a mostly inept sequel that should have gone direct to video. Just stick with the original and pretend that this second film doesn’t exist. Fans of the first HOT TUB should band together, go back in time and stop this sequel from ever happening.

Grade: D

THE TEN (2007)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 36 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Pervasive Strong Crude Sexual Content including Dialogue and Nudity, and for Language and some Drug Material

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Directed by: David Wain

Written by: David Wain & Ken Marino

Starring: Paul Rudd, Adam Brody, Winona Ryder, Gretchen Mol, Ken Marino, Oliver Platt, Liev Schreiber, Rob Corddry, Michael Ziegfeld & Jessica Alba

THE TEN flaunts a potentially fun concept. The writer/director of WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER and ROLE MODELS crafts an anthology centered around 10 comedic tales that cover the ten commandments. That sounds like a blast. David Wain is known for his weird and totally random sense of humor. His oddball jokes helped fuel a cult following in SUMMER and also supported a hilarious season of the Comedy Central’s bizarre short-lived STELLA. Unfortunately, David Wain isn’t at the top of his game in this messy anthology. THE TEN has some enjoyable segments, but succumbs to downright unfunny and lame skits that feel way too desperate. Paul Rudd serves as a narrator introducing each new commandment and his wooden delivery doesn’t do any favors to the film either. I’ll keep my descriptions of the segments/commandments vague (as some a couple of them last for two minutes tops), but will dive into my criticisms or praise to be found in each.

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THOU SHALT NOT WORSHIP NO GOD BEFORE ME: After falling out of an airplane, a man becomes an unexpected celebrity and this newfound fame consumes him. This short plays out like a joke with no punchline. Though there are two brief chuckles, the best I can say about this segment is that it’s very brief (five minutes). The first commandment feels like a throwaway joke that was stretched on for five minutes. D

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THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THE LORD’S NAME IN VAIN: A virginal librarian has a fling with a mysterious man in Mexico that produces an unexpected revelation. This short had some potential in its execution, but mostly plays out like a one-note joke. Again, it made me chuckle a couple of times, but that’s about all the reaction it got out of me. This is slightly worse than first segment, which doesn’t exactly kick off the comedic anthology on a strong note. D-

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THOU SHALT NOT MURDER: A doctor pulls a prank that has deadly consequences for his patient and dire ones for himself. This segment felt like a decent College Humor skit made its way into this film. I was amused, even if the laughs ranged on moronic. The short also sets up characters in two of the better segments down the line. B-

HONOR THY MOTHER AND THY FATHER: Two black children demand to know the identity of their biological father and their white mother goes to extreme lengths to give them the answer. This segment felt so awkward, stupid, and bad that it just stuck out like a sore thumb as easily the worst of the 10 shorts here. F

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THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOR’S GOODS: A pompous asshole (played wonderfully by Liev Schreiber) competes with his neighbor after an impromptu CAT scan machine purchase. The situation spirals out of control. I was cracking up during multiple parts of this segment and wish that the rest of the commandments were as entertaining. Easily the best tale of the bunch. A-

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THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOR’S WIFE: The doctor from the third segment finds himself in prison. He’s cell mates with an abusive rapist but falls in love another prisoner (Rob Corddry). Though I can see most folks not enjoying this segment, Rob Corddry usually brings up the quality of any project he’s in. The dead-pan seriousness that this “romance” plays out in is also quite funny. B-

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THOU SHALT NOT STEAL: The seventh commandment is very hit or miss. A woman (introduced in the first segment) falls in love with a ventriloquist dummy. The serious execution of this unconventional romance bring most of the successful jokes, but there are almost an equal number of misses. The sheer stupidity of the tale will turn people off, but I enjoyed it as a bit of a guilty pleasure. C+

THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS: A heroin addict asks about the origin of a special brand of heroin. This leads into an impromptu piece of animation that aims for shock value and forgets any laughs to be had. This really felt like the turning point in which the movie (which already wasn’t great by any means) decided to throw everything at the wall and see what stuck. Unfortunately, nothing stuck at all. F

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THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY: Paul Rudd, already acting as a lifeless narrator in the wraparound, gets him time to shine here and the writing doesn’t do him any favors. Rudd would go on to be hilarious in later efforts (he’s arguably the funniest part of KNOCKED UP), but there’s no effort put into this brief segment from either Rudd or Wain. F

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REMEMBER THE SABBATH AND KEEP IT HOLY: The tenth commandment centers a man who would rather be naked at home on a Sunday than at church with his family. His newfound nudity gains popularity among his friends. Though this final segment may have gotten a brief chuckle out of me, it feels like this was a potentially funny joke that might have made for a small scene in a narrative feature, but gets stretched out to an excruciatingly long 10 minutes. It’s an ever so slight improvement above the last two tales, but sends the overall jumbled anthology out on a sour note. D-

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THE TEN has a cool premise, but doesn’t fully utilize it. The only commandment that I out-and-out loved was “Coveting Thy Neighbor’s Goods” as the dark sense of humor and Schreiber delivered solid laughs. There are also three that range between are okay (Shalt Not Murder, Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wife, and Shalt Not Steal). The rest of the stories feel like a simple jokes stretched to their unfunny breaking points or phoned in attempts at shock value. In the end, I can’t recommend THE TEN. I’m sure somebody’s already said this before, but Thou Shalt Not See This Movie!

Grade: D+

SEX TAPE (2014)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 34 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Sexual Content, Nudity, Language and some Drug Use

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Directed by: Jake Kasdan

Written by: Kate Angelo, Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller

Starring: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper, Rob Lowe, Jack Black

In Summer 2011, director Jake Kasdan delivered BAD TEACHER. That R-rated comedy was a decent flick and struck a nice balance between crude and sweet. Two years have passed and Kasdan has returned with SEX TAPE. The title alone gives the impression that this will be a more relentlessly raunchy effort this time around. I was actually pretty excited to see this film given the promising premise and a solid trailer. Unfortunately, I can count the number of funny moments on one hand. This is especially disappointing given that Kasdan has done hilarious work in the past (WALK HARD), as have stars Cameron Diaz (THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY) and Jason Segel (FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL). SEX TAPE is bad for a whole lot of the reasons, but most of them all lead back to a lazy script.

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Jay and Annie are a married couple who were once passionate lovers and now have fallen into the monotonous trap of a sex-free marriage. Trying to rekindle a spark in their life in-between the sheets, Annie suggests that they record themselves having sex in every position imaginable. The couple have a steamy, awesome night. Their video winds up being an epic length of three hours long and Jay is tasked with deleting the footage. However, Jay makes the horrifying discovery that their sex tape has been synched to the cloud and is now available on all the iPads they handed out as gifts to their friends and family. In a race against time and the possibility of their sex going viral, Annie and Jay try to recover all the iPads and delete the footage. This is easier said than done.

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Despite having a believable relationship together in BAD TEACHER, there’s a whole lot of forced chemistry between Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel this time around. One of the biggest problems with SEX TAPE is that the movie is a jumbled mess with different tones that change from scene to scene. Sometimes, it’s tries to go profane, but it mostly takes an oddly out-of-place romantic-comedy angle. In a movie called SEX TAPE that revolves around an outlandishly crude premise, a rom-com view feels like an odd way to approach this material. It’s not even as if anybody’s trying either. Jason Segel is running around doing slapstick. Cameron Diaz says a couple of swear words. Finally, even some of the score from BAD TEACHER was recycled here and stuck out like a sore thumb.

SEX TAPE, from left: Rob Lowe, Cameron Diaz, 2014. ph: Claire Folger/©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Eve

The movie is completely predictable in a whole lot of areas. Some obvious foreshadowing at the beginning gives the viewer an idea of how a scene will play out in the final 10 minutes of the film. The R-rating goes nearly wasted here. There are swear words and some quick comedic sex scenes, but nothing to write home about. The script is also crammed with repetitive jokes. One scene involving a group of people listing off dirty websites might have earned a chuckle, if it had been summed up in a single sentence. Instead, the one joke keeps running for about three full minutes. I was actually getting aggravated and wanted to yell at the screen “Get on with it, already!” Though we never see the actual sex tape (which might have easily earned an NC-17 for pornographic content), there are pieces shown at the tail-end of the film. Instead of serving as a payoff to any of the dusty jokes and frantic situation that we watched play out over this three-hour-long video, these bits only serve to pad out the already desperate running time. At least, SEX TAPE passed by quick!

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I can say a couple of nice things about SEX TAPE though. There is one really funny sequence (briefly glimpsed in the trailers) that involves Cameron Diaz’s character trying to retrieve an iPad from her new boss (Rob Lowe). It lasts about 10 minutes and I was laughing quite a bit. The scene escalates in so many ways and a running gag involving Disney paintings through the house was cracking me up. If the rest of the film had been as funny as that 10 minute stretch, then this would have been a worthwhile comedy. Rob Corddry isn’t up to his usual hilarious standards, but manages to outshine every person on-screen. Some of his moments also got a few chuckles out of me.

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SEX TAPE is bland, boring, and lazy. The screenplay (written by three people including Jason Segel) doesn’t take advantage of a raunchy premise. A few half-hearted moments aim for sweetness rather than outrageous laughs. It’s a tonal mess and feels like nobody is putting any effort into this film. I laughed for Rob Lowe’s memorable scene and a few moments featuring Rob Corddry in a supporting role, but those are the only times I even cracked a smile. It’s a disappointing lackluster comedy all around. The trailer was like foreplay and the actual movie left me with a case of comedic blue-balls.

Grade: D

SEMI-PRO (2008)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Language and some Sexual Content

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Directed by: Kent Alterman

Written by: Scot Armstrong

Starring: Will Ferrell, Andre Benjamin, Woody Harrelson, Andrew Daly, Will Arnett, David Koechner, Rob Corddry, Jackie Earle Haley, Jason Sudeikis, Kristen Wiig, Ed Helms

It seems like you either dig Will Ferrell or you don’t. He’s got his fair share of misfires, but the man knows how to bring a goofy sense of humor. After tackling news anchors, race car drivers, and figure skaters, Ferrell brought an R-rated basketball comedy to the screen in February 2008. At this point, it seemed like a lot of people were fed up with him essentially playing the same idiot over and over, because SEMI-PRO bombed at the box office. It’s not highly regarded by critics or the general public. This is one of those times where I have to heartily disagree. SEMI-PRO isn’t Ferrell’s best film and it’s far from his funniest, but this is a very entertaining sports comedy that frequently ventures into ridiculous areas. It made me laugh and I don’t understand the unwarranted hatred this film brings out in people. SEMI-PRO is one of the reasons I go back and watch older films that weren’t necessarily big hits upon their releases. This is an underrated flick.

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The year is 1976 and basketball is still evolving into what it is today. One hit wonder Jackie Moon, whose single “Love Me Sexy” made him rich, owns, coaches, and plays in ABA Flint Tropics. As the times are changing, the ABA is merging into the NBA and only the best teams will be taken, while the rest just disappear. The Flint Tropics are not a good team, far from it. They suck and Jackie Moon brings desperate publicity stunts to put the asses in the seats. With the newly arrived star player Ed Monix joining the Tropics, the team gets a drastic makeover in the gameplay and Jackie takes even crazier measures to try to ensure that they will be absorbed into the NBA.

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The comically exaggerated 70’s style, lingo, and references are merely a backdrop to this film that deserves a place just below TALLADEGA NIGHTS. SEMI-PRO is ludicrous and frequently funny. It’s a good sign when you can point out only a couple of jokes that fell flat. I laughed out loud a lot during SEMI-PRO. Even the lesser gags still got some chuckles out of me. However, the film almost plays out in episodic fashion. This is usually the downfall of plenty comedies, but SEMI-PRO still keeps things vaguely held together with the glue of this team trying to take the long, hard road to success.

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Familiar faces from other Ferrell movies show up, specifically in Will Arnett as a chain-smoking, easily angered sports commentator. A lot of people who I haven’t seen paired with Ferrell make appearances too. Woody Harrelson being the obvious one and he’s more of a straight-man to all the shenanigans happening around him, but does get in some solid material. Rob Corddry was the show-stealer for me though. I love Corddry in other movies (he’s the best part of HOT TUB TIME MACHINE without a doubt), but he’s hysterical as the boyfriend to Ed Monix’s former flame. He got huge laughs out of me for an unconventional approach to a familiar type of character.

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SEMI-PRO follows a conventional sports-comedy formula of the underdog team trying to beat seemingly insurmountable odds, but this is actually glanced over in a lot of areas. The progression is mainly seen in a typical montage. A couple of unexpected turns also pop up in the final third and I enjoyed this approach to a well-worn type of story. Ferrell and his wacky antics are the main focus, as they should be in a film like this. Also, some might argue that the movie doesn’t go far enough with its R rating (mainly consisting of a ton of creative profanity and one sexually explicit funny moment). Not all comedies need to step as far over the line as they possibly can though. Not everything needs to push the envelope. Sometimes, a purely enjoyable flick like SEMI-PRO can hit the spot just fine.

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At a brisk 91 minutes, nothing is ever allowed enough time to drag. It’s yet another bit of praise for a severely overlooked comedy that seemed to blend into a sea of Will Ferrell flicks. SEMI-PRO is definitely better than both ANCHORMAN films. It’s better than BLADES OF GLORY. I wouldn’t say it’s better than TALLADEGA NIGHTS (which might be my favorite Ferrell comedy), but it’s a damn entertaining film that satisfies for what it is. Like a good basketball game will entertain sports fans, SEMI-PRO will entertain the fans of Will Ferrell.

Grade: B

THE WAY WAY BACK (2013)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 43 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Thematic Elements, Language, some Sexual Content and brief Drug Material

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Directed by: Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

Written by: Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

Starring: Liam James, Sam Rockwell, AnnaSophia Robb, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry & Amanda Peet

I’ve been hearing about THE WAY WAY BACK since its premiere at Sundance. It was regarded as a sweet, sentimental coming-of-age dramedy. In this respect, the film holds up to what it’s been toted as. However, I feel that it comes at a most inopportune time for a film of this kind. In the past few years, we’ve seen many coming-of-age stories told in very different tones. Whether they be three-hour-long lesbian romances (BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR), dark Hitchcockian thrillers (STOKER), a more serious-minded approach (MUD), or just outright comedies about an awkward young men finding their way in life (PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, KINGS OF SUMMER, IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY). In a year that’s been populated with five coming-of-age films (counting this one), THE WAY WAY BACK holds solid ground, but doesn’t necessarily do anything that we haven’t seen before.

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The awkward youth in this case is Duncan, who’s going on a hellish vacation with his mom (Pam), her asshole boyfriend (Trent), and her asshole boyfriend’s daughter. In his frustration at the drunken antics of the adults and Trent’s rude behavior towards him that Duncan finds an escape in what little there is to do around town. Enter Owen, the easy-going manager of a water park. Owen takes Duncan under his wing and the two of them become fast friends. Taking on a part-time job at the park, Duncan discovers himself. All while Owen becomes a caring mentor to the troubled young man.

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There’s a strong chance that we’ve all known someone like Duncan in our lives. A guy with poor social skills and some problems at home that take a heavy toll on his daily life. We’ve also probably known someone like Trent. One could argue that his character means well for Duncan in a sort-of tough love way, but the actions that his character takes later on, reveal his true colors as a self-centered prick. Steve Carell, known mainly for his comedic or leading man roles, proves himself to be surprisingly capable of playing the “villain” (so to speak). Trent is the one of most deplorable characters I’ve seen in a movie all year and Carell’s performance brings him to life. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have Sam Rockwell as the laid back Owen. Rockwell also brings his character to life as a slacker adult, who also genuinely cares about people. The relationship that forms between Owen and Duncan is nothing short of delightful to watch.

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If Duncan, Trent, and Owen are the characters that everyone will remember, then Pam (Duncan’s mother) and Susanna (Duncan’s love interest) are the ones that everyone will gloss over or simply forget. I can’t blame them for this either. There isn’t a lot of love thrown into their characters. Toni Collette is good enough as Pam, but we aren’t given any real reasons to care other than she’s Duncan’s mom. AnnaSophia Robb is a phenomenal actress, but isn’t given much room to shine here. In fact, she’s pretty much regulated to the background in most scenes. Though Duncan is an interesting character and we root for him, Liam James seems to stumble over his delivery a few scenes. This might have been attributed to his awkward character, but I found it distracting.

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For the most part, THE WAY WAY BACK follows the coming-of-age formula in predictable fashion to the inherently sappy conclusion. However, the formula has stuck around for a reason. It usually works and this is no exception. It’s a plot we’ve seen before, but it just happens to be done with a lot of charm here. There’s real enjoyment to be had and the film holds many sparks of truth relating to the characters. Overall, THE WAY WAY BACK is way way good!

Grade: B+

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