Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

Tag Archives: Chris Pratt

ANCC: Catch Up! Volume 2

It’s time for another episode full of ketchup! Who’s up for some some All-New Culture Cast starring the infamous trio of the Gorehound, Jen, and Nick?

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below.

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All-New Culture Cast: Jurassic World

Welcome to the first episode of the All-New Culture Cast.  Hosts Nick and Kyle have an in-depth conversation about this summer’s biggest film, Jurassic World (now out on home media)!  Come join them as they run around in high-heels and discuss dinosaurs past and present.

Click HERE or on the image to listen to the podcast.

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We are not quite on iTunes yet.  So stay tuned for updates on that!

Check out Zack’s Jurassic World review here.  And check out Nick’s JW Leftover Questions.

Leftover Questions: Jurassic World Edition (Spoiler Warning)

I saw Jurassic World this weekend.  It was fun movie for what it was and, for modern blockbusters, incredibly restrained in its action – kind of refreshing to see.  However, there were just some nagging questions that remained after I left the theater.

There are spoilers, so you have been properly warned!

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1. Owen used to be in the Navy which apparently led him to his work with the raptors. What about his naval experience makes him an expert at training wild animals, let alone dinosaurs?

2. What exactly is InGen? In the first two movies, they seemed to be the company that created the dinosaurs. Here, they act as some militarized force of security.  What is their relationship to Jurassic World?

3. Why is Owen sexually harassing a supervisor? Sure, he might think it is flirting, but she is clearly not into it, but he keeps going.

4. Speaking of which, how long ago was their first (and only) date? Why is Owen coming off this strong/creepy after only one date (that neither one of them actually seemed to enjoy).

5. Does Owen really live in a van down by the river?

6. Why didn’t anybody check right away for the I-Rex’s tracking device when they failed to notice the heat signature in paddock?

7. How come Owen is the only one in the entire park that ever notices something strange or realizes a bad idea?

8. Why does the control room give her the silent blame treatment after the first I-Rex attack? That was completely outside her control and, to be fair, not really her responsibility in the first place.

9. Why doesn’t Jurassic World have any sort of override in place to prevent exactly what the two kids did with the gyrosphere?

10. How come Jurassic World has absolutely no contingency plans in case any of the dinosaurs get loose? Granted, the I-Rex is a new dinosaur, so they are learning the ropes with her, but what about the pterosaurs?

11. Speaking of that, why breed pterosaurs (or that many) in the first place since they cannot be easily contained?

12. How come the I-Rex is able to display new abilities right when the movie needs her to? Did she read the script? She probably read the script.

13. How come what the I-Rex was genetically culled from was classified to the park trainers and, of all people, Masrani? Shouldn’t that be something the CEO is automatically be allowed to know?

14. For that matter, before beginning, how come Masrani didn’t give a final approval?

15. How come Jurassic World’s designers not cannibalize the remains of the old park? Why were there cars, tools, and other useful items just abandoned?

16. How did the I-Rex get inside the old park visitor center when was in-closed and the doors were shut?

17. How did the kids get the old jeeps working? True, they were able to quickly swap out an engine (somehow), but where did they get the gas from to operate it? And if they did have gas, how is that gas even still good after 20 years?

18. Why does Owen (who has a gun) do absolutely nothing to help Hoskins from getting eaten? Sure, he didn’t care for the guy, but Owen pretty much allows him to die.

19. Where did all the visitors go after the pterosaur attack? Were they completely ferried off the island before the final showdown?

20. How can Claire outrun a T-Rex in high heels? How can she outrun a T-Rex, period?

21. Why does the 4th raptor coming running out to attack the I-Rex? Shouldn’t that raptor still think the I-Rex is her alpha since she wasn’t there when Owen reestablished his connection with the other three?

22. Why do the T-Rex and the raptor have a bro moment? Doesn’t that go against everything else established about these creatures in this film series so far?

23. How does Lowery make his way out of the control center? He was the last one there and the ferries are a good mile (or more) away with a T-Rex and Raptor on the loose.

I saw Jurassic World

I’ve been putting off writing this review for a few weeks, not totally out of procrastination either. 1993’s Jurassic Park is legitimately one of my favorite movies ever, and probably my favorite summer blockbuster ever (it often trades places with Jaws, another Spielberg joint). I can’t lie; I was not looking forward to Jurassic World. I was expecting it to be a piece of crap, much like the sequels to that excellent 1993 feature film. I’m happy to report that my fears and worries were misplaced. Despite a mind-boggling marketing effort, Jurassic World is a pretty good and really fun summer movie. And while I am a bit surprised it has done as well as it has, I’m not surprised it’s a big hit.

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I can’t stress enough how bad the marketing was for this film. Universal, who has done a decent job marketing their Despicable Me and Fast and Furious franchises, botched Jurassic World almost from the start. The teaser trailer felt disjointed and cliché, and now mega-star Chris Pratt seemed out of place and miscast. Bryce Dallas Howard seemed no match for the material either. The second trailer wasn’t much better. I’d argue it was actually worse, as it almost completely turned me off to the project. The addition of two adorable teenage moppets seemed disastrous, in the vein of Jeff Goldblum’s daughter from the second film and that obnoxious little twerp from the third film. I was hoping they wouldn’t dumb Jurassic World down for kids, but it seemed like that’s exactly what Universal was doing.

When I actually saw the film, however, I was blown away but just how good and suspenseful the end product is. Essentially a retread but on a bigger and grander scale than Jurassic Park, World opens with two brothers getting ready to jet off to the theme park to visit their overworked and stressed out aunt, who runs Jurassic World on the operations end. Meanwhile, Ingen geneticist Henry Wu (BD Wong, the only actor to return from the first film) and Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan, who is excellent) plan to show off their newest creation, Indominus Rex, to the general public for the first time. Complicating matters are Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt playing Chris Pratt essentially), who voices objections and concerns over Indominus’ paddock, and Vic Hoskins (a scenery-chewing Vincent D’Onofrio), who wants to use the genetically engineered dinosaurs for military purposes.

Of course all hell breaks loose, and when it does, the film gets really, really fun. The special effects, while not as ground breaking as the 1993 original, are well done and never overly egregious. Characters don’t act inconsistent or irrational for purposes of moving the plot along. When it’s suggesting that Owen use his trained raptors to hunt down Indominus, for example, he is openly hostile of the plan and thinks it is a bad idea (it is). Direction is fairly taut and honestly much better than I had expected going in. Working for the first time with a massive budget (at 150 million, Jurassic World was expensive but not nearly as expensive as The Avengers or the upcoming Batman vs. Superman), directing Colin Trevorrow acquits himself nicely, backing up the faith Spielberg had in him when he personally selected him for the project. I think Trevorrow does about as well as could possibly have been expected out of him.

There are, however, tons of problems with the script. Bryce Dallas Howard’s character, for example, is largely defined by her lack of a personal life, meaning she is sad because she doesn’t have a husband and children. This was the most egregiously offensive thing about the screenplay. The notion that people must procreate and have children to achieve maximum happiness in life is laughable and idiotic, particularly in a movie released in 2015. Of course there is a love story between her and Chris Pratt’s character shoehorned in (though the two honestly make a good couple). Additionally, some of the stuff with the teenagers is downright laughable and/or badly acted, particularly by the younger brother. I was never able to buy into the chemistry between these actors, and they don’t reach the heights of the bond that Tim and Lex shared in the first film.

Outside of more than a few scripting issues, Jurassic World is a very strong example of how to do a modern summer blockbuster right. At 124 minutes, it has an almost perfect running time for a summer escape. The special effects work well, the direction is taut and creates tension, and the actors are entertaining. Chris Pratt has now become a marquee movie star, Irrfan Khan is fantastic as the would-be John Hammond character, and D’Onofrio chews scenery like no one’s business. Despite the script short-changing her, Bryce Dallas Howard is also fine as well. She’s got good comic timing and decent chemistry with Pratt. In case you’re one of the 5 people left on earth who haven’t seen Jurassic World yet, I can recommend it as a nice summer blockbuster and an entertaining thrill ride.

-Z-

Guardians of the Galaxy – “Risk” and Review (or lack there of)

Because I’ve been behind the times lately, I finally got around to catching a showing of Marvel Studio’s latest offering Guardians of the Galaxy. This is a film that has been brewing for quite a while it seems with a completely insufferable online fanbase. The movie, itself, has been getting some pretty high marks and has pretty much stole the month of August in terms of box office revenue. I’m sure it helps with little-to-no competition. But what did I, Nick, think of this outer space adventure?

gotgIt was entertaining. I don’t think it merits the head-over-heels response it has been getting, but it works as an enjoyable and fun movie. I think that James Gunn did a solid job creating this new world within the strict confines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He has probably created the most visually interesting movie to come out of this mega-franchise yet. This is likely due to the fact that he also wrote the screenplay and the entire film has next-to-nothing to do with the other Marvel films, allowing it to go in its own way.

That said, there is nothing very original in this movie. Oh, it’s fun and there are some nice twist and turns in the story, but at the end of the day, it is a standard chase-after-the-McGuffin affair. It runs a little long with an incredibly simple, simple storyline with a villain who does stuff for, y’know, reasons (seriously, why does Ronan want to destroy those people?). I don’t want to make it sound like I am crapping on the movie for this, but I am trying to illustrate why I am not completely ga-ga over the film the way the rest of the internet seems to be.

The thing that really works Guardians are the characters, led by an incredibly charming Chris Pratt. The thing that these Marvel films do well is add tons and tons of humor into them – most of which works. I can see why people keep flocking to them. It is light, disposable entertainment. Guardians is no exception. The humor from the characters work and it is genuinely funny. Well…with the exception of Karen Gillian who is incredibly flat and dull.

All that being said, I kind of want to switch gears and talk about the “risk” that this movie supposedly took. There has been lots of talk that Guardians was a risk for Marvel Studios, but was it really? I mean, lets really boil this down. What about this movie is in anyway risky? People point to the talking raccoon and anthropometric tree which is completely ridiculous reasoning considering that audiences have lived through the Star Wars prequels which featured a completely CGI main character in Jar-Jar Binks. Say what you will about the character, but people accepted him pretty well. Since that time, several directors put CGI characters into movies without pause.

Let’s look at another August movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While this movie was in production, did anyone comment how it was a risk because they have walking, talking turtles? No, of course not. For that matter, the original 1990 film didn’t face that concern either. Using a talking raccoon as evidence of a risk is a pretty weak argument.

The other case for a risk is that no one has ever heard of these characters before. I suppose that is a legitimate enough concern. On the other hand, at one point, no one ever heard of Darth Vader, Indiana Jones, or the planet of Pandora before either.

I know. Maybe that isn’t fair. Filmmakers never know what’s going to stick with audiences when it comes to “new” ideas. But, unlike those other examples, Guardians had one thing incredibly in its favor: Marvel Studios. Marvel has been producing their own films since 2008’s Iron Man and has had a recognizable presence in Hollywood since 2002’s Spider-Man (and to a lesser extent since 1998’s Blade). After Marvel’s The Avengers, the Marvel name has been a license to print money. Even the dismal Thor: The Dark World earned $206 million at the box office is a much, much more crowded time of year.

Couple all of this with several bankable stars, and Guardians was destined to become a hit. Maybe not to the extent that it ended up being (no competition allows for that), but it was going to successful. The idea that it was some sort of “risk” is absolutely ridiculous.

I know this makes me sound like such a Negative Nick. I do like this movie. I would recommend this film for someone who is looking for something light to enjoy on a lazy Sunday afternoon. But as high art, it isn’t. And as a risk for Marvel Studios, it is even less.

~N

The Lego Movie Podcast

This time, Zack and Nick discuss the early 2014 mega-hit film The Lego Movie, written for the screen and directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller and featuring the voice talents of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, Elizabeth Banks, and Will Arnett. What will they have to say about this well-received animated film? Listen and find out!

Click HERE or on the image to listen to the podcast.

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And as always click HERE to follow us on iTunes!

-Z-

I saw The Lego Movie

Children’s entertainment can pretty much go either way for adults. Generally speaking, it can be either entertaining and a solid waste of time for both children and adults, or it can be insipid, mind-numbing crap so bad that it makes you wonder how anyone could watch it, small children or otherwise. Thankfully, the last ten years or so has been filled with amusing children’s entertainment suitable for adults as well, mostly thanks to the efforts of studios like Pixar. Disney has caught on as well, releasing Wreck-It Ralph and then Frozen in simultaneous years. Even Dreamworks has gotten in on this, with last year’s The Croods being a fairly pleasant diversion. The latest in this trend is The Lego Movie, stemming from an unlikely source in Warner Bros. Animation.

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Warner’s biggest hits in the field of animation include both Happy Feet films, and the second one was a pretty notable flop back in 2011. So when The Lego Movie was announced, you could be forgiven for not being all that interested. Fortunately, the film stems mainly from the minds of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the creative pair responsible for MTV’s cult hit Clone High as well as 2012’s well-liked 21 Jump Street feature film adaptation/remake. With Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt as the main character Emmet, The Hunger Games’ Elizabeth Banks voicing the rebellious Wyldstyle, and comedy stalwart Will Ferrell bringing life to the big bad Lord Business (president of the dubious Octan Corporation as well as the city of Bricksburg), The Lego Movie boasts considerable acting talent. And while it doesn’t always hit its mark, it is an admirable and entertaining effort well worth the time.

When President Business steals the mysterious Kragle (a Macguffin I won’t spoil in this review), it is up to regular, everyday Lego minifigure/construction worker Emmet to fulfill the prophecy foretold by ancient wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and save the world with the help of Wyldstyle, Batman (voice of Will Arnett), the dread pirate Metal Beard (Nick Offerman), Uni-Kitty (Alison Brie), and 1980s spaceman Benny (Charlie Day). Together they must unite to stop President Business as well as his henchman Bad Cop (Liam Neeson) from their nefarious plot and save the day for the Lego universe (which includes, in addition to Bricksburg, a pirate land, wild west land, and “Middle Zealand” – an obvious reference to Lord of the Rings as well as the popular knight-themed Lego sets of the 1980s).

While the film is light on plot, it is fast, energetic, colorful, frenetically paced, fairly funny, and often incredibly charming. The script is filled with decent quips and jokes throughout its running time, many of which are based on the Lego characters’ limited movements (doing “jumping jacks” side to side for example) or their ability to tear down an entire city and construct the same thing again every single day as a viable job. The voice talent is considerably strong throughout, with Arnett’s performance as Batman being a notable highlight. Arnett portrays him as a spoiled, snotty jerk type of character, which is a total 180 from how you might expect Batman to act. Ferrell is also great as Lord Business – perfectly cast I would say. Chris Pratt’s energy and dumb optimism makes for a great blank slate character as well. Oh, and the music – done by Mark Mothersbaugh – is fantastic.

The Lego Movie is a trifle for sure, however. There’s not that much dept there, certainly not as much found in something like Ratatouille or Toy Story 3. The script is fast and well paced, but it can also be shallow in areas and relies on a lot of character cameos and a few dumb gags. There’s a bit of sentimentality towards the end that isn’t entirely earned, but it is fairly well done – I won’t spoil it here, but I was not expecting where it took the story. I’m not sure if I liked it, but it was different and I will at least give it credit for that. There’s still a ton of creativity to be found in this movie. I imagine it will appeal more to adults than kids, but I still had a good time throughout its thankfully average 100-minute running time (any more time spent in this film would have just been superfluous). Check it out for a fun, if not particularly deep, time at the movies.

-Z-

What Went Wrong? Vol. 38 – Vince Vaughn Edition

I’ve written in the past about at least two different Vince Vaughn vehicles that underperformed at the box office. In the past six months, Vaughn has failed to deliver positive box office results twice, starring in what seems like the exact same movie yet again in the form of both The Internship and Delivery Man. Once one of the most in demand Hollywood heavyweights, Vaughn has turned into box office poison. I’ve always liked his quick talking ways and razor sharp wit, so today I’m going to explore why I think his two comedies this year both failed.

The Internship (2013)

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The Internship is the story of two grown men (Vaughn and Owen Wilson, reteaming from their Wedding Crashers glory days) who, upon losing their jobs as salesmen, apply to become interns at Google. Accepted as part of a diversity quota (because they’re old, ha ha), the two are placed on a team of last-picked losers including a sheltered mama’s boy, a misunderstood bad boy, and a girl who is into anime and manga (because it’s apparently 2007). Vaughn and Wilson (let’s be honest, they’re playing themselves, and honestly that’s the one of the few things not wrong with the movie) must overcome adversity at every end, win their respective love interests and such, and lead their rag-tag team of rejects to the top, ultimately hoping to win jobs with the prestigious, highly successful Google tech company. So, what exactly went wrong?

Back in 2005, Vaughn and Wilson starred in the much better received Wedding Crashers, a film that grossed over 200 million dollars at the box office (almost unheard of for an R-rated comedy film). It was met with near universal critical and audience acclaim. The Internship to many felt like nothing but a cheap re-tread of that film, complete with similar directing style by Shawn Levy (who may as well just have the same filmography as Crashers’ director David Dobkin). Because of this perception, it is likely that The Internship was probably doomed to failure from the start. Mockingly dubbed “2007’s best comedy!” (a joke I just made literally one paragraph ago) by several film critics and smart asses online, The Internship debuted to horrid reviews (35% rating on RT) and tepid box office (just 17 million over its first weekend, a huge drop-off from Vaughn and Wilson’s previous collaboration). Blasted by many as nothing but a blatant cash grab, The Internship quickly faded from box office as other big summer comedies, like The Heat and We’re the Millers, succeeded in its stead.

Additionally, it didn’t help that The Internship is barely even a movie. Like Adam Sandler’s two “Let’s go to the woods on vacation and film it!” Grown Ups movies, The Internship is basically an hour and a half long commercial for Google. Wilson, Vaughn, and their team use Google translate, develop apps for Google devices, and do other Google stuff as part of their Google challenges. Their ultimate goal is to work for Google, which is made out to be some kind of workplace heaven with free coffee and bagels and adult-sized fun slides that twist and turn from one floor to the next. The “script” (“co-written” by Vaughn) is nothing but blatant product placement in both the foreground and the background of this tired slobs vs. snobs movie. Yes, The Internship is part of a comedy sub-genre so well worn that it was beginning to feel dated in the mid-1980s. Why are we still getting these kinds of movies? Who is financing this stuff?

Delivery Man (2013)

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From 2004 to 2009, Vince Vaughn starred in a series of commercial hits that grossed buckets of money and were typically greeted by a significant amount of critical acclaim (Dodgeball and Wedding Crashers were surprisingly well-reviewed films) or at least audience appreciation. That trend started to turn a bit in late 2007 when Vaughn starred in Fred Claus, a film obviously meant to be a kid-friendly cash magnet. Fred Claus, however, met with tepid reviews and middling box office. The next year, Vaughn struck gold commercially with another holiday film, Four Christmases. Like Fred Claus, however, it was met with atrocious reviews. 2009’s Couples Retreat was Vaughn’s last big hit (and a terrible movie), but was also met with a critical trashing. Vaughn hasn’t scored a commercial or critical hit since.

I bring this up only because Delivery Man actually had promise. It could have been a well-reviewed, funny, and heartfelt film in the vein of one of Vaughn’s earlier hits. Why? Because unlike The Internship and those four crappy movies mentioned earlier, Delivery Man actually has something resembling a story and fleshed out characters (it is based on a highly regarded Canadian film from the same director, Ken Scott). Vaughn stars as David Wozniak, a man who lacks direction and passion in his life until he founds out that a sperm donation mix-up resulted in him siring over 500 children. While it is true that this is a wacky scenario that probably has little to no basis in reality, it at least seems to have a coherent story and a script instead of substituting product placement and charismatic actors in place of a story. So, what exactly went wrong?

I really feel like Delivery Man was marketed as a thoughtful, contemplative dramatic film. Trailers and TV spots for the film feature sappy music (the same song, incidentally, as is used in an insurance commercial) interspersed with moments of comedy and then dramatic bits about how Vaughn needs to get his life together. I really feel like this was the most proper way to market this movie. Other than the sap, I think it was wise for Disney to market Delivery Man the way they did. Critics actually praised Vaughn’s work in the film as well, describing him as likable and “quietly reactive” instead of his usual fast-talking persona. Critics praised it as work unlike more recent, typical Vince Vaughn movies, as if it were a step in the right direction for Vaughn’s career. The film, however, just couldn’t shake overall bad reviews, having compiled a poor 36% rating on Rotten Tomatoes despite Vaughn’s best acting effort in years.

The big problem for Delivery Man (in addition to the poor reviews) was opening against The Hunger Games’ first sequel, Catching Fire. Catching Fire debuted to a mammoth 160+ million dollars over its first weekend, leaving little for the other films at the theater. Even mega-budgeted tentpole Thor: The Dark World crumbled in its third weekend. Other films like The Best Man Holiday and Last Vegas saw significant dips in their grosses as well. Vaughn’s film was a clear attempt by Disney at counter-programming (when studios release a smaller film targeted at a different section of the audience than a tent-pole release), but this kind of thing only rarely succeeds, and when it does it’s usually in the form of a romantic comedy with a bankable actress at the helm. The modestly budgeted (26 million dollars) Delivery Man will probably not end up profitable, making it two flops in six months for the once dependable Vaughn.

-Z-

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