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26 July 2016
One-on-One with Adam Pally - Movie Reviews for Kids

He's best-known for starring on the TV comedies "Happy Endings" and "The Mindy Project". Now, in this LCJ Q&A, the busy - and very funny - Adam Pally discusses his latest three projects: the film "Night Owls" (now available on Netflix), the family comedy "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life" (opening Oct. 7) and the FOX series "Making History", which premieres early next year.

In Theaters

Nerve (PG-13) C

Nerve (PG-13) C - Movie Reviews for Kids

"Nerve" is based on a 2012 novel by Jeanne Ryan. And that makes perfect sense. There's a heroine at the center of a Hunger Games-esque, high-tech reality game called Nerve, which is, essentially, an extreme version of Truth or Dare, with teen and 20-year-old contestants tackling various challenges in hopes of winning cash, gaining followers and becoming internet celebrities. However, Nerve is also the ultimate game of "Press Your Luck", with the Whammy being Death. As the dollar amounts increase, the dares get more and more dangerous.

The concept is intriguing, but as the movie unfolds, it’s impossible not to think how illogical it all is. No one is allowed to tell the Police about Nerve or else they're considered a snitch, which has its own set of consequences. Nerve has supposedly gone on for years, with tens of thousands of "Watchers" and "Players" across the country, and during that time, no one in authority OF ANY KIND has found-out about the game? That’s simply ridiculous.

Plus, practically every high school and college student (along with some adults bored at work) watches Nerve on their device of choice - basically doing NOTHING ELSE with their lives - and yet no one on any of the OTHER Social Media Platforms: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, SnapChat are talking about it? We all know - in the real world - there are no secrets online.

Those are big flaws when it comes to the Nerve game. And there are just as many problems with "Nerve" the movie. Emma Roberts plays Vee, a high school senior who’s looking to go to college at CalArts, though her mom (played by Juliette Lewis) wants her to stay home. Vee's best friend, the "ambitious" Sydney, is really into Nerve, hoping to earn a lot of money and become “insta-famous”.

Accused of being boring, Vee decides to try Nerve, and she’s quickly teamed-up with motorcycle-riding fellow player Ian (Dave Franco). They take to the streets of New York City, executing the “dares” they’re presented with, which start innocent and quickly become life-threatening. "Nerve" does give equal time to exploring the three side effects of the game: the impact on the players, the bystanders who proudly record the action on their phones, and those who think they're all absolutely insane. With the lengthiest PG-13 MPAA rating explanation of any movie this year, the title should've been "Nerve - or Kids: Don't Try This At Home".

Roberts and Franco do make a cute couple. And there are some minor elements that work. During a scene in which Vee is recording herself trying on a flashy, $4,000 green dress in a department store changing room, comments from Watchers appear on the side of the screen. Some complement or criticize the dress, others do the same about Vee's body in offensive and improper ways. The scene sums-up today's Social Media behavior to a tee. And the growing tension between Vee and Sydney doesn't feel forced.

But, while "Nerve" is the most "Modern" movie of 2016 (filled with tech, pop music, and flashy graphics), it isn't suspenseful enough to be exciting nor groundbreaking enough to be thought-provoking. The lessons the film is supposed to teach us, presented blatantly in a few climactic speeches, are obvious and pretty corny.

On The Official LCJ Report Card, "Nerve" gets a C.

Ice Age: Collision Course (PG) D+

Ice Age: Collision Course (PG) D+ - Movie Reviews for Kids

If ever there was an animated franchise that's been milked for all it's worth, it's "Ice Age" (though I'm not sure if you could actually milk Mooly Mammoths). What began as a noble and heartfelt, Oscar-nominated original back in 2002 (the first feature from Blue Sky Studios) is now four sequels, three shorts and two TV specials deep. "The Meltdown" ('06) and "Dawn of the Dinosaurs" ('09) were satisfying follow-ups, but 2012's "Continental Drift" proved the series had lost its edge. Now, "Collision Course" leaves no doubt that "Ice Age" is worthy of cinematic extinction.

The most, or rather, only, amusing element in "Collision Course" are the Scrat vignettes. This time, our acorn-loving saber-tooth squirrel has gotten himself "lost in space", and, as we learn from narration by scientist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, has caused an asteroid to head straight towards Earth. The decision by the writers to bring back Buck, a great character from "Dawn of the Dinosaurs" (voiced by Simon Pegg), was smart, but he, and practically everything in the movie, is too much to handle this time.

As for the plot - it's Buck who informs all the others (Manny, Sid, Diego, etc., etc., etc.) that the asteroid will end life as they know it unless they find a way to stop it. And there's a theme about dealing with change, as Manny and and Ellie's daughter Peaches is getting married and moving out. It's all as basic as that. 

Of course, Mammoths, Ground Sloths and Saber-Tooth Tigers (et al) no longer exist. But, even though "Collision Course" is promoted as "The Defining Chapter" of this saga, unfortunately FOX doesn't stick to history, though I wish they had. Frankly, it's the only humane thing to do at this point in the series.

While "IA5" is expected to underperform in the US, it's already a monster overseas, just like its predecessors. That's the reason Blue Sky keeps investing time and energy into churning-out new chapters of the franchise. It's a bit of a surprise that the focus hasn't shifted to turning this into a TV series. The "Collision Course" script is worthy of a 22-minute cable/web treatment and the show would likely be very popular.

In a "nutshell": "Collision Course" is colorful and cheery, with rambunctious, non-stop, off-the-wall energy for 90 minutes. The dialogue is dull and there are fifteen-minute stretches without a single chuckle. New additions to the voice cast: Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jessie J, Adam DeVine, Nick Offerman, and even Kelly Ripa's TV ex, Michael Strahan don't raise the entertainment level an inch. 

A five year-old girl sitting in the row behind me loved all the action and hijinks. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, older than her will find themselves rooting for the asteroid.

On The Official LCJ Report Card, "Ice Age: Collision Course" gets a D+.

Star Trek Beyond (PG-13) B-

Star Trek Beyond (PG-13) B- - Movie Reviews for Kids

After a successful “Star Trek” reboot in 2009 and an even stronger 2013 sequel, J.J. Abrams handed control of the Starship Enterprise over to “Fast & Furious” director Justin Lin - who has now destroyed it, in more ways than one. Literally, the Enterprise gets demolished early in “Star Trek Beyond” - which features dazzling visuals and elaborate action scenes, but also, 50 years after the iconic TV series began, the big screen franchise has become, well, ordinary.

Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and the rest of the crew are back. While on year three of their five-year mission, the gang runs into some trouble and a new foe in Krall (played by an unrecognizable Idris Elba). He and his army separate the Starfleet members, who must work their way back together throughout much of the movie if they have any hope of saving mankind. Simon Pegg, who returns as Scotty, co-wrote the script, and he infuses some quirky humor that’s hit and miss.

Kirk (played again by Chris Pine) remarks at the start of the film that he’s tired of the same ol’ routine - that the voyages are getting “episodic”. The “Star Trek” TV series really was episodic, with a good vs. evil, rescue mission plot every week, garnished with new aliens and situations to keep things interesting and fun. But what really kept millions of viewers coming back to the show and turning it into a cultural phenomenon? The core characters.

Abrams’ first two films took us deeper, with a serious, character-study approach, and some real drama and emotion. “Star Trek Beyond”, on the other hand, has the blatant feel of an extended TV episode. It’s also the most “commercial” entry of the new incarnation. This isn’t just an action movie, it’s an all-action movie, with Lin hardly making any effort to take it “beyond” the level of his “Fast & Furious” style.

Trekkies will no-doubt enjoy the non-stop action. And, don’t get me wrong, “Beyond” is far from a bad movie. The likable cast members bring their A-games, the makeup is spectacular and the effects are worthy. And there are some nice references to the Star Trek legacy, along with appropriate acknowledgements to the late Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin in the closing credits. But what hooked me about this new vision of “Star Trek” was that it didn’t need to succumb to the formalities of other blockbusters in this genre in order to prosper. It was the hip, cool outcast in the galaxy. “Star Trek Beyond” diminishes the franchise by boldly going where practically every other sci-fi series has gone before.

On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Star Trek Beyond” gets a B-.

Cafe Society (PG-13) C-

Cafe Society (PG-13) C- - Movie Reviews for Kids

Woody Allen's five films prior to "Cafe Society" included a couple of Oscar winners ("Midnight in Paris", "Blue Jasmine"), a guilty pleasure ("Irrational Man"), a mixed bag ("Magic in the Moonlight") and a bit of a disaster ("To Rome with Love"). This latest all-star, romantic dramedy is the first Allen movie distributed by Lionsgate and Amazon, with the online giant already agreeing to finance Allen's 2017 project for a reported $25 million. That decision was likely based on early box office results and not on the quality of "Cafe Society", which is on the weak side of the Allen spectrum.

Woody tries to suck us into the visual splendor of the 1930s, both in New York City, and particularly, Hollywood, but never quite succeeds. So it's up to story and performances to make this a winner, and neither are up to the challenge. Allen narrate this tale (sadly, at 80, the signature tone and tenor of his voice are all but gone), introducing us to a bulked-up Steve Carell as big-time Tinseltown movie studio agent Phil Stern. I've enjoyed Carell's dramatic roles over the years, and while his work as antagonists in "The Way, Way Back" and "Foxcatcher" was spot-on, he's not as convincing here.

Phil's timid, quirky nephew, Bobby (played by Jesse Eisenberg) has moved from The Big Apple to Hollywood hoping to land a job at his uncle's agency. He becomes Phil's assistant and immediately falls for Vonnie, Phil's personal secretary. Kristen Stewart reunites with Eisenberg for the third time, following "Adventureland" (2009) and last year's awful action comedy "American Ultra", and while they don't give career-best performances, their connection feels natural.

A love triangle (an Allen staple) soon develops that eventually changes shape, as a City Hall PR woman (played by Blake Lively) enters the picture. Her character's name will likely make your eyes rolls (as it did mine), with Allen, the writer, getting too cute for the movie's good. At one point Bobby states, "Love is a comedy, from a sadistic writer". This may be an attempt by Allen to salute himself, but unfortunately this script doesn't have the bite, irony or evil streak to live-up to that tribute. It's simply another in a series of Woody Allen's overly-crafted, fantasy romances.

"Cafe Society" also includes a few off-the-tracks subplots involving Bobby's gangster brother and his quirky, Jewish parents. Nothing new here. These elements, along with everything else in the tidy 95-minutes, faii to provide the charm that's always a part of Allen's best movies. Lively and Parker Posey (so good in "Irrational Man") are wasted in throwaway roles.

Not until the final moments of "Cafe Society" do we actually get a few things to contemplate, thanks to an authentic scene which touches on life, love and loss. It also got me wondering why Woody didn't put as much thought and care into the rest of this film. 

On The Official LCJ Report Card, "Cafe Society" gets a C-.

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"Star Trek Beyond" review

What's Next?
  • "Jason Bourne" - Friday
  • "Suicide Squad" - Aug. 5
  • "Florence Foster Jenkins" - Aug. 12
  • "Sausage Party" - Aug. 12
  • "Pete's Dragon" - Aug. 12
  • "Kubo and the Two Strings" - Aug. 19
Best @ the Box Office
  1. "Star Trek Beyond"  $59.6M
  2. "The Secret Life of Pets"  $29.3
  3. "Ghostbusters"  $21.6
  4. "Lights Out"  $21.6
  5. "Ice Age: Collision Course"  $21.0
  6. "Finding Dory"  $7.2
  7. "The Legend of Tarzan"  $6.4
  8. "Mike and Dave/Dates"  $4.4
  9. "Hillary's America"  $3.7
  10. "The Infiltrator"  $3.3
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LCJ and Ken Jeong

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