Penguins

penguins movie

Penguins are my favorite non-human animal. I never get tired of watching penguins. So, yes, I love this movie. I would love Penguins even if it sucked but, happily, it does not suck.

Disney has, for decades, told animal stories by constructing narratives around the filmed actions of nature’s creatures. This storytelling involves giving certain animals names and relating some of their actions to human behavior. This format was a staple of the old Disney TV shows and now is reprised in Disneynature films.

In Penguins, the central figure is a penguin named Steve. He migrates across Antarctica to breeding grounds where he builds a nest out of rocks and finds a female partner named Adeline. They incubate eggs, birth chicks, feed the youngsters and introduce them to the world and its dangers.

Penguins is filled with glorious shots of penguins on land, on ice and in the water. The way they pop up out of water always tickles me whether I see it at Sea World, the St. Louis Zoo or in this film. Their almost circular leaps as they move through water (similar to those of dolphins) are also fascinating and something not observed when they are in captivity.

Ed Helms of The Office and The Hangover movies is the film’s narrator. Along with his straight reading of the script he provides several ad-libbed reaction sounds to on-screen events.

How did the filmmakers get so close to obtain this footage? Action shots of the crew run alongside the movie’s closing credits, showing the men and women and their equipment as they record the activities of the penguins and their predators.

Like many of the best movies for young kids, Penguins has a short run time: just under 80 minutes. It is a film that makes me happy.

Now if Disneynature would just make a film about my second favorite non-human animal, manatees, I would be even happier.

 

 

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Love The Coopers

Every family is dysfunctional to a degree, some more than others. The Coopers, Sam (John Goodman) and Charlotte (Diane Keaton), a couple whose 40-year marriage has lost its energy, have a family with issues galore. Charlotte wants one more happy family Christmas celebration before they split.

Love, The Coopers is like an edgier Hallmark Christmas movie, with cast members who are better known. Like a Hallmark movie, things generally work out. Like a Hallmark movie, there are few non-white faces. Unlike a Hallmark movie, a few impolite phrases are uttered and bodily functions draw attention. But don’t worry: LTC is safely PG-13.

Cooper offspring include Hank (Ed Helms) and Eleanor (Olivia Wilde). Hank’s marriage to Angie (Alex Borstein, best known as the voice of Lois Griffin on Family Guy) is breaking up. Among their three kids is son Charlie (Timothee Chalet) who is at that awkward age and is especially awkward at kissing.

Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) is a flirty type who picks up cute serviceman Joe (Jack Lacy) at the airport and drags him to the family’s Christmas Eve dinner as her pretend boyfriend. Their verbal jousting (over political and religious differences) provides some of the film’s highlights.

Emma (Marisa Tomei) is Charlotte’s younger sister with whom a sibling rivalry persists. She is busted for shoplifting at the mall. She does some amateur counseling from the back seat of the patrol car for the quiet cop (Anthony Mackie), who opens up about his sexuality.

Guests at the Christmas dinner table also include Charlotte and Emma’s dad Bucky (Alan Arkin) and his favorite diner waitress Ruby (Amanda Seyfried). Also, an addled aunt played by June Squibb is more cute than funny. Narration for the story is by Steve Martin.

Love, The Coopers—I added the comma to indicate that it refers to a Christmas card signature, not a command—is a not unpleasant holiday film. But it’s not as touching as The Family Stone (which also starred Keaton) or It’s A Wonderful Life, not as funny as Christmas Vacation or the Santa Clause movies. I’d put it right around Christmas With The Kranks level in the Christmas movie rankings.

The Hangover Part III

The Hangover Part III is intermittently funny. But a handful of good laughs and outrageous bits do not make up for a weak story with a less-than-stellar supporting cast.

Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Justin Bartha are the Wolfpack (Alan, Phil, Stu & Doug) whom we have come to know and like from the two previous films. Then there’s Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow, who gets way too much screen time. As with Sriracha sauce, a little bit of Chow adds flavor, but an excessive dose can be hard to swallow.

As the Wolfpack takes Alan to an asylum, the gang is detained by bad guy Marshall, played by John Goodman. Doug is held captive while the other three Wolfpackers are sent to recover the gold stolen from Marshall by Chow.

While we in St. Louis all love John Goodman, he adds little here. Same can be said for Heather Graham, Mike Epps and Jeffrey Tambor.

There is one standout among the supporting crew: Melissa McCarthy. As she did in This is 40, she provides the film’s saving grace moment. In THP3, she plays a pawnshop boss who has a beautifully acted flirtation with Alan. Her dash of Sriracha is just the right amount.

The Hangover was funny, outrageous and cleverly assembled. The Hangover Part II was more outrageous, somewhat funny, but lacking in cleverness. Part III has a “let’s just get it done and collect our paychecks” feeling. It’s not as funny as it should have been. The outrageousness seems perfunctory. And the word “clever” will never ever be used in the same sentence as The Hangover Part III, except for this one.

Why should you see this movie? You’re a big Zach Galifianakis fan. You think Mr. Chow was the funniest thing about the first two Hangovers. You have a thing for Paul Rudd. (Sorry, but Justin Bartha seems like a less smarmy Rudd clone.) You dig Melissa McCarthy and want to see her brief, but memorable, scene with Zach G. You hope The Hangover sequels will continue for years to come.

Why should you skip this movie? It’s not that funny. It’ll be on cable in January. There are better movies on other screens. It’ll make you think less of Bradley Cooper (who was so good in Silver Linings Playbook). You have four unwatched episodes of Doomsday Preppers on your DVR.

According to the THP3 trailer, “this year, it ends.” We can hope. III is definitely enough for this franchise.

“Jeff, Who Lives At Home”—{He Needs to Obsess About Kevin}

I like this movie a lot but I especially like Jason Segel in the title role.

“Jeff, Who Lives At Home” is a 30-year-old stoner who thinks everything in life is connected. He is always looking for a sign. In fact, one of his favorite movies is “Signs.”

On one particular day, he thinks a wrong number phone call asking for “Kevin” is a sign, so he acts upon it and things begin to happen. Meanwhile Jeff’s brother (played by Ed Helms) and their widowed mother (played by Susan Sarandon) have things happening in their own lives on this particular day.

This movie about two brothers was written and directed by… two brothers! In JWLAH, Jay and Mark Duplass have an annoying habit of zooming in and out just a smidge during many of their shots. Instead of being stylistic, it is distracting. (Not sure if they’re trying to give it that “found footage” look with this trick, but it is not something to keep in their repertoire.)

Also, in a movie that is set in Louisiana, there are no noticeable southern accents—what the what? Except for one sequence shot on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, the film could’ve been set in Evansville or Topeka.

JWLAH has many good laughs and nice stories tucked into its brief 80 minutes. Yes, it’s an indie kind of movie, but has nothing offputtingly arty about it. It’s rated R, but, except for language, doesn’t feel particularly R-ish.

Small movie. Big entertainment.