Jesse Eisenberg

Review: “Rio 2″ is fun for the family

April 18th, 2014 at 7:42 am by under Entertainment
"Rio 2" poster courtesy Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

“Rio 2″ poster courtesy Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

“Rio 2” (2014)
Rated: G
Runtime: 1 hour, 41 minutes
Genre: Animation/Adventure/Comedy/Family

My spoiler-free review:

Right on par with the first “Rio”, we get more of the birds and other animals and less of the people… and interesting storyline with enough to keep both kids and adults entertained.  It is a little long for its target audience, but its cute and fun for the whole family… I give it 7.0 out of 10… a movie about families for families.

Now that they’re a family with an extended family of other birds and animal friends plus their human protectors, Blu and Jewel are living comfortably in the sanctuary as the only known blue spix macaws remaining.  The endangered status makes them naturally protective of their kids, but Jewel (Anne Hathaway) seems more concerned than Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) that the kids are growing up too much like humans with modern conveniences and plush accommodations… she wants to get outside in the jungle and get away from technology.  Their three little fledglings (Carla, Bia, Tiago) all have unique personalities reflective of their parents, with the oldest of the three acting like a teenager.  Everything seems to be okay until they learn they may not actually be the only survivors of their species… and they once again run into the vengeful cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement) and his new associates including Gabi the tree frog (Kristin Chenoweth).

What follows is a story that could be simplified as just a heartwarming family adventure with a message about the dangers of deforestation in the Amazon.

But its more than that, there’s lots of colorful images and memorable characters and many fun songs for the kids plus some laughs and a storyline interesting enough for adults.

The movie is well crafted it looks great and its well conceived with solid writing, the voice cast is great, its a little darker in tone than the first, but its understandably predictable and the musical numbers are fairly forgettable after a few hours.

MORE INFO (possible spoilers): (more…)


“End of the Tour” spending $2.1 million in Michigan

March 11th, 2014 at 3:09 pm by under Entertainment
Production crews filming "The End of the Tour" scenes near 196 in Grand Rapids 3-6-14

Production crews filming “The End of the Tour” scenes near 196 in Grand Rapids 3-6-14

“End of the Tour” spending $2.1 million in Michigan

Sure it’s not as big of a budget as the last time Jesse Eisenberg was here, but the size of a movie budget does not always indicate the quality and success of a movie.

The Eisenberg and Jason Segel drama “The End of the Tour” is expected to spend $2.1 million in Michigan, mostly in the greater Grand Rapids area. In a press release March 10th, The Michigan Film Office said that the movie has been approved for the state’s film incentive.  ”End of the Tour” was awarded a $495,380 incentive based on $2,105,652 of projected in-state expenditures.  The release also says that the project planned to hire 66 Michigan workers.  That $2.1 million spending in Michigan is far less than the $20 million that Eisenberg’s “30 Minutes or Less” spent in Michigan in 2011.

Production crews filming "The End of the Tour" scenes near 196 in Grand Rapids 3-6-14

Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg filming “The End of the Tour” scenes near 196 in Grand Rapids 3-6-14

The production is expected to be filming in the Grand Rapids area for 5 weeks, until approximately March 24th.

The film office says the movie is based on the book “Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself” about the true events of a four-day long interview conducted by Rolling Stone Magazine writer, David Lipsky with acclaimed author David Foster Wallace. The interview took place in the final days of Wallace’s 1996 book tour promoting his landmark novel, “Infinite Jest.” The road movie is an extended dramatic and comedic conversation between the two men exploring women, depression, writing, success and jealousy.

The movie is being directed by James Ponsoldt. Anonymous Content & Kilburn Media are the Production Companies while Sony Pictures is expected to distribute the movie.  Some scenes are also being planned for

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Movie closing lanes of 196 for “End of the Tour” scenes

March 5th, 2014 at 4:52 pm by under Entertainment

Lanes of 196 will be closed intermittently tomorrow for “End of the Tour” movie

Interstate 196 in Grand Rapids

Interstate 196 in Grand Rapids

It won’t be snow and ice slowing traffic down on 196 in Grand Rapids on Thursday, March 6th.

In its third week of production in Grand Rapids, the movie “The End of the Tour” will be filming scenes in some lanes of eastbound and westbound Interstate-196.

Crews will be filming scenes with Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel riding in a car along the freeway with Grand Rapids as the background.   But the city is actually a stand-in for a Chicago suburb.  The car will be traveling less than posted speed limits as it rides on a flatbed trailer hooked up with cameras and production gear.

The closures will be changing as the production rolls along the highway with police escort between 9:00am and 3:00pm.  The production plans to begin going westbound on 196 from Fuller Avenue to Lake Michigan Drive (M-45), then they will turn around and then go eastbound on 196 between Lake Michigan and Fuller.  They will do this several times.   As they change sides, some ramps will be closed as the crews move on and off the freeway.  Only one side of the freeway is expected to be impacted at a time.  And depending on the nature of the shot, sometimes only one lane will be impacted, other times it may be two lanes.

The production is spending about 5 weeks filming scenes in and around Grand Rapids.  The movie is planned for a theatrical release, but the exact plans for the release date have not been set.  Cast and crew, including Eisenberg, Segel, and director James Ponsoldt are staying in town.

Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg in "30 Minutes or Less" courtesy Sony

Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg in “30 Minutes or Less” courtesy Sony

This is Eisenberg’s second time filming driving scenes in Grand Rapids, he was the lead actor in “30 Minutes or Less” with Aziz Ansari as crews shutdown Division Avenue for a big chase scene.

Segel has also filmed in Michigan previously, filming “The Five-Year Engagement” in Ann Arbor in 2011.  Eisenberg will be back in Michigan later this year for the “Batman vs. Superman” movie, he’s been cast as Lex Luthor in the “Man of Steel” sequel.

Officially, the drama is about a magazine reporter (Eisenberg)  recounting his travels and conversations with author David Foster Wallace (Segel) during a promotional book tour.

Acoording to other reports – “The End of the Tour” – “follows the relationship between author David Foster Wallace and Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky. Segel will play Wallace who committed suicide in 2008 while Eisenberg will play the RS reporter who was following Wallace around the country as he promoted his book Infinite Jest. As Wallace rose to fame, a rivalry developed between the two men”.

Previous post: “End of the Tour” filming in Grand Rapids 2-19-14  (more…)


Grand Rapids will be Segel and Eisenberg’s “End of the Tour”

February 19th, 2014 at 2:53 pm by under Entertainment

I’ve heard it called the biggest movie in 4 years!

"The End of the Road" crews set up on the corner of  Wealthy & Cherry in Grand Rapids

“The End of the Tour” crews set up on the corner of Wealthy & Cherry in Grand Rapids

The production of the movie “The End of the Tour”, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel is filming in Grand Rapids.

Today, the film crews set up shop at the apartment building at Wealthy & Cherry… the production, according to my source, will spend about 5 weeks filming all main  scenes in the city of Grand Rapids.

Cast and crew, including Eisenberg, Segel, and director James Ponsoldt are staying in town.

The movie was approved for state film incentives but has not yet offcially been announced by the Michigan Film Office. I’ve heard that this movie is the biggest in four years, but not considered a “big budget” film – not bigger than “30 Minutes or Less” that spent $20 million when it spent 3 weeks filming around the Grand Rapids area in 2010.

Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel lead cast of "The End of the Road"

Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel lead cast of “The End of the Tour”

This is Eisenberg’s second time filming in Grand Rapids, he was the lead actor in “30 Minutes or Less”.  Segel has also filmed in Michigan previously, filming “The Five-Year Engagement” in Ann Arbor in 2011.

Officially, the drama is about a magazine reporter (Eisenberg)  recounting his travels and conversations with author David Foster Wallace (Segel) during a promotional book tour.

Acoording to other reports – “The End of the Tour” – “follows the relationship between author David Foster Wallace and Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky. Segel will play Wallace who committed suicide in 2008 while Eisenberg will play the RS reporter who was following Wallace around the country as he promoted his book Infinite Jest. As Wallace rose to fame, a rivalry developed between the two men”.

Anonymous Content & Kilburn Media are the Production Companies while Sony Pictures is expected to distribute the movie.

Some scenes are also being planned for Bloomington-Normal, IL and Minneapolis, MN.

More updates to come as more information is confirmed.

So what did you think?  Please post a comment! (more…)


Review: “30 Minutes or Less” delivers a great big slice of R-rated comedy

August 12th, 2011 at 12:01 am by under Entertainment
Not only is “30 Minutes or Less” an action comedy for R-rated tolerant audiences to see, but its even more of a treat for West Michigan residents.

DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU  in the title and the first line of this review… and again here… this is not for younger audiences… or viewers easily offended by raunchy humor and/or adult content.  If you see this movie and then complain about the R-rated humor, situations, references, or innuendos – don’t blame this reviewer – this movie is not for all ages or all moviegoers.

"30 Minutes or Less" poster courtesy Sony

 (My spoiler-free review)

With my warning clear, lets get to the good stuff: this movie moves along with a brisk, fun, action pace that should have all appropriate audiences (see above) enjoying themselves.   There’s an abundant cleverness to this movie that keeps it above much of raunchiness just below the surface.  The early story lines of the main four characters are all tied closely together, giving audiences a through-line to follow and stay engaged in the development of these characters over the course of a story that clocks in just short of 90 minutes.

“30 Minutes or Less” is a well written and well acted, good story, that’s well directed with a perfect blend of comedy and action… good cinematography and editing and a equally solid soundtrack.

While the action is probably well known from the trailers, the chemistry of the two pairs of main characters (Jesse Eisenberg’s ”Nick” and Aziz Ansari’s “Chet” plus Danny McBride’s “Dwayne” and Nick Swardson’s “Travis”) makes this a fun buddy comedy like the good ol’ buddy comedy movies of the 1980′s. 

But unlike a “Lethal Weapon” or “48 Hours” that rely on a lot of action, comedy is the real strength of “30 Minutes or Less” – with a machine gun rapid fire of humor with so many one-liners (many of them ad-libbed by the cast) that its hard to write them all down, let alone hear them all because audiences are still laughing from the last joke that you might miss the next one.

Eisenberg’s ”Nick” and Ansari’s “Chet” work well off of each other… perfectly cast as the nerdy guy in trouble and the loyal friend who is asked to risk his life and career to help out.    The almost sympathetic pair of wanna-be criminals McBride (Dwayne) and Swardson (Travis) are strangely endearing, despite their exploits, crudeness, bad language, creepiness, and laziness.  There’s also a palpable tension going on among the pairs and between “the good guys and the bad guys”.   The supporting cast really rounds out this movie with Fred Ward as Dwayne’s tough dad, Michael Peña’s gangster with flair, and Dilshad Vadsaria as Nick’s wannabe girlfriend.

While “30 Minutes or Less” has plenty of raunchy jokes, its also has plenty of high-brow jokes to keep you thinking and paying attention … it all plays out like a fun play put on by a comedy troupe with some high quality stunts involving chases, flamethrowers, and some gun play.

Ansari’s “Chet” gets many of the great lines in the movie, some you may have heard in the trailers and some I can’t actually repeat here in this G-rated review.   Eisenberg’s “Nick” does make a (tongue-in-cheek) reference to Facebook and his role in “The Social Network”last year: “You know I don’t check that –, I’m off the grid”.  Some of the funnier lines are parts of exchanges between Ansari and Eisenberg or McBride and Swardson…. like a failed, but funny attempt by Swardon’s “Travis” to use the wildly popular (and now often overused) “that’s what she said” line.  While its not a line, there’s also one of the most clever uses ever of a laser pointer.

You can also keep your eyes and ears open for a multitude of pop culture references that 30-somethings will really appreciate.  References to mix tapes, the Contra video game code, ”Heat is On”, the music group Fish, and more.  There’s also obvious references to these movies “Slumdog Millionaire”, “Pointe Break”, ”Hurt Locker”, “Aliens”, “Lethal Weapon”, “Die Hard”, “Friday the 13th”, and ”Chet”‘s diatribe on Netflix subscriptions that everyone can appreciate.

The production completely embraces the fact that this movie is made and set in Grand Rapids, Michigan – while they are not GRPD cruisers during the chase scene down Divison Avenue, the police cars say “Grand Rapids police” … “Chet” pokes fun at the perceived lack of diversity “there’s only four Indian families in Grand Rapids” … “Nick” makes reference to the fact that Grand Rapids doesn’t even have a Radisson, although in reality, we do have one downtown.   There are lots of camera shots and movements that showcase Grand Rapids… but also try to make it feel like a much smaller town than it really is.

Check out this post for more on how Grand Rapids figures prominently in the movie.

“Filmed in Pure Michigan” isn’t the only thing at the end of the credits…. again, its more goofy and R-rated, if you can handle it.  I was actually more excited to see the “Pure Michigan” and the thanks to residents of Grand Rapids and other local thanks and credits.

THE BOTTOM LINE: (more…)


Review: why I ‘like’ “The Social Network”

September 30th, 2010 at 11:13 pm by under Entertainment

 Six years after it was created, we get the engaging story of the creation and growth of the worldwide phenomenon of the social network Facebook and its ironically anti-social founder Mark Zuckerberg.

This is a strong candidate for Oscar consideration on several levels and “The Social Network” is as much about social media as it is like it: interesting, sharp witted, goofy, and rambling.
   

(My spoiler-free review)

In the hands of talented director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin, this potentially complicated story about the legal battles over the idea of Facebook could be dragged down by computer programming jargon and the legal-ease is accessable to the audience because the story unfolds naturally in a way that is easy to follow.

The well-crafted words of Sorkin are delivered with often rapid-fire style swiftness but also with depth and feeling by leading man Jesse Eisenberg, who removes himself from his previous roles that may have typecasted the actor in your mind as the nerdy/awkward young man trying to get the girl.  Eisenberg breaks his old mold here and delivers a performance that is different from practically everything we’ve seen him do as he becomes the shy/genius/softspoken/anti-social/jerk that the audience is torn between rooting for and against at the same time.  We experience early on that its often exhausting talking to him in person.   While this may be the first role that Eisenberg garners some deserved Oscar consideration, he may end up being passed over by actors with more noteworthy performances this year and throughout their career.

Eisenberg is helped by a strong cast of supporting actors, some with small parts and others with very critical roles.   Andrew Garfield is solid as the best friend and most simpathetic character.  Although it took me several minutes to get past his rock star/entertainer persona, Justin Timberlake adds depth and believability to the rival for Zuckerberg’s attention and potential threat to his success.  Don’t get me wrong here Timberlake is good because his character has more layers than anyone else, so upon second viewing I will appreciate his performance more and forget his real reason for fame (which is very ironic that a musician plays the guy that created Napster, which the music industry basically hated). While Rooney Mara, Armie Hammer, and Max Minghella are all very convincing as the people who aren’t his “friends”.

I find it amusing that “The Social Network” is as much about social media as it is like it: with many scenes of a non-focused rambling Zuckerberg often just making observations that sound like status updates, like “its raining”.   Also, its an interesting play that the least social person is the creator of the social network.

Laff at the Movies
 THE BOTTOM LINE(more…)