‘Being the Ricardos’ Has Some ‘Splainin’ to Do

Leave a comment

Being the Ricardos (CREDIT: Glen Wilson/Amazon Content Services LLC)

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, J.K. Simmons, Nina Arianda, Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat, Jake Lacy, John Rubinstein, Linda Lavin, Clark Gregg, Nelson Franklin, Robert Pine, Christopher Denham

Director: Aaron Sorkin

Running Time: 125 Minutes

Rating: R for Language That the Censors Usually Don’t Allow You to Say

Release Date: December 10, 2021 (Theaters)/December 21, 2021 (Amazon Prime Video)

What is Being the Ricardos all about? I mean that both in terms of this movie’s plot and in the ontological sense. If Aaron Sorkin is to be believed, it’s a combination of kinda-sorta being exposed as a Communist, marital strife, and a fight to control the creative direction of I Love Lucy. Any one of those topics would be enough to center a movie around. But in the movie that we’ve got, they’re all kind of fighting for attention. I suppose these matters can all co-exist, but they don’t do so particularly gracefully in this case. The relationship and professional conflicts feel genuine but standard-issue, while the red scare pretty much fizzles out immediately. (Maybe that was the point?)

It must be said that Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem really don’t look or sound anything like Lucy and Desi. This did not bother me at all! In fact, I think I prefer this anti-accuracy approach in a biopic. These aren’t the real people after all, but representations of those real people. So why not make them characters of their own that can stand outside the historical document? Alas, I suspect that Kidman and Bardem actually were trying to achieve something close to mimicry. It all kind of gets stuck in the unremarkable middle.

One thing about this movie that I did kind of like is the series of interviews from some unspecified future date that serve to frame the 1950s scenes. Tony Hale, Jake Lacy, and Alia Shawkat play a few of the Lucy writers, while their older versions are filled in by John Rubinstein, Ronny Cox, and Linda Lavin, respectively. The check-ins with the senior crew are a little surreal (probably accidentally [or perhaps not?]), thanks to how little is explained about their circumstances. Like, where are these people? What year is it supposed to be? (None of the real-life versions are still alive anymore.) Is this supposed to be for some sort of documentary? Are they being held hostage? I DON’T want to know the answers to any of these questions!

Being the Ricardos is Recommended If You Like: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Wahhhhs

‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’ is Worth a Watch If You Feel Like Being Silly

1 Comment

Clifford the Big Red Dog (CREDIT: Paramount Pictures)

Starring: Darby Camp, Jack Whitehall, Izaac Wang, John Cleese, Tony Hale, Sienna Guillory, David Alan Grier, Alex Moffat, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Russell Wong, Paul Rodriguez, Russell Peters, Mia Ronn, Kenan Thompson, Rosie Perez

Director: Walter Becker

Running Time: 97 Minutes

Rating: PG for The Nuttiness Caused by a Giant Puppy

Release Date: November 10, 2021 (Theaters and Paramount+)

What would YOU do if a 20-foot-plus red-furred dog started running around all over everywhere? I imagine most people would react with a mixture of shock and confusion, but in this particular pup’s cinematic adventure directed by Walt Becker (Wild Hogs, Old Dogs), there’s a wider range of reactions. Clifford is cause not only for sublime awe, but also for worries about being a good caretaker, or the impetus to justify eviction, or for a standard-issue evil mega-corporation to swoop in and claim that they own everything. And of course, he becomes a bit of a local neighborhood hero. People act very wacky in Clifford the Big Red Dog, in ways that are fairly typical of a family flick, but not always in ways that necessarily go hand-in-hand with the presence of a gigantic canine, and I appreciate that.

The plot essentials that you might want to know are that sixth-grader Emily Elizabeth (Darby Camp) finds herself with an incorrigible dog after an encounter in Central Park with the mysterious and magical Mr. Bridwell (John Cleese) and his animal emporium. Her Uncle Casey (Jack Whitehall) isn’t so keen on her keeping Clifford, mostly because he wants to prove to his sister, Emily’s mom Maggie (Sienna Guillory), that he can be responsible. Meanwhile, Mr. Packard the super (David Alan Grier) doesn’t like dogs, and Tony Hale swoops in as a plainly devious CEO to capture Clifford and discover the secrets of his genetic code.

Obviously, something as kid-friendly as this movie is going to end with every character (except the most villainous or toady-ish) rallying around to save the day. So the most important question is: just how goofy do things get? And the answer is … pretty dang goofy. For a generally tame PG movie, there were several moments that had me delighting in their brazenness. A choice example happens when a veterinarian played by Kenan Thompson tries to gently inform us that Clifford’s temperature is supposed to be taken in the normal animal-temperature-taking location (“rhymes with nuthole”). And Clifford himself is as expressive as any real dog, so that plays well whenever there needs to be a definitive reaction shot.

So now the final question: do I want a big red dog of my own? My current living situation isn’t exactly the most dog-friendly, but let’s suppose I have a theoretically more welcoming setup. So with that in mind, I’d have to say: while a mutt like Clifford is great in a pinch whenever you need to run across a bridge, this movie isn’t shy about reminding us of the anatomical and practical matters that need can’t be avoided. Believing in magic can only take us so far, but we can always lighten the mood by saying silly things along the way.

Clifford the Big Red Dog is Recommended If You Like: Goofy uncles, Kid-friendly scatological humor, Standard kids movie tropes

Grade: 3 out of 5 Whimpers

Super Fun-Time Movie Review: Toy Story 4

1 Comment

CREDIT: Pixar/YouTube

As I wrote this review of Toy Story 4 almost a week after seeing the movie, the main feeling that I have upon reflection is one of peacefulness. When Toy Story 3 arrived more than a decade after its predecessors, it brought with it familiarity but also emotional upheaval with all the life changes it sought to deal with. Number 4 is similarly concerned about new chapters, but the kind that you never saw coming, yet somehow feel so perfectly right when you let them happen. So did I cry when Woody made his final decision? I did not, not because of a cold heart, but because my warm heart was so proud of the scary, but promising, step forward I had never considered as a possibility in this series. If toys and franchises are basically immortal, sometimes they have to make big bold choices, and it’s a feat when one of them feels like the best decision for everyone involved.

I give Toy Story 4 10 Voice Boxes out of 12 Skunk Cars.

2015 Emmy Nominations Predictions and Wishlist

Leave a comment

For my detailed thoughts on my predictions and wishlists in the major Drama, Comedy, and Variety categories, check out these links:
Comedy
Drama
Variety

Guest Actor, Comedy
John Hawkes, Inside Amy Schumer
Michael Rapaport, Louie
Chris Gethard, Parks and Recreation
Dwayne Johnson, Saturday Night Live

Guest Actress, Comedy
Susie Essman, Broad City

Guest Actor, Drama
Mel Rodriguez, Better Call Saul

Guest Actress, Drama
Allison Janney, Masters of Sex
Linda Lavin, The Good Wife

Directing, Comedy
Rob Schrab, “Modern Espionage,” Community

Directing, Drama
Adam Arkin, “The Promise,” Justified

Writing, Comedy
Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna, “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television,” Community

Writng, Drama
Thomas Schnauz, “Pimento,” Better Call Saul

Animated Program
Bojack Horseman – “Downer Ending”
American Dad! – “Dreaming of a White Porsche Christmas”
The Simpsons – “Treehouse of Horror XXV”

Commercial
Android – “Friends Furever”

Host – Reality/Reality Competition
RuPaul, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”

Interactive Program
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Main Title Design
Man Seeking Woman

Single-Camera Picture Editing, Comedy
Bojack Horseman – “Downer Ending”

Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program
Too Many Cooks
Billy On The Street With First Lady Michelle Obama, Big Bird And Elena!!!

Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or a Variety Program
Community

Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role
Man Seeking Woman – “Traib”