Tag Archives: Alan Arkin

Ho-Ho-Hokum

‘Love the Coopers’ is snow-covered Christmas gloop

(Left to right) Diane Keaton and John Goodman in LOVE THE COOPERS to be released by CBS Films and Lionsgate.

Love the Coopers

Starring John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Alan Arkin, Ed Helms & Olivia Wilde

Directed by Jessie Nelson

PG-13

In the early moments of this sprawling Christmas comedy, characters somehow appear to end up “inside” a snow globe, frolicking in the crystalline white flakes.

There’s a lot of snow in Love the Coopers; the stuff never stops falling. I was surprised by the end of the movie that it hadn’t shut down every road in Coopersville, or Cooperstown, or Coopers Knob, or wherever it is the story takes place. Instead, like a gigantic snow globe, the movie just seems to regenerate the same precipitate, shaking it up over and over again—so it doesn’t pile up, it just flies around and re-lands, making everything look like a big, fluffy white winter wonderland, snow on snow.

Love the Coopers indeed looks like a picture-perfect Christmas: sumptuous cookies and cupcakes, colorfully coordinated sweaters, coats and scarves, holiday carolers, red poinsettias, green mistletoe, twinkling lights on impeccably trimmed trees. Even the dogs are decorated.

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Marissa Tomei

But all the cheery Christmas decorations cover up a big, dysfunctional mess: The Coopers are falling apart, in just about every way. Mom Charlotte (Diane Keaton) and dad Sam (John Goodman) are planning to split after 40 years of marriage. Their grown kids (Ed Helms and Olivia Wilde), Charlotte’s younger sister (Marissa Tomei) and her dad (Alan Arkin) all have issues of their own.

There’s also a jaded waitress (Amanda Seyfried), a foul-mouthed urchin granddaughter (Blake Baumgartner), a cop with an identity crisis (Anthony Mackie), a couple of teens working out the sloppy, tongue-twisting kinks of French kissing, a say-anything septuagenarian aunt (June Squibb), and a strapping young soldier (Jake Lacy) who gets roped into the Christmas Eve family reunion as a pretend boyfriend.

And a partridge in a pear tree—no, not really. But it does get very, very crowded, and that’s not even counting the narrator, who turns out to be…well, someone whose name you’ll certainly recognize, in a form you’ll in no way be expecting, in a manner that makes absolutely no sense at all.

LOVE THE COOPERS

Producer-director Jessie Nelson, whose previous projects include the heart-tugging, high-pedigree gloop of I Am Sam, Stepmom and Corrina, Corrina, remains true to form here, with an all-star cast fumbling around in a deep-dish holiday goo of dumb dialogue, silly shtick and artificial sweetness that feels like a concoction created with ingredients ladled from other, far better cinematic Christmas crock pots—a dollop of It’s a Wonderful Life, splashes of Love, Actually, sprinkles of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Snow on snow on snow.

Ed Helms and Alan Arkin sing, a dog gets blamed for a fart he didn’t make and Marissa Tomei hides a brooch in her mouth. There’s mashed potato slinging, Christmas carol mangling, streets full of Santas, gingerbread men in G-string frosting, and a joyous, swirling dance to a Bob Dylan song.

And so much snow. But it never piles up—and like the movie, it never adds up, either, to anything more than a slushy, mushy holiday heap of ho-ho-hokum.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Here’s The Pitch

Jon Ham stars in unlikely true underdog baseball tale

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Million Dollar Arm

Starring Jon Hamm, Lake Bell, Suraj Sharma & Alan Arkin

Directed by Craig Gillespie

PG, 124 min.

Based on a true story from 2008, Million Dollar Arm stars TV’s Mad Men leading man Jon Hamm as a struggling sports agent who goes scouting for baseball’s next pitching superstars in an unlikely part of the world.

After hopeful negotiations to rep a pro footballer (played by Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga) fall through, Hamm’s character, J.B. Bernstein, and his business partner (Aasif Mandif) turn their sights to baseball, hoping to find a young, unknown, unsigned player. But where? All the international hot spots (Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, even China) have already been staked out and tapped.

In a flash of inspiration, J.B. sees a cricket match on TV and gets an idea: Go to India, a country where baseball is virtually unknown, find cricket “bowlers” who can pitch, and bring them back to America.

MILLION DOLLAR ARMSo he concocts a contest, called the Million Dollar Arm, and sets off to the other side of the globe to discover what he hopes will be the next ballpark sensations—and the ticket to keeping his small agency afloat.

Hamm is the star of this show, clearly, but Million Dollar Arm is also a movie about journeys, geographical as well as emotional. As J.B. adjusts to his new surroundings in India, we meet the two young men, Dinesh (Madhur Mittal, from Slumdog Millionaire) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma, the star of Life of Pi), that will eventually be chosen for a shot—a long one, at that—at baseball’s big leagues, and we come to understand their anxieties about leaving their families, their rural villages, and the only ways of life they’ve ever known.

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Madhur Mittal and Suraj Sharma portray the two contestants ultimately chosen to come to America.

J.B. is accompanied on his trip by a grumpy semi-retired American baseball scout (Alan Arkin, dialing in his usual comical crankiness), and he ultimately brings his new recruits home to learn fundamentals under the tutelage of a former MLB player now coaching college ball (Bill Paxton, portraying real-life USC coach Tom House with just the right dose of sunburn and seasoning).

MILLION DOLLAR ARM

Lake Bell and Jon Hamm

Bollywood actor-comedian Pitobash brings both heart and humanity to his sidekick role as J.B.’s volunteer Indian assistant, who dreams of someday becoming a baseball coach himself. But the movie’s real “heart” belongs to Lake Bell, as J.B.’s brainy med-student guesthouse renter, whose graceful, unforced acting keeps her character’s slow-blooming romance with J.B. feeling more sincere than sappy.

The Disney folks surely took some license, as moviemakers often do, but all of this really happened. To see just how closely the film paralleled the real characters, stay for the credits and the photos, video clips and other postscript highlights.

More cynical viewers might wish for a more cynical movie, a movie with more rough edges or tough breaks or dark corners. But for anyone who wants to bask in a ray of early summer sunshine, this uplifting, spirit-boosting tale of baseball, dreams, second chances and the grand, glorious game of life itself could be just the ticket.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Raging Bull Crap

De Niro, Stallone slug it out in clichéd boxing comedy

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Grudge Match

Starring Robert De Niro & Sylvester Stallone

Directed by Peter Segal

PG-13, 113 min.

What if the two boxers from two of Hollywood’s most iconic boxing movies of all time came together in one contemporary clash of the titans?

Well, Rocky and Raging Bull don’t show up, exactly, but you’ll have no trouble remembering the roles Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro played some 30 to 35 years ago watching them spar in Grudge Match, in which they both portray long-retired palookas lured back to the ring by the promise of a big payday—and the opportunity to settle a decades-old dispute about who’s king of the knock-outs.

Back in the day, “Razor” Sharp (Stallone) and Billy “Kid” Donnen (De Niro) were Philadelphia scrappers who battled their way to the top of the light-heavyweight heap, culminating in an epic slugfest that ended with a split decision. Razor called it quits, however, and announced his retirement before a tie-breaking rematch could be arranged, and Kid’s been obsessed with “what might have been” ever since.

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Kevin Hart (center) creates a major media event around the rematch of ‘Razor’ (Stallone) and ‘Kid’ (De Niro).

Now a motor-mouthed young promoter (Kevin Hart) sees an opportunity to make his name (and a lot of moolah) by setting up a long-overdue bout between the two rusty old steel-town foes and turning it into a major media event.

Will Razor agree to put on the gloves one more time? Will the Kid swap pancakes and scotch for salads and sit-ups? Will the press stop making cracks about Geritol and Life Alert necklaces? And who will the woman (Kim Basinger) who had to choose between Kid and Razor three decades choose this time around?

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Kim Basinger

Stallone mumbles, De Niro mugs. There are some funny bits, but director Peter Segal (50 First Dates, Anger Management, Get Smart) somehow manages to miss with most of his punches, comedic and otherwise. The jokes are lame and low; this is the kind of movie that thinks anything from the waist down is hilarious. The story trots out nearly every contrivance and cliché imaginable, and the performances are about as lazy as you can get in a movie that still requires people to get up and walk around.

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Alan Arkin

And walking around isn’t even required, at least not all the time, for Alan Arkin’s character, Razor’s “elderly” trainer, whose ability to self-ambulate comes and goes.

Ironically, one of the best moments of the whole movie happens after it’s finished. Stay for the credits and catch the snippet in which Hart’s promoter tries to tempt another couple of former boxing champs back inside the ring for his next Big Event.

By the time things get around to the “Grudgement Day” match you know is coming, you just want the scene—like the movie—to be over before either Stallone, 67, or De Niro, 70, gets hurt. If I had a towel, I’d have thrown it in long before the legacies of two great movies were slammed to the mat and ground into a crappy comedy like this one.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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