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Team America: World Police (2004)
sorry, but only 6 out of 10
From what I've seen of South Park, I shouldn't have been too surprised by the content of this film. There are some interesting ideas, and some truly funny bits, but they are all subordinate to the filmmakers' need to make the audience say, "I can't believe they just did that!" Basing humor on shock value only amuses me for a short while. Likewise, the joke that "these are puppets doing this!" wears thin quickly. (By the way, I actually liked the South Park movie even without having seen more than 2 episodes of the TV show)
6 out of 10
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
When I hated watching the Weird Al Yankovic "classic" UHF the night before I saw this, it was because I thought the jokes were dumb; I knew what the jokes were, and I understood what was supposed to be funny about them, I just didn't find them funny myself. With this film, however, I am at a loss to pinpoint exactly where most of the jokes were.
I am confident that the filmmakers were making a comedy, and not a `very special' Afterschool Special about the cruelty of the teenage years. I was vaguely amused by some bits of the film, and the concepts of a few of the characters were amusing (the cook, the choreographer, etc), but the film seemed to have no idea how to complete the characters and do anything with them, plot-wise. The skylab debris subplot seems dropped in from another movie entirely.
Some of the defenders of the fill on IMDB.COM explain the film as a sort of meta spoof it's a spoof of spoofs. In that case, MAYBE the point of the semi-graphic gay sex scene was `Look! We'll put a sex scene into the movie, but it will be a GAY sex scene! That's funny!' Ha ha. [And defenders, I think very few people would accuse me of not having a sense of humor.]
I think it is considered a bad sign to find the `making of' featurettes on the DVD considerably more interesting than the movie itself.
I had read the graphic novel upon which this is based and found it somewhat entertaining, but nothing more. The movie drops even a step lower, because it does very little with the interesting concept of literary characters joining into a team; the movie ignores most of what makes these characters unique, and diminishes them into generic action movie heroes.
Visually, the film had its moments, but many of the effects seemed sub-par. The DVD extras informed me that what I thought were unconvincing CGI effects destroying Venice were in fact unconvincing model work. Perhaps the style of effects is the reason why (aside from the outdoor celebration in Venice) there never seemed to be anyone on the streets of any city in the film.
more of the same, only worse
The original film was a live-action cartoon, with completely unrealistic characters and situations. It was also modestly amusing at least if you put your brain on hold.
This film, however, is witless, no matter the status of your brain. It would appear that each characteristic of the first film which was even slightly "successful" was amplified and repeated, without necessarily understanding why it worked the first time. I see that a pilot for a TV spinoff has already been created; I shudder to consider the results.
It isn't a good sign when I fall asleep during the climax of an action movie. How can a movie have this much action, and yet be so boring?
Maybe I approached this movie incorrectly I expected it to be like a James Bond movie, with a fairly implausible plot that keeps you entertained as you suspend your disbelief. There may be many things missing from this movie, which keep it from achieving that Bond level. First and foremost is a sense of fun and humor (both for the audience and the characters); no one here seems to be having fun.
To a lesser degree, the music was an issue. Normally I tend not to pay attention to the music on a conscious level. Here, however, I did notice it, maybe because I was so bored with the visuals. Instead of getting my blood racing during the adventure, this music was almost sedate. Maybe I needed the musical equivalent of canned laughter to let me know when I was supposed to be excited.
4 out of 10
6 out of 10 (at best)
I didn't `get' The Gong Show, but I know I watched it as a kid. I didn't really `get' this movie, either, but I watched it, too. I can blame the lost hours watching the Gong Show on my youth; who do I blame watching this movie on the critics who loved it?
The Chuck Barris of this movie is neither a hero nor an anti-hero he's just a jerk. Who knows what the `real' Barris is like. The reality has been filtered first through his book and then through this movie's interpretation of the book. Do I think he was really a hit man? No. At best, the Clooney CIA character is Barris's version of the A Beautiful Mind hallucination.
Sam Rockwell looked more like Kramer from Seinfeld than he did Chuck Barris. I don't need to see another bare butt shot of him.
The behind-the-scenes information on the DVD showed how Clooney created `in the camera' special effects, doing all sorts of scene transformations `live.' This is cool in retrospect, but I'm not sure it did anything to enhance the movie.
Matchstick Men (2003)
enjoyed it more than the book
When I read this book last winter, I disliked it, primarily because I saw the ending coming from somewhere around page 10. Oddly, when I watched the movie, even though I knew the ending even more surely, I enjoyed it. Granted, the movie script changed a number of elements of the book (primarily, the central `long con'), but the main story arc remained the same.
I have to think that what made the movie for me was the performances. Cage has played variations on this character before, but that didn't spoil the fun. Lohman is very good (and believable) as the daughter, which is even more impressive when you realize she is actually a 24 year old actress playing 15.
American Splendor (2003)
fascinating as a work of cinema
I don't know that I would enjoy reading an American Splendor comic book, and I don't need to spend much more time with Harvey Pekar, but the film is excellent when viewed as a piece of cinema. It is fascinating watching the interweaving of footage of the real Pekar, the actor playing Pekar in the film, and various animated Pekars (not to mention a brief scene of a stage actor playing Pekar). The result is one of a kind not quite fiction and not quite documentary.
One piece stood out strangely, however. There is actual footage of the real Pekar as a guest multiple times on the David Letterman show, but his final appearance is reenacted by the `film Pekar' and someone who doesn't look or sound particularly like Letterman. Why? Was the footage not available, or did it not actually occur like this film describes?
Bringing Down the House (2003)
Should I be more offended or embarrassed?
The big questions running through my mind as I watched this was, `Should I be more offended or embarrassed?'
Almost all of the characters in this film fit into one blatant stereotype: ignorant hip-hop hoodlum (if black) or uptight racist snob (if white). I would like to give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt, and assume they did this purposefully in order to mock and destroy the stereotypes; there is however no evidence of this in the film itself. I was offended, but kept watching, hoping that the film would redeem itself. (It didn't.)
The embarrassment arose from watching two smart actors (Martin and Latifah) perform this mess. I can't believe they thought this was funny (and Latifah was executive producer, so she has no excuse). Having Joan Plowright smoke a joint and table dance only added insult to injury.
I can't decide whether the concept of Latifah always being assumed to be a servant (and actually being put into a maid outfit at one point why did Martin have one around the house (in her size no less!!!)? ) falls into the `offensive' or `embarrassing' category.
SHOULD be throttled
There is no rule that says action films must be totally logical and grounded in reality; in fact, that would be a bad idea, sucking all of the fun out of the genre.
This sequel, however, goes so far in the opposite direction from logic and reality that I began to wonder if it was actually a Naked Gun-type spoof. The rules of physics and physiology were apparently dropped from the helicopter at the beginning of the film and never seen again. Obviously no one intended for this film to be taken totally seriously, but as the film grew more and more ludicrous, I grew more and more frustrated.
Good actors like Luke Wilson, John Cleese and others are wasted in subplots that go absolutely nowhere. Was the kid added to the plot to enable us to see Bosley's family, or was Bosley's family added as a place to park the kid? Who knows and who cares?
I enjoyed the first film quite a bit. Have my tastes changed THAT much, or is this film just so much worse?