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|211 reviews in total|
D.W. Young's "The Happy House" is a mixed bag. The actors and
performances are quite charming and several notches above those found
in most super-low budget HD features like this (the female lead is
especially effective). It is also well shot and the sound is good.
The story starts as a variation on Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap" with some "Tucker and Dale vs Evil" overtones. However, Young's screenplay is all set up and no follow through and degenerates from quirky to sub-par dull about ¾ of the way through. IMDb shows that Young's previous films and videos have been shorts, and the construction of this story bears that outthere's only about 45 minutes of story crammed into this hour and a half.
It's not mentioned on IMDb, but I'd bet that the majority of Young's experience is in live theatre and not film. I say this because he obviously has a talent for working with actors and getting the best out of themthis is an area where low budget films are usually at their weakest, but it is HH's greatest strength. Young also seems uncomfortable with film editing, which makes much of the movie seem like an adapted stage play. He prefers very long, static shots, as though the camera was set up at the edge of a stage and just left to run while the actors stand or sit in one spot and talk. While this does often show off the skills of the actors-- who interact in these dialog-heavy sequences with a rhythm and naturalness that rarely rings false it doesn't allow the protracted scenes to be edited for pace and is undeniably boring from a visual standpoint. And when young does employ standard editingover the shoulder shots or povsthey are clumsily handled, as if he didn't really want to insert them, but felt he had no choice. Also, when locations shift between sequences, the screen simply fades to black and then back up again, like a curtain falling and rising. However this technique seems less like a stylistic choice and more like an "I'm doing it this way because I don't know another way to get from here to there."
Anyway, I don't want to sound like I'm ragging on the film. Young does many, many things right. As I said before, he gets very good performances out of his actors (and we all know that horrible acting is usually a low budget film's major weakness).
This movie was just a third of a screenplay and one professional editor away from being a classic indie comedy-horror flick along the lines of Ti West's "The Innkeepers." I look forward to more from all the folks involved in "The Happy House."
This would have been a much better action-crime drama if it had been 20
minutes shorter. No crime action flick needs to top an hour and forty
minutes. This one had loooooong stretches of nothing going on. And I
don't mean just "not action." I mean, there were sequences full of cars
pulling into driveways, people prepping for future events in
uninteresting ways, repetitive dialog--just wasted storytelling time,
etc. Stuff that should've been left on the cutting room floor. Did
Hackford not use an editor?
Also, why did they waste Jennifer Lopez in the female lead? The way they used her, that part could've been played by any competent Hollywood actress who was good looking and the right age. Lopez was natural in the part, and very good looking, of course. But she was given practically nothing to do. Come on! If you're going to cast J Lo, make her character interesting. And bring her in earlier! And while you're at it give her some personality other than being attractive. They should have either hired a lesser actress and made the part much smaller, or written a decent part for Lopez and beefed her part up. As it is, I kept asking myself-- why is Jennifer Lopez in this at all?
Bad screenplay and weak editing.
This is the End plays less like a real movie and more like the longest
video ever featured on Funny or Die. Imagine if Bill Murray and Dan
Ackroyd had played themselves in Ghostbusters, add in a TON of dick
jokes, toss in the inspired Danny McBride, remove virtually all plot,
reduce the maturity and intellectual levels of the all-male
thirty-something cast to that of 15 year old virgins--and you've got
There are a lot of good ideas here, but this is strictly first draft stuff. Rogan and company should have worked with a REAL screenwriter who could give the movie a real story and help to flesh the characters out a bit (I mean, are we really to believe that not ONE of these successful GROWN UP male comic actors has a wife or girlfriend? That THEIR ONLY relationships are with each other, like they are all 15?). This is the rare occasion when at least SOME studio intervention would have helped, as Rogan is apparently too inexperienced a story teller to know what to keep and what to toss.
The middle sags especially, with one disconnected, overlong improvisation after another doing little more than filling time. Only Danny McBride really excels at this type of thing, and he's kind of the "Richard Pryor in Silver Streak" element in this--not really the star, but easily the most memorable player).
The offhand comments by Rogan and Craig Robinson are funny, but are better used to complement actual dialog, not replace it. And the over-reliance on this kind of dick-joke mumblecore is what almost kills the movie.
But if you're a huge fan of even half of these guys, the movie is worth it. I watched many a bad flick back in the old days just because it starred John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Cheech and Chong or one of the Monty Python gang. But this should have really gone the direct-to-video fans only route.
I was working in downtown Fort Worth when they were filming this. I was
working in a nearby office building and we could see them shooting part
at the end when Gross sees Hexina's eyes in his rear view mirror, but
it's really just a poster on a city bus, and then he wrecks the car
(well, they were shooting the car/bus part--I assume the close ups were
shot separately). They did that all day. They were still out there the
next day. I was just working temp, so I took off to check out the shoot
(don't worry, I didn't claim the hours). I watched them filming the
ending scene, after the bus incident that wrecked the car. They wrecked
the car a couple of more times, but it didn't look wrecked enough for
the director, Spencer, so he had some guys smack it with a bat (I think
it was a bat, maybe a hammer?). Then they filmed the last scene where
the dude jumps out of the wrecked car and attacks Arye Gross. Over and
over again. The actor was improving it each time, egged on by the
director. Then the camera, which was on a crane, craned up to the big
billboard. Once Spencer got what he wanted (or close to it, I guess) he
put his hands up in the air and the crew cheered. At the time I didn't
know it was the last scene of the movie. Perhaps they filmed the movie
in sequence and that shot wrapped it. I remember that director Spencer
seemed to be a naturally funny guy; he was kind of performing for the
crew and small crowd, I think. It was a fun intro into how movies were
actually made. I saw the movie during it's kind of limited theatrical
release and was a bit disappointed. (maybe I saw a preview). I remember
thinking at the time that watching the director make the movie was
funnier than the actual movie was. But I just re-watched it and liked
it a lot better. I read that the studio downgraded this movie from a
major production budget and schedule to very low budget just a month
before they shot it, so it's really pretty amazing Spencer got it done
at all. Probably would have been really great if he'd been able to do
it as planned.
Is there anyone else out there who saw the shoot in FTW, or perhaps acted in the film or was an extra? What are your memories?
This is a classic late-period style Jackie Chan Chinese
action-adventure. Not quite as good as the Operation Condor/Armour of
God movies it's supposed to be a sequel to (nor as good as
Supercop/Police Story films) but every bit as good as The Accidental
Spy, Who Am I?, and The Myth. And I thought all of those were quite
This movie shares all the great features and all of the flaws of Chan's self produced and/or directed films. They have a great sense of humor and the stunt/action sequences are quite inventive. But they are also quite cartoony--the acting is VERY broad--and there's quite a bit in it that defies any common sense. But who really cares, right? This is Chan unfiltered.
The only REAL flaw to the film is the clumsy way Chan keeps inserting his moral messages. He has characters tell us what's right and wrong in very stilted dialog instead of creating situations that demonstrate his points. (not to mention that a few of his morals seem to have been government imposed--"we are not to interfere with the social structure in any way" a protest leader incongruously says as Chan nods wisely and says "That's right!") But I think this will make a fine home video release for the US audience, once they edit out some of the more China-centric chit chat, re-dub the dialog (or at least all the English, which is horribly spoken by the international cast) and replace a couple of oddly inappropriate pop tunes).
I'll be buying it for my JC collection!
"The Innkeepers" has a great, if overlong, set up. The characters are engaging and are well played by very talented actors--especially Sarah Paxton. The film is almost a comedy, but there is also a well-constructed sense of suspense. Unfortunately, both the affection that the filmmaker Ti West is able to make us feel for the characters and the slow-boil suspense that he builds are wasted on an extremely pedestrian climax. I won't spoil it for you, but let's just say that no one can blame the obviously clever Mr.West of getting "too clever" with his film's conclusion. I can't help but say that if West had come up with a better ending "The Innkeepers" would have been a classic. As it is, though, you can have fun with this movie if you go into the attitude that the journey is more important than the destination (it's not really more important, but that's the attitude you'll have to have not to feel ripped off).
First, let me say that, technically, this was a very well-made film. It
is amazing to me that a first time filmmaker could create something
this professional with only $50k. It looked and sounded like a real
movie, and the acting ranged from OK (as in the lead
actress/director/writer) to excellent (Jemima Kirke as the wacky
friend). An excellent effort for a first timer.
So, with that caveat out of the way, let me say this: I just don't like films about spoiled, whiny, wealthy white kids who can't figure out what to do after college. It's a world I (a) don't "get" and (b) don't care to "get." I mean, maybe the pointlessness of that kind of life was the point of the filmbut I can't honestly say for sure because the movie seems to be as listless as its main character. There are a few funny moments (all from Ms. Kirke), but there's also an awful lot of staring into space.
I enjoyed the ultra-low budget "Mystery Team" a whole lot, just like I
enjoyed the equally low budget comedy "The Foot Fist Way." The concept
is a great one--three grown men who used to be a locally famous mystery
solving team when they were kids (like Mystery Incorporated or the
Hardy Boys) but who never grew out of it. The jokes and the story are
funny, but the premise isn't set up early enough in the story. It seems
to me like a whole opening segment is missing--one that showed the
Mystery Team as children solving at least one kiddie mystery and
becoming famous for it. The refer to this history quite frequently, but
it's never explicitly shown or explained. If you didn't already know
(by reading a synopsis or the box) then you might be a bit lost the
first half hour or so.
But still, a pretty amazing job for a zero-budget comedy.
UPDATE: I just watched the DVD with the commentary and learned that just such an opening sequence as I described above was filmed--one that showed the Mystery Team as kids, wearing the same clothes and everything. The Derrik people explained that "it just didn't work." Now I'm even more disappointed! It's even worse that this CRUCIAL SEQUENCE did indeed exist, and they actually edited it out! That's right--they purposely edited out the set-up to the high-concept joke that is the basis for the entire story! It's tantamount to editing out the first 30 minutes of "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" because you don't think it's all that important to show the audience that he was a wacky guy who time traveled from the sixties. (he's still funny, right?)
Mystery Team would have made TWICE as much money ($10k?) if they had included the set up to their hour and a half joke. Coulda been a "10" instead of a "7." What an f up!
I really don't get it. My wife and I went to see The Artist this past
Saturday and I was left with an overwhelming feeling of "meh." Which is
really surprising, given the almost universal, glowing praise this film
has been getting--what with Golden Globe awards and Oscar nominations,
etc (not to mention all the 10-star reviews here on IMDb).
I just didn't see anything special here. I mean, they filmmakers did a fairly good job of recreating a silent film, but they didn't take it any further than that. The plot, acting, etc, was no better or worse than a real silent film. I've seen many much, much better silent films on TCM's Silent Sundays each weekend. Those who are gushing over this movie have apparently not seen very many real silent films from the 20s. If they had, I think they'd have found this film kind of a "been there, seen that" kind of experience as I did. Or maybe this Artist-Praise-Hysteria is mostly the result of folks desperately wanting to jump onto the bandwagon of the newest "cool" thing.
The thing that bothered me most (besides the stretches of tedium) was that the cinematography was distractingly flat and gray--there were no real blacks and no real whites. I understand from articles I've read that this low-contrast, glowy B&W was intentional. But I didn't like it. Just looked like it was poorly shot with a bad video camera with the contrast turned all the way down. (this wasn't helped by the fact that the theatre I saw it in now presents all their "films" via digital projection--a process that, in my opinion, has NOT been perfected yet and is still too "low res" for cinema).
All in all, "The Artist" should be nothing more than a minor, vaguely interesting experiment that would have had a better home on video. How it has become an indie sensation with Oscar nominations is a totally mysterious to me. Wonder how much money it took to convince us all that is was a masterpiece?
First, let me be very clear: "Pink Lady" was not a good variety show.
It was a pretty horrible one most of the time. BUT it WAS at the same
time a truly awesome show. The 70s also gave us variety shows from
Donnie and Marie, the Mandrell Sisters, Captain and Tennile and many,
many others. All of them sucked--lame comedy, bad music, horrible
production values. That was the standard in the 70s--especially from
producers Sid and Marty Kroft. "Pink Lady (and Jeff)" rises above all
these by being just plain weird. Casting two unknown Japanese pop stars
along with a homegrown but not really any better known comedian was so
stupid a thing to do that it bordered on genius. In other words no one
in their right mind would have thought of it. The result 30 years later
is a great 1980 time capsule of the clash between American Crap-Lame
culture and the rising Japanese pop culture that you're not going to
see anywhere else. Lots of jokes are made at the girl's
expense--especially by semi-regular Sid Caesar, who does a recurring
samurai bit that makes John Belushi's old SNL routine look PC by
comparison. But the Pink Ladies get their digs in as well, making fun
of Altman's non-celeb status, height, and lack of manliness. And its
even funnier when you can tell that they have very little idea what
they're even saying.
The culture clash plus the language barrier plus the really poor taste plus the ultra lameness of the comedy bits, mixed in with the super-peppy, semi-sexy disco performances (in English and Japanese) by the perky, super happy Pink Lady makes for a late 70s Variety Show parody you could not make up today. It is a time capsule of stupid fun that makes me nostalgic for the days when "crap TV" was good natured goofiness instead of "reality" show meanness.
Screw the 21st century! BRING BACK PINK LADY AND JEFF!
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