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A Brutal Film, 24 March 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"I Melt With You" is a play off the song of the same name by Modern English. But it's clearly a double entendre as the film is about to begin.

IMWY is the story of four middle aged men, each with their own personal crises that they hide under the macho swagger and attempt at youthful bravado with drugs and alcohol. The four of these men are all college pals reuniting for a lost weekend of sorts, gathering together at a beach side house out in Big Sur, California. What starts off as a fun weekend of excess, slowly turns into a sinister exploration of what it means to regret the mistakes we make in life. Richard (Thomas Jane) is an English teacher with one published book to his credit, who is trying to reprise the free spirited, artsy bad boy he clearly was in college; Ron (Jeremy Piven) is a family man and stockbroker with the forces closing in on him, from a career that may not be as legitimate; Jonathan (Rob Lowe) is a divorced doctor pocketing cash on the side by making illegal sales of prescription drugs and a relationship with a young son that's clearly going south; and Tim (Christian McKay), a man who made one deeply fatal mistake in life that may have damaged him beyond curing. These four college pals reunite in what may not be for the best turn of events.

Let me just say that "I Melt With You" is directed by Mark Pellington, a fairly underrated director who made the horror film "The Mothman Prophecies" and the domestic terrorism thriller "Arlington Road". Pellington may be onto something as a director, unable to unearth the sinister nature of what appears to be normal. "The Mothman Prophecies" was about an urban legend that people dismiss as myth while "Arlington Road" was about how a next door neighbor may not be as friendly as they appear. "I Melt With You" falls into similar territory: the idea of how a friendly reunion, has a more unspoken and deeply sinister nature to it, when the truth finally surfaces. While not going into great detail, the film takes a deeply dark turn midway through the film, that I didn't expect. This turn reminds me of a 1973 French film called "La Grande Bouffe" (The Big Feast) in which four middle aged men, all feeling that their successful lives have lead them to a hollow existence, decide to retreat to the countryside to eat themselves to death. Replace food with drugs and in a sense, you have "I Melt With You".

"I Melt With You" focuses on the themes of middle aged regret, which seems to have become somewhat of a staple in American cinema with the likes of films like "Sideways". However, this film is much darker and it's quite brutal in nature. The idea of four men who are long past their prime and their youth, halfway between youth and death, end up going on an epic bender of sorts in order to numb the pain in their souls. I look at this film and I think of my friends, and I hope to God that we don't end up like the four main characters in this film. If anything, this film might be a painful reminder of what not to become. Between the constant drug taking and the boozing, it's an absolutely brutal experience to watch these guys, all with their own pains, slowly spiral into something worse. During a party sequence in the film, the four characters find themselves in deep conversations with peers half their age, and in a way, representations of what they were like at that age, before family, career and responsibilities got to them. It's not a comfortable thing to watch.

The performances are all top notch and uneasy to watch at the same time. I think of Rob Lowe as happy-go-lucky Chris Traeger from "Parks & Recreation" and idealistic Sam Seaborn from "The West Wing". But he's the complete opposite of those characters. He's just a man, like the rest of the characters, slipping away on the fringes of life. Jeremy Piven has always crafted a career of playing the angry neurotic that he's performed well in films like "Very Bad Things" and "Entourage", and his character's descent into his own personal hell is something to watch. Christian McKay, perhaps the least well known of the cast, is effective as well: a sad man who may already be dead, except he may know it. Thomas Jane, whose career has not been as great as it was in the late 90's and early 2000's, is fantastic as well. We all know someone like Jane's character. Hell, I might be like him in some respects. But the four men take this film seriously as an actors piece, and they do it perfectly.

"I Melt With You" will slip into the abyss of the thousands of movies that get forgotten each decade. In a more ideal world, I'd like to think that it could be revisited as being a good film, under-appreciated in its time, like other films have often gotten that reception only later. This isn't a bad film by any means, but it's a brutal, nihilistic piece not for the faint of heart. I'd highly suggest for anyone who loves movies starring Marvel superheroes or Meg Ryan, to move on and find something that will be crowd pleasing. "I Melt With You" is like going to the dentist without getting the novocaine, and having to sit through the whole experience with that kind of pain, only in the mind.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Dogshit, 25 August 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There's no other way to describe such a terrible movie.

For years, Adam Sandler has been the scourge of film critics. But speaking as someone who grew up on Sandler from his days on SNL and his ingenious comedy albums to his explosive film career, I was a fan. Sandler unleashes the inner child in all of us. The ones who don't mind a goofy slapstick comedy with gags and babes. Sandler taps into the adolescent rage that can affect anyone, particular males 13 years old and up. This theme was put to its maximum in "Happy Gilmore" and "Big Daddy", which granted, aren't the greatest films on the level of a Fellini or Scorsese movie. However, they did the trick and kept you entertained consistently. Plus there was a story in there somewhere.

Then came "Little Nicky", which had potential but it was buried under bullshit. I will only have contempt for people who can only take a concept so far and then not care about the film by the third act. With "Little Nicky", the movie's laziness shows in the film's post title card ending. It's as if Sandler didn't care anymore and had the balls to actually release it in theaters like that, to paying customers. The film, despite its potential and parade of cameos, burned in Hell at the box office. I was disappointed. Sandler seemed to be back on the mend with "Mr. Deeds" but I think that overall run was short lived. As if "You Don't Mess With the Zohan" with its contrived ending featuring puppies was bad enough, came "Jack & Jill", a film so painfully bad that a trip to the dentist without novocaine is more enlightening. I won't write about its awfulness, which you can see throughout the web.

"Grown Ups 2" is nowhere near as bad as the 2011 film, but it's a stinker to high heaven. It's something that I don't know if I'd want to flush down the toilet in fear of wasting my money. "Grown Ups 2" tries to have a message about the meaning of community, the importance of family and the camaraderie of friends. Those messages are presented in between bits of chocolate ice cream being poured out to look like a grown man is crapping and the cartoonish frat boy villains in the film that make you want to drown yourself. The company, especially Sandler, stood to make a fortune and I can assure you that they did since the movie made a lot of money at the box office. What money Sandler makes in residuals alone, is more than I'll see in a lifetime. I'm clearly in the minority since his films still retain their popularity. But the one thing they're missing that Sandler's earlier work had in "Happy Gilmore" and "The Waterboy" is simple: a quality comedy I'm not expecting Sandler's work to be "Sullivan's Travels" with the frat boy humor and dick & fart jokes. But what I am asking, is not to be treated as if I'm a complete idiot. What "Grown Ups 2" does, is take a half assed script, toss it in with a bunch of comics with a gift for ad libbing and churns out a piece of junk food loaded with so many preservatives that you wish you could get in a time machine, go back in time and make sure you never saw said piece of junk food. The chances of Sandler and company reading this, is few and far between but if they were to, I would say "You're losing your touch fellas. The movie may have been a box office hit but I can assure you that people thought it really sucked." I can only hope that Sandler, who has a couple movies on the horizon that sound really interesting, can rebound and not give us this film. Watching the image of Nick Swardson's poorly conceived and possibly challenged bus driver parade through this movie in a mullet and dirty undies, is just disturbing. The cherry on top is the character craps in a toilet in a blatant Kmart ad in the movie. There was a critic who suggested that Sandler should move away from his repertory of players and do something different. I couldn't agree more. I was really impressed with Sandler teaming up with buddy Judd Apatow for "Funny People". That film, despite it's length, was decent and Sandler in many respects, satirizes his career. I only wish that came after "Grown Ups 2".

Adam Sandler, I'm still a fan but dude, make something that's actually good. Make something like "Happy Gilmore" or "Big Daddy", something that knew how to entertain without the constant poop jokes or the obvious ad libbing.

"Mixology" (2013)
3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Doomed From Inception, 22 July 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I didn't hate this show but I remembered seeing the ads for it on ABC. To be fair, as anyone with a brain knows, the TV business is a tough business and it's a cutthroat world for pilots. Kill or be killed is essentially what happens in the business and dozens of pilots get made a year and a few have a chance at a pickup and then those few have a chance at even surviving a few airings before getting the axe. Not every show can be a "Friends" or a "Big Bang Theory". "Mixology" didn't stand a chance from the moment it was created, and that might be attributed to a concept that restrains it from its own premise: a bunch of twenty and thirtysomethings in a Manhattan bar over one night. Having to stretch that premise over 13 episodes was never going to work. One, because you're essentially extending small situations that happen in one night, into 22 minutes with the A & B plots trying to wrap themselves up neatly. Anyone who watches a sitcom, knows that these premises take more than just 22 minutes and they're certainly not going to happen one night in some fancy bar.

The cast of "Mixology" is certainly attractive, and seeing as to how I don't remember the names of the characters, I will just say that they all seem to represent certain extremes: a wimpy white guy who's recently single and back in the dating world; an A-type lawyer; a misanthropic artist type, an obnoxious schlub with a beard, etc. Every character seems to represent major extremes instead of showing real dimension. To be honest, there's two characters who are overly optimistic that I couldn't resist the urge to throw up every time they show up on screen.

The show tries to almost portray itself as "Friends" by way of "Scrubs" but with less surrealism. But again, it's the concept of limiting itself to one night in a bar that just kills the show and makes it unconvincing. I can't help but think of the various focus groups and network input that went into retooling the show into being nothing more than one of those forgettable pilots that end up getting buried underneath the mountain of crap that the networks churn out every year. Evidently this show was considered a hot prospect, which I don't understand. Perhaps it's the fact that the writers of "The Hangover" were attached as showrunners, that had the networks drooling. But even if there are good writers, it doesn't necessarily mean there's going to be a good product.

Having said all that, "Mixology" isn't good. It wasn't meant to be a success and the fact that it even got made, is a miracle in itself. No doubt that whoever greenlighted this pilot, is probably looking for another job.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Simply a guilty pleasure for me, 11 November 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If I were to tell anyone that I'm a fan of Nash Bridges, inevitably I'm going to be met with a skeptical facial expression. But for anyone whose a fan of the show, then they may understand my empathy toward the show which I find to be one of the best. These days, cop shows are all serious about the case as the story at hand which seemingly neglects the characters by treating them as just plot puppets who always know right from wrong. One of the few shows that's really staying the course is a show like "Monk", which in addition to it's stories are also in tune with it's characters. If anything, "Monk" is like a successor to Nash Bridges because it was about a cop in the San Francisco Bay Area. But while Monk is a former cop, it's still set in their hometown and it's as much about the characters as it is with the story.

Nash Bridges debuted in 1996 on CBS and was a moderate hit. But after five years (which is pretty good for a series these days), it managed to stay pretty well. But as the last season closed up for what was supposed to only be the season finale, it shaped up to be the show's end which like many shows these days, leaves a lot to be asked since there wasn't resolution. As for the show's last season, I can understand why they killed off Evan (Jaime Gomez) and why they showed his downward spiral and redemption before his death. Whatever decision makers were behind it, probably wanted to shake things up. But in the process, things seemed to have fallen a little bit when his fiancée Cassidy (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe) decided to join the police force. But it seems like the chemistry was thrown out of whack and things became questionable like the fate of Joe (Cheech Marin) and if he was going to remain with the show or move permanently with his wife to Sweden.

But aside from those negative comments, Nash Bridges was a genuinely good show that was consistently entertaining: it was hip without avoiding cheesiness, it was funny without being stupid, it was well cast with likable actors in the parts and it had a more unusual approach to your standard cop show, adding colors and layers to both the story and the characters. How each story seems to revolve around the subplots of the characters like Joe's get rich-quick schemes, Evan and Cassidy's relationship, etc. It was about the personal lives of all these people who either live or work together. Plus, unlike most shows or movies, it was shot in San Francisco and virtually felt like it was there. Seeing local favorites like the LeVideo rental store, Fisherman's Wharf and Chinatown were just a few of the city's highlights that made appearances on the show.

Plus, the cast itself was very inspired. Don Johnson easily manages to take a character that's ideal for both his age and experience. His lead character as Nash Bridges is a no doubt, wise man whose seasoned time in the SF police force hasn't made him a hardened cop but a lovable wisecracker who treats everyone with the respect they deserve. Although his personal life isn't as decorated as his career since he's been divorced twice, his lifelong devotion to the police force, and his relationship with his family. Furthermore, it's his chemistry with Cheech Marin which is pitch perfect since the two of them both manage to balance genuine drama and lighthearted comedy. Basically where Nash finishes, Joe begins and so on. Behind all this is everyone else like Jaime Gomez's Evan, a younger cop who thinks with his heart but acts with his you know what. His partner Harvey (Jeff Perry) is dead on good casting, putting a veteran character actor into the mind of an aging hippie with a serious passion for The Grateful Dead and for police work, can make it both funny and dramatic. Yasmine Bleeth was also good as Caitlin, the D.A. who proves to be both a thorn in Nash's side but also a good catch. Plus Jodi Lyn O'Keefe as Nash's strong willed, independent, precocious daughter and James Gammon (good casting based on looks alone in comparison to Johnson) as Nash's feisty, never let you get the best of 'em father. There's also the revolving door of actors who pass through, all giving it something like Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa, Daniel Roebuck, Tracey Walter, Wendy Moniz and Cress Williams.

I'll just say this, Nash Bridges is a genuinely good show, especially for ones looking for something a little different in a cop show that's not only about the story, but about the people too. It can't fail in entertaining you, especially if you're willing to watch it with an open mind and a good sense of humor.

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Not bad, not great, 3 November 2004

It's inevitable that there will be comparisons to NBC's Las Vegas show with James Caan. In my opinion, Las Vegas is the superior one because it was there first. But what Las Vegas lacks and what Dr. Vegas gains is the cast. With the exception of James Caan's presence, all the actors on Las Vegas look like they stepped out of a Ralph Lauren ad. They're all very attractive females and males. But unfortunately, their acting talent doesn't match that of say, Dr. Vegas.

What's interesting about Dr. Vegas, which does feel like a Las Vegas clone, is the cast. Even when he's in bad projects, Joe Pantoliano always delivers his trademark schtick of being a great wiseass. Seriously, you can't beat someone like Pantoliano who adds a breath of fresh air to anything. Another thing is Tom Sizemore's in the show, which seems like a step back considering he's had success in films. Rob Lowe's a decent actor, but unfortunately his character, is just a little too bland.

While Las Vegas focuses on the security team of a casino, Dr. Vegas is a little more sporadic with only one character representing a certain department. Such as Rob Lowe's character represents medicine, Sizemore's character is security, and Joe Pantoliano is the big boss. Since it's a little more sporadic, it's a little hard to keep track of the characters and where they're going. What NBC's show has going for it, besides familiar guest stars, is it's got a unique visual style. That is, a music video style of film-making in the vein of Ocean's Eleven. It's a show that's about hip Las Vegas.

Dr. Vegas, of which I only viewed the pilot, is still trying to find it's feet (that is, if it ever gets back from "hiatus"). There's only a few characters to follow, but rest assured, the success of a show can guarantee more characters being brought in. But this show feels like a barebones operation that's still trying to get it's feet wet.

All in all, I would recommend Las Vegas to Dr. Vegas because Las Vegas is just a little more fun and perhaps, accurately captures the atmosphere of Sin City itself. However, what Las Vegas needs, is an actor like Joe Pantoliano to really stir things up.

7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
"Las Vegas" this ain't, 9 October 2004

"Dr. Vegas" is a show that ultimately plays second fiddle to "Las Vegas" (in itself a "Love Boat"/"Baywatch" knockoff). There are good actors like Joe Pantoliano and Tom Sizemore, an intriguing character and story line, and a great location. But this isn't as daring or as challenging as it wants to be. Unfortunately, it really does feel like it's second fiddle to "Las Vegas", which did come first.

Here are some things I've noticed in watching:

Rob Lowe is affable enough to play the lead. He should've stuck with "The West Wing". "The Lyon's Den" and "Salem's Lot" flopped.

Again, the cast. Had Joe Pantoliano not been in it, then this show would go downhill fast.

Tom Sizemore, despite his recent court troubles, is a welcome presence. Although it seems like his character isn't fleshed out as strongly as it should be.

The show doesn't maneuver the nifty camera and editing tricks "Las Vegas" pulled.

This is a "Baywatch" esque show that is funny and dramatic.

All in all, I would watch this show out of curiosity, but it's not enough to warrant a second viewing. But this show hasn't proved itself yet so only time will tell if it has legs.

Psycho (1998)
What's the point?, 21 March 2003

Synopsis: 1998 remake of the 1960 classic finds the ill fated bank secretary Marion Crane making one last stop at the Bates Motel after stealing some money from her employer's client. Marion has a run in with the hotel's eccentric proprietor, Norman Bates.

The Review: While I certainly can't refute Tedg's argument of this "Psycho" remake, I'm just putting my own two cents in. I saw the original, thought it was great, and now I see this, and I don't think it's a great film. It sounds weird for saying that, well believe me, I do think it's weird. I can't say I disliked this film either, because that would direct disrespect toward the original, which strangely, and not particularly original, is a shot by shot, near word for word remake of the Hitchcock film, that just didn't seem necessary. Why would Gus Van Sant, hot off his oscar nomination, decide to direct a remake of a film that's virtually untouchable. It's obvious that when you try to remake a film, there are inevitably going to be comparisons. But you shouldn't remake a film that still leaves an impact on contemporary movie audiences like "Psycho", because regardless of what you try to do, the original will always eclipse the remake.

This film is literally, one giant anachronism full of characters that seem as if they'd stepped off a bus from the late fifties, early sixties, and started living a normal, everyday life in the near Millenium, as they did in this film. The costuming, the dialogue, it all seems to go back to the original which I'm unsure of, might be a tribute, or a faithful recreation because of the remake. The casting is decent, although I always thought they could've gotten other actors to fill the roles. Nicole Kidman was offered a role in the film as Marion Crane, and I think she would've been a better choice, although Anne Heche was pretty well cast. Vince Vaughn, while a great actor, didn't seem to pull off the timidity that made the Norman Bates character so memorable, not to mention his physical frame. I think a person who would've been able to pull the role off much more convincingly, would be Jeremy Davies. It also seems to me that Joe Mantegna may not have been a bad choice to play Detective Abergast for the sometimes wisecracking detective who sees through and through, or George Clooney in the Sam Loomis role, but I'm speaking my mind and this is only an opinion. I will however say, that the casting of Robert Forster was an ideal choice as the doctor.

Other than that, I praise Van Sant for taking the courage to remake the original, and I don't think it was his intent of making it a one upmanship competition, but more of a tribute to Hitchcock. Unfortunately, I don't think audiences nor critics understood his intent to honor the film.

8 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
I'm going to be Mr. Scrooge on this review, 4 March 2003

The Review: Big budget remake of the beloved Dr. Seuss cartoon about a grumpy green creature intent on sabotaging Christmas by stealing it from the unsuspecting, kindhearted townsfolk below.

I'm going to take a quote from one user's post:

This is a very good film. Better than the animated original.

With all due respect to that reviewer, I'm going to put a variation to that quote:

This is a very bad film. Completely inferior to the animated original.

For me, the animated Grinch special was a special part of my childhood, and yes I proudly count myself amongst the diehard loyalists who border on the word "nerd", that had a genuine dislike for this movie. Granted, it really is difficult to take a cartoon and spin it into an hour and a half feature, but the way this film is shot, is completely obnoxious in every sense of the word. You get the feeling that Carrey and Howard weren't proud of this film as it caused them to betray their artistic sensibilities in favor of a really big paycheck. "The Grinch" is a far inferior live action remake/adaptation of the beloved Dr. Seuss character where it's lead character is an obnoxious buffoon, it's Jim Carrey in green makeup. Jim Carrey living up to his persona of being Ace Ventura. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Carrey, but I can honestly say I despised this movie 100%. "The Grinch" is a movie that feels genuinely fake, where you can't take yourself away into imagination and fantasy because all you really see on screen is just a bunch of movie sets and some makeup, there's no connection to the material that makes it feel like the cartoon. It's baseless commercial dreck that was only a bore.

Blood Work (2002)
This blood is stale..., 6 February 2003

Synopsis: FBI profiler Terry McCaleb never thought he'd see retirement, until a near death experience with a heart attack made him think twice about the job, and gave him a new heart transplant. But in doing so, he received the heart of a victim, gift of the very killer he was chasing down. Asked to reopen the case as an independent, McCaleb is determined to find the killer who is leaving him with clues.

The Review: It's a shame that after "Unforgiven", Eastwood's films haven't been getting as strong an audience reception as they deserve. "True Crime", "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil", "Absolute Power", and with the exception of sleeper hit "Space Cowboys", all of these films are very entertaining with solid casting to boot. His latest film, however, which is "Blood Work" features all the directorial styles of Eastwood, the heavy use of shadows, slow paced editing, the minimum of sound in action-oriented scenes, but all that aside, "Blood Work" is kind of stale. It's the slow pacing and unusually bad editing that does the film in, not to mention a one dimensional performance from Jeff Daniels (a truly great actor), who doesn't have much to work with here in the formation of his character from a all too loose script. The great thing, though, about "Blood Work" is that Eastwood is incorporating aging into his film. His later roles have been tailored to fit him and it fits him like a glove such as "Absolute Power", "Space Cowboys", and now this film, all about retired professionals. But unfortunately, that's all that separates "Blood Work" from the rest, essentially, not an impressive film coming from a great director such as Eastwood, who has a just as impressive cast. Particularly that of Paul Rodriguez who steals every scene as McCaleb's obnoxious police rival.

Grade: C+

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Infamous...., 1 February 2003

Synopsis: In this deservedly ill-fated fourth outing of the Caped Crusader, George Clooney dons the mask and cape as Batman, whose a superhero at night and content bachelor millionaire by day. With his hot tempered protege Robin (Chris O'Donnell) by his side, Batman must take on two new enemies: the megalomaniacal Mr. Freeze and the truly psychotic Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). The dynamic superhero duo pick up a new partner in the form of Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone), who just happens to be the niece of Alfred the butler (Michael Gough), who unfortunately, is suffering from a disease.

The Review: When this movie come out, everybody hated it, critics murdered it, audiences walked out, and in all fairness, it was deserved. My best friend and I saw this opening night, and he apologized immediately after and said of the film, "That was stupid." Other friends claimed it to be "The worst movie I've ever seen." Joel Schumacher treaded very thin ice with his reimagining of the Batman series with it's equally obnoxious predecessor "Batman Forever", with Val Kilmer as a relatively dull Batman, Jim Carrey as an all too flamboyant Riddler, and the worst of all, Oscar nominee Tommy Lee Jones as the ever so buffoonish Two-Face, a complete betrayal to the spirit of the character itself that degrades Jones as much as the movie degrades the rest of the cast, much like this inane and empty sequel. But "Batman & Robin" finally etched it in stone that really horrible movies can come right out of Hollywood, regardless of big story, big stars, which incidentally hurt nearly every cast member with the exception of Clooney, who seems to have arrived unscathed. Clooney himself claimed this was a bad film but it did a lot for his career he pointed out. Bigger and better can not be used as an excuse because "Batman & Robin" can't be defended because it really is a horrible film. Having been a big fan of the first film and having read the comic books, there's nothing worse than seeing Oscar winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman bring arch nemesis Bane down to a level of idiocy previously unfound by making him a brainless henchman who would make a three month old baby seem like a genius. Goldsman and Schumacher seem to try for a cartoon vision that is in homage to the campy 60's series starring Adam West and Burt Ward (only I think the series was more realistic than this piece of dog doo doo). Filled with nothing more than demographically-based one-liners, larger than life (not to mention obnoxious) set designs, and annoying characters, "Batman & Robin" deserves to be in the pantheon of truly bad commercial films.

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