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About the author: R.T. Firefly has been involved in the comedy business for over 30 years, from television and movies to stand up and writing.
PLEASE NOTE! The top ten are in order of importance.
11-100 ARE IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER.
Fat Head (2009)
If you can suffer through the bad attempts at comedy, this film is otherwise excellent.
A fantastic documentary with some real eye opening material, but the bad comedy, ug. Tom, leave the comedy to the pros. It would have been a much more enjoyable viewing/learning experience had it just been straight forward the entire way through. A must watch for excellent information on nutrition and how easily government and other fields can go astray.
This film came out in 2009 and the information in it did not hit the mainstream until around 2014 or so. In my observations there is no other field in the world as fraught with misinformation as nutrition. Most people just seem to make things up and/or adopt ideas that suit their image. Very little is understood about nutrition, but this movie takes a very scientific and un-opinionated approach. I appreciated that, a rare trait in a documentary now days.
Mr. Robot (2015)
Some decent acting, preposterous and cliché writing
The writing on this show is so bad it makes me laugh. If you are an Occupy Dolt Street goon, I'm sure it will play right into your "Freedom is the enemy" meme. Seriously, the name of the antagonist company is Evil Corp. That's not its nickname, that's the real name of the evil corporation where the evil white CEO beats up homeless people for his stress relief en lieu of a hand held smooshy face thing where the eyes bug out, I suppose. The author obviously feels logic is for chumps, and has his protagonists violating the very rules they condemn others for. The Characters are cliché and "dirtied up" for what passes for badass now in entertainment, and as usually happens in Hollywood, the wrong people are tagged as the bad guys, while the real bad guys are proposed as the solution. Some of the acting is decent, especially the lead, the tech specs are nice, but the foundation of the show, the story and the characters, are built on quicksand. Seriously, moral depravity and socio economic opinions aside, this show is filmed for adults, but written for junior high schoolers.
From the cult of New York sketch comedy comes the dud of the decade
I cannot think of when I've seen so much talent squandered in a comedic movie as with David Cross's 'Hits'. But then again, I'm not convinced this was supposed to be a comedy. It is possible Cross has gotten so advanced in his irony that this 90 minute critique of the unwashed flyover idiots - and the equally gullible New York "hipsters", and, honestly, everybody but Cross himself - is actually a hybrid documentary, the actors unawares they were executing the author's cunning critique of how gullible everybody in the world is, except the Davidians, of course.
Cross has talent like Amy Sedaris, Michael Cera and the always hilarious Dave Koechner, and uses them for all of a couple scenes each, never once putting them in a situation where they can show off their comedic abilities, rather, rolling out one tired, pandering inside joke after another. In one scene where Michael Cera sells pot to a few nerdy hipsters, the comedy centers around how particular some potheads are over their specific type of grass, a hilarious set piece if you happen to be one of the hundreds of people in the world that has witnessed such absurdities.
The script is trite, cliché and one dimensional. It is so clumsy getting out of the gate that a full 45 minutes in I still had no idea what the movie was about, nor had I laughed once, nor did I care about a single character. In the end, Hits is nothing more than a blathering and pointless monologue, typical of Cross in recent years, where he criticizes the minutia of people that are not as enlightened as he and his cult. To confirm that I'm not just using hyperbole, go to Youtube and look for Cross's diatribe on Jim Belushi, all because Belushi didn't sign an autograph once. It's proof positive Cross has lost his mind, and the defense of his idiotic actions in the comments section evidence of a cult.
It seems incredible that with all the success Cross had in the past with the highly acclaimed Mr. Show and his hilarious turn in Arrested Development, he could not find a better project to put his time and efforts into than... well, most everything he's done, and now this pointless waste of time. One has to wonder if maybe it was Odenkirk that came up with all those funny ideas on Mr. Show and Cross was just in the right place at the right time. He is a funny actor, no doubt, but I'm afraid he's become twice the gullible idiot of those he finds copious time to ridicule.
Wayward Pines (2015)
Like a lame version of Lost only lamer
This feels a lot like an M. Night Shamalama project. I suspect his hand is fairly heavy in the decision making process on this one. Matt Dillon is a fine and interesting actor, and drew me to watch the pilot He has plenty of company here with other fine actors, all of whom cannot save this train wreck of a show. The problem with Wayward Piles, as with most of Shamalamadingdongs work, is that it expects you to drop all pretenses of reason and believability and go for a ride with the silly, poorly conceived fantasies of the author. Nothing makes sense, but if you just turn off your brain and stop asking questions, then it might hold your attention. Unfortunately, even for those who are willing to, or long ago have, turned off their brains, this show feels set up for nothing more than an old fashioned Charlie Brown and Lucy missed football kick. I have no idea what the ending holds, as I only made it through three episodes before I couldn't take it anymore, but there seems to be only two ways for this to end. Either the city is real, in which case nothing makes any sense whatsoever, or it is imagined by a crazy Matt Dillon character, in which case it makes no sense whatsoever. Either way, the show is primarily nothing more than trickery to keep viewers confused so they might come back again to resolve things, which of course, will never happen in a satisfactory way. It seems the makers of Waylow Pines has borrowed ideas of several good shows, (i.e. Lost, Twin Peaks, The X-files et. al.) and ignored any of the important things those shows did to stay on the air for so long, while copying their grave mistakes.
I have only seen about 10 minutes of this, but it changed my life.
There is, or should be (was anyways) a 10 min. clip of this movie on Youtube featuring the punk/rockabilly band Jon Wayne. It turned me on to the band and genre they perhaps invented and was hilarious. It featured clips of the band performing live, clips of them in the studio and, for lack of a better way of describing it, clips like you might see at a night club of random public domain silliness. It also features a very crude but hilarious video of one of the members of Jon Wayne in a recording studio drunkenly "mixing" their best song, in my opinion, Mr. Egyptian.
If you are not familiar with Jon Wayne, they were a side project formed by some punk studio musicians (is there such a thing?). They played homage, tongue in cheek, to country music of the 60's and 70's, but beefed it up a bit with a rockabilly sensibility. This is very rare footage indeed and to my knowledge it is not available via conventional outlets. I would love to get my hands on a copy of this movie if anyone knows where to come by one.
Half hour Fox TV special that was ill-conceived but still a little funny (emphasis on 'little').
This half hour special (it's title declares it a "show", was this supposed to be a pilot?) was a goof on the Playhouse 90 genre, (i.e.) a play is filmed live on stage and broadcast. The difference being, what with this a Lovitz comedy special, he is lampooning himself and the genre. What would you call this, a mockudrama? At any rate, the episode had a sort of Damn Yankees feel to it. It centered on a baseball player, something about if he slides into home he will die from an old head injury, and, naturally, he must make up his mind at the end of the play whether or not to slide headfirst into home to win the game. He does and I can't remember what happens, which pretty much sums up this show. Which is not to say the show didn't have it's moments. At the top of the show Lovitz tells a row of illustrious directors, Rob Reiner, Ron Underwood, et. al., that if they see anything they like during the play simply pick up the phone in front of them and it would ring a phone on the stage. During dramatic moments Lovitz would gesture to the directors and the phone. When the phone would ring, it was always to offer work to someone other than Lovitz.
The thing was loaded with stars and for the life of me I couldn't figure out who was able to swing that. I remember a gag where Alex Rocco is shot through the glasses ala The Godfather and his last words are "Not the other eye", then they cut away to Duvall and Caan in the audience, high fiving.
The concept was really strange, and I like strange, but this just didn't work. It had it's moments now and then, Lovitz is a funny guy after all, but he strikes out here. Interesting how they list all the actors as themselves. As I recall they almost all played characters in the play. Not worth checking out, but at half an hour, not too painful.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
If your conscience has been seared into a fried clove of crispy black garlic... Have we got a film for you!
So you want to go see a movie. You check the IMDb and see this film is getting an 8.9 rating (#16 on the top 250). It stars Daniel Day Lewis, he's a great actor. The TV ads look smart, and what's that "milkshake" line about anyway? Off you go. Three and a half hours later you return home and go on the IMDb and vote it a 10 out of 10. Why? Because you are a secret mind-controlled drone of the company that made this film and you always do what you are told. That is the only plausible explanation I can come up with for the extraordinarily high ratings There Will Be Blood is receiving. That or your moral compass only points south.
This film is nothing more than a magnificently crafted pile of poop and frankly, I find its undeserving numbers highly suspect. There are plenty of examples where most every critic gets it "wrong" on a popular film, so no need to re-trod that ground (watch The Aristocrats if you don't believe me, I dare you). But a quick perusal of the IMDb comments index for this film seems to tell a different story than a movie voted higher than #18 Raiders of the Lost Ark or #36 Apocalypse Now. Searching in chronological order, about half the comments say they hate this film. Another quarter didn't think it was as good as everyone said, and only about a quarter praise the film. With that track record, this film should score somewhere in the 5 to 7 range. We should all hope that the studios have figured out a way to pump up IMDb scores. Otherwise, we live in a world where pointless violence and hypocrisy are celebrated as the ideal.
No doubt, this film has its merits. Daniel Day Lewis gives an award winning performance. I love it when an actor takes chances and I think it works here, many disagree. The film making is top notch, all the acting too. Most everything from cinematography to wardrobe is as good as it gets. Were this film to have a point, it all would have worked together for a powerful addition to the American film atheneum. As it is, it does nothing more than underscore tired stereotypes and leave its audience wondering why so much effort would be put into such depraved proclamations. Perhaps worse, it glorifies the most evil of human intentions.
Can we agree that more is required for a great film then just good film-making? Otherwise, Gigli deserved better treatment. Here, Daniel Day Lewis plays an oil man in the morally corrupt laissez-faire American big business culture (seen it) fighting with a morally corrupt Christian minister (seen it) in a society full of have-nots (seen it) controlled by gilded evil white men (that's new) and everything, eventually, adds up to nothing but gruesome, vivid murders and pointless hatred. Roll credits.
I found the portrayal of the young minister to be particularly vapid. Pastor of "The Church of the Third Revelation" please. Even the church name is painfully hack. Look, I can handle stock stereotypes, but can anyone in the film industry portray a Christian leader as anything more than a sad, money grubbing miscreant? And how many times are we going to need to see this before it gets tired? Not that any other religion or group could have taken its place. I wonder what the reaction to this film would have been had the Snidely Whiplash minister been portrayed as a Rabbi, and all the Jews in his congregation nothing more than gullible or emotionally weak? Never mind the cartoonish unfairness of it all, don't you think it makes for uninteresting character development? Whatever.
All the "smart" people will go away from this film figuring out that the world is a hopeless dog eat dog jungle. The rest of us will go home and do all the work that holds society together and hope for some other film to take our minds off things like this. 1 out of 10 for a pointless and grotesque story.
Stand-up Comics Take a Stand (1988)
Stand up comedy competition to benefit Cerebral Palsy
This was just a bunch of comedians doing stand up in a competition sub-titled, "The search for Hollywoods hottest new comic." Something like that. This was a benefit to raise money for United Cerebral Palsy. I believe this was the second of 3 or 4 annual televised competitions before the event ran out of steam. It came up during the "comedy boom" years of the late '80's. I'm pretty sure this aired in the U.S. on some crazy cable station like CBN (Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network) as it began to branch out into secular programing. Did they not later become the family channel, which was purchased by ABC? Something like that. At any rate - an interesting show if only to check out some then unknown comics that might be famous now, though I couldn't tell you exactly who the comics were.
Note: This was by no means a "10" as my vote would indicate, but it was also not a 3.5 show, per se. Just thought I would bring the score up to a more reasonable level.
Stalag 17 (1953)
A huge disappointment
How Billy Wilder was able to miss on such a monumental scale is beyond me, but he sure does with Stalag 17. This movie is not a train wreck, but it is a huge disappointment and certainly belongs nowhere on anyone's top anything list. The story is compelling enough. There is a rat in the POW barracks and nobody knows who it is. But any hope this movie has of making it is dashed by cartoon like performances, cliché characters, preposterous situations and eye rolling stupidity throughout. Do not believe the hype. This is not a good film. Some Like It Hot is a good film, The Apartment is a great film, many Wilder films are fantastic, but this... this is not just a strike, it's one of those misses where the batter falls down.
William Holden won the best actor Oscar for his performance as Sefton in this film, and he deserves it, but don't let that fool you. Aside from Holden, Stalag 17 feels more like "Springtime For Hitler".
Inherit the Wind (1960)
Inherit the Wind is to movies what Crispin Glover is to doll heads
Not many people know this, but Stanley Kramer did NOT direct this movie. His name is on the film, but that was merely a marketing ploy drummed up by the executives at United Artists. Inherit the Wind was actually the freshman outing by little known director and circus act promoter J. Worthington "Honest John" Foulfellow. You may know him better as the fox from the Disney movie Pinocchio (1940). Well, apparently one of the producers ran into Foulfellow at Shwab's drug store and, being the sly fox that he is, he convinced U/A to let him direct this film. Initial testing showed that people had an aversion to seeing a film directed by an animated fox, so Kramer's name was added as director.
With this is mind, it is much easier to enjoy the movie Inherit the Wind, taking it as a window into the cunning mind of a erudite swindler. At face value, one might consider the cartoonish behavior of the characters in this movie to be absurd, but when you realize Inherit the Wind was directed by a cartoon character, the movie suddenly makes perfect sense. As I understand it, the entire cast was originally supposed to be played by animated personalities, but when Bugs Bunny was held up by his contract at Warner Bros., Spencer Tracy was brought in to play the Henry Drummond role, and the decision was made to go with a human cast. I think this was a good choice. It gives the movie a much more ironic and paradoxical feel. Note the torch wielding peasants that want to lynch the "free thinking" teacher and picture a scene from Foghorn Leghorn and the barnyard dog, and you get the picture.
To me, the sheer genius of Honest John's work are the empirical aesthetic devices he employs to counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying metaphor. The movie is obviously mocking propaganda and how gullible those who think they are smarter than others can become. Yet if you are not careful, you will fall precisely into that trap, intuitively thinking the dialog is hack and the characters are cliché and formulaic. Another brilliant trap set by Foulfellow is the lack of historic accuracy in the film, as if to say, "The very premise this film is built upon is hype". Indeed, if one is not careful one can even walk away from this film thinking it completely sucks. If that be the case, all I can say is I pity you, you silly gullible philistine.