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The Green Hornet (2011)
Kato Kicks Booty (But Britt Reid Is Cool Too)
I know. I hear you out there. You're screaming "SETH ROGEN ISN'T FUNNY!" And until this movie, I would have agreed with you. He seemed to play the same lovable (and probably brain fried) dope in every film, and it was such a one note song I was ready for someone to pop the CD out and snap it in two. SURPRISE - this is a movie where Seth Rogen's comedic sensibility actually makes SENSE. He's the spoiled little rich kid who always hated his daddy, who by the grace of bad legal advice (seriously who would leave a publishing empire to their spoiled brat with no strings attached) winds up with a fortune. What to do with unlimited money and craploads of free time? At first he gets even with daddy dearest. Then he decides getting even with REAL bad guys is much more fun. And that's the key to "The Green Hornet" circa 2011 - it's an unapologetic unbridled romp through fun. It's a movie full of gadgets that would make even Q of James Bond fame blush, packed with drug pushing, gun-toting baddies who get their deserved comeuppance despite Britt's relative ineptitude - all thanks to his faithful sidekick Kato. Along the way though Britt discoveries his humanity, regrets his selfish ways, and does so in a way that thankfully DOESN'T come across as preachy condescending Hollywood moralistic crap. Just when you think this movie is going to run out of gas and/or laughs, the big swerve leaves you punch drunk and enthusiastically cheering for the good guys. I was disappointed when there was no bonus scene after the credits - I stayed until the end hoping for one more scene with Britt and Kato hamming it up. That to me is as good an endorsement for why to see this film as you can get.
Visually spectacular, but...
When this movie popped up on MojoHD I went into it with an open mind since I've always been a huge fan of "Time Bandits," which also happens to be one of the first movies I threw a fit about as a kid when someone accidentally taped over it. Needless to say I've had that film burned into my brain ever since, bought it on DVD as soon as I could, and have professed my love of it repeatedly to friends who watched with me and either "didn't get it" or thought the end was weird and depressing.
Those same friends would probably appreciate Baron Munchausen more since it does have an unambiguous feel-good ending, but at over two hours long I felt the movie had a tendency to drag on. In a day and age where every video at Ye Locale Box Store is "UNRELEASED DIRECTOR'S CUT WITH ADDITIONAL FOOTAGE" I simply can't imagine this movie being any longer. There are plenty of times when you wish they'd cut to the point, as even a dunce can figure out what's going to happen when Baron and the Sultan make a bet with a treasury payoff of "as much as the strongest man can carry." Given the chance I also would have sacked the entire segment with the Baron and Venus. I was positively bored to tears by the whole thing and Uma Thurman was much more attractive in Pulp Fiction.
The movie is visually stunning, especially given the quality of special effects at the time it was filmed, and Robin Williams was an unexpected and pleasant surprise as the King of the Moon. Regardless I repeatedly found myself wondering if Terry Gilliam was in command of all his faculties directing this film, as the kind of zany he espouses is best done in shotgun Monty Python fashion. They say no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, but expect to settle in with more than one box of popcorn and several (caffeinated) beverages for Baron Munchausen - a movie I'd have happily rated one to two notches higher if they had kept all of the same actors and special effects but trimmed out more of that fat.
Shark Tale (2004)
It had all the right ingredients...
Start with DreamWorks. You all know them as the new kings of movie animation, the crew who brought you Shrek and Shrek 2. Add in a heaping helping of all-star vocal talent from Will Smith to Jack Black, from Renee Zellweger to Angelina Jolie. Sprinkle in what should be an obvious "rags to riches" tale about a poor fish named Oscar who makes good, only to find out the good life isn't what it's cracked up to be. With all those ingredients the end result should be a tasty morsel of a movie, but the only thing these sharks take a bite out of is your wallet. What's really surprising about this film is that with the previous deft hand the DW crew showed at appealing to both kids and adults by mixing slapstick and action with romance and subtle (and occasionally naughty) jokes, this time they manage to not hit any of the marks. Sure this film is "cute" but unless you are taking very young children to the theatre, cute alone isn't enough to shell out $10 for let alone cut it as a rental or a take-home purchase. Cute is quickly replaced by vapid. The over-the-top stereotypes quickly become offensive, from rastafarian jellyfish who talk jive to Italian mobster sharks complete with a "don" voiced by Robert DeNiro (and he should be ashamed of this role). The storyline hints at a desire to delve deeper into issues of class and disenfranchisement, but Will Smith's hammy dialogue keeps you from taking him OR this movie seriously. And seriously, who decided fish should emote? They are not exactly the best choice for conveying a range of complex emotions, but those poor schelps who spent tens of thousands of man hours at computers animating this dreck tried anyway. In fact they even tacked on a pointless short for the home release where all the fish and sharks "get jiggy" in the film's car/whale wash, turning into a nightclub for the evening. What this movie proved to me is that even when you follow a perfect recipe, you can make a mediocre product. Repeat viewings are not necessary, and you may even feel once is too much by the end. Save for the sparks of life Jack Black gave this movie as a misunderstood shark who wants to eat plants instead of animals there's almost nothing memorable about "Shark Tale"; that is to say there's nothing memorable in a GOOD way. Recommended for the youngest and most naive of viewers only.
Brewster's Millions (1985)
Critically acclaimed or not, this comedy hits the spot
When people think of the long legacy of Richard Pryor as a comedian, this film may not be at the top of the list. He has achieved greater heights personally and professionally elsewhere. Many Pryor fans may have skipped over this one altogether with a catalog of films to choose from that include luminaries from "Car Wash" to "Stir Crazy" to "Harlem Nights." That's unfortunate really, because as comedic performances go, Pryor strikes pure gold in this unheralded film. His manic energy, his sheer frustration with the impossibility of his dilemma (spend 30 million dollars until you are dead broke and not have a single penny or asset left at the end, in order to inherit three HUNDRED million) and the fact that he channels so much believability into what would otherwise be absurd are highly laudable. With an excellent supporting cast that included the likes of John Candy and Jerry Orbach, it's hard to imagine anyone too jaded to enjoy this film. It's ridiculous and over the top, to be sure, but it's also supremely funny in a way much more pretentious comedies can't touch. Pryor breathes life into the film and the film glows as a result. Whether it's on your personal "best comedy" list or not, it's not a film you can easily excuse not watching whether a Pryor fan or not. From third rate baseball playing bum, to toast of the town millionaire, back to a bum again before a highly rewarding ending comedically and emotionally, "Brewster's Millions" pulls off the best trick of all - it makes the viewer feel like a million bucks for having watched it.
Ercole e la regina di Lidia (1959)
Even as a Mystery Science Theater 3000 send-up, this one falls flat if you watch it more than once. The riffing of Joel and the bots is still entertaining, but it can't disguise the fact this film is pretty thin on usable plot and relies mostly on Steve Reeves rugged looks to sustain itself. Think Tom Cruise in "Days of Thunder" and you'll see what I mean. As painful as this movie is with their jokes, it would be completely intolerable without them. From cheesy costumes to badly dubbed dialogue to acting even high school drama teachers would turn their noses up at, this movie is like a 1970's kung-fu flick minus the saving grace of people getting their butts kicked. In fact for a so-called Hercules movie, it's long on bad dialogue and short on good action. If you're going to watch something called Hercules you'd actually be better off seeing the animated Disney film.
Superman III (1983)
It's not as bad as Superman IV
It features Robert Vaughn as an evil megalomaniac, and Richard Pryor as a down-on-his-luck bum turned brilliant software programmer. As implausible as these things are, they actually make the film interesting compared to what it could have been. Imagine "Cotton Comes to Harlem" meets Carl Andterton from "Law & Order" and you have the movie otherwise known as Superman III - it's still better than IV.
Le dîner de cons (1998)
I normally don't go for non-English films for a variety of reasons; among them the fact I feel I'm doing the actors and filmmakers a disservice by not being able to understand a film without subtitles. For this film however I am not only happy to make an exception I can honestly say the comedy is so good I might have understood +without+ the english subtitles! The facial expressions of the actors involved are as priceless as the ridiculous situations they get themselves into. Just when you think you've got it all sorted out, the writers of the screenplay up the ante in ironically hilarious twists the likes of which are rarely seen in your average Hollywood comedies full of punchlines and quips and non-existant plots. Even at the film's very end when the so-called "idiot" has proven how wrong people were about him, he commits one last great gaffe that screams "STUPID!" and will have you rolling on the floor. Forget Julia Roberts, forget Woody Allen, and forget Chris Tucker - if you want really good laughs rent or buy "The Dinner Game" (American release title) and enjoy a wry comedy you won't soon forget.
Mission to Mars (2000)
A long night's journey to the middle of nowhere..
Aside from the charming and somewhat comedic performance of Jerry O'Connell (best remembered for his role on the popular sci-fi show "Sliders") as the astronaut "Phil", this movie is perhaps the saddest waste of $4 for a matinee ticket I ever spent. A truly awful movie, with a completely unbelievable plot, and heroes that are so loathesome you constantly pray for bad things to happen to them and cheer when they do. The once charming Tim Robbins, who so impressed me in "Shawshank Redemption", sinks to an all time career low in this dismal sci-fi flop, and the normally entertaining Gary Sinise fares little better. While both have enough standing in Hollywood for this fecal matter to not be a career ender, it certainly won't add any luster to their resumes. Here's a plot summary: idiots go to Mars, idiots die, idiots chase after any survivors - in other words the whole thing is truly idiotic. One suspects that this is exactly the kind of film Alex was subjected to in "Clockwork Orange" when he was forcefed drugs with his eyelids propped open. I don't know whether it's more horrifying that I paid money to see it or that a movie this bad got made in the first place.
The Godfather: Part III (1990)
Pacino, Pacino, Pacino
If you're a fan of Al Pacino's work as an actor, or fond of the first two installments of "The Godfather", this movie is worth seeing on either basis. Unfortunately for both the series and the actor this is not a GREAT movie. It suffers more by comparison to it's preceding chapters, but even as a stand alone film it would still be weak. It seems ironic that this is the movie that Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola supposedly collaborated on the most closely; but being over 10+ years removed from the success of Part II ultimately has as much or more to do with why this film suffers. A great cast is assembled, a great director is at work, and a great writer collaborated on it - and yet instead of being hot the film can only best be called tepid. The one driving force that keeps it interesting is Pacino's dilemma as Michael - can he save his soul and his family at the same time? It serves as a rather poignant contrast to his role in "The Devil's Advocate" so if you've only seen one I recommend renting the other.
George Lucas is gonna SUE! :)
While "Dogma" brought wry humor to deeply religious convictions and serious morality issues; and "Clerks" was a brilliant farce exposing the mundane world of convenience stores; J&SB is just.. funny. There's really no point to the film, other than the comic misadventures of Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith as they try to stop Hollywood from making a movie about them (for no better reason than that they don't want to be portrayed as losers and have their reputations ruined). Stars from the other View Askew movies all make humerous cameos, as do actors and actresses from "Star Wars" (so don't worry, George Lucas WON'T sue) and "American Pie." Don't expect anything more profound than "Up In Smoke" or "Clueless" - this is just good ol' fashioned silly fun (age appropriate unfortunately, due to Jay's foul mouth).