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A Bad Movie Falls Apart Even More At Its End, But It Does Have A Few Laughs
As a big fan of the original "Anchorman" I was very hesitant about this sequel. First, sequels almost never live up to the original on which they're based, and, second, as much as I enjoyed it the original "Anchorman" was not without its share of weaknesses. Unfortunately, those weaknesses were on display again in a movie that was, overall, far less satisfying.
One of those revisited weaknesses was the sheer length of the movie. The original - much funnier - was far too long at about 1:45. This one went on for almost two painstaking hours even though there was nowhere near enough substance to fill that time. Even by the end of the first hour I was getting antsy. By about 1:30 it was getting painful to keep watching. Then, for reasons I'll never understand, much of the last 20 minutes or so was taken up (like the first movie) with a huge news team rumble that was silly, even for a movie designed to be silly. Really, this was a huge mess of a story from the start. The chemistry that I thought existed in the first movie between Will Ferrell and Christina Applegate (as Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone - now, in this movie, married) was noticeably absent in this, and while the first movie made no attempt to be serious, this one added an unnecessary angle about Ron trying to be a good father to his son. Nothing much in this story worked. But ...
As weak as the story was, it did have me laughing out loud a few times, with many of those laughs being produced by Steve Carell, who was back as the laughably incompetent weatherman Brick Tamland. As far as performances were concerned, Carell's was the obvious highlight here, albeit in a supporting role. A movie that makes me laugh out loud can't be all bad, even if it does have a lame and often incoherent story. (3/10)
It Was OK
Ben Stiller was very good in the title role. That's the first thing I'd say. From my perspective, it was one of his better performances. As Walter, he plays the head of the negative assets department for LIFE Magazine, which is about to publish its last print edition before becoming an online only magazine. In that position, Walter is responsible for a series of negatives from a hotshot photographer (who would ultimately be played by Sean Penn in little more than a cameo), one of which is to be the final cover photo. But one of the negatives (#25) is missing, and the movie revolves around Walter's wide-ranging search for it.
Walter is a likable character. He's a guy who's largely bored and unsatisfied with life, who spends a lot of time daydreaming about what could be - some of his daydreams are realistic, others not so much. That sometimes gets a bit confusing, since it isn't always clear whether what we're watching is real or whether it's only happening in Walter's head. And as likable as Walter may be, I just didn't find myself caught up in the search for negative #25. It did give the movie the opportunity to go to some interesting places. You really don't see many movies that are set for significant periods of time in places like Iceland and Greenland - although whether those places were portrayed at all realistically is doubtful. Still ... Iceland and Greenland. But aside from the curiosity of the setting, the search for negative #25 rather bored me.
There was also the problem of Ted Hendricks. Played by Adam Scott, Ted was the mean and nasty boss in charge of the transition from print to online, apparently delighting in telling people they would lose their job - heartless, callous and unfeeling. Yes, it happens, and the powers that be aren't always kind and compassionate, but Ted was too much of a caricature for my liking.
This is certainly worth watching for Ben Stiller's performance, but for me at least the story left a lot to be desired. (4/10)
Mr. Sardonicus (1961)
Nicely Done Little Movie
Aside from the opening narrative and the closing "pinishment poll" (in which the audience, presumably at theatres, was invited to decide whether Sardonicus should be punished or shown mercy) from director William Castle - neither of which were necessary - "Mr. Sardonicus" is actually a pretty smart movie that moves along at a nice pace and is at times tense and that even manages to fit in some rather twisted sexual innuendo in such a way that it fit the story perfectly.
Sardonicus is a Central European baron who spends his life wearing a mask to hide his grotesque face, frozen by a traumatic incident years earlier. Convincing the English Dr. Cargrave to come to him, Sardonicus ensures the doctor's co-operation with threats against his beautiful wife, with whom Cargrave had a previous relationship.
The story is decent. The makeup for Sardonicus is a bit silly but workable, and it does offer the viewer a bit of a start when his appearance is first revealed, and there's even discussion of psychosomatic illness included. All things considered, it's a pretty well done movie. (7/10)
The Last Days on Mars (2013)
Zombies On Mars
In a way you could call this movie "Zombies On Mars," because that's essentially what it is. Set at an unspecified point in the future, it revolves around an international crew of astronauts spending their last days of a long mission on the Red Planet, and preparing to go home. Things go horribly wrong, though, when they discover a Martian bacteria that begins to infect them. It makes them appear dead, but they eventually revive as apparently unfeeling and mindless killers. Thus - basically - zombies.
I didn't find this particularly spellbinding. It has some moments of high excitement, and the first sight of one of the infected crew causes a bit of a jump, but those kinds of moments are unfortunately few and far between, and staying riveted to the story wasn't always easy. Watching the characters respond in unique ways to the crisis was kind of interesting, and I thought the movie did a good job of creating the Martian setting. It just didn't have enough sustained excitement.
The movie features a fairly low profile cast, with the best known being Liev Schreiber, but they were fine. They just needed a bit of a better story to work with. (4/10)
Me, Myself & Irene (2000)
Not Jim Carrey's Best, Not Jim Carrey's Worst
I have very mixed reactions to Jim Carrey's work. Sometimes I think he's quite good, other times both his performances and his movie leave something to be desired. On the other hand, I adore Renee Zellweger. She can make even a bad movie worth watching - for me, anyway. So, Zellweger was in this. It was worth watching.
It was a decent movie and sometimes quite funny. Carrey's character Charlie is an officer with the Rhode Island State Police - "the best law enforcement agency in the country" as we're told many times. But after a marriage breakup, Charlie's life begins to fall apart. He's left with his three black sons (his wife had an affair and then dumped both Charlie and the kids) and just tries to get through life. Then he meets Irene (Zellweger) - a fugitive from justice who Charlie has to return to New York State. You see where this is going - and then comes the twist, as Charlie suddenly develops a split personality, as the arrogant Hank makes his appearance. Irene and Charlie (and Hank of course) end up on the run from corrupt cops.
It's a fun movie. It's no comedic masterpiece, and it's a little too long for this type of movie (almost 2 hours), but it's quite watchable. It's also very crude at times. Charlie's three sons have an obviously favourite word (let's say it starts with "mother" and includes two more syllables and it occurs over and over and over.)
Basically, it's neither Carrey's best movie, nor is it his worst. (6/10)
OK ... Well ... That Was Weird
I'm aware of some pretty scathing comments coming from the Christian community about this movie. And I'll state outright - I'm a Christian, and a pastor. Even with that background, this movie didn't offend me from a religious perspective. I understand it's a Hollywood production. I also understand the criticisms. You expect that a movie called "Noah" is going to have something to do with Noah. You know. The biblical story. From Genesis. This movie has little to do with the biblical story. It's definitely Hollywood's account of the great flood and what led up to it. But I could accept that. Embellishing the biblical story to make a mainstream movie is fine. But only if it makes a GOOD mainstream movie. This was anything but. It was just a bad movie. A silly movie even. It seemed cartoonish much of the way through. It has some decent cast members. Russell Crowe in the title role, Jennifer Connelly as his wife, and even Anthony Hopkins in the role of Methusaleh. I can only assume that either they were all in desperate need of paycheques or that they didn't bother reading the script. If I were an actor, I sure wouldn't want this on my resume for the rest of my career.
The poor script and inane dialogue aside, let me deal with the issues of cartoonishness and silliness. Who were "The Watchers"? Those strange light beings apparently imprisoned in rock by God because they didn't do such a good job of looking after Adam and Eve? Was that the explanation? They made no sense. They were poorly (and very poorly) animated. They appear very quickly and their very appearance caused my evaluation of the movie to drop almost right away. And they stayed around - for the whole messy thing. There was no escape from them. And my eyes rolled every time I saw them.
You know what? You could actually make a pretty decent movie out of the story of Noah. You know what else? This ain't that pretty good movie that could have been made. For the sheer amount of creativity in coming up with some of the non-biblical embellishments (especially The Watchers) I suppose someone deserves some credit - even if much of this was downright silly. That little bit of credit explains why this gets 2/10 from me.
Not Your Typical End Of The World Movie
"Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World" is a break from the usual action packed and special effects filled end of the world stories that we've become accustomed to seeing. There's little action and few special effects to be found here. In fact, this is a sometimes humorous and often slow moving picture. It doesn't pull you in with excitement. What it does is provide interesting characters that you like; that you want to get to know better. And, of course, it presents them with a hopeless situation: the earth is going to be destroyed by a huge asteroid strike in a matter of days. How will society react?
The story basically is told through the eyes of Dodge (Steve Carrell.) I have mixed reactions to Carrell. This was a role I liked him in. Dodge is a kind of sad character. His wife has left him - and he's faced with this hopeless situation. Literally hopeless. So what's he going to do? We see a variety of options portrayed. Some people riot; some people decide to go out in a huge orgy of ... whatever turns them on, I guess. Dodge decides to seek out an old love, and on his way to find her, he finds a new friend - Penny (Keira Knightley.) Younger than Dodge, the two nevertheless bond as they travel together. Will they develop a romance? That would perhaps be a little too obvious if it happened too soon anyway. As their relationship plays out through various things that happen to them, you wonder, and then, in the end, the final moments of their relationship (before the asteroid hits) are portrayed very sweetly and tenderly. I actually found the end of this movie very touching.
And there is humour thrown in, and some satire. Cable News is skewered in this - there are regular opportunities to watch the various networks doing a "Countdown to the End" special, with the little clock winding town in the corner, everything being done with a completely straight face. Some have criticized this as being unrealistic in how it portrays people's reactions to the pending destruction of earth. Apparently some feel that universal and non-stop panic should occur. I actually thought the movie did a good job in showing diverse reactions. I don't think there would be universal panic. I think that there would be a lot of Dodge's and a lot of Penny's - people who have no panic, but would really just like to spend their last few days with others that they love. And I thought Dodge and Penny(or Carrell and Knightley) played that out well.
It's not action-packed. There are no special effects to speak of. But this is a thoughtful movie, I thought. Not fast paced, but a pleasant and leisurely stroll to the end of it all. (8/10)
An Interesting And Believable Premise
The thing that makes "Her" work is that it's a movie that's essentially (I say "essentially" because it could easily fit within other genres as well) a science fiction movie - and yet it's also plausible and believable. It seems like something that could happen - maybe even in the not too distant future. That makes it hit home a little more perhaps. It's also a movie that I had to take a couple of days to think about, and the more I thought about it, the more the movie said to me.
In addition to being science fiction, this is a romance. The catch is that a man (Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with his computer's Operating System, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. It's not entirely clear how far in the future this movie is set, but this Operating System ain't Windows! It has a personality, it can make some decisions on its own, it establishes relationships - it even names itself: "Samantha." Samantha, in fact, is so "human" sounding that slowly but surely, Theodore falls in love with her - or with "it." Samantha has an innocence, which is to be expected from what is essentially a child, learning about its new world. And she makes Theodore (a basically lonely guy) feel special and happy. The evolution of their relationship is interesting to watch - especially as it all falls apart, because, yes - eventually it does.
Samantha found "monogamy" difficult. Eventually it's revealed that in her youthful enthusiasm, she's involved in literally hundreds of relationships - in love with many besides Theodore. For Samantha, it's no problem. As a computer, she can handle multiple relationships all at the same time without missing a beat in any of them. But to Theodore, it feels like she's being unfaithful to him. It reminded me of an episode of Star Trek: TNG, when Data has a romantic tryst with Tasha Yar, but when she asks him what he's thinking about, he rattles off several things his positronic brain had been considering, none of which had anything to do with her! Theodore didn't like the fact that Samantha wasn't totally committed to him. In the end, there's even a sort of quasi-racism (I thought at least) involved with this, as Samantha runs off (where they would run to I have no idea) with many other Operating Systems to live apart from humans. Sort of like, the two races shouldn't be mixing. I found those two things interesting reflections on some of what happens in the modern world.
Many people were quite taken with Scarlett Johansson's work in voicing Samantha. I have to confess that I greeted it with a yawn. It was a voice over basically. I honestly don't like it when big name actors take parts (like this one or in animated films) that could go to lesser known actors who could probably use the money, quite frankly! To me, it didn't matter that the voice was Scarlett Johannson. In fact, it kind of put me off. Not because she did a bad job. Just because ... But that's just me.
Still, overall this was an emotional and I thought thoughtful and thought provoking movie. (7/10)
This Just Didn't Work At All
Generally speaking, I like Forest Whitaker. In fact, he's the reason I was willing to rent this movie in spite of its rather mixed (at best) reviews. And he didn't disappoint me. His performance as Angel Sanchez was actually good. Sanchez was a man dealing with the tragic death of his mother, who decides that he's going to take revenge on those responsible. Whitaker handled the vengeful psycho character pretty well - one moment the quiet, gentle and doting father; the next moment busy torturing the guy he blames for his mother's death in his basement. But it seemed natural. He was believable in both personas, and the transition from one to another was fine. Whitaker was the obvious highlight of the movie.
Then, into the mix comes Anthony Mackie as Thomas Carter, and here's where things begin to fall apart. Not so much because of Mackie. He was all right. But the character, and the direction the story takes. Mackie's some sort of New Age counsellor type, and once that's introduced the movie disintegrates into a cacophony of meaningless and sometimes incoherent New Age mumbo jumbo. Then - because Angel and Tommy have to be brought together in some way - there's the very fortunate release of Tommy's brother Ben (Mike Epps) from prison. Ben needs money, he wants it from Tommy, Tommy apparently owes him big time so to get money he takes on - voila! - Angel as a patient. Yes. A happy coincidence. Angel's "plan" wouldn't have had a chance had that not happened. And then mixed into this there's a lot of unnecessary supernatural stuff revolving around the ongoing presence of Angel's mom. What was the point of that? Why couldn't Angel just have been out for revenge? Why did he need to keep seeing his mom? And then it wasn't just a figment of his imagination - because his daughter had some sort of contact with her as well. Totally unnecessary; totally pointless. Thrown in because ... well ... I don't really know why it was thrown in. Just because apparently. And the ending was ... not satisfying. To say the least.
Yeah. I like Forest Whitaker. But this is one Forest Whitaker movie I wish I hadn't seen. (3/10)
I'm Sure It Was Good At The Time
This was released in 1969. So, it was the era when voyages to the moon were just beginning, and it was long before the time of the International Space Station. So it was an era when there was interest in space flight and its future. "Marooned" surely did a good job of capturing public interest in its subject matter. And it captured a sense of the future, with its multi-month mission being a bit like ISS missions. So, in 1969, this probably was seen as a pretty dramatic film. Alas, it's now 2014. I wouldn't so much say that it feels dated. Rather, it feels unnecessary.
The drama of the movie is the likelihood of the crew being lost when a malfunction makes it impossible for them to get home. The astronauts are played by James Franciscus, Gene Hackman and Richard Crenna. Their performances were fine - especially Hackman's, as his Buzz Lloyd starts to come unglued. Still, in some ways everything seemed a bit too professional, as for the most part everyone does their duty and makes the decisions that need to be made. That might be a very realistic portrayal of how the situation would be handled, but it didn't make for spellbinding viewing.
Watching this in 2014 though, my biggest feeling was that I didn't need to watch it. I mean, if you want a movie about stranded astronauts, watch "Apollo 13" - which, in addition to being a superb movie has the advantage of being based on a true story. "Marooned" isn't bad. In 1969 it was probably very good. It just isn't necessary viewing when compared to what's available today. (6/10)