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Raunchy Comedy Wrapped In A Cool Candy Coating Shell, 17 August 2015
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

First off, take Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride, put them in another god-awful CGI-laden disaster flick full of celebrity cameos, such as Emma Watson and Michael Cera, toss in twenty times more than the allowed profanity, sexual references and drug references than should be allowed in any movie out of Hollywood (but then this movie was written by Seth Rogen, whose brain is already wired a little weird) and a mild smattering of religion, and then you get a good idea of what "This Is The End" is all about. Now, as bad as that idea sounds, this movie is actually a lot better than you'd think. James Franco has a party at his new fortress-like house for his celebrity friends while Seth and Jay make a food run and experience a paranormal event as most of humanity is beamed up into the afterlife. Returning to the house, they experience earthquakes as people vanish into the earth. There's some light gore and some dark sadistic dialogue and violence, but the movie moves along so smoothly and rapidly that one quickly gets out of it. Seth and the main cast start speculating that it might be the Apocalypse, probably the most religious stuff in any Seth Rogen (or James Franco or Danny McBride) movie ever. After they plan for what might be a long wait, things take a turn for the worst. McBride reverts to character and immediately eats up all their supplies and is exiled from the house. Emma Watson comes by looking for help but is quickly offended and robs them blind. The in-fighting causes Jonah Hill to make a deal with the devil, and he gets possessed. Franco turns out to be hiding food, and the resulting fight between Rogen's Brat Pack ends up in the destruction of the house. This is not just another one of Rogen's drunk buddy comedies or another offensive drug-laden sex fantasy. There is actually some serious character moments and real comedy in this movie as well as some positive messages in this film, and unlike "Left Behind" with Nicolas Cage, it's not overtly preachy. Despite the stupid premise, it's done straight and logical, something you don't see in Seth Rogen movies, with some honest and decent performances and it ends with an awesome message. Dealing with demons and sin on every side, Rogen, Franco and Baruchel are the only ones left after Robinson gives his life to save them, if but only to run into McBride in ultimate douche-bag mode "Road Warrior" style and a giant Satan stomping all over what's left of Los Angeles, although, if I was writing this movie, I would have brought Emma Watson back fifty-feet tall and completely insane instead in place of the Devil, mostly because that's something I'd want to see.

From the "Movies With Misleading Names" Department, 17 August 2015
4/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've watched this movie five times since I got it on DVD, and I still don't know what it's about. Now, you'd think a horror movie called "The Haunting of Hell House" would center on a haunted house, but this movie doesn't focus on any one person or location like a good haunted house movie would. Based on a story by playwright Henry James, the movie stars actor Andrew Bowen as New England college student James Farrow whose wife, maybe girlfriend, dies due to a botched abortion, and he begins to see her in dreams and hallucinations. He is soon drawn to the empty house they once explored in their youth, but now, it turns out that it belongs to a Professor Ambrose, played by the talented Michael York from the British stage. Farrow pursues York's help to rid himself of the ghost he believes is haunting him and scratching him up, but whether it's in his mind or just his guilt is never explained. Meanwhile, Ambrose is similarly being haunted by the ghost of his dead wife who refuses to let him sell the house. Neither man believes the ghost of the other one exists. Meanwhile, Farrow is being hunted by the police for his dead girlfriend found in his apartment. He escapes to Ambrose for protection, but the old man is dying and can't help him. Farrow flees to the house to ask for forgiveness from his girlfriend's ghost, but discovers Ambrose's ghost isn't real after all. It turns out he's being systemically poisoned by his angry daughter and Farrow drinks the poisoned wine from her for her father to be with his bride. In the end, Farrow dies in jail next to the phony doctor who botched his girlfriend's abortion. Is this a good movie? Uh, no. It's long, it drags on, it's confusing and the name of the movie is misleading. This is not a haunted house movie. This isn't even a horror movie, and trying to make it look like one may be its worse trait. However, it does have some beautiful scenery for what I speculate is supposed to be Turn-of-the-Century New England. Overall, it's not exactly a movie that can live up to the hype of its name.

The Return Of The Ghost of the Sequel of Lee Harvey Oswald, 17 August 2015
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In 1977, there were two movies based on historical fiction. One was called "The Lincoln Conspiracy" and revealed how Radical Republicans plotted to kidnap Abraham Lincoln to extend the Civil War and then rushed to cover up their treason after Booth assassinated Lincoln and allegedly got away with it. The problem with the movie is that it had the guts to try and pass itself off as the "true" story despite the overwhelming evidence in the State Archives that says otherwise. In "The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald," the historical fiction unlike Oliver Stone's "JFK" is instead used as a plot device to examine the alleged possible JFK conspiracy and in doing so debunks it rather neatly, exposing Oswald as what we all knew he really was, just an angry lone nut. In this alternate history, Oswald is instead brought to trial in a scenario with actor John Pleshette as the faux Oswald. It has a slow start before finally picking up with the recreation of the assassination and the recreation of the trial as it might have gone had it really happened. Actor Ben Gazzara plays prosecutor Anson Roberts, and Lorne Greene of "Bonanza" fame is defense lawyer Matthew Arnold Watson, but they're actually just guides through the known history of Oswald with recreations of chosen historical events leading up to the assassination. A few incidents are omitted, such as Oswald's street fight with the Cubans and his attempted assassination of General Edwin Walker. The fictional framing does well to paint a much better picture of Oswald that "JFK" ever did, a movie where he barely appears for more than ten minutes in the movie's three hours. "The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald" actually credibly tries the real Oswald without perpetuating the conspiracy theory, instead pushing it off to the sidelines as rumor. Pleshette's Oswald is more than willing to perpetuate it if he thinks it will keep him from going to jail, all the time being the most difficult defendant in history as he schemes to be the next Lizzie Borden and live to see the results of the chaos he creates. Pleshette gives an extraordinary performance more enhanced by Ben Gazzara and Lorne Greene's attempts to get at the truth before history once again takes over. While it's hard to say how much of this film is accurate, it does give a picture of how Oswald would have likely played the system had he lived to see trial and that's where the movie succeeds by how it merges reality and fiction to hopefully find the truth.

Vacation (2015/I)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Good Attempt - So-So Result, 17 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm not a big fan of reboots and remakes. It's such a hit and miss process; sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn't. I think it's too early to call "Vacation" a total bomb because while it fails on some levels, such as almost replicating the plot of the first movie, it does have some very funny moments. Ed Helms plays the fifth or sixth actor to bring Rusty Griswold to life. Not quite as delusional as his father, he is sort of a lovable doofus as he plans a road trip to re-bond with his family at Wally World before it closes for the last time. At least, that was the premise in the original movie draft before the movie came together. His wife is played by Christina Applegate of "Married With Children" fame, who does not look good in HD. Sadly, she's become a thin white shadow of Kelly Bundy. Their two boys are one of the best things in the movie. The older boy is a sensitive intellectual, and the younger one is a sadistic little brat trying to murder, kill or maim his older brother… or at least embarrass him publicly. Another funny part of the movie is the Albanian monstrosity that Ed rents to drive to Wally World. It's a huge ugly blue beast called a 2015 Tartan Prancer covered in numerous headlights, side mirrors and a power cord to an outlet that doesn't exist. It is also controlled by a on-board computer covered in symbols no one can figure out; a hilarious parody to all those endless new car computer enhancements which no one wants or needs in modern cars. Unfortunately, for every funny joke that works, there are a few that fall flat. For example, the movie has some weird penis fetish. The younger brother writes on his brother's guitar, "I have no penis." A giant penis is drawn on the car after its vandalized that Helms and Applegate try rubbing off, and when they visit Audrey in Texas, they're also introduced to her husband, played by Chris Hemsworth of "Thor," and his little friend from the previews. Another stop along the way is to Applegate's old sorority in Memphis where she tries to once again to channel her inner Kelly Bundy. What is supposed to be the funniest vomit joke ever is actually disgusting, offensive, disturbing and three minutes too long. The visit with Audrey is not as up to par as the visit with Cousin Eddie or the "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong" mentality in the original; it's basically a moment for Helms as Rusty to realize things are not happy at home as he thought before setting up for another tasteless joke concerning a cow being blown up by an ATV. Yes, it happens… Along the way, Ed has also his turn embarrassing his son in front of a girl, and in a return to the Grand Canyon, they meet up with a deranged Grand Canyon guide, but it's still not a sequel unless they steal one more scene from the original, namely getting lost in the desert after a mystery button to the car actually blows it to smithereens. Rescued by a phantom trucker that's been intimidating them through the movie, they finally reach San Francisco for the second to last references to the first movie, namely the cameos which every has been waiting for by Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo. There's not a lot of heart to these scenes as much as one would think as much as it's getting the movie back on track by revealing the old Roadster once more which as you recall was destroyed in the first movie. I guess Clark loved it so much he bought a new one, but there's still one more joke along the way, namely the realization that all theme parks are badly staffed, their employees under trained and regular customers are often screwed over by pretentious jerks with gift cards even God can't afford. While the first movie reminded you of how horrible the car trip was, this movie certainly reminds you of the ugly truth of theme parks with endless lines and surly employees. Overall, it's not a bad movie, but it's not a great movie. This is one of those movies I think the critics will hate but will still end up with its own loyal cult base of fans anyway. It doesn't have those memorable lines like "Getting there is half the fun. You know that." or "Real tomato ketchup, Eddie?" or "Uh, we like to send out a mailer." Uncle Stone's offensive little friend is no replacement for the metal plate in Cousin Eddie's head, but the frustration with the computer in the car is one of those nice little modern updates that make the movie worth enjoying and that in my book makes the movie worth it. It's dirtier, raunchier and more offensive when it doesn't have to be (Hard to believe parts of this movie was written by the guy who played Sweets on "Bones."), but at least it moves along at a quick pace without getting stranded on those less than stellar moments.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
How Not To Make a Comic Book Movie -, 17 August 2015
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I'm a bigger fan of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies than the Andrew Garfield version. My excuse is and has always been that Sam Raimi was such a fan of the Spider-Man movies that he knew how to do it right. On the other hand, the Andrew Garfield version was more about the Ultimate Universe version than the real Spider-Man, and there was the difference. There are elements in both movies that work very well, and elements in both movies that don't. Tobey's version was more like basic Spidey; Garfield's was more like the updated version. They were two different versions, and despite the fact Raimi did a better job, Emma Stone still kicks Kristen Dunst as far as sex appeal. On the other hand, Garfield's sense of vengeance over the murder of his uncle is a poor substitute for "With great power comes great responsibility." Amazing Spider-Man 2, however, seems to get worse than its original with even more plot lines to fall over and crash into each other. I couldn't keep up with everything that was going on, and quite frankly, there was nothing about them to make me interested. The villains are kind of lame and shallow. Electro terrorizes the city for no reason but to be noticed. The weird part is that when he gets arrested they terrorize him by electrocuting him. This makes as much sense as punishing an Ewok with a bath and flea dip. However, Paul Giamatti as the Rhino does nothing but yell and threaten kids. When he shows up in a giant ridiculous robot Rhino tank, it looks as if he's auditioning for the next "Transformers" movie. Harry Osborn's motivation makes a little sense, but as the Green Goblin, all he is an amped-up school bully on crack. At least Sandman, Doctor Octopus and Venom had clear goals that went far beyond just killing Spider-Man. I mean, in Spider-Man 3, the villain that had the least to do was Sandman, but at least, he had some really cool bank robbery scenes. Even Venom had a little worth doing as an alien-possessed psychopath. Another thing that annoys me about the movie is that it feels as if it runs just way too long with moments that feel like its ending but then it drags its way to yet scene that once again runs toward an ending before starting again. The only good parts of the movie I like are Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone's chemistry. The web-slinging scenes are okay, but they're all but stolen from Sam Raimi's work. At times, the whole movie feels like two movies loosely interconnected with enjoyable scenes, such as the Peter-Gwen relationship broken up by the interims with what feels like the DC Universe version of Spider-Man. The movie is bothered immensely by the fact that it's trying to create all these lead-ins to an expanded Spider-Man Universe that unfortunately has no part in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and thank God for that since Sam Raimi's version fits in a lot better with those films).

Fragile (2005)
Superb Haunted House Flick, 17 August 2015
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If there's one thing I really believe in, it's that all actors should have at least one or two horror movies in their resume. I loved Nicole Kidman in "The Others," and Christina Ricci in "Cursed," so when I heard Calista Flockhart had starred in a haunted house movie called "Fragile," I had to get this movie. She plays an American nurse studying in London who is called down to help close Mercy Falls Hospital on the Isle of Wight and move the young patients to a new hospital. Her character is played with a back story we never really learn anything about, but then we really don't need to learn anything because once the movie starts moving forward, it runs forward so efficiently that it never once bogs down with exposition. The hospital Calista arrives at is old, outdated and falling apart, much like most stereotypical haunted sites, but she soon learns she is replacing a nurse who was scared so badly that she quit. In the children's ward, she meets a distant young girl named Maggie (Yasmin Murphy) who gradually fills her in on the strange stories of the hospital. Actor Richard Roxburgh goes against playing a psychotic character for once, portraying the night physician, Dr. Richard Carey, one of the hospital staff members sympathetic to the plight of the kids, and slowly delving into the location's past for the identity of the spirit. The kids are terrified by a presence they call Charlotte who is breaking their bones at night to keep them from leaving and is getting more dangerous as things keep progressing. Director Jaume Balaguero does an excellent job setting up the atmosphere and scares slowly at first and building up to a pitch where Calista's character goes from suspicious to curious and gradually terrified as she realizes the children are in danger, rescuing Maggie from the top floor as the hospital seems to crumble around them. It's everything a good haunted house movie should be; thick with atmosphere and light on the special effects with the highlights on the character performances rather than on the ghosts. Unfortunately, there is nothing here to appeal to the gore hounds that prefer blood and violence. "Fragile" is an intense intellectual ghost story with atmosphere, a strong cast and a top-notch plot that moves along briskly, and that is actually the best thing about it.

Nothing but Dan Aykroyd -, 17 August 2015
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Have you ever watched a movie that seemed great at the time, but by the eighth or twelfth viewing, it starts looking worse than you thought it was? I love Dan Aykroyd. He was and still is one of my top ten favorite talents to emerge from "Saturday Night Live." However, as far as being able to write, produce, direct and star in a film, he might have bit off more than he could handle. I saw a portion of this movie for the first time around 1995; it was the scene where Chevy Chase is tried before the judge, found guilty on trumped-up charges and sent through the roller coaster from hell to his death. That was it for me. I never knew what happened next for several years. What happened before that? Where did it go from there? I had to know. Some years passed, and I found the movie at the local library. (Yes, libraries actually rent movies, and they do it for free.) It turns out what I missed was Chevy Chase as a successful stock broker meeting Demi Moore, a really hot lawyer, and that's basically where things spring board. It starts out dull and boring and leaves you waiting to get into the plot. Chevy wants to take Demi out for a long drive down the coast to be alone, but in walks the late Taylor Negron from "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" and his girlfriend to horn in on the trip and pretty much get on everyone's last nerve, including the audience. They don't even have a purpose in this movie and are quickly shuffled out twenty minutes later after serving their purpose. After pressuring Chevy to break the law and get them all arrested, they all get dragged up before Dan Aykroyd in very heavy (and I do mean VERY HEAVY) prosthetics in a courthouse in the middle of several acres of junkyard surrounded by a moat. While this fat-suit gimmick worked out great for Eddie Murphy in "The Nutty Professor," Aykroyd uses it to become as gross, obnoxious and unappealing as possible. It's just not funny or really integral to the plot. The house and junkyard with its various "Addams Family" hidden room aspects are more intriguing, but we never see much of it. John Candy plays the judge's nephew, the only normal person in the judge's family, but Candy also gets stuck playing double-duty as his overweight and homely sister in a role that is both disturbing and uncomfortable for Candy. It's supposedly played for laughs, but it's not funny. The rest of the movie is pretty much about Chevy and Demi trying to escape with Chevy getting trapped into a marriage with the homely fat niece and sent through the aforementioned roller coaster to his death. Luckily, it conks out before truly chewing him up. Unfortunately, he's basically sleepwalking through the scenes and phoning in his dialogue without the energy or personality of Clark Griswold. Demi Moore tries playing her role straight, but it is not hard to see she's completely confused and dismayed by the script that isn't very funny and is actually frequently disturbing. It's basically "Deliverance" as a live-action horror cartoon, and it's not really helped by a disconnected musical interlude by a group I'm told calls itself Digital Underground. I'm never heard of them either, but they're the only good thing in this movie even if it gets disturbing to watch two young beautiful ladies rub up against Aykroyd in his fat latex old man costume. If this movie is what we can expect from the unbridled imagination that is Dan Aykroyd, all I can say is Thank-God for Harold Ramis for keeping him restrained enough to create "Ghostbusters."

"Houdini" (2014)
Stunningly Impressive for a Cable Movie, 17 August 2015
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm a big fan of Houdini; he ranks up there as one of the top historical figures to fascinate the present. The multiple layers of his life and the different translations of it from his public side to his private side have become fuel for some very interesting depictions from the 1953 depiction, "Houdini," to "The Great Houdini" with Paul Michael Glaser and Sally Struthers in 1976, the one that ranks as my favorite. However, after Jonathan Schaech's 2008 version, one might start to wonder what might be left to dramatize. Well, there is the rumor that Houdini might have been drafted to work as a spy for British Intelligence, a claim that has never been proved. With this depicted in the film, one might start to wonder what else did they get wrong? "Houdini" still manages to adhere to the basic time-line of Houdini's life and career, but it also seems to bend things here and there to create drama and to rush into the famous moments of his life we all want to see brought to life on the small screen. From his simple life working for carnivals to his later successes, the movie actually condenses the one thing that Houdini was actually best known for than his magic: his war on phony Spiritualists and then going much further than that by establishing his motives. Could Houdini have actually believed in an Afterlife so much that he outed all the charlatans he encountered trying to find a one-true psychic in touch with the spirit world. It's a very novel interpretation that I've never seen posed before, but it also makes sense when you keep it in mind to re-watch the other Houdini movies. However, where it starts becoming unbelievable are in depicting Houdini's possible spy career and more fiction with Houdini entertaining the Russian Royal Family and meeting Rasputin before the revolution, events I've learned which never happened. It does stay essentially truthful to his death in the hospital rather than the stage legend that has been forced down our throats. (Thank you, Tony Curtis.) Nevertheless, the movie does not fail to entertain or keep our attention. Despite being thinner and more gaunt than Houdini, Adrien Brody enjoys himself in the role and gives an excellent performance, as does Kristen Connolly who is woefully underused at times as a fiery and strong-willed Bess. The highlights are the explanations behind some of Houdini's lesser-known illusions. I enjoyed the movie, and unless you're a massive Houdini purist for accuracy, this one should appeal to you as well.

From the "Sequels We Didn't Need Department", 17 August 2015
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

To understand why this movie stinks, one has got to understand what made the first movie better than just a would-be "Hangover" clone with a time machine. It was a movie about second chances. It was about three guys who are generally obnoxious to each other whose lives and fates went askew after a vacation and the second chance they got to go back and do it right. It turns out their miserable lives have an effect on the surroundings around them, such as ruining the lodge and town around it, but after things are put back on track, things become prosperous for everyone around them as well. It was also a humorous retro look at the nostalgia factor of the Eighties. Unfortunately, its sequel ignores all the good parts of the first movie and amplifies all the worst qualities of it – the pointless nudity, the unending obscenities, the drug references, the anti-social behavior and the contempt and impertinence between three guys who are supposed to be good friends. Worst off, it is all without John Cusack, without who this movie should not have been made. Cusack did the first movie for just a paycheck, and he wisely stayed away from this sequel knowing it was not going to be as good as the first. As a comic foil, Rob Corddry is hilarious, but he can't pull off an entire film by himself and that's where this movie already fails. In the film, it turns out that both he and Craig Robinson's characters have exploited their knowledge of the future to become big successes, much to the alienation of everyone around them. Not sure how this works since Corddry was the only one to stay behind; I guess young Robinson's character retained memories from his future self. Corddry has amassed a huge business empire and become the largest obnoxious jerk in the world because of it, so when he gets shot in the groin at a party, they speculate they have to go back in time to catch his killer. How he survives the huge blood loss is never explained, but they use another hot tub to travel in time and end up in the future, but it's not a dystopian future. It's a sociopathic, sadistic, deranged, substance-abuse future based on Corddry's warped life. It's lacking in morality, decency and honor with TV shows catering to public humiliation, nonsensical murder and licentiousness appealing only to psychopaths, anti-social rejects and anyone with a three-second memory. It's a penis-obsessed world where Corddry feels oddly at home, but where the audience can only cringe and watch in disgusted disbelief. There is nothing redeeming in this plot, which is often offensive for offensive sake. Very few of the jokes are actually funny, and once again, it is left to Clark Duke to practically explain what is going on here. Adam Scott is basically and sadly dragged along for the ride trying to hold on to a script that wanders off more times than it holds on, but the film does have frequent cameos and science fiction references. Overall, it's not a very good follow-up to a movie that didn't need a sequel, and Hollywood must have been aware of this fact by the way they over-promoted this film. It just wasn't worth it. I definitely could have waited the year for this movie to come out on Comedy Central heavily censored and edited to watch instead of wasting the ten bucks to see it in the theater.

When Will The Wayans Brothers Make Another Funny Movie?, 17 August 2015
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I actually liked "A Haunted House" so I was going into this movie with high hopes that lightning could hit twice, but instead of striking, it misses the target completely. The movie is basically a retread of "The Conjuring" with references to "Insidious," "Sinister" and some smaller horror references (the son has an invisible friend named "Tony" ala "The Shining."), but it's really an excuse for rampant profanity, objectionable sexual references and more simulated pornography segments. There are weak comedy moments that go on forever (Wayans simulates an exceedingly long repeated rape of a "demon doll" eight minutes long after it stopped being funny) and endless nauseating sexual references. (Wayans makes endless "box" references as a metaphor to a girl's pubic area.) The movie just doesn't have the creative edge or the honest character dialogue of the first flick, instead relying on non-stop slapstick, dark humor and Wayans's ability to make faces and scream like a girl. There are a few funny moments (Wayans types in his computer: "When will they stop making "Scary Movies" without the Wayans Brothers?"), but they are so few. The movie also repeats a lot of material that wasn't all that funny in the first movie: a dog gets killed (again), Cedric the Entertainer shows up for no reason (again), characters ramble on about nonsense (again), Wayans simulates endless sex acts on an inanimate object (again)….. It's as if they paid no attention to the script and just made it up as they went along. Essence Atkins appears for what seems to be just a tacked-on cameo without adding anything to the movie. Comedian Rick Overton is wasted in a role that is stretched into an extremely unnecessary and boring "Breaking Bad" sequence. Jamie Pressley is vastly underused; only appearing as a "straight man" to Wayans bouncing and screaming all over the place as the Devil Doll plays out the role of a "former-girlfriend-turned-stalker." There's just not much more to the movie to that. It's not terribly funny, nor is it creative or edgy; it just drags on like a body behind a car.


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