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Frozen? More like Slush!
Frozen is a mystery to me. How an average run-of-the-mill Disney film has become a sensation for a year and a half has puzzled me. I feel this film pales in comparison to Snow White, Bambi, Fantasia, Beauty & The Beast, Toy Story and other animated/CGI films often lauded as the best from The House Of The Mouse. I sat through the film twice, looked for hidden meanings (and found none) and tried to understand what was going on and just didn't understand the hype or why people are ridiculously obsessed with the film, its songs or its characters. Was it because of the cold winters the last two years, the standout track Let It Go (honestly, a pretty good song) or the done-to-death oppression theme? Why are so many people crazy about this film? It's a mystery to me.
Frozen has top of the line CGI and one good song but nothing more. The script is painfully lame and isn't worthy of a PG rating, the voice acting is hammy, the characters are annoying to anybody who isn't a tween girl (Disney's biggest audience by far) and it's simply not like Disney films of the past that could appeal to all ages. Only tween girls will find Frozen a joy. Everybody else should just see it as another Bob Iger cash grab but strangely, they don't. They are mesmerized by this mediocre film for reasons I'll never know. As Prince once opined, it's The Sign O' The Times...and not one I like.
Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
Nothing but a bad chick flick version of BDSM
I didn't know about 50 Shades Of Grey until February, when it was shoved onto everybody's face. I never heard of the wildly popular book, either. Of course, that's because any book that is wildly popular is usually some scribble geared to teenagers. Not to say that I haven't indulged in schlock as my brothers and I read Sidney Sheldon books in the 1990's. These days, I am a lot more careful about my reading material.
So going into this movie, I knew nothing about the contents of the book or what it was all about. After viewing it, I can't understand why anybody would want to see this crud in a theater. 50 Shades Of Grey represents the nadir of Hollywood. Proof positive that crap can draw money because people will pay to watch mediocrity (which this film isn't even) and praise it because they refuse to bother looking for the much better in years past. Films from 1975 explored BDSM way more explicitly and honestly than this fluff.
All this film offers are Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) doing G-rated versions of BDSM. That's it. Add in horrible acting from the entire cast, a insipid script written by Kelly Marcel in which she channels a 7th grader's mindset and terrible direction from Sam Taylor-Johnson and you have a multi-winning Razzie Award winner come to life. Boring, unerotic and sterile is all I can say. There's much better out there in regards to films exploring BDSM. If they make a sequel, boycott it. Tell Hollywood that you're not going to get your intelligence insulted any longer.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Great for teens but not for adults.
I have seen Fast Times At Ridgemont High plenty of times in the last 30 years. It was very popular on late night T.V. in the 1980's (the edited version) and then the theatrical version years later on when T.V. was allowed to air the R-rated version. I enjoyed this film more as a teen but as a middle-aged man, the movie just isn't as entertaining. I would recommend FTARH to teenagers and young adults but not to those who were kids back in 1982.
Still, to see a cast with 3 future Oscar winners in Sean Penn (I Am Sam, Milk), Forest Whitaker (The Last King Of Scotland) and Nicolas Coppola Cage (Leaving Las Vegas) makes FTARH noteworthy. The battle of wits between Jeff Spicoli and Ray Walston's Mr. Hand are very entertaining. It was clear back in 1982 that Sean Penn was destined for a successful career in Hollywood. The stoned out California surfer dude was perfected by Penn and for years people have made that stock character a part of many films, television shows and cartoons.
Many years later, lad mags would push Phoebe Cates' famous nude scene as the most perfect display of breasts ever. That one point of the film, you truly feel that you're in an alternate universe when she undoes her top and presents her beautiful assets all shiny and wet to the viewer. That scene never gets old and to this day Ms. Cates is a legend to many young men.
The acting is still solid, the music is 1980's and pretty much every character is likable. There's little to fault about it other than the questionable decision to have Amy Heckerling direct this. I just feel the film is better for teenagers. I would recommend finding Cameron Crowe's book and reading that (or seeing Animal House) instead of this film unless you love seeing Spicoli and Barrett over and over again.
Your typical CBS claptrap.
It has been said that Scorpion is the "smartest show on television" but that isn't a boast I'd want to make public. Television is not the place to go for thought-provoking content. T.V. is where you go to watch insipid sitcoms, brain-dead reality shows and dog-and-pony award ceremonies all slathered with a skewed reality from the Bible Belt.
Scorpion is yet the hundredth rehash from CBS of the CSI/NCIS formula. This time, we have stereotypical geniuses trying to save the world from the usual problems that they are hired to fix. Filled with pseudo- intellectual babble and boring characters done to death it isn't anything you haven't seen a hundred times before. Funny thing is, many Americans in the 18-49 range seemingly act like it's fresh and new and the show has a decent fanbase. Perhaps CBS cobbled this show together in order to give people who are afraid of the violent blood and guts featured in a typical CSI/NCIS type show something more talky. Who knows?
I saw a few episodes and was bored to tears. I have no clue why anyone would think this is a must-watch show. 3 seasons and it will be canceled.
Animaniacs: Wakko's Wish (1999)
Take a bow, Animaniacs.
The final Animaniacs project was released on VHS on Y2K Eve but I didn't see it until it aired on Teletoon Retro a few days ago.
All the characters from the show are here but instead of being in their natural habitats they have all been placed in a town called Acme Hills. The Warners and friends are under the oppression of evil King Salazar; who took over their land in a hostile takeover and forces those in Acme Hills to live in abject poverty. As well, Dot needs an operation to help save her life. Wakko goes into the outside world and he returns with a Ha'penny which he intends to use to pay for the operation. However, Baron (Thaddeus) Plotz takes the money away as taxes and leaves Wakko broke again.
Wakko then makes a wish to the stars and Pip (a character similar to the one Ben Stein voiced in an episode) grants Wakko his wish but he must trek to where it fell. He tells everybody about the news and it ends up being a mad dash to reach the star, including Baron Plotz and the Evil King Salazar.
Wakko's Wish, sadly, isn't the ultimate Animaniacs movie I had hoped for. The story is done to death and the Animaniacs come off this time around as dull. Very few moments of zaniness abound and those moments are the only reason to sludge through the badly disjointed and overlong songs and redundant plot devices. The voice acting is good but it seems many characters have been toned down a lot, such as Jess Harnell's Wakko (who sounds more Continental than British) and Pinky (seemingly less nutty) among others. The animation is terrific and the characters have never looked better but everything else screams mediocre.
If you're a huge Animaniacs fan as I am, you should still see the movie and decide for yourself if they finished the series with a bang or a whimper. I feel it was both and that's never a good result.
Moving Violations (1985)
Decent comedy from Israel/Proft.
Many moons ago I reviewed Bachelor Party and said I hated it, calling it a waste of Tom Hanks' talent. After their success with Police Academy, the Israel/Proft team decided to attempt another one-off comedy called Moving Violations. While it has become a forgotten film, it doesn't deserve that fate. It's an above-average film with a likable cast and a fun premise. Its biggest weakness is having its main characters rip off other actors extensively.
John Murray (brother of Bill) plays Dana Cannon, a man who runs a nursery for plants. He and a number of other people have been ticketed for various driving violations from corrupt Birch County Deputy Hank Halik (James Keach) and forced to go to Traffic School. They later find out that Halik and equally corrupt Judge Nedra Henderson (Sally Kellerman) are running an illegal car selling scheme where they sell the cars of the people who have had their cars impounded for traffic violations. Of course, the headstrong Mr. Cannon isn't going to take this lying down.
Moving Violations, like a lot of 1980's comedies, has an intriguing cast of actors. A mix of one-hit wonders, siblings of major movie actors, T.V. stars and the debut of Don Cheadle make up the cast. John Murray portrays a character similar to his brother mixed with Michael J. Fox and does an excellent job, though it probably hurt his career as an actor because he couldn't come up with an original personality. James Keach's performance reminded me of his brother Stacy's performance as Sgt. Stedenko in Up In Smoke...maybe a little too similar. Jennifer Tilly delivers that sultry voice of hers in one of her early appearances. However, the one who steals the movie from everyone else is Nedra Volz. She plays the blind-as-a-bat Mrs. Loretta Houk who confidently goes about in the world as if she's got 20/20 vision with hilarious results. Seeing her and Clara "Where's the beef?" Peller together in the movie made me mark out. Seeing these senior icons of the 1980's in the same scene? Awesome.
It's an 80's film so get ready for all the trappings of the decade but it's not too bad here. Some good sight gags, funny situations, good writing and an inventive place for lovemaking add up to a pretty good film. Certainly worth a look.
My Kitchen Rules (2010)
Rigged, scripted and manipulative Reality television: Australian style.
I've always loathed reality television for many reasons but the one big gripe I have with the genre is that it's all scripted, there is no prize money (it's just a work) and the contests are pre-determined and rigged.
I live in Canada and a new channel added here called Gusto airs all the seasons of My Kitchen Rules. MKR is Australia's most popular television program and I decided to see if Australian reality television might be better than the shoddy American ones. Well, after 40 or so episodes it's a tiny bit better but it's still the same malarkey you will find elsewhere.
The only positives I can give the show are:
1. Australians are a much more laid back and easy going group of people unlike the Americans, British and Canadians. They are more tolerable to put up with on a program like this.
2. At least here in Canada, the swear words are not bleeped and they use R-rated language.
3. There is no audience of screamers until the final episode where the eliminated and the finalist's families are in "Kitchen Headquarters".
4. The people they use are real and not a bunch of actors. Tresne Middleton is actually a real estate agent, for example.
It is clear that every second of the show is scripted. Not one single amount of true emotion is shown. All reality T.V. is scripted but this show is blatant in that regard.
It's also droll how they have to call them Bree & Jessica or Helena & Vikki at all times. No changing of their title whatsoever is allowed. Why not an occasional Kelly and Chloe? Mr. Evans and Mr. Feildel must stand/sit right next to each other 95% of the time. It's clear that every moment is scripted by the producers. They just pull numbers and opinions out of their butt. I love how they constantly need to repeat the names of the dishes they are cooking, the endless talking head segments that who knows when they were filmed (before or after?) and lots of scripted events. It's never a smooth ride for these people.
I also love how the camera always captures those moments, it's always there at the right time. A good one was with the aforementioned Ms. Middleton. She was doing a lunch truck challenge and one of the guest judges (Colin Fassnidge) criticized her cooking technique. She then went over to her partner Carly Saunders to be consoled and the camera "catches" her being hugged and then giving somebody that stare. You know when a kid is upset and runs to her mother and then she looks at the person or animal that hurt her? That stare.
I love the centipede of cars for the "visits" of contestant's homes, the fake emotions of certain contestants, the forced trash talk and the constant editing. BAM BAM BAM with the visuals. I love how this show gets all those plants to show up at the end of the time limit as if they were waiting in buses or something. The school was realistic but I find it hard to believe in reality that they could find enough grown adults to show up at these lunch truck and restaurant challenges.
Of course, after season 5 all the allegations came out. I'm not surprised about the faked home visits. We don't want groupies taking pictures so all of these "homes" were in undisclosed locations and the dinners took place at 6 in the morning. The other facts (some of these contestants were trained prior to taping at a school, they were told what to cook, other chefs created meals, etc.) just takes away from the real reason I watched the show, like how many cases of food poisoning or how many blue band-aids would I see.
Anyway, I'm sure Australia will still watch in droves come Season 6. I won't. Sad thing is, I did have one more reason to watch: they have some beautiful women in that country. Oh well, the sacrifices I make...
A Chef's Life (2013)
Yippee! More mutated reality T.V.
PBS' A Chef's Life is half cooking show, half "real reality T.V." show. Unlike most reality T.V. cooking shows, this isn't some made-up story about a restaurant opening but a legit opening. Problem is see, they clearly have scripted events occur during the program that anybody with a brain can see a mile away.
The focus is on Chef Vivian Howard, who sounds like a female Dr. Phil. She has a North Carolina drawl and many of the people she interacts with have that distinct accent. She and her husband Ben Knight worked in New York (don't know if that's a work or not) and then claims her parents will allow them to open their own restaurant if they open it in Eastern North Carolina (?) which she says she was finished with in the intro. Most of each show is about the travails of getting this restaurant open with a mix of fact and BS. 5-7 minutes are spent showcasing her cooking prowess.
Much of the show consists of the boring and dull comments of Chef Vivian in front of a camera. She certainly knows how to doll herself up but she has the personality of a rock. She also seems to come off as somebody with a superiority complex and her husband is pretty much forced to do her bidding as he clearly doesn't wear the pants in this family.
I would recommend one episode just so you can hear that unique voice of hers but other than that, it's a good cure for insomnia. Anyway, I'm sure she will script a good ending for her little enterprise.
Ein echter Hausfrauenfreund (1975)
The living Ken doll.
For years, me and my brothers called this movie The Happy Gigolo. We saw it back in 1991. I saw this one again a few weeks ago. My version is dubbed in mostly American English.
Peter Hamm plays Albert Hoover, a living Ken doll who works in a hotel in Germany servicing women. Rare for a softie, a male is the main character. Anyway, in order to provide for his family he prostitutes himself for several women, though he seems devoted to Margaret Rose- Keil's Evelyn even though he is very happy with his wife and has a vibrant sex life with her.
For most of the film, he is exploited and treated like the gigolo he is but at the end the film makers cop-out and he is made the conqueror of women although to be fair, the woman he refuses to pleasure is a stuck- up egomaniac who deserved to be mocked for going against her own beliefs.
The women in this movie are all very nice and most of them look pretty good even now. Even the slightly chubby woman who plays his wife makes up for her looks with her sexual exuberance. However, all the focus in this one is on Albert. He looks like a living Ken doll with his mop-top hair and lady-killer smile. Any women who watch this film will certainly be impressed. The dialog probably is much different from the German original with a couple of characters portrayed as Americans. Many of the jokes are explicit in nature in regards to oral sex and orgasms, though done humorously.
This movie is available under a wide variety of titles so just go to the IMDb page to see the many names. However, this film is for those looking for the most obscure of softies.
The Jerk (1979)
Still a very funny film 35 years later.
I remember seeing Steve Martin in his "Wild & Crazy" mode with the arrow through his head as a kid. Over the years, Martin has mellowed quite a bit and has focused more on music (he has been to Ottawa Jazzfest the last two years) than acting, directing or writing movies. The Jerk hearkens back to his days as "Wild & Crazy" Steve and remains laugh-out loud funny.
I sometimes wonder what kind of personality Navin Johnson has. Is he an idiot savant, does he have Asperger Syndrome, is he bored with life and lives recklessly to tolerate it or is he just a parody of Steve Martin himself? He's a difficult character to define and that what makes his character cool. You don't know what you're getting with him. In today's movies with one-dimensional characters, Navin Johnson's personality is rich with development.
The film, about Navin's crazy experiences with independence, finding love and making a fortune is a laugh riot from start to finish. It still remains relevant because it avoided topicality. Bernadette Peters looks as delicious as ever and it's good to see the likes of Bill Macy and the fine Blues duo of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee in the cast. It still has that vibrancy like it did in 1979.
If you long to see the Steve Martin of old, his sparkling debut as a leading man is the film to see. Highly recommended.