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A good bad movie?
I'm an MST3K fan, so my perspective might be a bit skewed. But you remember Eddie Murphy's stand-up routine about what his stand-up was like when he was a kid? Trying to be raunchy before he could say cuss words or talk about sex?
That's what "Ace Jr" felt like to me, like an unsophisticated Max Fischer stage play about his favorite Jim Carrey creation. It's a very derivative film that can't decide if it's for kids or not. The writing has the quality of a typical Disney channel sitcom, and brings back all the lines and bits from the original in the most awkward and cringe-inducing ways. I'm not sure if anyone that ends up liking "Ace Jr" would even like the original films; certainly, original fans would grit their teeth through a screening of this.
Nobody watches any "Ace Ventura" for the plot; these movies live and die by the lead. The kid playing "Ace Jr" reminded me more of Jack Black than Jim Carrey, better when he wasn't trying to do Ace Ventura imitations. There's a better movie in him somewhere...
In the "Ace" franchise, it's about as good as an average episode of that Saturday morning cartoon, but weak sauce compared to the Jim Carrey films. If you thought the Ernest films were funny, you'll probably enjoy this. Actually, if you thought Turkish Superman was funny, you might enjoy this, too...
Just like the old days...
Luhrmann's made his career from resurrecting cliché film genres (Shakespeare, movie musicals) by reinvigorating the storytelling power that made the genres so popular and familiar in the first place. With "Australia", he aims closer to home - not his homeland, but his kind of movies. "Australia" nods to the sweeping epics of classic Hollywood, and delivers exactly the kind of film that Selznick's people might have delivered if they'd tackled the subject. Fans of caffeinated Luhrmann might feel left out after the first thirty minutes; after that, the only faults in "Australia" are the same faults as its source material.
But does anyone watch "Casablanca" for gravitas, or "Gone with the Wind" for a searing indictment of Southern politics? History's just a place setting to offer servings of romance and high drama. Some will find that delightful; others will realize why most people don't make movies like this anymore.
Kidman and Jackman are good together, and on their own, but aren't quite a classic combination. I enjoyed Jackman's Han Solo to Kidman's Princess Leia - but there were scenes when I really wanted to see what Russell Crowe would have done with the role.
All in all, if you can get old movie fans to stay in their seats long enough to reach Faraway Downs, they should love this movie. A great date movie, a romance movie with plenty of macho action, and the kind of film that really tries to earn the ticket price, the kind of movie that reaches for the title "epic". Just like the old days...
Must Love Dogs (2005)
Goodbye, Lloyd Dobler
In an attempt to understand the average modern romantic comedy, I picked up "Dogs" because I like the leads, and hoped that would be the spoonful of sugar I needed. And the movie is the big ol' therapy session I expected it to be (broken-hearted woman learns to love again,) but with the bonus of John Cusack, as Jake the boatbuilder, showing us what Lloyd Dobler probably turned into when he got older and Diane inevitably left him. Seriously, the witticisms and logic of his character just said Lloyd to me the entire movie. And seeing his fate in such a maudlin movie makes the Lloyd of my memory seem like such a schmuck. If I didn't know Lloyd Dobler, I'd consider the character of Jake half a person like all the other characters in this film, which might be intentional, but probably isn't. As it is, everybody just spouts greeting card wisdom and delivers the same beats as every other earnest chick flick of the last twenty years, right down to the 60's sing-a-long. "Must Love Dogs" would be a harmless, charmless movie for "ice cream and drunk dialing" night... but Cusack's performance recycling, inadvertent or not, is heartbreaking for any long-time fan. I hope they never make a sequel to "Ferris Bueller."
King Arthur (2004)
King Arthur and the Cowboys of the Round Table (SPOILERific commentary)
It's not exactly "The Wild Bunch" or "Saving Private Ryan", but it's still the story of a lone battalion, on their last detail, finding a reason to fight one more time. They get drafted, they find out they're not the good guys, they find the good fight to fight, leading to the big showdown at an abandoned outpost, against impossible odds...
Not a movie I'd recommend my kids to watch for school credit. It's a re-imagining of the Arthur myth, like Burton's "Planet of the Apes." But the movie uses the legend to dress up the American chestnut of the imperialist soldier discovers the half of his heart that ties him to the land, uniting a fractured people against the forces that threaten to obliterate. It's "Dances With Wolves." It's "The Last Samurai". Heck, Merlin's a Wiccan shaman that anoints Arthur king of the Britons! All they were missing was a harmonica solo and Gabby Hayes.
Against those standards, "King Arthur" is found wanting. It's missing a couple of scenes to make it a banner addition to the genre, and nothing new to help it escape the limitations. Maybe a couple more scenes with Arthur's knights, to show him through their eyes. Or maybe a couple more solo scenes of the King, to hear his mind trying to contemplate his destiny.
Decent Arthur, decent Gwen, great villains, underused knights, laughable 'natives', one cool fight in four - add up to a half-great movie. Five of ten.
Roadside Prophets (1992)
Wish the title fit... (SPOILERS)
As road trip movies go, it's subtle and (perhaps too) familiar. Joe (no last name) decides to honor a stranger's last request, and deliver his ashes to an oasis in Nevada. Along the way he discovers the citizens of Today's America: the rebels whose time has passed, the franchise minimum-wagers, the common people in their varying degrees of lunacy... As he drives farther and farther from his old life, the purpose of his trip morphs into a larger exploration of the journey that everyone makes, the journey of life... John Doe's "Joe" pulls off the everyman bit, the straight man for everyone else to prosletyze to and joke around. His only job in the movie seems to be the audience's advocate, reflecting their reactions to the strangeness in the desert. Adam Horowitz's "Sam" is more than the lively sidekick; he represents the end result of being raised in modern times. A pathological liar, a pyro and a lemming, he's the motherless child that considers every location of the Motel 9 franchise his home. Overall, the movie feels as staged as an above-average Afterschool Special. The cameos feel like stunts (Mike Tyson's appearance in CROCODILE DUNDEE IN LA was more believable) and the intentions are so clear from the beginning that the trip seems redundant. And the point? It would seem to be as Sir Edmund Hilary reasoned for climbing Everest; "because it's there."
As a road trip, it's more a pleasant afternoon than the journey of a million miles. 5/10 stars
Not a first date movie
I'm entering my seventh year of marriage, as I write this. We've come a long way: first kiss, first night, first night on the couch, first fight, first compromise, first last apology, first marriage, first kid... there aren't many firsts left for us, and even fewer I want to experience. Love's old hat. But love with this imperfectly perfect woman is what I want most of all.
I bring this up because ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND reminded me of these things. The other reviews have already mentioned of the film's prowess and its explorations of the themes of love and memory. I do think that it is an excellent concept executed impressively. (If you're not into 'arty' movies, they used a similar story in an episode of "That 70's Show.") I also think a well-timed video release should ensure some Oscar nominations next year. But the reason I bring up my own baggage in this comment is to explain why I think this movie resonated so well with me. I can't think of the last time I saw a film offer this kind of complex and unflattering portrait of romantic love, and still make it seem like the glue of the universe.
Long story short, I laughed, I cried, I fell in love again. Since I've only seen it once so far, I can only rank it a 9/10.
Chalk one up for love...
This was the second Bollywood movie I've ever seen (after Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... or does Moulin Rouge count?) and I was blown away. I'm not used to this degree of complexity in musicals or romance films (at 3 hours, it'd better be complex.) Sure, it could have been four films, but the three stories of the young lovers lead up to a bigger story, about the battle between love and fear, between Machiavelli and Rousseau. Of course, Bachchan and Khan sold the idea, by showing that their characters both loved and both hated, and their battles were over the inevitability of change, the constance of impermanence, and the need for completion. A shorter way to say it is, they took what should have been a Hollywood ending, and made it work. The singing, dancing, comedy and pathos were a good distraction, which is what good movies should do. It really felt like they took all that showmanship to explain a greater truth, which is what great movies should do. Of course, I'm in love right now, so I'm kinda biased... I gave it a 9/10.
Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)
Plot, schmot, it's one of the best action films in a looong time(SPOILERS)...
I have to take issue with everybody whining about the weak plot, for two basic reasons:
1) This is an action movie, in the vein of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and DRUNKEN MASTER II. Were you expecting THE USUAL SUSPECTS? TRAFFIC? SEVEN SAMURAI? While the structure's not as inventive as PULP FICTION or MEMENTO, there's just enough setup to give room for the action scenes. And while the characters may not be as nuanced as OCEAN'S ELEVEN or JACKIE BROWN, they're still memorable and sympathetic enough to add genuine weight to the faceoffs (as opposed to, say, XXX or SWORDFISH).
2)SPOILERS: Okay, here's the plot: Once upon a time in Mexico, where everyone is out for themselves, and everyone uses everyone else, Agent Sands (Depp) is the king of the game. He knows who wants to kill who, and sets them in a row to kill each other off and keeps things as they are. The General kills the President, the Mariachi kills the General, the drug lord kills the Mariachi, the ex-Fed kills the drug lord, and everybody's happy and dead -- that's the plan. Of course, nothing goes as planned.
Now, I could go on about the death and rebirth of the Sands character, and his parallels with Saul's trip to Damascus; I could compare the arguments of redemption versus revenge as exemplified by Mr Good, Mr Bad, and Mr Ugly along with several ancillary characters; I could even prattle about the satirical elements addressing the political situations of Central America... or I could just write Santa for an Agent Sands action figure.
Bottom line, if your only complaint about the film is that the plot seemed confusing and less than substantial, watch it again! MEXICO is a classic: 9/10
A movie for the fans...
This movie doesn't deserve the shellacing it's received by so many. I'll admit that the Pikachu short that precedes it was maddening, like watching an acting exercise where everyone has to use the same word in a conversation. When this hit the theater, I stood out in the lobby with the other parents, trading headache medicine and bolstering each other's spirits. The film itself is an extended episode of the TV show, which is still better animated than the average Scooby Doo or GI Joe episode. The biggest complaint is that the movies aren't very inclusive. It's a kids movie, as opposed to a family movie: only hardcore fans and underexposed children will appreciate them. Of course, try explaining the charms of Kid Video and Thundarr the Barbarian to today's kids. As far as the first movie goes, it feels like there's about twenty minutes missing that would have made the film more whole, as opposed to wholesome. But the goofy bad guys are funny, and at least it's better than the Thief and the Cobbler... 5/10.
The Blues Brothers (1980)
One of the great rock n' roll movies
A few weeks ago, I was looking for great rock movies: y'know, like Spinal Tap, Committments, Jailhouse Rock. I can't believe this one slipped my mind; I always thought of it as an SNL comedy, until watching it this evening. But breezing through it, I gawked at the songs, the car chases, the performances (even from the non-actors), and the lines. The world of the Blues Brothers resembles our own more than usual movie comedies do, what our world could be if someone just got it to loosen up and shake a tailfeather, which is what the presence of the Blues Brothers does, throughout the film... For putting those songs in my head, for being the secret uncles of Ferris Bueller, for presenting Belushi's (and Ackroyd's) greatest performance, for putting Chicago on the map, for passing the test of time and so much more... I give "The Blues Brothers" my first 10/10 rating. It's a musical for people who love musicals and who think musicals are fake, an action movie for people who think action movies are stupid and those who miss them, three different kinds of comedy, and a movie that, by featuring all the ingredients that birthed rock and roll in the first place, really feels like rock n' roll.