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Truly Captures Spirit of Christmas
Gosh, this show was fun. You don't have to be a regular watcher of "The Librarians" to enjoy it; I am not (nothing against the show, I just don't watch a lot of TV). But the combination of Bruce Campbell and John Larroquette was irresistible and I simply had to see it. It is lighthearted and fun but still has a heartfelt underpinning of "Peace on earth, goodwill towards men."
Includes the tropes of "Skeptic Who Comes to Believe," "Person Who Wants to Believe and Has Their Wish Come True," "Crook Who Does a Heel Face Turn," and Santa Icon Who is Truly Believable (that would be the incredibly awesome Mr. Campbell).
A Comic Deconstruction of Western Movies
I really like the basic idea behind this film. It demolishes nostalgia for the American West once and for all. The nineteenth century was a dirty, cruddy, dangerous place and Seth MacFarlane doesn't hesitate to say so.
That said, the film has its share of flaws. The animated hallucination sequence is fairly freaky and I could have done without some of the dirtier jokes, not to mention Neil Patrick Harris pooping in somebody else's hat. The cast is great fun - I'll watch Liam Neeson in anything, and Charlize Theron is funny, capable and gorgeous. She and Seth make a great couple.
I think the deciding point for most reviewers is whether MacFarlane should have played the leading role or not. I thought he did a good job - I don't think I've ever seen him in anything before this film (never saw Ted or Family Guy). He's very appealing as the nebbish who can't shoot, can't keep his sheep under control and hates everything about where and when he is.
And setting a dance sequence to a Stephen Foster song about mustaches? Come on. You have to give the film five points for that alone.
The Music Man (2003)
A Fine Remake
Robert Preston, who originated the role of Harold Hill, put his stamp on it for all time. On the one hand, we're lucky enough to have his great performance preserved on film. On the other, he basically ruined the role for everybody else who has taken a crack at it in the past sixty years.
Matthew Broderick was a very unusual choice for the part of Harold Hill, and yes, I understand why some have used the term "miscast." Nevertheless his performance grew on me and I agree that for a con man, his approach is a lot more logical. A successful con man doesn't draw attention to himself. The opening number "Rock Island" sets the tone for how he's going to play the part, as he enjoys a private grin hearing his deeds described. Again in his first scene with Marcellus, his "conductor" gesture is downplayed and you can see him glance aside cautiously at the other folks in the hotel lobby, as opposed to Preston's flamboyance.
His Harold really connects with young Winthrop Paroo and I loved their little dance duet in "Shipoopi" - shortly followed by Winthrop's disillusion when he learns his friend and father figure is a crook. The scene where Harold tells him the truth (and I think this is what really clinches his decision to stay and face justice) grabs me every single time.
David Aaron Baker as Marcellus, Harold's sidekick, is just outstanding - miles better than Buddy Hackett, and I liked Hackett in the role.
Kirsten Chenoweth is first class. She sings beautifully and does a good job telegraphing Marian's loneliness and isolation in this small town. I just wish she hadn't grinned so much during the dance scenes, but her baffled reaction when Harold tells her he's expecting a telegraph from Hector Berlioz (who died in 1869!) is hilarious. She and Broderick have genuine chemistry and the scene where he tells her he loves her, then gives himself up, shows Marian's inner strength.
Give this version of "The Music Man" a chance and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
Duck Dynasty (2012)
Great, Laid-Back Fun
My sister is responsible for introducing me to Duck Dynasty. Her entire family loves this show, and after watching several episodes I can see why. I am generally not a fan of reality shows, but this is just plain fun. The Robertsons have a very dry sense of humor and harbor some real characters in their clan.
I do wonder where they find the time to actually manufacture their duck calls as they seem to be busy approving their kids' boyfriends and girlfriends, teaching Willie's daughter to drive and getting into all sorts of trouble. But this is one close family and it's really a pleasure to watch their escapades.
Warning: The Robertsons are a huntin', shootin', fishin' type family; vegetarians may not enjoy watching catfish getting gutted on screen or other animals (snakes) shot to smithereens.
Back to You (2007)
Worth a Look
"Back to You" was highly anticipated when it premiered, given that it was the Next Project for Kelsey Grammar and Patricia Heaton, both of whom were coming off highly successful sitcoms. It's too bad that the show didn't live up to the hype. It alternated between Grammar's character Chuck Darling finding out that he was father to a ten-year-old daughter he never knew he'd had (the product of a one-night stand with his co-anchor) and the work environment of a local news team.
I think "Back to You" was most successful when it focused on the wacky antics of Chuck's co-workers, namely Fred Willard as the slightly insane sportscaster and Ty Burrell as a nebbishy, henpecked reporter condemned to doing bizarre "human interest" stories around Pittsburgh. Burrell has, of course, gone on to success on "Modern Family" since this show went off the air. Memorable episodes include Burrell at a furries convention; he showed no respect for the participants, and he paid for it later in the episode! The show's biggest weak point: the way Heaton's character is written. She always appears angry, repressed and defensive, which is reasonable considering her situation: She had been the solo news anchor and now finds herself forced back into sharing her broadcast with a scene-stealing co-anchor she can't stand, who is also the father of her child. We get it. But you have to ask why she wasn't also allowed a softer side. As it is, her character is so off-putting the audience finds themselves rooting for Chuck despite how self-centered and immature he is. I also didn't like the show's reliance on cheap sex jokes. I've certainly heard worse, but there were way too many on this show to suit my taste.
Now that "Back to You" is on Netflix, I certainly think it is worth a quick look. There are only about 11 episodes available, some better than others. When the show is on, though, it's really on, and it had me laughing more than I had anticipated.
(Note: I know Grammar's name is spelled with an "E" but apparently IMDb insists on correcting it. Knock it off, IMDb!)
Tooth Fairy 2 (2012)
I was looking for a funny, undemanding movie; something that would cheer up someone recovering from an illness, for instance. "Tooth Fairy 2" fits the bill. I am not a huge fan of Larry the Cable Guy, but he does a nice job here working as a "temp" tooth fairy. He winds up drenched in pink (not his favorite color) but manages to graduate from a tutu to overalls. The pink baseball cap is a nice touch.
Not only does Larry have a tight deadline to meet with regards to collecting teeth, but he has to win his girlfriend back and convince a kid to believe in the Tooth Fairy again. Does he accomplish all this? Let's just say everything ends happily. This isn't Citizen Kane, but if you're in the mood for it this movie is a lot of fun. Recommended.
Magma: Volcanic Disaster (2006)
Bad But Fun
I should start by explaining that my rating of "Magma" doesn't correspond with my enjoyment of it. I regard these movies as a guilty pleasure and I am a fan of Xander Berkeley, so I really enjoyed watching it, but that doesn't make it a good movie. However, since it's a Sci-Fi Pictures production I wasn't expecting one.
The plot, as other reviewers have pointed out, is predictable - though that's true of all disaster pictures no matter how large the budget. The special effects are really, really bad; the underground scenes look like they could have been shot in Tom Sawyer's cave at Disneyland (though in actual fact, the movie was filmed in Bulgaria). Berkeley is great; it's a treat to see him in a starring role and getting to play a good guy for a change. Reiko Aylesworth does a creditable job as his estranged wife, though she doesn't get pulled into the plot until the last third of the movie. It must have been Old Home Week for "24" alumni when they were casting this thing.
I have to commend the writers for one plot twist I wasn't expecting. Berkeley's character works with a cute young female geologist who obviously hero-worships him. I would have expected some romantic entanglement to ensue between the characters, but that doesn't happen. In fact, in one scene in a bar she gives him advice on how to make up with his wife! She winds up falling for the only other one of Berkeley's research assistants to survive the cataclysm. Nice work, writers.
The reviewer above who pointed out the nonsense of getting "superficial burns" from exposure to hot lava was right on the money, and the whole concept of a volcano going from total dormancy to blowing its top with absolutely no warning is just as silly. But that just adds to the fun. If it weren't ridiculous it wouldn't be a Sci-Fi channel movie, now would it? So, should you watch it? If you are a Xander Berkeley fan and/or a fan of cheesy disaster movies, go for it. It's your call.
A Laid-Back, Sweet-natured Ensemble Film
I throw my hat in the ring with most of the other commenters here. This is a marvelous little film with a sly sense of humor, acted with gusto by (mostly) local nonprofessional actors. I doubt this movie would ever get made today. Who'd fund it? As an added bonus the passage of the years has turned it into a time capsule of both drive-ins and small-town life. "Drive-In" sets up several major plot threads - a holdup attempt, Glowie's plan to dump her gang-leader boyfriend for the nice and shy Orville, Bill Hill's proposal to his girlfriend - and then tosses in a few additional minor ones once the sun goes down and the action shifts to the theater. Everything collides in a cascade of hilarity. The feature film showing in the background, "Disaster '76," is a great sendup of seventies disaster movies and just adds to the fun.
I once saw Glenn Morshower in an interview ruefully recalling a review of "Drive-In" which stated "Gets better after twelve beers." You don't need even one to appreciate this flick. If you can find it, watch it.
Pearl Harbor (2001)
Watch It for the Character Actors
Michael Bay clearly went to a lot of trouble and expense to film this reenactment of the events which led America into WWII. Unfortunately I have to agree with many of the other reviewers here and state that "Pearl Harbor" is not a very good movie. It has its points: The battle scenes are very well filmed and the attention to period detail is wonderful. The soggy love story at the movie's center is not.
As with most epics, playing "spot the star" here is lots of fun. I didn't recognize Jon Voight as FDR. Colm Feore as Admiral Kimmel, Alec Baldwin as James Doolittle orchestrating the bombing of Tokyo, Dan Aykroyd as a military codebreaker racing against time to decipher Japanese messages - they're all great to watch. Cuba Gooding Jr. is also good as a black seaman who finally gets his chance to see combat during the raid.
For good measure, Bay throws in the Tokyo raid which took place four months after Pearl Harbor. This makes for a good one-two plot punch, but the first hour of the movie with its excruciatingly slow buildup could and should have been chopped. I fast forwarded through a lot of it. The most ridiculous part of the film's plot has to be Kate Beckinsale's pregnancy, which is magically never visible even after the Tokyo bombing (by that point she'd have to be six to seven months along)! It's a miracle baby!
If you're in the mood to see a lushly filmed modern take on Pearl Harbor and it's a slow afternoon, you'll probably enjoy this. If you want to see a more tightly filmed version, try one of the others such as "Tora! Tora! Tora!"
Despicable Me (2010)
Despicable But So Much More
The criticisms I've seen leveled at "Despicable Me" seem to be mostly that it isn't original and doesn't measure up to Pixar. My response: True but irrelevant. What this movie lacks in originality it makes up for with bucketloads of charm, personality and neat little jabs of humor for adults as well as kids. The pop culture references include the Bank of Evil's sign reading "Formerly Lerman Brothers" and the Vector/Victor naming of Gru's nemesis - shades of "Airplane!"
Steve Carell's Gru is a terrific creation, a villain with a moon fixation who has longed for his mother's love all his life. The three orphan girls he adopts as part of his nefarious plan to steal the moon quickly worm their way into his heart as he finds out that he loves being a father figure to them. Watching Gru agonize over a scheduling conflict - steal the moon or attend the girls' dance recital? - is just wonderful.
I freely admit that I'm a sucker for a happy ending, but I hate feeling manipulated; "Despicable Me" was a pleasant surprise in that respect. The caliber of the writing and acting in DM ensures that it doesn't sink into sugary goo. The animation of the characters is also fantastic, and to see this big guy surrounded by tiny girls is really something. Gru may be slipping into middle age, but compare the way he is drawn with Vector's teeny shoulders and pot belly. The audience is predisposed to believe him the stronger and more competent of the two villains, as of course he turns out to be.
The minions are fantastic. Though they look almost exactly alike, Gru clearly recognizes each of them as individuals and calls them by name - another endearing trait. Their shining moment comes during the credits, and allow me to say that the film should definitely be seen in 3D for this reason alone. Bottom line: I loved it. Highly recommended.