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The Dish (2000)
Enjoyable, with plenty of laughs
What's this? A "comedy" without jokes about bodily functions, drugs or curse words? Instead, it uses situational humor, wit, and an intellectual spark? It's about dang time, if you ask me.
This wonderful little tale about a satellite dish crew in Parkes, Australia, and their role in the Apollo 11 mission is a highly superior alternative to most of the American teenage comedies of today. All of the actors and actresses involved turn in wonderful performances, Sam Neil (Cliff) and Patrick Warburton (Al) chief among them. There are plenty of humorous sequences (When the band plays the "Hawaii 5-O" theme as the American national anthem for example) and wonderful one-liners ("You just b*lls#!tted NASA."). There are also some touching scenes, which are played with a light touch of wit and emotion.
I loved every minute of "The Dish" and would recommend it highly to anyone sick of the normal Hollywood fare of quote-unquote comedies. To those who have seen this film and want something else in a similar vein, go see "Waking Ned Devine", another top-notch light comedy from outside of the United States. If you didn't like this movie, then you're probably not reading this review, so go away.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Let me just check my watch...
I should have guessed from the first six or so minutes of the movie. We see Ennis (Heath Ledger) arrive at the head ranchers office first. He looks around, stands by the door, and waits. A minute or so passes. Then, Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) drives up in rather rickety truck. He gets out, shares a glance with Ennis, and gets back in the truck. More time passes. There was a point during this rather overly extended scene where I thought that the store had screwed up and given me a copy of "Waiting for Godot". But as soon as the owner (Randy Quaid) shows up, I put those negative thoughts to rest. It's sure to pick up soon, I reflected rather naively.
Unfortunately for me, the entire movie runs like that introductory scene. It is verrrrry slooooow. Normally, I can sit through movies like this. There are a few that I have come to respect despite their leisurely pace. Not this one, though. Portions of this movie run like they've been dipped in molasses. I must admit, there are some portions that movie extremely fast; to whit, the relationship between the two. How do two people proceed from idle chit-chat to emotional and physical love without some intervening steps? I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure meaningful relationships don't work that way. One-night stands yes, deep connections no.
I can't really fault this film for trying. The makers of "Brokeback" shot for a rather high goal and I applaud them for doing so. The message of love and acceptance is an outstanding one, and everyone in the world would be a lot better off if they realized that just those with alternative lifestyles are no threat to the status quo just because of whom they love. That's a great message. The movie... not so much.
Considering that I've only seen this movie once and walked out before the ending, my review might not be the best critique around. But I'm willing to be fair. At the very least, as fair as I could possible be under the circumstances. I'm going to give this movie one last try, but I'm not holding my breath; mainly because I could pass out from oxygen deprivation during those longer scenes.
The Rundown (2003)
Do you like thunderstorms?
Wow. Movies like this are for me both a big surprise and a guilty pleasure to watch. At first, I was doubtful that the Rock had the screen presence or the acting ability to pull off a movie like this, since I had only known him before as "the eyebrow guy from wrestling". This movie proved me wrong and has rapidly moved up into my list of favorite films.
Beck (The Rock) is somebody who chases down people that have irritated the mob, be it financially or socially. This is not his job of choice, however; he would rather own a restaurant. His bosses give him one final job: bring Travis (Sean William Scott, in a refreshing departure from the "horny idiot" style of movies) back from South America to the States. Beck finds Travis, but immediately runs afoul of Hatcher (Christopher Walken), who owns the mining town Travis lives in and wants something valuable that Travis has been looking for in the jungle. Then there are fights, running around from evil guys, more fights, monkeys, hallucinogenic fruit, and other such entertaining things.
Scott brought some well-done comic relief into the film with his quirky upbeat character. I could not stop laughing when Travis really tries to take on Beck in a contest of physical strength. It's like watching a caterpillar try and beat a Mack truck. Christopher Walken, as always, is a pleasure to watch. The man makes a perfect psychopath and I always brighten up when I see him on screen.
"The Rundown" is an excellent film which I would recommend to anyone who loves kinda-brainless (in a good way) action films. Bravo to the Rock. May he have a long and fruitful movie career.
The state of humor today
"South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut" shows the stars of TV's "South Park" (duh) Stan Marsh, Kyle Brofloski, Eric Cartman, and Kenny McCormick attempting to do many important if unusual things, such as averting war with Canada and stopping Satan from taking over the world. Along the way, Kenny dies, Cartman curses, Stan vomits on the girl he likes, and Kyle curses at Cartman. So... it's essentially everything they do in the show, only stretched out into a full length movie. Hooray.
I can handle the show "South Park" in small doses. Some episodes I find extremely funny and also rather poignant as the creators point out what's wrong in society. However, it can rapidly become tiresome. At the end, that's exactly what this movie has become. It starts out fresh and interesting, but quickly dies during the scene where the boys watch the Terrence and Phillip movie.
Pardon me if I go off on a slight tangent here, but it seems to me that this movie is indicative of the steady decline of the intellectual decline of humor from clever usage of language and satirical swipes made at society to cursing and bodily function jokes. People, please. Grow up. There is nothing inherently funny about somebody cursing. If used correctly and something to occasionally shock the audience, I have no problem with cursing. This movie throws foul language around as if it were rice at a weddings. It loses all ability to shock and simply becomes irritating. "Oh. He just cursed again. Ha ha. And again. Ha ha." This film tries to be satirical in what it pokes fun at, but it crosses the line between satire and parody far too often. Eventually, it crosses the line to paradoy and decides to stay there, but it's too late. Too little of either and too much of immature dreck.
Don't tar me with that "too old to understand South Park" brush. I'm 18 now and saw the movie when I was 13, when I was still laughing at Cheech and Chong films. I got it then and I didn't like it. Same goes for today. So, I give "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" a two out of ten and a punch in the nose for helping to screw up humor. Screw this film, I'm going home.
The Girl Next Door (2004)
Sex is funny... I suppose
I think that's what this movie was implying, but I'm not quite sure. Why? It might have something to do with the fact that this quote-unquote film was utterly lacking in anything that makes a good movie. Characters we care about? Nah. A plot that engrossed me and brought me into the world of the characters? Nope. Anything remotely funny? Nada. Zip, zero, zilch.
On the other hand, it does have nudity. I'll give it that. And it can keep it, as far as I'm concerned.
The Girl Next Door details the misadventures of a high school senior when he discovers that his new next-door neighbor was once... a porn star! Gasp! The horror! The kid tries to hook up with her, and his goofy friends tag along, and she brings some of her porno pals, yadda yadda yadda. The "yadda yadda yadda" is in there because once you understand the basic outline of this flick, you won't need to watch it. You'll know what's going to happen. You know there'll be comical sexual misunderstandings, that the geeky friends are going to try and get laid, and that an evil guy from her past is trying to get her back into the "business".
Unless you like jokes about sex, body parts, and other wonderful things that make teenagers go "Awesome," you'll probably enjoy this movie. I thought this film would be sorta like "There's Something About Mary", and I was right. Well, if "TSaM" was full of high school students, a latent lack of anything funny, and lots and lots of nudity. 'Cause everyone loves nudity... I think.
A middle of the road attempt
Before I begin my actual review of this film, let me just get an opinion off my chest about the whole "Oscar" thing. I'm probably gonna get flamed at least a little for this, but I think it needs to be said. Ahem.
So what? Crash got the Oscar and surprised all of the fervent Brokeback Mountain fans. Is that the end of the world? Is all life gonna cease on this miserable planets just 'cause it turns out that the Oscar's are *GASP* political? The only people who this should affect in a major way are the people who were actually involved in the making of BM. If you worked on it, then hey, you've got a good reason to complain. Otherwise, I have some advice for everyone else: don't attach your egos to a film. It will not end well for you.
Anyway, about Crash.
I didn't really care for this film. Nope. Almost all of the characters were, in some way, unsympathetic. They're not really fleshed out, which didn't inspire me to care for them in any way. They were just cardboard cutouts of people that were manipulated through each scene. Yeah. Don't care about 'em. The scenes of pathos, like with the racist cop's father, seemed tacked on simply as a way to try and flesh everyone out, like the "Pat The Dog" scenes in other movies (you know, when the grizzled hero pats a dog, or tousles the cute kid's hair, to show he's not a total b*st*rd).
The message was a problem for me too. Normally, if a movie can subtly unveil a moral platitude it wants to present, I won't mind. However, if the director prefers to take his message and try to beat me to death with it, I'm going to take my business elsewhere.
In conclusion, Crash may be enjoyable to some people, but it just didn't float my boat. I much more preferred Good Night, and Good Luck. Crash was just sort of... eh. And I stand by that. It is definitely an "eh" type of movie. Now shut up about the Oscars and go watch something else,
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Finally, a zombie movie worth watching
Before "Shaun of the Dead", I had just about given up hope for the zombie-themed horror film. Apparently, just about every movie made today containing at least one shambling undead creature must be either tedious or so gruesomely violent as to make professional serial killers lose their lunch. "Shaun" changed my mind in a hurry.
The movie itself is about two losers, Shaun and Ed, who must fight against hordes of living corpses in order to save Shaun's (ex)girlfriend, his mum, and the pub that forms the center of their lives. Just about everything about this variant of the normal zombie horror flick blew my mind. For example:
1. Instead of taking place somewhere in the US, the audience sees their heroes running around London for a decent change.
2. Very little gore and gun-play; just some blood spurting around and multiple blunt objects being used to their full potential.
3. No more heroic stars, no brave cops or security guards to force their way through the zombie hordes. Here, the action is focused around a white collar bum and his lazy stoner friend.
This stand against the zombie norm is one of the reasons why I enjoy this film so much; the other major reason being it's just freakin' funny.
If you love comedies and you're tired of the same old zombies ripping the same old heads off the same old movie stereotypes, go for "Shaun of the Dead". Bring a cricket bat.
An average comedic attempt
I wasn't sure what to expect from "Anchorman" when I first heard about it. Certainly, Will Ferrell can be pretty funny (I don't really watch the newer SNL episodes) and Steve Carrell can have his moments. But I also had some gut instinct that told me that this movie would be an utter chore to get through. Well, split the difference. "Anchorman" has portions both delightfully amusing and jarringly boneheaded.
In this motion picture, Will Ferrell is Ron Burgundy, the top anchor of a Seattle news station. He and his buds are living the high life until a woman becomes co-anchor. The movie is about Ron's struggle with this new development in his professional life. It's a mixed bag, folks. Some scenes (like all four newsmen singing "Sky Rockets in Flight") can't help but evoking laughter from the audience. Unfortunately, others (such as when Ron tries to ask out his new costar) just seem forced and awkward. Overall, if you want something to waste away an afternoon with or you feel like shutting down your brain for a while, this is for you.
A cloying piece of cinema claptrap.
"Rent" is the portrait of eight down-on-their-luck bohemians as they struggle through one year in New York City. The audience is supposed to feel their pain as they suffer with AIDS, drugs, love, and death. We are expected to laugh, weep, and maybe even sing along as we watch them live their lives. But, God help me, I can't do that.
Emotion is used as a club and pathos is spread around with a shovel. This movie is essentially daring the audience not to feel something for our heroes and heroines. "You WILL like these people! You WILL have sympathy for them! If you do not, you are obviously a insensitive jerk with the taste of a five-year old!" I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't watch a movie to have a moral shoved down my throat. Besides, I couldn't connect to the characters even if I wanted to. After watching this movie, I came away with the impression that bohemians were all either sleazy or whiny. Hmm, I wonder why you can't pay your rent. Could it be because you are a wanna-be documentarian and your roommate is a washed-up songwriter? Well, boo-hoo. I have no sympathy available for a drug-addicted stripper and an annoying performance artist. I was especially irritated when Mark (the documentarian) says that he "sold his soul" after getting a job with a local television station. For the love of God, get down off your pedestal. You can either be "an artist" or you can pay your rent and buy food.
I'm divided on the cast: some people, such as Anthony Rapp (Mark) and Tracie Thoms (Joanne), I felt did a decent job of portraying their characters. On the other hand, Idina Menzel's performance (as Maureen) was so over-the-top and so irritating that I prayed everyone else would gang up and toss her out of the loft window. Most of the songs were downright dumb, except for the first song and the "Tango Maureen", which I though were OK.
"Rent" tries far too hard to make an impact on it's audience. Almost everything is over done to the point of ridiculousness. The only emotions I felt during this whole mess were irritation and disgust. The length of this piece of cinema schlock didn't help my mood either; it was so long, I thought it was being shown in real time and that it actually would cover a whole year. The only reason that this movie didn't rate a one out of ten in my book is the few decent songs and actors/actresses. In the words of Samuel Goldwyn, "If you want to send a message, call Western Union."
"You can't fight in here, this is the War Room!"
By the time I was five, the Soviet Union had collapsed underneath increasing debts and the Cold War had ended. I never had to grow up watching international tensions increase over such events like the Cuban Missile Crisis and the launching of Sputnik. Although I wasn't directly impacted by America's unspoken conflict with the "Rooski" menace, I still consider Dr. Strangelove to be one of the greatest films ever made.
In this cinematic gem, the audience sees events play out at three locations: on Burpleson Air Force base, where a crazy general has just launched a nuclear attack against Russia; in the War Room of the Pentagon as the President and his advisers try to bring back the errant bombers; and on one of the bombers approaching its Soviet target. Do not let the description fool you as this is only a slightly serious film. Dark humor and expertly crafted satire runs throughout this picture. Peter Sellers is fantastic in all three of his roles and George C. Scott gives a top-notch performance. Surprisingly, Slim Pickens also does an excellent job as the gung-ho bomber pilot. There is no excuse for not watching this film. Go see it now, and help preserve our precious bodily fluids (You'll get it once you've seen it).