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Nostalgia versus Intelligence
Let me preface by stating I was one of the 12 people who actually saw this in theatre in its original run. I was about ten years old and thought it was the best movie EVER. If you have a ten year old, please get this movie and let them enjoy it. Don't let the following carping get in the way.
THAT said: My god, whose brain was out to lunch on this one? I am really trying to figure out what Disney was trying to do (this was in the desperate last years of the Ron Miller era) in producing this film. They go all over Europe for real location shots (as opposed to re-dressing the "Medfield" set once again), and yet still resort to cheap optical shots (they must have been the last studio to use them at this point). Then they go and get real actors; like Oliver Reed as the villain (instead of Keenan Wynn) and don't bother giving them a decent script. Now, I am all about suspending disbelief, especially in a family comedy, but...
1) Are we supposed to believe that Woody jumps off of the Eiffel Tower in a birdsuit and no one notices? 2) Are we supposed to believe that Woody is a competent artist, yet still chooses to wear The Ugliest Sweaters Ever Seen in a Film? 3) Why is it that Natalia is a trained KGB agent yet is completely helpless in a fight and never has an idea? 4) How is it possible that the CIA is able to create the following things overnight with one line "Get these to Fabrication.": A gypsy truck that turns into a car that has multiple guns and shoots fire, and converts into a ramp and then a hovercraft. A speedboat that shoots blue lasers. A pair of wings light enough to carry as a secret backpack but sturdy enough to carry two people aloft.
5) Why are all the children in Switzerland non-accented English speakers and as multi-ethnic as a Pepsi ad? And oh my...the first scene with Woody and his friend...probably the clumsiest exposition ever put on film.
If you are over the age of 12, worth a view if you want to MST3K it.
Cop Out (2010)
Who Needs Jay and Silent Bob?
I have to echo another reviewer who stated, "I have rarely seen such a stark disconnect between some scathing reviews and actual audience reaction." I just saw this film because I really like Tracey Morgan, Bruce Willis and SWS and figured that for a $5 matinée it would be diverting. It was far, far more-easily one of the most entertaining movies I have seen this year. A great throwback to the 80's cop buddy comedies with great characters, humor and action. I wish Kevin Smith would do more projects like this...he really proved here that he is as gifted as a director as he is as a writer/ director (Mallrats excepted of course...) and it was really cool to see his style and flourishes on a project that did not take place in his Jersey Universe.
If ever there was a flick that made me want to say, "screw the critics" this is it. Go see it and have a great time. I hope word-of-mouth builds this into a box office hit, because they left things open for a sequel and I would love to see these characters again
The Wolfman (2010)
A sheep in wolf's clothing...
What a waste of talent...and in that I include the incredibly talented director who manages to make both Emily Blunt and Sir Anthony Hopkins look bad in a period film-now THAT'S a talent!!! Nothing works except for Rick Baker's makeup, but even that falls flat due to the fact that the film has little dramatic tension. Only an action scene in a Gypsy camp along with Geraldine Page's amazing turn as the spiritual leader of the Gypsies rise above mediocre-and most of the film falls WELL below mediocrity. The dialogue was so hackneyed and predictable I frequently was able to finish the character's sentences. I swear, Teen Wolf has a better script and makes more sense. Serves me right for seeing a movie that got dumped into theatres in February.
Down Under With the Wind
I have always been a sucker for dramas set against Australia (I am a Yank), and this one does not disappoint. Led by top-shelf work by Kidman and Jackman, the movie has sweep, romance, excitement and a bit of mysticism. World War 2 has inspired some of the great films of the last half-century and this can emphatically be added to the list. Can it veer a bit towards melodrama, schmaltz and corn? Yes-but what great romantic epic does not? It pays homage to the great romantic war films while adding a dose of Baz's own quirkiness that keeps one from feeling they are seeing merely a facsimile. This kind of film is why they build movie theatres.
Don't Misunderestimate this Film
Lefties expecting a hatchet-job will be as disappointed as Righties expecting a hatchet-job. Demonstrating decency and restraint far beyond what his subject is deserving of, Oliver Stone demonstrates rare wisdom and the hindsight of someone trying to understand this period of history from a standpoint of decades in the future. He creates a film that swings wildly between comedy and tragedy, tragi-comedy and comic tragedy in his portrait of a man who though born to privilege, needs to have greatness thrust upon him-and is not up to the task he seeks. It is , and I do not use this term lightly: Shakespearean.
Josh Brolin's Oscar-worthy performance manages two amazing feats: 1) He makes you forgot you are watching Josh Brolin as he portrays W. over a 40-year period and 2) He makes even a left-leaner like myself forget how much one may hate George W. Bush. I just wanted to yell at the screen ala Rocky Horror, "You seem to be a nice guy who enjoys people...stay with baseball!!!" All of the supporting cast of characters in the Bush Dynasty are handled with dignity and respect (particularly James Cromwell as Bush the First), and Stone is decent enough to leave the Bush Twins out of it. Jeffrey Wright might be up for a Best Supporting Actor nod for his thoughtful and restrained portrayal of Colin Powell.
I am racking my brain trying to remember when recent history was made into such a vital film; this is the antithesis to a quickie made-for-TV movie about Amy Fischer and the like.
My Best Friend's Girl (2008)
Better Luck for Dane
Compared to Good Luck Chuck this is a masterpiece. As far as what one will find at the multiplex when looking for a (albiet raunchy) romantic comedy, this is a solid choice, particularly if you like Dane Cook (which I do...go ahead...shoot me). And there are a few lines in the movie that are brilliantly quotable, along with some very nicely shot views of Boston and two countdown montages of Dane destroying dates that are quite funny. Maybe a bit overlong and it probably would have benefited by trimming the inclusion of Alec Baldwin as Dane's dad. But this is the common ground Date Movie for the guy who doesn't want schmaltzy romantic crap and the chick who doesn't mind a few dirty jokes.
The Rocker (2008)
A Nice Sleeper
I have a funny feeling this flick will get wider exposure on DVD and become a cult hit, though it deserved much more than being dumped into theatres in late August with little fanfare and minimal box office. It's one of those movies that make you go, "Why didn't this do well when it was in the theatre?" A collection of Hollywood's finest B-List But Much More Talented Than The A-List Actors pull off a funny yet sad portrait of the Rock 'n Roll life and dashed dreams. So many have commented that this seemed like a rejected Jack Black vehicle; but thank god for Rainn Wilson, who manages to create so many distinct characters in various projects from one quirky personality-whereas Jack Black is always Jack Black.
The Comebacks (2007)
Not bad at all
This is not a movie for critics, and definitely not as good as "Airplane" but hey-what is? It certainly is a hell of a lot better than "Date Movie" and can easily hold its own against "Scary Movie" or "Hot Shots." Not every joke lands, but there are enough of them to make it worth a look-particularly if you appreciate the idea of satirizing modern sports movies (the spoofs of "Rudy" and "Radio" are especially winning). As a friend of mine said as we were in a movie theatre that showed a preview for "Coach Carter" a few years back, "Wasn't this movie bad enough the last ten times they made it?" I suspect a cult future on DVD.
Monkeys, Go Home! (1967)
Bottom of the Barrel of Monkeys
Speaking as someone who has made an extensive study of the live-action Disney films of the 1960s-1970s I can say with some authority that this is truly one of the worst films ever released by Disney; almost unwatchable. With the charming Dean Jones and Yvette Mimieux at the center of a romantic plot this film has its moments (along with a delightful Maurice Chevalier, in what is a small role though curiously first-billed), but it is constantly derailed by the need to add monkey antics to the mix. Bringing in trained animals is a constant source of mirth in Disney live action gimmick comedies; it works in a Bubblegum Pop/ College Comedy setting (see the Disney film "The Monkeys Uncle") but against the backdrop of an American desperately trying to save an olive farm in Provence the entire film just fights against itself for a hundred minutes. Supporting characters rage about for no apparent reason, constantly entering and exiting the plot with no apparent motivation; and we are supposed to believe (and the plot hinges) on the concept that the entire village would be outraged that a man would use trained monkeys to pick olives for a harvest that last but three days a year instead of hiring locals is a stretch even by Disney standards (and this is the studio that convinced us a boy could turn into a dog and a car could have a mind of its own).
This was released in the year following Walt Disney's death. One might wonder if he would have chucked the entire thing rather than release this to theatres under the Disney name. It is truly shocking that this film made it to DVD before many other, better-remembered titles from the era.
Year Without a Halfway-Decent New Xmas Special
You really have to wonder what NBC and the creators of this film were thinking adapting the beloved animated special into this live-action film.
Were they hoping to expand the story (adapted from Phyllis McGinley's novel)? Then why is it that the original version accomplished more storytelling in a one-hour special than this movie does in two? This adaptation with a strange credit of teleplay and "television story" by Larry Wilson and Tom Martin goes off on so many tangents and in so many directions it only makes passing reference to the plot of the original novel and Rankin-Bass special it makes one wonder why they bothered to pay royalties to the original creators at all.
Perhaps it was so they could include the famous "I'm Mr. Heat/ Snow Miser" song, but this rare moment of energy in this movie is rather jarring considering that this is not otherwise a musical and the rest of the score is missing.
The cast is excellent across-the-board, though the lovely Delta Burke is way too young for the thankless role of Mrs. Claus, the prime mover of the plot in the original but reduced to looking concerned and expounding exposition here. You know you are in trouble when a film includes John Goodman, Eddie Griffin, Harvey Firestein and Michael McKean (and a scene-stealing Carol Kane) and is still dull.
An almost-complete waste of time and a scouring of a terrific story. Now go and watch the Rankin/ Bass original!