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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.
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!
Fast Food Nation (2006)
The book was a smörgåsbord, the movie is a Happy Meal.
First of all, let me say two things: 1) I am a vegetarian and committed animal right activist who loved the book "Fast Food Nation." 2) I am a professional chef who despises the dreck that comes out of chain restaurants.
That said, I hated, hated, HATED this movie. Instead of a broad spectrum of the fast-food industry it becomes a movie about a meat packing plant and the plight of illegal immigrant labor, which were only two aspects of the industry the book explored (and either of which could have made a film on their own). Early on, when I saw Greg Kinnear's car pull up by the van caring the illegal immigrants I figured they would show how all of these aspects of meat production were intertwined while adding some of the other issues raised in the book; i.e. the sugar sodas becoming larger and larger, the percentage of potatoes going into french fry production, the marketing to kids, the destruction of smaller, local businesses were either ignored or just touched on.
I wondered what the hell Ethan Hawke's character was doing in the movie at all, it seemed like a Shavian play where Shaw would just have the characters spout his own opinions disguised as dialogue; seems like Linklater just wanted to work with Hawke again. If this is supposed to be an "activist" film why did they ignore so many issues raised in the book and then take time to make the (admittingly misguided) activists look like buffoons? Such a missed opportunity to educate people about the industrialization of fast-food meat in this country. By the time they get to the graphic, yet realistically depicted slaughter scenes I fear most people who could have had their consciousness raised will have been bored into a stupor. The three-star rating is for the terrific performances by the Latino actors portraying the illegal immigrant workers.
READ THE BOOK!
John Tucker Must Die (2006)
Today it was 100 degrees in New York City and frankly I went more for the air conditioning than the content, but this movie was much better than the trailer or the critics give it credit for. As solid as "Bring it On," it is definitely a notch above the average teen comedy; not quite "Mean Girls" but a good substitute. The girls are all terrific and Jesse Metcafe struts his acting and physique to an even higher standard than what he demonstrated on Desperate Housewives.
Filled with quite a few clever innuendos, it might make a few moms and dads cringe, but I guess kids today have heard worse. Also, it cleverly used remakes of classic songs for the bulk of its score.
Definitely Sink-y, Not Too Stink-y
I definitely prefer the 70's version, which now seems surprisingly plausible and realistic. But this is definitely OK for a popcorn flick-and anything that has Josh Lucas either in a tux, sweaty or wet at all times can't be too bad. The FX were however top-notch, though perhaps a sorry substitute for the character development of the original.
But I do have to say THE KID WAS SO DAMN ANNOYING!!! I mean here we are, almost drowning or getting burned every other minute and scared out of our wits and the kid wanders away not once but TWICE?!?!? At the end I wanted to scream, "Save the gas tank, throw the kid into the propeller instead!!!!"
The Shaggy Dog (2006)
The Draggy Dog
I was a fan of the good ol' Disney versions, and this turned into a real letdown. Tim Allen made so many public comments on how he thought the originals could be improved, forsaking the fantasy element for a Sci-Fi element, and THIS is what he came up with? There were so many writers attached to this project over the years and it shows-this is a case of too many cooks spoiling the dog food.
In the original movies where a magic ring caused him to turn into a dog, you could just sort of let logic go out the window and not question why he could still speak when he had a dog's vocal apparatus, hold a toothbrush without opposable thumbs, etc. But this movie takes a Sci-Fi approach where it happens because of genetic mutation-not to say it has to have the realism of a scientific documentary, we can still suspend disbelief in a family comedy...but can anyone answer these questions for me:
1) Why is it that all of the other animals in the lab only partially become dog-like...such as a snake having bushy dog fur at the end of its tail? And there are several other primates present that just take on dog behavior-why is it that Tim Allen's character takes on the dog behavior in his human form but then sporadically turns completely into a dog? MAJOR SPOILER HERE: And then why does Robert Downey Jr. only grow a tail when he gets infected? END MAJOR SPOILER
2)How it is that when he turns into the dog, his clothing just mysteriously slips off of him? I mean the guy is a hotshot attorney wearing buttoned-up business suits, are you telling me he goes from man-to-dog and there is not struggle? In the movie he doesn't even NOTICE it happens until after he has changed!!!
3) There is absolutely no resolution in the end...OK, perhaps they are waiting for a sequel,but what about his mutated dog genes? Does he have to go the rest of his life never knowing when he will turn into a dog?
Again, if this were just a fantasy I would be able to suspend a great deal more disbelief. But Mr. Allen was so gung-ho about modernizing it and making it scientific; I say, for what?
The Shaggy Dog and The Shaggy DA were both among the top-grossing movies for the years they were released and for good reason, they were just out to have fun. This movie focuses way to much on his relationship with his family and not enough on the easy sight-gags that made the first two so funny.
Do you know that we never even SEE him transform into the dog...it always happens off-camera. What could POSSIBLY be more interesting than seeing the leading man turn into a dog (did co-producer Tim Allen arrange this so he would not have to spend hours in make-up)? Maybe we could ask the little kids I saw in the theatre struggling with boredom.
The New World (2005)
Like Watching War Paint Dry
Let me first say that I am a big fan of historical epics. As a matter of fact I joyfully sat through all 6+ hours of Bertolucci's "1900" in one sitting at a revival house; in short, I am not some dolt who wandered in because "Underworld 2" was sold out.
That said and trying to avoid hyperbole, this is among the most pretentious, self-flaggelating, ponderous pieces of bullshit ever forced upon an unsuspecting public. I was so bored I actually felt nauseated.
Mr. Malick does not know the first thing about dramatic writing-that is why 60% of the words heard in the film are voiceovers by John Smith, Pocohontas and The Tobacco Farmer That Looks Like a Movie Star-who even though they are respectively a military man, a Native American princess and a One Dimensional Plot Device all narrate with essentially the same voice. This gets old rather quickly. If all three of these characters have the ability to narrate, then from whose perspective is the story unfolding? The answer to that question is the obsessive camera that luxuriates on floral shots that look like they are outtakes from Walt Disney's True Life Adventure Series, while the real action is relegated offstage.
It is surely a case of The Emperor Has No Clothes here, people are afraid to call the movie painfully dull due to the pretensions of artsy-fartsy that are present; worried they will be accused of "not getting it." This is the reason that the reviews amongst professional critics are evenly split 50/50 between raves and pans, very few are middle ground. This alone should warn the moviegoer that one should tread forward with great caution if planning to see this snoozefest.
One last thought: He cut seventeen minutes from this? If it had gone on for seventeen minutes longer I would have woven Ju-Ju Bees into a rope and hung myself.
Don't Buy This DVD at Walmart
I wonder how this will play in the Red States, when they see the heartland raped and pillaged by The Walton family. When they see God-fearing, flag-waving patriotic Americans whose lives have been decimated by this Evil Empire in a Big Box. People might think that a documentary like this is the territory of the "Liberal Elite," but the liberals can live in their sophisticated cities where Walmart's presence cannot make quite as big a gaping hole in the local economy...but it is the rural, Bush-voting Red Staters that should be leading the rallying cry against this company. It is especially effective to see ministers preaching about how Walmart's values are not in line with the Christian faith.
Obviously, the creators had an opinion before they started this documentary, but the findings and facts are consistent with what the mainstream media reports about the way this company is run. The long arm of Walmart is dramatic enough without necessitating the filmmakers occasional lapses into melodrama, but the points are well-made and ignoring the facts presented in this film and continuing to support this Goliath in a blue smock could be our undoing-I hope this gets passed around from person-to-person faster than the Paris Hilton sex video and also hope we soon see a documentary on how Walmart collapsed like the Roman Empire.
Well, now that all of the director/ productions company's friends and relations have posted their shill reviews after seeing this at various festivals, I guess it's time to show reviews written by people who actually paid 10 bucks to see it.
Like the director's "Dear Jesse" (the only other one of his films I have seen), "Loggerheads" suffers from a lack of focus and too many ideas crammed into an indie budget. I swear, this guy might have better luck doing miniseries. I kept waiting for the various plot threads to come together, but they only intercepted at points blatantly forshadowed in a way obvious to all but the most dense viewer. It was like watching a season of Lifetime made-for-TV movies crammed into one, long (did I say LOOONG) sketch on the old "Carol Burnett" show. Maybe an enterprising male suitor could take his girlfriend to see this and then exclaim "Hey...remember all of the chick flicks we went to last year...the one about the adoptive mother...the one about the gay guy...the one about the Christian housewife. We went to THREE Chick Flicks last year; so now we have to go see Terminator 4!" I guess one has to do anything to cast a familiar actor to get funding, but what oh what is Bonnie Hunt doing in this flick? She isn't exactly known as a dramatic actress, and this attempted "performance" won't be sending Mr. Oscar to her door. I mean (speaking of Lifetime Original Movies), wasn't Valerie Bertinelli or Farah Fawcett available? Ms. Hunt has always come off to me as cold, maybe she should have played the other mom? I wish I would have chosen "Capote" to fill my weekly Gay-themed Indie Allowance..oh well, maybe next week. I think there is a good reason why Capote is playing at tons of theatres all over the NYC area and this one is playing at only one; let the distributors faith in this flick assure to to run in the opposite direction if you don't trust this review!