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The Hangover was a one joke premise that stretched into a slew of
laughs. It's safe to say that a similar premise would work and be
equally as funny. The problem with "The Hangover II" is that it has
some good jokes, and its enjoyable to watch, but, like an all too
faithful cover song, it's wayyyy too familiar and it lacks originality.
My real issue with it is that the premise is too similar to the first. Guys take bride/groom brother with them, have wild night, forget everything, have to find him. The repeat premise and some of the gags are almost cringeworthy. It's almost as if it's the same script with a little cut and paste work done on the gags for good measure.
But some of the jokes are funny. Most of the humor works because the guys are discovering what they did for the evening and forgot. It's when we see this stuff that we laugh. A couple of the outrageous moments involving Stu are hilarious.
But then there's that stuff that drags or the stuff that's too derivative. What's the deal with Paul Giamatti - such a great actor in a small part without much to do. Or the fact that some of their hijinks involves more action than humor that it seems the film, as we near the end, is going through the motions.
Perhaps the first one relied so heavily on the premise that it became a novelty film, and shouldn't have been repeated so faithfully. If there is a Hangover 3, it better have a big dose of originality. If they tried to imitate the premise again, wed end up in Friday the 13th land..and I don't think I could take another 10 of these.
I don't think Heathers ever intended to be an important movie. It's a
dark comedy probably meant to take a stab at high school rom coms of
the 1980s more than anything else, with a hint of social satire for
good measure. Yet it's one of those films that repeat viewings scream
irony after watching the news.
For the uninitiated, Heathers is a subversive black comedy that pokes fun at high school cliques and the faux "coming together" that sometimes results from a tragedy at a school, particularly in regards to teenage suicide. It was a career starter for Christian Slater and Wynona Ryder, while being laced with enough great dialogue to influence an array of writers - well, if not, at least Diablo Cody.
The film takes particularly aim at the elitist clique of girls, while taking a brief jab at jocks. JD and Veronica are that voice in the heads of so many, doing to these groups what many only imagine. JD creepily wears black clothing and at one point in the film, is carrying a bag full of something we only dread hearing about on the news.
Heathers was funny initially. Over time, it's become a cautionary tale, yet never rising to the level of significance that it should. Heathers successfully gets into the head of would be school bombers and the danger of cliques and exclusive groups. In a time where teen suicides are making news again due to these exclusive groups' persecution of others, the film takes on a whole new relevance.
The writing is sharp and dares to speak uncomfortable truths that resonate with the youth not only of the 80s, but also of today. Whether accidental or on purpose, the film is still important. It doesn't really offer a hero or even hope at the end. While the ending seems a little uncertain about how to handle any of our problems, the mere airing of our own dirty laundry provides topic for discussion. Despite the dated music and fashion, this film deserves a repeated viewing or two in this day and age.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***possible spoilers*** Adaptations are a tricky business, as you never
want to carve out typical Hollywood fare from a beloved tale,
especially one as ubiquitous as Where the Wild Things Are. Spike Jonze
already did a movie about adaptations, so he should be well aware of
the task was.
What Jonze does with Maurice Sendak's story is simply amazing, as it manages to capture its themes and expand on them. The film is something of a coming of age story and deals with Max wrestling with complications in his life as opposed to just causing a little mischief. Jonze has taken a simple childhood lesson and turned the story to a portrait of dealing with the difficulties of growing up.
The film has a simple exposition, which is probably a tad short. We learn quickly that Max's father is gone. We learn that he has questions about the world he's living in and how long it will last. Most importantly we learn he has an active imagination that is sometimes welcomed by his Mom. Jonze creates a good foundation for Max's reason to sail away to the world of the wild things.
Once we enter this world, we realize that it's more than a world where Max lets his imagination run wild. It's much more than a wild rumpus. The characters are visually arresting while they each possess unique mannerisms that Mas starts to recognize. He latches on to one like a father, possibly because of a figure he's searching for. There's one that they don't listen to, much like Max feels in his own world. All these traits unfold throughout the movie.
But it's Jonze's little details that make the movie something of a literary feat. Max is always trying to grasp the crown. Jonze clearly understands the power of imagination in children and how it is a world that the child can take control of when everything else in their world seems beyond their control. Yet Max learns there's limits to that as well. It's a very thoughtful take on the story.
"Where the Wild Things Are," as viewers have noted, is not a straightforward children's movie, as it delves into much deeper issues. It's great for children if their ready for the serious tone of the film and aren't going for a pure fantasy. It has it's fun moments too. The story is not as clear cut as typical films, but what can you expect from Jonze. There's a certain element of this film that shows things unfolding and happening while not having a typical plot structure. Max grows from simple interactions with the wild things and it's the interplay between the characters that's important.
It's an incredibly brave and somewhat complex take on the original picture book. For Jonze, it's a very strong 'adaptation.'
Is Paranormal Activity really that good? Is it worth all the hype? It
achieves its goal and then some. That's enough to say it's at least
worth a watch. I don't know if the acting is great, and neither of the
leads are what we would categorize as glamorous. But does any of that
really matter. This film is scary, and let me tell you why.
Horror films come by a formula now. To me there are rules that are followed that work really well. The Hitchock idea of suspense - that we already know something terrible will happen. He builds it up - and then doesn't show us the act. So we've built this horrifying vision in our head. In Psycho, we see the knife, but not the act. We're then afraid of showers.
Then there's another formula for horror that works. Isolation. This was mastered by George Romero. He imprisons his characters - be it in an old house or a shopping mall. That there's really nowhere to go keeps our characters hopeless. Again, we're waiting for the inevitable. It's the how that's got us spooked.
So why spend a review talking about other films? Because Paranormal Activity successfully combines these two elements and ups the ante. In the Hitchock sense, the film begins with a title card thanking the families of the main characters, alluding to something horrible that has happened to them. We're just waiting to learn how. In a classic Hitchcock way, suspense is built. We never see what is actually causing the said activity, and the most horrifying things don't happen on screen. So we're left to imagine how horrible it is.
Then there's the Romero element of isolation. This is where the film takes two clever turns. For one, it sets a rule for itself, that the characters might as well stay in their house because it doesn't matter where they are. That gives the director no reason to shift the characters elsewhere. So he keeps them in a place that by audience standards is the safest place in the world: their room. The scene of the camera videotaping the characters as they sleep as they hear things go bump in the night is horrifying because it preys on a primal fear of ours. We relate to this, and that the image is repeated, it keeps the audience on edge. This is the most terrifying form of isolation imagined, robbing us of our one safe haven. That's why the film is so scary.
The interesting thing about this film is that you can't look at the traditional elements of film alone (ie screenplay, direction, acting). Is it gimmicky? A little. There's the sense that it looks real. But I don't point to the documentary feel. I think it's just that the director didn't need to come up with anything new to scare us. He just took those things that go bump in the night and put into a movie - which hopefully survives the hype that has surrounded it.
"9" has a scary imaginative landscape. It doesn't appear to be the
future so much as an alternate reality, as told by film clips detailing
the invention of these machines designed to aid humanity. The visuals
are the lure for the film. The world is dark and vast. The creators
take advantage of the main characters' size to bring detail to their
The only sentient characters are the rag dolls. I dare not give away how they are created, because that deals with the film's central themes. The characters aren't nearly as interesting as they look. For a PG-13 film, these characters seem like stock characters from run of the mill animated fare. The young newcomer, the holier than thou leader, the strong guy, and of course the one girl. Despite this, they have a good foundation to be interesting, but the creators never bother to take them to that level.
The film is about 80 minutes and the first half is filled with the rag doll's fighting off evil machines. This is great eye candy, but doesn't really help establish a story. The story itself doesn't seem to get underway to the very end. Had the characters been a tad more captivating early on, I wouldn't mind. The film's theme is somewhat imaginative, if a little forced. There's a lot of heart towards the end of the movie, something the first half of the film lacks. This is an imaginative looking movie, but seems to lack a certain fullness to be recommended beyond the rich visuals.
Donnie Darko has something to do with time travel and something to do
with fate. The fun of the film is that it asks a lot of questions and
doesn't provide many answers. It creates a strange mythology that
boggles minds upon repeat viewings. The fun of watching the film is
that people find themselves developing many theories. Any film that
achieves cult status involves a certain mythology, like we've found
ourselves in the middle of something grand and we're only given a
glimpse of whats actually going on. Donnie Darko is a well crafted
"hero" of sorts. To what end is up to the viewer to decide. He's
horribly flawed yet has a huge burden to carry as we approach the
closure of the film.
What is often overlooked about this film is the deconstruction of 80s suburbia. "The end of the world" is often mentioned in the film and Donnie Darko's character is often unraveling those uncomfortable truths about a hidden facade of safety in suburbia. His family looks perfect in the very beginning til they start cursing and discussing politics at the dinner table. What kids are learning at school is questioned by an ignorant parent, while they question vandalism at the school. The local clean cut celebrity Dr. Cunningham has a dark secret. Suddenly their world becomes a little unsafe, all thanks to Donnie Darko. All this is done with a dark, and devilish sense of humor.
I didn't care for the director's cut as much. The fun of this film is in its mythos and lack of explanation. The sci fi fantasy of the film is great as well as the suburban satire. Read too much into it, you might enjoy it less. To me though, the film seems to be a happy accident, as Richard Kelly, in all his indulgences, hasn't reproduced this kind of magic. It's a special near perfect film that loses its enjoyment with too much analysis.
Ever been to one of those gimmicky tourist rides? You know, you pay
five or 10 bucks, go inside, the seats move around and you watch a
video that's probably devoid of any plot, much less a narrative and in
the end, you felt the ride was all right, but too little, too short.
Welcome to "The Final Destination." This film is essentially a ride.
You go for the 3D. An opening race track scene is pretty neat. The gore
level in the film is high and one must admit that when the occasional
body part flies out at ya, it's pretty cool. The use of 3D on such
things as cars, fire, and nails makes you want to grab it, and yes, the
3D is pretty good quality. But there's probably not enough of it, and
the film has little else to all offer.
The plot is pretty consistent with other FD movies while the characters are torn from every horror movie cliché imaginable. We follow 4-5 characters, including a lead who can see people die. The other main characters feature a main girl a guy we'd probably like to see die, and a girl we might be a little indifferent about. I won't spoil what happens, but if you've watched any bad horror movie, you get the idea.
So what follows is a series of stale acting, bad dialogue, and a terribly illogical script. I could write a book as to why the last reel makes no sense, but I have far better things to do with my time. The end is cheap, wasting a good opportunity to give the audience a good 3D send-off. The makers of the film try to be clever with things and places that refer to dying, such as a coffee shop named "Death by caffeine" and a movie named "Love lies dying." Yes, they think they're being clever.
But in the end, the star of this film is the 3D, which is pretty good. And really, for a film with nearly zero substance, the 3D makes it at the very least entertaining. It does however make me question why a 2D counterpart even exists. A lot of these shots are made for the 3D and nothing more. In terms of substance, that Avatar preview before hand proved a little bit better.
If you're watching it for the 3D, "Final Destination" will be an entertaining diversion. Just be aware this film has little else to offer, especially if your akin to the Final Destination franchise. It's a shame too because the concept could invite some good scripts.
I love all of Cameron Crowe's movies. He's a master screenwriter that
injects heart and smarts in the traditional rom-com and crafts
characters that anyone can relate to. When you go see a traditional
romantic comedy, the target audience is usually women. "Say Anything"
has Lloyd Dobler. Besides being the nice guy girls like, he's an honest
strong willed dreamer. He's cool but not in the typical tall dark and
handsome cool but in the outsider, marches to his own beat cool. He's
very nontraditional for the genre and an example of why Crowe triumphs
in his films.
Diane Court is also atypical. She's the good looking "brain," who is not really popular at school, as is traditionally found in teen rom coms. She's also torn between what she wants and what her father wants. Her father's questionable dealings with a nursing home he runs also creates a serious situation for Diane. She deals with her decisions post high school, her father, and her love for Lloyd. That Crowe creates such complex conflicts for Diane in 100 minutes is nothing short of brilliant direction and screen writing.
This was Cameron Crowe's directorial debut and was a very promising one. It's still my favorite film of his if for no other reason than John Cusack delivers some of the beautifully written dialogue so well. But it IS so much more. "Say Anything" came at the end of the 80s. Teenagers grew up with the characters in John Hughes films, dealing with those high school problems. I love those films and love how "Say Anything" provided the wonderful afterthought to those films. Life after high school, dealing with our parents vs. our own desires and coming into our own as adults. "Say Anything" is often cited as a teen romantic comedy, often mentioned in the same breath of many high school romcoms. Yet the graduation and party are just a small tiny bit of the film. Crowe's characters are deeper than that. The story, dialogue, and acting helped jump-start Cameron Crowe's career yet is still my favorite of his films.
I'm always torn about this film. On one hand, I loved some of the
humor, notably the references to Smith's other creations, reviving
Dante, Randall, Holden, and Banky into one picture. The humor at the
Quick Stop that started it all is golden. Then there's moments from
Will Ferrel, who's humor is foolproof and at home with Smith's crafted
dialogue in spite of Ferrel's many improvisations. But Smith's films
seem to reflect where he is at that moment in his life. Clerks was
great, and while Mallrats suffered, they garnered a sizable cult
following. Chasing Amy was a critical success and helped make a star
out of Ben Affleck. It also succeeded because, like Clerks, it was very
personal. Dogma, despite how outlandish the plot was, also had personal
ties, as they addressed his feelings toward religion.
So what does that make "Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back?" Besides revisiting the characters we love, it seemed like an exercise in excess. There's nothing to relate to in the film. The film is too self referential for its own good that there's nothing original or new in here. The humor is sporadic - in the very beginning and in the very end, it's hilarious. But it seems more like a bunch of cameos than in an honest movie. Smith was becoming more recognizable at this time and, if anything, the film seems to be about fame. But it's too much excess for me. It lacks the humanity of his previous efforts, which however perverse, had a heart at their core. That's why I liked Clerks, loved Chasing Amy, and liked Dogma in a special kinda way. This movie doesn't say anything and the dialogue is not nearly as sharp as it could be. If you like Smith's characters, you'll be amused to see them again, but Smith doesn't explore their dimensions as he had in prior movies. Jay and Bob, maybe, but let's face - there's not much too them. The movie's very slapstick, which isn't Smith's niche. It's still mildly amusing, but I've found it lacks the repeat pleasure of his other works.
Despite the fact that this film does deal with the face of Jesus
appearing on the side of a house, it doesn't say 'the face appeared, so
you must believe.' In fact, there seems to be a message concerning
overall faith, even on a secular level, in oneself. Though it fails as
it becomes a jumbled affair with too many characters sending too many
The movie begins with an apathetic, unshaven Luke Wilson buying a rather pricey small house in California, literally drinking his life away. We find halfway through the movie (and on the back of the DVD case) that he supposedly only has six weeks to live. In the midst of all this, the face of Jesus has appeared on the side of his house, believed to be a miracle by all in the neighborhood but him.
For me, the film was a predictable affair. Perhaps by the mere description you can call how it ends. I did. The trip there was a little rough and a little fun. The good was in the acting, particularly Luke Wilson. Wilson plays the "down on his luck" everyman fairly well. He also gets a good little emotional scene that's removed from his more recent comedic outings.
And while the story is intriguing, it's muddled by too many characters that sometimes detract from the film's theme. Perhaps the writer didn't realize they were doing this. At certain points, it seems like its wearing it's religious beliefs on its sleeve, like in the priest character on in the supermarket girl Patience (which I'm sure has some meaning in this film). By the end of the film, I felt the message had a universal appeal, in spite of the supporting characters. The many characters muddled the themes.
Overall, the film is worth a watch, particularly for the always dependable Luke Wilson. It incites a little discussion and while others have felt it a little too religious need to remember that some films do require a little thought, and I personally feel that this film does speak on a more universal level, not just on a religious one. The trick is not to let the many characters distract you.
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