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Horrible Bosses 2 (2014)
Horrible is right.
The funniest thing about the movie were the closing credits, and I spent the entire film hoping they'd arrive soon.
The jokes were unfunny and repetitious, figuratively poking you in the ribs with every line to say "This is funny. It is. It's really funny). The characters are too stupid to care about. The only one who was funny was Kevin Spacey, and he was in the film for about three minutes. Otherwise, it made you long for the subtle and clever humor of the Ritz Brothers.
Jason Bateman gamely tries to hold the thing together, but both Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day play characters who are just too stupid to remember to breathe and the dull script thinks plugging in a few outrageous concepts without humor makes comedy.
The first movie was only mediocre, but it had some laughs in it. This wastes talent on an immense scale.
Terra Nova (2011)
A dull, trudging parade of clichés
You've seen Terra Nova before, in dozens of science fiction shows and movies. There is really not a single original moment in the entire show and, alas, it doesn't seem to realize this.
The setup is a society that's on an ecological disaster (like "Blade Runner"), where a family is sent back into the past (with dinosaurs like "Jurrasic Park") to form a colony (like "Earth 2"). The family consists of a heroic father, a smart mother, an angsty son, a genius daughter (like Lisa Simpson) and a younger, cloyingly cute younger daughter. None have the depth of a cardboard cutout.
Storywise, it's a mess. There is never a moment when you can't predict accurately what will happen next. It's not even difficult to do so: when the doctor is treating an accident victim, you know she's going to say "stay with me."
It also makes no sense. People say one thing about the world, then act as though the situation is completely the opposite. The setup is ludicrous (a colony has houses like that?).
Ultimately, this is third-rate science fiction that's about as entertaining as watching a turned-off television. It may be worth it if you create a drinking game of "name the cliché," but you wouldn't make it over a half hour before passing out in a drunken stupor.
There is bad, there is terrible, and then there's Terra Nova.
This show will blow you away.
As others have mentioned, the description -- a bunch of kids gaining super powers -- doesn't begin to describe what the show is about. The characters are complex (even the minor ones), the situations are believable, and the stories go places you never expect. Actions all have consequences, but the show doesn't forget to have a sense of humor.
The key is that the super powers are all closely tied in with the characters' wishes, dreams, and personality; they stories are nothing like how this situation would be portrayed in the US. No one fights crime; they're too busy trying to deal with their own lives and the consequences of their personal strengths and failings. The first two seasons have been put online at Hulu.com; watch them and be amazed.
International Crime (1938)
A strange but entertaining version of The Shadow
The second of the Rod La Rocque Shadow movies is a vast improvement on the first, and bears no relation to that film or anything else about the character.
In this, Lamont Cranston is a newspaper/radio reporter who writes a column on crime, as well as having a radio show. His identity thus is a secret to no one. He is aided by Phoebe Lane, an aspiring reporter, in unraveling a mystery.
The mystery is interesting enough to hold interest and involves a crime that baffles everyone. There is some good scenes, especially with Cranston and Phoebe. But the characters (other than the Shadow) are all over the place. Phoebe is sometimes a smart protofeminist and also a complete ditz -- often in the same scene. Her final scene makes no sense after what we've seen before it.
But the movie does move along fairly well and the mystery is intriguing enough. It's a decent little film if you want something fun to kill an hour.
The Shadow Strikes (1937)
Dull and draggy
This version of the Shadow has little to do with the pulp hero (other than name) or the radio version. The Shadow was changed from a spirit of vengeance to a routine wise-cracking detective, though some vestiges of the mystery in the character remains.
This still could have been a decent B-movie thriller except for the deadly dull direction. Everything moves at the pace of a dying snail and the plot is generally uninteresting.
Rod La Roque does as much as he can with the role; he has some easygoing charm (though that is a departure from the original character) and manages to make the best of things. The rest of the cast, though, is pretty generic and bloodless. It becomes very hard to care about the situation.
There's also a strange subplot explaining the Shadow's motivations, with an ending that kinda sorta might resolve it, but even that isn't clear. Very little to recommend it, other than La Roque's performance.
Juno and the Paycock (1930)
Not very good Hitchcock
While competently directed, the movie is too obviously a photographed stage play (thought Hitchcock tried to open it up). It's nothing like his usual type of film, either; the one bit of suspense as a twist is obvious from the beginning (the actor overacts too obviously). Other plot twists are obvious quite early.
Still, it has its moments. There's some nice comedy and characterization. If you're a Hitchcock completist, it's worth looking at to see how he handles a type of material he didn't seem attuned with. If not, you may find uninteresting.
(Not a criticism of the film, but the Irish accents can make it hard to make out some of the dialog.)
The Dean Martin Comedy World (1974)
Good idea, horrendously executed
The idea was that "roving reporters" would go around the world to find new comedy acts and show them on the air. That sounded quite promising.
The problem was that the producers were highly influenced by "Laugh-In." The comics were given very short segments -- no more than a minute. It was impossible to determine whether they were good or not after hearing about three jokes. And just as you began to get into the rhythm of the routine -- bang! -- off to another. Everyone was given a short shrift, and no one was memorable.
The show deserves a footnote for being one of the first US TV appearances of Monty Python's Flying Circus. But even that was handled incompetently, as the censors bleeped out the words "naughty bits" from the sketch (the actual words "naughty bits"). You'd think they could choose a segment of Python that wouldn't have anything the censors would frown on, but the producers most likely were only willing to choose chunks of skits that ran for less than 30 seconds, so they could move on to something else.
Ultimately, a complete waste.
Snow Falling on Cedars (1999)
Dull and pretentiously arty
It's rare to see a film this boring. The characters were just plain flat, and the director's penchant for making every single shot a tight, off center close-up made it painful to watch. Not to mention the "arty" shots thrown in like bad non-sequiturs.
Not a single character showed any more life than a cardboard cutout, and the film dragged out about twenty minutes of story into two hours. It pretended to say a lot about race relations, but really was pretty shallow about that, too (unless it's a revelation to you that Japanese-Americans were ill-treated during WWII). Ethan Hawke's character mopes around morosely, unable to let go of a teenage love affair that ended at least eight years before. About halfway through, you'll be screaming, "Get on with it, already." I'll have to assume the book is a lot better, since the movie is completely uninteresting.
Arrested Development (2003)
Probably the best show of the 2003 season, and the best new comedy in years. It's very hard to describe, since the comedy is entirely character-based, not plot- or wisecrack-based.
Basically, it's the story of the Bluth family, developers who are in bankruptcy with the father in prison for fraud. One son, Michael, tries to be responsible and keep things going, while the rest of the group is entirely self-centered and can't seem to focus on the fact they are broke and in disgrace.
The various family members go off in various directions: George (GOB) fancies himself a magician, Buster is a momma's boy, Lindsay goes off supporting odd causes, Lindsay's husband Tobias fancies himself an actor. It's a show you need to watch closely, but the laughs are all over the place, from unexpected directions.
Screen Door Jesus (2003)
Funny and complex drama about the issues of belief
Excellent film about the nature of religion in a small Texas town. When a picture of Jesus appears on a screen door, people react in different ways, and we see how people are both helped and hindered by their belief.
The characters are great and each has a story to tell. I was reminded of Robert Altman's NASHVILLE, where characters interacted into one fascinating mosaic. There are more interesting twists, as characters' beliefs are challenged, and they react and change (and sometimes not).
Even if you're not religious, the film is terrific. Writer/Director Kirk Davis walks a line between scoffing at the nuttiness of religion, and treating it perfectly seriously. It's a religious film for those who believe, and for those who have no real use for religion.
Down with Love (2003)
Nice concept, badly directed
The film is a promising idea that is totally wrecked by a director who has no confidence in his material. If Jim Carrey had directed a film, it would look like this -- every joke telegraphed, overdone, and milked past any laugh it honestly deserves. There's a real contempt for the material, and absolutely no attempt to make the characters anything more than cardboard cutouts.
Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor labor to bring life to their thin characters, and whatever charm and humor the film has rests on their hard work. But the director constantly undercuts them by turning them into comic book figures when they should be real people (no matter how silly the situation).
David Hyde Pierce comes off the best, since being the comic sidekick doesn't require depth. He also has the best lines -- some that are actually funny.
A film that shamelessly rips off gags from Austin Powers is really scraping the bottom of the barrel. And when you have to resort the pressing-the-wrong-buttons-and-wrecking-havoc gag -- old and trite back before any of the Doris Day films were made -- you know something is very wrong.
Cry Uncle (1971)
X-rated bawdy porn detective film
This movie was something of a revelation when it came out -- a full-tilt x-rated film that had little to do with sex. It's structured as a detective film, with Alan Garfield (Goorwitz) in one of his early roles. Everyone talks sex (and often takes part), but the film is ultimately a bizarre comedy about sex. Accidental necrophilia may not sound like fertile ground for jokes, but it does work.
Sort of like x-rated Preston Sturges crossed with South Park. (I'm not claiming it's as good as either, but they give you an idea of the sensibility.) It will offend the uptight, that's for sure.
A pleasant surprise.
I didn't really expect a lot from this, but it turned out to be very funny in a silly sort of way. The central conceit was clever and perfectly executed. It does help a lot if you're familiar with the entire Watergate era, though; I suspect younger viewer won't understand the humor. There's one gag (about how one of the girl's mother met her new boyfriend) that's absolutely hilarious -- if you get the reference, and I doubt anyone under 40 would. Still, if you're looking for a light, silly comedy, give this a shot.
If this had been the first Star Wars film, there never would have been a second. Lucas is going through the motions, but not striking any sparks. The lack of humor is deadly and only a couple of better-than-average battle scenes (but worse than anything in the first three SW films) at the end have any interest.
It was an artistic mistake to make the early trilogy, especially since we know what's going to happen. Further, Lucas is probably incapable of making a film of the level of SW or Empire -- he uses SW as a crutch to hide the fact he's out of ideas.
Mister 880 (1950)
Charming comedy about the counterfeiter next door.
Edmund Gwenn (best known as Santa Claus in "Miracle on 34th Street) portrays another charming old man who makes ends meet by a little counterfeiting on the side. Burt Lancaster is the treasury agent set to track down the mysterious "Mr. 880," as the Secret Service calls him, but who has time for a little romance. Gwenn, as usual, is delightful and Lancaster, at the beginning of his career, shows the softer side that became more apparent toward its end. The film is a forgotten gem.
Olive, the Other Reindeer (1999)
An underrated Christmas classic
This has been somewhat overlooked, but it really is a terrific special. It's clever and witty (a characteristic that you don't see enough of these days). Olive is a dog, who thinks she can substitute for one of Santa's reindeer and save Christmas. The choice of villain is inspired -- a mailman who wants to stop Christmas so he won't have to deliver all the cards. Not a lot of big laughs, but it's filled with gentle smiles.
The voice work is excellent, and the style is outstanding. There's little attempt to be "realistic," but rather it looks like a picture book (and seems to be sticking closely to the style of the original book).
Heart and Souls (1993)
Charming and sweet comedy
It goes over some familiar ground, but in a charming way. The cast is uniformly excellent and if it is a bit on the sentimental side, somehow it works. Not for everyone, but if you like a touch of the romantic, this is worth a shot.
Cliched but just manages to succeed.
The movie -- about a mysterious person who may or may not be an alien -- is a parade of cliches: the saintly alien (e.g., "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial"), the psychiatric patient having a positive effect on the other patients (e.g., "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"), and, of course, the Psychiatric Breakthrough story ("So THAT'S the deep-seated trauma at the bottom of his problem! -- e.g., "The Prince of Tides," "Good Will Hunting," etc.).
The movie is redeemed by the performances. Spacey is fine as Prot, and Jeff Bridges manages to make the cliches of his character (the workaholic who neglects his family) palatable. In addition, the ending remains nicely ambiguous -- the neat solutions may not be solutions at all.
Not a great film, but a good time filler if you don't get too put off seeing the same old ground being tilled one more time.
Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)
Dull, tedious drivel
I was absolutely amazed at just how tedious this film was to watch. The entire enterprise was directed at such a slow pace it acts as a sleep aid. After the obligatory needless prologue (designed for people who, like the scarecrow, haven't got a brain), we get to a drawn out story of the old cliche of a misunderstood robot that only wants to be human -- cutting edge in 1946, but hardly worth redoing now.
Every point, every dramatic moment, is hammered home with a 20-pound sledgehammer. The Pinocchio references get so overdone and annoying that you want to scream "Enough, Steve! Enough! We get it! We get it!" Only in the last twenty minutes does an interesting concept emerge (as a deus ex machina out of the clear blue sky), but by then you're screaming, "I don't care! Get this over with!"
The visuals are impressive, no doubt about that. But the movie fails on every other count. It is awash in smarmy sentimentality, and makes absolutely no logical sense (the Spinach Incident, for instance -- they never expected something like that to happen?) and seems satisfied to simply parade its cliches and hope someone applauds.
A major disappointment.
The Time Machine (2002)
Pointless and silly remake.
Let's count how faithful this remake was to the book. They both had time machines. They both had Morlocks. And . . . well, that's about it.
All right, you don't have to make a movie match its source material exactly (but why make people think it does, other than false advertising?). However, if you're going to change things, you should at least try to improve matters.
The movie fails. The story is one cliche after another, played as though the writers had never read anything about time travel (it's clear the writers never read Wells -- it's a joke that he's credited). It plods along, the 90 minutes seeming like several weeks.
And it's filled with howlers. 800,000 years and people still speak in contemporary English? Because they read it from the ruins of old buildings (and happened to understand a vocabulary of words that would never be on the buildings in the first place)? Why not just call Mara "Tiffany" and make it more ridiculous?
As for the end, it's impossible to figure out exactly what happened, or why it occurred. What ended up killing the Morlocks? Why? A good writer would have established that this would work ("Don't touch that! It will blow us to atoms!"). I guess they thought the flashy effects would be enough to fool the audience.
Speaking of effects, why are the time travel effects so wimpy? I could understand the reluctance of of matching the effects of the 1960 movie, but they don't even try. We see very little to indicate the passage of time, just a generic blue-white glow.
The story builds no suspense. The time paradox idea is handled terribly: why exactly does the girlfriend have to die a second time? How did his going back in time cause it? If he tried again, why wouldn't that work? The Morlock attack is purely by-the-numbers, as is Jeremy Irons' performance as the head Morlock.
What a waste.
The Crunch Bird (1971)
Very funny one-gag cartoon
The cartoon is merely the telling of a joke. Not only is it a good one, but the execution is perfect. Once you see it, you'll smile whenever you hear the phrase "crunch bird." The same people made one or two other cartoons, but faded away.
Julius Caesar (1970)
A cure for insomnia, maybe.
The cast is great, but the movie is completely lacking in drama. Most of the problem is with Jason Robards's performance. He practically sleepwalks through the role of Brutus -- no emotion, no life, no nothing. The play trudges along with only a few flashes of quality. Major disappointment.
The Matrix (1999)
Boring cliched coming-of-age film with great special effects
I hadn't really expected a lot, but I was amazed at just how dull this film was. The effects are, quite rightly, considered great and are obviously influential in many ways. But other than a couple of action sequences at the beginning and end, you have nothing but dull lectures. Lawrence Fishburne is too good an actor to play a second-rate Yoda like this and the "philosophy" was the type of thing you outgrow in 10th grade ("How do we REALLY know reality?") presented in an ultraserious tone that makes the claptrap seem important. This type of thing has been done before and better, and the various plot holes and inconsistancies were just a sign of sloppy storytelling. The villains were quite probably the least interesting in the history of film, with tiresome mannerisms that made you want to go out and slap the director. And the cliches! Villains in suits and black sunglasses! A traitor in the heros' midst! Man redeemed due to love a woman! Can anyone really call these original?
The effects cannot be faulted, and there were a couple of good action sequences, but the film was poorly written and just plain dull. More action would have been better, or anything to spare the audience the puerile philosophizing.
Certainly one of the most overrated films of the decade.
Pleasant but unremarkable
The series is definitely tired. The jokes are dumb and obvious, and we've seen them all before, but Hogan pulls them off with a lot of charm that makes it easy to forgive. The plot is perfunctory, but every once in awhile there's an exciting or genuinely funny moment. Worth a rental if you're bored and the video store is out of anything better.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
OK if you're IQ is 30.
Not a very good movie. The plot has more holes than a Swiss cheese and the characters were cheap cardboard. There's enough action to keep you entertained, but none of it made any sense. Angeline Jolie looked great, but had nothing to do with her talent. No sign of humor and the "looking for daddy" subplot was cloying and maudlin. Only a few decent action sequences save it from total crap.