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Mystery Men (1999)
A True Statement That Timing Is Everything In Hollywood
With all of the Marvel and DC movies coming out these days, this film should have been a monster success. The only problem is, it came out when superhero movies were just getting started. Had this been released in 2009 instead of 1999, after X-Men, Spider-Man, Superman Returns, and Iron Man all came out, audiences would have gone crazy over this lovable group of wannabe superheroes who have to save the day when real superhero, Captain Amazing, is captured.
Certainly few movies boast a murder's row of actors such as this movie did. William H. Macy was hysterical as family man The Shoveler, Hank Azaria's Blue Raja was a master of throwing forks (never knives), Janeane Garofalo (back when she was likable) was The Bowler, Kel Mitchell as Invisible Boy (who can only turn invisible if no one is watching), and even Paul "Pee Wee Herman" Reubens was a riot as The Spleen, who took passing gas to a whole new level.
The ringleader of the group is Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller) who seems to become the focal point of the movie more than anyone else. I thought it a bit ironic Stiller would trash this film given most of the scenes that annoyed me involved him, although he does redeem his role by movie's end.
The group of supervillians is impressive as well, led by Geoffrey Rush as Casanova Frankenstein and Eddie Izzard and Pras as the two Tonys. Even Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear) isn't much in the way of a superhero to the Mystery Men, given how condescending he acts towards them and how full of himself he is. Kinnear did provide a great performance there, no question.
If you're a fan of what Marvel is putting out these days, this movie will make you laugh and cheer for the good guys.
A Fun Series, Grows on You - May Contain Spoilers
Although this certainly won't win any awards and will always draw comparisons to the BBC's "Hu$tle" and the "Ocean" movies, it makes for a fun hour of TV watching, carving out a nice niche in American TV.
Timothy Hutton provides an effective counter to the sometimes "devil may care" attitude of his team members as Nathan Ford, a divorced alcoholic who has had difficulty getting over the death of his son, and rightfully blames his old company for not providing the health care he needed to survive. When a desperate executive hires him to recover some stolen airline plans, he takes the job of leading a group of con artists and thieves to retrieve them. However, when the job becomes more than it appears, it's up to Nate to keep the team together and turn the tables. Even though everybody in the group became financially set for life after the first episode, the lure of helping out others keeps them coming back for more.
Although we've seen shows like this before ("The A-Team" is the closest comparison), there's something lighter and more fun about this hi-tech redux of a group of cons helping out those who have no one to turn to. The characters grow on you as the show progresses, most notably high-tech uber-geek Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge) and the goofy, lithe, acrobatic Parker (Beth Riesgraf). Nate's on again-off again repartee with Sophie Devereaux (Coupling's Gina Bellman) has hit both highs and lows in the show. Some consider Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane), as the team's "muscle," to be a weak point in the show. However, there is a good rapport between Eliot and Hardison, similar to Jack Cates and Reggie Hammond from the "48 Hrs." movies.
Overall, it's a good addition to the TNT library of shows. Not it's best show, but it's certainly worthy of another season.
Ocean's Thirteen (2007)
Fun and Slick, Although I Wouldn't Look for It at Oscar Time
The film is a definite improvement over Ocean's 12, although it's not as cool or hip as Ocean's 11. The saying "no honor among thieves" doesn't seem to apply in this film, as the gang reunites to back one of their own. Reuben (Elliot Gould) gets strong-armed out of a new Las Vegas hotel by the greedy Willie Bank (Al Pacino) and is in bad shape. The gang reunites to figure out how to solve this problem. What follows is a series of cons, some of which you've seen, with a few quirky surprises thrown in, to restore Reuben and his investment.
Addition by subtraction seems to work in this film, as neither Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones are absent. (dismissed very quickly, in fact) The beauty of the first film is that it threw us for a few loops, unless you were VERY observant. 12's plot was out of left field. In this one, you're in on the con, but they take a few sideways turns on you to make it funny. More importantly, they do a fair job of involving everybody in the film. Everybody has several good scenes, and unlike 12, everything meshes quite well when it's time for the big con.
It's not an Oscar winner by any stretch, but you certainly get the impression everybody was having fun working on this film. That always helps when watching a film.
A Fun Show, Has Found Its Footing in Season 2
This is a show, like The Big Bang Theory and My Boys, that has improved as it has gone on. Although the plots sometimes get over the top and the pacing tends not to change much, it's a show worth watching. It's not the best show on TV, but you certainly see what you get for an hour of your time each week.
Get by the ridiculously-silly plot line of an ex-CIA agent sending an email filled with all our government secrets to the brain of an ex-classmate working in a Best Buy clone in its tech department, and you actually get a fun, if light, show. Very reminiscent of "The Greatest American Hero," (probably the last one-hour action-comedy on TV I can name) now Chuck has to be protected and used to help solve cases of espionage.
Zachary Levi does well as the put-upon lead of the "Nerd Herd" at the Buy More, being brought in and out of danger, typically kicking and screaming. Adam Baldwin (can you believe he was the title character in "My Bodyguard?") plays the Robert Culp role to perfection as the hard-as-nails (with a few cracks) NSA agent John Casey, who would like to shoot Chuck just as soon as help him. Yvonne Strahovski plays CIA agent Sarah Walker, who has to protect Chuck at the same time as fighting off his feelings for her (or is it her feelings for him?) The best of the secondary characters would be Morgan (Joshua Gomez) as Chuck's conspiratorial comrade at the Buy More, dealing with situations that makes management at The Office's Dunder-Mifflin seem forward-thinking by comparison. Chuck's sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and her boyfriend Devon AKA Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin)are also in the show, but primarily for comic relief and for Chuck to occasionally consider what it means to be working as a spy and not being able to tell anybody.
Masterpiece Theatre this isn't, but you don't go into the show expecting that, especially with McG as executive producer. That would be like going to a John Woo film and thinking there won't be any doves. It's an hour of escapist fun, something seriously lacking on the tube these days with so many copycat crime shows and highly unfunny comedies. Chuck is worth your time, even if it won't be getting any hardware for awards.
The Peacemaker (1997)
Decent enough, nothing earth-shattering
If there was a movie that you could say followed the plot step-for-step by the manual, this would be it. It was neither raised nor torpedoed by the actors, plot, or directing. Everything was as it was. Nothing spectacular nor grating. Clooney and Kidman work well together in the film, and Mimi Leder doesn't try to throw any Hollywood hyperbole into the film, sans the very end. Scenery, especially in the former Soviet Union, was effective, and we probably get something slightly closer to how to handle the situation presented in reality than Hollywood tends to give us. (I point to films like Volcano and Armageddon as examples of Hollywoodizing a film.) All in all, a solid film.
My Boys (2006)
A solid show, one of the better concepts currently showing on TV
This is a show with a good concept. Granted, it's "Sex and the City" meets "Friends" minus the pretentiousness of either show, but that makes it one of the better shows to pop up in the post-Friends era. These are characters you might have actually met, been friends with, or possibly were yourself. (really, do you know ANYBODY who can afford 50 pairs of $400 shoes or afford a 2-bedroom apartment off Central Park, even with rent control?) Jordana Spiro, who received a lot of buzz for her part in "Must Love Dogs" plays the tomboy-like role of a female sportswriter for the Chicago Sun-Times. But like Anthony Michael Hall's geek character from "Sixteen Candles," she bashes many of the tomboy stereotypes by not only having a good rapport with her male friends but also with her Sex and the City-inspired best female friend, Stephanie. (not to mention she's as comfortable in a little black dress as she is in a tank top and jeans.) Jim Gaffigan, whom I was really worried about in terms of playing a role in this sitcom, does very well as her "whipped" older brother. Her friends, Brendan (Reid Scott), Mike (Jamie Kaler), and Kenny (Michael Bunin) work very well both individually and as part of the group. Stephanie (Kellee Stewart) might seem like a weak spot in the show, but she is an effective counter to P.J.'s "hang out with the boys" persona. If there's one weak spot to the group, it's rival sportswriter and on again-off again potential love interest Bobby (Kyle Howard).
Although some of the plots may get a little goofy, the group works very well together. All in all, it's a solid show in an era where the TV comedy is definitely in bad shape.
Sex and the City (2008)
Was disappointed----SPOILERS AHEAD
Before I get slammed and accused of being a troll and can't handle a show about empowered women, I watched the entire series on HBO and enjoyed it. I thought the show's finale was very good. (not Newhart or Cheers finale good, but good nonetheless) That said, I was let down by the movie. It played out like a so-so long episode of the show.
SPOILERS AHEAD - Turn away now if you don't want to know.
Each of the three main subplots involving Carrie, Miranda, and Samantha seemed to reveal that they had regressed from the ending of the original series. Carrie tried to make the wedding bigger than her and Big, and one would think she's learned enough about him to just make the wedding nice and simple, and only about them. It takes most of the movie for her to figure this out, and this doesn't bode well for someone who supposedly had been with Big for the 4 years since the show ended. As a result, the plot line was easily predictable right from the moment she walked into Enid's office. This is not to say Big did the right thing at the wedding, but when she finally comes to the realization of that, the audience was way ahead of her.
Clearly Miranda has eschewed her "you know love" epiphany at the end of the series by regressing back to her old ways of disregarding Steve as generally beneath her contempt. When she said in the movie "I changed for you!" to Steve, I wanted to shout bull**** at the screen. She changed addresses for him, for crying out loud. It's not like she had to be a tough, loving wife while he was off fighting in Iraq or something. Of course, this sets up her big hypocrisy in the movie, about asking forgiveness of Carrie when she won't forgive Steve.
Samantha is a New Yorker and this has been covered many times before. She doomed her relationship with Smith when she went to California with him. She's way too smart to let herself get caught like she did. This is minor compared to the Carrie and Miranda crises, but it's another example of acting against character that the movie has.
Other quick nitpicks: Harry, Stanford, and Antony are basically wallpaper in this movie for what they have to do, the acting was not up to par with the show, and I think they overloaded early with the "labels" motif, leading us to correctly guess Carrie's final narration at the end.
Overall, it was not a good follow-up to the show. Granted, it wasn't as bad of a TV-to-movie adaptation as "Charlie's Angels," or "The Beverly Hillbillies," but for all the hype it got, I was left disappointed.
The Big Bang Theory (2007)
Not phenomenal, but good for a few laughs - UPDATED 2/18/09
This is a show that has definitely needed to find it's footing. Prior to the strike, there was perhaps 1 1/2 episodes that I found even remotely amusing. But once they came back, the writing seemed to sharpen up, and the show is definitely improved over its early episodes.
I think it will have to improve immensely to get a third season (it's already been renewed for a 2nd), but the potential exists.
Three things need happen to make the show work: 1. Involve Penny (Kaley Cuoco) more into the show, not just as the sometimes annoyed/sometimes amused neighbor. Right now, she only serves as the outside observer to the nerd/geek factory generated with the other 4 characters (Sheldon, Leonard,Wolowitz, and Raj) Perhaps integrate a few "street smart" lessons from her into the lives of the guys. They do that a little now, but they need to do it more.
2. Continue to crack into Sheldon's demeanor so he doesn't come off, as one person put it, like Frank Burns in the lead role. (Remember, the character of Frank Burns became useless once they decided to marry off Hot Lips.) Let some humanity creep in there. Whether he develops it himself or learns the hard way, completely hate-able characters don't work on a sitcom.
3. Decide a pathway for Leonard and Penny and move with it. Right now, it's all a tease, and not a very good one. This is not to say pull a Dave/Maddie, a Sam/Diane or a Ross/Rachel. But if you plan to put the two together, start the process rather than tease one way and pull in the other direction constantly.
All in all, it's not the best comedy on the air, but it's got potential.
***UPDATE ON 2/18/09*** I really hate to think the producers of the show actually read my comment, but all 3 things listed above for the show actually happened. (scary)
1. Probably the biggest thing that happened is that Penny is far more integrated into the group, and the results have paid off huge dividends. More than that, each character has had a show that focused on them, rather than this being strictly the Sheldon/Leonard/Penny show. The results haven't always been effective, but it's good to see the effort.
2. Although Sheldon continues to show signs of sufferability beyond redemption, you see changes in him from season 1. For good references, I suggest the 2nd season episodes "The Bad Fish Paradigm," "The Panty Pinata Polarization," and "The Financial Permeability." Very surprising. (The Bath Gift Item Hypothesis will have you on the floor at the end.)
3. It seems like the show wants to keep Leonard and Penny friends, but still give us the occasional tease. For this, might I recommend "The Bath Gift Item Hypothesis" and "The Maternal Capacitance."