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Bitch Slap (2009)
Best satire since Robocop
17 April 2019
What, you say? You didn't know Robocop was a satire? Hmm, then you might want to skip Beyotch Slap (note: thanks, IMDb's profanity filter). Much in the tradition of the brilliant cinematic satirist Paul Veerhoven who did Robocop and Starship Troopers, Beyotch Slap is a cheeky, sarcastic jab at the hyper violence genre with a poignant message just below the surface.

The story unfolds in a teasing, non-linear way, beginning with an apocalyptic aftermath and then jumping back a few hours where most of the story takes place but frequent jumps to the weeks and months prior. That is, nothing is spelled out, and it's almost 3/4 through the movie before you realize why these 3 buxom babes are out in the middle of the desert with dead bodies piling up.

Beyond the twisty mystery, racy plot, witty dialogue ("Lick my love pump!"), cool action scenes, great cat fights (complete with a screeching cat sound effect or two when one of the ladies happens to get punched in the fun bun), what really makes this film is the fantastic dynamic between the 3 very different personalities of our protagonists and the excellent way each of the 3 leading ladies brings her character to life. There is the leader "Hel" who is the brains of the bunch, "Camaro" who is the muscle as well as sheer psycho element, and then there's "Trix" who is the ditzy tagalong who, despite being a sultry hot stripper, has the air of being someone who still believes in the Easter bunny.

Throw the 3 together along with a couple of awesome criminal characters, a few buckets of blood, a bunch of unapologetically gratuitous cleavage shots and a slow motion water fight, and of course the aforementioned biting satire of every chixploitation flick from the 70s, and you've got one bona fide cinematic work of art. I'm not even being sarcastic when I say that. If you grasp the tongue in cheek nature of this film, you'll find yourself very impressed and thoroughly satisfied at this gem of a movie.

I'm shocked that IMDb has rated this so low (4.5 as of the time I'm writing this), and my only guess is that the people rating this movie so low are the same people who think Spinal Tap is a real band.
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Echoes (I) (2014)
Great cinematography, promising story, excellent setting, irritating characters.
12 April 2019
After the movie ended, I struggled to reason why I hated it. I loved the first half (the slow mood-setting buildup and thick atmosphere), but once the action started happening, I started getting irritated. The action itself was well paced and unpredictable enough, but the characters' reactions (in particular the bizarre amoral yet judgmental attitude of the main character Anna) were what killed it for me, and I found myself not caring about her or anyone in the story.

For example, Anna commits a heinous act, possibly while under the influence of heavy medication and or supernatural forces. When she realizes what she has done, there's no hint of remorse but instead she immediately shifts into criminal mode, deftly covering her tracks like mob boss, even using sex as a manipulative tool, but then in the next scene she's hypocritically freaking out at her boyfriend for daring to show concern about her pill popping. Also in that scene she does the WORST cliché of a lover's quarrel: she smacks him out of nowhere, and HE apologizes. The film lost about 2 points right there.

The 2nd half of the film is rife with moments like that. She continues doing awful things while treating her boyfriend like he's the villain and she's the victim. Oh throw in a bizarre ghost who was also a horrible person in life but now on a righteous revenge mission, and we have a bona fide amorality tale where we're supposed to sympathize with characters who don't deserve a drop of sympathy.

It's a shame that the characters (mostly Anna) weren't developed more consistently, or at least in a likeable way, because as I said up front, the cinematography and mood setting was masterfully done. The setting was striking as well: set in the gorgeous vast, barren landscape of Joshua Tree in a remote glass house with no curtains. And the story had a ton of promise.

Instead this film is an unfortunate example of how everything can be working for a movie, but if you don't like the characters the whole thing will fall apart.
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RocknRolla (2008)
Imagine all the rejects from the Geico Lizard tryouts arguing about Pink Floyd lyrics
16 March 2019
The first 60 minutes of this film can be summarized as follows: a bunch of stuff goes missing and a bunch of tough guys with cockney accents run around trying to act cool and/or funny.

This is the kind of film that plays out like a huge inside joke with no payoff. There are far too many unnecessary characters, too many unnecessary sub-plots, and (this is what makes it unwatchable) NO central character and NO central plot. In that respect, it's a lot like an artsy French New Wave film except that there's nothing artsy about it (just a lot of tacky MTV type edits and oversaturated, overexposed shots with fast motion quickly shifting to slow motion and back again, as if, in lieu of going to film school, the editor watched half of The Matrix and called it a day.

That's not even a joke, since director Guy Ritchie's imdb bio states that he dropped out of film school, complaining that "the work of film school graduates was boring and unwatchable". So I suppose he figured cinema needed more snappy, overstylized, ADD editing. And yet it still proves to be more boring and unwatchable than Godard at half speed.

"Rocknrolla" tries very hard to be "Pulp Fiction", right down to copying Uma Thurman's dance moves and Travolta & Jackson's wacky banter whilst they're killing people, except here the banter isn't wacky or even interesting, and nobody's doing anything except driving around, walking around and setting up meetings in weird places like baseball fields and art museums. "Pulp Fiction" worked because it juxtaposed mundane banter over a hypercharged suspense story. But here we just have the mundane banter part juxtaposed over ...nothing really.

Three stars just because I unconsciously chortled at one gag. When a painting goes missing from its spot on the wall, a dumb henchman asks "Where was it?" Unfortunately they drag that 1 gag out a little too long, much like the entire film.
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Hitch (I) (2005)
Witty lines and funny gags can't hide an insultingly formulaic plot
14 March 2019
I watched all of this movie up to the last 10 minutes when anyone with 4 brain cells could guess what was going to happen next. The movie itself was entertaining and mostly original until the last 20 mins when evidently the screenwriters couldn't figure out where to go, so they just closed their eyes and picked from the "every predictable Hollywood romcom" barrel for the final act.

I'll get back to that in a minute. First let's talk about the good stuff. Will Smith is, as always, a great asset. He plays a character "Hitch" who's a modern day matchmaker but with a soul--that is, he isn't just hooking people up for the conquest but he actually believes in love. Unfortunately he just doesn't believe in it ever happening for himself, so he goes through life jumping from one (implied) random hookup to another whilst he reserves true love for his clients.

I know, right? Great premise. And for the most part the film holds up its end of the bargain by developing an interesting tale woven around this theme. Will Hitch finally learn to love? Physician heal thyself?

Like I said, I shut it off in the last 10 minutes so I wouldn't know. But when things devolved into some horribly predictable romcom trope with the obligatory stupid misunderstanding and all the other obligatory stupid stuff that comes with it, every promising aspect dissolved.

I actually recommend this movie so that you can laugh at how overtly a writer tries to manipulate the audience with a recycled formula. Enjoy the film up to that point (like I said, the presentation itself is entertaining enough to warrant your time). But just be ready with the clicker to shut it off as soon as you've seen enough.
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Imagine a superhero movie where the hero's super power is being stupid
12 March 2019
"The Way of War" is a bizarre experience. With a paper thin revenge plot and a bunch of monosyllabic tough guys with guns, you'd think it would be an entertaining violence romp to numb your mind on sleepless nights or while you're on the treadmill at the gym. Sure, we get some of that, but then out of nowhere a monosyllabic tough guy will suddenly get in touch with his inner Confucius and break into a sentimental monologue capped with some fortune cookie wisdom paraphrased from Sun Tzu's 5th century BC handbook "Art of War".

Yeah I guess the filmmakers didn't want to shell out for the actual right to use the actual title so they sneakily, cleverly swapped out the first word. (Note to self: resume working on your romcom screenplay: "Catcher in the Rhubarb".)

Next, let's take a look at our hero. I can't help but be reminded of the great Eric Draven in "The Crow" who had a penchant of walking into firefights completely unarmed, mocking the gunmen with epic lines like "Take your best shot, Funboy, you got me dead bang." But here in "The Way of War" our hero doesn't have any supernatural powers of bullet immunity. He just stupidly walks into gunfire unarmed (literally standing wide open in the middle of a grocery store) until he gets shot and acts like "Ouch!! That was really uncalled for!!"

Next let's look at the story itself. No, actually let's not. Let's just put down the DVD and walk away slowly, which is what Cuba Gooding should've done with this script.
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Spy (2015)
Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant on crack. I'll explain in my review...
10 March 2019
In the late 1930s through early 1940s ('38-'40 to be precise), there was a barrage of slick comedies characterized by witty, cheeky, rapid-fire dialogues between characters without so much as a breath between jokes, let alone hold for audience reaction. To me, the pinnacle of this achievement was the pairing of Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, both fast-talking sultans of sarcasm, in films like "Bringing Up Baby", "Holiday" and "The Philadelphia Story". Here, nearly a century later, we revisit that style but ramped up on crack, to the point where, after seeing the movie, I had to google the script to see what I missed while laughing my arse off--and laughing it off all over again.

Let me give you an example. The following exchange between "Ford" (Jason Statham) and "Susan" (Melissa McCarthy) is crammed into the space of probably 10 seconds at most, with Jason firing off his lines like a Chicago Gangster with a cockney accent and Melissa quietly interjecting, unnoticed, barely giving him time to reload before his next strafing.

FORD: You really think you're ready for the field? I once used defibrillators on myself! I put shards of glass in my fn' eye! I've jumped from a high-rise building using only a raincoat as a parachute and broke both legs upon landing; I still had to pretend I was in a fing Cirque du Soleil show! I've swallowed enough microchips and s*** them back out again to make a computer. This arm has been ripped off completely and re-attached ...with THIS fing' arm..!

SUSAN: I don't know that that's possible... I mean medically...

FORD: During the threat of an assassination attempt, I appeared convincingly in front of congress as Barack Obama..!

SUSAN: In blackface? That's not appropriate.

FORD: I watched the woman I love get tossed from a plane ...and hit by another plane mid-air! I drove a car off a freeway on top of a train while it was on fire. Not the car, *I* was on fire..!

SUSAN: Jesus you're intense.

I don't think I need to say much more in my review; if you like that style of banter (not so much banter as jackhammer) comedy, don't miss "Spy". Written and directed by Paul Feig who brought us many episodes of The Office before his big screen breakthrough "Bridesmades" and worthy follow-up "The Heat", here in "Spy" we get the third of his brilliant comedies starring the incomparable Melissa McCarthy. In this case, the script is amped up the most of all with so many hilarious lines that you really have to check out the imdb quotes section afterwards to see what you missed, then watch it again.

The plot? Who cares. Something about spies and nukes and hot Bulgarian villains played by Rose Byrne who really channels her inner Cruella Deville only without the dog skin furs, instead opting to dress, as one character points out, "like a slutty dolphin trainer".

If it's possible, EVERY character steals the show. From Melissa (obviousy) down to the bit part of the villain's blonde male henchman who has only 6 lines (and whom Melissa taunts: "I don't see a man. I see a reject from The Sound of Music.")

So watch this movie while you can. I don't know if witty, snappy, script-driven comedies like this will follow but I'd love to see. In the same way Hepburn/Grant defined the comedic style of the 1940s, or in the same way the Zucker-Abraham-Zucker team defined comedy of the 1980s ("Airplane!", "Top Secret!"), here another 40 years later we get a smart, stylish, characteristic brand of comedy that I think our generation can be proud to laugh hysterically to.
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Moments of sheer brilliance. Moments of sheer stupid.
10 March 2019
This film is one of the most bipolar cinematic experiences I've had since George Lucas's 1971 minimalist masterpiece THX-1138 was recut with goofy CGI inserts.

First let's talk about the main gimmick of "Across the Universe": it's a musical using modern remakes of Beatles songs. Some of these new versions, along with very compelling, bold and surreal visuals, are sheer poetry which I'm sure the fab 4 themselves would applaud. But then suddenly get a random toe tapper, full of melodramatic yet sterile vocals (you can hear the auto-tune working overtime) that have no place in the story but for some hastily contrived subplot to serve as a setup for a Beatles crowd pleaser. Yes, I'm talking about the cringeworthy "Dear Prudence" where a minor character with only 10 lines in the whole film randomly locks herself in a bathroom until everyone sings her to come out because the character's name is? Prudence.

On the other hand, I loved Bono's bizarre, humorous and wittily fitting appearance as "Doctor Robert", a self-proclaimed electric messiah who apparently comes to parties with his own personal PA system (or is it a Mr. Microphone cranked to 11?) as he sings to the crowd's orgasmic oohs, "I Am the Walrus".

Another highlight is a very simple, touching and heart-rending version of "Let It Be" sung by a young African-American boy in the middle of the violent race riots and police brutality of Detroit 1960s.

If these last 2 examples are any indication (and there are many more), the talented director Julie Taymor gave some of these songs the red carpet treatment and put them in the most provocative, social and historical context.

But then suddenly there's a really sappy and unnecessary 5 minutes of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" that has no bearing on culture, history or even the plot.

The plot itself is nothing special, but set against the backdrop of the 60s and the domestic unrest over the Vietnam War, it becomes powerful. It's a simple boy-meets-girl story but with tons of quirky characters in the mix (one for every song, and I believe there are 33 songs). My gripe with the plot is that it flirts with making powerful statements about the 60s peace movement, but just when you think it's something you can sink your teeth into, it falls to an inane, predictable romcom cliché, like a misunderstanding because they don't spend enough time together, blah blah blah. (This is one of the moments of "sheer stupid".)

But then, lo and behold, the story shifts to a brilliantly satirical hospital scene with (Vietnam vet) Joe Anderson and (buxom nurse) Salma Hayek singing "Happiness Is A Warm Gun." Thus the needle tips back to "sheer brilliance".

Ultimately I enjoyed this film. It's a worthwhile ride, and the talents of the actors and filmmakers are unquestionable. I just found myself periodically irritated by cheap gimmicks to sell a song or two, and I wish those parts could have been edited out, because otherwise I would've raved about what a great film this would've been.

As it stands, my favorite Beatles remake musical remains "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" featuring the excellent music of The Bee Gees (pre-disco) as well as other fantastic musicians (Earth Wind & Fire, Alice Cooper, Peter Frampton, and who can forget the awesome finale by the 5th Beatle himself, the late great Billy Preston).
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Well-made using the best actors in the biz, but here's why it didn't work for me
18 February 2019
Not just the big names Matt Damon & Scarlett Johansson, but this film features a favorite actor of mine Thomas Hayden Church (best known from the sitcom "Wings", but you gotta check out his brilliant deadpan performance in the dark comedy-murder-mystery "Don McKay"), making me think it would be an instant hit with me. Add the talents of director Cameron Crowe ("Jerry Maguire" and, hands down, the best 20-something romcom "Singles"), and also add the fact that I love animals more than life itself, and you'd think this movie couldn't fail. Somehow it did, and here's why...

In its efforts to straddle the genres of family film, adult comedy, and deep character drama, it seemed to lose its identity completely. Billed most prominently as a family film, its presentation certainly started off too heavy, dwelling on the complex pain of Matt Damon's character trying to get over a family tragedy whilst single handedly raising 2 young children, one of whom is a disturbed boy who draws violent pictures and keeps getting kicked out of schools. That sentence is a mouthful, isn't it? It sure is, and certainly the film gets off to bizarre start by spending 30 minutes in this subdued, dark theme.

At the same time, it introduces some humor and levity, but to me that was unconvincing. Close up shots of the little girl doing cute things like making a pbj sandwich and cheerfully helping her father throw out old clothes aren't enough to offset the dark, brooding mood. Actually I would've loved if the film had mostly stayed in this zone, because in itself it is very interesting to the adult crowd. But then to fulfill the "family movie" audiences, it abruptly shifts into wacky and somewhat predictable Disney territory once they buy the zoo.

Again, I have nothing against wacky predictable Disney movies. It was just jarring to have the gears shifted on me. I haven't researched the actual writing and production of this film, but I would bet every last dime that the executive producers (financeers) were constantly interrupting the natural flow of filmmaking in order to "keep it family friendly". The result seemed to be a mostly identityless cross-genre compromise.

Highlights: I LOVED Thomas Hayden Church's wry, cynical humor. He was the glue that kept things together for me, through his deadpan commentary on the state of things. Matt Damon himself did a great job of acting, but I think his performance was much more suited for a heavy drama.

I may give this film another go sometime, now that I have a better idea how to approach it. Similarly, if you've read this far, you'll have an idea of what to expect and maybe you'll enjoy the film as a whole. Either way, it's not a bad film; it just didn't live up to the high expectations that these great professionals should be measured against.
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A review for the clueless who are wondering why they should watch a movie about movie posters
17 February 2019
My review is positive, but I can't add much that hasn't already been said by other reviewers who are more knowledgeable. So instead I'll offer a perspective that hasn't yet been covered here.

If, like me, you know NOTHING about movie posters (aside from maybe recognizing the iconic Jaws image of a buxom beach beauty being stalked by an underwater creature that can only be compared to a Mesozoic dinosaur) and are simply interested in this title because the subject is so bizarre you figure it has to be a hilarious mockumentary, then unfortunately you'll be disappointed. "24x36" is exactly what it claims to be, no more, no less, "A movie about movie posters."

But don't run away yawning just yet. Although I thought this film missed a great opportunity to approach the subject in a fun, cheeky and dramatic way (like "Ambassadors of Hollywood" about people who make a living by dressing up as movie characters and strutting down Hollywood Blvd for tips), "24x36" still delivers. It's informative without getting over the heads of newbies, and by appealing to our sensibilities as art lovers, it proves its point that movie posters are an equally important part of art culture. My only gripe is that it just hits the subject head-on as if you, the moviegoer, specifically want to see a movie about movie posters.

In that respect, parts seemed a bit dry to me, since the entire 82 min experience is composed of interviews with people you don't know, and, with the exception of one charmingly quirky character (I can't remember his name, but he's the artist who talks about getting a gun and ending it all), all the interviewees are normal people. In other words, no drama, no suspense and no real mystery.

Before you yell at me "This is a documentary, not Orson Welles' The Third Man!" let me point out that it's possible to have an informative documentary whilst having a little fun at the same time. For example, Orson Welles' own "F for Fake" is a documentary about art forgeries, and Welles manages to draw us into a clever little story, and ultimately a wonderful practical joke payoff, while also approaching the subject very seriously. Another great example is "King of Kongs", a documentary about a videogame tournament that weaves a heart-pounding rivalry between the 'good guy' and 'the douchebag'.

Here in "24x36" they flirted with this dramatic approach in the way they suspensefully introduced "Rob" the eccentric director of Mondo. Before we see a stitch of him, we get a slew of people talking about him and his bizarre behavior. Next we see him but only half of him, not his face, only his lower half dressed in a flamboyant rose colored suit that looks like something out of Prince's hand-me-downs. A+ for that style of filmmaking; I would've liked to see more of that stylistic approach just to spice up the show a bit.

Instead most of this documentary is straightforward. There are some real gems of information, and there are a couple of individuals whose opinions on movie posters, and art in general, are extremely thought-provoking. But unless this documentary has your full attention, it's easy to find your mind wandering a bit, just as it would during an 82 minute college lecture.

In the end, I was satisfied with having learned a lot which gave me a much deeper appreciation of the archaic (yet still going strong) art of movie posters. It's a well made documentary with good edits and eye catching visuals. But if you were hoping for a quirky, offbeat, humorous documentary, I would first check out the aforementioned "Ambassadors of Hollywood" (comic con fans), "King of Kongs" (80s videogames), "F for Fake" (art forgeries), as well as my favorite documentary ever, about a has-been 80s metal band attempting a comeback, "Anvil! The Story of Anvil".
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The genre "comedy" doesn't do it justice
26 June 2018
The genre "comedy" as well as the cheery pink DVD cover and breezy description may lead you to believe that this is a silly madcap comedy along the lines of Police Academy #(whatever number they're on). If that's what you're expecting, then you're in for a few surprises.

The story is about a TV soap opera writer, "Miguel", who reluctantly becomes "friends" with a police officer, "Brancho", who is an obsessed fan of the soap. Brancho learns that the soap plans to kill off its lead character, so he begins stalking, harassing and violently threatening Miguel with the warning, you guessed it, "It's better that Gabriela doesn't die."

With a setup like this, the film could've easily chosen to be as wacky as "Weekend at Bernies", but it's definitely not. It begins cheeky enough, but it soon becomes unsettling as we realize that the police officers isn't just a silly ham. He's every bit as violent and unhinged as Robert De Niro in "The Untouchables." Brancho's descent into psycopathy is not played off as silly; it's done very seriously. Thus, toward the end the story is hardly a comedy any more but almost a thriller.

Yet, it remains peppered with some really fun moments (such as the mysterious "Abigail" character who is a bizarre cross between a drag queen and every James Bond villain you've ever seen), so it's not like the film drops the comedy facade entirely. Perhaps it can be broadly compared to something like "Pulp Fiction" which has elements of comedy as well as serious, disturbing drama.

The cinema nerds amongst us will love some of the artistic shots and creative camera work, as well as the subtle jabs at lame soap opera "cinematography". And the arthouse crowd will be wowed by 2 or 3 really "out there" scenes that'll have you scratching your head and stroking your beard.

Despite all this, the flick can still be watched for pure entertainment value, although that's like watching "2001: A Space Odyssey" for the music. There's a lot going on here, and I think if you want the full experience you should be ready for everything, not just a "comedy".
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Dream House (2011)
A really great idea...
2 June 2018
First what you should know up front: "Dream House" is not a horror flick. Also it's rated PG-13 which means it's pretty tame (no gore, no explicit violence, etc), so if you're looking for something along the lines of The Exorcist you might wanna stick with The Exorcist.

In lieu of buckets of bile and terrifying demons, we get a really clever and tense story about a family in a remote house slowly uncovering the details of a bizarre unsolved mass murder that happened under their roof 5 years earlier. Strap on your seatbelt because the plot has more twists and turns than the Grand Prix, and there are a few total 180 turnarounds that might lose you if you're not paying attention. But overall I thought it was a great story.

My only criticism is, due to it's somewhat tame PG-13 presentation, the film loses some of its edge. At times it can feel almost like a "family film" which is totally at odds with its otherwise creepy vibe. Imagine if The Exorcist had been directed by Steven Spielberg, and maybe you'll catch my drift. In fact, "Dream House" does indeed have a Spielbergesque quality to it (as in the original "Poltergeist"), which may be to your liking, but for a lot of horror/thriller fans it's too clean and perhaps ties things up in too neat of a bundle in the end.

Acting is great all around, and I have to mention the GREAT job by the 2 sisters (and real life sisters) Taylor Geare and Claire Geare. They were ages 10 and 5 respectively and did a really convincing performance, particularly in a few scenes where they bring out an otherworldly element that's hard to describe.

I recommend this movie for its original story which digs deep into psychology and the twists of the human mind. No chainsaws or blood sucking vampires here, just a really interesting thriller that should captivate any mystery fan.
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Cedar Rapids (2011)
Hands down The best coming-of-age film for 40 somethings.
9 May 2018
In all fairness I've never seen any other coming-of-age films for 40 somethings, so it's not much of a competition. But if this movie is any indication, there should be more.

"Cedar Rapids" is the story of a 40 something small town insurance salesman "Lippe" (Ed Helms) who leaves his small town for the first time. He travels to Cedar Rapids for an insurance convention in what turns out to be sort of a spring break for grown ups. And amidst all the hijinks he realizes some startling realizations about the real world which you & I might take for granted, but as seen through the eyes of a sheltered overgrown boyscout like Lippe, these realizations take on new meaning.

Yes, it's a comedy, but don't expect a raucous madcap misadventure like your standard teen coming-of-age flick. Instead what sets this apart is its level of maturity while being wacky. Lippe isn't stupid, he's just sheltered. So he learns quickly, and that's the power of this story. A plot like this could've easily been played for cheap laughs, but instead it forsakes the predictable cartoonish gags in lieu of something more like real life. That's not saying it's boring or dry (Lippe has his first exposure to alcohol, skinny dipping, prostitutes, drugs and fights, not to mention his hilariously awkward first time meeting a black man) so there's plenty going on. But it's all handled very tastefully--almost charmingly--rather than silly. And yet you still laugh because it's just so bizarre.

At the heart of the film is a timeless revelation we all can appreciate: what happens when the protected bubble you've lived in suddenly pops? Whether you're a kid learning there's no Santa Claus, or an adult learning that your idealistic view of the world was naïve, the feeling is the same, and this movie captures that feeling in a great way.

The entire cast is spectacular with a stand out performance by John C Reilly (you might recognize as "Dewey Cox" in Walk Hard) who plays a despicable cheeseball "Ziegler" whom you come to love. Isiah Whitlock Jr plays "Ronimal", Lippe's first black friend, who is almost as clueless as Lippe but stay tuned as he does an awesome parody of the gritty tv show "The Wire" (which Whitlock starred in). Rounding out Lippe's circle of new misfit friends is Anne Heche who plays "O-Fox", sort of the convention slut.

"Cedar Rapids" is a really clever and entertaining story that doesn't sink to crass humor to make its point (ok maybe there's 1 fart joke during the end credits). In a weird way it reminded me of "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" or maybe the hilarious indie real estate comedy "Open House". I never thought I'd sit through a 90 min movie about an insurance convention, but this one really surprised me.
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Dear John (I) (2010)
Dammit, Lasse Hallström made me cry again
2 May 2018
Lasse Hallström, the Swedish director who gave us Chocolat (2001), Gilbert Grape (1993) and Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009) is at it again - making chick flicks for guys. This means, unlike your stereotypical chick flick whose leading man is a hollow beefcakey stud with as much personality as the scenery, here we get a complex beefcakey stud whom the chicks can swoon over whilst the bros say "duuuuude he's cool."

In this case the protagonist is "John" (Channing Tatum) who plays an Army Special Forces character who can kill you with a toothpick but has total control over his emotions. Until, of couse, he meets "Savannah" (Amanda Seyfried) over his 2 week furlough before going back to war.

As you might guess, the story explores the ultimate long distance relationship as John completes his 1 year tour as a soldier while Savannah waits at home. Sounds boring? Well wait, there are complications. John's father is autistic and his mother abandoned them years ago. So John is forced to be the responsible one, but the whole war/love thing throws him out of whack.

Meanwhile Savannah has a few secrets of her own (and I gotta admit I totally didn't see it coming). And on top if it all, 9/11 hits and this forces John to make a decision whether to stay with his platoon and most likely get his butt blown off, or retire once his initial tour is over. Oh, and the movie begins with John getting blasted by gunfire, meaning the story unfolds in a huge flashback leaving us wondering the whole time if John dies or not.

This is a very sentimental flick, much like the other Hallström movies I mentioned, but it doesn't get sappy or predictable. In fact at least 3 plot twists took me by total surprise. And I'm talking like "whoa duuuuude I never saw THAT coming" surprise.

"Dear John" focuses on interpersonal relationships when duty comes into play - and I'm not just talking about duty toward your country (a cleverly woven parallel), but duty to parents, children and those who need help. This is juxtaposed against selfish happiness, or the storybook love. Pay close attention to the characters' choices & sacrifices, and how these choices are based on duty/selflessness rather than "getting the girl". I think that's what makes this a unique romance. Whereas most Hollywood romance flicks focus on the problems of 2 lovers, "Dear John" presents us with an ideal love that is complicated by external loyalties.

The trademark of Hallström movies is some other issue (not just love) driving the characters, and that's why these films aren't sappy or predictable. Another trademark is is use of gorgeous scenery, in this case the beaches of Charleston SC. He achieves a very nostalgic beach feeling, even for those of us who have only been to the beach once or twice in our lives (see also his film "Safe Haven" filmed in Southport, NC).

"Dear John" is a quiet, sentimental film, so don't expect action, car chases & robots. But it delivers a few tricky plot twists, so it's never boring. If you're not familiar with Hallström's style, I'd say it's artistic without being over-the-top artsy. Think of Kieslowsky (Blue, White, Red trilogy) or Wim Wenders (Paris Texas, Wings of Desire) or possibly even Steven Soderbergh (Sex Lies & Videotape, Solaris, Magic Mike) and you'll have a general idea of how this film feels.
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The Greatest (2009)
Sentimentality is its strength ...or its downfall
30 April 2018
"The Greatest" feels like a Hallmark Channel movie with top A-list actors. Depending on what you think of the Hallmark Channel, this is either a compliment or an insult. As my title implies, sentimentality drives this story, not suspense or plot twists. Everything is (deliberately) predictable, meaning the actors' performances are the real attraction.

The story is about a dysfunctional family dealing with mourning and the extreme ways each person handles it, mostly in unflattering ways as if to show us how NOT to handle tragedy. The plot focuses on how they slowly attempt to reconcile their differences. The father (Pierce Brosnan) plays the stereotypical head of the household who refuses to break. The mother (Susan Sarandon) plays the self-absorbed victim who feels like she's the only one who's in pain. The son/brother (Johnny Simmons) totally disconnects as if he doesn't care. And a mysterious stranger who was the secret girlfriend (Carey Mulligan) represents the objective voice of reason with her wise, tolerant perspective, never really revealing her own struggle but instead seeking to draw the others out of their respective prisons.

If that description bores you, then you'll probably be bored by the movie. But if the core premise interests you, then give it a shot.

Although I said there are no plot twists, there are a few interesting complications (revealed right in the beginning) which spice up the story. Themes of infidelity, drug addiction, convicted criminals and unplanned pregnancy add some interesting flavor. But those remain off to the side so not to upstage the main story.

The climax and resolution comes down to a painful cliché which made me hate the movie at first, but now 24 hours later I think sometimes a cliché is the best way to make a point. I'm just mentioning that in case you have a similar reaction: give it some thought.

If you are looking for other quiet movies that focus on themes of loss and grieving, I recommend "Morning" (2010) - five chapters, or days, in the life of a couple suffering a tragedy; and on the lighter side I highly recommend "Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School" (2005) - the only movie that has multiple tragic deaths but manages to get your toes tapping to the Lindy Hop.
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This movie is good for the soul
28 April 2018
I'm ripping off another reviewer's title for "Lisbon Story" (the original "good for the soul" movie), but I can't think of a better description for "Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School."

I won't even get into the plot except to say that it's at times surprisingly dark, surprisingly uplifting, surprisingly tense, and just overall surprising. It deals with themes of devastating loss, rediscovery, pain, anger, violence, and confusion but in a way that gets your toes tapping to the Lindy Hop. Watch the movie, and that'll make sense.

If you've gotten past the supercilious title, which doubtlessly scares off anyone in the mood for Saw VIII, and you've gotten as far as the 3rd paragraph of this review which includes supercilious words like "supercilious", then I think you'll get it. This is a movie which explores the veneer of charm which we often use to cloak a deeper ugliness in our lives. But it doesn't do it sarcastically; it actually points out how an occasional ballroom dance may, occasionally, be the cure for the horrors that we experience.

It's no surprise that the filmmakers managed to snare an all star cast, because this is the kind of movie that actors (who aren't solely obsessed with money) would eagerly jump into. Award winning talent like John Goodman, Marisa Tomei, Mary Steenburgen, and some of my personal favorites like Ernie Hudson (The Crow, Ghostbusters) and Donnie Wahlberg (the aforementioned Saw movies) as well as a cameo by Danny Devito really bring this story to life. And of course there's the main character played by Robert Carlyle, an actor whom I'm not familiar with but I'll forever remember his performance here.

As for the dancing itself, no, it's not really a showcase of fancy footwork (for that, you should check out the awesome Aussie flick "Strictly Ballroom") although Donnie Wahlberg does some impressive moves as the hilarious cheeseball Baryshnikov wannabee who needs to button his shirt back above his navel. This is really a human story with elements of romcom, elements of tragedy, elements of suspense, and regardless of how it turns out "good for the soul."
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Eldorado (2008)
An otherwise decent, whimsical comedy is ruined by a very disturbing scene of a dog being abused and killed
28 April 2018
Eldorado starts out as a quirky, low key comedy along the lines of Jim Jarmusch (Night on Earth, Down by Law). Perhaps slow and uneventful by some people's tastes, but pretty humorous if you let the absurdity soak in. The story is about a couple of unlikely travel buddies who embark on a cross-Belgian roadtrip, alternately showcasing the gorgeous countryside and the bizarre characters they encounter.

But as you can guess by my title, for me and I believe for most American audiences, the film was upstaged by an unsettling sideplot about a dog being brutally killed. After watching the movie, I immediately googled the director trying to figure out why he would include this terrible juxtaposition in an otherwise playful film. You're not going to like what I learned.

According to an interview, this director's hallmark is to use a dog in his films. In this case he decided to use a dead dog. It was not intended as a major plot point but merely to express the contradictions in humans. In the scene, one character says and does something absolutely vile, but (as the director says in the interview) we are supposed to excuse him because he later shows that he is just human because he had a dog once.

Um. No. Perhaps blame it on a trans-Atlantic difference in how we love our dogs, but most civilized Americans will not, under any circumstances, excuse or condone the idea of a dog being tied up, thrown over a bridge, and left to die whimpering.

That's what my title refers to. Immediately I was so sickened by that scene and the characters' blasé reactions, that I lost all respect and empathy for the lot of them. Ultimately, after watching an 85 minute film, I was left wondering why I should care about anyone in the story. Of course this was not the director's intent; I suppose we were supposed to take the jarring scene more in stride. If you're a dog lover, or even a casual fan of animals, I guarantee you'll be very put off by the unnecessary brutality of that scene. I sure hope they didn't use a real dog (though it looked like they did).
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At first glance a standard revenge thriller... at second glance so much more
21 April 2018
I won't say anything about the plot except that it's centered around an "everyman" who goes on a revenge odyssey. In that respect it reminds me of the excellent "Harry Brown" released a year eariler with Michael Caine packing some artillery. But Edge of Darkness differs from the rest with its interesting layered story.

As "Tom Craven" (Mel Gibson) peels away the truth, so we also get wrapped up in the complexity of this story which touches on political thriller, tenuous loyalties, and--most intriguing--a mysterious character "Jedburgh" (Ray Winstone) who sips whiskey and smokes cigars with our hero, but (as our hero is fully aware) could at any minute put a bullet through his head.

And what's the point of all this madness? The point, or subtle theme underneath all the rollercoaster action, is that each individual must make his or her own choice to act independently. That sentence may not make much sense to you reading it in a review, but trust me it's what drives this story. Returning back to what I said about politics and tenuous loyalties, this story is about reaching that point where you break from the predictable and act on your own. Or as a memorable line in the film goes, "you had better decide whether you're hanging on the cross, or banging in the nails."
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My cranky old grandfather would love this film.
18 April 2018
Do you think Facebook is the devil? Are you proud of the fact that you don't know how to send an email? Do you eat bacon for breakfast, like 7 days a week, and scoff at those hippy doctors who tell you to watch your cholesterol? Then chances are you'll love "Parental Guidance". By the way, all of these things describe my grumpy grandfather, and I truly think he would love this movie.

"Parental Guidance" told from the perspective of cranky grampa Billy Crystal and peacekeeper grandma Bette Midler, is the story of 2 reluctant grandparents who must watch their uncontrollable, bratty grandkids for a week. The film ridicules everything "new" from twitter to smart technology to health food to positive parenting, and it shows us the "disastrous" consequences of embracing these things--from the viewpoint of grumpy gramps.

For example, the kids are outright disgusting aberrations of humanity. 5 minutes into the film, you want to go out back, cut a switch, and bushwhack them within an inch of their lives. At least that's what the film wants you to feel, because their stupid new age parents refuse to say the word "no" to them. Thus they turn into monsters.

Again, this is exactly how my own grumpy gramps thinks; he thinks teachers should have the right to beat kids for misbehaving. He thinks parents who watch their kids' sugar intake are morons because he grew up eating Super Sugar Crisp and look how well he turned out.

Billy Crystal taking this role, I can understand... he does a very good grump. But here's the big problem: since this is supposedly a family film, all of Billy's characteristic sarcasm (which made him entertaining in films like Harry Met Sally) isn watered down just shy of a good punchline. For a cranky old granpa to work, he should be a parody of himself so we can laugh at how extreme he is. But no, we didn't quite get that cynical wit that makes Billy fun.

So we're left with 90 mins of goofy new age stereotypes, bratty kids, and Billy rolling his eyes as if that's the punchline. In other words, it's pure situational comedy, and if you don't find the situation funny, then you're outta luck. If you're below the age of 75, you might want to avoid this movie.
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Protektor (2009)
Not your average Holocaust flick
14 April 2018
"Protektor" is one of the most unusual Holocaust movies I've seen. For starters, it takes a playful attitude--not quite dark humor but definitely quirky--with its plinky soundtrack (much of the music consists of a single staccato chord thrown in a scene) and with an odd fixation on bicycles. But what makes it really unusual is the complex, imperfect characters who serve as the protagonists.

The story spans 1938-1942 during the Czech occupation by Nazis. Our heroes are Hana, a Jewish movie star, and her husband Emil, a radio announcer who is not Jewish. Right at the outset we see that their marriage is not ideal. Emil is violently jealous of her flirtations (and possible infidelity) with other men while he himself gets involved with indiscretions with other women. I did not find either character particularly likeable, and this may have been deliberate on the part of the director. What follows once the Nazis take over is a slow escalating tension as Emil fraternizes with Nazis, supposedly to ensure is wife's protection but possibly also to further his selfish interests. Meanwhile Hana begins sneaking around with a mysterious young man who photographs her doing illegal things, flaunting her rebellion toward the Nazis.

So you see, it's not your standard Jewish victim vs. Nazi bad guy story. While there's no doubt that the Nazis are the brutes, there's a more subtle antagonsim between Hana and Emil which provides the real conflict amidst the backdrop of the Holocaust. There is also a cleverly-spun subplot of an assassination attempt against a high-ranking Nazi, and we don't get that full story until the end.

Visually, "Protektor" is very stylish, presenting a nostalgic 40s prism without the obvious clichés like black & white. Instead certain colors are muted while others pop out. There's a lot of high contrast which is pleasing on the eye, and there are a few moments of surrealism that add a nice original touch.

If you think you've seen all the Holocaust flicks out there, check this out. Or even if you have just a casual interest in Europe under Nazi occupation, this provides a great window on how life changed in the early years. If you don't necessarily like Holocaust flicks and just randomly picked up this movie based on its striking DVD cover (like I did), you may find it frustrating at first but ultimately it's a worthwhile experience.
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The Last Days of Patton (1986 TV Movie)
Joins Exorcist III in the list of great sequels starring George C Scott that people hated because they were expecting something different
10 April 2018
Like Exorcist III, a great movie that was largely shunned by original Exorcist fans because it wasn't spooky enough, "The Last Days of Patton" is another piece of powerful cinema which was shunned by many Patton fans because it didn't have enough action. The point in both of these sequels was not to continue/rehash the heart-pounding spectacle of the first, but rather to present a quiet, heavy, introspective, script driven drama. Who else but the great George C Scott can pull this off?

"The Last Days of Patton" begins on June 7, 1945 when a victorious Patton returned to Bedford, MA to throngs of fans & reporters, and it takes us through the last 6 months of Patton's life which ended in December that same year. There's no combat, no gunfire, no "war" other than a frustrated General Patton attempting to take charge and rebuild a war-ravaged Bavaria, much to the opposition of Eisenhower's political interests. This is a quiet drama that focuses on the private hell of a soldier without a war.

George C Scott and an excellent script full of literary quotations make this an intellectual film, and I'd be lying if I said I recognized all the references. I found myself pausing the movie so I could google things like who said "Up he rose, and forth they went / Away from battleground, fortress, tent / Mountain, wilderness, field and farm / Death and the General, arm-in-arm" (save you the trouble: it's Arthur Guiterman). The character also quotes Kipling, Foutenelle, Napoleon and others, with each quote holding deep significance and insight into the mind of the general.

One of the most memorable lines, spoken as only Scott could with a mix of bitter irony and light hearted humor: "I do not suffer, my friends; but I feel a certain difficulty in existence."

Supporting actors and actresses were fantastic with a standing ovation for Murray Hamilton (Patton's friend General Hap Gay) who himself was dying of cancer during filming and passed away the month it was released, Sep 1986. Knowing this, you might be particularly affected by a scene where Hap laments the impending death of his friend Patton, a quiet but powerful monologue where he talks about the tragedy of a great life ending in such a common way.

The only "problem" with this film, through no fault of its own, is that it's in serious need of restoration. The only available copies seem to be on DVD transferred from VHS in 4:3 made-for-tv screen size. I would pay good money if this were remastered from the original 35mm print and released on blu-ray. In the first half there are stunning scenes of the European natural landscape, as well as convincing recreations of war-torn Bavaria with wrecked streets and castles. Unfortunately since this is an obscure film, we might never get that. So grab it while you can.
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Yes Man (2008)
A feel good movie that doesn't feel stupid
8 April 2018
Meet Carl. He's the most negative person you've ever met. Only you'll never meet him because he hides from society being terminally annoyed by everyone. Unexpectedly, something happens which makes him say yes to everything.

Right in league with other fun & silly what-if plots like "The Invention of Lying" (a world where nobody ever lies) or "Stranger Than Fiction" (a guy who hears a narrator telling him his own life story), "Yes Man" is good clean entertainment that, who knows, might even change your life. Or at least get you out of the house once in a while.

"Yes Man" differs from the other 2 films I mentioned (great flicks by the way) in one important respect: it's not a bizarre alternate reality, nor is there anything really supernatural going on. So it's more down-to-earth and less wacky than you might expect. But that gives the actors more room to give it a personal touch. In other words, what makes this movie work isn't just a crazy story but good solid character development.

Jim Carey, who plays "Carl", is somewhat toned down compared to his manic "Mask" theatrics, but subtlety works to his advantage. (Note: if you want to see Carey in all his insane glory, check out the bonus features where he really lets loose). As he meets quirky characters, it's Carey who plays the straight man, and his deadpan expressions are hilarious. The way he tolerates his overexuberant boss "Norman" (Rhys Darby) is classic. Norman himself is something similar to Austin Powers in a business suit. Zooey Deschanel is, well, she's Zooey Deschanel - awesome and cute as hell, playing the role of a photography/jogging instructor by day and by night she sings in an alt band that has a total of 7 fans.

What's really fun about this movie is seeing how all the quirky characters converge in a well written story that all comes together with every character contributing. There aren't necessarily any bank capers or high speed chases (wait, actually there are sorta)--what I mean is, there aren't a lot of contrived plot twists and seat-gripping thrills; the film relies on its entertaining script and the aforementioned acting expertise. But it delivers a great story with never a dull moment. Should you watch "Yes Man"? My answer is.......... sure dude.
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Garden State (2004)
"True Stories from Suburbia"
30 March 2018
"Garden State" has a very specific brand of humor that not everyone is going to get immediately. But as writer/director/star Zach Braff says in the bonus interview, "Is it funny? {Interviewer says yeah} Good. I never know if anyone else is going to find them funny. If nothing else, I'm making a movie that I'll enjoy."

And that's why this movie works. In comedy, the worst thing you can do is try too hard to be funny. "Garden State" falls squarely in subtle, almost deadpan territory... meaning there aren't any big sight gags, slapstick or knockout punchlines.

In that respect I'd put it in the genre of "movies like Bill Murray would act in" except there's no Bill Murray. I'm referring to flicks like Coffee & Cigarettes, Rushmore, Royal Tenenbaums, Life Aquatic, which is essentially saying it's like a Wes Anderson film, or maybe Terry Zwigoff (Ghost World, Art School Confidential). There's a lot of visual storytelling, as in quirky symmetrical shots, stationary cameras on meticulously arranged sets, or a surreal vibe punctated by the camera slowly rising into the sky.

The story is something like famed French existentialist Albert Camus would write if he did comedy. A late-20s, emotionless, estranged son (Zach Braff) returns to his hometown to bury his mother. He seems devoid of all sentimentality as he wanders around meeting all sorts of crazy (and I mean crazy) characters from his past. Whether he's being nearly shot to death by an overenthusiastic cop, or molested by a hot blonde at a party, his range of emotion barely budges between bored and slightly perplexed. Then he meets his antithesis, a 20-something girl (Natalie Portman) whose range of emotion is somewhere between very amused and insanely happy.

It's the delightful contrast between these 2 characters, and their great on-screen chemistry, that turns an otherwise brooding sarcastic comedy into a really entertaining treat.

Another thing that really defines this film is the way every character, even the minor ones who only have 1 scene, are so bizarre and interesting that you feel like an entire movie spinoff could be made of each one. These characters include: 1) the grave digger who makes his real living by doing questionable things at the hardware store; 2) the grave digger's hot mom who is sleeping with her son's sworn enemy from high school; 3) the kid who got rich from inventing "silent velcro" and who now spends his time doing absolutely nothing; 4) the West African immigrant who is studying criminal justice and is obsessed with figuring out which dog is pissing on his phone; 5) the strange "Guardian of the Abyss" whom I won't spoil for you; and the list goes on.

The second half of the story focuses on a bizarre suburban quest the 3 main characters undertake, almost like in "Stand by Me" but with grownups and maybe a pornographic peepshow or two (btw the location of the climactic scene, "Kiernan's Quarry", is a real place--or at least it was until it got filled in & converted to condos a few years ago).

But as strange and nonsensical as it sounds, these are in fact "true stories from suburbia" as Zach Braff says. The entire film is a compilation of stories that happened to him and others in his small Jersey town growing up. "Garden State" has a magical way of bringing these seemingly random vignettes to our attention, making us understand the epic nature of obscurity.

So no, there may not be crazy car chases, bank heists or wacky jewel capers (...oh wait, actually there sorta is 1 wacky jewel caper), this film delivers a really entertaining ride from start to finish.
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Promised Land (2012)
Great movie *applause* ....(but wait, um, why is fracking bad?)
29 March 2018
Let's get this out of the way up front: I'm about as anti-fracking as they come. You've heard of tree huggers? Well, I'm a bedrock hugger. So you'd think to me this movie would be 100% environmental porn. Surprisingly, on that level my reaction was somewhat meh. We'll get to that in the 4th paragraph, but let's talk about the movie on a strictly artistic/entertainment level first.

Excellent. Great acting, good thoughtful pace without becoming boring (in fact it's amazing how interesting they made a subject which puts most people to sleep), nice artistic cinematography, and a truly original story. The story is about a good guy "Steve" (Matt Damon) who works for the natural gas company intent on convincing small rural townsfolk to lease their land to them so they can drill. Steve believes he & his company are doing the right thing by bringing money to the depressed rural economy, a no brainer. But things get complicated when he encounters resistance from some townsfolk and a mysterious environmentalist who isn't exactly fighting fair.

If you caught the clever spin, you see that the film flips the character stereotypes on us. The big corporation is the honest protagonist while the anti-fracking whistleblower is the shady character. I really liked that novel approach. But here's how it sort of falls short regarding the social message it seeks to deliver....

The movie barely gets into the actual debate over fracking (which, in a nutshell, is the practice of "drilling" by shooting water & chemicals deep into the ground so it knocks stuff loose and brings it to the surface. Sorta like fishing by dumping Ajax into a pond so the fish jump up into your boat). While the movie does mention this in 1 scene, that scene was played a bit over the top, with the mystery environmentalist lighting a desk on fire and threatening to incinerate a turtle to make his point. In other words you might miss what he's saying as you are marveling at how absurd he looks. The rest of the movie handles the debate in a similarly oblique way, focusing more on the cat-and-mouse drama between Steve and the environmentalist rather than the actual talking points. In that respect, this film didn't necessarily have to be about fracking; it could've been about a poker game, or a beauty contest, or anything where the goal is to be more convincing than your opponent.

Ultimately, the showdown comes to a clever climax and resolution where a speech wraps things up for us, and if this were an 80s teencom it would certainly deserve a slow clap, but at the same time it may leave you wondering "so wait... uh why is fracking bad?"

If you already know, or if you don't really care, then no problem. Without a doubt the movie is entertaining and worth your time. But if you were expecting a compelling exposé of why fracking is bad, aside from its rather unfortunate name, then you may end up disappointed and/or running to Google to get an education.

Contrasting this movie against classics like "The China Syndrome" (nuclear power) or "The Towering Inferno" (unethical building practices) where we are shown exactly what can go wrong, "Promised Land" doesn't take us there. It just tells us, through innuendo, that we should be afraid of fracking. That was an incredible missed opportunity for an otherwise powerful film.
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Dummy (2002)
Milla Jovovich OWNS this flick!
7 March 2018
"Dummy" is an impressive movie for many reasons, but let's start with the show stealer... Milla Jovovich. Her character is something like a female Beavis & Butthead rolled into one but with great character development and evolution which pays off with her riveting singing performance at the story's climax. Her scenes alone (which some appreciative youtubers have strung together for our enjoyment) are worth the price of admission.

Not to be overshadowed is Adrian Brody who plays a nerdy ventriloquist (whose only friend is Milla). And in case you're wondering, yes, he operated the puppet and did all the ventriloquism himself according to the credits at the end.

The story: a nerdy ventriloquist wannabe (Brody), who is living at home at age 30-something because he can't keep a real job, pairs up with his high school pal (Jovovich) to chase his dreams and simultaneously win the love of a girl he's stalking. The humor is that the two of them, Brody & Jovovich, play characters who are so socially stunted that they'd be lucky if they could ride a bus downtown, let alone achieve their dreams of glory. By the way, Milla's dream is to be a punk rocker, but she keeps getting waylaid by the fact that her guitarist can never seem to get the right "reeear-weew-breeer-woow" (that's a quote). Until they switch to a bizarre new music genre which I won't spoil, you just gotta check it out and you WON'T be disappointed.

There's a simultaneous subplot involving our hero's sister (played by the hilarious Illeana Douglas) who is a failed-singer-turned-wedding-planner also living at home at age 30-something whist being stalked by an alcoholic accountant who does community theater in his spare time.

Perhaps you've figured it out from my description; this is a film about people who have failed in various degrees to achieve their dreams, and now solidly rooted in mediocrity, they make their way through life on the line of sanity. And frequently tripping over said line.

"Dummy" is a true gem of quirky excellence. The comedic timing between Brody's subdued character and Jovovich's hyper manic character is impeccable. Not to mention other supporting characters like the mother, father and of course Brody's love interest who each play memorable roles that contribute greatly to the humor. "Dummy" is an all round solid comedy that deserves a respectable cult following. Definitely not a wooden performance. Har har.
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Starts out solid but comes undone like the buttons on Gina Gershon's shirt
1 March 2018
Ok first the good. The opening scene is cool. I mean, who doesn't want to see a pair of douchebaggy soccer fans get whipped against the Eiffel Tower like a couple of rag dolls? Who doesn't want to see a bunch of snotty French politicians get eaten by a 20ft laughing clown head? Who doesn't want to see the Eiffel Tower twisting around like that 90s dancing baby gif? 10 minutes into the flick I was on my 2nd bucket of popcorn.

Next we get a surprisingly sober initiation to the basic plot, which is even more surprisingly credible and quite prophetic, given the fact that the 2005 writers predicted the 2017 Trump Administration's reversal of all environmental safeguards (so we can all keep our jobs as coal miners). The film's premise is just as much political intrigue as it is mayhem flick: corrupt politicians bury years of environmental science warning us of doomsday, until one day it reaches critical mass and we get an apocalyptic wave of storms (not unlike the ones we had 6 months ago but with more murderous clown heads).

Gina Gershon makes a believable entrance as the new head of FEMA appointed mostly because the government needed a hot babe to do PR for the news cameras. She enters with an air of polite authority, yes a babe but intelligent and in control, actually a really good hero figure, dressed in a cool, conservative suit that makes the world as well as the audience take her seriously.

Oh but pay close attention to her wardrobe as the plot peels away (pun intended). Yes I have graphed a direct, scientific correlation between Gina Gershon's plunging neck line and the plunging credibility of this flick. As it gets lower & lower, as costume choices get tighter & tighter, as buttons come unbuttonier & unbuttonier--to the point where I was waiting for Gina to yell at the cameraman "Hey my eyes are up here!"--the plot turns into a serious case of WTF. The timeline gets compressed harder than Gina's cleavage, where one minute you'll have someone getting killed in a raging tsunami and, literally, the next scene is that person's funeral in the warm glow of sunlight, then back to panicked storm chasing, some random terrorists, a perfect marriage falling apart, politicians getting attacked by murderous frogs, and a totally bizarre plot element about a guy getting his arm stuck in a pipe 200ft up in the air while trying to fix the motherboard on his computer.

Did I miss anything? Probably. Because I was too damn distracted by Gina Gershon's neckline which is now down to her ankles.

Also I was distracted, to the point of epileptic seizures, by the hyper stylized, rapid fire, plain bizarre edits in the film which in 20 years will either be hailed as the greatest cinematic innovation since film noir, or just plain stupid.

But omg if you hadn't guessed, this movie is anything but boring. I mean, who doesn't want to see a trailer park get sucked into the sky as its residents scramble to rescue the plastic pink flamingoes from their doorsteps? Who doesn't want to see Tom Skerritt (Commander Dallas from the iconic scifi thriller "Alien") flying loop-de-loops in a $33 million SR-71 Blackbird... to save the world, you say?, just to collect data which could've been more easily received by a weather satellite, except that weather satellites don't have the great Tom Skerritt flying loop-de-loops in them. Who doesn't want to see the great James Brolin (the dashing hero of "Capricorn One") doing the electric slide from the pulpit of a tv ministry? Who doesn't want to see, omg the best part, Randy Quaid playing the deathwish storm chaser from, I dunno Arkansas by the sound of his accent, basically a reprise of his hilarious role as the Winnebago guy in "Christmas Vacation"?

So there you have it, this movie has everything. Sort of like a pineapple anchovy m&m pizza has everything. I don't know whether to rate this flick a zero or a gobjillion.
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