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The Rats (2002)
A fun old-new horror film? Rats!
For a horror/thriller movie called "The Rats", this one is almost as good as any could be. The plot is predictable and the dialog cheesy, which makes this 2002 film feel like it was written in the 1940s. Mädchen Amick's acting style reminds me of Jennifer Lopez'. The opening sequence, which alternates between a woman trying on clothes in a department store and a rat crawling through the walls, is not how the entire movie plays. In fact, the opening scene was the hardest part of the movie for me to sit through. Beyond the first rat-human encounter, the film is Indiana Jones-style fun without Spielberg quality. The Rats is by no means a perfect or thoughtful film, but the film is remarkably fun.
Who's Nailin' Paylin? (2008)
Bad? You betcha!
Normally the seriously-bad-yet-somewhat-serious writing and acting is part of what makes a pornographic film funny. In this case, the writing attempts to be funny (but fails) and the acting attempts to be funny (but fails). This film is, unfortunately, not charming, nor particularly funny, and not at all coherent. Saying the scenes are barely related to each other is being generous, despite actual transition scenes! Ricky Gervais disinterestedly performed a reading of the script with Thandie Newton on The Graham Norton Show, and his reading was both more interesting than the film itself and more interested than I was when I saw the film. I admit, I fast-forwarded and skipped through the hardcore, dialog-free scenes, so perhaps the film has sexual merit. Artistic and literary merit, Who's Nailin' Paylin? has close to none.
Jedi Mind Trick
Obviously an early view into the View Askew world, Mallrats suffers some from inexperienced writing and direction from Kevin Smith himself. There are enough funny and original jokes to make the film worth watching (as well as several Looney Tunes, comic book, and video game references), but 13 years after its release, many of the jokes have been duplicated, reduplicated, and played out.
The dialog is unrealistic, which makes the movie straddle the line between classy and campy, sometimes charmingly, sometimes irritatingly. In fact, this movie will probably make anyone laugh at least once, be charmed at least once, and be irritated at least once. I dare you not to.
What Just Happened (2008)
I saw what just happened there.
The film is certainly enjoyable, and has several laugh-out-loud moments. However, like the film within the film, What Just Happened? feels too long. As a filmmaker myself, I really enjoyed this film, but I am afraid that much of the appeal will be missing in a general audience. A producer trying to change Bruce Willis' mind is pretty funny, but how funny is it to a non-producer or a non-Bruce-Willis? The performances, are, of course, outstanding. The entire cast is composed of nearly uncriticizable actors who are superb in any role they attempt. If you have an interest in how films come to be, this is a fun little flick. If you don't care about the behind-the-scenes, you may want to sit this one out.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)
Compared to Kevin Smiths other recent films, mediocre
While a far better film than 2001's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Zack and Miri Make a Porno is not nearly as good as 2006's Clerks II.
Craig Robinson and Jeff Anderson gave outstanding performances, as did the always-good Justin Long. Jason Mewes was also particularly funny, and so was Katie Morgan, who I recognized from two films that I saw in college: Katie Morgan: A Pornstar Revealed and Women In Black II. The lead actors were funny too.
However, even with these strong performances, the film is very predictable and rather boring. There are a few laugh-out-loud jokes, but the audience has to wait for quite a while in between these jokes.
I'm glad I saw it, but I don't care if I ever see it again.
A Call to Action
Not just a propaganda piece, and more accessible than most of Bill Maher's creative output, Religulous still preaches to the choir (please excuse this phrase). However, the film does not seek to convert; rather, Maher wants current agnostics to gather their courage and preach their doubts. Deeply atheist and deeply religious people who see the film will likely be offended or feel as though their time has been wasted.
While this film is not as funny as Borat, Religulous (which, at times is actually pretty scary) is a more powerful film because this film is true. For a project written by and starring Maher, the clips in the film are (for the most part) surprisingly fair. Maher does not try to make any of the people in the film look stupid (at least no more stupid than himself); in fact, he (usually) tries to help people consider the position not that their personal/religious beliefs are incorrect but that their personal beliefs may be incorrect. Most people in the film will not consider this possibility (these are the people Maher is warning us about), but several important and seemingly wise religious figures also featured in the film agree with Maher about the danger of certainty.
I recommend Frailty to anyone who would like to see a fictional, story-line illustration of the main theme of this documentary/propaganda film. I recommend Religulous to anyone who is comfortable enough with himself/herself to doubt their personal beliefs, to consider the possibility that (s)he might be wrong.