Thursday, February 28, 2008

Let's Get Rainforest Sweaty!


Release: 02/29/2008
Rated R
1 hour, 30 minutes


Jackie Moon, played by Will Ferrell (Anchorman: The Legend of Rob Burgundy), rises to the top of the 70's Billboard charts with his hit "Love Me Sexy." He puts aside his music passion to chase his love of basketball as the owner, coach and member of the American Basketball Association's Flint Tropics. When the ABA-NBA merger threatens to lay his well-intentioned if not well-skilled team asunder, Moon challenges the commissioners for a chance to be a NBA franchise. Pulling out all the stops, Jackie trades for NBA veteran Ed Monix, played by Woody Harrelson (Play It to the Bone), and begins a wacky series of promotions to increase Tropics attendance and attain the NBA dream.

If you recall my February Gang Bang, I wrote that Will Ferrell was due to have an occasional stinker and the trailers gave this one the stench of over-worn gym socks. I entered Semi-Pro with my expectations at an all-time low, and exited to proclaim Ferrell's funny streak continues! Harrelson plays it low key, an excellent straight man to Ferrell's insanity. They are joined by Andre Benjamin (Be Cool), Maura Tierney (Liar, Liar), a gaggle of usual suspects from Ferrell's previous films plus some SNL alums and crew members of The Daily Show. Benjamin and Tierney were good, but both characters were given little to work with. Not to spoil anything, but my favorite character, hands down, was Monix mega-fan Kyle, played by Rob Corddry (Blades of Glory). See the movie and you'll understand why. If all these funny people doing funny things weren't enough, audiences should get one helluva kick out of two cameos, one by an Academy Award-nominated actor and the other by a multiple Grammy Award winner -- anyone who reveals their identities are doing a disservice to audiences everywhere.

Like Ferrell's previous films, you can't shill out for Semi-Pro with the expectation of great cinema. What you can expect is wild, eccentric characters and outlandish scenes that may or may not be hilarious. If you've heard the "Love Me Sexy" song from the trailers, be prepared to hear it a lot more. Luckily, its stupid but catchy lyrics are offset by a great soundtrack of 70's soul, always a plus in my book. Semi-Pro is side-splittingly funny, period. Then again, I could be going through withdrawal for not having seen anything truly outrageous since, since...damn, it's been a while!

Dirty Undies
Semi-Pro derives a lot of its humor from physical violence. If you don't find slapping, punching and reckless gunplay amusing, maybe you should sit this one out. I should also mention that they don't hold back with cursing. I haven't seen language this foul and derogatory since I read lips during the last NBA game. The only thing Semi-Pro fumbled over in scoring the R rating was nudity. Will Ferrell teases us, as do the extensive crew of hot ball girls, but nobody puts the goods out there. I may have to call a technical foul on that one.

The Money Shot
I may have been a bit more vague than usual but too many details would spoil the surprises. All that matters are the great lines, goofy times and the semblance of an underdog story. After a month of hit-and-miss cinema, what more can you hope for to restore your faith in Hollywood?

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Sunday, February 24, 2008

And the Award Will Go To...

Stargazers, drumroll please!
As you know the 80th Annual Academy Awards begins in just about an hour and I promised I would give you my predictions for the big show.

Here's a breakdown of who I think will win and who I wish would win. Enjoy these while they last. If I get too many wrong, this post may just get lost in the ether.


Who Will Win

Wish Would Win

Best Picture No Country for Old Men There Will Be Blood
Best Director Joel Coen
and Ethan Coen
Paul Thomas Anderson
Best Actor Daniel Day-Lewis Daniel Day-Lewis
Best Actress Cate Blanchett Laura Linney
Best Supporting Actor Casey Affleck Tom Wilkinson
Best Supporting Actress Cate Blanchett Cate Blanchett
Best Original Screenplay Juno Lars and the Real Girl
Best Adapted Screenplay There Will Be Blood There Will Be Blood
Best Foreign Film Mongol didn't see any
Best Documentary Feature Taxi to the Dark Side didn't see any
Best Art Direction Atonement There Will Be Blood
Best Costume Design Elizabeth: The Golden Age Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Best Makeup Pirates of the Caribbean:
At World's End
didn't see the others
Best Sound Editing Ratatouille There Will Be Blood
Best Sound Mixing No Country for Old Men No Country for Old Men
Best Visual Effects Transformers Transformers
Best Original Song "Falling Slowly"
"Falling Slowly"
Best Original Score Ratatouille 3:10 to Yuma
Best Documentary Short Sari's Mother didn't see any
Best Live Action Short Le Mozart des Pickpockets didn't see any
Best Animated Short Peter & the Wolf didn't see any
Best Editing No Country for Old Men There Will be Blood
Best Cinematography No Country for Old Men No Country for Old Men
Best Animated Feature Ratatouille Persepolis
(though I haven't seen it!)

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Friday, February 22, 2008

More Than A Mouthful (02.22.08)

Hello Stargazers! It's been a busy week for the Reel Whore; thanks to that pesky little annoyance I call work taking me out of town. Hectic schedule aside, I couldn't end the week without mentioning a few things to my readers.

- I know you are all well aware that the 80th Annual Academy Awards are this Sunday! I know you know this because everyone has been following the extensive daily coverage over on the LAMB, entitled The Lamb Devours the Oscars. There ou can find my article discussing the Best Supporting Actor nominations along with in-depth articles from my fellow bloggers.

- If you mount the LAMB before tomorrow, you can enter to win a movie of your choice from Amazon by picking the Oscar winners. Here are a few more details about the contest.

The Reel Whore site has been undergoing a bit of construction. I've been laying pipe and pounding nails to get things flowing better. Until the final product is revealed, check out my new sidebar entitled "Who's on Top in 2008? (Listing of Best and Worst)." At the behest of my friend and longtime reader Chris, this is a running update of every 2008 film I have seen to date listed, obviously, with the best rising to the top and the dregs settling to the bottom. I have avoided this type of ranking because I feel it's hard to compare films across genres, but I am going to give it a shot.

- Finally, this week's What the Fuck?! moment goes to Lindsay Lohan and her Marilyn Monroe photo shoot. For those who haven't heard, Lohan's need for attention and publicity has evolved into her getting naked while not under the influence, in a 'tasteful' series of photos emulating the late Marilyn Monroe.

I am all for seeing folks naked, especially when they're offering, but she's one chick who can keep it under wraps. I miss the old "Mean Girls" cuteness (and, yes, I realize she was barely eighteen back then). I guess I just prefer my women bubbly and healthy. Now, she's an unbecoming shade of blonde, anemically thin, as curvy as a dragstrip and has a perpetual, doped-up expression. But hey, people think Paris Hilton is attractive - obviously the world is fucked up.

Did you know Marilyn Monroe died six weeks after her famous photo shoot? Does anyone else smell a follow-up publicity stunt from the Lohan camp? Show of hands for how many are hoping for a repeat of history. Don't worry; no one's counting.

- If you're curious to see my Oscar picks, check back this weekend for who I think should, and will, win on Sunday.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thrilling, From Any Vantage Point

Vantage Point

Realease: 02/22/2008
Rated PG-13
1 hour, 30 minutes

Matinee ($$$)

The setting: Salamanca, Spain. U.S. President Ashton, played by William Hurt (Syriana), faces a massive crowd gathered to mark the opening of an anti-terrorism summit. No sooner than he reaches the podium, two shots ring out. Shortly thereafter, an explosion is heard in the distance followed by another, more damaging explosion within the plaza. The Vantage Point of the GNN news crew attempts to follow the commotion under the leadership of producer Rex Brooks, portrayed by Sigourney Weaver (Tadpole). She barks orders to follow the President and his entourage. Just as the events reach their climax, the onscreen images blur to white and rewind back to the event’s beginning. You read that right; the film visibly backpedals, which takes us to...

Vantage Point, Take 2: Secret Service agent Thomas Barnes, played by Dennis Quaid (Any Given Sunday), prepares to guard the President for the first time since taking a bullet for the man six months earlier. Although other agents question his ability to handle the pressure, when the proverbial shit hits the fan, Barnes steps up to kick ass and take names. Seriously, you get the feeling that Quaid’s character woke up with the intention that he will, at any lengths, kill a mother fucker before the day is out. But before he can go all T-1000 on the bad guys, let’s blur to white, queue the annoying rewind visualization and…

Vantage Point, Take 3: Lonely American tourist Howard Lewis, played by Forest Whitaker (Phone Booth), soaks up the atmosphere in the crowded plaza. Being particularly observant, he sees the hackles on Barnes’ neck rise and uses his handycam to find the source of the tension. Further proving the selfless nature of Americans, he places himself in harm’s way to assist the Secret Service, but will he have the huevos rancheros necessary to save the day? A blur to white and a sigh of exasperation from the audience as we suffer through the rewind to…

Vantage Point, Take 4, 5, etc., featuring performances by Bruce McGill (Collateral), Matthew Fox (Smokin’ Aces), Said Tagmaoui (Hidalgo) and other actors whose characters all see stuff and do stuff while the audience picks up a few more pieces to the puzzle. Do all the rewind, rinse and repeat moments make it worth watching? Absolutely. I anticipated some sort of transition to shift amid the eight differing points of view, although I had hoped for a clever segue instead of the elementary, jarring effect used. I cannot say if I was more exasperated by the transitions or audience’s boisterous exasperation with them. My fellow audience members, after the second time it happens you either get fed up and leave or deal with it; don’t be a loud dick about it. But I digress. Transitions aside, the plot grabs your attention and keeps you involved from the ring of the first gunshot.

Dirty Undies
I didn’t always feel like the gunshots and car chases were all that harrowing. If the chase camera had been pulled back I think the action would have been better visualized. But a blurry, erratic barrage of bumpers and tires is the mainstay of modern cinema. Quaid is unstoppable almost to the point of unbelievable, but you’ll eat up every minute of it.

The Money Shot
If you miss the details of what transpires in those opening minutes, have no fear, the film delivers what it promises, take after take. It’s a bit implausible (if the Secret Service were really this inept, the last eight years would’ve been quite different for the U.S.), but few films are without their faults. Quaid fans will relish seeing him in a hefty role. I just hope the success of Vantage Point doesn’t inspire a dozen nauseatingly similar premises in the coming years.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Spiderwick Chronicles: The Cliff Notes Edition

The Spiderwick Chronicles
Release: 02/14/2008
Rated PG
1 hour, 37 minutes

Matinee ($$$)

Mary-Louise Parker (Saved!) in the matriarchal role of Helen, oldest daughter Mallory, played by Sarah Bolger, and twins Simon and Jared, played by Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland), comprise the The Pissed Family Grace. This high-strung family has left their NYC home to take roost in their looney aunt's creepy old home. After a botched attempt at dinner, a "rat" in the wall spurs the anger-riddled Jared into a destructive spree that reveals a hidden dumbwaiter. Left to clean up his mess, Jared uncovers a secret room with a secret chest that contains a secret book known as The Spiderwick Chronicles. Ignoring the neatly penned warning, Jared breaks the seal, awakening the ogre Mulgarath who sends his goblin armies to recover the book. Jared learns from his new friend Thimbletack, voiced by Martin Short (Three Amigos!), that he must protect the Chronicles at all costs lest Mulgarath obtain the book and use it to destroy the world.

I'd like to point out that my introductory paragraph, while lengthy, is at least as detailed, if not more than, The Spiderwick Chronicles. The mystery and magic of this fantastical world described by Arthur Spiderwick, portrayed by David Strathairn (Blue Car), is glossed over although it had the potential to flourish. Audiences are barraged by goblins, a pesky brownie-boggart and sylphs, but we aren't given a sense of connection to their magical world. The film's time is split between talking about the crazy aunt and her oddly stocked pantry (hint, hint: this will be important later) and reinforcing the point that the story's hero, Jared, really comes off as a prick. You get the feeling the rest of the family feels he is nothing more than the afterbirth that slithered out of his mother's filth, and they'd all be much happier had they put him in a glass jar to be displayed on the mantelpiece.

Dirty Undies
Being a kid's film you shouldn't expect any excessive language, sex and violence...and that's where you'd be wrong. While devoid of the first two, Spiderwick has to be the most visually brutal kid's film in my recent memory. Goblins gouge long bleeding gashes into their victims. Goblins and trolls are slaughtered by the dozens, with eyes plucked from their sockets and bodies collapsing into puddles of ooze. Mulgarath, voiced by Nick Nolte (Hulk), is scary as hell, and that's before he morphs from his unkempt, just-arrested-for-a-DWI human form into his ogre persona. Personally, I enjoyed the violence; I just wonder how many kids may piss their pants or stop reading because of this.

The Money Shot
The Spiderwick Chronicles teaches kids an important lesson about absentee fathers: if your dad leaves home to go live with another woman, he's probably an ogre and should be stabbed the first chance you get. If your dad just pops out for a pack of cigs for, I don't know, eighty or so years, don't hold it against him. He may just show up when you're on your deathbed to whisk you away to a magical place where novel adaptations make no sense.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Thursday, February 14, 2008

You’ll Wish You Could Jump Into a Different Movie


Release: 02/14/2008

Rated: PG-13

1 hour, 28 minutes

Second-Run Seats ($$)

Of the few memorable lines in Jumper, I remember most the main character's reference to "Marvel Team-up," a concept where two heroes join forces to battle a common foe. This got me thinking about those old-school trading cards I had growing up, and I couldn't help but wonder what if the cast of Jumper could be similarly summed up...

The "Heroes":

Actor: Hayden Christensen
Cred: Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
Reel Whore Codename:
Darth Lame

Character Name: David "Davey" "Riceball' Rice
Other Known Aliases:
Mannequin Skywalker
Jumper, Bank robber

Strengths: Teleportation, Extreme stubborness
Weaknesses: Electricity, Prone to monotonous inner dialogue, All-around dim-bulb

I accepted Star Wars as the stumbling block of Christensen’s career and banked on his Shattered Glass abilities, but it w
as for naught. He’s left one diminutive Naboo love interest for a petite Michigan waitress with whom he exhibits even less chemistry. In a film of jumping and ass-kicking, Christensen finds himself in extensive, vacuous inner monologue about his past with an emotionally stunted, Ben Stein-esque voice. In the brief action moments, he repeatedly gets his ass handed to him by Roland, leading us to wonder why should we care that he lives?

Actor: Jamie Bell
Cred: King Kong
Reel Whore Codename: The Bonkers Brit
Character Name:
Other Known Aliases:
Billy Elliot
Occupation: Jumper, Resistance fighter

Strengths: Bat-shit crazy, Teleportation, Owns an arsenal of weapons (except for guns)
Weaknesses: Electricity, Loner mentality, Owns an arsenal of weapons except for guns!

I will hear no disagreement to the fact that Bell is the best thing about Jumper. I'd have rather seen Davey eat it to allow the Griftster to go on a unbarred, teleportation-riddled killing spree among the Paladin ranks. Instead, the best character is left hanging with just enough story to establish a sequel no one will go see.

The “Villains”:

Actor: Samuel L. Jackson
Cred: xXx
Reel Whore Co
dename: The Silver Samuel
Character Name:
Other Known Aliases:
The Man of 1000 Hair-Dos, King of Cool
Occupation: Paladin; NSA- CIA- IRS impostor

Strengths: Righteous berserker rage when beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of Jumpers.
Weaknesses: Incompetent minions, Prone to excessive gloating after a successful righteous rage.

Having Jackson play an angry, no-nonsense badass is a can’t-lose decision, but failing to provide adequate explanation behind his character’s motivation and history stunts the viewer's interest. Giving him all of six minutes of action scenes rapes what little interest remained.

Actor: Diane Lane
Cred: Judge Dre
Reel Whore Codename: The Kiss of Death
Character Name:
Mary Rice
Other Known Aliases:
Bareback Brolin Rider
Paladin, Deadbeat Mom

Strengths: Limited screen time, Mature hotness
Weaknesses: Urge to help son, Inclusion as an excuse for lame sequel.

Mostly an afterthought, Lane is given very little to say and even less to do. She’s pretty much an excuse to add another pretty face and set up events for an inevitable sequel. See Lane (above) watch the remnants of her rising star fizzle into the horizon.

The By-Standers:

Actor: Rachel Bilson
Cred: The O.C.
Reel Whore Codename: Oh, She’s Not Sophia Bush
Character Name:
Other Known Aliases: The Crepe Paper Character, Bait
Occupation: Functionally retarded bar wench

Strengths: Functionally retarded, Cute and Dense
Weaknesses: Being Rachel Bilson.

Contrary to Davey’s abilities to instantaneously slip through the fabric of time and space, Bilson has the inability to act her way out of a wet paper sack. The adult Millie character is underwritten, and while bad for the film, it’s good because it’s doubtful Bilson could have handled any more dimension to her role. The biggest insult about the character of Millie is the casting director felt the talented AnnaSophia Robb (The Reaping) could grow up to be Rachel Bilson.

Actor: Michael Rooker
Reel Whore Codename: That Guy Who Plays the Bad Cop Who Isn’t David Morse
Character Name:
William Rice
Other Known Aliases: Dad, Remorseful Drunken Dad

Occupation: Mechanic?

Strengths: Being Michael Rooker.
Weaknesses: Needing to work in movies like this.

Michael Rooker doesn’t have the luxury afforded Jackson and Lane to be choosy. He works and he works hard, and for what? Acting far above board for characters that, in this case, don’t deserve his talents. It’s a shame what folks have to do for a paycheck.

The Masterminds:

Director and Writers: Doug Liman, David S. Goyer, Simon Kinberg, Jim Uhls

Reel Whore Codename: The Brainchildren
Other Known Aliases: Talented Guys
Occupation: Competent director and writers

Strengths: Making films like The Bourne Identity, Blade, Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Fight Club.
Collaboration on Jumper

I never thought I’d say this, but the photo (above) depicts the combined faces of evil. There’s a smugness and sneering that suggests, “We fuck you ups, man! We takes ze money!” I implore you gentlemen, seek help immediately!

Setting the character summaries aside, here's the quick and dirty synopsis:

Take a gander at the Official IMDB Plot Outline:
"A genetic anomaly allows a young man to teleport himself anywhere. He discovers this gift has existed for centuries and finds himself in a war that has been raging for thousands of years between "Jumpers" and those who have sworn to kill them."

So this “thousands of years” war over a power “centuries” old (I’m chronologically confused now) has declined into nothing more than a lot of hot air being blasted at lackeys or people too dense to understand.

Dirty Undies
Just a thought for those who want to make an action film: next time, put some fucking action into it. Also, when the bad British boy is tough enough to carry a flamethrower, maybe he should curse like a drunken sailor, too.

The Money Shot
The tagline read "Anywhere is Possible"; how ironic since this story goes absolutely nowhere. If you want my advice, anywhere is definitely better than being in a dark theater watching this.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

No Maybe About It, A Definite Must See

Definitely, Maybe

Release: 02/14/2008

Rated PG-13

1 hour, 45 minutes


Advertising exec William Hayes, portrayed by Ryan Reynolds (
Just Friends), traverses the busy streets of Manhattan to pick up his daughter, Maya, played by Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine). Troubled by her parents' impending divorce, Maya suckers Dad into reliving the tale of how he and her mom met. What Maya did not expect was that her dad had two other women in his life around the same time. Settling in to a series of flashbacks, Maya gets a bird's eye view of where Will's affections lie.

Before I break
Definitely, Maybe down, I'd like to stress that despite recent readers' opinions, I do not have a vagina...or a man-gina for that matter. I do consider myself in touch with my feminine side, and my inner Oprah is telling me that this is a extraordinarily romantic film. Reynolds, while looking too young to play father to a ten-year-old (especially within the established timeline), eliminates all doubt. He taps into the sarcasm that had me sold on him since episode one of Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place while conveying sincere vulnerability to create a character the audience can invest in emotionally.

Abigail "the Dakota Death-Knell" Breslin is spunky, adorable and on par with Reynolds' performance. Elizabeth Banks (
Seabiscuit), Rachel Weisz (About a Boy), and Isla Fisher (Hot Rod) portray the three women who share the leading man. Each offers a solid supporting role, but if I had to choose a favorite it'd easily go to Mrs. Cohen.

Writer and director Adam Brooks (
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason) does an excellent job of pacing the tale of the sordid affairs in the life of Will Hayes. Beginning the flashbacks during the other Clinton's presidential campaign of 1992 gives us thirty-somethings a soundtrack for our generation (remember the other Arrested Development). Brooks maintains the mystery behind which woman is Maya's mother, develops strong romantic bonds between the couples and creates a loving father-daughter relationship. In a genre rife with
unconvincing relationships and unbelievable outcomes, Definitely, Maybe presents a more realistic look at love with all its messy complications.

Dirty Undies

Definitely, Maybe is full of some BEAUTIFUL people! I couldn't help but imagine how satsifying a wild orgy with this cast would be. Granted, Weisz would have to get the sloppy thirds, maybe even sloppy fourths if Reynolds participates. Sadly, other than looking yummy enough to inspire said raunchiness, the film is visually chaste, i.e. no bedroom luster, no partially bare bodies, no appeal aside from the actors' smiling faces. The father-daughter candor is a bit cheeky and sexually tinted, but like the film's situations, the dialogue is ultimately tame and inoffensive. The most vulgar thing, which the film repeatedly points out, is William's past indulgences into smoking and drinking.

The Money Shot

To some of you, my masculinity may still be in question. However, there should be no doubt in anyone's mind, male or female, that
Definitely, Maybe is the romance to see this year. If I said you'd earn major brownie points for seeing 27 Dresses, you won't believe the relationship cred this will afford you.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Film Faux Parley: Freedomland

This week, the latest Samuel L. Jackson film Jumper opens. Seeing the numerous trailers reminds me of the good, bad, and ugly films he has made over the years. I often wonder what it would be like to candidly sit down with an actor and discover what's behind their film choices. With that in mind, I've printed an imagined interview that I have dubbed A Film Faux Parley. The title may be a bit weak, but trust the content is strong like bull.

(a.k.a. Free'dumb'land)

Release: 02/17/2006
DVD Release: 05/30/2006
Rated R
1 hour, 53 minutes

Group Rental ($)

Hello Stargazers, this is Wayne a.k.a. Reel Whore. Samuel L. Jackson (Kiss of Death), Julianne Moore (Psycho), and Edie Falco (Cop Land) star in this racially-charged thriller about a carjacking turned kidnapping. As the three work to find out the truth, the tension between the police and the residents of Armstrong Houses smolders like a powder keg. Joining me here today are the headliners of Freedomland. I'd like to extend a warm welcome to Samuel L. Jackson, Julianne Moore, and Edie Falco. I'm so glad you could join me.

Jackson: You’re welcome, happy to be here.
Moore: It’s a pleasure to be here today.
Falco: Yes, thank you for having us.

RW: Well, I've had the opportunity to see this film and I must say, it was quite painful and not in the good way. But before we get into who should be held accountable, let me first ask, what was it like working with each other?

Moore: Oh, it was such a pleasure. I have admired Edie for a long time. Despite all her success, I still don’t think she gets the respect her abilities deserve.
Falco: Juli, stop gushing! I could say the same for you. Just having the opportunity to work opposite you and Sam was a high point in my career. The accolades you two garner are more than deserved.
Moore: Now you should stop before I start blushing. But you are right, Edie, Sam is such a powerful actor and unless you work with him you just can’t know.
Falco: Truly.
Moore: To be honest, I would have taken the part for free to star opposite him, but don’t tell the producers that.

*laughs all around*

RW: Funny you should mention that Ms. Moore; we may have to come back to that later. What about you, Mr. Jackson? Waiting to get a word in edgewise?

Jackson: (chuckling) Well Wayne, I have to say that it was an honor working with two very talented and handsome women such as Edie and Julianne here. For years I have wanted to work with both of these fine actresses, but with our busy schedules and varied movie tastes it’s taken a while for a project to present itself.

RW: Indeed. It seems the three of you enjoyed each others’ time together immensely. I’m glad you brought up your varied movie tastes; it leads me to my next question. As busy as the three of you are, what exactly possessed you to put your reputations on the line for this excruciating piece of cinema?

Jackson: Honestly? I love a challenge and I love working. The idea sounded a lot better on paper, though I knew it would have its problems. I just didn’t realize how many until I was in too deep. (laughs)

RW: Have you ever thought about just saying ‘no’ every now and then? Your presence can’t save every movie.

Jackson: That’s easier said than done, son. See, I don’t think you understand me when I say I love to work. I have to work. It’s like an addiction. Why the hell do you think I play junkies so well? It’s not because I used to use drugs; it’s because I understand the nature of addiction. You ever see Deep Blue Sea? As Chappelle put it "a mother-fuckin’ shark ate me" in the first twenty pages of the script but I didn’t pass it up because at least it was a quick fix between bigger and better projects!

RW: Wow, that makes your career choices so much clearer. But let’s give your fellow actors a chance to defend themselves. Ms. Falco, why did you sign up for this?

Falco: For me, it’s even simpler. I love my recent fame, but I’d like to be known for something other than The Sopranos. I mean I have been acting for nearly twenty years but can you tell me anything I was in before that show?

RW: (pause) Point taken. How about you Ms. Moore? You have given outstanding performances in many highly praised films such as Magnolia and The Big Lebowski, yet you dropped the big “F” bomb on us with The Forgotten. Why did you decide to go for a second “F” bomb?

Moore: I approach every film with an equal amount of dedication. I am an artist committed to my craft, and I think despite the subject matter of any work, my commitment shines through above all.

RW: Believe me it does. No one sells crazy better than you. Really, your performance is the most memorable thing about Freedomland and this is coming from someone who wishes he could forget everything about the film. But that doesn’t answer why you wanted to do this film. Are you punishing the world for being snubbed at the Oscars a few years back?

Moore: (laughing) Oh dear, being nominated for both Best Actress and Supporting Actress in the same year is far from being snubbed. No, not winning either award has nothing to do with what you think of as my recent decline. I know that my fans appreciate me for my work regardless, and I always stick by my decisions.

RW: That’s your prerogative. I still don’t think we got the reason why you did this film, but we have to move on. Ms. Falco, when you were offered this role, were you aware that your character’s screen time would be so miniscule, or were you led to believe you had a more substantial part?

Falco: It’s funny you mention that. The role was, in fact, far meatier on paper than it ultimately became in the final cut. At first, I was very angry that all my efforts had fallen onto the cutting room floor. Now that I’ve seen the film, I’m happy my part was small enough that the public may forget that I was in this.

RW: Wait…I thought you took this role to get more attention and distance yourself from your TV personality. Now you’re saying folks should disregard this film altogether?

Falco: No, people should see this if they want to. They should just forget I was ever in it. There will be a better non-TV opportunity for me before too long.

RW: True, it is Hollywood after all. We haven’t heard from you in a while, Sam. Can I call you Sam?

Jackson: No you may not. I prefer Mr. Jackson or King of Cool.

RW: I apologize. So King of Cool, looking back on the film and the final cut, is there anything you regret about your time spent on this production?

Jackson: Yeah, I should have gotten paid a lot more.

RW: I thought you were addicted to working?

Jackson: I am. But not nearly as addicted as I am to money, or golfing. The way I figure, the more of my screen time that’s needed to carry a film, then the more I should get paid because I will need to spend a lot more time on the green to unwind afterwards.

RW: What a sordid, compulsory triangle. Not to be rude, King of Cool, but if anyone’s performance carried this film I’d have to say it was Ms. Moore’s stellar portrayal.

Jackson: (pausing) I’ll have to agree with you on that. Juli here is long overdue for the recognition she deserves. I for one was appalled when Julianne got snubbed back in '02 after getting passed by not once, but twice prior! If it was me, there’d be hell to pay by now! But I guess if Randy Newman can remain calm for being overlooked 15 times prior to his award, Juli here can tough it out a little longer.
Moore: (snorting, mumbling) Fuck you.
Jackson: Excuse me?
Moore: I’m sorry Sam, I didn’t mean that. What I meant to say was fuck the Academy! I pour my fucking heart and soul into every single film I’ve ever been in, even shit productions like this one, and for what?! I’ve managed to do everything necessary to win the Award. I’ve gotten naked, chosen completely out of character roles, fought tooth and nail to get the artsy films only to be passed over for the likes of who? Kim Basinger playing the whore she is, Nicole Kidman in a fake nose….wow, that was a stretch of talent! Not to mention Catherine Zeta-Jones gyrating around like she does at the Douglas mansion and Hilary Swank…(pause)...actually, Hilary was very deserving for her stint as a man in Boys Don’t Cry.

RW: Whoa, that’s quite a grudge list you have there, Ms. Moore. So has being repeatedly snubbed by the Academy sent you on a downward spiral in terms of film quality?

Moore: You just won’t let that go will you, you ass? Fine! I’ll tell you, but first let me clarify something. Untalented as some of those ladies may be, I don’t begrudge them. This is between me and the Academy. They need to be accountable to folks like me and Randy Newman. I mean, jeez, how the hell did Randy survive twenty years of rejection?! So here’s the way I figure it: I’ll plunge myself into these sub par productions that have no chance of even being seen by Academy members for a few more years, and when I jump back into a gripping film with my usual fervor the Academy should recognize my talents for their true merit.
Jackson: Damn Juli! I didn’t realize you were so consumed by this. If you’re looking for a few more trash projects, I’ve got about a half dozen in production right now you’re welcome to join, just say the word.
Falco: Yeah Juli. I wish I could offer you some roles like Sam, but if you ever want to take a break from the big screen, I'm sure I'll be in a TV gig before long that'd love to have you.
Moore: (sniffing) Thank you both. You’re too kind.
Falco: Well, we’re all about to go through a very difficult few weeks as the critics rip us a new one for Freedomland.

All: (Laughing)

RW: Well, that was a nice relief. Things were getting a bit…

Jackson: Yeah, things were getting a bit heavy thanks to you. Why did you have to keep picking at Juli like that? The real criminals here are director Joe Roth and writer Richard Price. Where the hell are they and why aren’t you grilling them?

RW: Funny you should mention them. I tried to contact both of them for today’s interview but it seems Mr. Roth was meeting with the DGA to save his membership card from being revoked and Mr. Price has returned to being flogged, for both Shaft and this.

Jackson: Oh, that’s where he’s been. I had forgotten about that. You know, that was nearly twenty movies ago for me.

RW: Twenty? Yeah, I guess you’d know. Not to pick, but I want to come back to something Ms. Moore said earlier. Since you’ve all admitted how bad this film is with all its stereotypes, its bloated racial tensions, and confusing child abduction story, would any of you be willing to give the public a refund if they waste their money to see this?

Falco: Not a chance.
Jackson: I don’t think so!
Moore: Oh, no. No way.

RW: Why not? Don’t you feel accountable?

Jackson: Please! Am I going door to door and putting a gun to every patron’s head, forcing them to see this film? No. If anyone’s dumb ass watches the film’s trailer and still thinks it’s a good idea to go see it, then it’s on them. Besides, no one comes between me and my money, or my tee time.
Falco: I have to agree with Sam, except for the golfing part. I spend my money on traveling. Besides, I am a TV star; I don’t get paid like my friends here.

RW: Understandable. Ms. Moore, how about you? Willing to pony up for your disappointed fans?

Moore: (laughing) to quote one of my favorite characters, “Qué Ridículo!

RW: (laughing) Good one. Well, we’re just about out of time. Any last words?

Jackson: Thanks for having us here today, Wayne. It’s been fun. Maybe we can do this for my other films?

RW: If we did that, Sam, it’d have to be a weekly interview!

Jackson: (laughing loudly) Too true my man…and what did I tell you about the ‘Sam’!?

RW: (bowing) Sorry, King of Cool. Ladies, anything to add?

Falco: I’d also like to thank you for the interview. And if I could add for your readers, don’t forget to email HBO and let them know how much you miss me!

RW: Normally I don’t allow shameless plugs, but in case someone actually sees Freedomland between now and then, you'll need a way to redeem yourself. Ms. Moore, you’ve been awfully quiet. I hope I haven’t upset you today?

Moore: Oh no, Wayne, you haven’t. And please call me Juli. I am glad I was given the chance to come here and talk with you.

RW: Me too, Juli. You truly are a shining star. I’m sure it won’t be long before you can call Oscar yours. The Academy just needs the chance to recognize, as we do, just how passionate you are for your craft.

Moore: Definitely. In the meantime, the Academy knows where they can stick that Oscar.

RW: I couldn’t have said it better myself. Again, I am honored you all found time to sit down with me today. I wish you continued success despite this stumbling block, Freedomland.

There you have it folks; not only from me, but the actors all agree this film isn’t worth watching the trailer on TV, let alone going to the theater. I hope you've enjoyed this premier edition of A Film Faux Parley. Good night.

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bewildering Strangeness

Strange Wilderness

Release: 02/01/2008
Rated R
1 hour, 27 minutes

Second-Run Seats ($$)

One of my favorite under-appreciated actors, Steve Zahn (Saving Silverman), stars as Peter Gaulke, host of a late-night TV wildlife program "Strange Wilderness." Under Peter's lead, the once-great show pioneered by his dad is in danger of being canceled. Fortunately, his dad's old coworker, Bill Calhoun, played by Joe Don Baker (Mars Attacks!), offers Peter access to a map that reveals the location of Bigfoot's secret South American lair. With only a few pennies to their names, Peter and his stoner crew set off to rescue the show that keeps them all moderately paid and semi-stocked in weed.

Costarring alongside Zahn is a slew of familiar goofball-comedy faces. Sandler mainstays Allen Covert and Peter Dante of Grandma's Boy fame play the sound guy Fred Wolf and driver Danny, respectively. These guys suckered Apatow's pal Jonah Hill (Accepted) into playing a gofer named Cooker. Hill in turn hustled Justin Long (Waiting...) into playing stoner camera guy Junior. I'm not sure how he fits ino the six degrees of separation, but Broken Lizard's Kevin Heffernan joined the crew as Whitaker, an alcoholic animal handler. The general idea is a lot of funny people called in a lot of favors from a lot of other funny people to make something that is, ultimately, surprisingly unfunny and tedious.

I am being a bit harsh. Zahn worked amazingly hard, as did Covert, Long, et al., for a film that attains humor sporadically. When they strike that golden note it rings true, but the gags mostly fall flat. The most hilarious moments are Zahn's voiceovers for ancient
Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom footage. This style of comedy would work better as a mockumentary reality series a la Reno 911!. To sum it up, there's a scene where Zahn criticizes his script because it was written on a cocktail napkin by the drunk and stoned crew the night before. I think the film's writers, Peter Gaulke and Fred Wolf (yes, they borrowed their own names for the lead roles), did indeed pen their script in much the same fashion. Entire sequences seem altered mid-film as if the writers were making it up as they went along, and everyone involved was too high to care.

Not that you care to know, but the scenery, when not 70's animal footage, is comprised of roadside petting zoo-quality faux jungle. Also, the elusive Bigfoot looks like a well-worn left over from
Harry and the Hendersons. But don't let the noticeable zipper bother you because the ludicrous 'Foot results in the funniest of the non-voiceover moments.

Dirty Undies
In case you weren't sure, there are scenes of drug use. There are also a couple of cock-and-balls jokes with prosthetics used nicely for gross-out effect. The language is foul and crude so that's a plus. I give a big thumbs up to Justin Long for being the most insanely funny of the ensemble. Conversely, Jonah Hill deserves the nod of shame and a resounding WTF?! He whips out this weird southern-esque accent that is completely unnecessary and totally unfunny. I assume he's trying to apply the Ben Stiller shtick to his comedy and it so did not work.

The Money Shot

I went into Strange Wilderness with high hopes. I left Strange Wilderness wishing these people hadn't been so fucking high. I laughed, but not nearly as much as I could have given the caliber of the comedic talent assembled. If you do see this, I suggest employing Smokey's pre-community service lifestyle:

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