Monday, June 30, 2008

The RW Quarterly, Vol. I - Issue 2

Wow, another 13 weeks has practically flown by! Looking back since the last Quarterly, I was thinking of all the problems that have kept me from reviewing more films. Friends know my pesky chronic illness can sometimes sap my drive to write. Also, my regular gig as Government Mule has been tested as the job adds more and more saddlebags 'cross my swayback. Then my totally reliable home internet connection has been the culprit to blame in recent weeks. Overall though, I think I just watch way more movies than I can write about without going friggin' insane! This quarter I racked up 48 movies, which makes it seem like I was draggin' my feet at the beginning of the year (especially when you add in all the TV shows I watch - new and on DVD!)

Like last quarterly, if you see something I haven't reviewed that you'd like to hear my two cents about, let me know and I will add it to the review queue. Items italicized in blue will be receiving a review within the next few weeks, so check back.

The Reel Whore's Movies Watched
April 1 to June 30, 2008

40. Shine a Light

41. Talladega Nights:The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

42. Aliens

43. The Eye

44. Maria Full of Grace

45. The Quest

46. American Pie Presents: Beta House

47. Be Kind Rewind

48. The Brothers Solomon

49. The Forbidden Kingdom

50. Forgetting Sarah Marshall

51. Smart People

52. Baby Mama

53. Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

54. Baby Mama (yes a second viewing)

55. Iron Man

56. What Happens in Vegas…

57. Justice League: The New Frontier

58. My Blueberry Nights

59. Rescue Dawn

60. Redbelt

61. Indiana Jones & the Raiders of the Lost Ark

62. Young @ Heart

63. Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom

64. The Bucket List

65. Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

66. Teeth

67. Kung Fu Panda

68. Sex & the City Movie

69. Stephen King's The Mist

70. The Ruins

71. You Don't Mess With the Zohan

72. The Strangers

73. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

74. Primeval

75. The Fall

76. Paris, je t'aime

77. Then She Found Me

78. The Happening

79. The Big Lebowski

80. The Aviator

81. Suspiria

82. The Incredible Hulk

83. Get Smart

84. Chances of the World Changing

85. Wanted

86. Rounders

* Movies in Blue are currently in the review queue.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

That, and a Pair of Testicles.

The Big Lebowski

Original Release: 03.06.1998
Rated R

1 hour, 57 minutes


I am writing this because it was supposed to be a contribution to the LAMB Movie of the Month. Even though I am a day late and dollar short from being listed as a bonafide contributor, this is one film that deserves a few words.

If you haven't figured it out by the Dirty Undies subsection in my reviews or the Que Ridiculo! Award in my Confessions of a Reel Whore year-in-review segment, I'm what you call a fanatic of this particular Coen Brothers masterpiece. If you're like Donny and have no frame of reference for the film I am speaking of - and if you didn't get that reference, it's obvious you're like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie and wants to know - I am speaking, of course, about The Big Lebowski.

Jeffrey Lebowski, a.k.a. The Dude (Jeff Bridges, The Fisher King), is an easy breezy guy who spends his time bowling with his best buds Walter (John Goodman, Raising Arizona) and Donny (Steve Buscemi, Big Fish), drinking White Russians and adhering to a pretty strict drug regimen to keep his mind limber. One day the Dude returns home to be attacked by two men looking to collect money for debts his 'wife' Bunny Lebowski has incurred all over town. The Dude convinces these guys that it is all a case of mistaken identity. The Dude decides this aggression will not stand and seeks reparation from the other Jeffrey Lebowski. This mundane request ripples through the Dude's peaceful existence, introducing a barrage of eccentric characters, outrageous situations and a few drug-induced hallucinations. And to think, all Dude ever wanted was his rug back.

The Big Lebowski is the Coen Brothers' Bohemian Rhapsody!

There. I said it. A pretty bold statement to be sure, but one that is well deserving. To me, The Big Lebowski was that film project that the Coen Brothers knew was golden despite warnings to the contrary. There's no argument that it's a comedy, but it's got a smidgen of mystery, a touch of western flavor, and an astounding amount of poetry, both verbal and visual. I discover something new with every viewing. The Big Lebowski is just layer upon layer of detail. It's storytelling and direction at their greatest.

But the Coen Brothers wonderful style alone isn't what makes this movie click. The actors are phenomenal. I'd say that the Dude is the greatest role of Jeff Bridges' career. John Goodman's Walter - insanely fun. Julianne Moore (The Ladies Man) has a wealth of strong characters in her cv, but Maude rests in the top five. And John Turturro (Barton Fink) as fucking Jesus Quintana?! I gotta say, nobody fucks with the Jesus!

Also, the film features some great 'that guys' such as Jon Polito (Crow) and Peter Stormare (Constantine), a then up-and-coming Philip Seymour Hoffman (Flawless), and the rising-star- before-the-fall Tara Reid (American Pie). Plus, who doesn't love any excuse to see Sam Elliott (Road House)?

Dirty Undies
"It's my dirty undies, Dude, the whites." That line spawned this segment so it's only fair I mention it. Why do I use it? Well, according to
IMDB, the word Fuck is used 281 times in the movie; that's 2.4 times per minute. Not too shabby. Lebowski's got drug and alcohol use. It's got nudity. It's got naked porn superstar Asia Carrera. It's a little bloody. It's violent. Hell, it's got violent animals!

The Money Shot
I could probably write for a week on what The Big Lebowski means to me and what it should mean to you. The point is, it's a great fucking movie, and it's just a crying fucking shame if you've never seen it. I had the pleasure of seeing it on the big screen for the first time just a few weeks back. I still noticed something new. I still loved it. If you get the chance to see it, you may not get the true retro vibe of seeing preivews for Under the Cherry Moon, King Ralph, and Tucker: The Man and his Dream, but The Big Lebowski will still be entertaining without them.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Friday, June 27, 2008

This Hulk Actually Is Incredible!

The Incredible Hulk

Rated PG-13
1 hour, 54 minutes

Matinee ($$$)

Bruce Banner bottles bebidas in Brazil (say that five times fast!). He’s there keeping a low profile to avoid General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt, Mr. Brooks) who is searching the globe for a clue to his whereabouts. Dr. Banner (Edward Norton, Death to Smoochy) is also searching for a cure for the gamma radiation that causes him to mutate into the Big Green Monster when angry. An accident at the bottling plant and the hope of finding a cure in the States put Bruce on the road to escape the government and the monster within.

The Incredible Hulk is the Marvel reboot of the poorly executed Hulk of five years ago, and this version runs more smoothly. First off, the film plants itself firmly in the vein of the popular television series, giving glimpses of series stars Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. Beyond that, the laboratory experiment in which Bruce gets irradiated recalls exact scenes from the show. This film also harkens back to the series by showing the good doctor hitching rides, scrounging for clothes (looking for especially roomy pants) and getting beaten up by the local scruff.

Audiences benefit from a strong balance of story and carnage. We get some story, some butt whopping, more story, and then more destruction, which keeps us from getting bored. Norton is great as Banner, and Hurt has always been good at being a dick so the General role works. Tim Roth (Planet of the Apes) always gives his characters intensity, and his maniacal portrayal of the Hulk’s second opponent, Emil Blonsky, is no exception. Blonsky is a highly decorated veteran soldier whose only fear is losing his physical ability, and Roth captures his fervor perfectly. Bruce’s cohorts, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler, Armageddon) and Samuel Stearns (Tim Blake Nelson, Fido), manage to hold their own in this pseudo-scientific affair.

My only complaint lies with the shoddy CGI Hulk. Granted, the new ripped and ‘roided version is a thousand times better than that inflatable glowstick from the last movie, but it’s not awe-inspiring. I loved that he was proportionally more believable than the first, and if its creators ever manage to make Hulk resemble his acting counterpart we may have a winner.

One nagging question is what is Norton’s beef with the film? I heard rumors Norton did a total rewrite on Zak Penn’s weak script and wasn’t given the credit. Could it be because the CGI Hulk a) still looks like ass and b) doesn’t look like him because the rendering was done pre-casting? Maybe he didn’t like that the Hulk speaks. Who knows?! I’m just sad that this beef means we may be up for another casting crapshoot come the sequel.

Dirty Undies
Wispy voiced Liv wins runner-up as Hulk hottie. Top honors go to the smoking hot up- and-comer Débora Nascimento. Liv needs to get more sun on those pale gams if she hopes to contend with this bronze Brazilian beauty. The Hulk doesn’t want for action: Hulk crush cars! Hulk trash tanks! Hulk smash low expectations. The best part is the cartoonish look helps avoid an R rating for things like breaking the spur off your opponent’s arm and plunging it into his neck.

The Money Shot
If The Incredible Hulk set out to wipe Hulk from the minds of moviegoers, mission accomplished. The Incredible Hulk had me excited watching him wreak havoc. It even went one better, by establishing enough viable characters and potential storylines to make me tingly for a sequel.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

PG-13 Films Rock!

After being in town the past few days and leaving to find my trusty internets working perfectly, I have had nothing but time to prepare the following revelation: I love the Motion Picture Association of America! I find it reassuring that a group of anonymous individuals can be the moral guidepost for today's busy parents. It is good that parents can rely on these like-minded and consistently accurate censors to rate a film as safe for our children aged thirteen to seventeen.

Never has a grander label been created. Credit cannot be entirely given to the MPAA; in his own words, Steven Spielberg "invented the rating" in response to parental outrage in 1984 over his Temple of Doom and Gremlins films. Since that time, the PG-13 rating has been the hallmark of quality in cinema. The middle-of-the-road banner has lifted so many kid-friendly pictures into risque fare and turned so many vulgar and graphic films away from the dreaded R-rating.

For example, last summer's Live Free or Die Hard was the first of the four-film franchise to receive a PG-13 rating. Granted, the PG-13 of 1984 has become extremely lenient in more recent years, allowing scripts to pepper more hints of nakedness, rampant violence and the ability to drop an "F" bomb or other suggestively vulgar slur. At the least, the rating kept John McClane from uttering his tired catchphrase. Thanks to the PG-13 bump, "yippie ki yay motherf-" is all that can be heard before a gunshot ripping into his shoulder drowns out the nasty vulgarity.

Another triumph of the PG-13 shield is that it saved the population from being exposed to Scarlett Johansson's breasts in The Island. According to rumors, the steamy and totally unnecessary sex scene between Ms. Johansson and Ewan McGregor had her straddle him in the throes of passion with her bra firmly in place. Scarlett questioned the script, and eagerly offered to unleash her large, unappealing mammaries to make the scene supposedly more realistic and natural. However, director Michael Bay held strong to the principles of the PG-13 rating to ensure The Island could reach the masses.

I could cite dozens of horror films in recent years that have been phenomenal thanks to the PG-13 banner. 1408, The Ring, The Grudge, When a Stranger Calls and AVP: Alien vs. Predator are just the tip of the fantastic PG-13 horror iceberg. These films provide more creepiness in their languid atmosphere than gallons of blood, thousands of expletives or countless violent episodes could ever craft.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Steve Niles, creator of 30 Days of Night, who fought tooth and nail to get his property under the pesky R banner. He said the studios really wanted a PG-13 film that could appeal to the masses, but as he put it, how can you make a movie about vampires and not make it rated R? I don't know how you'd go about creating such a masterpiece, but everyone who knows me knows I'd be first in line for a vampire flick with the PG-13 mark of quality.

PG-13 is a wonderful way to expose youth to semi-adult concepts without all the peskiness of reality or grit. It also spares parents from having to share these experiences with their children when they can be spending time socializing with other adults. I know my sixteen-year-old cousin loves to go see the latest PG-13 blockbusters whenever she can find a babysitter for little Julia. I'm just surprised that it's not mandatory for every film released into major theaters to undergo the MPAA's approval so more films can receive the glorious PG-13 designation. Even though this isn't the case, luckily for audiences, the popularity of films in this category just fuels the need for more. It won't be long before the success of PG-13 films makes the R-rating obsolete. I say, that day can't come fast enough for us eager audiences.

This article has been made impossible by the Reel Whore not participating in Lazy Eye Theatre's Bizarro Blog-a-thon. I did nothing in my power to be certain I was the very first blogger to participate. I hope you hated it!

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

People I Want To Punch in the Face, Vol. 2

Vin Diesel

You Know Why.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Quickie: Be Kind Rewind

Release: 02.22.2008
DVD Release: 06.17.2008
Rated PG-13
1 hour, 41 minutes
Matinee ($$$) <
> Second-Run Seats ($$)

On a rundown corner in the town of Passaic, New Jersey sits a quaint little video store. That's right, a video, not DVD, rental shop called Be Kind Rewind. Owner Elroy Fletcher (Danny Glover, Shooter) is being coerced by the city planners to relocate because his shop/home isn't up to code. Mr. Fletcher leaves Mike (Mos Def, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) in charge while he goes on "vacation" with his only stipulation being to keep Mike's moronic friend Jerry (Jack Black, Orange County) out of the store. Meanwhile, Jerry's power plant sabotage backfires, magnetizing him, and badda bing, the entire inventory is erased. To appease the irate customers and keep making money, Mike and Jerry begin recreating the films. Their "sweded" versions soon become the hit of the neighborhood.

This wacky idea sprang from the mind of writer-director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Unfortunately, its execution was stunted. Jack Black is appropriately annoying as the idiot man-child constantly creating more problems than he's solving. Mos Def's Mike is all heart but a pushover, hence why Jerry is always adding to the trouble. The interaction between them is often clumsy as if Gondry is unsure how people should act. When their "sweded" films need a female lead, the addition of self-conscious dry cleaner Alma
(Melonie Diaz, Lords of Dogtown) makes the story progression even more awkward.

Be Kind Rewind excels in its spectacular visuals. The trio's "sweded" films are ingenious and hilarious. Cheese pizzas, strings of tinsel, and whatever garbage they can scrounge up from Jerry's junkyard home are employed with MacGyver-esque deftness to craft playful recreations of awesome moments from Robocop, Ghostbusters, Boyz n the Hood and many, many more. There's even a montage of improvised scenes that you could probably watch a dozen times and still not name every film. Gondry's passion for the visual aspect of film shines through these moments. However, the reality of the store's impending closure shakes us from this whimsical daydream.

One reviewer
my wife read calls Gondry's Be Kind Rewind a love letter to film. Undoubtedly the love and sweat are almost palpable behind this film's goofy guise. I still hold to my initial reaction; Be Kind Rewind is the most depressing feel-good comedy you'll see this year.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Monday, June 16, 2008

What, No Rerun Tribute?

The Happening

Release: 06.13.2008
Rated R
1 hour, 31 minutes

Group Rental ($)

Oh wait, Fred 'Rerun' Berry was on that great 70's show called What's Happening!!, and this is the new M. Night Shyamalan film The Happening. Really, you couldn't remotely confuse the two, but it makes for a cheesy and forced segue into the review of The Happening. Whether you've seen it or not, you have to be asking yourself, what's happening with The Happening? Let's try and dissect it:


What's Happening...

With the Story? Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg, Planet of the Apes) is a Philadelphia high school teacher married to Alma (Zooey Deschanel, Winter Passing), an office worker or something or other. Elliot gets word at school that Central Park was ground zero for some sort of terrorist attack and that school will be dismissed. He and Alma meet up with his friend Julian (John Leguizamo, The Honeymooners) at the train station to get out of the city in case there is another attack. More attacks occur, people die and our stars continue to flee from the all-encompassing threat.

With his story-telling?
The Happening is downright amateurish. The story is overly simplistic and is practically dragged behind the actors to the finish line. M. Night Shyamalan's films have always relied on deep, well-rounded characters; when you don't have any of those you have The Happening.

With the anti-twist?
Shyamalan is famous for his twist endings but the twist here is actually the beginning. The wise words of a lazy student are reiterated in the final scenes. Time and again we are told exactly what is happening with little debate or questioning. How incredibly boring.

With the budget?
M. Night couldn't afford spiffy alien costumes and makeup or nifty CGI for a supernatural phenomenon so we settle for a couple of really large fans. Whoosh! Whir! Whoosh!

With casting Wahlberg as a teacher? Dude, no. Totally not believable. Not. At. All.

With Alan Ruck?
That's right, Alan Ruck of Ferris Bueller fame is in The Happening. He's in it for all of ninety seconds, and half the time we watch the back of his head. That's just shameful misuse of a That Guy.

With Spencer Breslin?
I had high hopes for him after The Kid. Now it looks like he is the Eric Roberts to his sister Abigail's Julia.

With all the J People?
Jake, Julian, Jess, Jared, Josh, Mrs. Jones, Joey. I know you like patterns, Mr. Shyamalan, but what was the pattern here? I thought I saw it but it seems like you pussied out on us.

With the Environmental Movement? The "When Plants Attack" premise of M. Night's film single-handedly set back the Go Green initiative by a good decade. Way to kneecap Gore's efforts.

With folks' emotions? Hundreds of thousands of people are dying in the Northeast. Hell, some are falling dead at your feet! Do people scream, run, panic and punch each other in the jejunum for the last ticket on the train out of town? Nope. It's all orderly lines and mild anxiety in Shymalan's world. Has he never seen a George A. Romero film? When shit happens people get raw.

With the mood ring?
You'd think it'd be important, right? We practically see Wahlberg masturbate to the thing. I think it had lots to do with emotions and triggering the animosity of the cypresses, but do I look like I give a shit?

With the Lemon Drink? When our characters meet the solitary Mrs. Jones (Betty Buckley, Wyatt Earp), she's sipping a lemon drink as evidenced by the glass with the lemon slice floating in it and her comment about offering them some lemon drink. Um, M. Night, if the bat-shit crazy lady is so insular that she grows her own food and avoids human contact, show me the fucking lemon orchard in western Pennsylvania where she gathers her fruit!

With the R rating?
It was nice seeing the large amounts of blood. It would have been better had there been more graphic imagery than what the red band trailer showed. Blew its entire load on me before I even sat down.

With the looks in this picture?

Yep, that's despair. And not for the vicious, invisible killer lurking outside. It's genuine fear of the box-office death their careers may suffer for this.

With the audience?
I'll tell you what's happening, we're being suckered out of our hard-earned money!

and lastly...

What's Happening with The Happening?
Nothing. Nothing of consequence happens in The Happening. The Happening is bilking thousands of people out of millions of dollars. The Happening robbed me of ninety-one minutes of my life. On the plus side, The Happening is signaling the death knell of M. Night Shyamalan's career. Rest in peace.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

When Amway Sales Quotas are Down.

The Strangers

Release: 05.30.2008
Rated R

1 hour, 30 minutes

Matinee ($$$) <
>Second-Run Seats ($$)

We join Jimmy (Scott Speedman,
Underworld))and Kristen (Liv Tyler, Cookie's Fortune) as they are leaving a friend's wedding. For such a happy occasion, Jimmy and Kristen are far from happy with each other. As they return to Jimmy's folks' summer home, we learn through a series of exchanges and looks that the two care for each other deeply but they just aren't on the same page in their relationship. Their awkward silence is broken by a rap-rap-rapping on the door at 4am from a young girl asking for Tamara. Increasingly insistent knocks follow, and panic sets in as three people in masks begin tormenting the young couple.

IMDB credits the three strangers with names but I will refer to them as Papa Mask (Kip Weeks), Mama Mask (Laura Margolis) and Baby Mask (Gemma Ward). Papa Mask had the whole form-fitted stylish sack mask and the retro -pimp Napoleon Dynamite brown suit. Mama Mask had this kinda dowdy sixties-style attire, and you'll really only remember Baby Mask's long, unstyled blond hair. The Strangers isn't a fashion show, but the pace allows plenty of time to soak up the details. It's a good thing in part; the unhurried pacing helps build a terrific amount of first. As the film progresses, however, I became antsy. There was a time when it was time to nix the tension and make with the hacky-slashy. When I started paying more attention to the continuity issues and less to the fate of the couple, I knew this creeping, creepy tale had crapped out.

As for the actors, the Mask family did an admirable job of standing menacingly and sneaking up behind their prey. Speedman isn't given much to do except look perpetually morose, and that's before the baddies show. Ms. Tyler proves she can scream with the best of them but she looks rather goofy trying to skulk around on hands and knees. All in all, the story should have given both of them more to do to make audiences invest emotionally into their situation, but it didn't. Maybe the point of leaving them as blank slates was to create a shell audiences could imagine themselves in to heighten terror. I know I imagined putting some buckshot between the eyes of at least one of the Mask family.

Dirty Undies
I can't say I was especially enticed by either of the leads here. In fact, the first ominous knock of the evening comes as Speedman is sidling his jimmy up to Liv Tyler. I know my business time would not be interrupted by a strangers a-knocking at four friggin A.M.! Other than the language and smoking, this could have been a PG-13 affair. Most of the bloodshed is not inflicted onscreen. We're treated only to the gory aftermath.

The Money Shot
The Strangers works well on one single premise: tension is killer. It's the tension that had me amped up for carnage and mayhem as the Masks crept up behind their victims. It's the tension that had me wondering when the couple will snap and rage against their oppressors. Problem is, the added tension never snapped, only my patience did.

Papa Mask stalks at 4am. Oooh, the tension!

Papa Mask stalks again and with an axe...Oooh, the tension!

Mama Mask stalks....Oooh, the - Bah, you get the frellin' point!

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Trailer Trash: The Boondocks Season 2

As I sat at my PC, cursor blinking, my thoughts on The Strangers wouldn't manifest into a review. Then it came to me: today is Tuesday. Today is the day new movies are released on DVD. Today is the day The Boondocks Season 2 arrives in stores. Today is the day I can see the two episodes that were omitted from the regular season! Today is GLORIOUS!

Why did I choose to hype the television show The Boondocks Season 2 under the Trailer Trash banner instead of a movie? It was only about a year ago I had fully expected this phenomenal series to return to Adult Swim. Then for some reason it was delayed, and all we got was this intriguing trailer. If you've never seen The Boondocks, here's a little taste from Season 2:

Pure genius. This show can be rude and crude at times, but it is always funny and it'ss always saying something important. On October 8, 2007, my TV fix was complete as Episode 16
...Or Die Trying aired. I was on the floor. Week after week I was rolling on the floor, watching the same episodes two and three times, and entertaining my wife to no end by repeating phrases like "You gay" and "Eat a dick!" But my excitement was short-lived. Two of the episodes from Season 2 were pulled by Sony due to the threat of litigation from BET for defaming content. And with that, the second season was over. The countless Adult Swim repeats of The Boondocks episodes Tom, Sarah and Usher, The S Word, and Attack of the Killer Kung-Fu Wolf Bitch, were now just bitter reminders that I was short-changed my full entertainment.

Today I can say that no more! Today I can go out and buy the COMPLETE Boondocks Season 2. Today I can tell all my friends that if they don't know Aaron McGruder's work, there's no time like the present. Our TV shows are ending, June movies are looking rather weak, and it's too damn hot to be outside. Why not curl up with fifteen episodes of The Boondocks second season, or better yet, check out all thirty episodes from both seasons. Trust.

Watch it...unless you's a bitch!

Verdict: Moist With Antici...pation!

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Friday, June 6, 2008

Silky Smooth, with a Nice Sticky Ending

You Don't Mess With Zohan

Release: 06.06.2008
Rated PG-13
1 hour, 53 minutes

Matinee ($$$)

Zohan (Adam Sandler,
The Waterboy) is a counterterrorist agent of unequaled skills in the Israeli military. Despite being a "Rembrandt with a grenade" fighting and killing is not his true passion. Zohan sits in his darkened apartment dreaming of the day when he can move to New York and work for the iconic stylist Paul Mitchell. Upon arriving in New York, he finds his dreams of silky smooth hair difficult to achieve. He must not only hide from Middle Easterners who may recognize him, but Zohan discovers the only salon willing to work with an untrained stylist is owned by a lovely Palestinian woman named Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui, Waiting...).

For those of you who imagined You Don't Mess With the Zohan to be outrageously ridiculous, multiply that sentiment by a thousand and you're a smidgen closer to comprehending just how outlandish it is. Zohan is an unstoppable fighting machine. He can disassemble guns at break neck speeds, dodge and catch bullets and even do push ups with no hands. If that sounds a little too much to fathom, I'd suggest you give this flick a wide berth. If you dare to be bold, the over-the-top action antics of Zohan is a treat the likes of which has not been seen since Hot Shots.

It’s not all Herculean feats, retro hairstyles and disco grooving; You Don’t Mess With the Zohan sends a message. The story, penned by Sandler, Robert Smigel (TV Funhouse) and Judd Apatow (Fun With Dick and Jane), repeatedly dips into the troubles in Israel and how the conflict needs a resolution. An admirable message represented by the grudge between Zohan and his nemesis, the terrorist Phantom (John Turturro, Anger Management). In fact, for all its indescribable silliness, Sandler, Turturro and Chriquí play it as straight as it comes. The rest of the cast are a mixed bag. Many just cheese for the camera as their lame accents stumble from underneath bad moustaches. Other veteran supporters, like Lainie Kazan (The Big Hit) give it their Method acting standard. Oh yeah, and Nick Swardson (The Benchwarmers) is hilarious, but sorely underused.

Cameo Corner
We’ve come to expect an occasional wacky cameo in every Sandler screwball comedy, but Zohan is the Mecca of cameos. I’m not going to spoil it with a laundry list of appearances, but I will say that Sandler calls in folks from practically every film he’s done, and then some. I promise – no names - but in one specific instance, there is a cameo from someone I thought should never, never, NEVER appear in film again but she shows up and delivers yet another shudder-worthy performance.

Dirty Undies
The film is brimming with beautiful half-naked women, from Zohan’s adoring Israeli fans to Turturro’s gaggle of wives. Chriqui is yummy with her long dark locks and huge…talents. Surprisingly, Sandler is looking kinda tasty; at least, he bulked and toned his physique for the role. I’m not sure if he was confident enough to let it be himself or a butt double for all the nude scenes but, whoever’s keister it was, kudos! Don’t let the film’s action sequences worry you; it’s the thick sexual exchanges between Zohan and the middle-aged women that should really concern you.

The Money Shot
I get the impression You Don’t Mess With the Zohan is the culmination of Sandler’s wacky films. Not saying he won’t do others after this but I believe, in Sandler’s mind, this is his tour de force. I came in expecting absurdity and even I was shocked. Like Zohan’s beverage of choice, Fizzy Bubala, it may not sit so well to those unaccustomed to its unique flavor.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Yes, they use the Carl Douglas song.

Kung Fu Panda

Release: 06.06.2008
Rated PG

1 hour, 28 minutes

Full Price ($$$$) < > Matinee ($$$)

All his life young Po (Jack Black, Nacho Libre) has had dreams of being a legendary kung fu warrior like his idols the Furious Five. He knows about their every adventure; he knows every maneuver by heart, but he's the son of a noodle chef, and as dear old dad (James Hong, Mulan) reminds him,"broth is in our veins." When kung fu master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman, Hook) is forewarned of the dreaded return of Tai Lung (Ian McShane, Shrek the Third), a tournament is announced to name the dragon warrior. As the Furious Five contend for the honor, Po's attempts to glimpse the competition create a commotion that awards him the opportunity to train alongside the Five. With Tai Lung approaching, Shifu and the Five have little time to impart to Po the wisdom of the ancients.

Having mainstream actors lend their voices to animated films can be a mixed bag. During the first chunk of Kung Fu Panda, I found myself preoccupied in the throes of 'Dammit,I know that voice!' I got James Hong immediately (who wouldn't!?) but it was the credits that revealed Hoffman as Shifu and Angelina Jolie as Tigress. Personally, I like my animated characters' voices with a little more pizazz and, um, character. In that regard, Black and McShane save this film. Their voices, the staged antics and the familiar-but-well-laid plot drew my attention from my nagging hang-up and I began enjoying Kung Fu Panda.

Black, who I worried would grow tiresome, is quite lovable as an animated panda. His interactions with his compatriots offer up cute and funny moments aplenty. The CGI wasn't exceptionally cuddly - the animals had the appropriate fur or scales but they didn't have the rich visual texture of, say, Monsters, Inc.

Dirty Undies
You may not believe I'm going to say this: Kung Fu Panda is more action-packed than Indiana Jones 4. Sure, they're all cartoon animals but the fervor with which the Furious Five and Tai Lung battle rocks the very foundations of the city. The excellent crafting of the tale makes the impact of their punches feel more real as you actually fear for these characters. It's not as heart-wrenching as watching Optimus Prime die in Transformers: The Movie (circa 1986), but it does tug the heartstrings a little.

The Money Shot
Conventional and uninspired? Two of the scribes credited for this also wrote Bulletproof Monk; the same film sans the cute animals. It's absolutely conventional, but sometimes great storytelling is all you need. Quick paced with humor for both child and parent, this uphill climb is a fun exercise to enjoy with our underdog underpanda.

A.D.A! (Arrested Development Alert!)

Last thing, I promise:

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Trailer Trash: The June Gang Bang

Looks like we've made it to the thick of the summer. June has only eight major releases. I asked you, my readers, which of these eight films you were most anticipating. Third place was a four-way tie between Zohan, Kung Fu Panda, Get Smart and Wanted, each with a single vote. Coming in second with a whopping two votes was The Happening. No one seemed to think Indy 4 was worth all their summer attention, and the discordant blogging waves that have erupted since its release speak volumes. But which film was the most anticipated film of June? Incredible Hulk? Ha! Not hardly. Looks like the bulk of you (five to be exact) are saving your pennies to see the Dark Knight at the IMAX in July. That really speaks volumes about the June offerings.

But you know my ass can't be away from a theater seat for more than a few days, so get comfortable as I take in all the good, bad and really, really ugly of June.

Exercise the right to Cinematic Celibacy.
The Love Guru (06.20) Might as well start off with the most hideous first. I don't even know what to say about this. Mike Myers is truly drunk off his own wealth. Yeah, that's got to be the explanation. This doesn't look funny, just tired; oh, so very tired. I fear it will have the brainwashing effect Wild Hogs had on the masses. It's as if Myers thinks he's the second coming or something. Hmm...

WALL-E (06.27) I'm going to say what we're all thinking: WALL-E is the bizarre byproduct of human-robot reproduction. I always knew Johnny 5 had it in him to bed Stephanie given the proper attachment. So, Wall-E is like a Short Circuit Babies who works on a junk planet because society frowns on robo-human offspring. Then one day J5 Jr. falls for some sort of pocket fan who comes visiting. Yeah, that's about the size of it. Why would we not be interested in seeing this?

It's Friday, I don't want to be Alone.
Kung Fu Panda (06.06) I was stoked about this when I first saw the trailer. My wife, not so much. Maybe it reminded me too much of my younger days watching Ranma 1/2. After a while my wife's viewpoint, or maybe the repetition of Jack Black's prattle in the next thousand viewings of the trailer wore my anticipation down to a take it or leave it feeling.

The Incredible Hulk (06.13) The newest trailer released this week is what they should have been showing since Day One! It has Norton imitating the TV show's classic introduction before just barely showing the Big Green Machine at the end. Instead, we've been treated to the mega-lame onslaught of CG crapfest for the past several months. I've beat this horse to death in an earlier post, and my opinion hasn't changed. Let's get this over with already.

Wanted (06.27) *Exasperated Sigh* This film looks like a wet dream for action fans like myself. Tons of spectacular chases, shoot-outs and fights. Plus, it's got Morgan Freeman looking all Street Smart pimp! But I read the comic, and 1) I can't get over how much Angelina Jolie does not look like a smoking hot, kick-ass black woman; 2) the League of Assassins plot appears to omit Shithead and his fellow villains; and 3) the finale of the comic still gets my goat.

Moist with Antici...pation!
You Don't Mess With The Zohan (06.06) I've been excited about this since trailer #1. No one does side-splitting stupid like Sandler. This means we'll have to suffer through Rob Schneider in some inane supporting role but Nick Swardson will offset his lameness. Still not convinced? Robert Smigel and Judd Apatow helped Sandler write it, and it's directed by Happy Gilmore helmer Dennis Dugan. It's as if the stars are aligning on June 6!

The Happening (06.13) I admit this was a solid middle of the road for me despite Wahlberg and Deschanel starring. I think I still feel betrayed by M. Night for The Village; maybe you feel the same way. All that changed tonight when I saw the red-band trailer. For sheer shock and grotesqueness this will be awesome. Shyamalan, you may have won me back.

Get Smart (06.20) This is my Summer of LAMB prediction for sleeper hit. Steve Carell has the perfect timing and delivery to portray Maxwell Smart. I was a fan of the show as a kid, and even though I shattered my inflated perception of the show's greatness recently, that will have no impact on my hopes for Get Smart.

Whew, with only eight films, you don't think it'd take that much outta me! Disagree with any of my expectations? I'll sick the Guru on you!

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Quickie: The Eye

The Eye

Release: 02.01.2008
DVD Release: 06.03.2008
Rated PG-13
1 hour, 38 minutes

Second-Run Seats ($$)

Sydney Wells (Jessica Alba, Idle Hands) is a blind violinist who undergoes cornea transplant surgery. Once she opens her eyes to the world for the first time since childhood, she sees hazy apparitions that the doctors, her big sis Helen (Parker Posey, Blade: Trinity), and her appointed therapist, Dr. Faulkner (Alessandro Nivola, Face/Off), all attribute to brain-eye communication issues. As the weeks progress, Sydney realizes her visions are a mixture of the donor's memories and visions of the donor's second sight. The latter ability gives the newly sighted Sydney glimpses into the future, lost souls and ferrymen of the dead (a la Ghost).

Ever hear the old adage of getting more than you bargained for? Well, that's what happened to Sydney, but not to the audience. The Eye is just plain boring. Visually, it is interesting with some disconcerting spectral sequences unfolding before our and Sydney's eyes. These visuals are weighed down in a dull plot that can do nothing but drag viewers along desperately to its finale. I blame Gothika writer Sebastian Gutierrez for making me suffer as he did his due diligence.

Surprisingly, Alba does a respectable job making me believe she's blind and a violinist. Nivola sports wood for his comely patient yet simultaneously belittles her at every chance for her ludicrous theory that she's seeing dead people. If I had a therapist that was that big a dick to me, I'd use my new eyes to guide my foot in his crotch before finding a respectful doctor. Supporting actors Parker Posey and Rade Serbedzija (The Fog) are great talents wasted on hollow characters.

Going into the film, I thought it had one of the coolest posters ever. Coming out, I realized that the poster is the only good thing about The Eye. I think I have yet to enjoy any of the Asian horror remakes since this trend started, and I don't know why I expected this to be any different. For all Alba's determination, this is a tedious affair that's not the least bit scary.

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Monday, June 2, 2008

This is SO Our Lives!

Sex and the City

Release: 05.30.2008
Rated R

2 hours, 28 minutes

For Fans:
Matinee ($$$)
For Moviegoers: Second-Run Seats ($$)

What started out as a Saturday movie date between my wife and I doubled when two of our female friends decided to join us for
Sex and the City. As I stood in line next to several quartets of women dressed in their most stylish summer wear, the irony of my situation did not escape me. After staking our claim on a set of seats, I headed back out for my routine bladder flush in preparation for the two-plus hours ahead. As I opened the door, the very definition of the movie's characters - a Northerner - was entering. Her face widened into a smile as she said to me in her best Samantha-esque tone, "A man. I love it!" Assuming this wasn't my natural musk affecting her and more the idea of a man coughing up the cash for a chick flick, I couldn't help but wonder: In the world we live in today is it wrong for a man to enjoy a film aimed directly at women? Would I be labeled a prick for not tearing up at the tender moments? Should I be offended ladies assume I won't relate because I have a prick?

Putting those questions aside for a moment, let's talk plot. Sex picks up four years after the HBO series ended its six-year-long run. Carrie and Big decide to move in together, which leads to the big M. One really fancy dress, a couple of opinionated loudmouths, two hundred guests and a heap of anxiety later, a plot is born.

For any virgin audience members or those needing a S&C refresher, writer-director Michael Patrick King opens with a brief, scrapbook-style clip show from the lives of Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker, Honeymoon in Vegas), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon, Igby Goes Down), Samantha (Kim Cattrall, Mannequin) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis, Melrose Place). These ladies (listed in order according to screen-time and story significance) are reunited with all the regular supporting cast from Mr. Big (Chris Noth, The Glass House) to Stanford (Willie Garson, Fever Pitch) to Magda (Lynn Cohen, Munich).

Those who watched the series know a follow-up was unnecessary given its tidy conclusion. But hey, when the cow's still producing, don't put her out to pasture. In this case, the cow is King who develops some engaging new material. However, his bloated udders spew far too much story to be completely interesting. Sex and the City has far too many segues and plodding conversations that could have easily been cut for improved story-telling. Were three ad-hoc fashion montages really necessary?! Maybe if they'd been trimmed there would have been more time for equal story development among the four leads.

After six years in these roles would a long hiatus make the actors' reprisals clunky? As someone who has seen over half the episodes, the ladies and company are still true to form. The singular exception is the only new character, Carrie's assistant Louise (Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls). This role was not the best follow-up to Hudson's Oscar-winning performance. Further evidence of King's indulgent style, the role was conceived and implemented as a plot device, which gave her little to work with... so I can understand why she didn't really try.

Dirty Undies
For a film titled Sex and the City, the main ingredients have become the garnish. While the stories offer up adult situations, conversations and lots of use of the word sex, only half of the ladies offer up sexually graphic content. Me being a fan of Charlotte and Samantha, I wasn't entirely disappointed.

The Money Shot
Does my less-than-stellar experience prove the age-old adage that men weren't meant to understand women? Will men always view women from our perch atop Mars or can we possibly imagine life on Venus? Maybe we are asking all the wrong questions to all the wrong people. Maybe it's time we pull back that curtain and discover the great and powerful Oz is nothing more than a little man drunk on his own power.

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