About This Blog

A place to find my reviews not featured on epinions.com or horror-asylum.com, as well as opinions and lists on everything from movies to TV to music. It's all about me! Send hate mail to vegie18th@hotmail.com or just leave a comment beneath the posts. Review grading system assumes C+ is somewhere in the vicinity of a Passing grade or minor fail.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Review: The Prime Gig


Vince Vaughn plays a small-time telemarketer whose gig working for the frankly shonky Stephen Tobolowsky and J.J. Johnston ends, leaving the already barely scraping by employees out of pocket and out of work. Then an attractive woman (miscast Julia Ormond) approaches him with an offer to work with a previously incarcerated bigwig (Ed Harris), Vaughn having previously expressed interest (to rivals Randy and Jason Sklar) in working for the man. Harris presents a positive and seemingly legit front, but Vaughn isn’t so sure. Meanwhile, he starts a relationship with Ormond, Harris’ cool and aloof business partner. Is this business venture too good to be true? Did I mention that Harris was previously incarcerated and it’s Ed Freakin’ Harris? Rory Cochrane plays the disabled and somewhat lazy brother Vaughn cares for (I’m disabled and lazy myself, just so you know), whilst Romany Malco Jr., Amber Benson, and Tom Wright play his co-workers. George Wendt, Wallace Shawn, and Brian George play his former co-workers (whom the film clunkily forgets about after the opening scenes).

 

Don’t let the interesting line-up of actors fool you, this 2000 indie flick from director Gregory Mosher (A Broadway guy in his first and last film directorial assignment) and screenwriter William Wheeler (who wrote “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”) is clich├ęd, transparent, and disappointing. There’s two memorable scenes in the entire film. One is where Vince Vaughn is trying to reel in an old lady and we see the call visualised as an in-person conversation. It’s a break from the norm. The second scene is the film’s interesting, open ending. It’s got a quietly sad quality to it that I rather liked. Other than those two scenes, and amusing cameos by Randy and Jason Sklar, the film is forgettable.

 

Vaughn works out the truth about Harris and Ormond more than an hour after the audience, despite it being a less than 90 minute film. Ormond is simply miscast, by the way. The British actress was at home playing Guinevere in the underrated “First Knight” but has struggled to find the right role since then. This role screams for a Famke Janssen, Gina Gershon, or someone else with a harder, more cynical (and sexy) edge to them. Ormond just doesn’t have it in her, and there’s no reason for the character to be British, either.

 

Although his role is transparent, the only way Ed Harris’ casting could’ve been more amusing is if he played the Stephen Tobolowsky role instead. His, and every other performance aside from Ormond is fine (though the Rory Cochrane character is pretty irritating), but the film is transparent, and never finds the right tone, either. It gives star Vince Vaughn the chance to play a nice- if not virtuous- guy (and he’s quite solid in the role), but this low-key blend of “Boiler Room” and “Glengarry Glen Ross” is too short, familiar, and insubstantial to matter. You’ll wish it was better, and that actors like George Wendt, Stephen Tobolowsky (who has never played someone this ‘normal’ that I can recall), Wallace Shawn, and especially a lively Romany Malco were given more to do.

 

There’s a reason why you’ve never heard of this film before, and why Mosher hasn’t directed since. A very good reason.

 

Rating: C

Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: Dream Lover


Kristy McNichol stars as a NY jazz flautist, newly moved into the area with boyfriend Justin Deas. One night she is attacked in her apartment and nearly raped, before she fatally stabs the intruder. Unfortunately, the nightmare has only begun for her- she’s literally having nightmares about the incident. It doesn’t help that Deas cheats on her, and there’s something not quite right with her relationship with dad Paul Shenar, either (Kissing on the lips for one thing). Along comes Ben Masters, a handsome dream analysis researcher who wants McNichol to be a part of his experiments. And hey, if it cures her of her problems, that’s a bonus. Unfortunately, it looks as though it’ll only make things worse. John McMartin and Gayle Hunnicutt play family friends (who are only in the film to cast aspersions on Mr. Shenar for possible red herring purposes).

 

Not the crowning achievement in the career of director Alan J. Pakula (“Klute”, “All the President’s Men”, “Sophie’s Choice”), this 1986 psycho-drama/quasi-horror film is pretty poorly done. Star Kristy McNichol is usually a charismatic presence on screen, but she seems completely uninterested in being here, and given the subpar Brian De Palma-esque nature of the material, I don’t really blame her. Scripted by Jon Boorstin (who worked for Pakula in various technical capacities over the years, but has become mostly a TV writer since the 90s), the film’s idea of reading a person’s dreams on a graph is absurd. How can you tell what exactly she was dreaming about just by looking at a graph? You can’t get specific info like that from a simple graph. “Spellbound” this ain’t, it’s more like the dated “Brainstorm” and “Dreamscape”, but much worse (Apparently there was a ‘technical consultant’ involved, but my guess is their expertise was in hydroponics, not dream analysis). Then again, this is a film that shows McNichol, already miscast as a jazz flautist, getting a record deal in 1986 playing the flute and attempting to scat. Um…no, sweetie. Just no.

 

The wonderfully surreal, dream-like cinematography by ace Sven Nykvist (“Persona”, “Cries and Whispers”, “Chaplin”, “Sleepless in Seattle”) is a major asset, but despite not being easy to predict the ending, the film is still bloody awful. It’s shockingly edited (including some appallingly amateurish night/day/night gaffes), confusingly plotted, drab, and ultimately pointless. McNichol looks sensational in teeny weeny cotton panties, though. That’s an important detail.

 

I’m really not sure what Pakula saw in this material, and you’d have to be a die-hard McNichol fan to get much out of this misfire which eschews chills and horrors for wannabe-Bergman dry pretentiousness and goober jazz flute lameness.

 

Rating: D+

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The 25 Most Unintentionally Irritating Characters in Cinematic History


Some characters are meant to be irritating, but every now and then a Jar-Jar Binks comes along, whom the filmmakers have obviously intended for you to love, but every fibre of your being is urging you to pound your head against a brick wall repeatedly because that would be a more pleasurable experience than spending any more time with that annoying, ear-bleedingly nauseating, skull-crushingly unbearable character. This is a list of the 10 most egregious examples of such characters. A word of warning, though, I only used Jar-Jar as an example because he's the first thing that'll pop into your mind. I actually never hated the guy myself (Gen. Grievous on the other hand...won't be here either, but I hated that guy so much). So if you were looking for him here, you won't find him. Also, I have not considered any Nic Cage character for the list, simply because the list would need to be changed to: "10 Irritating as Fuck Characters Played Horribly By Nic Cage". Same goes for Zach Galifianakis. I also can't include "Juno"  because I hated that character so much I turned the film off in

less than 10 minutes and haven't had the intestinal fortitude to revisit it. Seriously, that girl...

 

Enjoy!

 

25. Snowy (the dog), "The Adventures of Tintin" (2011) -

Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg's little nostalgia trip did nothing for me, but it was the annoying little shit Snowy, Tintin's doggie sidekick that earned most of my ire. He's like those idiots who hang out behind roving reporters on TV waving and carrying on trying to get some attention. Except this was a 90+ minute movie, and the little turd wouldn't shut the hell up. It's almost enough to stop me from being an animal lover.

 

24. Taylor Worth (Mark Harmon), "Worth Winning"  (1989) -

I don't know how much Mark Harmon's charmless performance is at play here, but given how charming he has been elsewhere, I'm gonna say that Taylor Worth is just an arrogant, cruel, smarmy schmuck, and one of the least charming leading characters of the 80s at least. The smarmy, wannabe Ferris Bueller asides to camera are one thing, but this golf playing weatherman is a sleaze who videotapes his dates, like a true scumbag. This guy might be the least deserving of a happy ending of any character I've come across. Seemingly in his 30s, he's way too old to be playing frat house bets about getting engaged to three separate women. And the character was created by two female screenwriters!

 

23. Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen), the first "Toy Story" (1995) -

Yes, that's right, just the first film. You see, in the first (and otherwise enjoyable) "Toy Story", Buzz Lightyear was an enormous knob. He was a single-minded, deluded twit who thinks he's a real space ranger, not a toy. He's a pompous tit, and being a 'new' toy isn't an excuse for being so annoying. Thankfully, by the second film he has settled into being just one of the toys. See what I did there? Pretty proud of that one...

 

22. Francis Robinson (Kevin Corcoran), "Swiss Family Robinson" (1960) -

I know kids can't help but be selfish sometimes, it's in their nature, and being young once, I know I acted selfish too. OK so I’m still selfish…um, anyway. But my god does Francis, the youngest Robinson make you want to strangle him at every turn. Hypothetically speaking of course. But seriously, this kid was a horrible miscalculation of both screenwriting and casting (Corcoran is one of the worst child actors in cinematic history), beginning with his constant shouting during the shipwreck scene, almost enough to wish he bloody well drowned (once again, hypothetically speaking of course). But he becomes even worse once the family comes ashore. He's a reckless little monster who gets himself into trouble by doggedly attempting to trap wild animals. It's cruel, dangerous, and if he got eaten, it'd be his own goddamn fault. I'm sorry, but he deserved to be tiger food. Nope, not hypothetical tiger food, actual tiger food.    

 

21. Jesse and Celeste (Andy Samburg, Rashida Jones), "Celeste and Jesse Forever" (2012) –

These are two of the most irritating, self-absorbed, immature tits in romantic comedy history. They are unlikeable users who can't commit to anyone, and at one point, their behaviour potentially affects the life of an unborn child. A romantic comedy is the one genre you want to be light, fluffy, generally uncomplicated, and featuring likeable people you want to see get together by the end. The only reason to want to see these two selfish schmucks get together is so they can stop ruining anyone else's life. Sadly, although the film's ending seems to want me to think otherwise, I don't think either character grows at all as a result of their experiences in this film. They are horrible users, and an extremely ill-fit for a romantic comedy.

 

20. Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), "The Amazing Spider Man" (2012) -

This Peter Parker is no Spider Man, he's a giant Spider Douche. I mean, Tony Stark is a flippant toolbag in the “Iron Man” and “Avengers” films, but as played by Andrew Garfield and his stylised 'bed hair', this Peter Parker is a selfish prick who is responsible for two people dying and one person turning into a supervillain. Superhero? Not one bit, Spider Man is the villain in this film as far as I'm concerned. It's one of the biggest miscalculations of any superhero film I've seen.

 

19. Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn), "The Philadelphia Story" (1940) -

Katharine Hepburn's voice can be grating even when she gives good performances, but I have to disagree with most here and say that I think she's awful here in a frankly dated film. Her bleating voice is only the half of it, her affected performance is nauseating. Sure, it's in-character, but it's insufferable to watch. Worse, though, is the character she plays. She's playing a snooty society girl without any redeeming qualities whatsoever. I honestly didn't give a crap whether she ended up with Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, or John Howard. None of those guys deserved to be in relationship hell with this pretentious tit of a woman who is all artifice. It gets annoying super-fast, especially if you're already allergic to Ms. Hepburn. 

 

18. Annie (Kristen Wiig), "Bridesmaids" (2011) -

An attempt at a female "Hangover", it was probably slightly better (not saying much), but I had a really hard time finding sympathy for the lead character Annie, played by Kristen Wiig. Her insecurity and jealousy towards Rose Byrne's character is really off-putting. Sure, Maya Rudolph's character is quite unfeeling towards her long-time best friend, too (to a degree that isn't credible), but Wiig's behaviour is beyond immature and really unlikeable. She even ignores the nice guy cop (Chris O'Dowd) she's supposed to be dating. Amateurish, TV sketch-level performances from Rudolph especially, but even Wiig (though it’s one of the least intellectually-disabled characters she has played, I’ll give her that) really don't help. Her drunk act on a plane is stupid and embarrassing. But it's the self-absorbed and frankly pathetic nature of her character that really is a turn-off.            

 

17. Mom (Estelle Getty), "Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot!" (1992) -

One of the worst films of the 90s (Hell, even Sly would probably agree), the film obviously had lots of problems. Being completely shit, for instance. The biggest, however, was the badly written title character, played by a post-"Golden Girls" Estelle Getty in a role Betty White might've made at least...no, this old bag is beyond saving. Strangulating and interfering, she's meant to be endearing and presumably well-meaning, not to mention supposedly comedic. In actuality, she's unrealistic and irritating. Even for a comedy, there needs to be some kind of believability, even if it's just within the world created for the film. The scene where she cleans a gun (in soapy water, of course) is stupid enough, but then she goes and buys an illegal automatic rifle out of the back of a van for her policeman son! And who in the hell vacuums the house at 4 in the morning? No one, not in any believable world. Honestly, I'm grinding my teeth just thinking about this awful, stupid little old woman right now. Even the late Anne Ramsey couldn't have made the character funny.

 

16. Matt King (George Clooney), "The Descendants" (2011) -

A lot of people loved this film, but I found it mediocre sitcom material with one major difference (Well, two if you count the fact that there's no Steve Urkel or Cosmo Kramer character). This sitcom dad was an unlikeable louse of a human being, even George Clooney's charm (which I find smug anyway) could do nothing here. This is a guy who starts out being an absentee father for the most part and was seemingly not a very good husband. However, he gets worse as the film goes along. Sure he tries to bring his family together now that his wife is on life support. But he's also the guy who thinks that his wife's accident was her way of giving him a wake-up call to be a better person. How self-absorbed is that? It was an accident! God might want to teach you a lesson, but come on. The worst thing this guy does, though, is berate his comatose wife for **** SPOILER ALERT ***** cheating on him **** END SPOILER **** Wronged or not, you just don't do that, and no real person (certainly no sympathetic person) would act in such a way. Then he chastises his teen daughter in the next scene for doing the same thing he did! No, this guy lost my sympathy immediately, and

never regained it. He was unpleasant and irritating.

 

15. Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), "Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 & 2" (2013) -

Joe is a nymphomaniac. She also never shuts the fuck up about it, and will bore you senseless with her whole sordid yet hardly special, life story. It adds up to nothing significant, profound, or interesting, making Joe a boring tit who proves to be excruciating company over two films. Did I mention that Joe is a nymphomaniac? Apparently that's meant to be something. What she really is, is a pretentious, insufferable mouthpiece for whatever excuse for a point filmmaker/douche Lars von Trier thinks he's making over the course of two films. But there really is no point. Just a lot of tedious pretentiousness and smutty sex that would be perfectly fine if it simply stuck to being mere smutty sex. Nooo, you see because Joe is a NYMPHOMANIAC, and apparently that makes her so special. It makes her a boring, unpleasant tit of a woman is what it makes her. Did I mention that Joe is a nymphomaniac?

 

14. Linda (Jennifer Aniston), "Wanderlust" (2012) -

Jennifer Aniston is probably a really lovely woman in real life, but I've never liked her at all as an actress. She plays lots of different characters, but plays them like Rachel from "Friends". Every time. But that's not why her character in this embarrassingly lame film shits me. No, this woman is just horrible. Basically, Linda (Aniston) and her husband (Paul Rudd) end up at a naturist's reserve and are encouraged to stay and engage in the nudity and free love. The fact that they stay the night is wholly unbelievable for their characters. The biggest problem with the film and the character of Linda especially, starts when they get a chance to leave the commune after that first night and choose to stay. Almost all of the problems arise from this because Linda proves to be a horrible liar at one point when she says her husband was the one who coerced her into staying at the commune and engaging in the free love. Um, no you liar, you suggested it. He wanted to leave and go to his job interview. **** SPOILER WARNING **** Worse still, at least her husband backs off from potentially cheating, but Linda cheats. I'm no prude, it's the fact that she lied in the first damn place that pisses me off. The cheating just seals the deal. And her wimp of a husband never pulls her up on it, nor do the filmmakers ultimately judge her. Wow. **** END SPOILER **** 

 

13. Emma (Natalie Portman), "No Strings Attached" (2011) -

I will probably get complaints and ridicule for this (or at least a lot of eye-rolling- Oi!, I saw that!), but I think a romantic comedy is the one genre where I really want formula mostly adhered to. This modern romantic comedy/drama tries to break with the formula by eschewing romance altogether for a 'fuck buddies' motif, and it doesn't work (It worked in "Love and Other Drugs", but that was an anomaly). The character of Emma, played by Natalie Portman is, in particular a miscalculation. In addition to being totally committed to sex without emotion (and the audience sensing her 'fuck buddy' Ashton Kutcher deep down wants more), she's just a cold and aloof person in general. At least Anne Hathaway's character in "Love and Other Drugs" had a pretty good medical reason for being somewhat harsh and aloof. And because Emma acts like such a selfish, aloof person for the majority of the film, when it comes time to finally adopt the standard romantic comedy trajectory, one doesn't believe it because of how she has already been portrayed. The character torpedoes any chance the film (mediocre anyway) had of working. When you're watching a romantic comedy and you hate one of the protagonists so much that you don’t want them to get together with their love match, there's a big, big problem. That problem's name is Emma.

 

12. Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), "Fargo" (1996) -

I know, I know, everyone loves it, McDormand won an Oscar (She should've won for "Almost Famous" if anything), but I hated it (I'll never forgive the Coen's for initially labelling it a 'True Story' for NO reason), and in a film full of irritating, 'quirky' characters, Marge sure was the most annoying- yup, you betcha! Steve Buscemi's talkative killer was meant to be annoying, yet he was the one character and performance in the film that I actually enjoyed. Marge, on the other hand, was meant to be endearing, funny, and loveable. But, even more so than anyone else, her Minnesota accent is so wildly and annoyingly exaggerated that when you add the fact that everyone's dialogue here is 90% made up of 'yah', 'Oh yah', 'yep', 'OK', and 'you betcha', it feels like spending an eternity in a frozen over Hell with Sarah Palin (Yes, the Minnesota accents are so exaggerated they actually sound Alaskan). It's such a caricatured performance that it renders the character thoroughly obnoxious, and borderline 'slow'.    

 

11. Bert (James DeBello), "Cabin Fever" (2002) -

Eli Roth's first directorial effort was a grotty, grotesque scumbag of a film that may have been inspired by "The Evil Dead" but contains none of the fun. Perhaps the most repulsive element of this film, however, was the character of Bert, played by James DeBello. I have no doubt that Bert was meant to be the least likeable of the film's protagonists, but a protagonist he indeed was meant to be, so he should've at least had some redeeming qualities, right? He entirely loses any sympathy whatsoever one might've had for him, the moment he tells someone that he's shooting squirrels' 'coz they're gay'. He's wearing a hat with 'F U' written on it at the time. Need I say more? I said in my review of the film that he was easily one of the 10 most irritating horror characters of all-time. I think I was being overly generous at the time.

 

10. Chris McCandless (Emile Hirsch) "Into the Wild" (2007) -

Yeah, you guys will probably slaughter me for this one, but I’m defiant. A lot of people loved and related to Sean Penn's adaptation of the Jon Krakauer novel, but I was left unmoved. The reason for that is because the main character, Chris McCandless was a reckless, self-absorbed dick who maybe didn't deserve his fate, but still behaved in such a senselessly and selfishly reckless manner that I had zero sympathy for him whatsoever. Characters who go on a journey to 'find themselves' annoy the shit out of me to begin with. Look in the mirror, see that person staring? That's you, you knob. You're not Wally/Waldo, you're really easy to find if you have a working set of eyes. Hell, blind people can find themselves, so why can’t you? This guy was a selfish, arrogant, pretentious tool who tore his own passport up, got lost and...well, I honestly didn't care in the slightest, because he was the master of his own destiny. At least the character in "127 Hours" was an experienced outdoorsman whose situation was merely a result of one second of over-confidence, not stubborn arrogance and pretentious, pointless notions of leaving supposedly empty modernity to 'go bush'. STFU, Chris. I'm going to get hate mail from Krakauer and Penn fans for this one aren't I?     

 

 

9. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) "Iron Man" and "Avengers" films (various years) -

Everyone seems to love the Iron Man/Tony Stark character, but I find him, and Robert Downey Jr's performance to be entirely punchable. Downey can be such a wonderful actor and rascally scene-stealer, but he's the exact wrong guy for a superhero character, and Tony Stark, whether it's the fault of Downey, the screenwriters, or the comics, is a glib, aggravatingly flippant and smarmy jerk. He's more of a slick, ironic nightclub comic than superhero. Hell, he's an anti-superhero, the only thing about him that seems superhero-esque is his Iron Man suit. I didn't appreciate the real-life geopolitics infused in this series of films, but the biggest stumbling block by far is Downey as Stark. He's meant to be likeable and ultimately heroic, but he acts like he's not taking anything seriously, which ends up taking one out of the film (or series of films as it were). Many will disagree with me, but I think he's counterproductive to what the film is (or at least should be) attempting to achieve. I prefer good vs. evil straight up in my superhero films, not a glib, douchy arms dealer who learns to be a slightly less douchy but still glib man who uses his technology for good instead of selling it to the highest bidder. Gee, he's just like Superman...from "Superman III" maybe when Superman took some bad brown acid and started flinging beer nuts at people. Actually, if anything, it's like someone has transplanted the plot of "Lord of War" onto a superhero film (or series of films). It doesn't work, and Downey's roguish charms are all wrong here. Any other context and I'd be singing his praises. He's a helluva talent (just watch “Less Than Zero”, “Wonder Boys”, “Chaplin”, etc.), but Tony Stark is a dickhead. Less of a dickhead in "The Avengers", but still a dickhead nonetheless. Do you like your superheroes to be dickheads?

 

8. Diana Scott (Julie Christie), "Darling" (1965) -

A once-fashionable film that won Julie Christie an Oscar for Best Actress in a Role Playing the Most Insufferably Selfish and Stupefyingly Lacking in Self Awareness Woman in Cinematic History. She's yet another of these characters who seem to be trying to 'find themselves' and in the process she leaves a lot of bodies in her wake. She cheats on everyone throughout, making it hard to care who the hell she ends up with, because she's just as likely to cheat on them too. And although her narration seems to suggest a regret for her actions, it flies in the face of her giggly behaviour whilst carrying on an affair. At one point she even shoplifts. Why? Because. No, this woman just drove me mad, and being a pretentious tit on top of that was just the icing on the cake.

           

7. Lilo and Stitch (voice by Daveigh Chase, Chris Sanders), "Lilo & Stitch" (2002) -

My vote for the two most irritating animated characters in cinematic history. One is a destructive and insufferably troublesome orphaned alien who speaks in squeaks and farts, the other is an oddly fat-nosed little Polynesian girl who makes trouble and strife for her poor, hard-working older sister. She's loud, selfish (even for a child), rude, and really, really weird in an off-putting, charmless way. They are horrible, unpleasant characters, and they are our main protagonists. Audience torture ensues.

 

6. Jill (Adam Sandler) in "Jack & Jill" (2011) -

It's Adam Sandler in drag, with a whiny voice and barely trying to look and sound female, playing an obnoxious character who sweats, farts, and has never heard of the internet before. Do I really need to go any further? Even most Adam Sandler fans hated this film, and Jill is one helluva big reason why. What a horrible, insulting miscalculation.

 

5. Larry and Carol Lipton (Woody Allen, Diane Keaton), "Manhattan Murder Mystery" (1993) -

Woody Allen is a love him or hate him screen persona to begin with but paired with Diane Keaton here, they make for a truly unbearable couple. For starters, they are insufferably dull people. So dull that Keaton's character basically has to invent a murder mystery in order to make her life interesting. Oh, there's a murder mystery all right, but it takes forever before the audience realises that it's not just Keaton trying to make something out of nothing. And by then, I was almost preparing to shove forks into my eyes and ears so that I didn't have to endure the pain of her character anymore. Woody, meanwhile, spends the whole film worrying and panicking in a typically one-note performance. These are boring, pathetic people, and insanely annoying.   

 

4. Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts), "Eat Pray Love" (2010) -

Forget that I'm not the target audience here and that this film represents everything that it is the total opposite of everything I stand for. Let's purely focus on the lead character of Liz Gilbert, played by a far-too self-satisfied Julia Roberts. Like "Into the Wild", this is yet another of these people who are trying to 'find themselves'. But this is also a writer, someone who thinks that they are so goddamn special and their 'journey' of self-discovery is so freaking important and earth-shatteringly profound that they simply must inflict it upon us too. Honestly, are there many more people as annoying as someone like Liz Gilbert? The whole film is about her. What she wants. What she needs. It makes for a torturous film experience. Improving your sense of self-worth is vital, everyone should feel good about themselves. Just don't turn it into a pretentious, hippy-dippy book that gets made into an excruciatingly twee film, in which your character will be played by an astoundingly smug Julia Roberts. This is a character so self-absorbed and selfish that she leaves two perfectly decent fellas in her wake, possibly ruining their lives just so she could have a little holiday/writing assignment. To leave a loveless marriage can be the right thing, but not the way Liz Gilbert does here. This plays out like an overlong, dreary, and tame episode of "Sex and the City", and that's not a compliment for either. Being based on a memoir probably makes some self-absorption necessary, but to make her experiences out to be something heroic and exciting...ugh. And don't get me started on the fact that Gilbert tries to get Italians to embrace the solely American holiday of Thanksgiving. That was the final nail in the egotistical coffin for me. Her cultural experiences prove entirely self-serving. What a chore to spend two hours with this twit.

                 

 

3. Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Eckstein), "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (2008) -

George Lucas' big screen trailer for the "Clone Wars" TV series (Oh please, that's exactly what it was!) was an insulting load of garbage, and if you're ever gonna go to the 'George Lucas raped my childhood' well for anything, this lame excuse for a film was it (though it's directed by Dave Filoni, if you want to throw him under the bus instead, George). Chief among the problems was the character of padewan Ahsoka Tano. Voiced by Ashley Eckstein, this far more than the Ewoks or Jar-Jar Binks screamed of Lucas pandering to the kiddie market. I'll defend the Ewoks 'til my death and don't really care to get upset over Jar-Jar, either, but this chick....grrrrrrr. A wannabe 'cool' youngster with a sideline in annoying sass, she's exactly who Lucas thought his target market wanted, but boy was he wrong. I mean, she actually calls Anakin Skywalker 'Sky Guy' at one point. Oh shut the fuck up, George. I kept waiting to see if she was gonna get jiggy, too. Thankfully George hadn't discovered late 90's Will Smith by this point, I guess. I know the dialogue in "Star Wars" films can come across as stilted and awkward, but replacing it with wannabe hip modernised speech is nauseating and wrong-headed. Perhaps it's a good thing Lucas has sold the franchise, or else the next "Star Wars" movie might have Miley Cyrus twerking on stage in a cantina. At least we know the House of Mouse would never do that.

 

2. Bella (Kristen Stewart), "Twilight" & "Twilight: Eclipse" (2008 & 2010) -

Look, I'm clearly not the target audience for this franchise, but even so, Bella Swan (played by the perpetually sullen Kristen Stewart, who seems to have an allergic reaction to smiling) is an absolutely horrible, insufferable young woman, especially in the first and third entries of this series. Intended for young adults (and Mormons who hate abortion but are cool with vampires having sex with humans and making vampire babies), the whole thing plays out like a young girl's diary musings and fretting, which may appeal to youngsters, but makes Bella an insufferable, self-absorbed tit (Boy do I sound like a misogynist in this list. I swear I'm not!) who mopes incessantly over the fact that she has two hot guys (one a vampire, the other a werewolf) pining for her. Oh, what a hard life she has...spare me. And it's not long before she realises which one she likes, but cruelly strings the other one along for far too long. It's really despicable, if you ask me. She's selfish, mopey, pretentious, immature and when in the third film she utters the line 'It's about who I should be and who I am' her deluded sense of self-importance reaches its zenith. Wow. But like I said, I'm not the target audience here, folks...

 

1. Dropo (Bill McCutcheon), "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" (1964) -

The worst holiday classic you'll ever see that doesn't involve wookiiees. The film itself is a one-of-a-kind bad movie classic, but the character of Dropo is truly painful, to a degree that you can't possibly imagine without seeing the film. Intended as charmingly dopey comic relief for the kiddies (I presume), he's painfully unfunny, stupid, and constantly, excruciatingly annoying. An accident prone Martian, he's like an overly mugging alien Gomer Pyle, only even worse. Dropo, by the way, is played by Bill McCutcheon, best known to people around my age as Uncle Wally from "Sesame Street". He was MUCH better and more palatable on that. Dropo makes Jar-Jar Binks seem like a subtle, intellectual comedic character by comparison. Let that one marinate inside you for a bit. Dropo is easily the biggest pain in the arse in the history of cinema, bar none. 10 minutes with this character, and you'll seriously consider throwing yourself out of the nearest window. Yes, I am recycling and re-jigging the same jokes and insults, I have no shame.

 

Well there it is, folks. I feel so much better now I got that off my chest. So what did you think of the list? Want to yell at me? Well, that's rude. Why would you want to do that? Comments/Complaints as always welcome, and I'd love to hear about the characters that piss you off too. Just no Jar-Jar, let's ease up on the guy now, OK? It's been what, 15 years now? Poor thing must have a complex or something by now.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Review: Short Term 12


A film depicting what goes on inside a half-way house facility for at-risk kids, taking the principal point of view of supervisor Grace (Brie Larson- playing this like she’s lived the part), a young woman with a tragic upbringing of her own. We see her try to do her job and maintain her romantic relationship with likeable co-worker Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) whilst dealing with some pretty damn major scars of her own that she isn’t quite letting Mason in on. These old wounds are possibly about to re-open not only due to her estranged father’s impending release from prison, not only because she’s just found out she’s pregnant, but also because of an angry young arrival (Kaitlyn Dever, one of Larson’s co-stars in “The Spectacular Now”) who seems to come from a similar violent circumstance. Kevin Hernandez and Keith Stanfield play two other at-risk teens, the latter about to turn 18, and therefore leave the facility.

 

One of those indie sleepers just begging to be seen and appreciated by a wider audience is this interesting 2013 drama from writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton (in his second feature-length gig). At its centre is a helluva impressive showcase for Brie Larson, a previously not terribly memorable actress who really comes into her own here and shows us what she’s got. Her performance here is wildly beyond expectations. One day she might actually be a star, if she managed to appear in a film that actual people go to see. I hope so, at any rate. Not only is Larson a good actress and charismatic, but here she pulls a Jenna Fischer in “The Office” by looking de-glamorised yet still looking truly beautiful. Some people are born lucky, it seems.

 

Based on an award-winning 2008 short film by Cretton of the same name, this is a sad film about troubled people, and I’m not just talking about the kids here (One of the kids, by the way, is played by Kevin Hernandez from “The Sitter”, who needs to be careful not to get typecast before he even becomes an adult). The character excellently played by Larson has her own demons she’s still fighting, and hell, she’s only a few years older than some of the kids she’s supervising. I found myself quite moved by this film, and by Larson. Nothing gets my waterworks going more than unselfish human kindness or compassion. Larson’s character, although tough enough to keep a professional distance for the most part, has this quality. Hell, all of the adults in this film do, but with Larson it’s remarkable given what her character is going through herself, she’s mostly able to keep it together.

 

However, one scene in an otherwise spot-on film did make me question her character’s suitability for her job, though. You’ll know it when you see it, because it’s the one time in the film she acts in an unprofessional manner. I get why she does what she does, and there’s major justification for it, but it was still the one moment where I questioned the believability of something. If what she does is believable, then I’m not sure it should be. That and a slightly underwhelming ending are the only small flaws in an otherwise spot-on, well-made and well-acted film. I didn’t even mind that Larson was playing a 20 something the same year she played a high-schooler in “The Spectacular Now”. Does it cover new ground? Absolutely not, but it’s well-done, mostly seems really authentic (Cretton used to work in such a facility himself), and actually kinda sad. Maybe even beautiful in a weird way. Ms. Larson might just be worth keeping an eye on the future. I think she’s got something.

 

Rating: B-

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Review: The Fantastic Planet


Set on the planet Ygam, which has two distinct races: Humanoids called Oms, and blue-skinned Draags (an intellectual and somewhat meditative race). The Draags are the superior race on the planet, with the Oms (who were nabbed from a planet called Terra) resigned to being slaves or pets for the younger Draags. We follow one particular Om child through the years, given the name Terr. Eventually Terr becomes accustomed to life as a pet, until his Draag owner grows up and loses interest in Terr. Terr eventually hooks up with a bunch of other Oms on the lam, so to speak. Meanwhile, it is decided that the Oms have become a problem for the Draags, and must be exterminated. But that may not be as simple as they think, as the Oms have become educated, and learn of this extermination plan, as they prepare to launch an uprising.

 

One of the weirdest animated films you’ll ever see, this 1973 French/Czech sci-fi flick from debut director Rene Laloux (a Frenchman) and co-writer Roland Topor (who wrote the novel that became Roman Polanski’s underrated “The Tenant”) is compellingly bizarre and a little bit disturbing, really. It’s certainly not an easy film to forget, and unlike anything you’ll ever see. It’s as if Terry Gilliam were to animate a bizarre dream he had after watching a double bill of Just Jaeckin’s “Gwendoline” (or even Roger Vadim’s “Barbarella”) and Francois Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451”, while on some bad brown acid. Or something. I dunno. Just see it yourself and make up your own mind about what the hell this is (Some argue that the themes of slave ownership relate to the Soviet occupation of the Czech Republic). All I can say is that I found it compellingly bizarre, and dated or not the animation still had its charms.

 

It’s not nearly as innocuous as its family friendly rating might suggest. I mean there’s some really unseemly shit going on here with aliens treating children (and teens) as pets/slaves, as well as quite a bit of nudity. And not just alien nudity, some of the humans (or humanoids, if you prefer) show their naughty bits, too. It’s all a bit inappropriate, really, but so weird that you’re not sure enough about it to get offended or anything. But nonetheless, this is a G-rated film (at least here in Australia, where I saw it on cable TV) with slavery, oppression, genocide, and full-frontal animated female nudity. Wow. There’s more tits in this than in most editions of Playboy (Or so I’ve heard).

 

I’ve got to give the filmmakers/animators kudos for creating a world and alien race unlike anything that has been seen before or since in cinema. That’s important to me, because I often find such things limited by the human imagination. Aliens, if they exist, shouldn’t look like anything our minds can even conjure, if you ask me. This film comes pretty close to creating that.

 

It’s a shame that the finale is so rushed, though. Did they only have a certain amount of time to get it in the can? You’d think they’d plan more carefully, so as not to have to put the final 10-15 minutes on warp speed, after a previously leisurely pace. But narrative isn’t the film’s strongest suit, and to an extent I’m OK with that. It still works for the most part, it just seemed awfully rushed at the end.

 

This film is the damndest thing I ever did see. It’s practically indescribable, deeper than the average animated film, and you’ll certainly never forget it once seen.

 

Rating: B-