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, September 12, 2015

Review: Panic in the Streets


A sick man (and illegal immigrant to boot) beats the wrong guy at poker, a small-time gangster named Blackie (Jack Palance), who chases after the guy, kills him, and throws him off a nearby dock. The body is eventually recovered, and the coroner thinks there’s something not right about this dead body, calling in military doctor Richard Widmark, of the U.S. Public Health Service. Widmark confirms that the dead man was inflicted with pneumonic plague (although it was the gunshots that obviously killed him), a deadly airborne virus that could turn into an epidemic very, very quickly. Widmark says they have only about 48 hours to track down everyone who came into contact with the deceased, and advises everyone to keep it hush-hush, so as not to create widespread panic. Paul Douglas plays the generally annoyed New Orleans police captain tasked by the local mayor to find the dead man’s killers (but doing so in a manner that doesn’t alert Palance’s attention to the fact that they’re after him, causing him to run and possibly infect more people). However, Douglas is initially very resistant to…y’know, do anything much, especially when know-it-all Widmark hasn’t been very tactful in his treatment of him thus far. As for the killers, well they’re looking for the dead man’s brother, whom they believe have screwed them out of some kind of smuggled contraband, unaware that they may be carrying a deadly disease. Barbara Bel Geddes and Tommy Rettig are Widmark’s loving family back at home, and Zero Mostel (who, interestingly, was one of the people blacklisted during the anti-commie witch-hunts, whilst Kazan is still infamous for naming names) excels as a sweaty toady of Palance’s.

 

Long before Patrick Dempsey and a disease-ridden monkey accidentally gave a whole mess of people a deadly dose of the sniffles, director Elia Kazan (“On the Waterfront”, “A Streetcar Named Desire”, “The Last Tycoon”) gave us this 1950 mixture of noir and race-against-the-clock deadly disease thriller. Scripted by Richard Murphy (“Broken Lance”, “Compulsion”) and Daniel Fuchs (“Criss Cross”, with Burt Lancaster), and based on an Oscar-nominated story by Edna and Edward Anhalt (who were responsible for the screenplay for the quite watchable “Not as a Stranger” with Robert Mitchum, whilst Edward also scripted “The Young Lions”), it’s not exactly what I’d call gritty, but it’s certainly a million miles away from being a silly melodrama. Despite having ‘Panic’ in its title, the film is mostly free of histrionics, and I admire that, even though my only problem with the film is that I feel it needed to be longer and flesh this whole thing out. It seems like something that should be a bit wider-scale. Forgive the pun, but the situation is a tad too ‘contained’. Other than that, though, I see no real problems here.

 

The Alfred Newman (“All About Eve”, “No Way Out”, “The Diary of Anne Frank”, “Airport”) music score is immediately impressive, as is Jack Palance (billed as Walter Jack Palance in his film debut), who looks like Satan and has an impressively intense stare. You get the feeling his character is called Blackie because that’s the colour of his soul- if he even has one. Also unsettling is the sight of Richard Widmark in a cardigan playing happy families with Tommy Rettig from “Lassie”. Ward Cleaver has never seemed so scary and psychotic. In all seriousness, Widmark, the same year he played an unrepentant racist creep in “No Way Out” shows his versatility here playing a dedicated doctor and family man, the film’s hero, basically. He’s got a terrifically sturdy presence on screen that works well here, and one wonders if not for this role, would Widmark’s career have ended up as eclectic?

 

Also working well is the film’s noirish, B&W cinematography by Joe MacDonald (“Niagara”, “The Young Lions”, “Mirage”). The tone of the film is, in keeping with director Kazan’s unglamorous and matter-of-fact storytelling style, rather grounded in reality and contemporary for its time, but the visuals are by contrast, shadowy and ‘cinematic’ (if that doesn’t sound too weird a term to use), albeit with Kazan using real location shooting. Surprisingly, the mixture doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb or seem contradictory, it works. Besides, Jack Palance’s face was born for B&W, it had to be that way.

 

Zero Mostel also deserves special mention, his sweaty, rather cowardly crook character is excellently conveyed by Mostel in a pretty serious performance (His tragic turn in 1976’s “The Front”, however, still remains his best performance for me). The always solid Paul Douglas does quite well as an irritable cop who slowly comes around to Widmark’s side, and the underrated Barbara Bel Geddes is also solid as Widmark’s wife. She seems like a real wife, not just a stereotypically 50s Hollywood housewife character, if you know what I mean. It’s almost like her scenes with Widmark seemed somehow real, even though the actors weren’t married to each other in real-life. You didn’t often get that vibe from other films from the Golden Years of Hollywood, but Kazan was no ordinary Hollywood filmmaker (and not just because of his stage roots).

 
The story (not the actual screenplay, mind you) apparently won an Oscar, and although I’m not sure it deserved one, it’s certainly a pretty realistic film for the period, and the story is a part of that. Has the passage of time worn this film down a bit? Yes, of course. It is, however, still interesting to see a 1950 perspective on something like this, and that’s how I viewed the film. The interesting thing is that for a film from 1950, I came out of this movie feeling that I had seen a 50s version of a 70s movie. That sentence makes sense if you watch the film. It’s ahead of its time, perhaps just a smidge too ahead of its time. If the situation were a bit larger in scale and the film a bit longer, this might’ve been a classic. As is, it’s an interesting, well-shot, and well-acted film, but it feels like the situation gets handled a little too well right from the word go. Still, if you like your disease outbreak thrillers, here’s an interesting early example that you might enjoy, especially if you’re also a fan of film noir. A young Jack Palance really runs off with this one.

 

Rating: B-

Review: Finders Keepers


Jaime Pressly and her 9 year-old daughter (Kylie Rogers) move into a new home, after a recent separation from her husband (Patrick Muldoon). Rogers finds a tattered old doll and is soon infatuated with it. Turns out the doll has a dark past involving a murder-happy young boy, and now the doll seems to be having a dark influence on young Rogers. Tobin Bell turns up as a concerned child psychologist and Justina Marchado plays Pressly’s ‘ethnic mumbo-jumbo expert’ best friend (It’s an accurate description, believe me).

 

Forget that this 2014 horror film was made for TV, it’s not overly violent but there’s little difference here in horrific content from the average horror film from the 90s or early 00s, for instance. The real problem with this film from director Alexander Yellen and screenwriter Peter Sullivan is that the plot is exactly like the kind of thing you would have found in a horror film from the 90s or early 00s, and not one of the good ones. It’s tired, clichéd, and a few recognisable names and faces in the cast can’t remotely save it. In fact, the casting of Jamie Pressly as a mother is really ironic given how long it’s been since she was semi-relevant. Yes, you really are that old and the 90s really did end a long, long time ago. Seeing former “Star Trek” hottie Marina Sirtis play a ‘cat lady’ damn near had me reaching for a bottle, if not for the fact that I don’t drink alcohol.

 

Aside from the hilarious casting of former “Studs” host Mark Di Carlo as a sleazy real estate agent (!), the best thing about the entire film is that the DVD cover is pretty cool-looking. Otherwise, it’s just another “Hide and Seek” or “The Godsend”, and Pressly’s pixie-cut certainly didn’t fool me into thinking I was watching “Rosemary’s Baby”. The impact of divorce on kids is an interesting subject that could even work in a horror film. However, it’s not nearly enough to stop an otherwise sucky horror film from sucking. I did like one moment, however. Patrick Muldoon’s girlfriend (played by Trilby Glover, I believe) gives his daughter a doll to play with to replace the apparently freaky-looking doll she’s been playing with. The hilarity? The new doll is even scarier. Seriously, the doll has teeth like mine. No child should ever be given a doll with my godawful overbite, trust me on that. Ugly as sin (Although my teeth aren’t nearly as white, granted). The main doll used, by the way, is completely ridiculous. It looks too made-up creepy to convince as a doll that might’ve at one point been genuinely acceptable to give to a child. Then again, like I said, that other doll is hideous too.

 

Pressly’s OK in the lead, and Patrick Muldoon’s lack of success as an actor continues to confound me. He’s no great thesp, but he’s good-looking and charismatic enough that he should be more than just the Rob Lowe of daytime TV and crappy TV movies. I don’t get it, though there’s not much he can do in this one. I’m not sure why Tobin Bell (who looked more alive in some of the “Saw” films he was supposed to be dead in) has been cast in such a vanilla, non-villainous role (and a really small one to boot), but some might find perverse amusement in seeing Counsellor Troi from “Star Trek: TNG” acting and looking like Margot Kidder circa the 90s, if you know what I mean. Truly terrible performance from someone who should’ve known better.

 

The cinematography is nice and bright, which is a nice change for a horror film. But yeah, that’s about it for niceties for this one. If you do watch, take a look at the scene where the girl is apparently picking the wings off flies. Yeah, the wings are still there, they’re just dead flies. Hilarious, but nice try. Pretty useless, archaic horror stuff. Can we put an end to the whole ‘person on the ground rapidly dragged away to their death by an unseen force’ cliché? It’d be insulting to recommend this one to the undemanding. Some of the acting is OK, but so what? Watch “Child’s Play” again instead. That camp horror classic hasn’t dated one bit.

 

Rating: D+

Friday, September 11, 2015

Review: Last Train From Gun Hill


Kirk Douglas plays a Marshal whose 9 year-old son comes crying home to tell him that Douglas’ Native American wife has been raped and murdered, by two cowardly thugs played by Earl Holliman and Brian G. Hutton. Going back to the scene of the crime and finding a misplaced saddle, Douglas looks at the saddle and recognises it as belonging to Anthony Quinn, his best friend during their misspent youth way back when. Holliman, it turns out, is Quinn’s idiot no-good son. Filled with a barely concealed rage (and with justice on his mind), Douglas takes a train to the town of Gun Hill to pay his old buddy a visit and get him to turn over his son and moron friend to him. When he gets there, he finds Quinn (now a respected but ruthless cattle rancher) unwilling to present his son to Douglas. It’s his flesh-and-blood, after all, and no matter how much of a dickweed Holliman is, he’s still Quinn’s son. Quinn does, however, fire Hutton from his employ when he works out the two men are guilty. Douglas is nonetheless ruthlessly undeterred in his quest. He will be taking the two guilty men back home with him on the 9 o’clock train no matter what, with Quinn and henchman Brad Dexter (and anyone else on Quinn’s payroll) aiming to stop him. Caught in the middle is saloon girl Carolyn Jones who met Douglas on the train to Gun Hill and knows how dangerous it is to go up against Quinn, a very powerful man in Gun Hill. How does she know? She’s from Gun Hill and is the mistress Quinn’s been violently mistreating.

 

An underrated minor classic from the equally underrated director John Sturges (“The Great Escape”, “Gunfight at the OK Corral”, “The Magnificent Seven”), this 1959 western boasts terrific performances, a grim tone, and superlative colour cinematography by Charles B. Lang (“The Big Heat”, “The Magnificent Seven”, “Wait Until Dark”) as well as wonderful set design. It’s easily Sturges’ best-looking film, and although at times bold with its use of colour (take a look at that purple hotel sofa!), for the most part it’s actually a harsh, grim and even mournful-looking film, especially at the outset. The sense of framing is excellent, just look at the placement of the wagon wheel in the frame of the shot during the opening sequence. It’s a real showpiece of a scene from a purely visual standpoint, but you could choose any scene in the film as evidence that Sturges and Lang really know how to fill a frame interestingly. 

 

As I said, the performances are terrific here, especially the two leads. Kirk Douglas is perfectly cast as the loving family man turned grim-faced bringer of violent justice. Early on we see him as a likeable and good man, which is very important as it makes his transformation into justice-seeker with a singular focus all the more powerful. We like this guy, sympathise with him, but also worry about him as he’s a man who has lost his most beloved thing and now all he knows is anger. It also helps us sympathise with Douglas that Earl Holliman plays a slimy, cowardly sack of shit, mind you. Douglas has one truly incredible speech where he tells Holliman exactly what awaits him. Anthony Quinn was an uneven actor, but here he is perfect as the proud, uber-masculine family patriarch for whom family is everything. Yes, even when his son is clearly a frigging douchebag. It’s amazing how you don’t end up hating Quinn’s ruthless and abusive character as much as you really feel you ought to. It’s because his sense of macho family pride is so well-conveyed, that you understand him a little bit. Speaking of uber-masculine, take a look at the set decoration inside Quinn’s house in the film. It’s uber-macho man cave stuff that speaks to something about his character, no doubt. Earl Holliman, for his part, probably gives his best-ever performance as the dipshit son whom even the biggest detractor of violence can’t deny needs the piss slapped out of him (Basically, it’s the standard Dan Duryea role). Solid work by Morticia Addams herself, Carolyn Jones playing a sassy, cynical saloon girl known to Quinn. There’s something rather sombre about her performance that is not only right for this kind of film, but makes her somewhat clichéd role not seem quite so ancient. Look out for “Magnificent Seven” cast member Brad Dexter as Quinn’s chief muscle. He doesn’t get much to do, but has an intimidating physical presence used rather effectively here.

 

If the film has one flaw, it’s the seriously loud, corny Dimitri Tiomkin (“Strangers on a Train”, “High Noon”, “Gunfight at the OK Corral”, “The Fall of the Roman Empire”) score. It sounds like it belongs more to a B-movie, and something far more rousing and jovial than what really is an especially grim, brooding film. It doesn’t belong and it gets on one’s nerves. Even when the score tries to get more serious, it’s just too loud and distracting.

 

John Sturges in my view is the most underrated director of all-time, and although not his best film (It’s hard to top “The Great Escape” if you ask me), this one definitely deserves much more attention than it has received. Well-acted, sensationally-shot, and with an engrossing and grim story that has Greek tragedy (or possibly Shakespearean) vibes. It’s a winner. Best of all? It’s over in about 90 minutes. Echoing “High Noon” and “Bad Day at Black Rock”, the screenplay is by James Poe (“Attack!”, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, “The Bedford Incident”) from a story by Les Crutchfield (“Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure”).

 

Rating: B+

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Review: Grudge Match


Sly Stallone and Robert De Niro play two aging boxing rivals whose feud never went to a deciding match. 30 years after their last match, a motor-mouth promoter (Kevin Hart) sees dollar signs in setting up the decider. Originally he just wants them to do motion capture poses for a boxing video game, but when the two combustible forces (who haven’t been in the same room in years) get into a scrap and it goes viral, Hart sets his ambitions higher. While pugnacious De Niro seems to be all for the match, Stallone (who retired before a third match could even happen) is more reticent and happy to let things lay as they currently do at one win apiece. He’s doing just fine making a living as a humble welder. However, Hart won’t give up, and De Niro’s constant goading (he thinks Stallone is chickening out ‘coz he knows he can’t beat him a second time) winds Stallone up enough to finally agree to the match. Kim Basinger plays Stallone’s ex-girlfriend, whose dalliance with De Niro helped put fuel on the already raging fire. Jon Bernthal plays De Niro and Basinger’s grown-up son, who comes into his father’s life after all these years, and against his mother’s advice. LL Cool J plays a top trainer, whilst Alan Arkin is Stallone’s old trainer who similarly comes out of retirement to help his old pal. That is, he comes out of the retirement village.

 

Some people seemed to be disappointed with this 2013 film, and I can’t for the life of me work out why. Were they really expecting the lofty heights of “Raging Bull” crossed with the crowd-pleasing brilliance of “Rocky”? Really? From Peter Segal, whose best films so far are “50 First Dates” and maybe “The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult”? (“Get Smart” was a lot better than it could’ve been, though) If you were expecting more than light comedy, you need your head checked. I expected a pleasant but unremarkable ‘grumpy old guys’ comedy in the vein of “Stand Up Guys” and that’s pretty much what Segal and screenwriters Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman (Late night TV talk show writers by trade) deliver here. It’s not as funny as “Grumpy Old Men” (I love Alan Arkin but he’s no Burgess Meredith, and one has to think if he were still alive, he’d have gotten the part here for obvious reasons), but this “Grumpy Old Pugilists” isn’t the worst thing the two stars have churned out over the years. In fact, it’s not a bad film at all.

 

Stallone and De Niro are both well-cast here, but clearly also too old, though nice try to Segal in using CGI for the flashback fights. It’s not entirely convincing, but it’s not the most embarrassing CGI I’ve seen, either. I thought it was pretty funny to have De Niro’s character become a puppet-aided nightclub comic, a good in-joke for anyone who has seen “Raging Bull”. De Niro seems more comfortable here than Stallone, who seems a bit hesitant and bored. I guess De Niro’s had more experience with comedies of late, which might help give him the edge, while Stallone, doesn’t really seem to realise he’s in a comedy at all (Insert your own “Rhinestone” or “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot” joke here, you mean pricks). Meanwhile, Alan Arkin is hilarious even before we actually see him on screen, which is quite a feat. He’s been better, of course, but this film gives him more to do than “Stand Up Guys” did, and he has some fun moments. Kevin Hart isn’t normally a favourite of mine (Chris Tucker 2.0), but he’s put to good use here as a guy who talks so fast his brain doesn’t have time to stop the words from coming out of his mouth. He also has an amusingly awful car that has to be seen to be believed. He actually steals this from the heavyweights, though it’s almost worth seeing the film just to hear De Niro butcher ‘The Star Spangled Banner’. Really butchering it. Like worse than Roseanne butchering it. Less effective is Kim Basinger who still isn’t much of an actress (Oscar or not), and looks like she’s being forced to be here by gunpoint. I think Ellen Barkin or Lorraine Bracco would’ve been more suitable, though Jon Bernthal is quite credible as De Niro’s son. He actually plays this thing like it’s a real movie, which is quite commendable.

 

This obviously isn’t on the level of “Grumpy Old Men”, it’s merely one of the adequate imitators, but that’s pretty much what I expected. I’d probably give the edge to “Stand Up Guys” because the two stars here actually get upstaged by Kevin Hart, which I don’t think was the idea. It’s also obvious that the film should’ve been made in the mid-90s at the latest. However, I did love the cute mid-credits bit where Hart tries to get Mike Tyson and one of his infamous foes to agree to another fight. Yep, that guy. 

 

Rating: C+

Review: A Million Ways to Die in the West


Seth MacFarlane is Albert, a sheep farmer who laments the harsh and violent times living in the Wild West. When he backs out of a duel, his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) leaves him and shacks up with moustachioed toolbucket named Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). But then a beautiful female gunslinger (Charlize Theron) walks into town and is soon teaching Albert how to fire a gun, and basically man the hell up. The two also bond, though things are somewhat stalled when Theron’s intimidating outlaw husband (Liam Neeson) turns up looking for her and the man she has supposedly shacked up with (i.e. Albert). Did I mention that Neeson is the most feared gunman around? Yeah, there’s that, too. Giovanni Ribisi plays Albert’s similarly meek, naïve best friend, whose girlfriend (Sarah Silverman) won’t sleep with him until they are married. Since she’s also the town whore, she will sleep with everyone else, though. Alex Borstein plays a saloon owner, Matt Clark turns up as an old prospector who runs afoul of Neeson, Wes Studi plays a Native American, a fat Dennis Haskins plays a literal snake oil salesman, and several other familiar faces have cameos.

 

Aside from the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” references, I can’t say I have much tolerance for TV’s “Family Guy”, and Seth MacFarlane’s big-screen comedy “Ted” really only delivered the funnies with “Flash Gordon” references, for the most part. Although I don’t think he was as bad an Oscars host as many claim (‘We Saw Your Boobs’ was an all-time Oscars highlight in my perverted opinion), he was similarly spotty. Now comes this 2014 comedy/western from director/star/co-writer MacFarlane and it’s just as uneven as everything else the guy has done. I loved the idea of a milquetoast-y kinda guy who points out all of the horrible, violent things that go on in the wild west, but MacFarlane, as is his wont most of the time, mostly uses the cinematic medium here to provide lots of four-letter words, sexual references, and anachronistic humour, generally of the lowest form. Mel Brooks got away with this kind of thing in 1974 in “Blazing Saddles”, but MacFarlane ain’t no Mel Brooks, and “Blazing Saddles” farts all over this lesser effort. It’s not a bad film and there’s some fun to be had, but just as was the case in “Ted”, it never quite gets across the line because it’s too spotty.

 

Although he’s believable as a self-preservationist, the fact that snarky MacFarlane stands back at a distance from the material also results in the audience never being drawn into it all that much. And since MacFarlane is trying to tell a ‘townie’ western story as well as attempting to make us laugh, we do need to be drawn into the plot. Also not helping is that Charlize Theron and comedy do not belong in any sentence aside from this one. Seriously, she’s so forced and phony in this. Amanda Seyfried is a bit better, but underused and playing a one-dimensional role. Neil Patrick Harris is Neil Patrick Harris, but not quite as funny as that usually is, though it’s amusing that he’s clearly just as useless as MacFarlane, except that he has a manly moustache. The best performances come from a funny Sarah Silverman (her very casting is funny in itself) as a woman who is only a virgin with her intended husband, who is well-played by Giovanni Ribisi (playing the most endearing character in the film), and a scene-stealing Liam Neeson as the villain. Neeson isn’t actually funny, but he’s clearly relishing the opportunity to play the heavy, albeit in something light. He should do it more often, because the brooding anti-hero thing can only take him so far, and he’s genuinely good at being bad and intimidating. In smaller turns it’s great to find that veteran character actor Matt Clark is still alive (and playing the ‘Gabby’ Hayes part!), Dennis ‘Mr. Belding’ Haskins has been on a strict Krispy Kreme diet since “Saved by the Bell” ended, and there’s some very funny cameos throughout. The Ryan Reynolds walk-on seemed useless to me, but Gilbert Gottfried is absolutely brilliant as Abe Lincoln, and there’s a wholly unexpected and brilliant cameo by a beloved film character from the 80s and 90s who will remain nameless here, but who was last seen in the wild west. It’s a shame that the best MacFarlane comes up with for the talented Wes Studi is a scene that is merely an excuse to give us a peyote freak-out. Studi is so much better than he is afforded here. And I’m still yet to discern what supposed talent Alex Borstein has, besides mugging mercilessly and annoying the piss out of me (Ever see her in “Catwoman”? I don’t recommend it, and not just because of her, the film sucks. But she is a total camera hog in it). As for MacFarlane himself, he may well be multi-talented, but acting isn’t one of his talents. He’s a comedian and writer (apparently a singer too), and would’ve been well advised to find someone else for the part. He’s not horrible, just not convincing, and far too anachronistic, smug, and snarky.

 

The best thing about the entire film is the music score by Joel McNeely, which is in the grand tradition of Elmer Bernstein (“The Magnificent Seven”), and gives the film a touch of class it probably doesn’t deserve. The film also has an amusing narration, and some of the gags are good. There’s a funny, gory bit involving a large block of ice, and the bit where MacFarlane and Ribisi attempt to evade injury in a bar fight by pretending to fight one another is clever, even if parodying the western bar fight has become a cliché in and of itself for a long while now. There’s also a cute running gag about how no one smiles in photos from the period (Seriously why is that? I don’t find smiling natural, but that’s because I’m an ornery old crank, I’m the exception). We also get one genuinely funny bit of scatology where Harris develops IBS and shits into a hat and then more is about to come out and he struggles to get another guy’s hat. The wonderfully squishy sound FX help. Meanwhile, Ribisi’s ‘first time’ with Silverman is very funny, too. Just his reaction to a certain female body part is funny on its own. Hell, as much as the entire segment with Wes Studi is pretty much a bust, the reference to Mila Kunis is choice for anyone who spots it. However, some of the gags are annoyingly modern without being funny enough to justify it- such as claiming a bustle gives a woman a giant fat arse and ‘black people would be all over you right now’. Ugh, you’re soooo hip Mr. MacFarlane. Once again, look to “Blazing Saddles” as to how to do this kind of thing right.

 

A hit and miss western comedy with a little too much of a modern, gross-out comedy sensibility, this one’s at least 20 minutes too long and features poor lead performances. However, the supporting cast is excellent and the gags that do fire, are often very funny. In fact, it might be ever-so slightly more consistent than “Ted”. It needed more Liam Neeson and Gilbert Gottfried, however. Much more. The screenplay is by MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild (his cronies from “Family Guy” and “Ted”). Best recommended to MacFarlane fans, it certainly won’t make you forget “Blazing Saddles”, but you could do worse.

 

Rating: C+

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Review: Die Hard With a Vengeance


John McClane is not having the best time of it. His marriage is busted, he’s on suspension from the NYPD (for shall we say ‘poor work ethic’?), he doesn’t get to see his kids enough, and now he’s a drunken mess who just doesn’t give a shit about anything anymore. Unfortunately, he’s gonna need to start giving a shit real soon because his boss at the NYPD (Larry Bryggman) has just learned that the city has a mad bomber named Simon (Jeremy Irons) on its hands, one who is explicitly calling out McClane. There are bombs all across the city, and he wants McClane to play a game of ‘Simon Says’. He needs to solve a series of challenging puzzles within an allotted time or else a bomb will go off. Dragged into this mess is an angry African-American shop owner named Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson), who has a deep distrust of all white people, and is none too happy about having to help out this honky solve puzzles to stop the threat of another honky. But that’s what he gets for saving McClane from being assaulted by street hoodlums (After Simon forces McClane to wear a racially incendiary sign on his body in the middle of Harlem). Eventually the school Zeus’ kids attend becomes a potential target. Graham Greene and Colleen Camp play McClane’s fellow cops, whilst songstress Sam Phillips has an ironically silent role as Simon’s woman/henchwoman.

 

I was slightly underwhelmed by this 1995 John McTiernan (“Predator”, “Die Hard”, “The Hunt for Red October”) third entry into the “Die Hard” series when I first saw it in cinemas at around age 15. I still don’t think it stands anywhere near close to the awesomeness of the original, but looking back on it from a 2015 perspective it holds up quite well. Several disappointing subsequent sequels and my general apathy towards action films in the decades since have me feeling rather nostalgic for this more classical 80s-90s model of action film. It provides good, but not great fun.

 

We open well with the old standard ‘Summer in the City’. Yes, it’s an overused song, but who the hell doesn’t like it? When we meet John McClane first in this one, he’s an absolute wreck, but he’s still very much John McClane and not latter day Bruce ‘no longer giving a shit and in a stoically bad mood’ Willis. The wisecracks and cynicism are still there (and we get to see McClane on his home turf for the first time), and he’s a fun character to be around, whilst Willis is giving a genuine performance, something that became quite scarce into the new millennium, along with hairs on his head. Samuel L. Jackson, no stranger to turning up in popcorn movies (and I’m certainly not gonna tell him to stop- are you?), is perfect casting in this. Yes, he’s playing an ‘angry black man’, but Jackson makes you forget that it’s an unfortunate stereotype. He’s not just an angry black man, he’s a helluva angry black man, and Jackson (on his hot streak at the time) easily walks off with the whole film. He and McClane (hardly a calm and sedate person himself) make for an enjoyable ‘oil and water’ team here.

 

I also liked the performances by Colleen Camp, Graham Greene, and soap opera vet Larry Bryggman as McClane’s co-workers and boss, respectively. Character actress Camp (usually seen in comedies) is genuinely funny and steals every scene through sheer personality, the underrated Greene is sturdy as ever, and his co-workers’/boss’ attitude towards McClane’s downward spiral of late is amusing stuff.

 

A lot of points going to this film are because I just felt it was really nice to revisit an action film from a much simpler, less shaky-cam oriented time. However, a mad bomber whose face we don’t see for quite a long time just isn’t terribly compelling as a “Die Hard” villain. Say what you will about the previous year’s “Blown Away” (no, not the sexy one with the Coreys and Nicole Eggert’s flat chest), at least you got to see a lot of Tommy Lee Jones throughout, albeit giving an underwhelming performance and perhaps ruining my point somewhat (no, I will not change it!). Whilst there’s no denying that Jeremy Irons has a great voice (albeit afflicted with a faux German accent this time), his villain is certainly no Hans Gruber (one of cinema’s greatest-ever villains). In fact, the only thing he has over Alan Rickman is that he can affect a more credible American accent. Seeing the film again, though, I will admit that Irons is a much more formidable villain than those in subsequent “Die Hard” films. He’s OK, and the twist to his character (unrevealed by me, I don’t care how old the film is) certainly helps a lot in making him more compelling.

 

One of the best assets of the film is the thumping music score by the late Michael Kamen (“Highlander”, “Lethal Weapon”, “The Three Musketeers”), incorporating ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’ in a menacingly Germanic/Russian accent. You’d swear you can hear the jackboots clomping in lock-step.

 

Does this film hold up well in comparison to the first? No, and as scripted by Jonathan Hensleigh (the awful “Jumanji”, the watchable “Next”), it’s very, very silly stuff. But boy does this one tower over a lot of the crap in the genre coming out these days (as well as a few of its dopey contemporaries like “Speed”, “The Rock”, and “Terminal Velocity”). It moves at a good clip and never stops. Along with a terrific music score, and top performances by Willis and (especially) Jackson, it helps make this one pretty enjoyable genre stuff. Perhaps one of the last of a sadly dead/dying breed.

 

Rating: B-

Review: Lucy


Scarlett Johansson plays the title character, a seemingly vacuous American party girl in Tapei who makes the mistake of acquainting herself a few days ago with loser dickweed Richard (Pilou Asbaek), who asks her…then forces her to deliver a briefcase up to a hotel room. She’s handcuffed to the case and only the man upstairs she is to meet with, can unlock her. That man is a gangster played by Choi Min-shik, and he’s a no fucking around kinda guy. When the briefcase is opened, inside we find a new drug and before long, Lucy is turned into a reluctant drug mule, as this new drug is placed inside her abdomen as she is forced to smuggle the drugs to somewhere in Europe. Things go wrong, Lucy is beaten up, and the plastic bag inside her bursts, causing the drug to enter her bloodstream. This drug has the effect of greatly enhancing the percentage of her brain able to be accessed and used, from the supposedly initial 10%. So what does a hot chick with an enhanced brain do with all that grey matter? Kick revenge-minded butt, apparently. Morgan Freeman turns up as a scientist and professor, whose help Lucy calls upon (and who bullshits…er…informs us that we only use up to 10% of our cerebral capacity), whilst Julian Rhind-Tutt plays a droll and dapper crim, and Analeigh Tipton plays Lucy’s party girl pal.

 

I have no problems accepting a man from another planet who can fly. A cute, pot-bellied alien coming to Earth to touch our hearts? I’m down with that. Time-travel? If it’s done well, yes I can even believe that for two hours or so. It’s called science-fiction, for a reason, folks, and so long as there is internal logic, I can accept practically anything under that banner. Suspension of disbelief. However, every once in a while I come across something like this 2014 film from writer-director Luc Besson (“The Professional”, “The Fifth Element”, “The Family”), which is also a sci-fi film, but a terribly misguided one. This is a film founded on a premise that involves something presented as an already accepted scientific fact (that is, it’s saying we already do only have access to 10%, not what if we did only have access to 10% of our brain’s capacity), but which is actually science-bullshit of the highest order. I’m sorry, but this film’s stupid, easily debunked starting-off point immediately sealed its fate, as far as I’m concerned. I knew it was doomed going in, and I only watched it so that I could review it, and present you with my thoughts on it for you to make of them what you will. I’m eagerly anticipating any intellectual debate.

 

You see, like “Limitless” (a better, but similarly conceptually flawed film), this film’s plot depends upon the stupid myth that human beings only use a certain percentage of our brains and don’t have access to the rest. Although we don’t use 100% of our brain capacity all of the time, we do indeed have access to all 100% of it. Despite what defenders of this film might tell you, Besson (who apparently took almost 10 years to get this film project going. I mean, WOW!) is not presenting the 10% myth as science-fiction. It’s not using the 10% myth in the same way “Back to the Future” uses time-travel. You’re aware going into “Back to the Future” that time-travel is not real, and the film merely only wants you to pretend it’s real for two hours. Here, the sci-fi elements are to do with the rest of the film, with what Scarlett Johansson deals with as more and more of her brain capacity is accessible. The 10% aspect, delivered in a speech by that most trusted voiceover artist Morgan Freeman (who narrates science docos on TV all the time), is presented matter-of-factly, literally stated as a supposedly already established scientifically proven fact. So Besson (who I repeat, had almost 10 years to get this right!) wants us to imagine a world that is exactly the same except humans don’t have the same brain capacity that we actually do have? That’s stupid, and it immediately kills the film for anyone who is aware of this idea being factually bullshit.

 

And that’s a true shame (see what I did there?), because if Besson had found a way for Johansson to have all these intellectual powers and so forth that didn’t involve the 10% myth being presented as real, the film might’ve actually had some merit as entertainment. The scenes where Johansson gets to experience the history of the planet, even prehistoric are fascinating to ponder, and since she has at this point access to the memories of everyone and everything, it’s certainly more acceptable in its own sci-fi universe than the 10% myth. But because it does indeed use the 10% myth as its supposedly factually-derived genesis, the whole thing is rendered completely useless as an overall film.

 

I also call into question the title character’s apparent intelligence, given at one point she’s describing a substance as purple powder, when anyone who isn’t stupid or colour-blind can tell that it looks exactly like bright blue crystals, and they’re hardly granular in size. Blue. Crystals. Sigh. Then again, this is a film that is smart enough to know that our knowledge of life and the world is based on the codes and meanings (numbers, for instance) that we have come up with based on our limited capabilities, yet suggests time is the only true thing. That’s not entirely accurate, when you think about it for even a moment. Sure, we grow old, the days come and go, that’s all obvious. However, we ourselves give these things their numerical values. So even when it gets something right, the film still can’t get it quite right (It’s also an issue I had with “In Time”, where time literally was money). Also not helping things are the annoying directorial tricks used by Besson, like all the wildlife inserts that frankly don’t belong.

 

Like “Limitless” I found the film also lacking in imagination, with Besson using this character’s brain capacity for scenes of Scarlett Johansson firing guns and kicking butt. Yawn. Definitely not helping things is Scarlett Johansson’s typically forced and unnatural performance. She’s such a pretentious and awkwardly mannered actress, but this may be her worst effort to date. She plays this whole scenario like she’s an autistic alien inhabiting a human body for the first time. When you think about it, that’s pretty idiotic. There’s an interesting idea here about Johansson slowly losing her humanity as she becomes more intellectually powerful, but Johansson plays it in the least interesting and most heavy-handed way possible. Meanwhile, the scene where she inexplicably and instantaneously changes hair colour is so impossible that it’s 110% stupid. Morgan Freeman, meanwhile, Michael Caine’s his way through the film, he surely knew that the 10% thing was bullshit and clearly doesn’t care so long as he gets to put that extension on his summer house. On the plus side, bad arse “Oldboy” star Choi Min-shik (whose mere presence is awesome), “America’s Next Top Model” alum Analeigh Tipton (a real cutie who might just make it to lead roles one day soon), and the awfully dapper and soulless Julian Rhind-Tutt steal their every scene, which in all three cases isn’t nearly enough.

 

There’s nothing worse than a film that thinks it’s smart, but is founded on bullshit. A failure on arrival, this film might’ve been better if reworked to have a different starting point. However, it’d still have Scarlett Johansson trying and failing to act, and Besson’s uber-pretentious filmmaking to its discredit. A dud, and a shameless use of Morgan Freeman to try and lend it some credibility. In fact, it will remind you of another sci-fi film he was in that wasn’t very good, “Transcendence”. If, like Mr. Besson himself you give no fucks whether we only use 10% of our brain’s capacity or not, perhaps you’ll get more enjoyment out of this than me. I probably got about 10% worth of enjoyment out of it myself, give or take.

 

Who knew being super-smart turned you into a kick-arse assassin?

 

Rating: D

Monday, September 7, 2015

Review: Godzilla (2014)


A plot synopsis seems kind of silly here, as the title should tell you everything you need to know, but nonetheless here we go: In 1999, American nuclear physicist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is working at a nuclear power plant when there’s a reactor meltdown. Joe’s scientist wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) is tragically killed. An investigation sees the incident labelled an earthquake, but Joe knows something very different was going on and smells a government cover-up.

 

15 years later, Brody’s estranged son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is a nuclear explosives expert for the US Navy, with his nurse wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and their kid Sam (Carson Bolde). He gets the call to come pick up his dad in Tokyo, after the old man has been arrested for trespassing on the premises of his former employ. Seems Joe is having a hard time forgetting about the incident of years ago. Losing your wife and a fishy-as-hell, lame-arse government explanation tends to make you go a little bit ‘conspiracy nut’. Ford doesn’t believe his dad’s ramblings, and really only bails him out due to family loyalty. But Joe is convinced that whatever happened 15 years ago is set to happen again in the near future. Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins play a couple of scientists who uncover a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) in the Philippines in the film’s opening scene. Joe and Ford happen upon them in Japan in the present as they are witness to the MUTO hatching and a giant monster springs forth. Soon, another MUTO in the US awakens and seems set on a meeting with the other one. And that’s when the giant beast of the title makes its presence known. Whose side is it on? David Strathairn plays a Navy Admiral.

 

I’m a “Godzilla” fan from way back and have seen most of the films from the various series since the 50s. I was pretty pumped for this 2014 film I must say, despite the previous non-Japanese “Godzilla” film being pretty shit, and despite not much liking director Gareth Edwards’ previous film, “Monsters”. Edwards tried the “Jaws” approach in hiding his monsters/aliens in “Monsters” and in my view it was the wrong tactic. In fact, if he didn’t have the budget for an alien invasion movie, he damn well shouldn’t have made the movie at all (I still can’t believe Edwards comes from an FX background). “Godzilla” doesn’t warrant the “Jaws” approach, it’s the kind of film where you want the central monster introduced pretty damn quickly. It’s the dictionary definition of a cheesy, fun monster movie. I figured even Edwards would be smart enough to realise this. I was wrong, and pacing is the primary flaw in this “Godzilla” film I must say. I so wanted to love this film, but Edwards is pretty much 0-2 in my books. No, neither this nor even “Monsters” is a bad film (especially this one), but that they are both seriously frustrating films it cannot be denied.

 

One of the problems with “Monsters” was that the characters weren’t interesting enough to compensate for the lack of, well, monsters. Here Edwards looks like he’s going to rectify that mistake as Bryan Cranston immediately grabs your attention and gives a much better performance than you’d expect to find in a “Godzilla” film. Although he’s the only human being in existence who forgets his own birthday, and although he plays a huge disaster movie cliché (The guy who knows the shit’s about to hit the fan and no one will listen), Cranston is an immediately likeable, dependable presence. You genuinely like this guy and care what happens to him. Unfortunately, he’s not long for this film, and although everyone else in the cast is OK, their characters are not nearly as captivating. The film loses the human element somewhat before it even really gets going.

 

That said, there’s still things to like in this one, even if “Pacific Rim” still feels like a better “Godzilla” film (despite not even featuring “Godzilla”). In fact, it’s probably on par with the late 90s early 00s Japanese-made “Godzilla” films, and indeed shares with them the slow pace/slow reveal. We get an immediately brilliant Alexandre Desplat (“The King’s Speech”, “The Monuments Men”) music score to start us off in the best manner possible. It echoes the original Akira Ifukube music score without actually specifically using it. After the music has played out we get nuclear warfare images. Nice. From a pure spectacle POV, the film starts off well as Edwards really goes all out with the disaster movie goods. If you’re not going to give us the monster early on, at least giving us some kind of spectacle is a reasonably smart move. So I appreciated that. Some of the environmental/scientific themes running through the film will definitely have series fans thinking back to the original “Gojira”, which is appropriate. Speaking of “Gojira”, I was very happy to hear Watanabe refer to the creature as such. Using the English name would just sound odd from a Japanese actor/character. Yes he adopts the English name later on, but one assumes this is because he is conversing in English with non-Japanese characters, so I’ll let it slide. 

 

Although the film takes forever to introduce the big green lizard at just under an hour, I can’t say any of this is boring. I like that Edward has given us a bunch of other monsters (I’ve always been a sucker for the more ‘monster mash’-oriented kaiju films), but I must admit keeping Godzilla off-screen for so long had me worried that Edwards was trying to pass off one of these creatures as Godzilla. I’m not entirely sure Edwards couldn’t have more clearly differentiated between the monsters to be honest. Still, it’s pretty enjoyable spectacle at times, and when Cranston is on screen it’s even more than that.

 

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (whose character’s surname is Brody. God, you’re such a dork, Mr. Edwards!) and Ken Watanabe are both well-cast, but their characters, although interesting, aren’t as captivating as Cranston’s. The main reason for investment in the Ford character is his fractured relationship with his father. When Cranston’s character gives way to Taylor-Johnson’s character as our chief protagonist, something emotional is lost, and we’re almost forced to start again with the Taylor-Johnson/Olsen dynamic at the centre. This relationship just can’t compensate for what we lose. Like Watanabe and Hawkins, David Strathairn, plays a ‘type’ here rather than a character, but playing a no-nonsense military man is very much in Strathairn’s wheelhouse, so it’s tough to complain there. However, when you add in Sally Hawkins and Juliette Binoche to the mix, the casting seems to reek of a director trying to class up the joint with some indie/arthouse cred. I see what you’re doing, Mr. Edwards. Nice try, but no. Poor Elizabeth Olsen is instantly appealing (she’s by far the most talented member of her family), but also instantly handed the dud role of the girlfriend whom our hero is kept apart from due to the disaster. Like Sela Ward in “The Day After Tomorrow”. Exactly like her, given both also work in hospitals and are dedicated to staying with their patients despite impending disaster. Olsen’s is probably the weakest role in the film. The weird thing is, for all the complaints I have, I still have to admit that clichéd or not, this is a well-written group of characters for this kind of thing…just not nearly as well-written as the filmmakers seem to think by placing so much emphasis on the younger Brody. Brody the Elder is where the heart and depth are. Newbie screenwriter Max Borenstein could’ve done a much more half-arsed job with this kind of thing, it must be said (Apparently the script had previously been worked on by the likes of Frank Darabont and David S. Goyer). We’ve all seen the Roland Emmerich film, right? Right. However, it’s still the difference between an OK film and a good film. If we had more scenes with father-and son we might really have had something here.

 

On a visual level, this is a much better and stable-looking film than “Monsters”, but this has its negatives, too. The cinematography by Seamus McGarvey (“The War Zone”) is just too dark to really make anything out at times. It renders the monster action (the most important thing in any “Godzilla” or kaiju film) not nearly as enjoyable as it could’ve been. Yes, there’s a kick-arse moment where Godzilla finally breathes its fire, but on the whole the night scenes look incredibly murky. The Godzilla creature design isn’t awful, but it didn’t thrill me, either. The head is too small (I’ve read that eagles were an inspiration for it. Eagles? Eagles? It’s a giant lizard for fuck’s sake!) and they’ve grossly overdone the ridges/Stegosaurus-like plates on its back, though everyone probably has their own views on how the creature should look. However, at least Edwards knows how to properly frame the big lizard (much better than Roland Emmerich ever did), even if the lighting is questionable. And if nothing else, at least Godzilla looked more like Godzilla than the generic monster Roland Emmerich tried to pass on us. Godzilla’s roar here is unfortunately pathetic. What the hell is up with that? Would it have really cost them a fortune to borrow Toho’s sound FX? (Apparently Toho lent the sound designer a recording of the original, which he then decided to ‘upgrade’. It’s shockingly ineffectual).

 

This is a non-Japanese attempt at your standard late 90s/early 00s “Godzilla” film with the big lizard taking out other monsters, albeit without the goofy “Voltron” team and psychic girl who seemed to turn up in all of those films. It’s about on par with most of those films, maybe a little lesser than some (Non-Japanese filmmakers will never truly understand “Godzilla” as it’s a Japanese character born out of Japanese culture and history). It’s uneven, but still the best non-Japanese “Godzilla” film to date and at least it’s not “Cloverfield”. Small praise, but although poorly lit and slow in introducing the title character, the film is never boring. I just prefer the campy “Godzilla” films of the 50s and 60s, personally. It’s not bad. Borenstein’s screenplay is based on a Dave Callaham (“Doom”, “The Expendables”, “Tell-Tale”) story.

 

Rating: C+

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Review: Annie Hall


The story of neurotic New York comedy writer Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) and his romantic relationships, focussing mostly on his involvement with struggling singer Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), whom he meets at a tennis match, followed by the most uncomfortably awkward conversation you’ve ever heard. Carol Kane and Janet Margolin play Alvy’s two ex-wives, Tony Roberts is Alvy’s actor best friend, Colleen Dewhurst is Annie’s mother, with Christopher Walken as Annie’s troubled brother, whilst John Glover cameos as a pretentious ex-boyfriend.

 

If not the best film directed by Woody Allen (“Manhattan”, “Hannah and Her Sisters”, “Hollywood Ending”), then certainly one of the top two (For me, it’s a toss-up between this and “Deconstructing Harry”, which might just have the slightest edge), this 1977 film from the director and his co-writer Marshall Brickman (“Manhattan”, “Manhattan Murder Mystery”) has lots of clever moments and great lines that come thick and fast. My favourite line? ‘Hey, don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love’. The line about an Alice Cooper concert is great too. It probably has more memorable moments in it than any other Allen film, including;

 

- The first time we see Diane Keaton here, she’s wearing a dress. Pay close attention, because you’ll rarely see her wearing anything other than men’s clothing until maybe the 1990s. Yes, I do consider this a memorable moment, thank you very much.

 

- The bit where Woody’s character observes a pretentious Fellini critic ranting has a great punchline when Woody literally brings Marshall McLuhan into it.

 

- Only a character played by Woody Allen would use a JFK conspiracy to get out of sex with a woman. Genius.

 

- Woody and Keaton have perhaps the most awkward conversation in cinematic history after they first meet at a tennis game. It’s cute.

 

- A funny scene has subtitles expressing what Woody and Keaton are really saying when having a conversation. It’s so clever I’m surprised it doesn’t get stolen more often by other filmmakers.

 

- There’s a clever visual gag where Keaton literally leaves her body during sex with Woody, becoming removed from it.

 

- A split-screen of Keaton’s family having a meal and Woody’s family having a meal, and then the two finally interact.

 

- A startling early role for Christopher Walken as Keaton’s clearly depressed and unstable brother.

 

- An insane animated it where Woody imagines being romantically involved with The Wicked Queen from “Snow White”. What the hell?

 

- Woody’s unfortunate and very funny bad reaction to cocaine.

 

This isn’t the only film to have the Woody Allen-Diane-Keaton-Tony Roberts character dynamic, but I think this is the best usage of that basic character dynamic. The best thing about the entire film is that, although Keaton has been more likeable elsewhere, the title character and Woody’s character are both likeable and easy to take. Roberts is really good here, as always. Meanwhile, I have no idea if that’s really Keaton’s singing voice at one point, but if it is, she can clearly sing, though the moment itself is a comedic one.

 

If I have anything negative to say about the film, it’s that it might be about ten minutes too short. It feels just a tad underdone, I think. Lots of cameos (including Tracey Walter, John Glover, and Beverly D’Angelo), but you’ll have to look real hard for Sigourney Weaver, and Jeff Goldblum’s only on screen long enough to tell someone that he has lost his mantra. What the hell was THAT all about? Paul Simon, I swear, looks exactly like beloved sleazy computer game character Leisure Suit Larry.

 

It’s not a perfect film or a masterpiece, and not all of the one-liners hit, but this is still a really enjoyable film. Even if like me, you’re not really a Woody Allen fan, there’s a lot to enjoy here. The two main stars are far more likeable here than in some of their other pairings, and there’s some very clever and funny moments, ideas and lines. It still isn’t better than “Star Wars”, though.

 

Rating: B-

Review: Stealing Harvard


 

Jason Lee is in a bit of a pickle. He and his fiancé Leslie Mann have just acquired the funds for a deposit on a house. However, a long time ago, Lee promised that if his niece (Tammy Blanchard) got into college, he’d pay for her tuition. She indeed gets into Harvard and needs almost the exact same amount of money that Lee and Mann need for the deposit on the house. What to do? He can’t bear to disappoint Mann, nor her extremely intimidating and weirdly overprotective father (and sales rep Lee’s boss), played by Dennis Farina. Nor can he be honest and tell Mann about the promise. That’d be too smart. For some stupid reason, he turns to his oddball idiot best friend Tom Green for answers (A lawn mower by trade, it seems. A really, really bad one at that). Supposedly comedic get rich quick schemes ensue (one involving horse racing and a cameo by Seymour Cassel). John C. McGinley plays a bald and uber-intense detective, Chris Penn is a high school acquaintance turned idiot crook, Richard Jenkins is a creepy and lonely widower/judge, and Megan Mullally is Lee’s extremely popular (in the wink-wink) trailer trash sister.

 

Yet another reason that Tom Green very quickly stopped being a thing, this 2002 so-called comedy from director Bruce McCulloch (the lame SNL flick “Superstar”) and screenwriter Peter Tolan (“Analyse This”, “America’s Sweethearts”) is a terrible waste of a good supporting cast and decent leading man Jason Lee. Green’s awful and weird as usual, but he’s not the problem here. In fact, he gets the film’s only good line: ‘Have you heard of insurance? It’s called insurance’. Seriously, what does that even mean? It’s so stupid it’s brilliant. The rest of the film is just stupid.

 

The problem is the usual suspect: The script just isn’t funny for the most part. This is made obvious when Dennis Farina in drag spooning with Richard Jenkins fails to get a laugh. Leslie Mann steals it as Lee’s emotionally unstable girlfriend- she’s insane and at the very least kinda interesting. Like Mann, a bald John C. McGinley is better than the film. I bet he’s a helluva nice guy in real life, but boy is he an intimidating presence on screen. It’s a waste of time, and it contains without question the lamest conclusion of any film I’ve seen in months.

 

No, this just isn’t good enough at all. I won’t deny there are a few chuckles here and there, but even with Green in the cast, this should’ve been a lot better. Why did so many talented people (and Tom Green) sign on for this? Lame, but at least there aren’t any shit weasels in it, I suppose.

 

Rating: D+