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Showing posts from January, 2009

Ready or Not

Movie title: Ready or Not (2009)
Grade:C- (2 stars)
Rated: R
Summation: A bachelor party gone all out puts four guys in Mexico.
Spoilers ahead: No

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In Ready or Not, a bachelor party gone all out puts four best friends in Mexico. Chris (Christian Oliver), Marc (Seamus Dever), Lawrence (Evan Hulmuth), and Dean (Jonathan Murphy) are buddies. They've gone through the best and the worst of times together, but Chris is about to get married. Marc doesn't want him to, and his thinking is that maybe a wild, unplanned adventure in the form of one hell of a bachelor party will pull him back over into staying a bachelor forever—such is the dream of Marc due to his status as a die-hard, eternal bachelor and lady's man (or more accurately, a "player").

It's been a while since I've been to a bachelor party, and though I'm not a big partier, I'd rather go to one as opposed to hearing about one or seeing a movie about one. Call me a bore, but seeing guys in tuxedos wa…

My Bloody Valentine

Movie title: My Bloody Valentine (2009)
Grade:D+ (1 ½ stars)
Rated: R
Summation: A miner in a small town goes on a killing spree.
Spoilers ahead: No

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As an 8-year-old kid, I wrote a short story called "The Assassinators." It was about a band of 7 ex-military guys who got together and used their army connections to get a hold of high-end weaponry and went on a rampage killing. I was so proud of myself for coming up with what I thought was the greatest “shoot ‘em up” plot ever conceived until an aunt asked the question: "Why are these men killing?" "They're just bad guys," I replied. “Yes, but what’s their motivation?” I thought about it, but I couldn’t come up with an answer. Until she said something about it, it didn't bother me at all that I had written a story about smart, well trained guys risking their freedom and lives for no cause at all. Then it bothered me.

That's how it is in My Bloody Valentine, a remake of the 1981 original. It has its …

Death Never Looked So Beautiful!

Movie title: Rambo (2008)
Grade: B+ (3 ½ stars) (Recommended!)
Rated: R
Summation: Rambo is sought out by missionaries who seek passage in a war-torn country.
Spoilers ahead: No

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I remember a time not long ago when John Rambo was a status symbol of the 1980s. Rambo was as “bad boy” as you could get. Sadly, it was the spirit of Rocky, not Rambo, which lived on to steal a lot of hearts. Well, that shouldn’t have been. The way I see it, Rocky has no problem sharing his spotlight with Rambo, my knife-wielding hero who can eat what would make a goat puke. Even the cartoon that had a shot of him fastening that memorable red bandana on his head just before the action started was to be revered. Piss off God before you piss off Rambo—he’ll have mercy, but Rambo won’t!

The Rambo era is gone, unfortunately, along with the simplicity it carried. The days of Rambo were the days of the first Nintendo when the focus of so many videogames was to save the princess or accept the top-secret mission of the g…

Hotel for Dogs

Movie title: Hotel for Dogs (2009)
Grade:B- (3 stars)
Rated: PG
Summation: Two orphaned kids start a shelter for stray dogs.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Finding an animal movie that doesn't end in tragedy is somewhat of a rarity. Finding one with good animal direction and likable animals is a little less of a rarity, but still requires some work. Unlike Marley and Me (2008), Hotel for Dogs is a decent and lovable dog movie without tragedy and with the boxes checked "yes" for likableness and fine animal direction.

It's taken its share of criticism. Some of that criticism is just, and some of it reaches right past the intended beauty and simplicity of the film and its target audience. As go the charges, it’s predictable and unrealistic with a "give 'em what they want" happy ending. Well, sometimes predictable just isn’t that bad.

The arrogance of some movie critics in thinking that every movie in existence was made for adults with journalism degrees is hard to deal wi…

Bride Wars

Movie title: Bride Wars (2009)
Grade:C+ (2 ½ stars)
Rated: PG
Summation: Two lifelong best friends butt heads when they are compelled to get married on the same day.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Bride Wars is a girly-girl film, the equivalent of a “that’s my boyfriend” schoolyard catfight. Two grown-up women and best friends butt heads in planning weddings when a scheduling mistake places their glamorously planned weddings on the same day at the same ultra-fancy location, The Plaza.

Candice Burgen tells the story from her point of view as Marion St. Claire, Manhattan’s most sought-after wedding planner. Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Liv (Kate Hudson) are two best friends, so close in fact that their grandiose weddings were planned out as young girls, and years of growing and pursuing different careers didn’t rip those plans apart. When the question for the two gets popped by their men, they say “yes,” and then it’s just a matter of making the arrangements. That’s when things get complicated.

Since the s…

Making Rent-a-cop Headlines

Movie title: Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009)
Grade:B+ (3 1/2 stars) Recommended!
Rated: PG
Summation: A lonely mall security guard runs into romance and action when thieves invade his mall.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Appealing to middle-aged pie-lovers everywhere is Kevin James as Paul Blart, shiftless, overweight, hypoglycemic, wannabe cop/mall security guard. They could have chosen a better last name for the character, but that may have been an intentional comically immature reference to “blubber” and “fart” (two things that could be said to define James’ antics). That would have been a very Kevin James-ish thing to have, I’m thinking.

Kevin James, like the great Chris Farley (may he rest in peace), has the iconic ability to be awkwardly funny with heart-stopping hilarity. His penguin-like appearance on screen alone is a kneeslapper. His slapstick style isn’t just funny, but believable rather than corny. If you can handle James’ King of Queens-style self-put-down routines, then you should relate w…

The Unborn

Movie title: The unborn (2009)
Grade:D- (1 star)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: A young woman is haunted by a demon wanting to be born.
Spoilers ahead: No

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I am disappointed in The Unborn, another horror movie-turned-teen flick for a boring Friday or Saturday night. If you’re still in high school and you can drive, take your date to the theatre, hold him/her close, and fulfill the wishes of quick box office cash-flow-obsessed Hollywood producers by seeing this. They’ll love you for it!

And tell me this; when will directors get tired of having faces pop out and scream? It keeps happening…and happening and happening. A kid with too much makeup on pops out of a medicine cabinet and spooks us. How many times have we seen the pop-out-and-scream maneuver? Maybe a thousand times? Two thousand? Well, we’ve seen it too many, and it was scary only the first time or two. Now we’re ready for something new, something better than cheap scares made for a Honda Civic-full of kids on the weekends.

The dialogue le…

The Poughkeepsie Tapes

Movie title: The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2009) ***
Grade:F (0 stars)
Rated: R
Summation: Experts examine a serial killer’s recorded footage of torture, murder, and mutilation.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Ask yourself why you’ve never heard of The Poughkeepsie Tapes (TPTs) or the Poughkeepsie murders before. Now you can go hunting around for the answer or I can just come right out and tell you. Alright, I’ll just tell you. The reason is that it’s bogus.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a “mockumentary,” like a documentary and done in the same style, but phony. It’s an altogether terrible film, but you have to acknowledge that making a mock documentary and selling it as a true story does stir up a lot of discussion and makes people ask questions.

What the makers and promoters (Tribeca Films, MGM, and writers Drew and John Dowdle) of TPTs want you to think is that an unknown and still uncaught serial killer from the late 1980s thru at least 2001 orchestrated a string of murders and left behind some 800 meticulo…

Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling

Movie title: Without a Paddle: Nature’s Calling (2009) ***
Grade:D- (1 star)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: Two former high school buddies go in search of an old beautiful schoolmate.
Spoilers ahead: No

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I have two good things to say about this film; it was clean viewing for young audiences, and the moral of the story at the end was good. But I have nothing else good to say about it.

Two friends, Ben (Oliver James) and Zach (Kristopher Turner), have not been as close since their high school days. Life managed to put some distance between them, but soon to come was a chance to relive some of those glory days. At his work at a nursing home, Zach meets an old lady who wants to hear from her granddaughter one last time before dying, so he convinces his busy attorney buddy Ben that the trip to Oregon to find her will be worth it because the girl they are seeking is his old dream girl from high school, Heather or “Earthchild” (Madison Riley).

The old lady sends along her grandson, a vanity-obsessed Eng…

"Taken" as it is

Movie title: Taken (2008)
Grade: B- (3 stars)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: A government agent goes on a search for his kidnapped daughter.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Taken has its share of problems. Whoever wrote the dialogue should be shot by firing squad. The souls responsible for about one-third of the acting should be put in the stocks for the better part of a hot afternoon. There are enough scenes of guns getting knocked out of hands in door-jams to make you want to petition the president to reopen GITMO just for the director. The writing behind the story itself is less than stellar, but these are my only complaints. Everything else was a rollercoaster ride of violent action, a jaw-clenching fighting flick that pets the ego.

While these faults without doubt mount a strong attack against the quality of the film, I am willing to forgive them. Yes, some movies do get a pass for their faults while others do not. Get over it! We critics do that! ☺

The plot, though obviously contrived, is decent. That …

Fantastic Floundering: The Rise of the Silver Slack-off

Movie title: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2009)
Grade: D+ (1 ½ star)
Rated: PG
Summation: The Fantastic Four learn that they aren't the only super-powered beings in the universe when they square off against the powerful Silver Surfer and the planet-eating Galactus.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Somebody slacked off. This wasn’t done right. I’m not going to hide the fact that this movie pretty much sucked. Though not a total loss, it was mostly an embarrassment. The kiddish dialogue aimed primarily at ten-year-olds was insulting (as though only the immature enjoy and look forward to well made comic book movies). The meandering melodrama could be mistaken for Pine-Sol on a floor and mopped up. The only thing they got marginally right was the Surfer himself.

Created by Jack Kirby in 1966 as a mock character, the Silver Surfer was soon transformed into a megapower in the world of Marvel Comics. Before he was the Surfer, he was a promising young astronomer named Norrin Radd on the plan…

Behind Enemy Lines: Columbia

Movie title: Behind Enemy Lines: Columbia (2009) ***
Grade:D- (1 star)
Rated: R
Summation: Navy Seals mount an attack on Colombian Special Forces to clear their names and rescue a hostage.
Spoilers ahead: No

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In Behind Enemy Lines: Columbia, an insurgent group known as FARC finds an excuse to blacklist the United States when an intel operation on the part of five Navy Seals goes awry. And if perfectly suspense-less, B-movie-level action flicks float your boat, then this might. I say “might” because a weak-as-soup script isn't the only major setback in the development. It's little wonder it went from production straight to DVD.

The “tough guy” feel with dialogue that could only be appreciated by young audiences will get to you eventually, if not at first. Facial close-ups in moments of shock make for a cheesy viewing experience. It is an unabashed action movie with a purposely flimsy plot and all the emphasis on the action, and it does two things well; one, it moves on rather quick…

Fix

Movie title: Fix (2008)
Grade:B- (3 stars)
Rated: R
Summation: Two documentary-makers follow a convicted drug addict around for a story before his confinement to rehab.
Spoilers ahead: No

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I hate junkies. I hate substance abusers. I hate anyone who is given to escapism when confronted with the hardships of life. I hate them because I’ve had the displeasure of knowing and living with one such person. I have a heroine-addicted pill-head for a sister. The pain that this struggle has put our family through is difficult to put into words.

Junkies lie. Their mannerisms lie, their expressions lie, even their actions lie. Whatever they are saying, it's almost certainly a lie. And half the time, it's just the drugs talking anyway. It's not easy to struggle with drug addiction, not for the user and not for the families of the user. I've seen it all, staying out for days, coming home with nosebleeds and white powder on faces, making pathetic excuses and peddling pathetic lies about w…

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Movie title: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Grade:B- (3 stars)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: The story of a man’s life as he is born old and gets younger with age.
Spoilers ahead: No

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If my heart was set on conquering the world, it wouldn't be beyond me to unleash this movie on an unsuspecting populace. Entire nations may very well fall victim to my whims as they abide helpless, sobbing their eyes out. With well over two hours of tearjerking drama, the people will beg to serve me! Muhahahahaha!

This one is a love-it-or-hate-it film. You either thrive off of the sickly-sweet love story, swollen up for uncritical theatrical minds, or you find it to be overkill. It's a love story with a fantasy plot. You don't need to question it. Just suspend the disbelief and ride with the romantic flare if you can.

At first, I couldn't figure out what I had on my hands. Benjamin's birth and the care he required as an “old” youngster seemed to drag on forever. That's what the w…

Midnight Movie

Movie title: Midnight Movie (2008)
Grade:F (0 stars)
Rated: R
Summation: A madman lives and kills as an evil entity when his old film is replayed inside a movie theatre.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Just once in my life, I want to see a B-movie of camcorder-level quality or above that makes me forget that I am watching a mega-low-budget film. We're not talking immaculate, just something that will prove compelling and moving. Midnight Movie is not much above a camcorder-level quality film and what arguably should be classified as a “C-movie” out of respect for B-movies.

It starts off in a psych ward where an old man who used to make films is shown one of his old films in hopes of making him responsive and rehabilitate-able. Did you guess that the film he made and wants to watch is a horror film of himself killing? Well, it is.

The old fart was committed for going psycho on everyone years earlier. When shown the movie, for some ridiculous reason, he becomes enabled to exist in the film and outsid…

Hangin' With Nico

Several weeks after the beginning of my tenth grade school year (the year after last contact with Philip the psycho), I met this kid on the bus named Nico. Picture a guy with black hair and a slight muscular build, a guy who looked and carried himself like his idle Jean Claude Van Damme. Like me, Nico had serious trouble fitting in. We were like Dumb & Dumber, only “Socially Impaired & Socially Impaired-er.” Me, I was Socially Impaired. :-)

Yes, if you can believe it, Nico was even more of an oddball than I was. He would stand out at the bus stop, and just before the bus arrived, would do roundhouse kicks to show every less cool kid on our bus just how much more cool he was than they were (our bus was full of band nerds, so that pretty much put us losers at the top of the list).

Nico could dress up to look like Van Damme, but normally, he didn’t. When he didn’t, things got weird. Picture a guy with tan-ish/brown, hi-watering slack pants, flashy blue and white tennis shoes, and a…

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

Movie title: The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
Grade:C+ (2 ½ stars)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: A remake of the 1951 classic sci-fi film about an alien visitor and his giant robot counterpart as they visit Earth.
Spoilers ahead: No

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What does good sci-fi do for you? What does it mean to you? What do you look for when watching a sci-fi film? Answering these questions will determine in part whether or not you’d like the new The Day The Earth Stood Still, with Klaatu (Keanu Reeves), Jacob Benson (Jaden Smith), Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly), and Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates).

It’s no match for its classic forerunner from 1951. Let’s get that straight right here and now. If you haven’t seen that one, by all means, go rent it. It’s a classic. That wayfaring work of genius was declared by the American Film Institute to be one of the ten best sci-fi films of all time, and it earned that designation fair and square.

The remake, like most sequels, is nowhere near such an accomplishment. It is, …

Marley and Me

Movie title: Marley and Me (2008)
Grade:D- (1 star)
Rated: PG
Summation: The story of a man and his dog and family.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Marley and Me has too much of one thing and not enough of another. It has too much drama – artificially made drama – and in unnecessary quantities, and this works against it. And while it has a few funny remarks, their aren’t enough of them to come close to rising above a depressing, mundane plot. Trying to mix carefree comedy and serious drama is hard enough to do anyway. The only line in the whole movie that I found funny was from John Grogan’s first boss: “When I had my first child, I thought my wife was going to kill me with a meat-cleaver...and I still do.”

I didn’t like it. For a dog lover's film, it had very little dog in it. With the exception of the pup Marley in the first few scenes, the older dog Marley is not star dog material. And the Marley we are shown in character is a miserable, troublemaking, rambunctious runt with no personality wha…

Make It Happen

Movie title: Make it Happen (2008)
Grade:C- (2 stars)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: A small-town girl heads for the big city to fulfill her dreams of becoming a dancer.
Spoilers ahead: No

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In Make It Happen, a small-town girl pursues her dreams to become a dancer in the big city. In a very youth-oriented and girly fashion, we have an off-the-mark melodrama that falls short of “making it happen” in the drama competition. It's forgettable through-and-through. Lauryn (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is the star. She wants to make it big, but mom and dad died and left the body shop to be taken care of. In Lauren’s eyes, it’s the only link to mom and dad.

Lauryn is sharp. She’s a bookkeeper and good at her job, but she’s conflicted about moving to the city to get into a prestigious dance school. But the way is going to be littered with defeat. Can Lauryn succeed? I really don’t care!

A fascination with dance requires a low-output middle-aged sack of potatoes like myself to look back a long way to be abl…

Make It Happen

Movie title: Make it Happen (2008)
Grade:C- (2 stars)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: A small-town girl heads for the big city to fulfill her dreams of becoming a dancer.
Spoilers ahead: No

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In Make It Happen, a small-town girl pursues her dreams to become a dancer in the big city. In a very youth-oriented and girly fashion, we have an off-the-mark melodrama that falls short of “making it happen” in the drama competition. It's forgettable through-and-through. Lauryn (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is the star. She wants to make it big, but mom and dad died and left the body shop to be taken care of. In Lauren’s eyes, it’s the only link to mom and dad.

Lauryn is sharp. She’s a bookkeeper and good at her job, but she’s conflicted about moving to the city to get into a prestigious dance school. But the way is going to be littered with defeat. Can Lauryn succeed? I really don’t care!

A fascination with dance requires a low-output middle-aged sack of potatoes like myself to look back a long way to be abl…