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Showing posts from December, 2010

From the Mail Room

Movie Review: Gulliver's Travels (2010)
Spoilers: none

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Jack Black, Jason Segel, and Emily Blunt star in the high-energy hit that (in this case) isn't, Gulliver's Travels.

Even Jack Black can't save this one from doom as he plays Lemuel Gulliver, a mailroom worker who takes an assignment to the Bermuda Triangle to impress the girl he is too afraid to ask out on a date. Arriving at his destination, he finds himself towering over the primitive, Tom Thumb-sized inhabitants of an unknown island called “Liliput” where he is feared as a ruthless giant.

After saving the city from a rival nation, he is crowned as chief protector in the perfect opportunity to be revered and adored like he could never imagine. There, he makes friends, Horatio (Segel) and his forbidden love interest, Princess Mary (Blunt), while the envious General Edward (Chris O'Dowd) works to get rid of him.

This remake of the well-popularized 1726 classic Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, plagued w…

Meet the Raunchy

Movie Review: Little Fockers (2010)
Spoilers: none

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Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro are back, with Jessica Alba and Dustin Hoffman, in the new addition to the Meet the Parents lineup, Little Fockers. Yes, humor drawn from the risqué-sounding name continues in this third (and hopefully last) in the series.

Looking to expand his business and make some extra money, Greg Focker (Stiller) takes on the promotion of an erectile dysfunction drug while Jack Byrnes and family travel down for the Focker twins’ birthday party. Trouble erupts when Jack becomes convinced that Greg is cheating on wife Pam (Teri Polo) with the drug company’s hottie of a representative, Andi Garcia (Alba).

All that’s missing are the whacky romance hook-ups in this funny but inferior comedy that, at its core, has a story with a reasonable level of substance that falls back on the integrated family dynamics built up by the previous films. The children, Henry (Colin Baiocchi) and Samantha (Daisy Tahan), are actually involve…

Tron: The Less-than Legacy

Movie Review: Tron: Legacy (2010)
Spoilers: none

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Tron: Legacy takes off more than twenty years after the events of the original 1982 film. Do you happen to remember the first movie? Were you alive when it was made? Two of the main stars of this film weren’t. How did it affect you? What impressions did it make on you? Well, as it turns out, it doesn't really matter.

Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) is the son of Encom Industries video game and software designing tycoon, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), who inexplicably vanished from the scene twenty years back. After hacking into his father's former company, Sam is led to revisit the last place his father was known to be, only to find himself injected into the same world of digital disaster that has been home to his father for so long. 

As stated, it doesn't matter whether you remember the first Tron or not. That film held a marginal place of honor in its time. While rather shallow in its appeal, it was the journey of imagination tha…

Stupidity in a Foreign Country Gets You This

Movie Review: And Soon the Darkness (2010)
Spoilers: none

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The original 1970 film And Soon the Darkness has fallen out of memory and into obscurity. For that reason alone, its remake is not only justifiable, but arguably worthwhile. Beats pointlessly recreating what everyone already knows and loves about the classics of their choice.

As in the first film with the same title, the story is of two females who travel to a foreign country for leisure. In the original British version, that country was France. Here, it is Argentina where two privileged and naïve white girls travel around in a part of the world where the kidnapping, selling, raping, and murdering businesses are booming.

You have two unwise girls, stupidly flaunting the fact that they are unaccompanied by anyone else, lightly packed, and not fluent in the local language—no way that's going to get attention from those who might, say, take advantage of them? Nah, surely not. And it surely won't encourage the situation wi…

Top 7 Worst Movies of All Time

- is transitory
- is growing
- as far as I'm concerned, must not come from some list online, but from personal enjoyment or lack thereof.
- The first raped my soul

The "I'd Rather Chew Broken Glass" List

1) Disaster Movie (2008)
2) Epic Movie (2007)
3) Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)
4) Fear dot com (2002)
5) Mission to Mars (2000)
6) Space Mutiny (1988)
7) Sea of Fear (2006)

- the second made me laugh while crying inside

The "So Bad It's Good" List

1) Plan 9 From Outer Space (1956) [iconic cult classic award]
2) Troll 2 (1990) [iconic cult classic award]
3) Alone in the Dark (2005)
4) Eagah (1962)
5) Love Happens (2009)
6) Teenage Strangler (1964)
7)

Short Films (1)

Check back regularly as we continue our look at independent films in the form of short films that aren't exactly movies, but stand out as fine examples of single cinematic projects, or in some cases, a series that aims towards something bigger. Among the more recent picks of the lot are...

Imaginary Bitches (A+)
Every episode is a "cat fight" waiting to happen in a provocatively well-done series created by Andrew Miller with a sensual fit and finish similar to Ryan Murphy's Nip/Tuck.

Perry St (A+)
Focuses on a man named “Perry” (Mark Epperson) who sees his counselor, “Elaine” (Catherine Mary Stewart – “Gwen Saunders” from Weekend at Bernie's, 1989, and "Maggie Gordon" from The Last Starfighter, 1984). Then Perry meets “Sophie” (Brittany Moore).

While quickly loosening up within the first three or four minutes, this short, 15-minute film naturally flows into a piece you wish were longer, with its humorous lean and thoughtfully conceived writing.

The film…

Well, Venice Looks Nice Enough

Movie Review: The Tourist (2010)
Spoilers: none

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A case of mistaken identity has Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) and Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp) fleeing for their lives when a ripped-off crime lord comes looking to reclaim stolen funds in the mystery/thriller, The Tourist.

This mostly robust and posh film takes its time showing off the wine-complemented beauties of Venice, not to mention the ever-breathtaking seductiveness of Jolie, while having much to say on the theme of trust and the two-faced human tendency to employ deception to gain an advantage.

Teasingly romantic, with violin music and beautiful tapestries, The Tourist relies far too heavily on its authentically embellished backgrounds that very often take the focus off of this gentle stream of a story, which could have used some rockier writing to generate some much needed excitement.

The Tourist is unfortunately yet another example of the reliance on star power rather than the raw and piercing performances needed to make a l…

Thinking Outside the Box with Jack Abramoff

Movie Review: Casino Jack (2010)
Spoilers: none

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Casino Jack is the adventurously titled story-made-movie of the Jack Abramoff scandal. All but the most disconnected from TV and radio will by now have heard of Jack Abramoff, the indicted super-lobbyist for the GOP currently serving his six-year prison sentence for a wide range of corruption charges, including conspiring to corrupt public officials, tax evasion, and fraud.

Kevin Spacey is an eager and energetic Abramoff, introduced to audiences while brushing his teeth in the mirror, as he rehearses the telling off of his accusers. Then comes the call from fellow miscreant, Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper), in hot water with him: “They're calling us the new Watergate!” he says to Abramoff. And then we see Abramoff taking mugshots before the audience is taken back to over a year earlier when the whole mess started. 

“The reality is that without lobbyists, the wheels of Washington would come to a grinding halt.” Spacey's Abramoff e…

The Warrior's Waste

Movie Review: The Warrior's Way (2010)
Spoilers: none

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As you've seen from the trailers, The Warrior's Way is a ninja movie about a master ninja assassin who fights to eliminate competing clans. When Yang (Dong-gun Jang) comes across the last remaining infant child of an enemy people, he decides to save her life and care for her as his own, thus marking himself for death as a traitor and an enemy of those he formerly called family.

But that is only part of the story. The way it is laid out, it is very misleading, suggesting to the audience that what to expect is a conventional martial arts action movie, when in reality, this movie is nothing like the cool trailers suggest. Allow me to describe the full order of events beginning where the introductory paragraph leaves off...

Ninja defies clan. Ninja takes child and moves to an American frontier town in the old west where bits and pieces of buildings can be seen that are supposed to pass for an actual city. Ninja travels a lo…

Slow Justice is No Justice

Movie Review: Faster (2010)
Spoilers: none

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Dwayne Johnson is a vengeance-minded killing machine in the Action/Crime/Drama, Faster.

Following the death of a brother who was set up and ambushed after pulling off a bank heist, newly freed convict, Driver (Dwayne Johnson), goes on a Terminator-style killing spree to take out the parties involved. His job won't be easy when a team led by veteran “Cop” (Billy Bob Thornton) and a highly skilled mercenary, Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), are out to stop him.

Faster is a proud movie with no shortage of attitude. Its prisons and shaved heads and tattooed muscle guys and their noisy, souped-up hotrods that make unapologetic peal-outs could, in some circles, be called staples of American life. We've all been wanting to see Dwayne Johnson in a rougher role (not aimed at young audiences) he takes seriously. And here he is, making us happy, slickly filling shoes Arnie himself would be proud to wear.

While not hiding its vestigials, this throwb…

Don’t Just Think About Beating the System! Do it!

Movie Review: The Next Three Days (2010)
Spoilers: none

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Elizabeth Banks is Lara Brennan, a woman convicted of a murder she did not commit in The Next Three Days. Husband John, fitly played by Russell Crowe, is a college professor who has no idea he will find it in himself to attempt to break his wife out from one of the most well fortified prisons in America upon discovering she will be moved in 72 hours. But he’ll have to have help from former and famous escapee convict, Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson) who steps in to provide the know-how.

In this crime/drama/thriller – with its mega-loads of suspense, clustered with avid star power – things come together for a long and frustrating journey of trying to pull off what seems to be the impossible when appeals and the legal system fail.

Lara’s trial is never shown and the details behind it are scattered around and throughout the film, but the audience is brought sufficiently up to speed on the basics by 15 minutes in as things go from bad…

The Spooky Truth About Spunk: The Low-down on Working in a Porn Store (Part II of III)

In the first article, we began discussing the classes of normal frequenters to a porn store. We talked about the good time couples, the medical shoppers, the party shoppers, and the ambitious lovers. But it’s not the normal customers that make us nervous. It’s the not-so-normal crowd that gives cause for concern. We continue with a description of these disturbing classes, unflatteringly penciled into that group known as “Hardcore Customers”…

The Hair Comes Down, not the Charm

Movie Review: Tangled (2010)
Spoilers: none

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Tangled is the new, holiday-timed Disney release of the story of Rapunzel, un-enchantingly titled, allowing it to sound like a description of the conflicted emotions inside the head of a girl in a cheap, 90s romance novel-turned-movie. That primarily cosmetic criticism is an indication of a telltale tendency in a film that tries exceptionally hard to serve itself up as a dish of richness and fine taste. It tries, and it just about always succeeds.

After the infant Rapunzel is touched with a magical flower, she is stolen from the king's palace by the wicked Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy, voice), who seeks to preserve her youth with the enchanted hair of the babe. When the child spends 18 years of her life in a far-away tower, kept from the world, a now mature Rapunzel is visited by a fleeing bandit, Flynn Ryder/Eugene Fitzherbert (Zachary Levi), who winds up in a position to help the young princess see the floating lights of the city, which…

Doesn’t This Sound Magical

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)
Spoilers: none

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It was ten years ago that the first Harry Potter burst onto the screen. Created from the books by J.K. Rowling that gave them life, the series has gone far. These are the same books, we are told, which have hoisted up the literacy of an entire generation of text-speak junkies and kids who wear their jeans too tight around their calves.

Do the movies measure up to the books? That only the fans themselves can answer. In light of the previous movies, dare we ask: Will this Harry Potter have more emotional depth instead of the usual teenaged, after school-ish-ness? That's the question. The answer: Well, perhaps, but who's to say? The fans cannot totally agree amongst themselves. 

To think that all this time of these books teaching kids how to read (and for the boys, how to masturbate over Hermione Granger until their wieners were sore) has brought us so, so far. The boys learned for themselves the be…