Mar 27, 2015

Review: Neighbors (2014)

Straight-up comedies are a touchy subject for me. I don't really like to say that I'm a comedy snob though because that doesn't sit right with me. I mean, I like the odd stoner comedy now and again and you can't say that a guy who likes Pootie Tang hasn't got an open mind. I just still couldn't help but feel a bit suspicious about Neighbors though, especially with Seth "love him or hate him" Rogan on board. So you can bet that I had Houston on speed dial before I started watching this.

English/American Nicholas Stoller directed Neighbors and I've actually seen all of his movies besides his forgotten TV movie Entry Level. His directorial debut Forgetting Sarah Marshall was his best for sure. Also, if you don't hate Russell Brand (like me) then Get Him to the Greek is pretty fun and The Five-Year Engagement was quite good too, if a bit long. He's also written the screenplays of quite a few other movies that I liked, so Neighbors can't be all that bad right? Maybe I wouldn't have to make that call after all then...

Mar 25, 2015

Review: Lost in Translation (2003)

Lost in Translation has been on my list of "I'm Embarrassed I Haven't Seen This Film Yet" for quite some time. I mean we're talking about a movie that's been on the receiving end of an unbelievable amount of critical praise when it was first released and subsequently in more recent years. LiT most likely would've won Best Picture at the Academy Awards if The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King had come out any other year.

I've noticed that there does seem to be a difference between Sofia Coppola's earlier and later films. I haven't quite seen all her filmography yet, but besides The Virgin Suicides I've also seen The Bling Ring. While Coppola pays very close attention to her characters and her story in LiT and TVS, The Bling Ring in comparison feels relatively vapid if nice from a stylistic point of view. I get the impression that Marie Antoinette and Somewhere are more in line with TBR. I could be wrong, but that's just what I get. Anyway, I'm curious to see where Sofia's newer moves take her. She's got stylistic flair but also a talent for writing stories and characters.

Mar 24, 2015

Review: AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004)

Alien vs. Predator was one of those movies that unfortunately spent much of its time in development hell. The whole idea of combining the Alien and Predator universes actually originated from a 1989 Dark Horse comic. Despite the popularity of the comic which spawned video games, novelizations and more, it took Paul W.S. Anderson literally pitching the idea to Fox executives before anything was actually done. The meeting went so well in fact that the project was pretty much greenlit on the spot.

Understandably there was some groaning from people involved with both franchises, though mostly from the Alien side of things. Ridley Scott, James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver weren't very pleased with the idea since they had their own "Alien 5" in development that was eventually reworked into Prometheus. Part of their negativity was to protect their own work of course, but I can completely understand their point of view. AVP sounds like studio laziness at its worst and who could forget Freddy vs. Jason which was released just a year earlier in 2003? I'd certainly like to anyway.

Mar 23, 2015

Review: A Night at the Roxbury (1998)

I can't tell you how many times it's happened where people around me have referenced A Night at the Roxbury and I couldn't do anything else but smile and pretend to go along with it. I had never seen the movie before and all I knew about it from the jokes was that it had some scenes with Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell bobbing their heads to the side to "What is Love" by Haddaway. Oh, and I've been familiar with this Bill Gates/Steve Ballmer "thing" for quite a while. I was just glad that I could finally be in on all the Night at the Roxbury jokes, even if I'm a bit late.

A Night at the Roxbury is one of several Saturday Night Live sketches that were adapted into feature length films. Besides ANatR, the late 90's seemed to be a particularly fertile time for SNL movies with four released films from 1998 to 2000. Only ANatR ended up being profitable and only slightly. It would take another ten years before another SNL sketch-based film came out and MacGruber just wasn't the answer either.

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Genre: comedy
Directed by: John Fortenberry, Amy Heckerling
Produced by: Amy Heckerling, Lorne Michaels, Robert K. Weiss, etc.
Written by: Steve Koren, Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan
Music by: David Kitay
Running time: 82 minutes
Production company: Paramount Pictures, SNL Studios
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures, United International Pictures, National Broadcasting Company, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $17,000,000
Box office: $30,331,165 (North America)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan, Loni Anderson, Dan Hedaya, Molly Shannon, Dwayne Hickman, Maree Cheatham, Lochlyn Munro, Richard Grieco, Kristen Dalton, Jennifer Coolidge, Meredith Scott Lynn, Gigi Rice, Elisa Donovan, Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin Quinn, Twink Caplan

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Synopsis


Yemeni-American brothers Steve (Will Ferrell) and Doug Butabi (Chris Kattan) are hardcore clubbers who dream of getting inside the mecca of all nightclubs in Los Angeles, the Roxbury. If they ever want to open their own club comparable to the Roxbury, it's absolutely necessary that they actually get in first. Fed up of working for their bossy father (Dan Hedaya) in his artificial flower shop, the Butabi brothers vow that this will be the time they're finally let in.

Review


Even at a scant 82 minutes, there's no denying that A Night at the Roxbury stretches its material Reed Richards thin. I can see the Butabis as being very good subjects for a series of sketches, but it's asking a lot to make them the center of a feature length film. Most of the jokes are of the Butabi brothers being either stupid or ignorant which is the kind of thing that can get pretty old.

But you know what? There's something that's completely infectious about A Night at the Roxbury. Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan have some pretty good brotastic chemistry going on and while I'll admit there's not a whole lot going on in ANatR, I had a pretty good time. There's a lot of dancing and head bobbing and maybe a bit too much slapstick humour, but it all works relatively well. Well enough anyway to make me want to bob my head along with the Butabi brothers every time.

I can't lie that the humour is mostly hit or miss though. While what works and what doesn't depends completely on the person, for me personally I give a small margin advantage for the hit side. A lot of the humour is pretty childish though and the dumb bravado of the Butabis can only go so far. For me this is all about the comedic performances of Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan who give it their all as well as all the music scenes. 

There's actually a surprising amount of special appearances from actors like Loni Anderson, Richard Grieco and even Michael Clarke Duncan (???). Probably best of all though is Molly Shannon who does her best impression of a psycho female dog. It's not a particularly demanding role for her, but having Molly Shannon there is simply an example of good casting. She's an SNL alumni too which is nice.

The story isn't really anything to write home about. It sticks to a familiar narrative and has a pretty predictable outcome. Did anyone really expect something more though? This is an SNL sketch movie after all. It doesn't need to be deep or complex. The main goal here is to be funny and A Night at the Roxbury succeeds in doing that relatively well.

By tomorrow I'll probably have forgotten the story of A Night at the Roxbury. That really doesn't matter though because what will still be with me is Will Ferrell and Chris Katten dancing to "What is Love" again and again. Certain songs become synonymous with movies such as Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" with Rocky III and "Goodbye Horses" with Silence of the Lambs. It's the same thing with "What is Love" which will forever be associated with A Night at the Roxbury. In fact, "What is Love" IS A Night at the Roxbury.

Rating


6/10

Mar 22, 2015

Review: Three Little Pigs (1933)

Part of Silly Symphonies, Three Little Pigs is one of the most famed animated shorts that's come out of Disney in all of its glorious history. You could say that about a lot of their films, but it's definitely a tag that Three Little Pigs has earned. It was quite successful at the box office in its time and it won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1934. It was also selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry. Simply said, Three Little Pigs is a big deal.

I've seen pretty much every Looney Tunes version of The Three Little Pigs and the best of all is probably Pigs in a Polka. Part of Warner Brothers' Merrie Melodies, it's a spoof of Three Little Pigs and Fantasia put together. It's a brilliant little film, but you also can't forget The Turn-Tale Wolf and The Three Little Bops (my personal favourite) which are both worth seeing as well. Point is, it was about time I see Disney's take on the famous fairy tale.

Mar 21, 2015

Review: 22 Jump Street (2014)

Before it was released, no one had really high expectations for 21 Jump Street. After all, it doesn't take a cynic to know that Hollywood is always on the lookout for whatever's hot at the moment and 80's TV shows seemed to be the thing. The A-Team and G.I. Joe are some examples I can think of off the top of my head. While both performed quite well at the box office, they're definitely not movies I'd consider to be worth more than a watch. That especially goes for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra which funnily enough stars the soulless corpse of Channing Tatum.

Everyone who had doubts about 21 like I did was proven wrong once it was released. With a well-written script from Michael Bacall, clever direction from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller as well as some of the most brotastic chemistry from Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, we had a winner. No way could the creatively titled 22 Jump Street match the awesomeness of 21 right?

Review: Bicentennial Man (1999)

I don't believe that I've ever seen Bicentennial Man in all of its entirety before now. If I'm not mistaken, I think I saw part of it in elementary school where we only ended up seeing like half the movie. I must've been a movie guy when I was younger too because boy did I hate when I didn't get to see a movie in its entirety. The first half of this Isaac Asimov/Robert Silverberg adaptation definitely seemed very familiar to me anyway, so I've seen it somewhere for sure.

So here we have Chris Columbus directing Robin Williams again after the massive success that was Mrs. Doubtfire from five years earlier. Can't blame anyone for wanting to try and catch lightning like that again. Unfortunately, things did not go according to plan and Bicentennial Man fizzled at the box office. BM almost broke even, but to Hollywood accountants a flop is a flop, no matter how mild it may be. 

Mar 19, 2015

Review: Nowhere (1997)

Nowhere is the final film of Gregg Araki's Teen Apocalypse Trilogy. All about the teenage angst of the 90's, it follows very closely in the thematic footsteps of Totally F***ed Up and The Doom Generation. Content to remain very much on the fringe with tons of violence and sex, teenage alienation is the main subject it tries to tackle. James Duval also returns to play a new main character as he always does for these Araki films.

What's interesting about Nowhere is how it completely loses its mind with all the cameos. All the adult characters are played by actors or actresses who were once in famous American sitcoms or comedies from the 1970's and 1980's. You got Beverly D'Angelo of Vacation fame who plays Dark's (James Duval) mother for example. I'll admit that a lot of these cameos went over my head since I've never been a TV guy, but I do get the significance.

Mar 18, 2015

Review: The Safety of Objects (2001)

Based on several A. M. Homes short stories, The Safety of Objects is an independent film directed and written by Rose Troche. It's one of those ensemble cast drama films that feature intertwining stories with a host of different characters, so you better be ready with that concentration cap if you plan on watching it. I was a bit wary of the low critic score before I started watching it, but I was pretty interested in seeing what Glenn Close could do.

One of the more notable features of this film is that it's Kristen Stewart's big screen debut as a child actress. Well, as a credited child actress anyway. I mean, it's not like being "Ring Toss Girl" in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas is all that important to her or anyone else. She's moved on to bigger and better things such as starring in young adult vampire film franchises and winning big, blocky César Awards.

Mar 17, 2015

Review: Predator 2 (1990)

Everyone knows that Predator is a classic as far as the action genre goes. If you somehow don't, get on that. It wasn't a big hit with the critics at the time, but it did make a lot of money. Critics eventually warmed up to Predator as they sometimes do and now it looks like it will continue on as one of those infinitely re-watchable flicks. I mean how good does an 80's actioner with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the jungle along with his commando buddies trying to survive being hunted down by a technologically and physically superior alien species sound? Like the purest of symphonies to me.

So how come Predator 2 is never really talked about? Where did it go wrong? Well, probably one of the biggest problems of Predator 2 began in pre-production. The producers wanted the budget of Predator 2 to be the same as Predator which made it impossible to hold onto director John McTiernan who had just come off arguably the greatest action movie ever made in Die Hard or Arnold Schwarzenegger who was still at this point a rising star. Both would obviously have higher salary fees and unfortunately, the producers didn't want to pay up. The budget ended up being higher anyway but probably still not high enough to retain two extremely popular talents.