Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Bucket List (2007)

Synopsis: Hilarity ensues when old farts get terminal cancer. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “You only live once, so why not go out in style?” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) Three things to remember when you get older: never pass up a bathroom, never waste a hard-on, and never trust a fart. 2) You really don’t want to drink Kopi Luwac coffee. 3) We live, we die, and the wheels on the bus go round and round.
Really?: 1) My mom suffered from cancer through most of the 1990s. Even when she wasn’t taking chemotherapy, I don’t recall her ever having the stamina to jump out of airplanes or travel the world unaccompanied by medical professionals. 2) Speaking of that world tour, I realize it would have been extremely expensive to send the leads to Paris, Egypt, Hong Kong, and a few other exotic locales, but wow - the film’s blue screen effects are really bad. 3) Hold on - Edward (Nicholson) can’t get a private room in his hospital for PR reasons? Didn’t writer Justin Zackham know that private hospitals rake in boatloads of money by charging patients for luxuries like private rooms and other amenities? 4) Wait, Carter (Freeman) is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and he decides to fuck off around the world with Edward for a month or two? I don’t think a loving husband and father would do that. 5) Gee…I couldn’t help myself from thinking Edward’s long-suffering valet Thomas/Matthew deserved a bit more character development. 6) I can understand Edward and Carter wanting to race stock cars around ring, but actually crashing into each other's cars like professional NASCAR racers? Gee, I dunno.... 
Rating: I have to give The Bucket List a less-than-stellar review. While I liked both the chemistry between Nicholson and Freeman, and the film’s message about finding the joy in one’s life when you still have the chance to do so, it suffers from some real credibility problems (see: “Really?” and “Synopsis”) and a treacly, cliche-ridden script. 5.5/10 stars.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Deal (2008)

This could have worked for my salute to Burt Reynolds a few years ago. 
Synopsis: Did you ever want to see an atrociously-written, ridiculously predictable, and bargain-basement-budget remake of The Color of Money, featuring cards instead of billiards, and lacking both suspense and a strong female lead? This is your lucky day. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: "Deal yourself in for high-speed thrills and high-stakes poker action in this triumphant tale of cards and courage starring Burt Reynolds, Bret Harrison and Shannon Elizabeth." 
What Did I Learn?: Quite honestly, I don’t think I learned anything from this movie. Tommy (Reynolds) apparently teaches Alex (Bret Harrison) the psychology of the game of poker (i.e. how to read your opponents) and the audience is never provided with any information! 
Really?: 1) Holy cow, why did Jennifer Tilly agree to take part in this film? She makes two cameo appearances and barely says a word. (Come to think of it, that sounds like Charles Durning’s involvement with this turkey, too). 2) So, the big tournament comes down to Tommy and Alex and the loser walks home with $4.1 million? Why are we supposed to care, exactly? 3) Wait, Alex has a job, right? How can he do it and still attend all of those late-night, and out-of-town poker tournaments? This is never really explained. 4) Did writer/director Gil Cates Jr. ever learn that exposition is best used sparingly in a movie script, or that the most intriguing films are the ones that allow the viewers to figure things out on their own? It’s bad enough when Durning’s character spells out Tommy’s motivations to his estranged wife (who puts aside her deep mistrust of gambling and rallies to his side!), but allowing a couple of sports announcers to provide blow-by-blow commentary during the tournament? Bad writing. 
Rating: Deal is one of the most unoriginal, uninspired, and completely pointless movies I have ever encountered (see: “Synopsis,”What Did I Learn?” and “Really?”). I cannot recommend this movie. 2/10 stars. 
Would it Work For a Bad Movie Night?: Probably not, but take a drink any time you get the impression Reynolds is basically just sleep-walking through his role.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Brooklyn's Finest (2009)

Damn - this movie would have been perfect for my salute to movies about bad cops! 
Synopsis: Three deeply-troubled New York City police officers cope with their profound emotional problems by, um….going out on three simultaneous, and independently-planned killing sprees within a few blocks from each other, and whacking a bunch of gang-bangers in cold blood. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “This is war. This is BROOKLYN.” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) Rudy Giuliani didn’t clean up New York - video games and television did that, because it kept young men indoors. 2) “Fuckin’ freedom ain’t free.” 
Really?: 1) See: “Synopsis.” Seriously, what are the odds of that happening? 2) Does anyone think Richard Gere was wildly miscast as Eddie, the semi-suicidal, washed-up alcoholic cop on the verge of retirement? I had a bit of trouble believing the only woman in his life would be the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold he pays for sex. 3) Sal (Ethan Hawke) desperately tries to steal some drug money in order to buy his family a nicer place to live, but gee whiz… don’t NYC cops have a special credit union to help them buy homes? Couldn’t he find something affordable in New Jersey, like that nice little town in Copland?
Rating: Brooklyn’s Finest is a gritty police drama that features a couple of fine performances from Don Cheadle and Hawke. Brooklyn’s Finest isn’t a bad film, but I was expecting a bit more; the three leads share one brief scene together, and their separate storylines never connect, even though they all somehow arrive at the same perceived solution to their problems. 7/10 stars.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Gumshoe (1971)

Offbeat Detective Movie #4 (Please click the links to read my reviews of The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep, both of which were huge influences on this film) 
Synopsis: Goofy gumshoe Ginley gets girl, gun, grand. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Eddie Ginley (Albert Finney) is a comedian turned private eye who gets into hot water when he meets a fat man (George Silver) and a femme fatale (Janice Rule). Armed with only rapid-fire banter and a sharpened instinct, Ginley must save the dame from a drug smuggling ring before the joke’s on him.” 
What Did I Learn?: Firearms were apparently worthless in Liverpool, circa 1971, because it wasn’t a “gun town.” 
You Might Like This Movie If: you'll watch anything from 1971.
Really?: 1) See: “What Did I Learn?” (I realize Britain was a very different place 45-50 years ago, but wouldn’t somebody in Liverpool be interested in purchasing a snub-nose .38, if only to resell it?). 2) So, Ginley hits Straker the hitman in the legs with a chair and runs away, and yet Strake somehow manages to catch up to him soon afterwards and he doesn’t even have a limp. 
Rating: Gumshoe is an enjoyable, if forgettable and rather dated salute to 1940s film noir detective moves. Gumshoe more-or-less works, thanks to Albert Finney’s smooth-and-upbeat performance as the loveable loser Ginley (unfortunately, he’s so upbeat that the viewer could be forgiven for thinking he never seems to be in much danger). The film is marred by a confusing, and highly convoluted plot, and a surprising lack of suspense. Check it out if you want to see what Liverpool, England looked like in the tail end of the 1960s. 7/10 stars.

Inherent Vice (2014)

Offbeat Detective Movie #3 
Synopsis: Hippie detective looks into….wait, wasn’t this ground covered by Al Pacino in Serpico, or Richard Dreyfus in The Big Fix
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “From Paul Thomas Anderson and Thomas Pynchon, it’s the tail end of the psychedelic ‘60s and paranoia is running the day from the desert to the sea of sunny Southern California.” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) Inherent vice in a maritime insurance policy is anything that you can’t avoid. 2) Shelter is supposed to be for free…for free!! 
You Might Like This Movie If: scenes like this one make sense to you. 
Really?: Inherent Vice is a very trippy comedic thriller, so I can overlook some of its weirder elements, but gee - I’m not sure what to think of Doc returning an entire carload of heroin to the villains at the end. That doesn’t seem terribly heroic. Oh, and can anyone tell me what Sortilege’s rambling and incoherent voice-over narration adds to our understanding of the story? 
Rating: When I purchased my copy of Inherent Vice at the local Value Village, the cashier informed me she loves this film, and I would, too. Inherent Vice isn’t a bad stoner-detective movie (it’s something along the lines of The Big Lebowski meets Night Moves) - it certainly has some funny moments, but it’s far too long, the plot is convoluted and loaded with sub-plots which are never satisfactorily resolved (along with too many cameo appearances), and nothing really happens for long stretches. Still, I liked Reese Witherspoon as the Assistant DA with a heart of gold, and Josh Brolin pretty much steals the film as Doc’s arch-nemesis, Bigfoot the cop. 6.5/10 stars.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Singing Detective (2003)

Offbeat Detective Movie #2 
Synopsis: Surly, suspicious scribe suffers skin sickness, stuns sympathetic spouse, sees spectral scofflaws. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “When it comes to murder, seduction and betrayal, pulp-fiction author Dan Dark (Downey) wrote the book. But now, he’s living it.”  
What Did I Learn?: 1) There’s always a dame. 2) Little men shouldn’t sit where their feet don’t touch the ground. 3) When you’re dealing with the Devil, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. 
Really?: I realize Dan is wracked with feelings of guilt, shame a lot of negative emotions related to the murder of his mom years earlier, but what’s the deal with the hallucinations - does he have emotional issues, or is he really nuts? And what do the musical numbers have to do with anything? And who are the imaginary hoods and what are they supposed to represent?
Rating: I have to give The Singing Detective something of a mixed review. Sure, the film is highly creative and stylishly directed, I admired Downey’s tour-de-force performance as a deeply troubled soul with a foul mouth and a vivid imagination, and an unrecognizable Mel Gibson is really quite good as Dan’s sympathetic psychiatrist. Unfortunately, the script is a confusing mess (see: “Really?”) that never makes any sense, and the ending is contrived and silly. Check it out if you wish, but a better bet would be the acclaimed 1980s British mini-series with the same title that served as this movie's inspiration. 6/10 stars.

Brick (2005)

Offbeat Detective Movie #1 (Please click the link to read my review of a somewhat better off-beat detective movie, Gleaming the Cube, featuring a skateboarding Christian Slater)
Synopsis: Do you remember Bugsy Malone, that awful 1970s musical-comedy about 1930s gangsters starring pre-teen actors? Well, just imagine a mish-mash of Bugsy Malone and River’s Edge, and you’ll get a pretty good idea of what this film is all about. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Brendan Frye is a loner, someone who knows all the angles but has chosen to stay on the outside. When the girl he loves turns up dead, he is determined to find the “who” and the “why” and plunges into the dark and dangerous social strata of rich girl Laura, intimidating Tug, drug-addled Dode, seductive Kara, and the ominous Pin.” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) Minneapolis has cold winters but a great public transit system. 2) Tolkien’s descriptions of things are really good - he makes you want to be there. 
You Might Like This Movie If: You find the title intriguing
Really?: 1) Wow… these kids are a whole lot more confident and articulate than any of the teenagers I’ve ever met. 2) So, the Pin’s lovely, all-American suburban mom has no idea her son is the biggest drug dealer in the area? 3) For a nerdy-looking “loner,” it’s amazing how Brendan is desired by every hot chick in the high school and able to beat up the boastful ex-football star. 4) Speaking of Brendan’s fighting skills, how many internal injuries does he acquire after serving as the human punching bag? And he’s able to pretty much sleep them off without medical attention? 5) The Pin wears a cape, and everyone uses terms such as “on the nail” and “duck soup.” 
Rating: I wanted to like Brick, but there’s something about supposedly hard-boiled California teenagers spouting 1940s gangster slang (see: “Really?”) that rubbed me the wrong way. Sure, Brick is off-beat and an example of creative filmmaking - it deserves a few stars for that - but it’s also pretentious, ridiculously slow-moving, dreadfully dull, devoid of credible or likeable characters, and I didn’t buy any of it. Why set this movie in a contemporary suburban high school when none of the characters act like teenagers? I cannot recommend this movie. 4/10 stars. 
Would it Work for a Bad Movie Night?: No, but take a drink any time the dialogue sounds inauthentic. Oh wait, I don’t want to be held responsible for anyone’s alcohol poisoning. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Best and Worst (2017)

Sorry I'm a bit late delivering the list this year - I was busy with work and a few other things in January/February.  

The Best Movies I reviewed in 2017 (10/10 or 9/10 stars, in no particular order):

Gardens of Stone
The Prestige

The Worst Movies I reviewed in 2017 (Less than five stars, I no particular order): 

(*) The Room is so incredibly awful, yet unintentionally hilarious that I decided to place it on both lists. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

You Kill Me (2007)

Synopsis: Alcoholic Albany assassin acts admirably, attacks addiction, acquires adult admirer, avenges accomplices’ annihilation. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Frank is a hired gun with a huge problem - he just slept through the biggest kill of his career.” 
What Did I Learn?: Sending a $25 gift card to your victims’ next-of-kin is the first step towards asking them to forgive you for a botched assassination. 
You Might Like This Movie If: something awful has driven you to drink. 
Really?: 1) Frank announces to his A.A. group that he’s a professional hitman, and…. They’re totally ok with it?! He doesn’t even receive a visit from the cops? 2) Frank’s sponsor Tom (Luke Wilson) states that he’s gay, and it’s never mentioned again. Why add this detail? 3) Are we supposed to care if the local Irish crime family wipes out the local Polish crime family in the Greater Buffalo Area? 4) How long does it take to become a really good mortician? Franks seems to be a natural from the get-go. 
Rating: You Kill Me is an ok black comedy that’s notable for a fine performance from Téa Leoni and not much else - even the highly talented Ben Kingsley seems pretty flat. The film delivers a few good laughs,and several clever lines, but Luke Wilson isn’t given much to do, and the audience isn’t given very many reasons to care about either Frank’s recovery or the fate of his buddies in Buffalo. Meh. 6/10 stars. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)

This would have been perfect for my tribute to revenge-themed movies. Also, please click the links to check out my reviews of some other Wes Anderson films: Bottle Rocket, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Rushmore
Synopsis: It’s basically Moby Dick, feating a washed-up Jacques Cousteau wannabe and a very gullible crew. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Internationally famous oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) set sail on an expedition to hunt down the mysterious, elusive, possibly nonexistent Jaguar Shark that killed Zissou’s partner during the documentary filming of their latest adventure.” 
What Did I Learn?: “Revenge” is a perfectly valid scientific reason for hunting down and killing an endangered species. 
You Might Like This Movie If: You'll watch anything that involves a shark...
Really?: This film isn’t mean to be taken too seriously, so I can overlook some of the strange sea creatures, the fact that everyone carries a Glock, Kentucky Airlines, etc… but gee, that was one lacklustre ending. 
Rating: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou is a very strange film that I found to be much funnier the second time around. This highly offbeat comedy moves at a snail’s pace, but never seems to drag, thanks in part to its laid-back-and-whimsical humour, and a spirited performance by Bill Murray as the “showboat and a little bit of a prick” Zissou. I’m still laughing about the time he remarks: “son of a bitch, I’m sick of those dolphins.” Highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Jarhead (2005)

Please click the link to read my review of another film about the Gulf War, Three Kings
Synopsis: Self-aware US Marine gets really bored hanging around the Saudi Arabian desert waiting for combat, and…. come to think of it, that’s pretty much the entire movie.  2005
Blurb From the DVD Jacket:Jarhead (the self-imposed monicker of the Marines) follows Swoff (Jake Gyllenhaal) from a sobering stint in boot camp to active duty, where he sports a sniper rifle through Middle East deserts that provide no cover from the heat or Iraqi soldiers.” 
What Did I Learn?: Every war is different. Every war is the same. 
Really?: 1) Jarhead was based upon the true story of Anthony Swofford, so I suspect most of the events depicted in this film are pretty accurate. That said, I had a little trouble believing Swofford would merely face extended latrine duty after he was wrongly accused of dereliction his duty and almost blowing up the base after allowing a pile of parachute flares to catch fire. I suspect he would probably face time in a military prison, followed by a dishonourable discharge. 2) So, Swofford and Kruger really, really want to turn another human being into a “pink mist” before the war ends? Hey, that might be an accurate depiction of the way snipers view the world, but it’s hard for the audience to identify with the protagonist. 
Rating: Jarhead is an interesting, and somewhat thoughtful film about a young man who enlists in the Marine Corps and slowly loses his mind from boredom and possibly heat-stroke. Jamie Foxx delivers a great performance as Swofford’s gung-ho sergeant, and I loved the film’s cinematography, but Jarhead really starts to drag once the Marines hit the desert, and there isn’t much of a plot. 7.5/10 stars.

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Synopsis: Demolitions dude dares death, disarms devices, displeases distressed duo. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “War is a drug. Nobody knows that better than Sergeant James, head of an elite squad of soldiers tasked with disarming bombs in the heat of combat.” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) A jack-in-the-box is a piece of tin and a stuffed animal. 2) everyone’s a coward about something. 3) “the rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug” - Chris Hedges. 
Really?: I realize James and Sanborn are a couple of macho idiots who don’t particularly like each other, and there’s fuck-all for them to do for fun on a military base, but gee…. couldn’t they find something better to do to during their downtime than get rip-roaring drunk and beat each other senseless in a fun fistfight? 
Rating: I’m not sure if the Hurt Locker deserved to win Best Picture in 2010, but it is a very good film that manages to weave together some genuinely suspenseful action scenes with some serious commentary about the nature of war, and its effects upon the young men and women who fight America’s wars. Highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Alamo (2004)

Synopsis (Haiku): The Texans got squashed / Santa Ana went too far / This film bombed big time
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “From the studio that brought you Pearl Harbour… Academy Award winner Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa), Dennis Quaid (The Rookie) and Jason Patric (Rush) team up for the acclaimed action epic about one of the most important events in American history!” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) “What are the lives of soldiers but so many chickens?” 2) Davy Crockett was a screamer. 3) “Without blood, without tears, there’s no glory.” 4) The word “catamite” is one step up from “assistant pederast.” 4) “One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name.”
You Might Like This Movie If: You remember the Alamo
Really?: I have to give Colonel Travis credit for picking up an unexploded shrapnel shell and defusing it. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would attempt that, however. 
Rating: The Alamo is a very good film that never got the critical recognition or box office success it deserved (see: “Synopsis”); it’s certainly a much more compelling and believable depiction of the 1836 siege and subsequent counter-attack by General Houston Than the John Wayne epic, and I liked Thornton’s very down-to-Earth portrayal of the larger-than-life Davy Crockett. Highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

The Alamo (1960)

This would have been perfect for my salute to John Wayne westerns. 
Synopsis: The Duke takes on the entire Mexican army, and comes pretty close to single-handedly winning the war for Texan independence. 
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Featuring some of the most spectacular battle sequences ever put on screen, The Alamo - which received seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture - captures both the sweeping spectacle and human drama that surrounded this historical event.” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) “The time to live and the place to die. That’s all any man gets.” 2) “Republic is one of those words that can give you a feeling that makes your heart warm.” 
You Might Like This Movie If: You remember the Alamo. 
Really?: 1) See: “Synopsis.” Seriously, Davy Crockett and the boys somehow manage to sneak out of the Alamo not once, but twice, in order to destroy a particularly large Mexican cannon and steal a herd of cattle. Didn’t Santa Ana post any sentries outside? 2) Crockett forges a nasty letter from Santa Ana, has it read to his men, admits it’s all a pack of lies, and they still want to defend the Alamo because the letter offers a flavour of Santa Ana’s thinking? Wow, those Tennesseans are pretty dumb! 3) Gee, we’re led to believe that rich merchant (and Santa Ana sympathizer) Emil Sand is going to be some sort of major villain, and then…he disappears somewhere in the second act. 
Rating: While I generally enjoy John Wayne’s westerns, The Alamo (which he also produced and directed) isn’t one of his better oaters. It’s far too long, far too preachy (see: “What Did I Learn?”) and the dialogue is cringe-inducing at times. Still, the third genuinely exciting, and the I liked the mutual nastiness between Travis (Laurence Harvey) and Jim Bowie (Richard Widmark). 6/10 stars.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Company Men (2010)

Synopsis: Smug corporate douchebag learns that losing your job really sucks. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is living the proverbial American dream: great job, beautiful family, shiny Porsche in the garage. When corporate downsizing leaves him jobless, he is forced to re-define his life as a husband and father.” 
What Did I Learn?: If your employer is losing money and firing lots of people every day, it’s probably not such a hot idea to contradict your boss in front of other senior executives. 
You Might Like This Movie If: You've experienced a really bad job interview. 
Really?: 1) So, what does this placement firm actually offer besides horrible pep talks, a computer terminal and free phone calls? Why does Bobby Walker and his colleagues commute to this office every morning when they could probably conduct their job searches much more effectively from home? 2) I realize Bobby is a little out of touch with reality, but how many unemployed fathers would seriously pay good money to get their Porsche detailed, or on golf club membership fees? 3) Speaking of the Walker family finances, couldn’t they come up with a better option than moving into some spare rooms in Bobby’s parent’s place? I mean, they sold they house. 4) Wait, why does the DVD cover show Kevin Costner wearing a suit? That totally doesn’t match with the character he portrays in the film. 5) You know, if my former boss offered to buy me lunch, and handed me a list of personal acquaintances who might be willing to hire me, I don’t think I’d blow up at him and storm out of the restaurant. 
Rating: I had a bit of trouble believing Affleck’s character would behave the way he does in his circumstances (see: “Really?”), but The Company Men is otherwise a smart, and very compelling character-driven drama about the state of American manufacturing in today’s global economy, and the devastating effects that unemployment can wreak upon a family. I especially liked Jones’ performance as the world-weary Gene McCleary; watch for Craig T. Nelson (best remembered as TV’s Coach) as his narcissistic boss. Highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

American Outlaws (2001)

Please click the link to read my review of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
Synopsis: It’s the story of Jesse James….reimagined as Young Guns meets the Dukes of Hazzard
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “To corrupt railroad barons, Jesse James and Cole Younger are meddlers, troublemakers, ingrates and candidates for rope neckties. To the downtrodden folks in and around Liberty, Missouri, they’re something far different. Heroes.” 
What Did I Learn?: “Just ‘cause (somebody) reads them books and knows all them big words don’t make him smart!” 
Really?: 1) I’m pretty sure a flimsy wooden table would NOT protect a gang of outlaws from a hail of gunfire. 2) Wait - a Union soldier attempts to shoot Jesse fucking James, the poor guy’s rifle fails to fire, so Jesse allows him to run away? That doesn’t sound right… 3) So, the film ends with Jesse and his bride moving to Tennessee in order to establish a farm, and Jesse makes it clear he has no interest in returning to a life of crime? Again, that doesn’t sound right… 4) Wow….Bob and Cole get pretty excited about corn, don’t they? 
Rating: American Outlaws is a long-forgotten Young Guns clone that’s fine for an evening’s entertainment, but comes perilously close to Bad Movie status. The film features some impressive action sequences and I liked Timothy Dalton’s somewhat-complex performance as the famed Allan Pinkerton, yet it suffers from a badly-written and simplistic script that whitewashes Frank and Jesse as early versions of Bo and Luke Duke, and I couldn’t help myself from thinking that Colin Farrell and Ali Larter were completely miscast as Jesse and his bride, Zee. 5.5/10 stars.

Monday, January 1, 2018

The TV Set (2006)

Happy New Year! I’ll post my best and worst of 2017 later on in January. 
This would have been perfect for my tribute to movies about the television industry. 
Synopsis: David Duchovny plays a grumpy Hollywood writer who sees his very special screenplay turned into something cheap and commercial…. wait, doesn’t that sound an awful lot like every single episode of Californication
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “A place where dreams are cancelled.” 
What Did I Learn?: Something like 82% of all people think suicide is really depressing. 
You Might Like This Movie If: You don't expect much from television. 
Really?: Alice has got to be the world’s most useless manager; why does Mike (Duchovny) stay with her when she clearly undermines him at various points in the movie? 
Rating: The TV Set is a clever, and highly cynical satire of the television industry, and the ways in which it corrupts creative visionaries into producing brainless and mediocre crap. Duchovny is terrific as the frustrated, and long-suffering Mike Klein, but Sigourney Weaver really steals the film as the narcissistic Lenny, an entertainment exec who never encountered a beautiful and original idea she didn’t wish to change. My only complaint is that it could have been a little funnier. Watch for Justine Bateman (best remembered as Mallory Keaton from Family Ties) as Mike’s wife. 8/10 stars.

Monday, December 25, 2017

A Merry Friggin' Christmas (2014)

Christmas Movie #3 - Merry Christmas! 
Synopsis: Uptight dad, undersexed wife, and overprotected kids reunite with Mork and Murphy Brown on Christmas Eve. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Boyd and his family are forced to spend a dreaded Christmas at his parents’ house with his eccentric father and he has been avoiding for years.” 
What Did I Learn?: Santa prefers bourbon and asparagus to milk and cookies. 
You Might Like This Movie If: You're really into Christmas. 
Really?: 1) A Merry Friggin’ Christmas isn’t meant to be taken all that seriously, so maybe I can overlook Boyd outrunning a police car and facing no consequences or the mystery surrounding the hobo Santa (Oliver Platt), but here’s the thing that gets me: Boyd is determined not to repeat the mistakes of his alcoholic father, Virgil (Robin Williams, in one of his very last roles), but Virgil struck me as sort-of a cool dad in this flashbacks we’re shown; cynical and drunk, perhaps, but he helps his kids assemble their toys, and he never comes across as an alcoholic monster. 2) Hmm… I’m pretty sure that if I were eight years old and my little brother ate an entire jar of 40-year-old pickles, I would promptly inform my parents, just to be sure he wouldn’t need to have his stomach pumped. 3) Luann and Donna are surprisingly chipper the morning after they polished off an entire bottle of vodka. 
Rating: I have to admit that I popped A Merry Friggin’ Christmas into my DVD player expecting something awful, and found myself pleasantly surprised. AMFC has a few credibility problems (see: “Really?”), but it’s quite funny in places, and I really liked the interactions between Boyd and his dad when they’re on the road; the film has a sweetness that never descends into sappiness. 7.5/10 stars.

Four Christmases (2008)

Christmas Movie #2 - Merry Christmas!
Synopsis: Did you ever want to see Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon get emotionally, verbally and physically abused by four sets of people for 90 minutes? Step right up folks, this is your lucky day! (Come to think of it, that sounds a bit like the Synopsis for Wedding Crashers). 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Every Christmas happily unmarried Brad and Kate escape divorced parents and exasperating relatives by getting on a plane. This year a fog rolls in that even Rudolph’s nose couldn’t illuminate.” 
What Did I Learn?: It’s rather difficult to sleep with your best friend’s mom and remain best friends. 
Really?: So, in the course of two minutes, Brad and Kate are invited to four separate events because they’re dumb enough to speak to a TV reporter doing a live broadcast? Why would all four parents be watching at the same time? Come to think of it, Brad’s father (Robert Duvall, whose performance might be the best thing in this Christmas turkey) uses his television as a radio, for crying out loud! 
Rating: Four Christmases is one of the worst holiday-themed films I have ever encountered - I mean, we’re talking Santa With Muscles bad! Four Christmases is loud, crude, unfunny, and surprisingly mean-spirited for holiday fare (see: “Synopsis”); the premise is that sophisticated urbanites Brad and Kate are forced to interact with their red-state relatives, who are all obnoxious caricatures, and nothing good comes from these encounters. What’s the moral of this story? Family is best avoided, even during the Holidays? I cannot recommend this movie. 2/10 stars.
Would it Work for a Bad Movie Night?: Probably not, but take a drink of spiked eggnog any time Brad and Kate soldier on through Holiday Hell when any normal person would say: “screw this,” and simply return home.