Friday, February 24, 2012

My Week In Movies - Was Phantom Menace The Best Title They Could Come Up With?

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace 3D (1999/2012) I don't care what people say, I've always found this to be an enjoyable film. The secret to having a good time watching this flick is to not pay any attention to the plot. The stupid plot involving the Trade Federation and negotiations and all that blibber blabber is all just a meaningless framework for the real story of the film, and that's the discovery and early years of the boy who would become Darth Vader. And for everyone who complains that Jar-Jar Binks is too silly to be in a Star Wars movie let me remind you that the series also features funny robots, a Muppet, a village of teddy bears and that blue guy that plays keyboards in Return of the Jedi (Yes, I mean Max Rebo. He's awesome!) The 3D effects added for this release make the picture look beautiful but sadly not a single thing pops out of the screen. I think I speak for everyone when I say I wouldn't mind a lightsaber singeing my eyebrows. The bottom line for parents is that it's awesome to be able to let our kids experience all these films on the big screen...the way Qui-Gon Jinn would have wanted it.

Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star (2011) You can't possibly imagine a worse film released by a major movie studio. You can't make a movie with the premise that a guy with "little talent" wants to be a porn star and then have the silly proceedings be so plot driven. Nobody cares about character AND the most screen time semen has ever had in a movie. You gotta pick one or the other.

A Good Old Fashioned Orgy (2011) Now, this also sounds like it would be a horrific mess of modern film making but it's actually a very well done story about friendship and the transition from your carefree 20's into the more responsible 30's and 40's. A group of friends spend their last summer at their beach house by throwing the ultimate party. The theme for the final party will be an orgy. While the flick does contain graphic nudity and relations, this is not a silly sex comedy or skin flick - it's a pretty darn funny movie with a great ensamble cast including SNL's Jason Sudekis.

Dance Flick (2009) I first saw this slightly better than average parody film in June 2009.

Eight On The Lam (1967) I discovered this older comedy on Netflix. Bob Hope plays a cash strapped father of seven who finds $10,000 in cash. He then gets framed for embezzlement at his job. Since he's been living the good life when his new found money, he assumes that no one will believe him that he didn't steal the money. So he packs up the seven kids and hits the road to hide out and clear his name. Phyllis Diller plays the kid's nanny who stays behind and tries to throw off the cops investigation. Oh, her boyfriend is a cop - and he's played by Jonathan Winters. I loves me some Jonathan Winters. Score! Good stuff.

The Spy Next Door (2010) This kiddie action movie is the cinematic equivalent of making a pitcher of Kool-Aid with an improper sugar to water ration. You can tell this movie could taste good, if they let Jackie Chan do his thing but they've stirred in to many stunt doubles and overdosed on cliche kiddie storylines. Spy Next Door? More like Spy Next Bore! Am I right people?

Street Fighter (1994) Last week, Licence To Drive made the leap from Movies I Love to Movies I Don't Love. This week, Street Fighter got reclassified from Movies I Love to "What???" I saw this video game based movie when it hit theatres for two reasons; 1) It featured international pop sensation Kylie Minogue and 2) it was written and directed by one of the 34 writers of The Flintstones movie. I remember really liking this movie, to the point where I bought the laser disc when it came out and I picked up a copy on DVD at a yard sale last year. The kids wanted to watch it the other night because they are on a video game movie kick and...WOW! What a jumbled mess of a movie. I'm not sure what I ever saw in this film (besides Kylie Minogue) but I can't imagine ever watching it again. Horrible.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Week In Movies - Oh, Anna Faris

What's Your Number? (2011) Anna Faris takes center stage in this romantic comedy about a young lady attempting to revisit all of her 20 past sexual partners in the hopes of finding Mr. Right among them. What has to be one of the stupidest set-ups for a movie ever, just rolls completely out of control downhill the further the movie goes on. As always in a romcom, it's pretty darn obvious who's going to end up together fairly early on in the film...especially when the first two names in the credits are a male and a female. This lame brain flick attempts to trick us the whole way along about who's Faris is going to end up with. By the time she meets up with ex-sex partner #5, this movie is cruising on cruise control like I've seen no other romantic comedy before it. It's downright painful to watch the predictable plot points come one after the other. Anna Faris is funny, very funny. But as I've said before, when you let a lame plot take over the movie - it's not usually good news.

The Stupids (1996) I was excited to see this Tom Arnold vehicle appear on Netflix Instant. This was just about the end of Arnold's brief "name above the credits" phase of his career. I saw this in the theatre way back and enjoyed it, and I had a feeling my kids would get a kick out of it. They did. As you can guess, any movie where humans have cartoon pets is a-ok in my book. The story involves The Stupids, who are very stupid, thinking they are wrapped up in some plot to overtake the world. They aren't but in the process end up actually foiling a plan to take over the world. Bob Keeshan, who played Captain Kangaroo on TV, appears in his only film credit as does legendary director Robert Wise. It's neat to see both of them having fun in a picture and it's fun to watch this good natured silly movie with your kids.

License To Drive (1988) Another recent addition to Netflix Instant is this teen semi-classic from the 80's. I used to love this movie, and recall watching it several times in my youth. I'm afraid it's one I'm not going to have to take off my list of fondly remembered movies. It was pretty stale and boring this revisit. The whole "sneak out of the house for ultimate date and everything in the world goes wrong" plot has been done so many times, this one just doesn't have enough steam to keep my interested. There are some decent performances by the Corey's (I can't believe I just said that) and a very young and beautiful Heather Graham but otherwise, pretty lame.

The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2012 - Animation (2012) I wrote about this collection now showing in theatres the other day. The package we saw featured 8 shorts, 4 of this year's nominated animated shorts and 4 other critically acclaimed shorts from years past. The best one of this year's nominees is probably "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore." which packs the look and feel of a feature length film into about 15 minutes. My favorite, though, had to be "A Morning Stroll" which not only utilizes several different styles of animation, it also made a statement about the attention span of people today. The one short nominated for the Oscar this year that is not included is "La Luna" supposedly a masterpiece from Pixar. I'm not sure why it was not on the bill where I saw the show, as reviews for this package universally include it. I couldn't help feel a little let down that I didn't get to see this new Pixar short, but over all the 8 cartoons are a fun night at the movies.

Heavy Petting (1989) Not as lewd as it sounds, this is a brief 75 minutes of clips from old sex education films interspersed with interviews from various famous and not so famous people about the sexual morals and expectations of the 1950's. I'm always down for a good retro trip down Memory Lane (even if they're not my memories) and this is a fun, breezy documentary that is always fun around Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Skylight by David Bass

This is a great little animated short that I caught the other night along with the Oscar Nominated shorts, If you've got 4 1/2 minutes take a look. It's very funny.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

2012 Oscar Nominated Shorts - Animation: A Quick Parent's Guide

Just wanted to do a quick post regarding the package of animated shorts that is playing in theaters this week. For years I've wanted to see the annual collection of Oscar worthy toons and take my kids to expose them to different styles of animation. And year after year, I can never find any information regarding the content of the short films. Just because they are cartoons doesn't mean they aren't chock full of sex, violence and profanity. I've stayed away from the toon feat in the past but this year I made a somewhat more aggressive attempt to find out if the Oscar package was child friendly.

The studio was nice enough to quickly answer my query on Facebook and said it was "family friendly and full of laughs". So I took the kids last night and found the proceedings to be the equivalent of a PG rating.

There's actually very little dialogue in the 8 shorts featured and besides one use of "hell" there is no objectionable language. What you will find is an old man flipping the middle finger, another guy mooning the old man - pressing his butt cheeks up against a car window, and a cute fish getting his head chopped off. There is a startling scene where a zombie jumps out at the camera and a brief chase leads to a small bloodbath. My 6 year old was very off put by the zombie and spent the rest of the night worrying that there would be more scary parts.

But in the end, the kids and I greatly enjoyed the eight films. Only one of them is very dry and drags on a bit. The rest are a mix of charming, funny and thought provoking.

Friday, February 10, 2012

My Week In Movies - That's Fishy!

Dolphin Tale (2011) There's a difference between making a film for children and just making a bad movie. Just because a movie is directed at a young audience doesn't give a filmmaker the right to omit things like rationale, reason or logic. There's very little going on in this tale except that a dolphin gets a fake tail. They don't ever really explain why this particular dolphin has people going out of their way to save it's life and they never explain who pays for all this work. Winter the Dolphin is held up at a rundown, broke Aquarium. Morgan Freeman plays a doctor who decides to help create the dolphin tale. He's just a crazy old man with a heart of gold and we know this because when we first meet the good doctor, he cuts off Ashley Judd to tell her he's having a greasy hamburger for lunch. And it's the best damn hamburger in the world...he says. There's also a scene where completely unnecessary graphics fill the screen and then fly around for two or three minutes to justify the hiked up 3D ticket prices the half dozen people who saw this in the theatre paid. The end of this "true story" has such a tacky Hollywood ending, it's been lifted directly out of 39 other sports movies. Yes, I said sports movie. Also at the very end of the movie, It appears the boy has romantic relations with the dolphin.

Oh, God! (1977) This is one of those flicks that I used to watch all the time as a kid. I haven't seen it in quite some time and now that I'm older and oh-so-wiser I gotta say I really enjoy the philosophical side of the movie. In the picture, God appears to grocery store manager John Denver and tells him to spread the good word of the Lord or else the world will come to an end. God appears to JD in the form of an old man, in particular George Burns. It's good stuff. If you've never seen it, I suggest a rental.

Yes Man (2008) My Jim Carrey-obsessed son has been begging me to let him watch this title for quite sometime now. We taped it off TBS hoping to bring the PG-13 down to a PG. I also checked up on, which is a great website that breaks down potentially objectionable material in movies for parents. With my finger on the fast forward button, I successfully navigated past the oral sex gag without the kids even noticing. What's left in the movie is a really sweet tale about opening yourself up to new experiences in life. It's actually quite a feel-good message at the heart of this movie, and it lets Jim Carrey be Jim Carrey complete with all his silly faces, screaming and mugging for the camera. A really good return to form for Mr. Carrey.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

My Week In Movies - Scusi!

Super 8 (2011) This is supposed to be an affectionate love letter to the Steven Spielberg films of the late 70's - early 80's, but there's just way too much CG shenanigns to really put me into the the whole atmosphere they were trying to recreate. I could totally relate to the kids spending their whole summer trying to make a movie (been there, done that - except I was in my 20's) and some of the action is pretty intense. But the ending, which kind comes out of left field, is supposed to be a tribute to E.T. but it's more like a half baked ending to an otherwise action packed film.

That's Entertainment, Part 2 (1976) I really enjoyed the first clip-filled documentary in this series, but this second instalment is basically just a bunch of random old film clips slapped together with some fairly not-to-entertaining new footage of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. It's not a complete waste of time, but it's also not the history lesson in Hollywood lore that the first film was.

101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure (2002) I've always been a big supporter of the Disney Direct-To-DVD movies. Sure, none of them are near as good as the originals - but as films on their own some of them are pretty darn good. I'd honestly have to put this sequel to 1960's 101 Dalmatians near the top of the list of Mickey's hack job cartoon pics. The story is pretty solid, there are plenty of references and allusions to the first film (without being too obvious) and the animation is top notch. The very 60's style of the classic movie is recreated faithfully and the brisk running time wraps things up before there's a chance to yawn. I was really impressed with this production and rather enjoyed it too.

Eurotrip (2004) Saw this when it first came out and didn't think much of it, but rewatched it and laughed my head off. A bare bones plot about a high school graduate going to Germany to meet his pen pal/girl of his dreams is just an excuse to move the guy and his buddies through various adventures through Europe. There's a nude beach, an over the top sex club in Amsterdam, and a probably offensive visit to the Vatican - but it's all in fun. Good solid silly sex comedy that still holds up. It's airing on HBO this month.

January Movie Count: 22
Best New Movie: The Help
Best Rewatch: Beauty & The Beast
Worst Movie: Monte Carlo
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