Posted 16 minutes ago

Coneheads

Coneheads is 88 minutes of fantastically talented people completely squandering their gifts. As a movie, it’s not so horrible, but… Okay, this is actually pretty easy to explain. If you’ve seen Coneheads before, you probably know what I’m talking about already, but if you haven’t, I want you to look up the credits on IMDb right now. I’ll even do the work for you - here’s a link.

Do you see that? That’s basically everybody who was involved in comedy in 1993. Now imagine them all in one movie. Sounds pretty good, right? Okay - now imagine that most of the “comedy” moments involve three people using vaguely scientific or made-up words while speaking in a fake accent and putting things in their yucky mouths. Oh, and their heads are an irregular shape. Hilarious, right?

There’s almost a relatable, human story buried in here, the kind that could be made funny with an intergalactic twist, but nah, it’s mostly just “consume mass quantities” non-jokes. It is fun to make a game of trying to spot all the cameos, but it would have been more fun if they’d been given an opportunity to, you know, do something funny. (I actually had to back to look for Ellen DeGeneres after I saw her credited as “Coach” - she’s my all-time favourite comedian, but I completely missed her the first time, and I’m still not sure where Phil Hartman was.)

The script stinks, but I think director Steve Barron did as well as he possibly could under the circumstances. I’ve read interviews where he said it really wasn’t his movie at all, and that shows, but if nothing else, it’s decently shot.

There’s no reason to watch Coneheads, but if you do get suckered into it somehow (or you’re some sick, twisted Steve Barron junkie like I am), you can at least take some comfort in knowing you’ll get to see a pretty rad stop-motion monster at the end. I would have preferred a few more, uh, laughs in my comedy, but I’ve never been one to walk away from stop animation.

Posted 1 hour ago

Digimon: The Movie

I always like to check out the Tumblr pages of people who Like and Reblog the dumb things I write hear, and if there’s one trend I’ve noticed, it’s that you kids love that Japanimation. Now, look, I took three years of Japanese in high school, earned a bachelor’s degree in Game Design, and I’ve worked at Nintendo for, like, six years, so I have spent some time around endlessly gushing anime fans, and, uh…sorry, guys. That’s just not my scene. Don’t get me wrong; I dig those Pocket Monsters big time, and Hayao Miyazaki is the man, for real, but overall, I don’t quite see the draw.

And that’s why it’s weird that I just Netflixed every episode from the first and second seasons of Digimon: Digital Monsters over the course of two weeks.

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Digimon: The Movie is poorly named. It’s not a movie. It’s three separate specials that were spliced together into a feature length theatrical release, but if like movies with a beginning, middle, and end, this one’s not for you. If you’re not big into Digimon, or you didn’t recently marathon 104 episodes in a fortnight for some reason, it’s probably not for you, either. There’s some attempt to explain what Digivices and Digidestined and Digivolving are, but if this is your introduction to the Digital World, don’t expect to have a Digiclue what the Digiheck is happening.

Actually, the first segment is pretty accessible, with a couple of kids, Tai and Kari, finding a mysterious egg. It hatches and a cute little blob creature climbs out of it, so they feed it chocolate and whistle at it until it turns into a fire-breathing dinosaur monster and rampages through Tokyo to fight a bird monster. Yay. This fight is more or less the inciting incident for the TV show, so I was excited when it looked like the movie would fill in some of the gaps in the plot, but instead it introduces more questions than it answers. Boo.

Likewise, the climax of the second segment is referenced in the show’s second season, but the events that lead to that moment don’t quite add up. This is also where I imagine a lot of parents started spending a lot less time looking at the screen and a lot more time looking at their watches. I liked it, though, because it’s chock-full of giant monster fights in the thrilling world of THE DIAL-UP ERA WORLD WIDE WEB, complete with tense discussions about how the Digimon are losing their power because too much e-mail is being sent and it’s slowing them down. Yes, yes, yes.

The final chapter is the longest and it focuses almost entirely on the lame new kids from the second season. I don’t care about those lame kids. They also go to America to meet another new lame kid, and in the end they learn to be friends and work as a team and then that kid never, ever appears in the show. Also, there’s a new golden Digivolution of Veemon who they slapped on the poster and probably sold as a big, expensive action figure. Yawn.

In the end, it’s easy to make a recommendation - if you’ve already watched the rest of the show, you don’t have much choice but to watch the movie if you want to catch up on those missing scenes. If you haven’t seen the show, there’s nothing for you here. If you’re thinking about watching the show… Yeah, it’s okay. I generally hate stories about chosen ones saving the world because it’s their destiny, and, wow, is there a lot of recycled animation in each episode. Still, in spite of myself, I found that I was quite invested in each of the characters by the end. They all have an arc, and, at least in the first season, everyone has matured and changed in meaningful ways, which is neat for a syndicated cartoon. Unfortunately, that same strength makes it frustrating when you finish that 104 episodes and a movie and still have unanswered (or worse, unsatisfactorily answered) questions, but it’s a mostly fun ride.

But I like this movie. The boring characters get far too much screen time compared to the good ones, but having Kari (voiced by the criminally under-appreciated Lara Jill Miller) narrate was a smart choice. The animation isn’t quite movie quality, but it does have far more frames and far less repetition than what you’d see on TV. Most of all, I like how incredibly turn-of-the-millenium it is. The depiction of Cyberspace is a delight, and it has maybe the most quintessentially 1999 soundtrack I have ever heard, with all the Smashmouth and Fatboy Slim and Mighty Mighty Bosstones you can handle! And the Digirap! There’s a Digirap! They even play a cover of “Kids In America” over the credits that somehow sounds era specific.

None of it is enough to convert me into a full-time anime fan, but any movie that can Digivolve an ’80s pop staple to sound like it was written for the year 2000 gets my stamp of approval.

Posted 1 week ago

Foodfight! stuffed animals exist. These are products you can own in the real world. Millions of years of evolution have conspired to bring you a plush Dex Dogtective.

I know there are some people who still don’t believe that global warming presents a threat to all life on this planet, but just to be on the safe side, I’m going to crank up the AC to full blast tonight and leave all the windows open.

Brought to my attention by http://dedenjoe.tumblr.com/
Image source: http://toybarn.com/4-pc-food-fight-plush-set-16-inch.html
And if you still can’t believe it, do an image search for “foodfight stuffed animals”. Unless you plan on trying to sleep tonight.

Posted 2 weeks ago

Hansel & Gretel Get Baked

Apparently I am the world’s dumbest idiot because I am still watching terrible Hansel & Gretel movies on Netflix.

Once again, Hansel and Gretel are two modern kids or young adults who live with their never-seen parents or something who are named Hansel and Gretel even though they’re Americans who live in 21st century California. The exciting twist here is that Gretel is a stoner, which is a great premise for feature-length movie and isn’t stupid at all.

Gretel’s stoner boyfriend goes to buy marijuana from a witch who is also a Nazi for some reason, played by Lara Flynn Boyle in bad old-lady make up. Remember when Lara Flynn Boyle was a big star? Now she’s doing stoner horror comedies. Or whatever this is. You’d think “an old fairly tale, but with drugs instead of candy” would be a simple enough conversion, but the whole thing’s really unfocused. Zombies, for instance, don’t really need to be in this movie, but there they are. It’s a comedy that’s silly but isn’t funny, a horror movie that’s occasionally gory but never scary, and a suspenseful thriller that undermines itself just a bit by telling a story that’s 200 years old.

The whole time I was watching Hansel & Gretel Get Baked, I kept thinking about the tremendous effort that must go into the production of any movie. Even a terrible movie deserves some shred of respect for the time and passion that must be put forth in order to get something - anything - on the screen. At first blush, I assumed everyone involved must be driven by their love of pot, but, while the writer and director probably didn’t donate their salaries to D.A.R.E., there’s not as much of a pro-marijuana message as I expected. Instead, the big message seems to be more along the line of, “The police, man. Man, it’s like the police, man… The police are just, so… You know?”

Of course, that’s not the only thing the movie has to say. There’s also that timeless moral, “Skittles: Taste the Rainbow.” For an idiotic weed/witch/Nazi/zombie/cannibalism/Lara Flynn Boyle picture, the product placement on display is seriously impressive. I mean, Tabasco doesn’t partner with just anybody!

I don’t know much about what it takes to make a movie, but I do know that if you’re going to go through the effort, you might as well remind people of the delicious offerings available at their local The Cheesecake Factory, now in even more convenient locations.

Posted 1 month ago

Something Different

I’ve fallen way behind on my reviews again. Usually when this happens, I just forget about it and try to pick up again with the next movie I watch, but let’s try something different this time. Below is the list of movies I’ve watched since the last review. If anyone wants to read what I think about any of these, let me know and I’ll write something. Otherwise, they’re all getting dropped.


The Addams Family

Big Top Pee-Wee

Serenity

Rurouni Kenshin

Thelma & Louise

Would you like to read an idiot’s opinion of any of these movies?

Posted 3 months ago

Skyfall

There was a time in my life when I was quite a fan of Mr. Bond. It was the late nineties and GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64 was hot. Certainly I was familiar with the concept of 007 prior to that, but only secondhand. Most of my time spent with friends outside of school consisted of tossing proximity mines on walls and karate chopping at tiny Oddjob’s engorged head, but of the dozens of movies about Her Majesty’s secret service, I had seen none. That had to change.

Ultimately, my Bond obsession was short-lived. Trying to catch up on 30 years of fairly similar spy movies as quickly as possible just isn’t a good idea, I was forced to admit. Perhaps if I’d spaced my viewings out a bit more reasonably, I could have maintained my appreciation for the series a bit more, but the way I handled it, they all quickly blurred together and I lost interest.

Which brings us to Skyfall, the first one of these I’ve seen since 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies. I can tell you this: it’s the best-made one of these I’ve ever seen. There’s none of that cheap shaky-cam garbage that all the action movies do these days. You can actually follow what’s happening. The camera movement, the framing, the lighting - it’s all top-notch, and that classic music can still get me pumped. Some of the compositing on the special effects is pretty terrible (Look out, James! There’s a cartoon scorpion floating near your hand!), but, for the most part, this is a work of excellent craftsmanship. HD cameras have been kind to this series.

The movie gets straight to it, with a huge, gun-fire-riddled car chase that culminates in a fist fight atop a moving train and a tricky sniper shot, and it’s all done with as much skill as I’ve ever seen in a movie. I found it boring.

Ultimately, there’s some point in all this recycled material about how the characters (and the series and style of movie they represent) worry that they’re too old for this; that the world has moved on and they’re no longer necessary. The movie then goes on to disprove the notion, and I think it has some success in that regard, but the thought that hit me while watching this sequence, the thought that stuck with me all the way through the end credits, was that I don’t ever need to see people drive quickly and make cars explode again. It’s a sad thought, because I like car chases as much as the next guy, but here I was, watching some people with all the money in the world put on a nice little drivey-shooty-blowy-uppy car driving show, looking just as lovely as things have ever looked, and I simply didn’t care. And then some dudes are punching each other on top of a train and, oh, no! here comes a tunnel! and I’ve seen all of this before. Apparently I’ve reached the point where seeing it done better isn’t enough, even if it is contributing to the central theme of the movie.

It’s my understanding that Skyfall is continuing along the trajectory set by Casino Royal, which gave us a gruffer, darker, more serious James Bond. Certainly the violence here is a bit harder and more consequential than I remember it ever being before, and I’m left wondering who wants that. Loads of people, apparently, but I find it such a bizarre half step. Like, am I supposed to care when someone gets killed, because the number of witty one-liners nearly matches the final body count, which is huge. There’s this bit where you get a glimpse - just a little peek - at Bond’s childhood and, seriously, am I supposed to care? Almost nothing meaningful is gained from it and he’s still some super-spy who orders shaken martinis and sneaks into a shower with a former sex-slave who greets him with wordplay, and his villain is still a monologuing cartoon character with a secret cuh-razy deformity that he reveals so you know he’s evil. Don’t ask me to take these people seriously.

Based on everything I’ve written so far, it must sound like I hate Skyfall. I don’t. In fact, I really like it. I just don’t care about the gritty, serious, plot-heavy side of it. It’s unearned. The silly, throw-away jokes directed to no one in particular, on the other hand, are delightful. The creative action scenes are completely awesome. In fact, the only reason I’ve spent so much time going on about a boring car chase instead of komodo dragons, sneaking through a swanky skyscraper in high-tech Shanghai, the subway that goes somewhere subways shouldn’t go, or the part where James Bond Home Alones those naughty bad guys is because I don’t want to give away too much information for anyone who hasn’t seen this movie. Those parts absolutely make the movie worth watching. I have big problems with Skyfall, but it’s good in spite of all that.

Even if you’re not as tired of exploding cars and train-top fist fights as I am, I think you’ll agree this movie could benefit from being about half the length and losing all that earnestness about its boring plot. Ideally, I’d throw in a few more crazy gadgets, too, because that’s what I like from my spy pictures, but I have to admit, James Bond doesn’t need gimmicks. The old ways, stripped down and skillfully done, still can work.

There’s a moment where Bond is stalking an assassin through a room full of reflective surfaces and projected lights, clearly hearkening back to The Man With the Golden Gun. It leads to a one-on-one fist fight, shot in silhouette, and it looks gorgeous. It’s simple, it’s referential, and it is riveting. There are fifty years worth of 007 movies sitting around, and they’re filled with cars flipping over. If I want to see a car blow up, I can go watch those. As familiar as everything about this scene is, it’s presented in a way that still feels fresh, in that way that watching human beings interact will always appeal to me, even after cars and the tunnels and the fireballs have lost their shine.

Posted 3 months ago

What To Expect When You’re Expecting

I have a challenge for the casting directors of the world: Find a role for Elizabeth Banks in which she doesn’t get pregnant. I swear, I have never seen her in anything where she wasn’t with child. Scrubs? Pregnant. 30 Rock? Pregnant. The Details? Pregnant. I’m looking at her IMDB page now and… Oh, huh. She was in those Spider-men. I’ve seen those. Ah, but I didn’t notice it was her because she’s in a pretty serious wig. I guess the only way she can get non-pregnant roles is by wearing a disguise. It’s too bad she didn’t have that wig on when her agent came around with this script.

But Elizabeth Banks is only one of the dozens, maybe hundreds, of talented actors forced to put on a fake belly and be terrible in this sad little disaster. You might be wondering how one goes about adapting a pregnancy manual into a rom-com, or mom-com, or whatever this thing is supposed to be. The first step is to drop the “com” part right away. There are plenty of clearly-identifiable jokes, yes, as well as hilarious people to deliver them, but there can be absolutely no laughing. Why be funny when you can instead fall back on such tired and broad observations as, “Ha, men! Am I right ladies?” or, “Women! Right, guys?” or, “Pregnant women have hormones and cravings and their bodies are crazy!”

After that, all you have to do is hire every famous actor you can afford. Stretch that budget. Don’t worry that by putting this many characters in one movie you won’t possibly have enough time to focus on any one of them and tell an interesting story. That’s not the goal. Why tell one story when you could tell every pregnancy story?

In the fine, fine tradition of Love, Actually, Valentine’s Day, and New Year’s Eve, What To Expect When You’re Expecting follows a bunch of couples who don’t have any connection to each other at all except that occasionally one character will buy a hot dog from another. (To be clear, that is a real example of how deeply the people in this movie are connected to one another, and it is used more than once.) So you have the perfect little couple that finds out having a baby is so much harder than they thought, and the couple that’s adopting, and food truck vendors who barely know each other, and the hotshot reality TV stars, and more. (To be clear - I’m still not making any of this up. Seriously, every pregnancy story is covered, and there are actors you know and quite possibly like in every role. Cameron Diaz and one of those guys from Glee are the reality TV people. Anna Kendrick serves food out of a truck. Dennis Quaid has an idiotic chase scene in a golf cart. Jennifer Lopez is a baby photographer who also works at Sea World or something; I’m not totally sure. Chris Rock wonders what he’s doing here. Rebel Wilson puts on the worst American accent I have ever, ever heard in a movie. I haven’t even mentioned Taboo from The Black Eyed Peas. When Taboo the great and powerful is this far down a list, you know that everybody is in the movie.)

You might think a movie that’s attempting to bounce between this many stories would at least move along at a nice pace, but you would be so wrong. Several times I thought I was nearing the conclusion, only to glance at the remaining running time and find 40 minutes still on the clock. How could I look several times and always find 40 minutes remaining? Because the sheer stupidity on display caused time to stop moving. It’s the only explanation.

This has all been terribly negative so far, so I’ll give the movie credit where it’s deserved: The sad parts are sad. Don’t get me wrong; they’re incompetently shot and baldly manipulative, but complications with pregnancy are inherently sad and scary, so I felt emotions. Way to go, you idiot movie. Oh, and I actually did laugh once. A big group of lame dads is walking through a park while Chris Rock shouts about how marriage is so crazy. Suddenly, without any warning, the camera cuts to this tiny little kid getting laid out by a fast-moving soccer ball. It couldn’t have been a scripted shot - the kid is so small and he falls so hard that shooting something like that on purpose would almost certainly qualify as child abuse - which means they accidentally recorded some footage of a toddler getting hurt and were so proud that shoved in in the middle of a Chris Rock rant. My one laugh was caused by an on-set accident and some thoughtless editing. Great job, movie!

So, yep. This movie is awful. But at least it’s not as awful as this YouTube video I found of some guy’s creepy re-cut of Elizabeth Banks In a Wig’s scene from Spider-Man 3, or that’s video’s creepy comments. Gross gross gross gross gross.

Posted 3 months ago
Beverly Hills CopBeverly Hills Cop is a dumb pastiche of every cop movie cliché but Eddie Murphy and Judge Reinhold are a couple of likeable dudes and it has one of the greatest scores of all time, and apparently that’s enough for me because I liked it.

Beverly Hills Cop

Beverly Hills Cop is a dumb pastiche of every cop movie cliché but Eddie Murphy and Judge Reinhold are a couple of likeable dudes and it has one of the greatest scores of all time, and apparently that’s enough for me because I liked it.

Posted 3 months ago
NovocaineSteve Martin. Laura Dern. Helena Bonham Carter. Elias Koteas. Lynne Thigpen. That is how you cast a freaking movie.For the first act or two of Novocaine, I wondered it wasn’t more highly regarded. It’s starts strong, but while it never gets bad, at some point it peters out a bit. I felt like I’d seen it all before, most likely because it wasn’t that long ago that I watched the Tobey Maguire psycho-sexual comedy/thriller, The Details. In both movies, a man makes one mistake because subconsciously he wants to disrupt the neat predictability of his perfect little life, but the mistake leads to a lie which leads to an affair which leads to dead bodies, and how did it ever get this way? I don’t think The Details ripped off Novocaine - they’re different enough - but it’s hard to ignore how much they overlap. Tobey Maguire’s character is a doctor; Steve Martin’s is a dentist. They even share a few plot twists.It’s too bad that I saw two such similar movies only months apart, but how is Novocaine taken on its own merit? I still think I’d have the same opinion - strong start, weak finish. It’s funny and stylish - there’s a lot of cool and trippy x-ray footage - but the mystery and intrigue doesn’t quite work. First of all, the protagonist is a bit of a sleazeball, so I didn’t have any investment in his success. Worse than that, though, once the villain is revealed, there’s a monologue to explain everything, followed by a conversation fill in a few more details, which then goes to a flashback to another expository conversation even more. If it needs that much explanation, it’s not a good twist. In fact, it’s somehow both nonsensical and predictable.Novocaine and The Details are both entertaining, but don’t expect them to be anything more, and if you must watch both, make sure you space them out by at least a year.

Novocaine

Steve Martin. Laura Dern. Helena Bonham Carter. Elias Koteas. Lynne Thigpen. That is how you cast a freaking movie.

For the first act or two of Novocaine, I wondered it wasn’t more highly regarded. It’s starts strong, but while it never gets bad, at some point it peters out a bit. I felt like I’d seen it all before, most likely because it wasn’t that long ago that I watched the Tobey Maguire psycho-sexual comedy/thriller, The Details. In both movies, a man makes one mistake because subconsciously he wants to disrupt the neat predictability of his perfect little life, but the mistake leads to a lie which leads to an affair which leads to dead bodies, and how did it ever get this way? I don’t think The Details ripped off Novocaine - they’re different enough - but it’s hard to ignore how much they overlap. Tobey Maguire’s character is a doctor; Steve Martin’s is a dentist. They even share a few plot twists.

It’s too bad that I saw two such similar movies only months apart, but how is Novocaine taken on its own merit? I still think I’d have the same opinion - strong start, weak finish. It’s funny and stylish - there’s a lot of cool and trippy x-ray footage - but the mystery and intrigue doesn’t quite work. First of all, the protagonist is a bit of a sleazeball, so I didn’t have any investment in his success. Worse than that, though, once the villain is revealed, there’s a monologue to explain everything, followed by a conversation fill in a few more details, which then goes to a flashback to another expository conversation even more. If it needs that much explanation, it’s not a good twist. In fact, it’s somehow both nonsensical and predictable.

Novocaine and The Details are both entertaining, but don’t expect them to be anything more, and if you must watch both, make sure you space them out by at least a year.

Posted 3 months ago

But I’m a Cheerleader

I’m very conflicted about my feelings on But I’m a Cheerleader. It’s a good movie and I like it; there’s no doubt about that, but it doesn’t totally earn it’s mostly cheery tone. At the same time, there’s no way I’d take that away from it.

See, it’s a movie about a teenager who get’s sent away to a special camp to learn to be heterosexual. I hate to give away the end of the movie, but if you know even the teensiest, tinsiest bit about sexual orientation work, I don’t think you’ll be surprised to learn that her conversion doesn’t take.

Learning to love yourself for who you are and breaking ties with people who can’t accept you - that’s awesome. But with the inhuman insanity these characters are forced to endure over the course of their stay at True Directions, it’s tough to feel as good as I think we’re supposed to feel when the credits roll (although the music selections certainly help - heck yes, Dressy Bessy). I’ve met people whose parents have tried to “fix” them through special camps, and even if their lives ultimately work out, those kids are left with some last scars.

And that’s why I’m not not sure how to feel - the movie’s conflicts really aren’t resolved, but if someone who would make a movie about imprisonment in a homophobic camp wants to find a positive side to the experience, I certainly won’t stand in the way.