Monday, June 28, 2010

Shrek Forever After - Zero Stars

It's kind of ironic that the two stars of the Shrek series are notoriously known as comedians who "used to be funny." Could there be a better parallel for the series itself? Though I'm not a fan, I'll admit that the first film had it's merits, but these sequels, of which I've seen two and four, are absolute brutality for audiences. A few years ago, Jeffrey Katzenberg stated that the series was always imagined to be four films... Let's hope that there's some truth in that lie and cross our fingers that the shamelessness of these cash-grab sequels stops here. The only evidence I see that this was all planned is that each of the titles of the sequels can easily be modified into a reference to shit. Or maybe that's just more irony.

Shrek Forever Afturd has direct-to-video written all over it, not even concerning itself with any kind of timeline that coincides with the other films in the series. Instead we see him unhappy and despairing in married life, hoping he could have a day to himself, which some unfunny character grants him. But blah blah blah it all goes wrong and Shrek ends up in a parallel universe where he didn't save the world and everything is bleak, and nobody knows who he is, and he has to reclaim his wife's love. So it's basically just a rip-off of It's a Wonderful Life, or to be more qualitatively accurate, a rip-off of Mr. Destiny with James Belushi. The jokes are flat, focusing mainly on pointing out boring, nonsensical incongruities between the real world and the fictitious Far Far Away where the film takes place, interspersed with some poorly executed bathroom humor and some bad music cues that are supposed to be funny.

Anyone who finds anything in this film entertaining is too young to understand the poignance of the message, and anyone who does understand the poignance of the message is too old to find anything in the film to be entertaining. I'd highly recommend this film, but only if you like ugly animation, shameless sequels, boring characters, awkward music cues, or The Love Guru.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

City Island - ***

It would seem that a movie like City Island shouldn't work. The plot is on par with a CBS sitcom, following a dysfunctional Italian family who take in a paroled inmate who is Dad's illegitimate son, and the screenplay provides plenty of chances for the film to go sour, but somehow it is all reigned in and ends up being pretty charming. It may be an easy premise, but it's full of interesting characters with bizarre secrets, such as Dad taking an acting class in his spare time, working on a cringe-worthy Marlon Brando impression, or Son enjoying internet fetish videos featuring men feeding food to round women, or Mom's crush on Dad's Illegitimate Son. All of these secrets are of course revealed in the final scene of total madness and shouting, and a touch of physical violence (they are, after all, Cinematic City Italians), but no worries... it's resolved with a surprising amount of grace and humor, and quite a bit of heart.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Town Called Panic - **1/2

A Town Called Panic is a wacky adventure story animated in stop-motion using plastic toys. It follows a cowboy, an indian, and a horse through a series of bizarre mischievous events, from trying to hide 50 million accidentally-ordered-bricks on the roof that end up crushing their house, to the bottom of the ocean where weird fish-people have stolen the walls of the house that they've been trying to rebuild.

It's funny... sometimes.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Robin Hood - 1/2*

It seems that Russel Crowe feels indebted to Ridley Scott for directing the movie that won him an Oscar... why else would he agree to star in the three-hour dark origin story of Robin Hood after being in three subsequent Ridley Scott duds? This triumph of tedium is like an amalgamation of all of the boring political power struggle subplot scenes from Gladiator interrupted by confusing battle scenes with no context. The movie takes place in about forty-six different locations that all look exactly the same, making it even more difficult to decipher which characters come from where, whose side they're on, where they're going, why they're going, or what's awaiting them at the destination, especially when you're just looking for some recognizable Robin Hood in all of the mess. I'm not one to push for strict adaptations, but I appreciate a little help from the filmmakers in the form of anything remotely similar to the source material. The film should have been called Medieval Serf, because even after "The legend begins!" flashes on the screen at the very end, I'm still not sure how the events depicted in the film lead to this character becoming Robin Hood. To be honest, if common sense hadn't told me that the biggest star would play the title character, I'm not sure if, after watching this film, I would be able to say who actually played Robin Hood.

What's even more annoying is how the film relies on the audience's prior knowledge of the character that it is trying to redefine. Medieval Serf shoots maybe three arrows in the entire film and we're supposed to believe and take seriously in the end that, after fighting in a huge battle in the midst of which he finds his arch-enemy, some bald guy whose name I never caught, and fights him one-on-one on the shore of some Indecipherable European Body of Water, getting momentarily knocked out, plunging him under that water while Bald Guy gets away on a horse, that he could rise out of said water with blood in his eyes, and shoot an arrow some two-hundred yards and put it square in the back of Bald Guy's head. That I could accept in a lighter context, or if the character I was watching was actually Robin Hood. Not only would I accept it, but I would enjoy it.

With every great idea there follows a dozen inferior impostors trying to capitalize on its success, and here it feels like Ridley Scott is trying to do with Robin Hood what Christopher Nolan did with Batman. But does every iconic hero need a dark origin story? What Scott gets wrong is that he doesn't show us why this character was iconic in the first place, and what's worse is that he doesn't even give us the thrill of seeing an actual hero on the screen. Nolan gave us a reason to take Batman seriously, and if that didn't work for you, at least Bruce Wayne donned the costume and hit the streets for the last hour of the film. All we get in Robin Hood are muddled arguments between unfamiliar characters and flashbacks to Robin's father telling him to "Rise, and rise again until lambs become lions." Whatever that means. Maybe we'll find out in Medieval Outlaw in 2013.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Bounty Hunter - Zero Stars

The Bounty Hunter is an anomaly: it is an action movie with no action, a comedy with no comedy, and a romance with no romance. How can it be all three things, without being any of them?

Well, you put a whole bunch of guns in it without letting anyone come close to hitting anything when they're actually fired and you set your biggest chase scene on foot, at a golf course. Then you cast Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston as the leads, two people so unfunny by themselves that when they are combined they create a sort of comedic black hole, from which even the likes of Jeff Garlin and Jason Sudeikis cannot escape. And then you write all of their dialogues as bitter arguments, so that when they do finally get back together in the end, everyone has already left the theater, and they've missed it.

Our Family Wedding - Zero Stars

I don't even get the point of this movie. I can understand remakes or franchises - there's money to be made there, so when someone asks me what the point is of remaking, say, Planet of the Apes, I know the answer - money. But this movie, Our Family Wedding, which is just an awful, thinly-veiled remake of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? posed as a Carlos Mencia-vehicle is something I don't understand.

First of all, I doubt any of Carlos' audience wanted to see him in a comedy that was marketed the way this movie was. I assumed this was a family-friendly, silly movie about two kids getting married. Instead, we get something that is flat-out racist and more offensive with every turn, which is exactly what his fans would be into.

Perhaps this movie would have worked as a sitcom, especially when one considers the level of comedy reached for in the movie's screenplay. Every line is "bro", "beaner", "ese", whatever - and it's all played for laughs. Too bad it never gets them.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Babies - 1/2*

If raising babies is anything like watching Babies, I'm never having children. This wordless, pretentious-as-Hell documentary chronicles the first year of four new-born babies. For the first year, babies are really only interesting to the people that made them. We watch them come out, come home, stare at things, wriggle around, and take their first steps... for ninety minutes. It's assembled in no particular order, and shots last up to three or four minutes, sometimes showing absolutely nothing at all... a baby crawling around, playing with a wooden block, staring at a cat (though the cats are particularly adorable). The film follows four babies in four separate parts of the world, but has nothing to say about any of them, the babies or the countries, or raising a child in one of the countries, and it seems to bank on the assumption that all people gush and melt when they see an infant... I'm not one of those people.

Aside from some interesting music cues and some nice camera-work, the best thing I can say about this film is that the filmmakers seem to have opted to keep the crying to a minimum (many thanks), but it's all for nought, because there is absolutely no point. It's essentially a ninety-minute YouTube video... It should have been called "David Plays with the Cat!!1" or "ZoE HaTeS BaNaNaS!" Though maybe the title refers less to the subject matter, and more to the audience. I certainly felt treated like a baby, and that the filmmakers assumed that I would be entertained by anything. It's about as exciting as a set of keys being dangled over your head. But maybe the point was to make the viewer feel like a baby, staring blankly at a screen with all sorts of colors on it. I can't believe that someone found this worthy of theatrical release... must have been a new parent.

Furry Vengeance - Zero Stars

The opening scene of the brain-numbing Furry Vengeance pretty much says it all. A businessman driving through the woods is talking to his boss about the mall that they are going to build there, and an intrepid little shit of a raccoon and his friends run his car off the road and over a cliff. You see, the animals don't want the forest torn down, so they hassle, embarrass, maim, and even kill anyone that gets in their way. It's a pretty good PG message to dispense to children or, wait... on second thought it might be everything that is annoying and wrong about today's children. So save your ten bucks and just take a trip to the Wal-Mart toy aisle. Not only does this car-wreck teach children to take what they want, however they have to go about doing so, but it also teaches them that shit like this is supposed to be funny, or maybe I'm just not sophisticated enough to understand the subtleties of tipping over a porta-potty with a surely ashamed Brendan Fraser in it. Seriously though, who told Brendan Fraser this was a good idea? In addition to that, he gets naked in a tomato-juice bath after being skunked, he runs around in the tightest women's track suit imaginable with "yum-yum" printed on the ass, and he also receives a golden shower while wrestling with a raccoon. What was he thinking? What were the raccoon and the skunk thinking? What was anyone involved with this thinking?