Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bad Words

Since the premiere of Arrested Development, Jason Bateman has become a staple of modern comedy. Bateman is a likeable presence. Sometimes, as I would say with Horrible Bosses, he can raise mediocre material to tolerable with his comedic timing and understated reactions. Now Bateman is making his directorial debut, from a script by first-timer Andrew Dodge, with Bad Words, a deeply flawed comedy that which elicits its laughs from, well, bad words.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

A few years back, shortly after the disappointing Darjeeling Limited, I was ready to completely write off Wes Anderson. I’d devised this theory of a “quirk bubble” in which his films took place. Basically, as Anderson’s characters got more and more detached from reality yet still had to navigate some resemblance of the real world the quality of the films declined. The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, and, now, The Grand Budapest Hotel are the works the pop my imaginary quirk bubble. Perhaps it was finally abandoning any concept of his working taking place in a “real” world, but since The Fantastic Mr. Fox Anderson has instead created his own realities for his quirky stories to take place.  

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Raid 2

After I saw The Raid for the first time I was physically exhausted. It seemed as if I’d felt every punch, every kick. Using a bare-bones storyline the film was able to quickly establish the good guys and the bad guys, as well as incrementally increase the stakes. The Raid (I refuse to call it The Raid: Redemption) was one of the best action films to come along in ages. So, of course, The Raid 2 was easily one of my most anticipated films of the year. Then I saw it.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Lego Movie

Looking at this film on a purely surface level, some crass 90-minute toy ad, I should probably hate this movie. Yet the complete opposite is true. The Lego Movie is one of the best all-around satires of big-budget Hollywood fare in recent memory. The writing and directing team of Phillip Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street) have once again subverted my cynical expectations (the first instance was the excellent 21 Jump Street) and made a smart, thoroughly hilarious film.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Tragedy and Triumph of Monsieur Verdoux

A Brief History of The Tramp

Charles Spencer Chaplin was at one point considered the most famous man in the world. Besides drawing the interest and admiration of such figures as Sigmund Freud and Winston Churchill, Chaplin was known in parts of the world where they had never heard about Jesus. Outside of minor side characters he played for Mack Sennett’s Keystone Studios at the dawn of his career in 1914, Chaplin for a majority of his film career would play one character on screen: The Tramp or The Little Fellow, the eternal underdog. In one- and two-reel shorts for Keystone, and later Essanay, Mutual, and First National before eventually founding United Artists with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith, the Tramp would give a swift kick in the backside to any authority figure to cross up his awkward shuffle. His manner of dress – the small hat, large pants, tiny jacket, and bamboo cane – along with his mannerisms showed a character of a certain displaced dignity. The Tramp provided the physical embodiment of John Steinbeck’s assessment of American socialism, “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

Robocop (2014)

"What have you done to Robocop?"
It does seem that a fair share of remakes only dare to tread along the path created by the original work. José Padilha’s remake of Robocop never attempts that, and that’s a good thing. However, that is about the only nice thing I can say about this mind-numbingly bad film. Of all the film’s flaws there is one that it is incapable of overcoming – it’s boring. Gone is the biting satire, the over the top violence, and any inkling of fun. It’s as if there were a conscious decision to remove everything that made Robocop interesting.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Monuments Men

Without the distinction of being a genuinely bad movie The Monuments Men can still be regarded as a disappointment. With an all-star cast headlined by George Clooney (also serving as co-writer and director), Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, and Cate Blanchett, and based upon the true story of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Program, a group of soldiers and civilians tasked with finding and protecting classical art and architecture from destruction during the World War 2, this film, on paper, has all the makings of a modern classic. Sadly, it is, at best, passable light entertainment.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Dropping the Towel on Terrible: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

This summer there was yet another film (the 5th not counting a brief cameo in X-Men: First Class) featuring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. That film, cleverly dubbed The Wolverine, completely ignored the events of the previous film which was released only four years prior. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a film without any form of coherent vision – it’s a film by committee. Not a committee of artists and storytellers working together, but, rather, a committee of studio executives and its producer-star Hugh Jackman. So when Jackman called this summer’s The Wolverine, “The one I've wanted to deliver since putting on the claws 13 years ago,” it rang to me as bullshit.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Stream and Stream Again: Halloween Edition

Well, it’s October and October means horror films! Searching the services for finest in frightening streaming spooks we find madcap movies from the auteurs of the awful and stars of the schlock.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Why Comedy Sequels Are So Bad

Sequels are a funny thing. There is typically a demand from the audience for more of the same, but bigger, yet still different. It’s an incredibly difficult balancing act. While perceived to be inferior products, the screen has been graced with excellent sequels – The Godfather Part II, Dawn of the Dead – which expanded upon a world established in a prior installment. While sequels can be successful in action, horror, and superhero genres, there is one particular form of sequel that is practically always inferior – the comedy sequel. One would be hard pressed to compile a list of 5 comedy sequels that they consider to be classics. For me, there is only one – The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear.