Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Duplicity

Initially, I had no desire to see Duplicity. For whatever reason, be it Julia Roberts' involvement, the themes of corporate espionage (which I traditionally don't find very interesting), or a general lack of interest, I simply didn't have any reason to see it. I skipped it in the theaters, but having steadily heard good things about it since its release a year ago, I finally decided to give it a shot for March Madness. Short version: turns out I was totally wrong - I really dug this flick.

Duplicity
Writer/Director: Tony Gilroy
Starring: Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson


Tony Gilroy is an interesting cat. For those who aren't familiar, I'll give you a brief history of his work. He wrote The Devil's Advocate, co-wrote Armageddon with J.J. Abrams, wrote all of the Bourne films, and wrote and directed Michael Clayton back in '07. I have a strange disconnect with Michael Clayton: I remember liking the movie when I saw it, but now (almost two years removed from my first viewing) I could probably only tell you three or four things about it that aren't featured in the trailer. I don't think the same thing will happen with Duplicity; it has shades of Michael Clayton, but it is much more fun and has a lot going for it in the way of style.


I'll say right now that I'm not the biggest Julia Roberts fan. I don't think she's done anything great since the 2001 Ocean's Eleven remake (that's including the sequel, since they threw in that stupid subplot about Tess Ocean looking like Julia Roberts). But she was surprisingly cool in this movie; her "America's Sweetheart" persona is shelved in favor of a mirror image of Clive Owen's character: calculating, efficient, wise, slick, and kind of a badass. In this movie, both actors play former spies who have moved into the private sector. Working together (or are they?), the two infiltrate rival corporations dealing with consumer products. A big deal is about to go down, so Claire (Roberts) and Ray (Owen) plan to sell company secrets to the highest bidder and walk away rich.


The film uses an excellent flashback structure to reveal the true nature of the characters. For most of the film, we aren't sure as to how real Ray and Claire's relationship is: are they playing each other, or are they really in love? Even the characters themselves don't truly know until near the end of the movie, which makes us more invested as an audience: we want to know what's going to happen to these two people. Ray and Claire have essentially the same conversation multiple times at different points throughout, but each time it takes on a different meaning. I know that probably makes no sense to you if you haven't seen it, but trust me - it's great writing and makes for some really cool moments in the movie.


Giamatti and Wilkinson are fantastic as the two opposing corporate forces. They get involved in what essentially is a slap fight during the opening credits, and the scene (shot in ultra slow motion) is one of my favorite credit sequences of last year. Sliminess and confidence are perfectly embodied in their respective characters, which makes the end reveal all the more entertaining. Wilkinson seems to be enjoying what appears to be the beginning of a "Scorsese/DiCaprio" relationship, this being the second film in a row on which he's worked with writer/director Gilroy. For all of our sakes, I hope this relationship continues - Wilkinson is, in my mind, the prototypical Gilroy-ian actor.


I mentioned earlier that traditionally I'm not terribly interested in corporate espionage. But Duplicity glosses it with so much style, importance, and behind-the-scenes scheming that it feels as if nuclear secrets are on the line instead of a consumer product. The film's ability to take what appears to be ridiculously asinine content and treat it with weight and consequence is a main catalyst for the humor in the movie as well. Make no mistake, this movie is not a comedy, but watching these characters go through these incredible measures for something so absurd is pretty funny. The best example I can give is the scene in which Ray tells Claire about the frozen pizza market, getting excited because ham and pineapple have never been combined and sold in grocery stores before. (Again, I realize that probably doesn't sound very funny. But in the context of the movie, it's pretty amusing.)

I wouldn't dare give away the ending, since it may be my favorite aspect of this film. I can't even tell you if it's a standard ending or not, since that in and of itself would be a semi-spoiler, but I'll recommend that everyone who gives this movie a shot stick it out until the end.


Duplicity was way better than I thought it'd be, and most of that is due to the chemistry between Clive Owen (doing some great work here) and Julia Roberts. Tony Gilroy's smart script and impressive direction keep us invested throughout, and the control with which the story is told makes me excited for Gilroy's next writing/directing combo. Until next time...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dead Snow

By Alan Trehern, Zombie History Buff

Zombie. Nazis. In. NORWAY!!!!!
At the now debunked Ben's Daily Movie News, Ben was first on the scene to report the theft of the TF20's beloved creation: Zombie Nazis [Stealing Our Ideas...Again]. However, the movie in Ben's news-story sounds a little different from the storyline in Dead Snow, but that doesn't matter; either way, this movie is about zombie Nazis. I've come to grips with this, and now that everyone knows who originally had the idea (ahem...The Epic Quest for Schneider), we can bask in the popularity of the undead Third Reich. In Dead Snow, the producers not only utilize the TF20's ideas, but they do a helluva job.

Dead Snow (Død snø) (2009)
Directed by Tommy Wirkola
Starring Ørjan Gamst, Vegar Hoel and Stig Frode Henriksen
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_OjLv-xAV-QY/S7QOQELNECI/AAAAAAAACK0/Enz9dgcXif8/dead-snow-movie-poster1.jpg
This movie mirrored (or paid an homage to) the popular zombie dramedy Shaun of the Dead (even down to the camera work), and although it tended to be more serious than the Simon Pegg classic, it still managed to achieve a level of light-hearted violence equipped with tense and suspenseful camera work.
Dead Snow Nazis
Story
It's your run-of-the-mill teenage camping story turned bloody massacre, where help is miles away with no cell-phone service. Back in the days of Friday the 13th, even cell phones weren't an option. You were out there fighting for your life against a superhuman force that, for some reason, is ready and willing to tear your guts out.

Six medical students travel across the mountains of Norway to spend a weekend at a friend's log cabin. They park the car and walk for miles on foot, and when they finally arrive at the cabin, they find out that Nazis were banished here during WWII (SURPRISE!). The first part of the movie has you identifying with the characters, presumably preparing you for their ultimate demise. Everyone in this movie did a great job of expressing emotion and fear, successfully overcoming the conventional wisdom that horror movies contain turrible acting.

And then the zombies strike. You don't know why, or how they became zombies, or anything. You're just excited to see some brutal death scenes, and they deliver. One zombie actually tears a guy's head in half; I kid you not, the man's skull is ripped in two by the superior strength of one German officer. It was glorious.

I was kind of pissed that they parked the cars so far away, because during the attacks the group of med students are trying to find their way back to the cars. However, since a snow storm covered the tracks they laid coming to the cabin, the foolish kids wander around getting attacked. I suppose the creators needed something to keep the kids from having the upper hand against the freaking zombie Nazis.

There's the old man that warns them of their impending doom if they don't leave immediately (a la Crazy Farmer Guy from South Park), which proved to be an entertaining addition. There's also a guy who quotes famous movies, like Temple of Doom and Army of Darkness. Other than those small nuances, this movie is horrifically brutal while tastefully delivered, if that's even possible.
still from dead snow
Final Thoughts
The movie poster lets you know what you're getting yourselves into. And the idea of Nazi zombies is triumphantly conveyed by the Norwegians. All my expectations were met, and then some, having me pumped by the end and still wanting more. Oh, and there is plenty of room for sequels... "Dead Snow 2: Oslo Rising"..."Dead Snow 3: Nazi Zombies in HELL"... "Dead Snow 8: Nazi Zombies vs. BearShark"...

For a semi-comical horror movie, it's pretty legitimate. I would even put it in the "Top 5 March Movie Madness Movies Reviewed by Trehern That You Should Definitely Check Out". **whew** Long title.
I really enjoyed March Movie Madness, and I'd like to thank Blogmasta Ben for allowing me to throw my hat into the mix. I really had a chance to solidify the structure of my movie reviews, which means I'll be more prone to deliver more Trehern reviews in the future on more of the movies you'll never see. So safe travels, zombie killers, wherever you may snow ski.

Be sure to see my further antics over at The Solar Sentinel. We're hoping to boost our readership to 5 this year!
Dead Snow face blood

Sudden Death

By Alan Trehern, Certified Helicopter Pilot

Yep, it's me again, your friendly neighborhood Solar Sentinel editor bringing you the movies you should and SHOULD NOT see. For most of this month, I've been bringing you certified garbage that you as audience members should never see. As an eternal servant to the people, I've viewed these cinematic atrocities so YOU don't have to. But lo' and behold, finally there comes a movie that not only I intensely enjoyed, but one that you certainly will enjoy in any scenario as well. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you...

Sudden Death (1995)
Directed by Peter Hyams
Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Powers Boothe
Tagline: "Terror goes into overtime". YEEAAAHHHHH!
http://www.movieposter.com/posters/archive/main/65/MPW-32937
This movie was dank. One of the best Van Damme movies I've ever seen...and I have seen...alot of Van Damme movies. I've even been shunned for watching too many Van Damme movies. To me, that's like being too generous, or too sexy, or too bad ass. While Van Damme and I share all the aforementioned qualities, he's the only one that manages to deliver an action-packed, death-defying, adrenaline-pumping hockey-thriller like Sudden Death.

Story
As in all Van Damme movies, our hero is personally and mentally wounded by a previous event at the start of the film. In this specific scenario, fireman Darren McCord (Van Damme) accidentally crushes a little girl when a whole building falls on top of them. He survived though, like a boss. His guilt overwhelms him, probably sacrificing his marriage, and sending him down a path of self-doubt and loneliness.
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_jT7u1Bq52JU/SKR2HuIWQxI/AAAAAAAAAqY/ahyjlfv_jrQ/s320/Sudden.jpg
This crippled Van Damme decides to take his kids to the final game of the Stanley Cup finals (Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Chicago Blackhawks), and the vice-president of the United States is in attendance. Little does anyone know, a terrorist group led by Joshua Foss (Boothe) intends to take the vice-president hostage. Their asking price? Billions of dollars from numerous banks, a feat that they've timed to last the entire length of the hockey game.

Oh, and it gets even better. To motivate the government to bend to his will, Foss has placed 10 C4 explosives at pivotal areas of the arena, which will go off at the end of the third period. Van Damme, being the fire security marshal, has to determine where each bomb is located within the arena before it explodes, while Foss keeps Van Damme's daughter hostage and his son is harassed by Foss' brutes.

This is basically Die Hard with some major twists, and since both of these movies are really enjoyable to watch, I can't knock the creators of Sudden Death for improving on a formula that already works. Everything in this film was just a total success, even as the events approached the ridiculous and unlikely (No one figured out Van Damme was the goalie? Really??). Fights with mascots, swinging from the rafters into VIP suites, fights on top of the arena... Uh, I could go on and on about this movie.
http://mos.totalfilm.com/images/t/the-50-greatest-movie-fights-ever--41-420-75.jpg
Characters
Van Damme was his usual on-screen character: perfect Van Damme. Like I said, he knows the formula that works, and he sticks with it. He's a loving and caring father that puts others' safety before his own. And for a firefighter, this guy can kick some ass. Van Damme's fight scenes were epically brutal, and there were plenty of them to satisfy the true action junkie. Despite his decision to bring little kids to a major sporting event with huge political figures attending and then LEAVING THEM ALONE, I would say that no one BUT Van Damme could have been in this movie.

Powers Boothe was really good as the villain. He reminded me of a ruthless Lex Luthor, who instead of leading you on by telling you his plans, shoots you in the face. He kills without remorse, and then he jokes about it. No one, and I mean no one, managed to stand up to him. EXCEPT VAN DAMME! BOOM!!

I've always liked Boothe, but this was one of the few films I've seen him in where he shares the lead role, and I was thoroughly impressed. Is he a better actor than Van Damme? I can't say, because Van Damme wasn't acting in this movie...he thought it was real life!

Final Thoughts
You may think my film suggestions are unfounded and a waste of time. But take it from a member of the Action Film Junkies Guild (I'm looking at you Mikey and Boze), Sudden Death is definitely worth a rent. If it was in theaters today, it would be worth the $15-20 to see in 3D. Van Damme should become a patron saint for this movie. He should be nominated in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The NHL should show this movie to new employees and players to educate them on dealing with an arena terrorism situation. It is an excellent way to spend a night by yourself, with a group of friends, or with that special someone on your first date. It's a movie for any occasion!

Stay tuned tomorrow where I review Dead Snow, the Norwegian Nazi zombie movie...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Against All Odds / Graduation Night

A Double-Entendre Review by Alan Trehern

Greetings and salutations, visitors of Ben's Movie Reviews. You're probably expecting Ben to welcome you to this double-feature review. But alas, he is busy shining shoes or getting rhinoplasty or spelunking underwater caves or something; I don't know what Californians do. Here, though, with Trehern at the helm, we'll be examining the intricate, subliminal and heart-wrenching art that is Against All Odds and Graduation Night. Nah, just kidding...we're going to be making fun of them!


Against All Odds
(1984)
Directed by Taylor Hackford

Starring Jeff Bridges, Rachel Ward and James Woods
Story
Another 80s movie, I know. But this one is actually legitimate. Legitimately horrendous. It's the tale of Terry Brogan (Bridges), a retired football player who was forced out of the Los Angeles Outlaws franchise because of a bad shoulder. He's hired by his gangster friend Jake Wise (Woods) to find his runaway girlfriend (Ward) whose name I cannot recall, nor care to remember.


After finding her, Terry falls for this boyish-looking harlot and they spend months hanging out in South America and sexing it up in abandoned Mayan temples. It's pretty unsanitary. Obviously, it wouldn't be a good movie unless Terry got caught, so he does and the remainder of the movie has him falling in and out of love with the girl before going on one last mission to clean his hands of the gangster business.


This film was actually separated into three parts, which felt like three different movies with three different feelings to them. First, you have the retired football player looking for work because he has no other talent than catching a ball and running. Okay, so at first this is a sports movie with Terry finding a new talent and his struggle to break his athletic shell (see
The Wrestler). Well, as the story takes this route, it immediately stops when he's hired to find this girl.

So the second part starts with Terry finding the spoiled little brat in South America, and they scuba-dive and make-out and act all touristy. Now it has become a romance movie (see
Nights in Rodanthe), and you're forced to sit through their lovey-dovey talk for another third of the movie. But then Jake finds out about their scheme to hide away together.

Now the third act starts, and we go from "torrid love affair" to
Scarface crime-drama in LA. This section of the movie I actually liked, because it had some pretty stellar shots and dramatic intrigue. The suspenseful climax of the film has you guessing how Terry will fight off these baddies and still manage to keep his life. But the instability of the thematic flow had me confused and severely interrupted my movie-going experience.

Characters

The best acted of the main players was James Woods, who played the greedily wealthy club-owner Jake Wise. While in some instances you see his uncaring/emotionless side, other times you see that he really loves/lusts his girlfriend even though she's too introverted to love him back. The most interesting part is to see his decay from crime lord to peon as Terry runs up the ladder of the gambling syndicate.


Bridges' portrayal of Terry is another story. He's tough in some scenes, while in others he's a completely spineless nancy. He wasn't as comical as Flynn from Tron, and Bridges milks the pretty-boy character until you don't really care what happens to him. His blind love for the girl despite her pompous and selfish ways really had my blood boiling.


Final Thoughts
The movie concluded well enough, achieving to tie up all the loose ends and ending with the famous Phil Collins song that gave this movie its namesake. I would suggest this to someone who likes the suspenseful, crime-drama, romantic underdog athlete story that we're all familiar with. Not a bad movie, but not good enough to buy on DVD or record on your DVR. But if it's on TV one day, and you're folding laundry or something, you could probably leave it on.


With that out of the way, let's move on to Graduation Night.


Graduation Night
(2003)
Directed by Alpesh Patel

Starring Abigail Spencer and Some Nobodies

An artist's interpretation of the original movie poster.
Story
This is by far (and I mean lightyears) one of the lamest movies I have ever seen. Wait, no, this is the King of Lame Movies; the absolute lamest movie I have ever seen concerning high-school teenagers at a kegger with no parental supervision. It's the meager tale of three boys, Stardancer (real name), Quigley (NOT down under) and Dubber (the GD hippy).


The movie starts with Quigley, your stereotypical moral fat guy (poor man's Jonah Hill), trying to have a party that he expects everyone at school to attend. Well, no one does. You know why? Cause these three guys are LOSERS!! I mean I was far from popular in high school (and I mean lightyears), but I would never stoop so low as to hang out with these nerds. Predictably, their kegs get stolen by the douche-jocks, who then bring them to the class valedictorians' party across town. Oh and guess what? She's the stereotypical tight-ass b*tch! You're breaking some real ground here, Patel.


Ugh, this movie is so corny that it redefines the word "corny". It's dull as dishwater, hackneyed, mundane and platitudinous, all rolled into one boring-ass celestial body of dumb.
http://www.celebritywonder.com/picture/Abigail_Spencer/AbigailSpenc_Cohen_11713291.jpg
So the valedictorian, Skye (Spencer), turns out to be a real hottie and the saving grace of this movie. Skye's parents own a liquor store (**face palm**) and her and Stardancer get locked in the supply closet (**rips wallpaper off walls**). Stardancer, as lame high school stereotypes go, has been her secret admirer for four years, but you don't know that until the end. Oops, sorry, SPOILER ALERT!

First off, if you're a creepy stalker for four years, there's a good chance the woman you are stalking isn't going to fall for you. You know, because she's afraid you'll rape her. Well, Skye happily embraces her secret admirer even though she doesn't know who he (or she...MEOW!) is. She even brags to Stardancer about the admirer like it's some real accomplishment on her part. Just bad all around.


The movie attempts to emulate the positive ideals of a high school student: pursuing your dreams, telling that special someone you love them, reconnecting with old friends even though the high school caste system deems otherwise. You know, the total bullsh*t that after-school specials (and The Breakfast Club) are full of.
The rest of the movie has Quigley and Dubber pulling weak and childish pranks on the douche-jocks, which aren't even worth mentioning in this review.

Final Thoughts

This movie sucked...plain and simple. It was like Patel took the American Pie/Road Trip/Euro Trip/She's All That/Drive Me Crazy movies and dumbed them down for senior citizens who found movies in the 1920s offensive. The dialogue was cliché and boring, the jokes weren't even jokes, and the boobs and drugs were nonexistent. Not one kid smoked!

This high school class must have existed in Perfect Town, USA, where nuclear bombs and TV haven't been introduced yet. If you ever wanted something to burn in the middle of a retention pond becuase there was nothing better to do, the Graduation Night DVD is the best item I can think of right now. Well, that and a shoe.

Stay tuned for Trehern's final two March Movie Madness reviews this week!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Donnie Darko

What's happening, guys and girls? Sorry the reviews haven't been as quick and relentless as I had hoped, but here's something to tide you over until I actually get a chance to write a legit one.

Donnie Darko
Writer/Director: Richard Kelly
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Patrick Swayze, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore

This film is a cult classic, so I'd suggest giving it a watch even if for no other reason than so you can talk to people about it if it comes up at a party or something. Many of you have probably seen it by now anyway. And like I say at the end of the video, hopefully one day I'll be able to watch a legitimate version of this movie again and actually write up a "real" review. Until next time...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chloe

Atom Egoyan's Chloe makes Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction look like Pixar films. Stars Amanda Seyfried and Julianne Moore, working from a script by Erin Cressida Wilson, alternately provide sex appeal and a glimpse into a pitiful window of the monotonous and the mundane.

Chloe
Director: Atom Egoyan
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson


Catherine (Moore) and David (Neeson) have a strained marriage. David is a college professor who is constantly flirting with waitresses and students, making Catherine long for the days when she was young enough to seduce him. When Catherine meets Chloe, a prostitute, she pays her to find out if David will respond to her advances. The two women meet periodically through the film, and Chloe reveals brutal details about her and David's romantic encounters. As the film progresses, Chloe intertwines herself in the lives of every member of Catherine's family, including her son, Michael.


This movie is definitely not for everyone. There are multiple graphic sex scenes (which, frankly, caught me a bit off guard), and both lead actresses are very..."generous" with their performances. [Note: joking aside, both actresses gave brave performances, contributing way more than just their bodies to their roles. I want to make that clear.] The pacing is a bit slow for my tastes, but there is a definite sense of atmosphere that Egoyan established well. Certain shots are partly obscured, shot through a pane of glass or a hanging curtain sheet, foreshadowing the very truths hidden throughout the film that come to light as it heads toward the climax.

Spoilers For Chloe In The Next Paragraph

There is a bit of a twist which most people should predict early in the film. Since we're in spoiler territory, I'll give it away. Chloe ends up becoming obsessed with Catherine, and every story about her romantic encounters with David were completely fabricated. The reason I say most people should pick up on this is because we are only shown those particular scenes in flashback while Chloe describes them to Catherine. We never see a real-time affair taking place between David and Chloe; Catherine is so regaled by Chloe's tales of sexual exploits with her husband (vicariously rekindling her rocky marriage) that she misses the warning signs of obsession until it's too late.

End of Spoilers

The cinematography was impressive, showing Catherine's plight with a sympathetic lens and subtly hinting at Chloe's malevolence. Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" has rarely been used to more dramatic effect than in this film, when Catherine rejects Chloe's sexual advance; Chloe's face is shown in profile with a full backlight, and the haunting opening movement of Beethoven's classic begins as the shot lingers there and we stare into the inner workings of Chloe's psyche through Seyfried's gorgeous (but here, somewhat frightening) eyes.


Neeson elevated his one-note character as best he could, but I certainly wouldn't recommend this film based on his performance alone. It was adequate overall, but I felt like there was only one scene (outside the taxi) in which he truly committed to his character. Considering the fact that his wife tragically died while he was filming this movie and he decided, just days after her death, to come back and finish his work on the film, I think we can give him a pass this time around.

Sadly, the story felt a bit too familiar for me. This film, a remake of a 2003 French movie called Nathalie, was co-written by Nathalie's screenwriter and seemed to suffer from a bit of Hollywood syndrome. I haven't seen Nathalie, but I wonder how different (if at all) the ending is to Chloe, not shackled by the Hollywood system. As a general rule, I prefer judging movies on their own merits and try to avoid comparing them to other films; however, one could easily make the case that Chloe belongs in the same pack as the erotic thrillers of the 80's and 90's, but with an extra dose of Cialis tossed in to liven things up.


I can't shake the uneasy feeling that women are portrayed in a less-than-flattering light in this movie, although the beautiful actresses might lead you to believe otherwise. Chloe seems to condense Catherine's reason for existence into a typical "pleasing the husband" mindset and never devotes enough time to Chloe's character for the audience to understand her motivations. If you want to see more of Amanda Seyfried than you've ever seen before (both in terms of acting and, uh, assets) and more Julianne Moore than you'll ever want to see, Chloe is the film for you. Unfortunately, that's about all I can promise from this one. Until next time...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Once Upon a Crime

By Comedy Legend Alan Trehern

This movie was really excellent. And although I was satisfied with the ending, it had me wanting more and more. Well, actually, I wanted more and more of Cybill Shepherd and Sean Young. Meooowwww!! Regardless, this "who-dunnit" is up there with the like of Clue and any Mel Brooks film. The same simple humor mixed with intrigue and a cast of bumbling but laughable characters makes this movie a comedy classic.


Once Upon a Crime
(1992)

Directed by Eugene Levy (The Same!)

Starring a Whole Cast of Famous People. Well, kinda famous.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/1a/Once_upon_a_crime.jpg
The story is a simple crime scenario: someone has been killed, but the evidence leads the cops to these different characters whose paths just happen to cross by chance. The only thing that keeps them as suspects is their innate reaction to lie to the cops and cover their stories. There could not be a better setting for this movie than Monte Carlo. You have the gambling, the snobby rich elite and of course, the French. They're about as bumbling as the Americans. Despite Eugene Levy's fiascoes with the American Pie franchise, I suppose he had some credibility at the time to get directing rights to this movie, and I cannot keep myself from saying that he did a damn fine job.
Characters
Phoebe (Sean Young) is the first character we interact with, and she manages to find a Dachshund with a reward for its safe return. She meets Julian (Richard Lewis) who teams up with her because that's how the story works, don't bother me with details! On the train to Monte Carlo, they meet Augie Morosco (John Candy), a recovering gambler. However, Augie ends up falling off the wagon (or gets back on the wagon?) by gambling his life away with chauvinistic moron Neil Schwary (Jim Belushi). Thankfully, Neil's nottie-turned-hottie wife Marilyn (Cybill Shepherd) finally gains the marital powers over Neil and verbally and physically abuses him for the remainder of the movie.


There are so many positives in this movie that it would be a real shame for me to tell you all of them now without you experiencing them for yourself. I really got a kick out of this movie because I recognize most of the actors and seeing them all interact in this film was quite a highlight. Belushi was still coming down from his high as
Mr. Destiny (what, you've never seen that movie?) and John Candy succeeded in playing his usual type-cast role as a comical fat man (interestingly, the best serious performance I've ever seen Candy in was Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Hughes really did write a good story there.)

The funniest parts are just slight nuances that only the attentive viewer will see. Although the overacting is prevalent, I feel like it adds to the characters and the script, hearkening back to mystery films of cinema's golden age; or maybe I'm thinking French movies, I don't know. It had all the elements of a serious 1940s mystery movie, except with these graceless American tourists as unintentional suspects.
Final Thoughts
Out of all the movies I have reviewed thus far during
March Movie Madness, this one makes my top three favorite. It had everything I wanted in my movie going experience: simplicity, good laughs, hot chicks, mystery, George Hamilton and a successful ending. Like I said in my introduction, if you like Mel Brooks movies (he didn't have anything to do with this movie, mind you, it just felt like a Brooks' film) or other films in the comedic-mystery genre, I would say BUY THIS DVD! You will not regret it. As for me, I'm going to start sending fan mail to 20-year-old Cybill Shepherd, I hear she really knows how to trip the light fantastic.

Notes:
For some reason, based on my interest in this movie, IMDB.com suggests I take a gander at Tourist Trap. **scratches chin thoughtfully** Done.

Howard the Duck

By Cosmic Dark Overlord Alan Trehern

By this time, you've probably figured out that the movies I review are anything but relatable, socially relevant or what the cinedouche crowd would call "good". Howard the Duck is no exception here. I remember as a kid thinking I saw this; after the first few scenes, I had determined that I have never seen this movie. And I'm confident that if I ever saw this movie, 5-year-old me would demand his parents take him back to the video store to pick up something a little more intellectually stimulating.

Howard the Duck (1986)
Directed by Willard Huyck
Starring Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones, Tim Robbins and 8 Howard T. Ducks
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/7f/Howard_the_Duck_%281986%29.jpg
Initially, the Comcast description said that this was George Lucas' tale of a somewhat-famous Marvel Comics character. Well, he didn't direct it or write it, he just executive produced it. This means he did jack sh*t for this movie. But I imagine any input he may have had would have just put this film in the negatives on a whole-number rating scale. And don't berate me with comments on what the executive producer does, I know what he does, I'm just giving sh*t to George Lucas.

Story
Howard the Duck is from a planet similar to our own, except the highest evolutionary species went to ducks instead of humans. For some reason, he's transported to 1986 Earth and into the arms of Back to the Future hottie Lea Thompson, who plays Beverly. Tim Robbins plays an excruciatingly annoying character named Phil, and by all accounts, Robbins couldn't act his way out of a wet paper bag (see every movie he's ever made except Bull Durham). But the entire movie revolves around getting Howard back to his planet, and these two dolts are around the entire time.

Dr. Jenning, or the principal from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, is responsible for bringing Howard to Earth using a laser transporter? I don't know. Later in the movie, he becomes infected by a dark overlord of the universe, and becomes part-comic relief/part-villain. It's around this time that I regret starting this movie, and any positive "memories" of this movie were lost.
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The entire film is nothing but bad acting, terrible dialogue and never ending scene sequences. Maybe they thought they could cover-up the negative aspects of this movie with ILM effects (ahem!), but even for 1986 the effects weren't great. They looked like stock footage from other movies, and I, as an audience member, was severely displeased.

Howard the Duck was a one-liner vending machine, never muttering useful or thought-provoking confabulation for the entire length of the film. Then again, he's a f*cking duck. His animatronic facial features, however, were quite good. They were similar to the Ninja Turtles' costume motions in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. "Do you like penicillin on you pizza?"
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I was really pissed not to have seen more of Duckworld, though, since the five-minute look at it was a helluva lot better than this whole movie. Maybe they should have just trashed the script to this movie and skipped to the sequel where Beverly and Howard return to Duckworld.

Final Thoughts
I have no idea if this is considered a cult classic or something. I would hope not. The ultimate highlight of this movie is Lea Thompson in her underwear, and even that is somewhat of a letdown. And when you think she might do it again, it never happens. And the use of "original" "rock and roll" "music" (most of the songs sung by Thompson) got old real fast. If you ever thought to watch this movie for its zany, 80s feel, don't do it. It's terrible, and I want to slap ENCORE in the sack for making it available to me. What do you mean I have no one to blame but myself???
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HA-HA then CRAP!! Notes:
According to reports at the time of the movie's release, George Lucas was heavily in debt (having just built the $50-million Skywalker Ranch complex) and was counting on this film to get him back in the black. When it bombed, he was forced to start selling off assets to stay afloat (haha). His friend Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple Computer, offered to help by buying Lucasfilm's newly-launched CGI animation division for a price well above market value, and Lucas, in desperate straits and thankful for the assistance, agreed. That division eventually bec[a]me Pixar Animation Studios (crap...). -- IMDB.com

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mystery Team

(Update: I interviewed Derrick Comedy for GeekTyrant.com about Mystery Team. Check it out here.)

In 2005, the members of Derrick Comedy met at NYU and started producing short comedy videos for release on the internet. After substantial success online, the group decided to make their first feature film in 2008. The result is Mystery Team, a hilarious take on 80's kid detective stories that proves that the guys (and girl) of Derrick Comedy are here to stay.

Mystery Team
Director: Dan Eckman
Starring: Donald Glover, DC Pierson, Dominic Dierkes


In a quaint suburban town seemingly devoid of time period, a group of three former child detectives remains friends and still solves cases even though they're about to graduate from high school. Calling themselves the Mystery Team, the group dresses like overgrown children (Donald Glover's character buttons the top button of his polo shirt; DC Pierson's character has a perpetual bowl cut), still charges ten cents per case, and are berated by their schoolmates and teachers for not growing up. The group communicates via walkie-talkie, and even has a crude wooden stand set up in the front lawn with a hand-painted sign detailing their mantra: "No case too small, no case too tough."


There's Jason (Glover) the master of disguise; Duncan (Pierson), the boy genius; and Charlie (Dierkes), the strongest kid in town. When the Mystery Team gets a case from a young girl and her sister, they are shocked to discover this case isn't something simple like who stuck a finger in a pie (a case they solved early in the movie): the girls' parents have been murdered. The trio decides this is their chance to solve a serious case and prove to everyone that they're "real detectives."


This movie has a brilliant mix of innocence and filthy language. The dichotomy between these characters (who have never said a swear word before) and the ridiculous situations they get into, including run-ins with drug dealers, strippers, and psychotic corrupt employees, is fresh and original. Mystery Team feels like a Steven Spielberg movie from the mid-80's (or a flick with a similar tone, Monster Squad), but instead of keeping that innocence throughout, it's given an R-rated injection. Obviously, fans of Derrick Comedy will know what kind of humor to expect and will surely be pleased with the movie.


Donald Glover's performance is infectious and hilarious - with "Community" renewed for a second season and his Comedy Central stand-up act hitting the airwaves a few nights ago, he is poised to break into the next level of stardom. The rest of the cast, including guest spots from Aubrey Plaza ("Parks and Recreation"), Bobby Moynihan ("Saturday Night Live"), Ellie Kemper (Erin from "The Office"), and charismatic actor/comedian Matt Walsh, fit in perfectly with the universe created for this movie.

As far as complaints go, I felt like Charlie's character was a bit underwritten, but he was clearly the comic relief and didn't really need a huge backstory or important arc of his own. Also, Moynihan's character felt a bit incomplete, but that's because he was only able to film for a few hours over the course of one day for the production.


Director Dan Eckman did a good job of making the film feel cinematic, a task none too easy for a group known for their short online videos. My favorite shot in the movie, a long tracking shot on baseball field, was particularly impressive. There is, perhaps, and over-reliance on rack focus shots, but I feel like that's a typical crutch for first-time directors (I'm guilty of this as well) and I think it's an issue that I'm sure Eckman will correct with his next project.

If you're looking for a fresh R-rated comedy, here's your solution. I can't wait to see what these guys (and girl) put out next. Until next time...

Tokyo Raiders

Yet Another Movie Review by Alan Trehern

I don't know why I keep doing this to myself.
Tokyo Raiders, was, you guessed it, awful. I'm just going to name off the positives now before you stop reading: good action scenes, pretty Asian girls (**nudge nudge Ben**), bitchin' soundtrack. Let's see, anything else? Nope that's about it. See you next time...
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Tokyo Raiders (Dong jing gong lüe) (2000)
Directed by Jingle Ma
Starring Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Ekin Cheng and Kelly Chen

Alright, now that we have the fair-weather fans gone, we can focus on the real piece of work that is
Tokyo Raiders. Now, don't get me wrong, this is not at all as bad as X-Treme Fighter. That movie was downright turrible. No, Tokyo Raiders is more of a Rush Hour comedy mixed with Mortal Kombat music with just a dash of L.A. Streetfighters.

Story
First we have Macy, the girl who is left at the alter because her husband-to-be is kidnapped by Japanese mobsters. Good start. She then decides to travel to Japan to find her boyfriend, Ken Tremaine, while picking up a wise-cracking sidekick named John in Hong Kong. Alright, I'm still intrigued. Then they both meet up with a mysterious cat named Lin, who fought off some of the baddies at the beginning of the film and reveals that Macy's boyfriend isn't the charmer she thinks he is.

The movie felt more like I was watching a video game, with action scenes separated by cut-scenes with crappy dialogue. They tried to throw some melodramatic jargon in there backed with the Chinese Celine Dion singing in the background, but this movie only accomplished in entertaining me for the three reasons I listed in the first paragraph. That's it.

In the end, we see that Tremaine is wanted by the CIA and the mobsters for some information he's withholding. Well, guess where he hid the info... It was on the girl the entire time. John and Lin karate chop their way to the truth in a city that is entirely owned by the mob; and yes, there was a bathhouse scene, but what Asian movie would be complete without one?
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Characters and Dialogue
These characters were two-dimensional at best. Macy whines alot, John cracks jokes that are as clichéd as they are unfunny and Lin is the serious but lovable coordinator of this rag-tag group of Asian runaways. The mobsters' henchmen are a dime a dozen, and all wear black to signify they are not the good guys. Lin uses a taser-rod which is pretty cheap considering that no one else uses a weapon in almost the entire movie. Oh, and don't try to mess with anybody in Tokyo if you ever go, because every single citizen knows the martial arts. Training must come with your driver's license and voter registration card or something.

The English overdub is waaay better than L.A. Streetfighters, but apparently the English voice-actors doing the work have no acting ability whatsoever. Every line is delivered by a living human being, yes, but there is little improvement past that. You would think after making movies for so long, Asia, you'd improve your over-dubbing process and fork out a decent wage for decent voice-actors. But, I guess crappy dialogue adds to the whole "comedic" atmosphere, who knows?

Conclusion
Again, let me reiterate that this movie is laughable. Not only because it is a comedy, but that it's an overall crappy movie. As an action movie, I have no gripes with it. You successfully entertained me,
Tokyo Raiders. Nice job. Don't take my word for it (dunh dunh DUNH!) though, readers, check out Part 1 of the movie right here at Ben's Movie Reviews!
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Talk to Me

Like another based on a true story radio film, Good Morning Vietnam, Talk to Me chronicles the rise and fall of a radio DJ in the politically charged era of the 1960's. Although Robin Williams may have been funnier in his role back in 1987, I think Don Cheadle and director Kasi Lemmons created a better movie twenty years later - one that better balances the themes of racism, captures the atmosphere of activism, and revels in the passion of its man behind the microphone.

Talk to Me
Director: Kasi Lemmons
Starring: Don Cheadle, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Taraji P. Henson


It becomes more and more apparent to me that Chiwetel Ejiofor is becoming one of my favorite actors when I realize that I don't have to spell check his name anymore after I type it. In Talk to Me, he plays Dewey Hughes, the director of programming at WOL-AM in Washington, DC. Hughes was born in the projects but grew up watching The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson; learning more from Carson than he did from his surroundings, Hughes separated himself from his upbringing and made a name for himself in the radio industry. When a divide forms between the listener's tastes and the music being played at WOL, Hughes brings in Petey Greene (Cheadle), a fresh-outta-jail man who discovered his natural talent as a DJ in prison. Where Petey goes, his girlfriend Vernell Watson (Henson) isn't far behind, and as Petey's "tell-it-like-it-is" mentality causes his popularity to skyrocket, so do the station's ratings.


In some ways, the film serves as a warning against living vicariously through other people. Hughes, who always idolized Carson and longs for the gift naturally bestowed upon Petey, becomes Petey's manager and guides him through his meteoric rise to stardom. It's clear Petey doesn't want all of the new responsibilities given to him, but Dewey is too blinded by his own dream to deal with his friend's life.


Everyone in the cast did an outstanding job, including brief supporting turns by Martin Sheen and Cedric the Entertainer. Henson stole every scene she was in as the loud-mouthed Vernell, wonderfully decked out in costumes accurate for the time and seeming as if she were born to live in that era. But Don Cheadle took hold of this film and made it his; his performance as Petey Greene runs the gamut from cocky self-assuredness (when he first gets out of prison) to heartbreaking sadness (when he hears the news of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination).

Technically speaking, this movie didn't give us anything new - but it worked exactly as it should have in context with this story. The cinematography, lighting, sound design, and production design were all crafted with one aspect in mind: highlighting the performances of the actors. Talk to Me isn't a movie with flashy editing or elaborate crane shots; this film doesn't need any of that. It is the story of a small unit of people and their journey through the world of entertainment, but more important than their physical journey is the professional and personal relationship formed between Dewey Hughes and Petey Greene. Stylistically, the film wisely chooses to stay grounded in reality instead of making us marvel at impressive directorial choices. (Although my favorite scene in the film, the first pool hall scene, was fairly stylized. But it shied away from being gimmicky, so I was OK with it.)


This is one of the best biopics I've seen. Even though it goes through some familiar paces, the enthusiasm of Greene's character pulls you through the sometimes-trite scenes and left me with a fresh perspective about a man who truly made a difference in the world of radio. Throw this in your Netflix queue (or whatever), because I'll recommend it for everyone. Until next time...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Offence

A Serious Review from Alan Trehern

It's been a couple days since I watched this movie, and even though I remember everything that happened, scene for scene (I'm good at that), the effect it had on me has dwindled quite a bit. However, as a reviewer, I'm going to allow you the chance to decide whether you should see this or not, I'm not going to tell you one way or another.

The Offence (1972)
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Starring Sean Connery
This film was excruciatingly slow, despite my initial expectations. I thought that Detective Sergeant Connery as a cop in London (or wherever they were) chasing after child molesters would be pretty bad-ass. Well, as it turned out, Connery (with mustache in tow) delivered one of the best performances I have ever seen him in. However, the bad-ass cop-drama I was expecting went an entirely different route.
First, this movie is less "cop-drama" and more "psychological-noir", without the first-person narration usually associated with the noir genre [1]. Johnson (Connery) is one of the many cops working on cases of missing child, some found dead while others have been found violated but still alive. Connery is hell-bent on finding this man (or men), and he risks reputation and relationships to get to this sick psycho. The character of Johnson is extremely complex, and as an audience member, you don't fully know everything about him until the very end of the film, which may serve as a redeeming characteristic for The Offence, or an annoying flaw. The most reliable comparison I can come up with is John Wayne's character Ethan Edwards in The Searchers, with his crazy-eyed hatred for the Comanche Indians. Johnson was portrayed as tough, outspoken, verbally abusive and unloving toward his wife and was subject to bouts of violent rage. Johnson's insanity, while uncontrollable at times, humanizes the character, contradicting the audience's initial assessment of his invulnerability.

The most intriguing scene in the film was the final interrogation scene between Johnson and the alleged child molester. Here, we truly see the range of Connery's acting prowess, and the conversation between the two takes the audience on a roller coaster ride of realizations and unlocks every other mysterious facet of this movie. Overall, then, the movie may have you confused for the first 90 minutes, but it comes full-circle and answers all your questions and leaves you satisfied with the result.
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To give this movie even more props, it used "non-linear storytelling", which has often been credited to Tarantino, but in reality, has been used since the silent film era. The Offence takes advantage of this technique by showing us parts of the movie out of order, and returning to them every so often and fill us in on what really happened. As someone who had no idea what this movie was about and what path it would take, it proved quite entertaining to finally realize that the events taking place were out of order, and that you were forced to recall when and where events happened.

While this "non-linear storytelling" labels the film as noteworthy, the film's lack of roadsigns somewhat negates its originality. If I don't know where this movie is going until the very end, what's to keep me from turning it off in disgust? The movie's lack of music, sparse dialogue and dramatically long scene transitions repels regular movie-goers who want to delve into the story right away. For those few who enjoy originally directed films, you'll most definitely enjoy The Offence. It offers an insight into the world of cops/villains, how they deal with the blood and horror of maleficent crimes and how seemingly regular people are turned into psychotic rapists.

Oh, by the way, if you think I gave away the ending just there, you're wrong. You will never guess what the inevitable conclusion to this film is...

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Notes:
[1] Voiceover narration, sometimes used as a structuring device, came to be seen as a noir hallmark; while classic noir is generally associated with first-person narration (i.e., by the protagonist), Stephen Neale notes that third-person narration is common among noirs of the semi-documentary style.[150]

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Kiss Me Deadly

Blockbuster.com says Kiss Me Deadly is "regarded by many critics as the ultimate film noir." I respectfully disagree. There are five or six noir films I can name off the top of my head (The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, you get the picture) that fit this magical "ultimate film noir" criteria way better than this 1955 movie. Don't worry - I assume none of you have seen this, so I'm keeping this one short. Also - and if you've been reading this site for a while, you know I rarely do this - I'm going to give away the ending for you. This is your final warning - on the off chance that you've ever heard of this movie and don't want it ruined for you, turn away now.

Kiss Me Deadly
Director: Robert Aldrich
Starring: Ralph Meeker, Cloris Leachman, Albert Dekker


Based on the Mickey Spillane novel of the same name, Kiss Me Deadly was made near the end of what is known as the classical noir period (1940's Stranger on the Third Floor to Orson Welles' Touch of Evil in 1958). This movie treats the conventions of noir differently than any other noir I've seen: the tough protagonist private investigator, Mike Hammer (Meeker), is a sleazy P.I. instead of an honorable one. Hammer is a divorce specialist who makes a living by conning couples into thinking their significant other is cheating on them. While Bogart always seemed to play detectives who weren't afraid to rough people up if the situation called for it, this Mike Hammer character beat the crap out of anyone who stood in his way. Not only that, but he relished in the violence. This dude had no sorrow for what he was doing - I'm guessing Machiavelli was on his bedside table. In one example, a guy tailing him comes at him with a knife, and Hammer gets the better of him in a fistfight. But instead of knocking him out cold or, I don't know, just walking away, Hammer takes one last punch at the dude and sends him flying down a set of 200 concrete stairs. He watches him tumble all the way down with no remorse on his face. Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe would be disappointed.


I won't bore you with the details of the plot, since (in typical noir fashion) they are complicated as hell and the story winds in and out so many times I nearly lost track of what was going on. Basically, a woman named Christina escapes from a looney bin and nearly wrecks Hammer's car in the opening scene; he gives her a ride, but is promptly stopped by some thugs, sees Christina die in front of him, and is left for dead after he miraculously survives an explosion in his car. The story follows Hammer as he searches for the truth about Christina. He meets a chick named Lily, who claims to be Christina's roommate and is looking for a mysterious case. Surprise, surprise - she's not who she claims to be. Late in the movie when Mike finds the case in a locker, it is hot to the touch and emits a shrieking sound and light when opened (Mike barely cracks the lid before slamming it shut again).


And now, your Daily Dose of Nitpick. Lily doublecrosses her evil doctor partner in the end, wanting the mysterious contents of the case all for herself. She shoots him and he stands there and delivers a final speech before collapsing to the ground, dead. Mike rushes in, exchanges some banter with Lily, and then she shoots him at point blank range. He falls over, but apparently isn't dead. He has time to rescue Velda, his assistant and part-time love interest, from a closet before he guides her out of the exploding house. Nice continuity, guys - one dude gets shot and dies thirty seconds later, but the other (shot at a closer range, mind you) somehow wills himself out of the building?

But why did the house explode, you ask? Oh yeah, remember that case I mentioned earlier? Lily opens it like an idiot (after countless repeated warnings from the doctor), and is SET ON FREAKING FIRE when she stares into the light emanating from it. The entire room catches fire, eventually engulfing the entire house and causing a massive explosion the 1990's would have been proud to call one of its own. Mike and Velda avoid the Raiders of the Lost Ark treatment and end up safe on the beach outside, standing in the ocean and watching the explosion. End credits.



WTF? Like I said, this was unlike any noir I've ever seen. The contents of the box are a clear metaphor for the atomic bomb - the doctor character made multiple references to opening Pandora's Box, Lot's wife from the Bible...basically bringing up characters or people from history who have made massive mistakes that had fatal consequences. Remember, this was 1955 - Hiroshima and Nagasaki were still very much in America's collective consciousness. But including this box (kind of like an A-bomb version of the Pulp Fiction briefcase) into this story crosses the line from film noir into science fiction. Wikipedia refers to the movie as a sci-fi noir; I've heard that term thrown around for movies like Blade Runner before, but I've never seen it on display in a movie that disguises itself as a classic noir for the first 7/8ths of the movie before veering off so quickly into sci-fi territory.


Basically, this movie is all kinds of F-ed up. I knew it was going to be strange from the opening credits, which scroll up (think Star Wars intro) but backwards. (See example.) But I had no idea it'd be so off-the-wall insane. The threads that link one event to the next are thinner than dental floss, it has a blatant misogynistic slant (all the women are treated pretty horribly throughout), the minority characters are embarrassingly stereotypical (Nick, the mechanic, was the worst of the bunch) and it takes a turn way out into left field with its bizarre ending. This is hands down the darkest movie that I've seen in the genre. Most noirs are fatalistic and/or nihilistic, but this one ends with freaking nuclear annihilation! Would I recommend it? Only for the most loyal noir fans. I count myself as one of those fans (obviously), but I'm only convinced that this was worth seeing because of how batsh*t crazy it got towards the end. Until next time...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

[Editor's note: Panther Joe also saw this movie and recently reviewed it at this very blog. Check out his review here.]

I've been a supporter of this film since the first day it was announced. How could I not? Hollywood is so heavy into reboots, remakes, prequels, sequels, and spin-offs, it's difficult to sift through all the noise and realize that there are occasionally original films still being produced. If anything, give Hot Tub Time Machine credit for originality. The title says it all: four guys go back in time to 1986 through a mystical hot tub time machine. But does the movie live up to its premise?

Hot Tub Time Machine
Director: Steve Pink
Starring: John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke


Adam (Cusack) has been unceremoniously dumped by his girlfriend. Jacob (Duke), Adam's nephew, is obsessed with Second Life, lives in his uncle's basement, and writes Stargate fan fiction. Nick (Robinson), a one-time singer, now works at a pet store, where he is forced to perform humiliating tasks. When Lou (Corddry) nearly kills himself in his own garage, the group of former friends (and Jacob) reunite to cheer Lou up by returning to a lodge they frequented in years past. Soon after arriving at the now-dilapidated lodge, they end up in the titular hot tub and travel back to 1986, giving the guys a chance to fix their disappointing lives.

To answer my own question, yes - I think the movie does live up to its premise. While I think it is a largely by-the-numbers comedy, it has a heart that is rare these days outside of the Apatow comedies. Each actor gives a genuine performance, and each character has a pretty legitimate arc. There is a decent mix of raunchy humor and good situational comedy, and the movie never feels long or drawn out. I'm betting a funnier movie comes along before the year is over, but for right now it's the funniest comedy of 2010.


There are also a lot of funny details that make the movie more likable than it should be. One such detail is a running gag featuring Crispin Glover's character Phil, a bellhop at the lodge. When the group arrives at the lodge in 2010, Phil is missing an arm; when they time-travel back to '86, he still has it. Throughout the movie, Phil finds himself in increasingly precarious positions with the potential to lose his arm and our main cast (especially Lou) is always on the lookout to see if they can witness the infamous incident.


Surprisingly, the aspect I had the most trouble with was the time travel. I would have no problem if they were magically transported to the past with no explanation and no hint as to why it happened, but Chevy Chase plays a janitor at the lodge who seems to know exactly what's going on. He knows our heroes have traveled through time, and offers vague hints as to the reasoning behind it, but his character is never explained. How does this guy know what's going on? Has this type of thing happened before? Is he some sort of guardian, like in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? His back story is never revealed, and while I certainly don't need an entire origin story on the guy, a bit of context would be nice. Most importantly, his character isn't funny. If you're going to write a comedy with the mystical sage janitor offering advice, I'd suggest making that character's screen time funny - especially when he doesn't do a lot to truly help the guys out in the end.

That being said, one thing I did like about how the movie handled the time travel was the appearance of the main characters. To everyone else at the lodge in 1986, the main group looked the same as they did back in '86 - big hair for Craig Robinson, tall and skinny for Cusack, etc. I liked how the film showed us what they looked like a few times, but didn't keep returning to the young versions of these characters. They let their main actors continue to play themselves, and the 1986 people treated them as if they were the younger versions of themselves. One of the funniest examples of this comes in the form of Lou's nemesis, a ski instructor named Blaine. Since our heroes return to a 1986 in which they were actually present the first time around, Jacob suggests that they must try to recreate the exact events of the night in order for him to be born.


I was pleasantly surprised to see Lizzy Caplan in the movie. I've been a fan of her work for a while now, having seen her in TV's "Freaks and Geeks," the excellent new Starz show "Party Down," and in the role of Marlena in Cloverfield. Sure, her and Adam's love story didn't make a lot of sense, but it was still fun to see her keep up with a cast that looked like they had a great time making a funny movie. Actors can take things too seriously sometimes, so I'm glad to see that everyone was seemingly on the same page about what kind of movie they were making. This is a movie where Craig Robinson says, "it must be some kind of...hot tub time machine," and then looks directly in the camera for about three seconds. Clearly they know they're working with a ridiculous concept.

I loved the music, which features songs by Poison, Motley Crue, and Rick Springfield (listen to Craig Robinson's cover of "Jessie's Girl" at Entertainment Weekly). Nick, once a singer with potential, gets back on the stage in 1986 and pulls a Back to the Future, giving the audience a taste of a famous song to come. I won't spoil which song it is, but I will say that I'm not a fan of the song (or the band responsible, for that matter) but hearing Robinson and Co. sing it had me rocking out just as hard as the crowd in the movie.

If you liked the trailer, chances are really high that you'll like the movie. Most of the main gags are given away in the trailer, but like I said, there are still a bunch of smaller funny moments that make it worth seeing. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention - the ending is absolutely ludicrous, so don't say I didn't warn you. Until next time...