Archive for the Comedies Category

RED 2 (2013)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, All-Star Casts, Barry Dejasu Columns, Based on Comic Book, Bruce Willis Films, Buddy Movies, Campy Movies, Comedies, Fun Stuff!, Government Agents with tags , , , , , , on July 23, 2013 by knifefighter

RED 2 (2013)
Movie Review by Barry Lee Dejasu

RED2PosterSeveral months after the events of RED (2010), former CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is trying to happily move on with his life, now truly retired and living with his girl Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker).  When Frank’s old buddy Marvin (John Malkovich), also a former CIA agent (but with a bad case of paranoid eccentricity due to decades of LSD experimentation), shows up, it’s clear that trouble won’t be far behind…and sure enough, trouble comes for them, in spades.  With conspiracies, assassins, and weapons of mass destruction abound, it’s up to Frank and his R.E.D (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) friends to save the day again.

Director Dean Parisot (best known for his 1999 film GALAXY QUEST) turns in a decent action-comedy with RED 2.  The film is rated PG-13, which is understandable, since it’s aiming for a widespread audience; as a result, there are numbers of pulled punches—sometimes literally, as an early fight sequence left me a little confused as to what was happening at times.  There’s lots of gunplay, fistfights, and explosions, and a few well-staged sequences, but nothing particularly new or unusual—which was probably the idea, since the movie is played more for laughs than anything else.  Still, a few of the fight scenes might benefit from an “Unrated” cut, and one can hope that such may show up on the eventual home video release.

Like with the first film, however, what I enjoyed most in RED 2 was its cast, which, even with an occasionally stilted conversation (more on that later), gets along very nicely, and works together well in some genuinely screwy scenes.

Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, and John Malkovich in RED 2.

Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, and John Malkovich in RED 2.

 “You haven’t killed anybody in months,” Marvin says at one point, and the same could be said for Willis at this point in his career, with A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD and G.I. JOE: RETALIATION having been released just earlier this year. Bruce Willis has become one of the main go-to guys for action movies the past couple of decades; generally speaking, his presence brings a fun and laid-back (yet simultaneously rugged and smarmy) presence in the middle of the cinematic chaos—and this movie is no exception; he nicely chews up the scenes with his relaxed (and occasionally grumpy) persona, and while this vehicle is nothing new or unusual for him, it’s hard to ignore his charm.

Mary-Louise Parker is a hoot in her return as Sarah.  Although her character is now quite familiar with Frank’s former career and skills, she’s also his dedicated lover, and will do anything to help him—including eagerly stepping in to fight alongside him in every situation he’s faced with.  This of course leads to much bickering about her safety versus his, and more than a few times she has to “prove” herself in action.  If you think Mary-Louise Parker can’t handle an action scene, well, think again—that’s the whole idea with her here, and because she’s a capable actress, it worked quite nicely.  (Coincidentally, Parker also appears in this past week’s fellow acronymic action-comedy R.I.P.D., directed by the original RED’s director, Robert Schwentke!)

Now, traditionally, I’ve disliked John Malkovich as an actor; I find him to be very hammy and more than a little unpleasant most of the time, even when he’s portraying (allegedly) sympathetic characters; yet, I have softened a bit towards him in recent years, and that reason, I now realize, began with RED, and continues now in RED 2.  He portrays Marvin in a very goofy, dopey-eyed manner, and I genuinely laughed a few times with him in these films.

Dame Helen Mirren steals every scene she’s in, which is to be expected when you put an automatic weapon into the hands of the Academy Award-winning actress.  She portrays Victoria every bit as tongue-in-cheek as she did the first time, coolly portraying a charming lady who’s more than ready to deliver asskickery.  (There’s also one scene of hers in particular, which I won’t spoil, that had me seriously cracking up; I’ll just say that for anyone who’s familiar with her career, it’s a real treat.)

Helen Mirren + gun = scene officially owned.

Helen Mirren + gun = scene officially owned.

Alongside Malkovich, Byung-Hun Lee was the real surprise for me in this film.  Previously, I’d only seen him in the two G.I. JOE films of recent years – coincidentally alongside Willis in the second one; and as a result, I didn’t really have much of an opinion of him.  Here, however, I got to witness just how charismatic he can be, and he’s gracefully capable of some truly jaw-dropping stunts.  He was also very funny, which went a long way towards fleshing out his role as Han Cho Bai, a contract killer seeking revenge.  (“You stole my plane!”)

When Catherine Zeta-Jones appears, everything seems to stand still—and I’m not just saying that as a longtime fan of the actress (here portraying former KGB agent Katja, also an ex-flame of Frank’s).  She comes sweeping across the screen, in full movie star glamour, just before delivering a hard kiss on Frank (much to Sarah’s disgust).  Her screen time is unfortunately a bit limited, and her character’s nature a bit uneven, but if the filmmakers were seeking a memorable and gorgeous actress for the role, then they succeeded.

It’s also quite funny that Anthony Hopkins is in this film, and for more than one reason.  As an eccentric scientist (and weapons maker) being kept in a mental institution, Hopkins turns in a rare comedic role in this film.  Oddly enough, he has starred alongside not only Jones and Mirren in previous films (respectively in 1998’s THE MASK OF ZORRO and last year’s HITCHCOCK), but even has a face-to-face appearance with “the other Hannibal Lecter” himself, Brian Cox (1986’s MANHUNT).

Anthony Hopkins once again finds himself in a mental hospital.

Anthony Hopkins once again finds himself in a mental hospital.

Like the first film, RED 2 is based on characters and a general setup from the DC Comics graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner.  This film takes a nice wink at this origin with various screen shots of the actors transitioning into stills of their respective comic characters; it helped serve as a reminder that this isn’t a film to be taken too seriously, and thus was all the easier to enjoy.

That said, there were times where I found the plot kind of hard to follow (mostly in the shell game of different characters’ shifting loyalties and/or revealing their true natures), and there were a few stretches of wooden dialogue, but then again, the script (written by the first film’s team of brothers Jon and Erich Hoeber) exists solely to set up one funny scene after another, and it works well for that.

So ultimately, RED 2 was a bit of a retread of the first film, but it took all the elements that worked well and put them to good use here, starting and ending with a fun and enjoyable cast.  If you liked the action-packed screwball antics of the first film, then you’re in for more in RED 2.

I give it two and a half knives.

© Copyright 2013 by Barry Lee Dejasu

Barry Lee Dejasu gives RED 2 ~ two and a half knives.

THE HEAT (2013)

Posted in 2013, Cinema Knife Fights, Comedies, Cop Movies, Gangsters!, R-Rated Comedy with tags , , , , , , on July 1, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  THE HEAT (2013)
Review by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares

the-heat-poster2(THE SCENE: A police interrogation room.  MICHAEL ARRUDA wears a police badge and sits across from his prisoner.  He leans into the prisoner’s face.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Listen, if you tell me the name of the guy you’re working for, I’ll give you an ice cream cone.

PRISONER:  I’m not talking.

MA:  How about an ice cream sundae?  (Prisoner shakes his head)  With extra hot fudge sauce.  You like hot fudge sauce, right?…with a cherry on top?

(The door bursts open and L.L. SOARES enters wielding a chainsaw.)

L.L. SOARES: I’ll get this low-life to talk.  Tell us who you’re working for, or I start removing body parts!  (Revs up chainsaw.)

PRISONER:  Yeah, right.  Like you’re really going to use that thing.

LS:  That’s not the answer I’m looking for.  (Runs at table and brings chainsaw down upon the prisoner’s wrist, cutting off his hand. Blood spurts like a geyser)

PRISONER (screams):  YEEEEE-OWWWWW! You just cut off my hand!!!

LS:  That’s okay.  You’ve still got another one.  Start talking!

POLICE CAPTAIN (enters room):  What the hell is going on in here?  Who the hell are you guys? Who the hell let you in here?

(Cue quick drum solo, and LS, covered in blood, looks in camera and winks)

LS:  We’re Cinema Knife Fighters.

(Cue funky theme music)

CAPTAIN:  Someone call an ambulance!  And someone arrest these two men for impersonating police officers!

MA:  I wouldn’t do that if I were you.  We’re just about to review a new movie.  Perhaps you’d like to hear it.

CAPTAIN:  Are you out of your friggin mind?

MA:  We’re reviewing THE HEAT, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.

PRISONER:  I wanted to see that.  Was it any good?

MA:  We’ll tell you right now. If you behave.

PRISONER:  Captain, why don’t you pull up a chair?

CAPTAIN:  Are you crazy?  They just sawed off your hand!

PRISONER:  I have another one.  Plus, strangely, despite all the blood, I feel fine. And look (holds up stump), I’ve stopped bleeding.

LS:  One of the perks of Cinema Knife Fight Land.

(CAPTAIN pulls up a chair and sits down)

CAPTAIN: Okay, but just for a minute.

MA:  So, as I started to say, today on Cinema Knife Fight, we’re reviewing the new R-rated comedy, THE HEAT (2013), starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, and directed by Paul Feig, the same guy who directed BRIDESMAIDS (2011).

CAPTAIN: I loved BRIDESMAIDS!

LS: Me, too.

MA: In THE HEAT, Sandra Bullock plays an uptight FBI agent named Ashburn who nobody in the department likes, and so her boss Hale (Demian Bichir) sends her to Boston to work a case, and if she does well, then he’ll talk to her about the promotion she desires.

In Boston, Ashburn crosses paths with an offbeat and crude Boston police officer Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) who nearly kills Ashburn when she questions her prisoner without permission.  Of course, these two completely different women will eventually team up to work together to track down the villains in this one, drug dealers, specifically a mysterious drug lord whose identity remains a secret until the end.

Ashburn and Mullins eventually get along very well because they realize they’re both outcasts.  It’s more obvious in Mullins’ case with her unconventional methods and her wacky abrasive family, but Ashburn shares a similar loner past.  It’s revealed that Ashburn wasn’t popular in high school. In fact, the only people to sign her yearbook were teachers, and she was also a foster child.

LS (sniffs): Sad stuff.

MA: But the plot is secondary and unimportant in this movie, as it’s just an excuse to put Ashburn and Mullins in funny situations and make us laugh.  And if you judge a comedy by how many laughs it gets, then I’d give THE HEAT high marks because I laughed throughout this movie, and I laughed a lot.

LS: I laughed. I wanted to laugh more. But we’ll get to that.

MA: For the second straight week in a row, I sat in a sold-out theater.  Last week was WORLD WAR Z, and now this week THE HEAT.  What’s going on?  Are these movies that big of a draw, or are people out more because it’s summer?  I don’t know.  But I do know that last night’s audience was primarily women.  There were a few men in the theater, but for the most part, I was surrounded by women laughing hysterically.  Kinda like a nightmare I had once.

LS: Women laughing? Probably hit a little too close to home. Me, I dug it. Being surrounded by women. What’s not to like?

MA: Nothing, you goober!  I was referring to the laughing part.  I was making a joke at my own expense

LS:  Oh?  That was a joke?

MA:  Ha, ha!  Anyway, this brings me to an article I read earlier this year which talked about how the traditional “male audience” movies have struggled this year, films like BULLET TO THE HEAD (2013) starring Sylvester Stallone and THE LAST STAND (2013) starring Arnold Schwarzenegger tanked at the box office, while films geared more for women have been doing extremely well, and the article predicted that Hollywood would follow the money and make more films geared for women.

LS: I have an idea. Maybe the movies geared toward men were just lame?

MA: Last night’s audience certainly seemed to back this up.  Which leads me to one question:  alright, guys, where the hell are you spending all your time?  Why aren’t you at the movies?  I don’t want to see action movies go the route of the Western!

LS: The Western is making a comeback, if you haven’t noticed.

MA:  It’s been “making a comeback” since the 1980s!

LS:  And I saw a lot of men in my audience for THE HEAT. Sure, a lot of them were probably there because their girlfriends or wives dragged them to see it. But I’m sure some of them were there, like me, to enjoy the show. Screw demographics!

Hey, what is this, some kind of film theory course? Get back to the damn review!

MA: Anyway, that being said, I liked THE HEAT a lot.  I thought the jokes pretty much all worked, and the performances were right on target.  Melissa McCarthy is hilarious, and I can’t count how many laugh-out-loud moments she generated throughout the movie.  There were just so many quick one-liners and tirades.  The scene where she calls out her boss in front of Sandra Bullock comes to mind, completely humiliating the guy in front of the other officers in the precinct.

LS: Yeah, Captain Woods. I felt bad for that guy. He was played by Tom Wilson, by the way, who was good in the role.

MA: The movie also has more than enough jokes to make up for the fact that many of them were given away in the film’s trailers.  There are still lots of funny parts in this movie, even if you’ve seen the trailer multiple times, as I did.

LS: Problem number one. Too many good jokes here were ruined by being played to death in the trailers. I would have laughed louder at these if I hadn’t already seen them a thousand times. One of the downsides of going to the movies every week—we see too many trailers too many times.

MA: I agree.  But I thought there were enough other jokes in this movie that worked for it not to matter as much in this case.

Sandra Bullock is also very good in the straight role as Ashburn, and she generates lots of laughs as well.  The scene with the choking restaurant victim where Ashburn attempts a tracheotomy on the guy and sticks a knife into his throat, as opposed to just performing the Heimlich maneuver, is a keeper.  With scenes like this, the film definitely earns its R-rating.

LS: You thought that scene earned its R? Just a little blood? But it was funny stuff.

I thought the R-rating was for the friggin language. McCarthy, especially, has a vocabulary that includes non-stop swearing. It made me feel at home. Although you wouldn’t know it by this wimpy column. You still enforcing the “PG” language rule here?

MA: I thought it was PG-13 language?  Which, by the way, we both agreed to.

I think our language here is in line with other professional movie reviewers.

(LS responds with a bunch of bleeps)

MA: There’s also a very funny sequence where they have to swipe a guy’s cell phone and put a bug inside it, which takes place in a crowded night club. The audience was on the floor laughing during this whole sequence.  I also enjoyed the part where they get smashing drunk together.

LS: You mean the scene where they go to a seedy bar and get bombed out of their minds and do all kinds of wacky stuff? I loved that scene!

MA: The screenplay by Katie Dippold was hysterical.  I was really impressed.  THE HEAT is one of the funnier comedies I’ve seen in a while.

LS: Now here’s where we disagree. I thought Katie Dippold’s screenplay was kind of weak. Especially the drug dealer plot. It was obviously just there to give Bullock and McCarthy something to do, which is fine, but this movie could have been even funnier if they’d given it a better plot. Last time, Paul Feig worked with Kristen Wiig, who both starred in and wrote BRIDESMAIDS. Compared to Wiig’s script, Dippold’s is second-rate. What saves this movie is Bullock and McCarthy. They have real comedic chemistry together and transcend the weak script.

MA: You’re right.  The drug dealer plot is lame.  But the jokes work.  I wouldn’t call that a weak script.  Uneven, maybe, but again, I laughed a lot so I can’t say that I didn’t like the script.  It was funny.

LS: The actresses were funny. I’m not convinced the script would have been as good without them. But yeah, uneven might be a better word.

MA: I also really enjoyed Mullins’ South Boston family, an insane group that makes Mark Wahlberg’s family in THE FIGHTER (2010) seem normal!  It was a lot of fun to see Jane Curtin playing Melissa McCarthy’s mom.  Curtin gets to deliver a couple of good zingers, like the first time we see her driving by in a car.

LS: I didn’t like her family as much as you. I didn’t care much for the clan in THE FIGHTER, either. They just seem like Boston stereotypes—what the rest of the country thinks we’re like here in Beantown. They just annoyed me.

MA:  I disagree.  There’s some truth to that stereotype.  Ever sit in the bleachers at Fenway Park?

LS: It was nice to see Saturday Night Live veteran Curtin again—it’s been awhile since we’ve seen her onscreen—but she’s not given much screen time, and not much to do besides giving people the finger. I wish there was more of her, and less of her stereotypical brood. Although, a scene where the family meets Bullock for the first time, and she has no idea what they’re talking about when they ask her if she’s a “nahk,” was pretty funny.

THE-HEAT-PosterMA: The main story in this one, about drug dealers, ran hot and cold.  Michael McDonald makes a nice villain, and the scene where he sticks a knife into Bullock’s thigh is one of the movie’s best.  It’s certainly its most intense.  But McDonald’s not the main villain, and the whole story about the drug lord’s secret identity I could have done without, but this is nitpicking.  I liked THE HEAT a lot.

LS: It’s not nitpicking. The main plot sucked. McDonald was good—I used to like him a lot on MAD TV—and he does a good job with his role. But the plot about his mysterious boss—I couldn’t have cared less.

I did like some of the other perps, though. Like Spoken Reasons as the drug dealer Rojas, who McCarthy constantly harasses. He was pretty funny. And I loved that Kaitlin Olson (Sweet Dee from the FX comedy series IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA) was in it as a Bulgarian prostitute. I love SUNNY so much, I love seeing cast members move up to bigger things. Y’know, Charlie Day is going to be in PACIFIC RIM.

MA: Michael Rapaport turns in a nice sympathetic performance as McCarthy’s brother, Jason.

LS: Yeah, I like Rapaport, too. I also liked Demian Bichir as McCarthy’s boss, Hale. He was great as drug lord Esteban Reyes on the Showtime series WEEDS—that’s where I first noticed him. Since then, he was the lawyer in SAVAGES (2012) and was even nominated for an Oscar for his role in a small film called A BETTER LIFE (2011). Bichir’s star seems to be on the rise, and I’m glad for him.

There’s also a good scene where McCarthy trades barbs with comedian Tony V. in the precinct (he’s the guy she yells at for letting them take her perp out of stir). Tony V is a Boston legend and it was great to see him here (I just wish he was in the movie more). Speaking of which, there are a lot of shots of Boston here, which was wicked cool for people who live here.

One joke that didn’t make me laugh as much was the whole “albino” thing. The DEA Agent Craig (Dan Bakkedahl), who happened to be an albino (the character, not the actor), was the butt of a lot of jokes, and I just didn’t laugh that much. I just didn’t “get” it, in a way. It seemed too forced.

MA:  I didn’t get it either, but I did notice that early on in the movie, Sandra Bullock’s character is watching TV and she’s watching a scene from the movie FOUL PLAY (1978), starring Goldie Hawn, which featured an albino hit man.  Maybe screenwriter Dippold has a thing for albinos.

LS: Yeah you’re right. I remember that scene, early on, where Bullock is channel surfing and she switched from FOUL PLAY to a scene from THE MATRIX RELAODED (2003) featuring the twin albino hit men from that movie, too. But I still don’t totally get the whole running joke.

MA: There’s another reason THE HEAT works so well.  In addition to its being an over-the-top R-rated comedy, it has some genuine sincere bits.  I bought into Melissa McCarthy’s pain when dealing with her own family, and I believed that Sandra Bullock’s Agent Ashburn was at her core a very lonely and unhappy person.  And so, ultimately, I bought and believed in their relationship and their friendship.  That doesn’t come off as being forced or phony.

I thought THE HEAT was a lot of fun, and a sold-out theater of laughing women seemed to agree with me.

I give it three knives.  What did you think of it, LL?

LS: I liked it a lot, too, but I didn’t think it was perfect. The big plus here is the teaming of Bullock and McCarthy. McCarthy is on a roll since hitting the big time in Paul Feig’s last movie, BRIDESMAIDS. I remember her when she was Sookie the Chef, a supporting character on the TV series THE GILMORE GIRLS. Who knew back then she would become such a big star?

MA: You watched THE GIRLMORE GIRLS? (chuckles)

LS: Cut me some slack. I had a thing for Lauren Graham.

The point is, I’ve been a fan of McCarthy’s for a long time, and it just seems funny that she’s become such a big, bankable star so quickly.

As for Sandra Bullock, I never really liked her all that much. She just didn’t do anything for me, as a dramatic or comedic actress. I just didn’t care for her. But here, with McCarthy, I liked her a lot. It just goes to show that anyone can be good when given the right role. And the chemistry between these two ladies is dynamite. Whoever thought of teaming them up was a genius. The movie works because their teaming works. It actually reminded me of the classic straight man/comic teams from the past like Abbott and Costello. It’s a winning formula, and it’s nice to see them carry on the tradition.

And yes, they both have a lot of heart, too.

I also love that this one has so much “foul language” in it. I know there are people who think clean comedy is better and that resorting to four-letter words is just the sign of a bad script, but I’m not one of those people. I think a lot of swearing can make a funny movie even funnier. I love the English language, all of it, and that includes the wonderful world of cursing.

McCarthy and Bullock are so good, they make a lackluster script look better than it is. I still say that with a stronger plot, this movie could have been even funnier. The script was the only weak spot for me. That and the lame albino jokes.

MA: And you didn’t care for McCarthy’s family.

LS: Yeah, that too.

MA: And I thought we agreed the script is uneven, not weak.

LS: Okay, okay.

Which just shows that every movie has flaws. And yet, I have to be honest, I laughed a lot during this movie, and I thought scenes like Bullock and McCarthy getting drunk all night at a dive bar were comedy gold. I want to see more of these two together. They’re a great comedy team.

I give it three knives as well.

MA: This summer has been a lot better than normal so far.

LS: Yeah, it hasn’t been half bad.

(PRISONER tries to clap, but can’t with just one hand).

CAPTAIN: Are you guys done? We need the interrogation room and you’ve been in here awhile.

PRISONER: What about me?

LS: Oh, you’re free to go. We don’t have any evidence to hold you. You were just here to make the scene seem authentic. Thanks for that.

PRISONER: I was just here for the scene, and you cut my friggin hand off!

CAPTAIN (picks up hand): Don’t worry, son. We’ll pack this in ice and the hospital will stitch it back on and you’ll be good as new.

PRISONER: He cut off my friggin hand!

LS: Oh stop whining, you big baby.

MA: Looks like we’ve solved another case. Which is just how we roll, because, we’re the Cinema Knife Fighters.

(Funky THEME MUSIC plays again as MA and LS pose)

CAPTAIN: Get out of here, you idiots!

MA: We’re going; we’re going.

-END-

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives THE HEAT ~ three knives!

LL Soares gives THE HEAT ~three knives, too!

Screaming Streaming: CASA DE MI PADRE (2012)

Posted in 2013, Comedies, Just Plain Bad, Michael Arruda Reviews, Parodies, R-Rated Comedy, Screaming Streaming with tags , , , , , on June 18, 2013 by knifefighter

SCREAMING STREAMING!
Streaming Video Movie Review:  CASA DE MI PADRE (2012)
By Michael Arruda

casa-de-mi-padre poster

I get it

Will Ferrell has made so many movies and has achieved so much success, he’s at the point in his career where he can do whatever he wants, like making movies that are experimental and offbeat, and stand little chance of making money at the box office.

I get it.  But that doesn’t mean I liked CASA DE MI PADRE, a movie that is indeed offbeat—it’s in Spanish with English subtitles— yet isn’t all that funny, nor is it much of an action movie.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like the idea of a quirky movie, but it’s got to work.  This movie doesn’t work.

In CASA DE MI PADRE (2012), now available on Streaming Video, Armando (Will Ferrell) is the black sheep of his family.  His father Miguel (Pedro Armendariz, Jr.) is always calling him stupid, and while he does work on his father’s ranch, we see him spending his days hanging around with his buddies.  When his brother Raul (Diego Luna) returns home with his beautiful fiancée Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez), he’s welcomed with open arms by his father, but it turns out Raul is really a drug dealer who’s at war with the local drug lord, Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal), who happens to be Sonia’s uncle.

Onza’s goons shoot up Raul’s and Sonia’s wedding, creating a bloodbath in the one stylish scene in the movie, leaving Armando to seek vengeance against Onza and to save his family’s honor

I kept waiting for CASA DE MI PADRE to be funny.  I’m still waiting.

I don’t think I laughed once, and that’s no joke.  Not a good sign for a comedy. Sure, it’s possible I could have missed the point.  I could have missed the good intentions of what Ferrell and company were trying to do here.  I’ll admit that.  Then again, CASA DE MI PADRE just might be a bad movie.

Ferrell plays it straight here.  Even though his character Armando is supposed to be a simpleton, he’s really not.  He’s no goofy idiot bumbling his way through situations a la a Mexican Inspector Clouseau.  He’s supposed to be an honorable man with a touch of spiritualism, a hero.  Gag.

I suppose the joke is that it’s Will Ferrell and he’s playing it straight in a Mexican action movie.  I suppose this is supposed to be funny.  So, if you’re into seeing a serious Ferrell play a Mexican farmer battling a Mexican drug lord, and you think that’s humorous, then this might be the movie for you. 

For a comedy, the jokes just aren’t there.  The screenplay by Andrew Steele is about as funny as Taco Bell ad.  I’ll take that back. I’ve seen funnier Taco Bell ads.  In all fairness, I’d guess that the screenplay accomplishes what the writer and director and Ferrell wanted it to accomplish.  There doesn’t seem to be much effort or interest in creating a straight comedy

Instead, the interest seems to be in creating an authentic Mexican action movie, and to get laughs simply through weird scenes and offbeat dialogue, as in, let’s have Ferrell deliver these serious lines with a straight face, and won’t this be funny! 

Here’s my answer:  no.

Director Matt Piedmont hasn’t made much of an action movie either.  There’s one decent action scene, the bloodbath at the wedding, but that’s it.  The rest of the action is incredibly flat.  So, without comedy, without action, you’re left with a Spanish language drama starring Will Ferrell, the type of thing you’d catch on your local Spanish language TV channel.

Genesis Rodriguez is drop dead gorgeous and in all seriousness is the only reason to see this movie.  But do you really want to sit through 90 minutes of CASA DE MI PADRE just to see Rodriguez?  Heck, even her nude love scene is ruined by frequent shots of Will Ferrell’s naked butt.  Yes, sadly, you will see more of Ferrell’s naked butt than Rodriguez’s.  What were the filmmakers thinking? 

Genesis Rodriguez - the only reason to see CASA DE MI PADRE.

Genesis Rodriguez – the only reason to see CASA DE MI PADRE.

I honestly felt as if the joke was on the audience.  Let’s make this as unfunny as possible and see what people say about it.  It’s as if they wanted to see our faces and laugh.

There are also some weird spiritual aspects to the story, including a talking mountain lion, which is so fake looking it makes the TWILIGHT werewolves look good!  It looks like a Muppet reject.  This lion talks to Ferrell and raises him from the dead.  Huh?  You know, maybe if you’ve had a few drinks before you see this one—.

There’s also some goofy songs sung by Ferrell and Rodriguez, but these miss the mark as well

In fact, the whole film misses the mark.  It’s so bad, I wish I hadn’t seen it

I chose to review CASA DE MI PADRE because it was an R-rated comedy, something we review regularly here at Cinema Knife Fight.  It’s about as far removed from traditional R-rated comedies as you can get.  It’s rated R because of its one nude scene (hey, is that still Will Ferrell’s butt?  Somebody make it stop!)  There’s also that one bloody scene at the wedding, but that’s about it folks.  The rest of the movie is hopelessly lame.

But didn’t I like the quirkiness of the whole thing?  The deadpan style of Will Ferrell?  His goofy buddies?  About those buddies— when the funniest thing they do is laugh, you know you’re in trouble.  Again, I felt as if they were laughing at the audience.  Yep, the joke is on us. 

Didn’t I like the scene with the severed hand?  You mean the hand that looked like it was bought from Toys R Us?  But wasn’t that funny?  That it looked fake?  No. 

Didn’t I like the strange camera angles?  The weird props?  The fake-looking mountain lion?  The mannequin?  You mean, the stuff that looked like it belonged in a Pee Wee Herman movie?  You know, I might have, if Pee Wee Herman had been around, but sadly, he’s not.

This is all a roundabout way of saying what you already know, that this movie simply didn’t work for me, not on any level.

As a result, I give CASA DE MI PADRE a whopping 0 Knives.

Don’t waste your time on this one.  Save yourself the torture and have a Dos Equis instead.

—END–

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives CASA DE MI PADRE ZERO KNIVES!

Zero

 

THIS IS THE END (2013)

Posted in 2013, Apocalyptic Films, Bad Behavior, Comedies, Disaster Films, Exorcism Movies, James Franco, LL Soares Reviews, Possessed By Demons, Post-Apocalypse Movies, R-Rated Comedy, Stoner Comedies with tags , , , , , , , on June 14, 2013 by knifefighter

THIS IS THE END (2013)
Review by L.L. Soares

This-Is-The-End-PosterBack in the old days, director Roger Corman used to make “quickie” films over the course of a weekend between his regular features. Sometimes he would have the sets for a few more days or an actor might get done with a role early and have some availability (since they signed up for a certain amount of time), and Corman would take advantage of it to make a fast extra film while he still could. Sometimes this resulted in an incomprehensible flick like THE TERROR (1963), and sometimes it resulted in an accidental classic, like LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960).

THIS IS THE END, the new movie by directors and screenwriting partners Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, was probably not made over the course of a weekend, but it has that kind of feel to it. Like a bunch of friends were sitting around one afternoon and decided “Let’s make a movie!” While it clearly had an actual budget, there’s an “of the moment” aesthetic to the whole thing, some of which works in its favor, and some of which doesn’t.  It’s based on a short film called “Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse” (2007) which was written by Jason Stone, about actors and friends Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogan confronting the end of the world. Now, it’s been expanded into a feature-length movie.

It features a bunch of actors playing “themselves,” or a facsimile thereof, and what happens when they get caught in the middle of the “End Times.” They’re able to make this concept work because in the movie each person’s personality is well-defined enough so that they can play on that familiarity—even if they exaggerate things a bit—and we get sucked in because we feel that we know these people. Fans of the short-lived TV series FREAKS AND GEEKS (which only lasted one season, from 1999 to 2000) will especially find things to like in the movie. That was the show that put Judd Apatow on the map, as well as giving actors Seth Rogen and James Franco their first big break.

The movie begins with Rogen (KNOCKED UP, 2007 and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, 2008) meeting Jay Baruchel—who was in another Judd Apatow series, UNDECLARED (2001-2002), and had roles in movies like KNOCKED UP and TROPIC THUNDER, 2008) —at the airport. The two of them are long-time friends who haven’t seen each other in about a year, and they’re trying to kick-start their friendship again. This involves burgers from Carl’s Jr., smoking lots of pot, and playing video games on a new 3D TV. Then Rogen remembers that he was invited to James Franco’s (most recently in OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, earlier this year) house for a party. Baruchel isn’t too eager; he feels uncomfortable around Rogen’s newer “Hollywood” friends, but he agrees to go.

The party has its own pleasures, one of the biggest being Michael Cera (from SUPERBAD, 2007, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, 2010 and the cult TV series ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT) playing himself as a kind of coke-snorting, super-cocky lady’s man. Who knew? Cera is so obnoxious playing “himself,” that he had me laughing out loud several times. He is friggin hilarious. It’s only too bad he’s not in the movie longer. Also at the party are such familiar faces as actress Emma Watson from the HARRY POTTER movies, comic actress Mindy Kaling (from the American version of the TV show THE OFFICE and her new show, THE MINDY PROJECT), singer Rihanna, and, in smaller roles, other FREAKS AND GEEKS alumni, such as Jason Segel and Martin Starr.

While on a trip to a convenience store to pick up some cigarettes, Rogen and Baruchel find themselves in the middle of an earthquake. Or what they think is an earthquake. A bunch of stuff falls on Rogen, so he doesn’t see it, but Baruchel witnesses several customers in the store being zapped by blue beams of light from the sky and sucked up through the store’s ceiling. Back at the party, no one will believe him.

That is, until the next tremor. Then the earth opens up as the mother of all sinkholes suddenly appears in front of Franco’s house, sucking down most of the partygoers into the flaming pits of Hell.

ThisistheEnd1There’s lots of death and destruction, until just a handful of the gang are left to survive—insecure Rogen, grumpy Baruchel, pretentious Franco, as well as Jonah Hill (from everything from SUPERBAD to MONEYBALL, 2011) in full diva mode and Craig Robinson (who you might recognize from HOT TUB TIME MACHINE, 2010 and the TV series THE OFFICE.). And, once they all try to get some sleep, out of the bathroom comes the shambling form of Danny McBride, who crashed the party the night before and was passed out in the tub when all of the scary stuff went down.

How much you’ll like this movie has a lot to do with how much you like these actors. I for one have been a fan of some of these guys since the FREAKS AND GEEKS days, when they were just kids. I like all these guys, and it’s just funny to see them interact in light of the horrific situation they’re in.

For me, though, the biggest plus here is Danny McBride, who I just think is one of the best comic actors around today. From his debut in the indie comedy THE FOOT FIST WAY (2006) to his hilarious HBO series EASTBOUND AND DOWN, I am a total fan. Although my enthusiasm for the guy doesn’t mean I’m delusional enough to have thought 2011’s YOUR HIGHNESS (starring Franco and McBride) was a good movie. His completely obnoxious persona completes works in this one, though.

Not everything works in THIS IS THE END. Once we have our six men trapped in Franco’s house, trying to figure out what is going on, there are moments when it almost seems like they’re not sure what to do next, and there are a few parts that go on too long. It’s the downside of a movie that feels improvised; sometimes the improvisation can seem to run out of steam. There are parts where they seem like they’re making it up as they go along.

There are some special effects, mostly involving CGI monsters, which aren’t too bad. But most of the movie is just a bunch of friends hanging out and talking, and on that level it works. I thought it was a lot funnier than a majority of comedies I’ve seen lately. It’s got its flaws, but it’s also a lot of fun. It seems to go on a little long, but if you judge a comedy by the amount of laughs it gives you, then you’ll probably feel like you got your money’s worth as you leave the theater.

I thought the trailers for this one looked pretty hilarious, and the movie does have its share of big laughs. I know I was laughing a lot during its running time, but I was a little disappointed that it did not live up to my expectations all the way through. I will say that, whenever Danny McBride is onscreen (or Michael Cera earlier in the film), the laughs increase. Another big plus is the segment where Jonah Hill gets possessed by a demon, and the other guys try to perform an exorcism on him. Oh, and a scene where we find out what happened to James Franco’s neighbor, Channing Tatum, is pretty hilarious as well.

The scenes with Danny McBride are some of my favorites in THIS IS THE END.

The scenes with Danny McBride are some of my favorites in THIS IS THE END.

It has its flaws, but there’s a lot to like about THIS IS THE END. I like these guys a lot, and it’s kind of like hanging out at their house for a couple of hours. It seems like that would be fun, even if the world was ending outside.

I give it three out of five knives.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives THIS IS THE END ~three  knives.

THE HANGOVER PART III (2013)

Posted in 2013, Cinema Knife Fights, Comedies, Gangsters!, Gimmicks, R-Rated Comedy, Sequels with tags , , , , , , on May 27, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  THE HANGOVER PART III (2013)
Review by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares

hangover3.jpg(THE SCENE: Vegas.  The top of an extravagant Vegas hotel.  MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES are on the roof, making a rope from tied towels.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Tell me again why we’re doing this?

L.L. SOARES:  We’re crashing Chow’s party.  Since we weren’t invited, this is the only way in.

MA:  Scaling the side of a building?  I don’t think it’s worth it.

LS:  What do you know?

MA:  I’d rather start our review of THE HANGOVER PART III.  Why do you want to hang out with Chow, anyway?  That guy really bugs me.

LS:  Love him or hate him, he throws great parties.  But if you want to start the review first, be my guest.

MA:  Well, I meant “instead.”  I’d rather review the movie instead of climbing down the side of a Vegas hotel hundreds of feet high just to go to a party.  It’s not my idea of fun.

LS:  Your idea of fun is watching flowers grow.

MA:  Actually, I find reviewing movies a lot of fun.  So, let’s get started with today’s film, THE HANGOVER PART III.

LS:  And then we’re going to this party!

MA:  Sure.  Whatever.

Anyway, welcome folks, to another edition of CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.  Today we’re reviewing THE HANGOVER PART III (2013) the third installment in the immensely popular and funny HANGOVER series.  I loved the first one, liked the second one as well, but I had my doubts about this one, since it’s the third in the series, and usually by the time you get to the third film in a series, the quality goes down.

While I generally enjoyed THE HANGOVER PART III, I think unfortunately, it does play like a third film in a series, which is not a good thing.

It’s actually not all that repetitive, since the main gimmick of the first two movies—where the characters awake from a drunken slumber to find themselves in some ridiculous predicament with no memory of the night before and then have to retrace their steps because one of their friends has disappeared, leading them through some wild and wacky adventures— is absent here.  This is not a good thing, since for me, the best part of the HANGOVER movies was in fact this gimmick.

LS: Yeah, I was a little torn over this. At first, it seemed like a ballsy choice to do something completely different in PART III. No crazy party, no blackouts, no increasingly outrageous revelations. PART III goes in a completely different direction, and usually I would like that. Except, I agree with you, what makes these movies so great is the gimmick, and how the filmmakers should be constantly trying to one-up themselves. For example, PART II should have been even more outrageous and shocking than the first one, but it wasn’t (at least it tried). PART III should have been the most outrageous of all, and should have risked getting an NC-17 rating! But it doesn’t even come close. PART III is easily the mellowest of the three when it comes to shocking revelations. I was disappointed.

MA: This time around, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) are on their way to take Alan (Zach Galifianakis) to a special facility where he can receive treatment for his mental issues.  On their way there, they are highjacked and kidnapped by masked thugs who work for a man named Marshall (John Goodman).  Marshall explains to them that their old friend Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) had stolen a bunch of gold from him, and he wants it back.

LS: Those weird Porky Pig masks the kidnappers wear are kind of cool!

MA: They were cool, and I was actually hoping we might see them again later on in the movie, but we don’t.

Marshall knows that Chow has been in contact with Alan, and so he believes Alan, Phil, and Stu are his best option for finding Chow, who has otherwise evaded detection completely since he escaped from a Bangkok prison earlier in the film.  Marshall tells them that unless they bring Chow back to him with his gold, he’ll kill Doug.  Marshall gives them three days to do this.

LS: Who’s Doug, by the way?

MA: You know who Doug is! He’s the fourth member of the Wolf Pack. He’s the one who always either disappears or gets kidnapped or stays home so that he’s not part of the main story. A lot of people call him the “Zeppo” of these movies, like the Marx Brother Zeppo who rarely had much to do in the very early Marx Brothers movies!

LS: Oh yeah, Doug. What does he look like again?

MA: It doesn’t matter. Can I get back to the review?

LS: Sure you can. Man, you’re so touchy!

MA: And that’s the set-up for the plot of THE HANGOVER PART III.  Phil, Stu, and Alan have to track down Chow and bring him to Marshall and his goons in order to save Doug’s life.

LS: They should just let him have Doug. That guy’s boring anyway.

(ALAN from the HANGOVER movies suddenly appears on the roof with them)

ALAN: What are you guys doing?

MA: Alan! You shouldn’t be up here on the roof. It’s dangerous.

LS: Oh, stop treating him like a baby. He can be on the roof all he wants.

ALAN: Thanks a lot, LL. I was just wondering why you guys tied all those towels together.

LS: We’re going to climb down and crash Mr. Chow’s party.

ALAN: I want to go, too! (claps his hands)

MA: Oh brother. I just want to finish this review.

LS: Okay, Alan, The rope made of towels is all set. You can climb down first.

ALAN: Oh goody! You guys are so nice!

MA (whispers to LS): What’s the big idea?

LS (whispers back): I can test out the strength of these towels and see if they’ll hold us. This way, the big doofus tries them out for us.

MA: Okay.

(ALAN hesitates, then starts climbing down the towel-rope. At one point, the towels snap and he falls twenty stories to his death)

LS: That’s really too bad.

MA: Well, at least that wasn’t us.

LS: Yeah. Bye, Alan.

MA: Can I finally get back to our review now?

LS: Sure. My experiment is over.

tho3-1MA: As far as plots go, this one wasn’t too bad.  I did miss the gimmick from the first two movies, but in the same breath I also appreciated that this one was different.  But it’s not the most plausible plot.  Do I really think it realistic that a guy like Marshall would entrust finding Mr. Chow and his gold to three stooges like Phil, Stu, and Alan?  Not really.  But in a goofy comedy like this, I’m not going to be too hard on the plot.

LS: Yeah, like I said, I was torn. Normally I like it when someone does a sequel that takes real risks – that deviates from the same tired, old formula. Except in this case, I guess I didn’t find the HANGOVER gimmick to be all that tired yet. Like I said, they could have stuck to the formula but just upped the ante a lot, and tried to really make us squirm. But instead of amping things up, director Todd Phillips brings it all down a notch. And that’s kind of a bummer.

MA: The bottom line as to why I didn’t like THE HANGOVER PART III all that much—I mean, it was entertaining and diverting, and I didn’t hate it—is that it’s simply not all that funny.  I saw it in a packed theater, and the audience didn’t laugh a whole lot.  The most laughs the film got were at the end, in the wedding scene just before the end credits, and then—in which was for me the funniest part of the whole movie—the brief sequence after the credits start rolling.  I wish this sequence had been at the beginning of the movie and the plot of this one had been about what happened afterwards.

LS: Yeah, this is very important. If you go see THE HANGOVER PART III, you have to sit through the end credits. Well, just part of them. Just don’t leave the damn theater right away! If you do, you will miss what is easily THE FUNNIEST SCENE IN THE WHOLE MOVIE. And here’s where I am in complete agreement with you, Michael. This scene during the final credits is hilarious, and proves that the original formula of these movies still has a lot of life in it yet. And yes, this SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE FIRST SCENE IN PART III.  Dammit, I was kicking myself after I left the theater, thinking about the movie that COULD HAVE BEEN if they’d just left most of PART III on the cutting room floor and made a new movie based on that final scene. What a missed opportunity to really make us laugh!!

MA: I recognize writer/director Todd Phillips was looking to shake things up a bit, and to not be repetitive by avoiding the hangover gimmick in this film, but for me, that’s the best part of this series.  That’s why it’s called THE HANGOVER!  I said this when we reviewed the second film in this series, and I’ll say it again:  I actually like the gimmick better than I like the characters.  So for me, I really missed the hangover plot this time around.

LS: I don’t agree that the gimmick is better than the characters, and I’ll explain that soon, when it’s my turn. But I do agree that the gimmick is just as important, and this is one of the few franchises that should have stuck to the damn formula! Just about every other sequel this year is probably going to be predictable and tired and should have tried something new EXCEPT the HANGOVER PART III. What were you thinking, Todd Phillips? You don’t know when you have a solid gold gimmick with lots of life still in it.

MA: Of course, the jokes could have been funnier.  Again, I didn’t laugh all that much.  It also didn’t help that the early jokes—Alan’s misadventure with his new pet giraffe, and the scene at Alan’s father’s funeral—were all jokes that I had already seen in the trailer.  In fact, most of the better jokes in this one I had seen in the trailers.

LS: I loved the stuff with Alan and the giraffe! I wanted more stuff like that!

MA: I agree.  It was funny.  But I’d seen it already.

I wasn’t impressed by the screenplay by director Philips, and fellow writer Craig Mazin.  The plot, while not believable, was decent enough, but the jokes just weren’t there this time around.

I liked the scene where they break into what Chow has told them is his own house, and the bit where Stu and Chow have to first crawl through the house and then disarm the alarm is hilarious, but there were too few of these laugh-out-loud moments in this movie.

LS: That scene had its ups and downs, but overall it was pretty clever. I liked it, too.

MA: And I enjoyed the scene where Phil and Alan crash Chow’s party, and Chow escapes, soaring over the streets of Las Vegas as a human kite while Stu pursues him from the ground.

LS: Yeah, that was pretty good! Chow gets some of the best moments in this one. But a lot of people hate the character of Mr. Chow, so they might not enjoy those scenes as much as we did.

MA: But THE HANGOVER PART III rarely reaches those kinetic moments of sheer insanity which drove the first movie along.  Nor do the individual characters have as many memorable moments here.

Bradley Cooper pretty much plays it straight in this one as Phil, and while Ed Helms does get to enjoy some funny bits here as Stu, he sadly avoids his signature moments where awful things happen to him, unless you count the after-credit scene.  No tattoos, no missing teeth, no strange marriages to a hooker.  Honestly, I missed that.

LS: Bradley Cooper’s Phil is always the straight man. He just says cynical things and swears a lot, and while he doesn’t give an amazing performance here, I was satisfied with what he does.

MA:  Yeah, but he’s was funnier in the first two movies.

LS:  Helms, on the other hand, is pretty hilarious in the first two movies, and this time around they give him nothing to do for the most part except get bossed around by Alan. Poor Ed Helms! He deserves better.

MA: Even Zach Galifianakis as Alan, by far the funniest of the trio, while still as insane as ever, just didn’t generate the same kind of laughter as he did in the first two movies.  In fact, some of his scenes here are downright weird without being funny.  The scene where Phil tells Alan he loves him, and Alan starts wailing and crying is simply bizarre, and not humorous at all.

LS: Alan is a complete weirdo, but he’s a lovable weirdo. I have no problem with scenes that are just plain weird. My problem is scenes where Alan just sits around and pretty much does nothing. There’s one scene where they’re all just standing around, and Alan is sitting on the hood of their car, looking half-asleep, and I thought “this is exactly the kind of stuff that’s wrong with PART III,” they should be moving around non-stop, and Alan should never seem tired or like he has nothing to do.

MA: Ken Jeong is back as Mr. Chow, and his antics aren’t as funny this time around either.

LS: Usually Mr. Chow makes me laugh my ass off—despite myself. But yeah, he’s pretty uneven in this one. Sometimes he’s really funny, but a lot of the time he’s not. He even drifts into the “becoming annoying” category a few times during this movie, which is awful. CHOW SHOULD NEVER BE BORING!

Also, I want to give a shout out to Melissa McCarthy. She sure has become a big star since that BRIDESMAIDS movie. And she has a small role here as a pawn dealer in the heart of Vegas who has an instant love connection with baby-man Alan. I really liked her in this one, and enjoyed her scenes with Galifianakis a lot! More Melissa McCarthy!!

MA: You didn’t go see IDENTITY THIEF did you?

LS: No, it looked stupid.

MA: But Melissa McCarthy starred in it. With Justin Bateman. And she’s going to be in the upcoming cop comedy THE HEAT with Sandra Bullock.

LS: That looks kind of dumb, too.

MA: But you just said you were a fan of hers. You said “More Melissa McCarthy!

LS: I know…(thinks about it)…I’m sorry.

I liked her in this movie, though!

the_hangover_part_3_movie-wide

MA: Bottom line, THE HANGOVER PART III suffers from jokes that simply aren’t as creative as the jokes from the first two movies.  The cast is decent enough, and it’s fun to see these characters on the big screen again, but the situations they find themselves in here really aren’t all that nutty.  The wild chaotic hilarity from THE HANGOVER is largely absent in this third installment.

THE HANGOVER PART III is mildly amusing, but I wish I had laughed more.

I give it two knives.

So what did you think of it, LL?

(MR. CHOW suddenly appears on the roof with them)

CHOW: What are you doing on the roof of Chow’s hotel?

MA: Just getting some air.

CHOW: What’s that rope made of towels. You were going to crash Chow’s party, weren’t you?

LS: We don’t care about your stupid party. And we have nothing to do with that rope thingie. So cool your jets.

MA: Yeah, we’re trying to review THE HANGOVER PART III here.

CHOW: Okay, Chow will be quiet. Chow wants to hear what you thought of it…And it better be good.

LS: Michael just said it sucked.

MA: No I didn’t! I gave it two knives.

LS: Like I said, he said it was garbage.

(CHOW pulls out a loaded gun)

CHOW: Did you now?

LS: But don’t worry. I’m going to give my final comments now.

CHOW (smiles): Okay, Chow wants to hear that before Chow kills this guy.

MA: Gee, thanks.

LS (to Michael): Look, I wanted to really like this movie, but just about all of your problems with it are legitimate. We’ve already discussed in depth how going off of the tried-and-true formula this time around was a bad idea. But why didn’t Phillips’ risk work?

Well, the bottom line is, THE HANGOVER PART III isn’t a comedy.

CHOW: It’s not??

LS: There, I said it. I let the monkey out of the bag.

It starts out as a comedy, it seems to want to be a comedy throughout, but as soon as those Porky Pig-faced dudes kidnap our heroes, the movie stops trying to be funny, and instead gets too wrapped up in its plot involving Marshall, and the gold, and trying to get revenge on Chow, and suddenly, these characters who we love in comedy films, are suddenly in a thriller.

My argument is, the movie still holds up okay because I like these characters. Even though they stop doing funny things, I like Phil and Stu and Alan, and yes, even Mr. Chow…

MA: What about Doug?

LS: Who’s that?

Anyway, they all seem to be plopped into a serious crime movie instead of a comedy, but I like these characters, so I was still interested throughout, and I enjoyed it. But I DIDN’T LAUGH much at all. I have to admit, people in the theater with me did laugh. When Alan said something particularly odd. When someone did something that almost got them killed. People in the audience laughed a lot more than this movie deserved, because they LOVE these characters. And I guess I do too, which is why I didn’t hate this movie. But where were the monkeys? The unexpected tattoos? The Thai lady men?

I said I was torn, and I am. THE HANGOVER PART III came out a day earlier than normal (the first showing was Wednesday night at midnight), so a lot of critics had their say even earlier than usual. And the reviews for this one have been pretty awful. So I went into THE HANGOVER PART III expecting the worst, and, I have to say, it really isn’t that bad.

But it’s also not the comic masterpiece it could have been.

MA:  It’s not even close.  And it’s not really that great of a serious crime movie either.  It lacks grit and it’s not edgy. It’s not violent either.  I think Phillips got caught in the middle between comedy and crime movie and ended up not making either genre proud.

LS:  Oh, I agree. The only reason this movie works at all is the characters, and therefore the cast. They’re the only thing that saves this movie.  The script is just a letdown on a lot of levels.

And I want to emphasize how important the characters and actors are here. You could say, well the original gimmick is the most important thing and any characters can be plopped into the story and it will work.  But that’s not true. Director Todd Phillips produced a movie called PROJECT X in 2012 that was pretty much the same gimmick as the HANGOVER movies, except it was high school kids. And it was pretty bad. Why? Because the characters just weren’t that good (one was a complete asshole). They were not strong enough protagonists to keep you interested in the gimmicky storyline (to be fair, PROJECT X was not directed by Phillips, but by Nima Nourizadeh). So that’s why I say the cast is just as important to the HANGOVER movies as the gimmick.

But seriously, in PART III, which has the characters but not the gimmicks, it’s still second-rate. It could have been so much better.

MA: I agree.  It could have been better.

LS: I mean, let’s look at this and figure out why it’s such a dud. We have Todd Phillips, a director who isn’t afraid to push the envelope. He proved it with the first HANGOVER movie. Hell, he proved it back with his very first feature film, HATED (1993), a documentary about shock-rocker GG Allin. GG was a complete lunatic who would do anything at any given moment – which is why he was such a great choice for a documentary, and Phillips followed him around in his crazy everyday life to make that movie. I’m sure on some weird level that experience inspired him to create the HANGOVER films, where the idea was ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN AT ANY TIME.

And HATED wasn’t a fluke. Phillips also gave us OLD SCHOOL (2003), which has some pretty decent moments, including Will Ferrell jogging in the nude. And the first HANGOVER movie, which deserved to be the big hit it was. And I still wish they would release his “lost” documentary about what really goes on in college fraternities, FRAT HOUSE (1998), which I fear we’ll never get to see.

THE HANGOVER PART II was a disappointment because it didn’t do anything that out-shocked the first movie. But it was still pretty funny, and I liked it. PART III makes the fatal mistake that it just forgets to be funny. NOTHING HAPPENS! Nothing that takes us by surprise. Nothing that shocks us. If PART III is a thriller, then it’s a predictable thriller, and most of the time we’re not really on the edge of our seats wondering how it will all wrap up. What saves the third movie is that by now we love the characters so much, we’ll watch them doing almost anything.

MA: I don’t really agree with you. I mean, I like these characters too, but I don’t  love them, and I certainly don’t like them enough to enjoy them in a mediocre movie.

And by the way, you sure do like shouting a lot during this review.

LS: But PART III has completely dropped the ball on giving us anything that’s unexpected or that will make us uncomfortable or that will push the boundaries of an R-rated comedy. It doesn’t’ do any of these things. And that’s disappointing. But even more disappointing, even more frustrating, even more infuriating, is that after the end credits roll a little bit, we get that final, “secret” scene. That Easter egg at the end of the movie. And we find ourselves laughing our asses off. And we suddenly realize Todd Phillips could have given us that completely off-the-wall PART III that could have shocked us, and could have made us laugh uncontrollably for 90 minutes – but he just decided not to. He made a conscious decision to screw with the audience. And that annoys me.

I like PART III for what it is. But I kind of hate PART III because of what it could have been. What Phillips actually thought about and came up with, but didn’t make. Especially since he has said this is the last movie of a trilogy.

The bastard!

But, based on what’s up on the screen, I like these characters a lot, and I liked this movie a little more than you did, Michael. I give it two and a half knives.

But based on that final scene, this one could have easily been a three and a half knife movie. Hell, I give that one final scene by itself, three and a half knives.

CHOW: No, no. You  both were supposed to give this movie FOUR knives. That was the agreement. Chow is very angry now. Chow will kill you both.

LS: Not so fast, Chow.

(LS grabs CHOW and throws him over the edge. This time, CHOW forgot his hang-glider and falls twenty stories to his death).

CHOW: AAAAAAAAAIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEE

MA: Thanks. That was some quick thinking.

LS: Not really. He was just too predictable this time around.

Okay, I guess we’re done here, and now I’m kind of bummed out and I don’t want to go to Chow’s party anymore. So let’s just go down to the casino and play the slot machines instead.

MA: Or Texas Hold-Em.

LS: Yeah.

-END-

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives THE HANGOVER PART III ~ two knives.

LL Soares gives THE HANGOVER PART III ~ two and a half knives

SCARY MOVIE 5 (2013)

Posted in 2013, Cinema Knife Fights, Comedies, Garbage, Just Plain Bad, Michael Arruda Reviews, Spoofs with tags , , , , on April 15, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  SCARY MOVIE 5 (2013)
By Michael Arruda

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(THE SCENE: A cabin in the woods.  MICHAEL ARRUDA walks through the interior, inspecting the bloody carnage from some horrifying incident.  Blood is spattered on the walls, severed body parts are strewn about the floor, and the room is littered with busted and broken furniture.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA (looking things over):  I guess I’m too late for THE HANGOVER PART III cast party!  Wow, it must have been quite the shindig!  Hey look!  (picks up a small white object.)  It’s one of Stu’s teeth.

Anyway, as much as I’d like to be reviewing THE HANGOVER PART III today, I’m not.

Nope, I’m here today in this cabin in the woods because I’m reviewing that sorry excuse for a comedy, SCARY MOVIE 5 (2013).

(Picks up a severed arm.)

This arm is funnier than anything you’ll see in SCARY MOVIE 5.

(A severed head on the floor suddenly frowns.)

HEAD:  But that arm’s not funny at all!

MA: My point exactly.  (looks around cabin)

I sure have been spending a lot of time here lately, in this cabin in the woods.  L.L. SOARES and I were just here last week reviewing the EVIL DEAD remake, and I’m back here again for today’s review. I wish I were here under better circumstances.

HEAD:  I’m glad you’re here.  I could use the company.

MA (to HEAD):  So, what happened here, anyway?  Things must have gotten violent.

HEAD:  Why do you say that?

MA:  Well, for starters, you’re missing your body!

HEAD:  Oh, I’ve been without my body for years.  I arrived here this way.

MA:  You did?

HEAD:  Yeah, someone at the party said they wanted a little head.  (Drum beat)  So, here I am!

MA:  On that note, I should get started on today’s review. We’ll talk more later.

HEAD:  I’ll be right here.  It’s not like I can leave.

MA:  Anyway, I’m here in this cabin because today’s movie, SCARY MOVIE 5 (2013) involves a place just like this, although strangely, one of the movies it didn’t spoof, was the aptly titled THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2011).

I’m flying solo this week, as L.L. Soares is off on another assignment—which is code for “I’m not seeing that f—cking lame ass movie so do it yourself Arruda!” —so here I am, facing the dubious task of bringing you today’s review of SCARY MOVIE 5.

Here goes:  as if you didn’t already know, SCARY MOVIE 5 sucks.  Don’t see it.

Okay, you can go home now.

HEAD:  Are you leaving already?  Because if you are, would you mind giving me a lift to the closest bus station?

Scary Movie 5 poster #2

MA:  No, I’m not leaving already.  That was just a joke.

Even SCARY MOVIE 5 deserves an honest review.

HEAD: Okay, but when you do leave, can you take me to that bus station?

MA:  Sure.

HEAD:  I know it’s early, but I’d like to get a head start on the traffic.

MA:  Stop, all right?  Just stop.

Now, where was I?   Yes, the review.

Seriously, unless you’re a diehard fan of the series, and I’m sure there is one of you out there, you have no business seeing this movie.  Avoid it like the plague.  But you’re smart enough to already know that.

What’s the best part about SCARY MOVIE 5?  That Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan only appear in one scene, and it’s the pre-credit sequence.  You get them out of the way quickly.

Not that I have anything against Sheen or Lohan, but it’s obvious that they’re only in this movie to exploit their real life personal problems, which I find sad.  Keep your personal lives out of the movies, thank you very much!

Unfortunately, what follows after Sheen and Lohan isn’t much better.

SCARY MOVIE 5 spoofs a bunch of horror movies, obviously, and it uses as its framework the recent horror film MAMA (2013) as a young married couple Dan (Simon Rex) and Jody (Ashley Tisdale) agree to take care of Dan’s brother’s kids after they were found abandoned in a cabin in the woods.

So, that’s the framework for this one, but to say that this movie has a plot is saying a lot.

I will say that the scene where Snoop Dog and his buddy first discover the little girls in the cabin is a funny one, and one of the few times I laughed.

HEAD: I liked that scene, too.

MA:  So, you saw the movie?

HEAD:  What?  You think I’m not allowed into movie theaters or something?

MA:  I didn’t say that.

HEAD:  Of course, I do go early, so I can be at the head of the line.

MA (groans):  Enough! You’re giving me a headache.

HEAD:  You said that one.

MA: Moving right along—.

In addition to MAMA, the film pokes fun at the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies, and the jokes here are some of the worst.  Most involve the overweight housekeeper, in gags that are tasteless and vulgar. Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t mind tasteless and vulgar jokes, but they have to make me laugh.  These didn’t.

The film strangely parodies RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011) as Dan’s day job is to work with Caesar and his fellow apes.  These scenes were the most disappointing of all.  The material here is ripe for laughter, and yet time and time again, the writers drop the ball.

While Dan is busy training Caesar, Jody trains to be a ballerina in scenes spoofing BLACK SWAN (2010), in yet another series of scenes that constantly misfire.

There’s even a pointless sequence lampooning INCEPTION (2010) which seems out of place here and is about as funny as the real movie.

HEAD: Was INCEPTION a comedy?

MA:  No.  It was a thriller.

HEAD:  Then, why did you— oh, I get it now.  (laughs).

MA:  Probably the funniest sequence in the movie is a spoof of EVIL DEAD (2013), where Jody and her friend take turns reading from the Book of the Dead, which causes some comical results.  But other than this, I didn’t laugh much at all.

I’ve heard the argument that films like this shouldn’t be criticized because they’re supposed to be stupid.  Really?  I thought they were supposed to be funny?  And that’s the problem I have with this film. You want to spoof something, do a flippin good job, or don’t do it at all!

Pat Proft and David Zucker wrote this movie, and these guys have a ton of comedic credits, including THE NAKED GUN films, AIRPLANE! (1980) and a bunch of other funny parodies.   They should know better.

What’s going on here is lazy writing and taking the easy way out.   It’s obvious to me that these jokes were written with the mindset that even if it’s just the tiniest bit humorous, it’s okay.  The film plays like a first draft from beginning to end.

So many of the jokes in this movie, had they been properly set up and thought out, could have been very funny.  There’s no reason in the world why a movie like SCARY MOVIE 5 couldn’t be a laugh riot.  But it’s not, because the jokes just aren’t there.

You’re telling me that you’re spoofing the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies and the best you can do is relentlessly make fun of the housekeeper?  That’s it?  That’s all you’ve got?  You can’t do any better than the lowest common denominator of humor—crude bathroom jokes, vulgar sex jokes—and rehash it over and over?  That’s spoofing?  I don’t think so.  That’s laziness.

Some of the best parodies take specific scenes and have fun with them.  That sort of thing is severely lacking here.  And if the material isn’t there, if these films have been satirized to death already, then maybe you shouldn’t be making a SCARY MOVIE 5.

The cast can’t save this one either.  While Ashley Tisdale is watchable as Jody, there was something about Simon Rex’s performance as Dan that I found irritating.  He was over the top silly and goofy without being funny.  I have to admit, I strongly disliked most of his scenes, and since he’s in most of the movie, that’s not good.

The rest of the cast either overacts or mails it in, looking as if they’re just there to have fun as opposed to work and actually create something funny.

SCARY MOVIE 5 is rated PG-13, and honestly, this one looks as if it was originally intended to be Rated R and then edited down to a PG-13 rating.  Not that it would have made much of a difference.

In one gag, for instance, as Dan and Jody tour the medical facility where their young girls are being cared for, they pass a window where they see two babes showering and soaping up their bodies, and these babes are wearing bathing suits.  Now that makes a lot of sense.

HEAD:  Who showers wearing a bathing suit?

MA:  My point exactly.

HEAD:  That was a lame scene!  I felt cheated.

MA:  Well, yeah.  I felt that way after the first five minutes of this one.

I almost gave this movie 0 Knives, but admittedly I did laugh a couple of times, and I did enjoy that EVIL DEAD scene.  So, I’ll be generous today, but still, that’s pretty sad to find only one or two laughs in a movie that is supposed to be a comedy.

I give SCARY MOVIE 5 one knife.

Do yourself a favor and see something else this weekend.  Okay, I’m out of here.

HEAD:  Hey, don’t leave me.  Hey!  A little help?

MA (sighs):  Sure, buddy.  What is it?  You want me to drop you off at the bus station?

HEAD:  Actually, I’ve changed my mind.  I feel like washing my hair.  Want to do me a huge favor and reach into that duffel bag and hand me that bottle of Head and Shoulders?

MA:  You know, I’ve had enough of these lame puns.  You’re on your own.  I’m outta here. (Exits.)

HEAD:  Gee, wasn’t he a heady bastard!

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda

(EDITOR’s NOTE: While I didn’t see this one, I can say that, based on Michael’s review, A HAUNTED HOUSE, which came out earlier this year, sounds a lot funnier than SCARY MOVIE 5. So if you really have to see a horror movie spoof movie this year—you’d be better off seeing that one. It has a lame title, but at least it has some laughs and I gave it a decent review. Check out the review here. ~LLS)

Michael Arruda gives SCARY MOVIE 5 ~ one knife!

THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE (2013)

Posted in 2013, All-Star Casts, Comedies, Kelly Laymon Reviews, Magic with tags , , , , , , on March 22, 2013 by knifefighter

INCREDIBLY ENJOYABLE!  POOF!
Movie Review by Kelly Laymon

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The war between old school magic and the extreme magic of today is explored with humor in THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE, which opened on Friday, March 15th.

As kids, the future Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) bonded, became friends, and enjoyed the magic kits and videos of Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin).  Now, as adults, they’ve hit the big time as Vegas headliners at Bally’s, but have grown tired of each other.

When an extreme street magician named Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) enters the scene with his series called “Brain Rapist”, the audience for Burt and Anton dwindles…and dwindles…until they are canned after a series of misadventures while attempting to keep up with the times.

Everyone goes their separate ways for a bit.  Anton does some humanitarian work in a third world country.  Burt, desperate for a job, starts doing magic shows at a retirement home.  Who does he find there?  His hero, Rance Holloway!  Everything falls into place and Burt and Anton begin to rediscover their “magic” for a final battle with Steve Gray.

Steve Gray’s routine is clearly based on David Blaine/Criss Angel types.  Burt and Anton’s act is unbearably corny.  Their hair and costumes are very Siegfried and Roy.  It’s the kind of magic show that definitely would NOT go over in this day and age.  It’s hard to believe it would take a Blaine/Angel type to knock them down after Penn & Teller redefined magic shows over thirty years ago.  To boot, at their Bally’s show, Burt and Anton enter the stage to The Steve Miller Band’s “Abracadabra” and some truly cringe-worthy choreography.

With a cast this solid, it’s hard to go too wrong.  And it doesn’t go wrong!  I’m having a hard time recalling the most recent time Steve Carell sucked in a project.  (Other than his final two seasons on NBC’s THE OFFICE, of course.)  Steve Buscemi is great fun to see in a comedic role larger than his standard cameos in Adam Sandler flicks.

I’ve always been a fan of Alan Arkin, but the way he’s made up as his character had me convinced he was Rip Torn.  During the end credits, I kept wondering where Rip Torn’s name was and who the hell Alan Arkin played.  Duh.

Olivia Wilde, who I never understood the appeal of and never found memorable, has a nice role as Stagehand Jane, who ends up being thrown into Burt and Anton’s pre-cancellation show as the sexy assistant, although she turns out to be a magic nerd and fine magician herself.

There are some nice little bit parts.  Gillian Jacobs (COMMUNITY, NBC) has a small part as one of Burt’s kooky sexual conquests.  James Gandolfini isn’t all that entertaining as a Donald Trump-esque casino owner, though.  Brad Garrett, who actually owns a comedy club in Vegas, and Jay Mohr have small roles, and David Copperfield has a cameo.

It’s worth noting that BURT WONDERSTONE was co-written by John Francis Daley, who also co-wrote the very funny HORRIBLE BOSSES (2011) and is part of the old-“FREAKS-&-GEEKS-made-good” gang.

All in all, I found the film to be very funny and enjoyable.  Aside from the great cast and writing, I’m also a sucker for Vegas culture and magic.  I’m not making a 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN (2005) joke about magic camp when I say that I have a scar under my chin from an accident at magic camp as a kid.  (One of two scars now…)  I was a bit surprised that David Copperfield was the only Vegas magician with a cameo.  Where was The Amazing Jonathan?  To discuss the sight gags or further plot points would ruin the fun, so I won’t.  There’s nothing deep.  There’s nothing super-raunchy.  But if you just want to enjoy about 90 minutes and have some serious chuckles…

I’d give this Five Knives, but…<waves hands> one disappeared.  Poof!  So, Four it is!

© Copyright 2013 by Kelly Laymon

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