Archive for the Fun Stuff! 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.

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QUICK CUTS: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SAM RAIMI MOVIE?

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2013, Classic Films, Crime Films, Demonic Possession, Demons, Drive-in Movies, Fun Stuff!, Horror, Indie Horror, Marvel Comics, Quick Cuts, Sam Raimi, Superheroes with tags , , , on March 15, 2013 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS:  WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SAM RAIMI MOVIE?
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Daniel Keohane, Kelly Laymon, and Paul McMahon

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  With Sam Raimi’s latest movie OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013) now in theaters, we’ve decided to celebrate the occasion by asking our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters to name their favorite Sam Raimi film.

Okay Cinema Knife Fighters, What’s your favorite Sam Raimi movie, and why? 

*****

DANIEL KEOHANE:  I’d have to say SPIDER-MAN (2002), being a major web-slinger fan as a kid. Granted, ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992) was a hoot when I saw it at 2:00 am during a 24-hour film festival… but overall, his first SPIDER-MAN is on top of the list.

Spider Man poster

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Yeah, I have to agree with you.  My favorite has to be the first SPIDER-MAN (2002), as well.  True, SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004) might be the better movie, but I remember being so blown away and impressed by the first one, for me, it remains my favorite Raimi picture.

Sure, there are his EVIL DEAD movies, and his thrillers like THE GIFT (2000), and the current OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is pretty amazing, but personally, I prefer Spidey over the Wizard and a bunch of munchkins any day of the week.

KELLY LAYMON:  I have zero interest in the new OZ flick. Partly because I thought it was released four weeks ago when they had the giant premiere by my old apartment and I had to see James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Michelle Williams in a true giant hot air balloon above my apartment.

simple_plan_poster

But as much as I enjoy the EVIL DEAD films and the SPIDER-MAN flicks, I might have to go A SIMPLE PLAN (1998) on this one. (And I’m overlooking his baseball flick, which people know kills me!) But I just love a good crime movie where money and some dead bodies muddy the entire situation. I love stories about people who are presented with an opportunity and act drastically.

PAUL MCMAHONTHE EVIL DEAD (1981) is my favorite Raimi film. I had a co-worker hand me a VHS tape of it.

“This is the worst-looking movie you’ll ever love,” he said.

I watched it twice in a row that night and ordered my first copy the next morning. The rest of his work is pretty good (with the possible exception of SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007), but I can’t imagine living in a world where THE EVIL DEAD doesn’t exist.

the-evil-dead-original-1981-poster

L.L. SOARES: Yeah, I have to agree with Paul. I remember seeing THE EVIL DEAD the first time at a drive-in theater. It was the second feature after George A. Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), which I had seen about 10 times by then. I’d heard about EVIL DEAD but hadn’t seen it, and it was a real treat. It was just gory and insane and Bruce Campbell was amazing as Ash. While I’ve enjoyed Raimi’s work since then, including his often-overlooked slapstick flick CRIME WAVE (1985) and the underrated DRAG ME TO HELL (2009), nothing comes close to the original EVIL DEAD for me.

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Well that’s it for this edition of QUICK CUTS. See you again next week with reviews of more new movies.

—END—

JOHN DIES AT THE END (2013)

Posted in 2013, Apocalyptic Films, Bizarro Movies, CGI, Cinema Knife Fights, Dark Comedies, ESP, Fun Stuff!, Heightened Abilities, Highly Stylized Films, Just Plain Fun, Just Plain Weird, LL Soares Reviews, Monsters, Plot Twists, Psychic Powers, Something Different, Twisted, Unusual Films with tags , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: JOHN DIES AT THE END (2013)
By L.L. Soares (with a guest appearance by Michael Arruda)

John-Dies-at-the-End-poster

(THE SCENE: An all-night Chinese restaurant at midnight. DAVID WONG —looking a lot like actor Chase Williamson—sits in a booth. MICHAEL ARRUDA and LL SOARES enter and sit down across from him)

WONG: I didn’t think you’d make it.

LS: We’re professionals. Of course we made it.

WONG: Did anyone follow you?

MA: No, I made sure to drive erratically to throw anyone off our trail.

LS: You drove like that on purpose?

MA: Of course I did.

LS: Yeah, sure.

WONG: Enough of your bickering. I only have a limited time to tell you all about the soy sauce and the creatures from another dimension and the remarkable Dr. Albert Marconi.

LS: No need. We just saw the movie. We’re all up to date.

WONG: Are you sure? Did you watch the right movie?

LS: Of course we did!

MA: Calm down. Why don’t you tell him what you saw?

LS: Okay, sure. The movie JOHN DIES AT THE END is the tale of David Wong, who looked just like you…

(WONG nods)

LS: Wong is in a restaurant, just like this one, telling his tale to a reporter named Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti). It’s about how he was pulled into a secret plan to save the Earth, along with his friend John (Rob Mayes), who sings in a punk rock band called Three Armed Sally.

Wong’s story begins with a chance meeting with a Jamaican guy at a party named Robert Marley, who tells David several things he should not know. Later that night, or rather the next morning at 3am, David is awoken by a call from his friend John, begging for help. He goes to help John battle some supernatural baddies and then ends up in a police station where a detective tells him that the night before, a bunch of people went to the trailer of a certain Robert Marley after a party and four are missing, the rest are dead, and John is a suspect. David has no clue what is going on, but a phone call from John (that was made the night before but just reaches him now) tells him he needs to get out of there. But he has to fight a man who appears to be a cop (but isn’t) first.

To explain beyond this (early) point would be kind of pointless. JOHN DIES AT THE END isn’t that kind of linear, straight-forward movie that caters to an easy synopsis. Suffice to say that David Wong goes on an adventure that involves a girl named Amy (Fabianne Therese) who has one prosthetic hand, her dog Bark Lee, Dave’s friend Fred (Jimmy Wong), a white rapper wannabe named Justin White (Jonny Weston), the world-famous magician Dr. Marconi (Clancy Brown), and John, who dies early on in the movie, but doesn’t exactly stay dead.

The catalyst for all this is a drug called “soy sauce” (because that’s what it looks like). When you take it, either it creates vivid hallucinations or opens your mind to realities we aren’t normally aware of. I’m not saying which. It’s also alive and when ingested it either kills you, or uses you for its own purposes. And those purposes ultimately involve a plot by people in an alternate world who worship a living machine called Korrok (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson), and their desire to enter our plane of existence and make our world like theirs—a horrible place that lives only to serve Korrok.

The movie was based on the novel by David Wong…

(WONG nods)

LS: …this is getting a little confusing.

The movie is pretty good. mainly because you’re never sure what is going to happen next. I liked the fast, witty repartee in this one, and the rapid-fire pacing. A lot of times critics compare certain movies to amusement park rides, like roller coasters, but this movie lives up to the comparison.

It was directed by the great Don Coscarelli, who also gave us the classic PHANTASM (1979), THE BEASTMASTER (1982) and BUBBA HO-TEP (2002), and he does another cracker jack job here, bringing the novel to life.

The cast is pretty solid. I liked Chase Williamson as Wong a lot, he was a strong central character here…

(WONG nods)

LS: And the great Paul Giamatti rarely gives a bad performance. He’s good here, too, but his character is mostly around so Wong can tell him his story (and in the process, tell us). Rob Mayes, who plays John, might be familiar to some people from TV shows like the new version of 90210 and THE CLIENT LIST. And Clancy Brown, as the all-powerful Marconi, has been in tons of stuff from THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BONZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION (1984) to THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994) to STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997) and lots of television shows. I thought he was especially good in the sadly short-lived HBO series CARNIVALE (2003 – 2005), where he played Brother Justin Crowe.

Other recognizable faces include Angus Scrimm (the “Tall Man” from the PHANTASM movies) as a priest named Father Shellnut. And Doug Jones—mostly known for roles where he’s not so recognizable, including Abe Sapien in the HELLBOY movies, the Faun and the Pale Man from PAN’S LABYRINTH, 2006, and the Silver Surfer in FANTASTIC 4: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER, 2007—plays a strange alien being named Roger North.

The cast is really good and the story gives us a good mix of thrills and laughs. The sheer unpredictable nature of the movie is what makes it so unique and enjoyable. Not everything is perfect—but for the most part I thought it worked really well. I give it three knives. People should check this one out.

WONG: Just three, huh?

LS: Errr…Tell him what you thought of it, Michael?

MA: I didn’t see it.

LS: What are you talking about? Of course you saw it. You were telling me all about it in the ride up here.

MA: Sorry. You must be mistaken.

(MA begins to make strange noises)

WONG: I think there’s something wrong with your friend.

(MA suddenly turns into a gooey monster with writhing tentacles)

LS: That wasn’t Michael at all! I’ve been tricked!

(WONG pulls out a gun and blasts the creature, which disintegrates.)

LS: Whew. That was a close call.

WONG: Your mission has been compromised. They’re on to us.

LS: I guess that means I better leave, huh?

WONG: Do what you want, but I’m out of here.

(WONG disappears)

LS: Wow. Neat trick.

(LS waves waitress over and lifts a menu)

LS: I’ll have number 4 and number 15 to go, and make it quick. Okay?

WAITRESS: Right away, sir.

LS (to audience): Well, at least this wasn’t a total loss.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives JOHN DIES AT THE END ~three knives.

A HAUNTED HOUSE (2012)

Posted in 2013, Comedies, Evil Spirits, Exorcism Movies, Faux Documentaries, Fun Stuff!, Ghosts!, Haunted Houses, LL Soares Reviews, Parodies, Possessed By Demons, R-Rated Comedy, Spoofs with tags , , , , , , , on January 14, 2013 by knifefighter

A HAUNTED HOUSE (2013)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

A-Haunted-House-poster

While Michael was seeing GANGSTER SQUAD, I opted to check out this comedy starring Marlon Wayans instead, and I’m glad I did. A HAUNTED HOUSE, despite the lame, generic title, is actually a pretty good comedy, taking aim at all of the “found footage” horror films we’ve been subjected to lately, from the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films, to THE LAST EXORCISM (2010) and last year’s THE DEVIL INSIDE.

The found footage genre is so prevalent in the movies these days, that it was only a matter of time before someone skewered them. So along comes actor/writer Marlon Wayans (who’s been in everything from the TV show IN LIVING COLOR, 1992 – 2001, to the first two SCARY MOVIEs and WHITE CHICKS, 2004), to do the skewering.

Marlon stars as Malcolm, a likeable guy who tells us early on that this is a big day, because his girlfriend, Kisha (Essence Atkins), is finally moving into his house. Like the people in those PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies, Malcolm is obsessed with filming everything that goes on in his house. Things start off on a bad foot when Kisha runs over his poor little dog pulling into the driveway, and they just get worse from there. When Kisha is upset that her keys are on the floor (How did they get there?!!), she immediately deduces that the house must be haunted and calls in a psychic named Chip (Nick Swardson), who seems a little too interested in Malcolm. When things get weirder, Malcolm calls in a security guy named Dan (David Koechner) to install cameras all over the inside and outside of his house, so that he can keep track of the “ghost.” An especially funny scene involves Malcolm’s cousin Ray-Ray (Affion Crockett) and his crew, a group of thugs who are determined to get to the bottom of the haunting, but find out it’s not that easy to intimidate a supernatural being.

When Malcolm and Kisha determine that it’s not a ghost at all, but a malicious demon (!), there’s a funny flashback to Kisha’s childhood with her callous Mom (Robin Thede) and Dad (the always hilarious J.B. Smoove), that delves into the origins of Kisha’s demon problem. Malcolm and Kisha do everything they can to get rid of their unwanted visitor, including getting stoned with the invisible creep (they all get mellow and engage ins some supernatural hijinks), and even having sex with the demon (while Kisha has a good time with this, Malcolm’s experience isn’t quite so pleasant).

Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) and Kisha (Essence Atkins) find themselves in A HAUNTED HOUSE.

Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) and Kisha (Essence Atkins) find themselves in A HAUNTED HOUSE.

When Kisha finally gets possessed by the demon (and we get into EXORCISM territory), Malcolm finally has to call in the big guns, which include psychic Chip, Dan and his cameraman sidekick, Bob (Dave Sheridan), who have their own paranormal TV show (on the Internet and cable access) and the local priest (and ex-con), Father Williams (Cedric the Entertainer, who’s really good here). They chase the possessed Kisha all over the house, with funny results.

Directed by Michael Tiddes, and written by Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez, A HAUNTED HOUSE could easily be part of the SCARY MOVIE franchise, but those movies have been taken over by the Zucker Brothers (the guys behind the AIRPLANE and NAKED GUN movies). That said, A HAUNTED HOUSE seemed to be funnier than the usual SCARY MOVIE installment, with a higher ratio of laughs.

Marlon Wayans does a fine job as our “hero,” Malcolm. Essence Atkins is really funny as Kisha, and the entire cast is pretty solid. Other supporting players include Andrew Daly (who you might recognize from the HBO series EASTBOUND AND DOWN) and Alanna Ubach, as Steve and Jenny, a swinger couple who are friends with Malcolm and Kisha, and who are always trying to get them to swap partners (Malcolm is completely clueless to their intentions), and Marlene Forte as Malcolm’s maid, Rosa, who is up to some very surprising shenanigans when the couple is away.

If a comedy is judged by how much you laugh, then A HAUNTED HOUSE is a success. I laughed a lot, and so did the packed audience I saw it with. The gags in this one come fast and furious, and most of them work. It doesn’t hurt that the movies this one is spoofing have created their own list of clichés just waiting to be goofed on.

I give A HAUNTED HOUSE, three knives. But man, do I wish they had come up with a better title.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives A HAUNTED HOUSE ~three knives.

haunted_house_ver2

“Meals for Monsters” Visits THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2011)

Posted in 2012, Fun Stuff!, Jenny Orosel Columns, Joss Whedon, Meals for Monsters, Monsters with tags , , , on October 3, 2012 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2011)
Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2011) is one of those movies that people absolutely love or passionately hate.  I loved it, and that was purely accidental.

A few months after the birth of my daughter, I had an afternoon to myself and a free movie pass.  I’d fallen out of the movie loop and was only vaguely familiar with half the titles showing.  THE CABIN IN THE WOODS sounded like your typical slasher flick and the previews reiterated that.  On my way out the door I heard my husband say, “Oh, that’s interesting.  Joss Whedon wrote the script.”  From that moment my expectations went out the window.

In case you’ve been living in Amish country for the past decade and a half, Joss Whedon is the mastermind behind genre-tweaking shows like BUFFY THE VAPIRE SLAYER and FIREFLY.  For CABIN, he went all out.  Five college students plan for a weekend at the titular cabin.  They cover the slasher film archetypes—the innocent, the slut, the stoner, the nerd and the jock.  After reading strange words from a diary in the basement, the five are pursued by a century-old redneck-cannibal-zombie family.  Only, it’s not so simple.  The slut has a brain, the nerd is good looking and athletic, the innocent isn’t all that innocent, and the redneck-cannibal-zombie family was sent by a nameless organization who set up the whole weekend specifically to make sure those five die a miserable, violent death.  Will they survive the cannibals or will the organization step in and do the job themselves?

The plot isn’t what made CABIN great, although it was a fun story. Few movies could have as many in-jokes and odd references as CABIN did and make them integral to the story. Whedon and director Drew Goddard blended in those references both at the forefront and the background of the movie.  Even after repeated viewings, I was still able to spot things that I hadn’t noticed before.  So here’s a meal that, not only could work for a trip to a cabin in the woods, but also while sitting in front of the TV, watching CABIN for the third time.

Very little is actually consumed in CABIN.  The kids drink beer in the woods, and the organization drones have coffee and tequila.  Beer is easy—open, drink.  But if beer’s not your speed, try:

CABIN COFFEE WITH A KICK

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons sweetened instant cinnamon coffee
1 ½ cups boiling water
1 shot tequila

Directions:
Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water and let cool (because warm tequila is rather nasty).  Mix with the shot of tequila and enjoy either straight or over ice.

****

Every time my family would go camping, canned beef stew was a staple.  It travelled well, was easy to heat and eat, and was a somewhat well-rounded meal.  Two negatives were that it wasn’t very interesting, and you still had to clean up a bunch of bowls.  A decent hot sauce will at least aid in the first.  The second can be solved with edible biscuit bowls.

EDIBLE BISCUIT BOWLS

For those, you need:
Tube of refrigerated biscuit dough
Muffin pan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Separate the dough into individual biscuits.  Flatten each until it’s about three to four inches across.  Flip the pan over and stretch the dough over the indentations, pinching together any excess.  Bake for 8-10 minutes until browned.  They can either be eaten hot at home, filled with stew or chunky-style soup, or they can easily be cooled off and packed for your next trip into the woods.  When planning, figure three to four bowls per person.

Edible Biscut Bowls – the finished product!

*****

The dessert is to honor the character of Marty, the “stoner” archetype.  While his first on-screen appearance is toking from a travel-mug-turned-bong, he turned out to be much more important.  So, as a nod to him:

HERBAL BROWNIES

Ingredients:
2 sticks butter, melted then cooled to room temperature
4 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1 ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 chopped herbs (I used mint for my brownies, but feel free to use any other…herbs).

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Butter and flour an 8×8 pan.  Mix the eggs and sugar.  Combine in all but the last ingredients.  Fold in the herbs (being careful to emit stems and twigs).  Bake for 45 minutes.  Once cooled, slice and remove from pan.

*****

On a side note, I want to say that Netflix displeases me.  I was excited to watch the DVD, hearing there was an audio commentary and some fun extras.  The copy from Netflix?  It has Spanish subtitles and four trailers, including two movies that came out a couple years ago.  At least it was the same movie I remembered.

Whether you watch the bare bones version or the blu-ray with 1001 extras, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is a fun movie and one of the rare ones that can hold up to repeat viewings.  Hopefully you try something from here the next time you watch it, and I hope you enjoy.

© Copyright 2012 by Jenny Orosel

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA (2012)

Posted in 2012, Adam Sandler Movies, Animated Films, Family Films, Fun Stuff!, Sheri White Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on October 2, 2012 by knifefighter

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA (2012)
Movie Review by Sheri White

My kids are old and wizened now at the ripe ages of 23, 17, and 14, which means I haven’t seen a kids’ movie in the theater in a long time. So I was surprised when the two youngest wanted to go with me to see this movie after I told them I was reviewing it for CKF. I didn’t even have to entice them with promises of candy and popcorn.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons was THE GROOVIE GOOLIES (1970 – 1971) —the characters were cool, hip versions of the classic movie monsters, like Dracula and Frankenstein.  I loved that show so much. HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA reminded me a lot of that awesome show.

Dracula is now a single dad with a precious little girl. He promised his wife before she died that he would always take care of Mavis and protect her. He has a hotel built that is a sanctuary not only for Mavis, but for all monsters. No human can get in.

That all changes on Mavis’s 118th birthday. Her dad has promised her for years that she could leave the hotel and check out a human village on that birthday. And, true to his word, he lets her go. But she quickly realizes the outside world isn’t safe and returns home.

Happy once again, Dracula continues to plan her birthday party. It’s like Bobby Boris Pickett’s song “The Monster Mash” come to life. All the monsters are there to celebrate, and it’s a scream.  Until a young hiker accidentally crashes the good time.

Adults will see where this is headed once Mavis and Johnny run into each other and their eyes meet. What follows is a lot of slapstick comedy as Dracula frantically tries to keep them apart, as well as keeping Johnny’s human status a secret.

Mavis (Selena Gomez) and Johnny (Andy Samberg) meet cute in HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA.

In the end, the movie is about letting your kids go, no matter how much you want them to stay.

My jaded teenage girls loved the movie. I enjoyed it very much myself. There is nothing inappropriate for any age —well, there is a cold swimming pool joke that I know my kids got because they watch SEINFELD —and it shouldn’t be frightening to young children, I’d say five ages and up.  There are a few times when Dracula makes a scary red angry face, and that might freak out littler kids.

Aside from Dracula’s red “angry face,” there’s not much to scare kids in HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA.

Parents will relate to Dracula not wanting to let Mavis leave the hotel, especially since he’s afraid all humans are dangerous – they did kill his wife, after all. There are enough sight gags and sly humor to keep adults interested and amused. Lots of action and color will keep kids riveted.

I don’t say this often about kids’ movies, but I would see this again. There is a lot going on that you can miss the first time around. When my kids were little, they watched SHREK on DVD almost every day, and I didn’t mind. This is one that I wouldn’t mind as well.  I’d even watch it by myself, like I do SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS —what can I say, kids’ stuff can be cooler than adult programming sometimes.

The voice acting is wonderful —I’m not a huge fan of Adam Sandler, but his Dracula was great. You’ll recognize several other voices in the movie, such as Kevin James (as Frankenstein), Steve Buscemi (as the Werewolf) and Selena Gomez (as Mavis). There’s a fun jam session at the end.

Don’t worry about staying around for the credits – nothing happens once the movie is over.

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA – fun for all ages, even know-it-all teenagers. I give it four knives.

© Copyright 2012 by Sheri White

Sheri White gives HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA ~FOUR knives (out of five).

THE OOGIELOVES in THE BIG BALLOON ADVENTURE (2012)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2012, Apocalyptic Films, Deformed Freaks!, Demons, Evil Puppets!, Fantasy Films, Fun Stuff!, Just Plain Bad, Just Plain Fun, Just Plain Weird, Kids Movies, Musicals, Mutants!, Peter Dudar Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2012 by knifefighter

THE OOGIELOVES in THE BIG BALLOON ADVENTURE (2012)

A Satirical Lesson in Writing and the Dangers of Drug Use

 By Peter N. Dudar

With Help From Vivian (age 5)

Vivian:  Daddy…Daddy, wake up. You promised we could have fun today.

Peter:  Gimme a few more minutes, honey. Daddy is still tired.

Vivian:  Now, Daddy!  You said we could go see THE OOGIELOVES today. C’mon, get up!

Peter:  What the hell are THE OOGIELOVES?

(Vivian throws the covers off her dad and drags him out of bed. Daddy chugs down a cup of coffee and then herds the family off to the car to go see the new Matthew Diamond film, THE OOGIELOVES in THE BIG BALLOON ADVENTURE.)

Peter:  You know, I don’t remember promising this. In fact, today was the day I wanted to talk to you about something very important. I wanted to talk to you about the dangers of drug use.

Vivian:  What are drugs?

Peter:  I’m glad you asked. Drugs are substances used to alter the physical and mental faculties of the human body. For instance…how do you feel right now?

Vivian:  I’m really excited. I can’t wait to see this movie.

Peter:  Now, you see…grown-ups don’t ever feel that kind of excitement ever, ever, ever. Some adults need a little help to feel that kind of enthusiasm. They need stimulants to maintain that kind of high. I can see by the way you’re shifting around in your car-seat that you’re pretty jacked up. Cokeheads look the same way after they’ve done a few lines. Seeing YOU doing it almost scares me a little. Looks like I’ll just have to grit my teeth and ride this one out. What is this movie about, anyway?

Vivian:  It’s the Big Balloon Adventure. It’s Schluufy the Pillow’s birthday, and the Oogieloves have to throw a party for her, but the balloons get all lost and stuff, and they have to rescue the balloons.

Peter:  Wait, back up a second. They’re throwing a party for a pillow?

Vivian:  Yeah, this is gonna be so great!

Peter:  Sounds like the guy who made this movie is on drugs.

(They get to the theater and take their seats. The movie begins, and the Oogieloves come out and explain what we’re about to see. Apparently, this is an interactive movie, and they will cue us for when we are supposed to get out of our seats and dance).

Vivian:  Okay, Daddy?  When we see the butterflies, we’re supposed to jump up and dance.

Peter:  This is such a drag. THE POSSESSION is playing in the theater right next door. Are you sure you don’t want to get up and go sneak in?

Vivian:  I want to watch THIS movie!

(In the film, the Oogieloves are beginning their day. J. Edgar, the vacuum cleaner, is some type of adult/authority figure. He’s gone off to get five magic balloons for Schluufy. On the way home, the vacuum accidentally lets the balloons float away. He gets back to the stately Oogielove Manor and tells the three grown-up sized kid puppets of his mishap, so they swear by Odin’s hammer that they will retrieve all five balloons. Okay, I made that last part up.)

Vivian:  This is so amazing…I love the music and the colors.

Peter:  Yes…this brings us to narcotics and hallucinogens. The natural state of euphoria you’re experiencing is akin to an adult dropping some acid or ingesting some psychedelic shrooms. You may even feel like getting up and dancing. There are other types of drugs…ecstasy, for example, that will make a person lose their inhibitions and just trance out to the music. Those drugs are all very dangerous, and you should never, ever touch them. But here in the theater, it’s groovy. Get up and shake that thing. Daddy’s just gonna sit here and munch on some popcorn.

(The movie continues. Goobie—the genius of the group, Zoozie—the playful sister, and Toofie—the jokester whose pants always seem to fall down at awkward moments, begin their quest for the balloons. They are aided by Windy Window-a magic pane of glass with a hot southern accent, and J. Edgar-the vacuum. Schluufy the Pillow remains sleeping on the couch).

Vivian:  Daddy, how come Schluufy never wakes up?

Peter:  Well, honey…Schluufy is a metaphor.

Vivian:  What’s a metaphor?

Peter:  It’s a tool writers use to draw a comparison between fiction and reality. I believe that Schluufy, there, is supposed to symbolize crack babies. See how she lays there like a vegetable?  No arms and legs or anything, but still sleeps peacefully with that big, goofy smile?  Crack babies are infants that are addicted to drugs because their mommies were users during pregnancy. They do that all day long. That’s why the Oogieloves want to throw a big party for her. They feel bad that she’s so messed up, so they want to be really, really nice to her. Maybe the magic balloons they are off to rescue will restore her brain capacity or give her new legs or something?

Vivian:  I still don’t understand.

Peter:  Neither do I. Somebody was obviously tripping when they sat down and wrote this.

(The Oogieloves find the first balloon at the top of a tree. The tree boasts a tree house in the shape of a giant teapot. Inside are Dottie (an ancient-looking Cloris Leachman) and her niece, Jubilee (Kylie O’Brien). They go into this whole dance number that gets Vivian out of her seat to dance. Daddy yawns and checks his watch. The song ends, and then Toofie climbs the tree and recovers the first balloon. When he gets to the ground, his pants fall down. Vivian howls in laughter).

Vivian:  Did you see that, Daddy?  That was so funny!

“Goofy Toofie, Pull Up Your Pants!”

Peter:  Yeah. Hysterical. Which brings us to marijuana. Marijuana, or reefer, contains an active ingredient called THC, which messes with the doohickeys in your brain and makes everything funny as hell. The hilarity you find in Toofie’s pants falling down is childish and stupid. Marijuana makes childish, stupid things seem really, really funny to adults. And it gives you the munchies. Speaking of which, I kinda wish we had some Girl Scout cookies. Ain’t you old enough to be a Girl Scout yet?

Vivian:  Shhh…I’m watching the movie.

(The movie continues, and the Oogieloves find themselves in Milky Marvin’s Milkshake Manor. The Oogieloves get caught in a milkshake-drinking contest to win back the second missing balloon. Marvin Milkshake (Chazz Palminteri begins another dance number that is actually the best song in the film. Sadly, I’ve already forgotten how it goes. The Oogieloves’ fish, Ruffy, wins the drink-off, and they escape with the second balloon.)

Vivian:  I’m having so much fun. I wish this would never end!

Peter:  That sounds like the cry of a heroin junkie. Now, that’s some heavy-duty stuff that you don’t want to mess with. Junkies are the lowest. It’s like throwing all your pride and your hope away. Remember that commercial where the girl breaks an egg open into a hot pan and tells us it’s our brain on heroin?  Plus, sharing needles can lead to some really bad blood-diseases. You’ll end up like brainless Schluufy, drooling all over yourself. Do you want that?

Vivian:  No, Daddy.

Peter:  That’s my good girl.

(The movie continues. The Oogieloves find the third balloon in an airplane hangar where Rosalie Rosebud (Toni Braxton) is ready to embark on her next world-tour. Rosalie is a self-centered diva who trips on her popularity and is addicted to roses, which ironically make her sneeze uncontrollably. She, too, breaks into a dance number, and I really hate this song. But Viv loves it, so I get up for the first time and dance with my daughter. There is only one other family in the theater, and they, too, are up and dancing. Goobie somehow rescues the balloon and the Oogieloves move on.)

Vivian:  She really loved her flowers.

Peter:  Yes, and that’s called addictive personality disorder. It’s a metaphor for alcohol. Now, alcohol is a depressant. It numbs the senses and makes you a little tired. Rosalie needs her roses to help cheer her up, but, because of her allergies, it’s really bringing her down and destroying her life. You dig?

Vivian:  You’re so weird, Daddy.

(The movie continues. Next, they track down the fourth balloon stuck at the top of an 18-wheeler belonging to Bobby Wobbly the Bubble-Blowing Cowboy (played by an unrecognizable Carey Elwes). Bobby Wobbly freakin’ loves bubbles, but he doesn’t understand why people just aren’t into bubbles anymore. Vivian disagrees vehemently and vocally as I just shake my head. There’s no end to this movie. They launch into ANOTHER song and dance, and I get up and join Viv again. It’s either that or fall asleep. This movie is assaulting all my senses, and I’m wishing the  movie projector would fall apart or something…)

(After this escapade, the Oogieloves track down the final balloon stuck at the top of a windmill. But the Oogieloves can’t cross the grassy field by foot. Instead, they have to ride to it in a giant sombrero piloted by Lero and Lola Sombrero (Christopher Lloyd and Jaime Pressly). In order to get the giant sombrero to hover across the field, everybody has to dance really, really fast. I’m bummed at watching the great Christopher Lloyd reduced to a one-line cameo and beating on bongos while Lola shakes and dances across the screen. Eventually, they rescue the final balloon, and then it’s back off to Oogieloves Manor for the party.)

Vivian:  They did it…they rescued all the magic balloons!

Peter:  Big duh!  What did you think would happen?

The Oogieloves. A children’s dream come true, or an adult’s worst nightmare?

Vivian:  Now they can have the party for Schluufy. I’m so happy.

(They wake up Schluufy the Pillow, and sure enough, the damn thing can’t do more than mumble incoherently and coo a lot. But she feels loved and looks happy. The Oogieloves rock out to one last dance number, and then, finally, the film is over.)

Vivian:  Did you like the movie, Daddy?

Peter:  I found it to be derivative.

Vivian:  What does that mean?

Peter:  It means that the screenwriter borrowed liberally from other sources. It’s obvious that they stole ideas and concepts from Sesame Street, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, The Teletubbies (and to little surprise, creator Kenn Viselman, actually has production ties to the Teletubbies), and Yo Gabba Gabba. But I did have fun watching YOU have fun, and that, to me, makes the last hour and a half all worthwhile. Did you like it?

Vivian:  I loved it. But I’m sad now that it’s over.

Peter:  And THAT, dear one, is called coming down. It’s a bummer. We had so much fun and excitement, but it all has to come to an end. But at least we’re not slumped over a toilet bowl and yarking our brains out, so bonus for us!

Vivian:  I don’t understand.

Peter:  I don’t, either. But let’s just be glad it’s over. How many stars would you give this movie?

Vivian:  I give it a hundred zillion, million, billion stars, all the way around the earth and back.

Peter:  I give it two. I’m going back to bed now. I have to work tonight.

Vivian:  Thank you, Daddy. I love you.

Peter:  I love you, too. And remember…drugs are bad. Just say ‘NO’.

The End

© Copyright 2012 by Peter N. Dudar

THE OOGIELOVES. A sure sign that the End Times are comin’