Friday, December 18, 2009

Best Movie Review Ever

I should qualify the title. This is the best, longest, and at times most disturbing movie review ever. My first thought was to hire this reviewer for my considerable stable of bloggers at double the normal salary of my staff. However the side story of this reviewer is not safe for work, children, or pets and this is a family blog.

The horror... The horror...

However if you can get past the incidental filthy language and the alarmingly unsettling side story then it's downright funny and accurate, albeit creepy. It's what we've all thought (except for the reviewers sideplot) and many of us have said but it's never been broken down in such a matter-of-fact, if not occasionally historically inacurate, way.

These videos are about 10 minutes long each so don't be in a hurry to watch the whole thing. It's worth it.

Yes really.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Pizza rolls.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Alien Graffiti

I was ready. I had my mind wrapped around the notion that we were going to see Aliens in the Attic. Like a gut punch that I knew was coming I steeled myself to roll with it to lessen the damage. But then, the clouds parted and the sun came out! The suggestion was made by my wise neighbor that we take the kiddos to see Planet 51 instead. Sure it's not in the dollar cinema yet but it's a matinee and it's only a couple of bucks more so why not?

Granted, Planet 51 is also a "little green alien" movie but it's all computer animated instead of CGI mixed with live action like Aliens in the Attic. But does that make it better? In this case, boy howdy YES! Wait, wait, I'm not really being fair. I haven't actually seen Aliens in the Attic so it's not really an informed decision to call it out for the cowpie-esque stinker of a movie it appears to be in it's own trailer. Don't believe me? See for yourself and click on the link (below) to see said trailer, if. you. dare! Well now, on to the movie we did see.

Planet 51 is a pleasant little summertime kids movie that doesn't try too hard to elicit any emotions one way or another from the audience. Eye candy but the sugar-free type to be sure. Let me explain. Justin Long is "Lem" who is a young adult resident of "Planet 51" just getting his legs in the grown-up world by striking out on his own, getting his first job, and trying to get the girl "Neera" played by Jessica Biel. You'll remember Justin Long from his "nice-guy Mac" role in the Apple vs. IBM commercials that are just irritating enough to make my ears bleed. Just as Lem (get it? Lem, like the Lunar Module from the Apollo space missions? See, it's funny because... aw, skip it.) is trying to get a date with Neera she gets distracted by the local hippy-dippy protest guru who wants to protest something so the plot of this movie will do just fine for him.

The movie is set in a 1950s era America even though it's on another planet. So I guess that makes the hippie alien a beatnik. Along comes an alien spacecraft landing in the middle of little green suburbia! The spacecraft is modeled after a Lunar Module (a Lem or LM. Lem, get it? the main charact... aw, skip it.) and out comes Chuck Baker, Astronaut played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and hilarity ensues. Now we add an angry General (Gary Oldman), a military made out to be bumbling fools (I know, SURPRISE!), and a dissection-eager scientist (John Cleese). Move on to chase scene, media misunderstanding, chase scene, noble sacrifice, some shooting, chase scene, happy ending.

I called it a "Summer Movie" earlier. By that I mean a movie that has a lot of outdoor activity scenes and is usually released in the big summer movie watching season. You know, people wearing summer clothes, barbecuing, lots of sunshine and plenty of scenes with long shadows, usually a buddy movie. This led me to believe that it was intended to be a summer release when it was made but someone who makes those decisions thought it wasn't quite up to snuff. That's why it was released in November. This reminded me of a conversation I had with my brother some years ago when I wondered out loud why a particular Disney animated cow movie was released in the spring time. He opened my eyes to the fact that many stinker movies that don't go directly to video are released before peak times to go ahead and let them slide through the theaters before they release the movies they think will really be the summer or Christmas season money-makers.

Overall not a bad movie. It shouldn't be long before it gets to the real dollar cinema but I'm not disappointed I didn't wait. The kids liked it enough but they didn't ask me to go to Burger King to get the kids meal toys anymore after the movie. That tells me they weren't excited about it any longer but weren't dissatisfied with it either.


Planet 51 trailer

Aliens in the Attic trailer

Disney animated cow movie trailer

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Forshadow in the Attic

Going to see Aliens in the Attic on Monday with the kids and the neighbors. The things I do for you.

Wish me luck. I go in with an open mind, and a jaundiced eye. Well, not literally. Y'know, the whole "conflicted" thing so I... ah, skip it.

You'll get the full report here, uh... soon.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Shemp Question

It's been pretty slow around here for movies recently. Attempts have been made to go and see: G-Force, Where the Wild Things Are, and Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs but all have been scuttled for various reasons. To be fair, G-Force (Disney talking guinea pig movie) is currently the only dollar movie in young Larry, Moe, and Curly's "too see" list. Even though they want to see them all. I call the young'uns Larry, Moe, and Curly but that's probably unfair to them. Larry, after all, was not a Howard, he was a Fine. I suppose to be accurate I should call them "Shemp, Moe, and Curly" as Shemp was indeed a Howard brother like Moe and Curly.

I understand that this may start a fire under some of you. I can already feel the burning embers of hatred smoulder at the very mention of Shemp. I, on the other hand hold no such contempt for Shemp. He did, after all, pre-date Curly as an original Stooge. Then Shemp was to follow him again after Curly's illness. I even hold appreciation for the signature "Shemp catchphrase" such as it was. It was usually found when Shemp was scared or in some altered state. You can hate him all you want and have at it if it makes you feel better, although I believe your ire is misplaced. Any Three Stooges related derision should be directly aimed at the two "Joe's" (Besser and DeRita) for cheapening the memory of Curly Howard. There are some out there that may try to paint Joe Besser as someone who was not trying to be a "Curly Clone" as DeRita was but with that I must disagree. The "Overgrown Man-Child" bit was a shot aimed at the mold of Curly but was so far off the mark as to be, well, just sad. Shemp was his own Stooge with his own personality and why shouldn't he be? Curly was his brother, but the two Joe's could only succeed Curly, they could never replace him.

We Hardly Knew Ye

Shemp's Catchphrase (starts at 6:01)

The Curly Shuffle

G-Force trailer

Where the Wild Things Are trailer

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs trailer

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Swayziest Christmas of Them All

Patrick Swayze passed away Monday September 14, 2009. I'll admit I never found him to be a great actor. He was, however, someone who knew what worked for him and he was able to capitalize on it. For that, he should be admired. A wise man once told me "bloom where you're planted." he did. I don't know for sure but I hope he made a fortune off of his chick flix and lowbrow action movies.

I think Mike Nelson said it best in his book Movie Megacheese:

What I really believe is that a film should be judged on how well it comes off compared with the Patrick Swayze film Road House. For Road House is the single finest American film. Certainly it stinks, but I believe the filmmakers meant it to, and succeeded grandly.

Therefore, films not containing poor performances by Patrick Swayze or Kevin Tighe will be judged harshly. Those that lack Ben Gazarra as their evil villain will be roundly castigated. There is no excuse for not telling the story of a legendary bouncer who finds love and confronts his demons at a small bar just outside Kansas City. And while adherence to a Road Housian standard certainly should be a requirement for every film, it needn't be the only requirement.

Some of you may recognize parts of this quote from when this blog was still in it's "annoy my friends with unsolicited e-mail about a movie" phase.

The Satellite of Love performed a wonderful salute to Patrick Swayze in the form of a Christmas Carol some years ago.

A Patrick Swayze Christmas

I tried to embed a video but it wouldn't let me use anything that wasn't already on my computer.

Rest in Peace Patrick.

Trailer for Roadhouse
Rifftrax Roadhouse Fight Scene

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Dark Side of the Baseball

It was a slow August. We did go see a dollar movie before school started for the kids but it was Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian and, well... y'know. There wasn't a whole lot there. If, however I think of some things about it while writing this post then I'll be sure to try and make it interesting. No, this time I'm talking about Field of Dreams. Or, maybe sports movies in general, or maybe that Hobbit movie that is supposed to be coming out in a year or so. Just stay with me, we'll find out together where this ends up.

I did see Field of Dreams the other night. I really only saw it once before if I remember correctly. Aside from the ham-handed, eye-rolling, 1960's hippie sanctimony it was very entertaining. I mean, in case you haven't seen it yet. I don't want to spoil it for you. That's just the kind of guy I am. I don't mind telling you it got me blubbering like a schoolgirl after a triple feature of Steel Magnolias, Dying Young, and... um... some other movie where Julia Roberts dies. Geez, there must be over half a dozen of those things. Anyway I was thinking of the scene near the end of the movie where Darth Vader is talking to Lt. Dances With Wolves and Vader is explaining how the field will attract visitors and he says "It's Baseball Ray". Man, that really hit home. It was right up there with all those other memorable movie lines like "Frankly Scarlet, I don't give a damn" , "Play it again, Sam", and "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto". Wait, none of those lines were ever actually... uh... well it doesn't matter.

I really tried, by the way, to get video of each of the lines that were actually used in the above movies but I ran into a brick wall with copyright laws and The Wizard of Oz. It did however try to steer me to the Wizard of Oz sinc-up with Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon. You may have heard the urban legend wherein if you mute the movie and start the Dark Side of the Moon album at the exact moment the MGM lion stops roaring in the opening credits then the music and lyrics follow the movie "exactly". It's entertaining but it's a bunch of bunk. No, if you want a real freak out then sinc up Citizen Kane with Weird Al Yankovic's album Poodle Hat. It was mind blowing, I couldn't sleep for days knowing the implications of what I saw.

OK, maybe I'll talk about Night at The Museum next time, or the sports movie thing. I like the sports movie thing, I could probably plow through a few paragraphs wrought with hi jinks and hilarity with little effort on my part. Stay tuned.

Trailer for Field of Dreams

Trailer for Steel Magnolias

Trailer for Dying Young

Trailer for The Wizard of Oz

Trailer for Citizen Kane

Trailer for Night at the Museum, Battle of the Smithsonian

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Who's the "Sucker" Here?

I mentioned in earlier posts that I have been very interested in seeing the spaghetti western movie Duck You Sucker. I had seen A Fistful Of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good The Bad and The Ugly and really liked all of them. So when I found myself home alone for a few days I got a chance to see the lesser known Duck You Sucker I was really excited! I mean, it was the same director (Sergio Leone) as those other movies so it had to be good... right? Armed with Dr Pepper and Moon Pies (1:23) I settled in for the show.

It's about a Mexican Highwayman and his family of stagecoach robbers and how they join up with an ex-Irish Republican Army explosives expert to rob a big bank in a town taken over by the Mexican Army. Juan (Rod Steiger) is the patriarch of the band of robbers and wastes no time becoming unappealing to the audience. Sure, the movie tries to inject a reason for sympathy for Juan in a flashback scene but it pretty much falls flat. And it was kind of gross in a mastication close-up sort of way.

Before too long John (James Coburn) shows up on a motorcycle. Now as disappointing as a motorcycle is in a Western movie, it wasn't nearly as "meh" inspiring as the cool-guy act John puts on during his introduction to Juan and his "merry men". There is a point, albeit brief, that it seems the movie will start to take itself less seriously and become sort of a tongue-in-cheek Western/Comedy but that was just a tease. After it dipped it's toes in the humor pool it veered as far away from The Apple Dumpling Gang as a movie can go. Wait, that's not fair. The humor it flirted with was less The Apple Dumpling Gang than Rustler's Rhapsody but it did use a little of 1960's Disney animation overlay on live action. Confused? I was too.

John wasn't safe from the cheesecloth-intensive flashbacks either. This poor guy must have had people staring at him in confusion all the time as he often stared off into the distance, lost in an Irish memory of his Ireland days in the Irish IRA involving an unidentified Irish woman and an unidentified Irish man who don't say very much but are Irish. As if that wasn't irritating enough, those flashbacks are accompanied by a mysterious soundtrack with a female voice singing "shom-shom", or something. These flashbacks, by the way do nothing to distract from the fact that John's Irish accent comes and goes without warning.

The two heroes (anti-heroes?) finally get together and set up a plan to rob the bank of Juan's dreams but plot complications make short work of that idea. They become heroes of the Mexican Revolution! The problem is, the movie never really decides what it wants it's identity to be. Is it a buddy movie, an action movie, a comedy? If the decision was made, they didn't bother telling the audience. As I mentioned before Juan and John are aggressively unappealing as heroes and equally lousy as anti-heroes.

I could be wrong but it looks as though the end of the movie tries it's hand at a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid conclusion but it seemed strained at best. *SIGH* I really wanted to like this movie.


If it comes on the TV on a Sunday afternoon you don't have to change the channel but don't stop vacuuming the floor or whatever else you're doing because of it.

Trailer for Duck You Sucker

Trailer for A Fistful of Dollars

Trailer for For A Few Dollars More

Trailer for The Good The Bad and The Ugly

Trailer for The Apple Dumpling Gang

Clip from Rustler's Rhapsody

Trailer for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dog Day mid-Afternoon

I really don't remember if it was during the kid's Spring Break or Summer of '08 that we saw Beverly Hills Chihuahua in our trusty dollar cinema. It was unclear, a blur, a haze. Like an overripe peach in a blender. We hadn't seen a movie in a while and with good reason. The pickings were slim. As evidenced by our ending up in a Disney talking-dog movie.

Now please don't get me wrong. I have nothing against Disney, nor do I make it a point to avoid talking-dog movies. My youngest son happens to really like Snow Buddies which is a delightful adventure invol... no it's not. It's a kids movie that uses as many catch phrases as it possibly can in hopes of staying "current". Again, there's nothing wrong with that. There's an audience for that. I'm just not included in that audience, which is fine. Wow, that sounds cynical.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua uses the same formula. Cram as many catch phrases in the movie as possible and pass them off as jokes. Throw in a few worn out colloquialisms in hope that people have either forgotten about them or still haven't heard them yet. This formula is framed around a chihuahua named Chloe (Drew Barrymore) who is the pet of a very rich woman "Vivian" (Jaime Lee Curtis) who treats Chloe like a spoiled child. The Mexican gardener "Sam" who is apparently a confidant of Vivian. Hmm. Gardener, rich woman in large house... Nah.

Anyway Sam has a dog "Papi" who is also a chihuahua that he takes with him to his gardening duties for some reason. Papi falls for Chloe and is determined to impress her but Chloe is having none of it. Throw in other spoiled dog friends of Chloe (who seem to be as fond of dog clothing as Chloe and Vivian) to be the smack talking comedy relief of Beverly Hills petdom.

Vivian is called away on something or other probably involving whatever business she's in. I don't remember if it was mentioned. So she leaves her niece "Rachel" to take good care of Chloe and everything works out just fine and the movie ends. HAH! Thought you were going to get off easy did you? Nope. The self-centered niece takes off with her friends to Mexico and takes the self-centered dog with them. Dog gets lost. Ensuing plot complications lead us to a heroic-tragic German Shepherd named Delgado, a rat and iguana that fill our R2D2 and C3P0 requirement, and some diamond thieves that fill out our villain quota nicely. Our villains even get an evil dog with witch to interact with our heroes.

It's a Kids, Buddy, Comedy, Road-movie to Mexico. It really succeeds as a kids movie if nothing else. I remember talking with my neighbor as we exited the movie with our kids and agreeing that it was well worth the $1.50 for the ticket. But not much more.

*UPDATE* 3:21pm 7/30/09
It has been brought to my attention that the trailer (below) for Bevery Hills Chihuahua can be confusing if you don't speak German. If that is indeed an issue for you then please follow this link to see the trailer in English.

Trailer for Beverly Hills Chihuahua

Trailer for Snow Buddies

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Results are In, dadgummit

The people have spoken. All four readers of our little Cow Town Movie Blog have had their voice heard and even though there is no clear majority...

I vow, by the end of July, there will be a review of Drew Barrymore's magnum opus, Beverly Hills Chihuahua. I will do this not because it will be easy, but because it will be hard!

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go psych myself up for this.


Friday, July 10, 2009

The X-Files... For Kids!

The usual suspects and I were not able to see Monsters Vs. Aliens during it's first run in the theaters so they were quite interested to find out that it had made it's way to the dollar cinema a week or two ago. Which, of course falls right into my plans BWAHAHAHAHA!

Ahem... please excuse me.

Far be it for me to deny my children a first-run movie simply because my blog deals (on occasion) with dollar movies, and would somewhat legitimize my writing about it here. Anyway, we met the neighbors there and for reasons I'd probably discover if I paid attention to that sort of thing, the tickets were back down to $1. from the $1.50 they seem to be charging there now. I decided not to complain.

Monsters vs. Aliens is, on the surface, about a group of monsters that have been hidden from society in a top-secret underground (presumably) facility for the last 40 some-odd years. When a one-eyed UFO crashed down to Earth they are called upon to save it as nothing else seems to have any effect on the gigantic egg-shaped robot, thingy. The underlying theme of the movie is that the soon-to-be newlywed Susan is hit by a meteor on her wedding day and grows into the 50 Foot Woman. It explores how she deals with becoming a "monster". I was pleasantly surprised at this turn of events because it's an uncommon direction for a kid/buddy movie to turn.

The voice for Susan is played by Reese Witherspoon who does a wonderful job adding her voice to this flick. In my opinion she really should stick to voice acting as a primary source of income. I only say this after her aggressively average performances in which she has to both speak and act in the live action movies I've seen her in. Drew Barrymore should also take a hint from Witherspoon on this front. Granted, Beverly Hills Chihuahua is no Monsters vs. Aliens but Drew is a much more convincing chihuahua than she is a person when it comes to acting. I'll re-live said chihuahua movie here if you really want me to. Maybe if I can figure out how to place a poll on this blog then you can make your voice heard about voice-actors in dog movies.

The other monsters are a The Blob character named Bob (Seth Rogen), a Creature from the Black Lagoon type monster named the Missing Link (Will Arnett) I think they could have done more with this character but what do I know, and Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie) who has a giant cockroach head on a human body from an experiment reminiscent of The Fly. People now seem to associate Hugh Laurie with the TV show House but I've never watched it so I always equate him with the buffoonish Hugh from the BBC Blackadder series. Much funnier than a cranky doctor if you ask me. There was also a nod to the Japanese giant monster movies with an enormous (apparently) baby caterpillar that is Mothra, or something.

The General that is in charge of the monsters is W.R. Monger who is played quite well by Kiefer Sutherland and is eventually portrayed as a good guy despite his name. I know! Modern day Hollywood made a military figure into a good guy! Will wonders never cease? The character of the president is played by Stephen Colbert who is only a bumbling fool in about half of his scenes but he does get to show off his mad piano skillz. The alien is played by some guy I never heard of but fills the generic alien badguy role just fine. That is if you consistently apply the "when in doubt give the bad guy a British accent" rule. Susan's TV news reporter fiance' is also played by some guy I never heard of but fills the generic-but-all-too-accurate role of self centered, arrogant, aloof, empty suit of a TV reporter adequately.

This is a really good kids, buddy, action, comedy if you like that kind of thing. We'll probably get in on DVD when it comes out.

Trailer for Monsters vs. Aliens

Trailer for Beverly Hills Chihuahua

Trailer for The Fly

Trailer for The Creature from the Black Lagoon

Trailer for The Blob

Trailer for Attack of the 50 foot Woman

Trailer for Mothra

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Little Donnie Cotton Tail

Weird movies are not normally my cup of tea. That being said I do occasionally appreciate a good one. When discussing "good" weird movies I do have a very specific set of parameters that I will get into. Donnie Darko qualifies.

Poor Donnie is a mess. He's a teenager in suburbia that occasionally finds himself waking up in strange places around the neighborhood. His parents have put him in therapy but it doesn't seem to be working. His home life is unremarkable, in that he's in a loving family without too many unusual stresses other than normal teenage angst. The problem is that Donnie's angst proves to be a little more complicated. One night he hears a strange voice telling him to come outside. Once outside he meets up with a strange "person" in a horrific bunny costume telling him exactly when the world is going to end. That same night an airplane engine crashes into Donnie's room and no one (government or otherwise) seems to know where it came from. Donnie is spared because he's outside talking to a giant rabbit (Frank).

Now in many cases this would be more disturbing than a beach volleyball scene in a 1980's Naval Aviation movie. In this movie, things are just getting warmed up.

The next day he meets the new girl (Gretchen) in school and despite his clumsy fumblings with the English language, they hit it off. As the movie progresses Donnie starts to realize things happening around him are happening for a reason but the disjointedness of the movie only offers hints as to what they are. It also keeps distracting the audience with Drew Barrymore's bewildering attempt at acting. Not to mention (even more frustrating) Patrick Swayze who kicks exactly no one in the ear and cleans up ZERO roadhouses in the movie, much to my dismay. A sad waste of Swayzian Justice if you ask me.

The ending leaves itself open to multiple interpretation (and it has been) but the real value of this film comes during a scene where Donnie and his buddies are having a serious discussion regarding the anthropology of Smurfs and the impact of Smurfette on their (Smurf's) society. It's a heady topic to be sure but Donnie explains it in a way that gives proof to the importance of paying attention while watching Saturday morning cartoons.

I mentioned earlier about having qualifiers for disturbing movies. I'd like to explain that here. To me disturbing movies are first separated into two types. The "Disturbing for the sake of being disturbing" type, and the "Disturbing to shock all those middle America hicks" type. In my opinion, making a disturbing movie for the sake of itself is honorable. The other kind is just for shock value and is in my opinion being dishonest and more than a little smug. Both kinds I usually rank on a scale of one to ten. One to five is increasing levels of strange, six to ten are disturbing to the point that they are no longer watchable in my opinion.

Here is a sample list of the Honorable List of Disturbing movies, this is by no means unalterable.

1. Time Bandits / Baron Munchhausen (tie)

2. Repo Man

3. A Clockwork Orange

4. Pink Floyd's The Wall

5. Donnie Darko

6. 1984 (arguable tie for 5th)

7. Jacob's Ladder

8. After Hours

9. Brazil

10. Eraserhead

You might notice that these are not horror movies. That's not my intent at all when it comes to disturbing movies. Often those are nothing but shock value shlock. I'm going for more of a Twilight Zone/ X-Files class of discomfort rather than gore.

Some of the movies that fall into my disingenuous "Shock The Man" type of drivel are: (All unwatchable)

Naked Lunch
Jonnie Got His Gun
Natural Born Killers
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

I'm sure there are plenty more but I've decided not to waste my time with them since the producers have decided they are better than me.

In summation, Donnie Darko is worth your time.

p.s.- Manos, The Hands of Fate is a disturbing movie that deserves Honorable Mention status in the unintentionally funny category.

Donnie Darko Trailer

'80s Naval Aviation movie Trailer

Manos, The Hands Of Fate Trailer

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Time To Tell About Meatballs

June always makes me think of summer camp. I was lucky enough to spend many of my summers at a camp when I was little due to the fact that my mother was a camp nurse for a few years. Those great memories all came flooding back when I saw Meatballs the other day. This movie was a chance for Bill Murray to just be goofy, and that's a good thing.

Meatballs is a summer camp comedy wherein a bunch of stuff just happens without having the burden of an actual plot to drag it down. This is a movie about nothing years before there was ever a show about nothing. Tripper (Bill Murray) is the head councillor of a bunch of CITs (Councillors In Training) at Camp North Star in a piney-woods part of the country. There are a few stereotypes: The nerdy guy, the fat guy, the pretty girl, and the stuck-up guy, but the rest of the CITs are mostly just average joes. Though most of the camp staff get a few scenes to themselves, it's really centered on Tripper and his love-interest, Roxanne. But that can be misleading because the movie still isn't about them. Confused? Relax, the key is not to over think this one.

The fun part comes as the movie develops and anyone who's ever been involved in any kind of youth program starts to see something interesting happen. Meatballs was released in 1979 (or 80) so it came before a movement that became all consuming by about 1985, Youth Protection Training. Youth Protection Training (YPT) is designed to teach camp and youth program staff and volunteers how to identify, prevent, avoid, and respond appropriately to any kind of child abuse, endangerment, or neglect. Around '79 this was probably still a bewildering notion to the youth summer camp crowd. I didn't notice it in the movie either until I'd been through the training a few times. So I thought I'd do a little experiment.

Notepad in hand I started a tally, here's what I came up with:

One Adult/One Minor out of sight of others: 6 times

One Adult/Multiple Minors (not "2 deep" leadership): 2 times

Inappropriate Dress (youth and adults without shirts): 3 times

Cursing in front of Minors (including CITs): 5 times

Safety (un-inspected bus): 1 incident

Sexual Harassment: 2 incidents

Tasteless Joke (in front of minors): 1 incident

Alcohol on camp: 2 times

Does this stuff sound nit-picky? Some of it probably does. As I said it never occurred to staff or campers to watch out for this stuff before the big YPT push. But a few bad incidents are all it takes to make this a national issue. If Meatballs were a current movie and did the things that happened on screen, they'd probably be the bad guys or end up going to jail or at least get fired for what was just normal behavior at the time.

Now don't get me wrong, I think the movie is great and should be taken with a grain of salt. No kids were harmed nor were they meant to be. It's just a goofball movie that doesn't really go anywhere and doesn't have to to be entertaining. If you were ever on staff at a summer camp then you'll appreciate this movie even more. Enjoy.

P.S. Please don't confuse this with the Meatballs "franchise" made up of Meatballs 2, 3, and 4. Those movies were agressivly nitwitted and had nothing to do with the first one.

Meatballs Trailer

YPT Trailer

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Van Helsverine

The new X-Men/Wolverine movie recently released has inspired me to write about a movie I saw this week called Van Helsing. This is the kind of motion picture that inspires thoughts of "oh yeah, I think I remember something about not caring to see that movie." and you'd be one of untold millions that did the same. I figured there was more to it than that so I braved a viewing of the film.

It's about a comic-book-character-action-movie-character named Gabriel Van Helsing (Wolver... uh... Hugh Jackman) and his sidekick "Carl" who, it seems, is sort of a hierophant-in-training. Van Helsing and Carl are sent to Transylvania by their secret organization to kill Dracula. But before he gets to that there's a huge battle scene with him against some harpy-type vampires in a snowy little hamlet. These brides of Dracula put up a real fight and give Wolverine all he can handle. The problem was that his super-cool silver bolt shootin' crossbow didn't seem to do diddly squat to these vampires. He must've shot a hundred bolts into them but nothing doing. Now I'm no craftsman (someday... someday...) but these shiny silver crossbow bolts didn't look cheap and he was going through them like a teenager goes through a paycheck. I know, I know, it was just a movie, but it's not like he could go to the local Carter's Country to pick up some extra silver vampire hunting crossbow ammo (which I think are on sale there this week). The scenery looked very familiar and it was very distracting throughout the lengthy fight scene but then it finally hit me. If you've ever played the PC game Diablo II then you know exactly what the movie felt and looked like.

Now I didn't even pay much attention to the previews when this movie came out (2004, I think) so just about every part of the movie was new to me. That being said, with every monster introduced it built layer upon layer of CGI goodness. In addition to Dracula, the brides of Dracula, there was also Igor, Frankenstein's Monster, and the Werewolf. Imagine my disappointment when the Mummy failed to show up. Really, I meant that seriously.

Now Dracula is trying to bring the "Children of Dracula" to life. Because he's undead, see, and so his kids aren't born alive but they're not really dead in any real sense of the word either. Still with me? So he uses Dr. Frankenstein's old Monster Makin' Machine which fills an entire turret of a castle, well, you've probably seen the old black-and-white movie with the flashing lights, electricity, huge pipes, hoses, etc. By today's standards it could probably be run from a laptop. It works but the li'l monsters only live for a little while because of something to do with Frankenstein's Monster and he's in hiding.

So anyway we have Dracula-as-mad scientist, lots of medieval type fighting, sparsely distributed comic relief (via Carl), a tiny hint of mystery, a little self sacrifice, and one monster who turns out to be an alright kinda guy.

I think a lot of people had a problem with this movie because they didn't put it in it's proper perspective. It was a comic book after all. If people view it as a live-action comic book then it's a perfectly acceptable waste of an hour and a half. If you look at it like an action-adventure fantasy movie then you're in for some disappointment. People had the same problem with the Michael Keaton Batman movie in my opinion. I'm guessing the same applies to the Watchmen movie but I haven't seen it yet.

Van Helsing Trailer

Batman Trailer

Watchmen Trailer

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Donnie Scissorhands

Our local half price bookstore has a large collection of used dvds. For a while I have been looking for a copy of Duck You Sucker a.k.a A Fistfull of Dynamite. Not to be confused with I'm Gonna Git You Sucka which is a riot. Duck You Sucker is a spaghetti western in the theme of The Good The Bad and The Ugly. Except it doesn't star Clint Eastwood and wants us to believe James Coburn is a good alternate hero/anti-hero. It did however merit a dub in the Big Audio Dynamite song 'Medicine Show' which I highly recommend. Seeing as how it wasn't as popular a movie as the previous "Man With No Name" movies, it's not common in the used section of the half price bookstore. I did see it at Sam's Wholesale once but didn't get it and I've kicked myself ever since. That being the case I want to see it, partly because it still eludes me.

What I did find was a copy of Donnie Brasco which is a movie I've been wanting to see for some time now. I think the main reason I've avoided it for so long was that it starred the oily Johnny Depp and I haven't cared to see him in anything since 21 Jump Street. Even then it was because I was avoiding homework from High School. Like 21 Jump Street, Johnny Depp plays an undercover cop but this time he's working for the FBI and not in a team of baby-faced cops infiltrating high-school drug rings. This is also based on a true story of Joe Pistone and his undercover work with the Bonanno crime family in New York. The movie didn't tell you that much background info however.

No, this movie was more concerned with 'mobspeak'. The Director, Mike Newell (who should be ashamed of himself) decided that he would use Al Pacino "Lefty" as a visual dictionary delivery system of how "Wiseguys" talk. We learn what Wiseguys do and don't do and what those do's and don'ts are called. Thankfully this fades out after about the first thirty minutes or so. Johnny Depp who is playing Joe Pistone who is undercover as Donnie Brasco (with me so far?) starts the movie with a moustache. I don't remember this from the book but that may be because the director wanted to keep us from picturing Pistone as a baby-faced cop infiltrating a high-school drug ring. It didn't work.

I'd like to spend some time here on the music chosen for the movie as it was as out of place as the wardrobe. The movie was set in the late '70s but much of the attire (swimsuits for example) were lodged firmly in the '50s. The soundtrack on the other hand, constantly encouraged me to expect Hardcastle, McCormick, Cagney, or Lacy to come running around the corner with guns drawn in true 1980s detective show fashion.

The movie braids itself with the three worlds of Mobster Brasco, Husband Pistone, and FBI Pistone. The family angst that Pistone went through seems to be pretty accurate but the filmmaker (Newell) seems to have felt the need to spice up the FBI and Mobster personas. There was a scene wherein the FBI was "hasslin'" Pistone to do it their way or the highway! Hmm. I guess that line doesn't work very well in the second person. On the mobster side there was a scene in which the "crew" to which Brasco was attached had to dismember the "capo" of another crew after a shotgun-intensive misunderstanding. There was also a scene in which two younger FBI agents discussed mobster terminology with Pistone that enabled him to become the new mobspeak delivery system (CURSE YOU MIKE NEWELL!) and it only made me want to scratch my eyes out a little.

I don't remember those events happening in the book. To be fair it does take me quite some time to read books and I could have missed it. I've been slowly wading through my 1975 copy of Black Mafia for quite some time now. Don't worry, when it becomes a major motion picture that slips through the theaters and lands gracelessly in the dollar cinema, you'll see it here.

By the end of the movie Pacino was just "mailing it in" by the way he was telegraphing the next thing(s) his character was going to do minutes before he did them. I would liken this to his other instance of shaking the money tree with Godfather Part III, but I deny that movie's existence. Highlander II doesn't exist either, in case you were wondering.

Trailer for Donnie Brasco
Trailer for I'm Gonna Git You Sucka
Trailer for Duck You Sucker

Monday, April 6, 2009

Oscar Bound!

Looking at the headlines of entertainment news this morning revealed the following to me:

Bon Jovi documentary to rock Tribeca Film Festival
By Steven Zeitchik Steven Zeitchik Mon Apr 6, 1:35 am ET
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Tribeca is giving itself a shot to the heart. blah, blah, blah.


"Fast & Furious" speeds to No. 1 worldwide
Sun Apr 5, 2:38 pm ET
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – "Fast & Furious," the fourth film in Universal Pictures' hot-rodding franchise, raced to the top spot at the worldwide box office as movie fans with a need for speed snapped up an estimated $102.6 million worth of tickets, the studio said on Sunday. blah, blah, blah.

Those of you who doubt that Hollywood can continue to propel it's audience to and excited tizzy need look no further than the originality and depth provided by these two titles. Either that or it proves Hollywood never really liked it's audience after all.

p.s.-the "blah, blah, blah." was all me.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Which Mountain?

Sunday the 22nd was the last day of Spring Break for us so as a family we decided to go see Race to Witch Mountain. I know, I can hear you saying “Richard saw a first run movie?!?” Astounding as it is that I paid more than $1. to see a movie in a theater, it’s true.

As we mentioned it to the kiddos earlier in the day I kept wanting to call it Escape to Witch Mountain but was constantly corrected by either "Larry" or "Moe" that it was Race to Witch Mountain. "Curly" was just happy we were going to see a movie. I had never seen the ‘70s version of the movie and all I knew about it was that it starred Eddie Albert as the curmudgeonly old something-or-other that helps a couple of kids that happen to be aliens and ends up learning the true meaning of Christmas… wait… no that was something else. But it did have Eddie Albert in it so the curmudgeonly part is still intact.

Anyway this got me wondering if it was a series of books or movies and each one just represented another chapter in the epic tale that is Witch Mountain! Turns out I was wrong again and they just changed the name for the ’09 version. Just lazy if you ask me.

Our movie opens with a UFO crash in the desert outside Las Vegas and a whole bunch of military types scrambling to find it, neutralize it, and hush it up. Because that's what the military does with all of the UFOs that crash land here. Just ask Art Bell. Now we move on to the lovable loser that is "The Rock" or whatever he's calling himself nowadays. He's a recovering mobster "wheelman" just trying to go legit by driving a cab. The problem is there are two generic mobsters who (quite ineffectively) try to convince him to return to his old criminal ways. Enter two Aryan teenagers who suddenly appear in his cab and refuse to use conjunctions. Their goal is to get to a secret alien underground hideaway, get some alien gadget, and fly back to their planet. The problem is that the government "stole" thier flying saucer.

If one looks at it from a legal standpoint it's more like the government merely towed an abandoned crashed vehicle to a top secret impound lot. However I'm sure Adler & O'Conner (the Tough-Smart Lawyers) would argue differently in a court of law.

From here on in there's a lot of car chases, helecopter chases, jocularity about what humans are like, tough love, environmental disaster, blah blah blah. Oh, mix in one sci-fi convention to hide the "alien assassin" that is chasing them in addition to the clueless mobsters and eeeevil government operatives. Speaking of eeeevil government operatives, they get to throw in a line about the Patriot Act just to show how eeeeeeevil they truly are. Ah, Hollywood.

I guess I forgot to mention the love interest that was foreshadowed earlier in the movie and tags along after the Sci-fi Convention but to me the movie was dragging a safe from that point on so it hardly seemed necessary to highlight her role.

Rating: C-
My rating of the film is based upon the post-movie comments my children had about it. On the way home their conversation revolved around cheese and crackers.

Race to Witch Mountain trailer
Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) ending

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Feet of Clay

My very first "official" movie review was sent to a few friends on March 14th 2007. Ah, those were the days.

Yesterday afternoon was buy one get one free day at the local $1.50 cinema so we decided to see Happy Feet. Hoss might remember it as the $1.00 cinema in which we saw Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. (We must have been really bored) I also had a coupon for a free 46oz popcorn so we were really "stickin' it to the Man".

Anyway I hadn't heard much about the movie but I kind of expected it to be a message movie of some sort or another. Hoo Boy! Was that ever an understatement. Robin Williams had about three or four voices in the movie and despite his personal hairiness, he was mildly amusing in at least one of his roles.

As the story developed the preachy central themes seemed to be:

1. Man is overfishing the oceans and starving the penguins
2. religion is based on misinformation

And if you weren't on board with either then... well... you're just a knuckle draggin' moron! At least according to the movie creators (who are better than we are).

My favorite line came in what must have been the last 5 or 10 minutes of the film. The main character/penguin had been tagged by humans so as to lead the scientists back to the penguin colony that has an affinity for the performing arts. Video is captured of the penguins in a 1940's-esque massive Hollywood dance number and the scene is then cut to what looks like a control room of some sort with the dancing penguins video being played in the background. The humans watching seem to be in a panic as to what to make of this discovery and one amazingly concludes "We must put an immediate hold on all ocean harvesting."

Hmm. Now to be fair I was taking my nephew out of the theater to go to the bathroom at the time of this quote so I do not know if that particular "scientist" was laughed out of the room, but somehow I doubt it. Even though movies are built on the suspension of disbelief, I found it more feasible that an emperor penguin could dance than discerning that Man should stop fishing because of a thousand dancing penguins. Just what neurons need to fire and in what order to make that correlation?!

On a positive note the computer animation was brilliant and they did have one good scene in which the main female penguin did justice to a little known song by Queen.

p.s.- the "46oz" popcorn was in a 46 fl.oz. bag so there was actually only about 1 oz. of popcorn in it. However there was free re-fills on the large drinks.

Happy Feet trailer, if you dare.
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey trailer.

Doomed From The Start

This was the first review I e-mailed of a movie that I did not see in a theater it was on September 30, 2008. I tell ya, I'm multi-faceted.

Saturday night I wasn't feeling very good at all. I think it had something to do with the hamburger grilled at the park in a friend-related picnic incident. Anyway I forced my way through getting kids dinner and getting them ready for bed as my head was swimming. After they finally went to bed I lay down and turned the TV on hoping for something watchable through my delirium. Conversation with a grown-up was out, as my wife had not yet returned from her trip to see her sister and family. Sadly, the best choices available were Doom and Health Inspector with Larry the Cable Guy. I grudgingly hit 'record' for both movies and started to watch Doom against my better judgment to simply put in The Godfather dvd to watch for the 743rd time. I decided to save Health Inspector for later but promised myself I'd actually watch it out of respect for Larry TCG's stand-up comedy expertise.

Doom is based on the popular computer game from a few years ago wherein Marines are sent to a Mars-based colony to rid it of zombies, various other monsters, and finally, demons. It has/had great scenery, visual effects, suspenseful noises, lots of cool guns, and events that jump out at you from all directions. The movie was a little different.

Doom, the movie, does indeed go to Mars but with a squad of marines made up of the typical stereotypes. They were The Commander, The Burly-but-Kind-Hearted Black Guy (usually the second to die in these types of movies), The Kid, The Slimy Jerk (you know that he's goin' down even if everyone else lives), The Reluctant Hero, and various other "filler" marines who may as well be wearing red Star Trek shirts. Surprisingly there was no Tough Female Marine-Who-Always-Has-To-Prove-Herself. I suppose this role was filled by the Smart-But-Uncommonly-Beautiful-Super-Intelligent-Scientist. Believe me when I say names are unimportant.

The movie may have had fantastic Mars vistas, but suspense was at a minimum, gunfire was common but the variety of guns promised didn't happen. Monsters in the game were many and varied, not so in the movie. Well... hold on a second, I may simply be too hasty in my judgment of what was or wasn't in this movie. Because you see, Doom made the bold move of not showing the audience what is going on, on screen. Aside from the occasional half-lit face, dim computer screen, or multiple flash of gunfire, the audience simply cannot see what is happening due to the welding mask that must have been placed over the camera lens.

Was this a bad movie? You betcha! I haven't wanted my hour and a half back this much since I made the mistake of using free movie tickets (won on a radio call-in contest) to see a similarly titled but in no way related Doom Generation back in the early 1990s. I think it was the only movie I ever walked out of. MAN was that a stinker! I actually considered asking for my money back and I didn't even pay for the ticket.

p.s.- The Larry The Cable Guy movie was exactly what you'd expect it to be so if you like that sort of thing, have at it.

Here's the Doom Trailer if you don't believe me.
Health Inspector trailer.
The Godfather trailer.
I refuse to link the Doom Generation trailer.

Alias Smith and Smith

This was the second review I gleaned from satellite TV on November 19, 2008. I think you'll find to was more an act of therapy than interest that made me watch it.

Tuesday night I saw that the Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie "look-how-attractive-we-are" movie known as Mr. & Mrs. Smith was on. It was too busy an evening to watch and I really didn't want to put forth the effort to see it anyway.


Much like reruns of Law and Order, I won't seek them out or look for them on the guide but will usually end up watching them if they're on. The Pitt/Jolie movie was like that. I had no interest in seeing this movie, least of all Jolie's bee-stung lips but somehow it drew me in.

In case you haven't seen it, the movie is about the married couple of Mr. John Smith and Mrs. Jane Smith who are super secret super spies for the government but they don't work for the same government agency. But wait... it doesn't stop there, NEITHER of them knows that the other is also a spy! They both think the other is in the business world doing businessy things and make an enormous amount of money. As evidenced by their house.

John Smith (Pitt) works for an agency that has a low-key construction business as a cover. John is given superspy jobs by his secret spymaster as the hustle and bustle of the office goes on outside his door. It's all very archetypal. Of spy movies. Jane Smith (Jolie) on the other hand is in a high caliber, shiny, sky-scraper, office with secret slidey doors. Her shiny office is populated with super sexy all female spies with shiny desks, shiny lamps, and shiny computers. The boss, I don't know if his name was "Charlie", had the voice of the narrator for City Confidential, which I think is on the A&E channel. All very "Fox Force Five" if you ask me.

The plot complication comes with a misunderstanding that forces the couple not only to blow their cover to each other but also to try to kill one another. Keep in mind this is a romantic comedy. Or maybe it's an action comedy. Or maybe it's an action-romance with a little comedy thrown in... Ah, doesn't really matter.

The middle of the movie is all hide, seek, shootout, then fistfight. This carries over to the team up-against "them" last quarter of the movie. The action is good and the banter is surprisingly well done. There's even a sequence that shows the true value of a Dodge minivan. All you minivan haters out there could learn a thing or two from it. Anyway these two should really get together in real life.

One problem with Mr. and Mrs. Smith was that there were too many Deus Ex Machina moments for my liking. More than a few times I sez to myself, "myself" I sez, "Where did he/she get that gun/vehicle/high-tech device? It wasn't there in the last scene!" And why does she have a bandoleer on if her gun has a clip? Suspension of disbelief, my Aunt Fannie!

Nearing the end I found myself wondering just how they were going to end it because it was a real rock-and-hard-place situation. Apparently I wasn't alone because it looked like the creators of this flick didn't know either. The ending was cheesier than the closing minutes of a Mel Brooks movie.

Throw in a big goofy, wisecracking buddy for John, and make him that guy from Dodgeball and I'll give the movie a C+. They did, he was in the movie.

C+ (If your wife sends you to rent a movie you can feel comfortable getting this instead of something with "endearment", "waiting", "love", or "tourist" in the title.)

Mr. and Mrs. Smith Trailer.
Dodgeball trailer.

See No Evil

This is a previous review of mine but until I publish new material, here's a blast from the past: September 29, 2008

Seeing as how Hurricane Ike inspired our school district to tack on another week (ending today) to the "devistation holliday" the boys and I found ourselves in need of something to do before school started again. The local dollar cinema solved that problem for at least one afternoon.

We went to see Space Chimps because the family with whom we went had already seen Kung Fu Panda and I thought it polite not to ask them to see it again when there was another movie available. Being no fan of Jack Black, I didn't mind so much.

Space Chimps is about astronaut-trained chimpanzees called into duty generations after the first monkey was sent into space. They were chosen because the worm-hole found in space near the moon would be too dangerous to use humans to venture into it. For some reason (which I forget) they decide to use the grandson of the first monkey sent into space as one of the astronauts. That one is currently working as a circus cannonball act and is happy where he is and doesn't really want to go into space.

From this point on the plot complications are predictable to the point where I found myself wondering about the writers of this movie. I wondered if at the writing sessions they simply went around the table and said "write down the FIRST idea you have for the next scene of this movie and that's what we'll use."

Now throw in three NASA-esque scientists taking turns giving straight lines to one another and a grumpy Congressman threatening to cut off funding as soon as the next thing goes wrong and voila! You have a computer animated children's monkey movie.

Was this a bad movie? No. It kept moving and didn't promise much to begin with. At one point it looked like it was about to get preachy but thought better of itself and backed off nicely. Thus instantly giving it a better rating than Happy Feet but then I'd give Once Bitten a better rating than Happy Feet ... wait, maybe that's going too far... well you get the idea. The NASA scientists were kind of funny in their own deadpan way. it was worth the $1.50 ticket price for me and my chillin's.

Space Chimps Trailer.
Once Bitten trailer.