Monday, February 26, 2007

Episode 18

The Number 23 - Jim Carrey plays Walter Sparrow, a devoted husband and father who holds down a job as a dog catcher. When he is bitten by a dog while on the job, he finds himself late to a meeting with his wife Agatha (Virginia Madsen). As she waits for her husband to arrive, Agatha peruses a used book store, coming across a book called The Number 23. After she purchases it for Walter, he begins reading it to find that the story of Detective Fingerling that is told within closely mirrors his own life. Before long Walter becomes obsessed with the likenesses between himself and the fictional gumshoe, but how similar will the two turn out to be when Fingerling becomes a murderer? The Number 23 is an incredibly intriguing movie with an incredibly intriguing concept. I was immediately interested in it after seeing the trailer some time ago. Once you see the obsession that Jim Carrey's character develops you instinctively want to know where it will lead him. Inasmuch, The Number 23 is a mystery. There is a distinct supernatural feeling given off by the film because of the incredible coincidences that it displays for the audience to take in. You may even find yourself wondering if there is in fact some kind of otherworldly property to the numerical value after which the movie is named. Because of all the incredible questions that are posed in the first half of the film, the second half had a very difficult task to achieve: make the ends worth the means. In other words, with all that build up, the climax really had to deliver. In my opinion, however, it didn't. I don't want to give away the ending, so I honestly can't explain here why I was disappointed by the ending of the film other than to say just that. I thought the ending was disappointing. However, the road it took to get there was quite entertaining. In this way, The Number 23 is much like the movie Godsend which I reviewed a few days ago. However, unlike Godsend, which had me coming up with great endings in my own head during the course of the film, as The Number 23 drew to a close I simply found myself hoping that it wouldn't end the way I had a feeling it might.

Wedding Crashers - Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn play John Beckwith and Jeremy Gray, a pair of men who have made a full time occupation out of being womanizers. Their method involves sneaking into weddings under the guise of being friends of someone else attending, and proceeding to flirt with every attractive girl on the premises. They seduce their prey, have their way with them, and then go back to their lives the following day. This plan comes through for them every single time until they attend the wedding of one of Treasury Secretary William (Christopher Walken) Cleary's three daughters, and each end up somehow attached to one of the other two. John is stricken with love at first sight for Claire (Rachel McAdams), and Jeremy makes the mistake of having sex with her extremely clingy younger sister Gloria (Isla Fisher). As such, the devious pair is whisked away for a weekend at the dysfunctional Cleary family's vacation home where comedy ensues. Take away the opening of this movie and it could have really been called anything. I got the feeling that the writer(s) came up with some good raunchy jokes and sat around drinking beer until they had come up with a way to put them all in a movie script. Wedding Crashers is a fairly dumb film, but it certainly has it's moments of humor. Particularly of interest to me were the football and family dinner scenes where Vince Vaughn stole the show. He essentially plays the comic relief to Owen Wilson's "sex craving bachelor who suddenly develops a heart when he meets the right girl, but has to fight for her because he and his friend are idiots" role. The cameo appearance by Will Ferrell near the movie's climax was one of the funniest additions to the film, somewhat making up for the waste of Christopher Walken's talent. Overall, I can't say I enjoyed Wedding Crashers any more than I've ever enjoyed any Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, or other Will Ferrell comedy flick with a throwaway plot that did nothing but set up jokes.

The 40 Year-Old Virgin - Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) is an employee at a fictional Best Buy-esque electronics store. He collects action figures, plays a lot of video games, rides a bike instead of driving a car, and is very awkward around women. Also, if you couldn't tell by the title, he is fourty years old and has never had sex. By this point in his life, he's essentially given up on trying to find the right girl for him. However, when his co-workers at the electronics store find out his secret, they aren't so quick to throw in the towel. Jay (Paul Rudd), David (Romany Malco) and Cal (Seth Rogan) take Andy's manhood into their own hands to try and get him laid. Meanwhile, Andy has met a woman named Trish (Catherine Keener) with whom he has started a relationship. Trish is a divorcee with two daughters who finds it a bit odd that Andy is actually willing to wait to have sex, but before long she begins to expect that there may be something wrong. Usually there are two or three comedies a year that people will argue over as to which is the best of the group. In 2004 they were Dodgeball and Anchorman. In 2005 they were Wedding Crashers and The 40 Year-Old Virgin. In this case I think that I liked The 40 Year-Old Virgin just a little more than Wedding Crashers (as I didn't really care for either all that much). 40 Year Old Virgin had a fairly original concept. Like most comedies of this type it's plot was essentially just a vessel through which it could cram as many dirty jokes down audience's throats as possible, but I think Virgin had a bit more going for it than most. I had initially thought that a movie entirely revolving around making fun of virgins would become very old very fast, but as it turns out, the originality of the concept made the jokes last a bit longer than they probably should have. Also, the supporting cast of Carell's co-workers provided a good deal of entertainment. The 40 Year-Old Virgin didn't rely on surprise guest appearances that were sure to get laughs just for being onscreen like Will Ferrell or Chuck Norris, but instead stuck to it's guns and just told the (ridiculous) story that it set out to tell. Still not one of my favorite films, but not bad as far as dick and fart jokes go.

Cry Wolf - Owen (Julian Morris) is a new student at an upscale boarding school after his father (Gary Cole) pulled some strings to get him out of trouble and into a decent educational facility. The first person he meets on campus is fellow senior student Dodger (Lindy Booth). There is an instant connection between them, and as a result, she invites Owen to sneak out of his dorm that night to join a small group of students who play an interesting game at an abandoned church. The game begins by everyone closing their eyes except for one person who chooses someone randomly from the group and marks their chest with a marker. Everyone then opens their eyes, places twenty dollars in the center of the circle, and begins trying to discover the "wolf" (the person who has been marked) among the sheep. If you are accused by the majority of the group and are not marked, then you must go home and the game continues. If you are accused and turn out to be the wolf, whoever first accused you gets all the money. If you are the liar and you make it to the end of the game, you get to keep the cash for yourself. When a girl is killed in the forest near the school, the group decides to make the game more interesting by all becoming wolves and playing a game on the sheep, which are the entire student body at the school. Owen and company create a fake article about a fake serial killer that they dub "The Wolf" and send it via e-mail to everyone at the school. As time goes on, it begins to appear as though someone has taken on the mantle of the fictional serial killer, and now none of those responsible for the rumor know who to trust. To the best of my knowledge, Cry Wolf is widely regarded as a terrible horror film. I wasn't expecting much, myself, when I watched it. It turned out to be much better than I expected, though. Don't get me wrong, the acting was often horrible and it contained so many scary movie cliches that I wanted to punch something, but on a base level, the movie really wasn't that bad. The concept may sound a bit stupid, but it really does set up the main characters for a series of twists and turns that makes sure no one will guess who's behind the murders. In this way, the Cry Wolf was actually a bit refreshing for someone who has seen a lot of bad psycho killer movies. As I said, all the cliches and bad acting are present, but at least there is a genuinely original and moderately interesting plot.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Episode 17

The Departed - Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) is an Irish mob boss working out of Boston. As a child, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) began working for Costello. As time went by, Costello masterminded a plan to have Sullivan become a police officer so that the mob would have an inside man. Simultaneously, William Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) finished his training to become a state police officer. Sullivan, being the goody two-shoes that he (at least on the surface) is, worked his way quickly through the ranks of the Boston State Police Department to become a member of a special unit under the command of Captain Ellerby (Alec Baldwin). Costigan on the other hand is singled out by Oliver Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg), based on his troubled background, to go undercover in Costello's operation. Before long, Sullivan finds himself looking for the rat in the mob, and Costigan finds himself looking for the rat in the police department. All the while, no one can be trusted. The Departed was recommended to me by...well...everyone on the fucking planet, it seems like. I really had no interest in the movie to begin with, but I'll watch anything, and I had no reason to believe that it was a bad film. As it turns out, it is quite the opposite. A lot of people had the opinion that it had to be good no matter what because Martin Scorcese was behind it. Having only previously seen his films Bringing Out the Dead and Gangs of New York, I can't say that I had any real interest in his movies as a rule, but after seeing The Departed, it's very obvious that it was handled by a visually skilled individual. Perhaps more noteworthy than the directing, though, was the writing. We've all seen mob movies with cops working on the inside and vice-a-versa before, but William Monaghan gave the characters a very distinct realism that isn't always accomplished in films, especially those of this subject matter. I feel that I can tell fairly easily when watching a movie whether the creators actually gave a damn about providing movie-goers with a unique viewing experience, and The Departed certainly falls into this category. There was nothing about it that truly felt like it had been done before outside of the basic concept of having a mole the operation. Each actor did a spectacular job of personifying their particular role in a believable way, which must have been difficult considering some of the Boston accents they had to pull off. After several years of what I would call unimpressive roles, Jack Nicholson renews his status completely with the Departed, and Leonardo DiCaprio delivered a surprisingly good performance as well. The soundtrack was exceptional, employing well known songs that felt as though they belonged in the scenes in which they were used instead of just sprinkled about to sell CDs. Something that I found particularly interesting in The Departed was the major use of cell phones in the story. I've seen plenty of gangster movies before, but the use of cell phones essentially forming the backbone of the entire film felt like a really original addition to the genre. Also, the movie gave an odd feeling that it was an old school gangster film while still obviously being set in modern day. Something that I found interesting about The Departed was that the title scene didn't occur until almost nineteen minutes into the movie. When it happened, I'd completely forgotten that there hadn't been one yet. Of course, the movie is two an a half hours long, so it doesn't really occur as late as it sounds. By the time the movie is drawing to a close, there are so many twists and turns that you could conceivably succumb to motion sickness, and I doubt that anyone could see the ending coming. Do yourself a favor and watch The Departed as soon as you get the chance. It is definitely one of the best films of last year. However, just to piss people off, I still preferred Slither.

Dark Water - After divorcing her husband (Dougray Scott), Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly) moves to a new apartment with her daughter Ceci (Ariel Gade). The apartment is small and a bit run down, but it's all that Dhalia can afford, and she essentially just wants to prove to her ex-husband that she can support their daughter on her own. However, after moving in, Dhalia realizes that the apartment is even less desirable than she thought. There are constantly sounds coming from the apartment upstairs, the ceiling has a horrible leak, and the staff (essentially comprised of a single handyman played by Pete Postelthwaite) is...well...understaffed. Things really go downhill, though, when Dhalia begins seeing things and her daughter starts to act very strange. You know, I'm not really sure why I wanted to see Dark Water. I didn't like the manga upon which it is based, I had no real interest in the filmmakers, and frankly, I'm sick of these type of repetitive horror films. Maybe I just had hopes of Jennifer Connelly getting soaked. Whatever the reason, I'm glad that I saw Dark Water. I didn't find the plot particularly entertaining, but the cast was outstanding. Connelly pulled off the role of a desperate mother very well, but the supporting cast is really where the best performances of the film are located. Pete Postelthwaite was great in the role of the janitor. Of course, Postelthwaite is one of those actors who I don't think can deliver a bad performance. I've loved him in every movie I've seen him in from Romeo & Juliet and Alien 3 to James and the Giant Peach and...well...maybe not AEon Flux. Tim Roth throws down a great performance as well, as Dhalia's divorce lawyer Jeff Platzer. The real diamond in the rough, though, is John C. Reilly, who plays the landlord of Dhalia's new building. Reilly has an uncanny ability to be normal. It's almost like he isn't even acting. He's easily one of the mot believable character actors that I've ever seen. So when you really get right down to it, before seeing Dark Water you have to ask yourself if you're willing to sit through an admittedly slow, unrewarding film to catch a glimpse of some truly great performances. I can say that I'm glad that I saw the film, but I leave your own fate up to you on this matter.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Episode 16

Godsend - Paul (Greg Kinnear) and Jessie (Rebecca Romijn Stamos) Duncan were living a normal life in New York City until their son Adam (Cameron Bright) was killed in a tragic accident on the day after his eighth birthday. Enter Richard Wells (Robert DeNiro), a scientist specializing in genetic research who claims to have perfected a procedure that could be used to bring Adam back. After moving to a quiet little suburb away from the city, Richard and his staff at the Godsend Corporation impregnate Jessie with what they claim will be an exact genetic duplicate of their son. The procedure goes as planned, and the second Adam is born without complication, but after reaching his eighth birthday he begins to change. Godsend begins with the perfect setup for a really great science fiction film. There is a quote that I love from author Philip K. Dick that reads, "If it is good [science fiction] the idea is new, it is stimulating, and, probably most important of all, it sets off a chain-reaction of ramifications in the mind of the reader; it so-to-speak unlocks the reader's mind so that that mind, like the author's, begins to create." The quote continues on from there, but this perfectly describes how I felt when I began watching Godsend. Having a limited concept of what the movie was about, I began branching the events of the film off in my own mind, essentially creating my own version of the movie. Unfortunately, Godsend didn't quite live up to the made-up version of the film that I had in my head. I must have come up with a dozen different scenarios while watching the movie that I would have preferred to where it actually went. The acting was good for the most part. DeNiro, Kinnear, and even Romijn Stamos were all convincing and entertaining to watch. I don't think Bright really lived up to the challenge he was given, though. The character of Adam in the film had to portray some pretty intense emotions and psychological problems, but often throughout the movie I was unconvinced by his acting. As I quite liked the setup of the film, but felt that it fizzled out toward the end, I was excited to see that there were four different alternate endings on the DVD. However, after spending over half an hour watching them all I realized that in order to really save the movie there would have to be an alternate second half instead of just an alternate ending. If you do find yourself watching Godsend, I would recommend that you stop the film about ten minutes from the end and watch "Alternate Ending #3" in the Special Features, as it was the most gratifying. But that's not saying much. OR you could really do yourself a favor by watching up until about the first time that the name "Zachary" is mentioned, then turn it off and devise your own ending with your imagination. I guarantee you that it will be more rewarding than watching the second half of the actual film.

Cars - Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is the most promising up-and-coming race car around, and he's on his way to the top. With only a week left until the most important race of his life, a mishap places him in the middle of nowhere in a town called Radiator Springs. Being fairly full of himself and used to fast-paced city life, McQueen immediately feels out of place in Radiator Springs, which is inhabited a menagerie of odd, country bumpkin vehicles. Stuck in the town until he repairs Main Street, which he demolished while running from the police, Lightning slowly begins to realize that perhaps his priorities were in the wrong place. But will this change of heart have any effect on the big race that is getting closer by the minute? Upon seeing the teaser trailer for Cars a few years ago I was immediately put off by the fact that it was a movie about Nascar. I don't like sports at all, and even if I did I have a feeling that I still wouldn't like Nascar. However, after a while I realized that I had enjoyed each and every move that Pixar had put out, so I figured I'd give Cars a chance. I find it hard to name anything bad about this movie. The animation is beautiful, the voice acting was great, and the plot surprised me by not being nearly as dumb as I thought it would be. Normally I'm not a big fan of Owen Wilson, but for whatever reason I felt that he delivered a good performance in Cars. Maybe it was due to the fact that I didn't have to look at his penis nose. The rest of the cast is wonderful as well. Among the talent pool are the likes of Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Cheech Marin, Tony Shaloub, George Carlin, John Ratzenberger, and Michael Keaton. Hell, even Larry the Cable Guy was bearable as the redneck car with an IQ about equal to that of the person doing it's voice. To summarize, as with all Disney/Pixar films, Cars is fun for the whole family.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Episode 15

Rush Hour - Consul Han (Tzi Ma) has only recently moved to America with his daughter Soo Yung (Julia Hsu) when she is kidnapped and held for ransom. The FBI steps in to attempt to retrieve her, but Han doesn't trust them to do the job. As such, he summons his trusted friend, Chinese police officer Chief Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan), to the United States to lend a hand in returning his daughter to him safely. Consul Han's status keeps the FBI from refusing Lee's assistance, but that doesn't stop agents Russ, (Mark Rolston) and Whitney (Rex Linn) from derailing him from his mission. They call in a favor from captain of the LAPD, requesting that they be loaned an officer to keep Lee busy and out of their way. Luckily, this proves perfect opportunity for the captain to get loose cannon Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker) off of his back for a while, so Carter is given the job. Lee proves to be too much for Carter to handle, though, as he fully intends to fulfill his mission and won't let Carter stand in his way. Thus, before long, the adage "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" comes into play as Carter decides to help Lee find Soo Yung, and they proceed to fight their way through masses of Chinese thugs to do so. Rush Hour is your standard action comedy. Chan and Tucker are the classic odd couple who can't seem to get along unless they're fighting crime and doing good deeds in the process. This makes for a fairly cookie-cutter action film. In fact, there are only really two things that set this movie apart from others like it. One is the comedy provided by Tucker, who can't seem to shut his mouth and manages to be funny in the process, especially in his interaction with Jackie. The other is the wild action which was choreographed by Chan himself, making for some entertaining fight scenes which manage to make even Chris Tucker seem like he knows what he's doing in a scuffle (in that completely fake action movie way, of course). The draw behind this movie, as with most brawl-based flicks, is that for about an hour and a half you can suspend your disbelief and enjoy something that you don't see every day. The story is really of no consequence. With that said, Rush Hour is a pretty stand-up action movie with enough silly one-liners to make it worth watching once every few years. And as with any Jackie Chan movie, the DVD is worth the money for the outtakes alone.

Rush Hour 2 - Detective James Carter and Chief Inspector Lee are back, and this time they're a little bit more ridiculous. After their last escapade, Lee heads back to China to return to work. Taking some vacation time, Carter tags along in hopes of enjoying some of the finer points of Asian culture (specifically alcohol and women). Unfortunately, their fun is cut short when someone bombs the United States embassy in China, killing two American citizens. Before long, Carter and Lee are on the trail of an ex-cop turned triad crime boss named Ricky Tan (John Lone) who is masterminding a massive counterfeiting scheme which leads them back to the states. Once there they team up with sexy customs agent Isabella Molina (Roselyn Sanchez), who has been investigating this evil plot for some time. Exchange kidnapping and ransom for counterfeiting and money laundering and you have essentially transformed Rush Hour into Rush Hour 2. As with the first film, the real reason to watch this sequel is to marvel at a few impossible fight scenes and laugh at a few well-timed jokes. If possible, this movie is dumber than it's predecessor, but should still manage to hold your attention for somewhere between ninety minutes and two hours. Particularly entertaining is a scene in which Jackie Chan has been captured and had a remote-detonated grenade taped into his mouth. With his hands also taped up, he must fight his way around a crowded casino attempting to stop the detonator from being triggered, unable to use his hands or speak. Chris Tucker provides the standard allowance of comedy, and this time in addition to the humor and action we get the hot onscreen presence of Sanchez. Is it just me, or does that sound like a complete package?

The Exorcism of Emily Rose - Emily Rose (Dexter's Jennifer Carpenter) was born and raised in a small town in middle America. It was a dream come true when she was awarded a scholarship to an out of state school where she could pursue her goal of becoming a teacher. However, things began to go horribly wrong when she began to experience the feeling that someone or something was controlling her body and taking away her humanity. When she was returned home to be cared for by her family, her parents called upon their pastor Father Moore(Tom Wilkinson) to aid them. After Emily's death, an unconventional court case began which pitted the people against Father Moore, with hot young attourney Erin Bruner (Laura Linney) on the side of the priest and Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott) on the side of the community. It was in this court case, which is based on actual events, that it is to be decided whether Emily Rose's death was caused by something medical or supernatural. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is an interesting type of movie. It combines horror with the courtroom drama. Odd as it seems, I'd say that the filmmakers pulled of their goal quite well. It's very intriguing, after watching the movie, to know that the events depicted within actually happened. The court case was real, and presumably, so was the verdict. This naturally raises the question in the viewer's mind, "Who do I blame for Emily Rose's death?" I initially wanted to see this movie because I found out that Jennifer Carpenter was in it. As I discovered, despite the fact that she plays the title character, she is featured only in flashback scenes, and is therefore not onscreen very much. I had plenty of other great performers to keep me occupied, though. Wilkinson, Scott, and Linney all deliver great performances. In the case of a courtroom drama, you have to rely on the actors' abilities to draw you into the scene and make you care about the case that is being argued. Laura Linney manages this just fine, having played almost the same exact character that she portrays in this movie in the film Primal Fear. In fact, the entire cast was great. even stronger than the plot were the characters who moved it forward. A lot of great questions were raised on the actual subject of the trial, and I found myself often unsure of exactly which direction the verdict would go. All in all, The Exorcism of Emily Rose was a fairly rewarding experience.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Episode 14

The Iron Giant - The year is 1958 and Hogarth (voiced by Eli Marienthal, who is probably best known as Stifler's younger brother in American Pie) is the adolescent only child of a single mother. Hogarth has a very active imagination, which is why his mother (Jennifer Aniston) doesn't believe him when he tells her that he's discovered a giant robot in the forest behind their house. After Hogarth saves the robot from the power lines that it's become tangled in, they befriend one another. Over the following days, Hogarth teaches the Iron Giant from another planet the difference between right and wrong, and how to act properly on Earth. The only other person who knows about the robot's presence in the small Maine town is an artist named Dean (Harry Connick Jr.), who becomes an unexpecting father figure for Hogarth. Until the army sends someone out to investigate the matter, that is. The someone being Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald), who is so blinded by his own urge to climb the ranks of the military that he doesn't see the giant for the kind-hearted creature that it is. Mansley sets into motion events that lead to an all-out government-funded witch hunt for Hogarth's robot pal, which seems as though it will end in catastrophe. What I want to know is how the shit I neglected to see The Iron Giant for seven whole years. I don't recall the film making very large waves when it came out, I was somehow not aware of the high-profile cast of voice actors involved, and I can only think of one person who ever told me that I should see it, which is why I finally ended up watching it. To think...if a single person had told me to see The Iron Giant back in 1999 when it was released, I'd have probably seen it about fourty one times by now instead of just one. The Iron Giant is by far the best 2D animated American film that I have ever seen. The animation is top notch, and outstandingly impressive, the cast is spot on in every regard, and I can not think of a single flaw in the plot, which is one of the best, most heart-wrenching that I have ever experienced. Vin Diesel even somehow manages to shine as the voice of the child-like behemoth after which the film is named; a great task considering how few lines he had to really get the point across. The Iron Giant made me laugh, it made me eager, it made me mad, and it probably brought me closer to tears than any other movie that I've ever seen. It really has everything. I don't know how else to explain it. It may not be my favorite movie ever, but there is no doubt in my mind that it is a perfect film inasmuch as I view it as flawless. Mark my words: The Iron Giant is a masterpiece of film-making and you're doing yourself an injustice if you haven't seen it.

The Whole Ten Yards - Oz (Matthew Perry), Cynthia (Natasha Henstridge), Jill (Amanda Peet), and Jimmy the Tulip (Bruce Willis) are back whether you like it or not. Kevin Pollack returns for this sequel to The Whole Nine Yards as well, but not as the same character he played in the previous film. This time instead of Janni Gogolak, the mobster he portrayed the first time around who was shot and killed, he plays Janni's father, Lazlo. Lazlo, a mob boss having just been released from prison, gathers up some lackeys and sets out to find Jimmy the Tulip, who killed his son Janni. Jimmy, however, has gone into hiding since killing Janni. Oz (who can be connected to Jimmy) on the other hand, has not, and it isn't long before Lazlo's toughs come calling. With his wife Cynthia kidnapped by Lazlo, Oz has no choice but to reach out to Jimmy and Jill for help in getting her back safely. Jimmy isn't very happy to see Oz, but there wouldn't be much of a movie if he didn't help out, so we're off and running. What follows is a series of ridiculous scenes comprised of off-the-wall situations, most of which involve Matthew Perry whipping his head around like a bobble head and speaking with near-inhuman vocal intonations. I admit that I enjoy The Whole Nine Yards. I know it's not very good, but it's a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. Hence it was inevitable that I'd eventually have to see this unnecessary sequel. As it turns out, Kevin Pollack, who I don't really care for all that much, stands out as the best (or at least most entertaining) part of this movie. His over-the-top idiocy and often confusingly odd accent combined with the "old man prosthetics" that he dons for the role of Lazlo create a fairly entertaining onscreen presence. My only real hope for The Whole Ten Yards was that Amanda Peet would be topless again like she was in the last film, but I guess by the time this movie was made she was a little too high-profile to get nekkid in a mindless mobster comedy. All in all my viewing of The Whole Ten Yards was a very forgettable experience.

Jackass Number Two - This is going to be a pretty short review since there's no plot to summarize, which usually ends up accounting for a good third to half of my average film rant. I also don't want to give away too much of what goes on in case anyone hasn't seen it. The entire cast returns, which is nice to see. I wasn't really a fan of Viva La Bam, and I pretty much despised Wildboyz, which are the two pseudo-spin offs that we were left with in the wake of Jackass' cancellation, so it was good to see the original crew back together doing what they do best...hurting themselves. Right from the first stunt of the film you will get the impression that they've stepped the intensity up a notch this time around. Just about every member of the cast puts their life in more danger than they had before, and in the case of Johnny Knoxville it's quite obvious that he put his well-being in second place behind entertainment value. In fact, especially after watching the special features on the DVD it becomes very apparent that Johnny misses the thrill of putting himself in harms way on a regular basis, so it's almost as though he decided to go all out in case this was his last chance to be...well...a jackass. Highlights of the movie include Steve-O sticking a leech to his eyeball, Bam Margera bawling in fear as he's unknowingly locked in a trailer with a very frightening snake, and the taxi-related prank that is pulled on Ehren McGhehey which involves Broken Lizard's Jay Chandrasekhar. Un...highlights...(or whatever the opposite of a highlight is) of the movie are the special feature in which Johnny Knoxville repeatedly slams his head into road signs just because he doesn't want to stop filming and fade away into obscurity as the guy that people used to think was cool, but is now just the "star" of The Ringer, and the horse masturbation scene which actually made me gag (a first for a movie). There are a surprising amount of celebrity guest stars in Jackass Number 2 and in general it's a more well-rounded experience than the first theatrical outing. Here's hoping that there's a third installment of the series someday in the not-too-distant future.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Episode 13

Boogeyman - As a child Tim (played by Skeet Ulrich look alike Barry Watson) lived in fear that there was something in his bedroom closet that was going to get him. Then one night Tim's father went into the closet to prove that there was nothing inside, and it got him instead. With the general populace convinced that Tim's father had just run off, abandoning his wife and son, Tim lived a life of fear and uncertainty with no one to turn to. Years later, when Tim's mother dies, he is forced to go back to the house he grew up in to retrieve her belongings, and at the behest of his childhood psychologist, decides to spend a night in the house to put his fears to rest. It isn't long before he begins hearing strange noises and everyone he cares about begins disappearing. Boogeyman. How many people told me that this movie was terrible? A few. Was it because of these low expectations I then had that I didn't hate Boogeyman? Possibly. Yes, it's true. I didn't think Boogeyman was terribly bad. I'm sure I lost a lot of people's respect by admitting that, but it's true. The special effects were quite bad and it fell victim to all of the problems that horror movies tend to have, but in my eyes Boogeyman, like many other films, was saved by a good premise. How good could the concept behind a movie called Boogeyman be, you ask? Well everyone has heard the clich.. idea of monsters hiding under the bed and in the closet, but what if someone based a story on these concepts that wasn't supposed to be silly and stereotypical, but instead realistic and frightening? That's what Boogeyman had going for it. Within the hour and a half that the movie Boogeyman takes place, a dark closet left open just a crack becomes a feasible source of fear. Taking the tired notion that evil lurks in dark corners of the very place that you feel most safe and tweaking it to turn it into a higher concept is exactly what made the movie Monsters, Inc. work so well, and that's exactly what Boogeyman does, just in the opposite direction. However, it didn't help the movie that the title character looks more than a little like this guy. Also of note is that Lucy Lawless is in the movie, but she looks like a scrawny wuss, which is why I didn't even realize it was her until the end credits. I guess I'm used to seeing her in her Xena garb. Don't take that the wrong way, though. I've never seen a single episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Honest.

Alone In The Dark - When Edward Carnby (Christian Slater) was a child he lived a small orphanage. Unfortunately for the twenty orphans at this particular orphanage, a crazy old archaeologist who worked for a secret government agency was performing experiments on them and implanting strange creatures in them which fused with their spines giving them dormant monstrous instincts. Unlike the other children though, Edward ran away one night and hid in an electric generator, accidentally electrocuting himself, which succeeded in killing the creature attached to his spine, making him harmless. All grown up, Carnby joined the same secret government agency that he was unknowingly experimented upon by. However, he soon got kicked out of the agency because of his failure to follow protocol, and instead went on to become a freelance paranormal investigator (for those paying attention, that's what the Ghostbusters referred to themselves as). After years of searching for clues to his past (having lost his memory at some point...presumably when he was electrocuted?), Edward has discovered the last piece of an ancient Abskani (a fictional extinct tribe of indians) artifact that could lead to the answers he's been searching for. But does he really want to know the answers to the questions he's had for so long? Okay...give me a minute here...okay, I'm ready. Alone In The Dark didn't make a damn bit of sense. I tried my best to follow the plot, but by the end I just gave up and watched the sub-par CGI monsters kill people. The movie opens with some text and a voice telling the viewer about some indians who let loose an ancient evil or something, and because of this they all disappeared. Then we get tossed almost immediately into a fight scene with bullet time and a guy who seemingly can't be killed no matter how many times Christian Slater kicks him in the chest. As it turns out, Slater was protecting a piece of an ancient artifact which I (along with everyone else who saw the movie, most likely) immediately guessed was going to turn out to be a key of some kind. He hooks up with his museum curator girlfriend Tara Reid, and they use a computer to study the artifact. Before long, very fake-looking monsters (called "xeno's" for some reason) who can turn invisible (probably so they could save some money by not showing them all the time, even when they're attacking people) show up, which leads Christian Slater to a reunion with his old rival from Bureau 713, Stephen Dorff. Now, allow me a quick aside here. Everyone seen Hellboy? Good. The BPRD (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense)? Same damn thing as Bureau 713. The difference being that the "Bureau" in Hellboy is followed by "for Paranormal Research and Defense", and the one from Alone In The Dark is followed by "713". Oh, and the BPRD was created more than ten years ago. Now that I think about it, take away the red skin, horns, tail, giant hand, and everything else cool about Hellboy, and you're left with Christian Slater's character from Alone In The Dark. Anyway, where was I? Alone In The Dark felt like one of those shitty made for TV movies that the Sci-Fi Channel likes to play in between reruns of Stargate SG-1. The effects (as I mentioned earlier) are sad, the plot is at the same time "cookie cutter" and heinously confusing, and the acting is atrocious. Now, it can be argued that Tara Reid has never acted well (which is an argument that I won't oppose), but I've seen Christian Slater and Stephen Dorff both give good performances before. However, not a single person came off as remotely sincere or believable in Alone In The Dark. My reasoning for this is that acting must be like a car wash. The more money you pay at the car wash, the nicer your car is going to look when it's done. The same must be so for acting, because if the rest of this movie is any indication, whoever was handing out the checks on set didn't have much to work with. I mean, watch Tara Reid's reaction during any scene in which there is an inhuman creature or violent death involved and you'll be convinced that there just wasn't a whole lot of motivation for any of the actors to put any effort into their roles. There was a moment of worth toward the beginning of Alone In The Dark during the previously mentioned bullet time scene, but aside from that, this managed to be one of those movies during which I was counting the minutes until the end. What else should we expect from director Uwe Boll, though? You know, the guy who brought us House Of The Dead and BloodRayne, and is currently working on Bloodrayne II: Deliverance and Alone In The Dark II. Hey, making movies based on video games that weren't necessarily the best source material to begin with is a dirty job, but someone's got to do it. And that someone is Uwe Boll.