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Zoolander

In the writing process of a film such as this it is very easy for the film to take a wrong turn and fail miserably in its attempt, with “Zoolander” Ben Stiller has mastered this challenge. While the characters were ridiculous in almost every way they were still very enjoyable to watch. Scenes that might normally be unbearable to watch (such as the “gasoline fight”), were actually incredibly funny. The entire film walks such a fine line of being very funny or just plain awful, it amazes me that it held itself together for the entire length of the film.

Owen Wilson’s performance was easily one of his best ever, and proves he is one of the best comedic actors in Hollywood. With his ability to pick good acting roles and his writing abilities shown from his co-writing of “Rushmore,” Wilson should be one of the top actors for some time to come. Ben Stiller as Derrick Zoolander was excellent as Derrick Zoolander, a role in which very few other actors would be able to perform.

“Zoolander” is able to successfully hold together a really absurd plot. In doing so I produces one of the funniest films of the year to date. The last time I laughed as hard during a movie as I did during “Zoolander” was during the first half an hour of “Moulin Rouge.” While this movie is probably not worthy to be considered in the elite class of great comedies it surely merits multiple viewings.

Rating: A-
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Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (Snapman)

While I bet it sounded very funny on paper, and maybe if done in separate sketches some of the scenes alone might be funny. This was an hour and a half of combined sketch comedy that I rarely found amusing.

I can enjoy a comedy that has no real plot, one that’s sole purpose is to go directly for a laugh and not worry about what it has to do to get there. In order to enjoy a movie like that it has to be able to make me actually laugh, and often. This film just could not manage that task. I laughed during Sean William Scott’s cameo, and Will Ferrell caused me to laugh a couple of times, but these laughs were few and far between. Major cameos in this movie happened so often that after a few minutes the neatness of seeing someone make an appearance lost its appeal. Instead of being surprised when another famous person makes an appearance it was more like “huh… that’s Judd Nelson… OK, whatever”.

I can hear the initial story being laid out… Jay and Silent Bob leave New Jersey to stop the movie about their characters, then hilarity and crazy antics ensue. The problem is they forgot the hilarity in the equation, there were a lot of ridiculously crazy situations that occurred, but they weren’t very funny. This movie relied too much on being obscene for shock value, and not enough on actually translating its humorous ideas into funny scenes.

Having now seen this film and “Dogma” I must say I am not terribly impressed with Smith’s talents. This is just another gross out comedy like all of the Farrelly Brothers movies; the only difference is this one has a ton of cameos. I still plan on checking out Smith’s other films, but because of my overall dislike of this film it will probably be awhile before I can bring myself to rent one of his films.

Rating: D+
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Rat Race

This film follows the same pattern that many other comedies are taking as of late; it seems they work hard developing around fifteen to twenty minutes of scenes that are quite funny. Mix in another forty minutes of mildly funny scenes, then add another thirty-five minutes of awful filler and weak plot development. Put all that together and you have “Rat Race,” as well as a number of other recent comedies.

There were a number of entertaining performances in this film lead by Jon Lovitz (of course), John Cleese, Vince Vieluf and Dave Thomas (of Strange Brew “fame”). But, just as there were a couple of very entertaining actors their were also some on the opposite end of the spectrum. Whoopie Goldberg, Rowan Atkinson, Wayne Knight and a bus full of Lucy impersonators were downright awful. Not once were they funny and more often than not they were less entertaining than watching paint dry. The scenes with the Lucy impersonators were so repulsively bad I considered walking out of the theater and waiting until the scene was over.

I hate to see such a large cast of (arguably) respectable actors and actresses waste away in a mediocre comedy. But, waste away they did and this film makes me wonder again and again why if one can put together a half dozen good jokes, why can’t they spend the time and stretch it throughout the whole film. This could have been a very funny film with more effort to fill the gaps between the big gags, but it didn’t and the film suffered because of it.

Rating: C-
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Planet of the Apes

Mark Walhberg was enjoyable to watch throughout the film like he has been in all of his recent films. He is quickly becoming one of the best young mainstream actors. Other characters such as Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Roth and Michael Clarke Duncan made notably good apes, though none even compared to the energy from Charlton Heston’s brief role. The human characters were rather disappointing; Kris Kristofferson was wasted to a small and somewhat unnecessary part. Estella Warren played the usual role of a supermodel turned actress, to stand around and look good. The rest of the humans had very little personality if any, and for the most part they were just walking zombies. This could be explained by being prisoners of the apes, but I still would have like to see some personality in them, even when their ‘hero’ came they didn’t even talk.

I had a problem with the ape’s having the ability to defy all laws of gravity and physics. Some of them could amazingly fly back and forth from wall to wall, and leap some 25-30 feet in the air similar to the abilities of Chow Yun Fat in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” But even with these slightly improbable feats I was able to put aside these superpowers and forgive Burton due to the interest it helped caused.

Up to the last twenty-five minutes or so it was an enjoyable movie then it began its big twist ending. Now generally I like big twists at the end when they are done properly such as in “Seven,” “Fight Club” or even “The Score,” but this twist was just there for the sake of confusing everyone. The last few minutes just went crazy, almost to the point of absurdity. While after much discussion after the film with my friends I believe I figured out the ending, I found it to be unnecessary for the most part. The ending was intriguing as Burton was surely attempting it to be, but it is nearly unexplainable and will definitely be over the heads of 99.9% of the audience. The ending itself begs for a sequel to explain itself, which is likely something executives at Fox demanded so they could have another franchise. This is the sort of movie you might have to see multiple times to truly comprehend whether the ending was a mess or brilliant on a much higher intelligence level than the rest of the film. Either way it merits discussion, more so than any other action movie released this year.

Rating: B+
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The Princess and the Warrior

Sissi (Franka Potente) was developed well until a rather unusual situation regarding her “pleasuring” a patient at the mental ward made me somewhat noxious. This situation was even more revolting after certain facts became apparent later in the film. After that point she seemed to be a rather weak figure that I quickly lost interest in. She is continually drawn to Bodo (Benno Furmann) after he saves her life, even though he is abusive towards her after their initial encounter.

The initial lifesaving measure made by Bodo was rather coincidental. He is running from store employees who are giving chasing him, and suddenly he decides to hide under a truck in the middle of the road.This just happens to be the truck that Sissi was hit by and was underneath, why on earth would someone hide under a vehicle in the middle of the roadr Hiding under a potential moving vehicle is hardly a good idea. Even if he had noticed that it wasn’t going to be moving, why go under a vehicle that everyone is staring at if you are trying to elude your chasers.

“The Princess and the Warrior” reeked of coincidences, which were used over and over to tie up nearly every loose end. When used properly an occasional coincidence can add a great deal of intrigue and interest to the story, but when overused like they were in this movie it gets very old.

Perhaps if this movie had been directed by a slimy fuck like Rob Cohen, it could be seen as an accomplishment for the filmmaker. But Cohen didn’t direct it. Tom Tykwer did, and after his work in “Run Lola Run,” this is a disappointment. It was unable to hold my interest, and I found myself wishing for it to end sooner than later.

Rating: D
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