Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Spirit - 1/2 star

The Spirit is pretty lame. Frank Miller co-directed Sin City, but I'm pretty sure that Robert Rodriguez really directed it, and Frank Miller just gave opinions. But he let that co-directed by credit make him think he could direct a movie himself. Well, he can't. The Spirit looks good, and that's about the only good thing I can say about it.

Gabriel Macht (as The Spirit) gives the most bland performance since Paul Walker. Samuel L. Jackson tries to pick up the slack and he ends up chewing the scenery like Mr. Creosote. At least he was fun to watch, but it was pretty bad. Stay away from The Spirit.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Bedtime Stories - 0 stars

Happy Madison productions has turned out some crap before, but now they have teamed up with Disney to produce one of the worst examples of family entertainment I have seen this year. The movie is so unfunny it makes Four Christmases look like A Fish Called Wanda. I think I laughed exactly twice: once when Russell Brand wakes up screaming from night terrors, and once when I heard Sandler's ringtone. Its a stupid, annoying ringtone, but it made me laugh. The rest of the movie, not so much.

Sandler plays Skeeter Bronson, the handyman at a large hotel. Apparently he is the only one on staff, even though it looks like a 4 star hotel. He babysits his niece and nephew when their mother goes out of town, and he tells them bedtime stories every night before they go to sleep. As he tells the stories, the kids supply the endings, and the parts the kids make up tend to come true the next day. When the kid says "it starts raining gumdrops", the next day a truck full of gumdrops crashes on the overpass above him. When the kid says "the hero gets kicked by a dwarf", the next day a member of an angry gang of dwarfs walks over and kicks him.

This could have been funny, but Adam Shankman has no idea how to make a funny movie. As I researched this movie (meaning I read, I see the movie was written by Matt Lopez and Tim Herlihy. Tim Herlihy is responsible for many of Adam Sandler's movies, and Matt Lopez is credited with "additional story material" on The Wild. To my horror, I just discovered that Matt Lopez is one of the writers on Race to Witch Mountain. I was already dreading that remake.

One big problem with Bedtime Stories for me was the guinea pig with the big eyes. It never made me laugh, but they kept cutting to it. Its as if they realized that the movie was crap, and they figured that kids would laugh every time they cut to the guinea pig. Filmmaking for kids has never been so lazy.

Frost / Nixon - 3 1/2 stars

Of all the movies that opened on Christmas day, this has my favorite performance. Frank Langella as Richard Nixon. Incredible. I enjoyed every scene he was in. This may be my favorite presidential portrayal ever (my previous favorite was Bruce Greenwood in 13 Days). Michael Sheen is also good as David Frost.

In 1978 David Frost arranges an interview with Richard Nixon. This will be Nixon's first television interview since resigning the presidency. Nixon thinks Frost will be a pushover, and he is hoping to win back some support and respect so he can return to D.C. and get back into politics.

In a way, this movie is like a good courtroom drama. I'm remembering A Few Good Men, when Tom Cruise is taking on Jack Nicholson at the end. Nicholson is winning and has Cruise beaten until Cruise gets fired up and starts cornering Nicholson. In Frost / Nixon, Nixon has been winning the 'battle' of the interviews. When Frost asks him a difficult question, such as Nixon's choice to invade Cambodia, Nixon is able to answer in such a way that the people in the room who didn't vote for Nixon say they would vote for him now if given the chance.

Its no spoiler to say that by the end, Frost turns the tables and is able to corner Nixon. Nixon comes as close to an apology as he ever did. Its pretty exciting watching the progression from Frost getting his ass kicked by Tricky Dick to Frost hammering away at Nixon, leaving Nixon almost in tears. I really enjoyed this movie.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Seven Pounds - 1 star

Seven Pounds wants to be a movie like The Sixth Sense. You know, a movie with a shocking twist. Remember how pissed off you would have been if someone had spoiled The Sixth Sense before you saw it? Well, this ain't that.

The first hour of the movie is boring as hell. Characters pop up out of nowhere and then disappear. We meet Ben Thomas as he is calling 911. He is reporting a suicide: his own. The rest of the movie is told in flashback. Why is he going to kill himself? Does he succeed? We see him talking to a blind phone operator and he lays into the guy for five minutes. "You're blind? How pathetic. I'll bet you're a virgin, too." So we hate Ben Thomas for being such an asshole.

But then we see him trying to help people. He visits a retirement home administrator and when he finds out the administrator is punishing the elderly, Ben almost kicks the guy's ass. He says you better treat these people better. Bet is an IRS agent and he tells people he is going to audit them, but we suspect that he is trying to help them. Why is he doing these good deeds? Is it possible he is going to kill himself for some past transgression, but before he does he wants to do some good deeds to redeem himself?

The movie does become watchable once it focuses on Rosario Dawson. She plays Emily Posa, a woman with a weak heart. She needs a transplant but because of her rare blood type, chances are she won't find a donor before her heart goes out. Ben starts to help her by doing yard work, taking her dog for a walk, and even staying on the phone with her all night when she is in the hospital. Before long, a romance develops. The romance is done so well, and they have such great chemistry together, that I wish the entire movie had been about the two of them.

The movie keeps you guessing until the very end when it ties everything together with a sad little bow (although you will probably guess where the movie is going much earlier). I advise you to save your money. I know some people will want to stay away, but because a mystery is so tempting, they will spend their money just to know what its about. So as a service, I am going to spoil the ending in the comments section. Read it if you want to know the secret of the movie. If you really want to remain spoiler-free, and you decide to see the movie anyway, you have my pity.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire - 3 stars

This is a good movie, but I don't think it lives up to all the hype. By hype I mean the 4-star reviews and the National Board of Review awarding it best movie.

Jamal (Dev Patel) is one question away from the top prize on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire when they break for the day. Immediately Jamal is arrested and interrogated by the police. They don't believe he could possibly know the answers to all the questions he has answered, and they want to know how he is cheating. See, Jamal is a slumdog, an orphan from the slums of Mumbai.

As he tells the police how he knew the answers to the questions, we see his life story in flashbacks. His mother was killed when he was very young. He and his brother lived for a while in a garbage dump until they were rescued by a man who seems to run an orphanage. This guy, lets just call him Fagin, uses his orphans to make money for him by begging. In the most horrific scene in this movie, we find out how much he is willing to harm these kids in order to make money.

This movie is a fairy tale. You have to believe an awful lot. The coincidences that he learned the answers to all these questions throughout his life. The idea that Latika, the love of his life, would end up so sweet and pure despite a life of begging, prostitution (most likely) and crime. The improbability that he would end up on the gameshow in the first place. But if you can get past those and just enjoy the story, you will enjoy one of the most original movies of the year.

Nothing Like the Holidays - 3 stars

This is the story of a Puerto Rican family getting together for Christmas. They have 3 kids: Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez), Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito) and Mauricio (John Leguizamo). Jesse is just home from Iraq and his father Edy (Alfred Molina) wants him to take over the family business - a small neighborhood grocery store. Roxanna is an actress trying to make it in Hollywood, and she is constantly hoping her agent will call with good news about a TV show. Mauricio has a successful wife (Debra Messing) who is not Puerto Rican, and is not sure she wants kids. There's a twist - usually its the guy that doesn't want kids. Mauricio's mother Anna (Elizabeth Pena) doesn't like his wife, and is constantly asking when she is going to get grandkids.

Edy and Anna don't seem to have a happy marriage. Anna thinks Edy has been unfaithful to her, and at dinner she announces that she is going to divorce Edy. This is just one of many plot points in this story.

The hilarious Luis Guzman shows up to steal every scene he is in. He is a cousin and he owns an electronics store. Jay Hernandez also shows up as a family friend who likes Roxanna and has a history of gang violence.

The movie really takes its time. There is a great scene where the three siblings gather in the attic and reminisce. Anyone who grew up with brothers and sisters can probably relate. The actors have great chemistry together, and its nice to just watch them act like a family.

I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys watching good actors portray interesting characters. But the movie does move slowly - maybe too slowly for some.

The Day the Earth Stood Still - 2 1/2 stars

This is not a terrible movie, just a very forgettable one. It could have been so much better.

The movie wastes no time introducing characters. We meet Jennifer Connelly’s character Helen while she is teaching some kind of advanced chemistry / astronomy class. Ok, she’s a smart scientist. Check. Then we meet her step son Jacob (Jaden Smith). We quickly learn that his dad is gone, and she is not his mother. Check.

Before any time is wasted on actual character development, the feds show up and tell her she needs to come with them. As federal agents often do in movies, they refuse to tell her why she is coming with them. She isn’t sure if she is under arrest or if they need her help. We quickly find out that there is an object on an intercept course with Earth. Better call Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck!

The object turns out to be a spaceship which lands in central park. The alien that emerges is Keanu Reeves (whoa!) who says that he is here to save the Earth. But if you’ve seen the trailers, you know that doesn’t mean what Helen thinks it means.

Except for the fact that the characters are two-dimensional, I enjoyed the first two acts of the movie. Once the alien arrives, the movie takes its time and there are some interesting moments between Reeves and Connelly. I got a little tired of Jacob reminding Helen that she wasn’t his real mother and acting like a brat, but Smith is a decent young actor. Kathy Bates was fine as the obligatory representative of the President who never listens to the scientists.

I was disappointed with how little John Cleese was used. I saw his name in the opening credits, then I forget he was in it. About an hour in, he shows up. I got excited. He has 3 or 4 lines, then he is gone. Poof. No more John Cleese. You don’t put the great John Cleese in a movie for only 5 minutes. James Hong also shows up for about 5 minutes. His character is very interesting but they do nothing with him.

The biggest letdown was the ending. We know that the Earth is not going to be destroyed because this is a big budget 20th Century Fox movie. So there is no surprise when Klaatu stops Gort. I can’t complain about that. But it just ends too abruptly. No discussion about how close we came to the end of the world. No warning about taking better care of the Earth. Nothing but a special effect to end the movie.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Four Christmases - 1/2 star

This movie sucks. It isn't just unfunny, it actually made me mad how bad this movie is.

Vince Vaughn is usually good. Even though I didn't like Fred Claus very much, Vince Vaughn made me laugh. Not in Four Chrismases. I don't think he made me laugh once. He just annoyed me. And Reese Witherspoon is not funny at all. She has never been funny. Legally Blonde might have been funny (I can't remember for sure), but if it was funny, it was the writing and the people around her. But she is not funny.

One big problem with the movie is that they have no chemistry together. Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth had more chemistry in Superman Returns than they do here. In order for a movie like this to work, you have to want the leads to end up together. There is a point in the movie (as formula dictates) where they have a fight and they separate for 10 minutes or so. I was hoping they wouldn't get back together. I was thinking "yes, you're not right for each other. Move on."

Another problem I had was that this is a bad idea for a movie. Four sets of in-laws in one movie (well, technically not in-laws, because they aren't married, but same difference). One reason Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers worked so well is you had a whole movie to establish the parents' characters and get to like them. But four different parents? I don't see how you could make that work. Not as a serious romantic comedy.

Here's another problem: they've been dating for a few years, and their parents live within an hour's drive from each other, yet they've never met each other's parents? I can believe that they never spend Christmas with them, but in 3 years, never a dinner? Kate's sister (Kristin Chenoweth) has a baby. When her baby was born, Kate and Brad didn't even go see the baby? Maybe they live out of state and just flew back for Christmas, but this is never mentioned. This could have been fixed so easily. If it was written so they had only been dating for 3 - 6 months, it would make sense that both Kate and Brad have been hesitant about introducing their significant other to their parents.

The only person that made me laugh was Jon Favreau. The half a star in my review is just for him. Actually, that's not fair. Sissy Spacek made me laugh too. The scene where they play Taboo is the only time during this movie I didn't want to open a vain.

12/2 - out on DVD

Nothing really good came out on DVD this week. Seriously.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

I liked the first movie better, but that's not saying much. Unless you're a big fan of the books (which I am not), it is completely forgettable. The only interesting thing about the movie is that it got a PG rating. It should have been rated PG-13, but behold, the power of Disney ...


My biggest problem with this movie is it should have been fun. The trailers looked cool. Especially the unrated trailer with that scene where McAvoy hits the guy with his keyboard and keys and teeth fly into the air spelling out "F*** You". But the movie took itself way too seriously and I have no desire to see it ever again.

Step Brothers

I hated this movie. It was not funny at all. Skip it. Its worse than Semi-Pro.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

I didn't hate this as much, but I was pretty bored. I was never a huge X-Files fan, but I've liked the episodes I've seen, and I liked the first X-Files movie. This one would have made for a boring episode, and it makes a really boring movie. If I was a fan, I would be pissed that this was the best they could come up with after all this time.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - 2 1/2 stars

Bruno is an eight year old boy living in Berlin during World War II. His father is a high ranking Nazi officer who is given a new job as commandant of a concentration camp. When the family moves to a house near the camp, Bruno starts a friendship with a boy who is a prisoner in the camp.

When Bruno first sees the camp thru his window, he thinks its a farm. He asks why the workers are all wearing pajamas. When he is exploring and gets to the camp, he meets eight year old Shmuel. Shmuel seems to be as in the dark as Bruno. He doesn't really know where he is or why he is there.

Bruno sneaks out to the camp every so often to see Shmuel, bring him food, and play checkers. He also notices the way his father and the other soldiers treat Pavel, a Jew who is the family's butler / gardener / slave. The movie could have been more interesting if Bruno had asked more questions, but he remains in relative ignorance for the entire movie. He sees the soldiers beat Pavel but he never asks his father about it.

The movie has one hell of a downer of an ending. Its a holocaust movie so you should go in expecting some horrors, but you won't see where this movie is going. I gave it 2 1/2 stars because it wasn't as good as it should have been. Its a great idea to do a holocaust movie thru a child's eyes, but it didn't work for me (except the end).

Twilight - 2 stars

I went in to see Twilight with no expectations. I haven't read the books, so I know very little about the movie. I knew it was about a girl who goes to high school with a boy who turns out to be a vampire. And they fall in love. That's about all I knew.

The premise is very interesting. Edward (Robert Pattinson) is part of a family of vampires (the Cullens), and like Louis in Interview With the Vampire, he doesn't like killing people. Remember when Louie only killed rats? Well, Edward kills deer and drinks their blood. He wants to drink human blood, but he is a 'good' vampire, so he resists. His family does the same. They are the vegitarians of the vampire world.

For some reason the vampire teens go to high scool. They've been doing this for many years. We don't find out how long the others have been vampires, but Edward has been immortal since 1918. That's a lot of school. He says the younger they start, the longer they can stay in one place. I guess that means they go to high school for a few years, graduate, then go to a new town and start all over.

Now, why would they go to high school? They keep to themselves so its not like they really enjoy hanging out with high school kids. I guess it would make them smart. Consider if you could do high school over and over and over ... you would eventually know everything (on a high school level, anyway). Personally, I would go to college over and over. Have you read a college class schedule lately? There are hundreds of subjects you could take. You would never get bored. Plus, you could just audit the class so you wouldn't have to stress about homework.

Anyway, Bella (Kristen Stewart) just moved to the town of Fork, Washington. Its overcast all the time, which makes it convenient for vampires since, you know, its the actual sunlight that kills them, not the UV radiation that gets thru the clouds. Oh but wait, sunlight doesn't kill them. It doesn't even hurt them. It just makes them all shiny like they rubbed Lindsay Funke's diamond cream all over their bodies.

Bella meets Edward and falls in love with him. He wants to kill her and drink her blood, but he resists. Edward takes her home to meet his family. They also want to kill her and drink her blood but they also resist. The first hour and a half of the movie is about Bella and Edward and him trying not to kill her.

An hour and a half in, we finally get some plot. There are 'bad' vampires who have no problem killing humans and drinking their blood. They meet the Cullens and Bella, and one of the vampires (James) decides he wants to kill Bella. The family protects her and the bad vampires leave, but the Cullens know James will be back. Even though there are plenty of other humans, James specifically wants Bella. I think Edward offended James in some way, and James wants to kill Bella just to hurt Edward, thought I'm not sure about that.

In any event, the movie finally gets exciting when the Cullens think of ways to protect Bella, and James starts chasing after her. We are told what a good tracker James is, and I started thinking about Sarah Conner trying to run and hide from the Terminator. The movie could get really good. Unfortunately, it only lasts about 10 minutes and its over. I really wish they could have shortened the first 2 acts and lengthened the 3rd act. The pursuit stuff could have been much better.

I will say that Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart had great chemistry together, and they both gave great performances. I also liked Billy Burke as Bella's father. He provided the only moments of humor in the movie.

I think fans of the book will love this, but it did nothing for me. I was mildly entertained, but if it weren't for all they hype, I would have forgotten about this movie by now.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Quantum of Solace review

Quantum of Solace - 3 stars

Last night I saw Quantum of Solace, and I am still trying to make up my mind about it. Its easy to say it isn't as good as Casino Royale. But is it fair to compare it to the best James Bond movie in the entire history of James Bond movies? Casino Royale is a Bond movie for grown-ups. The older movies were simple: cool gadgets, hot women, over-the-top villains, and clues that wouldn't be out of place in Scooby Doo. Remember Moonraker? Bond is searching a deserted warehouse, and luckily the bad guys dropped a patch that said 'Drax Space Administration' or something like that. Wow, that was sure easy, wasn't it?

What did I like about Quantum of Solace? First of all, its a direct sequel to Casino Royale. It picks up less than an hour after Casino Royale ended. I don't know why they've never done that before. Each movie is contained in its own universe. Once in a while they would reference his dead wife, but that was about it. Whatever girl he ended up with, she was nowhere to be found in the next movie. Same with supporting characters. Joe Don Baker's Jack Wade character showing up in GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies was a rare exception. Even if Felix Leiter was in two movies in a row, he was played by two different actors (John Terry in The Living Daylights and David Hedison in License to Kill).

And don't get me started on the problems with the Blofeld storyline. First Bond meets him in You Only Live Twice (played by Donald Pleasence), then meets him again in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (this time played by Telly Savalas). But Blofeld doesn't recognize Bond, and vice versa. Is this supposed to be a prequel to YOLT? In Diamonds Are Forever Blofeld is played by Charles Gray, and at least this time the characters seem to have a history. Not sure if their history is from YOLT or OHMSS.

If you remember, Casino Royale ended with Bond's girlfriend Vesper Lynd killing herself. Thanks to a text from Vesper, Bond was able to track down the man (or one of the men) responsible for blackmailing Vesper - Mr. White. Quantum of Solace begins with Bond driving Mr. White somewhere where they can talk. Bond wants revenge, and he wants to know who Mr. White works for. Before he can be interrogated, he escapes and we are off on another chase / fight sequence.

There are some cool action scenes in this movie, but they are all edited by Michael Bay. Ok, not that bad - but still, I really wish they would give us an action sequence where the shots lasted longer than 1/16 of a second. Give me a wide shot and let the action play out. There is no reason for the stunt team to get a fight sequence down if they are just going to edit the hell out of it. I was really paying attention and I still couldn't tell what was going on. You get no sense of geography with that kind of editing.

I also felt like Daniel Craig didn't get as much to do in this movie. It seemed like in this movie he had half as many lines as he had in Casino Royale. CR made people say "Daniel Craig is the best actor to portray James Bond." This movie won't make anyone say that. George Lazenby could have played this part.

Back to what I did like about this movie. Judi Dench has more screen time than she did in the last movie, which is always good. Giancarlo Giannini (Mathis) is fantastic. The scene at the opera where we discover more about Quantum is very cool. And I am starting to like Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter) more and more. I hope he gets more to do in the next movie. Mathieu Amalric is also very good as the villain. He isn't trying to take over the Earth, just control the water supply for Bolivia. He is very good in this movie. He has very creepy eyes.

I am still looking forward to the next movie. They have laid the groundwork for more Bond adventures, and I like the idea of Quantum as the new version of SPECTRE. We haven't heard from SPECTRE since the 60's, and instead of a new villain every movie, I like having one big group of evildoers to fight. But in the next movie, Bond needs to lighten up.

Oh, and I hope they don't bring Q back. Desmond Llewelyn was Q, and with him gone, there can be no other. As much as I love John Cleese, he is not Q. They should retire that character. If they want to bring Moneypenny back, I'm ok with that.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Opening in SLC theaters today

Role Models - 3 stars

The first 10 - 15 minutes of setup was kind of boring. There aren't many laughs until Jane Lynch shows up and the kids are introduced. Then it gets good. One thing that I liked about the movie is that of the two lead characters, Seann William Scott is the more responsible of the two. Paul Rudd isn't exactly a moron, but SWS is the one who is usually trying to talk some sense into Rudd.

It was nice to see Christopher Mintz-Plasse in another role. But I didn't enjoy his performance in this nearly as much as in Superbad. To be fair, its pretty difficult to top McLovin. And the other kid, Bobb'e J. Thompson, was hilarious. Some people don't like to hear kids swear, but I think there is nothing funnier. The kid has a dirty mouth and a dirtier mind. Good stuff.

Soul Men - 3 stars

I liked it more than I probably should. Its not too original - a road movie crossed with Grumpy Old Men. But Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson are so good together. Roger Ebert said a formula plot works if you're laughing at the plot and not noticing the formula. He actually said that in his review for Role Models, and I think it applies even more to this movie. If the movie weren't as funny as it is, I would be bashing it for being so predictable. But I laughed so much I hardly noticed it.

Happy-Go-Lucky - 3 stars

I'm starting to hate the star rating system. I liked all 3 of these movies, so I gave them 3 stars. But this one is different than the other two. Its funny in places, but its more of a drama. Where the other 2 movies followed a typical formula, this one is definitely without formula. There is not much of a narrative thread to it. Its simply a day in the life of a character named 'Poppy' (or a week in the life, or a month, whatever).

Poppy is eternally optimistic. When her bike is stolen, she shrugs it off. When people are mean to her, it doesn't seem to phase her. She just makes a joke out of it and tries to cheer the other person up. When she meets a crazy homeless man, she isn't too worried. She listens to his rambling and tries to have a conversation with him.

I liked this movie a lot up until the end. Its not a terrible ending, but the tone shifts from light hearted to very serious. I can't knock it too much, since it was true to the characters, and it helps Poppy to learn how easily it can be for people to misread her intentions. There are great performances, and I am hoping Sally Hawkins gets an Oscar nomination for her work here.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (not reviewed)

Sorry, I wasn't able to see it. Let me guess what my review would be - good for kids, a few jokes adults will like, but you will mostly be bored by it. At least its only an hour and a half long. How did I do?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Its ... Monty Python's Flying Circus ... again!

On November 18th, A&E Home Video will release a new collector’s edition of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Supposedly, this is THE definitive box set of the series. I knew that the complete series had been available to own on DVD before, so I decided to do a little research to see just how many “definitive” Flying Circus box sets have been released.

2000 – The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus Megaset – 14 discs

This set has all 45 episodes (in chronological order) of the Flying Circus – meaning all episodes produced for BBC TV (it does not include the German episodes ‘Monty Python’s Fliegender Zirkus’, produced exclusively for German TV).

Cool, the entire series. Sounds good, until …

2004 – The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus Megaset with Bonus Life of Python – 16 discs

This set has all 45 episodes (first 14 discs are the same) plus the 2 disc The Life of Python. The Life of Python includes “The Lost German Episode” of Monty Python’s Fliegender Zirkus – which is technically German Episode #2 (I don’t know why they included episode 2 and not 1).

Much better. The complete series, plus The Life of Python. Sounds great, until the following year:

2005 – The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus 16-Ton Megaset – 16 discs

This set has all 45 episodes (first 14 discs are the same) plus 2 discs of Monty Python Live. This means you also get Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982), Live at Aspen (1998), Parrot Sketch Not Included: 20 Years of Python (1989), and Monty Python’s Fliegender Zirkus: German Episode #1 (I don’t know why they included episode 1 and not 2).

Oh hell, which one? Do I want The Life of Python or Monty Python Live? Why couldn’t they have released one set with both - release an 18 disc set? Well, its a good thing I didn't buy either because now we get:

2008 – The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus – Collectors Edition Megaset – 21 discs

This is basically an upgraded version of the 16-Ton Megaset. It has all 45 episodes (first 14 discs are the same) plus 2 discs of Monty Python Live (Hollywood Bowl, Aspen, Parrot Sketch Not Included, and German Episode #1). You also get a guide booklet to the series and all contents in the set. In addition, you get all SIX of the Personal Best specials, and two NEW documentaries never before released in the U.S. – Before Flying Circus and Monty Python Conquers America.

So if you buy the newest 2008 Megaset, you get everything available before EXCEPT The Life of Python. Since they threw in the Personal Best specials (already available to purchase individually), why didn’t they just throw in The Life of Python???

Whew, I’m exhausted! I think I will pick up the newest Megaset, mostly for the new documentaries. With all the documentaries and specials, I don't know how much more there is to learn about the history of Monty Python. But I can't help myself. For the chance to hear any of the Pythons look back and talk about Python history, I will shell out more money. I will also pick up The Life of Python used on or ebay for about 10 bucks. Then I will have it all.

By the way, I went to to see what the region 2 releases looked like, and my head exploded.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Out on DVD today

Get Smart

This is worth a rental, but I'm not sure I'd buy it. I enjoyed the movie but I forgot it right away. I have no real urge to watch it again. You can get this in a Single Disc Edition or a Two Disc Collector's Edition. There is no commentary track, and disc 2 only has about a half hour of extras on it. If they are going to charge extra for a 2nd disc, it should have a couple of hours of extras. 30 minutes could easily fit on disc 1.


Great movie. The less you know going in, the better. But to set up the movie a tiny bit, an American couple (Emily Mortimer and Woody Harrelson) are traveling from Beijing to Moscow on the legendary Trans-Siberian Express. Its a very effective thriller. I don't know if I would buy it, because part of what works so well is that you have no idea where the movie is going. I'm not sure how much I would like it after repeated viewings. But definitely rent it if you haven't seen it. Also, as far as I can tell, the only extra is a 34 minute "making of".

Waterworld - 2 disk extended edition

This is a strange release. Its 2 discs - the first disc has the 136 minute theatrical cut, and the second disc has the 177 minute extended cut. Normally I would love this. Let me see the longer cut so I can decide if it helps or hurts the movie. Sometimes the longer version of the movie is better (Lord of the Rings), or is almost as good as the shorter version (Dances with Wolves). Especially if the director was forced to cut the movie by the studio. I want to see the director's original vision.

But the extended edition here is not from the original negative. Its the version that played on ABC 10 years ago. That means that profanity is dubbed over and some special effects shots are not finished. Maybe if that is the only way possible for this version to be released, then I would consider buying it (like the Donner Cut of Superman II). But I suspect that they used the ABC version because it was cheaper than remastering the movie from the original negative.

Also, there are no extras, which suggests that neither Kevin Costner nor Kevin Reynolds (director) had anything to do with this DVD. If Costner had been in charge of it, there would have been documentaries and commentaries explaining the making of the movie, and the decision to cut the movie down by 45 minutes. Don't buy this.

Star Wars trilogy

This actually isn't a double dip. These are the same DVDs that have been available since 2006. They are the Limited Editions - 2 discs per movie. Disc 1 is the Special Edition (digital effects, Greedo shoots first) and Disc 2 is the original theatrical version (no digital effects, Han shoots first). If you already own these versions, don't buy this. They are just releasing them in a nice looking box set.

Star Wars prequel trilogy

Same thing here. No new extras. These are the same DVDs that have been available for years, just a nice box to keep them all in.

A Christmas Story: Ultimate Collector's Edition

My favorite Christmas movie of all time. This is the exact same Special Edition that was released 5 years ago, but now you can get it with Christmas cookie cutters, an apron, a cookbook, and a cookie tin canister. So if you already own the special edition, you aren't getting any bonus features. But since I don't own this, I will probably spring for this edition.

Newsradio - the complete series

This is one of my all-time favorite sitcoms. All 5 seasons have already been released, so if you already own the previous seasons (like I do), then there is no reason to buy this collection. There is nothing new in this set, it just takes up less shelf space. But if you haven't already got them, this set is the way to go.

I think I'm glad there are no new extras. When the 9th season of Seinfeld was released, they released the entire series in a fridge box with a book and an all new DVD containing a round table discussion with the cast and Larry David. I was glad I never bought any of the Seinfeld seasons, because I saved $240 (9 seasons at $40 each = $360, I got the complete series on sale for $120).
So the lesson is never buy a TV show one season at a time. If you like the show enough to buy 1 season, you will probably want them all. Wait until the series ends, then buy the complete collection. You're welcome.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Opening in SLC theaters today

Zack and Miri Make a Porno - 3 stars

The latest from Kevin Smith (Clerks, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back). Zack and Miri are roommates who can't pay their rent. Zack comes up with the idea to make a porno as a way to make money. He talks Miri into it and recruits his friends, including Jason Mewes (Jay of Jay and Silent Bob) and Craig Robinson (The Office) to help make the movie.

Anyone who knows the story of how Kevin Smith made Clerks will recognize that this story is partly taken from his own experiences. He didn't make a porno, but he did make a movie with help from his friends, filmed at the Quick Stop he worked at (after hours), a hocky stick used to hold the boom mic, ect. Its also nice to see Jason Mewes in a role other than Jay. Unfortunately, he should probably stick to playing Jay, since he isn't as entertaining in this movie as he usually is.

The movie is pretty raunchy, so don't go if you're easily offended. Its not really pornographic, but it does have a lot of nudity, sexual situations, and language. But if you've seen the donkey show in Clerks II, you shouldn't really be surprised. Its not my favorite Kevin Smith movie, but it is very funny. And there are a couple of great cameos at the high school reunion. One of the actors is featured in the trailer (Justin Long), but the other one is a really good surprise.

Changeling - 2 1/2 stars

Its 1928. A single mother (Angeline Jolie) goes to work and when she comes home, her young son is missing. She calls the police who tell her they can't do anything until he has been missing for at least 24 hours. Eventually they find him and when mother and son are reunited, she says "That isn't my son." The police don't want to admit they made a mistake, so they convince her that she is just in shock, and he has been missing for a few months so obviously he has changed a bit.

It would have been interesting if the movie kept it a mystery whether the boy was really her son or not. But we know from the start that it isn't her son. We know for sure when she gets him home and proves that he isn't her son. But the police won't listen. They even send a doctor to the house to examine him, but the doctor is only there to convince the mother that the boy is her son. Eventually another story starts to develop regarding a man who kidnapped and killed a bunch of boys at his ranch.

The movie is based on real events called the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders. Director Clint Eastwood leaves out a few details of the murders, but the movie gets most of it right (as far as I can tell from wikipedia). The movie is pretty depressing and a good half hour too long (running time is 2 hours 20 minutes), so be prepared.

By the way, the two best performances are from John Malkovich (as an evangelical minister) and Jason Butler Harner (as the murderer). Every scene with either of them is very good.

What Just Happened - 2 1/2 stars

Art Linson is a hollywood producer. His credits include Into the Wild, Fight Club and The Untouchables. His book What Just Happened? tells some behind the scenes stories of some of his movies, including Alec Baldwin refusing to shave his beard for The Edge and the studio's reaction to the first screening of Fight Club.

The movie version of the book really has very little to do with the book. Robert DeNiro plays a Hollywood producer named Ben, who is based on Art Linson. The movie is entirely fictional, although at least one story is inspired by a story in the book. In the movie, Bruce Willis is cast as the leading man of a movie and he shows up overweight and with a big, bushy beard. This is obviously inspired by the Alec Baldwin story. There is also an action movie that test screens, and at the end of the movie the hero's dog is shot. The test audience hates it, and the studio chief demands that the ending be changed.

The movie works best when it is focusing on the Hollywood stuff. Stanley Tucci plays an aspiring screenwriter, John Turturro plays Bruce Willis' agent, and Catherine Keener plays a studio chief. The more you know about how movies are made, or the more interested you are in how childish celebrities can be, the more you will enjoy this movie.

RocknRolla - 3 stars

I've never seen Guy Ritchie's previous movies about British gangsters (Snatch; Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels), but I enjoyed this movie enough that I will have to go back and watch those. Its a little hard to follow at first, so you really have to pay attention. Great performances by Gerard Butler (300), Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton), end especially by Mark Strong (Body of Lies).

The plot involves a real estate scam, a crime lord, Russian mobsters, and a drugged out rock star. You really have to pay attention to the story, and new characters keep popping up, but if you can follow it you will enjoy it.

The Haunting of Molly Hartley (not reviewed)

They don't like to screen horror movies for critics, which is a shame because I love a good horror movie.

Rachel Getting Married (not reviewed)

I'm looking forward to this. I've heard nothing but good things.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Oh no, not again ...

A few weeks ago it was reported that some newspapers wouldn't be printing the full title Zack and Miri Make a Porno because one of those words is offensive. Weird, I didn't know that the WORD porno was offensive ...

But now Salt Lake City's own Megaplex Theaters is refusing to book Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Here is the story from the New York Post's Page Six:

HARVEY Weinstein won't be seeing his favorite "porno" in Salt Lake City. Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller's Megaplex Theatres refused to book the Weinstein Company's new R-rated comedy "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," starring Seth Rogan and Elizabeth Banks, saying it's too raunchy for religious, conservative audiences. "We feel it's very close to an NC-17 with its graphic nudity and graphic sex," the chain's Cal Gunderson told us. Asked why Megaplex has no problem showing the R-rated, ultra-violent "Saw V," which shows a man forced to crush his own hands to escape a pendulum cutting him in half, Gunderson said: "No comment." Weinstein distribution chief Steve Bunnell, said he was shocked by the shutout, especially since Megaplex screened other adult comedies like "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up." "I hate to use the word 'censorship,' but . . ." Bunnell said. The flick opens here Oct. 31.

This kind of sucks because Megaplex Theaters (owned by Larry Miller, who also owns the Utah Jazz) is the same theater chain that pulled Brokeback Mountain at the last minute back in 2006. So once again, the moviegoing world has one more reason to make fun of Utah and the Mormons.

To be fair, this is not the same situation as the Brokeback Mountain fiasco. That movie was screened and booked at Megaplex Theaters, and it was pulled the morning it was supposed to open. The showtimes were listed in the local newspapers, and patrons showed up to see the movie only to find out that it had been pulled at the last minute. This time, they are doing the right thing in that they have decided not to book it in the first place.

Funny, that comparison to Saw V. Graphic nudity = bad, graphic torture = ok. The same thing happened last time: when they pulled Brokeback Mountain, they had no problem showing Hostel. Gotta love those conservative values.

Friday, October 24, 2008

In SLC theaters today.

Boy A - 3 1/2 stars

Jack (Andrew Garfield) has just been released from prison. We don't know why yet, but we do know his name isn't Jack. His mentor Terry (Peter Mullan) told him to pick a new name, because he doesn't want anyone to know his past. His past doesn't matter anyway. According to Terry, his present and future is what he should be concerned with.

Jack starts a job, makes friends, and even finds a girlfriend. At the same time, we are shown flashbacks of Jack as a kid (then named Eric) and his friend Philip. As the movie goes along, we will discover what he did and why he doesn't want anyone to know his past.

The less you know about the movie, the better you will enjoy it. It was made in Manchester, England and the accents are sometimes a little hard to understand (for us Americans, anyway). But Peter Mullan (Children of Men, Braveheart) is captivating every moment he is on screen. And Andrew Garfield (Lions for Lambs) is very convincing. The movie starts out slow, really taking its time to develop the characters. But if you give it a chance, the movie pulls you in. I really liked this movie.

Pride and Glory - 2 stars

Colin Farrell, Edward Norton, Noah Emmerich, and Jon Voight are a family of cops. Some of them are corrupt, some are not, and some can't make up their mind. This is about the 1,000th movie about corrupt cops, and I liked last year's We Own The Night much better.

The biggest problem with the movie is the pacing. The opening credit sequence should take 2 minutes, but it drags on for at least 10. I think if they had cut 30 - 45 minutes out of this, it would have tightened up the narrative and the movie would work. But as it is, I was exhausted by the end of it. The scene where Farrell almost irons the baby was pretty cool, though.

High School Musical 3 (not reviewed)

I don't think there is much gray area here. Either you are a fan of HSM 1 and 2, or you're not. You know what to expect, and I hope you enjoy it.

Saw V (not reviewed)

Same thing here. I saw Saw 1 - 3, but I didn't bother with 4. I think I'm done with the Saw franchise. The first one was creepy the first time, but there is nothing in it to make want to see it again, unlike the Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th series. I did like Saw 2 better than 1, but I had enough with part 3. I'm out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Out today on DVD

Casino Royale - Special Edition (3 discs) - 4 stars

This pisses me off. This is the version that should have been released back in 2007. But no, we got the 2-disc Widescreen Edition. Like a chump, I bought that. I should have known that there would be a double-dip when the next movie came out. In my defense, the Widescreen Edition had enough bonus features that I didn't think the double-dip would come so soon. If the DVD had been a 1-disc with very few bonus features, I would have waited.

This version is the one to buy. It has 2 commentary tracks and a bunch of good extras. Even though I already own the Widescreen Edition (2007!), I will pick up this for the extras.

Oh, and the movie is great. Best Bond movie ever. It only took them 21 movies to get it right!

They are also releasing a bunch of the old Bond movies in Ultimate Editions. I'm hoping that they are the exact same versions that were released with the Ultimate Edition box sets from 2006. But so far, I can't seem to find out for sure.

The only thing that would make me buy the old movies AGAIN would be a newly recorded audio commentary with Sean Connery.

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (not reviewed)

This is a documentary of Ben Stein going around and talking to people about intelligent design. I'm guessing that Sarah Palin will enjoy this.

Incredible Hulk: 3 Disc Special Edition - 3 stars

I liked it a lot. Much better than the 2003 version. You can get this as a single disc or the 3 disc edition. But the 3 disc might as well be 2 discs, because the 3rd disc only has the digital copy of the movie. If you get the single disc, you will get a commentary track with director Louis Leterrier and Tim Roth (why no Ed Norton?) and some deleted scenes. If you get the 3 disc (2 disc) version, you get more deleted scenes and several good featurettes.

I must admit I am disappointed with this DVD. When the movie came out, there was talk that Edward Norton wanted a longer cut of the movie released, and around 70 mintes of footage was cut. Not only do we get less than that in the deleted scenes (around 30 minutes), but they are included as deleted scenes. I have no use for deleted scenes. I only watch them once. I would prefer the deleted scenes be edited back into the movie so I could see the longer cut. The Lord of the Rings DVDs are the perfect example of this. You can watch the theatrical cut or the extended cut.

I wouldn't be surprised if they release a longer version of the movie in a year or two, when the next Hulk movie comes out (or the Avengers movie).

Sold Out: A Threevening With Kevin Smith (not reviewed)

I'm looking forward to this. I loved An Evening With Kevin Smith (2002). If you haven't seen it, look for it. Whether you like his movies or not (Clerks, Mallrats, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), you will enjoy his stories about writing a script for Superman, meeting Prince, fighting with Tim Burton, and many other stories.

He released another Evening With DVD (Evening Harder, 2006) which wasn't as good. Hopefully this new one will be better.

The Strangers - 1 star

This wasn't very good. It had some good scares, but that was it. I didn't care about the characters and there is not much to the story. Just 2 people in a house terrorized by 3 psychos in masks. I love a good horror movie, and this isn't one.

Monday, September 29, 2008

New Releases - Friday, September 26th

Eagle Eye - 1 1/2 stars

This is a dumb movie in every sense. The payoff to the setup is dumb. The characters are dumb. The dialogue is dumb. The filmmakers really think the audience is dumb. You would really have to leave your brain at the door to enjoy it. I'm not saying you're dumb if you enjoy it, but if you do enjoy it, please explain yourself.

Towelhead - 3 stars

This is one hell of an uncomfortable movie. A 13-year old girl is physically abused by her father, sexually abused by her neighbor, and emotionally abused by her mother. Lots of people walked out of the movie when I saw it, and I can't recommend it to most people. But if you think you can take it, it IS very well written and acted. This movie stays with you for a long time.

Choke - 3 stars

Here is another movie that's not for everyone. But its not as uncomfortable as Towelhead, mostly because all of the sexual dysfunction involves adults. Sam Rockwell stars as a sex addict who chokes in restaurants on purpose. His friend is a compulsive masturbator, and his mother is suffering from Alzheimer's. Did I mention this is a comedy? Funniest line in the movie: "I'm not a lawnmower!"

The Lucky Ones - 3 stars

Tim Robbins, Rachel McAdams and Michael Pena are soldiers just returning from Iraq. Two are on 30 day leave, the other is out for good. They meet on the plane to New York and when they find all flights are canceled, they decide to rent a car together. This is a good road movie, and there are some very funny moments. The movie grinds to a halt during the last 20 minutes or so, otherwise I would give this 3 1/2 stars.

Forever Strong - 2 stars

I'll admit it first: I don't like sports movies. I'm not a sports fan, and they are all about the same thing. But then any movie is only as good as the characters and the story. It doesn't matter if the backdrop is sports, wine (Sideways), or digging for oil (There Will Be Blood). In this case, the acting is bad and the story is underwhelming. Sean Faris is a troubled rugby player who changes throughout the course of the movie into a fine, upstanding young man. But his transformation was about as believable as Anakin Skywalker's.

All Roads Lead Home - 0 stars

If you love the made-for-TV movies they show on the Hallmark Channel or ABC Family, you will still hate this movie, but you won't hate it as much. Stay away.

Miracle at St. Anna (no review)

When Spike Lee lashed out at Clint Eastwood earlier this year, he was just trying to get publicity for this movie. But hey, whatever you've gotta do ...

Nights in Rodanthe (no review)

Richard Gere and Diane Lane reunite for a sappy romantic weepfest. You know if you are in the target demographic.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Opening Friday, September 19th

Ghost Town - 3 1/2 stars

Ghost Town is the best movie of the week, and the funniest movie I've seen in months. The Great Ricky Gervais stars as Bertram Pincus D.D.S. He hates everyone. When his patients start telling him about their kids, he quickly sticks cotton in their mouths to shut them up. When his co-worker brings cake for everyone, he sneaks out the door so he won't have to socialize with anyone.

While undergoing a routine medical procedure, he dies for about 7 minutes. When he leaves the hospital he is horrified to find that he can see and hear ghosts. The ghosts are excited because this is the first person that has ever been able to talk to them. So naturally they all start following him around, begging him to pass on messages to their surviving relatives.

Its a good idea to take the standard "I see dead people" idea and use it for comedy. Remember Whoopie Goldburg's character from Ghost? After she meets Sam (Patrick Swayze), she is harrased by ghosts all the time. When Sam next sees her, she says "What did you do to me? Did you tell every spook in the world about me? I've got ghosts coming into the shower! I can't get rid of them!" Imagine if that movie had been about Whoopie Goldburg instead of Patrick Swayze. You get the idea.

As fans of the British version of The Office or HBO's Extras can tell you, Ricky Gervais is a genius. There are so many scenes in this movie that would be boring and ordinary with anyone else in the role, but Gervais' deadpan delivery makes those scenes comedy gold. Tea Leoni and Greg Kinnear are very good in this too. Go see it right away.

Lakeview Terrace - 3 stars

A racist police officer (Samuel L. Jackson) torments the interracial couple (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) that live next door. At first, he just intimidates them. Then he starts threatening them, and it escalates from there. This is not too original. Reminds me of Unlawful Entry of Pacific Heights. But it is done well enough, and its always fun to see Sam Jackson as a badass.

Transsiberian - 3 1/2 stars

Emily Mortimer and Woody Harrelson star as an American couple who are in China doing missionary work. When they are finished, they decide to take the Transsiberian railroad from Beijing to Moscow. While on the train they share a cabin with another couple (Eduardo Noriega and Kate Mara). There are hints that one of them may be a drug mule, and Ben Kingsley shows up as a Russian narcotics detective.

I don't want to say any more for fear of ruining the surprises. If this were a mainstream Hollywood film, the action would kick in within the first 15 minutes. But since this is an independant film by Brad Anderson (The Machinist), it takes its time. The first 45 minutes or so are rather uneventful. We get to know the characters and we even learn about how the track gauge is a few inches different in Russia. When they cross the border, they have to take the train cars off the wheels and put the correct gauge wheels on so they can continue into Russia.

Once the plot kicks in, it gets very suspenseful. There are a few twists that you won't see coming. This is a smart thriller that you won't soon forget.

Igor (not screened for critics, so it probably sucks)

John Cusack provides the voice for an evil scientist's hunchbacked assistant.

My Best Friend's Girl (not screened for critics, so it probably sucks)

Dane Cook, Kate Hudson, Jason Biggs. Need I say more?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Believe it or not ...

They're making a Greatest American Hero movie. Seriously. I loved the TV show as a kid, but will it work as a movie? The good news is that creator Steven J. Cannell says the original cast will be in the movie. He said "More than cameos: acting jobs." So I guess that means the original characters will be in the movie. That's good. I was excited when I heard that Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann would be in Race to Witch Mountain, then I was disappointed to learn that they will only be cameos. They won't be playing adult Tony and Tia, they will just be waiters in a restaurant or something.

There are also plans for a series of four-minute animated Web shorts, voiced by Katt, Culp and Sellecca. That could be cool.

Check out the picture of them at the Greatest American Hero panel during SAG's 75th anniversary celebration. William Katt's looking old, but Connie Sellecca still looks good.

What's coming out on DVD this week?

The Big Lebowski - 10th Anniversary Edition - 4 stars
This is at least the 3rd edition of The Big Lebowski, but this time they finally got it right. The original release had a Behind-the-Scenes Featurette with the Coen brothers that ran 25 minutes. The Widescreen Collector's Edition (2005) had a silly but pointless 5 minute introduction from "Forever Young Films" and a bunch of pictures Jeff Bridges took during production. This version has all that plus more.

The best DVD extras (IMHO) are retrospective, 10-year later kind of things. My favorite thing about this release is it has just about the entire cast participating. You get Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, even john Turturro. It would have been nice to hear from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tara Reid and Peter Stormare, but the biggest stars of the movie are here. You get Jeff Bridges talking about the practical joke the girls played on him during the filming of the dream sequence when he is flying under their legs. You get John Goodman talking about the things fans shout at him when he runs into them on the street. You get Steve Buscemi comparing his death scene in this to his death scene in Fargo. Compare a DVD like this to something like Fletch: The Jane Doe Edition. No Chevy Chase involvement at all. Lame as hell.

You can get the 2 disc edition for around $15, or you can spend $25 - $30 for the Limited Edition Bowling Ball Packaging (pictured). That's going to look great up on the mantle. It really ties the room together.

Baby Mama - 2 1/2 stars

I was a little disappointed with this. It should have been funnier than it was. The cast is great: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear, Dax Shepard, Sigourney Weaver, and Steve Martin. They all had their funny moments, but overall the movie didn't really work for me. Its probably better as a rental than in the theater. I definitely wouldn't buy the movie. But this may be the funniest Steve Martin performance since the 80's.

The Fall - 1 1/2 stars

Tarsem Singh directed this, his first movie since The Cell (2000). He has also done commercials and REM's Losing My Religion video. So he really knows how to create interesting visuals. Unfortunately the movie is boring as hell. Lee Pace plays a stuntman in the 1920s who is in the hospital because he got seriously injured filming a movie. He befriends a young girl named Alexandria. He wants to kill himself, so he asks Alexandria to get him some pills. But he does this by telling her a story. Like The Princess Bride the movie cuts back and forth between the characters in the hospital and the characters in the fantasy story he is telling. Unlike The Princess Bride, the story is boring and makes no sense. This might have made a decent short film but its 2 hours. Did I mention that it's boring?

The Forbidden Kingdom - 1 1/2 stars

From Rob Minkoff, director of The Haunted mansion comes the first collaboration between Jet Li and Jackie Chan. So it should be good, right? Wrong. The story is pretty simple. Jason (Michael Angarano) is a teenager in modern day America. He is bullied, he finds a magic staff in a Chinese pawn shop (the kind of place where Gizmo came from), the staff transports him back to ancient China. Luckily, everyone there speaks English. He meets the drunken kung fu master (Jackie Chan), a silent monk (Jet Li), and a hot kung fu chick named Golden Sparrow (Crystal Liu Yi Fei). Their quest is to return the staff to its rightful owner.

One problem with the movie is the fight editing. When Jackie Chan and Jet Li fight, you can't tell what is going on because no shot lasts more than a split second. I'm so tired of this kind of editing. They have both been doing movie fight scenes for so long that they could have done a cool looking fight with no cuts. Give me a master shot and don't cut away so I can actually SEE the fight.

Another problem is Michael Angarano. He has no charisma and is a terrible actor. You might have seen him as Will Stronghold in Sky High. He hasn't gotten any better.

This movie isn't very good. I wouldn't even rent it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Movies opening today.

Traitor - 3 stars (opened Wednesday)
Don Cheadle stars as an American Special Operations officer who goes undercover with a terrorist organization in the middle east. The movie does a great job making you question whether he is still undercover or has completely gone over to the other side. Don Cheadle is always great, and he plays the character perfectly. We also get great performances from Guy Pearce and Jeff Daniels. Its too bad the movie is opening on one of the worst movie weekends of the year. Cheadle should get an Oscar nomination for this movie, but he probably won't because not enough people will see it.

Babylon A.D. (not screened for critics)
Director Mathieu Kassovitz says "It's pure violence and stupidity", "parts of the movie are like a bad episode of 24", and "I should have chosen a studio that has guts." How bad does a movie have to suck for the director to say its a big steaming pile of crap?

Disaster Movie
From the people who made Meet the Spartans and Epic Movie. I hear this parodies the latest superhero movies more than disaster movies, but the name Superhero Movie was already taken. The biggest stars in this movie? Carmen Electra and Kim Kardashian. Seriously.

College (not screened for critics)
Three high school students visit a college campus, pretent to be students, join a fraternity, and hilarity ensues. I'm guessing this isn't as good as Superbad.

Ben Kingsley has love scenes with Penelope Cruz, which isn't quite as creepy as when he made out with Mary-Kate Olsen in The Wackness. But still a little creepy.

Man on Wire
Imagine the World Trade Center is still standing. Now imagine stringing a wire across the tops of the towers and walking from one to the other. That's what Philippe Petit did back in 1974.

The Last Mistress (Une Vieille Maitresse)
Its a period drama directed by Catherine Breillat (Fat Girl, Romance), and starring Asia Argento (xXx, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things). Breillat's movies all have nudity and sex, Argento gets naked on screen a lot, so I'm guessing this will be a nice G-rated family movie.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Out on DVD today (well, yesterday).

Brotherhood of the Wolf: Director's Cut (2 discs)
I saw this when it came out in 2001, and I don't remember being blown away by it. But the director's cut is about 10 minutes longer than the theatrical cut, and the second disc has some good bonus features. I will probably have to check this movie out again. Maybe the added 10 minutes will make all the difference and I will love it.
Cannibal Holocaust
One of the most controversial movies ever made (another is listed below), the director was actually arrested and charged with murder when the movie came out. He had to get the actors to appear in court to prove that he didn't kill them. The movie is that realistic. And disgusting. I dare you to watch it.
Chicago 10
The true story of protestors who were put on trial following the 1968 Democratic National Convention, it premiered at Sundance 2007. For a while Spielberg was going to direct a movie based on the same events called The Trial of Chicago Seven starring Sacha Baron Cohen. Not sure if they are both still attached, or if the movie will ever be made.
Entourage: The Complete Fourth Season
I hear great things about this show. I need to catch up on it soon.
Heroes: Season 2
I hear mixed things about this show. I may catch up on it someday.
The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning
Because after the Star Wars prequels, we really want to know every character's origin story.
The Nightmare Before Christmas: Collector's Edition and Ultimate DVD Set
I've never seen this, but this DVD set makes me want to see it. I love DVD sets like this. Extras up the ass, including commentary by Tim Burton and Danny Elfman. But the best part sounds like Tim Burton's original illustrated poem narrated by Christopher Lee. The Ultimate DVD set would look great on the mantel, but it will cost you like $125.
Nude for Satan
Because Satan wants you to get naked ...
Another masterpiece by the great Uwe Boll. Yeah, right. Apparently no distributor wanted to touch it, it only got a limited theatrical release, and the critits all hated it (9% at It generated enough controversy that I want to see it, just to see what the fuss was about.
Redbelt - 3 stars
It helps if you like David Mamet's movies. This one's about a martial arts instructor who is forced to compete in prize bouts, even though its against his moral code. Another great performance from the great Chiwetel Ejiofor (say that 5 times fast), and a surprisingly good dramatic performance by Tim Allen.
Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom: Criterion Collection
This is the other one on the 'most controversial movies of all time' list. It takes a story by the Marquis de Sade and puts it in fascist Italy during World War II. Featuring nudity, torture, shit-eating (I shit you not), fun stuff like that. As with all Criterion DVDs, this features lots of good bonus features. You know if this movie is for you.
Son of Rambow - 3 stars
This is a great movie that reminds you what its like to be a kid and unpopular (assuming you were one of those). A sheltered kid who has never seen a movie before sees First Blood, and is immediately obsessed with Rambo. He decides to make his own movie, casting himself as the son of Rambo(w). Bonus features include a making of featurette and commentary with director Garth Jennings, producer Nick Goldsmith, and actors Bill Milner and Will Poulter (the two main kids). The kids' mothers even show up in the commentary.
The Shield: The Complete 6th Season
I hear really good things about this show. I saw the pilot episode and it was very good. The end hits you like a sucker punch to the gut.
UFO Hunters: Season 1
My roommate loves this show.
What Happens in Vegas - 2 1/2 stars
I didn't think this was nearly as bad as the critics said (27% at I think it makes for a pretty good date movie. Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz play their standard roles, and they have decent chemistry together. Some of the jokes are too obvious, been-there-done-that, but the movie doesn't suck. And their friends Tipper (Lake Bell) and Hater (Rob Corddry from The Daily Show) have some very funny moments.
Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?
I hate to spoil it, but Morgan Spurlock doesn't find Bin Laden.