Monday, March 31, 2014

03/31: White Nights (1985)

I wasn't really familiar with the movie until over a year ago. One thing I DID know was that Phil Collins had a #1 hit single (with Marilyn Martin) from that movie. Then one day on our free Encore trial, I was flipping through the Encore channels and this movie came on. The scene that got my attention was the 'dance scene'. I'll explain, read on.

This artful dance film was set in Russia (or at the time, the Soviet Union) and stars Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Rodchenko (Baryshnikov) plays a popular dancer and actor who defected from the Soviet Union whose plane suddenly lands back home from Japan. A member of the KGB recognizes him and arrests him, but later puts him in the same place as Greenwood (Hines) and his wife (who both left the US for the Soviet Union). Greenwood is put in charge of keeping his eye on Rodchenko, who are at odds because of their racial differences. Despite of this, they bond slowly but surely and together they devise a plan to escape the Communist country.

One of the most famous dance scenes of all-time, if not the best happens about 3/4s into the film, as Greenwood and Rodchenko test out each other's moves in the studio. And in case you're wondering, the song they dance to is 'Prove Me Wrong' by former Ambrosia lead singer David Pack. Besides that song, it's got a great soundtrack as well that adds spice to the seriousness of the movie.

Some may see this is as boring, while some may like it because of Gregory Hines. Hines was one of the most iconic double threat actors who could also dance very well. This was during the peak of his career.

My rating: 6 out of 10

Sunday, March 30, 2014

3/30 (b): Shallow Hal

Most people who know me well know Jack Black is one of my least favorite people in Hollywood. But, as a movie critic I can't be biased. So I'll just review one of my favorites of his. Shallow Hal is about the teachings of being not-so-shallow.

Jack Black plays Hal, a 30-something partyman who likes to boogie down at the clubs with his best friend (played by Jason Alexander). They both love hot women with the best bodies. But at the same time Hal realizes he is not that lucky with women. Then Hal gets stuck in an elevator with self-help guru Tony Robbins (appearing as himself) and explains his situation and gets 'hypnotized' by him. Soonafter, Hal meets several beautiful women in his eyes, and eventually Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow) catches his eye. Rosemary, who is his boss's daughter (unbeknownst to Hal) is actually extremely obese, but in Hal's eyes she is a slim, slender athletic woman with a dynamic personality. Hal starts to gain respect and turn a few heads, except for his best friend, who is wondering what is going on.

The film was criticized for putting overweight/fat/(whatever politically correct term you find) people in a negative light. A lot did get the message about shallowness and hypocrisy. In other words, if you want a girl with a great body, go get one of your own! But we see Hal learn a lot about himself, and what's inside that counts. Tony Robbins even puts on a great performance, as does Gwyneth in her fatsuit.

My rating: 7 out of 10

3/30 (a): Sabotage (2014)

About three days ago I was laughing out loud upon reading the headlines of the reviews of Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest movie, Sabotage. I don't know offhand who the syndicated columnist was, but in big letters it read something like, 'BAD MOVIE, SCHWARZENEGGER NEEDS TO HANG IT UP'. After seeing the movie last night, I partly agreed.

WARNING: SPOILERS........before I saw the movie, I wasn't familiar with the plot, but I got the idea that it was going to be just another action movie. Sure, it was, but sprinkle in a lot of blood and guts (for real) and some unnecessary toilet jokes, and you got yourself two hours waste of time. The start of the story involves Breach's (Schwarzenegger) team of 'police officers' (actually, an elite DEA task force) stealing at least ten million while taking down a Mexican drug cartel. I already knew this was something stupid when, while stacks of money in front of you would be a thrill, why risk stealing it? They stick it down a sewer pipe and its already gone by the time they get to the other end of it. Next, members of the team get killed-one by one-as suspected homicides, even though this is months after the theft. It's up to the gang to figure out what is going on and who is the bad guy/girl. We also forget what they did wrong in the beginning, as well as what happened to Breach's family before the movie started.

Don't get me's great to see Arnold back in the movies, especially after he's still fresh from a long political hiatus. But it seems his days are nothing like 'Terminator', 'Last Action Hero', among others. He's still got his masculinity, and his cigars, but that's about it. I'd check this one out anyway, just to see what all the bad reviews are about. Of course, leave the kids at home, unless you don't want to be a good role model for them...

My rating: 4 out of 10

Friday, March 28, 2014

03/28: I Love You, Man

At first I thought there would be some Budweiser reference in this movie, since it is probably named after one of its past lines in their commercials. Or it could be a brotherly, or friendly, movie, who knows. I was recommended this movie a few years back when a friend of mine said the band Rush was in it. I wasn't familiar with the main cast members at the time, but so I won't be let out in conversations, I watched it anyway.

Since then, this has been one of my (so called) 'Frat Pack' favorites. It stars Jason Segel, Rashida Jones and Paul Rudd in one of the best comedies of last decade. Jones and Rudd portray Zooey and Peter, who become engaged at the beginning of the film. Zooey has a lot of close girl friends, but Peter has some 'not-so-close' friends to announce his good news to. After trying to reconnect with acquaintances and friend's husbands, Peter gives up. That is until he throws an open house for bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno. He meets Sydney (Segel) and they eventually hit it off quick. Sydney is a very laid-back, fun, rock and rollin' kind of guy who lets Peter see his other side, as opposed to his tense and squeaky-clean lifestyle. Zooey is proud of Peter for finally finding a good friend, but she soon feels left out! Many hilarious things pursue from there.

All in all, a great fun movie. And for a Rush fan like myself, what's there not to like?! Several pop-culture references and jokes complete this film. You also gotta respect Lou Ferrigno for not taking himself too seriously in this one, either. The only damnation this film gets is popularizing the term 'bromance' (a word I definitely cannot stand!).

My rating: 8 out of 10

Thursday, March 27, 2014

03/27: Muppets Most Wanted

The movie was everything I expected it would be...which is great by the way. In this one, they continue to pull off all the laughter, gags and the story. Even in the beginning, where it seems that they left off from the 2011 'Muppets' movie, they start going into a song-and-dance segment about how bad or good sequels are. It's a great song with many things to poke fun about it.

The story, in case you didn't get the memo: A well-known Kermit lookalike, the thick accent black moled Constantine Frog is on the loose. He's the most dangerous of all the Muppets, if not the world. We see him escape from the Gulag in Russia, and his partner-in-crime Dominick Badguy (it's French) talks (and cons) the Muppets into doing a world tour of their show. Constantine intentionally runs into Kermit and leaves him framed for crime. The Muppets are all excited about their international tour, throwing all kinds of outrageous ideas that Kermit is skeptical of. That all changes when Kermit is replaced by his lookalike, who hides his mole but not his accent. Somehow he fools all the other Muppets, except Walter, even when he is acting strange. Kermit on the other hand, who is left behind by his pals, is convinced to do a Broadway-type show, by the warden (or guard? played by Tina Fey).

Lots of fun as said above, as the Muppets take on another feature film. I'll be honest, I wasn't sure about this one since we all pretty much knew the plot. But luckily it was the curiosity in me to see how it all panned out; plus my lifelong love for the Muppets. I knew who Ricky Gervais (Badguy) was, but I never watched any of his work coming into this. He did great. Lots of celebrity cameos from Tony Bennett to Celine Dion to Usher. And some gags here and there, too. But there's also the soft touch as the 'wedding', plus Tina Fey's memorable line, 'In prison, nobody ever talks about family'. This definitely proves the people behind the Muppets have not lost their creative touch and their roots.

Nice job, puppeteers! I can't wait to find out what the next installment will be like.

My rating: 7 out of 10

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

03/26: The Muppet Movie

The first big-screen feature starring the Muppets came out in 1979, at one of the heights of the famous puppets' popularity. I guess you can say it was during their 'first era', and by that I mean with their original creators and puppeteers, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, etc. (Tonight I'm planning on seeing their latest feature which I hope to review tomorrow)

At the beginning, we see it as a 'movie-within-a-movie', as they are ready to watch themselves on the big screen. It starts with Kermit in the swamp home, and being persuaded to make a career in show business. As he heads on the road, he is also being persuaded to become entrepreneur Doc Hopper's spokesman for his frog legs restaurant franchise. Kermit repeatedly rejects him while making the trek to Hollywood. Along the way, he comes across the Muppets we are all familiar with: Gonzo, Fonzie the Bear, and of course, Miss Piggy.

Definitely a fun movie, as there are several celebrity cameos. Sadly though, most of them are now deceased, but you gotta remember: this was 1979. But its a great way to remember showbiz legends, like Bob Hope and Richard Pryor. Radio ventriloquist Edgar Bergen (who also makes a cameo) passed away during production, as the movie is dedicated to him. Several jokes and off-the-wall clean humor make this movie what it is as well. And let's not forget the songs: remember 'Moving Right Along', which was actually released as a single at the time?

Great family movie, and if it hasn't been certified a classic yet, its way overdue.

My rating: 8 out of 10

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

03/25: The Perks Of Being a Wallflower

One critic called this movie 'this generation's Breakfast Club'. I'm gonna have to disagree with that person right away. I see no connection to those movies except for the fact they are high school movies. This sleeper hit seemed to have been more popular in book form (it was a best-selling novel starting in 1999), and while it may have underperformed in theaters (actually it was a limited release to four theaters), it was very popular on DVD and Blu-ray.

It's about a boy named Charlie (Logan Lerman) who attends high school as a freshman. His best friend had recently committed suicide, so he is always willing to meet new friends. He open-mindedly explores people and different things. At a football game, he starts hanging around step-sibling seniors, Patrick and Sam (Ezra Miller and Emma Watson). They become best friends as Charlie becomes more attached to their clique, even performing in their weekend 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' plays. The clique is pretty much known to be outcasts, as Charlie comes off as very shy and not sociable. He also ends up dating one of the fellow outcasts.

The part(s) where the movie lost me are in the second half. All the emotional moments; some not having to do with any of the story. But I'm sure its there to confuse the viewer, as most of them probably read the book. Or maybe I was the only one who was confused, or dissatisfied with its overdramatic scenes. I know, I critized the Breakfast Club in the same way, but here I'm talking about more serious scenes. And I'm assuming the part about finding 'their special song to speed in the tunnel' is not meant to be taken seriously. But it ends okay, I guess. Which I won't give away.

This will probably be the most negative review of this movie, but I'll be fair in some ways.

My rating: 5 out of 10

Monday, March 24, 2014

03/24 (b): The Breakfast Club

Today is a great day, timing-wise, to do a review for the classic teen movie. Why, because today, in the fictional town of Sherman, Illinois, 5 Sherman High students gathered for Saturday detention on March 24, 1984. Hard to believe that was 3 decades ago, even though the movie was released a year later. Most of you are aware of the accolades and praises of this iconic 80s movie. No words can explain it, but I can tell you from the first time I watched it (over 15 years ago), it has been a movie that has stayed with me for the longest time and still does every time I watch it. Millions, I believe, feel the same way.

I've mentioned before that I'm the type of movie-lover who loves stories with personal rather than escapist stories. This one can't hit you any harder. It's nothing like the good ol' days when your grandparents probably told you (mine did) when high school is supposed to be 'the greatest days of your life'. That all changed over time, when more suburban cities developed bigger high schools and most believed they separated students by class and rank. Cliques formed, and outkasts and more stereotypes were created. In The Breakfast Club, we meet 5 students who each belong in different stereotypical categories. They're all in detention for different, if not bizarre, reasons.

Let's analyze the five:

Claire (Molly Ringwald)- the pretty, prissy prom princess who eats sushi, and embarrassingly, a virgin.

Bender (Judd Nelson) - the criminal. Comes from a loser family, knows how to fight (with weapons and words), among other things.

Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) - the brain. The total geek who seems to have been raised by Mr. Rogers.

Andy (Emilio Estevez)- the jock. The tough-as-balls wrestler, or so we're led to believe.

Allison (Ally Sheedy)- the basket case. The seemingly pretty, yet crazy one.

After being settled in detention, the students sort of bond, but not in a good way as several differences (mostly with Bender and Andy) are explained. Slowly but surely, they all find out they have one thing in common: they hate authority, they hate their parents, and they just want to have some fun and not be looked at as another stereotype. It's all explained in the essay they are asked to do for the principal. 

This is a character-driven script, in case you haven't noticed. The only complaint I have sometimes about this film is sometimes overdramatic, like the emotional scenes when they are all spilling their secrets. But I get over it throughout the movie. Some of them may not seem realistic, I suppose. Would we ever see the principal try to threaten the bully in private? Can anyone get away with smoking pot in the library? Who knows. Probably the only thing that tramples on it is the birth of the 'brat pack' theme. Another thing that got me was that three of the five actors (Estevez, Sheedy, Nelson) went on to play college graduates later in 1985's St. Elmo's Fire. Molly Ringwald began to play roles that were nothing like her Claire character. I remember at one time a long time ago there was a crazy rumor about the cast reuniting in a new updated story of this film. I'm glad it didn't happen (laughs).

But to the late, great John Hughes: outstanding, excellent work. This masterpiece still lives on today and I believe it will for generations to come.

My rating: 10 out of 10

03/24 (a): The Muppets

Sorry guys, another busy one yesterday; as I said, Sundays are busy for me. Usually I do have the time to write a review on those days, but I was doing double duty. But I got two great reviews today for YOU. That's right. In honor of the new Muppets movie in theatres now, I thought now was the perfect time to write one about the first one of the new Muppets wave of revival movies.

Most of us know we live in an era where anything that was cool in our childhood (70s, 80s, early 90s) will likely be made into a movie, and for better or worse, a sequel and/or a prequel. I can't even think of anything that hasn't been made into a movie yet, except for maybe GoBots and Lazertag. Anyway, if you were a child of the 70s and 80s, you definitely grew up with the Muppets. You started with Sesame Street, probably watched the primetime TV show, and/or saw all the movies. They weren't even a guilty pleasure; in fact, they were loved by both kids and adults. I remember what I was doing when Jim Henson died in May 1990, and I remember looking at his creation Muppets differently for a while. (Recently his son, John, who helped keep the empire running, passed away at age 48) In Henson's post-life, we've seen the Muppets in several incarnations, including being bought by Walt Disney Company. But it wasn't until a member of the so-called 'Frat Pack' took interest and convinced Disney to revive the famous puppets back to the big screen.

Jason Segel, who was mostly known for his roles in R-rated comedy films, lived his dream of being in a movie with the Muppets. In the lead role, with Amy Adams and new Muppet, Walter, they set to go out on a road trip to L.A., where their main priority is to visit the old Muppet Studios. While there, they find out they must raise $10 million to keep the contract to the theater. However, the Muppets have mostly disbanded, with Miss Piggy living in Paris, Kermit the Frog enjoying retirement, and Fonzie playing in a Muppet tribute band, the Moopets(!). It is up to the trio to get them all back together and help raise money before their legacy is forgotten, and to keep from being bought out by an oil baron.

As expected (from previous Muppet films), many celebrity cameos are in store, including Neil Patrick Harris and Jack Black. Definitely a fun film, and one of the greatest 'revival' movies of this generation. More importantly, it hasn't forgotten its roots and the past movies, as it is set in present day. I have yet to see the next one, but while it may look sillier and predictable, who knows.

My rating: 9 out of 10

Saturday, March 22, 2014

03/22: George of the Jungle

1997 was a big year for movies, even before Titanic came out. Hit after hit, there was Men in Black, Air Force One, etc. I remember having a conversation with my siblings at the time this movie came out and they were like, 'Who would actually go see this movie?'. I began to wonder the same thing. Because quirky Brendan Fraser is in it? Did people actually like the cartoon? A good excuse to take the kids out?

Whatever the reason, I did get down to watching this several years later. That's not to say I missed very much. But it was an enjoyable film. The plot may seem a bit self-explanatory. We all probably know that George was raised in the jungle by apes, just like Tarzan. It closely resembles a Tarzan/Jane story: a woman who is part of a tourist group (Ursula, played by Leslie Mann) is saved by George when she is about to be attacked by a lion. She wakes up and finds George living in an all-animal/non-human environment and she gets to teach him human skills. Meanwhile, Ursula's fiance tries searching for her, and when he does, they take George back to the United States. There, George explores a new life, while Ursula is having second thoughts about marrying her fiance.

A fun, silly comedy. Some may just take it seriously, and I believe its partly not meant to be that way. Just experience the talking ape (voiced by John Cleese) and you'll know not to! Perfect for a family movie night.

My rating: 6 out of 10

Friday, March 21, 2014

03/21: Tremors

The first year of the 90s brought us this Southwestern horror film, set in a desert hick town. Underground big and little monsters threaten to kill and take over the town as the town's residents crawl to the highest ground whenever available. A little campy here and there, but a nice monster flick.

The cast seemed a bit weird, with Kevin Bacon as the frontman (in a hillbilly role). Also you have Finn Carter (the young female lead), country singer Reba McEntire and Michael Gross. Nonetheless, they pulled it together. Valentine (Bacon) and his best friend Earl set out to leave the town when they discover dead people on the road and they figure out what's going on until its proven some sort of 'snake' killed them. With help from the seismologist (Carter) they discover its strengths and weaknesses. It all comes down to everyone trying to find ways to survive, while being cut off from the rest of the world.

As mentioned above, a bit campy and Bacon trying to be a redneck is a little funny. Part of the movie should be taken seriously, though, as we see people get killed. Sure, this can be classified as a 'horror' movie, but it also can be difficult what kind of genre to put this in. The only real bad thing about this movie is the sequels, which I haven't seen yet. I'm assuming they were the typical direct-to-video ones, where they recycle the plot, but who knows.

My rating: 7 out of 10

Thursday, March 20, 2014

03/20: The Bad News Bears (1976)

Today is the first day of Spring, or so the calendar says. That means Spring Fever is in the air! And what better way to celebrate warmer by the day weather than reviewing a kids baseball movie. The Bad News Bears was one of the top hits of the mid-70s, with Walter Matthau playing one of his greatest roles.

Buttermaker (Matthau) is pretty much a washed-up, former Minor League ball player who cleans pools. He's also an alcoholic, and he smokes cigars. He's recruited by a city councilman to form and coach a Little League team (sponsored by Chico's Bail Bonds), a team made up of losers. Buttermaker then recruits the daughter of an ex-lover (Tatum O'Neal, in another great performance) as well as the motorcycle rebel Kelly, who definitely has an arm. They face serious teams, especially the Yankees, as their confidence grows.

A fun, summer, kid and teen movie that would take anyone back in time. Its definitely one that would be inspiring, if you're in a hopeless situation.You may want to lecture your kids about the rude humor as well as the racial and ethnic slurs, as well as alcohol and tobacco use (which was fine back then). But its also one that tells an honest and cynical look at life, which can resemble our own. It's more than just another 'underdog' movie.

My rating: 8 out of 10

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

03/19: The Three Stooges (2012)

In one of the most, perhaps, longest and well-publicized developmented movie so far this century, The Three Stooges was able to be released. That's not to say it was satisfactory for some people and well-received. I'm sure though lifelong and new Three Stooges fans were happy to see this happen.

A little about the story: Larry, Curly and Moe were left at an orphanage when they were babies. They have been at the same orphanage all this time, and just about everyone who was looking to adopt wasn't interested. The boys are all grown up now, working as janitors at the orphanage, still doing their hijinks and accidental goofs (like injuring people and poking eyes out). Now the orphanage is about to close, unless someone comes up with $830,000 in a month. The boys, refusing to give up and lose their home, go out in their ridiculous ways to raise the money (including doing a reality show!) while getting involved with a woman and her lover who wants to kill her husband.

Very funny, although some may find it stupid and recycled. Hellooo? It's the Three Stooges for crying out loud! It's got a decent cast as well, not just the main three, but you also have Jane Lynch as the head nun and Sofia Vergara's show-stopping performance. I still wonder why Larry David agreed to portray a nun. And cast members of 'Jersey Shore', though I don't think very highly of them, also make an appearance, of course, poking fun of themselves. Perhaps the most surprising is because of the state of people's level of humor (rude, slapstick, Three Stooges-type) for kids, this is rated PG. Maybe it's because there's too many PG-13 and R-rated movies out there? I think so. Which is good because all of my nephews (who are all 14 and under) really enjoyed this movie.

And watch out: there is a sequel in the works. Nyuk nyuk nyuk!

My rating: 7 out of 10

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

03/18: The Last Man On Earth (1964)

This one is an early vampire/zombie film; actually it's more like what is seen in today's zombie films. You see undead beings walking around killing and biting people, hoping they become one of them. That's the case in this movie starring Vincent Price.

Horror movie legend (and St. Louisan) Vincent Price stars as Dr. Robert Morgan, who is indeed the 'last man on Earth'. However, he does try to find any human survivors left, after something in the air plagues, well, the Earth. Morgan is immune from it, unlike the rest of his family. He even tries to befriend a dog, which also gets infected with the virus. It's all a depressing one, but worth watching.

It can be cited as 'the first zombie thriller', although I'm aware there are several of those type of flicks that came way before 1964. 'I Am Legend' with Will Smith is said to be a remake of this. I can agree.

My rating: 5 out of 10

Monday, March 17, 2014

03/17: Get Carter (1971)

At the moment I can't think of an Irish movie, but I'm sure a day or two from now I'll be kicking myself....but oh well. Thought I'd do an iconic British movie. It was well-received of course in its home country, but disappointingly not in the United States. Not even with a remake that came many decades later...but I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Michael Caine stars in this crime/detective film as Jack Carter. Carter is a gangster (Caine apparently wanted this to be in a serious tone as opposed to how they are 'stupidly portrayed') who lives a free-spirited life. That is until he attends the funeral for his brother Frank. Jack is not satisfied with the answers he's getting about his brother's death, so he goes out of his way on a journey for the truth.

The movie does provide a great experience for people like me who are curious about English culture, and how their movies are made. The 1970s seemed to be a boom for Great Britain as far as the movie industry goes. Michael Caine was already a successful actor at that time in England and today he is known to be a living legend on both sides of the Atlantic. His acting is superb in this one, while at the same time you wonder while he plays a rebellious character he's also very quiet and calm. But that's his style anyway, right? The whole movie though as a whole, was a bit boring and slow-paced, but it got better towards the end.

My rating: 6 out of 10

Sunday, March 16, 2014

03/16 (b): The NeverEnding Story

Putting this film as a fantasy one is an understatement. It's more than that, all because it creates a different world. Wolfgang Petersen's world, that is. But, unfortunately, on the other hand, to me it was a story that was very hard to follow. I'm usually slow with catching on with scenes and characters. I blame it on that. Maybe this is unfair of me to give this one a poor review, perhaps I should watch it again? Nevertheless, this did gain a cult audience and it was well received by most critics and moviegoers alike. And it grossed over 100 million worldwide. It even spawned a sequel. But I have to give it kudos for being a different kind of escapist film.

My rating: 5 out of 10

03/16 (a): Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Sorry again for the lack of posting from yesterday, this has been a busy weekend for moi. So I'm gonna go ahead and review one of the 80s' greatest classics, as defined by most. This was arguably Matthew Broderick's defining film role. To some it was a fun movie, and its easy to compare with our own lives.

Bueller...Bueller...Bueller....uh, he's sick.....  Those words were etched in the heads of those who have seen the 1986 film as they relate well to it. Bueller pretty much fakes an illness while he goes on a day on the town (or city) of Chicago. Whether it be catching a ball at a Cubs game or going on top of the Sears Tower, or carefully watching the red car, he taught most of us that you are always welcome to have a day of fun while you're young. He even said it at the end.

Of course, to most, it is NOT recommended to pull off 'the perfect day' which includes a huge lie to skip school. As much as I'm not fond of Matthew Broderick's acting, I'd say he pulled it off pretty well. Even Jennifer Grey in her pre-Dirty Dancing performance. And as much as I can't stand the city of Chicago, it was John Hughes' intention to give his beloved home city a homage. That he did pretty well.

My rating: 7 out of 10

Friday, March 14, 2014

03/14: Still Waiting....

With a movie and its sequel there will be a Jekyll and Hyde. I praised the first movie yesterday, but as for the 'Hyde' part I wasn't crazy about the second one. It repeated the formula, which was several plotlines and stories with characters. Some of the characters were still around, some with different roles from the first. Most noticeably, Ryan Reynolds (who had gone on to bigger roles) and Anna Faris were notably absent. I must say, though, there were some weird parts.

First, the real backbone plot was Shenaniganz' business was threatened with a chicken wings (Hooters-type) restaurant, Ta-Ta's. Sure, some of the customers chose that one over the other, as well as a couple employees (Raddiumus and Calvin) jumping ship. Calvin, who was the easygoing guy (who extremely lacked self-confidence) became a changed man overnight; Naomi (the crazy, crabby waitress) and Vanessa (the hot girl) still were employed there; the white 'gangsta' maintenance boys were still around even though one 'just wasn't feelin' it'; and of course, there's the boss who is still trying to fit in, as well as preventing to use the word 'Pud'. Calvin even tries to tell the secret of his newfound confidence by showing the boss a video of Adam Corolla's (who appears in a cameo) lecture. There are also cameos by Dean (Justin Long), whose depressed character in the first one never improved; in fact, just got worse. Then there's Bishop (Chi McBride), who on the other hand, is still preaching great gospel (even tipping).

To me, probably the worst, pathetic story was the cooks. Apparently one of the younger boys becomes the target of being picked on, bullied by someone bigger than him ('Sour Cream Sanchez' anyone?). For those who did like 'Waiting' you will probably end up liking its sequel as much as you did with the first one. I was that way for a while until I thought outside the box. This is direct-to-video (or DVD), arguably for the right reasons. I'm 'still waiting' what's the whole point...

My rating: 4 out of 10

Thursday, March 13, 2014

03/13: Waiting

One thing that seems to surprise me is there are not a lot of realistic workforce movies. Sure, there are, but not enough for basic minimum-wage jobs (or in some peoples views, not career-like) like working in a restaurant. We see a lot of it in TV shows, but not so much on the big screen. Maybe its because a lot of escapists don't want to see reality as a movie (laughs).

That's exactly what Waiting is all about. It's left up to the viewer what the characters are 'waiting' for, perhaps a promotion, better job or the lucky break that'll get them out of working at Shenaniganz. The movie has a great cast of characters, led by Anna Faris and Ryan Reynolds. You may also recognize Luis Guzman and Justin Long, as well as some who unfortunately weren't heard from again (remember the pretty hostess?). As in cast of characters, I mean you'll find every stereotype that you are likely to work with at a bar-and-grill type of place. I don't remember doing any type of penis game or any sexual activity, but I remember there was always the pretty hostess, the crazy weird girl, the tool of a boss, the gangsta lowlifes, list goes on and on.

There really isn't a main character, although the central part of it has Ryan Reynolds' character training a silent teen, who is pretty much...well, underestimated (in the nicest way possible). So what's the main story? Really, there isn't one...but just several different storylines that could just be divided into several episodes. Justin Long's character is worried about his future. The boss, whose trying at any measure to fit in with the people under him and be cool, wants an invitation to the crews party. And there's that classic scene about the bitchy lady who wants everything done HER way...or the highway. So the line cooks agree to damage her food after its being sent back. Of course, this would give any health enthusiast or germphobic a nightmare.

Bottom line: if you've ever worked in a sit-down restaurant, or I guess a fast-food place, you would totally relate to this movie. Yes, I have worked at a restaurant, and I did for several years. I may be the only person I know who would give this a great review. I like honest and personal movies, so that's the main reason. It's one of these that mirrors reality. I'm still not sure why a lot of so-called professional critics didn't give this one the go, but I'm assuming a lot of them have never worked in such a place. These characters are those who want more out of life, but for now, they surround themselves with people who are as miserable as they are. It's like a one, big unhappy family.

My rating: 9 out of 10

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

03/12: A Night At The Roxbury

As part of a Saturday Night Live spinoff (of so very many...), A Night At The Roxbury was really supposed to live up to the hilarity of the original sketches. Of course, that's what's expected of all of them. I remember in the 90s watching Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell bobbing their heads to Haddaway while going out on the town.

So what happened? Well, there's actually some dialogue here in this movie. Kind of like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever: the boys actually work for their pop's plant store in the daytime and they, well, goof off most of the time and dream big. The key word is 'dream' not do. What the boys really want is to be cool enough to get into the Roxbury, which is an A-list nightclub. I think I'll just stop right there.

It's a good way to remember the Saturday Night Live cast from the 90s. You had Kattan, Ferrell as well as Molly Shannon, Colin Quinn and Michael McKean (who also make appearances in the movie) and that talented but forgettable other guys (Cheri Oteri, Tim Meadows). Unfortunately I have to agree with the so-called professional critics on this one: it sucked. Roger Ebert called it a 'one-joke movie, and they're the joke'. I have to agree. Rent it just for the laughs.

My rating: 3 out of 10

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

03/11: Little Big League

Spring is almost here, baseball (my favorite sport to watch) is almost here as well, so I'm gonna go ahead and do a kids/baseball movie. It's almost like a fantasy movie not just for kids but for teens and adults too. After all, who wouldn't want to inherit a baseball team let alone a sports one?

Yes, that's exactly what happens to 12 year old Billy Heywood, whose grandfather owns the Minnesota Twins. One day though, his grandfather suddenly dies and in a pre-videotaped segment he reveals that Billy will get the Twins. Of course, it becomes a cool transition for the young pre-teen who also tries to be more adult-like while balancing his childhood education and activities. Billy is also faced with several challenges, business-wise, most importantly terminating his long-time verbally abusive manager, who Billy eventually takes over. Billy is faced with double duty in leading the Twins and turning around its morale. But he is also faced with his personal challenges at home too, including his two close friends.

A fun movie, from start to finish. I wish this would have been a bigger movie but in most ways its for the best. Unfortunately this also wasn't a sleeper hit very much, or one of those movies that got better with time. I do think every adult or at least someone who was a pre-teen at the time this movie came out (1994, as I was at the time) should show someone from the (Y or Millenials generation). I guarantee they would get a kick out of it. Not many well-known stars, unless you would recognize John Ashton from the Beverly Hills Cop movies. However, you'll also notice a lot of pro-ball players at the time in too, such as Eric Anthony and Rafael Palmeiro. Oh, and there's that great cameo from Ken Griffey, Jr. too.

My rating: 8 out of 10

Monday, March 10, 2014

03/10: Disturbia

A predictable thriller, starring Shia Lebeouf, this was to be a teen slasher. It couldn't have come close enough to Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, but similar. But it's a typical teen movie with a twist.

Kale is put on house arrest after assaulting his teacher. He has motion alarms on his body, meaning if he were to escape his house and/or property, they would go off. To make things worse for him, his mom cuts the comforts away including TV and video games (first world problems...). So, what's a boy with a cabin fever gonna do? Grab a pair of binoculars and start spying on neighbors. Which of course is exactly what he does, even with a suspicious-looking neighbor. Kale pays attention to every little detail, including the girl next door on the other side.

I'll admit: while most critics gave this one the go, I have to drop plenty of points because this was very predictable. Why would they waste an entire movie if that man wasn't who he thought he was? Anyway...

My rating: 4 out of 10

Sunday, March 9, 2014

03/09: 8mm 2

This direct-to-video (or DVD?) is not necessarily a sequel to the original film that I reviewed yesterday, as the title suggests. Although the same theme, a different setting and a different cast of characters takes place. It was completely shot in Hungary. No Nicolas Cage. I hope you get the idea...

I think I'll go ahead and give away the ending (SPOILER ALERT!): I admit it, even though this was not so very popular of a movie (as most non-theatrical movies aren't), this had one of the coldest twists that occurred at the very end. Before I even go there, I'll explain the whole movie in short. As mentioned above, it contains a same script, different cast type of plot from 8mm. Blackmailing, sex, you name it. But this time around, there is a couple who are being taped while having a threesome  with a model. Turns out the hotel's housekeeper taped the thing and now is out to blackmail the couple. The man is being forced to pay several large amounts of money different times in the movie, as funded from the lady's wealthy father, an ambassador to Hungary. Everything just continues to escalate....and to add more insult to injury, the male of the couple was in charge of the entire scheme.

Obviously, yes, there's a lot of greed, and murder in the movie. If you are one that is all about twisted plot twists, this is for you. Or if you just like low-budget movies.

My rating: 4 out of 10

Saturday, March 8, 2014

03/08: 8mm

An odd name for a film, I must say. But the 8mm film (for all you younguns, yes this was at one point a medium before people owned personal camcorders!) has a lot to do with the plot. Nicolas Cage plays a detective in this 1999 dark thriller.

Cage plays Tom, a surveillance expert, who is out to investigate the whereabouts of a young woman who was an apparent murder victim. See, the murder was caught on an '8mm film' which was found in her late husband's private safe. Tom goes to impressive lengths to solve the mystery, including going from Pennsylvania to a Los Angeles underground illegal pornography deal. But things seem to backslide as some revelations come about. I'll just stop right there....

Spoiler: The ending is actually very sad, as even though the mystery and crime was solved, the female victim's mother writes a letter to Tom, saying that both of them were the only people to care about her. After all, the girl wanted more out of life by heading to Hollywood and try for fame and fortune. Tell me that kind of thing wouldn't depress you. Good movie if you like murder mysteries with a little hardcore mixed in.

My rating: 5 out of 10

Friday, March 7, 2014

03/07: Derailed

One of the gripping thrillers from the past ten years is Derailed. After watching this, you'll agree with the so-called professional critics that this was no good or it was missing something.

Phillippe LaRoche, a French criminal is out to ruin a random man's life with a series of blackmails and such. Story starts with a 9-to-5 guy who has a boring life. Charles is having marital problems and his daughter is suffering from diabetes. So he is determined to keep working. One day he falls asleep on his commuter train and he gets a ticket. Some random woman, who goes by Lucinda (Jennifer Aniston), pays his fine which leads to an eventual affair behind their spouses' backs. That's where it all starts. A chain reaction which leads to several blackmails and getting certain people and things involved takes place. LaRoche comes in the pair's hotel room and that's where it begins.

This is a quite different thriller as it has many actors who are often not seen in blockbuster movies. Even Jennifer Aniston, who was trying to put her 'Friends' typecast behind her, didn't make this film that interesting. Although I can't imagine who else would have taken her place. The film also stars two rappers, RZA and Xzibit, who play good and bad guys, respectively.

Would I recommend this? Only for date night, or if you're in the mood for an unpredictable thriller. Not to give it away (spoiler!), but there are some weird coincidences that occur in the end. So what to believe, what to believe.....

My rating: 5 out of 10

Thursday, March 6, 2014

03/06: Brave

I thought I'd do another Pixar/Disney one, this time Brave. It was the most recent original Pixar movie with its original characters. This was to continue their power streak, as well as building on to the Disney empire.

The title, as one would think, is inspired by the film's main character, a young princess named Merida. She is one of those heiresses who doesn't want to live by family traditions and would rather march to the beat of her own drum. If you remember the previews, she is shown to be an archer. Archery is a sport that is continuing to regain in popularity (especially for women). The Hunger Games played no small part, and Brave was to add more hype to it. Anyway, Merida goes to a witch (who disguises herself as a wood crafter) to bargain with her. Merida's mother Elinor accidentally transforms into a big bear, and it is up to Merida to undo the spell.

As said above, Pixar has had a long continuous streak of hits, starting with Toy Story. But, for some reason I felt this one was missing something. Sure, it is a great film kids can easily enjoy. Me and Roger Ebert did agree on something though: parents or grownups who were expecting a movie for all ages may seem disappointed. I'd still give this one a go if you have children.

My rating: 6 out of 10 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

03/05: Go Ask Alice

This strangely, bizarre TV movie was based on the controversial novel of the same name. The title itself comes from the Jefferson Airplane 'White Rabbit' lyric, possibly referring to 'Alice in Wonderland'. The song is known for its drug references, which also triggered a lot of controversy during the turbulent 1960s. Before the days of ABC's 'Afterschool Special', this would've been a great fit.

So why do I say strangely and bizarre to this tragic drama? I really don't want to give it away, but for starters, the story is NOT true. It is not based on any individual, alive or dead. Instead, it is believed that it was the common stereotype of a good girl gone bad after hanging with the wrong crowd. Such were those times during the 1960s (as well as any generation for that matter). Alice is a high schooler who turns to alcohol and drugs while trying to adjust to a new place and school. Peer pressure gives in. It is always a tragedy to see someone make horrible choices, including those that affect not just their behavior and habits but their loved ones and friends. We see this as the movie goes, as Alice slowly descends.

As always the case, the book supposedly provides more details. I have not read it, as I'm sure it is very hard to come by. Perhaps, the Pirate Bay may have a copy, who knows. I'm gonna have to deduct some points since while this was a TV-movie, it should have been longer. Sometimes stories like these don't take that amount of time, and I feel it could have been 'beefed up' in a way. What's also noteworthy is this has William Shatner playing Alice's dad. This was during, what I call his 'slump years' between the two Star Trek periods. It's also Mackenzie Phillips' first project, right before American Graffiti.

My rating: 4 out of 10

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

03/04: Finding Nemo

With all the hype of the Oscars dying down, I figured I might as well right a review with a film with Ellen DeGeneres in it. Mr. Wrong? Haven't seen it nor do I want to see it right away. EdTv? Haven't seen it just yet. Finding Nemo stands out as one of the greatest animated classics for (I guess its safe to say) the generation below me.

If you've seen the movie, you'll know right away after watching it the message is 'hope'. Let's hope this will happen. Let's hope we can find Nemo. Red once said in The Shawshank Redemption, "Hope drives a man insane." Not to be 'Negative Nancy' in any way, but miracles don't always happen. Sometimes they do though. A short rundown of the story: A father-son fish duo are separated when he lets his son Nemo go to school. You see, Marlin, the dad is overprotective after what happened to Nemo's mother years back. Along the way to 'finding Nemo', Marlin meets a spazzy, ditzy, klutzy Dory (DeGeneres) who unbelievably leads him to an obstacle course to get to their destination.

Truly a great family and kids movie that will go on for generations. Its too bad something like Pixar didn't exist well when I was little. But they still came out when I was young, fresh out of my teens. As much as I hate to say it, its sad to see, in my humble opinion, Pixar beginning to decline. I personally don't think Finding Nemo needs a sequel, as Finding Dory is due to come out two years from now. Sure, the sequel thing worked with Toy Story, but then again, Pixar has always proved everyone wrong and leaving their critics silent. Bring it on.

My rating: 7 out of 10

Monday, March 3, 2014

03/03: The Great Muppet Caper

I remember the days back in the 80s when every other weekend me and my sisters would pick out videos to rent at the local video store, Treasure Trove. I would always pick the kiddie movie, and usually it was something Disney or with Muppets. Hard to believe that today they are corporate sisters. Funny and not-so good or bad how times change like that....

The latest Muppet movie will come out this month. So why not review a Muppet movie from the past? Well, here's the second big screen effort for those unforgettable puppets, or 'Muppets'! Put out just two years after their first (as well as right after their TV series ended), this one followed the same formula. With a little comedy, music, song-and-dance, celebrity cameos here and there. But this one is about solving a mystery. The glamorous Lady Holiday has her jewels stolen, and Miss Piggy is framed for it. Oh, Miss Piggy, how she was annoying....but anyway....

There are several cool scenes, as so 'Muppety'. First, there's the Happiness Hotel. A run-down but free place to stay. Everything a traveler's worst nightmare there is, but you have your lovable furry friends who are just like you running the place. Then you have the 'Baseball Diamond' which is the thieves' main destination to steal.

If you love the Muppets, I say definitely put this one on. Lots of corniness and silliness but in true Muppet style. For me, that's good.

My rating: 7 out of 10

Sunday, March 2, 2014

03/02: Titanic (1997)

Welp....tonight was the Academy Awards for 2013, so apologies for making this post late. It was just announced that 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture (as some newspapers predicted). So, I'm going to go ahead and finally write about one of my favorite guilty pleasures of all-time, Titanic! Titanic needs no introduction; it is the king of the world! (Pun intended)

Just about all of us are aware and were taught about the historical real-life sinking of the Titanic ship which happened more than a century ago. But what is the main fictional part of the movie is of course the love story between Jack Dawson and Rose Dewitt. It is a classic love tale that blends so many elements. Sure, its nothing we probably haven't seen before; girl is forced to marry for security reasons, meets better guy who is poorer, rich guy turns aggressive...yeah, we all have seen that somewhere. However, this is all put together uniquely by James Cameron as it is all set on a huge cruise ship during a classic time in history.

Besides the sinking, one of the many things that I did like about the movie was how it did bring about people who were actually on board during the ill-fated voyage. From the famous people at the time to the not-so famous. The wealthy John Jacob Astor is arguably the most famous victim, as he is portrayed in one scene. It also showed 'the unsinkable Molly Brown' which was well-done by Kathy Bates. Several characters make this film unique as it is. I could go on....

Though the film is close to 3 hours long, I know James Cameron did what he could to try to squeeze it all into one. It would be cool to get at least a more in-depth look at what happened and more into the story. But I know the film would have to be at least a few hours longer in order to do so! While I do find the disaster genre a bit depressing, this one I would have to leave as an exception.

So was Titanic perfect? Yes, in some of my standards. Where else can you find something that brings so much imagination of an incident, where hardly anyone was alive to tell about anymore, to the big screen? With that, the combination of a love story, which also told us a tale about class divisions, along with the great performances of several of the actors. Even the people who were part of the ship's production (captain, owner, designer) were well-put in the story. You can argue if anything was really true about what really happened to them in real life. I know, there were several technical and other goofs that one obsessive person would write a book about. So, on the other hand, it surely can't be that perfect. For most of us that remember more than 15 years ago right before this movie came out, Cameron's destiny wasn't always clear. People, both critics and movie-goers, thought this movie would tank. It was doomed for failure, for various reasons. Remember the due dates? Remember the budget? But James Cameron and his cast and crew hung in there, and he did more than prove everyone wrong. And he did that several years later with Avatar. I can still remember, right before I saw it with my family at the theater, girls in my Sunday school class yelled out, 'Go see it! Go see it!'. And I'm glad I did.

This is an excellent picture, and as noted, it can't be perfect, but to me, this is my generation's Godfather. For those not familiar with how I judge movies, its very rare I give a film a '10'.

My rating: 10 out of 10

Saturday, March 1, 2014

03/01: Double Jeopardy

Today was Mardi Gras. I live in the St. Louis area, and we are known to be the 2nd greatest city when it comes to celebrating that day. What it made me think of was the movie Double Jeopardy, which was partly set in New Orleans. The customs, the decor, everything.

This thriller stars Ashley Judd as a woman who was framed for murdering her husband, Nick. Nick and Libby (Judd), who have a son Matty, are having themselves a happy loving vacation when literally overnight, something goes terribly wrong. Nick successfully makes it look like a bloodshed scene as he escapes the boat. As Libby is trying to scramble what is going on she is caught with a bloody knife in her hand as it is easy to assume she did something horrendous. She is later convicted of murder, along with getting unwanted attention from the media and her peers.

A friend of Libby's looks after Matty. During a phone call from prison to Matty, Libby realizes that her husband is still alive and he took Matty. She is eventually released from prison after 6 years and is granted parole. The detective work begins for Libby as she escapes and successfully traces Nick's steps which take her from Washington state to New Orleans. There, Nick has assumed a different name and newer rich lifestyle. The entertainment gets better from there.

While this movie did get mixed to negative reviews (25% Tomatometer rating), I found this one to be very good at some levels, and is worth watching over and over on occasion. The New Orleans culture is unique as Mardi Gras is shown at nighttime in downtown N'awlens. Tommy Lee Jones also does a great performance as Libby's parole officer, Travis.

My rating: 7 out of 10