Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tardy Tuesday's Movie Monday Makeup - Lots o' Stuff

The Spiderwick Chronicles: Very entertaining family-friendly fantasy about Jared Grace a young boy (Freddie "August Rush" Highmore) who stumbles on a book containing all the secrets of the fairy world, thus drawing the attention of an evil ogre (an under-utilized Nick Nolte). Highmore does a good job playing both the rebellious Jared and his more reserved twin brother Simon (a role that gave me several August Rush flashbacks), and the rest of the cast does good work as well. One of the better family-centered fantasy films to come out recently.

Very bizarre horror/comedy about two orphans and their magical talking ventriloquist dummy who go on a senseless murder spree. Bad writing, over-the-top-acting, muddled plot, and poor editing made this one a mess; about the only redeeming quality was Rocky Marquette's performance as the functionally mute Norbert who capers around with a Howdy-Doody style grin plastered on his face the entire time, but as much as I enjoyed the surreal nature of that role, that wasn't enough to elevate this above its lackluster components. Oh, and I almost forgot about the brief cameo by Larry Manetti, a.k.a Rick on Magnum P.I. as himself, which was also nice and odd in a "how in the world did that come about?" sort of way, but still, not really a great selling point for the film. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang: Okay, technically this was released as The Sasquatch Gang, but I prefer the original title, even if it does turn out to be as much toilet humor as it is a nod to The Apple Dumpling Gang. The film focuses on a group of geeks who stumble across apparent proof of the existence of sasquatch, and the way they and a couple of stoners try to profit off of the discovery. Not what you would call a highbrow film, but I thought it had a lot going for it, especially with the two stoner parts played by Justin Long and Joey Kern, that latter of whom cracked me up with his character voice.

Again, not exactly high-brow stuff, but it made me laugh more often than not. Plus, it's got some nice non-linear story-telling going on, and a pretty funny fight sequence between the geeks and the local bullies. Not for everyone, but I liked it.

Smart People:
Enjoyable dramedy about a surly English professor (Dennis Quaid) who suffers a concussion and must rely on his no-account adopted brother (Thomas Hayden Church) to chauffer him around, while simultaneously trying to date his doctor (Sarah Jessica Parker) and deal with his highly intelligent but slightly misanthropic daughter (the always excellent Ellen Page). Liked this one a lot, especially the scenes between the loser uncle and over-achiever daughter; I know there are people out there who complain that Ellen Page always plays the same sort of role again and again, but for me, the fact that she does it so well and so effortlessly makes it a joy to watch.

Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay:
Mostly pointless sequel to a mostly pointless film which really only had two sequences that made me laugh; the first was the encounter with the surprisingly insightful red-necks (one of whom was played by the always hilarious Missy Pyle), and the second of course being every scene with Neil Patrick Harris, whose every moment on screen is, as the cast and crew of Spaced would say, "Fried Gold*." Outside of those things, however: blech.

Never Back Down:
Predictable movie about an young man who moves to new school, gets beaten up by the local martial arts stud, and then trains hard with a martial arts master from another country so that he can redeem himself at the big martial arts competition, at which he suffers an injury in an early match and then has to fight past his pain when his rival exploits the injury. Gee, why does this sound familiar . . . Okay, so maybe it's not quite as blatant Karate Kid rip-off as I make it sound -- nobody yells anything about getting a body bag, for one -- but still, a pretty formulaic film. Has enough enjoyable character moments to make it not a total wash, but not one I'm going to be recommending to too many folks.

Karaoke Terror: The Complete Japanese Showa Songbook:
Dark comedy about a deadly feud that erupts between two groups of karaoke lovers, one a gang of disafected, amoral youths, and the other a gathering of middle aged divorcees all named Midori.

Strange little film, best part by far was the creepy psychic girl who served as a catalyst to keep the murderous feud going.

Mildly entertaining horror film about an Australian tour boat being terrorized by a gigantic crocodile. Suffers at times from an overabundance of stupid people doing stupid things, but all in all, a lot better than, say, Primeval, but nowhere near as good as the pinnacle of giant crocodile movies, Lake Placid. In fact, I say give this a pass and rent Lake Placid, much superior film.

Finishing the Game:
Mockumentary about the efforts to finish Bruce Lee's incomplete film Game of Death following his demise using a stand-in. Lots of potential here, but sadly most of it was wasted. If only the whole film could have lived up to the promise of this sequence

it would have been worth a hearty recommendation. As it is, all I can say is that there are some good parts scattered throughout, enough to have made it worth my while, but not enough to make me push it on anyone else.

Stargate Continuum:
The second straight-to-DVD Stargate SG-1 film dabbles in the muddy waters of time travel psuedo-science as the human members of the team find themselves trapped in an alternate time line where the Stargate program was never started thanks to the machinations of the last surviving Ba'al clone -- oh please let it be the last Ba'al -- and his time machine. As far as extended episodes go, not bad, but due to the alternate timeline having Vala still possessed by Qutesh I was robbed of seeing my favorite character in all but a couple of scenes, making it a less than stellar viewing experience. Although it was nice to see Jack back.

Step Up 2 The Streets:
Pretty predictable and occasionally cheesy film about a troubled girl from the hood who gets on at the prestigious school for the arts from the previous film and, of course, learns many lessons about life and friendship and love and stuff. But despite predictable plot points, and a really, really, really unnecessarily cheesy inspirational speech at the end, this movie gets a thumbs up from me for two reasons: the awesome dance sequences in general, and the character of Moose in particular

Incidentally, after seeing this Li'l Random now wants to be called Li'l Moose. My only other complaint is this: needed more

Then again, just about anything could be improved with some more

21: So-so film very loosely based on the real life story of a group of MIT students who made big money counting cards in Vegas. I thought the transformation of the protagonist from nice guy to jerk was way over the top, and it kind of took me out of the film.

The Lost Boys 2: The Tribe:
Mediocre sequel to the classic 80s film replaces biker vampires with surfer vampires, a pair of brothers being stalked with a brother-sister combo, a pair of comic shop working vampire hunters with a single surf-board making vampire hunter (the returning Corey Feldman), and vampire gang leader Keifer Sutherland with vampire gang leader Keifer Sutherland's half-brother Angus Sutherland. It was this last change that threw me for a loop before I saw the credits, as during the opening sequence I kept thinking "Wow, guy sure reminds me of a young Keifer, wonder if that was on purpose . . ." This is not nearly as horrible as more reviews I've read made it out to be; yeah, it's not great, but I've seen much, much worse get far better reviews. Afraid this one just collapses under the weight of trying to live up to the original.

The Pineapple Express:
Stoner comedy from the writers of Superbad sees Dale, a pot-head process server, and Saul, his zoned out pot-dealer, on the run from a violent drug dealer after Dale witnesses a murder. Li'l Random -- excuse, me, Li'l Moose -- and I went to see this last weekend as our Odd Squodd film of the week, and both cracked up all the way through; don't know if that knowledge will entice anyone else to see it, just know that he and I enjoyed the heck out of the film. Think my favorite parts were the two big fist fight sequences, both of which had me rolling.

*More on that soon, promise.


Flunky lover said...

I just saw Neil Patrick Harris on Sesame Street. I wonder if you would have liked that performance. Do you think it's on youtube?

Cap'n Neurotic said...

I found a total of three NPH/Sesame Street clips. Two were of him being interviewed by Elmo, and the third was him doing a song and dance as the Sesame Street Shoe Fairy. Maybe not what I would point to as high points in his body of work, but enjoyable enough.