Monday, June 30, 2008

WALL-E - Movie Review

My new acronym - CGA - Computer Generated Animation - What Pixar does.

WALL-E (****) - Starring Fred Willard and the voices of Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, John Ratzenberger and Kathy Najimy.
Directed by Andrew Stanton.

First we get previews.

Fly Me to the Moon - CGA movie about three astronaut flies who stowaway aboard the space shuttle. Looks cutesy, boring and for the under-six crowd. Opens August 22.

Meet Dave - The more I see of this, the less I want to see it. I used to think it would beat out Journey to the Center of the Earth on that weekend, but now I think Journey has a clear edge, and this will have Pluto Nash-esque numbers. It reminds me too much of Honey I Shrunk the Kids 4. Opens July 11.

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl - It's already opened in limited release and it's getting rave reviews. This trailer would have been better served if it was 30 seconds shorter. Opens wide July 2.

Journey to the Center of the Earth - Looks like a fun little family adventure. Honest. It's been forever since I read the book and looks like it will stray generously. It has a T-Rex and giant man-eating plants left over from the King Kong remake. Opens July 11.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua - This teaser has a bunch of chihuahuas singing and dancing without any real hint of what the movie's going to be, beyind the talking dogs thing. Opens October 3.

Bolt - First time I've seen anything for this CGA movie, and it looks entertaining. John Travolta voices the title dog, who plays an action hero on TV and thinks everything on it is real. When the actress from the show disappears, he sets out to rescue her. Opens November 26.

No Igor, no Space Chimps, no Gnomeo & Juliet, no Foodfight, no Coraline, no Tales of Desperaux, no Madagascar 2 or Ice Age 3, but I would have liked to see a teaser for Pixar's 2009 release Up. C'est la vie.

Next up was the Pixar short Presto, about a magician and his hungry rabbit. That's all I'll say but it was hilarious in the old Looney Tunes tradition.

And then came our feature presentation.

Wall-E is almost a silent movie. Lots of music and mechanical noises and tweaks. The kind of movie I wish Buster Keaton could go forward in time and watch.

Ultimately it's a love story between two artificial intelligences, and it's weird I could get misty-eyed during such a story but Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) really knows how to find the heart in his movies, and he delivers big-time here.

I find the group at Pixar a bunch of geniuses, and if I went back in time to my 1991 self graduating from high school, I'd pack up and hunt down John Lasseter and Steve Jobs and beg to work for them.

Wall-E isn't the most accessible Pixar flick, or their funniest, but it deserves all the praise heaped upon it. Now at the risk of overselling it, it's as quiet in its scope as it detailed in its backgrounds. The animation is very precise here, to where it's almost hard to tell when real footage has been used.

The first half hour or so we see Wall-E carrying out his duties. It's 700 years in the future, and he's the last A.I. robot of his kind, assigned with cleaning up all the trash left behind on a pollution-devastated Earth. His only companion is a cockroach, which thankfully does not talk. It reminded me a lot of Cast Away, where Tom Hanks doesn't talk much and just finding ways of surviving and passing the time.

And that's about all the story I'll give away. The previews give away a lot more.

Pixar can do no wrong.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Jumper - DVD Review

JUMPER (**) - Starring Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Bell, Rachel Bilson, Michael Rooker and Diane Lane.
Directed by Doug Liman.

This is a very dumbed-down version of The Bourne Identity, except instead of being an amnesiac assassin, he's a punk who can teleport. My understanding is that the book is much better. That it's based on a book makes this more disappointing, since they must have cut out and changed a lot. A lot.

Hayden Christensen, whose acting isn't getting better in big-budget fare, is a guy who finds he can teleport anywhere. He uses his power to rob banks and sight-see. Eventually Samuel L. Jackson shows up as our villain. We're told he's a paladin, a religious zealot, part of an order that hunts and kills jumpers, because only God should have that power. And that's the extent of the explanation of motivation.

There are some cool action sequences and some dumb choices by the leads. Why jump ten feet away from danger when you can jump ten miles away from danger?

Then it gets to where the ending should be. You know those movies that end and feel like it's just a set-up for the sequel, like how Back to the Future II was an excuse to get to Back to the Future III? Due to what happens in the third act, which is very little, it feels like the whole movie is just set up for Jumper 2. And as John McCain might say, "That, my friends, is lame."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Spider-Man 4 greenlit

Sam Raimi and Tobey maguire aren't signed on (yet), but Sony's set aside May 2011 for its release.

If they're going forward with it, this is what I'd like to see.

It's time for Peter Parker to grow up. Have Harry Osbourn name Mary Jane his heir in his will. Parker moves up in the world with a rich fiancee and now only freelance photographs for fun. Parker gets MJ to use some of her newfound funds to help Dr. Connors with his research. Something goes awry; Connors turns into the Lizard. Meanwhile a second villain pops up. I remember liking Mysterio as a kid, but I couldn't tell you anything about his backstory, but maybe Mysterio kills MJ. Then Parker is seeking revenge on Mysterio while a demented Lizard is seeking revenge on Parker. Meanwhile Gwen is there to be a love interest/damsel-in-distress in third act. I like Bryce Dallas Howard more than Kirsten Dunst anyway. I've liked Dunst in other things, but she's been a wet blanket for three movies now.

Show Parker having grown up and been affected by what's happened in the first three movies. The Osbourns are dead, Dr. Octavius is dead, Eddie Brock is dead. Sandman is still out there. These should take their toll on Peter.

Now the comic relief should continue. J. Jonah Jameson should still be a factor. I don't want Spider-Man to turn into the mope-fest Superman Returns was.

The problem with Mysterio is you can't see his face; also the problem with the Green Goblin. There are other villains where you can but they'd be silly in live-action (Vulture, for instance). If I hadn't seen SM 3, I might have suggested Carnage for SM 4, but since Venom got the short-shift, I'd rather not have them screw up Carnage too.

I also wouldn't mind someone taking over for Sam Raimi. SM 3 was the weakest of the three. I would just hope they could avoid the "Brett Ratner to X-Men 3" drop-off. Get Alfonso Cuaron.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Get Smart wins weekend

1. Get Smart - $39.16 million - 1 wk (WB)
3911 screens / $10,011 per screen / $80 million prod. budget
2. Kung Fu Panda - $21.7 ($155.6) - 3 wks (DW) -35.4%
4053 / $5354 / $130
3. The Incredible Hulk - $21.56 ($96.47) - 2 wks (U) -61.1%
3508 / $6145 / $150
4. The Love Guru - $14 - 1 wk (Par)
3012 / $4648 / $62
5. The Happening - $10 ($50.27) - 2 wks (Fox) -67.2%
2986 / $3348 / $60
6. Indiana Jones 4 - $8.41 ($290.84) - 5 wks (Par) -42.9%
3171 / $2653 / $185
7. You Don't Mess with Zohan - $7.2 ($84.06) - 3 wks (Sony) -56%
3278 / $2196 / $90
8. Sex & the City - $6.46 ($132.39) - 4 wks (NL) -34%
2442 / $2647 / $65
9. Iron Man - $4 ($304.79) - 8 wks (Par) -28.8%
1912 / $2093 / $140
10. The Strangers - $1.95 ($49.59) - 4 wks (Rog) -51.6%
1578 / $1235 / $9
11. Prince Caspian - $1.71 ($135.47) - 6 wks (BV) -46%
1462 / $1168 / $200
12. What Happens in Vegas - $.77 ($77.52) - 7 wks (Fox) -53.8%
708 / $1087 / $35

In limited release, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl is doing boffo business. It goes wide in two weeks.

The Incredible Hulk - Movie review

THE INCREDIBLE HULK (**3/4) - Starring Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson and Ty Burrell.
Written by Zak Penn.
Directed by Louis Letterier.

First, it's better than Ang Lee's angst-ridden version, and a lot of the credit goes to Edward Norton's Bruce Banner. I really like the trend of getting respected actors to play these superheroes. Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, and now Norton.

But Eric Bana was repsected too, so it's more than that. This movie learned from the mistakes of the previous. Instead of taking 45 minutes to set up the origin, we get a Cliff Notes cut of how Banner became the Hulk during the opening credits. Instead of Hulk battling the inexplicable - what was that, a cloud of energy Nick Nolte turned into? - he has straight-forward duo villains to fight: General Ross, and the Abomination.

Now I will admit, I thought William Hurt's make-up looked a little silly, with the wide mustache and exaggerated eyebrows. And I wish the previews hadn't shown what the Abomination looks like, since we don't actually see him until the last ten minutes of the movie.

The movie has tons of in-jokes/hommages. We get cameos by Lou Ferrigno and Stan Lee (and an ingenious way to get Bill Bixby in there), a reporter named McGee, and a twist on "Don't make me angry; you wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

It's a straight-forward adventure, not too deep, doesn't stick on the ribs too long. Had I written this the day I saw it, it probably would've kept the full third star, but I can't help but remember how I grew bored during the final climactic battle. These summer blockbsuters need to learn the art of the climactic battle. Transformers and Iron Man suffered from the same thing, where the third act was the least interesting.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Get Smart - Movie Review

Before the movie there were endless commercials and a few previews. Hellboy II got very little reaction, but The Dark Knight got whistles and applause from our crowd. Swing Vote got some scattered snickers.

GET SMART (***1/4) - Starring Steve Carell, Anne hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp, James Caan, Terry Crews, David Koechner, Masi Oka, Nate Torrence, Ken Davitian, Dalip Singh, Bill Romanowski and Bill Murray.
Written by Tom J. Astle & Matt Ember.
Directed by Peter Segal.

I've read some cranky critical reviews of this, and I don't get what their problem is. Maybe they all saw in an empty theater and the popcorn was stale, and they'd just seen three episodes the night before and were demanding purity.

I haven't seen an episode of Get Smart for over 20 years, and that shouldn't be pertinent to my enjoyment. I thought parts of it were hilarious. Even some jokes that have been given away in the commercials, I laughed out loud watching them in the context of the movie.

Steve Carell is Maxwell Smart, super-efficient information analyst for secret spy agency CONTROL who dreams of being a field agent, and who happens to be fairly incompetent in matters of actual field work. I felt he was true to the spirit of Don Adams without trying to do an impression of him. In fact, I can't picture a better actor for the part.

When the identities of most CONTROL agents are exposed, Smart gets his promotion and works with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), who thinks he's a bumbling idiot. The two have nice chemistry, although I do wish they'd cast someone not young enough to be Carell's daughter. But c'est Hollywood!

The movie has a surprising amount of action pieces, not all of which are engaging or effective, but the comedy is there, and if you can see it in a semi-full theater, more power to you. I had a great time.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tomato Ranks for Smart, Guru

As of this morning, Get Smart had a 54% Fresh Tomato ranking while Love Guru had a 15%. Maybe Get Smart willw in the weekend after all.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Get Smart vs. The Love Guru

For months I've figured Get Smart would win the weekend, but Universal and Mike Myers have gone into overdrive with their publicity push for The Love Guru. Early reviews for both movies are mixed, and I just learned the director for Get Smart is Peter Segal, the same guy who was behind the squandering of talent on Anger Management, so maybe I've been overhopeful based on the first trailer I saw for it.

The Love Guru looks like the same old Austin Powers shtick wrapped in a new blanket, but the Austin Powers franchise was a financial goldmine. The director of Love Guru is Marco Schnabel, making his debut; he did do second unit work on Goldmember.

AFI's 10 Top 10 Films

A few months ago, the AFI put out their list of the Top 100 Movies of all time. I've now seen 87 of them. Now they've put out a new list. The Top 10 Films in ten different genres. (I put in parentheses how many I've seen from each one.) There's a streak of populism in their consensus, but here they are:

1. Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs
2. Pinocchio
3. Bambi
4. The Lion King
5. Fantasia
6. Toy Story
7. Beauty & the Beast
8. Shrek
9. Cinderella
10. Finding Nemo

1. City Lights
2. Annie Hall
3. It Happened One Night
4. Roman Holiday
5. The Philadelphia Story
6. When Harry Met Sally...
7. Adam's Rib
8. Moonstruck
9. Harold & Maude
10. Sleepless in Seattle

1. The Searchers
2. High Noon
3. Shane
4. Unforgiven
5. Red River
6. The Wild Bunch
7. Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid
8. McCabe & Mrs. Miller
9. Stagecoach
10. Cat Ballou

1. Raging Bull
2. Rocky
3. The Pride of the Yankees
4. Hoosiers
5. Bull Durham
6. The Hustler
7. Caddyshack
8. Breaking Away
9. National Velvet
10. Jerry Maguire

1. Vertigo
2. Chinatown
3. Rear Window
4. Laura
5. The Third Man
6. The Maltese Falcon
7. North by Northwest
8. Blue Velvet
9. Dial M for Murder
10. The Usual Suspects

1. The Wizard of Oz
2. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
3. It's a Wonderful Life
4. King Kong (1933)
5. Miracle on 34th Street (1948)
6. Field of Dreams
7. Harvey
8. Groundhog Day
9. The Thief of Baghdad
10. Big

SCI-FI (10)
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
2. Star Wars
3. E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial
4. A Clockwork Orange
5. The Day the Earth Stood Still
6. Blade Runner
7. Alien
8. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
10. Back to the Future

1. The Godfather
2. GoodFellas
3. The Godfather Part II
4. White Heat
5. Bonnie & Clyde
6. Scarface: The Shame of the Nation
7. Pulp Fiction
8. The Public Enemy
9. Little Caesar
10. Scarface (1982)

1. To Kill A Mockingbird
2. 12 Angry Men
3. Kramer vs. Kramer
4. The Verdict
5. A Few Good Men
6. Witness for the Prosecution
7. Anatomy of a Murder
8. In Cold Blood
9. A Cry in the Dark
10. Judgement at Nuremburg

EPIC (9)
1. Lawrence of Arabia
2. Ben-Hur
3. Schindler's List
4. Gone with the Wind
5. Spartacus
6. Titanic
7. All Quiet on the Western Front
8. Saving Private Ryan
9. Reds
10. The Ten Commandments

So I've seen 78. I don't feel compelled to see too many of the ones I've missed from these lists. I have It Happened One Night and The Philadelphia Story at home, so those'll be two more. I was surprised I'd only seen six of the Westerns, so maybe I will put one of them in my Blockbuster queue.

Due to the genres they used, Citizen Kane and Casablanca had no list to be on.

Is Blockbuster mailing less often?

It seems like my DVDs have been taking more time to get turned around the past few weeks with my Blockbuster account, so I emailed customer service about it. In their second back-and-forth with me, they revealed this little nugget: "If an item is reported, returned or checked in on a weekend (including Friday,) then the next expected business day for a new shipment would fall on the following Tuesday, with limited shipments on Monday."

Now before they'd insisted they email DVDs Monday thru Friday, but for the past three Mondays when I've been owed a DVD or two, they haven't shipped them until Tuesday, so I get them Wednesday night. They advertise most DVDs take 1 business day, but that hasn't been the case lately for me. So I asked them why shipments are "limited" on Mondays, and we'll see what they say.

To their credit they sent me a free rental coupon after my first complaint.

The Grand - DVD Review

THE GRAND (**) - Starring Woody Harrelson, David Cross, Dennis Farina, Cheryl Hines, Chris Parnell, Richard Kind, Ray Romano, Michael McKean, Werner Herzog, Judy Greer, Estelle Harris, Gabe Kaplan, Barry Corbin, Shannon Elizabeth, Jason Alexander, Mike Epps, Brett Ratner, Phil Laak and Hank Azaria.
Written & Directed by Zak Penn.

I can't help but notice that some of the actors in here were also regulars on Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown. I'm surprised they didn't have Jennifer Tilly wander through. There's also several cameos from poker pros like Doyle Brunson and Phil Gordon.

I will say if you think watching others play poker is like watching paint dry, this will do nothing to dissuade you, and the main problem with the last half-hour is we can look at the cast and see how the movie's gone and predict pretty closely the order of elimination. I think they should have pared it down by ten or fifteen characters and then focussed some storylines. For instance, Jason Alexander and Hank Azaria introduce interesting characters, and then they're never seen again. Yet Ray Romano's shtick gets old long before he's done.

This largely improv'd comedy seems like at the outset what Christopher Guest would do with the poker scene. Michael McKean is even here as an ambitious real-estate developer. Some actors are better than others at it, but I chuckled out loud a couple times. I found myself wishing there was less poker and more jokes.

Friday, June 13, 2008

NBC's weak Thursday

Weak, weak ratings mean NBC may have no choice but to cancel Last Comic Standing and Fear Itself. I'm sure they're waiting to see if it'll improve when it isn't opposite a season finale or NBA Finals game, but both shows barely got over 4 million viewers.

Too bad, because some decent comic talent is on display. I haven't watched the second episode of Fear Itself yet, and may never get to it, the way it's looking.


Weak, weak ratings mean NBC may have no choice but to cancel Last Comic Standing and Fear Itself. I'm sure they're waiting to see if it'll improve when it isn't opposite a season finale or NBA Finals game, but both shows barely got over 4 million viewers.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

You Don't Mess with the Zohan - Movie Review

YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN (**1/2) - Starring Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Rob Schneider, Nick Swardson, Lainie Kazan, Kevin Nealon, Dave Matthews, Michael Buffer, Charlotte Rae, Ido Mosseri and Ahmed Ahmed.
Written by Adam Sandler & Robert Smigel & Judd Apatow.
Directed by Dennis Dugan.

I think I know the parts that Judd Apatow wrote. The parts where we get five - count 'em, five - different shots of Adam Sandler's butt double. We also get one of Lainie Kazan's butt double. There's constant sex talk but there's no F-words so it gets to keep its PG-13.

This movie is better than Click and I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, maybe because Sandler has an accent and isn't playing a total jerk. It also has a patriotic tone and ideas on how to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It took me a while, but I realized how much this movie was backing the idealism of America and how rare that is in movies these days. 1980's patriotism in movies was usually tied to "let's hate the Russians." We're so cynical these days, and this decade, that it's weird to see a movie that argues the good things about this country.

At the same time it has a corporate millionaire white-guy villain we can all boo and hiss. That he's played by Michael "Let's get ready to rumble" Buffer just shows how out-of-the-box Sandler can be with his casting. I think Happy Gilmore is still his best comedy (not counting his art movies) because of the scene where he and Bob Barker get in a fight.

I would have liked the movie more had it given more to Sandler buddy Kevin Nealon, and I give it kudos for not casting Allen Covert. Still, other Sandler pals like Rob Schneider, Chris Rock and Henry Winkler show up. (What, no David Spade?) There are plenty of other surprise-funny cameos I won't list, but in the realm of other casting oddities - Mrs. Garrett herself, Charlotte Rae, gets seduced by the love-happy Zohan. And Mrs. Garrett wasn't young on The Facts of Life thirty years ago.

Sandler is Zohan, an Israeli Mossad agent who is the best fighter in the world. He's bored with killing Palestinian terrorists and wants to pursue his real dream - being a Paul Mitchell hair stylist. He fakes his death and moves to New York, where he becomes a sensation for styling the hair of older women, not to mention making love to them afterwards.

It's silly, stupid, made me smile a few times and giggle once or twice, and probably worth a $1 theater looksy if youv'e found other Sandler movies funny. And no one says "You can do eet!" anywhere, thank goodness.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show - DVD Review

VINCE VAUGHN'S WILD WEST COMEDY SHOW: 30 DAYS & 30 NIGHTS - HOLLYWOOD TO THE HEARTLAND (**1/2) - Starring Vince Vaughn, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst, Ahmed Ahmed, Sebastian Maniscalco, Peter Billingsley, Dwight Yoakam, Jon Favreau and Justin Long.
Directed by Ari Sandel.

This feels like a semi-decent backstage 90-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that would be on the DVD of an actual concert movie.

In 2005, Vince Vaughn decided he wanted to do a traveling comedy show, with him hosting and little improv skits with himself and friends like Jon Favreau and Justin Long, in between stand-up routines from John Caparulo, Bret Ernst, Ahmed Ahmed and Sebatian Maniscalco. He wanted to take this type of show to cities that might not normally get them, places like El Paso, TX, and Indianapolis, IN.

Not really sure what he hoped to accomplish beyond giving four stand-up comedians extra exposure, which is good of him. We don't get to see any of the routines for more than 30 seconds at a time. I became a fan of Caparulo after seeing him on Last Comic Standing in 2007, so I would have liked to see a solid three- or four-minute set from him. I think the other comedians might be funny too, but it was hard to tell from this.

The movie does take an unexpected touching turn when they have to cancel some shows due to Hurricane Katrina. Before Pres. Bush thanked Brownie for doing a heck of a job, these guys were visiting shelters for displaced victims and tasting some humble pie for ever complaining about the conditions of their bus.

So as a behind-the-scenes featurette, it's pretty good, but it suffers the same problem Jerry Seinfeld did during Comedian. If you're going to be about stand-up, let us see more of the stand-up.

P.S. Worst title of the year.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Strangers - Movie Review

THE STRANGERS (***) - Starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman.
Written & Directed by Brian Berlito.

A movie with actual suspense. If guys want a movie where their chick
will hold tight to their arm for an hour, this is that movie. So
because I liked it, let me address its problems first.

1. The two leads. Liv Tyler does okay, but I think a smaller, more
skilled actress could have brought more to it. Scott Speedman is

2. The ending. The suspense builds and builds, but in the end, it
fizzles out. Berlito knows how to take us on a journey but not quite
how to make it pay off.

3. The occasional stupid-person behavior. Berlito really knows how
to let a camera linger on a room and make us sit on the edge of our
seat with wonder on what we can't see just off-frame. The rare
releases in tension don't come from the story letting us relax, but
come from people doing typical horror-movie stuff, like splitting up,
or not running like heck when the opportunity presents itself.

So, why did I still like it? Because for so much of it, I felt that
tension. When Liv is slowly walking from room to room, we can see
down the hall behind her. Is someone going to pop out? And the
three strangers, they don't run. They just appear there. We see
them slowly walk, but it's usually behind the person. When the tall
guy holds an ax, there's that conflict of suspense. You want the guy
he's stalking to turn around, but you also know if he does, that ax
is going to swing.

The marketing said it was inspired by true events, but when I read
the crime case it claims to be inspired by, it has virtually nothing
to do with it. By its logic, all horror movies are inspired by true

Friday, June 6, 2008

Meet the Spartans - DVD Review

MEET THE SPARTANS (*) - Starring Sean Maguire, Carmen Electra, Ken Davitian, Kevin Sorbo, Diedrich Bader, Method Man and Phil Morris.
Written & Directed by Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer.

Maybe these guys don't get why the movies they're making aren't funny. Let me try to explain something to the makers behind Date Movie, Epic Movie, and coming this August, Disaster Movie.

The key to comedy is surprise, and brevity is the soul of wit. Now to the first part, surprise. Comedy comes in two parts. First you offer a premise or situation. Naturally from that premise or situation, the audience will make an assumption. Then you offer a surprise, taking that premise or situation and turning it on its head. The audience laughs from the trickery. To the second part, brevity. A punchline that takes two seconds is much funnier than one that takes two minutes.

Now let's deconstruct some alleged "jokes" in this movie.

Ken Davitian is the short, fat guy from Borat. It is a funny idea to have him be Xerxes, since in the movie 300, Xerxes was this well-sculpted giant. However, right before he is revealed as Xerxes here, the narrator tells us he looks like that fat guy from Borat. There's no surprise, therefore no joke. They could have had a joke, but they sabotaged it. In addition, there's a Borat reference about ten minutes earlier in the movie, further diluting what humor could have been squeezed from this idea. No Borat impersonator shows up, thank goodness, but that's most likely because they already had one show up in Epic Movie. To stand there and say "I'm Borat." And that was the whole "joke" from that movie.

Another example. When the 300 (in this movie, 13) go to march to battle, they do it to "I Will Survive" skipping off-camera. This was the only thing in the movie that made me smile. It was quick and silly and wasn't telegraphed ten minutes before it happened. Then at the 65-minute mark, when the closing credits begin, they bring out whole cast to sing and dance to the entire 4-minute song. So that's funny... how?

Another. Rocky Balboa shows up. Why? Because it came out in the last year. That is where most of their jokes come from, putting in references to stuff that came out within the last year. Rocky's shorts fall, and he's wearing a Depends. We get a close-up. Then a character stares at it and says "An adult diaper?" Really, if you spell out each punchline, none have a chance to be funny.

Another. In 300, the young hero faces a wolf. Here he faces... a penguin. Why? Cuz Happy Feet was recent. And if you forgot that, the penguin starts to dance. And if you still don't get it, the young hero says "Ah, you've got happy feet."

I can see Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer on vaudeville now.

JASON: Who's on first, What's on Second, I-Don't-Know's on third...
AARON: Who's on first?
JASON: Who's full name is Obadiah Thomas Who, and his father is Gregory Daniel Who, and their last name sounds just like Who, so you're misunderstanding me. Get it?
AARON: I just farted.

The movie brings out American Idol, including Sanjaya, America's Next Top Model, Deal or No Deal, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and every easy, lazy target you can think of. When one guy says "Save the cheerleader, save the world" we can't just leave it there. Another character has to say "I don't follow Heroes." Those of us who do got the reference. Those who don't aren't going to then laugh if you turn to them and say "It's a catchphrase on this TV show called Heroes. Ba-dum CHING!"

(Ever notice Jay Leno rimshots take ten seconds each? Ba-dum CHING CHING CHING ba-da ba-da-ba-dum dum dum CHING CHING CHING! Thank you, Kevin Eubanks! But I digress.)

(Or do I?)

I was going to say this is like a 70-minute episode of MadTV with no commercials and all the skits tied together as one long skit, but it's more like a dramatic interpretation of a 70-minute Jay Leno monologue, with the joyless additions of projectile vomiting, two fuzzed-up crotch shots, and more gay jokes than an Eddie Murphy-Andrew Dice Clay 1987 stand-up concert tour.

Ugh. I've seen 25 movies released in 2008 now and I can only honestly recommend three of them.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Air I Breathe - DVD Review

THE AIR I BREATHE (*1/2) - Starring Kevin Bacon, Brendan Fraser, Forest Whitaker, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Andy Garcia, Emile Hirsch, Julie Delpy, Clark Gregg, Kelly Hu, Jon Bernthal and John Cho.
Written & Directed by Jieho Lee.

This is one of those pointless serendipitous dramas that wallows in melancholy, even when it names three of its characters Happiness (Whitaker), Pleasure (Fraser), and Love (Bacon). I don't know how director Jieho Lee assembled such a talented cast, but he squanders the opportunity.

Four stories intertwine, the first called Happiness, about a guy who overhears word on a fixed horse race. He bets all he has, but then the horse stumbles, and now he finds himself indebted to a very dangerous gangster named Fingers (Garcia). If his name has been something different, like Heartache, we would know he would get his own story, but alas, it's Fingers. Why? Because when a gambler doesn't pay what they owe him, he cuts off a finger. Why is this story called Happiness? Irony.

Next comes Pleasure, about one of Fingers' men who gets flashes of what will happen in the future. It makes him a very good fighter. He's assigned to watch Fingers' nephew and help him lose his virginity with a hooker. The nephew is played by Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild), but it's a punk role any 20-year-old actor could have played. His part of the story starts showing Pleasure beaten bloody, and when we get to that point in the story, I understood a little bit more, but it was a stretch.

I won't got through them all, but it ends on a series of coincidences that maybe is supposed to add up to something greater, as if it's an Altman or Inarritu movie. I felt similar to how I felt when Southland Tales ended ("wow, what a waste of a good cast") except ST was lighter and had at least a good scene or two. This has good acting that adds up to nothing.