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>> Friday, June 11, 2010

I’ll never look at vegetable-anal relations the same way ever again.

Growing up I watched a lot of movies I didn’t realize were based on SNL sketches (screw you - IMDB didn’t exist yet) that guided me through my childhood and into my late teens. A lot of them were some of my favourites for a while. These included The Blues Brothers (the first SNL movie made), Wayne’s World and Wayne’s World 2, It’s Pat and A Night at the Roxbury. They all performed decently well enough that with the exception of 1991, 1996 and 1997 there was an SNL movie every year (sometimes twice a year) in the 90’s. The last SNL movie The Ladies Man (2000) sucked bad enough that another movie based on a sketch would not return for another 10 years. That brings me to the film I’m reviewing today – MacGruber.

Will Forte plays MacGruber, a MacGyver wannabe with a “knack” for taking everything from a paperclip to a celery stick and using it as a weapon of mass non-destruction. His partners in crime are the very funny Kristin Wiig as Vicki St. Elmo and Ryan Phillippe as Lt. Dixon Piper. They are put on the task of finding the film’s bad guy, Dieter Von Cunth played by a heavy set, double-chinned Val Kilmer. Poor Val, ever since Batman Forever he just hasn’t tried. It doesn’t stop him from being entertaining though, bless his heart.

So what, as a viewer do you get from MacGruber? Well, nothing you won’t expect. It’s an hour long, F-bomb filled excuse for making a 2 minute SNL sketch a little more riské. It’s by no means a filthy movie – but it’s definitely not as kid friendly as previous movies based on sketches. That doesn’t make it a bad movie, it in fact probably helps it a whole lot, actually. The only thing I did expect was a cameo by the original MacGyver, Richard Dean Anderson. He unfortunately was nowhere to be found and could have brought in some charming comedy (as easy a target as that would have been).

The film parodies itself and other 80’s movie clichés with a series of montages, and typical action sequences. MacGruber’s biggest strength is definitely that it doesn’t take itself too seriously and has a lot of LOL moments where the ridiculousness of a situation is either going to make you howl or roll your eyes with discontent. I mentioned celery earlier – you’ll see why I remembered it so vividly. Some of the funniest stuff comes from MacGruber’s one liners and over-clarification of certain phrases and the notion that he himself is an action hero from the movies. That mixed with some of MacGruber’s obsessions for saving money and his whacky behaviours makes this a fun film to watch.

It’s directed by Jorma Taccone who played Andy Samberg’s brother in the similarly written and comedically timed Hot Rod. I’m actually going to say if you liked Hot Rod you won’t have a hard time enjoying MacGruber – which I’m giving an open door. It’s not ground breaking stuff but it made me laugh a lot – which is sometimes the only thing that matters.

*Stills courtesy of Paramount Pictures


SPLICE (2009)

>> Friday, June 4, 2010

Splice is not the film I thought it would be, or could be…
I think the most interesting thing about Splice is just how great it sounded before going in – and I wasn’t listening to people’s opinions from work, or friends or nuttin’. I’m talking about the hardcore, movie critiquing professionals out there that litter the web these days. To put that into further perspective, Splice has a rating of 74% on Rotten Tomatoes. Now I must make clear, I NEVER read a review for a movie until I see it. It’s the number one thing to avoid as a film critic because believe it or not, your view can and most likely would be swayed in one way or another. Somehow though, word of mouth got around and the general vibe I was feeling said that Splice was refreshing. I think the people that gave this type of vibe to this movie were looking for something deeper in Splice than was actually there.

Perhaps it was actress Sarah Polley that gave a credible aura to Splice. Maybe it was Oscar winning actor Adrien Brody that made people say “These two wouldn’t be involved in this project if this movie didn’t mean something”. But realistically, I’m not going to know until I complete this review and finish putting my own thoughts out there.

Simply put, Splice is either the smartest horror movie ever made, or it’s the worst. The first half of the movie plays out like an original, thought-provoking thriller influenced by Pan’s Labyrinth - while the last half plays out like the director of Snakes on a Plane walked in and said “I make the best worst movies ever, and I know exactly what your movie’s missing!”.

I have no doubt upon writing this monstrosity (no pun intended – no, seriously) that writer and director Vincenzo Natali had his idea, was on the right track and then his drunk-ass buddy walked in and said “Dude, you know what would be sick? Have Adrien Brody and the monster do it! That would be awesome!” To which Natali replied “Well, that is psychological and plays into Freud. Since the rest of the movie plays with morals, why not take it further?” Too far dude, too – damn - far.

This however comes into play when I say Splice may actually be a brilliant movie. The people I went to the movie with left saying things along the lines of “I will never forget what I just saw in there.” or “I’ve never seen anything so disturbing in my life.” I can imagine people saying the same things after leaving the first screening for Salvador Dali’s Un Chien Andalou. But does the fact a piece of art (yes, movies are still art) can have that affect on someone mean it’s good art? That’s just something to think about.

Regardless of whether Natali was trying to accomplish anything more than shock is to be debated. Splice however will undoubtedly become a cult classic for a lot of horror lovers because its juts plain creepy. But for this self-proclaimed horror lover, I am giving it a closed door. It must be noted that although I have talked the now infamous sex scene to death, I am not giving it a closed door simply because of that scene. What bothered me about Splice was the fact that the tone of the film changed in the theatre the second that scene happened. I also want to point out there are bad movies out there like The Squeakquel that are bad simply because they are bad. This movie fails because it’s disappointing and turns a good movie with big promise bad for no apparent reason. Splice went from respect for a smaller movie with some revered actors in it to a non-stop LOL fest simply because it got kind of ridiculous. For me, that’s unforgivable.

*Stills courtesy of Gaumont



>> Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Someone please use the sands of time to get this thing un-made…

I’ll say it straight up - I’ve never played the video game this movie is based off of. In this case it probably doesn’t matter though. First of all, I am a firm believer that a movie should stand alone from the material it is based off of. Exempli gratia, a Harry Potter movie should not be enhanced any further because I’ve read the books, outside of a few Easter eggs here and there for the die-hards. I wonder though, if Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time would have been a better movie for me if I had played the game? From what I’ve heard – the game is quite enjoyable (if not a bit easy).

Movies based on video games have always had a curse looming above their heads almost as if the video game gypsies made the decision long ago that no movie would be more than moderately successful when based on a video game. I site Bloodrayne, Super Mario Brothers and Doom all as evidence. Speaking of Super Mario Brothers, will someone get Tim Burton on an adaptation already? Clearly he won’t be doing any original work in the near future with remakes of Frankenweenie and The Addams Family on his plate. His style of directing and love of the weird could definitely make a Mario movie work. But I digress…

Jake Gyllenhaal (who I’m confident has about as much acting range as Ben Affleck) does his best to lose the gay cowboy typecast he set up in Brokeback Mountain by taking on an Indiana Jones-esque role as Dastan. Dastan is the charming, side-smirking adopted Prince of Persia who finds a magical dagger that lets him turn back time for about a minute. However, the knifey-knife needs to be refilled with the sands of time after it’s used every two or three times making it about as fuel efficient as a Hummer towing the Statue of Liberty - making the movie relatively lame. Ben Kingsley plays the bad guy Nizam once again proving we need a Ghandi sequel or he needs to fire his agent (see Sound of Thunder for further proof). Even Alfred Molina as ostrich racer Sheik Amar is completely awful and his performance the best out of all of them.

The fact of the matter is that Prince of Persia’s action sequences (which is all we’re really looking for) are unoriginal and a retread of a lot of other action movies we’ve all seen before. This includes slow motion Matrix-flips and death-defying acts that are about as realistic as the bus in Speed jumping that 50 foot gap. And yes, I do have the ability to hold off some harsh criticism when it comes to special effects in a supposed eye-candy movie about a magical time-warping dagger, but when nothing else holds its ground (the dialogue, the acting, the plot) then really it drags everything else down with it.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time gets a closed door. It may not be the worst movie of the year, but it’s awfulness is further multiplied due to the large budget and existing fan base that should have put a bit more pressure on writers and studio execs. The only plus here is that Disney showed some restraint when not releasing this in 3-D. Summer 2010, meet your version of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

*Stills courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures


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