Saturday, August 31, 2013

Short Reviews - August 2013

This month's theme: disgruntled restaurant workers that soil the food somehow before serving it to customers.  Can't get enough of that!

Clerks 2, Waiting, Fight Club, Road Trip, Casino - okay, so they're not all classics.  Oh, and Beavis and Butt-Head did it as well, serving fried worms to someone instead of fries.

Our Nixon - Hmm!  Interesting IMDb page.  So far it only gives the director's name.  Well, that's Nixon's legacy for you!  Full transparency.

(The) Mortal Instruments (:City of Bones) - I can't take any more of these worldwide bestsellers.

The World's End - No.... Can I not take one more apocalyptic comedy?  Besides!  It's a Pegg/Frost/Wright collaboration!  Way better than that last one... which was also good, I mean...

The Cake Eaters - Mary Stuart Masterson's a director now!!  And she's working with the NEW Mary Stuart Masterson of note Kristen Stewart.

Going the Distance and The Lie - Apparently, these aren't part of the same trilogy or anything, even though Kelli Garner plays a character named Brianna in both.

Grand Hotel - I know it's one of the TCM Essentials and all, but still... I just don't feel German enough to watch this movie.

Bad Grandpa - Ah, I can't remember the last time I laughed out loud at a mere trailer.  Excellent work as always, Jackass guys.

The Passion of the Larry

We're getting to it sooner than I thought!  Time for that Stooge short of record called Corny Casanovas.  Spoiler alert: for those of you Name-ists out there, I think we can all agree... not corny enough!  The premise this time: once again, the Stooges are on the brink of marriage.  And once again, they're all roommates, which is never a good idea to begin with.  They nearly kill each other several times during the seemingly simple task of cleaning up their apartment.  Shemp tries to apologize to Moe by saying "What Moe can a fella say?  That's all there is!  There ain't no Moe!"  Needles to say, it doesn't help smooth things over.
Next challenge: fixing their busted couch.  As a sociological experiment, they should play this part on the History Channel, or maybe have some modern types do a re-enactment.  You know, something along the lines of "Final cost of DIY couch?  $73,592 including legal fees, $582,028 including hospital bills."  Then, have the word "BANKRUPT" stamped on the screen in red army lettering with a stamp outline around it.  That kinda crap.  It writes itself!  On top of that, the whole idea's silly and goes against the Stooge repair ethos.  I mean, why repair the back of a couch when you can just hide the damage against the wall?  Duh!  But that's what love does to people.  You end up doing stupid little things like fixing the backs of couches because you're in love.  Sheesh.  (hand to forehead)
Oh, I almost forgot.  I'd be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to my friend who likes the double boom when Moe hits Larry AND Shemp simultaneous-like in their guts.  Good work, Cannery Row sound FX team!
With the couch episode, this Stooge short proves once again that Moe tends to get the worst of it.  Take the tacks, for example... I'll leave it at that.  Meanwhile, Shemp seems to be having buyer's remorse about this career move of his.  Moe hits him in the face with some shaving cream and he mutters "You're always picking on me!"
I'll tiptoe lightly around the plot surprise, and just cut right to the chase, and point out that I've never seen the Stooges so mad at each other!  Apparently, with the threat of marriage looming down on them, they got excited at the possibility of having a private space where they wouldn't have to see each other.  This got violated, and hence the anger... did I ruin the surprise yet?  This is also perhaps the most tragic of the Shemp shorts, as it pits Moe against Shemp at one point.  Shemp does his boxing routine, and I don't think Moe finds it amusing.  Shemp gets cast aside all too easily, and now it's Larry's turn.  Moe goes to work on Larry with a fireplace bellows, but he does seem to show some remorse when he realizes the full consequences of his actions.  Unfortunately for Moe, Larry comes to and starts going to work on Moe with a fireplace shovel, thereby informing the Coen brothers and the big final showdown between Johnny Casper and The Dane in Miller's Crossing.
Once again, the Stooges end up in a heap on the floor, having once again lost almost everything.  But they still got each other!  In his semi-conscious state, Shemp ends up doing "She loves me, she loves me not" as he tears out clumps of Larry's hair, and he gingerly rolls each bloody clump through his fingers as it falls to the floor, lol.  In my adolescence, I'm pretty sure I couldn't help but think that the boys went a little too far this time... but it won't be the last time.  Take Pardon My Backfire, for example... ah, we'll get to that one soon enough.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Baby's Day Out

I'm conflicted!  The inside of the box says this one's called Little Swee'Pea, but the title card of the film has a tiny "with" at the top of it!  So is it just With Little Swee'Pea, or would the full title be Popeye the Sailor with Little Swee'Pea?  And how about that?  Is it Swee'pea or Swee'Pea?  Does not compute!  404!  The compiler has shut down.  Humanity officially lost.  It's all zeroes and ones from here on out, people.  I know it.
Anyway, sure, I could be all negative and compare this to the earlier iconic game-changing classic Sock-a-Bye Baby, especially the ending, but I'll leave that to the Popeye haters out there, and those who are too busy fawning over Cartoon Network's latest and greatest, whatever that is.  Probably some flavour of animé.  So instead, let's just focus on the differences, because this baby's got a name and a connection to Olive.  Also, Popeye doesn't open with his usual song.  I think it's long gone by now.  But we do see him walking merrily along to the tune of "Brotherly Love," and he's behind stuff at first... is he Medusa all of a sudden?  What gives?  Were the aminators on strike that day or something?
Oh, since I'm reviewing Stooge films so much, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the doorbell gag.  Olive's got one of those old-timey doorbells that you twist to ring.  Popeye's not paying attention, and Olive comes to the door, standing right where the bell was.  Popeye twists her nose, and she ... wait for it... screams like the doorbell rings!  Genius.
Now, the plot: Popeye's plan was to take Olive to the zoo to see the "aminals" but she gets Popeye to take her bastard child... I mean, li'l Swee'pea instead.  Needles to say, this is not your average baby, I hope.  I'm not a parent so I don't have any nightmare stories.  Swee'pea takes it upon himself to make Popeye's life a living hell.  He or she starts by slipping out of the crib as they're walking merrily along to the zoo and marching behind Popeye.  Ah, kids.  Always wanting to do all the fun adult stuff.  Popeye eventually notices that Swee'pea's not in the crib!  He keeps marching along to his own beat, though, as he does a slow 360, looking for Swee'pea.  As this is happening, Swee'pea sneaks back into the crib, thereby freaking out Popeye when he looks back into the crib.  Genius.  Mind officially ... melded.  Oh, and, there's a 3D background while all this deviltry is going on.
They arrive at the zoo.  Time for an unprecedented second patented Fleischer 3D background!  Game-changing.  Swee'pea sneaks out of the crib again, but doesn't get back in the crib.  Instead, Swee'pea confuses the zoo with a petting zoo and starts walking around the giant stumpy feet of a rotoscoped elephant.  Now, I hate to cut this short, but you can guess the cycle.  Swee'pea goes from cage to cage, and the various animals' maternal instincts apparently kick in.  Even an alligator!  Oh, it's madness, I tells ya.  Madness.  Popeye ends up using his spinach powers on the hippopotamus, and a tiger that Swee'pea ends up riding.  Lol.  "Hold that Tiger" is the background music at this juncture, of course.  They even have a moaning sound in the right spot!  LOL
Back to Olive's place.  Popeye may be harboring some doubts about parenthood at this point, but Olive helps him make up his mind for good.  Popeye shows Swee'pea a little toy monkey.  Swee'pea gets scared by this and starts crying.  Apparently, Swee'pea couldn't see the trees for the forest earlier, but it's that one pine needle that does the trick.  Olive sees this little scene and beats the snot out of Popeye for scaring poor, defenseless Swee'pea, and takes Swee'pea inside immediately!  The nerve of that guy.  His ending song, no surprise: "There's no ifs or maybes, I'll never have babies.  I'm Popeye the Sailor Man!!"

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Christian Ashaiku

Another short one!  Well, they got no photo on IMDb, and only one credit to their name, a film called Amina.  It's a story of ... sorry, a deeply emotional story of love, loss and redemption.  Hopefully it's not referring to the making of Amina and how the new director goes on a power trip and has to learn how to be a human being the hard way.  That gets old after a while.

Brought to you by... Morgan Spurlock? Seriously?

The next generation of Michael Moores are taking over, and obviously not taking things as seriously.  Sometimes you just gotta stop and have some fun... yes, even with Simon Cowell.  Sheesh.  A new flavour of fascism is taking over the music business.  Why, it's right there in the band's name!  One Direction!  So much for thinking for yourself and what not.  Meanwhile, Ashton Kutcher's ode to Steve Jobs is gone, Kick Ass 2 is gone, Grown Ups 2 is gone, Mortal Instruments: City of Bones going.  This Labor Day weekend at the box office, it's all about the youths from 8 to 80 who watch the X-Factor ... what channel is that on, anyway?
Meanwhile, just as there were other acts on Ed Sullivan the night the Beatles were on, there's a couple other debuts this weekend.  At #5, something called *batteries not included... sorry, I mean Instructions not Included.  Sounds like an indie comedy centered around Ikea.  Now, let's check to see what it actually is... close enough.  Unleash the George Lopez wannabes!
Yes, the more adult fare's all taking a back seat this weekend.  Why, Lee Daniels' The Butler slips to #2, for Gawd'z zake!  That can't be good.  There is no joy in Oprahville right now.  Nor probably not in Lordhawke's camp.  Ethan Hawke's got a new feature this weekend called Getaway and it debuted at #9.  Guess they should've tried calling it Stick Around instead.  Looks like a reboot of 2011's Drive.  Also seems to be in that Faster subgenre of Fast and Furious wannabes more generally.  Dayamn, but there's a lot of movies to keep track of!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Gangs of New York

Well, it had to happen.  Time to review one of the most critically-reviled movies of all time, and it's called Kick-Ass 2.  Ebert's new guy called it "one of the year's worst films."  The Onion gives it a C.  Personally, I think we're all getting a little tired of superhero movies, and things like Jonah Hex and Kick-Ass are bound to fall victim to that.  I won't dwell on all the negativity, mostly because I just saw the following web page, but also because of this: John Leguizamo.  Sure, he's made a bad movie here and there, but they're always cool.  And John Leguizamo is in Kick-Ass 2, playing the part of the calming influence that tempers the bad guy's rage, because he's no longer young and raging himself.  Now I ask you: is John Leguizamo going to appear in a movie that's not cool?  Of course not!  Is Jim Carrey?  Hell no!  Are they going to take lower salaries to be a part of this?  Maybe!
...damn.  Just remembered The Pest.  It'll take me a while to shake that one off again.  And I only saw about three minutes of it!  Anyway, back to Kick-Ass 2.  Now, my friend and I went to see it last night.  Expectations were high.  Afterwards, however, the friend was a little disappointed with the script, and they told me that they thought they could've written a better one.  And perhaps that's true, but that's not for me to say.  As for me, I thought this second installment was slightly better than the first.  The first one, frankly, had a few dead spots.  More specifically, the scene where Kick-Ass is rubbing some lotion on girlfriend Katie's naked back.  And of course, the whole thing about Kick-Ass telling his girlfriend that he's not gay, with the stipulation that there's nothing wrong with that.  But it is what it is.  Somehow the sequel has less dead spots, and just keeps moving right along.  Sure, the plot was a tad predictable, and movie homages were everywhere to be found, but I still found myself entertained.  It's more for the kids, really. 
Take Hit Girl's ventures into high school.  One could call it a rip-off of Mean Girls, or Heathers, or any number of other movies, but Hit Girl does put her own unique spin on the cliché that is high school.  Spoiler alert: it puts the Farrelly brothers to shame; more specifically, their relative tastefulness in Me, Myself and Irene.  Moretz is once again the shining star of the movie, at least on the good guy's side.  On the bad guy's side, there's Mother Russia played by newcomer Olga Kurkulina.  I tried in vain to figure out who the actress was, or maybe I was just pining for my youth, which consisted of Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV, among others.  Spoiler alert: I think her demise was a bit tasteless.  It reminded me of what happened to Scratchy when he got a bunch of muscles.  I dare say that Mother Russia is the one who really steals the movie.
But back to the critics.  One critic called Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the actor who plays Kick-Ass, bland.  Well, that's just mean.  Personally, I think Aaron got confused and thought that Zack Snyder was going to direct the film.  He got pretty damn buff!  Wonder if he did that Hugh Jackman Wolverine diet of boiled chicken or something.  Also, The Onion got it half right.  Hit Girl says to a bad guy "If you don't give up a life of crime, I'm going to go Saudi Arabia on your ass and cut off your hand!"  They reported just this part of the whole quote: "I'm going to go Saudi Arabia on your ass."  Sloppy work, guys.
The film was directed by a fella named Jeff Wadlow, a nephew of Katie Couric.  Well, this film's going to be an awkward topic at the next Couric family Thanksgiving dinner, dontcha think?

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Disorder outside the court

Our next Stooge film is the classic known as Listen, Judge.  And if you go to Listen, Judge's official "Connections" page at the IMDb, you can see what they feel this is a remake of.  They cite An Ache in Every Stake and They Stooge to Conga, but I feel they're leaving out the setup of that undisputed Stooge classic A Plumbing We Will Go.  Not to mention the party they sabotage by catering it from Crash Goes the Hash.
Also, this film contains an example of what I've come to think of as Moe's "Maximum Rage."  It doesn't happen often, because he's usually pretty amped up as it is, but three examples come to mind.  1) Three Missing Links when they're f... messing around in the office and Moe starts going "GIMME THE BUCKET!! GIMME THE BUCKET!!!"  2) I Can Hardly Wait, when Curly turns the bed into a waterbed by accident (he was a victim of circumstance, as usual) and Moe barks "GET OUTTA THIS BED!" at maximum rage.  And finally, here in Listen, Judge when Moe's just been officially pulled through the wall by Larry and Shemp, arriving amidst a cloud of asbestos and particles of particle board.  Moe's got two pieces of the wall in his mouth that look like giant buck teeth.  "A GOPHER!" cries Shemp.  Now, I don't know what you do when you see a gopher, but I'll tell you what Larry does: he grabs an axe and starts hitting Moe on the head with the non-blade part of it, which might be worse in a way.  "Get me outta here..." says Moe.  Wait for it... After Moe's on his feet, he explodes, saying "I'LL GOPHER BOTH OF YA!!!"  Shemp tries to crawl into the wall to escape, lol.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Olive's Bluto

As you can tell from the attached pic, Olive's got to defend her turf in Never Kick a Woman.  Popeye gets to sing a different song this time, about self-defense rather than self-congratulation.  Olive and Popeye go into a sporting goods shop where the Mae West-type is busy punching a punching bag.  "Some equipment they got here!" says Popeye.  See, he's talking about the... oh, skip it.
Now, if you're at all like me, you'll like the part where Olive first punches a punching bag on a spring coming up from the floor.  It's all downhill from there, ending with Olive getting her clock cleaned by the Mae West type.  (She says to Popeye... wait for it... "Why don't you come up and see me sometime?")  Popeye clearly doesn't need spinach in this episode, so the can works its way out of his pocket, and Olive ends up eating it this time.  She turns into a snarling cat, and the cat fight begins!  Popeye stands on the sidelines cheering for once.  After Olive triumphs, she socks Popeye once for good measure, to make up for all the past.  I guess this is a four-star one, if only for the novelty of it.  I wish I could say the same for Bugs Bunny's version of Duck Amuck, but somehow I can't.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Abdoulaye Ascofare

Well, there's apparently a review of Mother of the Dunes here...  Well, what can be said?  Some are more prolific than others ... like this week's auteur, Abdoulaye Ascofare.  I guess we all tend to favour the more prolific ones.  That's why Terrence Malick came out of retirement with half of a vengeance.

The Lovely Bones

Once again, it's Oprah Winfrey's The Butler... I mean, Lee Daniels' The Butler at #1.  Oh, it's definitely going to sweep, but somehow I feel like the academy's loathe to give Oprah an Oscar, even now.  When in fact, it's the perfect move!  She gets the Oscar, and she can't stop gushing about it for months and months.  Her ratings slip, she goes into seclusion, problem solved!  Right?  Boy, but that Academy's cruel.
Meanwhile, the trend towards high literature haute-couture continues at the box office with the debut of something called The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.  Geez, how many international best-sellers have I not heard of yet?  All I know is they've stopped making Left Behind movies.  The devil's a lot like the house in Vegas, isn't he?  Oh, and of course, the literary trend includes Percy Jackson.  What I wanna know is: what about Cirque du Freak?  I heard there's, like, twelve books in that series!  We've only got one movie so far!  Will no one pick up the slack?  So what's Darren Shan?  Chopped liver?  Don't tell me he's the proverbial male gorilla that got defeated in the dating game and is doomed to wander off into the forest to die?  This isn't anarchy, is it?
Oh well.  Anyway, according to my meticulous research, there's three other debuts this week on the Top 10: Woody Allen's latest, a horror pic called You're Next, and the end of the Pegg/Frost/Wright trilogy called The World's End.  I hate to be negative, but I think I'll just wait to see it with friends.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Prize Winner of De Five Points, Long Island

Well, the Stooges were nothing if not topical.  America at that time was in the grip of two distinct, but perhaps related, fevers: the hunt for Commie bastards, and the hunt for big prize money on TV.  The best the Stooges can do on their limited budgets is a radio show, alas.  After grappling with a healthy breakfast of rubber pancakes and glue, long story short, Shemp ends up getting his mouth full of gasoline-soaked gauze, and after Moe hit Shemp in the mouth a couple times with a hammer... you know, as if the gasoline-soaked gauze were a nail... the phone rings.  "Answer the phone!" Moe orders Shemp.  I'm hard pressed to think of a time when Moe's been more cruel.
But Shemp has his wits about him and he answers the phone, and also gets some quick retribution for Moe's unkindness.  The call is for Shemp from BURP Radio.  Oh, America's also got car fever, and there's a whole quiz show to guessing the sound of a mystery motor.  As usual, Shemp stumbles bass-ackwards onto winning the jackpot, and it's quickly off to the Hotel Costa Plente to live like "gentlemen," as Larry puts it.  Ah, new money.  So ill-equipped to deal with a new set of problems.  But Larry's nothing if not prepared, as his cigar with a cigarette inside of it will attest.  Lol.  The writing staff of The Simpsons must surely like that.
Vernon Dent gives the boys a tour of their new-fangled hotel room.  Well, we will be spending the rest of the pic in there, so why not?  I like the way he says "Over here, please."  Oh, did I mention that this is a bloody remake?  I sorta did in the attached jpeg file, slightly indirectly.  And as you can see, inflation was under much better control back then.  Everything was in perfect balance.  Neither taxes nor big cash prizes fluctuated at all in the 15 years between Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb and A Missed Fortune.  And when I first saw this one, it was after Healthy which, at my young age, I couldn't help but think was a classic.  The Stooges' Grand Hotel, if you will, but not so German.  And I thought this remake was a big rip-off at the time, but I've since softened on that, seeing as how it's just the tip of the remake-berg.
Now, according to my less-than-rigorous calculations, there's about 40 seconds of recycled footage from the previous film.  Even though they destroyed the bed a second time, they couldn't be bothered to re-shoot Moe saying "Get this Henry the Eighth off my neck!"  The film is a total of 15 minutes and 37 seconds long, not counting the opening and closing credits sequences.  Therefore, 40 divided by 937 is about 0.04.  Only four percent recycled footage!  I have a feeling the Stooges will never work that hard on a remake again.
I couldn't help but notice that the subplot of the three gold-digging girls is driven further to the end this time, and the Stooges never get to put two and two together to find out that it's their pet monkey that comes into the room.  But the love lesson is as true then as it is today: you only get to throw a bucketful of water at a girl one time.  Beyond that, and you'll get hit on the head with a champagne bottle.
A brief thought about the epilogue.  The Stooges are in a heap on the floor of their wrecked hotel room.  They owe the hotel a lot of money and are generally in a bind.  But Shemp has the solution: win another contest!  Sometimes you need more than a hammer in your toolbox, basically.  Otherwise everything starts to look like a nail.  Oh, and Larry and Moe may think Shemp comes up with bad slogans, but what Moe comes up with at the end is even worse.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Next Popeye: Let's Get Movin'

Wow!  I have even less time than I thought I would!  And I can't even think of a clever title.  Something about the subject matter, I guess.  Oh well.  Well, to keep it real short, Olive's officially got a clean slate, because she's moving today, as the opening song informs us.  Popeye stops by to help her move, but laughs at him.  Popeye's not one to embarrass easily, but Olive can make him do it.  Poor guy, Olive thinks he can't handle such a simple task as that.  As Cops Is Always Right will later prove, Popeye's not much of a multi-tasker either!
And so, Bluto officially makes his entrance.  Popeye goes over and sits on the chair.  Bluto takes the chair and Popeye falls out of it.  Rinse and repeat with the couch.  Popeye's manliness degradated by denial of existence?  Check.  This can't go on forever like this.  Idle hands are the devil's playthings, so Popeye tries to prove he's got what it takes to help Olive move.  He starts with the table and chair... well, it's a start, anyway.  Bluto eventually feels threatened after Popeye's fancy move with the piano, and he starts aping Popeye's move.
Scene: ground level, where the ass-whooping begins.  Popeye must be tuckered out from all that moving because he reaches for the spinach right away!  No Passion of the Popeye this time, we gotta keep it short.  Popeye's either in a rush or he's wussing out.  And so, with spinach quickly digested, the tables turn and Olive's stuff goes flying, but she's more amused and scared than upset.  After she lost her country estate in The Two-Alarm Fire, this is a relatively less devastating loss.  I'm not quite sure if this rises to the level of a classic, but the animation's very slick and fluid (take the spinning stove near the end, for example) and Popeye's mumbling is top drawer, so to speak.  Let's call it three and a half.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Auteur Watch - M. K. Asante

These days, in the second Internet Boom, peddling a little flesh is more important than ever.  Hobnobbing with the greats of your time doesn't hurt, either.  Look at the list of names!  Samuel L. Jackson!  Mos Def!  Maya Angelou!  A ringing endorsement from CNN; trust me, as much as The Daily Show likes to pooh-pooh such things, it means something to someone who hasn't made their bones yet.  CNN calls this Asante a "master storyteller and major creative force."  And the dude's only 31 years old!  That's a lot of pressure on a 31-year old; I'm just sayin'.  Thankfully, I don't have to worry about things like that.  Oh, I'm so over the hill meself.  He just wrote a new book about his childhood in Philadelphia... say!  Isn't that where M. Night Shyamalan grew up?  Oh, s'z'nap!  You don't want to follow his path, that's for sure!  Or maybe you do, at least up to the Sixth Sense part of things.  Nice work if you can pull it off.  Personally, for me there's too great of an historical thicket to hack through.

Ghost Dog?

And my senilification's complete!  Seems like only yesterday that Forest Whitaker was in Ghost Dog.  But fourteen years and one Oscar later, he's still working harder than he should, and Lee Daniels' The Butler is #1 at the box office.  Let the Oscar race begin anew.  Sorry, Tyler Perry, but it looks like you'll be at the bar with Roger Deakins for a while, talking about how rigged the system is against the little guy.  Meanwhile, Kick-Ass 2 debuts at #4.  Boy!  The neo-comic book stuff's just not selling these days!  The critics, as with Planes, sure seem to hate Kick-Ass 2.  I think we have the perfect villain for installment #3!  And last but not least, Jobs debuts at #7.  Maybe it's too soon.  Maybe people aren't ready to grieve the loss of Steve Jobs in biopic form yet.  Or maybe HBO should've just produced the movie and put it on some Sunday night!  Or is TimeWarner not feeling the love?
As for everything else, it's slip sliding down.  Elysium drops from #1 to #3, Planes drops from 3 to 5, Percy Jackson from 4 to 6, and everything else is down three notches!  The only thing that's staying constant is We're the Millers holding strong at #2.  Kick-Ass 2 could learn a thing or two from that!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Actually, the way Nat Geo's been going lately...

...what with their Locked Up Abroad series and the things about world's toughest gangs, what have you, a movie like 2010's Animal Kingdom will fit right in in no time!  And I don't want to be too negative, mostly because the film was recommended to me, and partly because the film does a fine job of weaving a spell, creating a mood, what have you.  And while everyone's currently gushing and raving over The Spectacular Now about its absolutely accurate portrayal of teens, I dare say that Animal Kingdom does pretty good in its own right in that regard.
That being said, here's yet another film about crime that owes a little bit to GoodFellas... li'l bit, especially the part about never ratting on your friends, and always keeping your mouth shut.  Not to give away too much of the plot, but the plot does hinge on a car that Joshua, played well by James Frecheville, steals and deliberately leaves for the police to find.  He's not too bright of a kid, but apparently he's smart enough to know to wear gloves, and to wipe down any surfaces that might contain fingerprints.  Also, he provides some narration at the beginning of the film.  To give you some insight to this character, he keeps getting distracted by the TV as medics prepare to take his dead mother away.  Alienated youth, I guess you could call it.  The TV grieves in its own unique way where the kid shows none.
Things go from bad to worse when the kid moves in with his criminal relatives.  Things further go from worse to worse in overdrive when the level-headed matriarch of the criminal relatives gets killed by the police, and 'Pope' returns to the fold, and begins to put his own spin on where things should be headed.  Pope is played by Ben Mendelsohn, and I guess you could say that the role's subtly effective the way Edward Norton was in Rounders.
So, to sum up, the film's probably too stylized in the way most similar films are these days.  Take the music, for example; kinda reminded me of Watchmen a little bit.  But I will give props to the cinematography, and the way the film is framed.  I'm a sucker for lots of telephoto.  Somebody's got to fill the wide gap that Tony Scott has left, after all!  I'll say three and a half stars.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Friday, August 09, 2013

Less than 20% recycled footage!

According to my hasty, less-than-rigorous scientific calculations, there's a few bits of recycled footage in the first and second acts of Pest Man Wins... that's right, there's no The in the title... and the main recycling from 1947's Half Wits Holiday comes from that film's Third Act in Pest's Third Act.  Also, they brought back Al Thompson, Emil Sitka and the old woman who says "So!  You want to play ROUGH, do you?" to establish continuity.  Now, maybe I'm just Brown Noser in Chief here, but you gotta hand it to those Stooges!  They recycled, but they weren't proud of it.
As for the plot, well, it's your usual class warfare stuff that the Stooges usually engaged in: making life hell for the snooty rich people that were unfortunate enough to cross their destructive, capitalist paths.  The Stooges play exterminators who know not what to do with all the extra stock they have, so Larry has a flash of genius when they happen upon a lavish party at an expensive house.  They'll unload all the mice, moths and ants they can, then offer their services to the good people to then remove them!  The boys seem to have a lot of fun unloading their pests, and theoretically they'll be easy to clean up, seeing as how they should remember where they left them all.  Also, they get to do that bit where they dance as someone thrashes around in agony and or pain.  In this case, Vernon Dent tries to shake loose a mouse that managed to burrow its way between his flesh and his clothes.  Larry follows it around on the floor with a hammer and he hits feet instead, men's and women's.  Oh, he's no sexist!  He ends up with an empty tray dropped on his head, thereby serving as a warning for all of us.  Never hit the help on the foot, as they might be holding something they could drop on you.  Lol.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Next Popeye: I Wanna Be A Life Guard

Thank goodness these Popeye cartoons aren't bound to any type of rules of consistency.  I'm getting whiplash as it is!  So, two cartoons ago, Bluto was throwing Wimpy off his ferry, and one cartoon ago Bluto was employing Wimpy at his diner, and now Bluto is going to Wimpy for a lifeguard job in I Wanna Be a Life Guard.  Apparently, the title's based on a popular song of the day.  Let's see if Wikipedia concurs... it doesn't!  Oh, I feel so ... I feel like the boastful caveman in the B.C.  comics... never mind.  Screw that guy.
Anyway, Popeye's on shore leave as usual and he finds himself looking for a job.  He happens upon an opportunity for a life guard.  I wonder how much trouble Popeye would have getting a job today in the Résumé Age.  You would think that the spinach alone would be enough.  He's on the fence about the lifeguard job, so he probes a little deeper by dragging the knot hole in the piece of fence in front of him so he can see inside.  He sees Olive diving and falls madly in love... just go with it.  What is it about guys always falling in love with the anorexic chicks? 
When suddenly... Bluto approaches and horns in on Popeye's territory.  Bluto pulls the knot hole back up so he can get a look from his taller angle.  Bluto suddenly wants the job for the same reason Popeye did: love.  Fortunately, Olive's a blank slate with each new cartoon; if I were her, I'd still be a little sore about that bridge incident, but that's just me.  And so, Popeye and Bluto head over to inquire about that job opening, and for once Popeye tries to run ahead of Bluto.  Sure, he did it in The Two-Alarm Fire, but he was lugging all that equipment, too.  Popeye and Bluto wedge themselves through the door much like the Stooges.
And so, it's up to Wimpy to pick the better man for the job.  Good thing he's not going by singing voice; personally, I think Bluto wins that one.  But Popeye can hit those lower registers pretty good too... just not as good as Bluto for me.  Okay, moving on.  Also, it's a good thing they're not going by bathing suit.  Popeye blushes when the assembled crowd makes fun of his outfit.  And Olive's the lead taunter!  That's about the extent of her role this time.  I guess it was contract negotiations that week or something.
And so, by the ancient rules of civilized combat, the test of talents begins.  Bluto swims across the pool and he does it in style.  Not bad!  Also, he gets a 3D background to work with!  Not so for Popeye.  Well, Popeye's doing some fancy underwater stuff, making like a torpedo or something.  As always, he outdoes Bluto... but no one can see what he's doing!  He's submerged under the water!  Wimpy and the crowd don't know what he's doing!  Duh!!!  Nevertheless, the crowd is impressed.
Second feat: diving.  Bluto does a move opposite to that of Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School, and Popeye puts Greg Louganis to shame with his fancy divin', and lightin' his pipe at the same time.
Third: Bluto calls it.  He uses Popeye to practice life saving.  Lucky for him they don't see what all he does to Popeye.  If he were to get the job, it wouldn't be long before he's rescuing somebody who he doesn't like, and ends up punching them in the face as they rise to the surface.
Another warning sign: Bluto wrings Popeye out like a rag to dry him off after their dip in the water.  You know Popeye's in bad shape because he's got Xs for eyes.  Oh, it's well past time for spinach.  Now, I haven't been keeping that great of a track of it, but I think this is the first time Popeye has to call to his spinach can.  As in Can You Take It, Popeye's able to blow air through his eye... geez!  We were just talking about this!  Does Popeye actually just have one eye?  Or does he just choose to squint?  Either way, note that he is indeed able to pass air through his right eye, as he's able to manipulate his eyelids like gills.  The can of spinach hears Popeye's distress call.  The can leaps off the shelf and rolls to Popeye.  Unlike A Clean Shaven Man, in which a can had enough potential energy to bounce off the wall and back into Popeye's mouth... rubber spinach?... here the can is self-moving.  Must be spinach laced with radium.  Spoiler Alert: Popeye kicks Bluto's ass and sings the ending song, the life guard one.  Popeye holds Bluto aloft, and Bluto spits out an endless stream of water!  He's turned Bluto into one of those statue thingies!  How do you like dat?  Three stars, despite the 3D background.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Amma Asante

It's the same old story: actor turns to directing... hmm!  Short story!  In Amma Asante's case, I hope it means that the directing work is very very lucrative, as there's not that much of it.  One film every nine years is not much.  Even Terrence Malick is doing a film every three years now, now that the end is very very near.  But to be fair, Amma has to wear many hats, and according to the IMDb, being married to the Chief of Media and PR of the European Police sounds like a full-time job in and of itself.

Battle of the Debuts

Clear History!  Clear History!!... oh, right.  It's on HBO.  And even though it looks like the latest episode of Curb, I don't care!!  But we gotta look at the box office, 'cuz that's what we do here.  Once again, the fanboys have got money to burn, as opposed to the decent families with young children that need entertaining.  Why, look at what made the most money this weekend!  The R-rated Elysium and the R-rated We're the Millers!!  Meanwhile, Pixar's fortunes are clearly in the crapper with their latest, a sequel to Cars about airplanes called Planes.  The critics are totally down on it, and it only came in third!  Guess Disney will have to run the ads calling it the #1 animated movie in America.  After The Lone Ranger fiasco, I think they better do it.  But I think I know what went wrong with Planes.  Take a look at the cast: Dane Cook as the young hero we're all supposed to relate to?  Seriously?  He's 41 years old, for God's sake!  Also, he somehow doesn't have that everyman quality that Owen Wilson has, despite working for Wes Anderson so much.  But the busy bees over at Pixar are too busy to worry about poor box office performance.  Their next project?  Planes 2 and the triumphant return of Dane Cook as Dusty Crophopper.  Also, stick around for the ending credits where Tom Hanks says to Tim Allen "YOU..ARE... A.... PLANE!!!!!!"  Worth the price of admission right there.  Look for Zac Efron in Pixar's upcoming Boats, playing Hank Buoyfloater, the young tugboat trying to seduce Lucy Yachtington, the snooty but curvaceous luxury yacht that he falls for one day.  Oh, why oh why isn't the ocean big enough?
What else?  Another sequel: Percy Jackson 2.  Yawn.  And so, that's it for the debuts this week.  How come nothing ever happens in August?

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Hail the Conquering Hollywood

This has to be one of the most bizarre Stooge shorts ever.  That's right, even more so than Cuckoo on a Choo-Choo, their ode to Tennessee Williams.  For one, it deviates from the strict Stooge regimen of ending music.  The ending theme has evolved over time, but it's always played.  Here, incidental music is used through the fade to black.  Terribly disorienting.
As for the plot, well, all is not well at B.O. Pictures.  Emil Sitka gives an inspired performance as the studio head with two assistants to hold a chair for him for when he sits down.  The Stooges aren't working with one of their usual directors, producer-turned-director Hugh McCollum, so this must be personal for him.  The Stooges are employees of B.O. who work with the studio's lovely female dancers.  Think of Larry as Marc Shaiman on piano, Shemp as Baryshnikov, and... Moe as Bob Fosse?  Why not, I say?  Similar personalities, after all!
So, the setup is: studio head Sitka wants to make a movie about the native peoples of a distant island dancing.  Unfortunately, the island he bought has natives that don't know how to dance.  In his compromised quest for authenticity, he wants the Stooges to teach the natives how to dance.  And so, in the very next scene, there they are on the island.  They're working their way through the dense vegetation, but they don't do the branch in the face routine!!  Very disorienting.
Things go from bad to worse when the Stooges discover that not only do the natives not dance, but they're headhunters as well.  But they're a little polite about it.  Medicine man Kenneth MacDonald... you heard me right.  MacDonald gives a similarly inspired performance as the medicine man of the island tribe.  A consummate professional through and through.  MacDonald explains to the Stooges that they will be fed well and entertained before their heads are taken.  And dare I say that this Stooge short is half-ass educational!  MacDonald explains in broad terms what the shrinking of heads entails... I'll let you watch that one.
Another disorientation: see, normally when a Stooge asks "How do you like that?", the upward emphasis is on the that.  Moe changes it up by switching it to the word 'like.'  "How do you like that?" says Moe when they go into a rather large, well-built hut and see the Stooges' most enigmatic foe yet: a four-armed statue.  This provides a nice head-scratcher for all you anthropologists out there: are the island people into half-Voodoo, half-Buddhism?  Fortunately for the Stooges, the four-armed statue is in possession of a box of hand grenades marked "U.S. Army."  To cut to the chase, the Stooges don't lose their heads, fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view, and American Imperialism is re-affirmed when it comes to the tiny island nations of the world.  Why, I bet even David Quammen might like Hula La-La, who knows?  I'll give it four stars, and just for the statue.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Moribund the Burgermeister

Well, a momentous day has arrived for me personally and professionally.  Alas, I shall no longer be able to devote as much time to reviewing movies anymore, as I have finally found a new job!  Therefore, I will not be devoting as many words to Stooge films and Popeye cartoons as I used to... which is probably for the best.  It'll probably make them more readable!
Anyway, on to the next Popeye, which is called What--No Spinach?  Spoiler alert: the title refers to the audience's reaction when Popeye goes into Bluto's Diner and orders roast duck.  Bluto's employee, Wimpy, is a bit taken aback by this as well... or maybe not.  Wimpy's permanently lost in his hamburger-centric world.  In fact, he's starting to take over Popeye's territory!  Wimpy gets his own song at the start, a song about... wait for it!  That's right, hamburgers.  Popeye has to re-affirm his importance to the franchise by ambling up to Bluto's Diner, singing his theme song.
And so, the struggle over Popeye's belly begins.  Popeye orders roast duck for Popeye, but Wimpy changes the order to a hamburger for Wimpy.  Bluto makes a hamburger and has to make sure Wimpy doesn't eat it.  Popeye repeats his order, shouting it to Bluto directly.  Bluto cooks a duck, but Wimpy has his own plans for the duck's drumsticks.  Bluto probably should've tried to find a larger pool to pick employees from, especially considering that Wimpy was partly responsible for Bluto losing his ferry business from the previous short, Bridge Ahoy!
No, Bluto and Popeye are doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over (Bluto throws a can of spinach at Popeye, then throws an axe that cuts the can in half!!!), but Wimpy's a smart, crafty one, and this is not the last time he tries pitting the two against each other, the rat bastard.
(highlight: Popeye reads the menu on Wimpy's chest.  The top word is "Menu" and Popeye mutters to himself "Menu.  I don't want any of that!" )

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - George Armitage

He's as close to a directing cicada as we may get, but with a 7-year cycle instead of 17.  Cases in point: 1990's Miami Blues, 1997's Grosse Pointe Blank(e) and 2004's The Big Bounce.  So where's our 2011 George Armitage?  Oh well.  As those smart-asses over at The Onion might say, after something like The Big Bounce, it's probably best that he's missed 2011 so he can focus on not working with Owen Wilson in 2018.

box office 8-4-13

Damn.  One more week until Breaking Bad starts up again.  Speaking of things slightly new, we're knee-deep in the summer movie season hoopla, and there sure are a hell of a lot of sequels in theaters right now!  I was thinking about making the case that all ten movies in the Top 10 are sequels, but a) I'm not that good, and b) only five of them are actual sequels: The Wolverine at #2, The Smurfs 2 debuting at #3, Despicable Me Too at #5, Adam Sandler's Grown Ups 2 at #6, and Red 2 slinking down to #8.  Pacific Rim, while it's Shakespeare in giant robot suits, still can't help but feel like Transformers 3.5.  Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in The Heat can't help but feel like either Bridesmaids 1.5 or Miss Congeniality 2.5.  Turbo just feels like a sequel, even though the idea of a speeding snail is arguably new.  The Conjuring feels like... I dunno.  I haven't been into the latest horror movies in a while, but it seems like there's at least three of these a year anyway.  And 2 Guns, well, it feels like Tony Scott already made this movie.  Several times.  And Mark Wahlberg probably feels like he made this movie.  Several times.  But Denzel?  Really?  Well, at least he's not going the routes that Martin Lawrence and Ice Cube have gone lately.  They're going childish PG, Denzel's going childish R.