Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yes Man

Yes Man

Dir: Peyton Reed

Starring: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel

Runtime: 1 hr 44 mins

Yes Man is the gripping and tragic story of a man named Tim Clarrey (played by Jim Carrey). This film is based on a true story, although the characters' names have been slightly changed to protect their anonymity.

Clarrey is a famous film star, who is respected by his fans, and known for not “selling out.”

The inciting incident occurs on his son's sixth birthday, which Clarrey is running late for. Clarrey's son is an absolutely horrible little kid, who is furious that his father is late to his birthday party (which isn't even on his real birthday anyway). Apparently the clowns, the pony ride, and an ice sculpture aren't enough for the greedy child.

No, he needs his father too.

The audience, or at least I, sympathize with Clarrey's situation– nobody would want to be on time, or even there at all, if your son was anything like this miserable creature.

When his father isn't there to watch him blow out the candles on his cake, the vindictive little boy lashes out with an evil birthday wish. He wishes that his dad will never be able to say no to another acting job again.

When the child blows out the candles, a ball of magical light appears, and darts out the window. The camera follows this whimsical light as it dances down the street, darting between the lamp posts. It skirts above the surface of a lake, almost getting swallowed by a large fish. Finally, after spending the better part of twenty minutes in a women's bathroom, this magical-birthday-wish-light finds Clarrey and dives into his open mouth, just as he is about to reject a part in a terrible movie.

“So what about the movie?”

Clarrey opens his mouth to say “no,” but nothing comes out. He struggles, trying his hardest to pass on this terrible movie. But he just can't do it. Eventually he says, “I'd love to do Groovy Santa: A Christmas Musical!”

Clarrey accepts bad movie after bad movie. Cowboys in Love, Little Dogs in Outer Space (Clarrey does voice acting for the Chihuahua), Groovy Santa II, Cowboys in Space, and Groovy Santa III: A Hanukkah for Everyone.

Finally, rumor spreads to the porn industry that Clarrey will never refuse a movie. The Fantastic Foursome, Sexy Santa, Sex Detective, and Sex Detective II.

The second half of this movie is hardcore pornography.

4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Seven Pounds

Seven Pounds

Dir: Gabriele Muccino

Starring: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson

Runtime:  1 hr 58 mins

This is a really fucking dramatic movie, with Will Smith in it. Smith gets up there on the movie screen, and he's really sad for the first hour or two, and nobody knows why, but then they tell you that it's because he's poor and he can't afford to feed his family, and some guy steals his girlfriend and kicks him out of his house because he can't pay the rent, and won't anyone just give him seven pounds? (they're in England), but nobody does.

But then someone does, and he says “Thank you, God bless you,” even though it was the same guy who took his girlfriend and kicked him out of his house. Smith uses the seven pounds to buy a knife and then he finds that guy again, and he stabs him.

The end.

3 ½ out of 5 stars.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My Name is Bruce

My Name is Bruce

Dir: Bruce Campbell

Starring: Bruce Campbell, DMV lady

Runtime: 1 hr 26 mins

When you've been famous on the Internet for over a week, as I have, you run the risk of getting recognized in public. To escape this fate, I employ little tricks to slip under the radar. Tricks such as: not putting a picture of myself on my website, paying for everything with cash, avoiding jury duty, and stealing cookware from Sears when I ran out of cash last weekend.

Alas, I was still recognized.

I was at the Department of Motor Vehicles, where I go every six months to update the photograph on my driver's license. I had an arrangement with the lady behind the counter that when my license was ready, instead of calling my name, she would call once like a Wood Owl and thrice like a Sagehen, and then wink across the room at me. Yet, when it was time, she bellowed “Tom Thayer,” loud and clear as day.

She was probably taking revenge on me for calling her chunky.

I accepted my license, and as I turned to leave the DMV, my path to freedom was blocked by a chunky man with black hair. The man inquired about my name, and about the website.

“Actually,” I told him, “It's pronounced 'Guy Who Reviews Movies.' And yes, that's me.”

“Wow, this is incredible. Everyone in the industry loves you.”

“And what industry would that be?” I silently prayed for garment industry.

“Uhh... film.”

Damn. Maybe next time.

I don't like wasting time, especially if the chances that our interaction will yield insider deals on garments are slim to none. I made up an excuse to leave.

“I have to leave because... I need to get... a new... hamburger?”

I'm not very good at making up excuses.

“Wait. My name is Bruce Campbell.” He paused, as if he expected me to recognize his name. Maybe we had met at a party. I talk to a lot of people at parties, mostly to solicit loans. I find that people are more willing to give you loans at a party. Maybe he was coming to collect on a loan.

“I'm sorry, I don't have money...”

Once again, he appeared confused. “I'm an actor and director.”

“Uh huh.”

“I'd love it for you to see an advance screening of my new movie, My Name is Bruce.”

I quickly agreed, desperate to get out of there, as I suddenly found myself craving hamburgers. I regretted my decision later that week, when I found myself sitting in the theatre, wondering what kind of megalomaniac names a movie after himself.

My Name is Bruce is the story of a sad, black-haired, chunky man, and his dark-haired chunky friends, and their misadventures in the modern world. That lady from the DMV was also in it, as one of the chunky friends. In fact, I think the entire movie was actually shot at the DMV. The production value was practically non-existent. The plot was mediocre and not very funny. And although it was presented as a true story, it was very hard to believe.

1½ stars out of 5

Sunday, December 7, 2008



Dir: Baz Luhrmann

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, var. Aborigines (uncredited)

Runtime: 2 hrs 50 mins

Welcome to an island shrouded in mystery and make-believe. Welcome to an island where Summer is Winter, Winter is Summer, Spring is some new season you've never even heard of, and Fall is just gone altogether. Welcome to an island that inexplicably emerged from the sea about 250 years ago.

Welcome to Australia.

Recent Gallup polls have determined that 72% of Americans don't believe Australia is a real continent. Amongst them, there are two schools of thought. Some believe that Australia is a desolate wasteland ruled by highly intelligent (yet very savage and cruel) beasts and pseudo-futuristic motorcycle gangs.

Others claim that Australia doesn't exist, and is an imaginary place invented by the British Empire some 200 years ago.

If you've ever wondered if Australia is real, recent blockbuster documentary Australia is for you.

Within the first few minutes of the film, Director Baz Luhrmann finally sets the debate to rest: the island of Australia is as real as you or I. With what appears to be complete disregard for their own safety and self-preservation, Luhrmann and his film crew actually go there.

Upon arrival, Lurhmann interviews Native Australian (called Aborigine) Hugh Jackman, an Australian historian, who sheds light on the reasons behind the Northern Hemisphere's misconceptions of his homeland.

“Many people out there believe that Australia was made-up by the British Empire, and with good reason,” says Jackman. “The British Empire was notorious for making-up islands; they did Christmas Island, Easter Island, and of course, Ireland. It's no wonder that people thought Australia was just another hoax.

“Estimates for when Australia was actually discovered range between 1898 all the way up to 1962. While many countries lay claim to Australia, none are able to prove that they discovered it. What we do know for sure is that Australia was completely uninhabited until it was discovered, which was definitely no more than 110 years ago.”

Jackman, however, is unable to settle whether Australia is a continent, or just a really big island.

“Well, it's very large, which is a telling characteristic of a continent,” says Jackman. “On the other hand, it is an island.”

This part of the debate will, undoubtedly, continue among scholars for many years to come.

Part 2: Queen of the Outback

Early on in his exploration of the desolate Outback, Luhrmann and his film crew are captured by a band of pseudo-futuristic motorcyclists. They are brought to the Compound— a mighty fortress built mostly from iron scraps and tires; a paradox that is both pseudo-futuristic and medieval.

Luhrmann and company are brought before Nicole Kidman, who is a paradox within herself– cold and deadly self-proclaimed Queen of the Outback, but also a sensual woman; strong and vulnerable. A gleam in her eye speaks of passion, and the deadly kind of passion (if any other kind exists). Many suitors have courted her, and they have all had their hearts impaled on a spike.

Quite literally. The spike stands in the main courtyard, with half a dozen shriveled hearts of men in various stages of decomposition. However, if you could talk to any one of these suitors from beyond the grave, and ask if they regret it, they would all say, “Not even for a moment.”

Kidman informs the film crew that, having seen the location of the Compound, they must remain here forever. Some protest, but it's obvious that there is no arguing with the Queen of the Outback.
Many months pass, and the film crew gradually adjust to their new lives. There is a lot of hard work, the kind of work that men from the “modern world” are unused to, but they grow into quickly, and most of them begin to love the slowed down, simple lives they have here.

But not all are satisfied, and the cameraman, who yearns for his old life, attempts an escape. He scales the Inner Wall. A watchman fires his crossbow, but misses, while another sounds the alarm.

As the cameraman scales the Outer Wall, Kidman pulls from her hair a metal weapon similar to a boomerang. Taking only a moment to aim, she hurls it with perfect accuracy. There is contact, and the man is instantly decapitated.

Luhrmann is furious with Kidman, and they do not speak for days.

A funeral is held, and Luhrmann tells a story or two about the cameraman. They weren't very close, but Luhrmann cares for all his crew in an almost paternalistic way. The story-telling is cathartic, and while Luhrmann is speaking, he begins to weep. Soon everyone is weeping uncontrollably.

Then, amidst the purifying tears, one man starts laughing. The laughter spreads as suddenly and as quickly as the weeping did, until Luhrmann is laughing too. Life is strange and beautiful.

The next day, Luhrmann awakes to the sound of the alarm, and people shouting. One voice, a female voice that feels like the bitter cold of Summer in the Outback, carries above the din.

“To arms, you men! This is our day of reckoning!” Kidman shouts, brandishing a pair of slim daggers, daggers that are no strangers to the warmth of soft flesh. Daggers that have silenced the beating hearts of dozens of beasts and men alike.

There is a cry from the outer wall. Arrows whistle.

Luhrmann sees one. A kangaroo. He never believed these mythic creatures existed. They stand tall and upright, like a man stands. But they are capable of vertical leaps of nearly fifty feet, from the ground outside to the top of the Outer Wall.

He watches a man swing an axe at a kangaroo, and miss. The kangaroo rips out the man's throat with it's claws, and lets out a fierce cry, emboldening the rest. At first Luhrmann is frightened, but then rage sweeps over his body like a rancorous broom. Rage towards his wife, Gloria and his friend Peter (back in his other life in sunny Malibu, California) who were drunk and slept together and were both really sorry about it, they were both just so fucking sorry about it. And how he forgave them and got over it, but never really got over it.

But most all, he feels Rage for the fallen cameraman, and the man who just had his throat ripped out on the wall, and for all the other goddamn good men in the world who die too young. Grabbing a loose metal pipe, he enters the melee.

He strikes a kangaroo from behind, rescuing his key grip from a grisly fate. As he helps the man to his feet, a tiny kangaroo bursts from the fallen kangaroo's grotesque stomach pouch, and sinks its sharp teeth into Luhrmann's scalp. He cries in pain and pulls at the beast, but it has latched on too tightly.

A flash of steel, and the tiny kangaroo releases and falls limp. Kidman wipes her blade on her already bloodstained shirt. In the thrilling chaos of battle, their consciousness has become one, and Luhrmann doesn't even need to thank her.

Luhrmann and Kidman realize they are surrounded. They draw inward, and position themselves back to back. Wave after wave of kangaroo approaches them and subsequently fall, creating a mountain of kangaroo corpses beneath their feet. By the end, Kidman and Luhrmann are soaked with blood, and gasping for breath.

When he realizes there are no more living kangaroos, exhaustion sweeps over him like a tiring broom.

“There are many good soldiers who fell today,” Kidman says to the survivors. “But tonight we, the living, we will feast and be merry.”

That night, the air fills with the sweet smell of roasting kangaroo bacon. Beer flows, and the survivors sing and dance. Tomorrow they will bury their dead.

And tomorrow Luhrmann, and his remaining crew, will leave.

He finds Kidman alone, by the firelight, and together they sit for a while.

Finally, he speaks. “I made movies about life, but I had forgotten how to live. You made me remember.”

“Then why are you leaving?”

Luhrmann hesitates for a second, and in that second passes thirty years. An entire future life that could be. He remains here with Nicole Kidman, and becomes King of the Outback. She bears his many children. Blonde, beautiful, warrior children. The princes and princesses of Australia. Their royal family unites the other pseudo-futuristic motorcycle bands, and leads them to victory, driving the bloodthirsty kangaroos to extinction once and for all.

Their hair turns grey, and they continue to rule. Until one night, many years later, he dies peacefully in his sleep.

This future could be his. All he needs to do is stay.

But he can't.

It's his wife, Gloria. It always has been her.

“No,” he says slowly. “I must go.”

Kidman's eyes glisten in the firelight, and she turns her back to him. She refuses to let any man see her like this. Any man that sees her like this has his heart torn out and placed upon the spike. She wants to do this to Luhrmann, but she already knows that she won't. He's different from the others. She makes him feel weak, and she hates him for that.

“Then go now."

Luhrmann sits silently for another minute, and then goes. He gathers his crew, and they leave as the dawn begins to break.

5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Four Christmases

Four Christmases (PG-13)

Dir: Seth Gordon

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon

Runtime: 1 hr 22 mins

I had no idea what to expect when I went to see Four Chistmases. I had never heard of it before the day I saw it. To be honest, I actually thought I was going to see Transporter 3. That's what I (thought I) bought tickets for.

Why did I stay and watch a movie other than the one I was intending on seeing? Well, for the first forty minutes or so, I thought I was watching Transporter. Then I thought to myself, this setup is going on way too long. Why was Jason Statham buying a Christmas tree? Then I realized, it wasn't Jason Statham at all. Who were these strange people on the screen? And... what were they saying? Their language sounded like English to me, but for some reason I couldn't make sense of the words.

A feeling of overwhelming panic and dread began to rise, like a loaf of bread, in the pit of my stomach. I looked around, to see if other members of the audience were having a similar incomprehensible, disorienting experience. If they were, they gave no outward signs of it. They all stared, transfixed, at the screen. Looks ranging between mild amusement and mild boredom across their ugly, complacent faces.

I tapped the person next to me, and asked if he knew what was happening. He turned and responded in that same, distinctly familiar nonsense-language they were using in the movie. My neighbors' face was contorted, as if trying to communicate some non-verbal message to me, as the normal avenues of communication had failed. Others were looking too, I realized. The feeling of dread, temporarily forgotten, now returned tenfold.

I had to get out of there. Now.

But how?

I'll do it the normal way. I'll just get up from my chair, and run to the exit. However, my legs gave out beneath me, like two useless loaves of bread. I collapsed. There was talking, either from the movie or from the audience, I could no longer distinguish the difference. And of course I didn't know what they were saying, but I knew it was about me. On the filthy floor of the theatre, I pulled and slithered my way to the exit.

4 out of 5 stars.

Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace, (PG-13)

Dir: Marc Forster

Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Norm Macdonald

Runtime: 1 hr 46 mins

After Casino Royale, I expected a lot from QoS. It delivered. While the days of Sean Connery and Norm Macdonald are behind us, Daniel Craig can still deliver the single line quips we Bond lovers have come to love and expect.

I'd like to indulge you in some of my favorite one-liners from QoS, which I'm sure will be quoted for years to come.

I'm getting too old for this shit,” admits Craig upon hearing that the world is in danger of getting blown up once again, and he has to save everyone's ass one more time before he can finally take his MI6 pension, move to a quiet English suburb and retire.

How does this shit taste?” quips Craig, whilst defecating in the open mouth of a Russian spy.

How does my pee-pee taste?” says Craig minutes later while urinating into the open mouth of the same Russian spy.

I used to be on Saturday Night Live,” remarks Macdonald, momentarily breaking out of his character (James' father) to address the audience, simultaneously delighting most and confusing all.

Prepare to meet your maker,” Craig advises a rag-tag army of animatronic dinosaurs that have recently turned sentient, as he leads them to the manufacturing plant where they were created.

Craig has the quiet subtlety and charm of Connery, and the raw sexual appeal of a young Macdonald.

4 out of 5 stars.


Twilight, (PG-13)

Dir: Catherine Hardwick

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson

Runtime: 2 hrs 2 mins

The first scene of Twilight is as disturbing as it is touching. A boy teenage vampire and a girl teenage vampire meet each other in a graveyard. The boy teenage vampire gives the girl teenage vampire a knowing smirk. The kind of smirk that makes the audience wonder: Are these teenage vampire lovers, perhaps? The sexual tension in the theatre at this moment was palpable.

The hunt begins! The two turn into bats; the girl becomes a pink bat (practical, yes. Realistic, also yes, but perhaps a little too gender normative for my taste). They fly high above the city, performing majestic and graceful swoops while the opening credits roll.

A middle-aged business man is going home after a long day at the office, no doubt. He's talking on his cell-phone, presumably to his wife. Little does he know that he will never see her again.

The teenage vampire bats land on the businessman's shoulders, one on each, and begin shrieking their horrifying bat-shrieks.

“Transform!” the bats shout in unison, allowing them to revert back into their human shape. Then they leap on the man, and devour him with their sharp vampire fangs. The camera is mercifully directed at the ground for this shot, so all we see are shadows and blood splattering.

Although the rest of the film is a somewhat predictable teenage vampire love romp, Director Catherine Hardwick has perfected the tried and true teenage vampire love romp formula.

4½ out of 5 stars.


Some of my colleagues claim that a mere Wesley Snipes cameo would have been sufficient, and that it didn't make a lot of sense to have him kill off the entire cast in the third act. But to me it makes perfect sense. They are vampires, and so Wesley Snipes needs to kill them. I pose a rhetorical question: How else could it have possibly ended?