Monday, August 30, 2010

TEFB RANDOM REVIEW: Mom and Dad Save the World

Having had a barrel of laughs from my previous dive into 1992 Comedy with Stay Tuned another 1992 Comedy found it's way into my Netflix queue:

Mom and Dad Save the World

With Greg Beeman (Executive Producer of Heroes and Smallville) Directing and a cast including Teri Garr, Jeffrey Jones, and Jon Lovitz I had high hopes for this movie.

Those hopes were instantly dashed in the face by the hard 2x4 of reality within the first five minutes of the film.

The alien Todd (played by Lovitz) starts out in kind of a Marvin the Martian role. He's recently conquered a planet populated by idiots and humaniod co-habitating Pitbulls and Goldfish.
Hot on the heels of his latest conquest Todd now wants to blow up planet earth. Why? It's bigger than his planet. While targeting earth for destruction he spots in his telescope Marge Nelson (Teri Garr) and it's love at first sight. He promptly postpones the destruction of Earth long enough to bring Marge and her husband Dick (Jeffrey Jones) to his planet via a tractor beam so he can convince Marge to be his bride.

Now I know some of you may be thinking "That sounds like some hysterically funny shit!" Oh how I wish you were right. The cast acts their heart out, they really do. But nothing can save the ridiculously chosen camera angles, awkward script, shotty editing, and set designs that look like a second graders failed paper mache art project.

I fear that by writing how awful this movie is, I may inadvertently encourage connoissuers of bad movies to watch. Trust me this is not one of those movies that is so bad it's actually good.

There are a small handfuls of legitimate laughs to be had but to be honest you will likely be asleep by the time those moments come.

In case I haven't been clear enough let me make this simple. This movie is one of the worst films I have seen in my 32 year lifespan and its 4.7/10 rating on IMDB is way too generous.

I give it a negative 2.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Hey guys,

So I finally decided to write up a review, but before you get all excited there is something you should know. I'm a homebody. My wife and I get to the theatre maybe twice a year. So what the hell am I reviewing then?

What ever is in my Netflix queue!

So my first review is the 1992 Comedy: Stay Tuned.

Roy and Helen Knable (John Ritter and Pam Dawbner) have a marriage that's on the skids. Not helping is Roy's absolute addiction to television. An addiction that is about to get him and his wife into big trouble.

Enter "Spike" (Jeffrey Jones). Spike is #2 to the devil himself. He runs Hell Vision a cable network dedicated to entertaining Lucifer and collecting souls. How does he do this? By downloading unsuspecting couch potatoes directly into the Hell Vision programming lineup!

The rest of the movie follows Roy and Hellen as they surf from channel to channel trying to avoid death at every turn of the dial.

From the cheesy font used for the opening credits to the campy special effects this movie screams late 80's/early 90's. John, Pam, and Jeff put in a solid performance. The supporting cast varies from passible (the kids, the intern). To very respectible (Bob Dishy as Murray Seidenbaum for example).

The Hell Vision lineup is certainly not as over the top as it could have been. But knock offs of a lot of the early 90's staples made it in including Dwaynes Underworld, Driving Over Miss Daisy, and a music video with Salt-N-Pepa. The absolute highlight of this film for me has got to be the spectacular animated cat and mouse sequence supervised by the one and only Chuck Jones.

For folks that have been watching TV since the early 90's the comedy lands pretty consistently with the parody references to shows and movies. Folks 20 and younger probably wouldn't get a majority of the gags without doing some IMDB homework.

The audio track is Dolby Digital 5.1 which really means early 90's stereo. The special effects are decent for the time and hold up reasonably well in the present.

As far as special features go, the disk is rather sparse. There is a cast list (literally it's just a screen shot from the film with the major cast members names), and a featurette creatively labeled "featurette". To be honest the featurette looks like it was slapped together using clips they found on the floor with with small slivers of cast interviews mixed in.

Bottom line, is if you like movies like Short Circuit and Weekend at Bernies you'll be able to appreciate this one.

It certainly deserves higher than the 5.4 (out of 10) it currently has on IMDB.

I rate it a 7.

Check it out!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Directed by Alexandre Aja

Starring Elisabeth Shue, Jessica Szhor, Steven R. McQueen

Piranha 3D is for all the folks who were disappointed when the Kintner boy was the only swimmer to bite it in Jaws' infamous beach attack and then dismayed that the child never spilled "out all over the dock", as teased by Murray Hamilton. These same folks where probably underwhelmed by the lack of Chrissie flesh, the poor skinny dipper who meets her end in that classics's oft-imitated opening. Alexandre Aja is here for those folks with a film that's a go-for-broke feast of boobs, booze, sex, and blood that always teeters at the edge of stupid but never takes the leap directly into it.

The film (loosely based on Joe Dante's 1978 Piranha and James Cameron's (!) Piranha II: The Spawning) opens with a brilliant nod to it's most direct influence: Stephen Spielberg's aforementioned killer shark blockbuster. Richard Dreyfuss, in the film's best cameo, plays old and retired Matt Hooper. He sips Amity Beer on Lake Victoria, fishing while singing "Show Me the Way to Go Home." When he drops a beer bottle into the lake, he inadvertently opens up a passageway to a lake beneath the lake, which unleashes millions of ancient man-eating fish. Cue Christopher Lloyd as a wacky scientist, Ving Rhames wielding a boat propeller as a weapon, porn-star cameos, and the eating of many horny college students.

Spring break plays a major role in Piranha 3D, and it's a treat to watch Aja and his screenwriters, Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg, tear into this ridiculous and boneheaded time-honored tradition. Since Piranha 3D is a movie and movies need narratives, no matter how spindly, our hero Jake (the bland Steven R. McQueen) is given the task of babysitting his younger siblings. As this is a movie about dumb behavior being rewarded with death and danger, Jake pays his siblings off, lies to his Sheriff mother (Elisabeth Shue), and takes off with douche bag extraordinaire Derrick Jones (Jerry O'Connell), who plans on filming a Girls Gone Wild-esque porn-capade in a secluded location before joining the rest of the spring break partiers on the other side of the lake. Along for the ride is Jake's crush Kelly (Jessica Szohr), who exists only so that Jake has a reason to get all heroic by the film's last act.

There are points in Piranha 3D that are slow-going, although it starts off with that magnificent Jaws homage. The obligatory scenes setting up Jake and Kelly's relationship and Elizabeth Shue's character are plodding, and suffer from an over-abundance of unfunny jokes (including some made by Jake's smart-ass little sister. Oh look, another too big-for-her-britches little girl who says grown-up words like "boobies!"). The saving grace of these scenes is Jerry O'Connell, who takes his Joe Francis inspired misogynist frat-boy character and turns the jerk dial up to 11, ensuring that, although he meets the grossest death, there's no way the audience will feel bad for him.

Speaking of gross deaths, Piranha 3D has plenty. I had originally envisioned the deaths in this film as funny, silly gags. I was wrong. Aja and visual effects artist Greg Nicotero have created some truly grisly and borderline disturbing scenes of carnage. The film takes awhile to get to its glory point, but when that point comes its amazingly graphic and mean. But it's also fun. If I could choose any film from this summer to be on the set of, it would be Piranha 3D while what they filmed what I have dubbed the "Spring Break Massacre." The scale of this scene is kind of mind-blowing - thousands of spring break drunkards in the water being attacked by millions of man-eating fish. The pandemonium and fear in the scene is actually very potent and unnerving for a film this silly. One spring breaker makes for land on a speedboat, plowing over hundreds of helpless fellow party goers. When the boat stops and a girl gets her hair caught in the propeller it makes for one of the most impressive gore gags I've seen in quite some time. Lots of skin is torn, and limbs are gnawed off dozens of folks, but not cleanly. I don't know if I've ever seen as much exposed bone in a mainstream film before. As the shocked (and now sober) students drag their wounded up the beach Saving Private Ryan opening D-Day battle-style, a smorgasbord of gore effects plays out. It's such a strong scene that I found myself actually getting queasy by the end of it.

Of course the queasiness could have come from the terrible 3D conversion. Like 99% of 3D films, Piranha was shot like a normal 2D film and then unconverted to 3D in post production. Like every other 3D film handled this way, the results are disastrous. The special effects overall are fine, but everything that's supposed to be in another dimension has the black-border effect, where it's surrounded by a thick, black line. It's a distraction, but thankfully the great effects work makes up for the dismal added D.

Despite a lackluster hero (and his dumb as nuts third act save plan) and some plodding points (that really don't last that long), Piranha 3D is a gory, grizzly, nasty blast of end-of-summer fun. I hope Alexandre Aja's next film brings him back to serious horror (he directed the French modern-horror classic High Tension and the effective remake of The Hills Have Eyes), but his foray into campy, B-movie schlock territory is highly successful.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Directed by Edgar Wright

Starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin

It's too bad that people aren't coming out in droves for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, because underneath its video-game inspired aesthetic, hyper-edited pace, hip soundtrack, and deadpan humor is not only the best comedy, action, and (straight-up) film of the summer, but the most honest warts-and-all film about falling in love since 2004's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And, so far, the best film of the year. 

Michael Cera is Scott Pilgrim, a Toronto Canada native who spends his unemployed days as an irresponsible 22 year old, jamming with his band Sex Bob-omb, sharing an apartment with his best gay friend Wallace (Kieran Culkin), pining for his ex girlfriend Natalie (Brie Larson), and bugging his friends by obsessing over his new girlfriend - the still-in-high-school Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). His simple life is haymakered after he runs into the girl of his dreams - literally - Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) at a party. Rocked with the urge to pursue Ramona at all costs, and in denial about the need to let Knives go before anything happens with his dream-girl, Scott finds his life complicated even more by the sudden introduction of Ramona's seven evil exes - a league of former Ramona lovers led by the manipulative Gideon (Jason Schwartzman) determined to destroy Scott by any means necessary. 

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a film over-flowing with obscure and geeky video game and pop-culture references, but it's also bursting with an insane amount of fun as well. Director Edgar Wright proves again that he is without a doubt the best director working in the comedy genre today. His sense of comedic timing has never been better than in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and it's literally impossible to catch every joke on one viewing. His screenplays are specifically designed to keep the viewer laughing at something new on each and every look at the movie. Whether it's an obvious but funny joke, a deadpan line-delivery, a split-screen revealing something that turns a scene on its head, or the greatest vegan jokes you'll ever see on the big screen, Wright's all-or-nothing comedy approach is wildly successful. I can't think of one joke that doesn't stick its landing and I'm sure, if there are any, they'll hit on a future viewing. And not only is the screenplay wildly hilarious, but it's also perfectly paced, with a consistent tone throughout. While Wright's last two films (the modern classics Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) stumble a bit with tonal changes in their third acts, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is literally perfect in that aspect. You will not see a better paced film this year, that I guarantee. 

Scott Pilgrim would be a great movie if it were just a comedy, but thankfully it gets even better when it becomes an action film. It's ironic that the best action film of the year doesn't come from the director of The Dark Knight or star Sylvester Stallone and 5 other ass-kickers, but from a director mostly known for British style comedies and featuring a guy whose nerdy and stringy body helped propel him to stardom. As mentioned, Ramona has seven evil exes. At about 120 minutes, that's one evil ex battle approximately every 17 minutes. One of the achievements of Wright's action direction is his success in making every action scene distinct and fun. Each evil ex has a different ability, so Scott must adapt his fight technique to fit the ex he's battling at the time. Wright wisely stays away from the shaky-cam technique that permeates the action genre in modern cinema, and instead employs a mixture of fantastic editing, on-screen text (Adam West era Batman style), and impressive fight choreography. The battles are fluid, fun, and a joy to behold. There's more than one film this summer in which you'll see things you've never seen before. 

"Well you've mentioned the comedy and action, Mark", you're thinking, "but what about Michael Cera? He plays the same character over and over, and he's annoying!" Yes, I know, Michael Cera backlash permeates every corner of the Internet and is seeping into the mainstream as I write this review. Personally I don't understand it; while Cera has a very particular persona he's been working with for the past…however long it's been since Arrested Development went off the air, he's another master of comedic timing. His choice in playing characters that are "the same" is offset by his disarmingly natural ability to turn awkward into an art form. Scott Pilgrim is essentially the role Cera was born to play: an aimless, selfish, childish, but ultimately good person who's not afraid to fight for what he wants and listen to his friends when they tell him he's acting like a douchebag. 

While Cera may be perfect for Scott Pilgrim, every other role is perfectly filled as well. Mary Elizabeth Winstead keeps Ramona at a respectable distance until the end of the film (which may be a problem for some people - we at first don't see why Scott would have any interest in her other than she's his literal dream girl. My response to that is: young love is impulsive, irrational, and understandable only to the person in it), and while Ramona could have ended up being being an overly-stoic wet-blanket, Winstead makes her mysteriousness endearing and intriguing. Ellen Wong's wronged Knives Chau is cuter than two puppies wrestling on a cloud of marshmallow, and perhaps a bit too obsessed with Pilgrim for her own good, but Wong makes her sympathetic. Our hero broke her heart into a million pieces, why shouldn't she be? The rest of the cast brings their A-game as well - especially a few of the evil ex's. Chris Evans (a very funny, very talented actor) has never been funnier as Evil Ex #2 - the narcissistic and clueless actor Lucas Lee, and Brandon Routh (our most recent Superman) gets the best evil ex battle as a hilarious vegan caricature in Evil Ex #2. Beauty Brie Larson sexes the screen up as Scott's ex and successful lead singer of The Clash at Demonhead (whose music in the film is performed by the band Metric).  The actor who steals every scene he's in, though, is Kieran Culkin, who plays Wallace Wells, Scott's aforementioned gay roommate. Wallace is the best friend every guy wants - funny and loyal, but not afraid to smack you in the back of the head when you do something stupid. Culkin has an affable personality, and while he steals his scenes he's never overbearing. 

Like I mentioned at the beginning of the review, many people will stay away from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World based solely on its aesthetic and, to be honest, it is without a doubt aimed at a very specific audience. The people who will get the most enjoyment out of the film are those individuals who grew up blowing into the cartridges of Nintendo games just to play another level of Bad Dudes. While on the surface Scott Pilgrim vs. the World aims for the kid in us it does, underneath, have a seriously adult theme running throughout (which literally becomes objective at the end of the film). Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is about becoming a man and gaining respect for yourself before blindly committing fully to something you're not quite sure you want to get into. Love only works when you understand yourself before getting involved with someone you literally don't understand at first. There's a reason the film ends with a "Continue" countdown. Everyone has baggage. We all have "evil" exes (honestly: how many times have you fallen in love with the greatest person in the world only to refer to them as evil after you break up). 

If I seem to be kind of in love with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, it's only because I am. I've seen the film three times - twice during San Diego Comic Con, where it was shown to its intended audience and once as a paying customer, with a theater 1/10th full of people who didn't get it at first and then got around to being totally with it before the end. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is cinema in its purest form. Engaging, new, entertaining, fun, bursting with joy, and with lessons that we may have learned before but we might need to learn again. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Director: Christopher Nolan

Leonardo Dicaprio, Joesph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe

Your mind is the scene of the crime.

Inception released in theaters nationwide on July 16, 2010.

The Story… David Cobb (Leonardo Dicaprio), who is a highly skilled thief that steals valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious mind during the dream state, finally finds himself his golden ticket for redemption, a ticket home to his family. However, to receive this ticket, David must pull off the one thing that is nearly impossible, Inception. What’s keeping him from just going home? Using his rare ability for corporate espionage causing him to be an alleged international fugitive. To pull off Inception, David has a team of specialists who must help him reverse the task of stealing an idea by instead planting one…

From a technical standpoint, all you have to do is see who directed the film, Christopher Nolan. These days I would be very surprised to see his name on anything that isn’t high quality. Brilliant is one of the words that come to mind when it comes to the lighting, sound, and cinematography in his films. Inception will be no exception. The atmosphere for this film can be compared to that of a dream. I’m not talking about those dreams that include the boogeyman with knives for fingers on his right hand playing hide-n-go-seek or the dream when we decide to follow the “white rabbit.” I’m talking realistic dreams that recreate our everyday lives or bring us back to an unforgettable subconscious reality. Unlike the cliché summer blockbuster with “mindless” special effects, Inception uses its effects to enhance and tell its story, plus as events unravel; our heroes use these effects to their advantage in trying to accomplish their mission.

After discussing with a key critic to TEFB, it’s conclusive that this film isn’t perfect. One prime reason is the spectator’s lack of connection with the film’s heroes as far as emotions. I cared for the hero in this film but only to the extent to see if he can really pull this mission off. However, I do have a feeling that this connection issue is on purpose because of the nature of our hero has to do with one that tends to isolate. That being said the conflict of man vs. himself plays a good role throughout the entire film.

If you have trouble with lengthy films I recommend to have some snacks with you or to just be patient because this film is worth about every frame. Christopher Nolan took a break from directing our beloved dark caped crusader and brought us 2010’s Summer Champion. But then again who knows? This idea could have been mysteriously planted in my mind…

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Directed by Adam McKay

Starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Steve Coogan 

If Scott Pilgrim vs. the World wasn't hitting theaters next week, I would declare The Other Guys the funniest film of the summer.  Which, while it may seem like high praise, really isn't, considering the mostly comedic dreck released since late May. The truth is that if The Other Guys was as consistent in delivering laughs as Scott Pilgrim, it would easily take the aforementioned title from Edgar Wright's latest. Unfortunately, The Other Guys is one-third classic comedy and two-thirds a serviceable bone-tickler.

The film begins as bad-ass crime busting partners PK Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Christopher Danson (Dwayne Johnson) chase after a group of Jamaican drug lords. These are THE GUYS. The cops every other cop wants to be. If there's a ever a spin-off film about characters from The Other Guys, I'd love to see it feature PK Highsmith and Christopher Danson. Jackson and Johnson are hilarious together, and the opening scenes really set the bar high for the rest of the film comedically. After an accident (one of the best gags of the film) render Highsmith and Danson incapacitated, their colleagues at the NYPD fight to become the department's top team, including simpleton Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell, taking a break from playing his standard un-self aware narcissistic dunderhead to play a very self-aware, simple dunderhead) and his short-fused partner Terry Holtz (Mark Wahlberg). After inadvertently stumbling onto white-collar criminal David Ershon (Steve Coogan), Holtz (a guy who outwardly displays his barely buried anger by having a computer desktop background of a different shark every day) and Gamble decide to use the case as a springboard to glory, doing everything they can to step on the toes of a rival partnership of detectives (a very funny Rob Wriggle and an even funnier Damon Wayans Jr.) and impress their Captain (Michael Keaton, who gets the best running gag - involving R&B trio TLC - in the film).

Although many genuinely funny moments are sprinkled throughout The Other Guys, it is at times a frustrating comedy to watch. As previously mentioned, the first half hour to forty minutes is a masterfully directed and performed comedic affair. The quotable lines come rapid fire, and the energy of the cast keeps the film moving along at a brisk pace, even as the plot set-up (featuring a blink-and-you'll-miss-her Anne Heche) works hard to drag the first act down. Writers Adam McKay (who also directed) and Chris Henchy attempt to create an honest to goodness labyrinthine crime-caper, but fail miserably. Side plots range from hilarious (Ferrell's home-life with his Hell-hot wife played by Eva Mendes) to embarrassing (Wahlberg's stalking of an ex girlfriend). Throughout, the cast constantly comes to the film's rescue, bailing out the sub-par writing and general ugliness of the cinematography. (Yes, comedies need a capable director of photography too. There's no excuse for the drab, drained look of The Other Guys. It genuinely hurts the movie).

Structurally, the film crumbles during the second and third acts. When this happens, the laughs are sucked straight out of The Other Guys, and long periods passed in the theater before chuckles could be heard. The big moments that do occur (including a running gag involving homeless men that use Ferrell's car to engage in some unsavory behavior (I'll never be able to look at a soup kitchen as a good thing ever again)) are welcome, but serve to highlight the general unevenness of the film's latter half, hence where the frustration set in. When a film delivers laughs as big as The Other Guys, it kills to be so inconsistent. McKay and Ferrell are more than capable of a great collaboration - they started out swimmingly with Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. 

As inconsistent and frustrating as it is, though, The Other Guys still manages to be very, very funny in places, and is perhaps the most quotable film of the summer. It also pushes the boundaries of the PG-13 rating - I have a feeling there's a much funnier, more daring cut of the film on the floor of the editor's suite.

I'm willing to bet that The Other Guys will be a film that grows on me. Thinking about the film as I review it, I'm already starting to smile at many of the jokes I can recall. It does hit the funny bone an awful lot, but I would have liked it to smash me there more than it did.

The following is a collection of alternate-takes of jokes featured in the movie. No spoilers.