Shittin’ on the dreck of a Bay

Director Michael Bay has said in interviews that his latest film “Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon” was his indirect apology to fans after the car crash that was “Transformers: Rise of the Fallen.”

He was quoted as saying of his latest: “I think our 3D works really well with the robots, the size, the girth, the weight of it… it’s spectacular.”

It seems Mr. Bay maybe confusing the words “spectacular” with “spectacle.” Continue reading

‘Cars 2’: Just git r done, please

Of all the things the missing from the first “Cars,” — and the were many — more screen time for Larry The Cable Guy was not one of them.

Yet, in “Cars 2,” he takes center stage for the majority of the film’s run time. Sure, he’s represented by a rusty tow truck on the screen, but it’s pure The Cable Guy, with stupidity emblazoned on him like a Trans-Am hood bird, making this marginal Pixar entry as fun as a rainy-day weekend trip along Route 1 in the summertime. (This last one is a local beach reference for those reading this outside my publishing area).

It pains me to speak ill of Pixar, a studio that has consistently provided me (and my family) with hours of indelible cinematic memories year after year. The original “Cars” is the only film from their library that is not in regular rotation in our DVD player (even the animated shorts compilation gets more love). Continue reading

Jim Carrey’s pecker

Predictable, perfunctory, with perhaps a penchant for poop-centric puns, “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” still prevails as a perfectly passable picture for preadolescents.

For those familiar with the 1938 source material, the film adaptation of “Popper’s Penguins” take some liberty with the story, but does not sully its legacy, albeit for the aforementioned potty humor. It’s also one of the more subdued live-action comedic performances from its lead, Jim Carrey, which works in its favor.
Continue reading

‘Green Lantern’: Van Milder

Familiarity breeds contempt. Perhaps that is the rationale behind the critical drubbing “The Green Lantern,” has received upon release. Since 2000, there have been 36 films based on comic books (about six more were created exclusively for the screen). And “Latern” is the fourth of five to be released this year alone (hell, it’s not even the first “Green” superhero in 2011. That distinction goes to January’s god-awful “Green Hornet.” ).

Comics are an easy template for filmmakers, as they already have a tale, a storyboard and a built-in audience. They have the potential for great summer diversions (“Iron Man”) or even overall excellence (“The Dark Knight”). But, as the saying goes in one particular comic-to-film translation, “with great power comes great responsibility.” The missteps have been too numerous to count (“Catwoman,” “Ghost Rider” and “Jonah Hex” immediately rush to mind), and the core audience can be particularly unforgiving, so filmmakers should approach the genre with caution.
Continue reading

‘Hangover 2’: Hair of the dog

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I had considered possibly resubmitting my initial review for “The Hangover” for its sequel, since that is all the writers of the latest film had done. But then I realized everything I found fresh and funny the first go-round had gone a bit stale in this second serving.

Plus, I don’t think the Cape Gazette would have paid me for it again for the same article. Continue reading

‘Panda’: All gut, and glory

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Despite a darker tone, Po’s fists of furry fury are just as engaging in “Kung Fu Panda 2,” a solid product from DreamWorks Animation, which has been milking its cash cow… or ogre, rather, churning out increasingly inferior “Shrek” sequels.

DreamWorks nailed it last year with one of the year’s best animated films, “How to Teain Your Dragon.” But in the sequel department, its subsequent “Shrek” and “Madagascar” films dropped precipitously in quality. Continue reading

An amusing, if long, engagement

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Like so many other films in producer/director Judd Apatow’s oeuvre, “Bridesmaids” features astute comedy that springs from a well of genuine human emotion.

And, like other Apatow-branded flicks, it overstays its welcome by about 30 minutes.

He only serves as producer here (Paul Feig is director), but his fingerprints are all over “Bridesmaids,” for better and for worse.

Kristen Wiig (who shares writing credit) stars as Annie, a 30-something single gal whose chipper exterior hides a life in sharp decline: her baking business went belly up, her romantic life is clogged with a creep (played by a wonderfully vain Jon Hamm), her creepy roommates want her out, and she’s just learned that her best pal, Lillian (played by Maya Rudolph), is getting hitched. Continue reading

Spaced out

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Let’s set things straight at the top of this review: though it stars the duo behind the much-loved genre send-ups of cops (“Hot Fuzz”) and zombies (“Shaun of the Dead”), do not expect the exact same payoff for their latest outing, “Paul.”

“Paul’s” leads Simon Pegg and Nick Frost still posesses the same chemistry that helped cement “Shaun” and “Fuzz” in the modern comedic pantheon, but the addition of director Greg Mattola alters the equation. It’s not for the better or worse, he just brings with him a style that changes the scope, cadance and rhythm.

Science fiction and road movies are the genres up for ribbing in “Paul.” Pegg and Frost are Graeme and Clive, two good-natured nerds who are living their dream of attending Comic-Con, followed by a chaser of RV travels through alien “hotspots” throughout the Midwest. It starts off rather timid, as though Pegg and Frost (who also wrote the screenplay), were almost too cautious to sting the very crowd who bestow geek love on the pair in real life.

But the numerous obvious gags soon fade away once “Paul’s” eponymous star takes center stage, and things really ramp up. Voiced by Seth Rogan (and, for all intents and purposes’ is almost every Rogan comedic character), Paul is the stoner’s “E.T.” He’s randy (not above “pressing ham” against the car window), ribald, and does not need a spacecraft to “blast off.” In “Shaun” and “Fuzz,” both leads were at odds with one another, but are best pals here, so when Paul arrives, he delivers some much-needed conflict. And Rogan, content with becoming the Cheech Marin of this generation does more than his share to help stir the pot.

The film takes all the obvious routes — from eluding inept-but-persistent Feds and covert officers (Bill Hader and Joe Truglio, the former, and Jason Bateman, the latter), Paul’s ability to regenerate and heal with touch, but it does so with such affection for its source material (“Close Encounters,” “E.T.,” “Alien” etc.), it makes these scenes fresh with a knowing wink and grin.

For lovers of the genre, there are countless in-jokes peppered throughout to satisfy, and director Mottola manages to ground the film, even considering the film’s outlandish subject matter. The director, who helmed the sweetly nostalgic “Adventureland,” brings the same delicate focus on friendship and makeshift family.

Perhaps because the film is more singularly focused (the Speilbergian Mythology of aliens is the one to which this film most closely aligns), many may fault “Paul” for not broadening its net as widely as Pegg and Frost did with “Shaun” and “Fuzz.” But all feels right in “Paul’s” universe, right down to its final scene that is as touching as it is amusing.
“Paul” is a head trip with spaceships, and is accessible enough to let everyone on board to enjoy the ride.

MGM roars back with… A shit load of remakes and sequels?

I know a lion’s gotta eat, but this is a bit ridiculous.

At the same time it was announced that 2011 is now the most sequelly year ever (27 are slated, which translates to one every other week), we were greeted without the news that MGM pulled itself from the bowels of bankruptcy by announcing five remakes/continuations.

It’s understandable that the studio would dust off some chestnuts to ensure some box-office familiarity, but others seem like curious choices to trumpet it’s return.

Here’s what’s in the works:

“Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters”: A 3-D futuristic retelling of the Brothers Grimm fable (which was most notably made at the tail end of the Cannon era and starred David Warner and Cloris Leachman). This remake is to be co-financed by Paramount and will star Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton.

“Mr. Mom”: This is one I can totally see, and while I hold fond memories for the original, it’s by no means beloved. Of course, its premise is not as novel anymore (a father? Home raising his children? Absurd!!!), it’s always fun to see ill-prepared dads dealing with the toddlers.

“The Idolmaker”: Another one that is fair game, but a curious choice, indeed. Taylor Hackford’s all-but-forgotten 1980 flick based on the life of Bob Marcucci, who discovered Fabian and Frankie Avalon. The new version will be retrofitted for the “American Idol” generation, but details beyond that are sketchy.

“Robocop”: Ouch. This stings. The beloved Detroit officer that runs on Microsoft Office, had threatened to hit screens last year, with Darren Aronofsky taking over for Paul Verhoven as director. Aronofsky has since moved on to pick up the “Wolverine” sequel (an equally depressing thought) and is now said to be getting his religion on afterward with an adaptation of “Noah” (really?).

“Poltergeist”: Another film that has long been in the rumor mill is set to return with a fresh coat of paint. Have filmmakers learned nothing from the “Poltergeist” curse?(http://www.snopes.com/movies/films/poltergeist.asp).

Messing with Memories: ‘Fletch’

The gloves are off, now, Warner Bros.

I can remain silent about various reboots of your superheroes (again with the Superman?), but now you are diving into the heart of my childhood.

According to Monsters and Critics, you are now going through with your plans to reinvent Irwin Fletcher, the beloved detective known to so many children on the 80s simply as Fletch.

The imminently quotable flick (forget picking a favorite line, just go here) is now planned for a revised reboot of the franchise, hoping to use the 11-book series created by Gregory Macdonald as a template.

This is not the first Fletch Threat we’ve heard, but it is certainly the one that seems to be the closest to becoming reality.

Another Fletch installment was in the works years ago, when director Kevin Smith acquired the rights with Chevy Chase set to reprise. After a falling out, Smith was rumored to have been working on an ill-advised prequel with Jason Lee as a young Fletch.

When that went south, so did the reboot rumors. Until recently.

Look. The film has endured because of its star, not because of the enduring legacy of the character. Even the first film’s screenwriter, the talented Andrew Bergman, admitted to a rather weak script. Chase was given the latitude to improvise many of the lines, which is what made the film iconic.

Sorry Warner Bros and Macdonald fans, but his words and actions were not the real reason for Fletch’s popularity. If you think me to be wrong, sue me.

Just send the bill to the Underhills.

Sources: Monsters and Critics, IMDb, Washington Post.

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