Movie Night: The Big Lebowski

Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t take a week off. Last week’s post was eaten by Tumblr Beasts, but it was “Weekend At Bernie’s”. I’ll quote from Twitter for the day:

“Damn bloody auto-refresh. Movie Night: Weekend At Bernie’s. Mildly funny, very ‘80s, too much cocaine. 3.5/5.”

“Spent too much effort writing the review in the first place to do it again. Deal with it.”

Anyway, tonight’s pick. Roll on, two.

The Big Lebowski isn’t as shallow as it pretends to be. Underneath a story of a guy who really just wants to bowl with his friends, there’s a near-classic mystery adventure happening. Under that, however, is a guy that just wants to bowl with his friends. There was a little too much intrusion by the second story that I couldn’t enjoy the first, and not enough that I couldn’t ignore the first either. It’s left a a weird sort of black hole, like when a popular show focuses on its side characters for an episode, while you catch glimpses of the main characters’ regular shenanigans. It could just be a trick of the mind, but if you told me that Jeff Bridges was born looking 60 years old, I would instantly believe you, and deny all proof to the alternative. Speaking of mind tricks, the dream sequences were rather well done, even if “Kill da wabbit” was playing in my head for most of it. Overall, as a cult hit, it’s something to experience. Make it a rental, leave the purchase alone. 3.5/5.

Movie Night: The Hangover

So, this is the official first Movie Night of 2013. How about those fireworks, eh? Seriously, who needs that many fireworks? My local explosio-ganza lasted for roughly 10 minutes. That’s ridiculous, even for fireworks. Regardless, I hope everyone’s year will, at the very least, not get any worse. Tonight’s combatant is relatively recent when compared to other Movie Night fare, being released in 2009, The Hangover. This has gotten a lot of attention from my brother’s and my social circles (such as they are), so there’s got to be something to it, like Adventure Time, for example. On the other hand, Gangnam Style, ugh.

This definitely falls hard on the latter end of the scale. The only redeeming moments are Mike Tyson punching a guy, and Wolfmother on the soundtrack. And that’s just sad, when you think about it. The characters are extremely unlikeable, and in no way deserve the ending they got. I was waiting for it all to blow up in their faces, but I was left completely unsatisfied with a cheesy happy ending. Everything works out, and everyone is better off for the experience, big whoop. This is supposed to be a comedy? The soundtrack was atrocious, barring exactly two entries. If you can work out why only two, you should be able to guess the other. Unfortunately, this movie panders itself to what has become the majority in society, and if this is what life has to offer, I’d gladly pass. 0.5/5, only because Zack Beardie got knocked the hell out.

Movie Night: Caddyshack

Hopefully everyone had an enjoyable holiday season, all safe and sound. Some of us were working, and we don’t like you very much because of it. Obviously, I’m joking, but I’m not sure how much. Anyway, Movie Night. Tonight’s contestant: Caddyshack is listed as “one of the funniest sports movies of all time”. Sight unseen, there’s no way to verify this claim, but pop culture certainly likes it, given the references to it in other works. Let’s get into it.

Right off the bat, I’m already interested. Caddyshack advertises Bill Murray as one of it’s top stars, and is directed by Harold Ramis. With the main names behind Groundhog Day, one of my favourite movies ever, attached, it’s ticking boxes even before leaving the shelf. The story is fairly generic, as has come to be expected of movies of the era, but it’s not understated enough to leave the rest feeling disjointed. The comedy is slightly subdued compared to previous Movie Night entrants in a similar vein, which really counts in its favour. It knows when to have a silly moment, and when to unleash the rapid-fire deadpan. The only downside to me was Rodney Dangerfield’s character. After about 10 minutes, I felt like I knew his stand-up routine so well I could have performed it. It baffles me that he was popular for nearly forty years when I was sick of the shtick by the movie’s end. But hey, different strokes and all that. Caddyshack is an apparent cult hit, and now I know why. 4/5.

Movie Night: The Naked Gun

See? I told you we were back on track, but you didn’t believe me. WHY DIDN’T YOU BELIEVE ME!? Temporary insanity aside, Movie Night presents a comic classic in The Naked Gun. Voted as one of the “Best 1000 Movies Ever Made”, it practically guarantees a laugh. Well, we’ll just see about that…

The Naked Gun presents itself somewhat as a parody of genre; specifically, the cop-centric action movie. It feels like the American version of British comedies: a few good lines, but a pale comparison. Had John Cleese, for example, been cast in the lead role instead of Leslie Nielsen, I think a better movie may have resulted. Nothing against Nielsen, of course, but the movie as a whole felt drab, washed out. The set ups for the incidental gags were too telegraphed, in a way that could’ve only been more obvious had the subtitles flashed “THIS IS A JOKE” and “THAT WAS A JOKE” before and after respectively. The premise could work, and be reasonably successful in a serious movie. Perhaps one shown at noon between soap operas or during discount flights, but still. Overall, I felt that hype let the movie down, but it’s unfortunate I laughed as much during the credit roll than throughout the main feature. 2/5.

Movie Night: Mars Attacks!

It’s said that even the best laid battle plans only last until the first shot is fired. For the first time since we started, we have a freeform bye week. My brother, the “man with the plan”, went in this week without a plan, and it shows. All previous picks had at least been following some internal logic. But Mars Attacks! was picked because, and I quote: “it looked weird”. I guess by that token, I can be thankful we didn’t end up with some freaky parody porn or something. Anyway, onwards to adventure!

For a Tim Burton film, I was left rather unimpressed, and a little disappointed in the lack of Johnny Depp. The film feels as though it’s either trying too hard to be “campy”, or not hard enough to be a serious contender. Several characters were brought in with enough focus that you could believe they would matter, but no. Disintegrated. The visuals could’ve really benefited in the same way as the overall tone: go for “retro” B-movie schlock, or put some more effort in. The aliens looked like they stepped out of an optimistic CDROM adventure game. It honestly feels like the movie ran out of money half of the way through, because suddenly there was a mad dash to get to the ending. The characters that matter don’t feel like it, and the ones that feel like it don’t matter. Save yourself some trouble, and just read a wiki summary. It’s more likely to be entertaining. 1/5.

Movie Night: Pulp Fiction

Due to overwhelming demand, the Halloween edition of Movie Night is postponed, most likely until next year. Next big holiday is Christmas, but don’t hold your breath. We all know how these things turn out. Anyway, another cult classic with references aplenty this week. Not to say the film itself had many references, just that it has spawned so many. I should add, however, that this is the first pick that had some technical problems with it, but not enough to throw opinions over. Hopefully, the attentive of you may pick up on the fact that I’m back on the gameplan-train. Which is good. Because I totally am. For real.

It’s easy to see why Pulp Fiction gets called a “cult classic”: there’s a fair amount of different material that would dissuade a mainstream audience; while at the same time, retaining a spark of quirk that would resonate with the people who would stick around or make a repeat viewing. The film has some long-ass shots in it, which I feel add to the films’ appeal. In places, it’s almost like a documentary. On the subject of filming, I don’t think this film has aged as well as it could have, especially when stacked against other movies of the time. It could be a style issue, or a money issue, or something else. It seems a double-edged sword: it adds to the tone of the narrative, but subtracts from the integrity of the scene. Then again, Quentin Tarantino is one of the “modern masters” of cinema, whereas I’m a nobody/casual observer, so what would I know? The cameos are strong without being overplayed, and the main cast fits really well with their characters. I feel that the disjointed nature of the narrative really helps it; I don’t think it would have held up if shown sequentially. All in all, a good film, if not my cup of tea: 3.5/5.

Movie Night: Spaceballs

I briefly entertained the idea of doing a “special edition” Movie Night due to Halloween, which may still happen, but not today. Tonight is for Mel Brooks in general, and Spaceballs in particular. According to my brother, it made the cut so he could “finally get that one joke in The Simpsons”. I had to look it up, and apparently, this is what he was referring to:

Homer: When I first heard that Marge was joining the police academy, I thought it would be fun and zany, like that movie –Spaceballs. But instead it was dark and disturbing. Like that movie, Police Academy.

So, having seen both, let’s put it to the test.

Spaceballs is a typical Brooks film. That’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable; far from it. But coming into it having seen some of his other works, it felt a little samey. Or maybe it’s because I was more familiar with the parody source material, that it fell a little flat. Cast-wise, there were no real weak links, with Rick Moranis being the stand-out star for me. There were some genuinely funny lines, and everything seemed to work, but for some reason, it failed to catch a spark in my interest. If this comes up as an option for you, I’d say pick Blazing Saddles or Men In Tights, as in my opinion, they’re the better movies. 2.5/5.

Movie Night: Date Night

Greetings blog-watchers! Now I know you’re confused, but Google tells me none of you actually exist, which isn’t very nice at all. So, for the zero readers I have, I present this weeks’ Movie Night pick: the web-spider confusing Date Night. I was tempted to make it a “Special Event” as an excuse to use more “-Night” terms, but effort. Coming into the film as a fan of 30 Rock, and a non-fan of The Office: USA Edition, I thought it would be interesting to see how two of the vaunted comedic talents of recent years (which makes me sound really old) would play off each other. That, and my original choice was unavailable.

Since I previously admitted bias, take this opinion with a grain of salt: I felt Tina Fey had the best lines, while Steve Carell had the best moments. When Carell was really in the scene, you could honestly believe that Phil and Claire Foster truly loved each other, but his dialog felt lacking at times. On the other hand, Fey caused us to gamble our pant-dryness level on many occasions, but felt like she was mostly there as a vehicle for the delivery of the jokes. Put together, however, and it works. While the movie missed some opportunities on a larger scale, it really felt more in line with what I expected from a comedy: good, clean fun. Personally, I felt more could’ve been done with the cops, and the Holbrooke character, but they weren’t exactly the focus, so it gets a pass. A genuinely good movie: 4/5.

Movie Night: Animal House

Movie Night returns to form with a bye week pick, again visiting the classic era of cinema with Animal House, which I am informed is John Belushi’s second-best movie. First being The Blues Brothers. Now, as a precursor to this review, I should mention that, shockingly, I’m not American, so some of the references may have been lost on me. Thankfully, pop culture is more than happy to provide filler for the gaps in my education, Futurama being the front runner in this case. Regardless, on with words.

Released in the late ‘70s, Animal House still holds up rather well when compared to modern films. It’s certainly a better comedy than most modern attempts at the genre, and that’s a sobering thought. A touch crude for my tastes, but I guess that’s the target audience. Not knowing a great deal about the National Lampoon publication, the little I do know doesn’t fill me with hope for actually liking it. Despite initial reservations, the film is an entertaining, if low-brow, affair. I had no problems with the majority of the cast, except for Donald Sutherland as the English Professor, but even then only because I’d previously seen Invasion Of The Body-Snatchers, and he reminds me of Gene Wilder. Aside from the toplessness, I’d recommend the film to really anyone, provided they were mature. 3.5/5.

Movie Night: Hobo With A Shotgun

Brought to you late via the magic of Daylight Savings Time. For those paying attention, it may occur to you that my gameplan, such as it is, has been lacking. Ah, it is but a cunning disguise, concealing the fact that I have no gameplan. Should really work on that. Tonight’s film highlights my selection process: if all else fails, pick a funny name. Let’s catch this train, before it derails. (It is a topical joke.)

First off, for what started as somewhat of a joke for a contest entry, the final product shows remarkable polish; far more than I expected, and more than some “blockbuster” films I’ve seen. The colour choices help tell the story, which is good, because they’re fairly noticeably. I’m not usually one for films that seem to ask you to shut your brain down for maximum enjoyment, but I really had fun on this ride. The kills were akin to classic slasher “hall-of-famers”, even if by comparison they were fairly tame. Gratuitous gore aplenty, and it feels so good. The villains were despicable enough you wanted them turned into blood fountains, and the hero was likable enough that you could empathise with the position he was in. The only downside was the actress playing the female lead. I’m not sure she had enough experience to do the role justice, and in a movie like this, it really shows. All in all, a grand old romp through the gore garden. 4/5.