July 2006

This Week

by Alan Rapp on July 31, 2006

in Film News & Trailers

So what’s out there this week?  Well today we’ll take a look at the films scheduled to be released this Friday which include some animated animal mischief on the farm, Will Ferrell as a NASCAR driver “who can only count to #1,” Robin Williams caught up in a “real life” Twilight Zone-type adventure, and a British horror flick about the dark things found at the bottom of a cave.  All that and more; read on…

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Here’s what’s scheduled to hit theaters this week.  Want to know more?  Just click on the title for film info including a full cast list.  Want a closer look?  Just click on the poster to watch the trailer.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Will Ferrell and NASCAR, need to know more?  Ferrell goes behind the wheel in the starring role as a great, but dimwitted (what else?), NASCAR driver who gets a run for his money when a French Formula One driver (Sasha Baron Coen) shows up to challenge him.  John C. Reilly stars as the teammate and best friend.  Written by Ferrell and Adam McKay (the pair gave us Anchorman).  This movie’s been promoted non-stop over the past few weeks, but can Ferrell and McKay get the same laughs without the likes of Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, and Christina Applegate?  Check back Friday for the review.

Barnyard: The Original Party Animals

Ever wonder what farm animals do when no one’s looking?  Well here ya’ go.  Animated misadventures of a cow named Otis (Kevin James) and his wacky pals who party and enjoy playing tricks on humans.  That is until the coyotes show giving them much bigger concerns.  The likeable, fun comedy also stars the voices of Danny Glover, Courteney Cox, David Koechner, Andie MacDowell, Wanda Sykes, Dom Irrera, Jeffrey Garcia, Madeline Lovejoy as the adorable Tweety-like chick, and Sam Elliot as the serious leader (and darn good singer) of the Barnard.  Check back on Friday for the review.

The Night Listener

Popular radio host Gabriel Noone (Robin Williams) deals with a recent break-up (Bobby Cannavale) and begins reading a new book about the wild “true” experiences of a dying boy (Rory Culkin).  Gabriel begins a phone relationship with the boy and the woman who takes care of him (Toni Collette), but begins to have doubts about his story and suspicions on the boy’s identity which leads him on a dark journey to find the truth.  Interesting idea even if it doesn’t quite pan out.  The film is directed by Patrick Stettner (The Business of Strangers).  Check back Friday for the review.

The Descent

British horror flick from last year (already available on DVD in the UK) follows a group of young women on a cave expedition that goes horribly wrong when they discover strange people-eatin’ monsters.  Sounds kinda’ like last year’s hysterically bad The Cave, but it did turn out to be a hit at Comic-Con and has some nice press behind it.  Also this new print has a different ending for American audiences.  Shauna Macdonald, Natalie jackson Mendoza, Alex Reid, Nora-Jane Noone, and Saskia Mulder star as sexy monster food.  The film was written and directed by Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, Combat).

Quinceanera (limited)

A big hit at this year’s Sundance (it won the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize) tells the tale of Magdalena (Emily Rios) who is thrown out of her home on her 15th birthday when her parents discover she is pregnant.  With nowhere else to go she moves in with her uncle (Cahlo Gonzalez) and an estranged gay cousin (Jesse Garcia).  Written and directed by Richard Glatzer (The Fluffer, Grief) and Wash Westmoreland (The Hole, Animus).  The film gets a limited release today with wider distribution in the coming weeks; check you local listings to see when it’s playing near you.

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Too Cool For its Own Good

by Ian T. McFarland on July 28, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Style in a film is a very fine issue.  On one hand, it always helps to throw in some sparkle to keep the viewer’s attention, plus there’s the whole trying to add artistic merit issue.  But on the other hand, too much of a different feel in a film can alienate a viewer.  Unfortunately, Miami Vice isn’t just the latter, but the director takes it so far that it’s like a spit in the face of storytelling.

Miami Vice
1 & 1/2 Stars

I really wanted to like Miami Vice.  I was the only person in the realm of film critics that I knew who didn’t think it looked like a stinker.  I like Writer/Director Michael Mann, and I like that he took an approach with Miami Vice that few other directors would have the balls to, let alone the creativity.  But after both of the films hours (with change), it’ll wash over you how boring and ungripping the movie is.

The New Don Johnson?

Miami Vice‘s story is easy enough to understand on paper: Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx are detectives narcing it up in Central America hoping to catch a Drug Lord that killed some co-workers.  But on the case Farrell’s character falls for the enemy’s assistant (Gong Li.) 

Only it doesn’t come out that easily in the film.  The actors linger uneasily in the shots as they spew dialogue without any real verbalization, just dropping the lines.  It’s not a sign of bad acting, the characters are just too point-blank to carry any emotion in what few words they say; and because of that it’s difficult to tell what those words falling out of their mouths mean 90% of the time.

Another problem with this innate lack of feeling in the dialogue is the extreme difficulty it presents of relating to any of the characters.  I’m no man of publications such as US Weekly or OK!, But I can honestly say I care more about what the tabloids write-up on Farrell and Foxx than these characters.  Mann’s script just never decides to take a chunk out of character development, or even character creation.

Instead of delivering a fully-developed script, Mann decides instead to go for a visual flair that easily makes more of an impact on the final product than the any of the actors or the story.  But for what it’s worth, it’s damn cool. 

Mann used simplistic, hand-held digital cameras that give off more grain than Farrell’s unshaven face in the movie.  That, in addition to the shaky camera movement, make the film seem more authentic and believable, like just maybe that isn’t actually Jamie Foxx, it’s a real-life cop doing his real-life job on the real-life streets.  I don’t normally like the now-popular technique of shaky camera movement (enough of it on a big screen can upset by stomach,) but it’s used about as well as possible by Mann in Miami Vice.

The only problem is, the cinematography is too cool.  It’s like those iPod commercials: watching a black silhouette groove to the beat over a cornucopia of colors is a great way to spend 30 seconds, but if you had to watch it for over two hours it would become daunting.  The same goes for Miami Vice, the look is just too much and too different to allow the viewers to appreciate anything else in the film.

There are a couple of intense action sequences, and Mann should be commended for trying to do something different; but in the end Miami Vice is just grade-A style vomitted beyond appreciation over a few reels of film.  Too much of a good thing isn’t good.

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Brothers of the Head

by Alan Rapp on July 28, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

A mockumentary about a band where the lead singer and lead guitarist are conjoined twins?  Not your average summer movie fare.  Despite its length and freakish unseemliness, there’s something there.  I didn’t exactly enjoy the film, but it hooked me on how it well was put together and made.  For fans of film, or just unusual types far off the mainstream, this flick might be just up your alley.  It’s a bizarrely fascinating story.

Brothers of the Head
3 Stars

Brothers of the Head is a different film.  It’s not something you actually enjoy, though it has many moments, performances, and aspects you can appreciate.  It’s hard to watch, but it’s so well made and so distinctly different it’s worth a look for those willing to take a chance on something this…different.

Not exactly Spinal Tap

A pair of conjoined twins (Harry Treadaway, Luke Treadaway) are found by a promoter with a dream of putting the pair in a rock band.  After months of training the group is put on stage and finds an audience with their punk rock sound and freakshow look.

The film is presented as a documentary taking place in present time with older actors playing roles of band members and managers.  Mixed with these are interviews with the author of their story Brian Aldiss (whose novel is the inspiration for the film), archival footage from the mid-1970’s including rehersals, fights, and tender moments, and scenes from a pathetically awful Hollywood film version of their story.

What’s most interesting is how seriously the film takes it’s subject and how well it disguises itself as a real documentary.  It comes off as so real that you find yourself wondering if there’s not some hiddent truth somewhere in these frames.  The music of the period, the look of the “archival footage,” and the casting of actors who so resemble their younger/older selves you’ll wonder what kind of film tricks were used. 

The best casting is for the role of Laura, the woman who came between the brothers and crashed the world down around them.  Tania Emery plays the younger version of Laura and Diane Kent plays Laura during present time.  It’s eerie how alike they seem.

The film does play heavily on the freakishness of the conjoined twins at at times is hard to watch.  Also there are points were the film seems to devolve into voyeurism.  That and the length (the story could have easily played out in a 45-60 minute short film) will leave you squirming.

It’s too long, it’s creepy, it’s uncomfortable, it’s bizarre, and yet…  In much the same way the film’s characters exploit the “can’t look away” freakishness of the pair, the film has takes advantage of a story that is so different by surrounding the world with good performances and excellent casting and behind the scenes moves to create something uniquely original.  In terms of look and style there’s much to appreciate for fans who enjoy studying films and how they are put togehter.  In terms of an enjoyable film expereince, it’s nowhere near as successful.  I’m modesly recommending it for the former, though if you’re looking for the later I’d suggest seeing whatever is playing in the adjoining theater.

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Here’s the Scoop

by Alan Rapp on July 28, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

There are a few themes and stories Woody Allen seems obsessed with, murder being one.  Here again he presents a murder mystery that’s much lighter and funnier than his last film, which also starred the delectable Miss Johansson.  Never quite what you’d expect (making it slightly better than Match Point), it’s a clever and enjoyable film.

Scoop
3 & 1/2 Stars

I called up a friend, who doubles as my Woody Allen expert, to check out Allen’s latest flick.  I enjoy Allen’s films, but to be honest, there are many of his earlier works I haven’t seen.  Ry on the other hand has seen them all, except one I wish I hadn’t – 2003’s aptly titled Anything Else (as in, I wish I was watching anything else but this piece of garbage).

So how does Scoop measure up?  Well it got thumbs up from my expert.  As for me?  As I’ve said before, if you put Scarlett Johansson in a clever, fun film, there’s very little that can go wrong.  Once again my great predictions have panned out.  Tomorrow’s lottery numbers will be 21 – 3 – 17.

Watch out for his adamantium claws, Scarlett!

Sondra (Scarlett Johansson), an American journalism student who often falls for the subject of her interviews, is staying with a friend (Romola Garai) and her family in London.  One night she goes to a magic show, performed by “the great Splendini” (Woody Allen), and her life is never the same.

While alone in the disappearing box, Sondra is contacted by the ghost of a recently deceased reporter (Ian McShane) who discovered, after his death, the identity of the Tarot Card serial killer.  He shares his information with Sondra hoping she can give him one last scoop.

With the help of Splendini, who’s actually named Sam Waterman, Sondra starts dating the suspect trying to find out if Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman), the son of Lord Lyman and who she shares a mutual attraction, is indeed the killer.

The film isn’t a laugh riot; in fact for a comedy it’s very subtle and clever.  There are big laughs, but most of the jokes are the short asides we’ve come to expect from Allen.  Here he’s at his best.

I don’t know if he is more comfortable in this role or if it’s mainly written to harness his talents, but this is his best on-screen performance by Woody Allen in years.

He’s equally good on the page and behind the camera providing a wonderful stage for his actors to play out their roles.  Johansson is beautiful and charming, and Jackman provides just the right notes for the man who could be a secretive gentleman or a cold blooded killer.

Perhaps the best joke of the film comes early on where Ian McShane’s character, after his death,  finds himself aboard the ferry of Charon (from Greek mythology, last seen in Clash of the Titans).  In a film that gets most of it’s drama and laughs from more normal oddball behavior (the moments of Sam trying to pass himself off as Sondra’s father are terrific), a few absurdly comic touches like this come off as near genius.

There are a couple of hiccups.  Johansson struggles early on with the timing of Allen’s dialogue, and there are a couple of scenes and transitions that seem rushed (as does the ending).  Still these minor point shouldn’t be too much of a bother for fans of Allen’s work.

The film is so sharp and clever that many of the jokes may take a few screenings to enjoy fully (especially if you’re in a crowded theater where some of the quick replies might get lost in the audience’s laughter).  It’s an extremly small cast;  for most of the film only two or three characters appear on-screen at a time.  Even with such tiny supporting roles Allen does a remarkable job in casting them (for you BtVS fans look for Anthony Head in a small role as a detective of Scotland Yard).

It’s not a top-notch Allen project, but along with Match Point (read that review here) and Melinda and Melinda (read that review here), Allen is proving he can still churn out some pretty good flicks.  With his latest he gives us an enjoyable little film that although is about a search for a murderer, isn’t really a murder mystery.  It’s a comedy about small lies, mistaken identities, and deceptions.  Go check it out for yourself to get the full Scoop.

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By No Means a Must

by Ian T. McFarland on July 28, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

There’s not another genre out there that’s as tailor-made by Studio Execs than the teenage comedy.  This might explain why they’re all the same: teenager sets out on a journey for sex, gets screwed a few times along the way (although not in the way that they hoping for) and finally realize that they should just had sex with their best friend.  In this respect of plot, John Tucker Must Die is a nothing more than a really, and I mean really does attempt to break the mold; but everything else in the movie from its clichéd and stereotyped characters and an ending that you won’t care about exposes its true nature: John Tucker Must Die is just another teenage comedy.

John Tucker Must Die
2 Stars

It just came to me when I was sitting in the theatre.  Our main character was having a heart-to-heart with her mother about boys, and I was enlightened as if it were a fact taught to me in U.S. History.  John Tucker Must Die is a nothing more than a really, and I mean really mediocre movie.  It’s not bad—in fact it can be down-right charming half the time.  But the rest of the running time lacks anything that wants to make you stake out your seat until it all fades to black.

Nobody likes being cheated on; not even when the cutest boy, like, ever is the one cheating on you.  So the obvious way to get back is to try to embarrass him in front of, like, the entire school.

John Tucker Must Die chronicles this exact story, where the cutest boy in the 12th grade is film namesake John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe,) and his victims are the first ladies of their High School cliques- the lead Cheerleader, the new-age vegan and the smarty-pants that’s in every extra-curricular activity.  John, God bless him, somehow managed to date all three of them at the same time; but after the girls find out and get the ol’ heave-ho from their newly-appointed Ex, they decide that he needs a dose of his own medicine.

So they hatch a plot to make John fall head over heels for social nobody Kate (Brittany Snow,) who has a fair share of doubt in the concept of love.  Nothing else happens down the road that you can’t see happening—life lessons are learned and BFFs are made around every corner.

The film’s title promised what could have been an entertaining, black teenage comedy.  Think about it, had the girls taken no mercy as the movie’s name suggests, it would have boosted the film’s value to anyone who doesn’t think the best movies ever are Mean Girls or The Notebook.  They could have gone a lot further, and the idea of extreme revenge in a High School setting has potential, but the script just doesn’t take it there.

The film’s weakest spot is the character of John Tucker himself.  Metcalfe does as decent of a job as is required for the genre, but we never get a very solid idea of who he is—a hotshot asshole in it for the ass or a sensitive boy that hides in his perfect physique and charm.  He keeps switching masks depending on who’s opposite him in the scene, and we never get a final idea of what he is.  This writer would have prefered it if he were a jerk-extroardinaire that was easier to hate than a guy who drowns puppies, but we can’t all get what we want.

But John Tucker Must Die is a movie about young love, and the filmmakers don’t botch the charm of Snow’s character or the sometimes successful humor.  The genre is a weak spot, it makes sub-par stories fun just because everyone in the movie is having it.

John Tucker Must Die is just another teenage comedy.  It won’t knock the pants off of you, and you really shouldn’t go see it.  But if you somehow surf onto a channel showing it in the next few years on TV, it’d probably hold your attention.  Like, I guess.

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Fans in San Diego sure got a great show this year.  Not just for comic book nerds, the four day convention brought in Hollywood film and TV stars and a host of small surprises, rumors, and revelations.  From booths of major networks (CBS, the new CW), to the cable booths (Sci-fi, Spike-TV) to panel discussions from the cast of Veronica Mars, Superman, 300, and The Transformers, there was plenty to see and take in.  Oh yeah, and there were a few comics and games too see as well.  Here’s a recap for those who couldn’t make the trip…

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Where can you go to see people dressed as Klingons, super-heroes, video game characters, and cult figures, AND see them mingle with the very people that created or even starred as that character?  The Comic-Con, baby!  Here are some fun tidbits that came out of this year’s four day event in San Diego.

Revealed:


To what was perhaps the biggest crowd of the convention, Sam Raimi and cast brought with them a new Spider-Man 3 trailer which ended with a look at Venom!  Let’s just say fan reaction was pretty damn positive.  Sadly all the rest of us get is this Topher Grace teaser poster, sigh.

Marvel Comics announced three new movie projects – Captain America (probably not with Matt Salinger), Nick Fury (with or without David Hasselhoff?), and Thor (is Fabio available?).  With Iron Man already in pre-production the possibility of a live-action Avengers movie is also being discussed.

Optimus Prime addressed an audience of Transformers fans who squealed with pleasure to learn that the voice from the 80’s cartoon, Peter Cullen, would be doing the honors in the upcoming film.

Director Jack Snyder and Frank Miller showed up to give fans a five minute look at the movie version of Miller’s graphic novel 300 which tells the tale of the legendary Battle of Thermopylae where 300 Spartans fought against the Persian army.  The applause was so loud they replayed the clips three times!  Fans seemed appreciative that the style and look of the film so matched Miller’s original work (like, say Sin City).  Snyder also talked a little about his early ideas for The Watchmen focusing on the relationships and essence of the book and trying to fit into the time restraints of a single theatrical film with screenwriter Alex Tse.

Discussed:


Frank Miller discussed his future plans after finishing Sin City 2.  So what’s next>  How about a film adaption of Will Eisner’s hero The Spirit.  Miller intends to use the same technology used in the Sin City flicks to make the look as faithful to Eisner as possible, though admits the tone will be darker and more like Eisner’s early stories than the kindler and gentler Spirit of Eisner’s later years.  Eisner and Miller were friends for many years and even collaborated on a short book of interviews shortly before Eisner’s death (read that review here).

Writer/director Jon Favreau stopped by to talk about May 2008’s Iron Man.  Favreau revealed he would start out using the original gray armor which Tony Stark pieced together under captivity in hostile lands, and over the course of the film evolve the look into the classic red and gold armor.  Several different suits should be seen over the course of the film perhaps even War Machine.  Also announced was the villain for the first film which will be the Mandarin (no word yet whether Fing Fang Foom will make an appearance).  As for Tony Starks alcoholism and dark turn, if the film is successful look to see those aspects explored in future films.

J.J. Abrams discussed the work on his Star Trek XI script.  Refusing to give any details he did remark it’s not another sequel but a relaunching of the franchise.

Bryan Singer and Richard Donner stopped by to discuss the next Superman film which might be flying into theaters in 2009 depending on if the Man of Tomorrow can do some more heavy lifting at the box office before this summer ends.

Writer/director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) stopped by to promote and discuss Ant Man.  Wright talked about using both Henry Pym and Scott Lang in the film, incorporating both the 60’s style hero and the later incarnations.

Hulk 2 director Louis Leterrier (instead of Ang Lee) discussed the sequel which will star David Duchovny (instead of Eric Bana) which will see the un-jolly green giant go up against Abomination (rather than his crazy scientist daddy).  The director promised more action and a look at Bruce Banner living with the monster (much like the old TV-show) and “no poodles, promise.”

Speculated:


Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson keep fanning the dim embers of Ghostbusters 3.  The idea for a sequel that would star (then unknowns) Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson was dreamt up almost 20 years ago.  Recently it seems interest has re-piqued and maybe we’ll be asking “Who ya’ gonna call?” sometimes soon (then again, maybe not).

While attending a panel for Guillermon Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth Doug Jones slyly fielded questions concerning the possibility of his casting role as the Silver Surfer for Fantastic Four 2.  After saying “No comment” to the Internet rumors Jones, dressed in a silver shirt, asked, “Do you like this color of shirt on me?  I like this color on me and I hope to be wearing more soon.  I’ve been shopping for outfits and did find one that I really like, but I don’t own it yet because they’re still approving my credit card.”  This wouldn’t be Jones’ first role in a comic book film as he starred as Abe Sapien (with David Hyde Pierce providing the voice) in Hellboy.  Other rumors on Del Toro have him in discussions to adapt the DC character Deadman into a film. 

Biggest rumor to hit Comic-Con?  How about Heath Ledger as the Joker?  Hmm….  Christopher Nolan seems to have chosen Ledger over other finalists which inculded Jude Law, Robin Williams, Paul Bettany, and (my pick for the role) Steve Buscemi.  No official confirmation as yet, but it does seem this rumor may be true.

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New on DVD

by December Lambeth on July 25, 2006

in DVD Reviews 

We’re here to keep you informed on hot choices for renting or buying new DVD releases. Released this week: Final Destination 3, Ask the Dust, The Benchwarmers, The Boondocks, Pinky and The Brain: Volume 1, Rawhide: The Complete First Season and Jag: The Complete First Season.

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Here’s what is getting released today on DVD:

Film:

Final Destination 3 – Third time isn’t always a charm! Final Destination 3 is close to if not the same as 1 and 2, more dead teenagers, more campy and more bad actors. Death is an unseen force that wants his/her prey, and if chipped, will do anything to get the body count. Death by tanning bed, training bench, an engine and a nail gun, (wow, how original are those deaths?) Wait for it; yes there is a surprise ending and you get to pick your own fate. The DVD comes with a “Choose Your Fate!” version with alternate scenes and ways to die. The DVD also includes a documentary, featurette, original animated short and a look at how they made the roller coaster that started out this thrill ride. Seems to me, that there is more to the extras than the film itself. Enjoy!

Ask the Dust – Is this possible, a film with Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek I have not seen? Two of the sexiest people in Hollywood on screen together, it can’t be all that bad to look at. Robert Towne adapted John Fante’s novel about the depression era. Colin plays a writer out to mask his Italian immigrant identity and Salma is the sassy hot barmaid looking for Mr. Rich American to get out of her own world. The sexy steamy relationship the main characters fall into and the cinematic beauty of the piece will keep you fairly interested, the story isn’t all that bad either. The only extras on the DVD are a featurette, “The Making of Ask the Dust”.

The Benchwarmers – If I say Rob Schneider, David Spade and Jon Heder, do I need to say much more? Adam Sandler created this somewhat comical romp about a 3-man baseball team created to pick on little leaguers. Rob, David and Jon play 3 immature men who never recovered from being picked on in school and in return decide to give it right back to a younger generation. The DVD does have quite a few extras like deleted scenes, commentary by actors David Spade and Jon Heder, behind the scenes with Reggie Jackson, a “Nerds Vs. Bullies” featurette, cast and crew discussions on baseball and Howie’s greatest moments. Here’s a DVD you want to rent just for the extras, the film is slightly comical and light hearted if you are looking for a simply dumb evening.

Animation:

The Boondocks – It’s an uncut and uncensored cartoon, awesome. Produced for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, based on Aaron McGruder’s politically charged comic strip. 2 young brothers give us their view of social and racial issues, never beating around the bush and always satirical. They move from Southside to the suburbs with their crazy grandpa, giving the boys plenty to talk about and experience. The DVD features 15 episodes and some unaired TV promos with commentary.

Pinky And The Brain: Volume 1 – If only a couple of laboratory mice could dominate the world, we might be in a better spot than we are now. Pinky And The Brain is a spin-off from Anamaniacs that started back in 1996. A genius large headed rodent and his crazy insane companion plan world domination every night only to fail and start over the next. From creator and executive producer Steven Spielberg, finally one of the funniest cartoons released on DVD. 22 episodes in all and a featurette.

TV:

Rawhide: The Complete First Season – The only time I’ve ever seen Clint Eastwood looking like a young man, I just assumed he was born wrinkled and hard as nails. Rawhide was Eastwood’s ticket to stardom and his start in the Western film business. There isn’t much to be said about Rawhide, it’s a classic cattle drive western with bad guys, good guys, fistfights and moocows.

JAG: The Complete First Season – Did you know JAG was on for 10 seasons? Neither did I. J.A.G. stands for Judge Advocate General and that is who Lieutenant Commander Harmon ‘Harm’ Rabb Jr. (David James) is. After being grounded from a flying accident in the Navy, Harm and is new team of prosecutors and defenders go on to handle various military cases and solve the mysteries assigned to them. The DVD offers up 21 episodes on 6 discs and 3 featurettes.

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This Week

by Alan Rapp on July 24, 2006

in Film News & Trailers

So what’s out there this week.  Well today we’ll take a look at the films scheduled to be released this week.  On Wednesday (in limited release) Steve Carrell, Alan Arkin, and Greg Kinnear go on a dysfunctional family road trip with Little Miss Sunshine.  And by Friday we will see Michael Mann return to tales of drugs and sex in south Florida with detectives Crockett and Tubbs, Woody Allen and Scarlett Johansson try to get the Scoop, an animated Paul Giamatti will learn to respect ants, and a high school gigolo will get his just deserts.  All that and more; read on…

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Here’s what’s scheduled to hit theaters this week.  Want to know more, just click on the title for film info including a full cast list.  Want a closer look, just click on the poster to watch the trailer.

Opening Wednesday:

Little Miss Sunshine (limited)

Boy, oh, boy.  When the youngest member of a dysfunctional family wins a spot in a beauty pagent the whole crew stumbles on board a VW bus and makes the trek to California.  Directed by the team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Mr. Show), the off-beat script (by first-timer Michael Arndt) stars Steve Carrell as a suicidal gay man, Paul Dano as a Nietche lovin’ mute, Greg Kinnear as the emotionally inaccessible father, Alan Arkin as the smack addicted patriarch, and Abagail Breslin as the adorable Olive.  The film opens in limited release Wednesday and we’ll have the review.

Opening Friday:

Miami Vice

Director Michael Mann goes into the way-back machine and travels to the mid 80’s to bring his once top rated cop drama to the big screen.  Two Miami vice cops, Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Tubbs (Jamie Fox), are still going strong after all this time.  The plot, oh who am I kidding nobody’s going to see this for the plot!  The supporting cast includes Li Gong (2046), Luis Tosar, John Ortiz, Juantia Billue, and RazorFine favorite Naomie Harris.  Without trying it should be better than recent TV-to-film attempts (Bewitched, Dukes of Hazard).  Check back Friday for the review.

The Ant Bully

Young friendless Lucas Nickle (Zach Tyler) loves tormenting the local ant colony, that is until the ants shrink him down to size and turn the tables on the once powerful Ant Bully by putting him to work fixing all the damage he caused.  Ok, Shakespeare it ain’t, but there is a little room for optimism.  The film is written and directed by John A. Davis (Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius) and boasts a nice cast of voices including Paul Giamatti, Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Julia Roberts, Larry Miller, Ricardo “Khan” Montalban, Chri Oteri, and Smallville‘s Allison Mack. 

John Tucker Must Die

High school stud and gigolo John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe) is living the good life until all three of his girlfriends (Ashanti, Arielle Kebbel, Sophia Bush) get together and compare notes and decide to give the womanizer some much needed payback by enlisting the help of the school’s newest student (Brittany Snow).  Girl Power!  The film is directed by Betty Thomas who scored with 28 Days but also has I-Spy and Doctor Dolittle to answer for.  The script was penned by sitcom writer Jeff Lowell (Just Shoot Me!, Spin City, Zoe, Duncan, Jack & Jane).  Check back Friday for the review.

Scoop (limited)

Woody Allen re-teams with Scarlett Johansson (she starred in last year’s Match Point).  She plays an American journalism student, after being visited by a ghost (Ian McShane) who gives her the scoop of a lifetime, begins an affair with an aristocrat (Hugh Jackman) who she thinks might be a serial killer!  The trailer suggests the title Scoop of the Jade Scorpion may be more apt.  Also along for the ride are James Nesbitt, Romola Garai, Colin Salmon, Robyn Kerr, Jody Halse, and Suzy Kewer.  It opens in limited release of Friday, and we’ll have the scoop (heh) review for you.

Brothers of the Head (limited)

The film follows the lives of conjoined twins (Harry and Luke Treadway) who are chosen by a music promoter in the 70’s who turns the pair into a proto-punk rock and roll freakshow boy band.  This is the first feature by directors Keith Fulton and Luis Pepe who gave us the remarkably funny and tragic documentary Lost in La Mancha who chose Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, In This World) to adapt the cult novel by Brian Aldiss to the screen.  Not exactly your run of the mill rock film.  It opens Friday in limited release and we’ll have the review; look for it in wider release in the coming weeks.

Another Gay Movie (limited)

Think a gay version of American Pie.  After graduating high school, four gay friends make a pact to lose their anal virginity before going off to college.  They seek the help of their lesbian chick-magnet () to help them score with the guys.  See, gay themed movies can be just as pointless, tasteless and shameful as hetero big budget films!  The film was written and directed by Todd Stephens (Gypsy 83, Edge of Seventeen).  It’s out in limited release on Friday and I’m sure if you want to see this badly enough (please tell us why?) you’ll be able to find it at the local art house in the coming weeks.

America: Freedom to Fascism (limited)

A biography on George W. Bush’s presidency already?  (Heh, yeah, it was a cheap shot – doesn’t make it untrue).  This documentary “explores the erosion of civil liberties in America.”  Producer/director Aaron Russo sets out on a journey to discover why Americans must pay income tax and finds a disturbing trend of the curtailing of American’s civil liberties over the last one-hundred years as he examined subjects such as money creation and voter fraud.  A huge hit at Cannes (it received a standing ovation), the film gets a limited release starting today, look for it in wider areas in the coming weeks (though you’ll probably still have to hunt for it).

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Two Clerks, One Donkey, and No Hobbits

by Alan Rapp on July 21, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Well, I guess Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back wasn’t the last View Askew picture after all.  Smith returns to the characters that began his career and launched him as a independent film golden boy / lewd Star Wars obsessed fan.  What can I say about Clerks II?  Well, at least for this film, Kevin Smith is back!

Clerks II
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Kevin Smith seems intent on recapturing the spirit of the original Clerks with this sequel.  It’s a dirty little film that will make you laugh your ass off.  The film succeeds in most aspects, though at times Smith seems over ambitious to push through jokes, that if he had a little more patience and trust in the material, he’d understand it’s not necessary to try so hard for every laugh.  Even with such issues, the most surprising thing about Clerks II is how its heart seems to always be in the right place (even during a donkey show).

The film begins with the fiery destruction of The Quick Stop and then jumps ahead in time to find Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) working at the fast food franchise Mooby’s.  Things haven’t changed much for Randal who continues to do as little work as possible while spouting off his unique philosophy.  He also likes to torture his co-worker Elias (Trevor Fehrman), a sheltered and more than a little naive teenager who loves nothing more than Transformers and The Lord of the Rings.

Dante meanwhile has a fiance (Jennifer Scwalbach Smith) and plans on moving down to Florida.  His life seems to be taking shape, but there are a few complications.  As much as he seems ready to leave New Jersey behind, he has to address his feelings for his boss Becky (Rosario Dawson) and the end of his life long friendship with Randal.

Kevin Smith’s latest flick is lewd, disgusting, and very funny.  It’s also a very personal and emotional film about friendship and love. 

The film examines how people change over time, but how they also stay the same.  It won’t be easy for some people to make it through the amount of crude humor that happens over the course of the film, but if you can, the point of the film is rather sweet.

The make-up of the film, much like Clerks, involves debate on pop culture (including a terrific scene about Star Wars versus tLOR), sex (including a donkey show, the prospect of ass-to-mouth, and the discussion of a troll named Pillow Pants), and the use of language (including a laugh out loud scene with Wanda Sykes about a racial slur).

The only problem with the film is Smith seems to be trying a bit too hard at times to get the joke across.  The lead up to the donkey show works so well (as does the politically correct term used to describe it which reminded me strongly of a George Carlin joke about how political correctness can distort language to the point where anything is acceptable).  But we don’t need to actually see the donkey show on film, we already got the joke.  There are a couple places where the script literally beats a joke to death in this manner.

Many of Smith’s old friends show up in cameo appearances including Jason Lee, Ben Affleck, Ethan Suplee, Walt Flanagan, and of course Smith and Jason Mewes return as Jay and Silent Bob, who after the destruction of The Quick Stop, tag along to Mooby’s as well.

I’m glad to see Smith re-embrace his early style of film making and return to crafting films that will make you laugh, feel a little ashamed, but also make you think about relationships and life.  O’Halloran and Anderson seem to fit so naturally into these roles, Jason Mewes has come a long way since the first film, and the newcomers added seem to understand Smith’s style and fit seemlessly as new additoins to the View Askew Universe.  It’s Rosario Dawson who steals the film, and is fast becoming one of my favorite actresses working today.  She’s one to keep your eye on.

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They made bestiality funny.

by Ian T. McFarland on July 21, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Clerks II is not the indie revolution that the original Clerks was, but it is something that it’s predecessor wasn’t: an all-around well put together movie.  Sure, Clerks was refreshing and often funny, but the message it was trying to send was a bit to literal and at the same time not entirely established.  Clerks II, on the other hand, shows a clear progression of Kevin Smith—it’s funnier, more touching and most important of all, tops necrophilia with bestiality.  What’s not to love?

Clerks II
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Raunchy comedies are a curse upon this house of mankind.  Sometimes we’ll get a The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but more often than not we’ll get efforts such as Happy Madison’s Grandma’s Boy.  Fortunately for us, Clerks II is one of the former, a comedy with just as many jabs at sex and dorks as there are serious moments that give us more detailed characters.

Clerks II takes up the story where it ended twelve years ago: Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) are best friends stuck together in dead-end jobs neither wants, trying their half-assed best to do what they can with life.  The only changes are their employer (a fast food chain called “Mooby’s” that View Askew fans will remember from Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) and a couple of supporting characters played by Rosario Dawson and Trevor Fehrman.

But matters soon get dramatic as we find that Dante’s not only engaged, he’s moving away to Florida and unintentionally abandoning his best friend Randal.  And it doesn’t help that Dante’s getting a case of the jitters involving his soon-to-be-betrothed.

It’s easy to expect a Kevin Smith movie to make the inner 12-year-old laugh, and in that respect Clerks II makes the grade.  The film brings back racial slurs, furthers pee pee jokes and does something with a donkey that . . . well it does something with a donkey.

But what makes Clerks II such an accomplishment is Smith’s ability to weave this fondness for toilet humor and serious character development into one film.  Smith gives Anderson’s character a serious chunk of a problem to have to face, a problem not only that Anderson tackles with ease, but it’s also something you don’t see too often in films.  We see plenty of tween girl movies about BFFs getting into hard places, but what happens when a grown man has to cut the jokes and tell a friend what he means to the other?

Smith’s Chasing Amy was able to take a look at relationships with insight and intelligence, and probably had more to say that does Clerks II.  But then again, Chasing Amy doesn’t have an epic face-off between Star Wars and Lord of the Rings fanboys that ends in an involuntary bodily function; it’s not half so entertaining as this sixth entry into the View Askwniverse.

If there were a few explosions thrown into the mix, Clerks II might have been the perfect guy movie.  It’ll make you laugh and at the same time make you think about the rarely exploited best friend relationship dynamic.  Just don’t take anyone who doesn’t appreciate a good ol’ fashioned offensive joke, or two, or 47; it might end with an involuntary bodily function.

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