September 2006

School for Scoundrels

by Alan Rapp on September 29, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Billy Bob Thorton has given us another fun, if somewhat brutal, comedy.  Jon Heder and Thorton star in School for Scoundrels where a young loser finds the courage and self-esteem to stand-up for himself, even to his teacher who has his own plans for the loser’s girl.

School for Scoundrels
3 & 1/2 Stars

I’m not a huge Jon Heder fan, but I think Billy Bob Thornton is great.  School for Scoundrels puts both in situations to do what they do well.  Thornton plays a mean-spirited but humorous creep, and Heder takes another turn as the lovable loser.  Add to that some very good physical humor and some off the wall humor and you’ve got a good, if not great, fall comedy on your hands.

Roger (Jon Heder) is a loser.  By day he is abused by fellow workers and law breakers in his job as a meter-maid.  By night Roger pines for his neighbor, a sweet girl named Amanda (Jacinda Barrett) whose roommate (Sarah Silverman) is as sarcastic as Amanda is nice.

Unable to express his feelings to the woman he loves Roger decides to join a secret confidence building course run by the unscrupulous Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton).  There he meets other losers like himself (Todd Louiso, Horatio Sanz, Matt Walsh, Jon Glaser, Leonard Earl Howse) and for the first time begins to feel a part of something.

Roger’s success in the class has some dire consequences.  Dr. P decides to challenge Roger and make a move on Amanda, using every dirty trick imaginable.  Roger is forced to either tell the truth or beat his professor at his own game.

The film is full of gags and some increasingly brutal humor.  It doesn’t have the balls to go for the big laughs Thornton got in Bad Santa, but it is consistently funny throughout.

The supporting cast, stolen mostly from former SNL casts, does well.  Silverman plays her typical bitch on wheels and is a little too shrill for me here.  If she’s serious about giving acting a chance I’d like to see her branch out a little more.  There are two cameo roles that stand out, Ben Stiller and David Cross, who are so good you wonder why the script couldn’t fit them into the plot more.

It’s a fine comedy that won’t bore you.  It doesn’t have the huge belly laughs you would expect from this material, but it is consistantly funny throughout.  If guy humor, men getting shot in the crotch with paint guns, and losers trying pitifully to impress women sound like your thing, you should enjoy yourself.  It’s well worth the price of admission.

More Like Hell

by Alan Rapp on September 29, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Haven
  • IMDB: link

haven-posterHaven is like watching a mediocre movie on cable television and switching the channel to a different mediocre movie every 30 minutes and occasionally going back to see if the others have gotten any better.  Well, it’s not quite that good.

The film begins with the story of successful business man Carl Ridley (Bill Paxton) and his teenage daughter Pippa (Agnes Bruckner), who flee the country to the Cayman Islands to avoid prosecution.  Carl has laundered money from some illegal activity (the film never explains what this was, or the limit to Carl’s involvement).

Once in the Islands, Pippa (what an awful name) rebels and hangs out with a local wannabe gangster (Victor Rasuk) who steals a car, takes her to a party, gets her high and then arrested.

[click to continue…]

Give Peace A Chance

by Alan Rapp on September 29, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how controversial John Lennon was, especially for those of us who were born after his most, if not all, of his performances, music and otherwise.  The U.S. vs. John Lennon is a new documentary that looks at the struggle between a musician from the UK and the United States Government.  How powerful was Lennon?  Powerful enough to scare the President of the United States into a conspiracy to get him deported?  Why?  Read on and find out…

The U.S. vs. John Lennon
4 Stars

The year of the documentary continues.  The U.S. vs. John Lennon takes its place along a great list of documentaries released this year that include An Inconvenient Truth (read that review here), Who Killed the Electric Car? (read that review here), Cocaine Cowboys (that review is coming, I promise), and Wordplay (read that review here).  Aside from being informative and entertaining the documentary is quite timely; I urge everyone to watch closely at the speeches Richard Nixon gives about the Vietnam War and compare them, as the film does in a very small part, to our current administration’s conflict in Iraq.

Imagine all the people, living life in peace,
They say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one

John Lennon was a God in the late 1960’s and 1970’s.  He was also an intellectual, and in a way that would make Toby Keith go into fits of rage, a strong antiwar activist.  The documentary begins with a summing up of the political and cultural landscape of the time.  It discusses the Nixon White House, the Black Panthers, political activists Bobby Seale, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and others.

From there the film jumps to Lennon’s height of popularity with The Beatles, his meeting with Yoko Ono, and how he evolved from the lead singer and spokesman of a British band into one of the world’s most outspoken anti-war activists.

The film follows Lennon’s attempts atpeaceful activism including his “Hair Peace, Bed Peace” sit-ins and his famous “Bed-Ins” in Amsterdam and Montreal, the recording of the album “Give Peace a Chance” which would become the international anthem for the peace movement, and the even more eccentric “Bagism” where Lennon and Ono were interviewed by reporters while completely covered under a bag.

Despite the couple’s list of eccentricities and oddities, Lennon was so popular and so out-spoken against the Vietnam War that Richard Nixon’s White House began a campaign to deport him.  The documentary follows those years of Lennon fighting the system and trying to stay in his adopted home of New York City, as Senator Strom Thurmond and INS worked just as hard to kick Lennon out of the country.

The film is fascinating watching interviews with those who knew Lennon inter-mixed with clips and music from the time period.  My sole complaint with the film is it’s a little slow getting started.  The first half-hour or so tries to paint the picture of the period and events before it ever gets to Lennon specifically.  While great for youngsters, many people will find this remedial history a tad boring.

However, once the film shifts focus to Lennon and his battles against the Nixon White House things get good, really good.  Lennon and his legacy are in good hands here, and we are given some timely and balls-on perfect commentary by Gore Vidal about Nixon’s White House and the Bush White House today.  I’m sure it will be enough to send Toby Keith into fits of rage, which is of course always a good thing.

John Lennon was an idealist, he was a little crazy, and he was right.  We need people like him today.  The documentary shows how this country needs people like Lennon to open their eyes to troubles we are all too willing to ignore.  Unlike today’s celebrities who pick up and leave causes at the drop of a hat, without ever really understanding them, Lennon understood, and felt deeply personal over, the issues of his day and saw a need and responsibility to share those views with the word.  He is missed, today more than ever.

Open Season

by Alan Rapp on September 29, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Is it wrong to hope that all the annoying animated animals in a film get shot by the hunter?  Does that make you a bad person?  If so then you might want to stay away from Open Season.  Not the worst animated film of the year, but a dismally mediocre one that will leave you bored to tears.

Open Season
2 & 1/2 Stars

More animated mischief in the woods, this time with Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher as the lead voices.  Joy.

Boog (Martin Lawrence) is a big domesticated Grizzly Bear who has been raised in captivity by a forest ranger (Debra Messing).  Boog’s life is perfect, all the food he can eat, a mother who loves him, entertaining youngsters with his trained act.  His life is paradise.

Then a dimwitted deer named Elliot (Ashton Kutcher) turns his whole world upside down, and Boog finds himself out in the woods only days before hunting season is to begin.  Boog and Elliot try to make it back to town, avoid the hunters – especially the villainous Shaw (Gary Sinese) who has it in for the pair – and make it home in one piece.  Along the way they cause trouble, meet new friends and explore the woods.

There’s nothing too original here, the plot is pretty straightforward.  The film has a nice joke at the beginning as Shaw compares Beth to a Girl Scout.  Enjoy it; the next laugh will take about an hour to find you.  Many of the children in the screening I attended seemed bored, disinterested and only vaguely aware a film was showing.  Not a great endorsement.

It’s not that the film is bad; it’s just not more interesting than any animated show you’d find playing on your television.  The supporting cast includes Billy Connolly, Jon Favreau, and Patrick Warburton, but even their humor does little to lighten the mood.

On a side-note, for animation buffs, the film breaks a cardinal rule of animation by not only having the characters discuss “taking a crap” (their words), but actually showing it.  The scene is supposed to be funny, but when an animated PG-rated film has to stoop to such low humor to elicit a laugh, then you know you’re in trouble.

There’s been a glut of animation that has hit theaters this year after a relatively poor showing in 2005.  Compared to the likes of Cars (read that review) and Over the Hedge (read that review), and even Barnyard (read that review) and Monster House (read that review), Open Season fails to measure up.  Still, it’s marginally better than The Wild (read that review here); at least that’s something, right?

Tube Watch

by December Lambeth on September 28, 2006

in Television Reviews , Uncategorized

The new fall season is now in full swing boys and girls, and we’ve got a look what you can find, where you can find it, and what to watch.  There’s a whole slew of returning shows hitting those idiot box airwaves in the coming week; the list includes Ugly Betty, Smallville, Supernatural, Saturday Night Live, Everybody Hate’s Chris, All of Us, Girlfriends, The Game, Friday Night Lights, Veronica Mars, Lost, The Nine and Freak Show you’ve got a full week indeed.  Take a look at all the shows premiering over the next week, starting tonight…

N/A


Here’s what’s coming to your TV set next week.  To get the next batch of shows check back for next week’s Tube Watch.  Enjoy!

* Note #1 – all times are eastern/central
**Note #2- as I feel that reality TV is neither reality nor TV, anything so classified has been left off the list.

Thursday, Sept. 28:

Ugly Betty –  From ABC’s “Pilot” description: In the superficial world of high fashion, image is everything. Styles come and go, and the only constants are the superthin beauties who wear them. How can an ordinary girl – a slightly plump plain-Jane from Queens – possibly fit in? How exciting, a series on real life people and the best part is America Ferrera (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Real Women Have Curves) plays Betty, this should be good. (8 pm ABC)
Smallville – In the beginning there was Clark Kent and now he’s back to save the world and deal with the trauma of teenage life and being a super hero. [8 pm CW]
Supernatural – Sam and Dean are back investigating the paranormal and supernatural events. Really, this show is kind of weird, but cool and interesting. Supernatural is a young adult ghost hunt that keeps you on your toes. [9 pm CW]

Saturday, Sept. 30:

Saturday Night Live – What description does SNL need? I miss the good old days when it was exciting, funny and on the edge; now it’s bland, boring and not as original. [11:30 pm SNL]

Sunday, Oct. 1:

Everybody Hate’s Chris – Chris Rock narrates a in your face show about a teen growing up in Brooklyn, NY during the early 80’s. Season 3 on it’s way. [7 pm CW]
All of Us – Wow, this show started in 2003, who knew? From CW’s site: Returning for a fourth season, ALL OF US, the series inspired by the domestic adventures of entertainment superstars Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, reflects a new generation’s enlightened attitude toward juggling ex-spouses, dating and professional lives with humor, sensitivity and heart. [7:30 pm CW]
Girlfriends – Season 7 continues the relationship of 4 girlfriends and life. They experience the ups and downs of love, loss and life in general in a series that at times is both funny and sorrowful.[8 pm CW]
The Game –  [8:30 pm CW]

Tuesday, Oct. 3:

Friday Night Lights – The big screen is coming near you in a “mini-me” fashion. This new TV series is based on the film Friday Night Lights. [8 pm NBC]
Veronica Mars –  Veronica is a high school student by day and a private eye by night, she goes through trials and tribulations in this addictive TV show and it’s just as powerful and dramatic as the first few seasons.[9 pm CW]

Wednesday, Oct. 4:

Lost – It’s about time, I just finished up the last of Season 2 and I’m totally itching for Season 3 to start. What a cliff hanger folks, Jack, Kate and Sawyer kneeling on a dock, Michael boating away and Charlie and Claire kiss…WTF. Got to see what happens next. The great thing about Lost is, it keeps you wanting more. [9 pm ABC]
The Nine –  From ABC’s Website: “Pilot”
Nine strangers end up in a Los Angeles bank on a fateful morning, as two men lock the doors, pull their guns and announce a bank robbery that will “only take five minutes.” These nine survivors are now banded together as an unlikely family, as they re-enter their lives and grapple with how this seminal event has changed them forever… [10 pm ABC]
Freak Show – From comedy central’s website: “Freak Show” follows the misadventures of the Freak Squad, a band of carnival oddities secretly employed by the Pentagon to execute low-priority missions. Need someone to read the meter at the embassy in a war-torn country? Freak Squad, assemble! [10:30 pm Comedy Central]