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Category Archives: Movie Reviews
April 3, 2017Posted by on
GO GO ALL-NEW CULTURE CAST! Follow up to last weeks episode, the Gorehound and Nick talk the new Power Rangers theatrical release, along with some follow-up discussion on the original. What worked? What flopped? It’s morphin’ time!
To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below!
February 6, 2017Posted by on
Check out the newest edition of the All-New Culture Cast with a discussion on the 1994 cult classic, Clerks! Featuring the gorgeous Gorehound, nifty Nick, and jazzy Jen. This is the start of a Kevin Smith/View Askew/Smodcast-themed month so get ready, buckle up, and get excited!
To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below!
January 2, 2017Posted by on
First episode of the new year! What made the list? What did the Gorehound, Thor, and Jen think of 2016 movies? Check out this episode to get it all!
To listen to the episode, click here or on the image!
December 19, 2016Posted by on
Have you seen the the Christmas/horror/comedy/totally awesome hit Gremlins? Join the All-New Culture Cast on another fun filled episode discussing what they liked, what fell flat, and how great Gizmo is!
To listen to the episode, click here or on the image!
December 5, 2016Posted by on
Join Nick and The Gorehound as they discuss some of their recent reviews and musings.
“Three tomatoes are walkin’ down the street.
Papa Tomato, Mama Tomato and Baby Tomato.
Baby Tomato starts lagging behind, and Papa Tomato gets really angry.
Goes back and squishes him and says: “Ketchup.”
-Mia Wallace, Pulp Fiction
To listen to the episode click here, or on the image.
October 31, 2016Posted by on
Check out the newest edition of the All-New Culture Cast, Halloween-style! Join the Gorehound, Nick, and Jenn as they discuss a Halloween favorite, Donnie Darko.
To listen to the episode, click here or the image.
October 24, 2016Posted by on
Mike Myers has long been considered an egomaniacal nightmare in Hollywood, but the success of both the Austin Powers and Shrek franchises largely allowed him to run roughshod all over Hollywood for the better part of a decade. Because his films brought in big box office receipts, Myers’ self-indulgent ego went completely and utterly unchecked. Even his relative box office misses, 2003’s The Cat in the Hat for example, still somehow made money. This all changed in 2008 when Myers’ notorious The Love Guru not only bombed spectacularly, but also drew some of the most dire reviews of any major theatrical release ever. So what exactly went wrong?
Let’s start by going back to 1992 for a moment. In the winter of 1992, Wayne’s World (Myers’ first starring role), shocked box office pundits, grossing over a hundred million dollars domestically. The film, based off of a Saturday Night Live sketch, was also met with enthusiastic reviews and is still funny today, almost 25 years later (I re-watch it about once a year and feel it’s one of the best comedies of the 90s). The film was a resounding success for Paramount, beginning a long and mostly successful relationship between Myers and the film studio. However, behind the scenes Myers was considered a nightmare, so much so that the film’s director, Penelope Spheeris, did not direct the sequel, Wayne’s World 2.
Speaking of Wayne’s World 2, that Stephen Surjik (who?)-directed sequel grossed less than half the original film despite its placement as a big Christmas season would-be blockbuster. Though I (mostly) like Wayne’s World 2, it’s hard to argue that it’s as good as the first (because it isn’t). It was met with lower critical reviews and audience disinterest. The film, released in 1993, would be Myers last big theatrical-starring release until four years when the first Austin Powers movie came out. That film, shot on a budget of about 16 million dollars, turned a modest profit at the box office but immediately caught on with home video, becoming a significant cult crossover hit.
The post-theatrical success of the first Austin Powers movie was so enormous that it led to Austin Powers 2 grossing a whopping 300 million dollars worldwide, becoming one of the biggest hits of 1999. Back on top of the world, Myers gained even more prominence voicing the title character in the Shrek series of films, beginning in 2001. The four theatrically released Shrek films have grossed over one billion dollars in the United States alone. A third Austin Powers film grossed over 200 million stateside despite mediocre reviews, becoming another significant hit for Myers back in 2002. Shrek 2 became one of the biggest animated hits ever in 2004, but the cracks began to show in 2007 with the release of the third film in the franchise.
Though it grossed a healthy amount upon release in 2007, it was almost universally disliked (and failed to build off the success of part two). Franchise fatigue had set it, as it had with Wayne’s World and the Austin Powers films. Additionally, Myers had a falling out with Universal Studios over a proposed “Dieter” film. Based on a recurring character from Saturday Night Live sketches in the early 90s (where have we seen this before?), the Dieter film was expected to be the next Austin Powers-type franchise. A script disagreement between Myers (who helped pen the script, it should be noted) and Universal execs led to a lawsuit, the results of which are fascinating and easily Googled. I suggest checking it out. The Dieter lawsuit began around 2000 but followed Myers for years afterwards, contributing to the perception that he was a perfectionist at best and an egomaniac at worst.
Whatever made Myers rescind the Dieter contracts obviously didn’t stop him from making The Love Guru, however. The critically derided Love Guru (14% on Rotten Tomatoes), released in the summer of 2008, became Myers biggest and most notorious flop. For a guy who had only had two significant career flops (Wayne’s World 2 and The Cat in the Hat, the former of which was still a good movie and the latter of which still made money), the failure of The Love Guru hurt Myers so badly that he essentially took refuge in Shep Gordon’s famed Hollywood famous person retreat in Hawaii. Myers has not starred in a comedy film since, opting to appear in minor roles for mainstream directors like Quentin Tarantino or make documentary films instead. Myers has admitted publicly that the failure of The Love Guru caused him to spiral into depression, which is honestly something I hope he received professional help for.
It wasn’t that The Love Guru was just a bad movie that makes it a significant What the fuck? in Hollywood history – it’s that it is considered one of the worst movies of all time. Littered with product placement (Hotdog on a Stick, Cinnabun), celebrity worship/cameos, and all of the stuff Myers finds personally interesting (pseudo-Hindu mysticism, Maple Leafs hockey, Canada in general), The Love Guru isn’t just any old commercially released comedy film. It’s a passion project meets a big Hollywood studio release that cost millions of dollars, lost millions of dollars, and ended up appealing to no one except for the egomaniacal person at the center of the production – in this case, Mike Myers. The Love Guru was such a failure that it killed Myers’ career as a leading comedy film actor. He hasn’t appeared in a leading role since.
August 29, 2016Posted by on
Mallrats is an awful movie with almost zero redeeming qualities whatsoever. It was a considerable box office flop that instantly made a ton of critics as well as the general public immediately reconsider writer/director Kevin Smith’s talent only two movies into his career. Mallrats is an unpleasant, amateur affair that’s about as stupid as Clerks, Smith’s first effort, is good. That is to say, Clerks is a quality piece of entertainment that holds up as a time capsule of the early to mid-90s (with some truly inventive and funny dialogue), while Mallrats is a garbage film perhaps best remembered for its clunky, forced dialogue about superhero penises Jason Lee’s breakout performance (the film’s lone highlight). I have not seen Mallrats in years, but I unfortunately remember it almost beat-by-beat (it is not a complicated movie). I hate that film so much that I really want to write about it and relish in my hatred.
I remember Mallrats so well because I have actually seen it dozens of times, despite never really liking it all that much in the first place. In the late 90s, I rented this film multiple times from the rental store and watched it on a near loop with friends and siblings for months at a time. I spent the majority of the years 1999 and 2000 watching everything Kevin Smith and his cohorts had a hand in. I purchased Chasing Amy and Clerks and watched them dozens and dozens of times as well. Dogma had recently been in theaters, and I watched that one over and over again as well. To my 17 year old self, there was no one cooler than Kevin Smith. Except for Mallrats – I never truly liked Mallrats. I liked then (and still like now) Clerks and Chasing Amy, but I always thought Mallrats just didn’t fit in with those films.
One particular difference is that Mallrats is Smith’s sole film from his early days not released by Miramax. Miramax very famously purchased and distributed Clerks in 1994 and then Chasing Amy (which had a budget of $250,000 amazingly) in early 1997. But Mallrats is immensely different from those two, as it was a Universal production backed by a budget of several million dollars (estimated to be seven million). It is shot and directed like a studio film from the 90s, and thus suffers in comparison with the other two, as they are far more “indie” looking. Mallrats is also different in that there is actually a very complicated story behind what appears (and is) to be a simple movie.
The originally filmed opening took place in some sort Revolutionary War-era reenactment/governor’s ball, wherein Jeremy London (who spends the entire movie looking uncomfortable with his hands in his pockets and who was clearly not cast by Smith) accidentally shoots a musket (why was he carrying a loaded musket in a reenactment) at the governor. This sets up a chain of events wherein London’s girlfriend Brandi’s father loses his job. Brandi wants to cut ties with London (his name in the movie is T.S. but I’m just gonna call him London), so she breaks up with him, inspiring him to find solace in a shopping mall with best friend Jason Lee, who was also recently dumped by Shannon Doherty. The theatrical cut of the film excises most of this, up until the point where Brandi breaks up with London. Hence, the film takes almost 30 minutes to get to the mall setting. The film is already painful at 94 minutes. I can’t imagine watching a two-hour version of this movie.
The edits, reshoots, rewrites, etc also lead to several continuity errors throughout the film, but these are only a few of the bizarre errors/things that make no sense present throughout Mallrats. Other than the dialogue that doesn’t fit in because the first 30 minutes of the film were redone, there are also moments of inaudible/barely audible dialogue that you can see in the captions but cannot actually hear. Moments like this include a the scene where fans wait to meet Stan Lee, where a child is trapped on an escalator, and where Brandi’s father Jared (Michael Rooker, who is usually money but is awful here) fires an underling. I have to imagine this was not done on purpose despite it being so prevalent throughout the film.
I mentioned earlier that Jason Lee, playing lovely slacker Brodie Bruce, is the sole highlight of the film. He truly shines in this film and it’s easy to see why the ex-professional skateboarder went on to have a solid career in Hollywood. He’s charismatic, funny, and a naturally good actor. There are groan-worthy moments throughout Mallrats, but few involve him. He seems to be the only one who understands the kind of movie he’s in. Contrast this with co-star London, who seriously spends the entire fucking movie with his hands in his pockets. He looks uncomfortable with Smith’s (admittedly dumb) dialogue as well as with his co-stars. There’s very little chemistry between he and Brandi. I hate to pile on the notoriously difficult Shannon Doherty, but she’s just about as awful as London. It’s hard to believe she’d ever even be seen with Jason Lee’s character, let alone date him.
I really like Clerks and Chasing Amy. I really like how they managed to be small-scale movies but still have really investing and emotional stakes. Clerks is about the daily grind of a man who has absolutely no direction in his life. He can’t make a decision about which girl he wants to date and he feels like life is slipping past him at age 22. There’s some pretty serious, heavy material in the depths of that film. Chasing Amy is about one man’s failure to keep the past in the past, which negatively impacts his relationship with the woman of his dreams as well as his relationship with his best friend and business partner. Ben Affleck’s Holden is too short sighted to look past things that happened in high school and move on to the next chapter in his life, not unlike Bryan O’Halloran’s Dante from Clerks. London and Lee aren’t deep enough as characters in Mallrats to get invested in.
Clerks and Chasing Amy garnered critical acclaim and awards for being mature looks at life in the 90s for people in their 20s. No one else was really doing that. Mallrats has a character fly face-first into a ladies dressing room for no reason that to show off a pair of tits. Clerks sees its main character struggle to balance a job, a relationship with a woman he doesn’t have much in common with, and a previous toxic relationship with a high school girlfriend. Chasing Amy explores how fluid human sexuality truly is. Mallrats’ final act hinges on a sex tape that exposes a clothing store manager as a sexual deviant. Simply put, Clerks and Chasing Amy are smart and mature movies, whereas Mallrats is immature, obnoxious, repellant, and just plain dumb.
I’ve spoken to a lot of people my age about Mallrats – many of them really like it. They are, of course, entitled to their opinions (just as I am). Though I suspect they view the film with a heavy dose of nostalgia, because I truly find it difficult to find merit of any kind in Mallrats outside of a charismatic Jason Lee performance. Roger Ebert once claimed to sit in on a panel with Kevin Smith where Smith claimed he’d be happy to make the kinds of movies studios want as long as the studios were paying. Ebert thought Smith was joking until Mallrats came out. The best I can say about Smith as that he hasn’t truly gone mercenary since. Zack and Miri was not a good movie, but it attempted to be heartfelt at least. Cop Out could have (and should have) worked, but was at least a fun misfire at worst. The movies he makes now (such as Tusk and Yoga Hosers) couldn’t be less commercial. I’ll commend him for making what he wants to make, but I still get to hate Mallrats. I’ll always hate Mallrats.
August 28, 2016Posted by on
I’ve written many times in the past how I enjoy the little genre films that often get thrown into the big summer season and generate little fanfare. I absolutely loved A Perfect Getaway, one of 2009’s best films. I similarly loved the second and third sequel films in The Purge franchise (ok, those were high profile but did anyone really expect that franchise to break out?). I thought last years The Gift was super interesting and incredibly adult – something rare in today’s Hollywood. Last Julys Nerve, which was released with relatively little fanfare, is similarly another great genre film, though this time targeted at the teenaged crowd. And while I don’t fall into the teen demographic whatsoever, I still found Nerve to be incredibly engaging, smart when it needed to be, and overall a really solid genre film.
Emma Roberts (who, much like Blake Lively in The Shallows is great here) stars as Vee, a high school senior living in Staten Island who has dreams of attending art school in California. Living with her single mom (Juliette Lewis!), an overworked nurse struggling to get past the death of her son, Vee is somewhat sheltered and never seems to take risks in her life. When her safe ways result in rejection from the class jock, Vee takes it upon herself to change her image. How does she do this? By participating in Nerve, a viral online game popular with millennials. The game is controversial after being linked with a teen’s death in Seattle, but millions of people participate as “Watchers” rather than “Players.” They pay a fee to watch people live out a real-world version of Truth or Dare, with the dares typically being dangerous and/or life threatening.
It is while participating in Nerve that Vee meets Ian (Dave Franco, who at this point is a better and more interesting actor than his older brother), a loner with a motorcycle who seems just dangerous enough to be interesting. The two are paired up together by Nerve users, and thus must participate together throughout a dare-filled night in New York City. This makes up the bulk of the film and is the most interesting part of the movie. Vee’s friends round out the cast, but I can’t be bothered to look up any of their names because they’re not as developed as the main characters. There’s also a somewhat villainous role played by a guy who goes by the moniker of Machine Gun Kelly, so kudos to him for picking out a totally righteous stage-name.
Nerve was shot on a budget of 20 million and directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, the two responsible for Catfish, Catfish: The Series, and two of the later Paranormal Activity films. These guys have their fingers on the button of social media and cheap filmmaking. As such, Nerve looks like a 50 million dollar production and feels realistic when it needs to despite having a ridiculously presented premise. There are moments where the film dives headfirst into liquid cheese, but it’s presented stylishly and in an interesting manner. Nerve is kind of like Saw meets Hackers meets Now You See Me in that respect. It keeps you intrigued, guessing, and interested while also being just corny enough to work.
Some parts of Nerve work better than others. The setup of the film is just fine – Vee gets into an argument with her best friend. This is something we can all relate to after all. The best parts of the movie start with the introduction of Franco and go all the way until Franco and Roberts attend a party together in NYC. The film had previously been super quickly paced, jumping from dare to dare with tight editing. The NYC party scenes slow the film down considerably unfortunately. In fairness, the film needs to slow down in order to help establish character growth and further the plot. It’s just that the side characters are rather uninteresting and the plot is secondary to the intriguing dares. Fortunately things ramp up again for a finale that works despite ramping the melodrama up to 11 and straining believability considerably (this is the part most akin to 1995’s Hackers, one of my favorite bad films).
This summer has been almost a complete slog, filled with crap after crap. It’s nice that studios will still take a chance on a film like this. It’s high concept and high energy – super entertaining and fun. Not every film in the marketplace needs to cost 250 million dollars. I would argue that more films should be made like Nerve. It’s a low-budget thriller film that actually has some important things to say about technology and social media, even if the things it says are clunky at times. Like last year’s The Gift, Nerve is a thriller film that is better than it has any right to be. I recommend checking it out for those sick of the two and a half special effects marathons we get so much of these days.
August 19, 2016Posted by on
I’ve always been a Jackie Chan fan. It’s hard to think of a time when I wasn’t amazed by the man. Though his recent output hasn’t been amazing, I’m still interested in the projects he chooses and how they come to be. Skiptrace, which has been released all across Asia but not yet in the states, is a fun film but far more interested in concept than in reality. Skiptrace is the work of Chan, Finish director Renny Harlin, Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing, American comedy actor and human groin-punch Johnny Knoxville, and rich Chinese film producers. It seemingly came together under the wackiest set of circumstances since that time Nic Cage starred in a Chinese production with Hayden Christensen. Unfortunately, all these elements don’t make for a great film; Skiptrace is interesting for sure, but decidedly flawed.
The film revolves around Jackie Chan, playing hotshot Hong Kong detective Bennie Chan, and Johnny Knoxville, playing American gambler Connor Watts, teaming up to take down The Matador, a Hong Kong gangster responsible for the death of Yung, Chan’s partner in the Hong Kong police. On paper, this reads like gangbusters, a sort-of Midnight Run meets Rush Hour. The execution is somewhat botched however by an obvious low budget and the not-so-deft touch of director Renny Harlin. Harlin has made some solid action films in the past (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, Deep Blue Sea), but he is not at his best with Skiptrace, as it appears his directing is all over the place.
This is most evident in the fight scenes and the added silly comedy. The fight scenes in a Chan movie need more room to breathe, but Harlin confines Chan and Knoxville too often to stairs, slides, and even river rafts. It doesn’t seem like Chan is given the freedom to wind up and then go. It seems restrictive and limiting. Say what you will about Brett Ratner, but he’s a Western director who definitely knows how to frame a Chan movie. Harlin is an action director first and foremost, and his inability to properly stage Chan’s fights show. The little bits of added in comedy, crucial to Chan’s films, don’t quite work either. Sure there are funny scenes, but mostly due to the chemistry and line readings between Chan and Knoxville. Again, Harlin doesn’t really give his talented cast any help here.
The film’s budget (estimated at about 60 million dollars) is stretched due to location scenes, which are definitely gorgeous. Unfortunately, there is some atrocious green-screen work going on in Skiptrace. One of the funniest scenes in the film, in which Chan and Knoxville are confined to a zipline, suffers somewhat as a result. Some of the sets and costuming likewise appear to be cheap, but it isn’t as noticeable as the special effects. Certain set pieces, such as the casino chase towards the beginning and the sinking yacht at the end, work just fine, however. The film has a slick and polished sheen overall; it just appears somewhat cheap in places.
I don’t want to sound too negative about Skiptrace because I actually enjoyed the film quite a bit. However, it is ultimately something of a missed opportunity. But let’s focus on the positive – Chan and Knoxville have great chemistry together and their scenes together are a blast mostly. The script is just fine, though probably could have used another lay of polish. Knoxville gets most of the laughs of course, and is able to do some of the schtick that he brought to the Jackass franchise over the years. Chan is getting very visibly old, but remains a delight to watch on screen. Fan Bingbing is definitely a solid screen presence, but would most likely work better in a Chinese language movie. She is absolutely beautiful however, and does not detract from the film in any way.
Probably my biggest qualm about Skiptrace is that it opens with such a bang before slowing down considerably. Chan and Knoxville’s journey through Mongolia and China should just be funnier and more interesting. Once the two finally get closer to Hong Kong, the pace picks up again in time for a very interesting and exciting finale. The first twenty minutes of the film are really good work, particularly from Knoxville who looks to be having the time of his life. I hope he got a significant paycheck for doing this movie, because he absolutely earned it. I wish the film had kept up with that initial pace however, because there’s a goofy and lovable energy within it that I really enjoyed.
Though I sound overly negative, I actually enjoyed quite a bit about Skiptrace. Knoxville and Chan’s chemistry is a definite high point, and there are some inspired action set pieces and good laughs. I went in with somewhat high expectations, and the film just couldn’t properly live up to them. No matter what, it was good to see Chan back on the big screen having a good time and being in a relatively enjoyable movie. I’m not sure if this film is going to get a wide release in theaters (it has the tone and feel somewhat of a very solid direct-to-video production) or not, but I’d say it’s worth it if you’re a diehard Chan fan like me, and maybe not so much if you could take or leave Chan’s work.