Monday, August 31, 2009
In 1980 Robert Zemeckis co-wrote and directed a film starring Kurt Russell as a cheesy care salesman out to sell a bunch of cars in a short period of time to save a dealership. Used Cars was full of outrageous characters and cheap laughs that appealed to a teen audience, as is The Goods starring Jeremy Piven.
Piven plays fast-talking, gun-for-hire Don Ready, who may be one of the most enjoyable characters, albeit one–dimensional, to hit the screen since Ron Burgandy. Unfortunately, this review has already referenced a superior film on the same topic and a superior self-absorbed character, and we are not even out of the second paragraph.
Piven is surrounded by an outstanding, but completely wasted supporting cast including Ving Rhames, David Koechner, Ed Helms, Kathryn Hahn, Ken Jeong, Ron Riggle, Alan Thicke, James Brolin, and Charles Napier, just to name a few. Unfortunately this collection of outstanding comedic talent, all of whom have proven their ability to play solid characters in other endeavors, is given little to do, as writers Andy Stock and Rick Stempson provide muttled motivation and trite storytelling. Koechner is wasted as a car salesman with little to do throughout this tired 89 minutes other than to ward off the homosexual advances of dealership owner Ben Selleck (Brolin). Rhames is given even less to work with and stands around for the first 30 minutes of the movie. Napier gives the most enjoyable performance, simply because it is clear what his crusty old salesmen is about.
The story is overwritten and gets bogged down in ridiculous plot choices that make what should be a simple “good guys beat the bad guys” tale into a convoluted mess. Our talented cast is left standing around trying to sell the audience a product that just doesn’t get the mileage it should.
The Goods is not without laughs. The commercial produced to illicit sympathy and bring people to the dealership generates big laughs, as does a scene, that appears to be improvised, with Will Farrell (in an uncredited cameo) falling to his death, surrounded by sex devices.
Recommendation: This is a B-movie reminiscent of the late seventies and early eighties. There is one solid character backed by a well-intentioned performance by Piven, and some good laughs mostly based on foul language and raunchy themes. It’s fun for a while, but the script eventually falls flat, and all that talent can’t fix bad writing. Used Cars may not have the all-star cast, but it does have a far-superior plot. Wait for The Goods to hit DVD shelves and have a Saturday night double feature.
In Taking Woodstock Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee tries to give us roughly two hours of light-hearted antics in what is essentially a fish-out-of-water tale as hundreds of thousands of hippies descend on White Lakes New York in 1969 for a concert that would define a generation. Unfortunately the screenplay by James Schamus based on the book by Elliot Tiber only provides seventy-five minutes of interesting storytelling, and like a VW bug running out of gas, Taking Woodstock sputters and stalls.
Though Demitri Martin has limited emotional range as Elliot Teichberg, the young man who brings the powers that be behind Woodstock to his small town in hopes of boosting business for the locals, which include his parents and their rundown motel, Martin does manage to give the audience what it needs as a young man with genuine innocence who is smarter than those around him. In certain scenes Martin says nothing but manages to communicate much with looks worthy of Bob Newhart standing behind the front desk at the Stratford Inn.
As we watch young Elliot go through the challenges associated with such a monumentous undertaking, and dealing with a zoo full of eccentric characters, we certainly find him endearing and root for him to get over every roadblock, but the eventual lack of development of the supporting characters and story as a whole begins to test the patience of the audience.
The supporting cast does well with what they are given, and certainly creates some wonderful moments, but, as the movie gets sidetracked along with Elliot on his way to the concert, the audience finds itself longing for more of the characters we have come to appreciate, and seeing them experience the actual concert may have been a more entertaining choice.
Like Elliot, the audience never really gets to the concert, and the footage that we see of the general area surrounding the concert looks far too sparse and open compared to documentary footage seen over the years, and thus fails to generate the feeling of being in the crowd accomplished by other projects. Despite the disappointing footage of the concert area, the film does manage to put you back in the sixties with costuming, sets, props, and character portrayals. The soundtrack on the other hand falls a bit short considering the library of influential music available.
Recommendation: Watching Elliot come of age and begin to find himself, while surrounded by fun characters of that era, Taking Woodstock is certainly enjoyable, but the storytellers become conflicted as to which story to tell, and eventually fail on both fronts. It will make a pleasant DVD rental, but is not worthy of your summer-movie-going dollar.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Written by Senora Bicho
Eli Stone (Jonny Lee Miller) is an attorney who begins having visions due to a brain aneurysm, which direct him to the clients he represents. Season one ended with Eli in a coma after surgery to remove the aneurysm. Season two begins with a vision-free Eli but he is soon confronted with the consequences of his decision as the aneurysm is passed to his brother. As the season progresses, Taylor (Natasha Henstridge) and Matt (Sam Jaeger) continue their romance while Jordan (Victor Garber) tries to keep his new law firm alive. In addition to the visions, Eli also struggles with relationships that include a brief romance with guest-star Katie Homes and his on-again, off-again love interest Maggie (Julie Gonzalo). Since the show was canceled midseason, they were not able to wrap up all of the storylines. However, they did offer some closure in the final episode, leaving me in tears as the show usually did, and wanting more.
The 13 episodes of the second and final season of Eli Stone are included in this DVD offering. The potential bonus features were the reason I was looking forward to it, but since ABC canceled the series due to the ratings not meeting their expectations, there was no need on their part to spend any money on extras. Therefore, it is a dismal offering. “Dancing in the Streets” offers a behind-the-scenes peak at one of the big dance numbers and the massive amount of work that goes into it. “Good Morning Eli with Sam & Julie” features the antics of Jaeger and Gonzalo on the set. There are also deleted scenes and bloopers. If you loved the show like I did, you will find the so-called extras to be a huge disappointment.
This show is what is seriously lacking on TV today. It offered thought-provoking ideas along with the question of morality and our individual roles in the world, all done with an air of lightness and humor. Maybe I am a sucker for a good dance number, but here they are pure joy and evoke instant happiness. While they are outlandish, the song choices elevate the episodes to another level and help to deepen the storyline. I will really miss this show. I am starting to consider an ABC boycott since this is just another interesting and original show that they have given up on. “Pushing Daisies” was another cancellation that broke my heart. Reality shows, crime dramas, and brainless sitcoms continue to grow in popularity and shows with imagination, intelligence, and depth are falling to the way side. I am still holding on to hope that somehow this will change, in the meantime buy this set and enjoy some of the best television that was on last season.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Quentin Tarantino once again displays his penchant for writing dialog. Unfortunately he also displays his inability to make edits.
In the generally slow-paced 153 minutes of Inglourious Basterds we are introduced, all too briefly, to Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) who has put together a crack squad of Jewish American soldiers known as “the Basterds,” whose mission it is to terrorize the Third Reich in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. The Basterds are extremely efficient at what they do, though we only experience their skills in a few gore-filled scenes. Pitt’s character yields appreciative laughs in virtually every scene he is in, but we get little insight into the characteristics and personalities of the Basterds.
Instead of focusing on the truly intriguing Basterds, the film tends to bog down in the story of Shoshanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a young Jewish girl who escapes the capture of Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) and ends up running a theatre in France. Due to the affections of German war hero Fredrick Zoller for Dreyfus, said theatre is scheduled for the screening of a film about Zoller attended by every major Nazi officer. Dreyfus plans her revenge for the death of her family at the hands of the Nazis, while the Basterds also plan an assault on the theatre.
For the most part Tarantino’s dialog is entertaining, but the subtitles in many scenes slow down conversations already losing steam. The efforts to pull stories together as done in past outings seems extremely forced here, and there is simply too much focus on the story taking place at the theatre, which only leaves the audience longing for Raine and his Basterds.
Though Pitt’s character is entertaining, the best performance in the film is that of Christof Waltz as Landa, the German security officer who manages to create tension and comedy from one scene to the next as his character runs the gambit of levels. Performances by such comedic talents as Mike Myers and B. J. Novak tend to be wasted due to lack of use.
The project does manage to look and sound great as Tarantino creates a film that displays an authentic sense of the era, while adding music that energizes.
Recommendation: The unnecessary gore will turn many off as will the extremely long, subtitled, dialog-driven scenes. A simple action film focused on the Basterds a la The Dirty Dozen would have made for better summer fare.
Monday, August 24, 2009
The Batman vs. Dracula and The Batman/Superman Movie are previously released gems now available together for the first time. They are from different television series with very different animation styles, and each has a different feel but both are equally well done. The dual-sided DVD actually presents them in reverse of the advertised billing, which makes sense because that is the way they were originally aired and released.
TBSM aired first in 1997 as a three-part episode entitled “World’s Finest” (a nod to the comic books) from Superman: The Animated Series which followed the classic Batman: The Animated Series, known for its dark, art deco style (dubbed “dark deco” by the animators) and adult appeal. Superman: TAS features much of the same crew from the Batman: TAS. Here, we have a new take on the heroes’ first get-together, making for great fun as they are almost literally different as day and night. Not only do they clash as costumed crime-fighters but also in their personnel lifestyles with the quiet, low-key Clark Kent (Tim Daly) versus the millionaire, international playboy, and businessman Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy).
As the initial animosity gets set aside and both use their skills/powers to figure out the secret identity of the other (very clever as Superman uses X-ray vision and Batman bugs Superman and follows him back to his apartment), the story gets rolling when we find out why the Bat has come to Metropolis. The Joker, short on funds, and his sidekick Harley Quinn plan to make a deal with Lex Luthor to kill his nemesis Superman. Yet, as always, the Dark Knight is not far behind and the two heroes team up to stop the mad threat of the insane Joker, backed by Lex’s latest robot monsters. More fun ensues as Lois Lane falls for the smooth charms of the mysterious Gothamite, Wayne.
Not a bad little film, running barely over an hour. With help from the voice work of Dana Delany (Lois Lane), Mark Hamill (Joker), Clancy Brown (Lex Luthor) and even Efrem Zimbalist Jr (Alfred), the story moves along well and holds the attention of all ages. Special features for TBSM include The Joker’s challenge game as the viewer is taken you through the movie’s highlights looking for clues, a “get the picture” segment showing how to draw both superheroes, and a quick conversation with producer Bruce Timm.
The Batman vs. Dracula takes a different turn in its animation and overall darkness, playing more like a feature-length chiller than part of a cartoon series. Released in 2005 as a direct-to-video DVD during the third season of The Batman, this 84-minute thrill ride is a dark pleasure to view at a late hour of the night with the lights turned low. Yes, it’s that creepy. The characters are much darker as well. Batman appears younger yet more brooding; Joker seriously insane and wild, far more than just his out-of-control hair and ragged appearance, which is a change from the more polished villain we’re used to seeing; and Penguin, the dark, not-so-fortunate opposite of Bruce Wayne.
Speaking of Bruce, for this series the production team decided to change up the dashing, handsome Bruce a bit and gave him a boxer’s flat nose that appears to have been broken a few times, which makes total sense as the young Bruce learning to fight and handle himself would have been beat to hell more than once.
And so the story goes that somehow Dracula (Peter Stormare) was brought to a Gotham cemetery where he would be far away from his native soil and in a place that no one would find him. Oops. After learning of a hidden fortune stashed in the cemetery, both Penguin (Tom Kenny) and Joker (Kevin Michael Richardson) manage to escape the confines of Arkham Asylum and make a run at the treasure. Joker gets sidetracked by The Batman (Rino Romano) while Penguin manages to stir up the undead granddaddy of all super villains and creatures of the night, the one and only Dracula. As he regains full strength Dracula begins to build an army of darkness to do his bidding, an army that now numbers Penguin and a vampire Joker among its ranks. Vampire Joker is much more scary and creepy as he now has super-strength and a Renfro-like lunacy and passion for blood.
True to previous Dracula tales, the Prince of Darkness walks and mingles among the city’s well-to-do citizens and in Gotham that includes Mr. Wayne. Once introduced to “Dr. Alucard,” who makes a great entrance via mist, Bruce begins to sense there is more to this cape-clad doctor than a mere air of darkness and that he may be connected to the rash of disappearances troubling the city. Now the hunt is on, not only to find a way to stop this super-beast but to cure those that he has turned into his servants which now include two of Batman’s greatest foes. As the two rulers of the night face off, they not only run through the streets of Gotham but the caves and catacombs that link together under the city, providing even more darkness and classic horror movie atmosphere.
Extras include closer looks at the voice work, a “science vs. superstition” featurette examining the fact and fiction of the Dracula legend and a “City of Knight” interactive map of Gotham that reveals making-of segments.
Both movies are entertaining and well done, the latter being darker and in some ways not so much intended for younger children. Each provided different takes on the Dark Knight and his world of villains and allies. The two styles of animation are great tributes to the comic book artists that created, envisioned, and painted Batman in many different ways through the years, from wearing blue to black to donning long ears and an extra-long flowing cape to short ears and bigger eyes and from square chin to a boxer’s nose. They all present wonderful portraits of a lasting and iconic figure of the American night and imagination.
Written by Pirata Hermosa
This latest release from the Disney Channel is from their Sunday night lineup that also features The Wizards of Waverly Place, Hannah Montana, and Jonas and is mainly geared for a teen audience.
The show’s main character is Sonny Munroe, played by Demi Lovato, who most people remember from the Disney movie, Camp Rock, which also featured the Jonas Brothers. Sonny is about to live every person’s dream, and is leaving her small hometown in Wisconsin for the bright lights of Hollywood. Her Internet broadcasts have caught the eye of television network executives looking to replace a cast member from their hit comedy sketch show, So Random!
The DVD contains four of the episodes from the first season.
“Sketchy Beginnings”: It’s Sonny’s first day on the show and it’s time for her to meet her fellow cast members. Nico (Brandon Smith) and Grady (Doug Brochu) are the typical guys. They like monster trucks, greasy food, and are best friends. Zora (Allisyn Arm) is the strange little girl with the nasally voice, who enjoys hanging out in the sarcophagus or in the air ducts. And finally the last member of the show is, Tawni Hart (Tiffany Thornton), who is the spoiled prom queen and says that she is both the “funny one and the pretty one.” While Sonny is welcomed by most of the cast, Tawni wants nothing to do with the new girl. But Sonny is the nice girl from Wisconsin who wants to get along with everyone, so she tries anything she can think of to win over the pampered princess. Unfortunately, everything she does has the opposite effect. She ends up ruining one of Tawni’s sketches, ripping her favorite cape, shredding her favorite stuffed animal, and knocking her out at the end of the first live TV show.
“West Coast Story”: In this episode Sonny runs into Chad Dylan Cooper (Sterling Knight). He’s the biggest teen heartthrob on the number-one TV show Mackenzie Falls that is filmed in the sound studio next door to So Random! At first this seems like a good thing, but as Sonny quickly learns the two casts hate one another. They’ve had a long standing rivalry for years. Sonny tries to get the two groups together to make peace once and for all, but ends up caught up in the feud. While Chad is the nicest guy on TV, in real life he is the biggest self-centered, egotistical jerk who will do or say anything to get what he wants. In order to teach him a lesson, Sonny challenges him to a contest of the one thing that the cast of So Random! is really good at, musical chairs.
“Cheater Girls”: After a lot of sucking up and ego stroking, Sonny and Tawni have become a little closer and with the new characters that they created called the Check-it-out Girls they have visions of action figures, lunch boxes and feature films dancing in their heads. With things going so well, what could go wrong? Sonny is failing her math classes and her mother (Nancy McKeon) is coming down hard on her. If she doesn’t ace her next math test then she’s no longer going to be on the show. That means the Check-it-out Girls are going to be played by Grady and Nico. Unable to concentrate on her studies, Sonny realizes that she’s not going to pass the test and lets Tawni talk her into cheating. Before the test begins Sonny begins to panic and confesses, resulting in her being taken off the show. As Tawni and Sonny sit around feeling sorry for themselves Sonny suddenly discovers that the answers she wrote on her arm have actually stuck in her brain and the two rush off to take the test before their sketch goes on the air.
“Sonny at the Falls”: Still trying to get revenge from being beaten at musical chairs and to make sure his show remains number one, Chad sees an opportunity to drive a wedge between the cast of So Random! after Sonny pitches an idea for a sketch that is rejected by everyone. Pretending to be on her side, Chad invites Sonny to participate in all the benefits that the Mackenzie Falls cast receives, steak and lobster dinners, pedicures, manicures, massages and they even have their own meditation room. Chad’s plan begins to work as they have a falling out, but shortly afterwards they learn how much they need each other.
The DVD contains three Special Features:
“Mackenzie Falls Season Finale Cliffhanger Short” – Mackenzie Falls isn’t just a faux show on Sonny With A Chance; it has actually been made into webisodes that you can watch on your computer. They have actually turned the finale to a DVD exclusive. Like the webisodes, the acting is really bad and overdramatic. But that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Mackenzie Falls is supposed to be a spoof on other teen shows like Dawson’s Creek, Gossip Girl, and One Tree Hill.
“Sonny in the Middle” – This is a never-before-released episode. Nico and Grady are the best of friends, such good friends that they even share the same birthday. Knowing how solid their relationship is, and because Tawni won’t help kick in for the present, Sonny buys them the most hi-tech gaming chair on the market and expects them to share it. Of course, her plan completely backfires as the two squabble over the chair resulting in them breaking off their friendship. To make matters worse, the two end up turning to Sonny for companionship and start driving her crazy with their juvenile jokes and by constantly embarrassing her in public. Sonny is forced to come up with one of her crazy plans to bring the two back together and restore their broken friendship.
“Demi’s Big Break” - A brief audition clip for the role of Sonny Munroe interspersed with some scenes from the show. I watched it, and I still don’t understand how a casting director can make a decision based on audition clips. They always seem very odd, and this one is no exception.
Sonny With A Chance is a typical Disney show that is family friendly and contains some good messages. It’s also not just for kids; adults can enjoy it as well even though it has its silly moments. Some of the best aspects of the show are the comments made by Tawni who believes anything can be resolved by how pretty she is and the interaction between Sonny and Chad as they try to one-up the other while dancing around some underlying feelings they have for one another. Those three characters are what make the show interesting, but Sonny truly is the star. She’s a little over the top and a little geeky, but it makes her more relatable to the viewers.
I’ve also noticed that Disney likes to release its shows in volumes instead of seasons. It’s kind of annoying to get a DVD that only has four episodes and not an entire season. I’m not sure if they think it’s more affordable for it to be broken down, but if you end up having to buy five or six volumes I could see the overall price tag being dramatically higher than what you’d buy for one regular season set.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Written by Hombre Divertido
The Time Traveler’s Wife is pleasant enough, but you have to let go of a lot of questions to truly appreciate her.
[Please note that the author of this review has made every effort not to include plot spoilers, and thus certain points may remain slightly vague, and some characters not identified.]
Directed by Robert Schwentke and based on the best-selling book by author Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife tells the story of Clare who has grown up believing that she is destined to marry Henry. A grown-up Henry has visited Clare throughout her life due to his genetic disorder that causes him to disappear and travel throughout time for inconsistent periods of time, with little notice. The relationship between Clare and Henry remains strong, as they learn to deal with Henry’s affliction, like any couple would adapt to a more common malady.
Henry and Clare deal with the time traveling much easier then the audience may, as many questions go unanswered and aspects of the time-travel experiences go unexplored. This may frustrate many, but if you are able to focus on the relationship, which is essentially what the movie is about, you will enjoy the experience much more.
Apparently the novel provides substantially more detail, where as the movie focuses solely on the relationship between the two leads. Nonetheless, it does take too long to get to the story arc that creates the majority of the drama. Yes, we understand that the time traveling causes problems for the couple, but once they learn to accept the situation, the audience is left to wait far too long to get to the point where it is clear what is ultimately going to create the significant conflict.
Casting is the key to success here, as it is the performances that carry us through the holes in the story. Rachel McAdams as Clare gives the best performance in the film, as she is extremely engaging throughout her range of emotions. Eric Bana as the time traveler gives an intriguing performance, but is a bit too stoic, and ultimately distracts from the happier moments. Hailey and Tatum McCann, as Alba, steal every scene they are in as they light up the screen with natural energy. Casting Stephen Tobolowsky as the doctor attempting to help Henry with his problem was unfortunately a mistake. Tobolowsky is certainly an excellent character actor, but is too well known for this part, and caused snickers from the audience as soon as he hit the screen.
The music accents the film well, and the cinematography certainly makes it attractive to look at, but the special effects utilized to make Henry disappear are a bit outdated, and ultimately the final product has an eighties feel to it.
Recommendation: The Time Traveler’s Wife is a film that is going to appeal to a lot of people, as it is a powerful love story that will certainly pull on the heart strings. At 117 minutes, a lot more could have been added to give the film a wider appeal.
For those of you who haven’t watched Greek before, it’s a television show that airs Monday night on the ABC Family Network. You’re probably thinking that it’s just another kids’ show. That’s kind of what I was thinking, but I was surprised to find out it’s a very adult show. It didn’t seem very family-friendly to me. The show is about a bunch of young adults in college and their experiences in Greek fraternity/sorority life. This includes everything from drunken parties, sleeping around, and just general debauchery.
The story focuses on two siblings. Rusty Cartwright (Jacob Zachar) is a geeky freshman who excels in science and engineering. He’s finally made it to college and has decided that he wants to experience more than simple academics. He wants to be a member of a fraternity. And the one he becomes a member of is the KTs, the biggest party house on campus. His sister, Casey (Spencer Grammer), is the president of the university’s most popular sorority the ZBZs. She’s a junior and everything she does is always prim and proper, that is until her younger brother shows up. As soon as Rusty arrives everything starts to crash in Casey’s life. He catches her rich boyfriend, Evan Chambers (Jake McDorman) sleeping with the Senator’s daughter and future ZBZ pledge, Rebecca Logan (Dilshad Vadsaria). So immediately there’s an instant love triangle and a lot of animosity right from the beginning.
To add to the drama they also throw in:
Cappie (Scott Michael Foster), president of the KT house, former best friends with Evan, and ex-boyfriend of Casey whom he is still in love with.
Dale (Clark Duke), Rusty’s roommate, who hangs the confederate flag and talks of abstinence and purity pledges.
Calvin (Paul James), who becomes fast friends with Rusty but ends up in the rival fraternity as Evan’s frat brother. He is also the one gay character in the show and has to learn to deal with his own identity issues as well as the reactions of others.
Frannie (Tiffany Dupont), who was the ZBZ president until she was kicked out of the sorority. She is desperately trying to get back in and run again for president.
Ashleigh (Amber Stevens), Casey’s always-positive sidekick.
You can see just with all these character types and conflicting interests that the storylines can get rather involved, much like a soap opera.
The Chapter Three DVD is the first ten episodes of the new season and starts where season one ended. The gang is back from Spring Break and has to deal with the consequences of what happened. Rebecca found out her father had an affair, so she is on a rampage and entered a wet T-shirt contest. Of course someone with a cell phone has posted it on the Internet. Cappie and Casey kissed. Rusty and Calvin have patched up their friendship, which was on the verge of crumbling, and Evan has given in to the pressure from his parents and decided to join forces with Frannie.
In the first season the story seemed to be more about Rusty and his fitting in, but now it’s more about Casey who struggles for power with Frannie as they both try to win the presidency of the sorority. It also follows Casey’s love life as a new man enters into the picture, Max (Michael Rady). He’s Rusty’s R.A. and almost as geeky. The over-focusing on Casey’s life has dragged the show to a slow crawl in this chapter.
It also doesn’t help that Evan and Rebecca are no longer such villains. It’s somewhat a catch-22. You need that friction between characters to keep things exciting, but at the same time they are so well written and fully developed that you really like them. You want them to come to their senses and be friends with the others.
I’m hoping they’ll introduce a new character in season three, which premieres August 31, one we can all hate who will breathe some new life into the show.
The Special Features on the DVD include:
20 Questions with the Cast of Greek – the questions are loosely based on the show and episodes: Are you anything like your character? Have you ever been on a pity date? Which character would you like to be friends with in real life? Those are just some of the questions. It’s a little awkwardly done with the cast split up in different rooms and the responses aren’t terribly exciting.
Blooper Reel – A very basic blooper reel mostly filled with flubbing lines or laughing in the middle of a scene. The bloopers are edited so quickly that it loses all context and comes across very flat.
There is also cast and creator commentary on the episodes: “Brothers and Sisters,” “The Popular Vote,” and “Hell Week.”
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Pete’s Dragon is a 1977 Disney musical that combines live-action with an animated Elliot the Dragon. Pete (Sean Marshall) is an orphan who was bought by the Gogan Family to be their slave. The Gogans are so mean to him he runs away with his best friend Elliott, who can turn invisible. They end up in the small fishing village of Passamaquoddy where Elliott starts trouble for Pete from the start. Most of the town wants Pete to leave except for lighthouse keeper Nora (Helen Reddy) and her father Lampie (Mickey Rooney), the town drunk, who try to make a stable home for him. Unfortunately just as Pete is getting settled, the Gogans and Dr. Terminus (Jim Dale), a traveling medicine show man, show up and try to break-up the happy home. The cast also includes Jim Backus, Red Buttons, Jeff Conway, and Shelly Winters.
Elliott has the ability to be invisible so most of the time he doesn’t appear in many scenes, which works since the combination of animation and live-action is more fantasy than reality and ties in with the idea that the adult characters think Elliott is Pete’s imaginary friend. That is until they meet him. Also, the animation of Elliot, supervised by Don Bluth, doesn’t blend well with the live action by today’s standards, but considering the advancement over three decades, the visuals are still pretty impressive. This is the first Disney film that didn’t contain work by any of the animators known as the Nine Old Men.
There are lots of fun song and dance numbers in the film. “Brazzle Dazzle Day” and “Candle on the Water,” which was nominated for an Academy Award, are the most well known. Helen Reddy performs “Candle on the Water” with the lighthouse as the backdrop. It is much more impactful watching it as an adult because the emotions are identifiable, and is the best moment of the film.
This “High-Flying Edition” includes several special features. “Brazzle Dazzle Special Effects” is a featurette narrated by an adult Marshall. This is very well done and provides an amazing opportunity to see the progress of special effects over the company’s history through a lot of rare behind-the-scenes footage. “Deleted Storyboard Sequence – ‘Terminus & Hoagy Hunt Elliot’” contains original sketches along with a rare demo track. “Original Song Concept ‘Boo Bop Bopbop Bop (I Love You, Too)’” is the first demo recording of the song along with concept sketches. “Original Demo Recordings” and “Promotional Record” offer old and new versions of some of the more popular songs from the film. “Where’s Elliot? The Disappearing Dragon Game” is intended for the younger viewer to find Elliot who is hiding in Passamaquoddy. “About Pete’s Dragon” is presents the making of the movie. Last but not least, there are art galleries, trailers, the Donald Duck cartoon “Lighthouse Keeping,” “Disney Family Album (Excerpt)” is a look at an animator and “The Plausible Impossible 10/31/1956 (Excerpt)” looks at animation.
Pete’s Dragon is a sentimental favorite from my childhood, eliciting fond and happy memories. The songs and relationship between Pete and Elliott still make it a relevant film today. It is also a sweet and innocent tale that includes no gross or inappropriate humor, perfect for younger children.
District 9 is an ambitious endeavor as it combines Alien Nation with The Fly against a backdrop of apartheid. Though the film contains a strong message, many members of the audience may not be around to hear it, as the ridiculous way the back-story is presented along with the buffoon of a lead character, will cause many to check out. With no characters for the audience to latch onto, there is little to re-engage them.
District 9 runs to the two extremes of gore and over-the-top, ridiculous characters, and fails to create much action or excitement.
As is explained in the opening segment of the film, a large alien ship has come to Earth and is hovering over Johannesburg, South Africa. After waiting for something to happen, the Earthlings eventually cut their way into the ship and find refugees from a dying planet. District 9 is set up as a makeshift home for the creatures. Over time the area becomes a slum and the local humans want something done with the unwelcome outsiders who resemble large insects or “Prawns” as they have come to be called. A large corporation is assigned the task of moving the aliens to another camp, but the corporation also has an interest in the alien weaponry.
Leading the task force assigned to relocate the aliens is Wikus van der Merwe, played with inconsistency by Sharlto Copley. The unqualified Wikus receives the job due to a promotion from his father-in-law who is an executive in the corporation. Far too much time is spent in the film showing us how ridiculous our lead character is, and this simply distracts from where the film should be going.
Wikus becomes infected with a chemical that slowly begins to turn him into an alien. During the process he becomes able to operate the alien weapons, which previously were unusable by humans. So the corporation wants to capture and exploit him, and he is left with only one place to hide: District 9. The problem is that the audience does not care about Wickus, around whom the story now revolves, because too much time was spent establishing him as an idiot. His transformation from human to alien takes far too long, is inconsistently displayed, and is simply not interesting or enjoyable to watch.
The biggest tragedy is how easily this could have been a great film. Better definition of protagonist and antagonist, a more relatable lead, any type of supporting characters, and some detail in plot development to add some truly suspenseful moments, and it’s all good.
District 9 does contain some good special effects, though the exploding bodies resulting in blood and guts’ hitting the camera lens becomes tired. The CGI aliens look great and blend perfectly into every scene.
The ending certainly leaves the story open to a sequel, but superior writing and directing would need to be employed to insure less contrived action sequences.
Recommendation: A movie with a strong thought-provoking message can be very valuable, but if so much focus is put on said message, that the basic necessities of a successful film are lost, then everyone's time has been wasted. District 9 is full of wasted potential and is sure to disappoint.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Hitting shelves on August 4th, less than five months after its theatrical release, is the Dwayne Johnson vehicle Race to Witch Mountain from Disney. Though the story may be based on Alexander Key’s novel Escape to Witch Mountain, it holds few similarities to the 1975 film of the same name. TRace to Witch Mountain is just that: a race, full of car chases, gun fire, explosions, and a terminator-like creature that bares a resemblance to the Predator minus the dreadlocks. Yes, there are two alien children trying to get to their ship, and they do eventually use a Winnebago, but it is hard to find any other resemblance to its 1975 predecessor.
As is the case with many movies directed at children these days, it appears that the philosophy is simply to give them action in lieu of depth. The plot is spelled out early in the film, and it heads towards its destination at a break-neck pace, with little time for any character development. Dwayne Johnson may be a bankable action hero, but lacks the comedic chops to pull off some of the light-hearted moments needed to generate laughs in between car crashes. The children (AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig) are given little to do here other than act robotic, and never seem to generate any empathy from the audience. Carla Gugino, as a doctor who is an expert on extraterrestrials, is corralled into helping out, but she appears to simply be channeling her character from Snake Eyes, and adds little to the film.
Considering that the cast does include cameos by Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann who played the young aliens in Escape, you would think that one of them might have mentioned that they worked with a superior script 35 years ago, but apparently they did not, or no one was listening.
The producers may have picked up on the fact that the film was lacking, as they appear to be scrambling to add to the dynamic by throwing in Cheech Marin as an off-duty mechanic, and Garry Marshall as an author of books on aliens. Both talents are wasted as is that of Tom Everett Scott as one of the government agents chasing after the youthful aliens. Even Meredith Salenger makes a cameo giving a shout-out to her Disney roots as news reporter Natalie Gann. Unfortunately, the additional casting does little to help, and the audience spends much of the 99 minutes imagining how casting Bruce Willis, or someone with more comedic experience than Johnson, in the lead would have given the film the comedic elements needed to make it reasonably enjoyable.
The new release comes as a Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo, an extended edition DVD/digital copy combo and a single-disc addition. The special Blu-ray bonus “Discover Hidden References” lets you know important facts like the number on the cab that Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson) is driving is 1975 because that is the year Escape was released. The blooper reel is almost as forced as the movie itself.
Recommendation: Race to Witch Mountain is not a bad popcorn film if you check your brain at the door, but lacks the depth of story and character possessed by Escape to Witch Mountain. Pick up Escape instead.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Written by Hombre Divertido
Sandwiched between Disney misses Tarzan (1999) and Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) and Pixar hits Toy Story 2 (1999), and Monsters Inc. (2001), Disney managed to keep it simple and successful by returning in 2000 to a tried and true classic found in the Hundred Acre Wood.
The Tigger Movie receives the 10th anniversary treatment in this new 2-disc release that hit shelves on August 4th. Though the new release does include some bonus material, it’s the main feature that sells this product, as this is simply a wonderful film for the whole family. Adults are sure to appreciate the opportunity to return to the land of Christopher Robbins friends that they visited so often as children, and will be happy to share the wonderful message found in The Tigger Movie with their children.
As in most adventures featuring Tigger, we find our hero bouncing from friend's house to friend's house, trying to find someone to play with. With everyone busy preparing for winter, Tigger heads off on his own. After a visit from Roo, and a conversation about family, Tigger sets out to find his. Through the efforts of Pooh, Owl, Rabbit, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga and Roo, Tigger eventually realizes that he has been surrounded by his family the whole time.
Oh sure, adults will see the message coming a mile away, but will appreciate the energy in the story, the lively animation, and wonderful music.
The bonus material includes two episodes featuring Tigger from the television series The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The Tigger Movie marked the passing of the torch of voicing Tigger from Paul Winchell to Jim Cummings, the current voice of Pooh. Cummings does a fine job, but hearing Winchell voice Tigger in these two shorts, allows you to hear the slightly higher tone and energy of Winchell's Tigger, which had a Snagglepuss quality to it.
Also included in the bonus material is a trivia game which, when all sixteen questions are answered correctly, will allow you to view an all-too-brief clip of a documentary on how the Pooh characters were developed. There is another matching game which will be fun for kids, but since the first game on the menu offered a reward for getting all the answers correct, having a perfect score on the second game yield nothing will be a bit disappointing for the youngsters.
The musical bonus features which basically show the song segments from the movie are fun, but whether or not kids will enjoy having a picture book of the film on DVD that you can have read to you, or read yourself, remains to be seen.
The “How to Make Your Own Family Tree” may to be too basic even for the real young and it mentions checking the web for information, but does not stress asking your parents first before going on the internet. The second disc contains a digital copy of the film.
Recommendation: Hard to go wrong here. The whole gang from the Hundred Acre Wood is back together in a wonderfully told story with a strong message for children and animation reminiscent of the early days of Pooh. Though Sterling Holloway and Paul Winchell are not here, and Sebastian Cabot has been replaced by John Hurt as the Narrator, the new cast does a fine job, and hearing John Fiedler as Piglet will be enough to send you home again.
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Written by Pirata Hermosa
It’s the year 2035 and humanity has been reduced to living underground because of a virus that ravaged the planet and killed off most of the world’s population. The future is bleak and the inhabitants of the underworld are looking for a way to return to the surface. The only way to battle the disease is for them to send “Volunteers” out into the world and into the past to collect specimens.
James Cole (Bruce Willis) is the latest prison inmate to get volunteered into the program. He does such a good job, that he is chosen to go after the source of the virus. The scientists aren’t sure what the source is, but they do know that it first appears in Philadelphia and that a group called the Army of the Twelve Monkeys may be involved somehow.
On his first mission into the past, James is sent to the wrong time. It seems that time travel isn’t an exact science. Instead of 1996, James finds himself in 1990 disoriented and wearing nothing but see-through plastic. He is mistakenly picked up by the police and is taken to a mental institute.
While in the hospital, James meets Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe), who is the psychiatrist assigned to his case. He also befriends Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt), a total psychopath that actually belongs in the loony bin.
After a failed escape attempt, James is returned to 2035 where he has to explain why his mission failed. Giving him another chance, the scientists try to send him to the year 1996. Once again they fail to deliver him to the correct time and he ends up in the middle of World War I.
Eventually, they get him to the right time and place and James is surprised to find that his crazy friend Jeffrey has a connection with the Army of the 12 Monkeys. His father is the director of a biological laboratory.
In order to find out the truth, James kidnaps Kathryn to help him on his journey. At first she is reluctant, but as things begin to unravel and James’ stories start coming true she slowly becomes a believer. While Kathryn starts to believe, James becomes more and more confused. The stress of the constant time traveling mixed with the strange dreams from his past and his desire to live a normal life causes him to think that he really is crazy.
I won’t give away the ending, because there are a few plot twists, but it’s really difficult to review a film that was originally released 14 years ago. In 1995 the film was new and fresh and had a gritty appeal to it. In 2009 it’s a film with a very familiar storyline and outdated special effects. It’s really difficult to make a film stand the test of time because in this era whenever there’s a good movie idea, everyone tries to capitalize on it and ends up beating it into the ground. And the theory of time travel has been worked to death in the last few years.
Even so, it’s a film worth watching if you haven’t seen it before. It was directed by Terry Gilliam, who always gives a unique and interesting perspective to all of his films, and both Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt give excellent performances.
The film is presented in 1080p High-Definition Widescreen format with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Normally, while watching a film I don't really even notice the quality. I just take it for granted because there's no real comparison, but this time I threw in my Collector's Edition DVD and compared the two. I was actually surprised at the difference. The Blu-Ray is a much crisper version and everything on the screen seems to really pop out at you. The same can be said for the Blu-Ray audio which uses a DTS-HD Master Audio 5. The sounds are much richer and deeper than the regular DVD.
There are three special features on the Blu-Ray disc:
Commentary with Director Terry Gilliam and Producer Charles Rowen
The Hamster Factor & Other Tales of 12 Monkeys- a 90-minute documentary on the making of the film. It’s actually quite interesting as it takes you behind the scenes and deals with some of the issues such as budget matters, getting funding for a film, set creation, amd Gilliam’s dislike for the Hollywood process. It’s not just your typical actors just goofing around behind the camera.
12 Monkeys Archives- Consists of concept art and drawings for the film.
All of these features are the same as what has already been released on DVD. The latter two are done in 480 i/p Standard Definition and are more the quality of something you would get off television and not from a feature film. I already had the Special Edition on DVD and it’s exactly the same, so if you already own the DVD I don’t think it would be necessary to purchase the Blu-Ray as well.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Written by la familia de Musgo del Jefe
Musgo likes the TV show So You Think You Can Dance. It's a favorite summertime passion of the Musgo family. I also like working out. Maybe "like" is too strong a word, but I do go to the gym on a regular basis. What I've never been able to find is an "at-home" workout that would hold my attention for multiple viewings.
I was intrigued to find out that the cast of SYTYCD was putting out some fitness DVDs. The weight-loss market is a huge one to be sure. That area of the market is currently dominated by the powerhouse of Biggest Loser and the related marketing machine of that show - with workout videos, protein shakes, diet books and more. This seems like a safe way to initially market the likable kids that we get to know each summer on the show. Many of them will be appearing in films over the next year and this is a good way to keep them fresh in the public mind.
I turned over the actual workouts to my in-house experts - Senora Musgo (a workout veteran since the Jane Fonda days) and Pequeña Senorita Bailarín Musgo (my 11-year-old who dances five days a week in classes and is a stellar performer). Here's some of their thoughts on the routines.
So You Think You Can Dance Get Fit: Cardio Funk
Hip Hop: Lauren. Sra. Musgo found this to be a fun and energetic routine. Lauren's youth made this a little hard to match move for move.
Contemporary: Travis. Pequeña Srta. Musgo liked the moves that Travis came up with. Sra. Musgo thought the moves were much easier to follow than the Hip Hop. This is a favorite of the ladies who found it unique. It's probably not a coincidence that Travis is an up-and-coming choreographer on the show this season.
Disco: Courtney. This is Pequeña Srta. Musgo's favorite section of all the workouts. She liked the speed and moves of the dance. Sra. Musgo found those same things to be a drawback. The workout moves quickly and there's lots of moves to learn.
Cardio Funk Bonus Workout / Cool Down. In the "bonus workout", the dancers all get together and do a combined workout with parts of all three workouts combined. It's the same movements, just combined into a single workout. The exercisers in this house found this to be a section you might go to in future viewings when you've mastered the basic moves of each workout.
Bonus Interviews. Interviews with creator Nigel Lithgow and the three dancers who choreograph the workouts. Not much new information here but it's a lot of cheerleading and rah-rah to keep you interested while sitting on your couch.
So You Think You Can Dance Get Fit: Tone and Groove
Hip Hop: Twitch. This was the favorite of Bebé Musgo (my six-year-old). But he didn't really get out and do the moves. Both Sra. Musgo and Pequeña Srta. Musgo found Twitch's Hip Hop routine to be easier than Lauren's from the other disc. It doesn't move as fast and was easier to keep up with. Twitch was one of our family's favorites on the show last season - his personality is infectious and I expect we'll see him branching out beyond just dancing very soon.
Jazz: Katee. The Musgo family thought that the routine was relatively difficult. The moves were "weird" according to Pequeña Srta. Musgo. The workout as a whole didn't leave much of an impression on either of them.
Cha Cha: Dmitry. There were lots of hip action in this workout. That made it one of the most difficult routines of both discs. Dmitry worked pretty quickly and the viewer has to work to keep up once he starts his counts.
Tone and Groove Bonus Workout / Cool Down. Same "bonus workout" as the previous disc with moves from all three routines.
Bonus Interviews. Also the same Nigel interview and the same behind-the-scenes type of interviews, just with three different choreographers.
Overall impressions of the discs from the Musgo ladies: The slow teaching of the moves makes it easier to pick up the moves than most workout discs. The choreography is pretty basic compared to what they do on the show, but still challenging enough to feel like your learning something new. The cardio workout portion of each section has a good pace of movement that will certainly make the most experienced dancer break out in a sweat. Overall it's a fun way to get in your cardio workout. The discs are great for fans of the show that don't get much of their favorite dancers once the season is over.
The discs weren't without their problems. All of the dancers were guilty of over repeating "just have fun" and "if you're not ready to move on, go back on the DVD to review." That seems like common sense for anyone that's used a DVD or DVR in the past 20 years. These are dancers not fitness instructors. And while they probably received lots of fitness advice, there is not any true "fitness" advice. There's no reference to muscle groups or advice during warm-up and cool down. Even the Tone video didn't focus on specific muscle groups as the title would suggest. Most other fitness videos offer modifications to the exercises. There were not alternatives offered for those that are true beginners or can not follow the moves exactly. All of the background dancers performed the same moves - one or more could be showing simpler versions of the same moves.
The discs are a nice addition to the So You Think You Can Dance family. The dancers are energetic and fun to watch do what they do best. As strictly an exercise video, they can't live up to the standard set by Jillian Michaels and the other Biggest Loser trainers. Those people are exercise professionals who know how to motivate through an entire workout. I don't discount that these will appeal to fans looking for an occasional break from their other routines. I think the Musgo women here found them to be very entertaining. But if it's a true workout your looking for, keep looking.
If there is one line in the sand that truly divides this country, it is the right to abortion which some will call murder as others call it the right for a woman to rule over her own body. However you see it, this issue brings more emotion to it than any other. Unborn in the USA brings us some of this raw emotion, along with the ideals and ideas of how the pro-life movement is trying to changes its image and message while still touting the Bible as their rule of law. Directors Stephen Fell and Will Thompson crossed our nation visiting well over two dozen states and interviewing more than seventy participants in a movement that has been trying for decades to overturn a law they see as mass murder.
I first thought this documentary would be the type which would portray the pro-lifers as crazy wing-nuts shouting out Bible verses and damning everyone to eternal Hell, and yes, there is some of that, but interestingly enough, these directors give actual meaning to the words “fair and balanced,” something FOX News could take a queue from.
The film opens up in a university of which young Christian students are learning how to present their message without the use of guns and bombs, but how do you get people to focus on what nobody really wants to talk about? You all remember the term “shock and awe”? Well, the movement has taken this idea and ran with it. Take a photo of an aborted fetus, blow it up so someone driving down the road could see it and really make it out, and watch how many people stop to talk about it; you would be surprised. This is the next phase the pro-life movement is attempting to use to further what it now likes to call “opening discussions with the other side” and it’s working.
Now what I just told you was one way the pro-lifers are bring up the discussion of abortion, but the college students who are learning how to do this are using their Constitutional rights by expressing these man-sized poster boards as an exhibit which was brought to over a hundred college campuses all around the U.S. Change starts in the open and bold mind of the fresh, young college student who already thinks they can change the world, so presenting these photos was a smart move because it is bringing about a discussion. Be the discussion for or against, just talking about it is the first goal, which is being achieved.
Yet this film doesn’t leave out the loony side, either. They talk to folks like convicted bombers, priests and reverends who preach “an eye for an eye” style of justice, to smalltown pastors who gather up their family and have them along with other volunteers hold up these enlarged photos alongside busy streets and roads in other towns across the nation. The directors let these people speak their minds and you get a much unbiased look into their world.
Even the extras give the viewers a closer look. The directors interviewed a few of the people spotlighted in the film and asked them after these people had previewed the movie, if they thought the directors portrayed them in a fair and just manner. Most said yes, except for the crazy lady who went dumpster-diving to retrieve aborted fetuses so they could take the picture and use them in such ways as they are being used now. We even get a glimpse of the fundraising machine which supports the activities of many different pro-life groups, so this documentary shows you how and why a woman’s right to choose may be a fleeting idea in the decades to come.
Unborn in the USA wasn’t made to offend or persuade. It has no lean to it, no political gain and doesn’t try to sideline the issue with other propaganda from either side. All this documentary does is show how the new tactics of the pro-life movement are chipping away at Roe v. Wade and other laws that have protected the right of a woman for decades. My suggestion, if you are pro-life you may already know what’s going on; if not, watch this and you will. If you are pro-choice, you want to watch this because it will give you the idea on how to keep your end of the fight up and running, for this maybe your only chance.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Released on DVD by Warner Bros. Home Video, this new adventure from the DC Universe hit shelves July 28th, 2009.
Full of enough action to please the kids, the story will do nothing to endear adults to these animated features. The title First Flight is detrimentally accurate, as little back story into the life of our hero, test pilot Hal Jordan (voiced by Christopher Meloni), is provided prior to him receiving his green power ring, and taking off on his first flight. He is quite skilled at using the powerful piece of jewelry, and the only explanation given is that he had been practicing. Sadly, this is a huge opportunity lost. Seeing our hero adapt to his new role would not only have been entertaining, but it would have endeared him more and allowed him to become relatable to the audience.
Instead we have a guy that we don’t know and don’t care about, whose motivation is muttled at best, thrown into an obvious plot full of turns you will see coming a mile away.
The more interesting tale here is that of Sinestro (voiced by Victor Garber), a senior member of the Lantern Corp who is assigned to guide the rookie Jordan, and who would eventually become an arch enemy of the Green Lantern. Where as one would imagine that Green Lantern – First Flight would provide the origin of The Green Lantern in some detail, more of the history of the Sinestro character plays out here. Sinestro is displayed in this outing in a far more mature fashion than the childish clown like versions of past DC offerings and is the most enjoyable aspect of First Flight.
The animation does excel as the drawing is powerful and reflects the classic look of the characters while still allowing for the appreciation of the technology used to create them. The sound and music too are top notch as a theatrical environment is created for what is unfortunately a story only worthy of a Saturday morning release.
The packaging boasts over two and a half hours of extras, which was enough to warrant a second disc, unfortunately, it all appears to be nothing more than self-serving filler. Disk one contains the feature and creatively named trailers for other releases from the DC Universe.
Disk two contains an interesting feature titled “Behind the Story with Geoff Johns” who discusses the mythology of the Green Lantern. The insights into the character are certainly interesting and entertaining, but also laugh-provoking to anyone who has watched the feature, as Johns divulges the key elements to a successful Green Lantern story, and one realizes that First Flight contains none of said elements.
The character profiles are somewhat redundant, and sadly the Duck Dodgers Series Episode "The Green Loontern," in which Daffy Duck accidentally receives Hal Jordan's Green Lantern suit in a dry cleaning mix-up, contains more depth of story than the feature.
Rounding out the collection is a two-part episode of Justice League Unlimited presented as two of Bruce Timm's favorites. Not real clear as to why these are included, and one would have to be a fan of the series to appreciate them.
Recommendation: Over the history of the Green Lantern in print and animation, objects created by the ring to resolve situations often were inconsistent both in creation and use as they tended to be a bit too cartoonish for the target audience. The same could be said for Green Lantern – First Flight. Kids may enjoy the action, but the story should have been contained depth and detail worthy of any fan regardless of age.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
Written by Pirata Hermosa
With guest appearances by Hugh Hefner, several Playboy Playmates, and a foul-mouthed rapper with an even cruder name, how could this movie be bad? It’s not terrible, but it sure could have been a lot better than it was.
The film was written by, directed by and starred two members of the sketch-comedy group, The Whitest Kids You Know. I say that like everyone knows who they are, but I had never heard of them until now.
Tucker Cleigh (Trevor Moore) and Eugene Bell (Zach Cregger) have been best friends since they were little kids. Eugene is the conservative one, concerned about rules and being a good person, while Tucker is a sex-obsessed pervert who follows his own bible, Playboy magazine.
After giving an abstinence seminar with his girlfriend, Cindi (Raquel Alessi), she gives him an ultimatum. The two of them are going to have sex on Prom night. After a lot of arm-twisting, Eugene agrees. But he is so nervous that he drinks himself into a stupor, falls down the basement stairs, and ends up in a coma.
Four years later, Tucker finally figures out how to bring his friend out of the coma: a quick hard smack to the nose with a baseball bat. Upon awakening, Eugene finds that not only has Cindi abandoned him, but she is also the newest Playboy centerfold. Seeing this as a sign, Tucker kidnaps Eugene from the hospital and the two begin a cross-country trip to the Playboy mansion to find her.
Not really much of a plotline at this point, so they have to throw in the fact that they are being hunted by every fireman in the country. Why every fireman? Because Tucker’s psychotic epileptic girlfriend, Candace (Molly Stanton), is pissed off at him and has her fireman brother, Rick (Geoff Meed), tracking them down.
The biggest issue with the film is that we’ve seen it all before and usually done a lot better. It’s a typical boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. The character of Tucker comes across as a really bad Jim Carrey impersonation. Even the fireman chasing the two brings back memories of the newspaper delivery boys in Better off Dead.
Of course there are some good parts as well starting with Hugh Hefner and Playboy bunnies. That automatically makes it worth seeing for us guys. I’ve also never seen a woman French kiss a keyhole and open a lock with her tongue. And finally, the stereotypical rapper known as Horsedick.MPEG (Craig Robinson) is one of the best aspects of the film. The first five or six times when people only call him Horsedick and he has to remind them that it’s Horsedick.MPEG is funny, but after that it just becomes annoying.
The DVD has both the theatrical version of the film as well as the unrated version. I choose to watch the unrated version. I really don’t understand what the point of “Unrated Versions” of films is. There’s nothing in the unrated version that couldn’t have been shown in theatres. It seems to be just a marketing gimmick. One day I would really like to see an unrated version that just blows my mind.
The DVD I received also said that it was a Widescreen Version, but it wasn’t. It was just the regular television format.
There were only three special features:
Timmy’s Audition: It was short and moderately entertaining. Timmy is another member of The Whitest Kids You Know and is there auditioning for a part with no speaking lines.
Darren’s Audition: Another group member auditioning for a part in the film, but this time as Eugene’s girlfriend. It was funnier than the first audition but also short.
Down & Dirty with Horsedick.MPEG (Censored Version): I have no idea why this version is censored. I just sat through the film where the F-word was frequently used and had listened to Horsedick.MPEG’s songs “I’m gonna F*** a White Girl,” and “Suck My D*** While I F*** That Ass,” but I guess for a fake mockumentary, I have to have every other word beeped for my protection.