- Barney Stinson
- The bartender at MacLaren’s Pub who never says anything.
- Any of the hot bimbos Barney hooks up with from any episode ever.
- Lily Aldrin
- Any of the chicks Ted Mosby dates on his way to meet his dream girl.
- His future wife who has yet to be seen or heard from.
- Marshal Erikson.
- Any of my imaginary friends who populate any TV show I watch (most of them are Vulcans).
- Any crew member from the production company not in front of the camera.
- Robin Scherbatsky
- Any of the dudes Robin dates for a while.
- The entire population of New York City.
- The entire population of the world.
- Any venomous snakes, rabid rats or other dangerous animals and vermin who might be in the alleys and sewers in and around MacLaren’s pub.
- The cockroach Robin smashed with her hand in one episode.
- The ebola virus.
- Ted Mosby.
Another one of my personal favorites. This story had some serious gravitas, as well as a cool twist and amazing acting. The scene where Kirk has Karidian read the Kodos proclamation is incredibly powerful.
However one thing I love about this show is it is a nice glimpse into Kirk’s past (oh wait! At age 13 Kirk spent part of his childhood on Tarsus IV, not stealing cars in Iowa? Gosh how did JJ Abrams miss that with all the extensive research he did prior to writing his first Trek-ish film?) as well as a look at the social dynamic of the TOS era Federation. Looks like there was a “good ole’ boy” network that experienced officers such as Kirk could tap into to get things done like when he called his friend Captain Daily and asked him to not pick up the Karidian troupe. In this the show was a little more like the frontier of the Empire from Star Wars (I see the similarity. Image courtesy of my own collection of Star Wars t-shirts. I swing both ways).
I also really enjoyed Lenore, who managed the difficult task of appearing a naive innocent while at the same time being totally evil and bat guano nuts. Not an easy thing to pull off and but she did it. Kudos to Barbara Anderson. She later won four Emmys for work on Ironside and was in the pilot film for the Six Million Dollar Man. As a nerd and fan of retro tv shows I have to applaud her.
the Infamous Dave Inman
Something weird happened while I was watching this film. I became a Jake Gyllenhaal fan.
Not that I ever had anything against him. I have always been a big Donnie Darko fan and enjoyed him a great deal in End of Watch. Even when he does mediocre crap like Source Code I generally like his performance and of course I have had a thing for his hot sister Maggie ever since Stranger than Fiction.
However last night while watching this excellent movie I suddenly came to realize that he is a great actor and have put him on the list of with performers like Denzel Washington and Brad Pitt whom I will seek to see in any film regardless of subject matter just for their performances. If those three did a remake of Fried Green Tomatoes in drag I would check it out.
So I guess I have already given away how I feel about this film and that is that it rocked. Great story, excellent camera work, tight editing, good dialog, and above all Jake Gyllenhaal my new man crush. What was great about him? He is super, duper, uber, smuber, foober creepy and engaging in a way that only true sociopaths can be. His fast paced and concise monolog engaged me in a way that I can only compare to Tyler Durden delivering his destruction of modern values speeches in Fight Club or Emperor Palpatine explaining to Luke how much he failed to understand the Force in Return of the Jedi that I love so much. (retro Fett image courtesy of the my collection of Star Wars t-shirts) Plus I don’t know if it was makeup, camera work, lighting, his own face, or just emoting so great it translated into his look but Jake definitely had the insane crazy eyes going that will have you squirming in your seat.
If you look at this film as a character study of a true nut job I think you will get the most bang for your buck. He is truly out there and each scene just shows you how much out of touch with actual humanity he is. Jake has always done crazy well (i.e. Donnie Darko) but it now all previous films seem like prep work for this movie. Sorry to gush on about his performance so much but the man truly nailed this film.
Feel good movie of the year!
Well, not really at least for most of it. In fact large swaths of it will bum you out like a fire at an anti-depressant and super soft bunny factory. This is not the movie to see while on an alcohol bender or having been miserable, single, and bitter for a few years and bitching about it incessantly in your nerd blog (dodged that bullet).
However not every movie has to draw a smiley face on your spelling test and give you a gold star for the achievement of not breaking your hip falling out of bed this morning. Life is hard and it’s OK to show us a movie that reflects that once in a while if only to give all the happy happy joy joy movies some contrast. And I’m not saying that St. Vincent is totally a bummer. If watching a irascible old man drink, whore, smoke, cheat, steal, and gamble his life away while secretly having a heart of gold (well, silver or perhaps silver-ish. There might be some copper in there too. Coppers good, right? Very useful in electronics) and bond with the wimpy kid next door this movie will work for you.
I am of course a huge Bill Murray fan and love him in any role. Like the late great Robin Williams he is known for his comedy but honestly really shows his talents when doing a serious role. The writing on this film was top notch with a special gold star for the dialog which was brilliant.
Most times a kid in a movie (even kids movies) is the first sound of the suck train leaving the station but this kid Jaeden Lieberher did the impossible for me: he managed to really entertain and engage me while not giving my suspended a disbelief a nose bleed. Kids in films tend to suck because they just don’t have the acting chops and you can’t take a serious situation with appropriate seriousness knowing Hollywood would never let a kid die or have anything really bad happen to him or her. Kids always feel fake and out of place and destroy any gravitas a film might have had like a rodeo clown Photoshopped into DaVinci’s Last Supper (I’m looking at you, 8 year old Anakin Skywalker. Image comes from the many Star Wars t-shirts I have in my collection)
Tanks for a great movie!
When you really think about it, the outcome of WWII was kind of a disappointment. Sure, we won the war and for like six months America was the hero of the world but all it really did was set us up for the Cold War like your best friends date setting you up with her ugly cousin (and that date went for 50 years). It didn’t take long for France to start hating us again no doubt based on their belief that in time they would have cast out the Germans through the strength of their Résistance (you know, I almost managed to type that whole sentence without laughing out loud) and over time some of the more morally ambiguous decisions we made started to haunt us (American internment camps of Japanese-Americans (thanks to George Takei for educating me on the proper term. You rock!), dropping the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a means of seeing what it would do, the ultimate rise of the American military/industrial complex that is steadily grinding our economy into dust, etc.). Honestly when you really think about it the only good thing to come out of World War II (from an entertainment perspective at least) is the Nazis.
Not to say Nazis are good. They are horrible people and the epitome of how bad humanity can get. If I could go back in time to kill three people first off would be Adolf Hitler (followed by Melvil Dewey, inventor of the hated Dewey Decimal System and George Lucas at the premier of the Return of the Jedi. Sure we would lose American Graffiti but it would a small price to pay for never having to watch the Phantom Menace or any of the other horrors. Losing Red Tails would be a bonus. Image courtesy of my own private collection of cool Star Wars t-shirts). However, due to the increased importance of global ticket sales and the namby pamby super PC I-just-soiled-my-designer-Underoos fear of offending any potentially lucrative minority Hollywood has been cursed with the modern list of groups to be considered movie villains has been reduced to white trash racists, North Korea, rogue CIA elements, and Mexican cartels. Literally every other group in the world has someone who will sue, protest, or potentially not buy a movie ticket.
However, when doing a movie in WWII all those problems dissipate like a mild fart in a wind tunnel. Nazis are the perfect villains. They are by definition all white so you don’t have to worry about offending any minorities, the are demonstrably evil, and even most of the Germans dislike or disavow their existence. By being evil from the get go you can have them be as evil as you like and anything you do to them is fair game. If you dressed a bunch of babies in SS uniforms and filmed a scene of them being tossed into a wood chipper no one would blink because they are Nazis.
(Notice we don’t have a lot of films involving the Japanese because that might be racist. Also the Japanese are now our friends and are cute perverted wierdos who have game shows where guys in loincloths eat bugs and buy used panties from vending machines.)
Day 2 Continued: Star Trek or Star Wars, LARP, and making new friends.
On my way back down in the elevator, there was another convention-goer and a layman on the lift with me. The non-Con attendee asked us, “Are you guys with the Star Wars convention or the Star Trek Convention?” And we were like, “No, it’s all one big Science Fiction Convention. We’re with both.” (Image courtesy of the Star Wars t-shirt category) After that, I had every intention of going to panels, but they were hard to find and I kept getting distracted. Plus, all of the panels were scheduled in blocks from 10-12, 12-2 and 2-4, and it was already around 3pm by the time I left the hospitality suite. There may have been a fourth block of panels from 4-6 on Saturday only, but the schedule guide and key to where to find things was small, poorly designed and hard to understand unless you had used it before. Then there was the mighty task of choosing between similar panels that were held on opposite ends of the hotel at the same time, which is something I always detest about the whole convention-going experience. So I went in search of LARP groups instead in order to pass the time until Day 2 was concluded.
I did not find the Firefly LARP group (that day) and it might not have mattered if I had since their game for the night was for 21 people and 25 had pre-registered, not including the people actually working the Con or helping to run the game itself. But I did stumble across the table of the Victorian World of Darkness game, “Gaslight”. They invited me to sit and have a cup of fresh brewed tea from a nice China tea set and I ended up spending the next 2-1/2 hours talking with them about writing, running game vs. playing NPCs vs. being a PC and having less control and less responsibility. Then I sat down with Glenn Barett, the only founding member of the group still on and running things after several incarnations, and we talked OOC about RL stuff, like family and feeling like a creeper at Cons because you’re getting older while fans are getting younger, and about feminism and the school system and California’s crisis with prisons and how that relates to youth, feminism and what we as individuals can do about it. That’s all not as deep or hysterical or even as liberal-hippie-fight-the-power as it sounds, either. It was just a gentle yet sweeping reminder that I get to be myself at these things. I come to Conventions to have fun, to spend money and to meet new people. Vendors come for the same reasons, but also to make money, to make inroads towards a better future and connections within their industries. Convolution was convoluted, poorly advertised and expensive, but it was also the single best experience I’ve had at a Convention so far yet, and it was for no other reason than that these people weren’t just other fans at the same place as me, these were my people. I went for work reasons and came out with new personal friends. That is not to say that I didn’t learn anything. More on that in my next post.
So yes I have watched all 8 prior seasons and yes I will probably watch season 9 but the question is whether I am excited to watch them or whether I’m secretly dreading it. I guess just by asking that question I have answered it for you but I kind of see it as getting an ex girlfriends name tattoo lasered off: you know it’s going to be painful and every minute you spend in that chair will be another agonizing reminder of her but at the end you will be glad it’s done and you will have regained whatever dignity you can dredge from the bottom of the septic tank of your life.
The thing is this: I started watching the show because I have yet to see Neil Patrick Harris do something bad (well, except for that whole Dougie Howser MD thing. Early 90’s television sucked) and in truth it is his character that keeps me coming back. However the rest of the cast collectively make being dragged behind a pickup truck by a rope for a couple miles look fun. In fact, let me summarize my feelings about the cast by putting them in my favorite order with this handy dandy numbers list that I just found out my blog can do:
Yes, he is the perfect example of a man who has managed to suck his testicles back into his body with force of will alone. Normally when I see a character that I want to push his face in with my fist that badly I just drop the show, but the combination of Barney Stinson, the hot chicks that seem to crawl out of the woodwork at MacLaren’s on any given night, and the super hot Colby Smoulders (I hate her character but would still marry Colby as long as she agreed to reserve her unsolicited comments to things like “Run, Dave! The volcano is erupting!”) keeps me coming back. Remember the scene in Time Bandits where Robin Hood is giving each of the peasants something valuable and after they accept it the other guy punches them in the face? That’s what watching this show is like.
Oh well. I will for sure watch it if only to see who they finally cast as Ted Mosby’s poor wife. That marriage will for sure last until death because there is no way any woman could live that that whiner for more than a couple years before poisoning his cornflakes. Also I still enjoy Barney a lot and let us never forget that in spite of his anti nerd sex appeal image he is a huge Star Wars fan, making him at least part nerd (Stormtrooper image courtesy of the Star Wars T Shirt category). I just don’t know how much I am destined to enjoy it.
I’m at a loss as to whether I like it or not.
On paper it seems like I should love this film. It has some of my favorite actors in it. Clooney, Goodman, Murray, and Damon rock. Kate Blanchet is very easy on the eyes, even when playing a stuck up Parisian. I love World War II movies. I love movies from real stories. I studied art and in spite of many hours of painful Art History lessons I love art.
So why am I not gushing all over this film? This is one of those movies that is going to suffer the death of 1,000 cuts. There is no one thing that brings it down but rather a million little pinpricks that cause it to bleed all over the screen. It’s hard to nail down but there is just something off about it.
I suppose I should have had some warning when they started running trailers for this film almost a year ago. In the bizarre idiot savant genius that is only enjoyed by Hollywood studio marketing departments the ad people can sniff out a dud far in advance and start advertizing the crap out of it, hoping to pin the movie in the minds of the audience before actual word of mouth poisons it. Ever notice that the really great films hardly advertize at all? I know I am more sensitive to this as I see every movie out there and have watched the Monuments Men trailers about 800 times but I just don’t understand how it is the marketing people can feel a bad movie coming on like an impending bowel blockage but the directors, producers, and studio executives keep packing away the cheese and red meat.
Not to say that this film is bad. It’s just mediocre, and given the tools they had that makes it very disappointing. If you enter the Indy 500 in a ’79 Thunderbird no one is going to blame you for coming in dead last. However if you enter it in the latest hi tech Formula 1 car and spend the whole race doing donuts on the midway I think some of the failure blame may land fairly in your lap.
This film has the stench of a pet project on it, and since it was written by, directed by, and starred in by the same man I think we can guess who’s pet it is. The biggest identifiable problem is that he honestly tried to do too much in all ways. He has some of the best character actors in the business but didn’t have the time to actually let any of them develop a character, leaving them all bizarrely flat and one dimensional. He tried to add some away from home angst in a really out of place scene that added nothing (which was exacerbated by the fact that without any character development we didn’t care about Bill Murray’s character enough for it to have impact). The film was a “sort of” project. It was sort of a war movie, sort of a buddy movie, sort of a romantic drama, sort of a National Treasure-esque treasure hunt, sort of a Holocaust movie, sort of a celebration of the French resistance, sort of a historical drama, sort of a character study, and sort of an action drama. Unfortunately it did none of those particularly well.
Also unfortunately it was sort of boring. Drama and dialog only work if there are characters for us to connect with, and with our focus split six different ways the drama had zero impact. The war action in this war movie was perfunctory at best. There were only two “battle” scenes, one of which ended comedically, and both of them were criminally short with no gravitas. The one death scene was the character we had the least connection to (and that is saying a lot). I honestly think that with a few tweaks this film could have gotten a PG rather than PG-13 rating to allow the next generation to get bored too.
I can almost see the arguments wherein an executive producer is begging and cajoling Clooney to include one stinking battle scene and George is refusing to sully the vision of his opus. The entire last half of the movie seems to be gearing up towards a big confrontation with the closest thing to an antagonist, the Russian treasure hunter, but the exact moment when a veteran movie goer expects the scene instead we get a shot of the guys driving across the German countryside into Blue Ball City.
The story is of the Monuments Men, a group of soldiers tasked by President Roosevelt to save and recover great pieces of art stolen by the Germans. They are led by art professor Frank Stokes (George Clooney-Gravity, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou, Up in the Air) and artist James Granger (Matt Damon-Saving Private Ryan, Good Will Hunting, the Departed). The team is comprise of architect Richard Campbell (Bill Murray-Moonrise Kingdom, Groundhog Day, Lost in Translation), sculpture Walter Garfield (John Goodman-Monsters, Inc, Argo, the Big Lebowski), painter Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban-Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Moonrise Kingdom, Gosford Park), British guy Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville-Downton Abbey, Tomorrow Never Dies, Notting Hill), and French guy Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin-the Artist, the Wolf of Wall Street, 99 francs).
They go out into the world and split up in order to have 14 more WWII subplots. None of the individual scenes really have much to do with the main story and could be taken as individual vignettes. James Granger heads into Paris (which may or may not have been occupied. Timing seemed really vague in this film) to meet up with an old art contemporary Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett-LOTR, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Blue Jasmine). She worked with the Nazi in charge of stealing all the art Viktor Stahl (Justus Von Dohnanyi-The World is Not Enough, Downfall, the Experiment) and has information that would really help the Monuments Men find the art (sort of. Honestly after about half the movie wooing the info out of here I thought it pretty worthless) but for some inexplicable reason would rather let Hitler burn it all or something. I guess to help create drama?
Anyway Jeffries wanders off to find a Michelangelo sculpture and gets shot (supposedly. From what I saw the sound of the Germans pistol might have given him a cardiac arrest. PG-13 and all that). Garfield and Clermont wander around the countryside and stumble upon some Germans who shoot the Frenchman (as an aside, if you weren’t American in this film your days were numbered). Savitz and Campbell stumble upon Stahl in what is easily the best scene in the film and arrest him. Stokes and crew start finding art hidden in salt mines and the like. Meanwhile an evil Russian team is also looking for art to steal. Both teams seem to be headed towards the same Bavarian castle and copper mine where the greatest art piece ever is stored and in a truly edge of the seat, leave finger prints imbedded in the armrest from gripping it so hard scene the Americans leave with all the art about ten minutes before the Russians arrive. The end.
You cannot help but love the cast. Even in mediocre movies they shine like diamonds. I was especially glad to see Bill Murray again. Three stars. Based on a true story. One star. I like the idea that some art is worth risking your life to save. There was a noble overriding message I can’t help but appreciate. One star. WWII movies hearken me back to one of the few positive interactions I can recall with my father, who loved WWII. One star. If you go in looking for more history than drama and action you will enjoy it. One star. Total: seven stars.
The black holes.
The tonal shift really kept throwing me out of the theater. It was like watching the first ten minutes of seven different films over and over again. One black hole. The lack of any kind of real character development and the fact that they split all the character time between six or seven different characters meant I never connected with any of them. I felt more sadness seeing some great works of art burned then I did seeing the two dudes die. You can’t give me two minutes to form a bond with a character and then expect me to give a damn when he dies. I’ve had stronger connections with individual Stormtroopers (Trooper image courtesy of the Star Wars T Shirt category). One black hole. Pacing was awful. 118 minutes of Act II with no real conclusion, no continuity, and no connection to the rest of the war. You jumped from scene to scene with a little subtitle placard and were expected to buy into the fact that we didn’t need to see anything in between. The film doesn’t feel like it ended so much as they just ran out of film. One black hole. The Claire Simone segments were particularly worthless. She contributed next to nothing besides a pretty female face in a sea of dudes. What was her motivation? Did we need to learn about her brother? Was the data she gave them really of any value in the long run? Was she a love interest or not? One black hole. No action to speak of. They bought all the guns and uniforms. Didn’t they feel any interest in at least having one thing remotely exciting happen? One black hole. They ripped off about 80 other WWII and treasure hunt movies. You know that trope where a guy steps on a mine but it won’t go off until he takes his weight off of? The one in every bad war movie ever? Well apparently so does George Clooney. One black hole. Total: six black holes.
So a total of one star, which in my book is a very mediocre score. I don’t know. Maybe my mom will love it, but honestly I think Clooney needs to have a more concrete vision of what his next movie is supposed to be before starting it.. Having a movie about art suddenly shift into finding 50 gallon drums full of gold teeth collected from concentration camps speaks loudly of “Late Night Inspiration Disease” where the writer/director/star of this masterpiece spends the evening watching Schindler’s List and wakes up at 3am in a creative sweat and writes down the first thing that comes to mind on his bedside legal pad. Worth seeing? I will say it’s not worth not seeing. If there is nothing else on and you roll into the theater with your expectations set low enough you will probably enjoy it. Odds are the biggest problem facing my enjoyment of it was the 800 Monuments Men trailers I have watched over the last 14 months. Sometimes advertizing can have a negative effect. Date movie? Meh. I suppose. This is one of those perfect relationship date movies where you and your significant other will feel equally annoyed at the film for different reasons. A good compromise always leaves both parties vaguely dissatisfied. Bathroom break? There is a date scene with Claire towards the end that could be missed without much impact.
Thanks for reading. I’m still riding the high I felt from watching the Lego Movie, but have Vampire Academy on deck for tonight so by this time tomorrow should be back to my miserable self (unless Vampire Academy surprises me by being good and fun to watch, but that would be a moot point as by the time I got to writing the review all causality would have already imploded). Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Comments on this film or my review are invited and can be left here. Off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to email@example.com. Have a great night.
Ah, France Nuyen. You were quite the experience for my pre-teen self. You see our area never had much of an Asian population and until I saw her the only real exposure I had had was to George Takei. Thus I had no idea how exotically beautiful a stunning French-Vietnamese woman could be. Since then I have been rejected by women of every race but there is a special place in my heart for the Eurasian mix.
In a sense this is exactly what Gene Roddenberry intended when he created Star Trek. My father was not the most culturally open person on the planet (cough cough) and as a kid I never really met anyone who wasn’t white or Hispanic. However by seeing the multicultural bridge crew as well as all the guest characters it opened my eyes quite a bit to the possibility that there was more in this world than white people and Mexicans. Whatever cultural awareness and open mindedness I possess today (quite a lot IMO, but honestly you can never really judge yourself on such matters) I ascribe to the positive influence of Star Trek (my “good” father).
Odds are I should be discussing this with my therapist rather than you, my beloved readers, but I just looked at that last joke and realized there is more truth in it than I ever acknowledged. My father was a hard man and not terribly available emotionally or otherwise (also he was married five times. The irony is not lost on me) but all the positive traits I believe I have developed-honor, courage in the face of adversity, loyalty, empathy, inquisitiveness, logic-I honestly believe germinated from seeds planted by Star Trek. It was the positive male role model I otherwise lacked. Weird. I am going to have to reflect on that a lot I think. I guess this is why I am such a die hard TOS fan and will defend it with my dying breath.
That button comes from the Star Wars t shirt category. I know, I know. If I could have found a Star Trek image that worked there I would have.
3/4 of a great movie.
I admit it right up front I never saw the first Anchorman. At the time I wasn’t doing reviews and honestly movies set in the 70’s give me a queasy feeling. Actually most period movies set in times when I was alive kind of bug me for some reason. One of my therapists once told me I have a fairly extreme case of narcissism (in case you couldn’t tell by reading this blog) and one of the symptoms is I tend to be trapped in the moment emotionally. There is no past or future only the everlasting now. This tends to make me not be very nostalgic and fairly dismissive of past eras (it also makes me suck at forward planning, but plans are for suckers). My opinion of the decades that I have been alive can be summed up as follows:
60’s = Smelly hippies.
70’s = Bad hair. Bad clothing. Bad music. Bad porn. Everyone smoked.
80’s = High School Hell, the Musical. More bad hair. Leg warmers. Dolphin shorts. Mostly bad music (with some really great music). Fear of dying of AIDS.
90’s = Grunge. Beavis and Butthead. Trial of the Century. Massive apathy.
00’s = Reality TV. My mom meets the internet. Paris Hilton. The lost decade. Hanging chads. Fear of dying in a terrorist attack.
10’s = Still in progress, but the prognosis is not great.
Bottom line doing a period film set anytime between 1959 and now is a sure path to me missing the film from a massive fear that I will be reminded of how much American culture sucks. I skipped the first film but have heard so much about it I decided I needed to see the sequel. Is it fair to judge a sequel without having seen the first one? To that question I answer with an emphatic maybe. On the one hand I never fell in love with the characters and could very easily be missing a bunch of the jokes; on the other hand all movies should stand on their own merits. Nothing I pay $12.50 for should have a prerequisite.
(As an aside, I’d like to offer a marketing tip to team at Paramount Pictures: if you are going to release a sequel to a film it might just behoove you to have the original available on NetFlix in the months prior. I seriously was looking to watch it but there’s no way I was going to buy it on DvD, have no interest in Hulu, and Amazon Prime can officially bite me. Had I been on the fence about seeing this film watching the first might well have pushed me over to the watch it side.)
Anyway, Anchorman 2. Very very funny for the most part, although the whole thing took a left turn in the last 20 minutes down a dark alley and got mugged and violated by the Ridiculous Fairy. I’ve seen this before in Will Ferrell movies; he has a comedy gem and is writing gold but in the last 1/3rd of the film he feels the pressure of the building comedy crescendo and ramps the story up to the next level, bursting through the stratosphere and leaving the audience desperately scrambling for oxygen.
I have no clever insights or amusing anecdotes sparked by this film, so let’s just get into the story itself shall we? Ron Burgandy (Will Ferrell-Zoolander, Megamind, Casa di mi Padre) and his now wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate-Married With Children, Up All Night, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitters Dead) are now in NYC as TV newscasters. They get called upstairs by head anchorman Mack Tanner (Harrison Ford-Star Wars, Indiana Jones, 42 Kiss a Wookie image courtesy of the Star Wars T Shirt category), who promotes Veronica while at the same time firing Ron. This leads to natural conflict as Ron can’t let his ego go and leaves Veronica with is young son Walter (Judah Nelson-Portlandia, Adopting Terror, Major Crimes).
He ends up back in San Diego MC’ing the show at Seaworld (one of the funniest scenes IMO) when he is approached by Freddy Sharp (Dylan Baker-The Cell, Spiderman 2 and 3, Trick or Treat), a news producer for the newly formed all news network GNN. Ron signs on and they goes on a quest to find his old news crew and bring them back. He finds insane sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner-Thank you for Smoking, Get Smart, the Office) selling “Chicken of the Cave” at a fast food place, reporter Brian Fontana (Paul Rudd-Role Models, I Love You Man, the 40 Year Old Virgin) making a great living as a cat photographer, and psychotic introvert weatherman Brick Tamlan (Steve Carell-the Office, the 40 Year Old Virgin, Crazy, Stupid Love) at his own funeral. They each have a great piece of the collection montage and then go into a slow motion RV crash that had me holding my sides laughing.
Once in NY Ron gets the 2am time slot and has a bad run in with head anchorman Jack Lime (Dames Marsden-X-Men, Superman Returns, Enchanted). They bet on who gets the highest ratings that day. Ron and his crew work to put together a show and come up with all pro-America, dogs, and sports bloopers. He wins the bet and is skyrocketed to the top of the network. Meanwhile Ron is having trouble with his estranged wife and his relationship with his son.
At that point the story starts to unravel. Will Ferrell gets trapped in the “Wouldn’t it be funny if…” loop and ends up going blind, bottle feeding a baby shark, and gets into a massive melee with every news organization of the 80’s. While each one of them had their funny moments the story, which until then had felt fairly cohesive, devolved into a bunch of SNL skits.
Honestly very funny. There were a few moments when I felt pain from laughing so hard. Two stars. There isn’t a single actor in this film that I haven’t been a fan of at some point in the past. Even the bit characters had talent pouring out of them like a lot of stuff pouring out of something in a comical euphemism (I honestly drew a blank right there. I guess I can’t be brilliant every night). Two stars. The woman playing Linda Jackson (Meagan Good-Brick (ugh. Not my favorite movie for personal reasons), Think Like a Man, Stomp the Yard) was making me really wish I wasn’t so inept in the dating world, if you catch my drift. One star. I was also very impressed by Christina Applegate. Why hasn’t she done more since Married With Children? One star. I will give a bonus star for RV wreck and another one for the Chicken of the Cave scene. Two stars. Total: eight stars.
The black holes.
The movie got pretty stupid by the denouement in my opinion. One black hole. A lot of the film hinged on the audience having seen the first film and that is a mistake in most sequels. One black hole. I think that’s about it. Two black holes.
A grand total of six stars. A funny, fun movie. However nothing on here really demands a big screen (the RV wreck maybe but that’s it) so feel free to wait for the alternate media outlet of your choice. This film kind of screams “Quiet movie night with your significant other on the couch” (guess it’s a good thing I saw it in a theater then) so do it that way. Date movie? Sure. Nothing really off putting in here, none of these guys are super studs (maybe James Marsden, but his screen time is limited and his character is a d-bag) so you won’t suffer in comparison, and if you play your cards right you might be able to get her laughing so hard her clothes fall off (another case for movie night on the couch). Let me know how you managed to pull that off. Bathroom break? Honestly the final battle scene (yes, battle scene) could be totally missed (unless you have a burning passion for satire at the expense of 80’s news broadcasting) but that is kind of towards the end. The bottle feeding baby shark scene was pretty much entirely to give Ron a line later on in the film so I’d say that is your best bet.
Thanks for reading. I also saw 47 Ronin recently and will write that up soon. Follow me on Twitter (or don’t. Most people don’t so join the crowd) @Nerdkungfu. Comments on this film or my review can be left here and off topic questions or suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope your Holidays are going super good, and in case I blow off the next few days have a Happy New Year (Is 2013 over yet?).
Ever feel like there is just not enough padding and filler in your life? Looks like Peter Jackson heard you!
This is another review I had to take a full day to think about before writing up. I saw it at midnight on Thursday/Friday night with a bunch of other fanboys (some of whom clapped at the end of it. Can someone please explain this phenomenon to me? You clap to show an appreciation to the performers or presenters of something. Do these idiots really think the producers of the movie are in the theater with us, or perhaps the ushers fill out reports to the studios as to how loud the clapping really was? If not than this is clearly an pretentious attempt to show the world exactly what kind of a douchy fanboy you really are).
By the way, if you are reading this review and have never read the Hobbit I don’t know what the heck you are doing here, but I am going to be pretty generous with the spoilers in a minute so be warned. I am assuming you all know the story at least half as well as I do.
I generally consider it a warning sign when a movie’s actors and producers really overmarket the film prior to release, and it looks like once again I am right. The week leading up to this release you couldn’t flip a channel without seeing one of them on some interview or talk show.
I’ve decided I need to look at this from three different perspectives; fan of the movie series, fan of the novels, and non fan who stumbled into the theater with no previous LOTR experience. Honestly, while this movie is very pretty it kind of lags from all three perspectives.
As a fan of the movies it really isn’t much when compared to any of the three LOTR films. The story is bloated and convoluted while at the same time feeling truncated, the characters grossly underdeveloped (especially when compared to the Fellowship characters), and the movie attempts to maintain the very serious tone of the three main movies while at the same time add in a ton of Three Stooges-esque slaptstick comedy. The forcing of every LOTR character and reference into this film is done with all the subtlety of using a croquet mallet to insert a catheter. They crammed in Frodo at the beginning as part of the prologue and I guess I was OK with that. It didn’t strike me as too glaring out of place and maybe there actually are Elijah Wood fans out there (and if you do exist please stay away from me and my family). When I saw Elrond I thought “Sure, he was in the Hobbit. Looks like a good move”. Then when the shoved in Lady Galadriel I thought “OK, I suppose if they are going to have one of the main Elves why not have the other one? Odds are they brought her in to add a little femininity to what is otherwise a massive sausage-fest”. But then they force fed us Saruman FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER and discuss the danger of Sauron (who got no reference in the book whatsoever) while discussing a Morgol-blade they captured from the Witch-King of Angmar (no joke. I wish I was joking) and at that point I decided I and the rest of the audience was being pandered to. I just wish I knew what brand of baby powder Peter Jackson was using when he changed all our diapers for us.
While we are on the subject of pandering and treating the audience like we are all brain injury victims, I also want to rail on the presentation of Saruman in this film. I guess they decided we are all to stupid to understand the corruptive nature of time and evil and so presented Saruman as evil and despicable as possible. It’s like watching Chancellor Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith act exactly like a Sith Lord and wondering just how stupid every other character (who are all actively looking for a Sith Lord) in the film really is. If Elrond, Galadriel, and Gandalf (collectively acknowledged as the wisest beings in Middle Earth) couldn’t figure out that he warranted watching by is behavior at the meeting they all deserve to be crushed by Mordor for being moronic.
The last area where this movie lags behind the other three is in characters. In the LOTR series each of the Fellowship and supporting characters is a cool individual with a distinct personality that resonates well with the others. Aragorn, Gandalf, Legoalas, Gimli, and each of the hobbits is distinctive and intriging. Even Boromir was really cool, and supporting characters like Faramir added a ton to the story. In this movie the cast consists of Gandalf, Biblo, a fatter Aragorn (Thorin Oakenshield, if you want specifics), the dwarf with the white beard, the fat dwarf, and the other 10 dwarves who devolve into a faceless mass rapidly. Half of them look like they were rejected by the casting director of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for being too goofy and cartoony, and the other half look like humans. The cool thing about Gimli is he looked every inch a dwarf. In this film the dwarves look like a healthy mix of SAG extras and homeless people picked up off Hollywood Blvd. There is nothing about character here at all for any of them. Even Thorin is a 2 dimensional photocopy of Aragorn, and when you see them as a group they look exactly like a group of full sized humans.
As a fan of the book I am slightly more pleased, but only slightly. They attempted to keep the more fanciful tone for parts, and in general kept to the story. However, they surgically grafted on a ton of parts from the Silmarillion and another ton of parts they flat out made up and closed all the sutures with a mix of used dental floss and old yo-yo strings. Remember how in the book the dwarfs were more or less wandering through Middle Earth and dealing with whatever random trolls, goblins, and giant spiders they happened across (kind of like a driving trip across West Texas)? The book is a single adventure. If it were an RPG game it would be termed a “dungeon crawl”. Travel to the Lonely Mountain, steal as much gold as you can carry, and ride off into the sunset to spend it all on good wine and bad women. There are no portents of the ultimate doom of Middle Earth. Not so here, however. I guess the film producers decided our soft brains would never accept a motivation for our main characters as simple and morally grey as just getting rich. Instead we are fed a massive undercurrent of conspiracies, evil powers manipulating things from afar, and portents of incoming doom that is totally at odds with the lighthearted nature of the book. As I have said many times before, it’s OK for a movie to not rest on the ultimate fate of the world.
Where the movie suffers the most, however, is from the perspective of a guy off the street who is not really a massive fan of anything and only wants to see decent film. For this hapless individual the movie is a huge, slogging, incoherent mess. The pacing movies like a giant amoeba crawling across the ground, getting around objects with occasional bursts of speed as it squeezes though a narrow passage but in general progressing with turtle-esque velocity. There are a ton of irrelevant scenes to pad out the script run time, including a massive block dedicated to the completely annoying Radagast the Brown as he spends 10 agonizing minutes (from the audience perspective) nursing a sick hedgehog back to life (God I wish I was joking). There are flashbacks within flashbacks (the only one which would have been really cool was the attack of Smaug. Would have been cool had they actually shown Smaug. It was pretty much just stuff burning and glimpses of giant clawed feet and wings. Thanks for wasting my time on something that was covered in the book by three lines of expository dialog). Also, if there is one thing that sucked about the books that they managed to avoid in LOTR trilogy it was the insuferable singing. I defy you to find any reader of the books who has read even most of the lines of those songs. As soon as you see the indented italic passages that is any sane readers cue to skip to the next real paragraph. In the main movies they touched on it only briefly, with elves singing in the background. Here it is the perfect excuse to kill another five minutes of screen time and some audience brain cells.
However, the thing that surprised the hell out of me was the fact that the CGI and special effects appear to have taken a serious downgrade since the last movie. I know this magical 48 frame deal that Peter Jackson is so bent out of shape about is somehow supposed to enhance the visuals, but in fact the movie looks a lot worse. The monsters all look more cartoonish (especially the trolls and the eagles), the lighting effects are from hell (take a close look at the candles when you see them), and the battle scenes play out like a really good video game. If I could go back in time I might tell Mr. Jackson that maybe a huge epic film like this is not the time to experiment with new film techniques. I know all this is supposed to be for 3D but I am not a 3D fan and a couple years from now when I am looking at this film on my non-3D TV it will suffer for it.
I’m not going to waste a lot of time on the story. You all should know it. Bilbo gets shanghaied by Gandalf and the dwarves to steal back gold from Smaug in the lonely mountain. They all get captured by trolls who are tricked into turning into stone. They have a run in with Radagast (?) who tells them about an evil necromancer (??) who is resurrecting the the dead, including the Witch-king of Angmar (???). They are being chased by Thorins old orc enemy Azog the Defiler (???? For the record, according to Tolkien Azog was slain by Dain at the Battle of Azanulbizar years before this story took place, and it was his son Bolg who fought at the Battle of the Five Armies. This was changed to give us a tangible enemy to focus our soft brains on I guess). They get captured by the Goblin King in the Misty Mountains and Bilbo finds the Ring. They all escape and fly off on giant eagles. The movie ends (at pretty much the ending of chapter 7 from the book. Pad much?).
The stars. The riddle scene between Bilbo and Gollum was really, really well done. Two stars. The acting was exceptional from the characters that had any kind of development. One star. Andy Serkis was brilliant again (if you don’t know who Andy Serkis is, shame on you). One star. For all my issues, it’s still a Tolkien movie. One star. The only CGI that didn’t make me want to fix the film with a set of crayons was the Goblin King (either that or we meet him so far into the movie that by then my eyes had gotten used to it). One star. Two of my favorite character will always be Gandalf and Gollum, and both were used to great effect here. Two stars. I know I am being kind because I am a fanboy, but I will have to give two more stars for it being generally entertaining as long as you can stay awake. Total: nine stars.
The black holes (each one of these feels like a kidney stone made of burning coal, BTW). Padded. Pad pad pad pad pad pad pad. One black hole. For all the padding, the story felt really shortened and underdeveloped. One black hole. No real character development or interaction to speak of. One black hole. Twisting the story in order to give it a bigger meaning and darker overtone (completely unnecessary). One black hole. Lack of a real tone. Trying to combine slapstick with LOTR seriousness. One black hole. The fact that the dwarves never looked like dwarves, even when surrounded by elves. One black hole. Shoving in Azog for no reason. One black hole. In a lesser movie I would give a separate black hole for forcing in each of Galadriel, Saruman, Sauron, Frodo, and the Witch-King in order to forcibly remind us where this movie comes from, but here I will just do one. One black hole. The movie more or less ended at what felt like halfway through Act 2. One black hole. Special effects and CGI that weirdly reminded me of the Never Ending Story (1984). One black hole. You feel every one of the 169 minutes, with lots of worthless boring scenes that afford you the time to reflect on how lame all of this is compared to the LOTR. One black hole. Total: eleven black holes.
If you had told me two years ago that when I reviewed the Hobbit I would end up giving it a total of two black holes I would have laughed in your face. I’m baffled as to how much they could have missed the mark given the source material. I am going to do a separate blog on this, but the parallels between this series and Star Wars is pretty astounding (Old Republic logo courtesy of the Star Wars T shirt category). A talented director (or his supporting staff) creates an epic three part series that draws in millions of fans from accross the globe and then, given an unlimited budget opts to make a prequel series that spends more time highlighting the advancements in technology than story and is rife with either flat (Anakin) or annoying (Radagast=Jar Jar IMO) characters, all of which more or less ruins the franchise. Should you see it? Absolutely. It is a Tolkien movie and definitely is a must see for any nerd. That really isn’t the question. The question is will you want to see it a second time. I saw each of the LOTR movies at least twice in the theater (the Two Towers is saw three times I think) both in regular and IMAX, bought the movies when they came out in DVD, and the bought them all again when the super deluxe extended versions came out. I feel no need to see this one again. In fact, on some levels I am kind of dreading the next two movies now. It’s kind of like taking a college class on a subject you are REALLY interested in but the professor is the most boring teacher in the history of education and has a giant, gross mole on his face that you can’t help but stare at.
Date movie? Yes if she is a fan, hell no if not. She will fall asleep, I promise you. Bathroom break? Your don’t want to miss the riddle scene. Pretty much anywhere in the first 45 minutes (this slow movie takes it’s time ramping up to a snails pace) works. There are a couple camping scenes in the last half, and the scene where the dwarves are walking out of Rivendale (cough cough) could be missed.
Thanks for reading, and my apologies for harshing your buzz if you were looking forward to this. This honestly has been the most painful review to write I have done to date. I really wanted to like this film, but Peter Jackson appears to have been drinking from the same Kool Aid that George Lucas quaffs, and I’m not here to lie to you. Post your comments on this film or my review here (please, if you can convince me I am wrong and this film is actually more than the messy afterbirth of the LOTR I will thank you). Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu, and if you have off topic suggestion or questions feel free to email me at email@example.com. Talk to you soon.