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|By AARON SKETCHLEY (aaronsketch@HOTdelete_thisMAIL.com)||Ver 1.34 2023.04.23|
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
Austin Powers in Goldmember
The Devil Wears Prada
Hot Shots! Part Deux
Kate & Leopold
Last Action Hero
Men In Black
Men In Black II
Men In Black 3
Miss Congeniality Monty Python and the Holy Grail
A Night at the Roxbury
Out of Sight Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion
Rush Hour 2
Shaun of the Dead
View From The Top
The Wedding Singer
In a word, this film is fun from beginning to end. It is ostensibly a parody of the early Bonds and other films from the 60's, and is much, much funnier if one is familiar with any of them. However, Austin Powers International Man of Mystery stands on its own as an excellent comedy and—in many ways—as a love letter to the mood and energy of the 60's. A lot of the humour stems from both Austin and Dr Evil being fish out of water and constantly being corrected by their allies or minions. In that regard, Elizabeth Hurley's Vanessa is the standout role as she is the perfect foil for Austin's over-the-top interpretation of 60's values.
The highlight of the film is Seth Green's Scott Evil. Arguably he alone is playing his character straight, reacting like a normal person to the bizarre situations Austin and Dr Evil create—concurrently spawning countless jokes and reminding us just how delusional all the protagonists and antagonists and their cohorts are, but at the same time not breaking our suspension of disbelief in the slightest! This movie is arguably the best of the Austin Powers films as not only does most of the comedy stem from the restrictions being slapped onto Austin's and Dr Evil's excesses, it also successfully paints the two characters as both tragic and highly sympathetic for having missed so much of life during the 30 years that they were frozen.
In many regards, The Spy Who Shagged Me picks up where International Man of Mystery left off, and continues the same zany energy. However, its prime weakness is that Elizabeth Hurley's character Vanessa is killed off in the first scene! A lot of the first film's humour stems from Austin being a fish-out-of-water in addition to Vanessa constantly reigning in Austin's excesses. This film does away with both, and unleashes Austin in his full ridiculousness. While that has certain appeals, it completely negates the poignancy and inherent sadness stemming from being out of his element and having missed out on over 30 years of life.
That said, Dr Evil is still reigned in somewhat by his cohorts, and I really enjoyed the subtle note that all of Dr Evil's plans work when he is back in the 1960's, and that he also struggles with a reverse fish-out-of-water effect as his experiences in the 1990s have genuinely affected him and he no longer fits into the 1960's either. The film also interestingly highlights how much of a hack Dr Evil is, with a lot of the names and fundamental ideas for his operations coming from such diverse things as TV commercials and movies from the 90's! Seth Green's Scott Evil is once again a joy to watch. Rob Lowe also does a stellar performance as a younger Number 2, which is remarkably similar to Robert Wagner's performance. However, the highlight of the film is Mini-me. Verne Troyer's performance is mind-blowingly effective (and funny!) in a character that basically doesn't utter a single line of dialogue! It is a must see.
Goldmember has a slight course correction away from the excessiveness of The Spy Who Shagged Me back toward the more balanced International Man of Mystery. However, just like The Spy Who Shagged Me, this film does not have any of the poignancy of the original, and unlike the second film, completely does away with the fish-out-of-water aspects that provided so much of the comedy and heart of the first film. In addition, Dr Evil is frustratingly portrayed both more lampoonishly and, frankly, out of character. One of the draws of the Austin Powers films is how Dr Evil is the polar opposite of the title character. However, in this third film, Dr Evil is portrayed less like the yin to Austin's yang, and more like a pale copy. This is perhaps more a critique of Jay Roach's directing and Mike Myers's performance choices, as Myers still does a stellar job giving us wildly divergent and unique characterizations in the Goldmember and Fat Bastard personas.
The standout performance is Beyoncé Knowles as Foxxy Cleopatra. She positively owns every scene she appears in. Knowles not only gets the comedy beats down, she also delivers as a co-star who is at once no-nonsense when needed, but is also in on the joke as well as acting as Austin's foil. In many ways, Cleopatra is the evolution of the Vanessa Kensington character in International Man of Mystery, whose presence as a foil to Austin's excesses was sorely missed in The Spy Who Shagged Me. Another joy of this film is Michael Caine as Austin's father Nigel Powers. He perfectly encapsulates a father figure who is both the inspiration to Austin's lifestyle choices as well as the cause of much of his grief. The film is also bookended with scenes chock-full of a surprising number of Hollywood celebrities—the A-listers that appear are shockingly electrifying. While the overall film is hit and miss and wraps up the Austin Powers film series on an odd and somewhat disappointing note, it has plenty of things going for it and ought not to be missed.
The above probably makes the movie come across as much more complicated than it really is. It builds at a comfortable pace, introducing us to the key characters and then gradually expanding and evolving to build up a rather large pantheon of diverse characters. Obviously the fashion and styles of the lead characters are one of the big draws of this film. However, it's a sweet high school romance at heart, and its comedy comes naturally from the awkwardness of the teenage years without relying on mean-spiritedness.
The film's accurate encapsulation of the teen/young-adult crowd in the mid-nineties is its biggest strength. While the film was trend setting when it came out, it is pleasantly nostalgic viewed 20 years later. While I can't claim that it's an accurate depiction of my high school years (for starters, I didn't attend a school in Beverly Hills!), it is brimming with enough parallels and similar situations that I can say that mine were kind of like that. The only odd thing about the film is that Cher's love interest is her ex-stepbrother. While it's logically OK for them to be in a relationship—as they have biologically different parents—that initial icky feeling never really goes away.
While it would be easy to describe this as a comedy about the boss from hell, it is actually a wonderful coming of age, trial-by-fire story. Andy's experiences are very relatable, and the film reminded me a lot about my past bosses 'from hell'. The film does a great job at showing the differences between merely being 'present' at work, and having the drive and motivation to not only improve oneself but succeed at work. On the other hand, the film gave me lots of feelings of "been there, done that", and "I'm glad I'm not in that kind of a position anymore".
The film also gives us a look into the business side of the fashion industry—definitely not for the faint of heart! However, the film doesn't mock or lampoon the industry or its characters, and treats them all respectfully. Even the boss from hell is given good reasons for being the way that she is.
Director David Frenkel directed quite a few episodes of Sex and the City before making this film, and the experiences (and connections!) earned there pay off in this film. While the subject matter is different, this film and that TV series have a very similar feeling and energy to them—not just the fashion and romance aspects, but also such things as the camerawork and the depiction of New York life. So, if you liked Sex and the City, you'll definitely like this film!
As a coming of age film, this is great in combination with Sam Raimi's Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 films. While those deal with graduating from school, moving to a big city, and one's first love, this film details the next steps: the first real job, and sorting out where you want to go in life after establishing yourself.
Evolution is a fun romp, with an intriguing premise. However, it's not of the same calibre as Dir. Reitman's blockbuster Ghostbusters. While both films are filled with jokes, Evolution has a few big ones, many little ones, and quite a few that fall flat (unlike Ghostbusters' consistently funny 'medium' jokes). Also, Evolution takes a decidedly sophomoric turn that is more miss than hit. Take, for example, David Duchovny's Kane character inexplicable mooning the general at the end of their first encounter—it not only comes across as completely out of character, but also juvenile considering Kane's apparent age, his relationship with Woodman, and the overall situation. Contrast that with Venkman and EPA inspector Peck's encounters in Ghostbusters, which not only stays in character, but is respectful of them as they trade snide shots with each other. Perhaps the problem is that Woodman was placed too high up the military command chain, and the writers had written themselves into a corner?
Nevertheless, the film has some memorable sequences and quotable lines. Orlando Jones is consistently funny as Block, and Julianne Moore is funny—when the film remembers that she is a klutz. A lot of the funnier humour also comes from the minor characters, such as the housewives, and the shoplifter. When the film respects it's characters, it's great, but when it pushes for the (sophomoric) joke, it's less than stellar.
The bad: the movie seemed to have odd pacing, with the pacing in some scenes feeling jarringly out of place. Also, what was lacking was the slowly building foreboding and impending sense of doom from the original. I also didn't like how they rendered the ghosts—maybe I'm old school and prefer practical effects rotoscoped onto live action plates and the ensuing visual degradation from that? The neon-blue haloed ghosts were just too clearly rendered for my taste. Maybe its something that's needed for the 3D version of the movie, and the CG has to be crystal clear to get the 3D effect or something.
It's reminded me of something vital about movie making that the team behind this one appears to have forgotten: nothing is as powerful as the viewer's imagination. Give me semi-obscured ghosts cloaked in the shadows that we never get a clear view of. Now that's scary!
In conclusion: I laughed. It was good escapist fun. Do we need much more than that in a comedy? I wouldn't mind seeing more of these characters in a sequel, but at the time of writing, I don't think its worthy of adding to my DVD collection.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a wonderful film that not only successfully recaptures the zany energy and supernatural comedy of 1984's Ghostbusters, but introduces a whole new cast and takes the franchise in an entirely new direction. The film focuses on the characters first and foremost, and makes them perfectly relatable—much like how the original movie presented its everyman heroes. A lot of the fun comes from both the film's nostalgia and references to Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II. I was pleasantly surprised to also learn from the making-of documentaries that there are even a few references to the The Real Ghostbusters animated TV series! Bringing back the original film's protagonist, however, gave me mixed feelings. On the one hand, it's a great source of nostalgia and gives the film a strong feeling of being firmly set in the Ghostbusters's universe. On the other, it also gave the film a tinge of that feeling I sometimes get from Star Wars, where everything seems to happen to (or be caused by) the same small group of people.
Nevertheless, the film also revisits a lot of the original movie's musical cues, which makes it feel all the more like a proper sequel. The highlight of the film, however, is Mckenna Grace's performance as Phoebe. Unlike her fellow child stars in this movie that tend to act less and react more—like the kids in such memorable films as Hook and The Goonies—Mckenna gives a diverse and at times surprisingly subtle and nuanced performance. It's stunning to learn that she was only about 14 when the movie was filmed. I'd recommend this film just for her performance. However, it's raison d'être is Ghostbusters, and this film more than satisfyingly meets the challenge of being a proper 'sequel' that not only continues the story, but further develops the original. If you're a Ghostbusters fan, this film can't be missed!
It may seem confusing, but the way the film assembles itself, rounds out the characters, and tells us their backstories is a riot of laughs. The movie is mainly a parody of Top Gun, but also spoofs a number of popular movies from the late '80's and earlier. In some ways, part of the fun is spotting the film being referenced. In other ways, the fun is seeing how this film stitches together those seemingly disparate scenes to tell a well woven story. In the end, Hot Shots! rises above its parody roots and stands on its own legs.
This movie is an excellent blend of humour, with some of it in the foreground, and others sneaking in into the background. It really pays off to pay attention to all of what's on screen. The highlight of the film is "Wash Out", who steals every scene he is in. However, "Dead Meat" Thompson also gets a wonderful sequence where he and his wife do all the things one ought not to do before taking off on a risky flight in a tired old aircraft. While the outcome isn't really any surprise, the film keeps going and going, milking the post-crash rescue sequence for all its got. Perhaps that's how one can sum up the comedy in this film.
The only drawback is that the film is a child of its time—the parodies may be lost on viewers who are unfamiliar with the films in the era Hot Shots! was released. Nevertheless, the film is endlessly imaginative and finds laughs in unexpected places as much as, if not more often than the obvious ones. A comedy classic. Recommended.
Hot Shots! Part Deux is a bit more hit and miss, and hasn't dated as well as its predecessor. Unlike Hot Shots!, there are times were it's practically de rigueur that you know the TV shows and movies in the US at the beginning of the 90's to get the joke. The plot in Part Deux also isn't as fully developed as the one in Hot Shots!, and it struggles to be more than a clothesline to string together disparate scenes spoofing other movies. It probably doesn't help that the story has a lot of the same plot twists as Hot Shots! and it doesn't milk the jokes half as much as it could.
Nevertheless, the movie has its fair share of extremely funny moments—so funny that I couldn't help but laugh out loud! Part Deux also has more wordplay than its predecessor. Take, for example, the lines: "Now we have to go and get the men who went to get the men who went to get the men. My job is to make sure we don't fail again." Which also has a nice rhyme to it. In some ways, witty lines are the best thing about the film, bringing chuckles long after the credits have finished. However, the highlight of the film is the big showdown between Saddam Hussein and President Thomas Benson. The fight goes in many unexpected directions, making some unusual parodies in the process, and is arguably when the film stands most strongly on its own legs.
While I Spy has all the keys to a successful film, the movie never really takes off. Part of that is due to the combination of Alex's character being so bumbling that it's frankly implausible for him to be an elite agent, and Kelly's character being allowed to stay extremely obnoxious throughout the whole movie. While Alex is given a bit of growth as he comes to grudgingly understand and respect Kelly, Kelly never really changes at all. Perhaps because of that, a lot of the jokes fall flat—though it is arguable that they would still fall flat even with character growth.
The plot of the film is decent, and perhaps could have been put to better use in a film with a more serious tone. The villains and supporting cast all put in a good effort, but are let down by the Alex-Kelly central relationship of the movie. The highlight of the film is Famke Janssen. The actions her character takes in all of the supposed comedy bits match up well with her character's motivations. It's a shame that Eddie Murphy's and Owen Wilson's characters weren't given the same amount of care and polish.
Kate & Leopold is a fun story, if one ignores the time travel hi-jinks, which this film largely does. The highlight of the film is Hugh Jackman's portrayal of Leopold, a man out of time, struggling to come to grips with the new reality that he has landed in, and refusing to lower his standards to the level of the people he finds himself surrounded by. While the fish-out-of-water gives the film a lot of laughs, it is also a great comparison between then and now—how things have gotten better or worse. As the film focuses on the upper class of then, there's a certain romanticism about how things were, and aside from one line, the film doesn't dwell on such things as the sexism and social stratification which were more prevalent then.
Nevertheless, while the film focuses on the love story between Leopold and Kate, it is also full of subtle details. I liked how they implied that Leopold is the inventor of the elevator, and that all elevators have stopped working while he is in our era. Nevertheless, the film's strongest point is when it focuses on how our morals and integrity have changed over the century—even while showing the seeds of those changes being planted in the past. Nevertheless, the film is a fun fantasy, as it literally is a white knight prince rescuing a damsel in distress and ending with a happily ever after.
This movie has a lot of things going for it: Arnold at his prime as Jack Slater—both one of his more developed characters and a parody of his other roles—John McTiernan's directing, and writing (or rewriting) by Shane Black. Alas, the film never quite comes together. When I initially saw this film in theatres, I felt what was wrong was the kid: he constantly reminds us that "it's just a movie". However, decades later, I feel that they spent too much time following the plot of the movie-within-a-movie in the exaggerated movie land, and not enough time in the real world. It's a shame, as the Danny character provides some genuinely funny observations about the action movies that this film is parodying, and as the film takes itself seriously, its humour is also funnier than other parody movies released in the same era.
The film missed the potential for exploring what it's like for a fantasy character facing up to their reality in the real world, let alone the infinite possibilities of bringing any number of movie villains into real life. Ian McKellen does a knockout performance as Death, but just imagine the possibilities hinted at when the film's villain Benedict is circling movie titles in the newspaper—Dracula comes first and foremost to mind. Despite that missed opportunity, this movie is loaded with great music, and has quite a few blink-and-you-miss-it performances and cameos.
Nevertheless, despite its shortcomings, Last Action Hero does a great job at highlighting the absurdities and idiosyncrasies of the worlds in action movies. It also has a great dose of celebrity culture—before it was a thing—in the premiere of the Jack Slater IV movie-within-a-movie. The Jack character himself is given great pathos, and despite being larger than life, we can relate to him and his troubles. Nevertheless, the highlight of the film is Charles Dance's performance as the antagonist Benedict. While he is great as the villain in the movie-within-a-movie, he excels when he shows his disgust and complete surprise at what type of crime happens, and what he can get away with in the real world.
This movie is still funny after numerous viewings—and a lot of the credit for that is simply because the film doesn't try to be funny. The deadpan delivery by Tommy Lee Jones and the wet-behind-the-ears reactions to that by Will Smith are both good fun and instantly relatable. Layered on top of that is Vincent D'onofrio's over-the-top performance as Edgar the Bug. I swear he had more fun performing the antagonist than we have watching it!
The film has many other attributes, not the least of which is that it is full of many other excellent actors at the top of their game. However, the writing on this film cannot be overstated—it gets the right notes giving us a sci-fi thriller and a comedy, with poignant character arcs, too. It's also commendable that the movie avoids the temptation to overdo things, and remains grounded in its premise. This film isn't great science fiction. Nevertheless, for a film that sets out to be a great diversion for an hour or two, I really liked how it quietly asks the viewer to not take the world around us at face value.
In a word, this movie is gratuitous. Where the first movie showed restraint and focused on its characters, this film does not. One of the most disappointing aspects of the film is how disrespectful it is to the characters and the basic premise of the series. Among other things, the Men In Black organization is portrayed as being inept, Agent K's happy ending is effectively reset with little thought on the emotional ramifications, and the secondary antagonist Scrad/Charlie just disappears midway through the movie! There are a few good jokes, but you have to wade through a lot of unfunny ones to get to those gems. There are also some sequences that wade into truly dark territory as they struggle for a joke. Where Edgar's abused wife in the first film was truly tragic, the video store couple's relationship in this film is just sad, and ends on an unnecessarily grim note.
There are a lot of visual and practical effects in the movie. Regrettably, many of the jokes are tied directly to them—special effects generally do not make for good humour. That's not to say that the film is completely without merit: it is great to see some old and new comedic actors again, even if they aren't used effectively or are based on one-joke characters from the first film. On the other hand, the movie comes alive during the scenes with Tony Shalhoub. His comic skills are so great that they transcend the special effects associated with his character. Perhaps his scenes alone are worth the price of admission?
I was pleasantly surprised by this film. I went in expecting disappointment from another gratuitous sip from the MIB well, and came out having not only been entertained, but challenged. This film goes back to what made the first MIB film great, and stays firmly planted in that premise without losing sight of who the characters are, what they can (or can't) do—as well as the scope and limitations of the MIB organization. What I also really liked is how the premise of MIB also bleeds into the directions that the story takes. The best example of this is having the protagonists infiltrate into the Cape Canaveral launch complex from what amounts to the back door. It gives us the wonderful opportunity to not only see the unsung workers and security forces protecting the NASA Moon rocket launches, but also the (thankfully unneeded) ground emergency escape equipment and shelters for the astronauts.
The highlights of the film are a return of the series' quiet insistence that we shouldn't take the world that we know at face value, and the poignancy in the relationship between the main characters. This film goes a long way into explaining the hows and whys of the two protagonists. The casting of Josh Brolin as young Agent K is spot on. The inclusion of Griffin, an alien who can see all possible outcomes, is also sublime—he is both the wise elder character when the story necessitates that Agent K (who usually occupies that role) can't be, as well as the personification of the all-knowing and all-seeing writer. Genius!
While the destination of this film is predictable, its charm is in how it gets there, and the performances of the stellar cast. On top of Sandra Bullock and Ernie Hudson, we get the well-polished comic timing of Candice Bergen and William Shatner, in addition to the sublime Michael Caine. Caine's turn as Victor Melling—a disgraced beauty pageant coach roped in to makeover Hart and teacher her how to act like a model—steals the show.
The film is light, fun and funny. While it's hardly a challenging film, it has a sort of timeless quality, the jokes are still fresh after repeated viewings, and it's great for unwinding after a busy day. Michael Caine is the highlight, and the film is well worth it just for his performance.
A Night at the Roxbury is a great escapist film for unwinding. While it's protagonists are fairly dim, this film doesn't have the satire that something like Dumb and Dumber has. It has its moments, but it's not consistently funny like Ghostbusters or Tropic Thunder. Some jokes are a bit dated—if the viewer isn't up on the pop culture of the late 90's, they may go over their heads. Nevertheless, the highlight of the film is the Eurodance soundtrack that provides the heartbeat of the movie.
All is not as straightforward as it seems, as Danny has another motivation to target Terry: Danny's ex-wife Tess is currently Terry's girlfriend. Rusty urges Danny to give up the plan—due to the obvious complications and potential pitfalls—but Danny refuses, and the plan is put into operation. Just like other caper movies, things don't go completely to plan, and the team has to scramble to overcome and outwit the complications that pop up.
Above all else, this film is slickly made. There's never a dull moment as the film smoothly and assuredly moves from scene to scene. One of the highlights is the dialogue between the characters. As the majority of actors are well-experienced A-listers, the dialogue is delivered with great timing, and just the right amount of emotion. While it's great seeing so many good actors, it's also the films Achilles heel: there are so many characters that after a brief introduction, the film never gets around to developing them—let alone allowing them to grow and evolve—as it's too busy keeping track of who's doing what, and where they're doing it. Nevertheless, the payoff is satisfying as in addition to Terry getting his just dessert, there are quite a few unexpected plot twists right up until the very end.
Ocean's Twelve is a great, inventive film that shows the surprising complications of life after having successfully pulled off one of the most lucrative heists in movie history. It's interesting to note that while each character is happy with most of the things in their respective lives, they are unhappy with other things. For example, Danny can't help but case a bank because he still has that bug, and Rusty is gainfully employed as a hotelier but pines for the Europol detective he had to leave '3 years earlier' because her investigation into a robbery was rapidly closing in on him.
Just like the first film, Ocean's Twelve has great heart, as the emotional core of the story is not about paying back debts or outwitting a rival thief, but winning back a lost love. The film also keeps its cards close to its chest until the final reveal is played out. However, unlike the first film, there is more than one heist, and the misdirection is as much aimed at the audience as it is to the team's rivals in the film. The highlight of the film is Bruce Willis's cameo in the middle of the film playing against Julia Robert's not-cameo cameo as Tess, who is pretending to be Julia Roberts. While the film still comes up a bit short on character development and growth, it is really about style, hipness, and above all else, fun. On top of that, we get to see George Clooney's villa on Lake Como!
Some have complained that Dir. Steven Soderbergh is coasting with the Ocean's movies. This one proves that assertion. While it's fun learning what the protagonists are up to and getting another chance to visit the Ocean's universe, this movie lacks what the previous two had: heart. While it's true that Ocean's group are doing it all for their friend, it's just not the same as Ocean's Eleven or Ocean's Twelve, where the lead protagonists aren't really doing it for the money, but for the chance to win back the heart of a long lost love. In fact, those 'loves' don't even make an appearance in this film. The characters of Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones are sorely missed as they tended to provide the voice of reason and grounded the films in reality.
On the other hand, Virgil Malloy (Casey Affleck) and Turk Malloy (Scott Caan) are given a lot more to do, and shine in their roles as instigators of a strike among exploited Mexican factory workers to improve the working conditions as well as increase the wages. I'm not sure if Soderbergh was making a social point, but there's more going on in the scene where the 'joke' is the total cost of the labourers wage increase—especially when compared to how much the casino makes per person or how much Ocean's crew are stealing. However, this movie doesn't dwell on such things, and quickly moves on to the next part of the caper.
Al Pacino is the highlight of the film. He is ruthless, but not like a typical movie villain, just as a businessman. Even though he pulls the same weight as Andy García's casino boss Terry Benedict, Bank's threats come across as substantially less threatening. This is more a testament to Pacino's acting, as we know from other films that he can be pretty threatening when he wants to! Nevertheless, the film doesn't really have much to add or new things to say about it's cast of characters, and it's really only the new ones—the assistants, the concierges, the factory workers—that are given much development. If you liked the preceding films in this series, you'll enjoy this film, however it is ultimately superfluous.
If you liked the Ocean's films, you will love this one. In a way, it's like an "Ocean's Ten", but focused on far fewer characters—which gives each one time to not only shine, but to grow over the course of the film. Also, unlike the Ocean's films, Out of Sight features some truly despicable people in more realistic situations, giving it a stronger grounding in reality.
In some ways, Dir. Soderbergh was honing his techniques for that trilogy here, but in other ways, this film goes much further and is a lot more effective with its dynamic editing and cross-cutting between different points in time. The standout sequence is the one where Jack meets Karen in a hotel bar, and the film cuts between their conversation over a drink and what happens next when they head to her hotel room. It's a thought provoking juxtaposition between seduction and desire, and input and outcome—while using external shots to suggest what the characters are internally feeling and imaging.
The film hits the right balance between serious drama and comedy—with a lot of the jokes developing naturally from the characters and their actions. It is a lot of fun with interesting, and unexpected twists and turns throughout.
Back home, they pour through their graduation yearbook, reliving painful episodes, and acquainting the viewer with the rivalries, love interests, and desires of the 'main' people at their old high school. Romy and Michelle decide to go to the reunion, and then realize that they've accomplished next to nothing in the decade since graduation. They eventually stumble onto the ill-advised plan to pretend to be successful, and set out for the reunion in Tuscon.
This is a charming film that relives the painful gawkiness of high school, and gives the viewer a chance to live vicariously and enact our comeuppance on those who slighted us back then—as well as a glimpse of the potentially less-than-glamorous fate of the 'A group' after graduation. The highlight of the film is Janeane Garofalo's fully-committed performance of Heather Mooney. As for her character: despite being successful (developing fast-smoking cigarettes no less!), she has arguably changed the least over the decade.
The film concludes with Romy and Michelle coming to terms with who they are, and finding their voices—which also ends up putting them onto the path to success in their lives. While there are uncomfortable and painful-to-relive episodes along the way, the movie is ultimately quite positive. Romy and Michelle don't meet their prince charming and live happily ever after, but they do carve out their own niche, and end the film on their own road to success.
This film smartly sets up a simple, high-stakes plot, and gets out of the way to let Jackie Chan (as Lee) and Chris Tucker (as Carter) do their thing. A lot of the fun comes from Jackie Chan's earnestness at overcoming the language barrier and culture shock—something intimately familiar to me—and Chris Tucker's slight insecurity (referred to as "acting nervousness" in the featurettes accompanying 2001's Rush Hour 2) is surprisingly beneficial: he's obnoxious, but when coupled with the acting nerves, it feels like he's using that to compensate for his deficiencies, as well as the lack of respect from his colleagues. It's a shame that those aspects (especially the latter one) weren't carried over into Rush Hour 2.
The main villain is good and quite memorable, and makes the film a story about East Asian and African-American heroes teaming up to save the day from a villainous Caucasian! I also found it thought provoking how they set up the film as China and the USA (the protagonists) vs. the UK (the main antagonist). The use of Mandarin over Cantonese is also intriguing—I'm by no means familiar with either, but I know enough to have noticed that by and large almost all the scenes set in the consulate or with the daughter had Mandarin, and only noticed Cantonese in the one scene where Jackie Chan is talking with the food seller in LA's Chinatown. In those regards, the film was quite progressive. Twenty plus years on, the film hasn't dated, and the humour is still quite fresh even after multiple viewings.
One thing I noted was that Hong Kong was surprisingly familiar to me after living in Asia for more than 10 years (and despite never having been there!) On the other hand, the LA scenes were nostalgic, but oddly foreign!
Despite being released 3 years after the first, Rush Hour 2 picks up exactly where the first film leaves off, with Carter vacationing in Hong Kong. In a way it echoes many other films, such as the Crocodile Dundee films where the locale is switched in the sequel. However, this film keeps the locale order of the first, and simply expands on the scenes set in Hong Kong. This allows Jackie Chan to unleash his full range of risk-taking prowess, and giving us a lot more dazzling—and occasionally heart-stopping—action sequences! In many ways the sequences set in Hong Kong are the best parts of this movie. In addition to enabling Chan to use his full set of resources, the jokes in Cantonese or that take place in Hong Kong are still fresh, and some of the funniest in the film. It's a shame that the production team didn't take more advantage of the 'Chris'-out-of-water before shuttling the action back to the USA.
Unlike the first film, however, Rush Hour 2 doesn't have a decent villain. We do end up with three, but the film doesn't take the time to develop two of them. Nor does it invest in clarifying the circumstances of the supposed mastermind, so as to provide a clear focus through to the end of the film. Ultimately, it is a missed opportunity, as all three were either not threatening enough, or simply left undeveloped. Jackie Chan's English and Chris Tucker's acting are a lot more confident this time, but that tended to throw water on the comedy, or merely made things all the more obnoxious. Alas, the film didn't incorporate the LAPD's lack of respect for Carter, which was a vein of humour mined to great effect in the first one.
Nevertheless, this film is still great fun, and gives a second look at one of the great buddy-pairings of the 90's. In addition to the action comedy, one of the best things in the two Rush Hour films is Lalo Schifrin's musical score. The highlight of Rush Hour 2, however, is Don Cheadle's restaurateur. One wonders how much of an improvement it would have been if Tucker had put in the same effort as Cheadle did in learning not only martial arts, but also Cantonese!
The highlight of Shanghai Noon is its original premise: martial artist master in the Old West. Despite a few missteps—the treatment of the Sioux culture in particular—the film is quite entertaining. It visits all the cliches, and manages to not only renew them, but also leverage Jackie Chan's abilities to put a new spin on them. Sadly, the film underutilizes Lucy Liu. After her stellar performance in Charlie's Angels (released in the same year, no less!), it's disappointing that film doesn't let her use her martial arts skills.
The plot may be the weakest link in the film, but one generally does not watch this type of film for that. On the other hand, the comedy more than makes up for it. Jackie Chan is in his prime, as inventive as always, and he is nicely counterbalanced by Owen Wilson's verbal skills and timing. 20 years on, the film is still funny.
Things are further complicated by Ed not having a job and essentially living on the couch in Shaun's shared house—much to Shaun's roomate's consternation. Shaun's relationship with his stepfather is also bad, and may or may not be the cause of Shaun's listlessness.
This may seem like an awful lot of setup for a zombie film, but as it's actually a romantic comedy (or extended adolescence comedy) set in a zombie apocalypse, it elevates the film to one of the best zombie movies, ever—especially when one considers that zombie movies are at their heart a critique of society. In many ways, Shaun's brain-dead existence makes him the zombie of the film, and not the 'reanimated dead' that the film goes out of its way to avoid calling "zombies".
In a film full of outstanding performances that hit the right notes, Bill Nighy's performance as Shaun's stepfather is a real treat. However, kudos go to the creative choice to depict the zombies as shuffling, easily avoided and defeatable monstrosities. It's a callback to classics like Dawn of the Dead, where zombies are only really a threat when you lose concentration or let your guard down—which tends to happen a lot in this film!
Spaceballs is a decent comedy full of references to many of the great SF series of the early 80's, in addition to the original Star Wars movie whose plot it fairly faithfully follows. Perhaps due to that, the movie isn't as original as it could have been, and feels more like a retread of all the other Star Wars parodies in the intervening years. Nevertheless, if you're in the mood, it's full of chuckles, warm memories, and not only the challenge of 'name that reference', but also 'name that influence'. (Elon Musk is apparently a fan.)
Aside from the usual problems of half-baked jokes or comedy that never really worked in the first place, the film has a great production budget and looks spectacular, to the point that it even rivals the SF classics that it's parodying. The film is also filled with great comedy actors—John Candy and Rick Moranis for starters—who elevate the film with their great comedic timing. Interestingly, the film is still topical, as the main driver of the plot is a planet that has squandered all of its fresh air. While it's ridiculous to presume that we'll be vacuuming up other planets' atmospheres to replace our own, the implied reasons for planet Spaceball's lack of an atmosphere is arguably the most realistic part of the movie!
The opening scenes smoothly flow by while establishing the main characters and setting up the situation. It's probably the least serious section of the movie. However, even here, the film starts asking questions like what exactly did the U.S. soldiers do in the war. Once the four set out, the film starts rapidly switching gears, and steadily becomes more serious as the lethality increases, all the while asking more and more challenging questions. Despite that, the film never loses its energy. In fact, it keeps piling it on, and we get some truly electrifying sequences.
The highlight of the film isn't the realistic battles in a foreign landscape strewn with landmines, or how the film can be both deathly serious and extremely funny at the same time. No, the highlight is the film's humanity. It seamlessly takes the time to depict the Iraqi civilians and soldiers as human beings with complex motivations and personal histories. Yes, some of them do bad things in the film, but it's hard to call them bad people, simply because they're ordinary people caught in an ugly situation.
This film was great when I first saw it, and it has only gotten better the more I've learned about the varieties of people and religions in the Iraq area. It's full of great ideas, and has even greater energy.
Even though some of the humour rubs off after multiple viewings, the film remains quite sharp and insightful. It is currently my favourite comedy—though satire is probably a better way to describe the film. This movie is chock-a-block full of wonderful comedic surprises, and is one of those rare movies with instantly memorable one liners, and an actual point that is presented in a way that trusts the intelligence of the viewer.
The biggest drawback to the film is the over-the-top gore (followed by some of the gross-out humour)—which gives it a well-deserved R-rating (I have the unrated director's cut, which is probably even more over the top). Nevertheless, the film is well worth a rewatch or two, as some things are funnier when you fully understand their context.
This film is also one of the few times where the audio commentary track is just as entertaining as the movie itself. I'm referring to the one with Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., and Jack Black. While it's hilarious that Black arrives late with a take-out burger, the highlight is Downey doing it in-character as Lincoln Osiris—the character that his character (Kirk Lazarus) plays for most of the movie!
Maybe I have a soft spot for these kinds of films—or maybe it's who I was with when I first saw this film—but I'm always pleased by this film. The movie has a lot going for it: in addition to the humour, romance, and happy ending, there's a positive message that you can achieve whatever you want if you set your sights on it. However, unlike more cynical movies, this one focuses on the positive, and reinforces that success comes as much from your own efforts as it does from the help given freely by others on your journey.
Perhaps the films greatest strength—and overall message—is summed up in the final scene with the main character having achieved a pilots licence: never stop pursuing your dreams, and don't be afraid to alter them on your journey as new opportunities appear. And after a fun, breezy ride, that's not a bad message to leave the theatres with at all.
The Wedding Singer is a charming film of a pair of people engaged to marry people that are entirely unfit for them, who find their ideal partners in the end. While the outcome is never in any doubt, and the lengths the movie goes to to keep the starring couple from realizing their feelings for each other sometimes borders on the unrealistic, it is still a fun, enjoyable ride.
The highlight is the setting of the film—the mid 80's—and it's enjoyable watching the film skewer some of the more ridiculous trends in that period. On the other hand, the setting also gives the film a great soundtrack full of classic hits. Another joy of the film is the unique and well developed cast of supporting characters. This film is also one of the rare ones that puts real people on screen—in the earlier scenes of the wedding receptions. After living in Japan for 20 years, it's a joy to see a real people behaving "normally" in front of a camera in scenes of family events that are laced with nostalgia.
20 years on, this film still feels fresh. The jokes don't get stale on repeat viewing, and the satire of male models and the fashion industry is always fun to watch. While the film doesn't delve into the nasty side of the fashion industry—like how The Devil Wears Prada does —it does give a glimpse behind the curtain of the more glamorous parts of the industry.
The highlight of the film is Will Ferrell as Mugato. He is pitch perfect at being simultaneously over the top and grounded in a reality that the viewer can relate to. It's almost as if his character knows exactly how ridiculous he is, and how much he can get away with.
The film is the equal of comedy classics, and is arguably better than Tropic Thunder because it is much more family friendly—like Ghostbusters. Almost every scene is loaded with cameos and well known actors, and one part of the film's fun is spotting and naming the celebrity. The film is fun, with excellent pacing, engaging characters, and hardly a dull moment.