Sketchley's Translations Main Index
By AARON SKETCHLEY (aaronsketch@HOTdelete_thisMAIL.com) Ver 1.20 2021.09.11

Comedy Film Reviews

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me Austin Powers in Goldmember
Clueless

The Devil Wears Prada

Evolution

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters 2

Ghostbusters (2016)

Holes

Hot Shots!

Hot Shots! Part Deux

I Spy

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

Ocean's Eleven

Ocean's Twelve

Ocean's Thirteen

Out of Sight
Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion
Rush Hour

Rush Hour 2

Shanghai Noon

Shaun of the Dead

Spaceballs

Three Kings

Tropic Thunder

View From The Top

The Wedding Singer

Zoolander

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

stars

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Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

stars

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Austin Powers in Goldmember

stars

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Clueless

stars

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The Devil Wears Prada

3.5 stars

Release date: 2006
Written by: Aline Brosh McKenna
Directed by: David Frankel
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2020.12.19
Andrea "Andy" Sachs—a young, recent university graduate aspiring to be a journalist—gets her first full-time job as a junior personal assistant to Miranda Priestly, the editor-in-chief of a major fashion magazine, and the boss from hell. Andy decides to put up with it for a year, with the hopes of getting a better job somewhere else. She is put through the wringer, but after whining once to often to a more experienced coworker who has taken her under his wing, is given a reality check and starts to grow up and act properly for her role. She matures and starts to get ahead. However, the more successful she is at work, the more her social life suffers... to the point that things start breaking.

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.

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Evolution

stars

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Ghostbusters

stars

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Ghostbusters 2

stars

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Ghostbusters (2016)

2.5 stars

Release date: 2016
Written by: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
Directed by: Paul Feig
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2016.08.15
The good: I found the Ghostbusters team continually improving and evolving their tactics and 'arsenal' interesting. I also like that the film wasn't a straight remake of the original, but more like a re-imaging based on the concepts from the original (ie: the human instigator of the spiritual action: in the original, he's long-since deceased, whereas he's alive and/or kicking 😉 in this one). As it wasn't a straight redo, I was pleasantly surprised whenever the movie did not turn out how I anticipated the scenes would, based on the original.

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.

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Holes

stars

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Hot Shots!

3 stars

Release date: 1991
Written by: Jim Abrahams, Pat Proft
Directed by: Jim Abrahams
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.08.03
"Topper" Harley left the air force over a year ago because of a terrible accident caused by intense psychological problems he experiences whenever his father is mentioned. He is called back to active duty by Lt. Commander Block to help on a top secret mission: Operation Sleepy Weasel, commanded by the accident-prone Admiral "Tug" Benson. Topper's therapist, Ramada Thompson tries to stop Topper from flying, but is unable to, and falls in love with him instead. Concurrently, Topper develops a rivalry with fellow pilot Kent Gregory, former boyfriend of Ramada and son of "Mailman" Fernham—who's death Kent blames on "Buzz" Harley, Topper's father. Never mind that Kent's father survived the crash that may-or-may-not have been caused by Buzz, and it was actually fellow pilot "Wash Out" Pfaffenbach's father who accidentally killed Buzz.

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.

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Hot Shots! Part Deux

2.5 stars

Release date: 1993
Written by: Jim Abrahams, Pat Proft
Directed by: Jim Abrahams
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.08.24
Topper Harley has retired from the US Navy and is living the life of a reclusive Buddhist in a small Thai village. Col. Denton Walters and CIA agent Michelle Huddleston arrive to try and persuade Topper to join Denton on a mission into Iraq to rescue US soldiers captured during Operation Desert Storm. Topper refuses, as he retired due to Ramada Rodham breaking up with him just as they were preparing to elope. Denton goes anyways, and is captured. Seeing the reports on the news, Topper agrees to lead a small group of soldiers into Iraq to rescue the hostages. On the eve of departure, he gets into a romantic relationship with Michelle. After parachuting into Iraq, however, their local contact turns out to be Ramada herself!

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.

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I Spy

stars

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Kate & Leopold

2.5 stars

Release date: 2001
Written by: Steven Rogers, James Mangold
Directed by: James Mangold
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.07.20
Stuart Besser is a physicist who has discovered a "crack in time" and travelled to 1876. However, he arouses the suspicions of Leopold, the 3rd Duke of Albany, who accidentally follows him back to 2001. Before Stuart can properly explain the situation to Leopold, he has to take his dog out for its morning duty. However, Stuart falls down an open elevator shaft and ends up hospitalized. Leopold meets Kate McKay—Stuart's downstairs neighbour and ex-girlfriend—and is intrigued by her. He then meets and befriends Charlie, Kate's brother, who believes that Leopold is a fellow actor who is so 'method' he's not breaking character. As the mutual attraction between Kate and Leopold grows, Stuart is committed to a mental institution for his rants about having to restore the time line. As Leopold is implied to be one of Stuart's ancestors, he has a certain desperation to complete his task before he disappears!

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.

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Last Action Hero

2 stars

Release date: 1993
Written by: Shane Black, David Arnott
Directed by: John McTiernan
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2016.07.21 (revised 2021.09.11)
Danny Madigan spends his days skipping school and watching action movies at a local, run-down theatre run by Nick the projectionist. One day, Nick invites Danny to see the latest Jack Slater film before its official release. Nick gives Danny a golden ticket once owned by Harry Houdini, and reportedly imbued with magical properties. During the opening action in the movie-within-a-movie, the ticket transports Danny into Jack's movie, interrupting Jack in the middle of a car chase. While Danny enjoys the absurdities of the movie world, he is also vividly aware that while the hero—Jack Slater—can brush off any attack and survive unscathed, Danny is effectively the comedy sidekick and is fair game in the action movie rule book.

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.

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Men In Black

3 stars

Release date: 1997
Written by: Ed Solomon
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2016.09.19
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.

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Men In Black II

0.5 stars

Release date: 2002
Written by: Robert Gordon, Barry Fanaro
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2016.09.25
In a word, this movie is gratuitous. Where the first movie showed restraint and focused on the characters, film is not. Perhaps the most disappointed aspect 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 without an afterthought on the emotional ramifications, and Scrad/Charlie just disappear three-quarters of the way through the movie!

There are a lot of visual and practical effects in the movie and, sadly, many of the jokes are tied to that. Special effects do not make for good humour—as good humour stems from spontaneity (or at least the feeling of it), and special effects require a lot of forethought.

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. Also, 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 that scene alone is worth the price of admission?

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Men In Black 3

3.5 stars

Release date: 2012
Written by: Etan Cohen
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2016.10.03
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), and the scope and limitations of the Men In Black organization. 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 movie 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 the Griffin character is also sublime—on the one hand, he maintains the role of the wise elder character when the story necessitates that Agent K (who usually occupies that role) cannot be, and on the other hand, is the personification of the all-knowing and all-seeing writer. Genius!

Probably the only disappointment in the film is that Rip Torn's Agent Zed doesn't appear.

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Miss Congeniality

2 stars

Release date: 2000
Written by: Marc Lawrence, Katie Ford, Caryn Lucas
Directed by: Donald Petrie
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.03.03
Grace Hart is a tomboy in the FBI, with all the uncouth habits of a slob. She has recently screwed up on a sting operation, and is being punished by being chained to a desk writing reports all day. The problem is that a domestic terrorist has targeted the Miss United States beauty pageant, and Hart is the only agent in the agency that has even a slim hope of successfully going undercover in the pageant. Hart not only has to stop the bomber in time and get back into her manger's good graces, but also has to undergo an extreme makeover and overcome a lifetime of bad habits to just fit into the undercover role!

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.

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Monty Python and the Holy Grail

stars

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A Night at the Roxbury

1.5 stars

Release date: 1998
Written by: Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan, Steve Koren
Directed by: John Fortenberry
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.04.13
Steve and Doug Butabi are two dimwitted young men with little experience with the opposite sex who go out to clubs every night of the week trying to pick up ladies—the places where their social awkwardness is at its most extreme and they invariably get kicked out of the clubs for more-or-less body slamming female patrons. They are the sons of a wealthy businessman who is scheming to get Steve, the less intelligent of the two, married to Emily, the daughter of the owner of the neighbouring store. Steve and Doug's goal is to get in and party at the Roxbury, a famous nightclub that they are continually denied entry to either by the bouncer, or the long lineup of people waiting to get in.

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.

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Ocean's Eleven

3 stars

Release date: 2001
Written by: Ted Griffin
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.03.09
Danny Ocean is released from a New Jersey prison on parole, and immediately sets out to reunite with his old crew, starting with his partner in crime Rusty Ryan in California. Danny proposes a major heist, and they head to Las Vegas to convince their wealthy friend Reuben Tishkoff to finance the operation—Tishkoff agrees as the target is his casino-owning rival: Terry Benedict. As the target is a rather secure casino vault, Danny needs to assemble a sizable team of skilled specialists, and the film breathlessly introduces the other eight team members.

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.

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Ocean's Twelve

3.5 stars

Release date: 2004
Written by: George Nolfi
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.03.24
Danny Ocean and his team are all living the good life, when Terry Benedict locates them and demands that they return the $160 million they stole—plus interest—in 2 weeks! The team reassembles and jets off to Europe (to avoid any heat in the US), and undertakes a heist to start getting the money they need. They run into the Night Fox, a master European thief, who beats them to their target. However, the Night Fox really wants to challenge Danny to a contest to see who is the better thief by going after the same thing. If Danny wins, the Night Fox will pay off all their debts. Danny and his team have no choice but to accept the challenge.

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!

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Ocean's Thirteen

2 stars

Release date: 2007
Written by: Brian Koppelman, David Levien
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.04.08
Reuben Tishkoff got involved with Willy Bank in a business deal—despite all the warnings that Bank will shaft him. When Bank does, Reuben goes into catatonic shock. Danny Ocean assembles the crew to not only only get Reuben out of his catatonia, but to get revenge on Bank by not only robbing him of his prized diamond trophies, but also by giving millions to his casino customers and ruining him as a casino owner.

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.

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Out of Sight

4 stars

Release date: 1998
Written by: Scott Frank
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.04.30
Jack Foley, a career bank robber, has spent as much of his life in jail as he has out of jail. When he escapes from a Florida prison, he is forced to share a trunk with Karen Sisco, a U.S. Marshal. There is an instant connect between the two that lingers with each other long after they part ways. The connection is so strong that Jack actively seeks her out—despite the great risk of being captured and thrown back in jail—and Karen is compelled to momentarily put aside her responsibilities as a law enforcement officer so she can spend time with him.

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.

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Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion

2 stars

Release date: 1997
Written by: Robin Schiff
Directed by: David Mirkin
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.02.23
Romy and Michelle are blissfully living their lives in Los Angeles. Romy is a cashier at a Jaguar dealership, and Michelle is jobless. However, she makes the pair's clothes. Their nights are spent at the local nightclubs trying to pick up 'cute guys'. One day, Romy bumps into an old classmate, who informs her of the upcoming 10-year class reunion.

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.

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Rush Hour

3 stars

Release date: 1998
Written by: Ross LaManna
Directed by: Brett Ratner
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2016.04.01
The film hasn't dated, and the humour is still quite fresh.

A lot of the fun comes from Jackie Chan's earnestness at overcoming the language barrier and culture shock (something painfully familiar to me), and Chris Tucker's slight insecurity (referred to as acting nervousnesses in the featurettes accompanying Rush Hour 2) is actually quite beneficial: he's obnoxious, but when coupled with the acting nerves, it feels like he's using the obnoxiousness to compensate for his inexperience or his deficiencies, as well as the lack of respect from his colleagues. It's a shame that that (especially the last one) wasn't carried over in 2.

The main villain in this movie was quite good, and memorable. I also found it thought provoking how they set up the film as China and the USA (heroes) vs. the UK (villain leader). Lastly, the use of Mandarin over Cantonese was quite interesting—I'm by no means familiar in either, but I know enough to have noticed that by and large almost all the official consulate scenes and scenes with the daughter had Mandarin, and I only noticed Cantonese in one scene (the street food seller in LA spoking with Jackie Chan). In those regards, the film was quite progressive.

One think 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!

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Rush Hour 2

2 stars

Release date: 2001
Written by: Jeff Nathanson
Directed by: Brett Ratner
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2016.04.01
The film felt like a retread, and it felt quite tired.

Alas, there wasn't a decent villain. We did get three, but who's who? Why didn't they make the circumstances around the main bad guy clearer so he provides a clear focus through to the end of the movie? Ultimately, all three were either not threatening enough, or not developed enough.

Both actors were more confident in themselves compared to the first movie (Jackie Chan's English and Chris Tucker's acting), but that tended to throw water on the comedy, or make things even more obnoxious. Alas, they didn't incorporate the LAPD's lack of respect for Chris Tucker's Detective Carter, which was a vein of humour mined to great effect in the first movie.

On the plus side, the jokes either in Chinese or that took place in Hong Kong are still fresh, and are some of the funniest in the movie. It's a shame that the production team didn't take more advantage of the 'Chris'-out-of-water in HK before shuttling the action back to the USA.

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Shanghai Noon

2 stars

Release date: 2000
Written by: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar
Directed by: Tom Dey
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.07.06
Chon Wang accompanies his uncle and three Chinese Imperial Guards, who have set out to Carson City, Nevada, to pay the ransom for and rescue the kidnapped Princess Pei Pei. The train they are riding on through Nevada is hijacked by Roy O'Bannon and his gang. The newest member of that gang kills Wang's uncle, and Wang confronts the gang. Outgunned, Wang uses his martial arts skills to outwit the gang, sending most of them tumbling off the train, before Wang escapes by uncoupling the train cars. However, Wang is in an unfamiliar land, doesn't speak any of the local languages (Sioux, Crow, and barely any English), and continually gets mixed up with trouble. After trekking through the wilderness and making friends with a local Sioux tribe, he finds himself locked up in a jail cell with Roy—who had been kicked out of his gang. The two become fast friends, and team up to not only escape the jail, but rescue Princess Pei Pei.

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.

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Shaun of the Dead

4 stars

Release date: 2004
Written by: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2020.11.03
Shaun (Simon Pegg) has a daily routine: fight off a hangover, work a shift at an entry level job, and hang out with his friend Ed (Nick Frost) at the Winchester—their favourite pub—drinking the night and their life away. The problem is his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) wants something more than that out of life, and gives Shaun an ultimatum to change.

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!

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Space Balls

stars

Release date:
Written by:
Directed by:
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on:
Coming soon!
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Three Kings

4 stars

Release date: 1999
Written by: David O. Russell
Directed by: David O. Russell
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.06.29
Troy Barlow, and Conrad Vig are U.S. soldiers. Just after the end of the first Gulf War, they are checking surrendering Iraqi soldiers and discover a map between the butt cheeks of an Iraqi officer. They take the map to their friend Chief Elgin to translate the map. Archie Gates—a senior officer—tracks them down after overhearing gossip on the base and attempts to take the map for himself. Troy quickly negotiates, and they agree to team up. Archie convinces the three that the map is for the bunkers that contain the Kuwaiti gold bullion that the Iraqis stole during the invasion. They decide to steal it in turn, and quickly set out for it.

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.

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Tropic Thunder

3.5 stars

Release date: 2008
Written by: Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux
Directed by: Ben Stiller
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2016.08.26 (revised 2021.04.01)
Damien Cockburn is directing the film version of a Vietnam veteran's memoir. Fading action hero Tugg Speedman, five-time Academy Award winning Kirk Lazarus, rapper Alpa Chino, and drug addicted comedian Jeff Portney are all causing Damien problems. That is until John "Four Leaf" Tayback—the veteran—suggests that Damien drop his actors in the middle of the jungle, far away from their distractions and entourages, and film the movie "guerrilla-style". Problems really start to happen when the director is blown up by a land mine, but the actors blindly continue on as they think it's part of Damien's shtick to get them to give a better performance.

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!

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View From The Top

3 stars

Release date: 2003
Written by: Eric Wald
Directed by: Bruno Barreto
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.06.02
Donna Jensen is living an unhappy, miserable life in a small desert town. She hits rock bottom when her boyfriend leaves her and crushes her dream of escaping the town with him. While she is cleaning him out of her life, she sees a TV interview of Sally Weston—a famous former flight attendant—and gets the inspiration and motivation to escape the town, and become a flight attendant. As her first job is with a small, seedy commuter airline, Donna keeps her eye out for bigger and better things, and jumps at the offer to join to apply to work in Royalty Airlines. However, it also means that she must make the choice between that opportunity and leaving Ted Stewart, a great guy she has started developing feelings for.

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.

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The Wedding Singer

3 stars

Release date: 1998
Written by: Tim Herlihy
Directed by: Frank Coraci
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.05.11
Robbie Hart is a wedding singer engaged to marry Linda. During a wedding reception he is performing at, he meets new waitress Julia Sullivan, who just moved into town to be closer to her fiancé—Glenn Guglia—. They are engaged, but have yet to set a wedding date. Linda doesn't show up at the wedding with Robbie, and he sinks into depression. Concurrently, Glenn sets a date with Julia, but also dumps all the wedding planning on her. While Robbie reneges on his promise to sing at Julia's wedding because his heart is no longer in it, she convinces him to help her with her other wedding arrangements, and a relationship blossoms between them. Robbie also learns that Glenn frequently cheats on Julia and intends to continue doing so after getting married.

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.

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Zoolander

4 stars

Release date: 2001
Written by: Drake Sather, Ben Stiller, John Hamburg
Directed by: Ben Stiller
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.05.03
Mugato and his fashion cohorts have a problem: the Malaysian Prime Minister wants to end child labour and increase labour costs. They need him eliminated, fast. However, as their standard method of slowly grooming a male model into an assassin takes too long, they need to find someone extremely stupid and malleable right away. Derek Zoolander is a painfully vacant model who has been voted the best male model three years in a row. However, at this year's ceremony, he mistakenly assumes he's won a fourth year in a row, and briefly takes the trophy intended for his rival Hansel McDonald. Zoolander has hit rock bottom, and Mugato moves in to use that to his advantage and manipulate Zoolander.

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.

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