Category Archives: Text Review

2016 Oscar Nominations Reaction!

Oscar Statuette Exhibit Opening

Today, Matt tackles the current crop of Oscar nominees for 2016. He gives you the lowdown on the good, the bad and the decidedly “meh”. Listen below!

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Tony’s Retro Reviews – I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Release: November 13, 1998 homeforchristmas

I sat down for I’ll Be Home For Christmas. This flick was made at the peak of the popularity of Home Improvement. The show that launched the career of young Jonathan Taylor Thomas; the star of this little Christmas bag of sleazy-feel-good.

I sat down with an open mind, and got up after with the same: a gaping hole where my brian used to be.

This flick hit theaters when I was but a little lad of 10. I really idolized JTT because he was a kid who was famous. And could only make good films like WIld America. I was such a stupid child.

Directed by Arlene Sanford, who also unleashed A Very Brady Sequel onto humanity as well as a slew of TV episodes; I’ll Be Home For Christmas also stars the lovely, pre-Timberlake Jessica Bieland Gary Cole.

The film starts off with with Jake (Thomas) a young crafty college student with all the right answers, asking his lady-friend (Biel) to join him on a trip down south (not a double-entendre) only to be shot down because she wants to spend time with her family in New-York. Coincidentally, this is where young Jake is from too.

Always avoiding a trip home since his father (cole) remarried, Jake changes his tune when daddy offers his beloved 1957 Porche as a bribe to get Jake to come home for Christmas dinner. The catch? He has to be home by 6pm sharp!

Unfortunately for Jake, he runs into trouble with former “clients” when one of his schemes goes awry. He’s then got to get home, save his relationship and win a car all the while wearing a Santa costume and no money to boot. He’s gotta do all that and learn the true meaning of Christmas.

Heart warming? Nope.

Like many things from my childhood, this should have stayed buried in the back of my closet until they found me in the desert somewhere down south with a Santa costume and a bottle of Jack!

What Worked For This Film:

– The pacing. This film chugs right along like the little engine that could. I never really felt like this film was too long in length.

– The dialog and humour. This is actually what I miss most about comedies from the 90’s. Nothing was too over the top. Yes, the acting sucked. But I could sit back and actually believe this scenario.

What Didn’t Work For This Film:

– The Acting. There’s a reason The Hallmark Channel now airs this.

– The lack of a true B-plot. Yes Jake’s main want is the car and his need is to learn about the true meaning of Christmas and accepting his father’s new wife, but they could have played more into Biel’s character’s doubt in Jake as a boyfriend. She was just too flat of a character to have been given so much camera time.

– The moral. Yeah Jake finally realizes that he should be going home during the holiday break to see his family and not to win a car. But It really does feel like he just clicked into that mentality once he finally did make it to New York. The whole trip there he didn’t really look like he was evolving at all.

The Lowdown:

I said it before and I’ll repeat it for good measure: There’s a reason this plays on The Hallmark Channel now. This movie is kinda boring. I believe it was intended to attract a younger audience than the general “family film” but in it’s delivery I can’t really find a suitable audience for this film to enjoy. Maybe spider monkeys. They’ll watch anything with JTT in it.

So when searching through your vast holiday film collection to curl up next to the fire while watching; you can just skip right on over it to another Christmas film starring a Home Improvement alumni: Christmas With The Kranks! … Or maybe not.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas gets THE TOILET.

Tony’s Retro Reviews – A Night at The Roxbury

Releas date: October 2, 1998 A Night at the Roxbury

SCORE!

Can anyone else show me where the late 90’s is better represented? No, no please don’t call Busta Rhymes. I was but a young lad of 10 years when A Night at the Roxbury came out. I think that’s where I developed my love for hair products throughout my teens.

A Night at the Roxbury is the 11th film based of off Saturday Night Live (SNL) skits. Following in the huge footsteps of such films like The Blues Brothers and Wayne’s WorldAs with all SNL based films, this one is produced by comedic producing genius Lorne Michaels. Written by Chris Kattan, Koren and Will Ferrell; A Night at the Roxbury stars, Kattan, Ferrell, Loni “McBoobskis” Anderson, Dan Hedaya, Molly Shannon, Richard “Don’t mention Depp” Grieco and an uncredited Chazz Palminteri as Mr. Zadir.

This flick is straight up stupid. It really is. But it knows it’s failed grade two math and has decided to just have a friggin good time while getting closer in age to the teacher. A teacher with boobs I might add. A Night at The Roxbury follows “The Roxbury Guys” in an expanded universe as they try desperately to get into the hottest club in town, The Roxbury. Proving to be more difficult than getting their own club, the boys have miss adventures with ladies and they overbaring yet well intentioned father. Did I forget to mention there’s more 90’s goodness in this flick than you can squeeze into a pair of faded high-waisted jeans?

WHAT WORKED:

– The Comedy. Kattan, Koren and Ferrell knew they couldn’t pull off an 81 minute SNL sketch, so they slapped in a bunch of funnies. I’ll go on record in saying they didn’t always land, but hot damn I was still giggling like a school girl last time I watched this. I’m almost ashamed proud to I have probably seen this film over 80 times.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK:

– The plot. Many many many holes. My swiss cheese I had in my Subway sandwich didn’t have as many holes. This isn’t you’re most complex of films either. But were you really hoping for a brain teaser?

– The third act. All goes to shit in a handbasket and gets back together quite neatly without much cause and effect. Granted, this still does a much better job at having conflict and resolve than Napoleon Dynamite. (Editor’s Note: I REFUSE to link to the trailer for that piece of garbage. One and ONLY film I walked away from; more than once.)

THE LOWDOWN:

This is a stupid good time. Sit back and travel back to a day when people used cellular phones for calls. An era when you got a girls number on a piece of paper. A time when everyone, man, woman and even troglodite used four cans of hairspray a day. This isn’t a great film, but it’s a great time. Sit back an enjoy Will Ferrell when he was still moderated. A Night at the Roxbury is So Damn Stupid It’s Awesome!

Matt’s Classic Film Reviews – Men in Black

Grade: B+

Released: 1997

Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld

Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio

In retrospect, Men in Black is an important little slice of wacky sci-fi lunacy. Not only did it inspire Marvel, who owned its rights at the time, to pursue the idea of putting other comic book properties up on the big screen (they later collaborated with Columbia, the studio behind MIB, on the first-ever Spider-man title a few years later), but it also managed to insert some much-needed wit and charm into the summer blockbusters of its day, serving a nice counterpoint to mindless fare such as The Lost World and Batman and Robin that hit multiplexes in the same year.

The best moments in MIB come from the offbeat little side jokes that permeate the screenplay by Ed Solomon. It knows how bombastically irreverent the material is and revels in its lunacy. For instance, there’s a moment where the head of the organization, Zed (Rip Torn), shows J (Will Smith) a big board of all the alien lifeforms that are disguised as humans and living on Earth. Some faces in the crowd include Sylvester Stallone, Newt Gingrich and Dionne Warwick, and the result was a knowing chuckle emitted from my person – a chain of events that doesn’t always happen with a movie that centers around grown men chasing various extraterrestrials around New York. 

At the outset, Men in Black introduces us to K (Tommy Lee Jones), who subdues a potentially dangerous situation that involves an alien coming from Mexico – and by “alien”, I mean “not of this galaxy alien” – in hilarious deadpan fashion. Meanwhile, after an NYPD officer (Smith) has a run-in with a non-human perpetrator, he is recruited by K to join the eponymous group of suits who monitor extraterrestrial life on our planet, most of whom apparently live in Manhattan. Smith’s J has one hell of a first week at a new job, as the rest of the plot follow him and K on the trail of a sinister, scheming alien cockroach who takes on the appearance of a hick farmer (Vincent D’Onofrio).

The performances are another aspect of the film that lifts it above and beyond run-of-the-mill popcorn flick fare. Tommy Lee Jones is at his unsmiling, stoic best as K, a role that he gets some laughs with precisely because of his unflappably old-school demeanor. Will Smith provides a solid ying to Jones’ yang as J and is clearly having a lot of fun playing the wide-eyed, overconfident rookie along for the ride. It seems a shame that Smith doesn’t get back to roles like this, which he is better suited for, instead of focusing on heavy dramatic roles that sometimes have him in over his head. Elsewhere, Vincent D’Onofrio is suitably ghoulish as the alien in disguise and Linda Fiorentino snags an eye candy role as a sexy morgue employee (not a character description you see everyday).

Special mention should be given to Rick Baker, one of Hollywood’s foremost makeup gurus, for his work on making the many aliens that populate this movie wacky, colorful and intimidating – sometimes all at once. It makes for a far more textural viewing experience, and looking at Men in Black again made me pine for more films like this that meld CGI and man-made effects together with precision. Finally, speaking of precision, the score by the great Danny Elfman provides a solid undercurrent to the film that compliments the visuals nicely. It’s not perfect – the plot gets in the way of the droll banter between the two leads two or three times too many in the final act – but, as far as big, loud, adventure pictures go, MIB provides the kind of comedic allure that both its contemporaries and imitators find hard to equal.

Tony’s Retro Reviews – Red Tails

Release Date: January 20, 2012 redtails

I got the visual pleasure of sitting down for George Lucas’ latest production:Red Tails. He exec-produced this little slice of cinematic aviation cake. So you know it’s going to be grand and well developed. However, I’m still paranoid since the Jar-Jar Binks fiasco of ’99.

Red Tails follows the true story of a crew of African-American pilots in theTuskegee program stationed in Italy during WWII, as the deal with segregation and other problems of that era like pipes and funny sounding Italians.

This flick boasts a pretty wide cast rounded out by stars like: Cuba Gooding Jr. Terrence HowardNate ParkerTristan WildsElijah KelleyDavid Oyelowo, and my (well everyone’s) favorite meth selling science teacher Bryan Cranston.

At the directing helm of this war-piece is Anthony Hemingway. This may have been his first time at the top, but he’s been involved with some pretty hot and heavy stuff, like: many episodes of The Wireand he assisted for Ali and Changing Lanes.

What Worked:

– The slow and steady nature of this film. This thing is 121 minutes long. But you don’t really ever have a chance to notice it. It just keep chugging along. For an airplane fighter film, this movie doesn’t keep throwing stuff at you. Rather, you have the opportunity to sit back and take in all the beauty shots. There are many throw back to Lucas from Hemingway with interior cockpit shots.

– The look of this film. It’s just so beautiful.

– Terrence Howard. THIS GUY CAN ACT. His scenes with Bryan Cranston were showstoppers.

– The simple writing. This film is just well written. John Ridley and Aaron McGruder brought this film back to what I call, the simple 80’s. There weren’t any crazy plot twists. This flick went from point A to B and finally to C. We all could guess what was going to happen next, but you get to wrapped up in the characters that you don’t care and just enjoy the good times.

What Sucked:

– Cuba Gooding Jr’s pipe. His overall performance in the film is fantastic. BUT THE DAMN PIPE WAS TOO MUCH. His over-exaggerated use of it was just damn annoying because you know that any man who smokes that much pipe wouldn’t have such fucking white teeth! ESPECIALLY IN THE 1930/40’s!

The Lowdown:

Red Tails is definitely worth your bucks. Don’t be shy. Make a night of it. The story will entertain you, the occasional comedy bits will get you to chuckle and the tender sadness will have you weeping in your girlfriends arms.

PS: Fun Fact! Cuba Gooding Jr. actually starred in the 1995 HBO film The Tuskegee Airmen withLaurence Fishburne about the exact same crew of fly-boys.

Matt’s Classic Film Reviews – What Women Want

Grade: C

Released: 2000

Directed by: Nancy Meyers

Starring: Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt, Alan Alda

When considering What Women Want, there’s an ominous feeling that you’ve witnessed something that “almost was”. A truly original idea that tickles the funny bone just imagining the screenplay possibilities, a solid, likeable cast and a seemingly lush budget to help showcase its Midwestern setting in a vibrant light. Alas, as the end credits were rolling, I realized that the film I’d hoped to see wasn’t the one that had unfolded before me. It’s not that it’s a bad movie, but it doesn’t elevate itself to the level of its ingenious premise – someone looking for a sharp, edgy take on the eternal battles of the sexes need not halt their search here.

Maybe it’s too much to ask from a project coming from director Nancy Meyers. With credits that include The Parent Trap remake with the once-popular Ms. Lohan, Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated, Meyers has distinguished herself as a filmmaker who settles on making TV dinner-style comedies when she really has the means to feed us something a lot heartier. It’s the kind of vanilla, innocuous cinema that’s nothing more than fine, and based on her past box office success, it’s clear that there’s an audience for her work. Ultimately, as far as What Women Want has to offer on its own merits, I was hoping the experience would be far less toothless.

The set-up to this one is simple yet delectable: Chicago ad man Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson) is a ball of chauvinistic energy who’s rapidly climbing the ranks at his firm. He’s the kind of unapologetic ladies’ man that women might hate yet somehow end up in bed with shortly thereafter. After his boss (adorably played by Alan Alda) passes him over for a promotion and instead hires (gasp!) Darcy Maguire (Helen Hunt) instead, Nick has an appliance-in-the-bathtub accident that results in him gaining the ability to hear every inner thought from every woman he encounters. Naturally, he uses this newfound gift selfishly at first (such as improving his bedroom performance by hearing what his partner is inaudibly craving), but he also begins to do something none of the ladies in his life thought he’d be able to do beforehand: grow a conscience.

In terms of the humor this movie gets out of Nick’s capacity for bugging the female mind, it’s accurate without being too accurate. There are several laugh-out-loud moments, including a very funny back-and-forth between him and his former marriage counselor (Bette Midler). I guess what I may have found lacking in the writing was its inclination to go for the low-hanging fruit rather than try for something a little fresher. Some of the jokes can be seen from several miles away and it hurts the movie in spots because it makes certain payoffs rather predictable, which lead to some boredom on my part.

The acting is pleasant without ever doing anything to enhance the uneven script. Mel Gibson is suitably charming as Nick and, as with Gerard Butler in The Ugly Truth, he does well playing against the cinematic persona he normally embodies. Helen Hunt does her best with a part that I feel she was miscast in – she’s sweet and elegant but I never bought the workaholic, my-way-or-the-highway aspect of her character. She and Gibson have the kind of on-screen chemistry that’s both appealing and instantly forgettable. There’s also an annoying subplot featuring Judy Greer as a suicidal office temp that could’ve been excised completely and no one would’ve noticed a difference.

What Women Want wraps up exactly the way you’d expect it to, although it does it with such little emotional build-up that it feels rushed. It’s very safe, much like the rest of the movie, and with this kind of premise that is rife with rich, satirical opportunities, its failure to follow through on that promise might ultimately be what this movie is remembered for. Just like an athlete with limitless potential who becomes a serviceable but never outstanding pro, What Women Want is a genre player that conjures up more than a small feeling of disappointment.

Tony’s Retro-Reviews – X-Men: First Class

Release date: June 13, 2011 

Witness the moment that will change our world.

Netflix. Oh how I love thee. With that love comes awesome flicks. When thinking of awesome flicks X-Men: First Class should be in that thought. And if it isn’t, you’re a jerk-face. So I sat down and streamed this little retro film from way, way back in 2011. Let me tell you guys, this one holds up to the tests of time.

First Class takes us all the way back; to the early years of Professor X and Magneto! A time before the X-Men crew we grew up watching on the big screen in the early 2000’s. This flick which borderlines as a period piece is directed by Matthew Vaughn who has directed other films like 2000’s Snatch and 2010’s Kick-Ass. James “Groovy” McAvoy, Michael “Kevin Smith think’s he’s bigger than Liam Neeson” Fassbender, Kevin “6-degrees” Bacon, Rose Byrne, Jennifer “no arrows here” Lawrence, Oliver “will always be Jimmy King to me” Platt, January Jones, and Nicolas Hoult all star in this non-Spike-Lee-joint.

The flick starts up with a shot-for-shot remake of the original opening to the 2000 X-Men film showing Magneto, a then young jewish Erik Lehnsherr being separated from his mother in a concentration camp in Nazi-Germany during the second world war. While struggling to stay with his mother Erik manipulates the metal gates until a wise guard gives him a stiff rifle-shot to the old brain-melon. The film picks up steam from there showcasing both the childhoods of Prof X and Magneto into young adulthood; setting this film squarely in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis. From there Xavier and Erik meet while tracking down the man who killed Erik’s mother and the man/mutant the FBI reluctantly believes is trying to start WWIII. Turns out those persons are one in the same: Sebastien Shaw! After uniting, Xavier and Erik set out together to round-up other mutants like them and team up to take out Shaw and save the world from a nuclear war. Awesomeness ensues.

WHAT WORKED:

– The Story. First off, this is a direct prequel to the original trilogy, and unlike Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace it didn’t try to rape our childhood with a broken broom-handle. Here lies the awesome: when you can forgive minor discrepancies involving a linear timeline, Vaughn set up character arcs that pick up in the original trilogy. Why some characters interact with each other in certain ways is fully explained.

– The acting. Duh. You have a bunch of Grade-A famous people who are known for their acting prowess. No overacting. No sub-par performances. Just a bunch of thespians having a good time with cameras rolling. The only character/actor that straddles a dangerous serious/goofy line is Xavier/McAvoy; maybe one too many “groovies.”

WHAT DIDN’T WORK:

Not much guys and gals. But here I go nerding out:

– The Helmet. Sebastien Shaw introduces a helmet to block telepathy which resembles Magneto’s helmet just a little too much. That resemblance is confirmed as the actual deal when we find out it is Magneto’s future helmet. Creating a small (Nerd-Huge) plot-hole when Magneto explains he made it in the first X-Men film.

– Cerebro. Copy-Pasting my previous rant here should do fine.

THE LOWDOWN:

This is a great film. It works as both a prequel and a stand-alone film. Keeping in mind that this is a sci-fi action period piece being used as a prequel, there are bound to have a few face-palm moments like when you see America’s version of a world map in the 1960’s. The action is solid. The CGI is crisp. And the story will keep you glued to your screen for the whole 132 minutes. It’s far from a bad choice next time you’re browsing through your Netflix queue because X-Men: First Class is Verified Awesome!