Music Video Of The Day: City of Crime by Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks (1987, directed by Marty Callner)


“They didn’t have enough confidence in the material that they had to try and hook kids in with some disco thing.”

— Gene Siskel on Dragnet (1987)

In 1987, Dragnet was released into theaters.  Based on the classic television series, Dragnet was a comedy that featured Dan Aykroyd as straight-laced Sgt. Joe Friday and Tom Hanks as his new partner, Det. Pep Streebeck.  Perhaps realizing that they had spent $20,000,000 making a movie about a show that most teenagers had never heard of, Universal Pictures decided to promote the film by having Aykroyd and Hanks rap about fighting crime.

The end result was City of Crime and this music video.  Collaborating with Aykroyd and Hanks on this song are former Deep Purple and Black Sabbath vocalist Glenn Hughes and famed guitarist Pat Thrall.  This video was directed by Marty Callner, who is best-known for doing videos for Aerosmith and Poison.

Enjoy!

 

Music Video of the Day: Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr. (1984, dir. Ivan Reitman)


I wish the literal video for this was still up. Oh, well.

All these years later, I still don’t have any idea why she goes into that house. I guess we are supposed to believe she lives there with these two kids that miss their cue?

These other kids nail it.

Despite finding lists of all the celebrities in this video, I have no idea who this guy is that Ray Parker Jr. becomes for this bit.

I also wonder why she didn’t see him while turning away from the moving table to go to the window.

In the window is footage of the movie that has aged horribly. Parker Jr. is blue screened in there for this famous shot.

He ain’t afraid of no ghost. A lawsuit on the other the hand, that’s a different matter. I hope this music video doesn’t remind me of a Huey Lewis & The News video as well.

Now Ray Parker Jr. stands creepily outside of her window.

This is looking familiar.

Chevy Chase can call Ghostbusters if he has a ghost problem…

but what about if he gets stuck in Benji again?

Who can he call then?

I knew this looked familiar.

Do You Believe In Love by Huey Lewis & The News (1982)


Do You Believe In Love by Huey Lewis & The News (1982)

I’m sure it’s a coincidence. I just find it humorous to see that considering the lawsuit saying that this song ripped off, to one extent or another, the Huey Lewis & The News song I Want A New Drug. The scene above is from the video that helped kick off their career on MTV and set the tone for their future videos since it was such a success despite being ridiculous. Is the riff in You Crack Me Up…

sound like the same riff from Johnny And Mary by Robert Palmer?

Or is it just me?

What a feeling. Thanks for making that one easy, Irene Cara.

Something tells me that Cindy Harrell was hired by someone who saw the movie Model Behavior (1982), which she was in.


Model Behavior (1982, dir. Bud Gardner)


Model Behavior (1982, dir. Bud Gardner)

From what I’ve read, they just showed up on the set of a movie Candy was shooting to try and get him to make this cameo appearance.

Ray Parker Jr. rising from the top of the stairs like he’s Michael Myers come to kill her. Why?

Or at least scare her. It’s probably a reference to Gozer.

Melissa Gilbert. I have no idea what she’s doing here. I’ve only seen an episode or two of Little House On The Prairie, so I guess there could have been some episodes with ghosts. Some of these cameos feel like they happened because the celebrities were involved with NBC.

Speaking of cameos I can’t explain, it’s former baseball player Ollie Brown.

Boundaries!

I do like that for the majority of the shot it looks like she should be falling over but isn’t.

More people that Parker can summon for some reason.

Don’t worry about them.

Pose for the featured image of this post.

Thank you.

Jeffrey Tambor.

Is it 555-5555…

or 555-2368 as you showed earlier?

George Wendt apparently got in trouble with the Screen Actors Guild for his appearance in this video. I’ll link to the article with that information at the end.

Senator Al Franken.

Now we get a series of confusing cameos.

Danny DeVito. I think this is only the second music video he has ever been in. The other one was for the song Billy Ocean did for The Jewel Of The Nile (1985).

Carly Simon for some reason. She would go on to do the theme song to Working Girl (1988) with Sigourney Weaver. Maybe they were friends. I don’t know.

Umm…one more thing. Have you tried calling the Ghostbusters? No clue as to why Peter Falk is here.

The breakdancing was improvised. So was Parker Jr. pushing Bill Murray around.

I think Teri Garr has one of the best cameos.

Don’t swallow that cigarette, Chevy.

Fun fact: In European and other non-US markets, the “no” sign was flipped.

If you want to read some more information about the video, then follow this link over to ScreenCrush where they have a write-up on the video with information from people who worked on the video.

According to mvdbase, Ivan Reitman directed, Keith Williams wrote the script, Jeff Abelson produced it, Daniel Pearl shot it, and Peter Lippman was the production manager.

If you ever get a chance to watch the literal music video for this, then do so. I doubt it will surface again though seeing as this music video almost didn’t get an official release because of the issues surrounding all the cameos.

Enjoy!

Cleaning Out The DVR: This Is My Life (dir by Nora Ephron)


(Lisa is currently in the process of trying to clean out her DVR.  She has over 170 movies recorded and she’s trying to get them all watched before the beginning of the new year!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the Shattered Lens to find out!  She recorded the 1992 dramedy This Is My Life off of Indieplex on March 20th.)

This Is My Life tells the story of Dottie Ingels (Julie Kavner).  Dottie may be stuck working in a dead end job at a cosmetics counter but she dreams of becoming a successful comedienne.  She even entertains her customers, who all seem to be delighted to put off making their purchases so that they can listen to an aspiring star tell corny jokes that were probably considered to be dated even at the height of vaudeville.  Most of Dottie’s jokes deal with raising her daughters — Erica (Samantha Mathis) and Opal (Gabby Hoffman) — on her own.  Times may not be easy but … well, actually, as portrayed in this movie, times are remarkably easy for a single mom with a job in retail.  It’s certainly easier for Dottie than it ever was for my mom.

Anyway, Dottie’s aunt dies and leaves her some money, so Dottie moves herself and her daughters to New York City so that she can pursue her comedy career.  With the help of an eccentric agent (Dan Aykroyd) and his assistant (Carrie Fisher), Dottie starts to find success as a performer but her daughters also start to resent the fact that their mother is no longer around as much as she used to be.  While Dottie is getting invitations to appear on late night talk shows, Erica and Opal are feeling neglected.  Finally, they decide to run away from home and head upstate to see their father, little realizing that he may not have room for them in his new life.

This Is My Life is one of those films that could only have been made by someone totally in love with the concept (as opposed to the reality) of show business.  While Dottie does have to sacrifice to find success, the film has no doubt that the sacrifices are worth it.  As played by Dan Aykroyd, Dottie’s agent is a big lovable eccentric who just wants the best for all of his clients.  In fact, everyone in this movie just wants the best for Dottie.  As a result, the film is so good-natured that you kind of feel guilty if you don’t force yourself to love it.  At the same time, it’s such an unabashedly sentimental movie that it’s difficult to take any of its conflicts seriously.  It’s like a fantasy of what it’s like to be an aspiring star in New York.  Making her directorial debut, the famous writer Nora Ephron laid on the schmaltz so thick that, for the majority of the film, there’s not even a hint of a rough edge or a ragged corner.  This is a film that really could have used a little more profanity.  And while Julie Kavner is undoubtedly a funny actress, she’s never believable as a stand-up comedienne.  (At least not a successful one…)

That said, there were a few things that I did like about This Is My Life.  Mathis and Hoffman are believable as sisters and there’s a natural poignancy to the scenes where they manage to track down their father.  I related to those scenes and they brought tears to my mismatched eyes, not that it’s particularly hard to do that.  Otherwise, This Is My Life felt like a typical directorial debut: heartfelt, uneven, well-intentioned, and just a little too heavy-handed.

Back to School Part II #40: Crossroads (dir by Tamra Davis)


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Last year, I started a new blog called Lisa Marie’s Song of the Day.  It’s nothing big.  It’s just a place where, on a daily basis, I share music that I happen to like.  Ever since I started the site, certain people have been giving me a hard time over the fact that they have discovered that I am a total Britney Spears fangirl.

Well, I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I love Britney Spears.  I always have.  Even when I was going through my whole “wearing black and writing dark poetry” phase, I still loved Britney.  Her songs are great to dance to and they’re even more fun to sing off-key and at the top of your lungs when you’re taking a shower or driving to or from work.  Even better is when you have a family member in the car and she has no choice but to listen as you sing Work Bitch in your thickest rural accent.

(Whenever I sing, I unleash my inner country girl.)

Of course, it’s never just been Britney’s music to which I’ve paid attention.  I was jealous of her when she dated Justin Timberlake.  I was worried for her when she married Kevin Federline.  I was scared for her when she went through her period of public instability.  When she shaved her head, lost custody of her children, and was placed under the conservatorship of her father and attorney, it angered me to watch as the media treated her pain as entertainment.  When she was diagnosed as being bipolar, I related to her because I knew exactly what she was going through.  I even still use the #FreeBritney hashtag on twitter.

So, in short, I’m definitely a fan.  But I have to admit that I prefer Later Britney, the one who uses bitch as a term of empowerment, to Early Britney, the one who used to lie about being a virgin.

The 2002 film Crossroads is definitely all about Early Britney.

Crossroads was Britney’s feature film debut and it was also pretty much her exit.  The film did well at the box office (and I’ll admit that I paid money to see it … well, actually, I got someone else to pay for me to see it but you get the point…) but the critics absolutely hated it and it still regularly appears on lists of the worst films ever made.  For the record, I do not think that Crossroads is one of the worst films ever made.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not exactly a good film but it’s definitely something of a guilty pleasure.  Whenever I watch it, I go on a nostalgia trip and that’s always a little bit fun.

In Crossroads, Britney plays Lucy.  Lucy has just graduated from high school.  Lucy is supersmart and, the film is quick to tell us, a super virgin as well.  (There’s something rather icky about how much media emphasis was put on Britney’s claimed virginity.  Especially since even her biggest fans suspected there was no way she was still a virgin if she was dating Justin Timerblake…)  Lucy was her school’s valedictorian and now her father is looking forward to Lucy going to medical school and becoming a doctor.  Lucy’s father is played by Dan Aykroyd.  Though Aykroyd is playing a Georgia auto mechanic, he makes no attempt to hide his thick Canadian accent.  Good for you, Dan!

Anyway, Lucy is preparing to do what her father wants but then she gets an opportunity to drive across the country with two childhood friends and a complete stranger.  In high school, Lucy had little to do with snobby Kit (Zoe Saldana) and pregnant Mimi (Taryn Manning) but, when they were all 10 years-old, they were all BFFs.  In fact, they were so close that they even buried a time capsule.  Digging up the capsule inspires these three frenemies to hop into a car with Ben (Anson Mount) and hit the road!

Ben, it turns out, has just gotten out of prison but he’s hot and he’s musically talented.  The girls are a little bit scared because they think Ben might have been in prison for murder but seriously, Ben is way too cute to be a murderer.  Plus, when he reads Lucy’s poetry, he sets it to music.

AND SERIOUSLY, HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THAT!?  I mean, c’mon — every girl who has ever written a poem has, at some point, fantasized about a boy who would put that poem to music and tell her that her words were almost as beautiful as she was.

I mean, there’s a lot of negative things that could be said about Crossroads.  I’m not a fan of the way Mimi was portrayed and, towards the end of the film, it almost feels as if the movie is suggesting that she’s being karmically punished for getting pregnant without being married.  The film’s emphasis on Lucy’s (and, by implication, Britney’s) chastity feels dangerously reactionary.  And, while Britney doesn’t really give a bad performance, she’s still not quite believable as someone who was so busy studying that she didn’t even go to one single party during high school.

But ultimately, this will always be the film where a hot guy took a girl’s poem and spontaneously set it to music.

There’s something to be said for that!

#FreeBritney

Film Review: Ghostbusters (dir by Paul Feig)


Ghostbusters

If you need any further proof that 2016 is a screwed-up year, just consider the fact that Ghostbusters, an entertaining but ultimately rather mild-mannered and innocuous summer action/comedy, has become the center of one of the biggest controversies of the year.

It all started, of course, when the reboot was first announced.  Fanboys reacted with outrage, offended that Hollywood would even consider remaking a film that was apparently one of the defining moments of their childhood.  Then, it was announced that Ghostbusters would feature an all-female cast and it would be directed by Paul Feig, the director of Bridesmaids.  The howls of outrage grew even louder.  Then that infamous trailer was released and even I felt that trailer sucked.  I wasn not alone because the trailer quickly became one of the most disliked videos in the history of YouTube.  Reading the comments underneath that trailer was literally like finding yourself trapped in a production of Marat/Sade.

Suddenly, in the eyes of very vocal group of internet trolls, the reboot of Ghostbusters went from being simply another dubious idea to being a crime against humanity.  And the trolls were so obnoxious that they managed to turn this big-budget, studio-backed production into an underdog.  Here was a movie directed by one of Hollywood’s biggest directors and starring some of Hollywood’s hottest stars and suddenly, it had become David in a biblical showdown with the Goliaths of internet.

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And then it happened.  Earlier last week, Ghostbusters was finally screened for critics.  The first reviews started to come in and they were surprisingly positive.  In fact, they were so positive that I found myself distrusting them.  I found myself wondering if critics were reacting to the film or if they were simply trying to prove that they were better than the trolls who leave obscene comments on YouTube.

Which was true, I wondered.  Was Ghostbusters the worst film ever made or was it the greatest?  Or was it perhaps just possible that Ghostbusters would turn out to be a typical summer film?

With all the controversy, it’s tempting to overpraise a film like Ghostbusters.  Battle lines have been drawn and sometimes, I feel as if I’m being told that failing to declare Ghostbusters to be the greatest and most important comedy of all time is the equivalent of letting the trolls win.

Well, that’s not true.  Ghostbusters is not the greatest or the most important comedy of all time but you know what?  Ghostbusters is good.  Ghostbusters is entertaining.  Especially during the first half, it’s full of laugh out loud moments.  At times, Ghostbusters is everything that you could hope for.

No, it’s not a perfect film.  Paul Feig is a great comedy director but, in this film at least, his direction of the big action sequences often feels uninspired (especially when compared to his previous work on Spy).  The final fourth of the film gets bogged down in CGI and the film goes from being a clever comedy to being just another summer spectacle.  Even the one-liners, which flowed so naturally at the start of the film, feel forced during the final half of the film.  Ghostbusters is good but it never quite becomes great.

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Here’s what did work: the cast.  As he previously proved with Bridesmaids, Paul Feig is a director who is uniquely skilled at creating and showcasing a strong comedic ensemble.  Kristen Wiig plays Erin Gilbert, who is denied tenure at Columbia when it is discovered that a book she wrote on the paranormal has been republished and is being sold, on Amazon, by her former best friend, Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy).  When Erin goes to confront Abby, she not only meets Abby’s newest colleague, Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) but she also gets dragged into investigating an actual case of paranormal activity..  Soon, Erin, Abby, and Holtzmann are investigating hauntings and capturing ghosts, all with the secret approval of the Mayor of New York (Andy Garcia).  Of course, for PR reasons, the mayor’s office has to continually disavow the Ghostbusters and occasionally have them arrested.  Working alongside the three scientists are Patty (Leslie Jones), who apparently knows the history of every building in New York, and Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), their adorably stupid receptionist.

As written, both Patty and Kevin are fairly thin characters.  Kevin’s the handsome dumb guy.  Patty is streetwise and sassy.  But both Hemsworth and Jones give such enthusiastic and sincere performances that they transcend the stereotypical nature of their roles.  At times, Kevin runs the risk of becoming too cartoonish for even a Ghostbusters film.  But if you can’t laugh at Chris Hemsworth explaining that he took the lenses out of his glasses because they were always getting dirty, what can you laugh at?

Erin is an interesting character and Kristen Wiig deserves a lot of credit for her performance.  Erin is actually given a fairly affecting backstory, centering around how she was haunted by the ghost of the old woman who used to live next door to her.  Erin is a former believer, someone who, in order to succeed in the “real” world, gave up her beliefs and conformed to the expectations of society.  When she actually meets a ghost, it’s more than just a confirmation of the supernatural.  It’s a chance for Erin to finally embrace who she truly is and what she truly cares about.  When she and the other ghostbusters chase after evil spirits, Erin is not just doing a job.  Instead, she’s finally found somewhere where she belongs.  She no longer has to pretend to be someone that she isn’t.  Wiig plays the role with just the right touch of neurotic wonder.  She grounds the entire film.

Wiig McKinnon

But the true star of the film is Kate McKinnon.  Whether she’s cheerfully smiling as a ghost vomits all over her colleagues or cheerfully explaining how easily their equipment could kill them all, Holtzmann is the greatest character in the film and McKinnon gives the best performance.  If Wiig grounds the film, McKinnon provides it with a truly demented soul.

The first half of the movie, which focuses on the relationships between the characters and features snappy and endlessly quotable dialogue, is wonderful and I was thrilled while watching it, convinced that the entire movie would be as good as the first hour.  However, the second half of the film gets bogged down in a rather predictable plot and the final action sequences could have just as easily been lifted from Pixels or one of The Avengers movies.  The surviving cast of the original Ghostbusters all show up in cameos that are, at best, inoffensive and, at worst, groan-worthy.  The end result is rather uneven.  If the film had maintained the momentum of that first hour, it would be a classic.  But that second half transforms it into just another entertaining but not quite memorable summer action film.

That said, Paul Feig is an excellent comedy director and let’s hope that he never gets so self-important that he ends up turning into Jay Roach.  Hopefully, if there is a sequel, Feig will return to direct it and Kate McKinnon will have an even bigger role.

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Until Dogs and Cats Live Together, Your Childhood Will Survive: Ghostbusters (1984, directed by Ivan Reitman)


Harold-Ramis-Actor-300x300I always wanted to be Egon Spengler.

I can not remember how old I was when I first saw the original Ghostbusters but I know I was young enough that “Gatekeeper” and “Keymaster” went over my head.  But I do remember that Ghostbusters was one of my favorite movies from the first time I saw it and that Egon Spengler (played by the much missed Harold Ramis) was always my favorite character.

I know that, for most people, Peter Venkmen (Bill Murray) is their favorite.  It is true that Peter got the best lines and Sigourney Weaver.  But I always wanted to be Egon.  Egon was the one who knew everything.  He knew how to track down and capture ghosts.  He knew that the only way to defeat Gozer was to cross streams.  No matter what happened, Egon was never surprised or scared.  Egon always knew what to do.  Egon did not get Sigourney Weaver but he did get Annie Potts.

Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz never gets as much attention as either Peter or Egon, even though, without Aykroyd, there never would have been a Ghostbusters.  Aykroyd originally envisioned Ghostbusters as being a sci-fi epic that would be a vehicle for him and John Belushi.  After Belushi died, Aykroyd and Harold Ramis rewrote the script and scaled back the story.  Bill Murray took the role that would have been played by Belushi and the famous ghost, Slimer, was created as a tribute to their fallen friend.

As for Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddemore, his role was much larger in the original script.  But with each rewrite, Winston’s role got smaller and Peter’s role got larger.  Winston’s role is still important because he is the ghostbuster who stands in for the audience.  He is not a skeptic like Peter but he’s not a true believer like Ray and Egon.  Winston just wants a steady paycheck.

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I remember loving the original Ghostbusters when I was a kid but a new Ghostbusters is being released today and I have read that some people think that it is going to destroy my childhood.  Since the lovely Lisa Marie Bowman and I are planning on seeing the new Ghostbusters tonight, we rewatched the original on Wednesday.  In case my childhood was on the verge of being destroyed, I needed to enjoy it one final time.

32 years after it was first released, the original Ghostbusters holds up well.  With the exception of Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the special effects are no longer special but the script is still full of laugh out loud moments, from the opening with Bill Murray testing students for ESP to Rick Moranis asking random New Yorkers if they were the Gatekeeper to “It’s true … this man has no dick” to “when someone ask you if you are a god, you say yes!”  Even the song is still catchy.

As I watched the original Ghostbusters, I realized that my childhood was not in danger of being destroyed.  I hope the remake is good but even if it is terrible, the original Ghostbusters will always be there and it will always be too good to be forgotten.  The original Ghostbusters was both smart and funny enough to survive  a bad sequel, which Lisa and I made the mistake of watching after we finished the original and about which we swore to never speak again.  Ghostbusters will survive a remake.  If the remake is bad, it can be placed in storage with Ghostbusters 2, The Phantom Menace, X-Men: Apocalypse, Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, Batman and Robin, and every other ill-conceived remake, reboot, and sequel of the past 50 years.  If the remake is good, it will be continuing a fine legacy of comedy.  If a new audience enjoys the remake as much as we enjoyed the original, who are any of us to begrudge them that pleasure?

Whether the remake is good or bad, I’m not worried.

My childhood is going to be fine and so is everyone else’s.

Or, at least, it will be until dogs and cats start to live together…

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Playing Catch-Up With The Lesser Films of 2015: Get Hard, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Pixels, The Wedding Ringer


SPOILER ALERT!

One or more of the films reviewed below will appear on my list of the 16 Worst Films of 2015!  Can you guess which one(s)?

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Get Hard (dir by Etan Cohen)

Will Ferrell is funny and Kevin Hart is funny and you would think that putting them together in one movie would be especially funny but … nope.  Get Hard, which I watched on HBO a few weeks ago, is incredibly not funny.  Ferrell plays a hedge fund manager who is convicted of fraud and embezzlement and it’s a sign of how haphazard this film is that I was never really sure whether he was supposed to be guilty or not.  Anyway, Ferrell is terrified of going to prison but fortunately, he runs into Kevin Hart.  Hart is playing the owner of a car wash here, a mild-mannered family man who simply wants to be able to afford to send his daughter to a good school.  However, Ferrell assumes that, since Hart is black, Hart must be an ex-con.

So, Ferrell hires Hart to teach him how to survive in prison and Hart agrees.  And, to be honest, this is not a terrible idea for an edgy satire but the film pulls it punches and never really exposes or challenges the racism that led to Ferrell hiring Hart in the first place.  Instead, it’s more interested in making homophobic jokes about prison rape (there’s a particularly long and unpleasant scene where Ferrell attempts to learn how to give a blow job that feels like it was lifted from a deservedly forgotten 90s film) and eventually, it devolves into a painfully predictable action film.

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Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (dir by Andy Fickman)

I know what someone out there is saying.

“YOU’VE NEVER EVEN SEEN THE FIRST PAUL BLART: MALL COP!!!  WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TO REVIEW THE SEQUEL!?”

Well, listen — it’s true.  I’ve never seen the first film and the only reason I watched the second one (on HBO at a friend’s house, which means that it literally cost me nothing) was because I had heard how terrible it was and I figured that I should see it before making out my list of the worst films of the year.  But, even with that in mind, I think I can still give this film a fair review.

(At the very least, I’ll try.  Dammit, I’ll try.)

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is one of those films that is so forgettable that you forget about it while you’re watching.  Kevin James plays Paul Blart, a mall security guard who goes to Las Vegas for a security guard convention and ends up getting involved in thwarting a big heist.  It’s a comedy, though I can’t think of a single time I laughed.  Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 was not quite the abomination that I had been led to expect.  It was, in no way, comparable to Birdemic, April Rain, or Man of Steel.  Instead, it was just an incredibly empty and soulless film.  It was a zombie movie that existed only to eat money.

One thing that is frustrating about a film like Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is that Kevin James seems like he could actually survive appearing in a good film, if he could just get a chance to make one.  He’s likable and he’s got an everyman quality about him.  But, for now, he seems to be trapped in films where he either plays Paul Blart or he’s surrounded by talking animals.

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Pixels (dir by Chris Columbus)

Speaking of Kevin James, he’s also in Pixels!  He plays William Cooper.  When he was a kid, he was obsessed with playing video games.  Now that he’s an adult, he’s the President of the United States!  And he still keeps in contact with his best friend from childhood, Sam.  Sam, needless to say, will never be President.  When Sam was a kid, he was traumatized when he lost a national video game championship.  Now that he’s an adult, he installs home-theater systems and he’s played by Adam Sandler…

When Earth is invaded, it turns out that the aliens are under the impression that video games are real!  So, they recreate a bunch of classic video game characters and send them off to do havoc.  Who better to stop them than the President and Sam?  And who better to help than a nerdy conspiracy theorist (Josh Gad) and Eddie Planet (Peter Dinklage), the same guy who cheated in order to defeat Sam at the video game championship….

If you’re thinking that sounds like way too much plot for a silly comedy about video games coming to life, you’re right.  Pixels has some cute moments (though, based on the comments and occasional laughter of the middle-aged people in the theater around me, I get the feeling that a lot of the film’s video game-themed humor was a bit too “before my time” for me to fully appreciate) but oh my God, it was such an unnecessarily busy movie.  The idea behind Pixels had some potential but the film refused to take advantage of it.

I’ve said this before and I always get some strange looks but I honestly do think that — if he would actually break out of his comfort zone and stop doing movies that mostly seem to be about finding an excuse to hang out with his friends — Adam Sandler could be an acceptable dramatic actor.  Check out his work in Punch-Drunk Love, Funny People, Reign Over Me, Spanglish, and even the first half of The Cobbler.  (Tarantino even wrote the role of Donny Donowitz in Inglourious Basterds with Sandler in mind.)  The fact that Sandler could be doing good work makes his continual bad work all the more frustrating and annoying.

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The Wedding Ringer (dir by Jeremy Garelick)

And speaking of Josh Gad…he’s also in The Wedding Ringer!  For that matter, so is Kevin Hart.  Hart plays a guy who, for a sizable fee, will pretend to the lifelong best friend (and best man) for grooms who do not have enough real friends to fill out a wedding party.  Hart refuses to get emotionally involved with his clients but that all changes when, despite himself, he becomes friends with Josh Gad, who is on the verge of getting married to Kaley Cuoco.

The Wedding Ringer got terrible reviews but it also was very popular with audiences and I imagine a lot of that had to do with the relationship between Hart and Gad.  Both of them give very sincere performances that elevate some otherwise unpromising material.  The Wedding Ringer wasn’t good (it’s predictable, it’s portrayal of Kaley Cuoco’s character verges on misogynistic) but, at the same time, it wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be.  In the end, it was pretty much a typical January film.

I'm so excited!  I'm so excited!  I'm so ... wait a minute, am I just here because this is a post about bad movies?

I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I’m so … wait a minute, am I just here because this is a post about bad movies?

Which of these four films will make my list of the worst 16 films of 2015?  The answer shall be revealed soon!

 

 

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #100: Pearl Harbor (dir by Michael Bay)


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“And then all this happened…”

Nurse Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale) in Pearl Harbor (2001)

The “this” that Evelyn Johnson is referring to is the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  You know, the date will live in infamy.  The attack that caused the United States to enter World War II and, as a result, eventually led to collapse of the Axis Powers.  The attack that left over 2,000 men died and 1,178 wounded.  That attack.

In the 2001 film Pearl Harbor, that attack is just one of the many complications in the romance between Danny (Ben Affleck), his best friend Rafe (Josh Hartnett), and Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale).  The other complications include Danny briefly being listed as dead, Danny being dyslexic before anyone knew what dyslexia was (and yet, later, he’s still seen reading and writing letters with absolutely no trouble, almost as if the filmmakers forgot they had made such a big deal about him not being able to do so), and the fact that Rafe really, really likes Evelyn.  Of course, the main complication to their romance is that this is a Michael Bay film and he won’t stop moving the camera long enough for anyone to have a genuine emotion.

I imagine that Pearl Harbor was an attempt to duplicate the success of Titanic, by setting an extremely predictable love story against the backdrop of a real-life historical tragedy.  Say what you will about Titanic (and there are certain lines in that film that, when I rehear them today, make me cringe), Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet had genuine chemistry.  None of that chemistry is present in Pearl Harbor.  You don’t believe, for a second, that Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett are lifelong friends.  You don’t believe that Kate Beckinsale is torn between the two of them.  Instead, you just feel like you’re watching three actors who are struggling to give a performance when they’re being directed by a director who is more interested in blowing people up than in getting to know them.

Continuing the Titanic comparison, Pearl Harbor‘s script absolutely sucks.  Along with that line about “all this” happening, there’s also a scene where Franklin D. Roosevelt (Jon Voight) reacts to his cabinet’s skepticism by rising to his feet and announcing that if he, a man famously crippled by polio and confined to a wheelchair, can stand up, then America can win a war.

I’ve actually been to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.  I have gone to the USS Arizona Memorial.  I have stood and stared down at the remains of the ship resting below the surface of the ocean.  It’s an awe-inspiring and humbling site, one that leaves you very aware that over a thousand men lost their lives when the Arizona sank.

I have also seen the wall which lists the name of everyone who was killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor and until you’ve actually been there and you’ve seen it with your own eyes, you really can’t understand just how overwhelming it all is.  The picture below was taken by my sister, Erin.

Pearl Harbor 2003If you want to pay tribute to those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor, going to the Arizona Memorial is a good start.  But avoid Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor at all costs.

Shattered Politics #57: Canadian Bacon (dir by Michael Moore)


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I have mixed feelings about the 1995 films Canadian Bacon.

On the one hand, Canadian Bacon is the only non-documentary to have been directed by Michael Moore.  And I’m just going to admit right now that I don’t care much for Michael Moore.  I think he’s fake.  I think he’s the epitome of the type of limousine liberal who exclusively preaches to the converted and who, when all is said and done, does more harm to his causes than good.  Just because he doesn’t shave, dresses like a slob, and apparently has never been to a gym, that doesn’t change the fact that he’s worth $50 million dollars.  Just because he may claim to be for the workers, that doesn’t keep him from notoriously overworking and underpaying his own employees.  Just because he may make films critical of capitalism, that certainly hasn’t stopped him from investing millions in the very same companies that he claims to oppose. And, quite frankly, it’s hard for me to take seriously a man who rails against income inequality when that man happens to own 9 mansions, none of which are exactly housing the homeless right now.

On the other hand, I love Canada!  Canada has produced some of my favorite actors.  It’s the country that created Degrassi.  It’s the home of Lindsay Dianne and the Becoming A Bolder Being blog!  Seriously, how can you not love Canada?

In fact, if a war ever broke out between American and Canada, I’m not sure who I’d support.  Then again, hopefully Texas will have seceded from the U.S.A. before that happens.  I’m keeping fingers crossed about that.  Hopefully, once we have seceded, our first action will be to declare war on Vermont.  (Not the rest of America, though.  Just Vermont.)

The plot of Canadian Bacon is that the President of the United States (Alan Alda) is suffering from low approval ratings so he decides that America needs to find a new country to be enemies with.  Mind you, the President doesn’t necessarily want to go to war.  Instead, he just wants to have an enemy that he can always be on the verge of going to war with.  After a riot breaks out at a hockey game, the President’s advisors realize that Canada would be the perfect enemy!

(And, while this is played for laughs, there actually is a historical precedent here.  The War of 1812 was basically a result of America’s desire to conquer Canada.)

Anyway, American airwaves are soon full of anti-Canada propaganda and, since Michael Moore thinks everyone in America is an idiot except for him, gun-toting rednecks are soon preparing to do whatever it takes to defend America.  A patriotic sheriff named Boomer (John Candy) decides to invade Canada on his own.  Needless to say, things get even more complicated from there and soon a crazy weapons manufacturer (G.D. Spradlin) is plotting to launch a missile attack on Russia and … oh, who cares?

When Canadian Bacon tries to satirize politics and blind patriotism, it falls flat.  Michael Moore has somehow earned a reputation for being a satirist but, if you actually look at his work, it quickly becomes apparent that he really doesn’t have much of a sense of humor.  The humor in his documentaries is pretty much based on Moore saying, “Look how stupid everyone is except for me!”  Since the people who watch Michael Moore documentaries are usually people who already agree with Michael Moore, they naturally find that to be hilarious because they already think anyone who disagrees with them is a joke.  However, that doesn’t mean that Moore himself is a comic genius.  He’s just a guy telling a joke to an audience that already knows the punchline.

Canadian Bacon is long on righteous indignation but it’s short on anything that would make you want to spend 90 minutes listening to the same point being made over and over again.  Moore did make one good decision, in that he selected Rip Torn to play a crazed general.  Rip Torn can deliver militaristic insults with the best of them.

The few times that Canadian Bacon actually works is when it gently (as opposed to indignantly) satirizes Canada’s reputation for being the most polite (and most hockey-obsessed) place on Earth.  Dan Aykroyd has a great cameo as a Canadian police officer who pulls over Boomer’s truck and politely reprimands him for not including French translations for all of the anti-Canadian graffiti on the side of the vehicle.

Canadian Bacon could have used more scenes like that.

Love you, Canada!

A Quickie With Lisa Marie: The Campaign (dir. by Jay Roach)


Opening last weekend, The Campaign is the latest comedy from director Jay Roach.  The film tells the story of North Carolina Congressman Cam Brady (played by Will Ferrell), a Democrat who will remind viewers of such previous party statesmen as John Edwards and Anthony Weiner.  The complacent Brady has been in office for nearly a decade and he is regularly reelected without opposition.  However, when Brady accidentally leaves an obscene message on a random family’s answering machine, the multimillionaire Motch brother (John Lithgow and Dan Ayrkroyd) see a chance to replace Brady with a congressman who will essentially belong to them.  They recruit the naive and well-meaning Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) to run against Brady.  While Huggins is initially an awkward and unimpressive candidate, his image is soon transformed by a possibly demonic campaign manager (Dylan McDermott).  As Huggins starts to move up in the polls, Brady reacts by having a nervous breakdown of his own and soon the campaign gets very personal as both Huggins and Brady go to increasingly outrageous lengths to win the election.

As a work of political satire, The Campaign is fairly uneven.  This is largely because, while the film raises some valid points, those points are still the same points that have been made by hundreds of other films about the American political system.  If you didn’t already know that the American political system was controlled by wealthy corporations before you saw The Campaign then you probably shouldn’t be allowed to vote in the first place.  At its best, the film reminds us that both the Democrats and the Republicans pretty much answer to the same corporate masters.  At its worst, the film’s “message”  just feels like a stale and predictable lecture that one might hear while visiting an old  Occupy camp site.

But if the film doesn’t quite come together as a satire, it does work wonderfully well as a comedy.  Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are two of the funniest guys around and they are at the top of their game in this film.  Both of them bring such a sincerity to their absurd characters that even the most predictable of punchlines feel fresh and hilarious.  Zach Galifianakis is surprisingly likable and earnest as the painfully sincere Marty.  It’s no surprise to see Galifianakis playing someone who could charitably be described as a weirdo.  However, Galifianakis also bring a gentleness of spirit to the role and it’s impossible not to root for him.  Meanwhile, Will Ferrell not only manages to master a North Carolina accent but also manages to capture both the arrogance and the ignorance that’s necessary for a truly mediocre man to become a succesful politician.

However, the film’s best comedic performance comes from, believe it or not, Dylan McDermott.  Playing a slick political operative who always dresses in black and who, occasionally, appears to be possessed by the devil, McDermott is a wonder to behold in this film.  He steals every scene that he appears in and the prospect of his return alone should be reason enough for some brave film executive to greenlight The Campaign Part 2.

The Campaign works best when it’s content to simply make us laugh.  When it attempts to make a serious statement about the state of American politics, the film often feels flat.  But as a laugh-out-loud comedy, The Campaign is a definite winner.