The Films of 2020: The Binge (dir by Jeremy Garelick)


America, in the near future.

Due to a rise in crime coupled with an economic collapse, a new moralistic government has taken power.  All drugs and alcohol have been banned …. except for one day of the year.  On that day, anyone who is 18 years old or older will be able to drink, smoke, inject, and snort anything that they want.  This is the annual …. BINGE!

Okay, so does this sound familiar to anyone?

The Binge is a mix of The Purge and Superbad.  Three dorky high school students (played by Skyler Gisondo, Eduardo Franco, and Dexter Darden) want to take part in their first binge but it’s not going to easy, largely because they’re not actually cool enough to have been invited to any of the big Binge parties.  Unless they can find a way to sneak into the legendary Library Party, they’re going to miss out on all the fun and they’re not going to get laid.

Vince Vaughn, meanwhile, plays the high school principal who, at the start of the film, exhorts his students not to binge so hard that they end up getting horribly disfigured or bring any sort of shame on the reputation of their school.  However, when he finds out that his own daughter has snuck out of the house and is taking part in the Binge, he hits the streets and ends up binging himself.

And listen, The Binge gets off to a good start.  It opens with a Morgan Freeman sound alike narrating a short film about how much better life in America is thanks to the Binge.  Yes, it’s totally ripped off from The Purge but let us give the film some credit for at least admitting that it’s not exactly an original idea.  The short film is followed by a scene of Vaughn standing in a shabby high school auditorium, explaining to his students why binging is not a good idea and he goes through all of the classic horror stories that teenagers have been told through the years to keep them from indulging.  Vaughn comes across like some sort of demented gym teacher in this scene and it’s genuinely funny.

Meanwhile, throughout the high school, the students share stories about what they’ve heard life was like before the Binge.  Someone talks about how people used to do keg stands just for someone else to ask, “What’s a keg?”  Another student talks about how her mother claims that there used to be a show called Sex and the City, in which the characters would have sex and drink pink alcohol.

Those early scenes are funny but the rest of the film doesn’t live up to them.  Once the Binge begins, the film becomes just another raunchy high school party film and, to be honest, it’s a bit dull.  It’s also hard not to notice that, for a bunch of people who have apparently never drank or done drugs before, some of the characters handle getting drunk and stoned surprisingly well.  You would also think that, if you could only drink or do drugs one time a year, some people would at least try to be a little bit creative in how they did it.  Instead, it appears that everyone learned how to binge by watching old episodes of Saved By The Bell, California Dreams, and 90210.  With the exception of one drug-induced musical number that occurs about halfway into the film and a pretty amusing contest to see who can snort the most coke while doing the best Pacino imitation, everyone’s just so boring.

This is one of those comedies where people randomly screaming is often used as a substitute for any sort of real wit or clever dialogue.  The main characters are so poorly defined that you really never care whether or not they’re going to get laid, get stoned, go to prom, or get into college.  I appreciated any movie that satirizes prohibition but The Binge, much like the students that Vince Vaughn warned about at the start of the film, fails to live up to its potential.

Here’s The Trailer For The Binge!


In the future, all drugs and alcohol are illegal.

Except for one night a year….

Wait a minute. This sounds familiar.  Is this a part of The Purge franchise?  Or is it just another Vince Vaughn party comedy?  I guess we’ll find out — well, some of us will — on August 28th when the film premieres on Hulu.

For the record, I don’t drink but I probably would if I was told I couldn’t.  You know how that goes.

Here’s the trailer for The Binge:

Film Review: Arkansas (dir by Clark Duke)


Oh, Arkansas.

As far as states go, Arkansas usually doesn’t get much respect.  In a country where much of the culture is dominated by city-dwelling secular liberals, Arkansas is a state the remains stubbornly rural, religious, and conservative.  If your grandparents were a state, they’d probably look a lot like Arkansas.  Arkansas is viewed as being old-fashioned and when it does make the news, it’s usually not for anything that anyone in the state particularly wants to brag about.  Democrats will always view Arkansas as being the home of Mike Huckabee.  Republicans will never forgive the state for springing the Clintons on the rest of the nation.  (Interestingly enough, Mike Huckabee and Bill Clinton both grew up in the same tiny town.)  Little Rock has gangs and government corruption.  Hot Springs has gamblers looking to hide out from the mob.  Fouke has the Boggy Creek Monster while Ft. Smith is best-known for having once been home to the hanging judge, Isaac Parker.  You get the idea.  When it comes to the way that the rest of the country views the state, it often seems as if poor Arkansas just can’t catch a break.

With all that in mind, I have to say that I really love Arkansas.  My paternal grandparents lived in Arkansas and I’ve still got relatives all over the state.  Arkansas was one of the many states where my family lived while I was growing up.  (The others were — deep breath — Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, and Louisiana.)  We would stay in Arkansas for months at a time, depending on how well my mom and dad were getting along at the time.  It’s an unpretentious state, one that’s full of friendly, no-nonsense people and beautiful countryside.  I have a lot of good memories of Arkansas.  It’s always in the back of my mind that, wherever I’m living, I can always just go back to Arkansas and spend the rest of my life living in a small town with my cousins.  Of course, I’d probably end up miserable over the lack of movie theaters.  Whenever I’m living in the city, I find myself yearning for the simplicity and decency of the country.  Whenever I’m in the country, I find myself missing the excitement of the city.

The Natural State (as Arkansas is officially nicknamed) is not only the setting for some of my most cherished memories.  It’s also the setting for a film called, appropriately enough, Arkansas.  The directorial debut of actor Clark Duke, Arkansas tells the story of four very different men.  Kyle Ribb (Liam Hemsworth) is quiet and rather stoic.  Swin Horn (Clark Duke) is talkative, eccentric, and perhaps a bit too cocky for his own good.  They both work at a national park, where their boss is a veteran ranger named Bright (John Malkovich).  Of course, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to notice that neither Kyle nor Ribb really seem to do much work at the park.  And, for that matter, Bright certainly does own a big and impressive house for someone who has spent the majority of his life as a ranger….

Kyle, Swin, and Bright are actually drug dealers.  They transport drugs all over the southern half of the United States.  Kyle and Swin are supervised by Bright.  Bright, meanwhile, reports to the mysterious Frog.  Kyle and Swin have never actually met Frog and there are rumors that he might not even exist.  Of course, the film has already revealed to us that Frog (played by Vince Vaughn) does exist and is a local pawnshop owner.

Kyle narrates the film, informing us that the difference between Southern organized crime and Northern organized crime is that, in the South, it’s not all that organized.  As Kyle explains it, the infamous Dixie Mafia is not so much an organization as it’s just a collection of undisciplined lowlifes who have no real integrity or loyalty to anyone else.  When you become a drug dealer in the South, you’re a drug dealer for life.  There’s no going back if you change your mind.  You start out at the bottom of the ladder and, whenever someone above you if either murdered or imprisoned, you get your chance to move up.  No one is ever sure who is working for who or who can be trusted.  Every order from the boss is examined and re-examined as the two dealers try to figure out whether or not they’ve won the trust of the mysterious Frog.

Unfortunately for Kyle and Swin, a misunderstanding leads to violence and several deaths.  With no way to directly communicate with Frog to let him know what exactly happened, Kyle and Swin know that their lives could be in danger.  The film follows Kyle and Swin as they prepare for their ultimate meeting with Frog while, at the same time, detailing in flashback how Frog himself eventually came to his position of power.  Throughout the entire film, we watch as history repeats itself.  As Kyle said, once you’re a drug dealer, you’re a drug dealer for life.

Arkansas is a surprisingly low-key film.  Kyle, Swin, Bright, and Frog all manage to be both very laid back and very aggressive at the same time.  (Anyone who has spent anytime with a large group of rednecks will understand what I’m talking about.)  As a director, Clark Duke is as interested in capturing the rhythms of every day life in Arkansas as he is in orchestrating the inevitable violence that results from all of the film’s betrayals and mistakes and some of the best scenes in the film just feature Kyle and Swin talking about nothing in particular while driving down the interstate.  The film’s mix of cheerful goofiness and existential horror will be familiar to anyone who has ever gotten lost on the way to Hot Springs.

Liam Hemsworth and Clark Duke are sympathetic in the lead roles, though Hemsworth’s Southern accent does slip a few times.  Swin meets a woman (Eden Brolin) in a grocery store and their subsequent romance manages to be both creepy and touching at the same time.  John Malkovich is, as usual, wonderfully eccentric.  That said, the film is pretty much dominated by Vince Vaughn, who plays Frog as being both dangerously ruthless and also as someone who understands that his eventual downfall is inevitable.  Frog came to power by betraying his boss and, as played by Vaughn, Frog is very much aware that he’s destined to eventually be betrayed as well.  Frog has made peace with both his place in the world and the reality of his situation and, in many ways, that makes him an even more dangerous character than he would be otherwise.  He has nothing to lose and he knows it.

Obviously, I liked Arkansas, both the state and the movie.  It’s an well-done work of Southern pulp.

Here’s The Trailer For Dragged Across Concrete!


For everyone who is looking forward to following Oscar season with some good B-movie action , here’s the trailer for Dragged Across Concrete!

In this film, Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn play two cops who get suspended from the force and decide to support themselves by ripping off some criminals.  It’s a bit of an homage to the over-the-top grindhouse films of the 70s and 80s and, believe it or not, a source that I trust has not only seen the film but also told me that it’s actually a really good, surprisingly intelligent film.  Considering that the film has a 2 hour and 30 minute running time, it better be!

Dragged Across Concrete is the latest film from S. Craig Zahler, who previously directed Vaughn in the acclaimed Brawl in Cell Block 99.  Dragged Across Concrete will be released on March 22nd.

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #36: Term Life (dir by Peter Billingsley)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Thursday, December 8th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

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I recorded Term Life off one of the Starz channels on November 13th.

Vince Vaughn co-starred in two movies in 2016 and both of them were a little bit different from the fratty comedies for which he is best known.  One of the movies was Hacksaw Ridge, in which Vaughn was cast against type as a tough drill sergeant.  Hacksaw Ridge is one of the best films of the year and it features Vaughn’s best work since he appeared in 2007’s Into The Wild.  The other film was Term Life, which had a very limited released in April and is now popping up on cable.

In Term Life, Vaughn plays Nick Barrow.  Nick is a thief but he doesn’t actually steal anything.  Instead, he plots heists and then sells his plans to the highest bidder.  However, Nick has somehow managed to get in trouble with the mob, with a corrupt cop (Bill Paxton), and with … well, with everyone.  I say somehow because it wasn’t always clear why everyone was so obsessed with killing Nick.  They just were.

Knowing that his days are probably numbered, Nick takes out a life insurance policy on himself.  He names, as the sole beneficiary, his estranged daughter, Cate (Hailee Steinfeld).  With his reluctant daughter accompanying him, he goes on the run.  While Nick and Cate finally start to bond and repair their damaged relationship, the very bad men searching for Nick kill a lot of people.

So, this is a weird one.  At times, this film is a typical generation gap comedy, with Vaughn playing the former-cool-guy-turned-befuddled-dad who freaks out when he sees Cate’s bra hanging from a shower rod.  This part of the film is actually kinda likable.  Vaughn and Steinfeld are believable as father-and-daughter and their scenes together are sweet if predictable.

But then you’ve got the rest of the film, which is basically Bill Paxton brutally murdering people.  The violence comes on so strong that it feels totally out-of-place when mixed in with scenes of Nick and Cate bonding.  It’s such an abrupt tonal shift that it makes it impossible to get into the film.

Term Life has a cobbled together feel to it and it doesn’t help that it features the type of heavy-handed narration that feels as if it was added at the last minute in a desperate attempt to bring some sort of coherent structure to a messy film.  On the plus side, both Vaughn and Steinfeld are believable and you occasionally care about their father-daughter relationship.  On the negative side, likable characters keep dying.

In other words, see Hacksaw Ridge.

Film Review: Hacksaw Ridge (dir by Mel Gibson)


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To be honest, Hacksaw Ridge is probably not the type of film that I would usually watch.  I’m not a huge fan of war movies and the trailer really didn’t inspire much enthusiasm within me.  However, ever since the film was released last Friday, it’s been the subject of some Oscar buzz and … well, you know me and the Oscars.  There’s no easier way to get me to take a chance on a movie than to tell me that it might be nominated for an Oscar.  I’m a completist, after all.  If they’re going to nominate 8 to 10 movies for best picture, you better believe I’m going to make sure that I’ve seen all of them.

So, after voting yesterday, I saw Hacksaw Ridge and all I can say is, “Wow!”  Hacksaw Ridge left me with tears in my eyes and feeling totally exhausted.  This is one of those films that kind of sneaks up on you.  I spent the first half of the film thinking to myself, “Okay, this is good and all but I still don’t see what the big deal is.”  And then suddenly, that second half started and soon, I was totally struggling to catch my breath.

I’ll just say this right now: Hacksaw Ridge is one of the most powerful anti-war films that I’ve ever seen.  It’s also an incredibly violent film, one that will leave non-veterans amazed at the number of ways that soldiers can be shot, stabbed, blown up, and set on fire.  But, despite all the visceral action that plays out across the screen, Hacksaw Ridge never glorifies combat.  It never glamorizes the destructive power of war.  We may be happy when we see a certain soldier somehow manage to survive but we never find ourselves cheering.  Instead, often times, we worry what awaits that soldier after the war.  The combat in Hacksaw Ridge is so brutal and so terrifying that you find yourself wondering not only how anyone could survive but also how anyone could ever go on with “normal” life after seeing the horrors of war.

Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who served, as a combat medic, in the U.S. Army during World War II.  As a Seventh Day Adventist, Doss both refused to carry a rife and refused to train on the Sabbath.  Despite all the efforts of both his sergeant and his captain to convince Doss to leave the service, Doss stayed in the Army, served in combat despite refusing to carry a rifle, and became the first C.O. to be awarded the Medal of Honor.  In the film, Doss is played by Andrew Garfield, who is one of those extremely talented actors who has been miscast in several films.  Fortunately, he’s perfect for Hacksaw Ridge.  Though his rural accent occasionally slips, Garfield is convincing as both a relatively naive farmboy and a man of such strong convictions that he’s willing to risk being court martialed to uphold them.  If Hacksaw Ridge is about Doss proving himself to his fellow soldiers, it’s also a film about Andrew Garfield, who is still perhaps best known for being awkwardly cast as Spiderman, proving himself as a unique and interesting actor.

Garfield pretty much dominates the film but a few of the supporting performers do manage to make an impression.  Vince Vaughn is surprisingly effective as the tough and no-nonsense sergeant and Teresa Palmer is sympathetic as Doss’s wife.  Hugo Weaving plays Doss’s alcoholic father, a man who is still haunted by what he saw during the first world war and he does a great job.

I know that some people are going to be hesitant about Hacksaw Ridge because it was directed by Mel Gibson but you know what?   You may not expect Mel Gibson to direct one of the most searing anti-war films of the past decade but that’s exactly what he managed to do.  It’s an important film, one that reminds us that war is neither fun nor an adventure.  It’s a film that shows what our combat veterans had to deal with (and when we countless men lost their legs as the result of a Japanese rocket, it’s hard not to make the connection to the countless vets who have lost limbs in the Middle East) and, in its way, chastises a society that would abandon them after the war is over.  If Doss, working on his own, was willing to put his life at risk to save 75 wounded soldiers, how can we, as a society, justify not taking care of our wounded veterans?   Hacksaw Ridge is a film that works both as a tribute to our veterans and a reminder that the costs of war are all too real.

It’s a good and important film.  I recommend the Hell out of it.

Here’s the Trailer for Hacksaw Ridge!


 

PCASThe upcoming film, Hacksaw Ridge, tells the story of Desmond Doss.  Doss was an army medic who, during World War II, refused to carry a weapon because of his religious beliefs.  Considering that we currently live in warlike times and even so-called liberals are currently making excuses for all sorts of war mongering, Hacksaw Ridge seems like it could have the potential to be an important film.  It’s due to be release at the height of awards season.

Add to that, it stars Andrew Garfield, who is one of those actors who seems to be destined for an Oscar nomination at some point in his life.  (He might get one this year for his role in Martin Scorsese’s Silence.)  Vince Vaughn, a good actor who could really use a good role at this point in his career, is also in this film.

However, the film is also directed by Mel Gibson and that’s the big question mark, isn’t it?  He’s not a bad director and this seems like his type of subject matter but he’s still Mel Gibson.  Will the same film industry that embraced convicted child molester Victor Salva continue to view Mel Gibson as being a pariah?

We’ll get a chance to see if Hacksaw Ridge lives up to its Oscar contender potential on November 24th!

Here’s the trailer!

Guilty Pleasure No. 8: Paparazzi


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I once got into an argument with a friend of mine about whether or not a film could actually be so bad that it was good.

His argument was that bad, by its very definition, was the opposite of good and therefore, nothing bad could be good and vice versa.

My argument was Paparazzi.

First released back in 2004, Paparazzi tells the story of Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser).  Bo is an up-and-coming super star.  As the film begins, we’re told — by a breathless correspondent from E! News — that Bo has arrived.  He’s starring in what promises to be “the world’s biggest action franchise.”  Bo has a wife (Robin Tunney), a son, and a beautiful house on the beach.  Whenever he goes jogging, huge groups of women magically materialize so that they can giggle as he runs by.

However, not everything is perfect in the world of Bo Laramie.  Like far too many defenseless celebrities, he’s being harassed by the paparazzi.  At first, Bo attempts to be polite.  However, a demonic photographer named Rex (Tom Sizemore) refuses to stop trying to take pictures of Bo at his son’s soccer game.  Things escalate until eventually, Bo’s son is in a coma and Bo is coming up with ludicrously elaborate ways to kill all of Rex’s colleagues.

The thing that distinguishes Paparazzi is not that it’s a revenge film.  What distinguishes Paparazzi is that it seems to seriously be arguing that celebrities have the right to kill people who annoy them.  Rex and his colleagues are portrayed as being pure evil (one even laughs maniacally after snapping a picture) while Bo is the victim who has to deal with the issues that come from being a multimillionaire.  Even the homicide detective played by Dennis Farina seems to be continually on the verge of saying, “Right on!” while looking over the results of Bo’s handiwork.

It’s so ludicrous and stupid and over-the-top that it can’t help but also be a lot of fun.

Don’t get me wrong.  Paparazzi is a terrible film.  In fact, it’s so terrible that, if a group of aliens ever somehow saw Paparazzi, they would probably hop in their spaceship and come to Earth specifically to wipe out the human race.  However, as bad as the film is, it’s also one of those films that you simply cannot look away from.  Watching this film is like witnessing a tornado of pure mediocrity coming straight at you.  You know that you should just stop watching and get to safety but it’s such an unexpectedly odd sight that you can’t look away.  Once you’ve seen it, you’ll never forget it and it becomes impossible not to become fascinated by the fact that such a terrible film could actually exist.

Consider the following:

1) When he’s not busy killing photographers, Bo Laramie is filming a movie called Adrenaline Force 2.  Seriously, that title is so generic that I couldn’t help but smile every time it was mentioned.  Can you imagine anyone saying, “I want to see that new movie, what’s it called, uhmm… Adrenaline Force 2?”

2) Speaking of generic, do you think that anyone named Bo Laramie could ever possibly become the biggest film star in the world?

3) In the role of Bo Laramie, Cole Hauser seems like he’s as confused by this movie as everyone else.  However, towards the end of the film, he starts to flash a psychotic little grin and the contrast between that grin and Laramie’s previously stoic facade is oddly charming.

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4) You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Tom Sizemore play the world’s sleaziest photographer.

5) Vince Vaughn has a cameo as himself!  He’s co-starring in Adrenaline Force 2.

6) Mel Gibson has a cameo as himself!  He’s seen sitting in a psychologist’s office.  (No, seriously…)

7) Matthew McConaughey has a cameo as himself!  He shows up out-of-nowhere, tells Bo that it’s a pleasure to meet him, and then goes, “Alright, alright…”

8) Chris Rock has a cameo as a …. pizza deliveryman!  At first, I assumed that Chris Rock was playing himself and I kept waiting for him to explain why he was delivering a pizza to Bo Laramie’s house.  However, according to the end credits, Vaughn, McConaughey, and Gibson were playing themselves while Rock was playing the role of “Pizza Guy.”

9) Plotwise, this film invites the viewer to play a game of, “What if everyone in this film wasn’t a total and complete idiot?”  For all the effort that Bo puts into plotting his revenge, it’s hard not to feel that he just got extremely lucky.

10) The film manages to be both silly and completely humorless at the same time.  As a result, it’s a good for more than a few laughs.

11) There’s a scene where, out of nowhere, Bo recites an inner monologue about the price of fame that will remind observant viewers of Tony Bennett’s classic narration from The Oscar.

12) At one point, Tom Sizemore says, “I am going to destroy your life and eat your soul. And I can’t wait to do it.”

13) The film’s director used to be Mel Gibson’s hairdresser.

14) Finally, the film was produced by Mel Gibson and that probably means that the film actually is making a sincere case for murdering members of the paparazzi.

If ever a film has deserved the description of being so bad that it’s good, it is Paparazzi.  Between the sense of entitlement, the feverish fantasies of revenge, and the out-of-nowhere celebrity cameos, Paparazzi is a film that has earned the title of guilty pleasure.

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A Quickie With Lisa Marie: The Watch (dir. by Akiva Schaffer)


Earlier today, Jeff and I went down to the AMC Valley View and saw the new sci-fi comedy The WatchThe Watch has been getting universally negative reviews and it’s proving to be a bit of a bust at the box office (including Jeff and me, there were about 10 people at the showing we saw) but it was still a film that I was looking forward to seeing.  This is largely because the film stars three actors — Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, and Vince Vaughn — who are rarely popular with film critics but who almost always seem to find a way to make me laugh.

In The Watch, Ben Stiller plays a suburbanite who deals with his frustrating existence by forming clubs and obsessing over his job as the manager of the local Costco.  (Costco, by the way, is actually a major plot point in the overall film and I would say that close to 60% of the actual film either takes place in Costco or involves characters talking about how much they love Costco.  Unlike a lot of critics, I’m not morally offended by blatant product placement but, even for me, The Watch went a little bit overboard with all the Costco hype.)  Wen the security guard at the Costco is brutally murdered, Stiller decides to form a neighborhood watch so that he can track down the killer.  After giving an impassioned speech at a high school football team, Stiller is able to recruit three more members of the neighborhood watch.  Vince Vaughn is a goofy guy who is overprotective of his daughter.  Jonah Hill is a psycho with a knife and a frustrated desire to be a policeman.  And Richard Ayoade is … well, he’s kinda strange but that’s explained away by the fact that he’s apparently English.

And together, they solve crimes!

The solution in this case is that the suburbs have been invaded by aliens.  Those aliens have a diabolical plan of their own and it’s up the Neighborhood Watch to stop them.  And did I mention that all of this somehow involves Costco? 

Because it totally does.

I think The Watch can best be summed up in one word: Forgettable.   It’s not a great film but it has a few funny moments.  Director Akiva Schaffer got his start directing comedic short films for Saturday Night Live and that’s pretty much the same approach that he brings to The Watch.  Every scene feels like a self-contained short film and the end result is a wildly uneven movie that never finds a consistent tone or really seems to be sure just what type of story it’s trying to tell.  The mix of raunchy comedy, sci-fi drama, and sentimental bromance never quite gels and, as a result, watching the film almost feels like being forced to try to concentrate on three different movies at once, never being allowed to truly focus on a single one of them.  

However, taking all of that into account, I still have to say that I laughed out loud several times during The Watch.  I may not have laughed quite as much as the 300 lbs. gentleman, sitting two rows behind us, who sounded as if he might choke to death every time Vince Vaughn delivered the line, “It feels like cum,” but I still laughed.  The Watch is a funny movie.  Quite frankly, with a cast like this, there’s no way that the movie couldn’t have been funny.  The main thing that I love about watching Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill is the way that both of them bring an almost earnest sincerity to even the most ludicrous of roles.  As a result, Hill and Vaughn are actors who can get laughs out of even the weakest of jokes and they certainly get a oppurtunity to prove it in The Watch.  Meanwhile, Ayoade gives a wonderfully bizarre performance, scoring a lot of laughs just from being so consistently odd.  Ben Stiller does his usual uptight suburbanite routine and makes a good straight man for his 3 co-stars.  The Watch is at its best when it just lets its four stars hang out and play off of each other.

For such a forgettable film, The Watch has been the subject of some controversy.  The film was originally titled Neighborhood Watch until, earlier this year, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a member of a real life neighborhood watch.  The title was changed to avoid being “insensitive.”  Regardless of the film’s title, I have to admit that I did cringe a little at a rather lengthy joke that involved the film’s heroes — all wearing their “neighborhood watch” jackets — firing several bullets into the body of an apparently dead alien.  That said, The Watch is ultimately neither pro nor anti-neighborhood watch.  In the end, the only thing that the film seems to truly believe in is the universal importance of Costco.

Quickie Review: Dodgeball – A True Underdog Story (dir. by Rawson Marshall Thurber)


What is there to say about Dodgeball – A True Underdog Story other than it’s a no-brainer of a hilarious movie that doesn’t aspire to lofty heights. What it does do is come out firing with some of the funniest physical comedy and one-liners since The Farrelly Brothers’ Something About Mary. First time director Rawson Marshall Thurber does a good enough job to keep the laughs coming one right after the another to keep Dodgeball from becoming too repetitive.

The movie is a riff from the stock underdog sports genre with a Peter La Fleur (played by Vince Vaughn with his usual sardonic wit) having to find a way to save his Average Joe’s Gym from being foreclosed by his bank and turned by a rival hi-tech gym next door into a parking lot. Who else would be the perfect foil for Vince Vaughn’s Peter La Fleur but none other than Ben Stiller as the former-fatty turned workout fitness Nazi, White Goodman. Goodman’s Globo Gym is a state-of-the art, sterile and BALCO-like gym where insults and making its members feel ugly, fat and useless is the way to clean health and the perfect bod.

Already, within the first fifteen minutes, we know who to root for and who to boo. In one corner we have the Average Joe’s guys played with comedic timing by Justin Long, Stephen Root, Chris Williams, Alan Tudyk and Joel Moore. Stiller’s Goodman and his consigliere Me’Shell (Jamal Duff channeling Barry White) with a hand-picked ringer of a dodgeball team he calls the Purple Cobras. With the two sides set the dodgeball carnage begins as Average Joe’s must win the Las Vegas Dodgeball Invitational to earn the $50,000 needed to save the gym. To round out the Average Joe’s team will be the bank accountant who ends up sympathizing with the Joe’s, Kate Veatch (played by Stiller’s real-life wife, Christine Taylor) and Patches O’Houlihan (Rip Torn in a scene-stealing role).

Rip Torn is hilarious as the acerbic and insane former dodgeball great Patches O’Houlihan. He pretty much gets all the best one-liners in the movie the moment he appears on the screen. He coaches the Average Joe’s team by browbeating them, insulting them and, failing that, throwing wrenches at them to help them in learning the 5 D’s of dodgeball: Dodge, duck, dip, dive, dodge. In fact, I would say that if it wasn’t for Rip Torn’s character dominating the middle part of the movie, I think Dodgeball‘s constant ball to the groin shots would’ve gotten old. Instead Patches O’Houlihan constantly gave people watching a reason to laugh out loud.

Dodgeball – A True Underdog Story is a movie that the Academy voters will not go about showering with praises and awards, but I’m sure most of them will be watching it and laughing out loud like the rest of the general public. Dodgeball is one hilarious, one-liner after one-liner ball to the nuts funny and it doesn’t aspire to be anything else but that. This movie will never get old with each viewing and will continue to make people laugh out loud.