Tuesday, October 20, 2020

National Security Review

Director Dennis Dugan ("Happy Gilmore," "The Benchwarmers") doesn't cover any new ground in this L.A.-based buddy cop flick, which is probably more in the mold of "48 Hours" than anything else because it pairs a decent white cop with a screwball black quasi-partner who's more afoul of the law. But in the commentary track Dugan admits that all he cares about is making a movie that entertains people and takes their minds off their troubles for 88 minutes.

In that case, hold the planes and string up the banner: Mission Accomplished. And if all you're wanting to do is make a modest little entertainment, what better place to start than with Martin Lawrence, who, aside from an early appearance in Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" (1989) and some nice voiceover work in "Open Season" (2006), has yet to appear in a film that registers on the meter any higher than "okay." But at least "National Security," like his other cop picture, "Blue Streak" (1999), is better than "House Party" (1990). Or "Big Momma's House" (2000). Or "Black Night" (2001). Or any of those other super-sillious films of his that require a tranquilizer dart to get most people to sit through the whole thing.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Jyu-Oh-Sei Review

It is the year 2436, and identical twins Thor and Rai Klein have lived a sheltered life on Juno, a human colony in space. They have never seen the Earth, and have never had to deal with any real hardships. But things change quickly when their parents are brutally murdered. Without explanation, the twins are abandoned on a primitive prison planet called Chimaera.

Chimaera is a hellish, wild place where every step is dangerous. There are carnivorous plants, desert wastelands, and horrific beasts. To survive on Chimaera, you have to be cold, cruel, and brutal. If you aren't, you will be dead before the day is out.

Thor and Rai must struggle to survive this unbelievably harsh fate. However, while Thor is tough and headstrong, Rai is more timid and intellectual. They will have to become much stronger if they want to live long on Chimaera.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Ghost Town Review

"Ghost Town," the 2008 romantic comedy-fantasy from DreamWorks, marked the first big-screen lead appearance by British comic Ricky Gervais, the part-time writer, producer, director, and star of the hit BBC TV series "The Office." "Ghost Town" should have cemented his fame with American audiences, but the film did only marginal business, an unfortunate circumstance that perhaps the SD and BD disc releases can put to rights. Much of the film is pretty sweet and pretty funny.

Gervais plays a Scrooge-like New York City dentist, Bertram Pinchus, a thoroughly unpleasant loner who dislikes people in general, and that includes his patients and his office partner, Dr. Prashar (Aasif Mandvi). Pinchus is not a people person and avoids them at all costs, a rather odd trait for someone who must deal with the public every day. Mind you, Pinchus is not purposely rude; it's just his nature, and he can't seem to change.

All is going unwell for him, which seems to please him in some perverse way, when he enters the hospital for a colonoscopy, an examination of his bowels (an oblique reference, no doubt, to his being an a..hole), and he has a near-death experience. He literally dies for about seven minutes. The next day, when he comes out of it, he sees ghosts.

Friday, September 11, 2020

The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea [Special Edition]

"The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea" probably ought to have been titled "Little Mermaid II: Déjà Vu." It's "The Little Mermaid" one generation removed, with a little more music and humor and a little less violence. Call it "Little Mermaid Light." But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Parents who weren't terribly eager to have their little ones watch a giant sea witch impaled on the broken mast of a schooner may welcome this kinder, gentler version of Disney animation under the sea.

It's not quite the same level of animation, but most of the voices return--even the voice of Ursula, who was "shish-ka-bobbed" when last we saw her. But Pat Carroll was brought onboard again to give voice to the tentacled Morgana, the late Ursula's sinister sister. Jodi Benson returns as the voice of Ariel, Kenneth Mars repeats as King Triton, as well as Buddy Hackett as Scuttle and Samuel E. Wright as that Caribbean crustacean Sebastian. New for this direct-to-video sequel are Rob Paulsen as Prince Eric and Cam Clarke as Flounder, with Ariel's daughter, Melody, played by Tara Strong ("The Fairly OddParents," "Ben 10"). This one was animated by Disney Television Animation, which is responsible for turning out most of the sequels.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Bottle Rocket [The Criterion Collection]

"They´ll never catch me, man. ´Cause I´m f***ing innocent."

"Bottle Rocket" hit the indie circuit and video stores (yes, videos as in VHS tapes) when I first attended film school, and it was love at first viewing both for me and everyone else I knew in school. Wes Anderson was the new Quentin Tarantino, warmer and fuzzier but every bit as hip.

I have long since fallen out of love with Tarantino and, to a large extent, Wes Anderson whose movies have degenerated into po-mo "weird for the sake of being weird" (as Mo Syzlak would say) but "Bottle Rocket" has lost none of its charm for me. Along with "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" it´s one of the most endearing buddy movies I have seen. As Anthony and Dignan, Luke and Owen Wilson aren´t exactly a match for Clint and the Dude, but they´ll always occupy a soft spot in my heart.