Sunday, January 15, 2012


I can't begin to state how much I love this movie. Since coming in I've watched it three times and feel like I could watch it again and still find myself laughing all the way. That's rare these days and for me was a special treat as the same week I first watched it I fell in love with ATTACK THE BLOCK as well. To find one movie that can be rewatched over and over again is rare but two the same week?

While not an outright parody, the movie takes set ups for horror movies that have become rather routine and turns them upside down to make one funny movie. Having recently sat through WRONG TURN 4, this movie was a perfect match for that with the exception that this one was so much better.

A stereotypical group of college students are on their way to a camping trip in the back woods of West Virginia. On the road they are passed by two stereotypically looking redneck hillbillies in their battered old truck. Of course the students conjure up images of killer hillbillies when they see them.

On the other hand we get to meet the pair from their perspective. Tucker and Dale are just two friends on their way to a cabin that Tucker has just purchased. This will be their summer getaway retreat where they can fish and drink beer and have a good old time. Their interest in college kids is for the most part non-existent.

They encounter the same duo when they stop at a general store to buy beer and ice. There Dale tells Tucker that the one girl is really good looking. Tucker encourages him to go talk to them girls and show confidence when he does so by smiling and laughing. Of course when Dale chooses to walk over while holding a scythe and then giggling maniacally the kids think he's a psycho ready to kill them.

Each group reaches their destination and the lead guy with the kids sits at the campfire telling them about a killer who once roamed the woods they are now in. Descriptions of hillbilly killers who hunted down a group of campers set the teens on edge which they break by deciding to go skinny dipping. One of them, Allison, falls and hits her head. Who comes to her rescue but Tucker and Dale, out on the lake drinking beer and fishing. When they call to the kids for help, the kids think they've captured their friend and are eating her face (as opposed to giving her mouth to mouth).

The next morning Allison wakes to discover the two men aren't crazy at all and begins to get to know them. At the same time the students have formed their own opinion. Having seen movies about killer hillbillies, they've decided that Allison has been kidnapped and set out to rescue her. What follows is a comedy of errors where teens view every action as an attack and where Tucker and Dale see each failed attack as being done by crazy college kids who they assume have joined for a suicide pact.

The humor in this film is so over the top that just as you finish laughing at one event another pops up and you start laughing again. One example I can share (since it's in the trailer for the movie) is when Tucker is tossing wood into a wood chipper. One of the kids plans on jumping him. Tucker can't hear a thing over the noise of the chipper and when the kid goes to jump him, Tucker bends down to pick up another piece of wood which results in the kid jumping head first into the chipper. Yes, it's gory but the absurdity of the whole situation makes the entire episode hilarious.

The movie is extremely well made, everything from the sets to the directing to the special effects works perfect. The acting is stupendous, especially from Tyler Dabine as Dale and Alan Tudyk as Tucker. It seems as if they were born for these roles.

As I said at the beginning this movie had me laughing from start to finish. Fans of horror films will no doubt recognize the source material for many of the scenes in the film. Non-horror fans will laugh at the mishaps over and over again. If you're a fan of humor or a fan of horror or a fan of them combined, then by all means you need to have this film in your collection. I'm looking forward to my fourth viewing with my nephew, a fan of both genres. My guess is I'll have to keep my finger on the remote to pause until he can catch a breath while laughing so hard.

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In 1972 director Francis Ford Coppola made one of the greatest movies ever done THE GODFATHER. Using the clout he developed from that film he made another classic that didn't get near the intention. That movie has just arrived in blu-ray format. Its name is THE CONVERSATION.

Gene Hackman stars as Harry Caul, a surveillance expert with a reputation for being able to record anyone, anywhere. The film opens with Harry and his crew recording a conversation between a young couple in an open air park. Using various pieces of equipment from parabolic microphones to microphones hidden in bags they put together each to come up with a conclusive piece of work.

But the movie isn't all about this conversation. It's more about Harry himself. As portrayed by Hackman, Harry Caul is a loner, a man without much in his life with the exception of his work. He does have a girlfriend (Teri Garr) that he provides for and sees on occasion. But there is this underlying nagging fear we witness in Caul that has him keeping people at arms length including the people who work for him. Harry Caul is a classic paranoid individual but one who knows how easy it is to gain access to the details in a person's private life. Knowing this means Harry realizes how vulnerable we all truly are and how susceptible each person is to being watched.

As the pieces come together on the project Harry is working on he begins to wonder about what he's recording. Filters are used to fine tune each piece, to bring together a comprehensive conversation where no words are distorted or left out. In the past Harry has made a practice of not becoming involved, in not listening to the things he was recording. But as he puts this one together, he begins to worry that perhaps this couple is about to be killed by his employer.

When he goes to give the tape to his employer he is first pushed aside by his aide played by a young Harrison Ford. Eventually he meets with the man portrayed by Robert Duval. Paid for his services Harry leaves but still feels concern about what will happen.

Going to a trade show of security and surveillance experts, one of Harry's employees is there working on the side with another expert. Bernie Moran (Allan Garfield) is perhaps second only to Caul. But rather than downplay his expertise, he's capitalized on it becoming a major player and manufacturer of electronic surveillance equipment.

Eventually Harry is talked into allowing Moran and friends up to the loft he uses where they work. Moran continues to push Harry trying to find out how he did a particular job back east that resulted in the deaths of several people. But the reclusive Harry holds back, acting rather shy with the group. When it's revealed that Moran placed a microphone on Harry in an ink pen, Harry explodes and orders everyone out.

Still concerned with the conversation he recorded Harry checks into the hotel where the couple said they would meet. Taking the room next door, he overhears an argument and then witnesses through a frosted pane of glass someone being murdered. Plagued with these images it tears at him.

When he tries to confront the man who hired him, Harry is turned away. To give away what happens during the final portion of the film would be akin to telling you who the mother was in PSYCHO.

The film is a dive into the mind of a man who peers into the private lives of other and who attempts to not have a private life of his own for fear someone will do the same to him. This lone individual with a conscious is doing unconscionable things, but continues to do so to make a living. It is brilliantly made and perhaps one of Coppola's best films but overlooked by many.

Hackman gives an outstanding performance. His role could have been played over the top with rages and flamboyance but instead Harry Caul has more depth in the slow moving actions and scenes that have him doing nothing more than listening than many actors offer when chewing scenery all around them. His role here should have landed him an Oscar.

While the movie was overlooked in many ways for years fans have had the chance to find it as it has been released in formats from VHS to DVD. Now that it's available on blu-ray it is one that should be added to the collection of any die hard movie fan. And if you're a fan of Coppola or Hackman you should be out there picking up a copy as soon as you finish reading this piece.

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I really wanted to hate this movie. All I could think when I saw the ads for it on TV were that it was a movie made solely to promote the new 3-D craze which I haven't been caught up in, a combination of that technology with a rip off twist of JAWS. While I was right in some ways, the movie offers more than I expected. It's a campy classic that will have you jumping at times while laughing at others. In short, this could make a great party film.

The story opens with a shark attack on a small lake in Louisiana that is nearly identical to the opening shark attack in JAWS except it takes place in daylight. The film then moves to a group of college students about to head to the lake for a weekend getaway at the home of affluent Sara.

They get to the lake fine and then discover that to get to her home they have to take a speedboat to her island. Along the way they're chased by the local sheriff for speeding but it turns out it's all in good fun since he and Sara have been having this race for years now.

Settling in they go out for some fun on the water only to confront tragedy. Football star Malik falls from a ski board but when they go back to find him they discover his arm missing. Med student Nick does his best to stop the blood flow while one of the others blames him for a boating accident. But to quote Richard Dreyfuss "this was no boating accident!" Instead we find a shark on the lake. A shark big enough to take off Malik's arm. When Nick dives back in to see if he can find him, he nearly runs into the same shark and has to abandon the arm.

Stuck on the island with no cell phone reception, the group tries to handle Malik as best they can. They try to get off the island using the boat but are attacked again which results in the boat being blown up and one of them, Malik's girlfriend, being eaten. This results in one of those so over the top moments that make it hilarious as Malik, arm missing and stump tied off, gets out of bed and wades into the water with a spear hoping to take on the shark. He does get attacked and kills the shark, but they discover this isn't the same shark.

They begin firing flares into the sky in the hopes that someone will see them and come to the island. Hope arrives in the form of Sara's old boyfriend, a boy she accidentally scarred with a propeller blade years ago.

I won't blow the surprise (which is extremely far fetched) as to why the sharks are here but they are tremendous, a great combination of CGI and puppetry that work together to make a more or less believable bad guy. Some of the scenes that play for scares are frightening and funny at the same time. One of the kids is out on a jet ski heading for help with Malik tied to the back of the seat when a shark leaps out of the water in front of him to take him off the ski, a nice snack.

This movie obviously wasn't made to be taken seriously. It was made to showcase the 3-D effects and to have fun. While we have bikini clad babes here none of them appear nude so that's stunning in a Hollywood movie in itself. It leaves us with a movie that while gory can be safely seen by most pre-teens. The movie is fun, funny, frightening and a blast. At first it seems like a movie nothing more than an excuse to pad a soundtrack with driving and boating sequences that last too long. But once the sharks arrive it becomes a seriously fun intentional grade B horror fest. Maybe you won't want to own it, but it is definitely worth renting for a night.

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For years Hollywood has made movies that boosted morale rather than portrayed the truth (more or less) of what happened during historical events. Recently TV series have taken to correcting that but perhaps gone overboard. So where, other than through diligent research, can one find out information about these events? Sorry but that is the only way. But on occasion film makers do attempt to give you as much truth as possible. TORA TORA TORA is one of those films.

The movie recreates not just the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked but the events that led up to it days prior. It also presents the events from both sides of the Pacific, what the Japanese were thinking and planning and how the U.S. bumbled things with its bureaucratic red tape. Could things have played out differently? According to this film, yes.

The film shows a peacetime Pacific where preparations were being made on the chance the Japanese might start something. New island commander Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short (Jason Robards) does things his way. His biggest concern at the time was sabotage and spies on the island. This led to numerous errors on his part that involved things like placing the planes close together so they could be watched easier instead of further apart where they could take off if the island was attacked. No one believed that could happen.

Adm. Husband Kimmel (Martin Balsam) does his best to stay on top of things but communications between the island and the mainland were not top priority it seems. Messages he sends along to the mainland are passed from hand to hand without priority. The same is true of information passed along from office to office in Washington. A note of a decrypted message between the Japanese would have given those on the island ample time to prepare for the attack. It sat in a going out tray at a telegraph office because the military communication system was down at the time.

The Japanese were no better off. While the military command was all ready to go to war, they were being blocked by government officials on their end. These same officials bungled their own jobs as well. The biggest example is when the ambassador in Washington is supposed to deliver a declaration of war to the U.S. at a predetermined time. It doesn't happen because the typist is taking too long to type the declaration and then their meeting gets pushed back. Had it happened on schedule the sneak part of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor wouldn't have happened.

The movie focuses on many of these points but to simply have bureaucrats walk down hallways and pass messages along would result in one boring film. It moves back and forth between the planning on the side of the Japanese and the red tape functions of the military on our side. But the film makers spared little expense when it came to depicting the attack. A combination of archive footage, models, miniatures and more were used to recreate the devastation of that day and you feel pure terror along with those onboard the ships that sank. It never lingers on gruesomeness but does make you realize what happened that day.

The movie has just been released in blu-ray format and the picture offered is clean, sharp and well done. Extras include looking back at what it took to make this film behind the scenes and historical pieces as well.

Made during the last days of the Vietnam War and during when anti-war protests were the rage, it was a bold thing for a studio to do in 1970. But the movie doesn't encourage or defend war; it just shows what happened on that day in 1941. Unlike the recent Pearl Harbor film, this one doesn't focus on fictional characters to present what happened but instead focuses on the story of Pearl Harbor itself. And with a generation of children growing up who have no idea what it meant, this is a movie that they should make a point of viewing.

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It's the closing night at the last drive-in in America and the owner has a special treat in store for his customers: a triple feature of rarely seen classics that he was able to get for this special screening. Fans pack the place and we, DVD renters, are able to see the movies as well. Too bad that they qualify for low B-grade movies.

What sounded like a great idea turns out to have few hits and far too many misses. Four current horror feature directors (Adam Rifkin, Joe Lynch, Adam Green and Tim Sullivan) thought this would make a great movie, a collection of short works by each one tied in together with the drive-in motif. Each film has some decent moments but on the whole leave much to be desired.

Surrounding the three features on the big outdoor screen is the story of a man who works at the drive-in who digs up his wife for some necrophilia interaction who finds his intended undead and well and able enough to bite down on his manhood. Thus he becomes infected and as the film moves forward he changes into a full blown (no pun intended) zombie who's infected blood and bite change patrons. What could have been a funny idea relies far too much on sex.

The movies on the screen begin with "WADZILLA", the story of a man whose sperm count is so miniscule as to only offer perhaps one sperm per encounter. A scientist offers him a chance to improve himself with a new drug yet to be tested on humans. The result is a super sperm that almost explodes the moment the young man becomes aroused.  When he goes out on a blind date just meeting the young woman puts him into intense pain. Using her bathroom he "relieves" himself but the sperm in question escapes, much like the chest burster from ALIEN. It eventually attacks his date who escapes and the two try to stop the sperm without any luck. With each encounter it becomes bigger and bigger until it's the size of, well, Godzilla. Do they finally stop it? I won't give it away but yes, this one involves some gooey special effects and some very off color jokes.

The second film is "I WAS A TEENAGE WERE-BEAR". Played out as a tribute to those classic beach films combined with the teenage monster movies, the film has a hero who has yet to have sex with his girlfriend. For some reason he seems more attracted to the tough leather clad bad boys on the beach. Eventually he gets bitten on the behind and discovers to his dismay that he will become a were-bear when the full moon rises. For those who don't know a bear in gay terms is a hairy and full figured male. Can he be accepted for who he is? And is this what he really wants?

The third film in the group is "THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANKENSTEIN". Yes, it has perhaps the best name of the bunch. In this lost German film we find Hitler discovering the hide out of the Frankenstein family. Not only does he find them but he finds their secret books as well describing how to create a human being. Of course he does so and the result is a definitely Hassidic looking Golem style creation. This movie offers some decent jokes involving the purely made up German sounding language and a number of low budget film making gags. For instance when a German soldier is picked up by the monster and thrown we see a black stand in crash through a table then replaced with the white actor.

As I said in between various characters are infected with the zombie virus and by the end of the last film have gone on a rampage in the drive in. Characters we've met throughout are seen fighting them off and whether or not they survive is in question.

The movie works in some ways but in others it misses completely. The jokes are far too wrapped up in sex and rarely rise above per-teen humor. Yes, the Wadzilla creature is funny as are some of the jokes around it, but when piled one on top of the other they lose their ability to make you laugh.

On the whole fans of B-movies and drive-ins will probably want to take the time to watch this movie. My guess is it would make a great party movie as well. Perhaps it would seem that much funnier if those watching were a little tipsy. It might not be a movie to add to your collection but a single rental would be worthwhile if you're not easily offended.

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Have you ever seen a movie where you saw the trailer and thought man that looks funny...only to be completely disappointed once you saw the film? Welcome to OUR IDIOT BROTHER.

Ned Rochlin (Paul Rudd) is an innocent. Well not quite. I thought more of him as a waste head with visions of a grander world where no one does wrong to anyone else. It's the ideas that the hippies had in the sixties, a peaceful world where everyone can do what they want without affecting anyone else. Too bad reality always seemed to creep in.

As the film opens Ned finds himself arrested after selling grass to a local policeman. He was duped into doing so when the policeman convinced him he didn't have a problem with Ned selling drugs and needed it for a headache. Ned is convicted, spends his time in jail and when released comes home to find out his girlfriend dumped him for a new guy and doesn't want him around. Not only that, she refuses to give him back his dog Willie Nelson that she honestly could care less about. With no place to go, Ned returns to his mother's home and looks for ways to save up money so he can buy into the organic farm he and his girlfriend owned together.

Into the picture arrives Ned's three sisters and along with them their own problems which he places himself in the middle of as he roams from one to the other living there while working. The first is Liz (Emily Mortimer) who is a stay at home mom married to documentary film maker Dylan (Steve Coogan). The couple is the stereotypical by the book parents whose skills are learned through the things they read and hear about as opposed to living life. Their child must get into the right schools and behave the proper way even though he hates the things they make him do. Ned finds a connection with the youngster and they become quick friends but not quite so much with his folks. Ned takes a job working with Dylan carrying his equipment but one night finds him "shooting" his subject, a Russian ballerina, in the nude. Yes, they're having an affair and Ned accidentally leaks this to his other two sisters and causes a stir.

The next sister is Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), an up and coming writer for a classy magazine who is hoping for her big break. She has a chance to interview an heiress and the magazine wants her to get as much dirt from her as she can since the heiress was involved with a rather nasty fellow who videotaped their sexual escapades. Ned is working as Miranda's chauffer and inadvertently strikes up a conversation with the woman resulting in getting more information from her than Miranda does since the woman insists on not talking about the scandal. So determined to get the scoop and the job she covets so much, Miranda uses the information Ned got while simply talking to the woman, information he doesn't want her to use, that she'll go to all lengths to get it. This of course leads to Ned moving in with sister three.

Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) is a wanna be stand up comedian and part time nude model who is anything but funny. Ned moves in with her and her lesbian girlfriend but soon learns that Natalie is pregnant from a one night stand with the artist she poses for (and who Ned poses for as well). You can see where this is heading right now. Ned accidentally reveals all to the girlfriend as they attempt to retrieve Willie Nelson from his ex.

So here is the big problem with the movie. You find yourself in the company of a group of people that you could care less about. Not only could you care less about them, you find yourself loathing each and every one of them. I found myself wishing each of them would move on and I wouldn't have to hear any more about them. Ned is the sympathetic character here but he's such a dunce at times that you just want to slap him and say bud, wake up and smell the coffee.

I guess this means the actresses do a great job here. After all none of them can truly be as terrible in real life as they appear here, right? And Paul Rudd is always good in nearly everything he does. His Ned is a guy you'd love to spend time with, just not telling him anything about yourself.

The worst sin of all that this movie commits is that it never makes you laugh. That's pretty bad for a movie that was advertised as a comedy. Looking back I think I may have chuckled once or twice from start to finish, but being a comedy that's low praise. With all of the better movies out there to rent or watch this movie falls into that category of avoid at all costs. Only die hard Rudd fans will get anything out of this. Others will just be tossing good money away.

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This could be one of the shortest reviews I've ever written. When a movie is this bad it's hard to find that much to say about it and the plot is so simple that it should take just a paragraph or two.

Jesse Eisenberg stars as Nick, a pizza delivery boy who uses every trick in the book to get there in time but doesn't always accomplish his task. Aziz Ansari is his room mate and best friend, a teacher who is moving out soon. So much for the set up on that end.

Danny McBride is Dwayne, the belittled son of tough as nails rich man Fred Ward. Dwayne wants everything handed to him without work and has big plans that rarely work out. Nick Swarsdon is his sidekick Travis. Together they come up with a plot to get wealthy by robbing a bank without actually being the ones to rob it. They call for a pizza delivery (Nick), knock him unconscious and then strap a bomb to him. When he wakes they tell him he has a limited time to rob the bank and get to a point where they will disable the bomb and take the money.

Nick seeks the help of his friend, talks to his friend's sister that he's been dating and does everything he can to get out of this mess. The pair do go through with the robbery but attempt to change the way it plays out before meeting to give up the cash.

When I saw the trailer for this I thought it had possibilities. Too bad the best moments were all found in that trailer. Once again we have a group of characters we could care less about. It must be the new trend in Hollywood.

Worst of all to me was McBride. The first few things I saw him in I thought he had potential. Now it seems that each role he takes requires him to talk as vulgar as he can, act nasty as possible and think its all funny. It isn't and neither is this movie.

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