Category Archives: ben stiller

A Thousand Words

A Thousand Words ~ Eddie Murphy doesn’t have much luck in the movies any more, Shrek and Dream Girls excepted. Whenever he releases a theatrical starring vehicle, even one like this that is actually pretty good, it fails. At least theatrically and critically. I, on the other hand, liked A Thousand Words, just as I’ve liked more than a few Murphy films of the last dozen or so years.

A Thousand Words is a fantasy flick with a simple premise. Eddie plays a publishing agent who is cursed by a client to only be able to speak 1000 words before he dies. This forces Eddie to be very selective in his words, and he must use other ways to communicate. It is fierce physical comedy, something Murphy loves and excels at, and he is a delight to watch here. He is supported by a wonderful cast, including in terrific parts – Clark Duke, Jack McBrayer, and John Witherspoon.

It doesn’t help the film that much like the infamous Pluto Nash that this movie was made a few years ago and was just released this spring. It’s sad that had this been forty or fifty years ago, this would have been a perfect vehicle for Jerry Lewis, one of Murphy’s idols. It’s also a matter of being out of favor with Hollywood – think about it, this would have been a hit if it starred Jim Carrey or Ben Stiller, right?

I liked it. It’s a good comedy with a happy ending, a good message, and an excellent flick for the family with humor for kids of all ages. Some scenes might be a bit risqué however. Recommended.

Madagascar 3

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted ~ Full disclosure first. I didn’t want to see this flick. The Bride did. And I saw the original, but not the sequel, so it’s possible I may be missing out on some pretty major plot points in this one. Nah. I didn’t think so either. We went mostly for the “Circus Afro” song we have been both been humming and singing since the ads on TV started.

Here’s the story. Somehow, the fun-loving animals from the Central Park zoo, who have the voices of comedians, have found themselves in Africa, and they want to get home to New York. To do this they have to go to Monte Carlo to get the penguins and monkeys first. Yeah, I know, just follow along. From there they join a circus to get back to the States, and as with every good kids movie, or any episode of “Fat Albert,” they learn a lesson.

Ben Stiller is not funny, and Chris Rock joins him in being that way as well. And Sacha Baron Cohen proves that even in animated form he can insult people of any ethnicity. The story and comedy are adequate. It’s not painful, it’s just not my cup of tea. Kids will love it, especially those who liked the first two movies and the TV series about the Penguins. The Bride enjoyed it, and she got to hear the full version of the “Circus Afro” song. We left happy.

Tower Heist

Tower Heist ~ This movie was really quite a pleasant surprise. I am always tentative when I go to see a movie with either Eddie Murphy or Ben Stiller, because basically, I never know what I’m going to get. These two, in my book, are always hit or miss.

Director Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist is exactly what it what it sounds like, a heist movie, and it’s done in the spirit of the old 1960s and 1970s heist films, only with both a comedic and a contemporary spin. And it is funny. Stiller is not over the top, and Murphy is actually back in is old form. Very refreshing. An all star ensemble cast, including Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda, Tea Leoni, Judd Hirsch, Gabourey Sidibe, and Casey Affleck, highlights this fun romp.

Now that’s not to say this is perfect, it’s not. It does fall apart in places where a more appropriate heist movie would have been tighter, but it usually does so for the benefit of laughs. All in all, a homage to the genre and a nice change of pace regarding Murphy and Stiller. Worth seeing.

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Night at the Museum 2

While an entertaining sequel, and a better movie than any film starring both Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson has any right to be, I’m still not sure what to make of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.

The one thing that makes this sequel different from others of its kind is that it infers, nay, it requires the viewer to have seen the original. Night at the Museum 2 makes no synopsis, or even excuses, regarding the first film. If you haven’t seen the first one, you’re not only out of luck, you’ll never even understand the concept of the sequel. Many of the plot twists and even the running jokes are based on information not provided here. I seriously wonder how this little matter will affect the box office. Word of mouth regarding a hard-to-understand movie could be lethal.

For those not in the know, the original film revolved around a museum where all the exhibits come to life at night. In the sequel, all of the exhibits, including the MacGuffin that causes the phenomenon, have been shipped to the National Archives beneath the Smithsonian in Washington DC. When night hits, everything in the vicinity of a museum-like nature comes to life. Hilarity ensues.

Among the things that come to life are Amelia Earhart wonderfully played by Amy Adams – one of the highlights of the film, and Hank Azaria doing his scarily accurate Boris Karloff impression as spoiled brat pharaoh out to rule the world with an army of the dead. Yeah, a whole lot to swallow for a family comedy, isn’t it?

One interesting bit that is certainly worth seeing, and maybe seeing this flick a second time, is the art that ‘comes to life.’ Once the Smithsonian is affected, all of the beautiful paintings, scultures and works of art becomes ‘real’ and animated. The folks doing the special effects certainly had a love of the work and it shows. Fun stuff and a delight for art fans.

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Quickies 5-18-2009

The Explosive Generation ~ It’s interesting to watch and review a William Shatner flick from 1961 in the midst of the current Star Trek buzz, and doubly interesting that he turned down a role in the new Trek yet he’s in this. I guess he couldn’t be picky back then. How times have changed. In this cautionary tale about coming of age, sex education and pre-protest student protests, Bill plays the ‘cool teacher.’ You know, the one who usually gets fired for teaching the wrong thing or ends up having an affair with a student – yeah, he’s that guy, only without the affair. Look for a slightly grown up Patty McCormack from The Bad Seed, a babyfaced Beau Bridges and Stafford Repp, Chief O’Hara from “Batman” playing a cop sans Irish accent. And engaging if predictable hour and a half.

Tropic Thunder ~ Wow, was this flick 90% hype or what? Except for the hilarious fake movie previews at the beginning and a few moments of just over-the-top wrong humor, I found this to be tedious and downright boring for the most parts. Yes, I said boring – a damned hard thing to be with gunfire and explosions every couple of minutes, but they pulled it off somehow. Horrendous.

Gamers ~ This one’s very narrowcast, but hilarious if you get the references. It’s a mockumentary about a roleplaying group who’s about to break the world’s record for most hours played, and has videotaped every gaming session. William Katt, Kelly LeBrock and Beverly D’Angelo make hilarious cameos. This is Spinal Tap for gamers, but might go right over the heads of anyone who’s never played. You’ll never look at clown porn, paintball or horse breeding the same way again. Highly recommended for those who indulge.

Special ~ Not only is this 2006 Michael Rapaport vehicle just an embarrassment in general but it’s also the same insult for the superhero and independent film genres as well. It might have flown well as a five-minute “SNL” skit but otherwise this is crap. Avoid.

Chariots of the Gods ~ In the 1970s this was something special or at least something to talk about with your friends. In the decades since, Erich von Daniken has been revealed to be a charlatan and it leaves this ‘documentary’ based on his books as a ridiculous leftover. An amusing relic that still runs as slow as it did when it was relevant.

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Royally Bummed


The Royal Tenenbaums ~ When I first saw this I thought it was a joke, a good joke, mind you but still a joke. The schedule grid for Comedy Central was wrong, saying this was actually “MadTV” – and the way this film begins, with storybook narration of the childhoods of the main characters, and its humor – it could very well have been a “MadTV” skit. However when the star power showed up it became evident it wasn’t a skit but the real movie. Now don’t get me wrong, it was funny and entertaining and promising – but only while this introduction continued. Once the movie actually started, it all went in the toilet for me. What a shame, it had such potential.

The Heartbreak Kid and More

The Heartbreak Kid ~ I was unaware this was a remake of the 1972 classic until I saw the names Neil Simon and Bruce Jay Friedman in the credits – and I wish I hadn’t. If I had kept thinking this was just another Farrelly brothers cringe-fest I could have enjoyed it so much more rather than knowing they were destroying the memory of a great flick.

Now it’s not that Ben Stiller or the Brothers F don’t produce a good or amusing movie, it’s just that it pales considerably to the darker and more mature Simon comedy. And while I was suitably entertained, I couldn’t get behind Stiller’s character who comes off badly and lacking, well, character. Stiller is good as usual, but Michelle Monaghan and Malin Ackerman steal the show. This is definitely a guy’s chick flick, and worth the price of admission – as long as you haven’t seen the original.

Transformers ~ Now I’m a generation removed on this one. When the Transformers cartoon was on the air and the toys and comics were the rage, I was more concerned with stuff like college, work and yeah, girls. So I just like I just don’t get it when it comes to the robots who are ‘more than meets the eye.’ And I am definitely out of the loop with my younger friends who cried when they heard that Bumblebee would not be a Volkswagen. But I can live with that, they’ve all put up with my rants about why insert-any-superhero-movie-here sucks.

And so I walked into this one blind, not knowing the cast of characters, the backstory, anything really. It was all new and fresh, and bad. It’s really not that great, or sophisticated, a movie. And nearly not effort was put forth to differentiate one robot from another – I know I couldn’t. Perhaps a studied eye and someone well-versed in the mythos could, but not I. And this is a shame, considering how much was put into making the robots look realistic. They could have put the same detail into making them not look so alike.

There’s not all that much action, or serious robot-on-robot action sadly until the end, and that battle scene and chase scene is great – even though I didn’t know who was who. Great mecha action for fans of giant robots and kaiju eiga alike. Shia Le Bouf continues not to impress me and John Turturro was actually a surprise in this flick as a parody of a military baddie. Megan Fox is the highlight of the human cast, she’s definitely got a career ahead of her. All in all, fun eye candy for the last fifteen minutes, the rest fast forward through.

Down in the Valley ~ I have to say this has got one of the most impressive preview trailers I have seen in some time. The preview is definitely worth seeing. But once I got the film through Netflix… wow. Despite it having Ed Norton in the lead, one of my favorite actors, he overacts atrociously, and the film is just crap. Don’t see it. See the trailer below, and leave the rest to your imagination.

Heading Home ~ This is probably one of the earliest, if not the first, example of why sports heroes shouldn’t become actors. In this 1920 silent Babe Ruth plays himself in the ‘true life story’ of his early days. Quaint if inaccurate and amusing for the title cards that are written in weird colloquialisms of the time. Worth a watch if only to catch Ruth in his thin prime and to watch his facial expression unchanged throughout.