Category Archives: robin williams

RIP Jonathan Winters

April has been terrible with loss. Today we have lost another of the greats. Award winning comedian, actor, writer, impressionist, and recording artist Jonathan Winters passed away today. More of my childhood has gone away.

When I was a kid, Jonathan Winters was everywhere. He was always a guest star on various sitcoms and variety shows, even game shows and talk shows. I’m pretty sure he even had a few short-lived shows of his own as well. His manic improv and madcap characters were always a treat for me.

I loved him in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and it was a family event whenever the film aired in our household. We always couldn’t wait for him to tear the gas station apart. Classic classic comedy. Below you can see that scene, as well as Winters talking a bit about it, and how it helped him come back from a breakdown.

Later in life, he played Mearth, the son of Mork and Mindy in the final season of that sitcom. Being Robin Williams’ idol and inspiration, it is wild to watch him work with and against Winters in a comedic battle of wills.

Later I loved the man in the 1994 version The Shadow, playing it straight as he also did in the dark comedy The Loved One and an episode of “The Twilight Zone” called “A Game of Pool.”

Winters also did voice acting in animation, recorded dozens of comedy albums, wrote poetry, and appeared in television programs as myriad as “Hee Haw,” “The American Sportsman,” and “The New Scooby-Doo Movies.” His final movie role will be the voice of Papa Smurf in The Smurfs 2. We have truly lost another of the legends.

Happy Feet Two

Happy Feet Two ~ I read a synopsis in the newspaper of this movie well after I had seen it. The synopsis made sense, a hell of a lot more sense than the film itself, and I wish I’d read it beforehand. Maybe Happy Feet Two should have had a narrator, or one of those long scrolling intros like in Star Wars – if only to remind the writers what it was about, because it felt like they were forgetting every ten minutes.

This was a sore disappointment as the original was so good and so emotional. It’s almost as if director and co-writer George Miller had forgotten everything about the first Happy Feet. When the film is on point, it’s about Mumble (Elijah Wood) having fatherhood troubles, but oddly enough, based on his coloring, as opposed to his size, Mumble isn’t even an adult yet. I guess it’s a trademark thing, but it was very distracting.

I liked the addition of P!nk and Common, but couldn’t help wondering where Hugh Jackman and Brittany Murphy were. Hank Azaria manages to be more annoying than Robin Williams here, a feat to be sure. Although, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon come very close to taking the annoying crown as krill who have very little to do with any of the plots, sub or otherwise.

There are several other annoying and seemingly pointless subplots thrown in as well as a baseball bat beating of ecological messaging, which even the thoroughly green first film didn’t do. The music and the CGI animation are still top rate and worth seeing, but all the other little irritating stuff ruined the flick for me. I also didn’t care for the original songs. I couldn’t help but think that when “Glee” started doing new music over covers, they jumped the shark.

Wait for DVD or free TV, it’s not worth the theatre experience. Except if you want to see the cartoon before the movie, then definitely put out the cash. It’s a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes classic, “I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat,” featuring Sylvester and Tweety, that was originally done for a record back in the 1940s – so it has Mel Blanc and June Foray’s voice work – and animated with today’s technology. This is amazing, the movie not so much.

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Old Dogs

Old Dogs ~ One of the cool things about the Disney Cruise is that not only do they have a movie theatre on board, they also have first run movies. That’s how I came to be subjected to Old Dogs. There are two ways I can look at it. Hey, I didn’t have to pay to see it. Or I had to pay the price of the Cruise to see it. Either way, this was torture.

Friends for life (or possibly un-closeted life mates had the script been more clever or progressive) and business partners John Travolta and Robin Williams struggle to take care of the latter’s kids that he just found out about. That’s the thrust of this fiasco that recycles not only old sitcom set-ups but also seemingly all of the bad jokes from all the unmade Grumpy Old Men sequels. Of course, even now, Walter Matthau would’ve pulled it off better, nine years in his grave.

There are at least fragments of Robin Williams’ talent here, maybe for a fleeting moment or two. John Travolta on the other hand is a disaster. It seems that maybe his own recent personal tragedies have affected his acting. And speaking of family, he pretty much employed most of them for this flick. He’s not looking well either, either too much botox or maybe botched plastic surgeries.

Matt Dillon embarrasses himself again, but no more than he did in There’s Something About Mary, a scatological comedy that actually worked as opposed to this one. The late Bernie Mac makes his final film appearance here as some sort of Funkadelic Barney, and if that was all he was, it would have been great – sadly that only lasts for half a minute. He looks bad and this cameo is hardly worth it.

The height difference between Seth Green and the two leads is painful even with a whole raft of short jokes. You know it’s a bad movie when Seth Green out-acts two Oscar nominees. And when Ann Margaret shows up, that clinches it for me – this obviously is a Grumpy Old Men sequel. There are a lot of funny ideas here, it’s just that very few of them actually make it into the movie intact.

And yes, they do kill the dog. The oldest trick in the book, but not even that cliché can save this piece of crap. This movie was truly the lowlight of the Cruise.

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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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Death to Smoochy

DEATH TO DEATH TO SMOOCHY

A Video Review of Death To Smoochy

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

I didn’t hate this movie completely but I did hate it a lot.

As the story goes, kiddie show host Rainbow Randolph (Robin Williams) gets busted for notorious and decidedly un-kiddie–show-host-like activities and the network seeks out a more innocent uncorruptible replacement in Smoochy, a big purple rhino (Edward Norton). It deteriorates from there as bad acting, worse writing and supposed hilarity ensues.

Edward Norton escapes with his reputation intact. He demonstrates his usual talent and skill despite being surrounded by ineptitude. It must be said that his quaint and lovable ‘Smoochy’ is cotton candy compared to the work he’s done in hard-hitting dramas like Primal Fear and American History X but his ability still shines through.

Co-star Robin Williams is the reason I stayed away from this mess when it was in the theatres, you know, it had that warning label “starring Robin Williams.” I never tire of that joke. This role was obviously practice for Williams’ later and progressively superior sociopaths in Insomnia and One Hour Photo. It’s a damn shame he had to practice on screen. What begins as legitimate evil turns to frightening and finally to Williams’ usual hyperactive nonsense. Sad.

Lead actress and Ed Norton’s producer and romantic interest Catherine Keener is perfectly fine as a bitchy ice queen but once her emotions come out we get to see her limited range. She is terrible, the less said the better.

There are bright spots. I can’t wait to see Pam Ferris who played the Irish mob mistress and Michael Rispoli as her punch drunk ex-prize fighter cousin in action again. Their performances are gems amongst coal. Also don’t miss the wonderfully twisted “Stepfather Song.”

Writer Adam Resnick has proven himself an unsure bet. He was excellent with 2000’s Lucky Numbers but then you have Cabin Boy and this mess… odds are for his next script to be good. If you have to see this one at all, see it with your finger on the fast forward button and a friend who’s seen it before to warn you for the good parts.

Agree with me? Want to fight about it? Reach me here.

One Hour Photo

A Film Review of “One Hour Photo”

Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker

Robin Williams is not a favorite. But here, in his second sociopathic role (the first being Insomnia from earlier this year), his understated subtle performance may win him another Oscar nomination. Usually Williams strikes me as waaay over the top in an annoying Jim Carrey (like in “Jack” or “The Survivors”) but that probably is due to suffering through his stand up act or early “Mork and Mindy” brainwashing. Otherwise he is this annoying sympathetic character just this side of Tom Hanks (a la “Bicentennial Man” or “Dead Poet Society”).

In “One Hour Photo” Williams is Sy Parrish, a middle-aged photo developer at K-Mart wannabe Sav-Mart who becomes waaay too attached to a family whose pictures he’s done for over a decade. As obsession turns to stalkingthe line between reality and fantasy blurs and Sy becomes downright dangerous. Robin Williams is pricelessly creepy and deeply disturbing, almost as if he were channeling Anthony Perkins or Anthony Hopkins.

No one in the audience can help but squirm as Sy visits the family’s nine year old son at a soccer practice and just gets too close. You want to yell for the boy to run. It’s positively chilling. Must see.