Saturday, March 23, 2013

Quick Change

Year 5, Day 82 - 3/23/13 - Movie #1,383

BEFORE: Another bank robbery film tonight, I've got about a week's worth of heist films to follow.
Linking from "Fun With Dick and Jane", Tea Leoni was also in "A League of Their Own" with Geena Davis (last seen in "Speechless"). 

THE PLOT:  Three thieves successfully rob a New York City bank, but making the escape from the city proves to be almost impossible.

AFTER: To properly judge this film, it's necessary to break it down into two components: the heist, which is just plain brilliant, and the escape, which is just not.  This feels like a half-written script, a classic case of a screenwriter painting himself into a corner, with no way out.  It's a terrible dilemma, one seen in films where the heroes are less than noble, bank robbers in this case, but also need to garner the audience's sympathy.  Make them too ruthless, or too lucky, and you lose the support of the crowd.

The solution here is to make their trip to the airport a nightmare - broken-down cars, muggers, a bus driver obsessed with the rules, and a city on the verge of madness.  The city becomes the villain, more evil than any criminal, in the hopes that we'll sympathize with the anti-hero protagonists.  But it's a shame that to do this, the movie had to fall back on every negative stereotype about New York.  i.e. it's impossible to find the BQE, people spout random nonsense on the bus, cab drivers speak only Arabic, etc. etc. 

New York City has come a long way in two decades - there are buses now that take you all the way to the airport, they don't drop you half a mile from sight of the terminal.  Another example, many of our cab drivers now speak English fluently, and for some it's even their first language.  Technology has been a big help too, with buses that take farecards and taxis that take credit cards.  GPS devices in cabs and maps on EVERY phone also now make getting lost in Queens very, very unlikely.

Even if you take the technology of 1990 into consideration, though, the second half of this film is still a mess.  Leaving town via the airport?  That's the first place the police will check when they're looking for fugitives.  Try the bus station, or better yet, the subway - criminals blend right in there.  Or hop the PATH train to New Jersey - boom, right out of NY jurisdiction.

I found this great web-site, - it shows photos of exact locations where films were shot in NYC, it came in very handy after watching "The Sitter".  According to that site, the bank in this film is located at Park Ave. and East 40th St.  It's a neighborhood I know very well, and I believe that there's still a bank on that corner, now it's a Citibank though.  You can see the overpass that takes cars around Grand Central Terminal in a lot of the exterior shots.  (It's the same place the heroes made their stand against the aliens in "The Avengers", and also was a key location in "I Am Legend")

I promised another tale from the NYC production frontlines, so here's one also set in 1990: I was about a year out of college, and I was working for that small company that made music videos and other short promos.  One of the company's two directors had made the move to California, and I was doing office work for the other director, who was his ex-wife.  He came back to shoot some station IDs for the Disney Channel, they looked a lot like the opening animation from "Pee-Wee's Playhouse", I think the project was called "Quackertown".  I didn't work on the shoot, but when it was over, I was hired to rent a truck and pick up the sets from the studio.  A pretty basic job, but the main reason to get the sets out of the studio was to prevent the Disney company from taking possession of them - the director felt that if he had possession of the sets, then if Disney wanted to make more station IDs in a similar style, they'd have to hire him.

I didn't ask too many questions, maybe I should have, but I showed up, loaded the sets into a truck, and drove them to a self-storage facility in Brooklyn.  The storage room was put in the director's name, with his California address, we bought a lock and mailed the director the key, and that was that.  A few days later, I realized that I had never bothered to ask who the set pieces belonged to, and perhaps I'd been an accomplice in a theft of intellectual property.  I hadn't yet learned the finer points of contract law, so who knows, perhaps the ownership of the sets wasn't all that clear.  I did my job, got paid for the day, and tried to forget about it.

I don't know if the director ever got the sets out of storage, or if the Disney people threw a fit over losing the Quackertown sets, or if somebody somewhere lost their job over this.  Maybe somebody didn't pay the storage charges, and the sets were auctioned off, who knows?  But if I was involved in a heist, I've got to say it was pretty easy - the shooting studio was eager to get rid of the set pieces, since they were taking up so much space.  We showed up with a truck, said we were there to collect the sets, and they just gave them to us.  And that's how you steal stuff from Disney, I think.  (They can't still prosecute me for this, can they?)

Also starring Bill Murray (last heard in "Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties"), Randy Quaid (last seen in "Brokeback Mountain"), Jason Robards (last seen in "Divorce American Style"), Bob Elliott, with cameos from Phil Hartman, Jamey Sheridan (last seen in "Game Change"), Stanley Tucci (last seen in "Easy A"), Victor Argo, Philip Bosco, Kurtwood Smith (last seen in "Cedar Rapids").

RATING: 4 out of 10 helium balloons

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fun With Dick and Jane (2005)

Year 5, Day 81 - 3/22/13 - Movie #1,382

BEFORE: After playing an FBI agent in "Tower Heist", Tea Leoni carries over to play a housewife and bank robber.  I've been waiting for some premium channel to run this, but it hasn't happened - so I'm back to the iTunes store tonight.  I have a feeling this is going to be happening more and more as I get closer to the end of my list (yeah, right...) but it means I have to watch tonight on my computer upstairs, and not down in the man-cave.  After Comic-Con this year I should really re-purpose my iPad with the right apps so I can watch a film anywhere I want.

THE PLOT:  Dick and Jane are living the good life, until Dick loses his job and his wife quits hers. The money is gone, and the house ends up in foreclosure. Dick decides to turn to a hilarious life of crime to pay the bills with his lovely wife by his side.

AFTER:  Well, if I was looking for reasons to not quit my job, this film is chock full of them.  I'm trying to recall the time-frame of the recession we're all still trying to climb out from under - this film was released in 2005, after the Enron scandal and the last stock-market crash, but before the Bernie Madoff scheme, the TARP bailout, and before anyone knew what a bundled sub-prime mortgage is.  It's a wonder that this film doesn't get more attention for being prescient, since what is now called "The Great Recession" didn't really start until 2007.  (EDIT: According to IMDB, the film is set in the year 2000.  That explains the prominent "Gore/Lieberman" posters...)

Of course everything here is amplified for comic effect - I don't think this is meant to be a serious account of what can happen to a family that's fallen on hard times.  But every joke has to have a bit of reality in it, so clearly somebody somewhere lost their job, and then multiplied the consequences by 100 to achieve humor.

I think, however, that there would be a lot of interim steps for most Americans between losing their white-collar job and performing convenience-store heists, let alone submitting their bodies for medical experiments.  Also, I'd like to see the stats on whether bank robbers really need the money, or if they do what they do for the thrill.  How many professional thieves got caught while pulling off "one last heist", and how many have seen the writing on the wall and knew when to quit?

I made the right call by putting this one right after "Tower Heist", because the two films have a lot in common.  In both cases, the rich stay rich even after the company folds or the ponzi scheme collapses, and the working stiffs all lose their pensions, and have to go to great lengths to get them back.  In "Tower Heist", that involves a physical heist, and here it involves something more akin to bank fraud.  But either way, when you rob from thieves, the two crimes really cancel each other out, right?

Similarly, if you hate a hater, or are prejudiced against bigotry, ultimately that's OK.  My tirade against the misogynist and homophobic Brett Ratner seems to have gotten some attention, so if you're new to the Movie Year, please make yourself at home.  I'll try to think of some more "Tales from NYU Film School" since that proved to be quite popular (Thanks, Andy!).  I do recall a number of music video shoots where I was put in charge of the craft table, and on the last day of the shoot I was told to throw the uneaten food away, and instead I brought it all - cookies, crackers, sodas - back to my dorm room.  That's one way I survived in NYC for a couple years working only part-time .  I then worked as a movie theater usher for a summer, which was a good gig - not because I got to see movies for free, because on my days off I wanted to be anywhere else - but because it was a nights + weekend job, which left my days free for job-hunting. 

NITPICK POINT: I don't have any kids, so I'm not really in a place to judge how difficult it is to raise one.  Many people choose to hire a nanny or other domestic help, and I don't have a problem with that.  But if the money is running short, and both Mommy and Daddy are out of work, I don't see why they kept the nanny.  Can't one or both of them straighten up the house, or cook dinner since they have more free time?  Laying off the nanny didn't even seem to be an option, though that would have saved them some money.

Also starring Jim Carrey (last seen in "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls"), Alec Baldwin (last seen in "Along Came Polly"), Richard Jenkins (last seen in "Intolerable Cruelty"), with cameos from Angie Harmon, John Michael Higgins (last seen in "We Bought a Zoo"), Clint Howard (last seen in "The Dilemma"), Jeff Garlin (last heard in "Paranorman"), Laurie Metcalf (last seen in "Internal Affairs"), Rick Overton, Ralph Nader.

RATING: 5 out of 10 indictments

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tower Heist

Year 5, Day 80 - 3/21/13 - Movie #1,381

BEFORE: Well, since so many crimes were committed in last night's film - larceny, breaking and entering, grand theft auto (2 counts), and that's just for starters.  If the opening scenes were set in New Jersey, then minors were brought across state lines without parental consent, and I believe that's a felony.  If the opening scenes were set in New York, it's less illegal but still pretty wrong.  But that makes for a perfect lead-in to the next chain, which is all about crimes.  I'm starting with more heist films, and then I'll get into the heavy stuff.

Jonah Hill from "The Sitter" links easily through "Night at the Museum 2" and "Megamind" to Ben Stiller (last seen in "Along Came Polly").

THE PLOT:  When a group of hard working guys find out they've fallen victim to a wealthy business man's Ponzi scheme, they conspire to rob his high-rise residence.

AFTER:  Talking about my old career as a P.A. on music videos has put me in a nostalgic mindset, so maybe it's finally time to talk about what happened at NYU film school in 1988, where I butted heads with fellow student Brett Ratner.  The way the class was supposed to work was people were assigned to crews of four, and there was a rotation.  Each person would serve as a director one day, two days as a crewperson, and one day in the editing suite.  So while I was editing, there would still be a three-person crew out in the field making a movie.  I crewed for Ratner while he directed (and I use the term loosely, since most of his directing time was spent trying to pick up girls) but when I served as director, he never showed.  Not once.

I had to learn how to shoot a student film with just one crew-member, serving as director, cameraman, and sometimes actor all at once.  (Sort of like Orson Welles, only without the talent).  In hindsight I could have called him out on his absences, or pointed them out to the teacher, but I took the high road to avoid confrontation.  Turns out old "Ratfink" was just going through the motions, he had made a successful short film already about former child star Mason Reese, and had work waiting for him in Hollywood.  He just needed the diploma, which he essentially just bought.

This wasn't that uncommon at NYU at the time.  Hollywood stars like Tom Hulce and Daryl Hannah would take the summer production course to gain some directing experience, and I even had Bianca Jagger (ex-wife of Mick) in my 8mm production class.  As far as I know, however, Ms. Jagger showed up when she was supposed to.  (The budgets on her students shorts were much, much higher...)

The experience sort of soured me on entitled Hollywood types, and live-action shoots in general.  I spent the next two semesters taking animation classes where I could make films by myself, just moving around cut-out pictures of statues from my mythology textbook and making them do funny things (just like Terry Gilliam, only without the talent).  If the best revenge is doing well, I proved it by getting out of NYU a year early and going straight to work, where Ratner only had big Hollywood features like "Rush Hour" to fall back on. 

Well, I forgive but I don't forget.  (Wait, is if the other way around?  Turns out I'm terrible at this.) I held out as long as I could.  I vowed that no film directed by "Ratface", would appear on this blog, but I had to cave in.  This film got good reviews, yet still stirred up some controversy (more on that later) and darn if it didn't fit right in step with films like "Ocean's Eleven".

And I hate to admit it, but it kinda does, though it's the low-rent version, think of it as "Kovacs' Six".  It also manages to tap into the zeitgeist of NYC, which was already deep into a recession when the Bernie Madoff scandal broke.  All those millions he bilked people out of - pensions, their retirement plans, all gone.  What would people be willing to do to get their money back, or to get their revenge on the man who stole it?

The theme for the week, stretching back to "Zookeeper", I think, appears to be things going wrong in a madcap way, but still turning out OK.  From buying zoos to rescuing raccoons to screwing up undercover operations, there's been a lot of fail around here lately, but unexpected successes too.  As you might expect, the would-be thieves in tonight's film make an awful lot of mistakes, but they learn from them, adapt, change the plan on the fly, and find an unexpected way to succeed.

It's funny, I watched an episode of "Celebrity Apprentice" just before watching this film, in which Trump Tower plays a prominent role, along with another New York City fixture, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  When's the best time to rob someplace?  When everyone is either somewhere else, or distracted by something.  The screenplay is really solid, for the most part.

I was really hoping this would be a bad film, or I could sink it with nitpick points, but I was entertained, even laughed out loud a few times.  And the heist part of it all came together, maybe a little bit too well but I'm not sure I can deduct for that. And yes, there are plenty of points to nit, but I can't do it without giving away key elements of the plot.  Anyone who's studied high-school chemistry at all (or has seen "The Italian Job") should spot the biggest mistake right away.

As for that controversy, one actor spoke out against this film for poking fun at kids with asthma, who are already deeply at risk for being bullied.  You might also remember that Ratner was supposed to direct the Academy Awards telecast last year, but was caught on tape telling an audience that "rehearsal is for fags".  He lost the gig, apologized and was forced to do some pro bono work, and I was happy that somebody besides me got to see him for who he is - a completely insensitive person who doesn't think about how his actions or words affect others.

It's rather fitting that this film depicts its villain in much the same way - someone who has a ton of money, doesn't play by the rules, and takes advantage of the "working stiffs" around him.  Maybe the film turned out OK because that's a subject that the director knows very well.

Also starring Alan Alda (last seen in "The Four Seasons), Eddie Murphy (last heard in "Shrek Forever After"), Matthew Broderick (last seen in "Biloxi Blues"), Casey Affleck (last heard in "Paranorman"), Tea Leoni (last seen in "Bad Boys"), Judd Hirsch (last seen in "The Muppets"), Michael Peña (last seen in "Battle Los Angeles"), Gabourey Sidibe, with cameos from Zeljko Ivanek, Heavy D, Matt Lauer.

RATING: A very reluctant 7 out of 10 parade floats

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Sitter

Year 5, Day 79 - 3/20/13 - Movie #1,380

BEFORE: It seems a little off-topic at first, but from what I've heard about this film there are plenty of crimes and criminals, which does justify the link from "21 Jump Street".  Jonah Hill carries over, obviously.

THE PLOT:  A college student on suspension is coaxed into babysitting the kids next door, though he is fully unprepared for the wild night ahead of him.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Date Night" (Movie #787)

AFTER:  When I started in the film business back in the late 1980's, we used to have these things called "music videos" - they were like these 3 or 4-minute commercials for record albums.  Oh, yeah, we used to have these things called "record albums", they were little pieces of vinyl or plastic that played music when you put them in a machine. 

My first dozen or so jobs were as a production assistant on music videos (or segments for "Sesame Street" that looked just like music videos) for such chart-topping acts as Rick James, Apollonia, Leon Redbone, and the Jeff Healey Band.  This meant I'd wake up at an ungodly hour, pick up a van and drive around NY the day before the shoot, picking up anything and everything that was needed - lighting equipment, props, costumes, snacks, beverages, etc.  I'd be given a certain amount of petty cash, $100 or $200, and I was expected to save all of the receipts for the things I bought, and return the excess cash at the end of the shoot.

One day, the unthinkable happened, and I lost the envelope with my cash and receipts.  I later figured out that the envelope must have fallen off my clipboard when I was at a tollbooth and I had to get out of the van for some reason (I can't remember why, if I missed the coin basket or I just couldn't reach).  Rather than tell the shoot's producer what had happened, since I was relying on getting more work from her in the future, I went to an ATM, withdrew $200 and turned that in at the end of the shoot.  At the time I was living paycheck-to-paycheck, and $200 was probably half of what I had in the bank, and I think I only earned $100 for the day so the shoot was a loss for me, but I needed to insure that I got more work from that producer. 

Long-term, it was the right move.  I couldn't have the reputation as a guy who lost receipts, even though it made no sense that I could drive around the city and incur costs, pay for tolls and gas, and still have the full $200 in cash at the end of the day.  I was hired to keep track of that money, and I had to be responsible for it, in some form. 

The lead character in this film knows nothing about responsibility, and we see an evening in NYC spiral out of control because of it.  This, despite the fact that he shouldn't even BE in NYC with his young charges, he was hired to sit at home with them, and make sure they stayed at home, so that when their parents returned home, the kids would be there.  At home. 

Now, I realize that might make for a boring film, a babysitter at home watching 3 kids, maybe making some popcorn, cleaning up a few messes, what have you.  But to have the terms of an agreement so quickly violated calls the whole sequence of events into question.  Before you know it, he's got the three kids packed up in the family minivan (which he was also expressly told not to drive) and they're headed for a New York City full of drug dealers, car thieves, gangs and wild parties.  And he leaves the kids alone, unsupervised, for long stretches of time.  Anyone else having a problem with this?   By rights the kids' pictures should have ended up on milk cartons, but since this is a movie, everything works out for the best somehow and everyone has learned a little bit more about themselves.  Right.

If you're playing along at home, when you're babysitting three kids, and told not to drive the family car, and there is an unspoken understanding that you are NOT going to drive the kids into Brooklyn and place their lives in jeopardy by not watching them, the best thing to do - scratch that, the ONLY acceptable thing to do when your girlfriend calls and asks you to come to a swingin' party is to say, "I can't do that, not tonight, because I'm babysitting."  Sorry, but that's the entire premise of the film, shot down in an instant.

I guess my life is boring, because my day on that music video shoot could have had me involved in a few more wild van chases, screaming at a toll booth clerk "I NEED to have that ENVELOPE!", getting punched out by a gang of bikers, almost getting arrested, and making a few drug deals on the side. 

And this is why you may not want to be me, and watch a new film a day for nearly four and a half years - because I spent nearly the whole film watching for NITPICK POINTS, wondering if it's possible to get from upstate New York (?) to midtown, to the Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn, to Chinatown/Lower East Side to Central Park (?) and back upstate all in the same night.  I kinda doubt it.  I guess it can, if you make a right turn off Houston St. and that takes you to the Central Park Carousel (impossible). 

UPDATE: I found a web-site with photos from the film and the shooting locations around NYC.  Someone on the IMDB message board was wondering where the suburban scenes were shot, since it doesn't look like Brooklyn, and I think they're right.  While IMDB says the film was shot in Manhattan and Brooklyn, I found another web-site that says they had a permit to shoot in Yonkers, so mystery solved.  I can almost make a map of their entire journey, from suburban Yonkers to the Brooklyn Historical Society in Brooklyn Heights, to the Grand Prospect Hall in Park Slope. Over to Chinatown in Manhattan, then a jewelry store in Queens (I'm guessing), a bar in Williamsburg and though that party could be set anywhere, if we assume Crown Heights, then logically that carousel is the one in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.  NITPICK POINT revoked, but I still think it's a longshot to do all that in a few hours.

Also starring Ari Graynor, Sam Rockwell (last seen in "Iron Man 2"), J.B Smoove (last seen in "We Bought a Zoo"), Max Records (last seen in "Where the Wild Things Are"), Landry Bender, Method Man, Bruce Altman (last seen in "Game Change"), with a cameo from Jackie Hoffman.

RATING:  4 out of 10 cherry bombs

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

21 Jump Street

Year 5, Day 78 - 3/19/13 - Movie #1,379

BEFORE: My original plan was to be on vacation right about now - my wife wanted to delay our trip to April because she thought it might snow in March, and our plane wouldn't be able to take off.  "That's crazy," I said, "thanks to global warming it won't snow on March 18."  Well, yesterday was March 18 and it snowed in NYC, so I've got egg on my face.  At least I conceded the point and had already agreed to delay our trip until April.  So movie-watching will be suspended for 2 weeks in April. 

Following up on the detective thread - I thought about watching "Sherlock Holmes 2" next, since he was the best fictional detective, but I'm keeping it real and modern and saving that one for another chain.  Linking from "Ace Ventura", Jim Carrey also did a voice for "Horton Hears a Who", and so did Jonah Hill (last seen in "Get Him to the Greek")

THE PLOT:  A pair of underachieving cops are sent back to a local high school to blend in and bring down a synthetic drug ring.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "The Other Guys" (Movie #880)

AFTER: I never watched the original "21 Jump Street" show, which ran from 1987 to 1991, since I was busy in college with little time for TV.  So to me this sequel is about as necessary as a second celebrity diving show (Wait, we've got that?) but I was willing to give it a whirl.  Re-inventing the concept as a comedy, which seems like a bad sign - a film that tries to be a comedy and an action film could easily represent neither genre well.

Initially this seemed like it was going to work - I liked the insights into modern high-school life, and how it's come 180 degrees from the environment of the past.  Jocks are still jocks, goths are still goths, but now it's hip to be square and succeed academically.  Nerds are somehow cool, and caring about the environment is in, and deriding something by calling it "gay" is unheard of.  Further adding to the confusion, one character can't remember his undercover name, so the two identities get switched.  The ex-nerd then has to do track and drama club, and the ex-jock has to take AP chemistry.  Meaning everyone's out of their comfort zone, including the audience.

When you're 25, you think you know everything, and if you could only go back to high-school, man, you'd show them (for starters, I'd talk to more girls).  The identity switch prevents the characters from succeeding the way they want to, so they have to find another way, but there are just too many reversals here.  Too many attempts to be unconventional, and the plot just ends up disjointed.  Young men pretending to be teens, then they have to pretend to be each other, then on top of THAT they have to pretend to not be high on drugs when they're stoned - it's too much. 

There's a fallacy here, one also seen in the "Ace Ventura" films, and it's the idea that the lead characters can be idiots, and still somehow also good at what they do when it counts.  Maybe it's the theory that if they keep failing in spectacular fashion, they somehow loop around to success, and that's just not how things work.  But a film about cops doing their job well would be boring, and a film about cops doing poorly would just be sad - so this is an attempt to cover both bases and still be funny. 

I can see the friendship between the two cops getting tested by the unusual situations, but the end result is that they can't accomplish anything without screaming at each other, and this gets grating after a while.  Every single point is stated, debated, then over-stated, and argued over again.  Geez, guys, just get married already. 

NITPICK POINT: When one cop can't remember his cover identity, and the names are about to get switched, there's a simple fix: the cop that CAN remember who's supposed to be who could just point at the other one and say, "No, he's Doug."  I can think of no reason why this didn't happen.  Or just have him say "We were just messing with you, he's Doug."  Didn't the department issue them fake IDs, which would have settled this in a heartbeat?  OK, fine, suffer for weeks in the wrong classes.

NITPICK POINT #2: It's clearly stated that there's only about a month left in the school year.  Why would the drama club hold auditions for a play so close to graduation?  With prom and everything coming up, wouldn't they have started rehearsals much earlier?  (Yes, I was in the drama club, what of it?)

NITPICK POINT #3: It's obviously for comic effect, but would a drug dealer really demand that his client use the product in front of him?  He got paid, why would he care?  If the drug's effects are so severe, someone tripping at school would draw too much attention, and that could be traced back to him.  Wouldn't he prefer that students take the drug at home or at a party, somewhere off school grounds?

Also starring Channing Tatum (last seen in "The Dilemma"), Ice Cube (last seen in "Three Kings"), Dave Franco (last seen in "Greenberg"), Brie Larson, Rob Riggle (last seen in "Furry Vengeance"), Chris Parnell (last seen in "The Five-Year Engagement"), Ellie Kemper (last seen in "Bridesmaids"), with cameos from Nick Offerman, Johnny Depp (last seen in "Once Upon a Time in Mexico"), Holly Robinson Peete. 

RATING:  5 out of 10 hall passes

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls

Year 5, Day 77 - 3/18/13 - Movie #1,378

BEFORE:  Yeah, I was also busy in 1995.  Plus I hadn't seen the first "Ace Ventura" film, so that gave me another reason to not see this one.   Let's get it off the list.  This is another set of films that "everyone" has seen, except me, or so it seems.

Obviously, Jim Carrey carries over, along with his monkey.  This is the end of the chain for monkeys and apes - a solid showing for the primates.  But it's also my link to the next chain, picking up on the detective aspect of "Pet Detective".

THE PLOT:  Pet detective Ace Ventura comes out of retirement to investigate the disappearance of a rare white bat, the symbol of an African tribe.

AFTER: Ugh, this just isn't my style of humor.  I barely tolerated "Dumb & Dumber" last year.  Silly sells, which I never really understand.  Why did Jim Carrey succeed as a movie star, but another comedian, say, Carrot Top, failed miserably?  Why is there a Pauly Shore for every Will Ferrell?

I'm having trouble with a film that mostly makes fun of African tribesmen, which seems more than a little racist.  Don't they all talk so funny, with their funny nonsense words, ha ha?  Don't they have odd customs like spitting and eating weird foods?   It's even worse than the first film, which found humor at the expense of gay and transgendered people.  So this franchise is both racist AND homophobic, so I guess 1995 was a much less enlightened time?  Or maybe the filmmakers just aren't very sensitive.  

I don't know what to make of "Ace Ventura", honestly.  He seems to have some of the deduction skills of Sherlock Holmes, but he's also a moron.  He loves animals but seems to have no social skills whatsoever.  He makes a ton of bumbling mistakes, yet always finds a way to crack the case and succeed.  Only in the movies, I guess...

NITPICK POINT:  Who's taking care of Ace Ventura's pets while he's in Tibet, and then Africa?  If he really cared for these animals, why would he leave them alone?   They're liable to eat each other, and how is that a good thing? 

NITPICK POINT #2: Ace loves animals - ALL animals.  Except bats, for some reason.  I realize this is meant to be funny, but if you're a true animal lover, would you find any of them disgusting?  Animal doctors don't choose to treat only the cute ones, for example. 

Also starring Simon Callow (last seen in "A Room With a View"), Ian McNeice, Bob Gunton (last seen in "Elvis Meets Nixon"), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (last seen in "Congo"), Bruce Spence (last seen in "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader"), Tommy Davidson.

RATING: 3 out of 10 Land Rovers

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Year 5, Day 76 - 3/17/13 - Movie #1,377

BEFORE:  Speaking of 20 years ago, this film was release almost that long ago, in 1994.  I was pretty busy at the time, plus I didn't think much of Jim Carrey's type of humor back then.  To be fair his humor leaned toward the moronic, and he hadn't yet been in big dramatic hits like "The Truman Show" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind".   And speaking of Peter Riegert, his appearance in "The Mask" is the link to Jim Carrey (last seen in "Yes Man")

THE PLOT:  A goofy detective specializing in animals goes in search of a missing dolphin mascot of a football team.

AFTER:  OK, now I feel justified in not seeing this film when it was first released - I can sleep better now.  I'm not saying my first feeling about a film is always right, but it's nice when it turns out to be so.

It's a fine framework to allow Carrey to be silly, but outside of that, I really don't see the point.  It's aimed at a 5th grade audience, so it didn't feel like someone was trying hard to make a film that speaks to adults as well.

I've got about 100 NITPICK POINTS, but I'll defer to the IMDB, which lists most of them already.  But how about the fact that a first-string NFL quarterback would never be in a position to hold the ball for a placekicker?  Geez, I know almost nothing about football, but I know that.

NITPICK POINT #2: The Super Bowl looks really low-rent - like they filmed those scenes at a high-school football game or something.  It's only the biggest sporting event of the year, would they really have cheezy red, white and blue decorations, and a simple animal act for the half-time show?

Also starring Courteney Cox (last seen in "The Longest Yard"), Sean Young, Tone Loc, Dan Marino, with appearances by character actors Troy Evans, David Margulies, John Capodice, Mark Margolis and Randall "Tex" Cobb.

RATING: 3 out of 10 championship rings