Sunday, July 27, 2014

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa


Starring: Johnny Knoxville & Jackson Nicoll
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Moving in another direction for their fourth film, the producers of Jackass decided to focus on a single character from the franchise, Johnny Knoxville's Irving Zisman. The film has everything you've come to expect from the series, as Knoxville plays a Grandfather, on vacation with his Grandson. Knoxville does his usual schtick, crashing into to things, saying outrageous things to strangers, and of course showing off his giant rubber testicles. As with most of the Jackass stuff, it's outrageous and hilarious for the first half hour, but quickly gets old. Maybe I'm just too old to appreciate Jackass anymore, but when I start out watching one of their films, I love it, and by the end, I'm just waiting for it to be over with. Knoxville is impressive, and while he's done films on his own, I think he was giving a message to the rest of the group in this film. The message being, if you guys don't want to do this anymore, I can make it work with anyone, even a 10 year old kid. Hopefully the message gets through and we'll get some more Jackass films. I really do love the simplistic comedic genius of the films, but it's repetitive nature makes anything more than an episode of the show wear on me. Maybe it's just not made for someone in my age group anymore, but regardless of age, Jackass has always been good for a few laughs and Bad Grandpa is no exception.

See No Evil (2006)


Starring: Kane, Christina Vidal, & Michael Pagan
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

See No Evil is the film that started it all for WWE films, and with a sequel due out later this year, I figured I'd give it a shot. The WWE films have been surprisingly good, but I think See No Evil is what most people expected when they heard WWE was going into the film business. Kane stars as a mad man, held up in an old abandoned hotel. Chaos quickly ensues, when a group of teenage delinquents are assigned to fix up the hotel, as part of their community service. Kane is a perfect villain, as he is a huge scary guy, however, he plays a character that has all of two lines the whole film. Being that this was WWE's first venture into the film business, they weren't able to get anyone of name to support him, and there were some awful performances, by young actors in their debut roles. This film was a just a very basic, generic, slasher film, that we've all seen a million times. There is nothing of note and it was quite boring and unimaginative. I can only hope with the development of their films division, that WWE and Kane can come up with something better for the sequel.

Hannibal (TV Series)


Starring: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas, Hettienne Park, Laurence Fishburne, Scott Thompson, Aaron Abrams, & Lara Jean Chorostecki

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

For many fans of the Hannibal Lechter films, the jury is still out on the new TV show, Hannibal. While the ratings have been passable, when you ask people what they think of the show, most will tell you they haven't seen it yet. If NBC would put more money into advertising and let it stream on Netflix, I have little doubt that this will be a top ten show.

People are hesitant to watch a Lechter story without the legendary Anthony Hopkins, however once you get into the story, you will see that this isn't a problem. The series takes place in between the events of Hannibal Rising and Red Dragon, featuring Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) in his prime, as the FBI's top profiler. As seen in the opening scene of Red Dragon, Graham got help solving his cases from the world renowned psychologist, Dr. Hannibal Lechter (Mads Mikkelsen). The series focuses on this relationship, with Graham, who of course is in the dark over who Lechter really is. Lechter serves as a calming element in the vary chaotic and troubled life of Graham, and also plays the intermediary between Graham and his boss, Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne). This dynamic allows the FBI to solve some of the most heinous serial crimes they've been faced with.

For those of you still hesitant about watching this series, a few things to keep in mind. The same writers, producers, and directors who worked on the four films are behind this series. There are frequent references to all the films, and points where they actually clear up plot holes from the films. That alone should be enough to get people interested, but what really brings the story to the same level as the film series is Hugh Dancy as Will Graham.

Will Graham is a much deeper character than we came to know in Red Dragon. He is extremely complicated and as it turns out, not all that different from Lechter. Hugh Dancy, a veteran of a lot of bad movies, stars and is tremendous. Award shows are notorious for ignoring performances in series that feature gore and violence, but if anyone deserves an Emmy for best actor it his him. Dancy regularly gives a performance that is the best I've seen in a TV show since Breaking Bad. He really is that good.

Mads Mikkelsen is also terrific as Dr. Lechter. I wasn't sure how a French guy known for B-movies would do taking on the epic character of Hannibal Lechter, but he has shown all the class, humor, and madness of the legendary character. Finally, Laurence Fishburne rounds out the cast as the only big name involved in the project. He plays the boss, Jack Crawford, and is very important as the man who brought Graham and Lechter together. In my opinion, Fishburne is the perfect choice as he's cold, emotionless, and deeply focused on on thing, getting the job done.

You don't know most of the actors, but you know the characters. The cast of Hannibal is outstanding and will give you the chance to see your favorite characters in a whole other light. I love the Lechter films and was hesitant about watching this show myself. I didn't want to tarnish my view of the characters or the films, but this series is the missing companion piece that fills in the holes and gives you an all new appreciation for Lechter.

Covert One: The Hades Factor


Starring: Stephen Dorff, Mira Sorvino, & Blair Underwood
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Based on a series of successful novels, CBS decided to turn the Covert One series into a mini-series, and while they got some big names to be in this three hour epic, the story just doesn't transfer well to film. Not every story can be condensed down and still keep the story believable and that's what happens here. Things move so quickly with one twist coming right on top another, making the film unbelievably confusing. The story begins on an army base, when a strange virus, thought to have been destroyed in the Middle East, starts killing people. The FBI, CIA, and mysterious group Covert One investigate and try to stop what they see as a terrorist attack. As I said there are so many different elements involved in this story and while a well placed twist in the story can help a film, too many just confuse things. Half way through this film it was impossible to tell who was working for whom, and what different groups were actually trying to accomplish. Stephen Dorff, AKA Mr. Blue E-Cig, stars and while he's not really known as an action guy, does a really good job. He's paired with Mira Sorvino who is one of my least favorite actresses. There is no doubting the fact that she's beautiful and somehow won an Academy Award, but I've always found her to be unbelievable and far to cold to play most of the roles she's been in. There are also some nice cameos from some people I haven't seen in a while, which could have been a big help to the film, if they weren't also part of the constant twists and turns of the story. I don't know how the novels were, but as far as the film goes, The Hades Factory is extremely fast paced and far too confusing to be worth watching. They had three hours to really engage and entrench the audience in the story, instead they blindfold you and put you on a roller coaster. The story is all over the place, the performances are mixed, and in the end, you'll just be scratching your head.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sex Tape (2014)


Starring: Cameron Diaz & Jason Segel
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

From the cast and crew that brought you Bad Teacher, comes Sex Tape, and on the surface it had all the makings of the next big comedic hit. Many people were saying that Sex Tape could be the next Hangover, as it is an original idea with an all-star cast, but sadly it falls well short of expectations. Annie & Jay's marriage has become a little stale, so one night they decide to spice things up by making a Sex Tape. Jay is a music producers and inexplicably neglects the fact that his laptop is connected to many other devices, and the tape finds its way to the cloud. Once again, Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz have absolutely no chemistry. They are too different types of actors that just don't compliment each other and they are even less believable as a married couple. If that were the only issue with this film, maybe I could have gotten passed it, but the real problem, as with Bad Teacher, is that the writers don't know their audience. This is an R rated film about a sex tape and in no way meant for children, yet the jokes are on a sixth grade level. As an adult going to see a raunchy comedy, I'm not interested in jokes about erections and diarrhea, it's in very poor taste and isn't something many adults will respond to. This film is supposed to be a laugh out loud comedy, but there was barely even a snicker in the movie theater, which basically tells you all you need to know about this film. Sex Tape is trying to get people to see it under the guise of being raunchy and featuring some pretty attractive stars, that fans hope they will get to see naked. The truth is that it is very amateurish, you really don't see all that much, and the jokes could be out of PG movie. All in all, Sex Tape is a big disappointment and a huge waste of time.

Wolf Creek 2


Starring: John Jarratt, Ryan Corr, & Shannon Ashlyn
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

There is a common misconception that Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) was a real person. In fact the character was created from the stories of Australia's most heinous criminals. While the crimes themselves are real, they were committed by a variety of people, not just one man. What made both films work, was the character of Mick Taylor, who while being a horrific serial killer, was still very likeable. Taylor is charismatic and most important of all very funny, and audiences in 2005 ate it up. After the success of the first film, a sequel was immediately planned, but put on hold due to the fact that some of the crimes portrayed in the film, were still being prosecuted in court. The legal issues delayed the film eight years and kept it out of theaters, which is a shame because it was better than the first and received almost no exposure. In the second installment of Wolf Creek, Mick isn't just torturing victims at his dungeon, he's chasing a man through the outback, and when they finally meet, they come to discover that they aren't entirely dissimilar from one another. Ryan Corr (Saw 3D) plays the runner and is just as witty and entertaining as Taylor himself. The chemistry between the too was terrific and gave the series a whole new dynamic, which elevated it to another level. Wolf Creek 2 is so much more intense and at the same time comedic, compared to the first film. It was definitely a risky move by Writer/Director Greg McLean, that really pays off. The Wolf Creek films are no different and no less predictable than any other slasher film. What makes them unique is a character that encompasses the personalities of multiple serial killers and gives the audience the rarest of bad guys, the one that you root for. Even if you don't like slasher films, you may enjoy John Jarratt's extremely strong performance and get a few laughs in between the carnage.

Black Rock


Starring: Katie Aselton, Lake Bell, & Kate Bosworth
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

Black Rock is one of those rare films that was written by, directed by, and starring the same person. Back in the early days of film, this was common, but today it's rare. While I admire all the work a single person puts into such an effort, the truth is that most of these films turn out to be a little strange, Black Rock is no exception. Three life long best friends decide to reconnect on a weekend retreat, to a small secluded island, where they had a lot of childhood memories. Once there, they run into a pack of hunters. Testosterone and alcohol mix, leading to a vicious assault, leaving one group a member short, and the other group on the run. Katie Aselton is the Writer, Director, & star of this film and while I admire what she put into it, the truth is that it was very predictable and didn't make a whole lot of sense. First of all, these three women, as children were allowed to play on a secluded island in the middle of nowhere, without supervision? It also doesn't make sense that the hunters would be there, when there was seemingly no wildlife, and of course there had to be exactly three of them. Finally, why did three women, spending a weekend alone on a secluded island, bring enough alcohol to fuel a Todd Phillips movie? The whole thing was just a little too weird to be believable, and when you add how predictable this film was, it's just a recipe for disaster. The one thing I liked was the performance of Jay Paulson. He's usually a guy who gets bit parts and guest appearances here and there, but he was very solid and the most believable of the six characters. Aside from that this is a slow, painfully predictable, mess of a film, that really doesn't have a whole lot going for it.