Archive for February, 2013

Everyone Says I Love You (Woody Allen) 1996

Posted in E, Woody Allen Retrospective on February 27, 2013 by moviemoses

Without even going into the movie I already have to give Woody Allen some credit.  I spent the last few reviews criticizing him for being lazy and coasting by with his comedies.  I prefer Allen when he is going out on a limb and at the very least you can say that by making a musical comedy.  ESILY doesn’t so much have a central plot so much as several sub plots.  It is mainly about the people in this large upper class New York family finding love.

Musicals are a hard thing to do even with the best of directors.  Scorsese tried with mixed results with New York New York.  It’s not so much to do with skill (although that helps) but a certain mentality/talent.  Woody Allen is one of the best directors ever, and while I think he does an admirable job, there are some problems with this musical.

One thing that isn’t a major problem but more of a nagging thing is the music selection.  The songs are all Cole Porter type numbers from the 30’s.  Allen has a love of that music and musicals from that time.  The nagging part comes in where this movie is set in the 1990’s.  Something tells me he might have set it in the 30’s if he had the budget like in Shadows and Fog but since he doesn’t he just set it in the now.  It might even help if there was something to tie it to the story like if the family were big fans of old musicals and their imaginations constructed these numbers for them.  There isn’t though and there is a slight disconnect when you hear these people sing numbers from your grandfather’s time.

There is a scene in the movie where a couple (played by Drew Barrymore and Edward Norton) are in the hospital cause Barrymore’s character swallowed a wedding ring.  They then launch into a big production of Makin Whoopie.  This song has absolutely nothing to do with anything and has no reason to be in the movie.  I give that example to show my second issue.  The typical rule with musicals are that the songs should advance the plot or characters in some way.  And there are times when the movie does that, however there are other times when it seems like Allen puts a random song in because five minutes have passed and we need a song in there.

I think Allen also made a decision based on the budget by having the actors sing their own songs.  Now I’m not criticizing that.  For one it plays into the comic theme of a musical for an ordinary family.  The songs also help in that they are all low key and don’t stress these non-trained actors too much.  Even Allen can get by with Ooooh-ing through a ballad with no trouble.  The surprisingly best singer was actually Edward Norton, who was actually told not to sing as well as he did.

The musical numbers did grow on me during the course of the film and I found it to be sweet but here comes the “but”.  But I wish Allen engaged in a bit more spectacle.  There is a scene that is actually so great that it made me resent some of the inaction in the rest of the movie.  Probably the most memorable number is when Joe (Allen) and Steffi (Goldie Hawn) are walking along a river in Paris reminiscing over old times.  The two then have a musical number with a waltz beside the river.  Allen is dancing with Hawn and he is able to pick her up and throw her through the air with some wire work.  It is a really magical and sweet scene as you see them having this beautiful dance through the air.  It seems like the inspiration and the reason why Allen wanted to make this movie.  After that I was a little resentful that Allen didn’t use the same imagination when it came to all the other numbers.  Occasionally there is a dance number with a production but the majority of the numbers are cast members sitting around or standing still while softly singing.  Musicals are about the spectacle.  They are escapism and either you wow them with great singing or you give them a spectacle of great artistry or dancing.  Yes these are ordinary people with ordinary voices but who says they can’t be imaginative and engage in elegant dream like fantasies. 

I have talked about the music a lot but that is because that is the thing to notice about this movie.  The plot and the situations are all light and inoffensive.  The situations don’t even rise to Three’s Company level of raunchiness because again, this movie is modeled after old musicals Allen loved.  This is the cinematic equivalent of whipped cream.  It is sweet but has absolutely no density.  Really that’s the whole movie.

I liked Everyone Says I Love You.  I was always interested by what was going on and it never drags.  The music and the earnestness behind it all won me over and in the end I found it sweet.  The music portion is flawed and I wish Allen showed imagination all the way through like he did with the Paris waltz scene.  And the movie never rises to the great homage Woody Allen probably wanted it to be.  But this was a pleasant movie and a nice change of pace for Allen to spark some creativity.

Atlas Shrugged Part II: The Strike (2012) John Putch

Posted in A on February 27, 2013 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $10 million

Gross: $3.3 million

Previously on my Atlas Shrugged Part I review:

“I hate Ayn Rand and I think Objectivism is bullshit.“

Well okay, that is more my general opinion on the philosophy behind the movie but I suppose I need to clarify that to those reading this review first.  More specifically about the movie I thought it sucked.  The movie had uninteresting robots spouting out ham fisted uninteresting dialog in an uninteresting story about trains and steel.

It failed and we moved on.  Well, not everyone apparently because Part II is now out.  I find it amusing that not even the producer believes in the Rand philosophy that he puts on such a pedestal   The free market should be making the ultimate decision on what goods it wants so you would think that with the disastrous bomb Part I was the free market chose against the Atlas Shrugged series.  Ignoring that we have Atlas Shrugged Part II which bombed as well.  The free market has told the producer John Aglialoro they don’t want any Atlas Shrugged but apparently he has responded back with essentially “Fuck you, we are making Part III!“.  I guess he’s believed the moochers have taken over but personally I would prefer he go to his own private island rather than subject us to this.

Okay, okay.  I need to be fair to this movie.  I can realize that the first movie had its own problems.  After all, the producer was up against the wall with losing the rights to Atlas and had to make a movie quickly.  A script and a director had to be rushed and the relatively small budget had to limit the kind of actors they had.  These were external problems for the first movie and I need to approach Part II with a clean slate.  True the budget is about half of what the first one was but maybe things have calmed down and they had more time to get the production they truly wanted.  They have…actors in this movie so they have that going for them.  What director did they get? John Putch?  Never heard of him.  What has he done?  American Pie Presents: The Book of Love.

We’re doomed.

Trust me, it is not very long before that statement is confirmed by the rather mind boggling decisions you see right off the bat.  In the beginning we see Dagny walking through a train station with Robert Picardo and the trains are CGI.  BAD CGI.  I am seriously not overstating it by saying my PS2 made better animated scenes.  Now I understand this movie has a small budget so it is not like I am trying to compare it to The Lord of the Rings.  My question is; why the fuck do you need to make a CGI train in the first place!?  Real trains exist! Go to any major metropolitan city and film in front of a goddamn Amtrak!

And I know you are going to say something like “Come on Moviemoses!  That’s nitpicking.“  But really this is a symptom of a larger problem which is incompetence.  Take for example another scene where we establish Dagny’s smarmy jerkface brother who has no talent but hogs all the credit.  He is a supposed multi-millionare but he goes into what appears to be a Circle K and is buying a tie for a piano concert next to the fucking Slim Jims and anti freeze.  And you are just sitting there with this WTF look on your face thinking way too hard about things you shouldn’t be in the middle of this movie.  Did they have really no more money left at that point and threw a tie rack in the middle of a QT?  Is this some future thing that wasn’t established well?  Kind of like how Taco Bell became fine dining in Demolition Man fucking Exxon’s have now become superstores where you get everything from Armani to Hostess Snoballs?  Does the director think I’m an  idiot and won’t notice they are shooting there?  If mistakes like these are coming up on minor things like location shooting, what do you think the rest of the movie will be like?

So Part II picks up where the last left off with no recap of what happened before.  I’ve seen Part I and I can barely remember anything from that.  There was something about a guy making steel and endless discussions about building a railroad.  I honestly didn’t remember if anything got settled or any major developments happened.  The movie doesn’t help that fact that I was even 30 minutes into the movie and I wasn’t entirely sure what our main plot was.  Dagny has some mysterious motor from the first movie (which I didn’t remember) which, if she figures out the secrets of what it runs on (be it cold fusion or love), will end all dependency on foreign oil.  Henry is now successful due to his new steel and the evil guv’ment is now trying to take their FAIR SHARE.  Dum dum duuuuuuuuum.  But what are we honestly working toward?  If I was bored by the first movie, what does it say when I’m 30 minutes into the second and I have no idea what the plot is?  Boy I’m asking a lot of questions in this review.

Again, I don’t really care to get into the philosophy of Objectivism as I still consider debates with  Rand followers as enjoyable as my kidney stone.  But I guess if I had to mention anything as to why I don’t buy into it is how everything is so black and white.  There is no gray area in Rand’s philosophy.  There can’t be any exceptions to the rule or qualified statements such as “The government can be a force for good, but…“ No, it is either black or white, good or evil, hero or parasite.  You need to be wary of any philosophy that is so simplistic or tries to so easily lump others in the ‘us‘ or ‘them‘ camp.  And when the majority of your movie is people getting up and giving long-winded reproaches of obvious straw men, I just don’t care.  I don’t feel like I’m learning anything so much as being brow beaten for two hours (four through both movies).  Feeling angry at those “moochers“ in the government Henry?  Feel angry that they are keeping you from making your money?  Who built the roads and rails you use to ship your steel?  Did you fund that all by yourself?  Do you pay for your own private police force to protect your stuff or your private fire department in case it catches fire? See what I mean that even the slightest bit of effort shatters this black and white universe?  I’m not someone advocating communism and in fact I’m not advocating anything really.  I’m just not buying the kindergarten philosophy you are trying to sell me.

It goes on forever too.  I mentioned before it takes 30 minutes to set things up but after that nothing changes.  Like I said, Henry Reardon is doing well and the evil government is trying to take their share of the profits.  Here is the movie.  Some government guy comes up to Henry and tells him to give the government some steel and Henry tells him to piss off cause capitalism.  Then Henry complains and someone asks “Who is John Galt?“ and someone disappears like there is some Objectivist Batman running around or something.  Another person comes to Henry asking him for steel and he tells him to piss off.  Henry complains and someone tells Atlas to shrug.  Then another person tells Henry to give the steel, then lather, then Henry has the court asking him for steel, then rinse, then more government people ask for steel, then repeat.  I had it all wrong a few paragraphs ago.  This movie isn’t slow in telling a story, it is an endless loop.  Ayn Rand is Selena Gomez, she loves this plot point like a love song, and she keeps hitting re-peatpeatpeatpeatpeat.  Oh god, this review has me quoting Selena Gomez.  This is the moment when I looked at the timer on my DVD player and realized I had a whole other hour and I felt all hope drain from me.  It is only till the hour 45 min mark that Dagny gets just as fed up with this plot as I do and leaves.  Part II ends with Dagny flying to an island and finally meeting John Galt.

There are some slightly better actors in Part II but it doesn’t make much difference.  I guessed that the actors in Part I probably wasn’t all that bad, but were hamstrung by horribly dry dialog.  It is no different here.  The actors are slightly more charismatic but they still have to sound like Vulcans as they talk about how greed is good and how fairness is illogical.  If it isn’t already clear as to who this movie appeals to you see through the cameos in the film.  Sean Hannity appears as Sean Hannity talking about the free market and we even get Teller from Penn and Teller in a brief speaking role.  If you think it would be interesting seeing Teller talk its not.  I found it incredibly sad to see an otherwise smart person with the glazed over look of a person who has drank all the Kool Aid and can’t see this poorly produced dog shit for what it is.

Part I sucked, Part II sucked, and Part III will suck.  I know Part III hasn’t been made yet and 99.9999% of the time you can’t make a judgment without seeing the product.  What can I say?  This is the .000001%.  These movies no longer have the excuse that they were rushed or whatever.  These are the movies they wanted to make and Part III will be more of the same.  I foresee another two hours of characters lecturing me about free market and moochers.  Well, probably three hours because we haven’t reached the point where Galt gives a 70 page speech.  Oh, and I’ll probably see a train too.  I know I’ll have to review it too because this movie will bomb even worse than the previous two.  This movie is horrible.  Part II has a plot that goes nowhere featuring characters I don’t care about saying horrible dialog in a world of horrible CGI and shoddy direction.    Who is John Galt?  I don’t give a fuck and I don’t see how anyone else does either.

Red Tails (2012) Anthony Hemingway

Posted in R on February 20, 2013 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $58 million

Gross: $49 million

Red Tails is based off of the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, a test group of African American fighter pilots used during WWII.  Producer George Lucas had difficulty finding a distributor for this movie which he blamed on racism from Hollywood.  I tend to believe they did not want to distribute it because its a piece of crap.

Red Tails is juggling far too many balls and Lucas is barely talented enough to keep one ball in the air.  When I talk about balls I actually mean sub plots and themes.  Situations are set up and nothing is ever explored fully.  Let me give you a few examples.  One subplot involves one of the red tails getting shot down and put in a POW camp.  Whether this happened in real life I have no clue because I don’t believe a single thing Lucas tells me about historical accuracy.  But even overlooking that, I want to focus on this more in storytelling terms.  So you want to tell the story about the imprisonment and escape of a pilot in a POW camp.  Fine.  You need to dedicate more than five minutes of your film to this.  I am not exaggerating when I say the moment the pilot walks in to the camp he is immediately told of an escape plan and the next scene with him has him popping out of a hole being dug out of the camp.  Why even bother with that story if you aren’t even going to put five minutes into telling it?  How are we supposed to be invested or feel anything about this character when the moment you put him in this situation he immediately escapes?

Another sub plot is about the commander and his supposed “drinking problem“.  I put that in giant air quotes because I never see it as being a problem.  We see him drinking, and we have scenes where people tell us his drinking will cause problems in the air, but we never see it.  I’m no screenwriter, but even I know you need a scene where the captain’s drinking problem presents itself so you are justified in bringing it up.  In the movie, we actually get the opposite.  I never see the captain having a problem flying or commanding his squadron, and in fact, I see him attempt a heroic rescue while supposedly drunk.  The rescue fails but not because of the drunk captain, but because of mistakes from other people.  So instead of actually showing me how his drinking causes a problem you show me the opposite that somehow drinking makes him a better pilot while simultaneously telling me he is putting everyone in danger.

Another subplot involves one of the pilots in a supposed romance with an Italian woman.  These are the scenes involving the two and again, I am not making this up.  Scene one the pilot sees the woman from a few thousand feet up in a plane and they have love at first sight.  Scene two the pilot finds the woman’s house and just makes himself at home despite never talking before.  Scene three they fuck.  Scene four he proposes to the girl.  Keep in mind that these characters cannot speak to each other because he only speaks English and she only speaks Italian.  So we are lead to believe that this couple has sprinted through the relationship course of meeting, fucking, and marrying within the span of a week without even talking to one another?

I keep referring to the characters as the pilot or the male or the captain because I honestly can’t remember any of the characters to even look on IMDb to put in this review.  They are all these one dimensional stereotypes that you would see in any movie of this kind.  For being a movie about the real life Tuskegee Airmen, I feel ripped off.  I don’t feel like I learn anything about any of these people and what they really went through.  Instead we get generic war movie with a generic racism is bad theme slapped on.  I would be interested in seeing a new movie on the Tuskegee Airmen.  Too bad I didn’t get that here.

But even overlooking the fact this is not a factual movie  and just looking at it as an action movie I still don’t like it.  As I mentioned before the characters are one dimensional and one of my main characters is flat out unlikable.  There is this Maverick type character who is supposed to be the cool rebel but is simply annoying.  Am I really supposed to root for the guy who disobeys orders constantly and gets people killed for doing that?  Forget the drinking problem, the whole disobeying orders problem gets far more people killed.  I didn’t want him to be our protagonist, I wanted him to be thrown in jail for insubordination.

The lack of connection to the characters also hurts the action when I don’t give a crap if they live or die.  Even overlooking that though, I still don’t think the action is any good.  The fight scenes miss that speed that anyone who even watched Top Gun as a kid would know you need and the lame CGI makes the whole thing look fakey.

You may have noticed I haven’t even mentioned the two biggest stars of this movie: Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr.  Well, that is because they are not really in it.  You see Cuba wandering around lost on set munching on his pipe cause that is the only character trait he is given.  Major Stance – He has a pipe.  Terrence Howard’s only job is to show up every 30 minutes or so and deliver a lame inspirational speech.

I guess the only other items to really discuss are the dialog and the direction.  Come on, this is a George Lucas supervised movie, of course the dialog is shitty.  It is almost so bad its funny to see the horribly stilted expository dialog being forced out of the crappy actors mouths.  And despite already knowing this movie was directed by Anthony Hemingway and not George Lucas, I think my subconscious mind knew better and for the longest time, my draft had the director listed as Lucas.  This movie looks and sounds so much like a Lucas film that I could seriously not tell the difference.  Hemingway must have had Lucas on his back the whole production.

I seriously didn’t mean to rant for so long but when you want me to list the things that are wrong with this movie you get a book.  Lucas‘ films should almost be study material for film school on what not to do.  Red Tails betrays the real Tuskegee Airmen by shitting on their story for the sake of a crappy action film that doesn’t even work in that regard.  The writing is horrible with half baked sub plot after half baked subplot, the dialog is hilariously bad, the acting is flat and stilted, the direction is piss poor, the story is predictable at best, and the action is boring.  This was near the worst film of 2012 for me.  By the way Red Tails won Best Picture at the NAACP Image Awards.  I don’t care what criteria you use, if Red Tails was seriously the best anything of the year, I would quit watching movies from then on.

Heist (2001) David Mamet

Posted in H on February 19, 2013 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $39 million

Worldwide Gross: $28 million

Heist is about professional thief Joe (Gene Hackman).  Joe gets spotted during his last job and wants to leave town.  Joe’s fence Mickey (Danny DeVito) forces Joe to do one last heist of gold before he can leave.

This movie is a guilty pleasure for me.  There are criticisms of this movie which I acknowledge and with most other people I would be ranting about but for certain reasons I find this movie enjoyable.

The criticism I hear most about Heist is about the dialog.  Mamet is well known for above all else, being a writer of great dialog.  Much like my criticism about Coppola during Tucker: The Man and his Dream can be leveled at Mamet in Heist.  I basically said Coppola was either trying too hard with camera tricks or was having a masturbatory experience behind the camera which didn’t translate to any fun for the audience.  Here, Mamet is either trying way too hard to be clever with the dialog or is having some extended alone time with his own prose.  The prime example I think everyone has cited is:

“Everybody needs money, that’s why they call it money!“

That line makes no goddamn sense.  So why is it in there?  It is supposed to be some insight into the character that he thinks its witty or did the director just mess up or is it supposed to be so bad its funny?  And you end up killing your brain trying to unwrap what is, in reality, a stupid line of dialog from a smart writer.  What makes it worse is everyone talks like this.  Here are a few samples of dialog:

“My motherfucker is so cool when he goes to sleep sheep count him.  Do you know why the chicken crossed the road?  Cause the road crossed the chicken.  How long has Joe known her?  How long is a Chinaman’s last name? ”

I can certainly see people turning on the movie due to lines like that.  People have a certain level of suspension of disbelief and so they understand people talk more elequently than they would in real life.  But it reaches a point when every character is spouting cutesy bullshit that people reject it as too unrealistic.  Juno had the same problem when everyone talked in the same Diablo Cody hipster speak and some cannot get into Tarantino for the same reason.

It doesn’t help the ‘too clever for its own good‘ problem when there is plot twist after plot twist after plot twist.  Characters screw each other over and back stab each other every 10 minutes so I can see how people can have difficulty getting invested in a story so focused on pulling the wool over the audiences eyes.

And yet I enjoy this movie.

I’ll address the twist issue first.  For one, this is a movie about confidence men and scam artists trying for the big score.  This is the one instance where I think the audience should be expecting schemes within schemes within schemes.  In other movies and in other genres I can see frustration with a writer playing around with its audience but here it is almost a staple of this kind of movie.  Plus none of the twists are that crazy.  Within the context of this universe all the twists work and there weren’t any that had massive plot holes or seriously failed.

As for the dialog problem that is not something I can explain away as much as I forgive it.  It helps that you have a seriously talented group of actors like Gene Hackman, Delroy Lindo, Sam Rockwell, and even great character actors like Danny DeVito and Ricky Jay.  If you had a bland actor like a Paul Walker yes I would hate it more,  But when you have a person like Gene Hackman they can sell it with their charisma.  They can give a subtle smile or little ticks so show that its all in fun and not to be taken too seriously.

I am also a sucker for heist movies so maybe I am more willing to forgive it its faults because I am the target audience.  I just know many of these movies are about snappy dialog so I don’t really think of this as a super real world but one such as Brick where everyone talks as if they are in a 40’s gangster flick.  And while there are some groan inducing lines like the ones I highlighted, I think the majority is clever enough to overlook that.

All the same I do admit this is a guilty pleasure.  I’m a sucker for heist movies so I really enjoy it and I think other fans of that genre will too.  That being said it is a flawed movie and one I can’t easily recommend to casual movie watchers.  The dialog in this movie can drive people absolutely bonkers with how cute and clever it thinks it is.  This is also relatively minor work compared to other things Mamet has done.  If you haven’t seen anything by Mamet I would at least start with Glengarry Glen Ross.  Heist gets a reserved recommendation from me.

Tucker: The Man and his Dream (1988) Francis Ford Coppola

Posted in T on February 12, 2013 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $23 million

Gross: Only US numbers $19 million

Tucker is based on the real life story of Preston Tucker (Jeff Bridges).  Tucker originally made his small fortune on designing plane turrets during WWII.  Tucker had plans to revolutionize the auto industry with his new car which would have safety features, a streamlined design, and a feature about headlights which turned along with the steering wheel.  Tucker finds himself challenged by the big three auto makers and later faces an indictment for fraud.

A great director is somebody who doesn’t draw attention to himself and in the case of Tucker, Coppola is trying WAAAAAY too hard.  Coppola is trying to give the movie a whimsical and fun but it comes off as cloying and annoying.  The soundtrack is always blaring big band music and other music from the day and the camera is constantly doing some flashy trick.  You can’t just have a two shot of Jeff Bridges and Joan Allen talking on a phone, we have to have Joan Allen’s giant superimposed head over a shot of Jeff Bridges talking in a phone booth.  We can’t just have Tucker get the inspiration for a car and express it through acting or writing.  No, we have to have Tucker spinning on a stool going “WOOOOOOO!!!“ while the camera spins along with Tucker and that transitions to a spinning magazine shot which then transitions to a newsreel type montage.  Only its not done in a traditional black and white newsreel of the day.  We have to mix in black and white with color and have Tucker walk in a seamless transition from his living room to his automobile plant all the while Benny Goodman is blaring over the soundtrack.

After twenty minutes I was psychically pleading with the Francis Ford Coppola of the past to calm the fuck down.  In this case, I really don’t want someone trying to make the next Godfather.  I would rather have some unknown who is more content with telling a good story than going through a filmmaker mid-life crisis.

I also have a problem with Tucker himself and I have no idea whether to pin it on the direction, the acting, or the writing.  Part of Tucker appears to be a big phony which may be due to Bridges.  Bridges always has this broad fake grin which borders on creepy.  Maybe Coppola told Bridges to always be jocular but it comes off as Bridges hamming it up.  He just doesn’t come off as a real person when he only has one expression and that is to blow up the wide angle lens with a toothy pervy grin.

Beyond the hammy performance, Tucker is not someone I can really get behind.  Sure, he is a dreamer and I guess you can admire his goals in changing the auto industry.  The writing paints Tucker as a person with absolutely no business savvy or even that much common sense.  Within two seconds of signing over majority control of his business to stockbrokers he is shocked (SHOCKED) to find out they want to take the company in a direction Tucker doesn’t want to  go.  Tucker has ideas for example like a front end piece where the headlights move where the steering wheel goes but doesn’t have the experience or knowledge to know that can’t work so a middle headlight is made.  That is only one relatively small issue.  Now imagine Tucker trying to deal with running an entire auto industry and you feel like even if Tucker was allowed to make his car the business would go bankrupt within the decade.  Usually in these stories we have someone who is so brilliant as to be a game changer but is held down by the old establishment.  In Tucker it feels like you have an irresponsible fool who suckered some investors with the auto equivalent of snake oil.

So now that I have covered the acting and the writing I guess that leaves the direction of the character.  Tucker never feels like a fully realized person.  You see several scenes of him grinning in front of his family, but you never get the impression of how he really was as a parent/husband.  He is a dreamer, but we are never really told what drives him.  I guess we do see him as a businessman, but that is hardly flattering.  If he isn’t failing he is kind of a dick to his employees.  For example, one of the Tuckers nearly fall on one of his employees and instead of checking on the employee he bitches about getting the car done on time.  And even when this behavior is pointed out to Tucker, he never apologizes.

Maybe I am being too critical of this movie.  After all, while flashy, there is nothing horribly wrong with the cinematography.  Francis Ford Coppola clearly idealizes Tucker and wants to paint him as a gigantic underdog.  I suppose you could say I am being too harsh when it comes to the acting and how the filmmakers really wanted to show how Tucker was this big hero.  I personally don’t believe I was in a bad mood going in but that the movie just rubbed me the wrong way.  I failed to be caught up in the underdog story, I failed to find myself identifying with Tucker, and I failed to find the movie charming or entertaining.  The writing is very flawed, the acting is hammy, and Coppola’s zeal in telling this story is actually harming the final product.

Mighty Aphrodite (Woody Allen) 1995

Posted in M, Woody Allen Retrospective on February 5, 2013 by moviemoses

Mighty Aphrodite is about Lenny (Woody Allen) and Amanda (Helena Bonham Carter) who adopt a child.  The child turns out to be a genius and Lenny decides to track down the mother believing that she too, must be brilliant.  Turns out the woman Linda (Mira Sorvino) is a prostitute and a complete moron.

This is seen as a good time in Woody Allen’s career.  I suppose with this and my Bullets review I am entering controversial territory.  I find these movies to be very lazy for Allen.  Allen has always been a joke writer and he has told how he has a drawer full of jokes, ideas, and concepts.  This is purely speculation and I have next to nothing to back it up.  It just feels like after his debacle involving Mia Farrow and his underage stepdaughter, Allen is perfectly fine by running on cruise control.  Whereas before he was always venturing into new territory and breaking new ground, now he says “fuck it“ and is content playing it safe with his drawer ideas.  What if a mobster became a playwright?  Fuck it, I can stretch that out to 90 minutes and ride things out another year. A Greek tragedy set to banal upper class New Yorkers petty issues?  Fuck it, I don’t feel like doing anything meaningful.

Keep in mind none of this means this is bad.  Mighty Aphrodite works and is charming and makes you chuckle occasionally   But this reminds me of when I was wrapping up college and a term which I believe is ‘senoritis‘.  I would wait until the last minute to do a book report or a paper and then do the absolute bare minimum to get by because screw it, I’m graduating anyway.  I feel like my English teacher handing my paper back going “You can do better“.

I know that Woody knows he can make an entire movie based on his Woody persona which he has done with Aphrodite.  All Mighty Aphrodite is is Mira Sorvino talking lewdly about sex and being a prostitute and Woody getting flustered and nervous.  I can picture the whole movie in my head without even seeing it.  I can picture Sorvino mentioning about how a client likes that she snowballs him and Allen looks nervous and is gesturing wildly with his hands and he stutters something about how he doesn’t want to know how to use Hostess cakes in those ways.  The problem is it doesn’t feel like effort is put into it.  It feels like Allen is on autopilot.  One of Allen’s neurotic tendencies is that he has to be working all the time. His one a year output is not so much that he has all these great movie concepts that are screaming to get out but more about he has nothing better to do with his time off.  It kind of reminds me of my father who will go insane by retirement because he has no other hobbies.  This is Allen on autopilot because he can’t think of anything better to do with his time now that the Knicks aren’t playing.

As I said before there is nothing bad about Aphrodite and I have no problems with people who find it funny.  But for me, I appreciate someone a lot more when he/she  puts it all on the line and fails spectacularly rather than someone shooting for mediocre and achieving it.  This is a film which I have no intention of ever revisiting because there is nothing special that stands out.  I got everything I ever needed out of one viewing and there is no reason to ever go back to it.  Blah.

Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (2012) Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim

Posted in T on February 5, 2013 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $1 billion…actually around $3 million

Worldwide Gross: $201,000

The movie is about the titular Tim and Eric who have made a movie under a billion dollar contract for the Shlang Corportation.  Tim and Eric have wasted the majority of the money on useless crap and the studio wants its money back.  Tim and Eric then get an offer to run a run down mall for a billion dollars.

It should be noted I have not seen the Tim and Eric show so I cannot judge as to whether this stays true to whatever formula they do.  I can only judge the movie on its own merits.

I guess I won’t draw out the suspense seeing as how I already posted a worst of the year list and this was in my top 10.  My hating this movie though isn’t really about any shock factor or that their humor is oh so edgy.  After all this is a movie that within the first five minutes has an extended shot of a penis and another scene later where several small children fill a bathtub with diarrhea while Eric is inside.  No, I’ve known long ago gross out comedies have always played a game of “Can You Top This?“ and not only was a movie like this due but we haven’t even seen the worst of it.

The reason why I don’t like it is because it is incredibly lazy.  I don’t think this is a statement of gross out humor in general since I have seen some cleverly done sex and gross out humor.  This is more a statement of Tim and Eric.  It just seems like they had no real jokes for this movie and they probably thought anything gross equals laughs.  It doesn’t.  You can’t just show a guy’s cock and expect laughs.  You need to do even a little bit more but Tim and Eric’s can’t even be bothered to do that.  So yeah, the majority of the movie is whatever gross thing you can think of for 70-ish minutes.  Cocks?  Sure.  Shit humor?  Why not.  A female fucking Tim with a dildo?  We are still at about 50 minutes so keep the ideas going.

Still don’t believe me that the movie doesn’t have any real jokes?  My plot synopsis talks about how Tim and Eric owe money to the Schlang Corporation.  That is the peak of the wit here.  You see cause they named it Schlang which sounds like…

Tim and Eric also have this running thing to where they play a joke out past the point where it should be funny to where its annoying and supposedly back to being funny by the absurdity of it.  But it never ends up funny, instead it feels exhausting.

This review is thin but that is only because this movie is thin.  This is one of those movies that barely scrapes by with 80 minutes.  It has no crafted jokes and is built entirely around people laughing at gross things lines which are repeated past simply annoying to just turning the damn TV off.  The thing is I’m not even pissed off at this movie.  It is like those times when your parents say “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed“ which is actually much worse.  It is disappointing to think this is all you need in order to get a comedy film made and how little you think of your audience if you think that will be hilarious.  This is just sad.