Archive for the T Category

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  Tucker originally made his small fortune on designing plane turrets during WWII.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.

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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.

That’s What I Am (2011) Michael Pavone

Posted in T on August 31, 2011 by moviemoses

I have sucked as of late getting numbers so for that I apologize.  I do know this movie was big enough of a flop that the head of WWE Films was sacked for it.  This was their attempt at making a film that critics would enjoy and it tanked.

That’s What I Am follows Andy (Chase Ellison) through his last year of junior high.  Andy has many of the typical problems of children his age such as his first crush involving a girl in his class.  Those problems are made worse though when Andy’s favorite teacher Mr. Simon (Ed Harris) makes Andy work on a semester long project with a kid known as “Big G” (Alexander Walters).  Big G is the subject of ridicule at the school for not only being a nerd but for his unusually large body for his age.  Andy has to learn to deal with the intolerant children at school while Mr. Simon is caught up in intolerance of his own as a rumor spreads through the school he is a homosexual.

I am very familiar with WWE Films.  In addition to reviewing The Chaparone (which is one of the unfunniest comedies ever) I have seen most of their other films.  I can tell you the reason this movie failed because I got the same reaction seeing the trailer as I’m sure everyone else had.  It’s that “here we go again” type of feeling.  It is like (to use a simile involving this movie) walking down the hall expecting your daily swirly from the school bully.  The audience came to the decision they did not prefer any more swirlies and chose to transfer to a different school.  The problem is…

 

Ugh, I can’t even say it.  It is like bile in my throat.  The problem is…

That’s What I Am is not a bad movie.  I could go so far as to say it is a good movie.

This is the problem with text reviews because you can’t see the fact I had to projectile vomit for the past few hours due to the fact I had to pay a compliment to WWE Films.  If I had to say one reason why this isn’t a bad movie, is because it does nothing to associate itself with wrestlers or making a shitty wrestler oriented action movie.  Yes, I know the movie was billed as having starred WWE Superstar Randy Orton, but he is not really IN this movie.  I’m reminded of the movie Casino, where Robert DeNiro’s character had to appease the licensing commission by hiring the commissioner’s dumbass cousin.  DeNiro’s character tried putting the putz in the position that would cause the least amount of damage.  That’s what they did with Randy Orton’s character.  I’m not even sure his character has a name.  They just put him in as Bigoted Dad #2 so they could put him in the trailer to draw in the wrestling fans.  I think we all got spoiled with The Rock and his acting abilities none of these other Superstars can act.  If your movie stars Steve Austin, HHH, Big Show, Ted Dibiase, or whoever, then I don’t want to see it.  I can barely believe they can dress themselves in the morning let alone play whatever role you have for them.  Your movies suck because you have to make your movie so shitty in order to give the appearance the wrestler isn’t the worst part of it.

In this movie they let the real actors do their part.  They actually find some good child actors which carry the movie.  Even Ed Harris, who is in a limited supporting role, gives a performance so good at one time I got a little misty eyed.  That’s what I care about.  I want good characters along with good actors to pull them off.  Unless you are making a cheesy wrestling B movie where you have the wrestlers play wrestlers (far out concept, I know), then I really don’t give a crap about the WWE Superstars.

That’s What I Am can probably be described as a 90 minute episode of The Wonder Years.  We have our resident Kevin Arnold going through adolescence and learning a good life lesson by the end of it.  Heck, we even get a narration from an older Andy through the whole movie.  Sadly the narration isn’t done by Daniel Stern.  Much of the humor comes from the “quirky” stuff kids get into at that age.  It is all balanced out by a nice message about tolerance and understanding.

Now this isn’t a great movie.  The script is predicable, the writing is hammy at times, and like I mentioned earlier, this feels more like a long television episode rather than a movie.  But in terms of the expectations I had and the difficult task the director had (making a single WWE Film that didn’t suck) then I consider it a success.  It is not good enough that I would recommend that people go watch it, but if you were at all interested by it, it wouldn’t hurt to give it a shot.  It is a sweet enough movie that I don’t think anyone will have a problem with.

Tears of the Sun (2003) Antoine Fuqua

Posted in T on November 23, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $70 million

Worldwide Gross: $86 million

An elite special ops team (headed by Bruce Willis) is sent in to Nigeria to rescue Dr. Lena Kendrick (Monica Bellucci) before rebel forces assault the village she is in. Kendrick makes the ultimatum though that she will not leave unless the Special Ops team rescues her 70 refugees also.

When I first saw this movie I absolutely hated it. Now seeing it seven years later, I view it more with resigned ‘whatever’ attitude. There’s nothing about this movie that sticks out as being really shitty, but then again there’s nothing that is any good either. This is your standard ‘message’ movie about doing good and feeling sorry for the plight of people in Africa. The main point is that these grizzled war vets who have seen it all and don’t care about anything are moved to action because of the outrageous actions of the militant forces. That’s all well and good but not everything is so black and white as the movie paints it to be. There certainly is a debate as to what the United States’ role is supposed to be in international affairs. I think people are more willing for action if one country is trying to invade another and conquer its people. It could be a separate issue when it is an internal conflict. Would the people of the US have appreciated it if Britain stepped into the US Civil War? Are larger countries to act as world police? This also discounts other ways we could help them by offering a home for refugees or for providing humanitarian aid or other types of political pressure. Now I am not making a specific statement about what is going on in Africa or what the US needs to do or what is the right course of action. I am merely saying there is a debate on what should be done (rightly so), and that it is not as black and white simple as this movie and say Attack on Darfour (Uwe Boll’s latest opus) would have them claim. But now we are straying away from talking about the movie.

The movie itself is…okay I guess. The cinematography is good looking, the direction is well done, and the action scenes for the most part work. One of the best parts is when this elite special forces unit stealthily kills a raiding party attacking a small town. The story, as I explained earlier, is as simple as you can get to move the plot along. They do try adding some intrigue by throwing some questions as to whether Kendrick is lying about something. However this doesn’t have the splash the writers were hoping for and it comes off more as a contrivance than characters working in a logical sense.

I guess my biggest problem is with the characters. None of these people have any kind of personality. At all. An argument could be made that they are blank slates and that the audience is to imprint themselves into the roles. After all, we are supposed to sympathize with the refugees and kind of see ourselves in the roles of the soldiers. In essence, what would we do in those roles? That still does not excuse the fact these people have no personality, no character, and no depth at all. I could not tell you anything about any one of these characters after being with them for over two hours. I even had to look up Bruce Willis’ character name because I didn’t even remember that. If I know absolutely nothing about a character then I have little reason to root for them or care whether they succeed or not.

Tears of the Sun is all kinds of ‘meh’ for me. As I mentioned earlier, nothing about it is truly rotten, its that none of it is any good or memorable. It is not anything I ever want to see again and it is not anything I think anyone should go out and rent.

Transylmania (2009) David and Scott Hillenbrand

Posted in T on June 17, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: unknown

Gross: $400,000

Transylmania is about a teen wanting to go to a Romanian school so he can have sex with his internet girlfriend. His friends decide to go along and spend a semester at the school there because…just because. What these teens don’t know is the school is vampires killing students.

This was originally made in 2007 but pushed out in ’09 because they wanted to capitalize on the recent vampire infatuation with movies like Twilight and shows like True Blood. This “spoof” was one of the worst bombs of 2009.

Within literally the first five minutes you get the gist of the humor. We get sex jokes, homophobic humor, slapstick humor, male nudity, pot humor, and scatological humor. If you didn’t have the lame vampire jokes you would swear this was one of those lame American Pie direct to video flicks. You wouldn’t be that far off because the directors made National Lampoon’s Dorm Daze and Dorm Daze 2. In fact, this is supposed to be Dorm Daze 3 but retitled I suppose not to confuse audiences and just try to cash in on the vampire craze.

I’ve never seen these DTV American Pie-ish type movies and if this is any indication I don’t want to. The humor in this movie is predictable, unoriginal, and plays to the lowest common denominator. How unoriginal is this humor? They rip off Young Frankenstein’s joke of Frau Blucher except whenever they say Razvan a horse farts. Yeah, not only do they steal, but they dumb it down immensely by making it fart humor. Or how about we steal the Marx Brothers mirror scene? They are stealing bits from comics 80 years ago. I’m surprised there aren’t pies in the face humor.

But lets play a quick game. Let’s see if you can predict the punchline to the lame humor in this movie.

Scene #1- The frat guys are all meeting our main characters internet girlfriend. She comes out and has a pretty face but UH OH! She has a large hump on her back. Now, what lame jokes do they make to the main character about his girlfriend? If you said something to the effect of him wanting to “hump” her; congratulations.

Scene #2- Our main character wants some viagra for his big night and asks a friend for some. The friend motions to a random prescription bottle and in a rush jams random and differently colored pills in his mouth. What’s the punchline? If you guessed it wasn’t Viagra and random hallucinogens then you are as predictable as the joke writers for this movie.

Scene #3- Our stoner buddies are buy the local Razvan delicacy. They don’t know what it is but they find it absolutely delicious. What’s the punchline? If you guessed the food was made out of some kind of testicle/penis you are correct.

Now all these jokes are just your random sex/toilet humor from any teen movie. You may be asking “Where is the spoof on the vampires?” Or not… The answer to your question is there really isn’t any. The writers pretend it is, but it isn’t. Ok, I’ll explain. One of the main plot threads is about some badass vampire and his wife. A long long time ago some vampire hunter trapped her soul in a music box and hid it away. The main villain is looking for the music box to get his wife back and whoever opens the box the female vamps soul is infused in them. The problem is this “soul music box” has nothing to do with vampire lore and could be for any generic supernatural villain from a sorcerer/witch to a ghost/ghoul. There is no real focus on vampire lore or on recent vamp pop culture like Twilight. The closest thing we get is one of the school classes is a Hogwart’s like class on vampire slaying. So we make a Harry Potter joke but not a Twilight joke?

Some of the humor doesn’t make any sense anyway. A recurring joke is that when Asian guy (sorry I don’t remember any names but they are all so unmemorable) smokes pot he becomes a talented surgeon. (???) What? Why? Where do you get that? Is that some veiled reference to Harold and Kumar? Why is that funny? What does it mean? Another joke is about a teen who prematurely ejaculates. His friend gives him a Kama Sutra like book to help him out. What is the funny punchline? They have good sex and become instructors on the techniques in the book. Really, what’s the joke?

This movie is a chore. No, actually it’s worse than a chore. I did chores doing the movie (my house is very clean now) and it was preferable to dedicating my full attention to this. And before you accuse me of missing the full experience, I figure if I was able to predict the whole movie through the obvious humor I wasn’t really missing anything. This was a direct to video piece of shit that was released into theaters to try to make a quick buck but for once the general public wasn’t having any of it. Avoid at all costs.

Tetro (2009) Francis Ford Coppola

Posted in T on May 13, 2010 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $15 million

Worldwide Gross: $2.6 million

In the past I have not held back on my comments about Coppola as a director.  True, every director has an off day, but Coppola seems to have them every other day with movies like The Cotton Club, Jack, and Supernova (to name a few).  Even on movies like Apocalypse Now (or other movies he has been brought on to consult) he seems like an incompetent person.  He seemingly does not know how to control his talent, his creative decisions are questionable to say the least, and his poor production/management skills cause his production budgets to skyrocket out of control.  But the moment you think of bad mouthing him, you remember he made Godfather I and 2, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now and you shut the hell up.  However, I will say since the 70’s he has had more limited success.  Youth Without Youth was a nice attempt to return to his artistic roots, but it was ultimately a failure.  Just when I think I am ready to give up on Coppola, the stupid bastard has to go and make a beautiful film like Tetro.  I’m almost disappointed I had to love it.  Hmm.

17 year old Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich) runs away from home to Buenos Aires to find his much older brother Tetro (Vincent Gallo).  Tetro is a poet who essentially exiled himself from the family and especially his overbearing genius conductor father Carlo.  Bennie tries to establish a relationship with Tetro while at the same time, find out what happened in Tetro’s past to make him the way he is.

The movie is in black and white with some color scenes (for flash back a dream sequences).  The look is modeled after certain Italian New Wave films and it is easy to tell the influences.  The cinematography is gorgeous.  This is where I geek out and go into film snob mode but there is a great play of light and shadow in this movie.  At times the movie is dark like a noir while light is almost a character in this movie.  Tetro is almost hypnotized by dancing lights which remind him of a terrible experience and it is here you get some of the most beautiful scenes.  The color scenes too play out like another film which inspired Coppola; the Red Shoes.  There are bright colors and ballet like displays which also make these scenes great.

Of course a movie doesn’t work without a good story and Tetro is a good character study.  Some have noted that it can read as a parallel to Coppola’s life.  While the plot is not biographical, the characters and some of the motivations lend themselves to people in his life.  I’m not sure how much that comes into play (I’ll admit I don’t know much about the man personally) but I do appreciate the story on its own merits.  This story is kind of part coming of age story, part about repairing a family, and part a mystery in finding out what happened to Tetro.  A strong conflict arises between various members of the family and the father Carlo.  He is the center of the universe that everyone must bow to his genius.  When Tetro comes to his father wanting to become a writer, Carlo flatly tells him no because “There is only room in the family for one genius.”  These are not so much willful acts of evil but of a person who is so self centered he can’t see past his own navel.  He is the life of the party and the artist and he cannot conceive of giving to anyone else.  In fact I would say it is more heartbreaking to see Carlo as a man who truly doesn’t care than someone intentionally causing damage.  His willful ignorance is arguably a worse crime and his actions have repercussions on the whole family.  I found myself very interested in the mystery and in the resolution of that.  Now I will say some of the turns are melodramatic (probably to match the movies Coppola is trying to give homage to) and sometimes Tetro is too much of a dick which can cause the audience to turn on the film.  But I was able to stick through it and I found it very interesting.

The acting is also very good.  Ehrenreich is charming as the wide eyed boy trying to beat the older sibling in a battle of wits.  I had never really seen Vincent Gallo act (besides seeing him get his cock sucked by Chloe Sevigny) but I have to say he does a good job.  He is not quite the ‘center of attention’ or ‘life of the party’ the story wants him to be, but overall he does carry this movie well.

Coppola called this the most beautiful movie he ever made and I can see why he thinks that.  It is a personal movie and one of his best artistic efforts.  This is in no way better than his other masterpieces, but I did find myself loving this movie in its own way.  It is a good story which is beautifully told by a veteran director.  Tetro might not be in everyone’s taste in movies, but for many I recommend it as Coppola’s return to form.

Toys (1992) Barry Levinson

Posted in T on April 21, 2010 by moviemoses

Gross: $23 million

I don’t have the numbers but it is a massive failure.  This was a dream project for Barry Levinson for 10 years.  He originally wanted it to be his debut film but he could not find anyone that would fund the project.  This movie was negatively viewed by critics and was nominated for several Razzies (although did not win).

The story is about a toy manufacturer that dies and leaves his estate to his brother who is a retired military general (played by Michael Gambon).  The General wants to make toys capable of holding weapons to be the next stage in military combat.  Two other family members Leslie (Robin Williams) and his sister Alsatia (Joan Cusak) try to stop the General from ruining the toy company.

This is a very hard movie to review.  It is rare to come across a movie that is so divisive as this one.  If you look on IMDb, this is truly the definition of a love or a hate film.  If you look down the list you see two frequent phrases: ‘ misunderstood gem’ or ‘worst movie ever’.  Now I had actually seen this movie when I was a kid but I wanted to check it out again before I gave my verdict on it.  If I had to pick which category, I am going to go with the unpopular opinion and say Toys is a misunderstood gem.

The most striking aspect you will notice of this film is the visual design.  The movie is like a moving surrealist painting.  You have literal pop out houses in the middle of endless fields of grasslands, floating elephant statues, miniature city models, moving staircases, walls which close in on people and all manner of bizarre images.   The imagery keeps the movie as a kind of dream like fable (instead of taking itself too seriously) and represents well the childhood innocence of the characters.  The general’s toys also have facial features and are very menacing villains.

A common complaint is that the story meanders.  The movie really is set up for Robin Williams to do his shtick.  There are many scenes where Robin is given a set of props and just told to go for several minutes.  Even though the story is simple, I think it is effective.  By the end I was really involved in the character and what ended up happening with them.  The movie has a few themes.  One is a kind of left over Cold War sentiment (seeing as how this movie was supposed to be made in 1982 it figures) about paranoia, fear, and the military industrial complex taking over.  It’s a bit dated, but I think if flows into the other theme of keeping a bit of your childhood.  Leslie is, in a way, another Peter Pan kid who doesn’t grow up.  The real theme he tries to show is to always keep a little bit of your childhood alive with a bit of humor and imagination.

The acting, overall, is very good.  Michael Gambon does a great job as the villain delivering incredibly cheesy lines and making them work.  LL Cool J also does a surprising job as the General’s son who loves to use camouflage.  Robin Williams is at his most Robin Williams-esque.  Depending on how you look at it, this is either Robin at his best or at his very worst.  He is bouncing off the walls giving one liner after one liner and moving from prop to prop.  Frankly I think he is the reason why people either love or hate this movie.  You can either enjoy Williams for what he does, or he is the most ear screeching head ache inducing f*cknugget ever put on celluloid.

So yeah, I am not quite sure what to tell you guys.  To me it is a very endearing and original film, but I can certainly see how the story can be bizarre and William’s antics gratingly annoying to some.  If you are feeling a bit brave, I would suggest you at least check out the first 30 minutes or so.  I think by then you will really know whether this is for you or the worst piece of sh*t you’ve ever seen.  But whatever you do…don’t play the Toys SNES game.  Now that was a piece of shit!