Triple review: ‘Bedtime Stories,’ ‘Mr. Deeds’ and ‘You Don’t Mess with the Zohan’

These are a few Sandler movies that are being reviewed from memory…

Bedtime StoriesReleased: December 25, 2008. Director: Adam Shankman. Stars: Adam Sandler, Keri Russell, Guy Pearce. Runtime: 99 min.

“Bedtime Stories” is imaginative and it’s one of Sandler’s more family-friendly efforts, but it’s lame, boring and forgettable.

Score38/100

 

Mr. Deeds

 

Released: June 28, 2002. Director: Steven Brill. Stars: Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, John Turturro. Runtime: 96 min.

“Mr. Deeds” is a watchable Adam Sandler movie. You root for Longfellow Deeds because he’s a small-town guy trying to adapt to the big city life, and he’s likeable enough to wish for his happiness. Ryder’s character at first is extremely unlikeable. Like most comedies (with hints of romance), it’s predictable – and you’ll see Ryder’s change of heart from 96 minutes away. There’s a few laugh-out-loud moments (“I think I just shat myself!”) and a lot of chuckles, so it’s an entertaining comedy that I find myself always watching when it’s on TV. John Turturro is amusing in his supporting role. But I assume it’s inferior to the original, but I can’t comment on that because I haven’t seen it.

Score70/100

You Don't Mess with the ZohanReleased: June 6, 2008. Director: Dennis Dugan. Stars: Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui. Runtime: 113 min.

I watched this on TV the other week. I was half-paying attention and half on the computer, but even as part-background noise, it was still as awful as I remember it being at the theatre. The plot isn’t entirely stupid (An Israeli Special Forces Soldier fakes his death so he can re-emerge in New York City as a hair stylist), at least compared to some of Sandler’s other works, but the humour is stupid. I like politically incorrect humour – but all I ask is that it’s funny, like some of Sacha Baron Cohen’s work (mostly just “Borat”). Sacha Baron Cohen, Sandler is not. This is a middling effort, but at least there’s an effort to make his character memorable, since he isn’t distinctive in all of his average guy roles. It’s really too bad that it’s also one of his worst characters. John Turturro tries his best, but even he can’t make this enjoyable.

Score38/100

Advertisements

Re-review of Cloverfield (2008)

CloverfieldReleased: January 18, 2008. Director: Matt Reeves. Stars: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller. Runtime: 85 min.

Dave over at Dave Examines Movies asked me some time ago to re-watch “Cloverfield.” He asked me to watch the movie in a different light; as he thought my score of 66 was a bit too low. I watched this on July 10th, I believe, when I was getting excited for “Pacific Rim.” I wanted to get a bit more excited for it, so I thought it was the best time to re-watch this, one of the only monster movies I own. I watched it with an open mind,

The film revolves around a monster attack in New York as told from the point of view of a small group of people.

It’s impressive to think that J.J. Abrams kept this project for what it truly was secret for so long (many thought it was another Godzilla movie), especially in a society where even J.K. Rowling’s pseudonym isn’t safe. It’s also an impressive directorial debut from Matt Reeves (“Let Me In” is a really good flick, too) and features some good writing from Drew Goddard. It’s rarely boring, and the movie doesn’t last too long — so that’s pretty good if the viewer isn’t liking it so much. I’m usually not a big fan of found footage movies, as I think a found footage flick gem comes around only so often (“Chronicle” is my favourite of the bunch), but the insane camerawork of this film captures the true chaos of this situation. They’re like real people, and this is a seriously terrifying situation, even if there aren’t many big scares. The tiny cast carries the film well.

This is a fun monster movie with a cool, you know, monster; even if I’m not sure I’ll re-visit it again after watching it twice. The ending is a bit too abrupt for my tastes, as well. Maybe I’ll have to check out some of those Godzilla movies soon, before that remake comes out next year. Admittedly, this does seem like a movie that gets better with each viewing, and it helps that I was in the mood for a monster flick.

Score75/100

Here’s my original review of “Cloverfield.”

Pontypool (2008)

pontypoolReleased: September 6, 2008. Director: Bruce McDonald. Stars: Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly. Runtime: 93 min.

When a film opens with sound waves moving up and down, and a man with a soothing voice talks about a missing cat, and some sort-of conspiracy behind it all, one knows they’re in for a different type of movie experience. Hell, when a movie is called Pontypool – it’s pretty clear the movie’s going to be unique. I watched “Pontypool” for the reason of receiving it in a Not-So-Secret-Santa blogathon ran by Nick over at the Cinematic Katzenjammer. I’m glad I did receive this film, because it would have never landed on my radar if I hadn’t – and no, not only because it has a name like Pontypool.

Mostly because I hadn’t heard of it before – and, even though I do like the occasional lethal infection sort-of movie – I might not have picked it out. The movie has a satirical way about it, and there are more than a few laugh-out-loud moments, even if none are entirely memorable. I like the message of how English media may turn citizens into mindless beings who are destined to repeat themselves, stuck in an everyday routine. This pays homage to zombie movies and viral infection movies, as well as taking influence from H.G. Wells’ radio play, “War of the Worlds.” This very much feels like a radio play, throughout the first half, at least.

notsosecretsanta2

Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) is an average everyday radio personality who is front and centre throughout this feature about a small Ontario town plagued by some sort-of sickness, that begins with violent behaviour and quickly escalates.

The reason I have kept the synopsis of the film so brief is because that’s how it is for the first half of the film. Taut and vague. It is a masterwork in tension building. We are outside briefly with Mazzy before he gets to work – where he encounters a strange woman – but when he gets to the radio station and closes the front doors, we are right there with him. As well as the radio show’s producer Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle) and a tech gal, Laurel-Ann (Georgina Reilly). That is the primary cast, and Reilly is competent, as is Houle, but McHattie’s the real star. We only know as much as Mazzy and co. do, only hearing about the going-ons outdoors from eyewitnesses and Ned in the Sunshine Copter. We never really know whether or not it’s a virus or a zombie film until the action comes.

And that’s one of the smartest things about the movie: it keeps us in the dark. Some movies have great tension-building and horrible pay-offs, but that isn’t completely the case with this. It has some great tense scenes in the third act, and some great thrills. But the first half of it is superior, much like most modern horrors. It wouldn’t be completely horrifying for most because there aren’t huge scares (but then again, I don’t think the film-makers were going for huge scares), but it’s a bit spookier for me, since the setting of Pontypool, Ontario is right in my province and four hours away from me. It seems to make it a bit more real for me, than it might for others.

“Pontypool” is a unique horror/thriller that has fun with its premise and creates a taut atmosphere in the process. Since it gives us limited knowledge in the beginning, it allows us to try to piece the puzzle together, without being too vague or too obvious. The tension building is the most memorable aspect of the movie.

Nick wants us to be creative with our reviews — so I’ll make a haiku of the movie to finish things off:

Pontypool: clever,

scary and taut with good cast

and funny title

Score: 80/100

Iron Man (2008)

Iron ManIron Man

Release Date: May 2, 2008

Director: Jon Favreau

Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges

Runtime: 126 min

Iron Man is a good movie that introduces a second-tier super hero to mainstream audiences. It changes Iron Man from a hero that is only known by avid comic book readers, to one of the more popular of the Marvel universe. Robert Downey Jr. portrays the textbook narcissist extremely well. The action sequences are effective and the plot is easy to follow. Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane is awesome, but I’m not sure how likely it is for Stane to become a household name.  Jon Favreau brings some fine direction to the picture. The beginning is rather slow. Though, after it gets past fifty minutes, things heat up. It’s worth the wait. It truly does ease itself into a comfortable pace, and it’s good entertainment from then on.

76/100

Cloverfield (2008)

CloverfieldCloverfield

Release Date: January 18, 2008

Director: Matt Reeves

Stars: Mike Vogel, Jessica Lucas, Lizzy Caplan

Runtime: 85 min

Tagline: Some thing has found us

Older review, written November 26, 2012. 

You all know how these found footage feautures work, right? Something attacks, everyone (probably) dies. Yup. That’s it, that’s all. That’s all she wrote.

Cloverfield revolves around a monster attack in New York as told from the point of view of a small group of people.

The cinematography is about as shaky as that of The Blair Witch Project. The story may not be that realistic, but it is still a pretty scary idea. Imagine this: You’re just partying, having a good time, and then there’s a crash outside. You go out to investigate, and there’s a big monster out there, and you think to yourself, “Holy crap! I thought I was in New York, not Tokyo!”

What if you get separated by your family and friends? You might not see them anymore because of this. That’s a scary thought.

Anyways, it’s action-packed and sort of thrilling, but at times it gets boring. I don’t dig these traditional stories that most found footage films offer. The formula is tired, and footage should just get sweeped under the rug for a little while. This one is just okay, but it brings a belief to so many other new filmmakers: “Hey, I could get a few million bucks and make my own movie… I’ll do that… It’ll be good…” No, young filmmakers, the joke’s on you! Once in a blue moon, a found footage horror flick is actually good. They’re usually bad, and you’ll probably produce that crappy one. So don’t. Please. At least for another ten years.

66/100

Did you know? The film begins on April 27 and ends on May 23 at the exact same time: 6.42 AM.

The Strangers review

The Strangers

Release Date: May 30, 2008

Director: Bryan Bertino

Stars: Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler, Gemma Ward

Runtime: 86 min

Tagline: Lock the door. Pretend you’re safe.

The Strangers offers a spooky and fairly unique experience.

James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) and Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) have just returned to a remote Hoyt family vacation home after a wedding reception. In the middle of the night, they get a knock on the door. The porch light is off, and the young woman is mysterious. Soon enough, they begin to get terrorized by three masked strangers. The couple find themselves thrown into a wicked game of cat and mouse. This violent struggle they have been unfairly plunged into makes them make quick decisions for survival that they never thought possible.

The Strangers offers a fairly unique experience, poor character development, and a fine story that plays out well.

The fact that this film is based on actual events (that happened in the director’s [Bryan Bertino’s] childhood neighbourhood) makes the film about twenty times spookier. That’s really what makes this hit closer to home, because it just makes you more aware than you already were that these sort of occurrences tend to actually happen a lot.

I usually really like watching this film because it often offers an entertaining experience, but I’ve seen it about four times and I think I’ve finally worn it out, and if I ever want to watch it again – it probably won’t be for another few years. Its ups are that it offers an entertaining ride, it isn’t all that time consuming, and it has some effective scares. The real scary thing about this are the masked villains, the true happenings of it all, and it’s a film that has a large abundance of fairly effective pop–out  scares. It is more of a psychological horror/thriller because the killers terrorize the couple, and they really don’t rush to attack them – they just mostly use a whole charade of mind games at the start. Also, the use of music in this film is truly clever and very effective. There isn’t a whole lot of gore, only at a few scenes – so for those who are faint of heart won’t overly mind this one.

There are unfortunately a number of flaws for this one. A huge one is the unruly camera work, it isn’t like The Blair Witch Project bad, but it still isn’t very steady at all. The opening scene isn’t a huge flaw, but it just makes the conclusion really predictable. The character development is really quite awful. I always criticize this one scene, because one character is just so darn stupid (people who have seen this might know the scene I’m speaking of). The said character isn’t a major one, but I should make a commentary for that scene because they’re really that dumb. Anyway, the character development: the beginning doesn’t allow any great character development at all. It isn’t a huge plot point, but here’s your SPOILER ALERT warning anyway. Since Kristen declines James’ marriage proposal, the viewer may just see the female lead as cold-hearted, which in turn, doesn’t allow for a great view on the lead characters. Some of their decisions are just really stupid, too, because they really don’t believe in the buddy system at all.

It’s like they always want to be alone, which isn’t a clever idea in this sort of situation. One thing

I also greatly criticised in this viewing because I was looking for it, the terrorizers always knew wherever the couple was. It maybe took about ten to thirty seconds for them to locate each other. It’s a big property; it just shouldn’t be that easy!

I have three silly theories of how the strangers could find the couple so easily, so you shouldn’t really take them very seriously. The terrorizers must have ran into the couple beforehand, maybe the wedding reception or something, and put tracking devices in their drinks, and when the couple had digested the small devices, the strangers could just track them on a tracker and find them no problem. Or, my second theory, is that the masked strangers must have had a fourth party somewhere in the woods. That person would be equipped with night vision goggles, black clothing and  would tell the strangers wherever the couple ended up. So if either James or Kristen had their back to a door, the person would be like: “Mr. Masked Man, one of the couple has their back turned to the house, so walk up behind them with an axe in a menacing manner.” And my third theory is that the strangers are simply a family of psychopaths who have psychic abilities.

The film is written and directed by Bryan Bertino, and stars Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler, Gemma Ward as Dollface, Kip Weeks as Man in the Mask, Laura Margolis as Pin-Up Girl, and Glenn Howerton.

The Strangers has quite a few flaws, from character development to pacing to an often lack of realism; but, it also offers some good entertainment, an effective use of music, an effective true story, and a good psychological ride. I did definitely like it enough to be excited for a sequel. I can recommend it to those who like psychological horror a lot, or lots of pop-up scares.

 65/100

Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In) – A film review by Daniel Prinn — A great film from Sweden.

Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In)

Release Date: October 24, 2008

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Stars: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar

Runtime: 115 min

Tagline: Eli is 12 years old. She’s been 12 for over 200 years and, she just moved in next door.

 

[Mr. Christie, you make good cookies] Sweden, you make great films.

Oskar is a troubled and lonely twelve-year old boy who is bullied constantly at school, and is yet to fight back. When a mysterious young girl, Eli, moves in next door to him in his apartment block – he hopes he has found a companion to confide in. Also, coinciding with the girl moving in next door, a series of murders come to the surface; with the victims being hanged upside down and being drained of their blood. Once Oskar discovers that Eli is really a “young” vampire, he finds love and revenge in her – and their young love both blossoms and dwindles, and must try to overcome the fact of how different they may seem to be on the outside; all set on the beautiful landscape of a cold 1982 winter in a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden.

One thing about this film that can be greatly appreciated (or loved) is that it’s so much more than just your average vampire film, it is also a great and tender display of adolescent love.

This [film] was my first foreign film experience and I really enjoyed it. It’s a very impressive Swedish film about a young boy who has been bullied and misunderstood all of his life, all the while his parents are going through a divorce. It well blends the genres of drama, horror, and romance in a great and stylish way. There isn’t a whole lot of horror but the elements that are there are very great and often spooky and extremely eerie. I just really appreciated the profound effect it has for a vampire film. Let the Right One In is also very compelling and never let go of my attention. I really appreciate it because it is as beautiful as it is horrifying and thrilling. It all seems like a wonderful adaptation from a book of the same name.

For those of you who don’t want to watch a vampire flick in Swedish; Hollywood remade it and renamed it Let Me In, and it’s actually a pretty great substitution – with a performance from Chloë Grace Moretz that I prefer more than this girl’s performance (maybe familiarity plays a part in that statement) ; but the actress of this film does really perform well, as does the actor who portrays Oskar.

The film contains one of the finest wimp vs. bully moments in cinema, which is near on the great caliber as Straw Dogs.

The film stars Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar,  Lina Leandersson as the “young” Eli, and Per Ragnar as Håkan, a man who wants to find and kill Eli to avenge the deaths of some friends.

It’s a film that is worth checking out, but some of it is rather disturbing and often gory (it’s to be expected as it deals with vampires), and it is definitely not the feel-good film of 2008 (it is both depressing during certain scenes and also occasionally [sort of] brought me a happy feeling in others). Let the Right One In is a film that is parts compelling, horrifying, fascinating, beautiful and entertaining; and is about as must-see as vampire films go. It is my favourite vampire film, as it is both nearly flawless (some of it’s not perfectly paced) and great – and the only vampire flick I’ve seen that comes even close to being this great is its American remake. It’s a dark and entertaining experience, that is a very memorable story, as it is a uniquely terrifying coming-of-age tale.

95/100