Little Nicky (2000)

Little NickyReleased: November 10, 2000. Directed by: Steven Brill. Starring: Adam Sandler, Patricia Arquette, Rhys Ifans. Runtime: 90 min.

I’m not sure why I give Dennis Dugan a hard time as a director. It isn’t that he’s a poor director; it’s just that the movies he directs are usually brought down its poor writing. But Steven Brill is probably the worst director out of Adam Sandler’s crew.

Little Nicky’s (Adam Sandler) two evil brothers Adrian (Rhys Ifans) and Cassius (Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister) have just escaped from Hell and are wreaking havoc on an unsuspecting earth. His dad (Harvey Keitel) is disintegrating and it’s up to Nicky to save him and all of a humanity by midnight before one of his brothers becomes the new Satan.

“Little Nicky” is sort-of a guilty pleasure. Yeah, the premise is far-fetched, but it’s a fun movie. It’s not the worst movie out there, but I know it certainly isn’t the best. One main flaw about the movie is the soundtrack. It just feels like it was made the night before development started, from Rock N’ Roll’s greatest hits.

The main character, Nicky, isn’t exactly the greatest guy out there. He’s the son of Satan. He’s oddly likable, if one could get past his facial oddities. Patricia Arquette a great actress who makes for one of Sandler’s finest on-screen counterparts. In any other Sandler movie, she would not work. But Valerie’s, Arquette’s character, oddities really match the odd personality Nicky possesses. Arquette is sweet and softly-spoken, so she brings Valerie to life well.

The movie’s hilarious at times but the sentimentality doesn’t ring true, really; and the writers attempt to force the sweetness too much. I like the fish-out-of-water humour, and some of the cameos are hysterical. Dana Carvey as a referee, Whitey, who was actually a character in “Eight Crazy Nights,” portrayed by Sandler. Peter Dante and Jonathan Loughran are funny as people who hail Satan.

Quentin Tarantino is awesome as a Deacon who one would see on the streets, the cuckoo guy preaching God’s word. Reese Witherspoon shows up for a bit as a sexy angel. A character from one of Sandler’s classics makes a cameo. And Jon Lovitz shows up as a pervert peering in on a sexy mother, and get sent to hell for it. Whenever he shows up, Kool & The Gang’s Ladies Night sounds, and it’s a great touch.

You’ll only find this movie funny if you enjoy Sandlers’ shtick. He talks in a funny speech impediment throughout. It will get laughs from his fans. His character is distinctive because of the speech impediment. The movie lets us know that Nicky got his speech impediment by being hit in the face by a shovel by his brother Cassius. (Speaking of Nicky’s brothers, Rhys Ifans puts in an amusing turn as Adrian.) Why doesn’t anyone just hit him with a shovel early on again? Maybe it’s like amnesia? Reverse effect, guys…

The movie is completely stupid, but it knows it. So that’s good. That’s funny. But it would be better if it just feels like “Little Nicky,” not “Popeye’s Chicken presents: Little Nicky.” The comedy also gets extra points for shoving pineapples up Hitler’s ass. Thanks for the laughs, Satan.

Score63/100

Mud (2013)

MudTwo teenage boys encounter a fugitive living in a boat in the trees on an island. They form a pact to help him evade the bounty hunters on his trail and to reunite him with his true love.

Release Date: May 10, 2013

Director: Jeff Nichols

Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland

Runtime: 130 min

If you take anything from this movie; it should be that Southern gals named Juniper are bad news.

Mud is a modern-day fairy tale, a crisp chase thriller, and a coming-of-age drama all in one. It’s a gritty fairy tale because Mud is waiting for his love on an island; and there are themes of happily ever after, true love; but it’s less “Repunzel, Repunzel, lay down your hair!” and more like “Mud, Mud, let down that boat!” It’s a chase movie because Mud is a fugitive on the run, attempting to evade some lethal bounty hunters. As for the coming-of-age tale, that mostly lies with Ellis (Tye Sheridan).

He’s at the delicate age of fourteen, the age where one begins to choose role models. His parents are on the brink of divorce, and they really aren’t there to offer much advice; so the role model he chooses is Mud. Ellis must make his way through adult lies and learn his own way through hardships of love. Neckbone doesn’t latch onto Mud the way Ellis does, mostly because he finds a solid role model within his Uncle Galen (Michael Shannon). Mud is a superstitious character, but he’s also a serial liar. He tells great story after great story, and as the film progresses, the audience learns he is appropriately named, because he really is full of shit. The character contrasts are fascinating; Mud wants things to be done, but Ellis (and Neckbone) are the two to do them. Ellis seems to have a lot more backbone than Mud ever would. The lady loves of the story, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), Mud’s love, and May Pearl (Bonnie Sturdivant), is the gal that Ellis has his eyes set on; some of their character traits have striking similarities, and the way Jeff Nichols makes them mirror each other is truly stunning and creative.

Jeff Nichols writes in a lot of themes, and while they may suffocate the story at times, they’re still very beautiful. Nichols suggests that the water current could really make one’s hardships more difficult, because Ellis lives on a makeshift boat on the banks of an Arkansas river, and his parents are struggling with their relationship. Nichols seems to have a true handle on some natural elements. The symbols of snakes and Mud’s wool shirt are thought-provoking and, often enough, poignant. Nichols’ third feature film states that he just didn’t become lucky with a few winners, this states that he is an artist; and most will love the story Nichols has to tell.

The story has a comfortable pace and it knows where it wants to go. It’s slow, but engaging. There are some scenes that might feel redundant at the time, but they don’t interrupt the flow of the film. The cinematography has a crisp feel to it, and it’s stunning when the camera is looking out into the hopeful horizon. The characters will keep you engaged. The relationship that blossoms between Mud and Ellis is about as beautiful as a relationship between a thirty-something sandy-haired fugitive and a fourteen-year old boy can get. Juniper and Mud want to be together; and even if we do not feel we can always trust Mud, he’s always very intriguing and has a lot of depth.

Matthew McConaughey delivers a tour de force performance, and seeing what he does here, it’ll make you much more excited for the upcoming Dallas Buyers Club. Tye Sheridan portrays Ellis very well; he’s capable of being tough, sweet, confused and vulnerable. The performances are superb all across the board. Jacob Lofland gets outshined by Sheridan, but he’s a great comic relief, and a nice presence. His name also reminds us that this is truly a Southern film. Some of the actors have characters that just don’t do much.

Reese Witherspoon portrays Mud’s love, Juniper. She has about ten minutes of screen time. Witherspoon does well with what she has, but if she gets an Oscar nomination for what little she does; it will only be a smaller farce than Jacki Weaver’s nomination for Silver Linings Playbook. Though, Witherspoon being under-utilized is not Nichols’ biggest crime. Michael Shannon has a criminally low amount of screen-time. He portrays Neckbone’s uncle, Galen, where he works as a role model for Neckbone and he wears this huge, comical scuba diving gear – and that’s about it. Shannon is a go-to guy of Nichols, as he is been in his two prior films, as the lead in Take Shelter and Shotgun Stories. It’s great to see Shannon in anything, but if you’re not going to use a guy of Shannon’s talent extremely well, don’t use him at all. This is Nichols’ biggest mistake, and if he does show a preference to use him, he should have cast him as Carver (Paul Sparks), the main bounty hunter adversary of Mud. He would rock that role!

The cast is an excellent ensemble, also including Sarah Paulson, Ray McKinnon and Sam Shepard. The story is impressively engaging, even if it has little wiggle room because of its many themes. Jeff Nichols writes a story that has enough power to strike you down like a mighty current, and raw emotion that will maul at your tear ducts. One thing is for certain, you will never believe a movie with such a dirty title could become such a beautiful work of art.

86/100

Fear (1996)

FearFear

Release Date: April 12, 1996

Director: James Foley

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Reese Witherspoon, William Petersen

Runtime: 97 min

Tagline: Together forever. Or else.

As far as stalker flicks go, they can be great experiments in cinema or they can ultimately fail. Some good ones include Fatal Attraction, Disturbia or Cape Fear. They can be awful like The Roommate or; they can be missed opportunities like Obsessed or; and they can just be mediocre, like this one.

Nicole Walker (Reese Witherspoon) is an innocent, pretty little 16-year-old gal who dreams of making love to the sound of “Wild Horses” by The Sundays. All of this happens when she meets a polite and charming boy, David (Mark Wahlberg). They soon fall in love, and everything’s a picture perfect relationship, until David shows his psychopathic side. As David sees it, the only thing standing in the way of their love is Nicole’s overbearing father, Steve (William Petersen).

Fear is a formulaic stalker feature that goes through the motions, but it is slightly fresh. This apparently is considered a horror flick, but the only scary thing about it is the realistic concept of all creepy stalker features. The performances are solid and the thriller kept me on the edge of my seat for the most part.

It is fresh because Nicole has a tight-knit relationship with her soon-to-be-stalker, and it starts out as an innocent romance. One of the creepiest things of a stalker feature like this, is that it can really happen to anyone. As a young person, many are just looking for the one, or a way to have fun. No one can know the person well enough within a week, and their charming side might just be a cover. That’s one of the only fresh things that it has going for it, however; it is also a piece of the recipe in all other creepy stalker movies. There’s always one dreamer of a gal who’d fall for a guy like that, the charmer with a thoroughly dark side. And screw up her family life by, oh I don’t know, give the boyfriend the alarm code to the house… (Seriously, you dumb, gullible pretty little thing, why didn’t you tell your parents sooner?!) The ending sequence feels reminiscent of Straw Dogs, but it gives it a modern thriller edge. With more silly characters, especially Alyssa Milano’s Margo Masse.

Screaming your damn head off really defeats the purpose of turning off all the lights in the house. You don’t want the baddies to detect where you are in the home, and a high-pitched scream is a pretty big give-away. You silly woman, Margo! There’s also one silly cliché where a character walks into the forest, as if saying “Oh David, I welcome you to kill me.” How ever silly some protagonist characters may be, the antagonist is made challenging and psychopathic. He isn’t brilliant because he does do dumb things, but Wahlberg does a fine job of making him chilling. He challenges the father mostly, because he sees him as a main thing that stands in his way of happiness with Nicole. He doesn’t comprehend that Nicole merely sees him as bat-shit-crazy. I didn’t think Wahlberg could be this insane, and it’s worth the watch for his performance as a fairly brutal psychopath… Especially in his post-Marky Mark days, serenading a twenty-year-old Witherspoon with a naughty good time, perhaps on a car or on a rollercoaster.

The thing with stalker features is we know exactly where they’re going. This did often keep me on the edge of my seat, especially in scenes of suspense or when David was displaying his dark side. Sometimes I couldn’t take the feature seriously, because it’s just unintentionally funny to me when “Wild Horses” is playing on the soundtrack while they’re getting it on…

In a nutshell: Fear is a traditional stalker feature with silly characters, some unintentionally funny moments, and a fairly chilling turn from Walhberg.

Did you know? The rollercoaster featured is called “The Coaster,” one of the biggest attractions at Playland, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

60/100

 

This Means War (2012)

This Means War

Release Date: February 17, 2012. Director: McG. Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy. Runtime: 1hr, 37 min. Tagline: It’s SPY Against SPY.

Best buddy CIA agents FDR [Franklin] (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) are marked for death by Heinrich, an enemy of the CIA. He marks them for death because they killed his brother. They get pulled out of the field because of this. Tuck decides to insert some fun into his life by trying online dating. He meets the beautiful Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), and he is immediately stricken. FDR is also stricken when he flirts with her in a video store – and he soon swoons her into a date. The two budaroo’s soon find out they’re dating the same woman, and they “respectfully” decide to keep quiet and let her make the decision. Though, they’re finding being respectful is a little harder than expected, and they put cameras all over her home and start sabotaging each other’s dates.

Oh, you know that old buddy comedy formula. They each vow that this something-or-rather competition (in this case, winning the affection of a sexy gal) will not get in the way of their friendship. However, that promise is never kept. And then they’re all magically hunky-dory in the end.

If you go into this expecting full-blown quality action, you won’t get it. There are about four action sequences that are enjoyable, but mediocre. And they are certainly not memorable. This is very much a romantic comedy. Though, it is more comedy than romance. It’s mostly hilarious with some comedy lacking in a few areas of the film. The three protagonists are likeable, but hypocritical.

SPOILER ALERT: When Lauren finds out that FDR and Tuck knew each other, she gets angry and says “I trusted you.” Well, lady, you’re the one who was dating two men at the same time. Then she immediately forgives the two lads. END OF SPOILERS.

The story is okay, but it’s very predictable. In the simplest of words, it’s just a story of retaliation. The main protagonists just go after each other after one sabotages one’s date, and it’s just a never-ending cycle. The story certainly isn’t one for the ages, and it really isn’t a film I’d like to endure again any time soon. Mostly because it has some of the worst storytelling I’ve ever seen. The general premise is an okay one, but it’s just brought down by a few aspects. This is mostly the Heinrich sub-plot. The writers never really forget about him, but they don’t make his character anything special. They drop a few reminders throughout the film that he’ll probably return. Also, the storytelling is so bad, that I’m 95% sure they never even tell us why they’re after Heinrich. Sure, some characters say: “What does this have to do with the Heinrich case?” But I don’t think they ever even bothered to tell us. Sure, it might be ‘If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you’ confidential, but we, as the audience, what to know! Also, the only reason FDR and Lauren really hit it off was because Lauren was trying to make an ex-boyfriend jealous, and the writers completely forgot about him after the fact.

This Means War is by no means a horrid film, it is only a flawed and an extremely mediocre one. It’s a fun, funny and entertaining ride, that just gets completely brought down by a far-too average story, lack of action, poor storytelling and characters that are hard to care for completely.

This also violated the rule of ‘Don’t show a movie that’s better than your own.’ In a nutshell, don’t freaking show Gone with the Wind in your movie!

Score: 60 out 100