Rugrats in Paris: The Movie – Rugrats II (2000)

Released: November 17, 2000. Directed by: Stig Bergqvist, Paul Demeyer. Starring: Christine Cavanaugh, Susan Sarandon, John Lithgow. Runtime: 78 min.

The Rugrats travel to Paris, France, where Chuckie hopes to find a new mother and keep his father from marrying an evil business woman.

I think this is a smart film because it’s effectively simplistic, but there’s still enough silliness for the kids. And lots of fun for adults. It’s not the best kids film in the world, but it’s a lot better than the first Rugrats movie. It has references to the Godfather and homages to monster movies with a monster mash in the middle of Paris, which is pretty awesome.

It’s poignant in the way Chuckie wants a mother, and he’s the main protagonist this time around. The antagonists are mainly good because of their voicework. The despicable Madame LaBouche is voiced by Susan Sarandon; and her assistant, Jean-Claude, is voiced by John Lithgow.

The movie gets big laughs, and the musical numbers are very memorable, unlike the music of the first. This is definitely my favourite Rugrats film.

Score75/100

The Last of Robin Hood – TIFF 2013 Review

Released: September 6, 2013 at Toronto International Film Festival. Directed by: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland. Starring: Kevin Kline, Dakota Fanning, Susan Sarandon. Runtime: 94 min. 

The Last Of Robin Hood“The Last of Robin Hood” chronicles the final months of Errol Flynn (Kevin Kline), the iconic Robin Hood star and well-known ladies man. During this time, he had a romance with the under-age starlet Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning), his last love, and he was her first. Susan Sarandon portrays the world’s worst Mom, Florence Aadland, who agrees to go around with Errol and her daughter so the press doesn’t think anything fishy is going on.

The tale is told in a stylish and entertaining manner. Beverly and Florence’s personality clashes are interesting. Florence is willing to do just about anything to get the spotlight shone on her, while Bev is completely indifferent about fame. Fame is Flo’s dream, not Bev’s. This lifestyle is shoved onto Beverly. Flo lost her leg in a bad car accident when she was younger. I theorize that Florence would have liked to eventually pursue an acting career, but couldn’t because her prosthetic leg held her back. No matter the case, she is the world’s worst mother.

Beverly is also one bad actress. When Beverly is on-screen shooting a movie, it’s hilarious because during her one shoot, she’s absolutely terrible – but Dakota Fanning’s performance is good. You can tell when she’s acting well, and acting purposefully bad. As her father says in one powerful scene, Bev cannot act her way out of a paper bag. The father is portrayed by Patrick St. Esprit, who is effective in one scene. Sarandon brings it to her role, and it must be challenging to portray a mother that pretends to make sacrifice after sacrifice for her daughter, but it’s mostly just what she wants.

The romance between Errol and Bev might be controversial because of their age difference, but it seems real, and makes for an interesting subject. Kevin Kline is the perfect choice for Errol Flynn, and it’s interesting to learn all of this about the original Robin Hood. His performance, and the rest of the primary cast, elevates the film to a whole new level. It’s stylish and there’s a decent amount of comic relief. This is an enjoyable passion project from directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. It’s never boring, but the content is repetitive. Much like “My Week with Marilyn,” this bio pic is light on just about everything. It’s good that way, but it doesn’t help it stand out.

Score74/100

Snitch (2013)

snitchReleased: February 22, 2013. Director: Ric Roman Waugh. Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Barry Pepper, Jon Bernthal. Runtime: 1hr 52 min. Tagline: How far would you go to save your son?

Snitch, a film based on a true story, opens with a young man, Jason Collins (Rafi Gavron), talking to a buddy on Skype. The best friend asks if he can ship drugs to Jason’s address, and tempts him by saying he can try some if he wants, and the skeptical Jason says he’ll talk to him later about it. When the drugs get to his door, DEA agents track the package and bring him into custody.

It seems that his so-called best friend has set him up by sending drugs to his house, and by doing so, his own sentence will be reduced. The only option for Jason is to do the same, or face a minimum sentence of ten years in prison. His integrity is too strong to do so, so he’s left to sit on his hands. Though, his construction worker father, John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson) can’t let that happen. John and Jason’s mother are divorced, and Jason wants little to do with his dad.

John chooses that the only one to save his son from prison is to become an informant himself. With help from one of his ex-con employees, Daniel Cruz (The Walking Dead‘s Jon Bernthal), he is able to get an introduction to a drug dealer in order to take down a cartel, participate in a drug deal, and in turn, reduce his son’s sentence.

Snitch is a decent-enough film. The feature takes a fairly simple plot and attempts to make it a little more complex than it has to be. With this, it manages to write in a few surprises for the audience. The characters are also one of the best parts of the film.

First of all, the supporting legal players who help John out are pretty good. Susan Sarandon plays an attorney who doesn’t have that big a heart for John, as she would be willing to risk John’s life for a bigger arrest. In the first place, it’s not extremely easy to believe that the DEA would be willing to let this man get involved with this drug world. She seems to be the face of greedy lawyers everywhere, but she isn’t entirely despicable, as this is an intense situation. Barry Pepper’s character is also good, and he embraces his stereotype of traditional DEA agent, while sporting a long beard. Seriously, you’ll want to grasp that hair and take some scissors to it.

John attempts very hard to connect with his son, but it proves difficult since Jason doesn’t want anything to do with him. The fact that Jason feels abandoned makes some of the concepts very real and, frankly, rather profound. John’s just really a family man risking his life, and the future of his own family. Though, it’s admirable that he’d go to these extreme measures to help him and rescue him. The fact that he is a construction company owner also makes it logical to the drug dealers, since they see it that he’s merely trying to save a company that he’s worked hard to get off the ground. Dwayne Johnson plays him fairly well, and even though he feels miscast because he sometimes has to act wimpy while he’s so huge, he makes the best of it, and he ends up being pretty good. Daniel Cruz’s motivations are, like John’s, for his family. Some of his character’s actions are stereotypical ‘former ex-con trying to make good for himself, but he ends up falling in with the wrong crowd’, but he’s just trying to make money for his family. He embraces his stereotype and does a good and believable job with it, and it’s just satisfying enough to make me think he can do well outside of The Walking Dead.

Since these men are trying to fend for their families and their motivations are very real and rather understandable, we all can become easily invested in them. The story manages to get in more surprises than one would expect, but the goings-on to the end are often surprising; the actual end, one could see coming from the opening credits. The story is just average at best. The character’s genuine motivations make us care for them, and since one could easily be invested in them, the characters are the thing that makes one engaged in the film, not strictly the story itself. We don’t want to see these families destroyed, we need that happy ending. The story is never extremely exciting, but it’s never particularly boring.

The film is falsely advertised. It feels more like a genuine crime drama with solid characters, and not a mindless action film like Johnson’s many vehicles. There isn’t much action as much would expect. Yes, there is some, but if you think about it as a crime drama with the flair for intensity and action, you’ll like it a lot more. If you go in expecting balls-to-the-wall action, odds are you’ll be sorely disappointed. The film is fairly slow and lengthy, with maybe three to five action sequences. When the action shows up, the sequences are pretty good, but the cinematography is very dizzying and it makes it hard to follow who’s getting pushed off the road or what’s happening exactly. That’s one of its major flaws.

The film is also fairly slow and lengthy. Another flaw is, though it offers a solid time during, there isn’t a lot of memorable content. By the time December rolls around, one might struggle saying what Snitch is about, exactly. Dwayne Johnson (who is the size of a small truck) in a semi-truck, narcotics, a few car crashes, and dizzying scenes might come to mind. It’s rather forgettable, and if you do indeed struggle to remember this at the end of the year; no, it is not a sequel to Snatch.

Score: 71/100

That’s My Boy (2012)

That's My BoyThat’s My Boy

Release Date: June 15, 2012

Director: Sean Anders

Stars: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester

Runtime: 116 min

Tagline: The story of a child… and his son.

Sandler should be put in jail for theft, for the theft of my time, that is!
While in his teens, Donny (Adam Sandler) fathered a son, Todd, a.k.a. Han Solo (Andy Samberg), and raised him up until Todd’s 18th birthday. Donny’s irresponsibility is transferred to his adult life, where he is ignorant enough not to pay his taxes for a few years. He must come up with $43, 000 within a week’s notice, or else he’ll have to face jail time. He then finds this TV host who says he’d pay Donny that sum of money if he could get his son and the the former teacher that “molested” him to do a reunion show.

That’s where it all begins. Donny must find his son and try to convince him to do the show, but he then tries to desperately reconnect with his son in some way. He shows up in his son’s life inappropriately right before his wedding, right when all the in-laws and friends are down. Everyone thinks Todd’s parents died in a car accident, and they think Donny is only Todd’s best friend.

Oh yeah, it’s the old generic tale: Find the son. Try to bond, but the son’s reluctant. He feels the father never cared for him. The father shows him he cares in some way. They’re all content with being each other’s lives. Something happens. Then in the end, you’re taught that family is the most important thing. You get the picture, yada-yada. Leave it to Adam Sandler to use one of the most generic comedy formulas in the book.

You may be asking yourselves – why would I voluntarily put myself through this?

Do I like self-inducing pain onto myself? Not particularly. Was I sort of curious as to how bad, or how good this might turn out to be? Moderately. Most of all, I wanted my brain to take a vacation with a simple-minded comedy. Usually, when I want to watch a generic and predictable comedy, I like my brain to just turn off practically completely. But you know, not to a point where I’m dead. It helps me relax. But, with this one, my brain couldn’t turn off. Yes, it was simple and mindless – but it was also obnoxious and pointless. I just kept thinking; this is so bad. When is it going to end?

Think of my brain vacation like this: I like my brain to take a vacation to an exotic place like Hawaii or something. A place that can offer me plenty of laughs, some fun, sexy girls, and one that could offer me entertainment throughout. Instead, my brain sort of went to a town in Eastern Europe that no one likes. A place that is dirty, pointless, nightmarish, a place that no one would want to go to,  and a place you just want to get out of; there are a few sexy women in here, though, so regarding that – it’s Eastern Europe with sexy women.

Adam Sandler tries to return to his roots here by bringing back that child in a man’s body character. He tries to mix it with the modern crude and rude comedy of today, and it doesn’t really work. Unlike the great characters of Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison, Donny is obnoxious – but in an unfunny way. The jokes are tasteless and I might have laughed once or twice in a near-two hour feature. The plot is just ridiculous, and when a plot line of incest gets brought into the picture, I draw the imaginary line in the sand.

The characters are poor. Especially the character of Donny and Todd. They both try to be funny, but they’re both not. Also, Leighton Meester hasn’t yet started to dish out any likeable characters (with the exception of her character in Country Strong). Everyone else isn’t notable. The cast is only okay, but you won’t get Oscar performances from an Adam Sandler comedy. However, apparently there will be Oscar nominees and Oscar winners in here. How on earth did Sandler convince one-time Oscar nominee James Caan and Oscar winner Susan Sarandon to be in this?

It’s nice to see that Sandler tried to make his own project, here. He didn’t involve many of his buddies – there was only Nick Swardson, Blake Clark and Will Forte. Also, the director, Sean Anders (Sex Drivehasn’t worked with Sandler before this feature. I doubt he’ll want to work for him again, though.
That’s My Boy tried to be funny, but it’s really one of the stupidest movies I’ve ever had the misfortune of sitting through. There is a few laughs to be had, but that’s about it. The laughs that come are one from Sandler and one from the cross-eyed caveman looking Swardson. I should really put “I finished That’s My Boy” on my resumé, I’m pretty sure I’d get hired anywhere. It shows real patience, because I just kept waiting for it to get good. Guess what? It never came. This is an improvement on last year’s Jack and Jill or Bucky Larson (but that isn’t really an impressive feat, everything’s a step up from those) but it’s worse than Grown Ups (laugh-wise, this one at least had a plot line – no matter how pointless). This is just yet another film that says Sandler’s career is in a hole, and I really hopes he finds that shovel, to dig him out of it, sometime soon.

Consider yourselves warned. 

20/100