Thursday, July 21, 2016

Johnny English - 7 stars out of 10

Johnny English - 7 stars out of 10

“Johnny English” (essentially “Mr. Bean Becomes a Secret Agent”) is everything that you would expect from a Rowan Atkinson spy film.  When a bomb blows up all of England’s competent MI7 agents, the only agent left alive is Johnny English.  Few things go right during his missions throughout the film and when they do, it is usually by accident.  Even though Atkinson is best known for his classic Mr. Bean character, I think that his physical comedy is even funnier when paired with his dry delivery of dialogue.  Plus, there are several moments when you can’t help but picture Zazu from “The Lion King” delivering the lines!  From his fight with an imaginary assailant to his slurred dialogue after accidentally drugging himself , Atkinson’s comedic genius breathes life into this otherwise run of the mill spy parody.  One of the most unexpected pieces of this puzzle is that Natalie Imbruglia is a surprisingly good actress.  I assumed that her fame began and ended with her one-hit wonder song "Torn" but after seeing her act, I would love to see her in more films.  I also have to throw John Malkovich’s name out there because he always makes a great villain!  I appreciated the use of Handel’s “Zadok the Priest” to give the coronation scene a sense of authenticity and Robbie Williams’ song “A Man for All Seasons” left me in a great mood during the ending credits.  The critics may not have liked “Johnny English” but this goofball spy parody is an enjoyable break from dramatic movies that take themselves too seriously.

[Pictured: Nothing odd happens in this movie.]

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Replacements - 5 stars out of 10

The Replacements - 5 stars out of 10

“The Replacements” is a typical sports comedy.  It is full of clich├ęd characters, stupid humor, and zany antics.  It also offers an much more unique storyline than you would expect from a sports comedy.  The story revolves around a players strike that forces NFL teams to fill their rosters with replacement players.  This is the perfect set-up to realistically incorporate quirky characters in a professional sports setting.  Keanu Reeves is generally hit or miss because his “Bill and Ted” way of speaking either works for a character or doesn’t.  This is a great role for him as a combination of a jock and a likeable everyman.  The football team is made up of an interesting crew.  You’ve got Neo, Roy from “The Office,” that old 7-Up spokesman, and the director of “Elf” and “Iron Man” (Reeves, David Denman, Orlando Jones, and Jon Favreau).  I love any appearance by Gailard Sartain and Gene Hackman has a few opportunities to show his acting chops amidst the chaotic comedy.  I don’t love the excessive shots of the stripper-cheerleaders.  There are way too many shots of them, as in between every single play.  The running gag isn’t funny and just serves as a consistent disruption to the flow of the game.  This may be a sports comedy but at its core, it is still a football movie.  I was glad to see that John Madden and Pat Summerall were utilized as significant characters instead of disappearing after a brief cameo.  The film preserves the iconic style of Madden, even if it is just in a goofball comedy.  “The Replacements” isn’t worthy of any Oscars but it is sure to please sports fans and comedy fans alike.

[Pictured: It doesn't get much quirkier than these characters!]

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Team Foxcatcher - 7 stars out of 10

Team Foxcatcher - 7 stars out of 10

“Team Foxcatcher” is a disturbing look into the disillusioned life of John du Pont.  This documentary works as an amazing follow-up to the 2014 film “Foxcatcher” that earned five Oscar nominations, including acting nominations for Steve Carell as du Pont and Mark Ruffalo as wrestler Dave Schultz.  I don’t know that your average moviegoer or sports fan would have had much interest in this story prior to the 2014 film but ever since, people are fascinated by this surreal true story.  This documentary draws from a number of resources to tell the story to du Pont’s descent into paranoia.  Resources include interviews, excerpts from du Pont’s self-produced videos about Foxcatcher, and chilling footage of him interacting with his wrestlers.  One of the oddest parts of this film is the segment about how his friends would pay off wrestlers to lose matches against du Pont, helping him to operate under the impression that he was more than a bankroller to the wrestling world.  The film reaches a rather poignant point when Schultz’s daughter mourns the death of du Pont, commenting on the contrast between the public sadness when her father died and the public celebration when du Pont died.  It has been very easy to villainize John du Pont but “Team Foxcatcher” reminds us of the humanity of this man and how mental illness can lead to tragedy if not recognized and properly treated.  Just prepare to be unsettled when you watch this one.

[Pictured: A wrestler is paid off to allow du Pont to win a tournament]

Monday, July 18, 2016

Fastball - 9 stars out of 10

Fastball - 9 stars out of 10

“Fastball” is an awesomely informative documentary that examines the relationship formed between a pitcher and a batter by way of the fastball.  Even if you are already a big baseball fan, you will learn something from this documentary.  Kevin Costner is a great choice for the narrator.  His roles in “Field of Dreams,” “Bull Durham,” and “For the Love of the Game” have made his voice synonymous with baseball and the film just “feels” like baseball because of his narration.  The documentary is split into different segments in order to cover pitchers from all generations and to show the evolution of pitching.  Walter Johnson, Bob Feller, Nolan Ryan, and Aroldis Chapman were all the fastest pitchers of their individual era but who was the fastest pitcher of all time?  This film does a side-by-side comparison of all four by making the proper adjustments for the different methods of recording the speed of each pitch and the results are fascinating.  I loved the segment where a motorcycle raced one of Feller’s pitches and I was very interested to learn the legend of Steve Dalkowski.  I never realized that a character in “Bull Durham” was based off of him but this epiphany will make that film even more meaningful.  Perhaps the coolest part of the film is the slow motion countdown of 396 milliseconds as Andrew McCutchen calculates his swing against a fastball.  Aside from Cutch being a great representative for hitters around the league, the science involved in this sequence is well-presented.  I also appreciate the science-versus-psychology approach to the rising fastball.  Physics states that a fastball cannot rise at the end of a pitch but the psychological experience of the batters keeps them convinced that the myth exists.  These are only a few of the things that you might learn about from this documentary but, regardless of how much you enjoy baseball, “Fastball” is a great film for anybody who enjoys science, history, or sports.


[Pictured: The Andrew McCutchen/David Price slow motion countdown of the 396 milliseconds that occur during a fastball is incredible]

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Loft (2015) - 1 star out of 10

The Loft (2015) - 1 star out of 10

"The Loft" is one of the worst movies that I have ever seen. Aside from the film's repulsive glorification of infidelity, it also contains horrible acting and a script that is just awful.  I don't know who had the idea to use soft-spoken, almost passive-aggressive dialogue the entire film but it is terribly annoying.  Karl Urban is particularly bad throughout his static, non-emotional performance.  Perhaps the larger mystery is how anybody convinced big names like Urban and James Marsden to join this film.  Everybody involved with this film should be ashamed of themselves.  They should all go home, look at their wives, and be thankful for the gift of marriage. The argument that this film discourages cheating because it shows a negative result is invalid because it obviously tries to glamorize and celebrate the lack of respect for the sanctity of marriage for the majority of the story.  Thankfully, the critics also hated this film. I can only hope that they saved a large percentage of the population from having to endure this horrible waste of time.  It does have a few decent twists and turns but certainly not worth putting up with the lack of morality at the core of this film.  The words “sleazy,” “repulsive,” and “vile” come to mind when thinking about screenwriter Bart De Pauw as he sat down to write the original Belgian screenplay and this adaptation.  Aside from the stream of unnecessary f-words, the dialogue is cheesy and causes everyone on screen to seem like they are overacting.  He even misused the word "innuendo" when he meant to use the word "insinuate.”  I had heard bad things about “The Loft” but this was absolutely abysmal.  Don’t waste your time.  Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t lie when it rates something as 14% Rotten.

[Pictured: Even though the mysterious murder is compelling, it is difficult to get past the glorification of infidelity that runs from start to finish.  Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves.]