Archive for April, 2017

DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: The Story of National Lampoon

by on Apr.30, 2017, under Movie Reviews

drunk stoned brilliant dead the story of national lampoonSatire can be a word that is hard to define. It’s like one of those “I know it when I see it” kind of things. However, if you’re looking for a clear example of it, you should see if you can find a copy of National Lampoon. The magazine, not the movie series, which ran from 1970 – 1998, is satire and parody at its finest.

DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: The Story of National Lampoon presents a thorough, entertaining documentary about the history of the magazine and the empire it spawned. The film covers the early days when the initial founders of the magazine worked for the Harvard Lampoon and how they evolved beyond  Harvard (thank God) and its limitations and after some early mistakes, found their footing and eventually created a genre defining magazine.

They pushed boundaries in terms of writing, art work and attitude and out of their bold work emerged some of the greatest comedic talent we’re still enjoying today. If not for National Lampoon, we wouldn’t have SNL, The Simpsons, Family Guy and Animal House alongside more movies than you can imagine and not to mention the talent…

One thing that really amazed me was how the talent was cherry picked from the staff and from the comedians that were contributing to the magazine and its various offshoot projects. At one point, National Lampoon had a radio show on over 600 radio stations that featured the talents of John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and his brother Brian Doyle-Murray, Ivan Reitman, John Hughes, and the list keeps going and going. And this is before SNL, so you can see where SNL got its starting lineup. Not to mention the Lampoon’s presence on Broadway and eventually movies.

Intertwined with the story of the magazine, is the story of one of its founders Doug Kenney. Kenney was seen as one of the masterminds behind the Lampoon’s universe and had a profound impact on many of the big comedians of our time now including Judd Apatow. People featured in the doc besides numerous contributors over the years includes Chevy Chase, Kevin Bacon, Beverly D’Angelo, Christopher Guest, and many more. There’s a lot of great, historic footage throughout this doc you won’t see anywhere else.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Independence Day: Resurgence

by on Apr.23, 2017, under Movie Reviews

independence day resurgence Some films warrant sequels, and then there’s Independence Day: Resurgence which I would categorize as a film that does not warrant a sequel. No, this is one of those “they’re-in-it-for-the-money” films so afterward, everyone will have to go make an art film and heal their greedy, guilty souls.

The set up is 20 years after the original Independence Day alien invasion. Every day life has evolved as alien technology has been blended with human gadgetry so we have flying cars, fancier weapons, a planetary defense system and more. We even have military bases on different planets now too. But just as we’re all full of ourselves and confident of our safety, guess who’s back for round two…

The aliens return, in a waaaaay bigger ship by the way, because BIGGER, IS WELL, BIGGER, right? This turns out to be the crutch and one of the gimmicks of the film. There’s just more of them and a big-ass queen to boot. Perhaps instead of focusing on a “size-matters” approach, they should’ve focused on making a better script. The story is as cliched as the terrible dialog in addition to very little character arcs or development. Some of the characters are just in here as fodder to fill in for lack of substance to just jam in something between effects, fight scenes and disaster. That formula is exactly director Roland Emmerich’s thing but in some of his films there is at times a sense of story and some plausibility where this film lacks both in a huge way.

Also back are some of the characters from the first film such as Bill Pullman as the former president, Jeff Goldblum’s David Levinson (who’s now a scientist) along with his dad played by Judd Hirsch and Brent Spiner fresh out of his coma as Dr. Okun. I’m a fan of a number of these actors and it was kind of a drag to see them having to deliver lines you can tell they were not thrilled with. I get it, you have to pay the bills, I get it, but damn, you could just see it in their faces sometimes, especially Pullman and Goldblum. Everyone is just following the blueprints on this one with the lineup including Liam Hemsworth (the Hunger Games Hemsworth, not Thor), Sela Ward, William Fichtner, and Vivica A. Fox.

Even as a popcorn movie, it’s kind of BS. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but you’d be better off watching a Michael Bay film instead.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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The Boss

by on Apr.16, 2017, under Movie Reviews

the bossThe Boss sets up Melissa McCarthy as a leader in the corporate world, constructing her own empire. At her peak, she’s snobby, elitist and super-egotistical. But then, she gets caught for insider trading, ends up in prison, and in true Martha Stewart fashion, she re-emerges from the joint to rebuild her brand.

While not overly original, the film falls flat for a number of reasons. Normally, I like Melissa McCarthy but she seemed awkward in the lead role as she doesn’t play the corporate type in this context very convincingly. Another part of the problem is that she’s supposed to be the funny one at the same time playing against her straight-laced, hard working assistant portrayed by Kristen Bell. It was hard to find the funny at times and in other cases they tried too hard to make it happen.

Paul Feig wasn’t in on this one; McCarthy along with Ben Falcone (who also directed) were credited as writers. Unfortunately the script doesn’t really present anything but a formulaic approach and even with a strong cast, the film isn’t very funny or even all that compelling. I found my mind wandering while watching it.

In regard to the cast, there’s a good number of recognizable names here including Peter Dinklage, Kathy Bates, Kristen Schaal, Dax Shepard and Tyler Labine.

There’s plenty of other things to watch, like maybe watch Sausage Party a second time, like I’m doing right now…

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Central Intelligence

by on Apr.02, 2017, under Movie Reviews

central intelligenceI had a really good streak of some pretty amazing films to review lately, I’m afraid the streak has ended as I’ve hit a number of “meh” films, Central Intelligence being one of those experiences. While the comedy has its moments, the awkwardness of the film’s humor and some of the actor’s deliveries got a bit in the way of the funny.

The story centers around Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) an accountant who, taking stock of his life as his class reunion approaches, realizes he didn’t turn out to be the most-successful-whatever he was supposed to be according to everyone that loved him in high school. Enter the most awkward kid in school Robbie Weirdicht (get it?) who worships Calvin ever since he came to his aid during an embarrassing event as a victim of some bullies. Only now, he’s Bob Stone, CIA agent, luring Calvin into helping him crack a case of international intrigue and danger. Yep, that’s the script, really. The way it ends is equally cliche’ and even less believable.

Granted, films like this aren’t here to crack new cinematic ground, they’re just here for fun, which is what you’ll generally get here in a very predictable package. I’ll give the film props for trying to add some ingenuity through the Bob Stone character but that’s also where it goes off the rails. Bob Stone is supposed to be the weird angle to Calvin Joyner’s straight line in terms of character dynamics. And he is weird but not in a good way, he comes off a little off kilter and creepy sometimes when I’m not so sure he’s supposed to be like that. Part of my confusion stems from the delivery of Dwayne Johnson who as Stone is trying to get over his childhood traumas while also performing the duties of super spy CIA operative. Strangely, he’s savant-like in that he can orchestrate kicking the ass of numerous guys at one time (while wearing a unicorn shirt) but then revert to being the fat kid when confronted by his nemesis from 12th grade.

Johnson’s portrayal seems forced at times in terms of trying to generate a socially awkward character (which is the opposite of his wrestling persona “The Rock”). While Johnson might be one of the highest paid actors out there at the moment, he still could use some acting lessons. Kevin Hart is Kevin Hart so you know what to expect. The rest of the lineup is fine but it’s all pretty standard delivery. The lineup includes Amy Ryan, Danielle Nicolet, Jason Bateman, and Aaron Paul.

If you have some time to kill and want some filler, then, well, meh…

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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