Category Archives: 2 stars

Yogi Bear

Yogi Bear (2010): United States – directed by Eric Brevig

Rated G by the MPAA – contains some mild rude humor, forest fires started by a bear

One might think that a big screen adaptation of Yogi Bear might be ill-fated, and they would not necessarily be wrong.  There is not much about the film that excels, but it is mostly inoffensive and has enough slapstick to keep very young audiences entertained.

Tom Cavanagh is Ranger Smith, a nature lover in charge of Jellystone Park.  He has lived there much of his life, but the park has never been in this much danger.  The mayor (Andrew Daly) of the town (which apparently owns the park; maybe it is not Jellystone National Park?) is in dire straits, having spent the town’s budget on fancy suits and other excesses.  With his right hand man (Nathan Corddry) he is intent on finding new sources of revenue.  The most obvious is re-zoning Jellystone so he can auction off lumber rights to the highest bidder.

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Gnomeo & Juliet

Gnomeo & Juliet (2011): United States – directed by Kelly Asbury

Rated G by the MPAA – contains rude humor, Borat-style swimsuit, violence, some innuendo

Gnomeo and Juliet.  The title says it all.  Really, what title has ever been more descriptive of a film, other than perhaps The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? This is the tale of Romeo and Juliet, as told by garden gnomes in England.  Naturally, a children’s film such as this cannot end as tragically as the Bard intended, a fact the Bard himself addresses in one of the film’s most humorous moments.  Unfortunately, the rest of the film is as not-particularly-good as the title suggests.

There are humans in the film, but they are never fully revealed.  There is a Capulet and a Montague, and their houses are attached.  But they are also painted strikingly different colors.  There is red on one side, and blue on the other, even down to the shared chimney stack.  The neighbors hate each other, almost as much as their respective garden gnomes hate each other.

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008): United Kingdom/United States – directed by Mark Herman

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – contains some mature themes

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas has an immediate obstacle to overcome.  While it might not have been practical to film in German, many other World War II films have at least attempted German accents.  Judgment at Nuremberg even utilizes an effective technique to allow characters to speak in English and the audience to believe they’re speaking German.  Here there is not even an attempt; all the Germans speak British English, very properly.  This is a small complaint, but one that taints the entire film.

At the beginning it is difficult to tell if this is London or Berlin, with small children running around the streets, and fancy state dinners replete with silver and china.  But then the father of the primary family announces a transfer to another post, in the country, and it becomes clear that this is the German side of the war.

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The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right (2010): United States – directed by Lisa Cholodenko

Rated R by the MPAA – contains sexual content, some nudity, strong language, mature themes, California

The Kids Are All Right appears, on the surface, to be a conventional family drama/comedy about an unconventional family.  Normally, if one were to praise a film, he or she might comment with something like, “but it goes so much deeper,” or “but if you look really closely.”  Unfortunately, The Kids Are All Right barely manages to successfully be a conventional film about an unconventional family.

Nick (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) have been together for many years.  They have two kids, but not together, obviously.  They used the same sperm donor, so the “father” is the same, but Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson) have always grown up having two moms.  And they are a perfectly normal, happy family.  Joni has graduated from high school and is about to move on to college.  Laser has a troublesome friend named Clay (Eddie Hassell), but is really more interested in something else.

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The Prowler

The Prowler (1981): United States – directed by Joseph Zito

Not rated by the MPAA – contains violence, sex, nudity, language

Note: As I will be out of the country for a period of time, I have decided to inflict upon anyone who reads these reviews a sampling of my earlier work.  These will be shorter, less formal, poorly written, and generally crappy.  They will lack stills and links, and I will apologize in advance for their poor quality.  They have received minor edits to (very slightly) improve readability.  Some might not be appropriate for all audiences.  Enjoy.

(review originally published 11/9/08)

This film  revolves around a young GI, who, coming home from WWII gets mad or something because his girl couldn’t wait, so stabs her and her new beau with a pitchfork. At the same time. While they’re making out. Fast forward 35 years, and the college is putting on another graduation dance, which they banned since that last one. So, of course, something bad happens and a dude dressed up like a Nazi stormtrooper goes around pitchforking and slicing people.

Tom Savini did the makeup, and that’s the best compliment the film can get. It’s not really that bad, it’s just that nothing stands out as noteworthy other than his gore effects. There’s the double pitchforking mentioned above, as well as a chick in the shower pitchforked and stuck up.

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Two Thousand Maniacs!

Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964): United States – directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis

Not rated by the MPAA – contains ridiculous violence and blood

Note: As I will be out of the country for a period of time, I have decided to inflict upon anyone who reads these reviews a sampling of my earlier work.  These will be shorter, less formal, poorly written, and generally crappy.  They will lack stills and links, and I will apologize in advance for their poor quality.  They have received minor edits to (very slightly) improve readability.  Enjoy.

(review originally published 12/14/08)

This is one of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s gore flicks, along with classics(?) like Blood Feast and A Taste of Blood. It’s much the same as Blood Feast: a terrible plot tied together with an awful script, some very poor acting, continuity problems, and a bunch of excuses to chop women up. Therefore, it’s a classic.

This one involves a town in the south that got mutilated and destroyed by Yankee soldiers, and now, 100 years later, people in the town lure some northerners to participate in their centennial celebration, which pretty much involves a horse race (quartering someone), a barrel role, with extra nails, and a drop-the-stone-on-the-person game.

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Blood Done Sign My Name

Blood Done Sign My Name (2010): United States – directed by Jeb Stuart

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – contains violence, mature themes, intense moments

Blood Done Sign My Name is a good example of a film that lets the historical account of its story get in the way of the film.  In its attempt to be accurate it loses its heart, even going so far as to allow documentary style footage to invade the beginning and end of the film.  This is unfortunate, because the story is interesting and worthy of an accurate and engaging portrayal.

Bizarre documentary-like interviews open the film, as people recall the events of 1970 in a town called Oxford, in North Carolina.  It isn’t clear, particularly when similar interviews appear at the end of the film, if these are people who lived through those events or if they are actors pretending that they did.  After this short and bizarre sequence the actual film begins.

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The Last Song

The Last Song (2010): United States – directed by Julie Anne Robinson

Rated PG by the MPAA – contains kissing, some mature themes

Is there something to be said for films that don’t mind recycling formulaic plots and cliched devices, if the film is done well enough?  What if it’s not particularly well crafted?  Perhaps it lands in the worst possible category of film, a generic film not bad enough to be enjoyable and not good enough to appreciate.  These are the most disappointing films; they inspire neither loathing nor love, and end up being mere piles of “meh.”

The Last Song’s story is indeed formulaic, but what more could you expect from Nicholas Sparks?  The star of the film is Miley Cyrus, who is perhaps the sole reason the film exists.  She plays Ronnie Miller, and at the beginning of the film she and her brother Jonah (Bobby Coleman) are dropped off at their father’s house on the beach.  Their parents are divorced, and the split was devastating to the children, particularly Ronnie.

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Sliding Doors

Sliding Doors (1998): United Kingdom/United States – directed by Peter Howitt

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – contains language, sexual content (edited by Miramax from the original UK release)

Sliding Doors is a bit of a different romantic comedy, in a couple of ways.  To begin with, it adds a slight supernatural or science fiction gimmick to its plot, though this has been done before (and more proficiently, in Brad Anderson’s Happy Accidents).  Secondly, it is remarkably tragic in a number of ways, and is surprisingly light on the comedic aspect of the genre.  There are a number of cute moments, some humor, and some interesting plot devices, but Sliding Doors ultimately cannot follow through on its more lofty goals of being a cerebral rom-com.

Gwyneth Paltrow is cute and tiny as Helen.  Her job is PR, in London, and on one fateful day her world is split in two, almost literally.  After leaving the flat she shares with her boyfriend, aspiring author Gerry (John Lynch), she arrives late for work and discovers she has been sacked for stealing bottles of vodka (Smirnoff; it shouldn’t be surprising that the brand responsible for changing the fundamental nature of martinis with the help of Bond films has managed to pop up here).  Dejected she leaves work, bumping into James (The Mummy’s John Hannah, here less amusing and slapsticky) in the elevator.  Arriving at the train station she finds herself running late, and the doors close before she gets there.

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Going the Distance

Going the Distance (2010): United States – directed by Nanette Burstein

Rated R by the MPAA – contains drug use, strong language, sexual content, brief nudity

On the surface Going the Distance is a perfectly serviceable romantic comedy with an R rating.  It’s aimed at the younger crowd of adults, featuring characters for whom they may feel sympathy, and has enough raunchy scenes that some might accuse it of being a Judd Apatow clone.  But if one were to look a little deeper they might find that the film isn’t actually all that great; some of it is uneven, with certain scenes being almost absolute failures.  But if one were to look deeper still it becomes apparent that these characters ought not be sympathetic because they are, at their cores, rotten.

The film opens as Garrett (Justin Long) is celebrating a birthday with his girlfriend Karen (June Diane Raphael).  His mistake is that he neglected to buy her a present, because she specifically told him not to.  Somehow this 30-ish year old single guy never figured out that girls often mean something other than what they say.

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