Mini-Review – “Bernie” (2011)

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If there’s one strength to “Bernie,” it would be keeping the reveal that everything which unfolded was based on a true story until the end of the film, as we see the real Bernie Tiede sitting down to a conversation with star-Jack Black.

I was blown away to find out that everything I had just witnessed occurred in real life, and Richard Linklater decided not to gloat about that until the film was finished. Part of this is because these events seem so unbelievable – a story about the sweetest and most-caring man you’ll ever meet, Bernie (Black), attempting to comfort a rich-widow (Shirley MacLaine), and the two end up being great friends, to the point that she smothers him and makes it impossible for Bernie to have a life of his own. Being unable to say no to anyone, Bernie ends up taking far more drastic measures than one would expect.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that “Bernie” was based on true events, due to the many interviews throughout the film. We spend close to half the film talking to the locals of Carthage, Texas, as they gush about how Bernie was an outstanding citizen who put the needs of everyone above his own, how he was the best thing that happened to the town and that he’d even make God blush. I was under the impression that these people were merely actors, since many of the descriptive details they would use had hilarious timing.

Turns out, everyone they interviewed were the actual townsfolk of Carthage, recalling their best memories of the real Bernie.

Again, if the film had opened up with the knowledge this was based on what really happened, the film would be very different. If we were told at the beginning, we would have no room to think about what was happening, because everything already had a fixed ending. By keeping that knowledge away from us until the film was finished, we suddenly have to look back on everything we witnessed, everything we were told, and realize those were many points-of-view and opinions coming together to form some sort of truth.

In other words, we find out the fiction we just watched is actually reality.

It was the simple things that made “Bernie” so memorable, whether through the random acts of kindness by Jack Black that told us this man doesn’t have a mean bone in his body or the crazy interviews throughout the film that paint a great picture of Carthage. This leaves us with a quirky and somewhat dark comedy about a small town all coming to the same realization – “That man was so nice, I never expected him to ever do something like that.”

Final Grade: B+

 

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Mini-Review: “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012)

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While watching another dollhouse-like piece from Wes Anderson, I could not help but make comparisons between the most eccentric yet beautiful film creator of our time and another auteur: Alfred Hitchcock.

When I discuss these Anderson and Hitchcock in the same sentence, it is to talk about them, not as directors, or even filmmakers, but as auteurs – They control every aspect that we see on the screen. They determine which way the shot is framed, how the camera will move, how the film will be edited, and most importantly, they tell the actors exactly what to do, leaving them with no choice or freedom. There is only one right film, and that is the one in these auteurs minds, every thing else just gets in the way.

As “Moonrise Kingdom” progressed, I realized that the roles of Edward Norton, Francis McDormand and Bruce Willis were not giving their own performances, but were merely acting out Wes Anderson’s ideas. As a result, we get this distinctive style of filmmaking that cannot be mistaken for anyone other than Anderson.

In the end, we are left with a product that often feels other-worldly in its execution. As if this film was made by an alien who had observed human behavior but does not truly understand it, with so much blank space and vague expressions. The alien may know what it all means, but has a strange way of saying it.

Overall, I left “Moonrise Kingdom” feeling the same way I did about “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Rushmore,” that Wes Anderson’s style is the most bizarre yet entrancing filmmaking I have seen. It is so off-putting that I can’t take my eyes off it.

Final Grade: B+

Coming Next: “The Revenant” and My Top 10 Films of 2015

 

Paul’s Favorite Films – Honorable Mentions

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Of all the couple thousand films I have watched in my lifetime, it was actually quite difficult to narrow it down to just 25 of my favorite films. I have an entire collection of movies which I adore that did not make it into the countdown. So many films that I could watch at any point and still love every scene, but only so many spots on showcase my favorites.

Which is why it seems fitting to talk about some of the other films that just missed making this countdown. These are the ten honorable mentions to my top 25 favorite films of all time. I’ll give a brief explanation to each film. Who knows? Maybe some day, I’ll come back and review each of these ten movies in detail.

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“2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

The only Stanley Kubrick film to make either the top 25 countdown and the honorable mentions, “2001: A Space Odyssey” transcends what most movies attempt to be, and enters into a state of mind. With virtually no story, we are left with two and a half hours of atmosphere and questions about the future.

Like most Kubrick films, he pays attention to every single tiny detail and draws it out for the audience to enjoy. The reason “2001: A Space Odyssey” gets here over other Kubrick films is because of the scope of space, and to make a film that covers such a vast distance of time and space while keeping the audience entranced.

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“Ace In The Hole” (1951)

Billy Wilder followed up “Sunset Boulevard” with this look at the newspaper business, in which Kirk Douglas finds the story of the century – a man is trapped in a collapsed cave and is slowly being crushed to death. But once Douglas is told they can rescue the man in a few days, he delays the rescue to draw out the story and take the credit for saving this man.

Just as in “Sunset Boulevard,” the dialogue is crisp, but never to the point of absurdity. It is a joy to listen to these people talk about how this story needs to heard across the country. But what really gives “Ace In The Hole” its bite is Kirk Douglas’ performance. He is haunting and disturbing, yet keeps his values and morals close to his heart, even as things get far worse.

“Ace In The Hole” is a tragic tale of searching for fame, only to realize that it often comes at the price of ruining innocent lives, especially in the journalism business.

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“Shadow Of A Doubt” (1943)

Of all the films Alfred Hitchcock made, he often said this was his favorite – the tale of a young Californian family that is visited by their uncle, whom one of the children is named after, only to slowly realize that the uncle may not be who he says he is.

Perhaps this was Hitchcock’s favorite because it was one of the first films he made after coming to Hollywood, and it represented his own fears and doubts about the Hollywood system. Maybe it was the often brilliant cinematography that captured how small our family is to this monster of an uncle they all adore. It could also be the performances of Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright, as they fight for their twisted morals of nature versus nurture.

In any case, this is a classic early Alfred Hitchcock film that hits right at home and how family can often be a bad thing.

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“No Country For Old Men” (2007)

Anton Chigurh. Just Anton Chigurh. “No Country For Old Men” makes this part of the countdown simply because of its villain, a man who feels like he must be anarchy and misery in the world. That he has no other choice but to be this evil, uncaring maniac. He certainly doesn’t get any enjoyment out of killing anyone who sees him, but he remains dedicated to causing mayhem, otherwise he would have no purpose.

“No Country For Old Men” is, more or less, about the evolution of the dark criminal mind and how it has gotten to the point where can no longer understand it, much less control it. Anton is the perfect representation of that darkness, never satisfied with his work, uncaring about those he kills, unconcerned if he is doing right or wrong, and he couldn’t care less about any of it.

A villain the perfectly encapsulates chaos, along with a mostly silent film that sees our hero get chased across Texas and Mexico for just a bit of money. This is one Coen Brothers film that won’t be forgotten soon.

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“Giant” (1956)

The next two films I have already talked about in great detail, but that’s because these are the only films on both countdowns that I have previously reviewed. In a way, I have a greater respect for them because I got to share my new-found love for these films with all of you.

“Giant” is a perfect representation of an epic – Large scale, covering a massive range of both land, people and time, yet it still feels comfy with its focus on the Benedict family and their conflict over pride, race and legacy. We watch as the world changes, but our characters never take that into account and go ahead like the world has always been flat and was the center of the universe.

The conflict between Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor comes naturally, as if they came from different worlds, but see a lot of themselves in each other – their thick-headed pride, but also their devotion to their life philosophies.

“Giant” feels like it takes up all of Texas, while still keeping focus on the marriage of these two and the consequences of their actions.

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“her” (2013)

Simple, yet innovative. This is a science fiction piece that understands technology in cinema is not just fiction, but can be relatable and logical, yet still fascinating and imaginative.

I found myself just as invested in this futuristic Los Angeles as I was in the romance between Theodore and Samantha, finding a love story set in a world not too different from our own. A world where technology might have advanced further than us, and has replaced us in many capacities, but “her” finds a middle ground where humans and technology make one another more desirable. That we wouldn’t be complete without the other.

With that quirky, off-the-wall craziness you can only get out of a Spike Jonez film, “her” is one of the most creative and heart-warming films in recent memory.

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“Godzilla” (1954)

One last time, we return my favorite film franchise.

Since “Son Of Godzilla” and “Mothra vs. Godzilla” made my top 25, “Godzilla” is my third favorite film in the franchise, but this is the movie I respect more than any other. For what this film set out to do, given their budget and the attitude towards nuclear weapons in 1950s Japan, this could have easily failed. Instead, we got a dark and eerie look at how fragile life can be in the face of unrivaled strength and power.

“Godzilla” isn’t just a great monster movie, but a great movie in general. Rather than focusing on a monster running rampant through Japan, we get a film about a weakened Japan attempting to combat such a threat, and the lives that are affected by this tragedy. Throughout the film, we watch as lives are crushed, burned, irradiated and ruined by something out of our control.

With effects that still hold up today, a creepy yet atmospheric score, and the theme of man’s evolution of weaponry taking shape, the Japanese version of “Godzilla” is one of the stand out monster films of all time.

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“Bride Of Frankenstein” (1935)

Speaking of stand out monster films, we have another amazing one at the opposite end of the spectrum as “Godzilla.”

Rather than a monster terrorizing helpless people, we have a monster that never set out to hurt anyone, didn’t wish to be created, and yet is seen as nothing more than an abomination. We fear him simply because he is different and must perish because of it.

Yet, Doctors Frankenstein and Pretorious play god and reanimate the dead just because they can. They attempt to set out and prove they are a higher grade of man by doing what no one else can do – decide to lives and who dies.

All while one of their creations meets an old blind man, and takes him in to his home, feeds him, warms him back up and gives him a good night sleep. And in this case, who is truly the superior man?

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“adaptation.” (2002)

The second Spike Jonez film in these honorable mentions. Even I didn’t know how much I adored his films.

Like Jonez’ other films, it is hard to nail down exactly what happens in “adaptation.” but what makes it far more difficult is the screenplay written by Charlie Kauffman, and then proceeds to make himself the main character of the film. We follow Kauffman as he attempts to adapt “The Orchid Thief” into a screenplay, but finds it impossible given the source material and his twin brother Donald, constantly interfering about how his screenplay is coming along.

I have never seen a film like “adaptation.” and I hope I never do. It is about the struggle of a screenwriter who somehow gets wrapped up in the ongoing story, and then works all of that into his screenplay. Are we watching Kauffman as he writes the screenplay? Or are we watching his interpretation of how it all went down? Or are we watching a man’s slow descent into madness?

I also love the overall message of the film and the realization that Kauffman comes to at the end of the film – You are what you love, not what loves you. An outstanding message for everyone.

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“The Princess Bride” (1987)

Part of the reason I love this film is because of how effortlessly the fantasy seems to come. Every character fits like a glove into the story, their motivation and dialogue feels natural and it all contributes to the narrative that never stops. “The Princess Bride” is beautiful to listen to, as their accents give way to crisp words said with passion and ferocity.

Who does not get excited when Inigo Montoya finally meets the six-fingered man and has a chance to redeem his father? Who doesn’t adore the relationship between Wesley and Buttercup? Who does not get a kick out of the three trails that Wesley must endure to rescue Buttercup?

But the other reason this film gets here is rather simple and often overlooked – that all of this is being told second-hand, as an old man tells this to his grandson. This is a story passed down through the generations, not as just a way to make people feel better when they’re sick, but to teach them about love and acceptance.

In the end “The Princess Bride” tells a story of two vastly different generations. One of fantasy and a fight for true love, and the other of a family growing close together through shared loves. To me, the scenes with Fred Savage and Peter Falk turn this film from a great fantasy into a timeless classic.

Well, those are just some of the my other favorite films that could have easily made my top 25 if there was a bit more room. I hope you enjoyed the quick looks at each of those films. Like I said, I might take a deeper look at each of those films in the future so be on the look out for those.

In the mean time, there is only one film left to look at this countdown – my favorite film of all time. If you’ve known me long enough, then you can probably guess what my favorite is. But if you only know of me through this blog, my top pick may surprise you.

Just in case, here is a refresher of the previous 24 films on this countdown.

25. “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” (1939)

24. “Ed Wood” (1994)

23. “Seven” (1995)

22. “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly” (1966)

21. “Goodfellas” (1991)

20. “The Thing” (1982)

19. “Son Of Godzilla” (1967)

18. “Pleasantville” (1998)

17. “Singin’ In The Rain” (1951)

16. “Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan” (1982)

15. “Under The Flag Of The Rising Sun” (1972)

14. “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (1962)

13. “The Night Of The Hunter” (1955)

12. “Fargo” (1996)

11. “Strangers On A Train” (1951)

10. “Sunset Boulevard” (1950)

9. “The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre” (1948)

8. “Ran” (1985)

7. “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946)

6. “WALL-E” (2008)

5. “Mothra Vs. Godzilla” (1964)

4. “Rear Window” (1954)

3. “City Lights” (1931)

2. “Ikiru” (1952)

Stay tuned, because tomorrow I will reveal my number one pick and my favorite film of all time.

 

Mini-Review – “Ip Man 2” (2010)

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This is the martial-arts equivalent of “Rocky 4.” Even down to an ending speech from the protagonist about how he hopes his actions can help people change.

“Ip Man” was one of those rare martial-arts films that understood the simplicity of the genre, yet still managed to make these actions feel grand and meaningful. Along with “The Raid: Redemption,” those two films were the best martial-arts movies since the days of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.

The plot follows up on the events of “Ip Man,” as our titular character (Donnie Yen) has fled to Hong Kong and intends to open up a new martial-arts school for his style of fighting, Wing Chun, combining defense and attack into one fluid motion. The film follows the conflict of getting the school running, fighting off rival schools and a climax against an English boxer who will fight any Chinese challenger to show the “superiority” of the United Kingdom.

Part of the appeal comes from these being based on true events. While I don’t deny that Master Ip did fight an English boxer, I do find the film’s portrayal of these events to be less than satisfying. Most of the events throughout the first half of the film do not amount to anything.

Master Ip has a friend who can’t remember anything that wanders the streets of Hong Kong, and we see him bring his friend food every once in a while. But this plot thread leads no where, as we don’t even see one last meeting between the two. This is one of many scenes that add little to the film.

“Ip Man 2” tries to add too many new characters and plot details to the simple story of the first film, which soils the great moments. While the martial-art scenes are fun to watch, as always, this one left me feeling hollow and unsatisfied.

Final Grade: C-

 

My Film Quest Through 2015 – 100 New Films

Schindler's List, Oliwia Dabrowska

If you’ve followed my blog for most of 2015, you may have noticed that I’ve released a lot more reviews than I usually have. The reason for this is because, one of my many New Years Resolutions was to watch 100 films I have never seen before, and write reviews on as many of them as I can. These movies did not have to be new theatrical releases, but any film that I had not already seen at some point in my life.

And after I released my review of “The Exorcist,” I had finally reached my goal. After nearly seven months of watching nearly five new movies every week and then finding the time to write my extended thoughts on each of them, 100 new movies have been seen.

This was one of the most fun and exciting times, since nearly every day I got to witness something new and watch kinds of filmmaking unfold. From old and nearly lost silent films, to animated films released only weeks ago, to everything in between, this has been a wild ride.

So, for your viewing pleasure, and to put down in a record, here are each of those 100 films, and my grade on each of them. As I recall, all but five of these movies have a review somewhere on the site. The only ones that don’t are the first three, an animated trilogy released straight to DVD that was based on a manga in Japan, and “The Room” and “Sharknado 2,” both of which were a Rifftrax Live experience, from the same creators as “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” while they ripped apart a terrible movie, so it is hard to properly judge the movie when I could barely distinguish the movie from the riffing.

Other than that, all the other 95 movies have proper reviews. The grades in this list might be modified from my original reviews, as my thoughts on them might have changed over time, though only slightly.

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1. “Berserk: The Egg Of The King” – B-

2. “Berserk: Battle Of Doldrey” – B+

3. “Berserk: Advent” – B

4. “Wild” – A-

5. “Big Eyes” – A-

6. “Top Five” – B

7. “Election” – A-

8. “Selma” – C

9. “Attack Of The 50-Foot Woman” – B+

10. “American Sniper” – A-

11. “War Of The Worlds” (1953) – C+

12. “Foxcatcher” – B

13. “The Way We Were” – B-

14. “Boyhood” – A

15. “Dale & Tucker Vs. Evil” – B

16. “Inherent The Wind” – B-

17. “The Imitation Game” – C+

18. “Zodiac” – B

19. “Whiplash” – A

20. “Top Hat” – C+

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21. “King Kong Vs. Godzilla” (Japanese Version) – B+

22. “The Theory Of Everything” – C+

23. “The Interview” – F+

24. “The Odd Couple” (1968) – C-

25. “Jupiter Ascending” – C-

26. “Father Of The Bride” (1950) – B

27. “Philadelphia” – B-

28. “The Hustler” – C+

29. “Project Almanac” – D+

30. “Easy Rider” – C-

31. “Kramer Vs. Kramer” – B

32. “Barbarella” – C+

33. “Kingsmen: The Secret Service” – B+

34. “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog” – A-

35. “An American Werewolf In London” – A-

36. “Them!” – B

37. “The King’s Speech” – B+

38. “Nosferatu The Vampyre” – C

39. “The Fugitive” – B

40. “My Man Godfrey” – C

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41. “Melancholia” – C+

42. “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” – D+

43. “In Bruges” – B-

44. “Now, Voyager” – B-

45. “Superman II” – B-

46. “Wall Street” – D+

47. “The Public Enemy” – A-

48. “The China Syndrome” – B

49. “It Follows” – A-

50. “Viva Zapata!” – C+

51. “Die Hard 2” – C+

52. “Run All Night” – D+

53. “Chef” – B

54. “The Secret Of Kells” – B-

55. “Rushmore” – A-

56. “The Ghost & Mrs. Muir” – C

57. “Unfriended” – A-

58. “Crank” – B

59. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” – B

60. “Ex Machina” – C

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61. “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1955) – B-

62. “The Magnificent Ambersons” – C+

63. “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” – B-

64. “The Room” – B

65. “Schindler’s List” – A

66. “El Mariachi” – C+

67. “My Dinner With Andre” – B

68. “Unbreakable” -B

69. “Stella Dallas” – A-

70. “Mad Max: Fury Road” – A

71. “The Hunchback Of Notre Dame” (1939) – B-

72. “Papillion” – C+

73. “Time After Time” – B+

74. “Dark Passage” – A-

75. “Spy” – A-

76. “The Babadook” – C+

77. “Jurassic World” – C

78. “Greed” – B+

79. “Dirty Harry” – A-

80. “Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks” – D+

Disney•Pixar's "Inside Out" takes us to the most extraordinary location yet - inside the mind of Riley. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions - Anger (voiced by Lewis Black), Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling), Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Fear (voiced by Bill Hader) and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley's mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. Directed by Pete Docter and produced by Jonas Rivera, "Inside Out" is in theaters June 19, 2015.

81. “Inside Out” – A-

82. “Hotel Transylvania” – B

83. “Soylent Green” – B

84. “Kung Fury” – B-

85. “Hannah & Her Sisters” – D

86. “Rubber” – C+

87. “All-Star Superman” – B

88. “Terminator: Genisys” – D

89. “Sharknado 2: The Second One” – D+

90. “Miami Connection” – C+

91. “The Shop Around The Corner” – B

92. “Varan, The Unbelievable” – C-

93. “Atragon” – B-

94. “The Giant Claw” – C

95. “Mortal Kombat” – C+

96. “Ant Man” – B-

97. “Mr. Holmes” – B+

98. “The Incredible Shrinking Man” – B-

99. “The Red Shoes” – C-

100. “The Exorcist” – A-

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Since the selection of movies is so fruitful in this list, and because there were so many that I adored, it seems applicable that I count down my ten favorite. So, just for the sake of argument, here are my ten favorite of these 100 films.

10. “Election”

9. “Dark Passage”

8. “The Public Enemy”

7. “The Exorcist”

6. “An American Werewolf In London”

5. “Whiplash”

4. “Inside Out”

3. “Boyhood”

2. “Schindler’s List”

1. “Mad Max: Fury Road”

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And, because I’m sure this question will get asked as well, here are the five films that I hated the most out of the bunch.

5. “Project Almanac”

4. “Hannah And Her Sisters”

3. “Wall Street”

2. “Terminator: Genisys”

1. “The Interview”

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So that is what I’ve been working on for the last seven months. When I wasn’t working or spending time with my family and friends, I was mostly watching these movies. What you can expect from me in the future is to finish up my Favorite Films countdown, as we will soon be reaching my top ten.

Thank you to every last one of you for your continued support and interest in my passion. I wouldn’t be here without you guys and hearing each of your thoughts on my opinions and reviews keeps me going. All of you are amazing people and don’t ever forget that.

 

Mini-Reviews – “Rubber” and “All-Star Superman” (2010)

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“Rubber” (2010)

Even if you’ve never seen this film, you probably heard of the premise and how it is utterly ridiculous – A tire comes to life, learns that it has psychic powers and becomes a serial killer.

While watching “Rubber” my reaction was the same as it was while seeing the trailer – Huh?

I don’t know how else to describe it – This is a film about a killer psychic tire. How can you respond to that other than massive confusion?

To the films’ credit, they do attempt to explain why it is not that baffling, with an opening narration from a police officer, as he tells the audience watching the tire come to life, that a lot of great moments in cinema happen for “no reason” like why the aliens in “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” are brown or why in “The Pianist” Adrien Brody has to live in the slums and use his talents to buy a nice house. Of course, there are reasons for why these events happen, but it does offer a different perspective, some people don’t think about why they happen.

“Rubber” lives in its own little world, where it constantly reminds the audience, both the one watching the film and the other in the film watching the “film,” that you’re not supposed to think about why the tire is alive and how it got these powers. To look beyond that gap in logic and reason, and judge the film as piece about new life discovering its place in the universe.

I’m reminded of the ending to the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” theme song – “If you’re wondering how he eats and breaths, and other science facts, then repeat to yourself ‘It’s just a show, I should really just relax.'”

That being said, the tire, somehow named Roger, seems intent on killing all humans.

“Rubber” is a strange piece of surreal cinema. Without breaking the fourth wall, this gives us a film within a film, where you’re not exactly sure where the acting ends and where “reality” begins. It is never even explained why there is an audience in the middle of the desert watching this first, and why none of them brought food or water. But this film does a great job and showing instead of explaining, down to the convincing effects on the tire to give this inanimate object its own character.

There aren’t many films that can say they’ve made a tire come to life and make it look realistic.

Final Grade: B-

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“All-Star Superman” (2010)

This is a very simple, straight forward Superman about the misadventures of the Man of Tomorrow, as he finds out that he is slowly dying and wants to make the most of the little time he has left.

It takes advantage of the reason Clark Kent became Superman – to show people the way to lead a better existence. Superman could easily enforce his will on Earth and take it over, but he choose not to. He instead shows us kindness, forgiveness, and knowledge, never asking for anything and reminding us that we don’t need super powers to become better.

Not much else to add to that. Most of the journeys and fights in this film are unconnected and to the point, including a visit from Samson and Atlas to fight the Ultra-Sphinx, Lex Luthor fighting his way through a massive prison while Superman (disguised as Clark Kent) fights Parasite, and the final battle between Superman and Lex, who has been gifted with Superman’s powers for 24 hours. All of them are neat in their own right and it is nice to see a side of Superman that isn’t just a guy who punches everything.

Final Grade: B-

 

Mini-Review – “Hotel Transylvania” (2012)

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This movie has taught me one important lesson – Adam Sandler can be funny in a movie, when he has zero creative control over the film.

Sandler has not been funny in cinema since “Happy Gilmore,” as each subsequent film from him and his production company, Happy Madison, seems to get worse by being more pandering than the last. To put it simply, Happy Madison and Adam Sandler have turned into the Michael Bay of movie comedy, by appealing to the lowest common denominator and having an onslaught of insulting race or gender humor, or just sticking with fart and poop jokes.

But then I remember how talented and hilarious Sandler was on Saturday Night Live and in films like “Punch Drunk Love,” where his only job was to entertain the audience, and had no input behind the camera. The same can be said for “Hotel Transylvania,” a film that should have failed on paper.

Here is the cast of voices for this animated Halloween flick: Adam Sandler as Dracula, Kevin James as Frankenstein, David Spade as the Invisible Man, CeeLo Green as the Mummy, Selena Gomez as Dracula’s daughter and Steve Buschemi as the Wolf Man. What could turn this around? How about the director, Genndy Tartakovsky, the man behind “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Samurai Jack,” many episodes of “The Powerpuff Girls,” and co-creator of the “Star Wars: Clone Wars” mini-series.

Tartakovsky has always taken advantage of the animated genre, in particular the speed and movement, especially how unnatural it can be. Which fits perfectly for a hotel full of monsters, ghouls and abominations. “Hotel Transylvania” works because of the insanely fast pace of the comedy that never seems to stop. Every second the film is throwing new visual jokes at you, like bumping into a range of monsters in the hotel lobby as it sets off a chain of events that send magic spells and parts of Frankenstein everywhere.

The voice acting, though sporadic due to CeeLo Green and Selena Gomez, hits the nail on the head, with Sandler surprisingly being the standout performance. Not once did it feel like it was Adam Sandler doing a funny voice, but Count Dracula being an overprotective father that truly cared for all monsters. Sandler disappears in this role, which is a first for him.

“Hotel Transylvania” was a fun ride, with a great visual sense of humor and a creative animated premise. Though there are some scenes that feel out-of-place, especially near the end and the odd musical choices throughout, there is a genuine love for monsters and their legacies. The film takes full advantage of its setting and characters and takes ever opportunity to throw something new at us.

Final Grade: B+