Last week, Netflix released their movie Like Father. Seeing as I love Kristen Bell and Seth Rogen, and Kelsey Grammer stars in three of my favorite TV Show of all time (Frasier, Cheers, and Boss), this was kind of a no-brainer for me.
Rachel Hamilton (Bell) is a workaholic who gets left at the altar, leading to her having a minor breakdown. Her estranged father, Harry Hamilton (Grammer), shows up to try and make amends, having witnessed her jilting. The pair get drunk together and wind up on the cruise that was supposed to be Rachel’s honeymoon. They go through hijinks and bonding and emotions and junk and she bangs a guy named Jeff (Rogen).
So, this is the kind of movie where there are a couple of good scenes, almost like vignettes featuring repeated characters, but the transitions between them aren’t always the best. Part of that is that the characters, aside from Rogen, are just a little bit more exaggerated than you’d really believe. For example, Rachel is left at the altar because her fiancé is sick of her work habits, which are so ludicrous that she is taking business calls while the wedding is going on. Hell, after her meltdown, she pretty much immediately goes back to just being a workaholic. What human is that insane? And, if she is THAT insane, why was he still with her up until this point and acting like he’s surprised? This isn’t new information to him. They try to tie this part of her character in with her abandonment issues by having her father say he was just like that, but… it just doesn’t really fit. We need more than one character trait, movie.
Harry, similarly, doesn’t ever quite make sense, even after they really try to flesh out his backstory with a bunch of very emotional scenes. He’s basically the epitome of “I loved you too much to ever be with you if it wasn’t completely on my terms,” which is still one of the most ridiculous clichés Hollywood doesn’t seem to want to stop doing. The movie even points out it’s stupid, and the response is basically “emotional hook, then move to another funny scene.”
And the comedy is… Okay, it’s almost clinically inoffensive and bland. It’s not ridiculous enough to ever really elicit big laughs, nor is it edgy enough to ever feel like it’s actually pushing some boundary. It’s like eating unseasoned rice. Yes, it’s food, yes, it gives me the experience of eating, but… couldn’t you give me some f*cking spices? I’ve seen all of you use spices before, dammit, and they were GREAT SPICES!
Overall, it’s not a bad movie. It’s well-acted, it’s got a lot of beautiful shots in it, and the scenes where they want you to have “the feels” will damned well give you the feels. But it just never really nails any other aspect of the film, despite great performances. It doesn’t fail, but it doesn’t succeed either. This is a movie that everyone can like, almost no one will hate, but I don’t think many people will love. If you just want to grab a bottle of wine/vodka/whatever and cry a little bit, this is an okay movie to do it with, but otherwise, try something better on Netflix. Like Hot Fuzz, which is my next review.
Hey, so, here’s a bonus post because I can’t not write about this film and I have the buffer filled for the next week and by then it’ll be too late.
Five friends go camping together. Unfortunately, one of them, Jeremy (Eduardo Franco), accidentally cuts his penis off. He’s evacuated, but they send the wrong cooler with him, so his friends, Sean and Donnie (Daniel Doheny and Luke Spencer Roberts), along with Jeremy’s sister, Becky, and her friend Sarah (Geraldine Viswanathan and Sadie Calvano), have to trek through the woods and endure a series of wacky hi-jinks trying to get his severed member back to him.
“Hi-jinks ensue” has been the basis for comedy films for a long time. Have a crazy set-up, use it to create a sense of urgency that explains why the characters might act abnormally, see the film play out. Here’s the problem: Just having a different crazy set-up doesn’t make it a different movie. I mean, yes, a lot of the jokes are based around the fact that it’s a severed penis as opposed to, say, a severed foot, but the jokes aren’t all that great. They’re just dirtier, not cleverer. Now, yes, you get points for originality because, technically, having to think about sucking venom out of an unattached penis is different than the normal comedy situation of doing it to your buddy, but not enough to try and get 15 minutes out of the joke that we’ve all seen a hundred times.
The other thing is that, honestly, the pacing of the film is weird, since they clearly ran out of some of the nature jokes early on and therefore had to figure out how to add another 30 minutes in other locations and situations that are largely too contrived for a movie that otherwise tries to be fairly realistic for a farce. Hell, there’s one scene that’s probably fifteen minutes long that literally amounts to nothing and just isn’t that funny. When I was watching it all I could think was “so… you just wanted to make a Lorena Bobbitt joke.” Except that the target audience for this movie is clearly teens, so I don’t think they’d get the reference.
If I was going to say the bright side of the movie it’s that the actors are all pretty charming. Especially for a streaming film that is clearly designed to be a teenage gross-out comedy. All of them sell the fact that they’re dealing with a lot of stress and also still trying to keep their sanity and focus despite how ridiculous the situation gets. The problem is that the things they’re doing just aren’t great enough to really merit the quality of performance they’re giving. I’d expect all of them to have pretty good careers ahead, although you can see Doheny right now in the film Alex Strangelove in which he gives another amazing performance in a more well-crafted movie about a young man coming to terms with his sexuality.
Overall, I wrote this to tell you that this is the kind of film that you should only watch if you really liked the American Pie spin-off movies. Or if you’re drunk. Or if you just really want to see a lot of severed penises, but don’t want to watch Teeth.
Obvious fact: Spike Lee is not subtle about the state of America’s race relations. Whether you agree with him or don’t, the man has made his opinion on the treatment of black people within the US damn clear for about 30 years. Hell, he says people call him the “angry black filmmaker.” Ten minutes on Reddit will tell you that’s the nicer version of what some people call him. BlacKkKlansman will not change that, because he’s clearly still black and angry.
And the movie’s a strong case that he’s justified in being that way.
Now, add in the fact that he’s got a true story like this and Jordan Peele producing and you have a recipe for a film that’s gonna piss a lot of people off. However, they’re the people who deserve to be pissed off.
Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is the first black police officer in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He’s first sent to infiltrate a speech by Black Activist and creator of the “Black Power” movement, Kwame Ture (Corey Hawkins), where he meets anti-police Black Student Union President Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), who he begins to date. At the same time, he answers an ad in the newspaper conducting a recruitment drive for the Ku Klux Klan, talking to the members over the phone. With Jewish Detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) as his surrogate for in-person meetings, Stallworth works his way into the organization, eventually striking up a fake friendship with David Duke (Topher Grace).
So, the movie definitely plays up the fact that a lot of the slogans which have resurfaced recently like “America First” and “Make America Great Again” were previously used by groups that were less than subtle about their racism and xenophobia. By that, I obviously mean the f*cking Klan. Granted “Make (insert country) Great Again,” and “(insert country/empire) First” could be derived from translations of a ton of cultural movements throughout history, but generally they were movements that were based on some form of intense discrimination. I’m sure there’s a cave painting somewhere that translates to “Eagle and Goat Tribe First.”
They also point out that the real success of the Klan was that it tried to suppress its more violent members, instead replacing the leadership with images of respectable-appearing people such as David Duke. Kudos to Topher Grace, his version of Duke is actually kind of charming. It’s believable that he could convince a group of violent racists that the real success of racism would come from making it more acceptable to the common people, by framing it under things like “crime statistics,” “red-lining,” or “drug use.” While many of the Klansmen are portrayed as completely insane or degenerate racists, it’s the ones that aren’t that are more intimidating, because they seem relatively reasonable when they’re talking, even trying to keep the others in check. The more insane ones at times seem almost cartoonishly over-the-top in their racist crusade, but, well, I’ve known people who are like that, so… can’t say it goes too far.
In a moment of balance, the movie also calls out some of the problems with the Black Power movement, by having some of the members completely reject Ron’s attempts to be a police officer as “being part of the problem,” despite the fact that he saves their lives and prevents the KKK from committing atrocities. Oh, and is a good police officer, something that everyone should support. But, of course, their criticism of him for being a police officer kind of pales in comparison to all the stuff that the Klan does.
One of the scenes that’s most interesting in the film is that they show a Klan initiation intercut with a telling (by Harry Belafonte, no less) of the 1916 Lynching of Jesse Washington, one of the most brutal acts of mob violence in US history. Jesse Washington, a black man, was found guilty of sexually assaulting and murdering a white woman, then was dragged outside, beaten, stabbed, dismembered, castrated, burned alive, and hung. A crowd of ~10,000 people watched, including the Mayor, Police Chief, and a professional photographer, making it a well-documented event. Even if he was guilty (which the physical evidence did suggest), HE WAS TORTURED AND BURNED TO DEATH PUBLICLY. There should never have been a time when that was okay, but the event was more condoned because of the recent release of Birth of a Nation (a movie that puts a nice, positive spin on white supremacy and the Klan). Like I said, it’s a solid scene, reminding us of exactly how much we try to erase from our nation’s history.
The cinematography and soundtrack (with score by Terence Blanchard, who does many of Lee’s films) are amazing. The images of the cast looking directly into the audience are chilling, almost accusatory, and the effect is profound. The performances are all great, although special credit to Washington, who balances a lot of character traits within his portrayal.
Overall, it’s a solid film. It’s a little preachy, sometimes feeling like Lee’s dropping a moral anvil on your head, but, dammit, sometimes the anvil needs to be dropped. I recommend seeing it, but, *Spoiler alert* you do want to brace for the final shots of the film, because it moves from the movie to just news clips of the last 2 years, and… well, you will hear a f*cking pin drop from 3 theaters over as the credits start to roll.
So, it’s happening. I’m doing all of Edgar Wright’s movies, though I guess not in any particular order. There aren’t that many, since Fistful of Fingers never got distributed and he got kicked off of Ant-Man, and I probably won’t review Spaced unless it’s requested. I do like the show, though not as much as the subsequent films, I just am already regretting the shows I’m currently set to review… especially since I plan on doing an actual live review of the next season of Doctor Who. But, for now, I’ve got some more amazing movies by a visionary director to review.
This was the first of the Cornetto Trilogy and also the least-earning one at $30 Million, though on a $6 Million budget, it still was profitable… though it earned less money that year than Christmas with the Kranks, Fat Albert, or Catwoman, a fact that should kill your soul.
Slight format change: I’m putting a synopsis here, and a full summary after the “read more” page, so you can just read the analysis and not have to wade through the movie. If you want the summary, just go to the bottom and read it first. Let me know if you think this is better.
Shaun Riley (Simon Pegg) gets dumped by his girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield), because he’s so dispassionate about life that he only wants to drink at the same pub, the Winchester, with his slovenly roommate, Ed (Nick Frost). Shaun decides he’s going to get his life together, but unfortunately he’s been missing the fact that the zombie apocalypse has come. Shaun and Ed form a plan to get his mom, Barbara (Penelope Wilton), kill his step-dad Philip (Bill Nighy) who has been bitten, rescue Liz, and head to the Winchester.
However, things don’t go as planned. Shaun can’t bring himself to kill Philip, Liz brings along her flatmates David and Dianne (Dylan Moran and Lucy Davis), Ed screws up most of the plans by being reckless and irresponsible, Barbara is bitten, and Philip becomes a zombie. They finally make it to the pub, but are surrounded by hordes of zombies. Eventually, David, Dianne, and Barbara are killed, Ed is bitten, and Shaun and Liz prepare to go out fighting, but are rescued by the military. Six months later, Shaun and Liz are engaged and Shaun keeps zombie Ed in the shed to hang out with, their relationship mostly unchanged.
Something painfully occurred to me during this re-watch: In terms of re-watchability, this is the worst of the Cornetto Trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fun to watch again, but Edgar Wright’s films are notoriously good to watch a second, third, or tenth time. Hell, the other two movies in the trilogy, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, are arguably BETTER when you see them a second time. This one is about the same. Still good, but about the same.
Part of that is that this movie has less of the foreshadowing and repetition that are in the other two films, because this was the first one. Sure, they’re in the film and they’re done great, but they just aren’t as polished as they are in the others. But, none of that makes this film any less amazing, because when you consider that this is an underfunded first outing of a director who had previously only done television, this is basically watching Babe Ruth’s first home run.
Like the best zombie movies, the point of the movie is to use zombies as a metaphor. In Night of the Living Dead it’s Vietnam-era America (and a dash of racism from the living), in Dawn of the Dead it’s consumerism, in Day of the Dead it’s a lack of communication, in Land of the Dead it’s the nature of power to eventually be countered, and in Dead Alive it’s so that someone can kick ass for the Lord (if you don’t get this reference, ask me to review the movie). Shaun of the Dead actually takes it a step further and just points out that so many people are effectively already zombies that the actual zombification is really secondary. Hell, at the end, Noel (Rafe “I was the bad guy in Jurassic World 2” Spall), the jerk that worked with Shaun, is basically doing the same job now that he’s a zombie.
Shaun feels the way that many people feel. He’s given up doing anything he’s passionate about (like his deejaying) because he has bills to pay. He instead chooses to just do the same thing over and over again, drinking with Ed and Liz at the same bar, never trying to be stimulated, because when you know your dreams are dead, what the hell’s the point in doing anything else? And, like many of us, he’s just existing, he’s not really living. He’s not depressed or suicidal, he’s just dispassionate and doesn’t know what to do since he can’t do the thing that he actually wanted. It’s like most people whose passions are art or theater but aren’t lucky enough to do them for a living, you end up just working a job to keep a roof over your head, and you don’t want to dedicate all the energy for a hobby. You know that you could, but you also know it’d be super hard for little reward, so you don’t, and then you’re even more miserable by choice.
To summarize: You’re not living, but you’re not dead.
I’m going to add a clip from the show Steven Universe here, because there is a song that perfectly encapsulates what I’m saying.
The key to the movie is stated by Liz at the end: ” You did something. That’s what counts.” When Shaun actually starts to do something instead of just going through the motions, everything goes wrong, which is exactly the thing that most people fear so much that it stops them from doing anything. But, that’s also exactly what allows Shaun to start being a more complete person at the end of the movie. He hasn’t stopped hanging out with Ed, hasn’t stopped going to the Winchester, but he’s also doing other things that have some risk and discomfort. And that’s how you really feel alive.
As for the technical qualities of the movie itself, the foreshadowing and repeated dialogue is amazing, partially because it almost all functions as clever wordplay and partially because recontextualizing things is an easy way to convey meaning by inherently drawing comparisons. The big one is Ed’s speech about what they’ll do the next day:
“… Have a Bloody Mary first thing. Get a bite at The King’s Head. Grab a couple at The Little Princess, stagger back here and bang! We’re up at the bar for shots. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?”
Aside from Ed’s speech telling the plot of the movie (Bloody Mary is the first zombie they kill, a bite at the King’s head is Philip getting bitten, grab a couple at the little princess is picking up David, Dianne, and Liz, back to the Winchester for shots is… self-explanatory), there’s also Ed telling his other roommate Pete (Peter “I’m the Tick” Serafun… Seramichelle… Serafinowicz) that the next time he sees him he’s dead and Pete telling Ed to live in the shed.
The repetition is pretty great, too. Shaun’s dialogue to Ed when he’s playing the game is mirrored with Ed saying the same to Shaun when he’s shooting zombies. There’s a shot in the beginning of the film when Shaun closes his bathroom mirror and Pete is there as a jump-scare parody, which later is duplicated with the zombie Pete. “You’ve got red on you” naturally takes on two meanings. Shaun’s walk to the bodega near his house is similar both times, except the second time the apocalypse has happened. When Shaun tells David to turn the jukebox off, he says “kill the Queen,” (because the song is by Queen) which becomes a conflict when David tries to kill Barbara, who, as the King’s wife, would be the Queen. Additionally, almost every character seen in the first half becomes a zombie in the second.
Another hallmark of the film is that there are sharp, dramatic cuts with powerful sound effects for the most mundane things, like adjusting a tie or washing hands. Like with the repeated dialogue, this actually helps to convey the metaphor by saying that the scenes that normally would feature the zombies feature the mundane aspects of Shaun’s life.
There are tons of references to other zombie and horror movies, with businesses being named for George Romero, Lucio Fulci, John Landis, and their films. Much like in the original Night of the Living Dead, the zombies are never actually explained, although the proposed causes are borrowed from other zombie movies.
Other than that, the movie’s just funny as hell. Every performance is pretty much spot on, although I have a special love for Penelope Wilton as Barbara. She was always so gentle and loving that it was honestly heartbreaking to watch Shaun kill her.
Also, last thing, I finally looked up what Noel’s dialogue means when he says he only has an “Henry.” That’s Cockney rhyming slang for pot, because it’s Henry the Eighth -> An Eighth of Pot. Cockney rhyming slang is always fun.
So, everyone probably remembers that period where most of the movies were just adaptations of older TV shows trying to cash into nostalgia. If you don’t remember it, congratulations on just being born, enjoy 23 Jump Street, and expect it to continue until the sun burns out. Some adaptations were pretty much the same as the series, like The Addams Family, some were updates, like Charlie’s Angels and Dukes of Hazzard, and then there were the rarer, and usually unsuccessful, category: the parodies. These were films that were simultaneously representing a series while also making fun of how ridiculous the series was, like The Brady Bunch Movie, 21 Jump Street, or Starsky & Hutch. For some reason, Will Ferrell, who made a cameo in Starsky & Hutch, decided to make two of these in a five-year period.
The first, Bewitched, was… interesting. It was a meta-film about re-making the TV show as another TV show which starred a normal human actor (Ferrell) as Darren and two actual witch actresses as Samantha and Endora. Basically, it tried to pull-off the series premise while also acknowledging the impact of the original series. This SHOULD have been a good idea, except that it wasn’t very funny and lacked direction… much like the show Bewitched (hey, I loved the show, but writing was not its strong suit). Maybe it was just too meta or, more likely, they focused too much on Will Ferrell who, as the surrogate Darren, is JUST NOT INTERESTING. Still, it tried something a little different than most of the remakes and actually capture the spirit of the show without being a direct copy and I give it credit for that. Four years later, Ferrell decided to try yet another adaptation…
*Warning: The above trailer is painful to watch. Much more than the film, even, and that’s bad*
Many of you probably remember the TV show Land of the Lost, either the original from the 1970s by Sid and Marty Krofft, the creators of Donny & Marie and H.R. Pufnstuf (and also Far Out Space Nuts) or the ‘90s reboot (also created by the Kroffts) that was re-run on Nickelodeon frequently. The first series is probably more well known because it had scripts by famous writers like Larry Niven (of Ringworld fame) and Theodore Sturgeon (of “Baby is Three” fame), plus some of the most ridiculous effects ever put on film which somehow were also entertaining as hell.
The basic premise of the series was that a father (later replaced by an uncle) and his two kids were… you know what, it’s all in the theme song:
Marshall, Will, and Holly on a routine expedition
Met the greatest earthquake ever known.
High on the rapids it struck their tiny raft.
And plunged them down a thousand feet below.
To the Land of the Lost.
Say what you will about the 70s, but the theme song always brought you up to speed. Basically, the family falls in a portal and ends up in a semi-magical land filled with dinosaurs (including Grumpy the T-Rex), aliens, Sleestak (which are reptilian monsters famous for being men in bad costumes), a crazy man with a cannon, and the early hominid Pakuni (including Cha-ka, their friend). It’s not in the past, but instead on a different planet where stuff randomly ends up from all around the universe due to random wormholes all around it. The 90s series was pretty much the same (but with better SFX and different names). Then, they decided to make this movie.
SUMMARY (IT’S LONG, FEEL FREE TO SKIP)
The movie starts off with an astronaut who appears to be lost on a different planet with three moons being stalked by something through a swamp. He looks up in time to realize that it’s a T-Rex, which promptly attacks him, leading to a horn-heavy sequence introducing the movie’s title.
It then shows us The Today Show with Matt Lauer introducing Paleontologist Rick Marshall (Will Ferrell) who is there to announce the founding of “Quantum Paleontology,” which is the study of Time Warps. Lauer, as a rational host would, does not take this seriously at all and instead mocks the fact that Marshall spent $50 Million of tax-payer money to study something this insane. For his part, Rick is extremely off-putting and smug, but then walks off of the interview when Lauer brings up Stephen Hawking (Rest in Peace) calling Marshall’s theory “nonsense.” However, when Lauer tells viewers to look for Marshall’s book in the “I’m out of my freaking mind” section, Rick attacks him.
Three years later, Rick Marshall is now a laughingstock, working at the La Brea Tar Pits and giving lectures on Tachyon theory (again, he’s a paleontologist) and presenting his invention “the Tachyon Amplifier” to a middle-school science class. He’s met afterwards by Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel), who is basically a blind fangirl of his. During this scene, Rick is eating an M&M-stuffed Doughnut, the sheer brilliance of which is glossed over. Holly shows Marshall a fossil which is millions of years old but contains the imprint of a cheap cigarette lighter as well as a crystal that radiates “Tachyon Energy.” She leaves the fossil with Rick, who realizes that it is, in fact, his lighter that was embedded next to a trilobite.
Holly returns a few days later to find that Marshall has finished his Tachyon Amplifier and also has been binge-eating everything in sight. Holly turns it on, revealing that it plays “I Hope I Get It” from A Chorus Line due to Marshall having to cannibalize his iPod for parts. She tells him they’re going to take it on a field test, which she describes as a “routine expedition,” something they humorously hammer home. They head to “The Devil’s Canyon Mystery Cave,” a cheap sideshow attraction where Holly found the fossil. There, they meet Will Stanton (Danny McBride), a perverted survivalist who runs the Canyon and its gift-shop. He agrees to take the pair on a rafting trip.
On the rafting trip, Will tells them that there are rumors of “lizard men” who appear in the caves and even has his partner, Ernie (Ben Best), toss a fake one (comprised of a fake Sleestak from the old show) at the group. Marshall detects tachyons and tries to amplify them, resulting in “the greatest earthquake ever known,” which creates a series of rapids (it’s revealed that the canyon’s stream is actually just industrial run-off from a soap factory, so Will is unprepared for the whitewater). They end up going over a waterfall into a swirling vortex.
The group awakens in a desert on the planet from the intro, which is populated by random objects from human and alien history. When confronted with the grandeur of his discovery and the fact that he has effectively re-written human understanding, Marshall utters the most succinct celebratory phrase he can:
Matt Lauer can suck it!
They wander through the desert until they find two humanoid primates about to execute a third. Will tries to subdue them by showing them a lighter, but the two steal it and run away, leaving the third, Chaka (Jorma “I’m in the Lonely Island, don’t pretend you don’t know who I am” Taccone). Holly befriends him and seems to understand him somewhat (though seems unable to realize he’s pervertedly groping her), while Chaka pretty much mocks Marshall until Holly tells Chaka that he’s a great chief. They are all pulled into a sand pit, something that only Will seems bothered by (even pointing out that the other two are taking all of this way too casually), until they are ensnared by living vines. They try to escape the vines but are attacked by a T-Rex.
They run for it and are almost free, but then Marshall and Holly stop running to take a picture of the T-Rex, forcing Will to stand in front of it for scale. They then barely manage to make it across a small bridge over a chasm (which Chaka was trying to sabotage to save himself and not them) and the T-Rex stops. However, after Marshall makes several (completely inaccurate) comments about T-Rex visual ability and then says that it has a brain the size of a walnut, the T-Rex gets pissed off and jumps over the chasm to chase them. They make it into a cave, barely escaping the T-Rex they name “Grumpy.”
Inside the cave, Chaka explains that he’s a prince of the Pakuni who was overthrown for pooping in the water supply. Will tries to block up the entrance, but Rick says it’s better not to draw attention. Will counters that the T-Rex already knows they’re there, but Rick says the T-Rex has a brain the size of a walnut. In response to that, the cave is hit by a hurled object, revealed to be a giant walnut, wrapped in leaves and launched by Grumpy as a “f*ck you” to Rick.
The next day, the group sees a blinding light and Rick hears a voice telepathically asking for help. He runs off to find the source, Will follows him because he believes that Rick needs to be mercy-killed for “jungle madness,” Chaka follows Will for fun, and Holly follows to stop them. They find themselves in an abandoned city that contains a giant crystal in the middle. The group then mocks the inspirations for the architecture.
Chaka starts to warn them about Sleestak, but they think it’s just a word they don’t understand, somehow missing a giant warning, IN ENGLISH, that says “Beware of Sleestak.” (This is a reference to the warning written by a Revolutionary Army soldier saying the same in the show). The Sleestak then begin emerging and they are one of my favorite parts of the movie. Despite being mostly CGI, they still look like cheap costumes, with one even having a visible zipper (that is apparently actually part of the monster in-universe) and several with clear seams where the headpiece meets the suit. The group is almost eaten, but Rick randomly figures out how to activate the crystal based on a balls-out guess and they escape into the portal it generates.
They end up in a tesseract-like void that contains the alien Enik the Altrusian (John Boylan) who says he is a fan of Rick (having seen the Matt Lauer interview) and asks for his help stopping the Zarn (Leonard “Thou shalt have no other Spocks before me” Nimoy), another alien bent on universal conquest. Rick immediately agrees after Enik flatters him, despite Will warning him that he has one rule: “Never trust a dude in a tunic.” They are told they have to find the Tachyon Amplifier to stop the Zarn and return home.
Rick comes up with a plan to find the Tachyon Amplifier and also to hide from Grumpy using “hadrosaur urine” that he had collected (he compares gathering it to fly-fishing). The first plan is immediately rendered pointless because Chaka knows where it is. Along the way, they find the main portal entry point, which is littered with stuff from throughout time and space. They witness Grumpy and an Allosaurus fight, until they smell the urine on Rick, making this “one of the rare situations where dumping piss on yourself is a bad idea.” They eventually escape the two dinosaurs, killing the Allosaurus and retrieving the amplifier inside of it, which is immediately stolen by a Pteranodon.
Rick starts to give up, leading the others to abandon him. Chaka and Will bond over the fire, with Holly translating, until Rick comes back to apologize. He then sings the theme song to the show while a giant mosquito sucks out a ton of his blood, causing him to pass out. Waking up the next morning, he has a huge bite mark and a renewed spirit. They find a lava caldera filled with Pteranodon eggs and the amplifier, which requires Rick and crew to sing “I Hope I Get It” in order to keep the eggs from hatching, with Chaka performing a wonderful solo. They get the damaged amplifier back.
During their celebration, Will, Marshall, and Chaka all consume bad-trip hallucinogenic fruits and are left too high to function. Meanwhile, Holly fixes the amplifier and follows its signal into a cave, pocketing a dinosaur egg and finding a message from the Zarn and his corpse, revealing that he’s a police officer and Enik is actually a criminal who has an army of Sleestak. She’s captured by the Sleestak and taken to Enik.
Rick and Will track her to the Sleestak caverns and steal the shed skin from some mating Sleestak to sneak in. It’s revealed that these Sleestak are servants of the Library of Skulls, a group of aliens who sentenced Enik to exile and put him in a tunic, “as a symbol of his deceit.” They rescue Holly, who kisses Marshall. It’s revealed that they sent Chaka to Enik with the amplifier, allowing him to mind-control all of the Sleestak and open portals to anywhere in time and space. He then sics Grumpy on the group.
Marshall decides to face the T-Rex mano-a-dino and sends Holly away. He asks Will to help him, but Will declines gracefully. Marshall fights poorly, culminating when he decides to try and pole vault onto the T-Rex’s back, but instead is swallowed whole. Holly yells at Grumpy for eating a paleontologist just because he mocked Grumpy’s intelligence. Holly, Will, and Chaka go to stop the Sleestak, but, despite the fact that Sleestak can actually just be pushed over and stay down, are overwhelmed by numbers.
They are saved when Marshall returns riding Grumpy. It turns out that Marshall swam through the T-Rex’s bowels and fixed the constipation that was causing his angry demeanor. The T-Rex quickly destroys the army, something that amuses the hell out of Will. The four follow Enik back into the pillar and attack him. They accidentally shatter one of Enik’s crystals, closing the portal to Earth. Rick grabs a crystal that Holly found in the first act and shoves it in as a jury-rig. Will holds Enik in a headlock, agreeing to stay behind to keep Enik from taking over the world. Holly and Rick escape, leaving the other two behind. Rick then confusingly delivers a line from the show that was originally from Marshall to his daughter, Holly. Back in the Land of the Lost, Will discovers that the females in Chaka’s tribe are actually beautiful naked women who immediately take a liking to him.
Back on The Today Show, Marshall is debuting his new book, Matt Lauer Can Suck It, which has changed every aspect of society and become a massive bestseller. Marshall even points out that he actually asked Lauer’s attorney for permission to call it that, something that causes Lauer to attack Marshall. Meanwhile, a Sleestak egg that Holly picked up hatches, ending the film.
This film has a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes and an audience score of 32% and its Metacritic isn’t any better. It was nominated for 7 Golden Raspberry Awards and even won “Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off, or Sequel.”
AND I F*CKING LOVE IT.
I love this movie. I love almost every scene of it. I think it’s a solid parody of a ridiculous but loveable property that’s been aged up because all of the fans of the series, even of the re-runs of the re-make series, would have to be in their 20s by 2009. It’s different enough that it doesn’t feel like it’s just repeating the series, but familiar enough that it still has some of the key similarities. The effects look intentionally cheesy, the lines are sometimes intentionally awkward, and the rules of the universe change fairly often, all of which are just like the show. Yes, these all happen in different ways than the show, but it’s still a tribute.
The biggest change, though, is the characters. This isn’t the semi-wily and likeable Marshall family from the original series. These are three of the most incompetent people in history, in their own ways. Rick believes himself to be an expert at everything, including combat, biology, and history, only to be constantly wrong. Holly, rather than being the more assertive and headstrong character from the series, is basically a submissive fangirl, despite being clearly the most competent person in the group. Will is so socially awkward, he even ends up telling them that he doesn’t need to go back to Earth at the end. These aren’t really normal protagonists and I think that’s part of what hurts the movie. They worked so hard to subvert audience expectations and parody the original series that it actually makes the audience uncomfortable during a movie that’s filled with adult humor and strange visual gags.
And that’s exactly why I like it. This movie isn’t typical, but if you can get past that and accept it for what it is, a subversive parody of a property that it actually still shows a lot of love for, then the movie is actually pretty funny. Is it the funniest movie I’ve ever seen? No. But I’m usually laughing just from the interactions of the characters dealing with the fact that they’re in such a ridiculous situation. All of the actors really give their all, too, and they play off of each other perfectly. There are a ton of scenes were you can tell that Friel is about to burst out laughing because of how seriously Ferrell is delivering such ridiculous lines, and I’m right there with her.
I know that this movie will probably never be a hit, but I think it doesn’t deserve to be called the failure that it usually is. It just was trying to do something different and, honestly, it was marketed horribly. But I think it works a lot better if you go in with no expectations of the film, because then you can appreciate it for what it is. I think this movie is just misunderstood, not bad, and I wish that people would give it another shot. This is the weird hill upon which I will die. And, for the record, one person who did appreciate this film was Roger Ebert, who gave it a favorable review. So, at least I’ve got company.
I didn’t intend to see this movie. I didn’t really hear much about this film aside from it existing. But, I was walking back past the theater and it was the next film that started that seemed worth seeing. And I could not have been more pleasantly surprised.
So, I loved the original Teen Titans cartoon. I thought it was well-crafted, well-animated, well-voiced, had great characters that were complex while still being relatable, and had some great plotlines that allowed all those things to shine. But, it came to an end and was reborn as Teen Titans Go! which was… different. Truthfully, I only watched like 3 episodes of the new show (one of which was about assembling a sandwich, another about waffles, and another that was about thwarting a pizza boy, so food is clearly a big thing in the show) before stopping because I just didn’t think it was that funny. It was lighter, to be sure, and definitely was supposed to be a comedy rather than a superhero show, but it was not my thing. Even with the same voice actors (WHO ARE ALL AMAZING), it still just didn’t grab me.
Then I watched this movie. If someone could tell me that the rest of the series after I quit watching was like this film, I would probably go binge it all right now. Hell, I probably will anyway, because this was actually pretty well done. Is it perfect? No, but it was funny and original, which is more than I can give most comedies.
SUMMARY (SPOILERS IF YOU HAVE LITERALLY NEVER SEEN A TRAILER)
So, in the Teen Titans universe, every superhero has a movie (and the real ones are parodied and mocked mercilessly) despite also being real superheroes. One person who really wants their own movie is Robin (Scott Menville), leader of the Teen Titans, consisting of Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), Starfire (Hynden Walch), Raven (Tara Strong), and Cyborg (Khary Payton). The movie consists mostly of them trying to get a movie made, part of which is finding their arch nemesis in the form of Slade (Will Arnett), a villain trying to take over the world, and part of it is convincing Director Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell) to make the movie.
First off, this movie is a DC Fan’s dream. There are references to DC comics, movies, and TV series in basically every shot of the city, ranging from the obvious (Mr. Freeze Pops) to the obscure (The Challengers of the Unknown are actually a minor plot point!) to the ridiculous (there’s a poster for the film Jonah Rex, a T-Rex version of Jonah Hex that should totally be real). There are animation sequences designed to mimic the live-action movies, the DC Animated Universe, the Arrowverse TV Shows, and even Superfriends. The cameos are so frequent I think it’s harder to think of a property that WASN’T in the movie than one that was. And so much of them are used as in-universe product placements that it really makes me think that this entire world runs on superheros. If you’re like me and you think that postmodern style mashups between all of these properties can be funny, then you will be laughing throughout… often at jokes that nobody else got. Laugh anyway.
Second, there are the meta-gags. There are so many of these sprinkled throughout, like everyone mistaking Slade for Deadpool (because Deadpool was a rip-off of Slade’s identity of Deathstroke) or calling Superman (voiced by Nicolas Cage) a “National Treasure.” There are at least two “this is Nicolas Cage voicing Superman” jokes that I caught and I’m sure there are more. There are countless jokes about how much DC and Marvel are willing to exploit their IP as much as possible. There is a cameo that makes fun of Stan Lee cameos. There are jokes about the fact that people will continually see superhero films at the expense of any other form of entertainment. There’s even a running gag about how overpowered Raven is and lampshading how boring a movie of a character like that fighting villains onscreen might actually be. The jokes just keep coming, sometimes buried under other jokes.
Then there are just the bizarre gags, like having an 80s-style song called “Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life” by MICHAEL FREAKING BOLTON that plays out like you’re on LSD or having the group poop in a prop toilet on a movie set. They’re mostly for the kids but, like I said, sometimes they’re actually just the set-up for a much better joke. And the last line of the film made me laugh for like 5 straight minutes, because it was just such a bizarre shot at children’s movie moralizing. There are also several that I don’t think I got because I didn’t really watch the show, but the fact that they mostly were still entertaining was a good sign.
It honestly made me think of Arrested Development in the way that the humor was just kind of shotgunned at you from every direction. It just wasn’t quite as clever as the writing on Arrested Development, but, again, it’s ostensibly a kids’ movie. Some of the jokes had to be made for kids, but I don’t think they all really speak down to them. Maybe a better comparison is The Lego Batman Movie: you can enjoy it as is and think it’s funny, but the more you know about the property and the world in general, the more you enjoy the movie. Granted, Lego Batman was a better film in general, but that’s a really high bar.
The casting in the movie is perfect, with most of the characters being voiced not by people who would play them in movies, but by people who just love the characters they’re voicing. It gives even the minor cameos a passion that adds something to the experience.
As to the plot, it comes off less as a traditional film and more a collection of 15-minute episodes that loosely interconnect until the 30-minute finale, but, honestly, it worked out great, because you never got bored nor knew exactly what gag was going to come next.
Overall, the only real “problem” with the movie is that it is still a kids’ film. The humor is either referential or juvenile, without a ton of other jokes for people who don’t love DC and are old enough that a 2-minute fart joke is 90 seconds too long. But, I still enjoyed it from start to finish. Hell, there are probably 3 scenes in it that are so funny that I would recommend seeing the movie just to see them.
If you love comic books or have kids, you need to see this movie. Oh, and if *SPOILER* the end credit stinger is true, and we are getting a sixth season of the original Teen Titans show (which Cartoon Network started re-running last year, so it’s very possible), then just finding out about that early might be worth the ticket price.
So, I have a particular affinity for this particular kind of exploitation film, which used Italy’s less-than-rigid laws concerning copyright and trademark to create unofficial “sequels” to films. Basically, you couldn’t make an actual sequel, but you could market a movie as part of a series even if it wasn’t. Fun fact: There are FIVE unofficial Italian sequels to Evil Dead, all of which have been released in English, the worst of which shares a writer with this film, Claudio Fragasso. Oh, and this is also the guy who wrote Troll 2, a movie so bad its documentary is called Best Worst Movie. For the record, this is something that this director, Bruno Mattei, and writer have done multiple times. Another of their previous collaborations was an unofficial sequel to Night of the Living Dead that is, like the Jem film, truly, truly bad.
This movie was marketed as being a sequel to The Terminator in 1989, a full two years before Terminator 2: Judgment Day came out. Its original title was even Terminator II. However, after it became obvious that the movie has very little to do with The Terminator, as you’ll see, they instead decided to market it as a sequel to Aliens. In Japan, they even split the difference and marketed it as Aliennators. For legal reasons, this movie was never released in the US until this year, when apparently Severin Films (distributor of Birdemic: Shock and Terror) decided to just assume no one cared anymore. I’d have agreed, except they put out the greatest promo trailer of all time, making fun of the Robert Patrick promo for the Terminator 2 VHS release, which should have made everyone want to see this film.
This ad is far better than the movie. I should have asked the Grouch to do this one. Okay, let’s do this.
The movie begins in the style of many low-budget rip-offs: With narration over stock footage. In this particular case, the stock footage is of Venice, Italy, apparently “before the year 2000.” Venice is apparently being threatened by the “High Tide” because the water around Venice is now toxic and eating away at the foundation of the city. A day later, a toxic cloud has now settled over the city, requiring it to be evacuated, explaining why there are no extras. It spends a solid 2 minutes showing the empty city with the guards blocking people from entering.
We then see a group of men in a command post. They receive an emergency broadcast from Venice and see three men (whose names I can never figure out so I can’t credit them) running through underground steam tunnels. The men approach the camera and start screaming “help” and “they’re coming,” in some absolutely spectacularly bad acting, before the feed cuts out. The command post now isn’t getting footage and, for some reason, can’t transmit. Inside the tunnels, the men are still trying to contact the base for help as they run from something at a pace best described as “light jog.” One of the three men goes in a different direction. The other two see by a monster with a hard exoskeleton and a slimy carapace. The third finds Drake (Clive Riche), another tunnel worker, who seems traumatized. Drake then strangles the guy to death while laughing like a madman.
Back in the command post, we see a broadcast from Professor Raphelson (Al McFarland) which explains that several of the people working in the tunnels have been going mad and dying, but also communicating with “strange creatures.” The broadcast then cuts out. Conveniently, all cameras throughout the tunnels and Venice are now offline. The people watching the broadcast, Colonel Pearson (Bruce “I clearly can’t remember all my lines” McFarland), Captain Dalton Bond (Mark Steinborn) and Definitely-Not-Ellen-Ripley Dr. Sara Drumbull (Haven Tyler) are joined by odd-accented Marine Samuel Fuller (Christopher Ahrens) from the “Tubular Corporation” who wants to recover the diary of Professor Raphelson so the company doesn’t lose his research into “purifying the waters of Venice.” Bond and Drumbull don’t want Fuller coming, but the Colonel overrules them. They set off on “Operation Delta Venice.”
We’re then introduced to the Megaforce (yes, really), a group of definitely-not-space-marines consisting of generic tough-girl Koster (Geretta “I’m the best part of this film” Giancarlo), stereotypical hot-blooded Latino Franzini (Fausto “My name is so awesome” Lombardi), stereotypical SoCal idiot Caine (Cortland Reilly), generic smart-mouthed soldier Kowalski (and yes, Kowalski is already a generic soldier name) (Paul Norman Allen), and generic idiot Price (Richard Ross). They’re introduced swearing at each other, using a bunch of jokes about each other’s stereotypes, and threatening to kill each others just so we’re clear that they are all tough soldier guys. Oh, and their dialogue is so god-awful it’s hilarious, especially Koster’s opener “Alright ya bunch of pussies, I’m back and I’m kicking ass!”
The Megaforce, led by Dalton, go into the tunnels along with Drumbull and Fuller. Shortly into the tunnels they’re ambushed by enemy fire, revealed to be Drake. Two of the soldiers ambush him, with the line “Let’s get out the KY so we can shaft him real good,” which made me laugh for like 15 straight minutes, because damn, that’s awful. Reminder: Same writer as Troll 2. Drake fails to kill anyone, because instead of shooting, he delivers the epically bad line:
Now I can see you. Now I can kill you easy. I only have to take one step towards you.
After he’s captured, Drake (who is the second-best part of this film because this guy clearly believed he was a naturally gifted actor and was very wrong) tells them they’re going to die. Drake utters an inhuman scream that incapacitates all of the Megaforce and runs away, dragging Price. They track Price down by his radio tag but find a room of bodies cocooned against the walls, with strange spider-like things “hugging” their “faces.” They find Price in one of the cocoons and he begs them to kill them, in what is a clear rip-off of the same scene in Aliens. A monster then “bursts” out of the “chest” of Price and yes, we’ve just started to hit blatant thievery. At least the monster is clearly a guy’s hand in a glove that chokes Koster, not an actual prop from Aliens.
As Franzini and another one of the generics make their way through the tunnels, Franzini is grabbed by a monster and pulled away quickly. We then see the face of the you know f*ck it I can’t pretend this isn’t terrible and I have an hour left give me a second f*ckyouJesseH.
Okay, I’m back. Finally, we see the face of the full budget of an Italian B-Grade knockoff film and H.R. Giger’s corpse is vomiting just from me publishing this.
Franzini breaks free as the other guy shoots the monster and they run. They come back with the group and detect movement. We then see POV shots of something running through the tunnels as Drumbull somehow sees things coming from her device beeping really fast. They report the findings to Command and are told to continue. They get inside the lab they were searching for and find a life reading. They follow it and uncover a small girl are you f*cking kidding me? Yes, they find definitely-not-Newt Samantha Raphelson (Dominica Coulson) who has been surviving in rags in a facility filled with monsters. And while Carrie Henn’s portrayal of Newt in Aliens is one of my favorite child performances, the young Ms. Coulson’s is decidedly not, occasionally switching accents for entire lines. Granted, she’s still better than many of the adults in this film.
Inside the lab, they find evidence that the scientists were studying genetic mutation, not how to clean water. You’d think that someone would have noticed. Koster and Kowalski search the facility and Koster gets attacked by the monster’s prehensile mouth-tentacle, which is apparently long enough for it to move around and kill Kowalski before grabbing her from behind and cocooning her. Newt-mantha wakes up screaming, because that happened in Aliens. Meanwhile Fuller accesses the Tubular mainframe and delivers the single most dispassionate monologue of weird pseudoscience in history to explain that the scientists created an enzyme that through some applied phlebotinum can find any host and turn it into a monster. So, it’s not actually aliens and therefore not a rip-off.
The monsters cut the lights, so the group makes their way out. We are then treated to a re-make of the scene in Aliens where they detect movement and life signs approaching but can’t see anything. Except in this, they don’t show the monsters going through the vents, so I guess they teleport or phase or plot hole. The monsters attack, killing Caine, using the same two sound effects every time, one for “I’m attacking,” and one for “I’m dying.” This scene goes on forever and it gets really repetitive. Fuller and Dalton are injured, with Fuller being revealed to be A ROBOT. What a twist for a movie called Terminator II.
They reach a safe place and NewtMantha and Drumbull bond, including Drumbull saying “I cross my heart” in another blatant rip-off. The two later wake up and believe they’re in trouble as a monster is in the room. Sadly, they aren’t seen on the camera by anyone but Fuller, who pulls a Paul Reiser and turns them off. Yes, I know his character was named Burke, but I assume Paul Reiser sabotages rescue attempts regularly. Drumbull pulls the fire alarm, alerting the others, who save them. As they make their way through another level of the facility, they find the control center. It’s revealed that Tubular Corporation caused the original toxic infection in order to make money on real estate they acquired after the city was abandoned, after they clean the city and re-sell it. Due to the writer being the level of understanding it takes to write Troll 2, the reveal actually says that they’ll be re-selling the land for 70% of its purchased value… which would be LOSING money. It’s also revealed that this was over 10 years ago, so the plan clearly failed.
NewtMantha reveals that Fuller is a robot, resulting in the remaining Megaforce trying to kill him and failing, seemingly dying in the process. However, he does bleed liquid metal, despite this being BEFORE Terminator 2. Hey, maybe James Cameron figured ripping off a movie ripping him off was fair. So, the movie, which has been ripping off Aliens now decides to rip-off The Terminator as promised from the original title. Fuller, for no reason, gives them a head-start and starts to menacingly walk slowly after them in the facility as they have to make it to the exit within 30 minutes or the facility blows up. Fuller somehow gets ahead of them and, in a delivery clearly ripping off Ripley’s catchphrase, Drumbull shouts “You bastard!” before shooting a series of high-capacity wires above him, electrocuting the robot.
NewtMantha is then dragged away by the monsters, because we needed to rip-off Aliens some more, and Drumbull has to find her. Meanwhile, Command is trying to rescue them by sending another party. Dalton is revealed to be alive and tells them that the place is going to blow. They end up being useless as the monsters easily kill them. As the monsters attack NewtMantha, FullerNator attacks Drumbull and she throws him off of the third story. Drumbull finds NewtMantha and rescues her from a cocoon. Dalton rescues them from monsters and is killed. The timer hits 0, but… nothing f*cking happens. The facility starts to slowly overload, I guess, cuz some red lighting hits and there’s electricity effects. They then say there’s 1 minute to leave the building, so I guess the countdown was just the last time they could stop the explosion. NewtMantha and Drumbull wait to die, but they stumble into, I SWEAR TO GOD I’M NOT F*CKING KIDDING, a time machine.
The pair go back in time while we see stock footage of a thriving Venice. So, they are apparently far enough back to be before the toxic poisoning. However, somehow, FullerNator is there too, having taken the other time pod. Drumbull rips part of his face, revealing a robot eye because of f*cking course. He continues to follow them as they run through Venice. She then throws the time-machine controls at him, which I guess sends him somewhere through time even though they’re not in the pod? Whatever, almost over. They look out over the water and say they’ve got a lot of work to do.
What. The. Hell. Did I just watch?
Okay, cards on the table, I’ve seen other stuff these guys have done, and it’s usually been really bad exploitation, but it was at least exploitation where we’re rewarded with over-the-top gore or nudity or something super cheesy that’s hilariously bad. This was still exploitation, but it’s exploitation of BETTER MOVIES. And that’s actually what kills the film.
As I say many times, a “So bad it’s good” movie requires that people don’t know that they’re making a terrible film. It requires basically everything to go wrong, like with Troll 2 or The Room. But this movie ripped off two actual GOOD movies, sometimes stealing entire scenes and lines of dialogue, and that keeps it from being really bad enough to be hilarious. Other elements are also too good to be a truly enjoyable trash film. The costumes aren’t good, but they aren’t completely incompetently made. The lighting and sound are mostly good, if cheap.
Now, if everything in the movie was the kind of dialogue that we get from Drake and the Megaforce (cool band name), we’d be set, because my God is it bad. Then we get to Fuller’s dialogue. See, everyone in this movie is terrible, but at least with Fuller, since he’s a Terminator rip-off, delivering lines in a monotone with a weird accent should be how the character works. The problem is that most of his dialogue is filled with extremely expressive language, which seems… ultra-dumb.
The ending is insane, but kind of funny. Random time machine? Why not?
Ultimately, I’m just not a fan of this movie. If you’re a fan of terrible films, I’d skip it and watch other, better, terrible Italian rip-offs, like Zombi 3, the crew’s unofficial Night of the Living Dead sequel.