Category Archives: Film

The Three Stooges

Simply put: if you like The Three Stooges, you will like The Three Stooges.

The casting could have destroyed this film, but fortunately they found the right mix.

Will Sasso comes the closest I have ever seen to a Curly impression that is a true Curly. Sasso is able to do the nyuk and barks while still conveying the child-like qualities that made Jerome Howard a star.

Chris Diamantopoulos was a perfect Moe. The mannerisms were spot on, and the vocal work was superb.

The real accolades, however, are rightfully given to Sean Hayes (of Will and Grace) who practically channelled the ghost of Larry Fine. Larry is the toughest Stooge to get right, and Hayes was superb. I have heard that voice acting god Billy West was brought in to coach him on Larry, and let me tell you- those were dollars well spent.

The film is about 90 minutes long as is broken up into 3 “shorts”, although there is a larger story in place. Larry David as Sister Mary Mengele was inspired. I don’t know who’s idea it was to dress that man up as a nun, but it paid off. The opening scenes with the Stooges as children are ok, but the real fun starts when we meet up with them around age 35. The story is essentially the plot of The Blues Brothers in that the Catholic Orphange that raised them is broke, and they need to raise cash to keep it open. The rest of the film shows their adventures in raising the money. It is simple, and effective.

There is one scene in the film that so encapsulated the stupidity of the Stooges that I am still laughing 13 hours later. It is a little slice of sight gag perfection that is rarely experienced these days. Without spoiling, let me say that I will never think of Free Range farming quite the same way again. It was such a quick and  stupid gag, but it was perfect. It is obvious that this film was made by people that understand the stooges. There is not much that needs to be understood, but the Farrelly’s get it.

When most of the nation stopped showing stooges in the 70’s and 80’s before their tv revival nationwide in the 90’s, there were small pockets of America that still showed the stooges every day. I was lucky to have lived in the Boston/Providence area where the stooges never went out of style and each New Year’s was rung in with the Annual Stooges Marathon on Channel 38 hosted by “The Movie Loft’s Dana Hersey. I literally watched these guys every week from age 4-10. We had tons of VHS tapes to add to the viewing. (I have probably seen “disorder in the court” no less than 100 times, not to mention “Malice in the Palace”)

The Stooges were a big thing in my family. My father and Uncle loved them, and that was passed on to me. I am particularly  happy to see that they continue to entertain children today- as evidenced by the roaring laughter of the kids at last night’s screening. If you have kids, take them to go see this movie. It is genuinely funny.

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Hunger Games: Food for thought

God that title makes me wanna puke….so smugly unclever.

I will preface this entry by stating that I have not read the books. Until a short while ago, they were not even on my radar. I am sure I passed them in the bookstore (before it went bankrupt) and briefly glanced at the cover and moved on to other fare. What I did not know was that this is EXACTLY my sort of book: a good one with a message. How can I know this without reading it? The Movie.

This film has a lot happening in it. On the surface it is a Battle Royale meets Running Man film where 24 kids must battle to the death, on television, for the world to see. Underneath there is an wonderful anti establishment commentary that every young person should be exposed to in America.

Watching this film, I was taken aback by the amazing fashions in “Capital City”. It is as if Lady Gaga were given free license to completely redesign the world. No….literally.

The Capital is an exciting place! The colors, the art, the music, the energy! I have always loved cities, and it is a place I would want to live in. As attractive as it is, the film shows that the truth is more complicated. The Capital is populated by brainwashed “haves” who are taken in by the glitzy glamor of reality tv and the pop culture world, as the “have-nots” toil away to provide the labor needed for the rich to live in their world. All the while, the administrators of this society keep them controlled and enthralled by “bread and circuses” while others suffer through brutal lives. This is not a new idea. It gave rise to socialism and the labor movements across this world. That this film could be made in 2012 and resonate so clearly to the average person is astonishing. A few decades back, this film would not have worked. It would not have been made, and its message would have been lost. But its time has come again.

As in the early years of the 20th century, and for a time in the 60;s and 70’s, American society is facing change. People are out of work, and the poor get poorer while the rich get richer. This is a political film. It is not necessarily a Liberal film, nor is it a Conservative film. It is a film that imparts a central truth that both parties ignore: The Establishment wants us to be stupid, we are easier to control that way. The endless bickering between politicians and the foolishness of our popular culture (of which I am an admitted sheeple) are blinding us. We, on the blogosphere, are constantly reading of the erosion of our Constitutionally granted rights by Bush and Obama. The Internet is becoming more controlled, we can be labeled as terrorists and detained forever or even killed without warrant. Young liberals are blinded by the “more government to control evil business” rhetoric, and conservatives calling for “less evil government to protect victim businesses” All the while, both lose nothing, and only gain power.

Young people: There is nothing wrong with enjoying reality tv, the latest movie, or music craze, but don’t let that be ALL you expose yourself to. Learn about our country, its history, and what is happening in the world. For every Kardashian or Jersey Shore you watch, wikipedia American social history. Make an effort to educate yourselves. Hunger Games, which bridges both of those choices, is a great place to start.

Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen has made his best film in decades.

Owen Wilson has proven himself a first rate actor.

Marion Cotillard was perfection, as always.

I have never disliked Michael Sheen or Rachel McAdams characters more. This is a success.

The best of the year.

 

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

In 2009. I trepidatiously entered the local cinema to see the latest incarnation of my favorite literary character- Sherlock Holmes. I have seen Basil Rathbone play Holmes, and my personal (and everyone’s) favorite Jeremy Brett play Holmes.

Brett played the “Classic” Holmes that we hear in our heads when reading the stories. very British, upper class, well put together. What Robert Downey Jr did was actually a bit more honest in my opinion. When Holmes was between cases, he was intolerable, and often descended into cocaine fueled periods of malaise. When off the case, he would liberally use cocaine to speed up his genius to keep his mind occupied. The thing about drug addicts- they are not pretty, and tend to smell pretty bad.

While a bit “amped up”, RDJ’s Holmes displays all you would expect of a drug addled GENIUS. His humor and amazing chemistry with Jude Law (who is becoming the definitive Dr Watson) makes these films something special.

In the first film, there was a shadowy figure manipulating all the events facing Holmes. He is of course the legendary James Moriarty- arch Nemesis of Sherlock Holmes. Their story together- The Final Problem shocked me as a boy. Moriarty is easily the greatest villain ever committed to paper. He is, in every way, the equal of our hero, and it was scary to see Holmes face him.The ending was impossible for an 11 year old to fathom… The hero of these tales, who outsmarts everyone, dies at Reichenbach Falls in a battle to the death with Moriarty. I had this thing going where I would read the Sherlock Holmes stories during the week after the next episode aired on PBS. When I saw that particular episode of the Brett Series (which I knew was at the end of the book I owned) I was horrified. I tried to read Hound of the Baskervilles after this, but kept putting it off. I was dumbstruck that my hero had died. I avoided everything Holmes for over a year.

Now, many of you have read the stories and know damn well that Holmes survives the battle and has many more adventures with Dr Watson…but I was a kid, and there was no internet in those days of the late 80’s early 90’s. I only had Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes with Hound of the Baskervilles…Thats it. I was missing all the later stories. What is worse is that the following episodes of the series were not being broadcast at that time! The next week the series repeated to the first episode. I was heartbroken, and that was the end of Holmes for me. Little did I know that I was experiencing the exact same emotions that readers in 1893 experienced, only a century or so late!

What brought me back to Holmes was that the episodes were showing on television in a mini-marathon every night of the week on PBS. I had made my peace with Sherlock’s end, and watched the series every night. I viewed the final problem once again…and it was immediately followed by The Adventure of the empty house… what was this? Holmes Lives?! I hounded my mother and she took me out to find the next book in the series. Thus, my fascination continued and I ended up reading all of Doyle’s Holmes work, as well as a few later tales by other authors (Holmes in WW1? an 89 year old beekeeper during WW2?!!)

Now, it is 2011, and A game of Shadows is released. This film is not heavy on clues or deduction for the audience. This, like the first, is us living in Holmes’ world. The film loves to slow down to show us how he processes the world. It is a film that shows Holmes at his best, facing his equal. There is little for us to figure out, we are along for the ride- to see the evil genius of Moriarty, and Holmes’ quest to outsmart his equal. Jared Harris nearly steals this movie from Downey Jr.  His Moriarty is terrifically sadistic, but always reasonably so. While Holmes is compelled to see justice done, Moriarty is compelled to cheat, steal, and attain power- all while using similar methods and thought patterns as Holmes. The final showdown of the film- at Reichenbach falls (gasp!…spoilers- yes, they go there with this story) was exquisitely done.

People are going to complain, they are going to rail against the modern bastardization of Arthur Conan Doyle’s masterpiece. There is nothing that can be done to stop them. I simply feel that they are wrong. Those that would pass over this movie over the aesthetics of Guy RItchie’s Holmes universe is doing themselves a huge disservice. Check it out- well worth your time.

Beginners

Ewan McGregor will always be remembered for Star Wars, Moulin Rouge, and his other big budget fare. I think this is a sad thing. Beginners is a great example of the type of film Ewan McGregor excels at.

The story of a man who’s father is dying and reveals a secret- He is gay. The film follows how the son deals with the news, and his father’s cancer, as he meets and falls in love with a lovely actress who, like he, has issues with making long lasting connections. Christopher Plummer delivers a terrific performance as the father, while Melanie Laurent, one of my favorite actresses who is FINALLY breaking into American Cinema, is the love interest. This movie reminds me a lot of 500 days of Summer, and in a good way.

This is a charming film that delivers its message of life, death, regret, and love in an outstanding way. Worth your time.

Devil’s Double

I have certain habits when I am on the computer. One is that I always have the TV on. it has become one of the better ways for me to discern how good/bad a movie/tv show is. If it can grab my attention and keep it while the wonders of the Web lay before me, then its pretty good.

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The First film in my reactivated Netflix queue is The Devil’s Double, based on an autobiography of a body double for Saddam Huessein’s eldest son- Uday. Dominic Cooper, who came to my notice as Howard Stark in Captain America plays the 2 roles of Uday, and Latif the double.

Sadistically evil is the only way to describe Uday. Dominic Cooper has shot forward in my estimation as one of the best actors out there. He is on a tear right now, with this, Captain American, and My week with Marilyn (review forthcoming) all out this year. Mark my words- he is an actor to watch.

The lovely Ludivine Sangnier, who blew me away 8 years ago in The Swimming Pool, finally returns to my film viewing as Sarrab, one of Uday’s girlfriends.

If you have not seen this movie yet, I encourage you to do so. Lee Tamahori has finally redeemed himself after Die Another Day with this amazing film. I expect this to be among the “Best Picture” nominees come Oscar Sunday.

Am I am Muppet, or a Man???

Hi-ho there everybody! Michael the Ponte here with another entry in Das Blog!

Comics: The haul 2 week ago was great- best was Fantastic Four #600! Human torch lives! Last week was the rare “5th week” and the haul was small. best of the bunch was Uncanny X-Men 2 just for having a San Francisco populated by Mr Sinister clones…who get shot in the head. 🙂

I ventured out to the local cinema for the first time in a while to see The Muppets!

This movie had to really perform to impress me…and it did. The marketing campaign (now legendary) was a series of trailers spoofing EVERY major film that opened this year. It was genius, and it worked. It also opened up a potential problem for the finished product- Could it be better than the trailers? The answer is a resounding yes.

Jason Segel wrote, and starred in, the best Muppet Film since their heyday of the late 70’s early 80’s. Their treasure Island and Christmas Carol offerings were ok, Muppets from Space needed some work, but overall the Muppets have been out of sight, out of mind for nearly 20 years. This film addresses that, with the Muppets trying to get the act back together. Its got catchy songs (written by Brett McKensie and others) and a lot of heart. The Muppet “Vibe” is back, and I am really glad I saw this on the big screen, as it was intended to be seen.

Jack Black…was awesome in his Cameos, which makes sense as he is practically a Muppet himself.

Go see it, revisit your childhoods.