Saturday, April 24, 2010

Midgets vs. Mascots (2009) - Rotten and Possibly Vomit-Inducing

On the Menu: MIDGETS VS. MASCOTS (2009)
Ingredients: Gary Coleman, Brittney Powell, Mark Hapka, Jordan Prentice, Richard Howland, Jason Mewes, Ron Jeremy and Scottie Pippen. Directed by Ron Carlson. Run time: 88 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: Two reasons why I wanted to see this: 1) the title and 2) the back cover of the DVD case mentioned Gary Coleman fighting Scottie Pippen. Seriously, how could I pass it up?

Little man/mascot/porn mogul Big Red Bush (Howland) has passed away. His son, Little Richard, (Hapka) and most-recent wife, Bonnie (Powell), eagerly await the wealth headed their way, but Big Red throws them a curveball by including a challenge in his final wishes.

Little Richard will coach five little people against Bonnie's five mascots. The two teams most complete 30 competitions in 30 days. The competitions include gator wresting, milk chugging and fewest insults to get punched in the face. The winning team takes away $5 million.

Second Helping: The milk-chugging scene still makes me dry heave a little bit.

Tough to Swallow: During an early interview with Jimmy O'Doul, the on-screen title for him reads "Seargent in Arms." It should read "Sergeant-at-Arms."

Gary Coleman is the only "headliner" on the DVD cover to get a lot of screen time. The others listed on the cover are Mewes, Pippen and Jeremy.

I'm disappointed there isn't a commentary or making-of featurette on the DVD.

Something to Chew On: Russell is credited as playing Russell. The actual actor is Jordan Prentice. Prentice was one of the 7 little people who played Howard in HOWARD THE DUCK.

Lemone is credited as playing Lemone, but it's really Nic Novicki.

The song "Champion," which is played over the DVD menu and during the closing credits, is sung by RuPaul. It's the title song on his fourth studio album (released February 24, 2009).

There were a couple of interesting news bits about this movie before the DVD was released. Gary Coleman is upset with producers over a frontal nudity scene he says was unauthorized. He has also said he believes a body double was used for the scene, and the double "is unattractive, and does not make [him] look good." Coleman wants the scene taken out of the movie. If, in fact, it is a body double, I wouldn't be complaining, personally.

Scottie Pippen is also not too happy with the movie. On January 8, 2009, Pippen issued a statement regarding his participation:
“Given the recent controversy surrounding Gary Coleman, the fact that I’ve been repeatedly asked questions about my small part in the movie ‘Midgets vs. Mascots,’ and a related video posted online which shows me being assaulted by a group of Little People, I want to clear up any misunderstandings.

“In 2008, I agreed to play a cameo role in a movie titled ‘A Tribute to Big Red’ (now titled ‘Midgets vs. Mascots’). My role was scripted, and the first two scenes went off without any problems. During the third scene, I was told that four Little People, along with actor Gary Coleman, were going to become angry with something I said and storm off as the scene ends. Instead, they basically attacked me, with Gary Coleman apparently climbing on a chair behind me to hit me over the head with a phone (twice).

“A short fight ensued before I heard the film’s director yell ‘cut.’ As I recall, some of the Little People were laughing as the director explained that the scene was ’sort of like an episode of the TV show Punk’d.’ At that point, I left quickly without a clear understanding of what was going on.

“As for the Little Person who claims he was injured in the attack, I really don’t think I caused the injury or can be held to blame. To the best of my knowledge, there is no action being taken against me, nor am I pursuing any action. For the record, I have never seen the movie and, in hindsight, wish I’d not been involved with it. I simply wanted to make clear my role and position as I understand the movie is coming out soon. I will not be answering any further questions regarding the film.”
The film currently has a 5.6 user rating on (301 votes).

Sides: This DVD has 9 deleted scenes, a "Character Featurettes" featurette (18 minutes), the movie's trailer (poor quality) and 5 other previews.

Aftertaste: The movie is described as a "BORAT-meets-JACKASS shockumentary." It fits the bill. It's rude, crude and politically incorrect. However, it's not as laugh-out-loud as BORAT or JACKASS. Still, it's rather entertaining despite feeling scripted at times. I mean, there's something really funny about Gary Coleman picking fights with normal-sized guys.

I am still confused as to how much of the movie is real. For example, the milk-chugging scene has elements that seem fake. The movie's trivia section on states restaurant goers in that scene were sprayed with vomit and fecal matter, but the producers paid the dry cleaning bills. Were they aware of the movie beforehand? Apparently, the alligator in the gator wrestling challenge is real.

Also, are the statements by Coleman and Pippen just for publicity? It's hard to say. I wouldn't expect Pippen, a Hall of Famer, to fabricate a story, but who knows

I'd also like to know if Mewes was in scenes other than the two in which we actually see him.

A filmmakers' commentary would have been helpful in explaining some of these moments.

I actually enjoyed it more the second time around. The mascot group has the best lines of dialogue, but I'd say the funnier moments include Coleman or the other little people.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Blind Side (2009) - Get Ready to Tear Up

On the Menu: THE BLIND SIDE (2009); Blockbuster Rental DVD

Ingredients: Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw, Jae Head, Lily Collins and Kathy Bates. Directed by John Lee Hancock. Run time: 129 minutes. Rated: PG-13.

At First Bite: I love Sandra Bullock. I love sports movies. Plus, it was nominated for Best Picture, so I figured I should see it once I had the opportunity.

As a child, Michael Oher (Aaron) was taken away from his crack-addict mother. He ran away from foster parents, and ended up sleeping wherever he could find warmth, e.g. a friend's couch.

One of those friends helps Michael get into a mostly-white private school because of his size and athletic ability. His grades are lousy, but it's because his former teachers just passed him through the system. His teachers at this new school don't think he's smart enough to be there. None of the kids seem to want anything to do with him.

Socialite Leigh Anne Tuohy (Bullock) and her family pick up Michael one night as he's walking down the street. They take him in and teach him about football... and family.

Tough to Swallow: The only problem I had with this dramatization of a true story is the issue of racism isn't really covered. Sure, Leigh Anne's friends show their ignorance at lunch, but that's pretty much it. Collins, the daughter, tells her mom kids are being "juvenile," but that's as far as it goes. You can't tell me Hollywood didn't sugarcoat it. REMEMBER THE TITANS is a Disney film, and it wasn't afraid to show things how they were.

The passage of scripture on the archway at the fictional Wingate Christian School reads, "With man this is possible, With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26 reads, "... with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." [italics are mine]

When Michael gets his first C+ in biology, his name is spelled "Micheal" on the test paper.

On his history test, the first question asks where the Battle of Waterloo took place. Michael's answer of "Germany" is marked correct.

During Coach Phil Fulmer's visit, he refers to Sean, Jr. by S.J. the first time he talks to him, but then calls him C.J. when ending their conversation.

Something to Chew On: Julia Roberts was offered the role of Leigh Ann Tuohy, but turned it down.

Briarcrest Christian High School is the actual school Michael and the Tuohys attended, but administrators didn't want the school's name to be used because they didn't like how the teachers were portrayed in the script (doubting Michael's intelligence and capability to learn).

Michael Lewis, the author of the book, told Fox Sports News that Oher wasn't pleased with how the film portrayed him as "idiotic." Oher did not attend any of the film's premieres or the Oscars.

Leigh Anne Tuohy was an interior decorator for former-Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey. There's a scene in the film where she is on the phone talking about him.

A handful of former college coaches play themselves, e.g. Phil Fulmer, Nick Saban, Lou Holtz and Tommy Tuberville.

The film currently has a 7.7 user rating on (31,075 votes).

Sides: This rental version has no special features. But, hey, even the retail version only has deleted scenes. So, to me, that seems like the bigger rip-off.

Aftertaste: The movie opens by showing a clip from a Redskins game. Awesome. Sure, it's the game where Theismann's career was shattered by LT, but you can't be choosy. As a 'Skins fan, I don't have a lot to cheer about nowadays other than the signing of Donovan McNabb.

There aren't necessarily a lot of football scenes, which is disappointing. However, this film is more about the drama. For the story it's trying to tell, the movie doesn't need to be longer than 2 hours, but it is. Oher has stated he wasn't totally inexperienced when he started playing football, so maybe more time could have been spent on his childhood, relationship with his brother or any racism he faced once joining the Tuohy family, instead of showing workouts and practices.

Bullock is the best part of the whole thing. I don't really know how much of a stretch it was for a Southerner to play a Southerner. Maybe the tough part was Tuohy is also a Republican and devout Christian. Even so, this is Bullock's ERIN BROCKOVICH.

The movie does what it intends to do: tug on the heartstrings. I must admit I got teary-eyed a couple of times. It has a good message and one great performance, but I don't think it should have been nominated for Best Picture.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) - Respect Your Elderberries

On the Menu: ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (1944)

Ingredients: Cary Grant, Josephine Hull, Jean Adair, John Alexander, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre, Priscilla Lane, Jack Carson, Edward Everett Horton and James Gleason. Directed by Frank Capra. Run time: 118 minutes. Rated: Not rated.

At First Bite: This DVD came in the mail last Saturday, and it was a pleasant surprise since I hadn't checked my Blockbuster queue in a couple weeks (at least). I've yet to see a Cary Grant movie I didn't enjoy. The same thing goes for Frank Capra. This will be #13 and #6, respectively.

Mortimer Brewster (Grant) is a well-known drama critic and bachelor. He's even written a couple of anti-marriage books. So, it's a big deal when he decides to marry the preacher's daughter, Elaine (Lane). Before setting off on their honeymoon to Niagara Falls, they want to make a quick trip home to tell their families the news of the marriage.

Mortimer goes to see his aunts, Abby (Hull) and Martha (Adair), who live across the way from Elaine's father. Actually, they live on opposite sides of a cemetery.

While searching his aunts' house for notes for his next book, Mortimer discovers a dead body hidden in the drawing room. He suspects his loony uncle, Teddy (Alexander), who believes himself to be Theodore Roosevelt.

But, then he finds out about his aunts' charity work involving a room for rent and some noxious elderberry wine.

As if the house wasn't already full of crazies, Mortimer's brother, Jonathan (Massey), who is wanted for murder, decides to use his childhood home as a hideout. He is accompanied by his alcoholic surgeon, Dr. Einstein (Lorre).

Things get even more complicated for Mortimer when the local police decide to stop by to check up on his aunts, and he becomes aloof with Elaine while trying to sort out everything out and prove he's not crazy himself.

Second Helping: I ended up watching it three times in one calendar day (four times within a 24-hour period). That's how funny it is.

Tough to Swallow: The film is set during Halloween, but there is a Brooklyn Dodgers/New York (Yankees) game taking place as the movie opens. Postseason baseball never made it to October 31 until 2001.

As Jonathan is looking for Mr. Spenalzo, he tells Elaine that Dr. Einstein is "somewhat of a magician," but Jonathan's lips aren't moving.
There are a few continuity problems, but the only noticeable one is where Mortimer closes the door after showing Officer O'Hara out, and then the door is open again as Mortimer goes to leave.

The toughest thing to swallow is the lack of features on the DVD. I mean, this is a classic Capra film after all.

Something to Chew On: The movie is based on the Joseph Kesselring play of the same name.

Capra got permission from the play's producers to direct the film adaptation, but wasn't allowed to release the film until the play's run on Broadway was finished. Capra finished the film in 1941 in only 8 weeks, but the play ran from January 10, 1941 until June 17, 1944 (1,444 performances).

The play's producers agreed to give Hull and Adair an 8-week leave from the play in order to do the film. Alexander was also allowed time off for the movie, but Boris Karloff, who had the role of Jonathan in the play version, was denied permission to leave the play. Karloff was an investor in the play, but he was also the star attraction. Producers feared losing him would cause the play's attendance to drop. In the film, Massey was made to look like Karloff, and references to that resemblance are a running gag.

Bob Hope, Jack Benny and Ronald Reagan were all offered the role of Mortimer. Benny and Reagan turned it down. Hope was under contract with Paramount, who wouldn't let him be in the Warner Brothers picture.

Grant donated his $100,000 salary to the United States War Relief Fund. Capra enlisted in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during filming in 1941, but was given an extension so he could finish editing. He reported for active duty in January 1942.

Censors demanded one of the film's last lines be changed. The line initially included the word "bastard." The change includes the words "sea cook." Censors also had a role in reworking the fate of Mr. Witherspoon, the caretaker of Happydale Sanitarium.

I've read that one of the tombstones in the cemetery has the name Archie Leach on it, which is Grant's real name. After watching the movie four times, I still didn't see it.

The film currently has an 8.1 user rating on (28,476 votes). It ranks at #246 on the Top 250 list.

Sides: The DVD has a cast list and a short, text-only background on the making of the film entitled "Stage to Screen."

Aftertaste: It takes a second or two to get used to Grant constantly pulling faces and doing double-takes. Sure, it's over-the-top, but this is a ridiculous, and dark, comedy where stuff like that only helps.

Personally, I think the supporting cast is a riot, and they really upstage Grant.. The aunts are so genuinely sweet, yet see nothing wrong with their "bad habit." The character of Uncle Teddy is so outrageous it's brilliant, and Alexander does a wonder job playing it straight. And, it's hard not to smile or laugh whenever Lorre gets started, especially opposite Alexander. The Karloff gag is also a stroke of genius.

I normally don't laugh out loud during movies, but this one got me a couple of times. And, I'm pretty sure I've never watched a movie 4 times within a 24-hour time period.

I suggest you give this movie a look when Halloween rolls around this year. It's not going to scare you, but you'll die laughing.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

2012 (2009) - Don't Ignore the Crust!

On the Menu: 2012 (2009)
Ingredients: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oliver Platt, Woody Harrelson, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, George Segal, Thomas McCarthy and Stephen McHattie. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Run time: 158 minutes. Rated: PG-13.

At First Bite: I felt the need to follow HOT TUB TIME MACHINE's trip into the past with a glimpse into the future, all the while keeping John Cusack on hand. This movie would be #30 on my Cusack viewing list. TRUE COLORS and THE SURE THING (some of which I've seen) need to be next on that list.

Dr. Adrian Helmsley (Ejiofor) and his team of geophysicists discover that the Earth's core is heating up and its crust is becoming unstable. He informs the President of the United States (Glover), who, with the help of other world leaders, begins to make preparations for saving at least some of the world's population.

Meanwhile, over in Yellowstone National Park, while camping with his kids, writer Jackson Curtis (Cusack) discovers the same information with a little help from a conspiracy theorist/radio show host, Charlie Frost (Harrelson). Frost describes it as the theory of crust displacement.

Unfortunately, the Earth's core temperature is rising faster than anticipated, so the evacuation plan must be initiated.

While Helmsley tries to help save humanity, Curtis must find a way to save his family.

Tough to Swallow: I love Platt, but it's hard seeing him play the jerk for the majority of the movie.

And, like WAR OF THE WORLDS, it drives me crazy to see the main characters skirt danger so easily. The car chase scenes involve the car always just outpacing the giant cracks in the Earth. The airplane scenes are the same way; the planes escape volcanic debris and falling buildings pretty much at every turn.

Something to Chew On: Apparently, the idea that the world will end on December 12, 2012 isn't something supported by Mayan documents. The date is actually the next time the sun will line up with the center of the Milky Way on a winter solstice.

Some theaters gave the film showtimes of 8:12 p.m. (20:12).

The Louvre curator's name is Roland, which is a nod to the director.


The film currently has a 6.0 user rating on (64,095 votes).

Sides: The DVD has commentary with Emmerich and co-writer Harald Kloser. With the movie being over 2 and a half hours long, I did not watch it again with the commentary. Perhaps another time.

There is a super-sappy alternate ending and 5 deleted scenes. A short featurette entitled "Roland Emmerich: The Master of the Modern Epic" (about 9 minutes) is also included. The special features are rounded out by a music video by Adam Lambert ("Time For Miracles") and 8 other movie trailers.

Aftertaste: Like Emmerich's other doomsday films, INDEPENDENCE DAY and THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, 2012 is visually stunning. Sure, it's mostly CG effects, but it's awesome to see world wonders fall victim to volcanoes, earthquakes and/or tsunamis. That might sound a bit morbid, but it's still breathtaking, and it's the best excuse for watching this movie.

Ejiofor might be one of today's best actors, and Cusack is one of America's favorite actors. So, the acting is pretty good. Again, I just hate that Platt has such an unlikable character because he's normally a great comedic actor.

For me, INDEPENDENCE DAY is a success because it's a doomsday movie, but it's not afraid to inject humor into the story. 2012 and THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW don't really have that. Yes, they're disaster/doomsday movies, I know, but destruction and death, while entertaining at times, get old after 2+ hours. If you don't add some comedy, then it needs to be innovative, e.g. CLOVERFIELD. You know, something more than the gloom and doom.

All that being said, this movie's not a total disaster.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) - Refreshing Nostalgia

On the Menu: HOT TUB TIME MACHINE (2010)
Ingredients: John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Lizzy Caplan, Crispin Glover and Chevy Chase. Directed by Steve Pink. Run time: 100 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: I had a free movie ticket and chose this movie over SHUTTER ISLAND. It was 12:40 in the afternoon, and I figured I'd rather start the day with something funny instead of creepy. With a title like HOT TUB TIME MACHINE you have to expect silliness (just like SNAKES ON A PLANE).

Lou (Corddry) is an alcoholic partier, who almost dies in his garage when he passes out behind the wheel while belting out some Mötley Crüe. His old friends, Adam (Cusack) and Nick (Robinson), see it as a suicide attempt. The trio decides to take a trip down memory lane to a ski lodge they stayed at in 1986 -- a time when they still "had momentum." Tagging along is Adam's nephew, Jacob (Duke), who lives in his uncle's basement because his mom has shacked up with her new boyfriend.

The present-day lodge isn't as lively or kempt as they remembered it. The hot tub is pretty gross, too, until a repair man takes care of it.

The foursome jumps in and things get crazy. So crazy they cause the hot tub to go haywire, and end up back in '86. They feel young again. They look young again (at least to everyone else).

The problem is poor Jacob starts to flicker a la Marty McFly whenever the guys don't retrace their '86 steps. Oh, and the hot tub is broken, so how will they get back?

Tough to Swallow: Jacob is said to be 20 years old, but was conceived in 1986? That's fuzzy math. I can't say for sure (having only seen the movie once), but I think the digital reading on the hot tub was 2006 when they first went back in time, then changed to 2010 when they traveled back.

There are a few anachronistic issues. "21 Jump Street" is referenced by Blaine, but it didn't air until 1987. There's a RAMBO III poster in Blaine's bedroom, but that movie didn't come out until May 25, 1988. Nick and Lou bet on the Broncos/Browns AFC Championship game with "The Drive" by John Elway. That game took place on January 11, 1987. Adam, while writing break-up poetry, listens to "(I Just) Died in Your Arms" by Cutting Crew, but it didn't hit the States until January 4, 1987.

I don't think Chevy Chase was a good casting choice. They should have gone with Christopher Lloyd, Michael Biehn or Bruce McGill for the role of Repair Man.

Something to Chew On: The movie's references include "ALF," "21 Jump Street," "Miami Vice," "Saturday Night Live," "Family Guy," "Stargate SG-1," RAMBO III, THE KARATE KID, WILD HOGS, RED DAWN, TIMECOP, THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT, THE TERMINATOR, BETTER OFF DEAD... and BACK TO THE FUTURE.

Jessica Paré plays the groupie who has sex with Nick. She also starred in the quiet gem LOST AND DELIRIOUS (2001) with Piper Perabo and Mischa Barton.

Director Steve Pink also wrote HIGH FIDELITY and GROSSE POINT BLANK (both, of course, starring Cusack).

Cusack also has a co-producer credit for this film.

See if you recognize the guy who plays Rick Steelman.

The film currently as a 7.5 user rating on (3,906 votes).

Aftertaste: It's being touted as this year's THE HANGOVER. Well, it's early yet, but HOT TUB TIME MACHINE is a guy movie that's definitely funny, clever and ridiculously crude.

The funny and clever parts will appeal to the demographic that actually remembers the '80s. The ridiculously crude parts will cater to the teens who won't get the other references. And, Cusack is probably the only reason the ladies will want to see it (not exactly the same draw as Bradley Cooper, but hey).

Cusack is the biggest star here, but the movie really centers around Corddry's Lou. And, most of the hilarity and gross-out moments come when Corddry is on screen. Sure, he might come across as over-the-top, but he's playing an alcoholic party animal. How else should he play it? Robinson provides a few laughs, and Duke holds his own as a computer/sci-fi nerd.

There's a great running gag involving the elder McFly, Crispin Glover. The cameo of all cameos comes during the football betting scene. It's my favorite part of the movie. It's pretty freakin' sweet.

And, it's great to see characters in a time travel movie discuss the plots of THE TERMINATOR, BACK TO THE FUTURE and, especially, TIMECOP.

I always wonder why if someone goes back in time and changes something, they retain their old memories and know nothing of their new future when they come back. Taking a new path would create new memories, right?

Don't worry. You won't need to think at all when watching HOT TUB TIME MACHINE.