Friday, November 4, 2011

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (2011) - Happy Holidazed


Ingredients: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris, Danny Trejo, Thomas Lennon, Amir Blumenfeld, Paula Garces, Danneel Harris, Patton Oswalt, Eddie Kaye Thomas, David Krumholtz, RZA, Bobby Lee, Richard Riehle and Elias Koteas. Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson. Run time: 90 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: I had a free ticket for a 3D movie eating a hole in my wallet. Plus, having watched three horror movies over the last few days, I wanted to see something funny. Luckily, the midnight show was nowhere near sold out. I wouldn't guess too many Christmas movies get midnight showings, especially 3-4 days after Halloween. It did seem a little weird to me.

Even though it's been just three years since the duo escaped from Guantanamo Bay, six years have elapsed in the movie world. Harold (Cho) is married, drug-free and working on Wall Street. Kumar (Penn) is on the splits with his girlfriend, and always looking for a new high. The two friends haven't spoken in a long time.

Harold's father-in-law, Mr. Perez (Trejo), and the rest of the Perez family are visiting for the holidays. Mr. Perez even brings a Christmas tree he's been growing for the last eight years. A package addressed to Harold shows up at Kumar's, so Kumar decides to deliver it to his ex-best friend.

And, that's when things unravel. Just like old times.

Tough to Swallow: The feces on Todd's driver-side window changes pattern/position in the shots following the initial incident.

When we're first introduced to Adrian, he has his back to the camera for his first lines. His mouth isn't moving in sync with those lines.

The same sync issue crops up when Neil Patrick Harris is talking to Gracie on stage after the rehearsal.

Said rehearsal wasn't recorded, yet Harold and the Perez family watch it on television (in 3D) later in the film.

On Christmas morning, Santa's hat is lying on the floor in Harold's house. Right before the credits roll, Santa flies toward the screen wearing his hat.

Brett Gelman is credited as T.V. Director. You don't abbreviate television (TV) with periods. It's one word.

Something to Chew On: The famous triple-dog dare scene from A CHRISTMAS STORY not only appears in the film, but it's also reworked.

There are at least three 3D references in the movie.

Three sisters play the role of Todd's daughter, Ava.

NPH's partner, David Burtka, appears, not as himself, but as a crazy version of himself (just like NPH has done throughout the series).

Sergei (Koteas) watches MADEA'S FAMILY REUNION.

The movie will feel topical for those seeing it in theaters because of the scene with the Wall Street protesters.

In the credits, a song on the soundtrack is titled "Dougie Houser" (by Envy). Listening to the song on, the group pronounces the name Doogie Howser. I'm going to chalk it up to a copyright issue instead of two misspellings.

Aftertaste: This is only the second 3D movie I've seen in theaters (HP7: Part 2). This film uses 3D to better effect. Eggs and traffic cones actually fly at you, and the pot smoking scenes are much cooler to watch. Nothing really popped out at you during HP7. I don't really understand the point of 3D when the film would look basically the same without it.

However, the characters (and filmmakers) here mock the use of 3D. I like a 
movie that can make fun of itself, and be smart about it. I wouldn't say there are a lot of laughs unless you're actually a stoner. It takes a lot for me to laugh out loud during a movie. This sequel didn't reach that pinnacle, but I remember four things that induced an under-the-breath chuckle: 1) Wafflebot commercial, 2) baby girl on drugs, 3) NPH wiping his mouth and 4) the real-life events happening during the clay animation scene.

To me, the scenes with NPH are the funniest, which is no different than the first two films of the series. I'm a big fan of self-deprecating humor.

I will say I would not have paid full 3D price for a ticket to see this. I refuse to pay to see a movie in 3D. Unfortunately, I've now used my two free 3D movie tickets.

If you like the first two, then you won't be disappointed in A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS. I gave the original 2.5 stars, and the first sequel 3 stars. It's no BAD SANTA, but it is definitely an adult-themed Christmas flick that will draw the under-30 crowd.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Red State (2011) - Tricks and Treats Mini-Marathon

On the Menu:
RED STATE (2011)

Ingredients: John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Michael Parks, Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner, Nicholas Braun, Stephen Root, Marc Blucas, Kevin Pollak and Patrick Fischler. Directed by Kevin Smith. Run time: 88 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: I remember hearing about RED STATE in late 2010, but was totally oblivious to all the drama between Smith and critics during Sundance. So, I had totally forgotten about the movie until it was released on DVD (October 18). It was pretty disappointing not to have been able to see the movie in theaters. Oh well.

Travis (Angarano) and his buddies are three horny teenagers looking for a good time. They find a willing lady through a Craigslist-type website. Unfortunately, things don't go the way the boys had planned. They've stumbled into something bad. Turns out the loonies at the local Five Points Trinity Church (think Westboro Baptist) have been trying to cleanse the town of sinners.

Oh boy.

Tough to Swallow: Maybe it's just me, but if I set up a tryst and arrived to see Melissa Leo step out of a beat-up trailer, I would get back in the car and drive home without thinking twice.

Based on their individual actions, I find it difficult to really label the three boys as friends. They're cowards with no gun skills.

The credit for Special Effects Foreman is misspelled as Special Effects Forman.

Something to Chew On: The budget was an estimated $4 million ($5,000 for special effects). The film made just over $1 million at the box office.

Smith self-distributed the film (SModcast Pictures).

The movie was shot over 25 days with the Red Camera.

A small group from Westboro Baptist Church protested the film at its Sundance premiere. Those protesters were outnumbered by counter-protesters made up of Smith and fans.

Smith invited WBC members to a screening in Kansas City. About 15 members, including leader Fred Phelps's granddaughter Megan Phelps-Roper, showed up to watch the movie. They even brought children. However, they walked out in disgust after 20 minutes.

The soundtrack consists only of songs sung within the film. Six of the eight songs are performed by Parks.

Smith has the final line of the movie. He's a prison inmate (off camera).

The credits are divided into three sections: Sex, Religion and Politics. These ideas basically represent the film's three acts.

Smith mentions in the credits that "[a]lmost this entire cast will return in HIT SOMEBODY. Coming over the boards in 2012."

Production assistant Tim Isenman appears uncredited as Jacob Harlow (news photo).

Apparently, the original ending played out as though the Rapture occurred.

Smith has stated there are 10 hidden jokes/surprises throughout RED STATE.

Aftertaste: I was totally psyched for a Kevin Smith horror flick. Finally, something new. When the original buzz was stirring, I decided against reading about the goings-on, casting, plot, etc. Which is why I didn't know about the Sundance controversy and critic-bashing stories. Honestly, what do I care if Smith is a prick to people in the business? He's not my friend or role model. The guy makes fun movies. The end.

In the beginning, you definitely feel the movie might turn in a HOSTEL direction. You know this isn't going to be a sex romp. The film is categorized as a horror by, which is interesting since it doesn't play as a typical horror movie. There are monsters, but the monsters are realistic. It's scary because, in this day and age, the plot of this film could come to fruition.

I spent a good portion of this movie being pissed. First, it was in reaction to the beliefs and actions of the church members. Then, it was in reaction to Smith for trying to make me sympathize with them. And, finally, it was in reaction to the lack of closure for some of the characters.

Parks and Leo are wonderful at being unlikable. The whole time I was 'praying' they would bite it hard.

Goodman steals the movie though, in my opinion. His character seems to struggle the most with right and wrong.

The chase scenes without the church/compound are intense. And, the switch from psycho-religious horror to straight-up action shootout is cool. Then, Smith goes from action to politics. But, it's during this change when we're given a comical (and ludicrous) explanation for the events that transpired. Personally, I'd rather have seen the original ending.

The movie might seem disjointed, but you can feel Smith wanted to get this stuff off his chest. In that sense, RED STATE reminds me of DOGMA. It feels personal.

It's a polarizing movie, for sure.