The Village (2004)

Do Over: EYG Sunday Morning Revisit Week 13

M. Night Shyamalan was one of the hottest young directors working after his debut The Sixth Sense and the Bruce Willis vehicle, Unbreakable. Unfortunately, the reported wunderkind’s work began to take a downward spirals, to the point where they were not even placing his name on the trailers promoting the movie.

Part of the problem was that Shyamalan films started with a couple of epic twists and he became known as a director whose movies will always feature a mind bending twist that makes the movie special. This became expected, and, this became an albatross around Shyamalan’s neck.

The twist completely crushed The Village beneath the banality of the truth of this movie. Any positivity that the film may have built up with its 19th century aesthetic and eerie creatures is undone by the twist ending that Shyamalan presents.

I was astonished by the cast of this movie. As the opening credits flew by, the names of the actors involved in The Village was way more remarkable than I remembered. Joaquin Phoenix, Bryce Dallas Howard, Adrien Brody, Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt, Cherry Jones, Brendan Gleeson, Judy Greer, Celia Weston, Jesse Eisenberg, and Frank Collison was an amazing group.

There are moments in the movie that work well. The relationship between Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix) and Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard) is nicely developed, but some of the oddities of the characters could be developed more. Adrien Brody’s character was ill-defined and felt more like a plot point than anything else.

Boy, does the plot require some stretching and, in the end, has so little reason to it that it destroys the goodwill it may have had. The initial appearance by the creatures from the woods was creepy and they looked good, but the answer to the mystery just was unsatisfying. There could have been a really strong horror film with some adjustments to the story and the elimination of the twist ending, but it was there to the film’s detriment.

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

Do Over: EYG Sunday Morning Revisit Week 12

I saw this Mel Brooks comedy in the theaters. It attracted my attention because Cary Elwes was in the role of Robin Hood, and it played upon my love for him as the Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride. Unfortunately, I hated this movie. So this week’s Do Over brought back Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

Watching this one today, I did not feel the hatred that I did when I first saw it in the theater, but I would not say that I liked it. Much of the humor was forced and just not funny. I’ve seen much funnier Mel Brooks films such as Young Frankenstein, which is the bar for all of these.

This was the basic Robin Hood story, parodying the Kevin Costner Robin Hood movie, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Roger Rees’s Sheriff of Rottingham was a clear parody of Alan Rickman’s performance from that movie. I am not sure if it is intended or just a side effect of having Cary Elwes play a familiar role, but the film felt as if it were also parodying The Princess Bride at times.

Dave Chappelle played Ahchoo, Robin’s friend and the son of the man who helped Robin escape from a jailhouse during the Crusades. Richard Lewis played Prince John, who was ruling the kingdom in his brother’s absence. Amy Yasbeck was Maid Marion with her metal chastity belt protecting her honor.

There were a ton of cameos in the movie including Mel Brooks, Dom DeLuise, Isaac Hayes, Megan Cavanagh, Patrick Stewart, Tracy Ullman, Dick Van Patten, Robert Ridgely, and Avery Schreiber.

I did enjoy the song and dance routine to “Men in Tights” that featured most of the main Merry Men. I remember hating this in theater, so this piece of the film was an improvement.

I did not find any of the “blind” jokes about the character of Blinkin, played by Mark Blankfield, to be funny. It was a joke that carried throughout the entire film and just seemed to be poking fun at a handicap. It just did not age well.

In the end, I did not hate this movie as much as I did when I was younger, but I did not like it very much either.

Clerks 2 (2006)

Do Over: EYG Sunday Morning Revisit Week 11

I’m not for sure that I have actually seen this movie before. If I had, then I certainly did not remember much about it. Clerks 3 is due out later this year and the Do Over has been dedicated to rewatching the previous two. I thought Clerks was a decent film. Sadly, Clerks 2 was horrible.

The Quick Stop burned down sending Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) out for a new job at a fast food restaurant. Dante is engaged and preparing to move away from Jersey to Florida, however his friendship with his boss, Becky (Rosario Dawson) may complicate things.

Honestly, there are some good parts of the film too. The relationship between Dante and Becky was solid. Rosario Dawson was charming and amazing as Becky. She was shining like a true star every time she was on screen. There were some funny bits and the ending with the fight between Dante and Randal was actually quite effective and took this friendship into a deeper territory than I expected.

I also enjoyed the continuous pop culture references scattered throughout the movie. There was everything from Lord of the Rings to Star Wars to Silence of the Lambs (which was probably the standout reference in the movie). The dance number involving The Jackson Five’s ABC was fun too.

Sadly, the sexual jokes and dialogue was nonstop and was very over the top. It was too much and it overpowered anything that was trying to happen in the story. Too much vulgarity and gross out moments that did not highlight the film but that took away from the story it was telling.

Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) were back to continue their running jokes from the first film. Not much new with these two.

Overall, there was a scrap of story inside the juvenile plot and vulgar language. Some of that type of humor goes a long way and Clerks 2 went too far past it. Rosario Dawson was above everything and stood out among the mess.

Clerks (1994)

Do Over: EYG Sunday Morning Revisit Week 10

I watched Clerks when I was younger, but I can honestly say that I remembered almost nothing about the movie. I remember the hockey on the roof, the black and white filming, and that Jay and Silent Bob were in it. Other than that, Clerks was a big blank slate in my memory.

I have become a big Kevin Smith fan, though I have not always enjoyed his movies. Watching his podcast Fatman Beyond is always a great time and, from watching, I knew that he had been working on Clerks 3 and that it will be released this year some time. So I decided that I should probably give the previous Clerks movies a Do Over before I watch Clerks 3.

A convenience store clerk Dante (Brian O’Halloran) gets called in to work on his day off and he deals with all sorts of craziness with his friend and fellow clerk from the neighboring video store Randal (Jeff Anderson), his current girlfriend (Marilyn Ghigliotti), and his former girlfriend Caitlin (Lisa Spoonauer).

There is not much narrative structure, but that is what was intended with this film, which is a series of incidents and the way in which it affected Dante. Dante’s constant complaint that he “wasn’t supposed to be here” was the rally cry for Dante’s continually downward spiral of a day.

The dialogue of Clerks is absolutely the selling point of the film. It is, at times, vulgar, reflective, combative, depressing, hopeful, but at all time hilarious. The fast-paced, fast-witted dialogue sparked each bizarre scene with a burst of energy that creates a remarkably entertaining film.

Randal, the consistently badly behaved and poor influence, seemed to have the key to encouraging Dante to do things that he wouldn’t normally do. Randal does it in such a deadpan manner that he feels more like the devil-on-the-shoulder than a friend to Dante.

Jay (Jay Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) start their run of appearances here as the film kept coming back to see them in a series of weird moments (almost vignettes) of the pair dancing to music or doing other juvenile activities.

As with a lot of Kevin Smith movies, there are plenty of references to drugs and sex, but it all seemed to be stream of consciousness for the misbehaving duo.

The black and white shots made this feel so much more classic than just a couple of losers talking about their failing existences. It gave the film a distinct feel and was a fascinating choice.

This was very original and you could see how this helped launch the career of Kevin Smith. Next week we will look at Clerks 2.

National Champions (2021)

June 30th, Movies 31

The June Swoon comes to a close today with the final film in the binge. The choice I made was a football movie featuring J.K. Simmons and Stephan James called National Champions. Truth is the film is less about football and more about the system of college football and how the NCAA makes billions of dollars while the student-athletes get nothing.

In National Champions, two football teams are preparing for the college championship game when the star quarterback LeMarcus James (Stephan James) and his friend, another player Emmett Sunday (Alexander Ludwig) announced that they were going to boycott the game unless the NCAA changed their system and began paying and providing benefits to the players that the NCAA was building their brand upon.

LeMarcus and Emmett went around to players on the team trying to build up support, others to join in on the boycott. Meanwhile, Coach James Lazor (J.K. Simmons) was trying to hold his team together before the big game and met up with the officials of the NCAA trying to break down the boycott.

The fact that the NCAA is a billion dollar business that absolutely takes advantage of the young men to make that money, and then the athletes are not allowed to benefit for it. The small percentage that go on to the NFL may benefit from their college games, but the vast majority of the players will not play any more. Many of them find themselves back in poverty or in financial difficulties and facing injuries or pain from their playing days.

The film really did a great job of building tension as they approached the game and what the individuals involved would do in order to get the game played. JK Simmons was fantastic as always, but so was Stephan James. These performances were what this film depended on.

I do believe that the storyline involving Coach Lazor’s wife Baily (Kristin Chenoweth) and a professor at the college Elliott Schmidt (Timothy Olyphant) was too far, and, in the end, was a strange twist. This actually hurt the story and distracted from the overall story. It is a shame because I do love Timothy Olyphant.

The film’s message is one that is absolutely a problem that needs to be addressed and the movie does a great job of showing the troubles with the NCAA and college football. It is able to present the message while still being entertaining.

Beckett (2021)

June 29th, Movie 30

The penultimate day of the June Swoon was filled with the Netflix film Beckett, starring John David Washington.

According to IMDB: “While vacationing in Greece, American tourist Beckett (John David Washington) becomes the target of a manhunt after a devastating accident. Forced to run for his life and desperate to get across the country to the American embassy to clear his name, tensions escalate as the authorities close in, political unrest mounts, and Beckett falls even deeper into a dangerous web of conspiracy

Washington was solid in this man-on-the-run story. He made a good every man struggling to do whatever he has to do to survive. Are there things that Beckett does that he probably should not be able to do. Still, most of the action works well.

The story was convoluted. I liked the mystery of what was happening, but it never really felt like it came together well and some of the twists were hard to buy. Still, I liked the way it worked itself out and ended up.

Beckett may not be the greatest film ever but it is a fairly fun time and has an enjoyable lead character who battled to survive against the villains. It is not a deep film, but I liked watching it.

Best Sellers (2021)

June 28th, Movie 29

As the June Swoon moves into its final few days, I have been having some troubles finding movies from 2021 that I wanted to watch. I have a list of films still, but a lot of them are films that just do not appeal for me. The DailyView was easier considering the number of years available, but, even then, I had stretches that it was tough to find what I was in the mood for.

Yesterday, I watched the Billy Crystal film Here Today which has been on my Amazon Prime for quite awhile and now I am getting to another longtime film on the “My Stuff” queue, Michael Caine’s Best Sellers.

Harris Shaw (Michael Caine) was a ill-manner, cranky retired author who was approached by Lucy (Aubrey Plaza) the daughter of his friend and editor. She was now in charge of her father’s publishing company and she wanted him to fulfill a contract he had signed years ago for another book.

Harris was anything but helpful and Lucy was nearing her breaking point. She had an offer to purchase the publishing company, but when Harris arrived with a new manuscript, she was ecstatic. She wanted him to go on a book tour, but he was unhappy with that idea. He eventually agreed but his bad behavior was not helping the book sales.

Michael Caine was his typically excellent self and he and Aubrey Plaza made a strong team. Much like Crystal and Tiffany Haddish in Here Today, Caine and Plaza were the best part of this movie.

The story was filled with clichés though: the alcoholic author, the lost wife, the sentimental home. The film does take a few of the clichés in a different direction, including the shocking moment near the end of the film in a book store.

A lot of what happened required some suspension of disbelief. I am not sure that social media would work the way this film indicated that it worked, but all of that could be dismissed if you connect to the two main characters.

Best Sellers had some good moments and a strong pair of leads. Again, it is not perfect, but it is interesting enough.

Here Today (2021)

June 27th, Movie 28

Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish starred in a film called Here Today, a story about a successful long time comedy writer who was suffering though the onset of dementia and who met a much younger singer who helped him face the troubles of his life.

The film’s strength was easily the pair of Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish. They had an easy chemistry and a platonic charm that carried most of the film. The intimacies that they shared was much greater than sexual and they worked extremely well.

There are some definite laughs in the film, much through the dialogue and banter with Crystal. Crystal, who played Charlie, worked on a SNL-type sketch show as a comedy writer, and a mentor to some of the others on the writing staff. Though this was a secondary plotline, I really enjoyed this piece of the movie. It brought the strength of Billy Crystal to the forefront.

However, the film is too sentimental and emotionally manipulative through much of the dementia storyline. Parts of it worked very well, but other parts of it felt as if it was being included to pull on the heart strings. I think some of the dementia sections of the film needed some tightening up.

These sections were intertwined with the story of Charlie’s wife, who had died in a car wreck. These were mostly well done and the flashbacks were used effectively.

Here Today had been on my list at Amazon Prime for quite awhile and I am happy that I finally got around to watching it. It is not a perfect movie, but it has enough entertainment value to watch.

Home Sweet Home Alone (2021)

June 26th, Movie 27

This is garbage. I don’t know why they are trying to remake the classics. They’re never as good as the originals.” — Jeff McKenzie (Rob Delaney), Home Sweet Home Alone.

You know, this is never a good sign when a movie makes a meta reference about how bad films that try to remake classics are, when that is exactly what your film is trying to do.

I did not watch this last year when Home Sweet Home Alone came out on Disney +, but, if I had, this atrocious film would have been atop the Top 30 Worst Films of the Year, over taking Tom and Jerry.

We know the general story. Little kid, this time named Max (Archie Yates), gets left behind by his family who are on their way for vacation over seas (this time to Japan) and he has to defend his house against two intruders.

Now, most of the time we have seen this concept, the intruders are criminals looking to rob the house, or to get revenge on the kid. This time however is a little different.

The intruders are a married couple Jeff and Pam McKenzie (Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper) who are trying to retrieve a rare doll they think Max has stolen. Instead of being reasonable and, I don’t know, calling the police, they decide to break into the house to find the doll. This leads to a series of non-creative yet violent assaults on the McKenzies.

It is completely full of crap and a horrendous movie.

I do want to say that I do not blame the kid, Archie Yates. Archie was great in Jo Jo Rabbit and he has plenty of upsides to his career. He just should fire those people who got him this script and had him star in this movie. They do not have your back.

Home Sweet Home Alone is a mess. If you have some kind of morbid curiosity about it, it is on Disney + but otherwise, stay away.

Men in Black II (2002)

Do Over: EYG Sunday Morning Revisit Week 9

Sequel time this week on the Do Over and we head into the early 2000s with Men in Black 2. I remember being a big fan of the original Men in Black and also of Twin Peaks and The Practice, where our main villain of this film, Lara Flynn Boyle, appeared. It couldn’t have failed. However…

I disliked the sequel quite a bit the first time I watched this. Will my opinion hold up?

Spoiler alert: Yes, it does.

A new intergalactic threat arrived on earth in the tentacled form of Lara Flynn Boyle and she was in search of a new MacGuffin called The Light of Zartha. Coincidentally, only the neuralyzed K (Tommy Lee Jones) knows where it is so his old partner J (Will Smith) had to retrieve K. help him get his memories back before the The Light of Zartha explodes (apparently in the next couple of days) and destroys the earth. All the while avoiding the dangerous alien Lara Flynn Boyle. Oh, Johnny Knoxville is here too, with two heads as if one isn’t bad enough.

The plot on this is just ridiculous coincidental. There is no way everything falls into place perfectly for this movie to have taken place. Everything dealing with this story is just poorly written and lacks any comprehensive story design.

There was a ton of CGI and special effects in Men in Black II as well and most of it is clearly at a lower level than we are used to. I would go as far as to say that it was not up to par for a film in 2002 either.

Then, a lot of the same jokes and beats from the original are reused in the sequel. That is not an uncommon thing, but there are really a lot of them. Everything from K now being the person unfamiliar with the real world and having to take hints from J to blowing the head off of Tony Shalhoub so it can grow back. No matter how much I loved Tony Shalhoub, I think that is the only reason to include this character in this movie.

There are some good jokes scattered throughout and, of course, the chemistry between K and J shined like a light through the mess around them. Jones and Smith are easily the best part of this movie and anything that was enjoyable about it was directly from them.

Although did enjoy Rosario Dawson too, though her part was underwritten and I wanted more from her even if her part of the plot was perhaps the biggest eye-rolling section of the film.

In the end, there is enough here to not hate myself for re-watching it, but it is not a good movie and my original opinion looks to be right on the money.

House of Gucci (2021)

June 25th, Movie 26

House of Gucci was one of the films that I did not get to in the theater, that was nominated for Oscars but one that I planned on doing during the June Swoon.

I have now watched House of Gucci, and I have to say that I did not get into it at all. I found it uninteresting and dull and I just could not get into it.

There are some positive things. I did like the soundtrack. There were some great songs included. Both Lady Gaga and Adam Driver play their characters well and deserved the praise that they received.

There was an impressive cast of actors in the film including such notables as Al Pacino, Selma Hayek, Jeremey Irons, Jack Huston, Camille Cottin and Florence Andrews.

Jared Leto is here too, but the less spoken about his performance, the better.

I thought it was too long and meandered through Lady Gaga and Adam Driver’s relationship.

It was just not a movie for me.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It (2021)

June 24th, Movie 25

An absolute icon.

West Side Story. Electric Company. The Rockford Files. The Muppet Show. Oz. E.G.O.T. winner. Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Rita Moreno was always a personal favorite of mine. I loved Electric Company and a child and I am sure that is where I got to know hoer so well.

This documentary on Netflix was a great trip down memory lane of one of the greatest performers in my lifetime. Spoken directly in Rita’s own words, as well as several others including Morgan Freeman and Linn-Manuel Miranda, the documentary talked about all aspects of her life, not only the high points of her career, but the way she was treated early on, and the sexual assaults that she had to handle. It spoke about a 19-year marriage that appeared to be perfect on the outside, but was far from it on the inside.

This documentary was paced quickly and involved a lot of humor and music, even when dealing with the terribly serious subjects. Everything came together to make her Rita Moreno.

This is an amazing woman who never lost the energy and never gave up on becoming more than what anyone expected. A Latina role model to be sure.

Bo Burnham: Inside (2021)

June 23rd, Movie 24

I started to watch this movie/comedy special last year, but I did not get very far into it. It had trouble grabbing my attention when I watched it. My mind must not have been in the proper state to watch it then because, when I watched Bo Burnham: Inside from Netflix for the June Swoon today, I thought it was outstanding.

Bo Burnham spent a year recording his comedy special with no crew or audience and what he came up with was an amazing time capsule of the thoughts and feelings the world faced when confined to their houses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The special contained comedy and comedic songs detailing the frustrations, the depressive states, the mental anguish, and the boredom of life during the isolation of the pandemic.

Burnham also skewered internet culture and phenomenon that came into the zeitgeist during the pandemic such as video reactions and playing along with video games.

Music was, at the same time, catchy and depressing, but no matter the feeling the music elicited from the viewers, the overall concept was that it was funny. Really funny. Undeniably relatable funny.

One of my favorite visual gags was Bo drawing a Venn diagram of Malcom X and Weird Al with “ME” at the intersection. That felt like the perfect cross of worlds for this special.

I do not know for sure why when I tried to watch this special last year it just did not grab my attention. Perhaps I wasn’t ready for it yet. Bo Burnham: Inside certainly grabbed my attention today. It is a spectacular Netflix comedy special/film that takes one of the most difficult eras of our lives and satires it while embracing the mental state it placed many of us in. It is not just inside the house, but inside the mind.

Old Henry (2021)

June 22nd, Movie 23

Today, for the June Swoon, we jump into the Western genre with a film called Old Henry which was written and directed by Potsy Ponciroli.

Henry (Tim Blake Nelson) was a widower raising his teenage son Wyatt (Gavin Lewis) on a normal farm, living the peaceful life of a farmer. When Henry comes across an injured man named Curry(Scott Haze) with a satchel of money and a gunshot wound, a posse of men arrived, claiming to be the law. Henry did not know whom to trust, but, as things became more violent, a secret from his past was revealed changing the balance of the situation.

There may be some familiar moments in this movie, but it is extremely impressive in the way it carries itself off. Tim Blake Nelson is outstanding in the lead role as he reveals the darkness behind his squint. You can see that Henry wanted to be a good man for his son, but the situation pressed him too far.
I did not even begin to guess the surprise twist in the third act and I absolutely loved it.

The relationship between Henry and Wyatt was believable and understandable, especially after you learn the truth at the movie’s end. Both Nelson and Lewis do a great job of interacting, Nelson trying to protect the boy and Lewis looking to be allowed to be a man.

There is a solid cast along with Nelson, Wyatt and Haze. Other actors appearing in the movie included Trace Adkins, Stephen Dorff, Richard Speight, Jr., Max Arciniega, and Brad Carter.

Nicely paced with some wonderful shots, Old Henry takes the typical Western genre film and peppered it with great performances and a great reveal. If you are a fan of Westerns, you should give Old Henry a shot.

Justice Society: World War II (2021)

June 21st, Movies 22

As I was searching through movies for 2021 that I may have missed, I came across the DC Universe film Justice Society: World War II. I always enjoyed a good JSA story so I thought this would be a good film to include in the June Swoon.

The story kicks off with Barry Allen (Matt Bomer), aka The Flash. He was on a picnic with his girlfriend Iris (Ashleigh LaThrop) when he hears an explosion. He takes off to discover Superman (Darren Criss) fighting with Brainiac (Darin DePaul). During the battle, Flash runs really fast to catch a Kryptonite bullet, but he runs so fast, he transports himself accidentally to a different location.

At first, he thought he time traveled, but eventually, Barry realized that he crossed to a different world. In this world, he finds a group of heroes calling themselves the Justice Society was fighting against Hitler’s forces during World War II. The group was led by Wonder Woman (Stana Katic) and included Hawkman (Omid Abtahi), Hourman (Matthew Mercer), Black Canary (Elysia Rotaru), and Jay Garrick, the Flash (Armen Taylor).

Barry teams up with the JSA and their battle takes them to face off with King of Atlantis, Aquaman (Liam McIntyre).

As always, the DC Animation is very well done and this is no exception. The animation was better than normal, I thought and the characters are used in a wonderful manner. I loved seeing some of the JSA characters (although, I would have been up for a few more extra ones).

I liked the story. It was simple and straightforward. The voice acting was fine.

I do think that some of the story beats were rushed and that this could have been stretched out to a two-parter. I know they have done that before. The use of Dr. Fate was too much of a tease and I wanted way more with him. They had several “Batman Leaps”- which is a term we dubbed to describe a time where someone makes an unlikely, impossible, somewhat illogical inference of a clue (like they would do on the old 1966 Batman series). When Barry Allen met Superman in the “past” and realized that there were some differences, he immediately jumped to “different earth”.

Still, these complaints are nitpicks. I enjoyed the film well. I still think this could have been outstanding of they had done a few extra steps, but it was still a lot of fun.