Rewind Review: Hot Tub Time Machine


As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

When you set out to see a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine you have to, absolutely no exceptions, expect to be in for a very stupid experience. Not that a film being stupid is inherently bad. The same holds true for an intelligent film. Quality and intellectual stimulation are not mutually exclusive. What remains to be seen when dealing with such a film is if it’s a funny kind of stupid or just stupid. More often than not, unfortunately it ends up being the latter.

One of the examples of this stupidity that just misses the mark is the character of the Repair Man played by Chevy Chase. Now I am not one of those people who disowned Chase after the 1980s, the problem in fact isn’t his performance but his character. Granted there are jokes made to the effect that his dialogue is vague and not very helpful but ultimately his repeated appearance becomes a hinderance to the story. Instead of watching to see if these characters can replicate the past they are now in we get distracted by his repeatedly reminding us of his existence. The more he appears without answering questions about how to get back to the present the more questions you ask yourself about his character and thinking about such things in a film like this is the death knell for said work.

The fact of the matter is with a plot like this the film has to be extraordinarily funny and it just isn’t. You will laugh out loud on occasion but there isn’t a constantly great peal of laughter throughout. Funny but not very funny just doesn’t cut it. When it comes to comedy that’s what it boils down to and when you’ve had time to consider all these other things clearly the film wasn’t always doing its job.


The era traveled to is also treated with a bit of ambivalence in the end product. Clearly the intention is to mock and spoof the 1980s, which has been done and it’s fine. More than most decades it’s an easy target, however, aside from the red scare that the time travelers incur none of it seems real or funny and even that is more like a parody than anything else. Aside from the age of the characters there was nothing that made it have to be set in the ’80s and costume aside you didn’t see the decade’s influence in the rest of the tale. There are just so much more jokes from the reality of that era that could have been mined as it did plenty of times to make jokes about things that happened after 1986.

What was refreshing was to see a new spin on time travel and the butterfly effect, including what I interpreted to be a sarcastic comment about the film of the same name, handling both concepts in a comedy allowed for a comedic and different approach to conceptions which are always looked upon with reverence and awe.

The quality of dialogue in this film is inconsistent. Even when things work they at times go too far. The “Great White Buffalo” line is clearly designed as an inside joke that one of the characters isn’t supposed to get and with repetition we realize we’ll know the gist but not the story behind how that started it just comes up too often. Similarly while the dialogue about the carving in a desk drawer that makes them realize they’ve gone back in time is funny Lou can see the drawer is clean and needn’t ask about each accusation he carved about Adam and whether it is present.


At the start of the film we get a very good start to differentiating these characters but their development from thereon in is stunted and this isn’t a funny enough film to survive with such superficial characterization.
Hot Tub Time Machine is a film with a title and concept that immediately makes one think that “It’s so crazy it just might work” but it doesn’t.


Mini-Review: The Rite


This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

The Rite

The Rite is a rather surprising entry in the possession/exorcism subgenre of horror. There’s not a lot of new ground to tread so far as this kind of tale is concerned, however, the one thing this film, does right off the bat is acknowledge the existence of the subgenre with a reflexive joke about The Exorcist.

This film, of course, is a little like that one: there’s an old priest and young priest, here is the subject of doubt and it is in turn more about the exorcist than the exorcised, as a matter of fact, the exorcised are typically rather glossed over. However, what this film does do is deal with the mundane aspects of exorcism, it deals with many possessions and brings it down to earth a little from where its been.


The examples it uses as proof are simple and well-thought out. There are very good flashbacks in this film that allow more doubt to be created about where the tale is going then you’d ever expect.

Then there’s Anthony Hopkins. Just the fact that I am mentioning his name this late is an indication that this is a quality film worth seeing. Without saying too much there are shades of Hannibal Lecter in his performance which are great. Teh acting overall in fact really props this film up. It is definitely worth viewing.


Rewind Review: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus


As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus 

The Imaginarium of Dr. Panassus is a vexing and perplexing film. It is most definitely imaginative. It’s most definitely Terry Gilliam; however, a lot of the positives that can be said about it end there as unfortunate as that is.

It is rare when simulacrum, in the form of real life events, can have a true impact on a film. The untimely death of Heath Ledger did affect this film, however, as shocking as it sounds to say it, perhaps not in a negative way. No disrespect intended, as Heath Ledger did a fine job in this film. As a matter of fact he had this critic quite convinced that he was one type of character then he ended up being another entirely. Think of it this way, however, had Ledger’s character not been played by other actors, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell there would’ve been very little which was noteworthy about the film.

Yes, it’s incredibly inventive but it’s the kind of tale that takes so long to unwind itself that by the time you have it all sorted, one you may not have it sorted correctly and two you start to wonder why is this story being told in the first place. Gilliam is a tremendous visual artist and the irreverence and surrealism so gleefully on display in this film is admirable and on occasion quite funny but at times things just didn’t click, in fact more often than not.


One of the bigger problems is Andrew Garfield as Anton. Yes, his character is supposed to be somewhat annoying yet he is supposed to be right and the guy we pull for but he just ends up being annoying and in what was a very good cast he ends up sticking out like a very, very sore thumb.

The film centers around a bet between Dr. Parnassus, a god-like character if not God Himself, and the Devil, played by Tom Waits. Yet towards the end the terms of that bet become very muddled. Mr. Nick, as the Devil is called in this venture, invariably changes the terms of the bet to make it more sporting as he tends to do but then it becomes near impossible to figure out what “having gotten a soul” really is and even barring all that after all is seemingly lost Mr. Nick lets Parnassus off the hook.

Obviously, things can be read into the bartering of souls and gambling with the devil and what the Imaginarium ultimately signifies in the bigger picture of things, however, when a film fails to entertain on the surface digging becomes a tiresome venture. The best thing about the aforementioned tale is that it seems destined to repeat itself when we see the characters at the very end but the film seemed to be building towards some sort of finality so that’s not nearly the coup it should be.


There was a fabulous concept in a flashback where Parnassus was with the monks about a story constantly needing to be told and that was never followed through neither were some of the more intriguing paths this film could have taken.

Sadly, instead of giving us a lot of food for thought or sharp, biting satire the emotion associated with this film is more aptly stated as flummoxed for just as the Imaginarium itself the image may be pretty but there’s not nearly enough substance behind it.


Rewind Review: Escape from Witch Mountain

It’s very hard as a moviegoer to resist the temptation to watch something on opening weekend. However, there will come weekends when there’s no new release that you care to see. So what do you do?

Well, this is where my Monday review comes in. I’ll review something I’ve seen over the weekend that I think you should see next weekend if the batch of new releases doesn’t entice you.

This weekend I watched Race to Witch Mountain, I personally judge every remake, reimagining and rehash on its own individual merits. However, my rule of thumb typically is if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Conversely if it was never really that good to begin with, why not?


The original pair of Witch Mountain films fall into the latter category. They were slow-moving, not very interesting, and couldn’t even be saved by Bette Davis, one of if not the greatest actress who ever lived.

There are many, many things that work well in Race, and those that don’t are minor and don’t detract from the overall experience.

The Pros:

Pace – The move really gets humming, and I was clutching the edge of my seat at times. At the beginning the kids are involved in a chase and you think it’s going to be a two-hour trek to Witch Mountain.


Editing – Amidst all the action the cuts are fast and well-timed; however, I was never left befuddled by what I was looking at in the frame, like in Quantum of Solace.

Dwayne Johnson – Yes, that’s right I said it The Rock. Not only has he steadily improved, and look every bit the part of ‘action hero’, he is also great with a one-liner – which is crucial for any action star. The Rock actually even emoted, some, in the dramatic farewell. Does this day something bad about actors or film? Not necessarily, considering he was always a performer he just needed to learn to transition. Of course, that doesn’t mean every wrestler, singer, rapper and reality star should do it. There needs to be some ability, talent, constant improvement and the intangible like-ability. I’d take Dwayne Johnson over Vin Diesel in a part any day.

The Young Stars – If you haven’t noticed Dakota Fanning isn’t Dakota Fanning anymore. That slot now goes to AnnaSophia Robb. You’ve probably seen her, and just haven’t put a name to her face. She was in Bridge to Terabithia, Because of Winn-Dixie, and other films, and she is excellent. It’s not easy playing a well-spoken, smart, deadpan alien and she did wonderfully, as did Alexander Ludwig, who already proved he could carry a would-be franchise in The Seeker, a film whose box-office failed its concept.

Race to Witch Mountain

Last but certainly not least is Carla Gugino – It was good seeing her on screen again. I’ve always felt she was slightly underestimated in the ‘Spy Kids’ films.

The Cons:

The FBI agent – Played by Ciarán Hinds, the agent seemed like a poor-man’s attempt at Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive.

Garry Marshall – As the nutty alien scientist who helps them find the mountain Marshall seemed out of place. It was a comedic role, and it feels odd that it was.


The Syphon – The assassin sent after the kids from their home planet to thwart their mission is ultimately more of a con than a plus. It does look creepy with its helmet off, but you end up forgetting about it until it shows up to throw a monkey-wrench into the equation.

Overall: cool locations, pretty good effects and a steady level of tension through make Race to Witch Mountain worth seeing, it’s not your parents Witch Mountain or your childhood’s for that matter- and in this case that’s a good thing.


Mini-Review: Saving Mr. Banks


This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks does have its surprises in it, especially if you look closely enough. First of all, without getting too spoiler-y I do not think it paints an overly generous picture of Walt Disney. Sure, it’s a Disney film about the man himself, in part, and one of the studio’s classic films, so it may not be the most impartial but there are certain plot points that come up that you would’ve expected would be sanitized that aren’t quite as much as expected.

Perhaps the film’s most surprising aspect is really its bifurcated structure splitting its time between the story meetings between P.L. Travers and the Disney staff and reminiscences of her childhood.

The film tells the Travers’ story, and it’s one that’s a harrowing, tragic one that is rather un-Disney-like. In light of that, and Disney’s persistence and insistence, it’s not a wonder she’s a stickler even with a personal connection notwithstanding. The film avoids Disney understanding her in the end, and in some ways I think too avoids portraying Travers as being at peace with her decision, but rather willing to move on.


March to Disney: Old Dogs

On occasion there will be a film that gets steamrolled by the critical mass and it really shouldn’t be. On a rare occasion it will be a film that is actually quite good, more often than not it will just be a decent film that’s just very harshly thrashed about and doesn’t really deserve it. Old Dogs falls into the latter category.

Don’t misunderstand me – the film isn’t great. It’s passable and ultimately disposable entertainment but for what it was, a simple family comedy, it’s fine. Most important, considering that it’s a comedy, I laughed quite a bit. The critical reaction I am sure are coming in response to things within the tale that are cliché like getting caught in the animal enclosure, the overly-aggressive game of ultimate Frisbee, being strapped to a jet pack, playing tea, the unwilling babysitter and other conventions. However, they are put together interestingly and cut together quickly and the execution of all these things you’ve seen is above average and typically humorous.

The one part of the film that was wholly unsatisfying was when Dan (Robin Williams) was being taught how to play by a friend of Charlie’s (John Travolta). The friend is played by the late Bernie Mac which makes you wonder how long this film has been in the can. This is the most difficult and preposterous part where Williams is turned into a “human puppet” so he can play with his daughter, thankfully the mechanism breaks and Williams is allowed to take the scene over as his normal charming self.


One also need not be concerned with pacing in this film as the bulk of the story is almost immediately taken on. You witness the usual formula for Dan and Charlie at a pitch, this usually involves Charlie telling one embarrassing story about Dan and softening up the client. What is unexpected is that this story which is cut to with frenetic pace actually factors into the plot so almost immediately there is pertinent information conveyed.

This being a Disney film there is the compulsory family content aside from the silliness. In this case it was Dan trying to connect and reconnect with his kids. It was surprisingly rather effective and really what held the story together. There’s certainly nothing new under the sun in this film but it a film that achieves its modest goals and one can’t fault it for that. There is also commitment from all involved to their roles especially in the smaller roles played by Seth Green and Justin Long.

The film actually manages a few sight gags, which is rare, after Dan and Charlie take the wrong medications and while some of the CG went a bit far the mesmerized images were rather humorous as was the scenario.
Should family fare over the next few weeks prove insufficient you should give this a chance. It’s a funny little movie with something for everyone.


31 Days of Oscar: Wuthering Heights (1939)

Wuthering Heights (1939)

There’s something to be said for one’s first exposure to a story. As hard as it is to believe I’d never seen any rendition of this tale. I can’t put my finger on the reason why, but I’m glad to have seen it now. It’s a truly great tragic romance with allusions to a ghost story.

Wins/Nominations: 1/8

31 Days of Oscar: The Ladykillers (1955)

The Ladykillers (1955)

To describe the humor of this film as dry would be an understatement. As a matter of fact most of its humor would be situational and not in the dialogue or actions, in fact, Katie Johnson as the old woman offers most of it in the film simply by being so kindly and oblivious. The film also serves to show a small glimpse of what Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers are capable of but is not among their peak performances.

Oscar Nominations/Wins: 1/0
Score: 6/10