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Saturday Night Live has been the inspiration for some of the funniest films of the last few decades, with the likes of Wayne's World and The Blues Brothers changing the comedy landscape for the better. The show was also the breeding ground Coneheads, It's Pat and A Night at the Roxbury, however, so it isn't all good on the SNL adaptation front.
Mercifully, MacGruber -- just about -- falls into the former category. Based on the sketch of the same name and starring Will Forte, the concept is a simple one: the title character is a MacGuyver-esque American hero who is none-too-bright, with his particular blind spot being explosives.
On TV, the comedy traditionally revolved around Mac accidentally blowing s**t up, and the filmmakers have taken the 'if it ain't broke' approach to the movie, with Grubes doing much the same thing on the big-screen.
Somewhere within the Saw universe’s ridiculously convoluted back story is a film showing how the dying “Jigsaw Killer” John Kramer (Tobin Bell) won the lottery, set up corporate offices, and hired legions of worker elves to build a “torture district” the size of Disneyland. It would be a helluva lot more entertaining than watching his uber-secret second protégé (Mandylor, Mandylor, Costas Mandylor) tiptoe around the events of the previous films, which was all that the abysmal Saw V really had to offer.
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Adam Sandler lives to live out our fantasies on screen. He’s the little boy inside us all; the fat, dumb kid who wants to be a spy, a football star, or beat Bob Barker at golf. He accomplished all of this even though, much like our awkward pre-teen selves, he never really seems to have much talent for it. In Happy Gilmore he defeats Shooter McGavin mostly because he’s angry, and not because he’s good at golf. In Billy Madison he makes the grade and gets the hot chick not because he’s smart or even very good looking, but because he’s funny in a dopey sort of way. Adam Sandler’s on screen life is a never ending adolescent daydream, unrealistic but ultimately satisfying, making him the perfect choice to play a man thrust into the fantasy world of kids in Bedtime Stories. Unfortunately scripts cannot be written by raw anger unless there’s ability there to channel it and dopiness (even the cute and loveable variety) merely results in a dopey script. Making movies requires real talent and behind the scenes of Bedtime Stories there must have been a serious shortage.
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A group of guinea pigs trained by the government to work in espionage, armed with the latest high-tech spy equipment, soon discover that the fate of the world is in their paws.
Nowadays, when you hear people talking about “the Facebook movie,” chances are they mean “The Social Network,” David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s soon-to-open inquiry into the rise of Mark Zuckerberg, one of the founders of Facebook. But the description might be even better suited to “Catfish,” a documentary by Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman that caused some hyperventilation at the Sundance Film Festival last winter.
Take the Lead
I miss the decades when dancing and singing were an integral part of Hollywood’s style. Those classy, elegant days of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers produced some wonderfully stylish and energetic films. The best we can hope for in the present age of cinema is the occasional adapted Broadway musical but even those films somehow fail to capture the magic of the music. Take the Lead is by no means a revival of that bygone era of the song and dance film but it has the same sort of sparkle and captures some of that long lost energy.
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A film like Up makes it clear that Pixar has moved beyond the point where it feels the need to pander to children. Unlike its main animation competitor, Dreamworks, Pixar allows sophisticated themes and ideas to seep into its movies. Everything does not have to be simplified so that a seven-year old can understand what's going on. That's not to say that Pixar films should be seen as family unfriendly art films. Up, for example, includes plenty of jokes that kids will get and several unremarkable action scenes have been included with younger viewers in mind, but there's material of real substance - something increasingly lacking in animated films not tagged with the "Disney" label. Up is not as transcendent as last year's WALL-E, and doesn't rank near the top of Pixar's pantheon of great features, but it's a solid (and in some ways innovative) fantasy adventure that mixes comedy, action, and drama into a satisfying whole that is likely to please all but the most cantankerous curmudgeons.
Goodbye Solo is a simple character drama that chronicles the interaction between a man who wants to end his life with dignity on his own terms and the Good Samaritan who believes there must be another way. On the surface, Goodbye Solo might appear to be cut from the same cloth as The Odd Couple, but Ramin Bahrani (whose previous features were Man Push Cart and Chop Shop) has fashioned something more subtle and sophisticated than a traditional "buddy movie." The movie is less about friendship than it is about respect and understanding. The lack of melodrama coupled with moments of quiet celebration make Goodbye Solo a more uplifting tale than one might expect with such a less-than-joyous premise.
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Reno 911!: Miami
Reno 911!: Miami represents an argument against taking 22-minute TV comedy shows and expanding them to 80-minute feature films. Something that entertains over a short period when watched from the vantage point of a couch or a recliner does not necessarily offer a comparably enjoyable experience when expanded and lengthened. It can be done - see South Park and Monty Python for counter-examples - but those are not the norms. As a TV show, Reno 911! is diverting and amusing; as a motion picture, it's overlong and wears out its welcome. The film offers some solid laughs, but not enough to justify sitting through 80 minutes of the faux cops' antics.
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The Sweet Hereafter is film maker Atom Egoyan's most compelling movie to date. Amplifying many of the themes explored in his previous outing, Exotica, the Canadian director/writer/producer shows the powerful effects of grief and anger on a community devastated by an unspeakable tragedy. During the course of this 110-minute, emotionally-turbulent experience, Egoyan doesn't ask any easy questions or propose any pat answers. This is film making at its most powerful: drama capable of shaking the soul, yet free of even the slightest hint of manipulation, sentimentality, or mawkishness. The movie has an impact that extends far beyond the walls of a movie theater - a quality shared by a distressingly few of today's releases.
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Hurlyburly is a talky film - the entire movie is constructed around lengthy sequences of dialogue where the characters talk and talk and talk, often saying nothing. However, because the vocal rhythms are so perfect, the words are so well-chosen, and the performances are so powerful, listening to so much talk is a pleasure, not a chore. It's possible to lose oneself in Hurlyburly, precisely because nearly every line has a hypnotic quality. The action and suspense is in the words, not the deeds. We don't wait to see what the characters will do next, we wait to hear what they will say next.
Of the eight movies committed to celluloid by director Kenneth Branagh, five of them have been either adapted from one of Shakespeare's plays (Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, Love's Labour's Lost) or have made significant use of the Bard's words (A Midwinter's Tale). From the remaining group of three, only one is noteworthy. Dead Again, Branagh's second effort behind the camera, is an Alfred Hitchcock homage - and a very good one, at that. Unlike most modern nods to the master filmmaker (for example, the collected works of Brian DePalma), Dead Again does not come across as a Hitchcock knock-off, but as a motion picture that incorporates familiar themes and approaches while maintaining its own integrity and identity. Not once during the entire production is there an obviously stolen scene or camera angle replication.
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The 007 World Is Not Enough
Ten years ago, when the second and final Timothy Dalton Bond movie, Licence to Kill, tanked at the box office, it looked like the venerable secret agent had finally run out of gas, driven into the ground by the likes of The Terminator and Rambo. A six year hiatus followed, and, when Bond finally returned in 1995's Goldeneye, Dalton had been replaced by Pierce Brosnan and the series was said to have been given a complete overhaul. Actually, as Goldeneye and its sequel, Tomorrow Never Dies, illustrated, the changes were more cosmetic than anything else.
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Isabel and Clara are growing up in a time of terror. It is 1492, and Spain has decreed that all Jews must either convert to Catholicism, go into exile or face trial and execution. Although forcibly baptized, the sisters are chased through Christendom until they arrive in Venice. It is in this great maritime empire, where opulence rhymes with tolerance, that Isabel organizes secret passages for refugees fleeing the Inquisition while Clara falls in love with a Venetian noble, Paolo Zane. Isabel intends for her family to go to Istanbul, the only place where Jews can live freely, but Clara is reluctant to leave. She challenges Isabels authority and is prepared to break her family ties and sacrifice her faith for love. Caught in this battle of wills is Claras daughter, Victoria, who finds she is about to be married into the same faith that murdered her father.
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The Dream Team
Dr. Weitzman works with patients in a sanitarium. Convinced that all that his group needs is a some fresh air and some time away from the sanitarium, he pursuades the administration to allow him to take them to a ballgame. Unfortunately, he accidentally stumbles across a crime in progress and ends up in hospital. The group are stranded in New York City, forced to cope with a place which is often more bizarre than their sanitarium.
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Back to School
Millionaire businessman Thornton Melon is upset when his son Jason announces that he is not sure about going to college. Thornton insists that college is the best thing he never had for himself, and to prove his point, he agrees to enroll in school along with his son. Thornton is a big hit on campus always throwing the biggest parties, knowing all the right people, but is this the way to pass college?
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