Month: May 2016

Black Knight

BLACK KNIGHT INT'L HI RES KEYART ¥ Art Machine job#4621 ¥ 12/19/01

On my list of unlikely costars, Martin Lawrence and Tom Wilkinson are up there. If you’re going to put them in a movie, a time travel adventure about an amusement park worker from L.A. who finds himself in 14th century England is just about right, though a buddy cop movie would probably fit the bill too. The pairing isn’t awe-inspiring, but it is serviceable if your expectations are low enough.

Lawrence plays Jamal Walker, an employee at Medieval World, which is kind of like a dilapidated Medieval Times with rusty carnival rides. The opening of Castle World across the street threatens to put the park out of business, a prospect Jamal doesn’t find all that troubling. Showing little loyalty to the community-minded owner, he plans on jumping ship so that he can earn more money. His greed comes with some consequences though. He spies a golden medallion as he’s cleaning the moat and gets swallowed up by the murky water.

Jamal reemerges in 1328 England and makes his way to King Leo’s (Kevin Conway) castle. While he mistakes it for the new theme park, the court mistakes him for a French moor and emissary. Once he realizes that he’s not in L.A. anymore, he takes a few liberties, adopting the name “Skywalker” and exploiting the misunderstanding to earn the king’s trust. All is not well, however, and not only does Jamal make enemies of the king’s personal guard, Percival (Vincent Regan), he also learns that an exiled queen is the rightful monarch. Can he use his 21st century wiles to restore her to the throne?

Of course he can, but not without help from drunkard Sir Knolte (Wilkinson) and the fair maiden Victoria (a delightful Marsha Thomason). They act as sidekicks where they can, but in truth, Lawrence fills up so much of the screen with his manic energy that everyone else must give way. There’s little room for other actors to stand out lest they end up in his pyrotechnic cloud. If you can tolerate the actor’s histrionics, then you’ll make it out of this movie. But it’s an endurance, especially considering the unimaginative route this story takes. While it shows Jamal as a fish out of water time traveler, there’s nothing particular about this period that makes the story special. You could stick him anywhere in history and play everything for the exact same laughs. The filmmakers prove this much in the closing scene, which shows Jamal trapped in a Roman coliseum just as some lions are sprung from their cages. Thankfully the dismal performance of this movie ensured there wouldn’t be a second.

Released: 2001
Prod: Arnon Milchan, Darryl J. Quarles, Michael Green, Paul Schiff
Dir: Gil Junger
Writer: Darryl J. Quarles, Peter Gaulke, Gerry Swallow
Cast: Martin Lawrence, Marsha Thomason, Tom Wilkinson, Kevin Conway, Vincent Regan, Darryl Mitchell, Jeannette Weegar
Time: 95 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2016

Epic Movie

epic movie

Whether you’re cleaning your toilet with a toothbrush or discarding rat carcasses from your attic, anything is more worth your time than this sad excuse for a movie. An asinine mashup of popular films, most of the blockbuster variety, Epic Movie doesn’t have the right to exist. It’s not a smart satire of any of the films it parodies, and in fact, almost nothing in this trainwreck can be fairly called smart. The humor is possibly more lowbrow than what you’d find at a frat house on Friday night, and the writers can’t even be bothered to create some internal fantasy world logic, except to say there isn’t any. Characters simply appear and come back to life when needed, not so much to serve the story as to simply fill up space. My single praise is reserved for the casting; two out of the four leads are non-white, which at fifty percent I’m sure sets some record.

One of those leads is Kal Penn, and there’s something to be said that three years after heading up a game-changing Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, he’s top billed for swill like this. Penn plays orphan Edward, a very big one who still eats gruel with the children at a Mexican monastery. He gets chucked out a window, but not before snatching a golden ticket out of a chocolate bar. This leads to Willy’s candy factory where he meets three other golden-ticket-toting orphans – Lucy (Jayma Mays), who was raised by a museum curator who speaks in code; Susan (Faune Chambers), who gets stuck on a plane with lots of mothereffing snakes; and Peter (Adam Campbell), a chicken mutant who attends a special mutant school. By the time we are introduced to our main characters, the movie has referenced no less than seven films. It’s a drinking game gone amok.

The remainder of the film progresses in this haphazard fashion, ripping off the big and small screen whenever the writers see fit. The candy factory turns out to be a house of horrors, not dissimilar to Roald Dahl’s creation if we’re honest. Instead of rivers of chocolate, Edward discovers rivers of sewage. It’s not sophisticated humor, I should emphasize. Willy (Crispin Glover) turns out to be a madman, again not dissimilar to what Dahl had in mind, and while trying to hide from him, the four make their way to a wardrobe and stumble into Gnarnia.

At this point, you really have to ask yourself some hard questions. Do you want to see a parody of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or would you rather just watch the actual movie? Is the White Bitch (Jennifer Coolidge) a necessary character or are we fine with the plain old White Witch? Does seeing Mr. Tumnus (Hector Jimenez) make out with Harry Beaver really enhance anything, in life? Just like golden toilets, beer hats, and Donald Trump, Epic Movie is one of those things we can all live without.

Released: 2007
Prod: Paul Schiff
Dir: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
Writer: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
Cast: Kal Penn, Adam Campbell, Jayma Mays, Faune Chambers, Jennifer Coolidge, Tony Cox, Jack Cortes, Hector Jimenez, Crispin Glover, Jareb Dauplaise, Darrell Hammond, Carmen Electra, Kevin Hart, Fred Willard, David Carradine, Katt Williams
Time: 85 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2016

We’re the Millers

were the millers

There’s something satisfying about films that are comfortable with what they are. Take We’re the Millers, a humble comedy that churns out jokes at a steady pace and gets a lot of mileage out of its four leads. Even if you don’t revisit, it won’t be a wasted two hours. Despite the movie’s purposely generic title and promotional material, I found it surprisingly funny, the humor crude and lewd on occasion but also charmingly dopey and awkward. It has a roundabout way of preaching a certain kind of family values without resorting to sentimentality.

Jason Sudeikis plays David, a man who’s reached his thirties and achieved his life goals of dealing weed and getting high everyday. Things take a turn for the worse, however, when he finds out that he owes his smarmy, shark collecting supplier (Ed Helms) loads of money. The only way to get out of this is by smuggling an even bigger load of marijuana from Mexico, and the only way to do that is to fool border control into thinking that David is a clean-cut family man just taking the wife and kids on a little vacay. He recruits his high schooler neighbor, Kenny (Will Poulter), a teenage runaway, Casey (Emma Roberts), and a jaded stripper, Rose (Jennifer Aniston), to pose with him as the all-American Miller family.

Most of the action happens while this dysfunctional quartet are on the road in their giant Winnebago. There are small, immediate goals – picking up several tons of drugs, attending to poisonous spider bites in sensitive parts, evading a murderous drug lord – that push the story along its linear plotline. Things get bumpier when they meet the genial but square Fitzgerald family and discover that the dad (Nick Offerman) is a DEA agent. The incremental nature of their journey allows the relationships to build and transform these four lost souls into one eccentric family unit though. David finds his parental instincts kicking in in spite of his selfishness. Rose, on the other hand, learns that she has a motherly side that isn’t put to use in her day, rather night, job.

Credit goes to the casting, which keeps this crazy caravan in one solid piece. Each actor stands out in his or her own way without stealing the spotlight from anyone else. Sudeikis keeps everything grounded, as a good father should, while Aniston seems more comfortable in these ensemble films when she doesn’t have to carry the full emotional weight. She gets to retreat into her character and make smaller moments go further, like when Rose yells at Casey for staying out late with a shady carnival worker and not having the good sense to ring or text. Roberts reciprocates; she’s fine as a sulky teen but she also shows Casey as a sulky teen in need of parents who care. If I had to pick a star though, my vote would go to Poulter, a young British actor who should be on everybody’s radar. As David’s innocent, gangly, wide-eyed neighbor, Kenny could easily be the butt of the film’s jokes. Instead, Poulter makes the most out of his character’s naiveté and turns him into the most endearing member of the family, the only one who doesn’t sign on with a head full of cynicism. Even when he’s making out with his mother or sister or rapping wholeheartedly to “Waterfalls,” we’re definitely not laughing at him.

Released: 2013
Prod: Chris Bender, Vincent Newman, Tucker Tooley, Happy Walters
Dir: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Writer: Bob Fisher, Steve Faber, Sean Anders, John Morris
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, Will Poulter, Ed Helms, Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, Molly Quinn, Tomer Sisley, Matthew Willig, Luis Guzmán, Thomas Lennon
Time: 110 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2016