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Non-Review Review: Why Him?

Why Him? is perhaps a little over-stretched.

Why Him? is built around a very stock comedy template. A hard-working old-fashioned father finds himself at odds with his daughter’s new boyfriend, leading to a clash of competing masculine egos. The most innovative aspect of Why Him? is the decision to filter this standard comedy plot through two more filters. Why Him? is simultaneously a raunchy R-rated comedy full of profanity and bodily-function jokes. It is also framed as a Christmas comedy, as much as a comedy set in and around Los Angeles can seem like a Christmas comedy.

Guess who's coming to (Christmas) dinner.

Guess who’s coming to (Christmas) dinner.

These are hardly the boldest of innovations. Why Him? is a paper-thin comedy that is somehow stretched out to run over one hour and fifty minutes. There are any number of gags that work and a solid cast that never rises to exceptional, but the fact is that all of these elements overstay their welcome by at least a good twenty minutes. It is telling that one of the biggest issues with Why Him? is repetition, where the movie attempts to spin out slight jokes that prompt a knowing smile into running gags that exhaust all good will.

Ironically enough, given the title, Why Him? never makes a compelling case for its own scale and length.

Fists of fury.

Fists of fury.

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The X-Files – Deep Throat (Review)

Deep Throat was filmed in August 1993, more than a year after the production of The Pilot in March 1992. In a way, Deep Throat feels like the first proper episode of the show’s first season, even carrying the production number 1×01. It cements a lot of the themes and ideas suggested in The Pilot, more firmly establishing arcs and characters. Indeed, The Pilot ended with a glimpse at the massive government conspiracy surrounding encounters with alien life forms, but Deep Throat serves to demonstrate just how deep that conspiracy goes.

The episode builds on countless ideas and conspiracy theories, delving into the popular suggestion that the United States military has been reverse-engineering alien technology for its own purposes. This suggests that Mulder isn’t just dealing with modern interactions between aliens and humanity, he’s digging into something that is rooted far deeper. As the eponymous informant teases him at the end of the episode, “Mr. Mulder, they’ve been here for a very long time.”

The truth is up there...

The truth is up there…

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Non-Review Review: This is the End

There’s a moment about half-way through This is the End when our bunch of celebrities are starting go stir-crazy, as they brave the apocalypse inside James Franco’s surprisingly fortified house. In the strange combination of idle boredom and growing madness, the group decide to improvise a trailer for the non-existent sequel to Pineapple Express. It is complete nonsense, but there’s a strange energy and a warm sense of humour to their “sweded” version of a Hollywood comedy, complete with remote-control car chases and homemade props.

It feels like something that only these actors would get – it’s just a bunch of people hanging out, fooling around, making the most of the materials available to them do something which feels incredibly niche. It’s a weird balance of something so experimental and so niche that it’s almost definitely a piece of post-modern art. (The movie even features an early scene of pretentious James Franco gleefully arguing that everything is art – even Jay Baruchel.) On the other hand, it’s accessible and fun, managing to seem – simultaneously – like an incredibly niche and charmingly broad piece of film.

It’s also pretty damn funny.

... and I feel fine...

… and I feel fine…

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Any Witch Way But Backwards: How Oz The Great & Powerful Erodes the Feminist Appeal of The Wizard of Oz…

I quite enjoyed Oz: The Great & Powerful. The visuals were amazing, and I thought that Sam Raimi brought the world of Oz to life in a way that audiences haven’t really seen since 1939. Despite the fact that the film was limited to elements from the source novels rather than the classic film, meaning no red slippers and the Winkie Guards chanting a generic “ho-ho-ho” instead of “ho-ee-ho-ee-oh”, I think that Oz: The Great & Powerful is the first time that a film has taken us back to that version of the wonderful world of Oz.

It’s a shame, then, about the script. I have a lot of problems with the screenplay by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire. Indeed, I’m less than thrilled that Kapner has apparently been tapped by Disney to prepare a sequel. While Raimi and his cast, and his production designers, seem to understand a great deal about the magic of The Wizard of Oz, it seems like Kapner and Lindsay-Abaire seem to have missed the point.

It’s a shame, then, that Oz: The Great & Powerful rolled on March 8th, celebrated as International Women’s Day. Dorothy Gale has been described as “the first feminist role model” and The Wizard of Oz is packed to the brim with strong female characters. Although Dorothy obviously can’t play a major role in this prequel, one does wonder where all the strong women have gone.

ozthegreatandpowerful11

Note: This post contains spoilers for Oz: The Great & Powerful. Consider yourself warned.

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Non-Review Review: Oz – The Great & Powerful

Oz: The Great & Powerful is a fabulous production. A few minor misgivings aside, it looks and sounds fantastic. Sam Raimi has done the best job bringing Oz to the screen since the original version of The Wizard of Oz all those decades ago. In its best moments, there’s an enthusiasm and a lightness of touch that fits the material perfectly and captures the wonder that we associate with Oz. It’s very clear that a lot of love and care was put into the production design of the film, and that Sam Raimi’s hand moved with the utmost consideration and affection for the original film. It makes it a little disappointing, then, that the script to Oz: The Great & Powerful should feel so undercooked, more like an early draft than a finished screenplay.

Up in the air or down to earth?

Up in the air or down to earth?

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My Best of 2011: Rise of the Planet of the Apes & Hailing Caesar…

It’s that time of the year. To celebrate 2011, and the countdown to 2012, I’m going to count down my own twelve favourite films of the year, one a day until New Year’s Eve. I’m also going to talk a bit about how or why I chose them, and perhaps what makes this list “my” best of 2011, rather than any list claiming to be objective.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is number seven. Check out my original review here.

If you had told me last year that one of the best summer blockbusters would be a prequel to The Planet of the Apes, I would have laughed at you. Hell, I’m still chuckling a bit now, trying to get over how such a strange concept on paper managed to work so well. After all, a movie about a bunch of damn dirty CGI apes taking their share of the planet from us humans, led by a chimpanzee on Alzheimer’s medication, sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. And yet, for some reason, it works incredibly well. I’ll concede that the plot is a bit ropey, and the human characters are quite underdeveloped, but I think Rise of the Planet of the Apes managed to grab its audience so well purely because it creates a fascinating and compelling three-dimensional lead character who we completely understand to and relate to.

Did I mention that the lead character is a CGI ape?

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You’d Be Muppets To Say No: Let the Muppets Host the Oscars…

UPDATE: Well, time marches on. Sometimes by the hour. It’s Billy Crystal. Not that I expected the gang to get a look-in. Still, I think the points stand.

There are days when it seems like the internet is about to explode. Somebody has a random thought, posts it or shares it, and it just catches on like wildfire. Before you know it, it seems like half the world is saying “that’s actually not a bad idea!” and the other half is saying “that’s a great idea!” The campaign to have the Muppets host the Oscars is one of those things that has just come to life, like a phoenix from the ashes of Brett Ratner’s resignation and Eddie Murphy’s departure. I generally don’t comment on these things, because they speak for themselves, and I don’t like to just run a post saying “everything these guys are saying is true!”, but this is the exception rather than the rule. I want to see the Muppets host the Oscars. I know it isn’t going to happen, but damn if it isn’t the most outrageous, ambitious and insane idea that has been suggested.

And that, my friends, is exactly why it should happen, even if it probably won’t.

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