Jade's Trick

Reviews, Spotlights, and Randomosity of all things under the sun.

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Location: Hartford, Connecticut, United States

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Sunday, March 27, 2005

"Pepper needs new shorts." -- Dodgeball

I can't for the life of me remember why I waited more than a minute to do a review on this movie. It's probably too famous to spotlight, but then again, I'm not getting paid for this.

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story tells the tale of a group of misfits beaten on by their physical superiors who fight back and, against all odds, win.

Ok, so it won't win awards for originality, but there's a surprising amount of fun to be had in such a stock premise. Although all the major plot points are easily foreseen, exactly how the characters go about fulfilling them is inventive and interesting. It's nearly impossible to say more without spoiling some of it, so I won't.

We start the film with Peter La Fleur, a loser who is almost as lazy as I feel right now. He doesn't pay his bills, doesn't return his rented videos, and owns a car and Average Joe's Gym, both of which are falling apart. The enemy: White Goodman, a fat-man-turned-fitness-freak. He owns a chain of gyms which focus of making their customers hate their bodies enough to work out a lot. Peter's gym is going to close unless he gets $50k within a month, so he and his loyal customers decide to play in a Vegas dodgeball tournament to get its convenient $50k cash prize, a tournament which Goodman decides to enter as well.

First and foremost, this movie delivers laughs by the boatload. Seriously, it's one of the funnier movies of 2004 at least, and probably of 2005 (so far) as well. A plethora of types of funny can here be found, with everything from cheap physical comedy to witty/not-so-witty repartee to even cheap physical comedy. The cameos, of which there are quite a few, truly add a lot to the movie. I could barely stop laughing long enough to breathe.

The dodgeball sequences were surprisingly well done. I don't spend a lot of time watching professional dodgeball, but they seemed fairly realistic, and they were certainly exciting.

Virtually every single character was extremely well acted. Vince Vaughn played his La Fleur perfectly; his half-deadpan, half-constant amusement mood just made very witty thing out of his mouth that much funnier. Ben Stiller's Goodman was suitably over-the-top. Christine Taylor's Veatch had just the perfect blend of blondeness, intelligence, and poise that placed Goodman into the funny kind of relief (made all the funnier when you learn that she and Stiller are married, or at the very least were during shooting). The Average Joe-ers are all pathetic and noble in turns; they have their geeky, lame foibles, but they also have their steel.

A word of warning, however: do not (I repeat: do NOT) sit through the credits, because at the end of them you will be subjected to a sight too horrible to describe. If you truly must learn what is there, be sure to go in on an empty tummy.

Action: 3/5 killer ceiling fixtures (It served its purpose quite adequately).
Acting: 4.5/5 flying wrenches (The acting was extremely good).
Humor: 5/5 towels (Funny funny funny. It's the only real reason, and a great reason it is, to see the movie).
Story: 3.5/5 wheelchairs (Again, it sufficed. Despite being very cliche, it managed to throw a few curveballs).
Sound: 2/5 S&M costumes (I never really noticed the music much).
Visuals: 3/5 broken cardboard cutouts (Nothing special here).

Overall (not necessarily determined by the above categories): 3.5/5 dodgeballs (See it to laugh uproariously, but there's not a whole lot other than that).

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Midweek Special: "You got the punchline wrong." -- What the Bleep Do We Know!?

I couldn't possibly review this like a normal movie and I don't feel like trying, so here's a simple recommendation from me to you. There will be a review this weekend as well, like normal.

What the Bleep Do We Know!?. No really, amongst all the talking and philosophizing and experimenting that we do in this world, how much of it is really knowledge? How much of it can we say without any doubt is true? This docu-entertainma-drama takes these questions and runs with them.

In short, this film puts forth and explores a number of problems that Philosophers have contemplated for thousands of years, offers solutions to quite a few problems, and encourages you, the audience, to take from it all what you will. Everything from reality itself to God to emotions to addiction is mused upon and talked about. As the title suggests, the filmmakers do not presume to hold the answers, only that they have some very interesting information that may be used to form some of the many possibilities.

But let's get down to basics: What the Bleep Do We Know!? splices interviews with scientists, physicians, philosophers, authors, and other such people into well-done special effects and a live-action story in an attempt to get people thinking and talking. It also does this all in such a way as to make it very accessible, as long as you are willing to use your brain. This isn't a popcorn flick, but you also don't need to take notes (notes might help, though ;-) ). If you go in not knowing anything about the concepts it discusses, it is all the more interesting. If you come out completely disagreeing with everything they said, it is all the more fun to talk about it afterwards. I recommend you see it with a few close friends and you all go in with those synapses firing. It's one heck of a trip.

Note: This movie is Not Rated, which means Blockbuster treats it like it's NC-17 / "X." This is no porno. If I had to rate it, I'd give it a PG-13 for a very brief sex scene (ok, it's technically two, but they are back-to-back and still take up less than 20 seconds total) and some language. Really, these are no big deal, and since most kids probably won't get much from this movie, it's not a good idea to show it to them anyway.

Overall: 4/5 neuropeptides (I rather enjoyed this movie aesthetically, but it did more for me than that. I disagree, in varying degrees, with much of what was said, but that's all the better).

Sunday, March 20, 2005

"I will also fix the hobo suit." -- The Incredibles

Considering the number of people I know who like the movie, I'm surprised it took me this long to see it. But I finally have and therefore bring this review to you. If it's at all incoherent, I apologize, but I was up way, way too late last night.

The Incredibles is Disney/Pixar's latest CG yarn telling the tale of superheros beaten down by evil lawyers. It's Disney, so you know how it turns out.

I actually liked this movie ... kinda. It has a number of flaws, but overall, I rather enjoyed it, especially for a modern Disney movie (most of which have been subpar). This movie's got some darn good visuals, fairly good plot, and pretty good characters, and overall makes for a quite enjoyable viewing experience. But it wasn't Great. And it could have been.

Let's start with the number one flaw (in my mind): the dialogue. Much of it was fine, but my Fakey Sense tingled every couple of minutes, alerting me to lines which were just off. It's hard to pin it down to single examples (none are anywhere near as bad as the fumbles of Day After Tomorrow), but here are the two that most stuck out, in my opinion: Robert's little speech to his family when they were incarcerated and almost everything out of Violet's mouth. That speech was terribly cliched, terribly hackneyed, and extremely embarrassing. It just didn't fit. Whoever wrote for Violet clearly knows nothing about either 12-14 year old girls or talking. She has the coolest powers of anyone in her family (again, in my opinion, although since none of them are offensive, she doesn't have the option of soloing, which kinda sucks for her. I suppose she could get a handgun of some sort, but everyone knows that superheros don't use guns) and isn't irritating like Dash, but almost nothing that she says is realistic. As I said, most of the dialogue does its job without any problems, but there aren't really any high peaks to offset the fair number of valleys.

Flaw Numero Duos: illogical causality. Some things just didn't make any sense. For example, the lawsuits (at least the two against Robert which were mentioned) would not be held in favor of the plaintiff. I do realize that they are lampooning the recent influx of stupid lawsuits, and that this is a necessary catalyst for the movie to happen, but no judge would award someone money because they were stopped from committing suicide, a crime (if you know of an exception, shut up. I want to keep my naivete about the judicial system not completely sucking, thank you). Because the movie doesn't even explain what specifically the second lawsuit is about, it, to me, seemed random. Syndrome's transition from "IncrediBoy wannabe" to "evil genius" didn't make much sense to me either. Clearly, he was dejected, but he claims that being sent home by Mr. Incredible taught him that "you can't trust your heroes" or something. Vastly illogical. I would have liked to see a much greater trauma than that cause his descent into evility. And did I mention Edna's manic depression? She suddenly decided with great conviction that Robert is fooling around. This isn't a huge deal, but it helped mar the flick.

Flaw number three: inconsistent tech level. Even during the introduction fifteen years before most of the movie, the superheros have technology far beyond that that we today have. Syndrome's gadgets are wildly fantastic. Edna's compound uses equipment to display her work that we can only dream about today. And yet everything else in the movie is at best five years in the future, and could probably exist just as easily a decade or two in the past. The army still uses cold war era tanks and machine guns. Offices are still predominately paper-based. Cars function and look almost exactly the same. Clearly, superheros and supervillians will have better stuff than the average shmuck on the street, but this doesn't excuse the ridiculous disparity.

Flaw number four: Disney. This means primarily two things: A) In me, Disney movies provoke this unrelenting desire to join in the action. For some reason, I badly want to enter the movie and change things. Since this is impossible, I experience great frustration. Ironically enough, this parallels Robert's primary dilemma, which almost tempts to write it off as intentional, but since this happens every time I watch Disney movies, I very very much doubt it. B) The PG rating is a strange one because it's not quite simple enough for most little kids to fully understand but not quite complex enough for teenagers or adults to fully appreciate. Perhaps there exists a thin region of age for whom this movie is absolutely perfect, but that makes your primary audience rather ephemeral. The most you can hope for in the long term is loyalty. It feels, to me, like an adult movie which was watered down some. I thought the movie could have really benefited from going for PG-13, just because every so often I sensed some artistic restraint (which is BAD beyond reason). I anxiously await Pixar's next movie, free from Disney's guiding hand.

Let me reassure you, however, that this is a movie worth your while. It's just not Great. And it could have been.

Action: 4/5 Spandex suits (The actions sequences were pretty darn good. I wasn't completely Wow-ed, but they were still very very good).
Voice Acting: 3.5/5 parallel pencils (Most of the voice actors merely did ok, merely sufficed. Some of the emphasis given to some of the words was very odd, almost to the point of a caricature. Robert Parr's voice actor did really well, in my opinion).
Story: 4/5 broken robots (Other than a few internal logical errors, I thought the plot was mostly quite interesting).
Sound: 3/5 frozen policicles (Good, solid superhero music and good, solid sound effects helped support the action, although they never really distinguished themselves).
Humor: 3/5 rocket ships (Although there were very very few direct jokes and/or gags, the movie had a goodly amount of humor lying about. It did its job).
Dialogue: 2/5 tiny cars (as I said, I consider the dialogue to be the weakest point of the movie).
Visuals: 4/5 flaming babies (This is Pixar. Clearly, the visuals will be darned good. They didn't knock my socks off, but then again, not a whole lot does. It would be nice to see them attempt realistic humans, just once. Nitpicks: lips [almost no one has them] and wet hair [very poorly done, that]).
Special Features (DVD): 3.5/5 blinking bombs (Mostly quite good. I don't know if it can be lumped here, but the casing of the DVD seems like overkill: sleeve, latches, and very secure/complicated center holder. What in God's name do they think we're planning to do with it? And I really didn't like the featurette "Jack-Jack Attack." Jack-Jack has way too many and way too random powers).

Overall (not necessarily determined by the above categories): 3.5/5 (It was good, and entertaining, but it could have been Great).

Sunday, March 13, 2005

"Or was it one-in-a-million?" -- Day After Tomorrow

After much stalling, I finally bring you you a review of a truly, truly rotten movie. I watched it by myself, which is really really boring, so you'd sure as hell had better appreciate this! It's also almost as long as the Wonderfalls review ("Defy the chicken"), which should give you an idea of how much I hate it (and, as I said in the aforementioned review, feel free to skip to the ratings for a shorter summary).

Day After Tomorrow is ... Terrible. This rotten piece of sci-fi (I differentiate between Science Fiction and Sci-Fi. Dune or Timeline are Science Fiction. Look at me! I have robots and really cool rocket ships with explosions and people blowing each other up with ray guns! is sci-fi) was created by one of Satan's speech-writers in an attempt to screw with us and make us waste our money. The only redeeming qualities of the movie are the special effects (which are undeniably quite good, for the most part) and the MSK3k-ability of it.

Ok, let's start with why I primarily dislike it so violently. The. Lines. Oh my good gracious God, please deliver us from these terribly terrible lines. I can deal with crap science (which it has ad infinitum ), because it's really fun to laugh at it, but the lines injure the artist in myself. I honestly had to rewind and replay several parts of the movie just because I thought "They couldn't have said something so stupid, could they?" and my worst fears were always, without fail, confirmed. For example, here's a short dialogue between the main character and his boss:

Boss: "I hope you're right [that we're headed towards the next ice age within two months], Jack. My ass is on the line."
Jack (main character): "You saw the model."
Boss: "And I hope to God it's wrong."

What?!?!?!! Why would the screenwriter do this to us?!?! Why!??!?!? As I said, the only reasonable answer is that (s)he hates us and wishes us great ill. This sort of stupidity pops up all over the movie, making it a staple rather than fluke. My blood pressure is reaching dangerous levels right about now, so I'll be moving on to the mistakes more pleasant to mock.

As I mentioned earlier, the CG in this movie tends towards the "v. Good." Although it was almost all stupid (because of science reasons which I will mention in the hereafter), it looked really nice. I don't think that that's enough of a reason to waste time and money on this, but if you do, more power to ya. However, there's always an exception: The Wolves. More on them later, but they looked so fake that the director drastically darkened whatever scene they were in to try to hide how bad they look.

The music kinda sucked. I never noticed it unless it stuck out as if it was trying to tell us what to feel. The sound effects were ok, I guess, but most of them were connected with the stupid science, and that I do not forgive.

Which brings us to the stupendously insipid "science" elements. Oh boy, are they fun to lampoon. In fact, pretty much the only fun I gleaned from this terror of a movie was the privilege to rip on the false science with my friends. Let's start with the "explanation," or what it boils down to: "Heat from THE SUN enters the earth at the equator and the Atlantic current thingey takes it here and here, but GLOBAL WARMING is melting the ice caps, and that makes the Atlantic current thingey turn off, which causes an Ice Age." If you'll notice, this explanation doesn't actually explain anything. Terms are thrown around (and given overemphasis), but it never really shows us a relationship between the supposed causes and the supposed effects. It's hand waving of the highest degree, a hallmark of sci-fi.

A lot of the science is also flat out wrong as well. For example, it would have taken about three minutes for the helicopter pilot to freeze rather than a five or so seconds that it did, and opening the door wouldn't really have had much of a difference (or so I am told). Tents, despite evidence to the contrary, do not maintain a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit regardless of outside temperatures. The way New York floods is patently absurd: it's not a tidal wave / tsunami, but rather a massive influx of new water which could only occur if a huge part of the Arctic had suddenly melted and RAISED THE LEVEL OF THE ATLANTIC OCEAN SEVERAL HUNDRED FEET. Now if we assume that the Arctic holds 15% of the world's water (which is probably far too much), that ice is as dense as water (which is certainly false), and that what must have occurred was the equivalent of dropping the Arctic into the ocean, you get the equivalent of A LOT OF WATER in the ocean, but it still isn't anywhere near what one would need to raise the sea level anywhere near that much. The ocean is freaking huge, for goodness sakes.

And another thing: Twisters in LA?!?! Much like the flooding, they NEVER EXPLAIN THIS. More insipid hand waving! "Um ... Well, you see ... uh ... GLOBAL WARMING! BOO! There. Weird weather explained." I honestly don't care if twisters really would form and New York really would flood that thoroughly that fast if what the movie makers are saying is true. At no point do they explain to us the causality, and that is just really sloppy.

There are more problems with the science, I assure you. I leave them to you to make fun of.

Speaking of causality, the continuity editors needed to be either fired or hired for this movie, because they either didn't do their job or their job needed to be done by someone. At one point, the movie makes a big deal of the main character's sled of supplies being destroyed. Three scenes later, they have it again! What the deuce!?!?! Moving anywhere above a certain point on the US is really really difficult, and yet the main character can make it by civilian truck from the Mexican-US border just about to DC (ignoring the lack of gas along the way). The concept of "time" is conveniently ignored for most intents and purposes. The "superfreezeing" eye of the storm is completely insane. Like most of the movies faults, the list of problems goes on.

Even when stuff occurs that is possible, it all fits together just a little bit (or, if we're being brutally honest, a big bit) too nicely. "Of course the wolves would be the only animals to escape" or "of course she would become stricken with blood poisoning and need medicine from the ship just as New York was about to completely freeze over." It's hard to go five minutes without using "of course" or "how very convenient" less than a half-dozen times with this movie.

A few trends: the characters are archetypical to the point of caricature (the Important Father Who Never Has Time For His Son, the Shy Gifted Brave Lovestruck Youngster, the Diligent and Dedicated Pediatrician Who Will Stand By Her Patients Until the Very End, the Loyal Friends Who Are Willing To Sacrifice Themselves For Their Leader the Protagonist, etc etc etc). Women, almost without exception, agree with the main character and his analysis of the weather problems, and men, almost without exception, disagree with him (at least until the end, when they admit their mistakes with their tails between their legs). The movie beats us over the head with its viewpoints at every twist and turn (the Vice President's speech is so ham-handed I almost doubled over laughing). And finally, Day After Tomorrow has a dangerously severe fetish for loooong boooooring scenery shots. I appreciate some nice pictures of arctic ice flow as much as the next guy, but do I really need to see three solid minutes of it while I wait for the movie to begin? If these had been cut down significantly, the movie would have been many degrees less boring (not the least because it would have been simply shorter).

Action: 2/5 magical reappearing sleds (Contrived, convoluted, and confusing, the action really quite sucked).
Acting: 2/5 chucks of ice (Really, really poor. It almost seemed like the actors weren't trying).
Humor: 1/5 continental hurricanes (When they did try for a laugh, which was not often, the jokes fell flat as a geometric plane).
Story: 1/5 $1500 raincoats (Haven't we seen this basic story line a couple hundred already, only done much better?).
Sound: 2/5 Gutenberg bibles (Extremely forgettable, except for when it obviously tries to railroad our emotions for scenes that couldn't do it for themselves).
Script: -1/5 bottles of penicillin (Yes, it is really that bad. The lines are just so incredible stupid).
Visuals: 2.5/5 frozen helicopters (Virtually the only thing about the movie that didn't suck. It could have gotten a 3 or even 3.5 if not for the terribly rendered wolves, the overly dark sets with the wolves, and less scenery. If I wanted pictures of beautiful vistas, I'd use Google Images).
Science (intended usage): 1.5/5 snowshoes (Most of it is utterly absurd and/or totally wrong).
Science (unintended usage): 4/5 crushed Porches (It's very fun to talk about how crappy it is. Indeed, reports of this quality in the movie were my motivation for watching it).

Overall (not necessarily determined by the above categories): 1/5 stupid motorcades (Only see it with a few friends, and even then only if you really like looking at pretty pictures or to MST3k it).

Sunday, March 06, 2005

"Ripoff!" -- Sock Baby

Props (and, [dare I say?] mad props) to VA_Ninja for alerting moi to this weeks item. Good news: it's completely free! You don't even have to look at pop-ups or banner adds (how, I don't know, so don't ask).

Sock Baby is a 3-part series of video clips you can download from the in-ter-net straight to your com-pu-ter. It's a net ~20 minutes of pure campy fun, and I highly suggest the download.

The plot is kinda stupid and rather incoherent, but that's kinda the point. As I said, this vid is very campy, but by choice. It's tongue-in-cheek all the way. Because the vid is so short, I won't bother detailing the plot, but it goes something like this: two guys want food. They fight some aliens. The End.

The fight scenes are the meat of this vids. Although Sock Baby is obviously low budget, the fights are done surprisingly well. There was perhaps one shot near the end of the third episode which had visible seams, but other than that, it is all pretty darn realistic. There's a certain '70s vibe in the fighting (probably because the main character is a '70s throwback) mixed with a little Dragon Ball Z (but not so much lame as funny) and a dash of pure weirdness.

Because it is so short, I can't think of anything else to say. Just go watch it for yourself.

Acting: 4/5 bad suits (If we assume that they were supposed to act the way they do, the actors did a darn fine job making me giggle).
Action: 4/5 black lipstick tubes (Surprisingly good. The fight scenes were well choreographed).
Humor: 4/5 garbage cans (Although there weren't a whole lot of jokes in the classical sense, this vid maintained a certain level of farcical ambiance throughout).
Story: 3/5 plasma pills (Suitably bizarre and incoherent, the story did its job fairly well, although it could probably been made a little more weird).
Sound: 4/5 oversized sunglasses (Interesting, memorable, and funny in its own way, the music performed extremely well. The punch effects were just a tad too repetitive for my tastes, but they didn't really detract from the vid).
Visuals: 3/5 home-made tarrot cards (The background sufficed. The video quality is a bit poor, but beggars can't be choosers. The short animation and computer-generated parts were very good).
Value: 5/5 ruined socks (What, are you kidding me? It's FREE).

Overall (not necessarily determined by the above categories): 4/5 gold medallions (It's definitely worth a download. Fun to watch, fun to share, and makes for some great injokes).