Category Archives: Movie Reviews

SCARY MOVIE II – By Sean O’Connell

Last summer, the Wayans brothers snuck their witless horror spoof “”Scary Movie”” into theaters in the shadow of studio blockbusters like “”The Patriot”” and “”The Perfect Storm.”” To the dismay of analysts, critics and executives, the little comedy that could broke box office records and entertained audiences with gross out jokes that would gaga Farrelly brother.

After the first “”Scary Movie”” converted its $19M budget to a whopping $156.9M gross, Dimension Studios fell over themselves in an effort to crank out the sequel. Having skewered the teen horror genre made popular by Wes Craven’s “”Scream,”” which itself was a spoof of horror flicks, the Wayans needed a new target. They reportedlyspent months locked up in hotel rooms watching everything from “”The Exorcist”” to “”Charlie’s Angels”” in a no-holds-barred quest for material. Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris), “”Shorty”” Meeks (Marlon Wayans) and Ray Maker (Shawn Wayans) all return. It’s years after the massacre of the first movie, and the three misfits attend Thomas Jefferson University, the setup for acheap joke. Not sure whether it’s borrowing from “”The Haunting”” or “”The House on Haunted Hill,”” “”Scary II”” signs the three up for an experiment run by an underhanded professor (Tim Curry) to spend the weekend in a mysterious castle. Joined by the typical assortment of babes, boneheads and handicapped assistants, the volunteers bumble through dozens of gags that alternately work (a “”Rocky””-style fight between Faris and a black cat) and fall flat on theirfaces (a never-ending hand joke that involves the painfully unfunny Chris Elliott). Dimension’s first mistake occurred when they saddled the unfilmed production with a July 4 release date, forcing the Wayans’ to cut corners to nail the deadline. “”Scary Movie II”” opens practically one year after the original. It shows. With no hint of rhyme nor reason, the comedy skates by on an anorexic setup, transparent spoofs and dull gags. Hints of intelligence or originality that surfaced in the first film are buried under waves of vomit jokes, mounds of poop references and the haze of marijuana smoke that emits from Marlon Wayans’ character. Faris brings nothing new to her character, a bizarre blend of every horror heroine from Heather Langenkamp to Jennifer Love Hewitt. She’s the living setup for every crass joke, and she does it all with her mouth constantly ajar. It’s bizarre. Press notes list Kathleen Robertson’s character as Jamie Lee Curtisto, a funny joke despite the fact that her name is never mentioned in the actual film. The acting in general hovers around “”90210″” level, which is appropriate because the film casts the wooden Tori Spelling in a purposeless role. And James Woods, in a role reserved for Marlon Brando, completely humiliates himself. We now know why Brando bailed out with a cryptic “”illness.”” As a director, Keenan Ivory Wayans does have chops. He accurately copies the likes of John Woo, George Lucas and Alfred Hitchcock. When necessary, his camera pans and zooms like he’s directing a stylish action flick, and his pace is lively. If he can avoid tossing in a bathroom joke every 15 seconds, he might crank out a suitable follow up to “”A Low Down Dirty Shame.”” However, that might be the most we have to look forward to.Final Grade: D

American Pie 2 Pie for the Course– Reviewed by Ken Rosenberg

With its palatable blend of hormonal teens, bawdy gags and screwball antics, 1998’s “”American Pie”” went down easily enough; a surprise hit, it finished north of the $100 million mark and earned bucketloads of cash for its makers. So a sequel was inevitable. To the surprise of no one, “”American Pie 2″” reheats the same combination of ingredients, ratcheting up the raunch factor a notch with a non-stop barrage of outrageous hijinks reminiscent of “”Road Trip.””

The entire likable, enthusiastic ensemble cast from the original “”Pie”” returns here, shaking and baking under the helm of head pastry chef J.B. Rogers, the former Farrelly Brothers assistant director whose over-the-top first feature, “”Say It Isn’t So,”” flopped earlier this year. While this confection is in no danger of being mistaken for a main course, it packs just enough empty calories to add up to a guilty pleasure.

Crazy/Beautiful Film Review – By Sean O’Connell

Rich, spoiled, party girl Nicole (Kirsten Dunst) meets responsible Hispanic boy Carlos (Jay Hernandez) as she completes community service on the beaches of Santa Monica. Given his casual good looks and success on the high school football field, she’s immediately smitten. He, on the other hand, is prompted by a domineering mother tostay focused on work, school and his future at the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

But eventually the natural opposites date, forging a passionate relationship that tests the patience of their parents and friends. As things heat up, Nicole’s erratic behavior clashes with Carlos’ priorities, jeopardizing the very different futures they have planned.Unlike the progressively crass and insulting teen comedies that shoot down the pipe, “”crazy/beautiful”” works wellon multiple levels. Dunst, a proven talent, finds an emotional equal in relative newcomer Hernandez, who injects a calming sense of reality into the pair’s labored coupling. What starts as a contrived interracial romance melts into an acceptably difficult bond between teens who are rightfully unfamiliar with such a level of love. One scene, where Nicole uses her finances to fund Carlos’ first flight, rings particularly true. You can almost feel the young couple’s happiness.Phil Hay’s script takes risks, daring the audience and his leads to advance one giant step further. He forces the characters he’s developed to face undeniable problems before they can ride off into the sunset. It’s a dose of reality rarely seen in teen fare. Young adults hitting theaters can do much worse this summer than swallow the lesson””crazy/beautiful”” preaches. Final Grade: B

American Pie 2 – By Sean O’Connell

Since the audience patiently awaiting the release of “”American Pie 2″” probably refuses to read lengthy tomes on the merits of the cinema, let me get right to the point: if you enjoyed the first “”Pie,”” you’re guaranteed to gobble up its superior sequel with a spoon. Those who care to find out why may continue.

It took them two years, but the team behind “”American Pie”” finally figured it out. As successful as the first foray into the heart of the teenage hormone was – it went on to gross over $100 million during it’s U.S. theatrical run – it spread itself far too thin by juggling no less than 13 main characters. I always believed the original bogged itself down in superficial characters we never had time to care about. In theory, the film should have belonged solely to the four friends at the center of the film, but the unfocused farce lost sight of the guys in a sea of semen. While “”Pie 2″” delivers much more of the same sex-soaked “”hilarity,”” it also focuses its lens back on the guys who started it all: long-faced Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), dreamy jock Oz (Chris Klein), eccentric Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and hapless Jim (Jason Biggs). The script, penned by David H. Steinberg and “”Pie”” scribe Adam Herz, accomplishes this by shuttling the female characters from the first film out of the spotlight. They’re not quite afterthoughts, but they’re nowhere near as important as they were in the first jumbled film. At the end of their first year at college, Heather (Mena Suvari) kisses Oz goodbye and embarks on a summer jaunt through Europe, Kevin’s Vicky (Tara Reid) has moved on to another guy (or three), Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) is spending her vacation at band camp (where else?), and Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) is in Manhattan, though she assures Jim she’ll visit him by summer’s end.This leaves the guys, along with frustrated friend Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott), on their own, so they opt to rent a cabin on nearby Lake Michigan and make the most of their first summer as college men. The script, however, doesn’t give them much to do. Oz practices overseas phone sex with his absent mate. Kevin characteristically moans and sighs over his blown chances with Vicky. And Finch, preparing for his anticipated reunion with Stifler’s mom (Jennifer Coolidge), discovers the art of tantric sex. Of all of them, it’s Jim who grows up. His quest to sexually satisfy Nadia steers him right into the arms of another, but not before he’s forced to jump through the requisite series of embarrassing scenarios that involve everything from porno tapes and quick-drying glue to a trombone and a retarded summer camper. What more did you expect from a kid who humped pastry?””Pie 2″” starts off with an unsettling sense of deja vu, and you can feel a formula being molded. Eugene Levy appears as Jim’s dad, whose purpose is to create yet another awkward situation for the ill-fated teen. And then the boys are at Stifler’s house for a blowout party, where the memorable semen-in-a-cup-of-beer scene from the first “”Pie”” is unnecessarily outdone. But it tiptoes out of that mold once the guys shed the confines built in the first film and hit the lake. The new scenery allows the reasonably talented male stars the chance to further shape their personalities from traits scarcely established in the original. Or two of them manage to, at least. Oz’s long-distance relationship and Kevin’s pining for his lost love admittedly are the two situations the majority of teens in the audience will identify with. That also makes them, unfortunately, the two most generic, uninspiring situations in the film.Since Stifler lacks the intelligence or drive to mature, that leaves Finch and Jim. One can even argue that with “”Pie 2,”” Biggs’ Jim finally rises to the challenge of being the main character the first film desperately needed him to be. “”Pie 2″” belongs to him and, in turn, the woman he pursues. And the role of Jim remains the one perfectly tailored to Biggs’ naturally sheepish personality, which he failed to duplicate in bombs like “”Loser”” and “”Saving Silverman.”” Who knows? With the next “”Pie”” film – and there’s bound to be another – screenwriter Herz may turn his attention to Finch, a goldmine of idiosyncrasies just begging to be analyzed. Or maybe Kevin will be given a reason to exist, as he lacks one now. Time will tell. Until then, it’s the ability of the four guys to rise above the barrage of bodily fluids required to make a comedy fly in today’s desensitized marketplace that will continue to lure us back. I certainly wouldn’t mind checking back with this crew every other summer to see how far they’ve come.FINAL GRADE: B

Bandits

In his latest comedy “”Bandits,”” Baltimore native Barry Levinson (“”Diner””) dares to modernize the George Roy Hill classic “”Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,”” portraying Butch as a blathering hypochondriac and saddling old Sundance with anger management issues. The result? A two-hour marathon therapy session for two insecure bank robbers who couldn’t buy happiness with all the gold in Fort Knox.

Rarely does one film squander such potential so rapidly. Right off the bat, the casting of Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton as escaped convicts turned bank robbers seemed intriguing. They even concoct an appealing plot device: Willis, as the strong, silent Joe Blake, and Thornton, as the agitated, neurotic Terry Collins, earn the name “”The Sleepover Bandits”” by spending the night at a chosen bank manager’s home, then knocking over the person’s facility in the morning. Throw in the immensely talented Cate Blanchett as the third leg of a potential love triangle, and you simply have to sit back and count the box office cash, right? If only it were that simple.Bandits’ problems start early and come often. Almost immediately, the fate of its antiheroes is revealed by a television journalist reporting from the Sleepover Bandits’ final heist, which takes place at the Alamo Savings & Loan – not the first joke Levinson hits us over the head with. From there, the jumbled narrative dashes in all different directions, alternating from the duo’s last stand to a pre-heist interview conducted with the aforementioned broadcast journalist, and finally to their prison days and eventual rise to media infamy as daring bank robbers. Such weaving is forgivable if there’s a purpose, but here it just seems like poorly planned editing.The director isn’t completely to blame for the film’s listless disposition. Harley Peyton’s mundane screenplay boasts so many dry spells, it practically cracks. Bored with its own concept, the film eventually invents desperate gimmicks in hopes of providing a spark, stooping so low as to claim one bank manager suffers from a rare offshoot of narcolepsy, prompting him to fall asleep at inopportune times. Oh, the hilarity. Even the chemistry between Willis and Thornton seems forced. Unlike Butch and Sundance, who were friends long before they were criminals, Joe and Terry rob banks out of necessity, not out of camaraderie. You never even get the impression that these guys like each other, let alone that they respect a code of honor among thieves.Blanchett careens into the story like a breath of fresh insanity, and her purpose is two-fold. Initially she’s meant to disrupt Joe and Terry’s constant bickering, but eventually she serves as the picture’s final and most contrived gimmick, nitiating the inevitable and inconceivable love triangle that ultimately tears these men apart. At first, Blanchett finds a sparring partner in Thornton, their interactions crackling with an untamed wit and energy previously unseen in the picture. But in time, even these two are left spinning their wheels under Levinson’s utter lack of direction. And when Blanchett can’t save your picture from the doldrums, you know it’s time to lock this one away in a bank vault and pray no one ever lets it out.Final Grade: DBy Sean O’ConnellOct. 11, 2001

Osmosis Jones – By Sean O’Connell

In “”Osmosis Jones,”” a witty live-action/animation hybrid from the left side of the brain Bobby and Peter Farrelly share, a mayoral candidate (voiced by Ron Howard) with hopes of running a city found inside a human body delivers a campaign speech from the center of some nauseatingly stench-infested bowels. His platform, of course, is one of cleansing, and he calls for “”a healthier diet”” and more to achieve his goals. Named Tom Colonic, he’s knowingly described as a “”regular guy,”” and it’s gentle bathroom humor like this, laced throughout the film’s animated escapes, that highlight the finer sections of this originalfilm.

The body in question belongs to Frank (Bill Murray), a vile, unkempt zoo keeper and single father whose personal hygiene habits are borrowed from the animals he caters to. Lucky for Frank, he isn’t fighting the good fight against such nasties as cholesterol and heart failure alone.””Jones,”” as written by Marc Hyman, imagines Frank’s body as a fully functioning city, a high voltage metropolis of veins, arteries, organs and bodily fluids. Frank’s stomach resembles an airport where foreign (and domestic) objects arrive at pre-determined gates. His brain serves as city hall, home to a superficial mayor (voiced by William Shatner) who is under the public’s microscope for allowing Frank to treat his body the way he does. And a police force of white blood cells, unofficially represented by gung-ho renegade Osmosis Jones (voice of Chris Rock), keep Frank safe from harm.On a routine inspection of the mouth, triggered by Frank’s ingestion of soiled egg parts, Jones encounters what he believes to be a serious infection. In fact, a deadly virus named Thrax (Laurence Fishburne provides his devious voice) has infiltrated Frank’s body with alterior motives. Thrax hopes to kill Frank off in 48 hours, a record time that would guarantee the virus a place in the medical journals. Eager to save Frank from this hostile takeover, Jones teams up with Drix (enthusiastically voiced by David Hyde Pierce), a robotic multi-tasker sprung from a cold pill Frank swallows. Pop star Brandy lends her voice to Jones’ blood cell love interest, Leah. Kid Rock and the deceased Joe C. even make a cameo as “”Kidney Rock.”” Pay special attention to the various backgrounds, as they’re often littered with inside jokes and puns. As clever and inventive as “”Jones””‘s animated tours through Frank’s body are, though, the live-action shots with Murray are just as flat. The lowest, most revolting examples of the Farrelly’s trademark bathroom humor are employed so Murray’s Frank can scratch his crotch, sniff his sweaty armpits, ingest enough fat to stop a rhino’s heart and vomit on his daughter’s teacher (Molly Shannon). This unfortunate character later has a zit explode on her. It’s “”hilarious.”” How one script alternates so easily between these repulsive scenes and the quick-witted animated sequences is beyond me. By the time Chris Eliott rears his talentless head as Frank’s best friend, you’ll be wishing the entire film had been hand drawn. Then we’re back in Frank’s body, and the film is resuscitated. Rock and Pierce, a fine duo, wring stimulating jokes out of the obviously cliched buddy cop scenario. Rock even spins a fresh take on his well-known “”We were so poor, we grew up surrounded by crack”” routine. Despite its live-action foibles, “”Jones”” could be the cure for what ails audiences this summer season. FINAL GRADE: B+