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Rating History

Mascots (2016)
4 days ago via Flixster

"Mascots" is the latest mockumentary by Christopher Guest. It shares many similarities with his film "Best In Show," particularly the format of interviewing various contestants in a competition, following them as they travel, and chronicling the inevitable disasters that develop during the actual competition. The difference is that the dogs are swapped out in favor of absurd mascots from various countries and cultures. Many of the usual suspects from Guest's films are back including Bob Balaban, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Jennifer Coolidge, Parker Posey, Ed Begley Jr., and Fred Willard. A few of the characters (Mike Murray who is played by Zach Woods and Corky St. Claire who is played by Guest himself) were completely underutilized. Any fan of "The Office" loved Woods in the role of Gabe and when his interview opens the film, it opens our imaginations to the endless possibilities of awkwardness that he could achieve as a mascot. When he turns out to be a minor character in this ensemble cast, those possibilities became missed potential in my mind. Conversely, I understand that Corky St. Claire (the beloved character that Guest played in "Waiting for Guffman") was intended to be a cameo appearance. The issue is that this character is so hilarious that any inclusion smaller than a lead role was going to leave us wanting more. The most absurd character in the film is Tommy "The Fist" Zucarello, a stereotypical Irish boozer whose hot-headed personality/womanizing is perfect for a hockey mascot that is a giant fist. Chris O'Dowd brings the perfect attitude and grit to the role. The show-stealer is Tom Bennett as the legacy hedgehog mascot for a British soccer team. Amidst the chaos, he undergoes a coming-of-age experience that ties together this series of absurd vignettes. The mascots and corresponding personalities of each character are creative but don't gel together as well as the characters in many of Guest's other stories. I would definitely recommend "Mascots" for its entertainment value and unique story but, after fans of Christopher Guest mockumentaries have seen it once, they will likely leave it behind in favor of "Spinal Tap" and "Guffman" as their go-to dose of stupid humor.

London Has Fallen
8 days ago via Flixster

"London Has Fallen" tells a great counterterrorist, rescue-the-president story in the ilk of "24." Even though it is an entertaining action film, it is often overshadowed by excessive language (dozens of f-words) and extreme violence. I actually found the squishing of knives being thrust into the abdomens of bad guys to be significantly less offensive than the onslaught of profanity that detracted from the scenes instead of enhancing them. The film works independently of "Olympus Has Fallen," requiring very little prerequisite information or connection to the characters of the first film. The writers actually learned a lesson from Olympus' oversaturated plot. They take an interesting concept and allow it to drive the momentum of the film instead of creating cumbersome subplots that are barely related. The story isn't going to blow anybody's mind but it certainly rises above the expectation for your typically summer blockbuster action film. The thing that draws attention to this film is the stunning shots of London's destruction. Even if you have never been to London, landmarks like Big Ben and Parliament are recognizable that everyone can appreciate the shock value of seeing them destroyed. My favorite part of the film is the tremendous tracking shot through a gunfight in the streets of London that had to have lasted at least two minutes. But even when you have the intensity of Gerard Butler and the awesomeness of Morgan Freeman, and endless barrage of profanity will leave you feeling like the film was dirtier than necessary. I would love to see an edit of this film. The story is interesting and the acting sequences are filmed well, but the crew couldn't trust their product to please and audience so they resorted to extra gore and vulgar dialogue. I enjoyed "London Has Fallen" but I would have enjoyed it a lot more if the writers had just trusted their story to be good on its own.

Destino (2003)
11 days ago via Flixster

What do Walt Disney and Salvador Dali have in common? The answer to this cryptic question is the surrealist animated short, "Destino." While the style of this short is fascinating, its 58-year production history is even more interesting. In 1945, a collaboration began that would combine Disney's storytelling with Dali's artistic style. It was storyboarded over an 8-month period when the fallout of World War II took its toll on the economy and permanently shelved the project. With the eventual deaths of Disney and Dali, the project was seemingly lost forever until Roy E. Disney stumbled upon the project in 1999. The completed short only contains 17 seconds of footage from 1945 but keeps the story intact. Before you approach "Destino" with an expectation of a traditional Disney short, the animation looks nothing like Disney. It is more like a combination of cubism and Dali's signature melting clocks. Also, the story is used mainly to tie together the interesting imagery. This film is more like a work of art than a child-friendly cartoon. There are some fascinating visual moments where a silhouetted shape suddenly becomes something else. It's too difficult to describe and worth watching the 6-minute short to see these transformation. The surrealism is further enhanced by the antiquated musical soundtrack that contrasts the modern computer animation. Even though I find the film to be trippy and difficult to follow, I was glad to see it receive an Oscar nomination to bring acknowledgement to Disney for resurrecting this abandoned project. "Destino" probably won't leave you wanting Disney to make another short in this style, but it is worth seeing if you have an interest in Dali's artwork.

All In: The Poker Movie
13 days ago via Flixster

"All In: The Poker Movie" doesn't contain any earth-shattering revelations or plot twists. Still, this documentary captures the history of poker tournaments and its unexpected renaissance at the turn of the millennium. Poker may seem like a pretty dry subject for a documentary (and especially for weekly tv coverage), but those who play Texas Hold 'Em understand how gripping it can be to watch one person strategically put so much money on the line. This film includes interviews with most of poker's major players including Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Annie Duke, Chris Ferguson, and an extensive look at the unlikely path of Chris Moneymaker. Matt Damon also weighs in since his film "Rounders" had a profound impact on so many beginning poker players in the nineties. The driving force of the film comes from the testimonials of these poker stars and their opinions will speak strongly to players of the game who have religiously watched the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker; however, the general public's lack of familiarity with these players may leave some viewers feeling overwhelmed with unknown names. "All In: The Poker Movie" will likely resonate better with poker players but it serves as a great jumping off-point for anybody who is curious about society's obsession with a centuries-old card game.

Goosebumps (2015)
16 days ago via Flixster

"Goosebumps" was my favorite book series as a tween and I was overjoyed to see a new creative approach to these characters. Unlike the tv series which brought abridged versions of each story to the screen in their own episode, this film pits the character of R.L. Stine against all of his monsters. As their creator, he is obviously the best candidate to capture them when the monsters get out. Unfortunately, Jack Black in a PG-rated movie does not typically indicate an adult appeal. But that is why you should forget everything that you know: "Goosebumps" is a fantastic film for all ages! Whether you've read the books or not, the story makes complete sense without an R.L. Stine knowledge base. If you have read the books, you are in for a treat as you encounter dozens upon dozens of these favorite troublemakers. From the Abominable Snowman of Pasadina and the lawn gnomes (Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes) to Slappy (Night of the Living Dummy) and the subtle reference to The Cuckoo Clock of Doom, the whole film is a delight. Most of all, the tone of the film is perfectly on par with Stine's novels (especially the twists). The screenwriters really nailed this script, especially the family-friendly humor that is just as funny to adults as it is to kids. Officer Brooks, the police officer-in-training played by Amanda Lund, is particularly hilarious. And Jack Black plays his role perfectly as he delivers his comedy within the confines of a serious character. Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, and Ryan Lee act beyond the expectation of teen actors and Amy Ryan adds another big name to draw in an audience. Obviously this film's zany plot isn't the stuff that Oscars are made of, but it is rather impressive for a family comedy. The special effects are well-developed and the plot seamlessly ties together all of the classic characters without seeming forced. I really can't say anything bad about it. "Goosebumps" is perfect for any family movie night, even if you don't have kids!