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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Crazies

Title: The Crazies

Year of Release: 2010

Date Viewed: August 13th, 2010

MPAA Rating: R

Nope, it's not a documentary on the Uwe Boll fan club. The Crazies is about a small town getting torn apart by its own citizens who have become suddenly...well, crazy for no apparent reason.

An update of the 1973 George A. Romero picture of the same name, The Crazies is not quite a zombie picture but it fits perfectly within the genre due to the fact that its countless antagonists have no working brains among them. (Insert your own joke here about whatever business or political group is on your pet peeve list.)

Set in the town of Ogden Marsh, local sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) and deputy Russell Clank (Joe Anderson) begin to suspect that something weird is in the air (or perhaps somewhere else) after a series of random murders and acts of aggression are demonstrated by many of the town's residents without any clear motives. The suspects walk around and act like normal people but seem completely oblivious to the world around them or general reason.

The sheriff's team soon discover a crashed airplane stuck in the deep forest near the place that the town depends on for their water supply. Whatever cargo the plane was carrying appeared to have been spilled in the water. Fearing the worst, sheriff Dutton stops the water pipes indefinitely but appears to be too late. More and more residents lose their minds and become sadistic killers. The situation becomes so chaotic that the military's biological hazard team step in to contain all residents of Ogden Marsh in an attempt to control the virus before it gets out of hand.

It's all too little too late. (Why is the military always useless in these kind of horror films?) The town of psychopaths overpower the containment crew, leaving Dutton, his deputy and their respective wives on their own to fight for survival. And even if they manage to stay alive, they have a bigger horror to worry about; a giant military bomb designed to exterminate all living beings occupying Ogden Marsh.

If you're looking for originality, you won't find much of it here. While the idea of presenting zombies as borderline human is a little different, most of the horror plot devices presented here have been done before. Audiences that have not seen Romero's original film will likely relate this story to 28 Days Later, albeit with slower moving villains.

The Crazies is a film that does all the little things right. Classic set-ups such as characters exploring the unknown while the audience watches and waits for something to pop out are done reasonably well and less predictable than most modern day horror films.

The characters serve a bigger purpose than just running and screaming. They exist to give the audience a point-of-view from a clueless bystander who is accustomed to wielding so much power now stuck in a mess where he is powerless. With one exception in a very effective scene, the story stays with sheriff Dutton's group the whole way through, opting not to dwell on the hows and whys of the deadly virus.

Among the sea of familiar scenarios, The Crazies boasts some welcome surprises as well. My favorite scene involves our heroes trapped in their vehicle as it moves through a drive-in car wash building with Crazies attempting to break in. Anyone who has ever driven through one of those things can tell you that the lack of visibility of surroundings can be a little intimidating or even frightening to the claustrophobic. So imagine how well the psychology of "fear of the unknown" can be explored in this setting. I might even go out on a limb and declare this to be one of my favorite horror scenes to come out of this past decade.

And even the moments that don't work so well can still be enjoyable. The movie often reaches a comfortable level of cheesiness without venturing into the realm of self-parody. It walks on a slippery slope but manages to stay on its feet.

The Crazies is not a bad choice for your next horror themed party. It is cheesy enough to be mocked and serious enough to be fully immersed in. Horror films can never be for everyone. But this one can probably appeal to enough people to find some much deserved appreciation.

Rating: 7

Friday, August 27, 2010


Title: Chloe

Year of Release: 2009

Date Viewed: August 12th, 2010

MPAA Rating: R

Infidelity stories are a favorite cliche of Hollywood. Mainly because they attract so much box office revenue regardless of quality. It seemed for a while that it couldn't be possible to breathe any new life into this stale story arc. Leave it to Chloe to prove you wrong. For that to happen though, you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and perhaps for some it would be the forbidden zone.

Adapted from a French film named Nathalie, the title character is played by Amanda Seyfried, a giant leap sideways from her star-making role in Mean Girls. Chloe is an escort for hire who possesses the skills to pleasure anyone through her words and her actions. Her newest employer is Catherine (Julianne Moore), a gynecologist who suspects her college professor husband David (Liam Neeson) of acting unfaithful to their marriage. She can't prove it but all the signs are there. He is constantly flirting with young females, an airplane flight home was missed and their love life is not what it used to be.

Chloe is sent in as a spy of sorts to make advances on David to see if Catherine's suspicions are correct. What Chloe reports back to Catherine is stunning. But what's more stunning for the audience is Catherine's reactions. She seems less angry and more fascinated by the sexual exhibitions between her husband and her siren-esque client. What happens next may shock audiences into turning off this bizarre story before it resolves its ever increasing tension.

The film relies heavily upon Chloe's narration which leaves audiences to speculate how much if any of it is truthful. It helps us identify closer with Catherine by being left in the dark. And dark is certainly an accurate enough label for how the characters are perceived by the audience and each other. The mystery surrounding Chloe would have been better served if the movie opted to save her point of view until later in the film instead of having her speak in the very first scene. It almost ruins their chance to present Chloe as the enigma she is meant to be.

The character of Chloe is like a fairy tale creature. Anyone who lays eyes on her seems to fall for her. Seyfried's performance commands her words and mannerisms to be goddess-like without a hint of corniness. Moore and Neeson are both very good as usual. But Seyfried steals the show.

Think about this for a moment or two. Seyfried's career has traveled across such roads such as acting as a dumb high school blonde, acting as a sex crazed wild teenage druggie, singing with Pierce Brosnan to sharing the same screen as Megan Fox. This girl is fearless!

Special kudos is also owed to Liam Neeson. His wife passed away during the shooting of this film yet he was still able to suck up the distress long enough to finish his work. Well done, sir. And my heart goes out to you.

This is not the kind of film that you would want to bring home for a social gathering. The content is pretty raw to say the least. Had I watched Chloe with peers, it's a sure bet that at least half of them would turn away with the response "That was too weird for me." The other half will not be able to keep their eyes away from the screen for obvious reasons should you decide to take a chance on this film.

I belong to the latter half except that my reasons were different. It's unpredictable which is something that I never thought could be pulled off in an infidelity story again. It's also fearless in the sense that it has a story to tell and doesn't allow natural human sensitivity to compromise with its vision. Bold filmmaking like this shouldn't be ignored but it will be. That's just the natural order of things.

See it if you have the gumption. Just make sure the door is locked behind you to avoid an awkward conversation with whomever walks in during the film's more "revealing" moments.

Rating: 8

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Date Night

Title: Date Night

Year of Release: 2010

Date Viewed: August 10th, 2010

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Imagine if an ordinary romantic date turned into a night of running away from mobsters and corrupt cops. Date Night is a worst case scenario example of how one seemingly harmless attempt to work the system backfires into a gigantic mess.

Steve Carell and Tina Fey are Phil and Claire Foster, an ordinary New Jersey couple that are happy for the most part but seem to be getting restless with their routine lives. One night per week is set up as a "date night" where the two eat out at a restaurant and take a break from watching over their children.

After learning that their best friends are on the verge of a divorce, Phil begins to get nervous about his own marriage, wondering if perhaps the recent case of boredom is foreshadowing something.

So to add a little excitement to their lives, Phil convinces Claire to take their date night to a popular (and steep priced) seafood restaurant in busy New York City. It's a nice idea except that there are no seats available as it's a place that often has tables reserved for weeks ahead of time. Insistent on making this night special, Phil and Claire claim a table reserved for the Tripplehorns, taking their identity for the night.

The couple enjoy their little harmless scam until a rough looking pair of men approach. They are questioned about the location of a flash drive that supposedly belongs to mob boss, Joe Miletto (Ray Liotta). Phil tries to convince the men that they are not really the Tripplehorns and that the whole thing is a misunderstanding. Not buying their defense, the men stalk the couple everywhere around New York City in an attempt to re-acquire the flash drive, not realizing they are chasing the wrong people.

Phil and Claire decide that the only way to get out of this mess is to locate the real Tripplehorns and escape back to their ordinary lives. But can they stay alive long enough to succeed?

The story had a clear beginning, set pieces for the middle act and a clear ending. The rest was left up to the improvisational skills of Carell and Fey who were basically given the task of carrying the movie. Kind of an odd request considering the amount of supporting talent that was available. Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis and James Franco all show up in minor roles but seemed to be restrained so as not to upstage Carell and Fey's game of trying to come up with the cleverest dialogue for each scene. The large number of post credit outtakes give you an idea of how many punchline options the director was spoiled with. As is the case with most improvisation, the results are hit and miss. It most likely will not appeal to fans of "proper" comedy. Fans of the actors' delivery style shouldn't mind however.

The best moments of the movie are set in situations that were planned from the start. There is an amusing car chase involving an innocent taxi cab driver that has no ghastly clue what is going on. There is also a scenario that involved Carell and Fey attempting a dual seductive nightclub dance in order to get closer to the folks that have targeted them for assassination. (It kind of makes sense when viewed in context.)

The moments that bog the film down are when the actors struggle to come up with a decent line to get past a dead spot in the script.

And that's about it. Humor is too subjective for me to get into further detail as to why certain things are funny or not. Your odds of enjoying Date Night are about the same as a coin flip. Though it just occurred to me that perhaps the best situation for viewing the film revolves around its title.

Rating: 6

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Title: Yellowbeard

Year of Release: 1983

Date Viewed: August 6th, 2010

MPAA Rating: PG

In an episode of Family Guy, Peter tortures his daughter Meg by forcing her to watch all of the Monty Python sketches that were not funny or memorable. I wonder if Yellowbeard was a part of that marathon because it certainly was not funny or memorable to me.

The cast sure looked promising. We've got Monty Python icons John Cleese and Eric Idle, Brooksfilm regulars Marty Feldman and Madeline Kahn; and Cheech and Chong being Cheech and Chong. How they all decided to sign on for this project is beyond me. Maybe someone cashed in on some favors.

Yellowbeard is basically a spoof of pirate swashbuckling flicks. It follows the same familiar format that has followed the genre since it became popular. A prison escape followed by an ocean voyage then concluding with a sea battle and a treasure discovery on a deserted island. Parodies are allowed to be cliched so no points subtracted there.

The title character is played by Graham Chapman. Captain Yellowbeard is one of the most feared pirates of the Caribbean. And rightfully so. According to the opening sequence, he enjoys eating the ripped out organs of his adversaries. Yellowbeard is eventually imprisoned for tax evasion (an obvious nod to Al Capone) and sentenced to twenty years behind bars.

Time passes and Yellowbeard is near completion of his sentence. Before he is released, it comes to the attention of Commander Clement (Eric Idle) that Yellowbeard had hidden a valuable chest full of treasure just before capture. The prosecutors extend his sentence in the hopes that he would make a paranoid escape from jail and go after his treasure. The plan works and soon the Commander and a motley crew of incompetent buccaneers join the quest to steal his fortune.

It's such a bizarre film mainly because the movie cannot decide on who the main character is or even what kind of a movie it is. Yellowbeard himself is hardly seen after the first thirty minutes. The Commander's crew is not interesting enough to carry the story. Yellowbeard's newly revealed son is not given a chance to entertain. A blind character played by John Cleese only exists to try and make the audience laugh at "he can't see but he can hear" jokes that anyone can see coming. No pun intended.

And the pacing is almost nonexistent. If this movie intended to be a farce, it can't pretend to be serious at the same time. Some scenes are played straight as if they are trying to be a legit imitator of Treasure Island. Other scenes are filled with punchlines and slapstick that seem to belong to another movie. Slapstick easily amuses me but the material seen here is enough to make the Three Stooges turn in their graves. Grabbing onto a metal object that had just spent time near a burning flame can only survive as a two second gag. Having the character wince silently in pain while still holding onto the object for twenty seconds doesn't make the gag funnier.

If Yellowbeard had been intentionally bad, I could have at least given it credit for originality. But I'm not convinced that its poor production was done on purpose. There were too many lost opportunities for genius humor especially with the resources available to work with. Skip this one.

Rating: 3

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Title: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Year of Release: 2010

Date Viewed: August 2nd, 2010

MPAA Rating: PG

Harry Potter meets Greek mythology meets National Treasure in this first installment of the Percy Jackson series; adapted from the popular young adult novels.

The title character (Logan Lerman) is a fairly average teenager who lives with his mother (Catherine Keener) and stepfather (Joe Pantoliano). The reason he is only fairly average is because of his abnormal fascination with water and his ability to hold his breath underwater for up to seven minutes at a time.

During a class trip to a museum, Percy is surprise attacked by a winged creature that demands him to return a special lightning bolt. A confused Percy watches his close friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and his museum guide Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan) fight off the creature and reveal themselves to be demigods; or gods that walk the Earth. Percy is a demigod as well; the son of Poseidon (Kevin McKidd). His father was given an ultimatum by Zeus (Sean Bean), whose lightning bolt had been stolen. The wrongly accused thief, Percy, must return the lightning bolt to Zeus or a war would be initiated that will put the Earth in jeopardy of suffering serious damages.

To heighten the stress factor, his mortal mother is kidnapped by Hades (Steve Coogan) who wants the bolt for himself in order to exact revenge against Zeus. To save the day, Percy must infiltrate Hades' underworld lair, free his mother and clear his name to prevent all Hell from breaking loose.

To prepare for this quest, Percy first spends some time at a training camp for demigods, which to the human perspective looks like a cosplayer's paradise. All sorts of mythological creatures including relatives of famous gods are here to fine tune their special abilities. It is here that Percy meets Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), the attractive daughter of the god of wisdom: Athena. Together with Grover, she accompanies Percy on a mission to locate and retrieve three crystals with the power to transport them to Hades' underworld. The crystals are located in separate notable landmarks around the United States including Nashville and Las Vegas. Along the way, Percy and his crew encounter even more gods living among mortals including the Hydra and Medusa (Uma Thurman in a Poison Ivy-esque role).

Director Chris Columbus made somewhat of a bold move to cast teenagers in roles that were originally written with younger children in mind. His reasoning was that older kids were easier to work with on set. Fair enough, although Columbus runs the risk of dealing with appearance changes that could affect the casting for future installments.

I am not familiar with the original books, but from what I gather it seems that the basic story and characters were translated faithfully while some detail-oriented sub plots may have been altered or omitted. So purists will have to expect some drastic changes that differ from their vision of Rick Riordan's original novel.

The movie's presentation is pretty cheesy for the most part. You have the typical fantasy adventure cliches where the protagonist falls in love with someone at first sight. (To his credit though, Annabeth is very pretty.) And why was there some sort of rule that prevented Percy from bringing more than two companions along for his journey? There are clearly more demigods students available that are aware of his situation and can hold their own in a fight. So why not add some more security to the only person capable of saving the world?

If I was Percy, I would be freaking out on the verge of a nervous breakdown if I learned I was only half mortal and that half of everyone in my Greek mythology textbook was out to kill me. For the purpose of exposition, Percy is more concerned about his dyslexia than being a human target.

It took a while for me to get settled into the pattern of being introduced to a new character every ten minutes. Almost all of these characters seemed to have been created for different degrees of comic relief. I suppose they were trying to be a lighter alternative to the Harry Potter films. It's a bit chaotic but it works.

The highlight moments arrive every time Percy's team are about to acquire one of the teleportation crystals. Each crystal is guarded by a supernatural demon of sorts ready to battle anyone that dares to cross its path. These fight scenes remind me of modern boss battles in action videogames. Now that I think about it, the entire movie is crafted with would-be cut scenes followed by a battle or escape stage. The only thing missing is the loading screens.

At some point during the middle of the movie, I understood the mood the film was aiming for and then I started to have fun with it. It was entertaining to find out the destinations our heroic trio will embark on and who they will encounter next. Kingdom Hearts or Carmen Sandiego fans will probably appreciate it most.

So despite the cliches, I did enjoy the film enough to be entertained. Rent it if you can't get enough of the epic adventures that love to show off special effects. Pass on it if you're burned out from popcorn flicks and are looking for a deep plot to be immersed in.

Rating: 6

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

No Holds Barred

Title: No Holds Barred

Year of Release: 1989

Date Viewed: August 1st, 2010

MPAA Rating: PG-13

I'm a little afraid that this review will send a bad message so I'd like to make something clear first. I think it's great when people try new things. The only way to truly know yourself is to step out of your comfort zone and explore what does and doesn't work for you. There have however been some experiments in history that have gone so wrong that you almost wished they had never even been attempted.

In the 1980s, Hulk Hogan was a gold mine for Vince Mcmahon's World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly known as the World Wrestling Federation) promotion. His image was everywhere. You name it. Television commercials, Sports Illustrated magazine covers, talk show appearances, breakfast cereals, lunchboxes, teddy bears, action figures, t-shirts.....the list goes on. Hogan helped McMahon turn wrestling into a marketing empire. There was no end in sight.

But here's the thing with Vince McMahon. He never seems content with simply operating a wrestling organization. He always wants something more. He wants to be synonymous not just with wrestling but entertainment as a whole.

In 1988, McMahon felt that the time was right to bring Hulkamania to the big screen. This would be his chance to open some doors in Hollywood and give Hulk Hogan a vehicle to showcase his natural charisma outside of a city arena.

Hogan had been in the movies once before back in 1982 when he acted alongside Sylvester Stallone in Rocky III. This time would be different. Now he had top billing and was expected to draw in crowds through his own power and McMahon's marketing campaign.

The historic film was titled No Holds Barred and released to the public in 1989. Was the experiment a success? Let's just say that a lesson should have been learned here.

In the film, Hulk Hogan plays a wrestler named Rip. See, that's already a mistake right there. In the very first scene, Rip is introduced to the enthusiastic crowd by ring announcer Howard Finkel at a World Wrestling Federation event. The two television commentators Gene Okerlund and Jesse Ventura are in awe at Rip's showmanship. Basically everything in this scene mirrors a typical presentation of McMahon's company as if it's set in the real world, yet only Hogan has to change his identity. Why not just call him Hulk Hogan? Who are they trying to kid?

Everyone seems to love Rip except for Brell (Kurt Fuller), the evil owner of the World Television Network. Brell's network is suffering dangerously low ratings and he is convinced that the only solution to bring them back up is to acquire the services of Rip. After pitching him an offer, Rip declines Brell's contract citing loyalty to his current network contract. Finding this intolerable, Brell goes off on a search for the next big face in sports entertainment (You're welcome, Vince.).

He stumbles upon the barbaric underground sport of street fighting. Seeing dollar signs, Brell organizes his own street fighting contest to air exclusively on his network. The tournament is dubbed the "Battle of the Tough Guys." Really? He has a whole team of consultants and this was the best name they could come up with? No wonder nobody takes his network seriously.

The winner of the contest is an enormous monster of a man called Zeus (Tommy "Tiny" Lister). He has no personality save for his compulsive appetite of destroying everything and everyone in sight. Brell takes Zeus under his wing and challenges Rip to fight the monstrous gladiator on live television. Rip once again refuses. Desperate to pull off the publicity stunt, Brell abducts Rip's brother Randy (Mark Pellegrino) and orders Zeus to beat him within an inch of his life. Rip's marketing manager Samantha (Joan Severance) is also abducted and has her life hanging in the balance. Now that the feud has become personal, Rip finally agrees to fight Zeus in a no-holds-barred grudge match to avenge Randy's injuries.

You really can't expect much from a film like this. The best case scenario would be getting treated to some exaggerated fight scenes and maybe a corny good triumphing over evil story. Rocky IV had enough self-awareness to pull that off successfully. On paper, No Holds Barred was not set up much differently. So why does it fail? Simple. No Holds Barred was hopeless from the start.

The story never finds a pace that it's comfortable with and too many scenes were thrown in for no good reason.

Pro wrestling is generally viewed as a cartoonish art form and its fans (myself included) embrace it for that very reason. No Holds Barred ups the cartoonish level to such unfathomable heights that even the most immature fan in the world would be embarrassed to be caught watching this. In Hogan's first fight scene outside of the wrestling ring, his character leaps through the roof of a limousine like a whack-a-mole from hell. Then he disposes of his network attackers while grunting and growling like a sick guard dog. One of his opponents trembles in such fear that he literally craps his pants. This kind of humor usually only appeals to young kids, but it's completely out of place in a PG-13 film.

The character of Randy reminds me of Timmy from South Park minus the wheelchair and mental handicaps. His only role in the movie is to overact his heart out in hopes that the audience will feel sorry for Rip once his plot device is triggered.

There is a romance angle with no build-up or logic involving Rip and Samantha. These two have absolutely no chemistry and not a single scene featuring their conversations are convincing.

Even more pointless is watching the misadventures of Brell's consultants sticking out like a sore thumb at the streetfighting events. The venues are dirty and populated with beefed up brawlers that look like rejects from Over the Top. A pair of consultants are comically stalked by one of the fighters who catches them relieving their bladders at an overfilled urinal and making jokes about how small their penises are. This observation makes one of the consultants so nervous that he accidentally tinkles on his colleague.

I can't believe I just typed that.

But hey, none of this horsing around matters, right? All everyone really wants to see is Hulk Hogan beating up the bad guy. After all, that's how he and McMahon got so rich in the first place. Well, even that part was botched. The final fight is butchered with so much choppy editing that the audience is never given a chance to enjoy it. Every five seconds of action is interrupted by one of three different things. Brell screaming at Zeus to hit Rip harder, Samantha running away from her kidnappers and Randy reacting to each punch thrown. All those cutaways are cover-ups for the movie's inability to choreograph an exciting fight scene.

You might also wonder why Rip didn't just call the police or file a lawsuit against Brell for charges of kidnapping and assault. Referencing pro wrestling tradition, scores are always settled in the ring instead of the courtroom. It's one of the few things this movie got right.

Rather than trying to be like a Rocky Balboa film, No Holds Barred would have been better off acting as an extended episode of Saturday Night's Main Event. Its primary audience was wrestling fans anyway. So why alienate them like this?

To coincide with the film's release, McMahon's company ran an angle where the actor who played Zeus became so disgruntled on the set that he started appearing on World Wrestling Federation telecasts as Zeus and claimed that he could beat Hogan for real. Zeus wrestled a total of three matches for the company, all tag team matches. There was a fourth match planned for Wrestlemania VI that was to feature Hulk Hogan versus Zeus in a one-on-one contest as the main event. That idea was scrapped probably due to Zeus' limited wrestling ability.

Dennis Hackin was credited as the movie's screenwriter even though his script was rejected. McMahon and Hogan rewrote the entire script themselves and their revised version is what translated into the final product. I don't know what is scarier. How much the movie failed to entertain or how much worse it could have been.

Rating: 2

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Old Dogs

Title: Old Dogs

Year of Release: 2009

Date Viewed: July 31st, 2010

MPAA Rating: PG

There are some comedies that cause you laugh uncontrollably and then feel guilty about it later. Usually those movies contain excessive amounts of sex scenes and profanity. Not something you're eager to show your parents but perfect for when you have the house to yourself. Old Dogs is one of those comedies except that there are no sex scenes and very little profanity. In fact, the entirety of its content is clean save for some bathroom humor. So why do I feel guilty about enjoying it? Because it's not very good.

The story is about two best friends, Charlie (John Travolta) and Dan (Robin Williams). The two of them have been business partners for several decades. They have found so much financial success that they are fortunate enough to own a fancy and surely expensive apartment in their hometown of New York City. They are on the verge of finalizing one of the best business deals of their lives and things have never looked better.

Then one day, Dan receives a visit from Vicki (Kelly Preston), someone he had a one night stand with seven years ago. Surprise! Dan is the father of their twins. The less surprising news: Vicki has a fourteen day jail sentence to serve. Dan volunteers to take the children under his care, much to the dismay of Charlie.

What follows is the same joke being repeated in different gags. The kids are demanding and are always messing things up for the adults. Imagine if Dennis the Menace had a twin sister and they were left under the care of Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider. There's your movie in a nutshell.

There is also an amusing running gag where Charlie and Dan are mistaken for grandparents. In one scene, the pair take the kids to the New York Mets stadium where they spend the day hanging out with the players before the game. (Did I mention these guys were rich?) When the group gets some face time on the jumbo tron, a "Happy Grandparents Day" message appears on the bottom of the screen. Old dogs indeed.

Rounding out the script which wouldn't surprise me if those two kids wrote it, Charlie and Dan continue to test the patience of their potential Japanese business partners. A golf game between them goes all wrong after the children switch up the daily medication of their adult guardians. The humor is eighty percent slapstick and twenty percent of Robin Williams improvising. Both are pushed to the limit in that scene so you can imagine how much the movie struggles to stay on its feet afterward.

Even though the movie is openly absurd, the biggest kicker for me was its desperate attempt to include the all too familiar moral of someone recognizing the importance of family. Huh? Dan barely knows Vicki. He has never had kids before. Then suddenly she walks into his life and now Dan decides that he needs to be a responsible father? At one point, Vicki and the children express disappointment in Dan for his decision to visit Japan to help his business instead of taking the children to the park. Excuse me Vicki, but who are you to judge? It's awfully selfish to expect Dan to change his whole life around just because you show up uninvited. You're lucky he even gave you the two week babysitting duty. If any viewers can find it within themselves to forgive this phony lesson of the week, then they should have no problem enjoying this movie.

Old Dogs is basically a lazy film that somehow worked by accident. Travolta and Williams have good enough chemistry. The gags are uninspired but are sold so well that you can't help but be at least slightly entertained by them. And kudos to Seth Green for trying so hard to make that gorilla scene funny.

Judging from the critics' consensus, I am in danger of losing credibility for even suggesting that this movie shouldn't be entirely dismissed. My conscience wanted to rate it a four. My generous side wanted to rate it a six. The generous side won this time. And it owes that victory to my mother who submitted the wisest opinion of our viewing party.

"That certainly wasn't a great film but it was good for the occasion."

If you the viewer can figure out that right occasion, give Old Dogs a rental and prepare yourself to act immature.

Rating: 6

Edge of Darkness

Title: Edge of Darkness

Year of Release: 2010

Date Viewed: July 25th, 2010

MPAA Rating: R

After staying behind the camera for the majority of this decade, Mel Gibson finally returned to the big screen in a feature-length adaptation of the popular British mini-series; the appropriately titled Edge of Darkness. Director of the original series Martin Campbell returns to helm this one as well.

The story is told through the eyes of semi-retired Boston police detective Thomas Craven (Gibson). His life is turned upside down after his visiting daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) is gunned down in Craven's home by a masked thug. Given Craven's history of upholding the law, it is initially believed that he was the intended target, likely from a crazed criminal with a bone to pick. But Craven becomes suspicious after finding a loaded gun in Emma's night stand. Perhaps there is a little more to this story than originally perceived. Or a lot more.

Craven does some digging into the past and discovers that Emma had been employed at Northmoor, a company that gathered resources for nuclear weapons manufacturing. Painted as a law abiding American organization, Northmoor is actually responsible for underground deals with foreign nations. Craven begins to suspect that Emma came across more information than what was ever intended for her to know and was the victim of a mission to silence her.

What Craven wants to know is who exactly was involved. Could her paranoid boyfriend have betrayed her? Did the head of Northmoor act alone? Can Craven's fellow officers or supposed enemy turned ally (Ray Winstone) be trusted? Only one thing is for sure. Craven will not rest until all of the pieces are connected.

Edge of Darkness has a modern film noir feel to it. Gibson's brown coat which he almost never takes off during the movie is a nice-fitting homage to the genre. Another nice touch is setting the film in Boston Massachusetts so Gibson can show off a new accent that also fits with the stereotypical Humphrey Bogart or Orson Wells detective type. Action scenes are used sparingly since the film favors developing the character of Craven and his cautious approach to seeking his answers. This movie is not like Taken where our hero decides to go all nuts and ask questions later. Craven prefers to consider each option carefully and only acts mightily if he feels there is no alternative. He is a lot easier to like than most other revenge thriller protagonists because he is more concerned about bringing the corrupt to justice instead of simply taking out his anger on them.

The film relies on Craven's questions and clue investigation to carry the plot forward. Various chases and sudden acts of violence are included to keep the audience on the edge of their seat. It works except for the fact that the audience is asked to suspend their disbelief a little too much. It's not that the actions are outrageous. It's that proper set-up is sacrificed for shock value. Pulling off a movie surprise attack only works if there is valid reason for the attacker's presence to go unnoticed.

Edge of Darkness is not afraid to embrace it's old school flavor. The plot is fast paced but not in the sense of modern thrills. You are expected to relate to Craven's burning need for answers. And when they finally come, that is where the audience adrenaline rush is felt. It prefers to be a crime drama instead of a crime action thriller. Some things are not as presented as smooth as the film would like, but the moments that do work really work.

Rating: 7