Dana Marschz sucks. At everything he does. He's a complete failure as an actor outside of some herpes commercials and film stand-in roles. He can't teach, except two over-achieving brown-nosers who show plenty of enthusiasm but next to no talent. And he's a miserable playwright, at least when it comes to adapting successful Hollywood films into stage versions for a high school cast of two. That is, until all the arts programs are shut down, providing him with a larger talent pool but also threatening his last stand as a theatre enthusiast. What's he got left to do? Make his staggering work of genius happen before the end of the semester and save the drama department, of course.
This may sound like your generic inspirational-teacher-saves-some-sort-of-cause type film, but it's far from it. Hamlet 2 ends up being everything you wanted and more.
Writer/Director Andrew Fleming (Nancy Drew, The Craft) has reached into his well of creativity and pulled this out with the aid of co-writer, Pam Brady (Team America, South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut). It’s witty, it’s clever, and it’s potentially offensive. But, as opposed to most comedies churning out of the system these days, this one has a point. It’s almost a spoof/satire, but it teeters on that edge and walks this very careful line that equaled a very successful comedy.
Steve Coogan stars as Dana Marschz, and every time I see this guy in film I wonder why he isn’t a bigger star. Already a hit in his native England, Coogan has been slowly and steadily earning street cred in indie films like Coffee and Cigarettes, Tristram Shandy, Happy Endings, and 24-Hour Party People. Here Coogan gives himself completely over to the character and never shows fear in embarrassing himself or damaging his image. He owns it, and I think if the movie is a success it owes a great deal to the talents of Mr. Coogan. There’s seldom a scene without him, and rarely a scene he doesn’t have you burst out laughing with some little intricacy he has imbued into his character.
Catherine Keener seems to be enjoying every moment as Dana’s wife, Brie. She is so laid back and at the same time completely cruel to Dana, you can’t help but laugh. David Arquette turns in one of his most tolerable performances as the Marschz’s roommate/live-in mute. The rest of the cast is plenty solid with a host of relative new comers.
Where there have been big films coming out whose sole purpose was to make you laugh but failed, it’s truly an inspiring sight to see a film like Hamlet 2. Sure it’s here to make us laugh, but I’m sure it never planned on being one of the funniest films of the year.
Review by: Greg MacLennan
Jason Statham knows his niche, and he's gonna keep on sticking to it. The chiseled star of The Transporter, Crank, and The Bank Job pumps out action hit after action hit. If you don't believe us, check out his IMDb page. The man keeps making sequels after sequels. While none of his films have been actually great other than mindless fun action films (except of course his previous Guy Ritchie outings where he didn't remove his shirt once), seriously though, sometimes that's all you need.
Statham stars as an ex-con and ex-race car driver who's framed for the grisly murder of his wife in order to get him to Terminal Island, where Death Race is held. Statham is there to replace and don the mask of fan-fave Frankenstein, who just secretly died in his last race, so the warden (Joan Allen, yes, the Academy Award nominee Joan Allen) can boost ratings. Fast cars, tons of explosions, dudes fighting, and chicks in tiny outfits round out the usual action fare.
Producer, writer, and director Paul W.S. Anderson (not the other Paul Anderson, mind you) gives audiences a quick and easy end-of-summer flick where you can get in, watch some shit explode (and some Statham abs flex!), and get out. Bing, bam, boom. Nothin' to it. Statham does what Statham does best. He growls, he punches, he flexes. Done and done. Ain't nothing too hard to swallow here, ain't nothing going to rewrite film history either. Although, make sure to leave young'uns and the elderly at home because Death Race isn't for the squeamish. Heads are lopped off and blood spews everywhere. Wouldn't be a Statham movie otherwise, but here it seems a wee bit gratuitous...except the ab flexing...that's perfectly adequate.
Review by: Darcie Duttweiler
Writer/Producer/Editor/Director/Actor Leigh Scott (Hillside Cannibals and Transmorphers) brings us his latest by way of Sci-Fi Channel premiere/DVD release. Flu Birds is the story of some at-risk delinquents venturing out on an innocent camping trip to learn some life lessons; little did they know it was how to survive. You see, the birds in this area are unlike any other, and they carry with them a disease. What is it? We don't know. How do you stop it? You can't. All we know is these birds are driven mad by their sickness and have an affinity for live prey. Good thing there are some young attractive people around with a predisposition for riff-raff and meddling. Maybe they can run away to a cabin in the woods and slowly turn on one another? We could be entering spoiler territory... Whoopsies!
While this might seem like your typical fare from a Sci-Fi original horror film, there are some good times to be had with this old bird. The direction is competent, and some of the main players are actually capable of carrying a scene. Clara Carey (TV's Jericho) lends an air of credibility to most situations, and Brent Lydic (Headless Horseman) as Gordon "Hip Hop" lightens things up with his comedic timing and random ramblings, such as "gangsta is in your heart."
The action and gore are sufficient and one might even say excessive for the Sci-Fi Channel, and yeah, sometimes the limited budget really shows. At points you will see a computer rendered bird swoop out of the sky to attack one our heroes only to have that CG morph into a man in suit. Or look closely enough and you might find a poor man's Taylor Kitsch, of this fall's X-Men Origins and Friday Night Lights fame, brooding and overacting his way to survival.
But, apart from those few missteps, the action is fast and the tension and dramatics sometimes boil over into comedic territory, which creates for a potentially good Saturday night in with some friends and some drinks.
What can you say about the film? It's billed as The Birds meets Cabin Fever, while it may not touch Hitchcock or share the same amount of fun as Cabin Fever, Flu Birds is...the best film about gigantic disease ridden birds who terrorize a group of delinquent teenagers on a camping trip I have ever seen.
Flu Birds premieres on the Sci-Fi Channel this Saturday the 23th at 9 p.m. and will be available on DVD the 30th of September. Click here for DVD Details.
Review by: Greg MacLennan
It's the year of RDj (that's Robert Downey, Jr. for those not super-tight with the actor). First Iron Man and now Tropic Thunder--the kooky ex-alcoholic is certainly appealing to teenage boys (okay, maybe not later this fall with his role in the Jamie Foxx-starring Oscar-bait The Soloist). We've always been keen to Downey's impeccable acting and boyish good looks, and we say long live RDj. And seriously, Tropic Thunder may have four other huge actors (if you count Matthew McConaughey as huge), but it is solely RDj's show to steal. Thunder is part Apocalypse Now and part Truffaut's Day for Night, a '70s French comedy about the people (and their egos) who make movies.
Written, directed, and starring Ben Stiller, Thunder takes a peek inside the movie biz with a cast of big-shot actors playing egomaniacal big-shot actors. The three actors are in Vietnam to film a war flick, but through a weird series of events, they end up in a real combat zone, only not all the actors know it.
Stiller plays a former gigantic action star now making movies about...uhh....what's PC to say given the groups picketing this film? Mentally handicapped people? Jack Black is a heroin-addicted comedy star whose biggest film is called Fatties and is about an obese family, all played by Black himself. (You think Eddie Murphy gets the joke?)
Rounding out the trio is RDj as Kevin Lazarus, an Australian method actor who morphs into each character and has a pocketful of Oscars. For their realistic Vietnam film, Lazarus has undergone a skin pigmentation procedure in order to portray an African American solider, and he never breaks character, speaking in a Carl Weathers voice at all times. This sometimes gets under the real brown skin of rapper-turned-actor Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson).
Trying to become relevant again, Tom Cruise cameos as a foul-mouthed, fat, and hairy Hollywood producer who loves to yell and dance to "Apple Bottom Jeans." Sometimes it seems a bit desperate, but for the most part it's nice to see Cruise just going for the laughs without trying to act all deep and shit.
The movie begins hilariously with three trailers that encompass the actors' recent films (try not to laugh your ass off at Satan's Alley), but quickly gets bogged down with a lot of exposition and too much McConaughey. Fast-forward twenty minutes, and Tropic Thunder is one of the best movies Stiller has thrown our way. It's fucking hilarious.
Although, yes, it is not very PC, some of the funniest scenes are when RDj gives Stiller's character pointers on how to play "retard" to gain the most awards, or when he's butting heads with the only African American on the film by craving some fried chicken. Seriously, he MAKES this film, but it's not for the weak-hearted.
Review by: Darcie Duttweiler
Pineapple Express is a buddy drug comedy even the most straight-laced will enjoy, even though it does smell super dank, dude. More Superbad and less Cheech and Chong, this bromantic comedy is about the love of two wannabe friends and their love of Mary Jane.
Written and produced by the team that brought you last year’s break-out hit, the aforementioned Superbad, Pineapple Express weaves the epic tale of Dale (jewfroed Seth Rogen) and Saul (a dirty-looking James Franco), a process server and his dopey (ha, get it?) ganja dealer and how they become BFFs while on the lam when Dale witnesses a murder outside the home of uber pot dealer (Gary Cole). And of course, it all started with a little pineapple express, or rather something so delicious it smells like “God’s vagina.” Yum, yo. Franco pulls a 180 and discards any leading man qualities to pull off one of cinemas most likeable stoners. If Stepbrothers made the world forget John C. Reilly is an Academy Award-nominated actor, Pineapple Express can pretend that Franco isn’t a. hot as shit, and b. a really talented thespian. Rogen puts on his likeable loser face, and is still totally likeable and losery. Craig Robinson (Daryl in The Office the U.S. version), in a fairly minor role as a hitman delights us with his chocolatey exterior and ooey gooey center as he brings the sensitive side to thug life and hitmen alike.
While the jokes aren’t nearly as fast or as furious as previous Apatow outings, the laughs that do come are well-earned and worthwhile. Old ladies, crazy teens, and even stodgy film critics alike were rolling in their seats at the jokes that landed harder than a bong hit. More action comedy than druggie movie, Pineapple Express is a unique choice for indie darling, David Gordon Green. His organic, passionate direction of All the Real Girls pays off as he tackles some of the subjects in this film with the same dynamics, but it only furthers the laughs with the outlandishness of the plot.
Shit blows up. Weed gets smoked. Dudebros fall in love. Rogen is so darn likeable (a pat on the back for whoever guesses who that Apatow allusion refers to). And Francophila is about to run rampant (fingers crossed). Go see Pineapple Express, but remember to take some munchies, for this film may leave you a bit baked.
Review by: Greg MacLennan & Darcie Duttweiler