Wild Wild West Review

This review was originally posted for the Ultimate 90s Blogathon, hosted by Tranquil Dreams and me.

Wild Wild West movie posterSynopsis
Army Captain James West (Will Smith) is tasked by President Grant (Kevin Kline) to work together with US Marshal Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) to find the ex-Confederate scientist Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) before he can take over the United States government.

Review
Wild Wild West was a go-to movie for my friend and I back when we were growing up. Between the two of us, we could (and still can!) quote the movie in its entirety. Having watched this many times over the years, I acknowledge that the nostalgia factor might affect my enjoyment of the film, as I have found several flaws since watching it as a young lad. However, that doesn’t mean it still can’t be enjoyed on its own merits.

Right out the gate, this movie is goofy. Not funny, although it is that too, but goofy. Artemis Gordon’s inventions feel a little too perfect for the situations they get Gordon and Jim West out of. Arliss Loveless’ beard rivals Crane’s beard from The Hunger Games for most intricate movie beard, acting as the proverbial “I’m the bad guy” sign. Loveless’ invention to bring the “US government to its knees” is a giant, steam-punk tarantula. Everything about this movie screams “Saturday morning cartoon.” Nevertheless, it has a sense of fun that many film miss, which is why it still works for even as I’ve grown older. Wild Wild West never takes itself seriously, making it fun for both the actors and the audience.

The humor can be seen as a little juvenile, like the scene below, but that kind of humor is what I like. Will Smith and John Kline are enjoyable to watch together. This film came out relatively early in Smith’s film career. It is fun to see how he has brought the same energy and personality to his characters throughout all of his movies, whether they were in the 90s, when he started film acting, or today. I’ll admit I haven’t seen many of Kline’s films to compare Artemis Gordon to his other roles but his comedy here is more subtle than Smith’s which works because having two boisterous comedians would be too much.

Besides the two leads, the other two big supporting actors, Salma Hayek and Kenneth Branagh are clearly having a good time too. The often scantily clad Hayek is obviously there for the eye candy and to give West and Gordon someone to compete for, but it doesn’t appear to bother her and she gives a memorable performance. Branagh gets fully into the maniacal villain role. It’s cartoonish and over the top but he steals his every scene he’s in.

I thought Wild Wild West was GOOD 🙂 It isn’t afraid to be silly and have fun with itself, which might turn off other viewers but I really enjoyed that. Everyone, from Will Smith and Kevin Kline to Salma Hayek and Kennith Branagh, feel like they are enjoying themselves. I grew up watching this film regularly and although its imperfections have become more apparent over the years, it still is every bit the fun, adventurous romp I remember it to be.

Favorite Scene

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Barry Sonnenfeld – Director
Jim Thomas – Story
John Thomas – Story
SS Wilson – Screenplay
Brent Maddock – Screenplay
Jefferey Price – Screenplay
Peter S Seaman – Screenplay
Elmer Bernstein – Composer

Will Smith – James West
Kevin Kline – Artemis Gordon / President Ulysses S Grant
Kenneth Branagh – Dr. Arliss Loveless
Salma Hayek – Rita Escobar
M. Emmet Walsh – Coleman
Ted Levine – General “Bloodbath” McGrath
Frederique van der Wal – Amazonia
Musetta Vander – Munitia
Sofia Eng – Miss Lippenrieder
Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon – Belle
Bai Ling – Miss East

Ultimate 90s Blogathon Kickoff: Encino Man

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Welcome! Welcome, one and all to the Ultimate 90s Blogathon! For the next several weeks my co-host Kim, the mastermind behind Tranquil Dreams, and I will celebrate films of the rad 90s with our fellow bloggers.  There is quite a mix of movies reviewed so I’m excited for you to see what is in store.  Kim kicked off the blogathon on her site as well with reviews of several of her favorite Robin Williams movies. She is also keeping a page of all the blogathon entries, which you can see here, that way you can get them all at one easy-to-find location.  Now let’s get this party started!


Encino Man movie poster

Synopsis
Dave (Sean Astin) just wants him and his best friend Stoney (Pauly Shore) to be one of the cool kids at high school. When they find a frozen caveman (Brendan Fraser) in Dave’s backyard, Dave tries to use their discovery to get in with the popular crowd.

Review
For this blogathon, all the entrants looked at “Ultimate 90s” as their favorite film from the 1990s. Well I’m going to look at it from a different point-of-view. I’m interpreting it as what movie I think best encapsulates the 1990s. Before I get to my review, here are a few reasons why I picked Encino Man as my Ultimate 90s movie:

  1. The Vocabulary. A good way to figure out what era a given movie is from is by listening to what slang is used. The 90s were littered with terms like “dope,” an excessive use of the word “babe,” and creating custom words by adding “-age” to the end of words. Let’s not forget the ever popular “as if.” Encino Man has all of the above and then some, which very easily lets the viewer know it very clearly takes place during the 90s.
  2. The Fashion. 90s fashion was defined by bright colors and crazy patterns. Oh, and jean jackets and leftover 80s aerobics outfits. All three of the main characters check these fashion crazes. Plus the girls’ hairstyles are exactly what you remember from the 90s.
    encinoman-hair
  3. Pauly Shore. Pauly Shore hit his heyday with his MTV show Totally Pauly. After Encino Man, he began to work on more movies, which lasted through most of the 90s then slowed down significantly in the early 2000s. So really, the Pauly Shore era is primarily the 90s.
  4. MTV. Speaking of MTV, believe it or not, this TV station actually PLAYED MUSIC at one time in history. Unlike today where it is filled with reality shows. I know this isn’t exactly a great way to tell that a movie takes place in the 90s but at one point in the movie, there is a glimpse of MTV playing music with the MTV logo from the 90s.
    mtv-90s-logo
  5. Freeze frame before credits. It was very common for movies and even television series in the 90s to do a freeze freeze before fading to credits. Encino Man is no exception.

Encino Man is far from the best film of the 90s, and it hasn’t aged extraordinarily well because it is so very clearly 90s but that is why I still enjoy it. This film is a snapshot of the 90s. As a child of the 90s, it takes me back in time. The lighthearted story keeps the movie from becoming too serious but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like there is much of a conflict either. Although I guess that isn’t the worst thing for a comedy. The plot is not the most original, an unpopular kid want to be popular and try to win the girl of his dreams, and filled to the brim with cliches but Sean Astin, Pauly Shore, Brandan Fraser bring an undeniable charm to the film. All members of the cast feel like they are enjoying themselves, which comes across and makes a better experience for the audience. It is very easy to turn this film on, sit back, relax and have an enjoyable ninety minutes.

I thought Encino Man was GOOD 🙂 It may not be the most exciting or the most genre-defining teen movie but it still has a certain appeal to it. This could have easily been a terrible film to try to ride the rising popularity of Pauly Shore. Instead, Shore’s trademark personality and Fraser’s antics create a fairly pleasant experience that acts as a time capsule of being a teenager in the 90s.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Les Mayfield – Director
Shawn Schepps – Story / Screenplay
George Zaloom – Screenplay
J. Peter Robinson – Composer

Sean Astin – Dave Morgan
Pauly Shore – Stoney Brown
Brendan Fraser – Link
Megan Ward – Robyn Sweeney
Robin Tunney – Ella
Michael DeLuise – Matt Wilson
Patrick Van Horn – Phil
Dalton James – Will
Rick DuCommun – Mr. Brush
Mariette Hartley – Mrs. Morgan
Richard Masur – Mr. Morgan
Ellen Blain – Teena Morgan

Lightning Review: When Harry Met Sally…

When Harry Met Sally... movie posterSynopsis
Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) have known each other for years and are very close friends. They want to move their relationship forward but fear that sex would ruin their friendship.

Review
When Harry Met Sally… is a widely beloved romantic comedy, and it isn’t hard to see why. Being one who doesn’t watch a lot of romance films, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this movie. A big part of that is the chemistry between the two leads, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. Their conversations and their back-and-forth feels smooth and natural. It’d be easy to forget you weren’t watching a movie but two actual, long-time friends bantering. Of course, this feeling of comfortability would not be possible without the well-written script by Nora Ephron and crisp directing by Rob Reiner. Together, they have managed to make what is essentially a ninety-minute Seinfeld episode. If you think about it, this movie is about nothing. The simplicity is ingenious, which might be what I like best about it. There is no, conflict. There is no big hurdle Harry and Sally need to overcome. This is a movie about a man and a woman being platonic friends. The whole sex-ruining-the-friendship part is a driving force for the story but it is only brought up sporadically and doesn’t significantly impact it until the end.

I thought When Harry Met Sally… was GREAT 😀 The leads, the directing, and the script dovetail harmoniously to create a simple yet touching story. This truly sets a standard for romantic comedies that many films are still trying to touch today.

Trivia
The stories told by the couples during special segments throughout the film were real stories, collected by Rob Reiner for the film.  Harry and Sally’s segment was completely improvised by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.

Favorite Scene

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Rob Reiner – Director
Nora Ephron – Writer

Billy Crystal – Harry Burns
Meg Ryan – Sally Albright
Carrie Fisher – Marie
Bruno Kirby – Jess
Steven Ford – Joe
Lisa Jane Persky – Alice
Michelle Nicastro – Amanda

Lightning Review: Sausage Party

Sausage Party movie posterSynopsis
All food in the super market want to go to the Great Beyond, the perfect world outside of their store. For Frank the sausage (Seth Rogen (voice)), this means finally getting the chance to be with his girlfriend, Brenda the bun (Kristen Wiig (voice)). When a jar of honey mustard (Danny McBride (voice)) returns from the Great Beyond, shaken from the experience, Frank sets out on a journey to find out what really happens when food goes out the super market doors.

Review
That synopsis is a huge misrepresentation of the film. I cannot even begin to really describe Sausage Party. At first, it may seem like a food version of Toy Story but that could not be any more false. The similarities end after the anthropomorphism of the characters. This film is exactly what I expected after watching the previews: vulgar, juvenile, disgusting, and sexual innuendos everywhere, which is right up my alley as someone who has the mental maturity and sense of humor of a 15-year-old. However, Sausage Party ignores any sensible lines and instead flies miles past them. I can’t recall how many times I thought to myself, “did they just go there?” Then the next scene thought it again. I don’t think my jaw has dropped so many times while watching a movie before. It’s like every scene tried to out what-the-fuck-did-they-just-do the last. Then in the last five minutes, the director said “fuck it” and the movie devolved into pure, insane absurdity. I think it is safe to say that I have never seen a film like this before and I haven’t determined yet whether or not I mean that in a good way.

I thought Sausage Party was GOOD :-). I had a really hard time deciding on what to rate this. On the one hand, I laughed. A lot. But in the other, it is very obscene, pushing the boundaries even for me. In the end, I laughed and got enjoyment from it, which is what I want out of a movie. Although, I wouldn’t mind neuralyzing myself and forgetting I ever saw this film. If I ever see Sausage Party again, it will be too soon.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Greg Tiernan – Director
Conrad Vernon – Director
Kyle Hunter – Screenplay
Ariel Shaffir – Screenplay
Seth Rogen – Screenplay / Story
Evan Goldberg – Screenplay / Story
Jonah Hill – Story
Christopher Lennertz – Composer
Alan Menken – Composer

Seth Rogen – Frank Wienerton / Sergeant Pepper (voice)
Kristen Wiig – Brenda Bunson (voice)
Jonah Hill – Carl (voice)
Bill Hader – Firewater / El Guaco / Tequila (voice)
Michael Cera – Barry (voice)
James Franco – Druggie (voice)
Danny McBride – Honey Mustard (voice)
Craig Robinson – Mr. Grits (voice)
Paul Rudd – Darren (voice)
Nick Kroll – Douche (voice)
David Krumholtz – Kareem Abdul Lavish (voice)
Edward Norton – Sammy Bagel Jr. (voice)
Salma Hayek – Teresa del Taco (voice)
Scott Underwood – Twink / Gum / Krinkler’s Chips / Pizza (voice)
Lauren Miller – Camille Toh

Lightning Review: Keeping Up with the Joneses

Keeping Up with the Joneses movie posterSynopsis
Jeff Gaffney (Zach Galifianakis) and his wife Karen (Isla Fisher) are an average suburban couple but when Tim (Jon Hamm) and Natalie (Gal Gadot) Jones move in across the street they get mixed into the crazy world of espionage.

Review
I was immediately drawn to Keeping Up with the Joneses once I saw who it starred. With names like Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher, Gal Gadot, and John Hamm, this film boasts a talented cast list. With the exception of Hamm, all of the above actors have been some of my favorite films. Keeping Up with the Joneses offers some pretty good laughs but doesn’t seem to fully utilize the talent its cast possesses. However, that’s not to say they don’t do well. All four of them have great chemistry with each other. Either in pairs or all of them together, each scene made me at least smile with enjoyment, if not laugh a little. But that is all the reaction they earned. I think that was my biggest disappointment in this movie is there aren’t many stand-out or laugh-out-loud moments. It was enjoyable but mostly forgettable. Despite being veterans of comedies, both Galifianakis and Fisher are fairly forgettable when compared to their roles in other films, such as The Hangover or The Wedding Crashers respectively. Hamm and Gadot seem to have fun as the more serious counterparts to Galifianakis and Fisher. They played to their strengths better than the other members of the cast, turning out more of the memorable moments than the others.

I thought Keeping Up with the Joneses was OK :-|. I know I might have painted the picture that I didn’t enjoy the film a whole lot but I did. It just left me underwhelmed where I was expecting more from such a talented cast. Keeping Up with the Joneses plays it safe. It was a good comedy that walks this weird middle ground where it is not too exciting while never becoming drab either. It’s actually pretty impressive how ordinary it is.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Greg Mottola – Director
Michael LeSieur – Writer
Jake Monaco – Composer

Zach Galifianakis – Jeff Gaffney
Isla Fisher – Karen Gaffney
Jon Hamm – Tim Jones
Gal Gadot – Natalie Jones
Matt Walsh – Dan Craverston
Maribeth Monroe – Meg Craverston
Michael Liu – Yang
Kevin Dunn – Carl Pronger
Henry Boston – Patrick
Jack McQuaid – Mikey
Patton Oswalt – Scorpion
Ming Zhao – Scorpion’s Girlfriend

Lightning Review: Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd

Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd movie posterSynopsis
Before they went on a trip across the country together, Harry (Derek Richardson) and Lloyd (Eric Christian Olsen) first met in high school. Their high school principal (Eugene Levy) give Harry and Lloyd the task of finding “special” students for their class. Little do they know, the class is a scheme by the principal to con money for him and his girlfriend (Cheri Oteri).

Review
I think it is safe to say that Dumb and Dumber was a bit of a surprise hit. On paper, the premise and characters sound ridiculous but it works because it has a lot of heart. That’s where Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd fails. It lacks the heart that makes the first film work. Like any comedy follow up, it tries to make similar jokes as its predecessor since that’s often part of what made it work in the first place. This time, they fail to hit their mark. The film wasn’t nearly as funny and I barely laughed. When I did, it was often because of how absurd it was, and not the good absurd that Dumb and Dumber is. It has moments that are marginally tolerable but they are mere drops in a bucket of dirty water. One redeeming quality I can see in this movie is Derek Richardson and Eric Christian Olsen did a good job of imitating Jim Carrey’s Lloyd and Jeff Daniel’s Harry, respectively. The biggest problem with this prequel is that it does nothing to expand on the characters that we see in the first film.

I thought Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd was BAD :-(. With the exception of a handful, the jokes fall flat and it doesn’t have any sort of redeeming qualities that I can see. I guess this kind of poor quality is what happens when a studio goes for a cash grab on a property and the guys that made the first film a success are not included.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Troy Miller – Director / Screenplay
Robert Brener – Story / Screenplay
Eban Schletter – Composer

Derek Richardson – Harry Dunne
Eric Christian Olsen – Lloyd Christmas
Mimi Rogers – Mrs. Dunne
Luis Guzman – Ray
Rachel Nichols – Jessica
Eugene Levy – Principal Collins
Cheri Oteri – Ms. Heller
Elden Henson – Turk
Josh Braaten – Toby
William Lee Scott – Carl
Michelle Krusiec – Ching Chong
Shia LeBeouf – Lewis
Teal Redmann – Terri
Brian Posehn – Store Clerk