Author Archives: Dave Bartik

Devil’s DVD Advocacy: Contagion

Contagion, Steven Soderbergh’s return to “mainstream” cinema, boasts a lot of big-named Hollywood stars, but at what cost? For each plot thread picked up by a Damon or a Fishburne just as many are left to flounder without consequence or reason.

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Genre Spotlight (Secret Santa): MirrorMask

I’m torn on MirrorMask, my DAMRB Secret Santa gift this year. I can see how people can like it, even adore it (including, I’m assuming, my fellow reviewer who bestowed it upon me), but I can also see it as a clumsy, second-rate children’s tale.

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The Sitter

The Sitter – this generation’s answer to Adventures in Babysitting – may be our last glimpse of the spherical Jonah Hill. And based on the trailer for 21 Jump Street, perhaps those worried about the correlation between weight loss and funny loss may be right.

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Devil’s DVD Disappointment: The Hangover Part II

In Hollywood the adage “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” rings truer than ever. If audiences shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars for a product once, they’re very likely to do it again. And again. And, if not, there’s always the reboot. Why create when it is so much easier (and more lucrative) to re-create? Because you may end up with The Hangover Part II.

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The Muppets

After a decade-plus absence from the big screen, those loveable Muppets triumphantly return in, you guessed it, The Muppets. And those Muppets are as self-aware as ever, taking their Hollywood and mainstream hiatus as a reason to rally the troops for a welcome comeback.

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Devil’s DVD Disappointment: Our Idiot Brother

Our Idiot Brother is more therapy than comedy; a cinematic trip to the psychiatrist – if the psychiatrist is a shaggy, magical hippie. In a deserved lead role, Paul Rudd is the idiot (and shrink) in question – a man dumb enough to sell drugs to an uniformed officer, yet smart enough to solve life’s petty problems in 90 minutes or less.

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Devil’s DVD Advocacy: 30 Minutes or Less

After seeing 30 Minutes or Less, one can clearly see all the contention built of its parallels to another, more tragic story are just coincidence. Not to say 30 is drastically different, but there is no evidence the filmmakers thought that hard about the connection. They really didn’t seem to think too much about anything in this case.

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Devil’s DVD Advocacy: Horrible Bosses

Following in the footsteps of successful R-rated comedies of late, Horrible Bosses pieces together the slimmest of stories, hoping to ride the coattails of its actors and improvisation to a profitable box office. Gathered for your amusement are Jason Bateman (the everywhere-these-days straight man), Jason Sudeikis (continuing his role from Hall Pass), and Charlie Day (the manic, hamster-ish fellow from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), a group of long-term buddies intent on ending their occupational miseries by ending their bosses.

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Moneyball (Devil’s Advocate Review)

Let’s get this out-of-the-way first: Moneyball is not a movie about baseball; it was never intended to be a movie about baseball. And, in an unbelievable turn of events, the book Moneyball is not about baseball.  It is a story with baseball as a backdrop; more a lesson in how baseball is a business first, dwelling and hand-wringing over the bottom line, always looking to buy low and sell high. So don’t expect to see a lot of spring training montages or heated rivalries or late-inning home run heroics. Actually, that last one you may see, but don’t get your hopes up.

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Contagion

Contagion, Steven Soderbergh’s return to “mainstream” cinema, boasts a lot of big-named Hollywood stars, but at what cost? For each plot thread picked up by a Damon or a Fishburne just as many are left to flounder without consequence or reason.

Read the rest of this entry

Our Idiot Brother

Our Idiot Brother is more therapy than comedy; a cinematic trip to the psychiatrist – if the psychiatrist is a shaggy, magical hippie. In a deserved lead role, Paul Rudd is the idiot (and shrink) in question – a man dumb enough to sell drugs to an uniformed officer, yet smart enough to solve life’s petty problems in 90 minutes or less.

Read the rest of this entry

30 Minutes or Less

After seeing 30 Minutes or Less, one can clearly see all the contention built of its parallels to another, more tragic story are just coincidence. Not to say 30 is drastically different, but there is no evidence the filmmakers thought that hard about the connection.  They really didn’t seem to think too much about anything in this case.

Read the rest of this entry

Horrible Bosses

Following in the footsteps of successful R-rated comedies of late, Horrible Bosses pieces together the slimmest of stories, hoping to ride the coattails of its actors and improvisation to a profitable box office. Gathered for your amusement are Jason Bateman (the everywhere-these-days straight man), Jason Sudeikis (continuing his role from Hall Pass), and Charlie Day (the manic, hamster-ish fellow from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), a group of long-term buddies intent on ending their occupational miseries by ending their bosses.

Read the rest of this entry

Devil’s DVD Advocacy: Hobo with a Shotgun

It shouldn’t matter where ideas come from; they are free-floating, shimmering, skittering by like the iridescent eye-worms you see when you close your eyelids too tightly. And they are just as hard to hold onto. So who cares that Hobo With a Shotgun is another in a line of trailer-spoof fodder made whole? Its genesis should not be an immediate indictment against it; let the film speak for itself. (And, for those conspiracy theorists out there, who’s to say that all movies aren’t initially made based on previews and trailers and adjusted and molded based on audience/internet reaction?)

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Devil’s DVD Advocacy: The Adjustment Bureau

Let’s face it: the world loves to see Matt Damon run. Why else would he be hoofing it so much? There has to be better ways of escaping danger; the public must be demanding to see his galloping stride. Graciously, for all of Damon’s running, jumping, and space-dimensional warping in The Adjustment Bureau the camera remains steady and the edits are regularly placed so one knows what the hell is going on (*cough* Paul Greengrass *cough*).

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The Hangover Part II

In Hollywood the adage “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” rings truer than ever. If audiences shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars for a product once, they’re very likely to do it again. And again. And, if not, there’s always the reboot. Why create when it is so much easier (and more lucrative) to re-create? Because you may end up with The Hangover Part II.

Read the rest of this entry

Devil’s DVD Disappointment: (English Haiku Review) Drive Angry

Supernatural

Satanists, punching, driving

Add up to nothing

Hobo With a Shotgun

 It shouldn’t matter where ideas come from; they are free-floating, shimmering, skittering by like the iridescent eye-worms you see when you close your eyelids too tightly. And they are just as hard to hold onto. So who cares that Hobo With a Shotgun is another in a line of trailer-spoof fodder made whole? Its genesis should not be an immediate indictment against it; let the film speak for itself. (And, for those conspiracy theorists out there, who’s to say that all movies aren’t initially made based on previews and trailers and adjusted and molded based on audience/internet reaction?)

Read the rest of this entry

English Haiku Review: Drive Angry

Supernatural

Satanists, punching, driving

Add up to nothing

The Adjustment Bureau

Let’s face it: the world loves to see Matt Damon run. Why else would he be hoofing it so much? There has to be better ways of escaping danger; the public must be demanding to see his galloping stride. Graciously, for all of Damon’s running, jumping, and space-dimensional warping in The Adjustment Bureau the camera remains steady and the edits are regularly placed so one knows what the hell is going on (*cough* Paul Greengrass *cough*).

Read the rest of this entry

The Mechanic

The new, Jason Statham-ised version of The Mechanic hits the same marks, but fails to stand out from the crowd. Many may not remember the original, starring Charles Bronson; a divergence from Bronson’s earlier work as it opts for subtlety over explosions.  Statham and Foster follow the basic points – a hit man taking a protégé under his wing as he unearths the gray areas of gun-for-hire allegiance – but don’t take it much further.

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Devil’s DVD Disappointment: Piranha

Gives catch and release a whole new meaning.

Let’s face it: Piranha is not going to win any Oscars.  It won’t make anyone’s top ten list and will probably be forgotten in a couple months (but will resurrect itself in the form of a sequel if one can believe the reports).  It is a movie of the moment, an over-the-top sidestep from the stresses of reality, and a reason to grab the person next to you and throw your popcorn in the air in fright.  It is schlocky horror meant to entertain as much as scare; but is this updated throwback too late? Read the rest of this entry

12 Days of Christmas: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

It should come as no surprise that Christmas Vacation employs nearly every Christmas-related cliché in order to make the audience titter: the patriarch stumbling and bumbling with the twinkling lights, a family trip into the biting cold to bring home a mighty Tannenbaum, and getting shafted by the head honcho when it comes time for that elusive holiday bonus.  What is difficult to ascertain – since this movie has been entrenched in my memory for so long – is what clichés existed before Vacation exploited them and which became clichés because of it.

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Devil’s DVD Advocacy: Iron Man 2

There isn’t much to say about the plot for Iron Man 2 that isn’t covered in the trailer: a generic Soviet attempting to thwart Tony Stark, Stark fighting the government for control of his suit, and War Machine teaming up for a brawl. Another unseen plot point is thrown into the mix, but it remains a simple story. This is the part where many superhero movies go wrong: it is okay to stick with the basics as long as they are done well. Read the rest of this entry

Devil’s DVD Disappointment: MacGruber

Generally, no one should have had high hopes for this movie; it is a feature length film culled from 30-second clips on Saturday Night Live.  And those are usually hit-or-miss.  But I believed, given the ability to stretch beyond post-primetime television into an R-rated, creative medium, that MacGruber would be a spring/summer sleeper comedy.  With an upper-decker joke in the previews, how could it go wrong? Read the rest of this entry

Piranha 3-D

Gives catch and release a whole new meaning.

Let’s face it: Piranha is not going to win any Oscars.  It won’t make anyone’s top ten list and will probably be forgotten in a couple months (but will resurrect itself in the form of a sequel if one can believe the reports).  It is a movie of the moment, an over-the-top sidestep from the stresses of reality, and a reason to grab the person next to you and throw your popcorn in the air in fright.  It is schlocky horror meant to entertain as much as scare; but is this updated throwback too late? Read the rest of this entry

Dinner for Schmucks

Dinner for Schmucks is memorable if only for its amazing ability to waste talent; high-profile, honorable, comedic talent.  It seems that more and more these valuable resources are squandered in mediocre films either spouting inane comments or filling in as human wallpaper. Read the rest of this entry

Devil’s DVD Disappointment: Hot Tub Time Machine

Hot Tub Time Machine is a movie that could only be made after The Hangover. It is an R-rated comedy with a limited storyline, starring little-known, bit part actors (aside from John Cusack, who I’ll get to later), with limited financial backing. Before The Hangover, and its immediate cult-like status, Hot Tub would have been a straight-to-DVD selection. Read the rest of this entry

Devil’s DVD Disappointment: Shutter Island

Riding the coattails (albeit a few years later) of The Departed, Martin Scorsese once again unleashes questionable Boston accents and Leonardo DiCaprio on the unsuspecting public in Shutter Island. Shutter is a noir-styled tour through a sheltered mental asylum which harbors more than just unbalanced criminals. The head doctor (Kingsley) speaks in tangled euphemisms and the inmates warn visitors of its inescapability as DiCaprio (Teddy Daniels) searches for a missing patient. As soon as Daniels steps off the ferry onto the haunting island, dreamy visions of his deceased wife cloud his thoughts and caution him to not go prying too far into the past. Read the rest of this entry

MacGruber

Generally, no one should have had high hopes for this movie; it is a feature length film culled from 30-second clips on Saturday Night Live.  And those are usually hit-or-miss.  But I believed, given the ability to stretch beyond post-primetime television into an R-rated, creative medium, that MacGruber would be a spring/summer sleeper comedy.  With an upper-decker joke in the previews, how could it go wrong? Read the rest of this entry