18 02 2015

HitsHits” begins with a title card that recalls the one preceding 2013’s “American Hustle.”  This one says, “Based on a true story … that hasn’t happened yet.”  In other words, it marks writer/director David Cross’ way of saying that he wants to kvetch endlessly about the present day under the guise of satirization.

Maybe I’m still a little bit defensive about that horrendous TIME Magazine cover calling millennials “The Me Me Me Generation,” as if the generations before us have a spotless record and never posed any worry for their parents.  Nonetheless, I cannot help but get annoyed by vast generalizations about the youth these days as disgusting, device-addicted narcissists.  It is certainly true of many people, and I will not deny it; the world just needs some positive images of us.

That virality is one of the chief virtues of our society is certainly no secret, nor is the triumph of fame over hard-earned success.  Cross, though, seems to act as if he is delivering a message sent from heaven to enlighten us idiots.  “Hits” aims to pick only the lowest hanging fruit and juice it for cheap laughs.  (At least he picks up on an equally ludicrous breed, the self-righteous Gen X social media activist.)

Beyond the handicap of simply recapitulating the obvious, Cross’ first foray into feature filmmaking just cannot sustain its 90 minute runtime.  The characters that populate his ridiculous universe scarcely possess the depth for a comedy sketch; expecting them to remain entertaining and engaging for an entire movie is preposterous.  They might work well for a web series, however, if Cross could add some depth of thought to an only slightly revamped stereotype of the vapid fame-seeker.   C2stars

REVIEW: Kung Fu Panda 2

5 06 2011

Is it so wrong that I love “Kung Fu Panda 2” in spite of all of its unoriginality and lack of creativity?  Is it so terrible that I’m totally won over by an overweight panda who can do kung fu as well as he can eat?  Is it so strange that a village of adorable pigs and bunnies makes me feel like I’m five years old again?

While the sequel is hardly as entertaining and funny as the original “Kung Fu Panda,” Po and the rest of the Furious Five are still a joy to watch.  The movie still possesses that charm that made me watch the first installment countless times on HBO while eating dinner, and it proves once again to be infectious as it melts down whatever barriers are hardening your heart.  It’s also a movie that’s easy on the eyes with appealing action and fun graphics, evincing the slow closing of the gap between Pixar and everyone else with a computer.

This “Kung Fu Panda” is all about daddy issues as the movie’s two storylines both deal with characters coming to grips with decisions made by their parents.  The evil peacock Shen (voiced by the always creepy Gary Oldman) orders a genocide of pandas to prevent the fulfilling of a prophecy that one would defeat him, thus leaving his parents with no choice but to exile him.  When Shen returns to power, the Dragon Warrior Po (Jack Black) starts to question where he really came from.  His goose father, Mr. Ping, has few answers, so Po is largely on his own.  However, his kung fu companions, known as the Furious Five (and featuring the voices of Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, and David Cross) have big issues that they have to deal with, namely Shen’s reappearance which threatens to dismantle the art of kung fu.  But as their journey progresses, Po finds that the questions about his parents may relate to Shen’s avarice and malice in shocking ways.

That summary probably makes the plot sound more glorious and intricate than it actually unfolds in the movie.  On the other hand, sometimes glory isn’t found in the story (despite the majority of my reviews saying just the opposite).  Sometimes it’s just the rush of joy that can be found in juvenility that makes something fun.  Sometimes we can have a perfectly gratifying experience just looking at a cute and cuddly panda cub playing in a bucket of radishes.  Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of what it’s like to be a kid watching a movie again.  B+ / 

REVIEW: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

4 01 2010

I know my legitimacy will be seriously tarnished by this statement, but I cannot be ashamed to say it.  The “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movies are kind of a guilty pleasure.  Dare I say it, those dastardly little rodents are actually kind of adorable.  I think it springs from repeated viewings of “The Chipmunk Adventure” on TV when I was a child.

Don’t get me wrong, you won’t catch me saying that “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” is something great, because it isn’t.  I found the sequel’s main triumph to be that it was fairly bearable for me.  My 9-year-old brother and the rest of the theater found it absolutely uproarious, so mission accomplished where it matters the most.

Props to Jason Lee for figuring out a way to minimize his role in the movie by breaking his leg and passing off custodial duties (unknowingly, I must add) of the rambunctious chipmunks to the lazy gaming loser played by Zachary Levi.  The singing sensations have more on their plate than bad guardianship.  They have to deal with (a dismally stereotyped) high school, where they are met with unfamiliarity and hostility among the guys.  Attraction and rivalry mix when they meet the Chipettes, a group of singing female chipmunks trying to take down the male trio.  The Chipettes have the aid of Ian (David Cross), the Chipmunks’ former manager who was cruel and manipulative.  Crazy antics ensue, but I must say that I was very proud of the filmmakers for only having one crotch hit!  Who knew that family comedy was possible without it?  (I do have to add that seeing Anjelah Johnson from the YouTube video “Nail Salon” seriously made my day.  Thank you, casting director.)

It’s unfortunate that the Chipmunks have come to popularity once again in the YouTube era.  If a singer releases a song nowadays, there’s a chipmunk version on YouTube within minutes.  Ranging from Ke$ha’s “TiK ToK” to, reprehensibly, the tunes of “Les Miserables,” these technical sorcerers render the official Chipmunks’ covers increasingly irrelevant.  Nevertheless, it excites the kids, and if you are taking them to see “The Squeakquel” instead of some other child-safe movie, clearly you don’t care about your own entertainment.  C- /