Archive for the ‘Movie Reviews’ category

Spooky Buddies – Movie Review

October 28, 2011

These Buddies are friggin' Spooky!

Greetings boys and ghouls! “Spooky” Chaz Kangas here with a positively BONE CHILLING movie review! With all hallow’s eve slowly descending upon us, what better time than now to curl up with a haunted can of Pepsi One and a terrifying large one-topping pizza from Domino’s and watch a ghastly horror film? It’s a time for thrills, chills, spills, dills, fills, grills, quills, mills, hills, Stills, Nash & Young, so with no new Saw movie this year it’s time we check in with another frightening franchise that will make your skill crawl. I’m talking about Spooky Buddies!

Yes, Disney’s beloved Buddies are back. If you haven’t been following the franchise and don’t have the arterial fortitude to watch the clip, allow me to bring you up to speed. In 1997 there was a movie called Air Bud about a basketball playing dog that made Disney a lot of money and changed the course of cinema forever. Four movies later, the titular dog chose another golden retriever to be his bottom bitch and in the next movie five little Buddies burst through her cute puppy uterus like a stream train through a brick wall. Something in their birth canal emergence distorted the astral plane (I’m assuming) because all of a sudden in the franchise’s sixth entry Air Buddies both they and their parents can all of a sudden talk. Since then the puppies have been everywhere from the North Pole to Space and met everyone from a lost Russian Cosmonaut who they almost murder (Diedrich Bader) to an astro-physicist ferret (voiced by Amy Sedaris). Disney’s just released the 10th or 11th film in the series (depending whether or not you include the prequel The Legend of Santa Paws) and you probably wondering what type of well-adjusted adult would willingly watch it?


FULL DISCLOSURE – I’m not one of those curmudgeons on the internet who pick apart silly kids movies for not being some depressing artsy film that glorifies ugly people. No, instead I wrote my thesis on children’s programming of the 80s and 90s, as well as have an appreciation for absurdity rivaled only by my love of fried foods and horrifying violent rap music. I’m recapping this film within the context that it’s entertainment from Disney meant for impressionable children. FULLER DISCLOSURE – I love puppies. FULLEST DISCLOSURE – The last installment of the series I watched was 2009’s Space Buddies, so if any of my gripes were somehow explained in Santa Buddies please let me know in the comments and I’ll amend accordingly.

Our story begins on a full moon Halloween night in 1937 where an evil warlock named Warwick (Harland Williams, Disney’s Rocketman & Insane Clown Posse’s Big Money Hu$tla$) has kidnapped five adorable beagle puppies of the same bloodline to feed their souls to the Halloween Hound, a merciless dog-demon, in order to free the creatures of the underworld. After the Halloween Hound eats four of the puppies’ souls, the police barge in and one of the souls, Pip (Frankie Jonas), escapes and becomes a ghost. A midst the melee, Warwick turns two adults into frogs and escapes to the underworld as a crying child carries the stone remains of what was ones his beloved pup Pip. Fast-forward to the present day and the Buddies wander off from their owners’ Halloween trip into the same haunted house and inadvertently summon the Halloween Hound and Warwick into our world. They run off and it’s up to the ghost of Pip to warn them.

So, as you might imagine, this is a particularly morbid children’s movie. I remember working at the Virgin Megastore years ago and hearing plenty of horrible parents complain about how the villains in The Little Mermaid and The Lion King were “too scary.” Folks, this is a hound from Hell who we literally see eating the souls of puppies. When Pip confronts him later, the Halloween Hound actually says to him “I remember your siblings, their souls were delicious.” You would think Harland Williams would at least be hamming it up too, but (save one legitimately entertaining scene where he trick-or-treats at a large adult’s house who’s dressed as “Frankendude – the surfing Frankenstein*”) he bafflingly plays the scary warlock totally straight. There’s also a lot of confusing religious talk (Bud-dah, the Buddhist puppy, explains to the gang how ghosts are souls that got lost on their way to Heaven) and symbolism (the pups switch the Warlock’s Book of Spells with the Bible, leading to him accidentally beginning the “Our Father” prayer mid-incantation), but nothing screams of “HOW DID THIS GET IN A CHILDREN’S MOVIE?!” as much as fat flatulent puppy Bud-derball saving the day by FARTING INTO THE HALLOWEEN HOUND’S MOUTH, KILLING HIM INSTANTLY. Every word of this paragraph is real, but in the event you don’t believe what I’ve just told you, here’s a picture of it as it happens:

The G-Rated Kids movie where farting in a ghost's mouth kills it.

At first, seeing a demon from Hell vanquished by a cute puppy farting in its mouth made me want to rally against the film and call it the worst children’s movie ever made. Then, I remembered being ages 6-11 at the height of X-Men, Mortal Kombat, and Spawn hysteria and realized that if I were given carte blanche to put whatever I wanted in a Disney movie, I would probably have a bunch of adorable animals, farts, Elisa Donovan and unflinchingly graphic violence. With all of the aforementioned elements in Spooky Buddies, I have to say I’ve never seen a kids movies so in touch with what children really want to see. Factoring in the scenes with the adults that are actually funny and director Robert Vince maintaining the best pacing in the entire series, I’d call this film essential holiday viewing. Just make sure you don’t find yourself on the “extras” section of the DVD or else you’ll be subjected to this absolutely abominable butchering of my 4th favorite song of all time.

We give Spooky Buddies a Four Out of Five

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

*You have no idea how much the AP English student in me wanted to correct the film and call him “Frankendude’s Monster.”


Justin Bieber: Never Say Never 3D (Director’s Fan Cut) – Movie Review

March 4, 2011

Oh shoot, he said it twice!

It’s been quite a while since the last time we seriously tackled the cinema here at Popular Opinions, but with the Oscars leaving a pretty bad taste in everyone’s mouth in regard to movies, I thought I’d toss my do-rag back in the picture booth and remind you sometimes movies are, you know, good and stuff. Therefore I’m putting my Bachelor of the Arts degree in Cinema Studies from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts back on the wall, next to my framed Double Team poster*, and bringing to you my thoughtful analysis on what lightning is striking the silver screen.

Last Sunday was the Oscars. I’d say enough has been said about the show, but even that would be too much so let me once again reprimand everyone not named Kirk Douglas, Randy Newman and “Crazy Haired NYU Short Film Best Director Guy” for both their involvement and complacency in what was undoubtably and without hyperbole the single worst Oscar broadcast in my 24-and-a-half year lifetime. I was happy to see my favorite echochamber, the internet, seething with the same venom. After the credits first aired, I worried the genuine dissatisfaction I had with the show was the result of the standards being set too high from the motion picture I saw in theaters that morning. Of course I’m referring to Justin Bieber: Never Say Never 3D (Director’s Fan Cut).

Easily cooler than Alex Jones.

For the unfamiliar, Justin Bieber is the latest pop sensation media darling to conquer the minds and hearts of children across the world. Catapulted to the top by one-time child star Usher and Vernon “L.A.” Reid (the chap who signed Outkast) Bieber is noteworthy in that he exploded and conquered the ‘tween market (those in the ages be”tween” being a child and being a teenager who famously have the most dispensable income at their fingertips) without being a part of the Disney or Nickelodeon machines. His story is an interesting and honestly inspiring one, but one that could have been told in two-dimensions and in under and 110 minutes.

Maybe I did it to myself, but when it was announced that Bieber’s Never Say Never was getting a one-weekend-only Director’s Cut screening, I knew I had to go hard or go home. While I didn’t see the cut in it’s original release, I can imagine it’s a more compact and better flowing narrative. Here we’re just bursting with Bieber. The film is narrated through a series of interviews of Bieber’s family, friends, industry associates and Beliebers (Justin Bieber’s Juggalos). While Bieber himself isn’t directly interviewed, we are given several shots of him through both home movies of him growing up (toddler Bieber shows an incredible gift of rhythm playing a drum solo on a chair before proclaiming he hopes to someday be a crossing-guard) as well as his behavior on tour. While this approach works for keeping his rise to stardom completely non-masturbatory and really makes you root for the kid, once he’s “made it,” it really dehumanizes him. Instead of giving the chance to connect with him once he’s arrived, we’re just shown glimpses of a 17-year-old pulling pranks and slap-boxing crew members like a mid-30s Brooklynite. It’s this distance that takes the film from “wow, this could be anybody’s story” to “oh, he could have been anybody.”

Again, these are complaints about an edit of the film that’s made specifically for people who can’t get enough of Biebie Seagull, so if you’re still on the fence about the film, I have to assume you’re much better off with the shorter edit. When Good Goose of Menya and I saw the film together, the theater was packed with children of all ages and their parents all having a wonderful time. One adult was even persuaded by Justin’s story enough to turn his iPad off halfway through. While the 3D, frankly, adds nothing, it’s an always entertaining tale with a handful of catchy memorable songs, leading to some great singalong moments. My favorite part wasn’t even a scene from the movie itself, rather it was a bit of dialogue a father had with his four-year-old boy outside the theater. When he asked the child what his favorite part was, the kid responded with “I liked the part when Justin said ‘Never Say Never.'” A charming moment that warmed my heart enough to warrant the film a recommendation. If that’s not enough to get you to the cineplex, my second favorite part is seeing R&B artist and all-around fat kid Sean Kingston slipping on a puddle and falling on his ass.

We give Justin Bieber: Never Say Never 3D (Director’s Fan Cut) a Three Out of Five

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

*Not a joke.

Big Money Rustlas – Movie Review

September 17, 2010

Yes, the tagline shows a lacking of understanding of supreme mathematics. Or basic math. Either one.

What a year it’s been for the Insane Clown Posse. For a group that’s been putting out albums since 1992, they’ve never been more visible or begrudgingly respected by the same mainstream they’ve existed in opposition to for years. Starting with the 2009 Gathering of the Juggalos informercial, the group have had both an ABC ‘Nightline’ feature and the viral explosion of their song “Miracles” resulting in the biggest hit of their career. They’ve been parodied (twice) on Saturday Night Live, featured in an episode of Adult Swim’s ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force’ and even landed on the cover of this week’s Village Voice. What better way to cap off a banner year than almost murdering Tila Tequila releasing a full length motion picture?! Oh, and it’s a Western. And it’s not good. Or fun. At all.

I know, I’m no Juggalo and therefor not necessarily the target audience for this film BUT I have a certain respect for Joseph “Violent J” Bruce and Joseph “Shaggy 2 Dope” Utsler, and an fascination with Juggalo culture not unlike Jane Goodall with the apes. The non-facepainted lineups of their annual Gatherings have featured some of my favorite rappers of all time (Scarface, Ice Cube, Redman) and I’m no stranger to being looked down on for loving rap music and drinking bargain-bin soda, so if these kids have a “family” they feel at home with and music that makes their lives better that most people wouldn’t even give a chance to, good for them. I’ve caught my share of flocka flack over the years for being a Juvenile fan in a Kweli-district, so I can surely empathize. But regardless what you think of their music, J and Shaggs are entertaining media personalities. From their unaware self-aware wrestling promotion to their first motion picture, Big Money Hu$tlas, a genuinely funny send-up of direct-to-video “hood” movies, they’ve brought a share of wicked clown smiles to my face over the years. But much of the charm from those endeavors came from Violent J’s honest-to-gosh gift for comedic timing. Now, for the first time, the Psychopathic braintrust constructed an extravagant set and wrote a painfully detailed script in efforts to make their ten-years-in-the-making feature length film Big Money Rustlas their magnus opus. What results is the clown posse at their most restricted and predictable.

Reach for the Magic, pilgrim!

The story follows Sheriff Sugar-Wolf (2 Dope), a prodigal son who has returned home to the town of Mudbug to be the new sheriff. Also in the town is Big Baby Chips, the organized crime kingpin who is concerned with Sugar-Wolf “f***ing” with his “mother-f***ing money.” I say “also in the town” because at no point in the film does it seem that Sugar-Wolf is “f***ing” with his “mother-f***ing money” in any way. They’re two stories that only intersect when Chips decides to start sending in assassins to take Sugar-Wolf out. This leads to the only genuinely laugh-out-loud sequence in the film when (from 5:53 – 8:12 in the following clip) Sugar-Wolf has to stop a dreaded henchman named The Ghost (played by Psychopathic’s southern rapper Boondox) and much welcomed “Magnets?”-level hilarity ensues.

But the over-the-topness of that scene is missing from the rest of the film, replaced by a series of forced catchphrases, tired running gags and performances that somehow irritate and bore at the same time. While the production values are high, the duo and director Paul Andreson’s script doesn’t match the promising heights presented in the admittedly awesomely-curious trailer. This makes the tremendous cameos list suffer from squandering every bit of entertainment value they could possibly have. And when I say cameos, I’m not referring to the expected returns of Twiztid-members Jamie Madrox and Monoxide Child playing uninspired rehashes (re: “ancestors”) of their characters from the first film or the endless number of one-off affiliate appearances (members of Kottonmouth Kings show up to yell something and then leave), but this star-studded guestlist that turns Big Money Rustlas into a parade of the “really?” Joining our heroes are Jason Mewes (Jay of “Jay and Silent Bob”-fame), Porn’s Ron Jeremy and Bridget the Midget, Brigitte Nielson, Dustin Diamond, Todd Bridges, Tom Sizemore, Vanilla Ice, Jimmy “J.J.” Walker (of “DYNO-MITE!”-yelling fame*), and Wrestling’s Scott Hall, Jimmy Hart and Sabu. I know on paper this is reading more and more like a delightful romp into the Dark Carnival’s wild west, but it’s just not good. On the plus side, however, the DVD DOES contain extras such as the “Miracles” video and commercials like this:

Big Money Rustlas‘ greatest flaw is that it tries too hard to be something it’s not, and in the world of ICP that’s a cardinal sin. While a post-Tim and Eric world does make for whip-cracking sounds when eyes blink or a computer-generated penis added to a female horse in order to show it urinating to be funnier, the film largely seems like the duo studied the beats from their favorite comedy movies and followed them far too close for comfort. The audio commentary on 2000’s Big Money Hu$tlas had Violent J expressing his love of improv, which were far and away the highlights of that film. Here, there’s none of that, so whether you were looking to laugh-with or laugh-at the Posse, the disappointing Big Money Rustlas is no laughing matter.

We give Big Money Rustlas a Two Out of Five

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

*Quip courtesy Greg Luther of Rehoboth, Delaware**.

**Want to see your Quips appear on Chaz’s next blog? Send your best Quip to:

Popular Opinions with Chaz Kangas
c/o Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania, Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500***

***Please don’t really do this.


August 3, 2010

Like this, but in movie form.

Speaking as someone who usually makes it a point to avoid trailers (more like Coming Distractions, amirite?) I’ve never been a huge fan of ‘WATCH FOR THESE’ blog alert posts recommending movies the author hasn’t even seen. But in the interest of hypocrisy, I thought ‘why not?’ Straight up, I can’t recall the last time I was more excited for a month of movies than what we have right’chere. So without any further depardu, let’s look at AUGUST 2010!

The Other Guys (August 6th)

Director Adam McKay has yet to make a bad film. You spent your college years quoting Anchorman, a wonderful night rediscovering the replay value of Talladega Nights on cable, and a realization on New Year’s that Step-Brothers was far-and-away the best comedy of the decade. Along with a new season of “Eastbound and Down,” McKay is keeping the hits coming with The Other Guys. I think we can all agree that Will Ferrel and The Rock are long-overdue for sharing screentime, and McKay looks to be playing to Wahlberg’s strengths not-seen since the You Gotta Believe video. Awesome.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (August 13th)

I was on the fence about this one for a while, but the more I read about it, the more I’m on-board. While I share your exasperation with Michael Cera playing the exact-same character in every role, this at least puts that character in an interesting setting and would make a nice swan song for it. Besides, better him than that not-Michael Cera guy from Adventureland, right? Plus, it features the homie Kieran Culkin and any film featuring a fellow member of #teamgoldie I’m obligated to support.

The Expendables (August 13th)

My two favorite types of movies are super-depressing pretentious Scandinavian art films and big dumb action flicks. This is the latter. After the masterpiece that was Rambo, Sylvester Stallone decided to bring the images I see whenever I shut my eyes to the big screen with The Expendables. This movie promises things getting killed, things blowing up, and hilariously absurd one-liners uttered after things are killed and/or blown up. I’ve been tracking this film since its inception, and have tremendous faith it will surpass my expectations. I’m not even sure what the plot is, rather I just know what’s going to be appearing onscreen and that it will make me really, really happy. What more could you want? Well…

Big Money Rustlas (August 17)

Coming to DVD three days after my 24th birthday is the greatest gift one could ever ask for: a feature length 35mm Western written-by and starring the Insane Clown Posse. Ten years in the making, the most anticipated prequel since The Phantom Menace looks to be the crowning achievement of the Clowns’ resurgence into the mainstream. Taking place at a simpler time before magnets, it looks to be a promising start for the next decade of direct-to-DVD movies starring rappers.

Magic Everywhere in this Moviehouse.

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

Dinner For Schmucks – Movie Review

July 29, 2010

More like 'Dinner for Kinda Sucks,' amirite?

From the depths of the sea, back to the block Steve Carell returns to the silver screen alongside Generation X-Y-Z heartthrob Paul Rudd in Dinner for Schmucks, the new motion picture from Meet the Parents director Jay Roach. With Roach’s filmography predominantly consisting of the awkward situation nervous-laughter of the Meet The… series and the brash obnoxiousness of the Austin Powers franchise, pairing him with Carell and Rudd (who both thrive on a hybrid awkward-obnoxiousness) seems like it would either be a chocolate-peanut butter harmony or a oil-water styles clash. Instead, it’s an oil-peanut butter concoction that is something delicious and other times inedible and incapable of powering any automobile. Are you confused? Good. So is this movie.

The film follows Tim (Paul Rudd), a long-struggling executive on the “loser floor” of his office whose hard-work and ingenuity has finally put him in a position to land a promotion that would put him shoulder-to-shoulder with his company’s giants. Unfortunately for him, his higher-ups share a bond through the fraternity of a shared game called “Dinner for Idiots” where each employee brings an unsavory eccentric guest who isn’t in on the joke that they’re being laughed at. Despite his fiancee-to-be’s objections, Tim plays along and invites tax-auditing taxidermist Barry (Steve Carell). Barry winds up being the catalyst who almost causes Tim to lose his job and relationship until he makes the parties involved realize truths about themselves.

The cast is one of the best comedic lineups in recent memory. The promise of a supporting cast including Ron Livingston (Office Space), Larry Wilmore (The Daily Show) and Andrea Savage (Stepbrothers) seems like a can’t miss prospect. Add The Hangover‘s Zach Galifianakis as Barry’s arch-nemesis and show-stealing Lucy Punch (Hot Fuzz) as Tim’s psychotic scorned stalker, and you have a team that can score a hearty laugh just by being onscreen. While Rudd proves here he can finally carry a starring role and Carell continues to find heart and humor in places most are scared to look, an over-restrictive script leaves them without much to do.

Who wouldn't want to be buds with the Rudds?

Having Roach directing is really what muddies the film’s identity. The dark premise (lifted from the French film The Dinner Game) seems perfect for a Will Ferrel/Adam McKay parade of the absurd or an Apatow-style series of awkward cringes that tells us something positive about our early-20s. Sadly, Roach’s direction seems to play it too close to an older-audience skewing Mother-Focker crowd, too conservative and conventional for talent involved, causing the handful of blatantly crude moments to seem woefully out of place. It’s not a movie that feels like it’s holding its talent back. It’s a movie that has them tranquilized.

Such tameness makes the more outrageous plot developments seem plodding and completely disconnected me from the movie. A scene where Barry and Tim break into an apartment where they believe Tim’s girlfriend (The Devil Wears Prada‘s Stephanie Szostak) is cheating on him with one of her sexually promiscuous art clients just seemed too utterly stupid, even within the logic of the movie. I’m all for the suspension of disbelief, but not for its complete waterboarding.

It’s a flawed film with the most noticeably sloppy editing to come from a major studio in recent memory. Even if you aren’t the type of person who “notices things like that,” I assure you that you will. The momentum-halting start-stop-start-stop fades almost seem intended to kill interest with techniques so poor you would think the movie was completed in Clarisworks. That aside, the performances in the film are just strong enough to warrant a recommendation. The Carell-Galifianakis chemistry in particular is off-the-charts and should at least nominate the film for a position in your Netflix Instant-Queue. It’s a movie that can’t decide who its audience is, but the glimpses of what could have been will make for some highly re-playable YouTube clips in four months. Despite a strong waitstaff, the disappointing Dinner for Schmucks will best be enjoyed as pieces of tomorrow’s leftovers.

We give Dinner for Schmucks a Three Out of Five.

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!