Quick Movie Review: Man On the Moon (1999)

man on the moon

Even after watching Man on the Moon and really understanding the complexities of Andy Kaufman’s humor, it’s still difficult to put it into words. There are so many levels to it. Almost as though his purpose would change depending on the circumstance or who he was around.

The comedian made his life one long prank show. He trolled the entire world–including those closest to him. To the point where you’re never sure if he was ever genuine or not. It’s hilarious, but you can understand the frustration of those around him. Though he didn’t really care. He loved when the audience turned on him.

It’s like he reveled in people thinking he was dumb and unfunny. Those who really understood him and figured out what was going on would be his real fans, and the others would be the ones being tricked. He was good with that.

To an outsider, it appeared that Kaufman just cared about entertaining himself and making himself laugh. But in reality, he wanted to be appreciated. Not by the masses, but by enough people. Certain types of people.

It’s so easy to get lost in the spectacle that is Andy Kaufman that we forget to analyze the movie itself. Which might in fact be a compliment of how immersive it is. And Jim Carrey does such a great job as our subject that it feels like you’re watching Kaufman himself retell his own story. A sensation even more heightened by the casting of the actual actors and people playing themselves 20+ years later.

The movie spends very little time on Kaufman’s childhood, but it feels like enough. We get the perfect amount of background, but that’s not really what we came to see. We gather all of our information for studying Kaufman from his adult life.

Man on the Moon doesn’t hold onto or fixate on one specific detail, as it doesn’t allow itself to be trapped in a specific time period of his life. It doesn’t dwell on its time constraints as biopics tend to do. Things just happen when they happen.

Back in the 1970s and ’80s, there was this distance between celebrity and civilian that we may never experience again in this society. Kaufman was, and is still, a mystery. His life was one big prank show and we never saw behind the scenes. This is the closest we will get. But even his close friends who helped tell this story couldn’t ever fully see behind the curtain.

Andy relished in tricking everyone, and despite how fake his life appears to be, his story feels so real. Because this is the closest we will ever be to the man.

Twizard Rating: 98

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Quick Movie Review: Evan Almighty (2007)

evan almighty

Evan Almighty may be the less-regarded sequel to Bruce Almighty, but let’s take a second to realize that Bruce Almighty isn’t a perfect movie either.

In fact, they’re very different from each other. Character traits and basic plot points are changed from the first to the second film in order to make the premise work. Newscaster Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) moves to Washington DC with his family after winning a seat in Congress. After being urged to pray by his wife (Lauren Graham), God (Morgan Freeman) appears to Evan and tells him to build an ark and collect two of each animal in preparation for a flood. Evan is no longer the mean-spirited newscaster from the first movie. He’s a family man now. He’s basically not even the same character.

The two movies contain different types of stories. Evan Almighty is much less of a hypothetical experiment as it is a humorous anecdote. Evan isn’t gaining any real powers really, but just going along with a plan. This film is actually much more similar to The Santa Clause than Bruce Almighty.

Over the course of this film, Evan’s appearance changes. He’s forced to don a beard and wear a robe to get into the Noah spirit. And animals follow him around everywhere. These don’t really end up being necessary to the plot, but it adds a lot of humor. The entire town and country think he’s crazy and his job in Congress is in jeopardy because of it.

Evan Almighty is much more Christian-driven and God is given more of a role. That tone is consistent throughout. It’s much more poignant than a story of this nature probably should be. The complexity of Evan’s relationship with God is explored more than Bruce’s in the last film. Although it’s a little more sloppy in its details and the script isn’t quite as refined, in some regards this movie is still put together a little better.

It’s also much more grounded, since Carell is more down-to-earth compared to Jim Carrey (who played the Bruce in the previous film). He’s not as wild and spastic. His animation is reeled in, and comes and goes when necessary. This movie could have easily been very silly and childish, but has a mature quality, which is appealing amidst the chaos.

While Bruce Almighty may maximize its usage of Carrey’s talents, Evan Almighty doesn’t quite get the best out of Carell. But with that said, it’s still just as entertaining.

Twizard Rating: 86

Quick Movie Review: Bowfinger (1999)

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What makes Bowfinger such a smart satire is that it doesn’t throw in jokes just to please audiences from the film industry, but outsiders as well. Situations are included to lampoon not only Hollywood, but everyday people.

Some satires are more esoteric, but few are generally enjoyable by all. Bowfinger is the latter. Mainly because it revolves around people who don’t understand the thing that’s being satired. Or who understand it as an outsider would.

It follows Bobby Bowfinger (Steve Martin), a filmmaker on the verge of bankruptcy, mostly because he’s clueless–typical Martin trope. He gets a script that he thinks is amazing–even though it’s not. It’s about aliens coming down to Earth in raindrops. In order to save his studio, he decides to make the movie on a $2,000 budget and feature the biggest name in Hollywood–Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy). Except Ramsey doesn’t know he’s in it. Bowfinger uses discrete techniques to film Ramsey when he’s not looking. It helps that Ramsey has an alien paranoia already, so he’s easily tricked.

Martin is his usual uniquely goofy self, while Murphy is amazingly transformative as Ramsey, as well as his cheaper look-alike, Jiff.

Jiff is a naive simpleton who looks exactly like Kit Ramsey–except not as cool. He has buck teeth and glasses, and stands hunched over (see photo above). He’s used in several of the scenes in Bowfinger’s alien movie due to his uncanny resemblance. My biggest complaint is that they didn’t utilize Jiff more. He feels more like an afterthought, even though he’s the most iconic image from this film (see photo above). The possibilities are endless, but they seem to end all too early.

But a lot of the film feels sporadic or randomly put together. Frank Oz‘s direction could be a little smoother. The scenes don’t blend together as well as they could. But at least nothing feels out of place. In fact, even the most minute details still come together for a common purpose.

Bowfinger is very funny and has some great moments. The premise is so ridiculous, but it’s handled in the most realistic way possible. Even for Martin. If there were people who were this idiotic, this is probably how the scenario would go down.

Twizard Rating: 83

Quick Movie Review: Bruce Almighty (2003)

bruce almighty

Bruce Almighty might be Jim Carrey’s last good comedy. Since then, he hasn’t even really done much in that genre. Like most of his work in the ’90s, we watch his movies to see him. It doesn’t necessarily matter what the film is about, as long as it involves Carrey doing Carrey things.

In Bruce Almighty, Carrey is doing just that. While he isn’t quite as loose of a cannon like in The Mask or Dumb and Dumber, he’s about as wild as can be without his character becoming unbelievably unrealistic–which would have done this particular film a disservice, since it actually attempts to say something.

Though its main focus is to present a fun what-if premise. If God decided to put all of his responsibilities on a mere mortal for a few weeks, what would the outcome be? After Bruce Nolan (Carrey), a news reporter gets fed up with constantly missing out on opportunities for an anchor position at the network, he blames God for his “misfortunes” without clearly seeing that the position he has in the first place is better than thousands of aspiring reporters get. Bruce isn’t ever really likable, but he gets even worse.

His egoism starts to impact his job at the station, as well as his relationship with his serious girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston). So God, played by Morgan Freeman, decides to teach Bruce a lesson by giving him his powers. Which makes him more egotistical at first, but then starts to see the effects of his power. It helps him out with his job, but makes his relationship with his girlfriend turn sour.

As obvious as his conceit should have been, it’s a little too subtle for this movie. We see Carrey being wild and crazy so often, so we forget that it’s not normal for a regular person to be this over-the-top cocky. When Aniston gets frustrated by his self-centeredness, we have to stop and realize that perhaps he HAS been acting that way, and it’s for a purpose other than Jim Carrey being Jim Carrey.

Bruce Almighty perfectly fulfills all of the what-if scenarios, but doesn’t land the moral lesson quite as hard as it probably should. Bruce’s a-ha moment isn’t distinct enough. It doesn’t feel like he’s gone through enough change when he finally does.

But the film is very entertaining and Carrey and Aniston have great chemistry together. Her relaxed demeanor never tries to match Carrey’s absurdity.

It will make you laugh just as much as any Jim Carrey movie. But even though you have to commend it for trying to provide for us a life lesson, it ends up not really giving us much to really chew on.

Twizard Rating: 83

Quick Movie Review: The Flamingo Kid (1984)

flamingo kid

The Flamingo Kid is one of the most underrated films of the 1980s. It’s a complex story masked as a simple one. A movie with an overarching theme subtly interwoven throughout. It’s deceptively brilliant. Not to mention visually arresting with some absolutely beautiful shots.

Set in 1963, the film follows Jeffrey Willis (Matt Dillon), a teenager fresh out of high school who winds up with a summer job at a snooty beach club. He comes from a very middle class upbringing. His father (Hector Elizondo) originally gets his son a summer job as an office assistant and isn’t too pleased when Jeffrey finally takes the more cushiony job at the resort. He thinks he’s taking the easy route.

Dillon’s performance is spot-on. He’s magnetic as Jeffrey, showcasing a charisma that backs up why he ends up becoming a star in this industry.

One of the beach club’s most important members is Phil Brody (Richard Crenna), who takes a liking to Jeffrey and convinces him to ditch college and work for him as a car salesman. You’re never quite sure if Brody is just constantly trying to land a sale with everyone he meets–especially Jeffrey. Jeffrey’s relationship with Brody makes matters worse with his dad. Not only regarding Jeffrey’s future, but there’s an understated sense of jealousy there as well.

Like most 18-year-olds, Jeffrey is looking for a sure thing without ever realizing that they seldom exist. Or understanding that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Whichever cliche you choose, it never feels like one when watching this film. The themes aren’t shoved in your face. And that subtlety goes perfectly with the rest of the movie.

The narrative is relaxed. Like one you would want when watching a film about a beach club in the summer. It mixes the seemingly-random series of events of ’80s teen comedies with the fluidity of new era Hollywood. And it encapsulates the summer season more than almost any other movie I’ve seen.

Twizard Rating: 98

Quick Movie Review: Adventures In Babysitting (1987)

adventures babysitting

There’s something intangible about Elisabeth Shue that makes her so likable. Maybe it’s her down-to-earth, no frills charm, or the fact that she reminds us of someone we all knew in our lives growing up. While she never got close to the star power of Molly Ringwald in the ’80s, she definitely could have. Ringwald had John Hughes and a more distinct look. Shue didn’t have a starring role until 1987. Ringwald also looked (and was) younger, so she fit into those high school roles better. But at least Shue never got pigeonholed.

In Adventures In Babysitting, Shue does a terrific job as Chris Parker, the babysitter for 8-year-old Sara Anderson after her parents go to a company party for the evening. Sara’s older brother, Brad (Keith Coogan), is in love with Chris and decides to stay home for the night too.

When Chris’ best friend, Brenda, calls her up to say she’s in trouble after she runs away from home, Chris goes with the kids into the city to pick her up. Along the way, they face obstacle after obstacle, all starting with their car getting a flat tire.

What makes Adventures In Babysitting so great is that it’s actually really entertaining and well-put-together. The premise feels like it would be silly and juvenile, but it still feels fresh after 30 years. That’s how it surprises you. You expect it to be one thing–a porous story where not that much is ever really at stake. But then you end up watching something that’s smartly written and never predictable. A film of this nature should have tons of plot holes, but there aren’t many that stand out.

Along with Chris, the characters are really indelible and well-performed. Sara is played by Maia Brewton, who steals the show as the Thor-obsessed spunky 8-year-old who is cute without ever trying to be. And director Chris Columbus (in his directorial debut) always seems to capture her at her absolute best.

The villains are also well-written. The kids steal something that belongs to the owners off a chop shop. The men then spend the rest of the film trying to track down Chris and the kids. Columbus and the writers spend time creating depth and motives with the bad guys as well, when a lesser film would have just made them cookie-cutter archetypes.

Adventures In Babysitting may borrow from films of the past, but its dedication from the filmmakers, as well as its likable and consistent tone is what puts it above all of those.

Twizard Rating: 96

Quick Movie Review: The Master of Disguise (2002)

masterofdisguise

There’s no doubt why Dana Carvey hasn’t had much star power in the film industry. On Saturday Night Live, his 6 and a half season run was riddled with impersonations, making him a household name and nearly saving the sketch comedy show. But his skills just never translated well to the big screen. Possibly because he couldn’t do much else, compared to Bill Hader–another impression-centric SNL alum–who can do a very good job at being funny as a “normal person”.

But with Master of Disguise, one would think that Carvey had finally found a home. In fact, it’s a little too obvious that that’s the purpose of this project. It’s a story about a man who inherits powers of disguise. The men in his family are part of a secret organization that fights crime by being really good at disguising themselves as other people.

The problem is that the film is too lazily put together. It’s actually pretty well-conceived, but never tries too hard on the plot. You would think that a film about disguises would feature some really good plot twists. In fact, I was watching some deleted scenes, and a couple of them were much better than the ones that took their spots in the movie. And one actually contained a nice curveball.

Carvey is funny at times here, but he’s also given almost too long of a leash. Like he and the director just decided they’d let him improvise the whole time and wing it.

At 80 minutes, the movie is short. Almost too short. So it doesn’t wear out its welcome, but it also feels extremely rushed towards the end.

Regardless, the jokes made me laugh a few times. Just because I love Carvey and his goofiness. It’s great for kids. Lots of fun characters and silly slapstick. But even the adults who find themselves laughing will still admit that it’s very much below them.

Would I recommend Master of Disguise to anyone over the age of 12? Probably not. But it’s entertaining enough for me. I’ve seen much worse.

Twizard Rating: 61

Quick Movie Review: I, Robot (2004)

i robot

2004 was an interesting time for special effects. Sci-fi films had just really started to use CGI for mostly everything. And while the effects stopped looking as cheap, they still didn’t look completely realistic yet. To the point where, in some instances, you could make the case that practical effects would have been a better option (e.g. Yoda in the Star Wars prequels).

But in 2004, the effects in I, Robot were cool and probably necessary. It’s a film about robots turning against humans. And in this scenario, the antiquated (by today’s standards) technology works in its favor. The robots look more creepy because of it. Watching it now, you never question how real the robots are. Instead you just think about how eerie they appear on screen.

The film is set in Chicago in 2035. Will Smith plays a cop who hates new technology, and loves the “old” way of living. He’s hired to investigate the apparent suicide of the founder of the leading robotics company in the world. But Smith doesn’t think it’s a suicide. He suspects that one of the company’s robots killed him.

Pretty much no one has charisma like Will Smith. Even when he doesn’t try to be funny and affable. You just can’t look away. You’re on the edge of your seat waiting for him to say something cool–which is almost always. He’s the perfect actor for this role. He’s completely convincing and his humor never undermines the weight of the story.

I, Robot has a quasi-noir vibe. It could have easily been just a mindless action flick charged by Smith’s charisma, but it’s cleverly written and deceptively deep. Director Alex Proyas really makes sure that the audience feels a certain way about this movie. That it’s not just another blockbuster that the studio has thrown millions of dollars at.

After nearly 15 years, I, Robot holds up incredibly well. It still feels futuristic and fresh. Especially for relying so much on its special effects. In the post-practical effects world, that’s almost unheard of.

Twizard Rating: 100

Quick Movie Review: Man Down (2015)

man down

If you’ve seen a lot of war films and are watching Man Down solely for this purpose, then it may not be the movie for you. It’s not just about war, but about the effects of war and the relationship between a soldier and his child. There is very little actual battle action. Most of the story takes place before and after, but somehow it still retains the feel of a war film.

It follows U.S. Marine Gabriel Drummer, played by Shia LaBeouf, and jumps around non-linearly as he goes through basic training, battles in Afghanistan, and dealing with PTSD after returning home.

It’s obvious that the writers had a great idea for this unique macro concept, but felt required to fill in the gaps with typical war-movie plot points–even feeling a bit by-the-numbers during those parts.

But the reality is this film has a lot to say. And it says a lot without actually saying anything. A victory in itself.

It’s not preachy, which a lesser film would have been. Sure, if it wasn’t for a commanding presence like LaBeouf, this movie would be a little more bland as it finds its way to the good parts. But as ordinary as the plot can get, the writing is never phoned in.

A film like this could have easily been confusing with its unusual narrative, but it’s easy to follow.

Shia’s transformation as Drummer throughout the movie is even more impressive as we can see evidence of it juxtaposed through the jumps in the timeline.

Nothing about Man Down feels like a bad movie. It’s really well acted, it’s deep, it’s technically satisfactory. Perhaps it’s a bit plodding at first. It just feels like an ordinary story about a guy in the military. You expect something big to happen, but it takes awhile. And then it grabs you in hard about halfway through.

I remember Shia saying a couple years back that he felt this was the best movie he’d done so far. And I can see why. It’s purposefully artistic, but also heartwarming and intense.

It’s definitely not a film for those who want a quick thrill. And if you’re the type of person who glances at Rotten Tomatoes scores ahead of time, then you’re going to be looking for something wrong with it. But in reality, it’s a movie that’s worth watching. Especially if you can relate. And especially if you go in with an open mind. Some people may still become impatient, but then they should probably just go watch another movie entirely.

Twizard Rating: 96

Quick Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

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It’s difficult to judge a movie with expectations as high as those for Solo: A Star Wars Story. Han Solo’s story is one of the most well-known fictional sagas of all time. There are points that this movie needs to hit. Like how he meets Chewbacca, or his history with Lando Calrissian. The former doesn’t disappoint, and the latter is satisfying enough, leaving room for growth.

The film sets up Solo’s story for sequels and even prequels–a frustrating reality, since we would love to have learned about Han’s childhood, or his dealings with Jabba the Hutt.

But Solo picks a story in Han’s life to talk about. One that begins with him (Alden Ehrenreich) and his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) trying to escape a planet in which they are essentially enslaved by an evil gang. At the time of their flee, Han and Qi-ra are separated with Han vowing to come back for her.

Three years later, Solo makes his way onto a team of outlaws, featuring characters played by Woody Harrelson and Thandie Newton, who are about to pull off a big heist. Both actors do a great job, and Harrelson might actually be the real star of this movie. His character gives Han so much of his depth and provides reasons for his personality that can be accounted for in the rest of the series.

Along the way some things happen and there are some fun twists. Though it still seems like something’s missing. Perhaps it’s the fact that director, Ron Howard, came aboard halfway through production, so the directorial identity is almost non-existent. However, it could have been so much worse. It’s Star Wars, so somehow it still entertains us.

It’s an instant letdown not to see Harrison Ford as Han Solo. It almost feels blasphemous. Deep down, we’ve always questioned whether it was really the character who was great, or simply Ford himself. We might find ourselves closer to an answer after this installment. Although it’s hard to say Han isn’t interesting. And that’s what still propels this film. Because the character still feels similar enough even with a new actor portraying him.

It’s easy not to be sold on Ehrenreich’s performance as a young Han Solo, but it’s easier not to be sold on Donald Glover’s performance as a young Lando Calrissian. Parts of Ehrenreich’s portrayal feels off. After he delivers a line, you close your eyes and try to imagine Ford saying the same thing. Yet other times, it’s oddly close. Ehrenreich would have been fine if we weren’t so familiar with Ford. Billy Dee Williams’ performance in the original trilogy is so effortless, whereas Glover is caught acting a little. Regardless of our familiarity with Williams, Glover just doesn’t seem to fit as well (no pun intended).

But character/actor resemblances shouldn’t be the thing you take away from this movie. It should be about the story itself. And that part it executes decently well.

In the beginning, we’re unsure where this movie is taking us, since it doesn’t feel like an origins story. It just feels like a one-off. But the deeper we get into it and the more recognizable characters we see (e.g. Chewbacca, The Millennium Falcon), we’re reminded that it’s still the same series.

If you’re a fan of the franchise, this will likely get you excited about the possibilities for future installments–whether that speaks to what this film has established or how it’s left us wanting more, is still up in the air. Either way, if it was bad, I’m sure no one would care about getting anything more. Or maybe they would, because, you know, that’s the magic of Star Wars.

Twizard Rating: 87