Quick Movie Review: Kenan & Kel – Two Heads Are Better Than None (2000)

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Often times, longer episodes–or specials–of a half-hour sitcom series don’t work. The pacing is all thrown off and the lack of a laugh track makes the jokes fall flat.

And while Two Heads Are Better Than None is a little odd at first without the studio audience, any fan of Kenan and Kel will enjoy this made-for-TV movie. It’s the same humor, minus the scheming by Kenan.

This one lets the boys get into trouble all without having to scheme anything at all. Kel crashes Kenan’s family’s cross-country road trip vacation. Along the way, they encounter the ghost of a headless knight who is looking for a living soul to give him a new head.

The details tend to get a little foggy, but it’s not a far cry from the usual flippancy of the half-hour episodes. Continue reading

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Quick Movie Review: Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

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The amazing imagery of Little Shop of Horrors is enough to make an indelible impression in our brains. Though it never becomes complacent in knowing this.

Rick Moranis plays a nerdy florist who discovers an evil giant talking plant who helps him get the fame he’s always wanted and may lead to his ticket out of the sleazy part of town. He’s also in love with a woman named Audrey (Ellen Greene), who he thinks is out of his league.

The depth of the film runs much deeper than you’d think. The themes are thought-provoking. Mainly, the one regarding Audrey being physically abused by her boyfriend. Greene is able to showcase the severity of her issue while still bringing humor and sincere levity to the production. In fact, Audrey is perhaps the real main character of the film. She’s the one who’s mind we see inside of the most.

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Quick Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

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On the surface, Blade Runner 2049 appears to be yet another action blockbuster. But for those who are familiar with the first movie, you know this is a wrong.

The original 1982 film takes place in 2019 Los Angeles, starring Harrison Ford as a blade runner–a cop who is in charge of tracking down and killing bioengineered beings known as “replicants”. The replicants look and act exactly like humans and were sent to an off-world colony to become slaves. But a small group of them have violently come back to Earth to kill their creators.

Although deep, the first film wasn’t my cup of tea. It’s slow, boring, and had no relatable characters.

The sequel is still set in the same dystopian universe, but 30 years later. For the fans’ sake, it’s very much in the same vein as its predecessor. It’s just as slow, and much longer. But here, it’s much more tolerable. In fact, it’s extremely entertaining, which goes to show that maybe it isn’t even the pacing of the original that makes it so boring.

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Quick Movie Review: Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

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10 minutes into the film you get a clear idea why this has a cult following. The incredibly imaginative set pieces and impressive artwork almost fool us into believing that this film isn’t low budget. The indelible images you can’t get out of your head.

The title screams “’80s B movie”, but despite the B movie facade, it’s more along the lines of something Tim Burton would come out with. It’s like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure meets The Blob. You go into it expecting it to be so-bad-that-it’s-funny, but instead get a sincerely fun story. And unlike most B movies, you can tell it’s not written by an idiot.

The premise is simple. A couple of teenagers discover that giant clowns have landed on Earth and are going around their small town killing people and putting them in cotton candy cocoons.

These aren’t the typical human clowns you see in the circus, but large costumed individuals that look like walking puppets. They’re high concept super villains like something out of Batman. They shoot popcorn guns, throw pies made of acid, and make hand shadow puppets that eat people.

Practical effects seem to be lost in today’s industry. They bring so much character to older films. If it weren’t for practical effects, Killer Klowns From Outer Space would have gotten lost in the shuffle of all the other CGI showcases. It’s what makes this film unique and memorable–despite the flaws it may have.

The film, at times, tends to be carried by these eye-popping visuals and colorful set pieces, as the plot is underwhelmingly routine. It grows nicely and fills the script well, but story-wise just doesn’t quite live up to the curiosity it inspires. Figuring out the motive of the clowns doesn’t pay off as well as you’d hope.

At least it gives us likable human characters, even if their personalities don’t progress much past what’s on the surface. But they’re much smarter–and much more well-acted–than average horror movie teenagers.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and oddly enough it also doesn’t give us too much to laugh at either. But it doesn’t even matter. We almost don’t notice, because the fun mystery of it all is enough for us to be entertained.

You wouldn’t think this film would be scary, but with the help of awesome visuals and a killer score, it genuinely sends chills down your spine a number of times. Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a half-baked idea, sure, but it fully delivers.

Twizard Rating: 87

Quick Movie Review: Clue (1985)

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Before it was common to turn toys and board games into movies, John Landis had the idea to make a film based on the game Clue. Paramount must’ve really trusted Landis, because they also let him go ahead with his idea to have multiple endings. Depending on which theater you watched it in, you could have seen any one of the three.

Now in DVD format, the film consolidates the endings into one viewing and presents the first two as “this is what COULD have happened” and the last one as “this is what REALLY happened.” You’d think the multiple endings would create plot holes upon looking back at the events that occur, but they really don’t. Confusion, maybe, but not plot holes.

Either way, this movie is so enjoyable that it’s a good lesson in just going along for the ride, not worrying about innocuous details along the way.

It’s an amazing premise, but Clue isn’t just a gimmick. It’s a remarkably entertaining movie that still holds up more than 30 years later.

Taking place in 1954, six strangers are anonymously invited to a dinner party at a mansion. Unclear what exactly is going on, they are forced, by the butler, to solve a murder.

The humor in Clue is very self-aware. Vaudevillian at times. Much like the movie Airplane!–except it does it without compromising the seriousness of the story or distancing itself from its audience, causing them to become less invested. Sort of like what Mel Brooks achieves in The Producers.

It doesn’t concern itself with committing to being a true comedy, but it also doesn’t just jarringly add jokes intermittently. They’re always appropriate and always smoothly transitioned to. Amongst the ensemble cast, Tim Curry grounds the entire film as the eccentric butler who always seems to be one step ahead.

The dialogue often borders on Tarantino-ian with its snappy banter between characters. Perhaps an inspiration for The Hateful Eight (I’m half joking). The script is carefully calculated and makes all the right decisions with pedantic attention to detail.

It doesn’t force character depth, because it knows it doesn’t have to. This allows the plot to swell nicely, leaving us on the edge of our seats pretty much the entire time.

The runtime is short, and it actually spends almost 30 minutes towards the end recapping the scenarios in order to help everyone figure out whodunit. It executes this in a fun way, though it’s  obviously trying to reach a time limit. But it’s a small price to pay for all the entertainment it provides.

Twizard Rating: 93

Quick Movie Review: Under Wraps (1997)

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It’s hard to find solid Halloween films that the whole family can truly enjoy. And because most of them are from the ’90s, it’s also hard to find ones that holds up well enough.

Under Wraps has always been able to give me belly laughs. And after not seeing it for quite some time, I can honestly say that it’s just as enjoyable now as it was when I saw it as a kid.

The story follows three friends who accidentally bring an ancient Egyptian mummy back to life. They befriend him, name him Harold, and introduce him to modern society. The results are pretty hilarious.

With children’s movies, the goal isn’t to escape the formula–since kids don’t care either way–but to be entertaining within those confines.

In Under Wraps, the dialogue is snappy and actually quite edgy considering its audience. The child actors deliver it all pretty well too. They’re not cringey, setting it up so that the film is likable even before the mummy comes to life. Then, once Harold enters the picture, the narrative is able to build upon an already-solid foundation.

The film does get cheesy once or twice towards the end as it wraps things up, but it’s not enough to ruin anything. Prior to that, it shows heart in much more organic ways. What’s more distracting, perhaps, are the few fairly obvious plot holes throughout. You can chalk it up to being a movie for kids, but I can see how it might bother some older viewers. Though it’s not nearly as bad as others.

Under Wraps is a great movie to watch during the Halloween season, as the adventure is fun for both kids and adults almost equally.

It takes some pages out of the notes of 1992’s Encino Man, which has a similar concept–albeit more adult oriented. The filmmakers of this kids movie prove that they can get just about as many laughs with a film targeted at a younger audience. Very well done.

Twizard Rating: 87

Quick Movie Review: Cry Baby Lane (2000)

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Nickelodeon’s Cry Baby Lane has somewhat of a mystique surrounding it. On October 28, 2000, Nick aired the made-for-TV movie. But after that, it was never aired again. Apparently the film got banned. Years later, talks of it swirled around the undercurrents of the internet, and finally, in 2011, the movie was shown on Nickelodeon’s TeenNick network.

Why was it banned you ask? Well for starters, the film starts out with Frank Langella’s character, Mr. Bennett the undertaker, telling the tale of a farmer and his wife who gave birth to conjoined twins many years ago. Ashamed of his children, the farmer kept the them locked up in a room in his house. He soon realized that one twin was good, while the other was evil. Eventually one of them got sick and died, which was also fatal to the other twin since they shared the same vital organs. After they died, the farmer sawed the two boys in half, burying the good twin in the town cemetery, while burying the evil twin at the end of a generic dirt road in the backwoods. The road is now called Cry Baby Lane due to the sounds you hear in the middle of the night of the dead boy crying for his twin brother.

Yeah, this film was banned. In the year 2000. Can you imagine what the reaction would have been like if it were released nowadays when parents are far more aware of what their kids watch? It’s a very creepy movie, and doesn’t even saturate itself with jump-scares. All of the creepiness comes from the inherent properties of the story and the visuals themselves. But I think we may not be giving kids the credit they deserve. I think they can handle it.

The eerie tale of the twin boys is being told to brothers, Andrew and Carl. Andrew is played by Jase Blankfort, and he does a great job. His deliveries are so spot-on and organic that you never sense he’s acting. He’s fun to watch. The free-flowing dialogue helps his true instincts come out and he really gets a chance to show his chops.

I would’ve loved if this could have been longer. At 70 minutes, it’s an unusually short film, so the pacing is all out-of-sorts. Maybe that’s why it feels just like a really long TV episode.

Although never formally advertised as such, Cry Baby Lane is a feature-length version of the Nickelodeon show Are You Afraid of the Dark? With most references to the show coming from motifs in the musical score, the film does actually follow a similar tone–albeit much darker.

The loose direction by Peter Lauer crosses back and forth between refreshingly unorthodox and frustratingly informal. It’s a weird movie with a lot of seemingly unrelated bits added in, making the film feel disjointed at times. There are scenes and characters that do nothing but waste time, even with the little amount it has in the first place.

But on the other hand he doesn’t let simple details go unnoticed merely because this is a kids’ movie. He has characters in the film who are possessed, but doesn’t just cliche his way through it. He uses these instances as opportunities for humor and irony. At one point, a possessed mailman goes around smashing mailboxes with a baseball bat. Many of the seemingly-innocuous idiosyncrasies or nuances are given attention–for better or for worse.

There’s a sort of unique humor to the film. Most of it is subtle–another very “Nickelodeon” thing about it. In fact, many of the events happen primarily due to the fact that Mr. Bennett is the world’s worst undertaker–a joke exemplified a few times.

Needless to say, you don’t have to worry about this movie talking down to its audience. The subject matter alone proves that it has every bit of faith that kids can handle just about anything. I’d say Cry Baby Lane might possibly be a little too mature and scary for some kids to be watching, but rooted in its reckless storyline are ideals and philosophies of past children’s TV networking. Things that are no longer practiced in children’s television really at all. Things that used to let kids know you trusted them and didn’t think they were stupid. This might be the most important takeaway of all.

Twizard Rating: 86

Quick Movie Review: H-E Double Hockey Sticks (1999)

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Shockingly enough, H-E Double Hockey Sticks still aired on the Disney Channel back in the early 2000s. I guess it makes sense if you consider the source material. But a film that partially takes place in hell? Very odd choice.

But I guess it’s less surprising when you realize how badly it wants to be a kids’ movie. Most of the references and puns will definitely go over children’s heads, yet it’s constantly talking down to them anyway–sticking itself in an awkward position of being a film for neither adults nor kids. You could say it’s their way of trying to appeal to both. But for adults to enjoy it more, it can’t compromise its dialogue.

Will Friedle plays Griffelkin, the devil’s apprentice. He’s sent to Earth to sway professional hockey player, Dave Heinrich (Matthew Lawrence), to sign over his soul in exchange for his team winning the Stanley Cup.

The plot is mostly stretched thin–even for its short runtime–but it picks up once its main objective is reached nearing the 3rd act. But then the film ends abruptly without the entire theme ever becoming fully realized for the audience.

The first two acts coast along on Friedle’s talents and improvisations, relying on him too much to carry the film. It allows him almost too much freedom, preventing the movie from taking itself seriously enough. It’s almost too goofy for its dark premise. But then again, if that’s the case, it should be funnier.

Friedle is at his best when playing off of Lawrence’s straight-man–much like their dynamic on Boy Meets World. Fans of the TV show will undoubtedly enjoy seeing the actors together again–especially if they’ve never seen this film before. Because watching it a 2nd time may be a chore no matter how much you like them.

The film is far from perfect. Though the acting is passable, the script is marginal at best. It’s not too porous, but the holes that do exist are distracting.

Plot holes don’t always make or break film. Many times they go unnoticed in a truly entertaining one. The worst kinds of holes are the ones that are so distracting that they prevent you from enjoying the rest of the story.

Griffelkin has this device called a flip fork (pun on flip phone), which is a magical tool that can make anything do what he wants it to do. He has supernatural powers that assist him in obtaining his goal. Yet, he spends about 15 minutes towards the beginning trying to find Dave and getting into the same room as him. Are we just supposed to accept this frustrating inconsistency? It is a kids movie after all–but then again, not really, because it takes place in hell and has jokes about flipping people off.

The ending isn’t quite as dark, but the lessons learned don’t really come to light, and we’re stuck remembering this as a film about a guy selling his soul to the devil–not about a devil’s apprentice finally seeing the light.

It’s an odd movie. At its best, it’s original–considering the context. Although it’s still entertaining enough to watch, and may evoke enough nostalgia that it doesn’t matter.

Twizard Rating: 62

Quick Movie Review: On Your Marc (2017)

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If you’re like me and grew up with ’90s Nickelodeon, you have an intrinsic affinity for Marc Summers. He was like the face of the network back in the day, hosting perennial mainstays, like Double Dare, and the more forgotten about What Would You Do? A zeitgeist, if you will. You could say he was my childhood.

Yesterday I had the privilege to attend the world premiere of his documentary, On Your Marc. He was there in person–someone who I’ve always wanted to meet, yet always felt like I have. And that’s where this documentary seems to get it.

I’m not sure how to critique the film as someone who doesn’t know who the man is, because I can’t even imagine what that would be like. But as someone who grew up watching him on my TV set, I can tell this documentary seems to understand what else we’d like to know about someone who’s already an open book.

It isn’t a documentary in the strict biographical sense. Sure, it covers mostly everything in his life–dripping information here and there about meeting his wife, how he was inspired to be in the entertainment industry, his performance as a father when his kids were little, etc.–but focuses mostly on his later career, post-Nickelodeon. It’s not linear, yet you don’t feel robbed of his backstory.

Marc’s dreams in show business are rooted in theater, ever since attending a performance of Fiddler On the Roof as a child. So with this stage show, he’s one step closer to Broadway–a destination that’s never left his sight. As someone with seemingly unattainable goals for my own career in this industry, it tugs at my heart strings. It’s crazy to think that the person you look up to also feels like he hasn’t quite “made it” yet.

The main topics discussed are Summers’ lifelong struggle with OCD, reaching his ultimate career goal, and his recent bout with cancer. The film uses him prepping for his one-man theater show to underlie his story–interspersing it when necessary without focusing on it too much.

But the film isn’t always so serious. In fact, it’s quite funny. It mostly finds the comedy in all of this otherwise deep subject matter, with most of the humor coming from Marc’s natural wit–as he, himself narrates a big chunk of it. After all, Summers was a stand up comedian early on in his career. The documentary actually takes his lead, fitting right into his style.

It’s funny because you never felt before like you didn’t already know the man. He’s naturally such an open and real guy, you feel like you’ve always known him. You almost forget he’s a celebrity. But with this, his vulnerabilities come through even more–making him more real, if even possible.

And it’s all so beautifully candid that you barely even feel like it’s covering much ground. But sure enough, you walk out of the theater with a much more rounded out view of a person you’ve always loved anyway. When you leave, you feel like you may know almost as much as the filmmakers at this point. It’s truly an accomplishment.

The film is written and directed by Mathew Klickstein–a perfect choice. Years ago merely a passionate fan of ’90s Nickelodeon, he’s now the acclaimed author of Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age–since then, becoming good friends with Summers because of it. A genius? Perhaps. I just wish I thought of it first.

Twizard Rating: 90

Quick Movie Review: Wild Things (1998)

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If you take this film for what it is, it’s really entertaining. The plot twists not only surprise you, but move the story in different and unexpected directions each time.

Wild Things is towards the top of the guilty pleasures list for many movie fans. It can often be found right next to Showgirls and Grease. It’s not good because it’s good, it’s good because it’s not. Yet this one has something that those other two don’t–a pretty good story.

The premise starts out with Matt Dillon playing Sam Lombardo, a high school guidance counselor who is framed for rape by Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards), the daughter of the richest family in town.

Right off the bat, the main theme seems to be how even the accusation of rape can haunt you for your whole life. It makes you think that this is where it’s going. Pretty interesting concept. We’re invested. But then it departs from that and proceeds to get absolutely insane.

Spoiler alert: There are a good amount of plot twists in this film. I won’t tell you what they are. But my review references their existence on several occasions.

The name of the game in this film is how many crazy plot twists can they fit into a 2 hour film. I’m not complaining. It’s a lot of fun. You usually don’t see them coming. Even when you think you’re starting to catch on, they throw you another curveball.

The constant twists create an unconventional narrative–placing beats in parts of the film you don’t expect them to be. The exposition is pretty roundabout, rather than being handed to us on a silver platter–even before all the craziness happens.

It’s really not as convoluted as it seems. If you stop to think about it, you can easily piece everything together. As opposed to some films that make themselves confusing so that you can’t see the plot holes. And Wild Things actually seems to avoid most of these anyway.

There’s another girl involved–Suzie (Neve Campbell), who comes out and says that Mr. Lombardo raped her as well. There’s also an obsessive cop, played by Kevin Bacon, and Mr. Lombardo’s attorney, who’s surprisingly played by Bill Murray.

The dialogue is pretty silly at moments, and the acting is marginal. But both Murray and Campbell stand out as far superior to the rest. At times, it’s like they’re reading from a completely different script altogether.

You can almost always tell when characters are lying–almost like the director does it intentionally. And due to the twisting and turning nature of the plot, it’s hard to establish any depth for the characters. The motives are usually suspect at best.

The film’s biggest downfall is perhaps the very thing that makes it enjoyable. We love the who-can-you-trust type of thrill, but at the same time it fails to give us a character we can actually like.

As much as we love that initial plot twist, part of us is sad to realize that everything before it is a lie. But then we realize that this whole film is all about who you can or can’t trust. That nobody is who they appear to be. The basis of liking this film depends on how well you can handle that fact.

Twizard Rating: 83