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

Advertisements

Quick Movie Review: xXx (2002)

xxx

Has action changed all that much since 2002? Because action in movies has. Back before about 10 years ago, characters were much less jokey, things blew up a lot more, and bad guys had terrible aim.

While dated as can be, xXx is an enjoyable watch. The film’s inspiration is questionable, but Vin Diesel plays the title role exactly how you’d expect him to. There is no shortage of platitudinous quips, but he delivers them in a way that makes you forget that the dialogue is terribly written.

Diesel plays Xander Cage, aka Triple X, a criminal stunt man hired by the US government to infiltrate the international mercenary group, Anarchy 99. There’s not a whole lot more to it than that, yet the film seems to be able to stretch itself to nearly 120 minutes (132 in the director’s cut).

xXx is so 2002 that, at times, you can’t differentiate it from a early 2000s Disney Channel Original Movie. It sacrifices practicality for spectacle whenever it gets the chance. But considering its action-based modus operandi, the film still tends to drag at times.

Ultimately xXx does nothing new. At all. The only reason why anyone would watch this film is to experience Vin Diesel’s charisma and charm. Because that’s really the only unique aspect brought to the otherwise trite premise.

But it’s entertaining. Mindless, but entertaining. Despite the hackneyed script, you have to commend the movie for not taking itself too seriously, ultimately not making it a chore to watch. It’s actually quite fun and ridiculous in all its glory.

Twizard Rating: 72

Quick Movie Review: The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

bourne ultimatum

To some, shaky-cam has become synonymous with low quality. But not the way Paul Greengrass does is. The director doesn’t just do shaky-cam–he masters it. Every single movement is perfected and deliberate so that during fight scenes, we still know exactly what’s happening all while getting the feeling that we’re involved.

The pacing is pretty much perfect in the third installment of the spy-thriller series. We pick up weeks after the events of its predecessor, and Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is still trying to figure out his forgotten past. The secret CIA program which was once called Operation Treadstone is essentially the same, except operating under the name of Blackbriar.

Dipping and dodging different assassins, Bourne is one step closer to finding out how he became an important piece in all this. But this time, there’s more desperation. More urgency. He knows he could be dead at any moment and possibly should have been dead already. But he’s not and he doesn’t know how much longer he can cheat death. We feel it too. We want him to find everything out before he gets killed.

It’s this energy that runs all through The Bourne Ultimatum that keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time.

Bourne’s character depth doesn’t really progress anywhere from the last film, but we don’t really feel like it needs to. He doesn’t say much, but we can read his thoughts much of the time.

In the end, we’re relieved, but not necessarily satisfied. There is still more to be found out. Although in the moment, we aren’t aware that there will be more sequels to come. We just hope that there are.

Twizard Rating: 95

Ranking Every ‘Even Stevens’ Episode Ever!

Even-Stevens

I’m a huge Even Stevens fan. Perhaps the biggest ever. Growing up I wanted to be Louis Stevens more than anything. I dressed like him, laughed like him, and even talked like him. I would set my clock every evening for when the show came on and would be quoting the episode the next day at school to my classmates’ and teachers’ eye-rolling. To this day, I still watch it almost every night. It makes me happy and keeps my life filled with joy and fun.

Continue reading

Quick Movie Review: Barbershop (2002)

barbershop

There are a lot of experiences that young men should have growing up. Being exposed to the barbershop culture is one of them. I loved going to get my haircut when I was a teenager. Not just because I felt rejuvenated with my fresh cut, but because I enjoyed the banter, the stories, and even the superfluous arguments. It’s something I still look forward to when I go get a trim. And it’s captured perfectly in this 2002 Ice Cube comedy.

The story isn’t anything too intricate. It surrounds Cube’s character, Calvin, trying to decide whether or not he should sell the barbershop passed on to him by his late father. But most of the film is spent filling us in on the happenings of the employees and patrons of the shop, and their own stories. By far the most interesting part, we get a great sense of who these people are and what makes them tick. We feel like we’re right there in the shop with them.

It has its fair share of broad comedy, but there aren’t a lot of moments of subtle humor. Which is okay, since it does the former so well. While it’s rarely hysterical, you can definitely appreciate the repartee. In fact, most of the highlights don’t come from the barbershop at all, but from Anthony Anderson and Lahmard Tate’s characters stealing and attempting to open an ATM machine. This subplot goes on throughout the entire film.

With an impressive cast and an even more impressive Ice Cube, the beauty of this film is in its characters. They’re not all likable, but you get to know them well enough to understand them. It’s deceptively deep.

Ultimately, Barbershop turns a very simple premise into something much bigger and more meaningful. And it does it without ever feeling like it’s being stretched too thin.

Although it’s not perfect, it’s perhaps one of the most accurate portrayals of a culture so beloved by American males.

Twizard Rating: 84

Quick Movie Review: My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)

my big fat greek wedding2

They’re all older, yet they’re all pretty much the same. Maybe that’s another Greek stereotype I’m unaware of. But in this sitcomy world that Nia Vardalos has created for us, it makes sense anyway.

From the very first moments, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 comes off as more of a cast reunion or a “Where Are They Now?” special than anything else.

By nature, the title already limits what this film can be about. And it shows. Obvious with every forced plot point, it tries to cover too much ground, but then still finds a way to sneak a wedding into it all.

Amidst trying to be the mediator for her whole family, Toula (Vardalos) must deal with her daughter possibly leaving home for college. She also must try to handle her own suffering relationship with her neglected husband (John Corbett), while trying to plan a wedding for her parents who recently find out that their 50-year marriage was never official.

At one point there are about 3 major story lines competing for the title of “main”. Plus several others intermixed. As a result, we get scenes that serve no purpose and film with no direction.

The dialogue is just as sloppy–going for that quirky awkwardness that worked so well in the 2002 original. But here, it plays as unnatural and stiff.

Maybe the cast has lost its chemistry with one another. Or maybe it’s missing a little of what made the first one work. That first film was completely organic. The sequel is the exact opposite.

Everything is forced. From the dialogue to the character depth. Trying to squeeze every last bit of emotion out of its audience every chance it gets.

Not to say it doesn’t have its moments. I didn’t hate it. It just isn’t all that good. Certain performances outdo others. Michael Constantine is just as good as Toula’s father. But director Kirk Jones just can’t extract the same results out of most of the rest of the cast.

It’s all just really discombobulated. Directionless. It tries to prove points, but then counters them with opposing points–ultimately saying nothing. Or worse: not knowing what it’s saying.

Many jokes fall flat. Luckily the head count is so high that eventually there are a few you end up laughing at.

But as a whole, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is a mess. It means well. Really, it does. It’ll even make you smile a few times. But after 14 years, you’d at least hope for a better story.

Twizard Rating: 59

Quick Movie Review: My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

my big fat greek wedding

Boy, how well does this film holds up 14 years later. Can we finally admit to its greatness now?

Whatever tropes it derives from the rom-coms of old serve only to make us feel comfortable in its grasp. But don’t let the formula fool you. This film is anything but cloying. It opts out of cliche and sappy–instead, giving us rompy situations that we could actually see happening in our own lives.

Toula, played by Nia Vardalos, who also wrote the film, is a 30-year-old woman whose family fears will become an eternal spinster. She doesn’t seem to care about her appearance, and she is very awkward when it comes to talking to other people. She is of Greek origin, and her family won’t let her forget it. They’re the type who only talk to other Greek people. On the other hand, Toula doesn’t care.

She meets Ian (John Corbett), who isn’t Greek. They fall in love and want to get married, but have to deal with the wrath of her family–mostly her father, played by Michael Constantine.

The cast is perfect–especially Constantine, who we are often times convinced is Vardalos’ actual father playing himself.

The humor is mostly made of inside jokes from Greek culture. If you’re not savvy on that, you might think you won’t understand. But the script does an excellent job of not making us feel like an outsider. And most of us have families with weird traditions and tendencies, too, so we get it.

There are a few lulls in the narrative, but the script always recovers well with something funny around the corner.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is truly funny in the most organic way possible. The scenarios all seem real. Vardalos is believable and hilarious in the lead role. She channels the sort of uninhibitedness that Lucille Ball was known for. Almost like a Kristen Wiig before her time.

But most of all, this film speaks to generations of society who can’t see past cultural differences. It was relevant back in 2002, and is still very much that way now. It’s a tale we’ve been seeing, in one way or another, for centuries now, but still can’t seem to get us to change our ways. Although no one’s life is at stake in this film, we could all learn a thing or two from the story. It’s deceptively deep.

Twizard Rating: 94

Quick Movie Review: Comedian (2002)

comedian

As an aspiring standup comedian, I felt it necessary to watch Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedian” before I went any further with my set development. I have to say it was both entertaining and informative. Maybe I got more out of it considering my present circumstance, but I think that it’s great insight to a world that many never consider has much insight. It’s an art that’s taken for granted much of the time. It’s easy to laugh. We tell jokes with our friends, so it must be easy to do something that is so bare at its essence. “Comedian” proves that that’s not really the case.

The premise is to show the construction of a one-hour set. Seinfeld is scrapping all his old material and starting over. He’s made it and proven himself in the world of comedy, but seeks a higher challenge and meaning. This is paralleled with young comedian, Orny Adams, who tries to make a name for himself.

For those interested in pursuing standup comedy, this is a must-watch. It aims to motivate and is pretty unbiased in its effort. And for those who just like to spectate, it will show you a different side to that world.

Twizard Rating: 93