Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder with Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. Lambasts Hollywood as This Summer’s Sensational Satire

Few movies have started this awesome – with so much spunk, cursing and hilariousness. The opening minute is just ridiculous. Though I can’t say the movie maintains this level of absurdity through the duration, there are numerous great scenes and funny lines. At the very least, it’s entirely ridiculous.

This seems to have been the brainchild of Ben Stiller, who really did do an excellent job, but I can’t say that anyone wasn’t great, including Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. I’m not going to tell you all of the cameos and other funny people that appeared because catching them all is half the fun.

A large point of the movie was to lambast Hollywood for its celebrity idiocy, absurdity and general way of doing things, from the rich Jewish moguls at the top, to the insecure big name actors and the idealistic new actors – and every level of fake, pretentious, nonsensical bullshit in between and around them all. In that respect, the movie gets an A+. What a great job it did, really taking its mockery to the next level.

Without taking away from certain jokes, cameos and lines, there’s not too much more I feel I can say, other than to let you know if this will be for you. It is vulgar, very rated R for language and grossness (though much of the blood and guts is meant to look fake to emphasize the Hollywoodness of it), and filled with cultural jokes, movie trivia/history and stupid people to laugh at. If these things aren’t up your alley – particularly satire as an artform – then this movie is definitely not for you. If you enjoy any of those things, especially when they’re executed in wonderful ways that keep a smile on your face for over 50% of the time you’re in the movie, then I’d check this out.

I award it a solid 8 Chocolate Salty Balls. A great end-of-summer movie. Get your own copy: Tropic Thunder.

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Rogen and Franco Do a Great Job in the Bizarre and Twisted Pineapple Express

Honestly, I’m shocked at how much I enjoyed this movie. It definitely won’t be for everyone, but to those for whom this movie holds any appeal, I think you’ll get a surprising kick out of it, mostly because there’s not a whole lot like it.

Pineapple Express has a slightly Lebowski-esque feel with a dollop of 40 Year Old Virgin and Superbad style humor. But tossing around those movie names doesn’t quite begin to convey to you what kind of movie you’re about to see or just what elements of those films it really has – they’re just feelings really.

First, there’s an incredible amount of pot smoking and the entire movie really does revolve around pot. If you don’t like getting high or laughing at high people, the movie’s probably not for you. There’s also a surprising amount of action. I knew the basic plot before going into the film, but I expected it to be a bit tamer. The violence was pretty gratuitous, and I’m surprised how many people got shot and how much nasty stuff they showed. Also, a lot of people proved surprisingly fine after a lot of getting shot. It was no Tarantino film or anything but for a stoner movie there was a lot of blood and violence. For some reason, though, this is what added that twist and gave it the bizarre feel that carried through pretty much the whole film

More than that, it was funny – not laugh your ass off funny over and over again, but good lines with good laughs interspersed pretty regularly. An element I was not expecting (it seems like there were a lot) was the human touch. The conversations between a lot of the characters, particularly as the stoned scenes went, were shockingly realistic, personal and sometimes touching. Sometimes I don’t find Seth Rogen’s speech patterns particularly realistic, but in this movie I thought he was different – maybe due to the dynamic with James Franco. In any case, the conversation was natural and felt real – perhaps that’s what they call good acting.

There’s more to say, but since I think at this point you can probably decide whether or not it’s for you, I’m going to go ahead and bow out with a surprising rating of 8 Chocolate Salty Balls. Good laughs, weird action and mostly more bizarre than I could have expected.

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“Fat Butt and Pancake Head” (0705) Encapsulates My Hatred of Ben Affleck

I think that Ben Affleck is one of the worst actors on the planet. I hate him in absolutely everything, and am so disgusted when he’s in movies that have the potential to be good or at least entertaining because I’m sure he’ll ruin it for me and everyone else. I was so happy when Matt Damon (who I think is a premier actor and in good movie after good movie these days) stopped sticking so close to his old pal.

For these reasons I love this episode. I also have no real affinity for Jennifer Lopez and so making fun of her is just fine by me. Plus the line, “Oooo, Ben Affleck spooge” sends me rolling on the floor.

Other than a lot of “Oh my God”s and “Jesus”s, there isn’t anything in this episode that pertains to religion, but boy howdy is it silly and good old fashioned South Park fun: pick two obnoxious and shitty celebrities and spend 23 minutes making them look like jackasses. Great stuff. For the record, I also love the episode where the couple with asses for faces turns out to be Ben Affleck’s parents.

To learn more about my hatred for Ben Affleck and read my article about this hatred and my theories about his unwarranted success, please click HERE, then scroll to The Catalyst archives. Volume 3, Issue 1, pages 4 and 5 tell this story.

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Batman – Nolan’s Dark Knight, with Bale, Ledger and Caine, is Nothing Short of Sensational

I don’t applaud at the end of movies, and I never will. But if any movie ever made me want to it was Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Truly, it was incredible.

Heath Ledger and the Joker

Let me start with Heath Ledger as that seems to be all anyone can talk about. That’s why I’ll make it brief and get onto other things since you all already know how good he is. His performance is unrivaled. Simply unrivaled. What’s more, I’m certainly not the first person to say that he deserves an Oscar. I could drone on, but it’s really that simple when it comes to Ledger so I’m not going to dwell.

I will say that I love the way the concept of Joker was written, which really had very little to do with Ledger, I’d imagine. That is, Nolan’s Joker truly embodied the chaos and anarchy that the character was meant to. Unlike Nicholson’s Joker whose history we are given, this Joker knows no history and the twisted words out of his mouth about himself make that all the more apparent. This Joker, in spirit, is the ultimate opposite of what Batman is and by very virtue of that fact the character itself may render all future Batman villains in this series somewhat disappointing. How could any be as twisted, maniacal or disturbing. That, with Ledger conveying these elements: unbeatable.

The Cast

No actor fell short in this film. Christian Bale’s character wasn’t nearly as tormented as in Batman Begins and so in a certain sense we get less out of him than before. Nonetheless, his performance was nothing to scoff at. He still made a great Bruce Wayne and an excellent Batman – though sometimes the deep pitch of his voice while playing the Dark Knight made understanding him a little hard.

Maggie Gyllenhaal was, I dare say, better than Katie Holmes, who, already having taken the crazy-plunge by the start of Batman Begins, wasn’t the wonderful girl I fantasized about during Dawson’s Creek. This Rachel wasn’t as hell-bent on saving Gotham, but she did have a spark – a life – that made her a great addition to the movie.

My feelings about Aaron Eckhart are mixed (potential spoiler alert – this paragraph only). I think he’s a great actor and entertaining fella to watch on screen. As Harvey Dent trying to be Gotham’s new hero D.A. he was compelling and believable – like the good guy many of us imagined him to be in Thank You For Smoking. I will say that by the end of the film, something about his performance was not adding up for me. Disappointing since as many people know by the previews, the third installment of this Batman series will most likely have Aaron Eckhart playing our villain (or at least one of them).

As a Film

The movie itself, actors aside – script, plot, themes, action – was sensational. Yes, the actors made it what it was, but Christopher Nolan deserves a hat off for this one. In true Batman spirit it was dark as could reasonably be done. Moreover, as absolutely twisted as it was and as much as we were visually privy to, Nolan never made us watch the few things that would have been unnecessary to show and only good for shock value (well, not only, but close). The discretion he exercised as a writer/director should be lauded. Finally, I was shocked by at least two facts that I didn’t see coming at all, and was so caught up that the plot twists were surprises to me as well – I love that when I’m watching a movie.

And yet with all this the movie was not simply great acting amidst exciting action sequences. It was food for thought. Mostly thanks to the dialogue written for Joker, the film intimately explored ideas as simple as right and wrong while also probing our hearts about human nature. We are made to practically plead with the film to reaffirm or restore our sense of human decency and it reminds us, without making us feel as though it’s trying to, that we are allowed to hope for better, brighter things. Concepts like the rule of law, anarchy, justice and more are also woven throughout the movie. Not once, though, are we made to sit through a director’s attempt at jamming anything down our throats. All of this is skillfully and seamlessly interlaced through dialogue, action, and plot, leaving you at the end to digest a whole lot more than what you thought you were getting for the price of admission (in some sense the opposite of the feeling you had when The Happening ended).

The Audience

I have never in my life seen a crowd like this. Applause before previews, when it began, periodically throughout and of course at the end. There was a huge line waiting to get in before the movie, but thanks to my sick girlfriend, we were able to bypass the whole thing and be the first ones in the theater. This, naturally, resulted in a threat on my life by the man first in line who had probably been there two hours ahead of time (we arrived thirty minutes before the start of the movie), and though I understand his disposition, I have a tough time believing that, as the second person in the theater, I picked the precise seat before him that he had so desperately waited to get.

There was not an empty seat in the house – and this at a theater that had midnight, three a.m. and six a.m. showings, and then all day right until ours. Fortunately I had my favorite seat in the house – dead center in the middle of the theater, both up and down, left and right. It really couldn’t have worked out better … for me.

Words to Leave You With

To conclude succinctly, this movie exceeded my expectations, and considering that they were so high, this was nearly impossible to do. When I expect great things from a movie, I rarely get them, a sad fact which resulted in my movie philosophy of no expectations but a hope for entertainment. This film, however, shattered the highest expectations I may ever have had for a movie. I thought it was over twice – and would have been wholly satisfied had it been – and was twice given another slew of great action, dialogue and entertainment. And so much more.

For a truly spectacular film, I award my first full 10 Chocolate Salty Balls. Someone tell Nolan – he’ll be thrilled.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts about this film in a comment below. Get your copy of The Dark Knight. You won’t regret it.

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Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy 2: Ron Pearlman is Bigger, Badder and More Entertaining than Ever

I, for one, was totally entertained, and as any of my movie review readers know, that’s pretty much my only requirement when it comes to action-packed summer blockbusters. And Toro’s Hellboy 2 is definitely among them.

Ron Pearlman, whose voice you’ve probably heard in any number of animated super-hero cartoons, is classic Hellboy: rude, arrogant, and ready to f- some s- up. The movie crosses a number of subplots (relationship with Selma Blair’s character, Liz Sherman, introduction of a new paranormal good-guy, Hellboy’s public persona) with the main plot of conquering the evil prince of the Underworld who wishes to raise a long-forgotten army and battle humanity for the rights to live on earth.

I first became aware of Hellboy 2 as a preview when my father and I were going to see the new Indiana Jones movie earlier this summer. Having never seen the first Hellboy movie, my dad said we could rent and watch it together, which we did a bit later. Though he won’t get to see the second one for a few weeks, I certainly owe him a thanks for turning me onto this less than polite comic book made big-screen bad-ass.

The action was consistently good throughout, but it is little compared to the amazing monsters and creatures that appear on screen throughout the film. The plot didn’t have any gaping holes, and thank goodness that the touching lovey-dovey scenes that seemed to pock the first film were kept to a minimum in this one (though there are still a few and even Abe Sapien has a love interest).

There was even a little religious stuff, though less than the first movie. Liz sports a large cross necklace the entire time and Hellboy also has a cross on a chain on his wrist in a few scenes (funny on the biggest Jew in Hollywood – big physically, that is).

All in all Ron Pearlman is great. Selma is a little melodramatic but I suppose that’s the character. I always love Jeffrey Tambor (George on Arrested Development), and a most hilarious addition was seeing Seth MacFarlane’s name in the credits (the creator of Family Guy and American Dad). Yes, that’s right – he provided the voice of Johann Krauss, the same voice he uses for the fish on American Dad.

Good summer fun and a great flick – 8 Chocolate Salty Balls for Hellboy 2. Seven are for the movie and 1 is for the timing.

Have you seen it? What did you think? Better than the first? Buy it now: Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

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Preparing for Bale’s Batman and Ledger’s Joker

Yes, I recently became one of those people who prepurchases tickets to movies. I didn’t do it because of my excitement though. I’d be just as excited to buy my tickets the day of – more actually because if I have any change of plans then it won’t affect my viewing the movie or losing money. However, with the volume of prepurchased tickets on the rise every day and the midnight and now 3 a.m. showings selling out like crazy, I figure that if i want to see The Dark Knight on the weekend of its release (July 18, 2008, by the way) then I need to go ahead and get a ticket now. So honestly, it was out of sheer necessity that I bought a ticket early.

Have you purchased your tickets already? Does the term prepurchase, much like the notion of preboarding an airplane, make no sense? Are you excited for the movie in any case?

Will Smith’s, Hancock, a Mixture of Mood-Muddling and Action-Adventure, Comes Out Pleasing Audiences

Will Smith, honestly, I love you. I think that you’re one of the only true entertainers this world has left. You sing, you dance, you act in movies and on television. You produce and a whole lot more in between. What’s more is that you’re dedicated to the perfection of your craft, no matter what the specifics, and maintain a sunny attitude the whole time, never taking for granted the fact that it’s your adoring fans who make you who you are.

All that said, Hancock was not my favorite of your movies. Don’t get me wrong – it was fun and enjoyable, and I had a good time watching it. As everyone has noticed, it’s an amusing principle: an alcoholic superhero with a bad attitude. The action is pretty decent, the acting is good from everyone important (Charlize Theron, Will Smith and Jason Bateman), and the jokes, at least in the beginning, are consistent and funny. But that brings me to one of my problems with the movie: in the middle there is a giant shift of trajectory, mood and tone.

True, the movie could be broadly categorized as Hancock’s search for truth, but it’s really sold as – and continues for half the movie as – his attempts to reform and become the superhero he should be. However, about halfway in, the movie becomes darker, no longer comical, and delves progressively deeper into what seems to be a newly introduced topic that only Charlize Theron’s odd behavior and looks hinted at throughout the second quarter of the film.

Second, as many of you know, I love superhero lore and all of the concepts and explanations surrounding it. Believe it or not, that’s not one of my geekier passions. In any case, the superhero-ness behind Hancock is incredibly unconventional – not that I don’t appreciate that – but it took a turn for religio-historical in its attempts at explanation. As an historian of religion, that’s generally my favorite direction for things to be taken, but in this case, it drew a little short. I appreciated the incorporation of pagan lore, alternative explanations for ancient deification, and mentions of Persia and Sumeria, but all told, it was a little convoluted and under-explained despite the fact that they spent too much time trying. I love to be like, “Wow, cool explanation.” This time I was like, “Okay, that’s a little odd,” (e.g. what happens to his powers over time, etc.).

But don’t let those critiques deter you – only serve as fair warnings in case you thought you were seeing the most consistent and well thought-out Will Smith movie that ever there was. Like I said, despite these things it’s an enjoyable thrill ride with an ending more uplifting than I Am Legend (a movie I thought was spectacular). I love Smith’s move to darker films because I think he can do it all. I also think Charlize Theron is the most beautiful woman in Hollywood and love watching her go. Jason Bateman, though he acts in a predictable way and always seems to be the same guy, does a nice job too – great drunk scene but where was the hangover the next morning, buddy?

Worst part of the movie was when everyone clapped at the end. Glad to know you liked it but I hate clapping in movies. They can’t hear you, you know.

I give Hancock 7 Chocolate Salty Balls.

Have you seen it? What’d you think?

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