Friday, April 18, 2008

Classic Movie Review: "The Producers"

I am going to review the original The Producers, not the reinvented, musical The Producers that came out a few years ago. Why? Because the 1960s "Producers" is deemed a classic. The Matthew Broderick-Nathan Lane one? Not so much.

Of course, The Producers plot is now a familiar one: failing play producer Max Bialystock hooks up with neurotic accountant Leo Bloom to produce the world's largest flop. Because, naturally, a flop earns more money than a hit, if you tweak the books enough. A script sent from Heaven (or maybe Hell) falls into their hands, called Springtime for Hitler. It is written by a former German soldier and portends to tell the secret, nicer side of Hitler. Bialystock and Bloom turn it into a musical, with Hitler being played by a Hippie with the non-coincidental initials L.S.D. Of course, the play turns out to be a hit, because the audience views it as a comedy, not a serious endeavor.

The Producers was Mel Brooks first major movie. It is a little rough around the edges and there aren't really any punchlines, as many of the jokes come from reactions or actions. As such, we get a constant cycle of character reinforcements: Bialystock is a blowhard, Bloom is neurotic, the German writer is crazy, etc. It is funny, no doubt, but not hilarious. However, although the plot and ending are well known, the movie still entertains. Brooks gets a lot of kudos for this film and while it isn't his best (Blazing Saddles has to have that honor for combining humor and an excellent plot), it is definitely in his top 5. His later films (Spaceballs for example) are hilarious but not very meaty. The Producers is meaty but not that hilarious.

For fans of classic comedy, this movie is a definite must see. I want to point out that the reason why it might not be all that funny isn't because it doesn't age well (it does), but rather because of the points I made above. I guess I have to see the new edition of The Producers and see how much worse (or better) it is than the classic edition.

3 Little Old Ladies out of 5.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

New Movie Review: "21"

The list of movies dealing with card games is long. The list of good movies that deal with card games is significantly lower. The movie 21 will not find itself on the latter list, but it is somewhat entertaining and isn't too boring (though it is never too exciting either, as it follows cliche after cliche).

The story, which is more inspired by than based upon the nonfiction book "Bringing Down the House," follows Ben (Jim Sturgess, Jude from Across the Universe) as an MIT student needing to pay for Harvard Medical School. Appling for a scholarship, the man in charge says Ben needs to dazzle, jump off the page, to get a free ride. Of course, that suggestion eventually leads to Ben's decision to join up with Professor Rosa (Kevin Spacey) and his group of students, one of which is Kate Bosworth, as they try to count cards in blackjack. I say eventually because there are two or three scenes after Rosa approaches Ben where Ben completely shuts him down. It isn't new territory to say the least when a main character denies, denies, denies, then accepts somewhat out of the blue, or after a lackluster motivational plot comes up (in this case, in the form of a check Ben's mom gives him to pay for tuition).

From there, the movie picks up, as we are introduced to another character: Vegas. Vegas becomes Ben's focal point, abandoning his two best friends and becoming the place where he says "he can become anybody." It is quite funny for him to say that, and for the other members of the group to sometimes adapt disguises to hide themselves, but Jim Sturgess never dons one until the end. Even Kate Bosworth gets in some hideous wigs and accents. Talking about accents, Sturgess's Boston accents comes and goes with hilarious effect. It is quite interesting to see after remembering his British accent in Across the Universe. Sturgess is from the UK.

Back to the plot: once it kicks in, everything you come to expect happens. Sturgess because a great card counter, invoking jealousy in one other counter, he eventually gets caught by a security guy played by Lawrence Fishbourne, Ben abandons his friends back home and starts to lose, falls out with Spacey, etc. I won't spoil the ending, but chances are, you already know it.

Despite all that, the movie is okay. Nothing too great, but nothing mind numbing. It is interesting to see card ocunting portrayed on the big screen and the system that was used comes to life quite well. Spacey plays the ambigious bad guy well (his Luthor should be as teeming with nefarious intentions under the skin as Rosa). But, in the end, the movie shows there is nothing knew under the sun and it really should have tried to take some more risks and hit on the soft 17.

2 1/2 Hand Signals out of 5.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Lost to be Canceled!

ABC quietly announced today that the hit series Lost will not have a fifth and sixth season as originally planned due to plummeting ratings. It was hoped that the move to Thursdays would help boost the faltering series, but the last three episodes before the strike-imposed break have been the lowest rated original runs in the show's history.

Lost was a huge hit when it debuted in 2004. Along with Grey's Anatomy, it helped lead ABC to the front of the ratings pack. However, after 3 and 1/2 seasons of mysteries inside of mysteries, many viewers have been left confused and subsequently, left the show. Stephen McPherson, head of ABC entertainment, had this to say, "We here at ABC love Lost, however, it is quite clear that America is no longer in love with Smokey, Jacob, and The Island. We have no choice but to pull the plug before things get too confusing. We are going to replace Lost in the short term with the new reality show Whose Eyes are Closer Together?"

Executive producer Damon Lindelof released a statement of his own: "I really enjoyed working on Lost. It has opened so many doors for me. I am now able to translate my fan fiction about Star Trek into a movie (coming out Summer 09). I never had some much fun throwing darts and writing scripts based off the position of the landing." Original creator J.J. Abrams could not be reached for comment, as he was too busy creating another show that he would leave after year two.

It was reported that upon hearing the news of the cancellation, the cast of the show, which included Matthew Fox and Terry O'Quinn, went to a local bar. The Hawaii Police is currently complaining of overcrowding of the local jail cells as the party dispersed. Jorge Garcia, who plays lovable Hurley, was not at the party, as he had already landed a role in the new Martin Scorsese picture and was in L.A. for a screentest with Leonardo DiCaprio. He is already an early favorite for the Oscars next year.

One cast member probably hit hardest by the news is Harold Perrineau. Perrineau just recently returned to the show originally leaving after Season 2. At the time, it was reported that Perrineau wanted more money. Now left with only a few episodes of work, the man who plays Michael Dawson was heard to be asking if any cities still have the need for a town cryer, hoping to parlay his skill at yelling out names into a new career. Evangeline Lilly, who plays Kate, was also seen talking on the phone about what her next career move would be: falling-from-grace starlet or another role as a corpse in a Stephen King miniseries.

As far as what is behind all the mysteries and enigmas of the show? Lindelof said this: "A wizard did it."

-Reporting by Adam Entertainment