High and Low Podcast #2: Paul Thomas Anderson

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This week on High and Low, we cover the filmography of one of the most talked about and beloved directors of the last 20 years, Paul Thomas Anderson.

Thoughts or opinions about the podcast? Want to share your favorite/ least favorite Paul Thomas Anderson films with us? Feel free to comment, follow us on twitter at Simply_Film, or emails us at simplyfilmreviews@gmail.com!

Grown Ups 2 Review

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In a moment of weakness, I actually paid money to see Grown Ups 2, knowing full well what was in store for me.  As the credits rolled, I walked straight out of my showing of Grown Ups and into the first half of Pacific Rim, just to get that metaphorical taste out of my mouth. With that vitriolic opening out of the way, let’s take a closer look at Adam Sandler’s latest charade.

Directed by the incorrigible Dennis Dugan, the man shackled by the neck to the Happy Madison production company and responsible for the vast majority of Sandler flicks within the last 10 years, Grown Ups 2 is frankly exactly what you’d expect. Written by Sandler himself, it’s full of the whiney man-child shtick that we’ve seen since 1995. Perhaps more discouraging, a surprising amount of the comedy relies on fart jokes. I wish I was making that up. A word of advice to comedy writers: when you start to incorporate fart jokes into your movies, it’s time to take a step back from the writing desk and reevaluate your life.

The film stars Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, and David Spade as they come to terms with their own children becoming young adults. Grown Ups 2 is kind of a depressing movie, not because of its content, but because it strikes me as a last ditch effort of a group of washed up comedians to stay relevant. We’ve got Sandler, who’s spent his career trying to recapture his pre-1998 glory days; James, who’s popularity was in a downward spiral even at the height of King of Queens; Spade, who’s relevance dropped to nil after Chris Farley died; and Rock, who arguably has the most comedic talent of the group but seems determined not to put it to use. I will say, however, that the one bright spot was Taylor Lautner’s cameo appearance as Andy the frat boy. My guess is that’s he’s just glad to have a job after the whole Twilight Saga debacle and his enthusiasm translates to his on-screen performance.

I can’t think of a single person who thought that the extremely forgettable 2010 Grown Ups deserved a sequel. Not only that, but the story was decidedly wrapped up at the end of that film, and to expand upon it in a bland, directionless mass like this is a disservice to both the actors and the audience. I know there were some people (not me) who thought that This is the End was fantastic, and I can appreciate that, but frankly, I can’t even recommend this movie to those folks. The film is an uninspired mess that seems to exist only to capitalize on the lukewarm success of the original.

Apart from that, there’s simply not a lot to say about a movie like this. You had probably decided whether or not you wanted to see Grown Ups 2 when you saw the first trailer, and I’m here to validate those who opted not to: You didn’t miss anything. Adam Sandler’s career is slowly and steadily going down the drain, and it’s kind of a sad thing to watch. I suppose there’s nothing to do at this point except wait until the next dead-on-arrival Happy Madison flick and, with shame and embarrassment, quietly avert our gaze.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

The 5 Worst Films of 2012 (In No Particular Order)

At a certain point, I draw the line. While it is true that many films slink off quietly to die in the grey swamps of mediocrity, and every now and then a truly exceptional specimen will break the surface of stagnation like a glittering marlin, it is also true that a special recognition must be given to those films which are so bad, so gut wrenchingly beyond redemption, that they must be made an example of. Today, we’ll take a look at the absolute nadir of the 2012 cinematic experience. For a variety of reasons, the following films have distinguished themselves as the lowest of the low and represent the creative swill of Hollywood from which I desperately, though not necessarily successfully, search for an escape.

Note: In what is likely a futile attempt to preserve my tissue-thin veneer of pseudo-professionalism, I will only include films that I have actually seen this year.

Snow White and the Huntsman

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Director Rupert Sander’s fairy tale adaptation misses the mark with its uneven pacing, exceptionally lackluster acting, and uninspired writing. Not even a year has passed and I can’t remember a single thing about it besides Kristen Stewart’s scowling face mirroring my own expression of bored exasperation. My question is why this movie needed to exist at all with director Tarsem Singh’s Mirror Mirror already saturating the market with yet another aggressively mediocre Snow White adaptation in 2012.

That’s My Boy

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I have a historically low tolerance for bad comedies. My philosophy is if you’re going to sacrifice depth, plot, and characterization for jokes, I’d better be howling with laughter by the end. Not only is this film blatantly unfunny, it seems to completely misunderstand it’s target audience. Case in point: Right alongside the copious masturbation jokes that would probably cater more to the sensibilities of an 8th grader is a plot-critical appearance by Vanilla Ice of all people, who had a few hits in the early 1990’s (before the ‘supposed’ target audience was even born) before promptly and perhaps mercifully dropping off the face of the Earth. I will never be able to reclaim the two hours of my life that I wasted watching this movie.

Project X

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Why? Why? WHY does this movie exist? Who though it would be a fun or interesting experience to watch a couple of teens metaphorically masturbate for an hour and a half? Crude, dull attempts at humor and an eminently uninspired plot (the climax of which could be seen coming from a mile a way) not to mention an arbitrary and ultimately useless romantic subplot culminate in a pristine example of how not to do a found footage movie.

The Tall Man

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I cannot, for the life of me, remember why I watched this movie to the end. With plot holes the size of moon craters, some truly, truly horrible acting and teaspoon shallow characterization, this film is an embarrassment to the horror genre, and that’s saying something. Attempting, no doubt, to capitalize on the Slender-man craze of 2012, The Tall Man is a shamelessly thrown together piece of trash that literally left me shaking with rage – and not in the good way.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

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If a documentary were to be made about how not to execute a book-to-movie adaptation, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is the prime subject. I believe I tore this film apart when it first came out for being one of the biggest disappointments of the year. God awful CGI, schizophrenic direction, lackluster acting and a vigorous and whole hearted omission of everything that made the book worth reading earns this sorry and frankly upsetting excuse for a film its rightful place on this list.

That’s My Boy Review

I have a high tolerance for bad movies. I can forgive terrible plot lines, poorly thought out characters and hit or miss jokes if a film provides even a few good laughs. It was this mentality that led me to see That’s My Boy, knowing full well that it wouldn’t be a good movie, but hoping it would at least provide enough comedic moments to justify paying to see the film.

After knocking up his teacher as a teenager, Donnie (Adam Sandler) reunites with his estranged son years later in an attempt to use his son to make enough money to keep him out of jail for tax evasion. While this plot could actually create an interesting drama with the right people working on it, Adam Sandler’s presence means you can’t expect much more then terrible bathroom humor and ridiculous voices from this half-assed comedy. That being said, if you like fart jokes and the same whinny, man-child character Adam Sandler has played for most of his career, this movie is right up your alley.

Right from the beginning, I was astounded that Adam Sandler has once again proved the world wrong and managed to hit a new low in his career. One of the first scenes, where Donnie’s teacher is coming onto him, could easily be the set up for a film about the traumatizing nature of sexual abuse, but without a hint of irony the film shamelessly labels the incident and pregnancy as “awesome.”

What’s really infuriating about this movie, and Adam Sandler’s recent string of terrible films, is that Adam Sandler is genuinely not a bad actor, and can actually be funny if he tries. However, with the exceptions of Punch-Drunk Love and Funny People, none of the movies he works in are good, and they have been getting progressively worse as time goes on. I just might end up seeing the next disaster of a movie he decides to be in, just to see if it could possibly get any worse then That’s My Boy.

The only thing that kept me from breaking the scale and assigning this movie zero stars was the fact the Andy Samberg’s character was bearable, and even had a few moments of humor in this otherwise aggressively bad comedy. In addition Todd (Samberg) is the only character in the entire movie that acts like a human being, while everyone else from business executives to clergymen to high class socialites are little more then misogynistic idiots swapping stories about how they wished they had banged their teachers. The fact that Vanilla Ice playing himself is not only a major character in the movie, but one of the best characters in the movie should be a testament to how poorly written and all around unwatchable this film really is.

Rating: ½ out of 5