John Goodman

Review: Kong: Skull Island

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Review: Kong: Skull Island

Moviegoers first encounter Skull Island in 1933: A mystical island lost in time where monsters and dinosaurs still roamed free. That’s where a small group of humans found Kong: A giant ape that has delighted audiences for more than 70 years.

And the love people have for him still grows. Since the 30s, Kong has had several movie sequels, remakes, cartoons, comics and toys. Kong has become a pop culture phenomenon with epic proportions. So it’s no wonder that there would always be more Kong movies. This new incarnation: Kong: Skull Island, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, brings Kong back to theaters and reminds us all why he is king.

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Movie Issues: The Monuments Men

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Movie Issues: The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men is a look into the world of war through the eyes of the people who see beyond the fighting, who see what happens once the fighting is over. What happens when we, as a society, lose our history and where we’ve come from? That’s just one reason why The Monuments Men did what they felt they needed to do to save our heritage. George Clooney directs, co-writes, and stars  as Frank Stokes, who leads an Allied platoon comprised of seven museum directors, curators, and art historians. They are tasked with entering Germany with the Allied forces during the closing stages of World War II to rescue artworks, which have been plundered by the Nazis, saving them from destruction or damage, and returning them to their rightful owners.

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Movie Issues: The Flintstones

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Movie Issues: The Flintstones

Yup, your reading that right! The Flintstones, they’re the modern stone age family! What more can be said? Well plenty can be. This week the guys revisited a movie from their youth. 1994s The Flintstones, the big budget live-action cartoon adaption. And it wasn’t as bad as they thought, but did have some strange stuff going on! Please download, grab a concrete slab, get comfortable and listen in as we wonder why a kids movie has a plot about corporate espionage and embezzlement? Yea… it’s strange, but it’s a living.  Read On

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O Brother, Where Art Thou?

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Some people just don’t get the Coen brothers. I know, I used to be one of those people. Since The Hudsucker Proxy, I get them, I love them – and since Fargo, so did everyone else. O Brother is an interpretation of The Odyssey, and a Homerian love song to American roots music. Don’t let either of those facts scare you, but know that a working sense of the general idea of the Odyssey helps you appreciate the story arc (which, taken at face value, might seem a tad unreal) – but a decent knowledge of it makes it funnier. The Coens are well-known smartypants, anyway, and they also reference some musical gags to boot. They run into real life historical figures, lending credence to the mythos of the story. A scene laden with inside layers and gags is when our three boys meet Tommy Johnson at the crossroads. I had to be told about it, so your homework is to look up why that’s funny.

George Clooney – he’s funny, he’s charming, he’s erudite, and he plays cornpone better than I would have imagined. He’s Ulysses, by the way, (aka Odysseus) and drags his men all across the world looking for treasure, after a chat with the oracle, of course. John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson are his cronies, and what a fantastic ensemble! Coen vets John Goodman and Holly Hunter show their faces – it doesn’t take a genius to work out that Goodman is the cyclops! Stephen Root has a small but funny and impressive role at W E Z Y. It doesn’t matter that the story arc is a wee bit strung together, except the small disservice done the film is that the Coens seem to take it in stride that we all read The Odyssey last year and so they skip de skip from trial to tribulation, everything weaving a complicated noose that they could slip and fall into, or use to save themselves, if only they choose wisely. It’s cool, though, because if you understand the style of the Coens, and love it, you should love this one as well. It’s more Raising Arizona and Hudsucker Proxy than Fargo or Big Lebowski.

Did I mention the score! The music! Fantastic! The song you heard in the preview is pretty indicative of the musical tone of the movie, so if you don’t think you could handle that, you shouldn’t see this movie. It’s 1937 deep South Depression era cracker music, and it’s gospel, spiritual, and woeful tunes. Joel and Ethan Coen don’t spend tons of time explaining back story or motivation either, possibly because these are simple folk in a relatively simple situation, or possibly because it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters. It’s heavy on the Cletus and light on the treatise. Many of Homer’s lessons are slipped in so quietly, you have to (ahem) look them up on the web to realize they were there at all. Example: A dead father is better than one who is lost or is a coward. Not a major plot point, but dealt with. I don’t mean to make this sound like a ponderous art film – it’s really a fun, Hee-Haw revival that happens to have some seriously classical and subtle roots. Bonus: they shot a scene where they shot Tara, I swear!

My personal favorite cinematographer, Roger Deakins, bathes ol’ Mississippi with a golden glow, filling the air with portent and glamour, even when looking at the amazing cast of character actors, bizarre faces, and grungy, filthy, desperate people. Heedlessly bigoted phrases bandied about in those days are tucked into ironic little moments (I don’t want to give anything away), putting new spins on their original roots. The sirens, out of their mythological context, seem weird and random, but I wouldn’t cut their segment for anything. It’s an odd, charming movie, not for everyone, but definitely for Coen acolytes. And buy the soundtrack.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 12/22/00
Time in minutes 102
Director Joel & Ethan Coen
Studio Touchstone Pictures

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The Emperor's New Groove

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I have to admit, I was very unimpressed with the title, enough so that I put off seeing this movie until New Year’s Day, 2001. “You’ve thrown off the Emperor’s groove” was supposed to get me into the theatre? However, a dearth of available unseen movies got me in the door, and I am glad I went. It’s not a typical Disney movie, however. It does have Disney’s trademark lush backgrounds and funny visual gags and smooth style. The Emperor (voiced by personal unfavorite David Spade) shares more of his genetic makeup with Chuck Jones or Tex Avery and their ill-natured, vaguely geometric bits than with Ariel or Tarzan. By geometric, I mean to evoke the vaguely beat backgrounds of the coyote/roadrunner cartoons. The movie is sly, sarcastic, sardonic, and for me, that says “funny.” For traditional Disney devotees, it might say “too adult and mean-spirited for my taste.”

Disney may be trying to keep up with the times. They may be trying to shed the nostalgic fairy dust, just like they closed down cheesy favorite ride 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea in favor of a featureless lagoon. They may have been experimenting – though a Disney Christmastime release is usually not small potatoes. Emperor (I cannot call it “Groove”) thankfully dispenses with the groovy anachronisms in favor of an unlikely buddy story with a message and a pretty darn funny little plot against Kuzco (Spade). John Goodman is the burly, big-hearted foil to Spade, and thank goodness, since he is simply great, always. Super villainess and ex-catwoman Eartha Kitt is creepy and very funny, with Seinfeld’s Puddy (Patrick Warburton) adding extra funny. I am glad Warburton is working in animation because his voice is perfect for this kind of work.

OK, it’s funny. It’s not a Disney classic, it’s no tour de force of animation and songwriting (there is one song, and it’s just an ego trip of Kuzco’s sung by Tom Jones), but it is a very amusing, fun way to spend an afternoon. Kids taking it at face value may not get the jokes, or they may suddenly adopt a sassy tone around the house. The malice is more along the levels of an episode of Friends (except for some assassination attempts) but it’s still a bit out of the Disney ballpark. Keep your eyes open and you’ll get some extra laughs. Disney still knows how to fill the screen for all ages.

David Spade. I never find him funny, but I did enjoy his work in this film. His wickedness, ego-centrism, and leering snideness are perfect for his role, even if it makes it harder work for him to redeem himself at the end. The score is very cool as well. Catch it!

MPAA Rating G
Release date 12/15/00
Time in minutes 78
Director Marc Dindal, Roger Allers
Studio Walt Disney

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The Big Lebowski

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I don’t know what to recommend you spend for this movie. As a Coen brothers fan, I want all Coen movies to be seen by everyone. As a movie goer struggling to write reviews that will touch the people in the heartland, my automatic response is that some people just won’t like it, because they will be distracted by the things I found wrong with it, but not notice all the things that are so right with it. If you have never seen a Coen brothers movie before, do not start with this one. As a Coen brothers fan, I was disappointed – but only because their movies like Fargo and Hudsucker Proxy and Raising Arizona are such delicious treasures that an “average” one like this is a let down, but it is not by any means, a bad film. I must stress that. Two of the people I saw it with found it to be sublime and perfect. I was entertained and amused, but…well, you’ll see.

I missed writing down the name of the music archivist during the opening credits and never saw it again – but he did some amazing work. The soundtrack is really interesting and special and sold out all over town! Roger Deakins, the god among cinematographers who made The Shawshank Redemption so beautiful, is not doing anything particularly magical ALL the time, but there are some seriously cool shots.

The Big L is populated with the Working Title Films stable of actors, all good, all doing something different, and all doing something great. John Goodman is so good at being the abrasive idiot of a VietNam vet that he is, he transcends just annoying his fellow characters and starts to annoy you. But you have to forgive him because he’s great! Jeff Bridges is new to the fold, and here he is The Dude. He’s the perfect LA stoner adult who just can’t be bothered with the crazy wacky world around him. Accidentally, he is swept into the world of a man with the same name as himself (Jeff Lebowski) and we are swept along as well.

The look is sort of signature Coen- but I found it unpalatably Hollywood. Maybe because it was shot in LA, they wanted to make it flat and fake. A friend suggested the movie is in Dude-O-Vision – we see the action in the film as he does. The Dude is inundated with interesting people – the film is chock full of great characters that never get borne out – but out of sight, out of mind. Strange recurring themes like Chinamen and the randomness that plagues all real people, and the bizarrities of the truly stupid people of the world are explored lovingly. There is a lot to like and enjoy about this film. John Turturro plays a creepy bowler named Jesus (not Hay-soos, but Jee-zus) and he is so showcased and so unused. Very frustrating. Julianne Moore’s vaginal art world woman was interesting if perhaps not too much so. The Nihilists, chock full of rock and roll cameos, could have been really interesting but instead they were just…left overs.

The part where I come up with “I don’t know” is where, when the movie is over (and I had to be told it’s over in an inconsistently trite manner), I felt empty, unsatisfied, unresolved…not that I have to have pure resolution, but I felt like I had eaten a great meal and then thrown it up. It was disheartening. Perhaps, along with my friends theory of Dude-O-Vision, that habitual stoners feel like that at the end of the day as well – vaguely unsettled. They had a good day, sure, it was a cool groove, man, but what, now it’s over? What happened?

MPAA Rating R -strong language, drugs, sexuality, brief violence.
Release date 3/6/98
Time in minutes 117
Director Joel & Ethan Coen
Studio PolyGram Films