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This is a repository of the personal thoughts of Joshua Dudley. Theoretically this will be updated daily.

Bad Santa

Bad Santa

 

The first thing that you need to know about Bad Santa is that it has the most bad language in a theatrical movie release since South Park. The title character throws around the “F” word so much you’d think he was getting paid for using it. I wouldn’t normally throw out this kind of disclaimer for a movie, except that it’s been said that some mothers were bringing their kids to see it because it has the word “Santa” in it.

 

With that being said, Bad Santa is one of the funniest, dirtiest movies I’ve ever seen.

 

There really isn’t that much of a plot. Bad Santa is based on a simple premise, and is completely character driven. But the plot must first be explained before we can go on.

So I will do my best to break down the subtleties of this movie’s various twists and turns. Ahem.

 

Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) and Marcus (famous midget actor Tony Cox) are con men who only work once a year. During December they get jobs as a shopping mall Santa (Billy Bob) and his elf helper (Tony Cox). After the security guards lock up the place at the end of the last shopping day of the year, Marcus, hidden inside the mall, turns off the alarms and he and Willie go on a thieving shopping spree.

 

This arrangement would probably work out beautifully except for the fact that Willie is an enormous drunk with a horrible temper. This fact is brought to the attention of the head of mall security (Bernie Mac) by the mall manager (John Ritter).

 

Willie sees a cop snooping around his apartment one day and decides it’s time to leave. In a bizarre story twist, he stays at the house of one of the kids who came to see Santa at the mall. The kid seems badly retarded, and the only other resident of the house, his grandmother, isn’t all there either, so Willie takes advantage of their hospitality, taking the family car, eating the kid’s chocolate, and generally making an ass of himself.

 

Okay, you got me. Honestly this movie couldn’t really happen. Billy Bob is rude, crude, and obnoxious to every single kid who climbs on his lap to tell him what they want for Christmas. He would have been fired in a second because of the overwhelming number of parent complaints. However, Marcus, the co-star of Bad Santa plays the Santa’s helper role to the hilt, the same as you might expect to see in any big mall during Christmas. John Ritter always looks as if he wants to pee himself when discussing or watching Billy Bob’s antics and Bernie Mac pretty much plays Bernie Mac, which means he is wildly funny with his straight ahead, crude, and sarcastic sense of humor and sharp tongue.

 

Can you imagine anything funnier than a mom bringing her child up to see Santa on his lunch break and Santa screaming, “Get the F--- away from me! Can’t you see I’m on my F—ing lunch break!” all the while with lettuce and snot flying out of his lips and mouth. If that sounds funny to you, then you need to watch Bad Santa desperately. If it doesn’t, then your sensitive ears should be nowhere it.

Timeline

Timeline

 

This movie for me was a pre-Thanksgiving tradeoff – I got to watch a movie for free with my parents paying for it, but it wasn’t exactly the most thrilling movie I’ve seen since Kill Bill: Volume 1 (highly recommended) came out a few months before this review.

 

So then, If I had to use one word to describe Timeline, a movie debuting with much hype for its star, Paul Walker, and a heavy pedigree, with Richard Donnor (of the Lethal Weapon movies) directing, and the script adapted from best-selling sci-fi author, Michael Crichton; what would that word be? The word that I would use would be “average”, and if pressed for a second word, I would say without hesitation “entertaining”. Yes, it was an average but entertaining film.

 

The plot is a fairly straightforward affair as megastar pretty-boy Paul Walker (star of the Fast and the Furious franchise) discovers to his badly acted chagrin, that his father, apparently the most brilliant scientist of all time, somehow discovered a “wormhole” leading to 1357 France which he promptly became trapped in. Shortly thereafter, Walker’s character, Chris, is sent by the government along with a rescue team, into the wormhole to find his father. The only catch is that they have to return in only a few hours otherwise they’ll be lost in time forever.

 

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything for the audience by saying that the plan doesn’t exactly go as planned. The excitement of the movie doesn’t go as well as planned either. Paul Walker bored me to tears in this movie. He displayed no range of character, did nearly nothing onscreen, and just seemed to be lurking about occasionally to get “face time”. And of course he gets the girl naturally. Sure, why wouldn’t he?

 

As for most of the other characters, they were awkward movie stereotypes: the military man with a hidden agenda, the gawky scientist that runs around googly-eyed and talking in high pitched tones the whole time, and the government employees who weren’t telling the whole truth of the operation to the rescue team.

 

So, despite the fact that most of the acting performances were poor, the other leading man in the picture (Gerard Butler) was surprisingly charismatic as he ran around 1357 France saving the damsel in distress, and sticking swords in people at the appropriate times.

 

And I didn’t really touch on how slapdash the plot seems, as it features several leaps of reality. The first is how quick the scientific explanation is for the government being able to send people back in time through a wormhole. It’s almost like if you say it fast enough you might be able to slip it past the audience. At least it seemed to me like they were going for that. Additionally, the rescue team themselves escapes capture and death several times, and are able to find each other in a relatively large area easily when separated.

 

Getting back to the beginning of the review, the movie is at least relatively entertaining, since it maintains a fast pace (which helps cover up the flaws) and features lots of killing, explosions, and even a little time for romance.

 

Admittedly the less keen eyed viewer may actually wholeheartedly like this film, but for the rest of us, it earns a shrug and a one thumb up.

xmlns:w="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:word" xmlns="http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40"> As I was leaving the movie Elf, I saw a bald frowning man with his two daughters

ELF

 

As I was leaving the movie Elf, I saw a bald frowning man with his two daughters. Looks like you could use some Christmas cheer, I said. I asked him if he was going to see Elf, and he asked me how it was. “Big, dumb, and silly” I told him. His face brightened up right away. “That’s the best kind isn’t it?” he said. “Yeah” I told him. “You’re going to like it a lot. It’s real silly. Merry Christmas.”

 

Will Ferrell is a nonstop joy as a human raised by Santa’s elves in a film that asks you to check normal reality at the front door and surrender to the whimsical giddy fantasy world that this movie takes place in. The scenes in Santa’s workshop look strikingly similar to other movies with Santa Claus in them. Basically this means that the colors red and green are everywhere, as are cheerful elves making toys in assembly lines or in a row at large tables. Will Ferrell is twice as big as these elves are and he really gets into the character (aptly named Buddy), playing him as a bright-eyed grinning little boy trying desperately to fit into the little desks and outfits too tight for him as he attempts to be a human in an elf world. Everything in Santa’s workshop is just so precious.

 

Okay, so what happens for the whole rest of the movie is that Will Ferrell discovers that he has a real father who works in New York; and so just like any kid, he wants to go see him and tell him that he loves him. So for the next long while its your typical fish out of water story as he gets hit by cars, works at a toy store, falls in love, discovers he has a half brother, tries desperately to get his father to love him, and helps the people of New York City discover the true meaning of Christmas. Oh yeah, did I mention he’s dressed like an elf for almost the entire movie?

 

The rest of the cast plays off Ferrell’s manic energy with ease. James Caan is his, suspicious that the wacko in an elf suit is really his son, father. Bob Newhart puts in a tender performance as Papa Elf, who raised Buddy since he was a baby. Zooey Deschanel plays the girl who works in the toy store that falls for his big heart and silly ways.

 

Okay, so what’s funny about this movie exactly? Only just about everything. Will Ferrell is hilarious and he puts his heart and soul out there for this performance. A car hits him, and Buddy bounces up like some weird toy apologizing to the person that hit him. The scenes of him in the toy store getting chased by the toy store Santa and arguing with the store manager about the store’s Christmas display (This is the North Pole. No it isn’t. …This is the North Pole) are just priceless.

 

Okay. So will you like it? Have you been reading this article very closely? Didn’t you figure out yet that this movie is so hilarious that I have to call it that only because a better word hasn’t presented itself yet? If you enjoy any kind of physical comedy (pratfalls a plenty), then you should watch Elf. In fact, the only type of people that I would not recommend watch this movie are those with severe health or mental problems, and parents that are certain that their children will imitate any bizarre behavior that they see in movies.

 

Disclaimer: Okay, the ending feels just a little bit schmaltzy and tacked on, but its okay. Trust me. By the time you’ve been watching Elf for that long, you’ll buy into the contrived silliness. It won’t even matter that if you thought about it logically it didn’t seem to fit in exactly with the whole rest of the film. Nope, doesn’t matter a bit, just sit back and enjoy the ride.



It has been several years since a John Grisham film was released and since the last movie, Gingerbread Man (1998), considerabl

RUNAWAY JURY

 

It has been several years since a John Grisham film was released and since the last movie, Gingerbread Man (1998), considerably under whelmed at the box office; many people wondered if a new John Grisham movie would ever come about. When I first heard of the film, I figured that the audiences would stay away since the market for political and investigative thrillers has been so completely saturated the last few years by network television fare such as Law and Order and CSI. In fact, my friend had to mention the film to me on at least three separate occasions to convince me to go. So I went, more under the influence of guilt, than any actual excitement for the film.

 

The first bad sign for this movie was when I used my AMC 24 movie card at the box office and didn’t get anything free. The second was when there was an “explosive” office murder sequence followed by a “three years later” heading on the screen to setup the movie. I thought only Matlock episodes did that sort of thing in the “crime drama” setting.

 

All right, enough grousing, let’s talk about the rest of the movie. In the next five minutes following the three years later opening, we are introduced to the main characters that we will be ruminating over for the duration of the film. Also introduced is what the film is about exactly. Despite the title of the film, it is not about a jury that has fled the courtroom setting because they didn’t want to “rat out” anyone. It is also not advice for the jury to leave. I believe after some thinking that it is about how the jury process has run amok in America’s high profile legal battles. Yes, I’m sure that’s basically what it is about.

 

So before I rip this movie to shreds, let me give you a basic rundown of the story and how the main characters fit into the whole thing.

 

As I said before, at the beginning of the movie there is a murder in an office. A madman starts shooting and the main character onscreen (Jeremy Piven I think) ducks into his office with his secretary before getting killed. This whole part is one of those classic “Don’t OPEN THAT DOOR!” kind of scenes, and I thought it was too over the top, a little unrealistic, and quick for a political thriller to open with.

 

Okay, so 3 years later the dead man’s wife hires a brilliant and honest lawyer (Dustin Hoffman) to sue the gun manufacturers of the gun that shot her husband. The gun manufacturers in turn hire the best sneaky lawyer money can buy (Gene Hackman) to ensure that the court proceedings go their way. Hackman and his legal team don’t disappoint, as they quickly setup a sort of base camp nearby loaded with video equipment and computers to be used for the purpose of communicating with their representative inside the courtroom who has a listening device inside his ear. Hackman sets about eliminating potential jurors that he feels wouldn’t be so kind to his side of the story. All goes according to plan until a jury member (John Cusack) with his own agenda and an outside agent (Rachel Weisz) begin eliminating other jury members and gaining their trust in order to sway them to whichever side (Hackman or Hoffman) forks over ten million dollars.

 

So that’s the plot line there. A whole lot of really intriguing backdoor maneuverings go on so often in this picture that you really have to be paying close attention to follow it all. I thought the dialogue felt a little bit stilted and forced in the first twenty minutes, indicating to me that the whole “setup” part of the story was the movie maker’s least favorite task. They wanted to hurry up and get to the good stuff. Fortunately, the good stuff is great stuff. Oh man, this movie had me rolling after a while. The characters are so sharply drawn over their battle lines, and each side fights so viciously that its intensely fun to watch.

 

Cusack is sneaky, Hackman is just plain mean, Weisz is beautiful, smart, and deadly, and Hoffman is an honest principled lawyer. Put them all together and you have a dynamo of a film.

 

The movie detective says: watch it if you like intense action …of the mind.



I didn’t quite know what to expect when I sat down to watch the movie Radio

RADIO

 

I didn’t quite know what to expect when I sat down to watch the movie Radio. “It’s Rudy mixed with Forrest Gump”, was the reaction of many people on the internet after watching the movie trailor. I knew also that other films about people handicapped in some way usually have them overcoming some sort of obstacle that seems insurmountable, and it has an inspirational message that usually gets people all teary eyed by the end of the film.

 

But Radio was different. There is no movie cliché here about the handicapped man that could paint or play football like the trailor would lead you to think. This movie doesn’t even pretend to have much of a story behind it. Instead of all those other things, this is a film built solidly on the themes of love and compassion for one’s fellow man. It’s so refreshing, honest, and heartfelt that it seems like a throwback to simpler times without being trite or naive in any way.

 

Based on a true story set in the 70s, Ed Harris stars as Harold Jones (known as Coach Jones in the film), football coach and sports director of a small South Carolina high school, who befriends a mentally retarded black man (Cuba Gooding Jr.) after he discovers his football team has cruelly bound and gagged him inside a storage shed. Because of his great love of singing and dancing around the radio, and also because he wouldn’t talk much right after the attack, Coach Jones calls him Radio, and sets out helping him to lead a better life. From here on out, Radio is a fixture on the sidelines of the high school team’s football and basketball games.

 

Cuba Gooding Jr. brings this character to life (the false buck teeth help) with a staggering amount of raw emotion. He plays Radio like a frightened little lost boy who has been given the greatest chance a boy could ask for – a chance to help out the football team in any way they need. Radio brings the team water, he fetches balls for them, and he cheers for them on the sidelines. The character is truly a wide-eyed innocent, genuinely believable, and may sway over a lot of cynics of so-called “family fare.”

 

At one point, it is the typical film in one sense – it shows how we can mistreat others different from us. Radio is taunted, teased, and bullied by the football team, and he is thought of as a distraction to the football and the basketball season by a lot of the local fans, and a danger to the kids of the school by people in the community.

 

I loved what Ed Harris did in this movie. As Coach Jones, he was a kind and compassionate man who was constantly being pushed in one direction or the other, and he stood firm and unwavering in his beliefs of what was right. While being a friend to Radio, and coaching a football team, he was also a loving husband, and a father to a daughter on the cheerleading team. Whenever a problem arose, his daughter becoming jealous of the time he spent with Radio for instance, he tried to do the right thing in correcting the problem. If only every dad behaved this way.

 

After the show was over, I overheard many people talking about how wonderful the movie was, and how good it made them feel. I can only imagine that if the film wasn’t based on a true story, then film critics would have derided the Coach Jones character for being a cliché, and the Radio character for being too simplistic. I’d like to let you know that there’s nothing the world needs more than love. I want you to know how much I think of the movie Radio. Go watch it if you’re prepared to have your heart grow two sizes in one day.

 

 

 

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