The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

February 6, 2015 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Tom Kenny, Antonio Banderas, Bill Fagerbakke
Directed by: Paul Tibbitt (TV’s “SpongeBob Squarepants”)
Antonio Banderas: Glenn Berger (“Kung Fu Panda”) and Jonathan Aibel (“Kung Fu Panda”)

Making its second coming to the big screen after 2004’s “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie,” diehard fans of the long-running Nickelodeon animated TV series should be happy to see everything is working just about the same in “Sponge Out of Water,” a trippy and extremely silly adventure with a cast of characters one could only imagine were invented while dropping acid. Is it more insanely manic than first movie? Well, if over the last 11 years you’ve been able to scrape the image of a porous sponge and pink starfish riding on the shirtless back of David Hasselhoff in the ocean before he launches them like a torpedo from the center of his overly tanned pectorals , then, yes, it just might be crazier.

In this new journey under the sea, SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) must team up with the series bad guy Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) when Bikini Bottom finds itself in short supply of Krabby Patties, the delectable crabcake burger served at SpongeBob’s place of employment, the Krusty Krab. Things get apocalyptic (think “Mad Max”) when the secret formula for the Krabby Patty mysteriously vanishes sending SpongeBob, Plankton, and the rest of Bikini Bottom’s main players (Patrick, Squidward, Mr. Krabs, and Sandy) into a frenzy to get it back. This includes building a time machine and meeting an all-powerful dolphin that oversees the universe and shoots lasers out of its blowhole.

The live-action sequences of “Sponge Out of Water” don’t come until the third act of the film when the animated friends end up in the real world, this time a little more beefed up and ready to battle it out with Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas, who is also the film’s narrator), a pirate who has the secret formula in his greedy mitts. As Beard, Banderas is a hoot. It’s the type of exaggerated role he is obviously having fun with just like he did mugging for the camera in “Expendables 3.” This time, however, he can share in that childlike enjoyment while on screen with a washed-onto-shore sponge instead of a crew of washed-up action stars.

The Expendables 3

August 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford
Directed by: Patrick Hughes (“Red Hill”)
Written by: Sylvester Stallone (“Rocky”) and Creighton Rothenberger (“Olympus Has Fallen”) and Katrin Benedikt (“Olympus Has Fallen”)

The movies in “The Expendables” series should be tons more fun than they actually are. They should be winking so much at the audience that you think they’re in some sort of distress. After all, why gather up all these action movie old timers and various MMA stars in the first place if all you’re going to do is throw them into a plot that seems leftover from some direct-to-Netflix action flick they’d be starring in anyway even without the combined ‘80s star power of your Stallones and Schwarzeneggers? Not that a spoof mentality or comedic take on the genre of ‘80s action cheese is what this assemblage of actors should aspire to, but man, would it kill the filmmakers to turn out something a touch less dour and routine?

The third film in the franchise opens with Barney Ross (Stallone) leading his team of grizzled warriors on a mission to rescue their long-lost compatriot Doc (Wesley Snipes) from a prison train. After busting him out, the Expendables are sent by Drummer (Harrison Ford, snoozing) to take down a villainous warlord revealed to be Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson, digging into the role with glee) who also happens to be a cofounder of The Expendables. When his team fails, Barney fires them and decides it’s time for some new blood, soliciting Kelsey Grammar to recruit a quartet of bland youngsters who are promptly captured. So once again it is time for the old dogs–plus Antonio Banderas as a scene-stealing newcomer—to save the day and take out the bad guy.

The premise, even if it is worn out by the third film in the series, of having “action” stars of generations past (though I’m not sure Kelsey Grammar and Antonio Banderas really count at all) team up for a fresh take on a tired genre is ripe for a good time, but alas, the only people that seem to be having any fun with this material at all are Gibson and Banderas, with Gibson making his case to be a big Hollywood star again, provided he go hat in hand and apologize for his past insanity. But that’s neither here nor there, and even crackling turns from Gibson and Banderas can paint over the fact that supposed ringer Harrison Ford is so incredibly disinterested in the whole affair that he plays one confrontation scene with Stallone while standing perfectly still. Ford’s attitude was likely “Who gives a shit?” It feels like that sentiment is the defining characteristic of the whole movie.

Ruby Sparks

August 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina
Directed by: Jonathan Dayton (“Little Miss Sunshine”) and Valerie Faris (“Little Miss Sunshine”)
Written by: Zoe Kazan (debut)

Vanity Fair had the right idea late last year when it started recapping episodes of the comedy series “New Girl” by categorizing each of Zooey Deschanel’s idiosyncrasies as either “adorkable” (a personality trait described as dorky and adorable) or “tweepulsive” (the same trait, but at a more cloying level). It’s not a standard gauge for most critics, but with a surge of overly-quirky scripts like “Ruby Sparks” finding their way to the big and small screen in the last few years, it’s one that definitely needs to be adopted faster than Greta Gerwig can ride her vintage Schwinn to a nerdcore concert. Aren’t stereotypes fun?

Add the name Zoe Kazan (granddaughter of legendary director Elia Kazan) into the ever-growing list of annoyingly-charming actresses who will find it difficult to inject the right amount of cuteness into a role before someone decides they want to put a pillow over said actress’s face. The possibility for asphyxiation is two-fold for Kazan who not only stars in Sparks, but is also credited as the lone screenwriter. The story follows Calvin (Paul Dano), a novelist with writer’s block who writes a female character (with his typewriter, of course) for his new book and is stunned when she appears in the real world.

Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (“Little Miss Sunshine”), “Sparks” is a clever little idea reminiscent of 2006’s underappreciated Will Ferrell comedy “Stranger Than Fiction.” Its problem, however, lies in Kazan’s calculated screenplay, which never materializes into anything as interesting as its initial concept. Kazan shows signs of potential, but she fluffs up Sparks instead of examining its darker elements. Until she learns naming a writer’s dog F. Scott Fitzgerald is beyond pretentious (and even more so if she is being ironic), she’ll settle somewhere in the middle of the pack where writers suffering from writer’s block isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The Skin I Live In

November 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Jan Cornet
Directed by: Pedro Almodovar (“Volver”)
Written by: Pedro Almodovar (“Talk to Her”)

As Dr. Robert Ledgard sits and watches a TV screen showing the woman he has kidnapped in the next room, something inside him clicks. What was once a cruel science experiment was now something different. He has created the perfect specimen, and fallen in love with his creation. This perverse dilemma anchors the bizarre and sexually-driven Spanish art house film “The Skin I Live In,” an unsettling look into the mind and motives of a mentally-battered plastic surgeon.

After his wife had her entire body burned in a terrible car accident, Dr. Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) vows to create a new form of synthetic skin that is completely immune to burns. When his methods of experimentation come into question, he decides to perform his experiments on a woman named Vera Cruz (played by Elena Anaya) who Dr. Ledgard keeps sequestered in his mansion.  In a series of flashbacks, the audience discovers what led Dr. Ledgard to keep Vera locked up in his house.

Banderas turns in a very strong performance in a role that is hilariously juxtaposed to his other film currently in theaters, “Puss in Boots.” Banderas attacks the evil surgeon role with a cool and collected demeanor, straying away from the typical deranged madness one would see in a film with similar subject matter.  Perhaps more impressive is the brave performance from Anaya. For a good portion of the film, Anaya finds herself abused and kept against her will and does a thorougly convincing job portraying her struggles. After her full body suit comes off, Anaya’s stunning beauty is on full display. With perfect skin that is either the handiwork of a very skilled make-up team or fantastic genetics, we are able to see how Banderas has essentially crafted the perfect woman.

The film is bolstered by flawless direction by Pedro Almodovar. Every shot is perfectly constructed and vibrant, making for a gorgeous and smooth looking film. Many of the shots of the film have a throwback, almost film-noir feel to them, creating iconic and memorable imagery. Like many of his previous films, Almodovar makes use of flashbacks as a storytelling device, and does so in an incredibly effective way.  In particular, there is a confusing flashback in the middle of the film where audiences may question how relevant the scene is to the movie. However, when the big twist is revealed and the dots begin to connect, the film ascends into something uniquely twisted.

Dealing with a mad scientist who is performing surgeries to create the perfect woman, Almodovar could have easily taken the “torture porn” route with gratuitous violence and gore. Instead, what is presented is more of a psychological thriller, which helps communicate the chilling nature of the events in a far more effective and restrained manner. The audience is never overwhelmed by graphic images (other than sexual) but yet everything that happens is still completely disturbing.

With unsettling subject matter and overt sexual tones, “The Skin I Live In” is not for everyone. However, it is an unrelentingly dark and wholly unique story that, on the strength of superb direction, is far from the torture-laden gimmick that it could have become in lesser hands.

Grade: B+

Shrek Forever After

May 21, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz
Directed by: Mike Mitchell (“Sky High”)
Written by: Josh Klausner (“Date Night”) and Darren Lemke (“Lost”)

“Shrek Forever After” is being labeled as “The Final Chapter” of a 9-year-long fairytale franchise and well it should be. It’s a sequel that’s squeezing out what little magic is left in it’s ogre-sized tank. It might be superior to the slaphappy third installment in 2007, but there’s still not enough originality to make it a truly happily-ever-after.

In “Forever After,” DreamWorks Animation and screenwriters Josh Klausner (“Date Night”) and Darren Lemke (“Lost”) toss a little of Frank Capra’s classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” into the mix as a more mature Shrek returns to a Shrek-less version of Far Far Away.

With the everyday repetition of his family life (changing baby ogre diapers isn’t as adventurous as he thought it would be), Shrek doesn’t feel like the same nasty ogre that once instilled fear into everyone. Instead of running for the hills when Shrek is near, the villagers now look upon him as a celebrity.

In an attempt to revisit his glory days, Shrek signs a pact with the villainous Rumplestiltskin (Walt Dohrn), who has held a grudge with the lovable ogre since he ruined him chance to take over the kingdom years ago. All Shrek wants is one more day where he can feel like the ogre he used to be. Rumple, however, has other ideas.

Transporting into an alternative universe where he was never born, the Shrek realizes that a lot has changed in Far Far Away. Fiona (Cameron Diaz) is now a strapping warrior leading an underground ogre resistance; Donkey (Eddie Murphy) pulls a carriage for some evil, whip-whapping witches; and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) has packed on a few pounds and become a lazy house cat.

To break the spell and return to his regular life, Shrek must get Fiona to fall in love with him all over again and share in “True Love’s Kiss.” Isn’t breaking a spell with a kiss as listless as a storybook tale can go these days?

As in the last two “Shrek” movies, it’s Banderas’ Puss in Boots who steals most of the scenes. Even though there’s not much swordplay in this last film, the now pudgy feline with the Spanish accent is able to match the energy of the new characters, including an army of personable ogres (Craig Robinson and Jane Lynch give funny performances). Cameos by the Gingerbread Man (Conrad Vernon) are also enjoyable. One of the best parts of the movie is when Gingy gives his best impression of a gladiator chopping down fierce animal cookies in a coliseum.

Despite some character highlights, “Shrek Forever After” doesn’t reach the level of the first two installments. It may be the darkest of the series, but it’s light on charm and all around cleverness.