On Bad Words film review

I’ve never been disappointed with Jason Bateman, and the trend continues after seeing Bad Words (also his directorial debut). The movie follows a foul-mouthed jerk in his 40s who finds a loophole allowing him to compete in the National Spelling Bee (yep, all of his competitors are in the 8th grade or younger). Of course parents are outraged, and there’s some fun with a reporter (Kathryn Hahn) who travels with him.

Cons: I figured out the mystery of why Guy was competing relatively early on, but it was still fun watching the movie develop. Without spoiling anything, the way the competition ends is a little too sweet and expected, but I will hand it to them for adding an additional gag I didn’t see coming. The plot was a bit by the book.

Pros: Such a wonderful script. Bateman usually plays the nice guy (or in Arrested Development, the nicest in a narcissistic group), so it was fun seeing him swear at kids. There are some great jokes, wonderful cast (Allison Janney is always fun and Philip Baker Hall has such a presence). Great find in the child actor Rohan Chand, he holds his own and I could see him being successful in years to come.

Overall: 4.25 out of 5 stars. Strong performance by Bateman and great dark humor. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but solidly entertains.

This is Elliot Arthur Cross wishing you happy viewing.

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On Veronica Mars film review

I recently took a short road trip to the theaters to see the Veronica Mars movie. Here’s my history with the franchise: I never watched it when it aired, “girl teen detective” sounded really stupid to me, and eventually I let a friend lend me the three seasons on DVD. I loved them and devoured the series in 2 weeks. The kickstarter came up to fund the movie, so I helped out with a whopping dollar donation. Yep, I sure helped make it.

The film picks up years after the series ends, and embroils Veronica (the impeccable Kristen Bell) in another murder mystery back in her hometown of Neptune. You don’t need to have seen the series, but you should have if you want to get the references (season three optional).

Cons: The murder mystery part has always been the weakest point for me in the series. They usually don’t drop in any clues about the killer until Veronica figures it out. So it’s more of a ‘how will the detective find the killer’ than the audience playing ‘whodunit.’ I won’t spoil the solution, but I figured out the killer very quickly. Besides that, there’s the whole evil organization sub-plot that never gets resolved. It felt like set-up for a future movie (fingers crossed we get one). And I was bummed at some of the character deaths.

Pros: Humor, acting, script, direction. It’s a really fun movie with some big payoffs from the series. A movie continuation from a TV show could easily suck, but this was Veronica Mars at its very best. The series had great cameos from well established actors, and the movie continues that tradition (Jamie Lee Curtis, James Franco, Justin Long, etc.). The best part of season three was the introduction of Piz (played by Chris Lowell), and there’s lots of great Piz action here (I love Chris Lowell and his character, but why that horrible name?).

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars. Fun, witty adventure with high stakes and great characters.

This is Elliot Arthur Cross wishing you happy viewing.

On Stage Fright (2014) review

Stage Fright (which has nothing to do with the 1980s Italian horror film) recently came out on VOD. I’ve been looking forward to this one. And while I love musicals, horror movies, and Meat Loaf, I did not love this musical horror movie featuring Meat Loaf.

Plot: Minnie Driver appears as a Broadway star killed off in the first scene. Her agent is Meat Loaf, and she has twins (daughter Camilla and son Buddy). Fast forward 10 years, and Meat Loaf is poor and running a musical theater summer camp where his adopted children/slave laborers Camilla and Buddy work as cooks. The big show of the season is the Phantom of the Opera rip-off that Minnie Driver died in, and it seems as if the killer is returning to keep the show from performing.

Cons: The show centers around the Haunting of the Opera, an obvious Phantom of the Opera clone. Why not be original and come up with a new horror idea? Yes, Meat Loaf sings, but his talent is not utilized here. The man has been on Broadway, has performed in numerous movies and music videos, and I’ve seen him live. They could have written him better music. It seemed like characters were well thought out, but perhaps underdeveloped, which makes me wonder if there are a few scenes that were left on the cutting room floor for time and pacing issues.

Pros: Snappy script that left me chuckling a few times. Good acting. Fans of Todd and the Book of Pure Evil will recognize Hannah as the camp diva. Enough music that had me tapping along (but I could have used more). I only sort of figured out the killer (there was an additional twist I didn’t see coming, but fit). Decent set-up and well shot. Really, the movie felt like it bordered on greatness.

Overall: I so wanted to love this movie. There’s a lot going on for it. But for anyone who’s seen Project Runway, you know what I mean when I say it felt a tad safe. The envelope could have been pushed further, the script could have been sharper, etc. Still, I don’t wish for my time back and I could see the potential for rewatches. So I’ll go for 2.5 out of 4 stars. That seems fair.

This is Elliot Arthur Cross wishing you happy viewing.

On Saint Nick review

I feel like I’ve mentioned that I like horror movies, and foreign ones are fantastic. My favorite is probably Suspiria, but I’m always up for one. Thanks to Netflix, I caught Saint Nick, a Dutch Christmas themed horror originally titled Sint.

I love learning about other cultures, and part of the joy from this is seeing how the Dutch celebrate Saint Nicholas Day, which is apparently a European holiday around Santa Claus’ birthday, which is in the beginning of December. Through the movie, I learned that high school (I assume) students give gifts to each other in class after reading funny cards, and many of the gifts are sex toys. And instead of elves, Santa has black people. I guess that’s not racist. So apparently the Dutch dress up like Santa on Saint Nicholas Day, but other people put on old timey black face as Black Peter (yep, that part’s definitely racist) and they give gifts on December 5th or 6th. The plot of this movie is every time there’s a full moon on Saint Nicholas Day, then Evil Santa murders tons of people, and the government covers it up. Note that there’s a comedic element here, so it’s less cheesy than it reads.

Cons: I can’t really think of much. There was some stilted dialogue, but that’s to be expected with translations. Usually I see several aspects I’d change, but I really didn’t here.

Pros: The film looks glossy, there are funny moments, and the evil Santa actually works. I went in thinking it would be horrible, but it’s well handled. And I jumped once! I can’t think of the last time I jumped from a jump scare. The sub-plot with the government pays off, and I think it’s a fun movie.

Overall: I’m going with 3.75 out of 5 stars. Fun horror movie with a few scares that’ll teach American viewers a little about European Christmas. Check it out.

This is Elliot Arthur Cross wishing you happy viewing.