Archive for the ‘Puppets’ Category

Your Highness (2011)

 

YOUR HIGHNESS is one of the most strangely-reviled movies of the past couple years.  Why?  2011 was a year that inflicted upon us BATTLE: LOS ANGELES, HALL PASS, SUCKER PUNCH, COWBOYS & ALIENS, SOUL SURFER, a remake of THE THING, another BIG MOMMA movie, another TRANSFORMERS movie, a Justin Timberlake action movie, a Justin Timberlake romantic comedy, an Ashton Kutcher romantic comedy, a Russell Brand movie, a Kevin James movie, two Adam Sandler movies, and like three Tyler Perry movies.  Which, by the way, were totally redundant after the BIG MOMMA movie.  There’s plenty of horseshit to revile before getting all worked up over a harmlessly crude medieval weed-comedy.  You’re really going to tell me, after that Fassbender-length list of SHAME, that YOUR HIGHNESS is the one that turns your tummies?

 

behold!

 

Yes, internet, I loved this movie.  Sorry!  Was I not supposed to enjoy a silly-stupid sword-and-sorcery movie starring Danny McBride and James  Franco?  Because it kind of feels like they made it with me in mind.  It could be a fair ways better than it is, sure, but it’s still pretty fun.  Danny McBride, his co-writer Ben Best, and director David Gordon Green deserve our lifetime allegiance for EASTBOUND & DOWN, and James Franco (you know, from SPIDER-MAN 2 and MILK and 127 HOURS and many other admirable ventures) has done plenty to earn the benefit of the doubt in his own right.

 

Film Title: Your Highness

 

Franco plays the heroic warrior on a quest to save his true love (Zooey Deschanel), who has been stolen away by a powerful and disgusting wizard.  McBride is his boorish, self-centered younger brother, forced to accompany him on his quest by their father (Charles Dance, who is now on GAME OF THRONES but is best known to me from THE GOLDEN CHILD).  Franco can be an anarchic presence himself, but here he gamely and perfectly plays the over-earnest straight man to McBride’s loud-mouthed lout.  To me, Franco and McBride’s not-even-trying British period accents and sometimes-camaraderie/ sometimes-enmity are a total gas.  I also deeply, deeply love that the guys each get BEASTMASTER-style animal sidekicks.

 

Your Highness

 

The problem with this movie, I think, is that the villains are just too gross and not at all menacing.  In this kind of effects-based comedy, the bad guys ultimately need to be a little bit scary – they can’t be competing for punchlines, the way the bad guys are here.  Think of Gozer The Gozerian in GHOSTBUSTERS, think of David Lo Pan in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, think of Victor Maitland in BEVERLY HILLS COP.  Those are solid villains because they are played as if not entirely aware they’re in a comedy.  You really believe that they want to destroy the heroes.   If Justin Theroux and, in particular, Damian Lewis had been allowed to play it straight, I think YOUR HIGHNESS would have worked a lot better.

 

Charles Dance

 

It’s probably also true that the movie is a bit remedial when it comes to the matter of women.  Zooey Deschanel is game for whatever she’s asked to do in the movie, but ultimately this is a guys’ showcase.  The attempt to include Natalie Portman as a Xena-style warrior princess who helps the brothers out is a good impulse, but as it plays, she’s just another foil for McBride, a pong-paddle to his bouncing pink ball, or balls.

 

SNAKES

 

As it is, YOUR HIGHNESS is juvenile and a bit of a mess, but it still cracks me up.  If only for the fact that it has both a minotaur and a dragon, if only for the fact that I can’t be unsure that these guys didn’t come up with most of the ideas for the movie while watching WILLOW, if only for the scene with the Wise Wizard, which I still can  hardly wrap my mind around on account of how insanely funny it is to me, this movie entirely justifies its existence.

 

MINOTAUR

 

Maybe it’s just me and my weird sense of humor.  Maybe the idea of a $50 million studio movie where two movie stars talk to a really crappy puppet is only targeted to my hyper-specific sense of humor.

 

the great wize wizard

 

Or maybe a lot of people need to lighten the fuck up.  Could be either one. Just to be safe, smile!

@jonnyabomb

P.S.  If you like YOUR HIGHNESS, check out my review of 1982’s CONQUEST.  That’s a similar movie that is nearly as funny, but not even remotely on purpose.

And this has been an expanded version of a bit I did for my pal at Rupert Pupkin Speaks.  Check his site out!

Your Highness (2011) Your Highness (2011) your_highness_ver2

Your Highness (2011)

And now, my top ten favorites of 2000-2009 starts to get explosive, with

#6.  Team America: World Police (2004)

It was a strong decade for comedy, or maybe I just enjoyed comedies more because I needed them so much.  (Depressing-ass decade.)  But of the dozens and dozens of comedies I saw between 2000 and 2009, there was not a single one funnier than Team America.  The uncensored version in particular is a guarantee that if I watch it, I will literally have trouble breathing. That sex scene… The idea that world-class technicians such as Bill Pope (The Matrix, Spider-Man 2, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) spent all that time making that scene happen… It’s all simply breath-taking.

How did this movie happen?  Who let it happen?  Can we find them, and thank them from the bottom of our hearts?

Team America is a classic American action film in the Bruckheimer/Bay tradition, where Broadway megastar Gary Johnson is recruited by a top-secret anti-terrorism unit called “Team America”, who police the world.  Throughout his adventures, Gary makes friends, finds love, and learns how to use his amazing acting to save the world.  The villain of the movie is Kim Jong-Il, who, if you don’t read the New York Times, is a real person.  He’s a flamboyant dictator who rules North Korea.  It is not known if he actually owns a piano, or giant panthers.

In answer to my earlier question, how this movie happened is that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the brilliant anarchic creators of Comedy Central’s South Park, are huge fans of both musical theater and weird old cartoons like Thunderbirds.  They’re also some of America’s most astute and sly social critics, and this movie is clearly their response to eight years of George Bush Jr.’s America.  How it happened the way it happened is that Matt and Trey had the power to get it made this way.  By all accounts, it will never happen this way again.  Team America is one big brilliant flash in the sky; in addition to all of the above it’s a tremendous satire of bombastic action films and absurd movie conventions.

The funniest part about Team America is realizing that guys like Michael Bay and Stephen Sommers totally didn’t get the joke – to the point where 2009’s G.I. Joe movie saw an Eiffel Tower scene that completely ripped off Team America’s!  There’s nothing better than comedy that has the balls to get right up under the nose of their targets.

This is brilliant satire, and at the same time, as immature and potty-mouthed as it gets.  Essential scene:  The “Pussies, dicks, and assholes” speech, obviously.

Oh yeah, and if you’re just hearing about this movie for the first time and you follow the link to that speech you will finally find what I have not mentioned so far but which you may already suspect:  Yes, the stars of Team America are marionettes.

As many great moments as we were given by Steve Carell, Seth Rogen, Will Ferrell, and all the other terrific comedians to emerge during the decade, those guys were all at a disadvantage, because they weren’t puppets.  If Matt Stone & Trey Parker didn’t bother to write a script for Team America and just did a shot-for-shot remake of some piece of shit like Van Helsing or Transformers 2, as long as they shot it with puppets they’d still have topped every other comedy all decade long.  Puppets are just that funny.

 

I could write about The Muppet Movie all day, but I have a date later and that would be a really weird excuse for missing it.  So this is just a brief note to let you know that The Muppet Movie is playing at 1pm this weekend, Saturday July 16th and Sunday July 17th, at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, as part of their amazing-looking Jim Henson exhibit.

The Muppet Movie is the first movie I ever saw.  If it was up to me and I had to go back and choose a first movie to see, that’d still be the one.  The Muppet Movie was made in the late 1970s but it still holds up today, for children and for grown-ups alike. 

It’s a legitimate miracle; a movie starring puppets who sing and dance and are thoroughly winning.  It’s all heart.  From the opening minute to the end of the credits, the illusion is somehow maintained – these are lovable characters you’ve known forever, rather than simple constructions of felt and plastic, animated by human hands and voices.  The jokes and one-liners are usually corny and probably were even at the time, but that’s somehow part of the charm.  (Not for nothing did the legendary Steve Martin, no stranger to playing at the edge of corniness, fit right in.) 

To see The Muppet Movie is to love The Muppet Movie.  Take a favorite kid or a grandparent or a date with a sense of humor, and head over to Queens this weekend.

This is a highly recommended event.  Here’s some stars to make it more momentous: 

*****

And here’s a choice excerpt:

  

Need more?  See also THIS.

 

Here’s a new movie where Amy Adams (The Fighter) and Jason Segel (I Love You Man) get some help with their struggling relationship.  There’s no getting around it: This is pretty brilliant.  Don’t let me muddy this wonderment up with too much commentary.  Just sit back and enjoy one of the greatest movie trailers of the year…

 

Black Devil Doll is screening here in New York City, presumably for April Fool’s weekend, at Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema.  The screenings are midnight showings, which gives you plenty of time beforehand to get loaded up on your mind-number of choice.  You’re gonna need it.

I’m not sure how this movie managed to get booked at such a prominent venue.  It’s kind of insane.  The booking, I mean. Even more insane is the fact that I’ve seen Black Devil Doll.  Or maybe that was predictable to everyone but me, and I just don’t realize how far down the rabbit hole I actually am.

Here’s the transcription from my movie journal, back in 2009:

“I like to eat white butt.”

That was the first line of dialogue in this thing, which I am hard pressed to even call a movie.  It’s barely over an hour, but it felt like more than that.  It looks exactly like porn, shot on video with big fake tits in abundance, but not’s not even porn.  It’s just an hour or so of a criminally perverted puppet with a giant afro who stabs dumb girls to death and then has sex with them.  (The actual mechanics of the love-making apparatus is unclear.)

What’s wrong with me that I voluntarily watch this kind of thing?  I guess it’d have been worse if I had enjoyed it… but not much worse.  Who makes this stuff?  Who pays for it?  Who picks it up with the intent to distribute?  Who spends money to see it?  Why didn’t I turn it off after five minutes?  Am I that obsessive-compulsive that I needed to see the entire thing once I started it?  Did I like this movie?  Am I thinking about it way more than the guys who made it?

Some telling psychology there, I guess.  Anyway, I stand by it.  Black Devil Doll really is loosely described as a movie.  It’s amateurish, inept, repetitive even at its brief running time, and frankly, pretty damn racist.  I know from looking at the website (which almost justifies itself by featuring a soundboard) that black guys worked on this movie, but I’m not sure that excuses it.  Of course, this is exactly the kind of notice that anyone who makes a movie called Black Devil Doll would love to get.  But there’s a difference between crass and clever, and just crass.  I may be inclined to see a ridiculous and potentially offensive movie like this one (I think it was the poster that drew me in), but without a single shred of wit, I won’t be able to recommend it.

Still, I have to consider making the screening, if only to get a few of those questions answered.