“I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell,” based on a book by author Tucker Max, spent a few weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. Forgive the disrespect, but who in the heck is Tucker Max? Clearly the man has some sort of following, necessitating a feature film version of his successful novel (though let’s be fair here, both Artie Lange and Tori Spelling also scored time on the Bestseller List). After seeing the picture, perhaps it’s best to keep a safe distance from Max, since he comes across as a truly nauseating human being. Who knows how the man conducts himself in civilian life, but as a force of entertainment nature, he’s the worst thing to happen to cinema in a very long time.
Character dining at Walt Disney World is always a mixed bag. Elementary culinary experiences aimed toward the Duggar crowd of mass appeal, these family feasts are a chance for broods to chow in total chaos while costumed icons roam the floor encouraging photo and autograph interaction. It’s really never about the food at these establishments, only the easy-peasy face time with characters that would normally be a hassle and a half to tackle within a theme park. Still, Disney does cough up a little extra effort for these daily events, leading me to visit the restaurant Chef Mickey’s, located in the Contemporary Resort.
Had Jim Henson simply rested after giving the world The Muppets, nobody would’ve complained. After all, that Kermit-led revolution changed the face of family entertainment and restored some needed edge to G-rated comedy world. However, Henson was an energetic, curious creator, which led to a follow-up project that ate away years of his life, severely challenged the agility of his performers, and solidified him as an absolutely dazzling filmmaking architect. The picture was “The Dark Crystal.”
What if Joel Schumacher made a film and nobody cared? No, not “Tigerland,” this time it’s the ominously titled “Blood Creek,” a horror picture that Lionsgate Films (the blue ribbon brand of genre quality) is giving the “Midnight Meat Train” shiv treatment, dumping the film into grubby second-run theaters without a peep of promotion. Keep in mind this is the same company that willingly gave the wretched “Gamer” a 2,500 screen release a few weeks back, so clearly Schumacher must’ve irritated someone of great power to see his movie dumped so unceremoniously.
There are certain decisions a film production can make that will immediately cast doubt on the mental capacity of those in charge. Hiring irritating actors Judy Greer and Dan Fogler to play buddy roles in “Love Happens” is a terrific way to state to the audience that filmmakers have little to no imagination, looking to the routine and the tiresome to squeak by with a minimal amount of effort. “Love Happens” isn’t a horrendous picture, but it could’ve been so much more vital and textured, and it could’ve done without the wretched BFF sleepwalking of Fogler and Greer.
Grief, death, and rusty scissors collide in Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist.” A metaphysical sojourn with cinema’s loudest spoilsport, the picture stuns and sickens, almost daring viewers to keep watching as it articulates the ravages of the unwound mind, filling the frame with demented acts of unspeakable violence and deeply considered thematic stimulation. For fans of Trier, “Antichrist” is a return to his once irresistible provocative appetites, shamelessly exploiting suffering and misogyny to generate the outrage that fuels his daydreams (and bank accounts). It’s a pitch-black torrential downpour of pain, and should only be approached by those willing to allow Trier 100 precious minutes to play his madcap mind games.
Using Judi and Ron Barrett’s beloved 1978 book, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” as inspiration, the big-screen adaptation takes off in its own special direction, mixing clever cartoon timing with an Irwin Allen valentine, emerging as one of the strongest CG-animated efforts of the year. Energetic and dripping with the sort of cutting-edge, reference-heavy humor that rules the genre today, “Meatballs” makes for a hilarious and obviously mouth-watering sit, the hunger dialed to impossible levels if viewed in a house of 3-D.
Let’s put aside the obvious blunders of the horror comedy “Jennifer’s Body” for a moment and focus on the major howler of the picture: an emo band is selected to be the agent of Satan in the story. Not Judas Priest or Dio, but a guyliner-wearing, whimpering-vocals emo band. Now where’s the PTA-alarming fun in that? The popped-collar doomsday device is only a tiny portion of the troubles that plague this uneven, obnoxious picture, but with a script that tinkers with teens, sex, and Lucifer, peeling metal out of the mix is not a bright way to kickoff a tale that reaches for a specific tone of wickedness.
There’s an exclamation point in the proper title of “The Informant,” but I’m not sure why. Nothing happens in the film that warrants such dramatic punctuation, but I assume it means something special to director Steven Soderbergh. It’s getting to be a private carnival for the once engaging filmmaker, who appears to be chasing a Peter-Sellers-meets-Forbes bite for his latest picture, only to bury the jokes in three feet of baffling stylistic choices and tin-ear scoring. “Informant” takes some exertion to appreciate, but the payoff doesn’t quite reward the moviegoing effort.
There’s a not a single moment in the new musical drama “Broken Hill” that’s original or fresh. Films of this ilk, inspirational and romantic (to a certain degree), are typically judged by their storytelling fervor, and “Broken Hill” gets by with just enough enthusiasm to help block out the photocopied screenplay and the pedestrian dramatics perhaps better suited for a television series. However, there are morsels of good-natured inspirational intentions here to help the film scurry away from the chore it might’ve become without its amiable personality.