Stacey Travis

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What Planet Are You From? Review


Weak
It's always a shame to see great comedic minds fall so far from the mark. Garry Shandling is a funny man. Just check out any episode of The Larry Sanders Show. He has a wonderfully dry wit and is downright hilarious without drawing overt attention to himself. I just want to know what the hell happened to What Planet are You From?

Simple story line: Alien must come to Earth and impregnate female human being to establish future dominance of his planet's race. Comedic premise: Alien must learn how to communicate to female human beings. Comedy rolls on: Alien encounters and makes ass of himself to female human beings. Comedy continues: Alien tracked by rogue FAA agent. Comedy continues even more: Alien meets female human and falls in love. Cue drama. That's about it.

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Ghost World Review


Excellent
It's been seven years since director Terry Zwigoff impressed moviegoers with his documentary Crumb, an uncomfortable look at pop comic artist R. Crumb and his disturbing, grotesque, dysfunctional family. Zwigoff's ability to make viewers squirm and laugh at the same time is again in full bloom, with the fictional Ghost World, a funny, sympathetic look at a whole new group of awkward, unhappy people.

Based on a comic/graphic novel by Daniel Clowes (who co-wrote the screenplay adaptation with Zwigoff), Ghost World provides the point-of-view of young Enid, just out of high school, and aimless in both direction and identity. In the able hands of Thora Birch, who's already suffered the ennui of suburbia in American Beauty, Enid is a caustic, sarcastic, yet charming, sweetie. Birch is in practically every scene of the film, and anchors it with perfect tone.

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Playing God Review


Weak
Extremely uneven movie about a defrocked L.A. surgeon/drug addict (Duchovny) who falls in with a two-bit mobster (Hutton) and his gorgeous moll (Jolie). A curious premise and a strong antihero are wasted, though, because Playing God has virtually no plot to speak of, which, you know, can be a hindrance to a movie from time to time.

Bandits Review


Good

There's a certain manifold, id-fueled whimsy to Barry Levinson's lighter movies that make them feel like carousel rides for grown-ups. From "Diner" to "Wag the Dog," his pictures are packed with enjoyably idiosyncratic characters, every one of them a frolicsome horse of a different color that from their opening scenes feel like friends (even the amoral ones).

In "Bandits" it's a pair of resourceful serial bank robbers and a maniacally disheartened housewife whom you can't wait to take for a ride.

Conspicuously charming, mannerly Joe Blake (Bruce Willis) and precariously nervous hypochondriac Terry Collins (Billy Bob Thornton) are amusingly winning jailbirds from the moment they spontaneously hijack an unexpectedly accessible cement mixer to bust out of the slammer. You cheer them on as they barrel the rig through back yard fences to evade the cops, and you grin when Joe says, "Ma'am, don't forget your purse" as they carjack a Subaru from a suburbanite.

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Ghost World Review


Good

It seems only natural that eccentric underground director Terry Zwigoff would follow up his acclaimed documentary of eccentric underground cartoonist R. Crumb with an adaptation of an eccentric underground comic book. But "Ghost World" is more than an adaptation -- it truly looks and feels as if the pages of the 1990s teen alienation anthology have come alive.

Every shot is photographed like a frame in a comic book. The palate of primary colors is an homage to the art form (although not directly to "Ghost World," which was drawn in black and white). The terse but pithy characters even speak in musing snippets short enough to fit in a dialogue bubble. And each of those characters is so well drawn -- in terms of performance, body language and wardrobe -- that simply looking at a still from the movie you can glean their entire personalities.

Published in the mid-90s, "Ghost World" was a comic about two misanthropic out-crowd teenage girls set adrift after high school graduation in a loathsome, nondescript semi-suburban world of Starbucks and strip malls. They have a plan to find McJobs and get an apartment together, but stubbornly proud pariah Enid (played with pitch-perfect, sardonic, anti-social waywardness by "American Beauty's" Thora Birch) is procrastinating, subconsciously unwilling to grow up and become just another cog in the wheel.

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Intolerable Cruelty Review


Weak

Like a bride who marries a man with bad habits thinking she'll be able to change him, in "Intolerable Cruelty," the eccentric writing-directing brothers Joel and Ethan Coen have married themselves to someone else's original script and the union hasn't turned out as happy as they'd hoped.

Aspiring to the snappy banter and chemistry of a Howard Hawks comedy, the unconventional brains behind "Raising Arizona," "Fargo" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" cast George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones as L.A.'s slickest divorce lawyer and the indomitably alluring serial gold-digger who ironically sets his heart aquiver.

The brothers rewrote the screenplay with distinctively Coen quirks, like Clooney's menacing, 87-year-old prune of a senior partner, who spends his fish-eye-lensed scenes attached to a life-support machine in a forebodingly dark, wood-paneled office. But between the picture's high-gloss big-studio sheen (something the brothers aren't accustom to) and its sometimes pedestrian high-camp conventions, "Intolerable Cruelty" seems to have lost both the underlying savvy that gives Coen Brothers comedies their soul and the evenly matched gender rivalries that gave Hawks' romances their heart.

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Soul Plane Review


Good

It may be crude, it may be lewd, it's certainly slapdash and stupid, but the steadily and readily hilarious "Soul Plane" stays in the air on nothing but a jet-powered fuel of out-loud laughs from very lowbrow comedy.

The flick takes place onboard the maiden flight of NWA, the first black-owned airline, started by an obnoxious layabout (the forgettable Kevin Hart) who trots out a sob story and wins an excessive $100 million award in a lawsuit against another air carrier after getting stuck in 747 toilet. (Well, that and a luggage compartment depressurized in flight, sucking his checked dog into an engine.)

It's a plotless premise on which to hang a string of largely unrelated gags, but with such a traffic jam of ribald cultural raillery, the movie actually is at its worst when newbie director Jessy Terrero tries to shoehorn in an off-the-shelf romantic subplot between the jokes.

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Stacey Travis Movies

What Planet Are You From? Movie Review

What Planet Are You From? Movie Review

It's always a shame to see great comedic minds fall so far from the mark....

Ghost World Movie Review

Ghost World Movie Review

It's been seven years since director Terry Zwigoff impressed moviegoers with his documentary Crumb, an...

Advertisement
Bandits Movie Review

Bandits Movie Review

There's a certain manifold, id-fueled whimsy to Barry Levinson's lighter movies that make them feel...

Ghost World Movie Review

Ghost World Movie Review

It seems only natural that eccentric underground director Terry Zwigoff would follow up his acclaimed...

Intolerable Cruelty Movie Review

Intolerable Cruelty Movie Review

Like a bride who marries a man with bad habits thinking she'll be able to...

Soul Plane Movie Review

Soul Plane Movie Review

It may be crude, it may be lewd, it's certainly slapdash and stupid, but the...

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