The High Five Episode 40 – Toy Movies

On this week’s episode, I’m running down some of the most interesting films based on toy lines, most of which began when I was a kid! Along the way, I recount my personal history with the toys as well as the movies and even give some history as we go. For sources I used the He-Man, Transformers, G.I. Joe and Barbie episodes of the excellent Toys That Made Us series on Netflix as well as some real life books: The Official 30th Anniversary Salute To GI Joe 1964-1994 by Vince Santelmo and The Art Of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe by Tim and Steve Seeley.

Here’s a fan reconstruction of the Universal Conan show that got Gary Goddard the job directing Masters Of The Universe!

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Little Movies, Big Casts: Spring Breakdown (2009) & The Air I Breathe (2007)

The combination of Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch sold me on watching Spring Breakdows as I’m not much of Parker Posey fan. It seems fairly obvious from watching the movie, though, that Posey wasn’t the first choice to play Beck St. Germaine as she basically plays a Tina Fey character. I would like to think that if Fey was in this movie it would be a lot better, but then again I was pretty disappointed and I find Poehler and Dratch to be great comediennes. The story follows three friends as they head to spring break to keep Posey’s boss’s daughter out of trouble, but as it turns out, the daughter is just a big nerd. There’s a current of lameness that seems to run under this movie at all times that seeps into the performances, dampening all of them except for Seth Meyers’ which is solid throughout his few scenes as Dratch’s gay fiance. But even his performance can’t elevate this very been-there-done-that movie. And again, this cast is crazy stacked with talent. Aside from the three leads, you’ve got Amber Tamblyn, Mae Whitman (Anne from Arrested Development), Sarah Hagan (Buffy, Freaks & Geeks), Jane Lynch, Will Arnett and even a brief cameo by Jack McBrayer (Kenneth from 30 Rock). And it still falls flat. Laguna Beach fans might want to take note that Kristen Cavaleri’s in the movie, but I’m guessing the director wasn’t too pleased with her performance as I, a recovering¬† LB fan, didn’t even notice her until about 3/4 of the way through the movie where she finally says something. There’s even a sexy talent show dance where she barely appears because, I’m guessing, she can’t dance.

Anyway, avoid this one. It’s played way too goofy and not in an ironic way, though it is nice to see Poehler playing a smarter character than Leslie Knope. I guess there’s a reason that some movies go straight to video.

While still not a great movie, The Air I Breathe was much better than Spring Breakdown, though comparing a goofy and boring spring break movie with a drama about emotions and people and how those people and emotions are connected probably isn’t an even one to make. Before getting into the plot, which I probably don’t completely understand, I want to give you a cast list. Ahem. Kevin Bacon, Brendan Fraser, Andy Garcia, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Emile Hirsch (completely didn’t recognize him, but knew he looked familiar), Forest Whitaker, Kelly Hu and John Cho are all in this movie. Okay, so here’s the deal as far as I can tell. Brendan Fraser can see the future. He works as muscle for Garcia’s mobster. Fraser kind of convinces Whitaker to try and rob a bank which goes wrong. Fraser then has to show Hirsch, playing Garcia’s visiting nephew, how not to get killed while being a mobster. Fraser sees Hirsch getting killed in a vision but somehow prevents it. Then, in exchange for not killing a guy, Garcia gets SMG’s pop star managing contract and puts Fraser in charge of her safety. They fall in love. It gets weird from there and a little circular, but I don’t think the way the movie ends makes sense compared to what you just saw a little while before. Basically, I’m not sure what happened to Fraser because I was working while watching.

Did anyone else watch this movie? I’m kind of surprised it didn’t make it to theaters with such an impressive cast and it’s not a bad movie by any means, but just more confusing that it should be. Fraser also plays his roll a bit too over dramatically for my taste, but everyone else seemed on point.

Smokin’ Aces (2006)

2009-01-30
12:27:45 am

I really, REALLY wanted to like Smokin’ Aces when it came out in 2006. A bunch of us from Wizard were so psyched that we went to see it in the theater and man was I disappointed. I wanted so much for it to be this awesome battle of crazy hired killers killing each other at breakneck speeds. But, that’s not exactly what we got.

So, like I said I was disappointed. But sometimes I don’t like something because it doesn’t match up to my expectations, not necessarily because it’s a bad piece of work. For instance I hated Superman Returns when I first watched it. That sure as heck isn’t the Superman I’ve been reading about since I was a kid (the same reason I don’t like the original Superman movies either, but that’s a discussion for another time). But, upon further viewings I like the movie more. I’m not in love with it (Superman has a KID!) and it’s not even close to my top 20 (maybe even 50) comic based movies. I don’t really agree with the director or writers choices, but it’s a well put together movie.

I can’t say that’s the same case with Aces, though. The movie suffers from all kinds of pacing issues and an overwhelming amount of information, characters and business. Plus, you’ve got the bid end twist (which is incredibly telegraphed, too much I’d say) and then the VERY end is just ridiculous (why the heck would they let him in the room?). The alternate “Cowboy Ending” makes a LOT more sense, though it wouldn’t have made up for the whole thing. I feel like there’s a really good story in there somewhere, but frankly, it’s buried under a mountain of other unnecessary bits of business. The last 20-30 minutes have so many head-slapping and scratching moments that it really kills the movie.

There are some fun moments and bits that have more to do with casting and coincidence than the story. The redneck brothers have a pretty cool shoot-out with blades, guns, a rocket launcher (?) and a chainsaw that’s too short, but still great. Basically, it’s what you expect from the whole movie, but it only lasts a few minutes and resolves itself oddly. Aside from that and one other shoot-out, though, the movie lacks action. It doesn’t lack an awesome cast though. Here’s a brief list: Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Ben Affleck, Peter Berg, Common, Andy Garcia, Nestor Carbonell, Jason “Everything’s Better with Bateman” Bateman and even a small roll for Matthew Fox.

Oh, and those redneck brothers I mentioned? They’re made up of Keamy from Lost, Kirk from the new Trek movie and another guy. Yup that makes THREE Lost cast members in the flick and I still didn’t like it. What are the odds?!

All this being said, I would definitely check out the rumored sequel called Smokin’ Aces: Blowback, though I probably won’t shell out $10 again to see it in the theater. For my money, I’d rather check out a Shoot Em Up sequel, because that movie was exactly what I wanted it to be.