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Rating History

Funny People
Funny People (2009)
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Perhaps this movie's title led to misappropriated expectations. As a drama, it's not a bad movie at all. As a 146-minute long comedy, something went wrong here.

The run of successful comedies that Judd Apatow has been involved in is quite impressive. Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Knocked Up, Talladega Nights, and Anchor Man top the list. While "Funny People" was well crafted, and had an interesting story to tell, I couldn't get over how unfunny many of the standup routines were. None of the performances were bad. But clearly there was a dearth of material, which is quite amazing when you consider all of the fairly brilliant comedic minds involved here.

My appreciation of Adam Sandler began to wane about 10 years ago, and I'm also tiring a bit of Leslie Mann. But Eric Bana is fantastic as the wayward husband. The funniest people in the film are actually Aubrey Plaza as the quirky female standup, and Aziz Ansari and Randy.

There are plenty of funny people in this movie about funny people, but there was a striking shortage of funny material that left me fairly disappointed.

Hot Tub Time Machine
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

The title says it all. Yes, this is a film about time travel in a hot tub. And, incredibly, this is not one of those modern, brainless comedy efforts that the title might lead you to expect. It's actually fairly funny and charming effort.

"Hot Tub" is centered on three male buddies and one awkward older teen. John Cusack is the straight man, but still provides his share of laughs. Clark Duke is his awkward nephew, and Craig Robinson is one of his old friends he has lost touch with. Rob Corddry is the comedic lead as Lou. The talented Corddry has reinvented himself recently, playing the grating, obnoxious character in several recent films. He isn't very likable in this one, but he is certainly very funny.

There's no shortage of eye candy as well. And what about the amazing Lizzy Caplan, who provides yet another stellar performance, in albeit a fairly small role.

I actually admired the film's presentation of the concept of time travel. Some of it actually makes sense. Still, you won't see any science fiction or comedy awards getting thrown into the Hot Tub. But it's certainly above average, and well worth seeing.

61*
61* (2001)
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

I've never been a lover of baseball movies. That's probably because I love the game, and therefore resent the seemingly annual weak attempts to put America's pastime on the screen. And as a lifetime Dodger fan, I've also never fallen for that whole Yankee mystique thing they have going in the Bronx. But I was won over "61", Billy Crystal's account of Roger Maris' race to break the immortal Babe Ruth's single season home run record.

The film finally does justice to the plight of Maris, a humble and plain man who was painted more as the villain than the hero during that magical season. The treatment Maris received is stark and sad when presented alongside the cumulative national adoration that greeted Mark McGuire 40 years later -- even more so through our knowing eyes, given that McGuire is now an acknowledged steroids user.

The film is brilliantly cast. All other good things are found downstream from that. The talented and versatile Barry Pepper sets the tone as regular guy Maris, and Thomas Jane is equally believable as the handsome, fun-loving Mickey Mantle. The undeniable chemistry between these two, along with Chris Bauer as Bob Cerv, is the key to the film's success.

Any lover of baseball, sans Red Sox fans, will find "61" irresistible. It's got a fair amount of factual errors, but none significant enough to taint the telling of a great and mostly true story.

Time Limit
Time Limit (1957)
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Too many times, I have been somewhat disappointed by a so-called old school classic movie that I finally get around to watching. Then there are those rare moments where I stumble across a film I've never heard of, and I come away pleasantly surprised. Time Limit, directed by Karl Malden and starring Richard Widmark, Rip Torn, and Richard Basehart, falls into the latter group. While a little heavy on the dialog, it's a fine film that deserves more notoriety.

Widmark stars as a Colonel Edwards, who must decide whether Major Cargill, played by Basehart, should be court marshaled for treason for his unpatriotic deeds while in a Korean War POW camp. Other significant players are Rip Torn as one of his accusers, Carl Benton Reid as Edwards' superior, and Dolores Michaels as the stunning Corporal Evans. June Lockhart has a single scene as Cargill's troubled wife. Martin Balsam gets plenty of face time as the needling Sergeant Baker.

No need to give away the particulars of the case and partially ruin the movie, but it will be suffice to say that there are a couple of twists and turns that you half expect are coming, but they should provide plenty of surprise nonetheless.

This film compares favorably to the similar but more highly regarded Stalag 17. I only wish we had more insight into the events inside the camp. Most of the film, in fact, takes place inside Colonel Edwards' office. What we do see of the POW camp is certainly more realistic and gritty then what we got in the Stalag film.

Time Limit is a little heavy on the melodramatic dialog, but it is compelling, thought provoking material. The dialog, however, might have carried more weight if we had a little less of it, and more substantial scenes from inside that camp.

Stalag 17
Stalag 17 (1953)
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

It's easy to see why this World War II movie was so well received upon its release. It's a rarity among war films in that all of the action takes place inside the walls of a POW camp. There are numerous engaging characters presented by a fine cast of talented actors. The dialog is smartly written with a fair share of comedy and intrigue, and a realistic dose of violence.

I thought the film gave away the main twist too early. I also felt that some of the characters, specifically POWs Shapiro and Kasava, played by Harvey Lembeck and Robert Strauss respectively, were overdone, and bordered on being annoying. And that mail man. Don't get me started on him. One mail call was all I needed of that screeching, mind numbing voice. In 1953, such characters obviously struck a positive chord with the audience, but not so much with me. William Holden and a barely recognizable Peter Graves are, on the other hand, excellent in their primary roles.

Led by one of the Hollywood's best, director Billy Wilder, this is a quality production that will not disappoint. I did not, however, regard it in the upper stratosphere of movie making like many others.