Tag Archives: Neil Patrick Harris

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (2011, Todd Strauss-Schulson)

From the title A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas sounds like a TV special, not a 3D movie extravaganza and director Strauss-Schulson feels the need to prove it every four minutes or so. Harold & Kumar often has pointless (if occasionally amazing) 3D set-pieces but they eventually stop.

They stop after writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg find their footing. There’s a big concept to Harold & Kumar this time and it shows why one of these movies should never, ever have a big concept.

But Hurwitz and Schlossberg, during all that problematic plotting, still come up with some hilarious jokes. For the first fifteen minutes, though, many of those jokes fall flat.

The returning love interests make the movie drag. Danneel Harris is incompetent (because she has nothing to do) but Paula Garcés just isn’t funny. She’s got Danny Trejo as her dad, which is hilarious, and she brings nothing to it.

Staying with the acting, Amir Blumenfeld and Tom Lennon are lacking as the new sidekicks. Blumenfeld’s just flat but Lennon misses a bunch of jokes. He brings no edge to it.

Elsewhere in the supporting cast, Elias Koteas is great (but he’s in the wrong movie) and Neil Patrick Harris is, unfortunately, showing his exhaustion.

John Cho and Kal Penn are still both great and they sell the movie’s buddy franchise comedy message.

Oddly, Harold & Kumar not really a Christmas movie, even though it advertises itself as such.

But who cares? It’s hilarious enough of the time.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson; written by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg; director of photography, Michael Barrett; edited by Eric Kissack; music by William Ross; production designer, Rusty Smith; produced by Greg Shapiro; released by Warner Bros.

Starring John Cho (Harold), Kal Penn (Kumar), Tom Lennon (Todd), Danny Trejo (Mr. Perez), Amir Blumenfeld (Adrian), Paula Garcés (Maria), Elias Koteas (Mary’s dad), Danneel Harris (Vanessa), Eddie Kaye Thomas (Rosenberg), David Krumholtz (Goldstein) and Neil Patrick Harris as Neil Patrick Harris.


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Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010, Brandon Vietti)

Apparently, given the chance, comic book writers write screenplays just like comic books. Sitting through Under the Red Hood is not an unpleasant experience–Bruce Greenwood, voice alone, is the best Batman since Michael Keaton, animated or actual–but it’s got an atrocious plot structure.

First, the movie would be unintelligible for anyone who didn’t read Batman comics. Screenwriter Judd Winick (who also wrote some of the comics this movie’s based on) has an endless amount of costumed characters show up. It’s firmly set in the comic book world, which makes it fail as a filmic narrative.

Fail might be a little harsh. Red Hood doesn’t succeed, but it isn’t Winick’s fault. Besides Greenwood, most of the voice acting is terrible. Jensen Ackles, voicing a grownup, evil Robin, finally answers the question about Batman and Robin’s sexual relationship–I’m pretty sure Cyrano never sounded as amorous as Ackles does when talking to Greenwood’s Batman. I wonder if they recorded together.

Even worse is John Di Maggio’s Joker. The character’s written as a lunatic, but Di Maggio plays a vicious thug instead, presumably a Dark Knight influence.

Speaking of influences, there’s a nice little homage to the Adam West show and lots of the production design owes to the Tim Burton films. It’s a very good looking animated movie when the poorly illustrated characters aren’t running around.

If it had just been a bit better plotted, it would have been much better. Still, might be worth a viewing for Greenwood’s performance.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Brandon Vietti; screenplay by Judd Winick, based on comic books by Jim Starlin, Jim Aparo, Winick and Doug Mahnke and on characters created by Bob Kane; edited by Margaret Hou; music by Christopher Drake; produced by Bruce W. Timm and Bobbie Page; released by Warner Premiere.

Starring Bruce Greenwood (Batman), Jensen Ackles (Red Hood), John Di Maggio (The Joker), Neil Patrick Harris (Nightwing), Jason Isaacs (Ra’s al Ghul), Wade Williams (Black Mask), Gary Cole (Commissioner Gordon), Kelly Hu (Ms. Li), Vincent Martella (Robin) and Jim Piddock (Alfred Pennyworth).


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Starship Troopers (1997, Paul Verhoeven)

The only “real” pro-war movie I can think of is The Green Berets. But Starship Troopers is also pro-war, even if it’s, well, startlingly so. I mean, the scene where Casper Van Dien grins after getting his battlefield promotion, following a colleague’s horrific death, is a fine example.

What Verhoeven does here, in Starship Troopers, is directed the finest made “science fiction” film–and those quotations just generalize, meaning a film set in the future in space with spaceships–since 2001. Really. No one else has ever done as competent of space scenes since Kubrick. It’s stunning. Verhoeven’s no innovator here–he borrows liberally from 2001, the Star Wars movies (a little) and the Star Trek movies (a lot)–but he mixes them together into something astounding. I once called, without being familiar with the novel, Starship Troopers the sci-fi hit (i.e. the Star Wars) if the Nazis had won. And it is–not just in terms of setting (the gloriously fascist future), but in terms of its approach to narrative. Neumeier and Verhoeven do an amazing job with this film’s structure–it’s impossible not to cheer at the end and never to once question what one’s cheering.

Even the cardboard acting from “90210” and “Melrose Place” guest stars (Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards and Patrick Muldoon all appeared on those Shakespearian actor spawning grounds) is somehow perfect–Starship Troopers is certainly Verhoeven’s best film since Robocop and the most deceptively postmodern blockbuster film ever made.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Paul Verhoeven; screenplay by Edward Neumeier, based on the novel by Robert A. Heinlein; director of photography, Jost Vacano; edited by Mark Goldblatt and Caroline Ross; music by Basil Poledouris; production designer, Allan Cameron; produced by Alan Marshall and Jon Davison; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Casper Van Dien (Johnny Rico), Dina Meyer (Dizzy Flores), Denise Richards (Carmen Ibanez), Jake Busey (Ace Levy), Neil Patrick Harris (Carl Jenkins), Clancy Brown (Sgt. Zim), Seth Gilliam (Sugar Watkins), Patrick Muldoon (Zander Barcalow), Michael Ironside (Jean Rasczak), Rue McClanahan (Biology Teacher), Marshall Bell (General Owen) and Brenda Strong (Captain Deladier).


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Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg)

As far as sequels go, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (huh, Guantanamo isn’t in Apple’s dictionary) is superior to the first. It’s far more absurd and the characters have comfortably become a modern comedy duo. Their adventures are modernized comedy bits, which work due to the movie’s absence of realistic pretense, but where Harold & Kumar is different is in its willingness to discuss race in America.

The humor generally falls into four categories. Kal Penn as a brainless male, getting high, race and the American identity. Even though Harold & Kumar cops out a little when it comes to Bush and his responsibility for American xenophobia, maybe portraying him as a drunk stoner with father issues is more effective (it certainly is in the comedic sense). The script nicely works the comedy into convenient vignettes, a grandiose road movie on a limited budget.

As writers, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg run their characters through a bunch of funny situations, work in flashbacks and dream sequences to great effect (Harold & Kumar is, in the best possible way, something of a live action “Family Guy”), but their directing skills are nil. There’s almost no visual tone to the movie and the effects sequences are atrocious. I suppose they can sit the camera down and let action play in front of it well enough, but their composition makes the movie feel like a direct-to-video teen comedy.

What elevates the movie from that confusion are Penn and John Cho. This time, Penn’s got a love interest, Danneel Harris (big shock, that one’s not in Apple’s dictionary either) and it really helps the movie. Harris is likable, if bereft of dramatic ability, and Penn makes up for anything she’s not bringing to her scenes. Cho’s good as the straight man, but thinking about it after seeing it, it’s sort of surprising just how little he’s got to do in the story. Sight gags mostly.

The rest of the supporting cast varies. Rob Corddry’s funny because of his dialogue, but he can’t actually act. The whole time, I wondered what it’d be like if they’d gotten Domenick Lombardozzi from “The Wire” for the role. It would have worked a lot better. Roger Bart’s weak. Neil Patrick Harris is, no shock, real funny. Hurwitz and Schlossberg write some of the movie’s better material for Harris scenes.

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is something more than a cheap diversion, due to that racial humor; it’s a good ice cream. And Hurwitz and Schlossberg are much better at the best pop culture references than anyone else. They really get them into the script naturally.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg; director of photography, Daryn Okada; edited by Jeff Freeman; music by George S. Clinton; production designer, Tony Fanning; produced by Greg Shapiro and Nathan Kahane; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Kal Penn (Kumar), John Cho (Harold), Rob Corddry (Ron Fox), Roger Bart (Dr. Beecher), David Krumholtz (Goldstein), Eddie Kaye Thomas (Rosenberg), Jack Conley (Deputy Frye), Paula Garcés (Maria), Danneel Harris (Vanessa), Eric Winter (Colton) and Neil Patrick Harris (Neil Patrick Harris).


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