Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Criticwatch: Revenge of the sequel

Erik Childress gives us the Ben Lyons Quote of the Week:

Lyons: I found that the filmmakers were really irresponsible in ignoring the younger fanbase of this franchise. You mention the 14 year old boys love the action and Megan Fox but the language and drug references completely unnecessary.

And then continues with his own commentary:

Hearing statements like that from Ben Lyons is enough to make you want to watch a reality show of his exploits at the Hard Rock in Vegas. The movie in question is not Land of the Lost, but Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, a film that only accentuates everything that passed as action and humor the first time around. Why didn’t those PG-13 elements violate his delicate sensibilities back in 2007? Maybe because he was just on the E! Network then and not playing to a more adult audience on ABC that has found ways to work his age into the criticism of him?

Click here to read the rest

Monday, June 29, 2009

At the Movies: Becoming numb to the noise

Ben Lyons has not been so egregious lately in gushing over his friends--or rather, "friends"--at least not at every possible moment. Take this week's episode of At the Movies, in which the new Transformers movie is reviewed. Lyons doesn't even let on that he and Shia are buddies--or "buddies," as in Lyons says "See, we are totally best friends, look at this picture we took together," and Shia says "Ben who?" He has even removed the link on his Web page to the "Ben Lyons Poses with Famous People" gallery that he was so ridiculed for. The gallery, however, still exists.

But we do get this exchange on the movie:

Lyons: I was a fan of the first film, and I think part of the reason why it worked is there was so much anticipation to see these robots for the first time. And Michael Bay and the team at ILM, the graphics studio that does the special effects, really delivered in that first movie. Here it's excessive, and overkill, and your eye and your brain becomes rather numb to it rather quickly . . .

Mank: Particularly your brain.

Yes, so much anticipation. Just like he said last week that this is the most anticipated movie of the summer. Lyons continues:

Lyons: Oh my goodness, because it's endless, and it just sort of looses the mystique that the first one had of seeing these things for the first time. You become numb to it. And I found that the filmmakers were really irresponsible in ignoring the younger fan base of this franchise. You mentioned the 14-year-old boys loved the action and Megan Fox but the language and drug references, completely unnecessary. [my emphasis]

Wow, what a noble and controversial statement. Alright Hollywood, listen to this important message from Ben Lyons: We need less drugs and more female eye candy! Hey, anything less would be irresponsible.

Mank, who to his credit has generally been better at pointing at sloppy, stereotypical content in Hollywood films, put it a better:

Lyons: Dude, Megan Fox is so hot!Mank: I know why Megan Fox is in the film, no question. But at some point as you're trying to save the world and you're in the Egyptian desert, maybe jeans and a t-shirt. I mean enough, I get it, she's literally just there to run in slow motion and to be eye candy.

Unfortunately, we get this frat-boy grin (left) from Lyons as Mank is making this comment.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Criticwatch - Blurbing 2009 into a vintage year

Erik Childress from Criticwatch gives us the Ben Lyons quote of the week:
Lyons: This is vintage classic Woody Allen. Like you said, not his best work obviously but a return to form in a lot of ways.
And follows with his own commentary:

Then how about we don’t use the words “vintage” and “classic” to call it then? This is becoming an increasing problem in the Twitter culture that we live in. What is Twitter precisely if not an opportunity to provide your own ready-made 140-character blurb for a movie? Forget writing a whole review or 140 words. You can just walk out of a movie and post your reaction for all your followers to see. Oh, but you must get their attention, right? You can’t just say that Whatever Works is one of Woody’s better efforts over the last decade. You need to get everyone’s attention. So you say it’s classic Woody Allen, more or less suggesting that it ranks with the likes of Annie Hall, Manhattan and The Purple Rose of Cairo. Yes, there’s a bit of assumption on our part. But there’s a difference when you call something classic and tap into our own memories of what constitutes the meaning of “classic” (whether it be for a genre or filmmaker) and my friends and I saying that Megaforce is the greatest movie ever made.

Read Erik's entire commentary here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

At the Movies: Some rules are sacred

Ben Lyons: Less than meets the eye
On this week's episode of At the Movies, Ben Lyons shows us that he knows some rules and not others.

He slams the new "Norwegian Nazi zombie movie" Dead Snow, saying:
A lot better zombie movies in recent years, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later. I thought those were really effective because they establish the rules of zombies. How do you kill a zombie, if a zombie bites you does that turn you into a zombie. They were not consistent here with these parameters.
Whether being consistent with the rules of zombies--rather than providing interesting characters or just effectively terrifying scenarios--is what makes a good thriller, I'll put aside for the moment. Just to say that I'm not sure that The Blair Witch Project particularly followed the "rules of witches," nor was it any worse for it. More unfortunately, though, is that he does not seem to know the rules of film criticism nearly so well as the rules of zombies.

And I don't just refer to Ebert's Little Rule Book (aka How Not to be Ben Lyons). Let's just take a very simple "rule": don't play into the Hollywood hype machine. This is one of Lyons' worst offenses which he never seems to learn from. And he does it again this week, calling the new Transformers movie, "the most anticipated movie of the summer!"

Really? By whom? I mean, is it more anticipated than Up, The Girlfriend Experience, Moon, Whatever Works, Public Enemies, Bruno, or Inglorious Basterds? Certainly not by me--even though I don't have particularly high hopes for the last two, I still have some hope that they will be pretty good, certainly more than the new Transformers movie. And I am not the only one. But until recently, Ben had G.I. Joe as one of his most anticipated movies of the summer.

Based on the last one, I have little anticipation for the sequel. But even according to Ben Lyons, "It's one of those movies, the more I go back and watch the first one, it's less and less impressive to me. I find myself not enjoying myself as much as I watched it in the theater." So why hype the sequel? Maybe it is because he, like Hansel in Zoolander, is a rogue with an attitude that says "Who cares? It's only film criticism." Or maybe he just lives and breathes the Hollywood hype machine, in spite of his better instincts and contradictory comments.

Finally, Mank gives his DVD pick of the week: Waltz with Bashir, which he says was "a surprise at the Oscars, a surprise because it did not win." I completely agree--I thought it was a front-runner at the Oscars and I thought it was a great film.

But that is why it makes it even more of a mystery that they did not review the film when it was originally released.

Monday, June 15, 2009

At the Movies: An imaginary critic

Dude, don't you think Spaceballs is, like, the best movie ever?Erik Childress is taking the week off, so I will give you the Ben Lyons Quote of the Week from At the Movies. But first some context: the movie being discussed was Imagine That, where Eddie Murphy plays a businessman who gets financial advice from his daughter's imaginary friends. After telling us why it is a lame movie, Lyons adds:

I felt the film really could have benefited from exploring her imagination. I would have liked to have seen those princesses. That would have been an element to the film that would have made it feel a little bit bigger and a little bit different.

Really?! This just seems like an oddball comment from somebody who has no idea what to say. "Umm . . . I think it needed . . . more princesses! And how about a chase scene?"

It is not unlike his comment about Doubt that he wished the boy--who may or may not have been molested by a priest--could have told us his story himself. In a movie called Doubt. Not to mention that he criticized that movie--which was originally a play--for not being cinematic enough. Yes, that would be more cinematic--another talking head telling us something, when we basically already knew how he felt just from looking at him.

But in an otherwise decent episode, we also get Ben's DVD pick of the week: Spaceballs. I'll admit, I wasted endless hours of my life watching this movie on video--when I was eleven years old. I saw it again a few years ago and, well, it is one of those movies that doesn't quite survive the test of time. Not for Lyons, though. He called it "One of the greatest spoof movies ever made!"

Really?! I thought we were beyond that kind of talk. Compared to all the "spoof" movies that are made these days, maybe Spaceballs comes out on top. But at the very least, it has nothing on much superior Mel Brooks spoofs, Young Frankenstein in particular.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Critic Fail - Mark S. Allen

Recent TV ad for The Hangover:

Um . . . no . . . probably not. But it looks like Ben Lyons may have competition for the "Stupidest thing ever said about a movie" award.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

You suck, Twitter!

Yesterday, I received this email from Richard Verducci, the originator of the BenLyonsFoReal Twitter page:

Hey Scott,
I feel awkward writing this but I wanted to thank you for shouting out Benlyonsforeal's twitter on your webpage. Unfortunately, it seems my little joke won't be able to continue. On May 28th Twitter suspended my account. I've submitted two tickets regarding the matter. The first was closed without answer, the second is still open and unresponded too. I don't think it takes a genius to figure with the current Tony La Russa case Twitter is probably cracking down on celebrity "impersonators" (though if anyone took that account seriously for a minute, I feel they deserve to be misled). Anyhow, just wanted to let you know that I appreciate the support and that I didn't just run out of steam or close up shop. Thanks for the support and for the Stop Ben Lyon's blog.
-Rich (BenLyonsFoReal)

So long, BenLyonsFoReal, we hardly knew ye . . .

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Criticwatch - The seedy underbelly of Ben Lyons

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
Except for Ben Lyons, unfortunately.
Erik Childress finally gets his chance to tear apart The Hangover--oh yeah, and Ben Lyons, too:

Last week I was unable to counter the Bens’ early positive review of The Hangover due to constrictions of an embargo. And the fact that its seriously one of the worst films of the year. Laughter can vary from person-to-person, but I’m rather shocked that more professional students of film have been unable to call Todd Phillips out on his utter inability to setup or payoff a gag, punchline or comic situation. Continue reading on to last week’s column where you can see some of the “intelligent” and “sophisticated” humor to be found in The Hangover. This week we had the painful reminder that they believe this “strong script” to be “one of the funniest comedies this year so far.” It got more painful as Lyons tried to sell the idea that this was somehow a darker and edgier piece about Vegas.

Ok, full disclosure, I actually thought it was pretty funny, unfortunately most of the characters are unlikable and it falls back on crude stereotypes and just crudeness for crudeness sake. Oh yeah, and the closer we get to the end of the mystery, the more absurd and unbelievable it gets. On the other hand, it actually doesn't descend into the grittiness of Las Vegas at other moments, which is what Ben Lyons held it up for, and where Erik rightly takes him down, starting with this quote:

Lyons: A great slice of authentic Vegas. This is not Oceans’ 11 with slick suits and gorgeous casinos or even a movie like 21 which tried to glorify Vegas.

And then this exchange:

LYONS: “This is modern Vegas. It shows you the good, the bad, the ugly. It really captures the feeling of sin city being tucked away in the desert.

MANK: Little bit of the despair.

LYONS: A LOT of the despair.

To which Erik responds:

Selling this idea that Phillips succeeded in making The Hangover worthy of the title of a “dark comedy” is profoundly absurd. How many down-and-out losers end up at MIKE TYSON’S MANSION??? How dark can a movie be when it channels Rain Man - and I say “channel” instead of “satirize” since Phillips doesn’t understand how the scene doesn’t come as funny but rather as something straight out of 21, which Lyons scoffed for glorifying Vegas - and has our characters go off on a blackjack streak that even William H. Macy in The Cooler couldn’t ice with the most golden hearted stripper/escort who looks like Heather Graham on one of their arms? Todd Phillips’ Vegas – the place where dreams go to die.

Click here to read the entire article

Monday, June 8, 2009

At the Movies: Rent it over and over again!

Last week, Ben Lyons told us that the movie Spring Breakdown "is hit or miss, so I can understand why it wasn't released in theaters." Then he recommended that we go out and rent it as his DVD pick of the week.

This week, after filming the video above for E! on his way home from the preview of Land of the Lost, he says that it spirals out of control and is "not that good". But on a different (presumably later) review he filmed for At the Movies, Ben Lyons tells us why we should "Rent it":

Lyons: I think this is one of those Will Ferrell movies like so many of his previous films that has the potential to get funnier the more you watch it on DVD. Five years from now, you're catching it on a Saturday morning it's on cable, on DVD, you might notice little things that make it amusing.

To which we get the appropriate response:

Mank: I don't know what I'm going to be doing in five years, but my hunch is I'm not going to be watching Land of the Lost on DVD or on television or anywhere. Obviously, I think you should "Skip it."

What Lyons seems to be suggesting is that this movie has the potential to get funnier as you become more accustomed to it, noticing bits of humor that you missed the first time. Actually, I find that seeing a movie in the theater with an audience helps make you more aware of subtle bits of humor that you might miss only watching it on DVD or video. More importantly, Lyons is essentially making a bet--it "has the potential" to get funnier with age, but he cannot say for sure that it will.

But to make this sort of "bet" with a movie you wholeheartedly recommend--"I think we will be enjoying this as a classic for years to come"--is quite different than saying you should rent a movie that is "not that good". In fact, on his Lyons Den Web page he says:

Can a Will Ferrell movie get too ridiculous? Yes, sadly, and that's what happens when Land of the Lost goes off the rails. (Costar Danny McBride, though, killed it—in a good way.)

He seems to have lightened up between posting this review for E! and filming his softer criticism of the movie on At the Movies. But guess what? This same page also featurs an interview Ben did with Danny McBride (see the video below). I can't help but think that the existence of this interview affected his softening attitude toward the film and his glowing review of McBride.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Criticwatch - The rules of the game

Erik Childress on this week's episode of At the Movies, in which we get an early review of The Hangover:

This week’s column is reflective of everything that’s wrong with the established laws of film criticism. Actually, the word “guidelines” would be more apropos than “laws” since the enforcement of such things is a rather arbitrary exercise. But I’m getting ahead of myself. A greater examination of these “rules” will be published at the end of this summer once the required research has come to fruition, so stay tuned for a very special report in August. Call this week’s entry a little preview though into everything that’s wrong with the stipulations we’re asked to follow.

You see there’s one review that the Bens did on the show this week and to comment in full I would be forced to break the understanding I have with our local publicists not to publish my thoughts before the release date . . . I, like so many of my colleagues are handcuffed into revealing our thoughts. Lest you think this is a full-on disagreement with the Bens, consider the fact that I saw a film several weeks ago that I believe to be one of the best films of the year. Maybe even THE best film to date. My review is written. The studio reps have seen it. The film opens next week in NY & LA. But since it doesn’t open until a week later in Chicago, I’ve been asked to withhold my review from public consumption until then. And, again, this is a film I believe may be the best film of 2009 so far. Makes perfect sense, don't it?

Read the entire article here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

At the Movies: The real definition of "Rent it"

My Dad just got fired!Last week, Jeffrey Lyons was laid off from his job as a televised film critic. To which everybody who heard the news immediately asked, "Jeffrey Lyons is still on TV?" followed by, "And how does Ben Lyons still have a job?"

Ben Lyons is too big to fail--for the powers that be at ABC/Disney, anyway. Though some of his reviews have as much coherency and consistency as an American bank selling a Mortgage Backed Security and then selling a Credit Default Swap to insure it. Either way, we're all fucked!

Now, I don't want to seem too glib about this. Jeffrey Lyons is only one of many film critics to get laid off in recent years, and I don't relish the thought of more getting the ax. But it still beggars belief that in spite of all this Lyons still has a job. We'll see how long that lasts . . .

In the meantime, this is what we get from Ben Lyons on this week's At the Movies:


First, we get this exchange about The Hangover:

Lyons: Back to casting with Todd Phillips, not just the leads but having Heather Graham show up and add some energy to the film, and Ken Jeong, and the Mike Tyson cameo is just brilliant here.

Mank: You mentioned Ken Jeong, he plays a, I think, stereotypically gay character and that seemed to be the source of the only reason to laugh at him. Not so much just for The Hangover, but all of Hollywood, enough with the characters where the whole sole purpose is to sort of point at them and go "Heh heh, he's gay."

Lyons: I agree, it doesn't need that, it has so many other funny things going for it, that element to it, I agree, made me kind of wince a little bit.

After which I am sure Lyons was prepared to add, "Oh yeah, dude, that's what I meant. I was totally about to say that."


Secondly, in What Goes Up, we get Lyons responding to Mank about the movie failing as a comedy:

Lyons: I didn't really find it trying to be a comedy as much as it was trying to use music to convey some emotions, in kind of that quintessential "Indie feel" that we always talk about on this show.

Yeah, well, somebody keeps mentioning it.


Finally, Lyons shows us how poorly reviewed a movie can be and still get a "Rent it," with his DVD Out Now recommendation for the straight to DVD movie Spring Breakdown, which he says "is hit or miss, so I can understand why it wasn't released in theaters."

But you should go right out and "Rent it!"