REVIEW: HOTEL FOR DOGS

Starring

Jake T. Austin (The Emoji Movie)
Emma Roberts (Scream Queens)
Johnny Simmons (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World)
Troy Gentile (Nacho Libre)
Kyla Pratt (Dr. Dolittle)
Don Cheadle (Avengers: Endgame)
Robinne Lee (Seven Pounds)
Lisa Kudrow (The Girl On The Train)
Kevin Dillon (Poseidon)
Yvette Nicole Brown (500 Days of Summer)
Gregory Sporleder (The Rock)
Eric Edelstein (Jurassic World)
Ajay Naidu (Office Space)
Maximiliano Hernández (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
Jeremy Howard (Malibu Rescue)
Tiya Sircar (The Good Place)

Don Cheadle, Emma Roberts, and Jake T. Austin in Hotel for Dogs (2009)Orphans Andi (Emma Roberts) and Bruce (Jake T. Austin) swindle a pawn shop owner in order to buy food to feed their dog, Friday. However, they are quickly caught and brought to the police station where they get picked up by social worker Bernie Wilkins (Don Cheadle) who takes them back to their foster parents, Lois and Carl Scudder (Lisa Kudrow and Kevin Dillon), who do not appear to care for either Andi or Bruce. Despite his sympathy for the two siblings, Bernie warns them that they are playing a dangerous game by deliberately getting into trouble in order to escape Carl and Lois.Kevin Dillon and Lisa Kudrow in Hotel for Dogs (2009)The next morning, Friday leaves to go looking for food, only to be caught by Animal Control. Desperate and worried, Andi and Bruce go into a local pet shop to ask if anybody has seen him. They meet Dave (Johnny Simmons) and Heather, (Kyla Pratt) who advise them to check the pound. They learn that Friday is indeed in the Pound but cannot be claimed without their parents present. While walking home, they discover a gang of youths committing a crime, causing them to flee before the police arrive. They look for Friday, who has already begun to hide in an abandoned hotel. They find a tiny Boston Terrier and an English Mastiff and name them Georgia and Lenny. Confident the three dogs will get along, Andi and Bruce leave Friday at the hotel for the night.Hotel for Dogs (2009)The next day, Bruce stays at the hotel to keep the dogs quiet, while Andi heads to the same pet shop to get some food for the dogs, where she runs into Dave and Heather again. Andi lies to them that their parents often rescue dogs, causing Dave to ask her to take in three more dogs that nobody seems to want to adopt, which she reluctantly agrees. With six dogs to look after, the friends set about trying to get the hotel in a decent state to accommodate the dogs’ needs, with help from a local boy named Mark (Troy Gentile), as they rescue more stray dogs to occupy the hotel.Eventually, Dave invites Andi to a party, which she agrees. Meanwhile, Bruce is caught stealing a hairdryer from Lois and is immediately interrogated by his foster parents. The party is ruined for Andi when she bumps into Jason, an old acquaintance who accidentally reveals to everyone that Andi is an orphan. Bruce manages to escape his house, only to find out that the hotel has fallen into chaos. Lois and Carl follow him, while the police are called, and the dogs are found and sent to the Pound, while Bruce and Andi are taken away by the police. Friday is also sent to the Pound. When Lois and Carl refuse to take Andi and Bruce back, Bernie is forced to send them to separate foster homes.Kyla Pratt, Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin, Troy Gentile, Johnny Simmons, and Cosmo in Hotel for Dogs (2009)The dogs are all scheduled to be put down the next day, but Friday manages to escape captivity. He rushes over to find Dave, Heather, and Mark, who, in turn, find Andi and Bruce. Meanwhile, Bernie explores the hotel where he finds a dog named Harley, who had managed to avoid getting caught by animal control the previous night. Bernie then realizes why the kids loved doing what they did. Andi and Bruce manage to break into the Pound and release the dogs in an attempt to get them across the county line, where they will be safe. However, the dogs instead make their way back towards the hotel, believing it to be their real home. The strange event attracts the attention of citizens, reporters, and the police, who follow the dogs to the hotel, causing a large crowd to gather inside the hotel. Bernie appears and tells them how Bruce and Andi managed to create a family of dogs. He introduces all the dogs who live at the hotel and tells the stories of their past owners, which wins over the crowd, and the police allow the children to keep the dogs together.Emma Roberts and Johnny Simmons in Hotel for Dogs (2009)As people eagerly explore the hotel, Bernie reveals to an overjoyed Andi and Bruce that he and his wife have decided to adopt them. Sometime later, the hotel re-opens as a grand “Hotel For Dogs”, where people can either adopt strays or board their dogs, while Andi, Bruce, and Friday happily settle into their new family.Cosmo in Hotel for Dogs (2009)The target audience probably won’t be asking the questions that popped into my mind: How can an 11-year-old kid build such intricate mechanical contraptions? Is it really that easy to train dozens of dogs to use said electrical gadgets? Is it simply luck that none of the dogs need medical attention? Is it really okay for children to commit crimes such as breaking and entering, trespassing, and even assault, as long as it’s done with the intent of saving stray animals? Clearly this film wasn’t designed for me, but the trite dialogue (Kevin Dillon mutters the stale line, “We’re in deep doo doo,” after falling into an enormous animal waste bin), the predictability of Bernie’s role, the sappy ending and the Kill Bill music montage (Tomoyasu Hotei’s instantly recognizable “Battle Without Honor or Humanity”) are huge distractions – especially when one just wants to see some adorable dogs running amok.

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: BAD SANTA

Untitled

CAST
Billy Bob Thornton (Eagle Eye)
Lauren Graham (Evan Almighty)
Tony Cox (Guns, Girls and Gambling)
Brett Kelly (Dead Like Me)
Lauren Tom (Futurama)
Bernie Mac (Mr. 3000)
John Ritter (Bride of Chucky)
Ajay Naidu (The Guru)
Alex Borstein (Family Guy)
Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly)
Octavia Spencer (Mom)
Ethan Phillips (Critters)
Cloris Leachman (Wonder Woman)
Tom McGowan (Ghost World)
Ryan Pinkston (Spy Kids 3)
Bryan Callen (How I Met Your Mother)
Matt Walsh (Ted)
Willie T. Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton) and his dwarfed assistant Marcus (Tony Cox) are professional thieves. Every year, Willie disguises himself as a department store Santa Claus and Marcus disguises himself as an elf in order for both of them to rob shopping malls blind at night. Willie is an alcoholic, a sex addict, and is gradually unable to perform his Santa duties appropriately with children, much to Marcus’ dismay. When they are hired at the fictional Saguaro Square Mall in Phoenix, the vulgar remarks made by Willie shock the prudish mall manager Bob Chipeska (John Ritter), who brings it to the attention of security chief Gin Slagel (Bernie Mac).
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At the mall, Willie is visited by Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), a friendly but exceedingly naive and gullible, overweight boy who thinks Willie is really Santa. The boy is a target of taunt and torment from a skateboarding gang. At a bar, Willie meets Sue (Lauren Graham), a woman with a Santa Claus fetish, and they begin a sexual relationship. Willie is harassed by a man in the bar, but Thurman intervenes. Willie gives Thurman a ride home, then enters the boy’s house where he lives with his senile grandmother (Cloris Leachman). Thurman reveals that his mother died, and his father, Roger, is away “exploring mountains” (meaning he is actually in jail for embezzlement) until next year. Willie tricks Thurman into letting him steal from the house safe and steals a BMW owned by Thurman’s father. Bob informs Gin that he overheard Willie having sex with a woman in a mall dressing room; Gin starts to investigate. Willie goes to his motel room and sees it being raided, causing him to take advantage of Thurman’s naivete and live in his house. The next day, Marcus gets angry at Willie for taking advantage of Thurman, stating his disapproval of Willie’s sex addiction.
Gin’s investigation of Willie includes visiting Thurman’s imprisoned father, who reveals that Willie is staying with Thurman illegally. He confronts Willie at the mall, and takes him and Marcus to a bar. There, he reveals that he has figured out their plan, blackmailing them for half of the cut to keep silent.
Willie attempts to commit suicide by inhaling vehicle exhaust fumes. He gives Thurman a letter to give to the police, confessing all his misdeeds. Willie notices Thurman’s black eye, which persuades him to make an example of the skateboarding bully. A renewed sense of purpose for Willie has him attempt to train Thurman in boxing. Enraged at Gin for blackmailing him, Marcus and his wife Lois (Lauren Tom) set up a trap for Gin, feigning needing a jump start for their vehicle from Gin’s. Lois hits Gin with the car, then Marcus kills him.
On Christmas Eve, when the heist is almost complete, Willie goes to get Thurman a pink stuffed elephant that he had wanted for Christmas. Just as he gets the elephant, Marcus reveals to Willie that he intends to kill him, fed up with his increasing carelessness. Lois tells him to hurry up and kill Willie so they can get away with the money and merchandise. But just as Marcus is about to shoot Willie, the police swarm the trio, tipped off by the letter Willie gave to Thurman. When Marcus opens fire, the police shoot at him and Willie flees. Determined to give Thurman his present, he leads the police on a chase to Thurman’s house, ignoring orders to freeze. He is repeatedly shot on Thurman’s porch, but survives.
The epilogue is told through a letter from Willie, who is in a hospital recovering. He expresses his gratitude for Thurman in giving the letter to the police and his name was cleared of unarmed robbery. Shooting an unarmed Santa embarrassed the police, and Sue is granted guardianship over Thurman and his house until Thurman’s father, Roger, is released. Willie also explains that Marcus (identified as Santa’s Little Helper) and Lois are serving time behind bars for their actions, while expressing hope Roger is wise to avoid the two. The movie ends with Thurman finally standing up to his bully by kicking him in the crotch causing him to fall to the ground. Thurman is seen riding his bike away flipping off the bully.
Bad Santa is not a film for those easily offended, however it does manage to be genuinely funny, and makes a welcome diversion for adults.

REVIEW: GOD FRIENDED ME – SEASON 1

God Friended Me (2018)

Starring

Brandon Micheal Hall (Monster Party)
Violett Beane (The Flash)
Suraj Sharma (Homeland)
Javicia Leslie (Killer Coach)
Joe Morton (Terminator 2)

Brandon Micheal Hall in God Friended Me (2018)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Parminder Nagra (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Christopher Redman (Reverie)
Rachel Bay Jones (Ben Is Back)
Shazi Raja (Salvation)
Dawn-Lyen Gardner (Luke Cage)
Ajay Naidu (Bad Santa)
Flor De Liz Perez (Madam Secretary)
Brent Sexton (Bosch)
Will Rogers (The Bay)
Kyle Harris (Stitchers)
Ben Cole (Sense8)
Erica Gimpel (Fame)
Francesca Ling (The Good Neighbor)
Navid Negahban (Legion)
Malik Yoba (Designated Survivor)
Michael Vartan (Alias)
Chelsea Spack (Gotham)
Jeremie Harris (The Get Down)
Camille Chen (Game Night)
Anabelle Acosta (Quantico)
James Martinez (Run All Night)
Gaius Charles (Takers)
Annaleigh Ashford (Unicorn Store)
Zach Roerig (The Vampire DIaries)
Adam Goldberg (Taken TV)
Al Sapienza (The Sopranos)
Stella Maeve (The Magicians)
René Ifrah (Nurse Jackie)
Nneka Okafor (Behind The Scenes)
Michel Gill (House of Cards)
Derek Luke (13 Reasons Why)
Jessica Lu (Reverie)

Violett Beane and Brandon Micheal Hall in God Friended Me (2018)At first blush, “God Friended Me” is an easy target for mockery. Its title promises something wacky and miraculous, with a bonus social- media tie-in for relevance. In actuality, the new CBS drama is almost too earnest to ridicule, wrapping its absurd premise with the kind of moralistic sincerity that has fueled broadcast network dramas for decades. It’s “Touched by an Angel” re-imagined for the millennial generation.Suraj Sharma, Violett Beane, and Brandon Micheal Hall in God Friended Me (2018)When a mysterious “God” Facebook account friends skeptical atheist Miles (Brandon Micheal Hall) out of nowhere, he’s shaken to find that it seems to anticipate the future by encouraging him to help people who need it, whether they know it or not. Complicating matters is the fact that Miles is also trying to sell a podcast about atheism in which he’d challenge people of faith on their views. This was complex enough before, especially since Miles’ father (Joe Morton) is a reverend who can’t understand his son’s insistence on preaching a lack of gospel. But now, with this seemingly all-knowing Facebook account watching and trying to dictate his every move, Miles finds himself more confused than ever. Violett Beane in God Friended Me (2018)In the attempt to flesh out Miles and his twenty-something world, creators Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt throw in as many millennial buzzwords as they can. Miles’s co-worker and best friend Rakesh (Suraj Sharma) complains about dating apps, insisting that “no one uses Tinder anymore” with a knowing eye roll on a show that nevertheless insists twenty-somethings are still avid users of Facebook. Miles is trying to sell his podcast to SiriusXM under the moniker “The Millennial Prophet.” And by the time the God account points him in the direction of Cara (Violett Beane), a writer who hasn’t turned in one of her signature viral think pieces for six weeks but somehow maintains a corner office, the show has itself a whole grab bag of millennial clichés that never add up to anything especially believable.Violett Beane and Brandon Micheal Hall in God Friended Me (2018)It’s telling that even on a series featuring a possibly omniscient being nudging people to do good through the insidious act of suggesting friends on Facebook, the most confusing aspect of “God Friended Me” is the question of who, exactly, it’s for. God Friended Me is able to  convince viewers to get past its premise and develop the wholehearted drama fueling it, which helps the series find its way. with a second season ordered it will interesting where the show will go.

REVIEW: SCARY MOVIE 3

CAST

Anna Faris (Mom)
Regina Hall (Love & Basketball)
Simon Rex (Superhero Movie)
Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men)
Leslie Nielsen (The Naked Gun)
Queen Latifah (Bringing Down The House)
Anthony Anderson (Transformers)
Kevin Hart (Death at a Funeral)
Camryn Manheim (Eraser)
George Carlin (Dogma)
Eddie Griffin (The New Guy)
Pamela Anderson (Scooby-Doo)
Jenny McCarthy (Scream 3)
Denise Richards (Valentine)
Ajay Naidu (Office Space)
Tom Kenny (The Batman)
Timothy Stack (My Name Is Earl)
Jeremy Piven (Entourage)
Simon Cowell (Popstar)
Frank C. Turner (IT)
Ja Rule (Half Past Dead)
Eric Breker (Stargate SG.1)
Master P (Hollywood Homicide)
Macy Gray (Domino)
Redman (How High)
Method Man (Jay and Silent Bob Reboot)
RZA (Repo Men)
Debbie Lee Carrington (Total Recall)

Katie (Jenny McCarthy) and Becky (Pamela Anderson) are talking about a tape, which Katie thinks is a sex tape, but Becky refers to a cursed tape (The Ring). After several odd occurrences, they die. In a farm outside Washington, D.C., widowed farmer and former reverend Tom Logan (Charlie Sheen) and his clumsy younger brother George (Simon Rex) discover a crop circle, saying “Attack Here!” .Meanwhile, Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris), now a blonde news reporter, announces the crop circles on the news. She then goes to pick up her paranormally endowed nephew Cody (Drew Mikuska) from school, where her best friend Brenda Meeks (Regina Hall) is his teacher. George Logan arrives to pick up his niece Sue, Tom’s daughter, who is in the same class. Cindy falls in love with George, who invites her and Brenda to a rap-battle with his rapper friends Mahalik (Anthony Anderson) and CJ (Kevin Hart) (8 Mile). George competes and proves to be actually quite talented, but due to unintentional racist blunders, he’s thrown out.Later, Brenda asks Cindy to keep her company, since she watched the cursed videotape. After playing several pranks on Cindy (fake seizures, burning hand, etc.), she gets the rest of the popcorn in the lounge, when the TV turns on. Brenda fails to turn it off. Tabitha (Marny Eng) climbs out of the well and the TV, Brenda gets into a fight with Tabitha. Tabitha ends up killing Brenda, since Cindy is ignoring the ruckus. George receives a phone call about the death, and Tom meets with Sayaman, who apologizes for the accident involving himself and Tom’s wife Annie (Denise Richards).During Brenda’s wake, George and Mahalik, due to a misunderstanding, wreak havoc on Brenda’s corpse in an unsuccessful attempt to revive her, only to blow up her body and end up getting kicked out of the house. Later, Cindy decides to watch the tape, finding it odd. She then gets a phone call, saying she’ll die in a week. She calls George, CJ and Mahalik for help. CJ offers that his Aunt Shaneequa might be able to help. Aunt Shaneequa (Queen Latifah), the Matrix Oracle, and her husband Orpheus (Eddie Griffin) agree to watch the tape. Shaneequa discovers the hidden image of a lighthouse, and gets into a fight with Tabitha’s mother. Shaneequa tells Cindy to find the lighthouse to break the curse. When Cindy returns home, she finds Cody watched the tape.Back at work, Cindy searches through pictures of lighthouses before finding the one from the tape. Desperate to save Cody, Cindy tries to warn everyone by entering a message into the news anchor’s teleprompter, but she is interrupted by her boss and a janitor who insults the manager on the teleprompter (which the anchorman blindly recites). The Logans hear the message and take it seriously since they encountered an alien disguised as Michael Jackson (Edward Moss), and President Baxter Harris (Leslie Nielsen), who personally visits the farm to investigate the crop circles. Cindy ventures to the lighthouse, where she encounters The Architect (George Carlin).The loquacious (and lecherous) old man explains Tabitha was his evil adopted daughter, whom his wife drowned in the farm’s well, but not before she imprinted her evil onto the tape. Unfortunately, he mistook the evil tape for a copy of Pootie Tang and returned it to Blockbuster instead, unleashing the curse. When Cindy asks about how this relates to the Aliens, the Architect speculates that Tabitha is summoning them to aid her in destroying the human race.Returning home, Cindy discovers her station has been broadcasting the evil tape for hours, and there have been various sightings of aliens around the world. Worse, Cody is missing. Cindy manages to track him back to the Logan farm, where he has taken refuge with George. Tom orders everybody into the basement for safety, as he, George and Mahalik go outside to fight off the extraterrestrials. The aliens (voiced by Tom Kenny) arrive but reveal they are friendly and have come to stop Tabitha, since they accidentally watched the tape on a broadcast they had intercepted, thinking it was Pootie Tang. In the basement, Cindy realizes the farm’s cellar is what is seen on the tape and she finds the well where Tabitha was drowned under the cellar floor. Suddenly, Tabitha appears behind her. A short fight ensues, during which Tabitha takes Cody hostage. Cindy and George appeal to her, offering her a place in their family. Tabitha appears to accept the offer, but then changes back to her monstrous form and advances to Cindy and the others, only to be accidentally knocked back into the well by President Harris. The aliens leave in peace, and Cindy and George get married. Leaving for their honeymoon, they realize they forget to take Cody with them. At first, Cody is about to get hit by Cindy’s car in an intersection, but she put the brakes this time to prevent it from happening, much to Cody’s relief. Unfortunately, causing Cody to be hit by another car passing through the intersection.Admittedly, the plot of this film is a bit of a shambles, and as a film it lacks the consistency of Hot Shots and the Naked Gun films. However, the film is very funny, with some great visual gags and bad taste comedy.

REVIEW: THE GURU

CAST

Jimi Mistry (Blood Diamond)
Marisa Tomei(The Wrestler)
Heather Graham (Killing Me Softly(
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Dash Mihok (The Day after Tomorrow)
Christine Baranski (The Big Bang Theory)
Dwight Ewell (Chasing Amy)
Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man)
Ajay Naidu (Bad Santa)
Sakina Jaffrey (Mr. Robot)
Ajay Mehta (Anger Management)
Rizwan Manji (The Dictator)

Ramu Gupta (Jimi Mistry), a dance teacher, leaves his native city Delhi, India, to seek his fortune in the United States. He is lured by the exaggerations of his cousin, Vijay, who has already moved to New York City. Vijay’s deception is the first of several that drive the plot.

Seeking work as an actor, the naïve Ramu unknowingly lands a role in a pornographic film. That evening he accompanies Vijay and his roommates on a catering job at a society birthday party. When the Indian swami hired to address the party falls into drunken oblivion, Ramu takes his place. Lacking a real philosophy, he improvises by repeating advice he had been given by Sharonna (Heather Graham), an adult film actress he met earlier.
the-guru-1
Lexi (Marisa Tomei), the birthday girl, is so impressed that she promotes him as a New Age sex guru to her friends. Ramu hires Sharonna, ostensibly for advice on how to be an actor in adult films, though what he really wants is more ideas he could use in his new role as the guru of sex. A personal relationship develops between the two, though Sharonna is engaged to a firefighter who thinks she’s a school teacher. Complications ensue from these and other deceptions.
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A very funny & intelligent movie that spoofs all stereotypes, American as well as Asian. A real good hearted, feel good movie with some wise insights into peoples’ foibles

REVIEW: HANNIBAL (2001)

CAST

Anthony Hopkins (The Mask of Zorro)
Julianne Moore (Carrie)
Gary Oldman (Batman Begins)
Ray Liotta (Killig Them Softly)
Frankie Faison (Luke Cage)
Giancarlo Giannini (Man on Fire)
Francesca Neri (Collateral Damage)
Željko Ivanek (Heroes)
Ajay Naidu (The Wrestler)

When Thomas Harris’s follow-up to “Silence of the Lambs” was announced, it was obvious that the filmed version would be soon announced. Yet, the pieces didn’t fall into place quite as easily as those involved would have hoped. Anthony Hopkins was in, but Jodie Foster was in and out and in, then out again – instead, she chose to direct her own feature and Julianne Moore was brought in. Original “Silence” director Jonathan Demme passed, so producer Dino De Laurentis (who was working on “U-571”) went a short distance to the “Gladiator” set, where director Ridley Scott said yes to the film. The screenplay was credited to two of the most highly regarded screenwriters in the business, Steven Zaillian and David Mamet, although apparently, Mamet’s work did not end up in the final draft – he received credit due to guild regulations.Although the final feature met with mixed reactions, it was a suprising success in this era of crackdowns on the “R” rating. Scott’s picture is a different creature altogether; a horror film wrapped in grand elegance. Scott brought two “Gladiator” collaborators to the party – cinematographer John Mathieson and editor Petro Scalia, and both do excellent work. The movie is also different in terms of set-up; where Clarice was the main character in “Silence”, she becomes a supporting figure here. As Hannibal himself has been let free, the story focuses on him instead. After Clarice (Moore) is demoted (her basement lab looks like Mulder’s from “The X-Files”, while Moore reminded me of Scully at times during the early scenes) after a botched drug bust, we are launched into the main story.A previous victim of Lecter who has escaped, Mason Verger (an uncredited Gary Oldman), wants revenge on Lecter. It’s Lecter himself though, that invites Clarice back into the game. The original picture had Lecter being simply evil, while here has gotten himself back out into the world – living in Florence, Italy he has become an art curator and occasionally stops off for a coffee. Yet, there’s another individual on the hunt already in the neighborhood. An Italian detective named Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) wants the reward for Hannibal’s capture, which turns out to be a predictably bad idea. Even though the result of his chase seems rather obvious, I’ll give Scott credit for maintaining a respectable amount of tension throughout these scenes.Anthony Hopkins in Hannibal (2001)Also, I’ll give Scott credit for a terrific first half. The picture was not exactly what I’d been expecting from it; although there is some definite violence early in the picture, the film maintains a fine level of tension.The performances are generally excellent. Moore’s ability and range are once again remarkable, allowing herself to convincingly become a dark and lonely character – she does everything she can with a character that is less involved this time around. Hopkins is, as usual, an engaging villian who, now unleashed into the world, plans out his crimes, allowing the tension to build as to whether or not he’s going to go after his persuers.The film is impressive, with stunning cinematography, amazing production design, great editing and a typically great score from Hans Zimmer.  Hannibal is a fine sequel to the Silence of the Lambs and is a must see for any Hannibal fans