Jason Ratigan

Staff Writer

A lawyer-turned-something-else with a strong appreciation for film and television.  He knows he can't read every great book ever written, but seeing every good movie ever made is absolutely doable.  Check out his other stuff on Wordpress.

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"Heavyweights" Might Be Best Left In Memory Review

“It’s a fat camp!  Are you kidding?”

School's out for summer and, for some kids, that means camp.  Gerry (Aaron Schwartz) is 11 years old (and unaccountably in high school) and his parents are sending him to Camp Hope.  The pathetic promo video starts off weak, but the promise of a big bouncy thing in the middle of a lake and go-cart races are intriguing.  Then he sees the campers—they’re fat.  It’s a fat camp.  Gerry ain’t interested but his father (Jeffrey Tambor), who is clearly a bit ashamed of his son’s weight, makes him go.  Things start off fine.  He meets a few veteran campers like Roy (Kenan Thompson) and Josh (Shaun Weiss) as well as camp counselors Pat (Tom McGowan) and Tim (Paul Feig) and they’re all pretty cool and provide a safe, no-bullying summer.  But when the Bushkins (Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara) lose the camp in bankruptcy (Chapter 9, which is actually for municipalities, but never mind), it’s sold to the psychotic Tony Perkis (Ben Stiller) who turns the camp into no-fun weight loss program.

Dec
13
2012
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"Camp Fred": Juvenile. Irritating. Plagiaristic. Mediocre. Review

“Iwanappeepee on you, Iwanapeepee on you, Iwanapeepee on all of you.”

Fred (Lucas Cruikshank) is a character that is so annoying that when Fred’s dad (John Cena) inevitably throws him through a table it’s like somebody is scratching an itch. Fred’s got a helium-based voice and the most offensive campy performance outside the 1980’s. Fred wants to go to Camp Superior, but his mom (Siobhan Fallon) signs him up to Camp Iwanapeepee run by Floyd Spunkmeyer (Tom Arnold). It’s a crappy camp that serves gruel and bug juice (made from bugs). Spunkmeyer really wants to win a competition of some kind which they haven’t been able to win in the past years of existence. And, possibly, there’s something weird going on. You know, besides everything.

Dec
11
2012
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"Liberal Arts" Plays as an Anthem for Anyone Nostalgic for Academia Review

"She was like the best teacher I had here…she was like the second best teacher I had here."

Leaving college isn’t hard.  Staying away is the difficulty.  Jesse (Josh Radnor) is in admissions for NYU and when his professor (Richard Jenkins) has a retirement dinner, he drops everything (which is very little) and goes out to his alma mater, Kenyon College (unnamed in the film).  Once there, it’s “like seeing an ex-girlfriend…the one that got away.”  He sees Prof. Fairfield (Allison Janney), the teacher of his best class who he loved but doesn’t remember him.  He walks the grounds like he’s in heaven.  He also meets Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), a sophomore cutie finding her way through school.  They start up a pen-palship and things get a little more serious.  When she asks him to come back and see her, he’s faced with a dramatic conflict to resolve.

Dec
09
2012
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Still Plenty of Reasons to Give a Flying Flock About "The Wild Geese" Review

"Morals among mercenaries, who’d think we’d ever see the day."

If you’re going to see The Wild Geese (1978), you’re going to want to read this set-up first since things are very quickly explained. Sir Edward Matheson (Stewart Granger) is in negotiations over rights to copper mines with Mboya (Thomas Baptiste) the leader of the (fictional) nation of Zimbala. He’s giving Matheson some trouble.  In order to counter this trouble, Matheson has brought in the aging mercenary Col. Allen Faulkner (Richard Burton) to bring some sound and fury into Zimbala. He is to rescue the fabled former president of Zimbala, Limbani (Winston Ntshona), who was coup’d upon and is held (and thought to be dead).  Faulkner needs the help of two other ancient reivers. Capt. Rafer Janders (Richard Harris), he’s the brains, and Lt. Shawn Flynn (Roger Moore), he’s a friend and can fly planes.  Flynn brings in an Africa expert, Lt. Pieter Coetzee (Hardy Krüger). These fellows need a small army behind them and they pick themselves the oldest hands they can find. The one condition is, apparently, that they be old and useless for anything but fighting. Things go roughly according to plan until, inevitably, they don’t.

Dec
07
2012
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"CSI"'s Got Nothing On "Mannix" Review

"The newspapers said that it was an accident, but I think someone was trying to kill him."

Mike Connors is Mannix.  He’s a private investigator based out of Los Angeles.  He’s your basic good guy.  Without any real personality and an awfully large amount of friends around town (and the world) for a guy that doesn’t seem to get out that much.  Unlike Jim Rockford, Mannix isn’t overly interested his fees even though he lives with plenty of glamour.  What Mannix lives for is running around, taking and giving beatings, and getting to the bottom of things.  He’s pretty good at it, with the occasional help of his assistant Peggy Fair (Gail Fisher) and Lt. Malcolm (Ward Wood).  Most of his work runs him into syndicate (aka mafia) and conspiracies of many kinds.

Dec
06
2012
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HBO Documentary "41" Offers No Insight Into the Elder Bush Review

“I don’t like him and I think he cost me the election. Other than that I have nothing to say.” - George H.W. Bush on Ross Perot

The experience is not unlike going home and a grandparent opening up the photo album.  “Oh no…”  Except that where you or I might have an album or two covering our entire lives Poppy Bush has reams and reams of pictures and video footage of his time in Kennebunkport, Andover, and Yale.  It makes the first twenty minutes excruciatingly funny.

The most interesting thing about this man is his long career, spanning numerous jobs leading all the way to the Presidency. It is also the most glossed-over part of the documentary.  

Nov
30
2012
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Third Time's At Least Better Than The Second For "Men In Black" Review

"Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to."

Boris (“the Animal”), a Boglodite assassin, escapes from the Lunar Max prison (...on the moon, duh…) intent on returning to Earth to kill the Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) of the past (Josh Brolin) and thereby avoid his internment and bring about the Boglodite invasion of Earth that Kay circumvented by deploying the Arch-something in 1969.  Somehow, Boris succeeds, Kay is killed (off screen), and Jay (Will Smith) realizes this when no one else does, even the new MIB head O (Emma Thompson).  So we figure out what happened and Jay has to go back in time to take care of things to prevent this Boglodite invasion that’s just started (in our own time) from ever happening…again.

Nov
28
2012
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For "Bloody Christmas", Coming But Once a Year is Too Much Review

“Merry f-ing Christmas, America!”

It’s a rough time of year for Santa (Steve Montague).  He’s been fired, his car won’t start, and he can’t remember to take off his beard and hat.  Father Michael (Robert Youngren) is trying to spread the true meaning of Christmas.  There’s also a serial killer and an investigation going on.  It’s hard to say.  The story is an endless mishmash that ends in a final conflict of gratuitous nudity and violence that goes on far longer than it ought to.

What is it about low-budget films?  With as many writers as there are and unknown talent, how are movies made that are so terrible?  There’s an old psychological trick people play on themselves where they say, “All great artists think they’re terrible.”  The problem is that most terrible artists think they’re terrible too.  Mediocrities and morons think they’re great.  They also like to make work that’s “fun.”  And why do they always have such a juvenile sense of humor?

Nov
27
2012
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"Sparkle" Never Dazzles and Rarely Ever Shines Review

"Honey, you sing."

Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) pushes her sister, aptly named Sister (Carmen Ejogo), into singing her songs in 1968.  Emma (Whitney Houston) is her mother who had a rough time in the singing biz and doesn’t want her children following in her footsteps. But Sparkle meets and falls for Stix (Derek Luke) who wants to be a great manager.  Levi (Omari Hardwick) is interested in sister Sister, but she goes for Satin (Mike Epps), a semi-famous comedian, instead.  Sparkle, Sister, and a third sister, Dolores (Tika Sumpter) start a trio, but events conspire to push Sparkle into the limelight.

Nov
19
2012
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A Written Review Can't Do "Burning Man" Justice Review

"Grief is not something you can resist." - Jonathan Teplitzky's Burning Man

Tom (Matthew Goode) is a fine chef.  He is stricken with grief for the passing of his wife Sarah (Bojana Novakovic) and he tends to put that energy into two things: women and cooking.  Only the cooking seems to do him any good.  His self-destruction has made it difficult in raising his son Oscar (Jack Heanly).  When he gets in a car crash, he relives moments of great pain.  The good times, the bad times, and the reckless abandon with which he expresses his grief.

Nov
18
2012
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"Blade Runner" Still Has Things You People Wouldn't Believe Review

It’s not an easy thing to meet your maker.

Blade Runner (1982) has undergone a ludicrous amount of substantial revisions. And yet, it is to sci-fi what Chinatown (1974) is to film noir in terms of history and critical prestige. This is true despite a tonal change in the end of film. That says something either about the standards of sci-fi fans or the quality of the film. The Blade Runner 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition includes all of these revisions all on Blu-ray (and one also on DVD) along with more special features than a normal person could ever hope to enjoy.

Nov
17
2012
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"Broadway" Entirely Too Self-Indulgent, But Occasionally Interesting Review

Broadway is life!

Uniquely American art form? If they make one more empty platitude about musicals or Broadway, something will be thrown at great velocity.  Julie Andrews hosts this half-history, half-propaganda piece concerning roadway and the American musical from the turn of the century to the early 21st century.  It goes from Ragtime and Vaudeville to Wicked and The Lion King major personality by major personality.

For those who are well-educated in early 20th century musicals, this is a highly gratifying documentary.  They’ll join in with Andrews when she says in that hushed, rich voice what she takes to be a famous person or song.  “That great composer was…Irving Berlin.”  For those looking to learn, you can be sure that a large corner of Broadway is on display for you. 

Oct
31
2012
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The Spirit of "Peanuts" Is Rendered Inert in "Go Snoopy Go!" Review

"Good grief, a home run."

It begins with an episode of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show (1983).  Snoopy thinks he’s a vulture for a moment.  Linus tries to get rid of his blanket, then Snoopy tries to get his Linus’s blanket.  Then Linus uses his blanket as a hammock.  Then Snoopy tries to get Linus’s blanket again.  Marcie and Peppermint Patty skip school because Patty thinks she’s stupid.  Why does Marcie keep calling Patty “Sir”? Then Charlie Brown tries to get some baseball practice in on a Rainy Day.  It doesn’t go well.  Good God.

Oct
29
2012
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Dive Into the Dark, Enthralling World of "The Ambassador" Review

"This conversation we’re about to have never happened."

As seen in in the documentary The Ambassador, Mads Brügger, under the name Mads Cortzen, went about obtaining himself credentials as a diplomat to the Central African Republic (CAR).  With these credentials, one can travel freely without interference from local officials.  This is used, Brügger asserts, to allow for shady deals to make these so-called diplomats rich.  He eventually engages Diplomatic Services, a credential brokerage company, for $135,000 (which also provided him with an honorary degree from Monrovia University and a Liberian driver’s license).  He also looked into a British broker of diplomatic credentials (who has an exclusive plan for “extremely high likelihood of success”) but they could not find a country that would want a consulate in the CAR.  So, Brügger goes to Monrovia, Liberia with a plan in motion (by Diplomatic Services) to bribe the appropriate individuals to get his credentials and put him on track to bring blood diamonds out of Africa under the guise of building a match factory in the CAR.

Oct
25
2012
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The "Robert Mitchum Film Collection" Has More Stars Than Duds Review

Robert Mitchum is a fine actor.  Like many actors of the time, his range is somewhat limited both by casting directors and his own force of personality.  There’s just so much you can do with a face like his.  It just oozes confidence bordering on indifference.  In The Robert Mitchum Film Collection, ten films (either from 20th Century Fox, United Artists/MGM) between 1954 and 1967 are brought together into two paper sleeve volumes.  Like any actor’s film collection, there is a balance of mediocre back catalog and pretty good back catalog (with one or two solid classics).  After the days where actors were nearly exclusive to a particular studio, it’s basically chance whether more than a couple classics were made by that company.  And, of course, an actor has less effect on a movie’s greatness than does a writer or director.  A polished toilet is still a toilet, only shinier.  So, you won’t see Mitchum’s best movie, The Yakuza (1974), in this collection. 

Oct
25
2012
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"Just Around the Corner" Has Heart but a Muddled Premise Review

“It’s about Bob.”

It’s Bob’s birthday and it’s time for a party. Bob Benjamin was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 38. He had been an athletic guy who was in the music business for a long time. Refusing to give up when diagnosed, he started the Light of Day foundation which, on his birthday, puts on a rock show to raise money for Parkinson’s research.

Just Around the Corner (2011) features artists like Ed Kowalczyk (from Live), Bruce Springsteen, and John Rzeznik (from Goo Goo Dolls) from Light of Day (LOD) concerts past who occasionally take a seat across from the camera and share stories about Bob and the idea of the LOD foundation as well as Bob's family, friends, and doctors who give their own perspectives on Bob and his condition.

Oct
03
2012
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Sometimes, Blu-ray Isn't Better Review

It’s that damn road.  It uses up a lot of animals.  Cats and dogs mostly.

Stephen King is the master of horror because he knows that horror runs deeper than nerves.  Horror finds a thematic fear and uses allegory or parable to make a point. This is what Stephen King does better than anyone. Take that Poe!  But really, Poe didn’t use allegory or substitution, he simply took a human flaw and made it dreadful—pride, anger, longing are Poe’s tools and loss, death, and alienation are King’s. That’s not meant to be categorical, but a general comment. The real distinction is between King and those who would claim to make a horror film as opposed to a “scary movie”. Pet Sematary (1989) is a horror film of some caliber.  Semat- (signal, sign, symbol) –ary (a place where).

Oct
02
2012
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David Caruso's Crimes Against Acting Come to an End in the Final Season of "CSI: Miami" Review

“I been all over, that could have come from anywhere.”  “Yeah, but it’s not a sardine.  It’s a garra fish.”

Let’s montage! YEAH!

In CSI: Miami the CSIs are still I-ing CSs as usual.  Lt. Horatio Caine (David Caruso) leads the team of incredibly skilled and relevantly-informed investigators.  Calleigh Duquesne (Emily Procter), Eric Delko (Adam Rodriguez), Walter Simmons (Omar Miller), Ryan Wolfe (Jonathan Togo), and Natalia Boa Vista (Eva La Rue).  They all drive H3s.  They all wield guns and microscopes in their quest to figure things out and point guns at people.  We’ve got ourselves a body.  Make that two.  Or even three.  Don’t worry, the various perpetrators will be handcuffed and shakily photographed by the end.  That is, unless somebody needs saving.  I think it’s time for a…

Mon-tage!

Sep
29
2012
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