APOLLO 10 1/2: A SPACE AGE CHILDHOOD (2022)

Written & Directed By: Richard Linklater Cinematography: Shane F. Kelly

Editor: Sandra Adair

Cast: Jack Black, Zachary Levi, Glenn Powell, Bill Sage, Milo Coy, Lee Eddy, Josh Wiggins, Natalie L’Amoreaux 

The story of the first moon landing in the summer of 1969 from two interwoven perspectives. It both captures the astronaut and mission control view of the triumphant moment, and the lesser-seen bottom up perspective of what it was like from an excited kid’s perspective, living near NASA but mostly watching it on TV like hundreds of millions of others. It’s ultimately both an exacting re-creation of this special moment in history and a kid’s fantasy about being plucked from his average life in suburbia to secretly train for a covert mission to the moon.


This film feels more like a loving living memory. That is more an autobiographical look back at childhood in 1969. Nothing about the culture, times, and family life of those times.

As obviously this is a project close to writer/director Richard Linklater’s heart. Where the side plot of a kid experiencing space exploration is to give the film more of a center and a kind of big plot to attract audiences.

That eventually makes good on the promise of that story but is treated more as an afterthought. As not only is it more wish fantasy but also is kind of a metaphor for the last days of innocence before getting older and into not only adulthood but young adulthood where responsibilities pile up and things become more concrete. Though it is handled here as just another episode as part of the character’s youth. 

The film uses rotoscoping animation, a technique the director has used before in previous films WAKING LIFE, and his adaptation of A SCANNER DARKLY. Here it is used more personally which gives the film and its characters a more vibrant life and flexibility that might have been harder to create in live-action. Plus it allows for that time to seem more like an otherworldly fantasy. 

Though its use here is not as outlandish and surreal as his previous projects with it. 

The film is impressive but never quite exciting even though it isn’t designed to be. It more feels like the Billy Joel song WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE. With it being a pop song to groove to but also made up of so many historical references you want to look up the ones you don’t know. So in effect a kind of lesson of sorts also of all that has happened since then. A nice memorial to those times.

Grade: B

ORANGE COUNTY (2002)

Directed By: Jake Kasdan 
Written By: Mike White 
 Cinematography By: Greg Gardiner 
Editor: Tara Timpone 

Cast: Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Schuyler Fisk, John Lithgow, Catherin O’Hara, Leslie Mann, Carly Pope, Lily Tomlin, Chevy Chase, Dana Ivey, Brett Harrison, Natasha Melnick, Harold Ramis, Kyle Howard, Mike White, Fran Kranz, Nat Faxon, Monica Keena, Lizzy Caplan


Shaun Brumder is a local surfer kid from Orange County who dreams of going to Stanford to become a writer and to get away from his disfunctional family household. Except Shaun runs into one complication after another starting when his application is rejected after his dim-witted guidance counselor sends the wrong application. So, Shaun goes to great lengths with a little help from his girlfriend Ashley and his drugged-out loser brother Lance to get into Stanford any way they see fit.

Screenwriter, Mike White seems so seething with ideas and quirky characters ready to bust out on screen. You want to follow in further stories and adventures with the characters. So they usually feel like extended pilots for a new series. Maybe it’s his background in television writing. In turn, his television series always seem like set-ups for films. While he is usually a writer-director here he only handles the script.

Jake Kasdan directs the film. He usually is an inspired comedy director. He has a more subdued, subtle dead own style when it comes to style and scripts. with films like ZERO EFFECT, BAD TEACHER and THE TV SET

This feels like a film that is distracted as we see the cavalcade of well-known actors. Half the time the film’s scenes feel like a set-up for a celebrity cameo. Like there are most to the other characters but we only get to see them at their craziest. Trying to make the celebrities more recognizable or introduce them to a younger audience. The film also plays it smart even when stupid.

This film feels like an MTV film while it tries to match its demographic and quirky style for a built-in audience. That leaves the film inspired but also grasping for something. So that it works more times than not, but still doesn’t shine. Maybe because it seems to try too hard.

Jack Black plays well in the film. What a lot of critics have labeled him, as here I found him quite humorous. As the film has a bunch of standout hilarious scenes, Involving him, but though top-billed he is more here as a supporting actor.

The film’s humor is more sold by more minor performances and supporting characters. Rather than the set-up’s

The leads and the director are both children of Hollywood superstars. They more than hold their own though these are ones they could play in their sleep.

This film feels like a minor work not deep at all. It’s mildly amusing. All could do better and have this seems to like them trying to be more mainstream.

Plus the premise of the film is that his writing is so good because of the characters in his stories. Only they aren’t characters as much as real people. So he is just writing his real-life not that creative. Which is what goes against the premise. At least as far as the ending goes. And seems dependent on.

Plus it feels like his decision at the end is supposed to be heartwarming. It more feels deceptive like he needs more material and inspiration.

Through as much as I criticize. I find myself re-watching it from time to time. It has a highly rewatchable quality. The film is short and sweet. It’s a fun time while it lasts, but never comes close to being a classic

I can’t call it a good movie, more of a precious film that doesn’t seem forced. That younger people can look at it like it belongs in a museum. Like our own personal definite gift shop as a souvenir for others to share and see.

It really says you are a good writer. If you can tell the truth and bring it all together to be told vividly for an audience.

GRADE: C+

MARGOT AT THE WEDDING (2007)

Written & Directed By: Noah Baumbach
Cinematography By: Harris Savides
Editor: Carol Littleton

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Jack Black, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Halley Feiffer, John Turturro, Cirian Hinds, Zane Pais, Seth Barrish, Flora Closs, Michael Cullen 


 A slice of family life: sisters, husbands, children, history, secrets, jealousies. Margot and her teen son, Claude, travel from Manhattan to her family’s Long Island home, occupied by sister Pauline, Pauline’s daughter, and Malcolm, the slacker Pauline will marry outdoors that week under a tree neighbors want removed. Backbiting marks family discussion, particularly between the sisters and in Margot’s cutting remarks to Claude. Pauline tells Margot a secret that Margot promptly tells Claude. Margot dislikes Malcolm and undermines him. She also has marital problems and a lover nearby. People are cruel, inside and outside their families. Is there a refuge for Margot or for Pauline? 


I don’t know if this is supposed to be misery/tragedy emotional pornography with some humor or not. As it is beautifully filmed with natural lighting, but when you are complimenting the filmmaking or certain technical aspects over the whole of the film or you just happen to notice and focus on that more than anything else. You know the movie might be in trouble.

I was looking forward to this film having loved his previous film THE SQUID & THE WHALE. Not to mention other films he has made before and since. This was his bug follow up project. Though I have to say this was a big disappointment really his first for me. It might be because he was following up a big success and his film would have to live up to it and it falls short.

I should have known when Nicole Kidman was cast in it. Not that she is a bad actress. Quite the contrary. Around this time and. Wrote She only seems to do independent films when she wants to be noticed m. As her career might be in trouble and she wants to prove herself to critics again (TO DIE FOR, FUR, RABBIT HOLE) she also comes off as icy onscreen so if she was looking to play different. She could have tried Jennifer Jason Leigh’s role in this film.

Unfortunately for her. This was not like the redirection Charlize Theron had with MONSTER. Here she plays such a bitchy unlikeable character, It’s hard to like anything about her unfortunately for this film other than the kids the same goes for almost every character in this film. Jennifer Jason Leigh is fragile, sympathetic and pathetic. Oddly enough though this maybe the best and funniest work ever by jack black at the time. It takes awhile to get ignited but You can see all the promise people have been saying about him. Though The uncomfortable nature of his relationship with the teenage girl in the film feels reprehensible and especially after the film tries to get us on his side. After that it seems pretty easily to detest his character.

The constant war their characters have with their neighbors could have gone on longer. Those scenes might have sped the move up. The way it stands the neighbors come off like a mix of the duckie boys from THE WANDERERS and The Bumpasses of A CHRISTMAS STORY. They seem to be dirty and mean instead of just mean like the other characters in this film. Who just have better wittier one liners and vocabularies.

Nicole Kidman is the main attraction here. As the film takes place more or less around her character. Even though she is only there for a wedding, but her arrival brings old family drama and her sister’s drama and problems with her fiancé to the forefront.

Of course Nicole Kidman stands out in this film as she all but consumes the film and takes it with her. As she is thebttile character everything seems to stem from her. Even when we try to get into the side stories of other characters they are usually all connected or come back to her 

This is also the moodiest if all of writer director Noh Baumbach’s films which usually are dramatic and go to dark places though usually manage to have a smile. While the film does have humor it seems to have a chilly mean spirited vibe throughout. Which again seems to stem from Nicole Kidman’s character

The film offers the actors plenty to play with and they all get room to shine a bit, but the film and screenplay are more focused on the character of Margot. Her name is in the title.

Nicole Kidman, Jack Black, & Jennifer Jason Leigh moved in together during filming because they wanted to perfect their roles as a dysfunctional family.

The film exists as an emotional melodrama where the overall mood is depression and just melancholy with some bits of humor. While most of the characters are intellectuals.

Jack Black gives an ok performance and much was made of his appearance in the film. Here he gets to play a character who is unlikeable and normal. Which is something that is rare for him. As now he seems more the master of cameo roles or kids entertainment comedy. Though with a kind of wicked streak enough that adults still find him funny. He seems to manage to have it all.

This seems more like a film devoted to the 1970’s and with a twist of the French new wave in presenting a kind of familiar story more emotionally but also with more cutting edge pizzaz.

The film is Not a complete failure. It tries to play more like a European film or at least seems to be inspired by them. Though this film among other does make me wonder why when a film Is depressing they call it realistic and natural. There are a few happy moments that feel like simple pleasure within but in these films it just seems to be more attention paid to the doom and gloom.

Cinematographer Harris Savides used old lenses and shot mostly in natural light to get the dim, ominous look of the film. The natural light and old lenses making the hues darker doesn’t cover up sub par material. This film just heavily is disappointing. It has It’s moments but not enough for the audience. You never know you might like it.

The film feels like an overblown second novel that has too much to prove. Like the first one wasn’t a failure so it feels bloated with self importance. Like the writer is trying too hard to prove themselves. As he wants to explain things yet also be vague enough to have the evidence read into more

GRADE: C

HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY (2020)

Directed by: Kimo Eastwood & Ron Cicero Cinematography: Kimo Eastwood

Editor: Ron Cicero, Kimo Eastwood, Sean Jarrett, Kevin Klquber & Christina Burchard

Appearances by: John Kricfalusi, Jack Black, Billy West, Billy Gibbons, Jim Ballantine, David Silverman, Robyn Byrd, Bobby Lee, Ed Ball, Bob Camp 

A documentary that explores the rise and fall of The Ren & Stimpy Show (1991) and its controversial creator, John Kricfalusi.


This film is a discovery. As going into it didn’t really know all the behind the scenes drama until mroe recently and shined a light on what really happened between Nickelodeon and REN & STIMPY show. A show I remember watching early in my teens and loving it for being Different and twisted.

Then when I found out it was created by the man behind THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIGHTY MOUSE. An equally inappropriate animated show but not as bad. Though for a Saturday morning cartoon on a major network it was shocking. It was canceled quickly after an episode seems to imply that a character snorted cocaine.

There is good and bad in all of us, sometimes it tips to one side more than the other. This is A rise and fall story that seems to happen so fast after the initial success that the monster of ego grows so fast you can barely notice. Once you do It’s too late might be indebted and then all the other horrors of their personality come out.

This is a tale of a self destructive artist in the middle. Where for the viewer it seems to be another childhood nostalgic love tainted by controversy over who is behind it and his personal problems and bad behavior.

Though as the cartoon of REN & STIMPY was a little off and kind of naughty especially for the audience it was aimed at. We might think it was rebellious and getting away with stuff that we didn’t understand but knew was wrong or too grown up for us to understand. We look at it as something fans took to heart and a kind of avant garde and there is no denying the talent behind it, but again it becomes a tale of trying to separate the art from the artist though knowing that art couldn’t have been created by anyone else. Even though after time other stepped into help create it and keep that spirit alive.

The artist behind it all doesn’t offer as many excuses as he does in the article that comes to light later and highlighted in the film. That includes interviews from those who know him and even his victims. 

His behavior that is tied into his art seems to do be part of his personality or a disorder that allowed because of a narcissistic personality and plenty of enablers that came along with his success. Even as it hints that he had a rough upbringing that has shaped him and his personality.

Happy this documentary talks about the accusations that go along with his other problems. As an audience should rather find out and know this rather then keep praising blindly. Where eventually you can’t separate your fandom. As you have been indoctrinated and It’s too late as you until then you have been loyal, nostalgic and too content to part with it and separate yourself. Where you try to rationalize and separate the art from the artist. Something similar for some with directors like Roman Polanski or Woody Allen. 

Wish the documentary has gone into his tiger projects but would have gone against the nature of the subject this documentary raises and given him too much screen time making the film all about him and his portfolio and not the actual project that has given him the biggest platform.

The film tries to show the other artists, talents and executives on production teams creativity. As well as what they brought in on the show. Sure he was the creator and head artist/writer but they gave the show and characters soul, depth and humanity. As well as them all admitting he drove them to work harder and be better to make the best show they could.

We hear from his collaborators and other artists who were either fans, victims or witnesses and suspected things that might have happened or noticed inappropriate behavior or nature but were too scared to say anything. As they were all rebellious and misfit outsider going against true norm of the system. Only they didn’t go as far as him. 

So in the end the documentary shows both sides to him. The successful side that gained him fans, attention as well as notoriety. As well as the infamous dastardly bastard side where he used his success and fame to bully and fuel his Inappropriate fetishes with young women. Allowing him to be a sexual predator. We also get to see which side won out.This Documentary will rock your world if you like me weren’t exactly in the know about all the behind the scenes drama and revelations over the years.

Grade: B