Meet the Kids

Little Fockers is too little too late. Meet the Fockers wasn’t universally loved like Meet the Parents, but at least it was a logical follow up. Little Fockers struggles to find a reason to exist aside from the popularity of the franchise. Although the title was foreshadowed a few times whenever someone mentioned Greg and Pam having little Fockers of their own. Despite the 6 year gap, Little Fockers was a financial success, but it does have a lousy 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. You’d be surprised how unfunny the concept can get in the wrong hands. Paul Weitz replaces the original director and Randy Newman doesn’t return as composer. All that’s left is the all-star cast that needed extra pay just to return. Specifically Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, and Dustin Hoffman.

Little Fockers isn’t a repeat of what came before, but that just makes the story even less focused. Greg and Pam have a twin son and daughter named Henry and Samantha. Samantha refuses to talk to her dad and Henry is obsessed with lizards, but the title is misleading. The most we get of them is a birthday party and Greg scouting out a prestigious school with Jack’s help. Hoffman is almost completely absent with Bernie flamingo dancing in Spain. Barbra Streisand has a smaller Razzie nominated appearance with Roz as a sex talk show host. Dina continues trying to spice up her marriage and Pam deals with Greg being away. The entire plot of Meet the Parents in undermind when Dr. Bob divorces Pam’s sister off-screen. Leading to an extremely forced subplot where Jack wants Greg to be “The Godfocker” after having a heart attack. The less said about the ballpit Jaws scene the better.

Jinx is barely in the movie, but Owen Wilson is given a bigger role as Kevin. He’s an annoying presence who adds unwanted tension between Greg and Pam. More celebrities can’t save a weak script. Laura Dern and Harvey Keitel are wasted in fleeting appearances. Kevin Hart plays a male nurse in another one of his before he was famous supporting roles. Although the most unexpected cameos are from voice actor John DiMaggio and Jordan Peele in his first movie appearance. Jessica Alba won a much deserved Razzie playing sexy nurse Andi Garcia who acts like a teenager while coming onto Greg. They sell sex drugs in one of several failed attempts to have conflict. The CIA surveillance ending is replaced by a cringy YouTube remix. Little Fockers is a focking embarassment.

Little Fockers

The twins at the dinner table

Preceded by: Meet the Fockers

Misery Loves Family

Meet the Fockers is more Fockers than anyone can handle. How they got away with that title I’ll never know. Meet the Parents was a surprise hit that inspired a short-lived reality show, sitcom, and even more financially successful sequel. Meet the Fockers was a natural progression after Jack mentioned needing to meet Greg’s parents at the end of the first movie. As predicted, the Fockers are exactly the kind of wonderful and fascinating people who would name their son Gaylord Focker. Meet the Fockers is essentially a repeat of Meet the Parents, but director Jay Roach, composer Randy Newman, and most of the original cast managed to maintain the quality 4 years later. Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Teri Polo, and Blythe Danner are just as committed as they were before. Greg is only briefly seen as a male nurse just to make fun of his name.

Greg and Pam are engaged, but Jack and Dina still need to meet the Fockers. The sequel is overly long thanks to a minor road trip in Jack’s CIA approved RV. Meet the Fockers has more of Jinx the house trained cat and an adorable baby is added to the trip. Pam’s sister and extended family are absent, but she does leave behind her baby little Jack who knows sign language and absorbs Greg’s bad behavior. Jack takes having nipples that can be milked a little too seriously by wearing a prosthetic boob for breastfeeding. The humor is a bit more crass, but 2 additional Oscar winners managed to save the sequel. Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand are dream casting choices for Gaylord’s eccentric sexually active Jewish parents. Bernie is an overly affectionate hippie, Roz is a highly successful elderly sex therapist, and their dog Moses is particularly excited. The contrast between the loose Fockers and the uptight Jack makes every situation more funny.

Dina is given a bit more character development by seeking Roz’s sexual advice. Pam being pregnant is what brings Jack back into conflict with his future son-in-law. Owen Wilson briefly appears as Kevin near the end, but the role of ex-lover is given to Alanna Ubach as Greg’s busty former maid Isabel. A young Mexican Ben Stiller lookalike opens up the possibility of Greg already being a father. The sequel has another botched family sports game and another awkward dinner scene, but Greg being given truth serum is an unexpected addition. This time Greg and his father are detained by a state trooper played by Tim Blake Nelson. Meet the Fockers ends with another wedding and surveillance camera gag, but the sequel is welcomed enough to keep the franchise going.

Meet the Fockers

Bernie kisses Jack on the forehead

Preceded by: Meet the Parents & Followed by: Little Fockers

The Circle of Trust

Meet the Parents is the ultimate “meeting the parents” movie. Although simple in premise, Meet the Parents is one of the most financially successful comedies of the year 2000. Randy Newman was even nominated for his song “A Fool in Love.” So it’s a bit surprising to learn Meet the Parents was actually a remake of an independent 1992 comedy. Producers liked the concept so much that they gave it a bigger budget and an A-list cast. Meet the Parents surprisingly gained attention from Steven Spielberg and Jim Carrey before they dropped out. I probably would’ve seen the movie sooner if they were involved, but Meet the Parents belongs to Austin Powers director Jay Roach and deadpan comedian Ben Stiller. Greg already has the stigma of being a male nurse, but he also has the most hilariously awkward name in movie history.

I’m not sure how they got away with a name like Gaylord Focker in a PG-13 movie. I wouldn’t exactly call it family friendly despite Greg meeting his girlfriend’s parents for the first time. I’m not familiar with Teri Palo, but she plays things straight as Pam Byrnes. Blythe Danner as Pam’s mother Dina is also reserved compared to her Oscar winning co-star. After taking more comedy roles, Robert De Niro was surprisingly perfect for Pam’s overprotective father Jack. Since Jack is a former CIA agent, he uses hidden surveillance cameras and literally cross-examines Greg with a lie detector test. Hilarity ensues the more Greg attempts to gain entry into Jack’s so-called “circle of trust.” Like a sitcom, the subtle humor comes out of awkward situations.

Being Jewish, Greg fumbles saying grace at dinner and claims to have milked a cat. Jinx is a memorable movie cat for his unique ability to use the toilet. Most of the plot centers around Greg wanting to propose, but he also deals with Pam’s more successful relatives during her sister’s wedding. Pam has her sister Debbie, delinquent brother Denny, Debbie’s fiancée Dr. Bob, and his parents. The only other cast members I recognized were James Rebhorn and of course Owen Wilson. Kevin is Pam’s wealthy ex-fiancée who works as a carpenter and demeans Greg even further. So much goes wrong including Greg blowing a volleyball game, burning down the wedding, losing Jinx, and yelling “bomb” on an airplane. Some jokes are predictable, but Meet the Parents kept me laughing all the way through.

Meet the Parents

Jack gives Greg a polygraph test

Followed by: Meet the Fockers

Lovers Loop

Palm Springs is not your typical time loop. 2020 was a year where most people sat around doing nothing almost everyday. So Palm Springs came out at just the right time. Since time loop movies are practically their own genre, the formula needed shaking up. Palm Springs is about more than one person experiencing the loop and it actually begins with the main character already in the middle of it. The latter was one of the original concepts for Groundhog Day, but that wouldn’t have worked.

Though it is a comedy, this was the most mature performance I’ve seen from SNL alumni Andy Samberg. Nyles is a slacker who eventually figured life was meaningless and learned to accept the loop. I wasn’t a fan of the movie’s overly nihilistic tone that Nyles’ name not so subtly indicates. Plus the excessive language and occasional gross moments that the 2020’s keep pushing. Though Cristin Milioti does make an impression as Nyles unwitting companion in the loop. Sarah and Nyles meet at the Palm Springs wedding for Superman and Veronica.

Camila Mendes and Tyler Hoechlin both took a break from the CW to play the couple. Sarah is also a mess, but together her and Nyles do whatever they want without consequences. The only minor inconvenience is another trapped looper played by J.K. Simmons who wants Nyles dead. The mysterious source of the loop is the reason for more than one person being effected. Nyles and Sarah finding meaning in each other is probably the only thing that endears Palm Springs among the ever-growing list of time loop movies.

Palm Springs

Nyles and Sarah do nothing

My Extraordinary Ordinary Life

About Time is the feel good time travel movie of the 21st century. It’s about time I watched the movie. I’ve been curious to see About Time ever since I stumbled upon the trailer back in 2013. About Time is about one man’s journey to find happiness in his ordinary life. Third time director Richard Curtis is known for sentimental British romance. Domhnall Gleeson is a fitting romantic lead who plays the nervous Tim Lake. Tim has a perfectly loving family that includes his caring father James, mother Mary, confused Uncle Desmond, and fairy-like sister Kit Kat. Bill Nighy plays Tim’s father who very casually tells him all the men in their family can travel back in time.

Unlike most time travel movies, Tim can only go backwards in his own life by clenching his fists in a dark room. Unlike most romantic movies, About Time is refreshingly simple with very little conflict and no forced break ups. Tim just wants to get a girlfriend. So he improves his life similar to a time loop movie if it took place on more than one day. This is technically the earliest I’ve seen Margot Robbie as the first girl Tim fails to romance no matter how many chances he gets. This was also the earliest I’ve seen Vanessa Kirby. Tim eventually uses his power to help people like his jaded playwright flatmate played by Tom Hollander. His play sadly features Richard Griffiths in his final role.

Tim eventually falls for Mary played by the lovely American Rachel McAdams. Every attempt to woo Mary feels earned since they initially felt a connection without the use of time travel. Their relationship is genuine and heartfelt. About Time is honestly one of my new favorite genre-bending movies. Characters are hilarious beginning to end, the soundtrack is smashing, and I was so moved that I ended up crying. The only conflict is Tim realizing time travel can’t fix everything in his life. So he eventually learns from his dad that the key to happiness is appreciating life. About Time is a criminally underrated unconventional love story.

About Time

Tim and Mary as newlyweds

Adam & uǝpƎ

Upside Down is a romance that defies gravity itself. Have you ever seen a trailer to something you never heard of, but knew you had to watch one day? That’s how I felt about Upside Down when I first discovered it. The French Romeo & Juliet style romance with a sci-fi twist is between people from two different worlds… literally! Upside Down takes place on twin planets that are directly above and below one another. Gravity is different on each world and contact is strictly forbidden.

Adam lives in the lower class Down and Eden lives in the upper class Up. Their names are just as on the nose as the movie’s metaphors. Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst have good chemistry as the doomed couple who figure out clever ways to meet in the middle. Dunst is obviously no stranger to upside down kisses. The color palette is a very stylised dark blue with occasional lense flares. The special effects will mess with your head if you don’t get used to them, but they are impressive whenever you see both worlds interact.

Trans-World is a company that employes important people from both worlds. Adam develops a gravity defying anti-aging cream and befriends an American Timothy Spall from Up. Since Eden developed amnesia after their last rendezvous, Adam figures out how to stay Up using inverse matter. All the scientific talk can get confusing if you’re not paying attention. The basic story has been told a million times, but I have to admire Upside Down for taking such a unique storytelling risk.

Upside Down

Adam and Eden kiss upside down

Time is Money

In Time takes the expression “time is money” literally. This is a future where time has become currency, payment is given or accepted from a person’s arm clock, everyone has 1 year to live after they turn 25, the poor live minute by minute, and the rich are practically immortal. In Time is similar to Logan’s Run for having a youthful society. Director Andrew Niccol openly admitted similarities to Gattaca. Both movies have retrofuturistic cars, an unlikely romance, and a protagonist who evades arrest in an effort to disrupt the established order. In Time sounded interesting when I first saw the trailer, but I lost interest after the less than stellar reception.

Justin Timberlake can act, but when he’s not expected to sing, it can be hard to take him seriously as an action star. He plays struggling factory worker Will Salas who lives in the ghetto with his mother. Seeing the very attractive Olivia Wilde as his mother can be a bit jarring the first time. Time Zones separate poor neighborhoods like Dayton from wealthy neighborhoods like New Greenwich. Minutemen are literal time burglars who steal time from the less fortunate. Timekeepers are a police force that operate day to day. Matt Bomer plays the century old Henry Hamilton who willingly gives Will all his time.

Which is what leads Cillian Murphy as an obsessive Timekeeper to hunt him down. Will enjoys his wealth, but it doesn’t last long. He ends up kidnapping the daughter of a wealthy elite with too much time on his hands played by Vincent Kartheiser. Amanda Seyfried is cute as a redhead, but I feel like she’s only around to be eye candy. Sylvia willingly joins Will on a Bonnie & Clyde style crusade to fight the system. Maybe it’s the cheesy dialogue or constant time puns, but In Time doesn’t quite land the way Gattaca did. Nevertheless, In Time was still worth my time for its creative depiction of the future.

In Time

Will and Sylvia go on the run

Genetic Perfection

Gattaca is one of the most realistic depictions of the not too distant future. This is a future where genetic perfection is the most important thing in society. Scientifically engineered “valids” are artificially conceived through eugenics and genetically imperfect “in-valids” are naturally conceived. In his directorial debut, Andrew Niccol created a less than science fiction future that’s almost indistinguishable from our own. I first watched Gattaca in my high school science class, but I had a hard time following the complex premise. It didn’t surprise me to learn it wasn’t a financial success.

Genetic discrimination doesn’t sound exciting, but the older I got, the more fascinating Gattaca became. Ethan Hawke plays the “in-valid” Vincent who has a low life expectancy, but a dream worth rooting for. In order to go to space, Vincent must assume the identity of “valid” wheelchair bound swimmer Jerome. Jude Law makes a strong impression without the use of his legs. Vincent goes to extreme measures using DNA samples from Jerome just to join the Gattaca space program. A murder mystery makes the possibility of Vincent getting caught surprisingly suspenseful.

The impressive cast includes Tony Shalhoub, writer Gore Vidal, Ernest Borgnine, and a very early role for Maya Rudolph. Alan Arkin and Loren Dean play detectives using genetic testing to find the “in-valid” imposter. Vincent is only found out by his younger “valid” brother Anton and his attractive “valid” co-worker Irene. Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman have great chemistry because they actually fell in love on set. Their steamy romance is kept strictly PG-13. Although it feels open ended at times, Gattaca is a smartly written thriller with an inspirational message to defy expectations.


Vincent (aka Jerome) and Irene look up

Welcome to the 23rd Century

Logan’s Run was the most ambitious science fiction film made at the time. Bare in mind this was 1 year before Star Wars dominated the big screen. So their depiction of a futuristic society is a bit more cheesy with a space age soundtrack from Jerry Goldsmith, colorful costumes, and clean sets made from repurposed shopping malls. Logan’s Run is very 70’s, but it was loosely based on a 1967 novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. The movie had a long production run and many changes were made to the book. Logan’s Run is a classic dystopian tale about what seems like a utopian world. In the 23rd Century, a hedonistic society of people live under a dome, but die young at the age of 30.

Everyone has a crystal on their palm indicating how much time they have and a “Carrousel” ceremony tricks people into thinking their life will be renewed. It’s complicated, but the idea of overpopulation and blissful ignorance leaves an undeniable impact. Logan’s Run also made use of levitation, holograms, and wide-angle lenses in a miniature city that earned the movie a Special Achievement Oscar. The cast is small, but Michael York is a suitable conformist turned rebel. Logan 5 is a “Sandman” who terminates people who run from their fate. Jenny Agutter plays a beautiful runner capable of changing his ideology. Logan 5 and Jessica 6 go on the run throughout the city and into an unfamiliar world.

Similar to Planet of the Apes, the real world is overgrown with Peter Ustinov as the last surviving old man. Meanwhile, Richard Jordan tirelessly hunts down the runners as Logan’s former partner Francis 7. Roscoe Lee Browne voices a very unexpected evil robot named Box and rising star Farrah Fawcett gets top-billing as facial stylist Holly 13. Despite the sexual themes, Logan’s Run somehow got away with a PG rating. Despite the fact that all women have sexy revealing outfits and are seen casually naked several times. There’s something to be said about the Free Love mentality, but Logan’s Run can be interpreted many ways. Though there was a short-lived TV series and Marvel comics, I’m surprised a sequel or remake never materialized. Logan’s Run is a product of its time that inspired more than it’s given credit for.

Logan's Run

Logan 5 and Jessica 6

A Whale of a Tale

Free Willy: Escape from Pirate’s Cove has nothing to do with the original trilogy. It’s a direct-to-video reboot made 13 years later. Aside from name recognition, there’s no reason to call it Free Willy. I think it was only made to be a starring vehicle for Bindi Irwin, daughter of beloved Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin. Escape from Pirate’s Cove is filled with animals other than the titular killer whale.

Willy is now a baby orca who gets separated from his pod. The movie once again sticks to animatronics and lower quality CGI. Kirra is an Australian girl sent to live with her grandpa in South Africa. Normally I’d be against movies like this, but Bindi is as much of a star as her late father. Kirra’s bond with Willy feels like the best way to carry on his legacy. Of course it helps to have veteran actor Beau Bridges in it.

I can respect the reboot for not just repeating what made the original movie so good. Willy becomes the star attraction at a pirate themed amusement park and a competing park owner is the greedy businessman. Kirra enlists the help of her reluctant grandpa, his park assistant, and an African boy to free Willy. There’s no big jump, just Willy being returned to his pod. Though I’m not sure the sentiment works as well after the failure to rehabilitate Keiko. Free Willy: Escape from Pirate’s Cove kept a family tradition alive.

Free Willy Escape form Pirate's Cove

Kirra says goodbye to Willy

Reboot of: Free Willy