TV Review: McMillions (2020)

Original Run: February 3rd, 2020 – March 9th, 2020
Directed by: James Lee Hernandez, Brian Lazarte
Written by: James Lee Hernandez, Brian Lazarte
Music by: Pinar Toprak
Cast: various

FunMeter, Unrealistic Ideas, HBO, 6 Episodes, 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

As a McDonald’s shareholder, a loyal customer for decades and a massive fan of the Monopoly game, this was a story that absolutely intrigued me. So seeing that HBO made a documentary series telling the story of how the McDonald’s Monopoly game was rigged was a must watch for me.

My only real gripe about this is that I never felt like the scheme was all that clear. I understood how they found people to be “winners” of the top tier game pieces (and it was fantastic hearing their stories) but I never clearly understood why the criminals behind the scheme did it in the first place.

Selling these lucrative prizes at a small fraction of what their actual value was, was kind of baffling. I feel like there had to have been a much better way for them to exploit the system and in the end, they got caught, anyway.

Also, I had always assumed that McDonald’s was involved in the shenanigans because the actual story and all the facts weren’t something I delved into before this. I had just always assumed that by giving the pieces to “friends and family members” meant that some McDonald’s exec was just doing that for personal or corporate favors.

This was interesting as hell though and I watched all six episodes in one sitting.

In the end, I’m glad that those who were roped into the scheme, didn’t have their lives ruined based off of the poor circumstances they were in when the schemesters chose them to exploit for their own gain.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other recent crime documentaries and series.

Film Review: Planet of the Apes (2001)

Also known as: The Visitor, Return of the Apes (working titles)
Release Date: July 26th, 2001 (Hong Kong, Puerto Rico)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal
Based on: Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Kris Kristofferson, Estella Warren, Paul Giamatti, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, David Warner, Lisa Marie, Glenn Shadix, Erick Avari, Linda Harrison, Charlton Heston (uncredited)

Tim Burton Productions, The Zanuck Company, Twentieth Century Fox, 119 Minutes

Review:

“Get your stinking hands off me, you damn dirty human!” – Attar

I feel as if I was one of the few people that didn’t seem to mind this film when it came out. It certainly deviated greatly from its source material but I liked some of the ideas that were explored in this picture and I liked that it took a well-known concept and tried to create something new out of it without rehashing things we’ve already seen five times within its own franchise and a dozen times over with all the ripoffs of it.

This hasn’t aged well, however, and it is pretty apparent that the movie just seemed to be aimless without much meat to chew on. It honestly feels as if the film wasn’t completed and it’s missing an entire act.

There’s just a real lack of story and context and while you can follow the simplicity of the narrative, all the characters come across as paper thin and there is obviously a history between many of them that needed to be expanded upon.

However, the film did have production issues, as its start date was delayed and one of the major locations was suffering from a drought and needed water pumped in. There have been other issues alluded to in interviews with those involved, over the years, but a lot of that could be brushed off as hearsay.

One thing I like about the movie is that it used practical, physical effects for the Apes. Everyone in the film wore prosthetics and it gave the film an authentic sense of realism where most movies were already reliant on CGI in just about every regard.

Additionally, I like the visual tone of the film and its general style. It looks cool and the world feels lived in and legit.

Still, it’s just lacking a real sense of plot and character development and because of that, it feels soulless and flat.

Also, while I liked this initially, it’s kind of a boring movie once you look passed the very distracting and alluring visuals. I honestly feel like I have a love/hate relationship with this film as there are many things that went wonderfully right but there are major things that didn’t deliver.

In the end, the film feels half-assed, rushed and like a wasted opportunity. This could have been the start of a new, exciting version of the Planet of the Apes franchise but instead, it’s a disappointing dud that left a pretty harsh blemish on Tim Burton’s career, which was still damn solid in 2001.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Planet of the Apes movies, regardless of era, as well as late ’90s/early ’00s blockbuster science fiction.

Film Review: Fear (1996)

Also known as: No Fear (working title)
Release Date: April 12th, 1996
Directed by: James Foley
Written by: Christopher Crowe
Music by: Carter Burwell
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Reese Witherspoon, William Petersen, Alyssa Milano, Amy Brenneman

Imagine Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“I want you to understand somethin’, pal. If you don’t disappear from my family’s life, I’m gonna rip your balls off and shove ’em so far up your ass they’ll come out your fuckin’ mouth! You got that, my friend?” – Steve Walker

I saw this in the theater in 1996. I was on a date. She picked the movie. We never went out again.

There are probably other movies that are a better examples of terrible ’90s cliches mixed into a blender and then splashed across the screen but Fear is a walking, talking tapestry of bad ’90s cliches with a Boston accent and a third nipple.

With around 1000 film reviews that I’ve written for Cinespiria, I’m surprised to find that this is the first thing I’ve reviewed with Mark Wahlberg in it. Okay, full disclosure: I don’t like Wahlberg. I never have. I think he’s the same f’n guy in everything and he brings down other actors that work opposite of him. This is very apparent in this film, as the talented Reese Witherspoon is sucked down into the Wahlberg muck and gave a pretty terrible performance, which is most notable in the scenes they share together.

The gist of this movie deals with a teenage girl’s older, psycho boyfriend. Wahlberg was born to play this role, I guess. He sheds his Marky Mark hip-hop gear but still looks for every excuse to have his shirt off, exposing that third nipple of his. I think it’s that third nipple that gives him power over girls who love chunky “bad boys” that talk like male detectives on Rizzoli & Isles.

Anyway, Marky Mark is a psycho, who wins over the girl, her family but not the dad. The dad knows that this 23 year-old statutory rapist is bad news. Things escalate, the father doesn’t take any shit from this smug douchepimple and the big finale is a raid on the family home by the King of Boston Accents and his shitbird gang of generic ’90s grunge rock thugs.

There isn’t a single likable character in this entire film. Well, except for maybe the little brother who actually goes gangster, sneaks outside, fires up his dad’s truck and runs over some thug. Kudos to that kid.

Weirdly, as bad as this is, I don’t hate it. It was actually kind of enjoyable because of how bad it was and because it was a giant ’90s cliche of so many shit things from that decade.

On a side note, I don’t mind Marky Mark in comedies.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Meh. I don’t really think this pairs well with much of anything. It’s a terrible Wahlberg film. But I guess if you are a Reese Witherspoon fan, check this out with 1994’s S.F.W.