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The End of YesButNoButYes - Goodbye from Big Picture Big Sound

(Note from Scaramouch: As part of our final celebrations, I reached out to past and present writers and asked them all to contribute a final story. This one's is from "Big Picture Big Sound". Enjoy)

My relationship with YesButNoButYes started at a time when I worked for the Ad Agency JWT (née J Walter Thompson). It's the oldest agency in the world; real "Mad Men" stuff. I was part of their burgeoning digital arm, "digital@jwt". This handle was one of five names we adopted during my six-year tenure there, the "@" symbol being at the time what the "i" is today

It was here that I met Scaramouch, who ran Creative and I ran Tech. As often happens between those two capabilities, we had our share of run-ins. But we also shared a similar sense of humor, and a recognition of the absurdity of, well, everything. To survive in the Ad world, you either adopt this suit of armor or become completely insufferable. We were digital knights in an analog kingdom.

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Troll with the punches

"Best Worst Movie" *** (out of four): Sweetly amusing documentary about the making of the oft-debated worst movie of all time, "Troll 2", is solely for fans who are in on the joke. After watching this, you'll either run out to rent its subject or thank your lucky stars you've never come across it.


Those of you who regularly read movie reviews may actually seek to avoid bad movies. But there is a subgroup of people out there that actively seeks only the most terrible ones - films so universally reviled that, like Darth Vader, there must be some good in them. It seems inevitable, then, that a movie would be made called "Best Worst Movie" as an attempt to crown the lowest of the low. And now we have one. According to this sweetly amusing documentary, the winner is 1990's "Troll 2" - a movie so bad that it violates the basic tenets of being a movie, starting with its title (the film neither contains trolls - it's about goblins - nor is it a sequel to 1986's forgettable Sonny Bono romp, "Troll"). After watching "Best", you'll either run out to rent "Troll 2" or you'll thank your lucky stars you've never come across it.

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"Iron" Supplement

"Iron Man 2" *** (out of four): Director Jon Favreau's light touch and Robert Downey Jr.'s gift with a wisecrack continue to make this superhero franchise good, noisy fun.


2008's "Iron Man" ended with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), in a room full of reporters, declaring, "I am Iron Man". Aside from being a perfect lead-in to the film's inextricably-linked Black Sabbath song, the ending also served as a fairly unique setup for a sequel.

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What a "Kick"!

"Kick-Ass" ***1/2 (out of four): When a movie's called "Kick-Ass", the best you can hope for is that it lives up to its name. This one lives up to it, and then kicks its ass.


Comic book writer Mark Millar often has the word "re-imagining" associated with his name. From his radical Superman riff, "Red Son", to his transformation of "The Avengers" into "The Ultimates", Mr. Millar knows how to keep loyal comic readers on their toes. With his graphic novel "Kick-Ass", Mr. Millar has found a story all his own: what if a teen comics fan, with no superpowers, decided to don a costume and fight crime? It's a fantastic concept. So much so that you're left to wonder - as the oh-so-self-aware characters in the film do at length - how it hasn't been done before (sadly, no one ever remembers 1980's similarly-themed John Ritter movie "Hero at Large"). Whatever the reason, Mr. Millar's concept was quickly picked-up by Hollywood and given a cheeky and, yes, kick-ass adaptation.

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Perspiration Date

"Date Night" **1/2 (out of four): Harmless action-comedy rests on the considerable comedic shoulders of its two stars but generates few real laughs.


If you're going to use the term "a match made in comedy heaven", you couldn't ask for a more divine reason than the pairing of Steve Carell and Tina Fey. The reigning king and queen of NBC's gasping Thursday night line-up - he of "The Office", she of "30 Rock" - team up as a suburban husband and wife in Shawn Levy's mildly amusing "Date Night". The two are a delightful on-screen duo: Mr. Carell's awkward stammering and Ms. Fey's quick-witted neuroses blend well together. It's a shame then - but not entirely unexpected - that the two are saddled with such a run-of-the-mill action-comedy.

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"Clash" for Clunkers

"Clash of the Titans" **1/2 (out of four): An unnecessary 3D upgrade and choppy script make Louis Leterrier's update of the 1981 camp classic an Olympian missed opportunity.


Director Louis Leterrier's update of "Clash of the Titans" bears as little resemblance to the 1981 original as one of his computer-generated monsters does to the classic stop-motion creations of Ray Harryhausen. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Mr. Harryhausen was a pioneer, but if any story lends itself to a computer-enhanced make-over, it's a story like "Clash". It's a shame, then, that the tacked-on 3D upgrade (it was originally, and obviously, filmed in 2D) and choppy script do the film no favors. Thankfully, it's hard to ruin Liam Neeson bellowing, "Release the Kraken!"

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A Tale Of Two Nortons

"Leaves of Grass" *** (out of four): If the thought of Edward Norton sharing a bong with himself makes you smirk, then you will probably enjoy this silly crime comedy.


Edward Norton burst onto the scene in 1996 with "Primal Fear," skillfully playing two sides of the same character: a stuttering walking nerve and a revenge-seeking manipulator. He takes on dual roles again in "Leaves of Grass," this time as identical twins who spend much of the film interacting. It's a gimmick, yes, but it can be a strangely effective one - just look at Sam Rockwell's surprisingly stellar "Moon." It works here too, namely because the acting is sharp and the film is proudly off the wall.

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Eighties and Gentlemen

"Hot Tub Time Machine" *** (out of four): This raunchy, 80s-soaked comedy is every bit as funny as a movie called "Hot Tub Time Machine" should be. Which is to say, quite a bit.


Not since 2006's "Snakes on a Plane" has there been a must-see worthy title like "Hot Tub Time Machine" (apologies to the makers of "Mega-Shark vs Giant Octopus"). So if the promise of seeing John Cusack, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson using the titular bathing device to journey back to 1986 and relive their glory days doesn't have you Google'ing "advance tickets", then this might not be the movie for you. But don't say they didn't warn you.

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Roger the Grouch

"Greenberg" **1/2 (out of four): Roger is what many would correctly deem a mess in Noah Baumbach's biting new comedy "Greenberg."


"Life is wasted on people," mumbles the lead character in Noah Baumbach's happy-go-lucky new comedy "Greenberg." As a 40-year-old carpenter who spent some time in a mental hospital and is now "trying to do nothing for a while," Roger (Ben Stiller) is what many would correctly deem a mess. He's aimless, groundless and randomly unpleasant, which describes the film as well.

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Organ Loaners

"Repo Men" 1/2* (out of four): Grisly, humorless and over-long, this sci-fi thriller about the repossession of artificial organs isn't nearly as interesting, clever or original as it wants to be.


"Repo Men" is going to sound familiar for several reasons, none of which, sadly, have anything to do with 1984's Emilio Estevez cult gem, "Repo Man". Those who recall 2008's little-seen, much-derided horror musical "Repo! The Genetic Opera" (starring, of all people, Paris Hilton) may find the plot more than slightly familiar: in a not too distant future, artificial organs are leased to desperate transplant patients. When the recipients fail to make their monthly payments, the titular brutes come calling. With ghastly results.

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Angst for the memories

"Remember Me" *1/2 (out of four): Angst-ridden, wanna-be tear-jerker - featuring Robert Pattinson as another tortured, brooding James Dean-type - doesn't come close to earning its big payoff.


The romantic drama "Remember Me" has a very clear agenda. Actually, it has two. The most obvious is as a star vehicle for Robert Pattinson (let the "Team Edward" supporters rejoice). Mr. Pattinson serves as co-executive producer, for very obvious reasons; he is given the role of a modern James Dean and it taps directly into his currently hot brand of extreme brooding. You see, Mr. Pattinson's Tyler, a directionless NYU student, had a tragedy in his past, and his family doesn't understand him, and he just feels everything so deeply. He lives in a tiny Manhattan apartment (kudos to the filmmakers for getting it right) with his wise-acre roommate (Tate Ellington, the only smile in the film). Out carousing one night, Tyler ignores an easy female conquest in favor of a bar fight (rebel!). He then mouths off to a cop and gets thrown in jail only to rail against being bailed out by his wealthy father (with a cause!).

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Some Kind of "Wonderland"

"Alice in Wonderland" ** (out of four): The most wondrous thing about director Tim Burton's take on the Lewis Carroll classic is how lacking in wonder it all is.


Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, "Alice in Wonderland". Yep, I'd see that. Who better to bring to life Lewis Carroll's classic fairytale - about a girl who famously falls through a rabbit hole into a skewed world of disappearing cats, smoking caterpillars and mad hatters - than the director of "Edward Scissorhands", "Sweeney Todd" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas". And who better to play the aforementioned haberdasher than the man who has partnered with Mr. Burton to create some of the more memorably zany characters of the last twenty years (the ill-conceived Willy Wonka collaboration excluded, of course). It turns out that this umpteenth version of "Alice" (the imdb.com list requires scrolling) does not equal the sum of its parts. In fact, the most wondrous thing about it is how lacking in wonder it all is.

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Clown and "Out"

"Cop Out" * (out of four): Desperately unfunny, tone-deaf homage to 80s buddy cop movies from director Kevin Smith - just one of the many who should have known better.


Tracy Jordan - the character played by Tracy Morgan on TV's "30 Rock" - sums up his show-business success by confiding to his wife: "we're lucky people laugh when I say things". Judging by his performance in "Cop Out" - director Kevin Smith's dud of a buddy movie - Mr. Morgan seems to be hoping the same can be said about his career. The opening (interminable) minutes of the film feature Mr. Morgan's detective Paul Hodges interrogating a suspect by screaming quotes from other (far, far superior) movies at him. The moment is meant to be hilarious in a he-so-crazy sort of way, but it ends up being noisy and - worse - not at all funny.

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Oscar Mired - 2009 Academy Award Predictions and Predilections

"Oscar Mired" - Once again, Joe tries his hand at picking this year's Oscar winners.


With typically impeccable timing, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to pad out the Best Picture Oscar category to include ten nominees in a year when I was hard-pressed to find a single four-star movie. Last year, people were up-in-arms over the exclusion of "The Dark Knight" from the Best Picture race (and rightfully so). But that snub was only amplified by the fact that other, less-qualified, movies were included ("The Reader" for Best Picture? I'm still hurting from that one). Expanding the category isn't the solution; making better movies is.

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Myth Behavior

"Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" *1/2 (out of four): An interesting take on the young hero saga, made eye-rollingly tedious by the ham-handed direction of Chris Columbus.


Oh hey, it's that movie from the book series about the ordinary kid who discovers he has supernatural powers. The latest installment of "Harry Potter"? "The Twilight Saga"? No, those titles aren't nearly long enough. It's "Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief". Based on the books by Rick Riordan and directed by occasional "Potter" helmer, Chris Columbus, "Percy Jackson" is kind of like "Harry Potter", but with Greek gods instead of wizards, and cheap gags instead of wit.

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