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August 14, 2010

I Moved!

I've moved the entire Annoying Movie Guy blog to Word Press. So click HERE to see the new Annoying Movie Guy at Thanks for reading!

August 10, 2010

Pick of the Week: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

"Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" - 2008

This week's pick is something simple and lighthearted, and admittedly in anticipation for the opening of Edgar Wright's "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," starring Michael Cera and hitting theaters this Friday (expect a review soon after).

"Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" is based off the novel of the same name by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. The story centers around northern New Jersey suburban kids who love to explore New York City by night and linger around the indie rock music scene. Michael Cera ("Superbad," "Juno") plays Nick, a nice guy who's hung up on his ex, Tris. Though the relationship has been over, she has a lasting hold on him. As she laughingly throws out the mix cds he makes for her as a pathetic attempt to get her back, acquaintance Norah, played by Kat Dennings ("The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Charlie Bartlett"), picks them up and has a connection to a person she's never met, but who has stunningly similar musical tastes. When the members of Nick's band, The Jerk Offs, get him to play a show in the city on the hope that they'll find their favorite band, Where's Fluffy, playing a secret after-hours show. The same secret show attracts Tris, Norah and their friend, the ever-partying Caroline, to the city that never sleeps as well.

When everyone ends up in the same place, Norah asks Nick, who she thinks is a complete stranger, to pretend to be her boyfriend for five minutes so Tris thinks Norah isn't spending another night alone. When Tris sees Nick and Norah lock lips, her natural jealousy kicks in. The night goes on to be one awkward and frustrating moment after another as Norah tries to get drunk Caroline home safely, Nick's band tries to get he and Norah together, Norah tries to get Nick to stop talking about Tris and Tris tries to get Nick to notice her again. Meanwhile, everyone is trying to find Where's Fluffy, and no one seems to run out of things to do in this city.

First of all, Where's Fluffy is not a real band. In fact, other than the indie rock soundtrack, not many actually bands are named in the film. At moments you feel like you're just getting a walk through of the hipster indie culture of a city like New York full of kids from the suburbs who flock to the nightlife where they can roam free. I have not experienced much of the New York City nightlife, but I find it hard to believe these high school kids are getting served alcohol at clubs. The tenuous scenes between Nick and Norah make you wonder what they really see in each other? They argue most of the time, and eventually just click. Really, they should be together, but it's almost too obvious for the two of them not to figure it out sooner. Nick's band, made up of Thom and Dev, who are both gay, are some of the driving comedic force of the film. That and drunk Caroline as she wanders around the city unattended. It's suggested that this is just a normal Friday night for these kids, and it makes someone like me who went to high school in an area devoid of such late night opportunities very jealous. That's the audience attracted to this story. There are kids who live their weekends like this, but in their case such a story doesn't appeal to them.

Nick's character is what we've come to expect from Michael Cera. Dry delivery of awkward comedic lines, the nice guy persona and an innocent demeanor. However, Nick is a slightly more confident character than we're used to see Cera playing. Norah is the girl we all know. She's not the most attractive, sought-after girl, but she's intelligent, clever and unique. She's the opposite of Tris, and exactly what Nick really wants. Their relationship evolves in a pretty predictable way. Certain plot points, like Norah's need to decide between a career and college by the next day, is just too ridiculous. It's not the most original story, but it's fun and entertaining. There's a heart to it, suggesting that maybe all hope is not lost for younger generations, whether that's musically, romantically or intellectually.

"That's what everybody wants, Nicky. They don't want a twenty-four-hour hump sesh, they don't want to be married to you for a hundred years. They just want to hold your hand."


August 1, 2010

Review: The Kids Are All Right

The plot of "The Kids Are All Right" is fresh and a bit controversial, to some. Two teenagers who were raised by a lesbian couple decide to contact their biological father - a sperm donor.

Nic (three-time Oscar nominee Annette Bening; "American Beauty," "Being Julia") and Jules (four-time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore; "Boogie Nights," "Far From Heaven") have a strong marriage and a family built around their two children, Laser (Josh Hutcherson; "Bridge to Terabithia," "Journey to the Center of the Earth") and Joni (Mia Wasikowska; "Defiance," "Alice in Wonderland"). Laser is 15, and getting into some trouble with a leach of a friend. He's curious about their donor father, so he asks Joni, who is 18 and about to leave for college, to contact him. When they do, they meet Paul (Mark Ruffalo; "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Shutter Island"), a free-wheeling restaurant owner and produce grower. As the kids get to know him and then bring him home to meet the moms, Paul begins to influence all of them in ways that expose individual issues they've all been holding back. At first his presence is positive, until the structure of their family begins to crumble.

From the beginning, we see the roles each member of the family plays. Nic is disciplined and structured - the serious one of the couple. She has the career and a strong liking for wine to go with it. Jules is more easygoing and willing to let their kids explore their feelings. She's spent the past few years raising the kids and attempting to start businesses, never finding her true calling. Laser is looking for a more positive male influence and Joni is trying to come to terms with becoming an adult and getting her moms to treat her as such. The family interactions, particularly those in the film before Paul shows up, show an everyday family dealing with typical problems. The only difference is that the parents are a lesbian couple, and it paints a picture of how such couples can raise families in the same way others do, and in some cases can be more successful. The reality that is shown is that no family, and no marriage, is perfect. I think some people have assumptions that homosexual couples are stronger than heterosexual ones, but that is not true. Nic and Jules are going through some hard times, and maybe the issues they're dealing with have always been there. Just like most couples, there is a person who feels unappreciated and put down (Jules), while the other feels they do all the work and that they're always the bad guy (Nic). Paul seems unchanging throughout the film, more like a catalyst that comes along to ignite the less-talked about issues in the family. A wrench in the gears of their seemingly happy situation.

"The Kids Are All Right" might be the most well-acted movie so far this year. The five central characters are all well-established actors, and the dialogue of their interactions is made more hilarious by their facial features and mannerisms. So many subtleties that drive the comedic and extremely tense situations. That's the main tool in this film: tension. It drives the comedy, and even stronger, the drama. When things really get heavy, we see how relationships can withstand so much, and how family situations, like a daughter being dropped off at college, can overshadow the tension.

The controversial issues in "The Kids Are All Right" don't stem from the lesbian relationship, but what some people see as a misconception about homosexuality. Certain aspects of Nic and Jules' relationship seem unrealistic to some, but I feel nothing is intentionally offensive about the situations in the film. It's deeper than that. So much emotional conflict is present, and I feel it's safe to say that's the reasoning for all the actions in the film. Nothing that happens really has to do with Paul, he's just what brings it all out in the open.

Oscar buzz is beginning, and I wouldn't be surprised to see "The Kids Are All Right" on many critics' lists. I must warn you to expect sex scenes that are comical, but sometimes last an awkward amount of time. Then again maybe that's just me. I don't think long or graphic sex scenes are necessary to make a point (and I really didn't need to see Mark Ruffalo's ass so much). Oh, and view the trailer below!

"I need your opinion like I need a dick in my ass!"


July 27, 2010

Review: Inception

I was delayed in seeing "Inception" because of a week-long trip to the beach, but I assure you, it was worth the wait. As I waited for the film to start, I typically made a comment about each movie trailer that preceded it. I had to explain to my companion that two films, "Tron: Legacy" and "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," were both sequels to movies made in the '80s. Now I have not seen either original installment, therefor I can't say whether or not these sequels should be made. However, I think it's fair to say that most of what we've seen in this busy summer movie season, and what we can see in the near future, are remakes and sequels to movies that either weren't that great in the first place, or were great but shouldn't be remade. The reason behind most of this is money, and that's a fact. Yet I feel confident in saying that there are still actors and filmmakers who care, at least as much as they're able to, about making art. Christopher Nolan's "Inception" is the proof of this.

Solidifying himself as a filmmaker you can bet on, Nolan has showed his ability to make thought-provoking, well acted and enjoyable films over the years. These include "Memento," "The Prestige," "Batman Begins" and, of course, "The Dark Knight." Now you might have heard about "Inception" and how confusing and strange it is, or how you need to see it a second time. I disagree. Not that I wouldn't see it a second time, because it was a fantastic film, but I don't think it was as confusing as it's being made out to be. I actually kept waiting for what was supposed to be the confusing part. I made sure to pay strong attention, as to not miss anything. In fact, that's the best advice I would give someone. Just pay attention. It's not that hard.

So Leonardo DiCaprio (duh, you know how he is) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("10 Things I Hate About You," "(500) Days of Summer") professionally go into people's dreams and steal information they keep hidden. In this alternate present/near future, people can force a state of dreaming they can stay in as long as they want. It is also possible to link your dreams together with another and exist inside them. If you die in a dream, you simply wake up. Extraction, as it's called, is what Cobb (DiCaprio) and Arthur (Gordon-Levitt) do as a service to high-paying individuals, and they're not the only ones. Those who can afford it even become trained to resist such techniques. The idea is pushed further when people, like these "thieves" are able to create a dream inside of a dream, and so on. These have been referred to as different levels of the dream. A powerful man named Saito (Ken Watanabe; "The Last Samurai," "Batman Begins") employs them to do something a bit different. He challenges them to implant an idea in someone's mind through their dreams, which is referred to as "inception." He offers Cobb the chance to return home to the U.S. to see his children, as he is wanted for criminal charges. Cobb and Arthur assemble a team that offers the same skills they do, and a newcomer to the trade named Ariadne (EllenPage; "Hard Candy," "Juno"), who sees into Cobb's troubles with his dreams, his subconscious and the way he deals with his deceased wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard, "La vie en Rose," "Public Enemies"). As the team enters the mind of business empire heir Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy; "28 Days Later," "Batman Begins"), they plan an elaborate scheme that is complicated by Fischer's traning against the process and Cobb's subconscious struggles that are plagued by his past.
So if you're lost, just take a deep breath. The plot really isn't that hard to follow if you pay attention to how they explain the process, the plan and what is going on. Visually, "Inception" is stunning, and that come as no surprise given Nolan's reputation. The fact that he wrote the script himself probably helped the way it looks and feels, as this journey into the mind came directly from his. You couldn't ask for a better cast, and Nolan knew that, as he is the type of director who likes to work with familiar faces, even though the most familiar were not the stars like DiCaprio, Gordon-Levitt or Page. Several Oscar-nominees (and one winner in Cotillard) were on-board, and although I can't say any performances were necessarily Oscar-quality (not that they were bad, just not what the Academy looks for, and I expected for Michael Caine, but oh well), I could see Nolan earning a second nomination for Best Director (previously nominated for "Memento") and I wouldn't be surprised by a Best Original Screenplay nomination or several for technical achievements like editing and visual effects. The musical score by Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer really drives the action of the film and bizarre landscape of the scenes as well.

"Inception" is a refreshing film in what has been a sort of slumping summer. As far as all the connotations it's been gaining about theories, confusion and ambiguity, there really isn't much. Take a moment to wrap your head around the idea of entering dreams and understand the rules to the process that are explained in the film. The ending of the film has been argued a bit, as it is a little ambiguous, but really it's just open to interpretation. Do yourself a favor and enjoy "Inception." Remember, Christopher Nolan isn't trying to confuse you or make you feel stupid, he's just challenging your mind. So take the challenge.

"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange."


July 14, 2010

So what's up with The Avengers and The Hulk?

Well, allow me to vent about that for a second."The Avengers" hits theaters summer 2012, and will bring together all the stars of Marvel Studios films from the recent past and near future including Iron Man, Thor, Captain America (the latter two coming next summer) and allegedly Black Widow and War Machine (from "Iron Man 2"), Loki (from "Thor") and Nick Fury (who may get his own movie, at some point). Also, allegedly, would be Hawkeye and possibly Ant Man (who also has a solo movie scheduled for after "The Avengers" hits theaters). Most importantly, the Hulk, who has had two different movies made about him in the past couple years (2003's "Hulk" and 2008's "The Incredible Hulk"). I really thought the marginal success of "Iron Man 2" was going to hurt "The Avengers," or possibly every film leading up to it being directed by different people or the combination of so many expensive and well known actors being squished into an ensemble cast. Nope, turns out it's going to be the executives at Marvel being complete idiots and no one appreciating Edward Norton's performance in "The Incredible Hulk." To be honest, it didn't get the most attention, but how could it? It was a more serious take on an introspective superhero who is often mistaken by his peers as a menace, which came out in the summer sandwiched between "Iron Man" and "The Dark Knight." It was already alleged back in that summer after the credits of "The Incredible Hulk" that it would be tied in with the other Marvel movies, and I guess that's still the plan. However, Marvel has decided to not include Edward Norton in this plan. If you read the many articles online about the situation, it was sudden to Norton's people, who assumed it had to do with salary issues, when according to Marvel, it had to do with finding an actor they felt would fit better in the ensemble cast, basically saying Norton can't work well with others. Norton has an Oscar nomination under his belt, has always been very professional in his work and the eye of the public and is supposedly personal friends with several stars in the upcoming Avengers film. Marvel's people should know better than anyone how hard it is to please comic book fans when it comes to making movies, and recasting a major character because of their own reasons rather than the actor's is just asking for massive backlash. In my opinion, Norton did a fantastic job as the scientist-turned green monster and I'm really not looking forward to seeing a character show up four years after his introduction as someone else. It's going to throw off the chemistry of the entire film, much like both Joel Schumacher Batman films.
IMDB has been blowing up with news articles from various entertainment sites all day with speculation that Mark Ruffalo will be the new Hulk in "The Avengers." This more than a disappointment to me, basically because I'm really not a fan of his work. He's mostly been seen in indie films, often in smaller roles, but he's very recognizable in feature films as well. Not necessarily a bad actor, but something about him bothers me. Plus, he looks nothing like Norton and acts nothing like him as well. Not a smooth transition, even though it will be a great role for his career. I think if you're going to get rid of Norton and you want to keep the Hulk, keep the Hulk, but only in Hulk form. Don't confuse things so much. Maybe find a new way to work him into the plot. Trouble is, I'm pretty sure the script is already written. It's just a big mess.

If that wasn't bad enough, I'm hearing now that both Marvel productions for next summer, "Thor" and "The First Avenger: Captain America," will be in 3D. I'm pretty sure that Marvel's plan here is to see how much time and money it takes to make one major disappointment of a film. Four years of films are building up to what? I guess we'll have to wait and see.


Review: Despicable Me

It's nice when an animated film can make both children and adults laugh out loud, while offering a coherent and enjoyable plot that either can age group can enjoy. Correction, it's nice when one finds this in an animated film not made by Disney/Pixar. Now don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of the majority of Pixar's offerings over the past few years. In my eyes, they've changed how animated films are made and received. However, it's important to remember they don't own a monopoly over the genre (though they do dominated the Best Animated Feature Oscar category, and probably will for a long time). I don't rush out to see every animated film that hits theaters, though most of them appear enjoyable. When I do take a chance on such a film, it's nice to find something really worth it.

When going to see "Despicable Me" I didn't know what to expect, as is often the case with animated features as of late. Their trailers contain an extremely basic plot summary, colorful characters and a few funny one-liners. This is enough to attract the attention of young children and their parents, but someone in between those two groups needs better incentive to shell out the $10 for a movie these days. I even remember seeing a teaser trailer for it last summer sometime, but had no idea what the movie was about and was not very interested. I must say that I have no regrets with my decision. Gru, voiced by Steve Carell ("The Office," "The 40-Year-Old Virgin") is a villain. A basic description, yes, but it's enough. He has an old scientist who helps him develop high-tech weapons and vehicles, an army of minions and he routinely makes large-scale thefts in order to make a big splash in the news. The funny thing about this is that Gru lives in a very suspicious house in the middle of the suburbs. It's suggested that Gru's neighbors know exactly what he does, and that he can't be very hard to find, if the authorities wanted. Also, his minions are a strange yet comical creature, more like little alien workers who are upbeat and dedicated to his work. When a young up-and-coming villain named Vector steals an Egyptian pyramid, Gru feels threatened and begins to plan his dream caper: stealing the moon. In order to get the right device from Vector, Gru decides to adopt three young orphan girls so they may infiltrate Vector's fortress. Gru, who never apologizes for his mean and surly demeanor, begins to see a soft spot he never knew he had as he gets closer with the girls who see a him as a fatherly figure, despite it being extremely uncharacteristic of him. His plans to uphold his reputation and his work conflict with the new family he has created.

Right, so the plot is fresh and funny in itself. The young girls are very lovable to the audience, and and who doesn't like seeing a mean character turn good? It's a child movie staple. Adult jokes are thrown in enough, but not too much, which I think really makes a good animated film. Being able to appeal to all demographics is important when ticket prices and bad movies keep infecting the industry. "Despicable Me" opened last Friday and earned the number one spot in the box office this past weekend, beating out the likes of "Toy Story 3" (which has been out for a few weeks already) and "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse." Numbers like that aren't the easiest to achieve, especially when it's summer and families have better things to do than go to the movies. And, although you can't tell, there are voices provided by Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Will Arnet, Kristen Wiig and, believe it or not, Julie Andrews.

You can also see "Despicable Me" in 3D. Although I continue to speak out against the over-use of 3D technology in films these days, animated films are really where it fits the best. There are a few extra scenes during the credits featuring Gru's minions having some fun with the 3D audience. I can tell this would be an enjoyable 3D experience, as it is used at the right times. A sequel is already being planned, which sits just fine with me. Gru's new family is really established in this film and all you would have to do is throw in a new competing villain to make a sequel work. Honestly, I don't think I got enough from the minions and I'd like to see more.

"It's so fluffy I'm gonna DIE!"


July 10, 2010

Pick of the Week: An Education

An Education - 2009

One of the ten films nominated for Best Picture at the 2010 Academy Awards, "An Education" is probably the one you knew least about, or had never even heard of. Relatively young and lesser-known star Carey Mulligan, also nominated for Best Actress, leads this story as Jenny, a sixteen year old school girl living in the U.K. during the 1960s. At this time, the planning and hard work required to get into college was something you spent all of your teen years focusing on. For women, once you finished college, there weren't a lot of options for careers, even with a degree. A male-dominated society built around status is depicted in a comical way through the ideals of her father, Jack (Alfred Molina, "Spider-Man 2," "The Sorcerer's Apprentice"). When Jenny meets a much older man named David (Peter Sarsgaard, "Garden State," "Jarhead"), who begins to show her a world she's never seen; night clubs, fine art, weekend getaways and a lack of concern for consequences. David's influence begins to affect Jenny's school work, as she begins to question if there is even a point to her education. Her decisions regarding her future backfire when she learns who David really is.

David has the ability to convince Jenny's parents that not only is he a great man, but that this new life she has begun to lead is the best for her. At times, it's hard to believe how gullible they are when David turns on the charm. Jenny, however, is a very intelligent girl, and he must work harder to fool her. You would think when she learns of his dishonest business practices that he may not be who she thinks he is, and that her new life may be too good to be true.

Jenny brings up great questions about society and education which, though outdated, still hold up today. She argues with her headmistress (played by Emma Thompson in a great small role) what the point is of all the hard work when the minute you graduate you have to conform to the job and lifestyle expected of you. She yearns to be part of the glamorous French scene and insults the entire United Kingdom calling all of its inhabitants boring. It's a situation many young adults can relate to when leaving school. You feel like life has been planned out for you and that you must follow that plan, but all you want to do is rebel and completely change your surroundings, your lifestyle and your goals. We always see the opposite of our lives and feel it is better than what we've got, when really it's just different. The expectations of parents comes into play as well, when her father continuously pushes her education and the importance of being connected, arguing that it's better to know a famous author than to actually be one. When Jenny is presented with the option of spending her life with David he suddenly feels that there's no need for her to go to school if she can be a wife instead. Parents still want their children to do better than they did, and sometimes they have a very warped notion of how that is achieved.

Though some plot points are fairly cliched, the story presents a familiar yet unique look at common issues. The acting is fantastic and some of the imagery of the time period really brings you into the story. I can't say it ends in a highly dramatic moment, though there is a dramatic build to it. The ending of the story is realistic and simple, which may not be as entertaining, but it adds to the way the audience can relate.

"If you never do anything, you never become anyone."