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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."


June 19, 2010

Review: Toy Story 3

No matter what you're age, you probably enjoy Disney/Pixar films. The best part is, you never have to be embarrassed for saying that, because everyone enjoys them. I get the feeling that previous generations weren't so into animated films when they were in their 20s, but our generation grew up with these films. It's hard to deny that there is something else going on there. Some factor that goes beyond cute childish characters or simply story lines. These films have the ability to make adults cry and children flush with laughter and excitement. However, in years past, we've never seen a successful animated franchise. But "Toy Story" has become a trilogy that defines our generation.

The original film came out in 1995, when those of us in our 20s were children. Also being the first major motion picture by Pixar Animation Studios, it changed how animated films were made, and along with the technology came stories that viewers of all ages could enjoy. 1999 was the year of "Toy Story 2," which was a great addition to the story of Woody, Buzz and all the rest. Part of the plot of that movie was asking the question, "what will Andy do with his toys when he goes off to college?" Well, "Toy Story 3" came along to answer that question, and just in time for many of us who saw the original to either be entering, still in, or just leaving college.

So here's what happens. Andy's mom tells him to separate his room into what's going with him to college, what's going in the attic and what's getting thrown away. We find that Andy hasn't played with his beloved toys in years, but they still keep trying to be there for him. The saddest moment is when you realize that only the core characters in previous films are still there, because Andy has already gotten rid of his other toys. All that's left is Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Bullseye, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Hamm, Rex, Slinky and the little alien dudes from the claw machine. It's clear Andy is a very different kind of teenager, and he's always kept a place in his heart for these toys. However, through a mix-up they get grouped together with toys that Molly gave their mom to donate to Sunnyside Day-Care. At first, the toys are relieved to be in a place where they'll always be wanted by children who will play with them. An older toy, Lotso (the lots o' hugging bear) assures them that they'll never get thrown out or ignored, and they can't get their hearts broken if they don't have an owner. Most are ready to move on, but Woody refuses to give up on Andy and manages escape. But the toys soon learn that Sunnyside is not the paradise they were told, and find themselves missing Andy more than ever and in need of rescue. But what will become of them as Andy is ready to move on?

The movie is an adventure, but what Toy Story film hasn't been? I always find myself shaking my head and saying, "Wow, these toys have the absolute worst luck. Everything is always so difficult for them." And that's always been the heart of these films. These toys refuse to give up on their owner or let him down. Woody has been a hero to every child who sees these movies, and every adult that grew up with him. He is the friend that will never ever let you down. As with any animated film of the past few years, there are enough jokes aimed at older audiences to keep everyone laughing. The dramatic situations in "Toy Story 3" rival that of any other dramatic film, particularly in scenes where you feel it could be the end for this bunch of play-things. It's heart-warming how much they go through to get back to Andy, even though it's likely he'll never play with them again. The greatest thing is that they chose to end this film in a logical and plausible way (as plausible as talking and feeling toys could be) and when looking at the entire trilogy, the story comes completely full circle. There's no need for specifics in this review, because if you're a fan of "Toy Story" or any Pixar film, you already know you're going to enjoy this.

"Let's go see how much we're going for on eBay."


June 16, 2010

Pick of the Week: Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story - 2007

The road for any music legend is a long and rocky one. There are ups and downs both in career and personal life. Temptations of women and drugs conflicting with the burdens of fame. This is all chronicled in the fictional and satirical story of Dewey Cox, as he embodies the rock star persona in the most ridiculous and hilarious way.

John C. Reilly ("Boogie Nights," "Step Brothers") stars as Dewey Cox, and yes, many subtle jokes are made about his last name. At a young age, Dewey is involved in a terrible accident that results in his brother's death. Using music as an outlet, Dewey leaves home as a teenager to pursue a career in music. With a growing family, Dewey soon becomes a big star with a slew of number one hits. Troubles of life on the road lead him down a self-destructive path of drugs and infidelity, straining his friendships, family life and his inner-demons.

Okay, that paragraph really made this sound like a serious movie, but in no way is it serious. The film serves strongly as a parody to the Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line,"as well as the Ray Charles biopic, "Ray." Both are fantastic, Oscar-winning films, and you absolutely must see them both before watching "Walk Hard," otherwise you won't get most of the jokes and references. John C. Reilly does his own singing in the film, which audiences know he's capable of, as proved by his Oscar nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in 2003's adaptation of hit Broadway musical "Chicago." I also just realized that Reilly received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical for "Walk Hard," which is a bit surprising.

The film was co-written by Judd Apatow, whose helped bring about nearly every hit comedy in the last five years or so, including "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up," "Pineapple Express" and nearly every great Will Ferrel movie. There are countless cameos in the film by "Saturday Night Live" cast members and alumni (most notably Kristen Wiig as Dewey's wife and Tim Meadows as his drummer), and several actors from hit series "The Office" (Jenna Fischer, who plays Pam, is Dewey's backup singer and love interest). Musicians and musical styles parodied in the film include Elvis Presley (played by Jack White of the White Stripes), Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, The Big Bopper, The Beatles (definitely the funniest scene of the movie, as it features comic greats Jack Black, Paul Rudd, Jason Schwartzman and Justin Long), and of course, Johnny Cash and Ray Charles.

I will say that this film is sometimes stupid, but it's always clever and funny. It's one of the few movies I've seen multiple times and can still laugh out loud when watching it by myself. It's worth it for a great laugh, but beware the director's cut, which clocks it at just over two hours. Oh, and if you have a problem with seeing a man's penis (more than once), then be careful. You've been warned.


June 4, 2010

Pick of the Week: Chasing Amy

I've decided to start doing a pick of the week. Just a random movie I feel like talking about that week. Hopefully I keep up with it every week, but we'll see.

Chasing Amy - 1997

Written and directed by Kevin Smith as what he calls the third part of his "New Jersey Trilogy." Smith, who's always had a soft spot for his holy land of New Jersey, centers around his cast of re-occurring characters and references to characters and events never seen (specifically the death of Julie Dwyer in the YMCA pool, mentioned in all three films). His first film, 1994's "Clerks," became a cult classic thanks to its low-budget black and white filming, but also its use of believable characters (in some less than believable situations) and sex humor. Oh, and in-depth conversations about Star Wars. He reuses these methods in 1995's "Mallrats," which had a bigger budget, more characters and less appeal to the masses. He may have been trying to hard to make a comedy that he went over the top. However, it succeeded in being memorable and solidifying the characters and the atmosphere in which his films are set. "Chasing Amy" came along as Smith's most personal story, brought in many ways from his own relationship with the female lead.

The story centers around Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck, who believe it or not got his start in Smith's films) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee, who you may know best from NBC's "My Name is Earl"). They are two old friends who write and animate a popular comic book called "Blunt Man and Chronic," which parodies Batman and Robin and is based off the infamous Jay and Silent Bob, who exist in the reality of Smith's universe, of course. Forget the fact that Affleck's character in "Mallrats" is mentioned once, or that all three lead actors (Affleck, Lee and Joey Lauren Adams) are all in "Mallrats" as different characters than this film. They also all know and speak of characters from "Clerks." Anyway, Adams' character, Alyssa Jones, is a fellow comic creator who has a connection with Holden. But when Holden starts to have a "thing" for Alyssa, he finds out that she's a lesbian. WHAT A TWIST! So, despite Banky's feelings, Holden and Alyssa become good friends and their relationship eventually escalates to a romantic one. Tension grows between Holden and Banky, while Alyssa gets flack from her fellow lesbian community. It all really hits the fan when Holden confronts Alyssa with dark tales of her sexual history, which involve more than just women from Manhattan, and in some cases more than just one guy at a time.

I've always felt this story was so interesting and unique. When I was younger and first became a fan of Smith's films and his intertwining universe of characters and stories, I saw this as a very basic plot. I would explain it to others as, "A guy falls in love with a lesbian. It's really funny." But that's not the point of the film. It took some growing up, and reading Smith's description of the film and his personal story to get the real message across. This film is about relationships, and how to deal with your lover's past. The underlining theme here is that it doesn't matter (to an extent) what someone did before they met you. They've chosen you now and that has to be good enough. You can't expect someone to apologize for the things they did before they ever knew you existed. It had nothing to do with you. There are also several instances where Smith so accurately shows certain rationalizations men make because of our insecure minds. Wanting to know every detail, not because we want to but because we feel a need to. Needing to feel like we're a woman's first experience with something. And of course, men's jealously and trust issues toward the opposite sex and how we always feel the need to fix everything even when it's not broken. I think it took a lot of guts for Smith to write a film that not only put himself down, but his entire gender, because he knows deep down that it's all true.

I have a feeling the gay community would be slightly offended at Alyssa's ability to decide to date a man instead of women, or the idea that "secret" parts of her sexual history involve men, while the parts she most proud of are her many experiences with women, which Holden has no problem with, by the way. He's only upset about all the dudes. I would view her "switch" as unrealistic if I didn't actually know someone who has dated both genders and refuses to refer to herself as bisexual, because what do labels prove anyway? Smith also takes a deep look at the politics within the gay community, as his black gay comic writer Hooper X (posing as a tough, masculine racist towards whites to sell comics) expresses his frustrations with the social fixation on lesbians being "cute," while gay men are viewed as disgusting. Alyssa's friends basically ostracize her for dating a man, showing a very "us vs. them" mentality amongst homosexuals, despite a message in the film that tells us "the heart wants what it wants." These are his observations of the community, but although these might be a stereotype, who's to say it isn't accurate of some?

Overall, if you can get over the (at times) lack-luster acting, and especially Ben Affleck's awful facial hair, you can really see the messages in this film. Holden's solution to this whole debacle is a perfect example of men trying to fix things and the horrible rationale we have. What seems like sort of an epilogue drags out a bit too long, but this is truly one of those films you can laugh at, and possibly cry. Real characters and emotions, and all the more powerful that Smith cast his then girlfriend in the lead, exposing his insecurities on screen. If your a fan of Smith's work, do yourself a favor and see this.

"I finally had something personal to say."


May 28, 2010

Review: Iron Man 2

I might have gotten ahead of myself with my excitement for "Iron Man 2" and the list of Marvel Studios movies coming out in the next few years. Part of the problem is that every superhero movie since "The Dark Knight" has had to suffer being compared to a landmark film that set the bar way too high for movies in general. After seeing how dark, dramatic and somewhat realistic superhero movies can be, it's hard to believe in things like superpowers and the idea that these guys don't die from all the things they put themselves through. Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark and Iron Man come dangerously close to playing themselves off as a joke.

The first few scenes of a movie can tell you a lot. "Iron Man 2" leads off with Tony Stark's public announcement that he is Iron Man from the end of the first film. However, we're seeing it from a small t.v. screen somewhere in Russia. Enter Mickey Rourke ("Sin City," "The Wrestler") as Ivan Vanko, a Russian physicist who looks more like a biker turned convicted felon who screams with anger in possibly the worst acting I've seen in a long time. Vanko has reasons for revenge against Tony Stark, or more so, the Stark family. We jump six months to the Stark Expo, an on-going conference of technological inventions and presentations, where Iron Man makes an appearance complete with dancers. Downey Jr.'s Iron Man is cocky, comical and a bit obnoxious. Part of the plot centers around the governments desire to seize Stark's Iron Man suit and the technology around it saying a civilian should not possess such weaponry, and that they are concerned enemies of the U.S. have begun to attempt to replicate the technology. Stark Industries' rival weapons maker Justin Hammer, played by Sam Rockwell ("Choke," "Moon"), who serves as a great counterpart to Stark, is trying to convince the government to take Stark's suit while slowly developing the technology himself. After Vanko attacks Stark, Hammer recruits him to build suits similar to that of Iron Man's to sell to the government. Vanko's plans of revenge, however, outweigh his agreement with Hammer.

Meanwhile, Stark is trying to deal with the way the suit is affecting his health and the pressure being put on him by Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., who we met in the teaser scene at the end of "Iron Man." Fury is trying to help Stark get control of his suit while evaluating whether or not he is what they're looking for to be a part of the Avenger Initiative. On top of all of this, Stark's relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is strained, and his friendship with Rhodey escalates over Rhodey's allegiance to the military.

It's almost too much to keep straight. In addition to all of Stark's growing problems, he continues to out-do technology (or even realistic ideas or what's possible, like creating new undiscovered elements) and keep throwing one-liners at the other characters, who can't seem to find it funny anymore. Rhodey has been re-cast in this sequel by Don Cheadle ("Crash," the "Ocean's" films), and he serves as a good compliment to Downey Jr.'s Stark. Scarlett Johansson ("The Other Boleyn Girl," "Vicki Christina Barcelona") is intriguing as Stark's new assistant, and a character the comics would know as Black Widow, though this name is never mentioned in the film. Black Widow will reportedly be appearing is several other upcoming Marvel Studios movies. Interviews with Rourke revealed that he didn't even read the entire script, but just his parts. Not surprising, as his acting reflected a lack of interest in the entire film. In the few instances when his character speaks, he barely speaks any lines of English.

Here's how this film fits into the Marvel Universe of upcoming and past superhero films. At the end of 2008's "The Incredible Hulk," which was released just weeks after "Iron Man," we see Tony Stark in a teaser scene where he confronts General Ross on his "problem" with the Hulk. He then mentions that "we" are getting a special team together. "We" implies that after meeting with Nick Fury at the end of "Iron Man" that Tony Stark is part of the Avenger Initiative Fury mentioned. In "Iron Man 2," he's being evaluated on whether or not he could be a part of this initiative. Also, at a point when Stark meets with Fury, you can see in the background that the college campus scene from "The Incredible Hulk" is being reported on the news (I didn't notice that myself, I read it online). So perhaps the events of "The Incredible Hulk" were actually happening after the events of "Iron Man 2." Also, several references were made to Captain America, who has his own film planned for next summer. Also, the teaser trailer at the end. I'll tell you right now it's not worth waiting past all of the credits for, but in case you want to be surprised, skip the next paragraph.

The scene at the end of "Iron Man 2" shows Agent Coulson arriving in New Mexico, which he mentions several times throughout the film. There, we see a giant crater in the ground, and at the very last second we see what is supposed to be Thor's hammer in the crater. That's it. There is no surprise here. "Thor" is being released next summer and he will eventually be in "The Avengers," set for summer 2012 with Iron Man, War Machine, Captain America, Black Widow, Nick Fury and most likely The Hulk. There is no shock here. All we see is a hole in the ground and a glimpse of a hammer. Filming for "Thor" has already begun, so couldn't they have thrown a glimpse of him in there? I think that would have been very doable. It's not the worst teaser, just not worth waiting around for. I already knew all of that.

So "Iron Man 2" doesn't really live up to its predecessor, and hopefully it isn't a strong indication of upcoming Marvel movies. It's still a fun and enjoyable film, but you'll probably enjoy it more if you're a superhero fan and especially if you're trying to follow this massive Marvel plan to bring all these movies together. If you're not particularly in to this stuff, then you can probably skip it, or wait until it's out on video.

"I'd love to leave my door unlocked at night, but this ain't Canada."


May 16, 2010

Review: Crazy Heart

Aged country legend Bad Blake has a rocky career, an unhealthy lifestyle and a seemingly lonely life. The question the film asks is, "Is it ever too late to change?" Jeff Bridges stars in an Oscar winning role as Blake: a fictitious character that could represent any number of former country music stars. We meet Blake on one of his tour stops, which just so happens to be a bowling alley. He reveals his lifestyle pretty quickly with excessive smoking and drinking (mostly whiskey), one-night stands with star-struck fans and late nights on the stage. When he meets a local reporter in Santa Fe named Jane, played by Oscar nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal ("Stranger Than Fiction," "The Dark Knight"), he begins to think a bit differently. Blake sees a way to better himself in Jane and her four-year-old son Buddy. Young country star Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell, "Phone Booth," "In Bruges") is also a thorn in Blake's side, though one with good intentions. Once somewhat of a student to Blake, Sweet has learned everything he knows from the former star and has gotten famous from Blake's previous support and songs Blake has written for him to perform. As he becomes closer with Jane, Bad Blake finds reason to change his ways, and a few career opportunities open up to him as he begins to write new songs, which is something he hasn't done in years.

The problem here is not so much the story. It's a familiar story with heart, and the cast is easy to fall in love with. What lacks is the dramatic event the film builds up to, but doesn't exactly deliver. There are several dramatic moments that create tension and help push the story. It just feels like something bigger is coming, and the ending itself, although it wraps up nicely, feels anti-climactic. The best part of the ending is hearing the song that Blake has been working on in pieces throughout the film.

While watching "Crazy Heart," it's hard not to compare the story and the character of Bad Blake to 2008's "The Wrestler," starring Oscar nominee Mickey Rourke in what is argued to be the comeback performance of his career. Jeff Bridges wasn't exactly in need of a comeback, so his performance doesn't seem to carry the weight that Rourke's did, despite his Oscar win. Personally I don't feel Rourke is that strong of an actor, but he was fantastic in "The Wrestler." That film, although not as visually pleasing, had a story with even more heart and emotion, and felt so real and personal. The dramatic moments were even more dramatic, the main character, similar in career and personal situations, fell harder and further with each misstep. Above all, it builds to a dramatic moment and ends in such a beautiful way that I can't say I've seen before. The stories, actors and films as a whole are much different, but so similar at the same time. The 2009 Academy Awards saw the much-deserving Sean Penn beat out Rourke for the Best Actor Oscar, but I think if you put Bridges' Bad Blake up against Rourke's Randy "The Ram" Robinson...ya know, that would be a pretty good fight.

Jane: Where did all those songs come from?
Bad Blake: Life, unfortunately.


May 13, 2010

Review: Pirate Radio

Set in 1966, "Pirate Radio" chronicles a time when rock n' roll music wasn't allowed to be played on mainstream British radio stations. What the great rebels of society decided to do at the time, was to anchor large ships out in the middle of the ocean and broadcast the defiant sounds of rock music 24 hours a day. Angering the British government, it became the mission of several sticklers to shut down such groups. The film focuses on a fictional ship with several characters based on known radio DJs of the time, and a colorful crew of rock enthusiasts. Young Carl is sent to the ship by his mother so he may spend time with his God-father Quentin, played by the ever-impressive Bill Nighy ("Love Actually," and Davey Jones in the "Pirates" films, though you can't always tell). When the government makes several frivolous attempts to outlaw the pirate broadcasts, but eventually puts some pressure on the crew, who must find new ways to reach their fans. Ultimately, the foreground of the story seems to center at times on Carl's attempt to lose his virginity to a girl who really likes him among a sea of sex, drugs and rock n' roll, in which everyone else seems to be more smooth and charismatic, though equally as unattractive.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman ("Capote," "Doubt") plays The Count, the lone American DJ (for a while) and is clearly one of the more rebellious members of the crew. His character seems part Howard Stern (without being horribly sexist and overly offensive), and bares a very strong resemblance to his portrayal of famous rock journalist Lester Bangs in "Almost Famous." Nick Frost ("Shaun of the Dead," "Hot Fuzz") is for once not the bumbling idiot of the group, though his character is at times a bit unlikable as he tries to help Carl out, but is just as quick to help himself out first. A rivalry arises between The Count and Gavin, an even smoother and more desired American DJ who once left the ship, but is now back to support them in their battle against the establishment. Gavin, played by Rhys Ifans ("The Replacements," "Little Nicky") could easily be confused with other characters in the film, as he doesn't speak enough dialogue or stand out in appearance. Maybe that's just me, but he's a memorable actor in a mysterious role amongst mysterious roles.

There are a handful of moments in the film that made me laugh out loud, by myself, and it's a funny enough movie overall, but the story itself is just alright. Having nearly all of it set on an anchored ship provides great visuals, and also a fantastically shot scene where records spill out of their covers through a room filled with water. It's no surprise this film had an extremely limited release. In fact, I knew it was coming out, but it was so quickly released on DVD that I think so few had the chance to see it in theaters. Either way, it's funny enough to watch if you're out of ideas, but I'm sure you could find something better to spend your money on.

"Here's a rather long record. I hope I'm here at the end of it."


April 20, 2010

What's New with Superheros!?

I apologize for the lack of posting lately, as I am finishing up my final semester of college and haven't had the time or money to see new movies. But I have found plenty of time to surf like the sad, obsessed movie viewer I am, so here are some updates on what is going on with the crazy amount of superhero adaptations and remakes set to be released in the next few years (we'll try to go chronologically).

Iron Man 2 - May 7, 2010
Set for release just a few short weeks away, we're picking up where we left Tony Stark in 2008, when he had just announced to the world that he is Iron Man. Yes, we love that cocky bastard and can't wait to see him light up the screen as the rock star of superheros. Director Jon Favreau has some pressure riding on him, since this film will be setting the stage for a slew of Marvel Universe movies that will all tie together with similar characters (Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, who I've read will have a bigger role in this movie) and the eventual Avengers film. Thanks to the success of "Iron Man" and "The Dark Knight" in the summer of '08 (and I think "The Incredible Hulk" was note-worthy too), the newest comic flicks have been announcing all-star casts, though this can be seen in the "X-Men" trilogy and the original Batman franchise as well. Robert Downey Jr. is back, but Oscar nominee Don Cheadle will be replacing Terrence Howard as Rhodey, who will be seeing more action this time around as War Machine (Iron Man's sidekick, more or less). Oscar winner Gwyenth Paltrow ("Shakespeare in Love") is back, and new additions include the underrated Sam Rockwell ("Choke," "Moon"), the beautiful Scarlett Johansson ("The Other Boleyn Girl," "Vicki Christina Barcelona") and Oscar nominee Mickey Rourke ("The Wrestler"). My only concern is Rourke as the villain, Whiplash, as he speaks Russian for a good portion of the movie, and I don't consider him that talented of an actor. Then again, Iron Man resurrected Robert Downey Jr.'s career, so can it sustain Rourke's recently saved one?

The Green Hornet - January 14, 2011
You may not have heard of this one, but Seth Rogen stars as a newspaper publisher turned crime fighter with martial arts toting sidekick. No, that's not a joke, and no, it's not supposed to be a comedy. It's actually a remake from 1966. This version will star Cameron Diaz, Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson (one of my favorite supporting actors) and recent Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (only known to Americans as Hans Landa in "Inglourious Basterds") as the villain. I'm having a hard time believing this isn't supposed to be hilarious. It was just pushed back to the date listed above, reportedly because it is now going to be in 3D. Yay?

Thor - May 6, 2011
The next step in the Marvel arsenal will star Chris Hemsworth (died in the first 10 minuets of "Star Trek" as George Kirk) as the Norse warrior. Natalie Portman ("V for Vendetta," "Garden State") is the love interest required in any superhero story, and veteran actors Anthony Hopkins ("Silence of the Lambs") and Stellan Skarsgard ("Angels and Demons," and the Pirates trilogy as Bootstrap Bill) lend their talents as well. This is being directed by Kenneth Branagh, who won multiple Oscars for directing and starring in "Henry V," and believe it or not, he was the confederate villain in the wheel chair in Will Smith's "Wild, Wild West." This film is rumored to feature a lot of special effects, due to portions of the film spent among a world of Gods. The hammer-totting hero is already in the filming process.

Green Lantern - June 17, 2011
Ryan Reynolds has always been the guy making witty, smart-ass remarks in comedies, and in the past few years also a romantic comedy go-to guy. But he's also thrown in the occasional action appearance, but only in comic book adaptations like the "Blade" trilogy and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." In fact, his portrayal of Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, in "...Wolverine" earned him a solo Deadpool film also set to release in 2011, which is very confusing. He fits the part of Deadpool so well, as he is a smart-ass assassin full of witty quips and a killer instinct. Some feel he doesn't have what it takes to be the Green Lantern. Blake Lively ("Accepted," "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,") also stars along with a slew of talented actors like Peter Sarsgaard ("Garden State," "Jarhead,"), Oscar winner Tim Robbins ("Mystic River," "The Shawshank Redemption,") and Oscar nominee Angela Bassett.

The First Avenger: Captain America - July 22, 2011
It took forever to cast the red, white and blue superhero, but Marvel finally landed on Chris Evans, who appeared in both "Fantastic Four" films as the Human Torch, Johnny Storm. Luckily for them, those movies weren't that great and they aren't making any more (at least not with the same cast). Evans signed a nine-picture deal (similar to Jackson's deal as Nick Fury), ensuring he will appear in several films, including cameos in other Marvel Universe films (again, trying to tie everything together). The rest of the cast has not been solidified, but Hugo Weaving ("The Matrix" and "Lord of the Rings" trilogies), has been rumored to play Captain's arch enemy Red Skull, which would be fantastic. The film is set to take place in the 1940s during WWII, which is how the Captain America story begins. Director Joe Johnston ("The Rocketeer," "Jumanji" and most recently, "The Wolf Man,") is being doubted in his abilities, but the hope is that he can pull it together to introduce the most important part of the Avengers team.

Untitled Batman Project - 2011
Christopher Nolan, as usual, has been pretty hush-hush about the next Batman installment, supposedly his last. Nolan is returning with writers, his brother Jon and David S. Goyer, and the same core cast of Christian Bale, Michael Cain, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman. These facts alone are very reassuring. The villain and plot has not been announced, but ridiculous amounts of rumors and speculation have overrun the web since the success of "The Dark Knight." Nolan has said that he knows he can't out-do TDK, but everyone's expectations will be for him to do so, which is probably why he wants to get out of the Batman game before it goes the way of 1995's "Batman Forever."

A slew of X-Men related projects beginning in 2011
As for "X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2," so far only Hugh Jackman is cast and this will center on Wolverine's time in Japan...I really don't think this needs to be made. "X-Men: First Class" is also planned for 2011, though not a single detail exists yet. It's supposed to focus on the original class at Xavier's school for mutants, so basically younger versions of all the X-Men we've already seen in the trilogy. Speaking of the trilogy, some sort of "X-Men 4" is supposed to happen at some point with the same characters, but no one knows anything about that. "X-Men Origins: Magneto," which actually sounds really interesting, has been delayed numerous times and is now set for a 2012 release, but so far the only promising fact is that David S. Goyer is writing it. This franchise is so messed up.

Deadpool - 2011
Supposedly set for 2011, this was mentioned above in the Green Lantern section, as Ryan Reynolds will be playing both. This is a bit confusing, but it will probably be a better film. The question is, if the summer of 2011 is as jam-packed with important superhero films as it seems to be, is Reynolds going to be facing off against himself? At least this doesn't have the words "X-Men Origins" in front of the title.

The Avengers - May 4, 2012
This is the one that brings several years of Marvel movies together, and some of the biggest actors as well. Already set are Iron Man, Thor and Captain America (obviously). So much speculation and rumors have been swirling around as to who else would make up The Avengers team. Edward Norton is rumored to reprise his role as the Hulk in some way, and some feel characters like War Machine and Black Widow from "Iron Man 2" and Loki from "Thor" will also appear. Other superheros who won't be featured in their own movies before 2012 that might make the list include Hawkeye (which some are saying recent Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner is rumored to play), Wasp and Ant-Man. Acclaimed writer Joss Whedon ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer" series, "Firefly" series) is set to direct and has been asked to re-write the already existing script. It seems like Marvel is putting a lot of faith in him, though he is a trusted pick since he has actually been writing comic books featuring these heroes in recent years. This will be a big budget production and, like I said, a culmination of Marvel's recent and upcoming work. Whedon's biggest challenge will be directing the cast and the film in his own style, since all the other movies are being directed by different people.

Untitled Spider-Man reboot - July 3, 2012?
Ugh! I might be the only one who thought "Spider-Man 3" was not bad enough to derail the entire series, but I guess the studios did. Considering the backlash from internet fans, it made a decent amount of money, especially in its opening weekend. Director Sam Raimi said he knew what he did wrong and planned on fixing it in the fourth installment, which is now not happening. Reportedly, John Malkovich was possibly going to play The Vulture - not a great villain, but a fantastic actor. What many speculated, and what I was hoping, was that Peter Parker's professor and friend, Dr. Connors, would turn into the Lizard, which it seemed was a plan all along. Either way, the old Spider-Man franchise is dead, and just five years later they'll be putting out the newest one, which will go back to Peter's highschool roots (again) and will probably star a young actor that teenage girls love (which will make him a poorly-fitting Peter Parker). I also can't wait to see them ruin villains that were so perfectly portrayed like Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin or Alfred Molina's Dr. Octavious. Oh, and I read this is supposed to be in 3D (...just became not worth seeing).

Ant-Man - 2012?
The imdb entry itself is mostly speculation, especially the date. This will probably appear after "The Avengers" comes out but no one knows for sure when. All that they know is that Edgar Wright ("Shaun of the Dead," "Hot Fuzz") is directing, so it will not disappoint. Whether Ant-Man will appear in "The Avengers" is yet to be seen, but I think he probably will, which will create more interest in a lesser known superhero before his solo movie comes out.

Superman: Man of Steel - 2013
Supposedly this is not a sequel to 2006's "Superman Returns," which also was not a sequel, though the title implies such. Basically that film stood alone between the Superman series of the '70s and '80s and the 2006 reboot. So here's another reboot, currently being written by David S. Goyer (this is the third time he's being mentioned in this post so clearly he's important to this genre), and a helping hand is being lent by Batman guru Christopher Nolan, though he's not writing or directing or in any way taking over the project. Just...supervising? Either way, this story is going back to the roots of Superman and retelling the story, but it has been said it will not be a complete origins story as Goyer assumes the audience knows the story of Superman by now. Not much is known about this movie, but it should be the first good approach to the character in a while, assuming we all make it to 2013.

On top of all this, imdb pages exist for "Wonder Woman" and "Justice League: Mortal" in 2011, which seem pretty unlikely since there are no details announced. If you think this is a ridiculous amount of superhero movies to be coming out in the next two or three years then I completely agree. We've had more happen in the past 10 years than most people probably realize, but the trend just keeps on growing. Marvel definitely has the best idea of tying their movies and characters together, drawing in more fans and causing viewers to be pushed from one movie to another based on curiosity at the very least. You can also expect eventual sequels to most of these films, since no one ever seems to know when to quit when it comes to a good thing.

"A hero kills people - people that wish him harm. A hero is part human, and part supernatural. A hero is born out of a childhood trauma or out of a disaster that must be avenged." - Dwight Shrute


March 23, 2010

Review: Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day

The original "Boondock Saints," which was released in 1999 to an extremely limited amount of theaters due to the then recent Columbine shootings, can be argued as a cult classic. The film spread through word of mouth, which is how I and many others first discovered it. Becoming immensely popular, the sequel was in the works for years, delayed mainly to legal difficulties since writer/director Troy Duffy did not own the rights to the first film. Now, ten years later, fans were given...well...not exactly what they had hoped for.

"Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day" begins eight years after the events of the first installment. The MacManus brothers (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus) are hiding out with their father (Billy Connolly) on a sheep farm in Ireland. When news reaches them that a priest in their old stomping grounds has been murdered, and that the crime was set up to look like they had done the job, they come out of retirement to get to the bottom of such an act. Back in Boston, the detectives who aided them in the past film are hoping they won't be discovered by the new FBI agent on the case, Eunice Bloom (Julie Benz, "Dexter"), who is also the protege of the late Agent Paul Smecker (Willem Defoe, the only well-known actor in the first film). We find that the Yakavetta crime family has continued thanks to Concezio (Judd Nelson...yeah...he was John Bender in "The Breakfast Club"), who's father was murdered by The Saints at the end of the first film. On their trip back to the States, the brothers meet Romeo, who is the comic relief sidekick, much like Rocco in the first film. The boys go back after the mob, with help from their old friends, and even some support from Agent Bloom, but they find that orders are coming down from a much higher, more ominous source, which turns out to be a demon from their father's past.

Okay, this film had several problems, and any fans who've been anxious to see how the story continues need to know up front that they can't expect the same quality of film they had last time around. In fact, the original "Boondock Saints" almost seems like a freak occurrence when a movie should have been bad but turned out good. "All Saints Day" holds some inside jokes from the first film, but at this point it seems to make fun of itself. The characters appear to aware of who they are and what they are to the audience, and they play off of it too much. The three detectives who aid the brothers are not regular full time actors, and that shows a lot here. It's like they know how anticipated this movie was and how many people would see it, so they decided to over act like nobody's business and come off trying way too hard to be interesting or funny. Julie Benz, I must add, is at points just awful. Her character has moments that mirror her predecessor as the weird FBI agent to the point where it's like watching the same movie again, but it's not really that interesting anymore. Hell, Rocco is in a dream sequence and his acting is better than hers (though that sequence was not necessary and kind of confused me). Clifton Collins Jr., who plays Romeo, is someone you haven't heard of but have probably seen in strong supporting roles, most notably Oscar-winning film "Capote." His character though was never necessary. Did they have to replace Rocco for comic relief? That's the movies biggest problem. It insists on adding funny moments for the sake of comic relief, when the comedy in the first film was so simple it seemed accidental and enjoyable. "All Saints Day" has moments when it can't decide if it wants to be a comedy or an action film.

The film leads well into what will be a third installment, and my hopes are that it fixes the mistakes they made with this one. There were some clever surprises, as well as predictable plot points, that make "Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day" enjoyable if you don't expect a lot out of it. Don't view it as the highly anticipated sequel, but rather pretend it was made all along and you just didn't get around to seeing it. As soon as you finish it though, put on the original and remember why you love these characters. Who knows, maybe the original "Boondock Saints" was just the luck of the Irish, and that luck has run out. Let's hope that's not the case for the next try.

"There's two kinds of people in this world when you boil it all down. You got your talkers and you got your doers."


March 22, 2010

Review: Up in the Air

Note: I know I've begun to review movies that aren't that new, but they're ones recently released on DVD so you can buy or rent or check out online or whatever. Money and time keep me from seeing every movie I'd like to in theaters.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Walter Kirn, "Up in the Air" is a story of Ryan Bingham, whose job is to fly around the country firing people. To be more clear, when a company is conducting a large amount of layoffs, they bring in Ryan, or someone from his company, to do the dirty work. This could be because it is too hard of a process for some managers to deal with, or because Ryan Bingham (played by Oscar-winner George Clooney) and others like him are just so damn good at it. Ryan, much like the character of Will in "About a Boy" (played by Hugh Grant), is an island. He lives on the road, and as such is a solitary man - and he likes it this way. His business, however, is being changed by technology and new faces, when Natalie Keener (played by Anna Kendrick, who can mostly be seen in the "Twilight" series), an up-and-coming at his company, develops a way to fire people over video conference. This new method is more efficient, but Ryan feels it is very impersonal. He is instructed to take Natalie out on the road and show her what it is really like to fire someone.

The other part of Ryan's story revolves around Alex (Vera Farmiga), a fellow frequent flyer (quite the understatement for both of them). The two are impressed with each others' travel stats and realize quickly that they are more or less the same person. Ryan meets up with Alex here and there on his trips and for the first time in his life, he begins to see himself wanting more - perhaps a serious relationship or a family of his own. As he begins to see more to life, Natalie learns the real difficulty of their business and tries to feel comfortable with the decisions she's made. What she really tries to figure out is how Ryan can live the life he does, and she questions his entire philosophy. Ryan states in the film that in the past year he had been on the road over 300 days, telling the audience, though not realizing himself, just what kind of life he lives - a lonely one.

Nominated for six Oscars, including a Best Actor nod for Clooney, and Best Supporting Actress ones for Kendrick and Farmiga (who played the love interest of both Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon in 2007 Best Picture winning "The Departed"), the film hits at a time when much of America is experiencing economic issues. Director Jason Reitman ("Thank You For Smoking," and "Juno," not to mention son of famous director Ivan Reitman) says he planned to do this film adaptation as his first major release, but held off. Lucky for him, it fits in perfectly with today's America. The scenes of people being let go and speaking their minds to the camera were regular people recently let go from their jobs, given the opportunity to say what they wanted to say. I feel this movie deserved its Best Picture nomination, but rightfully so it did not win. It ends in a way that can be seen as realistic, while also feels a bit upsetting for the audience. You want Ryan Bingham to be a changed man and for everything to work out, but much like the so many let go from their jobs, not everything works out the way you think it will. There's a hopefulness to it all, however, and the idea of new beginnings is present. Like I said, not the greatest movie of the year, but definitely something to consider.

"If you think about it, your favorite memories, the most important moments in your life... were you alone?"


March 16, 2010

Review: Taking Woodstock

Director Ang Lee, who brought us 2005's "Brokeback Mountain," nominated for eight Oscars and winner of three (including Best Director), crafts this behind-the-scenes story of the largest music festival in history. Adapted from the book by Elliot Tiber, "Taking Woodstock" follows Tiber himself, the son of motel owners in the New York state farmlands, who helped find a home for Woodstock in the summer of 1969.

Elliot Tiber, portrayed by comedian Demetri Martin, was looking for ways to keep his parents motel afloat for yet another summer season when he read about Woodstock ventures and their inability to secure a location with enough space for the event with tickets already sold and the date quickly approaching. Elliot, a painter as well as a homosexual, was ready to join the hippie ways of the 1960s, but couldn't let go of his immigrant parents failing business and their strong need for his support. When the opportunity arose to help them out and save this monumental concert at the same time, he got in touch with the right people and used his power of President of the town's Chamber of Commerce and the permit already approved for his family's annual summer music festival (usually much smaller in size) to find Woodstock a location. Although, even with a huge field provided by local dairy farmer Max Yasgur (Eugene Levy), an unimaginable amount of work and trouble went into the execution of the great festival.

Demetri Martin, who has done little film acting in the past, surprises in his first leading role as the often conflicted and confused Elliott Tiber who sometimes looks lost in the middle of everything swirling around him in the wake of Woodstock. Quirky supporting roles include Eugene Levy (who's work in the American Pie films have earned him his own spot in our generation), Paul Dano ("Little Miss Sunshine," "There Will Be Blood"), Emile Hirsch ("Into the Wild," "Milk") and Liev Shreiber ("Defiance," "X-Men Origins: Wolverine") as a cross-dressing security force.

Ang Lee used no archive footage of the actual Woodstock festival, but rather found tens of thousands of extras to film the audience scenes. You never see any performers of the festival, which goes along with the story, and all the focus is on the months leading up to Woodstock, including the locals' reactions, national coverage and how the impossible was made possible. The film, which feels a bit lengthy, is slightly less comedic than it claims to be, depending on your sense of humor, but there's a certain level of interest raised on a subject I'm sure few from any generation have questioned. It may be something our parents appreciate, since it all occurred during their time, but with themes surrounding the character of Elliott Tiber that I think twenty-something viewers can identify with.

"Perspective shuts out the universe, it keeps the love out."

March 9, 2010

So How Were My Oscar Predictions?

Full List of Winners

Of the nine categories I made predictions for, I only had two wrong (which were the Original Screenplay and Adapted Screenplay categories). I also predicted that hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin would kinda suck, and they kinda did...

However, Sacha Baron Cohen was nowhere to be seen, though I read somewhere he was planning a ridiculous appearance and was told he was not allowed. The tribute to late writer/director John Hughes was unexpected, and probably the highlight of this year's ceremony. Seeing stars of his hit 80's comedies, along with a montage of memorable scenes and interviews with Hughes himself really gave him the Oscar attention he never received.

That's pretty much all there is to comment on at this point. Next, I think I'll be taking a look at some highly anticipated films of 2010, as well as possible contenders for next year's Oscars (yeah, sometimes you can tell this early).


March 5, 2010

Oscar Predictions (you knew this was coming)

The Full List of Nominees

To be fair, I haven't seen every movie nominated. I tried, but it's hard. Too much time and money are required to be completely up to speed around Oscar time (plus your local movie theater where you attend college is closed for January and February for renovations...). There's always illegally watching movies online, but that earned my parents' computer a virus and caused me to reformat my hard drive...

Down to business:

Best Picture: The Hurt Locker
Why: Various members of the Academy (those who vote) will likely want to keep the $700 million grossing "Avatar" from winning. Particularly the actors branch of the Academy, who would prefer a dramatic story of the Iraq war over a sci-fi blockbuster that was 60% CGI. Although "Avatar" took the Golden Globes for Best Picture: Drama and Best Director, I don't see that happening on Oscar night. It's a whole different group of voters with different perspectives on the industry. "Avatar" is a great film, but "The Hurt Locker" is a better one. No other story this year was as captivating and tenuous as this one, except maybe "Precious," but critics and Oscar pundits have said the race is down to "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker," with "Inglourious Basterds" as the only possible outside chance.

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"
Why: If "The Hurt Locker" wins, so will she. It's a pattern the Academy has seemed to follow, and practical reasons. If you made the best movie of the year, you deserve the recognition. Plus, she will be the first woman to ever win this award, opening the doors for female directors everywhere. That's not why she should win, but that's why it should be appreciated.

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"
Why: Still haven't seen this, but I really want to. Long time actor and nominee, has never won. Winning the Golden Globe was a good indication, and no one has even mentioned any other actors winning.

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side"
Why: Probably her best performance yet, and for someone who's been a star for as long as she has, she's never been nominated before. I don't think this movie was really Oscar material, but then again there were several others in the expanded Best Picture category I think don't belong.
Who Do I Really Wish Would Win: Streep, Sidibe, or Mulligan. I thought they were all better in their films, but they've got some things against them. Streep has the record for Oscar nominations (and wins) and to be honest, her portrayal of Julia Child, though spot on, wasn't enough to earn this award. Sidibe has never acted before, and although she was outstanding, an Oscar is something you usually have to earn over time. Mulligan is also a bit young, and her film, "An Education," which was fantastic, was generally overlooked (have you heard of it?).

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"
Why: Hands down one of the best performances all year. A predominantly German actor, Waltz stole the show in Tarantino's Nazi revenge blockbuster, and it was my earlier opinion that he should have been nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, as he was on screen more than anyone else in that movie (including Brad Pitt).

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Mo'Nique, "Precious"
Why: Again, one of the most memorable of the year. It seems the supporting actors were the easy ones to tell this year. No arguments from anyone, she's got it in the bag.

Best Animated Feature: Up
Why: Duh...

Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds"
Why: I'd say it's between this and "The Hurt Locker," and personally I feel a fictitious re-telling of WWII is more creative the a story about the Iraq war written by a journalist who spent time there. Not trying to underplay the story or the war, but Tarantino's "Basterds" was near perfect in plot and it contained so many subtleties that only he could create.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air
Why: Everyone seems to be saying it, but I still haven't seen it (I plan to very soon). Jason Reitman is great, and his film probably won't be taking home any other awards this year, so why not?

Other Predictions:
-Hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin will make some good jokes at each other, and their film "It's Complicated," which was good, but earned no Oscar attention. Eventually they'll get really boring and unfunny, and probably start looking tired (Baldwin will look slightly intoxicated).
-Sacha Baron Cohen will do something dumb.
-"Avatar" will take nearly all of the technical awards, in true James Cameron fashion.
-Mo'Nique will cry during her speech.
-Jason Reitman and Quentin Tarantino will both act really full of themselves.

That's about it. See you at the Oscars! Sunday night on ABC.


March 3, 2010

Non-Humans Who Should Have Won Oscars

This is simple (and fun). Characters or important elements of movies that should have won Oscars. Enjoy:

Wilson the volleyball from "Cast Away" (2000) - Best Supporting Actor
In Robert Zemeckis' film about a man stuck on an uninhabited island, Tom Hanks (in an Oscar-nominated role) spends four years alone. Well, almost alone. During the beginning of his stay, he goes through some Fed-Ex packages that washed up on shore with him and finds someone's birthday present - a volleyball. After cutting his hand trying to start a fire, he throws the volleyball, and his bloody hand print somewhat resembles a face (after he ads eyes). He then begins to casually converse with it, and names it Wilson (after the company that manufactured it). As the years go on, Wilson becomes a close friend, since he is the only "person" on the island to talk to. As Hanks' character sets sail on a makeshift raft with Wilson, there is a very emotional scene in which they part ways. Very sad...

Paulie the parrot from "Paulie" (1998) - Best Actor
Voiced by Jay Mohr ("Jerry McGuire," "Pay It Forward"), Paulie is a parrot who is talks. No, not like a regular parrot that mimics others. Instead, Paulie holds entire conversations, learns and has feelings and emotions. His journey consists of trying to find the young girl who once owned him before he was given away for getting her into trouble. He makes a lot of good friends along the way, until he is eventually kept at an animal research lab where he meets Misha (Tony Shalhoub ("Monk"), which is where the film begins. Paulie goes through a very long and difficult time trying to find Marie, while keeping an very inspire outlook on his life. He even learns to fly (yeah, at first he can't).

Johnny 5 from "Short Circuit" (1986) - Best Actor
Number 5 is a robot, of many, created for as a military project (and he definitely seems like inspiration for Pixar's Wall-E character). In true 1980's movie fashion, everything was going the way of robots and superior technology. After being electrocuted, Number 5 begins thinking independently and communicating with humans. He also learns about war, and begins to rebel against the very reason he was created. No one from the military seems to believe he feels emotions and they attempt to deprogram him. His famous line "Number 5...ALIVE!" is a very heart-wrenching statement, as he is just pleading for them to believe him. He stars alongside Steve Guttenberg (um...the Police Academy movies?) and Ally Sheedy (the weird girl from "The Breakfast Club"), though they don't appear in the sequel, in which Johnny 5 lives in New York City and is used and manipulated by greedy people...yeah...I've actually watched this stuff...

Gizmo from "Gremlins" (1984) and "Gremlins 2: The New Batch" (1990) - Best Supporting Actor
He's the cute and cuddly mogwai that doesn't turn into a Gremlin. He's the hero. Do I really have to say much else about him. Oh, and believe it or not, he's voiced by Howie Mandel (yup, the host of "Deal or No Deal").

Audrey II from "Little Shop of Horrors" (1986) - Best Supporting Actor/Actress
"Feed me Seymour!" Rick Moranis' ("Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," "Ghost Busters") plant, Audrey II, which grows to enormous size and then eventually starts talking and demanding he feed it people, is what carries the show in this Off-Broadway musical adaptation. In a film that contains other comedy greats Steve Martin and Bill Murray, Audrey II really holds his/her/its own (and yeah, it eats people too. Pretty sweet).

I know there are more I just can't think of right now, but we'll stop with five. Five is a good round number. Feel free to make suggestions of others I couldn't think of. You can have a lot of fun with this idea, trust me.

Oscar predictions coming tomorrow. Anyone wanna make bets?

March 2, 2010

Oscar Best Picture Controversy

An NPR interview that sums up the issues

Basically, this year is the first in over 50 that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (those who appoint the Academy Awards, or Oscars) have decided to expand the list of Best Picture nominees from five to 10. Some arguments include the idea that many great films aren't being recognized, which is what many said last year about blockbuster and record-breaking, "The Dark Knight." What it really means, as this interview suggests, is that the more popular movies aren't being nominated, so typical movie-goers aren't watching the Academy Awards broadcast. It really comes down to ratings and money.

It is also argued that CGI and effects-heavy movies are rarely nominated in this category as opposed to artsy independent films, or very actor-oriented films. It's a clash over what is the better platform to judge movies; production or acting?

Here's a quote from Neil Gabler, cultural historian and the guest on that particular NPR interview:

"The Academy has some 6,000 members, and the actors' branch is not quite half of the entire Academy. Actors understandably have a certain amount of animosity towards special-effects driven movies. So, those sorts of movies are likely to be given less consideration than movies that are more actor-oriented. And that's one of the reasons why we've seen the tendencies, in my estimation, in the Oscar nominations. And it's also one reason why they had to enlarge the field."

Members of the Academy are the ones who vote in the Oscars, and we are supposed to trust their opinions as experts in the industry. The new voting system for the expanded Best Picture list is the factor that may drastically affect the outcome of the category.

Basically when voting for Best Picture nominees, instead of choosing you're favorite like it has been in the past (and still is for every other category), they must rate all of the Best Picture nominees from one to 10. This means if a member has not seen a movie, the must still rate it in the list, causing them to most likely rate them last, which hurts that films chances. It also means that two films, likely the top two contenders which are "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker," could take most of the votes (#1 placement) and another film could somehow sneak into the top spot by having the most #2 placements. It's a bit confusing, not only to the audience who is not involved in the voting process, but most likely the members of the Academy as well.

Expect my lengthy posts about my Oscar predictions soon. Watch the Academy Awards this Sunday!

"...the Academy, of course, the industry says, well, it's about merit. Well, it's always been about money. It's always been about drumming up business for the movies."