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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

'This is Spinal Tap' Review

Take a moment to be sure that your speakers are at full volume. I'll wait.

But now, since this is a review of This is Spinal Tap, turn those speakers up louder. You're going to need that "extra push off the cliff" for this one.

Spinal Tap follows Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner, also the director) a filmmaker, as he chronicles the journey of the failing heavy metal rock band Spinal Tap, as they tour the USA for the first time in years. Spinal Tap, it seems, has been forever unable to grasp the type of popularity they (and all other bands) crave; and yet the members live in a world of blissful ignorance to their lack of musical skill and showmanship, convinced they aren't the punch line to some great joke.

Spinal Tap lead musicians David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) are best described, by themselves, as visionary poets, out of the mold of Jim Morrison or (a future) Kurt Cobain. Of course, all this is subjective. Spinal Tap has gone through many changes as a band, notably the death of the bands first 3 drummers, but its popularity never seemed to wane. Even on their comeback tour they have trouble selling out 4000 seat arenas, as well as taking second billing to a puppet show. It's all the same, but their commendable ignorance- or maybe straightforward lack of knowledge- helps them to remain upbeat in times of failure. Spinal Tap is a band that no one really knows, but that everyone takes for a joke (it's remarked on in the film with "Remember them as they were and write them off")- the best way to describe them would be to compare them to a Daniel Powter-level celebrity. Remember 2005? It wasn't that long ago, but Daniel Powter owned the radio waves with his song 'Bad Day,' remember? Now if you herd his name in a conversation you might chuckle quietly to yourself wondering what kind of clown you are talking to that would mention Daniel Powter in a conversation. Daniel Powter could probably sell out a 4000 seat arena, but I wouldn't be surprised if floor seats were less than 10 dollars a pop.
If you'll notice these speakers go up to 11...

That got anti- Daniel Powter rather quickly. Sorry about that, let's get back to Spinal Tap.

What makes this movie funny is also its Achilles heel. The stupidity of the band members. Yes, it's funny when they can't fully make sense of the interview question, or something happens to them that is directly correlated to them being stupid, but it also becomes tedious. For me there are parts that are just so filled with stupidity that it becomes hard to watch, and this isn't a drama. It's a comedy, and I want to watch it. It makes me smile to think about a incompetent rock band but, even in 82 minutes, there is only so much I can deal with.

Largely this movie is a great comedic achievement, in fact its mocumentary style has influenced countless other movies in the same fashion, but its 'look how stupid these guys are, isn't it hilarious' motive really overwhelmed the rest of the movie. If for 20 minutes we could have seen the dynamic between Hubbins and his girlfriend, and how it pissed Nigel off, fully explored it would have made the comedy even greater. Comedy lies in truth not in stupidity.

This is the story of Spinal Tap. "And why not?"

8/10-- Need to See

Friday, August 5, 2011

'There Will Be Blood' Review

Sorry patient followers, but after a noticeably quiet absence (slightly due to a Hangover-style liquor induced blackout, but mostly by spending 5 weeks in Europe) in which All of the Lights was turned off, I have returned to once again, as if I ever really stopped, force-feeding my opinions down throat's. Right or wrong as they may be. But mostly right...

Today finds me at odds with a movie widely considered to be the best of 2008, There Will Be Blood. Based, in principle, on the Upton Sinclair novel Oil!, the film tells the fictional story of Daniel Plainview, from his start as a lowly mineral prospector to a tyrannical oil tycoon, and the personal relationships he destroys as a result of his monumental greed and inflated self view.
I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!

It has now been three years since the film was shafted at the 80th annual Academy Awards by a Cohen Bros. Production (yell at me all you want, I can't hear you anyway), but that is neither here nor there. It's just out there for you too see that even though it has been considered the best movie of that year, it didn't win the right awards to prove it, a la Social Network. However, in my eyes, this is the best film of this past decade, and for the following reasons:

Daniel Plainview (expertly played by Daniel Day-Lewis, in an Oscar winning performance- but more on this later) is the kind of character that any writer wishes they could have dreamed up. He is the worst kind of person, in fact as the minutes drag on we, as the audience, come to see him as the incarnation of what is wrong with the world (depending on your politics). His Cortezian (a word I just made up) greed, and desire for money make him the embodiment of capitalistic system where those in power have gone crazy with it. All this, plus he is a huge dick, shooting down and breaking the spirit of preacher man Eli Sunday (Paul Dano, of Little Miss Sunshine fame) and making life near impossible for his adopted son. And yet, despite my best efforts to despise him, I found myself rooting for the man to get what he wants. Even if it is power and land, and even though I know I shouldn't want to. I couldn't help it. Daniel Plainview is a tremendous character, and his life is one hell of a story.

Paul Thomas Anderson puts this film on his back and really accounts for 75% of the film's viewing pleasure. As the writer of the screenplay (based on a novel, not necessarily adapted from) and the director, he rivals a world class pastry chef. He puts together a winning recipe for Rhubarb pie but has to ultimately leave it up to the oven to cook the desert to perfection. The actors being the oven. From his mind he has created a world of greed and with an unforgiving air rivaling that of only Citizen Kane. From a purely visual standpoint his direction gives the audience the idea that they are watching the world's greatest western, when in fact the two bear no semblance. And within these breathtaking views of arid wasteland lie the film's best moments. The symbolism. Tucked in within the films 156 minute run time are competing religious and fiscal undertones, each at the forefront at one point or another. It's these two main forces that really drive the film forward and it's at their intersection where a life is destroyed.

Seeing as I mentioned Daniel Plainview, the juicy character first, in my glowing admiration for this film, it would be easy to discount the role that Daniel Day-Lewis and the other main actors play in this film. Easy, but ultimately ignorant. DDL as he will be known from now on to me, absolutely kills in this film- channeling everything Daniel Plainview is on paper, on screen. He takes it up a level as well, adding little idiosyncrasies and personal flourishes that make this character memorable, demonstrating to everyone why he is films greatest contemporary actor. Paul Dano is memorable as well, playing both Eli and Paul Sunday, the children of a landowner who is eventually bought out by Plainview. How he doesn't have steady work as a Hollywood actor is beyond my comprehension, and an issue for another time, and another place.

I can give this film no further praise other than to say it has been the best film I have seen. It takes risks with character and story that actually provides for a much improved film (much in the same way The Social Network portrayed Zuckerberg and Facebook), while still taking aim at life's biggest unanswerable questions- does god exist? what makes a person bad?- and searching for the answers.

Highly Recommended.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Favorite 'What the F' Moments in Film

What is the reason I didn't call this blog Biggest Mindfucks? Simply for the sake of discretion, not wanting to offend anyone, and to make the site seem more professional. Clearly this is what it is, well maybe not clearly- but it will become clear as more and more words eschew from my fingertips and onto the screen.

Before I present my top 3 biggest mindfucks (I'm not rolling out a top 10 because a GOOD mindfuck is few and far between, and I wanted to represent that) a quick definition and an even quicker caveat. Mindfuck is a pretty self-explanatory term. Let me explain it anyway: Mindfucks occur when a film (or really any medium) when all perceived notions of reality have been denounced, and quickly. It usually takes about 2-5 minutes for this all to occur, and by the end of it another, unexpected, reality is true.

Now, as with all lists, some rules/ guidelines that have unfortunately been followed. First, I could only include films that I have actually seen. That means no Memento, Sixth Sense, Mulholland Drive or Cars 2 (just kidding... but not really). Second, there is a severe breach of the Thou Shall Not Spoil Film's with Plot Twists commandment, for all the films, so if you haven't seen one of the movies, and you don't want it spoiled for ya, don't read it! Otherwise, it's all good and it's time to jump in.

Let's start with the two Honorable Mentions (it's the law of lists, there have to be Honorable Mentions...):

Fight Club (1999)-
I felt so bad about leaving this off the top 3- because its such a good mindfuck-but, as will be made clear in moments, I didn't want to lose the credibility of my choices by picking two apples that fell close to the same tree. Fight Club is an incredible piece of material (based on the book by Chuck Palahniuk- which everyone should read at some point) in which Ed Norton and Brad Pitt come into constant conflict over, what else, their fight club! It isn't a narrative masterpiece but it's testosterone-fueled, comedic, attempts to obliterate capitalism comes to a head with a big mindfuck. Ed Norton IS Brad Pitt; it's shocking really as Norton shoots himself hoping to end all his lack-of-sleep-caused fantasy. I remember seeing it and thinking: "I don't know what the fuck is going on but god dam was that exciting."

A Beautiful Mind (2001)-
You can easily make the case that 2010's Shutter Island had a better-albeit similar- twist, but A Beautiful Mind did it first, and in this life timing is everything. It won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2001, certainly due in large part to the films upbeat message: 'you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it.' But for those of us who HAVE seen the film, the films message was the last thing on our minds. It was the twist. Much like Fight Club the main character spends the entirety of the film conversing with characters who don't exist, who are fragments of a beautiful mind. The twist was not as sexy as some of the other films on this list, but it was surely a show-stopper. I loved it when I saw it in theaters, and even after all these years, well, it still holds a spot in my top 5.

Now to the big boys.

3. The Game (1997)
Your dam right that's a clown.
When I first heard about this film I thought it was about The Game- you know, the one where you can only lose by thinking about playing it? Confusing stuff. Obviously, or maybe thankfully, that is not what this film is about. It's about The Game, a game that makes life more exciting. There are no clear rules, in fact anything goes. But it's through this mystery that excitement is bread- and eventually succumbing to fear. The film is not hard to follow from a narrative standpoint; but to understand its meaning is another story. Mystery surrounds the film and we, as the audience, are intentionally kept in the dark. Until the end. Really there is no game, its all fictionalized, everything that Michael Douglas' character feared-that we feared- isn't true. In the film it's explained as a metaphor, to me it's a mindfuck.

2. Planet of the Apes (1968)
Something must have been funny.
Before Arnold ever coined the term "mindfuck" in Total Recall (just missed making this list), Charlton Heston was running around- with very little clothing- on another planet. The planet of the apes to be exact. The basic premise of this film is that a crew has crash landed on a foreign planet after a 2000 year journey through space (but not time since the crew only ages 18 months). The planet is, you guessed it, inhabited by highly sentient apes and, once Heston is captured, he plots his escape. As he runs he is eventually stopped near the edge of the ocean and the Forbidden Zone and he takes in his surroundings for the first time. What he sees is tragic. The Statue of Liberty is charred and buried in the sand. The planet of the apes is actually Earth and humanity managed to destroy itself. This film really invented the mindfuck- and the film franchise. So now we finally know who is responsible for Pirates 4.

1. Brazil (1985)
Opening sequence. Not sure where it fits in the film.
This is the film that inspired me to write this post. I didn't feel like doing an all out review of it because I had no idea what to say. It's a visual cornucopia of symbols and motifs- more appropriately it's a satire of futuristic societies and the over-reliance on machines/ technology. Jonathan Pryce's character, Sam, runs amok among the ignorant government attempting to chase him down, really just making everyone look foolish. It's a metaphor for the ineptitude of society but the satirical elements leave the film with a highly entertaining and hilarious 145 minutes- as well as a best writing Oscar. Cut in between moments of action and romance are dream sequences. These dreams usually feature a woman- a real woman as luck would have it- and the film follows his attempt to meet her and try to understand the connection between his brain and reality. What makes this film a mindfuck? Well, about 2/3 of the way through the film Sam is tortured for misusing his government position. A cavalcade of his friends comes to bust him out, and just when he ends up with the girl of his dreams the film cuts back to the torture: Sam is catatonic and singing "Aquarela do Brazil." So what was real? What was fake? What was a dream? We don't know. I guess It's a metaphor- because if I've learned anything from this, it's that all twists have a double meaning. At least that's what I think. I don't really know.

I'm so confused.

Here is a rendition of the famous song "Aquarela do Brasil." It's not like in the film (the horn sound is louder in the film), but you'll get the picture.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Decline of Cinema: Part I -- 3D

Since I'm so pressed for time these days, what with my summer job heating up and my need to see enough of my friends before they head back to school, I didn't have enough time to actually write this review in 3D. But fret not, with the power of technology on my side, I will be able to convert my words into shockingly disappointing 3 dimensions- the only thing is... its going to cost an extra 5 dollars to read this post. Sorry (I'm not sorry).

3D is the newest trend in Hollywood these days, replacing both botox and Zach Galifianakis' hot streak. But the jury is already out on how these big, expensive, 3D films will affect cinema: negatively.

Really the effects driven films that we see today are a result of two main forces: technology and piracy (or really people's adaptation to technology). Both of these factors contribute mightily into what gets put on screen and how people will react to it.

Remind me again why I'm watching Jonas Brothers: A 3D concert experience?
With each passing day, month, year, technology improves and things that were once cutting edge are now garbage. Literally. Go Green! But this new technology offers, to those of us who are lucky enough to enjoy it, fantastically advanced sense capabilities: seeing, hearing, and even smelling (they are working on smell-o-vision... look it up!) to the point where going to the movies has become more of an experience than a social gathering spot. For the average person, and by no means do I mean the devoted cinema goer, what is the point of spending 10 dollars a month for AMC (the television network) just to watch Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Killing, or Walking Dead- shows that NO ONE watches but are quality- when they could spend their hard earned cash on 15 dollar tickets to see, in no particular order, Cats and Dogs: the Revenge of Kitty Galore, Step Up 3D, Legend of the Guardians, Yogi Bear, Sucker Punch, Priest... you get the picture. Right?

It is one thing to say that these movies are bad (which they are), but it is a different thing entirely to say that 3D adds little to nothing to a film. I saw Toy Story 3 last summer, in 3D, and I just felt dirty leaving the theater knowing that nothing about the film was special because it was in 3D. I loved the film, it made me cry and hurt so good at the same time, but it ripped me off. Of 3D films that I can remember, only a select few were actually WORTH it. Avatar for one: say what you want about the film but it was awesome seeing it like that, it definitely made it better. Another classic had to be Spy Kids 3... wait, no, that can't be right.

Hollywood has turned into a 5 year old: simply doing things because they can and not necessarily because they are good ideas. I ask any executive at Legendary Pictures or Warner Brothers to look at me with a straight face and tell me that it was in the best interest of the public for Clash of the Titans (2010) to be converted into 3D. I say it can't be done... but the challenge is out there. I guess it figures into the money side of it (shame on me for taking THIS long to bring it up) and how only movies with explosions, cliched plots, and even cheesey one-liners, make any money- not only make money... but open big! You (my reader) can shake your head all you want at that last sentence but the sad part is, well, that it's true. Even if you don't want to believe it.

Obviously with the inflated ticket prices it had to be the case- 3D's make more money. 5 years ago you might say that making money off a behemoth, like Green Lantern let's say, was quite like fishing with dynamite, in that it was so successful ALL the time.

Like most red-blooded Americans, I too enjoy watching previews for movies before I actually watch the movie I paid to see. Something about it is just so enjoyable. The best part is that different movies have different previews- and different previews mean's more excitement. DVD's are the same, except those previews are like a time machine back to whatever year the movie came out. I watched Dodgeball recently and laughed so hard when the preview for Pauley Shore is Dead came on. It's funny because his career died and that was his last hope, saved forever in my DVD collection. But, as with all DVD's, there is a preview that everyone has come to know (and skip ASAP) as soon as it comes on. The one about piracy, right? It's different depending on how old the film is, but the message is always the same: Privacy is stealing- you wouldn't steal a car would ya?

But it is a real problem- people do it. And they do it often. It drains money out of the Hollywood system and really ruins Independently financed films, and often the careers of their shephards. By a show of hands, who when to go and see Everything Must Go? Midnight in Paris? 13 Assassins? I can go on... The Tree of Life? The Trip? Beginners? Or Submarine? All critically acclaimed, next to none widely seen.

But the system can't be blamed here. In fact, Hollywood is doing everything they can to solve this problem- it just consists (or consisted) of running out special effects laden shit-shows (read: films) hoping that the audience would show just because the film looks so dadgumm awesome. Well, the results don't lie: it worked. Or at least it was working until people started to realize how bad the movies they were paying to see were. That's when Hollywood's version of the Great Depression set in. All these shitty films had been green-lighted but no one wanted to see them. They wanted to see something quality. Remember those Fantastic 4 movies? Me either...

It seems as if there has been a severe changing of the guard in Hollywood. Quality over spectacle, just as long as they are mixed. The summer season this year, a season usually reserved for bad films that somehow manage to take 15 dollars from your wallet, has been good. Above average probably, if only because Green Lantern and Hangover 2 stunk up the joint, but surprisingly quality nonetheless.

So, yes, 3D has done nothing good for our beloved movies thus far. And one can easily argue that 3D is a terrible trend in Hollywood (in that it adds little to nothing to the movie going experience), and that it pushes out other, smaller, talented individuals. But what it does do, and what it can do, is expand the possibilities of what film can be. It's a whole new world.

But until then I wait with bated breath for Green Lantern 2: The First Wasn't Good But We Made a Sequel Anyway in 3D and IMAX.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

'The Hangover: Part II' Review

There is a bit from comedian Jim Gaffigan where he mocks American society by saying that people here are so dumb that they buy bottled water when they can just get it from any tap for free... Had to be there I guess.

This bit was the first thing I thought about after I saw The Hangover: Part II. Says one studio exec, "How stupid do I think the movie going public is? I think we can get them to see the exact same movie they paid for in 2009." Well, I guess roughly 120 million in domestic grosses thus far tells a pretty sad picture: Americans are that dumb, present company included.
You say, Let's be reasonable, everyone with a brain could have told you that this was going to be a financial success but a critical disaster. Todd Phillips is not actually the genius everyone anointed him to be. He is, realistically, a nobody who hit gold with Hangover but, who, otherwise would be hard pressed to hit bronze. And granted yes, that is a fair point, but my displeasure with the film goes outside the plot, or message, or anything that the film is about; my fault with this film is so much deeper. My fault is with the Hollywood system and how a film like this is allowed to exist.

Pick on someone my own size? You're telling me... I'll try to keep my eye on the prize:

We had a sick night, bitches!
  • This is a review of The Hangover: Part II
  • This is a review of The Hangover: Part II
  • This is a review of The Hangover: Part II

Ok, I'm ready.

After The Hangover (2009) grossed the most money ever for a rated R comedy, its sequel was put on the fast track for quick production. It was such a cash cow that for every month Warner Brothers had to wait for its release, an angel lost its wings. Things were getting serious. But along it came, and the anticipation mounted, until finally the first trailer was released to the public. But then came the crucial mistake- at least from a marketing perspective.

Do you remember what made the first one a good watch? The mystery of it all. It was satisfying when we finally figured out what happened to these guys and we actually cared when they found Doug. Not so in the sequel. This time they loose someone else (the brides brother) but we can care less. He is not important in the scheme of things, and saving him isn't given enough clout in the story. It just doesn't work well. Plus the trailers gave too much away. People were going to be seeing this anyway, what is the purpose of showing everybody just how similar the two films were are?

It may be a comedy, but also is supposed to be a story. But there is no good story to be told in this second part. Its like the guy at a party who follows up someone's recollection of an interesting event with, "Something like that happened to me once, only it was a little different." No one cares what he has to say and eventually he is shunned from the conversation. Well, welcome to the life of Todd Phillips.

He could have done it right, and to say otherwise is ignorant. Maybe he was pushed too hard by Warners to get it done quickly- I'll probably never know. What I do know is that I paid 11 dollars for a piece of junk film that should never existed. There must be such a premium on new ideas that people in power have to continuously beat dead horses again and again just to turn a profit. People will pay to see Hangover 2 and Shrek 4 but they won't pay to see King's Speech or The Tree of Life- its the truth.

If you agree with that last sentence, well, your wrong. Every year production company executives get together and come up with a list of the 50 best screenplays that have yet to be produced- its called the Blacklist- and I'm going to assume (actually its pretty dam obvious) that some of those writings are more worthy of a silver screen appearance than The Hangover: Part II. Get out of here.

Obviously it comes down to money, and how the public's perception can guarantee it. The original Hangover made a killing, and was well reviewed. Making a sequel was is like playing with house money. They knew they were going to make it back- it was destined to happen. Take College Republicans on the other hand (Number 1 on the 2011 Black List): it could be quality, it probably is quality, but the market for it (a cunning political strategy type film) is unknown. Hence, why make it? If we are going to buy bottled water instead of drinking it from the tap, well, why not sell it?

3/10 -- Just Say No.

Here is that Jim Gaffigan bit for those who are interested:

Saturday, June 4, 2011

'The Tree of Life' Review

The title is a bit of a misnomer, and by that I mean this isn't actually going to be a review of the new Terence Malick film, The Tree of Life, instead it will be more of a critical response. But truer to the point, it is a collection of thoughts and responses to one of the most evocative films I have ever had the pleasure to see. It might not flow, it might not be poetic, but (I think) it gives a pretty accurate representation of this film. It, the film, doesn't exist to entertain, like so many other Hollywood films; it exists to ignite conversation, to spark thought processes, it exists to ask highly philosophic questions in its search for an answer.

How does it all begin? With a spark? With a fire that ignites life? The Tree of Life opens with a shot of what looks like a flickering flame. Light meaning life.

The meaning of life? C'mon, its not brain surgery...
Written and directed by the enigma that is Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life attempts to answer life's most oft asked question: why? A haughty premise. Malick's way of doing this is by examining the ornate relationships between father/mother and son, and between man and god; tracking how they develop through the years as a son grows to become a man and tracking how his (supposed) new experiences shepherd his beliefs. And it is within this idea that I feel the film suffers. There is not enough closure, or really any link, between the protagonist, Jack, as a child and as an adult (played by Sean Penn). Obviously he doesn't find the answer to any of the lofty questions, all of which he asks himself at the beginning, but we are left with no definitive answer to suggest that Jack understood anything. But to be quite honest (and the tiniest bit fair) this film does not have the story structure that we are all used to. No X wants This, Y wants That but they are in conflict so only one person can get what she or he wants. No, you won't find that here. What you will find is a film that searches for answers. However, its just convenient (or random) that Brad Pitt and Sean Penn are in it- by no means is this an A-List movie. In fact they don't need to be, it's almost as if they stick out too much and deter viewers away from what the film wants. Only Brad Pitt, and one of the child actors, has anything that resembles a character. This film wants to exist for itself and for Malick, the fact that this film is seen by anybody is just an irrelevant consequence of its brilliance.

I know it sounds confusing, and maybe a bit boring- people actually fell asleep in the theater- but to understand the grand scope of this film one must first take it for what it is. This isn't an action movie, it is a question, potentially rhetorical, that offers audience members a chance to sit and think for 2+ hours about what it means to be alive. Clearly this isn't your typical Saturday night film, in fact your girlfriend might just dump you after taking her to see this, but for those of us brave (or dedicated) enough to stick it out to the bitter end, well, we can at least brag about being cultured. Even if the entire thing is an existential trip down Jack's memory lane that many won't have half the brain to understand. It's just a fact. It takes a lot of thinking.

This film is not a narrative, its not a story, its more of an avant-garde experience coming from one of our country's premier filmmakers. Its message is told more in symbols than speech, more objects than emotions, and so its interpretation is dependent on how each person sees it. That is the beauty and the folly of the film. There is no one answer to life's many questions, in fact life is different for everyone who lives it. But for a film, well, an audience needs something more tangible, something with a more concrete meaning. There needed to be more of a story linked to its existential premise to give it the weight that it should have carried. The film was great.. but it could have been better and I will believe that until I think about the film more and decide otherwise (always a possibility with me).

The one person who will get the most credit and the most blame for this film is, no surprise, Malick. In my lifetime the man has only made 3 films. 3! There is no way his career is possible unless he is every bit as talented as we are led to believe by a 30 year hiatus and then garnering 7 Oscar noms his first time back. Malick certainly delivers the directing goods here; the tone, the mood, and even the moral of the film can be felt at all times because Malick really hammers at his point. Nearly every single camera angle is slanted upwards, pointed at the heavens- the ultimate goal- and his usage of light really says more about a character than words ever could. What he attempts here is beautiful, trying to show just how interconnected life is (at least thats what I got from it... feel free to offer your own little one-line schtick here) but it never comes does come full circle. There is a scene on a beach at the end where adult Jack (Penn) runs into all of these people, his parents, his dead brother as a 8 year old, and I wasn't quite sure if that was the right way to end it. I didn't follow his progression. I believe that it was Heaven but then we cut back to reality where adult Jack is walking around a city block. For a film that CLEARLY was trying to be abstract to suddenly switch gears and justify itself... I didn't get it. And maybe that is on me and my inability to understand Malick's vision (you'd have to call it that because no other word works), but I don't think it is.

I think that Malick found his 'story' someplace he never thought he would be. It had grown too large and the only way to fix this problem was to keep adding until it made sense.

And maybe THAT is the point.

We add, and add, and add until we have no space. Until it ends. The film, our life. It fades out. There was never any meaning to it; we collect friends, jobs, maybe a spouse, and memories but ultimately nothing comes full circle. We like to try and justify that it does, maybe imagine the things we would like to see the most and prove to ourselves that what happened mattered. That it mattered to someone. But our time is up, the light wanes, and then its done.


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

'Everything Must Go' Review

I'm the guy who has seen everything Will Ferrell has ever done; and I mean everything. I watched him on Saturday Night Live, cracking up his co-stars; I have seen him on the big screen, cracking up everyone, but not once did I think that Will Ferrell was capable of being in a film like this. He can't be serious, can he?

C'mon, right? This is a guy who ran around a race track in his underpants to get cheap laughs, who screamed at his mother when she wouldn't bring him meatloaf in a timely manner; this is not the type of person capable of carrying a dramatic role. He is yet another comedian unafraid of his limitations, or maybe ignorant of them, who considers himself an actor and not a comedian.

After seeing this film, in the historic E Street Theater in the District of Columbia, I can be sure of only one thing: Will Ferrell is an actor.

Everything Must Go has a simple premise. Man seeks redemption. Nick (Ferrell) is fired from his corporate job for, lets say, convoluted reasons. When he gets home he finds that his wife has left him and has taken the time to move all of his things out onto the front lawn. Due to lack of friends and money Nick is pretty much forced into living in his yard, and actually begins to enjoy a side of life that he had never seen before. Namely, the people around him, his neighbors.

Nick's most important relationship is with a 14 year old boy named Kenny (played by Chris Wallace- Notorious B.I.G.'s son). It is Kenny's lack of knowledge about the world and constant questions that allows Nick to start questioning things himself just to keep up with Kenny's search for knowledge. His neighbor from across the street, Samantha (Rebecca Hall), also helps him see the proverbial 'light at the end of the tunnel' for his particular situation. They are so similar, their lives are, that Nick sees her and her husband as a past version of him and his wife. He knows how they are going to end but it is her courage to actually confront her situation that inspires Nick to do the same.
If a picture says a thousand words
what does this say?

If that last paragraph was choppy and hard to follow, well, there is a reason for that. The film is the same way. Everything Must Go is, to me, is more of a collection of scenes than a full out narrative tale. And it doesn't offer the same type of emotional effect that it should, because, well, the audience misses too much. It feels as if expositional scenes have been cut for the sake of brevity, something that doesn't allow the audience to fully understand character motivations. Without these motivations the story has no significance. It doesn't matter that Nick sold all of his belongings in a yard sale (a symbol that shows he is trying to start over and redeem himself) we need to know why this is happening. If it's missing I don't care.

I wanted to like this movie so much more than I did. I tried to make excuses as to why someone should go to see this but I just couldn't find any. It is just such a plain, vanilla, piece of work that I found positives hard to find. One was definitely watching Will Ferrell. He isn't a great actor but I can only think of a small group of actors who I would want to star in a film that I wrote. Ferrell is definitely in there. It is so obvious that he could have done much more with the subject material but was restrained by the fear that this would become another Ferrell ham-fest. It's his comedic talents that make this infinitely more watchable than it should have been but even his best Ron Burgandy impression wouldn't have saved this one.

5/10 -- Seen Better, Seen Worse

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Summer Movie Preview

Well its official, the summer movie season starts this Friday. And to be honest I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing- it's just an unavoidable thing. With the influx of so many high budget films only one thing is an absolute certainty: some of these films are going to stink. Like, big time stink. But there is a flip side to that coin, some films, they could be good. As with all films there is no black and white (fresh or rotten), the level of film quality varies from person to person, critic to critic. I have come up with a 5 tier system that grades these new summer releases based on how I project these films to turn out, critically, when they are released. The Preview begins:


Bridesmaids (May 13)-- In many ways this is a landmark film. An all woman comedy flick? Preposterous. Unless you cast the businesses best female comedians (or 2-3 of them). Let Judd Apatow produce and then all bets are off. Look at the plot summary for this film and one will see that it is essentially the feminine version of The Hangover, raunchy and over-the-top, it promises to be one of the funniest films of the summer- and fingers crossed that they don't make a Part II in 2 years...

Everything Must Go (May 13)-- I'm not entirely sure how well Will Ferrell's agency took the news that he wanted to do another serious film. You want to spend 7 weeks shooting an indie when you should be running around with you shirt off, being funny and earning me commissions?! Well, if I was Will Ferrell's manager I would be pissed too, there's no money in indie's. But luckily for movie aficionados, we don't care about the money, we care about the product. This is going to be a good product. It also promises to be funny- Will Ferrell living on the lawn outside of his house? Classic.

Kung Fu Panda 2 (May 26)-- For whatever reason sequels of animated films are usually better in quality than their live acting counterparts (unless we get to a 4-5 sequel). This is the film that is most likely to not live up to its potential. The excellent core voice cast returns with the addition of Gary Oldman so its likely to be just as charming. If I could see one animated film this summer, it would be this one. I can't say exactly why, but you'll just have to trust me that I know what I'm talking about.

The Tree of Life (May 27)-- This could either be fantastic, or it could suck. It's the perfect summer film in that way. Terence Malik has a tremendous pedigree, especially when it comes to winning Oscars, so the fact that this film comes out in May and not in November could throw up some red flags. Plus Malick's films are generally so dense and complex that their message is generally ill received. He doesn't make summer films, he makes art-house films, one's that actually require a pretty advance level of thinking. To me the casting of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn make what is destined to be a deep psychoanalytic film more commercially viable. Did I mention that this film is coming out in the Weekend of Death? One week after Pirates 4 and the same weekend with Hangover 2 and Panda 2. I think it will be good, but its going to loose a shit ton of money.

The Trip (June 10)-- This film was already seen by the handful of people who went to the Tribeca Film Festival (okay, so there were more than a handful) but the consensus is that this film was laugh-out-loud hysterical. I cannot tell you how excited I am for this one, it reminds me, strangely, of Sideways, one of my favorite films ever, in the way it promises so much from very little. It's clear that there will be less than a handful of major characters, however, as long as they are quality characters it doesn't matter. The movie will be hilarious. If you can find this film at a theater, I say watch.

Green Lantern (June 17)-- Wow, I hate Ryan Reynolds. Every time I see him a movie it is so clear that it is Ryan Reynolds not the character he is playing, and it just makes me upset. Not like crying upset but like a father is upset when his kid is on great sports team but it is clear that he is the worst player. But Hollywood doesn't agree with me, it likes Ryan Reynolds and put him in movies that are worth millions and millions of dollars. The new trailer for this film makes the special effects for this look fantastic, worth shelling out 16 bucks to go see. Off all the super hero films coming out this summer, Green Lantern is the one I trust the most. The director has a track record with big budget films, Blake Lively looks like she is a summer damsel in distress and Ryan Reynolds, well, he can be good.

Crazy, Stupid, Love (July 29)-- I don't usually like romantic comedies because, usually, romantic comedies are bad. Its a fact of nature, much like summer coming after spring or Nic Cage being in terrible movies. However, this one screams quality. Steve Carell may be able to play only two characters convincingly (that of the innocently ignorant moron or the nice guy who always looses) but its irrelevant because he plays it well. Here is more of the same but the cast just makes you want to pay money to see it. Ryan Gosling, Julliane Moore, Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon- the film just has to be good or else I've lost faith in humanity. Come on Hollywood, don't let me down!

30 Minutes or Less (August 12)-- The trailer for this actually came out a day after I had decided to put it in my first tier. And it help to justify my position. The film stars Jesse Eisenberg from his first post Mark Zuckerberg role, Aziz Anzari (who, if you don't know about him go look up his stand up performances on youtube right now... go do it!), Danny McBride, Nick Swardson and Michael Pena. Essentially Eisenberg plays a pizza delivery boy who is forced to rob a bank after he is strapped with a bomb. Watch the trailer and you'll know what i'm talking about. This is destined to be yet another sleeper hit for Eisenberg.


Thor (May 6)-- I had to power through writing this blog before Thor was released in the United States because I wanted to try and predict its potential (obviously this is going out right at the last possible minute...) I don't know what to say about Thor, I'm not super excited for it to come out and still haven't decided whether or not I will even go and see it. Part of me wants to be excited for it, because Natalie Portman is in it, but the other part of me wonders who Chris Hemsworth is. I realize that he looks like Thor but carrying a tentpole movie franchise is much different than looking the part (See: Nic Cage Ghost Rider). This film benefits from being the first comic book adaptation released this summer, while movie going audiences are still excited for the genre, not necessarily because it will be a good film. It will be good, don't get me wrong, but if this comes out mid-July no one gives it the time of day.

Hobo With a Shotgun (May 6)-- This is basically Machete with shotguns. Read that again. Doesn't this seem awesome? Yes, it does, it was a rhetorical question. Why second tier then? Because its a B movie, it calls itself a B movie; its pretty much like the pot calling itself black (see what I did there? Phantasm). If it doesn't take itself seriously, then I won't take it seriously. I'll go and see it, and I will probably enjoy it, but its a second tier entry. Sorry.

Super 8 (June 10)-- What do we know about this movie? Not much, other than that it might be about aliens, but it might not. J.J. Abrams wrote and directed this film which has draw comparisons to E.T. and all of the other alien films that producer Steven Speilberg has ever done. I watched J.J. Abrams give a presentation at a local arena once, he spent the entire time talking about his 'mystery box' and how he liked to keep certain points away from the audience until he was ready to tell them. Whatever. Abrams is best known for writing for television and directing huge blockbusters (coincidentally neither category applies to Super 8). What tampers my excitement is the difference between writing for film and writing for television, they are really two completely different entities. Not many of you read my last blog so you are just going to have to trust me, writers who transfer well to the screen from the couch are few and far between. And the jury is still out on Abrams so...

Cars 2 (June 24)-- Widely considered the worst of the Pixars (which I have just made a noun), albeit one of my favorites, the original Cars was the biggest animated disappointment of the past decade. So the fact that Pixar has come out with a sequel has to mean that it is of some quality right? Right? Or maybe it was just a filler project between TS3 and their next original idea. It was fine that Pixar made Toy Story into a series, there was a story to be told there. I'm not so sure there is a story to be told here. It's going to have to be completely different than the original and to me that is not what a sequel should be, it should be a continuation of a central story that was too big to fit into one film (see: Star Wars or The Bourne Trilogy). Looking at the sentance "Pixar's Cars 2 opening this June makes me want to put this into the first tier, but thinking about it forces me to keep it here.

Larry Crowne (July 1)-- Tom Hanks wrote and directed this, and although it features some fantastic A list talent, it just doesn't seem like something that I am excited to pay money to see. The story just seems overly melodramatic for me to get excited about seeing this. I don't know what exactly the genre of this film is? Is it comedy? Is it drama? Will it try to be 'dramedy'? The vain of my existence. I don't know, and that doesn't make me happy. I want to know what I am paying for, whether its more Tom Hanks Oscar magic or its two painstaking hours of garbage that ruins my perception of Tom Hanks. There is only one way to find out, and it intrigues me.

Horrible Bosses (July 8)-- You have to look at the actors in this film; Jason Bateman, Charlie Day (hilarious on 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia'), Jason Sudeikis, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey. Wow, just fitting all of those ego's into one movie set must have been a difficult, let alone filming a movie. The collection of actors just intrigues me so that I have to put this film up this high. It will probably be terrible. Scratch that, it will definitely be terrible, but I think that the comedic abilities of these features players will outweigh the asinine script.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II (July 15)-- Quite honestly this should be in the top tier, all of the novels action sequences are going to be in Part II and this film should be a non stop thrill ride. However, I was not a fan of what was done with the 6th film (namely that the entire issue of horcruxes was only mentioned for less than 10 minutes of screen time. Look it up if you think I'm kidding). If you don't think that this is going to be a mindless action film then you are crazy; but I can say with supreme confidence that I am excited for this, as disappointed as I will be with the unwanted fondling of the books positives.

The Help (August 12)-- Since Emma Stone has not been in many films it is difficult to determine what her success rate is (obviously right now it is incredible high- one might go so far as to call her butter. Because she's on a roll!) I just know that the film deals with race and community and some other Southern themes, and this interests me. Emma Stone is on the verge of taking a major career leap to a bona fide starlet so I think that this film, while not something I would have considered in Stone's wheelhouse, could be a great success.

One Day (August 19)-- So in college two kiddies do the nasty and start up a strange relationship. They see each other one day every year. How is that a relationship? How can this work. I don't know but what I do know is that Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess are usually in good roles and the director, Lone Scherfig (An Education), is a boss. It just sounds cool, and if it can work it should be good.

Wait, What?

The Beaver (May 6)-- Mel Gibson talks to a beaver puppet. Read that sentence one more time. Someone threw money at this project? Seriously? Gibson used to be a huge star, back in something called the 80's? But now he is a past his prime movie star subjected to stupid film roles with absolutely zero audience/ earning potential. This could be good, but my friends will laugh at me for seeing it. So I better leave it alone. Peer pressure is a cold beyotch.

Hesher (May 13)-- This just looks crazy as shit (sorry, I try not to curse but no other word worked here). It's an indie drama, I guess, that just screams individuality. No way another movie comes along that looks anything like Hesher. This is a film that just turns me off. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the Brando of romantic comedies and for him to take a film like this just makes me wonder what kind of project it will be. I don't know much of anything about the plot, but this character looks insane and it is the kind of creative film that makes me happy to be a film fan.

X-Men: First Class (June 3)-- So the number of X-Men films will no longer fit onto one hand. And this is depressing. Did we (as a planet) really need this many X-Men films? We're they really that good that we needed a new one every other summer (on average) since 2000? No we did not. It has gotten to the point where the franchise now has prequels and spinoffs. Someone needs to kill this plague before it gets out of hand and we get a spin off for Ryan Reynolds character. (Wait, its too late!)

Jude Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer (June 10)-- Look at the title. It could have easily been in tier 5. I chose to put it here. Pretty exciting stuff...

Zookeeper (July 8)-- So a live action Kevin James will talk to animated zoo animals. This should be good... was Nic Cage not available?

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (August 5)-- 2011 minus 1968 equals 43. Its been 43 years since the original film messed with our minds and, really, changed the face of movies as we know them. Is it time to reboot this franchise that has already seen more prequels and sequels and TV shows based upon it than the Star Wars franchise? Only if James Franco is on board and we can get that chick from Slumdog Millionaire. How convenient. I would rather see a convoluted film that is the male equivalent to Freaky Friday.

The Change-Up (August 5)-- Shit, did I say that last sentence out loud?

Conan the Barbarian (August 19)-- If the star of this film is not staring in a comic book adaptation by next summer I will have lost faith in the Hollywood system. This film is going to make a killing even though it is a re-imaging of a Governator film. Watch the trailer for this film and tell yourself that this movie will make 100 million dollars easy. Wait, don't jump! You have so much to live for! There is hope on the horizon!

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (August 26)-- Guillermo del Toro helped write this and produced it. That doesn't mean anything to me, even if it is a horror flick (del Toro's wheelhouse) because of the talent associated with it. Guy Pearce and the corpse of Katie Holmes career (that's weird, why is Tom Cruise's publicist calling me at 8 in the morning?) and a first time director. If Katie Holmes isn't unemployable by the end of the summer and a full time house mom I am going on a 2 week hunger strike. Seriously.

Classic Disappointments

Priest 3D (May 13)-- Quite frankly, this film is going to be entirely too religious for everyone's liking. Paul Bettany may be a good actor in some pretty 'meh' films but this one has to be his most shocking. A big budget film that calls into question the church? Are you serious? You do realize that you have alienated like half the country don't you? This is going to be one of the biggest bombs ever. Read my lips: Run, buddy run!

Midnight in Paris (May 20)-- Hey, do you remember when Woody Allen made good films? No? Me either. Maybe it is because I wasn't able to ride a bike when he made his last good movie. (I didn't like VCB so don't pull that card out on me right now). This is going to have all sorts of hype because "its Woody Allen he made awesome movies in the 80's when Mel Gibson could get people to watch him on screen." He is very Shyamalan-ian in that respect: "He made The Sixth Sense so I guess Ill watch The Last Airbender in 3D for 15 dollars" (guilty as charged). Its the same type of Allen movie that people have been paying to see for 30 years and soon everyone will come to realize that its true. Make it stop, can someone please make it stop!?

Hangover Part II (May 26)-- Have I ever cried thinking about The Hangover Part II coming out? More than once. It personifies everything that is wrong with the movie business today, how money rules everything. You know that movie isn't going to be any good- the exec's made the same movie and, for shits and giggles, are releasing it as a test to see just how stupid American's are. That being said, you don't want to be that person who didn't go and see this. It's a viscous catch-22.

Bad Teacher (June 24)-- This looks so incredibly stupid that it hurts for me to look at. Justin Timberlake finally established himself as a decent actor and by summers end we, as the movie going public, will have forgotten completely about it. Actually I said the same things about Kristen Bell and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, so I'm not 100% on these things.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (July 1)-- Before I completely write this film off let me first mention that Shia Labeouf said that this film was going to be good. Or, better than the last. Or, not a total piece of shit. Or, that Megan Fox wasn't in it but the new girl is pretty cute and he might make a run at her. I forget which of those is true. What bothers me is that I went to the D.C. shooting and I had to wait for 4 hours before anything happened. It was cold that day, I refuse to see this movie.

Captain America: The First Avenger (July 22)-- For those of you who won't be comic booked out by July 22, Marvel offers you Captain America. 2 things, whoever decided that this shouldn't be opened on July 4th (or that weekend) needs to be fired. And it is a shame that this didn't come out this weekend instead of Thor when everyone is super duper patriotic. Tisk, tisk.

Friends with Benefits (July 22)-- Pretty sure I saw this movie like 5 months ago. There was the girl from Black Swan and Ashton Kutcher not a former boy band singer. Yes I used to buy bottled water when I could just drink from the sink but I've learned from my mistakes and won't be doing stupid stuff like than anymore.

Cowboys & Aliens (July 29)-- This is 3 different genres into 1. Comedy (apparently), western and sci-fi. This is like mixing finger painting colors hoping to get rainbow only to realize its going to be a nasty brown/ black color. Pass.

Monte Carlo (August 12)-- Anything to take the spotlight off the Twilight franchise. I probably won't go watch this one (obviously I don't know if I will be abducted by an angry Tom Cruise who forces me to watch bad movies to I can't me 100% confident) but I'm happy that young women will have something to watch when I'll be at the beach hoping to tan my translucent boy chest.


Something Borrowed (May 6)-- I know the answer. Money and my life back. Something Borrowed that I will never have again.

Jumping the Broom (May 6)-- At least this isn't a Tyler Perry movie. And that's about it...

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May 20)-- Whenever Johnny Depp is contractually obligated for 6 Pirates movies you have to make them, right?

Mr. Popper's Penguins (June 17)-- It stars Jim Carrey as a man who looks after a group of penguins. My eyeballs are starting to bleed.

Winnie the Pooh (July 15)-- Let's take a kids book from 30-40 years ago and turn it into a movie and hope people will watch it and think about their youth.

The Smurfs (July 29)-- Winnie the Pooh with blue mushroom people. Katy Perry is going to be in this. You make the call.

Final Destination 5 (August 12)-- How many 'final destinations' can they make before it becomes hypocritical?

Fright Night (August 19)-- Colin Farrell in a fat suit. Doesn't sound very scary to me. At least its about vampires so I can stop talking about Twilight (even though I love to talk about Twilight!)

Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World (August 19)-- Jessica Alba has been in the business for 12 years now and she still has no idea what a good movie looks like. This is the equivalent of jumping on a played out money express franchise that reached its zeneth years ago. So kinda like her taking a part in Little Fockers? Exactly.

And there you have it, after hours of hastily trying to get my opinions down in ink before the season officially starts, I have officially completed my summer movie review. If your reading this far, I applaud your stamina and I hope it was worth you time. I still haven't decided if it was worth mine.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mount Rushmore of TV Shows

So you know how Mount Rushmore is supposedly a monument of our 4 greatest presidents (pre-WWII)? Well that is the basic premise of this blog post, I am ranking my 4 favorite TV shows as if they were to be carved into the side of a mountain and to be ogled at for the rest of recorded history (or at least until 2012 when the mountain range is forced below sea level and Kevin Costner and his gills and webbed feat saves himself). 

This idea was adapted from one of my all-time favorite writers (Bill Simmons) who applies this to just about anything, whether it be the Mount Rushmore of Fast Food Joints (Mine would be: Arby's, Quiznos, Wendy's and In-and-Out Burger) or Crazy Celebrities (Charlie Sheen, Joaquin Phoenix, Rob Lowe and Lindsay Lohan). His writing style heavily influenced my own and I can't steal his idea without giving him credit- I wanted to, but it didn't feel right...

The qualifications for making this list are pretty straightforward: They have to be one of my top 4 favorite TV shows ever (duh), they have to have finished more than one season (so no Walking Dead, Boardwalk Empire, Justified, Archer, Modern Family or Treme) and I would go out of my way to defend it anytime someone trashed talked it. Pretty simple. However, since I had trouble coming up with ONLY 4 shows I decided to make two Mount Rushmores, thereby doubling your money, and adequately sharing my opinions. So without further ado:

Mount Rushmore of Drama

MAD MEN (2007- Present): So, two things about me: I love Jon Hamm in a completely platonic sort of way (debatable), and Matthew Weiner is my hero (now me loving Jon Hamm makes more sense right?) Weiner created this iconic show about life in 1960's New York City for 'ad-men.' All the drinking, smoking, random sexual encounters, and brilliance of these men is perfectly scripted and the realism with which it is portrayed makes me jealous of the actors for landing on such a great series. This show isn't perfect (unlike one of my next choices) but it remains the staple for how a TV show should be done. On my Mount Rushmore, 'Mad Men' is my Teddy Roosevelt. Like Teddy we consider this to be a great show that no one really knows much about (go ahead, tell me something about TR's presidency off the top of your head), it will probably go down as a show that was indeed great but for reasons no one can remember unless they were there.

THE WEST WING (1999-2003): For those of you who know something about this TV show you may be shaking your heads right now. WW ended in 2006 not 2003. Please allow me to explain. Aaron Sorkin created this series in 1999, he then left in 2003 because of network budget cuts and production delays. Really NBC? This is a guy who wrote every episode of this series for 4 years, who basically carried your network at a time when network shows were garbage, and who's genius as a writer is largely unparalleled in his current generation (with a few exceptions: Terence Winter, Matthew Weiner and David Simon coming to mind). The heart was ripped from one of TV's most evocative dramas ever and left it sputtering along before it ultimately died. The first 4 seasons are classic TV and while you should certainly watch all 7 seasons, don't let the last three sour your opinion. The West Wing is clearly the Lincoln of the Mount Rushmore because it was killed before we got to see the full potential of it. What a shame.

THE WIRE (2002-2008):This is probably the greatest TV drama of all time, at least in my opinion but my opinion is the only one that matters anyway. The characters are complex, the plot and story lines are filled with so much depth that it makes me salivate just thinking about watching an episode or four. If you are looking for a gritty, no holds barred look at life in the inner-city is like, look no further than this. It was created by David Simon (show runner of the new HBO show 'Treme'), a former journalist turned novelist who knows exactly how to make things realistic. The show reads more like a book than a film and it is this space to explore ideas and characters that allows the show to succeed. If you haven't seen this show, you need to. It will change your perception of what TV should be. Back to the Rushmore theme, 'The Wire' is a Jefferson type. It didn't set the rules for what the TV drama was supposed to be like (or in Jefferson's case, the presidency), but in many ways it improved from its predecessor and changed the future of TV

THE SOPRANOS (1999-2007): Clearly this list would not have been complete without the show that spawned a thousand imitators. Influenced from the gangster movies of the past 40 years, 'The Sopranos' didn't not redefine the mobster genre as much as it refined it. Watching this show as a kid (against my parents wishes) it was clear that something special was on TV, something like this had never been attempted before it was truly the first of its kind. It was the first realistic show on television, and without it there  would be no 'Wire' or 'Mad Men' or even the newer 'Treme,' 'Boardwalk Empire' types. 'The Sopranos' continues to dominate pop culture discussions and can always be found somewhere in the top 5 of every 'Best Show's Ever' debate. However, its biggest flaw is also its greatest strength. It is the premier example of a pioneering TV show and through the years others have taken its few flaws and perfected them (See: 'The Wire'). This is clearly the Washington of the group. It was the first and although maybe it wasn't the best, it certainly set the standard for what to expect.

Mount Rushmore of Comedy

ENTOURAGE (2004-2011): What can only be claimed as the coolest show in the history of TV, Entourage gave fans a hyperbolized look into Hollywood stardom. Nothing about this show is even remotely realistic, other than the fact that its the image every aspiring actor has of their life after moving to LA to explore a career in show business. But realism doesn't matter in TV comedies, what matters is the level of funny. And Entourage nears the top of that level. In recent years it has lost some of its comedic sheen and instead turned into more of a 'dramady' (which is clearly the worst sort of genre for any type of TV show or film). It sold itself short over getting cancelled and now is putting a below average product on the air, but hell, the first 4 seasons of this show were so funny and so awesome that I'll definitely watch the final season (and the subsequent film that follows). This one is in the Teddy mold, a show that is not destined to be remembered fondly unless you personally witnessed its awesomeness. 

30 ROCK (2006- Present): All I really need to say about this show is that Tina Fey's comedic genius is astounding. Wait, you need more reasons? Well, this little gem of a show is/was based upon Fey's experiences working on SNL as a writer/ cast member until 2004, and all the zany antics, the crazy cast members and political incorrectness that occurred. Really the shows strength lies in the relationship between Liz (Fey) and Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) as a weird mentor-ship of sorts. The situational comedy is augmented by loose cannon Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) who is as crazy and out-of-control as any actor working in this fictional world. Like Entourage (whoops I forgot to mention this) the show is really bolstered by guest stars and cameo appearances from Hollywood stars playing fictionalized versions of themselves. An absolutely hilarious show with great, memorable bits of dialogue, 30 Rock is our Jefferson for its ability to improve on everything that has come before it, and even make fun of it.

PARTY DOWN (2009-2010): Chances are, you've never heard of this show that ran on the Starz network for two glorious seasons. And that's the whole point. In my opinion this is the best 'showbiz' show in existence (better than Entourage) because it combined conflict with humor but at no times did ever come across as a 'dramady.' The show follows a group of hopeful LA newcomers, and one LA wipe-out, who work at a catering company while they assume their big break will be right around the corner. It was a great show, axed right when it was getting good, the Lincoln of this list, but it still survives today in its entirety on A sad fate for a great show. 

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (2003-2006): Widely considered to be the greatest comedy show of all time, and as much as I wanted to disagree and form my own opinion I found it difficult to disagree with that notion. Arrested Development follows the dysfunctional (dysfunctional x 100 maybe, this was like if the Jersey Shore and the Osbourne's had offspring) Bluth family as they lived in California. It doesn't quite bear the same resemblance to Washington as my Sopranos pick did, however, considering the fact that it has to be in the discussion for best comedies of all-time I think it's deserving of my Washingtonian selection.  

Monday, March 28, 2011

Top Ten Celebrity Crushes

10. Kate Mara
You'll know her from Shooter, We are Marshall, and from an extremely brief cameo in Iron Man 2. He little sister has been getting more pub than here recently (The Social Network, and the unfortunate American reworking of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). She is seriously gorgeous, and I wouldn't mind seeing her at my local bar.

9. Emanuelle Chriqui

The first 'Entourage' babe on the list, but she won't be the only one. She doesn't have the film credentials that her hotness demands but seeing her in 'Entourage' is good enough for me.

8. Jennifer Lawrence 
Hot in a very non threatening way, J-Law has guys like me wishing I was famous so I could go out to dinner with her once in a while. And while I'm talking about her; she totally deserved to win the Best Actress Oscar. Natalie Portman who?

7. Hayden Panettiere
Pretty much the Anti- J-Law, Hayden is out of this world hot. Just looking at her makes me feel like I am sinning. Speaking of which....

6. Emma Watson
She's a Witch! Did you see what I did there? ...No? Ok, whatever. Anyway let me get on with it- I actually almost applied to Brown just to say I could go to school with her (and no that is not true but could you imagine?)

5. Miranda Kerr
If you don't know about her you should. She got married a couple of months ago and is now off the market for good but just because there is a goalie in the net doesn't mean we can't score right?

Oh wait, she married Legolas? I thought he was the new captain of the Flying Dutchman and couldn't have human interaction... 

4. Blake Lively
Pretty much after I watch Accepted I was sold on her. One of the most beautiful people I have seen, and she can actually act! Can it be true??

3. Kristen Stewart

I guess I'm in the minority. Not about her attractiveness (she's got that bad girl thing going on), but that the raging debate about her acting abilities. She is hot enough for me to see her in questionable movies; and no that's not an admission of me seeing all three 'Twilight's' in theaters, although it's not a denial...

2. Jennifer Aniston
She is 42. Is this even fair, does she follow the rules of age? Probably not but that's okay. For me, it has gotten to the point where I will go see her in just about any movie she's in, even though they all suck (Marley and Me wasn't bad, in fact it was a bit of a tear jerker- but I was on a date so I had to earn a little brownie points.. you'll understand). Plus JA is the only way I would even consider buying Vitamin Water, I mean have you tasted that swill?

1. Autum Reeser
Chances are that If you are a fan of 'Entourage' or 'The O.C.' (a show I have seen and would defend 'till the death) you know about this babe. She's a pretty good actress but she is even better as eye-candy- I generally enjoy her as both. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

'Lincoln Lawyer' Review

In what is, by default but not lack of merit, Matthew McConaughey's best film in which he is a lead actor, 'The Lincoln Lawyer' is a moderately tense, witty courtroom thriller. Inspired by real people and events, as well as adapted from a novel of the same name, this film is nothing that hasn't been seen before, but it is so charming and constantly interesting that it makes for a rewarding viewing experience.

McConaughey stars as Micky Haller, a LA defense attorney who works out of the back of his Lincoln sedan- an angle the film does not properly explore (but more on this later). Micky is quick on his feet, a smooth talker and a very competent attorney, albeit strapped for cash. So when he lands Louis Roulet as a client, a 'playboy' for lack of better wording, his fortunes seem to turn. But as he learns more about the case and Roulet, Micky begins to see the big picture and finds himself in a dangerous situation, a situation that not only affects him, but his entire family.

The writing is spectacular, nothing useless, nothing over the top, just quick little jabs that provide the audience with the right amount of information, or withhold enough to keep us guessing until the end. Although the film itself offers little to the All-Time court film repertoire, it does not fall into the land of cliche and is able to maintain its own style.

So what if we are usually in terrible movies?
At least this one is competent.
In addition to the writing, the acting was pitch perfect. The casting was exceptional and all the actors absolutely took charge of their roles and made me feel as if this was reality. Ryan Phillippe, who usually doesn't light the world on fire with his acting or films, turns in an wondrous performance as Louis Roulet. McConaughey is great in his role as well, blending his southern-boy charm with an intelligence seldom seen in his past work. Others of note are Michael Pena as a former client and William H. Macy as a private investigator.

For all the great things that can be said about it, this film did feature its share of problems, none more prevalent than the direction of sophomore Brad Furman. Now his effort certainly will not earn him a Razzie Award (he does not deserve one) but this film in the hands of a more capable director would only have added to the films successes. Furman utilises unnecessary close-ups and disconcerting camera angles heavily in the first half of the film before seemingly finding his groove and directing in a more conventional way.

My second gripe is the way in which the story is formatted. The third act is nauseatingly drawn out to the  point where the audience believes the film could have ended in 3 different places. After a film climaxes the norm is for falling action to tie up all the films loose ends and leave the audience satisfied with the direction of the main character. In The Lincoln Lawyer there is new conflict introduced after the final climatic court scene, a fact which takes away from the strength of the story- and leaving me less satisfied (which is obviously what is important here).

However my biggest problem with this film is the lack of attention paid to Lincoln Lawyering. Sure Micky Haller takes a call, and reads a legal document or two, but there is zero exposition as to why he 'works' out of the back seat of his car, and, quite frankly, if the name of the film didn't give it away I am not entirely sure audiences would see the car as his office. It is a shame, not necessarily a deterrant, that this situation is not explored because it could have been one of the most interesting parts of the film.

This film is a great watch and enjoyable from start to finish, just do not expect it to take the legal drama anywhere it has not been before.

8/10 - Definitely Need to See This Film