Sunday, October 30, 2011

These questions that are bothering you, Larry - maybe they're like a toothache. We feel them for a while, then they go away.

After putting my son down, then falling asleep myself, I awoke to find my wife perusing the blu-ray collection. It was after 11 (which is like 4 a.m for parents of a toddler) and I was surprised to find her getting ready to watch something. I jumped in the shower to wake up (she pounded some coffee - gross), then met her on the couch. She had two movies selected, The Fighter (review) and A Serious Man. I was thinking we should watch something scary, but, check the rules, that wasn't happening. Instead, it was off to Hebrew school. Luckily for us, the bus drivers were two of my favorite people in cinema, Joel and Ethan Coen.

From here, you can see boobies. And allow your annoying-ass son to watch F-Troop.
My goodness. I don't consider myself a genius or anything, but damn it, I was unable to connect the opening scene in this movie to anything that came after it. My wife said that if our living room had been the theater, we would've assumed we walked into the wrong auditorium. Well said. It was amusing, but what the Hell was the point? Nothing like being absolutely lost right out of the gate...
That's Strickland? Jesus. Didn't that guy ever have hair?

That said, this one might be a tough sell for many of you. After I scored this one on the cheap at a closing Blockbuster, I sought a little more information. The guy reviewing it said that you'd be better-served if you knew a little about physics and/or Jewish culture. Well, hot damn! Sign me up! Other than New England sports and Dreamcast games, those two are my specialty!

Look, don't let that discourage you. Given that you are in the right mood, this film is really funny. The Coen brothers are masters of Murphy's law. Literally, everything that could happen to our protagonist, Larry, does. Some of this is funny enough, but the real humor comes from how he handles it . He becomes unhinged toward the end, but in the most restrained way possible. I might have killed someone. Probably the a-hole neighbor. Or Sy. Sy and his giant hands and long hugs. What a prick.

Before I go, I have to mention the ending. I love an abrupt ending as much as the next guy (Eyes Wide Shut, No Country for Old Men), but this one might set a record. It's not quite mid-sentence, but it's pretty damn close.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Don't ask me why I can't leave without my wife. I won't ask you how you can.

Say it with me, Josh Duhamel and Timothy Olyphant are different people. One often finds himself fighting transforming robots from space, and the other stars in the 2010 remake, The Crazies. Last night I decided to give this one a spin, feeling obligated to watch something scary. Now, any of the Transformers movies would've qualified, but I was looking to be scared by the number of mindless zombies in the film, not by the number of those watching it.

We open with a scene of a town ravaged by an unknown force. Screen goes black. Two days earlier is written on the screen. I was hooked. Imaging the total devastation of life in less than 48 hours was intriguing. For the most part, it's played incredibly straight, too. At least initially, anyway.

Though the pacing seems to match its rural setting, it never really bothered me. It actually isn't as violent as I expected either. At one point, I actually wrote (yeah, I sometimes take notes...shut up about it) Not Scary. Not too gruesome. But then the scene in the nursery happened and I thought, scratch that. Intense! These mindless zombies can hold a grudge. What jerks. Oh, and the scene at the car wash was all kinds of awesome. And not for the reasons that car wash scenes are usually awesome. There's no time for the naughty bits. Realistic? Yes. But c'mon, neither is the finale in the big rig, but that made it in.

One major fault that I had with this one centered around the main character's wife, Judy, the town doctor. She's pretty - that's appreciated, she kicks just enough ass - thanks there, but she also is the center of much of the drama. More than a few times she's at the business end of some ol' fashioned zombie rage (the pitchfork scene was pretty cool). Problem is, never, and I mean never, did I think she was gonna get it. And without that, I was left to see how they were going to make it out town alive. And the ultimate move to spring them was pretty weak, but whatever. I still enjoyed the ride. It's not everyday you see a guy shot in the head playing the Ortiz shift at second. That was cool.

Anybody else feel like playing Left for Dead?
5 Things to look for:
  1. The mayor is obviously a Jaws fan. You can't shut off the water! It's crop season! C'mon, dude.
  2. You find a guy with his eyes and mouth sewn shut. You cut his mouth free so he can tell you, "Behind you," and save your ass. Hmmm. About that...
  3. No one gets run over! Wait? Isn't this a zombie movie? Somebody owes me a dollar. If not two.
  4. Did Peter call? Did Peter call? Did Peter call?
  5. Hey, Cedar rapids! Sorry about that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

We're number two! We're number two!

Saturday night, in an effort to cleanse the DVR, my wife and I knocked out 2009's Whip It. Oh yeah. Directed by Drew Barrymore, this movie is an unusual pairing of two cliche-riddled sub-genres: The quirky, independent, coming-of-age-in-a-small-town movie with the we're-the-shittiest-team-ever-but-don't-take-us-for-granted sports movie. You know, that ol' combo.

Can you hear the kitschy soundtrack? I can.

Now, don't get me wrong, it's not that this is a bad movie. It isn't. It's just very basic and lacks any real drama whatsoever. Wait? A movie about Ellen Page joining a roller-derby team isn't consistently as compelling as the dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream sequence in Inception? I know, I was shocked, too. I wasn't looking for mind-bottling insanity...I was simply looking for conflict. My wife on the other hand, was looking for credits (she found it too long, [wouldn't be the first time - hi-yo!]). So...yeah.

Despite the films girth (okay, I'll stop), it was charming enough to keep me engaged. I enjoy Ellen Page, though this tepid role is right in her wheelhouse. When it comes to understated quirk, she's the female equivalent of Michael Cera. Her chance to mix it up occurs in the numerous roller-derbies she finds herself in, but those never really worked for me. Yeah, there are a couple of sweet moves and formations, but for the most part it's just some mildly-hot chicks aimlessly drifting around a dirty gym floor. Oh, occasionally one falls down.

I used to find Juliette Lewis sooo hot. Weird. Now? Scary.
The lack of surprises sucks, but luckily, the cast is filled with cool people and better yet, almost every one of them has a cool name. It's true. I will award bonus points to my most hated actress in the world, Marcia Gay Harden. Congratulations, I didn't detest every minute you were on the screen (The Mist, anyone?). Daniel Stern, solid work. Nice to know you're still alive (I mean that sincerely). I thought you died after playing one of the bench coaches in Rookie of the Year. And to all the roller-derby girls (minus the Australian broad from Death Proof), you didn't convince me you could skate, but you guys are cool regardless. Oh and I must mention their coach, Andrew Wilson. Holy shit, does that guy sound exactly like his more famous younger brother, Owen. It's uncanny. So is his undying love of rocking jean shorts. Reminded me of my dad. No thanks, Pa*, I'll walk to the bus stop. 
*Yes, that's what we call him. No, we're not hillbillies. 
I think.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

It's not the house that is haunted. It's your son.

Oh, scary movies. I miss you. My wife loathes the thought of ever watching anything the least bit scary, but occasionally I get her. Not tonight however, as I watched last year's Insidious completely and utterly alone. Now, I believe that it's very hard to be scared in your own living room, but this one got me a couple of times. Not with the usual loud noises out-of-nowhere bit either, but just by being so damn creepy. Especially in the beginning.
Pumpin' on my chest and I'm screamin', I stop breathin', damn I see demons.
For kickball, I'm picking him first.
When I was younger I always thought that when it came to horror movies, more was more. More blood, more deaths, more Jason and Freddy, more everything. Now, I feel completely different. Everything seems to fall apart once we finally get a good look at what ever it is that's scaring us. Insidious is no different. Early on, this movie is almost terrifying (especially for PG-13), but the last quarter or so, it's gets kind of silly (though the very end was pretty cool). So, let me focus on the beginning...(um, I sort of ruin the whole exposition might want to just keep it moving if you really care about going into this one fresh)

Okay. We move into a new house! Yay! Hmmm. My son doesn't like his new room. Bummer. Deal with it, kid. Oh what's that? The books I just put away are suddenly on the floor? Odd. My heavy box of sheet music has found its way to the attic somehow. Darn kids. Did you hear that? And that? Weird. Our son has slipped into a mysterious coma? Don't like that too much. Oh, wait. I just heard demonic voices in the baby monitor. Not cool. At all. Someone's knocking on the door. It's late. Damn. No one's there. Shit. I just saw a man who looks like a regional manager of Hot Topic in the baby's room. Great. Now he's gone. Another knock at the door? Still, no one's there. And they keep leaving the door open!
That's quite enough, thank you (but of course, they stay).

So, as you do when you watch all scary movies (hopefully in your head and not aloud),  you project what you would do in that situation (coming home from a wedding last night, we decided not to take the windy, one-lane road through the scary trees due to scary movie principles).

Oh, and we never invite this woman over. Sorry, but, no.
Here's what the Brown family would do faced with the aforementioned events.
  • We're moving to a one room apartment.
  • We are never turning the lights off. Ever.
  • If one light goes out, if the door is ever found open, or if I ever hear any noise at all - we move immediately.
  • Repeat process till entire family dies of old age.
Bottom line? This one is decent. It was definitely worth the free pay-per-view certificate I used. And no one is tortured with a drill.
Full Disclosure: I started to drift at the end. Not out cold, but heavy eyelids for sure. My bad.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I like to get touched when I cry.

If you haven't heard, Universal had planned to release a "major" movie through on-demand outlets like cable and satellite. So, for a fee (allegedly $60) you could watch a theatrical release in the comfort of your own home the same day it hit theaters.
Regardless of the price, I would never, ever do this. I like the theater too much. What I do hate, however, are the rotten people who feel compelled to ruin the experience. Talk to your friends. Fine. But, check it out. There's this thing. It's called whispering. It's like talking, but not everybody hears you. You can still be a dumb bitch, but it's a secret. Only the horrible people who somehow accompanied you to the theater know. Try it. See what happens.

Seth Rogen's admission at the conclusion of this scene is hysterical.
My anger is fueled by my love of tonight's film, 50/50. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is quietly captivating as Adam Lerner, a 27 year-old who finds out he has a rare form of spinal cancer. Gordon-Levitt is quickly becoming 900% bankable in any role he's in. He was stellar in Inception, but completely owned in 500 Days of Summer (also see The Lookout, too - very solid). Though a bit one-note, Seth Rogen was also excellent. The whole cast is. Worth mentioning is the lovely Anna Kendrick. It's nice seeing her in back-to-back movies, as she is extremely likable and, um, fairly hot.
Oogling complete, I want to say that this movie really resonated with me. I'm at this odd point in my life where initially I related to being the son sick with cancer. I found myself imaging how that would be and how I would break the news to my family. Near the end, I connected with Anjelica Huston's character, his mom, and how she handles dealing with her son's illness. Now, my son is only two, but I simply could not imagine dealing with that as a parent. I refuse to consider it.

You're welcome, Stockholm.
As sad and depressing as the subject is, this movie is equally as funny. It completely works as a comedy - as long as you're cool with Rogen. I'm pretty sure he's riffing 90% of the time, but the guy is a frickin Jedi with the crass one-liners. The delivery of almost everything he says is one of the highlights of this fantastic film. Others include:
  • The Doogie Howser conversation. Priceless.
  • The soundtrack is excellent. My horrible student-film also used Radiohead's 'High and Dry.' Oh, but mine came out first.
  • The scene that will remind you of Office Space? Great.
  • Anna Kendrick?                 ---------------->
  • The exchange on the front porch with Bryce Dallas Howard was so good. I wanted to clap (but I would never).
  • Skeletor. Everybody needs a pup.
  • "That's they call them blow jobs." (great speech)
  • Do all women utterly destroy the floor of the passenger's side?
It's late. I actually have to be at school in about six hours. On a Saturday. Goodness. Speaking of school, I ran into a former student immediately after the movie let out. She gave me an embarrassingly joyous hug and it actually made me happy to be a teacher. Some kids are incredibly awesome people.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

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

Are there people that don't like George Clooney? No way. Impossible, right? I will give you that many of his characters are similar. His voicework as Mr. Fox probably typifies it most: incredible wit, relentless charm and supreme self-confidence (and maybe a dash of crazy, too). Despite these consistencies, I can't help but be a fan. His character in 2009's Up in the Air is no different. But this time, not everything works out. Turns out, it never really has for this guy. And you buy it. I did. My wife, too (though she buys whatever Clooney is selling, or Pitt for that matter).

The story was written a few years ago, but unfortunately, is still rather timely. Clooney and his sidekick travel the U.S firing people for companies that are too chickenshit to do it themselves (imagine outsourcing that! - goodness). It seems like the worst job in the world, but it has its perks. Namely the sexy Vera Farmiga, who's like our man George, but "with a vagina." Oh my. A few things I saw coming, but there are some surprises as well. The section that takes place at his sister's wedding is as charming as it is depressing. I might've had something in my eye at one point. Or I was tired. Yeah, that's what it was.

Bottom Line: Watch this. Now. In case you don't appreciate what/who you have, this might help. Though, I admit I found the drudgery of air travel surprisingly appealing and sexy at times. Just saying...

Worthless Note: Oddly enough, I almost saw this with Father Flem two years ago at the Dirt Mall. Instead we saw Daybreakers. Good call, gents. I guess we hated money back then.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Am I fast, or is Sweden just a very small place?

As a kid, I had a thing for Sharon Stone. She was the most beautiful woman in the world. I had managed to see Basic Instinct somehow, and I remember someone pausing the money-shot so we could all see the glory, but that wasn't what cemented it for me (I was twelve, early-nineties twelve at that). The following summer, when I was visiting relatives in Charlestown, Mass., I weaseled my way into a matinee showing of Sliver. One bathtub scene later and I was officially in love. Remember kids, we didn't always have the internet. We had to earn our nudity.

Best Gene Hackman movie? Royal Tenenbaums.
That pointless anecdote actually is heading somewhere. Honest. Last night I finished 1995's The Quick and the Dead, starring none other than Ms. Stone. I had hoped to finish it, then catch the end of the Phillies game/season (damn NL ball moves so quickly! A Sox game would have been in the 5th). Anyway, much like the 2011 Phillies, this movie has an excellent roster and a capable manager. And despite giving us some great moments along the way, both ended up being bitter disappointments. You still with me? Me neither.

There are two reasons why I popped this one in. The first, is the letter Q. Ever since I added an index, I wanted to have at least one review per letter. So, yeah - the alphabet. More importantly though, was the cast: Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. Not only those four, but Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), Bishop (Lance Henriksen - who literally looks like the Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta), and Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise) all show up, too. And to top it off, Sam Raimi directs. Guaranteed home run, right? No. More like getting beaned in the junk with nobody on in the 9th, down by a dozen.

Leo's actually the best part of this.

I like westerns. I think. Okay, maybe just Tombstone (and the remake of 3:10 to Yuma), but still. This movie is simply too ridiculous for it's own good. For example:
  • Sharon Stone. She is either looking and sounding tough, or moments away from bursting into tears and peeing herself.
  • The sound of creaking leather! C'mon. When you can hear someone looking around things have gone too far.
  • The whip-snap sound? Thought it was impossible to hate that. Wrong again, Brown.
  • Zooming. Way too much. I get it. It's tense.
By the end, however, I had come around a little bit. The premise is kind of cool (quick-draw tournament), the totally unnecessary boob-shot was appreciated, the wicked flashback at the end kicked ass. Oh, and the explosions were incredible. But, too little, too late. It needed to be straight comedy, or straight action. It died in the middle. As did my love for Sharon Stone. Now that DiCaprio fella? Well...

Friday, October 7, 2011

I'd come this close to having an impact on the world. And now the only thing I'd have an impact on was the sidewalk.

If ignorance is bliss, what is intelligence? Misery? According to this year's fast-paced flick, Limitless, intelligence is actually a pill. A very addictive pill. One that helps you unlock that 80% of unused brain you've been carrying around your whole life. But what happens when you stop taking it? Surprise! Misery. Oh, and Russians. Angry, angry Russians.

After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.
Before watching this, I thought the premise looked interesting enough, but honestly never thought it'd make the cut (not that I'm that discriminating, mind you). One free Redbox code later however, and I'm glad I checked this one out. It has a visual style that is appealing and reels you in quickly. Our protagonist's ordinary, somewhat-gloomy life is depicted in grays and blues. But once the medication kicks in, it's all golden. Except for his eyes, which are unnaturally blue. Please tell me that was a special effect, 'cause that's not even fair otherwise.