Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Call 911. We got a problem.

In my list of awful jobs, one of the worst had to be the few months I spent working in a call center. Imagine you worked in some office, and you went to make some copies, and the f--king copy machine was broken. You could do what pretty much everyone else does and find another machine, or you could do something about it/be a real asshole and call someone. Oh, that poor bastard on the other end, the one you arbitrarily blamed for your shitty day/life? Well, that was me. And I hated every minute of it.

Shockingly, I didn't feel the same way about the 94 minutes I spent in a different call center, however, with March's The Call. It kinda helps when the employees look like Halle Berry, even if she's got Justin Guarini's haircut. Though the 911 operator uniform is sadly cleavage free.

Anyway, this flick actually surprised me. Sure, it's ridiculous and ultimately not very good, but I went in expecting utterly terrible and was sort of bummed when it wasn't. It's simply a below-average thriller elevated to mediocrity by talented leads and able direction. In fact, it's far better than the shit show I was looking forward to, trust me.

I'll assume you saw the same horrid trailer that I did, but if you didn't here's the plot, as told by an idiot: A 911 operator quits her job after inadvertently being responsible for the death of a young girl. After some time off, she comes back, but only as a trainer, as she's still tormented by memories of that tragic day. In a twist that absolutely no one saw coming, she's thrust back into action when it happens again. Holy shit, I'm nervous just typing this. I mean, how's this going to end? I'm assuming she f--ks up again and the girl dies, right? I mean, there's no way she faces her fears and completely redeems herself. No way that happens.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

People like you don't have friends.


That's what it said on the screen. Years ago, I had attempted to withdraw twenty bucks from my Webster Bank account so I could get food on my lunch break, but apparently I didn't have any money. Shit, no money would have been a goal at that point. I owed bitches. Lots of them. Worse? I worked at f--king Webster Bank. That's some bullshit.

Much like how some ratf--k piece of garbage went into my bank account too often, I went to the Melissa McCarthy well more than I should have, too. To be fair, I only overdid it by one. I didn't take every dime some poor bastard had rendering him totally f--ked for a week while they investigated the alleged wrongdoings. I just Redboxed a movie. A not-very-good one.

After laughing my ass off throughout much of The Heat [review], I had high hopes for Identity Thief. Sure, that sounds pretty frickin' ridiculous now, I get that. But as the Universal logo spun around that globe, me and my lady friend were looking forward to a good time. Keeping with the trend of this post however, it would appear our fun would be crushed by some nameless, invisible force miles away from my current location.

Despite a slew of talented, likable people involved, Identity Thief feels like it's missing something. And that might be putting it mildly. There are a few laughs, some so-so action, and a somewhat inspired setup, but it doesn't amount to much and never really comes together. The reason? As unfair as it may be, is likely McCarthy. Not so much her personally, but her character Diana. This lady might be the most unlikable bitch ever put to screen that we're supposed to like.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

There's nothing wrong with me, Chet!

Ben Johnson, Marion Jones: Track and Field.
Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong: Cycling.
Every single baseball player: Major League Baseball.

In certain sports, the use of performance enhancing drugs seems so commonplace, that it barely even registers emotionally when somebody new gets busted. These athletes risk long-term health by juicing their bodies with chemicals simply for a shot at momentarily dominating their sport. Sadly, in the summer of 2013, the list continues to grow. And this final name really hurts, not only for the kids in Milwaukee, but for youngsters all over the world.

Theo: Snail Racing.

Dreamworks' Turbo has the misfortune of coming to theaters mere weeks after established animated franchises raked it in (Monsters U [review] and Despicable Me 2 [review] are both top 5 in dollars earned this year). While racing snails are probably interesting enough to entice the little ones, Turbo, sadly, is nothing we haven't seen before. And judging by the opening numbers, we probably won't see again.

Box-office numbers and animation saturation aside, the real problem is  familiarity. Turbo is essentially a retelling of Cars with snails and people, instead of...well, cars and more cars. Throw in a smattering of Rookie of the Year and you've seen this movie already. You know what's going to happen and you sure as shit know how it's going to end. But, it's certainly enough fun along the way, especially if you're sitting shotgun to an almost-four year old, and merrily stuffing your face full of cornbread popcorn. Ain't nothing wrong with that.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

You ain't even dark-skinned.

I've loved standup comedy as long as I can remember. As a little kid, I stayed up late watching An Evening at the Improv. In high school, it was MTV's Half Hour Comedy Hour and Def Comedy Jam. In college, I had to take it even further. I needed to see it in person. At school, we had Frank Caliendo, Norm MacDonald (booed off stage because he was f--king shitfaced) and even Wayne Brady show up. Back home in Hawai'i, I actually paid money to see Howie Mandel over Christmas Break (he was actually pretty funny). One night, years later, some friends and I braved an epic snowstorm and saw the perfect show: Mitch Hedberg, Dave Attell, and Lewis Black. It was f--king  hysterical.

As a much older man, with slightly more money and significantly less time, it appears the only way I'm going to see standup these days is to head to the theater. The movie theater. So obviously, I was pretty psyched to catch Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain and rekindle my long dormant love. Running under (!) eighty minutes, this was the perfect flick to see theatrically on a hot summer day. It was so short, I think I saw it under the guise of Yeah, I'll be right there after I get gas and grab some things at Target. Pathetic Awesome, right?

Anyway, though I didn't head into this the biggest Kevin Hart fan, it's safe to say this guy is a funny dude. While some of his jokes tend to meander, his delivery is so intense and so earnest, he commands your attention regardless. He's honest and easy to relate to. He's also pretty friggin' smart.

This flick starts off almost like a traditional movie, albeit an incredibly low-budget one. Hart and his crew are celebrating their success at a huge party in New York City. The vibe of the party begins to take a turn against him and he decides he needs to get some things off his chest. He insists he's going to head across town to the Garden and he wants everybody to come with him. One of his guys, Nate, really doesn't think he can pull it off. He's pretty sure the Olive Garden isn't open this late.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

I didn't ask for it. And I don't want it.

Sometimes, the only thing better than a great movie is a shitty one. If the stars align, and it's the right kind of awful, a really bad movie can be a really good time. Even better, is when you realize that the person sitting next to you feels the exact same way about the flick. Especially when it's someone close. As my wife and I settled into our latest (and last?) Redbox offering, there was magic in the room. No one was secretly gutting one out, nobody took one for the team. We loved this movie. Wait, let me clarify. We loved hating this movie.

You know shit when you find shit, too.
I actually think I loved Safe Haven. Really, no bullshit. It lets you know how bad it is probably thirty seconds in, and it doesn't ever let up. It remains laughably absurd the entire time and actually ends with a record-setting level of ridiculousness. Our son wasn't home, so I was able to immediately burst into the out-loud version of the Are you f--king kidding me? routine I usually just keep hidden behind my rolling eyes. And shockingly, and perfectly, Mrs. Two Dollar Cinema was right there with me.

Domestic violence. Losing a spouse to cancer. Children in peril. Alcoholism. Murder. None of these topics should be hilarious, but in the deft hands of director Lasse Hallstrom and this silly script, even life's most gut-wrenching moments translate to comedic gold. The melodrama is so thick, the acting so forced, and each allegedly tender moment so incredibly contrived, Safe Haven is remarkably terrible. It's as if M. Night Shyamalan directed the longest tampon commercial ever. That description is so good, they probably should have put it on the poster. Just sayin...

Friday, July 19, 2013

The hardest part to deal with is the silence.

I was never Andy from Toy Story. When I played with my toys, I used very little of my imagination. I would try to recreate scenes from the cartoons or movies, hell, maybe even the commercials themselves. But I never crossed streams, never mixed genres. Even when allegedly having fun, I wanted things to be authentic. He-Man never fought Optimus Prime. The dudes from M.A.S.K. never tangled with the Turtles. Those kind of battles would never happen and were ridiculous. I mean, what's next, Godzilla fighting Voltron?

I don't know why, but I just want to yell Roooooobot Jox!
I didn't even have to see a preview to know that I needed to see Pacific Rim. If I remember correctly, when I asked for a plot summary, I believe a certain husky-eyed friend of mind placed his hands on my shoulders and bore his eyes directly into my soul. Dude, he said. It's f--king robots, fighting f--king monsters. So, we're seeing it in 3D, right?

Months later, there we were. 3D, IMAX - the whole bit. And while he left with noticeable back sweat (true story), I left pleased, if slightly underwhelmed. And no, I just checked. There's no vagina down there. Promise.

Look, whenever a giant-ass robot is fighting a giant-ass monster, I was all in. Even leaning forward. But for the other half of the movie, the parts where people are talking about their feelings and explaining their actions, I kept all of my f--ks, relinquished none. Outside of some of the best action sequences I have ever seen, the whole thing reminded me of a less-ridiculous Independence Day. Seriously, it's basically the same story, except Will Smith is now a handsome white guy and Bill Pullman is now a handsome black guy. And instead of the sexy rack of Vivica A Fox, we get the unholy face of Ron Perlman. Though I love that guy so much that might be an upgrade, honestly.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I'm starting to think this is the most spiritual place I've ever been.

In college, I really never had any money. It wasn't all ramen noodles and bagel bites, but the truth is, I never worked during school. I made all my money waiting tables at an outdoor restaurant not-so-cleverly named Hang Ten (where I had to answer the phone by saying Aloha! like a true asshole), which happened to be located just under five thousand miles away. Meaning during Christmas and summer break my bank account went up. Way up. But during the semester? I had to be cautious. Once, one time, I said f--k it. I'm going on Spring Break like everybody else. Destination? Chicago.

That's not what you were expecting, huh? Well, neither was the film Spring Breakers from director Harmony Korine. What I thought was going to be a throwaway flick featuring hot chicks shaking their asses, turned out to be something entirely different. Oh, the chicks are still hot, and asses are definitely shook. But after that is something about as surprising as going somewhere colder for Spring Break. F--king dummy.

Anyway, Spring Breakers, on paper, is simple enough. Four college girls, by less than savory means, get some cash together in order to leave behind their shitty lives at their shitty college, and go on f--king spring break. They head to Florida, and quickly get vag-deep in some insane partying and unfortunately get locked the f--k up. Crazy? Sure, but at least at this point things are still manageable. But seeing as our fearsome foursome haven't got shit on them except for some skimpy bikinis (no complaints here), making bail is going to be a bit difficult. Luckily isn't the right word, and neither is fortunately, but somehow the girls get sprung. Good news, right? Well, not exactly. Seems their liberator is a bit of a character, with likely more than a random act of kindness as his motivation. Hmm, I wonder what he wants?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

She's looking for my balls.

On any given day, there are fewer and fewer things I absolutely believe in. But one thing I will always go to bat for? Context. In life, the circumstances surrounding our actions and decisions do indeed matter. And when watching a movie, I believe context is even more important. It's f--king everything.

The Heat is probably a terrible movie. But in the context of a night out with my super pregnant wife? It was damn near perfect. Shorter than anything else in the theater we hadn't already seen (fine, shorter than anything I'd already seen), it worked logistically. More importantly however, it was, for us, on that day, f--king hilarious.

Yeah, you read that right. I know, I know. I saw the same awful trailer you did. Probably twenty times. And each time, I covered my eyes at the mere thought that Bullock and McCarthy would squat over society's chest, and pinch off the same shit they've been churning out for years. But trust me, even though I initially wanted to absolutely hate the shit out of it, I ended up powerless against it. The only reason I can muster? F--king McCarthy.

Early on, things didn't look so good. The only four words more cringe worthy than female buddy cop movie are likely beans above the frank. And as the movie got started, I began to settle into my misery. Each actress was doing their thing and the script seemed impossibly lazy with an over-reliance on f-bombs to be even remotely funny. At this point, I was literally hoping to get caught in my own zipper and excuse myself. All I could think was, f--king shit.

Better living through chemistry.

Tonight, well, last Friday night (by the time I finish this), I had to get a CT scan. After ingesting the dye/delicious lemonade, I was finally summoned to the inner depths of the hospital. On our walk, the nurse half turned to me and very casually explained that my just-downed tasty beverage was only one of the dyes they needed. I was going to have to get another intravenously. Okay, fine. She then adds, matter-of-factly, It's going to feel like you're peeing your pants. But, you won't be actually peeing your pants. Hmm. Sounds good. Anyway, I get on the table, get my IV, slide quietly into the vast machine. And as I hear the slight whirring of modern medicine, I begin to feel a very strange sensation in the ol' crotchal region. Almost as if just my junk was being abducted by aliens. It was this exact moment where I thought, well, with two kids I probably don't even need it anymore.

Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects isn't about f--king, but it is about getting f--ked over. Pick a character in this sordid tale of depression and the drug industry, and at some point, they get completely screwed. In fact, you might feel a bit violated too, by the time the credits roll. It gets a little bit, um, crazy by the end.

Yet another man I find probably too interesting, Jude Law steadily anchors director Steven Soderbergh's (for now) final theatrical release. I've loved Lemony Snicket since he was Dickie Greenleaf. This guy, for my money, never disappoints.

Here, Law plays Dr. Jonathan Banks, a seemingly well-meaning and generally likable psychiatrist. Banks gets a new patient, the despondent Emily, played by the lovely Rooney Mara. Apparently, Emily isn't coping well with her husband's recent release from prison. As he acclimates himself back into society, she begins to withdraw altogether. With intermittent success as treatment rolls along, Banks recommends a new experimental drug to Emily. And from there, a seemingly straightforward psychological maniacally laughs in the face of the old 'double-cross' and opts for something closer to a triple cross. Maybe even a quadruple. Honestly, by the end, I was so hepped up on goofballs, I had no idea what was going on.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I counted twenty-two.

Summer sequels. Assuming you loved, really loved the first one, the second one is more or less screwed. There's usually only two ways it's going to go. It's either going to be exactly the same thing, or go in some different direction. In most of the superhero flicks, everything is basically the same, they just swap out the villain. Never before has that even remotely mattered to me.

Until now.

When I first saw the original Despicable Me with my nephew in 2010, I thought it was okay. Decent, even, but nothing spectacular. In the following years, however, the film has honestly transformed into one of my favorite animated films ever. Sure, my son's unyielding adoration of the flick has something/a lot to do with it, but it's also consistently hysterical. While Gru, Agnes and the minions are the ones rightfully on the T-shirts, they don't absolutely slay me. For me, it's all about Vector.

Jason Segel, sadly, does not reprise his role as the bumbling, track-suited counterpart to Steve Carell's Gru in Despicable Me 2. Not even in a cameo. Instead, our villain this time is a bit of a surprise, as their true identity is about a five-second secret But what you'll figure out even faster, is their ultimate goal of destroying the world.

It seems that someone has stolen this dangerous purple chemical, PX-41, that turns even the cutest and most docile things into ravenous beasts. There's evidence suggesting the culprit is hiding out in the local mall, and Gru is recruited away from his happy domestic life, back into the world of heroes, villains and minions. This time, however, he has a partner, the goofy but well-meaning Lucy, voiced by Kristen Wiig.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

That's not stupidity or weakness. That's just human nature.

If you're a hardcore gamer, or, like me, a bit more casual in your videogame pursuits, it's safe to say that games are increasingly becoming more and more cinematic. They're not only becoming like movies, but they're also becoming actual movies. Big-budget games are being turned into big-budget flicks. I mean, eventually, they're going to run out of comics, cartoons and reboots, right? Well, they won't, but - just humor me, okay?

Anyway, with the proliferation of CGI for f--king everything, I think it's fair to say that movies are also becoming more and more like videogames. I'll never forget when I showed my dad Avatar and the old man pushed his glasses back on his nose, unimpressed. This? This is like a cartoon, or a videogame or something. This isn't a movie. Good point, Master Chef.

You know what's better than videogames and movies combined? The book. Don't ever f--k with the book.

Relax, I'm not going to say that the film version of World War Z is terrible or anything, because it certainly isn't. As far as this summer is concerned, it might be considered borderline excellent. But as I reflect back on it, I feel like it was a lot more akin to a really good survival horror videogame, rather than the kickass book it was based on. Typically, the game or movie goes something like this:

After a jarring opening, we settle in and follow a lone character, who has few supplies or weapons, as he (not really or she, no?) traverses the world to save what's left of humanity. Occasionally, we're privy to the unleashing of Hell, as bullets and bodies fly. It's all very intense, albeit in short spurts. Eventually, and inevitably, there are the stealth portions, where instead of laying waste, everything hinges on not. Making. A sound. We solve some puzzles, find the origin, and save the f--king day.

World War Z isn't the first flick to toe the line of movies and games, it's likely just the best. So far, anyway (faint praise I realize). And, it's got friggin' Brad Pitt in it, so it's all oddly legit, even if it's familiar ground. My main concern, without sounding too much like an asshole that read the book ('cause I friggin' hate those people, too), is that there was a wealth of awesome in the novel, however unfilmable it may actually be, and World War Z barely tapped into it. It probably should have been the most kickass HBO show ever, outside of the one with all the naked people saying and doing things. That one's my favorite.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

It only hurts when I try to explain it.

As my wife counts down the dwindling days of her second pregnancy (allegedly, a girl), my son and I have been spending almost every minute together. Matty and I have flown to New England to see my older brother. Also on that trip, was my younger brother, Nikos, and he stayed with us for some time, too. We've been to parks, restaurants, museums, baseball games, movies, bounce houses, play places - you name it. It's been quite the dude fest.

A byproduct of this concentrated time with me and his uncles? A huge spike in his um, manliness. Sarcasm, farting (my wife prefers tooting), daredevil maneuvers, off-key singing and general wise-cracking are all on the rise. And while my two brothers and I would like to take credit (read: blame) for much of that, we might just be the wrong trio of siblings responsible for his, um, inspired behavior.

How can one poster make me want to kill many things?
Every summer the local theater shows old children's movies for just a buck, which in this case might've been a fleecing. Our inaugural trip this season turned out to be the God-awful Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. My son had already seen the other flick (Mr. Popper's Penguins), so I can't necessarily blame him for opting for Alvin, Simon and Theodore. But I can blame every single person who had a hand in creating this turd. Really, guys? Really?

Seeing as the first two Chipmunk movies weren't exactly riveting, I knew this one was going to be all kinds of horrible. Any actual good ideas in this trilogy (bit of a stretch, that) have long been trotted out and shat upon all of us. But, being that I enjoy seeing my son have a good time (as well as air-conditioning, honestly), I took one for the team. At least we weren't home...right? Right.

Look, you are never going to see this movie. In fact, there's a safe bet you aren't reading this post. But if for whatever reason, you actually will? Let me at least clue you in on some of the atrocities that you've wisely avoided.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Just reach deep down and let the scary out.

Fifteen years from now, hopefully my son will be spending the summer at home after a successful freshman year of college. Maybe he'll even take his old man to a big summer movie, like we used to go to when he was little. But, if in that same summer, he ends up home earlier than expected after failing his final and getting kicked out of a college for cheating? Well, at least I'll know where he got the idea. Damn summer movies.

Monsters University is probably better than anyone expected it would be. I realize that speaking ill of Pixar is blasphemous, but after the abysmal Cars 2 [review], and the glut of inferior Disney sequels throughout the years, I think it would be fair to say this one could have been another heartless cash grab. Luckily for everyone, that's not the case. This is a highly entertaining, charming and sweet movie - and one that you could probably watch a hundred times and still not get tired of. In other words, it's a Pixar movie. Without Mater.

Setting the sequel in the years before Mike and Sully worked at Monsters, Inc. turned out to be a brilliant move. Pixar, if you can believe it, has made a college movie for kids. And while my three and a half year-old son was giggling, my wife and were laughing. A lot. Sure it's safe and simple, but isn't it supposed to be? You can't make Wall-E every year. In fact, under the bright blues and greens is a solid (though familiar) story about friendship,teamwork and overcoming adversity. And as a bonus, the whole flick is saturated in little touches that no one under the age of 17 would really understand. Meaning the movie truly has something for everyone, as cliche as that may sound.