Sunday, September 30, 2012

Smells like Willie Nelson's braids...

Can a minute save an entire film? Literally, I mean. One. Actual. Minute. As a kid, this was completely possible. One great fight sequence could save a D-grade action movie. A bad thriller or dramatic flick could be salvaged by the arrival (and subsequent pausing) of unexpected, high-quality nudity. An awful horror movie could redeem itself with a legendary death, even if it was just one. But what about a comedy? Can something not terribly funny be redeemed by a moment that made me f--king choke on my tears? 

For me, the answer is a resounding yes. When I look back on last week's Redboxing of Wanderlust, I can't help but smile. It helps that I find Paul Rudd utterly hysterical no matter what he's in. Another assist comes from countless members of The State, arguably one of the funniest shows of my formative years. But, a week later, only one thing has truly stayed with me: the mirror scene.

I'm going to apologize ahead of time for hyping it up, because at least half of my enjoyment resulted in the sheer unexpectedness of this classic scene. Sure, some of you (shit, most of you) won't find this nearly as funny as I did, but I literally cried during it. I've watched it on Youtube a few times since, and at this point, it still cracks me up.

Minus this scene, the entire film is slightly charming, but probably a Volkswagen van full of missed opportunity. I like Rudd enough to forgive just about anything, and Aniston is always nice to look at, but they have very little onscreen chemistry. Now, in a way, that's entirely the point, but it also made a lot of the movie feel forced.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Project Alice, who do you work for?

I used to have time to play video games. Now, I have just enough time to buy them. But, before I was a father, and before I was a husband, I had time. Crazy amounts of it, too. And a game I remember playing endlessly was Resident Evil 4 for the Nintendo Gamecube (of all things). I loved that game. The series had always been good, but part 4 was the pinnacle of survival horror. I might even tell you that it's my favorite game of all time.

Whatever goodwill I have for the games, I feel the exact opposite for the movies. I think I've only seen the first two (of five!), but they've all run together in my head. I do, however, specifically remember Milla Jovovich jump kicking a zombie dog, which is clearly great, but outside of that? It's all a giant ball of who gives a shit?

Maybe that's not entirely fair, but as I sat down to watch Resident Evil: Retribution I can honestly tell you that I wasn't very excited. I'm not sure how the other four people in theater one felt, but I'll bet it wasn't giddy with anticipation.

Despite my initial indifference, once things finally got rolling, I suppose I was entertained enough. I expected nothing and got a little more than that, so I'm calling it a win. Oh, and for the record, I only paid a buck (and that was for the 3D upgrade, naturally), keep that in mind.

Four paragraphs in, might as well lay some plot on you, huh? After we are provided with a much-obliged rundown of the first four flicks, the fifth flick begins and is basically a rescue mission. Alice has found herself knee-deep in shit down in the underground headquarters of Umbrella (Oh, and if any of my facts are wrong, feel free to correct them. Also, feel free to go f--k yourself, nerd). A crew of strong dudes must extract her, then blow the whole place to Hell. Inside, the facility is laid out in super generic video game levels, I mean detailed recreations of Tokyo, Russia and New York. There's also a Neighborhood level, most of which you've seen if you caught the relatively kickass trailer. That said, it was still kind of cool, despite being 900% ridiculous.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

You insult me again, and I'll cut your face off and wear it over my own.

In September of 1995, something shocking happened at our local movie theater in Kailua-Kona, Hawai'i. Paul Verhhoeven's controversial NC-17 flick, Showgirls, was to be shown on one of the town's four screens. The hype was palpable. Also in September of 1995, a young m.brown turned 16 the week before the movie was released. For the time being, I was going to be denied horrible dialogue and unlimited access to Jesse Spano's tits. Worse, I was going to be denied some glorious nudity featuring the Joker-mouthed Gina Gershon. Seventeen years later, I would atone.

For my 33rd birthday, I wanted to go to the movies. Sure, that's nothing special, but I wanted to see something great. Our local theater had only two things showing, jack and shit, so I did a little research and found a small independent theater in Harrisburg. Sure enough, all three screens were showing something very interesting, but there was really only one choice. I had to see Killer Joe.

When I start to hear about certain movies or performances, I freak out and go the other way immediately. I want to know nothing. Yeah, I knew Matthew MacConaughey was in it. I knew it was a black comedy. That's about it. Emile Hirsch? Had no clue. Gina Gershon? Couldn't recall. NC-17? Wait, they still make those? Interesting.

If you're reading a movie blog, you probably know all the real interesting bits, but I'll try to keep it as spoiler-free as possible anyway. Well, at least up here. Killer Joe, based on a play, tells the story of a highly-dysfunctional family who hire a hitman/local detective to kill their mother. Seems money is a bit scarce (and desperately needed by older brother Chris), and mom has a pretty hefty life insurance policy. Simple enough, right? Well, it seemed that way until Killer Joe showed up. That's when everybody starts going down on Col. Sanders. If only I were joking.

Friday, September 14, 2012

What if we loaded it with nudity?

Contract or no, I will not bow to any sponsor.
One of my favorite movies as a young jerk, was the 1992 flick Wayne's World. As an awkward twelve year old, I found just about every frame of it hysterical. But the one scene that absolutely killed me was the bit where Rob Lowe confronts them about giving the sponsor, Mr. Vanderhoff, some time on the show. Wayne and Garth are vehemently opposed to selling out. It's like people only do things because they get paid. And that's just really sad. This scene was a brilliantly executed jab at selling out, all the while completely selling out.

Twenty years later, Morgan Spurlock has basically extended this scene and made a feature-length documentary about product placement and advertising in movies. POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is a light-hearted look into the gray area that exists between the art of film and the world of advertising. Spurlock's hook, is that he wants his movie about product placement to be financed through product placement. And while some of you out there might roll your eyes at that idea, I found it incredibly clever.

The film follows Spurlock around as he pitches his ludicrous idea to numerous companies. Major players, like Volkswagon, flat out reject his requests. But secondary brands (Hell, maybe even tertiary brands) like Ban deodorant are thrilled to be apart of something. Eventually, larger companies basically say  f--k it and sign on as well. It's an interesting journey and I can think of few people better to tag along with, than the amiable Spurlock. He realizes this is a gamble, and appears to not be entirely interested in selling his soul to advertisers, but is determined to see the project through. Even if he has to drink enough pomegranate juice to induce a massive, raging hard on.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Our donkey's in a ditch.

A few years ago, Blockbuster had this slogan, Life after late fees. This idea came at a time when video stores were still relevant, and basically let you keep the movie as long as you wanted, until they simply charged you some set price and you owned the damn flick. It was a shitty idea, but removed the pressure of having to watch whatever you'd rented that night. Well friends, I miss that sense of urgency. I often find my Blockbuster Online rentals, with their lack of set return date, sitting in my house for f--king ever, especially if it's a movie for us. I'm sure you Netflixers know exactly what I'm talking about. Especially you married jerks.

Bernie gathered dust in my house for almost three weeks. And while that sounds like the plot to a bad eighties flick, unfortunately, it isn't. The movie was completely undeserving of this fate too, as it was a pretty enjoyable tale of real-life small-town murder. Wait. Enjoyable. Real. Murder?


Director Richard Linklater, through the use of the actual townsfolk involved, quaint title cards and a quirky score, has created a based on a true story flick that makes the audience feel like murdering someone is, well, not the worst thing you could do. Jack Black, as the titular Bernie Tiede, is just so darn nice, we feel compelled to let the confessed murderer off the hook. Especially since the victim is a rotten, old bitch. And while I was certainly along for the ride, hindsight has dampened my enthusiasm, even if just a little. This guy murdered someone. And then stole all their money. Not cool, bro.

The man who would agree with that last statement the most is the local district attorney, Danny Buck, played with wild-eyed disbelief by the always awesome Matthew McConaughey. While watching the movie I felt this guy was an overzealous madman, but in reality, he's the most sane person in the movie. It actually makes me appreciate the movie much more. The packaging is sweet and fluffy, but at the core, things are pretty ugly. Honestly, this whole town is seriously f--ked.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sir, are you ill?

Some of you smarter types might read a classic novel to better educate yourself, or perhaps to simply make you a more well-rounded individual. I do something similar, but remove the legitimacy. See, I'll watch obscure or niche movies in hopes of one thing, being able to cleverly reference them in conversation. In my mind, I'll be having this chat, surrounded by people who look like various incarnations of Rivers Cuomo, and I will drop some amazing reference and it will astound everyone. In college, before I met my wife of course, this imagined scenario was filled with women. And they were so wowed by my wit, it made their shirts uncomfortable. Naturally, they removed them.

Dropping a proper Blacula reference is likely going to be impossible, but I've hopefully got at least fifty more years to do it. Or, if I'm bitten by an irate African prince with massive eyebrows, I might have the rest of time. Either way, I'm up for the challenge.

This was one of those situations where I thought my wife was asleep. No, not one of those situations, but one where I figured I might as well watch something that she would have absolutely zero interest in. Sure enough, she saunters into the living room right as I press play. Ooh, what are you watching? Shit.

Actually, she hung in there for a minute. Just long enough to see Count Dracula not only curse the African Prince (after mildly offending him by casually offering to purchase his wife), but to also give him a new f--king name. Seriously, when did vampires get this power? Shit, not only am I an undead f--k, but now I have to be called f--king Blacula? This is some bullshit, man, Bullshit.

Outside of the random beginning, Blacula is pretty straightforward. Our main man wakes up in early 70's Los Angeles rather bloodthirsty. He chomps on the first two dudes he sees, meets his reincarnated wife, easily convinces her of her past, and attempts to live happily after. Meanwhile, an incredibly smooth doctor pieces together the mystery of a rash of dead people showing up in the morgue completely drained of blood. And while this bothers him ever so much, he still finds time to take his sweet lady/lab assistant to the club. There, they meet and hang out with some funky dude who sounds like Sideshow Mel and wears a long black cape everywhere he goes.  Man, if only we had some leads!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

If I don't get this back...your ass is terminated.

Very rarely do I appreciate that I'm in my thirties. But looking around at things now, as old bastards generally do, I think thank God I'm not growing up in this mess. Now, that relief is quickly tempered when my now (as of two days ago) three-year old son streaks into the room, but it often lingers under the surface. I turn on the radio and it's what is this shit? I look at the way my students dress and I think someone would have rightfully kicked my ass if I had gone to school dressed like that. Don't even get me started on television. At least half of all shows are rich or stupid people, or stupid rich people, doing jackshit for an hour. People live like this? And we watch them? But the one thing that probably saddens me more than anything? It's something very dear to my childhood and teenage years. The lack of the hero. Well, the Action Hero.

Now, don't get me wrong. There have been some kickass action flicks in the last couple of years, but nothing has come close to the way things used to be. If you're a teenager now, and not into old-school action flicks, who's your biggest star? The Rock? Badass, but too many family films, thereby squandering his prime years. Vin Diesel? Had a chance, but it didn't work out. Who else is there? Shit, is it Matt Damon? Johnny Depp? Christian Bale? No, probably not any of those three. It's likely Jason Statham, who is genuinely a charismatic screen presence, but I'm not sure he's been in anything with enough mass popularity.

My point? The best Action Heroes, were from my youth. They always have been, and likely, always will be.

The Expendables 2 is yet another reminder of, depending on your tastes, the good ol' days. Now, the movie itself isn't great, but you can't deny the magic of seeing all these iconic ass kickers together on screen. Cheesy one liners, droves of guys running into bullet spray and an overwhelming on-screen awareness of each guy's historical significance make for a good time at the movies.