Friday, May 31, 2013

It could be the stench of death. Some people don't care for it.

Of all the injustices in the world, a few exist that are ripe for exploration in movies aimed at children.

Feeling alone and/or different.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one, usually a parent.
And to a lesser extent, having to discover love.

Certainly there are more, but these three seem to be at the core of every animated movie. Lately, it seems like there's another one we could add to the list, in pencil, perhaps: Protecting the environment.

Epic, the latest animated flick we brought the little guy to, combines all four of the previously mentioned mainstays into something decidedly average. Sure, it features an all-star cast! and looks absolutely stunning at times, but a week later, I dare you to remember any of it.

Allegedly combining key elements of Ferngully (never saw it) with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (totally saw it), Epic tells the story of a battle continually being waged in the forest. Exciting, right? Well, not really. It's your typical good versus evil tale, just on a very small scale. Literally. Turns out, all this has been happening right under our pointy noses, as the forces at war are only visible through a magnifying class. If you're imagining Rick Moranis suspended over his yard, well, you weren't the only one apparently. The writers may be right with you there.

Anyway, for whatever reason, the Boggins (the bad guys), led by the evil Mandrake (Christoph Waltz!) have decided that they want to rule the forest forever by, um, destroying it. Solid plan. Anyway, standing in the way, is Queen Foxxy Cleopatra Tara and her army of bird-riding warriors. After some possibly traumatic things go down, severely-bummed teenager M.K (Amanda Seyfried) gets transported to this tiny world and burdened with the responsibility of, you guessed it, saving it. She's a reluctant hero, at best. But when the equal parts cocky and handsome Nod (Josh Hutcherson) shows up? Well, shucks. Might as well, like, save this forest thingy.

The drones watch everything.

Once upon a time, there was a sci-fi movie starring one of Hollywood's biggest stars. Even though the preview looked interesting, people seemed to be grumbling that the actor was past his prime. Apparently, he was no longer capable of opening a movie that wasn't a sequel of one of his long-running franchises. While I enjoyed the film enough, it didn't really make any lasting impact. But being the simpleton that I so obviously am, I was just happy to spend more time with a childhood hero. Here's the plot summary of that film, courtesy of imdb.

Futuristic action about a man who meets a clone of himself and stumbles into a grand conspiracy about clones taking over the world.

Oblivion is a much better film than the flick I referenced above, but I'm not sure I'd be willing to call it anything other than okay. I caught this theatrically at the last showing in my town (on May 15th) and unceremoniously fell asleep. I was the only one in the theater and despite fighting the good fight, I dozed in an out for probably the last hour (making the last forty minutes utterly incomprehensible). I left the theater pretty much clueless. Well, extra clueless.

To remedy my early onset of narcolepsy, and maintain the integrity (sequential and otherwise) of this ridiculous blog, I did something I never, ever thought I'd do: I turned to the Bay. Well, I didn't. But I know a guy...At least I paid for round 1.

Confession complete, let's get to it. Tom Cruise plays Jack (again), a well-meaning guy sent to what's left of Earth to maintain drones. See, our planet has been vacated after an alien force destroyed the moon, and consequently the Earth. The natural resources are being extracted by these massive machines and the drones make sure nothing impedes this. So far, everything's pretty cool.

Although the poster might lead you to believe that Jack is alone on Earth, thank the sweet Lord he isn't. Apparently, it's company policy that all drone repairmen also get stationed with an uber-hot British woman, who is forced to wear tight clothes and swim in the nude. Sign me up. Victoria, turns out, is more than just eye-candy. Her job is to corral Jack's curiosity, increasing the odds that the mission will be effective. An effective team, they are. Well, were.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Courage sometimes skips a generation.

After years of working the same, sometimes degrading, often tedious job, I've always thought I should write a book about what I've gone through. I'll tell stories of being regularly humiliated and insulted. Write of being spoken to as if I'm an emotionless thing, not an actual person. Complicating everything? Never being able to say how I really feel, for fear of swift retribution by those in charge. But, there is one saving grace. Over the years, I've been able to summon strength and press on by turning to a few like-minded individuals who think, talk and for the most part, look like me.

Turns out, this story has already been told.

The Help isn't about teaching middle-school English in the inner city, but in a bizarro way, it could be. In fact, it could basically be about any group of hard-working individuals subjugated by not only their oppressive employers, but also by circumstance. But what makes this story (arguably?) matter more, is its one key variable: Race.

Definitely white, but only possibly middle class, I can't (and would never) speak to the struggles African Americans have gone through in this country. But, I'm not completely clueless. Day after day, year after year,  I attempt to educate kids, mostly African American (and Latino) about doing right in the face of overwhelming adversity. Sure, many of them are at a hopeless age where learning (and for the love of God, reading) is the last thing on their mind, but far too often, as I've repeatedly seen firsthand, they don't grow out of it. As the years pass, I've been able to get them to read less and less. More often than not, I use video clips and short films to successfully deliver concepts, disheartening as that may be.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It's always a little pinchy in the gooey bag at first.

Austin Powers. Spider Man. Captain Jack Sparrow. All of the X-Men. Whoever the Hell Brendan Frasier played in The Mummy. The list goes on. And on. And on. Eventually, even characters we absolutely love lose their way and overstay their welcome. Sadly, I feel like there's at least one more iconic character to add to the list.

Honestly, it happens to the best of them. Maybe the lead actor goes to the well once too often, maybe the script simply isn't up to snuff. Or maybe, the initial director is replaced by some hack, or maybe, just maybe, the audience simply grows bored.

Iron Man 3 isn't a bad movie by any stretch. Not at all. But as I sat there watching the incredible Robert Downey Jr. slog his way through yet another Iron Man film, I found myself increasingly indifferent. Don't get me wrong, Tony Stark, as played by Downey Jr., is still the gold standard for the regular side of superhero flicks. And as the heart of the film, he still delivers. My biggest disappointment wasn't with Stark. In fact, we get a ton of time with that charming devil. What killed me was the absence of his other half, the ass-kicking Iron Man.

It's been almost two weeks since I caught this one after school, and even initially, it didn't have much of an impact. After the awesomeness of The Avengers [review] I was really looking forward to re-entering the Marvel Universe. Quickly though, things began to unravel.

After a pretty slick opening (never thought I'd hear that song again), and the incredible evisceration of Stark's house, Tony is left in shambles. For whatever reason, he heads to Bumf--k, USA and goes all low-tech. Sure, this allows Stark to spew one-liners all over Annoying Kid, but it also completely baffled me. I mean, if you've got problems with an unstoppable bad guy, how about dialing up say...motherf--king Thor?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I thought it was something else, that's all.

As another Mother's Day has come and gone, I'm left with an uneasy feeling. First, I didn't get my wife (my pregnant wife, no less) anything, though to be fair, she demanded I not waste any money on her (carefully chosen words, perhaps?). So, my son and I made her a surprisingly awesome card and crossed our fingers. We we're going to get her flowers, but it turns out someone else got my wife a huge bouquet of flowers for Mother's Day. Guess who?

My mother. Perfect, right? Not only did my mom get my wife a sweet present, but I didn't even get my own mother a damn thing. Nothing. No horribly made breakfast in bed, no homemade coupon for a clean house!, not even the customary last-minute framed photo.

The only thing left to do? Figure out which role I'm worse at: husband, or son? Seems like a toss up.

For whatever reason, I thought The Guilt Trip was going to be worth the buck-fifty rental fee at Redbox. Contrary to the opening paragraph, I had my wife in mind. Her checklist? Three parts: Funny, new(ish) and short. Well, two out of three ain't bad.

Severely lacking in the funny, this movie ended up being less Two Dollar Cinema, and more One Grandmother Cinema. Meaning, this is probably an ideal flick for a slightly edgier senior crowd (there is a lone F-bomb), but otherwise, this is an easy one to pass on for us non-octogenarians.

The setup, contrived as it may be, at least had the potential for some good bits. Seth Rogen plays Andy, a smart-enough guy desperate to get the cleaning product he invented off the ground and carried by major retailers. Barbara Streisand plays his, get this, overbearing mother. Though the motivations aren't exactly clear to all parties, Andy ends up taking his mom across the country as his pitches his product again and again. While each stop along the way becomes essentially an unfunny SNL skit, the whole thing is at least anchored by relatable performances. Most guys will see a bit of themselves in Rogen's defeated and frustrated Andy. And everybody, mom's included, will likely see something in Streisand's character that reminds them of their own mom. More than once, my wife and I turned to each other and simultaneously gestured that reminds me of your Mom. All that said, this is a road-trip flick that screams in-flight entertainment, at best, if that makes sense.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Did he know it was your birthday? I mean, he's the director, he's kinda busy.

Well, well.

Turns out tonight is the second birthday for ol' Two Dollar Cinema. I know, it seems like just yesterday that the internet somehow got worse, but trust me, it's been two whole years. Initially, I wanted this site to exist as a weird time capsule for my then one-year old son. But, 250+ posts later, things have spiraled out of control and descended into a land of typos and depravity. Mostly depravity. Hopefully.

This post, like the rest of them, is dedicated to the handful of loyal readers I've been lucky enough to earn over the years (notice the s). Without their comments and support, I likely would have shut this mess down and cried myself to sleep (well, more often than usual, anyway). For them, I want to say thanks. Hopefully, at least once or twice, you've read something on here that made you smile and think, Wow. That guy is really handsome.

In what has become an annual tradition, let's look at some stats for the year. I watched (and reviewed, in the loosest sense) 113 movies, 44 of which I saw theatrically. I never omitted a single film, because good, bad, or horribly shitty, I'll write about anything. Family flicks likely dominated, with 17 notched for the year. Though that could be 18, as I'm not sure what classification Nude 4 Satan gets.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Uh oh. Told you these outfits would get us in trouble.

Even though I run a pretty crappy movie blog, I do feel it's my duty to keep up with the films that everyone is talking about. What worth would I really have if I didn't? So, this past weekend - like most of you - I was completing the trilogy of an epic comic book movie franchise. I loved the first one, liked the second a lot, and was eagerly waiting to finally see the conclusion that would make me feel like a fourteen year old boy, one last time. Not too mention getting to see one the best actors of a generation own a role despite being hidden by some of the most dazzling armor ever seen on the big screen.

This is the answer to the question what's the worst tattoo anyone has ever got?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III is a terrible, terrible movie. But somehow, it's delightfully terrible. As a kid, I watched the first two flicks probably 900 times. Each. Likely until the VHS tapes were completely unplayable (though in Hawai'i, it wasn't all too uncommon to find that a visible nest of ants had spawned inside a VHS cassette). But for whatever reason, I had never seen the third one until this past Sunday. I'd like to say that when it was released, back in 1993, a fourteen-year old version of myself was too busy playing sports and making out with chicks thereby missing its theatrical run. The truth is, I was probably too busy with a slightly nerdier endeavor, like playing pogs or collecting Marvel cards. Or maybe I just couldn't get a ride.

Anyway, I knew by reputation that this one was a dog, but picked it up at Best Buy anyway. My son Matthew is obsessed with the new animated series on Nickelodeon (which is all kinds of awesome, by the way), so I figured maybe we'd throw caution to the wind and try a little live-action action.  Initially (and rightfully) he wasn't impressed.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

I'm really glad I got to know you.

My dad reads a lot of news. I do not.
He seeks stories from outside of the mainstream media. I do not.

So whenever we talk, which isn't all that often, we always run into the same problems. Initially, it's all-too apparent that I'm an uncultured swine. So, there's that. But the real conundrum? His quest for news leads him to countless stories about all the atrocities, shady dealings and humanity-damning events that seem to point toward some inexplicable event that will send mankind hurtling toward some awful doomsday. I imagine myself holding onto a chain link fence, watching children play, then screaming, as my body is eviscerated by a nuclear explosion and only my skeleton is left dangling. Bummer. But, the hardest part about his end of the world lectures? The ill-timed follow up questions.

So, how's your son? And your wife? Her and the baby okay?

The end of the world genre used to amuse me. It did. My wife on the other hand? Not a fan (and never has been). As we fired up Seeking a Friend for the End of the World the other night, she instantly rolled her eyes. Not another end of the world movie. But once she saw Steve Carell, instant relief. And despite hearing how this movie wasn't really that good, as the credits rolled, I was relieved, too. For an ultimately bleak flick, it's actually kind of sweet. So much so, that it made my wife cry. Though, it doesn't take much - she's all kinds of pregnant.

That, and the fact that our son is an incredibly goofy three-and-a-half, have certainly skewed the way we digest these types of movies. Yeah, I know, that's kind of absurd. But watching two people examine both the lives they've led and the lives they'll never lead, elicits something unforeseen in most romantic comedies. I cared about the characters. I put myself in their shoes and I wanted them to be okay, even if all signs, like my dad sometimes suggests, were blinking, flashing and screaming that they wouldn't be.