Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

You can always tell when a movie studio is banking on a certain feature film to carry them through for that particular quarter of the year, especially if upon the final test screening they realize that the movie turned out to a complete disaster. They then go into panic mode and inundate you with trailer after trailer until it's almost programmed in your brain to go see it. It's similar to when Chris Tucker in Money Talks warns Charlie Sheen to watch his back "I'll find you in the shower! Eating at picnics..." they are everywhere!

The movie I'm talking about is Angelina Jolie's Unbroken; and every trailer has this stupid kid on a bike screaming motivational cliché's like "If you can take it, you can make it!" or "You keep going like you're going, you're gonna wind up on the streets!" or "Try harder than the man next to you!" I'm 100% certain that no one has ever actually said these things in real life, they've just heard them in movies and I'm also certain that only one of those ridiculous sayings will actually make the final cut of the movie. But they burn this nonsense in your head in a lame attempt to get you pumped up for the movie.

The point of this ridiculously long intro is that while the final Hobbit movie didn't put a million motivational speeches in their trailer, they still managed to include every one ever imagined into the actual movie; and not a single one didn't make the final cut. The first act of the movie is nothing but cheesy one liners that dwarves, elves, and men use to threaten one another before battle but nothing actually happens until the Orcs show up.

And the Orcs have easily the freshest army in the movie. They talk trash, are unapologetically evil, and have giant earthworms and bats that are bred for only one thing...wait for it...WAR!!! What sucks is that once the earthworms and bats show up, they don't actually do anything, so it kind of a wasted set up. But the problems don't just start there.

The movie starts off with Smaug (the dragon) wreaking havoc on the village and Bard (Luke Evans) trying his best to defeat him. What's funny about the opening is that you actually get to clearly see an angry Smaug talking trash as he's wrecking shop but even with all of today's technology he still looks like the flying dog/dragon in The Neverending Story when his mouth moves. So it turns what would normally be a thrilling scene into pure comedy; and sadly that's the theme of the entire movie.

Action scenes that could be cool are ruined by gymkata inspired action and long gazing stares that turn normal death scenes into seemingly never ending silent monologues.

Now I know that it feels like I didn't like this movie but in actuality I did; just not for the reasons you would think. This is not a good movie for traditional reasons but good in the sense that Van Helsing or Wanted are considered good, some of the scenes are so over the top or completely pointless that you find yourself laughing out loud. The only thing that was missing was when Thorin Oakenshield had his dwarves combing the gold field for a special jewel, was a black dwarf taking off his helmet and saying "We aint found shit!!!"

This movie is FRESH, go see it.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings

Given the events that have taken place in my life recently, I'm pretty much at the point to where I'll date a wet blanket if the opportunity arises; and I'm not just talking metaphorically either. I would expect to see me walking down the street with a blow up doll like Ryan Gosling did in Lars and the Real Girl real soon; the struggle is that real y'all. And it appears as though the internet is aware of my struggles because I just received an email with the subject line "Asian Beauties?", well normally I wouldn't Al Gore but today...YES! I guess this explains why Christian Bale decided to wear guyliner and a brown spray tan in his latest movie Exodus; some dark times must have fallen upon his household too. "We're f'n done in the bedroom! You hear me? We're f'n done!!!"

Every 5 years or so Ridley Scott feels the need to make these historical epics that are always 30 minutes too long and have breathtaking women in them that never get naked. He's seriously one editor and a Kate Winslet casting away from winning both an Oscar and my heart at the same time. Well this movie is no different.

Exodus is about one of the Bible's most famous stories, God's liberation of the Israelites from Egypt. It starts off by showing you the friendship that existed between Moses (Bale) and Pharaoh's son Ramses (Joel Edgerton) and how it came to an abrupt stop when Moses' Hebrew heritage was brought to light. He is immediately sent off to be with the Israelis but has not fully accepted being a part of them; that is until he sees a representation of God through the burning bush and his messenger, a little boy who reveals his plan of liberation to him.

For whatever reason when modern day directors read, skim, or hear stories of the Old Testament, they come away thinking that characters like Noah or Moses were gangsters who somehow knew martial arts and swordplay. Moses in this movie is basically William Wallace's great great grandfather as he leads a band of rebels in random fights against the Egyptians. There are Braveheart esque training sequences and even a scene that's ripped straight from 300:Rise of an Empire where they set fire to boats in a harbor; it's pretty comical but also fresh.

The problem is the set up to the movie is way too long and drawn out; far too much time is spent on Moses and Ramses's friendship. By the time you get to the ten plagues God unleashed upon Egypt, you're half asleep but thankfully the scenes are so awesome that they wake you back up. The parting of the sea is pretty epic and fairly funny but not quite Charleston Heston fresh as Scott decides to go another route with it.

Given the fact that you do finally get to see modern day technology's take on what happened all those centuries ago, this film is entertaining but it's way too slow at times. But thankfully there are plenty of scenes involving Moses's hot wife Zipporah(Maria Valverde) that more than make up for the flaws, so for that reason I rate this movie as FRESH!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Institute and Billion

We have now entered what is called the dead zone of the live music scene here in Austin, Texas; it's actually starting to get a little chilly and all of the major bands are taking a quick break from banging hot young groupies on the road. They instead have decided to get their annual STD tests in before heading home to kiss their little cousins hello because nothing says Happy Holidays like seeing your 6 year old nephew all of a sudden sporting a herpes sore on the second of Hanukkah! So naturally the month of December brings tough times for us music lovers who still want to get a quality show or two in from time to time; we find ourselves convincing ourselves that some local acts are better than they actually are, or we are eagerly running off to go see Spoon or the Toadies for the 20th time this year.

Well one of the local acts I'll hopefully see soon is starting to get a little buzz on the national level and their name is Institute. This band is comprised of members from The Wiccans, Glue, and Recide and they bring a lazy post punk sound to the Austin music scene. Their lead singer Moses Brown sounds like he's just some drunk guy who stumbled upon a mic at a live band karaoke bar and all of a sudden started slurring barely discernible lyrics on stage while everyone else in the venue ran outside to grab a smoke and escape the horror. Honestly there's nothing really new that they bring to the table but I think they're worth checking out if you're looking for a cheap show while out on the town. They do at times remind of the band Protomartyr out of Detroit and because of that they get a rating of barely WEAK as opposed to straight up weak.

Next up is the UK duo Billion, they are producers who make the kind of music that would not normally qualify as my cup of tea as it sounds like something you'd hear playing over a Devil Wears Prada style show scene. But no matter how much I tried  to stop, I found myself dancing to it; I can see their music playing in some upscale lounge in Upper West Side Manhattan with guys who are just a little too old to be wearing hipster glasses (cough cough) dancing to it. Special is a pumping jam that sounds like it has Crystal Waters singing "100% pure looooooove!" on it, and yes  Ijust said pumping jam. I rate these guys kind of FRESH!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Horrible Bosses 2

Horrible Bosses 2: Electric Boogaloo is what this movie should have been called. There are some movies that seem like they will always be classics but when you watch them 10-15 years later, they simply don't stand the test of time; American History X is one such movie. I used to think this movie was borderline brilliant but after watching it recently, I could barely make it through the entire film. I understand what they were trying to accomplish with it but all it is, is melodrama and preachy monologues; and  the best thing that actually happened in the movie was watching Ed Norton do a reverse slam dunk on what was obviously a six foot rim to win a pick up game against a bunch of athletic black men. And here I thought Woody Harrelson's performance in White Men Can't Jump couldn't be beaten.

Well Horrible Bosses doesn't fit this temporary classic category at all; the only memorable thing from that movie was Jennifer Aniston's unbelievable hot body and her equally hot and dirty mouth. But for whatever reason Hollywood thought it would be a great idea to make a sequel to this forgettable comedy and basically forced me to see it by only releasing another useless sequel in Penguins of Madagascar. I should've gone to see the penguins.

In part 2, Nick, Kurt, and Dale are all back and they have decided to become their own bosses by inventing a game changer in the bathroom scene with the Shower Buddy; an all in one shower head that will save you tons of time in the morning. But it's obvious that they have no clue what their doing as they get screwed in their first big deal with a mega distributor which is headed by the evil Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz). So naturally the only way they know how to get back at him is to commit a crime but instead of murder, they try their hand at kidnapping his douchebag son Rex (Chris Pine). But as you can imagine all sorts of "hilarious" things go wrong and they are left scrambling trying to make things right again.

As you can imagine this movie is chock full of recycled jokes from the first one and Charlie Day's high pitched squealing seems to reach frequencies that can only be matched by Matt Bellamy(Muse's lead singer) voice when singing "I'm gonna WIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIN!!!!".

But you have to expect that going into the movie, what's sad is that 90% of the new jokes they implement all fall flat. There's even a tired reference to Fight Club at one point, maybe they watched History X before making this movie too. Poor Christoph Waltz almost seemed ashamed at times to be a part of this fiasco.

I will say that Jamie Foxx was hilarious in every scene he was in and Jennifer Aniston is still the only reason to see this movie. Years of smoking and the natural aging process is starting to take it's toll on her but having a great make-up artist can make all the difference in the world.

In the end, I did wind up laughing more than I thought I would, it's just that the jokes that bomb are really, really bad. I rate this movie as WEAK and suggest you watch it at home.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The MaddAddam Trilogy - By Margaret Atwood

The MaddAddam Trilogy consists of three separate novels done over the course of a decade by the world famous Canadian author Margaret Atwood of The Handmaid’s Tale fame. It’s kind of metal.
I heard about it through twitter when it was announced that HBO and Darren Aronofsky of the recent Noah film and the classic 90’s drug epic Requiem For a Dream had signed an agreement for a new show inspired by and adapted from the trilogy. Immediately I had to get up on this.
As you can imagine it did not let me down and I was able to burn through all three books in about two weeks. I have high hopes of course for the show as this material is insanely rich.

Think Walking Dead mixed with Bladerunner and a dash of Splice and you’ll have some idea of how badass this is. Plus she deftly serves helping after helping of thick satire and parody; not only for feminism, sexism, politics, and environmentalism, but through a deep and painful commentary on the human condition she pokes fun at our modern society and its obsessions. It cuts like a knife. I really hope HBO doesn’t fuck this up.

All three novels take place in a future that is clearly a direct fictionalized trajectory of our modern world 50 or so years from now. It is not precisely dated but it’s obvious with 20th century references and technological advances in transportation, weaponry, and genetic research being clearly depicted as common place.

The world’s population is divided into plebes and an elite working class (irony). The elites live in corporate compounds that have their own security forces and are completely self-contained and typically highly luxurious. These highly guarded and militarized compounds are the entire sociocultural reality for the corporate workers and their families and include homes, amenities, schools, transportation, restaurants etc.
The plebes live in the “plebelands” which is basically everywhere else that’s both live able and that’s not a corporate compound. Primarily these are Northern east coast and Midwest regions as most of the west coast is underwater and the south is scorched from global warming.

Most industry is driven by genetic science that works to prolong life, splice animals for products and food, and enhance the power of the corporations over the populace. As a result there are strange splices like Pigoons (human and pig), Rakunks (raccoon and skunk), and Wolvogs (wolves that look like domestic dogs). These have various uses like organ harvesting (Pigoons), and defense (cute wolvogs that act like feral wolves). Most of the combinations are hilarious, and at the same time disgustingly realistic.

Generally speaking this is a post-apocalyptic story that jumps around from before, during, and after what comes to be known as the Waterless Flood. By using flashbacks and interrelated character arcs we learn across the three novels how each character effected and experienced the pandemic that has destroyed most of humanity.

The first book is called Oryx and Crake and tells the story of Jimmy (Snowman the Jimmy) as he rummages around the aftermath of the collapse of civilization. His only companions are a strange naked genetically engineered people known as “Crakers” who are non-violent and have been engineered to replace Homo sapiens. They are so very funny and childlike, as the novels roll on that you are at once reviled by them and rooting for them.

Opening post “flood” with Jimmy naked and destitute trying to forage for booze, you learn that humanity is completely destroyed
by a virus created and unleashed by Crake that leaves Jimmy as the only person alive besides the “Crakers” or “Children of Crake. Jimmy has become a “god” to them and he loyally (but somewhat schizophrenically) creates a mythology for them to frame their “innocent” reality tunnel. All for a bit of fish.

He fights for survival to find food and weaponry and the novel ends with us discovering other people have survived.

The second book is called The Year of the Flood and centers on the recollections of key members of the cult called God’s Gardeners. This cult is simply nature based and eats no meat – relying upon old world survival knowledge of herbs and honey cultivation. They live an acetic life and learn combat and survival techniques as life in the plebelands is dangerous and crime ridden.

We learn that Crake was an evil genius that worked the Gardeners to learn more about his father’s death which ultimately resulted in his nihilism and his release of the pandemic known as the “waterless flood.” This group survives the pandemic and is found by Snowman the Jimmy and meets the Crakers.

In the last and final book titled MaddAddam (an obvious palindrome on the name Adam) it becomes clear why the God’s Gardeners held their anarchist philosophy and also how they knew of the coming of the flood.

The characters are so endearing that by the end they seem real. The pacing is touchy and a little academic for some tastes, but it can’t be denied that Atwood is at the top of her game and that the issues she’s raising are luridly strong stuff even for the modern stomach.

I’d definitely give this one a Fresh and we’ll see what HBO can do with it.

Matt Cowart

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

My friend keeps telling me that I should never see the private photos of Jennifer Lawrence that were leaked on the internet a few months ago. He said that he raced to his computer to see them for himself and once he did, he realized that they were far more graphic than he anticipated. Now she's forever ruined in his eyes because he can never get that image out of his head. Well I immediately let him know that the description of what he told me he saw on his computer was already planted in my head from the very first time I saw her on screen. As a matter of fact, every time I see Jennifer Lawrence anywhere, I always run through a gambit of scenarios where that image winds up being the final result! This explains why I go see young adult movies like The Hunger Games on opening weekend; it's certainly not because of the cheesy love triangle, although that may or may not have been a scenario in my head to.

They really should run a "last week on the Hunger Games" intro before each one of these movies because I never remember a darn thing from the previous movie. It's just like all of those Harry Potter movies that came out, sure they were fun but they contained nothing of true substance that sticks with you, so you immediately forget everything you just witnessed in the theater the second you walk out. Heck, my buddy actually read the books and he feels the same way.

But this movie apparently picks up right where it's predecessor left off and now Katniss is with the resistance. She is struggling with the fact that she survived the last games and that she had to leave Peeta and a few of their friends behind to do so. The rebel leaders are trying to convince her to be the face of the resistance but she is hesitant given the fact that she feels she let her friends down. But after the leaders show her how the Capitol destroyed her home district, she eventually agrees and a full on revolution is about to take place.

And that's it. For two hours an MTV camera crew follows her around as she looks at rubble and random sick people as she goes from district to district and they film her as she says fresh things like "fire is catching!" There are very few battle scenes, which is odd for a movie about a revolution but there is one cool Call of Duty esque scene where a rescue mission enters the capitol during a blackout.

Outside of that, the only other event that inspired any action was when Katniss started singing what sounded like a Tracy Chapman cover, some song about a hanging tree. I would have preferred some Rick Ross or maybe Bow Down by Westside Connection; now that would've gotten me pumped up to go bomb some fools!

Also, when Julianne Moore was given one of her many awkward motivational speeches, they really should have ended with a rave/orgy scene like in The Matrix Reloaded. All they needed to do was replace Moore with Shaq and have him yell "Can you dig it!" over and over again. My buddy suggested that if they did that, then Kobe would also have to be President Snow.

The point is, this movie really shouldn't have been this long. They could have easily condensed it to 45 minutes and made the Mockingjay one long movie but we all know that they broke it up to make more money.

So be like me and the rest of the idiots out there and go see it; if for nothing else to hear the Chapman cover song. Believe it or not I actually liked the movie and I rate it as FRESH.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dumb and Dumber To

It's really funny to see how far Jeff Daniels has come since making Dumb and Dumber 20 years ago. And it's equally just as funny to see how Jim Carrey is basically doing the same stuff that he did 20 years ago once he failed at his attempt to become the new Tom Hanks and cross over into serious Oscar winning roles. Honestly, after watching Daniels spit out Aaron Sorkin dialogue with machine gun like precision in The Newsroom and then one hour later seeing him portray one of the dumbest people to ever grace this Earth, it's amazing to me that he's never won an Oscar. It's like watching Denise Richards play the role of rocket scientist Dr. Christmas Jones but actually being good at it! But really it didn't matter to me whether or not she was good in The World Is Not Enough or TWINE as we call it, because it was all worth it to hear James Bond say at the end while having sex with her "I thought Christmas only came once a year." It's nearly impossible for that one to ever be topped.

Usually when it takes 20 years to make a sequel to a comedy, you get something that's historically awful like Anchorman 2. It's either just recycled jokes that fall completely flat or they go so far to the left that you wonder if they ever woke up from their drug induced writing session that inspired the sequel in the first place. But thankfully the Farrelly brothers actually put forth a decent effort in making a quality sequel in Dumb and Dumber To.

The plot is just like the first movie in that it's not very complicated; after realizing that his friend Lloyd has been fooling him for 20 years by pretending to be in a catatonic state, the two set off on a mission to find Harry's long lost daughter. Harry needs to find her so that he can find a compatible kidney donor to save his life and Lloyd wants to find her because he instantly falls in love with her after seeing her photo.

Now to Lloyd's credit she is unbelievably hot and she's just as dumb as they are, so it feels like a perfect fit. So the two take off across the country to reach her and they get into the normal antics you would expect from this type of a movie. There are fart jokes, pranks that go a little too far, and of course the obligatory gross out scene that usually accompanies a Farrelly movie. I haven't laughed so hard that I've cried while watching a movie in quite some time but that actually happened twice in Dumber To.

The humor is so unbelievably stupid that you can't help but laugh out loud. The movie nerd in me was yelling and wanted me to be every bit of the snob I've become but I couldn't help myself, this movie was funny. Now the humor isn't intellectual by any means and it's not as funny as the first but I have to admit that I was entertained.

I rate this movie as FRESH!