Friday, February 5, 2016

Hail, Caesar!

As I stood in line playing on my phone and waiting for my popcorn, the pungent smell of marijuana began to overwhelm me. So I eventually looked up and noticed that there were about 10 college students in front of me who were shamelessly negotiating for free ice to go along with the water they had sneaked into the theater. This of course took me back to my days in college when I would "borrow" change from my roommate's dresser so I could hit up the $1 menu at Burger King on a Sunday night. That was the one night of the week the dorm didn't feed poor freshman like me, so we all had to go off and fend for ourselves with the hopes that the cute upperclassmen didn't notice us paying for our food in nickels. So needless to say, I felt sorry for those poor kids while simultaneously making sure none of the theater's employees noticed the candy that I myself had sneaked in in my jacket pocket.

Now having said all that, this Dazed and Confused moment also took me back to my first experience with Jonah Hill when he apologized for the fact that the Coen brothers didn't direct the porn he liked to watch in Superbad. Well I guess the Coens saw and liked that movie too as they eventually broke down and threw Hill a bone when they cast him in their latest comedy Hail, Caesar! For decades this talented duo has proven that they are smarter than pretty much anyone else in Hollywood by consistently writing and directing films that are full of rich nods to ancient times or Greek mythology. And while Caesar isn't one of their denser stories, it certainly does provide you your Coen brother fix.

In Caesar, you are introduced to Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), he is Capitol Studios' problem fixer as he keeps things running smoothly between the actors, the producers, the directors, and even the media. And you can tell early on that his hands are full when you see the cast of characters he has to deal with on a daily basis. There is the talented but egocentric Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), the beautiful and promiscuous DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), and the adorable but simple Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) just to name a few.

Well one day while filming the studios' blockbuster picture Hail, Caesar, a group of Communists decide to kidnap Baird, the film's star. So Eddie must find the group and Baird before word gets out in the media and the film is forced to shut down, costing the studio millions.

Along the way you get the usual Coen brother kookiness with their random assortment of odd characters and complicated theories. But you also get a trip down memory lane as they take you back to how films were made in the 50's and how Hollywood manipulated the media during that time period. Actors and director's reputations were protected at all costs and writers were under appreciated for their contributions to the industry (they even give a quick nod to Dalton Trumbo in a fairly critical scene). It's funny seeing how cheesy pictures were back then and it certainly does make you appreciate how far film has come since the days of elaborate dance numbers and singing cowboys. And Tilda Swinton's aka Thom Yorke's performance alone is worth the price of admission as she plays the role of bickering twins who randomly pop up and confuse everyone at some of the film's most tense moments.

Now Caesar won't go down as a Coen brother classic but it will certainly have you laughing out loud quite a bit as I walked out of the theater feeling thoroughly entertained. I rate this movie as FRESH! Duh, it's a Coen brother film, even their porn is outstanding!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Car Seat Headrest, Moses Sumney, and Strange Wilds : Mini SXSW Preview

As I find myself trying harder and harder to remain relevant among people who aren’t already preparing their retirement packages, it’s becoming clearer to me that I only have a few years left in my deceptive youth before teenagers start asking me how old my grandchildren are. Just the other day I tried to introduce the movie Troy to a classroom full of kids by telling them that the girls should at least like it because Brad Pitt was in it, and the response I got was "Who’s Brad Pitt?"

Seriously?!?! How do kids not know who Brad Pitt is? Have they become so saturated by the rash of awful Young Adult movies that the only heroes they know either listen to One Direction or snort cocaine with Taylor Swift on the weekends? Well I feel as though it’s my calling to introduce to these lost children some kids who at least have some semblance of talent, with the hopes that this will one day inspire them to do grow out of their sense of entitlement stage and lead them to develop something truly groundbreaking. Who know, they could come up with something like a time machine that will allow me to go back in time to the 80’s so I can bang a young and pre hippie Lisa Bonet.

So with that in mind, here’s a look at a few new artists to check out. First up is Car Seat Headrest. I first heard about this kid six months ago and I really liked his stuff, but I decided to wait on giving my take on him just so I could make sure I didn’t fall for any fool’s gold. Well after taking some time to digest what I heard, I have to say that my take remains the same. This 22 year old from Virginia could be the next big thing in music. He makes hippie garage rock music, which is normally a bad thing, but in this case actually isn’t. This is Lo-fi rock with some truly introspective lyrics. Thankfully not all of his songs are 14 minutes long but even those that are take you on a wild ride that you’ll never forget (and yes I’m fully aware of how cheesy that sounded). This kid was just confirmed for this year’s SXSW, so pop in on him while you can. I rate him as FRESH!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvZM33nevfU&list=PL7QnZeqb0x2BFuuGty8UDHkXTI8_E6Xz6

Next up is Moses Sumney; he’s a 25 year old who utilizes an acoustic guitar and a loop pedal to bring out his 60’s soul singer stuck in the hipster era sound. It’s a good thing for him though that he is around during this era because his dark, gothic style would have never flown back in the day unless he had Joni Mitchell performing his songs for him. This is space acoustic rock that hints of old school David Bowie in it. I rate him as FRESH!
https://soundcloud.com/mosessumney

Last band for the day is Strange Wilds and simply put, this is post grunge punk music with ripping guitars and screeching vocals; stuff that’s right up my alley. I like them but I know that with their sound they’re only going to reach a limited audience, so I have to give them a rating of barely WEAK.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYpRXK_sHN8

Friday, January 22, 2016

Dirty Grandpa

The only reason why I got off of my couch to go see this movie in the first place was because I was bored out of my mind. I didn’t feel like staying in but I also didn’t feel like drinking either, so I thought that going to see a comedy, even if it did look awful, would be better than me beating off to old Instagram photos of my ex girlfriends. Calm down, calm down, I’m just kidding. There’s no way I do creepy stuff like that…anymore.

Well anyway, after the first ten minutes or so of this movie, I was sorely regretting my decision of not having a drink! The beginning was so unbearable that I felt as though I should’ve sneaked in a couple of 40’s in the theater like I did back in the day when I lived in Dallas. When you go to the theater that’s just passed Harry Hines Blvd, where the women of the night hang out, anything goes. Wow, I’m really not painting a good picture of myself today am I? It wasn’t THAT kind of theater, it just happened to be near that area. But I digress…

The first few scenes involve Jason’s (Zac Efron) cousin Nick whose character the writers tried way too hard to make funny. He supposedly plays the screwed up cousin who has no filter but he instead just comes off as the unfunny moron who’s slowly and painfully taking minutes off of your life. There’s terrible jokes about him being drunk at Jason’s grandmother’s funeral and him bragging about jacking animals off. Now in theory this sounds kind of funny but it just didn’t work in actual practice.

But thankfully Jason’s grandfather Dick (Robert De Niro) finally shows up to save the day. He too at first seems like he’s trying too hard but the second his character meets up with Lenore (Aubrey Plaza) the movie takes off to another level. The chemistry those two have together is unreal as they take turns trading sexual innuendos at a rapid rate; trust me when I say this will make more sense in a second.

Dick somehow convinces his uptight grandson Jason to put aside his wedding planning for a few days so that he can drive him down to Florida for Spring Break. He apparently goes there every year but can’t drive himself this time because his license is suspended. Jason’s equally, if not more, uptight fiancĂ© reluctantly agrees and the two of them are off to a weekend that neither of them will ever forget.

Along the way however, Jason becomes aware of Dick’s real plan for the weekend and that’s to bang as many hot girls as he can before he dies. He of course is grossed out by this but agrees to tag along for a little while longer because he runs into a long time crush of his in Shadia when the two of them run into Dick’s love interest Lenore. The rest of the movie pretty much goes as you would expect it to but every word out of De Niro’s mouth is offensive gold!

He’s been mailing it in for so long now that you almost forget the fact that he is one of the best actors of all time. But once you do remember that, it should come as no surprise to you that when he actually does try, De Niro can be amazing at whatever role he’s cast in. He’s at the height of his comedic powers in this ridiculous and over the top romp but it wasn’t until he was onstage doing karaoke to Ice Cube’s It Was a Good Day that I completely lost my shit! De Niro is the only Italian that can drop the N word and have us all laughing instead of protesting.

Plaza is obviously having a ball in this role as she gets to be as raunchy as she possibly can be in nearly every one of her scenes. And it almost feels as though her lines are completely ad libbed as you essentially see her sifting through an assortment of dirty comebacks in her mind to respond to De Niro’s cheesy but effective pickup lines.

Once you hear how foul this movie is, you understand why the trailer looked so lame; there literally wasn’t any clean dialogue the studio could have used to put on network TV. The last ten minutes of the film are just as brutal as the first ten minutes but thankfully Rafi from The League pops up and keeps things interesting throughout it. So at least you have that to look forward to.

*Just as a note* Rafi appears all throughout this film, so I didn’t give away a spoiler or anything.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this movie and I suggest you check it out. I give it a rating of FRESH!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Anomalisa

As Martin Luther King Jr. Day passed and I refused to take the trash that Hollywood offered me to help me celebrate such a wonderful day with the release of Ride Along 2, I thought back to my days of being caught up in a self-absorbed, repetitive, and mundane life. Now don’t get me wrong, I had a few interests in life, like music and movies, but the majority of my days were centered on this awful job I had at a Fortune 50 company. This was the type of job that brought me a 2 piece fried chicken dinner with a side of red beans and rice for lunch one day because it was MLK Day; I’m black by the way.

Now while I thought they’re racist but genuine attempt to take care of me was more amusing than it was offensive, the mere fact that they were that unbelievably out of touch let me know that it was high time for a serious change in my life. So now, instead of having a ton of money and being able to pay bills, I write movie reviews and fight dogs for their treats at local dog parks when it’s time for dinner.

The point of that depressing story is this, I had zero issues identifying with the lead character Michael Stone in Charlie Kaufman’s latest masterpiece Anomalisa. If you don’t remember who he is, he’s the guy that brought you Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind before almost destroying his career with Synecdoche, New York.

Well in his return to form, Kaufman brings us the story of a man who has lost his love and his passion for pretty much anything in life. This is includes his family, his friends, and basically any form of social interaction with anything that’s not a cigarette or a vodka bottle; and any mention of doing anything exciting is met with total disdain and impatience on his part. Honestly, it feels as though he’s going to throw himself off of a bridge at any given moment given his general mood. That is until he meets the wonderful and compelling Lisa; she is unlike anything he has experienced in years and she slowly begins to awaken his lust for life.

Now so far this sounds like the typical sappy love drama that you would normally see on the Lifetime Network but anyone who knows Kaufman knows that his films are far from ordinary. This film is full of his unique quirkiness as the movie is filmed using stop-animation with 3D-printed face plates to add to the oddity of the story. There is also his typical humor which somehow makes you feel as though you’re in on some random inside joke that no one else gets but at the same time is easily accessible to everyone else. And then of course there’s the uncomfortably graphic but surprisingly necessary puppet sex scene; it’s hilarious and moving at the same time, something only Kaufman can pull off.

I can’t get into it or the fact that everyone but Michael and Lisa have the same voice too much without ruining the film for you but just know that this movie is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. It’s an honest look into what we as humans bring into relationships, our self-absorption, and how hard it is for us to change as we get further along in life.

So in this month that is full of detritus, I suggest you make an effort to go see this intelligent and moving film as it gets a solid rating of FRESH!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Maybe it's better for me that I don't make it big in Hollywood because if I ever did, I would just turn into the black screenwriter version of Michael Bay. I would find every possible excuse to write in a scene for hot flight attendants, curvy waitresses, and busty mechanics! And they would be shirtless in almost every scene they're in, wearing bras of course, in case the studio needed the film to be PG-13. Each scene would filmed in super slow motion as they seductively served you nuts, sausage and eggs, or fixed your tailpipe; and I would write myself in as an extra for almost every one of these magnificent moments. Now tell me you wouldn't pay to see this! Ok so maybe you wouldn't and maybe these shots wouldn't even make the final cut but I'd sure as hell would have a damn good time rehearsing them!

Well in between the shirtless hotties, Bay does provide us with some fairly decent and over the top action. He may turn the cheese factor up to 10 with all of his contrived shots of Americana and his terrible attempts at humor (see the racist cars in Transformers) but you can't deny that his films can be fun to watch from time to time. Now don't get me wrong, I hate all of the forgettable Transformers movies and of course Pearl Harbor, and then Armageddon...well now that I think about it, I don't really like Michael Bay at all. But if you look at Bad Boys and The Rock, he has shown us that he has the ability to make a good movie if he's actually motivated to do so.

Well thankfully for us, 13 Hours is basically a real life version of The Rock as it gives us an inside look into what is supposed to have taken place during the attack on the American Embassy and the secret C.I.A. compound in Libya. The story puts its focus on the former soldiers who were hired to guard the C.I.A. complex and it's agents while they ran their covert operations in the midst of a coup.

You see all of the red tape they have to go through just to get protection for one another and the local people that have been hired to work alongside of them look no different from their enemies as neither of them are wearing uniforms. This plays a huge role later on the film once they come under attack as they have no idea who their friend or their foe is while attempting the save the lives of an American ambassador and his small security team.

Since this is based off of a true story, Bay treats it with as much respect as he possibly can. There are no scenes where he even remotely comes close to glorifying the violence that's taking place and even though you can't help but find yourself rooting for the Americans, you don't really feel good about the deaths of the locals either when they take place. The shoot out scenes are unbelievably intense as gunfire and rockets are seemingly coming from everywhere. And Bay, as he's known to do, spares no expense in regards to the action set pieces.

Now he's still the Bay that we've all grown to know and hate as he includes plenty of scenes where he attempts to add his typical melodrama; and he of course includes needless shots of sweaty, shirtless men who just so happen to be standing in the hot sun. But thankfully the tight action that takes place in it is more prominent than any of the other nonsense I just mentioned, so they wind up sticking with you more than anything else as you leave the theater.

I purposely took an extra day or two to write this review just so I could be sure that I wasn't talking myself into a actually giving Bay a good review. But alas, I have to give credit where credit is due, I give 13 Hours a solid rating of FRESH!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Top Ten Movies of 2015

As we get ready for the award season, who doesn’t like to sit there and argue over all of the crazy top ten lists that come out at the end of the year? I never write this article in December because well, we’re already inundated with countdowns at that point, so there’s no need for me to add yet another one to the pile. You have snooty movie reviewers hemming and hawing over movies that you’ve never heard of because they haven’t even been released in your city at that point (sorry but not everyone lives in NY or LA), you have the best albums or songs of the year lists, and then of course you have my personal favorite, the top ten newcomers in the porn industry list.

I’m just kidding, I don’t watch porn mainly because I can’t afford it and because they never came out with a genre that I can identify with. I mean seriously, where is the movie reviewer threesome porn? I want to see Siskel and Ebert and Betty! Actually, I don’t want to see that but you know what I mean! The only girls I get to see are on a 100 foot screen in a large dark room; and sadly I’m surrounded by other movie nerds who have also never seen a real life girl naked unless they’ve paid money to do so. So forgive me if I’m begging a bit here but just give me some hope Hollywood! But until then, here’s my breakdown of the ten best movies of the 2015 Oscar season.

Honorable mention:

I’ll start with the documentaries as there were three solid ones.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/05/kurt-cobain-montage-of-heck.html

Amy
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/07/amy.html

The Look of Silence
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-look-of-silence.html

And now the movies that didn’t quite make it

Chappie
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/03/chappie.html

Brooklyn
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/12/brooklyn.html

The Big Short
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/12/the-big-short.html

The Martian
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/10/the-martian.html

Spotlight
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/11/spotlight.html

Star Wars
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/12/star-wars-force-awakens.html

Ant Man
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/07/ant-man.html

Creed
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/11/creed.html

Diary of a Teenage Girl
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-diary-ofa-teenage-girl.html

Now I know a few of the films that only made my honorable mention list will probably be nominated for Best Picture by the Academy but they are all old and near their death beds; I take into account entertainment value and rewatchability (and yes I just called that word into existence). So having said that, here’s my top ten:

10. Straight Outta Compton

This movie somehow survived all of the stupid memes that came out around its release date and it also miraculously didn’t start any gun fights in the theaters. Angry Black men shouting Fuck the Police over and over again typically leads to trouble but not in this case. This movie gave you some great insight into one of music’s most influential groups while managing to also be entertaining and funny. This was definitely the surprise of the year.
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/08/straight-outta-compton.html

9. Dope

If Straight Outta Compton was the surprise of the year, then this coming of age story was a close second. Wannabe 90’s hip hop nerds turned drug dealers on bikes made for one the year’s funniest and coolest films. And I have to say that this movie will make you fall in love with pound cake and hot Asian girls on Molly all over again.
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/06/dope.html

8. Goodnight Mommy

This could be wrong but I think the last time the Academy nominated a scary movie for Best Picture it involved Jodi Foster, Hannibal Lecter, and Goodbye Horses. Well if they had any balls that still worked, they would nominate this movie for best pic as this horror flick took me back to the days of Children of the Corn and Misery.
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/09/goodnight-mommy.html

7. Room

Brie Larson is a revelation is this film and her performance alone makes this a must see. And even though the second half of it kind of fizzles, the first hour of the film provides some of the most moving art you will ever see.
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/11/room.html

6. The Hateful Eight

Tarantino, Westerns, and Samuel L. Jackson yelling; what else do you need to know?
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-hateful-eight.html

5. Inside Out

Pixar made a comeback in a major way this year when they gave us a smart, touching, and emotional film that everyone could identify with. For the longest time, this was my number one film of the year; that was until…
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/06/inside-out.html

4. Sicario

I saw this movie. I am a sucker for Emily Blunt, so I will see and pretty much love anything she’s in. But she takes a back seat to one of Hollywood’s best directors Dennis Villanueva. This dark and intense look into the Mexican cartels is one for the ages.
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/10/sicario.html

3. The Revenant

Alejandro G. Inarritu once again gives us an up close look at a man reaching his absolute lowest point in life before finding a new reason to live; and thankfully for us that reason is revenge. He provides us with so many classic scenes in this film that he could retire today and go down as a legend.
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-revenant.html

2. Ex Machina

Easily the best science fiction film I’ve seen in over a decade. Oscar Isaac continues to prove that he’s one of Hollywood’s best and Alicia Vikander will have you willingly abandoning real women for robot sex in a heartbeat!
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/04/ex-machina.html

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

This is the best chase film of all time! Not every movie has to be deep; sometimes they just have to have the ability to make you literally stand up and cheer in the theater. I did that at least five times during this film.
http://onlyfreshness.blogspot.com/2015/05/mad-max-fury-road.html

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Revenant

Even though I am from a small country town in south Texas, I have never really been a fan of camping. And to be perfectly honest with you, unless you’re from a tiny tribe in the jungles of Africa, camping really isn’t that big of a thing for Black people as a whole; we just don’t want to deal with all of the bugs and the possibility of running into toothless rednecks who think that the Civil War is still going on.

I do however remember that I once attempted to give it a shot back when I was in college, but just as I had always imagined it would be, that wound up being a near death experience for me. We had to go off-roading to reach our final destination and the drunk idiot who was driving us in his jeep decided that it would be a good idea for us to do so at the cautious speed of 60 mph. Well as you can imagine that made for a rather bumpy ride; so much so in fact, that I took one bump the wrong way and wound up hitting my head rather hard on the metal bar that went across the top of the vehicle. The next thing I know, I wake up next to a fire and I’m performing some horrible freestyle rap about Tupac in front of 10-15 white frat boys who were feeling it just a little too much.

And ever since that moment, the closest I’ll come to camping these days is the yuppie version of it called Glamping. Give me a cushy bed, a portable fan, and a random encounter with a cute hipster chick and I’m all in! Other than that, you can keep the snakes, the hours it takes to put up a tent, and the horrible homages to 90’s gangster rap!

Well after seeing The Revenant, I think that even Glamping may be out for me at this point. I have no desire to run into greedy fur traders, shady Frenchmen, blood thirsty Indians, or any angry momma Grizzly bears as I try and experience nature. And sadly in this film, that’s just a small sample size of the many obstacles Leonardo DiCaprio has to overcome once he undertakes his journey to get revenge on the man who killed his son and left him for dead in the wilderness.

Director Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu is a master at showing how humans reach their absolute lowest point in their lives just before they are able to find a new reason to continue on and somehow make things right. He did so in the wonderful Sci-Fi film Children of Men with Clive Owen and he subtly (at least according to the majority of movie goers out there) did the same with Sandra Bullock in Gravity.

The opening scenes of Revenant immediately grab you and pull you in as you see the hunting expedition that Leo and his son are guiding come under the attack of a local Indian tribe. For nearly 15 minutes you see a brutal battle scene that rivals what Steven Spielberg did on the beaches of Normandy in Saving Private Ryan. Blood, arrows, and gun powder are literally flying everywhere as you barely have an opportunity to keep up with all of the carnage. And Inarritu, with his filming approach, feeds it to you in a manner that makes you feel as though are really a part of the action and that you are also running for your life with the desperate and ambushed fur traders.

And just when you think have a few moments to catch your breath, there’s the infamous scene of Leo getting mauled by a grizzly bear. This was more than just some cheesy CGI gimmick, this was an unrelenting and savage attack that felt as though it was never going to end; yet another reason why you won’t ever see me camping. Now you must keep in mind that these two expertly crafted scenes take place within the first 30 minutes of the film. And that most directors would be more than happy to blow their entire load producing these memorable moments while leaving you with nothing more than awful filler for the next 90 minutes or so; but not Inarritu. There are so many scenes in this film that will stick with me forever that I felt almost overwhelmed at times.

Now most people who see this movie will complain that the second act moves way too slowly for them as he does take his sweet time in showing everything that Leo has to overcome to properly recover and work his way back to Tom Hardy. But I found this method of storytelling to be rather refreshing. Far too often producers and directors alike get into too much of a rush to get to the film’s climatic scene and the end result feels more like you’re watching a WWE wrestling match where the wrestlers make a miraculous recovery and come away with a win than anything else. And I don’t know about you, but professional wrestling sucks to me and I have no desire to see it on screen.

But when it all comes down to it, this film is all about Leo’s career changing performance. I know that he is already an A-lister and that he is well respected in Hollywood but this performance will catapult him to the actor of our generation status. He barely has any speaking lines in this film but his interactions with the film’s other costar, mother nature, is certainly one for the ages.

I rate this film as unbelievably FRESH and I suggest that you pop in.