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!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Raury and Lower

After my experience with We Were Promised Jetpacks this past Tuesday, I've learned that I have to be careful when it comes to giving scrubs props in public; scrubs should be constantly reminded that they are just that, scrubs. Don't get me wrong, I actually like a few Jetpacks songs and their new album shows that they can actually make good music that's not poppy. In fact I like their new album more than their first one but it's not like it's hard to recreate their sound live; it's still basically the same three chords over and over again.

Anyway, at the after party my drunk friend was about to lose her mind because she had the opportunity to get a pic with the band. I had no desire to meet them but I was a weird Miller High Life drunk at the time and this cute girl kept bugging me to run up and get in the pic too. After about 5 minutes of back and forth with this girl, I finally caved in and ran up to get in the pic but when they saw that a dude was getting in on the photo, they immediately dispersed without even acknowledging my presence. Eaaaaaaasy scrubs! Let's not forget that your lead singer is fat and that you are from a country that England basically boned in Braveheart.

The point is, it's tough for me to give an 18 year old from Atlanta any props at this point in my life but he does look and feel like he's going to be the next Pharrell. His space age and dreamy Woodcrest Manor piques your interest a bit as you instantly realize that something's different about this scrawny little kid from the dirty south, and this track alone separates him from the other 300,000 high school kids that are out there with mix tapes. God's Whisper shows that he's basically a poet speaking and singing over non traditional hip hop beats, some of which have a rock feel to them. The opening track on his mixtape Indigo Child will get your Saturday night started right as War Pt. 1 is a pretty on point jam. And his What Goes Up reminds you of Kanye's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which is saying a mouthful. I rate this kid as FRESH and suggest that you check him out.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlCGwLMPT7g

Next up is Lower, a band from Denmark that sounds like early dysfunctional punk. Does it come any other way? Some of their songs like Lost Weight, Perfect Skin sound heavily influenced by the 80's; think early and not that good Cure. It's like Television recruited the lead singer from The Stone Roses and formed a band. But then they have songs like Pictures of Passion and Escape that are closer to modern hard core punk; songs that make you want to punch a hole in the wall because your mom brought home Twizzlers when you asked for Starburst. I prefer this style to their brief dabbling in emo punk but I respect them both and I rate these guys as FRESH.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5m1pfZivl8

Monday, November 10, 2014

Big Hero 6

Here is what I learned from going to see Big Hero 6 in the theater last night; I learned that really cute women go to see these movies by themselves and I'm not just talking the soccer moms either! I walked in and saw a cute Anne Hathaway look alike just sitting in the theater by herself with this huge grin on her face because she was so excited for what she was about to see. How did I not know that this was a thing before now??? I could've already been re-enacting scenes from Rachel Getting Married; and if you have seen that movie then you know exactly what I'm talking about! I guess when it comes to cartoons I typically only see Pixar movies in the theater, so I still had this negative connotation of screaming children and overweight moms guzzling down 40 ounces of Mr. Pibb right next to me and ruining any chance I had of enjoying the film. But I of all people should know that Austin is a very, very different place.

So after walking in and seeing this, I had already considered this movie viewing experience a success but was hoping for a cherry on top once the film actually got started. Big Hero 6 is the latest movie adaptation of a Marvel comic and it takes place in San Fransokyo; this explains the white looking Asian kid that's our protagonist in the story, Hiro. Hiro is a young teenage genius who has already graduated from high school but spends most of his time hustling gamblers at the local underground robot battles. His brother Tadashi is tired of seeing him waste his potential so he takes him to his school to introduce him to his nerdy friends and to show him the lab where they work in hopes that it will inspire him to use his mind for something productive. Well his plan works and Hiro finds himself especially drawn to his brother's invention Baymax; a giant white, inflatable, and huggable robot that is designed to be a personal healthcare provider for anyone who needs it.

Drawing from his newfound inspiration, Hiro immediately gets to work on an idea of his own so that he can enter it into the school's competition and hopefully earn himself entry into the university. But what he doesn't realize is that what he invents is so revolutionary that everyone will want to get their hands on it and will do so at any cost. It's here where the story picks a bit because something awful happens as a result of what he created and he decides to upgrade Baymax and his new friends' inventions to help bring the culprit to justice.

This movie felt like a cross between Val Kilmer's Real Genius and Pixar's The Incredibles. It has more than enough to keep the kids entertained as everything Baymax says and does is hilarious. Plus you can just look at him for the entire 90 minutes and never get tired of it; he's just that cute of a character. He brings the same lovable qualities that Wall-E brought to the screen except he learns karate and can actually form complete sentences.

And there are a ton of cool action scenes to help keep the older people entertained too. Once Hiro and his friends get in their superhero suits and do what comes natural to them, it feels like you're watching a live action Marvel movie at that point because most of those action scenes are nothing but CGI themselves. One of my personal highlights from Hero was the car chase scene that was clearly inspired by the Marky Mark version of the Italian Job; it involved the evil villain rocking a cool mask and what appeared to be a Rav 4 mini car. You'll just have to experience it for yourself.

I have to say that I was thoroughly entertained and will definitely buy this movie once it leaves the theaters. I rate it as very FRESH and suggest that you pop in.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Interstellar

We all know that Anne Hathaway has come a long way since getting herself sexed into a gang in the movie Havoc but why is it that only female directors and You Won't Like Me When I'm Ang Lee can convince her to get topless in a movie? Is she waiting until she's 35 and no longer getting offered qualities roles before she does so again? Does she visualize Meryl Streep clotheslining her with a Gucci bag every time she gets undressed? And was this the first thing on my mind when I went to see the movie Interstellar last night? Well the answer to the last one is no! But the first time I saw her wearing a turtle neck covering up those wonderful assets it completely took me out of the movie and I all of a sudden found myself in an uncontrollable rage; thankfully though it wasn't long after this that Christopher Nolan mercifully put Jessica Chastain on the screen and that helped calm me back down a bit. 

I will say that from a technical standpoint this movie looks and sounds amazing as quite a bit of it was shot on 70mm film; and at this point you should expect nothing less from Nolan. But what sets this film apart from his previous work is that pretty much everything you have ever heard of or studied in Astronomy or Physic class is on display in this film. I'm not saying that it's all accurate, I'm just saying that you get unique visuals and experiences with theories and both natural and unnatural phenomena like you never have before.

The first act of the movie seems a little rushed or a bit over edited as scientist and ex pilot Cooper (McConaughey), with the help of his young daughter Murphy, stumble upon a secret NASA station in the middle of nowhereville USA. It is here that he is instantly recruited to lead a crew of astronauts on a mission to find a planet that can sustain human life as this one (Earth) has turned on its own inhabitants and is slowly taking away our ability to grow food and have breathable air. It is through the use of a wormhole that has randomly appeared next to Saturn that they plan to get to another galaxy and hopefully return so they can transport humanity to their new home.

Once the second act kicks in and Nolan does his customary split action sequences where multiple story lines run parallel with one another and seemingly climax together, you begin to worry if this is simply a mashing of Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity and Danny Boyle's Sunshine as some of the action scenes seem to be completely inspired by these films.

It's not until the third and final act starts that you finally see Nolan make his unique and rather daunting footprint on the genre that is the science fiction action film. I won't sit here and say that what he presents on screen has never been done before in the land of Sci-Fi but I will say that I have never seen it done on this kind of a scale before. I give him major props for bringing some of my astronomical daydreams to life and for allowing me to see on a 100 foot screen something that I never thought I would see visually outside of my own head; and to be honest, quite a few things I would have never come up with on my own as well.

Nolan continues to put the rest of Hollywood on notice that he is here make both intelligent and entertaining cinema that doesn't rely on either reboots or re-imaginations to do so. And I'd be remiss if I didn't give a nod to the actors in this film for being able to draw from humanity's most basic and visceral emotions to get us to find a connection with them in this distant world. You see yourself coming to the same decisions and making the same mistakes they do as they struggle to survive.

I rate this movie as unbelievably FRESH!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Nightcrawler

If you have never seen Tina Fey's brilliant show 30 Rock, do yourself a favor, stop reading this, and immediately start streaming it now. Go straight to the season where she dates Jon Hamm, this good looking doctor who can seemingly do anything. At first everything seems perfect as he is the charming, successful, and perfect boyfriend but then one day she realizes that he has absolutely no clue what he's doing or saying. He's terrible at being a doctor, he can't play tennis to save his life, and he might actually kill himself on his new motorcycle. But no one has the heart to tell him these things because he's so dreamy.

Well for the longest time I thought this same principle applied to Jake Gyllenhaal, a nice looking dude who was in a few cool movies but in reality he just played himself over and over again and no one had the heart to tell him. That was until I saw Prisoners and now Nightcrawler; with these two performances alone he has completely changed my view of him.

In Nightcrawler he plays Louis Bloom, a driven and seemingly desperate man who you are given absolutely no background information on. You immediately see him stealing copper, watches, and bikes just to get by; so you already kind of have a feel for what kind of person you are dealing with. One night while he is on his way back to his hole in the wall apartment he notices a fiery car wreck and a small camera crew filming it. The camera crew seems a little too close to the action but he can tell from the reaction of the police officers and the injured people in the wreck that this is no movie. He finds out that the crew filming the wreckage calls themselves nightcrawlers and that they sell this bloody footage to local networks for money.

It's at this point Bloom decides that this profession is perfect for him because he is a fast learner and it's relatively cheap to get into. So he buys himself a camcorder and a police scanner and sets off chasing whatever police calls sound like they are emergencies. After a few missteps he finally gets the hang of it and eventually becomes successful as he forms a relationship with a local news producer in Nina (Rene Russo).

What you eventually pick up on is the fact that Bloom doesn't value humans or human life at all, he merely sees them as currency for transactions; and this explains his oddball behavior to a point. He is almost Rain Man like in how he gathers knowledge and immediately uses it as leverage over others. And Gyllenhaal does an amazing job of using voice inflections, mannerisms, and awkward facial expressions to show just how detached from humanity Bloom is.

Dan Gilroy (writer/director and brother of Michael Clayton's Tony Gilroy) has come a long way since his days of Freejack and Two For the Money and you can tell that he has little to no respect for nightcrawlers as they show little to no respect for the victims in the movie. All they care about is getting a bloody shot of people on the worst day of their lives so they can profit from it. He creates a dark world that reminiscent of the Wire's 5th season where lines are blurred between reporting the news and actually creating it. You are amazed at some of the lengths Bloom goes to to get what he wants. He is basically the modern day version of There Will Be Bloods' Daniel Plainview.

This is an original and audacious take on this part of news reporting and I have to say that I was thoroughly entertained. I rate this movie as FRESH!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Recently I was invited to a random house party by these old dudes and their conspicuously young girlfriends, whose scent of last year's stripper perfume was still on them by the way, when they saw me walking down the street with an eighteen pack of the Silver Bullet. During one our many animated discussions, the home owner asked what I did for a living and I told him that I write music and movie reviews online; this led to a long blank stare and a reply from him of "Shit! Well I work for a living." Well said sir, well said.

And this is exactly the same struggle Riggan (Michael Keaton) is going through as he is trying to gain respect on Broadway with his adaptation of Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Riggan's life is strikingly similar to that of Keaton's as he used to be the character Birdman; a comic book superhero whose franchise raked in hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide. He turned down the option to be in the uninspired sequels of this movie and in doing so he essentially contributed to the demise of his own career. So now all he's left with is a divorce, a daughter whose fresh out of rehab due to the fact that he was never home, and the reality that he is soon going to be a forgotten afterthought in regards to significance within the acting community. He sees this play as his last chance to remain relevant and at the same time do something that's creative and really matters in his profession.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (AGI) makes what turns out to be a gripping and ambitious film as the entire story is shot in what appears to be a single shot format (it's not btw) where one camera is used to follow all of the characters around as they try and take on the challenges of putting together a successful Broadway play. You are taken through the ups and downs of having to replace an awful actor right before their first preview showing because he was hit in the head with a stage light; and you also experience the actors dealing with their own insecurities as they are about to live out their life's dream of being on Broadway while at the same time dealing with a myriad of issues which include on set romances, cynical critics, and just jackassery in general from people associated with the play.

Keaton does an excellent job as he shows you a range and a side of him that you've never really seen before. He came close at times when he played Bruce Wayne but when playing a super hero's alter ego you are really strapped as an actor, especially when it's in Tim Burton's cartoonish and surprisingly dated Batman. I still love that movie by the way "You wanna get nuts?!?! Come on, let's get nuts!!!" But in this movie he's almost morose as he is clearly on his last leg and trying desperately to hold everything together while it seems like everything that can go wrong is going wrong. He is constantly fighting the voice in his head that is telling him to give up and go back to making Birdman movies, and at times you are not sure what's real and what's fantasy as he sometimes allows himself to escape and enter the world of Birdman.

And I have to give Inarritu credit for giving Keaton some pretty iconic scenes, one of which includes him frantically running through Times Square in his tidy whities while people are giving him props because of who he is. I also have to give Inarritu a nod for making Birdman's voice sound exactly like Christian Bale's voice when he played the caped crusader; a kind of tongue in cheek jab at Keaton's replacement in that franchise.

Ed Norton almost steals every scene he's in as he represents the stage communities negative view towards Hollywood actors trying to make it on the stage. They see themselves as the real actors and the only ones who can truly bring art to the crowds.

In the end this movie is funny, entertaining, and depressing all at once, and any movie that can make me feel that many emotions in a two hour period definitely gets a rating of very FRESH!

Friday, October 24, 2014

John Wick

Even though my buddy won't admit it publicly, I know for a fact that deep down inside he really wants to be Keanu Reeves. And I don't mean Neo or even Johnny Utah Keanu, I mean he wants to be the real Keanu; a guy who's really not that great at his job but still gets a lot of money and love for doing it anyway. All he would have to do in his free time is be a bit of a recluse, learn how to surf, and play guitar in a terrible band named Dogstar. This actually sounds kind of money now that I'm typing it out. But I won't give him too hard of a time for this because there was a time when I wanted to be Scott Weiland of the Stone Temple Pilots. Yes I know he's white and on heroin but dude can sing and dance like a madman! I even came close to dying my hair blond once but then Sisqo all of a sudden became popular and that immediately killed that idea.

The point of all of this is that my buddy gets just a little too excited when Keanu comes out with a new movie; we were talking about John Wick for a full two months before it was released and there were amazing movies like Gone Girl, Fury, and The Equalizer that were all coming out before it hit the theaters. At first all I was expecting was a glorified B movie at best but then I started seeing all this buzz about it and my expectations started to soar. Well as my friend Larry David would say, curb your enthusiasm sir, curb your enthusiasm (yes, yes even I hated that joke).

Wick is basically an ultra-violent version of Dude! Where's My Car?. Wick is played by Keanu and the film opens up with him mourning the death of his wife. He apparently retired from the hitman game to enjoy his life with her but not long into their marriage she gets sick and dies of a disease that they don't really give you many details about. To help him cope with her death, his wife gives him one final gift in the form of a cute little puppy so that he will still have something to love in this world besides his badass car. The puppy grows on Wick and he finds himself immediately attached to it but one day as he is on his way to get food for the dog, he runs into these Russian gangsters, led by Iosef Tarasov (Game of Thrones' Alfie Allen). Iosef decides that he likes Wick's car and invades his home later that night to take it. In the process he and his gang rough up Wick and kill his dog. Obviously Wick doesn't take kindly to this and he decides to temporarily get back in the game to get revenge.

I have no problem with simplicity of the story because it reminded me of all the old school kung fu flicks that I used to watch as a drunken post college grad; "you killed my father, prepare to die!"; oh wait, that's Princess Bride. But still, that's all action flicks really needed back in the day, a simple reason for the protagonist to get revenge so they can go out and wreck shop on a bunch of scrubs; and that's exactly what Keanu does in this movie. I actually think he was just sitting around bored and was looking for an excuse to shoot people in the head because 90% of the deaths that occur are from his beating them senseless right before putting a bullet in their head. Actually the best death scene in the movie comes from him pulling a Russian gangster by his beard as he puts two, not one, but two bullets in his dome. I'm ashamed to say that that scene had me laughing out loud in the theater.

There were also a few additional nuggets on freshness that included a hotel for hitmen, a pseudo Staying Alive intro for Keanu as he enters a club to kill bad guys, and a pretty tight little clean up crew that looks like it was led by the dad from Frasier. But what was easily the freshest moment of the movie belonged to the terrible song they played right before each action scene which sounded like indie Nu-metal and had some clown singing "We got guns! We got guns! We only shoot strangers not the ones we love!" It's so awful that you can't help but love it.

What's not fresh is the fact that after all the time they spend building up how much of a badass Wick is, he kind of gets punked a lot in this movie. Outside of shooting people in the head, he doesn't really do anything all that fresh, and when you have a plot this simple you better make up for it with some over the top action scenes with your hero spouting out awesome one liners. "Yeah, well I'm taller!" Also, why include an awesome Russian bathhouse VIP club scene and have all of the girls wearing tops? We all know that in Mother Russia prostitutes don't even wear tops to their weddings, so there's no way in the world they'd wear them to entertain Russian mob bosses in a pool.

I liked this movie but didn't love it. In the end I got exactly what I expected from the outset, and that's a fairly entertaining B movie. I rate this movie as barely FRESH.