Friday, April 18, 2014

Draft Day

After seeing the 2 hour drunken punch in the face otherwise known as Nymphomaniac Vol 1, I was in desperate need for a mindless palate cleanser like Draft Day. I say drunken punch in the face because even though it more than likely hurt to take it, you know that it was a fun night if alcohol was involved and it led to a bar fight of some kind! So yes, while it hurt to watch, I rather enjoyed Nymphomaniac. But after all bar fights, you need something to help with the hangover the next day and that's where Kevin Costner's latest attempt to help him pay his property taxes comes into play. Let's be real, the sole reason Costner and Harrison Ford are even making movies anymore is so they can keep their young starlet trophies happy! At least Costner's movies have been somewhat entertaining with him starring in Superman and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. And I have to give him props, he must be the product of a slave owner attacking his female slave back in the day, because that is the only logical answer for him aging like he's a black man! Did you know that he's 59 years old??? He still looks like his Wyatt Earp character from the 90's!

Speaking of the 90's...didn't they already make this movie in that decade? I've already seen Jerry Maguire and it had a cute kid, a crazy Cuba, an even crazier Cruise, and a pre nasally Renee Zellwegger in it! But I guess the studio execs thought that it was high time for a reboot of sorts. The difference between Maguire and Draft Day is, back in the 90's we didn't quite have an all access look into everything sports like we do now. So some of the story lines that took place in Maguire were believable to us at the time. But now that we have an ESPN 30 for 30 for every possible sports story there is, we know that it is completely implausible for a NFL GM to have time to jungle the issues he's having with his pregnant girlfriend, his over bearing mother, as well as his pouty and meddling new coach, and then still have time left over to handle trades on the day of the draft! We all know that on that day they are too busy snorting coke in between watching game film and sending off texts!

But Ivan Reitman wants us to believe that Costner can handle all of this while also dealing with a city that hates him because the team perpetually sucks and because he has fired his dad; a legendary coach there. Oh and he also fields calls directly from a few draft prospects which include a good but troubled kid who is the son of a local favorite, a hard working linebacker that no one fully believes to be a star but Costner, and the Heisman trophy winner that everyone loves but Costner.

So he has to try and figure out what's the best move for him to make after making one of the worst trades in sports history. And that's the issue with this movie; with football being as popular as it is today, even my mom would laugh at some of the stuff that happens in this film. They may as well have made the Stay Puft Marshmallow man the league commissioner and had him hand out the jerseys to the draft picks as they came on stage.

I'll say that once they actually get to the draft and the intensity that surrounds it, the movie finally becomes a bit entertaining. And it was cool how they had flyovers of each city and stadium as they introduced each team and their GM; but that was mainly because I'm a sports geek.

I say this movie is perfect for the 20 women on the planet that have yet to actually come around and like football; oh and the French. But for the rest of us, I say pass (heh) on this and kick (heh heh) anyone in the head that suggests it. I give it a rating of WEAK.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1

I think the simple fact that the very first thing I did when I got back into town was drag a cute girl with me to see a movie called Nymphomaniac, even though I hadn't slept or showered in 48 hours, makes me a pervert! Is this is a porn that we saw together in an adult theater? No. It's an art house movie made by one of the industry's most frustrating directors in Lars von Trier. I say he is frustrating because you can see that he has talent but he always feels the need to go way too far with his over stylized artistic expression in his films. So much so that you are completely taken out of the moment and you are left either shaking your head in disbelief or you simply stop watching out of disgust. The good thing about Nymphomaniac is, that similar to his last film Melancholia, he gets most of this wackness out of the way early on. So after about 5 minutes of a dark screen with only the sounds of raindrops coming from the theater's speakers, he for the most part gives you his most coherent film to date!

And I never thought that I would type these words but I truly feel as if this movie was in the best possible hands to deliver it in the manner in which is was conceived. Nymphomaniac is about a self diagnosed sex addict named Joe(Charlotte Gainsbourg) who is found beaten in an alley by the helpful and curious Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard). Once he gets her to his place to help mend her, she admits to him that she is probably one of the worst people he's ever met in his life; and that it is all due to her psychosexual disorder, nymphomania. She rather openly tells him about all of her sexual conquests; starting from early on as a child when she discovered her sexuality up until her young twenties when she was having sexual encounters with multiple men per day. All the while tying her stories to the hobbies of Seligman, which he shares with her in between her tales of promiscuity. As the movie goes on, you find yourself wondering if this all really happened or if these stories are just strongly suppressed desires of hers that she is vicariously living out through the memories of a woman she made up.

I will say that for the most part it all feels very real even though there are curious connections to Seligman's love for fly fishing, Fibonacci's numbers, and Bach's musical style. Is she merely playing him to lure him in as well? I will let you decide these things for yourself as I am sure that you are here to read about the sex and nothing else. And I have to admit, that was the only reason why I saw this film myself. After Dogville, Antichrist, and Melancholia, I swore to myself that I would never again waste a single second of my time on another von Trier film. But after reading about how the sex scenes were so hardcore that he had to hire professional porn stars to act out those specific scenes as body doubles for the real actors, I couldn't help but give it a shot. I mean, I sat through 2 hours of pain just to see Kristen Dunst's boobs once, I could certainly make it through another 2 hours for some legitimate Hollywood porn. Ok, I feel really dirty after typing that out.

Anyway, if you're are looking for something that is erotic, this really isn't the film for you. Some of the sex scenes are steamy and get you going but for the most part they are just uncomfortable as you see a young Joe almost uncontrollably going from man to man in hopes to quench this insatiable fire of hers. But the cool thing about this film is, Joe is never portrayed as this helpless figure that feeds into the stereotype most men would attach to this disorder. Rather she is in full control of who she spends her time with and is rather unapologetic about it; its just that she is a slave to pleasing herself no matter what the means are. There is one scene in particular involving the show-stopping Uma Thurman that fully puts this on display as she confronts her cheating husband and Joe in her apartment. Also this disorder isn't caused by any daddy issues as you see the loving relationship she has with her father, which eventually leads to some of the films most poignant moments. And her dad just so happens to be played wonderfully by Christian Slater.

Before I ramble too long about this film, I just want to hammer home the fact that this movie would've never been released if it were put in the wrong hands. Hands like Brett Ratner who would have regaled us with stories of his infamous pool parties, or that of Spike Lee who would have added an annoyingly loud jazz score with odd still shots of nymphomaniac pioneers of the past (this sounds kind of cool actually). Von Trier decided to forgo talking dogs or long still shots of random things on a golf course this time and basically shot this movie straight. or as straight as he can anyway. Wait, talking dogs and long still shots? Maybe he's Danish reincarnation of Spike Lee (see Summer of Sam)!!!

My cute friend wasn't at all affected by the use of the C word but I do think the sex game on the train between Joe and her best friend B was a bit much for her. I loved this scene however as I found it to be both comical and sad at the same time. Which overall is a perfect description for this movie. I rate this movie as FRESH and suggest that you go see the unrated version for the full effect. I'm off to go buy a yearly pass for our local train because I am a self diagnosed perv! Good night and good luck!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Captain America : The Winter Soldier

Please raise your hand if you actually remember the plot of any of the Marvel superhero movies that have come out recently; excluding everyone who fits in the category of a comic book freak that is. I saw Ironman 3 on opening night and even wrote a lengthy review of it afterwards; but three months later I tried to explain to someone what it was about and I drew a total blank! This is what mainstream Hollywood has become, a collection of forgettable popcorn flicks that are full of beautiful people who cant even get naked in them because they need to keep the movie pg-13. At the very least you could throw me a bone (pun intended) and have Kat Dennings go down on Natalie Portman ala Black Swan in the next Thor. But perhaps I'm asking too much of Hollywood; I mean we can't even get the NC-17version of Nymphomaniac released over here but it's perfectly fine to charge pre-teens $1300 a ticket to see the next One Direction documentary in 3D! I swear I'm not as sexually deprived as I sound; I just want the studios to grow some balls again and release movies with some substance.

Needless to say, I went into Captain Johnny Storm : The Winter is Coming with super low expectations. Speaking of, does anyone remember how awful those Fantastic Four movies were? Remember all of the lame dancing plastic man was doing in the nightclubs to impress the ladies? Terrible (in Charles Barkley voice)!

Sorry, I'm back on track now. Winter Soldier takes place in modern day D.C. soon after the events in New York (see Avengers) occurred. Steve Rogers is struggling to find his place in the modern world with all of its changes in technology and values. But he continues to fight the good fight along with his good friend Natasha/Black Widow; who is constantly pimping him out to every girl in sight in hopes of finally getting him a date. Soon after a somewhat successful mission to rescues hostages on a SHIELD carrier ship, Rogers is clued into a big military initiative to help control possible threats to nations and to the world as a whole via the help of giant airborne carrier ships. They have the ability to knock out a specific target almost instantly (sounds like Real Genius). But something happens that causes Nick Fury to question the security of the operation and he requests that the project be delayed. And it's not soon after this that an organization attempts to take the life of both Fury and Rogers in a rather daring attempt. Leading the attack is this mystery man who appears to be as fast and as strong as Rogers is but he comes complete with 1990's Trent Reznor hair, a Hannibal Lecture mask, and a metallic arm that makes him look cooler. So Rogers is not only fighting for his life but also trying to uncover who is behind the attacks before millions of human lives are put at risk.

There are a number of plot twists in this action packed thrill ride, none of which I will reveal here. And yes I purposely made that last line cheesy. For the most part they make sense in the context of the movie and I have to admit that they kept me on my toes. The action scenes are full of mini guns, karate, krav maga, explosions, and beautiful women; basically everything I look for in a movie! And the writers play to the strengths of the characters; so you're not stuck listening to a ton of background stories again. You instead get what you paid to see and that's Captain America knocking people senseless with his awesome shield and his bionic man speed and strength. The two scenes in particular that stand out are the beat down that takes place in the elevator and the first time you see Falcon and his awesome suit unleashed!

Basically what it all boils down to is that I cannot help but like a movie that makes a reference to both Real Genius and Wargames. So even if the rest of the movie sucked I would still give it a rating of fresh. This is probably my favorite of the Marvel comic movies so far and I have to give it a rating of very FRESH! Do yourself a favor and check it before they start releasing more superhero movies with dance numbers in them.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Noah

Are you in the mood for thrills? Well how about an experience that takes you on a 36 hour ride which includes earthquakes that register 5.3 and 4.4 on the Richter Scale? That not enough? How about we throw in a fatal shooting in the middle of Hollywood which leads to a manhunt and cops searching through everyone's trunks for the killer? You still need more? Well what if I throw in an abundance of high end cars, tons of traffic and a Jon Voight sighting? Am I talking about the latest installment of the  Fast and Furious franchise? No, I'm talking about my recent weekend in Los Angeles! Seriously, all that was missing was me doing rails off of Megan Fox's cleavage while making a "white people do this, black people do that" joke.

And just like you would in reading my last statement, if you were looking for anything closely resembling the Bible in Darren Aronofsky's Noah, then you would be sadly mistaken. Now to Aronofsky's credit, this isn't the first time Hollywood has taken a biblical story and "tried to make art" as he says. There have been plenty of movies that use stories from the Bible as a general outline and try and make an interesting story of their own; but with the recent run of movies such as the Son of Man, The Passion of the Christ, and a few others whose names escape me right now, we kind of forget the fact that these alternatives exist. Perhaps releasing it this close to Easter didn't help either but I am certain that this is why critics loved Noah but audiences have mixed feelings about it.

I too fell into this trap even though I have been following the development of this movie from the very start. There were even stories coming out early that Aronofsky was going to include evil giant sea creatures that resembled the Kraken! So I should have been prepared for what I seeing. But it took about 20 minutes of me saying to myself "Wait! That's not right!" before I reeled myself in and remembered what they were actually trying to do with this film. With that said, it's been some time since I've seen this epic and I am still not quite sure how I feel about it.

In Aronofsky's tale of Noah, he quickly runs through the creation of man and then puts his focus on what happens right after Cain slays his brother Abel. After this event the Earth is apparently only left with the evil descendants of Cain and a few good descendants of the third brother Seth to roam and rule. You are then introduced to Noah (Crowe), a descendant of Seth, along with his beautiful wife (Connelly) their three sons, and a random young girl that they have saved along their journey. Noah has transplanted his family because he has had a vision from The Creator showing him the end of the world, the reason for it, and his role in it. However he must consult his grandfather Methuselah on how he should go about fulfilling his obligation to The Creator before he can start. Once he reaches Methuselah, Method Man (as I call him) not only provides him the additional vision of the Ark he needs to build but also the means to do it. It should be noted that his grandfather is played by Anthony Hopkins, who for some reason looks like the Emperor from the original Star Wars movies in this role.

So the movie goes from there; for some reason there are fallen angels that turn into clumsy looking giant rock men, Cain is apparently the leader of the Wildlings from HBO's Game of Thrones, and Noah's young sons are in need of losing their virginity like RIGHT NOW!!! And you are taken through a weird and uncomfortable emotional ride as you root for and respect but then later hate Noah as he is contemplating doing something unimaginable. The same goes for his middle son Ham (sadly it's not the Ham from The Sandlot) played by Perks of Being a Wallflower's Logan Lerman.

Visually the cgi looks good for the most part and there are some fairly breathtaking scenes. The issue is this movie felt more like Mad Max The Road Warrior then it did a movie about Noah. And don't get me wrong, if Noah was running down wildlings with a muscle car and blowing up random animals with gasoline, then this might have been fresh. But none of that happened; instead you were stuck with a movie whose tone was all over the place.

I get what Aronofsky was trying to do, and that's tell the story of a man who has the weight of saving any semblance of goodness and purity in this world while forsaking the rest at all costs. It just seems that he probably shouldn't have consulted his co writer from the painfully abstract The Fountain on this project. This movie could have been great but instead you just get a near miss that's kind of WEAK.

 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Sabotage

Greedy, greedy, greedy! That's how I would describe Hollywood these days and sadly I think that greed will ultimately lead to it's downfall. Sure they stay afloat with superhero reboot after superhero reboot but eventually we will all get tired of that. And I wont even go into their refusal to adapt to changes in technology and how we prefer to view or get our movies (they are slowly coming around on this btw). But in an effort to corner the market, they changed the face of the action star in order to bring in the female viewer in. So instead of men that are full of steroids and awesome one liners, we are stuck with Shia Ladouche (Labeouf) and Ben Affleck trying to sell us on what's manly. Maybe I'm stuck in the good old days when Arnold and Charles Bronson taught us how to talk shit and look cool while beating a man senseless but dammit at least I can recognize a good action flick when I see one. And that's the issue, when we are finally done with retread superhero movies, we at some point have to recognize and enjoy normal action flicks when they come around. And that's why I was so disappointed when Sabotage bombed at the box office this weekend.

This movie had a good writer and director in Street King's David Ayer, a great cast that included Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, Rushmore's Olivia Williams, and everyone's favorite chimpanzee Mireille Enos, and it even had Arnold trying to act again (he succeeded btw). So there was absolutely no reason for this movie to fail.

If you have ever seen an Ayer flick then you know it's going to come complete with brutally violent action scenes, an intricate plot, and morally questionable characters that drive the story. What I love best about his films however is the great banter that takes place between the cops. And from everything I have read and seen, Ayer for the most part nails the dialogue and joke cracking that takes place between what is essentially a family of action junkies. Whenever things start to slow down a bit in the movie, someone says something so off the wall that it has you shamefully laughing at a quip that would normally make your mother blush. But that's what's so great about this film, it feels like you are watching something that's real and not some over the top fabrication where you see people coming out of a burning building without any smoke inhalation or singed clothing. Kind of like those Pierce Brosnan Bond movies where he's water skiing in a tux and it never gets wet. If only  I could afford those water resistant Armani threads!  But I digress.

In Sabotage, Arnold and his special unit DEA team take down a ruthless cartel and in the process confiscate their money. But before they let the supporting units in, they steal 10 million of it for themselves and stash it somewhere underground for safe keeping. They get away with the heist at the time but when they return the next day to retrieve their money, someone has already beaten them to it. The higher ups at the DEA somehow know that they more than likely stole money, they just cant prove anything. So they shut down Arnold and his team to do a lengthy investigation. When they eventually clear him and his team of any wrongdoing due to a lack of evidence, Arnold returns only to find his team both unruly and undisciplined due to the amount of downtime they had.  And more importantly he discovers that the lack of a payday from their heist has led to distrust amongst the group. It's not too long after they are allowed to work together again that someone, presumably the cartels, starts knocking them off one by one.

I can see why the critics weren't too high on this movie, it's mainly due to the fact that its kind of a downer and that Ayer goes a little too over the top with the gore. But that doesn't take away from the fact that it's a darn good movie. I can honestly say that I had no clue how the movie was going to end and I was completely dumbfounded by the multiple plot twists. All of the typical Ayer elements that I described earlier are in this movie and the acting (including Arnolds) is spot on. Howard might have been a bit of a miscast but it he honestly wasn't asked to do much in this film.

I rate this movie as FRESH and suggest that you check it out. If for nothing else, do yourself a favor and go see what real men look like. If you want to see dudes in skinny jeans sweat, just come to Austin in June.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Muppets Most Wanted

Some of us never grow up! There are some adults in this world that still collect toys, some play kickball, some join adult hide and go seek leagues, and others are stuck in the days of when Kelly LeBrock and Chaka Khan were hot! I won't say which of these categories I fall in but lets just say I spent my entire lunch watching Weird Science and wishing I had a big black lady baking me dessert while singing "I feel for you! I think I loooove you!" So it should come as no surprise that the return of the Muppets made over 100 million dollars worldwide and that they decided to not only make a sequel to it but also decided to show it in theaters where you can drink beer. The last part of that I am certainly not complaining about but they should know their audience just a bit better when showing the previews. Just because I am seeing The Muppets doesn't mean I want to see every other children's flick that's coming out this year. I have no desire to see Rio 8 with Bruno freaking Mars and Kristen Chenoweth! And why feel the need to pay Bruno 1 million dollars to do a voice in this cartoon? Kids are going to annoy their parents into taking them to this catastrophe anyway, just save the money on Bruno and hand out cyanide popsicles for the adults as they walk into the theater, this way they don't die a slow death.

Anyway, I was channeling the two old men from The Muppets with that rant, so sorry about that. This movie picks up right from where it's predecessor left off and you immediately get the old men complaining; which of course had me cheering! They along with Animal are my favorite characters and thankfully this movie features just enough of the both of them. The crew is at a loss in regard to what their next move should be, that is until the shady "agent" Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) comes into the picture. He lies and tells them that his name is French and pronounced "bad'g ee" to deflect from the obvious fact that he is evil and using them as part of a secret plan to steal the Crown Jewels. He is in cahoots with the recently escaped and world's most dangerous criminal Constantine, or as I like to call him, Evil Kermit. And through some awesome trickery, they convince the German police that Kermit is in fact Constantine and have him arrested and sent off to a Russian prison which is run by Tina Fey. So off they go, on a world tour featuring Evil Kermit and the hoodwinked Muppet clan as Interpol (TyBurrell) along with Sam Eagle try to figure out why there are random burglaries at every one of their stops.

This movie keeps in the spirit of The Muppets you remember from the past; a ton of crazy characters each with their own agendas that Kermit has to try and manage on his own. It's full of awesome puns and random celebrity appearances as well. Speaking of, Gervais seemed to be simply collecting a check with his performance. At one point during one of his song and dance numbers, he looked directly into the camera as if to say "You guys owe me an extra 500k for this". He could have at least put forth an effort or two to try and crack a smile. Maybe he had one too many pints before each take. Fey along with Burrell however seemed to enjoy themselves. Although I do have to say I was expecting just a bit more weirdness from Fey; maybe she felt the need to tone it down since it's a pg movie. But couldn't they have at least given her a cross dressing boyfriend or something?

Maybe I'm just getting old but some of the celebrity appearances I either didn't recognize or I simply couldn't understand why it was such a big deal that they were in the movie in the first place. In the end it didn't matter however as the movie had me laughing the entire time. But with that said, the movie does run a little long. I don't have children but I can imagine them and their short attention spans getting tired around the 90 minute mark. Thankfully I had a cute drunk girl sitting next to me to help keep my attention with her nice rack and her awesome Animal t-shirt that she wore to cover it! Bret from Flight of the Conchords once again wrote the songs for this movie, so if you like him and that show's humor, you should like this movie as well.

I will rate this movie as FRESH and I hope that you don't get the old lady in the theater that laughs way to hard at some of the jokes like I did.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Cheap Thrills

Last night I had a dream that I attended a secret Q & A with Lady Gaga at SXSW. And during this session I discovered that she was in fact a really boring and unattractive person; so much so that I fell asleep midway through one of her answers. So there I was, dreaming within my dream Inception style; so consequently I drifted further into my subconscious, if you believe the science of that movie. And in that dream within a dream I discovered that I secretly wanted to have sex with Gaga and become her bodyguard ala Kevin Costner! Sadly though, I woke up just before I could have sex with her and instantly fall asleep afterward, drifting even further into my subconscious. So who knows what would have resulted from that dream, we probably would have given birth to 13 little R Kelly's that would run around the house peeing on everything. She would of course call it art and add it to her show.

The point of that ridiculous story is that we never really know what we are capable of or how deep some of our true desires are buried until we are put in certain situations where we can either get away with it and no one would know or we are pushed to the brink of survival. The cool thing abut Cheap Thrills is that it tackles this subject head on and in a manner that hasn't challenges the audience in a way I haven't seen since Pulp Fiction. You find yourself laughing at its dark humor but at the same time feeling unbelievably guilty for doing so.

The story takes you through the day of a married mechanic who has just had a newborn baby boy and is on the brink of eviction from his place due to his money issues. On this day, Craig finds out that he has just been laid off and is facing the reality of his family being thrown into the streets with no real means to provide for them  So he decides to grab a drink at a nearby bar before heading home to face his wife. And while he's there he runs into an old buddy of his from grade school in Vince (Ethan Embry), a guy he hasn't seen in forever. Hard to believe that this is the same kid from Can't Hardly Wait and Vegas Vacation as he is completely unrecognizable yet rather convincing as the tattoo covered tough guy who collects money for bookies.  He himself is living a rather tough life and has a few money issues as well. Anyway, after they quickly catch up they run into this odd couple in Colin (Anchorman's Koechner) and Violet (Sara Paxton) who are out on the town celebrating her birthday. It's clearly a May-December romance as Colin is trying anything he can to entertain his seemingly perpetually bored wife.

So they spend their entire time placing little bets on random events that take place around them. However, to spice things up they invite Craig and Vince along for the ride and make them the focal point of their bets. At first things start off simple with bets of who can take a shot first or who can get a woman at the bar to slap them with Colin giving the winner a specified amount of money for their accomplishment. But as they move locations, both the dares and the stakes start to escalate. So much so that it's beginning to put Craig and Vince's friendship to the test.

I will let you discover just how crazy things get on your own but just know that once Violet offers one of them sex for money, this is when things start to get really freaky. No, it doesn't turn into a full blown orgy or anything like that but it does clue you in to just how out of control things get. And the only reason I bring that dare up is because this was the only point of the movie where Paxton actually had to act and she completely blew it! I loved her in the unbelievably brutal Last House on the Left but she really took this young bored housewife role too much to heart here. Outside of this minor complaint however, I absolutely loved this movie. I cannot tell you how many times the couple next to me was burying their heads in each other's chest and openly gasping during certain scenes. I love movies that challenge you and Cheap Thrills does that from a physical, psychological, and moral standpoint.

As a matter of fact, I feel kind of dirty for liking this movie but I can't help but give it a rating of TIGHT! Also the final shot of the movie is one that will go down as a classic and will grace movie posters and magazines for quite some time! Job well done.