Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Always feel free to email us your very own submissions to be posted on the site. Enjoy Oliver's contribution and here's to looking forward to 2010.
As we approach the end of the decade, many people will look back at the year and reminisce on the past movies that made 2009 the year that it was. I look back and I think… Really? Is that it??? What do we have to work with here? This year was marked off with remakes and sequels trying to be bigger and better then their first: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Terminator Salvation. Movies made to inspire us like Whip It fell flat. And even the biggest smallest horror movie was really just a re-imagination of the Blair Witch Project. All in all, once the dust settled from the battling robots, 2009 really went out with a fizzle. You’re probably asking, “geez, man, what do you expect?” I expected another 1999. Now that year truly ended the decade with a bang (I’m not eliminating Avatar to wow me… but I’m not holding my breath for it either).
1999 brought us a plethora of future classics, first-time directors, and even a sequel that lived up to the original in Toy Story 2.
1999 introduced the audience to M. Night Shyamalan(The Sixth Sense), Sam Mendes (American Beauty), Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich), Sophia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides), Alexander Payne (Election), and Brad Bird (The Iron Giant) all of which had their first wide releases in this year. Four of those directors were nominated for Oscars in their aforementioned debuts, with Mendes actually walking away with the trophy for Best Director. Since then Spike Jonze picked one up for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Sophia Coppola for Lost In Translation, Alexander Payne for Sideways, and Brad Bird for Ratatouille. And The Sixth Sense went ahead to be one of the highest grossing movie of all time.
It’s not just the directors that came out of the shadows, 1999 also introduced us to the on-screen talent who were once barely on the public’s radar to center-stage. Angelina Jolie not only outshined co-star Winona Ryder, but also took home Oscar gold with Girl, Interrupted. Reese Witherspoon proved that she wasn’t just another cute blonde with her Golden Globe nominated role in Election. Jake Gyllenhaal took his first adult role in October Sky. Michael Clarke Duncan went from bodyguard to the stars to Oscar Nominated actor in The Green Mile. And Russell Crowe went from Aussie bad-boy to future Academy Award Winning Aussie bad-boy in his Nominated performance in The Insider.
1999 was also a big comeback year. Whether it be from constant box-office flops like Julia Roberts or tabloid fodder like Martin Lawrence and Hugh Grant, each of these actors re-established themselves with Notting Hill and Blue Streak.
Two sets of brothers took us in opposite directions in the movie viewing experience. The Wachowski brothers taught us that Keanu Reeves can actually make a movie that will make you think in The Matrix. They also gave us a need to see everything in HD. The Weitz brothers taught us that you can have a sex-comedy with heart in American Pie. They also gave us a need to see everything in HD (I’m talking about you, Shannon Elizabeth).
Finally, 1999 taught us that Box Office grosses means nothing in the general scheme of things when it comes to making a movie that will always stick with the viewers. Fight Club, Boondock Saints, and Office Space suffered huge box-office hits (Boondock barely even saw the light of day), but each one resurfaced with a huge cult following in the DVD world.
All is not perfect though. 1999 brought us one thing that the true movie fan can do without. Jar-Jar-Binks and Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace.
I never said it was a perfect year.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
"Precious" is a movie that has been getting quite a bit of buzz over the last few months. People are talking about newcomer Gabourey Sidibe and her portrayal of Precious, a poor, obese teen in Harlem in 1987. They are talking about comedienne Monique's revelation of a performance as Precious' sadistic and abusive mother. And they are talking about Mariah Carey's surprisingly competent job of playing a social worker and doing it without any makeup. This movie is also getting a lot of awards attention having been nominated for Best Picture-Drama at the Golden Globes, as well as both Sidibe ad Monique receiving nods. It is believed, especially where the field has been expanded to 10 movies for Best Picture, the movie and actors will be nominated for Academy Awards. I recently saw "Precious" and will say it's a very good movie, with excellent performances and I am happy I saw it. However, I don't know if I can or should tell you to see it.
I know how ridiculous that may sound. I saw this great movie, it's getting all this positive attention, how can I say I liked it and not recommend it? Well it's complicated.
For most people, a movie is an escape. It's a way to break away from the mundane activities of life and watch a story of something extraordinary. Like watching giant blue cat people on a fictional planet fighting human controlled robots. It's also a way to cheer you up when you are feeling down. Like watching two men sneak their way into weddings and sleep with random guests while using aliases. And sometimes it's seeing a story of someone from meager beginnings rise to the top of their field. Like watching an undersized defensive end get the hell beaten out of him during countless practices only to make it on the field at the end of his last game and record a sack.
These are movies, and they make us cheer, they make us laugh and we remember the best moments. It's not a coincidence that when I was in Vegas this Fall I heard 20 different people say "This isn't the real Caesar's Palace, is it?" And I didn't even stay at Caesar's Palace. The point is movies are entertainment and they are mostly designed to obviously entertain us and for many people that's all they are looking for.
Precious does not do any of these things. The ending is uplifting, but not nearly enough to make up for the rest of the absolute hell this poor girl is put through her entire life. And it's not enough for when you walk out of the theater or shut off your DVD player for you to smile and be content. This movie will not entertain you and that's okay because that's not the point.
A movie can also do something besides entertain, it can educate and make you think of something from a different perspective you never considered before. Obviously documentaries are a prime example, but there are plenty of regular movies that can do so as well. I studied the Holocaust in high school and I read "Night" by Elie Wiesel. The scope of this tragic time in history never really hit me as hard as it should have until I saw "Schindler's List", a great movie that I doubt many could say was very "entertaining". And that is the other power movies have. To show people something that never would have had the same effect if they'd just read about or never even thought about it in the first place.
This is where the power of "Precious" lies and it's what makes it such a great movie. I'm a white male from a middle class suburban family that was skinny in high school. I could not have less in common with this character and to tell you the truth I never really thought about what it would be like for someone like her. That's what I liked about this movie though, it made me think and deeply care about a character who has many real life counterparts that I had never given a second thought about. I'm not saying the movie caused me to become an activist or anything like that, but just that I considered what it would be like to be this person and how tough she has it, shows how powerful a movie this.
So why wouldn't I recommend it? Because this movie is TOUGH to get through. This girl's life is something you would not wish on your worst enemy. She is molested by her father and has two kids from him. There's a scene of this abuse that is reason enough for me to never recommend someone seeing this movie. I mean how could you really tell a person that's something they should see? She's overweight and is verbally and physically abused by her mother who treats her as if she "stole" her man from her. One of her children has down syndrome. She's been suspended from school for getting pregnant for the second time. Her life is quite literally a living hell to the point she often fantasizes about herself in glamorous situations as an escape. Now she does end up attending an alternative school and finds a teacher who believes in her (Paula Patton, another strong performance), which sounds formulaic but is well done enough that it does not feel like you've seen it a million times before. Lenny Kravitz also shows up as a nurse who helps deliver Precious' second baby and makes it a toss up for which musician gives the better performance, Kravitz or Carey. Precious eventually gets her life close to turned around and as I said the ending is somewhat uplifting. But the ending doesn't stick with you for the next few days like the first 90 minutes do, which is another reason I find it difficult to tell someone to see this movie.
One thing I also found really sad as I watched "Precious" was the great performance Sidibe gave. This young actress did an outstanding job and is getting numerous nominations and attention. However, I couldn't help think how few roles like this there would be in Sidibe's future. She clearly has the talent, but how many movies have you seen with obese African-American women stars that are not comedies? This is no fault of Sidibe's, but more a sad commentary that this actress might not be in high demand after what should be a star making role.
I am glad I saw "Precious" and I think it was a very well done movie. I think the performances were a key part of the quality of the film, as anything less would have made the movie a lot more traumatic and not as redeeming. At the end of the day I would say if you're someone who only seeks entertainment from movies and only wants to watch them as an escape then feel free to skip "Precious", you will not walk away happy from it. However, if you're someone who likes movies that are on a higher level, movies looking to educate, movies that don't always give the happy ending wrapped up in a nice big bow then I would definitely recommend "Precious".
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
“Fight Club” is one of my favorite movies of all-time (check my facebook info) and I thought a fitting way to honor the film about fighting strangers was to list my top 12 favorite “Fight Club” quotes. You might be asking, “Why 12?” Well I picked out all my favorite quotes and there were 12 of them and rather than cut two of them, I thought “What would Tyler Durden do?” (hey, that’s another website!) Tyler wouldn’t let his quote list be conformed down to some arbitrary number that David Letterman popularized. I am my own person with my own number of quotes and it shouldn’t matter if other people expect 10, I AM USING 12! NOW PUNCH ME IN THE FACE!!
(Note: I kept the curse words in because I feel using asterisks or the pound sign would take away from the quote. You’ve seen/said/heard the word before, it won’t fucking kill you. See, you’re fine.)
(Note 2: Also, I didn’t include the Rules of Fight Club quote. I just felt like it was played out and has been used in so many lame ways since so why bother. i.e. The first rule about the Willingham’s Family Bowl Night is you don’t talk about the Willingham’s Family Bowl Night)
12. It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything. – Tyler
I love stuff, love it. I love my HDTV, my Mac, my Xbox 360, and my collection of sports jerseys featuring a Golden State Warriors Chris Webber jersey. So don’t mistake my adoration of this movie or this quote in particular as me being some kind of minimalist. But I do think I am a bit held down by my possessions and hey maybe if I lost them all I’d be happier living in a broken down old house making soap. Doubtful, but I like the quote so it stays. Also, I do realize I just laid out a nice checklist for any robber casing my place.
11. This is your life and it's ending one minute at a time. – Narrator
I never really thought about that until I heard this quote. It’s sad, it’s scary and in no way uplifting. But I am sucker for things I never considered before.
10. All the ways you wish you could be, that's me. I look like you wanna look, I fuck like you wanna fuck, I am smart, capable, and most importantly, I am free in all the ways that you are not. – Tyler
I frequently imagine this is what Tom Brady would say to me if we ever met. Would I like him less if he did? Absolutely not.
9. You're the worst thing that's ever happened to me. – Marla
I think most people have wanted to say this to another person at some point in our lives and it always made me laugh how matter-of-factly Marla says it. I think Helena Bonham Carter is pretty by the way. I don’t care that she is always in Us Weekly dressed like a bag lady, I’m down with HBC.
8. You don't know where I've been. You don't know where I've been. Just let us have the basement, Lou! – Tyler
For those of you not familiar with this scene, it’s when the bar owner finds out about the Fight Club in the basement and proceeds to beat Tyler Durden’s face into oblivion. When he gets up to leave, a bloodied Tyler jumps up screaming and coughing blood on him until he lets them stay. I really like this scene and am fully aware that’s unsettling. Just to further add on to my psychosis, this would be my defense if I got into a fight that I knew I couldn’t win. Take a few hits to the face, play dead, then cough blood on the guy/girl when he/she turns away and yell “Remember when this happened in ‘Fight Club’”? How could they not run away crying, it’s bulletproof
7. Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel's life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted. – Tyler
This is when Tyler threatens to kill the shop clerk and then lets him live and through this act gives him a new lease on life. I always liked when Tyler finds a community college id in the clerk’s wallet and asks what he studied. The clerk replies “Stuff” and Tyler says “Stuff? Were the midterms hard?” That’s classic Tyler.
6. Is that your blood?
Some of it, yeah. – Narrator
It’s great that Edward Norton is talking to his boss when he says this, but the quote would be great regardless. He’s just so nonchalant about having his and another person’s blood on his clothes at work that it’s almost impossible to continue questioning it. But the weird thing is imagine if you saw someone at work with blood on their clothes. Would you ask them if it’s theirs? Hell no, the guy has blood on him at work! You smile at them, send a quick email to HR and then take the next week off and let the people who were too slow to realize they were working with Psycho McBloodstain deal with the madness.
5. WHOA! WHOA! WHOA! Ok, you are now firing a gun at your 'imaginary friend' near 400 GALLONS OF NITROGLYCERINE! – Tyler
I really liked how this movie can take the most serious situations, like firing a gun at a truck full of explosives, and make it hilarious. Not much else to add here as this quote kind of speaks for itself.
4. Look, the people you are after are the people you depend on. We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep. Do not... fuck with us. – Tyler
I feel like this would be extremely terrifying to hear if you were rich, and I love rich people being scared. I should have said this to the woman in the BMW who cut me off the other day but saying “We are the people you depend on to review movies on a podcast you don’t listen to” doesn’t have the same effect.
3. You met me at a very strange time in my life. – Narrator
The last line in the movie is so priceless because throughout the entire film characters are constantly exaggerating their circumstances and speaking in hyperbole, but this is one of the biggest understatements I have ever heard. That’s why I love it.
2. Motherfucker! You hit me in the ear! – Tyler
This is the first fight scene and I give major credit to it because it plays out the way two guys who don’t know how to fight hit each other. It’s not like Rocky IV where it’s carefully choreographed and guys simply trade punches to the face. If someone’s in a fight for the first time things like an ear punch, hair pull, elbow in the armpit, or grab to the balls will probably happen.
1. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off. –Tyler
I was raised on television. I did think I’d be famous someday. I am kinda pissed off about this. Certainly not the level of pissed where I wanna hit someone or burn my hand or destroy the country’s credit system, but pissed nonetheless. And that’s why this is my favorite quote from “Fight Club”. Sadly, I never got the chance to drunkenly recite this in college to the people waiting in line at Taco Bell at 2am.
So there’s my list. Hopefully you saw some of your own favorite quotes on here and if not, feel free to email me yours. And remember, the first rule about Really Reel Reviews is talk about it as much as possible to as many people as possible. Seriously.
Monday, November 30, 2009
A remake of the 1951 film, this update stars Keanu Reeves as Klaatu, an alien visitor; Jennifer Connelly as Dr. Helen Benson, an astro-biologist; Jaden Smith as Jacob Benson, the young, pain in the ass stepson of the good doctor; and a large, cycloptic alien defense system made up of tiny metallic termites. The plot is simple enough: a large glowing sphere is on a crash course with Manhattan. Convinced it will wipe out the city and that there is zero time to evacuate, the geniuses of the U.S. Government decide to round up the most brilliant scientific minds to examine the aftermath. But when the sphere slows and coasts harmlessly into Central Park the inhabitants of earth are not overjoyed for being spared, instead reach historic levels of panic and automatically assume a state of fear/policy of “shoot first, ask questions later.”
You would think from all the trailer and promotion of the “IMAX experience” for this movie that it would at least be a sci-fi, special effects extravaganza. SPOILER ALERT!! It’s not. It’s an overly dramatic movie that puts a lot of its heavy burden on Jaden Smith’s back and acting performance. While he’s fine at what he needs to do, the movie just falls flat and here’s why. Klaatu professes to Helen that his mission to earth is to save the Earth. But not it’s homo sapien inhabitants, oh no. The Earth. The question Klaatu must answer is: Are humans capable of change? Can they change their ways in order to save their planet and forego intergallaticly sanctioned genocide?
After sitting through 2hours of movie watching an inept government run a “seek and kill” mission for a being they do not understand and watching people riot and run in fear I was kind of on Klaatu’s side. You know what? Unleash the hounds and locusts. Let it all burn down! People don’t change and they treat their planet like crap. If we’re going to make movies with warnings about how we treat our planet and each other then let’s go all the way across the finish line to at least get the message across. Why cop out at the end and go for the sob story? Even innocent men will confess to a crime when a gun is to their head. So people becoming “nice” near the end of existence means nothing about the ability to achieve true change.
I’m sure you can guess how this movie played out. More spheres appear and serve as arcs to help transplant non-human animals safely away from the planet while the locust-like metallic termites go to work on the eastern seaboard. Perhaps what you didn’t expect is a lack of depth for Jennifer Connelly. Her character is a waste and serves a babysitter and dialogue medium to progress the story. She is far too talented to be relegated to a role such as this one. Jaden Smith shows some talent and I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of him in years to come. And Keanu…the one thing that is not going to help his acting image is playing an emotionless alien…or maybe it’s right up his alley.
You know, this movie is not so much bad as it is just not good. I’d say skip it because you’ll want to finish it just to prove to yourself that you can and that’s a challenge no one should undertake -- 1 reel out of 5
If you’re keeping score there’s still a little over 60minutes remaining on my time lost. And that time went to The Girlfriend Experience, a Steven Soderbergh film made on less than a $2M budget and filmed in less than two weeks starring porn star Sasha Grey. I’d love to tell you what this movie is about, but truth is I don’t know. I mean, I know that for 76 minutes I watched as a high-end escort (Sasha Grey as Chelsea/Christine) went on several…uh…client dinners listening to men complain about the impending 2008 Presidential election and economic decline all while struggling with her open relationship with her gym trainer boyfriend, Chris.
But the film is not presented chronologically and Soderbergh should know better. There is no reason for this cheap trick other than to keep us intrigued by what we do not know, for had this story been told chronologically we all would have walked out by minute 30.
It’s a weak movie with an even weaker storyline that probably would have been best served as a series of vignettes about the economy and election rather than a movie held together by a balsa wood premise. In fact, the most brilliant thing about this movie is the fact that Soderbergh n’ crew were kind enough to keep the runtime under 90minutes.
Grey’s performance is better than I expected, but in no way does it measure up to the hype I had been hearing. Like the movie itself, her character lacks any real depth or dilemma. I am confident, however, that she has the capability to turn in a much stronger acting performance if given the tools (not sure if a pun was intended there). The only reason I will give it a better score than The Day The Earth Stood Still is because this may be something die hard Soderbergh fans will appreciate. But I think instead of wowing you with a surprise performance the movie disappoints at every turn -- 2 reels out of 5
Sunday, November 15, 2009
EAST REGION: Famous Villains
The Joker v. Hannibal Lecter: First off let’s establish that we’re going with the more sadistic Joker that we simultaneously loved and feared in The Dark Knight and with Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal. Both villains are psycho/sociopaths that would make Charlie Manson brown his tighty-whities. Both have done stints in insane asylums and escaped only to wreak more havoc. This is one of those first round bouts that would go the distance and become epic, perhaps too early in the tournament. Lecter is a well-educated man who is pretty much as disturbed as a man can be .He knows everyone’s next move before they do and usually makes you pay…by using your brain as airplane snacks. But most of what we know about Lecter is through story and reflection, and in 2 out of 3 movies in which Hopkins portrayed Lecter he’s really serving as an aide to police, a snitch…and we all know snitches get stitches and end up in ditches. And that’s where The Joker will put him. A sadomasochistic-pyschopathic genius who possesses the intelligence of the world’s greatest hero – Batman – and the sinister traits of all the world’s worst villains. WINNER: The Joker
Johnny Lawrence v. Darth Vader: “Put him in a body bag, Johnny!” Sorry, pal, not this time. Your dumbass got crane kicked in the face by a kid you already hobbled. Nice defense, idiot. Good luck fighting the dark side of the force. WINNER: Darth Vader
WEST REGION: Horror
Freddy Krueger v. Michael Meyers: I’ve always hated Michael Meyers. It pissed me off how he could catch up to people who were running and he just walked. I think he’s a punk and when it comes down to masks he has the worst one. But Freddy’s got style. Freddy wears his deformity like a badge of honor and he’s the only murderer daring enough to wear a J. Crew sweater while slicing whiny brats to bits. Freddy would rip Meyers to pieces, no contest. WINNER: Freddy Krueger
Leatherface v. JigSaw: Ooooh, this is another tough one. Task forces of police can’t take down JigSaw. By the time you realize where he is or what he’s up to it’s too late and you’re already trapped in one of his elaborate torture-porn schemes. On the other hand, Leatherface is a chainsaw wielding freak who did to body chopping what Edward Scissorhands did to landscaping. Without JigSaw getting the jump on Leatherface – which he couldn’t – he’s just a sickly old man who doesn’t have the stones to kill anyone. The best part of this would be watching JigSaw get a little taste of his own terrible tasting – like Robitussin bad – medicine. WINNER: Leatherface
NORTH REGION: Classic Villains
Vampires v. Zombies: If we go with the baddest Zombies out there, like the Rage-Type zombies from 28 Days/Weeks Later, then it’s possible they could stand a chance and get the drop on a Vampire. The thing about defeating a Zombie is that you want space and lots and lots of artillery. For Vampires it’s a little different. You need smarts, strategy, and – depending on your beliefs – some other artifacts or trendy objects. To get an idea of how close and ridiculous this bout would be just watch Tyson v. Holyfield, the biting and blows that happened there are almost as exciting as what you’d get here. Zombies are relentless, but Vampires are too cool and they need blood just as much as Zombies. In a bout that is sure to go the distance…WINNER: Vampires
Frankenstein’s Monster v. Werewolves: Seriously? There are only two things that are more of a punk than Frankenstein’s Monster: Frankenstein himself and Johnny Lawrence. WINNER: Werewolves.
SOUTH REGION: Sci-Fi
Predator v. Valdamort: This bout comes down to an age old philosophical question: is the wand truly mightier than that sick ass wrist thingy? In true rock-paper-scissor fashion wrist thingy beats stickWINNER: Predator
Alien v. Terminator: Pick your best Alien and your worst Terminator and I still think the Terminators come out on top. Aliens dominate in tight spaces, vent ducts, and creepy, other-worldly habitats. They simply have no predatorial abilities except over humans. Aliens were the prey of Predators and I am confident they’d be wiped out by any terminator in a matter of moments. Bleeding or spitting acid or not…WINNER: Terminator
EAST REGION FINALS: Famous Villains
The Joker v. Darth Vader: From my brief stint as a mega-nerd I discovered that the force operates on emotions – anger, jealously, fear, that sort of thing. If you believe the Joker is an angry, jealous man then Vader has the upper hand. However, I think The Joker’s mind is too distorted and cannot be mapped by words like “fear” and “anger”. I think he’s too complex to fall victim to Mind Tricks and force choke grips, and smart enough to avoid the light-saber or telepathically thrown boxes. Instead The Joker will play mind games that will exploit Vader’s own emotions and hot-headedness. Some will call it the upset of the century, but I think it’s an epic showdown with total destruction of all things around it and only one survivor. WINNER: The Joker
WEST REGION FINALS: Horror
Freddy Krueger v. Leatherface: I really think that Leatherface is one of the baddest dudes out there. Have you ever tried to just walk with a chainsaw and not cut off your own hands? This guy can run and cut you to bits…but even bad ass serial killers need sleep. And that’s when Freddy says, “night-night, freak.” WINNER: Freddy Krueger
NORTH REGION FINALS: Classic Villains
Vampires v. Werewolves: Ugh, all the tweens out there just soiled their pants in extreme glee thinking this was a Twilight: New Moon reference. There have been many film instances in which these two famous creatures have battled each other. In a caged death match it’ll come down to brains v. brawns and in this case brains will take the edge. As BJ Penn said in regards to this battle, “it’s like matador versus the bull.” WINNER: Vampires
SOUTH REGION FINALS: Sci-Fi
Predator v. Terminator: T-1000 is perhaps the greatest villain in movie history. I don’t think anyone will disagree with that fact. And unless there is bubbling hot lava or liquid nitrogen on the Predator’s wrist band I’m pretty sure he’ll get sliced to bits. In a perfect scenario the T-1000 shape shifts into a Predator and just toys with him for a moment, something similar to the “guard with coffee” scene in T-2, an oldy but goody. WINNER: Terminator
THE FINAL FOUR
The Joker v. Freddy Krueger: In the West Region Finals we saw Freddy put Leatherface six feet under in his sleep. But the only person’s whose dreams may be more disturbing than his everyday life as a villain is The Joker. Again, I think he’s one of the smartest human villains in film and comic book history. He’s conniving, disturbing, and yet, in a way, charming. Freddy, you fought well and proud, but the tournament underdog is taking this one. WINNER: The Joker
Vampires v. Terminator: There is nothing a Vampire can do a Terminator. There is no blood to take from a T-1000 and very little from at 800 series of Terminator. Again, with no major weapons systems the Vampires stand no chance and at the very least a Terminator could stand by idly and wait for a Vampire to starve to death. Vampires are like the Arizona Cardinals: they’re good, but mainly made it this far because of their poop region (yes, I know the Cardinals are a decent team. Just go with the analogy). WINNER: Terminator
CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT: Death is the Only Way Out
The Joker v. Terminator: If you dropped an atomic bomb on a state fair it wouldn’t compare to the carnage that would ensue in this showdown. I have already called each of these two the greatest villains in history. But who would win? Terminator: advanced weapon systems, devoid of emotion and relentless killing abilities. The Joker: extremely intelligent and a seemingly endless amount of resources. Taking into account the sadomasochistic personality of The Joker I think he would be willing to put himself in a harmful situation to overtake any of the Terminators…but he’d fail. T-1000 can only be stopped in a couple of ways and without access to those tools The Joker would fall, but only after severely hindering Terminator. A fight for the ages and one that would forever disable T-1000, the greatest Terminator, villain, and baddest bad ass…
BADDEST BAD ASS 1 CHAMPION: TERMINATOR
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Not long ago HBO decided to ask – and seeked to answer - these questions with a documentary vehicle The Black List: Vol. 1 which was an Official Selection 2008 Sundance Film Festival. HBO decided to continue the examination with The Black List: Vol 2 which "profiles some of today's most fascinating African-Americans. From the childhood inspirations that shaped their ambitions, to the evolving American landscape they helped define, to the importance of preserving a unique cultural identity for future generations, these prominent individuals offer a unique look into the zeitgeist of black America, redefining the traditional pejorative notion of a blacklist."
A lot of people like to talk about art imitating life and vice-versa, but either way you look at it I think our celebrities and leaders help to begin to paint the picture of America’s current status in a variety of areas. Unfortunately, the success and acceptance of a lot of celebrities masks the inequities and injustices that many Americans today face due to status: racial, social, economical. The Black List: Vol. 2 helps expose and unmask what is all too often a mystery or surprise to many Americans. And this is done through conversation and reflection. The entertainers and entrepreneurs featured in this volume – Maya Rudolph, Tyler Perry, and my man RZA – talk about those who have inspired them by making countless and overlooked sacrifices that have allowed all of us – regardless of race – to enjoy their talent.
I highly recommend picking up a copy; you can get it for mad cheap at Target and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to UNCF. Pick it up, pop it in, and digest - I’m telling you no matter who you are you will find someone on here to relate to and a story that will touch you. The Black List: Vol. 2 trascends race and becomes something more - an invaluable dialogue in which we should all take part.
You can catch/follow The Black List at any of the below links:
Webpage Twitter Facebook Myspace
And make sure you check out the below exlusive interview with R3's new favorite woman, Maya Rudolph.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
When this movie came out Terry and I wanted to see it, but we just felt it wasn’t right for the podcast at the time and what we were trying to do with all the summer blockbusters. So I waited until Netflix decided to give me a little red envelope on a much needed Friday night spent locked indoors. As I said I was excited to see this film and here are some reasons:
• Sam Mendes: I’m a huge fan of the movies he’s done. American Beauty was great, but my favorite Mendes direction came in the form of Road to Perdition (I’m a sucker for movies like that). Now, Away We Go has crept up to the top of that list. This is, in a very unassuming, retrieved way, one of Sam Mendes’ best works.
• Dave Eggers: he co-wrote this script. Where the Wild Things Are was chronologically the first script he wrote, but Away We Go was his first to be released to the masses. I am a fan of Eggers in both his fiction and non-fiction works and I have come to admire what he does with various foundations and in his editorial roles.
• Green Filmmaking: Let’s face it everything about the moviemaking process is wasteful. From the energy needed to get actors to a set to shoot a simple scene, to all the garbage and waste from the beginning of a shoot to the amount of waste viewers create when we watch them in theatres. Away We Go is a green film in which the producers, entire cast and crew, and various supporters made conscious efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. If making a full length film with a “green mind” isn’t enough to convince us all that we’re capable of making large change with very small steps then I don’t know what is. The way we currently treat our environment is not only detrimental to our future, but it’s just laughable how easy it is to change it and instead we do nothing.
• Alexi Murdoch: most people are unaware that they are aware of Alexi Murdoch. His most notable and recognizable tune is “Orange Sky” made famous by that Honda Element commercial from a few years back. His Four Songs EP was a great tease of exceptional folk music and was finally followed up by the debut LP Time Without Consequence. Many of the songs featured in the film come from that album and they couldn’t fit more perfectly with the mood and tone of the film as Sam Mendes himself admitted.
Away We Go Trailer - More amazing videos are a click away
When a loving couple, Burt Farlander (John Krasinski) and Verona De Tessant (Maya Rudolph), find out they’re pregnant they are forced to examine where and how they will raise their new child. By mixing their search for friends/a support system with a search for a new home, Burt and Verona embark on an impromptu journey home. The journey, however, is less about where home is, but what home is…
I’ve said it in the podcast many times and I’ll write it again here: we can talk about directors, actors, DP’s, and all the other snobby stuff we like to say when it comes to movies, but at the end of the day it’s about emotions; movies – good ones anyway- make us feel…something. While we watch our characters go on their journey, whether they are road trips; personal battles; or championship games, we as the audience go on our own emotional journey. And Away We Go takes us there. It is a film that is wonderfully and perfectly over-the-top in terms of its comedic characters and circumstances, but also a film that manages to stay very human and sincere at its core. And this is most true in one of the more remarkable scenes I have seen this year. It takes place in some Canadian Karaoke/Variety performance venue on an Amateur night. A delightful couple – college friends of Burt and Verona – share with them their views on family and child rearing while also exposing the tragedies in their own life. They’re a great pair of scenes that are juxtaposed with their surroundings in a way that only Mendes and this cast could pull off.
And the cast is very good. The supporting cast is strong, carrying out just a bit more than what is expected and needed from them. But the true delights are Krasinski and Rudolph. A lot of movie critics like to talk about relationship movies by pointing out chemistry, or lack thereof between the leading man and woman. For years I had no idea what they were talking about; how do you quantify chemistry? Sure, some casting pairs are disastrous, but it’s mainly due a bad story in the first place. But if there is to be a gold standard in on-screen chemistry, then Away We Go is that standard.
Krasinski and Rudolph are a great pair and we’re totally in their corner throughout the movie. Krasinski is on point with his comedic timing, but is different than his normal role of “smart guy surrounded by people dumber than him” (The Office, License to Wed). Loyal Krasinski fans will not be disappointed, and he certainly will gain some new ones after viewing this. Rudolph is just mind blowing; both her acting talent and beauty were kept secret for too long on Saturday Night Live. Burt and Verona are clearly partners in everything they do, but Verona is the glue, and the same is true for Maya Rudolph’s performance. She is our lady, our driving force, and the brightest light in the movie.
There you have it. October’s Keepin’ it Really Reel Award recipient and the first film I’ve reviewed that will receive the coveted Fifth Reel. Away We Go -- 5 Reels out of 5
Sunday, September 27, 2009
I never outright said I hated her, but I did take a few cheap shots in one entry about female action heroes. But looking at it honestly, the movies were hokey and what was she supposed to do with a role like Lara Croft? Even an infant could see she was given the role solely because of her physical appearance, and while the people with a logical brain were obviously on a beer run, someone thought they had a hit movie on their hands. But redemption comes along but so often and for mine and Angeline’s relationship it came in the form of not one, but two movies I saw this month, A Mighty Heart and Changeling.
A Mighty Heart is the true story of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s abduction as told through the eyes of his pregnant wife, Marianne Pearl. Sometimes it’s hard to say how you feel about a true story because the events are so traumatic, so powerful that the eyes of objectivity are blinded. But this is a movie when you have to sit through the anger, the heartbreak, and the frustration so that you can take away its lessons. And the only reason it works simultaneously as a form of entertainment and honor is because of Angelina Jolie’s performance. We first meet her as the patient, understanding, loving wife and mother-to-be that she is. But what follows is a world wind of a performance that knocks you off your feet and leaves you speechless. Even in the saddest or most uplifting of movies I never cry; this was not one of those times (I actually didn’t cry. I was close, but this statement is staying in for effect!). It’s a movie that is so heavy I can’t outright recommend it to people without the “approach with caution” disclaimer, but A Mighty Heart is one incredible film held up by the shoulders of Angelina Jolie. – 4 reels out of 5
And then there is Changeling; the true story of Christine Collins and her search for her son, Walter. The LAPD, in their attempts to save face and hide corruption, deliver to her a child that is not her son, and, in the craziest of true story twists, consult doctors and experts who deem Christine “mentally unstable” for not recognizing her own son! As my wife has said, “this is one of the best movies I hate.” What she means is that it’s just a tough pill to swallow; it’s never fun seeing kids disappear and having to go through the thought process of all the terrible things that could happen to them (see Gone Baby Gone). And that anger, disgust, and frustration is only heightened by the deliberate attempts of the LAPD to stymie Christine’s efforts of finding her real son. Think about it: being told you’re crazy by the people who know they made a mistake and whose job it is to protect you – that’s like being buried alive; there is no more claustrophobic feeling than that. But the reason we continue on the journey is because Angelina Jolie captivates us at every turn. Obviously we want to know what happened to Walter and what will happen to all those involved in this conspiracy, but the unease in our stomach is settled a bit by Jolie. Her performance is honest and visceral (I’m sure being a mother of 19 kids helps) and for that this pill goes down a bit easier…of course you’ll never take another dose. – 3 reels out of 5
There you have it. But is that enough to take home this month’s award? The reason Angelina Jolie deserves the award is because it’s clear that she makes movies she wants to make. She has an amazing talent and that shouldn’t be overlooked because of films like Tomb Raider or Wanted. Perhaps these movies allow her to do all the things she does in her real life as a just and honorable human being and ambassador to human rights and world heath. And those are the reasons that Angelina Jolie takes home September’s award – because all she knows how to do is Keep it Really Reel - on screen and off.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Sometimes things are so campy that we can’t help but love them. Other times their just excessively so that we’re turned off by the attempt to be something more important than just what it is – a bad movie. And then there are those in between: a motley crew of elements, ideas, themes that most people probably get fooled into thinking they have a great, poignant film on their hands when all they have is a mess. We don’t hate them, we don’t love them. We watch them and when the credits roll we walk out the same as when we went in just two hours older.
A perfect example of this is Teeth, a horroredy from writer-director Mitchell Lichtenstein about the newest edition to Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” (click her to get real synopsis).
Look, I’m all for “different”, “quirky”, or whatever, but let’s just go down the list of bad things this movie has to offer:
1. Jess Weixler (Dawn), our heroine: She’s terrible in this movie. Is it supposed to be on purpose? I don’t know and I don’t care. She’s basically doing a terrible Delia Deetz impersonation the whole movie. Guess what Jess, you’re no Delia Deetz!
2. Every other actor: Shame on you all! I understand campy, but come on. Where did they find the guy who was supposed to be her initial love interest (Hale Appleman)? He looked like the Jonas brother they locked up in the basement for being too weird (yeah, because the other three are sooooooo normal).
3. Too much penis: Honestly, not really a problem because this is a movie about the power of women, women’s sexuality, etc. But the problem with the excessive count is that they’re never attached to a body! Someone call Trojan and tell them they need to make a chainmaille condom, stat!
4. Was there an unmentioned environmental theme to this movie? Are those Mr. Burns’ smoking power plant stacks in the background? Ok, I get it. I’ll turn off my lights!
5. Just too slow: We all know where this is going. Early on I kind of knew we’d end up with a vagina toothed, penis crunching vigilante by the end of our movie. So let’s move this pony along if we’re not going to do anything in the middle.
Seriously though, I laughed out-loud a few times during this movie although it was usually preceded by making sure my ol' "flux capacitors" were still there. I did enjoy the “power of women/sexuality” themes. I’m sure you can come across a lot of people who will love this movie - its comedic timing, its thesis and themes, and ability to present equal parts horror and comedy. But for me, this movie just fell short. It wasn’t that funny, and it was never too scary, just gory with its bad props (again, on purpose, but it just didn’t work for me). And as I stated earlier, there was just too much going on and the whole suffered.
And I’m not going to give it any leeway because of its trendiness/campiness; movies have to prove to me that I should be watching. The street doesn’t run the other way. The burden of proof lays with the filmmaker and his/her crew. I’m tired of cutting movies slack just so I can say “it’s good for that type of movie”. That’s BS! Good movies are good movies and if you’re asking for me to give you $15 at a theatre or two hours of my at home time then you better live up to your end of the deal.
In the end, Teeth didn’t make me want to recommend it to anyone. Instead it just left me wondering: what’s Dawn’s orthodontic bill look like? – 2 reels out of 5
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I suppose Jean-Claude Van Damme has always been something of a joke. Even when I was growing up and admiring everything about the man – his martial arts skills, athleticism, and smoothness with the ladies – I always found something comical about the way he handled himself in movies, whether it was his excessive yelling in slow motion (Bloodsport)
or his drunken-master dance moves (Kickboxer). But I was a faithful JCVD follower from my first few frames of Bloodsport all the way up to Universal Soldier: The Return (thank you Mom and Dad for not agreeing with the MPAA’s “inappropriate for children under 17” guidelines). But to most people I guess that’s what Van Damme is: the Belgian Steven Seagal - an action star who was good at his one thing and now his main purpose is to serve as the punch line in a Friday work email: Van Damme It's Friday!
But there is definitely more to the Muscles from Brussels than early ‘90s Cracker Jack action films. He has seen his fair share of ups and downs in both his professional and personal lives. Van Damme went from being “the man who brought John Woo to Hollywood” (Hard Target) to being that guy who did movies with Dennis Rodman and Rob Schneider. He went from wife 1 to wife 5 (and eventually back to wife #2). He went from happiness to depression and back and forth again. His life is a complicated one that has only recently found direction and solace. And with it comes one of the most powerful performances of the last year, if not at least the most sincere.
Simply, JCVD is a fictional movie based on the life of the real JCVD. A major star the world over, JCVD struggles to maintain a relationship with his family and make his marriage work. His career is becoming more of a joke and as it spirals down the toilet of Hollywood along with his bank account and happiness. Upon return to his hometown in Brussels, Van-Damme stops in a post office to pick up a check. There he gets caught in a robbery in progress and, due to his being seen through the window by local law enforcement, is assumed to be the perpetrator. Of course suspicions are only confirmed when people learn of his recent custody hearings and increasing debt. What follows is comedy and character study/redemptive film; a parody with a heart if you will. The opening scene of the film provides us with enough action to show that the muscles still has the speed and build, but also serves as a contrast to the rest of the movie. This film doesn’t take place on the battlefield, but rather in in a tense hostage situation and in the broken heart and failed dreams and hopes of Jean Claude Van-Damme.
At one point the Time Magazine had raved that Van-Damme had given "…the finest, most scab-pulling performance seen this year, " nothing short of Oscar® worthy. Perhaps a nod would have been nice, but with the past year’s talent, and a similar “fall from the top” film in The Wrestler, I don’t think Jean-Claude would have taken the statue home anyway. Is this the best movie ever? No, it certainly falls short in some areas. For instance, we could have used more examples of Van-Damme’s spiral downward and seen more of his dismal life that brought him to this point. Is it the greatest performance ever? Not quite…but JCVD breathes life into himself and we love him for it. He is reduced to a "normal" guy filled with fears, regret, dreams, love. Celebrity is deconstructed through a man who has known all its sides and ugly faces.
I won’t ruin it but this movie really does well involving a lot of different elements to tell a story, at one point using an honest and perfectly placed “confession” from its main character. At first you may think it’s out of place or cheap tricks, but give it a moment and you will be swept off your feet by a man who built a career by knocking people off theirs. Mickey Rourke had The Wrestler, Travolta had Pulp Fiction, and now JCVD has…well, JCVD! - - 4 reels out of 5
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
With that now out of the way you will understand my first take on the movie. As soon as Clint opened his mouth, I was stunned. I wasn’t prepared to hear a 75 man have the voice combination of Batman and McGruff the Crime Dog. Now admittedly this is my fault for not knowing how Clint normally sounds in a movie so I cannot blame anyone but myself. It still, however, took some time to get used to the speaking voice. Once I stopped paying attention to the voice and focused on the words, they were amazing. Yes his general conversation was outrageously racist, but it was real. And don’t feel guilty for laughing at times to his comments. Some of them are so over the top that you cannot help but laugh at how ridiculous this man’s thought process really is. He was a Korean War vet who could not separate himself from his war time, still living in a mind set from 50 years earlier. With that mind set intact, his political incorrectness is extremely out of place in our current society but fits in fine in the world he still imagine he lives in. He constantly offends his neighbors and family with his racist names and stereotypes, yet manages to win them over at the same time with heroic actions. It’s a great battle of the non-hero rising to hero status while the whole time not wanting to do so. In the end he surprises everyone with one final act to save the neighborhood and show he wasn’t such a grouch all along.
Overall I give the movie a ”Definitely Rent” rating as it is worth the time and effort to see. It’s a nice combination of Falling Down, Boondock Saints, and any Clint Eastwood western movie (I’d name one, but as I mentioned before I haven’t seen them). Clint plays the same gritty, tough character you expect but reveals a soft spot at times to show there’s still a human in there. The supporting cast has a nice function with brother and sister neighbor roles which have completely opposite extrovert and introvert personalities to provide different interactions with Eastwood and keep things entertaining. So I recommend renting this movie on a slow Tuesday night when you want a nice combination of drama, action, and sarcastic dry humor. Crack open a cold Budweiser, enjoy the movie, but just don’t think of quoting Eastwood’s lines anywhere in public. Ever.
Kevin, thank you for this submission. First, let me just encourage you to see some more Clint Eastwood (the actor) movies. A Fistful of Dollars, Dirty Harry, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Unforgiven; they’re definitely worth it and they came out in a time when action was maybe a bit over the top, but the characters were actually tough and weren’t softened up like today’s cowboys and cops.
I had been itching to see Gran Torino for some time, but I wanted to even more after receiving your submission. And so I did. Most of the movies directed by Clint are accompanied by critical praise, but this one seemed to either not be good enough or just slipped under the radar with Clint having directed what seems like 97 movies in 3 years. The lack of praise actually peaked my interest and made me wonder “will this be the best of the recent crop?” Well, was it? First, let’s address your points.
Clint does sound like an old grizzled man (which, obviously, he is) and his voice is somewhat comical especially when he mumbles the archetypal old man line, “Get off my lawn!” Of course, instead of shaking his fist in a pair of Depends he’s pointing a M1 Garand rifle at some kids face - definitely bad ass!
Your analysis of Walt (Clint Eastwood) and his inability to let go of his world from 50 years ago is so true. And you do find yourself laughing at some of his outlandish and racist comments. I’ll be the first to say I do not tolerate any type of derogatory language for race, religion, sexual orientation or whatever, but Walt’s character is definitely hiding a “Thesaurus: Racism Edition” somewhere in those hiked up khakis.
But the movie leaves a little something to be desired. Some of the developments of the relationship between Walt and his neighbors seem a bit rushed and half-baked. And the supporting characters are a bit weak, only popping up when they have something crucial to say or reveal rather than when would be consistent or appropriate for the character. For instance, the way his children handle their mother’s funeral is just mind boggling even if their relationship with their war vet father is strained. And the priest from the local church is supposed to be dedicated to convincing Walt to attend confession, but only comes around when he can advance the story. There are other issues, some with the plot points and development, others with acting. But in the end, the whole of this movie is greater than the sum of its parts.
This is not Clint Eastwood’s best movie in the last few years, but I must admit that I was pleased. Originally I hoped I would get a little more of a Boondock Saints vibe from this, but there is less vigilante and more humanity in Gran Torino than advertised. And it’s for the better. Walt goes on a very personal journey seeking salvation, something he has been in search of for over 50years. Along the way he befriends and effects people he thought he was sworn to hate and would never understand. He teaches those who thought they had the answers, and learns from those he thought could teach him nothing. Not everything for Walt wraps up with a nice bow and gift card, but he learns a lot about life near the end of his own when all he knew was loss and death. And it’s a great little journey to go on for 2+hrs even though at points the vehicle seems a little lost. Oh, and Kevin, don't drink a Budweiser with this movie. Crack open a Pabst Blue Ribbon; would Walt have it any other way? -- 3 reels out of 5
Monday, August 31, 2009
Yeah, I'm talking to you. You wanna poke fun at "Joe Vs. The Volcano"? Well my friend, you have some serious growing up to do. I am sick of when people talk about "bad movies" and "Joe" is included. "Joe" is a wonderful feel-good story which any "working Joe" can relate to, that's even why he's named "Joe" people! Come on! Let's go through some of the best parts together!