Saturday, June 27, 2009

Man on Film: Terminator Salvation

I went in thinking it would be awful. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it'd be. That being said, it wasn't great. Then again, I don't really give a shit about the Terminator series. If I did, I'd say something like, "This was as much a Batman movie as a Terminator movie, and if it were in the other franchise, I'd be ranting right now."


I saw The Hangover again and was happier for it.


Sorry for my low output recently. I'm not working three jobs that total about 70 hours a week. This leaves little time for blogging.

That being said, with the Royals blowing ass, this blog should get more attention than my Royals blog.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rediscovering the Past: Once Upon a Time In Kenny Rogers Career

Just a taste, because you need it.

Not that this whole clip isn't gold, but the best part starts at the 3:00 mark and goes on into the next clip.

I would elaborate more on the experience that Six Pack is, but that should be one that you have yourself.

I will say that seeing Six Pack spawned one of the most embarrassingly (or awesomely, depending on your frame of mind) raunchy extended conversations that I've ever had in my life. I will go no further than to say that one of Mr. Rogers' past transgressions was the subject of much disturbing conversation.

Regardless, you just got Six Packed. You're welcome.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Man on Film: The Hangover

I was pretty damned excited to see this--so much so that I hit up an opening day matinee.

Despite having seen so much footage before the movie's release that I found myself sitting in the theater waiting for segments that were in one of the myriad trailers/teaser/TV spots, The Hangover was insanely good. There should also be an emphasis on the word 'insanely' in the previous sentence.

The Hangover is an raucous comic mystery with an anarchic spirit that pushes this film into realms not often explored in mainstream cinema. If you are wondering what I'm talking about, stick around for the slide show at the end of the film.

Since Todd Phillips directed Old School and Road Trip (and oddly, the G.G. Allin rockumentary Hated, which actually makes a little more sense than the other two which are fairly milquetoast in comparison to The Hangover), there are obviously going to comparisons to those films.

For instance, one reviewer (someone at The Onion A.V. Club) complained that "[Bradley] Cooper is all Vince Vaughn smarm with no Vince Vaughn vulnerability" and says that like it is a bad thing. Perhaps the biggest problem with Old School is the scene in which Vaughn's character is in the bedroom with the co-ed and tells her that he's married. It seems completely out of character for the guy who seems to be pushing for them to do every depraved thing and adds a morality to the character that is completely forced. In The Hangover, Bradley Cooper is playing that archetype but to an unapologetically dickish end to great effect.

But I digress. Ed Helms is great as the henpecked pseudo-husband/dentist who inevitably cuts loose the most when the inhibitions are lowered. Justin Bartha, of National Treasure sidekick fame, is good in a limited role as the misplaced groom. In smaller roles, Ken Jeong, Heather Graham, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike Epps, and Mike Tyson are all great.

The star of the film, however, is the scene-stealing Zach Galifianakis, whose Alan is completely unhinged. Alan's insanity and the unpredictability of his actions take this film to a level that would not have been reached otherwise. Without Galifianakis, the film would probably not work very well. As is also prevalent in his stand-up routine, Galifianakis (who was recently profiled in the New York Times Magazine) brings an unnerving energy to the role. As the events of the night past become illuminated, more often than not the impetus for the most insane acts carried out by the bachelor party was from the mind of the warped Alan.

What is maybe most refreshing about the film is that there isn't a lot of time wasted trying to embue each character with a heart of gold. Cooper's Phil steals from his students and hates his life. Galifianakis's Alan is the embodiment of unhinged anarchy. Even the most sympathetic character, Helms's Stu is often a dick to the aloof social retard (that word being perhaps the funniest little throw-away line of the movie) Alan.

Sure, a fair chunk of the plunk can be divined from the trailers, but I would say that is mostly irrelevant. Galifianakis's presence cannot be properly shown in a trailer. The movie, which is solid through and through, really should be seen. Probably more than once. I know I intend to see it again.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Diversions: Trees Across Long Island Put on Notice

Thanks to Chad for the head's up on this one:

The National Arbor Day Foundation has put its best men and women out in the field in mobile units in preparation for the aftermath that is sure to follow this.

Billy Joel is atop their list of most prolific tree killers, ranking just above the industries clearing out the rainforests and the lumber industry of the Pacific Northwest. I suppose there is more sport to what Joel does, as he needs no tools other than his automobile.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Man on Film: Drag Me To Hell

Maybe having lucked into the VIP treatment at the Alamo Ritz when I saw this affected my judgment, but Drag Me To Hell was pretty goddamn fun.

While Sam Raimi has done mostly well by himself in the time that has passed since he trafficked in B-movie fare, Drag Me To Hell is a welcome return to form. Sure, he has done the Spider-Man movies and the truly outstanding A Simple Plan, but I think any Raimi fan has at the very least secretly been yearning for him to go back to his bread and butter--horror. As awesome as Spider-Man 2 was, though, I don't know anyone who wouldn't throw in one of the three Evil Dead movies four out of five times if given the choice between them.

In Drag Me To Hell, Raimi has essentially made a "Tales from the Crypt" episode.

Well, maybe I should qualify that statement. Say you were my age (somewhere in the vicinity of 30) and remembered seeing some fairly entertaining episodes of "Tales from the Crypt" back in the early '90's. Then you never saw another. Ever. So the memory of "Tales from the Crypt" being sort of all right is still in the back of your head. Then make something in that mold only have it be really good. And get rid of that horribly unfunny, pun-spewing Crypt Keeper.

Now, anyone who has seen an episode of the aforementioned TV series in this millenium knows that it totally sucks, but that is beside the point. Drag Me To Hell is a really awesome. There are all of the gross-out moments you could want. The timing is spot on. If you don't dislike Justin Long (I know, I don't really get how anyone can have any feelings about him that move past indifference on the negativity meter, but I know a guy who hates Justin Long--and Rian Johnson movies), then you probably don't have any casting issues with the film, as Alison Lohman is great. The humor, while not of Army of Darkness proportions, is there in full force.

Past all that, I don't want to get into plot points or anything of that sort. After all, this is a horror movie, and its effectiveness relies heavily on the element of surprise.

It worked for me on pretty much every level.

Then again, I was not watching it with the common people.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Man on Film: The Brothers Bloom

As the Royals' season has tanked, I have found myself rediscovering the joys of reading and going to the gym. This has also kept me from the computer and, thusly, the internet.

What it hasn't done is gotten in the way of going to the movies.

Last week I saw three films in the theater, the first of which I'll write about tonight*.

*Tonight began as last night, but I fell asleep on the couch while trying to complete this entry. Pretty ridiculous, I know, but it happened.

Having heard a negative reaction to Rian Johnson's second film, my expectations were tempered. By the end of the prologue with its spot on Ricky Jay narration, writer/director Johnson had convinced me that my friend who shall remain unnamed was unequivocally wrong.

For those of you who may not know who Rian Johnson is, I'll bring you up to speed. His debut film, Brick, was a brilliant juxtaposition of a classic noir film in the setting of a present day California high school. Everything about the film could exist in the world that writers such as Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, and Raymond Chandler helped create, except for the selection of setting. Sure, "Veronica Mars" had heavy elements of noir throughout the series, but at no point did it make the leap past having noir themes throughout. Brick was an enthralling breath of fresh air on the cinematic landscape. A film that showed a deep love for the language of a bygone film genre while contemporizing its setting. Not since Being John Malkovich had I been so impressed by so unique a voice.

The Brothers Bloom does for the grifter tale what Brick did for film noir. Just as in his first film, Rian Johnson has imbued The Brothers Bloom with a love for the language of the genre. Despite its placement in the present, TBB is every bit the classic tale of swindles, double-crosses, marks, and fast-talking con men.

Inherent in such a film is a lighter spirit than his prior effort, and this allows for the proper stage in which Mark Ruffalo may put his infectious enthusiasm on display. For the first time since You Can Count on Me, Ruffalo is given a film role in which his immense gift for comedy and his ability walk the line between affable and dangerous can once again be on full display. Where Adrien Brody's Bloom is the sympathetic lead (I hesitate to dub him either anti-hero or hero, as the character exists in the gray area in between), Ruffalo's Stephen is who we all really want to be. He is the mastermind. He is the magnetic force. He is what Ferris Bueller would have grown up to be if he had grown up fending for himself as a child.

As for the other cast, Rachel Weisz made me momentarily forget how mean she was to Paul Rudd. Rinko Kikuchi simultaneously embodied ambivalence and anarchic destruction with aplomb, stealing nearly every scene she was in while uttering nary a word (or maybe I'm fetishizing the Asian female, as we white males are wont to do).

Rather than go further into a reflection on the film, which worked on every level for me, personally, I'll go ahead and address the issues that my friend had with the film.

In short, he felt that the film was a shameless Wes Anderson rip off. For the first ten minutes or so, I attempted to find the basis for such an argument to be made. It took that long for me to dismiss the statement. Upon completion of viewing, it struck me as simply lazy. Such an argument would seem to suggest that Wes Anderson invented quirkiness. Past quirkiness, it seems to me the the films of Anderson operate from a world in which all those quirks arise from the source of stunted emotional growth. Nearly every central figure in Wes Anderson's films has been emotionally damaged and has troubles assimilating him or herself into society. Furthermore, the anachronism inherent in Anderson's works seems merely a function of his own predilection for inserting preciousness for the sake of amusement.

On both fronts, it would seem The Brothers Bloom does not fit. While each of the characters in the film may have issues, it does not feel at any point that their actions are driven by their social retardation. They are archetypes within the structure of the standard grifter flick. Sure, there have to be motives for the actions of characters, but it never feels like they are crippled by their pathos (aside from maybe Bloom at the end). As for the anachronism within, there is a tongue-in-cheek wink at many turns. What Rian Johnson so aptly achieves for a second time here is the marriage of an old-timey story with a contemporary setting. The anachronism here operates past the realm of decorative flair. Perhaps he is taking what Anderson does one step further, but there is an element of import that exists in the filmic sense that is largely lacking in Anderson's usage of anachronistic inserts.

All right, enough tangentially venting.

In short, I loved this film. I will fight you if you differ with my opinion. Or not.


Here's the trailer in HD, with admittedly shoddy music backing it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rediscovering the Past: Hiding Out Re-revisited

The most faithful of readers may recall that I have actually written about this film before. Oddly, I have had fleeting interactions with both Jon Cryer and Keith Coogan, who some of you may know is most definitely the most famous person to stumble across this little corner of the internet (his comment is pretty awesome).

Hiding Out was on again this morning, and I got to thinking more about the issue of statutory rape within the film. Now, maybe either of the aforementioned stars of the film would like to shed light on the issue, but this subject has clearly resonated with me.

If you need a refresher and did not want to go back to my previous Hiding Out entry, Cryer's character, Andrew Morenski goes on the run because he thinks the feds cannot protect him. He assumes the fake identity of Maxwell Houser and goes to school with his high school cousin, played by my favorite Keith (sorry, Keith David), Keith Coogan. While in high school, he falls for a girl, as every hero has to have a love interest.

The issue here is that Annabeth Gish's character is supposed to be a high school student. As such, the almost 30-year-old Andrew Morenski is pining over jail-bait.

My main question here is, were the filmmakers secretly making a propaganda piece advocating statutory rape, or were they making a case for statutory rape being created in an environment in which the two involved were socially equals (i.e. both high school students, at least within the narrative construct of the film)?


Monday, June 1, 2009

Reading Rainbow: Falling Man by Don DeLillo

It has been months, it seems, since I last finished a book. While I don't necessarily have a lot to say on this one, I will briefly talk about it.

While probably not as good as White Noise or Underworld, DeLillo's 9/11 novel dives into the malaise that followed the attack. Told in a fractured way, the short sections within the chapters aptly reflect the lives that were broken.

The book focuses on husband and wife that living separately at the time of the attack, who were then thrown back together by the forces at work. Upon getting back together, both were largely withdrawn, Lianne craving an order and stability to her life (read: safety), and Keith wandering through the haze having been permanently detached by his survival of the attack of the first tower.

As Keith meanders through his new existence, first in New York and later in Las Vegas, Lianne tries to put together the puzzle that is her returned husband. All the while, their son, Justin, undertakes the habit of speaking monosyllabically and enlists his friends to watch the sky for "Bill Lawton". Needless to say, this family finds themselves struggling to put their lives back in order.

Perhaps the most affective passage in the book is its coda, "In the Hudson Corridor". The section begins with a terrorist sitting on the plane--having helped secure it for their purpose--awaiting his fate. The path of this terrorist towards this point had been outlined in previous stand alone chapters, and his involvement with the terrorists seemed to arise from chance as much as anything else. As the plane crashes into the tower, the point of view switches over to Keith and follows his escape from the tower. It is here that DeLillo's prose reaches its greatest height within Falling Man and approaches the standard set by Underworld.
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