Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Monday Movie Suggestion

You know these suggestions are genuine because for this selection, I just made my boyfriend watch it while we were on vacation. It mostly stemmed from the awe that he had never seen Clueless and needing to rectify that immediately.

Clueless, currently on Netflix Instant, is a total time capsule of the 90's with so many quick referrences you probably won't even notice them all. For anyone that doesn't know the premise, Alicia Silverstone is a rich, LA high school student. Her ex step brother is Paul Rudd (!). The main plotline is her helping Brittany Murphy to fit in to the rich Beverly Hills scene and the melodramatic events that follow.

The story is actually based around Jane Austen's Emma. So now you can feel better about watching since it's based on such a classic novel.

I don't know why, but it's a really good movie. It's very over-the-top but in a completely fun way. It's just a silly movie and one that everyone should say they've seen at least once. Plus it's always on tv and the edited version is hardly different so you aren't missing out!

Cast of Donald Faison (Turk from Scrubs), Jeremy Sisto (guy that almost played Jack in Titanic), Brittany Murphy pre-OD, and Breckin Meyer that you'll recognize from every movie and tv show ever

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Monday's" Movie Suggestion

I would watch a two hour movie of just this

I'm going with something a little off the beaten track here, but I stand by it: The Men Who Stare at Goats. It has an absolutely stacked cast but didn't do very well at the box office. It's kind of out there but I adore it.

The cast: Clooney, Spacey, McGregor, Bridges, Swanson (slash Offerman if you know his real name).

The plot: Ewan McGregor is a reporter who is just out of a failed marriage and travels to the Middle East to cover the war. He meets George Clooney, who claims to have telekinetic powers, such as being able to explode a goat with his mind. These powers came from training under the tutelage of Jeff Bridges but is in danger due to the bad goat (PUN!) of the program, Kevin Spacey.

I think that sounds amazing. The humor is very Arrested Development-y because you aren't looking for any sort of Ba-dum-cha set-up/punchline. It's just the little nuances of Clooney's crazy eyes or random outbursts. It's the idea of a military general like Bridges turning into a complete hippy and sitting in a hot tub getting high. It's not knowing whether the story you watched actually happened or whether it was some story made up (the movie is based on a book and the author or the book is Ewan's character-he claims all this stuff is true...but do you believe him?).

It's basically what would happen if Wes Anderson combined with the Coen Brothers. It's O Brother (probably a future Monday suggestion) meets The Royal Tenenbaums. And it's definitely a movie that falls into that "better-with-each-viewing" category since with each watch you pick up more and more subtly hilarious moments.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Arg'nt you going to go see Argo?

Although I'm probably the only (non-lesbian) person to associate Argo with Xena's horse (hilarious video, you should click on that link), this Argo is actually the new Ben Affleck movie based off recently declassified real-life events. Mini history lesson: under President Jimmy Carter, Americans at the embassy in Tehran, Iran were held hostage for 444 days (I have a Master's, folks). The movie follows six Americans who were able to escape and hide at the Canadian embassy. Enter: Ben Affleck...'s beard to the rescue.

I've been very excited about this movie and the hype around it has only intensified as it got closer to the release date. I've been trying to convince my roommate #chrysanne to come, but it was only after NPR did a segment on how good it is that she agreed to go.

I forgot what it was like going to a movie on movie night, as I've been seeing most of my films in the middle of the day with the other one or two weirdos that see movies in the middle of the day. I also especially forgot what it was like to see a movie that old people enjoy seeing. Lots of nose blowing and loudly asking EH, WHAT'S HAPPENING? during relatively simple plot points.

Anyway, the movie is fucking AWESOME. I'll begin with the cast:

Ben Affleck took great pains to make the actors look as true to form as the people they're portraying. He also replicated exact moments from photographs taken at the time. As the credits role they show you the side-by-side comparison. Taking into consideration how great each single actor was AND how realistic they looked, the casting director and make-up/costume people did a commendable job. Alan Aarkin and John Goodman play the wise-ass Hollywood professionals that help Ben's character create a realistic cover story. Bryan Cranston plays Ben's superior, and with only one Heisenberg-esq freak out, does a great job of being a hard ass and good guy. Victor Garber, who played Ben's real-life wife's fictional TV dad on Alias, was the heroic Canadian ambassador with cool hair.

The rest of the cast is pretty much unknowns...except...wait a sec...is...is that CHRIS MESSINA?? AKA THE GUY I'VE MENTIONED IN THREE SEPARATE POSTS AS AN UP-AND-COMER. NAILED IT, ILA!!! HIGH FIVE!

Screen shot of my computer as I reference IMDB as I write. The only highlighted name from previously being clicked on? Chris Macho-Man Messina

Ok, so as for the plot and rest of the movie...equally superb. As Steven Soderbergh did with Magic Mike, Ben Affleck took a story that could have been filled with the typicals (CIA fast-talk and crudely tensioned-filled spy flick) and made it into something unique, realistic, true-to-life, and genuinely suspenseful. During the climax people were actually unable to contain their inner dialogue and were mumbling "just go!" just as I was tapping my foot and rubbing my hands thinking the same thing. I purposefully didn't research the real-life events so I wouldn't know how things turned out and I highly recommend doing the same. At the conclusion the things I heard just from within earshot were people clapping, "amazing" and "that was so good" being bantered about.

I cannot recommend this movie enough. Plus George Clooney co-produced it with Ben Affleck. I don't know why, but that just automatically makes people consider seeing a movie more than when they didn't know Clooney was involved. 
Cranston convincing Affleck to try the goatee look

NOTE: I DID NOT MAKE THE ABOVE LINKED YOUTUBE VIDEO. I know most of you think otherwise, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Note note: I just noticed FilmDrunk has a similar title for their blog on Argo, which proves I should do this professionally.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Taken 2: Taken as a video game

I mocked Taken 2 when the trailer came out. I was confused by subsequent trailers as to who was actually being taken. And now after viewing Taken 2, I stand by everything I previous said.

So the problem with really good movies is that sequels have to be better. It makes what Nolan was able to do with the Batman trilogy that much more impressive and awe inspiring.

Taken was a really, really good movie. It had a fluid plot involving Liam Neeson taking logical and realistic steps to find his kidnapped daughter. His character had intense training that enabled him to do things an average joe couldn't. That makes an awesome action movie. It's like a toned-down Bourne.

Taken 2 uses the same premise but without the fluidity and realism that made it's predecessor so entertaining. It plays out like a video game in the sense that it's very disjointed and it feels like there are levels with individual crime bosses that Liam must take down on his way to the main boss. Basically, one person is taken and then another person and then one of them is found and then another is taken but then a different boss takes another person and then they kill that boss while a different boss takes a person that was previously taken.

The film is only an hour and a half but feels much longer. The first taken/found sequence is entertaining enough but it feels like it's the end of the movie only thirty minutes in. Then the second sequence occurs and you're a little less into it. And then it just keeps happening until you're finally glad the movie's over.

Funniest scene in the movie was watching Liam yell at his daughter to get her fucking shit together while driving a clutch through the streets of Istanbul

Now, let me make it clear that Liam will always be entertaining. And this movie is still entertaining. The difference is that Taken is sweet and Taken 2 is just another action flick. Plus Liam's 4 years older and even though he's in great shape for a sixty year old, it did seem like he wasn't quite all there for the fight scenes.

There were also many more questions throughout the movie that are kind of nit-picky but weren't present for the first movie. Here were some that went through my head:

Where did he get that leather duster jacket after just being kidnapped the scene before?
How does she know how to drive a stick after being unable to pass her driver's test in a Toyota Camry?
If they're going to shoot at him, why do they continue to hold the wife hostage?
How are five men shooting machine guns without any single bullet hitting him?

Taken 2 is a typical "wait-for-it-to-be-on-netflix-or-tv" movie. Is that an expression yet? I was going to say to wait for it to be a rental but where do you rent it from anymore? Whatever, the point is, is that it's not worth the money to see it in theaters and since the plot and action is so similar to the first movie you're really not missing out. However, if you feel like watching Liam fight humans instead of wolves, then definitely save Taken 2 for a stay-in movie night.

Rian Johnson is the new Chris Nolan

Special guest writer: Christopher Clemente

I've been excited for Looper since that bad-ass image of Bruce Willis first appeared wielding a machine gun and an angry face.

My face is the opposite of happy
Actually, I've been waiting for this movie since it was announced that Looper was to be Rian Johnson's next feature film. Johnson, who's previous films include Brick (which is available on Netflix Instant and also stars Joe Go Lev) and The Brothers Bloom (a Wes Anderson-esque quirky-but-not-Zooey-Deschanel-quirky caper starring Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody) has finally arrived to the mainstream as a solid director who can tell an original story.

And Looper delivers. Plain and simple. The plot revolves around a not-too-distant future when time travel is possible and the mafia sends its victims back in time to be killed by hitmen known as Loopers.  Young Joe (played by Joe Go Lev) plays one of these Looping assassins, and things start to get sticky when the mob sends back Old Joe (Bruce Willis)-- an older Young Joe--and Young Joe can't pull the trigger to kill an older version of himself.

Confused? Who cares--I don't--and neither does Johnson. The film sets up a lofty and confusing sci-fi premise and then boldly dives into exploring major themes that don't concern time travel paradoxes. The movie ends up captivating you because of its deviations from the time-travel and action genre expectations, and throws you in a character-driven direction that you could never have guessed from all the marketing (trailers and posters alike).

Inline image 2
Director Rian Johnson on the set of Looper

But then, this movie reminds me so much of Inception. I'm not even talking about the Joe Go Lev (3rd time I've said that) connection. I'm talking about the distilling of a complex sci-fi story grounded in practical action, and making it palatable--meaning it garnered acclaim from critics and audience members alike (I think palatable is what I mean? Trying to say it was a generally "likeable" film). 

Johnson achieved a feat similar to Christopher Nolan, and that's why I think he will become the next Nolan. He will become a brand. It will become an expectation that he will deliver "original" content in the trite swamp that is the current Hollywood system of remakes and yada yada you've heard it all before.

Side stuff:
-Johnson directed one of my favorite episodes of Breaking Bad--"Fly" in Season 3.
-It was rumored that Johnson rewrote the script to have some of it take place in China because that was the only way that a Chinese Investment company would back the film and give it money. It also was mistakenly reported as receiving more money in China on opening weekend than in the US, a mistake which was corrected when it found out that they didn't take into account the exchange rate for the Chinese Yuan (really?)
-If you wanna watch a time travel movie that deals exclusively with time traveling paradoxes, check out Shane Carruth's Primer. If you look closely in the end credits, Carruth is credited under "Special Thanks" in Looper.

Editors Note: The producer's name is Ram Bergman. Shotty that as my porn name if I were a man in the porn industry

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sleepwalk with Me

Mike Birbiglia has been a comic I've followed since first seeing him on a Comedy Central stand-up special. He's been my own little bird that has since flown out of the nest and is now a household name. His comedy has evolved from the basic joke formula of observation plus alternative perspective equalling crowd laughter. Instead, he takes the audience on a full adventure of his life in a story-telling sequence of real-life events. He's had multiple off-broadway shows (which I've seen), many cross-country tours (which I've also seen), albums (which I've bought) and even a book, titled the same as the movie (which I own).

His story telling ways seem to have begun when he started publishing "My Secret Public Journal." He use to email his subscribers (again, me) with a weekly entry of some silly things he's been dealing with while on tour or at home with hyperlinks to funny tangentially related videos and connecting it somehow to a past memory before circling it back around with a "and that's why..." send off. As that became popular in its own right, his stand up took a similar circular pace of starting off with a premise (Sleepwalk With Me, My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, etc.) and then comedically taking a round about way to get back to the main point.

When I went to see the movie I almost asked for one ticket to "Mike Birbiglia" since it's his baby. He stars in it as well as writes and directs. Working with NPR's Ira Glass (Birbigs is a frequent guest on Glass's This American Life series), the Sundance darling has done well in a grass-roots campaign to bring it to more and more theaters across the country over the past few weeks.

Mike stars as Matt Pandamigglio. It's a little unclear as to why they changed the name and I kind of understand why they did it but was equally thrown by having to hear such a similar name to the comedian. Aside from the name change, everything else is 100% true to life-- or as true to his life as his stand-up is. I had heard literally every single joke, premise, come-back, and twist dozens of times before from his shows, tours, books, and albums.

However, considering that I'm already that familiar with the material and still audibly laughed throughout the movie, it is enough to guarantee that fresh ears will be delighted. I cannot recommend jumping on the Birbiglia bandwagon fast enough and if that means starting with Sleepwalk With Me, then you are very lucky to be in for such a treat. Feel free to stop by my house to borrow any of the other mediums.


Monday movie suggestion-Arthur

This Monday movie suggestion is one that I often recommend when friends are looking through my own DVDs to watch on a relaxing night staying in. Arthur, starring Dudley Moore and Liza Minelli, recently remade with Russell Brand, is one of those old fashioned movies that don't fit into modern movie genres.

The premise is that a loveable, drunken, childish millionaire is forced to marry a woman he does not love in order to keep all his money. He meets a poor woman who lives with her father and they fall in love. Will the power of love trump the love of money? Tune in to find out!

This movie has some of the best one-liners ever delivered in a film. Dudley Moore is amazing in a role that defines his career. Liza is delightful as the street-smart love interest. The movie gracefully dances between whimsical and dramatic all the while staying true to itself. 

Definitely worth a watch whether you're home alone or want an entertaining movie to share with a friend. 


Two summer floppers had big comebacks this weekend and both films were released by Sony. Taking the number two position was Looper, starring Premium Rush headliner Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It was awesome and will be reviewed later by guest writer, Chris Clemente!

And your champion of the weekend, setting September box office records, MISTERRRR ADAMMM SANDLERRRRRRR. That's right hot off the heals of That's My Boy, which had everyone freaking out that not only was Adam doomed but that he was taking Andy with him, the Jew du...o scored a win with Hotel Transylvania.

And honestly, the movie deserved the success. I defended That's My Boy, not so much in that it was a good movie, but that people were making too big a deal out of the implications being tied to it. Over a career, people, especially comics, will have ups and downs. Back on top are Sandler and Samberg. And Sony has no plans on letting go of Sandler, either. Head of Distribution, Rory Bruen, has said of maintaining a relationship with Sandler, "I have said that many times, and it still holds in a big way." Boom.

I really did enjoy this film. It's a kids movie which also eliminates Sandler's most annoying jokes about jacking off to old ladies and whatnot. There were some great one-liners and the animation was really used as a supplement to the jokes. Not in the sense that it had terrific effects or anything new, but that it was well done and added to the jokes instead of overshadowing them.

It was enjoyable for all ages, although there were definitely some parts that were more geared toward kids. One too many sing alongs made me wiggle in my seat. But those parts only helped to distract me from the likeness Selena Gomez's character had to Becca from Californication.

See here:

Becca/Maddy Martin-a real person

A fictional vampire voiced by Selena Gomez

I mean am I crazy or are they...

The answer is yes, yes they are.

Anyway, if you enjoy animated kids movies, I don't think you'll be disappointed by the vocal stylings of Sandler, Sanberg, Gomez, Buscemi, James, Spade, Green, and the rest. It's entertaining and a fun twist to an old tale with some good lessons cleverly mixed in. Check it out to get yourself in the Halloween mood!