Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

Sometimes timing is everything. Take, for instance, this morning/early afternoon when we were in Harvard Square and we walked by the Harvard Loews theater at just the right time. The right time being about 3 minuted before the start of the noon showing of Hot Tub Time Machine. The movie delivers and that it is just as ridiculous as the name sounds. You pretty much know what you are getting into. That being said, there are probably worse ways to while away a Sunday afternoon, but then again you could probably go your whole life and not feel like you have missed anything if you don't see this movie. It worked because the plot was duct-taped together from those ski movies in the eighties, with a dash of Back To The Future and even Quantum Leap for good measure. I mean there isn't much here, a lot of jokes rely too much on nostalgia, although the gems like John Cusack finding his old Fishbone shirt in his luggage were nice. As was William Zabka's cameo. Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry are the real standouts here, though. Its silly, and there are some good laughs, and its amiable enough. It was also nice to see Lizzy Caplan, Crispin Glover, and I support this new mini-trend of comedies using Public Enemy on their soundtrack. (I am not sure if two movies makes something even a minitrend.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

The House Of The Devil (2009)

Before I start my review, I need to point out that while Peter and Vanessa have been burning up the boards, you'll note that there are still some un-bolded quotes below if you wanted to try your hand at some of the unanswered quotes from the 90's movie quiz As Rocky would say: Go for it!

Anyhow, I have to really admire Ti West's craftsmanship in recreating to a "T" a horror movie that could have come from straight from the late seventies/early eighties. To me, at least, it becomes even more fantastic when I checked over at IMDB, and, sure enough he doesn't turn 30 until October of this year. I don't know why that is, but it just seems like someone who has immersed himself in early eighties cheapie horror/slasher films, as West clearly has, I would have pegged that person at being at least 5 to 10 years older. That doesn't diminish what he's done here. He has recreated, not parodied, a cheaply done horror film from a very specific time period, one that very well could have been caught on early HBO, or even Elvira, or USA's Up All Night when we were growing up. It really is pretty amazing, right down to the film stock chosen to create that very particular look. And, I feel like I need to emphasize the fact that it never feels like a parody. But more of a recreation, if that makes sense. Like unearthing some lost horror gem that people sort of remember from staying up late at night growing up in the eighties. So how does it work as a scary movie? Up until the finale where everything goes nuts, its pretty much a study in the slow burn. Before it goes off the rails in a way that seems fitting, it really is a study in setting the mood. The lone babysitter out in the middle of the woods, stuck in a big empty house? Check, check, and check. Its definitely creepy. Ti West also seems like he is really good at setting and sustaining a consistent mood of dread. The thing is you almost have to watch it as a product of a different time. If you go in looking for horror tropes from more modern horror movies, it probably won't work. But if you turn off the lights and think back to watching some old school, VHS , cheapie horror movie-I think it adds to the enjoyment. Because up until the end, this is definitely more slow moving than something you might find today. For a fun, little, sort of weird, thriller, it does its job. I can't wait to see what Ti West does next. I have to say though, the cast, while not large is memorable, of course Jocelyn Donahue as the babysitter is really good. It was nice to see Dee Wallace. But the creepy cake has got to go to Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov as the owners of the old house.

Monday, March 8, 2010

90's Movie Quiz

I got this idea from Kate's blog. I had a good time actually doing the quiz so I thought I would try it here. So feel free to chime in and try it out:

The Rules

1) Pick 20 of your favorite (1990s) movies.

2) Go to IMDb and find a quote from each movie.

3) Post them here for everyone to guess.

4) Strike it out when someone guesses correctly, and put who guessed it and the movie title.

5) NO GOOGLING/using IMDb search or other search functions.

The Quotes

1) If you're part of a crew, nobody ever tells you that they're going to kill you, doesn't happen that way. There weren't any arguments or curses like in the movies. See, your murderers come with smiles, they come as your friends, the people who've cared for you all of your life. And they always seem to come at a time that you're at your weakest and most in need of their help. (Goodfellas)(Peter)

2) What are you, a fucking park ranger now?

3) Now, for some of you it doesn't matter. You were born rich and you’re going to stay rich. But here's my advice to the rest of you: Take dead aim on the rich boys. Get them in the crosshairs and take them down. Just remember, they can buy anything but they can't buy backbone. Don't let them forget it. Thank you. (Rushmore)(Peter)

4) Behind every good man there is a woman, and that woman was Martha Washington, man, and everyday George would come home, she would have a big fat bowl waiting for him, man, when he come in the door, man, she was a hip, hip, hip lady, man. (Dazed and Confused)(Vanessa)

5) Witness Exhibit A: My 8th Grade science project - a working rain forest. Mike Dexter threw it out a third story window. It rains here no more. Witness Exhibit B: An eye patch I wore for a month after Mike beaned me with a raisin in home ec. My parents took me to a 3D film. I saw no third dimension. And of course, how could I forget the pudding incident? I know no one else has.

6) Tell Leo he's not God on the throne, he's just a cheap political boss with more hair tonic than brains. (Miller's Crossing) (Peter)

7) How about if I wait six weeks to call. I could tell her I found her number while I was cleaning out my wallet, I can't remember where we met. I'll ask her what she looks like and then I'll ask her if we fucked. How about that? Would that be money? (Swingers)(Vanessa)

8) Wow, I didn't know we'd become such good friends, because if we had, you'd know that I give head before I give favors and I don't even give my best friends head so your chances of getting a favor are pretty fucking slim. (Go)(Peter)

9) AK-47. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the room, accept no substitutes. (Jackie Brown)(Peter)

10) Wanting people to listen, you can't just tap them on the shoulder anymore. You have to hit them with a sledgehammer, and then you'll notice you've got their strict attention.

11) I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague and we are the cure.

12) A lot of holes in the desert, and a lot of problems are buried in those holes. But you gotta do it right. I mean, you gotta have the hole already dug before you show up with a package in the trunk. Otherwise, you're talking about a half-hour to forty-five minutes worth of digging. And who knows who's gonna come along in that time? Pretty soon, you gotta dig a few more holes. You could be there all fuckin' night.

13) You know, we are sitting here, you and I, like a couple of regular fellas. You do what you do, and I do what I gotta do. And now that we've been face to face, if I'm there and I gotta put you away, I won't like it. But I tell you, if it's between you and some poor bastard whose wife you're gonna turn into a widow, brother, you are going down.

14) I'll give you a winter prediction: It's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life. (Groundhog Day)(Peter)

15) I seem to be stuck in the wedding from hell, ghosts of girlfriends past at every turn. Next thing I'll bump into Henrietta and the nightmare will be complete.(Four Weddings and A Funeral)(Peter)

16) Want to hear a poem I wrote? "I love you, you love me. Going down the sugar tree. We'll go down the sugar tree, and see lots of bees: playing, playing. But the bees won't sting, because you love me." That's it.

17) 'It's Christmas Eve in the City of Angels and while decent citizens sleep the sleep of the righteous, hopheads prowl for marijuana, not knowing that a man is coming to stop them! Celebrity crimestopper Jack Vincennes, scourge of grasshoppers and dopefiends everywhere!' Ya like it, Jackie boy? (L.A. Confidential)(Peter)

18) All right, look-you're a roofer, and some juicy government contract comes your way; you got the wife and kids and the two-story in suburbia - this is a government contract, which means all sorts of benefits. All of a sudden these left-wing militants blast you with lasers and wipe out everyone within a three-mile radius. You didn't ask for that. You have no personal politics. You're just trying to scrape out a living.

19) God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. 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.

20) Diamonds are supposed to be colorless! You go out and buy a colored diamond for a girl you're not even seeing, man, you must be eating retard sandwiches again.-Vanessa (I can't figure out how to cross out so I will bold the ones people get.)(Beautiful Girls)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Semi-Uninformed Oscar Post

I still enjoy the Oscars. Their prestige, if you can call it that, has worn off only because there are so many other awards shows littering the landscape now. Back in the day it seemed like there was one award show for maybe each entertainment medium (The Emmy's, The Grammy's etc.) Now there are all sorts out there. Do the Oscars matter? In the grand scheme of the planet Earth? No they don't. But as much as we as movie goers and movie lovers don't like to admit it, or we try to act like we're above it, we still argue about what was left off and not nominated, and, on Monday, will argue about what should have won. Its fun to do. And every so often the academy will get things right. Sometimes really right. And sometimes, oh so wrong. But I feel like, and I am generalizing, for the most part they are at least somewhere close to what they are trying to honor. And like every human endeavor, sometimes it goes off the rails. My point being, I guess, against my better instincts I always get excited around this time of year. I mean, we all have opinions, and we all have dogs in these races. And it becomes kind of fun. And I actually do enjoy watching the shows. Maybe not all the dance numbers and what not, but its fun to watch and see what happens. I also happen to like montages (this year its a horror homage, nice!), so there's that. I also love the latter day work of Alec Baldwin, so having him co-host is just icing on the cake. And, yes, I realize intellectually, deep down, that is a bunch of millionaires playing make believe patting each other on the back. But without them, what am I going to do with my free time?

Anyway, I say this is semi-uninformed because as one can tell, I am a bad film blogger in that I haven't seen everything nominated. Which, I know, is next to impossible. Either I didn't want to and am baffled at its nomination anyway (The Blind Side) or I simply didn't get the chance (i.e. no days off to treat myself to double and triple features) Three I would have liked to have seen but ran out of time are:
-The White Ribbon
-Up In The Air
-A Single Man

So, I mean, I know about these films, and other one nominated, but I haven't seen anything. So I am sort of like much of America. But I thought I would comment on a few of the biggies:

Actor In A Leading Role
I feel, like the frontrunner here is still Jeff Bridges who rose above some not-so-great-writing and created a great character in Bad Blake. I have heard amazing things about Colin Firth in A Single Man, but I haven't actually seen it yet. I have heard, in general, its a better movie than Crazy Heart, which I could believe. I said it before, I wouldn't mind if Jeff Bridges won, I really like him. But I have to give props to Jeremy Renner, who, I think, who portrayed one of the best characters to come down the pike in years, SSG William James, in The Hurt Locker.

Actor In A Supporting Role
I'm sure I just did what a lot of people have had to do and looked up The Last Station to be reminded what it was. Ah...the one about Tolstoy. Got it. One thing about these particular Oscars, is that either they are going to be very predictable, or people thought they were going to be predictable and there are going to be a bunch of surprises. This is one of those times when I would be very happy if the predictions came true. But I have to admit I haven't seen any of the other movies in this category.

Christoph Waltz as Col. Hand Landa deserves it. He is so good in Inglourious Basterds, its ridiculous. Although, I am sad that Melanie Laurent didn't garner a nomination, but I'll take what I can get.

Actress In A Leading Role

Call me an East Coast Liberal Elitist, if you must, and you might if you knew I haven't seen the movie, but I am absolutely baffled at the Oscar love that The Blind Side is getting. It looked awful, and so did Sandra Bullock, but here she and it is. I feel like this is going to come down to a three way race between Carey Mulligan, Gabourey Sidibe (I also haven't seen Precious, sorry), and Meryl Streep. I have seen An Education and Julie and Julia and I thought that Carey Mulligan's performance in An Education was a revelation and Meryl Streep as Julia Child, was the best part of that particular movie. This is a hard one to call, but I feel like either they academy will award the newcomers like Sidibe or Mulligan, or go with the leader of the Actress Old School, and reward Meryl Streep again. We'll see which way the Academy is pitched this year.

Actress In A Supporting Role

Some old school Oscar wisdom, that you hear every year is that the Supporting Actor categories are where the really meaty acting parts are. There is something to that I think. Not always, but often, I think. This time this category has me flummoxed because all I know is while she did a good job, Maggie Gyllenhaal really doesn't deserve to win for Crazy Heart. But it looks like Mo'Nique might be the one to beat on this night for a performance that looks nuts from Precious.

Animated Feature Film

Hey, I have actually seen three of these, and its not just for that reason that I put them as the frontrunners: those being Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Up. (Although I have heard good things about The Secret of the Kells. For one thing I thought 2009 was a great year for innovative and thoughtful children's movies. I'm gonna have to think that Up is the frontrunner here (The Saving Private Ryan effect, maybe, where a movie is awarded for its opening sequence? Personally, I liked the whole thing, but some might say that...) But, really, I would be happy if any of those three came out on top.

I guess, Avatar is going to take a lot of the special effects-related awards, I am guessing.I'm not sure what else to comment on. Oh wait, here's a few (lucky you):

Music (Original Score)
Goodness, I hope they don't decide to award Avatar here too. Because, much like the movie that it comes from, it is pretty derivative of what he has done before. I have to confess that I don't recall the score from The Hurt Locker, I'm not saying it wasn't good, it might be but I suppose its not as memorable as its images. But it MUST have helped out in the tension department in this movie...that being said, again, I could go any of three ways here, Alexandre Desplat for The Fantastic Mr. Fox,

Hans Zimmer's score was surprisingly good for Sherlock Holmes, and, of course, Michael Giacchino for Up. I feel like Zimmer might be the industry favorite after Horner, but Desplat and Giacchino, two relative upstarts could nab it too. I am having a hard time making a decision here so, I will cop out again, and say if any one of those win, I will give a polite golf clap and be happy.

Music (Original Song)
I have to plead the fifth on most of these too, but if The Weary Kind
by Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett happened to win, it would be very nice, The music for Crazy Heart from Burnett is "crazy" good. Ha!

Writing (Adapted ScreenplayI
I need a ruling on this one. What exactly makes a screenplay adapted? Say with District 9 is it "adapted" because they adapted it from their own script which was originally a short film? Because I don't think there was another source for this one. Looking at the nominees I would like Nick Hornby's adaptation of An Education to take it, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Precious is going to take this one.

Writing (Original Screenplay)
This is another category with a lot of good and interesting nominees. And, while I have not seen it, I have heard that The Messenger, while not perfect, is actually really good. The other four, Up, The Hurt Locker, A Serious Man, and Inglourious Basterds are all pretty solid. But I will just come out and say it, if there is any justice (and there usually isn't) Tarantino will take this one, not only is the story something to behold, but his dialogue, most of which isn't in English, is just amazing. I feel like he was at the top of his game here and should get rewarded. But my opinion doesn't add up to hill of beans, really.


My favorite would be Tarantino, of course. He directed (and wrote) my favorite movie of the year. And I thought he really elevated his game here as well. I mean just look at the first scene alone, amazing stuff. But it would be awesome to see Kathryn Bigelow win too, making her the first woman to win a best director oscar, and the film she made was amazing too. Also, it would be so great to see James Cameron 1) lose and 2) pretend to be happy for her.

Best Picture

Also, what I don't understand is Up is nominated for Best Picture and for Best Animated Feature? I thought they increased the field to ten to spread the love around a little. Want something more populist? How about slotting Star Trek in there or something? And there's The Blind Side again. Best Picture, really? Here is an example where I think the Academy comes close to getting it right: 7 of their ten nominated movies were on my 2009 Best Of of them was even my number one. I'm not sure if I should be proud of my powers of prediction or a little wary that my tastes seem to be aligning so much with the Academy. Maybe they are just getting smarter, who knows. Anyhow I think this comes down to the same two movies here as in the directing categories, my personal, sentimental favorite would, of course, be Inglourious Basterds . But all signs seem to be pointing towards a win for The Hurt Locker, and believe me, I would have absolutely no qualms if The Hurt Locker won. I really loved that too. Basically, the Academy would have to go pretty far to upset me in this category. So, all in all, it should be an interesting night.

Monday, March 1, 2010

From the Roku: World's Greatest Dad (2009)

A couple things surprised me about World's Greatest Dad, 1) It was funny and it starred Robin Williams. My usual rule of thumb is to avoid Robin Williams vehicles, his shtick really really really grates on me. It goes without saying (The Jim Carrey/Eternal Sunshine Principle!?) that I like him better when he tones it down, as he does here. 2) Bobcat Goldthwait directed this!? This is a pitch black comedy which is not perfect at all, but it did make me laugh out loud quite a few times.