Monday, May 24, 2010

Positive Mental Attitude (Summer Movie Preview)

So now that the final episode of Lost has aired, and gone out with a bang. That pretty much clears my plate as far as Summer viewing goes. I mean Justified and Treme are still on, and Louis should be starting up, as well as the next season of Mad Men, so I mean its not a complete void. But the ranks are definitely thinning, along with being outside and enjoying the weather, grilling, going to shows, reading, and trying to think out my Netflix watch instantly queue (finally), But June is almost here, and with my viewing of Iron Man 2, the Summer blockbuster season is starting off in full swing. Although the slate of movies coming out seem particularly thin this Summer, there are still a few I am looking forward, as well as some second or third tier ones that might be a good distraction and/or reason to get out of the heat and into the air conditioning. In the Summer, thats a very valid reason for going to the movies.

Five I Am Looking Forward To

1) Inception

You might have noticed that Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors, and him returning to a more of his patented twisty puzzlebox-type of a movie has me excited. Not to mention the cast with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Cillian Murphy, Michael Caine, among others, is just awesome. I think this could very easily be the best movie of the Summer.

2) The Other Guys

Barring Talladega Nights, most of the Adam McKay-Will Farrell collaborations have been winners. It would be great if they could reach the heights of Anchorman again, but the surrealist ridiculousness of Step Brothers was nothing to scoff at either. I like the idea of them teaming up in a sendup of action movie/cop movie tropes. I think Mark Wahlberg, mostly, does better with comedies. And I am also excited to see The Rock and Samuel L. Jackson sort of send themselves up as two badass partners on the police force. Lets hope its as funny as the trailers made it look like it had the potential to be.

3) Get Him To The Greek

I think the idea of a strange sort of spin-off from Forgetting Sarah Marshall is so odd that it just might work. What else I like here: for me one of the surprises of Forgetting Sarah Marshall was Russell Brand's Aldous Snow. I'm not sure if I would be a regular fan of his, but I liked him there, and this is his Aldous Snow after falling off the wagon, so teaming him with Jonah Hill, who is usually pretty reliable, here's hoping that the chemistry works. And it being produced by Judd Apatow-thats usually, USUALLY, a sign of quality. And with supporting turns from the likes of Aziz Ansarai and Nick Kroll, I think this also has the potential of being really good.

4) Toy Story 3

If I would bet on any company being able to put together a near-perfect trilogy it would be Pixar. I mean they took Toy Story 2, saved it from straight to video purgatory, and turned in a classic sequel on part with, if not better, than the original. Also it has one of those tear jerking scenes that Pixar pulls off like few (if any) others in the animation scene-the scene with the Sarah McLachlan song showing how Jesse's owner abandons her There are two types of people: people who get misty during that scene, and people who lie about not getting misty. Its Pixar, basically, and they have already laid the groundwork of excellence, with just a ridiculously amazing body of work. Every time they put out something there is high hopes, and I hope this works out as well.

5) Machete

This might have fit more easily into my second or third tier movies, but, being honestly, I have to say I am excited for this one. It could very well be another case where they put all their ideas into making an interesting trailer, and then leave nothing for the movie. (Considering it started out as a fake trailer in Grindhouse) But again, we are talking about potential here, and I think this might be the right amount of over-the-type pulp silliness that we (or I) just might be craving come the end of the Summer. Plus I don't have to go too long with a dose of Jeff Fahey. Keep giving him work! And I sort of love Robert De Niro's terrible attempt at being a Southern congressman here. I dunno, it could, of course, not live up to its own hype, I mean every movie here has the same pitfall, but if it is fun and ridiculous enough, maybe it could be very pleasurable summer diversion.

Second or Third Tier Movies

So these are the ones, much like Machete, that could very well be awful, but, on the other hand might be a nice diversion on a hot, Summer day. A lot of these I might be playing the long odds for a good time and good reward. But really, sometimes thats all you need.

These are just in order by their release date:

1) Splice

This could either be a potentially creepy, interesting take on the ethics of research into gene splicing and the like, or it could be another Species. We'll have to see I suppose. But I like Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley, so this might work.

2) The A-Team

See? Potentially scraping bottom here. But there is something to be said for just out-and-out ridiculousness. I think they had me with the scene in the trailer where Face shoots a tank at an airplane, as the the tank is falling through the air. How did the tank get in the air? Who is he shooting at? See, these questions need answering. I also actually like the casting of Bradley Cooper and Sharlito Copley here. The cons don't even extend too far into how stupid this just might be. Because the potential is there. The hugest con, for me, is definitely is Jessica Biel. Ugh, she is just a vortex of awful. Maybe they will also tell us just what exactly the crime was the A-Team was framed for, and who framed them for it. I'm not sure the show ever answered this. See? Its really tying up loose ends. That I am quite sure people have been thinking about for the past 20 years.

3) Predators

Eh, I'm a soft sell here. I can even look past the other terrible incarnations of the Predator franchise. Okay, to be honest the creatures haven't been handled well since the first Predator came out. But the hope here, where a group of badasses (Topher Grace!?) get sent to the Predator planet and have to try to survive being hunted-I think it could be cool. There's no real middle ground with any of these really, and it also could be terrible. But I'm hoping for the best. Also: Adrien Brody and Danny Trejo-again!

4) Dinner For Schmucks

I'll be honest, this could be middling, but its here because I am excited about the cast which includes Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifinakis, Jermaine Clement, and Ron Livingston, among others. Maybe it might surprise and be really funny. Since this post is mostly about hope: here's to hoping.

5) The Expendables

This could probably have the same problems as Machete, in a way. Will it be a ridiculous action movie-throwback to the 80's? Or just be silly? Will it be self aware of its ridiculousness? I don't know if Stallone is smart enough. But maybe he could come up with an action movie and stack the cast with the likes of Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Eric Roberts, Dolph Lundgren, etc. and have it be silly and fun-a nice enough couple hours to take and get in out of the heat? Obviously that really remains to be seen. Or not. This has potential disaster written all over it, but, honestly, the cast and the setup spoke to my inner 13 year old.

6) Pirahna 3-D

Back when My Bloody Valentine 3D came out, I said that I would see any movie in 3D, because they seemed to be a fun novelty at the time. A few years later after Avatar, one of the many horrible things that movie wrought is now EVERYTHING is being made in 3D and, really, its overkill. I would love it if everyone saw Toy Story 3 in plain ol' 2D and that 3D would go back to being the domain of horror schlock, only used every once in a while if at all. So the hypocritical side me, though, thinks some thing like Pirahna 3D is the perfect piece of stupidity to use 3D for. That being said though, for the most part 3D really adds nothing and I would see Pirahna if it was a straight forward remake to Joe Dante's original Pirahna. You know, that would be enough, enough with the overkill. And here, really, what sells it, again this is weird for this potential nightmare is the cast. There is really some semi-ingenious casting here: Richard Dreyfuss, Christopher Lloyd, Elizabeth Shue, Steve McQueen's grandson, Adam Scott, Ving Rhames, Jerry O' Connell, and a special guest appearance by Eli Roth. Like I keep reiterating, this is all about potential, sure this has the potential to be absolutely awful, but that also means, glass half-full, that it has the potential for maybe, MAYBE, fingers crossed, being some goofy fun. Sometimes, in the dog days of Summer, goofy fun is all we are really looking for, isn't it?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

An Ode To Nestor Carbonell

SPOILERSSSSSS (FOR THOSE THAT CARE). If you haven't watched last night's Lost yet, and you do watch it, this isn't a huge spoiler, I guess, but you don't want to read any further-lets just say that. Although, I guess the title is sort of a spoiler but on a show like Lost, not especially. Sort of. Okay, seriously, if you care read this in a few days. (I mean what I write isn't some mind blowing treatise, but it gives away something that happened last night...)

Some people have complained that HBO seems to keep certain movies on constant rotation for a while, until they move on to other movies, and for a few months run them into the ground. I'm not arguing-I think its a valid complaint. We recently got HBO again so that we could watch Treme (and frankly, I'd like to keep it around, not only for that, but for Boardwalk Empire, among others. Although, I have to admit nothing else on their lineup of original shows, at the moment, really excites me. I mean beyond a classic standby like Curb Your Enthusiasm. Anyway, that has nothing to do with anything, besides saying that of late they have been showing The Dark Knight an awful lot, and I have been watching it a lot. You know what? It still holds up. It holds up under repeated viewings, rough surfaces seem to get smoothed over, and, all in all it still works. Small bumps aside, it still works well. A lot of the stuff I was less enthusiastic about before, I like more now, and some of the stuff that doesn't work as well-the closest being the end fight where Batman is taking on the Joker and his guards, I can still see past because everything else surrounding it so good. Still happy to have it in my personal top ten of the aughts. So I can get behind it when they are replaying things I can enjoy. But that goes without saying, right? So I was excited last night, well perhaps excited is still too strong a word, but I was happy it was on last night where I could watch it up until the penultimate episode of Lost I've been thinking about this for a while, but of course there is another connective thread through Lost and The Dark Knight, and that, of course is Nestor Carbonell, who plays Mayor Anthony Garcia.

Good work, there.

Of course, right now, he is playing Richard Alpert on Lost. Although, after last night perhaps his run on Lost is coming to an end. But I just don't think he's dead, at least not yet. For one thing, I thought he was supposed to be immortal. And I just doubt that they would have such a swift death for a character that has 1) been around for so long, 2) has been so integral, and 3) was given his own episode to explain his "origins" this year. BTW, Carbonell, always reliable, did some of his absolute best work of the show on that episode, "Ab Aeterno". (And according to the semi-reliable IMDB, he will be back for the final episode on Sunday, so who knows really? I could have gone broke by now betting on what would happen on Lost )

Speaking of which, people like to call him "Guyliner" or what not because it looks like he wears mascara. Here's something weird, his eyes are naturally dark like that. According to him in the Lost Season 5 extras, he wears no makeup, and his eyes are just dark like that. In fact, they actually have to put make up around his eyes to tone down how dark they are. Apparently, in real life they are actually darker. Sadly, he had to put up with a lot of bullies growing up because of it.

Lastly, here is a deep cut, he has been on a lot of guest spots on shows like Scrubs and House, but how about his first foray into comic book territory, on the super short lived (only 9 episodes) live-action version of The Tick which starred Patrick Warburton as the titular hero and Nestor Carbonell as Bat Manuel:

Like, I said it was only on for 9 episodes, all of which can currently be watched on Netflix's Watch Instantly option. Its goofy fun, and its fun to see him there.

So, yeah. I hope this leads to even more opportunities for Nestor Carbonell. The connective tissue here being that he happens to have starred in things that I think are awesome. Hopefully someone will find something else that's cool for him to be involved with as soon as possible.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Couples Retreat (2009)

Ugh. Okay you get what you sort of paid for. I've rarely seen such a talented cast wasted so badly. I'm sure they could care less, it was a huge hit, and they got a free trip to some beautiful island, and now have a new beachhouse or something. But, lord, this was like a 2 hour episode of According To Jim, or a two hour riff on some hacky comedian's jokes about marriage. "Men love to control the remote control!" Hey if you love CGI sharks, Jon Favreau getting aroused, or constant plugs (jokes?) for Applebees or Guitar Hero, this is your movie.

The Good Heart (2010)

We rented this on On Demand last night, it's in theaters last night. It made me think of this. Now, they have "foreseen" the end of movie theaters before and it still hasn't happened. Me? I could go either way. Obviously, on occasion I will watch a first run movie from my house with the technology available. But, personally, I have to admit, even with all of its pitfalls. Because like everything else started by humans there is going to be pros and cons. But, even with all of its pitfalls, I still enjoy the communal experience of going to see movies in the theaters. I like the way Roger Ebert spoke about that experience at a recent night honoring him. As usual, he puts it the best: "Introducing “Julia” as an example of overlooked films, Ebert railed against the studio system and the direction that they are heading.

“Incredibly, some studios have announced that they will no longer make what we think of as real movies. They will specialize entirely in 3D, franchises, sequels, special effects, and superheroes. We all know stories about how the best projects from even a few years ago could no longer be financed today. The studios are running like lemmings towards 3D. 3D is an annoying gimmick useful primarily for increasing ticket prices.”

It was appropriate that it was before an audience in a historical theater that Ebert should speak about the importance of cinema as a communal phenomenon. Channeling Francois Truffaut, he gestured grandly as the computer pronounced what he’d typed.

“Truffaut said the most beautiful sight you will see in a cinema is if you sit in the front and turnaround to gaze at all those eyes lifted up to the screen. They are a characterization of the movie and they are an audience. An audience forms a personality. It forms an identity. It is how we shape our collective dreams. I love my DVD collection. I love streaming video. But when I finally am able to see the restored ‘Metropolis’ I promise you it will not be at home on television.” "

Sure, it seems silly if that experience is seeing something like Iron Man 2, I'll grant that, but even the experience of seeing that in a large crowd, for me, makes the experience that much better even if the movie is no great shakes. But its also why it is amazing to see Jaws every Summer at the Coolidge Corner Theater.

Oh, I've gotten off topic, though. Well, sort of. But yeah, I watched The Good Heart on the in-theaters portion of On Demand. For the most part, I thought it was pretty unremarkable. The script tried a little too hard to make the characters QUIRKY and COLORFUL. Particularly the bar patrons. But I will say that it was nice in the way it took the idea of "the old person learns to live again through the magic of youth" and tweaked it enough to make it somewhat fresh. Brian Cox's assholeishness rubbed off on Paul Dano just as much as Dano's niceness rubbed off on Brian Cox. I'm not sure how real it ever actually felt, but it had its moments. And I sort of appreciated how Brian Cox'x character pretty much remained an unrepentant jerk for most of the time, and only slowly started to change, without any huge epiphany besides a failing heart. So it was definitely somewhat interesting, and Cox and Dano are reliably good, but there just wasn't a lot there to hang your hat on.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Iron Man 2 (2010)

So I figured last night that if I was going to see the movie that was basically the opening salvo for the Summer Blockbusters of 2010, I might as well go all the way and see it in the most brain-melting way possible. So I grabbed a couple friends and vetured up to the Jordan's Furniture IMAX in Reading, MA. Before the show we were informed by Eliot Jordan himself that not only were the seats made from some sort of tempurepedic/posturepedic material (or something, but it was comfy), the chairs were also equipped with some sort of "butt-kicker" technology (his words). So every time the there was an explosion or robots punching eachother the chairs would vibrate. Truly we had found the right venue to view this movie. Too bad the movie itself wasn't as exciting as the pitch from Eliot Jordan. Its too bad too, I was looking forward to this. I thought, maybe, like the first one it would be a fun, popcorn romp at the very least. But it's long, and overly complicated only to be too simply resolved, and most importantly it wasn’t very much fun. I don't know, like I said before, maybe movies that are going to essentially end up being about robots in fights should be graded on a sliding scale. I mean this movie exists in a world where not only does Iron Man exist, but Tony Stark in his Iron Man Suit, just has a chat with a top secret special agent from a super top secret agency, in broad daylight at Randy's Donuts. So maybe I should grade on a sliding scale. I mean, I know I am not above this sort of thing, but the execution just seemed off-even the stuff about getting together the Avengers, which is Marvel's endgame, and honestly, I think their idea is not only novel and somewhat revolutionary, but they really need to find a better way to shoehorn in that particular subplot, because when they tried here the movie practically came to a halt. And then it pretty much ends exactly where it started. Tony Stark is still just a rich, self-obsessed jerk. I guess Sam Rockwell might come back as a supervillain, but he was already the villain here, so, who cares? The biggest spoiler, I guess, is that in the end, Tony Stark is dating Pepper Potts. Wow! What a scoop! If there is one question on everyone’s mind as they entered the theater to watch this movie, I am sure it was: Oh My Goodness! When are Tony Stark and Pepper Potts going to start dating!?

I will say this though, which is odd, I guess to say about a movie like this, the acting was actually really good, I particularly, as I usually do, liked Sam Rockwell. The issues here were all with the directing and the writing, really.

Deathtrap (1982)

Watching Deathtrap was interesting to me for a few reasons. I saw a production of Deathtrap when I was probably around 10 years old-it was at a local theater in Westerly, RI. At the time, because I was young I was struck by the play, not only because of the twisty, turny plot. Specifically, there was only two things I remembered about the productions: (SPOILERS AHEAD for a 32 year old play and a 28 year old movie) 1) when Clifford Anderson comes back from the dead and scares the wife to death literally and 2) Sidney Bruhl using the word "faggot". For me, at that young age, actually turned the idea of plays and theater going on its head-and I stress I was young at the time- I had this idea of the theater being a mostly staid, stuffy experience, but, whoah, murder AND you can "swear" on stage. This was some next level stuff. Also my younger self obviously didn't pick up on the nature of the relationship between the two leads until I was much older. And considering my parents, I bet they were mortified watching this play right next to me. But it was sort of a weird object lesson in parenting, they didn't freak out or even mention it, and I figured it out by myself later-no harm or foul. That being said, its also hard sometimes to bring a play to the screen, an adaptation of anything can be difficult, but the trick especially with this play he keeping that same sort of claustrophobic feel without making it seem too "stagey", if that makes sense. Lumet does a good job of this. It doesn't hurt that his two leads are great, and since everything pretty much rests on their shoulders thats a plus. There are only about 5 main characters here and when one is as awful as Dyan Cannon as Sidney Bruhl's wife, there has to be some pretty major lifting by the rest of the cast. The ending is a bit different than the play-the only reason I know is b looking it up on Wikipedia, I didn't remember from seeing the play. But, again, Lumet makes it work. It actually probably was to my advantage here that I hadn't seen the play in such a long time, so how it played it out was actually new to me all over again. And what I didn't get when I was younger was how strangely meta the play was about playwriting in and of itself, and about writing (and eventually triumping) with a play about the action you just saw.

Another interesting thing, to me, was watching Christopher Reeve. He is pretty chilling as the sociopath, Clifford Anderson. I say this because I realized when watching this that I only know him from the Superman movies and, perhaps, Remains of the Day. So I can honestly say I didn't realize he had it in him, or even had it in him to go toe to toe with a heavyweight like Michael Caine, and he really does a great job.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)

An absolutely fascinating documentary, ostensibly about "street art", but ends up being about more than that. Somewhat. Its a little hard to explain, but it starts in one place, and ends in a much different place. You never quite know where it is going or where it is leading. It organic in that it features Thierry Guetta who picks up a video camera and basically starts filming everyone and everything around him. And from there, during a trip to to France, he discovers that a cousin of his is a famous street artist named Invader (or Space Invader). Guetta becomes obsessed with following Invader around on his exploits, and he starts to become more and more immersed in the street art culture, meeting more and more artists along the way. And following him all over the world. He amasses thousands of hours of tapes, he starts to come up with the idea of making all this footage into a documentary at some point-the problem is he is disorganized- at one point he shows the hundreds of boxes of tapes that he has made- mostly unmarked and never even looked at. They contain amazing footage- a lot of which is shown. It documents a subculture where pieces might be up for a day, if not shorter, before they are taken down or painted over, this footage is an invaluable document of a huge amount of pieces. And this is only the beginning-through his travels his holy grail becomes meeting Banksy, the famous London street artist. And from there things spiral in yet another direction-its pretty riveting. I don't want to give away the surprises because thats what makes the documentary so amazing-but it ends up being as much, if not more so about the documentarian (in an interesting way, not an annoying one) and also about art in general, commerce, fame etc. Its really amazing.