Archive for December, 2010

The Haul 2010

Monday, December 27th, 2010
Lately I’ve wanted to write something positive for the Christmas season.  I’ve been catching up on the classic Holiday movies, which has been great, but I’m only fifty-fifty at the theater lately (Good: Tangled, The Fighter Not Good: Tron Legacy, How Do You Know).  So, I thought I’d write about something that just can’t miss.  With the spirit of the season inside me, here are the DVD’s I got this Christmas and why you should get them, too:
Band of Brothers – If you liked Saving Private Ryan, you’ll love this.  Produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg and inspired by true events, you get to see U.S. soldiers’ journey from bootcamp to Berlin in a smart, emotional, action packed 10 part series.
Toy Story 3– Just in case just saying the title isn’t enough at this point, this is a Pixar production.  Just in case that’s not enough (embarrassing if that is the case) this is as good as animated movies, as good as any movie gets.  The unlimited imagination and heart behind this series really comes together in this third and probably, but hopefully not, last Toy Story movie.  Do you believe that the original Toy Story came out in 1995?  These movies have been with us 15 years already!  That’s why it really feels like you’re visiting old friends again when you put this movie on.  Many of these movies’ biggest fans have been with Buzz and Woody for half their lives.  The next generation will have these guys in their cribs.
Inception – One of my friends just asked me what I thought about this movie today.  He asked me two things, what did I think happened at the end and what are the Oscar prospects for this movie.  What I’ll say about the first question is…(go see the movie).  As for Inception‘s Oscar chances?  They’re good.  This movie should and will be up for Best Picture (don’t get me started on the 10 nominees thing!), Christopher Nolan will be up for Best Director and I’m sure a few of the visual effects and hopefully Best Original Screenplay.  Anytime you throw together Christopher Nolan and Leonardo DiCaprio, I’m going to see the movie and it’ll probably be on my Christmas list, too.  If you start to think ever story has already been done, a movie like this comes along.  You have to see it and probably see it again.
The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum– This trilogy was Matt Damon’s wheelhouse.  You couldn’t have cast a better Jason Bourne, and the series is pretty much fueled by that casting.  The action sequences are awesome, the hand to hand combat was better than anything else out there.  In Supremacywhen Bourne beats a guy to hell with a rolled up magazine, you know you’re watching a different kind of spy movie.  There are moments from these movies that feel somewhere close to what a real spy would experience.  The thing that holds this series back from being great is the over-arching storyline of Bourne’s past identity.  It just gets boring at some point.  The pretentious attitudes of the bureaucrats at their respective agencies takes the fun down a notch, too, but overall, the feel of these movies is dead on.
The Hangover– This movie was something else!  I loved this movie and every character was great, except for Doug.  Boy am I glad he was stuck on the roof the whole movie.  And how about Tyson?  Man, this movie was hilarious.  It really capitalized on the Vegas hype without getting to be all flash.  No Jessica Alba, no Kate Bosworth, just Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and a bunch of great supporting characters.
Psych (Season 4)– This show took a great concept, fake psychic detective, and because of the strength of the characters and their relationships to each other we’ve got a show that’s still great five seasons in.  The show is full of pop culture references so that it feels like you’re watching someone that grew up in your neighborhood solve crimes.  Even though the concept may be unique, the main characters are so immediately relatable that Psych has been and will continue to be one of the best hour long shows on TV.
Flight of the Conchords (Season 2)– Either you’ll like this show or you won’t.  I guess that’s the case with everything, but this show about two naive New Zealanders who are struggling to make it in New York as musicians is really quirky, but also really hilarious.  Every episode features funny songs from the duo and really ridiculous plot lines.  The best scenes are the ones with the band’s manager Murray who lends a little bit of relative practicality to the show and these guys play their accents for comedy to the fullest.  Always putting themselves and their country down, late in Season 2 the Prime Minister of New Zealand comes to visit Murray and the guys and he always introduces himself just as Brian.  It may not read very funny, but give it a shot.
The last DVD I got this year was the Chicago Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup DVD.  Oh, yeah, just in case you didn’t know, the Chicago Blackhawks are reigning world champions.  Sniff.
What a great Christmas and Happy New Year!

How Do You Know You Should See Something Else?

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

How do you know you should see something other than How Do You Know?  Because of Paul Rudd?  No, because the preview gives a hint that there are just too many subplots to allow this romantic comedy to be either romantic or comedic.

The opening scenes of the movie show Reese Witherspoon’s character struggling with being dropped from the U.S. Softball team (even though she’s only 5’1″ tall and softball won’t be a part of the 2012 London Olympics).  We also see Paul Rudd’s character struggling with legal issues from his family business, even though he doesn’t make a single business decision in the entire movie (great commitment to the story).  Great, we’ve got two characters with issues and they’re going to hook up, seems like a romantic comedy to me.  Except that they don’t hook up, they don’t even meet until well into the movie.  Their first conversation is Paul Rudd telling Reese that he won’t be going on a date with her.  At this point you it hits you that this is a terribly constructed movie.

Owen Wilson is the only bright spot in the movie and he’s hilarious.  He actually has funny lines that weren’t in the preview, good for him.  But there could never be enough Wilson to counteract the negative affects of Kathryn Hahn.  If you don’t think you know who this is, you do.  She’s been in so many romantic comedies…I’ll just say, she’s been in too many romantic comedies: The Holiday, Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!, A Lot Like Love, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days…there are two infuriating scenes with this girl in How Do You Know: in the first scene she’s telling Paul Rudd that she can’t tell him something and he’s telling her he already knows so she won’t tell him.  That goes on for five minutes.  It feels like really really pointless improv.  Then we’re forced to watch this side character get proposed to.  Twice!

If the upcoming ending to this post feels abrupt, keep in mind that it’s being written without a multi-million dollar budget and under a short time constraint.  Unlike the ending of How Do You Know which feels like the main characters just kind of shrugged and sighed and settled.  How do you know you should see something else?  Because Paul Rudd is in it.  Wait, sorry.  Because no one will like this movie.

Visa Super Bowl for Life

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Visa has been running ads for a few months now on their Super Bowl Tickets for Life promotion.  One lucky winner can win tickets to the Super Bowl every year, for the rest of their life.  That’s what Morgan Freeman says between interviews with four old guys that have been to every Super Bowl so far.  Ok.

The chances of any one person winning are so distant that it’s not worth thinking about, but the commercial portrays these old guys like war heroes.  They want us to look up to these guys like they deserve respect and if we just keep using our Visa cards, maybe someday we can be like these geezers.  There is no less-sympathetic group of old people on TV today.  Who can relate to them?  Do you know much it costs just for the tickets to the Super Bowl?  And did you know the Super Bowl doesn’t come to you every year?  You actually have to travel to the game.  Plus hotel, plus meals, plus $12 beers and $8 nachos.  Those old dudes must have been pretty well off to pay for their annual trip to the big game.  They’re not Medal of Honor recipients or Olympians or Nobel Prize winners, they’re just wealthy old people.  You know what hits the mark with trying to give us realistic aspirations?  Beer commercials.  Visa commercials want me to be rich, but beer commercials just want me to drink beer.

Beer commercials make me want to be like the people in their commercials because they’re always attractive and having the time of their life at some party on the beach; Corona, Bud Lite, Miller Chill (lime+beer).  What those commercials are telling us is that if we have beer we can be cool like them.  And that’s cool with me.  But Visa missed the point big time.  What they’re saying is that if you have money, you can buy a ticket to the Super Bowl.  Yeah?  Really?  We can use money to buy things?

I liked it better when Visa would just entertain us for thirty second commercials where they’d remind us how convenient using a credit card is.  If commercials were your neighbors, that friendly reminder is the neighbor that shovels your sidewalk because they were already shoveling and they might as well just keep going.  Tickets for Life?  That’s the annoying, rich neighbor who brags to you about his car that you could never afford.  I’ll take the clean sidewalks please.

Arrrghh, Not Another One – Pirates of the Caribbean 4

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

After Disney made The Haunted Mansion and The Country Bears, two terrible movies that were inspired by Disneyland attractions, they released Pirates of the Caribbean to zero expectations.  When Pirates actually turned out to be awesome, they threw two sequels together and pretended they had a trilogy in mind the whole time.  Does this sound like The Matrix to anyone else?  Great first movie (better than Pirates) and a real let down for the next two.  If you don’t start out with a plot that can carry you through three movies, don’t write three movies.  Or pull an Indiana Jones.  Same character, new story.

Pirates two and three got way out of hand.  They traded story and dialogue for computer assisted action sequences and Jack Sparrow hallucinations.  First you get a giant sea Kracken, then you get a giant concrete crab, then you get a giant voodoo woman…all it was was a giant pile.  And they’re making another one!

With Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides they have the chance for a clean slate, to make the movie they should have made before.  Whoops, I mean, they had the chance.  I took a look at the preview and this is what I see:

Great music, Pirates has great music.  Then they show some fantastic scenery, looks good so far.  Then, I realize that there’s no Orlando Bloom or Keira Knightley and we spend half the movie in the jungle or on Blackbeard’s ship.  I really hope it’s going to be good, but I’ve lost faith in this franchise.  I like action, but it looks just like Dead Man’s Chest, they’re on the bad guy’s ship, now they’re in the jungle, they’re fighting on the ship, they’re fighting in the jungle, they’re wandering around looking for something.  When you toss out key characters and keep on going, you get that Brett Favre feeling, where maybe it’s just time to hang it up.  I hope I’m wrong and I’ll be there opening weekend to find out.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed until May 20, 2011.

Drawing Lines

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Can you separate art and the artist?  Some great art (paintings, films, symphonies) has been produced by some pretty horrible people.  But how that affects how we feel about their creations is different for every artist and every patron.

Each weekend, someone walks down the aisle to Richard Wagner’s Bridal Chorus, but he was a verdant anti-semite.  Thomas Jefferson was a main force behind The Declaration of Independence, which is brilliant in scope and execution, and he was a slaveholder.  Does forwarding controversial and harmful views invalidate a person’s work?  Well, two plus two is four, no matter who is saying it, I don’t care how nuts or destructive they are.  Where we can draw the line is art, because everything in art is subjective.

You’ll find that all over the world, celebrities are given leeway in our eyes more than anyone else.  Infedilities, alcohol-fueled shredding of family members in voicemail, DUI manslaughter are often wiped away with the next touchdown, or funny joke, or touching movie.  I’ll tell you where I draw my line and hopefully we can bring things into some kind of balance:  Mel Gibson is a scumbag.

What I’ll say is that Gibson’s Braveheart is one of my favorite movies.  That movie was made long before Mel Gibson exposed himself to be a bigot and a wife beater.  It would be extremely hypocritical to say that now I don’t like Braveheart.  I’m not a hypocrite, so I still love that movie.  I’m doing my best to judge art on it’s own merits even though I may be disappointed to find out that the person who created it is a monster.  But now Mel Gibson is trying to use some sock puppet Jodie Foster movie to get back in our good graces.  This movie is called The Beaver.  Oh yeah, that’s going to get it done, Gibby.  This is how he thinks this is going to play out.

Movie:  Beaver Gibson drives his family away = Mel Gibson drove his fans away.  Beaver Gibson starts his humble comeback with a beaver on his hand = Mel Gibson “humbly” starts making movies again (not really possible).  Beaver Gibson earns the begrudged closeness and respect of his family = Mel working us for forgiveness.  Beaver Gibson gets back on his feet and gets with family again = Mel Gibson is Mel Gibson again and all is forgotten.  The only problem is that he’s got a beaver on his hand the whole movie.  Um, and the movie is called The Beaver.  Even if the movie is great, I can’t let him get away with it.  It’s too obvious for me.  I was fine for six months without Mel Gibson.  And Jodie Foster is directing this.  Ok, Flightplan.  You want to know where I draw the line?  The Beaver seems like a pretty good place to start.

A Clean Shave

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

In almost every TV show and movie when someone is shaving it is obvious that they’re already clean-shaven.

Character: “I’m just standing in front of my mirror, shaving like any ordinary guy…what? Why that’s shocking news! I better stop shaving this instant and wipe the rest of this shaving cream off my face with this towel. I guess it’s lucky that I already shaved once this morning.”

I was sparked to write this when I was watching an episode of the last season of Battlestar Galactica, but we’ve all seen this many many times before. I’d be willing to bet that Ryan Reynolds has done this, Mel Gibson (maybe in What Women Want), every Gillette commercial. It’s insane. Do they not think we’d notice, or care?

That’s why I’ve really got to hand it to them when the directors, the actors, and the editors take a chance and actually film someone shaving. Luke Wilson did this in The Royal Tenenbaums and so did Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison-He had a mechanical arm-Ford) in The Fugitive, and both of these guys had full beards!If you’re not going to shave for real, please just brush your teeth or something.  An “every-man” would just as likely brush his teeth as shave. Maybe even more often. Hopefully more often.