Thursday, September 27, 2007

Runnin' With the Devil

Just a quick note to let you know I will be MIA on the blog the next few days. I will be attending the Van Halen reunion kick-off in Charlotte. Whether it happens or not, it will be a night for the history books! Catch ya back here once I recover from the revelries (or rioting)!

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Repeat Bidness: Knocked Up

It's here, it's here!
Release: 06/01/2007
DVD Release: 09/25/2007
Rated R; DVD Unrated
2 hours, 9 minutes

FULL PRICE ($$$$)


Seth Rogen (40-year Old Virgin) steps into a starring role as Ben Stone, a member of a “website development group” who spends most of his days getting high and talking smack. One evening the five buddies decide to take a break from their research to hit the local club scene. Enter Alison, portrayed by Katherine Heigl (Under Siege 2), who is celebrating her promotion to on-air personality for E!, the Entertainment Channel. After her sister Debbie, played by Leslie Mann (Big Daddy), has to abruptly leave, Alison hits it off with Ben and they hook up. Awaking to find exactly what she had a one-night stand with, she puts it behind her to focus on her long awaited career. Two months later that fateful night rears its ugly head as Alison learns she is pregnant. She calls Ben and the two decide to get to know one another and prepare for bringing this unexpected bundle of joy into the world.

It has been a long time coming but the first side-splittingly hilarious film of 2007 has arrived. Rogen who has proven himself a capable comic force in several supporting roles comes through as the lovable loser Ben. He gets help with the laughs from a host of his supporting friends, including especially funny performances by Jonah Hill (*Accepted) and the outrageous Paul Rudd (*Anchorman). Director Judd Apatow (Talladega Nights) even pulls Harold Ramis (*Ghostbusters) out of obscurity for a small role as Ben’s father. Though Katherine Heigl plays the straight man, she plays well off the humor of costars such as Mann, SNL Not Ready for Primetime Players Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, and Growing Pains mom, Joanna Kearns. With all that funny you’d be surprised to learn there are a couple of cameos that will surprise and amuse not to mention some up-and-coming comedic talent that audiences will be seeing more of thanks to this charming film.

The film isn’t all quippy one-liners, slapstick, and pregnancy shtick. Knocked Up” incorporates a two-fold story concerning the budding relationship between Alison and Ben and the strained relationship between Debbie and Rudd’s character, Pete. It uses many of the comical situations as a tool to compare the life of couples from their beginnings versus ten years down the road. The contrast does weigh the film down, creating a bit of drag in an otherwise runaway train of amusement. But considering the story lag makes up only about ten minutes of the film’s total runtime, it might be nitpicky to criticize. Whether or not the family commentary appeals to you really doesn’t matter as it’s the relatable hilarity in the comparison that will draw you into the story.

Dirty Undies
If Rogen and his buddies were action figures they would each come with their own personalized piece of drug paraphernalia, have interchangeable white-boy dance/jerk off/toking/boozing action, and spout any of a dozen unmentionably vulgar phrases at the push of a button. Aside from Katherine Heigl’s breasts, “Knocked Up” leaves very little to the imagination. There is lots of female nudity from various film clips and there’s even a double porn-star sighting of Stormy Daniels and Nautica Thorn. To be fair, “Knocked Up” throws in some rather unattractive maleness to balance the scales.

Blowin' the Load (Spolier)
I attended this sneak peek with my buddy Shane who brought up a good point: how believable is it that in the throes of drunken passion Katherine Heigl would leave her bra on? I say, more importantly, what man when lucky enough to bed a woman as hot as Heigl would allow her to keep her chesticles hidden? Let’s face it; he didn’t approach her from across the room because she had a great smile. In fact, the only reason a guy would know what color her eyes are is because he was mentally forcing himself not to stare at her lust puppies. That being said, we all know Heigl probably was uncomfortable being nude on camera, thus depriving audiences of a realistic sexual escapade. While Heigl did a great job lugging around the bad-looking fake tummy, maybe next time the director should consider an actress willing to take it to the next level. Watching Rogen get knocked unconscious by Shannon Elizabeth’s magumbos as they are released from their lacey bonds or having him ridden harder than Flicka by a full-frontal Maria Bello sure would seem more realistic than a woman who’s willing to bring a total loser home and into her special place but not open the windows. But I digress.

Money Shot
In case you weren’t paying attention for the last few paragraphs, “Knocked Up” is friggin’ hilarious. It consists of adult situations that provide grown-up entertainment. This, as always is the case during the summer season, is sorely lacking. So dump your kids with Granny with a copy of “Shrek the Third” and remember what you enjoyed laughing at before you got knocked up.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pillow Talk

Hey

Hey

Stargazers!








For those of you who stopped by this weekend and found my site lacking updates I must apologize. An unfortunate series of events unfolded on Friday to deny my readers of new material. While too many to name, let's just say it included illness and power outages. Hopefully, I will find time this week to shill my opinions on my weekend escapades which included the long-awaited viewing of "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters." It'll be worth the return visit!

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Friday, September 21, 2007

Repeat Bidness: Transformers

Tricked Out & Worth the Ride

Release: 07/03/2007
IMAX Release: 09/21/2007

Rated PG-13
2 hours, 24 minutes
(IMAX 5 minutes longer!)

FULL PRICE ($$$$)


Although I haven't watched the extended IMAX version of "Transformers" I feel the extra five minutes can't really alter my original opinion of the film...

At long last the day has come. Producer Steven Spielberg (*War of the Worlds) summoned director Michael Bay (*Armageddon) and asked that he use his gift for creating grandiose displays of mind-numbing action to bring the greatest cartoon of the last twenty years to life. No, “The Simpsons Movie” was July 27 (plug!). For those living under a rock for the past year, I am, of course, referring to “Transformers.”

The premise is simple: a group of evil alien robots from a distant and long destroyed planet have come to Earth seeking their planet’s life source, the All Spark. These Decepticons have remained hidden to humans but now make themselves known as they come close to discovering the All Spark’s location. Luckily for humanity, the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, have come to Earth to stop their nemeses, the Decepticons, from using the All Spark to destroy all of humanity.

Shia LeBeouf (*Constantine) stars as Sam Witwicky, a fast-talking teenager who is hocking his family heritage to save enough cash to buy his first car (and, hopefully, some measure of coolness). Thanks to his stingy dad, the fruits of his eBay labors buy him a “classic” Camaro. It turns out that Sam’s Camaro is actually Bumblebee, a scout for the Autobot forces. Remember his great-grandpa’s junk that he’s been selling? It’s really the key to locating the aforementioned All Spark, which thrusts Sam right into the middle of the battle for humanity’s survival.

As film aficionados, do we care that the details of the story, although lengthy, still leave a lot unexplained? Do we care that Jon Voight (*Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) has an accent that comes and goes from scene to scene? Do we care that the hilarious Bernie Mac, the sexy Josh Duhamel (Turistas), and the totally hot Aussie Rachel Taylor are wasted in the movie? The answer to these questions: NO! But what about the die-hard Transformers fans? Do we care that LeBeouf’s character is called Sam and not Spike? Do we care that the film’s creators tweaked the origin story somewhat? Do we care about the look of the Transformers and that Bumblebee is a Camaro and not a VW bug? NO! Audiences, both long-time fans and summer moviegoers, will flock to see this film because they want to see brightly colored Autobots and menacing Decepticons transforming from vehicles into robots as they kick each other’s metal asses.

That may sound a bit flippant but it’s true. “Transformers” is the very definition of a summer popcorn flick. LeBeouf is great at shucking, jiving and delivering cheesy lines for the camera. The writers throw in tons of campy moments for both actors and robots alike to give audiences some cheer to counterbalance the action. They also lift lines directly from the old television series and the animated movie that should bring warm fuzzies to fans. The biggest instance of nostalgia for me was hearing Peter Cullen voicing Optimus Prime. It was like I was lying in the living room after school with a soda and Little Debbie cake in my hand.

But juvenile humor isn’t the main draw; it’s the action, and Michael Bay doesn’t disappoint. The Decepticon attacks are brutal and vicious. The aerial assault featuring Starscream is one of the most phenomenal. Not to sound corny, but the battles between the Autobots and Decepticons truly are more than meets the eye. No, really; the expansive and destructive landscape laid for the fights feel overwhelming at times, especially with a nearly two-and-a-half hour runtime. With all the dust, rubble, flames, and big F’n robots flying everywhere – a second viewing of the film just to catch everything that happens may be warranted to sort through the visual debris.

Dirty Undies
Buff soldier men, a hottie computer programmer and the big-screen debut of Megan Fox, who plays the way-too-hot-for-high-school Mikaela, satisfy the PG-13’s sex appeal standards. The dialogue also has the authentic bite of sexually repressed teenagers. There is some foul language, but the worst of it is narrowly avoided, thanks to conveniently timed explosions. As for action, LeBeouf runs around like a young Indiana Jones, gathering bruises while evading the Decepticon’s clutches. The soldiers suffer heavy casualties as they fight their way to safety. If robot violence offends you, you may want to stay home because the Transformers have a take-no-prisoners mentality when they are duking it out.

The Money Shot
After seeing “Transformers” in living color, I want to see more! I want to see Optimus, Bumblebee, Ironhide and others in bigger stories. And isn’t that what a summer blockbuster should do? Shouldn’t it make you want to stand and cheer and get you psyched about seeing these characters overcoming peril once again in a summer yet to come? Knowing Hollywood, we’ll undoubtedly be getting sequels long after the fans have stopped caring, so for now let’s just enjoy the exhilaration of the new big thing.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Get Your Fill with Woodcock

Mr. Woodcock

Release: 09/14/2007
Rated PG-13
1 hour, 27 minutes

Matinee ($$$)

Seann William Scott (Final Destination) stars as John Farley, a self-help guru whose book “Letting Go” has garnered him his hometown’s most prestigious honor, the Corn Cob Key. Ignoring both his book tour and agent, Maggie, played by Amy Poehler (Blades of Glory), he returns home to surprise his mother, played by Susan Sarandon (Alfie). To his surprise, he finds mommie dearest in the arms of his middle school tormentor, gym teacher Mr. Woodcock, portrayed by Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa). As all his childhood insecurities return, Farley throws his self-help wisdom out the window to try and break up the happy couple, supposedly for their own good.

After Billy Bob’s disappointing outing last year, “School for Scoundrels,” my expectations for this were pretty grim. Fortunately, I fretted over nothing. Pairing Thornton alongside Scott generated a spark of hilarity. I think Thornton plays berating and belligerent best when insulting children, which you’ll understand if you’ve ever seen “Bad Santa.” He makes smacking children and destroying their self-esteem an art form. Together, Scott and Thornton’s constant banter and silly shenanigans succeed due largely to perfect timing and great delivery. They don’t even need much comedic support, though Ethan Suplee (TV’s: My Name Is Earl) as Farley’s old classmate and Poehler are funny, though sorely underused. In the meantime, Sarandon hits her marks and cashes her check, which is kinda sad.

Written and directed by relative newcomers, this guy comedy is definitively that, a guy comedy. Sarandon is there mainly to look and act like a frisky mom while Poehler handles Scott with a pair of brass cojones. The writers try throwing an old school crush into the mix for Farley, but the time would have been better served adding more embarrassing situations and slapstick. The story was never meant be a romantic comedy and though it treads a predictable path, the laughs Thornton and Scott generate make it more than agreeable.

Dirty Undies
It’s a shame this couldn’t have been made as an R-rated affair. Demeaning and degrading dialogue seems just a bit better when peppered with a few more obscenities. But Scott and Thornton rise to the task and are as vulgar as one can hope. Though sex appeal is noticeably non-existent, accolades of Woodcock’s prowess is enough to get more than a few ruffles furled, even if not in the way you’d hoped.

The Money Shot
This excels partly because everyone has had a “Mr. Woodcock” in their life. Reaching back I vaguely remember a particular high school English teacher who thought my best writing efforts had to almost certainly be copied and not mine own. Ah, I can feel the ire building already. That familiarity and the hilarity “Mr. Woodcock” provides, makes this a fun, fond film.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Terrifying to Tedious in under Two Hours!

Halloween

Release: 08/31/2007
Rated R
1 hour, 49 minutes

Matinee ($$$)

In 1978 John Carpenter created a horror icon that would live for eternity. Nearly thirty years later, musician-writer-director and avid fan of all films horror, Rob Zombie, has brought audiences his re-imagining of this classic. If you are unfamiliar with “Halloween,” it is the story of young Michael Myers of Haddonfield, Illinois, who went on a killing spree on Halloween night and murdered his entire family save his baby sister, Laurie. After years of psychotherapy, pacification and prodding, Michael, played by Tyler Mane (X-Men), escapes from the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium to reunite with the now teenaged Laurie, played by Scout Taylor-Compton. The seemingly unstoppable Michael enters full stalker mode while his former therapist, the venerable Dr. Samuel Loomis, portrayed by Malcolm McDowell (Star Trek: Generations), closes in on his trail.

Delving into his pool of favorite actors, Zombie employs his wife Sheri Moon Zombie (*House of 1000 Corpses) as Michael’s caring, pole-dancing mother, Deborah, and the despicably enjoyable William Forsythe (*The Devil’s Rejects) as her live-in boyfriend, Ronnie. The duo’s spiteful relationship sets the stage for Michael’s impending greatness. Other iconic B-movie cameos include Bill Moseley, Sid Haig, Udo Kier, Clint Howard, Danny Trejo, Sybil Danning, and Brad Dourif, just to name more than a few. All these stars, along with many young upstarts, give it their panicked, outraged best effort to instill fear and panic in audiences.

Aiding that measure of fear is Zombie’s use of reactive, flinching cinematography during Michael’s malevolent exploits. The camerawork adds a nice touch of uneasiness and brutality that places Michael into a category all his own. Zombie’s focus on the young Michael’s evolution is beguiling at first. But √† la his previous endeavors, Zombie has a knack for screwing up a great thing, and “Halloween” suffers from an inevitable downturn. One minute I found myself staring, unblinking, at the onslaught of carnage and the next, I couldn’t wait for the film to end (and no, I didn’t need a bathroom break!). Sadly, that ending was still another twenty minutes away and what had once been awe-inspiring was now mediocre.

Dirty Undies
There are three things that Zombie excelled at in “Halloween”: language, nudity, and utter brutality. While none of the young ladies are endowed with as much “talent” as Jamie Lee Curtis, almost all of them make up for it with lots of promiscuity, lewd dialogue and nakedness. Mrs. Zombie keeps it under wraps, and her beat-down appearance causes her to lose much of her sex appeal. The aforementioned unsung heroes of the horror genre bark at one another with enough piss and vinegar to stain the screen yellow, except you can’t tell because of all the blood stains. While not nearly matching the gorefest of his previous films, Zombie crafts scenes both excruciating and unforgettable.

The Money Shot
So Rob Zombie still doesn’t quite have it as a director. Luckily for him this is an accessible enough project that will get him much more practice perfecting his technique. “Halloween” is an earnest homage to Carpenter’s original vision that adds a good measure of bloodlust and depravity. Trapped somewhere between innovative and traditional, “Halloween” hands out its own brand of tricks and treats, satisfying but lame.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Friday, September 7, 2007

A Western Worth Your Time

3:10 to Yuma


Release 09/07/2007
Rated R
1 hour, 57 minutes


FULL PRICE ($$$$)



About fifty years ago, a short story by Elmore Leonard was made into a film. Today director James Mangold (*Cop Land) releases his remake of that film. The story follows humble rancher Dan Evans, played by Christian Bale (The Prestige), who goes to confront his guarantor over the impending loss of his land only to come face to face with the notorious outlaw Ben Wade. Wade, portrayed by Russell Crowe (*The Quick and the Dead) has just completed his twenty-second robbery of the railroad coffers but is soon captured. The railroad offers Evans $200 to be one of five men to escort Wade to Contention where he can board the 3:10 train to Yuma prison. Desperate for money and respect, Evans takes the job.

Mangold has a knack for directing stories in such a way that you become riveted to every moment, no matter how mundane. Part of his ability comes from wielding actors that can equally rise to the task of engaging the audience. Always the consummate actor, Bale transforms into the decent hard-working rancher with an inner fire. Bale boils with a desire to be respected. His guarantor, Hollander, dismisses him; Wade misjudges him, and even his own son balks at his orders. Evans’s curious yearning draws an interesting contrast to Wade. Like a classic Henry Fonda outlaw, Crowe plays Wade as a man with some culture and knowledge, a man with enough smarts to believe that killing a man is no more difficult than putting on your boots.

Speaking of Fonda, Henry’s son Peter (Ghost Rider) takes on a supporting role as Wade’s surly, grizzled nemesis Byron McElroy. Another supporting actor worth his salt is Alan Tudyk (*Serenity) who plays Doc Potter, another hand enlisted in Wade’s escort. One last up-and-coming actor that’s been on my radar and should be on yours is Ben Foster (Hostage), who plays Wade’s right-hand man, Charlie Prince, who drives the gang to rescue their callous leader. These three actors work in chorus with the stars to create an emotionally stirring film with western grit.

Dirty Undies
No western can hold water without shoot-outs and death. While there is no undertaker measuring up the gunmen before their stand-offs, “Yuma” makes you disturbingly aware of the lethal intentions of Wade and his crew. Countless men are left to die in the dusty streets and canyons of the West. The language isn’t abundant but the venomous attitudes of the speakers can still unnerve you even when their words aren’t so foul.

The Money Shot

Carefully crafted and excellently executed, “3:10 to Yuma” is a film that you won’t soon forget. Crowe and Bale once again prove that if they are in it, you should’ve already bought your ticket.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Nice shootin', Tex!

Shoot 'Em Up

Release: 09/07/2007
Rated R
1 hour, 27 minutes


Matinee <> Full Price


Paul Giamatti (*Paycheck) portrays Hertz, a hitman who has been hired to kill a young pregnant woman. As the woman waddles down the street to escape her assailants, she catches the attention of a man named Smith, played by Clive Owen (*Sin City). The mysterious Smith, moved to action, follows them to a deserted fix-it shop where he subdues the killer, and after an unfortunate series of events, finds himself, newborn in tow, in the middle of the biggest onslaught of mercenaries and killers imaginable.

As the credits rolled in the theater, I couldn’t help but think this was the most ridiculously over-the-top, completely absurd thing I had ever seen…and I loved every minute of it. Granted, the dialogue, had it not been swathed in wickedly complex stunts and shoot-outs, would have made me shudder from pure dumbness and clich√©. There is little to no Bourne-esque feats of martial arts; writer-director Michael Davis must have said, if it can’t be done with a gun, then why bother? The elaborate gunfights are completely incredible and highly unbelievable but that’s just part of the fun. What sells this brutal, cartoonish film is the seriousness the actors bring to their roles. Giamatti is shrewd and evil, a degenerate in fine suits who takes a twisted sense of pleasure in Smith’s continued retaliation. Owen has an inner fury and ultra-macho swagger that makes you think he should be oozing semen from his ears. Yes, he is that cocky.

Dirty Undies
If you weren’t sure, “Shoot ‘Em Up” has a lot of guns. I don’t think any other film this summer can boast a body count this high. Hundreds of bullets and gallons of blood cover the backgrounds. A couple of non-projectile assaults prove to be equal to the hail of gunfire due to their brutal and excruciating imagery. Luckily, it’s not all a bloodbath. “Shoot ‘Em Up” tosses in a few flashes of depraved sexual conduct and nudity to soften the mood. Also, Smith enlists a fetish hooker named Donna, played by the too-damn-hot Monica Belluci (*Brotherhood of the Wolf), who adds serious eye candy. While Belluci definitely teases audiences with her fantastic body, my lack of soiled underpants reminded me how someone kept us from enjoying her in all her glory.

The Money Shot
After watching the opening scene of “Shoot ‘Em Up” I knew it was time to shut off my sense of logic and just roll with it. The film is reminiscent of the unstoppable determination and bloodshed of Mel Gibson’s “Payback” mixed with a healthy dose of larger-than-life machismo violence from Jason Statham’s “Crank.” If you enjoyed those two films and can accept “Shoot ‘Em Up” for what it is, it is time for you to shoot your load on this hitman flick.

Large Association of Movie Blogs