Archive | June, 2010

REVIEW: Youth in Revolt (2009)

26 Jun

YOUTH IN REVOLT (2009): *** out of 4 stars
“Youth in Revolt” gives me hope for Michael Cera’s future. Cera plays the best awkward teenager, getting his start as the uncomfortably naive teen George Michael in “Arrested Development” and then stepping up the raunch in “Superbad”. The problem is that his ability to play a teenager will run out in the next 5 years as he gets older. I was beginning to worry whether he would ever play a role other than the wimpy teen. While he has a great sense of timing the untimely, that appeal can only go so far into adulthood. Playing the dual role of Nick Twisp and his alter ego Francois Dillinger in “Youth in Revolt” he proves he can play an older badass.

The film is about a quiet and hopeless teenager, Nick (Michael Cera), who lives with a deadbeat mom and her boyfriend and they move to a trailer park where he meets a deadpan and intriguing girl, Sheeni (Portia Doubleday), and he immediately falls in love. When his mom and her boyfriend move away from the trailer park he vows to get back to Sheeni. Since his mom gets child support from Nick’s birth father (Steve Buscemi) she doesn’t want to let go of him, so Sheeni convinces him he needs to become drastically bad so his mom will kick him out of the house. From this idea he forms an alter ego, Francois Dillinger (also Cera), who is dastardly and “irresistable to women” to help him become bad so he can run off with Sheeni.

What woman could resist that moustache?

Cera plays both parts with convincingly, with Francois stealing the show with his condescending one-liners and a cool cigarette always in hand. The dark comedy seen in Francois shows that if Cera wants to he could play some sort of mob boss or hitman in future films. While Cera will most likely stick to comedies for now, he proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has the acting chops to play any type of role that he wants.

Nick and Francois are complemented by a very lively (and by lively I mean viciously dead pan cast). Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta, and Zach Galifinakis do a great job providing peripheral comedy as potential and past beaus of Nick’s mom and Justin Long has a mildly humorous cameo as Sheeni’s shroom-munching brother.

The script is snappy, which offsets the slow-pace of the film. “Youth in Revolt” also avoids the pitfall of so many recent movies by keeping it short (89 minutes), so while the pace is slow, it wraps up quickly and neatly. I am not sure the animation shorts during the film were necessary, but besides that the film is very enjoyable and provided a nice reprieve from all of the in-your-face slapstick comedies that seem to come across the screen recently.

My Top 20 Film/TV Characters of the Past Decade

25 Jun

I have read a couple of lists in the last month that have tried to document the best Film/TV Characters of the past decade and while I haven’t seen some of the shows and couldn’t comment on that, there were some that just kind of confused me and some that I thought were left out. I am sure I will leave some out, but if I can’t remember them then they might not be that memorable. Also, again, this is just my personal preference and would love to see comments of who some of everyone’s favorite characters are (which might also jog my memory and I could modify my post with). So, without further ado here are my Top 20 Film/TV Characters of the Past Decade (non-animated)

#20 Omar (The Wire- Michael K Little)

#19 Sue Sylvester (Glee- Jane Lynch)

 

#18 Walter Kowalski (Gran Torino- Clint Eastwood)

#17 Ron Burgundy (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy)

#16 Michael Scott (The Office- Steve Carell)

#15 Dr. Cox (Scrubs- John C. McGinley)

#14 Tony Soprano (The Sopranos- James Gandolfini)

#13 Daniel Plainview (There Will Be Blood- Daniel Day Lewis)

Brick Tamland (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy- Steve Carell)

#11 Maximus (Gladiator- Russell Crowe)

#10 Anton Chigurgh (No Country For Old Men- Javier Bardem)

#9 Dr. House (House- Hugh Laurie)

#8 Ari Gold (Entourage- Jeremy Piven)

#7 Stringer Bell (The Wire- Idris Elba)

#6 Col Hans Landa (Inglorious Basterds- Christoph Waltz)

#5 GOB Bluth (Arrested Development- Will Arnett)

#4 Dexter Morgan (Dexter- Michael C Hall)

#3 Don Draper (Mad Men- Jon Hamm)

The Joker (The Dark Knight- Heath Ledger)

#1 Bill the Butcher (Gangs of New York- Daniel Day Lewis)

I look forward to everyone’s comments and this list is really more a springboard than something that I think is firm.  If someone posts someone that could rate this list, I will update accordingly. Enjoy!

3 TV Shows I Can’t Get Enough of Watching (#3)

24 Jun

For this final installment, I actually have the benefit of having many more episodes to go before I finish. I was also hesitant to put this show on the list because of that fact because with the other two I have watched every available episode and know that I still want more. There have been other shows that I have liked into the 3rd season and they have fizzled out quickly after that (i.e. The Office, Scrubs) and I am currently finishing up the third season of this show that is #3.

#3 Dexter

The deciding factor that had me put this show on the list was that even if the show fizzles out after this season (which from what I have read it won’t), it is such an effective and different concept for a TV show that it is worth a high recommendation. The show is about a serial killer, Dexter, who works in the Miami Police Forensics Department as a blood analyst. He witnessed his mother murdered at a young age and it left him psychologically scarred. He is adopted by a Miami Police Detective who notices his psychological disorder and knows that while he cannot be changed, he can be trained. Dexter is then trained to kill only “those who deserve it” and uses his knowledge of forensics to cover his crimes. He tries to blend into society by faking social niceties and having a girlfriend, who he has trouble relating to because of his lack of emotion. His strong code of twisted ethics is constantly challenged by those who merely annoy him and those who try to interfere with his vigilante justice.

I haven’t ever seen a show make such an intriguing anti-hero. Listening to his monologues on society and his own inability to relate add such a twist on traditional narrative that it is hard not to want to delve more into Dexter’s world. His inner struggle is one of the best tensions in the show; it leaves the audience wondering if the monster inside is really as bad as it claims and whether he can eventually become the facade that he puts on.

Don't mind me, I am just reading the paper and plotting how to kill you.

The show provides some incredibly genius dark humor (such as when Dexter asks a couple he is about to murder for relationship advice, or when he takes milk from the refrigerator of someone he just killed to bring home to his girlfriend). Somehow, the writers and director created an environment that, while disturbing when you take a step back, is easy to get guiltily lost in.

Michael C. Hall, who will probably be forever known for this role, plays the part to perfection and there is no one else that I could see playing Dexter any more effectively. The soulless look in his eyes behind the forced smile is something that is very hard to replicate. The acting in the rest of the show isn’t that great, especially his sister, Deb (who I have no idea how she got picked for this part and I want to punch every time she comes on the screen), but Hall more than makes up for it.

I am halfway through season three and can’t get enough of this show.  I can’t wait for my Netflix (best thing ever), to deliver the next discs and then I can get into Season 4.

3 TV Shows I Can’t Get Enough of Watching (#2)

23 Jun

Most of the shows that I have gotten really into in the last 5 years or so have mainly been because of deployment. I would be stranded out in the middle of the ocean just dying for anything new to watch, and then the ship’s store would get DVDs of TV shows that I had kind of heard of so I would buy them and would get hooked. That’s how it was with the next show on my list of TV shows that I can’t get enough of watching:

#2 Entourage

“Entourage” is about a group of four friends, Vincent Chase (Adrien Grenier) who is a movie star on the rise, his manager Eric (Kevin Connolly), his brother Johnny (Kevin Dillon), and his driver Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) who parade around Hollywood trying to make their way and ride Vincent’s wave of fame. Vincent has a very eccentric and hilarious and vulgar agent, Ari (the genius and show-stealing Jeremy Piven), who creates as many problems as he solves most of the time.

To be honest, I was kind of skeptical about this show when I first saw it, thinking that it was serving as nothing more than an entertaining romp through the life of an actor in Hollywood, but about halfway through Season 3 something changed and I was hooked. The characters started becoming fully developed and three-dimensional as opposed to just static characters who we have some laughs with. Vincent’s struggle between playing the Hollywood game, maintaining artistic integrity, and staying true to his past becomes very moving at times as he will at times succeed in one aspect, but fail in the others. The show maintains a great pace as well, balancing out a majority of decadence and playfulness, with just the right amount of tension so it never seems to become frivolous.

There is a lot of walking in this show and they never have to move for anyone on the sidewalk.

An appealing aspect of this show is that it allows people to have a glimpse into that lifestyle that they read about in magazines and also lets them dream a bit about that type of success. While that is not the main appeal to me  in the show, it is still very prominent and part of the attraction.

It is a very bromantic show as well; highlighting the bond of four guy friends that has lasted decades and how above all friends and family come first. Ari is part of the bromance as well, having to balance out his business with his loyalty to the guys which provides some humorous, frustrated rants on his part.

Entourage says, "Bros before Hos"

I can’t get enough of this show and pretty much every person that I recommend it to gets hooked. There was one day, before the start of Season 6 last summer, that my girlfriend and I were going to pick up the Season 5 DVDs and watch a couple of episodes at a time so we could refresh before the new season…..we ended up watching all 13 episodes in one day. We just couldn’t stop watching. I am thinking that there might be something similar that happens this weekend before the premiere of Season 7 this Sunday.

3 TV Shows That I Can’t Get Enough Of Watching

22 Jun

I am making a rare detour from talking about film to talk about the world of television. Also, I wanted to talk about something positive for a bit  becauseI have spent the last week or so ranting about actors that I don’t like and the week before that on various rants about the film industry.

I read an article about a year ago, which I wish I could share with you, that had some insight into tv’s future. There have been several shows in the last ten years that have brought about some positive changes for TV (i.e. Lost, The Wire, Arrested Development), bringing fully developed characters and smarter scripts to the small screen. Writers have become really attracted to TV because they may not be able to get an idea or character fully developed in the small time frame that a movie provides, so we are seeing higher quality television (besides most reality shows which are a lot of fun to make fun of). Granted, most of these higher quality television shows are being shown on premium channels, but watching them on DVD is just as enjoyable (in fact, I prefer it, because I can just watch one right after the other if I so desire).

Anyway, over the next couple of days I will be talking about 3 of my favorite TV Shows (currently airing).

#1 Mad Men

Mad Men is television at its finest. It may not be the most engaging show to a lot of people, but it is certainly the most intruiging and perhaps the most insightful show currently airing right now. The show revolves around a group of successful advertising agents on Madison Avenue (aka Mad Men) in the early 1960’s and their woes with the changing times and their personal lives. Jon Hamm plays the main character, Don Draper, who may be one of the best television characters ever. He is mysterious, cool, collected and the man every man wants to be. Even with his success in the industry his personal life is in shambles and he harbors a secret past which provides a great ongoing mystery within the show as more and more is revealed.

Hello, I am pretty much the man.

Surrounding Don Draper is an amazing ensemble of characters, particularly Christina Hendricks as Joan Hathaway and John Slattery as Roger Sterling. They way they interact and their stories intertwine works so well that it is no surprise that the show has won 3 Golden Globes and 2 Emmys for Best Drama.

The 1960’s themselves play a character of sorts as well, working to bring change to the characters’ world and showing a “simpler” time that was becoming progressively complex. The show pulls no punches about the 60’s with the chauvenism, smoking, drinking and social niceties, which make it an effective “historical drama”. Many shows are set in a decade in the past (it seems the 70’s and 80’s are popular), but never really use the timeframe to their advantage as much as “Mad Men” does. With all the smoking and drinking I have a hard time not having a glass of scotch in my hand while I watch it (in fact the DVD cover for Season Three was just a glass of scotch).

Drinking at Work: Aren't the 60's great?

“Mad Men” also takes an artistic direction that is rarely seen in television as well. The directors seem to take a lot of time getting the photography and the lighting just right to make it a very beautiful show. “Mad Men” has won 3 consecutive awards for Excellence in Production Design from the Art Directors Guild and while television usually has a low standard for artistic design, the show goes above and beyond.

Every time a season ends (unfortunately, I have been on deployment or underway with the Navy for almost every season), I am just left craving more. Not in the way that there is a cliffhanger like in most television shows, but because I am so involved in the different storylines of each character and what Don Draper will do next in a world that is changing around him.

5 Actors I Can’t Believe Keep Getting Work (#1)

21 Jun

Between my friends and I there has been a lot of debate about this list and whether or not certain actors or actresses would or should be on here. The #1 actor on this list wasn’t even on my original list, but someone mentioned him and after thinking about it and doing the research, he not only made the list, but ended up taking top ‘dishonors’. Here he is….#1 Nicolas Cage.

WHY I CAN’T BELIEVE HE KEEPS GETTING WORK:

Who thought this hair was a good idea?

It is not because I think he can’t act, he proved he can by winning an Oscar for Best Actor in “Leaving Las Vegas” (of course that doesn’t mean much if Sylvester Stallone can win the same award). Nor, is it that his movies are unsuccessful (even though he has lost Hollywood studios $94 million dollars total in the last 10 years). Instead, it is more that I can’t believe he keeps getting work in the type of roles that he does. He keeps getting headlining roles in action movies where he is playing someone that is charismatic and cool, but he just ends up looking crazy (especially with that mullet in “Next” and “Bangkok Dangerous”) and the audience ends up hoping whatever disaster he is trying to avoid will somehow end his existence in the film.

Not only that, but he keeps getting booked again and again as a lead action star. He has done 14 films since 2004 and 9 of  those have been action movies and he never makes a believeable action star. He had some success with the awful “National Treasure” films, but that is because they were essentially children’s movies and children’s movies are a very bankable genre right now. If he tries to do an adult action film, he has much lower sucess, “Next” and “Bangkok Dangerous” lost studios a total of $87 million dollars. “Ghost Rider”, which is part of the comic book movie boom, only made the studios $6 million dollars more than it cost to make because the film was just so awful and Nicolas Cage does not make a great superhero (except in “Kick-Ass” which he played the most enjoyable character I have seen him play in years). As soon as audiences see his name scroll across the credits of an action movie preview, I hear so many groans and even heard someone say, “Why won’t he just go away?” during a “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” preview the other week.

Nicolas Cage has worn out his welcome in Hollywood and it couldn’t come at a more unfortunate time in his career, when he filed for bankruptcy two years ago (which is really hard to believe because he gets paid an average of about $10 million a movie). Now, instead of being able to ride his fame and fortune that came from his good movies, he is forced to continue to alienate his fans by doing any movie that he possibly can, which seems to be every crappy action film that comes across an executive’s desk. I can see the executives looking at the script and going, “Hmm, we could make some quick money off of this crappy movie. Who is a big name star that is really desperate right now?”

Hey, that's me!

HOW HE CAN REDEEM HIMSELF:

First, he needs to become financially sound and maybe get a real job for a little while. He’s still a big name actor, much to the chagrin of most audiences out there, and he has the acting skills to be successful. Once he is financially sound he can be a little bit more picky about the films that he does. He needs to continue to do films like “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” where he plays a self-destructive character much like he did in “Leaving Las Vegas,” or “Lord of War” where he plays a kind of sleazy, sardonic arms dealer. Those were great roles for him because they weren’t all-out action.

He would also do really well being in comedies or dramas where he plays more of an every-man type role. He does not look like a suave-debonair action star and he doesn’t sound like one either. He looks like an every day average joe and audiences would be able to relate to him pretty easily through those type of roles. “Adaptation” was fantastic and he played that every-man type role. It was a low-budget quality film by Charlie Kaufman

Somehow, some way, Hollywood seems to think he is an action star though. It may also have to do with his uncle being Francis Ford Coppola though and maybe he cries to to him that he wants to be an action star and studios won’t book him as one. So, Francis hands them some money under the table and boom…Nicolas Cage…action hero!

I don’t think he will take my advice though if his new movie “Drive Angry” (in 3D for some reason) is any measure of that. I will leave you with this awesome plot summary from RottenTomatoes:

“Nicolas Cage headlines this high-octane 3D thriller about a convicted felon who breaks out of prison to prevent the cult that murdered his daughter from sacrificing his infant granddaughter on the night of the full moon. With just three days to go before the ritual killing, Milton crosses paths with knockout waitress Piper, who agrees to help him by stealing her ex-boyfriend’s mean, cherry-red muscle machine. Between that high-performance car and Milton’s own black ’71 Challenger, they may have a shot at taking down the cult and saving his granddaughter’s life. But charismatic cult leader Jonah King isn’t running scared, because when hell is unleashed on Earth, he will be the most powerful man alive. Unfortunately for Milton, the cops are quickly closing in, and a savage serial killer known only as “The Accountant” is looking to have some bloody fun on the open roads. With each passing minute, Milton’s last shot at redemption is fading, so he teams up with Piper to defeat Jonah’s legions of loyal disciples, avenge the death of his daughter, and prevent the crazed cult leader from plunging the entire world into infernal darkness.”

 

Review: Toy Story 3 (2010)

19 Jun

TOY STORY 3 (2010):  ***1/2 out of 4 stars

Last night, my girlfriend and I decided we would try to last through the onslaught of uproarious children at the movies and see Toy Story 3. When we got there, much to our surprise, we hardly saw any children in the theater. Instead, it was packed with adults with an average age of about 23-27 and while watching the film, I hardly thought that we were too old to be watching this movie.

The Toy Story gang all comes back for this glorious third, and final, installment of the franchise. In this one, Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), and the rest of the toys from Andy’s room find that their appeal has worn off as Andy has aged and is about to head off to college. Andy decides to take Woody with him to college and place the rest of his toys in the attic where they will live out the rest of their immortality with the Christmas light gang and the old tv. But, through a mistake, he ends up donating them to Sunnyside Day Care which essentially turns out to be toy prison. Woody then rallies the gang for a jail break and incredible journey across town to get back to Andy’s house before he goes to college.

Pixar again hits a home run on all levels, layering their films with a kids movie cover, while underneath there is an adult-sized heart. A lot of the material deals with the mortality of the toys, the uncertainty of the future, and growing up; ideas which are much more appreciated the older you get.

While pretty much every old character, except for Bo and Wheezy (who cared about them anyway?) return for this one, there are also some new characters: Lotso the bear (Ned Beatty), Ken (Michael Keaton almost stole the show until Spanish Buzz showed up), Mr. Pricklepants (a funny role for Timothy Dalton), and Trixie the triceratops (Kristen Schaal; it’s nice to see she is getting a bit more recognition after Flight of the Conchords). These new characters do not feel like they are forced, or that Pixar is really stretching for new ideas, and are nice additions to the gang.

“Toy Story 3” avoids the pitfalls made by most sequels, especially when they reach the third installment, by being able to come up with fresh material instead of re-hashing the same jokes over and over. While the plot is similar to the other two, the comedy within them seems new and it is a welcome return for the characters, as opposed to say “Shrek” where you just wish they would go away or meet a grisly demise. The success of this film makes viewers long for more of Woody and Buzz’ adventures, but I think it is best to end it here on a high note before the franchise loses steam (not that it seems like Pixar will ever lose steam).