Friday, March 29, 2013

The Movies of April 2013

April is full of a bunch of movies that, if I were rich and didn't need a job, I'd probably go see in theaters because I just like to see movies. But I don't live in that fantasy land of gum drops and rainbows. I live in the green hued Matrix where you are forced to sit down, shut up and do your work or the men in suits will come get you. I generally put Level 2's this months as, I'd see but don't have time or am too poor. You can sort it out I guess.

Don't forget the process I follow to find these little gems of film making. I go to IMDB, find the list of films for a given month and watch the trailers for said films. Then start writing. If I leave anything off this list then it is absolutely not worth my time. Remember, I use my totally made up Hype Rating System (HRS) to discern how much I want to see or not see these movies. Level 1: I plan to see this movie in theaters and so should you! Level 2: I'll probably wait until post theatrical release to see this film (Netflix, Blu-Ray, osmosis). Level 3: This movie will give you an STD. Level 4: I don't want to see it, but the Wife is making me; nothing I can do about it, I signed a contract.

April 5

Evil Dead - Level 3
Where is Bruce Campbell? Okay, I'm going to tear up my nerd-cred card now, I never saw the original Evil Dead films! Put down the pitch forks. I really don't know what to make of this movie. Did we need to remake the Evil Dead? I guess everything gets a remake these days; but we still can't get The Dark Tower made once! I assume from the trailer that they have obviously removed the campyness of the originals. It looks bloody, which I guess some people are into, but not me. Blood for bloods sake is just not appealing at all to me. I'll pass because I hate horror movies, remember?

Trance - Level 2
Young Professor X likes to steal art, too bad he got hit on the head and can't remember where he hid his most recent heist. Maybe a hypnotist can help? Looks like a decent heist/action/lost my memory mind f**k movie. It just doesn't scream "See me now!" I’ll wait till Netflix unless any of you know a good hypnotist that can beam it into my head sooner.

The Company You Keep - Level 2
Robert Redford is too old to jump that fence. Realism broken movie. You cannot go back. He is far to old to jump that fence. I cannot get over it. Oh, hi Shia LaBeouf, you still not dead for ruining Indian Jones? I should give you another chance, but you keep being you and I just don't want you. I see Even Stevens, I see smart ass kid in several other movies. You are a smart ass in every movie Shia and I cannot tolerate it. I cannot. You could probably believably jump that fence though...

Jurassic Park 3D - Level 1
Shut up and take my three extra dollars! Seriously, I am here writing this blog about movies because of Jurassic Park. One of the greatest films ever. Do not speak ill of this movie. You can say whatever you want about the sequels, but the original is an untouchable classic of our modern age and I will jump at every opportunity to see it in theaters, no matter what gimmick they add or price they ask.

The Brass Teapot - Level 2
A poor married couple finds a teapot, a brass teapot even, that spits out money every time they hurt themselves. Then the Jewish mafia comes looking for the teapot, so they have to run from them, while at the same time coming to terms with the corruption than comes from having money gush from the teapot as blood gushes from them. Kind of odd looking, quirky, just up my ally. It will never get within two hours of our theater, but see it if you get the chance and let me know how it turns out!

6 Souls - Level 2
Now here is a horror movie I can get on board with. The trailer wasn't filled with blood or shrieking women in their underwear. There is something very wrong with this guy and the doctor (Julianne Moore) just wants to find out what. No one expects that he is actually a serial killer who is consuming the souls of his victims.

April 12

Oblivion - Level 2
For all the crazy surrounding Tom Cruise, he does actually make some pretty good science fiction movies. I mean, Minority Report was awesome! Also, when I have the need for speed or am looking for a few good men or have an impossible mission to accomplish; I call Tom. I'd like to see Oblivion in theaters, but 42 is taking priority, a double feature maybe?

42 - Level 1
Baseball may just be the best sport to make movies about. And what better story than that of Jackie Robinson? The trailer touts this is the tale of a true American Hero and I tend to agree. Looks like a fine cast and we all know the story. Looking forward to this one.

Scary Movie 5 - Level 3
So what we have here is a parody horror franchise (Scary Movie) making fun of a satire horror franchise (Scream) that was making fun of traditional horror franchises. I’m just going to go ahead and jump on down to Limbo to await the climax of this cluster. After five movies, I think the joke may be getting a bit old. What happened to the idea of an actual comedy horror movie with clever and subversive laughs instead of obvious slap stick/bathroom humor?

To the Wonder - Level 2
I get serious Oscar vibes from this one, and it's not just because I like Javier Bardem. Aside from an all star cast including Bardem, Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams, the trailer made it look very much like a thoughtful, introspective look at love that I'm sure will garner some attention next February.

April 19

The Lords of Salem - Level 2
So Evil Dead just dropped to the third best Horror movie this month, if you judge by trailers, which is the whole point of this blog post... Anyways, I like the idea of taking the Salem witch trails lore and making it into a quasi secret society for the devil kind of thing. Interesting. Also, written and directed by Rob Zombie for those who care.

April 26

Pain & Gain - Level 3
I did not watch the trailer for this film. I was going to. I even had it loading up. But then my mind pleaded with me not to spoil the fantastic plot synopsis it had written based totally based off the poster and title. Yes, I judged this book by its cover. In my version, FBI Agents Johan Pain and Bartholomew Gain (played by The Rock and Marky Mark respectively) must go deep undercover as inmates into a federal prison to uncover the truth behind the world largest illegal steroid ring. To gain the trust of the inmates, they must complete in painful secret bench press competitions against other inmates. They hear rumors of an ultra-competitive tournament and know that winning it is the key to uncovering the truth. After a long, homoerotic workout montage, they are able to enter the contest and end up in the finals facing one another. I won’t spoil the end. Guest staring Lance Armstrong.

The Big Wedding - Level 4
I just get the feeling The Wife is going to make me watch this. Well, it looks to have too much old people sex. Nothing against old people, but you know what I mean. Everything is fine, they are kissing and it all "Isn't that nice they are still so passionate after all these years!" Then suddenly Diane Keaton has her shirt off and Robert De Niro is all squinty and I can't tell if he's having a stroke or needs an eye exam. It's just a mess.

Mud - Level 2
LOL at Matthew McConaughey playing a character named Mud using his normal accent. "Muuud." LOL. I'm so ready for Star Trek all I can think about is Harry Mud. +10 points for those of you that know of whom I speak. I'd watch this, but children actors seem to play heavy rolls and I am very untolerant of most child actors. Maybe if Matthew was a few years older...

At Any Price - Level 2
You know, I see so many quotes flash by in the trailer telling me I should see this movie and how it's great. But then Zac Efron keeps running around with his shirt off racing cars and doing older women and I think "No." First, because Zac is spelled with a damned "H". ZacH! Second, okay I don't have a second. Looks alright, may even be good, but by April 26 I'll be so close to Star Trek into Darkness I can taste it and won't have time for ZacH or his chiseled, hairless chest. I can only my descriptions of ZacH's chest has not swayed this to Level 4 territory...

And so you have been told of the films of April. Now, go out and purchase new pants, because May is on the horizon. Are you not excited? Must I remind you of: Star Trek Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, The Hangover Part III and The Great Gatsby?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: Admission

Hobo Dan: Friday night after work, rank enthusiasm for the weekend ahead, I accessed my omnipotent mobile phone thingy, located the Fandango app and queried it for information about show times for Admission; the new Tina Fey/Paul Rudd talkie. The search came up empty for times at our local theater. Not to be denied, I made camp at a proper mouse and keyboard terminal and used the powers of Google to expose this misinformation from the dastardly phone. Much to my dismay, the local cinema was not showing Admission. After a brief period of extraordinary rage, resulting the in the total destruction of my mellow attitude, I sat back and played video games until slipping into an eye strain induced coma.

But I’m in the forgiving mood today. After seeing Admission, it’s very clear to me why our local, rural theater didn’t get it. I blame the trailers (or lack thereof) as much as anything for my anger. I enjoyed the film, but rural town Ohio is not the target market for this film. I see that now.

Admission is a well-acted drama/comedy about an Admissions officer at Princeton who had a child in college that she gave up for adoption. I won’t get into the plot anymore than that, but you can imagine where it is going. By the way, are the Ivy League schools really that snooty about themselves? I could get into a rant about the pretentions of our modern educational system and how at the best of times it tries to fit round pegs into square holes; and at the worst of times wholesale ruins the educational future of a child who learns differently, but this film kind of did that for me. I enjoyed that bit.

I enjoyed a lot of bits in Admission. It was entertaining and thoughtful throughout. Judging by the sparse crowd the big city drew, most people must have been more inclined to see intellectual voids like Olympus Has Fallen or a third viewing of Identity Thief this weekend. But that’s okay. To each his own I guess. Ignorance is bliss even.

TL;DR version. I imagine there is a group of you readers who know me and my tastes well enough to make your viewing choice about Admission merely on the following statement: I was fully entertained by Admission throughout.

The Wife: A movie with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd? Sure, why not. After Oz the Great and Powerful, Admission was the only other movie that I anticipated seeing this month. After last year’s The Hunger Games release, which made March 2012 a great movie month, March 2013 has been slim pickings! So imagine my dismay when our local theatre of choice was not showing Admission. It took an Oscar nomination for them to get Silver Linings Playbook, but I will give them that because in smaller cities a lot of the Oscar-caliber movies don’t usually hit theatres until much later after their release. However, I was pretty surprised to see that a movie with popular comedians wasn’t being released everywhere. After seeing the movie, however, I now see why it was not at our theatre since it was more of a “Dramady.” Movies like Admission sadly don’t always have a market in rural areas.

Admission hasn’t done great at the box office and that’s a real shame because it was a good movie. I blame that on the marketing. The trailers depicted Admission to be more in line with comedies, rather than what the movie actually was. Sometimes poor marketing can make or a break a movie (Hello, does anyone remember John Carter last year? Didn’t think so.). Was Admission funny? Yes, but it was more of an intelligent comedy that was actually quite thought provoking and did manage to take on a serious tone at times.

As Hobo Dan mentioned above, Admission revolves around an Ivy League admissions counselor at Princeton (Fey). Her seemingly simple, routine life gets shaken up when she finds out that her son, who she gave up for adoption years ago, could possibly be applying to Princeton. Admission also sheds light on the American higher education system, which I found interesting. It seems more and more society wants everything to be black and white and group individuals into boxes. As someone who has always refused to be identified by simply checking a box, I enjoyed this aspect of Admission. Life is not black and white and neither is our education system. Everyone is different and many people learn differently. This conversation is for a whole other blog topic though, so I will move on and conclude that I really enjoyed Admission. It was a thought provoking film. However, if you go in expecting non-stop laughs you probably will be disappointed. One more thing before I wrap this up: for all my fellow 30 Rock lovers, Admission shows us that in an alternate universe Liz Lemon and Wesley Snipes totally did settle for each other!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday Morning Update

No movies were seen this weekend (unless you count the ESPN’s 30 for 30 “You don’t Know Bo” on Netflix) because the Wife spent the weekend sick and I spent it cleaning up after her sick. It’s sad really. We were supposed to go run a 4 mile race followed by St. Patrick’s Day festivities including me dressing up like Raphael from the Ninja Turtles. Green is green, don’t judge. Instead it was a weekend of going to bed early, eating soup and me watching far too much of a Star Craft II tournament via MLG (Major League Gaming; yes it’s a thing and I like it!).

Do you know how hard it is to blog on a consistent basis? Imagine right now it’s Monday morning and here I sit, trying to compose relevant, coherent words for your future reading enjoyment. I’m still not entirely convinced this is real. Maybe I am still dreaming. I did eat spicy food for dinner last night. I mean, the local radio station just announced they are switching formats from modern hits to classic 80’s hits. Two things about that; One, this means there are zero radios stations in our immediate area playing modern hits. Two, I am sad that things from the 80’s are considered old enough for classic status. Bonus thing Three, was the demand for 80’s hits so high they decided to switch formats? I mean, 60’s-70’s sure I get, but the 80’s? I must still be asleep…

I guess this is an outline for upcoming events on this here blog. I am currently on a two month streak of dumping about monthly movies, so yay! April looks only slightly better than March was. May is still too far away. I also announced last week via this link that I am currently working on Season Two of Relay! All two readers can rejoice. Soon-ish we will be doing a new Best Picture Blog about the most recent winner: Argo. I think soon I am going to sit down and lay out to you in simple terms why I think the current model of TV shows coming out on a weekly basis should die by fire! Fine, I’ll admit, I’ve run out of Supernatural on Netflix and I want more. But in this modern age, does anyone really want to wait until 8 PM on a given night to watch their show? I’d rather watch an episode or five in a row at my convenience. Don’t you mention DVR to me; that’s a scheme by the cable company to get more of your money!

I know you’re hoping I am almost done ranting. Yes, almost. One more thing though, is it just me or did it snow all day Sunday, yet there was more snow on the ground in the morning than when I went to bed? What’s up with that?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

The Wife: Movie Monday is back in full force with our review of Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful, directed by Sam Raimi. The film, which stars James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz, is a prequel of sorts to the iconic classic, The Wizard of Oz. Along with being visually stunning, the story was actually very well done. I was excited for this movie and knew it would look beautiful, but I must admit that I was skeptical if the plot would actually be good. I ended up really enjoying ‘Oz’ and would probably pay theatre price to see it again!

Just like the well-known 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz, ‘Oz’ starts off in black and white film style in Kansas. Viewers are given a look at struggling, lady-manipulating magician Oz, portrayed by James Franco. He is working a traveling circus gig, which seems to be the norm for him. Of course, he is revealed to be a fraud, and after he is caught in one of his many womanizing schemes, he flees the circus via hot air balloon. Much like the original Wizard of Oz scenario, Oz is caught in a windstorm. After swirling and whirling about, the screen suddenly shifts from black and white to a beautiful, bright array of color as the hot air balloon lands. Oz is mesmerized by his new surroundings and soon meets a young woman, who reveals that she is a witch and calls herself “Theodora the good.” Theodora, played by Mila Kunis (who I totally have a girl crush on), explains to Oz that he is in well, a place called Oz. She also believes that his arrival means that the prophecy of a great and powerful wizard coming to Oz is true. Putting his womanizing charm to good use, Oz quickly romances Theodora. However, she takes his advances as declarations of love, much to Oz’s discomfort.

From here, the story unfolds as Oz encounters Theodora’s not-so-friendly sister, Evanora. Oz also meets an adorable flying monkey, Finley. After saving the creature’s life, Finley declares his full servitude to Oz. In addition, Oz finds another ally and adorable companion in China Girl. He later meets another witch, Glinda (Michelle Williams), whom Evanora and Theodora have deemed a “bad witch.” The story progresses as Oz learns the true nature of who is good and who is evil.

Overall, I really enjoyed ‘Oz.’ I found Franco to be the weakest actor, but he did a decent job. Not spectacular, but decent. Let’s face it, Freaks and Geeks was his best role ever and really, he just seems like he tries too hard when he isn’t in his typical stoner-type roles. Weisz did a great job playing the manipulative Evanora. Williams also delivered a solid performance as Glinda. Girl crush aside, I think Mila Kunis was fantastic in this movie. Theodora was also one of my favorite character progressions. While it kind of reminded me of Anakin’s transition to Darth Vader a la Star Wars, I still enjoyed seeing how sweet, na├»ve Theodora eventually became what we know as the “Wicked Witch of the West” from The Wizard of Oz. Seriously, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! Kunis did a great job portraying a hurt woman gone bad, and I thought she did a pretty good job of nailing the iconic cackle of the 1939 Wicked Witch of the West! My favorite character was the cute CGI flying monkey, Finley. I also absolutely loved the CGI China Girl. Not only were they adorable, but I think they really added to the story and were necessary characters.

As a huge fan of the 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz, I truly enjoyed the references to that film within ‘Oz,’ including the cowardly lion and scarecrow. Also, as I mentioned previously, Oz the Great and Powerful is a very visually appealing movie. Since it is so gorgeous, it makes me even happier that the actual plot of the movie is great. Sometimes a visually stunning movie lacks substance. This certainly is not the case for ‘Oz.’ In my opinion, this is a theatre must-see, especially if you are a fan of The Wizard of Oz.

Hobo Dan: Before I say anything else, let me make an observation. This film was in 3D. I grumbled as we paid three extra dollars. I grumbled as I took the glasses out of their plastic wrapper. I reminded the Wife to put on the 3D glasses, not her sun glasses. I grumbled as the trailers rolled by with minimal 3D effects to bear and the normal muted color palette I’ve come to despise. Then Oz, the Great and Powerful started and I saw some real 3D for once and in color! There were actual vibrant colors in a 3D movie! They weren't muted at all! I still would rather have seen it in traditional format, and I still believe 3D is a blight on the film industry as well as a Hollywood money making scheme, but they at least were able to make Oz not look like total ass in 3D, so I’ll pat Disney on the head for that one.

The technical achievement of this film should not be overlooked. At times I had trouble deciding if James Franco was a real person or not. Every CGI character was full of emotion and life. I loved them. Franco, the title character, could have died; no big deal. But if they’d even hinted at killing off that little China Girl, I would have walked out and started a Molotov cocktail riot in the street. So here is my quandary. Were the CGI characters so good they overshadowed the real actors, or were James Franco and company as bland as they seemed?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Oz the Great and Powerful much more than I thought I would. It was a satisfying film start to finish. There is nothing wrong with some good old entertainment. My problems are all in the real life actors. James Franco was hit or miss. When he was being “himself”, an aloof conman, I bought it. When he had to leave that comfort zone he’s built up over years of stoner films, I was less impressed. Then again, no one went to see Oz looking for Oscar winning acting. A little effort is all I’m asking for. For example, Tony Cox, who played Knuck, was basically a PG version of his character from Bad Santa. Don’t get me wrong, he was funny, but a back talking munchkin with an attitude seemed very out of place in the Land of Oz.

On the other hand you had CGI character after character that brought real life and entertainment to Oz. The voice actors in particular nailed their parts. The animations were clean and sharp and rival anything Pixar has done. That’s a very big complement when you consider Pixar films are 100 percent CGI and in Oz, these CGI characters where standing alongside real actors. In 1999, when Episode I came out, George Lucas touted a certain Gungan character for being totally CGI, yet able to stand toe to toe with real actors. It didn’t go over so well. Well today I believe Oz has shown it is possible with the right animations and voice actors for a totally animated character to completely out act their real life counterparts.

If you like The Wizard of Oz, you’re going to like this. It’s a solid film that entertains throughout with amazing effects and absolutely unforgettable CGI characters.