Sunday, December 30, 2012

Movies We Popped to $ee in 2012 & Reviews

And why they should or shouldn't be in your Netflix Queue...
Django Unchained: Movie Review

When you go to see "Django Unchained," arrive at least a half hour early. We got there 20 minutes early and could only find seating in the neck-break seats down front. It's that popular. And for good reason! This delightful shoot-em-up starring Jamie Foxx as a freed-slave-turned-bounty-hunter, his partner, played by Christoph Waltz (the Nazi villain in "Inglourious Basterds," here a charming good guy), and Leonardo DiCaprio as an oily southern plantation owner they have unsavory business with will keep you entertained from beginning to end with all sorts of cartoonish but very satisfying bloody violence. As Foxx and Waltz travel across the country hunting their quarry, the villains they meet are all delightfully so-bad-you-love-it-when-they-die, and the two heroes are eccentric and interesting. Eventually the mission changes to the rescue of Foxx's wife, played by Kerry Washington (Scandal) - who is owned by DiCaprio - and the show takes a somewhat more serious turn. But all throughout there's lots of humor in the show, mostly in Waltz's odd (and Oscar-deserving) performance, but also lots of sight gags. One particular scene with a bunch of KKK-type guys who are having trouble seeing through the too-small-eyeholes in their white hoods was a standout. Samuel L. Jackson is also hilarious (and at the same time, menacing) as the treacherous manservant to DiCaprio.

One other thing which caught my eye was a lot of small roles for older actors - if you're old enough to know who these guys are, see if you can spot them - Tom Wopat (Dukes of Hazzard), Lee Horsley (Matt Houston), James Remar (Dexter, originally in the cult classic 70s movie The Warriors) - in 2 roles!, Dennis Christopher (the bicycle kid from Breaking Away!), and Don Johnson (Miami Vice).

Posted by: GMan

Okay, this one was for free but only if you believe Comcast Cable are NOT fiscal rapists...
Movie Review: "Liz and Dick" The Morning After
A drag queen would have been better...
Remember back when Robin Williams did standup comedy and did weird voices and talked frantically in a schizophrenic-roid-rage-kind-of-way on stage? Imagine if, instead of doing his normal dialog, he was reciting the Gettysburg Address (but still frantically). Now imagine him doing it in the movie "Lincoln." I start off this review with this absurd image so you can understand the following: this would be better casting than Lindsay Lohan playing Elizabeth Taylor in the Lifecrime movie "Liz and Dick."

Lindsay Lohan, sounding like Harvey-Fierstein-after-too-many-cigarrettes, evokes the very essence of Lindsay Lohan not doing a good Liz Taylor impression in this awful dreck, which aired Sunday, and will continue to appear in an eternal loop in the personal torture chamber of William Shakespeare in his cell in Hell. She acts less like Liz Taylor and more like Liz Taylor's teenage daughter who went into Mommy's closet and tried on Mommy's too-big wigs and dresses.

The movie, starring Grant Bowler (recently in "Atlas Shrugged"), who is slightly better as Richard Burton, is about the tumultuous relationship between the two movie icons, who met on the set of the early 60s epic (non-nuclear bomb) "Cleopatra" and had an affair, openly and scandalously abandoning two marriages and sets of children, thus becoming the number one target for the paparazzi photographers who follow them everywhere (partly because publicity-seeking Liz calls to tell them where they will be). It follows their up-and-down relationship over the next several decades, as they struggle to overcome Taylor's relatively more successful movie career and Burton's jealousy over that.

The main problem with the movie is that Lohan and Bowler have less chemistry than a grade school science fair vinegar-and-baking-soda volcano, which makes most scenes fairly boring. A side story involving a tragedy with Richard Burton's manager-brother (David Hunt, a minor TV actor) also seems bloodless. The only interesting part of the movie is when Lohan and Bowler are shown in Inside-the-Actors-Studio-type asides, talking directly to the audience about the scenes in the movie.

Now having had its run, the movie is consigned to the realm of the 2-am insomniacs, who, when faced with a choice of this or half hour long infomercials about cleaning products, may find the decision harder than they expect. Unless they are William Shakespeare.

Posted by: GMan
Don't f*ck with a Kentucky rail splitter.

Movie Review: Lincoln: The Motherf*cker with The Hat
I don't know if you really need to know anything about this movie other than that Tony Kushner, writer of the multi-Tony winning and Emmy winning Angels in America, wrote the screenplay.  And if you are looking for a good way to escape from your relatives who will make you feel inferior on Thanksgiving Day for a good 2+ hours and be entertained every moment, directed by Steven Spielberg,  Lincoln is the ticket!

Well, okay if you need to know more stuff here it is -  Daniel Day Lewis: perfectly cast as the humorous and strangely high-pitched president.  Plus there has never been a more Lincoln-looking motherfucker on the planet. Sally Field: perfectly cast as the semi-insane Mary Todd Lincoln. She also should get an award for Lincoln-lookin'. Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, could get another Oscar for his The Fugitive-like role as a trash talkin' country boy. A lavish production about the last few months of the Civil War, when Lincoln was pushing for the 13th Amendment (ending slavery in the whole of the US), this story features many fine beards, sideburns, and mustaches, as well as a lot of that straight-hair-that-sticks-out-to-the-side-and-somehow-nobody-comments-on-it look.

The audience was entirely full.  Nice to see when they could be watching vampires who act like zombies instead.  It was also almost all adults and a few up and coming youngin'  history buffs. The only thing I didn't like about the movie was the ass-hat with the phone in the 3rd row who strangely couldn't live without checking his e-mail every half-hour.  The usual thing I don't like about every movie I see lately.  Checking to see if a homey of yours has died (the only reason to interrupt this movie)??…News flash!  He will still be dead after the movie.  Just like our 16th president.

Posted by: GMan

Side note: Kind of an over the top/fun performance by James Spader as Tennessee lawyer W.N. Bilbo, whom we'd never heard of, but in these modern times he could be considered a "palm greaser." Nice to see James again in rare form after his semi-debacle run on The Office. 

Skyfall: Movie Review 
Bond Fall?
Let me get this out of the way first: smart phones have ruined going to the movies for me. Every time I go there is some asstard who has to check their messages three times or talk on the phone right in the middle of the movie, and for some reason they always sit in front of me. Suggestion for all: 1) go to a movie *or* 2) find out wassupp with your worthless "frenz," but *please* do not try to do both at the same time, lest you be killed by me or my wife with her hobo slayin' knife.

Let me get this out of the way second: this movie is better than Quantum of Solace, the worst Bond movie of all time (I have seen them all). But it also is maybe the weirdest Bond movie of all time. It does not follow the Bond formula of 1) a moo-hoo-ha-ha-rule-the-world-mini-me type villain, 2) Sex bomb Bond girls (there are girls, but they are not very sex-bomby). After some early action which is enjoyable (and which is all in the trailer), the movie goes into "espionage-mode," meaning that there's not a lot of action, but quite a lot of intrigue about MI6 (Bond's agency) possibly being compromised by some internal traitor. Eventually action does return, but if you're like me, you will take your shoes off, put your feet up on the chair in front of you, and nearly fall asleep until it does.

Ultimately, I enjoyed this movie, especially the socks-but-no-shoes-almost-fell-asleep part, but I caution Bond viewers: this is not the best one out there. It almost felt like it was a transitional movie, as in transitioning-away-from-the-stupid-Quantum-storyline-to-something-else-but-still-not-sure-what-that-something-else-is-going-to-be-so-keep-watchin-maybe-the-next-one-will-be-better-and-BTW-doesn't-this-remind-you-of-die-hard-SNL-fans-who-complain-about-dry-rot-years-but-somehow-never-give-up?

Javier Bardem (English name: Joe Creepy) is sufficiently creepy as the sorta-catholic-priesty-villain-if-you-know-what-I-mean baddie.

Posted by: GMan

Flight (A.K.A.: Fright)
This movie stars an awesome substance abusing pilot played by Denzel Washington.  The character is awesome in his genetic tolerance for substance abuse and Washington is awesome just for being…well, Denzel.

The movie begins with Denzel's Alanta-based pilot waking up after an all night alcohol and coke bender with one of his stewardesses and scrambling to make it on time to their morning flight.  His condition is compromised and the staff is all accustomed to it, save for the new, very conservative co-pilot who seems very disturbed by it.  What follows is one of the most  "white knuckle" air line crash scenes in movie cinema history with Washington's character having to invert the plane (yes, fly it upside down) to keep it from nose diving due to equipment failure.  He has the compassion to let staffers say goodbye to family members on the black box recording, yet ends up landing the plane with a minimum of casualties.

And then the shit hits the fan with the toxicology tests in the hospital. He has an amazing lawyer assigned to him for the TSA investigation played by the quite formidable Don Cheadle who is some sort of magician in that he is able to get the toxicology results tossed out.  Denzel's character is not appreciative being a narcissist and the two butt heads throughout the movie.

There is a side story of a romance the pilot forms with a junkie gal he meets in the hospital which is charming, but doesn't add much to the plot.

My question is for an EXTREME alcoholic... why does Washington's character never show any brand loyalty?  We see him drinking a different brand of booze in almost every scene.  To me, that's a flub by the screenwriters.  Obviously, his wife left him because of his drinking, but the scenes they show of the character's childhood seem very loving and heart-warming with his father, a former Tuskegee  airman, teaching him how to fly.  So why is this pilot such a hot mess?  We never find out. I need to know this kind of shit.

The movie is worth seeing just for the plane crash and Washington's performance alone.  However, it becomes a cannot miss with John Goodman's performance as the pilot's cocaine dealer as they play the Rolling Stone's "Sympathy for the Devil" every time he's on screen as the ultimate "fixer" and Goodman blows the minds of the members of the pilots' union protecting Washington's character with his problem solving abilities.

It may make you scared to fly but also seeing pilots who look like their balls haven't dropped yet on those "puddle jumper" airplanes will too.

Argo: Movie Review
Bad hair dayz....
Short version: This movie rocks and you should go see it. Why: it's good drama, comedy, and has excellent 70s sideburns.

Long version: I was riveted to my seat throughout the whole movie, which takes place during the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy in Iran. Six Americans get out of the embassy right before it happens and take refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador. It's up to CIA guy Ben Affleck to smuggle them out before the Iranians figure out where they are and get 'em. He comes up with this cockamamy idea to fake that a Star-Wars-like-bad-movie is going to be made on an Iranian location and pretend that the Americans are part of the movie crew, then use that as an excuse to smuggle them out of the country. You pretty much already knew that from the commercial, right? What you didn't get from the commercial is that this is a very well done drama, expertly directed by Ben Affleck! The pacing is solid, without seeming rushed, the story is suspenseful and thrilling, and because it's based on a true event, very interesting. Alan Arkin and John Goodman bring the comedy home as the fake producers of the bad Star-Wars knockoff movie (called "Argo") and there are multiple moments in the movie where a pun on the movie name is repeated to good effect (I can't tell you what the pun is without spoiling it, but trust me, you will laugh each time you hear it). The unexpected bonus of this movie was how well it captured the side-burny-post-hippy-hairstyles, big-glasses-on-men, long-straight-hair-on-women, and big-boat cars of the 70s. Much like "Mad Men" captured the spirit of the 60s, this movie does just that for the Carter generation.

Posted by:GMan

Movie Review: Taken 2: The Killening
The plot of this movie is: something happens, and then Liam Neeson kills a bunch of people. Actually, you already knew that, right? When we got to the theatre, there was this older couple standing in line ahead of us (they were late-50s or early 60s). They had apparently come to the theatre without having a specific movie in mind, because the man turned to us and asked what movie we would recommend. I of course said the movie we were there to see, and they did in fact buy tickets for it. Well, about 60 dead guys and a lot of dropped half-eaten falafel sandwiches later, it was all over. I wonder what the woman thought of the extremely gratuitous violencing, did she have the same deal with her husband that I have with my wife, which is: today - somebody kills a bunch of furriners; tomorrow - Amy Adams does a boy-gets-loses-gets.

Really, what is there to say about a movie like this? If you liked Taken 1, you'll like it. If you didn't like Taken 1, then you must be a girl and can at least look forward to the next Amy Adams movie trade-off. Liam Neeson is good as the guy who kills smelly-looking baddies. The daughter is back and you'll like her again too. She actually is the one surprise in the movie, taking a surprising turn as a bit of an action star. My wife at several points in the movie said it was hard to follow, but I explained this away, since there was nothing to follow. All you have to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy Neeson stompening all over Istanbul, the dirtiest place on earth according to the movie. Idea for a drinking game: every time Neeson pauses in a chase by a dirty wall that looks like it has not been cleaned since the time of Mohammed, everybody takes a shot. You'll never make it to the end of the movie, but it's ok if you don't: you already know how it ends anyway, don't you? (pause while you think for a second) - You are correct.

Posted by GMan

Pooper (Movie Review)
Not a lot of people know this, but a religious cult formed after Die Hard 4 to honor the movie as the "suckiest-movie-of-all-time-which-also-happens-and-not-just-coincidentally-to-star-Bruce-Willis." That cult has now been abandoned and all of its members have re-gathered to honor "Looper," which also happens to star Bruce "will not turn down any script" Willis and even more special effects that you won't care about. The movie is about an assassin who lives in the near future (2044), played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, who, as you know from the TV commercial, has to kill a future version of himself, played by Charlton Heston as Bruce Willis.

First, what this movie is not: good. Second, what this movie is: bad. It's not the old-guy-young-guy buddy story you expect, nor is it comprehensible. The plot is very slow and difficult to follow, as Bruce Willis and JGL spar with each other and a bunch of baddies in an attempt to create a future where Bruce Willis movies are outlawed around the world. There's some good action, but you'll be texting your buds* on your cellphone by then, so you won't see it. Also starring Emily Blunt as the actress I can't quite remember although I know I've seen her in other things**. Special appearance by Jeff Daniels as the guy who can't wait to return to The Newsroom. 

Posted by GMan

*At the Oriole's game.
**Recent Matt Damon movie which also made no sense.

Review: Schlock of Ages
I hope you flossed today.
Yeah.  That’s what I called it when it first came out on Broadway and I didn’t see it, but now seeing the movie, I’m going to stick by my nickname for Rock of Ages.  It’s cheesy.  But it’s cheezy with a “Z.”

I didn’t think so at the time, but 80s music really holds up even if it’s not by The Clash and they have a great selection of tunes in the show that anyone over 40 will be definitely be humming along with.

Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough play the star-crossed young lovers in L.A. (circa 1987) in this boy gets girl, boy loses girl, you-know-the-rest-of-the-story.  Julianne plays the Christina Aguilera role (from Burlesque) only she’s more appealing and her name is Sherrie.  Oddly, they never perform the Journey song by the same name.  Come to think of it, Julianne was the only good part of Burlesque and I’m pretty sure they loaned her Christina’s “I just got off the bus from Dogpatch” costume for the opening scene.  Diego is fresh-faced and doe-eyed and also well cast as the young wannabe metal head Drew who hasn’t grafted his full lips to a Jack Daniels bottle yet.  

In a club I assume is based on the famed Whiskey-A-Go-Go, The Bourbon Room,  whose name includes a word (bourbon) that reformed substance abuser Russell Brand strangely cannot pronounce ("Bonbon Reeum!"), we are introduced to Brand (really reprising his character Aldous Snow for the THIRD TIME) as club manager Lonny and Alec Baldwin as (Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia! Translation: the one guy who couldn’t sing.) the cash strapped club owner (see: Cher in Burlesque…Okay, it really WAS Burlesque.  Except the music didn’t blow big monkey chunks.  In your pants.) Dennis Dupree.  Baldwin and Brand have some really good comic chemistry.  But Baldwin’s was the only long-haired wig that didn’t work.  It made him look more like he was playing a geriatric version of Petruchio in a Shakespeare in the park production of The Taming of the Shrew.  Between the hair and his cheap leopard print shirt, I probably was too distracted to absorb all of his character’s goofiness – and there was a good bit.

I’d probably watch Paul Giamatti read a phone book, but he is getting really expert at playing smarmy characters and he did just that in music agent Paul Gill, representing the famous Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise, in his singing debut) of the band Arsenal.  This is a guy that you assume has had to get rid of some dead groupies’ bodies after a bad batch of eight-balls.  Usually in comedies about rock stars, the agent is always portrayed as being much put-upon due to the behavior of the entitled rock star.  You don't feel sympathy for him in Gill’s case.  He’s pure evil.  He even gave the world boy bands after he declared,” Rock is dead!”

Catherine Zeta-Jones reprises her role as Velma Kelly from Chicago, only this time she’s hiding her evil behind Jesus as a crusading church lady (with a secret) and wife of the mayor who’s trying to put an end to the filth that is Stacee’s music.  You just know this lady has a mother of pearl handled pistol somewhere in her bag of tricks.  CZJ really should stick to comedy.  She totally brought the camp in a big way to the movie and it needed it.  Bryan Cranston was back to looking more like Seinfeld’s Tim Whatley than Breaking Bad’s Walter White as the adulterous, kinky mayor.

Malin Ackerman plays the young Rolling Stone reporter Constance Sack who has an affair with Stacee Jaxx.  This is a role that could have very easily gone to Kate Hudson had the viewing public not been fortunate enough that Kate was likely preggers at the time of casting.  Whew!  We dodged a bullet there!!  Malin and Tom Cruise pull off some of the silliest choreographed love scenes probably since the late 80s era that they are portraying when A Fish Called Wanda was the hot summer movie.

Mary J. Blige also plays Cher's role from Burlesque (world weary nightclub owner), but does so while rocking a kick-ass Donna Summer look.

I would say that Tom Cruise is a revelation as Stacee Jaxx, but he’s actually reprising his Les Grossman role from Tropic Thunder.  The performance is trippy, a bit creepy and the character’s a real mind f*cker.  It’s some of Cruise’s best work and I attribute that to screenwriter Justin Theroux (guy with uni-brow who's banging Jen Aniston), who also penned Thunder.  If Cruise keeps working with Theroux, he might get to manhandle Oscar yet.  Oh, and those vitamins that Xenu prescribed for him must REALLY work.  I’m about the same age and in order to move around with the energy he did, I would need a permanent Gatorade drip.  Or a banana bag.  Speaking of bananas, Jaxx’s personal assistant was a baboon named Hey Man.  And as far as the singing – Cruise was great.  Who would have thought watching him lip synch to Bob Seger in Risky Business 30 years ago, that folks would be downloading Cruise singing for real on iTunes today?  If you are a fan of hair band ballads from the 80s, you will be.

Rock of Ages is totally predictable but still silly fun.  Some of the silliness I’m not sure the filmmakers planned on.  But for me it was worth the price of admission just to see a primate dressed as Colonel Gadhafi. That's right.

Yeah, we waited for a lot of DVDs this year...

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