Archive | August, 2013

The Odd Blend in The World’s End

29 Aug

You probably already know The World’s End is a genre blending science fiction comedy but there are a few other odd things thrown into the mix that you might want to know before you buy your ticket. Since it is impossible to see or read or say anything about this movie without also mentioning the rest of the “Cornetto Trilogy” I’ll follow said format.

Shaun of the Dead was a well executed attempt to walk that thin line between the funny and the disturbing that is dark comedy. It was wonderfully British and clever while having all the requisite violence expected in a zombie movie. But toward the end I though it crossed the line a few times, like when the character David was ripped open, disemboweled, and eaten alive, that works in a horror movie but ruins the humorous tone of the film. Also since when is shooting your mom though the head funny? It got a little too graphic at the end and just didn’t fit. I was very disappointed with Hot Fuzz. I didn’t laugh, I didn’t connect, I didn’t care. The only enjoyable part of it was Timothy Dalton. Once again the end of the movie just seemed like it didn’t fit. It goes from being a satire of cop movies to being a gory slasher type movie involving a murderous cloak wearing cult. I will never see that movie ever again.

World's End

In the world of Trilogy final installments The World’s End is no Return of the King but it is no Godfather 3 either. Simon Pegg plays the party animal man-child burn out. He’s very confident and active, and physical. He has to jump over every fence, bush, wall etc. He wants to get the old gang together to relive the greatest night of his life by repeating an epic bar crawl in their small hometown. But after a short time and a couple pints they discover that the town is very different. Namely almost everyone has been replaced with robots.

Here’s what the movie gets right. There is a great group dynamic and a lot of comedy stems from how they all interact. Because the robots don’t consider themselves robots it leads to a slurred discussion on what to call them. There are a few geeky pop culture references and they unofficially decide to use the word “Blanks”. (But I’m going to call them robots because I am a rebel.) This movie is about drinking! Simon Pegg brags about how much he drank, is drinking, and will drink. Binge drinking is a goal in and of itself and despite the threat of aliens they’re going to finish that pub crawl. An inspiring message for all the kids out there, to never give up on your dreams and that sobriety is for quitters. It takes awhile but once the beers start flowing the movie really gets fun. As the characters and the audience piece together the mystery of what’s going on you can spot references to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Then the pacing picks up with lots of brawling, running, and paranoia about who is real. There’s one robot who has legs for arms and it looks so awkward, terrifying, and disturbing, it is awesome. The fight scene with that 4-legged fabrication is my favorite scene. Most sci-fi/comedies are comedies with sci-fi elements. But World’s End is a true sci-fi flick that has funny moments, the imagery is spot on and the robot alert system is reminiscent of Donald Sutherland’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

body snatchers
World's End robots

Here’s what the movie got wrong. Simon Pegg doesn’t fit into his character. He just isn’t an overgrown punk even with all the dialog and funny stuff, the character is forced and fake. Especially when next to Nick Frost who’s cast as the suit and tie serious teetotaler businessman, he’s even more not his character. Since Simon always plays the more serious friend and Nick always plays the immature guy I’m sure they thought swapping would give the audience something new and different. That’s great except you chose to lump these movies together as a ”trilogy” so there should be character continuity. Actually Nick feels more natural once he starts drinking, but Simon’s role is just wrong enough to verify they’re both better at playing their old character types. The beginning starts with a very long drawn out narrated information dump. After that it is a quite unentertaining setup that takes too long to get to happy hour. Then like the other movies in this trilogy the end seems like it is the end of a different movie entirely and The World’s End ending is a total rear end. After all the fast paced action the final confrontation with the alien menace is just Simon yelling at lights. Then it goes full-on apocalypse and is bleak, dark, and as funny as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road plus more long boring narration. Worst of all Simon is denied the last pint of his mission because of his best friend, and is last seen in the movie ordering water at a bar. What The Actual Fuck! In a drinking movie our drunken hero joins AA at the last minute? Bullshit!

This movie had it’s funny moments and the middle was excellent. But if you only see one comedy about Armageddon, Rapture-Palooza or This Is The End are better options.

Carl Wells

Optimistic Autumn Movie Predictions

25 Aug

A very brief list of Fantasy and Sci-fi movies that won’t totally suck this fall.

hobbit

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – When Peter Jackson portrays Middle-earth he is basking in his element and in my stupid opinion he has done no wrong in that realm. Despite the flaws in all these films they’re all better than the books. There isn’t a lot of material in Middle Earth left to film; Lord of the Rings is done, The Hobbit is just one book geared more toward children, and The Silmarillion will be forever utterly unfilmable. So The Desolation of Smaug is the second to last movie that will ever be set in PJ’s Middle-earth, so enjoy it while you can. Things to look forward to include more giant spiders, giant wolves, shockingly beautiful New Zealand landscapes, and of course the dragon (finally). So far the best looking dragon I’ve ever seen was in the last Harry Potter movie but I’m sure Smaug will put it to shame, plus he’ll speak, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. I really hate that actor, he is just terrible, at least his character dies (and by proxy him) in this movie, I like that. Things not to look forward to, this movie will probably suffer the most from inserted material just to fill time. Also we’ve probably seen the last of Gollum unless they force that character in somehow. I plan on being there for the whole high frame rate, 3D, saturated experience.

hungar games

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Been looking forward to this but am preparing for disappointment. This was actually my favorite book in the series, where basically this year’s Hunger Games has an all star reunion cast. My criticisms with the first movie were that the characters outside Katniss’s immediate circle were hokey, flat, and underdeveloped, except Donald Sutherland who’s always awesome. The movie’s pacing seemed very rushed even though it was 142 minutes long. By trying to get so much of the book in they didn’t give each moment enough time for it to do its job. Finally, more Woody Harrelson, always more Woody Harrelson especially when he’s playing a drunken has-been. I’m afraid that changing directors for the sequel under a tight deadline will only make these problems worse. My hope is that they actually leave more of the book out like shitty animal mutations in order to give what’s left time to build meaning. Include more drunken Haymitch. Please get the fire as fashion to not look like something Elton John would wear. There will be a lot of dumb crap, that comes with any Y.A. science fiction. Just be happy it isn’t another soul numbing Twilight.

Ender’s Game – I already like that this movie is not a sequel and doesn’t feel like it has to be in 3D. That tells me that they’re confident in their visual effects and story that they don’t need gimmicky 3D. But judging from the trailers they’ve already changed one huge point in the book. Not giving anything away, in the book the story is told from a child’s point of view. The adults in charge put children into a situation they are unaware of and the kids only discover the consequences of their actions when it is far too late to change. The reader discovers the cold truth of what’s happened when the child does. I think the movie is taking this moment away. In the trailer adults are discussing “Should we tell him the truth.” If the movie spills the beans to the audience before the kids suspect anything it’s lost the element of surprise. On the other hand it is possible to build suspense that way. Alfred Hitchcock said that if a hidden bomb just explodes in a room of people you get the shock value but it’s a fleeting moment. To build suspense you show the audience the bomb will go off in 5 minutes. That way everything those characters say and do in 5 minutes has an increased importance that builds suspense and holds it. I hope Ender’s Game uses that strategy.

Gravity – I know hardly anything about this movie and am already sure it will be awesome. The trailer I saw a while ago in theaters was like Apollo 13 x WTF! George Clooney has played an astronaut before so he’ll feel right at home. Before I go any further I have to express my feelings on Sandra Bullock. Remember that movie she did (purposely not looking up the title) where she had to marry Ryan Reynolds or she’d be deported? I feel like we should kind of do that to her in real life. Let’s just as a society make Sandra Bullock gently go away. But I am willing to put that aside if Sandra isn’t a romantic interest. Because Gravity looks chilling, lonely, and visually larger-than-life. Best of all it might be the most realistic portrayal of space travel in the last 10 to 15 years. Notice how as the shuttle is obliterated you hear only radio transmissions? That’s what I’m talking about, any other movie would have “Crorsh” sounds. A Sci-fi movie that mainly uses accurate science is damn impossible to find in the 21st century so Gravity can shut up and take my money.

Well that’s some of what I look forward to in theaters this fall. There will be a poorly written companion to this of what to avoid this fall coming soon.

Carl Wells

Poorly Written Opinion ’bout Sam Rockwell

21 Aug

There are a million things in the world that aren’t fair; this blog gets more page views from the government than from people with a pulse, spam pornbots really don’t care how you’re doing and sometimes they put wide rule notebooks confusingly close to the college rule notebooks. I get it, we don’t live in a perfect world. Shit sucks. And this isn’t even touching on anything in the realm of movies. Blockbusters are tailor-made for foreign markets, Tarantino is only going to make ten films and Scarlett Johansson has only been in one Coen Brothers movie. Life isn’t fair, neither is our escapism entertainment.  I understand, but one thing I don’t understand is why Sam Rockwell isn’t a mega star. I don’t get it, and I think our society should actively feel shame about this horrible misstep in issuing stardom. Even looking at the poor choices we’ve made at deeming who’s a star, this stands out as a glaring omission.

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The man doesn’t make bad movies, and as I look at his IMDB page it looks like he’s done it all. Some supporting roles in huge films, leads in all kinds of great little films, suspense, sci-fi and comedy, oh lordy, does he have some great comedic roles. He is the go-to actor if you’re making a film to submit to Sundance. He’s the male Parker Posey. Yet, when people talk about a movie he’s in, they never talk about him. People are just blown away by his films and don’t realize how much quality comes from Dr. Sam “Love” Rockwell. My gripe comes from the continuing conversations I have with constituents under the larger umbrella of group of my parents film friends. They have recommended multiple Sam Rockwell movies to me, but don’t even register the name when I say it.  And I know they know actors because they’ll be the first people to tell me about a Bradley Cooper or a Chris Evans, but Rockwell doesn’t register a spot in their memory banks. This could be designed by a forward thinking publicist, or the results of not even employing a publicist, either way, people who love Sam Rockwell movies don’t know they love Sam Rockwell movies.  And that bothers me.

For instance, the delightfully well-crafted The Way Way Back. There is nothing earth-shatteringly special about it, no one will confuse it for There Will Be Blood, but it’s a good movie. Structured well, lovingly crafted and good characters. The best character, by design, has to be Sam Rockwell’s Owen.  Nat Faxon and Jim Rash appreciate Sam Rockwell, and show it by lovingly placing the success of their film on his shoulders, and the movie is better for it. This film is destined to be forgotten, rediscovered in ten years and become the first favorite movie of people who will become filmmakers. And a large part of that is going to be because of Sam Rockwell.

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But who knows, I think Rockwell should be a name that is known by everyone from the President to the homeless man still campaigning for Jimmy Carter.  I want him mentioned in the same sentence as Robot Downey Jr., George Clooney or Brad Pitts. Even if that never happens, I can still put him on my own Mt. Rushmore of actors with Warren Oates, Paul Le Mat and John Cazale.

-C. Charles

Elysium Delivers

10 Aug

Summer is almost over and of all the movies to enjoy in air-conditioned theaters there was an awful lot of trash and a tiny bit of treasure. Elysium is the last of the big, hyped summer films and hovers above the garbage of comic book and sequel movies that overpopulated summer 2013. Here’s my spoiler free, poorly written, stupid review.

Elysium 2

First off I should say that I had mixed feelings about Director Neill Blomkamp’s last movie District 9. I thought that movie was too clunky. It started out with the format of a social documentary, then changed to become an action movie that escalated to ridiculous levels making it more of a video game, only to once again jump to end in the documentary fashion. District 9 looked great and was original and shined a satiric light on political and social topics you don’t see in many movies. And I appreciated all that but the method in which these truncated styles were forced together made the movie to inconsistent for me.

But I am a sucker for giant floating things in space and the impressive visuals of Elysium got me excited. I had to see this one in IMAX. Once I’d walked past the box office and seen that this particular theater had started selling 32 ounce beers since the last time I was here, I knew it was a good day. Elysium wasn’t a perfect movie but if you just want a basic action movie set in a world with great looking robots, spaceships, and an orbiting ringworld habitat to boot, this movie is good entertainment. Matt Damon is an average underdog type who winds up being repeatedly shit on to the extent that he has no choice but to attempt one impossible goal in a short period of time. The plot is pretty simple and details don’t really hold up to logical scrutiny but it is still better than most man vs. the world action stories. The flaws don’t stand out while you’re watching it because it’s a fast flowing ride that doesn’t waste time to let you think. There isn’t too much explanation about why things are, this movie isn’t there to tell you why, it shows you visually. It shows things like Matt Damon kicking ass, shooting crazy guns, crashing space ships, and fighting robots in space. It’s pretty awesome.

The cast is a mixed bag. Jodie Foster is in charge of security for the geostationary gated community. But she is doing some weird Bavarian/British accent that is very unnecessary. It sounds like the character was a waitress at Oktoberfest then got hired as Elysium’s security chief and is trying to make people think she’s Margaret Thatcher. William Fitchtner played the blind guy in Contact and once again his character teams up with Jodie Foster on Elysium. He is great at playing that slime ball you just hate right off the bat. He’s in his element, when he tells his subordinate not to breathe on him you just want to kick him in the mouth, while wearing golf shoes. District 9’s “Wikus” actor is back, this time as “Krugar” who is Jodie Foster’s henchman. He is barking mad with bat shit insane on top. It’s very fun watching his wacky super villain performance plus he has a force field. But really (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) Matt Damon makes this whole movie work. When he’s cracking wise with robots it’s funny and when those robots drop his ass to the ground you pity him. The outlandish situations you have to believe he endures are actually grounded by Damon’s conviction.

Elysium

But the thing that got me to watch this movie were the visuals. They’re spectacular, not in their audacity but in how naturally they seem to exist. The robot enforcers are hard and threatening. The space ships are practical and varied. The views of Earth are gritty like detailed garbage slums while Elysium glistens above. This movie shines in the space porn moments, there’s a shot of Elysium from space over the Earth’s horizon and the special effects people knew to put a distorting effect as the station shows through the earth’s atmosphere. When a missile hits a ship in zero G it doesn’t just explode and disappear like in most movies, all the tiny pieces fly forward and fan out slowly tumbling and twinkling along. The sprawling curvature of Elysium fills the screen with details of homes, lakes, lights, and you just go “Wow”.

One important thing in the movie is that there are these beds that heal anything and everything, they’re only on Elysium. Discussing the movie afterward someone made the point that it didn’t make sense that not even one of these beds was on Earth (I’ve since read this criticism on the internet a lot). I said it made perfect sense “The Aristocracy in space want to go back to Earth but only after most of the poor have died. So they don’t want any of those beds slowing down the die off.” That was never expressly said in the movie but I saw a lot of evidence for it. My point is all sci-fi movies have some nonsense in them, it is part of the genre. So just go along for the ride and you’ll enjoy this one and if the theater serves beer it’ll help.

Carl Wells

Upcoming Television: Cheers, Jeers, and Fears

6 Aug

Towards the end of every summer TV channels start to prepare for the fall season by planning and promoting events that have been hyped for quite some time. There’s highly anticipated programming headed to your TV and it includes the following items.

Diptic (4)

Cheers:
Breaking Bad, The Final Season – Best show on television period. For those who only know the general show description about a chemistry teacher who decides to start cooking crystal meth to make money that provides for his family after he dies from cancer. Well that’s all in just the first episode and the intensity has built up ever since. If you haven’t watched this show, what the hell is wrong with you? Watch Breaking Bad, seriously. It mixes so many things together you just don’t get on TV dramas. It is a modern Western, using the barren landscapes of New Mexico as much for story development as for scenery, the desert and weather are a major character in the show. It is the antithesis of the drug genre. Most TV and movies about drugs glamorize that lifestyle showing success of drug dealers and the social acceptance of drug use. But Breaking Bad is dirty, dingy, and violently unforgiving. Meth Junkies are cretins and the drug cartels are indifferent to who they murder in pursuit of profits. The show is cinematic, and includes time-lapses, location shoots, and montages cut to songs sung in Spanish. The measured pacing of the show ratchets the tension up slowly squeezing every moment for maximum suspense. Finally the show is very darkly funny a type of humor that is the most difficult to get right. It is not too late to catch up on this show in time to watch the series finale broadcast. The last season starts on AMC August 11th.

Jeers:
Shark Week – It is bittersweet thinking about what Discovery Channel has become. Sometimes they have shows like North America which is a deliciously photographed nature program. But then there’s Shark Week. Maybe it is just poor timing but I’m sharked out right now. Sharknado was one of those ideas that is so bad it sinks through the entire spectrum of bad and starts to be good again. So with the help of some good home-brewed beer I enjoyed Sharknado the first time. But then everybody was talking about Sharknado, and then it re-aired, and now it’ll be in theaters, and there will be a sequel, and the next SYFY movie out is going to be called Ghost Shark. The shark theme has been over fished. But wait this week is Shark Week. When Discovery turns marine biology into an extreme sport. Where they tow floating bait behind a boat to get sharks jumping out of the water in slow motion. I’m all for increasing awareness about how important sharks are and how these animals need to be protected from dismemberment for fin soup. But do we really need an entire week of X Games style coverage of divers chumming the waters “for science”? Shark Week started Sunday and goes all this week.

Fear:
Football Season – I hate Hate HATE FOOTBALL! It is slow and boring and useless and corrupt and stupid. “But Carl so is every other sport, do you hate them too?” Yes, yes I do but what makes football the worst is it’s the biggest, it is everywhere all the time. Even during the off-season, there is no reprieve, people can’t let it go so they cover the draft picks and pre-season and contract negotiations and whatever else and when that runs out people talk about what “might” happen next season. Let it go, turn it off, it is the “off” season. The main reason I loathe Tim Tebow is because I shouldn’t even know that virgin piece of shit exists. I won’t even watch the Super bowl but because of America’s obsessive worshipping of football my eyes and ears are involuntarily penetrated by the NFL. I know of Tim Tebow because of information rape, so thanks for that. Here’s one other example of how the game itself is worthless. There’s a clock that counts down, okay great. Except it means nothing. Games aren’t 4 hours because of that clock, but because they stop it all the goddamn time! Soccer is boring as dog shit but at least when that clock starts it doesn’t stop till it’s run out. If you can’t respect the concept of time don’t use a clock, like baseball. Football season starts when you see most of America sport a raging broner while I contemplate how Rome used gladiators to distract the masses as society crumbled.

Carl Wells