The High Countries

because it’s all paperweight…

Time to Review!

Some of them, I should have seen long ago. Others, long, long ago. But now, you know. Into the fray!

*Scale of score is a 1-10.

GET LOW: 8.38

Bill Murray also maintains his presence as one of the funniest men on the globe as a funeral home owner, Frank Quinn, who’s in desperate need of “some deaths around here”. The final scene alone is worth the price of admission.

 

 

 

 

 




[REC]: 8.06

The original Spanish-version of Quarantine. Its marvelous. And creepy and perfectly formatted and filmed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[REC 2]: 8.81

The follow up to REC 1, this beats it on all levels: scares, jumps, and above all … Story. Its absolutely terrific, and blows Paranormal 2 out of the water.

 

 

 

 

 

HEREAFTER: 3.41

The worst film of 2010. It was worth putting in this list again, just because it did so poorly with so much. I can’t say this enough. This film is rubbish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SESSION 9: 1.81

Billed as a scary, closed-in freak fest, this was anything but terrifying — and I was ready for a scare; believe me, I tried hard. It was about as scary as a 4 year old with a Scream mask on. Okay, that’s pretty scary. It was not that scary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JACKASS 3D: 7.24
It is what it is. But a jet engine shooting raw materials at guys in lawn chairs? Ding, here’s $12, you win, now give me my glasses…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RED: 7.68
Its a CIA movie with geriatric agents. And its actually not that bad. It helps that it has John Malkovich in it though … that always does.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PREDATORS: 4.58
I can’t be too harsh on this flick — we sat down as a house to watch a terrible B-level movie and we nailed it on the head, the problem is, it takes itself SOO seriously. Follow up question: Adrian Brody … Who did you piss off to fall so quickly….? I mean like, light-speed-fast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WALKING DEAD SEASON 1: 8.14
I was in need of a great new drama ever since LOST went off the air. Though, TWD is no LOST, it is super fun with some GREAT drama — the key to release the handcuffs anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PASSENGER SIDE: 2.21
Heralded as a coming-of-age tale about two brothers driving through LA to figure out life, this movie quickly became about put-downs and emo-vagueness. And I would go listen to Feist if I wanted that…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE CURSE OF THE HOPE DIAMOND: 7.08

Ha ha! This doc was great! I didn’t that the Hope Diamond (the biggest diamond in existence) had a curse behind it! Nor did I know that, in terms of diamond quality, the Hope is not only the largest (by lots) but also the rarest form of diamond, the clearest, the bluest and the most chemically and naturally brilliant diamond ever seen or hoped for. Pun.

 

 

THE SWITCH: 8.79
As Entertainment Weekly put it a couple weeks ago — “The Switch deserves another chance.” This Rom-Com is a splendid journey; Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman hold the screen and legitimately made me laugh with the smart writing, great acting while adding a little sperm-spice to life. Honest to goodness, I loved this flick. Its right up there with How to Lose a Guy in 10 Day for me. Fantastic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HUNGER: 8.42

There is a 23-minute scene (17 and a half minutes of it is a one-take) between an IRA Hunger Striker (Michael Fassbender) and a Belfast Priest (Liam Cunningham). And it is remarkable. It is known now know as The Scene. If you haven’t seen it, you haven’t seen it. So you should probably watch it tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VALHALLA RISING: 3.10
Great poster, but oh, it was bad. It was really, really bad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOY A: 7.07
I’ll watch anything Andrew Garfield is in after I saw him in The Social Network. So now I’ll watch the new Spider-Man and later in life I’ll go back and watch The Other Boleyn Girl. For now, Boy A was good. Not great (Garfield is pretty terrific), but good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CENTURION: 6.15
Ironically, another Michael Fassbender movie. It was fun. And I watched it after VALHALLA RISING … So naturally, it was a 6.15/10 masterpiece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRON: LEGACY: 8.13
The movie was fun, okay. It wasn’t Star Trek and it wasn’t Transformers 2. It was somewhere in the middle. Somewhere right alongside … National Treasure 2, maybe. Daft Punk’s soundtrack was EASILY the best part.

 

 

 

 

BARNEY’S VERSION: 3.11
This was a comedy. This was a comedy? I’m still trying to figure out what was funny about Barney leaving three marriages and covering up a murder. His name? His numerous addictions? I didn’t laugh once. And I was trying. This is only the 3rd movie this year that Rotten Tomatoes has let me down on (The Town, The Fighter, et al)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TINY FURNITURE: 2.12′

I was told Lena Dunham has a “fresh voice” for the industry to hear. She does not. In TINY FURNITURE, she filmed her life right out of film school, but not in doc form as much as in boring form. Look mom, I made a movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WAY BACK: 5.21
They walk. And they walk some more. I’m not kidding. Don’t see it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PIRANHA 3D: 5.3

They were going for “gratuitous sex, nudity and violence”. They nailed it. And the movie made $83m worldwide … So now we get a sequel. What do you bet Jerry O’Connell survived?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP: 9.6

My favorite doc of the year — thought provoking, intriguing, genuine in its satire and empirical evidence and a documentary about something I knew nothing about before hand. It was wonderful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RABBIT HOLE: 8.18
This was a tough one to get through; incredibly tragic and far too real to be a movie. If you don’t have a strong relationship/marriage, I don’t know I’d recommend watching it. Kidman and Eckhart were beyond incredible and one fight between them is maybe the rawest scene of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT: 5.5
If I’m being blunt, I didn’t care for it much. I thought it was a great premise, but the execution had me pulling to break up a family — what? Where did they go wrong? Where did I go wrong? Is it natural for a biological father (who screwed up) to want to raise his kids?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEOPARD: AGENT OF THE DARK: 6.1
I went on a documentary binge before I went to sleep this past month. And this was the beginning of a long list of nature docs. All that to say, the leopard is awesome and huge, but not huge enough to ward off Lions and Hyenas and other born-bigger meat-eaters. Poor dude. No wonder it takes its kill into trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WOLFMAN: 2.41

This is RIGHT alongside HEREAFTER as the worst movie I’ve seen in a while. It was so bad we shut it off. So technically, I can’t say I’ve seen it. Though, I bet you I could tell you what happens. In related news: did you know that The Wolfman nearly caused Anthony Hopkins to quit acting? And if it weren’t for THOR director, Kenneth Branagh calling him to ask him to play Thor’s regal father Odin, he was considering calling it quits altogether because of his time on The Wolfman? If you haven’t figured it out yet, Joe Johnston is directing Captain America, too. Oh… Joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LITTLE FOCKERS: 7.04
I was really happy after the first one. And I can’t seem to get back there. Please call it quits guys. I mean, it wasn’t Mystery Men — but it wasn’t Zoolander either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FREAKONOMICS: 7.78
The middle gets real slow but there’s one part that STILL has me thinking: Roe v. Wade was passed in 1973 … And 18 years later, national crime rates in the nation’s largest cities noticeably decreased. Coincidence or correlation? Freakonomics handles this data marvelously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KING KORN: 5.01
This was a weak doc that didn’t go far enough into Korn (Corn). Yes, I already knew that everything is made out of corn. And that the government largely pays for farmers to make a profit on their harvests. And that corn is high in starch. And that processed, corn-fed meats are bad for you. Tell me something I didn’t learn in The Garden, Fast Food Nation, Super-Size Me or Food Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE: 7.2
Gotta love a sleeper. This was supposed to be a cookie cutter Rom-Com. What turned out was a great, heart felt, hilarious love story about skinny dude meeting smokin’ hottie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SLEEPERS: 8.03
I’d never seen it. And I’ll never look at Kevin Bacon the same again. I’m dead serious. And to think I ate Thai food next to that guy one time. If you haven’t seen it, brace yourself. Its a dark tale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BRICK: 8.14
I’d been told by so many people to see this movie. And now I’m so glad that I did. Murder on the Orient Express meets Sherlock Holmes meets High School. Awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BURIED: 7.02
Ugh, it was so close! Great premise, great timing, but the execution took a couple wrong turns! I will say though, I’m on team Ryan Reynolds. Have been for quite some time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. 9.2
I put this on here again because the soundtrack and movie are so, freaking good. If you haven’t seen it — get an HD tv and some great sound, turn it up and fully enjoy the blast you’re about to have. My fiancé cried during it, she was so happy. I nearly joined her. And I’d seen it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FROZEN: 3.21

If you like B-level scares, this one’s for you. Three skiers get stranded on the lift and are going to be left there for a week…. How to get down? Make a B-level horror of course!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ETERNAL EMEMIES: THE DOCUMENTARY: 9.17
Best nature doc I’ve seen since LIFE. The eternal struggle between Lions and Hyenas. I’m not kidding you, the shots they get and the stories they tell about this epic, life-long battle are remarkable. The end left me more satisfied than an Mai Tai on the beach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TIGERS OF THE SNOW 5.11
I was on a Tiger/Lion binge. This was good — Siberian Tigers are friggin’ huge, btw. And can kill just about anything. Oh, and a baby Siberian, when picked up by a scientist inside its den is still capable of doing a surprising amount of damage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’M STILL HERE: 6.02
Plainly said: this would have been a MUCH cooler doc had I know it was fake. That said, the Diddy scene when Phoenix plays him his music is hysterical and brilliant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RESTREPO: 9.2
The single most emotional moment I’ve witnessed in a documentary is caught in this movie. The soldiers must mount a hill as bullets fly over their heads … What happens next is staggeringly real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WAITING FOR SUPERMAN: 9.5
Maybe the “best” doc of the year in terms of what it shines its light into. Scary, emotional, moving and honest, this doc ought to be seen by ALL.

April 1, 2011 Posted by | Entertainment, Film Reviews, Movies, Television | Leave a comment

The Social Network: See It.

I sent out a mass text to about 20 of my closest film-buddy friends last night as I walked out of The Grove theater, “The Social Network is the best movie I’ve seen in a long, LONG time. Start to finish: brilliance, from every angle. Like, very, VERY great.”

I’m not a fan of the over-hyped movie and I don’t like to hear about things — really, at all — before I see them for myself. So going into The Social Network, I wasn’t exactly thrilled, per say. I was excited to see it, yes, but I didn’t have that mystery that so many directors talk about: to enter the theater with the curtains sufficiently pulled shut and just, let the story unfold. I knew too much going in, I wasn’t sticking to my rule…

I might have to rethink this rule of mine.

The Social Network is a friggin’ masterpiece. Yes, “friggin’”, because it made me feel like I was eighteen again. It shattered my expectations, which were high — I had read the script, I hated Jessie Eisenberg, was still skeptical of Timberlake’s ability to hold the screen, let alone play an oddly-in-between’d villain was additionally skeptical of Rooney Mara’s ability to play out the INCREDIBLE opening scene and I was overtly arrogant about my knowledge of the glory days back in 03-04 when The FACEBOOK was finding its pop culture legs. The Social Network might just be the best movie I’ve seen this year, Toy Story 3 and Inception included. I don’t know that I had as much FUN as I did at those two, but as far as filmmaking and story … Ooooh, its close.

I’m going to make this short and sweet. There’s no reason to talk any more about this movie as many of you have already heard enough. I’ll tick off my skepticisms one at a time.

The script was gold. I was worried the film couldn’t compare, even with the team we had. Frankly, 165 pages of Sorkin dialogue made me feel like myself or anyone else that ever tried to be witty and cutting and harsh and brilliant on the page should literally and legitimately, never try to write it because it was futile. The movie was better than the script. By a lot. David Fincher* … You’re a genius.

Jessie Eisenberg has been making a comeback ever since I saw The Squid and the Whale. I just didn’t like that film, and I didn’t think it was good, even if it was loosely based on the directors childhood. I thought Eisenberg was funny looking and it felt like he would smell if I ever hung out with him. I know, really mean. After watching his performance in The Social Network, I don’t think I can bag on him for at least three years. His portrayal was spot on to what it SEEMS the real Zuckerberg is, and perfectly timed, paced and beautifully, preformed. Well done, sir.

Justin Timberlake can act. In fact, he can act so well that — for a moment, you forget it’s JT! That never happened in The Love Guru OR Alpha Dog. I knew he was good, but I could never forgot that I could go see him bring sexy back at The Nokia someday soon. His performance was like a politician: the name-dropping, slippery, and reprehensible guy we always hang around because there’s a chance you could meet someone famous — we all know that guy. And we all have hung out with him one too many times.  And we hate ourselves every time we do it. Timberlake’s portrayal of the utterly slimy Napster founder Sean Parker is a testimony of JT’s acting chops (the scene where Eduardo finds out his demise as Parker is chiming in is perfect) and scribe Sorkin’s genius.

Rooney Mara is going to be a MEGA-STAR. You heard it here first. I’ve had a crush on her older sister (Kate Mara) since SHOOTER, but I think my tastes have changed. Rooney is in two, literally, two scenes as Zuckerberg’s (Eisenberg) (ex)girlfriend Erica Albright … and she’s BRILLIANT — the eyes, its all in the eyes. I cannot wait to see her in The Millennium Series, as the hair-raising and intricate Lisbeth Salander. Frankly, if its not Andrew Garfield** or Jessie Eisenberg stealing the scene, its Mara in The Social Network … And the scenes with Zuckerberg and Albright together? Worth the price of admission.

I thought I knew the history of The FACEBOOK. I didn’t. At least I didn’t know how awesome it would be when crafted together as a Few Good Men meets The West Wing meets Accidental Billionaires (The Book). The story is super fun and utterly classy. A thrill ride of a business savvy and comedy enlisting a suspenseful history lesson with two dashes of awesome and fistful of brilliance. I can’t say enough good things about this flick. So go see it. Then Facebook about it — it will be the weirdest feeling you have this year, I guarantee it.

Rating: 10/10 (that’s 11 all time and 3 this year)

  • I don’t have the time or ability to actually describe how incredible of a job David Fincher did on this film. So I asterisk’d it and will let my gaping mouth speak for itself.

** Andrew Garfield is my DUDE. If the script is good, he’ll be the best Spiderman (and possibly, superhero) we’ve ever seen. He is the best actor on this film and its close, I’ll admit, but through. Every. Single. Frame. He shines.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Entertainment | 1 Comment

Movie Marathon Madness!!

I watched a lot of movie recently — here’s my thoughts on them all.

Kick-Ass — 9.78/10
Its been a long time since I’d had this much fun in a theater, but Kick-Ass was the perfect fit for the weak summer. I skipped Robin Hood upon better advice, and went on over to the Kick-Ass theater with some close friends. I was grinning nonstop to this near-perfect script as I laughed both infectiously and shamelessly the entire way through, then went out and bought the graphic novel.

Clash of the Titans — 4.41
We all trucked down to the theater — sure, this was months ago — to watch this fatefully campy revamp of a fatefully campy original. I can’t say that we were all very surprised, but there are a few wonderful nuggets that came from this borderline horrible movie, including a favorite by my good friend Joel, which doesn’t bear repeating.

Ong Bak 2 — 6.94
Alone in my room I wanted this dubbed masterpiece. Well, its not so much a masterpiece as it is an orgy of sound, mud and violence. But that’s not important. What’s important is that Tony Ja, as a young boy, survived a fight with an crocodile in a slushy, muddy, murky pit and lived to make a movie about it. That scene is worth the price of the movie … not that I paid anything for it. You win again, Netflix.

Breaking Bad 1 — 9.41/10
Breaking Bad 2 — 9.40
Breaking Bad 3 — 9.01
OVERALL: 9.27
Its one of the darkest series I’ve seen to date. Any one feature of the show could be the perfect starting point for a series — a disabled son, a pregnant wife, the over-bearing wife, the absent father, the struggling marriage, the high school chemistry teacher ... the cooking crystal meth — and Breaking Bad puts them all together into one massive ball of swirling meth gas. To date, its the best dramatic pilot I’ve ever seen. And its only a matter of time before you come back for another hit…

Dexter 1 — 9.11/10
Dexter 2 — 9.38
Dexter 3 — 6.21
Dexter 4 — 9.67
OVERALL: 8.59
Your’e in for a treat if you start Dexter. Season’s 1 and 4 are simply dynamite. If you can stomach the appeal of loving a serial killer — this show is for you. I can’t wait for season 5 and the ratings (above; and on Showtime) should speak for the show loud and clear. Its Dexter. Its great. Michael C. Hall is my boy.

Friday Night Lights 1 — 9.84/10
Friday Night Lights 2 — 8.04
Friday Night Lights 3 — 8.71
OVERALL: 8.86
I just started season four, and its good. Its dang good. I don’t know how to sufficiently express my love for this show. I hate the campy drama. I hate the overzealous family show. I love real life. Friday Night Lights finds it all. I’ve never wanted to be back on the football field so bad as when I was sifting through these seasons, particularly season 1 and 3. How do I properly convey my thoughts? I like the show so much I asked my girlfriend to call me Tim Riggins for a week. She calls me Coach to this day; I love her.

Ps: Connie Britton’s beauty should be illegal.

Daybreakers — 7.41
Upon a recommendation, I watched this movie with the roommates. It was good, though I didn’t think it was great. Maybe it was because of all the vampires. Maybe it was because I really just wanted Denzel and Ethan Hawke to start hanging out again. Yes sir, the end was neat — though not SUPER neat. Like, not Inception neat, or Sixth Sense neat, but it was okay. Is it bad that I compare movie finales to The Sixth Sense, Usual Suspects and The Game now? Ooops.

Alice in Wonderland — 7.41
It was spectacularly visual and a great addition to a wonderful, historic franchise. It was Johnny being Johnny and apparently, lots of people will pay to see that. I liked this movie, though I didn’t love it. Let me be clear: I would have put many thousands of dollars on the fact that it would not make a billion dollars. I would have been wrong.

The Decent: Part 2 — 7.86
I’m not like the next guy (or girl for that matter); I REALLY love a good scary movie. Anything that makes me want to inch my fingers closer to my face is a keeper in my book. I wasn’t scared throughout this whole movie (don’t SHOW the monsters!), but I was old-fashioned freaked for a while. A couple GREAT jumps bumped it from the mid fives to the high sevens. Creep factor 5. I watched it with some buddies at the house in the pitch black — Benjamin Long will never be the same.

Toy Story 3 — 9.88
I’m not sure why I put 9.88 down for TS3, I just know that that is what the sheet says. The more I think on TS3, the more I realize that it likely should be a 10. It had all the makings of a 10 and then some. Sequels don’t typically find solid ground to stand on. In fact, the list of sequels that have even come CLOSE to their originals can be counted on one hand and have been done by the likes of Coppola, Lasseter, Cameron, Lucas (Godfather II, Toy Story 2, Aliens, Empire Strikes Back, respectively). Well, now we can add Lee Unkrich to the list again; Toy Story 3 is phenomenal.

Let the Right One In — 5.79
It took a little mustering to work up the courage to watch this slow-as-molasses vampire flick. I wish the beginning and middle were as good as the rest of the movie, but they simply weren’t. Was it good? Yes. Was it dark and sort of new? Yes. Was it great? No. Did the little boy’s inability to wipe the snot from his upper lip ruin the movie experience for me and distract me from listening (reading) the entire film? A million times yes.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead — 5.71
It was good. It wasn’t great. I actually thought my boy Ethan Hawke did a better job than my Philip Seymour Hoffman. Maybe that’s because I just wanted him to scream out “White Chocolate!!!”, “Let it Rain!!!” or “I sharted…”. Unfortunately, he did not. Although, there’s a great scene with Hoffman and Tomei in the kitchen/living room that is painfully packed with subtext and might even be worth the watch.

12 Monkeys — 7.12
It was years ago that this movie was spoiled for me when I accidentally watched the final 10 minutes. Ooops. I can see now that it was a good flick for its time, but I’ve never liked Terry Gilliam. I’m going to give him one last try though and watch Brazil. I hear good things. I can’t think of anything else to say; 12 Monkeys was spoiled for me. Dang it.

Old Boy — 3.01
Heralded as a dynamite foreigner, I was not impressed. I found myself ‘ugh’ing’ throughout the whole thing. And then the end? It was as if a bunch of guys got together and thought of the most disturbing, unnerving storyline ever … And then made it. It honestly felt like a snuff film. I wouldn’t recommend it to a soul.

Inception — 10/10
The perfect script from my favorite director. If you haven’t seen it yet — get out there and pay attention to every minute of the borderline-funnest-movie-ever-made. And take a look for the three main clues in the final scene that perfectly and eloquently describe the final, climactic, spinning groan.


Murder on the Orient Express — 8.17
It took me years to finally wade through the waters and watch this classic. And it was worth every minute. The performance by Albert Finney — who plays the film’s lead, Hercule Poirot —  is a rare masterpiece of the craft. The movie is a gem in and of itself and the final moments get dark. Real dark. If you haven’t seen it, get the peanuts and popcorn (something else traditionally old, maybe?) and sit down for a good, old fashioned mystery.



The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo — 8.11
This movie was good. The potential was even higher. I don’t want to give too much away (Rooney Mara has been casted as Lisbeth — the scheming hacker and dreadfully dark female lead) but I can tell you that there is one scene between Lisbeth and her parole officer that takes a turn you don’t see coming. I don’t think I realized how messed up Lisbeth was until this scene. My girlfriend just finished book two; she said …. “whoa”. I can’t wait for the trilogy.



Management — 5.62
I was about to shut this off around the 18th minute, but I decided to give it a few more. Then I started fumbling around on my new iphone because the middle section was about as interesting as Terminator Salvation, and then ended up tuning out all together. The end is … sweet?



Michael Jackson’s: This Is It! — 4.04
I was bored out of my ghord. Additionally, I thought at any moment I could kill Michael Jackson with a scream or a swift breath of air. It was a nightmare. I gave the film my whole attention and I wish that I could have just watched a bunch of backstory on the backup dancers because THEIR stories were AWESOME. They wanted it so bad. It was amazing to hear their stories and watch their dancing. Michael… Step aside just slightly,  THIS was THEIR “IT”.



Indiana Jones 4 — 4.98
I thought I’d give this one another watch just because I remember it being so bad. I’m happy to report that it was actually worse than I remember it. Something is wrong when I walk away from a film and literally say the words, “…well, Shia was easily the best part of that movie.” Even though…he was.



Catfish — 7.87
Its not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination. But on a plane ride home, I got to watch this little thriller. Its a thriller doc. In a very “The Cove” way, this one grips you and you hold on until you see it…then you just sit and stare because you can’t believe what you’re seeing. Give it a watch; you’ll cringe, croak and cry all at once.



Wallstreet — 8.80
I am scared of Gordon Gecko and will be till the day I die. Watching this also made me excited to go and see the new one coming out soon(ish). Apparently its good, though, I feel as though I might be getting my hopes far too high. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a John C. McGinley cameo.



Mad Max — 4.81
The movie that was built up for years turned out to be slightly more engaging than Night at the Museum 2. The rating reflects my feelings towards it. And coming off Mel’s latest rant, I’m not sure it stood much of a chance.



Les Miserables — 8.08
My dad’s favorite musical and some of the best music ever written, Les Miserables, the movie, held up its end of the deal. A great story, with great acting that didn’t ruin a masterpiece. Something that can’t be said of Wolverine, Fantastic Four, League of Extraordinary Gentleman or Phantom of the Opera.



The Insider — 8.09
Somehow this one slipped through the cracks of my viewing pleasure. Thanks be the king of movies — Netflix — for putting it up to watch for free. Did you know Russell Crowe did this right before Gladiator? I didn’t! How do you pronounce the word “range”? Oh, I almost forgot (tidbit about me): I hate nearly everything Pacino has done since Godfather 1&2, until this! He was dynamite.


August 25, 2010 Posted by | Entertainment | Leave a comment

The Granite Falls Football Story

I wrote this story nearly 3 years ago to some friends. Many had said that it deserved its space on the page.

This is not literature; this is a memory…

Today, I wish to tell the story of the moment in my life when I almost exploded.  Not from fireworks, or some sort of physical explosion, but explosion of emotions.  Emotions that take you over so vehemently that, when you experience such a rush of different kinds, you nearly explode.  Let me continue.

I played football in high school and weighing in at a rough 215, I was nearly 30lbs heavier than I am now, four times as slow, nine times less coordinated and eight times as funny.  I was that guy.  I played quarterback in middle school (of course, come on) and then moved to Tight End when I got to high school, because, let’s face it:  my cheeks (both sets) were the size of a small country and my name on the team was Round-Tail.  I kid you not.  The sad part is that I responded to it.  When they called it out, I came running.  Unfortunately, this was my life.  Okay, stage is almost set.

As the years went on, I got in better and better shape, as my 16-18 year old body grew far less round and much more Dutch.  Up until my senior year, I had played very little on varsity for one reason: I was slow.  I was very, very slow. Its like my muscles hadn’t chosen to come into existence yet. When I said Go, it took a good ten feet before I felt some momentum moving me forward.  Well, come senior year, I had gotten pissed, lost a girl a little while back and decided I was going to kill people, so I worked out pretty hard during the summer and came into football camp (Football is…HUGE at my high school, lot’s of State Titles, haven’t lost a home game since 02, blah, blah, blah…seinfeld: yada, yada, yada…) looking like a fresh 1 dollar bill.  Not a million bucks, I wasn’t close to that, but I had dropped a bunch of weight.

All summer I had been doing sprints, and all summer (unbeknownst to me) I had been getting faster.  Sweet Georgia Brown!  When camp started, I was good to go.  I got some playing time on the field and was designated, with another guy, much, much better than I, who ended up playing at Washington St. as the kickoff specialist dude.  I was the guy that stood next to the kicker — kid named Josh — and ran straight down field, everyone blocked for Brady and I, and together, we smeared the kick returnee’s body all over the Pacific Northwest.

It was great gig.  I loved it.

And everyone loved me for it. I was approaching second-string stardom!  Knocked myself goofy a couple times, but hey, I work for Goofy now…

Okay, got it.  I run. I kill. I’ve improved.  And the kicker’s name was Josh.  Stage set. Josh was this little recruited soccer junky that ONLY kicked.  That’s all he did.  He was our standard small dude with a big leg.  Up until this point in the season, we hadn’t been challenged.  We had only been scored on twice, I think, and we were like 6-0, or something.  We were playing a team from Granite Falls and we were winning quite large — like 50 something to 0. It was ugly.  It was just before halftime and we were going to pull our starters at the half, but did NOT want them to score, especially before the half. Especially on the starters.  With the last kickoff of the half coming up…we took the now-infamous stage.

Now all week, we’d been giving Josh crap.  I forget exactly why, but we’d been telling him something to the effect of, “Dude, if someone ever returns a kick for a touchdown, it’s going to be on you.  All you have to do it catch him and trip him up. You are our last line of defense and if you can’t chase someone down and trip them––you’re worthless.  We never kick field goals, because we never have to.  If you ever mess up a kickoff for us, you will be forever remembered as a pansy-ass.  So, don’t let it happen.  Don’t be a toilet puck.  Tackle someone … one time. I dare you to get a tackle this season.” Surprisingly, and mostly because he sought acceptance, Josh was okay with this.  He was a fast little bleach stain and, in all honesty, he should never let someone out run him.

Annnnnd, the kickoff flies down the field….

I remember as I ran, that everyone was running out of their lanes.  No one was doing what they were supposed to do (most likely, because we had some subs in because we were beating Granite Falls like a drum).  As Brady and I ran downfield, Brady got blocked and I was left alone––running towards the ball.  The guy caught it.  Then, like the Red Sea…there was his lane.  Surprisingly, he went the opposite way of me – novel. There was no way I was going to catch him. I turned on what I had and sprinted his way, but it was pretty much over.

They were going to score.

Granite-effing-Falls was going to score on us.  On the starters.  In the first half.  On a kickoff.  This was not a good thing. Coaches are going to kill us.  Then, as I pushed ahead, I saw it….

There came Josh, his little legs like spokes on a bicycle, racing towards the clueless player – I mean, this was the highlight of both of their lives, thus far. As the player was about to run right past Josh, like a passing horse, Josh just climbed on. Right on the guys back. Like a buckin’ bronco, the guy kept running down the field––with me in hot pursuit.

Let me make that clear: Josh hopped on the guys back as he ran by. Like a cowboy…or cowgirl…or douce?

Here’s the stage: Josh is on the dude’s back, I’m chasing from behind, and pretty much no one else is close.  I’m running for all my legs will carry me and we’re about to the 40 at this point.  Josh is obviously slowing him down – bucking and kicking as he may be; he’s carrying a munchkin on his torso — which is allowing me to catch up pretty quickly. This is good. Maybe, they won’t score?

By now we’re at the 50 and I’m prepping to dive at this guy’s legs to get him down.  Yes, little Josh had ridden him for about 15 yards and, at this point, just holding on for dear life. The guy could kick it a mile, but is about as rough as Cinderella.  Now, I have to make a quick note here: this is where the emotions kick in…

This is where happiness for Josh; anger at Josh; laughter for his antics; fear because of the return; worry because of the coaches; more anger at Josh for not killing him and more frustration to kill this guy myself ALL come into focus. All these emotions converging onto one man’s brain.  All these, plus one other: Terror.

As Josh rode him to the 50, and at the exact time that I was about to leap and crush his bones, we saw something we hadn’t seen before…

Granite Falls is a cheap school, with a cheap field and cheap ground to lay that field on. It was a little muddy as well, so you couldn’t really see where you were going. As Josh and his stallion approached the 50, they, together as horse and rider, stepped on one of the field’s many potholes.  In an instant, Josh’s weight shifted forward, with the kick-returnee’s weight shifting back.  All pressure was applied to the left leg, just below the knee, and it straight up snapped. Picture a whip cracking. Now multiply it by eleven.

Just then, I dove.  Just then, Josh landed on top of him.  Just then, I landed on top of Josh.  Just then––a blood curdling scream rang out for the State of Washington to hear.

Josh stood up, amazed at his tackle – the kid was face down in the mud — and started cheering like Charles Lindbergh! Yay for Josh, he made a tackle!  Personally, I was unsure of exactly what had happened, thinking the crack could have been from two helmets connecting, so I just stood up (still pissed because of the length of the kick return), and then… the player on the ground rolled over.  As he rolled, his leg stayed on the ground. And then there it was: the kid was facing up, his leg facing to the side, resting on the ground, pointing at him as if to say, “hey, buddy, check me out … I’m down here. I’m not connected to muscle anymore.’ Josh hadn’t noticed yet and screamed at the kid, “yeah boy! That’s what I’m talking ab—“.

And that’s where both teams collectively puked.

A moment after his celebration on top of a crippled footballer, Josh looked like he was going hurl.

I couldn’t think. Josh started screaming like his dog just died and I didn’t know whether to pass out or laugh.  For some reason, in that moment, I just stood speechless, waving my stupid arms at the medical staff running on the field.  It was all the emotions.  I didn’t know whether to be happy for Josh, frightful of the chewing I was about to get for not tackling him sooner or straight up amazed that I had literally jumped on top of a guy that had just broken his blasted leg. My weight couldn’t have helped with the pain…. It was too much.  As I ran over to the sidelines, I probably looked like a Vietnam vet.  I was half laughing, half bummed, half just wanting for the game to be over so I could eat my post-game pizza. I had seen death, and it was dire.

We won that game by a lot.  I don’t think they ended up scoring and I’m not sure why I remember it so vividly.  Wait, yes I do, it was because one of my friends buckum’ bronco’d some dude through a pot hole and broke his friggin’ leg in half.

Yours truly,

Uncle Bryce

June 2, 2010 Posted by | Entertainment | 1 Comment

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Rotten Tomatoes never lets me down. I’m serious. I go to check out what theater is closest — it uses Flixster, (the RT affiliate app on my iphone) and gets me there. What’s coming out next week? What’s good? What’s bad? What’s not worth 13.50-plus in IMAX? Same result every time. Rotten Tomatoes is genius!

Well, tally one in the let-me-down category now.

Recently, I made a mistake of checking for the first review of Iron Man 2 — the apocalyptically anticipated sequel to the 2008 blockbuster Iron Man. I found a review. It was from the floundering paper mill, The Hollywood Reporter, courtesy of our good friend (I don’t know him, who does?), Kirk Honeycutt.

“Well, that didn’t take long. Everything fun and terrific about “Iron Man,” a mere two years ago, has vanished with its sequel.”

Kirk Honeycutt, you’re a douche misinformed.

I do a little more research. This is the guy that LOVED:

Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3D

Death at a Funeral (yep, the new one)

The Back-Up Plan

Clash of the Titans

Remember Me

Green Zone

The Lovely Bones (arguably the most dismal movie of last year).

I’ve been bamboozled! I keep looking around….WHAT?! He HATED Brothers and Sherlock Holmes. I’ve been duped! So here it is; my attempt to rid the world of that dastardly first review.

Iron Man 2 was a total blast. The villains weren’t quite up to The Dark Knight standards, but this isn’t Batman’s world is it? We’re dealing with a new hero here. Rich, charming (oh man, is he charming), hilarious, and the king of any situation…drunk in the Iron Man suit — no problem!. He’s smarter than you. He’s got more money than you. He’s needs nothing you have and has whatever you might want. He is the perfect superhero and IM2 is his fueled, dying, sarcastic stage. The show lasts two hours, please stay through the credits.

IM2 also weaves the perfect intro into the “Avengers Era”. Clues throughout, a brilliant Easter Egg at the end and intertwining characters make it the perfect kickoff to the films leading into The Avengers, the anticipated superhero Magnus Opus set for summer 2012.

There were a few things wrong with this movie. Don Cheadle just seemed out of place. I’ll be honest, its tough to compete with Robert Downey Jr. on any screen at any time; he’s pure entertainment. Cheadle’s Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes was, ‘mehh’. Terrance Howard didn’t steal the show, neither did Cheadle; we’ll call it a draw. Why can’t Stark just control both suits? There’s our fix.

Scarlett Johansson was perfectly cast as the busty poised Natalie Rushman/Natasha Romanoff and played it coolly across the entire movie. She had her scene. It was neat. It was quick. It was nothing new. Though, for some reason, we had to watch our boy Jon Favreau go all Mike Tyson and box some random security guard! I’m trying to watch Scarlet get her kick on!? I couldn’t’ focus during the fight anyway… I kept thinking Elektra…Elektra….why do I keep think … The suit! It’s the leather suit! Yep, got it. Elektra continues to ruin my life annually.

Once we got back to our boy Tony, everything in the world seemed right again. Oh! One more note — I love Sam Rockwell, I hope to never give him a negative review as long as I live. He was great as the “outcast younger brother” Justin Hammer. Well done, as always. And Mickey Rourke in tats wielding long blades of lightening … I’ll take it. But that’s not why we came to see the movie is it. We came for the man of the hour: Indiana Jones, Jack Sparrow, Jake Sulley!

This is Tony Stark, the most loveable playboy/superhero/billionaire on Earth — hopelessly in love with Pepper Potts almost as much as he’s in love with himself.

Kirk Honeycutt, you just…you really screwed the pooch on this one.

May 4, 2010 Posted by | Entertainment, Film Reviews, Lost, Movies, Television | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brothers

Why Maguire, Portman and Gyllenhaal weren't nominated is beyond me...

My girlfriend (Heidi) had a take on Brothers unmatched by any I’ve read. Needless to say, if you haven’t seen the movie. See it.

“…Brothers was a movie i was not expecting at all. Not that i was expecting a movie full of feel-good dialogue and a fairy tale ending but the gritty reality of human experience was intensely thrown into my face. The movie begged me to look at a complexity of characterization I’m not entirely sure i was ready for.

As i was watching i kept thinking i knew what was going to happen. Typical story of a political bashing on the ugliness of war and the irrelevance of marriage in our society today. A “higher calling” by deconstructing traditional institutions and values. I could not have been more wrong. At every turn, every scene change, every climax, I found myself trying to evaluate the purpose of the story.

I kept thinking okay this is going to be about war. I was wrong. This is going to be about destroying the perfect marriage. I was wrong. This is going to be about the false redemption and eventual fall of the rebel brother. I was wrong. This is going to be about how the sins of the father are visited on the sons. I was wrong. This is going to be about children being affected by the whims of their parents. I was wrong. what then, could this movie, so in my face, so painful, so raw have been about?

I was then brought to two specific scenes. The first was the ending scene: a picnic table in the dead of winter. A place where truth was finally communicated, where hope was finally allowed to show a glimmer of a spark. It was perfect. Just a picnic table — a symbol of carefree happiness, the American dream, the perfect life — right in the dead of bleak winter — a symbol of cold, death, and evil. the other scene i thought about was at the very beginning when the family is at the dinner table. The subject of war was being discussed and uncle Tommy asks the youngest daughter who exactly were the bad guys daddy was fighting. The scene goes on with the older daughter answering with humor but the question he asked, i realized, was crucial to the movie’s development and message.

After thinking about this movie for several days with those scenes running over and over in my mind, i finally came to the conclusion that the movie was centered around portraying the deep complexity of humanity. When dealing with people, a simple understanding of right and wrong, black and white does not apply. Each human in the move was capable of great good and great evil in varying degrees. Every time i identified with the “good” guy, they would do something i hated or made me sick. Not a soul in the movie was innocent. Not even the little girls. At the end of the day, however, each received grace. GRACE was the theme. It was the name of the mother. It was tattooed over daddy’s chest. It was granted to each character in their darkest moment.

Humanity is complex. Each person a deep cavern incapable of comprehension. Necessary for life, necessary for “happiness” … is grace. Consequences will be paid, but grace must be given. Unselfish, unconditional grace.

Great movie.”

— Heidi Myers

March 1, 2010 Posted by | Entertainment, Faith, Film Reviews, Lost, Movies | 1 Comment

T-minus 28 days. And if you look over to your left, you’ll see the fat lady singing. That’s right. It’s over. LOST is coming to a close starting Feb 2, 2010. The one show that gave this blog its wings oh-so-long ago is finally beginning its phoenix flight. Is that the right term?

In honor of LOST kicking the bucket, I’m going to resurrect the blog in rare fashion (frequent posts) for the remainder of its season. What better way to reignite the blog than with a grease-lightning round of “Machine Gun Movie Review”, courtesy of the common cold. Friday I woke up and literally could not feel my face. I was sick. I did no writing. I did no calling. I did very little talking. I did, however, do a frequent amount of movie-watching. Nine in two days actually.

Here’s a rundown…

Food Inc.: What a great inquisitive movie. A fantastic look into the actual nuts and bolts (or is it salt and steroids?) that make up our food industry. Scary, convicting, horrifying all wrapped in one big bowl of cheap, subsidized, fast-food burgers. (8.91/10)

The Cove: Maybe one of the coolest doc’s I’ve seen to date. I wish the end would have been a little more triumphant, but the overall movie was beyond excellent. Oceans 11 meets Free Willy meets Bourne Identity. Fantastic, should win Best Doc at the Oscars. (9.2/10)

Bronson: One man’s take on Britain’s Most Violent (re: Famous) Prisoner. What many thought was going to be Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s take on the crazed, though uniquely charming prisoner, Charlie Bronson turns out to be actor Tom Hardy’s masterful portrayal of a man so disturbed for stardom. Bronson, a journey of fame: any press … may actually be good press. (8.02/10)

The Messenger: Woody Harrelson puts on a masterful portrayal of a broken down, compelling, Iraq War soldier. Sure, we’ve seen these types in movies before, but Woody’s, much like all his other stuff, lets us in on a secret … without a few turns of events, we could easily be that guy too. Ben Foster hops onboard as the new guy, assigned to bring the news of a soldier’s death to the Next Of Kin, along with Captain Tony Stone (Woody). Maybe one of the most heart-wrenching movies I’ve seen this year. Also maybe one of the best. (9.31/10)

Tyson: straight Mike Tyson drama thanks to HBO. I thought I knew Mike Tyson’s life well … until I watched this film. Talking head interviews I still can’t believe made it to screen. The sheer drama in his voice has to be worthy of some award. I dare you to do anything but stare as you watch his interviews. What a life… (8.34/10)

Where the Wild Things Are: I thought I had it on pretty good information that this was a children’s movie for adults. Whoever told me that was wrong. This is a children’s movie for children, and me going into it with a  different mindset ruined it completely for me. I was unimpressed, though, there were some legitimate laughs. (5.9/10)

The Lovely Bones: Quite possibly one of the worst films I’ve seen in years. It takes a lot to get to the top of my movie list, let alone the bottom. One main criteria is that you need to adapt or create already great work. The Lovely Bones, the novel, was already good (great), apparently and the film adaptation butchered it. First 19 minutes: compelling, great, intriguing. Last (what felt like) 8 hours: horrendous. (2.85/10)

Julie & Julia: My mother LOVED this movie, so naturally, I was bit hesitant. Though, after I finished it, I was overcome with this giddy sense of inspiration. Maybe I should challenge myself to something for a year? It probably helped that I watched it three days into the new year, I am a blogger, I love to eat and that I love Amy Adams and Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci (who were all exquisite) but regardless; truly, honestly, fun. (8.78/10)

Dead Man Walking: This is an old 1994 classic. I liked it. It doesn’t much fit with the current Oscar season, but oh well. I watched it. It was good. It was not great. Sean Penn was good. Susan Sarandon was great. I thought it had a great message about Jesus and his life and what it meant to confess, love our enemies and work towards redemption, but for some reason … I felt it should have been even darker. Terrible crimes are typically done by terrible people, show me some of that. (6.86/10)

Brief Interviews With Hideous Men: I love The Office. Brief Interviews With Hideous Men was a masterful written work by the late David Foster Wallace. It touched The Office’s John Krasinski while at Brown University. While watching it, you can almost see why Krasinski – playing the tired, selfish ex-boyfriend of the film’s main’s narrator and lead – chose to play the movie. At the conclusion of the film, we get “The Monologue”; you know, the one that solidifies in your mind exactly why this was considered Krasinski’s passion project? The one any stage actor would kill for? And that’s the rub, the monolgue would have worked infinitely better on a stage – where two people can actually keep our attention for 9 minutes and where big, 25-dollar words seem perfectly placed as opposed to corny and forced – rather than on the screen. The moment Ryan/Subject #20 (Krasinski) begins to speak like David Foster Wallace, my interest got up and walked out. I had no energy left to translate the postmodern boil of rape-induced love connection that followed in the hitchhiker-story’s wake. It was a wreck; any 80 minute adaptation of a 330 page, four-part short story would be. So, it’s not Jim’s fault? (5.31/10)

January 4, 2010 Posted by | Entertainment, Lost, Movies, Television, The Office | Leave a comment

The Informant!

The Informant!, A Case Study in Lying.

Whitacre (Damon) lays tape... one of hundreds.

A Case Study In Lying

by Bryce VanKooten

The Informant! — with a little jitter at the end — is a quirky movie. Its a spectacle of laughter and stress for just under two hours. When I walked out with my buddy Bryan, we both looked at each other and said, “I’m exhausted … But that was pretty good.”  Now, even hours later, it still seems like a fair assessment.

Matt Damon (and his extra 30lbs, on the ol’ tummy) came out swinging a little slower (re: different) than in his previous Ocean’s or Bourne flicks, while reuniting with his old pal Steven Soderburgh. The Informant!, along with a couple nice new faces to dramedy – the versatile Tony Hale and Joel McHale — finds a niche like an itch you can’t scratch. Never the ending spoiler, I was tossed and turned by this faux Crime Caper so frequently that I must have changed seat positions to three positions on loop: laughter, cringe, horror … Repeat.

Infiltrating the life of whistle-blower-turned-FBI-informant Mark Whitacre, The Informant! keeps it’s pace like a bad summer camp relationship — giggles, realization, anger. There was no room for sympathy. There was no room for understanding. How do you understand a pathological liar? As Bryan and I sat there through the film, we couldn’t help but slowly see ourselves get more and more angry at the pathetic and despicable display of humanity on screen. And he got me! I didn’t know he was lying! And it was so obvious the whole time! I will admit though, I do love a good foolin’.

There’s a couple scenes that make the movie worth the price of admission. Sadly, many of them were spoiled in the trailer (a curse I’ve coined “Being Fox’d”, for its similarity to 20th Century Fox and Megan Fox’s reputation for impeccable previews and horrific results), but a few remain on the screen. Matt Damon’s spot-on execution of all of the ‘bugged rooms’ scenes are brilliant to the core and his portrayal of the ghastly 1990’s ties are pastel-perfect. Props to the Costume Department … (pun). There’s a mid-level biochemist somewhere in the world right now tickled pink, guaranteed.

The most pivotal of all Whitacre’s moments onscreen was between his unflinchingly loving wife Ginger (Melanie Lynskey) and the charming, beaten down FBI Agent Shepard (Scott Bakula). Finally caught in a web of lies, Whitacre is confronted by the consequences of his actions. He is, indeed, a pathological liar, among others things … including a felon. It has that Beautiful Mind twinge to it, you know? That feeling that, the truth is out, but reality just somehow got more confusing.

The lesson to be learned for Whitacre is not ‘telling the truth’ – he’s been told, advised, coerced, arm-wreslted, pleaded with, bargained for that countless times – the lesson here, one would surmise, would be to figure out his motivations leading up to his felonious actions. A man who seemingly had it all – countless cars, land, money, a loving wife and kids – risks it all … for what?

And that’s something we never get. I still don’t get it. Fame? Variety? Spice? Sheer boredom?

Why do I like this movie?

I just do.

It’s quirky and funny and well written and sharp. All the actors are spot on and it nails the evanescent truth about lying. I can hear my father’s words now, “I can’t promise you you’ll get caught, but I can promise you one thing: you tell me the truth and you won’t get in as much trouble as you will if you lie to me about it.

Plus, Joel McHale, first major feature role? Come on…

September 23, 2009 Posted by | Entertainment, Film Reviews, Movies | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Hangover

Four friends prepare for a night like no other...

Four friends prepare for a night like no other...

Comedy Genius … With a Dash of the Party Juice

by Bryce VanKooten

I’d been expecting it. Hoped it would change the landscape of the corn-fed comedy, this one. The Hangover — director Todd Phillips’ (Old School) newest jaunt down the halls of adult adolescence — was sadly the script someone should have written long ago; the characters we’ve all known, loved, and hated and the coup de grâce to regurgitated frat boy humor.

Let’s get one thing straight: I haven’t laughed that hard in years.

About 15 years ago, I was told it was important to keep a tally of your favorite things in life: books, quotes, songs, films, etc:

  • Wish I Could Have Been IN It Moment: chariot-survival-kill-everyone-fight — Gladiator
  • Wish I Could Have Witnessed It: opening mafia, back room conversation — The Godfather.
  • Best Page in a Script, Ever: Gandalf’s conversation with Frodo, in the cave, when they first see Gollum — Lord of The Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.
  • Hardest I’ve Ever Laughed in a Theater, To Date: casino table scene — Rush Hour 2.
  • Most Terrified, Ever, On First Viewing: T-Rex-in-Ford-Explorer scene — Jurassic Park.
  • Movie I’ve Seen the Most Times: four-way tie (gotta be 30, at least) — Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Hook, 3 Ninjas, Old School.

So it’s only natural that The Hangover has to fall in that list somewhere. Maybe somewhere between Hardest Laughed, or Wish I Was There; maybe a new category all together: Most Outrageous on Screen – that has a nice ring to it.

The Hangover is a simple story. Four guys go to Vegas for a bachelor party. The night ensues and they wake up to find a laundry list of shenanigans (the debris of such shenanigans all around them) as proof of their night of debauchery and clues they must use to find their best friend and missing man-to-be-married.

Its not 15 minutes in and we’ve had enough laughs — my face hurt, let’s be honest, here.

Our friend alcohol (and so much more, we soon find out) as our guide and new characters before our eyes, The Hangover proves to be a far cry from the pitiful repackaging of humor we’ve seen in Semi Pro, Forgetting Sarah Marshal (yeah, I said it), Step Brothers (I said it, too) and Harold and Kumar … whatever they do, blah, blah, the list goes on. If I had to put my finger on it, The Hangover is like a not-so-raunchy (until the end credits – yikes) Tropic Thunder. I’ll use TBS’ false tag-line here: …very funny.

There’s seldom a simple movie that reinvents the wheel. Tropic Thunder was anything but simple — just ask Mr. Stiller – and Old School was nearly 6 years ago, not that Old School was the Mona Lisa … you get my point. Its tough to tell a simple story and bring something new to the table, but The Hangover manages to do just that. But what’s the rub? I mean, how? I’ll tell you: new characters.

No one knows Zach Galifianakis (which is one of the larger tragedies on planet Earth*). Bradley Cooper is still either the yoked up muscleman in Wedding Crashers or the sensitive-no-wait-I-think-he’s-a-douche-bag from He’s Just Not That Into You, so we all haven’t come close to seeing enough of him. And not one person in the USA is sick of Ed Helms (The Office‘s Andy Bernard) whom Will Ferrell claims to be the funniest person he knows, making these three guys primed for comedic wonders. Throw in a masterful performance from the missing groom Doug (Justin Bartha) and we’ve got a movie on our hands. That was a lengthy thought/sentence(s), my apologies. More plainly, all four guys are fairly new to the big screen and all very funny.

Perfect.

Now, fast forward. I’m in my seat. I’m sitting next to my sister — once she gets laughing only gets me laughing worse and then it’s an avalanche of joyous tears from then on out – and we’re prepared for a raunchy ride of tastelessness and debauchery. To be frank … it was, but not nearly as bad as I thought it could be. Before we knew it, we were winding our way through a quasi-film noir of some kind, searching for clues and tripping up on every Chinese gangster (lame, I thought), washed up heavyweight champ and stray baby we could breast-feed. It was new. It was a mystery movie.

It was hysterical.

I don’t know that I can recommend The Hangover to just anyone. It’s not your mother’s cup of tea — unless your mom is a stripper, which, coincidentally has a place in this movie — but it is incredibly funny and surprisingly smart. Bottom line: sit down, enjoy some of the best comedy in years and don’t forget to stay through the end credits … if you can handle them.

That may have been the worst advice I’ve ever given you.

*If you’ve never seen “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis”, please watch. And watch here

June 5, 2009 Posted by | Entertainment | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Star Trek — Boom. Roasted. Amazing.

Star Trek Wolverine Bryce vankooten

Treking Along, One Hit at a Time.

by Bryce VanKooten

J.J. Abrams is the Apple® of the cinema – he’s just better than everyone else. Everything he does, every idea brought to the drawing table (board?) is matched with superb in style, fresh execution and noticeable dedication to story. Its masterful; that pretty well covers it.

I was giddy for Star Trek — the newest, Abrams-Directed, 2009 installment of the classic 1966-originated story and characters. Mastered with a bright young cast (including my friend Michelle!), all of which preformed wonderfully in their depiction of their characters on screen, it was only fair that I got to see a movie ‘fresh’ for once in my life (I’d read the LOTR and Harry Potter books, had the Da Vinci Code spoiled for me and discussed Watchmen, at length, before its opening). Star Trek was/is a fan boy’s favorite, and I was happily not one of them.

Throughout the first half hour I urging myself not to lean over to my fellow moviegoers and whisper, “Man. This is so good”. It didn’t seem right. There’s something volatile about talking during a movie other than a comedy. My eyes were glued. Sidenote: are you seriously telling me that Wolverine and Star Trek basically cost the same? What? My ears were glued. And yet I’d read that Michael Giacchino dropped the ball on the score … bullocks. My mind was glued. Yes, there was a bit there when I realized it very well could have been a Wednesday night because that haunting, this-is-the-feeling-I-get-when-they-talk-about-time-travel-in-LOST, feeling was creeping up my spine, but all and all, the plot was feasible. Okay, so we created a black hole, discovered an alternate reality and traveled between the two, meeting ourselves and destroying new lands. But honestly, did anyone get that lost (no pun intended)? It was altogether manageable, was it not?

It was brilliant.

Abrams has found some keepers in Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, his writer’s dejour (as well as Arthur Anderson, who directed the opening scene where the woman so marvelously gets sucked out!!). Together, they’ve scribed a mighty track record in the last few years with seeming success around every turn: Fringe, Alias, Transformers, Mission: Impossible III, The Island, and their upcoming successes, Transformers 2 and the Untitled Star Trek Sequel, due out in 2009 and 2011, respectively.

I was blown away by Spock (didn’t even know he was the smartest ‘man’ in the world until the movie told me — what fun that was), but Chris Pine managed to successfully steal the show as James Tiberius Kirk. He was marvelous actually — funny and charming, the perfect concoction of cocky and courageous. I’ll be blunt: the ‘diving down to stop the drill’ scene: worth the price of admission, easily.

Abrams hasn’t veered far from his roots. Many of his films are good at the same things, which is to say, I think we’re all fine with that. But maybe the Academy isn’t. I don’t think Abrams cares much about what those guys think, which might be a subconscious reason why we love him: he likes what we like. There’s that fine line Abrams always manages to walk between humor and drama: never too subtle, never to forceful. He’s a master of every situation and possibly one of the greatest story tellers of my generation. If I ever met him, I’d love to thank him for that. I hope story will always rule this land.

Action is obviously Abrams’ style and his unmistakable strength — those trademark camera shakes never seem to be mellow dramatic — but its not his only strength. He’s managed to brand great storytelling into his films, great amounts of witty, perfectly placed humor and ease, so that we almost expect it now. We know he’s thought this all the way through, and that’s a safety blanket of sorts. How do we know? Because we can tell he likes making movies. Amidst the clouds of massive, action riddled box offices, Abrams is breath of fresh, virus-free air. Again, like a Mac.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I’m willing to resign myself into blindly purchasing great products, even great marketing. I buy Stride because of their viral marketing style. I bought Red Stripe because their commercials made me laugh – same with Dos Equis. I drive a Honda because they are dependable and write on an Apple computer because, well, its obvious*. My childhood was formed by Nike, so I wear their sneakers. And Fiji Water, though it cost twice as much, has an awesome bottle so sometimes I cave to their coloring. My purchases are my right as an American. It makes it fun again to be a consumer. It’s very American to choose. As stated, Tom Cruise has won me over; I’ll see whatever he’s in because he’s in it. Abrams is now the same**.

I think of my theater tickets as a little investment. Who gets my investment is a decision I get to make every time I plop myself in the seat. From here on out, I’ll gladly go blindly with Abrams.

*see line 1

**The opposite is true for Eddie Murphy; I won’t see it if he’s in it, unless it has ‘Shrek’ in the title, even then, its not really him.

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Entertainment, Film Reviews, Movies | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment