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

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

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.

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**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

I Love You, Man (2009)

Peter (Paul Rudd, left) and Sydney (Jason Segel, right) rock out to Rush in the Man Cave.

Peter (Paul Rudd, left) and Sydney (Jason Segel, right) rock out to Rush in the Man Cave.

I Love You Too, Man

by Bryce VanKooten

For most in this country, it may never happen at all. But for the few million who happen to live in LA — this hotbed of fanfare and traffic — I suppose it a bit more attainable. I’m still getting use to the fact that it’s feasible to see movies before their release. And the opportunity to shoot the breeze with the Director after the film just comes as an added bonus I guess; the ala mode, if you will. Either way, when I got the invite to Brown University’s alumni screening of John Hamburg’s I Love You, Man (Hamburg is an alum), I jumped at the opportunity. Seeing a movie four weeks before its release is like talking to the starting quarterback before the big game: you’re as close to affecting the movie’s process as you can be without actually affecting anything. It’s the little dose of thrill we all need. I hope I never get used to it.

Hamburg — who wrote Zoolander, Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers [coming soon: Meet the Little Fockers] and wrote/directed Along Came Polly has an enviable career, to say the least. He has perfect style and the ability to convey reality in a witty and original way. “I just wanted the film to look and act as real as possible. I wanted the characters to be people we all knew and not just [guys and girls] saying cliché jokes”, he recalls. I Love You, Man is a smart satire. Nailed it.

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We nearly missed the movie, actually. My friend and I sat in the wrong theater on the Paramount lot for about 20 minutes before we realized we were in the wrong theater. When we finally sprinted to the right one, the curtains pulled to reveal what we all needed: guy and girl find another guy – the perfect spin to the romantic comedy.

The movie opens with Peter (Paul Rudd) proposing to Zooey (The Office’s Rashida Jones). The very next scene takes us on the car ride home where Rashida calls her best gal pals to tell them of the wonderful news. We soon realize that Peter has never had a best guy friend. This poses a problem for the wedding. Who’s going to play the Best Man? Throw in Peter’s younger, gay brother Robby (Andy Samberg) — who’s best friends with his father (hilarious) — a terrific supporting cast, including Jon Favreau and Jaime Pressly as the venomous, bickering married friends and you’ve got yourself a fantastic hour and a half.

There were quite a few scenes worth noting, but of course, I’d never dream of spoiling the surprise. In the end, the poker table scene takes the cake – in an array of drinking games, male bonding and an inexperienced drinker – as the hardest I laughed (or cringed). But there are other moments that are guaranteed good times, including Rudd’s air-guitaring ‘slappa da bay-eez’ and any moment Peter’s new found friend Doug (Reno 911’s Thomas Lennon) shows up. I repeat: Thomas Lennon = hilarious.

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Rudd’s dedication to his character’s emphasis on this new found friendship (he wants it to work so badly!) provides much of the film’s laughs. Even after the film, Hamburg revealed, “I knew when I wrote the script I wanted Paul in the lead. There are certain lines that only Paul can say.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Paul Rudd finds the perfect balance between apologetic awkwardness and consistent hilarity. And as it turned out later, his awkward appeal was only spurred on by the crew surrounding him. “In the scene when we were filming Paul’s goodbye to Sydney”, Hamburg recalls, “we knew that Paul was going to say ‘see ya city slicker’ or something random and awkward like that, but I couldn’t help it. Once we got rolling, we just left him out there. We must have done forty-two takes of that signoff — him walking out the door saying anything that came to mind, each time getting longer and more awkward. He was dying. We were all laughing. I think it turned out really well.”

Not to be outdone was the rest of the film’s cast. Rashida Jones fit perfectly in the role of Peter’s fiancé and Jason Segel – who ruined comedy for me when he penned last year’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall (only to have it resurrected by Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder) – managed to regain some strength with his normal, all-too-familiar portrayal of everyman’s friend, Sydney Fife. Fife is the guy every man hopes to have – honest, easy going, plays an instrument – and the best man most men end up with – loose-lipped, unpredictable, but by your side.

Amidst all the puke, pillow talk and premarital shenanigans in this homo/hetero-nuetral parade, there are some redeeming moments in this colorful tale of romantic reality. A lesson in love, this film manages to tell a new story with a nice twist on the fairytale ending. In a genre often lost to poo, potty and porking, I Love You, Man is the friend we all need: fun.

February 25, 2009 Posted by | Entertainment, Film Reviews, Movies, News | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment