Monday, March 31, 2008

RUN FATBOY RUN (2008)

RUN FAT BOY RUN
**

Rating
: PG-13
Length
: 100 minutes
Director
: David Schwimmer (“Friends”; “Joey”)
Writers
: Michael Ian Black (“The State”; “Stella”) and Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead; Hot Fuzz)
Starring
: Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton, Hank Azaria, Dylan Moran, Harish Patel, India de Beaufort, Matthew Fenton, Stephen Merchant

The first thing that caught my eye when I saw the ad for “Run Fat Boy Run” in this week’s Folio was the critic quote “”Shaun of the Dead” meets “Wedding Crashers”!”) Let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. The only connection/resemblance with “Shaun of the Dead” are actor/writer Simon Pegg and fellow co-star Dylan Moran. You’d be very hard pressed to find any sort of resemblance to “Wedding Crashers”. Instead, you have an extremely familiar guy loses girl & family/guy tries to win back girl & family comedy/drama. Strange considering the script is penned by Pegg, who wrote the extremely clever “Shaun” and “Hot Fuzz” (which I thought was overrated, but many liked), and co-written by “The State”’s Michael Ian Black. The fault surely has to fall on first time feature film director David Schwimmer- aka ‘Ross Gellar’ from the TV show “Friends”. The movie follows such a sitcom formula that it could have only been helmed by someone so familiar with how sitcoms work (indeed, Schwimmer broke his directing teeth on episodes of “Friends” and it’s doomed spin-off “Joey”). Pegg himself stars as Dennis. As the film opens, Dennis is hauling ass from the altar as his pregnant bride-to-be Libby (Thandie Newton) screams at him to come back. Fast forward five years later and Dennis is a loser, though not as fat as the title claims. During a visit to pick up his son Jake (Matthew Fenton), he discovers Libby has finally moved on with charming American Whit (Hank Azaria). What to do? Beat Whit at what he does best- run a marathon! Quite conveniently the “Nike River Run” is taking place in London and Dennis signs up to prove to Libby and Jake that he can be just as great as Whit can be. Not too hard to guess where things go from there. Dennis’ best mate, Gordon (Dylan Moran- stealing every scene he’s in), his grumpy landlord (Harish Patel), and the landlord's beautiful daughter (a stunning India de Beaufort) work together to get Dennis in shape. Oh and it doesn’t hurt that Gordon has a bit of money riding on Dennis finishing the race either. “Run Fat Boy Run” was a hit in Britain where the “underdog” formula seems to never fail and now it’s being brought over to the U.S. to try to break it big (didn’t work- the film didn’t even crack the top ten in it’s first week). The problem is in that marketing. The crowd that the movie is trying to pull in with it’s “Shaun of the Dead”/”Wedding Crashers” gimmick aren’t going to be very pleased. The advertisers should be pulling for fans of movies like “The Full Monty” or “Bend It Like Beckham”. Still, odds are even they won’t be too impressed.

Download Soundtrack MP3s:
The Fratellis- Chelsea Dagger
Kaiser Chiefs- Everyday I Love You Less and Less

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

YEAR OF THE DOG (2007)

YEAR OF THE DOG
**½

Rating
: PG-13
Length
: 97 minutes
Director
: Mike White
Writer
: Mike White (The Good Girl; School of Rock)
Starring
: Molly Shannon, Laura Dern, John C. Reilly, Peter Sarsgaard, Regina King, Josh Pais, Thomas McCarthy

Molly Shannon’s performance in “Year of the Dog” is amazing. So amazing, in fact, that it makes the pain and suffering she endures throughout the movie actually work against it. You begin to care so much for her that you start to resent writer/director Mike White for putting her through all the torture she has to go through. White, who pulled a similarly nasty trick with his penned “The Good Girl” with Jennifer Aniston’s character, makes his directorial debut here. He is a gifted filmmaker, no doubt, and he creates some very funny moments in this film. Though, as much as it pains me to say it, his best effort as a writer was his most Hollywood- Richard Linklater’s Jack Black vehicle “School of Rock”. That movie mixed White’s style of humor without humiliating his poor characters to the point of making it painful for his audience to watch. Shannon plays Peggy. Peggy is a lonely office worker whose sole happiness in life is her dog- a beagle named Pencil. Her boss (Josh Pais) is an asshole who takes his insecurities out on her; her best friend (Regina King) is so selfish, she doesn’t even realize how lonely Peggy really is; her brother (Thomas McCarthy) is whipped by his wife (Laura Dern) who treats Peggy like one of her children. Peggy can’t even find a suitable partner- the one man interested in her is her redneck neighbor, Al (John C. Reilly- exceptionally hilarious here) who’d rather hunt an animal than have one as a pet. Pencil accidentally ingests some of Al’s lawn fertilizer and dies. Peggy is devastated and everyone is so wrapped up in themselves that they think she’s crazy for having so much emotion for a pet. She meets a really nice pet enthusiast named Newt (Peter Sarsgaard) who convinces her to adopt another pet. But, alas, even Newt isn’t what he seems and his true nature is soon revealed. See what I mean? White does a wonderful job of getting us to care deeply for Peggy and then cruelly puts her through the most horrible and embarrassing situations he can think of. After she meets Newt, she becomes a vegan and actively tries to find homes for abandoned animals- though her goodwill backfires constantly. Why would we want to watch someone we care about suffer so much? White tacks on a forced “happy” ending (much like he did with “The Good Girl” and “Chuck & Buck”) that is supposed to make everything okay. But when it’s all said and done, you have to wonder if Peggy’s life is going to be any better or if misery is still just waiting for her around the corner.

Download Soundtrack MP3:
Cat Stevens- I Love My Dog

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Friday, March 28, 2008

SUPERHERO MOVIE (2008)

SUPERHERO MOVIE
*

Rating
: PG-13
Length
: 85 minutes
Director
: Craig Mazin (The Specials)
Writer
: Craig Mazin (Scary Movie 3; Scary Movie 4)
Starring
: Leslie Nielsen, Drake Bell, Pamela Anderson, Tracy Morgan, Sara Paxton, Christopher McDonald, Jeffrey Tambor, Nicole Sullivan, Kevin Hart, Marion Ross, Ryan Hansen, Keith David, Brent Spiner, Robert Joy, Regina Hall, Craig Bierko, Simon Rex, Dan Castellaneta, Craig Mazin, Kurt Fuller, Lil’ Kim

Another month, another unfunny spoof movie. Some say we should feel blessed that at least this one isn’t from the Epic Movie/Date Movie/Meet the Spartans duo Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Instead, we get one of the writers (Craig Mazin) from the last two “Scary Movie”s taking on sole writing and directing credit. Think about how most of those movies have at least four or five writers on hand and still manage to be completely hit or miss. Now imagine what one is like with just one behind the wheel. That movie is “Superhero Movie”. Sure “Airplane!”/”Kentucky Fried Movie” co-creator David Zucker (as producer) and the king of spoofs Leslie Nielsen are on board, but they would have been better off not getting involved at all. Teen superstar Drake Bell (whom I am unfamiliar with, but apparently has a hit sitcom on Nickelodeon) stars as Rick Riker. Where as the original “Scary Movie” basically spoofed “Scream”, “Superhero Movie”’s main target is “Spiderman”. Riker is a nerdy outcast who has a crush on the cute girl next door, Jill Johnson (Sara Paxton). During a school field trip to a museum, Riker is bit by a dragonfly and develops superhero powers and becomes, well, the “Dragonfly”. Standard and lazy spoofs of “Batman Begins” and “Fantastic Four” follow, though the movie has it’s best bit with it’s “X-Men” parody featuring “Saturday Night Live” vet Tracy Morgan as Professor Xavier. Comedy movie vet Christopher McDonald tries his best too as Dragonfly’s arch rival the “Hourglass”. However, just like the Friedberg/Seltzer bombs, “Superhero Movie” falls into the trap of just presenting an impersonation of what it’s spoofing instead of making it it’s own and even when it does it involves a lot of flatulence or piss. Put it this way- if your idea of a really hilarious gag is watching Mrs. Cunningham (Marion Ross) from “Happy Days” fart for five straight minutes while Riker and Jill try to have their first kiss then this movie will be gold to you.

Download Soundtrack MP3:
Eric Carmen- All By Myself

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

ALIENS VS. PREDATOR- REQUIEM (2007)

ALIENS VS. PREDATOR- REQUIEM

Rating
: R
Length
: 86 minutes
Directors
: Colin Strause and Greg Strause
Writer
: Shane Salerno (Armageddon; Shaft (2000))
Starring
: Steven Pasquale, Kristen Hager, Reiko Aylesworth, John Ortiz, Johnny Lewis, Robert Joy, Ariel Gade, Sam Trammell, Tom Woodruff, Jr., David Hornsby, Francoise Yip

Watching “Aliens vs. Predator- Requiem”- the sequel to 2004’s majorly disappointing “Alien vs. Predator”- is like watching someone else play a video game. It is a slight improvement over it’s predecessor, but that’s not saying much. This is a film with serious A.D.D. issues. It’s camera can’t seem to stay on a single shot for longer than ten seconds (think “Rambo: First Blood, Part 2”). It is also so dark and murky that it’s almost impossible at times to make out who is what or whom is doing what. I had to rewind more than a few times to figure out what character just got offed and if it was by an alien or a predator. A real shame as this sequel was being touted as the big apology for the mistake the first picture was. The directors, brothers Colin and Greg Strause, have long worked on visual effects for such blockbusters as “300”, “Terminator 3”, and “Titanic” (to name a few), so I was expecting, I don’t know, something better (though I suppose a warning flag should have been raised given that most of their prior directing projects have been Nickelback videos). Fans who were disappointed by the PG-13 rating of the prior film will be happy to know that at least the R rating here is earned. The carnage is upped, but it too occurs so quickly that gore fans won’t get much of a chance to appreciate it. The funny thing is that the “Alien vs. Predator” idea did make for a good video game back in the day- it just hasn’t been able to make the transition over to the big screen. Both the “Alien” and “Predator” series weren’t brainless action sci-fi pictures. Alien” and “Aliens” are widely regarded as two of the best films ever in their genre and “Predator” isn’t anything to scoff at either. Even the lesser sequels, “Alien 3”, “Alien: Resurrection”, and “Predator 2” weren’t run of the mill, cookie cutter productions. For some reason, the brains behind the “Alien vs. Predator” franchise just can’t seem to get it right (this includes Walter Hill- who has been involved with all of the prior “Alien” pictures). The fans don’t want mindless action. They want action, but they want it done with respect to the earlier movies. Those films had true suspense, spectacular action sequences and visual effects, and better acting (Kristen Hager and “Rescue Me”’s Steven Pasquale are the film’s sole bright spots in that area). “Alien vs. Predator” and “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem” just want to watch everything go boom- and they want it to go boom fast.

Download Soundtrack MP3s:
Alan Silvestri- The Chopper
Brian Tyler- Aliens vs. Predator- Requiem

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

P.S. I LOVE YOU (2007)

P.S. I LOVE YOU
***

Rating
: PG-13
Length
: 126 minutes
Director
: Richard LaGravenese (Freedom Writers; Paris, je t’aime)
Writers
: Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King; The Bridges of Madison County) and Steven Rogers (Stepmom; Hope Floats)
Starring
: Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, Kathy Bates, Lisa Kudrow, Harry Connick, Jr., Nellie McKay, Gina Gershon, James Marsters, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Watching the TV spots for “P.S. I Love You” I was expecting a goofy chick flick, instead it was a thoughtful film on grieving over a lost loved one. It’s still, by all means, a chick flick, but it’s a chick flick with substance. This isn’t Cameron Diaz territory. Good thing they got an actual actress, two time Oscar winner Hilary Swank, to play the lead. Holly is left widowed by her charming Irish husband Gerry (“300”’s Gerard Butler) before she turns 30 (by a brain tumor). They married young and he was the only man she had ever been with- not counting a boy she kinda dated before she met Gerry on a vacation to Ireland. Holly goes through some serious mourning until she starts receiving letters from Gerry that he wrote to her before his death. The letters are meant to help her move on and include guides on how to get rid of all of his old stuff, have a return visit to Ireland, and, of course, fall in love again. There happens to be a local New York bartender (Harry Connick, Jr.) who has fallen for her and she isn’t sure how to handle it. There’s also the token best friends (Lisa Kudrow; Gina Gershon) and the overprotective mom (Kathy Bates). Swank is able to show her versatility as an actress in the lead and she gets some good supporting work from her cast- including one of my favorite singers Nellie McKay (!) in her first movie role as Holly’s sister. Connick is also pretty charming, though his character is kind of clumsily handled from time to time. Despite it all, the movie actually is pretty limited on it’s clichés. It does carry a fair amount of sentimentality so be forewarned- your girlfriend/wife is more than likely going to cry at the end of this movie. It may be their new “Notebook”.

Download Soundtrack MP3s:
The Pogues- Love You ‘till the End
Nellie McKay- P.S. I Love You

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

OVERNIGHT DELIVERY (1998)

OVERNIGHT DELIVERY
**

Rating
: PG-13
Length
: 87 minutes
Director
: Jason Bloom (Bio-Dome; “Veronica Mars”)
Writers
: Marc Sedaka (“The King of Queens”) and Steve Bloom (The Sure Thing; James and the Giant Peach)
Starring
: Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Christine Taylor, Sarah Silverman, Tobin Bell, Tamara Mello, Larry Drake, Jack McGee

I have been meaning to watch “Overnight Delivery” for years. Mainly due to the fact that I’ve heard Kevin Smith did the final, uncredited re-write of the script. Smith maintains that they kept very little of his work in the final product (the beginning and ending sequences particularly), but Smith fans will be able to pick up on his presence throughout the flick. This was, of course, during his prime as a writer. Many of you know I have a love/hate deal with him. I watch all of his movies, read all of his books, and yet I still bitch about his last few movies (all of them since “Dogma”). I contribute this to the fact that the original “Clerks” is one of my all time favorites and was a huge influence on me as a writer. Smith apparently penned the re-write after he wrote my second favorite film of his, “Chasing Amy”. Don’t get your hopes up though, even though some of Smith’s wittiness shines through at times, it seems more likely that Marc Sedaka’s (one of the writers for TV’s “King of Queens”) material made it more into the final product. This is strictly sitcom on the screen (or in this case straight to video). After all, this was the follow up film for director Jason Bloom after his “classic” “Bio-Dome”. The plot bears a strong resemblance to the not yet conceived “Road Trip” and “Forces of Nature”. Whipped college undergrad Wyatt Trips (Paul Rudd) has been trying to get into the pants of his high school sweetheart Kimberly (Christine Taylor- aka Mrs. Ben Stiller) for years. They are both at separate colleges and one night he phones her and is informed by her roommate (Tamara Mello) that Kim has been making a lot of noise recently with the “Ricker”. Taunted further by his roommates that he has been duped, they visit a local strip club and meet fellow undergrad Ivy Miller (Reese Witherspoon). A drunken Wyatt stands up for Ivy in an altercation and after hearing his sob story, she convinces him to send Kim a photo of them in a provocative position- along with a nasty note and a condom filled with spit. They mail it overnight delivery and Wyatt goes home feeling vindicated. Unfortunately, there’s a message on his answering machine from Kim explaining that the “Ricker” is actually her friend’s dog that she is dog sitting. Uh-oh! Misunderstanding after misunderstanding occur as Wyatt and Ivy take a road trip to try to prevent the package from reaching Kim by 10:00am the following morning. Yes, it is sitcom material, but it didn’t have to be like this. “Road Trip”, despite some juvenile tendencies did work, and both of the future stars Witherspoon and Rudd have charisma to spare. Yet, the movie opts for easy jokes instead of funny jokes. It goes from believable and getting some chuckles to scenes such as Rudd hanging from the back of a speeding mail delivery van with a fire extinguisher blowing everywhere while Witherspoon follows behind in her car begging him to jump. It doesn’t exactly take a brain to figure out where most romantic comedies are heading, but you know where this one is going right from the beginning. I’m interested in reading Smith’s actual script in it’s entirety. It may not have made for a much better movie, but it sure would have been more entertaining.

Download Soundtrack MP3s:
Blondie- One Way or Another
Stevie Wonder- Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours

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Monday, March 24, 2008

GEORGE A. ROMERO'S DIARY OF THE DEAD (2008)

GEORGE A. ROMERO’S DIARY OF THE DEAD
***½

Rating
: R
Length
: 95 minutes
Director
: George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead; Dawn of the Dead)
Writer
: George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead; Dawn of the Dead)
Starring
: Joshua Close, Michelle Morgan, Scott Wentworth, Shawn Roberts, Megan Park, George A. Romero, Amy Lalonde, Wes Craven, Stephen King, Simon Pegg, Quentin Tarantino, Guillermo del Toro

While it pretty much goes without saying that George A. Romero’s second entry in his “Dead” series, “Dawn of the Dead” is his masterpiece, there is no disputing that the original “Night of the Living Dead” is the scariest. It’s low budget worked for it and added urgency and realism that still has the power to scare the hell out of you forty years later. After taking a hiatus from the series following “Day of the Dead”, Romero returned with “Land of the Dead” a few years back and it was generally heralded as a disappointment (It was flawed, but I still liked it). After years and years of every horror filmmaker wannabe ripping off his zombie formula, it seemed like the master had fallen into his own by-the-book zombie approach himself. He even advanced on the most unsuccessful element of “Day” with the theory of zombie intelligence evolution. Like I said, I liked it, but I can see how fans were disappointed. “Diary of the Dead”, the fifth installment, arrives after a much shorter wait and delivers one hell of a punch. With everyone praising “28 Days Later” and blasting “Land”, this seems to be Romero’s answer. It is, without a doubt, the best zombie movie since the original “28 Days”. Filmed on a low budget like it’s original predecessor so long ago, the urgency and realism are back. Not only is it the best zombie movie since “28 Days”, it’s also the scariest. Chronologically the film doesn’t fit in well with the rest of the series. Instead, Romero brings us back to the beginning of the zombie attacks and this time applies up to date technology. A group of student filmmakers are making a lousy mummy horror movie when the attacks break out. The director (Joshua Close) decides that it is up to him to document the events and to never shut off the camera (they post their footage on a website claiming it’s the only place the people can get the “truth”). It seems like a forced plot point, but it actually works very well. Needless to say if the shaky camera work of “The Blair Witch Project” or “Cloverfield” bothered you, it may be best to take some Dramamine before watching. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Romero zombie movie without a social message either- and while many critics and fans point at the media as his latest target, I found that he was ripping on the world’s obsession with reality television. Characters in the film are so concerned with getting live “real” footage on camera that they let human life lay on the line. At one point, a cameraman watches as his girlfriend fights off a zombie and doesn’t bother to set the camera down to help. One of the major gripes, it seems, of the film is the “bad” acting, but I think that that’s kind of the point. The acting on reality television is just about on par with the acting here. Romero has his characters so jaded by what they’ve seen on television that zombies eating human flesh (of their own friends) right in front of them has surprisingly little effect. “28 Days Later” and it’s sequel, “28 Weeks Later”, brought the zombie genre back to life. George A. Romero wants to let you know who’s it’s daddy.

Download Soundtrack MP3:
Captains Intangible- Any Other Way

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

DRILLBIT TAYLOR (2008)

DRILLBIT TAYLOR
**½

Rating
: PG-13
Length
: 102 minutes
Director
: Steven Brill (Heavy Weights; Without a Paddle)
Writers
: Seth Rogen (Superbad; “Da Ali G Show”) and Kristofor Brown (“Beavis and Butt-Head”; “The Tom Green Show”)
Starring
: Owen Wilson, Leslie Mann, Nate Hartley, Troy Gentile, David Dorfman, Danny R. McBride, Alex Frost, David Koechner, Lisa Lampanelli, Stephen Root, Valerie Tian, Josh Peck, Cedric Yarbrough, Robert Musgrave, Chuck Lidell, Adam Baldwin, Frank Whaley, Steven Brill

Drillbit Taylor” has been labeled “Superbad Jr.” by a lot of critics- mainly due to the Judd Apatow/Seth Rogen connections. Apatow produced “Superbad” and Rogen co-wrote and starred in it. There’s even three kids that star in the film that vaguely resemble the three main characters of “Superbad”. Wade (Nate Hartley) is the tall, skinny nerd; Ryan (Troy Gentile) is the wise-cracking fat kid, and Emit (David Dorfman) is the geek among the dorks (aka “McLovin”). The comparisons stop there. “Drillbit Taylor” isn’t sex obsessed or even close to as raunchy as “Superbad”. The three main characters here come across as younger, more innocent versions of the characters in the other film. The storyline isn’t even about their quest to get laid or drunk- it’s about their quest to stop getting their asses kicked. School bullies Filkins (Alex Frost) and Ronnie (Josh Peck) fill their days with making the three friends’ lives a living hell. Obviously too weak to fight back, they decide to hire a bodyguard. Enter Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson). Taylor is a homeless crook who spends his time daydreaming up schemes with his fellow bum crooks (including a hilarious Danny R. McBride). The boys offer the right amount of cash for Drillbit’s protection and meanwhile he and the crooks can plan to rob them blind. Drillbit lies and claims to be a well trained Army killing machine. Of course, at first he ends up causing more harm than good, but he starts to warm up to the boys and begins to actually want to help. There’s a fair share of laughs, but it doesn’t add up overall to much of a movie. More like a minor diversion. Wilson is hilarious as usual, though the plot doesn’t give him too much to do. There’s a forced romantic subplot involving Drillbit and a teacher (“Knocked Up”’s Leslie Mann) that seems tacked on to draw in a female audience. The kids are pretty likable, though they too aren’t really given too much focus (Wade also has an even more minor romantic subplot). Nor are the bullies- and I couldn’t help shake the fact that bully Frost was one of the killers in Gus van Sant’s “Elephant”. I kept imagining him gunning the kids down instead of putting them in headlocks. It may be predictable and not up to par with Apatow and Rogen’s latest works, but you could do a lot worst at the movies this week. Expect to laugh, but don’t expect to remember much of it later.

(Note: John Hughes fans should take note that he receives co-“story” credit under the alias “Edmond Dantes”)

Download Soundtrack MP3s:
Weezer- Photograph
Bloodhound Gang- Balls Out

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

QUIET CITY (2007)

QUIET CITY
**½

Rating
: Not Rated
Length
: 78 minutes
Director
: Aaron Katz (Dance Party, USA; All the Stage is a World)
Writers
: Aaron Katz (Dance Party, USA; Hoopla), Erin Fisher, and Cris Lankenau
Starring
: Erin Fisher, Cris Lankenau, Joe Swanberg, Keegan DeWitt, C. Mason Wells, Sarah Hellman, Tucker Stone, Liz Bender

Quiet City” is mumblecore’s “Before Sunrise”. Jamie (Erin Fisher) from Atlanta is supposed to be a visiting an old friend in New York. When she arrives, however, her friend is unreachable. She gets directions to a café they were supposed to meet at from a friendly New Yorker named Charlie (Cris Lankenau) - and so begins a beautiful friendship that may or may not blossom into a romance. Mumblecore in general is, of course, a lot more low key than Richard Linklater’s work. The conversations are cute and realistic, but not nearly as interesting as those in Linklater’s indie romantic masterpiece(s). Sustaining the audience’s interest for seventy plus minutes becomes a bit difficult, particularly due to the fact that leads Fisher and Lankenau (both of whom co-wrote the screenplay with director Aaron Katz) aren’t very charismatic. The more successful mumble movies work best when they have a Greta Gerwig, Kate Dollenmayer, and/or Tipper Newton around. Lack of chemistry aside, the film is sweet and well meaning. It is also one of the more beautifully photographed films of it’s genre- showing New York in it’s lovely dimly lit late night glory. The film does a nice job of establishing the relationship between it’s two main characters, though you’re grateful when they start to interact with others towards the midway mark of the picture (including a supporting role from “Hannah Takes the Stairs” writer/director Joe Swanberg as Charlie’s hat stealing best friend). “Quiet City” also doesn’t take the easy way out in it’s finale either (like “Sunrise”) which is admirable. This was my first introduction to writer/director Aaron Katz, who also made the acclaimed (but unseen by me) “Dance Party, USA”. I think he has a considerable amount of talent up his sleeves. I’d like to see what he could do with a better cast.

Download Soundtrack MP3s:
The Ice Cream Floats- Transatlantic
Keegan DeWitt- Haircut

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Friday, March 21, 2008

THE WENDELL BAKER STORY (2007)

THE WENDELL BAKER STORY
***

Rating
: PG-13
Length
: 95 minutes
Directors
: Andrew Wilson and Luke Wilson
Writer
: Luke Wilson
Starring
: Luke Wilson, Eva Mendes, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Eddie Griffin, Kris Kristofferson, Harry Dean Stanton, Seymour Cassel, Jacob Vargas, Buck Taylor, Robert Musgrave, Billy Joe Shaver, Azura Skye, Nicole Swahn

Somehow this film managed to elude me. I have no idea how. The directorial debut of two out of the three Wilson brothers (Andrew and Luke) - not to mention Luke’s first screenplay (brother Owen, of course, also has a supporting role). It also somehow managed to elude everyone else. Filmed way back in 2005, it opened in Denmark and then was shelved for two years before receiving a very limited theatrical opening in the States. Needles to say, it made very little at the box office (a little over $48 thousand) and limped out onto DVD in October of the same year also unnoticed. I stumbled across the movie a few weeks ago and was surprised to see not only that the Wilson brothers were behind it, but also that the cast included Will Ferrell, Eva Mendes, Eddie Griffin, and Kris Kristofferson! How did the marketing department mess this up? The movie, though, is deliberately low key. It was obviously shot on a low budget (or at least to appear to look like that way) to pay homage to the independent films of the late ‘70’s/early ‘80’s. It also pays a lot of love to the Wilson’s home state of Texas. The soundtrack is filled with a lot of ‘60’s and ‘70’s country rock. It is quirky and lovable in only a way the Wilson family could have made it. It also gives brother Luke a chance to show some acting flare for a change. Usually stuck as the straight man while brother Owen gets to shine (though Owen, as usual, does steal ever scene he is in), Luke actually gets to be the schemer for a change. He plays the title character, Wendell Baker, whom as the movie opens operates an illegal license distributing business for Mexican immigrants with his buddy Reyes (Jacob Vargas). He has a beautiful girlfriend, Doreen (Eva Mendes), who has stood by him since they were schoolmates. He doesn’t appreciate her like he should and puts all of his efforts into his fast talking money making schemes (at one point he even sets up a hilarious insurance fraud sequence with Reyes). After an unlucky event sends Wendell to prison, he loses Doreen to a shopkeeper named Dave (Will Ferrell- absolutely killer in an extended cameo). He is released and sent to a retirement home run by two con men, Neil (Owen) and McTeague (Eddie Griffin), who have a bit of shady business going on involving Neil’s beloved mother (Jo Harvey Allen) and prescription drugs. The rest of the movie revolves around Wendell changing his life around with the help of some of the retirement home members (including Wes Anderson favorite Seymour Cassel and indie icon Harry Dean Stanton) and trying to win back Doreen and his dignity. Not everything in the movie works- it tends to shift into cheese mode from time to time (particularly a subplot involving trying to get the old codgers laid and a tacked on happy ending), yet there is, like I wrote earlier, a lot of love put into the film. It reminded me at times of the Coen brothers classic, “Raising Arizona”, but with a dash of “My Name is Earl” added in (and, of course, a little Wes). It may not be for all tastes. It may be a little on the odd side for the average Ferrell and Wilson fans, however if you give it a chance you may find yourself a little gem.

Download Soundtrack MP3s:
Beck- Ramshackle
Johnny Cash- Wanted Man

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

88 MINUTES (2008)

88 MINUTES
*

Rating
: R
Length
: 108 minutes
Director
: Jon Avnet (Fried Green Tomatoes; The War)
Writer
: Gary Scott Thompson (The Fast and the Furious; Timecop 2)
Starring
: Al Pacino, Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski, Amy Brenneman, William Forsythe, Deborah Kara Unger, Benjamin McKenzie, Neal McDonough, Victoria Tennant

It’s no surprise that “88 Minutes” has sat on the shelf (at least in the U.S.) for two years before finally seeing a theatrical release this upcoming April. The surprise is that it’s receiving one at all. This is certainly not Al Pacino’s finest moment. He must have owed somebody a really big favor. There is no possible way he read the script to this movie and knew this was going to be good. No possible way. Then again, when the project was first greenlighted his good friend and genius director James Foley of “Glengarry Glen Ross” fame was attached- so that could explain something. Still, a good agent would have found him a way to back out once Foley did. This is a thriller that makes those silly crime thriller books you pick up at the airport gift shops look like masterpieces of literature- James Patterson like F. Scott Fitzgerald. It has such little credit for it’s audience that it supplies Pacino’s character with a sidekick (Alicia Witt) who literally explains everything as it’s happening just so we won’t miss anything. Even still, this backfires as all it does is point out how completely illogical and unconvincing all the plot twists are. Even the poorest episode of “CSI” would run circles around this. Pacino, who has basically been sleepwalking through his roles for the past ten years, plays an FBI psychiatrist named Dr. Jack Grimm. He teaches a course at a Seattle University and was recently responsible for helping to convict deranged serial killer Jon Forster (Neal McDonough). There is a good deal of controversy surrounding his participation in the trial as it is believed he holds a personal grudge against Forster since Grimm’s baby sister (Lea Nicole Carranza) was once the victim of a serial killer. On the eve of Forster’s execution, Grimm and some of his students go out drinking. Grimm goes home with a beautiful barfly (Leah Cairns). When he goes to work in the morning, he is stunned to find the FBI waiting in his office to inform him one of his students (Kristina Copeland) has been murdered- in the same style as Forster’s. On his way to class Grimm receives a phone call from an anonymous caller informing him he has “88 minutes” to live. “Tick tock doc”, the caller informs him in a “Scream” rip off voice (coincidentally it took 88 minutes for Grimm’s little sister to die). And so, Grimm begins a wild goose chase to try and figure out who is trying to kill him and why. He is pretty sure Forster is behind it, but who has he enlisted from behind bars? Grimm’s beautiful teacher’s aid (Witt) who has a psychotic ex-husband (Stephen Moyer) stalking her? A hot shot student (“The O.C.”’s Benjamin McKenzie) who believes Forster is innocent? The straight laced by the books student (Leelee Sobieski)? Grimm’s lesbian assistant (Amy Brenneman)? The University Dean (Deborah Kara Unger) whom Grimm had an affair with? The one night stand? The FBI agent (William Forsythe) who despises Grimm’s drinking and womanizing? The movie reminded me so much of one of those airport novels that I could practically hear the book on tape version being read to me as the action happened- describing the clichéd characters as they went through their hollowed, predicable motions. It will be no surprise to anybody when the conclusion rolls around after an excruciating 88 minutes of Pacino hamming it up and Witt following him around repeating every single thing that’s happening. This is the type of movie where every single character is introduced by their full name, profession, and main attribute. For example- when Pacino arrives at class and McKenzie’s character makes a smart ass remark- Pacino retorts with “Ah, Mike Stemp my favorite student”. The Dean arrives moments later to declare a bomb threat and Grimm introduces her as if none of the students know who she is- “Dean Carol Johnson!”. Characters who have supposedly known each other for years also tell each other information that couldn’t have possibly been kept secret for so long as events unravel. The movie plays it’s audience for suckers. Last year in an interview with CQ magazine director Francis Ford Coppola kind of attacked Pacino (along with Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro) for being lazy lately. He got a lot of heat for it- but watch this movie and try arguing against his statement. Do you think twenty years ago Al would have made a movie like this? It’s a shame to watch such great talent wasted in trite like this.

Download Soundtrack MP3s:
Bubba Sparxxx featuring the Ying Yang Twins- Ms. New Booty
Triple Seven- Been Around

Opens in US Theaters on April 18th

Website

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

THE MIST (2007)

THE MIST
(No Stars)

Rating
: R
Length
: 126 minutes
Director
: Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption; The Green Mile)
Writer
: Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption; The Green Mile)
Starring
: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Toby Jones, William Sadler, Andre Braugher, Frances Sternhagen, Alexa Davalos, Buck Taylor, Chris Owen, Nathan Gamble

I should start off by saying I give out “No Star” ratings less than I give out four star ratings. A movie has to really, really be awful (to me) to not merit at least a star- and so the latest Stephen King adaptation has achieved such a dubious honor. I should also say that most of the posters on the Internet Movie Database page for this film seem to really love it. One gentleman even went as far as to call it the “best horror film of the past two decades”. Huh? Did we watch the same movie? I lived with my cousin Josh during most of my high school years and he was an avid horror film buff. We watched a lot of bad (and good) horror movies over the years and I can honestly say that out of all the Z movie garbage we sat through none of them aggravated me as much as this film. Let’s face it- Stephen King was at one point a very talented writer- perhaps the greatest ever in his genre. He has written more than a few masterpieces, but over the past decade or so his writing has really taken a dive creatively. His Maine based “good ol’ boy” characters are all starting to blend together and he has taken to recycling a lot of his ideas. None more so represented then in “From a Buick 8” which was a basic watering down of everything he’s ever done. “The Mist” is the film version of his inadequacies. I understand what director Frank Darabont is going for here, I really do, it just doesn’t work. His attraction to King’s literature is understandable. His adaptation of “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” was absolutely wonderful and it received a Best Picture nomination. I thought “The Green Mile” was an interesting failure, though it too received a Best Picture nod (it should be noted that Darabont didn’t receive a Directing nod for either). The third time is far from the charm. Darabont’s jumbled mess half heartedly wants to pay homage to sci-fi b-movies and be a “statement” picture at the same time. If any of you readers are King fans: think of all the times you’ve read one of his novels and thought to yourself, “This book could have done without this character” (you know you have)- this movie is compromised solely of those characters. You know the ones I’m talking about. Think of the hundreds of pages that could have been trimmed from some of those thousand page plus epics. King is so mighty that no one will edit him properly. The reason “The Stand” and “It” worked so well as a TV mini-series was because they were forced to be edited both with characters and length. Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” is arguably the best King adaptation and it strays the farthest from it’s source material. “The Mist” indulges in King’s weaknesses- especially the characters. The everyman, but semi-flawed, hero (Thomas Jane); The stubborn feeble-minded redneck (William Sadler); The pretty girl (Laurie Holden) who was the town beauty, but has lost something as she grows older; The lonely, confused religious zealot (Marcia Gay Harden); The loser (Toby Jones) who drinks too much, but turns out to be a hero. I could go on and on. He even throws in the tough elderly person- this time an old school teacher (Frances Sternhagen)- who even accompanies the men when they go off to fight the monsters. The plot? A group of townspeople are trapped in a small Maine (where else?) grocery store by a fog that contains giant insect monsters from another dimension. But, wait… get this! The real “monsters" are the people inside! That’s right! You get to see how people start to act when death faces them and they get scared for their lives, blah, blah, blah. Really??? Did we really need to have this film made? How was this not destined to hit ABC for a three night mini-series stay? How did this get a theatrical release? After people start getting picked off by the bugs, the religious zealot- overplayed by Harden in the worst possible way- begins to predict what will happen next (who couldn’t?) and people begin to believe she is channeling God and that outside Revelations is happening. All of the King clichés really start pouring out then, leading up to a rushed, extremely clumsy and intentionally “shocking” finale that has sharply divided everyone that has seen the movie. I hated this movie. Absolutely hated it. It made me want to throw all of my Stephen King books in the trash. It made me want to write Frank Darabont hate mail for wasting two hours of my life. It was, to me, one of those movies. This would be a good time to bring up my note on the blog that states that this is “just my opinion”. You may indeed love this movie as most of the IMDB posters did- and even certainly some critics did as well. Robert Roten of Laramie Movie Scope called it one of the best horror films of all time. Maxim said it was a “masterpiece”. Movies are meant to get reactions from people and some get extremely positive reactions, others get extremely negative ones. After I posted a negative review for “I Know Who Killed Me” some anonymous person who would have lost in the first round of an elementary school spelling bee called me a “cry baby kid” who didn’t understand the movie. Even b-movie Lindsay Lohan trash can be loved. Though, to be fair, I’d watch “I Know Who Killed Me” a dozen more times before I’d watch “The Mist” again.

Download Soundtrack MP3s:
Dead Can Dance- The Host of Seraphim
Mark Isham- The Vicious Blues

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Monday, March 17, 2008

THE HILLS HAVE EYES II (2007)

THE HILLS HAVE EYES II

Rating: R
Length: 89 minutes
Director: Martin Weisz (Rohtenburg; 60 Seconds)
Writers: Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street; The Last House on the Left) and Jonathan Craven (The Outpost)
Starring: Jacob Vargas, Michael McMillian, Michael Bailey Smith, Jeff Kober, Tyrell Kemlo, Lee Thompson Young, Danielle Alosno, Eric Edelstein, Jessica Stroup

The remake of “The Hills Have Eyes” was a pretty brutal and terrible movie. A horror movie that replaced scary with repulsive. Watching a mutant rape and murder a helpless woman and kill a baby is not very frightening. Well, at least it wasn’t frightening in that film. Could it be? I don’t know. Does anybody really enjoy watching that to begin with- regardless of it’s purpose? The sequel to the remake (which is not a remake of the original sequel) is tamer. Funny to say considering there is still a good deal of mutant raping and brain crushing, but at least we are spared baby killing. Less repulsive? Yes. Any scarier? No. I wrote a review for Disney’s “The Game Plan” and attacked it for being made solely to cash in. The same can be said about “The Hills Have Eyes II”. Given the standard horror film rule- if it is even modestly successful it gets a sequel- it is more understandable. The original remake brought in over $40 million at the box office and a year later out pops a sequel. The “Saw” films, though no work of genius, manage to drop an entry once a year and seem to put at least a little bit of thought into it. This sequel, however, has rushed written all over it with very little thought involved. A group of National Guard soldiers go into the desert to try to find some missing scientists. The desert is, of course, the same setting of the original film, so when the party arrives the mutants are waiting. You can pretty much guess the rest. What is rather odd is the participation of original “Hills Have Eyes” creator and horror mastermind Wes Craven. Craven penned the script with his son Jonathan. I imagine the more likely scenario was Jonathan penned the script and dad put his name on it to have it sell. Wes has made some lousy films before (“Vampire in Brooklyn” comes to mind), but he at least puts some imagination into his work. The mutant rape and brain crushing is present, but, you know, minus the imagination.

Download Soundtrack MP3s:
Celldweller- Own Little World (Switchback Remix)
The Dillinger Escape Plan- Unretrofied

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

THE GAME PLAN (2007)

THE GAME PLAN
*
Rating: PG
Length: 110 minutes
Director: Andy Fickman (Reefer Madness- The Movie Musical; She’s the Man)
Writers: Nichole Millard and Kathryn Price
Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kyra Sedgwick, Morris Chestnut, Paige Turco, Madison Pettis, Gordon Clapp, Roselyn Sanchez, Hayes MacArthur, Christine Lakin, Lauren Storm, Jamal Duff, Marv Albert, Boomer Esiason, Jim Gray, Stuart Scott, Steve Levy, Eddie George, Jay Glazer

I should say before I get started here that I am well aware that I am not the target audience for this movie. This is a Disney movie about an arrogant superstar athlete (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) whose life is turned upside down when he finds out he has an eight year old daughter (Madison Pettis). The movie is intended for children and families. But does that mean they have to smile and take it? Part of me feels bad for giving this movie such a low review because it makes me comes across as a scrooge, but honestly just because a movie appears to have it’s heart in the right place doesn’t mean it should get a free pass. When you look past all the heart tugging and good morale preaching, you get what “The Game Plan” really is- a movie that Disney made to make money. Plain and simple. There is no other reason for this film to exist. There is not a shred of originality in this movie. It will no doubt put smiles on some faces and for those people that will do just fine, but they deserve better. The marketing people for Mickey & Co. seem to have calculated this one to a tee. There’s the football element to keep the dads and boys entertained, there’s the cute little girl for the girls, and there’s the storyline and a half-hearted romantic subplot for the moms- all in a mostly pure PG environment. The athlete learns to care about people other than himself. There’s the big game at the end of the movie that the little girl ends up being his main inspiration for. The greedy agent (Kyra Sedgwick- seriously Kyra why are you in this movie and how did you get stuck with the fart gag?) gets hers. The Rock gets the girl (Roselyn Sanchez). Everybody goes home happy and certainly there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is that just because the movie wants to have heart doesn’t mean it has one. There isn’t the sound of a heart beating beneath this movie, there’s just the sound of a cash register.

Download Soundtrack MP3s:
Wolfmother- Woman
Apollo 440- Heart Go Boom

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

LOL (2006)

LOL
**
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 81 minutes
Director: Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs; Kissing on the Mouth)
Writers: Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs; Kissing on the Mouth), Kevin Bewersdorf (Hannah Takes the Stairs), and C. Mason Wells
Starring: Joe Swanberg, Kevin Bewersdorf, Tipper Newton, Greta Gerwig, C. Mason Wells, Brigid Reagan, Kate Winterich, Laura Lippert, Andrew Bujalski

What a difference a year makes. After watching and giving a very favorable review to 2007’s excellent mumblecore comedy “Hannah Takes the Stairs”, I became interested in writer/director Joe Swanberg’s prior films. “LOL” was his second film following “Kissing on the Mouth” (which I am searching for). Coming out just one year before “Hannah”, “LOL” is dreary and unfocused. While the characters in “Hannah” seemed realistic and fully developed, the characters in “LOL” seem like, well, low budget indie movie characters. Some of the scenes show Swanberg’s future promise. There are a few relationship arguments that ring true (like the phone sex one), but overall the movie suffers from not giving us likable characters to care about and more importantly situations that we should care about. The majority of the film centers around three male characters and their obsession with their computers. Alex (played by co-writer and musician Kevin Bewersdorf) is a one man band who becomes infatuated with a webcam girl (Kate Winterich) that is clearly not into him. Tim (Swanberg) chooses to play on his computer over giving attention to his girlfriend (Brigid Reagan). At one point, he asks her to postpone sex for twenty minutes so he can finish up some “work” on his laptop. Chris (co-writer C. Mason Wells) is carrying on a dying long distance relationship with Greta (“Hannah”’s leading lady Greta Gerwig- seen far too little here). He requests nude photos and gets shots of her looking so miserable that he can’t get turned on by them. Swanberg shows he has better success with female characters (which is part of what made “Hannah” so wonderful) with the most interesting character in the movie here- a cute girl named Walter (Tipper Newton) who has an obvious crush on Alex that he ignores rather rudely. Newton is so engaging that I wish the entire movie would have been centered around her. Instead we get way too much screen time focusing on a video the guys are putting together that collects random people making random sounds. I could make a lame joke involving the title and not laughing out loud, but I’ll do us both a favor and just recommend “Hannah Takes the Stairs” again instead.

Download Soundtrack MP3s:
Kevin Bewersdorf (featuring Ethan HC)- Where Were You?
Kevin Bewersdorf (featuring Ethan HC)- Young American Bodies
Infinity Dollahs Crew (B Slick featuring 2Yung)- Jockhop

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Download the entire soundtrack for free (legally) here

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Friday, March 14, 2008

FUNNY GAMES (2008)

FUNNY GAMES
***½

Rating
: R
Length
: 107 minutes
Director
: Michael Haneke (Cache; The Piano Teacher)
Writer
: Michael Haneke (Cache; The Piano Teacher)
Starring
: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Siobhan Fallon, Robert LuPone, Devon Gearhart

You will either love this movie or you will despise it. “Funny Games” is a mind fuck of a thriller that toys with it’s audience the same way it’s antagonists toy with their victims. It seems like there’s been a slew of awful, superficial thrillers with low IQs lately (this gives me another chance to mention “I Know Who Killed Me”). “Funny Games” makes up for all of them. It’s the best of it’s kind since “American Psycho”. It is, so I’ve read, a shot by shot remake of director Michael Haneke’s 1997 Austrian picture of the same name. There’s some Lars von Trier in Haneke’s art and it makes sense that he’d want to translate his work for an American audience. Though given the reaction of the crowd that we saw it with Saturday evening- it will go over most people’s heads (not to sound snobby, but it was a bad crowd- particularly a group of clearly underage “Hot Topic” dorks who giggled during the whole movie). There is no satisfaction. There is no release. Certainly this is not the first horror film without a happy ending, but it’s one of the only ones I’ve seen that literally gives you one and then takes it right back (you’ll see what I mean if you see it). A middle class ordinary family heads to their vacation lake house. Father and husband George (Tim Roth), his wife Anne (Naomi Watts), their son Georgie (Devon Gearhart), and the family dog. They pass by their neighbors and notice a couple of preppy young men hanging around. Before too long the young men stop by to borrow some eggs. The eggs break and things go from bad to worse. Paul (Michael Pitt) and Peter (Brady Corbet), the two maniacs, never have their motives clearly defined. They are there solely to torture their victims mentally until, well, maybe they will kill them. They make a bet with the family on whether or not they will still be alive by 9am the following morning. The title comes into play as they use psychological torture for their own humor. Here is where you can decide on what Haneke is trying to say. Is he pulling a von Trier and criticizing America’s infatuation with violence? Paul turns Ferris Bueller during a few scenes and directly acts us what we the audience want. Do we want to see the family live? Do we want to see him and Peter punished? Is violence acceptable as long as it reciprocated? Alfred Hitchcock once famously said he likes to play his audience “like a piano”. I believe Haneke feels that other lesser filmmakers feel they have the same power- when in fact they play their audiences like a middle school kid trying to learn how to play guitar. Haneke, on the other hand, is Jerry Lee Lewis. He plays you like a piano and then lights it on fire.

Download Soundtrack MP3s: (Warning: These are loud)
John Zorn- Bonehead
John Zorn- Piledriver

Find Showtimes here

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

MEET THE SPARTANS (2008)

MEET THE SPARTANS

Rating: PG-13
Length: 84 minutes
Director: Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (Date Movie; Epic Movie)
Writers: Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (Scary Movie 1-3; Date Movie)
Starring: Carmen Electra, Kevin Sorbo, Diedrich Bader, Method Man, Sean Maguire, Ken Davitian, Nicole Parker, Crista Flanagan, Emily Wilson, Jim Piddock, Ike Barinholtz

Blame your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers- blame everybody. Why? Because this is the third movie that the spoof duo Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have dropped on us and the only reason they keep making them is because people keep watching them. I know what you’re thinking- "but Larry you watched it!" Yes, but I watched it for free and plus sometimes I feel like the king’s royal poison tester. Somebody has to take the awful medicine to help out his fellow man (I watched “I Know Who Killed Me” for you people too). “Meet the Spartans” opened at number one at the box office when it came out at the end of January (it has grossed over $38 million to date). Certainly most of the people that paid to see this movie had seen “Date Movie” and “Epic Movie”. Certainly they knew what to expect. But, no, they still went and saw it. If you are blessed enough to be unfamiliar with any of the aforementioned films- I’ll explain. Friedberg and Seltzer (both of whom got their start as two of the many co-writers of the first three “Scary Movie” films) take a popular genre and poke fun at it. No harm there if done correctly. But, like the recently reviewed “The Comebacks”, these spoofs are not done correctly. The bar set by “Airplane!”, “The Naked Gun”, “Silent Movie”, etc. towers way above these movies. Like “The Comebacks”, “Meet the Spartans” believes it’s audience is so stupid that they have to be reminded constantly of what is being spoofed (at one point the narrator points out that one of the characters is acting just like “Tobey Maguire in 'Spiderman 3'”). “Date Movie” skewered the romantic comedy genre (quite poorly) and “Epic Movie” took on the epics (also quite poorly). “Meet the Spartans” settles mostly on just spoofing the movie “300”. So if you haven’t seen “300” the odds of you laughing (which will all ready be slim) will be even slimmer. I was in the minority on “300” and found it pretty laughable to begin with, so to me “Spartans” had an easy set up (they squeeze out a couple of laughs on “300’”s obvious homoerotic overtones, but it’s quickly driven into the ground). It’s almost like they purposely worked hard to not make it funny. Three films into their series and Friedberg and Seltzer still think making fun of Paris Hilton saying “That’s Hot” is gold. They also think “American Idol” is still ripe for the picking. The newest addition? Chris Crocker- that annoying idiot who whined about Britney Spears and somehow became a celebrity. Don’t worry Spears herself, along with Lindsay Lohan, also get lame impersonations (by members of the cast of “MAD TV” no less). Thanks to the success of “Meet the Spartans” Friedberg and Seltzer are all ready hard at work on their next feature, “Raunchy Movie”. Radiohead said it best “You do it to yourself”.

Download Soundtrack MP3:
Justice- D.A.N.C.E. (MSTRKRFT Remix)
Aksent- Tha Bomb

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I KNOW WHO KILLED ME (2007)

I KNOW WHO KILLED ME

Rating: R
Length: 105 minutes
Director: Chris Siverston (The Best of Robbers; All Cheerleaders Die)
Writer: Jeff Hammond
Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Julia Ormond, Spencer Garrett, Brian Geraghty, Brian McNamara, Paula Marshall, Neal McDonough, Colleen Porch, Jessica Rose, Donovan Scott

I Know Who Killed Me” recently broke the record for most Razzie wins in a single year (winning seven of eight nominations). For those of you unfamiliar with the Razzies- they are the opposite of the Oscars- awarding the worst in the year of cinema. This is a bad movie, make no mistake about it, but I have to say that there were far worse movies in 2007 (Delta Farce? Epic Movie? Good Luck Chuck?). The Razzies are more guilty than the Oscars when it comes to flash and it’s definitely more than likely this movie got all of that attention because of Lindsay Lohan. Lohan, to be fair, probably did deserve the Worst Actress Award (technically she tied herself- she was nominated for both of the roles she plays in the movie). My girlfriend loves her, but I’ve never found her to be a capable actress- save for “Mean Girls” and “The Parent Trap” remake (she got a slide for “Prairie Home Companion” thanks to her supporting cast- they could have made Paris Hilton look good). Here she plays innocent high school senior Aubrey Fleming- an aspiring writer with a horny boyfriend (Brian Geraghty) and sweet, understanding parents (Julia Ormond, Neal McDonough). A local serial killer snatches her up one evening and when Aubrey is found- nearly dead and with a missing arm and leg- she claims she is not Aubrey Fleming, but a stripper named Dakota Moss. The detectives find the DNA doesn’t support her claim, so they blame Aubrey’s new personality on post traumatic stress, but Dakota insists she is not who they say she is. Meanwhile, the killer has found out that his victim has survived and is planning on finishing the job. There’s some twists and turns, but nothing that is going to catch any semi-intelligent viewer off guard. You do have to hand it to director Chris Siverston that he at least tries to mix things up a bit visually. This could have been a lot duller, but he chooses to add some flair to keep the eyes interested even if your brain is taking a hit mentally (particularly regarding the clumsy finale). Despite what the Razzies think, “I Know Who Killed Me” isn’t the worst movie ever, but it sure as hell isn’t a good one. Why do I have a sneaking suspicion that Lohan’s real future lies in starring in made for Lifetime Network movies?

Download Soundtrack MP3:
Out Hud- How Long
Vietnam- Step On Inside

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS (2007)

HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS
***½
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 83 minutes
Director: Joe Swanberg (LOL; Kissing on the Mouth)
Writers: Joe Swanberg (LOL; Kissing on the Mouth) and Greta Gerwig (Nights and Weekends)
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Andrew Bujalski, Kent Osborne, Mark Duplass, Ry Russo-Young, Kris Williams, Kevin Bewersdorf

There has been a lot of comparisons with the indie “mumblecore” movement and the French New Wave movement of the late ‘50’s/’60s. Ken Fox, TV Guide’s movie critic, praised mumble masterpiece “Mutual Appreciation” particularly as New Wave worthy. I, for one, agree. The realism- rooted in it’s mostly improvised dialogue and natural performances (mostly by indie rock musicians) - is something, I think, Godard and Rohmer would be proud of (I wonder if Eric Rohmer has in fact seen any of these pictures. I really do think he would love them). Watching Joe Swanberg’s (also a member of the band The Ice Cream Floats) latest addition to the mumble genre, I couldn’t help but get the same feeling I did from “Mutual” and it’s predecessor “Funny Ha Ha” (both are quite wonderful if you haven’t had an opportunity to see them yet). Andrew Bujalski, the writer/director/star of the aforementioned movies, even appears as one of Hannah’s boyfriends. I say “one of” because Hannah, the film’s heroine, seems to go through boyfriends like disposable water cooler cups. Hannah (wonderfully played by the film’s “co-writer” Greta Gerwig) is like most of the “mumblecore” female protagonists. She is in her mid-twenties and kind of going through life in an odd way- not necessarily sleepwalking, but she appears to be so anxious for something interesting to happen to her that she creates drama for herself. When the film begins she is dating a perfectly decent boyfriend named Mike (Mark Duplass of “The Puffy Chair”). She is unnecessarily bored with him and has developed a crush on one of her co-workers, Paul (Bujalski), a blogger who is on the verge of having a book published. After a party where Mike impresses her co-workers with his wit, she complains to her roommate that she wants to be the funny one, not him. She dumps Mike the next day and is upset that he takes it really well (“I thought I’d be really upset, but I’m actually okay with this”, he tells her). Hannah immediately moves on to Paul and creates some jealousy in the office with Paul’s best friend, Matt (Kent Osborne). Hannah notices and then starts to take interest in Matt- especially after her roommate expresses interest in him too. Gerwig is unabashed when it comes to expressing the self put upon short comings of her character. Although a lot of the dialogue is improvised, the situations she helped create as a co-writer are probably at least mildly autobiographical. Instead of presenting her character in a positive light, she almost makes Hannah the bad guy. After all, Mike and Paul make good boyfriends, yet she can’t remain complacent. She reminds me- and will remind you- of real people you know. That’s what makes this genre so original. The characters come across as actual people- they say and react in ways that normal people from this generation would say and react. Of course, like all “mumblecore” movies you’re either going to be fascinated or bored to death. The action in these movies are mostly through conversation (once again much like most of the New Wave movies). If, you are however, tired of the Hollywood clichés of Generation Y then “Hannah Takes the Stairs” is the perfect antidote. There’s a happy ending, but you can’t help but wonder if Matt is just the next set of stairs for Hannah to take before she moves on to another. Wherever she is climbing, she still has a long way to go.

Download Soundtrack MP3s:
The Ice Cream Floats- Sundae
Keegan DeWitt- Reckoning

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