Wednesday, August 31, 2011

1608 - I Love You Phillip Morris

This is one of those films that got announced during the casting process and then, for the most part, disappeared.  I'd followed it behind the scenes and I remember that it was having a hard time finding a distributor.  I guess even with Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor it's hard to sell a gay romantic comedy.  Carrey and McGregor play two convicts whom fall in love, and when separated from their prison cell, Carrey's character goes to extreme lengths to try and be with his beloved, Phillip Morris, which always lands him in trouble.
I liked this film, but I was primed to love it.  I realize that it's based on a true story, but at the same time I thought it could have been a little funnier, more biting, or something.  For an already short film I'd be lying if I didn't say that it dragged just a tad in the middle and takes a little too long to get going off the top.  As much as I love Leslie Mann I think that you could have completely cut out the storyline of his old family and career as a cop without missing a single thing (outside of a tinge of irony). 
It's on netflix now, so check it out if you're interested in it.  In a coincidental turn of events I'm having somewhat of a Glenn Ficarra & John Requa double-bill as Emily and I plan to see their Crazy Stupid Love later in the week (had no idea that they were the ones whom made this).  So in terms of a recommendation, take a look at the subject matter and go from there.  It's not an amazing film, but it's entertaining enough for it's hour and a half running time.
I Love You Phillip Morris  I Love You Phillip Morris(book)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Crafty TV Writing: Thinking Inside the Box

I work in television as an editor, and I've done my fair share of writing, some even professionally (there's a rumor that my first feature will start airing on Superchannel this Sunday, Sept 4th!).  But lately I've been watching A LOT of television.  First, it's shorter and easier to fit in at night.  Second, there is some absolutely phenomenal storytelling going on in television right now, and in Canada, it's your best bet at making money as a writer in the entertainment industry - which I'm slowly attempting to do.  I picked this book up years ago and have leafed through it, but I decided to give it a big read.  It's a shame that it's five years old now as television has changed a lot since then - more venues for shows are creeping up with web series, etc... although what's nice about Alex Epstein is that he's got a fantastic blog (which you can get to be looking at my "blogs I follow" section to the left of this) that covers a lot of the on-going thing - it kind of acts in lieu of a revision to this (and it's free to boot!).
It's very tempting to write out a bunch of the lessons and ideas that Epstein teaches in this book, however I really really want you to buy your own copy.  If you want to write television I can't think of a better book for someone starting out - or simply as a refresher to any veterans.  Hell, if I was a showrunner I'd probably buy a copy for each of my staff.  It's that good.  Makes me want to reread his Crafty Screenwriting.
So this is short, but sweet, but I recommend it as highly as I possibly can.  Hopefully one day I'll get to know Mr. Epstein as a colleague - stranger things have happened.
Crafty TV Writing: Thinking Inside the Box 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

1607 - Cyrus

I got around to this film a lot later than I wanted to, but better that than never, right?  I bought this DVD at a blockbuster closing sale, but I think it's on netflix as well.  Cyrus is the story of a lovable lug, John C. Reilly, who finally meets the right woman, but she's living with a needy grow-up-son, and (as expected) the two clash.
What I like in particular about how the Duplass clan approaches story telling is that it's plot by character growth.  This could have very very easily been a big broad comedy with these two men one-upping one another in outrageous ways, but I think the harder choice was to really ground this in reality and make us really feel for these characters and all of their struggles.  There is a particularly lovely device that's used where a speech/reflection from a previous or soon to come scene plays at voice-over during a scene that cleverly punctuates it.  Hill could just be a big goof, but he's human and flawed and comes to terms with that.  Most men would wonder - why put up with that shit?  But the set-u for Reilly character is perfect, and honestly, who wouldn't want to be with this smart, sexy, and fun Marissa Tomei?!  She and Reilly have a lovely chemistry together and it makes the story work because of it (not that there are story problems, far from it). 
This is by no means laugh-out-loud, but there's some great chuckles, but more importantly it's about dealing with change when you're not ready to and don't know how.  It's a lovely, lovely film and I recommend it for anyone who likes good character romance and drama. 
Cyrus  Cyrus [Blu-ray]

1606 - Dark Rising 2: Summer Strikes Back

I was invited to last night's premiere of this by one of the film's leads, Landy Cannon, at one of my favorite single-screen theatres in the city, The Royal.  First of all I have to say how impressed I was by the scale of this film - given that the first was clearly made on a limited budget it would appear that their fan base made it possible for this one to step it up a notch.  Now, to be honest, some of the effects still seemed very effecty, however there was a lot going on on the screen and handled pretty damn well if you ask me.  I'm not sure what happened during the course of the Dark Rising television series, but when we first meet Landy's character here he's no longer a sissy-ass-man, which I have to say I missed a tad - although that mantle is taking up quite well by scene-stealer Nug Nahrgang who had me laughing out loud a lot more than I expected.  This sequel steps it up a notch in knowing exactly what it wants to be - it has a far more consistent tone and it serves it well.  Little things like knowing that Summer *always* has to be as scantily clad as possible, and how they always manage to make that happen is a fun running visual gag.
If you're a fan of this series, this film is not going to disappoint.  For more casual filmgoers you'll love or hate this based on your ability to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Friday, August 26, 2011

1605 - Dark Rising

Full disclosure, I know some of the people involved in this film, and the only real reason I checked it out (on Netflix!) is because I've been invited to the premiere tomorrow.  Now this type of film isn't normally my cup of tea, but I quite enjoyed it once it got rolling along.  I think the biggest issue that the film has is it's lack of consistent tone.  There's a fair amount of camp to it, but I personally think that it would have been a far stronger film if it really embraced the camp and took it a tad further.  Landy Cannon and Brigitte Kingsley are enjoyable and downright hilarious when they're really owning their characters, and on opposite ends of the spectrum, with Brigitte is taking things far too serious, and Landy when he's being a tad glib, or bringing up real-world problems amidst the chaos. 
The set-up you just have to go with as there are some red flags with it - but if you suspend your disbelief you'll be just fine.  This is clearly not everyone's cur of tea - but if you like your sci-fi with a bit of a wink then this might just be up your alley.  
Dark Rising

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Muppets: The Green Album

First off, as you've probably noticed I don't tend to do a lot of music reviews.  I love music, but I'm just not a big music geek - I wish I were - I often find myself having to get my more music-hip friends make CDs for me just so that I can stay even remotely current with what's good.  However, when I heard about this CD a while back, and then had a chance to preview it last week, I just couldn't let the actual release go by without talking about it.
Full disclosure:  I fucking love the Muppets.  And it's the kind of love where if someone says that they don't like the Muppets, I just have to question if I have anything in common with them, if I could even remotely be friends with them.  On our first date where we stayed in my now wife suggested that we watch The Muppet Movie.  It wasn't hard to know that she was 'the one' :) 
So it goes without saying that growing up with these songs that they have a special place in my childhood - and there's an old rule where you don't mess with a nerds childhood.  That shit just ain't done.  But when it's done properly, it's delightful.  And that's what this album is - pure delight.  I don't buy and listen to enough new music to make any kind of accurate ruling, but for me - this is the album of the year.  A lot of it has to do with the source material and how strong it is - these songs have been covered over the years, and some, like Cake's version of Mahna Mahna are probably better, but this collection is inspired.  Allow me to geek out on some of the songs:

Muppet Show Theme: OK Go does this version - and to really appreciate it you need to see the music video - easily found on YouTube.  It's trippy, and it's a really nice way to lead you into this album.

Rainbow Connection:  One of my favorite songs.  It's a really lovely inspirational song, and Weezer actually grasps onto that and makes it go even further with the accompaniment of Hayley Williams.  This could be a wedding song.  Screw that - this should be someone's wedding song.

Movin' Right Along: Alkaline Trio gives this song the extra energy and it's awesome.

Our World:  Honestly, I'm not as familiar with this song as I am the others, but this version by My Morning Jacket is really really lovely. 

Wishing Song:  In a weird way this could become the new 'Adam's Song'.  Listen to it and you'll know what I mean...

I Hope That Something Better Comes Along:  This is easily one of my favorite (amongst a bunch of awesome songs).  Matt Nathanson's vocals really make this into a ballad for men who really don't want to settle for the wrong bitch (you'll appreciate that wonderful pun if you're familiar with the song).  And on top of this really great cover, I almost forgot just how clever the writing on this is.  It's really really awesome.

I'm Going to Go Back There Someday: So this is probably my favorite Muppets song ever.  Gonzo breaks my heart in The Muppet Movie when he sings it.  I absolutely hated the redo of the song for Muppets From Space, but this version from Rachel Yamagata is just spot on.  I think what I love so much about this song is how poignant it is, and it represents exactly what I love about the Muppets.  That they're goofy, but they have a heart, and they're smart, and they aren't trying to be anything amazing - they just are amazing.  I love this song.

So that's a pretty glowing review - and I would have been the first to trash this if it sucked.  I think my only regret is that there's no cover of Can You Picture That - there is no shortage of awesome bands that could have done a number with that.  If I thought about it enough I'm sure I'd think of others.  And if any of you are curious, there are over 800 Muppet songs that have been performed over their various television and film outings.  Click here to see the full list.

So that's all I've got.  Pick it up or buy it on iTunes.  If you're a Muppets fan it's a must have, and if you're not a Muppets fan... I feel badly for you.  What happened in your childhood to make you this way?!
Muppets: The Green Album  Muppets: The Green Album

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

1604 - The Dilemma

First off, is it weird to say that this just seemed like a bizarre choice for Ron Howard?  Granted the advertisements don't so much advertise the film they made as it advertises the kind of film you normally expect to see Vaughn and James in - so fair enough for the marketing team - I'm sure you hooked the right people in - but it's a fair assumption that they isolated their audience at the same time.
All that aside, I quite enjoyed this film about a friend who, in the middle of a big business deal with a stress-out partner, debates whether or not he tells said partner that his wife is cheating on him when he randomly discovers it.  I think what this film handled particularly well was the problems with the Do I/Don't I?  I bought the issues that he was facing and the prons and cons of both - it was a solid conflict.  The bigger issue with this film is that I don't think it finds a good middle ground in terms of the comedy and drama - it didn't have a tone that really kept it moving.  That and just other little things felt a tad forced - Vaughn as the recovering gambler just felt tacked on for plot purposes.  I think they needed to set this up and make me believe that this guy had a problem.
This is by no means the film of the year, but it's a decent enough one.  If you like these people involved and films about relationships then it'll probably be up your alley.
The Dilemma  The Dilemma

Friday, August 19, 2011

1603 - Cowboys & Aliens

After a week filled with working on side-projects at night I decided to treat myself to a big-old film.  Like most I thought this title was pretty damn ridiculous, but at the same time I was mighty intrigued - especially as they started assembly the cast - pretty high standard stuff going on here in regards to that.  We need to be reminded that Jon Faveau is the man who wrong and starred in Swingers, one of my all-time favorites, and is now behind a series of this big fun summer films. Not to set the context, I'm going to poach part of Roger Ebert's review:
Here is a movie set in 1873 with cowboys, aliens, Apaches, horses, spaceships, a murdering stagecoach robber, a preacher, bug-eyed monsters, a bartender named Doc, a tyrannical rancher who lives outside a town named Absolution, his worthless son, two sexy women, bandits, a magic bracelet, an ancient Indian cure for amnesia, a symbolic hummingbird, a brave kid with a spyglass, and a plucky dog who follows the good guys for miles and miles through the barren waste and must be plumb tuckered out. This is not a satire. Nor is it a comedy.
Believe it or not but this film is played completely straight - and it's all the better for it.  It's a real story (well...) with real stakes.  The aliens have come and, in spectacular fashion, take away the kin of these here cowboys, and so it's up to this unlikely group to go and get them back.  This is what going to the movies is all about, and it's the kind of film that I can't wait to be able to start taking my son to.  It's big and it's fun - it's smart with how it organically fuses the western and sci-fi genres.  Is it perfect?  No.  If you really want to you can start picking holes into it - but come on - it's called Cowboys & Aliens - are you really looking for the reality-sandwich-of-the-year with this one?  Even though it's a big summer film I'm not sure that this is one that you absolutely have to see in the cinema - but if you're curious you shouldn't hold off.  I quite enjoyed this.
I liked this film a lot, I liked that each character had an investment in the film and that these talent actors had stuff to do, they were just standing around looking good in front of special effects.  I think this film is getting less-than-stellar reviews because it's not as hooky as people would expect - but to me, that's what makes it exceptional. 

Monday, August 15, 2011


This was a delightful little one-off from Grant Morrison about three animals who have been taken and turned into super-soldiers.  Sounds hooky - it is a little - but it's also fun.  If anything I think that making this series so short lived was a bit short-sighted.  I think that there was a hell of a lot more story that they could have gotten out of these characters and this world.  The whole thing went by in a bit of a blur and I, for one, wanted to live in it a lot longer.  Shame. 
That being said, it's a ridiculously quick read, and a nice little allegory for our times. 
We3 Deluxe Edition

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Promethea - Vol 5

And so it ends.  This final book of the series is easily it's best (no difficult task, sadly).  I really liked how this book jumped ahead and dealt with the inevitable, and what that all meant.  Don't get me wrong, I dig a lot of the ideas that Moore has going on in these books, I just find it a bit disappointing that he has to make it so overtly "THIS IS MY PHILOSOPHY ON ALL THIS SHIT" without being able to blend it into the story.  It just feels a bit pat (and I'm being very kind by saying 'a bit'.) 
So that's about it - I'm not going to go into heavy detail - there are some people who are just going to love the hell out of this book.  I am not one of those people, sadly.  If you are a fan of Moore and have no issue with overly-long-pseudo-intellectual ramblings - this will be right up your alley.
Promethea (Book 5)

1602 - The Whistleblower

Full Disclosure: I know some of the behind the scenes people on this film.  As such it wouldn't be surprising for me to go soft on a review for it - but I won't, and here's my honest answer - I really really liked this film, and I honestly wasn't sure if I was going to.  First off, while I've always liked Rachel Weisz, I've always preferred her in 'lighter' roles.  She's one of those actors who have certain 'ticks' and when pushed they play similar notes and it always feels like a performance to me.  That happens just a tad early on in this film, but then suddenly it's gone.  There's a shift and I can't quite put my place on where, but suddenly Weisz goes into full on mode and performs her once-in-a-lifetime role.  She really is quite fantastic here.
This is a difficult film with difficult subject matter.  It had a slightly rough start for me, but as soon as it started working, it never stopped all the way through the end.  This is the kind of film that makes you feel sick to your stomach, but in a good way.  It reminds you to be careful in this world about who you can trust - I'm not saying that it's a nihilistic film - it's just a very honest one.
So if you're up for an intense thriller that's a well made Canadian film to boot, you'll find a treat in this.  And support it while it's in the theatres - let's show the world that we do have a film industry in Canada, damnit!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Promethea - Vol 4

So this volume, for it's majority, carried on the same tangent that it went on in the previous volume.  I have to say, perhaps Moore didn't know at the time that he was only going to do 32 issues of this book (5 trades), but he spent nearly 40% of his over-all story on a sideplot with his main character walking through the afterlife, pretentiously musing on life, art, magic, etc... all very 'voice-of-the-author' kind of stuff.  Any time we got a quick flash of Stacia as the temporary Promethea I was delighted - a storyline!  Huzzah!  I honestly think I might have preferred if the court case that ends this volume would have had a different outcome.
Now, that being said, the second half of this book, once all the afterlife rubbish was over, was back up to my usual Moore standards.  And where they've left off I'm actually kind of excited for the next, and final, volume.  We might just get ourselves a full story arc here ladies and gentleman!  I plan on getting through it tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Promethea - Vol 3

I wish I could say that I was enjoying this series.  I love the premise, and I love a lot about it, but goddamn if Moore doesn't take his sweet time with this.  The majority of it just makes it seem like the whole thing is just his excuse to talk about his personal feelings on magic and religion and the world while just at a snail's pace telling a story.  There are only two left in the series, and they are quick enough reads, so I'll finish this off in the hopes that he uses the last two books to tell some form of a story.  Here's hoping.  If you're a die-hard Moore fan you might dig this - I can't really give it any kind of a recommend though - I'm struggling with it.
Promethea vol. 3

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

1601 - Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

So this came in the mail from - I honestly can't remember when I added it to the list - but here it is!  I've seen some Freddy films but I'm actually not sure if I'd seen the original or not.  Alas.
So there was some interesting stuff here - I liked that we followed the blonde bombshell girl long enough to assume that she was going to be our hero through-out - they definitely kept us guessing in that regard.  I liked that there was a mystery element to it - why did he do this and who is he (although it kind of kills any motive for a sequel - which I'm sure won't stop them).  My biggest issue with this film is that there doesn't appear to be any need for logic in or around the dream stuff.  And I mean common sense.  Like, if you're in a situation where falling asleep is VERY BAD, and you've been fighting it, are you REALLY going to take a hot bath?  Come on!  That and just the continual fucking with the audience in the question of "Is it a dream or not?  Is it a dream within a dream, etc..." to the point where you realize that there are no rules - they're just doing whatever the hell they want. 
So it's not a great film - it's stylish - if you're a massive Freddy fan you've probably already seen it.  If they made a follow-up I'm dead curious as to the premise.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 

Promethea - Vol 2

Okay, so this is the second volume of the series and as such I think I'm going to get pretty specific with my thoughts, so fair warning - SPOILERS AHEAD.

Alan Moore is kind of considered the master of the comic medium, but I'm just not sure that I buy that.  I like him, I like the work he's done, but I don't think he's setting the world on fire.  I think that what he is is a great ideas man.  He really comes at things sideways and finds ways to relate stories to ourselves - and in that, yes, he's masterful - but I find that he often forgoes story just to go on these long tangents about magic and the world, religion, politics.  And not to be an ass, but to be a master of this medium I would think that you'd need to merge the two in a stronger way.  It could be that, like a lot of artists, Moore is at a point in his career where he writes his own ticket - he does whatever he wants and no one is going to tell him that he's wrong (I don't think) and so in that bubble, the work suffers to some extent.  This is just my humble opinion, and I could be completely wrong.

So the second volume - there was some fun stuff here, but it just felt like they got through the big conflict of everyone coming after Sophie far too quickly.  And while I like that what makes Sophie's Promethea unique is the way she approaches problems, I also felt like the idea of her being able to resurrect other Prometheas to help her in battle was a little bit of a last minute cheat.  Also stylistically this was a weird volume - the vast majority of one issue use photos in place of the drawings, and it felt really cheesy and cheap - like the covers of bad smut novels.  There are only three more books in the series, and they're all sitting on my desk, so I will finish the series up for sure, but right now it's not grabbing me by the throat as I would have liked.  Maybe it'll pick up for me.
Promethea (Book 2)

Saturday, August 06, 2011

1600 - Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I'm a fan of this series - I own the original boxset on VHS.  Damn straight!  This film serves, I suppose, as a reboot to the franchise.  Seeing how the original series went out of order (mostly out of necessity) this one is smart to start at the very beginning and tell a kind of origin story.
First off, for all those Ape geeks, this film pays wonderful homage to the original series, and in a lot of nice little touches - quick things that you may not even notice, like a young Caesar playing with a toy of the statue of liberty.  It has all the key moments that the film should have, even down to the famous, "Damn Dirty Ape" line.  But what this film also does is that it REALLY makes you give a shit about the apes.  Even though you know that their course of actions is going to destroy humanity, you're still cheering for them.  The CGI is pretty great, and I can't remember a single moment where I was pulled out of the film.  Andy Serkis is a marvel here and like many people are stating, I think he should definitely be recognized for his acting by the academy.    Tom Felton, on the other hand, really needs to stop playing manipulative mustache twirling villains.  Show some range!  He's laughable here and it hurts the film a tad.
This is a film without a lot of dialogue and it's a film full of wonderful imagery that's smart and advances the storyline.  My favorite is of a tree-lined suburban street, all is normal until you see leaves falling, not unlike a swarm of bees coming at you, until you realize - right - the apes must be moving right above us.  Brilliant.
I can only imagine, given the quality and talent from this, that they will continue on with this series reboot.  As they should.  I'd LOVE to know what happens next.  It's smart, fun, and full of energy inducing action flick.  If you like the original series at all, or have been reading the rave reviews and are curious, do yourself a favor and give into your curiosity.  It's worth it.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Promethea - Vol 1

I've had this sitting on my shelf for a few weeks now so I finally picked it up.  Alan Moore is doing this interesting thing where he's essentially writing the entire line of all comic series for America's Best Comics.  Insane.
I wasn't sure I was going to be into this at first.  It seems like every comic label these days has a story about the power of imagination, but being that Alan Moore is a master of the art form it's always interesting to see his take on it - and it's good.  And it really feels like there's a lot more story to come and we're only getting started (I have four more in my current stack). 
The story follows a young girl as she comes across the legendary Promethea, a powerful being that has taken form from humans over time and now it's time to take over a young college student.  The most interesting thing to me is when it touches on the idea of destroying the world as we know it, and weather or not that's a good thing.
If you like Moore and you like sci-fi, this would probably be a good read for you.
Promethea (Book 1)

Thursday, August 04, 2011

1599 - The Ex

I really don't know what made me watch this, besides the fact that it was on netflix and I felt like having something on in the background.  What's even more quizzical is that I have absolutely no idea how this attracted the talent that it did.  It even brought Charles Grodin out of retirement (and he certainly isn't looking his best unfortunately). 
It's the story of a man whom moves his family back to his wife's hometown only to find himself competing against a former flame.  The biggest problem with this film is that it features a rivalry over a woman who has her own opinions and can not be won.  Secondly it just really feels kind of 'meh'.  There is a fun 'couples therapy' sequence in the middle of the film, but other than that not really any great solid laughs.  I liked Braff, Peet, and Bateman as always, it's just a shame that they didn't have stronger material to play off of.  This is by no means a terrible film, it's just not something I can passionately recommend.  Good rainy day watching.
The Ex (Unrated Widescreen Edition) 

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

1598 - Repo Men

I wanted to check this out because I liked the premise and there are some actors that I know in it.  The story is that of a society in which people can buy machine organs to replace their failed ones - but the system is rigged - it's near impossible to keep up with the payments and so the organs keep getting repossessed and then added to a new person in need, continually adding profit to the company.  Interesting, timely, premise.  Execution... not so interesting.  Make no mistake this is a violent film.  As it goes along it just starts to feel a bit like the filmmakers were just looking for an excuse to make a real gore-fest.
You've got a charismatic group of actors, but they can't begin to fix the problems that are just inherent from the get-go.  And it's got a third act that comes off as pure fantasy - there' s reason for that, and I can't imagine it won't piss the majority of viewers off.
To be clear, I didn't hate this film, but I can't imagine recommending it to anyone - Outside of, perhaps, checking it out to see how much of Toronto you can recognize in it.
Repo Men  Repo Men (Unrated) [Blu-ray]