Wednesday, November 30, 2011

1647 - Pirate Radio (The Boat That Rocked)

The trailer for this really intrigued me, besides being a who's who if British film actors it's also a pretty interesting topic - 1960's Britain had banned rock and roll from their radio stations and so people like this set up pirate radio as a legal way to broadcast the music of choice to the masses.  This is the story of those people and how an uptight politician tries to destroy them.
The film is enjoyable enough, it's got great cast and they all fit well together.  I suppose my biggest critique is that I'm not sure the motivations of anyone.  I never get a real sense of why this music was seen as so harmful or why this politician has such a bee in his bonnet about it.  Why doing this was so important to either side... I wanted to care - all of the filmic ingredients were there, but I just didn't know why I should and so, ultimately, I didn't...
This was a good film that could have been a great one if they added a bit more heart and grounded us in something a little firmer.  Great soundtrack.  It's hard to know if to recommend this at all - my suggestion is to check out the trailer and if it grabs you, chances are you'll dig the film as well.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

1646 - Woody Allen: A Documentary (PBS American Masters)

Anyone that knows me creatively knows that Woody Allen is my largest inspiration.  I've seen absolutely everything he's been involved in and I've read a lot of stuff on him, so there was a lot in here that I was already aware of - however the way that Robert B. Weide captures him and his work here is probably one of the best tributes that you can give the man.  It doesn't pull punches, it doesn't try to hide who he is at all, how he feels about it all.  I can't imagine anyone watching this wouldn't be at least somewhat infatuated with Woody.  The film captures not only every project he's ever worked on (I wasn't keeping a count but I'd be surprised if there were any missing), but it also captures so much about his personality, how he works, what's interesting to him about stories - why he keeps going the way he does.  The entire thing is completely inspirational and charming at the same time.  I'd like to think that the success of Midnight in Paris will get more people to watch this as well as look back at some of his earlier work.  A lot of people say it in here, but Woody Allen is without a peer when it comes to filmmaking.  Is he the best filmmaker ever?  That's far too subjective to answer - but very few, if any, have the body of work he does, and have it with such wonderful things.  Woody doesn't always make a great film, but he always goes for it - and hits more than he misses.  I think it's safe to say that I'd have a hard time working (respecting) with anyone who writes him off completely.  A living legend.  If you're not a fan, but would love to know where to look to become one let me know and I'll try to point you in the right direction! :)

1645 - The Muppet Movie

This is easily one of my favorite films is all time - I can (and will) rewatch the original three Muppet films with ease.  Partially because I saw the new one last week I wanted to revisit this one, but also we're starting to allow our two and a half year old to watch stuff and because we've got Muppet dolls (and an original poster from this film in his room) he's been asking more and more about the characters and so I decided to let him watch this over the course of a few sittings.  Nothing makes you fall in love with this film all over again than watching it through the eyes of a child experiencing it for the first time.  The scene near the beginning where Kermit is rolling towards a asphalt roller was terrifying for him, and then when he heard Kermit talk about hopping out of the way he laughed his ass off.  Likewise the sequence at the end where Animal becomes huge and saves the day had him reacting in absolute amazement and delight.  These films literally engage multiple generations and they replay so damn well.  Ephraim loved the music, loved the characters.  I'll probably throw the other two at him at some point in the near future as well, and maybe even the Muppet Show since we have it on DVD (the ones they've released anyway - hopefully this new film will cause them to get their butts in gear on the last two seasons).  If you've never seen this film then there's absolutely no excuse - get on it.  And if you don't like the Muppets then... well... I'm just kind of sad for you...

1644 - The Walking Dead: season 2 part 1

Since the series is on hiatus until February I figured I'd chime in with my thoughts so far.  Full disclosure - I'm a big fan of the comic series that this is based on, and so that often effects my thoughts on this.  I'm not big on some of the casting of this series.  I think that Rick, in particular, was miscast.  The actor is starting to win me over a bit now, but it's really a very different character from the one in the comic (not that there's anything wrong with that).  And in a lot of ways I think that this is Robert Kirkman's chance to go back and shift things for the narrative - in particular he keeps a few characters around that didn't last so long in the book, and vice versa.
The pacing of this season has been pretty damn slow, and I know it's frustrated most reviewers of the show as well.  For me it's mostly frustrating because I know how much damn good stuff there is in the comic that they can go to when they want.  Although I suppose there is a question of budget... There is a particularly strong arc at one point involving a character called The Governor, which could probably last two or three seasons in and of itself.  And based on how this series is at this point I think they might even be willing to "go there".
I won't go into detail as other reviews have - but I will say that if the beginning of this season frustrated you and you abandoned the show because of it, do yourself a favour and at least watch the mid-season finale (episode seven).  It is a pretty great episode all the way through (and the opening will catch you up) but it's also got a final scene that very well may be one of the best scenes in television history.  It's really a solid solid piece from all angles - writing, directing, performance, and it damn sure makes you excited to see what they'll do when they come back in February.
It's not a great show, but it could be...

Friday, November 25, 2011

1643 - The Muppets

It's time to start the music...
I'm a big Muppets-nerd.  I grew up with them, loved the toys, the shows, the films, the dolls, you name it - I loved it.  One of the main characters, Walter, is very similar to that.  He grew up identifying with the Muppets (he happened to be one).  So on top of that it appears that this is set to be one of the best reviewed films of the year - currently at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes (with over a hundred reviews in!)  So with all that, combined with all of the hype, publicity, and press that's been going on the bar has been set pretty damn high for our fuzzy friends.  So, did the film reach it?...

I think so.  I have to be honest, it took me a little while to warm up to the beginning.  I started to worry that this would be a Jason Segal film co-starring the Muppets (not that I dislike Segal - I like him a lot), but what I wanted was the reverse, and eventually it became that, and that's when the film really started to work for me (although the opening dance number worked pretty damn hard at winning me over).  What's really quite interesting about this film is that it's really geared towards the adult Muppet fans.  Sure, they're clearly trying to introduce the Muppets to a new generation, but it really feels like the film is made for us (how awesome is that?).  After being subjugated to a series of pretty terrible made-for-TV films they have finally been given the proper love and treatment.  The film is about how no one cares about the Muppets anymore, and how cynicism has taken over, and that's where the heart lies.  There is a series of really funny moments, and a few that aim high and miss (I might be in the minority, but Chris Cooper was... not great... he tried his best but it just wasn't a good fit to me...). 
The biggest issue that the film faces, and the thing that keeps it from being a perfect Muppet film to me, is just that it's really really hard to service all of those characters that have accumulated over the years.  If you look at the original Muppets film it's just filled to the brim with these tender moments that really identify and make you pull for the characters.  Rolph's "I Hope that Something Better Comes Along" and Gonzo's "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday" are not only two of the best Muppet songs ever, but they work so well emotionally for the story and the characters.  We don't really get anything like that in this film, and that's what I feel is missing.  It feels like we round up all the characters and have a bit of fun with them - kind of like a 'best of' album, but it's hard to say that any of the characters really get a 'great moment' here.  So as a re-introduction to the Muppets I think it's pretty damn great and works well - but for their next outing (please please please let them make more quality projects) I really want it to focus on these guys, their hopes, dreams, flaws.  Sure, get the celebrity cameos in there (there are some brilliant ones in this film), but I want the Muppets front and center the whole time.
Okay.  So I think I did a good job of not giving anything away.  I realize that my review might not seem the most positive, but know that I really loved this, I smiled the whole time, laughed a lot, and got emotional at a few moments.  It's not perfect, but it's pretty goddamn great.  If you're going to give someone your money at the theare in the near future, give it to a Muppet!

A Lion Among Men: Volume Three in the Wicked Years

I'm a big nerd when it comes to taking known stories and playing with them.  I loved both the musical Wicked as well as the book that it was based on.  The way the story worked within the confines of the original was clever and intelligent.  Based on his other books this seemed to be Maguire's thing to do these twisted fairy tales.  I think I read somewhere that he never originally intended to create an Oz series himself, but that Wicked was the only book he thought he'd write.  Now there's a forth (which I plan to read soon), but it doesn't come as a shock that he never planned for this series...
Here's the thing... I don't think Maguire is as good of a writer as he is an idea's man.  He's got some really clever and smart stuff going on, but with the exception of a few portions of this book I found myself really just wanting him to get to the point.  The man goes on a lot of tangents, and some of then interesting, but some of them just feel like page filler.  The only really gripping parts of this book are when he's dealing with characters that have come before - the Lion's story itself, while good and heartbreaking in spots, just feels a bit 'meh' as a whole.  I think the character and how he's built him is interesting but the way it's told just has such little energy. 
If you loved the first two books in the series (I only liked the second) then you're probably going to (or already have) read this.  If you're not sure, I suggest starting with Wicked and going from there.  This is by no means essential reading, but you might like it anyway.  Not exactly a high recommend, but a moderate one.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

1642 - Undeclared: complete series

I missed both this and Freaks and Geeks during it's original run.  It's a shame that neither of these were given a fair shake, although who knows how their success would have shaped the futures of their respective casts.  Perhaps if Freaks had of gone several seasons we never would have gotten this series.  Let's not think about that.
As far as network college comedies go this is probably one of the better (if not best) I've seen.  These actually feel like people that are in college, what they deal with, how they talk to one another.  How it's slightly awkward.  Really enjoyed that about it.  Not a bad character in the bunch, and I loved how they managed to get pretty much the entire cast of Freaks in somehow (where the hell was Franco?!). 
The cast is great, I'm a fan of all of them, and it's nice to see them all doing pretty damn well for themselves.  If you missed this great show during it's (too short) run you can find it on DVD now.  Seventeen episodes, and the box set is loaded with commentaries and other goodies.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

1641 - Take Me Home Tonight

First off, I'm a big fan of Michael Dowse and I'll check out anything he's involved in.  It kills me that they shelved this film for four years because they were scared of all the cocaine use.  Especially considering that that was probably all in the script.  I suppose the reason is that it's because it's a comedy…  weird.  So.  I think this film might not have done super well at the box office which is a shame because it's a pretty damn good film.  It's feels like an eighties teen comedy - not a parody and that's the big difference, it never feels like they're trying to send anything up here.  This just feels like one of those films that I grew up loving, although updated for modern audiences.
It's about a group of twenty-somethings who don't know what the next step of their life is going to be, and so they stumble through figuring it out over the course of a single evening at the end of summer.  A lovely little coming of age film with a lot of laughs and a decent amount of heart.  I love Topher Grace as an actor and there is this really great sequence involving himself, Teresa Palmer, and a trampoline that is a really wonderful and great moment.  All comedies with romance plots should have a scene as good as that one.
This is an easy recommend, it's funny, it's full of characters you root for, there's absolutely no reason not to give this film a try - especially if you're a child of the 80's!

Monday, November 21, 2011

1640 - Nurse.Fighter.Boy

Another product of the Canadian Film Centre.  It describes itself as "an urban love story about the soul of a mother, the heart of a fighter, and the faith of a child".  It's a lovely description and it's a lovely little film as well. 
This is the kind of film that will appeal to the art crowd a little more than the mainstream.  It's subdued and retrained.  It takes it's time, it doesn't waste scenes with endless dialogue.  There's a very specific feel and look to this film.  If I'm honest, from time to time it meandered just a tad too much for my liking, but my interest was never lost due to my intrigue and care in the characters.  It's gorgeous to look at with great performances and a pretty great soundtrack.  This is up on Netflix for those of interest.  Give it a shot!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

1639 - Cube

I'm preparing a film proposal package for the CFC Feature program, and so I thought in the days leading up to it I might as well watch (and in some cases re-watch) some of the films that they've already produced.  For those that are unaware it's a program that helps low-budget films to be made.  You can check out all about it by clicking on this link.
Cube is probably the film that they are most well known for, and it even spawned two sequels.  The film is about a small group of people whom all wake up inside of a massive structure of linked rooms.  They don't know why they are there, and all they've got to help them escape is a series of numbers on each of the adjoining doors.  Luckily they've got a math genius or two amongst them!!!
This film has a pretty decent cult following and I'm a tad ashamed to admit that this is the first time I'd seen it. (it's on netflix!) 
The way the film was shot was pretty damn clever, and even though you can completely understand how the film was made on a low-budget it never feels cheaply made at all and has a number of special effects that are pretty damn impressive. 
I've heard that I should avoid the sequels and so I probably will - but this original is easy recommended to anyone who enjoys a mystery that's on the light side of horror. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

1638 - AutoErotic

Saw this randomly on netflix and thought I'd give it a shot.  It wasn't until a few minutes in that one of the director's names started to nag at me, then I realized that Joe Swanberg also directed Nights and Weekends which is another indie comedy that I found on netflix.  I can't imagine these films are costing (or making) all that much, but good on Swanberg for pumping them out.  His imdb page shows that he's made roughly ten films in the last two years.  Just a ridiculous output, especially considering that his films are pretty darn entertaining.  I don't think they'd appeal to all, but they definitely speak to an audience.  I'd love to chat with the guy about his process and just how he gets it all done.  Very fascinated by this guy.
So this film is more like a series of vignettes that tells four stories all based around the sex lives of four couples.  A man whose penis is too small, a girl who is turned on by everything, a pregnant woman who has lost the ability to orgasm, and a man whose now-engaged ex wants him to delete the porn videos they made together.  The first of the stories is the most over-the-top and the rest have a far more grip on reality.  Regardless of how you feel about the film itself you have to give kudos to the cast for just being absolutely fearless when it comes to the material.  Good on them.
In terms of pure cinema it's by no means a dynamic film.  To say that it's poorly shot would be missing the point, perhaps, but I think that the visuals in this film are probably the least of the filmmakers concern.  They serve their purpose.
I quite enjoyed this and I'm pretty sure that I'd give anything Swanberg made at least a chance based on the two films of his that I've seen.  Looking forward to checking out the rest of his work as it becomes available (I can only assume) on netflix.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Earth (the Book)

This came out sometime last year and I meant to snag it then, but as luck would have it they were giving away free copies of it at the comedy awards, so I grabbed one there!  On a laugh-per-page count this book ranks pretty damn high in being one of the funniest things I've ever read.  Written as a guide to our planet for alien visitors to find after we destroy our race, it's a pretty nasty look at ourselves as a race and tackles pretty much every subject associated with us.  I was tempted to throw some of the better comments in my review here, but they often rely so heavily with the photos associated with them.  If you're a fan of Jon Stewart and his people this is absolutely a must-own, or if you just like to take a cynical look at our species it's hard to go wrong with this.  A perfect coffee table book and a great gift.  I would pay for this had I not gotten it for free!!! 

Monday, November 07, 2011

1637 - Cop Out

This is kind of a bizarre film.  On one hand I really think it's Smith's homage to 80's flicks.  When I think about it this reminds me of cop comedies from when I was growing up.  But the problem is that it's going to be judged based on the standards of films today and by comparison, it falls flat.  I have no doubt that this was a hilarious script, but the execution is off, and sometimes awkward.  There are quite a few lines that feel really really written and it doesn't help when the line falls flat.  I don't know if it's that the film wasn't cast properly, but it just felt odd in a lot of ways.  Alas.
There's a number of fun moments here, but it's all clouded by some pretty lame plotting and a weak central story about a cop who wants to pay for his daughter's wedding - mostly out of pride - her rich stepdad could pay for it.  But no, it makes more sense for the character to risk his life than let the wedding be paid for.  The worst part is that, by the end, I'm not even sure that the issue of pride is even solved for the character.
Smith says that after Red State that he's only got one thing left, the currently in production Hit Something before he hangs up his directing mantel.  Smith is always the first to knock himself down, and I hate to be a dick, but this script feels a lot like it's just a really decent pay check for all involved.  Hopefully Smith got points on since this is his biggest to date. 
If you're in the mood for a "modern 80's" flick this could very well be for you.  It's not terrible by any means, but it's a hard one to recommend.   Red State just became available on Netflix, so I'm sure I'll be checking that out rather soon.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

1636 - Moneyball

So first off, I'm not a sports guy.  I don't hate sports, but outside of the odd football and baseball game when I was younger, I don't think I've ever really sat through an entire game.  It's just not my thing.  I enjoy playing sports.  I like watching them live.  Something about the sport on television however does absolutely nothing for me.  So there's that.
That being said, this was a really enjoying and, hell, riveting film.  Pitt is enjoyable, and I'm by no means the first to say this, but he really feels like a Robert Redford here.  He's wonderfully charming here, as is Jonah Hill.  In a lesser film he would just be the lovable sidekick, but he really brings his own here.  I hate to say it but I really don't know what Phillip Seymour Hoffman is going here.  Feels like a bit of a waste of a good actor - I assume it's cause he and Miller really liked working together on Capote.  Nothing wrong with that.  It's not really an actor's film though, mostly just in that there's no real show piece scenes.  It's just a really compelling story, which is enough in and of itself.  It's no surprise to see Sorkin's name on this, he's a man who really enjoys the behind the scenes of anything, and here it's the background of baseball and trying to figure out a winning formula. 
This is the kind of film that's really worth checking out, but once finished you don't really feel like you'll need to revisit.  It's more about the outcome, this one.  It's actually a great matinee film, I think.  Not to downplay it at all.  One lovely little surprise was the musical number featuring Kerris Dorsey - I even bought it off of iTunes. 
I'm late to this film so I'm sure that everyone who was going to see it has, but I think it's going to be something we see pop it's head back up around award times.  If you're even remotely interested in baseball, or like to see the inner workings of things you might want to check this out.

Friday, November 04, 2011

1636 - Louie: season two

This could very well be my favorite show right now.  Louie is a show that is absolutely unlike any other.  There are moments of it that are a tad frustrating, and one could even argue indulgent, but I'll allow those moments because, at it's core, this is a show about how fucked up we all are, but how we can't help but keep trying.  For those who haven't been exposed to it's brilliance, Louie CK plays a version of himself the stand-up comic.  And no, it's not some bad imitation of Seinfeld.  The beauty of Louie is that it doesn't really have any kind of standard format or cast, outside of Louie CK himself.  We see regular people come and go, but this is a show about a man trying to figure out how he fits into a world that he loves and is frustrated by at every turn. 
It's a treat because each little sequence is us watching Louie try and make sense of his world, or play with the ideas inside of it.  From visiting a racist elderly relative, to getting concert tickets for his daughter from an enemy, to professing his love for someone who has absolutely no interest in him, it's a show that is fearless and honest and uncomfortable and real.  Few artist get to a place of freedom like Louis has with this series, and of those that do, I'm not sure any are as successful as getting their point across as he is.
If you start watching one new series, make it this one.  It's phenomenal.