Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fired Up

Nick & Shawn got into football to impress chicks. When their coach announces that their football camp has been moved from the beach to land locked Texas they panic about spending two weeks without girls, and decide to jump ship and join the cheer squad so they can go to cheer camp and be surrounded by hundreds of men deprived women. Although their cheer squad questions Sawn & Nick’s motives they let the boys join because they are in desperate need of something to keep them from ending cheer camp in last place for another year.

Fired Up is a silly movie, but I laughed from beginning to end. The premise of girl starved high school males may have been done in dozens of movies before, but Fired Up manages to make this concept fun again. The majority of this rests on the characters of Nick & Shawn played by Eric Christian Olsen & Nicholas D’Agosto.

Olsen & D’Agosto have a natural chemistry together that makes for amazing comic timing. Watching Nick & Shawn is made fun because of this. They are two halves of one whole but they complement each other so well that you don’t want them to be torn apart. Nick should not be without Shawn’s watchful eye and Shawn can never be too intellectual because of Shawn’s quick quips and sexist observations. I truly hope Olsen & D’Agosto work together again; you can’t force chemistry and these two are the best pairing I have seen in years.

Perhaps what is most surprising about Fired Up is the intelligence behind it. These are well written characters even though they are stereotypes; the football coach is a beautiful exaggeration, a cheerleader is a closet lesbian, the jocks are brick headed – everything is what you expect but so well crafted that the characters flow naturally in their world and don’t do anything that seems expected in a negative way. Screenwriter Freedom Jones even manages to work in a character arch for both Shawn and Nick and keep the film quippy and funny. Perhaps my favorite sequence in the film has to do with when Nick & Shawn are cooking dinner and realizing that Nick knows the names of and cares for the girls on the cheer squad.

Fired Up may be a movie in the vein of American Pie but I somehow the tone coming out of the film is far more joyful than that franchise left me. This is one DVD that is going to be added to my collection as soon as I can.

Director: Will Gluck
Writer: Freedom Jones
Shawn: Nicholas D’Agosto
Nick: Eric Christian Olsen
Carly: Sarah Roemer
Diora: Molly Sims
Dr. Rick: David Walton
Poppy: Juliette Goglia
Coach Byrnes: Philip Baker Hall
Coach Keith: John Michael Higgins

Nick: Bottomless breadsticks only keep you at the Olive Garden for so long, until at some point you look up and say 'Why the hell am I at the Olive Garden with all these fat people?'

The Box

The Box
Originally uploaded by wbmoviesgirl
Norma, Arthur and their son Walter are a happy family but like most people are strapped for cash and having trouble making ends meet. Just when Arthur discovers NASA has rejected him from the astronaut program Arlington Steward shows up on their doorstep with a box and a proposition. The box contains a button, and if Norma and Arthur push the button they will get one million dollars, but somewhere in the world, someone they don’t know will die. Desprate and unbelieving, Norma presses the button and she and Arthur are sucked into a mystery that neither one of them can understand or find their way out of.

Not surprisingly, The Box is a movie that most people won’t like. This is a morality tale and if anyone wants to be honest that means it’s a movie that can’t have the easily accomplished, cop-out ending. As a true morality tale The Box makes sure it has a lesson to impart and does so in the best way it can: just like Icarus got caught up in the moment and plummeting into tragedy, Arthur & Norma help cause the tragedy that unfolds around them and they have no one to blame but themselves.

Part of what I loved about The Box is that it’s a true Richard Kelly film – it’s a morality tale with a B-movie, science fiction slant. By setting the film around NASA in the seventies Kelly is allowed the room to play with a world that is still wary of technology, space and the mysterious “other”. Arlington Steward is a mystery instead of a search on the internet – genuine gumshoe work is required. This lends an aura of mystery to the film that is hard to accomplish in a film set in a contemporary period. Even though this mystery involves the supernatural it is one that could be easily resolved now adays as it revolves around one central figure, one who could be easily tracked on the internet or in any computerized database. I assume Kelley added this element to the short story himself as he said the concept for Norma & Arthur in the film were based around his parents.

Richard Kelly films thrill me in a way that I have talked too much about to those that know me. He makes movies that can still surprise me, movies that have visuals I want to emulate, and stories that astound me. I am sad that the mass audiences no longer have the film vocabulary to view and enjoy as Richard Kelly film, but I have to hope that the more movies he makes and the longer they pick up followings on DVD that the easier it will be for a mass audience to see and enjoy his films in the theatre.

Director & Writer: Richard Kelly
Norma: Cameron Diaz
Arthur: James Marsden
Arlington Steward: Frank Langella
Dana: Gillian Jacobs
Walter: Sam Oz Stone

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Star Trek

I have been waiting anxiously for Star Trek to come out on DVD for months now, it’s no secret that I adore this film.

What struck me about the film this time around is the camera movement Abrams put into his shots. They’re slightly unique for the camera work one would normally see in this kind of film and I honestly think that it’s a technique I might try out some day. Abrams uses a lot of dolly work for his shots and will start or end with a canted angle. In the planet bound scenes it adds a nice visual character to the shot, but when done on the Enterprise and when they are in space it aids to the visual idea that they are in space, a place without a right side up or gravity to pin the ship down.

I will also be interested to see if Abrams does direct the sequel if he keeps the camera flares or drops them from his visual style. While the camera flares grew on me when I first watched the film, I can’t see any story centric reason for them to be there, they seem to merely be there because Abrams thought they were a nice visual touch. I may have come out of Mission: Impossible 3 feeling like the film was good but looked a bit television like, but I did not get that feeling at all from the visuals in Star Trek.

Be prepared for many, many viewings of this film now that I have it on DVD and don’t have to pay $10 a pop to see it.

Kirk: Showing them compassion. It may be the only way to earn peace with Romulus. It's logic, Spock, I thought you'd like that.
Spock: No, not really. Not this time.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Men Who Stare at Goats

Bob Wilton is a small time journalist whose wife has just left him. Distraught he goes to Iraq at the start of the Gulf War hoping to get permission to cover the war; however, what he finds is much better – Lyn Cassady, who claims to be a former member of the Army’s psychic spy unit and on a mission to find his former commanding officer Bill Django. Together Lyn & Bob journey across the Iraq desert and encounter civilians, terrorists and independent contractors as Bob slowly draws from Lyn what the unit he belonged to was like.

What drew me to The Men Who Stare at Goats was the quirky concept and the cast. The cast delivers, the concept stops just short of doing so.

This film is helmed by remarkable actors: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges & Kevin Spacey. These are leading men that will be looked back at one day as the standout, true movie stars of our generation. They are as talented as they are charismatic and having them all on screen together is an amazing thing. None of these actors can do any wrong on their own, so put them all together and you have acting gold.

The downside to The Men Who Stare at Goats was that it’s a genuinely quirky film, which I am normally fine with but I couldn’t help but feel that director Grant Heslov was trying to emulate the style of something like Burn After Reading and he missed. This genuinely felt like a Coen brother’s film that was lacking the spirit and presence of the Coen brothers. As I watched The Men Who Stare at Goats and I wondered what the film would have been like if they were helming it, something I am sure was aided not just by the quirky concept but the fact that the film is starring one of their leading men – George Clooney.

What genuinely kept me laughing the entire film was all of the references to the psychic spies as Jedi warriors. This is funny on a geek level alone, but it’s made absolutely hysterical by the fact that Ewan McGregor played Obi Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels – I am 100% sure this was brought up many times on set.

The Men Who Stare at Goats is an entertaining movie. It’s only issue is that for those of us out there that have a bit of a broader understanding of the genre we know what the film could be instead of what it is. It’s definitely worth watching, it’s just not necessarily a movie you will want to watch over and over again. If you’re really looking for a quirky spy film I would recommend Burn After Reading, you’ll even get George Clooney in that one and Brad Pitt in perhaps his most memorable role ever.

Director: Grant Heslov
Writer: Peter Straughan
Lyn Cassady: George Clooney
Bob Wilton: Ewan McGregor
Bill Django: Jeff Bridges
Larry Hooper: Kevin Spacey
Brigader General Hopgood: Stephen Lang
Todd Nixon: Robert Patrick
Gus Lacey: Stephen Root

Bob Wilton: So what do you use to remote view?
Lyn Cassady: I drink. And I find classic rock helps.
Bob Wilton: Any music in particular?
Lyn Cassady: Boston. Boston usually works.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Timmy Robinson is growing up in a world where zombies are a part of society. A company called ZomCom took control after the zombie wars and found a way to control the zombies and any zombie that wears a ZomCom collar has their appetite for human flesh controlled enough that they can become a part of society as grunt labor. Mrs. Robinson longs for a zombie servant and Timmy longs for a friend, so when she defies her husband and buys a zombie she and Timmy slowly begin to bond with Fido while her husband stays in denial about the zombie infected world around him. Timmy soon begins a friendship with the zombie, whom he names Fido and one day Fido accidently kills a neighbor and Timmy realizes he has to cover up the murder before his mother and the head of ZomCom security can find out and take Fido away.

Fido is one of the most quirky films I’ve seen in a very long time. This is a world where zombies are totally real, corporate America has evolved to incorporate them, cities are protected by fences from the “wild” where they roam, and the average citizen saves all of their life for a funeral which will prevent them from being a zombie after they die because you get a head casket so your head is kept separate from your body. Combine all of these items with a 1950’s aesthetic and you have the world of Fido.

Carrie Anne Moss plays Timmy’s mother in this film and outside of The Matrix and Memento I can’t recall anything else I’ve seen her in. However, Moss is perfect as Timmy’s repressed mother. Like Timmy all she wants is for the neighbors to accept them and Mr. Robinson to pay attention to her and Timmy. The man is so oblivious to his family that he doesn’t even realize Helen is pregnant again, and Moss plays the repressed and overlooked side of Helen beautifully, clearly coming off as the mother who wants more for her son than she has.

This is the only film I’ve ever seen by Andrew Currie, but Fido is so unique that I think I will gladly check out his future projects.

Director: Andrew Currie
Writers: Robert Chomiak, Andrew Currie & Dennis Heaton
Helen Robinson: Carrie-Anne Moss
Fido: Billy Connolly
Bill Robinson: Dylan Baker
Timmy Robinson: K’Sun Ray
Mr. Theopolis: Tim Blake Nelson

Bill Robinson: I'd say I'm a pretty darn good father. My father tried to eat me, I don't remember trying to eat Timmy.
Helen Robinson: Bill, just because your father tried to eat you, does that mean we all have to be unhappy... forever?

Supernatural: Season 4

Dean is in hell – until he wakes up in a pine box six feet under. He manages to climb his way out to find a leveled war zone, a hand shaped burn on his shoulder, and Sam & Bobby who both don’t know how Dean broke out of hell and got back into his meat suit. However, soon it’s revealed that Dean and Sam have been pulled into the biggest battle of their lives; Dean has been pulled out of hell by Castiel an angel because Lilith is breaking the sixty-six seals and once the sixty-six seals break Lucifer will rise.

Supernatural has always been a show that does the unexpected, but season four of Supernatural is the season that threw away all of the rules and did things that we never expected any show to go to; the Winchester brothers fight, Sam allies with a demon, angels and demons pursue the boys, and there are more twists an turns than any season before. The crazy thing about all of this is that Kripke and crew not only manage to put all of these twists into season four, but they are all completely logical and so well written that you can trace how they started slowly and subtly in the seasons prior.

The best addition to season four is most definitely Misha Collins as Castiel. Castiel is the angel that raised Dean from hell and he watches over the Winchester brothers as he attempts to guide Dean into the plan his superiors have for Dean and slowly uncovers more about humanity then he has in his thousand of other years on the planet. Castiel is deadpan, innocent, tough and cocky all at the same time; he is a hard-boiled, noir detective ripped right out of a pulp novel, only he’s commissioned by God instead of a dame. Misha Collins was the perfect addition to the show and earned his place as a cast member in season five.

More than anything season four is the season where Winchester brother turns against Winchester brother. Sam secretly works with Ruby to develop his supernatural powers to take down Lilith and Dean tries everything in his power to keep protecting Sam and avoiding any plans the heavenly powers have for him, that he doesn’t see the wedge forming between he and Sam. It’s a great arch and one that no one ever expected. We’ve watched the Winchester brothers argue and fight for four years, but not until the end of season four do we actually see what can happen when the brothers try to work separately. Suffice it to say, it’s not good.

Season four ends with the biggest cliffhanger I’ve ever seen on television, one that is currently playing out this season, one that I never thought any writers would be brave enough to do. While I don’t want Supernatural to end any time soon, I can’t wait to see where the show goes.

Creator: Eric Kripke
Dean Winchester: Jensen Ackles
Sam Winchester: Jared Padalecki
Bobby: Jim Beaver
Ruby: Genevieve Cortese
Castiel: Misha Collins

Dean: I mean, I've saved some people, okay? I figured that made up for the stealing and ditching chicks But why do I deserve to get saved? I'm just a regular guy.
Sam: Apparently, you're a regular guy that's important to the man upstairs.
Dean: Well, that creeps me out. I mean, I don't like getting singled out at birthday parties... much less by... God.
Sam: Okay, well, too bad, Dean. Because I think he wants you to strap on your party hat.

Monday, November 9, 2009

After Hours

Paul Hackett is a data processor who goes out for an innocent coffee one night, meets a interesting girl…and his night goes downhill from there. After meeting Marcy Paul agrees to go on a date later that evening and soon discovers that everything that can happen to him late night in New York will happen, from his money flying out his cabs window to being chased down by an angry mob who thinks he’s a thief. After leaving Marcy all Paul wants to do is go home but he can do anything but.

After Hours is by far the least Scorsese-like film I’ve ever seen by Martin Scorsese. It’s not about thugs, men with too much testosterone, or family. In fact the only defining characteristic about this film that makes it a Scorsese film is that it takes place in New York…and that’s Scorsese directed the film.

This film is a bit scattered, but in a delightful way. It’s almost like Scorsese tried making a David Lynch film. There is a twisted sense of humor about the piece, and watching how far Paul Hackett can stumble into the underbelly of New York before coming up again is pretty fascinating. Everyone you meet in the film is a unique eccentric character that you’ve never seen on film before; in the exact opposite kind of crazy that Travis Bickle is the characters in After Hours are aboard the crazy train, but have eccentric traits that make them artists, club hoppers, bartenders, and individuals obsessed with eras – characters you would expect to see in a vast metropolis but not all at once.

I think my favorite part of the film has to be when Paul meets Gail. Gail owns a Mr. Softee ice cream truck and decides to give Paul a ride home in if after she whacks him with her cab door and her cabby steals his newfound money. However, Gail comes to believe that Paul is a serial burgler that is robbing her neighborhood and becomes part of a mob that wants to hunt him down. It’s a delightful mixtures of warped sadism and humor.

Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Joseph Minion
Paul Hackett: Griffin Dunne
Marcy: Rosanna Arquette
Kiki: Linda Fiorentino
Gail: Catherine O’Hara

Street Pickup: Why don't you just go home?
Paul Hackett: Pal, I've been asking myself that all night.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Only You

I showed Only You to a fried who shares my love of Robert Downey Jr. This movie makes us both want to move to Italy. The romantic, artistic brush that Only You is painted in is wonderfully fun and spirited, and this movie really could have been done forty years ago with Doris Day and Rock Hudson.

Faith: Why couldn't we just have arranged marriages in America?
Kate: Yeah, at least you could spend the rest of your life blaming your parents instead of yourself.


[This review contains spoilers, but tryst me it doesn’t “spoil” the film.]

Jake Gray is a college student dying to get out of his small town. However, he’s been plagued with disturbing visions that only get worse when his friend Conrad signs him up for a game called The Pathway which makes he and his friends start to do bizarre tasks in order to keep playing. Jake backs out of the game but Dakota and Conrad do not; when his friends are killed Jake begins to wonder if The Pathway has anything to do with it.

Devour is one of the strangest horror films I’ve seen in a long time – I watched the film start to finish and I’m not sure I can tell you what it was about. The description I wrote above is basically what’s on the DVD label from Netflix…and it’s not super accurate to the film, but I literally can’t figure out what else to write about the movie.

Somehow Devour is about Jake Gray, his two messed up friends and how he manages to stay sane while they have led screwed up lives for years; Jake meets a girl, Jakes parents are overbearing for a not apparent reason, people around Jake keep dying and somewhere in all this is a few scenes with The Pathyway, college party massacres, Jakes horrific visions, and Jake begins to track down and old occult group and thinks he saw the devil… It’s strange. When it came time for the third act twist I literally cannot figure out how we got there – suddenly Jake is finding out he was kidnapped at birth by his parents because they were crazy-religious and his mother was a Satan worshiper, a group of occultists are trying to track Jake down and somehow the devil is looking for him…it really makes NO sense.

Perhaps the thing that disturbed me the most about Devour is the character of Marisol. Marisol is a nurse that is taking care of Jake’s invalid mother, and they begin flirting when he fixes her computer. They then begin dating which excites his mother and makes Dakota jealous…and then in the final few minutes of the film you find out that Marisol is the devil and she’s Jakes mother. After the “HUH?” faded it was replaced with a “EWWW!” sensation. Jake has been dating the devil/his mother…this is downright Oedipal and done badly on top of that.

Then of course there is the final cliché reveal – is this all in Jake’s head or was it all real? By the time that question rolled around I didn’t care…

Once you see that Jensen Ackles is in this film you won’t be surprised as to why I decided to Netflix it. That man has been in far too few movies and I thought I’d give it a whirl. He’s not bad in it, it’s just the movie that’s bad. Actors and crew do a film like Devour for one of two typical reasons: 1) The original script has a lot more promise than what made it on film and they have no control over where the film goes after they sign on, or 2) they are very early in their career and just need the work. I think for Ackles and the other young actors in this film one of these reasons probably rings true.

Director: David Winkler
Writers: Adam & Seth Gross
Jake Gray: Jensen Ackles
Marisol: Shannyn SSossamon
Dakota: Dominique Swain
Ivan Reisz: William Sadler
Conrad: Teach Grant

Ivan Reisz: Imagine if Hitler had the internet.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Supernatural: Season 3

Supernatural saison 3
Originally uploaded by waytoblueFR
Sam & Dean finally killed the Yellow Eyed demon, but not before the Hell Gate was opened, his demons were released, and Dean had to sell his soul to bring Sam back from the dead. Now Dean and Sam have a year to figure out how to keep Dean from going to hell, a new demon leader named Lilith is hunting Sam and a demon named Ruby is trying to help Sam & Dean fight back but the brothers don’t know if they can trust her. However, as time moves on Dean’s year is running out and the Winchester brothers can’t find a way to stop Dean’s contract from coming due…

Season three of Supernatural is the season that was affected by the WGA strike making it sixteen episodes instead of the standard twenty-two. The problem with this is that six episodes in a season of Supernatural is an entire subplot or arch and I really want to know where Eric Kripke and crew would have gone if they had been able to accomplish their entire season; watching Lilith’s mystique grow, Ruby twist and Dean struggle with an impending death sentence was intriguing as hell and while Kripke managed to get all of the major points and events across six more episodes would have allowed a lot more freedom in exploring all of this drama.

The single most interesting thing about season three is of course the fact that Dean is a man with a death sentence. When he watched Sam die something in him snapped and he went to the crossroads demon and made a deal, thinking he would be granted ten years before his contract was up and giving him and Sam ample time to figure out a way out of it. However, the crossroads demon was much smarter than that and only granted Dean a year before the hell hounds would come to drag him to hell. The next year of Dean’s life is spent with Dean deciding to live it up with girls and good times until reality hits him and he finally goes to Sam & Bobby to try to find a way out of his deal. Jensen Ackles showed a lot of range to bring these extreme emotions about as Dean goes from extreme highs to lows during season three and it’s fascinating to watch. If I wasn’t already sold on the character of Dean Winchester this season would have done it for me.

This is also the season where we spend sixteen episodes thinking that Sam’s powers are gone, and his destiny with Yellow Eyes (Azazel) is no more…but brilliantly this season just lulls us into a sense of complacency. Ruby won’t stop brining up Sam’s destiny and special skills and the new demon population is more than happy to continually hunt Sam down because they are afraid of him.

Even though Sam & Dean have no idea what lies ahead of them the viewer does and watching season three is fascinating as the brother’s don’t realize how everything they do this season lays the groundwork to the coming apocalypse…

Creator: Eric Kripke
Dean: Jensen Ackles
Sam: Jared Padalecki
Bobby: Jim Beaver
Ruby: Katie Cassidy

Sam: I'm not gonna let you go to hell, Dean!
Dean: Yes, you are! Yes, you are! I'm sorry! I mean this is all my fault. I know that. But what you're doing is not gonna save me. It's only gonna kill you.
Sam: Then what am I supposed to do?
Dean: Keep fighting.