Saturday, September 25, 2010

Smooth Joey Apollo's NFL Picks: Week 3

New NFL picks are up at Aaron Cameron's blog. Take a taste:

Buffalo at New England

Aaron: columnist Bill Simmons has been co-hosting Pardon the Interruption all week. A few days ago, he tried to articulate why Boston fans might be turning on Tom Brady. Paraphrasing Simmons' point(s): Boston is a working-class, salt-of-the-earth kind of town where haircuts cost $5 and the people grow up, but never leave. Who wants to tell Boston that Brady has never been ANY of these things? He was born and raised in affluence out here in California and attended college in Michigan. Maybe Boston's own Bill Simmons can tell them. From his home in California. Pick: New England

Joe: Well, shit I was going to go for the Beantown Turns on Brady talking point this week! Seriously, though, read Simmons's column for a comment for his pal G-Bug or J-Woww or whoever, which basically comes a millimeter short of calling Brady a fag. The guy who won their loser franchise 3 Super Bowls, mind you. Who would ever want to live in that hell-town? Pick: New England

Click on over to That Bootleg Guy for the rest...

The Week in TV

30 Rock (9/23)
Best use of Jenna in a looong time. I love when they play on her sociopathic tendencies like this, especially when she plays off of Pete. I can't say the same for the Tracy/Kenneth subplot, but Liz and Jack were both winners. I like how Liz, while still loser-ish in love, was more of an active participant in her romantic stuntedness. And I do love that Matt Damon. And extended Barefoot Contessa jokes.

Community (9/23)
My huge anticipation for this show's return kind of made me forget that I was pretty dissatisfied with the last couple episodes of last season. But this was a strong premiere, with the Jeff/Britta/Annie stuff getting handled head-on but with sufficient comedy, and the least horny-grandma use of Betty White all year. On the other hand, can somebody please just give Ken Jeong his own show that I can ignore and get him off of this one?

Cougar Town (9/22)
I'm happy to see more and more people coming around to what I see in this show. The season premiere wasn't the best CT had to offer (every now and then, you can see the show, and Courteney Cox in particular, trying too hard), but the Dan/Laurie storyline was a total winner, Christa Miller continues her run as Most Improved, and the unexpected emotional payoffs are coming more frequently. Also "imaginary opera gloves" was the funniest moment on TV this week.

Glee (9/21)
Yes, last year I said that Glee would suffer a spectacular fall, and while I can't say with any confidence that that's not true (the early backlashers might actually elicit a sympathy wave), I've decided to make my peace with the show and ride it out as long as it lasts. Or I do. Anyway, there are still parts I love (Brittany; Rachel singing "A Chorus Line") and parts I don't (white-boy rapping; Mercedes), but the highs are still outnumbering the lows. I dig the new androgynous football coach (shades of Bio Glass from Popular), and Cheyenne Jackson as the new Vocal Adrenaline coach is never not going to elicit a thumbs-up. Also? Some props to my girls Quinn and Santana for an unexpectedly bracing girlfight. Glee is still a mixed bag, but it looks like it's still my mixed bag.

Raising Hope (9/21)
I almost skipped this one entirely until I heard that it featured this most excellent of Glarkware t-shirts. I'm glad I did, though, because between the Glarkware and the "Is that Bijou Phillips?", there's a sweet and weirdly funny comedy. The My Name Is Earl pedigree shows in all the best ways (for now), and I have a feeling I'm going to be singing Martha Plimpton's praises for a while.

The Event (9/20)

This one got absolutely savaged by the TV-blogging press, which came across to me as a combination of Lost-withdrawal and the general anti-NBC sentiment that pervades their ranks. But it's not like they're wrong on the merits about The Event. It does sacrifice character for a breathless juggling act designed to keep the audience guessing and rabid for answers. I doubt I could make it through a season of just this. But I can't lie -- I'm interested to see where they're going. I guess that makes me a sucker, but I at least want to know why Laura Innes has permanent sore-throat voice. ...And, you know, why the sky opened up and ate an airplane.

Boardwalk Empire (9/19)
I'm busy funnelling all my thoughts on this one into my TWoP recaps. But suffice it to say: I'm definitely onBOARD with BOARDwalk Empire! ... Oh COME ON.

Gossip Girl (9/20)
I'm definitely into Katie Cassidy and whatever she's up to (we're assuming she's on the phone with...Carter Baizen? Or was that Joanna Garcia's big secret last year?). And I actually think the baby brings an interesting dynamic to Dan and Vanessa. But I have to admit, not much else is interesting me. It doesn't help that Jenny Humphrey has been MIA. That girl better come back from Hudson with a MASSIVE social agenda.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fringe, Season 3, Episode 1: "Olivia"

When season 2 of Fringe ended the way it did -- with an Olivia swap that saw our girl trapped in an asylum on Liberty Island, while an alternate (and I'm purposefully not saying "evil") Olivia returned with our regular gang of Fringers -- we had to expect that we'd be getting some kind of split narrative like this in Season 3. I'm not sure, then, why I'm so surprised that this episode is pretty much entirely Olivia in Wonderland rather than following AltOlivia in our world. (By the way, is there a sleeker moniker than that for the other Olivia out there? "Walternate" is so elegant in its simplicity, and I thought there was a similar offshoot of Olivia out there, but I can't remember.)

You knew sooner or later we were going to have to get the big escape scene for Olivia, and as always, it's great to see how resourceful and ass-kicky she is. No muss, no fuss, and a hypodermic needle in your neck. What's surprising, at least from an anti-formulaic perspective, is that the rest of the episode -- while dotted with some perfectly thrilling sequences like Liv shooting the gas tanker behind Charlie Francis -- is much more internal, as Olivia sinks into the realization that she may well be trapped here (the Orpheum theater, where the rest of Our Gang crossed over, has been sealed in Amber; a trip to see Nina Sharp reveals that where Massive Dynamic once stood is now a park dedicated to MLK and Eldridge Cleaver), and then incrementally succumbs to the drug treatments she was given and "becomes" AltOlivia. That's a lotta weight on one character...and actress.

I think my point is that I'm not sure the Anna Torv of Season 1 pulls this episode off as assuredly as she does here, and it's a credit to both her development and the show's that by the time Peter and Walter showed up at the end, it was like a pleasant reminder rather than an oasis in the desert.

Of course, it helps that Olivia got to play off the alt version of Charlie Francis for a few scenes (the moment where he thanks her for not shooting him was a nice reminder of the rapport they share/d). And of course a huge assist has to go to some superlative guest casting. I'm one of those jerkfaces who (STILL) hasn't watched The Wire, but I've heard the praise Andre Royo got for his performance there, so I'm not surprised he was so strong as the cab driver. It's a role that could've been functionary, but the showrunners recognized that the bulk of the emotional terrain covered in this episode was happening within Olivia in the back of that cab (as the drugs she was given slowly took hold and she incrementally crept towards becoming AltOlivia), and she needed a strong counterpart for those scenes.

Similarly, the character of Olivia's mother had a very short ramp with which to get up to Olivia's speed. Liv has talked about her mom, but not in such a way that, say, a photo of the two of them at the beginning of the episode had a whole lot of emotional resonance. Which is why you cast someone like Amy Madigan (AMY MADIGAN!) who can cover that emotional terrain in no time at all. Yes, "mom" is a button that a show can push as a shortcut to an audience's heartstrings, but Torv and Madigan really did the work, here.

In general, I'm encouraged by the emotional complexity of the Olivia exchange. Alt-Charlie and Alt-Francis are good men, and even this Lincoln Lee in all his melted glory -- these aren't villains, strictly speaking. Walternate, sure, but even there I'm hopeful that there are further revelations that work to humanize him. At the very least, we're aware of what having Peter stolen did to him years ago. I'm similarly hopeful that when we rejoin AltOlivia (next week, one would assume), she's as complicated and tangled as our own Olivia. Lord knows Anna Torv is up to the acting challenge.

Some randoms:

-- The track marks on Olivia's arm were really effective as shorthand for just how harrowing her experience on Liberty Island has been.

-- Like I said above, the moment with Olivia and her mom, and the seductiveness of giving over to a world that gives you your mom back, was really powerful. I hope to see that moment twinned in our world when Olivia encounters her sister. (Plus, you know, Ari Graynor fun times!)

-- I don't know what confluence of events happened in the Alt World to have kept the pennyfarthing in style, but I like it. Maybe that's just the Alt World's version of Brooklyn hipster douches riding skateboards to work?

-- Can someone explain to me what was up with that Zeppelin floating above OUR Capitol building before flashing out of existence? Is that something our gang brought back with them when they crossed back over? An example of further soft-spottification of Our World? Artistic license on the part of the show? I have a feeling that one missed me completely. Little help?

And just in general: what did you guys think? Anything I missed?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Some Stuff I Thought During "Jurassic Park: The Musical"

Jurassic Park the Musical Part 1 from Mark Hennings on Vimeo.

Jurassic Park the Musical Part 2 from Mark Hennings on Vimeo.

Jurassic Park the Musical Part 3 from Mark Hennings on Vimeo.

1) I really wasted my college years. All those hours spent studying and working part-time jobs and waiting for dialup internet to connect could not possibly add up to anything better than this production right here.

2) I have watched Jurassic Park a lot. Like, a LOT. Enough to get every halfway-obscure reference in this thing, from "hold on to your butts" to "Clever girl." I certainly got those references quicker than I got the Sweeney Todd reference. Sad (?).

3) The guy who plays Alan Grant is cute. Like, really cute.

4) I know everything rides the line of purposefully shaggy, but a couple of those songs ended up pretty catchy. "I Love Dinosaurs (And You, Dr. Grant)" is kind of impressive, and I will probably never hear the Jurassic theme again without hearing "Welcome tooooo Juraaaaassic Paaaark!" And I'm dying to hear what "Raptors in the Kitchen" would sound like if they actually executed it well.

5) Seriously: wasted my entire college experience. God damn it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Message From Brunette Olivia

Remember that TV poll for what Low Res should cover this season? Your winner was FRINGE! Which kicks off its third season THIS THURSDAY. Remember to watch it, and I will endeavor to get a post up by Friday morning. See you there!

In the meantime, the Sidebar has been FULLY updated, for the first time in forever. Check it out and feel free to comment back here.

Movie Reviews: Clearing Off the Table

In the spirit of fall premieres and getting this blog ready for a full (and hopefully more prolific) fall season, I first knew I needed to update that sad little sidebar over there. Step 1: refresh the movie reviews! These stretch back a bit into the summer, but consider it making up for lost posts.

Never Let Me Go
I had just finished the book last week, which was maybe not the ideal setup for me. Even in the best book-to-film adaptations, you can't help but connect more dots than the movie does, and you end up wanting to hand out addendum sheets to the audience so you can explain why such-and-such gesture means so much more because "In the book..." But with that issue aside, and allowing for a slight dissatisfaction with too much voice-over at the end, I could not have been more devastated by the cool, heartbreaking beauty of this movie. Mark Romanek figured out a way to tell this story where the restraint of the filmmaking matches the characters' almost dreamlike walk through life. I've seen several criticisms of the story that boil down to wanting the characters to fight back against the system and receive some kind of catharsis through struggle. I'm sure that would have made a fine movie, but it's not this one. This is a movie about childlike obedience woven into our fabric so well we keep it ad adults. It's about clinging to life not through struggle but by staring death in the face. Speaking of which, Andrew Garfield's big, open face just totally wrecked me, but the entire cast is pulling its weight, down to the scene-and-a-half's worth of work by Domhnall Gleeson and Andrea Riseborough. It's better not to know too much about the story going in, even though the book held its "secrets" far closer to the vest than the movie does. But it helps to let the world of the movie unfold for you all at once. B+/A-

Animal Kingdom
Strong enough that I wound up thinking of Goodfellas on one or two occasions but even stronger that it carves a place for itself inside a very crowded crime-family genre. Two things deserve the most credit for helping elevate it, one of which is the already much ballyhooed performance by Jacki Weaver as the -- as Danielle Staub would say -- MATE-ree-ark of what turns out to be a frighteningly disorganized criminal empire. There's a slow burn to Weaver's performance that progresses not by revelations but by degrees, and the calmness with which she switches gears could strip the meat from your bones. The film's other secret weapon is its virtuosic building of tension. A car backing out of a driveway, a man standing at the foot of a bed, an art gallery rendezvous -- all of them pitched to the shattering point but never quite getting there. The cast is brilliant, in that Winter's Bone way where even their faces seem utterly perfect. If you're lucky enough to have it playing near you, see it. A-

Piranha 3D
This is a movie that does everything it sets out to do and not a bit more. Even better, Alexandre Aja delivers boobs-n-gore without the obnoxious self-congratulation of an Eli Roth (who, yes, makes a cameo as a wet t-shirt maestro, and you'll enjoy what becomes of him). The piranha kill in ways that are overwhelming (which occasionally short-circuits the 3-D technology, granted) and/or inventive, though the best kill of all is one of the few fish-free deaths. In terms of the acting (...I know, but stick with me), Elisabeth Shue is a total trooper and gives a believable, wink-free performance. Meanwhile, the Oscar campaign for Jerry O'Connell as a barely-veiled Joe Francis character starts with me. And if there were a category for Best Ham-tastic Cameo, I'd be churning out For Your Consideration ads for Christopher Lloyd too. B+

I Am Love
I so wanted Tilda Swinton's dissatisfied adopted-Italian character to return to Russia at the end so that I'd have been able to call this "One woman's erotic journey from Milan to Minsk." It didn't stop me from humming the only five known bars to this song for the next week or so. Anyway, Tilda Swinton once again gets a chance to show off her versatility while keeping in touch with that very Swintonian otherworldliness that we all love so much. The film itself doesn't always trust her, really laying on the horn when it comes to certain visual cues (yes, they're making love in the grass just like ALL OF NATURE -- I'm sure we'd have grasped that without the diversion into Planet Earth). A good movie, but not the great one many have raved about. B-

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
This one I just didn't get. Not as in "didn't understand," but I honestly do not see what other people see in this. I get why people would WANT to love this. Edgar Wright is one of the more root-able names in Hollywood, and it tries really (REALLY) hard to expand the language of movies to fit a "video game generation" that I am a part of, even if I don't understand the full vocabulary. But why anyone thought this particular story -- of feckless Scott Pilgrim and his even less substantial dream girl and the Seven Evil Exes conceit that sounds like a good idea until you realize you have seven (well, six) tedious battle scenes to endure -- would be the one to bring us to the promised land, I have no idea. But I'm the guy who doesn't see the appeal of the graphic novels either, and even the Pilgrim haters seem to agree that the books were better. I've already sung the praises of the supporting cast, so let me just weigh in on the whole Michael Cera Issue. I don't have a problem with an actor playing the same type in multiple movies -- there are actors who are chameleons and there are actors who are archetypes, and we need both of them. But I don't think that was Cera's problem in this movie. Scott Pilgrim, as conceived in the comics and screenplay, is certainly enough of a departure from Cera's sweet, shy yearner; he just doesn't give that good of a performance. He registers blankness too often when he should be registering apathy or weakness or even ironic bravery, and that blankness leaves the viewer nowhere to go but to project his well-established persona into that negative space. I suppose it's six of one and a half dozen of the other when it comes to Cera shouldering the blame for Pilgrim's failure, though there really should be more to spread around. C

Here's another one that knew exactly the kind of movie it wanted to be -- the kind of dumb, fast, star-driven thriller that I look for in the summer. Thankfully, it delivered where so many others failed. Here's where I need you to LOOK AWAY if you care at all about not being spoiled for this movie ... okay? ... spoiler time .... OK, so where does the Liev Schrieber reveal rank on the list of most obvious secret bad guys in movie history? You've got a movie about secret Russian sleeper agents within the U.S. government and we're NOT supposed to suspect Liev? He's got the map of Vladivostok written on his face! B

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fall Movie Preview 2010, Part 3

Fall movie season is upon us! What goodies await? What kind of an impact will they make? How many leading questions will I ask before I just get on with it? Three. The answer is three.

Previously: Part 1, Part 2

Movie: Jackass 3-D (Jeff Tremaine)
High-Concept Synopsis: Arrested adolescents who are creeping up on being officially too old for this (literal) shit stick some stuff up their butts and light the rest of it on fire. It's in 3-D, so expect to get puked on.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Anybody who's ever iced a bro. Perfectly serious-minded people who like to unwind with a few bottle rockets being shot out of doofuses' assholes. People hoping that this is finally the movie where Johnny Knoxville gives Bam Margera a blowjob (you know, on a dare).
Who Won't Be Seeing It: The puke-, poop-, and pee-averse. Knoxville's agent, manager, and publicists who appreciate the paychecks and all but are probably getting antsy for him to transition full-time into scripted comedies where he pretends to be retarded. Fans saving their money for Jackass 4-D, when the gang travels through time and Wee Man runs naked through the signing of the Magna Carta.
Why I'd See It: There's no telling what kind of mood I'll be in on a given Saturday afternoon, and I'm sure there will be few options more fun for large group viewing that weekend, but I'm pretty sure that thing about getting puked on in 3-D is going to come true. I at least don't want to pay for that to happen. October 15th

Movie: Conviction (Tony Goldwyn)
High-Concept Synopsis: Hilary Swank fights a years- (decades-?) long battle to exonerate her brother (Sam Rockwell) who's been wrongfully (rightfully?) accused. Minnie Driver, Juliette Lewis, Ari Graynor, Melissa Leo, and Peter Gallagher co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of thick, juicy, medium-rare Oscar bait. Fans of comeback actresses Driver and Lewis, neither of whom have had film roles this high-profile in quite some time. Fans of movie titles that manage to mean several things and still be incredibly bland.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Annette Bening fans trying to nip a third Swank-over-Bening Oscar moment in the bud. Chris O'Donnell fans who think the crusading-for-an-incarcerated-relative genre was perfected with The Chamber, thank you very much. Ari Graynor fans who have been burned by their girl getting cast in movies only to be relegated to a glorified cameo before.
Why I'd See It: Sometimes big, fat, Oscar bait is exactly what you're looking for, and I hear Sam Rockwell is pretty fantastic, and Minnie Driver and Juliette Lewis's accents sound INSANE in the trailer. October 15

Movie: Red (Robert Schwentke)
High-Concept Synopsis: Retired black-ops agents Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman get together for One Last Job.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Audiences who look past the well-worn premise to see the fun and humor in the film's trailer. Fans of the accomplished (Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Brian Cox) and attractive (Karl Urban, Julian McMahon) supporting cast. Helen Mirren's throngs of gentlemen (and lady) admirers.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Audiences wary of old-people humor. Clint Eastwood, who is pouting in a corner somewhere because he thought he owned exclusive rights to Morgan Freeman these days. Anyone who saw director Schwentke's previous stinkers Flightplan and The Time-Traveler's Wife.
Why I'd See It: Willis and Freeman have been known to phone the odd movie in, but whether it's the script or Mirren or what, but everybody seems to be on their toes on this one. Maybe this is fall's action-comedy sleeper? October 15

Movie: Paranormal Activity 2 (Tony Goldwyn)
High-Concept Synopsis: Ghosts haunt (probable) bougie white folk again. This time, they have a baby. And a DOG!
Who Will Be Seeing It: Anybody who was freaked out to the point of physical mobility by the original. Anybody who appreciates the low-fi approach to ghost stories. Anybody who wants to put another nail in the Saw franchise's coffin.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who weren't scared by the original. People who say they weren't scared by the original because it makes them sound cool. Those weird people who won't see a movie if it seems like a dog might be harmed in it.
Why I'd See It: I was one of those people jumping to the back of my seat for the first movie. I'm slightly interested in how they tie the movies together -- I hope it's not too tenuous but also that it's not too heavy-handed about it. It's a ghost story; we'll figure it out. I'm mighty intrigued about Tod Williams taking over as director. He's talented, but this isn't his genre. October 22

Movie: Hereafter (Clint Eastwood)
High-Concept Synopsis: Details are still fuzzy, but basically: Matt Damon is a former psychic who is tortured about ... death and stuff. He encounters other people who have been touched by tragedy (the Sri Lankan tsunami; the London tube bombing), and there are ghosts and Bryce Dallas Howard and stuff.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Eastwood fans eager to see him branching out with supernatural material like this. Matt Damon fans, because honestly, he hasn't done much to make us doubtful lately. Tragedy junkies of the Iñaritu/Haggis variety.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who have been conditioned to tuck in for a nice long nap whenever Eastwood's name is mentioned. Audiences skeptical of the seriously shaky supporting cast (Jay Mohr and Richard Kind? Though Jennifer Lewis is interesting...). That one guy who doesn't like Matt Damon for some reason.
Why I'd See It: Eastwood bores me lately, but this stylistic shift is intriguing, and you know I love Matt Damon. Maybe this breaks a boring streak. October 22

Movie: The Company Men (John Wells)
High-Concept Synopsis: Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, and Tommy Lee Jones each cope with job loss and Kevin Costner's New England accent.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who liked Up In the Air until it became a movie about how George Clooney should get married already. People who are enjoying the recent Ben Affleck renaissance. People who thought Wells was wasting his talents crashing helicopters onto people on ER.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who feel that the Affleck renaissance should remain behind the camera. People worried that the women behind the men -- Maria Bello, Rosemarie DeWitt, Cady Huffman -- will get short shrift. Folks who somehow think people other than white men have been losing their jobs lately.
Why I'd See It: I talked before about why the trailer spoke to me, and while neither Actor Affleck nor Wells excite me, I'm willing to let the generally positive festival buzz guide the way. October 22

Movie: Monsters (Gareth Edwards)
High-Concept Synopsis: Low-budge docudrama in the District 9 mold that has a journalist veering into a blockaded area of Latin America, which is now alien/monster/Lovecraft territory.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Monster movie fans drawn to the (relative) freshness of the concept. Folks following the early-summer festival buzz out of Edinburgh and L.A., which was pretty exciting, all told. People freaked out about a climate-based apocalypse who are bizarrely comforted by the thought that the end will come from scary alien monsters instead.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who like their movie monsters to come armed with clown puppets and rigid moral philosophies. People who initially took this for a Charlize Theron vehicle where Aileen Wournos's identical triplets wreak havoc on Florida's truck stops and hooker motels. Shaky-cam avoiders.
Why I'd See It: Loved Cloverfield. Loved District 9. Love the idea of placing these unthinkable things in the most real environment possible. Super, super looking forward to this one. October 29

Movie: Welcome to the Rileys (Jake Scott)
High-Concept Synopsis: Tony Soprano and Detective Kay Howard are grieving the loss of a daughter when Big Ton' comes across Bella Swan, who has been living on her own and stripping in New Orleans. He tries to save her, Kay shows up and is all WTF, and some heartfelt drama ensues.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the three leads, as James Gandolfini, Melissa Leo, and Kristen Stewart all got raves coming out of Sundance. Treme fans looking to get their fix of seeing Melissa Leo traipse around N'Awlins. People who have been impressed by director Scott's music video work (R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts"; Tori Amos's "Past the Mission").
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who take an actor's ability to credibly adopt a Louisiana accent at all seriously. People whose idea for Halloween weekend fun times don't include the exquisite horror of personal aimlessness and numbing tragedy. People who were slightly less impressed by Jake Scott's feature directing debut, Tooth Fairy.
Why I'd See It: I'm actually not super in the tank for James Gandolfini -- I almost always enjoy him, but he's never going to sell me on a movie by himself. It's Melissa Leo and, yes, Kristen Stewart who are the draws for me. Sometimes I just like actors to be really actorly and wallow in tragedy for a while. October 29

Movie: Due Date (Todd Phillips)
High-Concept Synopsis: Robert Downey Jr. wears suits and stuff and has to get back home in time for his wife (Michelle Monaghan) to give birth. Zach Galifanakis is probably two ticks at best above being retarded. Together, they must road trip it and not kill each other because they're oh-so-opposite! Perhaps they'll travel by airplanes, locomotives, and car-type things?
Who Will Be Seeing It: The bro types who high-fived their way through The Hangover. The Robert Downey Jr. fans intent on helping him keep his status as America's Comedy A-Lister. Moviegoers who have been patiently waiting for Jamie Foxx, Danny McBride, Alan Arkin, and RZA to unite onscreen.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Everybody else who watched The Hangover and warily eyed the exits throughout. Fans of Steve Martin and the late John Candy, who are all "Well, I never." Fans of Michelle Monaghan and Juliette Lewis who are pretty well aware of what becomes of the female characters in Todd Phillips movies.
Why I'd See It: You know...I like Robert Downey Jr. even after an uninspired showing in Iron Man 2. But much as I liked him in Tropic Thunder, I always find him slightly obnoxious when mixing it up with the frat-pack types. And a little Galifanakis goes a long way, for me. November 5

Movie: 127 Hours (Danny Boyle)
High-Concept Synopsis: Remember that mountain-climber guy (or whatever) who got stuck on a mountain (or whatever) until he eventually had to sever his own arm so he could escape from the mountain (or whatever)? James Franco plays him here.
Who Will Be Seeing It: People who fail to be thrown by the fact that it appears he fell down a desert crevasse and wasn't trapped up on a mountain. 28 Days Later fans who were really taken with the opening scenes of Cillian Murphy in isolation. James Franco fans who know that, behind all the art-school weirdness lies an honestly talented actor.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who may not want to watch two hours worth of a guy gnawing his own arm off (unless it's some kind of True Blood two-parter). People who have begun to tire of this 24/7 James Franco culture in which we live. People for whom the fact that Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscar despite its shortcomings means that Danny Boyle is dead to them.
Why I'd See It: Slumdog may not be my favorite Danny Boyle movie, but it certainly doesn't disqualify everything that's good about him. He's still a guy who makes movies I don't dare miss. November 5

Movie: Fair Game (Doug Liman)
High-Concept Synopsis: Well, there was that whole Valerie Plame thing a few years ago. And then that Kate Beckinsale movie about the Valerie Plame thing about a year and a half ago? Well, they're doing it again, this time with Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the scorched-Earth chemistry Watts and Penn displayed in 21 Grams. Fans of high-stakes spy intrigue paired with scorching indictments of the Bush administration. Fans of Liman's kinetic directorial style.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Watts/Penn fans who Netflixed The Assassination of Richard Nixon and are still dozing. Fans of that Kate Beckinsale movie -- Nothing But the Truth -- who know that Vera Farmiga's rending of the Plame character does not need to be topped. Audiences who have tracked Doug Liman's directorial trajectory as steadily downward since Go.
Why I'd See It: I keep hoping for Naomi Watts to knock my socks off again. Tepid Cannes response tells me this may not be the movie to do it, but my hopefulness -- and the strength of this true-life story -- will keep me tuned in. November 5

Movie: For Colored Girls (Tyler Perry)
High-Concept Synopsis: They're making Ntozake Shange acclaimed, lyrical, existential, deep-thinking play about the various burdens placed on black women and the uphill struggle for respect. So obviously they picked Madea to direct.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the rather superb cast, including Kerry Washington, Phylicia Rashad, Loretta Devine, Whoopi Goldberg, and Kimberly Elise. Tyler Perry true believers who honestly think he's got it in him to do right by the play. Oprah.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who somehow doubt that the man behind Why Did I Get Married Too can pull this off. Non-fans of cast members like Janet Jackson and Thandie Newton. People angry that the spoof-worthy title -- For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf -- was shortened by The Man.
Why I'd See It: At the very least, I expect this to be one of the most talked about movies of the year. I don't have a ton of faith in Perry, but there's a chance he steps back and let the actresses do their thing. Phylicia Rashad finally has the chance to shine at the movies! November 5

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Two Links

Roommate Mark and I got together for one of our shared projects today on the subject of those weird forgotten '80s movies that nobody can even envision in their heads anymore.

Yet it’s not like this was some obscure Malaysian film that was filled with first-time performers.The plot follows a steelworker who has an affair with a waitress, and Gene Hackman plays the steelworker while Ann-Margaret plays the waitress. Meanwhile, Ally Sheedy, who’s also in the movie, was riding high on WarGames, The Breakfast Club, and St. Elmo’s Fire at the time. Plus, Paul McCartney wrote and performed the theme song.

In other words, this is a movie with clout. Yet it has completely vanished from the cultural radar. I’ve looked in several places on the internet, and I can’t even find a plot summary thorough enough to explain Amy Madigan’s role, and she’s the one with the damn Oscar nomination. I’ll bet if you asked 50 people on the street, only one of them (at most) would even have a vague idea of what this movie is, and that’s because we live in New York, which is filled with people who make their living by knowing about movies. If you went to Boston or Winnetka or Savannah, I bet you’d have to ask 200 people before you found someone who knew that Twice in a Lifetime was an Oscar-worthy film from the 80s and not next week’s Lifetime flick about Tiffani Thiessen falling into scandalous love with her dead husband’s twin brother.

That's Mark. He's got a way with words. For the full scope of our discussion, click on over to The Critical Condition.

Also, Aaron Cameron and I are back for another season of picking NFL games. I'm no longer foolish enough to imagine that my readers have any interest in talking pro football, but I'll throw the link up here every week, and you can holler back at Cam and I over on his blog. WEEK 1 PICKS BEGIN HERE. (We've currently got tonight's game written up; we'll have Sunday's games previewed by the weekend.)

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Fall Movie Preview 2010, Part 2

Fall movie season is upon us! What goodies await? What kind of an impact will they make? How many leading questions will I ask before I just get on with it? Three. The answer is three.

Previously: Part 1

Movie: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Oliver Stone)
High-Concept Synopsis: Gordon Gekko is out of prison, and now mentoring young trader Shia LaBeouf. Much commentary on the recent market collapse and the current state of predatory financial-types -- plus some familial drama with Carey Mulligan as Gekko's daughter and LaBeouf's fiancee -- to follow. Josh Brolin, Susan Sarandon, and Frank Langella co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Wall Street fans who always wanted to see Gordon Gekko play a cranky father-in-law. Folks who haven't been following the financial news as closely as they'd like and are waiting for Oliver Stone to lay out the truth of the matter to them in as straightforward a manner as possible. Wall Street a-holes who -- shockingly -- don't understand satire nor social critique.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Wall Street fans who feel like the appeal of the original was all in Michael Douglas's performance, and the face that gave that performance now resides above the man's hairline. Moviegoers who haven't really given much thought to Dear Shia since that Indiana Jones movie and were kind of fine with that. Folks given pause by the fact that the movie got pulled from a spring release date at the last minute.
Why I'd See It: Not having seen the first Wall Street (I know...), I'm not really buzzing with anticipation for this one. Particularly when the added pull to the whole affair is Shia LaBeouf. And I don't exactly trust Oliver Stone to deliver social critique of this sort with any subtlety or nuance. September 24

Movie: You Again (Andy Fickman)
High-Concept Synopsis: Kristen Bell plays a reformed high-school nerd who's plunged back into the emotional abyss when her brother announces he's marrying her tormentor (Odette Yustman). Doubling down on the theme, Bell's mom (Jamie Lee Curtis) was pushed around by Yustman's mom (Sigourney Weaver).
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the "popular girls get what's coming to them" genre. People psyched for the really rather excellent cast (the above-mentioned, plus Kristin Chenoweth, Victor Garber, Betty White, and Cloris Leachman). People who enjoyed director Fickman's guilty pleasure classic She's the Man.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who have officially given up on Kristen Bell as a cinematic entity. Anyone who saw and was put to sleep by Odette Yustman in The Unborn. Folks boarding the rapidly-filling Betty White Backlash Bandwagon.
Why I'd See It: It looked awful until I saw the trailer. I'll tell you what, Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver will do a lot to convince you that you should see a crappy movie. And I'm not kidding about She's the Man either. September 24

Movie: Howl (Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman)
High-Concept Synopsis: James Franco is beat generation poet Allen Ginsberg, on trial for obscenity for his titular poem. Jon Hamm, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeff Daniels, David Strathairn, and Aaron Tveit co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Hippie nostalgists, damn-the-man graybeards, and college sophomores. James Franco's newly minted legion of Midwestern housewife soap fans. Shallow, shallow people excited to see James Franco, in yet another gay role, kissing up on Aaron Tveit.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Biopic-weary filmgoers. People looking to pre-backlash (fore-lash) against directors Epstein and Friedman for making the Lindsay Lohan/Linda Lovelace movie after this one. The poetry averse.
Why I'd See It: Count me as still enchanted with James Franco's various flights of fancy, plus I have confidence in the directors, who have previously made The Times of Harvey Milk and The Celluloid Closet. Plus the cast is excellent (Jon Hamm! MLP!), and Franco and Tveit boyfriendage! September 24

Movie: Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (Zack Snyder)
High-Concept Synopsis: CGI owls go all Middle Earth with a fantastical epic tale where some owl or other must vanquish an evil owl to save all owls. OWLS! Jim Sturgess, Helen Mirren, Hugo Weaving, Abbie Cornish, Ryan Kwanten, Geoffrey Rush, Emilie de Ravin, and Sam Neil provide the voice talent.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fantasy enthusiasts eager to add owls to their veritable beastiary of elves, dwarves, giants, and sorceresses. Zack Snyder fans who may be dubious about the whole cartoon owls thing but trust that he wouldn't follow Watchmen with something totally stupid. Fans of soothing Brit voices.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Owls, for one thing, because owls can't buy movie tickets, STUPID. People who hated Snyder's 300 and Watchmen and are impatient to wait for three strikes and thus are jumping the gun and calling him out. Snyder fans who know they've got Sucker Punch waiting for them next year and thus are taking a breather from the whole owls thing.
Why I'd See It: It's weird -- it's not like owls are any more ridiculous than dragons or toys or robots, but being asked to get emotionally invested in the mythic journey of a group of cartoon owls feels like a bridge too far. September 24

Movie: Buried (Rodrigo Cortes)
High-Concept Synopsis: Ryan Reynolds gets buried alive while doing contract work in Iraq. 95 minutes of claustrophobia and terror ensue.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Audiences who wouldn't mind being stuck in tight quarters with Ryan Reynolds for a while.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Audiences for whom even Ryan Reynolds could force them to face that kind of claustrophobic terror.
Why I'd See It: I'm hoping it'll really freak me out. The generally positive word out of Sundance has me hopeful. September 24

Movie: Waiting for Superman (Davis Guggenheim)
High-Concept Synopsis: A documentary about the sorry -- some might say disastrous -- state of public education in America.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of director Guggenheim, who took home the Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth a few years ago. Adherents to public good and/or frustrated hand-wringing over same. People who like to point and laugh at dumb kids.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who didn't see An Inconvenient Truth for the simple reason that they didn't want to be bummed out. Callous kid-not-care-abouters. Disappointed superhero enthusiasts.
Why I'd See It: This was another big hit at Sundance, winning the Audience Award. I'm one of those people who never saw An Inconvenient Truth because of the crushing helplessness of it all, but I feel like the education crisis is one of which I could stand to be better informed. September 24

Movie: The Social Network (David Fincher)
High-Concept Synopsis: Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield create Facebook amid Ivy League posturing, internet-boom excess, and probable underhandedness. Justin Timberlake and Rashida Jones co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fincher fans, even the ones who weren't entirely enamored with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Audiences turned on by that amazing trailer with the choral version of Radiohead's Creep. People psyched to see Timberlake return to his late-90s platinum-gel-helmet hair era.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: The kind of people who use "Facebook" as an epithet. People who have given up on Jesse Eisenberg's whole twitchy thing. People who have expressed eye-rolly exasperation that a subject as trivial as Facebook is being treated with something approaching operatic gravity.
Why I'd See It: Fincher's involvement already made this prominent on my radar. The "Creep" trailer piqued my interest in a serious way. And now rave reviews have begun to trickle in. It's become pretty obvious that this is going to be one of the defining movies of the year, good or bad. October 1

Movie: Let Me In (Matt Reeves)
High-Concept Synopsis: Remake of the highly acclaimed and highly recent Scandinavian vampire movie. A sad 12-year-old boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) befriends a young girl (Chloe Moretz) who is also a vampire.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the original who can't resist the opportunity to claim that this one is inferior. Fans of Cloverfield director Reeves who feel like he can do the movie justice. People who have previously liked Smit-McPhee in The Road and Moretz in Kick-Ass.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Hard-line anti-remake cinephiles. Fans of the original who know better than to see a movie that can't not disappoint them. People who found Smit-McPhee distracting in The Road and Moretz cloying and overwhelmed in Kick-Ass.
Why I'd See It: I actually very much liked Reeves's work on Cloverfield, but I cannot imagine this remake has much of anything to offer that the original did not. October 1

Movie: Case 39 (Christian Alvart)
High-Concept Synopsis: Renee Zellweger is a social worker who takes in an orphan girl after finding her in a seemingly abusive home. Only the girl might be stalked by evil ... or evil herself. Bradley Cooper and Ian McShane co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of the Creepy Little Girl genre of horror movies. Zellweger fans hoping their girl can get back on the horse after a creatively fallow period. The three people who saw director Alvart's previous film, Pandorum.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: The Zellweger-averse (are people still holding onto their hatred of her? It's been a while since Cold Mountain). People who see the flies-coming-outta-Bradley-Cooper's-ear scene from the trailer. Advocacy groups for creepy little orphan girls.
Why I'd See It: This is another one whose trailer sold me on a shaky concept. It doesn't look like it's going to be as campy and (delightfully) junky as Orphan, but it seems honestly unsettling. I'm in. October 1

Movie: Life As We Know It (Greg Berlanti)
High-Concept Synopsis: Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel play mismatched friends of an-ill fated married couple who are then tasked with raising the child said friends left behind. Let the warmth fill your hearts. Let it!
Who Will Be Seeing It: The one person out there who isn't possessed of a hatred for Katherine Heigl that has surely passed the point of being proportionate to whatever crime she's supposed to have committed (which would Shit!). Fans of TV impresario Berlanti (Everwood; the good seasons of Brothers & Sisters). Audiences looking for a total bummer of a romantic comedy.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: People who may hate Heigl but nonetheless aren't interested in this little subgenre of movies wherein the male lead hates Katherine Heigl. Mad Men fans who are -- have you noticed? -- somewhat protective of Joan Holloway and thus aren't interested in seeing Christina Hendricks suffer the indignity of playing second fiddle (and as a glorified corpse, no less). Blind people not interested in looking at Josh Duhamel for a good bit.
Why I'd See It: Yes, I'm the oldest living Confederate widow Katherine Heigl semi-fan. And lord knows I support Greg Berlanti in all that he does. But MAN does this seem like a downer. October 8

Movie: Secretariat (Randall Wallace)
High-Concept Synopsis: The inspiring true story of a great, proud horse who defied the odds to win the Triple Crown. And the rich white lady who collected all his winnings.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of inspirational-racehorse movies in the Seabiscuit tradition. Fans of Diane Lane, who is being positioned for her second Oscar nomination as the above-mentioned rich white lady. Fans of the hammier side of John Malkovich, who looks to have a big ol' gristly slab to chomp into as an unconventional trainer type.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Fans of inspirational sports movies who nevertheless draw the line at heroic horse owners.
Why I'd See It: Eh. I mean...I'll see something that's getting Oscar buzz, and I like Diane Lane just fine, but I think I'm done with the horse movies. October 8

Movie: It's Kind of a Funny Story (Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck)
High-Concept Synopsis: Teenager (Keir Gilchrist) checks into an adult psychiatric hospital where weirdos help him with his problems. Zach Galifianakis co-stars as the lead weirdo.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Fans of Keir Gilchrist, who has proven his worth and then some on United States of Tara. Fans of directors Boden and Fleck, who have delivered small-scale triumphs in Half Nelson and Sugar. Fans of the deep roster of supporting talent, including Lauren Graham, Jeremy Davies, and Viola Davis.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Hair-trigger hipster-phobes who are bristling at the psych-ward setting, the random pencil-sketch animation in the trailer, and the fact that the trailer features music. Folks who have begun to tire of the all-out Galifianakis onslaught of the past couple years. People who resent the film for stealing a title from James L. Brooks's barrel full of possible movie titles.
Why I'd See It: Boden and Fleck have yet to steer me wrong, and after two seasons worth of Tara, I couldn't be rooting harder for Gilchrist if he were my own son. October 8

Movie: Nowhere Boy (Sam Taylor-Wood)
High-Concept Synopsis: Young John Lennon (Aaron Johnson) starts a band, romances ladies, is kind of full of himself. Kristin Scott Thomas and Anne-Marie Duff co-star.
Who Will Be Seeing It: Beatles fans, duh-hoy. People who saw Kick-Ass and immediately went and Googled all of Aaron Johnson's assorted shirtless images. Folks who do so enjoy watching Kristin Scott Thomas steal a film from the sidelines.
Who Won't Be Seeing It: Beatles agnostics planning to use the same weapon they've wielded the past 40+ years: their silence. People having a hard time accepting Anne-Marie Duff as Aaron Johnson's mother, not to mention the weird parallels it draws to Johnson and Sam Taylor-Wood's May-December coupling. People who instinctively shy away from movies being sold as an "inspiring true story."
Why I'd See It: Honestly, it makes me a shallow person, but despite the generally positive advance notice, the only reason I'd see a movie like this is because I can look at Aaron Johnson for a couple hours. And even still, I worry the movie will make me not like him. We'll see. October 8

Friday, September 03, 2010

Trailer Trash Week: Made in Dagenham

Note: I'm kind of stealing this idea from Roommate Mark, except in my defense, A) I was planning on doing one giant Trailer Trash post and it got too long, and B) um...I don't have a second defense. Basically, we're in the middle of a glut of fall movie trailers, and what am I here for if not to pontificate about them? Not all of these trailers are brand-new, but I came across them while looking up the slate of fall movies.

Made in Dagenham
Oh, the United Kingdom, I could kiss you sometimes. How you manage to make even the most stock movie plots -- in this case, the crusading Norma Rae, North Country inspiring true feminist story -- seem fresh simply by injecting some bright British charm.

This one looks to be making a stab at a kind of Full Monty-style Oscar push, and if Academy voters feel any kind of residual guilt for leaving Sally Hawkins off their Best Actress ballot two years ago, it could pay off. She certainly seems to be combining the striving speechifying that the role requires with her own cheerful enthusiasm.

Also of note in this trailer: Miranda Richardson, continuing her semi-comeback (I do believe she'll get something interesting to do on Rubicon...someday); Rosamund Pike, fresh off her award-worthy work on An Education; and Low Res rising star Andrea Riseborough, who is all of a sudden in everything this fall. Make me a prophet, girl.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

On The Town

As I mentioned in the first part of my Fall Preview, I'm kind of mixed on Ben Affleck's upcoming The Town. But after talking to Tara this morning, I remembered that I forgot to mention my one, unambiguous, non-Jeremy-Renner related reason for wanting to see this movie. Skanked-Up Blake Lively!

Sure, Dale Dickey in Winter's Bone may be the new gold standard for casting authentic-looking women in roles about skeevy, meth-y working class criminal types. But there's still something to be said for the flip side of that coin: taking an incredible Hollywood beauty, smudging some Kohl in her eye, and throwing a star tattoo on her shoulder.

And another one above her boob!

I'm in, Blake. I'm in.

Trailer Trash Week: Unstoppable

Note: I'm kind of stealing this idea from Roommate Mark, except in my defense, A) I was planning on doing one giant Trailer Trash post and it got too long, and B) um...I don't have a second defense. Basically, we're in the middle of a glut of fall movie trailers, and what am I here for if not to pontificate about them? Not all of these trailers are brand-new, but I came across them while looking up the slate of fall movies.

Oh SHIT, you guys! This is exactly what this summer movie season was missing: a literal runaway train smashing through shit without remorse! A brash young hottie who plays by his own rules! Denzel Washington getting too old for this shit! It's no secret that I hate Tony Scott, but this movie might just be simple enough that even he can't fuck it up. Train. Smash. Bang. Profit.

The trailer itself is encouraging in all sorts of ways, and not only because it begins with a gratuitous shot of Chris Pine without a shirt on. Again, it's the simplicity, stupid. There's very little beating around the bush. Do we even know why there's a runaway train without brakes and full of hazardous chemicals barreling down upon another train full of cute little school children? Does it matter? It really does not. The trailer makers were certainly assisted by a script that took the time to include lines like, "That's not a train, it's a missile the size of the Chrysler building," and "We're gonna run this bitch down!" Screenwriter Mark "Live Free or Die Hard" Bomback, I could kiss you.

NOTE #1: Is it strange to anyone else that this is being sold as "from the director of Man on Fire"? I guess that's pretty sad that that's still the go-to Tony Scott film credit.

NOTE #2, to Roommate Mark: much as I would like to be able to count this movie towards our Rosario Dawson wager, I have to admit that she is clearly the third lead and not named in the trailer, thus precluding this from being a Rosario Dawson movie, no matter how many walkie-talkies she screams into. Alas.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Trailer Trash Week: Welcome to the Rileys

Note: I'm kind of stealing this idea from Roommate Mark, except in my defense, A) I was planning on doing one giant Trailer Trash post and it got too long, and B) um...I don't have a second defense. Basically, we're in the middle of a glut of fall movie trailers, and what am I here for if not to pontificate about them? Not all of these trailers are brand-new, but I came across them while looking up the slate of fall movies.

Welcome to the Rileys
So...we've seen this movie before, right? The grieving parents who can't communicate, and the troubled stripper, and the old guy/young girl slightly-creepy-if-benign paternal relationship. Maybe not all in the same movie, but these are familiar tropes. Not to mention Kristen Stewart doing her Kristen Stewart thing (which: honestly? When she's not playing Bella Swan, I kind of like her). And in reference to Kevin Costner and accents that should not be attempted, can I introduce you to James Gandolfini's southern drawl? Stop that, James.

That all being said, this was very well-received at Sundance, from what I hear. And I can see Gandolfini and Stewart acting the shit out of each other. But what this trailer most has me interested in Melissa Leo, who -- despite seeming to have an accent issue of her own, somewhere around the area of Biloxi, Minnesota -- appears to be teetering uncomfortably on the fringes of what's usually expected in this kind of role. I like that. If there's anything about this movie that ends up being more than the sum of its well-traveled parts, my bet is it'll be her.