What movie was that...?

22 July 2013

This Is the End

directed by Seth Rogan & Evan Goldberg

Check your brain at the door, ye who seek out the laughs found in the latest Goldberg/Rogan comedy This Is the End, for there be (among other things) all manner of end timey tropes transformed into the kind of stupid, uncomfortable hilarity we’ve come to know and love from the duo. That is in no small part thanks to the spectacular ensemble of contemporary comedic all stars, from the underrated and underused (in film in general, that is) Jay Baruchel to the iconoclastic asshole incarnate Danny McBride. I’m sure Mr McBride is a perfect gentleman in real life, but he takes the concept of the prick to such astonishing heights at every pass (from All the Real Girls to The Foot Fist Way to Pineapple Express), and This Is the End finds him top form with an entrance into the film that is one of my favorite all time reveals. But let’s back up- the films finds all the cast playing themselves, focusing on the now strained friendship betwixt Jay and Seth. Jay is on the west coast visiting Seth, and the pair decide (at Seth’s bidding) to attend a party at James Franco’s house. That’s when all hell literally breaks loose. You’ve all seen the trailers, but James Franco and Danny McBride alone are almost worth the price of admission. It is no classic, but it was a helluva of a fun way to power down the old noodle for 2 hours.

And PS, go see Goon already, all you Baruchel fans. And all you hockey fans. And all you fans of kickass comedy.

10 July 2013

The Paperboy

directed by Lee Daniels

Lee Daniels directs the ever-loving shit out of the pulpy, trashy, sweaty, and astounding modern cult classic The Paperboy. It’s a scorcher of a tale, a tabloid-esque twister of deception, murder, scandal and such torrid sexuality that would make your dear old grandma blush, but it’s also an opportunity for a group of great actors to really sink their teeth into roles in ways you don’t often encounter. Matthew McConaughey has been having a helluva couple years, from the madcap darkness of Bernie to the pitch black darkness of Killer Joe, the smut glam sheen of Magic Mike to the murky mystery of Mud, and The Paperboy finds him in top form as Ward Jansen, an aloof journalist brought back home to Florida to investigate the murder case of Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack). Aiding brothers Ward and Jack (Zac Efron) in their investigation is Van Wetter’s fiancée Charlotte Bliss, played to the heights of dysfunctional genius by Nicole Kidman. Anyone who scoffed at John Cusack’s recent list of duds need to see him come back with a vengeance as one of the most unhinged characters in recent years. And hats off to Zac Efron, who so effortlessly grimes up his squeaky clean image as Jack Jansen that I was mesmerized. The Paperboy is the kind of movie that aims to make the sweat and steam palpable, and Lee Daniels succeeds with flying colors. Get yourself a cold mint julep and a sturdy hand fan before setting down with this trash gem. It’ll get your heart going. 

07 July 2013

Man of Steel

directed by Zack Snyder

I was dubious of this new Superman movie from the outset. I absolutely love the character, the idea of Superman, and I as much as anyone yearned for a vital new chapter in the canon (even a reboot would suffice). Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns from 2006 is respectable in many ways, but it lacked a certain life, optimism, zest. So when I heard the meritless (and inexplicable Hollywood darling) Zack Snyder was on board to helm this new installment, my dreams seemed dashed. I worried so for my beloved Superman. I worried that the noble protector would be savagely reduced to a swinging dick aggressor who treats women only marginally less despicably as his morally vacuous nemeses. The glimmer of light that was Christopher Nolan’s stake in the works helped give me a sliver of hope, for if anyone could check Snyder’s alpha-male egomania and testosterone-addled hyperviolence, it would be Mr Nolan. [Note: I am not chipping away at Snyder’s ability to set a scene and craft action, because he is very competent at it. I am just arguing that context, subtlety and maturity seem scarce commodities in a Snyder movie.]  Alas, Man of Steel finds itself floundering in under-thought storytelling, virtually non-existent character development and synapse-pummeling action that overstays its welcome, all of which is made worse by grim realization that Man of Steel shortchanges its audience by borrowing empathy from the grand Superman myth rather than attempt to generate its own ethos.

For shame, Misters Snyder, Goyer and Nolan.

That being said, I did not hate it. Thanks to the superb work of Michael Shannon, Amy Adams and Henry Cavill, I had something to care about. Poor Amy Adams, such a fine actress plagued by the Zack Snyder malady of having nearly nothing to do but be saved by a man (double for shame, Mr S), but she found a way give her shadow of a character grit and tenacity (bravo, Ms A). Thanks to Amir Mokri, the movie does looks great, and Henry Cavill really is a fantastic Superman, but the exhausting action sequence that hijacks the last third of the film begins as exhilarating (even I always wanted a Superman with teeth) and just goes on and on and on. It’s relentless, which doesn’t have to be bad, but it also reveals itself to be equally toothless in its overblown way as no character ever really gets hurt from the trade of titanic, city leveling blows. The noise and the camera work and the violence all seem to mute each other over time, like living in a city until the sound of sirens and horns and car wrecks don’t even register anymore.

But seriously, I didn’t hate it. It has its problems (that dog/tornado scene is stupid screenwriting at its height), but I would still be interested to see what else Henry Cavill and Christopher Nolan can bring to the table. But Mr Nolan, I would recommend shedding yourself of Zack Snyder, for his is the way to catastrophe (i.e. Sucker Punch). 

01 July 2013

World War Z

directed by Marc Forster

We’ve all heard the horror stories of stymied production, re-writes, re-shoots, road blocks and other nondescript calamities that nearly derailed the Marc Forster directed genre film about a zombie apocalypse, and, for most of us, these stories melded into a kind of cautionary tale warning us against seeing what surely would be prove to be utter shite. And it was thusly that I sat down in the auditorium (telling myself that I could find worse ways to waste 2 hours of my evening) to get a load of Brad Pitt’s crack at a big budget action movie (in his own way). While the film has its problems, most notably the abrupt and almost propaganda-esque denouement, I have to say it wasn’t a total loss for me. While I didn’t find the zombie spin particularly novel (except perhaps in terms of sheer scale, plotwise), I did find it refreshing to see a zombie film that didn’t necessarily revolve around a group of captives (in a house, or building, or mall, etc) attempting to survive a gore-glutted night. Instead, WWZ opts for the opposite approach as it follows Brad Pitt’s character across the globe in search of clues and, hopefully, a cure. Not to give the film too much credit, but I have been catching myself comparing WWZ to 28 Days Later... and Children of Men (to which I will say “You’re welcome, WWZ.”) in terms of tone and depiction of said outbreak, which is to say that it isn’t preoccupied with blood and guts (though the intensity is palpable at times) to sell the story. All involved give credible performances, particularly Mireille Enos (who is excellent as Pitt’s solid wife), and the film’s serious tone bears the weight of the story without tipping too much into the realm of incredulity. Zombie fans, give it a shot. Everyone else? What the hell, give it a shot, too. As one who has been down the road already I can assure you: there ARE worse ways to waste 2 hours.