Monday, March 31, 2014

Review of Movie 43: When Bad Things Happen to Good Actors

I still need to finish watching a handful of Oscar Nominated films before I can even make my Top 10 list for 2013 (I have yet to see 12 Years A Slavebut the Movie Gods showed me that I could watch the winner for the 2014 Razzie of the Year. The Movie Gods have it out for me.
Movie 43 has 13 directors, and 28 writers. Netflix tries to sell it as a “homage” to movies such as Kentucky Fried Movie. If that is true, then I am going to make The Diary of Anne Frank into a musical comedy where Anne is living in an attic with Jack Tripper and Janet Wood, and they have a landlord played by Don Knotts that thinks Jack is gay, call it Three’s Concentration Camp! and consider it an homage to Anne Frank and all holocaust literature. But as a badge of honor, all movie critics must watch crap, so here we go.
The premise of the movie is that Dennis Quaid is a washed up producer pitching bad stories to Greg Kinnear’s studio.
Scene 1: “The Catch” The first story features Kate Winslet going out with Hugh Jackman, who is a billionaire bachelor. We see a cover of a magazine Kate’s friend shows her that asks “Why is this man still single?” It turns out that after he takes his scarf off at dinner, he has a ball sac on his throat. That’s right, he has a neck scrotum! That old tired joke. I am ashamed to admit I laughed a bit at this, partly because I couldn’t fathom how Winslet and Jackman could have been talked into doing this. But I suppose if the sight of a hair falling off of said neck scrotum and into Jackman’s soon-to-be-eaten soup sets off your funny bone, than this is your vignette!
Scene 2: “Homeschooled” A deeply unfunny bit starring Liev Schrieber and Naomi Watts as parents who homeschool their kid, in every way, including hazing, being the humiliating teacher who gets their name wrong, and giving their son their first awkward kiss and sexual advance by a male friend experience. If child abuse were hilarious, then this would have been a feature film concept a long time ago.
Scene 3: “The Proposition” Chris Pratt is about to propose to Anna Farris, who also has a question to ask him. They both decide to ask their question at the same time, but Anna Farris manages to blurt out first “Will you poop on me?” Of course, JB Smoove is there to give advice at a barbecue the next day on what to make it just the right experience. He urges him to not be a “2 squeeze, thank you please” kind of guy. I’ve probably already given this segment more time than it deserves, but it was so gross and stupid, I again laughed at one point out of a “I’m so embarrassed for Anna Farris’ career” sentiment.
Keep in mind that between each “scene” Quaid disgusts Kinnear, and after this pitch, Kinnear calls security, but Quaid forces him to listen to the rest at gunpoint.
Scene 4: “Veronica” Kieran Culkin and Emma Stone have a lover’s quarrel at the front counter of the grocery store, which is broadcasted on the intercom. They say ludricrous things like “I want to give you a hickey on your V____.” Strange, not funny.
Scene 5: “IBabe” This is a “parody” of an Ipod or Iphone commercial where people dancing around to music with their headphones on, except they are connected to a naked woman instead of an Apple product. What’s the joke?
Scene 6: “Super Hero Speed Dating” Remember all those times you thought how funny it would be if superheroes had to speed date? Yeah, neither do I. Justin Long is Robin, Jason Sudeikis is Batman, Uma Thurman is Lois Lane, and Bobby Cannavale is Superman. Lois is speed dating Robin, Batman tells Superman, Superman warns Robin to keep his distance. Kirsten Bell as Supergirl gets the Cyrano de Bergerac treatment from Batman and Robin. They all say and do things that don’t make you laugh.
Scene 7: “Machine Kids” The idea is that there are actually kids inside vending machines, ATMs, and copiers. Haha.
Scene 5B: “IBabe” The joke is that the “vagiport” of the Ibabe is where the vent of the Ibabe is, and also where the fan is that cuts off the penises and fingers of the young men that have purchased the Ibabe. Aasif Mandvi has done such great work on The Daily Show, as has Jack McBrayer on 30 Rock. Richard Gere and Kate Bosworth round out the cast. The commercial returns after the segment, saying “Don’t Fuck It” HIGH-Larious!
Scene 8: “Middle School Date” This might have been the least funniest thing I’ve ever seen. I would sooner laugh at Rosemary’s Baby than this. I am so embarassed for Chloe Moretz, but how could Patrick Warburton, aka David Puddy, not see how horribly unfunny this was? He’s not a 13 year old girl, he should have known better. It is followed by a brief parody of a Tampax commercial. This was directed by Elizabeth Banks.
Common is Kinnear’s boss, who is meeting with Seth MacFarlane, who has a couple of funny lines when Quaid and Kinnear come in. Kinnear is forced to buy Quaid’s movie. It makes me wonder if this was how this movie got made.
Scene 9: “Happy Birthday” Johnny Knoxville tries to patch things up with his friend Sean William Scott by giving him a leprechaun, who turns out to be a foul-mouthed Irish midget. I think. I would trade a pot of gold right now for a laugh.
Will Sasso joins Common, Kinnear, and Quaid in embarrassing themselves.
Scene 10: “Truth or Dare” Stephen Merchant goes on a date with Halle Berry. A Truth or Dare game quickly escalates into Merchant being dared to grab a man’s behind, Berry blows out the candles on a blind kid’s birthday cake, etc. etc. I say etc, because it quickly devolves into a montage. The funniest dare would be Berry forcing Merchant to listen to Snooki read Moby Dick. But at this point, all you can muster is a chuckle.
Scene 11: “Victory’s Glory” A parody of inspirational sports/civil rights movies (like Terrence Howard’s own Pride and Glory Road). The only funny segment in the movie. Fast forward to 1hr 11 minutes in to watch it.
The film is “over” at 1hr 17 minutes, yet Netflix shows the movie is 1 hour 34 min. The movie has the nerve to show outtakes during the closing credits, but has even more nerve to make you think the f’ing movie is over!
Scene 12: “Beezel” I don’t think in the history of film, has any movie watcher been less ready to laugh. Beezel is an animated cat that tries to come in between Josh Duhamel and Elizabeth Banks. Beezel is Duhamel’s cat, and Banks later catches Beezel masturbating to pictures of Duhamel. Beezel chases after Banks, and sprays her. I could go on, but I think I’ve devoted enough of this blog, and enough of my life to this movie.
I hopefully have gone into enough detail to confirm for you that the Razzie is well-deserved. What’s astonishing is that after the Beezel segment, there are 8 minutes of actual credits.
I would wish ass cancer on everyone involved in this movie, but there are too many talented people in it to wish that. Maybe a bad case of diarrhea. Some of those involved would think that would be funny.
IMDB Rating: 1 out of 10 stars
Netflix Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What's On NETFLIX Now?: EXPIRING SOON (updated)

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

YOLO! Fritz Lang Style

Fritz Lang obviously didn’t anticipate James Bond when naming this film. Inspired byJourneys in Classic Film, I decided to look for a much older film than what I’ve been watching. I used to watch TCM quite a lot, and if you can get past certain things, older films still have a lot to offer. Fritz Lang’s You Only Live Once (1937) was already in my queue. Anticipating the YOLO youth culture motto/hashtag/annoying-phrase-to-say-after-doing something-idiotic by almost 75 years, Fritz Lang nonetheless is better known for directing the silent sci-fi classic Metropolis (1927) (a restored version is available on Netflix streaming). My personal favorite of his, however, is M (1931), a film that is still ahead of our time in how it deals with its subject matter. If I were to make my top 100 films list, it would be somewhere in the top half.
Although a pretty good film, You Only Live Once wouldn’t make it that list. The Netflix synopsis for this film calls it a “melodrama,” which in 1937 was also known as a “drama,” as this film was no more melodramatic than most films of that day. The film opens with a painfully dated scene, where the secretary (errr, executive assistant these days) to a public defender, Joan Graham (played by Sylvia Sidney), listens to an ethnic shopkeeper complain about how nothing is being done about the apples being taken from his fruitstand. Comedy is definitely not Lang’s strength, and we aren’t subjected to too much of this hilarity, as the melodrama gets going pretty quickly. Joan is in love with a three-time convict, Eddie Taylor (played by Henry Fonda), who is warned by the police chief that a fourth conviction will result in a life sentence. The D.A. has done Eddie (and Joan) a favor by landing him a job at Ajax Movers. Eddie faces discrimination and unfair treatment from the jerk of a boss, who treats him like dirt because of his past crimes. He ultimately fires Eddie over basically a minor incident. I’m glad to see that our society has changed, and that employers nowadays look beyond a person’s past…oh, wait, nevermind.
We wonder about Eddie’s next moves after losing his job, and we then see a bank robbery unfold before our eyes. This scene is the only one in the film that Lang definitely brought his own sensibilities to. The rest of the film could have been done by a lot of the directors of this time, but this bank robbery has an edge to it that creeps you out in the way that does. The menacing eyes, leering thru a tiny opening in the back of a car; hands grabbing gas masks; a crowd panicking as tear gas is thrown into the street. If you look up this film on Wikipedia, you will find that over 15 minutes were cut from the film due to its then “unprecedented realistic violence.” It’s a true shame that this happened, as you witness true greatness in the little that actually survived that cut here in the robbery scene. In some ways it reminded me of the bank robbery scene in The Dark Knight, not necessarily for content, but in how it felt.
SPOILER ALERT: well, not quite yet, but coming soon. So of course Eddie somehow gets blamed for this bank robbery, and faces a life time conviction. Various things happen that if i describe them all, of course would defeat the purpose of viewing the movie. But I do have to mention how weird and dated the very end feels. Eddie and Joan are running from the law, and anticipating the corniness of Shining Throughare just inches from the Canadian border and safety. We know that Joan is already dead, and we gather from, as an IMDB reviewer says, the “syrupy” voice of the priest that Eddie shot during his escape speaking to Eddie from Heaven, that Eddie also dies. It’s not really an ending that works, but the theme of the film, that a justice system that is unfair, hostile, and corrupt is just a reflection of the society that created it, rings true.
Both Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sidney for the most part avoid the overacting and excessive emoting common to this era of film making, but I would expect none of that from a Fritz Lang film in any case. You’ll notice the weird camera angles that Lang is known for throughout the movie. Also look out for Margaret Hamilton, two years before her career defining role as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.
My IMDB rating for You Only Live Once: 7 out of 10
My Netflix rating: 3 out of 5

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Arrested Development Season 4 Episodes 8 through 11

I would guess that I’ve made the same face that Portia de Rossi makes above while watching these latest episodes. They’ve been all strange, but in a very entertaining way. While not always laugh out loud funny, there are plenty of great jokes, and the overlapping plot lines are beginning to pay off. While I may not have been laughing all the time, I enjoyed the writing that went into developing these episodes, with the humor coming from building the characters and the situations. I don’t have much to say about each episode, but since I’ve started grading the others, I’ll continue:
Episode 8: Red Hairing (Featured Character: Lindsay Bluth)
Solid episode. I enjoyed the Cinco de Cuatro finale, and hope that Lindsay does follow through with becoming a politician. Grade: B+
Episode 9: Smashed (Featured Character: Tobias)
This was one of the oddest episodes so far, where I wasn’t sure what I was watching at times, but it worked. It didn’t exactly feel like an Arrested Development episode. Maria Bamford as Debrie Bardeaux will either annoy you or draw you in. I think the other star’s interactions with her make this the best Tobias episode yet. Still, I would have wanted more Buster and Maybe and George Michael instead. But again, it’s good while being strange. The Fantastic Four: The Musical makes the comic book nerd in me laugh as well.Grade: B+
Episode 10: Queen B (Featured Character: Lucille Bluth)
The only episode to feature Lucille as the main character. The exchange between Lucille and Lucille 2 (Liza Minelli) is great. Some of the puns aren’t bad either. I’ll never get tired of Lucille screaming with delight when Gene Parmesan, the P.I., “surprises” her. Jessica Walter consistently delivered the funniest performances of the first three seasons. No exception here. Grade: A
Episode 11: A New Attitude (Featured Character: Gob)
Well, when you have Tony Wonder (Ben Stiller) and Gob both pretending to be gay with each other, but finding that they are truly “the same,” what else do you need? Perhaps a trip to the Gothic Castle (or would that be Gothic Asshole?) Grade: A-

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Square: Netflix Oscar Documentary Challenge Entry # 3

I feel a bit like a student who knew when their big assignment’s due date was, and kind of did a lot of work, but didn’t quite finish, and therefore won’t turn in the assignment at all, and then hopes the teacher doesn’t notice (as if teachers just forget these things). Maybe I was hoping to distract everyone with the Arrested Development posts. Did it work?
In an earlier post, I committed to watching all the Oscar nominated documentaries (4 out of the 5 are on streaming, with the 5th being one I’ve seen in the theater). I knew I was giving myself a March 2nd deadline, which seemed like plenty of time. It was plenty of time, but I couldn’t manage to find the time in my busy schedule (it’s almost like I have others thing to do besides watch movies!)
I’ve gotten so close, watching The Square (2013) last night. The only one I won’t finish in time for the Oscar ceremonies tonight is The Act of Killingwhich according to a friend, made him “lose faith in humanity, and I’m a community college teacher, so that’s saying a lot.” So that movie is a definite contender and will be something I review later on this week. After watching The Square, I’d have to say the competition is between those two movies.
I’ve been eager to watch this one for months now, ever since it drew attention for being distributed exclusively through Netflix. The movie starts where many others might have ended- with “revolutionaries” gathered in Tahrir Square, the most important and symbolic public space in Egypt, celebrating the removal of the corrupt despot Hosni Mubarak from the presidency. The music at this point is hopeful, the participants speak optimistically, and in broad terms about their success. Seeing that there was still an hour and a half left after this opening segment, I hoped that the tone wouldn’t remain constant, or else this movie would have been a long pat-on-the-back fluff piece saying how great everyone was in bringing about change.
Thankfully, the director Jehane Noujaim, stuck around for the aftermath, the part of most films that you have to fill in yourself by searching on Wikipedia or Google for the latest, or reading the postscripts at the end of the film before the final credits roll. We see change does not come so easy. The first ominous sign of what is to come is when the crowds disperse after the removal of Mubarak, at the request of the Egyptian army, who say they will never hurt Egyptians, but they can go home. The principal characters in the film (one of which is the star of the film The Kite Runnerrealize their mistake, with several of them independently verbalizing that they should have never left the square until a new constitution had been drafted. 
I was reminded of Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude while watching this film, as the same things continue to happen over and over again, this time not generation after generation, but leader after leader (or lack of leader). Not much has changed after six months of military rule, and whereas you are shown at the beginning sympathetic, idealistic, intelligent, and mostly secular Egyptians fighting for change (with a member of the Muslim Brotherhood joining the revolutionaries because it’s the right thing to do as a human, not as a Muslim), opportunistic members of the Muslim Brotherhood move in to the vacuum and begin co-opting the movement for a new Egypt. Anyone who has been brainwashed into believing that government and religion are actually separate in this country should see parallels between what the Muslim Brotherhood does and what the Christian Right has done in our country.
The consequences of this development of course are more drastic and deadly for Egyptians, and even if you are intimately familiar from watching or reading the news about Egypt for the last couple of years, you will see things you probably have not seen before, and get a close-up and graphic view of events that probably were censored by our media here in the United States. The film does bring up the fact that the USA and other nations actually supported indirectly the killing of Egyptians, but doesn’t dwell on that. The real strength of the film, besides having a ground view of history in the making, is that it lets those involved in the democracy movement tell their story. It doesn’t need voice-overs, or to bring in swelling music to make us feel something.
At the end, the optimism of the beginning of the film remains, while being tempered by the reality that bringing about true change requires persistence and dedication to your guiding principles and beliefs. One revolutionary bemoans the fact that they are not successful because they don’t know how to compromise. But on the other hand, that is exactly what makes them extraordinary and worth watching, and supporting in real life in any way we can.
So, after watching 4 out of the 5 entries, The Square is my pick for Best Documentary. IMDB rating: 9 out of 10. Netflix rating: 5 out of 5.
A not so distant, but not really that close either, runner-up would be 20 Feet from Stardom (available on DVD only)
A really distant third would be Dirty WarsBringing up the rear is the modest in its ambitions Cutie and the Boxer
Look for an updated ranking when I post about The Act of Killing later this week.