Sunday, August 31, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 24 - Fanboys (2009)

This is for all the Fanboys and Fangirls who attended FanExpo this weekend in Toronto.

The backdrop is Ohio, Halloween 1998, six months before the release of Stars Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Two estranged best friends will find each other at a Halloween party after three years apart. This is the night their lives will change forever. Linus (Chris Marquette) and Eric (Sam Huntington) were best friends for as long as they could remember but after high school Eric decided to grow up. Eric stopped illustrating and concluded his interest in comic books to work for his father as a used car salesman. He left his friends behind, he matured, whereas his friends Linus, Windows (Jay Baruchel), Hutch (Dan Fogler), and Zoe (Kristen Bell) all live as the titular Fanboys (and fangirl) clinging to their perhaps ill-founded dreams. The day after the party Windows and Hutch tell Eric that Linus has cancer and has three months to live. Eric, determined to make amends with Linus decides that the four boys act on their ridiculous plan of stealing an early print of the film from the Skywalker ranch. At first reluctant to go, Linus joins the team and their quest begins. Along the way they bust up some Trekkies, pick up Zoe, and get super high with Danny Trejo, but finally make to the ranch. 

The ending is really quite touching and it's worth watching even if the first 70 minutes don't capture you. 

Marquette and Huntington are the bright spots in this film. Windows and Hutch, or maybe even just Baruchel and Fogler, are trying too hard to get laughs because they are desperate not to just be group filler opposite Linus and Eric. Even though Kristen Bell may seem a little out of place, I buy it. She is a weirdo in real life so it wouldn't surprise me if she was a fangirl at heart. 

Seth Rogen has the best parts in the film as he plays three separate characters without any effort to hide the fact. In one scene they highlight it and they have him beat himself up. We also see amusing cameos from William Shatner, Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Ray Park, Craig Robinson, Will Forte, Danny McBride, Jaime King, Danny Trejo, Billy Dee Williams, and Carrie Fisher

There is a short scene about ten minutes into the movie that I think is pure gold. It can't be more than a few minutes and it shows Linus and Eric arguing about how Eric abandoned them all after high school. It instantly turns into an argument about whether Luke had a thing for Leia and they are completely derailed. It is a snapshot for the theme of the movie. The movie on the surface is about Star Wars fandom but it's more about rediscovering your passion and rekindling old friendships. The movie serves as a decent emotional release if you're an easy cry and is enjoyable if you focus on Linus and Eric. Looking at Kristen Bell helps the movie too because she's pretty.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 23 - Draft Day (2014)

I realize as I'm writing this that the word "day" appears in the title a little too often for my liking but I'm a stickler for format consistency.

Draft Day follows General Manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) on the titular day in 2014 with just under 13 hours on the clock. Sonny manages the Cleveland Browns and the fans are hungry for something new after their previous disappointing seasons. Sonny has just lost his father, Sonny Weaver Sr. and has learned that he is going to be a father. His secret relationship with Ali (Jennifer Garner), one of the teams lawyers, only adds to his troubles. With only the 7th pick he is in danger of getting fired by the owner (Frank Langella) if he doesn't make a "splash" at the draft. Sonny wants to draft Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman) at 7. Mack brings great defensive prowess and energy whereas Coach Penn (Denis Leary) wants running back Ray Jennings (Arian Foster) for his offence. We see Penn and Sonny butt heads more than once during the day and Sonny's day just keeps getting worse. He makes a trade for the number one pick in order to get rookie QB Bo Callahan (Josh Pence) all the while alienating current QB Brian Drews (Tom Welling). The future of the team is looking bleak and the clock is ticking so Sonny has some work to do. 

The main problems I have with this movie are solely based on Sonny's character and overall plausibility. As an audience we're supposed to want to root for Sonny but time and time again he seems to just stumble through and gets lucky. The main revelations of the film aren't even his and he simply gives it some attention when it's almost too late. Yes he has strong instincts and those instincts landed him in a world of trouble by the end. Thankfully, through implausible draft day trades and the miraculous happy ending formula, everything turns out great.

Kevin Costner has picked up some bad habits in his old age like phoning in performances. Recently I've seen him "try" to act in 3 Days to Kill and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. He did us a favour putting on his pants for Draft Day and although it's no Field of Dreams it's also no Waterworld. Costner dons the role of a man stressed about his father's passing, his impending fatherhood, as well as the fate of the Cleveland Browns and his responsibility to the organization and the city. He pulls it off. Something he doesn't pull off is his romance with the lovely Jennifer Garner. I know they put a lot of make up on Costner and larger age gaps have occurred in film but it just seems a little off in this instance. Fortunately, Garner's character Ali is cold and aloof towards Sonny for the first half of the film so that helps ease some awkward tension. 

Denis Leary is as unlikable as ever. He has one of those faces you want to punch and I was waiting for Costner to do so several times throughout the film. That being said he's supposed to be Sonny's foil and so in fact he does what he was made to do. Be an ass.

Ellen Burstyn plays Sonny's mother and although she gives a perfectly fine performance her character isn't nearly as complete as she could have been. Barb Weaver is more so a means for better explaining Sonny's relationship with his father and to better flush out Costner's role. The first I saw of Burstyn was her performance in Requiem for a Dream. Barb is a lovely elderly woman but it's hard for me to dissociate her from that portrayal of a mad and desperate woman cracked out on amphetamines.

There are some great cameos and small roles by Sean Combs, Terry Crews, Tom Welling and  that I quite enjoyed. For a moment Welling made me forget who he was and although his screen time was short he made the most of it. Also, I have to add that Griffin Newman as Rick the Intern almost stole the show. 

The movie is predictable and implausible but still entertaining. I enjoyed watching the drama unfold between the players, the staff, and Sonny slammed into a corner. The end scramble at the draft is reminiscent of the trade deadline scene in Moneyball except slower and dramatized to hell. I especially liked it because I could put it on in the background and still not miss a thing. I did want to give it my undivided attention in the last half hour though. It's a drama about the NFL Draft, even if you aren't into sports it's still entertaining but it does help to be somewhat versed in some of what is going on technically. Draft Day is surprisingly good for a movie I thought would be garbage. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 22 - Evil Dead II (1987)

Evil Dead II (Dead by Dawn) is by far my favourite of the trilogy and the perfect mix of horror and comedy. Albeit this style of horror is quite dated but it still gives me the creeps. This is Sam Raimi's best work to date.

For all intents and purposes the story reverts to where we began in The Evil Dead. In the sequel we only see Ash and his girlfriend Linda come up to the cabin. Ten minutes is all it takes to recap what the first movie entailed. Two researchers and their guides return to the cabin after finding more pages from the ancient Necronomicon. They find the paranoid and deranged Ash trying to kill them. After they all figure out that evil demons are to blame for all of this craziness they struggle to find a way to survive.

The acting is way over the top but that is the style they are going for and it suits a comedy-horror well, emphasis on the comedy. Vader's got nothing on Bruce Campbell's prolific exclamations of "Noooooo!". We see it several times in the movie and most notably at the end. 

I do have to applaud the make up and prosthetics in the sequel. They were underwhelming in The Evil Dead but they hit the nail on the head in this one. Ted Raimi returns to play a possessed dead woman so they have that going for them.

There are a lot of movies I like and share my opinion on but this is one that would strongly suggest watching. If you only watch one of this trilogy watch Evil Dead II. It recaps the first movie entirely and unlike Army of Darkness is not just an amalgamation of jokes and silliness. It gives a great spin on the horror genre and it is very tame if you're like me and don't handle today's horror well. I wouldn't say you're missing out but Evil Dead II is a film that has made a lasting imprint in horror and....yeah you're missing out. 

Besides, the following scene is one of the greatest scene of all time and that alone is why you should watch it.

100 Movie Days: Day 21 - Rumble in the Bronx (1995)

I'm a day late on this one but it was bound to happen eventually. 

Rumble in the Bronx is one of the most action packed and I think the first Jackie Chan movie I can remember growing up. This was the movie that gave him his big break in Hollywood in 1995 and he didn't look back until his mid-50s. 

I didn't watch too much of Stallone, Arnold, or that kind of action star growing up. Those weren't my kind of action film. Raised in an Asian household I held Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan above all in terms of action stars. Although I was a bit too young to have had a strong taste for Lee's work, I've seen quite a few of Jackie's movies. I've seen both the Hollywood and Hong Kong style of his work and some I couldn't name for you but I could describe the iconic action scenes. 

In Rumble, Jackie plays a young man visiting New York City for his uncle's (Bill Tung) wedding. He decides to stay and help Elaine (Anita Mui) who has just bought his uncle's supermarket. When a gang of thugs start trouble at the store Jackie (because his character's names don't tend to matter we'll call him Jackie any way) soundly trounces them and a revenge war begins. During his time helping at the store he befriends a young boy Danny who is confined to a wheelchair. Unbeknownst to Jackie, Danny's sister Nancy (Francoise Yip) is the gang leader's girlfriend but he wins her over. They all get tangled into a deeper plot of stolen diamonds and crime syndicates.

The late Anita Mui had the same sense of comedic timing I've seen in every film. She could play a scene straight and serious and with a simple exclamation and an expressive face she could cut the tension. The beautiful Canadian actress Francoise Yip is a pretty face but her character was pretty flat. In fact most of the characters had absolutely no development and mainly served as extras or line fillers between Chan's action scenes. It would have made for a more compelling story had they cut most of the gang stuff but focused more on Nancy and Danny. The whole diamond plot was a whole other level they could have reserved for another movie. 

Rumble was shot  in Vancouver for under $8 million, I honestly thought it would have been a lot more considering the destruction wrought by that pesky hovercraft. The ending scenes alone would have been the mighty costly. They probably didn't spend much on sound though as the dubbing is quite poor as expected from Asian crossover films at the time. I guess shooting in Canada really is that cheap. 

The terrible English dubbing and lack of sensible plot or character development would have tanked any other film. Thankfully for martial arts action films, the choreography is where it really shines. Jackie, originally a stuntman, and his revered stunt team know how to sell an action movie. The fight choreography is a beautiful dance that combines martial arts and silly props. 

He is second to none and his creative and often comedic fight style in film helped innumerable Asian actors and actresses break into the industry.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 20 - Blue Velvet (1986)

For some reason I had the impression going in that this would be a romantic movie. I could not have been more misinformed.

Director David Lynch hasn't made too many big moves since Blue Velvet. His greatest works were in the past with Eraserhead and The Elephant Man. Not that I've seen either of them so I can only pretend like I know what I'm saying.

Despite this, I can safely say that I could understand roughly 20% of what was going on in this movie and why it was happening. I understand the direction and style Lynch was going for but it didn't catch me as much as it could have. So here is the run down of what I could decipher.

After his father suffers a stroke, Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) returns from college to his small home town of Lumberton. While walking in a field around his neighbourhood he finds a decomposing human ear. He brings it to a detective in town and quickly becomes fascinated in the unravelling mystery. Helping him, albeit reluctantly, is Sandy (Laura Dern), the detective's daughter. They soon discover a dangerous plot swirling around lounge singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) and deranged sociopath Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper).

It has found critical acclaim and I can fully understand where those people are coming from. Unfortunately I didn't connect with it as much as I wished I could. I was literally throwing my hands in the air mouthing the words "What is going on?!" constantly during this two hour film. It was still entertaining though and I applaud it for trying to show that there is a bizarre and shady underbelly to many things that look pristine from the outside. What struck me though was that some scenes held true to an intense thriller whereas others appeared to straight out of a B-movie. It was an inconsistent film and often jumped over plot points without explaining things too well.

Maclachlan did a fine job as our star protagonist but he never seems to show emotion and that kind of weirds me out. Laura Dern could have easily been omitted from the story but the more the merrier. Also, the way she cries is so hilarious it ruins the mood in one scene where I should not have been laughing.

Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rossellini really stole the show. Roger Ebert has famously (or perhaps infamously) stated that he disliked Lynch putting Rossellini in this film. Lynch created such a degrading role for her and Ebert didn't deem this film worthy of her performance. Rossellini is verbally, physically, and sexually abused and she is portrayed as sadomasochist. I agree with Ebert in the respect that I think it was courageous performance. At this time she was trying to shake the narrow scope of being just a supermodel and trying to escape her mother's shadow. The emotion and intensity she showed in this film was overwhelming and it did her well in the industry.

Hopper had the most terrifying character. He is absolutely psychotic and we don't know what he will do next but we're transfixed on his performance. Particular intense scenes are prefaced by Hopper inhaling an unknown gas through a face mask and reverting to the pure Id of a man. Unbeknownst to me I had previously watched on several occasions a small scene of the movie as Frank shouts his love of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

I did however enjoy the soundtrack which was hauntingly beautiful, the exact style Lynch was looking for. Featured heavily are the Bobby Vinton version of the titular Blue Velvet and Roy Orbison's In Dreams. We also are treated to Rossellini's actual vocals.

I was disappointed with this film but I did still enjoy certain parts of it. This film could have been more polished and put together but I guess that is the theme and style Lynch was going for. Perhaps it deserves another watch some time down the road but it is just not my cup of tea. However, if you want to watch an intense, sometimes uncomfortable, and confusing yet mesmerizing movie give it a go. Just don't watch it with your parents. That might be a little weird.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 19 - Ruby Sparks (2012)

I was reminded the other day that I still haven't gotten around to watching Ruby Sparks. It has been sitting on my hard drive for over a year and I decided to finally get to it. 

The reason I wanted to watch this one is because it is written by and stars the unbelievably adorable Zoe Kazan. Her co-star is her long time boyfriend Paul Dano who I've never exactly warmed to but won me over with this performance. 

Calvin Weir-Fields, a high school drop out, wrote the great American novel at age 19. He was thrust into the limelight and has since struggled to live up to the title of genius he loathes so much. Now ten years since his first novel he finds himself blocked, incapable of putting pen to paper. However, he finds himself dreaming of this quirky, perfect girl and regains the fire to write about her. He is ecstatic to finish his work and starts to fall in love with her, Pygmalion style. This is when he sees his dream girl come to life and Ruby Sparks is standing in his apartment. He is clearly going insane but when others reveal that they can see her, he realizes that the best thing to ever happen to him, he's created. They have a strong bond and a blissful relationship because that is what he manifested for himself - but when she begins to want to have a life outside of him, he struggles with handling it like a regular human being and controlling her with the words he writes for her. 

Kazan and Dano play off each other brilliantly and you can see their real life chemistry. Kazan has the much harder yet enviable role of playing the unpredictable and entertainingly malleable Ruby. The exciting scenes following Ruby's mysterious appearance are my favourite. They encompass the first climax of the film and it is so fun to watch Dano freak out as he miraculously "produces" a woman played by his girlfriend. Supporting our two lovers but more specifically just Calvin are Chris Messina, Steve Coogan, Elliott Gould, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, and Aasif Mandvi. Other than Gould as Calvin's shrink, most of the characters don't add to the progression of the plot but a romantic comedy with only two people would be pretty boring.

There are a lot of little things that I am not good at describing that draw me into this movie. The fact that Scotty, Calvin's dog keeps dragging articles of women's clothing into the house as a build up to Ruby's arrival is unnecessary yet I couldn't imagine the movie without it. Zoe Kazan's mostly impeccable French is so attractive. French really is a sexy language. There are plenty of other small bits and allusions tying different points of the movie together but you should watch it for yourself.

In terms of writing it seems that Ruby is a manifestation not only for Calvin to fall in love with but someone who embodies how he wish he could be. It even goes a level further up because Zoe wrote the script and the fact that Calvin writes her character in the story. It's a weird Moebius strip kind of cycle.

It's definitely overly cute but it features some pretty intense dramatic scenes that help to balance out the tone of the film. I'd watch it again in a heartbeat and I probably will after this.

Monday, August 25, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 18 - If I Stay (2014)

I've been following the career of young Chloe Moretz since she was the smart mouthed younger sister of Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 500 Days of Summer. She has had to grow up in the business and has grown towards some more serious leading roles. Since her great roles in Kick-Ass and Hugo she has taken the lead in the.....watchable Carrie and now If I Stay, an adaptation of the novel of the same name.

I'm a bit tired of writing repetitive summaries so just watch the trailer if you haven't seen it yet. Basically, it is the story of nice girl falls for "bad boy" rocker and general teen angst ensues. However, that weak initial premise is bolstered by a much broader backdrop of family and being with the ones you love.

It's true that this is very much geared towards to the young adult, teen audience but it features strong content about the importance of family and loved ones and that is a great theme for everyone. The film hops back and forth in time with a lot of flashbacks but they happen at the perfect frequency to keep things interesting to prevent a lot of potential lulls. This is important with serious content because it can often lead to drowsiness. I also enjoyed that they didn't have the cheesy walk-through-people ghost effect. While she was having an out of body experience she was bound by regular physics and had to swoop into open doors or press up against windows. It shows that she isn't a ghost. Not yet anyway.

Moretz had a solid performance, not my favourite but still better than most. She captured enough teen awkwardness to be believable but not so much for it to be uncomfortable to watch. She does well opposite Jaime Blackley who portrays the not-so-bad boy Adam. I enjoyed the pair and whether it was intentional there was a wee bit of tension in the chemistry as might happen in real life.  My favourite characters were Kat (Mireille Enos) and Denny (Joshua Leonard), Mia's parents. They are the quirky, weird rocker parents that soundly broke the idea of the straight and narrow prototypical "good parents". They provided a fun and happy environment and sacrificed for their children. If I grow up to be parents like them, I will have lived a fulfilling life.

According to my expert source, it follows the novel quite faithfully with certain things in different orders. I'm glad that a few of these adaptations from page to screen can do it right.

This is a pretty heavy movie but not enough to make me cry which, if you know me, isn't that hard to do. It was a good movie with great themes but I won't be rushing to revisit it any time soon.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 17 - The F Word (2014)

Released in the States and in the UK as What If, stars Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan knock it out of the park with The F Word.

Filmed and actually set in Toronto, unlike so many others trying to pass T.O. off as other cities, the story begins at a party. This is where not-so-recently broken hearted Wallace (Radcliffe) brushes off his rusty social skills and strikes up a conversation with the adorable and irresistible Chantry (Kazan). They have a great time, featuring a minimum of awkward moments, but to his dismay he finds out she's taken. Chantry and her boyfriend Ben (Rafe Spall) have been together five years and she finds it difficult to meet new male friends due to her relationship status. However, against all odds Chantry and Wallace find themselves becoming great friends. But can men and women really be just friends? Yes, I believe so. On rare occasions this can happen. Unfortunately for Wallace, this isn't one of them and he has to decide on whether he really just wants to be friends.

The story has been told time and time again and it is all very predictable but the brilliantly written screenplay gives it another life. Director Michael Dowse, probably best known for another Canadian film Goon, worked magic on this one. He had a lot of help though, most of all from the writing. Elan Mastai adapted the screenplay from a 15 minute Canadian mini-play Toothpaste and Cigars written by TJ Dawe and Michael Rinaldi. I'm not sure who originated the style of dialogue seen in the film but as for the Gilmore Girls-esque 100 minute screenplay I have to give credit to the former. As a side note, Mastai started in features writing the screenplay for MVP: Most Vertical Primate. It just goes to show that people can change.

I was first charmed by Zoe when she appeared as Meryl Streep's youngest daughter in It's Complicated and in another supporting role in Josh Radnor's happythankyoumoreplease. I was excited to see this movie just to see her. On the other hand this is first role I've seen Dan in since Harry Potter and I worried that his time as a wizard stunted his acting range.

They were both lovely, both individually and most importantly together. Zoe seems so genuine in her role and surprisingly Dan has some great comedic timing. As remarked in the movie he really is quite pale and sickly looking. I'm not saying he has to get some colour but it might stop scaring the children away.

The fast talking, witty banter, and quick quips form the basis of the comedy portion of this rom-com and it is undeniably wonderful. They kept me laughing throughout the film and it never seemed too slow. The two stars play perfectly off supporting actors Adam Driver, Mackenzie Davis, and Megan Park to keep the audience smiling. The romance has its moments and finds its final footing in a great, not to mention hilarious, climax as Wallace and Chantry exchange very particular gifts.

The F Word is one of my favourite rom-coms in quite some time. I enjoyed the enhanced level of comedy because it wasn't excessively stupid or overdone. It is a great date movie or you can just go see it with some friends. Either way, I recommend it wholeheartedly and you won't be disappointed. Unless you have no soul.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 16 - The Longest Yard (2005)

The remake of the Burt Reynolds 1974 football flick, The Longest Yard is an Adam Sandler vehicle that is mediocre at best. That's not the reason we watch these kinds of movies though, is it?

I love to watch any movie displaying athletic talent of any kind. I like other football movies like Remember the Titans, and although Sandler hasn't had a particularly strong movie since the turn of the millennium but that's okay. I can still watch 90s Sandler to get my fill. One reason why I enjoy this movie is because I was a big "wrestling" fan growing up. The cast boasts several former WWE athletes as imposing players on both teams. Although acting is not their forte, Steve Austin, Goldberg, The Great Khali, and Kevin Nash are some of the most intimidating men in the world. Also lending to the athletic realism are former NFL athletes, Terry Crews, Bob Sapp, Michael Irvin, Bill Romanowski, and Brian Bosworth. To round out our athletic cast we have....Nelly. He was apparently quite the athlete back in the day and is an avid sports fan.

The quick and dirty of this movie is that Paul Crewe (Sandler) lands himself in jail after a drunken car chase. He is recruited by the warden to boost the confidence of the semi-pro football team composed of the guards. Crewe has to put together a team of inmates that will face off against the guards in a nationally televised game.

The only two note-worthy parts of the movie are the co-starring role of Chris Rock and the bit role played by Tracy Morgan. They provide comedy at the right times and when the movie sometimes becomes stagnant their performances pick up the pace and flow. In a scene where Caretaker (Rock) talks about his mother, it is quite endearing. It is a semi-serious moment that is a refreshing counterpart to the movie as a whole.

It's good enough to put on in the background while you do some chores.

Friday, August 22, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 15 - Hawking: A Brief History of Mine (2013)

I am not going to do the Ice Bucket Challenge but I will do what I am best at and that is watching movies.

Today I decided to watch Hawking: A Brief History of Mine because it revolves around an amazing man, scientist, and arguably the most well known case of ALS in the world.

This documentary takes a brief glance at the man behind the celebrity. We get to see his personality show. The film skims over a lot of his academic achievements because that is not the story they are telling. I learned a fair bit from watching this, having never read up on Stephen. He is a very stubborn individual. He struggled to come to the realization that he did need full time assistance when his condition degenerated. He loves his fame and celebrity. Although it ended up hurting his family life, celebrity is something he relishes and revels to this day. I also learned of his brilliant sense of humour and positivity. He did go through times of great depression but has battled this disease for half a century and still looks to the future.

I read in a few reviews that others found Jim Carrey's interview to be out of place and it certainly was. Each interviewee up to that point were family, colleagues, students, nurses, or people of particular relevance. The brilliance of Jim's appearance was that it tied well to Stephen's quick wit and humour, he just can't get it across quite that quickly these days.

There were some shots of actors playing younger versions of Stephen interspersed amongst the interviews and actual footage of the man. They had a more artful tone and they made me think I was watching a biopic half the time. Also, I should mention that Hawking provides the narration throughout the film and appropriately so as it is a glimpse at his life, struggles and triumphs. It may be a little off putting for some but I think they nailed it. In short, I found it a bit slow in the middle but well done and a great watch.

I read this quote that I was just drawn to. On Dr. Hawking's office wall there is a signed picture from Stephen Spielberg that says, "I am a great admirer of yours. I film the stars. You actually live among them"  


If you haven't heard of the Ice Bucket Challenge and more importantly ALS, you might have been living under a rock for the last month. I choose not to do it not out of disrespect, quite the contrary. Writing this blog is a nice part of my routine and is something I love to do. It is out of respect that I spend time while doing what I love to think about this cause and spread awareness in a way that is right for me. I applaud the Ice Bucket Challenge and all those who have done it because it has raised awareness for a great cause.

In case you haven't seen it here is the reason why millions are dumping ice water over their heads.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 14 - Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie (2012)

You may not know this but I like a good anime from time to time. I haven't watched nearly enough or any significant variety so for me it's been mainly Naruto. I haven't haven't gotten around to binging on any others so if you have any suggestions I'd love to hear them.

I'm not sure why I don't read the manga. I guess it might be that when I do get too bored waiting on filler in the anime I have the option to binge. The manga is quite a bit ahead of the anime and I can only imagine it's going to start to wrap up in the near future. At that point I'll binge until the end to avoid any spoilers.

Here is a warning. If you have gotten this far and are not into Naruto or anime in particular, most of the next paragraph may not make a lot of sense.

Road to Ninja is the sixth (of what I assume to be seven movies) starts as Naruto and his Hidden Leaf compatriots fight off the previously thought to be deceased Akatsuki. All of the Hidden Leaf ninja get praise from their parents. All except Naruto, due to his lack of parents and Sakura, because her parents like to give her a hard time. They end up at the park talking and complaining about their situations when Madara appears and sucks them into his Limited Tsukuyomi Genjutsu and they find themselves in a weird backwards world. Everyone has a completely different personality like the aggressive and angry Hinata, the cat lover Kiba, the skinny Choji, the bug hating Shino, and most notably the playboy Sasuke. The most dramatic changes are that Sasuke never left the village, Naruto parents are still alive, and Sakura has lost hers. Although it seems enticing to Naruto and Sakura to stay, they quickly realize they have to stop Madara and escape back into the real world. The problem is they are up against more than just Madara.

In non-specific terms it's an alternate reality situation, so we're talking about things like the new X-Men timeline, The Butterfly Effect, or something like The Wish episode from Buffy.

It was a bit unsettling seeing this alternate world but when you spend over ten years and nearly 600 episodes getting to know these characters it's bound to be a bit of a shock. The episode entitled Prologue of Road of Ninja aired in Japan on May 2, 2013 and is follows the events of the movie but in the standard universe. Although I watched the movie after the aforementioned episode, the movie released nearly a year before on July 28, 2012.

Interestingly enough, the English dubbed version of the movie will very soon have a theatrical release on August 29, 2014 in North America. However, unless you want to rip out your own ear canals and drink until you forget, I wouldn't watch it. I'm sorry to those who work on it but the English voice acting is, for the most part, appalling. Do yourself a favour and watch it in Japanese, it creates a more authentic sounding atmosphere.

If you enjoy the anime or manga and for some reason haven't gotten this far go watch the episode and then watch the movie.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 13 - Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

Mel Brooks is a comedic genius and anyone who says otherwise is simply just wrong.

There are so many ridiculous references in Robin Hood: Men in Tights it's hard to keep track but that's the beauty of it. There is absolutely nothing serious about the entire story and that's what makes it one of the great comedies of the 90s. Cary Elwes is magnificent as he was in his break out role as Wesley in The Princess Bride.

Elwes plays our young Robin of Loxley escaping imprisonment after the Crusades. He returns to England to Prince John (Richard Lewis) having taken over in the stead of his brother King Richard who is away on crusade. Robin teams with Blinkin (Mark Blankfield), his family's blind servant; Ahchoo (Dave Chappelle); Little John (Eric Allan Kramer), and a few others to form the tights wearing Merry Men. The Merry Men have to stop Prince John and his right hand man the Sheriff of Rottingham (Roger Rees). and Robin has to win the heart of the fair Maid Marian (Amy Yasbeck). Although often his attempts to woo Marian are thwarted by her lady-in-waiting Brunhilde (Megan Cavanaugh). I'd tell you more but I'm a little tired and there's too much to cover. Besides you don't want me to spoil it. On the other hand if you haven't seen this yet, I thoroughly judge you.

Elwes shows his great comedic style and his charm in a kind of role you don't see from him much any more. Dave Chappelle is awesome in his film debut, although it is rather unsettled not hearing him swear so much. Roger Rees is furiously entertaining as the Sheriff despite me associating him with his days on Cheers. Also I forgot to mention this when I wrote about A League of Their Own but Megan Cavanaugh is made for comedy. She often plays the unsightly roles and although she isn't the greatest looking woman, she definitely plays it up. There are too many cameos to count but notable ones are Mel Brooks as Rabbi Tuckman, Tracy Ullman as Latrine, Dick Van Patten as The Abbot, and best of all Patrick Stewart as King Richard.

If you haven't seen this one yet but have seen and enjoyed other Mel Brooks pictures such as Spaceballs, you're in for a treat. It's silly to no end, although an hour and a half seems to bookend it nicely, and it's a great sleepover movie. For those that have seen it many many times like myself, give it revisit because it never loses any comedic value.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 12 - Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

Michael Caine and Steve Martin trying to best each other in the art of the con. A fantastic comedy with a nice twist. These men truly are Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

A great directorial success from Frank Oz, one half of the brilliant team behind The Muppets. Unbeknownst to me this is remake of a 1964 film Bedtime Story, starring Marlon Brando, David Niven, and Shirley Jones.

The story takes place in the French Riviera village Beaumont-sur-Mer.
Lawrence Jamieson (Michael Caine) is a brilliant and sophisticated British confidence man. He marks corrupt wealthy women to con money from. He lives a elegant lifestyle until he meets Freddy Benson (Steve Martin) a crude, American hustler. Freddy decides to stick around and try his own game much to Lawrence's chagrin. Knowing that the town isn't big enough for both of them, they decide to set a mark and a wager. The first to get $50,000 out of the lovely Ms. Janet Colgate (Glenne Headly) wins and the loser has to leave forever.

I noticed that Lawrence always seems to be prepared for everything and has the significant edge over his American counterpart. While Freddy has some charm for the most part he just seems to stumble into luck while playing the more humiliating of parts in a con. I wish they had made them a little more balanced in terms of skill but it still works out in the end.

I love reviewing movies with small casts because in ensemble movies I feel obligated to review each performance. Simply put, Martin, Caine, and Headly have great chemistry and each add their own great flavour and charm in their performances. It's like getting the Neapolitan ice cream of starring roles.

Trying not spoil too much I can say I very much enjoyed the ending but I think I would have liked it better if it ended a few minutes sooner, as they watch the plane take off. You'll know the moment when you see it. That ending would have been nice and succinct and nothing needed to be said other than that. In modern cinema style, the ending would have been an after-credits scene and it would have been a nice bonus.

Want to watch a comedy where Michael Caine and Steve Martin screw with each other trying to prove who is the best con man? Of course you do.

Monday, August 18, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 11 - The Evil Dead (1981)

The Evil Dead is the first part of a horror-comedy cult classic trilogy of epic proportions. From the mind of Sam Raimi, director of such movies as the Spiderman trilogy and Oz the Great and Powerful, this movie gives you the creeps in the way only the 1980s pre-computer effects can. 

Seen Cabin in the Woods? It has that sort of feel to it, but more old school visuals. 

Ashley "Ash" Williams (Bruce Campbell) and his friends Scott, Linda, Shelly, and Cheryl are off to a cabin for spring vacation. They see rather ominous signs as they approach the cabin but don't really think much of it (as is fitting of the horror genre). In the basement they find a Sumerian "Book of the Dead" and a recording with demonic incantations. All sorts of eerie and spooky stuff start happening and the five college students are sure to have a Spring Break they will never forget.

It's not an overly frightening movie but it is rather strange and disturbing in some parts. There is a moment where a do I put this gently.....literally gets raped by trees. Nope, no way to make that sound any better. Anyway, it's meant to be freaky more than it's trying to be perverted....I think. You might have to ask Sam Raimi on that one.

Everyone has seen but sadly fewer people remember Campbell. He has a lot of small parts in movies and brings a lot of his signature wit, charm, and comedy no matter how short the role. Sam often casts his younger brother Ted and Bruce in many of his films. They have appeared in the entire Evil Dead trilogy and the Spiderman trilogy. They also played recurring characters on Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

This is an old draft of a post and I'm cheating a little bit on this 100 day challenge but whatever. Since I started this post I've seen the next two instalments Evil Dead II (my favourite) and Army of Darkness and at some point I'll be letting you know my opinions on those two.

This movie is a great part of horror's past. If you haven't seen it I'd definitely recommend it but if it's not your style then I won't hold it against you.

- I didn't know this movie existed until it was referenced in an episode of ReBoot. It is one of my favourite episodes of a show that probably sparked my casual interest in computers. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 10 - City Lights (1931)

Movies were very different in the beginning and although I'm not exactly drawn to older movies in general, I do enjoy their originality, innovation, and how they have helped sculpt the movie industry of today. 

Charlie Chaplin was as big as they come in the early years of film. He got his start in silent film and although "talkies" began becoming more popular he was very hesitant to switch. He believed that silent films were an art form that boasted the highest quality. He resisted the shift in the industry and made City Lights instead.

I have been putting off watching this movie for far too long. It was going to be part of my previous failed project of reviewing AFI's 10 Top 10 lists. City Lights is AFI's #1 in the romantic comedy category and I can see why. 

The plot isn't the main point in my eyes but here is a quick summary: Chaplin plays his loveable Tramp and finds himself falling in love with a blind flower girl and has hilarious misadventures along the way.

The title cards were not often used which helped preserve the flow of the movie. Other than to set the scene and some small bits of dialogue, the rest was pretty self-explanatory. Besides, if a picture is worth a thousand words, Chaplin's face and body language could write you a novel.

The movie just seemed to fall into place so effortlessly and in terms of comedy it doesn't get much better than that. His interactions with the millionaire were my favourite. The girl was good too I guess. Chaplin was the master of slapstick and the whole movie was a cycle of running gags that were hilarious at the time and are still rib ticklers by today's standards. Just go in expecting simple yet elegant bits and great physical comedy and you will not be disappointed. If you're not completely satisfied at least it's only 80 minutes that you're not getting back.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 9 - A League of Their Own (1992)

I had a bit of a late start on watching today so this one will have to be a little short.

I've been getting around the see some great movies like A League of Their Own and others I've missed over the years and this challenge has been doing me some good. This was director Penny Marshall's second collaboration with Tom Hanks after 1988's Big.

It's 1943 and baseball is at serious risk of folding due to WWII but chocolate mogul Walter Harvey (Garry Marshall) decides to have to women in baseball. Hanks plays Jimmy Dugan, a washed up former baseball great who wasted his twilight years feeding his alcoholism. He gets an opportunity to manage the Rockford Peaches, a team in the newly founded All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Jon Lovitz always plays the same character and it's great every time. He is a wise cracking, quick with an insult scout looking for fresh faces and good talent. Sadly, we see far too little of him and he's gone just as quick as he arrives. There are plenty of great personalities trying to fit in with the team. Marla (Megan Cavanaugh) is not the easiest on the eyes but is quite the hitter. Mae (Madonna) and Doris (Rosie O'Donnell) are best friends. Mae is a little with her body and Doris is more of the loud mouthed muscle. Evelyn is prone to error and has a child so annoying you want to smack him with an encyclopedia. He might just learn something this way. The two that the story starts with are Dottie (Geena Davis) and her younger sister Kit (Lori Petty). Dottie is soon exposed as the star of the league inadvertently eclipsing Kit at every turn. Jimmy tries to find his way back from his drinking to actually manage the team but it takes time. The Peaches start to really take off but after an altercation between Dottie and Kit, Kit ends up getting traded to another team. These issues all get dragged out when their two respective teams meet at the World Series.  

This is a fictional dramatization of historical events. A lot of what you see in the film are played up and exaggerated but were actually enforced at the time such as charm and beauty school, playing in skirts, and wearing make up during games. All of the injuries or bruises shown in the film were actually injuries sustained by the actresses. Watch out for a huge bruise after a slide.

From a quick peruse of the literature, Dottie and Kit were more or less modelled after one person. Dottie Collins was an All-Star pitcher in the league for 7 years before retiring to start a family. Elements of her game can be seen as Davis' character was the back catcher and Petty's played the pitcher. Davis' character quit after one year but Petty's went on for some years.

Any time Hanks and Davis were in a scene together is was gold, other parts of the movie sometimes felt strained or forced but overall entertaining. My favourite scene is when Jimmy Dugan is trying to keep his cool after another error by Evelyn jeopardizes the World Series game. It is wildly entertaining and I couldn't help but laugh.

In short, go watch it, it's fun and still historical. Almost midnight, got to run.

Friday, August 15, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 8 - The Expendables 3 (2014)

Video piracy at its most potent.

The Expendables 3 has a North American release today more than three weeks after a copy was leaked and torrented nearly 200,000 times in a day. That number rose to over a million in four days and as of August 10th, it has doubled to 2.2 million. This was a huge leak and a devastating blow to the box office success of this movie.

In 2009, X-Men Origins: Wolverine leaked nearly six weeks before it's North American release and made $373 million in it's theatrical run. It was said to have underperformed due to piracy. I somewhat agree. It was a combination of piracy as well as just being a terrible movie. As for The Expendables 3, I think such a leak will have a much larger impact. With the prevalence of illegal downloads and P2P sharing in conjunction with ticket prices rising in the last five years, it can only make things worse.

Sly, you should know by now that whatever you put down on paper makes absolutely no sense. You are the Charles Barkley of the film industry. Plot is of no importance in this post but there is plenty of action to go around. The old crew of Statham, Crews, Lundgren, Couture, and newly freed Wesley Snipes are "retired" when ex-Expendable Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) takes one of them out. Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammar) is an old friend of Barney and helps him find a young new crew to go after Stonebanks. Kellan Lutz, Glen Powell, Ronda Rousey, and Victor Ortiz form the new crew. They do things a little differently but get things done. Unfortunately, they get caught and Barney has to gather up whoever he can to get them out and bring Stonebanks down.

By the way, the name Conrad Stonebanks sounds like the name of a villain of a short story that was written by a remedial 7th grader....that got a D-.

The acting is for the most part pretty atrocious. Harrison Ford, Arnie, and Jet Li make appearances but they are the C-team of the movie. Notable exceptions are Kellan Lutz who doesn't do so bad especially as Stallone's counterpart and leader of the even worse Junior Expendables. Gibson is actually pretty good as Stonebanks but he would have been more intimidating had he kept the beard. I enjoyed Grammar's role probably because he was the only one hired based on acting ability rather than action star history or potential. Antonio Banderas is my favourite part of the movie. He is a talkative Spaniard itching for a new team and some action. He brings the comic relief which makes you forget about some of the plot holes and phoned-in performances. I'd like to add that Arnold does bring back his "Get to the chopper" line and it's great fun.

The Expendables 3 is not much different than its predecessors. No one reloads, no good guy gets shot (unless used as a plot device), bad guys go down like flies, and there's a shot of Sly still trying to run in epic fashion even though he's nearly 70. It was a little jarring to see a little too much CG where plain old special effects and rigged explosions would have done nicely. Despite all this, there were good parts too. The action was well distributed amongst across the old and new teams and it was nice to see the physicality of the new team. It was a nice break from seeing guys that are anywhere from 20-40 years too old for action still take on stunts. It does leave ground for a new wave of Expendables but sadly they will be just like any other action movie cast and will probably tank shortly after.

All in all, the movie is exactly as you'd expect; somewhat entertaining, no brains, just brawn, with a few little nuggets of gold hidden amongst the sea of excrement. I would say if you're a fan of the series, watch it on the big screen and support the franchise you love, especially if you're wanting a fourth movie. Just go in with low expectations and you'll probably have a good time and quickly forget all about it. If you're not a fan of action movies or just a fan of proper action movies, just ignore this because it's not very good. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 7 - Apollo 13 (1995)

One week down just another three months to go....

First, here is an odd set of coincidences for you. In the past week I've watched three movies (and two yesterday) that have featured the song Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum. Guardians of the Galaxy was the first, yesterday I watched Remember the Titans and Apollo 13 which played the song whilst the three men were in the command module.

This is one of Ron Howard's best works. Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks), Fred Haise (Bill Paxton), and Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon) go up on the Apollo 13 space mission. Swigert replaced Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise) as the pilot of the command module just a few days before launch. Mattingly was exposed to the German-measles (Rubella) and was going to be a risk to the mission had he gone up. Things go south when an explosion on board causes them to vent oxygen and forces them to change plans. They abandon hope of ever going to the moon but are fighting to survive and return home.

The main four guys Hanks, Paxton, Sinise, and Bacon all do a wonderful job portraying real life heroes. The only thing that was weird was seeing Ed Harris playing Gene Kranz with that haircut but we can't blame Ed for that.  

It's not too hard to ignore the few historical inaccuracies. Howard did as much as he could to make it as technically accurate as he could while taking just a few liberties for dramatic effect. He plays up the tension well and if things had gone exactly as they had in real life it wouldn't have been nearly as entertaining a movie. For the most part the movie makes NASA staff just look panicked. I'm sure they were but they just had little composure during the movie. Howard used mission transcripts almost verbatim for the conversations between the command module and Houston. One of the biggest differences, albeit a small grammatical one, is when Tom Hanks says the tagline phrase "Houston, we have a problem". This phrase has been used time and time again in colloquial speech but it's actually not what Jim Lovell said. The phrase was "Houston, we've had a problem". A tiny difference, I know, but imagining the number of times we've said it wrong for nearly twenty years, it adds up.

As with most historical movies, the ending is already spoiled by the true events....and Wikipedia. It is still a fantastic movie to watch and technically very well done. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 6 - Chef (2014)

Jon Favreau is back in a starring role in Chef after spending a lot of time in supporting roles and the directors chair. He did write and direct this one though so you won't be seeing him giving that up any time soon.

Chef Carl Casper (Favreau) is one of the premier chefs in Los Angeles but he has hit a creative rut with his menu. He wants to prepare a very special menu for big shot food critic, Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) but is restricted by owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman). After making his regular old menu, Michel tears it apart in a scathing review and Carl doesn't handle it well. Mixed with a hilarious misunderstanding of how social media works Carl's reputation is a little tarnished to say the least. He decides to get a fresh start and heads back to Miami where he grew up. He fixes up a food truck and drives it back to L.A., serving Cubanos and other simple food along the way. By his side on the journey are his son Percy (Emjay Anthony) and cook and great friend Martin (John Leguizamo).

The trio of Favreau, Leguizamo, and newcomer Anthony was amazing to watch. They have charm and I particularly like Leguizamo's Colombian roots coming out in a role made for him.

Hoffman's small role was a nice touch but Johansson's character seemed to lift right out of the story. I'm not sure if there were deleted scenes and more that was cut but the character of Molly was not flushed out at all. Sofia Vergara's Inez does what she needs to do. To look hot as all hell and provide a little sanity (but not too much) to Carl's hot mess of a personality. Robert Downey Jr. fit the character of Marvin perfectly. He was quite a douche but served as some comic relief to Carl's serious predicament. Oliver Platt is probably the only disappointment for me. I'm not sure what it was but he didn't really fit very smoothly in with the rest of the cast but maybe that's just me. Russell Peters shows up in a scene as a cop in Miami but doesn't add much to the comedy.

I was surprised but not overwhelmed by the amount of social media influence this movie shows. Not only mentioned but actively used as plot devices are Twitter, Facebook, Vine, YouTube and 1 Second Everyday. It almost seems like paid advertising for these companies and it straddles the line of being too forced. Just try not to think about it too much.

It's a fun ride that you don't need to think much about. Some little bumps but nothing you wouldn't mind overlooking. Just check out the trailer and tell me you don't get hungry just from watching it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 5 - Robin Williams

I wasn't quite sure what I would do for my post today and I was back and forth on this a bit but here we go. As you surely have heard we have lost a great light in this world. Although you don't want to admit it, you're starting to get a bit sick of the barrage of news and social media coverage on the matter. Still, I'd like to briefly share my favourite Robin Williams movies.

As Peter in Hook he taught us to never forget the child in all of us no matter our age. He taught us that to live would be an awfully big adventure. Bangarang Robin!

Genie in Aladdin always did what he could to truly help those who deserved it and made us want to strive to find a friend like him. The Academy sent an amazing tweet to pay tribute to one of his most beloved roles.

As wacky as he was, to don drag in Mrs. Doubtfire was bold. He played someone who was whimsical and rash, but always held true love for his children. The old gal herself told us that if there is love, those are the ties that bind.

In Good Will Hunting he moved us as he helped a troubled kid figure out not which career to choose but what kind of man he wanted to be. He taught us that sometimes it's not our fault. He won a well deserved Oscar for this performance and I hope he's found his father after all these years.

What Dreams May Come was one of his heavier films. He made us believe that soul mates could exist and showed his unwavering love and courage in choosing to spend eternity in hell with his one true love rather than an eternity in heaven without her. (The trailer I linked to doesn't do it justice, it's pretty intense but it's a good watch)

In Jumanji he showed true courage in facing his fears and finishing what he started no matter how frightening it may be.

In my favourite, Dead Poets Society, he inspired us with his zeal to free young minds from the oppressive confines of conformity, to find our own voice, and to seize the day. He quoted Walt Whitman in a great speech, asking his boys what will your verse be in the powerful play of life?

These may all just be characters on screen but Robin Williams put some of himself into all of these roles and many more. With all of the cinematic moments he has given through the years, he may be gone but never forgotten.

He spent his life entertaining and bringing joy through his art. He was not a perfect man, far from it. He struggled with many issues that were nearly invisible when he was on screen so we chose to close our eyes and ignore it. My heart goes out to his family who will miss him most of all and this lovely message from his daughter Zelda encapsulates that sentiment.

Robin, you taught us many things and although many will mourn, we should celebrate your life because you would want us to be happy.

Because Dead Poet's Society is my favourite Robin Williams movie and a truly inspiring work, I will end by simply saying,

O Captain! My Captain!

Monday, August 11, 2014

100 Movie Days: Day 4 - A Long Way Down (2014)

I had high hopes for A Long Way Down ever since I saw the trailer. It had potential and seemed like it could send home a really great message. So when I read so many negative reviews online I had to check it out for myself.

This is a story all about how my life got flipped turned upside down......wait that's not right. This is a story about four strangers meet on a London rooftop on New Year's Eve all with the intention to jump. They form a bond, something stronger than friendship, and they make a pact to stay alive until Valentine's Day. The story breaks to the media and they become overnight sensations. The attention is not such a blessing as previously thought and they have to deal with it the best they can.

It features a talented cast. Aaron Paul will always be Jesse to me but he seems to work as a counterpart to his British co-stars. Imogen Poots is quirky as always and offsets Paul's more serious character. Toni Collette didn't grab me until her chapter of the story when she put on a stronger performance. It might have to do with the development of her character as well. I love Pierce Brosnan but they make his character so unlikeable it's hard to sympathize. He's just the grumpy old dude with no redeeming qualities.

As a side note, for a good ten minutes after the appearance of Sam Neill, I just thought to myself that I would love to see a Pierce Brosnan/Sam Neill movie. Have you ever seen Neill's test footage as James Bond? It's not too shabby.

I'm feeling rather forgiving today so I'm going to say that most critics are a little harsh on this one. It's just that it was missing a few things. It seems that a lot of different aspects: character development, film structure, believability, and chemistry were just a couple steps off from being right. In terms of believability, in these types of movies it doesn't have to be plausible but it has to make you think that it could be. The different chapters of the movie seemed to have cut it up a bit abruptly. It tells the story from four point of views at different points in time so it's not as smooth as it could have been. This type of sequencing can work but in this case it doesn't quite manage to pull it off. Honestly, it might have worked better as an anthology film composed of four short stories and converging at the end. Also, the pairings of the characters seemed a bit forced. It seems more as if there is a Poots and Paul romance and then just Brosnan and Collette in the background.

It's a nice message they are trying to convey however cheesy it may be. The movie falters a bit but if you give it a chance and go in with no expectations you might come out the other side not completely regretting your time spent on this one. Otherwise, you can pass and just watch Nick Hornby's better works like About a Boy or High Fidelity.