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Archive for the ‘Living at the Movies’ Category

You know you watch way too many movies when you begin to see patterns emerging in the closing credits.   First you have the unit production manager and the first and second assistant directors.   I’ve learned that they get their own separate section above everyone else.   Then comes the camera operators and the costume and set designers.  About one minute down the scroll comes all the various gaffers and grips followed by a small army of drivers.  I also like to see who is big and powerful enough to warrant an assistant and quite possibly a stand-in.   I especially enjoy finding out who the foley artist was and am always quite relieved to know that no animals were harmed during the making of this movie.   Sometimes I prefer the credits to the actual film.

Now,  on with the shows.

Festival Express:   If you are a fan of the Grateful Dead,  Janis Joplin,  the Band,  and Buddy Guy,  then you need to add this awesome documentary to your queue.   Follow the groups as they travel by train across Canada (eh) playing various festivals along the way.   The concert footage is spectacular but the real magic happens when the musical icons get together for several impromptu jam sessions as they ride the rails of the Great White North.   Grade:  A-

Chloe:  This is not your typical wife hires a hot prostitute in order to tempt her possibly-cheating-on-her husband only to get involved with Little Miss Hottie herself kind of movie.   It is so much more than that.   Actually,  no,  that’s not true,  that’s pretty much all it is.   If you laugh like a hyena and have a propensity to say stuffins every chance you get (like someone I know whose name rhymes with kickball),  go to the nearest Red Box, spend that hard-earned dollar and take Chloe home for the night.   Grade: B-

Extraordinary Measures:  Back in the seventies, this film would have been a network movie of the week.  Unluckily for this decade’s movie-going population,  we have to pay for the privilege of  viewing movies that were based on actual events.   The cheesiness factor of this film jumped the shark when the doctor knew that his magic elixir was working because the sick kids were giggling from the effects of a sugar high about a minute after they had received their injections.   Velveeta to the max.   Grade: D+

The Crazies:  I am usually very enamored by pandemic zombie movies but two weeks after viewing it,  I can only remember the crazy-ass drive-thru car wash sequence.  Other than that one awesome scene,  I can’t recall a single thing.  Not a good quality in a movie.  Grade:  high D

Amelie:   Watching Amelie is a lot like reading a really well written book by a masterful storyteller.  Maybe that’s a natural byproduct of watching a French film with the subtitles on but it doesn’t really matter because this movie is a work of art.  Whimsical and relevant,  silly and serious,  Amelie is a story about love and how it’s never too late to fall in.  Grade: A-

Turistas:  I learned a little bit about my cinematic tastes the moment this unknown-to-me-at-the-time-of-viewing movie appeared on my screen following an episode of Freaks and Geeks on IFC.   Mix an exotic locale with a few naive ingenues and their male counterparts and add in several dastardly folks with seriously murderous intentions and sit me in front of the screen for upwards of 105 minutes.  In this particular edition of my newly diagnosed go-to movie genre,  the ladies and gentlemen were backpackers in Brazil and the bad guys were organ harvesters.   All in all,  not a terrible combination,  for the viewer,  not the backpackers.  Grade: B-

The Runaways:  I can typically judge a movie about a real or fictitious band/singer by the burning necessity on my part to rush out and purchase the soundtrack and/or original source material.  Rock Star,  Crazy Heart,  La Bamba,  and even Almost Famous are all prime examples of excellent films whose accompanying soundtracks currently maintain residence amongst my mythical (in my mind) cd collection.   Sadly,  The Runaways made it as far as my looking the music up on Amazon.  The film focused way too much on lead singer Cherie Curry at the expense of the band.  Grade: C+

Colma  The Musical:   By my count there were perhaps two decent songs and a couple of creative moments in an otherwise completely amateur production where a bunch of people listlessly wandered around the screen singing monotonously how crappy their lives are.  Please wake me up when they get to the scene that takes place at the famous Colma watering hole Malloys.   Wait,  there is no such scene?  Maybe they were saving it for the sequel.   Sorry to be so harsh but thank goodness they didn’t try to make San Bruno the Musical.   Grade: D-

Do you have a different take on any of these films?  Perhaps a recommendation?

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Some are good and some completely suck but I watch them anyway.   Here’s what I have to say about the latest bunch of movies that have found their way to my eyes, ears, and brain this past month.

Blow:  I seem to enjoy the rise from obscurity portions of these types of films a little more than the now you get your comeuppance parts.   Still,  I have no excuse for not having seen this sooner.   Paul Reubens rules.   Grade: B+

Remember Me:  Would it kill anyone to be happy at some point during this movie?   Talk about your Debbie Downer story line.   Even the twist ending is depressing.   Made me want to watch Pink Floyd’s The Wall.   Grade: C-

Superbad:  Even though I’ve seen it at least a dozen times, I never fail to catch three or four lines that I’d forgotten about.  A modern American comedy classic.   “I am McLovin!”  Grade: A-

Fanboys:  Coulda and shoulda been better than it actually was,  this film picked up a little steam towards the end.   Lots and lots of guest stars and cameos like Billy Dee Williams,  Kevin Smith,  and William Shatner just to name a few.   Grade: C+

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly:  When the editor of Elle magazine suffers a stroke and wakes up paralyzed and unable to speak,  he is forced to come to terms with his new life.   That he spends his days writing with a blink of his eye is more than a little bit surreal from my point of view.   It is an excellent film, nonetheless.   Grade: A-

Nights in Rodanthe:  Can somebody please explain to me why actors such as Richard Gere and Diane Lane would sign on to participate in such an overtly sub-standard and shitty movie?   It had to be more than for just a paycheck,  right?   Grade: D

From Paris with Love:  A wholly unmemorable action flick with an over-the-top performance from John Travolta.   I enjoyed his two Royale with Cheese references,  though.   Grade: C-

The Proposal:  This one is all on Fehmeen.   I fell asleep within the first fifteen minutes.   I believe she said that it was the worst movie ever.   Grade: D-

Whip It:   This one wasn’t nearly as terrible as the critics said it was but then again how bad can it be watching good-looking women who are dressed provocatively with tattoos up and down their arms rolling around an oval track taking potshots at each other?  Maybe it was some other movie.   Grade: B-

Grown Ups:   An endless series of funny one-liners surrounded by an almost non-existent,  swiss cheese-like plot.   Were you expecting anything more?   Grade: B-

Hostel:   Will your opinion of me change drastically if I told you that I kinda sorta really liked this movie?   Seriously though,  it’s not necessarily for everyone,  just for those of us who are a bit more desensitized to this sort of thing than most.   Grade: B+

Hostel Part II:  It should have been a sign from the movie gods that this film was going to massively suck when the opening credits were exactly the same as the first one.   Chalk it up to heightened expectations but this  movie suffered from unsettling violence for the sake of unsettling violence and the completely unbelievable change in character of every single one of the leads.   So disappointing on every level.   Grade: F

Iron Maiden Flight 666:   I don’t know what I found to be more baffling: 1) How revered this band still is world-wide.   2) How hard they still rock two decades removed from their heyday.   3) The fact that lead singer Bruce Dickinson is actually the pilot of the band’s 757 tour plane.   4) Why the hell could I not have any Iron Maiden in my music collection.   (I do now).  Grade: B

Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage:  Anyone who knows me must be wondering why on earth would I be watching a movie about the band that tops my personal most reviled list.   Let’s just say that my friends Dooms and Paco thought that it would be a good idea.   Actually,  the dorkumentary wasn’t as annoying as it could have been but it did turn into the prototypical Rush fan sausage party once my friend Janet left.   Grade: B-

Now that I’ve had my say,  I would love to hear your take on these movies.

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I watch a lot of movies.   I see so many films you might think I don’t have anything better to do with my time.   Umm, guilty as charged.   I do have a terminal illness that limits my mobility and all.

The plan I have for this post — and subsequent ones just like it — is to give you a one sentence review,  an accompanying letter grade,  and the name of the poor sap or saps I conned into spending upwards of two and a half  hours with me watching either the best film of all time or the worst .

Here’s the first batch:

Get Him to the Greek:  The songs were hysterical,  the laugh-out-loud scenes were predictably lewd and crude,  and the rest of it all was just sorta there.   The two nameless munhooses who accompanied me didn’t seem to mind as they made short work of two upsized popcorns.   Grade: B-

District 9:  It always takes a little convincing on my part to get Fehmeen to buy into a movie that is a skosh out of her typical comfort zone but one that I knew she would be riveted by despite her disdain of the science fiction genre and films that have a lot of dirt,  mud, blood and general yuckiness in them.   I am happy to report that she really really liked it.   Grade: A-

My Left Foot:  If I had seen this film for the first time when it was released or even prior to my diagnosis,  I don’t believe that it would have had the same effect on me.   DDL’s portrayal of Christy Brown was awe-inspiring and has provided some much needed fuel for my artistic inner fire.   Grade: B+

Fast Times at Ridgemont High:  I couldn’t believe that Ameer and Rose had not seen one of the most iconic and before-they-were-stars-laden  movies of all-time.  Rose enjoyed it and Ameer fell asleep half-way through.  Grade: A

Shutter Island:  Despite her pre-ordering on On Demand trepidations, Fehmeen was quite impressive in her sniffing out the twists and turns of this intriguing and entertaining film.  Plus she loved that last line.  Grade: B+

Star Trek:  Even though this was the fourth time I had seen this incredibly well-crafted franchise redefining reboot, it was nice to watch it with a real Trekkie like Janet.  And this time I didn’t pass out from an excessive consumption of outside food.   Grade: A-

Bart Got A Room:  I am a total sucker for quirky indie comedies just like this one.   It started off with plenty of promise but slowly faded down the stretch.   Grade: C

Passing Strange: The Netflix gods suggested that I would like this movie based on my 5-star rating of Dr Horrible.   While common in genre only,  I wholeheartedly recommend this filmed-on-stage revelation for anybody who has had the dream of being an artist in every sense of the word.   Needless to say,  I loved every second of it.   Grade: A-

500 Days of Summer:  Fehmeen and I saw this in the theater and we recently purchased it for home viewing as well.   I am a big fan of non-linear storytelling and who hasn’t felt like dancing to You Make My Dreams Come True the morning after.   Grade: B+

Pumpkin:  I really tried to like this movie but I struggled mightily to jibe with the film’s overall tone.   It just didn’t work for me.   Grade: C-

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Before I dive in to my latest batch of movie reviews, I would like to ask for some help from you, my esteemed readership. With the sudden closure of our local video library, I am planning to reactivate my old Netflix account. I want your help in setting up my queue. Recommend movies that are:

  • your current favorites
  • your all-time favorites
  • your least favorite
  • truly awful
  • completely out of left field (in a good way)

Please don’t feel obligated to complete the entire bulleted list. Just give me whatever comes to mind. I thank you in advance for your thoughtful selections. Now, on to the reviews.

zombieland_poster_0Zombieland – What do you get when you combine a pitch-perfect cast with a visually stunning opening credits sequence with an unexpected cameo by actor B.M. and more creative zombie kills than should be legal?  You get the feel-good film of the Fall movie season. Grade: A-

my_life_in_ruins_xlgMy Life in Ruins – Since Fehmeen wears the remote in our family (and subsequently chose this movie for us to watch), maybe she could review it and grade it in the comments section. Thanks, Babe.

jerkThe Jerk – Do yourself a favor and watch this movie again for the first time. It’s worth it for the phone book scene alone. Grade: B+

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Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of Living at the Movies. Because I’ve fallen a bit behind schedule in addition to watching a crapload of movies lately, I will attempt to review each of these ELEVEN films in two sentences or less. Will I be able to rise to the self-imposed challenge? Read on and find out, my friends. Lights, camera, action!

VickyCristinaBarcelona-posterVicky Cristina Barcelona Because of it’s exotic European locale, I found myself constantly (and unfairly) comparing the cinematography to The Talented Mr Ripley. This Woody Allen film is a decent enough rental though despite the fact that some of the characters are not necessarily believable in their given roles. Grade: B


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Synecdoche, New York Impenetrable, pretentious, confusing, and boring, I waited in vain the entire length of this film for writer/director Charlie Kaufman to reveal to me, an avid fan of all his previous work, the missing piece of the puzzle that would help make sense of this overly ambitious, bloated enigma of a movie. But he didn’t. Grade: F

soloistThe Soloist It was nice to see Robert Downey Jr in a role where he makes it his mission in life to save one man, as opposed to saving the entire world. Then again, I am kind of a sucker for human interest redemption stories revolving around music and the arts. Grade: B

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The Foot Fist Way Anyone expecting this movie to be funny based on the reputation of the names attached to it (Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Danny McBride), I caution you to realign your lofty comedic expectations. There’s a reason why you never heard of this film. Grade: D-


LastChanceHarveyPosterLast Chance Harvey I imagine that Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson were given free reign to imbue their respective characters with whatever level of whimsy and vulnerability they felt was apropos and the results were quite charming. Plus, when your wife really enjoys the movie, score one for the husband. Grade: B+

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Star Trek It matters not if you are the galaxy’s biggest Trekkie or you are a USS Enterprise virgin (probably not the first time those two words have been linked together), you owe it to yourself to check out this action-packed thrill-a-minute reboot of the classic television and cinema franchise. ”Outside food” not included. Grade: A


x_men_origins_wolverineX-Men Origins: Wolverine Did the world really need another X-Men movie where the filmmakers took major liberties and creative license with Logan’s already convoluted origin story? The answer is no but at least the stunts were cool. Grade: C+

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The Taking of Pelham 123 (1974) I highly recommend catching this ahead-of-it’s-time caper flick on cable either before or after this summer’s remake hits the big screen. At least you’ll know where Quentin Tarantino got the idea for his character’s names in Reservoir Dogs. Grade: B

kung_fu_panda_posterKung Fu Panda Even though I found myself predicting every single plot twist and revelation from beginning to end, I still enjoyed the film immensely. Emma liked the kitty. Grade: B+

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Wall E A morally upstanding and environmentally conscientious feature that is entertaining and educational while not being overly preachy and is fun to look at? Check it out in HD next time: Wow! Grade: A-

drag-me-to-hell-posterDrag Me to Hell Obviously intended to be overtly far-fetched and outrageously over-the-top, Sam Raimi has perfected the craft he began with the three Evil Dead movies with this hillarious tongue-in-cheek horror film. The only bummer was that I didn’t see a Bruce Campbell cameo. Grade: B+

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One of the so-called perks of accepting nature’s early-age retirement package (aka ALS) is that I have a whole lot more free time than most people I know. So what’s a guy to do with his copious amount of spare time? Well, when I’m not offering up solutions to our nation’s economic woes with the President via our top-secret Blackberry communiques or entertaining Emma with Wiggles videos on Youtube, I am most likely watching a movie somewhere. And once I’ve seen three or four flicks, I’ll give you my take on the films right here on this very website. My dream in doing this is to foster a discussion about the movies we love and the movies we hate, and also to give a non-committal head-nod to those movies we merely tolerate. I also feel like I owed Alia, Clarece, and Lurker something because I chose to shut down my movie review website. Enjoy the latest batch, everyone.

sunshine_cleaning_poster1Sunshine Cleaning. While it was great to see two of my favorite actresses (Amy Adams and Emily Blunt) score lead roles in a movie of this pedigree (a small budget “indie” picture), I couldn’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed by the end of the film. Sure, it was entertaining and all, but to me, the final fates of the characters seemed a bit too convenient for my liking. That being said, I would happily rent it at Blockbuster just to see if my opinion would change at all during a second viewing. Maybe my lukewarm feeling about this film is the by-product of the unwarranted stigma of being dubbed this year’s Little Miss Sunshine: I felt equally under-impressed by Juno, which was last year’s version of LMS. Grade: B-

enchantedposter Enchanted. I remember making the decision to go and see Enchanted the first time I saw an ad for it on tv. After waiting weeks for the film to hit the theaters, Fehmeen and I finally found some time to go to the movies during the Friday after Thanksgiving 2007. The only problem was that Fehmeen had absolutely zero interest in seeing “a cartoon”. So rather than getting into a fight about which movie to see, we decided to go our separate ways for two hours: I saw Enchanted and Fehmeen saw This Christmas. Sure, I eventually got over feeling self-conscious at being the only solo thirty-something male in an audience comprised of mothers and children, and by the time the film began, I found myself being whisked away to the animated land of Andalasia while humming the cheerful chorus of “True Love’s Kiss”. I loved the movie then and I’ve loved it every other time I’ve watched it (including the two times I saw it recently on HBO in less than a 24 hour period). And for the record, Fehmeen loves it now, too: We even own the DVD. Grade: A-

adventureland_poster1Adventureland. I went into the film expecting a broad, dumbed-down, lowest common denominator teen comedy but what I got instead was something infinitely more satisfying. Adventureland is a smart and funny late-eighties period piece that deftly encapsulates the look and more importantly, the attitude, of the era. The story is written such that the characters are given ample room to breathe and grow in a natural and believable way thus allowing the relationships forged between them to unspool at a slower than genre-typical fashion which, in turn, affords the audience the opportunity to savor the intricacies of the actors’ performances, which ultimately results in a truly enjoyable movie experience. Whew. The only bummer, for me, is the lack of a commercially available soundtrack CD. iTunes, here I come. Grade: A-

knowing-posterKnowing. The warnings signs were there. First, previews for Knowing began to appear in theaters a good six weeks before the release date. Then came the onslaught of television spots soon after. Third, when was the last time Nicolas Cage starred in a good movie? (By my calculations it’s been seven years since Adaptation came out in 2002. Perhaps your number is less than mine if you enjoyed such classics as The Weather Man, Ghost Rider, or Bangkok Dangerous). Anyway, regardless of the plethora of available information out there telling me that this movie would suck, I still went to see it with Ameer and J2. And guess what? It did suck. In fact, it sucked so much that my friend J2 was able to sum the Knowing experience up in one sentence: “We would have been better off not Knowing.” I agree. Grade: D

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I enjoy watching television. Really, I do. Besides reading a book, comic, or magazine, listening to music, browsing the internet, writing my three blogs, eating food by the truckload, playing with Emma, chilling with Fehmeen, going to the movies, sleeping in on weekends, people watching, wreaking havoc in my wheelchair, laughing twenty-four seven, conning people into behaving badly on my behalf, and being the sexy beast that I am, I love nothing more than to grab me some couch and zone out in front of a shiny flat screen tv.

And just in case you are the slightest bit interested, here’s what’s been on my radar lately:

The Bachelor. After spending the entire season showing the audience what a great and solid guy he was, Bachelor Jason not only ruined his reputation but his dignity as well during the drama-filled, post-finale After the Final Rose show. To get you non-viewers up to speed, Jason had to choose between two women, either Molly or Melissa, to be his fiance and he chose Melissa. Six weeks (in real time) or one minute later (in tv time), Jason broke off his engagement to Melissa because he still had feelings for Molly. A rightfully pissed off Melissa returned the ring to Jason and exited stage left. Molly joined Jason onstage, and after hearing him out and agreeing to give their relationship another chance, the reunited couple proceeded to get their mack on. Wowsers! The whole spectacle was edge of your seat viewing. Personally, this Jason would have chosen the Canadian girl, Jillian.

Celebrity Apprentice. I know the new season just started but I’m already finding myself missing last season’s cast, particularly Piers, Trace, and Stephen. Hopefully this year’s crew will grow on me. I’m calling my shot here: Jesse James vs Clint Black in the finale.

HD. High def programming is the visual equivalent of fine wine. Once you’ve sipped from the Cup of HD, everything else tastes like ripple from a box. I’d watch wind blow in high def.

American Idol. I am digging the four judge format as well as the new way the producers are building the top twelve. Most of the folks not moving forward were lousy singers anyway. Except Norman Gentle. I hope the judges bring him back as a wild card.

Flight of the Conchords. I get positively giddy when I hear the theme music because I know that the next half hour will be filled with completely dry and random humor. I preferred last year’s songs to this year’s songs but from what I saw on a making-of special, Jemaine said that where last year they wrote episodes around a song, this year they are writing the song to fit the episode. An added benefit about this season: new songs are available for download after the episode airs. Gotta love Sugalumps.

East Bound & Down. What happens when a ‘roid-rage Major League relief pitcher loses his fastball while burning through his fifteen minutes and is forced to take a job as a substitute middle school gym teacher? Mix in heavy doses of foul language, drinking, drug use, actors/producers Danny McBride and Will Farrell and you have HBO’s next breakout hit. To quote the great Kenny Powers, “You’re f****n’ out!!”

Plug time. What do you mean, you haven’t been checking out my other two blogs? Look to the right under Blogrolls and get to clicking. One’s about music and the other’s about movies. Thanks for your support.

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