Sunday, August 29, 2010

Classic Movie Review: Out of the Past (by Dave Machado)

Staring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Kirk Douglas, Out of the Past is an excellent Film Noir about a Private Eye sent to track down a dame for a shady business man with unclear motives. We know that the woman in question (Jane Greer as Kathie Moffat) shot her lover (Kirk Douglas as Whit Sterling) and left him for dead, taking $40,000 with her. Unfortunately for her, Whit survives and now hires a detective (Robert Mitchum as Jeff Bailey) to track her down, though he insists he is not out for revenge, but simply wants her back. Bailey follows her trail down to Acapulco where they quickly fall for each other. What follows is a winding road of double crosses and setups that has each character trying their best to stay two steps ahead while also watching their back for bullet holes.

I decided to watch Out of the Past after seeing Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter. I had seen him previously in El Dorado but was not blown away by that movie (or his performance). It may have to do with the fact that after seeing (and loving) Rio Bravo, everything in the pseudo-remake lacked an emotional punch. But then I saw Night of the Hunter and was mesmerized by both the movie itself and Robert's performance as the villainous Harry Powell. I sorted through Mitchum's filmography to see what I would also enjoy and Out of the Past caught my eye. After reading that it co-starred Kirk Douglas, who I had become a fan of through classics such as Ace in the Hole and The Bad and the Beautiful, it instantly went to the top of my Netflix queue.  

I sometimes find it hard when watching older movies because some have become so ingrained in the popular conscious that I know all the beats before I even watch it. So I then sit through the movie knowing what comes next and when it's over, I really don't have a real appreciation for the movie because I'm viewing it years after other movies have stolen everything innovative about that movie and made them tired cliches. Out of the Past, released in 1947, has a lot of the stereotypes found in Film Noirs and the thrillers of today but because the actors are so powerful and the film itself has the hazy, dreamy vibe found in most Film Noirs of the 1940s, I was still highly impressed with the film as the credits rolled. As is the case with most movies from that time period, the dialog has a fabulous zing to it and is filled with wonderful one-liners and double entendres that seem to be lacking today. I recommend this movie not just to fans of other Film Noirs such as Double Indemnity and The Maltese Falcon, but to any film fan looking for a classic film they have yet to see. 

You're Welcome,

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Movie Review: The Expendables (by Dave Machado)

I'm not exactly the manliest man out there.  I've never really bought into the "Manly" lifestyle and I don't even use Axe Body Spray.  Yet as I drove to the theater to see The Expendables (listening to the new Katy Perry album!), I was filled with excitement for the giant dose of testosterone I was about to receive.  It's probably no coincidence that I left the theater with a pounding headache as my body was simply not ready for that much manliness on the screen.  The Expendables may not have been the amazing action movie I had hoped for, but with such an amazing cast, it was still one of the highlights of the summer for me and a great action flick.

When reading the cast of The Expendables (Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, The Incredible Hulk, Santa, The Brawny Man, etc...) you already start to envision the crazy action scenes they will be able to create.  Unfortunately, your imagination will probably do a better job than what you actually get to see.  I don't want to knock the movie too much because I did enjoy it, but without the cast of heavyweights they were able to get, the movie is pretty much a generic action movie.  It's the type of action movie that has been relegated to Direct to DVD Hell for the past decade or so.  Since these movies have mostly gone unseen, what was once generic has become a welcome throwback. 

Say you had a great girlfriend in the late 80s but somewhere around 1995 you decided you were getting tired of her bullshit (sorry, I'm still trying to get that extra testosterone out of my body now...) so you part ways.  You heard she was doing OK through friends and that she hadn't settled down and was still the same girl from 1985.  This was a little sad to you because you yourself had grown a lot since then and settled down and started a family.  But then one day in the summer of 2010, you bump into her by chance.  She's still the same damn girl from 1985 but since you've been away from that fun lifestyle for so long now, you almost envy her lifestyle.  Watching The Expendables is like having sex with that woman.

Back to the actual movie, the other problem I had was the use of quick editing in the fight scenes.  The movie likes to have multiple fights going on at once so between the quick cuts within each fight and the quick cuts back and forth between mini-battles, it becomes a little disorienting.  The style works better in large open spaces but there was one scene that took place in a narrow hallway that left me waiting for the fight to just end so I could find my bearings again.  This is a general complaint of modern action movies but I just wished it strayed from that convention and really stuck with the action as it was unfolding.  It's hard to feel the impact of a fight when you aren't allowed the time to really feel each punch thrown.  

Other than those gripes, and an insane appearance by a character in the final scene that had me literally laughing out loud, I thoroughly enjoyed this men on a mission tale.  I would love to see this turned into a franchise.  Hopefully a sequel would raise the stakes a little higher and some of the B-level Expendables would be given a little more room to breathe.  We could sit and list actors all day that we would love to see in these movies, but I would be fine sticking with the core group set up in the movie.  For the time being, The Expendables works great as a late summer blockbuster.  Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go relax with a glass of wine and the latest New Yorker...I mean I need to go lift weights and eat a live cow.

You're Welcome,

Friday, August 27, 2010

DVD Review: Hot Tub Time Machine (by Dave Machado)

Hot Tub Time Machine is the best movie I have ever seen that features a hot tub time machine.  It's a movie that doesn't promise much which is good because it doesn't exactly deliver much.  All four leads do a pretty great job with what they are given and the movie creates a few memorable side characters as well.  The basic premise is that after an old friend (Rob Corddry) attempts to kill himself, his two friends (John Cusack and Craig Robinson) along with Cusack's nephew (Clark Duke) go to spend a weekend at an old ski resort that used to be the coolest place when they were younger.  However upon arrival they realize that the area is decrepit and no where close to it's awesomeness of yesteryear.  Trying to make the best of the situation, they decide to get wasted in the hot tub (time machine!).  Once they wake up from their night, they slowly realize what's happened and then they all split off to relive a weekend from their past.

That's pretty much the least important information about this movie.  The movie is at its best when the humor comes from the characters themselves but it does unfortunately dive into "OMG, the 80s were sooo funny!" type comedy a little too much at the beginning.  The movie really wants to make sure you understand they are in the 80s (giant cell phones!).  In fact, the first scene set in the 80s shows so many of these "clues" that it just becomes a joke (the bar they go to has roughly 7 TVs all tuned to defining 80s moments).  But that's only a small complaint.  I still laughed out loud a lot during this movie and it was mostly thanks to Rob Corddry.  He doesn't stray too far from previous characters he's played but he is amazing as the douche bag friend.  His character is summed up perfectly in the beginning by Craig Robinson when he states "You know how every group of friends has an asshole.  He's our asshole."  I still find myself quoting a lot of his lines a week later.  The rest of the cast is great as well but Rob gets the MVP star.

For a time travel movie, it obviously needs to set up some rules regarding the time space continuum.  I was actually shocked they took so much time to discuss the rules of time travel since it's really just a comedy and not a sci-fi movie but for what it is, it does a better job explaining some things than other "real" sci-fi time travel stories.  That's not to say that if you think too hard about the logic that your head won't start to hurt, but it doesn't really matter because you are too busy laughing at the nonsense happening on the screen.  I don't want to get into spoilers, but the ending brought up a big philosophical debate in my head which made me like the movie even more.  It's not exactly LOST or Timecrimes, but I was pleasantly surprised by the use of time travel in the movie.  If you want a fun (but raunchy) comedy, I suggest checking this movie out. 

You're Welcome,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Movie Review: Piranha 3D (by Dave Machado)

The one thought going through my mind as I watched Piranha 3D was that I could not remember the last time I had this much fun while watching a movie.  I even felt a little guilty while watching it after I realized that that it may actually be my favorite movie of 2010.  After years of "insta-cult" movies like Snakes on a Plane and Grindhouse where the "cult" aspect of the movie was forced down our throats before we even saw a single frame, Piranha 3D was able to sneak by without much hype and build-up.  I'm not sure if that made for a more positive experience, but I can honestly say that Piranha 3D is the movie I have been waiting years to see.  Please don't mistake my love of this film as me saying it is the "best" movie of the year.  It's simply the most fun, gory, naked, and disgusting movie I've seen in years.

I typically watch a lot of horror movies and consider myself a fan of gore.  I, unlike some people, can differentiate the horror on the screen from real life and I simply get a kick out of seeing things I couldn't see in real life.  I know that woman didn't really get her face chopped off.  I'm simply fascinated at the effects and enjoy seeing how far movies are allowed to go within their budget to reflect "reality" in the fatal blows and wounds of the victims.  Having said that, even I was taken aback at what they were able to pull off in this movie.  I can't remember the last studio released, R-rated movie that had this much gore.  Actually, I can't remember any recent horror movie showing this much blood and guts.  The things that they were able to get away with in this movie astounded me and also left me with a dumb smile on my face the entire time.  This movie is like the crazy sick wet dream of a drugged up 15 year old who is obsessed with horror movies and boobs, and I mean that in the best possible way.

I will be the first to admit that this movie is not for everyone.  In fact, I would say that this movie is not for most people.  But for the people who like these kinds of movies, they are in for a giant treat. I don't want to spoil any of the gags in the movie since that would take away from the pure joy of experiencing it first hand like I did.  Though I will say though that Jerry O'Connell walks away as the MVP in this movie.  Now typically I would hate any movie on principle of it making me type that sentence but it's true.  Almost every line out of his mouth as a sleazy "Joe Francis" type is pure gold.  There are also some great cameos sprinkled throughout the movie that work perfectly.  As for 3D gags, the movie proved to me that 3D isn't always terrible.  I enjoy 3D when it's used as a gimmick and not some lame "world building" trick.  Just throw body parts and scary fish at the screen and I'm happy to throw down a few extra dollars.  

I hope Piranha 3D finds an audience.  I'm sure we have an unrated Director's Cut coming out way in time for Christmas (someone get me Criterion on the phone...) that will only be more over the top.  But until then, if you want a movie that actually lives up to what it promises, then Piranha 3D is your best bet.  I would love it if in a few years we can look back at the release of this movie and see that it's when movies stopped worrying about becoming a cult movie before the script is even finished and instead focuses on just making the coolest possible horror movie out there.  Those are the movies that truly end up as cult favorites.  But at the very least, where else can you see a detached penis floating in the water other than Piranha 3D?*

You're Welcome,

*Eat, Pray, Love

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

DVD Review: Daybreakers (by Dave Machado)

This weekend marks the debut of Vampires Suck, the latest movie from the makers of Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans.  I've only seen bits and pieces of these movies but I've seen enough to know that they are, for lack of a better term, bad.  Not only are they bad in the sense that you should get no joy from watching it, they are also bad for movies in general.  Now I know that these movies have made less and less money as the audience luckily gets more and more skeptical, so simply continuing to pick on these movies is like picking on me when I was in 5th grade (the out of shape fat kid).  So until they call these movies "Confused Head Tilt Reaction Shots Due To Random Pop Culture Gags", I will try to pretend they no longer exist.  Having said that, I'd like to take now discuss Daybreakers, an actual vampire movie I saw recently thanks to Netflix that I think deserves a bigger audience than it originally received.

Daybreakers is a welcome entry to the collection of modern vampire myths. The story takes place in the not too distant future where vampires have become the dominant species and have either killed or turned most humans, causing their food source to be nearing extinction.  Corporations have sprung up for the rich where they will "farm" humans and keep them in cool futuristic looking pods (my favorite kind of pod) and basically drain the humans slowly enough so they last for years.  The less fortunate vampires who can't afford such luxuries begin to mutate when they are no longer able to drink human blood.  It may start as a simple elongating of the ears, but the vampires rapidly begin to mutate into a new form of crazed vampire that is more impulsive bat than human.  In an effort to curb the growing issue of these "super vampires", the corporate higher ups are trying to create a synthetic clone for human blood that will allow the vampire race to live long after the last drop of human blood has been sucked up.  For the humans that are still alive and on the run, they have a better idea.  What if instead of a substitute for human blood, they could instead develop a cure for the vampire disease itself?  

The one thing that struck me with Daybreakers is how well it sets up the world.  There is very little verbal exposition and the movie is able to tell a lot through visual clues.  I'm not saying using exposition is a lazy device for films.  I know a lot of people took issue with how much of it was used in Inception but I think that is an unfair claim.  Inception was dropping you into a world you've never seen before and had nothing to really pull from.  As a viewer of Daybreakers however, we are dropped into a world that is more or less familiar, the post-apocalyptic/vampire world.  We sort of know the rules and so the movie can spend less time going over what a vampire is and instead move the plot forward.  Speaking of movement, this film speeds along at a fairly constant pace and never seems to get bogged down or stuck in a boring subplot.

More importantly though, it wouldn't be a good vampire movie without some good old fashioned gore.  Luckily, Daybreakers does not disappoint in this department.  It's not an over-the-top gorefest but relies more on action/chase scenes than straight-up blood and guts.  But when the scene calls for it, there is no skimping on the carnage.  If you've ever seen a George A. Romero movie, you know that in most of his zombie films, there is always a scene I like to refer to as the "Bloody Mayhem" scene in which the zombies overrun the area and are filmed feasting in all their glory.  Daybreakers builds to this type of scene as well and I felt it was handled with the same fantastic touch that Romero himself gives those scenes.  

The only negative thing I could say about Daybreakers is that is does lay on the metaphors a bit thick at times (another comparison to Romero) but it's not too distracting.  We can all see the layers of social injustice being discussed here (rich vs. poor, foreigners vs. scared locals, science vs. faith, etc...), but it seems the filmmakers make an effort to really make sure you get it.  It doesn't even come close to ruining the experience of the movie, but in hindsight I felt it's worth pointing out.  Of course, I'd much rather have a horror movie with too much to say than nothing at all.  So despite all of that, if you are in the mood for a great modern vampire story, then I hope you give Daybreakers a shot.  Just make sure you don't see Vampires Suck...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (by Dave Machado)

I had a strong feeling that I was going to love Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.  Being a huge fan of Director Edgar Wright, the cast, and Brian Lee O'Malley's original graphic novels, it wasn't a stretch to safely assume this would end up as a Best Of 2010 entry.  The week before the movie came out, I even picked up both the Score and Soundtrack and became obsessed with those as well.  Then the reviews started rolling in and it seemed a bit mixed.  People were having issues with the movie related to the likability of Scott Pilgrim (some of whom I believe were just sick of Michael Cera) and the believability that we the audience should care about whether Scott ends up with Ramona or not.  I pushed these bad feelings aside and patiently waited to see the movie myself. Now, after having seen it, I can easily say that it lived up my insane hype and is easily one of the top 3 movies of the year so far (along with Kick-Ass and Inception).

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is not a movie that should be viewed literally.  It is a brilliant satire on what it's like to easily fall in love as a young adult and to feel the pressure of living up to your significant other's past trysts.  It takes this concept and throws it into a world where super powers do exist and where every sound effect is taken from old video games.  Basically, it places you in the mind of a young 20-something geek, in our case named Scott Pilgrim.  Scott truly believes that Ramona is his soul mate and will stop at nothing until they can be together forever...this week.  That's what I think is so great about this story.  Scott Pilgrim is an impulsive character and when he's fighting these evil Exes, he's doing it with a great deal of passion.  But again, viewing this as a satire, I see that passion melting away, once one of these two become sick of each other.  But that doesn't take away from Scott's victories at all.  His love for Ramona is just the MacGuffin used to stage some of the coolest fight sequences I've seen in quite some time.

Special attention should be given to the cast of this movie.  There is not one wasted role and everyone brought in for even the smallest part is perfect.  It's not worth listing specific favorites because it would easily turn into just me going through the entire cast.  However, I will say that as far as the Evil Exes go, Brandon Routh was incredible.  I haven't seen him in much since Superman Returns but I really hope this puts him back on the map.  I'm not sure how complimentary this will sound, but Brandon Routh plays an incredible douche bag.  It's almost a shame that the Exes only get a couple scenes a piece because I could easily watch an entire movie based on each one.

All cast accolades aside, the real star of the movie is Edgar Wright and his editing team.  I believe Edgar had already proved he had an amazing sense at how to consistently keep a films momentum up but with Scott Pilgrim, he takes things to a new level.  The way this film is edited makes it worth seeing one more time just to sit back and just enjoy how he lets the story unfold.  Things are cut at a breakneck pace but are done in such a way that it never feels disorienting or annoying.  The best (and in this case, most appropriate) comparison would be to the speed at which you read through panels in a comic book.  One panel can convey a whole conversation and Edgar Wright is able to do the same thing with one scene that literally only contains one or two lines of dialog.  In a fair world, this would at least earn this movie an Oscar nomination for Best Editing.  

So luckily there were no surprises and I fell in love with Scott Pilgrim.  It's been a tough year for quality movies so it's good to see such a fantastic one sneak by the studios.  Sure it's technically not "original" since it is based on the graphic novels, but as far as other movies like it, it pretty much stands alone.  We've seen similar things attempted in movies such as Crank and Speed Racer, but Scott Pilgrim takes what they setup and blows it all out of the water.  Scott Pilgrim is a fantastic work of art that I look forward to rewatching for years to come.  The fact that it has a Mega Man reference is simply icing on the cake.

You're Welcome,

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Movie Review: The Other Guys (by Dave Machado)

The Other Guys is a movie that left me confused.  Now don't get me wrong, this is not a confusing movie by any means, but I had a hard time determining whether or not I enjoyed what I saw as I was leaving the theater.  As with the other McKay/Ferrell collaborations, this is a very absurd comedy. The thing I respect most about this movie is that it's not afraid to spend minutes on one joke and keep pushing it further and further until it finally reaches a ridiculous conclusion.  It seems comedies today rely too heavily on the cut-away/split-second gag that it was refreshing to see a movie spend such a long time on silly topics like a lion vs. a pack of tunas. I've always been a fan of jokes that go on so long they continue to see-saw back and forth between "hilarious" and "when is this ever going to end!"  Luckily, Adam McKay's crew has a great sense of comic timing and more often than not will end a bit on the "hilarious" side of the spectrum.  Seeing how well this movie meshed the buddy cop formula with intentional comedy makes me finally have a reason to see Cop Out so I can compare them, Goofus and Gallant style.  

One issue with comedies that tend to be more incongruous than the rest is that the real payoff is on repeat viewings.  This always seems to be the case with McKay's films.  Aside from Anchorman (which I considered a classic before my first viewing was complete), it took a few times seeing Talladega Nights and Step Brothers before I really started to enjoy the entire movie and found myself giggling like a fool at things that simply went over my head the first time I saw it.  I firmly believe The Other Guys will fall into that same category.  In fact, just in writing this, I've stopped several times and just laughed about little things I originally didn't find funny.  There are gags that come so far out of left field that you might laugh a bit but are more shaking your head in disbelief.  It's only when you step back and think about what led up to that moment that it truly becomes hysterical.  I know this type of comedy may not be for everyone, but I can honestly say it's better than whatever they try to pass off as "comedy" in movies such as the close approaching Vampires Suck.

One last thing that must be said of The Other Guys is that the supporting cast is mostly spot on.  There are many quick cameos that will get you excited and almost everyone gets at least one great bit/line.  The one thing that almost didn't work for me though was the casting of Mark Wahlberg.  I'm hoping I come to appreciate his role more as I revisit the movie but it just didn't click for me at first.  I believe what caught me off guard the most is that Wahlberg isn't simply playing the straight man but is actually just as over-the-top as Farrell.  This shouldn't have surprised me though as McKay has never been one to have a stereotypical "straight man" character.  I think Veronica Corningstone from Anchorman is the only one I can think of that would fit the bill.  Still, I'm not saying Wahlberg isn't good in the role, it was just that my expectations were elsewhere so it took a while for me to get comfortable with his character.  Again, something that will be fixed on repeat viewings.  So while I don't consider The Other Guys a comedy classic, I still believe it is a solid movie from one of the best comedy directors out right now.

You're Welcome,