Monday, June 30, 2008

Quote of the Day

Liz Lemon: Why are you wearing a tux? 
Jack: It's after 6 o'clock Lemon. What am I, a farmer? 
-30 Rock

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Movie Review: Good Will Hunting

Before I saw Good Will Hunting, I pondered the meaning of the title. Was it for the search of someone of good will in this rotten world? Well, it is actually based on the name of the character, Will Hunting. But is he really that good? Well, that's for you to figure out.
The story, set to the backdrop of Boston, is centered on Will Hunting (Matt Damon) a janitor at MIT from Boston's southside. He spends his spare time drinking and causing trouble with his best friends (Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, and Cole Hasuer, a career high for all three actors). One day, a professor stumbles upon some of Will's mathwork and realizes that he is a genius.  To save Will from jail for a crime, he decides to have him work for him and see a therapist (Robin Williams, in his best performance). Through this, Will finds himself, and what he really wants out of life.
Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho, Drugstore Cowboy) directed this film. Despite the fact that he didn't write it, Hunting carries all of the trademarks of a Van Sant film. Starting with his usual camerawork of beautiful high up and wide shots. This works from the emptiness of Idaho to the crowdedness of a big city like Boston to show an emptiness existing in the world and the emptiness of the characters. The landscapes become the characters themselves. Mike Waters' soul is as empty as Idaho itself while Will is as confused and discombobulated as the Boston streets he's raised on. It is where he lives that defines him and eventually, holds him down. 
In this way, like Van Sant's other films, Hunting questions the existence of freewill and fate. Does someone have the freedom to set out and do what they want, or is some force around them stopping them and forcing them to a certain, unwanted path in life? Good Will Hunting is slightly more optimistic than Van Sant's other films and poses that it is possible to choose your future.
One thing that struck me about Good Will Hunting besides the excellent writing was the great performances, many from actors I don't even admire (Ben Affleck in Gigli, anyone?). Looking at the performances, I was reminded of a part of Team America. The actor, Gary, is supposedly the world's greatest. What makes him cry: thinking about the saddest moment in his life (when his brother was eaten by gorillas). I realized that this was supposed to be making fun of actors and finding a phoniness in them that their emotions in their performances aren't real. 
I felt that in Good Will Hunting something about the performances made me think that these people weren't phonies but were truly emotionally invested in their performances. Maybe because Damon and the Affleck brothers are Boston born and raised or maybe they just care so deeply about their roles in this films. In Williams' therapist, I was able to believe that he truly cared about Hunting when most others just gave up on him. He could balance his usual sense of humor with just pure seriousness. That Oscar was well deserved. Moreover, they become real people, not characters. And that, is great acting.
What makes Good Will Hunting so great is the balance between the director, writers, and the actors. All contribute equally to a great product. Good Will Hunting is one of those rare films that reaffirms the goodness inside every human and is optimistic rather than pessimistic. Ben and Matt, you're work behind the camera is great. Why can't you do it more often?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse

According to Perez Hilton, a sequel AND prequel have been planned for 2007's mega hit 300. Being one of the only (well, maybe the only) people on the planet who realized this movie sucked am totally against the idea. As cool as some of the action/battles in 300 were I wouldn't necessarily call it groundbreaking. Not to mention the grotesque historical inaccuracies (yeah yeah sure, it's for entertainment value) and extremely laughable story. So Hollywood, continue to make sequels to good graphic novels/comic books like Batman and Sin City and leave crap like 300 alone. One was enough. And if you're still a little angry over my negative review, I'm right over here, come and get me.
P.S. After 300 came out, many seemed to believe that Gerard Butler was something like "the ultimate badass" (that title however, belongs to Anton Chigurh). I disagree for just a few months later he decided to take a starring role in romantic comedy P.S. I Love You. Real badass.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Quote of the Day

Sam: You laugh. I'm not saying I don't cry but in between I laugh and I realize how silly it is to take anything too seriously. Plus, I look forward to a good cry. It feels pretty good.
-Garden State

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Movie Review: Cloverfield

Oh no New York is being destroyed! Again! This isn't the first time New York has been destroyed but every generation needs a disaster film to define it. So many big blockbuster/horror/disaster films are either sequels, remakes, or just horrible cliches. Finally, someone has created an original blockbuster to define the so called "Me" generation. And that movie is Cloverfield.
Cloverfield takes place in what seems like real time but is really over the course of one crazy night. The entire film is seen through the eyes of Hud (T.J. Miller) who is filming his friend Rob's (Michael Stahl-David) going away party on a small hand-held camera. Without warning, a giant earthquake-like rumble shakes Manhattan and sets off a deadly chain of events including balls of fire and an unthinkable gigantic monster that destroys everything in site along with its offspring. Hud, Rob, and a few others, must run from this giant monster to a military helicoptor and flee the destruction. But can they outrun the terror?
If made any other way, Cloverfield would've been nothing special. Just you're typical big studio blockbuster. But it earns major points for the way it is shot, as well as the elements of it that make it an allegory.
Cloverfield seems to be no doubt an allegory on 9/11. The scenes of downtown destruction bring up the haunting images of people, dust-covered, fleeing from the exploding Twin Towers and being trapped in what seems like inescapable doom. Another recent film tried to do this: Spielberg's War of the Worlds. While that film succeeded on many levels (and is better than most make it out to be) it fails on many. Cloverfield manages to be strong in the areas where Worlds was weak. One place is that the people surrounding the main characters are not simply used to be tossed around. You see very little background of them but their fear and emotions are as clear as the protagonists. 
The truly biggest part of Cloverfield's success is in it's cinematography. The only way to describe it's style is the camerawork of The Office and Blair Witch Project along with the storytelling of Lady in the Lake. The whole story is told through Hud's camera and like Lady in the Lake the only things we see are what the main character sees. Therefore, we are totally engrossed in their story. All we want to see is their survival and that helps make the story even more suspensful. However, Hud manages to capture everything going on around him (including the monster) and we therefore see every other person and feel something towards them and understand their troubles. That is, seconds before they perish. 
One review has called this film a disaster film for the "YouTube Generation". This can also be called the "Me" Generation. Why it's called the YouTube Generation is because what sites like YouTube have allowed is for any ordinary person (even Sexman) to gain some sort of power. It showed that you don't have to be a big name director to make a popular movie: all you need is a camera, a few friends, and some good ideas. It is also one where everything is in the palm of your hand from iPods to cell phones to even the internet. 
Hud's camera work is perfect for the "Me" generation as he has access to incredible footage of a killing machine in his hands. Although, and like Lady in the Lake, the main character is never seen except for a few shots. Everything else is focusing on the soon to be gone Manhattan. 
As well as being a reflection on current American society, Cloverfield also works well as simply a damn good movie. I can't even remember the last time something has scarred me this much. Only knowing what the characters know makes each random bump and scream all the more scary. Cloverfield proves that you don't need a $100 Million+ budget to be scary. All it takes is some good, classic scares and some true realism to freak out the audience.
The style of Cloverfield has been done before but the way the filmmakers tackle it helps make it entertaining and original. It never goes into Hollywood comfort zone and stays in the discomfort of the real world. And unlike Worlds, it doesn't end in the Hollywodd comfort zone. It concludes far from it. Cloverfield is the kind of film that some will love and some will hate but it must be admired for it's audacity and strange stylistic beauty. And yes, that monster is scarier than Jaws and Godzilla combined.

A Few Questions about the "Disaster Movie" Trailer

Yes, those morons behind every major movie spoof we see today are at it again this time lampooning disaster films guessed it...Disaster Movie. After sacrificing my own dignity and watching the entire trailer, I found myself more confused than I was at the ending of Mullholland Drive. Here are a few questions I have about Disaster Movie:
1) If Disaster Movie is supposed to be mocking disaster films, then why is Iron Man in it?
2) If Disaster Movie is supposed to be mocking disaster films, why is the Hulk in it?
3) Didn't the duo behind this film already make a movie mocking superheroes called Superhero Movie? 
4) If this is coming out on August 29th that means it was made a few months back and both Sex & the City and Iron Man were released just a month ago so how the hell were they able to spoof two movies that hadn't even come out yet? Special screenings?
5) How can they spoof a movie which audiences haven't even gotten a chance to see yet (Hancock)?
6) Since when are Juno and Enchanted disaster films? Once is a Disney musical and the other is about a pregnant teenager...
The list could go on. Like I said once before, another great opportunity to mock such a ridiculous genre has been wasted. In fact I've come to believe that creators Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer are being paid billions of dollars by major studios to imitate scenes from their films so they can make more money once released in theaters and on DVD. That, or there is no God. But for now, does anyone have a more logical explanation?
Note: I've decided not to post Disaster Movie's trailer to save your brain cells. Unfortunately, it is already too late for me.

Quote of the Day

Jason: You wanna know who I want to get pregnant? Felicity Huffman. Ever since I saw Transamerica, I can't get her out of my head. 
-Knocked Up

Monday, June 23, 2008

Quote of the Day

George Fields: WHO GIVES A SHIT? Nobody wants to pay twenty dollars to watch people living next to chemical waste! They can see that in New Jersey! 

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Quote of the Day

Rachel Lindquist: Doctors don't know anything. My uncle's stomach hurt once, so doctors took out his kidney, and it turned out there was nothing wrong with it, and now he has to go through life with no kidney. 
Ron Garner: No, because you're born with two kidneys, you moron. 

Saturday, June 21, 2008

TV Review: Planet Earth

It's once in a lifetime that we'll be able to view something like this. Yes, Planet Earth is a once in a lifetime experience. It goes farther, wider, and deeper than any nature show ever has. And it doesn't stop there. It dares to go to the highest depth just to get that perfect shot. Which it does, every single time.
Planet Earth was an 11 episode season which premiered on the Discovery Channel. It is the product of our brilliant British friends over at the BBC. In each episode it explores a different landscape of the planet: it goes from the tallest peak to the flattest grassland all the way down to the ocean floor. It captures strange animals and plants many never knew even existed. Finding this new life may be difficult, but if you go out there and try to find it, it's worth the wait because the reward is spectacular.
Planet Earth was shot over the course of five years. To get the great shots they did the newest in HD technology was used which included scanning cameras attached to helicopters and others that moved through the ocean and some that could breath-taking images in slow motion (including one of a Great White Shark jumping out of the ocean while devouring a seal, surely one of the most amazing things ever filmed). Using this technology also helped the crew get great close-ups of the animals from far away without disturbing their habitat. That way, the animals have no idea humans are present.
Planet Earth could've been a boring, typical nature show. But many great artistic decisions are what make it so unique. Along with the use of technology, the sweeping musical score gives Earth life and a story. We feel suspense when the gazelle is being hunted down by the lion. But we also realize that the lion needs to eat. This helps give all of the animals human like characteristics and conflicts. The use of multiple different locations shows how animals adapt to their environment and how evolution takes place.
The real message and purpose of Planet Earth is one about saving the environment from the strength of global warming. While most might try to produce a negative message and show how much of Earth is destroyed, Planet Earth decides to take a more optimistic view on the issue and show us the striking beauty still left in this world totally untouched. And yes, there is plenty of it.
Planet Earth gives the viewer a new perspective of the world surrounding them. This is a world that contains much more than you may think. In the end, it is up to us to decide whether or not to save this planet. We must. For all of the camels, elephants, and kangaroos out there. Planet Earth is a show you must watch from start to end and it doesn't end once you've finished. The world shown in Planet Earth is out there, just waiting to be explored. 
See this now, I guarantee you will not regret it, nor forget it.

Quote of the Day (Has Returned)

TobTobias:You know, first of all, we are doing this for her, okay, because neither one of us wants to get divorced. And second-of-ly, I know you’re the big marriage expert. Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot. Your wife is dead. I’m sorry. That was 100% inappropriate, and I do apologize profusely. I’m... Oh...
-Arrested Development 

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Movie Review: Once

I'm not too big a fan of musicals. In fact, I usually despise them. There are few however, that I take exception to. Those are the ones which don't contain over elaborate and unrealistic sets and don't break out into musical numbers randomly. The music should be used almost as another character and as a way to guide the story, rather than slow it down. Once I can happily say fits into this category, but at a cost.
Once is an ultra low-budget semi-musical movie. It takes place on the streets of Dublin, Ireland. The two main characters have no names, but the only thing that's really important is there bond. The guy (Glen Hansard) is a nearly penniless vacuum fixer with a talent for singing and the guitar. His songs are inspired by his former love who has long left him. The girl (Marketa Irglova) works in a flower shop and finds something deeply moving in the music guy makes. They soon enter a strange relationship (out of love?) in which songs are the only way they learn about themselves.
The songs in Once are perhaps the best part of the movie. The song "Falling Slowly" deservedly picked up the Oscar for best original song for it's sweet simplicity. Once's music is not simply there as a background, it is the story. The songs turn into the narrator and give the audience insight on love and this relationship. In this great musical device however, forms the film's biggest problem.
The songs moved Once along so beautifully that I almost forgot that there really was no story. The music is relied upon so heavily that writer/director John Carney seemed to forget that Once was missing a true plot. The guy and the girl are in love, but that's it. Where's the conflict? What difficulties did they have to go through? There are a few little difficulties along the way but they seem mainly trivial. What did they have to go through to make this work? Are they even in a relationship? Are they even in love? All of this information seems basically left out.
Once is only a rough draft, not a finished movie. With a little more attention to character development and writing, Once could've been a model of romantic story and musical. Instead, Once is a movie worthy of seeing maybe only, once. Or better yet, just buy the soundtrack. That's basically the entire movie.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Eastwood Vs. Lee: The "Race Card" in Hollywood

I guess this news is already a few weeks old and Lee has said that he is taking the "Obama Road" out on this one which I guess means this fight has basically ended. However, I feel the issues brought up from it are too important to ignore.
It began with Spike Lee at Cannes promoting his new WW2 movie about black soldiers. First he did what no man should do and dissed out the Coen Brothers. He commented that "they treat life like a joke. Ha ha ha. A joke. It's like, 'Look how they killed that guy! Look how blood squirts out the side of his head!' I see things different than that." What bothers me about Lee's statement is that this shows that Lee has never watched Fargo and therefore doesn't realize how much the Brothers value a life and find great tragedy in death. Also, this comment was a little...shall I say...smug. "I see things different than that". What,
Lee, are you the first person in Hollywood who cherishes life? Ever heard of Steven Speilberg.
Now, the next director Lee bashed happens to be another one of my idols. Was this next bashing a tool of self-promotion or a serious crusade of social justice. I think it was an attempt at the latter but it was so badly a misfire. As he promoted Miracle at St. Anna, he decided to call out none other than 78 year old legend Clint Eastwood. He accused him as being a racist, citing the lack of African American actors in his WW2 films Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. What nobody told Lee before is that nobody (and I mean nobody) messes with the Man with No Name.
Eastwood didn't take too kindly to this insult and fired back; telling Lee to "shut his face". He also claimed that according to the history books there were no black soldiers who raised the flag at Iwo Jima. So, putting a Black man in would be totally inaccurate. Sorry Lee, not every movie can be made to your taste. Historical accuracy is important, too.
I admire where Lee's heart is at, however he tried to attack the wrong target. Why not someone like Al Sharpton? Or tons of other filmmakers who leave out African Americans and can't even make a piece of art like Eastwood does. The irony of it all is that both Flags and Letters are both films which have radically new portrayals of two different races: the Native Americans and Japanese soldiers of WW2. Few other films show Natives in their true state or bring sympathy to the Japanese army. Eastwood managed to do both within two films and should be commended, not punished for doing so.
Now, has this changed my opinion of Lee as a filmmaker? Absolutely not. Even after Mel Gibson's drunken anti-Semitic rant I still thought Braveheart was a great movie. Even after Lee's outburst, I still believe Do the Right Thing is the best movie ever made about racism (that's right, Crash-lovers). After I saw that movie, I always thought of Lee as a rebellious hero trying to find a way to break down racial barriers in a world where it seems nearly impossible to do so. He stood for the power of the little guy instead of those in higher positions of power (further proven in his harrowing Hurricane Katrina doc When the Levees Broke). But when looking at this dispute, Lee is no better than Al Sharpton; going around accusing everyone of being a racist for their own self-gain.
Funny, I always thought that Do the Right Thing was trying to show how awful and chaotic things get when people are only looked at for their race. Basically, someone shouldn't be considered a racist if they don't use many black actors in their film. I actually would consider a filmmaker more of a racist if they use just one black actor in their film, have them just stand there, and act like their such a good person because they used a black person in their film. Lee, those are the kind of people you should be going after.
Next time Lee, choose your victims wisely. Until then, fight the powers that be.

Friday, June 13, 2008

My Latest Discovery: Undeclared

I actually wouldn't call this a totally new discovery. I first discovered Undeclared while I was first discovering Freaks and Geeks. It's the second TV series by Judd Apatow (once Freaks was cancelled) and I wasn'y hugely impressed by it. Maybe it was because I was expecting a more dramatic hour-long show along the lines of Freaks. Instead, it was more comedy than drama and ran for a paltry 30 minutes (seems like barely enough time for any depth). 
Then, recently my sister was watching it and I decided to give it another try (mainly because I saw Jason Segal's face). And I found something unexpected: even as it was more a comedy, it still contained Apatow signature moments of poignancy as well as extremely lovable characters. As always, Apatow allows us to look past the character's flaws and seem them all as real people with tangible emotions and problems.
I would say to watch Freaks and Geeks and then Undeclared. Undeclared focuses on Steven (Jay Baruchel) an awkward high school nerd who hopes to reinvent himself and forget his past high school years once he gets to college. While there he forms a friendship with his roomates, womanzing Llyod (Charlie Hunnman), and oddballs Ron (Seth Rogen) and Marshall (Timm Sharp). He also tries to make things work with a girl above his league (Carla Gallo) and deal with his parents' recent divorce. 
The show balances brilliant humor, painfully awkward experiences, and a great human story. The show has a brighter, less moodier feeling than Freaks had. That's because it is a more optimistic show, instead of being stuck in the hell of high school it's about moving on daring to be change, explore and be a new person.
Why the hell was this cancelled (after just one season)? It's a mystery. But Fox might've wanted it cancelled badly for some reason, especially with the fact that it was aired out of order. If it had given a chance, it could've gone slower and been able to progressively slow down the character development and find out even more about the characters. Along with guest star appearances from Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell who wouldn't want to watch this show? Well, you should.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Most Vile and Corrupt Thing On the Planet: The MTV Movie Awards

There was a time when I loved and valued the MTV Movie Awards. After all, they were one of the few award ceremonies smart enough to recognize Kill Bill. As MTV's TV shows progressively worsen (I'm talking to you My Super Sweet 16 and The Hills) so has their awards ceremony.
The MTV Movie Awards were designed as sort of a counterpart to the Oscars, choosing what audiences really want to see win an award. From the looks of the winners, either the MTV Movie Award voters are on crack, or there's something seriously wrong with audiences movie taste nowadays.
The winner? Transformers. TRANSFORMERS. Guess my Michael Bay boycott hasn't been working as the biggest d-bag in the industry went up to accept the only award he'll probably ever win (except for a Razzie maybe). Well, Transformers beat out loved-by-everyone Superbad and Oscar nominated Juno.
Many other things saddened me over the course of the ceremony as well. As great and actor as Johnny Depp is, he was quite an awards hog last night, taking home two trophies for categories he didn't deserve. While I didn't see Pirates 3 (and never plan on doing so) I did see Sweeny Todd for which he picked up the best villain award. And while I thought it was fantastic and he gave a chilling performance, in no way did he deserve best villain. It belonged in the hands of Oscar-Winner Javier Bardem, whose chilling Anton Chigurh still haunts my dreams. Why he lost is inexplicable.
The other award Depp picked up was Best Comedic Performance for Pirates 3. While I didn't see the third installment I did see the first two. As funny as he was in it his antics grow kind of tiring as the film reaches close to the 3 hour mark. Shouldn't a great comedic performance never grow tiring and always make you laugh? That's why it's a shame both Jonah Hill's performance in Superbad and Seth Rogen's turn in Knocked Up both lost the award. Both were risky and made you laugh the whole way through. Two of the best comedies of the year went home from the ceremony totally empty handed. Tear.
A few other shameful events include Zach "Zaquisha" Efron winning best breakthrough performance for Hairspray even when he already broke out in High School Musical. He also managed to beat out three actors from Superbad who were nominated as well. They all had true breakouts this years. Also, Step Up 2 won an award which hopefully wont inspire another sequel.
Host Mike Myers was very funny as usual. His Wayne's World reunion was a hilarious and welcome surprise that answered my question as to whether or not Dana Carvey is still alive (answer: yes). The only thing that bugged me about Myers' hosting is the fact that it was all a plug for his upcoming Love Guru, a summer comedy I encourage nobody under any circumstance to go see.
Hopefully, next year MTV will realize these mistakes and make a better awards ceremony next year, one that includes films with at least one brain cell. They could've this year: No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood may've been Oscar winning "adult" films but they were both hip and are loved by teenagers as well as adults. Maybe MTV needs to interview a few kids before they pick their winners.
Next goal: Get MTV to put Beavis and Butthead back on the air.