Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Movie Review: Safety Not Guarenteed

WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED

It all starts with one of the greatest premises I've ever heard: a group of journalists investigate a classified ad stating, amongst other things: "Someone to go back in time with me." No, the ad is not a joke, and while "Safety Not Guaranteed" is a comedy, it does not treat the subject matter as such. There is a big difference between being mean, and prodding delicately. 

"Safety Not Guaranteed" is a Mumblecore film that is light on the mumbles. To call it a straight-up comedy would be a disservice. To call it a dramedy also wouldn't quite be the right word. It falls somewhere else in between.

Aubrey Plaza plays Darius, who can be added to her collection of sarcastic, anti-social sad sacks. While I feel I should be tired of it at this point, like I felt with Steve Carell in "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World," I strangely feel like this is the only role Plaza should be playing. Every time she plays a character like Darius, it is as if she is revealing some new layer of her true self.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Movie Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

This basically sums it up.
Don't get me wrong, Steve Carell is one of the funniest, most likable actors working today. But with his past few features, and his latest, "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World," he has a created a new film archetype: The Sad Insurance Salesman.

The Sad Insurance Salesman is a male in mid-life crisis. His wife will have cheated and then walked out on him because their marriage has lost all sense of excitement. Basically, the Sad Insurance Salesman might as well say, "I'm really nice, but I'm also boring."

This, in a way, can also define "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World." It is nice at parts but in the end, it is unsatisfying and lacks chemistry.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

On A Second Viewing: Moonrise Kingdom

One viewing of a Wes Anderson film simply isn't enough. His films are like the aftertaste of a good meal that won't go away, and you never want them to go away. Or, a painting where you notice more going on in the background with a more watchful eye. Or, an even more apt comparison here, like a symphony that sounds even better when broken down into smaller pieces.

In "Moonrise Kingdom," young heroine Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) looks at everything through binoculars. She says that it makes things look closer, even when they aren't very far away. She also believes it is her super power. I like to imagine that Wes Anderson looks at every film he makes through a pair of binoculars, and that he shares this super power with Suzy: he can see every minuscule detail of life up close in the most vivid of ways.

Through each one of his works, Anderson is inviting the audience more and more to stare into the binoculars at the idiosyncratic universe he has created. After seeing "Moonrise Kingdom" at Cannes, I immediately knew that one viewing wouldn't suffice. And while I try my best to go in with little to no expectations, I knew I would like it better the second time around. And that I did. It is not that I didn't like "Moonrise Kingdom" the first time around, it is just that I liked it for different reasons. The first time, I liked it because the Transitive Property of Wes Anderson* required that I like it. I liked it even more on viewing number two because I saw that once again, Wes Anderson defied his detractors and made yet another film in which the characters were more than just cutouts standing against pretty backdrops.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

For No Apparent Reason of the Day: Bill Murray Gives a House Tour

Here is a video of Bill Murray giving a tour of the house in "Moonrise Kingdom." "Moonrise Kingdom" opened a few weeks ago, and I've already seen it, so there seems to be no apparent reason that I'm posting it. However, this video contains Bill Murray.

 I can't tell if Bill Murray is joking or serious most of the time he speaks, which is probably what makes him so mysterious and so awesome at the same time. I take everything he says as words of wisdom. Which is why, after this video, I will never wear short pants again, as according to him doing so is asking to get robbed. Genius.

Also, seeing the details that go into making a set on a Wes Anderson film never ceases to amaze me. I need to see "Moonrise Kingdom" again, and as soon as humanly possible.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Analog This: Mad Men Season 5 Finale

Jessica Pare: Humanizing French Canadians Since 2010.
Warning! May contain some minor spoilers for the season five finale. Read with caution.

Two years ago, when the previous season of "Mad Men" was drawing to a close, I claimed that the fourth season was the best season yet (I'm also not entirely sure I actually knew what the word "dissertation" meant). I take it back, because season five blew every other season out of the water. And unless season six can work miracles, and I know Matthew Weiner is good at doing that, it will be tough to top this one.

Yet, the season finale, entitled "The Phantom," was a little bit disappointing. It was definitely not a bad episode. I think my expectations for "Mad Men" are a bit too high. But when a major character dies a week before, it seems a little peculiar to only mention the tragedy once the week after. And while throwing in Don's brother was a nice touch (it tied in with his guilt over Lane's death), it felt a little bit out of nowhere considering the fact that Don was less haunted than usual by his past this season. As did  the cliffhanger, which questioned whether or not Don would return to his adulterous days.

Nonetheless, it was still a fitting way to tie together a fantastic season. A lot happened this season, and I'm hoping this list below can account for as much of it as possible. Here are some of the reasons why season five was so damn good:

Friday, June 8, 2012

Movie Review: Prometheus

Look familiar at all?

Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" is like a sci-fi opus from a better time in the history of sci-fi films. And I would know, because I like to pretend I grew up then. 

"Prometheus" rises above because for once, it is a movie interested in actually exploring what lies in space, as opposed to just killing everything not from our home planet. If you give Ridley Scott a space ship and weird space creatures that like to impregnate people, he will create his best work. Basically, he needs to stay out of Medieval England and French vineyards.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

It's Here! The Premiere of the Django Unchained Trailer

I definitely didn't need a trailer to get me excited for "Django Unchained," but I'm not complaining about the fact that the first trailer has finally been released.

While the trailer for Quentin Tarantino's last film, "Inglourious Basterds," misled viewers to believe that it was nothing but a Brad Pitt fest, the "Django Unchained" trailer seems to be showing exactly the kind of film everyone expected it to be. And no, that is not a bad thing at all. "Django" looks to have a perfect mix of serious and awesome action and hilariously inspired exploitation. It also opens with a Johnny Cash song and includes Christoph Waltz channeling Hans Landa and Leonardo DiCaprio saying "rambunctious" in the most sinister way possible.

But it's time for me to shut up now, and time for you to watch this trailer*:

Note: This trailer comes via The Film Stage, a site dedicated to movie reviews and news. I began contributing to it today. Check out the site here:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Reel Deal Tries to Become Internet Famous: Photobombing Salma

Being internet famous is not just any ordinary kind of fame. Achieving internet fame suggests that you may have done something that you wouldn't normally do.

Well, I'm about to do something I never thought I'd do on The Reel Deal: post a meme. Or create one.

The following photo was taken at the Cannes Film Festival, and submitted to me by my friend Spencer Lucas (the girl in the photo I am still unsure of but if you find this, please come forward). The man is Ennio Morricone, cinema's greatest composer. In the background is Salma Hayek. I don't know what she's doing, but she has pulled off one of the most hilarious inadvertent photobombs I have yet to see. 

Success is achieved only by doing, and you have the chance to make Photobombing Salma a reality. For all of you PhotoShop junkies out there, create the funniest variations on Photobombing Salma that you can, and send them to me ( I will post my favorites in an upcoming post. Just a tip: my favorites will probably be the funniest, so the more inappropriate and random situations that you can place Salma into, the better. 

Here it is, Reel Dealers. Photobombing Salma:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mud & Killing Them Softly: The Lost Reviews of Cannes

The line for "Killing Them Softly." But was it worth the wait?
While at Cannes, I watched "Killing Them Softly" and "Mud." However, I never got to publish reviews of them. Here they are now.

Killing Them Softly

 When Brad Pitt is in your movie, you are bound to get plenty of attention from the French.

"Killing Them Softly" surfaced with some bad early buzz but received favorable reviews when it actually opened. I compare it to "Lawless" simply for the reason that they are both gangster films. "Lawless" has the makings of a minor American classic. It goes for something a little more old fashioned, yet very refreshing. "Killing Them Softly" goes for brutal and meditative, and gets halfway there.

Here is a film that has a standout script, but doesn't bring its characters anywhere. The dialogue is detailed and familiar-sounding enough that it mimics real conversation. The banter between Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) gives "Killing Them Softly" a nice, humorous heart. While Brad Pitt is the selling point, McNairy and Mendelsohn are the film's true stars.

That is not to insult Mr. Pitt's role at all. Many people were unimpressed by his performance, but he did everything right as a very professional hitman. "Killing Them Softly" felt like a knockoff "No Country for Old Men" morality tale, with Pitt's Jackie Cogan substituting for Anton Chigurh. Like Chigurh, he has an calculated and mysterious air to him. Unlike Chigurh, his moral compass is less fascinating and less defined. Without giving too much away, the title refers to Cogan's standard of killing his victim from far enough away so as not to become emotionally attached. Strangely though, Cogan kills many people up close, and that doesn't seem to change him in any way, shape, or form.

I'm Brad Pitt, and you're not.
The story of "Killing Them Softly" is quite simple: it is about a hit being pulled off. And if you follow that brief premise, it delivers on that exactly. "Killing Them Softly" was directed by Andrew Dominik of "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" fame. "Killing Them Softly" replaces the open spaces of the west for the confined, gritty backdrop of New Orleans. What "Jesse James" has in silence, "Killing Them Softly" has in dialogue.

"Jesse James" ran over two and a half hours long. It is said that an original cut of "Killing Them Softly" is about the same length. I would very much like to see this version, as what was shown at Cannes felt like a summed up version of a much better movie. I'd like to see how much more depth, and what new directions, Dominik had intended for the characters. I'd like more scenes with Frankie and Russell, and more with the Bukowski-type Mickey (James Gandolfini), who has some of the film's most entertaining scenes.

I admire "Killing Them Softly" for its ambition. The film takes place during the 2008 presidential election, and uses this event as a means of criticizing the greed of American capitalism. It seems to exist in a world of many Gordon Gekkos. I am not sure if Dominik's point totally came through, but I believe a second viewing, and a longer running time, might clear some things up. I will say this though: the final line of "Killing Them Softly" will end up on an AFI Top 100 list one day.

After the Jump: Mud

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Analog This: SNL Without Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig

Last night, Andy Samberg announced that he will not be returning to "Saturday Night Live" in the fall. This was a sad, yet expected announcement. Expected as in I expected this to happen much longer ago, as Samberg has been a star for many years now. But he needed to stay because without him, "Saturday Night Live" would have been a much different show.

Samberg may have saved the show from irrelevance by launching his first Digital Short, "Lazy Sunday," in 2005. With the Digital Short, the show found a way to survive in the 21st century. Of course, promising new cast members and a Sarah Palin impression would also help, but let us not forget the importance of the Digital Short.

With his band The Lonely Island, Samberg has released two albums, and I pray that a third be on the way at some point in the near future.

Samberg does not get nearly enough credit for being such a versatile performer. He can sing, tell jokes, and act. While Samberg's videos are usually what he is best known for, he could do a few good impressions, including one that got him in trouble with Mark Wahlberg. I worry for Samberg's movie career if he chooses more projects like "That's My Boy." However, I am optimistic if he instead makes more movies like "Hot Rod." "Hot Rod" mixes a whole lot of insanity with a whole lot of heart, and dozens of YouTube worthy moments.

After the jump: Kristen Wiig, and some video highlights.