Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Analog This: It's Not Just About Walt This Time

Just in case this wasn't the first thing to cross your mind: SPOILER ALERT

"Breaking Bad" is the closest thing to must see TV that exists during a time where seeing a program live doesn't really matter to most people anymore. While watching it live is not mandatory, it is certainly an event. To me, watching live television has often felt like finding out some amazing secret before anyone else does. And finding it out at the same time as a certain chunk of the country that I've never met before felt like a strange bonding experience.

This right there is the beauty of television, and with TV changing so rapidly, "Breaking Bad" deserves to be the poster boy for a new era. It earned it long ago, and it certainly looks like it has no intention of ever giving that title up. It is not earned by Nielsen ratings, but rather by pure quality. Just like Walter White, it has crushed its competition just by being the best at what it does.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Analog This: A Blockbuster Summer for TV; Maybe Less so for Movies

No one can deny it at this point: there is something wrong at the movies. Tentpoles and remakes just won't seem to go away. A good movie feels like a treat that is too good for its own good. There is good hope when something like "Moonrise Kingdom" can find an audience. However, when even Batman can't deliver, there must be a problem. However, one place I couldn't find a problem this summer was on television. While film has already broken down so many barriers, TV is just figuring out how to do the same thing.

This summer (well, it's been a long time in the making), cable and basic cable networks have nailed the formula down and created an entertainment experience that can sometimes rival even a great film. Now that everyone has a DVR box and access to the internet, shows can carry long stories in ways they never could in the past. Here are the shows that created a Blockbuster summer for the likes of AMC, FX, and HBO, amongst others:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Movie Review: Celeste and Jesse Forever

"When we can't change a situation, we're forced to change ourselves."

Leave it to the Sundance sweetheart to give us hope about love while strumming the tune of "Love Stinks." "Celeste and Jesse Forever" is the first foray into screenwriting by actress Rashida Jones (and writing partner Will McCormack). If Ms. Jones decided to quit her day job, I wouldn't mind, as she's found herself a great new talent.

The opening of "Celeste and Jesse" almost had me groaning, as its opening looked like a slideshow made on Instagram, or a book called "What Hipsters in Love Do." Luckily, the rest of "Celeste and Jesse" is neither of those things. Rather, "Celeste and Jesse" is something of a chameleon. At first sight Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) seem like a perfectly happy, perfectly sane couple. However, what they are doing is not at all normal, as they are actually getting divorced. The first scene, in which the two of them playfully fight over a cigarette in the car is so well done that it totally through me off once the big revelation came around.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Movie Review: Ruby Sparks

"Ruby Sparks" begins with the most terrifying moment in any writer's life: the moment of staring down a blank page. It is also an exciting moment, because a story is about to be born. But, it is more terrifying because now you have to think of ideas, and a lot of them will end up being terrifying.

If this quirky (that's a very good word to use here) film does anything right, it is capturing what it feels like to create a unique character, and then have the character and story engulf your own life, and become a part of it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Movie About Dognapping You've Always Dreamed Of: Seven Psychopaths Trailer

I only post trailers for movies when it is something I am irrationally excited for and have irrationally high expectations for.

Today, the trailer for "Seven Psychopaths," the new film from Martin McDonagh, was released. McDonagh's last film was his 2008 directorial debut "In Bruges" which remains one of my favorite films of the past five years. "Seven Psychopaths" has McDonagh re-teaming with Colin Farrell, whose abilities as a comedic actor remain severely underrated. It also stars Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken, who are two of my favorite actors, as well as Woody Harrelson, who I like most of the time. It also has Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) sitting on a toilet, just in case you were dying to know what that looks like.

The story seems to revolve around criminals who kidnap people's dogs, return them, and then collect the reward money. "Seven Psychopaths" could be somewhat less dark than "In Bruges," if there are as many animal reaction shots in it as the trailer seems to portend. However, based on "Bruges," McDonagh is not one who will let criminals get away with their wrongdoings unscathed.

Are you as excited for "Seven Psychopaths" as I am? Have you seen "In Bruges" yet? If your answer to the latter question is no, go rent it right away. Watch the trailer for "Seven Psychopaths" below:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Analog This: Breaking Bad a.k.a. The One Where They Rob a Train


This week's episode of "Breaking Bad," entitled "Dead Freight," once again proved that the show that is never bad just keeps on getting better.

Obviously, somebody had to pull out the Jesse James comparison once the only solution to the methylamine shortage turned out to be a train robbery. This is not surprising, as Walt is starting to believe more and more that he is Jesse James. Here is someone who will push it to the very end without the fear of death. Maybe it's time something bad happened to him, something that will finally make Heisenberg cease to exist. And that final straw may have come loose tonight.

Each season of "Breaking Bad" reminds me of the Tortoise: slow to start, taking its time at the beginning, and then taking off and not stopping. Tonight was like the taking off point kicking things into high gear. This momentum should get us through the remainder of this final season.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Movie Review: The Campaign

"The Campaign" didn't necessarily need to exist. Jay Roach could have just shot footage of Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis together in the same room, and I still would have bought the ticket. However, the fact that "The Campaign" gives them a purpose makes it all the better.

At this point, political satire has nailed down all of the main points pretty well: politicians will do anything they can to win, and they will also take any excuse to label their opponents as Communists. But the devil is truly in the details, and the challenge is in finding ways to make stale jokes seem fresh. The best example might be when Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) accidentally punches a baby in the face. The baby punching isn't the funniest part; the fact that the scene is played out in slow-motion really seals the deal. And here I thought that showing the clip on every single talk show would make it less funny in the actual movie.

At the beginning of "The Campaign," Ferrell's Brady is going around telling everyone from auto workers to Filipino amusement park ride operators that they are the "backbone of America." Political junkies will be surprised by how well versed writers Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell in American political jargon. This isn't quite "The West Wing" penned by comedy writers ("Parks & Rec" and "Veep" are more in that league). It's more like if "Step Brothers" focused on a bunch of Washington insiders. That is very high compliment.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Movie Review: Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Finally, a slacker "comedy" where no one utters the words, "what are you going to do with your life?" Instead, there is a fair heaping of "get your ass of the couch." I find this much more reasonable and realistic.

"Jeff, Who Lives at Home" is a nice film that's also more than a nice film. It's about a slacker, but it's also about a hero. To my greatest surprise, this is a refreshingly irony free ride.

Jeff (Jason Segel) is 30 and still living in the basement of his parents' house, which drives his widowed mother Sharon (Susan Sarandon) crazy. Jeff has but one simple task for the day: buy a new wooden panel for the broken door. Even this proves difficult for Jeff. While Jeff is a slacker, he certainly isn't lazy. Let's call him a very motivated stoner lost in his own little world.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bane: Before and After

Before seeing "The Dark Knight Rises," I thought that I would be pondering questions about morality and Batman's place in the world. Instead, I just wanted to know what Bane's (Tom Hardy) voice sounded like before Christopher Nolan altered it.

But thankfully, as it always is, YouTube was there to answer my prayers. Thanks to gangsterturk25 (I don't even want to know what that means), we can now know what Bane sounded like before and after. And while Bane was harder to understand in the original version, that voice still seemed so much more fitting. That is both because a man in a mask shouldn't be easy to understand, and Bane should be scary and unintelligible. His old voice sounds closer to Sauron and Darth Vader. His new voice, as many on the Internet have perfectly noticed, sounds like a less-than-stellar Sean Connery impression. And when he says "your punishment must be more severe," he sounds like an excited game show host announcing who the winner is. Believe me, Tom Hardy will impress you once "Lawless" comes out later this month.

Watch the video below. That opening plane crash sequence is so much more awesome when you forget about the fact that it has nothing to do with the rest of the movie.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The 2012 Sight & Sound Poll: Is Vertigo Really the Greatest Film of All Time?

Every ten years, the British Film Institute's Sight & Sound Magazine releases a list of the top ten films of all time. For every year from 1962 until 2002, Orson Welles's "Citizen Kane" was hailed as the greatest film ever made. And for the past fifty years, it has become conventional wisdom that "Citizen Kane" is indeed, the greatest film ever made.

This time around, Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" was crowned as the greatest film of all time from votes by 846 movie experts. I am not sure what constitutes a "movie expert" in BFI's eyes, but it certainly isn't Pete Hammond or Brett Ratner.

Now, I don't consider myself a complete movie expert just yet. I don't think I'm completely certified until I've seen at least one Robert Altman film that isn't "Popeye." I should also check out "Lethal Weapon" already. But I can say that "Vertigo" is an excellent film, and one that is worthy of the growing influence it has gained over the years. Most people probably don't remember that "Gigi" (just one letter off from being "Gigli") won Best Picture that year. However, no one will ever forget that "Vertigo" didn't even get nominated. As a filmmaker, getting a spot on a list is actually a much bigger honor than getting a chunk of gold in the shape of a naked bald dude.