Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Birdman


A washed up action movie star tries to reaffirm his relevance as an actor by opening a Broadway play. Does he still have what it takes to make it in the cut-throat world of show business?  Can he stay sane in an industry that's famously nuts? Will anyone who isn't in show business care at all?
Read on to find out...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence


When naming Christmas movies, there is a lot of originality out there. For example, White CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS with the Kranks, I'll be home for CHRISTMAS, and A CHRISTMAS Story.
However, it takes real originality to come up with a name for a World War II Japanese prison camp movie that that has almost nothing to do with Christmas. Thus, let's take a look at Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.

Read more to find out the true meaning of "war crimes"...
PREMISE
Lawrence ( Tom Conti ) is a prisoner in a Japanese prison camp in 1942 Java. As someone who had been to Japan before the war and speaks the language, Lawrence builds a rather strong relationship with one of the camp guards, Sgt. Hara (Takeshi Kitano), becoming almost a kind of friendship. This doesn't stop Hara from giving Lawrence the occasional crack across the face with a stick.

The camp is run by Capt. Yonoi, a young soldier who has a strong samurai spirit. He believes in honor and rules, and feels a deep shame for not having been with his fellow soldiers who were killed in an unsuccessful coup d'├ętat years before.
He also has great shading.
Eventually, a British soldier named Celliers (David Bowie) is brought to the camp. Capt. Yonoi seems to see something special in this soldier, and decides he wants to make him the camp prisoners' official liaison. However, after recovering from the terrible treatment he received during his interrogation, Celliers proves to have a rebellious attitude that doesn't fit with Yanoi's plans, and we see Yanoi start to resent Cellier's actions.


MY TAKE
As soon as the film starts, it becomes apparent that this isn't a Christmas movie. In fact, the only time Christmas is mentioned is when Sgt. Hara gets drunk and let's Celliers and Lawrence out of solitary confinement, saying he's playing Father Christmas and shouting "Merry Christmas Lawrence!".
Other than that, Christmas cheer in this film is non-existent.
There are, however, some really good performances in the movie. Conti is really likable as the voice of the film. He's soft-spoken and wise, and while other inmates look at the Japanese like ignorant animals, Lawrence has a respect and understanding of their culture.
I totally understand why you bashed me with a stick.
Bowie's performance is just as powerful. If you've ever seen him in other movies, like Labyrinth, you might think he's a campy performer. Celliers, however, is played with a cool and determined strength. You get the feeling that he's just as scared as everyone else, yet he never lets it stop him from standing up for his fellow prisoners.

I still think this movie is fit for holiday viewing, though. You might feel a bit sad by the end, but you can see some real Christmas spirit, in that Cellier's and Lawrence sacrifice a lot for their fellow prisoners. However, it might help to watch it while drinking copious amounts of eggnog laced with rum.


FINAL SCORE- Enough sake to make you want to let the prisoners out of solitary.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

All Is Bright


Often times, we look to Christmas movies to make us laugh, like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  Other times, we look for a warm, sweet trickle of Christmas warmth, like Miracle on 34th St.

However, maybe we should look for movies that not only depress us, but make us dislike all the characters as well. In that case, let's dust off the DVD player and pop in what will surely (not) become a Christmas favorite, All Is Bright!

PREMISE
The movie starts with Dennis (Paul Giamatti) just getting out of prison for robbery. He's got no job, no money, and his ex-wife told their daughter he had died of cancer. To top it off, Dennis's old partner-in-crime, Rene (Paul Rudd) is dating the ex-wife. So, they've nicely set up the happy premise. 
But Dennis plans on getting his wife back by going straight. To do this, he and Rene head down to New York with a truckload of Christmas trees to sell. Let's just say, it doesn't get any wackier than that.

MY TAKE
There are a lot of Christmas movies out there that start with a down and out hero. This is usually so they can redeem themselves and we can cheer them on. In the case of All Is Bright, Dennis is such an out-and-out criminal it's hard to really like him at all. And we can't even blame that on how Paul Giamatti looks like an angry 18th century seaman in this film.

I'm just impressed by that much facial hair
There are times when Giamatti can actually look really sympathetic and likable.

Ok, not this. But, trust me. He can be likable.
To balance his thuggery, we have Rene. He's also decided to hang up the life of crime and go straight. He's the guy trying to his best to be good. Part of this involves him constantly chatting to  Dennis's ex on the phone right in front of Dennis, and just being a terrible businessman in general.

A real nice guy all around.
They even throw in a Russian woman who buys a tree and, in her cold Russian way, helps Dennis to cope with his problems. Of course, when Dennis and Rene have a good day of selling Christmas trees, she brings a bottle of vodka to toast with.

Aside from all the cast, every scene in the movie is softly scored by jazz or Christmas music, while people don't smile. They look vacantly into the distance, showing us how tortured they are. In one scene where Dennis's daughter gives her mom a piece of chocolate from an advent calender, there are still no smiles.
Mmm. The story of our lord is 70% cacao.
You just get the feeling that this is another one of those movies made with the explicit purpose of winning an award at Cannes or Sundance. Those movies never have people who smile in them.


FINAL SCORE- 107 shots of vodka. One for each minute of my Christmas holiday I lost by watching this movie.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

'Tis Christmas, it is.



Another year has come to a close. And with it, a host of never before seen movies from yours truly. 

Follow along and see what not to see during this season. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Special - VHS boxes from the 80's


One of my favourite things to do as a young lad in the 90's was to head on over to the local video store and peruse the aisles for something interesting. As much as I love being able to download or stream almost any movie you can imagine, part of the fun of the video store was looking at the box covers and wondering what the actual movie would be like. Nine out of ten times, box covers were bold-faced lies.

Let's take a look at some of the strange video box covers which always intrigued me.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Encino Man


In the early 90's I was still innocent. I watched Ninja Turtles. I rode my bike around the block. And most importantly, I hadn't yet been exposed to Pauly Shore. Read below to learn of how he stole my innocence.

PREMISE
Two friends living in Encino, California spend their time trying to be considered cool at high school. Sean "Oh, Mr. Frodo" Astin is your average kid trying to be popular. His best friend, played by Pauly Shore, is a wanna-be hippy. All they want is to be popular at school. Unfortunately, they are anything but that. One day while digging a pool in the backyard (like a lot of kids did, I'm sure), they find a frozen Brendan Fraser. He thaws out, wacky 90's era comedy ensues, and the two friends finally become popular.
Uh... not these friends.


MY TAKE
Watching this as a young teenager, I thought it was off the wall hilarious. Pauly Shore was strange in a kind of cool way. Add twenty years to that, and it starts to look a little different. You start thinking of things. From little things to big things, as an adult, they just gnaw at your mind until you have a hard time enjoying the movie. First off....

Why is Sean Astin's dad letting him dig a swimming pool in the backyard. Yeah, Astin thinks having a pool will help make him popular. In California. Where nobody has a professionally made pool. It's probably one of the dumbest ways they could have come up with for the boys to find a caveman.
That's an ambitious little hobbit.

Also, Astin wants more than anything to be popular. He constantly talks to Shore about how great it would be if they were part of the "in" crowd. The thing is, Pauly Shore seems to be completely happy with who he is. I mean, they don't sell clothes like that in most shops. You have to make an active effort to put together a wardrobe like that. So I'm assuming Shore doesn't care what people think about him.
This takes a lot of effort.
Brendan Fraser is a caveman. The only modern ideal he seems to have a grasp of is that family is important. Other than that, he has no concept of any of society's norms. Imagine taking a six and a half foot tall monkey to school. The least of the problems would be finding everything covered in poop.
Literally, everything.
Finally, Astin is the every-kid that we're supposed to relate to. He's not rich, he doesn't have a ton of friends, and he's kind of awkward. This is the image we're supposed to have. I think the reason he's an outcast, though, because he's such a little dick. The biggest indicator of this is how he thinks having or doing things will make him likeable. He thinks having a caveman will make him popular. When Fraser becomes popular, he tries to ride his coattails. When the girl he likes goes for Fraser, Astin literally takes Fraser to the woods and pulls a Harry and the Hendersons on him. He gives a caveman a handful of quarters and tells him to leave. What a dick. And even at the end, Astin does nothing to change. Brandon beats up the bully and starts dancing. What does Astin do? He tells the girl "Watch this", and joins in dancing (terribly).
Please, Mr. Frodo.
Overall, I think you can still kind of enjoy the movie for the nostalgia or 90's retro-factor. But as a story with such an unlikeable main character, it's pretty terrible. Maybe you can find a VHS of it in the bargain bin at K-Mart.

FINAL SCORE- Two and a half slurpees, buuuu-dy.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Spectacular - The Polar Express


The Polar Express was a kids picture book written back in the 80's. It was 32 pages long, and like most picture books, consisted of full page illustrations and a simple story.  Robert Zemeckis thought this would be the perfect vehicle to play with motion-capture technology.

Read on to see what the creator of Back to the Future watches on Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Spectacular - Bad Santa


There are two reasons to hate Santa. The first is because he never brought you that life-size My Buddy doll you wanted when you were 14. The second reason is because he's being played by Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa.

Before you take your kids to the mall to see Santa, read on to make sure you're not making a mistake.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Spectacular - Christmas With the Kranks



Christmas? Who needs it. Let's go to the Bahamas. Or maybe we should stay in town take turns crapping in Santa's hat. Yeah, that sounds like more fun. Bring on the Chipotle!

Click the link to learn what bad kids get to watch at Christmas.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas Spectacular - Home Alone


What do you get when you take a bratty kid, his pre-occupied and uncaring parents, a group of siblings and cousins who hate each other, some burglars, a scary man with a shovel, and shove them all inside a Christmas Turkey? Why, you get Home Alone, of course.

Read on to recall why you still feel nauseated anytime a person holds their face and screams...