Thursday, April 28, 2011

Second Age Reviews: Porky's


The problem with reviewing the cult classics at the Avon is that many of them are...well, classics. They are cemented in the public consciousness as good and even those who haven't seen them are aware that they are good. This makes criticism rather redundant. Take Porky's for example. Everyone and their dog is already aware that it's one of the best, if not the best, of the 80's raunchy sex comedy's. What can I possibly say?

Well I can say that it's devoted a group of friends in high school who's only thoughts appear to be devoted to getting laid. No really, that's it. The characters are all well defined and you can easily tell one from the other in the movie but fucked if I can remember all their names, and a partial list is worthless. The Porky's of the title is a stripclub and suggested to be brothel as well, but very little of the film actually takes place there.

Look, I could bang on endlessly on the writing (solid) the characters (well defined) or whatever other technical details I want to rant about, but it's all irrelevant. This is a comedy so the only important question is, is it funny? Well hell yes. Oh it's the got the same problem the similar Animal House has, where it amounts to little more to a series of loosely connected sketches, but I'll be damned if it's funny and in some places it's hysterical.

One of the things I'd forgotten since my last viewing was how serious it gets in some places. What amounts to an absurdist sex comedy has a subplot concerning child abuse and racism, and when the movie focuses on it for about 10 minutes near the end the effect is whiplash inducing. But on the other hand it helps give more than a couple of the characters more depth and makes you care just a tiny bit more, so I guess it helps more than it hurts.

Another thing, more about the culture that surrounds it than the movie itself, is the notion of how filthy the movie is. Oh it's filthy alright; any movie so sex focused is always going to be. But the notion that it's hyper filthy is downright absurd. Revenge of the Nerds is filthier, American Pie is filthier, Bachelor Party is filthier. (Oh it's filthier than Animal House but mostly because it's so focused on sex).

Look this is a Year Zero film, and a comedy at that, two things that make a movie difficult to review, and put together it's damned near impossible. As I said above I could easily bang on and on about the writing and directing but it's all irrelevant. It's a funny movie, and a genre defining one at that. If nothing else, it perfectly captures the mood of being a teenager, even exaggerated: Hang around, talk about tits, drink soda and bullshit. So if you haven't seen it, give it a look and I'll see you next time.

Oh and before I go. The 3 of you who bothered to check out the Avon's listings know that 2 weeks from now is Maniac but I must sadly report that it's HIGHLY unlikely I'll be seeing that. Awkward timing, finals week and a lack of interest by both myself and my viewing companion has pretty much assured we're gonna skip it. If anything changes, I'll let you know, but as of right now, we're moving right down the list. So see you then (or next week for Thor).

Next Time on Second Age Reviews: The Princess Bride

Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he feels that it's rather telling that the first thing on screen in this movie is literally a penis joke.

My Expendables


So I saw The Expendables over the weekend and was bored shitless by it. It's not quite as bad as Steve Austin's last action movie (The Condemned) because I wasn't actively disgusted by it, but it's just shitty and forgettable. It's probably the worse movie everyone involved has ever been in (yes Terry Crews too. He was in Idiocracy and hype aside that's a damn fine little movie). Except Steve Austin. Yeah.

But it got me thinking: If I were going to do a similar movie, who would I cast? Well I discussed it with one of my friends and I came up with this 10 man (all male) team for my concept movie and I thought you would be amused by it and my motives. So here, for your amusement, is my Expendables list, after the cut.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Viewing


I haven't been anything resembling religious for years and I haven't been a direct Christian for even longer, but when I was, I was fairly into it (I was an Acolyte, believe it or not). So it bothered me, even as a kid, that Christmas is widely considered the biggest Christian holiday. I mean, the day Jesus was born is important and all, but don't you think the day he rose from the dead should be bigger?

Anywho, in honor of Easter, here is an edition of Missed Movies for Christianity. I was gonna do one for Judaism and for Pot, in honor of Passover and 4-20 respectively, but I forgot (because I'm not Jewish or that into Pot, so I didn't remember until afterwards. I used to be Christian, so I remembered).

Oh and before I begin I'd like to throw you a leftover name from the Judaism list: A Serious Man. If you haven't seen it, go give it a look, Coen Brothers, brilliant, deep, weird, etc. Just watch it.

NOTE: This list will not include Ben-Hur or Jesus of Nazareth, because everyone's already seen them.

The Last Temptation of Christ

There is a group of people who are already pissed at me for putting this one on the list, so I figured the best thing to do is to put it first because those people are probably not gonna like the rest of the list. You've probably heard of this one, but odds are you've never seen it, and like so many movies, it's exactly what it says on the tin. Most of the movie is devoted to Jesus' life, but near the end, while on the cross, he is tempted to be 'Not God's Son,' get off the Cross and live a mortal life, including marrying Mary Magdalene.

You can imagine why that might be a teeny bit controversial and despite being reverent and respectful in tone and content, people had a rather nasty knee-jerk reaction, which ran the gambit from simply calling for the film to be banned, to protests, to a Paris theater being firebombed (no really). The movie has been rather infamous ever since, but it really is a good piece of cinema and if you don't have any exceedingly uptight relatives, you might want to give it a watch. It certainly always felt more reverent to me than Passion of the Christ.


Saved!

Saved! on the face of it, seems like a movie that cannot possibly have anything other than the utmost contempt for religion. A born-again Christian girl finds out her (chaste) boyfriend is harboring homosexual thoughts and, in an effort to save him from these thoughts, decides to sleep with him. Surprise, surprise, it doesn't work, he gets sent off to 'Pray the gay away' camp and she winds up pregnant and an outcast.

See, you're already seeing a snarky, anti-religion teen comedy, The Breakfast Club as written by Richard Dawkins. But it avoids that route (mostly), by grounding it's moral in the idea that the Born-again communities interpretation of the faith is wrong, not the faith itself. Other than that, it's a clever and enjoyable comedy with some real touching moments.


Prince of Egypt

I don't know why more people haven't seen this one. It amounts to an animated retelling of the story of Moses, Exodus by way of Beauty and the Beast. It's kind of a miracle itself, with music by Stephen Schwartz(!), an incredible voice cast that includes everyone from Val Kilmer to Ralph Fiennes to Jeff Goldblum. It did rather slim down the story to make it work better in a 3 act structure, but overall it's beautiful to look at, while being well written and directed with an out-and-out incredible score. Of course since I don't need to talk about the story this one is a little shorter so I think I'll end it there. See you next time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

That was my brain

Dear Portal 2,
I think, based on currently available evidence, that you are one of the most singularly brilliant games ever made. But I'm not sure yet. I'll get back to you after a couple more playthroughs.

With Much Love,
Elessar

PS: Yes I DID play through you in less than a day. That is how into it I got.
PPS: It's also cuz you're maybe 7 hours long. But that's just nitpicking.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

More Shameless Plugging of Places I Like

Avon Theater's Cult Classics

I've been waiting for my indie theater to announce their summer lineup and now that they have...

HOLY SHIT!

A GREAT mix of hilariously bad (Troll 2, Chained Heat, Heavy Metal) and actually exceptionally good (Princess Bride, Halloween, Running Man motherfucking A Clockwork Orange).

HOLY SHIT!

Look, I'm working on a movie set this summer (more on that as it develops) and thus will be out of town most of June but if ANY of you are in the area for any of this, hit this theater up. Cult classic lineups do NOT get any better than this.

Friday, April 15, 2011

An Apology

I must apologize readers. Due to pressing engagements both last night, and this morning, I was unable to attend Dressed to Kill at the Avon last night, so I won't be reviewing it. This won't happen often, I promise. Sorry.

Next time on Second Age Reviews: Porky's

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Review: Hanna


Earthbound action films (that is to say action films with no direct sci-fi or fantasy elements) generally have to pick a tone before they can start production. Do they want to go over the top and silly like Machete? Do they want to go action packed and unrealistic like Die Hard? Or do they want to keep it down to earth and realistic like the Bourne movies? Hanna as a whole has it's eyes set on the 3rd category, which is a trade off. It's the hardest of the 3 to nail down right, but if you do right, you end up much better than you might otherwise.

The film is devoted to a girl named Hanna (duh) living in the woods with her father, who is constantly training her in combat, languages, lying and general encyclopedic knowledge. Hanna insists that she's ready to leave and activates a machine that will allow the CIA to find and capture her. No prizes for guessing that her father knows more about her than he lets on, that she's not entirely normal or that she, y'know, escapes. The film is primarily devoted to her journey from her holding cell to Berlin to meet her father.

So it's an action film devoted to an abnormally powerful character traipsing across Europe. If your mind instantly went to the Bourne movies, the advertisers have done their jobs. But to look at what makes it good, you have to look in the details.

The script is a solid piece of work, the characters are original and well balanced, not prize winning but good. The cinematography is nice, if a little odd in spots (I smell a bored director), and thankfully free of the shaky-cam bullshit that plagued the later Bourne films (the Bourne films will be coming up a lot in this review, sorry). The stunt work is good and...what I don't normally talk about the stunt work? Well sir, I can't talk about the CGI because there isn't any, and most of the gore is offscreen so I can't talk about that so...yeah. It also wisely takes time to slow down and show what mental effects Hanna's upbringing might have on her long term psyche.

The actors are all doing good jobs especially Cate Blanchett and Eric Banna. What I like about it is that style and technique draw attention to the thin line separating Hanna's actions from the villains and more importantly, the non-existent line between the father's and the villains. Hanna often acts like a sociopath, but if she's a sociopath then her father is a full on psycho. The villains are all believable and frightening (and I know a single audio detail from one villain will be haunting more than a few people's nightmares).

The actions scenes are clean and exciting, never breaking the believability that makes it intense. The soundtrack is easily one of the years best, a first from a band I've never heard of (The Chemical Brothers if you know them), resonating perfectly with the action scenes and the quiet scenes alike.

The film has more than a few problems which keep it from unseating Source Code as the best movie I've seen all year. First off, while the characters are all nicely rounded, with the exception of Hanna, everyone's motivation is a little too broad for comfort. The ending comes out of nowhere and resolves nothing, perhaps trying to leave room for a sequel, perhaps not. A lot of times things seem to travel as quickly as the plot needs them to. And I'm sorry, but I think we all know at this point that In the Hall of the Mountain King only has one use in the genre.

Look, problems aside, Hanna is a damned good action film, probably the best one to open wide since Machete last year. It's not perfect, but it's well made and enjoyable and unless you've yet to see Source Code (I know there are a few of you) I'd recommend you see this. See you next time.

Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan born cinephile and in his time honored tradition of nicknaming movies, he's changing this one's title to The Bourne Childhood.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Missed Movies number 5


So I finally saw Tangled, on the request of a...female friend (ahem) and believe it or not it was actually pretty good. I was a little apprehensive because everyone kept telling me that The Princess and the Frog was really good and it was a giant piece of shit. It wasn't anywhere near as good as some of Disney's better movie (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King etc.) but all in all it's probably the best thing they've done since Mulan. And it does without saying it was better than Toy Story 3.

So anyway, that inspired me to name some forgotten animated films for my readership to take advantage of. NOTE: All of these are Western animated films, but if you haven't seen some of the works of Miyazaki like Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke, you're missing out on some of the best animated films ever made.

A Scanner Darkly

This movie really blew my mind when I first saw it, so I bring it up a lot. It's certainly unique and there's gonna be a lot of people who resent me after seeing this, so if you don't like psychadelic things, best to skip this one. 7 years in the future (a nice vague number) the war on drugs is completely hopeless as this highly addictive Substance D is wandering the streets and getting hundreds of people addicted. The government has responded by putting up high tech surveilence systems and putting dozens of agents undercover.

Right up front, yeah it's mostly devoted to the hallucinations of the main character (undercover agent Bob Arctor played by Keanu Reeves) so yeah it gets really weird really fast. It takes full advantage of it's medium to make it's hallucinations terrifying and believable. On a scale of Reefer Madness (not the musical) to Requiem For A Dream of creepy drug movies with anti-drug messages, it's firmly on the level of Trainspotting: Pretty damn great, interesting, well made and worthy of your time and worthy of your time and attention.

Titan AE

This one is kinda notorious among people in the know, as it's massive box office failure heralded the end of Fox Animation Studios, and with good reason: They had no fucking clue how to market it. But ignore the problems with Fox not knowing they had an adult oriented animated film on their hands, and accept it on it's merits and it's a good film.

In...fuck I can't remember the year, 3000 something, the earth is attacked and destroyed by an energy based alien race called the Drej, and humanities only hope, a ship called the Titan is sent out to hide. 15 years later, the son of the man who built the Titan is drafted into finding the Titan so they can activate it and save the rapidly dwindling human race.

It's not a perfect movie, featuring many of the problems of Joss Whedon(!) written films: It has too many big ideas to sustain in it's short time frame, it tends to hit you over the head with it's message and it's villains motivations are a little too vague, but it's an enjoyable sci-fi actioner when you're in the mood for it.

The Triplets of Belleville

Made by the same guys who made 2010's absolutely incredible The Illusionist, this offering could not be any more different. Where The Illusionist was quiet and contemplative, The Triplets of Belleville reads like something that Miyazaki would make if he spent 2 weeks taking acid.

In a world a little to psychedelic to be considered the real world, a young man named Champion who is a professional cyclist. He is kidnapped while on the Tour De France and brought to America for the purposes of racing on a mini Tour De France for gambling. His grandmother Souza goes looking for him and encounters the titular Triplets of Belleville, once musical hall singers now elderly improvisational musicians.

If that sounds weird, it is, and trust me it only gets weirder as the movie progresses. But it's sweet, unique and endearing even while it's being extremely odd, and the soundtrack is surprisingly catchy. So give it a look.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Review: Source Code


The best thing Source Code had going for it pre-release was it was directed by Duncan Jones, who will always have to live up to his father's fame, an obscure little musician named David Bowie. Yes, the son of Ziggy Stardust has become a sci-fi director, who's only previous title was 2009's Moon. And I want to be clear about this: I FUCKING LOVED MOON! One of the best science fiction films of the decade (second only to District 9 really), Moon is a hard standard to live up to. And while note quite as good, Source Code does admirably.

Jake Gyllenhal (who really cannot find a steady level of quality for his movies) has the lead as Colter Stevens, a soldier involved with the titular Source Code Project, which allows him to repeatedly enter the mind of a man who died during a train bombing to try and find the bomb and find out who did it to prevent a future bombing.

That sounds convoluted but it's not. The plot is fairly straightforward and 99 percent of the scenes take place in one of 2 locations (the train itself or the source code box that Colter is in). The concept itself seems to be custom designed to present the viewer and the characters with dozens of red herrings and while it does that, it never feels gratuitous or like it's stalling.

On that note, the screenplay is nice and nuanced, all the characters well rounded and interesting. Colter gets the most focus obviously, giving us a great look at how a real human would react to the rather extreme circumstances. The science is soft enough to almost liquify (which is quite a difference from Moon's extreme realism) but so long as everyone treats it with urgency, it's consistent and they don't dwell on it, it shouldn't damage the film and it doesn't. The characters are (mostly) well rounded, and the film does get more than it's share of emotion moments.

The visual style is nice and interesting, even while it owes more than a little to 12 Monkeys. The cinematography is well used and subtle, as is the editing which allow for some interesting visuals and digressions in between sessions on the train. The music is nice, if a bit forgettable. The CGI, what little there is, is well used and integrated into the film. I should warn you that those of you expecting an action film, as shown in the trailers are gonna leave disappointed. It's pacing is nice and gradual, only speeding up when it needs to, and leaving itself at a solid and comfortable pace.

Gylenhall's (your name is killing me Jake) performance is easily the standout of the film, understated and believable. All in all it's probably his best performance since Zodiac. Monica Monaghan and Vera Farmiga do solid jobs with the time their given, as does Jeffery Wright although his character is a little more one dimensional. Oh and Scott Bakula has a nicely meta voice cameo...remember he was in Quantum Leap? Yeah, that's why it's funny.

It's not entirely perfect. The villain's motivation is a little unclear, the ending is a tad too long, but does what it needs to in that time so we'll forgive it. It also feels a little too scared of explaining everything too early, so bits of information are doled out piecemeal and while that's a good way of keeping every bit of information we need dropped in an expositional block, it also means that we figure a couple things out too quickly. Also, I really wish the trailers hadn't given away all the tech, because the opening does a nice job of being mysterious.

Look, I'd normally be inclined to recommend this movie just so it can make money and we can get a proper career out of Mr. Jones (IE, one of the most promising up and coming directors currently out there) but for my money, it really is rather excellent. It's easily the best thing currently in wide release and it's probably the best movie I've seen all year, so don't miss it. See you next time.

Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan-born cinephile and he spent the entire movie jealous of how much more awesome the train in the movie is than the ones near him.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Some notes

Since I've been getting a solid number of people reading my stuff (yes I read my traffic figures, feel free to mock me), as a thank you I'm working on a big something in the vein of my Twilight review (which are cancelled by the by, I can't do New Moon).

Incidentally, having seen Salt, on DVD, I can say with certainty that no one NEEDS to see it. It's relying too much on Miss Jolie, it's way too similar to some other things (notably the Bourne movie) and it amounts to too little to be anything incredible. But I can also say with certainty that there's no good reason NOT to see it. It's competent and enjoyable and much better than a lot of action movies from the last couple years (Clash of the Titans, Knight and Day, Battle: LA and Sucker Punch are all inferior to it). Don't rush right out to see, especially if you're still missing some Oscar nominees (No one, and I mean no one, but serious film people have seen Winter's Bone and they need to, and I know a few of you still haven't seen Black Swan) but it's enjoyable even if it's not going to enthrall anyone.

Oh and I'm hoping to see Source Code this Tuesday and Trust this weekend, assuming I can find a theater playing the latter and assuming I can tear myself away from my X-Files box set long enough to see the former. Incidentally, watching through the X-Files (or as much as I've gotten so far, there are a lot of them) has convinced me more than ever that The X-Files are something that just cannot replicated. Too many stars had to align to make it as good as it was, from the script writing team being a gift from god, to Duchovny and Anderson having so much chemistry, to Fox not canceling after one season (Bitter? About Firefly and Caprica? Not me.) It's like The Beatles or Star Wars. So many things had to come together to make it as good as it was, that nothing that tries to imitate it will be nearly as good.

And I'd honestly forgotten how good it was. Seriously.