Thursday, July 05, 2012
A (day late) review of the films I've seen this past week.
CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE (2011)
This one took me by surprise. It's a sitcom, yes, but it's an emotionally genuine one. Steve Carell and Julianne Moore star as a couple who separates after she decides she wants a divorce. Carell ends up drinking and telling his sad story to everyone in the bar, which catches the attention of Ryan Gosling, a player who teaches Carell how to improve himself and become like him: someone who gets laid and eschews emotional attachment. Moore, meanwhile, is unsure how to proceed, and then there's Emma Stone sort of floating around, catching Gosling's interest without responding to the games he's trying to play. What I liked so much about this movie, besides the ensemble (all of whom are very talented), is that it doesn't play the characters strictly for laughs. We start with four characters types, and then the movie spends time peeling back their layers as they discover themselves, what they think they want, and where their lives most make sense. I was prepared to dismiss it, but I enjoyed it so much. How it all comes together is somewhat sitcom-like, but it doesn't undermine the characters or make them idiots for the sake of the plot. ****
THE GREY (2012)
Overlong and unsubtle. It's a B man vs. nature thriller that thinks it's an introspective and serious tale of survival. Also, thanks to the trailers, you spend an hour and 56 minutes waiting for Liam Neeson to basically get in a fist fight with wolves, and you're not going to get that. Not at all. This one will disappoint no matter what you're expecting, really. *
Three high school kids discover something underground and gain telekinetic powers. It's interesting to watch the tale unfold; the kids are three-dimensional, they deal with their growing powers in ways that are realistic, and the special effects are very clever. The found footage device doesn't always work, though. It's good in the first act, hampers the development of the second, and is almost completely abandoned in the third. The third act also, predictably, goes for the gigantic action climax in a way the movie itself doesn't quite earn. Still, there's a lot here that the filmmakers get right. And honestly, it's the best X-Men movie anyone's made so far; does everything that X-Men: First Class tried so hard to do, but without the pretension, the terrible acting, or the excess 45 minutes. ***1/2
AMERICAN REUNION (2012)
Well, it's as good as could be expected, since none of these movies were ever really that good in the first place. So why do I keep seeing them? Because at their core, there's some real heart to them that I've always appreciated. Once you get past all of the gross out humor and the dick jokes and fake tits, the relationship between Jim and Michelle (and how can I pass up Alyson Hannigan in a movie?) has always been so endearing and silly and romantic. I'm about five years older than the characters, but I also fell in love with and married the dorky, silly, funny, sexy, aggressive girl. Eugene Levy, though, has always been the best part of these movies, and he still is. The moments between Jim and his dad are the best things in the series, and this one didn't disappoint on that level. As for the rest, well... I can't imagine anyone out there really, genuinely loves these characters and is hoping to see them all again, but if you do, it's probably the second best of these movies. At least all the actors come back (though some for basically cameos). Fascinating to see all the actors who were too good for American Wedding jump at the chance to be in, really, anything these days. I remember when they were comparing the cast of American Pie to the cast of American Graffiti. How'd that work out? **1/2
:: My favorite phrase that gets thrown around in the narration of this show: "For the first time in MasterChef history..." I always answer with a breathless "My god, you mean... both seasons?"
:: Everyone, please take the excitement down several notches. The judges ride in with food trucks, and everyone's clapping and screaming like they just saw President Obama and Spider-Man riding a flying unicorn over a double rainbow. Guys, it's 30 seconds into the episode, if you plateau this early there's nowhere else to go. Same thing when Graham is going to cook rabbit to show the chefs how bad they really are: everyone's eyes go moist like they've just been told that they're going to spend an hour hugging giant puppies. The gushing emotions on this show are utterly insane.
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
Tuesday, July 03, 2012
I know of it, of course. Familiar with the theme song. Scene clips here and there. It used to be on in reruns on one of my local channels when I was a kid, but something else was on at the same time and I used to watch that instead (some other rerun; I watched a lot of reruns as a kid).
I like Andy Griffith. Always have. I like his monologues and his singing. He did, bar none, my favorite versions of "The Midnight Special" and "Go Tell It on the Mountain." In the past year or so, I've been very impressed by his performances in No Time for Sergeants and A Face in the Crowd. I loved him in Waitress. I even dig him on Matlock, a spectacularly silly show that my wife inexplicably loves.
But it's very odd to me that I should like him so much, see the reports of his death today, and just suddenly think, you know, I've never seen The Andy Griffith Show. (It's been streaming forever on Netflix, and I should really just turn it on.)
Thanks for everything, Andy. Even the stuff I haven't gotten to yet.
Monday, July 02, 2012
Ah, True Blood. You were never going to be more than silly, enjoyable sleaze. But less pained sleaze would be a nice direction in which to go.
Some other thoughts on the season so far.
:: Finally! The producers are finally willing to have characters realize that Sookie can be just awful and toxic. I've been so sick of special Sookie, walking on water while every character falls in love with her and trips all over everyone else to protect her. There's a side to her that can be so manipulative, and the other characters on the show are finally starting to realize that she might not actually be worth the trouble. Lafayette's "You're the Angel of Death" speech was a long time coming. Unfortunately, the show went right back to people wanting to protect innocent Sookie, and ended with the spectacle of her seducing yet another supernatural creature who is in love with her, like this is going to be the one that actually works out. I know, romantic whatever. All I saw was a woman incapable of seeing herself unless it's reflected in the adoration of others, drunkenly using someone's feelings for her to make herself feel special. Yeah, Alcide, this is really going to last.
This is Bella Swan all over again. "No, I'm really awkward and terrible and you can tell because everyone thinks I'm special and beautiful and wants to be with me and weird things just happen to me because I don't know what."
:: This Authority stuff feels like it's going nowhere. This is typical True Blood, talking about things that might happen or could happen but never actually end up happening. This season's main villain has yet to appear onscreen four episodes in.
:: Why the fuck does Andy Bellefleur even have his own storyline? Who cares? There are way too many stories and characters on this show, and giving attention to each one is simply too much. It's okay to have supporting characters who don't have their own story beats. What is this shit with Terry Bellefleur and his old Army buddy? Did a series about as serious as a Lost in Space rerun think it was in good taste to set a scene in war-torn Iraq that showed US soldiers gunning down unarmed civilians? The whole thing feels so divorced from True Blood in the first place. Cut it out. Every character doesn't have to be a main character.
:: I'm still not sure how I feel about humanized, three-dimensional Pam. I liked her fine as comic relief and the voice of one of the few creatures on this show who didn't find Sookie's magic pussy worth dying for. Now we're supposed to take her seriously as a person? I'm not sure about it, but I still find it a hell of a lot more interesting than what either of the Bellefleurs are up to.
:: This fairy shit is terrible. First fairyland is some kind of Ancient Greek spa, then it's running away from goblins in a field that looks like it came from a third season Star Trek episode, and now it's a rave. And as I figured, Hadley's back, too. This show cannot let a single character go. Every episode has to focus on 12 different characters to ever-diminishing effect. Seriously, counting the Authority, how many new characters has just this season added into the mix? 7? They had to kill Sam's shifter friends just to make some room.
:: Also, were Sam's friends killed by the werewolf pack? Because that's another element that's overstayed it's welcome.
:: But you know, for all of the constant additions to this Simpsons-sized cast, I have never once found anyone more boring than Bill Compton. God, he's a fucking snooze. Eric is everything Bill is, but better: sexier, funnier, more charismatic, and a better actor. How about Bill turns out to be the traitor and we just off him? Why not, eh?
:: Let's get to this fucking vampire civil war already.
Overall, as the show gets bigger and broader, it loses a lot of what made it such stupid fun in the first place. As we're apparently supposed to take these characters and their situations more and more seriously every season, the cracks just get bigger and bigger and dumber and dumber. I get that they wanted to expand the mythology of the show, but in doing so they've upped the nonsense quotient considerably, and not in an enjoyable way.
If it wasn't for all the reliable nudity, I'm not sure I'd be able to stand it.
Sunday, July 01, 2012
Three Dog Night is a group I've always been pretty ambivalent about. Some pleasant tunes, but nothing I would purposely reach for, you know? I heard this song last week, and I'd never heard it before. What's funny about it is that Becca and I just recently listened to a Three Dog Night hits collection from 1975, and this song--which apparently went to number 15 in 1970 (but eclipsed by that year's number 1 hit "Mama Told Me Not to Come")--wasn't even on it. Which is a shame, because this song is fantastic, maybe the best, prettiest Three Dog Night song I've ever heard. That refrain just goes straight through my and affects me somehow. So I decided to look it up the song and, lo and behold, it was written by Paul Williams and Roger Nichols! Another Paul Williams gem that just bypasses everything and hits me straight inside. What is it about this man and the way he's always been able to move me? Is it because I saw The Muppet Movie when I was too young to even remember seeing it for the first time? Damn, Paul. You got me again. I love this song.