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It Comes At Night–Oh, wait, I guess not.

There’s a scene early on in the film that truly shows why it kinda sucks. After trying to break into Paul’s house, Will subsequently gets tied to a tree and left outside overnight. That’s when I started to think that the big reveal would be made–that there’s something in the woods that they’re trying to get away from.

But nothing happens to Will that night. Nothing at all came at night which is a goddamn disappointment. If nothing else, I was expecting dread-based horror set in a house in the woods. Instead, it’s a survival drama about two families at odds with their needs and their niceties. It’s about staying healthy amidst a devastating plague, not some type of monster. And, maybe if I had gone in with those expectations, I would’ve enjoyed the film more.

As it stands, though, I really didn’t enjoy It Comes at Night. The visual aspect was very paint-by-the-numbers and devoid of much of an imprint. It didn’t seem like inspired or excited filmmaking in anyway. Joel Edgerton, who’s a pretty good actor (he tore the roof off of Midnight Special) and who’s grown beyond the Sam-Worthington-Fill-in status that he started his career, phones it in while the cast of lesser-knowns lineup and follow suit.

It didn’t seem like I wasn’t the only one who felt that way: the crowd jeered at the end of the movie, with one guy shouting, “That was bullshit!” Indeed, sir, it was.

Observe and Report: Anosognosia in Macro

Anosognosia: “lack of insight” or “lack of awareness” – is believed to be the single largest reason why individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder do not take their medications.

Treatment Advocacy Center


It’s this really unfortunate thing, right? That Paul Blart came out in January of 2009 and six days shy of four months later Observe and Report came out.

Every time I mention Observe and Report, people take a second to rattle their memories and typically come up with “That other mall cop movie? The one with… Seth Rogen?” Exactly. I guess if there were ever a time when a movie should be shelved, it was then. Because had Observe and Report come out a year later, it perhaps would have garnered a broader audience. They could’ve sold it as a parody of some kind.

But even those outside the film industry know that you can’t produce, edit, and distribute a motion picture in the span of four months. Had they perhaps waited, like, eight months maybe then the public would be willing to accept Ronnie Barnhardt as some sort of filmic response to how squeaky clean Paul Blart is.

Or maybe the next to non-existence of redband trailers in 2009 totally stalled any chance this film had of marketing itself as a graphic antithesis to Mall Cop. The trailer for the film does nothing to prepare you for how quickly the movie goes dark.

But, shit dude, the movie itself is brilliant. I have yet to truly grasp the humor of the Foot Fist Way, and could only ever make it through the first season entirely of Eastbound and Down, which leads me to think that this is probably Jody Hill’s most accessible work.

His style of humor is a tough pill to swallow and he doesn’t give you a glass of water. It’s an absolutely unrelenting experience that truly makes the viewer begin to ask, “Wait, when am I supposed to laugh?”

 

When Observe and Report first came out in 2009, the film blew me away with it’s deep-black sense of humor that absolutely tests your ability to finish its scant 82-minute run time. It takes you into the depths of purely being frustrated with Ronnie and his deluded, alternate, sense of reality that it gets to the point that you just feel bad for the guy.

That’s when his date with Brandi happens. He gives her all his medication figuring that because she said yes sober but went out with him drunk it clearly means that they’re now in love and boyfriend & girlfriend. Obviously. Given Ronnie’s great fortune at finally nabbing the One, the medication is now unnecessary so he gives it her and she says, “I was like ‘Okay, weird guy at the mall asking me out.’ Oh my God… But now I got a whole new script! Thank you!”

That whole section of the movie–and especially Ronnie’s actions–raise huge questions about the idea of consent and whether or not either of the two parties involved were in the proper state of mind– whether it be due to an external or internal struggle–to say no. Especially since Klonopin basically erases your memory if you take too much. That whole sequence is fascinating and the way it ties together at the end is even better.

That’s what it is: at about the hour mark the film externalizes his emotions when, after a fight with police, he is seen in montage healing from those physical wounds. At the same time, he starts taking his medication. And! His alcoholic mom has a change of heart and decides to switch to beer because, as she says, “I can drink that stuff all day and still keep my shit together.” It’s a moment in the film that, because of its structural placement, still connotes growth in her character.

This all leads to, when the final act of the film occurs, you’re rooting for Ronnie to accomplish his act of redemption–to see him restore faith in himself.

The entire film is based around Ronnie’s bi-polar disorder too. Coming from someone who’s dealt with it all his life and done his goddamndest to find the right medicinal balance, it’s interesting to see it from the pills perspective. See because, at the beginning of the film, when Ronnie’s doing well (but still fucking crazy in a moderately subdued way), he’s only on Klonozapam. Which, as you know, is what Stevie Nicks was addicted to. Except back then some drug company still had the patent and they called it Klonopin.

“When you’re on tranquilizers [ie, Klonopin] you really can’t be depended on.” -Stevie Nicks (around 1:15 in the video)

I’ve had a prescription for it before and it’s one of those drugs that makes you mild to moderately numb to the world more than actually help resolve any of the actual issues at hand. It’s kind of like a Band-Aid whereas something like an SSRI or MAOI is more akin to a brace. It’s something that inhibits your movements in a way that encourages proper development.

So at the start of the film, Ronnie’s already only operating with a Band-Aid to keep his gaping mental gash from splitting open. It explains his already deluded state.

That whole layer of the film, though, and the fact that he stays on the same medication and doesn’t get further psychiatric treatment, speaks to that inner ability to heal oneself to the point that the medication becomes mere augmentation to the solution itself, which is mindfulness. I guess that’s really what it’s all about.Observe-and-Report-Movie-Poster-observe-and-report-5364882-518-755

skyfall review

Now that Daniel Craig is three films into his career as James Bond, I can safely say that he’s my favorite incarnation of the character… And by that I mean he’s the only incarnation of the character I’ve been really able to connect with.

Casino Royale was a great, if not boring, introduction to this universe and Quantum of Solace was a really solid followup, but it was generally forgettable–it felt like a half-assed attempt at a revenge film where the sole focus was on the exotic locations, the women, and showing us for the first time how far this new James Bond is willing to go to enact his plan. It was a great experiment but it was also a Sophomore slump.

Since he’s the Bond of my generation, he’s also built on the successful model of the dark hero trying to deal with the moral stresses of his job while still trying to catch a bad guy seeking perhaps exactly the same thing as James Bond: revenge.

Developing the character in this nouveau fashion has honestly paid dividends in expanding the Bond mythology. He’s no longer untouchable. He bleeds (this is probably the bloodiest Bond film I’ve seen). He leaves people to die in favor of the mission. If I were as cynical as I once was, I’d say that this new direction was entirely dictated by the idea that this was the only way Bond was ever gonna make money again.

But that’s how its always worked for this character. Since he’s an ever-changing face behind the 007 brand, he more than any other superhero, has been able to morph and change to reflect the times.

Though perhaps more than Bond, the villains have also reflected the things we fear the most. Javier Bardem’s turn as Silva points directly to the cyberterror threats we face every day on a massive scale. There’s a part of the film where he goes through the list of all the chaos he can enact with a computer, from blowing up a building with a mouse click, to changing an entire population’s opinions.

Against that, you have Ben Whishaw’s Q who merely gives Bond a gun and a radio transmitter instead of all the gaudy gadgets and odd inventions he used to have–like exploding toothpaste and tensile floss. But what good is a gun against a man with a computer? He’ll just kill you from halfway around the world before you can even get on the plane to come get him.

Director Sam Mendes, who’s experimented with action before with Road to Perdition and Jarhead, brings his ability to draw out nuanced performances from the actors on top of his usual ability for visual flare (he also directed American Beauty… and all those rose petals). In working with Roger Deakins, one of the great cinematographers of our time, he was able to construct an spy film with clean action sequences that were neither disorienting nor simply pots and pans and cars and trains smashed together (like Quantum of Solace), and incredible acting.

Also, Chicken Little thought the sky was falling too.

Turn the page on the day, walk away [transformers 3]

Let me start this off by saying that I am a Michael Bay apologist. I don’t know why, really. I just like his movies and am not sorry for it. He may not be able to make an Oscar-Bait late-fall type of movie, but he’s probably the second best in the summer movie business (behind JJ Abrams).

I haven’t written many reviews recently because most of the movies that’ve come out this summer have sucked. Hard. And I don’t mean that in the typical “story was flat, effects were okay” type of way but in the way of they left absolutely no impression on me.

Take Green Lantern for instance. I saw it the Monday morning after it came out. By the evening, I had to remind myself that I had seen it. It was like watching a $200 million cut scene from a video game. None of it stuck with me. Maybe it’s because, at this point in the game, we’ve seen the origin story a hundred million times. It’s a necessary evil I wrote about in my Thor review.

X-Men First Class was the same way.

But Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon actually left shrapnel in my brain, left me breathless by the end of it’s 2 hour and 40 minute run time.

It’s also the only movie I’ve seen this summer that led the audience to applaud at the end of it. Which usually says something.

It’s not Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I promise. 

A lot of the flack that this film’s predecessor got was deserved. Revenge of the Fallen was overlong and bloated by a plot that made no sense because of the fact that it was written in three weeks (thanks writers strike). This was probably also the reason for all the racist/sexist humor–when you’ve only got three weeks, you’re gonna reach for the low hanging fruit just to fill out the pages.

It was basically a boat with a screen door for its hull. It couldn’t hold water.

But it tried to entertain us with giant action sequences in interesting locations despite not making much sense.

This one, though, returns to the first Transformers in the sense that it really feeds my sick addiction for explosions and destruction. It never lets up. It piles on the tragedy to the point that, yea, I honestly thought that everything was fucked before the third act took hold.

Death and Destruction

Seemingly taking a cue from all the recent “urban warfare” films, this movie takes its major sequences from the Pyramids of Giza to the streets of Chicago. What this does is make the deaths of civilians that much more prominent. I’m a little surprised with how much they were able to get away with in this film because some if it is fairly grisly, even if it is just CGI people.

This doesn’t even begin to describe what happens to the city itself. It’s really something you have to see to believe…

The 3D

Before going in, I had heard from several different reviewers that the 3D in this film rivaled that of Avatar and it’s true. Especially since Bay employed some of the same techniques like slowing down a shot mid-action so you could really get a sense of what was happening. Or simply not shaking the camera so damn much.

The technology was used to its full extent by adding a lot of depth to scenes and having the giant fighting robots brought right to the forefront. Nothing ever felt too gimmicky or out of place, which I guess is the beauty of the PACE 3D cameras. They make things pretty.

How Best to Enjoy this Movie

See it in 3D; turn off the critical/analytical part of your brain; sit close; enjoy the action. If you’re willing to give yourself over to this movie, you’re bound to be entertained. Which is more than I got from the rest of this summer’s lineup thus far.

But where Did Megan Fox go? 

Shut the fuck up.


takes four legs to make a ceiling [thor]

graceland updates

We’re moving along just fine, everything is sorting out.

We need your help with fundraising, though… And it’s tax deductible, so give it a look and give knowing that you’ll be getting it all back from Uncle Sam next April. And that we’re a talented group of people ready to kick some serious ass.

[Insert MC Hammer Joke]

At this point in time, releasing a Thor movie runs into two giant problems: there needs to be an origin film and we’ve seen those a thousand times before; and this origin story is the kind of high fantasy stuff that makes most moviegoers glaze over.

These two problems then create one giant problem: This film is fucking boring.

But, y’know what? I’m okay with that. Because Kenneth Branagh, in all his understanding of the techniques of archetypal storytelling, did the best he could to make it kick some serious ass.

It honestly seems that, by choosing Branagh to direct, they were for once focusing more on the story than on the shit blowing up. Which is impressive,, because it usually seems to be the reciprocate. Let the noise tell the story, let the plot fill in the gaps; whereas, in Thor, the story is king and the action is ancillary.

The reasoning for this, I’ve gathered, is that this is the latest in a number of origin films. Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern later this summer, Captain America later this Summer, Daredevil, Iron Man–you get it.

Thor is late to the party and, as a result, we’ve all seen the fallen hero turned stronger hero story before.

So it has to be really really good to keep our attention at all. Otherwise we’ll lapse into thinking about how awesome Spiderman was as mind trails off and away from the film.

Thor attempts to reach this level of “really good,” but it falls just short–hence the middling reviews of a lot of people.*

* – Walking into the theater, I heard a little boy coming out exclaim “THAT WAS AWESOME DAD!!” Walking out of the theater, I heard a 20-something dude on the phone someone, “That was awful.”

So View Thor Less Like A Film and More Like a Pilot Episode…

Given the move toward focusing less on a single film and focusing more on a franchise, movies with built in fan bases are now looking far into the future and what they can do with the story.

But in order to get you there, you have to start somewhere, as with any television series.

And pilot episodes, against the rest of the series, usually suck. But they set a lot of things up for future episodes/films, and that’s what they’re really there for.

We are here to see Thor stop being a total dickslap and start becoming Thor, the humble protector of humans. Just as we were there to see Spiderman stop being such a pussy. And to see Batman learn how to channel his sociopathy in a helpful way.

With that in mind, then, this film succeeds. It is the pilot episode for both Thor ad infinitum as well as for the Avengers movie coming in 2012.

…and Just Enjoy the 3D.

The 3D in this movie is killer–and worth the ticket price alone of the final credit sequence. I really like 3D when it works on a purely “making things seem fucking huge” level (cf. Up, the dildoes in Jackass3D), and Thor uses this technology like that to a T.

But if you’re looking for swords and things to fly out at you, don’t get the 3D ticket. There’s not much of that stuff going on. And I figure only people studying Freud are really interested in it given that you’re basically pushing a giant phallus into the viewer’s face. But I digress.

So Now Then. 

Yea, the movie works on several different levels, and it consciously makes an effort to keep it from being boring, but, at the same time, I couldn’t help but nod off at times.

And I got the feeling that everyone else there felt the same way because most of the theater (save the ones who know to wait til the end of the credits on Marvel movies–you get rewarded, don’t worry) rushed out and were trying their best to immediately get on with their lives.

Which sucks because some of the best 3D in this film comes during those end credits. And having people wandering in front of you is annoying.

Aron Ralston has a problem [127 hours]

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After Slumdog Millionaire, I had zero faith in Danny Boyle.

Even though he had directed Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, I just could not shake the awful feeling that his career was on a downturn towards sloppy, sentimental works–and I’m also pretty sure I’m the only person who didn’t like it.

With 127 Hours, though, everything I liked about him previously is in full effect. He does really well when directing stories of various types of amplified peril, be it a heroine addiction, a zombie invasion, or, now, a man trapped quite literally trapped between a rock and a hard place.

He infuses the story with a certain, MTV-edged, energy in such a way that it never feels like watching Cribs even though many of the techniques are ostensibly the same.

Instead, it heightens everything about the film in the way that it’s intended to. Maybe just due to the nature of the work it doesn’t feel hokey–because when you’re doing flashy jump cuts about a Bentley it doesn’t quite have the same effect as flashy jump cuts around a dude stuck in a canyon.

Wasn’t it Kinda Boring Knowing that…

This film acknowledges that, yea, you probably already know how this ends–and, if you didn’t, spoiler-alerts don’t really exist for a movie based on a news event that happened only seven years ago–and that you might get bored if that scene you’d heard so much about doesn’t happen soon.

So instead of making it a completely isolated story, with just James Franco and his thoughts, Boyle decides to show the memories that Ralston has, the ones that he’s  letting flash before his eyes as the life slowly drains out of him. This keeps things fresh and interesting and helps us to care more about this person once the inevitable happens.

Freaks and Geeks and Legitimate Talent

This has to be one of the highlights of James Franco’s career thus far.

Even in his comedic roles, he’s always seemed to bring a little bit more than he needs to. The characters he create have more depth than they need to. Even in Pineapple Express, you couldn’t help but sympathize with the drug dealer who cares for his grandma.

Here, though, everything he knows is in full effect. There are scenes where he is so deep into the character’s agonizing pain that he is hardly recognizable. He knows exactly what he’s doing, and he knows just how to convey this character. There’s a confidence on display here that is very refreshing to see.

This movie surprised the hell out of me with how well done it was. It’s a testament to the pacing to say that this movie felt a lot shorter than its 2-hour running time in spite of it being in a cave 97% of the time. This is a movie that stays with you long after the credits roll.

Spoiler-heavy (?) Corollary

I was stuffed into a crowded theater and everyone was squirming with anticipation and curiosity for the moment when he loses his arm.

It was really interesting to hear the thoughts of these people every time something would make the event seem close to occurring. Every time the angle showed his arm while he had a knife in his hand, the people surrounding me squirmed and readied themselves. The girl next to me admitted that she couldn’t take any of the experience and had her eyes closed for most of the film.

And, yes, the scene is incredibly graphic. I seldom have to turn away from the screen, but this film definitely forced me to. When graphic violence and character development are mixed, it’s a lot harder for me to watch someone suffer through the worst pain of their life.

Every Thorn has its Rose [megamind]

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Because It’s Inevitable

Let’s just get this out of the way now: This movie is not The Incredibles. For a few reasons.

First, it’s not as good. Plain and simple. Brad Bird works some kind of special magic, and it’s on full display in the Incredibles.

Second, the mythos is completely different. Whereas the Incredibles finds itself in an incredibly dense, intertwined, mythology with other unseen superheroes (all of which are featured on the DVD, along with some pretty bitchin’ easter eggs), Megamind exists as an isolated incident in one city. It seems as if the Incredibles got their idea from the Marvel idea of intertwined superheroes and Megamind originated from the DC Universe of only-sometimes-but-usually-not intertwined superhero tales. Nate Ochoa over at “Nate the Great Boy Genius” could probably explain the whole thing. Just put beer in him.

Third, it’s Dreamworks for Christ’s sake. I have yet to see one of their movies that made me really, truly, care about the characters. I understand that Pixar’s way of doing this can be defined as “cheap” (they make us care about something then pull the rug out, especially in Finding Nemo and Up), but at least they have a way of doing this. This film makes us care for the bad guy by going through the psychosis of his childhood–that he was never as great as Metro Man because he could never do right, kept fucking up, then chose to embrace it because he could never be good enough, but he could be bad enough.

Now that That’s Out of the Way…

This movie really misses out on the awe factor. There are no moments that make you nearly ashamed to be caring so much for a character in a “kids” film. Instead, I was mostly following the story beats, figuring how it’s going to work out (a sort of mental way of checking your watch). I was never fully invested in these characters. Maybe there needed to be more at the beginning in the Blaupunkt Quadrant. I don’t know. I just know that I never felt a deep connection to these characters.

And let’s not start with the bullshit about the fact that Megamind is blue and Metro Man is a goddamn superhero. I don’t want to hear it. I connected with a fucking sentient vacuum in Wall-E, a toaster in the Brave Little Toaster, and the evil house in Monster House. I don’t want to hear the excuse that non-humans can’t be connected with.

It just takes slick storytelling work that is completely absent here. They tried real hard with the childhood segment, but it just didn’t click. It was all rote storytelling about the bad childhood that turns him into an evil person.

I’ve never been a big fan of Dreamworks Animations’ way of doing business. They seem stuck on the idea that animation is a kids’ game–that all their movies have to be overtly aimed at children to succeed. This trend seems to be diminishing between the ending of How to Train Your Dragon (their only real triumph) and this film.

They’re trying, that’s for damn sure. The farther they get away from churning out Shrek films, the better they’ll get.

Megamind, in particular, had some pretty stellar, cinematic moments. The ones that are told in the eyes and without words. This is something that is rarely seen in kids film, not just animation. Here, though, they don’t seem to shy away from allowing moments to speak for themselves.

Is the 3D worth your extra hour of pay?

It’s iffy. There’ve been only two movies where I felt the 3d actually added to the story/lack thereof: Up and Jackass 3D. With Up, the added level of depth perception helped to show the absolute perils that occurred toward the end of the film. Jackass 3D, well, that’s because I’m  sick like that.

This movie uses 3D mostly for the “wow” effect of having shit fly out at you. It’s not used to make anything seem bigger or more cinematic. Which is disappointing, because they had a real chance to do that with the amount of action there is in the film.

It’s well lit, it’s not a detractor in any way, it’s just kind of there.

Where X Fails, at least there’s Y.

The battle scenes in this film are insane–completely unhindered by the constraints of a live action film. But the 3D could’ve added so much more to it when, instead, it was just kind of there, not really helping or hindering anything.

The action scenes in this film rival anything I’ve ever seen, even if they weren’t 3d-ified enough. I love it when I can watch a lot of shit blow up–and I love that they really focused their processing power on making giant fight scenes. Where the story lacked, the action scenes made up for it. I was constantly in awe of what they were doing to Metro City.

And maybe this whole movie is worth it just for that.