Archive for June, 2010

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Notes from the back Row- Knight and Day, Grown Ups, Helvetica

June 28, 2010

Notes from the back row, June 22, 2010

Cammie D has a new movie out this week

so does Salma Hayek

Some movies are smart, and some are stupid. In the 80’s it seemed like almost every big action/comedy movie was an opposites-attract buddy or romance flick (48 Hours, Lethal Weapon, Romancing the Stone) and these days that overdone aesthetic is back en vogue because Hollywood is dumbing down.

This week the Village 8 is opening Knight and Day, a poorly titled spy-romance flick starring Tom Cruise as a suave secret agent spouting cheese-dick lines and Cameron Diaz as the girl next door counterpart who gets drugged a lot and doesn’t know what’s going on.

Director James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma remake) has no choice but to throw logic and plausibility out the window in this globe-trotting actioner that trades chase scenes and shootouts for character development and anyone giving a shit what happens in the end.

As a mindless summer popcorn movie it works better than the similar Killers, which came out two weeks ago and bombed, but Knight and Day still pales in comparison to Mr and Mrs Smith, and not just because of the Angelina factor.

Tom Cruise struggles with his romantic lines, he always has, even when working with his own wife in Eyes Wide Shut– he just doesn’t come across as a guy who can pull the ladies in a post-1992 world.  Diaz does a bit better, perhaps because she is roofied half the time (date rape drugs are foreplay in this film) or perhaps because she simply isn’t Tom Cruise.

Regardless, there is nothing new here. Chase scenes we’ve seen before, truth serum/sex jokes, and the old  “okay, let’s go on three…one..two…” joke. Rent Hitchcock’s North By Northwest instead.

Also opening this week is Grown Ups, which Adam Sandler wrote with Fred Wolf (House Bunny, Stranger Wilderness) and is basically about five long-lost buddies who get together with each other’s families for a vacation. Like pretty much all of Sandler’s films this is a “smoke em if ya got em” movie and if ya got em then it’s pretty damn good.

That the cast, including Rob Schneider, David Spade, Chris Rock and Salma Hayek, are friends in real life only helps sell the characters. My only gripe is Kevin James (Mall Cop), I hate that guy, and Chris Rock is drastically underused. But fans of lowbrow humour about pissing in pools, getting hit in the nuts, breastfeeding and juvenile camaraderie will be pleased. It’s asinine, and stupid, but in an awesome way.

I’ve mentioned before that we are currently enjoying a golden era of documentary filmmaking and the DVD of the week (or iTunes download if you’re living that kind of lifestyle) is Helvetica, a killer flick about the font of the same name.

How a doc about a font possibly be good? Fair question but this is one of those movies about interesting shit that is all around us that we never even notice. Helvetica is THE font of advertising and communication and has been the hottest thing in graphic design since the Swiss invented it in the 1970s. “It’s not even about the letters, it’s the spaces between the letters,” say a bunch of famous designers in thick euro accents.

Helvetica, the film, also provides a look at the history of typefacing and design but it’s the font that is most intriguing. When Apple, Saab, Panasonic, American Apparel, the IRS, stop signs, The North Face, BMW, The Beatles, Jackass and Oral B all use the same font in their logos, you know there’s a story there. I’m not even shitting, check out Helvetica, it’s smart.

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Angelina’s new Video!

June 20, 2010

Angelina Jolie is still the best and here is a video she did about World Refugee Day, which is today so if you see any refugees hitchiking, offer them a ride.

Learn more about World Refugee Day and/or donate some money here

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notes from the back row- Toys, a big dog and TV vs Movies. Oh, and Megan Fox

June 18, 2010

Notes form the back row, jun 15/2010

My favourite hollywood shit-talker, Megan Fox stars in Jonah Hex, opening Friday

One of the good things about this June-uary weather is catching up on DVD-released TV series. Breaking Bad is about a down-and-out high school Chemistry teacher who decides to start cooking meth for money. Combining killer dark comedy with some pretty good drama, Breaking Bad, much like the subject matter, is addictive as hell. It’s also the DVDs of the Week.

TV in general has been enjoying a golden age lately. Starting with The Sopranos and/or shows like 24, The Wire, Lost, Entourage and Sex and The City, it’s no surprise that in Entertainment Weekly’s recent list of the “100 Greatest Characters of the Past 20 Years” 8 of the top 15 were TV characters. Granted it is easier to flesh out a good character over a 20+ episode arc rather than just an hour and half, but regardless Hollywood is hurting these days.

And to help them out US authorities have authourized an online stock-exchange program where, starting in August, traders can gamble on the potential box office profits of unreleased films. The idea being that people will be able to make money off films even if they suck, by trading/betting on just how much they will suck. Box office receipts as a commodity like oil or timber?? Sounds ridiculous and most major film studios are opposed from the start, but I guess even Wall Street is running out of ideas. I don’t see how any of this will make for better movies as Tinsletown remains bogged in sequel/remake/franchise territory.

First up at the Village 8 this week, Jonah Hex, an adaptation of the popular occult-western comic book. Director Jimmy Hayward (Horton Hears a Who) has assembled an all-star cast of Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Will Arnet and Michael Fassbender to bring life to the story of a bounty hunter with a grudge (and horse-mounted gatling guns) out to save the world or something. There were no pre-screenings for this one and the kids on the internet are claiming “boring” and “meanders aimlessly” but I’m going to check it out anyhow because Jonah Hex has a dynamite-stick crossbow and heavy metal band Mastodon did the score. Also Megan Fox, recently fired from Transformers 3, stars as a gun-toting prostitute (the best kind really.) Go with low expectations.

Speaking of low, Marmaduke, a film based on that bottom-of-the-barrel old comic strip you used to skip over in the funny papers, is now a feature film. Owen Wilson stars as a talking Great Dane with a penchant for farting and Emma Stone (Zombieland) voices his love interest. Even the great William H Macy (Boogie Nights, Fargo) somehow found his way into the mix. Despite all the talent, Marmaduke stinks worse than the garbage bin at the dog park, the one crammed with little bags of festering dog shit from a hundred different sources. I don’t care if it’s Father’s Day and you absolutely have to take junior to the pictures, avoid this at all costs.

A much better Father’s Day experience can be had at Toy Story 3 (playing in 3D, but not in Whistler) a flick that literally fights the idea that kids grow out of their toys. While not as epic as last year’s Up or classics like Monsters Inc, Toy Story 3 is still a Pixar film and they always deliver, this time with a slightly underwhelming adventure tale about life changes, transitions, and the value of loyalty.

Incidentally, Toy Story’s “Woody” is 25 on the 100 Greatest Characters list, four spots ahead of Vincent Vega and Jules Winfield from Pulp Fiction. TV’s Homer Simpson took top honours.

you can never have too much Fox.

this one never gets old.

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Notes from the back row- A team, Karate Kid

June 10, 2010

Notes from the Back Row- June 8/2010

Jessica Biel stars in The A-Team. This shot is from Gear Magazine, about ten years ago.

It’s family action week at the Village 8, starting with the big screen adaptation of the chees-tastic 80’s TV show The A-Team.

Rated PG-13, The A-Team watches like a 2-hour TV show but if you’re willing to lower expectations there is certainly fun to be had with lots of crazy-impossible action and acting that is actually pretty too notch. Liam Neeson is a perfect plan-master ‘Hannibal’, Bradley Cooper really works it to pull off ladies-man ‘Face’, and Sharlto Copley (District 9) delivers as the insane chopper pilot ‘Murdock’. The only weak link is ‘BA Baracas’, played by mixed-martial arts star Quinton “Rampage” Jackson who has obviously taken a few hits to the head and mumbles his way through much of the film. Jessica Biel also stars as an unrealistically hot army captain in pursuit of the team, who are Iraq Vets now and have been framed for stealing some US Currency plates.

Besides a misguided romantic subplot (why do they always do that?) and too-frantic editing of the action, our favourite mercs-for-hire deliver a fun but forgettable couple hours at the cinema.

Keeping the kiddie PG theme going, The Karate Kid also opens this Friday. Myself and a ton of other people are gonna feel old when we realize it’s been 26 years since the original (shit, I still do the Crane-kick-head-snap move every time I get into a fight at the taxi loop on May long weekend) but time flies and if Hollywood figures House of Wax is worth remaking, then it was only a matter of time until this classic Rocky-for-kids got a remix.

Director Harold Zwart (The Pink Panther 2, Agent Cody Banks) is pretty well-known for delivering garbage but this time he comes through, although much of the credit should probably go to Jada Pinkett-Smith, who produced the flick with her husband Will Smith as a “make-my-kid-a-star” project for their son Jaden.

Plot wise, The Karate Kid wisely sticks close to the original (new kid in town, hot girl, mean bullies, ass-kicking mentor) but with several clever updates, including moving the film to China and a nice twist on the infamous fly-chopstick scene. Ralph Macchio was 25 when he played the Kid, at least Jaden Smith is only 11, and an ass-kicking 11 at that. He does well especially with the fighting, and Jackie Chan, who fills the Pat Morita wax-on/wax-off role, utterly shines.

My real beef with The Karate Kid, other than the fact that it should have been called the Kung-Fu Kid and the 2 hour 20 minute run time is that it’s a bit shallow and misleading. Even though he now lives in China, the Kid isn’t spending much time learning about the place or the Chinese people. He’s mostly learning how to kick their asses amongst with lots of scenic montages and lessons about family and hard work. Which makes for a pretty entertaining movie but also kinda resembles a Chinese Tourism Board film. Watch Sharkwater and see how the Chinese fin-market decimates shark populations, then watch End of the Line and see how their fishing industry lies about commercial fishing quotas on all the other big fish. Then google “the occupation of Tibet” and see how the Chinese government has treated the most peaceful people on the planet. It’s all pretty disparaging.

Do children’s movies like The Karate Kid need to be vehicles of social change? No, I guess not, but glossing over an evil empire with fancy heli-shots of the Great Wall isn’t going to help the people of Tibet either. Fuck China.

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Notes from the Back Row– Splice, Get Him to The Greek

June 4, 2010

Katy Perry doesn't have any movies opening this week...

...but her boyfriend Russell Brand does.

Notes from the Back row June 1/2010

This week at Whistler’s Village 8 we’ve got a genre-bender, an almost-kinda sequel and a stupid pile of pig dung mixed with vomit and gorilla afterbirth.

The latter is Killers, the latest romantic comedy from failure-expert Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde, Monster in Law, The Ugly Truth.) Katherine Heigl stars as a freshly dumped chick on a French vacation with her parents when she meets and falls for handsome, dashing, near-perfect Ashton Kutcher.

But of course, it all goes south a few years later when the now-married couple’s life is sent into a tailspin courtesy of lots of gunplay and Kutcher’s hidden secret– he’s a spy, or an assassin or some other secret-identity-meets-suburbia plotline that’s been overdone  in other flicks like Mr and Mrs Smith or The Whole Nine Yards. I expect this kind of crap from Heigl and Luketic but Kutcher should know better. He just got punked.

It’s not Punk but rather Rock and Roll Excess that’s on display in Get Him to The Greek, the sort-of sequel spinoff starring Russell Brand’s rockstar character Aldous Snow, from Forgetting Sarah Marshall (he nearly stole the show in that film by wearing leather pants to the beach.)

Directed by Sarah Marshall’s Nicholas Stoller, and produced by Judd Apatow, Greek also stars Jonah Hill (Superbad) as the low-level music industry kid/fan who has to accompany the depressed, hard-partying Snow from London to New York to LA for a reunion concert. Sex, drugs and rock and roll occur all along the way and the flick earns it’s R-Rating honestly.

Aldous Snow’s fall-from-grace montage really kicks off the comedy and there are good laughs throughout this odd-couple/bromance film but the overall effect is a bit underwhelming. The film expects us to laugh at all the puke and orgies and dildos and self-destructive drug abuse while at the same time condemning it as something bad or less than admirable by the end. Tough to have it both ways though and when the hard-charging Aldous Snow becomes lonely and whiny, unhappy with his celebrity and his rock and roll lifestyle the feel-good stuff at the end kind of undermines what the entire film has been based on. Not that it is a bad flick, and for a kind-of sequel it’s actually pretty good. Too long, but still decent.

Coming out of nowhere and rounding out the week is Splice, a nifty little genre film directed by French-Canadian Vincenzo Natali (Cube) and starring Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley as a couple of super-dooper geneticists who’ve garnered success combining various animal DNA to produce mutant caterpillars that poop out proteins useful for medicine. The obvious next step is to toss a little human DNA in the mix and after their research is shut down by big business, the duo decide to go for it anyhow and create an amphibian/bird/human hybrid with a deadly scorpion tail that matures incredibly quickly into a hot chick with wings and a bad attitude.

Brody wants to kill Dren (they name the creature) but Polley wants to mother it and the result is a Frankenstein’s Monster/Rosemary’s Baby remix that’s creepy, tense and full of surprises.

Splice is executive produced by mood-genius Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labrynt, The Orphanage) and has a bit of that David Cronenburg chicks-with-dicks horror vibe to it as well. From it’s epic creepy sci-fi alien sound design to the ooze and incisions of the medical lab, Splice is a well-made cautionary tale about getting cocky and messing with shit you ought not to. As well as how not to raise your kids. Plus it’s Canadian, so go see it.