Archive for May, 2011

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Happy Panda, Hungover Hangover

May 28, 2011

Angelina's voice is back in Kung Fu Panda 2. The rest of her is still in our dreams.


Notes from the back row-

Return of the Sequel
With the Canucks pushing for the Cup it’s a wonder that anyone is out at the movies these days but if you are heading out for a flick this weekend get ready for some sequels.
Kung Fu Panda 2 opens this week and it’s one of those rare sequels that lives up to its predecessor. Jack Black returns as the voice of Po, a chunky Panda who learned to kick ass last time around and now has to save China, his own inner peace, and Kung Fu itself from a maniac peacock (Gary Oldman.) Said peacock also once murdered Po’s parents and if we learned anything from Tarantino it’s that Kung Fu and Revenge are a match made in heaven. The Furious Five supporting cast gets to do a lot more too this time around at only 91 minutes long things move quickly and are easy to like.
One of the biggest pit-traps of sequels is that they usually just recycle jokes from the first installment. Kung Fu Panda 2 avoids this (mostly) by going heavier on the action while still letting Jack Black do his thing. It’s worth checking out with the kids although Whistler is still without a 3D projector so make sure you warn the little ones beforehand to avoid disappointment. Also, Angelina Jolie is back voicing Tigress, so it’s good for adults too.
Speaking of adults, The Hangover Part 2, now playing, is this summer’s first R-rated comedy. To some extent this one does fall prey to the classic sequel recycling issues. Bear in mind that the bar was set pretty high– the first Hangover was the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time and relied on a unique one-off situation and virtually unknown, big talent stars in Zach Galifinakis and Bradley Cooper.
Now director Todd Phillips’ actors are A-listers but that comes with high expectations. The plot is essentially the same –the worst morning after ever– but Phillips changes the setting– to Bangkok this time, land of Ladyboys and drug dealing monkeys.
This time around the guys lose the bride’s younger brother but otherwise it’s more of the same – dudes yelling at each other, Tyson, Ken Jeong as the brunt of some Asian jokes, male full frontal, a decent car chase, and, in one of the worst calls ever, Paul Giamatti as a supposed tough-guy villain. I can barely stand Giamatti when he delivers award-winning performances. And this is far from that.
Despite the faults there is some decent juvenile humour to be had in The Hangover Part 2 (the title is a nod to The Godfather Part 2) will still appeal to high-fivin’ white kids stoked that university is over. For the rest of us however, this sequel feels kind of tired, kicked-in, nauseous and hungover.
Not much happening on the DVD/download front this week except Black Swan gets a release and is worth watching if you like dancing, psychological horror, Mila Kunis, or hallucinated lesbian cunnilingus scenes (or all the above.)
Also worth checking out– Inside Job, the documentary about how Wall Street swindled America and knowingly caused the last recession. This one is an Academy Award Winner and Goldman Sachs is all over the news lately because they are getting called out by everyone from the US government to Rolling Stone magazine for purposely screwing people over. The moral of it all – Banks suck ass and we should start keeping our movie admission money in coffee cans buried in the yard.
X-Men: First Class comes to town next week and until then, Go Nucks!

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Angry Pirates ride the red tide.

May 25, 2011

you should see her younger sister...


Notes from the back row- May 17, 2011

Cannes you dig it?

The Cannes Film Fest is happening right now in the south of France and from what I hear about the dress code on those beaches, we all wish we were there. The big film event so far is The Tree of Life, from director Terrence Malik (The Thin Red Line, Badlands.) Apparently it’s a bit too cerebral for some audiences (there were some boos at the press screening) but The Tree of Life tackles big ideas about life an existence, and stars Brad Pitt as a tough-love father in the 1950s. We all know Brad doesn’t make shitty films, and Malik is a real cinema artist, so keep and eye out for this one, it’s supposed to come out over here later this month. Sean Penn also stars in a minor role.
Another flick getting at lot of press at Cannes is The Artist by French director Michel Hazanavicius. It’s a silent film, shot in black and white, with a square aspect ratio (aka really old school) and while those details will cost the film most of its North American audience real cinema lovers should check it out because how often do we get to see any filmmaker take a risk these days?
The Artist, set in late-20s Hollywood, is about a Douglas Fairbanks-esque silent film star whose career begins to slide with the advent of “the Talkies.” The French have always had a special appreciation for classic American Cinema and this one hits all the marks. Word on the beach is The Artist is the front-runner for the prestigious Palm D’Or but we’ll see how well it does over here–it’s a French movie but you don’t need subtitles. Maybe that will help with timid North American viewers.
Of course, Cannes isn’t all pomp, circumstance and topless broads. They do show Hollywood fare and last week they screened Pirates of the Caribbean 4 –On Stranger Tides, which opens at the Village 8 this Friday. Johnny Depp is back as Captain Jack Sparrow and this time the loveable rogue is race/searching to find the fountain of youth while bouncing around the ships of his old chum/enemy Barbossa (who’s turned and is working with the English) and Blackbeard, the pirate other pirates are afraid of.
The good news is Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly are gone, their love story is replaced by a dude and a thirsty mermaid. Luckily, Jack gets to flirt with Penelope, an old flame who may or may not be Blackbeard’s daughter, and there are a couple big action set-pieces in there too. This one is 2:08 long, the shortest of all the Pirate flicks, and sure, it drags a bit. Director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine) has never done action before and it shows. You’d think ‘choppy’ editing might work in a sword fight scene but not here. Pirates 4 is the probably the worst of the bunch but it still delivers up to anyone’s realistically expected. Keith Richards and Judi Dench have cameos and Depp does his thing. And much like the best way to kick off summer movie season, Penelope Cruz is smokin’.
That’s pretty much it for new flicks so the dvd/download of the week is 1964s Band a Parte (Band of Outsiders) by Jean Luc Goddard. It’s a love story, a bromance, a mystery, a thriller and a comedy. It also stars Anna Karina and contains cinema’s coolest dance sequence (shot without music.)
On the other end of the spectrum, Leighton Meester and Minka Kelly star in The Roommate, a really bad movie with incredibly hot chicks. It’s also out on DVD/download.

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Bridesmaids, Priest, and a Hesher

May 15, 2011

Rose Byrne is Australian. She's also one of those actresses whose hotness sneaks up on you.

Notes from the back row- may 10

I’m a dude (with a sweet mustache) but even I know that being a bridesmaid for someone’s wedding is more “pain-in-the-ass” than “OMG! Of course, I’m so honoured!” If the shoes, the hair and the never-wear-again dress aren’t bad enough, don’t forget the obligatory Stagette party with the cock-shaped drinking straws and obnoxious “buck-a-suck” shirts. And then of course there is the actual wedding…
I imagine being the head bridesmaid/ Maid of Honour is almost never worth it but you can find out for sure this week in Bridesmaids, the latest comedy to come from producer Judd Apatow (Superbad, Knocked Up). Directed by Paul Feig (TV’s Freaks and Geeks) and written by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids also stars Wiig as a down-on-her-luck mid-30’s woman forced to pull the ultimate bridal experience out of her ass when her best friend gets engaged.
It goes without saying that I haven’t seen this, but I do like that it’s a “by-women, for-women” movie because comedy is pretty dude-centric and the female sensibilities are too-often overlooked. Expect realistic womanly conflict between Wiig and the more successful, better looking, uber-controlling “other” best friend (Rose Byrne) and some tender examples of how far women will go to honour their (non sexual) love for one another. Then add in some puke-in-the-hair jokes, some horny awkwardness, lots of public embarrassment and a young kid that eats birth control pills and you get the idea. Bridesmaids is collecting good reviews but, to me, the trailer was painful enough and I can tell the film lags near the end. Nice to see Kristen Wiig carry a picture though, she deserves it (and I thought she was killer in MacGruber) but I’ll pass on this one thanks.
Also opening at the good old Village 8, Priest a western-action-sci-fi-horror-thriller-post-apocalyptic vampire mash-up movie starring Paul Bettany (Da Vinci Code, Legion) as a once-warrior priest (with a Manson-style cross tattied on his forehead) who lives in a walled city surrounded by evil vampires. There’s an abducted niece, a trigger-happy boyfriend, some kung-fu and a bunch of by-the-numbers plot and theme crap. It’s based on a graphic novel but the film is mostly derivative ass-suck and ideas we’ve all seen before.
To balance things out, the Village 8 is bringing back Hanna, the cool teenage-girl-assassin flick starring Liam Neeson and Saoirse Ronan (from The Lovely Bones and also current winner of I-always-have-to-google-how-to-spell-your-name.) If you missed it last time around Hanna is the best flick playing in Whistler this week.
In Vancouver, Hesher opens Friday. Joesph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer) stars as a headbanger who helps a young boy overcome a tragic loss and crappy life. And by “helps” I mean he burns shit to the ground, cranks the tunes, and rage-angsts his way through an otherwise uneven film. While certainly no Fubar (despite a missing-nut plot point) Hesher deserves to be checked out just because there aren’t enough headbangers on the silver screen these days. Plus Natalie Portman co-stars.
The download of the week is Fight For Your Right (Revisited) a 30-minute music video/mini-film that comes with the new Beastie Boys album. It’s literally a time-traveling pissing contest between the past and the future but Fight for Your Right is a perfect example of what filmmaking looks like the goal is just having fun. Directed by Adam Yauch (aka MCA) and starring a couple dozen big names including Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Elijah Wood, Danny McBride, and Seth Rogen (and that is just the opening scene) this comedic nugget is a must see for old school Beastie fans and anyone who likes beer showers, acid, whippits, and laughter. It’s on iTunes.

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Smart shit vs dumb shit

May 11, 2011

Can Piranha get any better than Pirahan 3D? Piranha 3DD is in the works.


apologies to my regular readers. life has been hectic and i have been shitty at getting the columns up on time. i will strive to be a better blogger in the near future. Nothing a pic of a motorboat can’t fix right?

Notes from the back row- may 2

It’s no secret I like dumb shit. Like, I get pretty stoked hearing they’re fast working on another Piranha sequel called Piranha 3DD, (pronounced Piranha Three-Double-D because there just wasn’t enough tits in the last one.) Dumb is usually simple and the simple things in life can be more fun than the heavy/arty/dramatic/human condition/intellectual stuff that so often reeks of pretension.
Of course, no one wants to live in a “dumb shit” vacuum so I watch a lot of intelligent documentaries (this is a golden era for docs after all) so for all you smarty-pants and teacher’s pets out there who aren’t into tits, guns, explosions and laser beams, here’s a trifecta of smart docs you can rent/download or buy online.
Objectified is one of those killer films that sheds new light on stuff you otherwise take for granted– toothbrushes, lawn chairs, the handle on the potato peeler. All those objects were designed, their very shape and function painstakingly worked and reworked by one or more people hoping to discover the perfect product, the one that will never become obsolete. It’s called industrial art and, according to director Gary Hustwit (Helvetica), it’s the art form of the future.
Objectified is thought provoking and tackles everything from inherent good taste to Plato’s theory of forms to the way the objects in our lives compete to have real meaning to us. This is some smart-ass shit.
And then we have the White family of West Virginia. Not really smart at all, the Whites are pill-snorting, hard partying, system-dodging hillbillies straight outta coal mining country. Dickhouse films (the dudes who make the Jackass series) diversify by going down south and getting dirty with some of the redneck-iest white trash Appalachian shitkickers ever born and come up with an intriguing glimpse into another world.
Known mostly for their famous brain-damaged, tap dancing uncle Jesco White, the entire family is composed of tough as nails characters who, for better or worse, embody the rebel American spirit to the core. The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia watches like a long episode of Intervention but there are plenty of laughs and tender moments to go alongside watching a guy talk about shooting his step-uncle three times in the head or witnessing a brand new mother crushing up Oxycontins on the side table in the maternity ward. These people are no joke.
The last doc is called Freakonomics and it’s about how numbers crunchers can pretty much predict the future and that future looks crooked. Check it out and ponder.
In the theatres, Summer Blockbuster season kicks off a few weeks early as Thor opens (in 2D) at the Village 8. Based on the Marvel comic character (who is based on the Norse god) Thor is directed by Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet , Much Ado About Nothing) whose Shakespearean sensibilities fit well with a story about a buff and bearded (and impetuous) god banished to earth to learn a little humility while courting Natalie Portman by doing the fish-out-of-water bit. I haven’t seen it but Thor looks good enough – maybe a bit cheesy and at two-hours ten minutes probably overlong but heck, it takes place in three separate dimensions and has to cram a whole mythology’s worth of origin story on top of some Godly ass-whoopin’. And as a bonus, Thor stars Kat Dennings who always sizzles. Bring on Summer.
But leave behind Something Borrowed, the latest Kate Hudson love triangle shitheap about lawyers screwing around just before a wedding (or whatever.) It’s a Pg-13 romantic comedy that lacks romance and comedy. Puke in my popcorn and call me Nancy, this shit is too dumb even for me.

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Movies with stupid titles..

May 11, 2011

The appeal of those car racing movies isn't rocket science...

Notes from the back row April 26, 2011

A hefty string of movie nights is a good way to mend all the brain synapses you fried during the World Ski and Snowboard Festival but at the same time, the hockey playoffs mean it’s all about the matinee nowadays. And the people who enjoy the crunching drama of professional sports will probably not mind Fast Five, opening Friday at the Village 8.
Fast Five is the latest (and fifth) installment of the suped-up car racing franchise that started out as The Fast and the Furious and then got hit-and-runned by some of the shittiest sequel titles since I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer or X-Files 2: I Want to Believe.
But the Fast/Furious vehicle picked up a lot of steam last time around with the return of Vin Diesel as “Tank-Top Tough Guy #4” to Paul Walker’s recurring “Too-Pretty Cop# 7” all mashed into an elaborate heist film.
Justin Lin directed The Fast and the Furious: Toyko Drift and this time delivers enough rooftop chases, ridiculous car stunts, and cheese-dick macho dialogue to satisfy die hard fans but will have trouble bringing in new ones.
This is not a film aimed at geniuses, a point Lin hammers home by putting a “Rio De Janeiro” title over his sunrise aerial shots of the iconic “Christo Redentor” statue. Instead it’s slick cars flying through the air, Pg-13 hot girls standing around for little reason, evil drug kingpins, honourable thieves and the same gun and military “Hoo-Ra” we get with Michael Bay, but not quiet as good. (And the fist-fight between Diesel and Rock is preposterous.) Fast Five is slick, dumb action, perfect for hangover/recuperation viewing.
Also opening, Prom – a basic Lady-and-the-tramp tale set amongst the teen angst of the last days of high school. Look for the clichés and archetypes of high school without the bongs and heavy petting. This is a Disney flick after all, and therefore not a problem to follow even if you sleep through the second act. I have a soft spot for dumb high school movies though, did I mention this one’s directed by the guy who did Sleepover, Sydney White, and the fifth (and unreleased) American Pie movie- American Pie 5- The Naked Mile.
Speaking of stupid sequel titles, the last new flick in town this week is the pun-erific animated adventure Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs Evil. Now even I am not so partied out I will sit though this one but by all accounts it is terrible despite a cast of excellent actors like Glen Close, Joan Cusack, Martin Short, Bill Hader, Amy Poeler and Cheech and Chong., allof them slumming for a paycheck in a flick with 2005 video-game quality animation. Hayden Panittierre voices the main role– I thought she was awesome in Racing Stripes but it sounds like no one brings the heat in this one. I guess kids would like it, kids and zombified partiers that smell musty, look dusty, and haven’t gotten an eight-hour sleep in weeks.
The Download of the week is Hot Dog. Sure, it’s a ski movie but we’ve got plenty of snow left and the classic 80’s film ties in nicely with Ace’s “Hot Dog Party 4,” a sequel that closed out the WSSF festival with style and class. Locals in costumes danced and competed in fun contests for ten to twelve hours while real DJ’s played 45s on the patio. Ace also deserves credit for not slapping a dumb tagline on her “sequel.” Be sure to look for the 72-Hour Filmmaker showdown films online as well.