Archive for June, 2011


Bad Teacher, Cars 2, Transformers

June 23, 2011

Bad Teacher, no apple.

Notes from the back row- June 21

Bad teachers and junky Cars

I’m down on teachers– high school especially. To be fair, molding the minds of our future is perhaps the most important job out there, and no teacher is paid what they should be, but as a kid I just wasn’t buying the whole uber-authoritive, all-knowing vibe many of them were laying down (plus I f@ckin’ knew I’d never use the quadratic equation ever again in my life, or need to know what year the Magna Carta was signed.) There are good teachers, but as they told us so many times, “It only takes one bad apple…”
Pity I didn’t have Cameron Diaz’s character from Bad Teacher, opening Friday at the Village 8. Diaz stars as a gold-digging pottymouth teacher who likes pot smoking, hard drinking and not doing her job. Rather, she focuses all her energy on wooing an overly-geeky, unrealistically wealthy substitute played by Justin Timberlake. Diaz is looking for a meal ticket so she can get out of the education game and focus on her real career, looking hot. The plot thickens when an overly keen colleague (Lucy Punch, killing it) also sets her sights on JT and the sarcastically awesome gym teacher (Jason Segel) pursues Diaz. Somewhere in there is a lesson to be learned, but it’s buried under f-bombs and wild-n-wet carwash fundraisers.
Bad Teacher isn’t as kick-ass as it sounds however. Rather than go for the bad taste jugular director Jake Kasdan (Walk Hard- Dewey Cox Story) eases up and doesn’t deliver as much ‘Bad’ as he should. Instead we get a one-note character in a patched-together script that lacks the punch of Bad Santa or the solid kid characters of School of Rock. Although there are moments of comedic brilliance it’s the writing that ultimately sinks this one. Bad Teacher deserves a “C” but we’ll give her a “B-“ because she looks so slippery when wet.
Speaking of road signs, Cars 2 rolls into town this week. Thanks to its toy line and merchandise, the first Cars has been Pixar’s biggest moneymaker to date so a sequel was no surprise. What is astounding is how much said sequel sucks.
The tenderly delivered moral lessons and the Americana-nostalgia of the first Cars are replaced by the glitz and glamour of a globe-trotting race circuit cut amongst an international espionage tale starring Mater the tow truck (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy.) They hang this film on the imbecile sidekick.
With predictable clichéd character arcs (how many times have we seen the “on-again-off-again Best Friend storyline?) and overly cheese-dick sentiment this one can easily win the title of “shittiest Pixar flick yet.” Which isn’t to say kids (young boys at least) aren’t gonna eat it up–there are few clever bits and decent James Bond-y action sequences. The 3D in Cars 2 is apparently not too bad but Whistler viewers will never know as we are exclusively 2D up here.
Pink Floyd fans might get a bit confused when Transformers: Dark of the Moon opens next Tuesday. It looks good but it’s 2 hours 37 minutes of movie without Megan Fox. Megan’s been replaced by Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington Whiteley and if you don’t know who that is you can just Google it on your iPhone. You can also look up when the Magna Carta was signed, Bernoulli’s principle of fluid dynamics, how to say “Pineapples cannot talk” in French, the equation for Photosynthesis and all the other crap you were forced to learn in high school and then instantly forgot in real life.


Green Lantern and the Penguins

June 23, 2011

Notes from the Back Row- june 14

“It’s certainly a phenomenon in all walks of life… At one time you’ve got it, and then you lose it, and it’s gone forever.”

Trainspotting was one of the best films of the 1990’s. The character Sick Boy proposed the above theory mostly to illustrate the downward trajectory of Sean Connery’s career post-James Bond but the concept holds for almost anyone, especially comedians. Take Jim Carrey for instance. He had a string of hits in the late 90’s (Me, Myself, and Irene, Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber, The Mask, Man on the Moon) and in his heyday truly upped the ante for physical comedy (especially with his TV stuff on In Living Colour.) But getting old is hard on comedians and to prove it this Friday at the Village 8 Jim takes a shot at the “Funny CGI animals who poop a lot” genre with Mr Popper’s Penguins.
Carrey stars as a rich and successful (yet emotionally unfulfilled) real estate developer who inherits six penguins that turn his world upside down and teach him what’s important in life. To his credit, Carrey mugs it up in reaction shots and pulls out all his old tricks while dealing with not-real co-stars with characterization-names like “Stinky” and “Bitey.” The real problem isn’t even Carey however, it’s that director Mark Waters plays it safe and actually restrains his rubber-faced star from going full-out bonkers and possibly saving what is an otherwise stupid movie. Of course, it’s aimed at ten-year-olds so perhaps I’m expecting too much. One good thing is Carla Gugino also stars as Mr Popper’s ex wife and she is always worth it. Her all-naked role as Marv’s psychiatrist in Sin City was a high point but I knew she was a hitmaker as far back as Son in Law.
Sin City, coincidentally, is one of the best comic-to-movie adaptations because, while it certainly embraced the unrealistic, it also kept things down to earth. Green Lantern, also opening this Friday, goes off the charts the other direction, opening with a heavily CGI’d montage/backstory/prologue full of aliens, foreign planets, high concepts and drifting clouds of evil puke-looking stuff. Almost ten minutes later we meet some real humans, namely Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) a cocky fighter jet pilot who is chosen by a magic ring to save the world while simultaneously learning a valuable moral lesson about falling in love with Blake Lively.
Green Lantern is directed by Martin Campbell, the guy who rebooted the Bond franchise with Casino Royale. Unfortunately, he doesn’t bring the same level of grounded grittiness and Green Lantern ends up just being really out there and kind of hard to follow. Peter Sarsgaard stars as the bad guy but his giant forehead continuously throws the viewer out of the film. That kind of thing works in Sin City or Dick Tracy, where the filmmakers set up an alternate reality and ease the viewers into it, but here– not so much. Superhero fans might as well just go download The Green Hornet instead. At least those guys are having fun with it.
The good news is, Bad Teacher is coming next week and, if the R-rated red band trailer is any indication, Cameron Diaz’s boozy, pot smoking, trash talking teacher just might be the hit of the summer. Cameron Diaz made her film debut alongside Jim Carrey in The Mask and while she was never a superstar actress, whatever she had, she’s hung on to. Maybe Sick Boy’s theory only works on dudes…?


Red Band Trailer- Bad Teacher

June 13, 2011

Red band trailers are always so much better than the regular ones. This looks not that bad. With all the girl-power talk going on post-Bridesmaids this could be the one-two punch female driven comedy is looking for.


Super 8, Monster movies, crap-ass Judy Moody

June 13, 2011

Heather Graham is about the only good part of the Judy Moody movie, unfortunately she doesn't reprise the RollerGirl role.

Notes from the back row- june 6

Summer is usually full of action and romance flicks but anytime is a good time for a monster picture and this week producer Steven Speilberg and director JJ Abrams (Cloverfield, Lost) take us back to the old school with Super 8, a film set in 1979 that focuses around a group of kids, a weird train crash, some amateur filmmaking and a big ol’ monster.
Joe Lamb is a young teen who opens the film at his mother’s funeral while his buddies wonder if she has zombie potential. His cop-dad is a work-a-holic and about all he has going for him is a band of friends, a super 8 camera, and plans to make a horror movie starring the slightly older Alice, who comes from the wrong side of the tracks and ,of course, becomes the love interest. One the first night of filming a pick-up truck derails a train and the kids uncover a wicked-cool artifact and an ominous warning– “They will kill you. Do not speak of this or else you and your parents will die.”
Aside from the story, Super 8 is very much about a love of movies and making movies. Abrams, obviously a big fan of Speilberg, recognizes the film takes place in his hero’s golden era and he desperately wants to hit the same notes as classics like ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind or The Goonies. Abrams doesn’t quite get there (things unravel a bit as he moves towards the great reveal) but Super 8 is still pretty solid, a nice mix of sci-fi, horror and young romance. For real family entertainment (its rated PG-13) this is probably one of the better flicks of the summer. Makes a guy wish we had a drive-in theatre in one of those big-ass parking lots.
On the total opposite end of the spectrum, Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer makes a guy wish Doctor Kevorkian were still alive, so he could end the suffering. Directed by John Shultz, the “artist” responsible for such garbage as Like Mike and Aliens in the Attic, Judy Moody is aimed pretty much solely at Tween-age girls but even they should be able to see this one as being as much fun as picking undigested Ritalin out of a loud-and-messy shitpile.
Crap and other bodily excretion actually feature prominently in the film– Judy Moody encounters a face-full of puke and there’s a recurring gag about bigfoot shit (in a sandwich no less). This is what happens when c-rate filmmakers tackle d-rate source material and slap together a film with utterly unlikeable characters. Avoid at all costs, this one is as worse than running over your own dog, in front of your kids, and having it all somehow end up on Youtube.
And that’s it for new flicks. It’s a very kiddie-centric week at the good old Village 8. But for the rest of us, and keeping with monster movies, the Download of the week is John Carpenter’s The Thing.
The Thing stars Kurt Russell as part of a twelve-man Antarctic research team that fall prey to a savage shape-shifting alien that can assume any form, including human. With no help coming from the outside world the film is riddled with tension and paranoia as the crew attempt to discern who is really real and who might be….The Thing! This one, released in 1982, is a remake of an old Howard Hawkes flick and another remake, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim), is set to hit theatres this October, so check Carpenter’s out now, notable because it has absolutely no romantic subplot whatsoever. You don’t see that much anymore, summer or otherwise.


X-Girls love comic geeks

June 2, 2011

January Jones is in the new X-Men flick. Who new January could be so hot, it usually snows where i live.

Notes from the back row- June 1, 2011

Geek is the new chic. Gamers, hackers, and code monkeys are suddenly scoring the types of chicks usually reserved for jocks, pretty boys and trust-funder douches. Female geeks have always been pretty hot and while leading scientists are still unsure as to the exact cause of this phenomenum early reports accredit the Internet –dudes who know how to use a computer automatically know how to order shit from or
Personally I think the recent rise of comic book movies is also helping break down doors. Geek is big money now that CGI technology and a lack of original ideas in Hollywood means comic stories can finally be done justice. As such, X-Men– First Class, opening Friday at the Village 8, is poised to be a massive success despite a ho-hum trailer and hard-to-sell concept (kid X-Men??WTF?)
Set in the 1960s Cold War, First Class is the 5th X-Men flick (if you count Wolverine) but with a smart script and solid acting it actually re-energizes what was a floundering franchise.
In this origin story we learn Professor Charles Xaviar (James MCAvoy from Wanted) used to be a real charmer back before the baldness set in and his future nemesis Magneto/Eirk (Michael Fassbender from Inglorious Basterds) had some pretty rough times at the hands of an Auschwitz-doctor-turned-nutbar (Kevin Bacon- slapping it on pretty thick but just pulling it off).
The two mutants become friends thanks to the CIA, who needs a hand with the Soviet/Cold War conflict. Chuck and Erik then hit a couple swinging strip clubs and a few other old-school setpieces in order to set up a band of merry mutants. And then it’s off to save the world.
Director Matthew Vaughn is an action specialist with a comic book pedigree (Kick-Ass) and Bryan Singer (who directed the first two X-Men, the good ones) is credited as one of the writers (he even ties the opening scene of First Class to his original X-Men flick) so First Class certainly has geek street cred.
The acting, even from the supporting mutants, is solid, the story is intelligent and there is a blatant “coming-out-of-the-closet” parallel for people who like thematic depth with their summer blockbuster ass-kicking and explosions. All in all, X-Men¬– First Class feels more like an old school James Bond Spy flick than a 2011 summer tentpole but it looks slick and watches must faster than its 130-minute runtime.
Speaking of pitching tents, First Class also stars January Jones (TV’s Mad Men) as Kevin Bacon’s frosty sidekick (too frosty perhaps) and Jennifer Lawrence and Rose Bryne also sport enough cleavage to remind us the 60s were a real groovy time.
I guess we should all pour some on the block and reminisce all the Blockbuster Video stores that will close down this month. Even though they never had one of those shady/awesome porn rooms in the back and they essentially put the mom-and-pop-movie-lover video stores out of business, Blockbuster wasn’t all bad– They had good selection and were the first joint to really take their snack section seriously so we didn’t have to go to a whole ‘nother store to get our Almond M&Ms. I won’t miss blockbuster (at all) but I guess I am glad they existed.
And thus the DVD is officially dead. Which means Hackers the 1995 compu-thriller (starring Fisher Stevens and Angelina Jolie with short hair) will be referred to as just “The Download of the Week.”
Hackers is cheesy but fun and it set up a future where the geek shall inherit the earth. That future is now.

Bonus Angelina shot.