Friday, September 30, 2011

TOPIC: The Spirit of the Theater

If the first thing that comes to mind when asked about your feelings for the movie-going experience is “overpriced snacks” and “rooms that reek of booze and shame,” then congratulations; you might just be the worst person ever. The modern theater may be bogged down with overt commercialism and corporate indifference, but some things just can't be squelched by big-name bullshit, and the essence of going to the movies is one of them. Step back into the past by about 50 years and see if you can't picture the archetype cinema venue: Overlapping tones of rich orange and variations of red and yellow neon stripes and blinking bulbs like stars in the wind-blown sky above the droves of heavily bundled film enthusiasts. Pristine white prisms overlap overhead, adorned with vintage, solid black text, proclaiming the features of the evening. Singing, dancing and stand-up all take a backseat to the blissful escapism of a silver screen, immersed in a comforting, dream-like darkness and hypnotized by a second world projected in front of you.

I recently attended a showing of Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, starring Ryan Gosling. Don't expect any pivotal descriptions of the movie here-- I'm not in the business of spoiling movies, especially ones as fantastic as Drive-- but just know that it has replaced Hanna as the second best film I've seen all summer, creeping up right behind Super 8. Ryan Gosling has, in my opinion, delivered a performance that warrants an Academy Award nomination, and the world will totally implode on itself if that doesn't happen.
But what makes this film special for me personally is that it reminds me very much of Steve McQueen's Bullitt, a film me and my father shared our enthusiasm for; after all, it was one of those classics that every father should show to his son. Watching Drive gave me a film to pass down to my future children, should any survive. Drive has created a modern car chase classic in an age where such a film is in desperate need.

No. Nooo...


Standing in line sucks, be it at Disney Land, Subway or a public restroom. But something about the columns of people at a theater is inherently different. Maybe it's because you all want the same thing, all of you tied together into mutual friends, if only for a night, and in pursuit of the same goal: To see a kickass movie. There is a reason why there's never been a fight during the Pro Bowl, and that same reason ties into the essence in the air when waiting to purchase a ticket. Some may say that if you piss someone off when in line, you'll never hear the end of it when the movie starts, that one disgruntled individual going out of his way to make the next two hours nothing short of hell, exacting a vendetta against you in the form of an open cup of Coka-Cola going upside your head and all of over your now-ex-girlfriend. But people who are that paranoid have no business in a public place, let alone a theater.

I'll bet his favorite movie is Shakespeare in Love, the little prick.


"Ha Ha-- Oh honey, I wish you could be Renee Zellweger!"
"And Tom, I'm glad you haven't seen what I'm doing with the man next to me! Popcorn?"

If excitement was a drug, everybody would be too messed up to see by the time a movie started. It's not enough that, when finally seated with your popcorn and Reese's Pieces, you get to see previews of more potentially Earth-shattering blockbusters, giving you and your friends a list of future flicks to see. And once it's over and the room dims, you remember why you're here in the first place, and, if you chose your movie right, you'll be glued to your chair even further. It's a miracle that nobody has a heart attack when in a theater. Oh wait, never mind.

It's a known fact that even if a movie is “iffy,” you'll still be riding a near-mandatory post-movie high when you exit the theater and stumble into the evening air, your legs most likely numb and knock-kneed like a newborn deer after playing boulder for so long. It isn't really until the next day that you actually review the movie without your inner-self screaming “Fuck yeah!” every minute. Maybe you'll sort of regret those five dollars which could have gone towards so many other worthwhile things like...seeds or, like something at Subway (okay, so it today's economy there's not that many practical uses for a fiver.) But that doesn't matter because, it reality, going to the movies is a one-day experience, an experience which will be preserved long after all other physical media is liquidated.

Gateway Film Center, Columbus OH

Tom gripes about movies quite a bit, but on his off-days he re-slays the undead alongside Diamond Jack. Learn the tools of the trade (literally) at Jack's Highly Classified Zombie Survival Guide. It isn't considered murder. It's re-retirement.

Review: Drive is the new Bullitt

This is going to be a quickie.

I'm going to say this again: Drive has replaced Hanna as the second-best movie I've seen all summer. Now, the list is as follows?
  1. Super 8- More heartfelt, coming-of-age gold from Spielberg and Abrams.
  2. Drive- I hate to say it, but... Steve McQueen < Ryan Gosling
  3. Contagion- This flick will make you sweat bullets, and pracitcally begs for zombies to show up.
  4. Hanna- An action movie with characters to care about and Eric Bana, who kicks unsermainable amounts of ass.
  5. Transformers: Dark of the Moon- Fucking wingsuits, man!
Eric Bana: Supplying America with badassery since 1968
I won't go into immense detail here, but just go see Drive. It will change your life. Ryan Gosling has crafted a truly unique character that begs for an Oscar nominaiton, and I'll be damned if he doesn't get one. A strong supporting cast lends emotions that Gosling himself can't. The action sequences that are equal parts gruesome, quick, and sobering (and in the long run, almost regretable) create a standout film that refuses to fall into the mold of so many other 'splosion-laden action seizures.

Go see Drive. Like, right now.

Also, just go here. Hopefully you get the message. Can I stop writing these, Jack? Please?

Friday, September 23, 2011

TOPIC: Why Zombieland Defines This Generation

The 50's had Alfred Hitchcock, reinventing the directorial art with enduring classics like Rear Window and North by Northwest, as well as cult hit experiments in cinematography such as Rope and The Lady Vanishes. The 60's and 70's were the era of bliss, camp, and weed (but mostly weed) representing the height of the slasher/monster flick genre with Romero's Dawn of the Dead and Wes Craven's Halloween. The hardcore and, honestly, terrible 80's carried with them a whole slew of movies that defined the modern action movie, like Blade Runner, The Terminator and Lethal Weapon. And, of course, the laid-back 90's refined everything that was accomplished before them, setting the stage for a storm of indie legends and controversy, films like Pulp Fiction and...Pulp Fiction again (Everything in the 90's wanted to become Pulp Fiction.)

Our forefathers
And the 90's were laid-back. Everybody was just chillin', enjoying the come-down of the Cold War. The Berlin Wall had fallen and the Gulf War was ending as well, and the whole of America was finally putting a sloppy, tangled age of oil fires and race riots behind them. Where Walter Cronkite had once been reporting from smoke-choked jungles and the death of a beloved president, Green Day was now preforming on Letterman and clad in sloppy street clothes. And then there was that 9/11 thing, but we don't need to cover that.
"Pfft; bring it on, terrorists!"
And boom-- now we're here. It's 2011 and president is Barack Obama. The current Best Picture holder is The King's Speech. The Record of the Year belongs to Lady Antebellum. The Lombardi trophy has returned home to Green Bay. The national debt stands at 54 trillion-something (seriously, holy shit.)
Exactly 21 years ago, the San Francisco 49ers were the reining Super Bowl champs (total fluke), the head Grammy-winners were Arif Mardin and Bette Midler for “Wind Beneath My Wings,” the Best Picture was Dances with Wolves (the first Avatar), the residing president was George H. W. Bush, and the national debt was...probably still 54 trillion, who cares. This isn't about that shit; this is a movie blog. Now that the tone's been set, let's get to the topic: Both of those eras were identical in nearly every way, minus the fact that we're quickly exiting the first decade of the 21st century and have yet to discover our definitive period piece. Give me American Beauty and the social network any day; we need a movie that truly sums up the melodramatic world of sensationalism we live in today.

Not you. Fuck you.
But if you think that this is going to be several pages of Palahnuik-esq satire, hold on-- I have your answer: Zombieland. That's right, I said it; Zombieland. It may not be the greatest film ever made, but it meets the criteria for a definitive title of today.

"'I never made it as a workin' class hero; 21st century break--' Oh, hey. We shooting this?"
For those of you shouting “nay, nay, nay,” (Joseph Decrux-- I'm a huge fan, man) I ask that you look deep into yourselves, taking care not to snag your elbow on the globs of Warhammer 40k minifigurines and mountains of WoW giftcards, and analyze the world we live in: A metropolis of humor revolving around cheesy pop culture and the destruction thereof. Movies are little more than wallet-fatteners to the suits that produce them. And holy shit, what is up with all the fucking zombies? There are zombies literally everywhere. It's like we're actually in the midst of a digital apocalypse, only it's the DVD players and iPods that are being invaded by the hordes and the “hordes” are all Simon Pegg and Woody Harrelson. Even excluding the strait-to-DVD releases, there are still way too many corpses shambling on-screen to eat up your monies.

And, y'know, only a few are good.
Whenever a ZomDrama comes out these days, it's immediately panned by critics because they just don't posses the same cultural impact they had back in 1978. Or they're just not funny. But Ruben Fleischer's Zombieland is a rare stray from the established form, foregoing the slapstick alienation elements of a fresh apocalypse and instead embracing a jaded, daily-grind kind of approach to the genre. The writing is quick and witty, as well as relevant and lightly accusatory to and of its target audience. At first glance its just a blissful stiff-slaying romp with more shotguns than you know what to do with, but after you've seen it ten times (me) you start to notice the smart bits of satire. This almost guarantees that it won't hold up at all in ten years, but for today's youth, it's better than penicillin (but, like, not really. You need that, kids.)

Pictured: Today's Youth
Plus, the actors and actresses involved are all up-and-coming stars, with a nice mix of beloved classic icons that we all grew up watching (ie. Bill Murray and Woody Harrelson). Good 'ol Jesse Eisenberg produces what is probably the second-most iconic performance of his very promising career, delivering a character which is quickly becoming a classic archetype for the Young Survivor guy. Woody Harrelson, who's always great to watch, is equally timeless in his truly badass role, and Emma Stone brings that passive spunk into what is honestly a taboo genre unhindered, and the same could be said for 'lil Abigail Breslin; I'm not a fan of kid actors at all, but she is a rare exception. She doesn't try to steal the show yet retains a delightful presence.
With current writing and acting, as well as plenty of creative integrity and aesthetic appeal, Zombieland is what people should imagine when thinking of that crazy little decade in between the fall of the World Trade Centers and the zombie uprising! Save yourself!

When Tom's "mild"-mannered alter-ego isn't bitching about movies on the interwebs, he's killing zombies with his buddy Jack. Not just any "Jack"-- The Jack. Join the winning side at Jack's Highly Classified Zombie Survival Guide and keep the local cemetery in business

Monday, September 19, 2011

REVIEW: Captain America Sucks; And The Movie's Pretty Bad, Too

I'm gonna give it to you straight: Don't see any of the superhero movies that came out this summer; Thor, Priest, Green Lantern-- they're all just so terrible (Green Lantern especially). You might often wonder how these multimillion-dollar icons get so effectively run into the ground by the very people who are supposed to be experts at handling beloved franchises, but movies like Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Tron, the Resident Evil atrocities, and Clash of the Titans are all examples that Hollywood truly does not care about what you think. But we knew that; the real problem is that nobody cares about Thor and Green Lantern. Of course they have massive fan bases (as all heroes do, regardless of quality) and plenty of people who will flock to the theaters like cows to a slaughterhouse to see their childhood heroes defaced by incredibly overzealous special effects, shoddy 3D, and weak screenwriting. But first, let me say that my definition of “nobody” is the entire movie-going mass. DC has only one character who's worth a damn and any normal human couldn't name five Thor villains if you tied him (trust me, it is a “him”) to an easy chair and sliced his ear off.

"Odin! Odin was sort of a bad guy, right!? Oh, Jesus, I don't want to die!"
Yes, some people do like these heroes, but unless your film is accessible to everyone, it will suck. I hate to say it, but until the end of December, the movies should all be big-name blockbusters where everyone in the audience has a thorough understanding of the prettyboy in spandex fucking up bad guys on the silver screen. Summer is no season for cult appeal, the only appeal Thor and Green Lantern poses.

Don't get me wrong; I love indie film projects that have no choice but to rely on solid directing and acting in order to stand out instead of rendering so many CG explosions backed by a star-studded cast that the viewer has a controlled seizure that cost $140 million to make and-- holy fuck, did that shit say 140 million!? You mean to tell me that Captain America took 1,400,000 Benjamins out of Hollywood's pocket, money that could have gone towards a sequel to District 9 or, like, Zombieland 2? Fuck that! I think it's high time we got to the topic of this post: Seeing Captain America is worse than being locked in a room full of feral cats. Hungry feral cats.

The reason why I went on my whole tirade about cult heroes is because I've always expected that a hero movie I've never heard of would suck; if I haven't heard of it, there's probably a good reason, and I can name a lot of superheros. Captain America wasn't supposed to be that. Anyone who owns a white picket fence or has ever ingested an apple pie knows his name, and if your family never purchased his magazine or Action Comics on a credit card, I'm pretty sure you were blacklisted. It's a known fact that, in the 50's, the street test was comprised completely by questions about baseball, John Wayne movies and Buck Rogers chronology. What I'm saying here is that the only person who didn't know 'Cap died on the east side of the Berlin Wall twenty-three years ago.

"Red Star, here I come..."
So, by virtue of this review, I guess this makes me a communist, just like the dirty Reds who destroyed this movie. My personal theory is that commie sleeper spies by the names Joe Johnston (the director) and Kevin Feige (the writer) were activated one year ago and their ulterior goal was to deface our most beloved propaganda figure with overtly long dance numbers and that horrendous Hayley Atwell. But that's just me. Here's the real reasons why this movie was terrible:

Besides, y'know, the obvious.
First off, you know all that epic shit that scorches your corneas in the “gritty” trailer? Yeah, that all happens in a montage that lasts about two minutes. None of it was nearly as kickass at it should have been and once it's over, you're left there slouching in the theater like a jackass-- because you realize what a horrible waste five dollars was for this toe-tag of a ticket-- but also because you're now wondering “That's...that's it? What the hell are they going to do for the rest of this movie!?” It would be like if the zero-gravity fistfight in Inception happened in the first ten minutes and the rest was, like, Matrix Revolutions or something.
The rest of the film spends all its time that should have been used on the much-needed character development (which was literally nonexistent) trying to live up to the over-the-top action seen by all the other glowing money holes that came out over the last four months; Transformers had wingsuits, Super 8 had a big-ass train wreck (and sort of Cloverfield), Apollo 18 had moon spiders, Hanna had Eric goddamn Bana, Contagion had bullet-sweating tension-- what do you have, Captain America!?” Nothing, that's what!
Captain America could have been fantastic. It could have led the charge towards the inevitable Avengers film, but sadly, only Christopher Nolan and John Favreau are aloud to make good superhero flicks now. I do understand that maybe Hollywood is just trying to rush through all the heroes in the Ultimates universe, and maybe that movie will be an epic storm of epilepsy and glee. But that sentence truly describes what's wrong with the industry. All they really care about is making money, which is understandable to an extent. They've ultimately ruined every good hero, with Batman being the only saving grace, all for the purpose of adding more and more franchises to their (apparent) communist resume. Just making the movies exist is good enough for them.

And just making these exist is good enough for me.
I only laughed when they showed Battleship (seriously) in the previews and I only cried when I remembered the ticket price. I seriously cannot stress how misleading and disappointing this movie is. The only thing it has over Green Lantern is the lack of an audience of eternal virgins and it wasn't cast by someone with crippling insanity.

"What the hell do you mean 'no sequel?' Why in the fuck did I dress like this!?"
Brought to you-- with great affection and care-- by Jack's Highly Classified Zombie Survival Guide. For all your undead-related queries, look no further. Jack's got all the answers-- I should know since he did save me from that situation in that dead-end alley.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

REVIEW: Cars 2 Is The Worst Thing Ever

Having grown up with Disney and Pixar-- from Jungle Book and Fantasia to Wall-e and Toy Story 3-- I've come to realize that their “worst” films are still great; bad for Pixar isn't necessarily bad at all. The Princess and the Frog was one of was one of Disney's least grossing films and yet, it still garnered an Academy Award nomination. Their idea of “unsuccessful” is walking away without an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. But...every once in a while (well, actually just once) there's a flick that tarnishes the incredibly talented studio's prestigious name. This is one of those movies we pretend doesn't exist, like the Star Wars Holiday Special or the forth Indiana Jones thing. I'm talking about Cars 2.

If only.
The first thing that dinged it was its inability to stand on its own, something that any kid's film needs to do. All three Toy Storys can be seen out of order with no problem (unless you're so one of those people who actually cared about Bo Peep) and any of the nitpicks you think of will be totally overlooked by your little kid. And if he is old enough to notice them and still hasn't seen Toy Story 1, then...really?

Your family's home, evidently. There's a TV in mine, though.
But that's not the main problem-- far from it, in fact. Return of the Jedi was the least accessible to newbies, regardless of the text opening, and it was still okay (although I could have done without the space Muppets.) But still, in order for me to explain the biggest fault, let me set the tone:

Exactly as it happened, in my mind. 
I regularly babysit my cousin, a three-year old girl we'll call Amy. She absolutely loves anything from Disney and she practically flipped (no, seriously) upon the mention of a sequel to her current favorite movie (poor, misguided child), and I practically flipped at a possibility to escape a one-thousandth viewing of Monty Python and the Quest for the Holly Grail-- you can learn to hate anything after seeing it twenty times. So we decide to go see the second Cars movie, and I will admit to being a little excited. Cars was a solid film with likeable characters and a charming world with plenty of observational humor; “Hey, they're cars. How delightfully zany. Let's sell millions and millions of plastic replicas of Owen Wilson's car face.” It wasn't so tongue-in-cheek that it annoyed you, yet it still made use of the fact that you're watching an animated flick about talking automobiles. Well, very quickly I realize (again) what happens when I get excited about a movie.

Among the many things that were absent from this impossibly fucked “film,” the very concept of the movie was one of them. Okay-- so for those of you who have regular life priorities and never saw Cars, the whole story revolves around the fact that they are, indeed, cars. There it was, plain and simple. But in Cars 2, at no point do they even reference the fact that they are cars. It's as if everybody in Pixar's writing room completely skipped over the first page of the script! It is literally the most generic spy flick ever, with all of the characters replaced by glossy sports cars and a single retarded pickup truck. There's even a fight scene in a bathroom-- like the opening of Casino Royale-- where there is actually a fistfight between two cars; “wheel-on-wheel action,” if you will (but, like, don't.) The whole movie seems to have forgotten its own fucking title. Also, that brawl in the bathroom? It ends with the other car being killed, left in a slowly expanding pool of motor oil-blood. Seriously.

Not Pictured: Smiling children
I can put up with the paper-thin writing and the classic regrettable sequel feeling, but the level of appalling implied-violence in this movie surprised me and, honestly, made me a little worried concerned for the impressionable three-year old giggling in the seat next to me. I mean, I'm a very jaded individual, having grown watching SciFi (or “SyFy” if you have no frontal lobe) and having seen my first R-rated flick (The Terminator) at age 7. But for a Disney-Pixar project, even one death is shocking, especially when conducted in such a cold manner as it was in Cars 2.

But once I finished distracting me cousin from the scene with talk of post-movie McDonald's or something (another thing you shouldn't ever expose your child to), I started to see the laughable, in-your-face political views that made the whole shitstorm feel more like a commercial about how “big oil is bad” hosted by Larry the Cable Guy rather than what it was: A truly lackluster sequel. Wall-e and Toy Story 2 executed their subtle political messages masterfully, whereas Cars throws more than it should at its (supposed) captive audience: Kids. So, in closing, if you see anyone with this DVD in their collection, duck. They're behind you with an ax.

"I see you've also got Premonition and-- hurk!"