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Into the Wild (2007)

I’m going to paraphrase Thoreau here… rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness… give me truth.

— Christopher McCandless

I was always wanted to see the #145 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Into the Wild where people in the movie blogger community was saying that this movie got shafted at the Oscars when it was only nominated in two categories for Best Editing and Best Supporting Actor for Hal Holbrook. People were showering this movie with endless amounts of praise. When I saw the movie was on the shelf at my local library, I jumped at the chance to rent it. After watching the movie, I was thinking to myself what is the big deal.

Bad boy actor, Sean Penn wrote the screenplay and directed the true life story of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) based on the book by Jon Krakauer. McCandless came from a privileged life in the early 90s. He graduated from Emory University, but he feels that his parents, Billie and Walt (Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt) are living in a superficial world of wealth and affluence. Chris wanted to live in a world where money doesn’t matter.

He decides to sell his possessions, cut up his credit cards, cash out his life saving and abandon his car to hitchhike across the country to find his authentic self. He doesn’t tell his parents or his younger sister, Carine (Jena Malone) about his whereabouts.

The audience gets to see Chris having chance encounters with a hippie couple, Rainey and Jan (Brian H. Dierker, Catherine Keener) in Arizona, working for a farmer, Wayne (Vince Vaughn) in Iowa, meeting  a  girly that crushes on him, Tracy (Kristin Stewart) and a broken war vet, Ron Franz (Holbrook).

I understand that this movie was supposed to talk about living an authentic life, finding yourself in the world and all that. The whole spiel about quoting Thoreau, having the holier-than-thou attitude about other people left a bad taste in my mouth. It is a sad story. If I don’t care about the lead character, why should I care about this movie?

Judgment: The movie was gorgeous to look at, but it felt empty to me.

Rating: 6/10

Youth In Revolt (2010)

I’m not going anywhere until you sink your filthy dick in this tomato.

— Nick Twisp and François Dillinger

Everyone knows that I have my hang-ups with Michael Cera and his shtick of not stretching his acting muscles in any direction. He is basically playing himself in every movie that he is in, but his latest film Youth in Revolt could finally be something different for him to do. This movie has been getting rave reviews from the critics and the audiences think that it is a piece of shit. My assessment is that I side more with the audiences.

Based on the series of books by C.D. Payne, Michael Cera plays another dorky sixteen-year-old — what a surprise — named Nick Twisp who believes that he is born in the wrong time. He adores with work of Kurosawa and enjoys the music of Frank Sinatra. You know where this is going. He is a virgin — double surprise — that want to lose his virginity as soon as possible.

He is living with his trailer trash mother, Estelle (Jean Smart) and the latest victim in her vagina turnstile is Jerry (Zach Galifianakis), who gets local sailors pissed off about a jalopy that he had sold to them. The family unit decides to go on vacation to Yokia (sp?) to the house of a friend of Jerry’s. Turns out that the vacation house is actually a grimy double wide trailer.

One day, Nick meets a beautiful nubile girl named Shenni Saunders (Portia Doubleday) who shares the same taste in music and movies. It’s kismet, but she has a “boyfriend” named Trent (Jonathan Bradford Wright). I put that in quotations marks because it’s not clear that is actually with him or Trent’s a big homo.

Nick falls hard for Sheeni and wants her to be “the one.” She teases him by flirting, kissing and making out with him, but she withholds herself because of her strict Christian upbringing with her inexplicably elderly parents (M. Emmet Walsh, Mary Kay Place). She drops the hint that she likes bad boy and that her husband would be named “François.”

Nick decides to create an alter-ego named François Dillinger that is like Nick, but has blue eyes, a horrible teenage mustache and dresses like a bad guy from Miami Vice. The alter-ego was so ridiculous. Nick as François begins to terrorize his hometown of Berkeley to get into the pants of Sheeni.

Was this film supposed to be a comedy? I did not laugh once at this movie. A slight chuckle peppered here and there. Michael Cera is in his twenties, stop playing loser teenagers. It’s getting old. Take a role as a fucking serial killer. Something! I was so bored with this movie that I wanted to be a pyromaniac. Burn the fucking screen down!

Judgment: Don’t bother with this movie.

Rating: *1/2

Up in the Air (2009)

The stars will wheel forth from their daytime hiding places; and one of those lights, slightly brighter than the rest, will be my wingtip passing over.

— Ryan Bingham

Jason Reitman’s latest film is getting considerable awards attention as of late. I was surprised that it was playing at my local theater. Going into the movie, I didn’t want to have too much expectation of it, because I might be disappointed with it. Ultimately, the movie is a wake-up call that people cannot live a solitary life.

Based on the book by Walter Kirn, Up in the Air tells the story of Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), an “executive efficiency expert”, which is a fancy term for a mediator that a company hires to fire their employees without doing the firing themselves. He is ultimately content in his life living from Hilton hotel to Hilton hotel, renting cars from Hertz and living out of one nicely packed carry-on. He travels 322 days out of the year and he wants to rack up many flier miles that he can so he could reach his ultimate goal of ten million miles that six people accomplished before.

His life takes a detour at a hotel bar when he meets the vivacious Alex (Vera Farmiga) who literally charms the pants off of him. She is on the same boat as Ryan. They both enjoy the allure of racking up frequent flyer miles and keeping up with multiple membership cards. They both have an understanding their relationship is strictly casual to where they intersect on their different travel schedules.

His boss, Craig Gregory (Jason Bateman), calls Ryan back to home base at the Career Transition Corporation, where he lets the other experts knows that their face-to-face methodology is obsolete. A young Cornell grad student named Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) shows the experts that a better way to be more efficient is to fire people via e-conference.

This does not sit well with Ryan, whose whole livelihood is built around not being grounded in one place for too long. Craig thought that it would be best for Ryan is bring Natalie along on his firing runs so she could better prepare the technology before Ryan becomes irrelevant.

For a man that doesn’t want to have anybody is his life, these two women, Alex and Natalie start to become a chink in his armor. He slowly begins to realize that his life is all that is it cracked up to be. He needs to face reality and have a human reconnection with somebody.

The movie is like a plane taking off. Sorry for the metaphor, but go with me on this. When it gets off the ground, it’s a little bumpy. It steadily gets better as it progresses toward the end. I did have a problem with the motivations of Alex. I can’t explain it here. Watch for it in the spoiler section.

The performances were solid across the board. Clooney was basically playing himself expect he was more cold and distant about how he doesn’t care about the countless lives that he change. Farmiga showed subtle exuberance in her approach of the love interest that tickles Ryan’s fancy. Kendrick was a small fish going into a ocean full of piranhas, but she is a scrappy girl that is not afraid to tell it like it is.

Judgment: This movie is a relevant take on if bad things happen, good things come around the corner.

Rating: ****1/2

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The Hangover (2009)

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Counting cards isn’t illegal. It’s frowned upon, like masturbating on an airplane… Maybe since 9/11 when everyone got so damn sensitive. Thanks a lot Bin Laden!

— Alan Garner

Breaking from my classic movie theme, The Hangover is currently #131 on Top 250 of all time on IMDB. This movie is so good. Words cannot describe how awesome this movie is to watch.

The premise is explained in the trailer. On the day of Doug’s (Justin Bartha) wedding, he goes missing after a wild night that the rest of the gang cannot remember.

The movie flashes back two days earlier to Doug talking to his future brother-in-law, Alan Garner (Zach Galifianakis), who is like a idiot savant. He is not friendly with Doug’s other friends, the cocky schoolteacher, Phil (Bradley Cooper) and the dorky dentist, Stu (Ed Helms).

Borrowing Alan’s father’s (Jeffrey Tambor) classic gray Mercedes, the quartet head out towards Sin City for Doug’s bachelor party. After a night of drinking, the guys wake up to a trashed hotel room, a tiger in the bathroom, a chicken and a baby in the closet.

Throughout the course of the movie, the guys have to figure out what happened to Doug and what happened during the time that they blacked out. This leads towards some unexpected situations that they have to confront.

At first glance, you would never think about these three guys as friends, but it works on so many levels. Perfect casting choices.

Bradley Cooper is getting most of the praise in this movie, but Zach Galifianakis was gut-bursting funny. Hands down.

The movie is not perfect. Some of the action set pieces were too convenient that all of the people with guns knew where the trio was at all times.

Judgment: To relieve from a shitty blockbuster summer, take two viewing of this movie and call me in the morning.

Rating: ****1/2

What Happens in Vegas (2008)

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You should never let a chick get in your head; that’s why I prefer not to even talk to my dates.

— Hater

You know when you see one part of a movie that is mildly amusing? My part was when Lake Bell punches Jason Sudekis square in the balls. That’s it. I know that it was for this movie, What Happens in Vegas. Let’s just say that was the only funny part of the movie. This is Fox Studio release. Nuff said.

The threadbare plot of the movie centers around a slacker, Jack (Ashton Kutcher) that was recently fired from his carpenter job by his unsupportive father (Treat Williams). The other part of this equation is Joy (Cameron Diaz), a competitive stockbroker that is vying for a big promotion. She is dumped by her fiance, Mason (Jason Sudeikis) in front of their friends at his surprise party.

When their lives do to the shitter, sepearately they decide to go to Las Vegas. They end up getting married after a night of drinking. The next day with a wicked hangover, Jack hits the three million dollar jackpot with Joy’s quarter.

They fight for the money in court when the judge (Dennis Miller) orders them to make the marriage work for six months before filing for divorce. They could split the money.

The movie turns into the The Odd Couple. It was so ridiculous. I did not buy the Kutcher/Diaz chemistry. They are just pretty people onscreen.

The cookie cutter romantic comedy formula is getting tiresome. Give the public something different!

I do not understand that a couple that is pissed out drunk could get married, even though they are not lucid enough to remember the event the morning after, but people have a problem with gay marriage. This is the kind of blatant disrespect that they should address.

The only good thing about this movie besides the nut-punch is Ashton being shirtless throughout some of the movie. That’s it.

I said my peace.

Judgment: After watching this movie, I feel like a game of Russian roulette to end my misery.

Rating: *1/2

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