Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I'm a little behind on this one so you'll have to forgive me. My wife and I worked out a new plan for the weekend where I can now see a movie every week! I have a backlog of movies that I need to review and to see and this was one of them that was at the top of my list for a month or so now. But I'm only seeing it now because the wife was not interested in seeing a movie about kidnapped children. I tried to explain to her that she wasn't really a child it's Maggie Grace and she's supposed to be 17. But no, my wife would have none of that. I can sympathize since having a child it does make you more sensitive to this kind of thing but at the same time I can separate the reality from the suspense. Unfortunately my wife cannot. So even when I explained to her that Liam Neeson's bad ass CIA agent would paint his masterpiece with the kidnappers blood in order to get his daughter back in one piece---nuh-uh, still not gonna see it. Even on my birthday! Nope....Needless to say this went on for a few weeks and I finally just gave up. Luckily for me I checked the AMC listings this past Saturday and saw that it was still playing. I took advantage of my good fortune and went to see it. I will say this one thing before I begin it is a damn good thing that Liam Neeson was in this movie otherwise--it might have been straight to the bargain bin at Best Buy with this flick.The film starts simply enough, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), a sad sack loner who has missed out on the golden years of his daughter's (Maggie Grace) childhood pines for her attention against the Ponies and lavish lifestyle from her pimp, er I mean Step-Daddy (Xander Berkeley). The poor guy gets shit on by his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and it seems like he's having trouble holding onto a job. The daughter, Kim, begs to go to Paris basically by herself. Bryan begrudingly agrees, but he does give her plenty of warning about the danger. Foreshadowing much? Of course there is something more to this guy. He worked for the "government." The dialogue in the beginning is cringe-worthy and poorly written. It's when Bryan takes down his first attacker, while on assignment, does the movie start to show some promise.So Bryan gets the phone call from his daughter as men are in the house taking her friend and now coming after her. I really thought this part was interesting--he tells his daughter that she is going to be taken but she needed to shout out clues for him to follow. Now this thing is really starting to take off. Bryan shows off his expertice as he flies to France and proceeds to kick the shit out anyone that gets in the way of him finding his daughter. It has the frenetic pace of a Jason Bourne flick with a dash of Man on Fire. Neeson isn't quite as scary as Denzel Washington's Creasy (Man on Fire) but he is just as effective and equally prone to torture his way to answers.Honestly Liam needs to do more action flicks. He brings humanity and pathos to his roles but he can also kick your ass in many different ways. He isn't getting any younger so I think it's time for an onslaught of taut suspenseful action flicks starring the only man who could make Christian Bale's Batman his bitch, Liam "Fucking" Neeson. So if you are like me and waited an eternity to see this flick--don't wait any longer. Once you get past the first ten minutes or so you'll be glad you stayed.

Grade 3 Buckets

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Love You Man

It was nice after a rough day of work to be able to go, relax and see a funny picture on the big screen. This one comes out officially on Friday. The movie features a relatively new concept to pop culture and that is the bro-mance. I didn't coin it and personally I think it's an obnoxious phrase, but I will admit that if the word spawned this movie then maybe I could deal with it's utterance at least a few more times.Every guy has a best friend except for Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd). He's a sensitive ladies man with no concept of male bonding. He seems content to live his lie of lonliness until his Fiance Zooey (Rashida Jones) pushes him to find a Best Man. Thus begins his Man-dating excercise. He enlists the help of his brother (Andy Sandburg) as he tries to find himself a best friend. He utters bizarre nick-names and awkwardly stumbles through most conversations with the hope that it sounded cool. After some time Peter meets Sydney (Jason Segal) and they bond over Fish Tacos and their shared love of the band Rush. Let the hilarity ensue.The movie was laugh-out-loud funny as was Rudd's last few outings, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Role Models. I worry that the guy is boxing himself in a corner with all of these similar comedies. Honestly, I think he's a great actor and should expand his range a bit more. But there is no doubting his improv skills especially in these comedies. Even when it's awkward and at times shameless he seems to rise above it with his consistantly funny routine. He's got great chemistry with Segal especially when they rock out with air guitars to Rush tunes. I gotta ask the question though, who really likes Rush this much? They are by far my least favorite rock band but thankfully they spared me some of their worst tunes and only played the one and only song of theirs that I like. Rush aside I thought that the back-up players were great too. Like Jon Favreau as a jerk off potential friend for Peter. I really love that Insensitive Cell Phone guy, Rob Huebel, who plays a funny jack ass with a hilarious line about Urinal cakes. J.K. Simmons puts in some great bits as an overly enthusiastic father. It would have great to see more of him. Plus You get lots of Lou Ferrigno. What more needs to be said?
Look the country is in a recession and we all need to laugh America. So I highly recommend seeing this if you need a pick me up this weekend.

Grade: 4 Buckets

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Battle For Tobacco Road: Duke Vs. Carolina

Last year during March Madness on HBO they kept showing this great documentary on Villanova and their magic run to the Final Four in 1985 called The Perfect Upset. It chronicles the David and Goliath victory over powerhouse Georgetown and Patrick Ewing. So they are playing this thing every damn night or something. I'm saying to myself, this is a great story sure, but come on the UNC Vs. Georgetown Final in '82 was even better. Patrick Ewing was only a Freshman on Georgtown at the time. But Carolina had James Worthy, Jimmy Black Sam Perkins and a young wet behind the ears freshman named Michael Jordan. Why can't we see a documentary on that?Fast forward to this year--Most people know how much I love the Tarheels. In fact they know it so well that I was inundated with e-mails and phone calls last week from friends telling me about this documentary about the Carolina and Duke rivalry on HBO. It's only an hour, obviously not long enough to talk in depth about Carolina greats like Walter "Sweet D" Davis, Phil Ford or Charlie Scott but it did reveal a small hint at the tradition and excellence of Carolina basketball. They unfortunately had to divide the time by talking about both schools. But I did enjoy seeing them talk about Duke Pre-K. For some reason Dukies like to think that their perceived greatness did not occur until the rat-- I mean Mikey K. dropped from the heavens. But in actuality there have been a string of good coaches for years before the almighty Krzyzewski. For instance Eddie Cameron for whom their beloved stadium is named for. This guy was 119-56 for his career and won the Southern conference Championship three times. (This was the conference tournament before the ACC Tournament.) Then there was Gerry Gerard, Harold Bradley, Vic Bubas and Bill Foster.For Carolina it was Frank McGwire who put UNC basketball on the map. From 1953-1961 Frank McGwire used his New York connections to bring some of the best talent to the Tarheel State. Guys like Lennie Rosenbluth, with his height and skill was able to bring a second National Championship home to Chapel Hill. The spark however that spawned the program for UNC Basketball didn't truly begin until a little known Assistant Coach Dean Smith took over the program from McGwire in 1961. Through teaching and innovation Dean Smith took two NCAA titles and won the ACC Tournament 17 times. And did I forget to mention that up until a few years ago he was the winningest coach in College Basketball with 879 victories. Coach Roy Williams has continued the sucess of Dean by winning a championship himself in 2005 and 4 ACC Championships since he's been with Carolina.The Documentary kind of glossed over the rivalry between Duke and Carolina only briefly commenting on the big games like Carolina's comeback from an eight point deficit with under 17 seconds left to go. But after watching it I really feel that probably both schools deserve a two hour special, each. There is just so much history for both you don't really do them credit to cram them both into an hour long documentary. Especially with Dean Smith, this is an interesting guy. He played for Kansas learning under coach Phog Allen who had been coached by the inventor of basketball himself James Naismith. Coach Smith challenged segregation by enlisting the first African American scholarship player Charlie Scott. He was a teacher who molded some of the best players in Basketball history like Michael Jordan and Vince Carter. So give the Dean some love Hollywood! If you get a chance check out this documentary but if you are itching for more you can always buy the Deano's book. Or if you want more on the rivalry you can check this out.On another note my Heels won the ACC Regular season and then had to sideline their star player Ty Lawson for the ACC Tournament. The end result wasn't pretty they lost to Florida State and to add insult to injury Duke coasts by FSU to win the damn Tournament. The Tar Heels at least got their number one seed in the South and I feel pretty good about their chances especially now that I know that Ty is playing. This should be a good year for March Madness--everyone is fallable this year so let the sweating begin.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Watchmen

For over 20 years Hollywood has attempted to film the unfilmmable. First it was Paramount then it was Fox and finally Warner Brothers. All of them tried and failed to adapt the Watchmen comic to the silver screen. These guys had some of the best directors in the business like Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky and Paul Greengrass, but it was a fruitless exercise. Watchmen, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons is without question a masterpiece. I myself have read it at least 4 times and everytime I learn something new that I hadn't noticed the previous time. It breaks down the hero myths and crushes them under it's cynicism. It's a tough read but a good one, it captures the fear of the bomb and that every day brings us closer to Armageddon. I read that Paul Greengrass wanted to modernize Watchmen and put the heroes in Bush's America. Thankfully Warner didn't like the idea and scrapped it all together. It was only recently when a new up and comer, Zach Snyder (300), was given the keys to castle. The anticipation for this film has been through the roof and because of fanboys and critics there is a lot of heavy emotion in the air about this property. Love it or hate it the one thing you have to say after viewing it is -- gorgeous, simply gorgeous.Watchmen is an alternate reality tale that places Superheroes in the real world. The Watchmen have been retired by the government because of an anti-hero backlash. Now it seems that someone is killing off costumed heroes while the US stands at the brink of nuclear war. Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) represents the superman tasked with saving America from destruction. The film is narrated by masked vigilante Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) as he beats down doors looking for a killer. He enlists help from old teammate the Nite Owl II, Dan Drieberg(Patrick Wilson). A washed up hero with a broken libido and a loss of purpose.That is the pared down version of the plot but Watchmen is so much more. Zach Snyder really should be commended for his noble try at keeping this film faithful to the book. In many many ways he succeeds. The opening montage sequence setting us up to the history of this world is probably one of the best I've seen in a while. It spans from the 40's to the early 70's as we witness the history we know, like the JFK assasination and the Kent State riots, and the heroes we don't as they co-exist in these events. Say what you will about the rest of the film but to call this beginning anything less than brilliant would be an insult. Zach Snyder captures in fifteen minutes the heart of the Watchmen and the personality of a crime fighter that chooses to wear spandex and a mask in the real world. The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is one of the key components to the movie he bridges the old guard heroes to the Watchmen. His death sets off the chain of events for the film, and you are thinking, jesus that Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays a dead guy again? Yes, but not in a way that you would ever believe. The Comedian would rip Denny's face off with a grin. (For all you Gray's Anatomy fans.) For Watchmen to work at all the Comedian had to be shown in all of his horrible glory and again I believe Zach Snyder has succeded, at least with that aspect (More on this later). I also really enjoyed Rorschach in all of his madness. Like the comedian, Rorschach, is pivotal to the pathos of the Watchmen. I really loved his mood ring style mask changes. I also enjoyed the amped up action sequences. When these guys fight you don't just see a little blood spatter here and there. You see bones breaking through skin, hatchets split through skulls. It's a pretty intense thing to watch. Of course you can't have violence without sex. And we get a healthy dose of that too from the very beautiful Silk Spectre II, Laurie (Malin Ackerman). The other day I was reading the review by Dan Charity of CNN and he said something that truly irked me, he said that this film was a photocopy of Alan Moore's graphic novel. I don't like to call out other reviewers but on this I had to say something. Dan, you have every right to criticize the film as I am about to do in the next paragraph but to call this visually stunning film a mere photocopy is truly ignorant. The film overall may not be perfect but there is cinematic genius within this almost three hour film. I'm sorry you weren't able to see that.How do you cram a 312 page graphic novel into a 3 hour movie. In the case of Watchmen--it can't be done. As successful as Zach Snyder was at capturing the essence of the look and feel of the graphic novel he hasn't fared as well when it comes to showing us the layers behind some of these iconic characters. The Comedian, as I mentioned before, was played beautifully by Jeffrey Dean Morgan but because of the time restraint we only really saw the truly terrible things that he has done. This is a character that we are meant to despise but later feel some ounce of pity for him. These sequences were cut to the detriment of a key plot point (Which I will not reveal at this time.) that provides an important revelation about the Comedian. I really enjoyed Billy Crudup's take on Dr. Manhattan, he embodied the cold Spock-like superhuman with grace and ease. But I thought going full CGI was a bit of a mistake. Throughout the film when we are close up to Dr. Manhattan's face the mouth seemed out of sync to the dialogue. I understand fully that a bright blue man who can grow to incredible sizes at will would not look real no matter how fantastic the effects were, but I still think they looked a little cheap. I know a lot of die-hards were upset that the Giant Squid did not make an appearance at the end. I for one am glad that didn't happen but there were some other issues with the end of the flick. Again I don't want to give a spoiler so I'll try to be as vague as possible. In the book and the movie Dr. Manhattan struggles to reconnect with his humanity and finds himself more and more isolated. By the end he has rediscovered himself and his acceptance of mankind. He is asked by a character, who will remain nameless, if Jon believed he did the right thing in the end. Jon replies "In the end? Nothing ends. Nothing ever ends." In the film the line is delivered by Laurie and it falls flat. This was a key component to the book that was completely ignored by the movie. This ties into the thought process of Dr. Manhattan which seemed to be difficult for the filmmakers to convey on screen at almost every turn. I also thought that the Nixon sequences were just unnecessary. His fake nose looked too goofy and his over-the-top acting took us out of the story.Overall I truly enjoyed the movie and the performances especially Patrick Wilson and Jackie Earle Haley they truly embodied the spirit of Dan Drieberg and Rorschach. I didn't get a chance to see it in IMAX but I can't wait to see the DVD version where Snyder merges the Black Freighter storyline and the Hollis Mason Under the Hood documentary in with the film. I heard it could clock in at like 5 and half hours, which is just fine with me. So if you are a fan of the book you have to go and see it. If you haven't read the book you may have trouble understanding everything but you should still have a good time.

Grade: 4 Buckets