Irreplaceable: A Review of Color Me Obsessed

April 12, 2011

The other day I went to see Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements. What else can you say about The Replacements – a band that has been broken up for nearly two decades – that hasn’t already been said? Apparently, not much. The entire length of this film is one big succession of fans (both famous and not) geeking out over the relative genius of each of members of the band and, of course, the madness that equaled and collective. Strangely, though, this proves to be more than enough. The tidbits of information that die-hard fans aren’t already well aware of are few and far between, but the story-telling is spot-on and will keep you at attention the length of the film. Every one of the subjects interviewed is clearly enjoying talking about their favorite band as much as the audience is enjoying listening to them talk about their favorite band. There’s realism and simplicity to the craft used that makes the headiest moments come off as relatable, not contrived or, worse, pretentious. In a world of constant false-reality T.V., this is no easy feat. It is particularly impressive because there is no music in the movie, no interviews with surviving band members . . . there are not even that many pictures of the band shown. The director claims that he wanted to treat this differently, and compared his choice not to show The Replacements during the film was much akin to the way God is always talked about in films but never shown. To quote him, “I don’t believe in God, but I believe in The Replacements.” That may or may not be true, but it adds to a collection of good stories centered around The Replacements none-the-less. It’s a collection of stories worth telling.

The Razzies Just Make More Sense for this Jaded Q-Lifer

February 21, 2011

The Razzies Just Make More Sense for this Jaded QL

It’s award season. It’s Chinese New Year. And I am still also having trouble writing 2011 instead of 2010 on all documents. And Yes…I actually do still write a check or two.

But outside of my antiqued fiscal dealings and dyslexia, all of that other stuff just points to the special time of the year when the layers of self-indulgent BS reaches epic proportions. Especially cumulating with the Oscars.

My money is on “The King’s Speech” for Best Pic. Colin Firth for Best Actor. And Natalie Portman for her lovely lesbo scene as Best Actress. Always pays to be British or have a little girl on girl to get the Academy all hot and bothered.

I also predict Health Care reform to be repealed by the Supreme Court, a North Korean regime change, Iran will go nuclear and Snuggies will come out with its own form of an 80’s reboot of the Thigh Master.

But this is such stuff as to be below my Quarter Life expectations of existence and this special time of year.

More than just being a political think tank or entertainment expert, I have year in and year out enjoyed the enlightening experiences of other, less well known award ceremonies. Such as the Darwin Awards where they award those who have died in horrible humorously stupid ways and thus eliminated themselves from the human gene pool and the Darwin evolutionary process. More on the movie side of things, right after the Golden Globes, the Sundance Film Festival and the SAG…come the Razzies.

Much, much more to my liking. They give out awards to the worst of the worst in the film industry. No favoritism. No political games. No agendas. Just if you make bad movies or star in them…you will be bitched slap for the artistic offense.

Thus there are a lot of nominations for Vampire style flicks and actors this year.

So no red carpet makes me feel better. It is the Razzies which give me an overall better feeling about my QL experience in 21st society. That there is some sort of honesty still out there. That if you do truly suck (no vampire reference intended), we QL’s are not just going to blog about it…we are literally going to fashion a statue out of gold and give it to you for being a POS in your newest cinematic career move.

Quite Refreshing.

Plus I love Razzieberry Pie. The one where they put all the different kinds of berries in the same delicious baked yummy. Oh, so good a la mode.

Tron Gone Wrong? Not Really.

February 21, 2011

Tron Gone Wrong? Not Really.

Tron: Legacy

Well it is not 1982. And Jeff Bridges is a lot older. Sort of. With the help of some serious CGI he is also back to form at a young 28 years old. Don’t ask. No one ever saw the original Tron in our generation. A good portion of you were not even born or if you were, no parent was taking your crying, diaper stench ass to the movies. Back then, they had unlicensed babysitters called the teenage girl next door who charged $1 an hour, use of the phone and fridge privileges.

But I digress, and so does this movie. I mean it is an okay ride. I did not go into the theater believing this was a flick movie with Oscar glory potential. However I did walk the sticky floors and plant myself in the stale seat of my local mega-plex 40 movie complex. By the way, it is complete is a Mickey D’s and a Cinnabon. I knew this updated form of the classic sci-fi was going to be a special effects montage designed for 3-D addicted audiences. On that, it delivers and then some.

And I loved the reworked soundtrack combining the 80’s overuse of synthesizers with 2010 club rave mixes.

So with a cool $100 million guaranteed profit, I predict a roller coaster ride within a couple of years at Disney Studios in Orlando. This, by the way, would be pretty damn cool. I always wanted to be one of the neon green speed bikers. Yes, I did see the original on laser disk. And for those less in the know, a laser disk it what they used to call DVDs, which were VHS’s, which in turn were called 35 mm film, then flash tray photo negatives, radio, music halls, jug blowing and then pretty much rocks and sticks would clarify the entertainment evolutionary scale.

Tron: Legacy. Jeff Bridges is hot. No I am not gay, though he is a handsome man at any age. He is America’s Sean Connery. And he is also hot Hollywood wise. What he touches is gold or Oscar. From Iron Man to this month’s Christmas release of True Grit. But not Tron. This movie will make a crap load of money, probably go into sequels and Mickey Mouse will continue his plans of global domination.

And you know I am okay with all three. Tron delivers what it promises. Bridges is a delight in anything. And Disney taking over the Holy Land and charging admission would probably bring about peace in the Middle East.

And besides my dreams of global resolutions over religious conflict. If you like action and having your senses overloaded, do yourself a favor, check it out and thank whatever religious head honcho you pray to that Will Smith was not cast for the part to jiggy things up a bit diversity wise.

The Karate Kid or 1000 words on how Jackie Chan is not Pat Morita

June 17, 2010

The 80s were a far simpler time. To make a great movie, you just needed a nemesis and a path to beat said nemesis through a montage. Ralph Macchio went to Pat Morita and asked him to teach him karate because he was getting beat up over a girl. That’s all we needed. Factor in some wax on wax off, painting the fence, and Martin Kove as the sensei of the Cobra Kai and you’ve got one amazing movie about underdogs. Oh, and Elisabeth Shue before the hooker thing.

What more could it need? Well a sequel was in order of course. In the arena of sequels that are better than the original movie, The Karate Kid II certainly stepped up. We got a new location, new backstory characters, and stirring vocals from Peter Cetera. Perfect in every way. Let us forget that Karate Kid III and the Next Karate Kid even existed. Or at least remember them in an ironic Razzie sense- highs and lows for sure.

So what made Hollywood think that we needed a remake? Much less a remake starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan?

I love the Karate Kid. I watched it over and over as a kid until my bootlegged copy ran thin. Along with my constant Labyrinth and Clue watching, I grew to love Mr. Miyagi and Daniel Larusso every time they put Cobra Kai in their place. So, perhaps I am entering into this review a tad biased. In all honesty, I was excited to see it. I figured that Hollywood wouldn’t be creative enough to really mess with the story (a la The Stepford Wives) and we would just end up with a watered down version of the original. Little did I know that the director’s next project is RollerCoaster Tycoon. That should have tipped me off.

There’s nothing wrong with this new version of the Karate Kid per se. Just a lot of little things that end up making it irritating. Jaden and his mom, played by Taraji Henson, move to Beijing for her job. Out of all the casting fails I expected, Henson wasn’t one of them. Throughout the entire movie I felt like she was playing a cleaned up version of Shug from Hustle & Flow. Shug managed to get her act together, clean up, get her kid back, and somehow get a job in China. She plays the idiot mom the entire time with continuous wide eyes and a wardrobe that looks like it was bought from the tourist shops in Chinatown; 3 for $10 silk dresses.

Jaden can’t even make it one day before he finds the girl he’s supposed to be interested in and gets beat up by the school kung fu bullies. Point of order- Jaden’s character is 12. In sixth grade, the boys didn’t want to be seen with the girls, much less kiss them. Hilarity ensues where by Jaden continuously gets his ass handed to him until Mr Miyagi steps in.

Jackie Chan plays the wise karate sensei as bitter and angry. Pat Morita- while not explaining to Daniel san why he was painting the fence- always kept his cool. Karate is only for defense after all. Chan is far more disturbing in his emotional responses. We learn that his wife and child were killed in a car accident and he keeps her car in his living room, repairing it year after year.

In the 80s, Daniel Larusso had nothing to teach Mr. Miyagi. He was the student and he learned from the teacher. They became friends and you could see the joy it gave Mr. Miyagi. In this version, Jaden is a smart ass who has the wise moments and educates us all on the power of not giving up. Oh and his dad is dead, so that makes him wise too.

Then there is the kung fu. I assume that the writers went with kung fu over karate because its more cinematic. Karate involves short, straight motions while with kung fu you can have a kid can flip over another kid’s head and drag him to the mat with his pinkie toes after training for six weeks. Problem is, the movie is called the KARATE KID. Internationally, it is titled “The Kung Fu Kid” so, much like the metric system, the rest of the world gets the easier to understand information.

The kids that Jaden ends up fighting come right out of Crouching Tiger. I didn’t see any wires, but there was enough Matrix slow-mo to stuff an eggroll. So let’s see…Chinese kids have been training in kung fu their entire lives. Jaden works six weeks and is able to defeat them in a tournament with minimal injury. Sounds about right. We still have an angry opposing sensei but without the fun military background and steroid use. Our nemesis has a constant serial killer stare with none of Johnny Lawrence’s privileged background as an explanation. And finally, the faux Cobra Kai all jump ship and respect Jackie Chan as the superior mentor at the end. Karate can be so fickle.

In the end, we can sum it up with this order: 2,1,new,4,3. Star Wars fans have similar rankings with our Jar Jar Binks being Hillary Swank. Go see it, roll your eyes every time Jaden says something wise, and rock out to the Justin Bieber song during the credits. You’ll probably regret that you did but its summer and there isn’t anything good in theaters till Eclipse comes out.

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Robbing the Grave of Robin Hood

May 13, 2010

I loved the original 1937 flick. Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Claude
Rains…total utter classic. That IS Robin Hood. If they were going to ever
remake this movie it should have been in 1988 with the “Princess Bride”
actor, Cary Elwes. Minus Fred Savage of course. Speaking of Fred, did he
get a sex change? Because he looks just like that anchor chick on MSNBC.
Hmmm?

Anyhows…Call me old fashioned, a fan of old flicks, a classicist if you
must…but I like some things to stay the same. No remakes. No prequels. No
reboots. And definitely no rehashing the same old tired stories over and
over.

Robin Hood is just another cinematic abortion coming out of the Hollywood
whore factory. I know, tough words. Perhaps a little angry. Maybe even
uncalled for and at worst…a little frightening. I apologize. It’s the
Zoloft 100 mg withdrawal talking, not me.

But, still no excuses Hollywood. Enough is enough of the old stuff made
anew. Robin Hood even literally robs the grave with the out of the age
bracket actors of Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. Not that they are
ancient and I love’em and their craft…but ummm…Robin and Maid Marion are
not supposed to be card carrying members of AARP.

Don’t get me wrong I totally get the re-teaming of Ridley Scott directing
the hell out of Mr. Crowe. “Gladiator“, exactly ten years ago, kicked
utter ass and changed the entertainment and Mediterranean tourism industry
forever. But, what that movie about the ancient past recovered for the
audiences’ viewing pleasure is remarkably lost in this attempt at the
Medieval.

It all seems to forced. Here…it’s “Gladiator” in tights. Love it or go see
Iron Man II again! Oh, and nominate us in February.

If historical cinema epics and history teach us anything, it is that no
one ever learns from their mistakes. The last attempt at retelling the
story of Robin and his Merry Men was the 1991 beginning of the end career
move with Kevin Costner. This was followed up with the “Men in Tights”
comical farce by Mel Brooks. If it takes a loser movie to be made fun of
with another loser movie…maybe it is about time we do indeed hang up the
tights on this classic tale.

I give it two Friar Tucks out of five.

“You’ve Lost Your Muchness.” Movie Review: Alice in Wonderland

March 6, 2010

You know you’ve been waiting for this remake of Alice in Wonderland in your Jack Skellington hoody, with your Corpse Bride socks, reading the Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy in your Beetlejuice inspired black and white striped armchair. We know, we’re Burtonites too. But as much as the claymation master has wowed us in the past, I was nervous for this movie.

Alice in Wonderland is a story we all grew up with. I’ve seen versions of the movies throughout my childhood with my favorite being the 1985 made for TV version with Sammy Davis Jr. as the Caterpillar who tap dances ‘You are old Father William.’ Everyone has a take on Alice. Even Woody Allen has his twisted version involving Mia Farrow and an acupuncturist. Being such a part of our culture, and especially the quarterlifer’s childhood, Alice is an icon. She inspires curiosity and whimsy- both fields that Burton is well acquainted with. Knowing that, I was still nervous of what he would do with one of my heroes. Remember how you felt before Charlie an the Chocolate Factory came out?

Turns out, Alice had a Quarterlife Crisis. No spoilers here you won’t get from reading any other review, but if you want to go in unknowing then consider yourself warned and go no further. Alice flees a marriage proposal and ends up in Wonderland, where everyone has been waiting for an Alice to save them from the terror the Red Queen. Most Wonderland residents don’t believe that she is the right Alice as she has changed so much. Alice, on the other hand, believes herself to be dreaming. Let’s see- a girl is on the path towards the life that is expected of her, takes a turn and ends up very confused and wondering about her identity. Sound familiar?

She quickly meets up with the Mad Hatter (take a moment to sigh at the awesomeness of Johnny Depp. I got tingles when he began to recite The Jabberwocky.) who is very sure she is the right Alice, but tells her “You’ve lost your muchness.” In a flash I knew that is what this is all about. A path we walk that becomes confused, unfulfilling, and unbearable is a symptom of losing our muchness as 20somethings. It’s incredibly hard to pinpoint what changes or how it changes, but in many ways, we lose our muchness.

Needless to say, Alice finds her muchness and manages to take her life where that muchness directs her. The story that gets her there is fairly straightforward and pits good against evil. This is my one true criticism of Tim Burton this time around. The books were intended for children and read as such. Even then, the characters present us a curious look at nonsense and madness. Burton’s version (written by Linda Woolverton of both Lion King and Beauty and the Beast fame) drastically scales down this depth of character for an audience of children. Rarely are his characters so black and white (though there are many many stripes). Our heroes often come from checkered pasts and our villains typically have reasons for their infamy. Here we don’t need to question which side we are pulling for and have no melancholy feelings towards the outcome. I suppose its hard to develop characters who have been developed for decades, but it would have been nice to feel a little more conflict in choosing our team. They are all mad, after all.

And are they ever mad! The acting all around was fantastic. Helena Bonham Carter plays her insane majesty with the perfection we knew she would. The Tweedles provide perfect comic relief, and Alan Rickman guides our way with the wisdom that only the Caterpillar could provide. Mia Wasikowska plays Alice to a tea (ha) and reminds us all that Alice was very comfortable in Wonderland the first time around. And then there’s Johnny. I’ll leave it to you to critique his performance- but keep an eye out for the Hatter Futterwacken Dance.

A technical note as well: skip the IMAX, and skip the 3D. Usually I’m an advocate for 3D movies as a fantastic throwback to the 50s. But Disney and other studios are becoming guilty of charging us more and giving us less. Up was a beautiful movie in 3D, and the depth just added to the richness of the animation. Here, we almost get classic 3D schtick with swords headed our direction and flying debris. Not worth the extra money nor the red indentation we got from the extra heavy IMAX glasses.

The quarterlife experience is so often about losing your muchness. We lose direction, we lose passion, we lose focus, we lose sanity…but the best people are mad, you know. This version of Alice in Wonderland reminds us that sometimes we lose our muchness and that it often takes a journey to get it back.

Movie Review: Avatar

January 11, 2010

Avatar.

One word: Great.

Worth the hype? Probably not. It is a spectacle to be sure. Please go see
it. Worth the $8+ dollars. Do not wait for the crappy audio sound system
in the dollar theatre or unreliably think your pseudo home surround system
woofer will be able to handle the sheer volume of sound. Nor will your new
Christmas gift to you, the plasma television, be up to snuff.

Again, great flick.

But outside of ear drum busting booms, composer Horn’s beautiful score and
more CGI than the human eye pupil can absorb, the movie itself is a hodge
podge of Cameron’s other works. And it does not always work.

An awesome piece of cinema.

But, it is as if he took Aliens’ love of bad ass space Marines and
combined it with the sappy romance of Titanic. Let us all thank God,
Celine Dion was not involved and no one will have to put up with what
seemed seven hours of the inevitable boat sinking. Hell, even I wanted
Leonardo’s Jack to die just so he could get away from Kate. Oh, and the
hero of Avatar is named Jake. Come on Jimmy C, can’t ya come up with
something more original?

Check this film out.

Yet, even as the steam trunk romantic endeavor that so charmed us back in
the 90’s, Avatar fails to tug at the heart strings. Hard to really believe
love conquers all with blue skinned aliens. Action-wise it delivers and
then some. Drama and message, well I see it akin to Dances with Wolves,
but more subtle. At least with Avatar there is no guilt from the audience
at the buffalo’s plight.

No need to run, but jog to your local theatre.

I also applaud Cameron for trying to create a new Middle Earth; one for
the new Quarter Lifers and the X-Gen’s kids. There are already guide books
available for the mother’s basement dwelling geeks to learn every aspect
of alien tech, biology and culture. For sure to be a classic and with box
office ticket sales at $1 billion and change, it is already the fourth
highest grossing film of all time. And that is only 17 days into its run.
Titanic was on screen for nearly a year ending in $1.8 billion. Obviously
Mr. Cameron’s magic is still worthy of high praise, a few bucks and your
time. Life altering, no, but well worth the former.

Why “Up in the Air” is a perfect summary of the quarterlife experience

December 21, 2009

Last weekend, I thought I was going to see the new George Clooney film. Instead, I found myself examining my metaphoric life on film, and loving it.

The main premise of Up in the Air focuses on the routine life of Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a bachelor whose philosophy is to have as few personal relationships as possible. He flies from one city to another, serving as a “career transition counselor,” helping to ease corporate layoffs. Bingham fondly considers the airport terminals home and his goal in life is racking up American Airlines mileage.

My quarterlife radar turned on when Bingham is forced to work side-by-side with Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), an overconfident, tech-savvy, and to be frank – obnoxious fresh Cornell grad. Natalie is uptight where Bingham is suave. She is idealistic where he is realistic. She packs a travel-size neck pillow on her first business trip; he lives life on one carry-on bag. Yet, despite their apparent differences, they find a way to teach each other something new. She learns from him how personal a job can be, and the measure of compassion it takes to be effective. He learns from her that life’s dreams are nothing if they are achieved alone, without anyone to share it with. Each has wisdom to impart and assists in the other’s moment of realization.

Especially for quarterlifers, it’s refreshing to see our most annoying qualities on the big screen and recognize it in ourselves. It’s a gentle but heartwarming reminder that we have so much yet to experience. In the end, the moviegoer is left feeling gratified by Up in the Air. Each part of the film – the humor, the zinger lines, the subtle soundtrack and editing – contributes to make this a very worthwhile experience. Highly recommended.

Movie Review: Undertow

February 28, 2008

The notion of the “American Film-Artist” sounds a bit oxymoronic. The independent fever of the late 80′s/early 90′s has subsided into a flurry of productions that essentially share the same qualities as the big major Hollywood studios, only on a smaller scale. Even in the independent realm, films are created with the sole intent of telling a good story, or more importantly, a strong narrative. The screenwriter writes the story which (ideally) has a solid three-act structure, while the director’s main job is to merely “add the pictures.”

UndertowFilmmaker David Gordon Green does more than just “add the pictures.” In fact, if one were to regard his earlier efforts (“George Washington” and “All the Real Girls”), his films are ABOUT the pictures. Green is not so much interested in just “telling a good story” (though he ultimately does so), but rather he seems more drawn to moments, gestures, [Read more]