Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Adding more to my pain and misery, I see The Break-Up. Here's the review

Be forewarned: The Break-Up is not a cute happy romantic comedy. You may think that's what you're in for, but you are going to be quite wrong. Sure, it's funny as hell, thanks to a strong lead performance from Vince Vaughn and well cast minor roles. But underneath the comedy lies pain. true pain. Real pain. The pain that a guy who was recently dumped can not only relate to, but project his own sensibilities and insecurities onto. I mean this in the nicest and most complimentary ways possible, but this movie is painful to sit through.

It's kind of surprising that this film is opening as a big summer flick. It's one of the most honest films I've seen in awhile, which is not par for the course this time of year.

The Break-Up tells the story of Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) and Gary (Vince Vaughn) who meet cute in the beginning, but are quickly taken to the end of their relationship, living in a condo and at the end of their rope. Well, the end of Brooke's rope. Gary doesn't sense any problem in his actions whatsoever. After a pretty damn hilarious family dinner, Brooke and Gary have it out, and they're broken up. (Although it's not exactly clear that they are, but that could just be because I'm male and not too quick to pick up on when the girl has broken up with the guy. This goes for life, as well).

The marketing of the film would make you believe that Brooke and Gary are going to spend the rest of the movie fighting over their shared equity in the condo, but that's misleading. It's a plot point, but not a major one. The film instead focuses on how these characters deal with the situation, from one-upping the other through jealousy to using the shared friends collective to be on "their side". This is where the pain comes in.

Credit to the writers Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender, director Peyton Reed, and Aniston and Vaughn (who also claims story and producing credits) for playing the emotions true to life. If there were ridiculous situations and shenanigans afoot, the film would be stupid, and more likely predictable. However, The Break-Up continued to surprise me until the end. It's the most genuine film of this nature I've seen since The 40 Year Old Virgin.

I'll continue to praise Vaughn to high heaven for as long as I shall live. The man's good. I thought he was going to be miscast as the romantic lead, but he's not the romantic lead. He WAS in the portion of the film we never got to see. It's almost as if the Vince Vaughn persona we've come to know of late crashed a romantic comedy and turned it tragic. And he plays it very well. When he shows emotion, I actually believed him. And Aniston, whom I have always been indifferent too, holds her ground against Vaughn and then some. She has to go through a lot in this flick, and she proves herself worthy. She inspires pathos, anger, joy, depression; everything one associates with a break-up situation. Again, Aniston does it very well. And I didn't once think about how she was dumped by the dude from Seven Years In Tibet.

The scenes between Vaughn and Aniston are quite good, and as I mention, the most painful to watch due to how much they bring to the game. But the Break-Up is smart enough to counter balance these emotions with a supporting cast that's the most gifted comedic blend since Arrested Development was cancelled. Jon Favreau takes a nice turn and plays the role Vaughn usually does, the comic relief. He almost steals every scene they're in together. Hilarious. There's also Jason Bateman (he of aforementioned Arrested Development) as the realtor. There's John Michal Higgins as Aniston's a cappella singing brother, who gives one of the funniest scenes in the movie at that early dinner scene. Judy Davis is hilarious as Aniston's boss, the owner of an art gallery. Even the guy who played Ralphie in A Christmas Story shows up, as the husband of Chasing Amy's Joey Lauren Adams. In fact there are too many brilliantly funny actors in the movie to name, some whom you'd never think could be outright hilarious. And it works. Everyone is on their game, and ready to play. (To keep the metaphor continuing).

Attention must be paid to the Eric Edwards beautiful look for the flick, capturing the glory of Chicago. I also must praise the genius of Jon Brion, composing simple and heartbreaking melodies, akin to his work on Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind,.

Like I say, the genius of the movie lies in the fact that you're watching a couple deteriorate, and it does not feel fake or forced at all. It's good to see actors stretching out and doing worthwhile work as opposed to just going through motions. It's a confident film that pulls no punches, if you can believe it. It's a top notch production all around, striking a good balance of humor and depression. (Although, I might be blowing the depression thing out of proportion, but what do you want? She broke my heart and I'm miserable now).

Saturday, May 27, 2006

I enjoyed this.

I hope this works. I'm still new to this whole internet thing.

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I'm a little upset I didn't think of this first.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Did anyone....

Did anyone catch Lost last night, and feel an overwhelming urge to discuss it? You know, people who are bored and at work.

And most likely on the East Coast.

And the only guys who really post here.

And their names are T-Bone and Brady.

Monday, May 22, 2006

A new kind of DaVinci Code boycott

There's been a lot of talk lately about "The DaVinci Code" and how it challenges a lot of Catholic belief. Because of this, there have been organized boycotts all across the globe, resulting in a disclaimer. Sure, the film is banned in India, but what does that matter? They have a disclaimer!!! Everything's alright now.

Seriously, there are too many problems with this banning of the DaVinci Code that it's tough to know where to begin.

Let's start with the fact that people are becoming heavily influenced by a work of FICTION. Allow me to reiterate that point: FICTION. By claiming the book (and subsequent inevitable motion picture) can change people's religious beliefs in one swift stroke this is equivelant to me claiming that "Mr. Tickle" could influence me to become a child molester by tickling random strangers. For as cynical as I can be, I at least give the human race credit that they, for the most part, can not be heavily influenced by one single tome. Sure, kids can see Jackass and think it's cool to shove a toy car up your ass or attach bottle rockets to your roller blades, but that's the ignorance of youth, of which I'm told is bliss. Frankly, by assuming that all Catholics all over the world will suddenly start believing everything this book tells them (as opposed to believing everything ANOTHER certain book tells them) gives Dan Brown's novel a little too much credit.

Fact is, the book is a piece of crap. It's one step above The Celestine Prophecy in terms of great moments in modern literature. There are quite a few similarities between the books, actually. Both are books about people searching for truth among sub-Joel Silver action movie plotlines. They both have captured the attention of the nation by storm. They both have created legions of zealot followers. And they both contain really good ideas that are poorly articulated due to atrocious writing. DaVinci Code does contain some good ideas and theories, that would be entertaining AND informative if given to a more competent writer. Say, Tom Robbins.

(Slight digression to everyone who recommended DaVinci Code as the best book they've ever read: READ MORE. Seriously, read Tom Robbins' "Still Life With Woodpecker" and you find a book light years more entertaining, filled with just as many conspiracy theories about the world, along with a sweet love story that's found on a pack of Camel cigarettes, which could be an influencing factor on my cigarette of choice. If Tom Robbins had written the DaVinci Code, the book would be obscenely dense, and quite compact all at the same time. And it would make you turn the page without the benefit of ending every chapter on a cliffhanger that's instantly resolved at the beginning of the next page.)

You disagree with me about the poorly written book? Then let me ask you this: Robert Langdon, your main character who's written already referencing Indiana Jones, is supposed to be an expert cryptologist, solving codes everywhere he turns. Then how come it takes him an obscenely annoying long time to figure out that a hidden message is actually English, just written backwards? And if memory serves, I don't even think HE'S the one that figures it out. I think it's the girl. Seriously, a six year old can deduce the same code in the back of a Highlights for Children in a quicker amount of time than expert decoder Langdon. It's insulting to your character AND to your audience.

There are far too many points to nitpick about how poorly written the book is (the all knowing English guy in France who can help the main characters, and whom you KNOW is going to turn on them because everyone loves a big twist these days, thank you M. Night Shyamalan) but it's a rather moot point. People will point to book sales, which means nothing, really, except that once again, the mass audience has agreed to celebrate mediocrity.

Which brings us to the new motion picture version. Obviously, with a product like this, no studio in it's right mind would trust a director with a distinct vision or style. You need someone who is the very definition of "Middle of the Road."

Enter Ron Howard.

Ron Howard has made a lot of great films over the years (my personal favorites are Gung Ho, Backdraft, The Paper, Apollo 13, and much to my own surprise, EdTV) that have made a lot of people money. He also has my infinite respect for continuing to champion Arrested Development, quite possibly the greatest television show of all time. However, he also brought us A Beautiful Mind, the most overrated and undeserving Best Picture winner since Forrest Gump. And right before that, he unleashed The Grinch upon an unsuspecting world, mistaking tilted camera angles for Suessian magic. But, much like the novel of DaVinci code, the people ate it all up. So it's a natural choice for Howard to direct the film. The man possesses no visual style all his own (which could be his own little trademark) and a greater sense of the mass audience.

With this unwillingness to push boundaries, the film is destined to be no greater than mediocre. It could even wind up being vaguely entertaining, but with a severe case of Deja Vu. Everything that will be changed from the book will be to better service the story. Think Chris Colombus' first Harry Potter movie. It was fun and mildly enchanting, but it wasn't so much a movie as a direct copy of the book thrown up on screen with two thousand watts of light behind it. (Three thousand if you're in the big theater). There was nothing to the experience that couldn't be greater than your imagination. But by hiring Colombus (and by default Howard) the studios have hired the one guy who's in tune with what most people probably envisioned in their heads, and they will very rarely stray from that, lest offending people. (Not the same people the story winds up offending). A collective vision, if you will.

Be honest, if you read the book, the second the French detective shows up, how many of you well versed in cinema imagined Jean Reno as the cop? Chances are, Dan Brown probably envisioned him as he was writing it, and that's giving him the credit of writing the book without even thinking about the movie rights. (He's probably a nice guy, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt).

So, you cast Tom Hanks as your lead, which will attract most people, provided Hanks isn't taking a risk, like The Ladykillers. So Hanks with goofy hair and Audrey Tatou (the gorgeous Amelie, cast most likely because she's French and more popular among audiences) are cast alongside the probably-cast-from-the-moment-the-ink-dried-on-the-movie-rights-contract Reno. A script is cobbled along from Akiva Goldsman, a man who needs to have his Beautiful Mind Oscar rescinded for the 1-2-3 crimes against cinema punch of Batman Forever, A Time To Kill, and Batman and Robin. (Watch these films, if you can, and notice that the story structure for all three is EXACTLY the same. Nary a diversion. Seriously). Since the man's been successful, people translate that as talented.

So we have all our basic elements lined up in a row now. What could the possible outcome be?

That's right. Mediocrity. Middle of the road. Safe. While the crowds will eat it up like most carbs, in the end, it's really not all that great for you.

So, for all of you out there who feel the need to protest the film, I say your protest is misguided. Instead, you should protest mediocrity. Boycott the film not because it's controversial, but because it's plain. Vanilla. Exactly what you'd expect. I say demand better film adaptations. (There is a reason why Still Life With Woodpecker has never been made. For that matter, likewise Mr. Tickle). Stand up and demand better movies, instead of rote "thrillers" that everyone who has read the book (it's been on the NY Times bestseller list for over 2 years) already knows the inevitable conclusion of.

The DaVinci Code needs to be banned. But let's ban it for the proper cause.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I love "Lost" . A little too much.

(I was gonna be a dick and put a spoiler warning on at the end instead of the beginning but, should anyone come here and read this not knowing about Lost but deeply wanting to know, I figure I'd put this up. Some elements will be discussed here. Especially if T-bone reads this and chimes in with his theories).

I'm not ashamed to admit it. I think it's a solid show, and they do that "24" thing really well, where if the episode is kind of half assed, the last five minutes make you crap your pants with excitement and anticipation of the next episode. I love the characters on Lost, I love the writing (except the Sun and Jin episodes. They fall kind of flat, but hey, we all have our off days.) So, Lost kicks a lot of ass, even if it leaves tons of unanswered questions about where the hell they are and what's happening to them. Frustrating, but it should prove to be ultimately rewarding.

Knock on wood.

As with most things, the problem with something as insanly brilliant as Lost is that whatever I put together in my head as the ultimate answer to the whole damn thing will no doubt be a) much more entertaining; and b) supremely disappointing once the actual solution is revealed. What can I say, it's hard work being a genius of my caliber.

So here comes the genesis behind my outrageous Lost theory. Bear with it. I think it would be badass as hell if I turned out to be right, solely because nobody else in the viewing pool has ever thought of it. JJ, I await your call.

So, being the dork that I am, I tend to think a lot

Anyway, I was driving in my car today, listening to liberal talk radio (AM1150, home of Air America out here on the west side) and there's a segment on the Stephanie Miller show (which I don't think they carry out east) called "Conspiracy Corner". You can pretty much guess what this segment entails. The show is done for humor, but I believe that Jim Ward, the guy who leads off the conspiracy rants, truly thinks these things. The problem comes when actual conspiracy nuts call in, offering their own suggestions and thinking they've found a kindred spirit in Jim. These are the same guys who listen to Art Bell religiously.

Though, Art bell kicks a lot of ass.

Nevermind that. Today's conspiracy has to do with 9/11, specifically, the theory involving Flight 93 (made famous recently in a movie I refuse to see to matter how good it's supposed to be) and the other plane that "allegedly" struck the pentagon, despite leaving no signs of debris. This caller feels that both these planes were not destroyed in crashes, but rather did land safely. this would mean that the attacks on the pentagon would have come from something else, and this implies that our government had it's hands involved with the biggest catastrophe this country has ever seen. (Not including natural disasters, or A Beautiful Mind winning Best Picture).

So, if this theory holds water, the main question is what happened to the passengers of the flights? Granted, this means lying to grieving widows and family members about a massive cover up that would begin a whole war. You can't just naturally assume that the families would be returned and everything would be alright, and that Joe Q. Passenger would keep his mouth shut. So, what is the government going to do with these people?

Do you see where I'm going with this?

I'm not saying the Lost passengers were intended to strike the White House, or anything, but my theory involves the passengers being unwiting pawns in a government cover-up. The people are sent to the island, where an elaborate scientific experiment once occurred. The island is sort of like the island of misfit toys, and the others are victims of another scenario who have gone a little stir crazy. Everyone on the island searches for greater answers only to discover that, in the end, they were just used. Everyone thinks these grandiose plots about where they are, and what connection they have, when in actuality, they were just on the wrong plane at the wrong time. the Dharma initiative could have been a once promising government contract that had to shut down due to budget cut backs, or malpractice. The remnants are left for the "survivors" to discover on their own and piece together clues that are so far off base from the truth that they themselves would go insane. Dropping supplies with the Dharma Initiative Logo just adds to the big mystery.

(You could also view this as a meditation on life itself, where we all search for a greater meaning to it all, only to discover that we were all wrong about it all. Kind of an existensialist viewpoint, but hey, I'm young and cynical, if I didn't spout views like this, what good am I to my generation?)

Oh, and the weapons on the island? If everyone's killing each other off, there's nobody left to tell the tale. It could also be for amusement, much like Battle Royale, but with fewer Japanese schoolchildren lobbing hand grenades.

It's an ultimately bleak viewpoint, but when you really think about it, it's just a television show.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth: aka We're Fucked

I used to truly enjoy horror films. Then something happened to them where they became more about making people jump out of their seats in PG-13 "fear" that seems to be cheap enough for the studios to keep churning out more. Rarely does a movie actually burrow itself into my head (or craw, depending on how I'm feelin' that day) and scare the ever loving crap out of me. An Inconvenient Truth is the first movie in a long time to do that. The main problem? It's not a horror movie.

For those who aren't aware, An Inconvenient Truth is a documentary about Al Gore. Specifically, it's about his travelling roadshow that explains the state of the planet due to global warming. The film shows Gore on the road, taking his presentation to universities across the world, talking to crowds of interested people, and he basically scares the crap out of them by showing them evidence of global warming. Glaciers that were enormous and majestic now look like cozy vacation spots one month away from time share development. The grand peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro shows the diminishing snow tipped peak that has happened over the past 30 some odd years. Real pictures and real (unobjected) evidence from scientists is used to show that this isnot just a conspiracy theory, but an actuality.

Politics stay out of the ring of this film, for the most part. Mainly because (and I'm paraphrasing the movie, if by paraphrasing you mean "take directly from") global warming is not a politcal issue, but a MORAL issue. Can you actually allow this to happen? It's not just going to go away and become another generation's problem because if the trend conitnues, there will be no future generations left to address the problem. Especially if you live in one of the areas that will no doubt disapper under water should the polar ice caps melt. (A scenario that is shown from scientists' best predicted model). The frightening part about all this is not knowing that we have pretty much doomed ourselves into seriously destroying our planet, as much as it is that we can actually do something about it to reverse the trend and yet nobody does anything about it.

The film offers solutions, which is a nice change of pace from most documentaries that fix it's gaze on a political target and just kind of shrug at the end and shrug because that's the way things are. (Fahrenheit 9/11 I'm looking in your direction). And, in what could also be seen as a revolutionary step, the film is actually quite fun to watch. We're all screwed, but that doesn't mean it has to be so grim. Don't believe me? Let the Futurama cartoon about Global Warming (which Gore has conveniently placed in his presentation, in part because it's accurate AND hilarious, and in part because his daughter was a key writer for the series) do it for you. And when Gore speaks to a crowd about certain things, such as the Presidential election of 2000, he has a good sense of humor about it. Gore even opens up about his personal life, which contributes to the man's lifelong crusade against global warming. He's your main character, and the film is about his passion.

The film is intelligent, never talking down to it's audience. It presents science in it's simplest terms, to make even the biggest scientific idiot (re: me) understand that there is indeed a problem. And yes, when you come to the final realization that this is a real problem, it becomes one of the scariest movies I have ever seen. But knowing that people can help make a change provides hope for the future. In a perfect world, this movie will spark a change, so the least I can do is get behind it with as much force as I can.

Bottom line is this: YOU NEED TO SEE THIS MOVIE. This is where I let my hippie freak flag flies high, but truth is, if we don't do something about it then nobody will. We are gonna become the endangered species* It's, as the title kindly reminds us, an inconvenient truth, but it's time to stop ignoring a situation that could potentially turn deadly.

As a comedian who I can't remember once said, the planet has been around for a long time, and will continue to survive long after humanity has left it. It's up to us to continue human's superiority on the food chain. Seeing this film would be a good start to ensure that we do.

* If they had a REALLY good sense of humor about the film, they'd release it with a summer-friendly ultra buzz catchphrase just like that. "There are over 4 million creatures on the Endangered Species List. Man is the next one down". Hey, it's just as bad as whoever wins, we lose.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Obligatory Snakes On A Plane Piece

Everyone's talking about it. It's the flavor of the month. Or at least it was last month. And it will be again come August. I've been yelling about it for months now, and finally, the internet community and film geek community (many of which are one and the same) have spoken loudly about one film this summer that will rule them all.

I speak of Superman Returns.

In case you couldn't have guessed from the title posted above, I speak in jest.

Yes indeed, Snakes on a Plane. What else is left to be said about this movie, you may ask? I say plenty. There are a lot of facets to the Snakes on a Plane phenomenon. Josh Friedman originally wrote my favorite piece about it ( -if I can figure out how to work this crazy internet thing, I can maybe see if it'll actually take you to the link just by clicking on it, but until them, you have to suffer with the ole' cut 'n paste). Originally asked to rewrite the flick, he said he would only do so if they kept the title "Snakes On A Plane". The studio said they were thinking of changing the title, he passed, but not before adopting a new zen mantra of sorts.

"Snakes on a Plane."

You can read the rest for yourself over there, so as I don't copy him completely, but this mantra has proven quite useful in the past few months, inspiring amongst myself and a few of my friends a new attitude on life, as well as a festive interpretive dance. Believe it or not, that dance saved my sanity one night, as I was deceived into thinking one thing and quickly had the tables turned. All I can say is "Snakes on a plane" and do a little dance.

You see, as my good friend Nate puts it so well, we ALL have our own snakes on our planes. (Metaphorically). And what we as human beings have to do is figure out how best we can get these motherfuckin' snakes off of OUR motherfuckin' planes.

Well put, Nate.

Soothing sayings aside, what else does this film mean to the moviegoing public, and to our cultural enviornment?

Well, I think CNN has taken it a bit too far. Not really CNN per se (although by default, because they are all part of the Time Warner family, the blame could also be laid upon Entertainment Weekly, which has, I believe, only 5 issues since the beginning of the year that fail to make a reference to the film in some form or another), but mass media outlets. They took something that could have been obscenely cool and quite underground, and blew it out or proportion. So much so that in several reports I've been reading about upcoming summer releases SoaP (as the kids like to abbr. these days) is considered to be the "sleeper" hit. Which can't technically be true because everyone is (pardon the expression) wide awake to the film's presence, due to the endless reporting of the fans of the film.

Remember when you were in high school or college and you found out about a really awesome band, or cult movie, before anybody else did? You would be the only kid on the block with a Big Chief t-shirt or a poster for Brain Candy. People would ask you "What's that about?" then you would slowly acclimate them into your world of private discovery?

Then some dickhead football player down the hall catches you watching it one day and tells his friends then suddenly it's a campus wide thing, soon spreading to others until everyone is quoting lines (or sinigng, or playing it in the damn dorm at 3AM) ad infinitum, and you say to yourself "Well, it was fun while it lasted."

That's the fear I have for Snakes on a Plane. Mainstream made it cool, and for those of us who prefer to be erudite and elitist snobs, suddenly what was once cool and meaningful to you (if you consider a film about Snakes on a plane, or even worse, Dave Matthews Band, meaningful) is a little dimmer.

That's still not gonna stop me from being there opening night with my recently acquired Snakes on a Plane t-shirt. But it's gonna feel a little more hollow. A little more corporate.

Oh, and Dave Matthews Band sucks balls.

I digress. Snakes on a Plane can truly go nowhere but up. I have a two fold reasoning here.

1) It takes two of people's biggest fears and puts them together, and does it in such an illogical manner that you HAVE to accept it. Seriously, I know many people who hate flying, and a lot of people, when confronted by a dangerous asp in front of their noggin, will panic. Or worse, soil themselves. There's an instant attraction to view these things we fear from a distance, and what better way to conquer your fear than with the help of Samuel L. Jackson?

I wish Sam Jackson could put the fear of God in me so that I can quit smoking. Or stop being co-dependant and needy. Or to help conquer my inexplicable hatred of left turns. See, with Sam Jackson, nothing can be feared, because he should be the most feared person/commodity in a room. None of these creepy ghosts coming out of people's hair or VCRs in Japan. Just Sam Jackson. Staring at you. You know that shit is gonna be taken care of.

And you know that he will do whatever is in his power to get these actual snakes (actual in the context of the metaphor provided earlier, I have no idea if they are actual snakes used in the film) off of the actual plane.

This brings me to my second point.

2) I truly believe that it's the most honest film ever made, short of Titanic. Confused? Mull on this for a second: You name a movie Titanic, you can pretty much guess that you're going to see a movie about the Titanic. You, the moviegoer, are guaranteed a movie that will be about the Titanic, and all it's glory and tragedy. Everything associated with all common knowledge regarding the famous ship's fateful evening willbe presented to you on a big screen.

(My feelings towards the film Titanic rest slightly higher than my opinions on Dave Matthews Band, for the record)

Now, you name your movie Snakes On A Plane, and you're pretty much guaranteed some damn snakes on a plane. No matter the outcome (which will most likely be far more entertaining than 3 hours of a sinking ship) you've pretty much got what you paid for. You wake up, you turn to your spouse/significant other/friend/roommate/guy on your couch/bum asking you for change/etc. and you say "Man, I sure would like to see a movie where some snakes get on a plane."

The bum will most likely say to you, "Spare change," but if he's up with popular culture, as most displaced denizens in LA seem to be, he'll likely say "Hells yeah, that's what I'm scrounging change for today." And come August 18th, we'll ALL be able to experience the shared pleasure of snakes on a plane.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Dude speaks again

Greetings all. The dude here. After the sudden loss of DudeSpeak to the powers that be, I decided to take my act out on the road. SO here's the new spot to hear (or more to the point, READ) all my glorious words of criticism on all things that relate to me, because let's face it, it's what I do best.

If by doing things best, you mean rant and rave about things that only about 20 people will care about.

But it's that 21st person that'll be the kicker.

Anyway, I'll be posting movie reviews (which you can occasionally read on, keeping you all informed about crazy life in LA (because nobody's EVER done that), there'll be some fun little Chuck Klosterman type essays about the world and popular culture (even though the more I read him, the more I feel like I wrote these things, and if I weren't so obsessed with BRAFF I would say more, but fact is, I like the guy and his writings are pretty on the nose as far as my mentality goes). It's gonna be a lot of fun. If I can remember to keep up with it.

Maybe that's why I lost dudespeak in the first place.