Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Two Cinematic Cents: Michael Myers' Mask

With both a reboot of Star Trek and Halloween both due this summer it got me thinking. Why doesn't director Rob Zombie use Chris Pine's face as a model for Michael Myers' mask? You're probably asking "what the heck are you on?" What you probably don't realize is that the entire look of Michael Myers is based on William Shatner's mask from his Captain Kirk character. Yeah they basically took a Captain Kirk mask, spray painted it white and voila, you've got one of cinema's scariest villians. So since Zombie is making a sequel to his Halloween reboot/reimagining/revamping/prequel from 2007, I think they should take a Chris Pine Captain Kirk mask paint it white and there you go. Michael Myers revamped for the Twitter generation.

Watch the trailers for H2: Halloween 2 and Star Trek below:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Entertainment Weekly Likes Me, They Really Like Me: PART II

I'm sure if you're reading this, then you know this story, but it's still pretty good. Picture it, my bedroom, 2 months ago. I enter a "predict the Oscars" contest. Since the awards were really predictable, (oh, you had Mickey Rourke for best actor? you loser!) many people tied for first place, myself included. To break the tie, as part of the game's fine print, the winner would be determined through an essay to be written about "what the oscars mean to me" and the winner would be judged by EW on the basis of creativity and orginality, after a brainstorming session with the roomies it was decided to write a parody of Jingle Bells we came up with this:

Dashing down to greet
The guests have just arrived
Grab a bingo sheet
Wish Heath hadn’t died

Warm up the LCD
Seacrest! What a tool
And then we flip to ABC
Can hardly hold my stool

Mickey Rourke! Meryl Streep! Dark Knight got the shaft
Slumdog’s Oscar winning sweep, Kate Winslet won at last

Mickey Rourke! Meryl Streep! Wolverine can dance
I’m so thrilled for Oscar time, Oops! I Crapped My Pants

Kevin and I worked hard on the lyrics, it was sort of like that episode of the Golden Girls where Rose and Dorothy write the song about Miami (except they only came in second). Dorothy says, "We could be the next Simon and Garfunkel, the next Rogers and Hammerstein..." "...the next Shari Lewis and Lambchop!" cries Rose.

Flashforward a month later and I recieve an email from EW congratulating me on winning the GRAND PRIZE. What exactly is that prize? Oh just a 46 inch Sony Bravia LCD 1080p 120hz flatscreen HDTV and a Sony Blu-ray player (of which I already have two, but three will do just fine). Thank you Entertainment Weekly, I knew there was a reason I've been subscribing since high school...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Zac to School: “17 Again” is a Mildly Diverting ‘Body Swap’ Comedy

“Freaky Friday.” “13 Going on 30.” “Freaky Friday.” “Big.” “Freaky Friday.” All of these movies have two things in common. 1) They are all “body swap” comedies in which the main plot of the film revolves around an adult becoming a child in an adult’s body or a child becoming an adult in a child’s body. 2) They are better than “17 Again.” (I’ve never seen “Vice Versa,” “Like Father Like Son” or “18 Again!”)Of course there are worst things to be than “not quite good as the made-for -TV “Freaky Friday” starring Shelley Long (yes, it exists, yes, I’ve seen it and yes, it’s decent). Having said all that “17 Again” starring High School Musical alum Zac Efron (he’s a serious actor now no more of that singing/dancing stuff) is mildly amusing and adults might even find it more enjoyable than their kiddie counterparts.

The film starts out in the past. The year is circa 1987. Mike O’Donnell (Efron) is a big basketball star at his high school. He’s about to shoot the winning hoop when he runs after his girlfriend because she’s preggers. Wait! What kind of High School Musical is this anyways?? So basically Mike’s life is ruined. Flash-forward to the present where Mike is played by Matthew Perry. He’s about to be divorced. He hardly knows his two kids Maggie and Alex (both high school aged). And he failed to get the “big promotion” at work. Then the old wise janitor stops by with some life advise. He asks Mike if he could go back to school would he try to make his life better? And before you can say what the F-ron Mike is 17 again.

Mike goes to Ned (Thomas Lennon, slightly annoying slightly funny) who he’s been best friends with since high school for help. Ned is a big nerd (ie, he loves Star Wars and Lord of the Rings). Mike decides he’s actually gonna go back to school and see this as a way to life the live the way he always wanted. Ned begrudgingly accepts the position of posing as Mike’s father and soon he finds himself lusting after the principle in scenes that are more awkward than funny.

The film doesn’t really leave any “body swap”cliché unturned. Mike befriends his own children and I’m sure you couldn’t guess if his own daughter begins to have the hots for him and he helps his son be cool and be good at basketball (Actually some parts were strongly reminiscent of “Back to the Future”). The problem here is that no one seems to recognize that this kid is really a younger version of Mike. When he meets his soon-to-be ex-wife Scarlett (played by the always welcomed Leslie Mann) she says “wow you look just like my husband.” No sh*t Sherlock. It’s one thing to buy into the premise of a man becoming a teenager again, but it’s another to overlook the fact that everyone around him is oblivious.

I’m going to say it right here and now that Zac Efron is a decent and engaging actor and that with the right script he could actually be pretty funny. I don’t think Jason Filardi’s script is as strong as the 2003 version of “Freaky Friday” with Golden Globe nominated Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan in stand-out performances. “17 Again” is breezy and innocent, sort of dumb but enjoyable. It’s nothing spectacular. I did hear one middle-aged guy as he was leaving the theater actually say, “It made me want to be 17 again.” Heck I’m sure every fat, balding 40 year old guy would want to be 17 again if they could be magically transformed into a teen heartthrob; but no one would want to be turned back into Chunk from “The Goonies.” GRADE: B-

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Seth Rogen, Mall Cop: “Observe & Report” is Strange But Funny

“Observe and Report” is sort of weird. By now you’ve probably heard that the movie is a little dark, that it features the lovable Seth Rogen in not the most lovable role and the whole thing is a bizarre “Taxi Driver” meets “Paul Blart” concoction. All of that is true, but honestly, it’s so different from what you’re expecting I can only recommend it. See it because it seems like a Judd Apatow flick, but stay because it feels more like Martin Scorsese.

The plot of the film isn’t really well defined but I’m willing to forgive that because it features Anna Faris in another hilarious turn as a ditzy department store make-up girl. Seth Rogen is Ronnie Barnhardt who takes his job as head of security at a mall very seriously. At the start of the film a large man is seen flashing several female mall patrols in the parking lot. Ronnie is instantly bent on finding this pervert and taking him down. Things really get serious when the man flashes Brandi (Faris) whom Ronnie has a large crush on. It’s his civic duty to protect his love from this flasher. When the cops don’t seem to be much help, which includes Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta), Ronnie decides he might as well join the police force himself.

The whole movie sort of feels like it’s leading towards Ronnie learning how to become a police officer, but somewhere down the line it sort of gives up on that. Ronnie doesn’t quite “make it” and were left with a depressed Ronnie who is hell bent on also figuring out who has been robbing various stores in the mall during the night. It turns out the culprit might just be under his nose. Meanwhile we luck out and get lots of funny behavior from Faris. Ronnie takes Brandi out on a date where she gets super drunk and ends up drooling vomit all over herself. Priceless. And the one who really steals the film is Celia Weston who plays Ronnie’s boozing non-mom of the year.

Remember I said the film was dark? In one scene Ronnie goes on a ride along with Harrison who leaves him on the corner of a really dangerous neighborhood. It seems like a scene right out of “Mean Streets.” And even the film’s finale features Rogen taking on a horde of police officers whom he has to beat off with his flashlight. And the best part ever had to due with the return of the flasher. I sort of think writer/director Jody Hill (who is a man by the way) actually made this movie as a tribute to the gritty crime dramas purveyed by the likes of 70s directors like Scorsese and William Friedkin. I mean honestly, Ronnie thinks of himself as Popeye Doyle and yet he’s only a mall security guard. And I don’t think the casting of “Goodfellas” alum Ray Liotta was a coincidence.

So yeah, “Observe and Report” is darker than your typical “Apatow” movie. There’s sort of a sweet romance going on with a coffee shop employee who obviously has a little thing for Ronnie but it hardly “lightens up” the mood of the movie. Even a comic turn from Michael Pena from “Crash” is sort of weird and odd. Yeah the movie has a strange vibe but I was sort of digging it. It seems like a welcome breath of fresh air, besides if you want something more lighthearted maybe you should see the Hannah Montana movie instead. GRADE: B

Friday, April 03, 2009

Pots Berry Farm: “Adventureland” is a Fun Nostalgia Trip

First things first. “Adventureland” is a lot more serious than I thought it would be. It has it’s share of laughs but it’s certainly more thought-provoking and affecting than a movie like this seems the right to have. Maybe I’m just used to comedies just being “comedies” but sometimes they actually reflect real life and have something to say. This is a great movie because it really says something to everyone. We’ve all been there before: trying to get a job after college. We spend our parents’ hard earned dough for four years and then we end up at a job where a college degree is hardly required. Of course some of us land better jobs than others. I’m not so sure how I’d feel if I had to spend my post college summer working the game booths at a lame amusement park in which all the games are fixed so the average consumer can’t even win a coveted giant panda bear. “Adventureland” is about a young guy who must take on a crappy job even though he’s been accepted into grad school and his journey to discover himself.

Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid & the Whale) plays James who has just graduated from college. He’s an intellectual type. He’s had relationships but never any real physical contact with the opposite sex. He’s sort of a nerd, but a cool nerd. He had plans to spend the summer traveling through Europe, but his parents can’t afford to help him with financial needs. Therefore before starting grad school in the fall, he must accept a summer job: a game booth operator at Adventureland. Adventureland is operated by the film’s main comic relief Bobby and Paulette (Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig) who like the cops in “Superbad” sort of seem like they’re in a different movie, but are still funny nonetheless. James hesitantly accepts the job where he meets a cute girl named Em (Kristen Stewart) and an even nerdier kid Joel who can’t seem to shake the anti-Semitism he sees in his crush Sue (Paige Howard, daughter of Ron).

As the days progress James gets close with Em, but she’s having an affair with the park’s handy man Ryan Reynolds who is, dun dun dun, married. Why someone like Reynolds would go after a girl who looks like a 13 year old boy going through puberty is beyond me. Therefore when James wants to ask Em out, she backs away which makes James want to go out with the park’s hot body Lisa P. who has returned an employee much to the happiness of every male worker at Adventureland. She’s that slutty looking chick who, like most slutty 80s characters, wears tight, off the shoulder t-shirts and lots of makeup and neon colors. Oh and she dances while she’s operating the rides. Rumor is she’s a virgin too actually.

One of the main perks of Adventureland is it’s setting. Yeah I mentioned the park is a sketchy amusement park, but it is the summer of 1987 and many of your favorite 80s bands make an appearance on the film’s soundtrack. Director Greg Motolla (who also wrote the screenplay which is apparently based on his own experiences) actually does a great job of creating period detail. He doesn’t just throw 80s pop culture references down you throat just for the sake of it (like in The Wedding Singer). And he creates relatable characters in realistic situations. It sort of fun watching all these co-workers bond since they share similar hobbies (drinking, smoking pot etc) and they all share a horrible job run by a pair of hilarious loons.

The film doesn’t try to be overly sentimental or corny but actually hits all the right notes. You feel the frustration in James because he knows the last job he should be working is at a place like Adventureland and he’s really in love with Em. By the end of the movie you’re certainly rooting for him to get what he wants and it’s enjoyable watching his summer journey. Those expecting a complete laugh riot will probably be disappointed, which in a way, I sort of was, but looking back it’s pretty amazing how just plain enjoyable watching “Adventureland” is. It may not be high class cinema but it deals with real life issues, realistic people and is a fun nostalgic look back to a time when we think we should be conquering the world and just end up with broken dreams and wage slave salaries. GRADE: B