Monday, March 26, 2012

21 Jump Street (2012)

There was something about the way the proposed "21 Jump Street" movie originated that seemed different than most "reboots," specifically the spearheading of it by Jonah Hill. Much in the same way Jason Segal took the reigns of the Muppet franchise, Hill's affection for the 1980's Johnny Depp-fueled FOX TV Cop drama is evident in the movie adaptation, which is in a lot of ways nothing like the original. For starters, it's a straight-up Comedy which actively satirizes the sillier aspects of the show, particularly the idea of grown men passing as high school students.

The early buzz on this movie was surprisingly positive. Everyone I knew who had seen it prior to me had told me that it was very funny. In some ways, I wish I would have not had my expectations raised by the hype. Not because it ruined my experience, but just because it would of made it even better.

The movie is very funny and really well done. The genre satire is effective, the subtle self-referential jokes worked, and even the action sequences are decent. Surprisingly, even Channing Tatum is good in the movie and he's been terrible in the last two things I've seen him in, "Haywire" and "SNL." The cameos are fun as well. The only thing I really didn't like about it was the horrible CGI. My biggest pet-peeve with CGI isn't just that it's horrible, but I really hate when it replaces things that really don't need to be CGI'ed, for example, exploding limos.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tracks (1977)

What a strange little trip this one turned out to be.  Dennis Hopper plays a soldier in-charge of ensuring the safe transport of his fallen friend's body back home to be buried.  He accompanies the body back home by train.  Virtually the entire film take place on a train which is always a fun experiment.

The movie at times radiates that raw naturalistic style so often used in the 70's, but at other times is dreamlike and surreal.  Hopper is great in the film as usual.  My only real complaint I suppose stems from the final scene, which seems to be almost improvised.  That aspect of it is not what bothered me as much as the fact that the scene just stops and the credits roll without really allowing the story to resolve one way or the other.  Normally that sort of thing doesn't bother me because it leaves me with the feeling that there was much more going on in the film, but with "Tracks," I felt that the lack of resolution signified that the was actually less.  I felt that the creative did not have a resolution in mind and couldn't come up with one.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I'll probably never know.


Charley Varrick (1973)

Wow, what a smooth little crime film this is. Two of my favorite bad-asses, Joe Don Baker & John Vernon, play the villains in this tale of a small-town bank robbery that coincidentally results in the ripping off of $750, 000 of Mafia money. The "lucky" bank robber is played by Walter Matthau of all people, whose mere presence casts a slightly goofy feel to this otherwise gritty little caper.

Matthau is really good overall and the film itself is just so well executed. I think John Vernon is one of the most underrated characters ever, he has two wonderful scenes in the movie, one in which he subtly threatens Mr. Roper from "Three's Company" while pushing a little girl on a swing, and another in-which he ponders the joy of being a cow while subtly threatening the bank manager of the bank that was robbed. The real star of the movie though is Joe Don Baker as a cool, cold-blooded hitman hired to track and kill Matthau whose named Molly. He is excellent in this movie.

-- Popkoff

Breaking Glass (1980)

I'd been wanting to see this one for a long time now. For so long it's only been available on VHS, but recently it has also become available on Netflix. Honestly, on paper, this movie is really in my wheelhouse, I have a real soft spot for Punk/New Wave-themed films. The story is very similar to something like "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains," which is to say that it's about an idealistic female Punk vocalist who preaches rebellion, but eventually conforms to fit her own goals. Granted "Breaking Glass" is a little ambiguous about what exactly drives Breaking Glass' front-woman, Kate (played by musician Hazel O'Connor).

It's British, gritty, and doesn't have the "happy ending" tacked on the way "The Stains" does, which is nice. The lead performance by O'Connor is really remarkable and very believable. Her character's arc is well done, the film's soundtrack is good, and it's always nice to see a young Jonathan Pryce. I'm glad I finally got to see it, and I would like to watch it again in a theater someday, but I can't help but feel a little disappointed by it only because I didn't connect with it the same way I have with films like "The Stains and "Times Square."


Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Sitter (2011)

Well, on the heels of watching "Date Night," comes my viewing of "The Sitter," which is another movie that really wants to be "Adventures In Babysitting." I liked it more than "Date Night," but it's still pretty mediocre. There's a lot of hate directed toward Jonah Hill these days, it seems like he can't win sometimes with the public. Either he always plays the same characters or he has the nerve to try to be taken seriously when he should just be the "fat funny kid," as some strangers walking behind me remarked the other day. I've always like Hill, he reminds me a lot of Chris Penn.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

That Was Then...This Is Now (1985)

Well, I enjoyed this, mostly. When I sat down to watch it I had no idea it was a S.E. Hinton adaptation, but knowing that now, it make sense. It was updated to modern times, which is to say, the early 80's, which I suppose soured it in the minds of a lot of Hinton fans. I can understand that.

Some movies age well, others not so much. "That Was Then" for the most part has aged well, but there are a few scenes that are very hoaky, especially the sequence near the end where Emilio Estevez is being chased by the cops, not sure what was going on there. Really, the first 2/3rds are very solid, the last act though teeters between underwhelming and cheesy, and then in the last sequence, it completely succumbs to it's dairy-inclination.

A few tidbits: There's a really great scene involving the song "Jingle Bells." The film stars Craig Sheffer of "Nightbreed" & "Voyage of the Rock Aliens." It also has Larry B. Scott, also known as the gay guy from "Revenge of the Nerds." It's funny because there's a particularly awkward scene where Scott freestyles a rap while driving with Estevez & Sheffer (they provide the audience responses). The films representation of Hip Hop isn't much better than it's concept of Punks. Also, Morgan Freeman is totally in this movie.

It's worth a watch.

Monday, March 12, 2012

We Need To Talk About Kevin (2012)

"We Need To Talk About Kevin" is a film made up of memories and dreams. The narrative is fragmented, the spaces and times shift with the length of Tilda Swinton's hair. She is Eva, the mother of Kevin, and wife of Franklin (John C. Reilly). Kevin may or may not be evil and Eva may or may not be crazy, but they are linked together from birth, whether they want to be or not, and the film does a good job of maintaining a certain amount ambiguity in it's depiction of their relationship. The audience spends much of the movie piecing together not only the story, but the realities that the characters perceive.

"Kevin" is one of those movies whose plot is actually quite simple, but it unfolds in an intentionally deceptive way. Some audience members will be turned off by that, and some will telegraph the resolution well in advance, but that's the point. The pieces are all there, the movie is just putting them together. As a result though, some people might find the ending underwhelming, but if there's one thing I've learned from watching movies, it's that most of the time the best ending is the most obvious.

I liked the movie a lot, even in spite of the nearly year-long hype I had for it. It is perhaps a little too stylish, but I have a feeling that it will age well, and upon future viewings, the style will not be so distracting.


Frankenweenie (1984)

I enjoyed this very much. It of course had the promise of early Tim Burton on it's side, but there was also a Speilberg-ian quality to it, maybe that was aided by the presence of Barret Oliver (who always makes me think of 'The Twilight Zone Movie'). Great cast.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Date Night (2010)

I'll keep this one short. This looks like a movie and sounds like a movie, but it doesn't feel authentic in any way. Steve Carrell and Tina Fey never seem like real people. From the opening scenes, their marriage feels fake and the plot feels forced. They merely seem like actors pretending to be married.

The sad truth about "Date Night" is that it's one of those movies that you want to like because you know that there is potential for a good movie in it, but that ultimately disappoints (like so many modern offerings). I chuckled a few times, but it was not consistently funny. There was one inspired action sequence, and a few scenes where Carrell and Fey have chemistry, despite not having characters. The plot at times requires the audience to not ask questions like "why wouldn't you just tell the cop that those cops are crooked?"

When it was over I told my girlfriend that I thought it would of been better if it was made in the 1980's, or even the 90's, if that makes any sense. It wants so badly to be something as good as "Adventures in Babysitting."

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wanderlust (2012)

Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston play a young married couple who ditch their lives in New York and move to a hippie commune in the country when Rudd suddenly finds himself without a job. The movie is directed by David Wain and it toes the line between mainstream fare and the surreal absurdity he and his cronies (Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black) are known for. Ken Marino ("Children's Hospital") wrote it and has a supportive role as Rudd's obnoxious successful brother.

The first act of the movie is very economical and uses the quick beats of the narrative to it's advantage, especially in the sequence illustrating the cross-country car ride Rudd and Aniston undertake while moving to Atlanta. The first 2/3rds of the movie in general is very solid, the last act feels a little long, but it has a nice resolution.

The cast is filled with great players all-around and some of them are really swinging for the fences here, namely Aniston, Alan Alda, and the great Justin Theroux (who is virtually unrecognizable in the film). It might also go without saying, but Rudd is really in his element here, and has a few scenes that are absolutely classic and rest solely on his shoulders.

Overall, "Wanderlust" was a fun time at the movies.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Old Boyfriends (1979)

What a curious little film this is, it's a slow moving train, but I thought it was worth the ride. At times it felt like a soap opera and other times like a taunt revenge film. Talia Shire plays a psychologist named Dianne Cruise who sets out on an emotional journey similar to Bill Murray's in "Broken Flowers," revisiting her old flames trying to gain some-sort of understanding of herself through her past relationships. The first 20 minutes is a little rough, but once John Belushi enters the film, as one of her exes still trying to live out his Rock 'N' Roll fantasies from high school, things really start to pick up.

The sequences of Belushi performing with his band are very interesting. Also, the scene in-which Dianne tries to sleep with him is possibly the best scene in the movie. It's a strange film, especially considering how the acts play out, with each one being better than the last. The third act revolves around Dianne meeting the disturbed younger brother of one of her exes played by Keith Carradine. When she finds out that his brother died 10 year prior, a strange Hitchcockian love story unfolds.

"Old Boyfriends" was c0-written by the great Paul Schrader and Leonard Schrader and directed by Joan Tewkesbury. The cast is rounded out by Richard Jordan and P.J. Soles of "Rock 'N' Roll High School" fame. It's not available on dvd or Netflix, but is on VHS and currently uploaded to YouTube (though it's a bit fuzzy, but watchable).