Saturday, September 29, 2007

Week 18: Blades of Glory

Oh, Will Ferrell. Let's get back to what you do best. Remember Anchorman? That was funny. Old School? Yes, please, I'd like another. But Blades of Glory? Sheesh. This is bad. This is Cuba Gooding-in-the-movie-with-sled-dogs bad.

Sure, Blades has its funny gross-out moments that you can't help but laugh at, but for the most part, it's just a ludicrous, obvious script that has zero surprises. Ferrell's co-star, Jon Heder (of Napoleon Dynamite fame), can't act his way out of a paper bag, even though he's playing a dopey dufus in this film, which doesn't seem like that much of a stretch for him. It would be sort of like asking me to portray a person who sits on the sofa and eats potato chips while making cracks about celebrities. I think I could make the leap.

The only bright spots in the film come from the hilarious figure-skating duo played by real-life husband and wife, Will Arnett and Amy Poehler. I am, to say the least, slightly insanely obsessed with the TV show Arrested Development, where I formed a deep and long-lasting attachment to Will Arnett (read: I am toying with stalking). So, I was delighted to find that he is essentially playing the same character in Blades. His delivery is great and seeing the pair's ludicrous skating ensembles might make this movie worth watching alone.

I will admit that I laughed out loud at the scene in which Will Arnett chases Will Ferrell on skates through a street and building, prancing delicately like kittens taking their first wobbly steps.

That being said, I'd like to end with a serious message to Will Ferrell. We've already had a discussion about your body hair in the previous Queue post for Stranger Than Fiction. But now we need to discuss your career choices. Let me help you out with a little-known piece of advice: just because they offer you a movie, it doesn't mean you have to take it. For example, I'm sure there's a script floating your way about a hijinks-filled croquet tournament or the dark underside of competitive needlepoint. BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO IT. Leave it Jack Black. He needs the work.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Week 17: Rescue Me: Season 1, Disc 1

Have you ever been excited to try a new restaurant, only to find when you get there that what you thought was going to be Mexican food actually turns out to be Italian? It’s not that Italian is bad; it could be the best Italian in the world. It’s just that you thought it was going to be something else entirely. And so you’re nonplussed.

Which brings me to Rescue Me, a series on F/X that’s had critical acclaim but to which I am a late, late comer. I don’t know why, but I’ve always had it in my head that this show was a comedy. I guess it’s the casting of Dennis Leary. I hear the words “Dennis Leary” and I think “comedy.” Just like when I hear the words “Jerry Bruckheimer” I think “piece of crap.”

So imagine my surprise when Rescue Me turns out not to be the glib, joke ride I imagined, but a fairly serious drama. It’s not deadly serious, but it’s decidedly not a comedy, although Dennis Leary is very well cast as the wisecracking down-on-his-luck firefighter trying to salvage his life and career in post-9/11 New York. And, tee-hee --I think this is supposed to be the funny part -- Leary’s character keeps having conversations with the dead firemen in his company who were killed on 9/11.

Let’s do the math: Four dead 9/11 firefighters = comedy gold.

Now, I’m no 9/11 trumpeting flag-waver, (in other words, no, I will not be voting for Rudy Giuliani), but I’m just not ready to become involved in a TV show cloying for my 9/11 sympathies. And so we watched the first three episodes of the series, but decided to cut our losses there. I’m not saying Rescue Me is a bad show. It’s actually pretty good. But to return to my hackneyed metaphor, it’s not the best Italian I’ve ever had.

So, sorry Rescue Me, I’m taking the rest of your discs off our Netflix Queue. If you have to ask me why, I'll just say that it was Rudy Giuliani who tore us apart.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Week 17: Weeds, Season 2: Disc 3

I'll give one thing to the folks over at Weeds, they know how to coax a cliffhanger out of the proverbial soil. The last two episodes of the series' second year are worth the price of admission alone. The finale had a truly terrific cliffhanger that ensured the Motley Queue household will be a-renting next year to see how it unfolds. As if we had better things to do, anyway. But still.

Although, I am having a little trouble swallowing the sudden cosmic turn in Nancy's boyfriend, the DEA agent played by Martin Donovan. Up until he finds out that Nancy has betrayed his confidence, he is the picture of romantic manhood, all hazy eyes and whispered sexuality. Then bam: he's a feckless blackmailing S.O.B. who isn't afraid to casually throw around the n-word.

Call me crazy, but the sudden aperture in his personality seemed a little convenient. And it didn't play well on screen. He's too damn likable. It's sort of like learning that your sweet old Aunt Mae likes to kill puppies in her free time.

Of course, there's loads of drama in the last disc with Nancy's sons; none of it terribly interesting. It's a lot more fun to watch the repulsive attraction between Celia and Doug form. You know it's going to end badly and that's half the fun.

On a semi-related note: hubby and I caught a few minutes of Mary Louise Parker in a Fried Green Tomatoes rerun on TV last night and unless we're both seeing things, the fetching Miss Parker accidentally tripped and fell into a cosmetic surgeon's knife, rendering her nose much less protuberant than it once was. Check it out and let me know if you agree.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Week 16: 300

At first glance, 300 appears to be the cinematic execution of an intense homoerotic dream of a sixteen-year-old Xbox addict. All rippling abs and exposed glutes and un-sheathing of phallic weapons. And re-sheathing. And un-sheathing. And stop: slow-motion ab flex. Repeat.

But, after awhile, the comic book sheen and over-dramatic narration fade into the background and you begin to believe that all Spartan men looked like a cross between a Calvin Klein model and a Hasbro action figure. Or, say, the offspring of a one-night-stand between Brad Pitt and Viggo Mortensen. And if you're female or gay or a homoerotic Xbox addict, it's quite enjoyable. I wouldn't kick any of those Spartans out of bed.

300 is the tale of a famed battle of Spartan Kind Leonidas and his 300 soldiers who battled the thousands of warriors of the Persian emperor, Xerxes. I've already admitted to my weakness for believing everything on Wikipedia to be true, so you can imagine my pleasure at learning that most of the seemingly outlandish set-up to this movie is true.

Like, for example, the fact that all Spartan babies were really brought before a council to be judged worthy and if they failed (for any physical weakness or defect), they were left to die on a mountain known as The Place of Rejection. Fascinating. If I had rippling abs right now, I would flex them.

The battle scenes (and frankly, the movie is one voluminous battle scene) are graphic and stylized and totally gratuitous. This truly is a comic book come to life. I have never seen so many slow-motion abdominal muscle clenches in my life. Again, this is not necessarily a negative.

What is negative; however, is the rather lame climax you can see coming from approximately 300 flexed pectorals away. And the movie lost me the minute Xerxes (who appears to be the queen of all drag queens. Seriously, she is stunning) started trotting out super-human creatures to battle Leonidas, including one "thing" that made us start saying the "Bring out the Gimp" line from Pulp Fiction.

The movie is blessedly short because I don't think the human brain can take that much stylized bloodshed for too long. Also, watching 300 for more than 20 minutes, you begin to contemplate your body fat-to-muscle ratio and if you're like our household, the ratio comes up woefully short. Had I been born in Sparta, I don't think I would have been dumped as an infant on the Place of Rejection, but I'm pretty sure somewhere in my mid-twenties, I would have been dumped on the Place of Spreading Waistlines. I'd be lying there next to a broken down Thighmaster and Kelly LeBrock.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Week 16: Deadwood Season 1, Disc 3

First off, my idle threats at HBO must have worked: they put three episodes on this disc instead of the usual two. Hazzah! Victory is mine.

Second, I finally went to Wikipedia to look up some info on some of the real-life characters in Deadwood -- namely Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok -- only to discover that the whole town and most of the characters on the show come from the real history of Deadwood. You can read it here. It was fascinating. Even the two rival saloons, the Gem and Bella Union, and their proprietors are real. I don't know why I find all this so exciting, but I am practically wetting myself over this discovery.

Now, I understand that Wikipedia is filled with errors, falsities and innuendo. But I don't care. I'm one of those people who chooses to believe that everything I read there is the bona fide truth. If you would like to disabuse me of my beliefs, so be it. I won't listen to you. Unless you post it on Wikipedia.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Week 16: Flightplan

I have a little obsession with Peter Saarsgaaaaaard. I just like saying his name. Whenever we see him, Grant and I play a game of rhyming things to his name:

“I wonder if Peter Sarsgaard has an aaardvaark?”
“Peter Sarsgaard, could you meet me at the paaark?
“I’m going to play caaards with Peter Sarsgaard.”

I was standing at the checkout of my local library when I spotted the Flightplan DVD and noticed Sarsgaard was in it. Sure, it should have occurred to me that if I didn’t think the movie was worthy of renting, it’s probably not a good idea to bother with it from the library. But it was free and it had Sarsgaard and so I picked it up. Mistake #1.

I must confess that I have a serious jones for a good thriller. The only problem is that I can’t remember the last time I saw a good one. I have high hopes for every thriller I watch, but some part of me knows going in that I’m going to be disappointed.

Like in Flightplan, I vaguely recalled the plot involved Jodie Foster’s young child being stolen from her while on an airplane. And [SPOILER ALERT], I knew going in there was NO WAY there wouldn't be some heartfelt reunion of mother and daughter. But still, I held out hope it would deliver something more than the obvious hero resolution. Mistake #2.

The first hour of this movie is quite excellent. The hook is intriguing. The tension is fantastic. Was her daughter really on the plane? Or is she delusional? Was her daughter killed a week beforehand? Or is there really a terrorist on the plane? Flightplan, tell me more! You have me! I'm on the hook! Mistake #3.

I’m telling you, the minute the plot starts to resolve itself, the movie unravels like a cheap sweater. It has the most complex and ludicrous back story of any heist/kidnapping plot I’ve ever heard. What a huge disappointment. And what a waste of talent.

SPOILER ALERT: Peter Sarsgaard turns out to be one of the bad guys. Big surprise. With his shrewd eyes and his sneering manner of speaking, will he ever be cast as anything but the evil doer?

Still, wouldn’t it be great if someone cast him in a completely a-typical role? If I ever direct my own movie, it will star Peter Sarsgaard and here are the things I will instruct that surly little man to do:

“Peter Sarsgaard, I want to see you frolic! That’s right! Pick up those heels. That clover isn’t going to roll in itself, Sarsgaard.”

“Sarsgaard, on to the kittens. That’s right, pick up ten or twenty of them. Cuddle, Sarsgaard, cuddle! Put that one on your shoulder! Feed this one with a tiny bottle! I need more kittens!”

“Okay, Sarsgaard, into the bubble bath. Don't trip on all the scented candles. That’s it, Sarsgaard, pick up that glass of white wine. And read this copy of Bridget Jones’ Diary. Where is Sarsgaard’s scented oil? Can somebody find me some fucking bath beads? Is anybody working on this set but me?”

In short, I would be an awesome director. And I would win Peter Sarsgaard an Academy Awaaaaard.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Week 15: Night Shift

Oh, the 1980s. You silly, stupid decade. You gave us some great things. Like Wham and jelly bracelets. Your films; however, are not included on the list. That being said, if you are of a mind to indulge in sheer 1980's frivolity from time to time, you might expect your movies to contain the following:

1. Brief cameos of actors who would later become famous (in Night Shift, you'll spot Richard Belzer as a thug and Kevin Costner as a drunken frat boy. The disc sleeve also mentioned Shannen Doherty but we never spotted her scowling mug anywhere.)

2. Overacting (courtesy of Micheal Keaton in Night Shift. I still love Keaton (terrific eyebrows, right?) even though it turns out he is a terrible actor. He remains my favorite Batman.)

3. A predictable plot involving a hooker with a heart of gold (in this case, Shelley Long playing the future part of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Although Shelley Long can hardly be described as pretty and she is barely womanly. I've seen surfboards with more curves.)

4. A character who makes all the '80s coke addicts feel at home (in this case, again, Michael Keaton fills the frenetic role).

5. An atrocious soundtrack (I have two words for you in this movie: Burt Bacharach.)

6. Fur. Lots of it. Apparently in the '80s, we did everything but paper our walls in silver fox.

7. A drunken frat scene (in Night Shift, it takes place in a morgue and yes, no surprises here, one couple was "doing it" in the roll-out shelves where they keep the dead bodies. Obligatory booby flash included.)

The cheese content in Night Shift is through the roof, which I guess is the point of watching it. I was disappointed that it didn't have the over-the-top B-movie factor of my beloved Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, which remains my gold-standard for '80s cheese.

We found it humorous that Ron Howard directed this movie. I'm sure he loves it when he's at a dinner party and someone brings it up just to mortify him. I can just picture that a-hole James Cameron shouting drunkenly across the table, "Hey, Opie! When you gonna film Night Shift 2? That'll get you an Oscar, buddy. Did I mention that I won an Oscar for Titanic? Like fourteen of them, actually. I directed Titanic, everyone! Everyone?!! Did you hear me????!!!!!"

And then Ron Howard, with no small trace of smile, kindly reminds James Cameron that he also directed Piranha Two. And James Cameron begins to cry like a little girl.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Week 14: Weeds, Season 2, Disc 1

Sorry for the delay in this post, but the Labor Day holiday put a serious wrench in our Netflix mail schedule. It was like the perfect storm of bad timing. Thank you, day off of work. No thank you, postal delays.

Anyway, we watched the entire first season of Weeds in one rainy afternoon last year. We felt like we had the munchies just from watching it. Okay, I just like to snack, but even so, it was a nice excuse to feel like we were in good company.

You probably already know that Weeds is about a newly widowed housewife (Mary Louise Parker) who decides to sell weed in order to keep her family living in their upscale gated California community. It's a funny premise, but I'm still questioning how long this can go on before the series begins taking ridiculous soap opera turns a la the train-wreck second season of Desperate Housewives.

In a way, I feel like it already has. And it isn't helping that two key supporting players, Doug Wilson (played by Kevin Nealon) and Celia (Elizabeth Perkins), inhabit grossly one-dimensional characters. I'm not buying Doug as such a complete ass. And it's inconceivable that Celia can be so evil to her only daughter ("You don't want to be the fattest girl in fat camp again this year, do you?") They are fun to watch but they make the show feel like bubble gum. Neat and plasticky but not a real foodstuff.

It's just this sort of shallow writing that will keep Weeds far away from the lush grasses of shows like Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, and my new darling, Deadwood. I realize this sounds like I don't care for the show, which isn't true. I've got a soft spot for Mary Louise Parker and her lethargic way of speaking, like she is perennially waking up from a nap. And casting Martin Donovan as the hunky-love-interest-who-happens-to-be-a-DEA-agent is brilliant. Ladies, trust me on this one. Although he has a somewhat scarily large noggin, Martin Donovan has to be one of the most underrated actors around. This is the best storyline of the show but is one I'm afraid they're playing out much too fast.

We have one episode left on the disc to finish tonight, which means I better go make some popcorn. And maybe some chips and dip. And possibly some nachos...

Monday, September 3, 2007

Week 14: Children of Men

Whoever wrote Children of Men, and I'm frankly too lazy to look it up on IMDB, has an obvious hard-on for Margaret Atwood. She of the dystopian doomsday futuristic novels I had to slug through in every miserable women's studies class I took in college. [Teacher: let's take back the night! Me: I was really hoping to watch TV tonight. I'll take it back tomorrow. Next Tuesday at the latest.]

In Children of Men, the year is 2027 and women of the world mysteriously stopped getting pregnant 18 years ago. Without the hope of a future, society has crumbled. Lawlessness and chaos rule. And just like in every futuristic/doomsday movie, everyone is dirty and wears only black. Like The Gap honestly couldn't survive a social holocaust. Gap stores are like cockroaches. You can't kill 'em. Someone out there has to own some khaki.

Our black-wearing hero of the story is Clive Owen, who gets roped into joining a band of people shepherding a miracle: a young pregnant girl carrying the first human baby on the planet in nearly two decades. It is never quite clear who her protectors are hiding her from and why. There is a lot of talk of getting her to "The Human Project," although we never learn what the project is. It sounds like somewhere you'd want to go though if you were carrying the world's only baby. And wherever they go, people mysteriously start showing up and shooting indiscriminately at them. It's all very stressful and grim. It made me want to put on a yellow sundress and bake bread.

I've said it before that Michael Caine plays the role of Michael Caine in every movie and Children of Men is no exception. He's still the lovable, comfortable old slipper, only this time with longer hair. You see, the longer hair makes it unexpected.

I won't tell you how the movie ends but let's just say it involves a lot of dirty people shooting other dirty people in an attempt to protect the pregnant gal from something or other. Who could tell?

I took this movie to be a parable for the life-sustaining hope a baby injects into any situation. Like how after I had my baby, I now weep openly at Pampers commercials. It is embarrassing, but there is something hopeful in it, even for a cynic like me.