Monday, December 29, 2008

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

So I told my sister-in-law that I just watched Hellboy II and she gave me the same look she would have if I'd told her that I'd just spent the day scrapbooking about Battlestar Gallactica.

Some people just don't understand geek love.

I can't help it: I love me some Hellboy. Sure, it's not rocket science, but it's so much fun to watch. Plus, it's directed by Guillermo del Toro, of Pan's Labrynth fame, so you know the visuals are going to be sweet. Okay, the scene with the giant seed pod was pretty stupid, but on the whole, the underground world of trolls, fairies and a magical race was great eye candy.

And the villain, Prince Nuada? Not only the best villain I've seen since since Heath Ledger's Joker, but none too hard on the eyes either, ladies. Spectacular costuming and make-up. I could have used a lot more Prince and a lot less Hellboy. Hellboy himself is pretty one-dimensional, as is his useless sidekick, Liz, played with lackluster flair by Selma Blair. Is it just me or does she always look like she's trying to pass a stone?

There are seriously entire battle scenes in the film in which she just stands in the background holding her gun while all around her, advancing enemies attack everyone else. Were I say a maniacal golden killing machine, it seems odd I wouldn't go after some spindly little Liz meat. Maybe it's just me.

All in all, it's a fun film to watch and since it doesn't take itself too seriously, it's a great variation on the comic book genre.

Happy new year.

I'm back and a note about Dexter

Hello all. Sorry for the long drought since my last post. Christmas shenanigans and all that. I'm going to get back in the swing of things tout de suite.

Anyway, on my last Dexter post, I noted that I was going to start reading the books the show was based on (they're by Jeff Lindsay if you're interested). I finished the first book and started on book 2 over the holidays, but I have to warn any fellow Dexter TV fans: don't read the books...yet anyway.

This is the rare instance when I feel the show is actually much better than the books. The whole ice truck killer plot, for instance, is merely a scratched surface in the book that climaxes in a very obvious and brief way. What a let down. I may read the books once the series is officially off the air just to see how different it really is but for now, I'm going to shelve it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Iron Man

First, let me say I never had any intention of watching this film. I enjoy a good comic book movie as much as the next guy, but I had no idea what the Iron Man story was, and to be honest, the idea of Robert Downey Jr. as an action hero is just as appealing as Nicolas Cage as an action hero (thank you very much, Jerry Bruckheimer, you satanic master of all that is wrong with cinema, for making that fresh hell a reality).

But last week I was browsing through a few "Best Films of 2008" lists and every one I crossed had Iron Man on the list. So, peer pressure won out and here we are.

Did I like it? Yes, actually, it's a pretty entertaining film if you like the comic book genre and the special effects are impressive. And as much as I don't buy him as a super hero, I can't help but love Robert Downey Jr.

Do I have reservations? Oh my, yes. Let us count the ways:

1. The first fifteen minutes of the film is a gratuitous playboy melange of women/money/cars/bad-boy behavior. We get it. He's rich AND unpredictable. Shivers. It definitely makes you feel like the the script was the wet dream of a homely-virgin-comic book-nerd-still-living-in-his-mom's-basement.

2. Jon Favreau directed it. Really? We're giving him blockbuster budgets now? Really?

3. The casting of Gwyneth Paltrow, as leading lady, Pepper Potts, was just wrong. As much as I can't stand her, even I must admit she was too good for this film. And to be fair, she seemed pretty annoyed to be there as well.

4. The villain? Well, I don't want to spoil anything, but if you have eyeballs and a few functional brain cells, you'll figure out who the villain is approximately at the four-minute mark. It made his big 'reveal' later in the film about as surprising as Clay Aiken's coming out. Really, even my cat wasn't surprised.

5. Middle Easterners. Man, they get the shaft in every film these days. Hmmm....we need some bad guys. Who should it be? Eureka! Let's throw some turbans and dirty rags on a gang of dark-skinned actors and call 'em terrorists! Brilliant! One can only hope that all the Middle Eastern actors playing "Arab Terrorist #2" and "Disgruntled Iraqi #5" are at least getting their SAG cards.

That being said, it's a fun, spirited movie with some super cool gadgets and plenty of testosterone. Go on and rent it for the holidays. You need a break from the 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story anyway, right?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Eureka! I have finally cracked the formula for creating a successful and funny romantic comedy:
1. Avoid Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Lopez et al. like the plague
2. Involve Judd Apatow
3. Throw in Paul Rudd for good measure
4. Include a slightly chubby man in an uncomfortable nude scene

There, filmmakers, please take note. This is the formula followed in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and it worked. An amusing little film that has many more laughs than I expected. Jason Segel (the aforementioned chubby naked guy) stars and is as goofily charming as he is in his TV show, "How I Met Your Mother." And who couldn't love Mila Kunis as the romantic interest? Sure, her voice could peel paint off the walls, but she's so cute.

My only beef is casting Kristen Bell as the other lead. Am I the only person annoyed by her? She just seems like that bratty know-it-all in your algebra class who always had her hand in the air with the correct answer. You know, the type who never leaves dirty clothes on the floor or eats potato chips. My nemesis.

51 Birch Street

Have you ever walked in on your parents having sex?

Watching this documentary is a little bit like that. Deeply uncomfortable and something you're not likely to forget. In 51 Birch Street, the filmmaker, Doug Block, explores his parents' marriage after his father hastily marries his former secretary just weeks after his wife's unexpected death.

What follows is a brutally honest look inside a 54-year marriage, thanks in large part to the oh-so-detailed diaries left behind by the deceased wife, Mina. As he reads her diary, filmmaker and son has to reconcile the marriage he thought his parents had with the one written down on paper. And it's all there: his mother's depression, despair, affairs and indiscretions. Added to that is the lingering question about his father's quickie re-marriage. Was he having an affair with his secretary all along?

I'll let you find out for yourself. As for me? This was great reinforcement to my rule of never keeping a diary. When you die, someone is going to read them. So burn them, people. Burn them. Given what I learned in this film, your kids do not want to read the words "mom" and "fellatio" in the same sentence.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Air Guitar Nation

This documentary had so much potential. I mean really, could anything be better than a whole troupe of costume-laden overzealous losers—sorry, air guitar enthusiasts—and an international battle royale to snag the title of World Air Guitar Champion?

Turns out, yes. I actually balanced my checkbook during this film and found my check register to be loads more exciting. Deposits AND withdrawals! Riveting.

Air Guitar Nation was just a huge disappointment, and I can’t even really tell why it’s so bad. Perhaps I was turned off by the smug competitors who seemed all-too aware that they were always performing for the camera, even during personal interviews.

It is a sorry commentary when the best moment of the film is a two-second scene of a very pale and awfully naked European man enthusiastically flagellating his own penis a la a guitar neck. It showed an impressive lack of nerve sensitivity from what I understand of the male penis. But this is not an anatomy lesson, friends, this is a movie review. And I give it four very chafed and limp penises.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dexter, Season 2

I’m working on my New Year’s resolutions already and topping the list is, “Be less obsessed with Dexter.”

Seriously, this show is like video crack for me. I can’t get enough. Woe will be the long wait for Season 3. Motley Queue reader Kaycee was on the nose with her comment that I would love Season 2 even better than Season 1. I don’t want to spoil one bit of it for you readers but this season was so tense and exciting that we watched the whole thing in a sick Netflix binge that involved several bags of potato chips and a two-pound tub of hummus from Costco. It was totally worth it.

And to top it all off, I was just informed by friend Bill that the entire show is based on a series of books, AND he claims the books are even better than the show. If I could figure out a way to insert giant eyeball emoticons here, I would do it. I’ve got the first book reserved at the library and am praying it arrives in time to accompany me on our Thanksgiving travels. There is a certain irony about spending Thanksgiving with my in-laws and a serial killer, no?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Get Smart

A movie review in five words or less: it's better than you think.

I know, the previews looked bad, right? But Get Smart is kind of fun. It's not going to change your life but it's entirely tolerable and even a little enjoyable. Perhaps it's just the soft spot I hold for the old Get Smart TV show, but I was charmed by Steve Carrell in the role of Maxwell Smart. And yes, I even found Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson to be entirely pleasing. Well, there's a sentence I never thought I'd write.

Anne Hathaway odd choice for the role of Agent 99. Never mind the fact that she's young enough to be Steve Carrell's daughter, which made their romantic scenes more than a little creepy. I was more bothered by the fact that she has this pale, tired look about her that leaves you with the impression that a vampire just eased her of the burden of carrying all her blood around.

I know she went through some tragic public break-up in her real life during the making of this film, but still...couldn't the make-up team have given her a little under-eye concealer and maybe a spray of bronzer in between crying jags?

On the flip side, the people casting for the Twilight vampire movies could have Hathaway walk onto the set tomorrow and she'll steal the show.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Okay, so I knew this was a spoof of singer biopics (Walk the Line, Ray, etc.), but I wasn't prepared for this to be so, well, spoofy.

I think I was confused by a bizarre interview I heard when the film was released with the writer (Judd Apatow) and star (John C. Reilly) on Fresh Air with Terry Gross where she did her usual "I'm going to pretend I'm interviewing Kofi Annan and treat this with utmost gravitas" routine to even the most ridiculous of subject matter. I seriously walked away thinking they'd just remade Citizen Kane.

Can we talk about Terry Gross for a minute? She drives me nuts. Is it just me or does she ask the longest questions possible, which are never really questions at all? Like this:

TERRY:"So tell me, Denzel Washington, because I would imagine it must have felt very empowering and emotional, and even a little frightening to portray Malcolm X, such a lauded and loathed figure in African-American society that seemed to embody both the best parts of the civil rights movement and the worst fears of the white cultural miasma."

DENZEL: "Um, was that a question?"

You see my point? Anyway, enough about Ms. Gross. I was totally surprised by the silly and sometimes hilarious parts of the film. There were several moments that seemed to be pulled straight out of The Naked Gun. Lily silly dick and fart jokes that you just don't see coming. Kind of amusing. In a dick and fart sort of way.

The cast was a huge ensemble with some fun surprises (Jenna Fischer, Frankie Muniz, Paul Rudd, Eddie Veder) but it was bizarre to see an entire troupe of current and former SNL stars rounding out the cast, including Kristen Wiig, Tim Meadows and Chris Parnell. I thought it had the stink of Lorne Michaels all over it, which is never a good thing.

There was nothing outright bad about this movie, other than it went on too long, you knew exactly what was going to happen at all times and it settled for funny when it should have been hilarious. Oh, and John C. Reilly, as much as I love him, is just really hard to watch being sexual. Really hard.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Was there something wrong with all of us in the '80s that we thought these were such good movies? Because I'm here to tell you that in 2008, Indiana Jones sucks. Plasticky, cheeseball, put-George-Lucas-out-of-his-misery sucks. At least he didn't throw Jar Jar Binks into the film but you can tell he probably came close, settling for some ridiculously bad CGI prairie dogs instead.

All the hype over Harrison Ford being "so old" was much ado about nothing. His age doesn't factor into the movie at all.

What does factor in is how George Lucas is perilously trapped in another dimension where old-timey villains (Commies! Scary!), lame special effects and cheesy backdrops are de rigueur. I dare you not to notice how incredibly fake and studio-setty the scenery is in this movie. I'm pretty sure I saw at least one set that was used on The Goonies and the entire car-chase-in-the-jungle scene was definitely filmed in the Ewok forest. Sigh.

The plot of Crystal Skull feels like George Lucas went back to his cast-off notes from three decades ago and mashed them all together in what he must have imagined to be a trifecta of intrigue. Reds! Aliens! Peruvians! Huh?

It's all cobbled together by the search for a skull of some master race of aliens in a lost city. Indiana Jones is naturally the only person who can translate all the clues leading to the skull. Did I mention it took him approximately one millisecond to solve a half-dozen complex riddles written in dead languages? Even Harrison Ford seemed to be annoyed by it.

The villainess of the film, played by Cate Blanchett, is the worst parody of a Commie I've seen since the Russian lady on Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. (Admit it, you watched.) But the bigger point is that I feel Commies are a little, how should I say this, not interesting at all today? No? Is it just me?

I know the spirit of Indiana Jones is light fare and I should have watched the movie with a bit more suspension of disbelief but for the love of god, I nearly lost my mind in the Commie car chase scene when Indy & company managed to dodge approximately 9,000 rounds of machine gunfire shot from ten feet away.

It is time to put this series to bed. And while we're at it, let's put George Lucas to bed as well. The kind of bed that sits in a room with bars on the window and in which there is no interior door handle.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dexter, Season 1, part 2

Is it wrong to love a serial killer?

Because I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Dexter. And I should explain that I long ago had to stop watching anything resembling a horror movie because I have nightmares for days afterward that generally result in me forcing my poor husband to scour the house at 3am for intruders because I'm pretty sure I heard someone trying to jimmy a lock three bedrooms away. Motley Husband just loves it. My point is that if the idea of a show based on a serial killer creeps you out, don't worry...Dexter is just the perfect blend of thrilling, humorous and just enough creepy to make it interesting.

We put our lives on hold this week to watch the final episodes this week. Laundry? We'll get to it later. Responsibilities? Who needs 'em. Phone calls? Let them go to voicemail. We had Dexter to watch. I realize this makes us a teeny bit sad, but I'm willing to accept it. The show is that good.

This has to be one of the greatest single seasons of any show in the history of shows, and to top it off, one of my faithful readers tells me that Season Two only gets even better. I can't imagine how. But you better believe we'll be watching it soon. In the mean time, please go watch Dexter and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Run Fatboy, Run

Simon Pegg, how could you, brother?

You're one of my all-time faves. After Shaun of the Dead, I believed you had the power to make even a Lifetime Television movie fantastic. You were perfect, charming and witty. But alas, we have found your Achilles Heel, and his name is David Schwimmer. We liked you as Ross, Schwimmer. But as a director of Run Fatboy, Run you are, um, how do we say this nicely? You're not good, pal. Sorry, but someone needs to tell you.

But Schwimmer doesn't take the fall all alone for this disappointing and predictable film. That blame sadly falls to two people I normally adore, co-writers Michael Ian Black and Simon Pegg. Separately, they're terrific. But apparently when they come together it's like two beautiful people who have a very ugly baby. A real head-scratcher.

Maybe it's because they started with an obvious premise and an even more predictable story line: lovable loser is engaged to a woman who's much, much too good for him. He leaves her at the altar in a panic. Fast-forward five years and we find our loser trying to win her back by besting her newer, handsomer, richer boyfriend. Does the underdog get the girl? Does good triumph over rich and handsome?

I think you can do the math here. Sigh. What a colossal waste of un-funny time. You might consider renting Fatboy if you're just looking for some very mild entertainment-- you know, if the Judith Light movie you were watching on Lifetime just didn't cut it for you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dexter, Season 1

Holy cow, this is an awesome show! I can't believe this slipped under my radar until now. I probably would never have even rented it had I not heard a TV review on NPR in which they compared the crop of new shows on HBO and Showtime to the gold standard, Dexter, referring to it as the 'next Sopranos.'

Who is Dexter? He's a sociopathic serial killer whom you'll find surprisingly likable. Played deftly by Michael C. Hall of Six Feet Under fame, Dexter had urges to kill early on, so his father helped him channel his urges into a greater good for society: by teaching him to only kill other serial killers, murderers and the like. It sounds far-fetched but the story is handled with ease given that Dexter earns a living as a forensic criminalist, giving him front-row-seat access to his future prey.

An interesting cast of characters rounds the show out, giving us a view into how a serial killer negotiates day-to-day interactions with his family and friends. And the main plot is quickly evolving into a tease between Dexter and an equally clever serial killer.

We gulped down the first four episodes of the show like we were dying of thirst. I promise you, you'll be hooked just a few minutes into the first episode. I just raced to my Netflix queue and moved all the remaining discs to the top of my list, which is just fine given that we are in a drought for good movies right now.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sex and the City: the Movie

I’ve never been one of those women who “just loved, loved, loved this show!” I watched it. I enjoyed it. I wanted Carrie to marry Aiden too. But that was about it for me. I could never quite get on board with the idea of Kim Cattrall as this ravenous sexual magnet. Let’s be honest, she looks like your alcoholic aunt who was kind of a slut in high school. And every time Cynthia Nixon was filmed in a lustful scene with a man, I’m pretty sure a kitten was murdered.

When it comes to watching the Sex and the City movie, I kept my hopes very tempered, which is precisely the attitude you need to watch this film. The whole movie unrolls exactly how you imagine it will: a costume parade of four cougars desperately trying to appear fifteen years younger than they were ten years ago. Prepare yourself to see some scarily aged hands as compared to the eerily smooth faces above them. It’s a good thing they made this movie when they did, because I don’t think their parchment skin can support their lack of eating anything resembling food much longer.

Although, I have to give props to Sarah Jessica Parker for allowing herself to be filmed with zero make-up and wardrobe in a few scenes where she’s playing a heartbroken and bereft dumpee. It was surprising and not a little refreshing, like a palette cleanser before she jumped back into a parade of outrageous costumes.

The characters of Charlotte and Miranda are mere distractions with half-hearted attempts on behalf of the screenwriter to make them relevant to the story. But my biggest problem with the movie was, no pun intended, Mr. Big, whom we loved on the show because he’s an arrogant, selfish asshole. In the film, his character was relegated to a weepy ragdoll without a backbone. If I heard him say, “I just want you” one more time, I was going to jab a rusty fork in my ears.

In the end, Sex and the City still comes down to the wise words once spoken by Peter Griffin of The Family Guy:

Peter: Sex and the City. Isn’t that the show about those three hookers and their mom?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Smart People

Smart People is a fine movie...except that you've seen it before in at least a dozen iterations. Cantankerous, widowed professor struggles to raise smart-mouthed teenagers and keep his career afloat. Career and parenthood spiral toward the inevitable toilet. Widower runs into a former student. Former student charms the grouchy away and the romance begins. All is merry.

Sound familiar? I was bored about twenty minutes in, and I was even more annoyed that the director resorted to cheap tricks to show us how "eccentric" Dennis Quaid's main character, Lawrence Wetherhold (seriously, Lawrence Wetherhold) was. Oh, look, he parks his car crooked in the parking lot. Now that IS eccentric. What? He will only ride in the back seat of a car? Now I KNOW he's eccentric!

Despite the tired story, the cast of the film had a great deal of promise, but the film let them down by plugging them into all-too familiar roles. Ellen Page plays the same smart aleck she always plays, Thomas Hayden Church plays the goofy, off-kilter and unreliable brother and Sarah Jessica Parker plays the challenging love interest.

A word about Ms. Parker. I realize now why they put her in so many goofy costumes in Sex and the City. It's because if she's just wearing plane-jane clothes, you find yourself spending a lot of time considering how huge and bony that head of hers is. Jesus on the cross, that is the biggest jaw this side of a thoroughbred. I know that's a cheap shot and I generally do consider her to be quite beautiful but the cameraman didn't do her any favors in this film.

There are some funny moments in the film and the interplay of Ellen Page and Thomas Hayden Church is definitely the high mark of the film, but in the end, this is just an uninspired take on a story we've seen a dozen times.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Puffy Chair

I have a suggestion for an alternate title for The Puffy Chair: "DO NOT WASTE THE PAPER YOUR NETFLIX ENVELOPE IS PRINTED ON." It has a nice ring, doesn't it?

In other words, I am giving up on the independent film industry. Consider us broken up. I can't take another dull and meandering film again.

From here on out it's nothing but Jerry Bruckheimer, Vin Diesel and John Travolta for me. Oh yes, I went there. Tim Allen? I'll eat him for breakfast. Tyler Perry and his various houses of things? I will laugh my various asses off.

No more vague plots for me. No more hazily formed symbolism. No more artsy for the sake of fartsy. From here on out I am dedicating myself to plots involving Nicolas Cage, his bad wig, a vial of plutonium and a possible prison escape.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Burn After Reading

In Burn After Reading, the Coen brothers are back in their dark comedy groove in a film that’s one part Fargo, one part Big Lebowski. Burn doesn't tread in new territory for the Coen's, but it's one of the most enjoyable films I've seen in a long time.

The plot is a twisted warren of woefully misdirected characters, each on a singular, selfish mission that prevents them from ever seeing the larger impact of their actions. It’s a stew of adultery, blackmail, government bureaucracy and the most loveably dimwitted gym employees on the planet.

The cast, including George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and John Malkovich, delivered terrific performances. And it pains me to say it, but Brad Pitt was so hilarious that the theater was in laugh-out-loud mode whenever he appeared on screen. It kind of makes me wonder how Brad Pitt and George Clooney lucked into such fantastic roles...cue dream sequence music here:

PITT: Hey Clooney, see you’re still dragging that Oscar with you everywhere.

CLOONEY: Well, I didn’t expect you to bring along the entire cast of a Sally Struthers’ commercial, but here we are.

PITT: Those are my children, Clooney.

CLOONEY: I’ll pay you five million dollars if you can tell me all their names right now. I’d offer more but that’s all I’ve got in my wallet.

PITT: Save it, Clooney. I don’t need your money. I need a film, friend. It’s time to bring back some of that Brad Pitt magic to the big screen. I’ve been away too long saving the world and showing up Bono and whatnot.

CLOONEY: My god, Pitt, you’re really depressed, aren’t you?

PITT: You have no idea. I’m even too depressed to make another baby.

CLOONEY: Egads! Manservant! Pitt is talking crazy. Bring him a case of Chateau Margaux, a gallon of orphan’s tears and a stack of those Google stock certificates we use as toilet paper.

PITT: That’s sweet, George, but I don’t think it will help.

CLOONEY: No? We could light a fire using stacks of thousand-dollar bills. That always makes me feel better.

PITT: Nah. Did that yesterday.

CLOONEY: My god man, your life has reached a new handsome low. At least you still have your wife.

PITT: Sigh. For the thousandth time, she’s not my wife. She’s my lover-slash-co-parenting-partner. Why is that so hard to remember?

CLOONEY: Hmmm? Sorry, I didn’t catch that. I was too busy looking at my handsome reflection in this priceless mirror that belonged to Julius Caesar. Oops, dropped it. Oh, well, I’ll just get another.

PITT: Here, take mine.

CLOONEY: You know what, Pitt, you are a true friend. I think I’ll let you in on this next Coen Brothers film I’m doing.

PITT: Do you mean it, George?

CLOONEY: I’m too rich and handsome to lie. Consider it done. Manservant! Bring me a telephone! No, no, not the one covered in priceless gemstones. I want the one with a unicorn horn as the antenna!

PITT: A real unicorn horn? I didn’t think those existed.

CLOONEY: You don’t own a unicorn? Oh, Pitt, no wonder you’re so depressed.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Bank Job

I'll be honest with you, readers. 2008 has been a slow year for movies. Painful really. Our Netflix Queue is a deserted wasteland. We got nothing. Nothing even resembling a good feature film. I've got quite a few documentaries, a zillion TV shows and some questionable foreign and indie films that may or may not prove watchable. But movies? What gives, Hollywood?

Which brings me to The Bank Job. This one keeps popping up as a Netflix recommendation every time I visit the site and I was beginning to feel like someone at Netflix was trying to give me a sign. RENT IT! YOU'LL LOVE IT!

I thought I'd give it a try. I'm always up for a good caper. And really, how bad could it be?

Bad. Bad, bad. It's not even worth discussing here.When the "villain" is a man named Michael X, the Caribbean version of Malcolm X, you know you're in for it.

So my readers, if you have any suggestions for movies that are actually good and are currently available on Netflix, please share. We are growing desperate here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wristcutters: A Love Story

If you're like me, nothing sends you running from a movie faster than phrases like:

...starring Sandra Bullock and Matthew McConaughey
...starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey
...starring Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey
Collectively, these idiots have ruined the genre of romantic comedy. Or maybe the genre was already ruined by a boring formula that never changes: girl is a photographer/fashion designer/wedding planner/celebrity assistant. Girl meets Matthew McConaughey. Girl stares hard into the distance. McConaughey charms girl using phrases like, "Aw shucks, buttercup, why don't you slap some jam on my bread," or "Easy little filly, you go on stompin' them hooves any harder and you're like to break my heart." Girl marries idiot. The end.
Which is why a romantic comedy like Wristcutters: A Love Story, is so refreshing. Maybe it takes a movie about suicide to bring the romance back to this tired genre. Wristcutters is set in a world populated by all the people who've ever committed suicide. It's a bleak, dreary world where the 'offed' live otherwise normal existences, working at jobs, eating meals, hanging out at bars, etc. It's just that they're all dead.
Patrick Fugit, whom you'll remember as the kid from Almost Famous, stars as the lovelorn Zia, searching the otherworld for his former girlfriend, whom he's just discovered killed herself a few months after him. Naturally, as romantic comedies will, this one has a love triangle involving the lovely Shannyn Sossamon, whose ethereal sadness is perfect for this melancholy love tale.
Wristcutters doesn't break any ground in the love triangle formula, but it's filled with so much charm, offbeat humor and quirky little joys that you'll forgive its predictability. I can't remember the last time I actually enjoyed watching one of these movies, but Wristcutters delivered. So the next time you're looking for a romantic comedy, you can weigh your choices: Suicide or Matthew McConaughey. Really, if you think about it, they're one in the same.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Reno 911: Miami

Holy have I never watched Reno 911! before?

I have never seen a single episode, which is surprising given that I will watch any old crap on TV. And I mean anything. Yes, Paradise Hotel. Yes, Keeping up with the Kardashians. Yes, infomercial about Jack LaLaine's juice machine. Yes, that crappy show on Bravo about hair stylists. See what I mean? I have no filter. I WILL WATCH ANYTHING.

I can't say what possessed me to add Reno 911!: Miami to our Netflix queue but I'm so glad I did. Seriously, this movie is f-ing hilarious. Yes, it's stupid humor, but it's just done so well you can't help yourself but to love it. Think of it as Police Academy but with a bawdier, sharper sense of humor. And without that black guy who made funny noises with his mouth. BUT, with a a police guy who wears short shorts. It's a good trade.

If you haven't seen this movie yet, please rent it. As for me, I'm programming my DVR to start recording the Reno 911! TV series, just as soon as I finish all the episodes of Living Lohan. Ha, ha. Just kidding. Even I have standards.

The Gleaners and I

Sure, this French documentary about people who "glean" leftover produce from fields and pick over trash cans in France was an interesting subject. Yes, it won a zillion awards from prestigious critics and film festivals. Yes, I appreciate artsy for the sake of fartsy...


I think the fact that The Gleaners and I contained an entire chapter devoted to the documentarian watching her own lens cap bounce in front of the camera for five minutes tells you all you need to know.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

King Corn

“A documentary about CORN?” groaned Motley Husband upon seeing the telltale Netflix red envelope in our mailbox. Eye roll. Sigh. “Corn? Seriously?” His eyes had that furtive, escapist look a teenager gets when trapped with his grandparents at the Golden Corral during “All You Can Eat Soft Meat Tuesdays.”

I know, I know, corn doesn’t sound like the most exciting subject matter of all time, but bear with me because King Corn is a documentary every movie lover should see. It has all the best elements of a light-hearted documentary: an intriguing premise, affectionate characters, zippy storytelling and lovable storytellers.

King Corn is written by and stars Ian Cheney and Curtis Ellis, two genial East Coast college grads who set out to spend a year living in Iowa to raise an acre of corn and try to follow it through the American food chain. It doesn’t take a genius to see what comes next: the ills of mega-farm grain production and the impact of the prolific High Fructose Corn Syrup in American life. Let’s break it down:

-Mega farms equal the death of family homesteads
-Mass grain production equals feedlot cows with a deplorable quality of life
-Corn Syrup equals obesity, diabetes and, oh, hell, Satan

There, now you know. Corn Syrup is Satan. If you go down to hell you’re going to find a little red bottle of Karo with horns and a tail. Now please enjoy the rest of that corn syrup-soaked Frito you were just eating.

My point is that King Corn doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know about the cancerous impact of mega farm production, but it tells it in a way that is humble and compelling. This isn’t a throw-acid-in-your-face and make-you-rescind-your-god kind of documentary. It has a gentle, loping pace reflective of the landscape in which it’s set. The salt-of-the-earth farmers who graciously and affectionately help Ian and Curtis farm their acre of corn are, of course, the victims in this race to make more food, faster and cheaper.

King Corn succeeds by telling their stories with simple humility. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the representative of the corn syrup association who appears in the film comes across as the very face of evil (you know, Karo bottle with horns). “Corn syrup is what makes a wonderful variety of food so affordable for American families.”

I suppose she has a point. After all, if it weren't for corn syrup, we wouldn't have such national treasures as Mountain Dew Baja Blast and Jimmy Dean Chocolate Chip Pancakes and Sausage on a Stick.

And yes, I've had them both.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

There Will Be Blood

I know There Will Be Blood is a movie I was supposed to love. I was supposed to find Daniel Day Lewis' performance as turn-of-the-century oil prospector Daniel Plainview riveting and explosive. I was supposed to be intrigued by the ethical implications that arise when greed, oil and religion combine. I was supposed to be horrified by the shades of evil and inhumanity at every turn.

But in the end, this is the word that came to me: eh.

Don't hate me, but I just didn't care for it. Maybe it was the ridiculous title. Or maybe it was the idea of watching a movie centered on two of my least-favored subjects: oil and fanatical religion, but something set a bad taste in my mouth about There Will Be Blood.

The film is ambitiously epic, centered on the cruel, calculating Daniel Plainview as he heartlessly wrests land from the hands of hardscrabble families to amass his oil empire through California. His character is a chameleon of evil, morphing into a silver-tongued charmer and a brutally cruel murderer at even turns. Plainview's recurring nemesis in the film is a self-proclaimed man of god, played with eerily haunting realism by Paul Dano. Think Malachi from Children of the Corn only spookier.

When these two characters interplay, the film is electric. It is a gruesome portrait of religion put in the wrong hands. It is supposed to make you uncomfortable. It is supposed to leave you chilled. But did that make it worthwhile to watch? I'm not sure. In the end, this is what I felt: There are films that are difficult to watch but are ultimately rewarding to the viewer. And then there are films that are difficult to watch and leave you with nothing afterwards. Guess where I stand on this one.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


I had a college roommate who worked at a summer camp in New Hampshire. He claimed the biggest job he had to undertake was preventing the thirteen-year-old boys from dying of masturbation exhaustion. It’s not hard to imagine, given just a little taste of the hormonal teenage woes we saw in the documentary, Summercamp! Pair that with the bored, embittered counselors, the painfully awkward first-year campers and the “oh my god, how can you be this happy” camp owners and you have the stuff of a good documentary.

But somehow, it all fizzles in Summercamp.

Don’t get me wrong, there was great opportunity here. I was rapt with the bully who beat up other campers then cried every night because he missed his mommy. I loved seeing the camp counselors cockblocking lusty teenagers in the darkened shadows of the campfire. And who couldn’t be moved by the weird girl who carries around eight stuffed animals in her pockets to talk to when she gets lonely?

This was a movie of delicious subject matter put in what appears to be the hands of first-time film school students. It missed so much great opportunity to build a tantalizing story and the result felt like little more than a camcorder turned on and left in the corner.

But even inept film-making couldn’t dampen some moments of splendor in Summercamp, mostly captured through the unbidden moments of truth when campers spoke about life at home. Take the young boy saying he never wanted camp to end because when he goes back home, his dad is a lawyer so he’ll never see him much anyway. Or the girl who explains plainly that her parents want her to make friends at camp since she hasn’t been able to make any at home.

Such moments of innocent truth were heartbreakingly honest. I can only imagine how the parents of these children felt upon watching the film. I’d lay odds those kids got some big fat “mommy and daddy are sorry we’re a mess” presents under the Christmas tree that year.

My final take? Rent it if you’re just looking to feel mildly amused. You know, the same way you feel when you’re cruising through TV channels and you find yourself laughing at America’s Funniest Home Videos and then you’re overcome by shame and horror as you realize you were just watching America’s Funniest Home Videos. Don’t lie. We’ve all been there.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dan in Real Life

Somewhere in between Little Miss Sunshine and one of my all-time favorite films, Home for the Holidays, you'll find Dan in Real Life: a plunky little romantic comedy that makes great use of star Steve Carell's charming awkwardness.

Dan is a widower who takes his three headstrong daughters to spend Thanksgiving with his family in Rhode Island. The sprawling, rambunctious family inhabits one of those Kennedy-esque weathered coastal homes that probably costs in the upwards of $15 million, even though the family lounges around in flannel and drives beat-up cars. Hmmm.

Dan's family and the cozy house provide the backdrop for the mixed-up love plot of the film in which Dan meets a love interest, Marie, played by Juliette Binoche, at a bookstore in town, only to discover later that she is the girlfriend of his rowdy brother, Mitch.

And here's where things turn ugly. Because, you see, Mitch is played, incapably, by comedian Dane Cook. Notice I said "comedian" not "actor," because there are many things Dane Cook is (alcohol-soaked, off-putting and frat-boyish to name a few) but "actor" is not one of them. Watching this bloated boob paw at the lovely Juliette Binoche was like watching a rottweiler holding a kitten in its mouth. As if the French didn't already have enough reasons to hate us.

In spite of the horrible casting of Dane Cook and a few sitcom-style plot turns, the film still captures that magic quality of off-beat humanity. Steve Carell's daughter screaming "You are a murderer of love!" is one of the funniest moments I've seen in any film in a long time and you can't help but be charmed by Carell's awkward vulnerability. And every time Dan's parents, played by John Mahoney and Dianne Weist, came onto the screen, you wanted to sit between them with an afghan and a mug of cocoa. They literally warmed the screen with their very presence.

And then that horse's ass Dane Cook would stumble into the scene and with one nasaly word, all the magic would disappear. Please, Hollywood, stop casting non-actors into otherwise good films. If I'm not mistaken, I believe they're still playing Mariah Carey's Glitter on the first floor of hell. Let's end it there.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

In Bruges



There, I'm done. I'm just a little surprised. You see, I thought Colin Farrel was taking one of those extended celebrity leaves for "exhaustion." You know, the kind where he's so exhausted that he has to spend a few years in a five-star palace in Arizona until he no longer pees Guinness and sweats crystal meth.

But then he shows up in a very decent little film, In Bruges. This is a movie you probably saw listed on the marquee at your theater and said to yourself, "In Brooges? In Broosh? In... oh hell, I'll just go see Spiderman 3 instead."

For those of you as geographically challenged as I, Bruges (soft "g", silent "s") is a city in Belgium. Now you can impress your friends at your next cocktail party. In the film, Colin Farrel plays part of a European hitman duo sent to Bruges to hide out after a botched hit. I won't spoil the plot but suffice it to say that Farrel's boss, played by the unctuous Ralph Fiennes, has other plans in mind for the two than just a holiday in Bruges.

What's good about In Bruges? It's not a clunky, overblown script. There's some great dialogue. There are moments of subtle, intelligent humor. There are moments of intense heartache. There is a midget.

What's bad about In Bruges? The biggest problem is that this film doesn't know what it wants to be. A dark comedy? A soft thriller? A tale of despair? It doesn't do justice to any of the three, which isn't to say that it wasn't enjoyable to watch. Even Colin Farrel, for all of his twitchy undercurrent of nerves/heroin hunger (allegedly) managed to turn in a touching performance.

My only other beef with the film was that watching the lovely Ralph Fiennes play a rough-edged cockney thug was rather like seeing the Queen wearing sweat pants and scarfing down a bag of Cheetos. It just didn't wash.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Dark Knight

Standing in a ridiculously long line to get into the theater to watch Dark Knight, we spotted a grown man wearing full Joker face make-up. Given that it was 95-degrees out, I imagine he spent the rest of his day scrubbing melted make-up out of his upholstery. At least he could console himself with the knowledge that it was TOTALLY WORTH RUINING HIS CAR. This is the kind of sacrifice Dark Knight inspires in its fans. It’s comic book film-making at its very best.

The cast? Phenomenal. Thank god they ditched Katie Holmes, whose former performance as Rachel Dawes feels like a kid playing dress-up compared to Maggie Gyllenhaal’s cool composure. And while Gyllenhaal still resembles the sad girl you knew in high school who was always inking angry poems on her forearms, there is something magnetic about her doe-eyed wistfulness. I wasn’t as impressed with Aaron Eckhart’s good-boy turn as Harvey Dent but to be fair, the Dent role was probably the most thin and one-dimensional of the entire cast.

But you don’t really care about Gyllenhaal and Eckhart do you? You want to know about Heath Ledger. His Joker was just as brilliant as you’ve heard. A complicated mix of leering sociopathy and charm. Possibly the greatest villain we’ve encountered since Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter. I pity the person who will have to pick-up the helm from Ledger. Unless that person is Edward Norton in which case I will be totally psyched.

And while I’m still a little wary of Christian Bale and his muskrat teeth, he is winning me over as Batman. Although I did catch myself snickering here and there at the raspy, deep-voice he uses whenever he’s in the Batman costume. He’s Batman, not Marlboro Man, Bale.

Now onto director Christopher Nolan, who shall be heretofore known as “The Jesus Christ of Cinema.” I’ve said it before but if he directed me out of my driveway each morning, it would definitely win an Oscar. Nolan practically assaults the audience in Dark Knight with a non-stop barrage of violence, brutality and action. That level of action combined with the sub-stories of so many characters makes the film feel overloaded at times, but we were happy to be along for the ride.

Emerging from the theater back into daylight and reality, I felt dazed and wrung out, as if I’d ingested a gallon of Red Bull and crawled through an automatic car wash. But then I saw the nerd with white make-up dripping all over the carpet and I felt like all was right with the world again.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Extras Series Finale

Dear Ricky Gervais,
It really pains me to write this. Really pains me. You have no idea. You see, I’ve been in love with you for a very long time. I adore everything you’ve ever written or acted in. So you can imagine how hard it is for me to break up with you. And no, I didn’t plan to do this through a letter, but face-to-face is more difficult given that you don’t even know I exist. And the fact that you’d probably issue a restraining order against me that bandied about the term “stalker” if we ever did meet.


I just watched the series finale episode to Extras, "The Extra Special Series Finale" and I’ve determined that we need to spend a little time apart. It’s not me, Ricky. It’s you.

You are a comedian, Ricky. You are a funny man. So to make me endure nearly two hours of mostly humorless, indulgent and sentimental tripe was just not fair. There is a reason that, say, Chris Rock has never been cast as Hamlet. We like our funny men to be funny. Seeing you mope through two hours of film was like going to a dry wedding. It was a total bummer.

Don’t get me wrong, you did have some moments of sublime humor and your castmates, particularly your hapless agent, were brilliant. And I did love the ending. But all in all it was a bit of a bummer. So we have to spend a little time apart Ricky. But don't worry, like any good stalker, I will be back.


Happy Birthday to the Motley Queue

Hmmm....52 weeks equals a year right? So since this post started my 52nd week of blogging, I guess that means the Motley Queue just started teething. Hurrah. Moving forward I'm going to dispense with logging the weeks for each review. Frankly, my math abilities don't extend that far.

Motley Queue

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Week 51: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

It should have come as no surprise to me that the movie with the longest title in history might actually BE the longest movie in history. Alas, with a 2.5 hour plus running time, you'll probably be saying to yourself the same thing we did, "Hey, I already know from the title that Jesse James gets assassinated. So why are we dragging this out for 2.5 hours?"

The answer? Because actually, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a pretty good movie, even though you know how it ends (HE DIES!) and even though Casey Affleck is in it. I think the Academy Awards might have been a tad generous in giving Affleck a nomination for his role as Robert Ford, but then I am reminded that in 2007, his competition included such cinematic masterpieces as Wild Hogs and Norbit. I won't even provide a link to those titles because you do not need to fill your brain with anything more on those two turds.

Back to the movie: maybe I'm a sucker for outlaws and westerns, but I thought this was a surprisingly good story. It has great moments of tension and the build-up to the assassination is terrific. What feels really strange about this movie is the narration throughout, which is obviously dialogue from a book, not dialogue for a movie. It was weird and clunky. Also, the ending of the movie, post-assassination, drags out FOREVER. It felt very much like the seven or eight endings to the last Lord of the Rings movie, minus the homo-erotic hobbits. Which, let's be honest, would have really perked things up a bit.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Motley Queue Congratulates Nicole Kidman

Congratulations, Nicole Kidman, on the birth of your daughter, Sunday Rose.

Except that you named your child after a day of the week and a shade of Mary Kay lipstick my grandma wore in 1951.

Kidman, we will assume this is the influence of all that botox going to your brain. Maybe it's time to lay off, huh? Just a smidge? Please stop before you give birth to Sunday Rose's sibling, Thursday Milkweed.

Week 50: Semi-Pro

Will Ferrell, you are back in my good graces again after that awful mess you made with the ice skating movie. No, Semi-Pro won't surprise you with anything resembling a plot. Nor will there be any unexpected body gags and too-tight costuming on Mr. Ferrell. But yes, you will have a few great laughs out of the movie thanks to Ferrell's one-liners and the dry commentary provided by the Flint Tropics sportscasters.

My big beef with this movie? It has a name, and it's Woody Harrelson. I can't stand that tool. I suggest you read chef/author Anthony Bourdain's treatise on why Woody Harrelson is the WORLD'S BIGGEST DOUCHEBAG if you don't know why.

And it didn't help that he spent the entire movie wearing the wig he wore in Kingpin. Seriously, Woody Harrelson? Was John C. Reilly busy? Can't we give Rainn Wilson a chance? How is this waste of vegan produce still getting roles? I almost fell out of my chair when Woody Harrelson got cast in No Country for Old Men. What a waste. I think the Academy should take away the Best Picture award for what we'll call "The Harrelson Clause of Film Ruination."
I'm gonna go eat a big, juicy meaty hamburger and comb my full head of hair now just to piss him off.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Week 50: Michael Clayton

Oh, George Clooney, you scamp. Here I was, set to vilify Motley Husband for slipping Michael Clayton into our queue. For no good reason, I was convinced this movie was dreadfully self-important like that hot mess, Syriana. Or a complete disappointment like The Good German. But Michael Clayton is good, Georgie. You’re back on your game, pal, with a thriller that was actually thrilling. Sure, I spent the first fifteen minutes of the film trying to figure out what subtle facial plastic surgery has rendered you looking about ten years younger [tiny face lift? Mini brow lift? It’s there. I just can’t pinpoint it].

George, I'm trying to say it was a totally captivating film. So captivating, I wonder how he did it…[cue dream sequence music here]

CLOONEY: Brad Pitt, it’s becoming tiresome just getting by on our looks, isn’t it?

PITT: A little, yes. But then again, my looks went away about five years ago. Lucky for me I snagged the title of “International Do-Gooder” right before they faded.

CLOONEY: Yes, you did, you sneaky bastard. Right about the time I fell on my handsome face with that Ocean’s 13 or 14 business. Which one are we on now?

PITT: I’m pretty sure it was Ocean’s 16 but who can tell? I’m too busy helping refugees and making beautiful, beautiful babies with my hot wife – er – life partner. Clooney, I seem to be developing a sweat here. Can you instruct your servants to form a human shade shield around me? This fan I fashioned out of thousand-dollar bills isn’t doing much.

CLOONEY: Maybe you want to sit to the left of my Academy Award. It’s rather large, provides a lot of shade.

PITT: Don’t try to flaunt your Oscar to me. I’m above awards, Clooney. I’m too busy feeding starving orphans in Myanamoor.

CLOONEY: Don’t you mean Myanmar?

PITT: I could buy and sell you, Clooney.


PITT: Let’s not turn on each other. And she's not my wife. Let’s have a sip of this $9,000 bottle of wine I found next to the Doritos in your pantry. We need to relax. It’s been at least forty-five minutes since our last massage.

CLOONEY: You’re right, you’re right. I think this solid gold chaise lounge is making me tense.

PITT: You should try mine, it’s made out of live Portuguese orphans. They’re very bendy. But let’s get back to your career, George. You need a hit, my friend.

CLOONEY: Maybe the next Ocean’s sequel will recapture the magic of the first one. Maybe we’ll replace Julia Roberts with that Miley Cyrus. Or we could replace Sammy Davis – I mean Don Cheadle -- with another, um, ethnic choice. How do you feel about Mexicans?

PITT: Hey, I have an idea. What if you actually just made a good movie?

CLOONEY: Pitt, you are a genius, my friend. Why didn’t I think of that? This calls for a celebration. Manservant! Fill the bathtub with caviar and champagne. Daddy’s gonna be baptized a movie star all over again.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Week 49: La Vie En Rose

I was on the fence about renting La Vie En Rose until I developed a mad girl crush on Marion Cotillard when she accepted her Academy Award earlier this year. Remember her in the dress that vaguely resembled a tilapia filet? She was so lovely and unbotoxed. (Pay attention, Nicole Kidman)

If you're like me, you probably have no idea who Edith Piaf was. Conversely, like me you probably know volumes about Britney Spears. Sigh. I digress... Piaf was a scrappy street-born singer who became a French national icon. As soon as you hear the songs, you'll know exactly who she is. Her voice is unmistakable.

Piaf's life was a trainwreck of celebrity and tragedy. She's one part Eliza Doolittle, one part Ava Peron and one part stray dog. It's a charming combination. The film is really successful at showing us all the shades of Piaf's self-destructiveness but fails by trying to cram too much in. Example: in one scene she's being grilled by the police over involvement in the murder of her manager. The scene is never resolved or referenced again. We assume she wasn't imprisoned, but who knows. Also, did she have three husbands? Several lovers? Token gays? Or were they just managers? Who could tell?

On a final note, serious kudos to the make-up team for making Cotillard look so homely throughout the entire film. Edith Piaf was many things, but a looker she was not.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Broken DVD Yet Again

We're on a bad roll with Netflix. We've been sitting on the Michael Clayton DVD for a few days and stupidly never removed it from its package. If we had, we'd have seen that the disc was broken in two. So, sorry readers. We'll have to play the waiting game with Netflix now on a new disc.

Stay tuned for reviews coming hopefully soon!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Week 49: Weeds Season Three, Disc One

Season 3 of Weeds! Watching this show is like finding a $20 bill in the pocket of an old coat – it will make you smile for at least an hour. There’s nothing too heavy about this show, it’s just consistently funny, despite Kevin Nealon’s bad attempts at acting and Elizabeth Perkin’s atrociously over-the-top character.

But I spent most of my time on this first half of season 3 contemplating my once beloved Mary Louise Parker, who plays the show’s heroine, Nancy Botwin. Maybe I’m still ticked that Ms. Parker offed her original nose on what was otherwise an unusually attractive face, but she’s driving me nuts this season. So much open-mouthed staring. So much frazzled mumbling and slurred reactions. It’s like she’s acting underwater or is just constantly waking up from a groggy nap. Here’s how I imagine the director coaches her in each scene:

DIRECTOR: Okay, Mary. Is it okay if I call you Mary? Or do I have to go through with the whole Mary-Louise thing? It's a bit much. Kind of makes you sound like a housewife from Indiana in 1940.

MLP: What if the color I call blue is really what you see as green?

DIRECTOR: Okay, um, I don’t know about that but I guess we’ll go with Mary-Louise. So in this scene, I need you to act sort of helpless, lost and vaguely stoned.

MLP: [stares with huge doe eyes] Obejwanot mmamburger.

DIRECTOR: Hmmm? What was that? You’re look is great right now, Mary-Louise. You’re really capturing Nancy’s trauma and shock. I’m just wondering if you can make your eyes even wider and doey-er? I really want you to look like you’ve just spent a night watching a laser light show set to a Led Zeppelin soundtrack.

MLP: Ingul volger handashery.

DIRECTOR: Are you, uh, are you having some kind of motionless seizure?

MLP: My thumbs are so big.

DIRECTOR: Okay, Mary-Louise, can I get you some coffee or something? Maybe a Red Bull?

MLP: Bull. Bulls. Balls. Bowls. Bows. Slurbyderber.

DIRECTOR: Can someone bring me a pot of black coffee and one of those giant needles filled with adrenaline? You know, like the one in Pulp Fiction? Really pump that sucker full of some serious shit. Maybe an electric blanket? Jumper cables? I NEED HELP, PEOPLE!

MLP: Bumbleduffer nyugen

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Week 48: My Kid Could Paint That

[note: this review has a fair amount of detail about the plot, so don't read past the third paragraph if you'd rather be surprised!]

Welcome to my newest obsession. I seriously can't stop thinking about this movie. My Kid Could Paint That takes a close look at the family of Marla Olmstead, a four-year-old painting prodigy whose abstract paintings fetch an upwards of $15,000 - $25,000. Jealous? Yeah, me too.

The hook of this story is unbelievable: a dad sets his four-year-old down at a canvas with some paint and lets her play. A friend who owns a coffee shop asks to put the paintings up...a gallery owners spots one and expresses interest...a local journalist writes a story on Marla...the New York Times picks up the walks journalists and art critics from all over the world and suddenly Marla is famous and her work is flying off the shelves.

For the first thirty minutes of the film, you are amazed at how unbelievable this child is. And then the ball drops when a 60 Minutes expose suggests very strongly that Marla's father might be doing the paintings or at the very least, touching them up to give them more polish.

They filmed Marla completing a painting and it truly doesn't resemble the quality level of her other paintings. Even a second painting she completes while on camera -- her parents' attempt to disprove her critics -- looks markedly more childlike and amateur than her gallery work.

It raises a lot of intriguing questions about the value of abstract art: if the art is really good, should its value be changed no matter if a 4-year-old or a 40-year-old painted it? Roll that one around in your noodle.

What's so fascinating is you get to watch the documentary maker begin to doubt Marla's family as the film progresses. The movie ends on a very ambiguous note. Her dad evidenced some very sketchy behavior in the latter half of the film and has an unfortunate tendency toward verbal diarrhea when he's under pressure, which doesn't help make his case. I really want to believe Marla is the real deal. I just can't decide.

You've got to watch this film to make the judgement for yourself. As for me? I'm buying my kid some paint and am planning to sit back and wait for the cash to roll in. Judging by the crayon work she's done on our dining room wall so far, I'm expecting to earn at least $0-$1.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Week 48: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

When you hear what this movie is about -- a paralyzed man trapped inside his body who can only communicate by blinking his one good eye -- I bet your reaction will be like mine: "dear god, I would rather spend the evening scrubbing my toilets using nothing but a wild raccoon than watch this film."

But I swear to you, it's actually not a depressing movie.


DB&B is surprisingly beautiful and inspiring. Yes, the subject matter is devastating. Yes, it's filled with quite a bit of melancholy and sadness. But the filming is so beautiful and interesting (most of the film is shot from the perspective of Bauby's one good eye), you'll be riveted.

It's even more astounding when you learn that the film is based on the true story of former French Elle editor, Jean-Dominique Bauby. During his paralysis, Bauby's caretakers devised a way of reading him the alphabet and communicating through blinking when the correct letter was recited. Bauby eventually dictated an entire autobiography, of the same name as the film, through blinking the alphabet.

And you thought you were busy.

Go rent this film.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Week 47: The Venture Bros. Season 1

Nerd Alert!

I was a huge, huge fan of the early 1990's animated cartoon, The Tick. It was short-lived but was one of the funniest cartoons of all time. I still have a Tick action figure wearing a t-shirt proclaiming "I love wheat!" If I had a therapist, I'm sure he'd have a field day with that little confession.

I wasn't sure what the Cartoon Network's adult-swim show, The Venture Bros was even about, but we got the disc last week and laughed our way through the whole thing. This hilarious cartoon is very Tick-reminiscent. I shouldn't have been surprised to learn that two of the show's writers come from the Tick and and my beloved Patrick Warburton (who was the voice of the Tick and was also Elaine's boyfriend, Putty, on Seinfeld) is the voice of Dr. Venture's ridiculous bodyguard, Brock Samson.

The Venture Bros follows snarky genius scientist, Dr. Venture, his bodyguard and his two clueless, slightly effeminate teenage sons on their adventures against a riotous assortment of villains. To give you a little flavor, one episode we watched was centered entirely on Dr. Venture trying to get laid while wearing a leisure suit and a really bad toupee. In another episode, Dr. Venture's sons almost meet their doom while their dad is busy trying to clean pee out of his space suit.

I am in love with The Venture Bros. The writing is incredible. It's really smart and witty; I just may need to watch each episode a few times because we laughed over much of the dialogue. The show is still airing live in its third season on the Cartoon Network right now, which means I'm off to program my DVR to capture it all.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Week 47: The Savages

A Motley Debate about this one:

On the one hand, The Savages has excellent writing and stellar performances by stars Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

On the other hand, it's DEPRESSING AS HELL. The plot? Two adult siblings in the throes of their own failed life crises have to drop everything to care for their elderly father who's dying of dementia. Did I mention that the father is very angry to boot?

The movie maintains just enough humor to keep you from throwing yourself into bed with all the lights off and the curtains closed, but just barely. This is heavy stuff for anyone of a certain age with parents of a certain age. Sort of like looking into the mirror of the future and seeing all the tragi-comedy that will ensue.

Laura Linney steers the boat of this movie and manages as usual to deliver a spot-on performance, creating a character who is relatable and real. In the end, I'd recommend renting it but this is definitely a watch-it-once-and-never-again kind of movie.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Week 46: The Wire, Season One

Okay readers, we wrapped up Season 1 of HBO's copy drama, The Wire, this weekend and we only have one thing to say: BEST COP SHOW EVER.

If you haven’t watched it yet, throw down your computer and run -- run I say -- to your video store or get on the line with Netflix immediately. I am stunned by how good this show is. So realistic. So action-packed. So intelligent. So…not like any of that cop-show crap you’ll find on regular TV. Yes, I'm talking about you, David Caruso.

I think what makes The Wire so good is that the bad guys aren’t your typical bad guys. These are fully dimensional characters whom we learn to like and hate at the same time. Even the cops aren’t just good cops. They’ve got some dirty little secrets of their own.

The thrill of watching the team of detectives hunt down gang lord Avon Barksdale was edge-of-your-seat, intelligent drama. I can’t wait for Netflix to bring me season two.

On a funny/related note, hubby and I upgraded our cable recently and the cable company accidentally gave us access to all the premium channels. We thought we were in hog heaven. Sadly, they figured out their mistake and within 24 hours we were back to watching basic cable. Sigh. It’s probably for the best though. Me + 13 HBO channels = permanent dent in sofa.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Week 46: Atonement

Hurrah! The new TV is finally playing nicely with the DVD player! So, it turns out the idiots at the Motley Queue household simply had to press a weird button in the nether regions of the remote control to get the DVD player to talk to the TV, but what's new?

We kicked off the new TV with a ceremonial viewing of Atonement. I have to brag here and add that I read the book YEARS before it was an inkling in a movie director's mind. Suck it, Oprah. It's a phenomenal book and perfect stuff to be translated to the screen...

...and then they cast Kiera Knightly. Sigh.

I know, I know. She's very easy on the eyes. She's spunky. She's spirited. But she's also whiny, nasal and fairly unskilled at the art of subtlety. I felt like I was watching a spoiled American teenager giving a bad British impersonation. I want somebody to feed her a cheeseburger and teach her how to stop sneering so much.

If anything saves the movie it's Knightly's talented co-stars including James McAvoy who very nearly drips with good-boy charm. And that little girl playing young Briony was like a freakishly small and precocious version of Jodie Foster. We'll be seeing more of her, I'm sure.

Unfortunately, I'm sure we'll be seeing more of Kiera Knightly as well. Still, if you haven't seen the movie you should rent it. It's worth a viewing. Better yet, read the book.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New TV Means No DVDs for Now

After ten glorious and fulfilling of watching a jaw-dropping 19" Daewoo television in all its amazing, rich, crisp and detailed wonder, Motley Husband and I finally retired that marvel of technology yesterday in favor of a 42" plasma TV that was finally purchased after much hoarding of gift cards and coupons to Best Buy. (Seriously, I thought the teenager checking me out thought it was a joke when I handed him half a dozen cards and coupons. I was his worst nightmare).

We excitedly unpacked the TV last night and set about the brain-squeezing task of training component video, s-video and audio cables from our home theater receiver to our cable box, to our DVD player, to our TV and back again. It looks like a wire monster threw up behind our TV stand.
  • Awesome: we got cable to run to the TV.
  • Crap: something is wrong with the picture. Missing a component video cable?
  • Awesome: the picture is HUGE!
  • Crap: The DVD player doesn't work. Missing cables again? Could be. We don't know.
  • Awesome: we didn't lose our DVR programs in the transition
  • Crap: I'm supposed to blog about movies and have no way to watch them without a DVD player
  • Awesome: did I mention the picture is HUGE?!

So, it's back to Best Buy for me again today to purchase an assortment of cables that might make sense of the 48 jacks on the back of the TV. Until we can get this problem solved (hopefully without breaking down and paying some snotty teenager to come hook it up for us), no posts, dear readers. I promise they'll be coming back soon. I hope.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Week 45: Eagle Vs. Shark

Cute movie.
Charming accents.
Can’t stop trying to imitate them.
Goofball actors.
Girl in shark costume is adorable lovable.
A-hole in eagle costume is unbelievably a-holish.
But loved him anyway.
Beating up a guy in a wheelchair? Brilliant.
Should you rent it?
Mos def.
Is it going to change your life?
But it’s still pretty sweet.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Week 45: DiG!

Music fan? Here's a documentary you have to see. DiG! follows the careers of two rising indy bands: The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Wharhols. What's great about the film is that both bands give a total-access view into their triumphs, failures and madness on the road to greatness (Big emphasis on madness). It really felt like the bands opened up all their dirty, crazy laundry for us to root through.

While the documentary starts out to chronicle both bands, most of the time is spent, appropriately so, on the insane and outlandish antics of musical genius-come-insane-heroin-addict, Anton Newcombe, the leader of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. The Dandy Warhols come off looking a bit like the Brady Bunch by comparison to the lunacy over at BJM. Although, it should be noted that both band leaders have egos the size of a football field, which makes all the insanity even more fun to watch.

Anton is a musical genius and everyone hails him as the next great thing...if only he weren't so f*ing crazy. It's worth watching DiG! to see his antics alone, like when he starts a fistfight with his own bandmates in front of record execs who were planning to sign him to a contract. Brilliant.

Did both bands make it? Do they go on to fame and fortune? I won't ruin it for you but let's just say I haven't seen Anton or any of the Dandy Warhols on the cover of US Weekly. Yet.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Week 45: No Country For Old Men

Okay, you don't need me to tell you that No Country For Old Men is a fantastic movie. It won approximately seven thousand Oscars. It is great. And yes, the Dorothy Hamill hairdo on Javier Bardem makes his psychopathic killer sweetly dorky.

So instead of boring you with glowing praise for the movie (although I hated the abrupt ending. Heaven help me, I love resolution), let's instead focus on one of my favorite subjects: Josh Brolin.

I loved Josh Brolin in The Goonies. Who didn't, right? And he was great in American Gangster. And he other things? My point is that there was an odd spell of say twenty-five years in which Brolin wasn't getting roles...until his daddy went and married Barbra Streisand. My theory is that Babs would do anything to get her good-for-nothing stepson out of the house, even if it meant pulling a few strings with her precisely manicured nails at the big Hollywood studios. Here's how I like to think it went:

BABS: James! James Brolin Streisand! Get in here this instant.

JAMES: [rushes in, moves to Bab's left side per his orders] Honey, what is it?

BABS: James, I am holding a Japanese silk pillow that my close personal friend, Donna Karan, hand-dyed to match the color of my earlobes at dusk.

JAMES: It's lovely, dear. [laughs nervously]

BABS: Is it, James? Is it? Because it looks to me like this piece of fringe is crumpled. AS IF SOMEONE USED THIS PILLOW!!!!

JAMES: I'm sure no one would use any of the 178 pillows you keep piled on every surface of our entire house, lovey. What with all the candles constantly lit to show you in the best light, it would be foolhardy to use flammable materials near them.

BABS: Someone did, James, and I think we both know who it was.

JAMES: Oh, honey, you can't keep blaming Josh for everything.

BABS: Your Josh is ruining our romance! He looks me in the eye, he speaks to me without being spoken to first and he -- I can barely say it out loud -- uses fluorescent lightbulbs.

JAMES: [gasps]

BABS: He has to go, James.

JAMES: I know, Barbra. Um, sorry, Madame Streisand.

BABS: I'm getting him out of the house once and for all. Bring me a telephone, James. The one Donna Karan designed to wear a tiny caftan and matching scarf.

JAMES: The purple one?


[end scene]

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Week 44: I Am Legend

Hey, look everyone! It's just like Shawn of the Dead, ONLY F***ING TERRIFYING.

It is no secret I am not a fan of Will Smith. And so it pained me to willingly rent one of this movies. But it turns out I Am Legend is pretty damn good, in spite of Will Smith. And let me assure you he did his best to inject his macho ego-maniacal enthusiasm into what is otherwise a pretty serious role. If anyone else had been cast in the lead of this film, I think it would have been spectacular. But with Will Smith, it was just pretty damn good. Why Will Smith remains so popular astounds me. Doesn't anyone else remember that HE WAS THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR? Am I alone on this one? DJ Jazzy Jeff, you'll back me up on this one, right?

I Am Legend is set in a post-apocalyptic New York in which a deadly virus has wiped out most of the population and turned the survivors into hyper-aggressive zombies who can only come out at night. The sunlight burns them and makes them hiss, much the way I am after emerging from a nice nap. Will Smith remains as the only human immune from the virus who, it just happens, is also one of the doctors who helped develop the virus. I won't spoil any of the plot for you here. It does contain a lot of edge-of-your-seat suspense that makes it very fun to watch and not a little terrifying. After we finished it, we turned to each other and said, "Did we just watch a horror movie? Starring the Fresh Prince?" I think we did. Jiggy.

Week 44: Small Town Gay Bar

And the winner for "Title Most Likely to Make Holly Rent a Movie" is...Small Town Gay Bar! By a landslide!

Gay bars hidden in rural Mississippi? Are you kidding me? I can't pass up on that. Too bad the movie itself didn't live up to the promise of the title. True, it does follow the lives of several patrons of a few gay bars in the back woods of Mississipi and Kansas, but STGB is pretty light fare. I was expecting much more grit about the conflict between the under-the-radar gays and the holier-than-thou bible-beaters hoping to purge their towns of such 'sinful' behavior. And while the documentary touches on the underlying hatred, fear and bigotry, it mostly focuses on the touchy-feely aspects of what a gay bar means to its patrons. The bars are the only outlet for most of these people to be free, open and truly themselves. It is touching to watch the bars' patrons express such a deep need to feel accepted and connected.

And let's talk about those patrons. My, oh, my. There are some slim pickins in the deep south. These are not the tanned, plucked and abdominally clenched gays of the North. Oh, no. These are the step-up-to-the-buffet, come back to my trailer, stroke my mullet gays. In short, I was very concerned about the amount of flannel going around.

The biggest question for me was wondering why gay people stay in the deep south. It is a hard and arduous life, and there is no doubt it is a very dangerous existence. But I suppose it's those small inroads of seeing gay people as neighbors, coworkers and friends that may begin to soften the bible-beating masses. Still, gay people of the South, naming your gay bar Rumors really doesn't help the situation. Might I make a few suggestions:

BAD names for a secret gay bar
1. Rumors
2. Whispers from the Closet
3. The Liza Minelli Fan Club
4. Big Gay Al's
5. The Delta (Drag) Queen

GOOD names for a secret gay bar
1. Hetero and Lovin' It
2. No Funny Business Here
3. Straight Harry's House of Brew and Bible Readings
4. Men Who Love to Hump Women
5. Church

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Curses! Broken DVD Strikes!

Sorry for the lack of posts this week. We watched the second disc of The Wire over the weekend but I can't figure out how to keep talking about this show without just giving away every detail of the plot. So...I think I'm going to keep renting it but will leave it out of the Motley Queue at least until I'm done with the entire first season.

Second...we got our disc on Monday for this documentary I've been dying to see, Small Town Gay Bar. But sadly, the disc was broken in two so we're playing the mailman waiting game with Netflix to get a fresh disc. Sigh.

I promise, new posts will be coming soon.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Week 43: Into the Wild

Years ago, hubby and I went on an impromptu camping trip deep in an Ohio state forest. We were young and poor and could only afford the tiniest of tents, which forced us to leave all our gear and food outside all night. Lucky for us, our poverty probably saved our lives as somewhere in the vicinity of 3am, a huge black bear paid us a visit, growled menacingly outside our tent and ate our food while we lay paralyzed by fear on the other side of a one-millimeter vinyl barrier.

That was, needless to say, the last time I went camping. These days, my idea of camping is staying at a Holiday Inn instead of a Hyatt. So you can imagine that watching Into the Wild left me feeling like a bit of a pansy. If you don't already know, Into the Wild is based on the true-life story of Chris McCandless, an upper-middle-class college graduate who decides to chuck all the trappings of his comfortable life in favor of traveling to Alaska to live off the land. And when I say chuck, I mean literally: burning his money, cutting up his social security card, giving his savings account to Oxfam.

It's a pretty noble gesture on one hand. I felt a little sad sitting in my suburban home while he's out petting bald eagles and kayaking on wild river rapids. On the other hand, as you watch Chris disappear off the radar and completely cut ties with his family without ever letting them know what he's doing and if he's alive or dead, I found myself hating him a little. The premise of his story is that Chris' parents had a very rocky and sometimes violent marriage that left him pretty scarred. Scarred enough to walk out of their lives without a trace. It comes across though as a little bit of a spoiled rich kid who doesn't have enough life experience to see that other people have a far worse situation than his own. But I digress.

Sean Penn directs the film and just as I would have guessed, he falls a little bit in love with his own ability to direct things. Like two hours and thirty minutes in love with himself. Much of the scenes in the movie are long with scenery and contemplation and short with action and dialogue. I guess Sean Penn wanted the viewer to get a true feeling of the loneliness and isolation Chris experienced in the wilderness all alone. Mission accomplished. We got the point though, Mr. Penn, after about a half hour. Beyond that, we started fast-forwarding here and there to move things along.

I can't stop thinking about whether or not to admire or loathe McCandless, which I suppose means the film was a succss at stirring up debate and making us question our own life choices. It's a riveting story and the scenery really is amazing to watch. Just keep your fast-forward button handy.