Thursday, March 20, 2008

Review of "George Carlin... It's Bad for Ya! (2008)"

George Carlin... It's Bad for Ya! (2008)

The Transformed Man in Comedian's Purgatory (a.k.a. "Heck")

George Carlin is probably my favorite comedian. I have seen so many of his specials and even had the opportunity to see him perform live. He had a certain cynicism that always appealed to me. His last 2 specials (Life is Worth Losing especially and Complaints and Grievances) have lacked a certain spirit and content. George appeared overweight, old and tired (not to mention coming out of rehab). "I SAID NOT TO MENTION IT"! Anyway. Life is Worth Losing was especially tragic as he was overweight, disgruntled, coming off of rehab (there we go again...) and extremely unfunny. If there was a way to feel sorry for a comedian without heckling him off stage, George achieved it with Life is Worth Losing. It is as if the New Millennium and Post 9/11 America was trampling George's spirit. The bs had become too large to manage.

The comeback is partially successful with It's Bad for Ya! This special is the transmutation completed. George is no longer trying to rekindle his glory days. He is in full acceptance of his age, being old and dealing with the looming prospects of death. He has accepted being a crusty old SOB and is relishing in it. This is better than his previous specials, yet far from Jammin' in New York. It is a little tragic. His observations are not cutting edge anymore and seem more Andy Rooney than Lenny Bruce. George isn't George anymore. He is no longer criticizing us but is the man in the high castle pointing out how things were and how dissimilar modern life is.

This is an improvement over the previous two specials, but George does not, as of yet, recoup his old glory (if ever). He has been reduced from critical social and political stinging commentary to mostly personal peeves. When he goes political, he still has something to say. It is heavily derived (especially if you have seen any of his previous work), but it still works somehow, as opposed to his random rantings which lack a certain relevance outside of the baby boom generation. The last 25 minutes is the best this special has to offer.

For now I will worship the Sun and pray to Joe Pesci that George can recreate himself as a cutting edge septuagenarian. It's a 50/50 chance. Life seems to have become more tedious for George and his "art" is now his life. This is a step in the right direction from his previous 2 specials, but is far from his old self. Where does he go from here? He may never recoup but maybe he can further metamorphosing/refine this new ornery old man routine. Heres to hoping for 7 more words you can't say on TV or at least a windmill he can handle.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Review of "Across the Universe (2007)"

Across the Universe

All you need is love...... sort of.

It would be nice if all you needed in this world was love to make things work out, but this isn't an ideal world and other things are required (dedication, persistence, perspiration and sacrifice to name a few). About the same could be said of this film. It is more of a musical than a film. It is a filmed musical. Think of Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, except all the music is from the Beatles.

If this film came out sometime in the 70's or 80's, it may have had more relevance. As it stands it is more than 30 years removed from the end of the Vietnam War. The current political situation is obviously paralleled in the film, but in a rather tertiary way. The movie, however, seems to deal more with relationships in the backdrop of that time and one in particular (Lucy and Jude).

Jude is a Liverpool welder who travels to American to find his dad. He meets Max, who leads him to Lucy and the rest of the cast through "random" chance. The progression of the story is rather predictable : move to New York, subcultural references, drugs and the psychedelic, the War, anti-War movement, music, break-ups, reconciliations,etc. Throughout all this is the music. All Beatles all the time. There's also some nice cameos by Bono, Joe Cocker, Eddie Izzard, Salma Hayek and even Cousin Brucie.

The bottom line is though this film is quite flawed and the characterizations could be called paper thin, this is a stylized love story psychedelic movie musical. It would probably be better if Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair and other psychedelic experiences didn't already exist. At the same time this film does not contribute in any way to the third wave of psychedelia. Though heavily derivate, predictable and depthless, I did not hate it, surprisingly. I found it strangely enjoyable.

I can't say I recommend this movie to others, especially since a movie like Once (which was highly recommended by so many and made Devin of CHUD cry) I found quite dull, underacted and generally underwhelming. I say if you liked Moulin Rouge and you don't hate the Beatles, then you should give this a try. Maybe all we truly need is more Beatles based films?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Review of "Smiley Face (2007)"

Smiley Face (2007)

A sub par stoner movie with a random ending. A to B to Crap. If you are interested just watch the trailer.

Save the remaining 85 minutes for something more important, like cleaning your cuticles. I always thought the Anna Faris was the most likable (a.k.a. least annoying) aspect of the Scary Movie franchise. In this movie it looks like she is desperately trying to recreate being stoned, funny and yet still managing to be cute while clinging desperately to a mid-20 something youthfulness. Unfortunately she comes across more like Meg Ryan on sedatives.

I wanted to like this movie, ever since I saw the trailer. Another sad example of a trailer that is better than the movie itself. It had possibilities. This is a "stoner" movie, or rather it tries to be one. The quintessential element of every "stoner" movie is the characterizations. The "stoner", though unreliable at times and high the rest of time, is generally quite likable. The "stoner" encounters unusual people and situations while under the influence. There is usually a convoluted, yet complicated story arc or a ridiculously easy plot masquerading as convoluted one. Then the "Happy" ending.

Anna's "Jane F" is pretty stupid even for a severe homeopath. There is hardly anything likable about her character. The crazy wobbling and ,"pause", Memento moments get old quickly. I do declare from the back she looks like an elderly man. Also the crows feet do not help her "youthful" exuberance. Her performance actually manged to sever any sex appeal Anna may have had left. It's all down hill from here. The movie left me empty, saddened and depressed, like Anna's facial expressions. She didn't look stoned, she look like she had Alzheimer's, needed to be committed (nervous breakdown) or is suffering from progeria (all three or in any random combination). The movie also feels as if the people making this movie are faking it (never tried the product). Her "trips" are more indicative of acid or special k, rather than cannibus. I was half expecting her to jump off a roof top or claim that she is hearing colors. And what's with all the paranoia?? Skinny (not cute), white blonde girl. What does she have to worry about from the "man"? America loves skinny, white blonde chicks. It is like making a movie with Paris Hilton and expecting the audience to feel for her character instead of cheering when that character gets horribly dead. Its just not going to happen.

Jane gets stoned, inadvertently gets more stoned when she steals (twice), then ends up in a crazy, random adventure that really was pointless in the end. For a "stoner" she also manages to flush more product than she actually smokes. The acting would have made more sense if she was a NARC trying to "act" high (instead of getting high). This movie may have worked if there had not been any other "stoner" movie in existence, except for Reefer Madness. You expect the "randomness" and some questionably impaired judgment calls. It is the way the characters deal with each other and the situations that makes it enjoyable.

Alcohol did little to impair me from the truth and pain of this movie, so I doubt smoking ganja will help the situation (unless of course you smoke enough that you pass out and do not awake until the movie ends). Grandma's Boy is a recent stoner movie that was unexpectedly good (other better possibilities include Harold and Kumar, any Cheech and Chong movie, Dazed and Confused, Half-Baked, etc). See those instead. And though I didn't like Knocked Up, it definitely was better than this.

I have been giving movie the 2nd opportunity to change my mind. If I felt negatively about a movie, I will reserve the review until I had given the film a 2nd viewing. If I have the same reaction a 2nd time, it was meant to be. The first time I watched this, I was confused and a little sad. The 2nd viewing just made me mad and annoyed. "The Irony of It All."

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Review of "The Rebel Set (1959)"

The Rebel Set (1959)

It's a little late for acting lessons, welcome to the devil's workshop. See what coffeehouses can do.

In the same tradition of "The Beatniks" comes this little gem, from our friends on the Satellite of Love. And if you are thinking you know what a beatnik looks like, then think again. About the only thing this movie has in common with a "beatnik" is the club at the beginning of the movie. Beatniks are really nothing more than the backdrop and comedy relief. It's like they're part of set.

The movie itself resolves around the schemings of "Mr.T". If you are thinking of a tough and athletic black man with many gold chains and rings when you hear that, then is the wrong movie for you. Instead this "Mr.T" is a bald white male, accessorized with a "sitting cane", removable goatee and cigarette holder. He is a Beatnik because he plays chess there as his front. The rest of his crew is a bunch of drunks, losers and squares. Perhaps it is the director's subtle message that radical and subversive behavior exhibits itself in the mind of regular looking and average drones. I should stop thinking so much as this is a bad movie. Trying to analyze it any more, just makes my gums hurt more.

If you haven't figured it out already, this is a heist picture with a twist. If you have seen any of the Ocean 11 movies (Frank,Dino,Sammy,Brad,Matt and George versions are all prime and easy examples of the type of story this is attempting) or any of numerous heist related movies (too many to name),there are good and better ones than this one.

Do yourself a favor and stay away from this movie if it is not accompanied by two robot friends and a guy in a red jump suit. They are the only reason to watch this movie at all. I also recommend some Bulleit Bourbon with it, 5 shots-worth. Spread it out evenly, as the slow parts will require medicine. It is a homage to a true beatnik, "Moonie" : "I KILLED THAT FAT BARKEEP!!!"

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Review of "Harsh Times (2005)"

Harsh Times (2005)

A walk on the wild side, with Christian Bale

This movie may give you more deja vu than Deja Vu (review coming soon). If you have felt this way while watching this movie then you have probably already seen Training Day. While this is David Ayer's directorial debut, he wrote, produced, acted and even performed stunts in Training Day.

The movie revolves around the shenanigans of two long time friends, who are reunited in the streets of their old stomping ground, the streets of Los Angeles. Jim (Christian Bale) is a returning Army ranger looking for a job. Mike (Freddy Rodríguez) is also looking for a job to appease his girlfriend (Eva Longoria). Together they spend their days getting high, getting loaded and generally slacking off. They also end up committing some petty crimes.

The conflict in the movie arises when they meet up with their past, acquaintances and their baggage. Jim is a hard headed, hard case with more trauma from his service than he is willing to admit. Mike is in a transitional period and easily influenced. Tough decisions are hard to make and it is easy to procrastinate. We all do it.

Much like Training Day, you see the situation deteriorating quickly. For most of the movie you are expecting something bad to happen, but each postponement makes the movie that much more interesting. I did not expect much from this movie. I was expecting another "Sentinel" or "SWAT". Even though the ending is quite anti-climactic, brisk, and mostly predictable, it did not deter from the movie.

The perspective of the movie is heavily masculine, with the feminine characters being mostly man-handled. Even as a successful lawyer, Sylvia (Mike's girlfriend) is still branded. Even though woman are apparently secondary to men, they are somehow responsible for holding everything together. This is more likely a reflection of the attitude of the "street" than of the director himself.

It is finally nice to see Christian Bale laughing, getting high and drunk in a movie. He then reverts back to the brooding, dark character he is known for. He is quite due for a comedy part. One in which he is not the straight man. I think it would vastly improve his perception. Overall, the movie is a good first step. I am eagerly awaiting to see what else David Ayer can pull off. I know he can do Los Angeles inner city. But what else can he do?

Review of "Deja Vu (2006)"

Deja Vu (2006)

This all seems so familiar.....

TimeCop. This is TimeCop without the "Muscles from Brussels". The plot is not the same yet the vehicle is. Also, do not forget the 2 drink minimum with Denzel Washington.

A ferry blows up in New Orleans carrying mostly servicemen and civilians. Denzel Washington is an ATF agent sent to investigate. The first half of the movie is your typical police drama/investigation. It is the second half of the movie that feels like someone sucker punched you in the gonads. Let me rephrase that. It is so completely over the top and full of paradoxes that it makes Millennium seem like a Broadway musical.

It isn't that this is a bad movie. The problem is that it isn't consistent and that hurts it dramatically. If it went full on science fiction or basic detective story, it would have worked. The problems is the sudden flip. I thought there was something wrong with the DVD or maybe the director had seen too much of Memento recently. And yes, Paula Patton is easy on the eyes, but she spends half the movie being dead. I don't swing that way, sorry.

TimeCop worked on a purely science fiction and campy level. It is like that from beginning to end. Deja Vu tries first to be realistic and then sneaks in the incredible midway plot twist (like we were sufficiently drunk enough to try a rear entry through the back door without anyone noticing). It just becomes ridiculous. This is further complicated by the happy, yet somehow implausible and strangely creepy, ending.

This is a pure rental. Unless you enjoy happy, yet implausible endings, love stories involving dead people and/or science fiction so watered down you can't taste it , I suggest you try something else.