Saturday, May 30, 2015

EPISODE 3 REVIEW: Celeste and Jesse Forever

Director: Lee Toland Kreiger
Starring: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg

It’s easy to boil Celeste and Jesse Forever down to single word: Awkward. Like doing a movie review two months after you pulled it, this movie looks like the script just sat, unfinished on a table, until someone said “You know, I’m tired of looking at this thing…I guess I should just fucking get it over with.” I was excited for this movie too, but quickly after the 4 minute Up-inspired epileptic seizure that was a photo montage of Celeste and Jesse’s entire relationship, I realized that I wasn’t in for some charming rom-com, but more an obnoxious dramedy riddled with terribly uncomfortable and forced joke sequences. It’s the same problem I have with Judd Apatow humor: it’s funnier reliving it with a bunch of friends than it is seeing it play out on screen.
Jesse and Celeste sharing a kiss for no
other reason than because the backdrop
was kind of cool for it...

C + J 4Ever
(They wrote it on a cake…I can use it) focuses around a couple 6 months after they got divorced in what I can only imagine was one of the dumbest proceedings ever. The two still live together, do everything together, have their awkward moments together, make new inside jokes together, and pretty much confuse the hell out of everyone around them that don’t believe they’re not together…together. Even I was baffled as to why they weren’t together and although the reason for the divorce is a solid one (Jesse’s a loser who won’t get a job and grow up…), I was never convinced even the movie believed it was good enough. And as much as I hate to make my entire feeling of the movie come down to that one thing…that’s a big thing and nothing sat well with me because of it. It’s like listening to an entire church sermon for the first time but at the very beginning hearing the pastor pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster then tell the audience “but what I’m about to tell you could work too. Just follow along.”

In a moment of forced awkwardness, Jesse finds out that a woman he slept with 3 month prior was having a baby, and as much as he enjoys living in the most uncomfortable friend-zone situation ever, he was going to have to move out of Celeste’s place and focus on moving forward without her. This puts Celeste in a funk of “wait, I can no longer enjoy the company of someone who I have perfect chemistry with who lives with me, shares everything with me, and has a clear attraction to me? I wonder if he thought I was stringing him along…” (Women just don’t…get…the friend-zone thing…) From there we watch Celeste try to move forward herself while continuing to string Jesse along hoping that…I don’t know…Jesse’s other woman gets hit by a bus at the end and it all just works out. Given some of the awkward situations this movie put the characters in for no reason, I can’t help but think that would have been an acceptable ending.

Elijah Wood's entire purpose in this
film was to let you know that his
character was uber-gay.
This is a film that I can’t help but feel like it was assembled out of order. If it started with all the chemistry stuff and we delved more into them having to deal with Jesse being a loser while the two remained an amazing couple, then leading up into some climax where they ended up divorced because that loser thing was just too much for Celeste, I might have been ok with that. I might have felt there was some genuine feeling there that was being built off of, but instead it just seemed like a lackluster story filled with some bits that Andy Samburg couldn’t get on SNL before he got big and left the show. I can’t stand that; it’s the same reason that I found P.S. I Love You so terrible to the point of offensive.

I rattled around this one for a bit. It even strung me along! Do I stick this movie in the 6-7 friend-zone range? To reside on my shelf, thought about, but probably not embraced for a long, long time? Or do I just tell it to it straight and say “I’m sorry movie…I can’t think of any reason to continue this relationship. I’m going to let you live…but I’m not particularly excited about it.”

I’ve settled for the latter. I don’t want to be THAT guy. So, true to its cake, I give C + J 4Ever 4 dustbusters out of ten. If you want to see a movie about a couple that you learn early on is doomed to fail at the start, please watch 500 Days of Summer. It’s a much better movie.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The BackLOG Reviews 2015 - Episode 3






I think this is now a race between my ability to get through The BackLOG and the box's ability to get me through it. Unless I keep pulling miserable crap like Elegy...

Let's try this again! Andy Samberg, little help? Please make this less dumb. Thank you!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

EPISODE 2 REVIEW: Elegy


Elegy - 2008
Director: Isabel Coixet
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Penelope Cruz

I had to look up the term “elegy” in the midst of watching this movie. It’s not one of those terms you feel the need to readily know the definition to like “consent.” It means “a poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead” which pretty much shattered my expectations for everyone to break out into song at the end. In a sense, I felt like I spoiled something, but as the movie progressed, my thoughts stopped circling around how it was going to end and instead focused on when it was going to end.

Elegy lectures us on the story of David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley), a horny old professor who becomes somewhat obsessed with his latest student catch to the point where he actually starts thinking about (gasp) having a romantic relationship with her. She’s totally into that and it’s Penelope Cruz so this really should have been like a 5 minute movie because…fucking duh. There isn’t a plot here. Except he’s in his 50s and has had enough heartache and heartbreak from pretty much any level of commitment so he’s struggling with this one (or he, quite literally, never got out of college and like just about every college asshole is just naturally afraid of commitment but has no problems with the sex).

Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz
as the most "sure, whatever...
I'll go with that" couple ever.
On one end, David kind of has it made. In addition to the dreary, boring, but apparently mentally captivating nod and smile drool factory that is Penelope Cruz (I don’t care about her character name), he also has Carolyn (Patricia Clarkson) who is a traveling professional that wants nothing but sex and to be on her way, occasionally having somewhat real conversations about the joys of NSA. No commitment, no real drama, just convenient companionship. The rest of the “somewhat real conversations” come in the form of George (Dennis Hopper), a typical best friend character serving no purpose but to relay the awkwardness of the situation and allow the audience to get inside our main character’s head a little bit without a ridiculous voice over. They have coffee and play racquetball and George does his little “here’s why I think you’re dumb” speech and then cut to David doing the exact opposite of any advice brought up. David isn’t good at this companionship thing; he’s just constantly rolling naturals and it’s been a while since the dice landed on something that has made him have to think about what he’s doing.

This is where my biggest problem lies and I can’t help but feel that this is where the whole thing was going. As the story progresses, David starts to lose his grip on these easy situations because he suddenly has to start committing to them and, of course, his fear of the past (a past that is not that terrible really) makes him handle things poorly. Though as these conveniences fall apart and disappear, it never feels like David’s reached some point of despair, it more feels like the snooty rich kid who realizes that his glass of water is .2 degrees below room temperature (of which he did NOT ask for that, you incompetent swine). Great job, awesome best friend, two amazing women that either want you for sex or want you for you and your world is collapsing because suddenly some of these things have to mean something to you. Boo fuckin’ hoo.

Elegy: Typically a lament for the dead.
In this case, the death of Cruz's boobs.
Why? An excuse to see them again I
guess. Movie should have ended a
half hour ago...
The presentation of this whole collapse is done in a way that is obnoxiously similar to two other movies that meant well, but I felt were absolutely terrible: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Fountain. Beautifully acted, beautifully directed, nervously executed to the point of ridiculous. Elegy’s message is very simple: “don’t take things for granted.” All three of these movies take a very adult approach to a lesson most of us learn when we’re children, but they rub that message so much in your face it stops feeling artistic and more like the movie doesn’t believe it’s made its point adequately yet.

It isn’t a story more than it is a “life-lesson” themed parade, where each scene is another float passing down the street begging for acknowledgement of the hard work put into it before the next one follows in behind it with the same words but different colored flowers. Just get to the shitty marching band at the end so we can say “yeah, we got through it all! We can say we’re supporters now.”

Now, I’ve got a pancake breakfast to finish and the dreamcatcher saleslady is looking at me weird so I need to move along, but not before making a stop at the Kirby tent and picking up 5 dustbusters (and like…80 pamphlets) for this mess.

If you’re curious, Secret Life would have gotten a 6 and The Fountain would have gotten a 2. Seriously. Fuck The Fountain.


Monday, February 9, 2015

The BackLOG Reviews 2015 - Episode 2! Or 3, or 7, or whatever...





So this episode has everything I think. A review of a bad movie, hopes of pulling a good movie, my hand gets caught in the box again, I do a terrible Atari 2600 game impression, just another normal day for me. Oh and the first rendering of the video doesn't work because that always happens too.

Moving right along, 99 movies to go! If you've seen Elegy, let me know what you thought!

Friday, January 23, 2015

EPISODE 1 REVIEW: Man on a Ledge


Director: Asger Leth
Starring: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks

When you a see a DVD box for a movie called Man on a Ledge with a guy standing on a tall ledge overlooking a busy street below, certain thoughts enter your mind like “if the whole movie is about this then surely we’re in for a psychologically challenging ride” or “that’s why I don’t wash windows for a living.” But then you see a review on the box that says “a white-knuckle action thriller” and suddenly you can’t help but feel like you’re about to be disappointed. It’s like seeing Terrorism: The Movie with the review “fun for the whole family!” You can’t go anywhere with that except “well, I got nowhere to be so let’s just watch this play out.”

In Man on a Ledge Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is an ex-cop who breaks out of prison (by which I mean basically asks to go outside and then runs away) who comes up with a plan to pretend like he’s about to jump off a ledge to get public attention so they don’t notice the diamond heist he’s masterminding across the street (because everyone was apparently waiting for that). The reason for this heist is so he can prove that the diamond heist he was framed for didn’t actually occur because he literally just stole the diamond again so he couldn’t possibly have the first time. This kind of reminds me of Woody trying to convince the toys that he didn’t kill Buzz by pretending to talk with just his arm, except in this movie that plan would have worked perfectly even after showing the dismembered appendage to the horror of the crowd.

So according to the Wikipedia page
they printed out, it's the panel that's
18 inches long that is fake one that
doesn't trip any alarms.
Quick note about setting: When you have a movie that revolves around a single, mostly stationary location, what drives the suspense is the evolution of that location and how people deal with added complexity. Phonebooth nailed this, Saw did as well. Things challenged that spot and how characters dealt with it is what it made it interesting, but Man on a Ledge didn’t even seem to try. There was no sense of urgency with the film at all. Nick wasn’t going to jump, nobody was coming after him (or the actual thieves for that matter) and the diamond heist itself looked like it was storyboarded on an Atari because the hardest thing about it was listening to the fucking music.

For shits and giggles, Elizabeth Banks played as a negotiator who was told quite directly “I’m actually faking this so I can steal a diamond across the street” and spent most of her time saying “should I trust this guy who just broke out of prison, has informed me he’s not jumping off this ledge and just committed to a felony taking place across the street? Well, I got nowhere to be so let’s just watch this play out.” Edward Burns is in it for some reason, Ed Harris is in it for some reason, some girl takes off her clothes for some reason I recognize the black guy but he didn't matter really. What actually mattered here? I'm struggling. I watched this 3 days ago...I'm still having issues.

My biggest struggle with this was that absolutely nothing forced this movie forward and I think it stopped being interested in itself after a while. It just ran on autopilot pretty much from the very start and didn't give a shit about its characters at all, as if the premise of him being a cop that was standing on a ledge was going to satisfy all my needs despite the fact that the movie doesn't really do anything with either of them. I would have been happier watching a ball roll down a hill because although I know where it will all end, there might actually be bumps in that journey.

In fact, when it is all over, everyone reacts as if they suddenly understand the underlying plot. Applause comes from the spectators as if they were all in on this being a diamond heist the whole time; I didn’t feel cheated anymore so much as I felt like I was the last one to the party.

Sam Worthington is as convincing
as a giant blue space alien doing
a dramatic re-enactment of Ferngully.
It’s not that I feel that the “dishonored cop commits a felony to prove his innocence” mechanic is bad because The Negotiator is one of my favorite movies and it did just that. It’s that this one was just so lazily done and all of the thrill of a man on a ledge was thrown away when he said it was all a ruse and nothing really clever or exciting came from him being there. He used the public spectacle to his "advantage" twice, both of which in instances he probably wouldn’t have had to if he didn’t create one in the first place. Honestly, the two people doing the dirty work could probably have walked through the front door and asked the security guard to borrow the keys to the vault. Realistically, this could have been Man at a Desk or Man on a Toilet and had the same impact.
I wouldn’t have minded that actually: “Nick Cassidy tries to mastermind a diamond heist while dealing with a nasty case of explosive diarrhea.” I’ll take my Oscar now, thank you. Best Original Screenplay…or Special Effects.

There's so little to appreciate about this movie and it phones in just about every area that I don't even know what the hell genre to put this in. With a strong desire to film my own sequel to this movie titled DVD off a Ledge, this is barely worth the time to vacuum up the splattered remains of this crap with the 5 dustbusters I’m giving it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The BackLOG Review 2015 - Episode 1! Kinda...






I was jonesin' to do an episode so here we go! The first pull of 2015! I brought the box back up to 100 and whenever I'm really able to do an episode, I'll plug through! Please share this around if you can, I'd love to get more readers and it will probably motivate me a bit more to be more consistent, but as usual, if you've seen this and have some thoughts, let me know! Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

EPISODE 4 REVIEW: Middle Men

Middle Men - 2009
Director: George Gallo
Starring: Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi

OK, I TRY to not start a movie with expectations already set. If they are, I try to cast them aside as best as I can. But…drama about the start of internet porn…you just can’t…clear your mind of that. It’s like trying to not set expectations for a McDonalds. Every cook is different, cashiers are people too and can be nicer in some parts of the…no…no…it just feels dirty to not instantly assume screaming and indigestion. So here comes Middle Men, with which all the trailers made you assume that it was a sexual romp with plenty of nudity, tasteless jokes, and possibly a lesser known Baldwin brother cameo appearance. Faaaaaaaantastic. Love you too, BackLOG.

Within the first five minutes, we see Jack Harris (Luke Wilson) loading millions into a bag saying “I bet you’re wondering how I got to the point where I’m driving this sack of money to Russian mobsters.” Because that’s why people willingly turned on this movie. Nope, “boobies.” Let’s just…keep thinking inside the DVD box here.

I will give this movie credit for doing an expert job of not being so pointlessly gratuitous that I thought the full title was “National Lampoon’s Middle Men.” In fact, it actually told a good story when it was focused on its story, despite all the times I wanted to say “yeah, I’m sure THAT happened.”

Ribisi channels the Keanu
Reeves's patented "uhhh...duhh..."
 face throughout the movie.
Though internet porn is the catalyst here, the actual achievement shown in the “based on a true story” Middle Men is the creation of e-commerce as seen through Jack, who in the real world is actually Richard Gordon (in case you wanted to look it up). Granted, the movie cares about the e-commerce revolution about as much as THOSE schoolgirls care about studying and its facts are (ummm…sex joke, sex joke, sex joke…ummm) not very tight (nailed it), but that’s fine. We’re not here for a history lesson.

The story goes, one day in some dingy apartment, two toked up losers having an argument about masturbating together come up with the idea to scan pictures from their dirty magazines and charge people to see them on the internet. One of them happens to a programmer (a fact that…I can’t not think is completely accurate for some horrible reason) and creates the code that became the standard for accepting credit cards over the internet (not…COMPLETELY untrue…). Having no clue how to run a business, their missteps get the attention of…other losers who get the attention of Jack Harris…a financial fixer-upper of sorts who, through some ingenuity of his own, turns this small time venture into the multi-billion dollar industry that we all know and…don’t…love…when nobody’s looking…

All things considered, I was rather impressed with this movie…which shouldn’t have happened. A majority of the plot was around Jack Harris’s attempts to turn this venture into a legitimate business despite being surrounded by…pretty much the worst people ever. The movie did a really good job with this and definitely made it har….difficult for Jack to get it off…the ground. Damn it. I was expecting a lot of horrible excuses to put nudity in the picture but there were times where I almost couldn’t help but think they were trying to figure out how to keep it out. It’s as if the filmmakers actually were interested in the story they were telling…and despite how ludicrous it seemed as a “true story,” as a story it was actually not a half bad watch.

Incredible shots like this happened often. I was very
impressed by the cinematography. It's like they cared.
The cast wasn’t half bad either, because Giovanni Ribisi, who played one of the toked up losers, actually makes a pretty good “creepy psycho” (see Perfect Stranger). Along with James Caan, Kevin Pollak, Rade Serbedzija (Boris the Bullet Dodger from Snatch if you don’t know), and Kelsey Grammar (yes, really), everyone’s level of lunacy and poor handling of something WAY over their heads actually made for an intriguing group that wasn’t particularly great at being funny, dramatic, sad, or obnoxious…but was just the right levels of everything for me to keep watching.
Would I recommend this movie to everyone? Well…maybe not if you want to stay in your relationship. It’ll probably be difficult to convince your girlfriend that wasn’t some softcore porn movie but…it wasn’t. Actually, there are plenty of better movies that take on the adult industry with seriousness and great drama (because I’ll get arguments for saying 8MM I’ll stick to a lesser known and absolutely incredible Indie film Mute Witness). I think the “based on a true story” part hurt this; granted I haven’t fact checked (I can’t help but see that as a slippery slope), there were a lot of parts of this film that were pretty damn ludicrous and someone as intelligent as Jack Harris could have avoided a lot of things if he just used that intelligence regularly (I mean, surely there was plenty of blood in his brain).

Somehow, SOMEHOW leaping over the “Asian contortionist-low” limbo bar that I set for this movie, Middle Man snags a solid 7 out of 10 from me. Will I watch it again? …No, probably not. I can’t think of a single reason I’ll say “I’m in the mood for this…” but then again, I somehow got in the mood for John Q. a few days ago so…lord only knows.