Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The BackLOG Reviews - Episode 5

Stuck trying to figure out if I enjoyed Sideways, I pull The Town, a movie that...from the back of the box appears to be ready to put me in the same damn position. Ugh, come on box, give me something that doesn't make me want to palette cleanse immediately! It's keeping me up late! Oy.

On the plus side, it's inspiring me to get through the box faster! Maybe I can still pull this puppy off by the end of 2015 (he says, knowing that won't happen. But...4 days off and I REALLY want to movie marathon...)

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Sideways - 2004
Director: Alexander Payne
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church

The level of dysfunction that can be found in Sideways is about on par with the level of dysfunction my feelings have about this movie. It’s not as simple as an outstretched sideways thumb teetering between “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” though. It’s more “do I praise this film for its complex character study and exceptional execution of two absolutely different paradigms colliding and finding a disturbing understanding of each other on neutral ground” or “do I run this movie over with my car?”

Sideways focuses on a pre-wedding vacation where two best friends, Miles and Jack, head to California wine country to be bros and play golf and celebrate Jack’s last week of freedom…or at least that’s what Miles would like it to be. Where Miles seems to be using this trip as an escape from thinking about the goals and dreams that have gotten away from him (while clinging to the final hope he has that a book he wrote will get published), Jack just wants to fuck everything in sight in a place he knows his fiancĂ©e won’t be because damn…marriage sounds like a commitment. Together, this dynamic duo travel to a Podunk part of the West Coast, find two lovely ladies to spend some time with and tackle their fears and worries head on as they drink and bicker with each other on how the other person needs to get a grip.

Condescending asshole and Playboy piece of shit having
one of their rare "Friendship is Magic" moments.
I can’t really complain about the premise of these kinds of “come to Jesus” movies because those getaways are useful before major life milestones. Better even with someone who knows you that can keep you in check and keep you asking tough questions, and Miles and Jack do, regularly, despite the fact that they answer these questions with something that’s basically “shut up, I’ll do what I want.” The big conflict I’m having here has nothing really to do with the actions taken during this trip, but the characters themselves and that’s where my dysfunction lies. Can I be ok with a good execution of two very good stories about two people who I absolutely loathe? I laugh at the deaths of terrible people in horror movies like in not.

Miles is basically Frasier Crane if Frasier was a failed author and starred in a drama on Lifetime as opposed to a sitcom on NBC. He’s a pompous asshole using his snobbishness as a defense mechanism like how lonely Trekkies embrace ridiculous amounts of worthless trivia hoping someday the “Kirk vs. Picard” question will come up in a presidential debate they’re somehow a part of. He’s condescending and rubs in your face that, right now, he’s smarter than you, like M. Night (fucking) Shyamalan. This gets him passed the fact that he failed in marriage and can’t get over it even though it ended two years ago, can’t get a book published though everyone says he’s a genius and just leads the kind of existence where people would only show up to his funeral for the cake. He’s a deep person with deep issues that are completely self-inflicted and he knows it.

Jack on the other hand is a disappointing small time actor about to get married to someone I don’t think even he believes he deserves who is very attractive (I guess…I think Thomas Haden Church is permanently stuck in “mid-orgasm face” but that’s me), rich, and has lived a life that has been pretty carefree and without a lot of risk. It’s clear that marriage bothers him because that level of responsibility seems foreign to him. He is a shallow person with shallow issues that are only deep to him because he’s never dealt with anything so much as spilled milk before (or at least, the movie doesn’t really go down that road).

Like any idiot pre-wedding buddy movie the goal is simple.
Get all kinds of laid. Look at her eyes. Might help.
(Spoiler alert: It does in this case.)
Together they force each other to confront the error of their thinking and climb out of their self-destructive shells which I appreciate, but again, the dysfunction is that they do so by being genuinely terrible people. Condescending asshole and playboy piece of shit. The fact that this movie throws situations in their face that allow them to be those things where other people accept those things…doesn’t make them NOT those things anymore. So Miles found a girl that understands what he’s talking about when he’s spitting wine trivia back into a jar. Doesn’t mean he’s no longer an asshole about it because one person finds it ok. So Jack found a town where he can basically fuck anyone’s brains out and as a result has found “a special connection” that’s making him question his marriage. Doesn’t mean he’s no longer a playboy piece of shit because he can get away with it in this one location (kiiiiinda…).

So is the potential loss of these things enough to trigger some sort of response that makes Miles and Jack say “maybe we’re in the wrong here?” Or maybe that’s the point! Maybe they have gotten to see “a perfect scenario” and realized that it’s not that simple and as a result have decided to make some hard choices about how they look at their own lives. Or maybe they’re just both fuckwads living out a “National Lampoon for Grown-Ups” storyline and I’m overcomplicating this crap. They were drinking the whole fucking movie! I have no clue if they were in their right mind or having those “super deep” conversations that one has after 2 bottles of wine.

The tone of this movie suggests that it’s two whippersnappers painting a town red and learning more about themselves in the process. The 70s style music and directing (seriously? The quick zoom effect?) put out a carefree, “oh these guys are so silly and that’s why they’re perfect together” vibe but I can’t possibly see how these two are such good friends. They have nothing in common and there’s no friendly banter chemistry that suggests this is anything more than a Grindr date gone horribly, horribly wrong. But they carry each other through and I genuinely feel like they learned more about themselves and will be better people as a result. At the same time…I don’t think they deserve the life that allows them to just…get away with being the terrible people they were. Maybe that’s jealousy. I don’t know. I’m still conflicted here.

That being said, I’m doing the only thing that makes sense to me and giving this 6 dustbusters as it would be 6 glasses of wine (or beer) I would need to drink before really being able to wrap my mind around any of this…and even then I’m just throwing my hands in the air and saying “whatever!” Would I recommend it? …Maybe? I’d probably recommend Hall Pass first which isn’t really a better movie, but at least you know what it’s trying to do. Would I watch it again? Ummmm…I don’t know. Bring over a bottle of wine and we’ll see.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The BackLOG Reviews 2015 - Episode 4

Well Andy Samberg made it dumb so we're trying again! Fresh off...well pretty much way too much time off, we're back and trying to restore faith in filmanity after a slew of watching terrible crap on HBO (seriously Maze Runner?). Hoping for a little bit better of a pick, I find myself with a love-it-or-hate-it movie that I apparently should have seen ages ago. Yeah...about that.

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


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!