Sunday, May 11, 2014

The BackLOG Reviews - Episode 5

Goin' overseas! Yeeeeeah, gettin' foreign up in The BackLOG with a British smash hit! That counts right? Does it? I'm going to go with it because...well...Breaking Away WANTED to be Italian, The Artist WANTED to be French but this one actually IS from the UK. So take that! Take that all the way to the bank! And then take heroin. Because apparently this movie is about heroin. from porn to drugs. Next it's going to be a movie about AIDS. Thankfully I've already seen Rent...

Sunday, May 4, 2014


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.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The BackLOG Reviews - Episode 4

Ya see, I take a few weeks off, let work wind down a little bit, get some time to myself so makes sense that I might as well pop on a little story about internet porn. ...Thanks box. Way to keep those high standards rollin'. Back to back award winners then Dungeons and Dragons and now this. Ugh, not too excited for this pull but never know! Ya just never know...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

EPISODE 3 REVIEW: Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons - 2000
Director: Courtney Solomon
Starring: Jeremy Irons, Justin Whalen

Dungeons and Dragons is based off of the game Dungeons and Dragons like vomit is based off of the bottle of tequila you should guzzle before watching this movie. Fans of the franchise will be happy to hear that it had everything that makes for a standard D&D game: painfully awkward dialogue, abysmal acting, idiot college kids suffering from delusions of grandeur, and dwarves because a D&D game without dwarves is like a sci-fi movie without the Zeeblax tribe from the planet Narflux. I mean, why even try without them, seriously?

Taking place in the Empire of Izmir, Dungeons and Dragons puts us in the middle of a political struggle where the evil mage Profion is trying to incite chaos by convincing the high council that the child Empress Savina is a bad, bad person because she wants equality and wields a rod that controls golden dragons. This apparently works because all of the council is over the age of 70 and thus are terrible, inconsiderate people and the poor Empress Savina suddenly has an incredibly pointless uprising on her hands.

On the right: Profion for Men
On the left: Profion for Women
Off in the distance are two buddies, Ridley, a Level 3 Thief and his trusted partner Snails, a Level 0 Wayans Brother. Deciding to break into the mages guild to go steal stuff, they are quickly captured by the sexy librarian character and learn about a rod that controls red dragons ‘cause why not, really? Abandoning all of their personal feelings and ethics, Ridley and Wayans Brother decide to partake in the quest to find the rod and save the realm while casting a big spotlight on all of the reasons D&D is ridiculed so much in society.

When you have a movie that is based off of such a vast world with so much imagination, the worst thing you could do is try to cater to every purist that is going to cry foul because you might have forgotten something that seems so crucial to the lore. This film had dragons and dwarves and magic weapons and dungeons that, instead of being beautifully strung together in a plot that could appreciate the majesty of them, was tossed into the plot casserole as if halfway through production someone realized “oh my gosh! We forgot elves!” and there was a quick coffee break and writing adjustment to find some place for them.

What you get is a near crit fail with no chance for a saving throw. This looked like an after school special but with worse production value (half the time, the sound effects were off by a noticeable second) and a slurry of desperate attempts to relate to what everyone thinks is the average D&D player. I know the average D&D player…this movie missed horribly and made the entire culture look like a joke. The characters were WAY into their dialogue which was constructed like horrible improv that only rears its ugly head after many, many bottles of Mountain Dew. It was messy and uncomfortable and it didn’t take long before I didn’t want to be a part of it.

Marlon Wayans as "the face that launched
a thousand resumes."
I’ve never been big into Dungeons and Dragons, but I tried and I have a lot of friends into it and yes, I will admit that it actually can be kind of fun, but this film bastardized all of that by making no attempts to be genuine and instead making many attempts to simply be there. It is cruel and unusual punishment because those purists out there will immediately recognize a lack of history and those unfamiliar and just a fan of fantasy in general will walk away thinking this is an accurate representation of one of the most important franchises of our time.

They will be wrong. Everything about this movie is wrong and I think it’s safe to say this is one that we wish we could re-roll. But it’s too late, it’s already spawned sequels and has made a horrible, pathetic mockery of itself. Though let’s hope that one day, one fateful day, a brave soul in the far reaches of Hollywoodland will gaze upon Dungeons and Dragons and take on an epic quest of their own to bring honor to this enchanting world and create a beautifully crafted tale for the ages that will be reveled as one the greatest stories ever told, instead of one of the worst inside jokes ever filmed.

Gaining a +1 to movies I’ve seen, but a -100 to minutes of my life I enjoyed even a little bit, Dungeons and Dragons rolls just above a critical failure and acquires 2 Sacred Busters of Dusting.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The BackLOG Reviews - Episode 3: The first microwave pull?

It's Episode 3 and after 2 Best Picture...ishes, it's time to lower our standards significantly! Tonight's pull is in the list of "movies that are in the box because people knew I would hate them but they couldn't wait to see the review." Could this be the first to fall prey to the microwave? I don't know yet, but what I do know is I have to endure it! I'm whippin' out the Hot Pockets and Mountain Dew, it's time for a little Dungeons and Dragons.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


The Artist - 2011
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman

You old farts need to embrace the new or you’re gonna get left behind. That’s basically the message of The Artist, the Best Picture winning film that, I admit, did quite a decent job at proving that point despite a majority of the film being nothing but orchestra. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with these kinds of movies; I’ve watched them before, but I usually have to be in a mood for them; I don’t just watch these on a whim (which is how it gets in the box, aka The Forced Whim Randomizer). If you feel the same way, which is possibly a lot of you, let me be honest and say that I was surprised how enjoyable this was. I suggest you give it a shot.

Now, it isn’t mind-blowing. Well…it is at first; it is magical and whimsical and fun! It’s the story of a silent film star, George Valentin, who is at the pinnacle of his career. His fans love him almost as much as he loves himself and business is good. That is until business opens its mouth and words come out. With this new age of talking pictures set to hit the silver screen, Valentin merely laughs it off as a fad that will die out before it ever gains steam. Oh foolish, foolish man.

Who's That Girl? I have no clue, but hey! It's Malcolm
McDowell! I know that guy!
His folly is told through the story of Peppy Miller who, after a seemingly innocent encounter with Valentin, decides to try and break into the movie business in hopes of meeting him again. Starting out as a small-time dancer in some of the silent movies, she does embrace the awe of audio and her career skyrockets while Valentin’s crumbles. Though she does get her meetings with Valentin again early on, as their paths go in drastically different directions, the connection that she was hoping to make and maintain becomes near impossible.

As we watch the stubbornness of a man refusing to get out of his element, all of the other elements of his life start to turn on him. Losing his home, his marriage, and his job, Valentin tries to cling to whatever life he had, even going so far as to make his own movie in hopes that he’ll find his old audience excited to see him again (because those who can’t do, direct). But the world moves on without him, as it is entitled to do, and there is no place for a man who refuses to embrace a new age.

Keep in mind, 95% of this movie is silent, with mere orchestrations in the background and the occasional sound effect used to demonstrate the descent into decibel hell. Think of it like how Pleasantville used their break-ins of color to show movement and acceptance from one societal era into the next. Because of that, it requires you keep your attention, which is hard for me sometimes, but I will give it props for managing to do so. There was plenty of charm and the soundtrack was playful and kept me engaged in the story, which was quite a good story. Some misplays and I felt Valentin’s fall to despair wasn’t quite deserving of the direction it went for as much as the film was willing to show of it (like most silent films you, the audience, are expected to fill A LOT of blanks), but ya know, I was quite impressed!

As we all know, audio killed the silent video star, but thankfully this movie is merely a story of two people living during that time and told mostly in a way that reflects the age of entertainment back then. This is an art piece much like macaroni pictures are an art piece to a kindergartener. Don’t read more into it than what is right there; it makes sense for the time. This won’t (and didn’t) spawn a wave of silent film, nor does it dare to find flaws in talking pictures in hopes that the public will say “aww, it’s like back when movies were good!” Lord knows I certainly didn’t want to switch on Turner Classic Movies as soon as this was done.

I keep trying to think of what I would have like to see to bump up the score on this one (on top of some picky-bastard story adjustments). It was a great movie, beautifully told and incredibly daring but I can’t give it bonus points simply for that. Conceptually yeah, a 10 out of 10, but I just didn’t enjoy it to a 10 out of 10. The longer I watched, the harder it was to appreciate considering that what kept me amazed at the start was all of the charm and wit that the story naturally had to eliminate to tell itself effectively.

I still say watch it. It’s worth the watch and it’s also worth 8 out of 10 dustbusters from me.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The BackLOG Reviews - Episode 2

Happy February! It's Episode 2 and after a disappointing Golden Globe winning Best Picture...of sorts with Breaking's the Oscar's time to shine with the 2012 Best Picture The Artist! I was looking forward to seeing this one even though I have no clue what it's about...well, the box is taking another shot at the award winners! Let's see how it does!

EPISODE 1 REVIEW: Breaking Away

Breaking Away - 1979
Director: Peter Yates
Starring: Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern

When you’re watching a film that’s older than you, there has to be an understanding that there are going to be references and ideas and just an overall culture that you have to accept were tolerable back then. The world was different and if you watch it like a movie that just came out in theaters, you’re most likely going to be disappointed. I’ve watched a lot of movies in my day and I’d like to think I have a handle on this. I still am disappointed from time to time, but I at least can put the elements together with the time period. That being said, I have NO clue how 1979’s Breaking Away could have possibly won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. I’m…just stumped here.

Despite being made in 1979, Breaking Away is a coming-of-age 80’s movie. Everyone has feathered hair and the whole thing climaxes in a race that ultimately changes nothing. It’s an 80’s movie. It centers on four kids who are well out of high school and walk the streets of Bloomington, Indiana with no clue what to do with their lives. Ridiculed by the local college kids for being losers who think they own the place, Dave, Mike, Cyril, and Moocher waste their days complaining to each other about a life they wish they had but don’t want to do anything about as they claim public property, drive around really fast in their car and…basically live up to being losers who think they own the place.

Dave learning key Italian phrases like "I promise I'll be out
in a month, dad, just as soon as my Social Security kicks in."
Breaking Away eventually settles down on the only member of the quartet with a skill, Dave. Dave has a passion for competitive bike racing, specifically the Italian team, so much so that he’s started to embrace all the wonders of the cliché Italian: the snobby attitude, the odd love of extremely loud opera music, and the insatiable desire to put at least uno Italiano word in every sentence just to drive home that he belongs. Nobody likes this (including me), especially his father, who generally loathes his son’s existence because let’s face it, if you’re a worthless Jersey Shore wannabe living at home not doing anything with your life, it’s easy to be disappointed and fear that this phase is never going to end.

But the movie is called Breaking Away, not Accepting That You Just Suck so, naturally, something is going to steer Dave away from this lifestyle (and forget the other three characters, they stopped mattering ages ago) and because it’s an 80’s movie (honest), that’s going to be an epic race! And with the Italians! While in this epic bike race (it’s like 10 minutes through Bloomington, Indiana so…don’t set the bar too high in your mind), Dave is actually able to keep up with his favorite Italian team, who quickly responds by jamming a pipe in his tire. This causes him to crash and awake with a newfound realization that snobby, self-righteous Italians are just generally bad people and he should probably do something more with his life than talk with an over-exaggerated accent and use it to flirt with girls.

I missed something here. This film is on AFI’s list of Most Inspiring Movies but the only thing I was inspired to do was watch anything else to get this boring, dry, and generally lazy feeling crap out of my head. I went and looked back at other movies that came out in 1979 and I haven’t seen most of them so I’m going to just say that it was a slow year so mediocrity gets to shine! Hooray mediocrity! Was this the first of its kind? Is that what I’m struggling with here? Was this the first movie that took a band of misfits, stuck them amongst a group of like-aged peers who didn’t accept them and said “if you do anything that is worth some sort of feeling of accomplishment, the world can look past your otherwise depressing existence?” Was this a thing in 1979?

Friend 1, Friend 2, and Friend 3
What’s worse is that at the end, Dave falls for a French girl and his last line is him speaking French to his dad. He’s learned nothing! There’s nothing here that tells me he’s not going to suddenly embrace all the wonders of the cliché Frenchman and there will be a sequel to this movie called You Know, There’s Just No Helping Some People. And what happened to Mike, Cyril and Moocher? They should have just been listed as “Friend 1,” “Friend 2,” and “Friend 3” in the credits.

All in all, I was bored here, uninspired, if you will. If there was a phase going on back in the late 70’s where this was the norm and this film was some sort of guiding light to get teenagers out of a worthless rut…I fail to see how it could have succeeded, especially considering that Star Wars was hitting the mainstream at this time. Nothing screams “going and playing outside with friends and riding a bicycle is overrated while living in your parent’s house with a twisted obsession for something that does nothing to help you move forward in life is cool” like Star…oh…suddenly I understand this movie.

Whatever, still bored, still sucked, still stumped on the whole Best Original Screenplay thing. Oh…it won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy or Musical Film too? Did I miss a song and dance after the credit roll ‘cause it certainly wasn’t a comedy… That’s it, now I’m going to be pondering that all day. I need to break away. But not before shoving 5 dustbusters in your bike tire.