Friday, January 15, 2010

Shop smart, shop...K-mart?

"This ticket says Child on it."

Usually I'll get the Senior ticket, but I was like those guys scamming up the Tangiers' blackjack table in Casino, getting away with it for years and possibly getting away with it for even longer if it wasn't for getting greedy in the end. Thankfully, there is no Cheater's Justice at the cinema so all I had to do was pay the difference at Guest Services. I gave the manager my Child's ticket and I swear to you, nonexistent ladies & gentlemen, he gave me a look that said "So what?". But alas, he could not tell the twenty-something blonde girl who pinched me to look the other way, he had to lead by example. After that, Blondie happily accepted my now-revised-by-$3.50 ticket and I was finally off to Theater 18 to watch The Book of Eli.

This flick was directed by the Hughes Brothers, a couple of bastards who made a critically-acclaimed feature film a year shy of legal drinking age. The world was their oyster, motherfuckers were comparing their debut Menace II Society to some Scorsese throwing-down-the-gauntlet shit. I remember seeing that flick with my cousins in Inglewood and it remains today one of my all-time favorite moviegoing experiences for reasons I will leave up to you to figure out.

They followed it up with the just-as-awesome Dead Presidents but because that movie didn't do as well with critics or the box office, they got all butt-hurt and didn't do shit for a while until 2001 when they made yet another awesome flick, From Hell, but because THAT one also wasn't welcomed with open arms, they felt the ass-pain again and now here they are with their 4th feature film, all the way in 2010. (Yeah, I know they made a documentary called American Pimp, but I'm talking about real movies. You bet your fuckin' ass I said that shit.)

Denzel Washington plays the titular owner of the titular book, walking his way West through all the post-apocalyptic rubble. Because they came out relatively close to each other, you'll probably hear a lot of comparisons to The Road, but aside from a few scenes and the setting, they're pretty different. As it is, I'd put it down like this: The Road book > The Book of Eli > The Road movie. That's just my opinion, sorry.

Anyway, Denzel walks through with some belongings, some weapons, a fuckin' iPod, and a big fat leather-bound book. He walks into a small town run by Gary Oldman (looking a little like Tom Waits), intending to get some water and recharge the old batteries (both literally and figuratively), but it just happens to be that Oldman has been sending his men out to scavenge the wastelands for a certain book. How much you wanna bet it happens to be the book Denzel is carrying? And would you like to double your action by guessing the content of the book? Well, I'm not gonna take your goddamn bet because even one of the Gumbys from Monty Python could guess where this is going.

Along for the ride is Mila Kunis, playing one of the few post-apocalyptic survivors to have found stylish form-fitting jeans to wear; Jennifer Beals plays her mother and is still lookin' good; Punisher: War Zone shows up bald, playing Oldman's right-hand man (who plays into one of my fave movie cliches of being a villain who kills his own men!); and playing a store owner/fix-it man is none other than muthafuckin' Tom Waits (looking a little like Gary Oldman).

There are no laggers in this cast, they all give good performances without falling into their usual bag of tricks; Washington doesn't Denzel his shit up at all, he's totally committed as this character and Gary Oldman manages to be really creepy & scary without going too over-the-top. I mean, I *like* over-the-top Gary Oldman, but it's nice to see that he doesn't always have to pull that card to get the job done. A couple more older respected actors show up, but I'm gonna keep quiet on that, not because it's some Zombieland cameo shit, but because I just think it's more fun that way.

There are some cool action scenes in this movie, with the added bonus of Denzel doling out some choice ownage to particularly unlucky recipients. Pretty much everything Denzel does to a motherfucker both looks and (especially) sounds painful and you can definitely feel it. The action is a mixture of Yojimbo-style swordplay and Way of the Gun-style shootouts, served up with a dash of Waterworld-style absurdity. As you can see, this isn't the most original movie in the world; there's even one scene early on that feels straight-up jacked from Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior. But I think the Hughes Bros know that, I mean, there's a poster for A Boy and His Dog in the background in one scene, which I think tells you how aware they are of the kind of movie they're making.

Eli's got a very interesting look; Bleak is the name of the game, so all the colors are washed-out and the sky above is practically gray-scale. It's also nice to see that the Hughes' manage to make a cool-looking movie both in style and execution while still keeping the overall mise-en-scene old-fucking-school; they don't fuckin' Tony Scott the motherfucker in an attempt to make shit exciting. It's not shot in Confuse-O-Vision. There are no choppy chopped-up editeditedits. No Nu-Metal or Top 20 hits are worked in for no reason other than to sell soundtrack albums (there are a couple 70's hits, though, but it works). It's a goddamn Christmas miracle in January to see guys like these, guys with mucho style to burn and yet displaying both the confidence and discipline to use that style in a manner that doesn't overwhelm the goddamn movie you're watching.

Put this in the Good But Not Great category. It's a well-done and watchable example of the genre, but it never completely rocked my world. It certainly won't replace Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior (aka The Jew Hater's Gonna Get Dat Gas!) as my go-to post-apocalyptic action movie any time soon, but I felt I just about got my two hours worth (if not exactly my -- OUCH -- $10 worth). My only serious problem with Eli is the climax -- or more specifically, the lack of one.

You see, Eli is one of those movies with what I call a Stealth Climax, which is different than an anticlimax. One builds up to something that never happens and the other actually delivers, just not in the way you thought it would. In other words, I didn't know I was watching the climax while I was watching it. I thought I was watching the pre-climax action scene, the next-to-last action beat. But then, the movie goes on for another 15-20 minutes and somewhere along the way I realized nope, that's it, no more action. What follows makes up for it (the final revelation involving Eli reminded me of another old cult favorite), but still, that was some walking-down-the-stairs-expecting-one-more-step-and-getting-the-ground-instead shit for me.

The Book of Eli is the least of the Hughes Brothers' criminally short oeuvre, it did not continue the Awesome tradition but it was still kinda cool, and I hope this one does well enough so that they don't get fuckin' butt-hurt again and decide to sit out another fuckin' decade. I'll give John Patrick Shanley and Terrence Malick a 10+ year pass, but all the Hughes' will get is my props for sneakily putting in some Morricone in this movie.

One last thing, all I could think about while watching this, or post-apocalyptic movies in general (or any period piece that takes place before running water), is how fucking bad these people must smell. I mean, even fine-ass Mila Kunis can't be *that* clean in this kind of environment. I'd still hit it, though. Two times. Are you kidding me, like I have a choice in the matter to begin with. I'd be lucky to get Mila's uglier incontinent twin.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Quit giving me shit or I will beat the living fuck out of you, old man. Mind your goddamn business, I'll kiss her when I fucking feel like it.

One of the first things my ex-con friend did after getting out of the joint was pick up a membership to 24 Hour Fitness, because staying buff and getting buffer is his life now. Problem is, they gave him a free 7-day pass to foist onto someone else and it looks like I am someone else. Fuck. Simply put, I don't do the exercise thing. I have a perfectly good routine where I remain sedentary and hatefully stuff my fat fuckin' face with Triple Combos from Wendy's, washed down with a large container of caffeinated sugar water. I did once have a brief dalliance with weightlifting, which appears to have resulted in the right side of my gut now being slightly larger than the left. That's either the Big C, a pre-Discovery Channel tumor ("It's not a too-mah!") or a fuckin' hernia, and since I don't have health insurance, your guess is as good as mine and what's life without a little mystery?

Enough about that, let's talk about The Adorable Amy Adams' new film, Leap Year. Some people have been commenting online that Amy Adams is gonna fuck it up for herself by doing crap movies like this one, but personally I think her Quality-to-Shit ratio is still pretty good. To me, only Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian and this one were the only flicks flaunting red flags; I'd never consider watching these goddamn things if it weren't for the lovely Ms. Adams being in them. She was on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon the other night, looking as adorable as usual, which was a surprise to me because nothing fucks up a cute girl like pregnancy. Yet such is the power of The Amy that I found her just as Awww-inducing as she was pre-mistake. Maybe it's because as I looked at her with that burden in her belly, I couldn't help but flash back to her role in Junebug, the flick that made me fall in love with her for the second time (Catch Me If You Can was the first).

Okay, so Amy Adams plays this chick who furnishes empty apartments to look so fucking good people will want to rent them. If that's a real job, then holy shit, because it fuckin' sounds like one of those painfully cute fake occupations that screenwriters like coming up with for these kinds of fuckin' movies. She's been going out with some douche for 4 years and after her friend who resembles a cracked-out version of Reese Witherspoon tells her that she saw him leaving an expensive jewelry store, it looks like she's finally getting hitched. Except she's not, he only bought her earrings. Beautiful and expensive earrings, but what does that matter to a woman with a predetermined destiny in mind? Ain't that a bitch. For all the good it did, he might as well have fuckin' bought this chick some shower curtain rings from Del Griffith.

Anyway, the boyfriend jets off to Dublin for whatever-the-fuck reason and then John Lithgow shows up, and rather than dress up in women's clothes or kidnap her baby or strangle her with a watch garrote, he instead tells her about how it's some kind of tradition in Ireland that women are allowed to propose marriage on Leap Day. Because we wouldn't have a movie otherwise, she hops on a plane and heads over to the land of leprechauns and potatoes and gets mixed up with one of these slightly rugged country types who she pays to drive her to Dublin and wackiness ensues.

You know, I just wasted your time and mine with that last paragraph because it's all in the trailer, I should've just posted that instead. This is a front-runner for the 2010 Award for Best Example of Trailer as Cliff Notes; last year's winner was the trailer for Brothers. Nearly all the beats the characters go through and the major plot points are given to you in the trailer. That's another reason I wouldn't want to see this if it was starring say, Kate Hudson, but because The Adorable Amy Adams is in it, here I go marching to the ticket kiosk like a dumbass sliding my gift card in and pressing the button marked "Child". Having said that, it could've been a hell of a lot fucking worse for a cookie-cutter, by-the-numbers romantic comedy -- a lot fucking worse, like the trailers for the romantic comedies they were showing before this one; Valentine's Day (aka Ka-Ching, Money in the Bank!) and When In Rome starring Kristen Bell, who I dig but not nearly as much as Ms. Adams so it's DVD for that shit.

But yeah, it wasn't that bad, believe it or not. It started a bit tough, but somewhere near the end of the first act it began to win me over a tad. Or maybe the first act wasn't that bad to begin with and I was still suffering from the noxious trailers that preceded it. Whatever the case, I started digging it more once Adams and that fuckin' murdering asshole Adrian Veidt hit the road to Dublin. Part of the fun is that both characters are slightly douchebaggy people trying to pass themselves off as hot shit, just like the rest of us. Yup, that's right, I'm speaking for you too. Unlike most movies of its ilk, Leap Year recognizes this and doesn't have any problem taking these motherfuckers down a few pegs every once in a while. At least that's how I see it, and if I'm wrong, then this movie is all the more worse for it.

It was actually kind of fun to watch The Adorable Amy Adams spar off with Adrian Veidt, they had a nice chemistry going on that didn't induce feelings in me to make loud retching noises in the theater -- not that I would, I'm not that kind of asshole. You know where this movie is going, but the leads are so charming in spite of their characters, that it makes this bullshit so much easier to sit through. Dare I say it, Amy Adams and that sneaky fuckin' Veidt manage to elevate this to the level of Watchable. For a while it plays like Planes, Trains and Automobiles except it's NOOOOOO-WHERE near as good and it wouldn't be nearly as fucked up if Adrian Veidt woke up with his other hand between Ms. Adams' two pillows. There is little-to-no cringe factor which is pretty fucking good for this kind of movie, at least until the ending which you don't even have to see to already know not just what will happen but how it'll be shot, edited, and scored.

I really don't have much to say about this movie because that's the kind of movie it is. It's completely innocuous froth, nothing really special here aside from the beautiful scenery and the Adorable Amy Adams, the latter of which is the only reason I'm even bothering to write about this. There were other more deserving flicks I didn't write about in the past 12 months. Shit, I didn't even blog about The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans and that shit had me geeking out to THE BREAK OF DAWN! And that movie had iguanas! Iguanas are awesome! Motherfuckin' Iguana-Cam! Yet I didn't blog about that fuckin' movie but here I am rambling about *this* fuckin' movie because I guess I have to be consistent with the Amy Adams love here on this terrible excuse for a blog. It's all good though, because I dig this chick, she's a swell gal.

Anyway, Leap Year hits the right notes for its type while never taking a chance to surprise you at all. You've seen this movie before and if you have a girlfriend or wife, you'll probably see this type of movie a hundred times more. Overall, I thought it was a pleasant time-killer, more of a testament to the ability of the leads elevating the material than anything else. Of course, I was probably watching this through Amy Adams-colored glasses, so fuck what I just said and just plunk down the ducats for Avatar instead.

All right, I'm off to bed to prepare for the first of my seven days of pain and embarrassment, or at least more pain and embarrassment than usual. Yup, I finally gave in and in a matter of hours I will be making an ass of myself at the gym because I don't want to be a dick to my friend. So if you're working out at a 24 Hour Fitness and notice a fat ugly loser cry and shit himself after two reps of lifting 20 lb. weights, that's probably me and there will most likely be paramedics and oxygen masks involved and all that I ask is that you do not camera-phone that shit and send it to YouTube. Please, have a heart for once.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

For what, I have no idea.

It's a new year and new disappointments await. But new movies also await, so I'm going to give this blog another round of attempts for a while. One thing I'll be doing is collecting ticket stubs again; I used to put them away in a photo album from '93 to '99 until I suddenly developed a sense of douchebag self-consciousness and stopped. God forgive me, I actually was kinda embarrassed by something so geeky. I've gotten over that bullshit a long, long time ago, so I'm doing it again. I'm also going to take a log of every movie I see this year (just for S&G's) and I'll post them in separate blog entries. I got the idea from people better than me, and I think it's an interesting idea and it might be fun (for me) to look at by the end of the year, should I make it that far without giving head to a double-barrel.

Anyway, here's the latest movie I watched at the theater. I think I'm going to start to refer to movie theaters as "the cinema" from now on, just because I like the sound of it and because I need to pretentious it up a tad more on this here blog. Daybreakers is the new movie by a couple of Fosters drinking motherfuckers called the Spierig Brothers. Their last movie was the zombie flick Undead and I'm sorry to admit that I wasn't the biggest fan of that one, I'd have to put it under the category of Appreciated More Than Liked. Daybreakers, on the other hand, I'd have to put under the category of Pretty Fucking Sweet. The introduction titles are in muted red lettering over black screen, and if you're watching a genre movie with those kind of credits, you know what that means: this is gonna be a bloody fuckin' movie.

The movie takes place in the not-so-distant future, where some kind of virus or something has turned most people on Earth into vampires. I'm guessing it was some Patient Zero type of shit and he or she bit someone, and that person bit someone, and so on and so on. I'm not too sure because I noticed the movie was slightly out-of-focus and after the pre-credits sequence it was still blurry, so while everyone sits back and does nothing, I'm the motherfucker who has to jump out and run out of the auditorium to tell someone/anyone/everyone that the goddamn projectionist has to wake the fuck up. By the time I got back, the credits were long over and if there was a montage or Star Wars-style crawl explaining the situation in detail, I missed it. But I got the general idea.

So it's been like ten years since everyone started rolling like Nosferatu, and those who didn't turn were hunted down and farmed out into worst-case-scenario blood banks. They're put to sleep and hooked into machines that slowly drain precious precious plasma from their bodies. It's some Matrix-looking shit, and it must really suck to be in that situation. But then again, who knows, it might even suck more to be a fuckin' vampire. Sure, fuckin' Sam Neill's character would never admit it, he's busy going on about how awesome it is to be able to live forever now and stay the same age. He's the main dude of the company in charge of milking the comatose humans of blood (or maybe "blooding" is more appropriate?) and the idea is that eventually they won't have to use humans anymore because he's got his people working on a blood substitute. Well, eventually better fucking happen right now because they have only enough human blood to last another month, and after that's gone all the vamps are gonna start mutating into some nasty winged creatures. So, like I said, it might suck more to be a vampire. Holy shit -- I just realized I used the word "suck" three times in this paragraph and I wasn't being punny about it either. Give me a fuckin' cookie, people.

Sam Neill is on the motherfucker, he's got his best blood doctors on the job and the best of the best is played by Ethan Hawke, who is basically playing Ethan Hawke if he was a vampire. That is to say, he's a complete bleeding-heart liberal about the whole Vampire > Human equation. He refuses to drink human blood (I must have missed the part where it's explained what he drinks instead) and feels bad about all these poor rampant humans being rounded up and given the Capri-Sun treatment. So he's doubly desperate to find a blood substitute, because he wants humans to be left alone and because he doesn't want to turn into an ugly From Dusk Till Dawn vampire.

Of course, this isn't the entire plot because if it was, that would make this shit some kind of vampire version of And The Band Played On or something while weepy-ass Hawke furtively stares into microscopes and beakers. Nah man, this story soon gets into action territory and some really good shit as the blood starts to flow and flesh begins to fry. If you're like me, it's at this point that you ask yourself Can This Movie Get Any Cooler and it's right after that moment that Willem Dafoe shows up to answer that shit with a resounding Fuckin' A. I don't know how much is given away in the trailers or commercials because I haven't seen them. Come to think of it, I have no idea how I found out about this movie in the first place, all I know is that I looked up the listings for upcoming flicks and recognized the name Daybreakers, so I must have seen that shit somewhere.

Is David Goyer okay with this movie, by the way? I'm asking because the entire premise of Daybreakers is pretty much based on a deleted scene from Blade. It was supposed to explain how the vampires were going to get by if the villain's plan to turn everyone into vampires succeeded. Goyer then tried to writing it into Blade II but it didn't make the final cut, and finally he triumphed in having the blood farm idea placed in Blade Trinity, but since nobody but me and David Goyer liked that one, I guess it doesn't count and the idea is public domain, so the Spierigs were like "Crikey, we oughta make a film 'bout that, mate! Oy, put that didgeridoo down and pass me another Fosters and toss another shrimp on the barbie and put on Crocodile Dundee In Los Angeles and don't forget to feed Dingo before he attacks the kangaroo again" because that's how Australians roll. Visually, the movie sometimes reminded me of Blade too, with the night scenes shot in a soft fluorescent lighting style that gives everyone a pale blue skintone, backed up with a production design that contrasts the pale blue with deep crimson. Okay, so it might be a tad derivative in the setup, but the execution is lots of fun and full of enough of its own cool original ideas that it balances out nicely.

This is mainly an action flick, but there are quite a few genuinely good scares and nasty shocks peppered throughout. I honestly didn't see a few of them coming and actually jumped -- and I hardly ever jump at these things. There are a couple that are lame and that's because they're those stupid fucking Boo! fake jump moments, where something jumps out and it's a fuckin' cat or something. It's weird, I can always sense a lame fake scare moment coming and I guess that's why I'm not a big jumper in the first place. The whole setting was pretty fascinating to watch, I would've loved to have watched a movie about this vampire world even without all the exploding bodies. I read a random tweet on Twitter from someone saying that the Underworld movies own this fuckin' flick, and all I can say to this unknown dude is I feel sorry for your mother. Underworld was a decent movie but way too fuckin' stretched out and long. Not this movie, this moves at a good pace and when it was over I kinda wished there was more to see, whereas with Underworld, I was a little glad it was finally over.

I liked the details -- both big and little -- of the vampire society. People still eat and drink, but blood is the main additive; for example, people line up at their local coffee joint for a nice hot cup of java mixed with O-Positive. I also liked how the vampires get around the whole daylight thing by using underground walkways that hook up to every house and building in the city, and automobiles are equipped with special windows that block out all that harmful UV. It was an interesting touch that some of the vampires in this movie are heavy smokers; since the only thing that can kill a vampire is sunlight or a stake in the heart, a nicotine-jonesing motherfucker is now able to tell Cancer to go fuck itself and get his or her smoke on. I understand the show True Blood kinda touches on this kind of shit, but I wouldn't know because I'd never watch the motherfucker and besides, I had to cancel HBO a while ago. On the plus side, they gave me a year of free Showtime and The Movie Channel so now I can rock the Splatterday double features like a mutha.

There used to be a time when there were low-to-medium budget genre pics like Daybreakers filling the cineplex, movies that may not have had the best special effects or biggest stars, but became hits simply by being Good Times. You don't see that shit so often anymore, now these kinds of flicks are either mega-budget studio tentpoles or ultra-low-rent SyFy Channel filler. So it's cool that Lionsgate is kinda making such movies their bread & butter, and hopefully Daybreakers will do well enough to let them produce more of these types of flicks. I'm sure they'll eventually pull a New Line and try playing with the big boys, and I'm fine with that as long as they don't lose their balls when it comes to making R-rated movies with a Capital Fucking RRRRRR. No shit, these guys produced Rambo, Punisher War Zone, Crank: High Voltage, and yes, even those fucking Saw movies. All those movies did not shy away from the red stuff, they never had a hint of trying to possibly go for a PG-13 like most genre movies do nowadays. Yes, I'm aware that they fucked over Midnight Meat Train and to a lesser extent, Blood Creek, but nobody's perfect.

The cast is good; with the exception of Hawke, Neill and Dafoe, these were all new faces to me. The guy who played Hawke's brother did a great job being an asshole; I think you're supposed to feel sorry for him toward the end but not me, man. Fuck that guy. Supposedly Mungo from Undead is here, and if that movie had made a bigger impression on me maybe I'd have recognized him. It's funny, I think I like Ethan Hawke more when he's doing genre stuff and not in the roles that scream I'm More Than A Pretty Face, I'm An AC-TOR. Whatever, I'm sure he finds this kind of shit beneath him. I wouldn't be surprised if he looks down on Explorers, so fuck that asshole.

I remember reading this book by Peter Biskind that was either titled Harvey Weinstein Is A Fat Fucking Bully Who Ruins Movies And Won't Stop Eating, or Down and Dirty Pictures, I'm not sure. Hawke was among the many actors and filmmakers interviewed and there was a bit where he was bitching about how his name is good enough for a studio to shell out $40 million if you want to make a cop movie, but they won't give a 1/4 of that to him and Richard Linklater to make A Scanner Darkly. I don't remember what my point is or if I had one to begin with, other than I think it's pretty funny that the movie did eventually get made, but they cast Keanu Reeves instead and Hawke got assed out.

Anyway, I dug this movie. It was fun, there was plenty of blood and action and suspense and all that shit. The filmmakers should've gone out of their way to throw a few titties in there for homeboy, but whatever, it's still good times. But there are no half-naked queer triplets that turn into werewolves, so unless your chick is awesome, she'll probably want to go see the other vampire movie. Sorry bro, it's the way of the world.