Sunday, April 22, 2007

Hot Fuzz: This shit just got real.

I read the Hot Fuzz script. I had seen countless clips. I met Edgar Wright. I spent all day on the 19th pulling overwhelmingly positive reviews. I felt as if I had seen the film, without actually seeing it. And still, none of that could have prepared me for how amazingly funny and brilliantly violent the film was.

You know the premise. You know that it pays homage to Point Break and Bad Boys II. You know that an old woman gets kicked in the face (and that, my friends, is some funny shit). But trust me, there's more funny shit than they can show in the commercials. And it's so ridiculously over the top violent and absurdly silly and well written and directed that it works way better than the movies it spoofs, even when it crosses from action movie spoof to action movie actuality at the end. Edgar Wright has quite a knack for directing action scenes.

There's just so much that works so well, not the least of which is the cast. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost pretty much reprise the relationship dynamic that worked so well for them in Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, and... real life, as all the pre-Fuzz interviews reiterate. What's also awesome about Hot Fuzz is the supporting cast. Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Paddy Considine (who was unexpectedly hilarious to someone who had only seen him in In America), Martin Freeman, cameos by Cate Blanchett and Peter Jackson... basically a dream cast of wonderful British character actors.

On a side note, I think Simon Pegg is on the verge of breaking out into a big-ass star, and I couldn't be happier. Best evidence of this? My rather mainstream roommate saying to me: "So I was on IMDB this morning trying to find out if Simon Pegg was married..."

I really think that Hot Fuzz is one of those movies that affirms your love of movies. Not because it's good (even though it is), but because it was written and directed by two people who are making movies because they love movies. And you've gotta love that.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

When Bad Movies Attack

I watch a lot of random bad movies on cable. Frequently, I'll find some way to justify watching something bad - "oh, it has Gary Oldman/Christopher Walken in it" (I use that one a lot) or "come on, it's Billy Madison, how can you not love Billy Madison." But I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why I got sucked into watching Rumor Has It.

Admittedly, the movie wasn't horrible - I've seen worse romantic comedies (Runaway Bride and Forces of Nature immediately spring to mind). In case you're unfamiliar with the plot, a young woman (Jennifer Aniston) returns home to Southern California for her younger sister's wedding, where she realizes that her mother and grandmother may have been the inspiration for Mrs. Robinson and Elaine in The Graduate. So she seeks out Beau Burroughs (aka Benjamin Braddock - played by Kevin Costner) and ends up sleeping with him and freaks out, because she thinks he may be her father. This much of the film is actually not that bad in theory, but the execution is questionable. Jennifer Aniston is cute enough (although suspension of disbelief is required to figure out why someone as attractive as her can't meet men), but I haven't found Kevin Costner attractive since Bull Durham and even that's only because of the "Well, I believe in the soul..." speech* he gives to Susan Sarandon's character. Now I really want to watch Bull Durham...

Anyway, because having Jennifer Aniston end up with a man old enough to be her father is vaguely icky, there is another character. Enter Mark Ruffalo, whose character is completely superfluous. He plays Jennifer Aniston's fiance and is basically only there at three key points in the film: the beginning, to establish their relationship; the middle, to tell her that the engagement is off because she's fooling around with Kevin Costner; and the end, to tell her that he accepts her apology and wants to marry her. I adore Ruffalo as an actor, but there is nothing interesting about his part in the film. I guess Rumor Has It gets points for having a cute idea, but unfortunately, it still... sucks.

And yes, I am fully aware that I devoted nearly 500 words to a crappy romantic comedy. I'm sorry. What do you want from me?

*Well, I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman's back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

See You at the Grindhouse

Sometimes, you go to a movie and come out feeling enlightened, educated, like a better person for having seen it. Sometimes you admire the technical achievements of a film. And sometimes, you just come out thinking "Damn, that was fun."

Grindhouse is obviously the third option. It's been so long since I went to see a movie and marveled at how much fun I was having. I mean, Blades of Glory was funny when Will Arnett and Amy Poehler had center stage, Zodiac was gripping and thrilling, and Reno 911: Miami was entertaining but ultimately rather disappointing, to name a few recent movie escapades. But Grindhouse was just plain fun. Gross-out, jump-out-of-your-seat, grip-the-chair-arms-in-terror, laugh-your-ass-off-when-it's-done fun. It's clear that Tarantino and Rodriguez really love the genre to which they're paying homage.

I liked Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror for its sheer awe-inspiring intentional badness. The plot makes no sense (is there a plot?), the dialog is hokey and the movie is horribly underlit. But it's all in good fun, and when you're not cringing at the extreme gore, you're probably laughing at the absurdity of it. "It's a no-brainer," Josh Brolin says of a head that has... well, no brain. And even though it's quite possibly the most obvious pun on the planet, it's really fucking funny. Rodriguez only shoots on digital these days, and he used that to good effect, scratching up the "film" to an occasionally unwatchable degree, which just adds charm.

Death Proof, Tarantino's contribution to the film, could stand alone as an actual good film. Whereas Rodriguez's installment only really works as part of the Grindhouse gimmick, Death Proof is good - well-acted and genuinely suspenseful, with a great cast of characters. So what if Tarantino likes to have his characters sit around and talk? The banter is witty and engaging, and he writes interesting characters. The girls are sassy and feminine and assertive. Kurt Russell's "Stuntman Mike" is simultaneously seductive and scary, and then batshit crazy, in an awesome way, of course. And then when the car chases start... holy shit. The stuntwork and driving are mindblowing.

And then there were the faux-trailers. Would it surprise you to hear that Edgar Wright's was my favorite? Didn't think so. Plus, Will Arnett did the voice over for it. One of my favorite actors working with one of my favorite up-and-coming directors? I only hope they collaborate again in the future. The other trailers were good too, but I don't want to spoil too much of the amazingness.

Seeing Grindhouse at the movie theaters at The Grove - with their leather seats, stadium seating, and computerized snack bar ordering system - was probably antithetical to the whole grindhouse experience. Regardless, there's something about the shared moviegoing experience - the hushed whispers during the coming attractions, the smell of popcorn, the feeling of anticipation as the film begins - that makes me think that Grindhouse won't translate quite as well to DVD. The individual films, perhaps, especially Tarantino's. But Grindhouse as a whole is an experience that you've got to get off your ass and go to the theaters to see.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Lemon, what happened in your life to make you believe people are good?

I'm a bit surprised I'm saying this, but I think that I might like 30 Rock more than The Office. Nothing against Michael Scott and company, but the sheer absurdity of 30 Rock's asides plus Alec Baldwin plus Kenneth the Page is just too good. And when you throw Will Arnett into the mix? We're talking almost Arrested Development levels of amazingness.

Revisiting 30 Rock's first season on DVD, you can see how it found itself and developed into a worthy successor to Arrested Development as the most under-appreciated comedy on television. The show may have started off on rough footing, but even when it was struggling, it showed signs of the truly brilliant show it has the potential to become. And it did become that show, thanks in part to stellar performances all around, great guest casting, and awesomely geeky Star Wars references, my personal favorite being:

Liz: The Hair asked ME out.
Jenna: What? THE The Hair? Well, what did you say?
Liz: I had to say yes. I mean, he looked at me with those crazy handsome guy eyes... it was like the Death Star tractor beam when the Falcon--
Jenna: No, Liz, do not talk about stuff like that on your date. Guys like that don't like Star Trek--
Liz: WARS! 

My favorite episodes of the first season would have to be Fireworks, Black Tie, and Jack-Tor, with Blind Date and The Head and the Hair getting honorable mention.  Fireworks and Black Tie feature some great guest appearances by Will Arnett, Rip Torn, Isabella Rossellini, and Paul Reubens - a random assortment of actors if you've ever seen one.  Jack-Tor features some of Alec Baldwin's funniest moments in a montage of his character filming a promotional video.

And there are just so many awesome little touches, like the names of the ridiculous sketches on The Girly Show (30 Rock's show within a show), Jenna's obsession with her sexuality, Tracy's entourage of Griz and Dot Com, Jack's uptight personal assistant, and Liz's moments of sheer nerdery.  Plus, the movie references are plentiful. 

And for what it's worth, I totally identify with Liz Lemon. Although I'm not sure I could fall so desperately in love with the city of Cleveland.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Baseball season is here!

YankeeGirl247: i'm so bummed i'm going to be missing andy pettite's opening game tomorrow
lawnwranglergirl: what time is the game?
YankeeGirl247: 1
lawnwranglergirl: well i'll be watching the gameday.... which is to watching the real game what methadone is to heroin
YankeeGirl247: .....right