Author Archives: Andrew Ward
By: Andrew Ward (Three Beers) -
In the over-saturated genre of found footage films, it is hard to find an enjoyable one amongst the bunch. Today, you’re more likely to run into a snoozefest like Apollo 18 rather than an original, tense one like a Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity. Although V/H/S is not as gripping as the previous two films I mentioned, it does do a great job at reinventing the genre’s wheel.
By: Andrew Ward (Three Beers) -
Ah, football. The sport of the people. So many great teams. Will the Giants repeat this season? Will Aaron Rodgers continue to do the Discount Double Check all over the NFL- what? Green Street is about the other kind of football? Well then, I chose the wrong film to review…Just kidding! Football (Or soccer. Or futbol. Or whatever your region or country calls it) is an amazing sport that needs to get more coverage here in the US. The major networks are slowly warming to the sport, but it’s films like Green Street that get fans into it. Being a sports fan isn’t a requirement for watchingGreen Street. If characters with depth, development, witty dialogue and some violence is your thing than Green Street is your type of film.
The films centers around Elijah Wood’s character Matt, who is kicked out of Harvard on a bum drug accusation. This sends him over to Englandto live with his sister played by Brandi Svenning from Mallrats and her husband, Steve. Along the way, Matt gets involved with Steve’s brother, a pre- Sons of Anarchy Charlie Hunnam. The two of them form a bond and Matt begins running with one of the most dangerous firms (or soccer gangs for most of us Yanks) in England, West Ham United’s Green Street Elite. From there, Green Street gets all sorts of wild.
Does she still wear socks when she makes whoopie, Steve?
A toast needs to be given to the action. The action during the matches and the fight scenes mixed into the film are very well done. The film is packed with action and violence, but it never gets gratuitous. They come off as necessary and well paced. With a lot of indie films that have violence it becomes a matter of dousing the film in it rather than peppering it in and complimenting the film. Now, the film isn’t perfect but it’s very good. On action and pacing alone, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The run time is the average length of a film, but Green Street felt like it flew in a way that left me wanting to see more (even though the film ends quite nicely).
Is Green Street a suitable replacement for Citizen Kane? Of course not! But it is a quality, fun film that keeps the viewer entertained. Like I said before, the pacing makes the film move fast and it very rarely lingers. This is one of those films that you and your buddies can sit down and watch on a random day without any real planning (Looking at you, Benjamin Button). It’s great for fans of violence, sports or the weirdness of Elijah Wood (Anyone? Just me? Ok then…). It’s a a film that you won’t be looking back on as one that was snubbed for the Best Picture Oscar, but you will have a fun time watching this.
This is not the Elijah Wood the GSE took in.
Ok. Two gripes rolled into one beer. The first one has to be the even though Charlie Hunnam is a talented actor, his cockney accent was god awful. His speech during the last big brawl was comical in a totally unintentional way. It’s forgiven though because of his solid performance in all other aspects. Second, how many people ended up becoming a fan of West Ham just because of this film? I’m all for new fans coming to the sport, but my God there has to be a line drawn. There are so many “fans” that don’t know a single player who takes the pitch for the Hammers. Go on, ask these West Ham “fans” to sing one of West Ham’s favorite songs beyond the first opening line about the pretty bubbles. Although I’m griping, the film did a great job bringing in new fans of the sport. And I’m aChelseasupporter anyway. Go Blues!
Green Street isn’t a cutting edge film, but it’s very enjoyable. The cast is solid and the firms are pretty accurate to real life. If you don’t like the sport before seeing the film, you may afterwards (A ringing endorsement, right?). Elijah Wood is great at playing Elijah Wood, and the rest of the cast follows suit. Have a few drinks (more than three is ok) and enjoy this film.
Take a Drink: every time Charlie Hunnam’s accent makes you unintentionally laugh.
Take a Drink: for every fist thrown.
Do a Shot: every time a fight song is sang.
By: Andrew Ward (Three Beers) -
Ever had your wedding interrupted by your fiancé’s high school sweetheart? Is he the person trying to recapture the love of his life at your expense? Did everyone in the church cheer for them (including your own friends and family!) when they got back together? If so, then welcome to the world of being a Baxter. Sometimes The Baxter has it coming to him (see Bradley Cooper in Wedding Crashers), but not so much Michael Showalter’s character Elliot Sherman. He’s your everyday, run-of-the-mill guy who enjoys reading the dictionary and speed walking through his Brooklyn neighbourhood. In The Baxter you finally get to see what life is like for the guy everyone seems to neglect in the cut and paste world of romantic comedies.
By: Andrew Ward (A Toast) -
I was told to watch (500) Days of Summer from a girl I used to date. She told me that Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, Tom, reminded her of me. After reading the synopsis of the film on Wikipedia my initial reaction was short and concise: “Fuck you, [name removed].” But when I found out that the film’s writer, Scott Neustadter, was from the same New Jersey area as myself I figured I had to give it a shot. I’m glad I did.
(500) Days of Summer is the creative romantic comedy that the genre has been pining for years for. Famed music video turned rookie film director Marc Webb created scenes vibrant with color and ripe with emotion that made both Tom and Summer things they needed to be in a break-up: flawed figures that didn’t work out for one another. For anyone unaware of this film, that wasn’t a spoiler. You find out real quick that “this is not a love story.”
There’s not much to complain about the film. Sure, it falls into the occasional hokey stereotypes of the genre but it doesn’t matter. The minor bad parts are vastly outweighed by incredible acting, vibrant cinematography, a well-written script and a soundtrack that only falls short of reaching the levels of Garden State in terms of incredibly compiled music. Truth be told, I am a bit biased to the music because of Hall & Oates. My dad had a mustache like Oates in the 80s. I’m pretty sure that he was trying to pull a Talented Mr. Ripley on Oates the next time he came to Atlantic City.
No lie, the resemblance is uncanny.
Anyways, Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt worked so well off one another that while watching this non-linear rollercoaster of a kind-of-but-not-really a relationship you begin to feel for both of them. And as a guy, it’s good to see a film where we aren’t entirely portrayed as the asshole we aren’t ever fully being or the hapless last minute hero none of us will turn out to be. The supporting cast only helps further the story and relationship. Mix this in with the aforementioned film-work and music and you have a film that will serve as a perfect date night movie where both the guy and girl will be happy. Although, you may end up with an argument in regards to where Summer stands in the end and how Tom acts through out the film.
It’s physically impossible to be mad at her. She could run over my dog and I’d feel sympathetic for her.
To keep it simple, go see this film. It’s great. It appeals to both genders and breathes fresh air into a stagnant genre. Since this film Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s career has surged and Zooey Deschanel is now starring in a new hit comedy on Fox. After this film its “You Make My Dreams Come True” sequence Marc Webb was offered the Spiderman reboot. This film was one of 2009’s underrated films and should have at least had some more Oscar buzz than it did. I’m not saying it was the best film of that year or anything of that nature, but it is a film that broke a confining mold, elevated careers, and gave guys a movie that didn’t show them as the total asshole in a romantic comedy.
This picture earned Marc Webb one of the hugest Superhero franchises of all time.
And much like Jenny Beckman, all the inspiration I got to see this movie was purely fictional and did not actually represent anyone. Except for her…bitch. And yeah, she was kind of right.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time the day changes.
Take a Shot: whenever music is discussed.
Chug your Drink: whenever Tom looks like he’s going to kill himself (you may die).
By: Andrew Ward (Three Beers) -
Remember when you were seven and pretended to fight crime? Some of you may have even acted as detectives trying to solve local mysteries like Encyclopedia Brown. Fast forward eleven years and you will find the Mystery Team, still in the same mindset now as 18 year olds solving crimes for the elderly and small children. The team of three high school outcasts with a motto of “No case too hard, no case too tough” put their claim to the test when a young girl named Brianna asks the boys to solve the murder of her two parents.
The Mystery Team is made up of Derrick Comedy’s Donald Glover, DC Pierson, and Dominic Dierkes. They include Duncan (“The boy genius,” Pierson), Charlie (“The strongest boy in the world,” Dierkes), and Jason (“The master of disguise,” Glover). The fans of Derrick’s work know what to expect: a witty, College Humor style of comedy that you will either love or be turned off by. For good examples see their famed Bro Rape video and a bit that I can only comfortably write the title as N*****F*****.
Over 8 Million Hits and tons of terrible spoofs.
If you grew up seeing College Humor themed videos being posted, then you know that you will find hits and misses in every bit. This is the same with Mystery Team. The good thing about Derrick is that they have three quality comedic writers on their team. Their training at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade shows in the bits they put in the film. Acting out the stereotypes of hobos, high schoolers, and “gentlemen” based on the books we all read as kids is absolutely hysterical. The balance of acting like kids, yet clearly growing up is evolved well and allows for the feeling of a solid, organically grown film.
This is exactly what I thought a gentleman was when I was seven
Although Derrick is a polished comedy group, their filmmaking is not. It may have been the budget, but something had the film looking somewhere between a senior video project in college and a low-budget indie release. The editing is consistent and shows good quality, but there is something that is lacking. This is far from a deal breaker in the film, but it does get noticed from time to time.
As a fan, this one hurts but Aubrey Plaza just didn’t do it for me in this film. On Parks and Recreation, her role as April, the dry, apathetic young girl works for the show, yet, a lot of that is also seen in Mystery Team. Maybe this is because the movie was done a few years before the TV show but it had me feeling that Plaza can only play the same character. She has great comedic talent, but if this is the only character she can play her comedy will soon get filed under the Michael Cera school of comedic acting.
Overall Mystery Team works as a witty film, showcasing great comedic performances from the three great minds of Derrick Comedy. Donald Glover just seems like a breakout star that is going to rise past his great TV work on Community and soon carry his own films. I really think he could transition to serious work as well (he was considered for the role of Spiderman in the Marc Webb reboot that is coming out soon).
Mystery Team also benefits from great supporting cameo bits from Bobby Moynihan, Ellie Kemper, and Matt Walsh. Kemper and Moynihan are familiar to Derrick’s bits and Walsh has been a go-to comedy bit actor in films for years now. The film won’t end up in the pantheon of stellar comedy films like Airplane and Caddy Shack, but it should be recognized as a great effort from an up and coming group of comedians. There are so many talented people in this film that in a few years there is a good chance this film will be looked at as the beginning to a few of their lengthy comedic careers.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time one of your childhood memories are played out on screen.
Drink a Shot: for every cameo you can recognize.
Take a Drink: for every curse word that is replaced by a word parents used to use around you as a little kid.
By: Andrew Ward (Five Beers) -
I had high hopes for Southland Tales going into it. Mainly because Richard Kelly is the writer and director of one of my favorite films, Donnie Darko. What made Donnie Darko so great was its detailed story that showed the emotion of its characters while interweaving incredible action that led to a thought-provoking ending. While Kelly’s next directorial/writing endeavor tried to do the same it failed on various levels.
I would love to give a quick synopsis of the film but in reality there’s way too much to fit into a paragraph or two. Basically, two nukes go off inTexas, we go into World War III, and need a new energy source that comes from the ocean. This all ties into the fact that the world is going to end and every actor who had free time inHollywoodcame along to tell the story.
Bai Ling’s in it too: Not an actual scene from the movie, but not too far off
Credit deserves to be given to Kelly for not making the same run-of-the-mill sci-fi/end of the world film. It’s clear he has ambition and wants to create films that make the audience think while being stunned from the visuals. The problem is Kelly wants to flex every literary muscle he knows ranging from his knowledge of sci-fi to the Bible and Marxist literature at the same time. If he had spaced these elements out into one or two more films they could have been picked up better. Instead, they all overlap and what is supposed to be a deep script is really an assortment of loosely tied references that fall short of its goal.
Seriously, it felt like everyone on the up and coming part of their career met with everyone on the down turn of their careers and decided this would be the best film to portray their talents (or their last dying attempts at a mainstreamHollywoodcareer). Dwayne Johnson is the driving figure in this about an action movie star who was kidnapped and returned toHollywoodwith amnesia and forgetting his wife (Mandy Moore) who has family connections in the White House. Johnson is rough around the edges in this still and isn’t the polished action and family film star he has carved his niche into just yet. Even more so the problem is, after Johnson the assortment of actors in this film is overloaded and you spend most of your time waiting for the next cameo to come in.
What really makes these choices bad is that the wrong ones end up leading the story. When Cheri Oteri and John Lovitz are getting more screen time than an up and coming Amy Poehler there is something wrong. On top of that, these characters are outlandish to the point that it overshoots irony and lands in the “what the hell is Wallace Shawn wearing” category.
I’m not one for spoiling films but it’s really coming to be that if you’ve seen one film by Richard Kelly you’ve seen them all. End of the world, time continuum, blah blah blah. If Kelly’s aim is to be a top sci-fi/futuristic director than he needs to mix it up a bit. The reason why I was so excited to see Southland Tales after Donnie Darko was that he made the end of the world genre look inventive again. From the trailers it wasn’t so certain as to what Southland was about except it was the end of the world, again. Kelly claims it was a take on the Book of Revelation and the rise of evangelicals in theUS, but in the end it is just about that, the end. It’s time for Kelly to retire this motif and move on.
“Hey, I’m Richard Kelly. I’m deep and shit. I’m going to make another end of the world movie now.”
I will give credit to the film’s visuals. Kelly used a polished, futuristic look. Southland Tales showed the stereotypical “future” that is envisioned in many films of the genre, but it is mixed with the dark aspect that came from Donnie Darko. These two aspects create an interesting style that does well to paint the scenery of the story. Add that with some fun drug induced scenes (especially one involving The Killers and Justin Timberlake) that make the film salvageable on a fun level, if not a coherent one.
Some films need to be seen more than once to understand it all. For example Inception could fall under this label. A TV show like Lost could be the same. Some argue that Southland Tales should be put in the category. But it should really be listed in the category that more relates to the mindset of a smart thirteen year old. The thirteen year old has newfound knowledge of a lot of subjects that aren’t fully hashed out and since they know all these facts they jam it all into the first essay the can remotely attach it to. In the end they make a summary paragraph to drive the message home. Sure, it makes some sense if you read it a few times but it lacks execution and should’ve been broken up into a series of essays or some of it just shouldn’t be mentioned at all. Richard Kelly, use this analogy with your ideas on cloning.
In the end Southland Tales isn’t terrible. It’s that it tried too hard. It tried to be deep, funny, futuristic, dark, satirical and thought provoking all at once. In moments it hit all of these levels but what made Donnie Darko so good was what Southland lacked. It didn’t try too hard, it didn’t cram in characters and dialogue just to add another unnecessary aspect to the film, and it made the audience think without being outlandishly abstract. Unfortunately, this seems to be the beginning of the tale spin of Kelly’s career. The Box is a whole other story of bad films. But I can’t talk bad about that one because I was in a National Lampoon’s movie with the son.
Yeah, I worked with him for a day. See, more unnecessary knowledge. Take note Richard Kelly. Please.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every time you get confused by a plot turn
Take a Drink: for every terrible costume decision
Drink a Shot: for every random cameo
By: Andrew Ward (Three Beers) -
Tarsem Singh’s The Fall is a visually amazing film that came about after four years of filming and shooting in over twenty countries. Landscapes, scenery, and certain camera shots have to rank as some of the best in cinema history. Tarsem sank his own money into the project to avoid any outside creative interruptions. It’s a commendable task, but it does become clear that while the visuals are superb, there are key components to the film that are lacking. Mainly because The Fall is a simple story, cleverly told with an elaborate backdrop trying to compensate.
The Fall tells the story of a recently paralyzed silent film star, Roy (Lee Pace), who is recovering in his Los Angeles hospital. Roy befriends a fellow hospital patient, six-year-old Alexandria. They develop a relationship on the basis that both have had falls that have brought them to the hospital. Roy realizes he can use Alexandria to his advantage by telling her this elaborate story of revenge that bands together four men: the Masked Bandit, an escaped African slave, the Indian, and Charles Darwin (with his pet monkey Wallace). They go after the General Odious, who has wronged these men all in some way. As Roy reveals the story Alexandria’s mind wanders and the viewer gets to see the story through her eyes. That is until Roy stops at opportune moments to convince her to do his bidding in an attempt to end his own suffering.
Tarsem claims that The Fall used no special effects. With some of the shots it is almost unbelievable. If it is true then the idea that Chris Nolan didn’t use special effects in the Dark Knight seems like an obvious directorial move and films that are using special effects are taking the easy way out. There is one scene in particular that starts as a close-up shot of a “stony faced priest” that quickly transitions to a white desert. Without revealing its outcome I will say it is my favorite transition and effect any film has done… even better than all of the star wipes I’ve seen on Nickelodeon. Roger Ebert said in his review of the film that you might want to see this film solely on the purpose that there is no other film like this. And he’s right.
Anything you can do Tarsem can do better…except tell a story.
Unfortunately, The Fall fails to have a story that backs up the stunning visuals. Don’t get me wrong, the story is still good. This is more so recognition to the creativity with which the story is given rather than to the story itself. Roy tells the story, but the viewer sees what Alexandria thinks. For example, the Indian is supposed to be a Native American, but Alexandria has not seen anyone like this so she envisions a man from India. What is also creative is that everyone plays dual roles. The African slave is actually the man she sees delivering ice to the hospital, the lead female in the story is actually her nurse, and Roy is the hero. And just like any kid will do, Alexandria finds a way into the story as well.
The problem with this is that the story is good, but it could have been so much better with just a bit more depth. The more intriguing story is what is going on outside of Alexandria’s mind. Roy’s struggle with his injury and Alexandria’s naivety to help her friend unfolds in a much more fulfilling manner. While some will argue that this is the main story, it seems that both stories should have had this equal depth. Then again, what child wants to hear that much depth in a story?
At some point the film seems as if Tarsem is trying to show everyone how talented he is and that the rest of story doesn’t need to be given as much attention. It’s like watching an NBA basketball player that knows they are the only star on the team. If the share of the responsibilities were shared with the others on the team maybe this would have been a more complete contender.
Well-developed story? We talkin’ bout a well-developed story?
The Fall is a great film. It’s one of my favorites, but that doesn’t mean it is flawless. In my previous review of Takashi Miike’s Audition I faulted the film for having too much of a good thing in the editing department. The Fall is in the same category with its visuals. They are far and beyond the best any film has put out. Mind-blowing doesn’t even do it justice. It is clear how hard Tarsem and his team worked to make this film what it was.
With that being said, visuals that stunning need a story just as stunning. And no matter how creative this revenge story was told, somewhere it fell short of reaching the expectations of what the scenery had painted. Go see this film. Be amazed and hope that Tarsem can do something nearly as good sometime in the future. Better yet, hope anyone can do something like this again.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: when you’re impressed by a camera shot/scene.
Take a Drink: when you are confused by something Alexandria says.
Take a Shot: whenever Alexandria’s interpretation of the story is interrupted.
By: Andrew Ward (Two Beers) -
Going into watching Audition, widely considered to be influential Japanese director Takashi Miike’s best film, I had the expectations to be disgusted and disturbed. I’ve read reviews where viewers have fainted, walked out, or thrown up in the theatre. Needless to say it did not disappoint. Or maybe it did, seeing as how it delivered so well.