Author Archives: Bill Arceneaux
Whenever Tom Cruise is mentioned to or around me, Scientology is inevitably brought up. Have any of you seen that SouthPark episode where Tom locks himself in a closet, and the basis for the religion is explained in the most cartoonish of ways? I can no longer watch Magnolia or Rain Man without thinking about all of that…
“Now I’m in the closet too.”
…but it hasn’t hurt my enjoyment of most of his movies. I believe I brought up the fact that the man is “crazy awesome” in my Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol review, and I fully stand by that. He may be eccentric, but he seems to properly tap into that element when it comes to action. And hey, at least he’s not vile like Mel Gibson gets at times (sorry Mel).
As an actor with an incredible amount of clout, he keeps a tight grip on his brand, and probably has a lot of say into who directs his next project. With Oblivion, I’m willing to bet that after reading the script, he suggested someone with enough visual flair to compensate for whatever inadequacies might be present in the story.
And, for that, I offer to Tom A Toast.
In his latest blockbuster, Tom plays yet another character with a simple name – Jack Harper – who gets caught up in something complicated. Set about 60 or so years into the future, Earth has been laid to waste after a war with aliens. We won, but the planet has been lost. He’s a technician assigned to maintaining the drones that protect the energy mining machines that gather what can be used for the remaining humans. Nearing the end of his mission, an old ship crash lands, revealing a woman he has seen in his dreams. This leads to a revelation that will turn his world upside down.
Having caught the movie in IMAX, I can safely say that it is one of the prettiest and sharpest sci fi flicks I’ve ever seen. The gadgets, the explosions and the environment all match together seamlessly. Director Joseph Kosinski really knows his way around effects and props, and that knack is perfect here. I wanted to go and buy a Wii joystick after the movie just so I could pretend. I’m almost 28 years old, people.
Where’s my Doritos? Cause I’m gonna wreck this game…
With a combination of epic feeling music and a classically executed adventure story, Oblivion is true Hollywood fun. I didn’t have any snacks on me, but had I had an Icee, it would’ve all been perfect. Go get yourself a treat beforehand.
I couldn’t help but think that this story was meant for either a longer movie or a franchise of movies. Despite the small cast, it has a lot of interesting things going on that would be best fleshed out over 3 hours. Instead of slowly going over the backstory, and letting things unfold naturally, Morgan Freeman just explains everything in about two minutes. The again, if you’re gonna have someone exposit the entire plot, Morgan is the best man to pick.
Something that distinguishes sci fi from other genres is the ability to provide insight into political and philosophical issues in a creative and easy to handle manner. Something that distinguishes Oblivion from other sci fi movies is that it doesn’t do any of that. But hey – doesn’t it look nice?
It’s sleek, slick and pretty simple. Tom Cruise knows what works, and gives us exactly that. And, like the popcorn we all order, this movie will be eaten up. And that’s ok.
Take a Drink: if you wanted to visit an Apple store afterwards.
Take a Drink: when you realize that David Lynch’s Dune was slightly more creative.
Do a Shot: because Tom Cruise is one of the best seasonings that Hollywood has.
There aren’t very many filmmakers that I can name that are “bulletproof” to reviews. I don’t mean from reviews that would hurt their box office (a status that Dennis Dugan enjoys), but from getting bad reviews in general – from me, I mean. Terrence Malick is the only one that comes to mind.
You just L O V E your money, huh?
Now, I’m not a die hard Malick fan; I haven’t even watched The Tree of Life. But, I do recognize great work when I see it. He’s not just a glorified cinematographer, people… The man knows how to tell a story through emotions via visuals. Call it pretentious, hipster crap all you want; the man’s work is top shelf.
And his latest continues that trend.
To describe To the Wonder feels like a daunting task, mainly because of how it is presented. It’s about an American man and a European woman. They fall in love, move to his home in the U.S., she moves back, he reconnects with an old female friend, she comes back and they try to reignite their flame. At the same time, we see the inner turmoil of a local priest, struggling with his relationship with God.
To call this movie unconventional is an understatement. Now, it’s not wonky like a David Lynch film, but it is a bit obtuse. There is little to no dialogue spoken on camera. What is said is done so in voice over whispers, and the majority of that is in a foreign language. It’s the acting, the camera movements and placement of people, animals and objects in a scene that moves the story forward.
Think of it as having the mechanics of a silent era film. Back then – in the pioneer times of movies – spoken lines were not a crutch, because the technology hadn’t been invented yet. The actors really had to tell the story through body language, and the crew had to carefully construct the scene to provide depth beyond the acting; objects in the foreground and background, how close the camera is to the action, etc. It was universal storytelling. Malick’s previous movies have included elements of standard, modern narrative, but this one goes back to birth.
There are scenes when the women in the man’s life are walking alone in the weeds, and appear to be hearing something that we can’t. In the next scene, they express doubt at their relationship. It’s as if an unseen force within nature is guiding them. Maybe guiding us?
The story of the priest feeling alone and ignored by God relates really well to the man and the woman falling in and out of love. Townspeople come to him for guidance, but he himself is needing of that very thing. The woman kneels before her man, calling him her rock, her source of strength. But, the man hardly ever speaks – not even in whisper – and is, too, feeling in need of help in the world. In the end, people are transformed by love, for better or worse, and life goes on.
All of this is said without being said much at all.
Oh, but it’s pretentious garbage. Fuck, I hate hipsters.
To the Wonder is in theaters, on VOD and iTunes. Go see, rent or download it. I don’t know where it will rank in my end of 2013 list, but it’ll be on it. And I’ll be called an asshole for including it.
Take a Drink: every time you wonder how much more vague the dialogue can get.
Take a Drink: if you are watching the movie on your tablet in a coffee shop. Are you liking the movie ironically because other people dislike it?
Do a Shot: because you went to see Scary MoVie instead of this. You’re the real asshole.
I don’t remember where or when, but I do believe I suggested that WWE Studios make an action film about killing bin Laden. Zero Dark Thirty was a thinking man’s adaptation, but I would LOVE to see something fantastical, implausible and balls out ridiculous. Think Death Wish 3 meets Commando meets Invasion USA, with an athletic and charismatic lead, an eccentric performance by the villain (perhaps by a famous character actor, preferably of a different race), some hot women in distress, and a high kill count with over the top deaths.
I’d pay hand over fist to watch something as awesome as that.
Action-sploitation isn’t nearly as easy to produce as you might think. Recently, I’ve seen movies that attempt to capitalize on our need for explosions and bullets, but made all wrong; A-list actors, a script that feels off and an all too serious atmosphere that attempts to legitimize things. Uggghhhh…. YOU CANNOT FAKE ACTION AWESOMENESS! Chuck Norris blowing a hole through a bad guy with a bazooka, at point blank range, is NOT A F***ING COMMODITY!
Chuck Norris introduces himself to the producers of Olympus Has Fallen
Olympus Has Fallen had the premise of a kick ass blood bath / silly fest, but all the genuineness of a back alley huckster. Basically, the President has been kidnapped by a North Korean paramilitary leader, who concocts a siege on D.C. and the White House. All but one secret service agent have been killed, turning this into a classic hero vs. an army flick. Oh, and nuclear armageddon is threatened.
Before I Reb Brown this movie, I’ll give credit where credit is due.
Cole Hauser, for the limited time he is on screen, delivers the line “olympus has fallen!” very well, and honestly, should’ve been the lead character. He was *spoiler alert* killed off very quickly in A Good Day to Die Hard, and hasn’t really been given much of a chance since the perfectly off the deep end Paparazzi.
Robert Forster and Morgan Freeman have an argument that was a delight to watch…
Beers Two, Three and Four
I referenced Paparazzi above when suggesting that Cole Hauser replace Gerard Butler as the action hero of this film. That Hauser vehicle had an execution and atmosphere of a perfectly crazy action flick; a slimy villain played by a weirdo actor, some cheese and, of course, an over the top revenge plot. Mix those elements up with a cast and crew that are clearly having fun doing what they know are silly things, and you have a great combo.
Olympus Has Fallen fails hard because its atmosphere and execution are all wrong for the story being told; an ensemble cast of mostly top level thespians and a tone close to political thriller… with a premise that exactly matches a project from Canon Films. Imagine something like Clear and Present Danger with a goofy Die Hard plot. One of these things is different that the other. Doesn’t sit well, right? Feels off, doesn’t it? Sure, you can have tension, high stakes and some drama in a big muscles and big guns picture, but you can’t forget that IT’S A BIG MUSCLES AND BIG GUNS PICTURE.
For a moment, we can pretend that’s Cole Hauser.
I remember an episode of Red Letter Media’s web show Half in the Bag, where Red Tails was reviewed. They brought up how it was marketed and presented as some kind of 1940′s propaganda throwback while at the same time being a serious film about racism. Those two elements mesh as well as oil and water, as they clash too hard and almost cancel each other out.
This movie, while marketed more as a thriller than anything, catches the eyes of film fanatics everywhere for a silly plot with action cliches, which brings to mind cheesy one liners, funny sound effects and bad asses being bad asses. Trying to include these elements while going for an Air Force One type movie is a fool’s errand. Either ham it up to 11 with pure explosion-sploitation or get serious with dramatic thrills and a serious real world threat. Having your cake and eating it too doesn’t work here.
To sum up – Paparazzi got right what Olympus Has Fallen got way wrong. Sad, huh?
Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC was in this. I’m guessing that the producers wanted to throw in a recognizable newsman in an attempt to make things feel “real”.
This isn’t always a bad thing. It worked in Contact and Skyfall, but only because those movies were actually good at presenting a relatable world with events occurring in a realistic way. Didn’t Spiderman 3 have a real life reporter commenting on the final fight? Yeah, that felt out of place…
I can’t wait for the behind the scenes interviews with the actors, specifically Melissa Leo and Dylan McDermott. Oscar winner Leo plays the Secretary of Defense (a good casting choice, I think) who is taken hostage along with the President. She is beaten and brutalized, resulting in a performance that resembles an aggressive drunk woman leaving a bar after closing. Harsh words, yes, but I think she knew that this script was crap, and was just trying to overcompensate for that with her acting. She really wasn’t bad, just trying to polish a turd.
And I suspect that Dylan knew this as well, but instead of trying to make something “legitimate”, he just embraced the crazy. His delivery of his lines are as awful as the lines he was given. Silly stuff.
In a way, they are the real heroes of this production – the only guy and gal to understand what was going on around them. This beer is more or less a toast in their honor.
There is only one Chuck Norris. Only one Steven Seagal. Only one Statham. But there are multiple Gerard Butlers. You can’t fake awesome.
A Hollywood war room meeting. The topic? How to fake awesome.
Take a Drink: If you agree that a middle school computer class from the late 90’s could’ve done better CG.
Take a Drink: of a brand called Sips. It’s tasty, will give you a buzz, and is less embarrassing to buy than a ticket to Olympus Has Fallen.
Do a Shot: Because 2013 will get better. It HAS to.
During the early months of every year, Hollywood sends out numerous bombs to the general public, in hopes that at least one will blow up and take a few people with it. Yes, considering the caliber of films like A Haunted House and Season of the Witch, my suggestion that studio execs are trying to kill us all is appropriate. There are other enemies in the War on Terror, I tells ya.
On rare occasions, the heart of a Grinch like producer will grow a few sizes larger, and a movie will come out that – shock – is actually quite good. Last year, it was The Grey. This year, it’s Snitch.
Can you name a cooler actor than Charlie Sheen? Go ahead and take a few minutes to think about it…
…Come up with anybody? Yeah, I guess there are others that equal up to him, but none that can copy him. I’m talking about a man that has openly poked fun at his own drug / sex related indiscretions, bounced back from a public mental breakdown, written a fantasy letter to President Obama, and essentially told the producers of a popular show he was on to fuck off. As Parker Lewis might say, Charlie Sheen is coolness turned up to 11.
Has anyone reading this watched Planet Terror? You know; the first half of the Grindhouse double feature? There’s a scene near the end when our heroes confront a rogue military leader played by Bruce Willis. He gives them a backstory, where he reveals that he had killed Osama bin Laden, and was punished by his government for doing so. “I put two in his heart, and one in his computer”.
And, with a smirk, he proclaims “Yeah. That was me”. The idea of Bruce Fucking Willis killing one of the most wanted men in the world is gloriously bad ass. If any American were to be asked how they would like bin Laden taken care of, that might be one of the top answers.
Of course, we all know that isn’t how it ended in real life. Wait – has anything ended?
Directly from IMDB.com’s trivia section for “The Guilt Trip”:
The Paramount marketing department were so certain that Barbra Streisand would gain a Golden Globe nomination for her performance, that not only did they put out an ad congratulating her victory, but posted it online moments before the nominations were announced, only to be swiftly pulled when Streisand ended up without the nod.
And now, directly from me:
Someone was pulling Paramount’s strings, and their initials are B.S.
Seth Rogen unfortunately stars in a movie that doesn’t really fit him whatsoever. He plays a scientist that goes on a road trip across the USA to pitch his cleaning product to major companies. *Yawn* Excuse me, as I am writing this post nap. At the beginning of his trek, he discovers a secret about his overly caring mother Barbra Streisand and, in an effort to maintain a plot, invites her along.
If I hadn’t cut my own hair short the other day, I would’ve pulled it out during the remaining running time.
Seth Rogen is, in my opinion, always funny. Always. Something about his sarcastic off the cuff type responses that really tickles my fancy (that’s right). Maybe it’s because I’m a sarcastic asshole at times as well…
…add that to a mother & son flick, and you’ve got some potential, especially if you’re giving zingers to Barbra Freaking Streisand. I may be about to rip on this movie, but there are a few moments of well scripted conflict and emotion, and B.S. (yep, I was talking about her) pulls those moments off pretty well.
Beers Two, Three, Four and Five
This chug is all about Barbra. Oh boy did she piss me off. Now, it wasn’t her acting, as I thought she did ok – it was H E R. I got this feeling in my gut that this was some kind of vanity project. Basically, it’s 90 minutes of Streisand telling me how great she is. Not convinced? Take this into consideration:
- The redundant money shots of her being emotional, yet strong. Just begging for an award.
- The way she managed to overpower Mr. Rogen in every scene they were in! He basically plays the straight man, but as a support and not really as a partner (despite his name being on the poster). Sure, he’s “important” to the story, but only as a catalyst for bringing “her” along.
- The suspiciously mediocre/familiar/dull story, designed to let her shine whenever possible.
- The almost awards campaign that the studio attempted for B.S. THEY really thought she’d get a nomination? Maybe SHE did…
Then there was the banter. The constant, annoying banter between the two leads. Sure, there are some ok moments, but it doesn’t make up for the awful repetitions and fake genuineness. Seth tries, but it’s hard having chemistry with a black hole.
So… why no Sixth beer? Because at least it’s not a Katherine Heigl vehicle.
A shaky premise being held on the shoulders of a dominate diva in a movie with maybe one good moment. I say no. There was a trailer beforehand for a DeNiro/Keaton movie that looked as insufferable, so I guess there is no end in sight.
Take a Drink: when you realize you’ve been grinding your teeth in frustration, and it’s only been 20 minutes.
Take a Drink: for the Adam Scott appearance. Was he bored the weekend his scene was shot and figured “Why not”?
Do a Shot: if you hugged your mother afterwards – she understands you didn’t mean to watch the movie without her.
On our most recent Pubcast (episode 6, I believe), we discussed our favorite James Bond movies, actors, gadgets, etc. At one point, I admitted a dark secret; I was never really a big fan of the franchise. Yes, it’s true. I’ve only seen a handful of the films, mostly Brosnan and Moore. No Connery (I should be tortured). My colleagues were nice about it – even got a lovely hand gesture from Mr. Sheridan – but I still feel a level of shame.
So, of course, I was the best candidate to review the latest Bond film Skyfall.
Tim Burton has taken on quite a few adaptations in his career: Batman, Sleepy Hollow, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd and, yes, even Planet of the Apes. Sure, the man has a groovy vision, but do we really want him to do variations of every story ever?
Only if that story is personal to him, I say.
“Fries your brain like an egg”. Hmmm.
Should’ve been “fries your egg like a brain”, I think.
The line of dialogue above comes from Looper – a movie that I was very fortunate to see early. In context, the line refers to the craziness of time travel, specifically all the possible timelines and potential paradoxes it could bring up. Indeed, given the story that unfolds, this line is prophetic.
Though, if they had just re-arranged two words, it would’ve been much better; if the prophets’ mind is already fried, what can we expect?