Author Archives: Henry J. Fromage
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Continuing my trend of watching late 80s/early 90s cultural touchstone movies everybody but me has apparently seen, I recently watched Ghost. This one I pretty much expected to hate, what with all the ghost Swayzes and Whoopis and pageboy haircuts and Walmart bargain bin romance novel-caliber shirtless pottery making seshes.
Well, now you ruined my two favorite things: fine literature and Nascar racin’
I’m not sure if it’s possible to write a synopsis of this without getting spoiler-y, if somehow you don’t know that Swayze dies and comes back as a Ga-ga-ga-ghost. Oops. Anyway, he has unfinished business with his lovely girlfriend, the Demi Moore that probably got 12 year old Ashton Kutcher all confused and tingly. He contacts a shyster medium, played by Whoopi Goldberg, to help him contact his gal Friday and protect her from the scheme that cost him his life and could end up costing her hers.
To my considerable surprise, I actually quite liked this movie. Even beyond reaons like Swayze’s mugger reminding me of bizarro Jamie Foxx.
Or the fact that the heavenly beam of light that collects good souls in the film looks exactly like the beam of light that Mr. Bean falls to Earth from in the intro to his TV show. What are the implications of that?
Behold, the visage of Antichrist
First off, since you already know Swayze’s gonna bite it, but may not know how, it’s great fun anticipating it happening, and Director Jerry Zucker clearly knows this, having Swayze do things like leap out of windows, flipping the bird at fate. Once he does slough off his mortal coil, Ghost becomes really interesting as we learn its unique rules. I especially enjoyed Vincent Schiavelli’s batshit subway ghost, who teaches Swayze to manipulate solid objects with his ghost powers.
The elements most people would cite for the film also work well. Moore and Swayze have dynamite chemistry, as does the whole cast, really. It’s easy believing in their romance, and buying the stakes. And yeah, that pottery scene is pretty sexy. Also, Whoopi Goldberg’s comic relief is effective even if it’s the same sassy schtick as always. I also appreciated how they set up the sequel by having Whoopi give that check to a Catholic convent.
It explains why the nuns would put up with her so long.
Let’s be honest.
Or, if you prefer.
Some people may ding it even further for it’s cheesy/corny elements, but they didn’t bother me that much. However, you may want a beer on hand when Whoopi starts to overwhoopi and you begin to wonder how she doesn’t screw up her and Ghost Swayze’s plan about ten times over.
It’s easy to see why this one became a cultural touchstone of the 90s. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable, surprisingly funny flick that you should enjoy even if you’re not in its target demo.
Take a Drink: anytime Whoopi sasses somebody
Take a Drink: every time you see something that’s gloriously dated
Take a Drink: every time Swayze passes through something or vice-versa
Do a Shot: “Ditto”
By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
I’m always down for a comedy with a hook, and as hooks go, Grabbers’s is a doozie. I’ll skip straight to the plot synopsis. A sleepy Irish island, where seemingly the only activity besides fishing is drinking, is attacked by fearsome, octopus-y* alien creatures over the course of a long weekend cut off from the mainland.
A posse made up of a jaded alcoholic (Richard Coyle), his young female partner (Ruth Bradley), the town drunk, and a science-y dude look seriously overmatched until they discover the bloodsucking aliens’ one weakness- alcohol. Bad move attacking Ireland, aliens.
It’s like attacking Egypt if your weakness is sand and getting ripped off
The only way to keep the aliens from “grabbing” you is by getting hilariously shitfaced. If you think a website named Movieboozer isn’t going to get behind that concept, I have some genuine Egyptian artifacts to sell you. The move really gets rolling when this discover is made, and the fight against the aliens begins. This part is easily the funniest, elevating the film from a jovial, likable one to a pretty damn funny flick.
The acting is all over the place, but in a comedy that’s acceptable enough. The central duo does a great job, though, and their chemistry is excellent. Bradley in particular will hopefully get some higher-profile roles in the future.
One thing you’ll notice from the start is this film’s cheap production values. Considering the amount of CG they have to use, the filmmakers stretch their budget pretty well, but that doesn’t explain why they chose to smear their lens with Vaseline for half of the flick.
It’s like an 80s power ballad video
This is supposed to be a horror/comedy film, but there was minimal effort put into the horror half. It’s like the screenwriters were running Word ’97, and Clippy pops up and says “It looks like you’re writing a horror film. Would you like to use a template?”
Die in a fire, Clippy
“Insert lame jump scare here.”
Shut the fuck up, Clippy!
This film shoots for the comedy/horror balance of a Shaun of the Dead, and accomplishes about half of that. It’s still a good afternoon-waster, and a fine drinking game movie.
Take a Drink: whenever someone in the movie does
Take a Drink: for every jump scare (however feeble)
Take a Drink: every time someone gets… grabbed!
Do a Shot: Free Bar!
By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
You may recognize James Marsh’s name from the world of documentaries, a genre that’s won him plenty of acclaim (Project Nim) and even an Oscar/a bit of mainstream success (Man on Wire). His work in fiction has flown quite a bit further under the radar, however. Maybe you remember the Red Riding UK miniseries/trilogy, of which he directed one installment.
If you remember this, welcome to MovieBoozer, Mrs. Marsh!
With Shadow Dancer, he takes another stab at drama. Set in 1990s Northern Ireland, a young IRA operative (Andrea Riseborough) is captured by a MI5 agent (Clive Owen) and given the choice of losing everything, including her young son, or turning on her family and comrades and informing for the English. Her choice to do this becomes an increasingly dangerous proposition for all involved.
The real star here is Riseborough, who you may recognize as the woman who acted the rest of the Oblivion cast under the table earlier this year.
I love Tom Cruise in his best and only role- Tom Cruise- but I’ve seen it before
The entire film rests on her, and she carries it admirably. She has a strong supporting cast, including Domhnall Gleeson, David Wilmot, and Aiden Gillen, but for the most part their roles don’t have enough meat on the bone to do too much with. Owen fares better, in one of his best roles in years, which unfortunately isn’t as big a compliment as it appears to be. He’s good, though.
The story itself is well-constructed, and the film both opens and closes well. The opening scene establishes a heartbreaking character backstory that raises the emotional stakes for the remainder of the film and really draws you in. The film’s bookend is one of those rare open-ended affairs that puts the rest of the movie in a different light and makes you retroactively appreciate it more.
Too bad that middle sags worse than a 40 year old Packer fan’s gut.
What’re you talkin’ about? That’s all muscle!
It’s slow-burning to the point where you wonder whether the fuse has gone out completely, and its tendency to talk about events rather than show them might be due to budgetary reasons, but is annoying nonetheless.
I understand it’s only sunny twice a year in the UK, (that’s what summer and winter solstice are, right?) but you could liven the film’s palette up with a little color, at least. An entire movie of dour browns and greys and washed-out shots wears on the eyes quickly.
One thing that set apart James Marsh’s Man on Wire was its unusually polished visuals for a documentary. You’d think that a fictional narrative would allow Marsh to be even more creative with his shots, but the opposite happens. The look of the flick is inert and uninspired, which is sad because punchy visuals were just what the doctor ordered when the story starts to lag. Oh, and one last gripe- Shadow Dancer is a great title, but really doesn’t have fuckall to do with the film. I hate when that happens.
This is one of those movies that isn’t bad, per say, but is frustrating because it’s so damn mediocre when it should be more than that.
Take a Drink: every time someone mentions bombs or terrorism
Take a Drink: whenever someone acts suspicious of Riseborough
Do a Shot: whenever a young boy is the impetus for a major plot point
By: Henry J. Fromage –
A lot of the early year underwhelmers are hitting DVD this week, although there’s a prime pick or two in there if you cotton to our reviewers’ opinions on the matter. In non broad release action, the titles that jumped out to me were Enzo G. Castellari’s Cold Eyes of Fear, which is just intimidating as fuck, and a piece of advice we all can agree is solid: Don’t Let the Riverbeast Get You! Oh yeah, and Gunbuster 2: Diebuster. If that’s not good, I don’t know anything about movies.
I really, really liked this one, supposedly Steven Soderbergh’s last theatrically released flick… at least for a little while. The Cinephiliac also heavily recommends you give it a shot:
This one crashed and burned at the box office, but as BabyRuth will tell ya, it might be worth a nice mindless evening if that’s what you’re looking for:
The Last Stand-
I wasn’t super-enthused by Korean action auteur Kim Ji-woon’s English language debut, but it had its moments, and Chris Sheridan liked it significantly better than I did. Check out why:
Stand Up Guys-
This isn’t anything groundbreaking, but Oberst found enough comedy and solid performances from it’s A-list cast to give it a recommendation.
Livingdeadguy wasn’t much of a fan of the latest Jason Statham joint (in a cowboy hat this time!) and I haven’t had a lot of desire to search ‘er out.
By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
South Korea has gotten quite the reputation as an exporter of delightful, fully little romantic comedies fit for the whole family. This summer, Pieta will roll into theaters, and right into your hearts…
Nope, this is South Korean critically acclaimed fare, and furthermore, it’s from provocateur director Kim Ki-duk. Translation: it’s hella fucked up. Pieta is about a low-level enforcer, Gang-do (Lee Jeong-jin), who never fails to collect on a debt… because he forces clients to take out an insurance policy first, then cripples them and reaps the benefits if they can’t come up with the cash. One day a woman, Mi-son (Jo Min-soo), shows up claiming to be his mother, awakening strange feelings inside him. Yep, you take that last part pretty much any way you like.
The central duo deliver fine performances. Jo Min-soo gets to run the full gamut of tragedy, and while Lee Jeong-jin looks like a burnout Clash fan, he brings a real depth to his meathead role, especially when he begins to care for and believe in Gang-do.
He doesn’t brush his teeth, but he never forgets his eyeliner
Pieta is full of queasy sexual content and violence, which is interesting to the extent it contrasts the different ways people react to their impending doom, and how they mirror Gang-do’s state of mind. However, the film is at its best when it focuses on the relationship between its central characters and their unique psychology. There’s plenty to chew on here, and like Kim’s best films, stays in your mind long after it’s over. Oh, and in what is fast becoming a Korean thriller specialty, the ending is both surprising and twisted as hell.
The opening to the film, depicting a suicide in a rusty machine shop or meat locker, perhaps, looks like something out of Saw, complete with cheap-sounding disembodied scream. In fact, many of the stylistic choices feel like cheap horror, pulpy and derivative (although Slap-cam was kinda cool). The worst offenders are the quick handheld zooms he sometimes employs, which suck in home movies, much less feature films.
There’s a nasty sexual undercurrent to the film that I’ll actually defend as necessary to the narrative, adding an extra little Oedipal kick. However, there’s a rape scene that is utterly unnecessary to this thrust, and reads as nothing more than Takashi Miike-style gross exploitation, oddly disgusting, pretentious, and meaningless all at once.
This would’ve escaped with three beers if not for Mi-son’s last scene, in which she inexplicably explains her motivations out loud just in case you’ve been sleeping for the preceding ten minutes, or have never seen a movie before.
I is feel sad now
An uneven effort from Korean shock director Kim Ki-duk, but one that might stick with you longer than you realize.
Take a Drink: anytime anyone says shibal (fuck) or keseykia (bastard)
Take a Drink: anytime you wonder who’s crazier, “mother” or “son”
Do a Shot: for every contract fulfilled
By: Henry J. Fromage –
The Beach Boys are popping up in a few projects lately, but none more interesting than Love & Mercy. The film was scripted by Oren Moverman of The Messenger fame and directed by Bill Pohlad, who has produced several large-scale films like The Tree of Life, but doesn’t have much of a directorial track record. Paul Dano will star as Brian Wilson as the Beach Boys get huge while his mental health deteriorates, eventually causing him to get kicked out of the band. John Cusack will apparently play his older self, although it’s unclear how big of a part that will be, and oddly enough, Atticus Ross will handle the score and sound design.
His last score positively screamed Beach Boys-esque
Speaking of Cusack, for some reason he turned downed a role in the yes-it’s-happening Hot Tub Time Machine 2. All of the original cast mates will return, and Adam Scott will take his place as a different character for them to hot tub time travel with. Director Steve Pink will also return. With all of the direct-to-video dreck that Cusack churns out these days, this seems like a pretty curious move to me.
Participating in stuff like this doesn’t exactly help your leverage
Jesse Eisenberg’s been having a mini-resurgence lately, and I’m really rooting for Now You See Me just based off the first trailer alone. After that, it looks like he’ll be going European arthouse, as acclaimed Norwegian director Joachim Trier will guide him along with Isabelle Huppert and Gabriel Byrne in an as of yet untitled drama with a Rashomon-like one event from multiple perspectives hook. Huppert will play an war photographer in flashbacks from a retrospective of her photographs, during which her husband and two sons discover a shameful secret from her past.
Turns out she was a pretty giant Dane Cook fan
Eisenberg will also enjoy a nice ensemble of castmates in Midnight Sun, alongside Emile Hirsch and Diane Kruger. This film will be directed by a one of those character actor faces you’d recognize if you see it- Chris Eigeman, and is set in the 1940s as two intelligent graduates are recruited to work on a secret project that may or may not rhyme with ‘Smanhattan’.
This guy. See?
Another actor having a good time lately is Oscar Isaac, who you might recognize from Drive and definitely will after the Coens’ new flick Inside Llewyn Davis. His latest role certainly would have more in common with the former, as he’ll play none other than Pablo Escobar for a director I’ve been waiting for another movie from for a long time- Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer). The script’s a Black Lister, which is promising, although the terrible track record for Pablo Escobar movies trying to reach the finish line is less so.
Hey, it’s gotta do better than Vinnie Chase’s version
The other Oscar Isaac role that caught my interest recently is Ex Machina, the directing debut from screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go, and Dredd among others). Isaac will star as a rich programmer who hires a young man (Domhnall Glesson- Anna Karenina) to help him test a stunningly lifelike female robot (Alicia Vikander, who with Gleeson arguably stole the aforementioned Karenina). That’s an awful lot of fast on the rise talent, and as creepy as the subject matter might sound, Lars and the Real Girl proves that it can be handled with heart and class.
Because let’s be honest- we all know what that robot’s gonna be used for
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
If you happen to be a fan both of globetrotting and movies, you’ve probably noticed by now the lack of films that properly convey what it feels like to travel on the cheap and off the beaten path. Basically, if you aren’t Hilton rich, you’ve probably never had a travel experience anything like what you’ve seen in the movies.
The only life lesson she learned was that Visa Platinum really is accepted everywhere
The Loneliest Planet captures that feeling like few films have. Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Nica (Hani Furstenberg) are a young engaged couple traveling in Georgia (Europe Georgia, not Dukes of Hazzard Georgia), who hire a local guide, Dato (Bidzina Gujabidza) to take them on a trek through a remote mountain range. On this trip, they experience an event that will severely test and possibly completely change the dynamics of their entire relationship.
The very first scene of the film tells us a lot. We hear creaking and moaning before we see anything, and the first image is indeed a naked Nica, but she’s jumping up and down and shivering. Alex enters and pours hot water on her soapy hair, and the care he has for her, and their mutual attraction, romantic and sexual, is readily apparent. The other thing that jumps out at you is that they’re clearly somewhere far away from modern amenities.
The other, other thing is, “Damn, that’s one hell of a merkin!”
Basically, you’re entire setup is present right there. Furstenberg and Bernal display an undeniable chemistry, particularly since scenes like them cracking up at a well-hydrated hog have an unplanned feel that suggests that much of the film was unstaged and possibly unscripted. The film is a relationship drama first and foremost, but also qualifies as an excellent travel film not only due to its beautiful cinematography (aided by a gorgeous location), but its attention to detail. Small touches like jovial/awkward broken English conversations in the street, or small, dark local nightclubs full of innocent but unwanted attention, are par the course for young budget travelers.
All of this setup serves to lull you into complacency and set the stakes for the small event that provides the fulcrum for the plot. Director Julia Loktev does a great job sneaking this twist up on you, steadily building tension without you even realizing it, so when it hits, it hits with force.
That’s what I was expecting, too, but no.
After the twist, the many subtleties of Alex and Nica’s relationship are thrust into focus, and this becomes the source of fascination for the duration of the film. Loktev’s attention to detail and deft touch is not wasted on this subject, either. Every small gesture and facial expression of the two is magnified, the landscape of their emotions every bit as beautiful and treacherous as the mountains they’re hiking through.
There’s a bit of overdubbing of dialogue, especially at the beginning, which is an annoyance (and a nitpick). A bit more substantial is the film’s use of Georgian-influenced music. It’s good stuff, but is basically only used as a soundtrack to the hiking sequences, cutting out for the people-focuses scenes, then resuming afterwards, ad infinitum. It’s a bit repetitive and tedious, and once you notice it, distracting.
This film would have made my Top 10 List of 2012 in a walk if only I’d seen it. A stunningly insightful travelogue and relationship drama that never feels less than entirely real.
Take a Drink: every time Bernal or Furstenberg take their Georgian language for a spin. “Didi madloba!”
Take a Drink: whenever sex enters into the equation
Take a Drink: every time Furstenberg does something clumsy
Do a Shot: whenever Dato (the guide) makes a bizarre joke
By: Henry J. Fromage –
Well, that got moving fast. Paul Thomas Anderson, who’s never in too much of a hurry to pump out movies, it seems, is already nearly done casting up his next, Inherent Vice. We’ve already mentioned that muse Joaquin Phoenix will take Robert Downey, Jr.’s place as pot fiend private eye Doc Sportello, who gets wrapped up in a kidnapping case involving his ex-girlfriend. Reese Witherspoon just joined the cast, either in this role or that of the femme fatale-esque wife of a Beach Boys-style surf rocker, Coy Harlingen, to be played by Owen Wilson, of course. Jena Malone and Martin Short also have roles, and last, but not least, Benicio Del Toro will play Sportello’s “shady” attorney, which seems like something he can handle…
Sounds familiar, for some reason
So what’s RDJ doing instead? Well, for one he’s going to reunite with Iron Man director Jon Favreau for Chef, which also stars Scarlett Johanssen, Bobby Cannavale, John Leguizamo, and Sofia Vergara, about a chef that loses his job, then tries out operating a food truck to resurrect his career and put his life back in order. This is interesting first off because it’ll be butting heads directly with Bradley Cooper and John Wells’ disgraced chef on the comeback flick we mentioned awhile back, also titled Chef, that also has Omar Sy and one of Michelle Williams and Marion Cotillard on board. I really hope both refuse to move off that title, and confuse the hell out of audiences for years to come. Anyway, I kinda buried the lede, because RDJ’s role is apparently only a cameo, and it’s unclear who the lead role chef is. My money’s on Bobby Cannavale.
And they shall retitle it The Station Agent 2, and I shall be happy
If Favreau indeed directs this next, it’ll push back the other project he was attached to a bit ago- The Battle for Bonneville, starring Ryan Reynolds as one of two brothers who build a jet-powered motorcycle to break the land speed record three times at the Bonneville Salt Flats, which you might recognize from that weird scene in The Master. If the other brother isn’t Anthony Hopkins, I’ll be pissed
And they shall retitle it The World’s Fastest Indian 2, and I shall be happy
So, let’s get back to Robert Downey Jr., Esq. Since he’s only got a cameo in Chef, what may well end up being his next after The Judge is an old project of his with Tim Burton- a live action Pinocchio. Here’ s a direct quote of his describing the film: “I was just thinking about Geppetto as a cross between Jake LaMotta and Chico Marx. It’s such a vital story, but it’s really about this working-class weirdo who invests this inanimate object with all of the qualities he doesn’t have,” he said. “I’m just crazy about the idea…. To me a wooden boy is a real boy who doesn’t feel like he’s acknowledged.” I’ll take that, even though I honestly don’t know what the fuck a mix of the boxer from Raging Bull and the Curly of the Marx Brothers would look like. Anyway, Ben Stiller is now being sought to fill Burton’s shoes, which is probably for the best. Here’s hoping it proves to be better than the last live-action Pinocchio I remember.
Which swallowed Roberto Benigni’s career and soul whole
Inherent Vice isn’t the only flick crowding the wire with casting news, as David Cronenberg’s Map to the Stars seems like it’s churned through two complete casts already. Rachel Weisz, Viggo Mortensen are two that exited, but the story of jaded child stars and the dingy side of Hollywood glitz still stars Robert Pattinson and has added Julianne Moore, John Cusack, Sarah Gadon, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams, and relative newcomer Evan Bird in what might be the breakout role of the film.
Danny Bonaduce waits dejectedly by the phone, then punches it.
Add Stephen Gaghan’s (Syriana) Candy Store to the list, as it was attached to pretty much every Hollywood A-lister it seems at one point, before settling for a still-excellent cast. Plot details are scarce so far, but Jason Clarke plays a former intelligence operative who finds out that his enemy has infiltrated even his home, probably in the form of Christoph Waltz, playing a “Cold War consigliere posing as a typical American suburbanite” Robert De Niro also stars as an ex-cop, and the suddenly everywhere Omar Sy will play an “international sex trade entrepreneur”.
Told you all that torture will come back to bite you in the ass, Jason
By: Henry J. Fromage (A Toast) –
I like food as much as the next guy, but with my college-dulled palate, I’ve never been much of a foodie. That’s affected my movie viewing habits a touch as it’s led me to largely ignore a large subgenre of documentaries- the kitchen/culinary docs. I’d heard great things about Jiro Dreams of Sushi, but my tepid interest kept me from checking it out until now. My loss.
I had so MANY more important things to do
Jiro Dreams of Sushi tells the story of Jiro Ono,who built the most acclaimed sushi restaurant in the world from nothing. Besides examining his process, which is basically pick the very best ingredients and keep things simple so their flavors shine through, we learn of his philosophies on work and life in general, and the interesting family dynamics that will determine the future of his business.
The reason why this documentary is so great is that it uses the lens of a man and his restaurant to also capture a snapshot of the Japanese character and culture itself. The often heartbreaking story of Jiro, kicked out of his house by his father at ate nine, learning that hard work and dedication were the only way he was going to build something for himself, then using that philosophy to become the premier sushi chef in the world, all while not losing sight of his ideals and clinging to a humble life, is a neat parallel to the story of a resurrected postwar Japan itself (or at least their idealized national narrative).
Pictured: The idealized American narrative.
The film itself mirrors its subject- simple and unflashy, but lovingly and perfectly assembled. The classical score is ideal in support of images of a master at work, as are the sprinkling of slow-motion shots and close-up work. However, none of it upstages the essential part of any documentary- the fascinating people that inspired it and the stories they tell.
You should walk away form this movie with two things- an absolutely need for sushi, stat, and an appreciation of a master and his mantra- “find your craft, then dedicate your life to mastering it.”
I wish he was my Asian grandpa
Take a Drink: every time a piece of sushi is made
Take a Drink: every time Jiro stone cold stares down someone
Do a Shot: whenever Jiro reveals an incredibly sad piece of his past, then keeps on smiling
By: Henry J. Fromage –
Two of the three prime releases hitting DVD are inarguable original and ambitious, even if the results are mixed. The other is a cheapo franchise cash-in. I’ll let you guess which is which.
This seemingly unfilmable novel adaptation made several of our MovieBoozer Staff Top 10 Lists for last year. I preferred the source material, and found this one to be a bit uneven, but mine was a minority opinion on the site. Chris Sheridan gave it a full Toast, and backs that up rather eloquently. Check out his thoughts:
This seemed like another cheap horror franchise cash-in, and while Kingsley Crabtree walked into the film hoping for more, her Six Pack review shows how much it failed to deliver:
A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III-
This looked like it could have been an intriguing, Wes Anderson-lite tale, but the reviews weren’t kind. Bill Arceneaux liked it more than most as a Charlie Sheen fan, but if you don’t fall into that group, it probably won’t be up your alley.