Friday, June 24, 2011

Did Pixar make a bad movie?

I'll be honest. I was not looking forward to seeing "Cars II" as much as I had the last few Pixar movies. And it broke my heart.
As I grow into an increasingly cynical guy about to turn 40, Pixar was one of the few things that kept me believing. If you are cynical, or even struggling against it, like me, it's hard to like the movie business. There's Michael Bay, reboots, remakes, unoriginal ideas, Twilight movies, sequels and increasingly bad horror movies that believe buckets of blood can make up for a bag of twists.
But then there was Pixar, and in the summer, no less, when most of the sludge was served to us in a trough full of special effects and inane dialogue, we got brilliance. We got terrific storytelling, great characters and heartfelt, honest moments. I cried away my cynicism at the end of "Wall-E," "Up" and "Toy Story 3." In fact, I thought those three movies were some of the best movies I'd seen, and "Toy Story 3" was my favorite movie last year.
And what was even better was EVERYONE went to see them. Pixar is one of the few great success stories, a wonderful product that is actually endorsed by the public. That combination is rarer than you think. For every Adele, there's two Katy Perrys.
It got to the point where I believed Pixar was incapable of making a bad movie. It made me believe. Going to the new Pixar movie is a summer tradition, like running a 4th of July race. 
Alas. Brilliant white light eventually dims. Maybe that's the lesson of "Cars II."
I just got back from the theater, and I'm trying, really hard, not to bash the crap out of it. I mean, Rolling Stone's Peter Travers, who is not only my favorite movie writer but a guy I agree with more than anyone else, gave it three-and-a-half stars, and one thing I love about him is he always forms his own opinion, rather than jump on the back of other reviewers and reheat what everyone's saying. So he saw that same brilliance that we all saw in "Wall-E."
What Travers does is impressive because it's HARD not to let the buzz influence our opinions of something. Word of mouth is the most powerful advertising in the entertainment business. That's how movies like "Little Miss Sunshine" become smash hits. And I had not heard many good things about "Cars II."
I honestly wondered if reviewers were either falling for the new story, i.e. Pixar Made A Sucky Movie! or ready to knock Pixar off its perch. We love it when greatness falters because, well, it brings it back to our levels. When something is THAT great, all the time, well, you begin to wonder why YOU can't be great all the time, and let's face it, that's an uncomfortable feeling, and we Americans, more than anything else, like that comfortable feeling of feeling good about ourselves.
So I went in with an open mind. I'm still trying to keep it. I owe Pixar that much, at least.
(Actually, I have repaid Pixar for its greatness and inspiration in thousands spent on the company's annoying merchandise. It's inevitable when you have three small children and the characters are so very, cheek-pinching cute. Ironically, "Cars" was by far the most criminal at this. McQueen is printed on T-shirts, bedsheets, underwear, frosted cookies, a dumpyard of toys, swimsuits, floaties, kickboards, countless food items, watches, CDs, DVDs and I don't have all day to list the rest. And that's just in our house. I would not be stunned to find Cars on tampons).
So here's my quickie: The movie isn't really all that bad. It doesn't hold up to the past movies. It's probably the worst Pixar movie ever, save for "A Bugs Life," which I had wiped from my memory with one of them Total Recall machines. In fact it almost doesn't deserve to carry the label.
But it's not "Hop," not by a longshot. It's even better than some reasonably cute kids movies I've seen in the last six months, like "Rio" or "Megamind." Part of the problem of being Pixar is the movies are almost TOO good. People think "Led Zeppelin III" is a bad album for the same reason.
In fact, I walked out of the movie, and Jayden, my 6 year old son, was grinning ear to ear. Did you like it, we asked him, and he nodded.
OK then.
No, what worries me more is "Cars II" honestly seemed far more like a normal movie than I've ever seen from Pixar. In other words, it was a sequel, and it didn't seem all that imaginative or well-thought-out or even planned in any way. It seemed like a summer movie that featured friendly, well-known characters, lots of cool special effects (the movie does LOOK incredible), an easy, wild, plot and lots of explosions (!!!).
Sequels aren't always bad. Remember what I said about "Toy Story 3"? (And "Toy Story 2" was just as good). And neither are fun summer movies. Hey, I loved "Speed." I loved "The Dark Knight." I loved "Inception."
Instead, "Cars II" honestly was the kind of movie that made me so cynical about movies. And it didn't seem like a simple misstep. John Lasseter, the head of Pixar and one of my top three people I'd kill cute, fluffy bunnies to invite for dinner, co-directed it. Yikes. And what's even worse, before "Cars II," Pixar showed a "Toy Story" short. I love the shorts as much as the movies. They are when Pixar seems to stretch its considerable creative limits even further. They are imaginative and brilliant and everything the movie business is mostly not. But this movie was something Pixar can find in its office trashcans. I'd be surprised if it took more thought than a working lunch over Burger King.
The fact that Pixar made both scares me to death. I need magic in my life. I suppose I can't have it all the time. But I live in a world where it's drying up. If I can't count on Pixar once a year, well, maybe I'll just have to join the crowd who believes Katy Perry is actually good.


Hi guys! You can also find this at pokingandoeaking.blogspot.com.
 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

At the End of the Road

I must start with a bit of breaking news from the Summersverse...I just canceled
my blockbuster subscription.

The company has been recently acquired by Dish Network or something and for the last five weeks have not gotten in any new movies... or most accurately, have not sent me any new movies, as you'll shortly see in my movie reviews. So, the long and the short of it (Did I get that saying right? Hell does that mean??) is that I'll have an extra $25 a month and this is probably my last lengthy movie reviews post unless and until I'm all unemployed again. Or Netflix finally brings streaming to the Droid X. I know you're all sad. Shut up! You'll miss me! #Rude

I wish I could say I'll be going out with a bang here, alas...


Funny Face

First off, I thought this movie was Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand. It's not.
It's Funny *FACE* with that Audrey Hepburn lady from Breakfast at Tiffany's.
It's TERRRRRRIIIBBLLLEEEE. It's a musical, but she can't sing. It's about "funny looking girls," but she's not funny looking. It's a love story with a romantic lead old enough to be her grandpa! BOO! LAME! EWWW!! Oh, and it's Gene Kelly dancing, which should be awesome, but he's like 300 years old in the movie and I spend all his dance solos terrified that he's going to break a hip. NO. BUENO.


Meet Me in St. Louis


The best part of this movie is in the first ten minutes, where the little girl
is talking about how much she loves St. Louis (she's like 5) and she says "It's
my favorite city! Wasn't I lucky to be born in my favorite city?" I laughed so hard! THAT'S HOW I FEEL ABOUT BROOKLYN! Except it's not ridiculous for me to say
that because I'm a grown-up. And I'm well traveled! Anyway, it's a musical, but
not a really good one. I didn't leave my couch singing any of the songs, though I did recognize a couple of them. Acting is predictably hammy, as was the way in
the olden times of Judy Garland movies.


Finder's Fee


So, a couple of months ago I decided to go all in on Ryan Reynolds. When I go all in, I go ALL IN. So here we are. This is a "Jeff Probst" production (head desk) about a guy who finds a wallet. Turns out that inside the wallet is THAT NIGHT'S WINNING LOTTO TICKET! OMG! (Seriously, worst scene ever. The lotto ticket is only three numbers, but the camera keeps going back and forth between the TV screen of the winning numbers and the ticket like it was the White House nuclear codes. AND THEN the guy takes a pencil to double check AGAIN. I'm like 8 23 91, MORON! IT'S THREE NUMBERS!) Anyway, he had called up the lost wallet guy before he realized the 6 million dollar ticket was in there, the guy comes and then the cops lock down their building so the old man has to stay and tell his sob story as the guy feels guilt about taking the ticket. Think a beating heart beneath the floorboards. Except much much much worse. Not even Ryan Reynolds could save this. There is some really bad poker in it.

Foolproof


Yet another Ryan Reynolds flick from the way back machine. He and his friends plan a faux jewelry heist, but their plans are stolen by a Mafia big wig and carried out. He then blackmails them with the threat of telling the cops they did it unless they help him carry out the heist he really wants to work on. They agree. It's bad, but not terrible. And I like Ryan Reynolds in this. I also like saying Ryan Reynolds. I also now believe that typing is speaking. Moving on.

Catfish

Okay. Wow. WOW WOW! This and Black Swan are the best movies I've seen all year. Catfish is a documentary about a New York City photographer's relationship with a family in the Midwest. People have questioned whether it's real or if it's like that Joaquin Phoenix fauxmentary thing. I can understand the skepticism because the whole thing is so brilliant you can't believe it's true. It held particular fascination for me because I do live so much of my life online (so much so I think typing is speaking.) But this flick made me seriously consider deleting my facebook account. So good!


Somewhere


This movie, like all movies directed by Sophia Coppola, makes me long for the
days when she was an actress. Oh yeah, I said it. Sophia the actress >>>>>>
Sophia the Director. AND SHE SUCKED AS AN ACTRESS! So here's Somewhere: Opening
scene: Guy driving his Beamer around a racetrack three times. Closing scene:
Guy driving his Beamer down the LA Freeway. Get it? GET IT?? First he was going
nowhere BUT NOWWWWWWW he's...going....SOMEWHERE! Kill me.

Rabbit hole


This movie is weird. It's about a couple who loses their four-year-old son to a
car accident. The husband wants to go to group therapy; the wife doesn't. So the
husband smokes pot with a lady from group and the wife has playdates with the teenager who drove the car that killed her son. And there's a mother and a pregnant sister. I dunno. It's not the worst, but...yeah.

The Rite

This movie is what can only be described as "Catholic Porn." Anthony Hopkins is a priest who does exorcisms and an unbeliever seminary student from America is assigned to shadow him. Of course, the student thinks the old man is faking the exorcisms, but then when the old man himself becomes possessed it will be up to the young man to find his faith and vanquish the demon! "I believe in the devil, so I BELIEVE IN GOD!" Cheesy, sure. Effective, hell yes. My ass was in church the next morning for the first time this year. Also, I didn't just say hell. And I definitely didn't say it two times.

I love you Phillip Morris


I rented this movie from the store in a predominately Italian-American neighborhood in Brooklyn. I was wearing a Patriots T-shirt and the clerk goes "Tom Brady can lick my balls." Um...and then, a few seconds later, as he takes the movies from my arms, he goes "You don't want to watch this movie," he says holding up the box, with Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor on the front, by its edges lest he catch the AIDS "It's all faggy homo stuff. Disgusting." Now, there are a hundred and one clever responses to both these statements that I have since come up with, but at the time what I said was "That's okay. I'll still take it." Sure enough, the movie is a romantic comedy about two inmates who meet in prison. It's also part that movie with Leo DiCaprio where he steals a pilot's uniform and is walking through the airport with a bunch of stewardesses even though he's like a teenager. (Oh, you guys are so gonna miss these reviews, aren't you?! AREN'T YOU?) Jim Carrey is pretty good in this. So is Ewan. I liked it, but I have to admit, if this movie were about a man and a woman, I would have thought it was cheesy. So, it might just be my impulse to not be heterosexist that makes me like it. You know, like how white people give Academy Award nominations to crap like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Amistad just not seem racisty.

Gulliver's Travels

I rented this movie because Donna Noble from Doctor Who is in it. She's not even really in it all that much. It's mostly a bromance between Jack Black and Marshall from How I met your mother. It's okay. Some cool effects. But you so see the end coming a mile away. Amanda Peete also didn't shine at all and I usually love her! Meh.

Gnomeo and Juliet

Um. Yeah. I rented a movie called Gnomeo and Juliet. And now I'm putting that in writing and publishing it. With my name on it. Um. Yeah. So what can I say? It's about garden gnomes. Rival garden gnomes. Who fall in love. And...did I say that they were garden gnomes? Why am I still typing?! Little kids might like it though. And I can't wait for them to get to junior high school and be all "hey, this play is just like that cartoon I saw with the garden gnomes!"

The Dilemma


Vince Vaughn discovers his best friend's wife is having an affair. When I saw the trailers I thought there would be some twist like...it was really the wife's cousin or the wife had a twin sister. But no. It is exactly what it says it is. The rest runs very predictably through the bromance formula which has become so popular. Yawn. Queen Latifah is extra weird in this movie. Like extra. Weird. Oh, but it has some hockey in it! What? Hockey is cool.

The Roommate

This movie stars Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girls and Lila from Friday Night Lights. I watched it with my friend F-train, who was visiting from Las Vegas. He did not enjoy it. His comment "oh, these people have TV shows? So they're not desperate enough to have to do nudity." He was right. There was no nudity. (The next day we were watching The Good Wife and his only remark was "wait, rewind the lesbian sex scene! I can't believe they can show this on network TV!) Anyway, The Roommate is a psychological thriller in the vein of "Single White Female." But it was neither psychological... nor thrilling. I liked Blair in it though. She did a good psycho chick.

No Strings Attached

Ugh. Okay, so this movie sucked, which you totally expect from an Ashton Kutcher
movie, right? BUT THEN it has NATALIE PORTMAN in it! I was TRICKED I TELL YA!
TRICKED! Why is she in THIS??? WHYY?? She's got Star Wars money, man! I want my 101 minutes of my life back! Eh...who am I kidding, I woulda just wasted them. But dude, this movie was AWFUL. It's a "romantic" "comedy" about a girl doctor and a man writer who decide to just hook up all the time, but then they fall in love. And then you vomit.

The Mechanic (2011)


I also saw this movie with F-train. In my defense, I planned to spare him my Sunday night movie watching ritual, but the first five minutes of this movie was SO AWESOME that I thought I was doing him a favor by letting him watch it with me. Unfortunately, there were like 100 not so awesome minutes which followed the first five and um...no bueno. Why did I then make him watch the roommate? Well, in for a penny, in for a pound, I say!

The Trial (2010)

This movie stars Matthew Modine. I do not know why I know who he is. I avoided this movie about a wrongfully arrested teen who is paired up with a lawyer whose whole family was just killed in a car crash, FOREVER. It was literally the last movie left on that wall that I hadn't seen, so I just rented it. It was SO BAD. It's was like a Tyler Perry movie with white people. Just ham handed morality tale, obvious plot twists and awful awful awful dialogue and plot points. Blech.

Greenberg (2010)

Ben Stiller's latest pretentious crapfest is...pretentious and crappy! Huzzah! I
actually didn't mind it because it met my expectations exactly. Skip. Skip.
Skip. Oh what's it about? A 40-year-old man moves in with his brother after having a mental breakdown and starts up a relationship with the nanny. And then, he takes her to her abortion. Well, not hers, her fetus'. Touching.

The Romantics (2010)

This movie stars every B list actor you can name. I watched it with my six week old nephew. He cried, screamed, spit up and pooped his pants twice. And then he fell asleep. Personally, I thought that was generous. It's about a "Friends-like" group of six friends who have all dated each other and they are gathering for the wedding of the last pair, but the man is really still in love with one of the other girls and then they quote terrible poetry and then it rains. Or something. AWFUL!

Just Friends

More Ryan Reynolds. Ryan Reynolds! Um...here, he is in love with his best friend, but she has a boyfriend. He decides to proclaim his love anyway, but his note is intercepted by the high school bully and read aloud. In shame, he flees his town never to return until he is a hot, successful bigshot producer. Turns out his crush still lives with her parents in town and he sets out to woo her. But he's an asshole now. It's an okay movie. There is hockey in it. Which is weird for a movie starring only American actors. Hush.

Buy the Cow

Oh man. The things I watch for Ryan Reynolds. I swear, Ryan Reynolds himself probably hasn't seen this movie. There is five long minutes of totally nude Ryan Reynolds in this. And then there's a plot of some kind involving women as cows.

Back to School


Vinnay recommended this movie in that "how could you have never seen" tone of voice. When in actuality, I coulda lived my whole long perfectly fulfilled life without ever having seen a Rodney Dangerfield movie. Alas, this wasn't the worst. There were some funny lines. The football team at my high school, now they were tough! After they sack the quarterback, they go after his family! But it was just an hour and a half of Rodney standup.

Blade: the Trinity
Ryan Reynolds FIGHTS VAMPIRES! Listen. I wasn't fucking around here. All Ryan Reynolds EVERYTHING! He totally saves this otherwise wretched film. I mean, he doesn't make it good, but he makes it so you aren't rooting for the vampires to kill everybody. You root for them to kill everybody except Ryan Reynolds.

The In-laws


You know who plays the groom in this awful terrible "comedy," about a spy's son marrying a dentist's daughter? Ryan Reynolds. Again, he's great. Everyone else? Horrid. He doesn't save the movie though. It's unwatchable, no getting around it.


The Green Hornet
I THOUGHT RYAN REYNOLDS WAS IN THIS! ARRRRGHGGGHHHH. *smashes a lamp* Anyway, there are 24 great minutes in this movie. Unfortunately, they're spread out randomly through the rest of this (inexplicably) 135 minute mess. I don't know who told that guy from Knocked Up that he was a leading man who could anchor a movie like this, but THAT GUY should be hired by the US Government to handle future negotiations with China about our debt. He'll SO convince them that we paid already. "What?! You didn't get the check? This is ridiculous! What's your address again?!"

Casino Jack

This movie stars Kevin Spacey and that "I'm not lying" guy from SNL. You know, Chanukah Harry... I so just dated myself. Um... movie is okay, the documentary I saw last month was way better.

Van Wilder: Van Gone Wilder

Heeyy, it's another Ryan Reynolds movie! What're the odds?! Actually, I all kinds of loved this movie about a seven year undergrad who finally has to get it together to graduate. I actually saw this right after Back to School. They are kind of alike, but Van Wilder is actually funny. Except for the racist "they have to fly in an Indian girl for Kumar to get a girlfriend" part.

And that's a wrap! It's been a wild four years, Blockbuster. But it's time that we part ways. I need to do other things... Like figure out how to beat Kearns at Kinect Sports. Peace.