Saturday, November 26, 2011


In the words of Kermit the Frog, "Yaaaayyy!!!" the Muppets are back!! Went to the theater last night with high expectations and I'll tell you what, guys, the critics are right about this one.

Best brothers ever.

The plot, written by Jason Segel himself, begins as the heartwarming tale of Gary (Segel) and the newest Muppet, Walter. Walter has been a huge Muppet fan his entire life and when Gary and his girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams), are about to head out for LA for their tenth anniversary, they invite Walter along for a tour of the Muppet studios. However, when they arrive, much to their disappointment, the studio is in disarray. Walter leaves the tour to check out Kermit's old office and, while hiding, discovers a plot by an oil company to buy the rights to the Muppet studio and have it destroyed! The story then focuses on the three finding Kermit and trying to get a show together with the whole gang to try and raise money in order to keep the studio and the show going.

Well holy crap, guys. I have not seen a movie in a long time that manages to be upbeat without being sappy and light without being stupid. Well done, Jason Segel. The film manages to do what, up to this point in time, only Pixar seems to be able to do. The material is appropriate for children but includes jokes and characters adult enough for grownups to identify with as well. Even though it's two hours long, the show seems to be as short as any children's movie, keeping the audience engaged with a new slight conflict every 15 minutes or so and making them wonder if they'll end up getting the studio back!

Like a beacon in the night..

For any nostalgic Muppet fan, also, you have found your film. The movie's central plot revolves around bringing back the golden era of the Muppets, even though it pokes fun at itself by admitting that a lot of kids today are unfamiliar with them (speak for yourself, Selena Gomez, Muppet Christmas Carol is still one of my favorite movies ever.).

But even for non-fans, the plot is brightened by upbeat characters and catchy tunes (oh my God, "Man or Muppet" was my favorite thing in the world). And if nothing else, the celebrity cameos alone are enough to get you through til the end (look for Whoopi Goldberg, Sarah Silverman, Jack Black, Rashida Jones, Allan Arkin, Bill Cobbs, Ken Jeong, Jim Parsons, and a bunch more!).

It was one of those movies that had a sympathetic audience. When Kermit takes a minute to sing "The Rainbow Connection" everyone in the theater started singing along and seemed to love the Muppets' refound identity as much as I and my two equally nerdy friends did.


Check it out!

Five outa five stars bitches.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Puss in Boots: Not Bad, DreamWorks, Not Bad

So when I booked my flight in August to go see my lovely friend Emily in Los Angeles obviously I had no idea what her schedule would be. Bless her little med school-bound heart, she has two enormous tests on Monday and so we couldn't get sloshed and dance around like morons in a random bar for the weekend. Lady had to study. And understandably so (seriously, I had to ask her what organic chemistry was cuz i had no idea). So she leant me her fascinating Prius and I set out for downtown Claremont.

So what did I do there? I found a movie theater of course!


As maybe some of you have caught on at this point, I will watch almost anything (NOT Window Water Baby Moving. I don't care how much you pay me. I'm scarred for life from that horror.). The more intellectual fodder I like to save for watching with others simply because I enjoy the different perspective for the more complex themes. But going to see brainless rom coms, camp films, and kid's movies by myself? I'm totally always up for it! So despite the theater's really cool offerings (indie films galore!) me and myself opted for the new Shrek spinoff, Puss in Boots. Now I thoroughly enjoyed Shreks 1 and 2 but had missed Shrek the Third and other spinoffs (didn't they have a Halloween one?) so I wasn't really sure where the franchise had ended up. But I've got to say, I'm really glad I saw it.

I mean how could I resist that face?

The plot revolves around Puss reuniting with Humpty Alexander Dumpty and Dumpty's new partner Kitty Softpaws in a quest to steal magic beans from Jack and Jill and find the golden eggs of fairytale beanstalk fame. Puss is originally reluctant to join Dumpty and Kitty because of Dumpty's former betrayal of their friendship, a ploy that involved Puss unknowingly robbing the bank of their hometown, San Ricardo. But he reconsiders after Humpty Dumpty reassures him that the eggs will go to their hometown of San Ricardo. But Humpty Dumpty and Kitty might not be as trustworthy as they seem...The ensuing adventure is pretty well done and appropriate for all ages to boot.

Puss (Antonio Banderas) is his usual charismatic self and his new girl, Kitty (Salma Hayek), is pretty charismatic herself. Although some might argue that Humpty Dumpty was a little annoying, I feel like knowing that he was voiced by Zack Galifianakis suddenly made that ok.

Seriously, who trusts an egg in a matador suit?

The characters all blended together in a typical outlaw way (Typical boy interested in girl so he stays even though he hates the other guy even though the girl and the untrustworthy ex-friend are in cahoots. Formulaic.). Also, this film seemed to trim down the fairytale sidelines, giving the audience a better chance to get to know the characters as opposed to setting up multiple digs on classic folklore and nursery rhymes (although at this point that probably also has to do with the fact that they're running out of them). Cameos by Jack from the beanstalk tale and Little Boy Blue were my favorites.

The thing that I loved most about this film was the merge between the fairytale thing that we have seen in the earlier Shrek movies and the introduction of classic Western-style cinematography. There are quite a few scenes that recall classic westerns like The Wild Bunch, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, and even cheesier ones like Zorro. But this franchise never does anything without a little tongue in cheek and a lot of the genre is both honored and made fun of simultaneously. I enjoyed their usage of multi-perspective shots in the same frame, which is a very hokey kind of 1960's trick (circa The Thomas Crowne Affair original with Faye Dunaway, check it out!). But the whole aesthetic of the film was very fitting for the subject matter, and especially for the voice of Antonio Benderas. Good job DreamWorks!

4 outa of 5.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Anonymous, or Shakespeare's Not Really Shakespeare

So over here in California for the past week. Been couch surfing at my cousin's for the past couple of days and I've got tons of time to write new posts since she's at work til the afternoon. I know, I know, you're all waiting with bated breath. Well fear not, cuz I've got a new review for you. Unfortunately, I'm gonna have to break my Thanksgiving movie marathon for this one just in the name of staying current.

Last night we went and saw Anonymous, a film which I'd seen previews for but hadn't really had my eye out for in movie listings. I always feel a little dumb when it comes to movies that take place during Elizabeth I's time, and this one was no different. The English names are a bit repetitive, and after a while you had to remind yourself of which Cecil was which and who they were talking about when they referred to "William" (William Cecil? William Shakespeare? Will.I.Am?). After a while, though, you more or less understood what was going on.

So the movie begins almost exactly like Kenneth Branagh's Henry V, even to the point of having the same prologue (Derek Jacobi). The prologue introduces the subject matter in an anonymous playhouse and then the backdrop melts away to a realistic setting. The main theory surrounding the film is that William Shakespeare was not the actual author of his works. His close friend, Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto), is approached by the Earl of Oxford (played by Rhys Ifans pretty elegantly, and also known as Edward. Write that down.) to put on a play. Since Court doesn't approve of gentlemen writing plays or poetry, the Earl gives a number of plays to Jonson. When Jonson puts on the plays, the playwright is simply kept anonymous. One night the shows are such a big success that the audience begs for the playwright to show himself. So who volunteers? Illiterate actor and unpleasant fellow William Shakespeare.

But for the most part the film does not revolve around William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall), which is a good thing because he's really severely unlikeable. It revolves more around the life of Edward (Earl of Oxford, remember?). Having had a lifelong interest in writing and poetry, he decides to start sharing his plays anonymously in order to build English morale on the backdrop of Elizabeth's succession.

Who am I?

The plays are interspersed with big chunks of Edward's past as well. Young Edward (Jamie Campbell Bower) is shown marrying the daughter of William Cecil (David Thewlis) to keep a murder quiet, having an affair with the queen and impregnating her, and finding out his son is the Earl of Southampton.

When we get back to his future he is plotting with Essex to (re)win the queen's favor in order for him to get a leg-up in the succession and in Court.

So holy moly. Lot of stuff going on here. Not that conspiracy theories are ever simple, but it's even more confusing in an Elizabethan setting.

I've got to say, the movie dragged on quite a bit. They seem to get so wrapped up in the hypothetical politics more than the actual plays, which is a shame because I feel like their main audience was probably Shakespeare scholars. Also both my cousin and I were surprised with how overdramatic the acting seemed to be. I don't know about you guys, but Queen Elizabeth I in my mind has always been a pretty stoic, no-nonsense kind of queen (think Shakespeare in Love). Now I'm no history buff, but the Elizabeth we got in this film was like something out of a soap opera. She screams, she dances, she has sex, she's a wild card. And it's kind of uncomfortable to see her that way.

Another thing that was totally distracting, and I don't mean to hyperbolize, but almost every character in the film had a bizarre voice. Jamie Campbell Bower as a young poet? The creepy guy from Sweeney Todd that sings "I feeeeeel youuu, Joaaannnnnnaaaa"? I don't think so. Also I'm not alone in thinking that Ben Jonson kind of sounded like Hagrid and that Robert Cecil very closely resembled Gollum from The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I feeeeel youuuu, Eliiiiizabeeeeeth

Perhaps if the film had been a little less lengthy, one could better focus on the positive originality of it all. After all, the audience ends up sympathizing with Ben Jonson way more than they do the greedy Shakespeare, and really Edward is very beautifully played by Ifans. But there is so much plot clutter that at times they reach a little too far.

For example, I don't care how good of a poet you are, you can't think up verse in the middle of foreplay.


Not buyin' it.

3 outa 5 for some cool settings and such but bit of a letdown in terms of story.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Hope you like the blog makeover. Now it doesn't look like its written by a seventh grader anymore probably.

Dutch: The Almost Home Alone of Thanksgiving

This lesser-known John Hughes film is a pretty alright time. The plot revolves around Dutch (Ed O'Neill) going down South to pick up his girlfriend's son, Doyle, in hopes of striking up a bond with him on the road trip back home. However, Doyle (Ethan Embry) ends up being an absolute horror. Brought up obsessed by his father's world of high living and snobbery, he shuns everyone around him and detests Dutch. However, despite their differences they come together as the road's increasing hardships get them down.

I've got to admit, it's no wonder that the film isn't very well-known for a John Hughes movie. Similar to cringe-fests like Meet the Parents, this movie kind of leaves you tense. The two main characters absolutely foil each other. The kid is totally detestable as a friendless Scrooge-type who seems to prefer his dad's way of living (God knows why, he's raised by his mom) and has no tolerance for the working class. Dutch happens to be a bizarre cross between a kid and a no-nonsense adult. Their interactions swing dangerously between uncomfortable and borderline child/adult abuse. Unlike the funny torture scenes of Home Alone, this film seems to get real-life dangerous in a lot of ways including fireworks gone awry, an almost car accident, and bebe guns being shot at kids. Even when they do reconcile their differences at the end (SPOILER ALERT: Just kidding, it's a John Hughes movie, you know it's gonna end happily) you kind of think "WELL IT'S ABOUT TIME!"

The movie also seems to have its own agenda in the name of Thanksgiving. In fact, Dutch and Doyle get into more than one socio-economic comparison/debate. The movie is very obviously trying to cast a favorable eye on the lower middle class, which is awesome considering the themes of Thanksgiving, and really they do it pretty well thematically as well. While they don't want to make a blanket statement about the lower class (check out the scene when they get a ride from some sympathetic prostitutes), there are quite a few statements about the value of money against the value of family and friends. Dutch, it turns out, is pretty wealthy, but has no problem spending the night in a homeless shelter with Doyle. Not bad messages for a season where you're supposed to be thinking of those less fortunate.

It's not a bad film but I would've liked to have seen what John Hughes himself would've done with it (Hughes didn't direct it, but only wrote and produced it). The acting is alright, the kid is detestable and albeit that Ed O'Neill seems a bit too Married With Children he isn't bad either (although I wouldn't have minded Robin Williams or someone a bit more whacky to give the role a try). While the film is more of a road movie than anything else, it brings the principles of Thanksgiving through in the end (i.e. love, gratefulness, compassion, etc.). Not a bad alternative to less memorable Christmas movies.

In the Name of Thanksgiving...

Thanksgiving. We all celebrate it every year.

And by "we all" I mean Americans. No offense, rest of the world, but you're not applicable here.

And every year it seems to get semi-skipped over because of big, more-marketable holidays like Christmas. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all about Christmas, but I'm getting kinda tired of this holiday fast-forward thing that our economy seems to jump on in order to sell more decorations for whatever holiday may be two months away. So after having this existential meltdown about what the hell has happened to Thanksgiving, and how it has merely become a gigantic Christmas Eve, I started thinking about the reflection of that kind of thinking in movies. Now, I don't know about you all, but I was hard-pressed to think of even five Thanksgiving movies that I have ever seen. So, I set out on a Google-quest.

After sifting through about seven random websites listing awesome Thanksgiving movies, I found ten movies worth looking over. Some I had seen before and some I hadn't, but all of them had SOMETHING to do with Thanksgiving. So far, I have:

ThanksKilling (we all know how that turned out...)

Grumpy Old Men

Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Hannah and Her Sisters

Pieces of April

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving

Desperate Crossing: Story of the Mayflower

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles


Home for the Holidays

So get ready for some coming attractions cuz I'm going to try and watch all of these in the approximate week before Thanksgiving. Here goes nothin'!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

ThanksKilling!: A Thanksgiving Acid Trip

Has anyone reading this (if anyone is reading this) ever seen The Room? I never have, but from what I've heard it is the most bizarre movie that has ever been made. Directed, written, and produced by the same whacko, the movie was a huge flop. Caught somewhere between camp, melodrama, and just plain awful, the movie has become a cult hit among a random public of fans (no doubt hipsters, but I'll try not to discriminate...). Check out a clip from it here:

ThanksKilling is the The Room of any holiday film I have ever seen.

Really weird. I mean like…really weird. Set during the Thanksgiving break of a group of teenagers (I would like to see, for once, a horror movie starring the elderly. But anyway...), the film is about five teenagers being stalked by a homicidal turkey.

Yes. That is the actual plot.

Legend has it that an evil Native American medicine man got pissed off at the pilgrims and "necromanced" [sic] a turkey to kill all the white people that he wants. But why has no one ever heard of this demonic turkey? Oh, it only comes out every 503 years. Of course. But how do they figure out how to destroy this half-dead zombie mutant turkey!? One of the characters suddenly remembers that her father keeps a lot of books in his garage, and--lo and behold!--there they find the 300 year-old book on how to kill the ThanksKilling turkey.

So, how to explain this film...When it began I was expecting the regular campy B movie trying to be halfway scary but making fun of itself. Y'know, something in the line of Bride of Chucky or something similarly weird. What I got was (I sincerely hope this was their intention) a movie that basically was just making fun of itself. While most other campy B horror movies have some semblance of actually trying to be scary (at least in my experience), ThanksKilling had absolutely no scary moments and is probably only in the horror-ish category because of its gruesome death scenes. In fact, almost everything about this movie was bizarre. The acting was awful. Like, actually awful, not intentionally awful. The love interests make no sense and, not to be a stickler, but the lead actress had some truly horrible zits on her face and no attempts seem to have been made by the lighting crew to make that even a little less obvious. Honestly, the only reason why I stuck this movie out was because of the weirdly hilarious turkey. In fact, not unlike America's favorite demonic doll, Chucky, this turkey had a really gruff and profane voice that was oddly humorous, and spewed out quite a number of stupid one-liners.

"Gobble gobble, motherfucker!"