Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Little Fockers

A paycheck movie. Written by a sitcomputer.


Black Swan

It would be very difficult to provide a simple review of Black Swan. It's a good movie, but it's very complicated and a little disturbing. It's not a happy movie - movies don't need to be happy - and it may not be necessary for everyone to see it.

Natalie Portman deserves every accolade being thrown at her for playing the prima ballerina and Mila Kunis deserves more than a few for playing the understudy. Great performances from the entire cast, actually.

But something bothers me about Black Swan. And that thing is director Darren Aronofsky. Lets take a look at Aronofsky's resume:

Pi (1999) A math genius goes insane trying to find God in the non-repeating digits of pi.

The Fountain (2006) A guy with a spaceship goes insane and believes that his wife had been reincarnated as a tree.

The Wrestler (2009) A self-destructive guy does self-destructive things for 105 minutes.

Black Swan (2010) A driven ballerina goes insane when she gets her dream role and meets her polar opposite the same day.

Notice a trend? Crazy people (some certifiably, others hyperbolically) doing crazy things. Aronofsky's movies are dark and disturbing. Some are good (Pi), some are among the worst movies ever made (The Fountain). I'm not going to categorize Black Swan. It tells an amazing story but it's very difficult to watch. I assume that's what he was going for, so that's good, but it was difficult to watch. Not sure what else to say.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Country Strong

I went to see Country Strong last night. Based on the previews, I was expecting a formula movie - you know, a washed up singer hits rock bottom and wallows for 100 minutes, then has a mondo comeback concert. I make no apologies for liking formula movies - they're like comfort food and heaven knows I've put away enough comfort food over the years. Anyway, formula or not, it doesn't matter. Country Strong was nothing like the previews and I recommend that you skip it, even ten years from now when it's on cable and you've got nothing else to do. FIND something else to watch.

But here's the thing. I found myself chuckling over some of the country music cliches while I was watching the movie, then today, I realized that they used ALL of the country music cliches. I used Steve Goodman's song, You Never Even Called Me by My Name, as the guideline of what makes a country cliche.

Goodman said that the perfect country song would have to mention momma, trains, pick-up trucks, rain, prison and getting drunk. That's six elements. Country Strong features an alcoholic singer fresh out of rehab (1), who takes up with a saloon singer who drives a 1972 Ford F100 (2), who hops a ride on a freight train (3) and later finds our singer relapsing in a bar on a rainy night (4). There is also up & coming singer whose momma (and daddy) have been in prison (5 & 6). If I tried, I could probably put all of that into one sentence, but who cares? Skip the dang movie.


Monday, January 3, 2011

How I Met Your Mother - What the Hell?

I enjoy How I Met Your Mother. The premise of Ted annoying his kids by drawing out the story he tells them is pretty funny, the writing is great and the cast is pleasant. All good stuff.

Except for tonight's episode (season 6, ep 13). It was your basic episode, with hijinks and hilarity aplenty. I noticed right away that they had a countdown gag going on, with numbers prominently displayed, starting with 50. I had to rewind a couple of times to catch a few, more often that I lost count rather than they were hidden I'll admit. It was a legen - wait for it - dary gag - enjoy the show, have 50 bonus laughs with the numbers.

Except that they were counting down to a death in the family. When we got to 0001, the bad news was given. The show ends with two characters in tears. This was simply not the episode to have an extra thread of funny running through it.

So, to the How I Met Your Mother producers and writers, you guys owe us an extra-funny, APPROPRIATELY funny episode sometime soon. Above and beyond your normally funny standard. I will not forget this debt.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Firefly/Serenity on DVD

As I mentioned earlier, I am methodically going through my DVD collection, currently focusing on TV series sets. Firefly (2002) was not on my initial schedule, but had the Blu-Ray version on sale in November, so I upgraded. Once I had it in hand, I had to watch it soonishly.

After a week of watching two episodes a day, I finished the 14 network episodes yesterday evening and capped it off with a viewing of the movie Serenity last night. The Blu-Ray versions look fantastic. I could scarcely tell the difference between the TV episodes and the feature film.

The show holds up remarkably well, with stories about human nature, dignity, avarice, belief and greed, all strung together by the main theme of chosen family. Perhaps because it tries to be more than just a western set in space, Firefly is very entertaining and never drags. Every episode is thoroughly good, an opinion probably colored by the knowledge that there are only 14 of them. Serenity, with its mega-budget, is a balls-to-the-wall thriller with amazing action sequences. I am still able to say these nice things about the shows after watching the series start-to-finish at least six times in the past six years, and seeing Serenity at least 15 times since it opened in the theater on September 30, 2005.

If you want to be nagged into enjoying Firefly and Serenity, follow this link and this one into the onvoymovies archives.

Where are they now?
Nathan Fillion is fabulous on Castle.
Morena Baccarin is the villainous Anna on V. Her character on Firefly/Serenity is nothing like Anna.
Adam Baldwin plays Major Casey on Chuck.
Summer Glau will be on NBC's new series The Cape, which I had no interest in watching until a few moments ago.

[Update 1/18/2011: I watched the premiere of The Cape, and even though Summer Glau has a decent-sized role, wears mini-skirts frequently, is growing into her looks and has never looked hotter, I'm not watching it again.  On the plus side, The Cape will probably run 13 episodes and fade away, so Summer will be available for a new series this fall.

Another Where are they now?
Alan Tudyk will be in Transformers 3 this summer.  Hey, A guy has to eat.]


My final number for movies seen at a theater in 2010: 102.

Ten were movies that I went to see for the second time. There were another ten or so that I would have liked to see again but couldn't, mostly due to fast cycling-out of titles.

Twenty were part of Willow Creek Theater's retro program, where they show older titles on the weekends. At first, most of the retros could be considered classics or cool, but for the last few months, the titles have just been old (15-25 years) with little cachet. They just announced the titles for the next two months, none of which are must-sees for me. Retros are hereby caput unless they bring in something spectacular.

One of the reasons I won't miss the retro movies is that I noticed they cost me a few first-run viewings. It is the nature of the movie business these days to cycle titles really fast. And I mean fast - some movies that are promoted on TV and in previews for months have a big opening weekend and are gone in two or three weeks. The retro program took up 20 weekend slots that maybe would have been better spent going to a first-run movie instead.

My average ticket price for 2010 was $6.41. That's down almost a quarter from 2009, partly due to being comped by Willow Creek a few times and partly due to a new theater opening nearby with a matinee price of $5.00, which is nicely less than Willow Creek's $6.50. Maybe my New Year's resolution should be to see more movies at the less-expensive theater, but $1.50 isn't a bad premium for the convenience.

Most enjoyed movies in 2010 (in no particular order)
Easy A
Ramona and Beezus
She's Out of My League

Really good movies, even if they were downers
Never Let You Go
The Ghost Writer
The American

Worst movie of the year

Worst movie of the year, Dishonorable Mention
The Tourist

Picking a universally worst movie is problematic because you don't go to a movie you know you won't like. Most years, I would say I didn't see the truly worst movie of the year, because I skipped it. However, Nine was so bad, I think it may have been the worst movie of 2010 by any objective criteria. The Tourist deserves a mention not because it was bad, per se, but because it was such a disappointment. It had an A-List cast and fabulous Parisian & Venetian scenery, but the story sucked and some of the actors were sleepwalking. The Tourist should have been so much better.

How many movies will I see in 2011? Who knows? I'm not setting a quota, although I sure like round numbers and meaningless benchmarks. If we extrapolate from today - let's see, two days into the year and zero movies seen - I'll see NO movies this year. Well, the numbers don't lie but I think I'll buck the trend and see a few more than zero by December 31, 2011. Maybe a hundred more.

Holy Crap, I've Really Let This Blog Go to Seed!

If ever there is evidence that I am a slacker, it's the lack of posts on this blog recently (Hey, I just proved a negative! Cool). I could make up some excuse or rationalization, but the self-admitted slackerdom would tarnish the justification so I won't bother.

I will, however, tell you about what's been going on lately. I'm working my way through my DVD collection, focusing, for the moment, on TV season sets. I just did a quick count and found I have 75 seasons of TV on DVD. Seventy-five sounds like a lot but I have the complete series of a fair dozen, some of which went seven seasons, so it's not that many titles, yet it's a massive number of hours of programming.  It felt wrong to have spent hard-earned cash on these entertainment products but not watch them.  Something had to be done.

My strategic plan is to run through shows I haven't seen for a while, with an occasional fave thrown in. I finished Firefly/Serenity last night, a favorite. Over the next few days, slackerness notwithstanding, I'll tell you about my recent adventures.