Any Given Sunday (1999)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 14, 2012 by Parker Connell

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      Any Given Sunday is a god damn mess. Think of every sports movie cliche, now pump those with human growth hormone and mountain dew, if you make that take too much crank you’ve got Any Given Sunday. Oliver Stone’s attempt to tell the story of the wild world of pro-football is an over-the-top, badly edited, poorly written cluster-fuck of a film.
    Stone has never been known for making subtle films but Any Given Sunday is as unsubtle as film gets, at least Natural Born Killers has the semi-excuse of being an attack on subtlety. The movie starts in the middle of a game and in the opening 10 minutes alone we are assaulted with rapid-fire edits, cartoon sound effects, weird fades, pointless blur effects, also Matthew Modine being underutilized as usual. It was stressful and incredibly difficult to watch, it felt almost like having a panic attack except I’ve never had Pacino yell at me during a panic attack, and it never lets up for the rest of the movie.
    Speaking of Mr. Pacino I actually do like him in this. He is in full blown Shouting Pacino mode but Any Given Sunday is one of the few instances where this method of acting works because the rest of the film is in full on shouting overdrive, any kind of acting subtlety doesn’t even read which is probably why Cameron Diaz isn’t completely awful and why Aaron Eckhart is totally forgettable.
    Stone also continues his trend of giving James Woods one scene where he gets to just totally put everyone else to shame. Good for you Mr. Woods I hope you live forever.
    The closest thing to a theme this movie has is the always boring ‘old versus new’. Al Pacino is an old school coach, a thirty year veteran of the game and he’s being pushed around by the new school, Cameron Diaz is the owner of the team and she wants to run the team based on money and stats and all the other things that aren’t “Heart and Gumption and Wanting It The Most” and Jamie Foxx is the hot shot new guy who has his own ideas about football, and also racial issues but those speeches are badly written. Part of me thinks Stone is siding with Pacino in this regard, in ’99 Stone had already been making movies for almost 30 years and he probably had a lot to say about young guys edging in on his territory. However, Any Given Sunday is like a bad interpretation of what young people want, maybe that’s the point and Stone purposefully made a bad movie to prove that what young people is shitty… but I doubt it.

    Schizophrenic editing that is akin to a panic attack, blunt, boring, cliche writing (probably the worst writing Stone has done since Scarface), it features the only recurring puke gag in film history that I don’t like, oh and it’s two and a half hours long, there is very little to like about Any Given Sunday.

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Savages (2012)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on December 5, 2012 by Parker Connell

Savages Poster

    Oliver Stone is a creepy pervert and I love every minute of it. His latest film Savages is a bloody pulp action flick rife with leery close up shots of young tan coeds having sex, wearing bikinis, and doing drugs. Blake Lively is the main subject of Stone’s eery pornographic eye and she does a pretty okay job of being appealing in a totally unappealing way.
     Savages is full on U-Turn pulp Oliver Stone, none of the grandeur of Alexander or the political high-mindedness of Nixon and W. This is Natural Born Killers-lite (meaning it’s actually watchable if you are older than 16). The film is about the Best Weed Growers in the World and the hippy chick they both love. It’s also about a female cartel boss who is losing her grip on her business as well as her sanity.
    Salma Hayek plays the aging cartel boss and she wants in on the Best Fucking Weed in the World so she kidnaps Blake Lively and forces Ben and Chon (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch) to grow their magical pot for her.
What follows in terms of story is a lot of guns, and torture, and mexicans getting killed, and Benicio Del Toro being a scary bad ass with an ugly mullet. In terms of film however what follows is creepy scenes involving spit, Benicio Del Toro doing horrid gross things to Blake Lively, weird shots of young women in bikinis that have no bearing on the plot (including a girl on roller skates who falls and then some sound tech actually took the time to add in the sound of her screaming, the only reason I can think of for this is that Oliver Stone has really grown into being an old creepy perv.)
    John Travolta actually gives a pretty good performance in this, despite the fact that with each passing year he looks more and more like his character in Hairspray. He’s funny, douchey, and probably the only character who comes close to being likable.
    Yeah there is some sub-Funny Games bullshit at the end and the soundtrack is kind of like a group of old men discussed what the kids like these days, complete with an old man’s understanding of modern pop-culture ‘irony’. The narration is unnecessary and sometimes a little to cute for it’s own good, but god dammit I can’t dislike this film as much as it begs to be disliked, it’s fun, it’s perverse, and I like Taylor Kitsch, not enough to watch Battleship, but enough to give Savages a pass.

Gentleman Broncos

Posted in movies with tags , , , , , , , on December 1, 2011 by Parker Connell

It was around the time that Sam Rockwell sporting a pink unitard and speaking in an offensively cliché gay lisp, picked up a flat cow turd and ate it that I realized that Gentleman Broncos wasn’t really intended to entertain anyone. If anyone is entertained it is purely incidental. The writing in Gentleman Broncos feels like a five year old heard his first fart joke and immediately wrote a movie. Everything is unnecessarily gross and mildly hateful.

I don’t want to say that Gentleman Broncos is the ugliest film I’ve ever seen, but if Trashhumpers didn’t exist Gentleman Broncos would be the ugliest film I’ve ever seen, but at least Trashhumpers had the benefit of being ugly on purpose.

Michael Angarano plays the main character of this movie and that is just too bad. Mr. Angarano has in his short career made been in some pretty great movies, Snow Angels, Sky High, that one movie where Jet Li and Jackie Chan fight each other or some bullshit, Red State, and in this he is totally wasted, as is Sam Rockwell. The only person that comes out of this not appearing bad at there job is Jemaine Clement, who completely buys into the role of Ronald Chevalier and crafts the only character worth watching. In a different, more perfect world, I different writing/directing team would have created Chevalier and made a decent send-up of the notoriously absurd and conceited world of sci-fi novelists. Instead we are stuck with a movie that revels in unearned testicle jokes and unfunny homophobia.

This movie is funny like reminiscing with your elementary school friends about all the poop jokes and girls you used to like, not very funny for anyone else to watch and even the people who experienced it should realize that “One of the lasers hit my boob” screamed by a man in drag isn’t very funny. The whole stupid affair reeks of kids swearing in the cafeteria, none of them really knows what it means and aren’t really committing to the vulgarity just in case adults are listening.

On the topic of puke jokes: I love puke jokes, and in my naïveté I thought all puke jokes were funny, my ignorance was brought to light by Gentleman Broncos, and I hate it for this reason.

There is quite a bit of unhappiness at the filmmakers Hess. After Napoleon Dynamite became the Juno of that year (what was the pre 2008 version of “This years Juno”? “This years Scent of A Woman” maybe?) people started getting down on the husband and wife Mormon moviemaking team, I didn’t bye into it, sure Napoleon Dynamite got old pretty quick and doesn’t hold up, but I still hold Nacho Libre (the couples second film) as one of the funnier movies around. I say all this in order to offset any claims that I was predetermined to hate Gentleman Broncos, which is the very opposite of the truth, the makers of this movie failed in their own right with no help from bias.

The main problem this movie has in terms of “integrity” (or whatever term you’d use for the category of thing sin the writer/director has control over) is that none of it is original. Each of its three acts have their own half assed story arc each stolen from better movies. The first act, taken from Hess’s own Napoleon Dynamite, is about an awkward teen’s romance with an awkward girl. Both movies main characters obviously have little or no experience talking to girls but where Napoleon was a begrudgingly sweet story of weirdoes finding each other Gentleman Broncos’ love story is a mean one where the girl takes advantage of the boy’s earnestness.

The second act is about Michael Angarano selling his book, The Yeast Lords (everything about this movie is off putting), to a local filmmaking group. It is at it’s heart a rip off of Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind, and what a cold, dead heart it is. Be Kind Rewind is a flawed but entertaining film simply because of the creativity of it’s direction, and the simple sweet nature of it’s performances and script. The production of The Yeast Lords has all the surface appearance of a “sweded” movie from Be Kind Rewind (dolls standing in for special effects, using men to play women, bad line readings) but instead of the sense of community the view felt during Be Kind Rewind, Gentleman Broncos urges us to laugh at it’s would be filmmakers, Hess and his cohorts go out of there way to say “Look at these idiots, they think they can make a movie.” Which is ironic, I suppose, because the piss poor production of The Yeast Lords is only slightly more terrible than Gentleman Broncos.

The third act is stolen whole cloth from the Frankie Muniz/Paul Giamatti family vehicle Big Fat Liar, where a corporate bigwig steals a short story and attempts to make big money off it. In Gentleman Broncos, Jemaine Clement steals Michael Anganaro’s sci fi book The Yeast Lord and repurposes it only slightly to become Brutus and Balzaak (one of many really lame jokes about testicles featured in this movie). I have very little good to say in terms of Big Fat Liar except that Gentleman Broncos belongs in the small group of films categorically worse than Big Fat Liar.

 

Red State

Posted in movies with tags , , , , , on September 6, 2011 by Parker Connell

Who knew foul-mouthed, king of the slackers Kevin Smith had a movie like Red State in him?  Once known pretty much exclusively for masterful creation of dick and fart jokes Mr. Smith has come out with one of the best thrillers in recent memory.

After the cinematic turd known as Cop Out I was ready to cast Smith aside, and any hopes I had for his next film Red State were pretty much thrown out the window. Then the first trailer came out. It looked gritty and visceral, more Rob Zombie than Kevin Smith, and that creepy voice over by Michael Parks, had me interested, but then thoughts of Bruce Willis telling unfunny jokes during poorly shot and edited car chases danced in my head and I filed my curiosity away.

Well here I sit eating my words.  Red State is an expertly made thriller about religious fanatics think Fred Phelps meets Waco. Three teens are kidnapped after being tricked with the promise of sex. Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) and his flock intend on punishing the three deviants for their wicked thoughts and actions. Soon things escalate and ATF is called to the scene

The story is something that has been seen before, but not in movies very often, this sort of thing happens in the news. Where Smith surprises is in his direction. Usually Smith focuses on the writing and the direction, cinematography, and pacing are left on the back burner. In Red State we have dynamic camera work, and one or two scene that are tenser than anything I’ve seen in years. Never before has Smith had me on the edge of my seat but here I was hold my breath, can’t look away, holy shit what is going to happen, tense for long stretches of the movie.

That isn’t to say that the writing suffers. Red State features some of Smith’s best writing since Dogma (it seems religion gets the best out of him) and it seems he benefits from the almost complete lack of dick and fart jokes.

As far as acting this is really a one-man show for Michael Parks who is allowed long speeches about scripture and “the homosexual” and it’s really enthralling and disturbingly entertaining. John Goodman does well as the ATF agent in charge and Kevin Pollak has a good moment followed by a great moment. The teens are good and Kevin Smith seems to understand how actual modern 18 year olds act and talk.

Perhaps Red State is a fluke, or a momentary rest from his standard output, either way I feel safe in saying that aside from Clerks, Red State will be the one Kevin Smith is remembered for in the long term. Short term it’s a great movie.

Super

Posted in movies with tags , , , , , , on August 12, 2011 by Parker Connell

A trend I hope everyone has noticed with the recent influx of super hero and comic book films is the post-modern deconstruction of super hero and comic book films.  From Kick-Ass to Special these films take a skewed realistic look a how life would be if people put on a suit and tried to make the streets safe once again. Super is one such film, and it is also likely the perfect post-modern deconstruction of super hero and comic book films.

James Gunn wrote and directed this pitch-pitch-pitch black comedy about Frank (Rainn Wilson) an uninteresting, neurotic, and strange man who all his life felt out of place until a co-worker (Liv Tyler) takes an interest in him. She has a dark past and when the film starts it catches up with her again in the form of Jock (Kevin Bacon). She leaves Frank, which causes him to lose it. In one of the more disturbing and visually brilliant scenes of the film (of which there are many) Frank his touched by “The tip of the tip of the finger of God” which leads Frank to believe his duty to the planet is to put on a costume and tell crime to shut up.

What follows is a pretty much non-stop spree of weirdly depressing violence. I found my self simultaneously cheering on the insanity like it was a Robert Rodriguez movie and squirming like it was an episode of Extras. Rainn Wilson’s Crimson Bolt is an insane creation; imagine if Travis Bickle grew up on Batman and the Punisher, and the addition of his kid sidekick Bolty (Ellen Page) creates possibly the most uncomfortable sexual tension this side of… everything, I have never seen a movie with a more disturbed sexual subplot, ever.

I’ve recently come to fall in love with Kevin Bacon and Super is the latest in his attempt to become… I don’t know, this generation’s Walken… except without the self-parody. His performance as the bad guy Jock is hilarious and deranged and I loved every minute. Same goes for Michael Rooker as Bacon’s right hand, he isn’t given much to do but in true Rooker fashion he makes you notice him.

The effects in this film are perfect. I don’t know if the effects were practical or done in post, I’m leaning toward practical because there are some scenes of violence and gore in this film that are truly disturbing in a way that CG gore has yet to achieve. I couldn’t tell you if the gore is over the top because I’ve never seen someone get hit in the forehead with a pipe wrench, but I imagine it looks quite a bit like it does in Super.

Many people will come away from this film feeling dirty and depressed. Hell I did and my favorite movie starts with a rape, but don’t think this wasn’t intentional. If you look at what Gunn has done here is showing us what super heroes really are. Yeah we like Batman when he punches the Joker or drops a Mafioso from a second story building, and some people (not me) enjoy the adventures of Spider-man, but this sort of vigilantism is not a healthy exercise, and Super is showing us what Kick-Ass should have that there is nothing really good or rational about people putting on masks and taking the law into their own hands.

That isn’t to say that Super will change the way you look at super hero movies. James Gunn is just presenting another way to look at them, and unlike Kick-Ass, Super doesn’t drop the ball in it’s last act, there are no rah rah girl power montages set to Joan Jett songs or bullshit Jet Packs. This is the closest thing to real life as you can get from a super hero movie, and you know what, I love it.

Lil Depressed Boy

Posted in Comics with tags , , on June 27, 2011 by Parker Connell

Lil Depressed Boy

 

The first four issues of Image comics Lil Depressed Boy written by S. Steven Struble with art by Sina Grace have been collected into a trade paperback. Before I found this trade I had never heard of LDB but my friend picked it up and I gave it a read.

After finishing the book I was confused, not due to plot or too many characters, actually the structure and story of LDB are beautifully small, I was confused as to how others felt about it. Some aspects of it I thought were good to great, and others I found to be cliché and trite.

Starting with the good LDB himself is a pretty good creation, he is a simple white anthropomorphic rag doll that exists in a world of real people, which could possibly turn out to be a Bottomless Belly Button style switch up (i.e. this is how LDB sees himself, while the rest of the world sees a normal dude), his personality is also solid if you ignore the similarities between him and Scott Pilgrim (although Scott was never so depressed).

That’s probably my biggest issue with Lil Depressed Boy; it’s a blatant Scott Pilgrim rip off, except instead of interesting music references and a deep love for video games, Lil Depressed Boy has really obvious music references (True Love Will Find You In the End by Daniel Johnston, really?) and a deep love for Garden State. This is none more obvious than in the Manic Pixie Dream Girl who LDB falls in love with, she is like Ramona Flowers, from the alt chick suicide girls lite wardrobe to the way she knows just what to say right at the perfect moment to make LDB feel better about himself. It’s lazy, cliché, and I’m pretty well over this lazy device.

At the end of the trade they have some pages by other artists and one of them is of LDB and Jazmin (MPDG) in the style of a Scott Pilgrim cover. Some might argue that this is a way to shake off any complaints about aping SP’s style but I really don’t think the creators have a case, just because you reference the thing you are copying doesn’t make it good.
I did find the art to be very good in it’s own way. The simplistic art perfectly compliments the story being told, and I like that, so good job Sina Grace.

So back to my initial question: What did other people think? Well it seems other people are oblivious. After reading every review I could find online I did not see a single one mention the over used Manic Pixie Dream Girl cliché or the fact that this is a retread of Scott Pilgrim with Zach Braff instead of Michael Cera in the lead role. I was really hoping to find some intelligent discussion on whether or not we should hold comics to the same standard we hold movies or novels, especially now that comics are beginning to ape stale movie tropes to gain cred.

Anyway the ending of the fourth issue piqued my interest enough to keep going with the series as it comes out, but it’s certainly on a probationary period until it steps up it’s game and does something to move away from my Garden State comparison.

The Girlfriend Experience & Full Frontal

Posted in movies with tags , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2011 by Parker Connell

Soderweek continues for me with The Girlfriend Experience and Full Frontal. Both films could (and should) be considered lesser Soderbergh films due to their loose storytelling and their short run times. Neither of those are bad things,especially the short run times which made it much easier to get through them. These are two essentially Soderbergh experiments and as such they are successes.

Both GFE and Full Frontal are short slice of life yarns about people in some kind of entertainment industry. GFE is a drama about a really high-class prostitute (played by Sasha Grey) and Full Frontal is a comedy about people in and around Hollywood.

The Girlfriend Experience wasn’t as good as Full Frontal simply because I didn’t care about any other character outside of Sasha Grey’s girlfriend for money Christine. Pretty much every character is a super rich business type and since the film is set on the cusp of the economic crisis and the 2008 presidential election all they do is complain about money and who would be better for there money.

Full Frontal was better to me because the cast was pretty great and I’m just more interested in th film industry than I am prostitution, especially the kind of prostitution that costs over 2 grand a date and has no dependence on crack. Probably the most entertaining part of Full Frontal for me was Blair Underwood and Julia Roberts starring in a romantic comedy within the film and then Blair Underwood’s character starring in a David Fincher film within the romantic comedy (complete with cameo from both Fincher and Brad Pitt). It was funny, and it actually kind of hurt my brain. Also the sub plot about the always great Enrico Colantoni putting on a weirdly pretentious play about Hitler starring the equally as great Nicki Katt was laugh out loud funny.

All in all both films succeeded in their own ways, The Girlfriend Experience was very nice to look at but ultimately hollow, and Full Frontal was ugly as sin but had some interesting things to say about creative people, but honestly I don’t think I’d ever like to watch them again.