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Eat Pi

Posted in Uncategorized on June 28, 2011 by Pi

So it’s been awhile.

I could launch into a myriad of excuses. Some of them would even be legitimate, but the main reason I haven’t written anything lately is I’m lazy and I’d much rather be enjoying the media I adore than writing about it.Every once in awhile though, I do get a wild hair and so here I am.

Thing is though, there’s no one film or show I’m ready to really focus on and dissect. So a traditional review post is pretty much out the window. Also, I haven’t had any strong feelings one way or another on a lot of things lately, which makes writing a review for me difficult. See, I know all 11 of our readers will find this difficult to believe, but since we’re not paid reviewers, it’s kinda pointless to waste hobby time on stuff you’re indifferent to. The simple fact that I’m not paid to watch and write about crap makes it unnecessary to review every movie I watch.

So instead, I’ll employ gimmickry. Gimmicks work for me. They provide structure and focus to a mind that is hella scatalogical most times. Basically, I made a list of all the shit I’ve been enjoying or hating lately and organized it A to Z. Should be fairly easy for even the most brain dead amongst us to follow, yes? And we’re off….

A=America, Captain – Full disclosure here. Captain America is my favorite superhero of all time. Yes, he’s uber-cheesy at times and he’s rather limited in the types of stories you can tell with the character, but he is and always has been my favorite. I’ve waited my whole life for a watchable Cap movie and it looks like we’re about to get it. The trailers hit all the right notes and I like that they’re focusing on the fact that Cap is a motherfucking soldier first and foremost, something a lot of writers tend to forget when they take him on. Tick told me once that Captain America is fool’s gold, meaning that the nature of the character restricts you when you’re writing him and there’s only so much you can do with him. That is true to an extent, but out of all the Marvel roster, Captain America is probably the simplest to bring to the big screen. I’m crossing my fingers that the film turns out all right, but the fanboy in me is going to geek out regardless. Fair warning for when my five star review comes across the pike…

B=Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Long Road Home – This is Volume One of Buffy: Season 8, “But wait Pi, you fucking retard. There were only 7 seasons of Buffy!” you might be saying and I of all people, know that better than you. These are comic books written by the show’s creator Joss Whedon that pick up right where Season 7 left off. This has been out for years, but I’ve avoided it for several reasons. One, Dark Horse comics suck. Two, the art on the Buffy comics has always blown (holds true in this book too) and Three, I knew I would be voracious once I got ahold of it, so I wanted to wait until they were all done (they finally fucking are!). This first story arc shows that Joss is having a field day doing things he would have never been able to do on the show due to budget and content. I won’t spoil it for fellow Whedonites out there, but there’s some nice surprises here and the way the Scooby gang is introduced over the first 2 chapters hits all the right notes that the show always did when starting a new season. Plus, Dawn is NOT annoying. Color me amazed.

C=CM Punk – I’m writing this on June 28th. If you didn’t see Punk’s promo on the June 27th episode of Raw, you missed the best worked shoot promo I’ve ever seen. I’ve always liked Punk ever since he showed up in WWE. He really is the whole package. He can work the stick, he’s as technically solid as Bret Hart and he’s that perfect heel that manages to hit the crowd where they live. Little things like totally disrespecting tradition and sitting down crosslegged in the ring or on the ramp to cut a promo, Punk pulls off effortlessly. I’m really hoping that he just needs to recharge, that this is all just a hiatus and he’ll be back in 6 months or so, because hands down, CM Punk has been the only reason to watch WWE in a year.

D=DC Comics – For those of you not in the know, come September, DC is relaunching all their titles at number one. When you think that Action Comics and Detective Comics are almost at 1000 and have been on the same volume since the 40s, this is pretty fucking huge desperation. I’ve never really understood how this company has such a wealth of great characters on it’s roster and continually finds ways to botch everything up and piss off fans. This relaunch could go either way, if and ONLY if, they had a cohesive plan for it. But they don’t! Some titles are starting all over with “modern takes”, a la the Ultimate Universe at Marvel and some are going to keep current continuity and storylines. Already you’re fucking it up, DC. Pick one or the other. Let’s take Batman for example. You’re going to have current developments like Batman Inc and Damian Wayne as Robin, but Dick Grayson is back to being Nightwing and Barbara Gordon is back to being Batgirl. WHAT THE FUCK? First off, I am RIDICULOUSLY pissed about Babs being back in the costume. She has become ten times more vital to the Bat family since she was crippled and became Oracle. Not to mention how Dick’s getting sent back to the minors. He’s been wearing the Bat costume the past three years and now he’s back to Nightwing? And what about Stephanie/Spoiler or Cassandra Cain? Where the Hell are they? Despite the smell of monumental failure, I’m fascinated by this relaunch and it’ll hook me in for an issue or three. Whether I stay is an entirely different tale.

E=Ex Machina – I’m realizing this post has a lot of comic book stuff and I promise, we will get to some movies soon, but while we’re still on comics, Ex Machina is pretty fucking dope. It’s written by Brian K. Vaughn who wrote Y: The Last Man, which is one of the best series of the past decade and it’s really a great little book. It tells the tale of a guy who acquires superpowers and tries out the superhero thing for awhile, then parlays it into becoming the mayor of New York City. The book mixes current events (from 2002 when it began) with fantasy seamlessly and when you add political intrigue in with the other elements of a traditional comic book, it’s an engaging read. Pick up the first Trade if you’re interested.

F=Five Guys – I’m obsessed with this place. Five Guys is a burger place that started in Washington D.C., but has been spreading quickly across the country over the past couple of years. Before I go any further, let me clarify. I am a SoCal kid, born and bred. My allegiance will always be to In-N-Out, but Five Guys is damn good. The burger is thick and tasty, but the fries? My God, the fries are absolutely ridiculously awesome, in particular the Cajun fries. Plus, ordering the regular size gets you a shitload of them, way more than you could possibly eat. Five Guys are cropping up all over the place, so if one opens near you, don’t even hesitate. Just fucking go.

G=Green Lantern – Like a comic book movie was gonna get released that I didn’t see. Upfront, I gotta say I was never a Lantern fan. I always thought it was kinda gay, even though there’s a lot of things about the Corps that appeal to me. I could just never buy in, but I had a grasp of the character going into the movie and you know what? I don’t understand the criticism. Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively have been skewered for their acting, but what were you people expecting? They delivered the lines that were written for them well. You can’t fault them for the simplistic dialogue. While I felt that Reynolds was playing more Kyle than Hal, what do you expect when you cast Ryan fucking Reynolds? My favorite shitty criticism is “there was too much CGI”. Again, WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? It’s a movie about a guy who’s a Space Cop, who meets with other Space Cops from other galaxies and jizzes green spunk out of a ring that he uses his imagination to form into things. You tell me how to do that with practical effects and we can talk. Until then critics, shut the fuck up. This ain’t Black Swan. It’s Green Lantern and while I wouldn’t award it any Oscars, I enjoyed my time at the movies and felt no urge to burn anything down. That’s high fucking praise from me.

H=Hash House-A-Go-Go – If you ever find yourself in my fair city and you ever find yourself out late at night and looking for some good food, go to Hash House. Hell, you can go there any time of the day, but there’s specials late night. While they’re famous for their breakfast, Hash House has a wide, varied menu and is open 24/7. There’s a couple locations, but my favorite is the one in the M Resort, on the far South side of the city and one of Vegas’ best kept secrets from you tourists. Seek it out and thank me later.

I=Infamous 2 – My latest video game obsession. The first Infamous was life absorbing for a month or so. You’re this guy who gets the power of electricity. The first game put you in a New York/Chicago type city, lots of tall buildings to traverse and a great playground to discover and learn your powers. Infamous 2 takes place in a New Orleans-like city and while I was skeptical of losing all the height of Empire City, it’s fucking great. First off, they let you keep most of your powers from the first game from the outset. That in itself is noteworthy, because most games come up with stupid contrivances to weaken you when starting a new game. The new powers are awesome, the game is fluid as Hell and so many aspects of the game have been built upon and improved. I still think the story writing is a little weak, but it’s far from horrible. If a super hero sandbox game sounds like it appeals to you, this one gets my highest recommendation.

J=Justice League Dark – Okay, I was pretty critical about the DC relaunch earlier, but like I said, there’s some intriguing stuff in there too. This is one of them. When most people think Justice League, it’s the Big 3. Supes, Bats and Wonder Woman. How about this for a team; John Constantine, Deadman, Shade The Changing Man and Madame Xanadu? I know your supernatural geekiness is getting all excited. Add on the fact that Peter Milligan is writing this and it just seems unfair. For those of you unfamiliar with these characters, this will basically be the team traversing spiritual planes, mucking about with magicks and demons. I have high hopes for this one.

K=Kutcher, Ashton – I actually saw a movie he was in that I not only enjoyed, but I enjoyed him in it. The movie was No Strings Attached. Feel free to murder me now. I feel filthy and unclean.

L=Locke And Key – Another comic, but one that I know will appeal to just about everyone here. Written by Joe Hill, who just happens to be Stephen King’s son, Locke and Key is about a family that has a tragic death, so they move from the Bay Area (where everything is tragic) to the East. Here’s what will tell you all you need to know. The town they move to is called LOVECRAFT, Mass. Interested? You should be. This is good old-fashioned, evil demons and ghosts, Haunted House type shit. I just read the first Trade, entitled Welcome To Lovecraft and I honestly haven’t read a better comic in a long time. It’s paced perfectly, it’s suspenseful, but slowly gives you reveals when the time is right. The art style fits the mood and writing well and I gotta admit, when I first flipped through it, the art didn’t really strike me as Lovecraftian horror, but when you actually read it, it works. They filmed a TV pilot for this show that every major network turned down. It must be great.

M=Mass Effect 3 – Holy shit! Did you see the trailers from E3? My dick is hard. Kiss me goodbye when this comes out. I’ll be saving the galaxy for at least a month and hopefully, 20 of those days won’t be spent mining planets.

N=Netflix – Why doesn’t everyone in the world have Netflix? I resisted for a long time. I always liked going to the video store and browsing, but fuck that. Not getting dressed and most of all NOT FEELING BAD about turning off a movie after 30 minutes because you didn’t just spend 5 bucks to rent it, is awesome. Most of all though, the TV shows. Not having to drop 60 bucks for a season set is just awesome. It’s only going to get better too. Once Blockbuster finally emits it’s death rattle, most of those exclusives are gonna end up on Netflix. If Netflix was a person, I would hug it.

O=One Hundred Bullets – I love the comic, but that’s not why it’s fresh in my mind. Showtime is developing it as a series and all I have to say to that is FUCK YEAH! It’s about time. I’ve always thought that certain comics just don’t work as movies, but would work amazingly well as cable series. 100 Bullets is always the one I thought would translate the best. There’s no superpowers or special effects. It’s guns and noir-cool. Let the fantasy casting begin and let me begin by saying Cameron Diaz is NOT right for Megan Dietrich, but Skeet Ulrich is for Cole Cash and while Michelle Rodriguez is the easy choice for Dizzy Cordova, somehow I don’t want that.

P=Plus, Hulu – Remember everything I said about Netflix? Hulu Plus is pretty much in the same boat, sans movies. My PS3 runs pretty much 24/7 and games is it’s third function. Netflix, Hulu Plus, Games + Blu-Rays, in that order. I hate watching live TV and I currently don’t have a DVR, so Hulu Plus is a Godsend for keeping up with the latest shows. It’s a great app and it’s amazing to me that the Networks fought it so long. They’re essentially charging for shows that normally they’d give away free and once you get accustomed to it, you stick with it. It’s win win.

Q=Quick Time Events – I hate them. They were cool in God Of War when they first came out, but now it seems like any boss fight in a video game turns into a Quick Time Event. I’m just fucking sick of them. I don’t wanna play Rock Band rhythm games when I’m in the middle of hacking up legions of creatures. It’s a gimmick that’s run it’s course. Ditch it.

R=Rocksteady Games – The promotional campaign they’re running for Batman: Arkham City is great. First off, the game sells itself. It’s Batman and it’s the sequel to THE best Batman game ever, hands down. They release a few little tidbits and pieces of art every couple of months and it’s all devoured up voraciously by those of us waiting for the game. I seriously cannot wait for this game and I’m okay with it being a single player experience. Co-op would have been cool, but I’d rather the team spend more time making the best game possible, then tacking on some bullshit multiplayer mode and devoting time to all the balancing issues created by doing so. This is another game that is going to send me into hybernation. I was obsessed with finding every little Riddler trophy and Arkham history recordings in Arkham Asylum. I’m sure Arkham City will feed the same need.

S=Starbuck – So I’ve been watching Battlestar Galactica on Netflix a lot lately. It’s a great show and while it has it’s stumbles, for the most part, the writing is pretty solid and I buy into the whole story. There’s a few standout performances amongst a pretty good cast, but number one has to be Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck. Starbuck could be a walking cliche’. Tough exterior, vulnerable on the inside, but Sackhoff adds layers to the character beyond that. The look in her eyes in a tough dogfight, all balls and psychosis rolled into one. The sadness, terror and despair that she so rarely displays except when alone and the way she pulls herself together and reins herself in when necessary. Starbuck is almost always the best part of the show and never disappoints.

T=Tinie Tempah – He’s getting mad radio play right now with “Written On The Stars” and they played it to death to promote Wrestlemania, but if you get a chance, download “Frisky”. Sterile, dark, electronic beats, a grimy rhyme style and a great keyboard riff. The best English Hip Hop artist to come out since Tricky and I’m enjoying hearing an updated Brixton sound.

U=Unstoppable – I have a soft spot for Tony Scott. He makes GREAT popcorn films. Spy Game, Enemy Of The State, True Romance, Top fucking Gun… the list goes on and on. He and Denzel Washington seem to work well together, as evidenced by Man On Fire, an awesome revenge flick that you should see. I wasn’t sold on this flick though. Runaway train didn’t really spark an interest. I shouldn’t have doubted it though. It’s a solid popcorn flick with good pacing and it’s totally watchable. Chris Pine was servicable and Rosario Dawson was in it. While she’ll never top dancing to the Jackson 5 braless, she’ll always be a favorite.

V=Village Pub – Just a quick plug for Village Pub, a chain of bars here in Vegas. They have the thickest fucking fried mozzarella I’ve ever seen. Seriously, like baby’s arms. Also.. Stella Artois on tap.

W=Walking Dead, The – I finally got my hands on the Blu-Rays. Words and reviews did not do this shit justice. The simple fact that they’re getting away with this madness on AMC is amazing to me. Season 2 can’t come fast enough.

X=X-Men: First Class – There’s a lot of venom being spewed in the direction of this film. Some of it is justified. Yes, January Jones does emote like a block of wood. Yes, Kevin Bacon is kind of ridiculous as Sebastian Shaw. Yes, most of the mutants in this film are underdeveloped as characters. Let me tell you what this film does right though. Professor X and Magneto, which is what the whole movie is about anyway! I had my doubts that Kid From Wanted and Azazel From Hex were going to be able to do these two iconic characters justice, but I loved it. They had a natural chemistry and they were my favorite part of the film. As the fanboys cry about filmmakers shitting on source material, allow me to point out that NO comic has ever done as good a job showing the friendship of Xavier and Magneto as this film did. And on that same subject, the X-books don’t even respect themselves. How can you expect filmmakers too? Comic books continually shit on their own history and continuity. I’m all for a filmmaker changing shit around to make a better film. As long as the core values of the characters involved remain the same, who fucking cares? On First Class though, if I had my way, the split between Xavier and Magneto wouldn’t have happened yet. I would have had them argue over the differences in philosophy and still remain friends in the first film. I wouldn’t have done the split until film 2. That’s me though. I know they are already talking a Green Lantern sequel. A sequel to First Class was hinted at before the film was released and I haven’t heard about it since. I hope it does get a sequel and I hope in that one, they do spend more time developing the characters on the respective teams. Ditch the Evil Red Nightcrawler though.

Y=Yesterday – I don’t know what the issue is between Harmonix and Guns n’ Roses. I’m sure it has something to do with Axl being a jerkoff, but seeing as how there’s keyboards now in Rock Band 3, there are some choice cuts off the Use Your Illusion albums that can utilize all 5 instruments in interesting ways. Yesterday would be a keyboard tour de force. Once you get the licensing for the Illusions, get Appetite. The whole fucking album.

Z=Zookeeper, The – Please write down these names. Frank Coraci, Nick Bakay, Rock Reuben, Barry Benardi, Jennifer Eatz, Gino Falsetto, Todd Garner and Jack Giarraputo. These are the people responsible for bringing yet another shitty Kevin James movie to your local cineplex. Please purify these infidels if you find them and send them to Allah’s loving embrace. A special, torturous, painful end for one Justine Baddeley. This is the fiend responsible for defiling Rosario Dawson by casting her in this atrocity. Is there nothing sacred?

~Pi

Pi remembers STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP (2006-07)

Posted in Uncategorized on January 2, 2011 by Pi

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A couple of months ago, Tick hit us all up to start a website where we could all write about films. Everyone was hip to the idea and Reservoir Blogs was born, but I knew there was no way I was going to be able to keep coloring within the lines. I’m too punk rock for that. So allow me to be the first to step out of line, break off the trail and wander off by myself into the ghetto of Hollywood.

Television.

Truth be told, I love films and the experiences they bring, but good episodic television has a stronger pull on me. Maybe it’s the way that I personally write and prefer to tell a story, or maybe it’s because I don’t have to put on clothes and go to an overpriced cineplex to get my entertainment fix. Lying in bed like a sloth, wrapped up in a blanket, gorging yourself on DVD boxsets isn’t a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon. In any event, set your Wayback Machines to 2006. Today I’m going to talk about Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip.

Studio 60 arrived on the Fall schedule with a lot of fanfare. It was created by Aaron Sorkin, who was hot off of The West Wing and it had assembled a pretty impressive cast of television stars who had starred in other hits. The first episode scored high, but it dropped off pretty dramatically by Episode 3. To it’s credit, NBC tried to promote it, using all the critical acclaim the show was receiving to try to bring new viewers in, but too many hiatus’ in an attempt to pair it with event episodes of other shows and the fact that the show just didn’t resonate as well coming in midstream, spelled doom. There’s other reasons why this show only got one season, but we’ll get to those later.

Studio 60 is a show about a show, specifically a show called Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip which is a Friday night, sketch comedy show a la Saturday Night Live. When the show opens, much like SNL, Studio 60s best days are behind it. Where it was once cutting edge, dangerous comedy, it’s been reduced to unfunny, safe sketches. Executive Producer Wes Mendell (Judd Hirsch) has just lost a battle about content with Standards and Practices and snaps. He kicks everyone off the stage, goes on the air and launches into a diatribe against the show, the network and the people at home watching. That monologue is epic, an homage to Chayefsky’s “Network” and it’s everything people don’t want to hear. So of course, it gets him fired by network CEO Jack Rudolph (Steven Weber).

Did I mention that it’s also the first day of the network president Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet)? While Studio 60 has slipped over the years, it’s still one of the network’s most important and lucrative shows. She needs to fix the situation stat and comes up with a bold plan. She wants to bring the creative team from Studio 60’s heyday back. Jack Rudolph fired them years before due to some controversy and they’ve gone on to successful feature film careers. Jordan has a plan though and before long, she’s brought back Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford) as Executive Producer and Matt Albie (Matthew Perry) as Head Writer. The cast is excited and happy to have them back, but can they bring the show back to life?

The next 22 episodes are about that and much more. It really is a brilliantly executed television show. The plot is constantly interesting and always moving forward in both logical and surprising ways, but always believable and grounded. As nice as the plot is though, it’s the characters that are the meat of the show. This is where you find Sorkin’s fingerprints and where the show really shines. Every character will surprise you at some point and not only that, but the actor’s portraying them will as well. The two people that I wasn’t sold on going in were Amanda Peet and Steven Weber. When we first meet Jordan McDeere, she’s presented as the stereotypical, ball-busting, female executive we’ve seen a million times before. Peet not only brings depth to the character, but a softer, feminine side when it’s called for, and a quick-witted sense of humor that would be vital for a woman dealing with comedy writers all the time. Weber’s Jack Rudolph could’ve easily been portrayed according to type as well. CEO who only cares about the bottom line, and to some degree he is, but there are moments where you see there’s much more to the man, that he does want to break the mold. He just doesn’t want to lose his job in the process.

While Studio 60 is about a comedy show, you rarely see the actual show. You’ll see bits and pieces, you’ll hear it being rehearsed, but it’s not really about that. It’s about the people who make it go. All of the key members of the cast get their moments, as well as key figures in the writing room and the control booth. Sorkin takes you to all of the people involved with making a show at one time or another and they’re all interesting in their own ways. At it’s heart though, Studio 60 is a character drama and with characters, there has to be a love story. In this show, there’s actually two big ones. The first is between Jordan McDeere and Danny Tripp. What starts with mutual admiration grows into more and after an evening stuck together on the roof of the building, both make their feelings known for each other and they take off from there. It’s nice and it creates storytelling opportunities, but what makes the show is the romance of Matt Albie and Harriet Hayes.

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Harriet is the lead female on the show and has had an on-again, off-again relationship with Albie for years. When the show begins, they’re broken up, for a seemingly stupid reason to everyone who knows them, but for issues that become more clear as the show goes on. Through flashbacks, we learn that Harriet is in some way responsible for Albie’s success as a writer. He couldn’t get a sketch on the air until he started writing for Harriet and the whole reason he started writing for her was to be close to her. To go into all the twists and turns of the Harriet/Matt relationship would do the show a major disservice. It’s something you need to see and it’s something you need to feel unfolding as Sorkin intended. The thing with Matt/Harriet though is that no matter what shit they go through, whether they’re together or not, whether they’re with other people or not, you can see it in their eyes that the love is still there. That it’s real and it’s what drives them apart and towards one another simultaneously. That’s a pretty impressive accomplishment, considering the writing and acting never feel forced, there’s a chemistry between Perry and Paulson that feels real and the performances involving these two always seem genuine and warm, even when they’re screaming at each other. Through all of the great moments in this show, it’s Matt and Harry that stay with you the most.

So if the show was so great, why’d it only get one season? Aside from the hiatus trickery, the truth is it was too smart for the American public. The dialogue was sharp and quick. This wasn’t something to watch while folding laundry. It demanded attention and honestly, some of the episodes were pretty heavy, which brings me to another point. It was sold as a comedy. It’s not. There are funny scenes, funny lines and Hell, it’s about a comedy show, but it leans more towards drama. Considering that NBC debuted Studio 60 and 30 Rock in the same year, I think people tuned in expecting to see 30 Rock type shenanigans and that was so NOT what you were gonna get from Studio 60. Add to that, you have scenes devoted to discussions about overnights, ratings, upfronts and other terms that would be considered inside to people who don’t follow entertainment as obsessively as others. It was kind of a recipe for disaster, but most of the great television shows are.

Even though it only had one season, I rate Studio 60 high on the list of my all-time favorite shows. If you have any interest at all, it’s worth checking out. For those of you don’t want to take the risk and buy the thing, you can watch the whole run on streaming Netflix. At the very least, check out the first couple episodes. If that doesn’t hook you in, I hate you and I hope you die.

Pi reviews EAT PRAY LOVE (2010)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 14, 2010 by Pi

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In the interest of fairness, I should disclose my predisposed feelings towards this film.

I despised it. It possessed all of the attributes I hate about a film. It was billed as an inspirational, feel good film, carefully advertised and positioned as Oscar bait. This usually means it will be insipid tripe, that will pander incessantly to it’s audience and generally annoy the fuck out of me and inspire righteous venom. On top of that, it not only stars Julia Roberts, but it was her personal vanity project. Vanity projects almost always suck. Actors fall in love with some story that usually will make a shitty movie, than try to use every bit of clout to get it made and pat themselves on the back for overcoming obstacles to do so, not realizing along the way that the reason the studios didn’t snap it up before they even saw the damn thing is that because they smelled it’s stench and realized that it was a complete waste of celluloid. Not to mention that the thought of hearing Julia Roberts cackle her way through another movie made me think of preferable ways to spend an afternoon. Like driving safety pins beneath my fingernails. Like squeezing limes into my eyes. Or perhaps a sound drubbing of my testicles with a croquet mallet. There had to be something better to do, right? Well…..

When you’re stuck on a plane for 6 hours, priorities change. So I tapped my little airline iPad and dialed up Eat Pray Love.

Julia Roberts portrays Elizabeth Gilbert, a woman who has it all. A seemingly blissful marriage, beautiful home and a sucessful career as a writer. It’s all good in Gilbert’s hood, or so it would seem. While she puts on a happy face, going through the motions, things aren’t so blissful. Gilbert is having some sort of 31 year old, mid-life crisis. She’s secretly depressed, panicked and confused. She can’t understand how she ended up where she was, how everything that she thought life was supposed to be out could be so unfulfilling and sad. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking how could they have not cast Jennifer Aniston in this role. It’s perfect for her! She’s played this character a million times and nobody does frigid with the expertise and skillful craft of an Aniston. You’re right in thinking that, but unfortunately, Julia got the book and shopped it first. Plus, she’s more of a box office draw. Sickening, but true.

Anyway, Gilbert basically fucks off her life. She ditches it all. Peace out husband. I’m selling the house, taking my share of the equity and I will travel the world to find myself. The scenes setting this up are supposed to be poignant and sad. They’re not. They’re contrived and if anything, only highlight Roberts’ flaws as an actress. We’re supposed to sympathize with the character. We’re supposed to feel this overwhleming despair she’s suffering from and root for her in her quest to find herself. I didn’t feel this as all. She came off grating and annoying and I was hoping as soon as she boarded her first plane, that terrorists would leap from the seats with box cutters and slash her to ribbons. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen. That really would have been a more powerful scene and a good time to stop the film, but it continues.

So Julia arrives in Italy where she discovers a passion for food. Honestly, is there anybody out there who doesn’t like to eat good shit? Your body is wired for it, you react on a chemical level to good food. So I really don’t get why it takes going to Italy to say “yum” to something. I get she’s a big fan of pasta and all, but she couldn’t find a good Italian place domestically? And there’s these long, drawn out scenes where Julia is acting like she’s tasting spaghetti for the first time. I get the metaphor. I’m not a complete retard. She’s tasting things for the first time because now she’s free to do whatever and bloggity blah blah. It’s irritating. She stuffs her face with all the food in Italy and gains like 10 pounds. When they mentioned weight gain, two things flashed through my mind. One, Julia in the fat suit in America’s Sweethearts, a far superior film to this nonsense. Two, Julia expanding and expanding like Augustus Gloop in Charlie + The Chocolate Factory and then maybe some dwarves would play kickball with her or something. That didn’t happen either. Instead, we discover that food isn’t enough to fulfill Elizabeth Gilbert. So off to India we go.

In India, Gilbert hooks up with a strange crew. She starts hanging out with this guru and an American cowboy. Again, a contrived move. The guru spews a bunch of pseudo-spiritual hyperbole and the cowboy’s there to translate it into English for her, putting a charming, home-spun drawl on the whole thing. It’s a strange part of the movie, because it just doesn’t seem to fit. Roberts is meditating with this goofy look on her face and I can’t quite tell what she’s trying to convey. Is she pondering secrets of the universe? Does she have some sort of rash? Is she constipated? You really can’t tell and unfortunately, the film never really explains much that’s concrete out of her sojourn to India. All we know is that when it comes time for her to leave and go to the next leg of her journey, the cowboy takes the time to tell us that she’s more spirtitual now. And she’s climbing the stairway to Heaven…

So from there, Julia goes to Bali and here’s where the film actually gets fascinating. At first, you think it’s going to be more of her “discovery” and in a way it is, but what she discovers isn’t what you expect. Gilbert begins to apply what she’s learned so far and realizing that her old life was never taken to extremes, throws caution to the wind and takes her new found spirituality to new heights. Or depths as the case may be, because she takes up worshipping Shargorroth, some sort of long-forgotten, Lovecraftian deity of the wilds of Bali. As part of her Shargorroth-ian spiritual journey, Roberts begins reading the dark texts of the God, becoming enthralled with the sensuality of the binding fashioned from human flesh. Soon she starts practicing this new religion, which coincidentally allows her to engage in her other recently acquired passion of eating, specifically cannibalism. It’s pretty fascinating to see a play-it-safe actress like Julia Roberts engaging in sex rituals with goats, all while dancing around half-naked in front of some octopus statue with a human spleen clamped between her lips, yet still finding ways to let loose that spine-chilling cackle she’s so famous for. It’s almost surreal. Almost, but since you’re watching it on the screen, it kinda doesn’t fit in that definition. Anyway…

Bali is where Julia Roberts learns to love again, a different way this time. I’m not gonna spoil the ending, but think Valentine Michael Smith in Stranger In A Strange Land and you have the idea. While I was impressed with the daring third act rewrite of the original book, I’m not sure it saves the film. The pacing’s a bit off in India and the cinematography is uneven througout. It’s almost like the director employed different cameramen for every scene or let Julia Roberts’ strangely named children take turns holding the camera during certain parts. The writing’s not bad, but it’s not spectacular either. It’s a serviceable adaptation. but I have to applaud the rewrite of the third act. Sometimes, books just don’t make good movies, but you can’t tell self-involved actors that. Sometimes, you just have to make it work on the big screen and I think the screenwriters brave inclusion of cannibalism and demon worship in a Julia Roberts film is commendable.

Since I claimed full disclosure at the start of my review, I should probably conclude my review by admitting that I fell asleep during this movie and that while drifting in and out, I may have confused some of the scenes. I’m fairly certain I got the gist though. So…. Eat Pray Love. It’s definitely a movie.

Pi reviews PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (2010)

Posted in Uncategorized on October 27, 2010 by Pi

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So, a couple of years ago, this little film called Paranormal Activity came out. It started off as a typical indie release, only opening in a few cities. Then, this alleged grass-roots internet campaign began, where you could demand to see it in your city. Nevermind that they didn’t show you shit about the film. All they showed you was the audiences terrified reaction to watching it. Internet sheep the world over fell for it hook, line and sinker and before long, Paranormal Activity was in every multiplex across the country and making money hand over fist. They didn’t get mine.

It reeked of Blair Witch to me, which is the only film I can ever remember making me so angry that I literally wanted to burn the theatre down. The camcorder footage, the groundswell of public demand, it was all too similar. I ended up seeing the flick with my teenage daughter a year later on DVD. We watched it alone in the dark, late at night and it scared the shit out of me. I couldn’t sleep and I had to turn all the lights in the house on. I watch horror movies like bitches drink Starbucks. Every. Goddamn. Day. They don’t scare me. I can count on one hand the movies that have actually scared me into losing sleep. One hand that’s missing a digit. So needless to say, I had respect for the film after that. When Paranormal 2 was announced, I rolled my eyes. I didn’t see how they could capture lightning in a bottle twice. I had to see it though and what did I get.

An experience that was very different and yet very much the same.

First things first, if you didn’t like Paranormal Activity, you’re not going to like the sequel. It’s essentially the same film. PA2 follows Kristie, who is the sister of Katie, the woman from the first film. Kristie lives in Carlsbad with her tool of a husband, his teenage daughter and her newborn son. Already, tool mate is a recurring theme. My strongest feelings regarding the first film was that Micah, Katie’s boyfriend, was the biggest douchebag in recent memory. I didn’t mourn his passing. Kristie’s husband is a tool as well, but not nearly as annoying as Micah. The film opens with their home seemingly being burglarized. Nothing is missing, but the house is trashed. This leads tool-husband to install security cameras throughout the house, which gives us our footage. It also creates one of the films flaws.

I understand that what makes a scary movie scary is building tension. Slow builds are usually the best, but molasses is another thing. There are way too many static shots of the family pool and the stairwell. Every night in the movie, the film switches between the six cameras in the house. Throughout the ENTIRE movie, nothing ever happens at the pool. It’s an annoying red herring, especially considering how many times you see that fucking pool. I would say the same thing about the staircase, but something happens there. Once. Out of about 45 shots.

My other problems with the security cameras is that they’re not consistent. Now the family also has a camcorder, but there are shots and angles in this film that come from neither the fixed cameras or the family handheld. There’s not a lot of them, but there are a few and when you’re gonna do the whole “found footage” type film, you need to stick to your premise. Most people won’t discover it though if they buy into the film.

I think that’s what it comes down to. Can you buy in? Maybe that’s why I’m so immune to horror films. I just can’t see them ever happening. Even slasher movies with realistic killers are proposterous to me. For some reason I bought into Paranormal one on some level because it scared me. I bought into this film as well, because once I got home, all the lights came on and I stayed up all night until the sun came up. What scared me? I HAVE NO IDEA.

The movie’s not really all that scary. I don’t think it’s paced nearly as well as the first film and honestly, it plods along for the first hour with barely anything happening. When the “scary” stuff goes down, it’s almost the same notes as the first film. They tie in the first film, explain the possible origins of the entity and then proceed to a [REC]/Paranormal Activity mash-up of a finale. Go figure though, I was scared. Maybe it’s the fact that I sleep with women and the thought of them getting possessed and swaying above the bed while I’m asleep is something I can actually see happening having experienced the real-life horror of demonic women. Maybe it’s because everything in these films is all so normal and mundane until it isn’t.

Watching both films in two different ways was an experience as well. I honestly thought the reason I got so freaked out on the first one was all alone at home, lights off, late at night and my daughter was freaked out, so I had some sort of sympathy scare. This time though, I saw it in a packed theatre, where most of the theatre was FLAT OUT TALKING the whole time. And even crazier, it didn’t bother me at all. Usually it makes me homicidal, but this was one of those events where it seemed okay. Like we were all just reminding ourselves it was just a stupid movie and we were all safe because we were in a big public place and those stupid people on the screen were trapped in their haunted house. Like maybe we all wanted to forget that eventually we were going to have to go home.

Or maybe, since it was midnight on a Friday, the whole theatre was just drunk,

In any event, it worked both ways. At home and in the theatre and that in and of itself is rare. Paranormal Activity 2 is not a good movie. It’s paced shitty and it’s really unnecessary. It breaks very little new ground and basically uses the same devices as the original with different characters. But….

It scared me. And isn’t that what it’s supposed to do?

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My Grade: C+

Pi reviews JACKASS 3D (2010)

Posted in Uncategorized on October 19, 2010 by Pi

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Let me help you kids, it’s Jackass. Do you really need to read a review about it? What are you expecting? To hear about artistic vision, daring cinematography? Perhaps the clever socio-political commentary in the midget stunt? Or how Pontius is bringing environmental issues to light by putting a woodpecker on his dick? It’s fucking Jackass and you can only fall into one of two camps.

1.) You find people getting hit in the balls funny.

2.) You don’t.

Since those are the only two options, choose one. If you choose one, go see Jackass 3D. Preferably with a bunch of friends, because you’ll laugh your ass off. If you choose two, you’re gay.

What I really wanna talk about is 3D. That’s the common question I get from everyone about this flick. “Do I really need to see it in 3D?” My answer is simple.

No, you don’t.

With the exception of the opening and closing montages and a scattered few scenes, the 3D really adds nothing to this film and the aforementioned scenes are all watchable without 3D. Honestly, is 3D necessary in any film? I saw Avatar for the first time a couple of months ago on my regular, old HDTV. I didn’t need 3D and I appreciated the movie for the overrated CGI puppet show that it is. 3D is not only a transparant Get Rich Quick scheme by film studios, but it’s a fucking insult to all of you.

I don’t know how many people here have kids, but to take an average family of four to go see a flick nowadays is 60-80 bucks nowadays. No bullshit. Add in the added fees of 3D, you’re pushing 100. They know exactly what they’re doing, which is why all the fucking kids movies that come out are in 3D. They know that kids will beg their parents, they know that insipid moms will insist it’s something for the whole family to do and dad’s out a Hundo.

Studio greed never ceases to amaze me. They cried about people downloading movies cutting into their profits. The actual reality of that isn’t even close to MP3s versus CDs. This 3D bullshit is going to blow up in their face, because they’re pricing the average filmgoer out of the theatre. Rather than take my family to see a couple flicks a month, it’s gonna be one and I sure as Hell ain’t paying 100 dollars to see G-Force. Kids or no kids, I refuse. On top of it, part of these extra fees are for the glasses, which they urge you to give back after the movie. Sure, you can say “Fuck that. I paid for these, I’m keeping ’em.” Go ahead. They’re useless outside of the movie, because even though the glasses don’t change film to film, they make you buy them again next time you get suckered into a 3D movie, whether you have the ones left over from the previous flick or not. FUCK YOU.

So why did I break my 3D boycott to see Jackass? See my original statement. It’s funny. Flying Porta-Potties, Dildo Bazookas, Midget Bar Brawls, Stun Guns, Bulls A-Goring, Rams A-Smashing, Tooth Pulling, Dick Torture, Snake Pits, Face Field Goals and much, much more. Seriously, I laughed my ass off for most of the 90 minutes. The editing of Jackass is great. It’s no narrative, stunt, stunt, stunt. There’s little to no setup and my only real criticism is there’s no real break in the film to allow you to process all the fucked up shit you’ve just seen. You’ll have to do that afterwards. The second is that it doesn’t need to cost 15 bucks, because it’s not any funnier in 3D. I can’t really give a lettergrade or rating to this film. Like I said in my opener, it is what it is. It’s either for you or it’s not.

REVIEW: Let Me In (2010)

Posted in Uncategorized on October 12, 2010 by Pi

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I’d like to start this review with full disclosure. I haven’t seen “Let The Right One In”, the Swedish film on which this remake is based. I’ve heard good things about it and I’ve considered renting it a few times, but have just never got around to it. So this review is based on the American film itself, without the original to compare and contrast against. Thing is, I’m really glad I didn’t see the original, because I really liked “Let Me In”.

This winter story takes place in Los Alamos, New Mexico, portrayed as a small, bleak town. Owen, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, is a 12 year old boy that you just know is a little bitch who gets his ass kicked every day. In case you couldn’t grasp that, you see him get his ass kicked by some bullies. Not only is Owen bullied and fearful at school, but his parents are going through a divorce. His dad has moved away and his mom is absent, physically and emotionally. So Owen spends a lot of time alone, humming to himself on the jungle gym in the quad of the apartment building he lives in, eating Now + Laters, which for the record are absolutely tart and delicious. It’s on that very jungle gym that he meets Abby, played by Chloe Moretz.

Abby is a girl seemingly around Owen’s age who moves into the apartment building in the middle of the night with an older man who appears to be her father. Abby’s a little strange herself. She walks around in the snow barefoot and tells Owen right away that they can’t be friends. Of course they become friends and we discover Abby’s secret. She’s a vampire and the guy who appears to be her father serves as her daytime protector and nighttime procurer. So as the friendship between Abby and Owen grows, we see Owen become more confident, beginning to stand up for himself against the bullies and we, as viewers, know it’s only a matter of time before he learns her dark secret. How will he react when he does?

I won’t say anymore, because I really feel the film’s worth watching. It has a rather deliberate pace, that some may seem offputting to some, but I think it’s pitch-perfect. Matt Reeves should be applauded for taking his time telling the story, for letting the relationship between Abby and Owen take shape and strengthen. As a rule, I hate child actors. They usually are one-note or unconvincing, but Moretz and Smit-McPhee are engaging, young actors, both displaying talent beyond their years. I was especially surprised at how Moretz was able to toss the over the top precociousness she displayed in Kick Ass out the window for this film. The friendship that grows between the two is believable and unfolds realistically, never feeling rushed or forced to get to the next point in the story, because that bond IS the story. There’s an innocence and sweetness watching these two interact that makes the savagery of Moretz’ vampiric side all the more unsettling. I particularly like that even though Abby is decades old, not only does she physically appear to be 12, but emotionally and socially she is as well. She’s awkward, shy and isolated, all necessities to insure her survival all of these years, but Owen extends the branch that allows her to open herself up to him, knowing all too well the horror that can result from doing so.

I have to mention that Richard Jenkins’ performance as Abby’s procurer is good as well. The weight of the years looking after Abby and killing for her shows in his posture and face. Disgusted with himself and with what his life has become, angry with Abby for her part in that, he still softens at a look and a touch from her. He’s one of those actors you’ve seen in a million flicks, but don’t remember his name, but he’s always solid. While there are other characters in the film, these three are the only ones that matter and all three are well cast and acted.

There are a few plot holes, but for the most part, they’re easily ignored, because like I said before, Owen and Abby IS the story, but I’ll hit one right now. Why the fuck are all these kids in school at night? There’s literally 30 kids in some sort of gym class at night and I’m not just talking dusk. I mean night. Maybe it was explained, but never to my satisfaction. The film is set in the ’80s and while at first I thought it was just a device to throw in a few nods to the era, it actually protects the story in some ways. Technology and laws that we have in place since that era would have made things a lot more difficult for the characters in certain situations. You can figure out what they are.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I really liked this movie. It’s not the standard horror movie you see this time of year. Not a lot of jump scares or kills. It’s a sweet story about two loner kids finding comfort in one another and one of them occasionally kills people to drink their blood.

My grade: B+

REVIEW: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Posted in Uncategorized on October 6, 2010 by Pi
 

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I avoided this movie for a long time. See, I got burned back in the day by The Girl With The Pearl Earring. I went to that movie thinking it was The Girl With The Pearl Necklace and about 5 minutes in, realizing my error, vowed to never again see a movie that began it’s title with “The Girl” unless it was called “The Girl With Two Guns And A Knife Who Shoots A Lot Of Jerkoffs In The Face”. I broke my own rule though, bought into the hype and finally sat down to watch it.
 
The “Girl” of the title is Lisbeth Salander, an ex-con, computer hacker who now works as a researcher. She is hired by a Martin Vanger to investigate Mikael Blomkvist, a high profile journalist who was recently disgraced and sentenced to a prison sentence for libel. She compiles her report unbeknownst to Blomkvist and through digging into his life, gains a level of respect for him. After getting the nod from Lisbeth that Blomkvist is an all right cat, Vanger hires Blomkvist to investigate his family’s oldest secret. His favorite niece Harriet disappeared 40 years ago off of an isolated island and is believed dead. Answers have eluded him all these years and to get peace of mind, Vanger wants Blomkvist to do his own investigation and see if he can wrap it all up.
 
What follows is a deliberately paced film. Blomkvist begins retracing Harriet’s steps and putting together his list of suspects from within the Vanger family. When he stumbles upon an encoded diary entry that stumps him, Lisbeth reveals herself to help him crack it. From there on, they work together unravelling the mystery and eventually fuck. It’s like Pelican Brief, but good.
 
I have to mention Pelican Brief because this film is based on an internationally, best-selling novel. The writing is Dan Brown/John Grisham-esque in the way the story presents itself. I will say the pacing is slightly more deliberate and that is one of the areas where I feel the film stumbles a bit, but also reflects the difference between American and European films. An American film studio would’ve had the director trim about 30-45 minutes out of this movie and honestly, it can be done. You’d lose some subtlety and nuance, but it’s possible. As it is now, the film clocks in at about 2-1/2 hours. Most of this is groundwork for the sequels (it’s the first of the trilogy), and what I feel is necessary character development. I personally wasn’t bothered by the length and was there all the way, but people I was watching it with started to wander off at various points. That can be done as the plot isn’t overly complex or anything that hasn’t been seen before. It’s really an old-fashioned whodunnit. A large, old family with lots of money, harboring dark secrets, a few of which are inevitable red herrings. All it’s missing is a parlor scene. It is well done though and the craftsmanship allows you to forgive the cliche. 
 
There are some definite stylistic choices that reflect it’s country of origin. You feel the isolation of both Lisbeth and Blomkvist with landscape shots of the frozen countryside of the island the film takes place on. The acting is low key as well. Nobody is an over-the-top character. Blomkvist is practially a block of wood, but it’s how the part is written and Michael Nyqvist playing the part, is able to impart emotion and emphasis with subtle expressions and gestures. Much of the hype is over Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth and it’s deserved. Lisbeth is all hard exterior. She’s had a rough life and we see events early on that happen to her that are horrifying. You understand why she is the way she is, but Rapace is also able to portray the little glimpses of vulnerability that Lisbeth lets slip now and then expertly, before snapping right back into marble. It’s a great performance and I would like to see what she does with a different character.
 
Normally I cringe when America decides to remake foreign films. It works out on rare occasions (The Ring kicks Ringu’s ass), but usually it falls flat on it’s face. There’s hope for this one. The story isn’t necessarily unique to it’s country of origin. It could just as easily be set in Alaska or the Pacific Northwest. David Fincher’s tapped to direct and they’ve cast Daniel Craig as Blomkvist, who is an upgrade over his Swedish counterpart. Rooney Mara will play Lisbeth Salander and honestly, the film will probably succeed or fail based on her performance. I’m actually looking forward to it. 
 
My Grade: A solid B 
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