Bang, Marry or Kill: Kevin Smith

Posted in Uncategorized on September 14, 2014 by notlaz

Laz’s View

1Subject: Kevin Smith

Birth date: The day the Orioles had their 23rd straight win over the Royals. Suck it, Royals!

Occupation: Part-time media mogul, Ben Affleck enthusiast and director. Full-time Tweeter.

Hometown: No info available. He never talks about where he’s from, ever.

Next Movie: Tusk, releasing September 2014.

About: Kevin Smith has a wife, daughter and a magical wish granting leprechaun. He dropped out of film school, maxed out a bunch of credit cards, and gambled his entire future making a movie with his friends. Long story shart, this led to the creation of his own modest media empire that allows him to independently produce whatever content he pleases. His army of sweaty, sexually frustrated fan boys will buy anything with his face on it, like a bearded Mickey Mouse with a jacked fart-hole.

2Depending on whom you ask, this is either a beautiful Cinderella story, or a crime against humanity. Regardless, if you’ve ever thought about working in entertainment, you probably envy the man’s career trajectory.

As a teenager and a large portion of my 20’s, I was an unapologetic Kevin Smith junky. But I can’t say I really relate to most of what he creates now. My editor once called him a pointless, pompous pseudo-intellectual with all the contemporary relevance of Slimer Hi-C fructose drinks. But he also has shattered film school dreams and a drinking problem.

Aaanyway… As you know, movieMixology is all about the drinking games. Hell, I’ve never written one sober article for this site. In the spirit of that, let’s take the classic drinking game Bang, Marry or Kill and apply it to our little buddy Kevin Smith and his career.

Bang means that the movie is worth watching, but you will probably give it a fake name or not call it in the morning. Marry means the movie had some sort of deeper impact and you want to grow old with it. Kill is obvious, the movie is garbage. KS movies grant us three consistent metrics with which to judge quality: Rewatchability, Smith Quirk (dialogue, weirdness, etc.) and Bad Actor Factor (he has a full stable of bad actors that he loyally reuses).

Why am I doing this? Because he has a new movie coming out and people are going to Google him. That’s how parasitical click-bait works, jackass.

 

Bang

3Dogma
Rewatchability Level: Southland Tales
Smith Quirk: 7 Metatrons out of 10 holy bartenders.
Bad Actor Factor: 3 Jason Lees out of 5 Linda Fiorentinos.

In a prophetic movie about their future careers, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon play two fallen angels who almost destroy the universe through their own hubris. Dogma contains the best performance of a guy in a rubber poop-monster costume since Michael Chiklis in Fantastic Four. You also get to see Chris Rock’s naked butt! So win/win/bang!

 

4Red State
Rewatchability Level: Jackie Brown
Smith Quirk: 7 John Goodmans out of 10 Fred Phelps’s.
Bad Actor Factor: Neutralized by Michael Parks being pure badass.

This was K Dawg’s second attempt at a horror movie, after Cop Out. It’s basically fanfic he wrote about the Westborough Baptist Church as murdering lunatics, instead of the law-abiding lunatics they are.

The mix of KS comedy thrown into some intense horror, makes this like the bipolar gal you keep dating even though she hit you with her car and won’t shut up about her ex-husband. You can’t help but bang because you’re crippled emotionally and violent sex is the closest you come to having real feelings. (Or is that just me?)

Also, Michael Parks is amaze-balls in this! Watch this movie and you’ll see why Quentin Tarantino keeps making foot-fetish pornos with him. Bang.

 

5Mallrats
Rewatchability Level: Crank
Smith Quirk: 9 sail boats schooners out of 10 chocolate covered pretzels
Bad Actor Factor: 5 Jeremy Londons, 4 Jason Lees, 3 Renee Humphreys, 2 Joey Adams, and a Shannen Doherty in a pear tree.

Poor acting, shot like an infomercial, and awkward dialogue that even our generation’s greatest thespian, Cameron Diaz, wouldn’t be able to make sound natural. But I love this movie! A zany, random mess, but it tickles my funny boner. Mallrats is the quirky hipster girl with the bad tattoos and disgusting ear gauges working at the independent coffee shop. Way more good than bad, but you can’t help but focus on the gross gauges while you bang her.

Bonus points for being the only movie where Jason Lee is likeable enough that the audience doesn’t want to punch him in the face. Bang.

 

Marry

6Chasing Amy
Rewatchability Level: The Devil’s Rejects
Smith Quirk: 8 tracers out of 10 male-friendly lesbians.
Bad Actor Factor: The three leads create ménage-a-trios of awkward line delivery.

I was going to call this movie a “bromance” so I’d seem cooler for liking a flat-out romantic comedy where Ben Affleck open-mouth kisses Jason Lee, but that’d be disingenuous… and gay. Chasing Amy is your first serious girlfriend you proposed to when you were 17. Sure you’ll get divorced after two kids because she’s emotionally unstable and secretly into bestiality. But damn it, it’s true love and you’re gonna marry her anyway. Haters, parents and realists be damned!

As per usual you want to punch Jason Lee in the face, but this time in a good way. Oh man I’m complimenting Jason Lee again, what’s wrong with me? Marry.

 

7Clerks
Rewatchability Level: Firefly
Smith Quirk: 37 snowballs out of 10 berserkers.
Bad Actor Factor: 100% infection rate.

Clerks is the little movie that defied the odds and made people almost care about indie film. K-Swag gambled with dangerously overextended credit and hit the jackpot when this movie went pre-internet viral. Clerks is the timeless pin-up gal that even kids today still gravitate towards. She’s the cover model of the old Hustler magazine you find in your uncle’s closet when you’re a bored 9 year old snooping around on summer vacation. Sure, you have no idea what to do with her (you haven’t even figured out masturbation yet), but your guts are telling you that this is true love.

Clerks encapsulates the feeling of everyone in their late teens and early twenties who had to work a soul-draining, minimum wage job. It also taught young girls that they’d better blow more than 37 guys in their first year in college or they’ll wind up dating some loser working at a convenience store.

Aim high, girls! Marry.

 

8Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Rewatchability Level: Dumb & Dumber
Smith Quirk: 9 orangutans out of 10 diamond thieves.
Bad Actor Factor: Titan clash of Jason Lee and Jason Biggs, with spatterings of Shannon Elizabeth.

JASBSB is a live-action cartoon. Kevin Smith and his sidekick, Jason Mewes, essentially play Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck on a time travelling journey to murder Mark Zuckerburg before he gives birth to the Anti-Christ. Rotten Tomatoes craps on it pretty hard, but there are few movies that crank out genuine laughs at such a fast pace! The few moments that the two leads aren’t on screen, the audience instantly stops masturbating and waits anxiously for their return.

JASBSB is Judy Jettson, Betty Rubble, Jessica Rabbit, Harley Quinn or whatever particular “oh God, I’m sexually attracted to a cartoon” character of your own shameful subconscious. There’s a reason why Japanese dudes are marrying anime-shaped f*** dolls; because sometimes real women have periods. Gross. Marry.

 

9Clerks II
Rewatchability Level: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Smith Quirk: 9 cracker-ass hatemongers out of 10 donkey shows.
Bad Actor Factor: Jeff Anderson is endearingly bad, Brian O’Halloran is smackable bad.

Easily the funniest and most rewatchable of our hero’s films; Clerks II is the Aliens to Clerks’ Alien vs. Predator. Sure the two leads can’t act, but just like with the original it doesn’t diminish from how much you like them or how goddamn funny they are.

As a billionaire, space-pirate, ninja-doctor who plows a different porn star every night, I’m not sure why I’d gravitate towards a movie about being kicked in the nuts by life, love and career. But somehow this movie speaks to me. If Clerks II was a woman, it’d be Rosario Dawson. Not only is she appropriately the female lead in the movie; but how do you not marry Rosario Dawson?

Exactly, you can’t. Marry.

 

Kill

10Cop Out
Rewatchability Level: Die Hard 5
Smith Quirk: 2 surveillance teddy bears out of 10 Andy Pafko baseball cards.
Bad Actor Factor: My nose starts bleeding when I try to recall details from this movie.

The last time I remember being excited about a Kevin Smith movie was before Cop Out came out. Prior to that point KS could have just farted on the cast of Degrassi for 90 minutes and I would have happily coughed up the admission price. (I’ve paid to see him on tour twice now.) But watching this was like watching Jesus kick my puppy.

This movie was painfully unfunny and annoying. It caused the Haitian earthquakes in 2010 and made people hate Tracy Morgan more than the whole “drown my gay son” thingy. This movie is the obnoxious fat chick in the bar who tries to cock-block you with her hot friends, even though you very nicely let her molest your nerdy friend in the KFC dumpster earlier.

Though kudos to KS that the worst movie he directed is also the only movie he didn’t write too. Definitely a kill.

 

11Jersey Girl
Rewatchability Level: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
Smith Quirk: 3 Will Smiths out of 10 JLo death scenes.
Bad Actor Factor: Jason Biggs + a little kid. *shudder*

Due to being boring, unoriginal and boring, combined with the bad luck of being the “Bennifer” movie that came out after Gigli, most people rag on this movie pretty hard. Also it was boring.

This movie is the bland, frumpy gal wearing a sweater with a picture of her cat on it. Not only did I forget that the awesome George Carlin was in it, but that it also had a Liv Tyler shower scene. It also extended Jason Biggs’ career. That in itself is a kill. Booo!

 

12Zach and Miri Make a Porno
Rewatchability Level: Independence Day
Smith Quirk: 6 toilet water showers out of 10 Rosie O’Donell sex tapes.
Bad Actor Factor: Elizabeth Banks & (surprisingly) Jason Mewes turn in the few good performances.

This is how the world found out that Seth Rogen isn’t a comedy wizard who can magically make everything hilarious. This movie is kinda like the wine-drunk cougar with her arms draped over you, slurring in your ear at last call. You’d still bang her for the first ¾ of the movie, even with your friends laughing at you in the corner. It definitely had some funny scenes.

Then in the last ¼, a movie about people making pornography devolves into a predictable, cheesy romance. This is the point when the slurring, bitter divorcée starts reading you her terrible poetry and talking about how spiritual she is. You have no other option at this point; Kill.

I gotta give props to Jason Mewes though. His delivery of the “Dutch rudder” scene alone almost makes this movie a bang. Almost.

 

So there you have it, your obligatory, click-bait Kevin Smith movie ranking before Tusk hits the theaters this September. I listened to the podcast that inspired Tusk. It sounds like a genuinely terrible idea, but the trailer looks really interesting. Mostly because of Michael Parks behaving like a terrifying madman, which he did perfectly in Red State.

So Kevin Smith will definitely be getting my money again. And if this goofy idea works, he’ll get it for the even dumber sounding Yoga Hosers too.

In closing: I know it’s popular to rag on K-Smizzle these days, but I still love the guy! He gets to manifest his whims for a living and that’s pretty fantastic. His dialogue consistently makes me laugh and I admire the hell out of him. He’s also the king of self-deprecating humor, which I’m a giant fan of.

OK, now go away.

 

 

Frank: Pretty Strange But Pretty Great

Posted in 7, Comedy, Drama, Independent, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2014 by mducoing

FrankDirector Lenny Abrahamson, along with writers Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan, delivers one of the most peculiar films in recent memory. Based on the true story of Frank Sidebottom and captured for the screen by his actual bandmate Jon Ronson, this film forces audiences to contemplate mental illness, marginal but powerful music, stability and acceptance while wrapping the story in a deep layer of dark humor.

Premise: Wanna-be musician Jon, discovers he’s in over his head when he joins an eccentric band led by the mysterious Frank. Result: A mixture of complex ingredients, this is a strong film that is funny and ripe with emotion.

Frank is likely to take many observers out of their comfort zones. It begins with Jon Burroughs (Domhnall Gleeson), an ordinary office worker, floundering as a start-up song writer. Inadvertently, he stumbles upon a band with an unpronounceable name led by Frank (Michael Fassbender), a man in a papier-mâché head that he never takes off. Ever! He has a certificate.

Along with Frank’s bandmates Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Baraque (François Civil), Nana (Carla Azar) and former keyboardist, now manager Don (Scoot McNairy), Jon replaces Lucas, the current keyboardist now the victim of a mental breakdown, and follows the group to the Irish countryside to record their latest album.

What ensues is a personal nightmare that for audiences will be confounding, bizarre, off-putting and ultimately hilarious. Their Irish retreat is a cabal of strange preparations, interactions and conversations that may have been lifted from any number of mental wards or hipster gatherings.

Hi

Hi

Jon records these events in earnest, using social media as a chronicle he only vaguely realizes becomes a “platform” for the band. And just when the weirdness hits its highest notes -and there are some serious tragedies the group must face- they are invited to SXSW, a major event in the US. The journey serves as a major turning point for the group, and mostly not in the way they expected.

To delve too deep into these events would be to cheapen the experience since much of it must be seen firsthand. But there are a few important details audiences should look out for to more fully enjoy and accept the film for what it is, not for what we may want it to be. While the film is purposefully unclear about what it is actually about, there are key themes that can guide us.

First, mental illness plays a prominent role in this film. There are multiple characters in Frank, not the least of which is Frank, who are certifiably ill, in some cases with disastrous results. Often it is unclear if Jon is in a band or a cult, if what they are doing is brilliant or bat-sh$t. More than once serious harm befalls the characters.

But before observers too easily write off the “insanity” on screen, it is important to observe Frank and the relationships thee characters have. Being broke doesn’t make one crazy, and being able to communicate with people, make them happy without controlling them, as Frank so effectively did with a random German woman on holiday, is a gift that often even the “sanest” among us can only dream about. There is something magical about Frank, and whatever you say about the others, especially the perpetually sour-pussed Clara, the pompous Baraque or the silent Nana, they all follow Frank and appreciate him for that goodness.

ClaraAdditionally, it may be a film about our collective view of the mainstream. There are some things, no matter how bizarre, that don’t make sense when seen by the lens of an unforgiving world that most certainly do in more nurturing environments. Indeed, some beauty must be kept private, sheltered from the chilling gaze of judgment.

Further, Dreams and their realizations are quite often distinct. Was Jon better off in the suffocating womb of a pointless job, swatting futilely at an unattainable fantasy? Or was his experience, and his growth not worth his suffering? And while The Hero’s Journey might be a bit too cliché for a film that is so far outside the box, some tenets certainly resonate.

It should be mentioned, and without too fine a point, that this film thrives on its performances. Gleeson’s homespun style helps to make him both an enjoyable character as well as a credible surrogate for the audience, keeping us somewhat grounded amidst all the “floating”.

Fassbender is also perfect, again. The polar opposite of his brilliant evil in 12 Years a Slave, he delivers a character that perfectly balances charisma, fear, confidence, and almost morbid insouciance from moment one. And his final scenes of vulnerability are possibly more powerful than anything else in the film. In many films.

Gyllenhaal, for her part, is so vile on screen that audiences will love to hate her. Frankly, she hasn’t commanded that much attention since Secretary and well-deserved; she is flawless. And McNairy, Civil and Azar, with special attention to McNairy, deliver exactly the supporting roles that this film required and deserved.

In the end, Frank is an interesting film that swims in the deep end. It is not a film that needs an “about me” section and any attempts to pigeon-hole it into a box are fruitless and miss the point. Instead, audiences should appreciate the film for what it is: a well-acted story about some very strange people who help us to rethink the way we see and enjoy the world. And laugh at with it.

Rating: 7- A refreshing Champagne that a cute bartender comp’d you!

Sin City – A Dame to Kill for: Stunning To See And Somehwat Fun to Listen to

Posted in 7, Action, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2014 by mducoing

SIn CityDirectors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez deliver a second installment of the Sin City franchise with a series of intense, but intriguing stories. Ripe with stunning visuals and that same charming, anachronistic banter, A Dame to Kill For is a fun time.

Premise: Three stories that track some of Sin City’s more colorful characters in trying situations. Result: Beautiful and often entertaining although too long with noticeable drag

The three interlocking vignettes begin en media res with Marv (Mickey Rourke) walking away from the aftermath of past events. Rendered amnesic, he wanders off into the night and eventually, at some point, into his favorite striptease watering hole to ogle young Nancy (Jessica Alba).

The object of his affection prances on the stage in emotional agony left from the death of her lover Hartigan (Bruce Willis) and seethes with rage at the man she blames for his death, the powerful, Senator Roark (Powers Boothe).

Briefly, we are introduced to hot-shot “too lucky for his own good” Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who also appears to have a grudge against Roarke. Putting his luck and life on the line, will Johnny survive his pride in a poker match with Roarke?

Perhaps the most intriguing story lies with Dwight (Josh Brolin) as he is manipulated into a strange love triangle with former paramour Ava (Eva Green). But he and detectives Mort (Christopher Meloni) and Bob (Jeremy Piven) soon find that this siren is far more dangerous than what is embodied in her bodyguard Manute (Dennis Haysbert). It will take all they have plus Gail (Rosario Dawson) and her gang to make it through what lies in wait.

Overall, what makes this film fun is the absurdly delicious dialogue, pinched from the past and dropped into those comic book scenarios we have grown to expect and adore from Miller. This is, of course, enhanced by its signature visuals at every step. They are mesmerizing for the most part and, if nothing else, reason enough to take a peak.

The acting is what we would expect and more from this type of film: Boothe embodies corruption and cruelties wearing it arrogantly like the pelt from some endangered animal. Rourke is remarkable as the gargantuan mouth-breathing rhino with a soft spot for friends and “dames.”

Eva-GreenBrolin and Gordon-Levitt are both strong in their roles (JGL resurrects some of that brooding charisma that made Brick so thoroughly chilling) and Dawson brings that raw strength and determination to her character while also masterfully juggling vulnerability.

But it is Green that really steals the show; she is the most interesting character by far, dominating every scene with not only her beauty but her ruthless guile and staggering confidence; all this wrapped in a mesmerizing package of elegance and horror.

In the end, A Dame to Kill For is a bit long and drags at certain spots. Additionally, some stories are simply more interesting than others by far. Yet, as a whole, it is a fun time and, at worst, easy on the eyes.

Rating: 7- A refreshing Champagne that a cute bartender comp’d you!

As Above So Below: Overall Pretty Cool

Posted in 7, Horror, Independent, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2014 by mducoing

AS Above So BelowDirector John Erick Dowdle (Devil, Quarantine) has a good reputation for writing and directing scary films. With As Above So Below, he delivers another good, scary film despite some inherent problems.

Premise: Scarlett and her team of unwitting explorers venture into the catacombs beneath Paris in search of the Philosopher’s Stone and uncover the dark secret that lies below. Result: Despite some issues with the overall delivery, the film is interesting and innovative enough to keep audiences intrigued and, for most, scared.

The film follows Scarlett (Perdita Weeks), some type of archeological scholar who has been searching for much of her life for the mythical Philosopher’s Stone, a search that appears to have been involved in her own father’s death. Uncovering a key in Iran, she travels to Paris with her sidekick Benji (Edwin Hodge) to elicit the help of estranged friend George (Ben Feldman), who happens to speak Aramaic (it should be noted that the film depends heavily on audience acceptance that all major characters are apparently geniuses. No back story is given, but that may be for the best.)

There, they believe they have uncovered the chamber where the Philosopher’s Stone resides, placed there by Nicolas Flamel a mythologized alchemist believed to have created the stone (For lay persons, you may remember this from Harry Potter fame in Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, published in England as The Philosopher’s Stone). The chamber apparently lies beneath Paris in the famous catacombs, miles of tunneling below the city where tens of thousands are thought to be buried.

To search the tunnels, they get advice from a mysterious man*, while on a guided tour of the catacombs, to reach out to Papillion (François Civil), “a man who can get them what they need.” Papillion is up to the task and brings along his crew, Souxie (Marion Lambert) and Zed (Ali Marhyar), in exchange for half of the promised treasure.

nope, not going in.

nope, not going in.

The film follows their descent into caves, an unsettling ordeal even under the best of circumstances. Using a multi-cam approach but still tying each vantage point to a viewer (and then allowing audiences to see views that even some characters can’t) leads to some truly chilling events.

As they descend deeper and deeper into the depths of the catacombs, stranger and stranger things begin to take place, omens that warn them to turn away. Scene after scene forces audiences to endure first the chills of the atmosphere and the situation -paying homage to The Descent- while still pushing the envelope with some terrifying moments surrounding the story.

What works well for this film is the chaos in which Dowdle places observers, and the terrifying images and events that seem to defy explanation. All this while still following the very interesting story of the Philosopher’s Stone and just what is meant by the phrase “As Above So Below.”

Of course, crediting its title, the film’s strengths also supply its weaknesses. The film’s camera angle movement apparently are meant to simulate a human being having a seizure; if this is not the case, then it just may cause one instead. That is, of course, when the screen isn’t just black without sound, confusing viewers.

Further, the film’s lead, Scarlett, amounts to a serious fallacy in modern horror plots that I will refer to as the “Eve Syndrome.” This “syndrome” is marked by a series of plot events that stem from completely implausible character choices. In these cases, one character – the female lead- whose obsession with her objective is so irrational and dangerous, that all sorts of horrible choices can be justified and everyone around her is incapable of resisting her madness. Here, it amounts to distracting laziness in the writing.

The acting, nevertheless, is strong and believable, and despite some off comments works to the advantage of the film. Considering the issues above as well their success is remarkable.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t solve the issue of the film’s resolution**. Unlike the rest of the film which excels on building a strong, fluid case that sets the stage or some serious chills, the final moments are a bit closer to throw away. It is actually not a bad resolution and somewhat plausible in the film’s reality, but for many it may feel too rushed, too flimsy, and thus unsatisfying.

But the film as a whole is actually quite interesting and often frightening. It isn’t perfect and not as elegant as some of Dowdle’s other films, but it is one of the stronger films of its type with one of the more interesting premises of recent times.

Rating: 7- A refreshing Champagne that a cute bartender comp’d you!

 

My Theories – Spoilers:

* Pay special note to the man who instructs them to go after Papillion. Although you can’t see his face later, my theory it is the man in the flaming car that pulls Papillion into the inferno, quite literally. He asks for Papillion to literally lure him down into hell, where apparently he belongs

fire - AS Above** A few notes around the resolution. At first it seems rather weak, how quickly they escape. However, if Hell really is a place for “the damned” based on their actions on Earth “Above” then realistically the only one we can suspect of being worthy of Hell is Papillion. The reason? When Souxie and Benji die, they are killed by apparitions in the “Below” but their bodies are simply left there. They are killed as intruders. But Papillion is absorbed into the Inferno by his secret, his shame that he continues to deny until the final moments, and the only thing that remains is his feet sticking out of the ground, an ancient symbol for the dead entering Hell. If this is true, then the rest simply confronting their inner troubles and guilt allows them to flee, partly because their guilt is more akin to “Intruders” than to Papillion.

Get on Up: Messy But Still Packs Some Punch

Posted in Drama, Musical, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2014 by mducoing

Get on UpDirector Tate Taylor (The Help) delivers another fair film that should have been great. Like his 2011 film, The Help, Get On Up is bogged down by some messy direction in spite of some really strong performances.

Premise: The story of James Brown‘s rise from destitute to diva to become one of the most influential musicians in history. Result: A good but sloppy film that does not live up to expectation.

The opening of Get on Up is a neck-breaking series of random moments across James Brown’s (Chadwick Boseman) life ranging from drug-induced rage to arrogance in the face of enemy fire (in Vietnam) to instants of joy in an otherwise troubling childhood. And it is these moments that best summarize the strategy Taylor chooses for this film: a schizophrenic panoply of events and emotions crashing upon the audience like waves over stone. And the sensation is much the same: jarring, calamitous, and often off-putting.

In a sense, that was Brown’s life: a series of random friendships such as with Bobby Byrd (Nelsan Ellis) and producer Ben Bart (Dan Aykroyd) as well as confusing and often traumatizing family experiences with mother Susie Brown (Viola Davis), father Joe Brown (Lennie James), and adoptive Aunt Honey (Octavia Spencer) – who ran a brothel. And so, despite the discomfort it will cause audiences and the sacrificed connection to the actual film, the style may help some audiences understand the instability that was his life on Earth.

Wading through the scene casserole, observers will find a meteoric rise by Brown due to several, different supporters along the way: first, Byrd for helping him find belonging; next Little Richard (Brandon Smith) for giving him the connections and Ralph Bass (Josh Hopkins) for discovering him.

His intense jealousy, his temper and arrogance all fused together with his performance brilliance, mentorship, and inspiration leap from the screen. But whatever way you see it, his life was a blend of chaos and brilliance, and like any tortured genius, it is difficult to uncover true happiness.

Like Jersey Boys, the film is supported by the music and the performances are entertaining enough to keep interest even when long scenes or ubiquitous scene-flash “arounds” become tiresome. But ultimately the film is too long for its own good despite these performances and a few scattered moments of genuine emotion.

The acting in this film, however, is largely beyond reproach. Boseman is phenomenal as Brown, embodying him to such an extent as to wonder if he were possessed. Davis is quite strong in her limited time on screen but works perfectly with Boseman to mesmerize in the film’s most poignant scene.

To this end Spencer is powerful and Akroyd’s role is a welcome comedic infusion amidst a sea of tragedy. Ellis is good but his role is inherently understated making it difficult to shine against Boseman’s onscreen inferno. Special recognition, however, must go out to Brandon Smith for perfectly delivering Little Richard in his scene stealing performance.

Sadly, Get on Up does not live up to the complex Brown legacy. While there is a lot happening on screen, and much of it good, the jarring delivery and the unnecessary length may feel right on paper, but ultimately drag the film way down.

Rating: 6 – A mediocre Prosecco that a cute bartender served you

Let’s Be Cops: Idiots Doing Dumb Things…But Still a Fun Time

Posted in 6, Action, Children, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2014 by mducoing

Let's Be CopsWriter/director Luke Greenfield (The Girl Next Door, Something Borrowed), along with Nicholas Thomas, crafts a fun if fairly boilerplate buddy comedy with Let’s Be Cops. Depending on the drunken/high college moron sense of reality, Cops is funny if also unbelievably ridiculous.

Premise: Two buddies dress as police officers and have some fun times before getting tangled in a real life web of mobsters putting their lives on the line. Result: Funny, predictable and largely unoriginal. But still funny.

Ryan (Jake Johnson) and Justin (Damon Wayans Jr.) feel like failures, a reality heightened by a humiliating reunion (whoever does an 8-year reunion has got to get with the program btw).   Justin is a video game developer with a jellyfish spine: his great idea for a realistic police officer game is set aside with agonizing ease and his inability to talk to crush Josie (Nina Dobrev) is ripe with middle school drama.

Ryan, to be frank, makes Justin look like a Fortune 100 CEO. A career ending injury kept him from football and he instead “coaches” kids in the park and lives off a one-time Herpes commercial. Life is no bueno.

That is, of course until the two decide to impersonate police officers and live a better life. At first, things seem fun: the two gallivant across the LA in their costumes, playfully tormenting passers-by, stoners, and skateboarders. But it is their witless revenge on some thugs that opens the door to danger.

The film ultimately devolves into absurd antics that while humorous, are painful to watch. Ryan is a complete moron and the decisions he makes are incomprehensible and at times border on child-endangerment. Sure, it’s fun to watch in a schadenfreude sort of way, but after a while it also becomes painfully ridiculous without the aid of illegal narcotics.

And as the two get deeper into their nonsense, now pulling in other officers (like Segars -Rob Riggle) into their black hole of irresponsibility, they finally hit reality as they must contend with gangster Mossi (James D’Arcy) and his henchmen. This actually sets off a sequence of absurd and hilarious moments involving some odd characters like Dominican-caricature Pupa (Keegan-Michael Key), creepy guy Brolin (Andy Garcia), and nympho Annie (Natasha Leggero).

idiots

idiots

In addition to protagonists that make decisions akin to Harold & Kumar, the film itself painfully formulaic, never straying far from the buddy movie template. Other than the cop-theme itself, there is really nothing original about this story. Loser buddies who take a gag too far and find themselves in danger and this danger subsequently makes them strong enough to overcome their own real life obstacles.

The bad guys, to bring this home, are basically cut-and-paste from everything you have seen before. Visions of The Green Hornet and 21 Jump Street abounded.

The performances in the film were pretty good, helping to keep the laughs alive. Johnson and Wayans are both quite funny and while their antics border on annoying from scene one, they are believable in their roles and, on some level, likable.

Riggle is strong as well, helping to ground the film slightly while Leggero is preposterous but in all the right ways. Key is also funny although the joke fades fast.

Garcia is perhaps the most surprising element in this film as he is terrifying from moment one and almost looks like he belongs in another…better movie. D’Arcy is great in everything he does but there is a sense that in this film he is miscast. He is still believable in some ways as this monster, but he often teeters on caricature. Dobrev is just boring; not her fault really since the writing for her is stale and clichéd, but there it is.

In the end, Let’s Be Cops is a funny film that never really exceeds our expectations. In fact, it is a film that is best viewed at home, drunk or high, where silly is supreme.

Rating: 6 – A mediocre Prosecco that a cute bartender served you

Lucy: That’s Pretty Co…Wait, What the Hell??

Posted in 4, Action, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews, Sci Fi/ Fantasy with tags , , , , , on August 30, 2014 by mducoing

LucyWriter/director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Family) never strays far from the bizarre when given the chance. Unfortunately, unlike his cult classic The Fifth Element, this exercise in the sci-fi mysterious is far closer to absurd than intriguing.

Premise: A young woman caught in a drug ring transforms into a merciless warrior evolving at an exponential rate. Result: Fun at the start devolves quickly into a science lesson Mr. Wizard would be ashamed of.

Lucy begins with our unwitting protagonist Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) forced into serving as a mule for a drug lord Mr. Yang (Min-sik Choi) along with three other unknowing companions. But while awaiting transport, her failed attempts to repel her capture’s advances end in beatings that rupture the bag of chemicals and in turn infect her with the contents.

The drug is some synthetic neuron-processor, modeled after chemicals secreted by pregnant women to induce rapid cerebral growth in their offspring. In such heavy doses Lucy begins to use a greater and greater percentage of her brain, giving her all sorts of uncanny powers of telekinesis, mind control and other abilities best found in the comics.

She is also aware that her time is limited, that her cerebral self-actualization will quite physically turn her to dust, as her body will be unable to absorb the metamorphosis. And so she reaches out to Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), the world leader on just such theories about increased brain function. She also inadvertently teams up with French inspector Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked) as she evades Yang’s men and attempts to acquire the remaining pouches.

That is largely the first half of the film and frankly where all its entertaining qualities exist. Here, the action is thrilling and the events build so that audiences can participate and anticipate enthusiastically. Then the second half of the film happens.

Apparently Besson transforms part of the way through the film into a David Lynch/Terrance Malik monstrosity with an almost wanton disregard for audience participation. The film degenerates into two key elements; first, a painful, pedantic over-exposition fest where Norman and Lucy are forced to drone on and on about the scientific realities of their situation. At certain points it almost seems necessary for Freeman and Johansson to break through the fourth wall shaking and shouting at the audience, “GET IT!? DON’T YOU GET IT!!? PLEASE, PLEASE GET IT!?”

help please

help please

Then, as if Besson become tragically aware of how agonizing this would be to audiences, he delivers a complete reversal, moving away from any sort of explanation at all, in favor of neck-breaking movement, mind-numbing imagery, space exploration and yes, time travel. Or something. Things just start happening on screen that are apparently supposed to simulate just how using 100% of one’s mind would make them one with space and time.

The only clue that this worked is that all observers who do not use 100% of their brains will understand at best 2% of what is going on. Then the film ends in a throw away sequence so pallid and nauseating that all humans at once and ever have been are sure to deliver one, collective, space-piercing grown of dismay.

For all the disaster that happens on screen, at least some of the acting is worth salvaging. Johansson again proves her acting chops as the terrified victim at the film’s onset. This is further enhanced by juxtaposition to her latter performance, where she unapologetically channels Natalie Portman’s lifeless Queen Amadala.

Freeman is fair largely because everything he says is basically best left as narration we heard in War of the Worlds or even March of the Penguins for that matter. Waked does well as the audience referent, perfectly balancing badass and clueless in every scene.

In the end, this film is a miss. While it starts with some promise, it undertook a campaign that was simply didn’t hit the mark. Or any mark really.

Rating: 4 – A case of PBR and a “Dear John” letter

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