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Pain & Gain (2013)
An Apology from Michael Bay
Holy cow, did this movie take me by surprise. I knew nothing going in, but I am well aware of Bay's reputation. This was by far one of the strangest films I've seen in a long time, but it worked - so help me Science, it worked. Out of most everything so far from directors and filmmakers I like (Oz from Sam Raimi comes to mind) this had the most passion behind it from everyone involved. Bay makes up for the entire Transformers trilogy with this, and puts to rest once and for all the question of whether he is capable of being an actually 'filmmaker'.
This reeks of a good ol' fashioned 90s' crime movie, like something Tony Scott (rest is peace, brother) or Michael Mann would have made. The pacing is non-stop and the tone is all over the place, but it only sucked me in more from not being able to tell exactly where it was going, nor how I would respond to it. Several times I didn't know whether to laugh or cringe at many, MANY of the more gruesome, dark moments. I haven't felt that level of unpredictability and discomfort from a mainstream film in a long time. And my god, was it glorious.
Something worth noting that took me by surprise (among SO many other things) was how immersive the setting was. With recent films - the most recent one coming to mind being X-Men First Class - they simply flash a title on screen saying '1962' or whatever. But in that movie, I never ONCE felt like I was in 1962. This felt exactly like 1995, from details like the Rock's sneakers to the condom billboards, to the paint jobs on the cars and boats. I think ONCE I was taken out of the time-setting when we see a pack of tacos clearly from a modern Taco Bell, but it's so fast it's not even noticeable to the average viewer, just the kind of detail I pick up on.
Bay actually handles the action (what little there is) very well and manages to put it all into context. During every chase, every explosion, I knew where I was, where the characters were, and the motivation behind everything they were doing. The frenetic work always moved the plot along and wasn't gratuitous in any way. Again, not the kind of thing to hear about the Transformers director.
The Rock really stood out to me in a surprisingly nuanced performance. But Marky Mark stole the show, and rightly so. What a shallow, stupid, and incredibly charismatic person. I was glad to see the real- life fates of each of these people, and felt justified for each's punishment, and redemption.
But make no mistake, these are despicable, murderous people. Somewhere I read accidentally beforehand said this movie was 'Fargo by way of the Three Stooges'. That is the most accurate description I can think of. Bloody, violent, fast, but engrossing, scary at moments and - dare I even say it? - compelling in how dumb these people are by how they manage to feed off each other to bring out the best and worst of human beings.
I walked out of the theater not quite sure if I had seen the best film so far of the year, or the worst. But I couldn't stop smiling the entire way to my car. I never thought I'd say it, but Best Film I've Seen So Far This Year...and it's from Michael Bay.If recycled, predictable garbage like Avatar can go for Oscar gold, this is probably the film Bay may be able to come close to academy recognition with. I believe in fitness. See this movie.
ps - I was not happy to see Rebel Wilson show up, but even she doesn't drag this down with her schtick (news flash, people. Fat chicks making sex jokes isn't funny. You hear that, Melissa McCarthy? You're better than that, ladies)
Dark Skies (2013)
An Incomplete Film
Let's be clear - this is a movie without a third act. And what film there is, blatantly takes from much better movies - and sometimes not so much better.
The acting is fine across the board, but there are simply too many things that we as an audience are expected to accept without being shown or told. Usually in a paranormal mystery thriller like this, that is okay, but these are fundamental flaws.
For example, the filmmakers spend a great deal of time setting up the thread of a house for sale. The mother, a real estate agent, is trying to sell it. It'd be almost metaphorical in the hands of a better director/screenwriter. But after an unusual incident, she is told to take time off...aaaand and it just ends there. The father's search for a job culminates in the implication of a successful interview, but that peters out to nowhere too. These may sound like minor squabbles, but they lead to a series of major problems once we arrive at - what is expected to be called - the ending.
JK Simmons, a fine actor, sleepwalks his way to another mortgage check, giving the appropriate amount of effort such a walk-on role deserves. While what he exposites terrifies our two protagonists, for a passionate expert in his field who has tracked this kind of activity for years, he acts like he'd rather go take a nap. The scene feels so awkward because his character has been set up as someone who cares about the abduction phenomenon, yet he responds to a developing event and these people's pleas about their children's safety like a bigfoot expert shrugging off someone producing his home address.
The entire second act is beat for beat taken from Signs, right down to the awkward family dinner and the walky-talkies. It culminates so weakly and is so clumsily edited that I had no idea where I was or what was happening. Things suddenly start getting symbolic and artsy when there had been nothing leading up to it at that point in the story. The tone shift is so abrupt and brief (some may even call it a 'big-lipped alligator moment')that it takes you completely out of the movie, even given how poorly it manages to hold your attention to begin with. And to top it all off, it proceeds to end right at the point when the movie should have been getting interesting (think Jennifer's Body). And where it ends...whoa, boy...
The audience and I could not have been more offended if the ending had simply smash cut to a screen-wide still of the director flipping us off. After *SPOILER* their son is abducted, we cut to three months later, where each parent has managed to overcome becoming suspects in their son's disappearance to have jobs now, I guess, since they could afford to move to a new town and pay for the legal bills. This is all on top of the fact that it then ends 90 seconds later. Whatever revelations that are made are too little too late (Oh, he was sick a lot. That's right. Remember that, audience? He was sick).
It's become all too common for people on here to say "I almost demanded my money back!", but this time it was true. I didn't expect Close Encounters, but I expected a little more effort than this. Instead, it was just another forgettable, underwhelming write-off the studios put out this time of year. As Zappa once said, "Hold onto that dollar a little while longer, for spending it here, why it couldn't be wronger".
The Cinema Snob Movie (2012)
"It's not for you."
When I received the DVD, my older brother looked at the box and read the back, and his response was "Wow, there is nothing I would rather watch less". To this, my reaction was simply "First, no one is asking you to. And second, it's not for you". Little did I know that this is actually one of the major themes of the CS's cinematic debut.
Firstly, Nostalgia Critic may have been the gateway drug to TGWTG, but the Cinema Snob is the reason I keep coming back, especially after the tremendous loss of theSpoonyOne from the site (he is a close second to CS as my favorite), and to see these two still working together just made me so glad to see them not deprive the internet community of their amazing chemistry. I hope their collaborations continue for years to come.
Brad Jones is one of the most charismatic and witty personalities on the internet, and this is simply a showcase of his immense talent, brought to us by the talented folks he has managed to surround himself with. That said, while the film does lose momentum a bit in the third act, it never feels rush or poorly paced. TeamSnob has something important to say about the state of culture, and uses their time on film wisely. Also, Springfield has never looked prettier during the day or more sinister at night.
Brad carries the show, no question about it. Craig Golightly's alter ego is clearly a manifestation of the conflict within him, the desire to make something important but only being able to make trash. But trash this ain't. This theme was also sort of looked at with the CS's subplot in the TGWTG film 'To Boldly Flee'. What lives on, integrity or infamy? Beauty or shock?
Special mention has to be made of Noah Antwiler aka Spoony. He absolutely steals every scene he is in. I've always thought Spoony was naturally talented and effortlessly sharp, and he really hits a stride here. Orlando as well really gets it and owns his Vladmir character, spewing out one of the best lines in the whole movie near the end. They both play it just wacky enough that the jokes work, and they seem to exist just outside the real world. The rest of the actors who make up the film club are excellent mock-ups of the various reasons why people get into art films - to be pretentious, because they were shamed into it by being told their taste was wrong, because they have voyeuristic fantasies, etc. Each is like a little call-out to the Eberts of the world.
The film making and direction are top notch, and really display their growth as a production crew. Ryan and co. are clearly learning from their past works like 'Hooker' and 'Paranoia'. The pacing and editing are tighter, and the timing of the jokes really hit 80-90% of the time. It sometimes even rivals a lot of major independent works. TCSM is in a world of it's own, and it allows itself to really indulge in it, very much like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, even going so far in one bar scene to use what could be called a trademark Sunny gag ("Yeah, I'm still here").
Alas, there are always a few shortcomings, and they had to do with casting. I think Jake was fine as Neil, but I don't think he really quite fit the role, especially opposite someone with the personality of the CS. Not that he was terrible, but something about the mixing made him sound like he had a lisp, which I know from the CS site he certainly doesn't. It was a little distracting. Brian Lewis's Scott Bakula was a complete throwaway. I really dig the guy, but he was wasted here. AND WHERE WAS JERRID? But nothing spoiled the overall film, and these are minor squabbles from a devoted fan. I was laughing out loud too much to really be dragged down by them.
From the worst modern independent films (Birdemic) to the best, this should rank up there as one of the top from the Internet 2.0 era. With most independent films of this kind, you usually find yourself forgiving the shortcomings and looking the other way when a glaring flub occurs because you are constantly reminded of the limits of the film makers. Any message or emotions are lost because the audience is too distracted by the miracle that a completed film was even made. But there was rarely a moment that took me out of the story here. I got their point, and it came across with style and quality.
The message, as others have pointed out, is great: don't apologize for your taste. Do what you love, and love what you want to. The CS is the perfect vehicle to make this point - he himself is the contradiction in most creative people. His reach exceeds his grasp. You watch his series, and the humor comes from the fact that his intellect and his taste are completely opposite and always fighting within him. And who wins? The viewing public.
Bless them for trying to make a film that reached beyond the fanbase. People who get the CS and the generation of internet reviewers born from the MST3k era will love this film, and people who don't get it, that's okay. They're not supposed to.
ps - props to Big Box Model Jillian for giving up the goods.
If you have never seen the series, there are little things that have been layered into the film that you might miss that can make it really enjoyable.
A few points I loved about it: The cybernetic ghost of Christmas past from the future and the plutonians play a HUGE hilarious role. I loved seeing them, and I was glad to see a little less of the mooninites, whom I don't consider very funny. There are actually a lot of twists and turns, that actually hold a kinda pseudo-plot, and as many reviewers have said already and will continue to say, as long as you walk into this not expecting much past the most glorified ATHF episode ever, you will not be disappointed.
It is wonderfully refreshing to see animators and writers who understand their audience so well, and can play so well to everything they love. These three characters and the world they live in are the finest examples of 'for the fans, by the fans' of whatever this new genereation of comedy is. I was lucky enough to see this with a packed theater of people who appreciate it, and it made all the difference.
"DRUM SOLO OF LIFE!"
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
No desire to see it ever again...not because it was bad...
...but because it was so good! It's so heartbreaking and sad to see a film as powerful and numbing as this. What really jumps out at you in the end, is that you can't simply say to yourself 'whew, at least these are just characters and a fake plot', then close your eyes and go to sleep. It sticks with you because you realize that this is not a story of fictional circumstances, but that there are people every day living the nightmare that these four went through, and in the end, all their potential is lost. That is what makes this film such a bittersweet triumph.
I got laughed at by some friends when I told them how after watching this, I'd be surprised if anybody would want to do drugs. And frankly, if you DO still want to do drugs after a viewing of this film, there is something wrong with *YOU*. But personally, I really like my arm, and would like to keep it there.
Sad, yet enlightening. It is a film that gave me such a numb, humbling feeling that I have no desire to relive the feelings it gave me. Only the best films can do that.
American Beauty (1999)
Scirpt seemed to be written by a ten year old.
First, I will admit, the only thing I really enjoyed about this movie was Kevin Spacey's incredible performance. He is the only thing that carries the film.
However, the dialog was completely unbelievable, and had too much of an art-sy feel to it. It was too written and predictable. The plot, I thought had some pretty interesting turns, like the way events and circumstances led Chris Cooper to think his son was gay.
Altogether, I found it unfulfilling, and trying too hard to prove suburbia is something that it really isn't in 80% of America, and a script that was obviously written by someone who hadn't been inside a modern American high school in 30 years.
Best Picture of the year, my a$$. Sixth Sense should've taken this over.
V for Vendetta (2005)
A for Awful, no remnants of Alan Moore's masterwork in "this vicious cabaret"
Complete joke. If people would read more they would know that this was a bastardized, modernized, canonized version of a great work by the finest author of graphic novels of the last twenty-five years (sorry Frank Miller).
All the layered stories and symbolism that made the book such a joy have been removed and turned into a more cookie-cutter, user-friendly action flick that promoted stylized violence over stylized plot. That is it's biggest fault. Characters thrown around and placed wherever for whatever reason (evey never even meets Gordon until halfway through the book).
V was not a freedom fighter, he openly admits in the book that he has turned from that brand of justice, and is in fact, an anarchist. Changing your view a little? This provided so much more depth to the dialogs in the book and made v into more of a character than a run-of-the-mill "I been done wrong by my gov't so now I'm gonna fight for FREEDOM!" Prothero's doll burning (which was way cooler and way funnier than 'v shows up, hello commander, kills him), Beethoven's fifth (da da da dum, is morse code for V), the subplot of almond's widow as she ends up gunning down Mr. Susan (not Sutler!) the Leader. It goes on and on.
And the stuff that wasn't in the book, the count of monte cristo? An SNL type show where the audience is held at gunpoint? Where the he11 did this come from? It neither helped the ideals nor had the amount of symbolism that Moore included is his original. And when it comes to Moore, don't mess with perfection.
Avoiding the political slant, in which this was obviously and shamelessly pointed toward current events, the book was anarchy-vs-totalitarianism. This was material that was dated, but the screen writers saw a story that at it's bone was man vs gov't and decided they could twist a story that in all reality has nothing to do with current events and keep alive a spirit that was never there to begin with.
Exploited violence with a paper thin plot so overdone over the years it's a surprise it hasn't torn yet. Read the book, shun this disgrace of a film. Nothing more than a "vicious cabaret" (don't get it? Read the #@%$! book!)
England prevails, this doesn't.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
AFI is for pansies...
FINALLY! A site that got it right. The ranking on this couldn't be more accurate. A wonderful movie that never once feels slow, pointless, overdone, or simply, bad. It does everything right, and is a crime that this had to go up against Forrest Gump in the same year, and a shame it was so overlooked.
What we have here is a masterpiece of film, something that just makes you feel better leaving the theater than you did going in. It builds up to a man's ultimate triumph over wrong, and the best BEST ending of a film ever.
Perfect, as has been stated by 99.9% of people here. Because it is.
If you haven't had the pleasure of seeing this (for shame!), to quote will Ferrel: "Go immediately to where ever movies are made-, sold or rented, and watch it. It is delightful"