February 5, 2014

Return of revenge of reviews...movies and tv today...comics later...

It's been a very long time since I've done any proper reviews 'round this blog, and I remember a long, long ago that Ruffryder asked that I keep reviewing, so I will...

The Goldbergs - The television Adam Goldberg has the GI Joe aircraft carrier...and Castle Greyskull...and ridiculously big, nearly mint condition Transformers...and so much more...

It's just ridiculous how many awesome toys he has. People are writing about it on the internet, and Adam Goldberg - the show's writer and eponymous source material - responded, stating that most of the toys in the fictional Goldberg's room are from the real Goldberg's collection.

This is a man of my age, of my era, of my childhood...though a man clearly better about keeping track and taking care of his childhood treasures. Not that I had anything remotely as cool as the USS Flagg.

The show took a little while to grow on me, but I'm thoroughly hooked, watching every week's episodes on hulu.com sometime over the weekend. The first couple of episodes were a little too formulaic - Mom interferes or misunderstands the kids, and things only become right when she realizes the errors of her ways.  As the show's grown a bit and done some meandering from the by-the-book opening episodes, it's hit a nice stride with Adam 'dating' the pretty girl from up the street, Grandpa sometimes struggling with retirement, Mom trying to let her baby boy grow up, Dad finding ways to connect with his children, and Adam's siblings fitting their parts like hands in gloves.

It's a fun, fun show for any child of the 80's.

Room 237 - This documentary reads like a disaster. It's a series of interviews with four people who have fairly involved theories about what Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is 'really' about. None of the four are ever shown. Instead we get a mixture of footage from The Shining played over and over, played forward and backward at the same time, animations of how the hotel was laid out, and footage of the real hotels in which the movie was filmed.

No people to see...no one to connect with...nothing much to look at sometimes.

It should be a disaster and certainly isn't. It is, in fact, far from that.

It's a brilliant exploration of obsession and desperation, of five people looking for meaning in a piece of art. All five are given absolute respect and presented without comment, as though their theories were entirely rational and reasonable and not crazy in the least. In fact, it's only in the last few moments of the film that one of the theorists notes aloud the similarities between his life - lost job, economic tough times, adolescent son - and how he has been trapped in the Overlook every bit as much as was Jack Torrence by the end of the film.

I don't in any way believe that the film is about the holocaust, the plight of the Native Americans, or the faking of the Apollo 11 moon landing, but these people do, and they believe it with the entirety of their souls.

The film is a brilliant look into the love of art taken to extremes, to the dangers of confirmation bias, and to the fact that once an artist hands his or her work over to the public, the artist loses control of what the artwork means. From thence forward, whatever the public thinks of the artwork becomes what the artwork is really about.

If you're interested, there's a longer clip (11min) from the documentary on YouTube.

The Way Way Back - Here's a bit of summer, coming-of-age fun for ya.

Awkward son gets trapped at the New Jersey beach with his mother, mom's new boyfriend and slightly older daughter. He hates the beach, his mother's boyfriend's friends, and his life.

Enter manic pixie dream girl in the form of Sam Rockwell, here to teach our protagonist the lesson that 'you're alright just as you are.'

Man, I'm cynical. I actually enjoyed this movie a lot, and I still struggle to write a nice review of it.

The screenplay, the second from Jim Rash (above, doing the Charlie Brown dance) and Nat Faxon (just to the right in the blue, button-down shirt), their first after the Oscar-winning The Descendants, leaves plenty of room for Rockwell to do exactly what a Rockwell does best: be wacky and flippant and do the Rockwell dance. Just jump to 0:11...go ahead...

Killer Joe - Matthew McConaughey has turned into a heck of an actor. There was certainly a phase there where he was just chugging out fluff romantic comedy after fluff romantic comedy where I kind of wrote him off. From an npr interview with him a year or so ago, McConaughey felt the same way. He wasn't getting offered parts that were anything other than the romantic comedy leads, so he stepped back and waited until something juicier came to him.

Killer Joe, the title role, is certainly something juicier. Joe is a law officer - though we never seen more than a glimpse of him in that capacity - who kills people on the side. Emile Hirsch hires Joe to kill his mother, promising Joe his fee from the insurance policy. Hirsch's divorced father and developmentally disabled sister are in on the plan, as is father's new girlfriend. As Joe isn't inclined to take jobs on promises of later payment, he moves in with the dysfunctional family and takes the sister, Juno Temple playing underaged, as his retainer.

Joe pays up on his end of the bargain, but everything else goes wrong from there...everything...

After a very violent, sadistic kitchen scene - trimmed somewhwat to avoid earning Joe an NC-17 rating but still disturbing - the bad end unhappily and the good unluckily. Strike that, there are no good in this film, though the film is very well acted and adapted from the stage source. It's dark, dark, dark, though. Tread carefully...it's certainly and strongly .

American Hustle - That's what this movie is about, those five actors right there.

Bale, Cooper, Adams, Renner, Lawrence...they act the hell out of these parts. The women look gorgeous. The men look comedically period. The combovers, the pompadours, the perms - all are outstanding. The dresses, the leisure suits, the fur coats, the cars, the phones, the gold medallions, the discos - spectacularly '70's, and the actors absolutely revel in their opportunity to play dress up.

The sink their teeth in and shake the movie for all it's worth, chewing up scenery with wild abandon. In most cases there isn't a resemblance of the actors. It's tough to see Christian Bale in the fat, bloat-bellied, horribly coiffed con man. Adams has never played this unethical, this sexual, this conniving. Cooper is the closest to a part he's played before as the charismatic, brash FBI agent who flies a little too close to the sun and doesn't realize that he isn't the smartest guy in the room at any point in the film. Lawrence plays manic and manipulative and stupid and drunk well enough that any inkling of Winters Bone or Katniss are subsumed entirely. And Renner may just be the only remotely good character in the film, a family man who just wants to do right by the town that elected him mayor.

The story - a pastiche of Abscam  - offers the players a number of double crosses, jilted lovers, mixed and obscured loyalties, and characters within characters within characters to inhabit, and the actors are clearly having a blast the whole time. Numerous stories about the film have portrayed the actors and having strong influence on their characters, the plot lines, and the overall story arc of the film. To the film's detriment, is appears that David O. Russel valued these contributions more than he valued tight editing. The film feels overly long and meanders at points, as Russel never seemed willing to cut any bit of the leads' great performances.

It's a fun film, but I can't imagine it's the best film of the year.

The Wolf of Wall Street - The record has been broken. Wolf apparently used the f-word 506 times in its three-hour-exact running time, shattering the record 433 of Summer of Sam. I've no idea whether Wolf also broke the record for ways showing the greed, for lack of a better word, is good, because that's about all that this film espouses.

There are beautiful people - DiCaprio looks like he's found the fountain of youth, playing a fit and youthful twenty-something taking his investors, initially the mailmen and plumbers of the country, later the wealthy whales, for all he can. As Matthew McConaughey's character says, "the name of the game is to move the money from your client's pocket into yours...nobody knows if a stock is going to go up, go down, sideways or in circles....It's fairy dust."

In the course of the film, DiCapro's titular wolf uses every drug he can find, sleeps with every woman available - and some who aren't available until he comes along for them, buys everything he can buy (yachts, houses, helicopters), and makes ridiculous amounts of money for himself, his employees, his friends, and his family. He pays for prostitutes and midget darts and half-naked marching bands to entertain his brokers, ships his money to Swiss banks, and ignores every bit of 'good' advice that is handed to him - from his lawyer, his father, his private investigator - until he eventually is tripped up through absolutely no direct fault of his own. Eventually his luck simply runs out.

Throughout all of this, the film feels hollow, without any moral compass, without any soul. DiCaprio is brilliant, carrying every scene and providing the energy for his entire office to run and to run rampant. His scene trying to get home from the country club once the drugs take hold is marvelously well acted.

But the movie left me cold. It's empty. It's blank. The best description that I've heard of the film in the media is that it's douchebag porn.

But it does have Ethan Suplee, and that is something, as is Margot Robbie who is sex on two legs in the film.

That's enough for today...I'll come back another day to review the comics I've read.


Leayh Abel said...

Funny story. The way way back was shot in my Uncle's beach house. My cousin accidentally walked in on Steve Carrell in the bathroom cause she thought the shoot was over.

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