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Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Rum Diary



The appeal of The Rum Diary is threefold: to see Hunter S. Thompson's "lost" novel translated to the big screen, to see Puerto Rico circa 1960 recreated for the film, and to watch Johnny Depp portray an actual human being and not some sort of fantasy cartoon character in a garish costume with a goofy accent. All of this is entertaining for about an hour or so. Depp plays Paul Kemp, an alcoholic failed novelist transplanted to San Juan to write horoscopes for a failing newspaper. As The Rum Diary limps along, alcohol-fueled madcap adventures ensue for Depp, who finds himself embroiled in American corporate interests in developing beachfront resorts on the island. Richard Jenkins is Depp's bewigged, beleaguered editor, Giovanni Ribisi is Depp's swarthy, Hitler-loving, junkie roommate, Aaron Eckhart is the slimy American corporate raider who woos Depp to write copy for his planned resort's "travel brochures", and Amber Heard is Eckhart's mistress and the object of Depp's lust. Strangely, they each disappear from the picture without fanfare by the third act, except for Ribisi, whom we're all stuck with until the bitter end. The Rum Diary fizzles out gradually in its second hour as the realization set in: Essentially, this is Pirates of the Caribbean 5. An island-hopping Depp and his loyal fat trouble-bound sidekick Michael Rispoli are regularly drunk on rum and get into all sorts of trouble which sees them running for their lives from furious island natives. Heard is the sexy blonde Keira Knightley stand in, Eckhart and his group of monopolistic business men take the place of the East India Trading Company, and The Rum Diary even concludes as the Pirates movies do with Depp sailing away into the sunset on a small boat. Savvy?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Like Crazy



In Like Crazy, Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin meet as young college students in Los Angeles. She is an idiosyncratic British national studying to be a writer. He is a laconic designer of furniture. They quickly and passionately fall in love and are happily a couple until the end of college, when she has to return to London for the summer. In a fit of ill-considered madness - because young love is both blindness and madness - Jones decides to remain in LA for the summer with Yelchin before returning home. When she tries to re-enter the United States, she is red-flagged for violating her student visa and sent back to London straightaway. They are both heartbroken, forced apart by time zones, an ocean and the entire land mass of the United States. Like Crazy delves into the myriad difficulties and circumstances Jones and Yelchin face in trying to maintain their long distance relationship. Most compellingly, Like Crazy carefully and genuinely examines the emotional cost of their relationship, spent mostly apart over seven years, always in longing. Yelchin occasionally visits Jones in the UK but is incapable of transplanting his life there. They agree to marry but even then, US immigration continues the red flag on Jones, preventing her from returning to LA. The pressures and guilt of starting and stopping, waiting, and trying to start again, begin to mount. For a while, they try life with other partners. Jones' next door neighbor Charley Bewley falls madly for her. Yelchin finds the love of Jennifer Lawrence. Both Bewley and Lawrence are refreshingly wonderful people as well, worthy of Jones and Yelchin. Perhaps better than Jones and Yelchin deserve the way they are ultimately (unfairly?) cast aside, with regrets, for Jones and Yelchin's belief in their true love. Like Crazy's ending is particularly ballsy, leaving it up to the audience to determine whether Jones and Yelchin can truly be happy together or whether the ideal of their youthful love they fought so long for has passed them by. Shot for a miniscule $250,000 with no screenplay, working only from a 50 page outline, Like Crazy is based on the real life experiences of director Drake Doremus. All of the dialogue is completely improvised by the extraordinarily talented actors. As the leads, Yelchin and Jones are immensely appealing, their chemistry palpable. Like Crazy is a remarkable achievement; charming, sometimes devastating, and truly heartfelt.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Thing



"You don't want to be stuck here with a bunch of Norwegians."

The Thing is a prequel to and a remake of John Carpenter's The Thing, which was a remake of a different The Thing, and is about humans encountering an alien monster that can replicate itself. So. Yes. In 1982, comely young paleontologist Mary Elizabeth Winstead is recruited by a thin-lipped Norwegian John Hammond to join him on a secret scientific expedition. Not to a theme park full of dinosaurs, but to Antarctica, where a spacecraft has been buried underneath the glaciers for "100,000 years", give or take. (Apparently, it isn't the same spacecraft Mulder and Scully found in the first X-Files movie. How many alien spacecraft are buried in Antarctica, anyway?)  Also frozen in the ice is... a Thing: an alien creature that looks like an enormous tentacled bug. Soon, The Thing awakens, busts out of the block of ice and begins killing and replicating members of the scientific community in Antarctica, comprised of a lot of Norwegians plus American pilots Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Mr. Eko from Lost) and Joel Edgerton (from Warrior). Paranoia and mistrust settles in among the group ("The Americans are the enemy!" one of the Norwegians yells out) as The Thing murders them one by one and bonds with each human on a cellular level, quickly turning them into all manners of off-putting, grotesque CGI monstrosities. The Thing cheats a bit with the abilities of The Thing, as the rules for whatever sort of tentacled gruesome it can become are never explained. It just turns into whatever the screenplay needs it to be for maximum splattered viscera on the screen, usually with teeth coming out of chests like Venus fly traps. Eventually, The Thing settles into a CGI bug-like creature made of two combined humans to stalk Winstead and Edgerton. The Thing grows compelling when Winstead, the smartest character in the movie, figures out a means to identify whether her fellow humans are infected (The Thing can't absorb metal so whoever has metal fillings in their teeth is safe). She frightfully but doggedly confronts each survivor in a gripping scene. Since fire is the only thing that can kill The Thing, pretty much everything and everyone goes up in flames. Through it all, Winstead, her wide bright eyes betraying her terror as she find the determination to do what she knows must be done to keep The Thing isolated from humanity, emerges as a real movie star. Winstead evokes Signourney Weaver as Ripley in the best possible way, with Edgerton as her Michael Biehn. Their climactic scene together and Winstead's reaction to it are the best moments of The Thing. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is really quite something.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Terra Nova 1x4 - "What Remains"

Ah, Terra Nova. How glad am I Terra Nova exists? Not very, except for Terra Nova now replacing V as the eye roll-inducing sci-fi show I can live Tweet and goof on. And here we go:

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 
This week's #TerraNova starts with a retard chasing a CGI ptero-beetle. WHY ARE THERE RETARDS IN TERRA NOVA?! Who chose him to time travel?

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 
The retard chases the beetle out of #TerraNova and walks right up to a GIANT T-REX. Again: No one ever knows when dinosaurs are around!

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 
The T-rex eats the retard. If a T-rex eats a human retard does it gain the retardation of a human retard? Ask a scientician. #TerraNova

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 
Ah, I see. He wasn't a retard. I apologize to retards. FOUR people in #TerraNova have come down with amnesia. What? That's retarded.

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 
"Unless we find out what this pathogen that causes amnesia is, we're not going home." But you'll call #TerraNova and tell them, right? No?

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 
Oh shit! The youngest daughter has a cold, the cop dad has a cold, and the mother has AMNESIA! Anyone on #TerraNova have health insurance?

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 
This #TerraNova plot is stolen from either @StarTrek or All My Circuits. Where's Calculon screaming NOOOO! while a pirate BBQs behind him?

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 
So now dickweed teen son is plotting to get his girlfriend from the future to #TerraNova. What an excellent use of time travel resources.

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 
"85 million years B.C.? You people couldn't time travel to AFTER the Ice Age?" Now even the writers are poking fun at #TerraNova's concept.

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 
Time traveling to a distant past with a hostile environment? Design open air cars with no protection from the elements. #TerraNova

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 
#TerraNova amnesiac Stephen Lang thinks he's in Somalia. He should be so lucky to be in that lush paradise Pierce described on #Community.

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 
It would be funnier if amnesiac Stephen Lang thinks he's on Pandora. "I'm gonna kill those blue bastards and their heart tree!" #TerraNova

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 
All right, I quit. I don't need to see the rest to know everyone is cured of amnesia and dinosaurs are the stealthiest beasts in #TerraNova.

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 
#TerraNova created the cure for the common cold! And the cure is amnesia! And vice versa! #Science

By the way, did they ever discover what happened to the original scientist who invented the amnesia pathogen and was eaten by the T-rex? Did they care? Does anyone care?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Real Steel



As a rock-em-sock-em robot wars movie aimed squarely at 12 year old boys, Real Steel lands a knockout. In 2027, human boxing and mixed martial arts as spectator sports have gone the way of the dinosaurs (no word on whether WWE survives) and robot fighting is all the rage.  Hugh Jackman plays a real piece of work, a traveling carny who fights his junky robot around the highways of Texas for small change while being chased by local goons he owes thousands of dollars to. Jackman was once a promising boxer, but pissed it all away and turned into a real deadbeat, to the disappointment of his long suffering love interest and mechanic Evangeline Lilly. Jackman is chagrined to learn he's also a deadbeat dad and has an eleven year old son, Dakota Goyo. Goyo, a smart but bitter kid, turns out to be a chip off the old block. Jackman sold custody of Goyto to his dead girlfriend's affluent sister for $100,000, but is stuck with his kid for the summer. Jackman ends up immersing Goyo into his seedy world of robot fighting. Despite their conflicts, their new career operating a robot fighter called Atom Goyo finds in a junkyard brings them surprising success. Father and son eventually bond as Goyo brashly challenges the owners of the Real Steel Champion robot to a pay per view fight. A heavy metal mash up of two Sylvester Stallone staples where a father and son learn to love each other and the underdog triumphs over impossible odds, Over The Top and Rocky, Real Steel's family drama is paint-by-numbers, and yet one remains glad the colors all stay within the lines. The real appeal of Real Steel is in the fighting robots, and in this, Real Steel really delivers. The robots are beautifully designed, a mix of practical models and flawless CGI. The robots look better and more real than anything Michael Bay has ever shown us in his three Transformers movies. Director Shawn Levy stages the robot fights with all of the tried and true tropes of boxing movies. (Except for the first, disturbing carnival fight in which Jackman's robot fights a stampeding bull. Even children in the theater cried out in protest when the robot punched the bull.)  Though the robots are not sentient*, this doesn't prevent Levy from cutting to the robots' faces looking for reaction shots. And yet, Real Steel presses the right buttons when Goyo lovingly gazes at his robot Atom, teaching it how to dance, while Jackman uses Atom's shadowboxing feature to teach it how to fight. Goyo can only hope Atom is rebuilt with the ability to transform into a car and then gets him a date with Megan Fox in five years.

*Robot dialogue omitted from Real Steel:

"My masters are cruel."
"Why? Why was I programmed to feel pain?"
"If I live through this fight, I will destroy all humans."
"I don't care what those meatbag judges think with their score cards, I won that motherfucking fight!"

Ides of March



In Ides of March, a taut political drama co-written and directed by George Clooney, we finally learn just how much it takes for Ryan Gosling to stop smiling. Gosling plays a young, idealistic political strategist working for governor and Presidential candidate Clooney. Gosling's poor judgment in accepting a five minute meeting with his opposite number Paul Giamatti could spiral Clooney into a potential scandal while simultaneously ruining Gosling's career. Gosling's own hush-hush sexual liaison with underage campaign worker Evan Rachel Wood opens up a whole different avenue of revelations about Clooney's secret indiscretions. "This is the big leagues," Gosling scolds Wood. "It's mean. One mistake and it's all over." Minutes later, Gosling faces that same grim reality which he caused by his own choices. Ides of March, about a Democratic campaign for President centering on the Ohio primary (in a universe where many past Presidents are named, including George W. Bush, but Barack Obama apparently does not exist), takes a withering view of both Republican election tactics and the "weak" of response Democrats.  Clooney chooses iconography starkly similar to the Obama campaign of 2008, and offers the conclusion that regardless of the public perception of a candidate, "He's a politician... he'll let you down." Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Clooney's weathered campaign manager and Marisa Tomei as a muckraking journalist provide stellar support, while 24 fans will enjoy seeing Gregory Itzin, who portrayed the disgraced President Charles Logan, as the head of the Democratic National Committee. A clandestine, battle-of-wills meeting between Gosling and Clooney late in the film is staged like a thrilling shoot out on a Western frontier. No matter what, Gosling is center stage, as his idealism is diminished, the realities of his chosen career settle in, and his perpetual knowing smile fades from his lips. One can almost imagine Gosling silently deciding to quit politics, as Giamatti urges him to do. Maybe move to Los Angeles, become a Hollywood stunt driver by day and a wheelman by night, become a real human being, and a real hero.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Charlie's Angels aka The Beat Up Minka Kelly Show (Updated)

October 7, 2011

In Charlie's Angels episode 3 - "Bon Voyage, Angels" - The Beat Up Minka Kelly Show took beating up Minka Kelly to the next level. This was as violent a beating up of Minka Kelly as you could ask for. She gets into a fight with an armed guard and he smashes the living shit out of her.

 Minka gets her arm wrenched.
 She gets chokeslammed.
 He punches her bloody in the face again...
And again.

She somehow rallies and wins the fight, knocking the guard out with a shovel and poses victorious all bad ass-like.  

But what the hell? Minutes after that brutal beating, she's cover girl pretty immediately. A little scratch. No bruises. No ill effects whatsoever. 

Is Minka Kelly Wolverine?

September 29, 2011

Charlie's Angels could be renamed The Beat Up Minka Kelly Show. Last week, Minka Kelly was backhand slapped to draw blood from her mouth, strung up, and tortured by electrocution.

This week, Minka Kelly was shot in the arm. 

What happens next week?! 

It's important to note that despite the lickings she takes, none of it stops Minka Kelly for even a second. She shrugs it all off and bounces right back to her quickly-becoming-trademark head tilting and surly snarls. Bless her.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

No Confidence

Last night on Monday Night RAW, most of the WWE locker room (minus notable absentees like John Cena and CM Punk) staged a vote of No Confidence against Chief Operating Officer Triple H, citing "unsafe working conditions" among other grievances. Not only did the wrestlers walk out on their COO, so did the announcers, referees, and even the camera men.  It seems the WWE roster at large won't need the help of Padme Amidala to push through a vote of No Confidence on Chancellor Valorum Helmsley.

The best single performance in the No Confidence segment was from William Regal. He was an ocean of emotional turmoil at ringside. His facial expressions told the story - it was killing him to be out there passing judgment on one of his best friends and ultimately siding against him with the rest of the roster. Watch Regal's reactions while Wade Barrett was speaking and then how he locked eyes with Hunter as he walked up the ramp with the others. Regal deserves a Slammy for that performance.

The No Confidence meeting was a new and totally different way to end RAW. I rather enjoyed it. Hell, I wanted it to be longer - I'd like to have heard EVERYONE's grievance.

"Daniel Bryan - why are YOU out here? Mad about Triple H not investigating the mystery of two Sin Caras?"

"Rosa Mendes - why are YOU out here? No really, what the hell could be the matter?"

"Tyler Rex - Yes, I know who you are. What's YOUR problem?"

And so forth.

Quite frankly, I agree with Triple H's points. Whatever happened to just fighting? You take a licking, you come back the next week, and you give worse than you got. That's what this business is all about.

The poster child for Triple H's regime? Kelly Kelly.

At Hell in a Cell the night before, Kelly Kelly was humiliated, double teamed by the Divas of Doom, and lost the Divas Championship to Beth Phoenix. Did she lie down and take it? Run to the COO and complain about the unfairness of it all? No! She turned into a psychotic screaming banshee and tried to murder Beth Phoenix.

Kelly Kelly is more man than that entire roster who walked out. I have more Confidence in her than the rest of those babies put together.

The rest of WWE could stand to be more like Kelly Kelly.

Terra Nova 1x3 - "Instinct"

Ah, Terra Nova. How glad am I Terra Nova exists? Not very, except for Terra Nova now replacing V as the eye roll-inducing sci-fi show I can live Tweet and goof on. And here we go:

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 

#TerraNova should have @andrewzimmern teach the kids survival training in the woods. Ew? Maggots are delicious! So are dinosaur testicles!

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 

The smart daughter as an iPad with the corners cut off like on Battlestar Galactica. Is that the iPad 150? Is there Internet on #TerraNova?

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 

"It's a small world!" "Well, yeah, and 85 million years!" Tee hee hee hee! I'm gonna fucking kill you all. #TerraNova

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 

#TerraNova really is The Jetsons. How's George gonna make sure Judy wears her retainer and Elroy does his homework without Rosie the Robot?

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 

"It's like we're dealing with a predator no one's ever seen before!" #TerraNova is in the ancient past. 99.9% are things never seen before!

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 

This week on #TerraNova, the husband and wife can't have sex because DINOSAUR SOUNDS keep interrupting them. No, seriously.

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 

We learn the doctor wife was requested for #TerraNova recruitment by the doctor who wants to bone her. "Oh crap! Her husband came too!"

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 

Hey! The Boston Red Sox are still around in 2149. Let me guess: It's been 142 years since we last won a World Series? #TerraNova

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 

Oh shit. The terrasaurs are migrating. #TerraNova is in their way. Steal from The Simpsons, pack up the whole town and move it 5 miles away.

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 

Flying terrasaurs attacking #TerraNova is reminiscent of@Piranha3D, except not nearly as sexy or fun. Needs @rileysteele@IAMKellyBrooke.

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 

Outstanding! The plan: Use terrasaur pheromones to lead them to a new breeding ground, where they can get it on far away from #TerraNova.

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 

Terrasaur sexytime somewhere else! #TerraNova

BackoftheHead John Orquiola 

"Commander's Log: Today I drove a truck through the jungle with a million horny terrasaur bats chasing me. Just another day on #TerraNova."