Friday, June 24, 2011

Netflix This:

     The granite-hard abs of Ryan Reynolds are undeniably super sexy, and though I am "Interested in: Women", even I can admit that if I were a budding young broad my panties would become drenched just thinking of him. This some-would-say-disgusting, others-would-say-funny statement is interesting for a couple of reasons: what's the first thing one thinks of when hearing the name Ryan Reynolds? Most women and 'mo's would state his bangin' bod (and clearly some hot-blooded American heteros such as myself would say the same thing). This makes 2010's film Buried even more impressive. It's a great movie, an intense thriller, it showcases a wonderful performance by Reynolds, and it does not feature his stomach in a prominent role!
     I feel like there are probably some major misconceptions about this film: since Reynolds is such a fantasy for women and gays, the title can be a bit misleading. Women: this movie is not about Reynolds burying his freshly-shaved Brut-slathered face in your tits, as much as you would like it to be. Gays: this movie is not about Reynolds burying his enormous (you hope) package deep inside your rectal cavity. Now, I love gays and women as much as the next socially-liberal intelligent person, and I'm sorry to burst your bubble about what's getting buried in this film. You see, Reynolds himself is buried (not in the nude either).

Randomly throwing this in here for my gay and women readers (all 3 of you?):

     If you could boil Buried down to its basic elements, it plays like the great scene in Kill Bill Volume 2 where The Bride is buried alive inside of a coffin. Only in Buried, it's for the entire run time. Reynolds spends the whole movie inside a coffin. There are no background or flash-forward scenes that take place outside of the small wooden box that is (maybe) 6 feet underground. He is buried alive with a few items (not sex toys), one if which is a cell phone that barely can make calls (due to the obvious of being inside of a coffin). Now I know this sounds like a dream come true for many of you, trapping R. R. alone inside of a dark space with nothing but the stench of his sweat and his labored breathing, but get your mind out of the gutter because this film is intense (not in a sexual way). 
     Years ago, I watched Van Wilder when it came out, and I thought it was hilarious. Maybe I wouldn't appreciate it as much on repeat viewings, but it clearly shows that Reynolds can be entertaining. Since then, his choice of roles has left something to be desired for film lovers--unless you count co-starring with Sandra Bullock in a romantic comedy a good thing (which I don't). Buried is different. It's exciting, claustrophobic and it doesn't cop-out at the end. The fun is unraveling the mystery of why he is in the coffin, the phone calls he chooses to make with a dying cell, and his dealing of an unwanted visitor. Some might say the film is just a worthless stunt, and others might say it's just a film that shows Ryan Reynolds can carry a non-romantic comedy film on his own (which he actually does). I say it's a discomforting, anxiety-filled nightmare of a situation that is portrayed beautifully onto film due to its acting and direction--perfect for a dark and rainy weekend evening. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What You'll Want to be Watching:

                                       Hell on Wheels

     In my humble (but usually correct when it comes to film and television) opinion, the series Hell on Wheels sounds like an absolute perfect fit for AMC network. I've discussed my love of Breaking Bad and Mad Men before this moment, but with the network's recent good-on-first-watch The Walking Dead and the occasionally brilliant The Killing, with its sure to be surprising season finale this Sunday, AMC has easily solidified second place in the television station battle of great dramas. Surely they will continue nurturing their strengths with this potential gem: Hell on Wheels is set just after the Civil War, and it portrays the story of a former Confederate soldier (played by Anson Mount, a newcomer to a stage this big) who is on a mission of revenge--a mission that takes him to the building of America's first Transcontinental railroad.
     Who doesn't love a good Western? I know I do: throughout the past few years, westerns have been some of my favorites; last year's True Grit was obviously great, and 2007's There Will Be Blood is one of my favorite films of all time. A 10-episode series set in the Western time period on one of the most exciting networks today? Consider me fucking pumped. Early word is that it's a modern-style thriller set in the West, and apparently the revenge involved deals with the former soldier tracking down the Union soldiers who murdered his wife, presumably by working on the railroad in the same area in which they live. 

The Badass trailer:

     The trailer isn't the greatest quality, but it's fairly easy to see that the show has potential to be essential Sunday night (I'm assuming Sunday night) entertainment. There's no word yet on a release date, but I'm assuming in the fall, maybe in the 10 P.M. slot after The Walking Dead. Many would say that I am stating this due to the fact that I am alive and viewing shows during this time period, but in my eyes the last 10 years have been the Golden Age of Television. Never before have there been so many stellar television series that continue to push the boundaries in terms of quality and boner-inducing moments. After the great final season of Big Love, the solid Game of Thrones, the upcoming seasons of Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire, and the soon-to-be airing Hell on Wheels, here's hoping the quality continues. I'm confident it will. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Monster Summer Movie: Super 8

     Thirty years ago this weekend, Steven Spielberg hit his stride with directing the first Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. As we all know, that great film combined action, adventure, humor and danger to form two hours of pure fun. It's fitting then, that J. J. Abrams, a Spielbergian protege, steps up to the plate decades later with Super 8 to take his swing at creating a summer blockbuster that reminds us of watching films when we were younger, when the world was at our feet and our eyes were filled with wonder over what was transpiring on the large screen. Tony Soprano once said that "'Remember when' is the lowest form of conversation." Thankfully, that does not apply to movies: Super 8 is like remembering that essence of childhood that adults barely remember, and above all, remembering what it's like to witness a wildly exciting and touching summer film.
     And it is like those old Spielberg films, such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. But it's a new and exciting take that uses all of the advances in film technique, style, and story to tell a completely new tale. Kids riding around on bikes and making movies with old super 8 cameras, the first feelings of being fascinated with girls, the terrifying excitement of witnessing a disastrous event--these things transpire with an attentiveness and awe that is hardly ever reached for most other take-your-entire-family summer entertainment. Mentioning films that are similar to a new film is usually a detriment, but here it actually works, and it's like watching The Goonies for the first time as a child.
     I'm deliberately not going to delve too far into the story, so here are the basics: set in a small town in the 1970's, a group of friends (all with vividly different personalities and interests [all of which come into play in creative ways later in the film]) are making a short film to enter into a local contest. These are hardcore future movie makers, not unlike Abrams and Spielberg were as children, and they take their job very seriously, so when a train is about to pass through one of the pivotal scenes in their homemade film, they are excited about the added production value. Thing's don't go as planned when the train is derailed (accidentally or intentionally?) and explodes in front of them.
     From this point on, Hell breaks loose in the lives of the kids involved. At this young point in his career, J.J. Abrams is already very adept at creating new and exciting ways for Hell to break loose: his previous two directing efforts were the action-packed (and best of the trilogy) Mission Impossible: III and the awesome reboot of Star Trek that I would watch any day over the dated and shitty old versions, and he also was the co-creator at the beginning of ABC's Lost, when it was just great network television and hadn't gotten all alternate reality/purgatory on us. That's not to say that Abrams is only a one-trick pony, executing cool action scenes with ease: quite the contrary. Some of the best parts of the film are the realistic portrayals of relationships--the relationships between teenage boys and girls, their friends, and their parents, whether they're still on this Earth or not. The film slowly unravels the mystery of the crushed train's cargo on a backdrop filled with boyhood's love of summer, girls and butterflies in the belly.
     Super 8 edges out Source Code as my favorite movie so far of 2011, and the way that the year is shaping up in regards to future releases, I can easily surmise that it will be near the top in the end. Like many reviewers have said, it's like watching an early Spielberg film for the first time. The key word is Nostalgia, something that I'm not usually a sucker for but works wonders when it's done correctly. Super 8 does it correctly. As Don Draper once said: "Nostalgia: it's delicate, but potent."     (A)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Pretty Kickass First Class

     Plenty of good things are inside the 131 minute run time of X-Men: First Class, director Matthew Vaughn's second major studio film after Kickass. However, there are two great things: Michael Fassbender's wonderful acting, which is at times over-the-top (in a good way) but is always powerful, and Betty Draper's (January Jones) luscious--with a size that I never would have imagined--tits. It's safe to say that January Jones is a wooden actress, who is generally bad at showing emotion (which is why her bitch character on Mad Men works so well), and it's also safe to say that there is a reason why most of her scenes are in bras or bikini tops that seem two sizes too small: her acting may be wooden, but that won't change the fact that most of the male audience will be wooden in a different way. As in they will have wood. (Boners.) But I digress: First Class is a fun movie with a 60's feel, it has many interesting and exciting performances from great talent, and although it may not be the best comic-based film to be released this year, it's still a fun time with new takes on old characters.
     Speaking of that 1960's feel, the film's plot puts the tensions of the timeline into good use; its major catastrophe deals with the missile crisis. As anyone who has seen the trailer should know, First Class takes place before the decades of all of the X-Men films that have been released to theaters. It's an origin story for certain characters, taking a look at the beginnings of two of the old-as-we've-seen-them main characters: Magneto and Professor X. We see Magneto (Fassbender) as a child, as he learns to move metals with his mind. In a different part of the world, Oxford, we meet Professor X (James McAvoy), who is a genius when it comes to genetic mutations and creatively uses this knowledge to try and pick up attractive girls at bars. Once the two characters meet, they realize they have a common (and ruthless enemy): a man by the name of Sebastian Shaw, in a role that Kevin Bacon looks like he is having fun with. With the way Shaw acts, shooting unarmed women and using his genetic mutation to absorb energy around him to powerful effect, it's no wonder that the CIA finds him to be an essential threat. So when the CIA recruits Xavier and the mutants that he has found to help stop Shaw (along with Magneto), high-tech gadgetry, violence, and humor ensue on a backdrop dealing with a potential world-ending event.
     Much of First Class deals with a young high-school to college age group of mutants that X. and Magneto recruit to train and let them know that they are not alone in the world--they can use their amazing powers for good causes.  Unfortunately, this is also where the film falters: yes, some of these young freaks have cool powers that are used in the great climax action sequence in the film, but overall, I was wishing that I was watching Fassbender ham it up as Magneto. The young glances of love and the immature nature of the childish characters was more like watching X-Men: Twilight instead of a badass summer comic book movie. Maybe I'm overreacting a little bit, and maybe it's just a testament to Fassbender's screen presence: after his heart-breaking turn in Hunger, his small but brilliant role in Inglorious Basterds, and his charming yet frightening characterization in Fish Tank, I wonder how many times I will have to mention him before people realize that he is one of the most exciting actors to watch and will be for a long time to come.
     As I stated before, director Matthew Vaughn's previous film was last year's Kick-Ass, which was my 6th favorite movie of 2010. First Class isn't nearly as good as that film, but it is still packed with action, explosions and witty humor--just of the PG-13 variety. It's a serviceable comic-book action movie with flashes of brilliance, mainly due to the two lead actors and their respective acting prowess. But it also has moments of eye-rolling, with some of the interactions between the younger characters, the stupidity of the government portrayal, and the acting of January Jones coming to mind. But with a scandal breaking that director Matthew Vaughn had an affair with and impregnated Ms. Jones during filming, it sort of makes sense: who needs acting when you have a pair of tits like that?     (B)