Thursday, January 29, 2009

Movie Reviews and Oscar Commentary

OSCAR-BAITER or, why you should avoid the Oscars and see these movies instead.

As the movie awards season begins, many people are inundated with the pressure to see the films that are all the rave, all the hype, and all the buzz. Most average moviegoers never make it to more than one or two of these films, usually because they come to the realization that they don’t really want to.

Hollywood is so in love with its “Oscar-bait” films that it jumps off the cliff of pretentiousness and leaves most people feeling alienated. As if the general movie going public isn’t sophisticated enough to decipher a Kate Winslet accent or an historically interpretive story. Apparently, anyone in a red state is too dumb to understand or appreciate anything other than something with Larry the Cable Guy.

Oh, Hollywood, you can suck it.

I shit talk the Oscars, the Golden Globes
, and any other pop culture self-gratifying awards show that pretends to be more important than it really is. It’s not that I’m against an organization awarding its members for outstanding work…it’s that EVERY year so many great people are overlooked.

This year is no exception. Just about
anyone who has seen “The Dark Knight” would attest that it is a well made, thought provoking, and innovative comic book/crime film hybrid, which pulls together the fantasy and reality of comic book characters, making them relevant and believable, while still upholding their fictional allure.

Or, they’d at least say that the movie was pretty fuckin’ badass.

However, despite Heath Ledger’s recognition, which is justly deserved whether he had died or not, director Christopher Nolan, the man MOST responsible for the film’s success, was completely ignored, as was the nominat
ion for best picture. Apparently, hobbits can win best picture, but men in bat suits are shit out of luck. These two particular omissions are by and far the most upsetting to fans of the film and for fans of GOOD films to boot.

Instead, we are led to believe, by nomination votes, that a film like “The Reader,” or even “Benjamin Button,” are far superior films. Look, I saw “Benjamin Button.” It was a great film. Great performances, direction, cinematography, score, etc., but I couldn’t quelch the constant nag in my brain that they simply repackaged “Forest Gump” (Buttons screenplay is written by Eric Roth, who also adapted Forest Gump).

Are we awarding points for originality or for WHO copied WHAT the best?

With that being said, I am personally choosing to ignore the Oscars. Their voting process is flawed and it shows me that they need a serious revamp in the system before it can become relevant to me again. The process is outlined here.

The initial selection process of nominees is as jacked as the ratings board. Hopefully the Obama Change slogan that Hollywood so giddily embraced will trickle into their own political processes and generate a revamped and accurate feel for what films are worthy of awards and nominations.

However, one point we can’t ignore is that “the people” don’t choose the nominees. Fellow actors, directors, producers, etc. are academy members…NOT Joe Public (or six pack). So, by that token, you should be able to see behind the farce…it’s an awards show for Hollywood, decided by Hollywood, and voted on by Hollywood and shoved in your face to prove that these films matter and you should watch them, thereby filling their Hollywood pockets.

It’s all well and good that an organization wants to recognize its own BY its own, but don’t try to pretend that we should give a shit because you do. In my opinion, The Dark Knight is the epitome of “Best Picture.” It was one of the best reviewed, well received, and made more money than any other film. Wouldn’t that make more sense for a “best picture” rather than what Whoopi Goldberg checks off on her nomination card?

Here are the nominations for this year. Peruse and dis at your own discretion.

This brings me to two films I have seen during “the awards season” that I feel have not received the accolades they deserve. Although one of them has a well-deserved nomination for Best Actor, they have otherwise been ignored. Now, in the long run, the truth is that I REALLY don’t give a shit if the Oscars recognize them or not.

However, the average moviegoer (meaning someone who doesn’t read the daily trades, work in the industry, or study film) usually relie
s on these nominations when choosing what they will spend their hard-earned money on. My goal in writing reviews has always been to share my opinion, which I feel is well developed enough in regards to film that I can give you some perspective and appreciation for what you will invest your time and money on.

Nothing pains me more than seeing people buy tickets to a movie that I KNOW sucks, either by seeing it already or distancing myself from it like a gang on a street corner. I’m here for you, Joe Moviegoer. I will not lead you astray. Although my opinion will not always mesh with the general public, I am informed enough to keep you in the clear.

Having said my piece on the Oscars, I’m not going to retread it throughout these reviews. There are more important things to discuss with the
m rather than their lack of recognition by their peers.

So, let’s begin, shall we?

Gran Torino is
directed by Clint Eastwood, who seems to have evolved from punching monkeys and glinting cowboys/cops into a finely tuned filmmaker. He’s been directing for decades, but not until the last few years has he really come into the realm of great significance.

After “Mi
llion Dollar Baby,” where Eastwood took your emotions on a rollercoaster ride and didn’t strap you down, he delved deeper into his treasure trove of emotional resonance and gave us an adaptation of “Flags of our Fathers,” and “Letters From Iwo Jima,” (which I still haven’t watched and shame myself for), both of which received a mixed bag of reception, but are undeniably well-made. Personally, I think a lot of people skipped out on those films and shit talk them without the real insight (i.e. having really seen them).

Eastwood then churned out “Changeling,” which no one saw (yet another mark of an Academy Award nominated film). Some would argue that “Million Dollar Baby” is Eastwood’s crowning achievement as a serious filmmaker. I, however, beg to differ.

Gran Torino, Eastwood’s latest offering is a perfect blend of many of Eastwood’s past films, culminating the hard-edged characters he’s played throughou
t the years into what we might imagine they might be if they retired in a mixed race neighborhood in Michigan.

It’s a simple premise: After the death of his wife, a retired Korean war vet faces the changing times with much disdain and hardship as he is deeply set in his ways in an ever-changing world. After the teenage son of a Hmong family (southeastern Asians) attempts to steal Eastwood’s mint Gran Torino, Eastwood attempts to steer the boy away from a life
of gangs and crime, while putting his own demon’s to bed.

Eastwood plays it cool, grumpy, and stoic, all while giving the depth and torment of a man who has always
lived his life by a certain standard yet finds that even in his dwindling years can still find it within himself to change.

Eastwood’s character is an unforgiving racist, but not in a deeply violent or hateful way. We all want to pretend that we are so perfect and politically correct, but the truth is that most people stereotype all races, genders, etc., whether they admit it or not. I call bullshit on all of you who say you don’t. Eastwood’s character merely voices those thoughts and stereotypes.

And, honestly, it generates more laughter than anything else, which I felt was healthy for an audience to sit through and laugh together about it. We all know it’s wrong and not acceptable to any degree, yet it exists in almost all of us, so it’s more of a tension release in
which we can all laugh at our own ignorance.

The racism in the film is heavy handed and tackled to a great degree. Eastwood never lets up his slurs, even to the bitter end, but his mind is forever changed and altered as he begins to accept his neighbors as family, learning and developing a repor mor
e deeply felt than that of his relationship with his own sons and grandchildren.

If anything, the racism pulls the film together. You want
to cheer Eastwood on, push him to interact, to socialize with those he slurs under his breath. And through each interaction he loosens up more and more, peeling back the layers of a man who put up a façade of hate for so long that he can’t even remember why it was there to begin with.

I don’t know if Eastwood has any sons that he’s trying to send a message to, but the relationship he has with his film counterparts is depressing to watch. His grown sons in the film are arrogant, spoiled, distant, nonchalant, and unappreciative of the man they call their father. They attempt to convince him to go to a home, almost as if it would just be easier to have him locked away somewhere rather than have to check on him as he lives on his own.

I have no doubt many people have felt this way when confronting the prospect of caring for their parent’s in their dwindling years. And it’s sad, really. Eastwood's character lets everyone know that just because he’s old doesn’t mean he's incompetent or unable to sustain himself. However, his sons seem to know so little about the man that they don’t see any other way.

What drives Gran Torino is the relationship between Eastwood and the Hmong boy, Thao, who attempts to steal the title car. It’s painfully obvious that throughout the film the boy becomes more of a son to Eastwood than his own blood. And, as heartbreaking as that is
, it’s just as heartwarming. Again, you want to cheer the relationship on, Rocky style.

And although the racism and gang violence is on the heavier side of things, Eastwood balances everything out with a healthy blend of humor, esp
ecially in the fish-out-of-water department. Watching a racist old vet start to blend with another culture, one he portends to hate, is more funny than painful and is a testament to Eastwood as an actor who can still reel us in even if he isn’t uttering famous one-liners.

Gran Torino is a meditative film, driven by a constant sense of dread. As things build to good things that lead to better things that lead to everything almost too perfect, you feel that something must go wrong, deeply wrong, and you find yourself clinging to the hope that somehow, someway you can see a happy resolution before the credits roll.

“Sense of dread” films
are the best. I chew my nails, I tap my foot nervously, and my mind is working like a supercomputer as I try to figure out how things will pan out, or, more importantly, how I WANT them to pan out and if the film will follow suit. Gran Torino is chalk full of good things evolving into better things while the impending “showdown” awaits and you just know that it’s going to go one way or another but you just can’t put your finger on it.

This is what makes movies great. This is what makes movies WORK.

Another highlight of this film is that of what a man leaves behind. Man, and the struggle to leave a worthy legacy in his wake, is something that infects all of us, one way or another, some deeper than others. Some ponder it daily, striving minute-by-minute to make a difference that will impact future generations. Some simply deal with the mess they’ve made, never having any hope for making great strides of progress.

It is man’s struggle, especially, as he gets into the twilight years and things haven’t quite worked out how he expected. He never finished that novel. Never went fishing with his sons. Never got over that girl. Never finished that degree. There is a laundry list with unchecked marks that we will take to our graves.

Gran Torino explores the dwindling legacy of a man in his twilight years; what he has, what he’s lost, what he’s leaving behind, and the amends he’s making as the end grows near. It’s a dual contemplation, one both for Eastwood the character and Eastwood the director.

For my money, Gran Torino is a meditative and thought-provoking film which explores the lives we lead vs. the lives we thought we would and how there is still hope to fix your legacy even as you reach the end of it.

Which takes me to my next film, The Wrestler. Director Darren Aronofsky goes off the stylistic reservation, creating what feels like a shot for shot documentary than a feature film.

Like Gran Torino, w
e have a simple premise, but a deeply (I can’t find my thesaurus and “deep” is where I’m at, so DEAL) involving tale with multiple thematic elements (man, that sounds like film school student blotter…fuck it). An aging wrestler, played to perfection by Mickey Rourke, deals with debilitating health and the pangs of loneliness and regret as he finds himself delving into his later years.

Rourke is a marvel to watch. He IS the show. As Randy “The Ram” Robinson, Rourke gives us a ringside seat into what we p
robably would never imagine as the life of a professional wrestler. The Ram is long past his prime, having reached his peak in the pro wrestling world decades past, he is now doing low-key shows to make extra cash while working stock at a grocery store.

He has an estranged daughter (played by the always lovely Evan Rachel Wood), and is enamored with a local stripper (playe
d by the always…eh…well, Marisa Tomei…with pierced nipples). He lives in a trailer park and sometimes goes to the local American Legion to hawk his wrestling goods and sign autographs.

He’s an old dog still swimming in the pool of young talent, guys that are hungry to get where The Ram was twenty years ago. And yet, he’s still got it. The showmanship, the professionalism, the drive, it’s all there, even as his bo
dy is literally falling apart.

Again, we face the themes so present in Gran Torino, involving man and his legacy. The Ram has nothing to be ashamed of professionally. He has a bevy of fans who routinely come to him for autographs and handshakes, and the promoters still treat him with respect and admiration.

However, his personal life is in shambles. I never heard any mention of a wife or girlfriend, and his daughter is completely cold and distant, wanting nothing to do with him. Tomei’s stripper shares a similar dilemma with The Ram, as she is getting on in years (the kiss of death for strippers is much younger) and although she is still smokin’ hot, she finds that her career, her own legacy leaves much to be desired.

She is a mother and a woman who wants to have and be more, but is limited…this is all she knows. And, like The Ram, when all you know is jeopardized it can seem that there’s nothing left living for…or maybe that you’ve been looking in all the wrong places.

After suffering a near fatal heart attack after a match, The Ram decides to forego a big rematch with his old rival and focus on the things that he has neglected his entire life…namely his family and a career outside wres
tling. However, his career is merely taking a position at the deli counter in the grocery store and the only family he has is his estranged lesbian daughter.

The Ram also reaches out to Tomei’s stripper, as so many “customers” tend to do, and is met with the expected stop sign. However, with her recent epiphany, she relents and agrees to hang out with The Ram socially. It’s tough for her to do, but she’s at a crossroads…at what point does she reciprocate? At what point does she move on and take a chance on someone?

Similarly, The Ram, now done with wrestling and working full time to win back what he has lost, convinces his daughter to speak with him and confesses to her in the most heartbreaking moment of the film and the shining moment for Rourke. He knows he fucked up. He knows that there’s no reason for her to forgive him or feel sorry for him, but the fact remains that he still loves her and wants to make amends.

She agrees to have dinner with him and you just know that somehow, someway it’s never going to happen. What happens after he misses the dinner is definitely a foregone conclusion though. With the most sincere honesty that leaves a lingering sting in the air, she tells him she never wants to see him again…and you can feel she means it.

And even through all his screw-ups, you want The Ram to win. Like Rocky did so well more than thirty years ago, you want the underdog to have his day. No matter his wrong doings, which are fairly average compared to worst-case scenarios, you want The Ram to get the golden ticket.

While trying to continue the tiptoeing romance with Tomei, The Ram finds that she is still clamoring to hold onto her life, even while trying to be a part of his. Like The Ram trying to still be a wrestler and juggle his family and love life, it’s too much to take at once. Tomei rejects The Ram once again and he has sunk to the lowest point since his heart attack.

So, what does a man do when he has lost everything? His career, his passion, his family, his love? He turns to that which has been the constant in his life, the one thing he could always count on. For The Ram, it’s wrestling and in a great big “fuck it” moment, The Ram calls up the promoters and agrees to the rematch with his old rival.

This is what sets The Wrestler apart from your typical underdog story. It’s not wrapped up with a neat little bow on top. It’s not cut and dry. Because, ultimately, that’s where the movie connects on a human level…that’s life. I’m not saying you can’t have a happy ending, but it never works out how you plan it and you very rarely get everything you want.

The Ram’s epiphany is th
at his legacy, his passion, doesn’t rest with his estranged daughter or with the infatuation with a stripper. His heart belongs in the ring, no matter how cheesy or inappropriate that may seem to someone else. He has already screwed up every relationship and side job in his life. But, the one thing he got right, the one thing he truly put himself into, is all he has left.

“I’m still jumpin’ from the top rope,” he says at one point. And that is where he is at his crowning, shining moment. A man’s life is made up of many moments (not trying to alienate the ladies either, I’m just speaking from my own perspective…catch me on my review for “Confessions of a Shopaholic” for the flipside), many choices, and ultimately our legacy is created from that.

In one regard, Gran T
orino is about how it’s never too late to change our lives for the better, while The Wrestler is about how sometimes change isn’t the answer to our lives. In the end, both films left me with this;

What we leav
e behind is also what we take with us.

Fortunately, both of these fil
ms will leave their own legacy that can affect viewers and hopefully challenge some thought about these themes for as long as the future holds. When the Eastwood’s, the Rourke’s, the Aronofsky’s, etc., all leave this earth, their testament to not only film, but to the human condition, will continue to live on with great films like these.

So, next time you’re at the theater and you’re looking for something with substance, devoid of the Oscar-bait stigma, consider settling in with one of these films. Without pretense or agenda they will likely leave you with a resonating experience rather than a confusing itch as to why such a film would be honored by its community.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Generally Annoyed

I’ve gotten quite a few inquiries asking if I intend to do a movie year-end wrap up. The answer is no. Many well-informed individuals whose opinions I typically respect have summed up the majority of my feelings on the movies of 2008 and I don’t feel the need to repeat them. We all loved The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and Benjamin Button. The only difference is the wild cards, which all of my respected friends have; some loved High School Musical and the second Narnia. Some loved Punisher War Zone. I don’t have a cure for them, but am concerned.

I, on the other hand, have my own vices, two of which seem to be eternally loathed; Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Speed Racer
. I enjoyed the hell out of both those films (not that either is perfect), whereas I have yet to find a single individual to share those sentiments. I always fall back to Domino for that one. I love that movie still. Tony Scott is one of the best directors of the last thirty years and Keira Knightley yelling “Put your fucking weapon down!” in her cockney accent makes my pee pee maker tingle.

Like I said, we all have our vices.

However, I want to talk about a few things that have been grinding on my nerves lately and hopefully you can relate. If you can’t, then you are probably part of the problem and perhaps this little blog will set you straight.

As many know, I am expecting my first child this year (we preordered) and throughout the process of preparing to bring someone into this world that will later hate and despise you, we have combed the stores, Internet, and parental advice in deciding what to populate our baby’s life with. Certainly there are a bevy of worthless items, made more for the parent’s amusement than for an actual purpose that serves your child.

And one of those most annoying and ridiculous things to surface is the “Baby on Board” sign. As if Garfield on suction cups wasn’t annoying enough (which seems to have fortunately gone to the fad cemetery), the general populace has been subjected to these obnoxious yellow and black signs that seem to have a purpose at first glance…until you give it some thought.

These signs (which come in numerous sizes at Babies R Us) seem to be telling you, the childless, pompous, asshole driver that you better watch your speed and proximity to the baby-lugging mini-van sporting the timeless message…or else!

Or else what, motherfucker? I can see it now; a cop pulls me over after one of these annoying vehicles with the sticker in the window cuts me off:

“Is there a problem, officer?”
“Yes, sir. You nearly hit that mini-van in front of you.”
“Uh, yeah, that crazy bitch cut ME off and nearly ran me
off the road…perhaps you should have pulled her over?”
“Maybe you weren’t paying a
ttention, sir…She had a Baby On Board sign. Did you happen to catch that, smart guy?”
“Oh dear…I-I’m so sorry, officer. I had no idea. I didn’t see it. I was busy texting and eating Kentucky Fried Chicken while changing song
s on my iPod. I must have missed the sign. If I had known…”
“I’ll let you go with a warning, sir…and one of those drums

I mean, seriously…am I supposed to somehow change the way I drive because some dumbass puts that sign in their window? Like I’m some speed demon, whipping in and out of traffic as if I’m trying to get to the Obama inauguration until I suddenly see that sign? Then I what? Slow down? Stay in the lines? Drop back fifteen meters? Is there some kind of protective bubble that I am to abide by because of that stupid sign?

There is no traffic law or rule that acknowledges or grants special road privileges because of that sign. And if your baby is in a car seat, which IS a law, then he/she is all fucking good. They are a passenger like everyone else and no sign is going to change that.

Let me clear up the little bullshit story that supposedly started that stupid sign; The old tale goes like this; Supposedly, a woman and her kids were in a traffic accident and when the police arrived on scene they somehow missed the baby in the car (because what? They didn’t happen to notice the fucking baby car seat? Come oooonnnnnnnn) and the baby died as a result. If they just would have had that baby on board sign, that baby might be alive today and they would be all grown up and driving a death trap mini-van with their own Baby on Board sign. And the world would be perfect.

If you are a new or old parent and you are still rocking that sign then it’s time to really think about the validity of such a mark of ignorance. Do you really think that sign is making a difference other than pointing out that you are making some asshole rich by buying his moronic suction cup sign? It’s junk!

In a fragile economy like this, which was made that way by our own ignorance as BAD consumers, we should all be more fiscally responsible and build those tools to continue throughout our children's lives and ours. Buying shit like these signs is a picture perfect example of a piss poor American consumer; someone who doesn’t really THINK about what they are buying and instead buying it because it FEELS like something they should have.

The only exception would be if you are buying one of these signs as a joke to piss off someone who hates these things. Which is how I got one for Christmas.

While we’re at it, let’s talk about bumper stickers with personal messages. If you ever want to really SHOW OFF your personality and beliefs and feel that the best place to do so is the ass end of your car then you have proven a few things; 1) You are a moron 2) You are a moron, and last, but not least 3) You are a moron.

I don’t fucking care if you love Obama or Bush. I don’t care if you’re Green. I don’t care if you love Jesus or Buddha. I don’t care if you don’t want to drill, mine, or fish. I don’t give a fuck if you think I should watch out for motorcycles. I don’t care if you are Christian or a Darwinite. All I really care about when looking at the ass end of your car is that you obey the rules of the road and don’t drive like a dickhead. That would be a PHENOMENAL start.

Your pretentious car message splattered onto a piece of weatherproof paper on the back of your shitmobile is not going to change my mind or inform me of anything other than the fact that you are a moron. In fact, if you really want someone to stay away from your vehicle for your baby’s safety then it might be in your best interest to put a bunch of hippie messages; Peace, change, green, gay, whatever stickers all over your car. Better yet, get a ribbon that says Support Everything.

I will stay far the fuck away from you. Rubbing into your vehicle would cause a rainbow of smudges on my truck that I just don’t need. Bottom line here: Nobody cares and your resale value just went down the toilet. If you want everyone to hear your opinion then start a blog (natch).

Look, I’m not an angry person. Okay, I do swear this much usually, but not when it’s not professional. However, this is my happy place. And I’m happy to share my anger. Let’s hold hands and continue, shall we?

Movie Theater Etiquette

We’ve all been to the movies. Most of us enjoy the experience. However, if you were to ask, probably those same people would say that their chief complaint with going to the movies is dealing with other, less courteous patrons.

Amen to that, I say.

Obviously, I go to the movies a lot. Duh. I am not an average moviegoer and I certainly don’t expect that everyone should follow suit. It’s a personal choice based on personal interest. I don’t frequent sporting events at all. I’m just not into it. I respect it, but don’t participate. So, don’t try
to make friends with me by talking football. I’ll just nod my head in that familiar “Yep, whatever you say, dude,” kinda way and wait for you to change the subject.

So, with so much experience frequenting the cinema, I can assure you that I have seen it all. I have seen the most despicable acts by people against other people while coming together to enjoy a movie. I’ve seen people arrested, kicked out, fights, screaming kids, the whole gamut. It’s obnoxious. It needs to stop.

There’s a simple formula to how you should behave in public. It’s the easiest thing in the world for the majority of the population. If you are in a big, congested area with lots of different folks, all you need to do is ACT LIKE YOU WOULD AT CHURCH. Now, we could go round and round about how people SHOULD act and how they ACTUALLY act, whether it be at church or the movies, but the bottom line is that we KNOW how we should act at Church and thereby shouldn’t have an
y trouble applying it here.

Notice how everyone gets dressed up nice, watches their language, and is generally nice, pleasant, polite, and respectful at church? Then, what happens when they go home? They change their clothes, pop a beer, put on the game, scratch their balls and curse everything from baby on board signs to the economy. If we could somehow bridge that gap and carry over our church manners into a movie theater setting then all would be well in the world.

However, since there’s no Jesus statue or robe-wearing preacher in the theater we feel that we can just be assholes in public since there’s no accountability. To me, regardless of what your religion is, you should apply the basic principles of humanity and society, which is simple kindness and respect for everyone around you.

So, before I jump into my rant, keep that in mind. Church manners.

Oh, where to begin. Let’s break it down.

Movie talkers: Check it out, if you want to bullshit during a movie then STAY THE FUCK HOME. If you are too dumb to understand what’s going on in the movie then you need to shut your trap and attempt to warm up that noodle in your head by reading, improving your vocabulary, or maybe going back to get that GED. Reserve your questions for after the lights come up.

Seat Kickers: Come on. Seriously. I wish I could go to the home of one of the many seat-kickers I’ve endured throughout the years and, while they are lying comfortably on the couch and watching The Hills, I’d just stand there and kick the back of the sofa throughout the entire show. I’d never say a word. I’d just stand there. And kick. And maybe giggle devilishly with my eyes open real wide.

The Movie Challenged: Perhaps because I am so well informed about movies that I find this so ridiculous. A couple shows up at the movies and have no idea what’s playing. They just decide to come out to the big city and see one of them picture shows. So, an
d it’s sad that the theater actually provides this, they are given a piece of paper with a listing of all movies playing and a synopsis of each.

So, these movie-challenged dingbats stand there, holding up the line as they decide what looks good and if it coincides with the time they want to see it.

I get it. Not everyone goes to the movie sites and reads up or gives a shit what’s coming. Same as I don’t give two shits who goes to the super bowl or playoffs or whatever. Fair enough. However, if I was going to buy tickets to a game I would know the time and the place beforehand so that I could prepare accordingly.

There’s this thing called the Internet that lists show times and synopsis as well. Five minutes of your time will save you that embarrassing venture at the theater, holding up the line only to decide to see some shit like August Rush.

The In Frequenters: This is more funny than annoying, depending on the individual. While seeing Australia this year on Thanksgiving, I noticed a lot of families dragging Grandma and Grandpa out of the house and to the theater for some good ol’ family movie time. However, this is the first movie said grandparents have been to all year…and it shows.

It’s like someone brought a short bus of window-lickers to the theater for the holiday. People tripping on the stairs, spilling popcorn and sodas, staring at the ceiling in awe, and still being wowed by the dumb ass Sprite commercial with the kids jumping into a pool that looks like a basketball court. I shake my head in disbelief and realize that I would probably look just as dumb going to the ballet. “Do they bring hot dogs to your seat here?”

And lastly…

Cell phone and Text abusers: Do I really need to reiterate that you aren’t at home? What’s interesting is that the movie theaters now have full on pre-show ads about turning your cell phone off. Of course no one gives a shit, but the fact is that theaters now have to pay for advertisements to remind people not to be discourteous assholes while the movie is playing.

Personally, I think a better ad would be to hire someone like David Spade to simply stand in a movie theater lobby and say:

“Hello movie patrons. Happy to have you at the movies. Unfortunately, there are likely some discourteous assholes in this theater that are going to text or even answer phone calls while the movie is playing because they don’t have any church manners or basic human respect for fellow patrons.

So, Cinemark has paid me $500,000 to stand here and remind you that you’re all in this together and you should respect one another by NOT using your cell phone during the movie. So, thanks for not doing the right thing. I like money and I didn’t even have to do a terrible VH1 show to get it.

Thanks for making me rich America! So, actually, I hope there are a couple douche bags that will break the rules so I can come back and do another one of these next month. Keep it up, you manner less a-holes and enjoy the show!”

The cell phone has really screwed things up. I mean that. We all view it as a necessity. It makes communication so much easier, so much more convenient. However, that’s not true. It has made us assholes. It has lessened our patience and made us spoiled technobrats.

Remember the TV show Miami Vice? Go back and watch an episode. Guess what’s missing? Cell phones. But guess what? Sonny and Crocket still cracked the fucking case and did so with Phil Collins playing in the background! Take that, cell phones!

If you were fortunate enough to have been around when cell phones weren’t even in existence then you might remember something that is missing today: Peace and quiet! How awesome was it to be out all day and not have a thousand people calling you to ask you minute questions and send you stupid texts? You came home, hit play on your answering machine, picked up your land line and returned calls, if you wanted to.

You had a little something I like to call freedom. Today, everyone from the rich to the poor and the black to the white have a fucking cell phone and are suckling on the telecommunication titty until it’s dry. Many times I will leave my cell phone at home only to come home and find messages wondering where the hell I am and how DARE I not pick up or reply. The simple answer is that I am not tied to my cell phone like a nameless cog in the matrix.

My point should be obvious. If you can’t put your stupid ATT shitphone down for a two-hour movie then you should STOP BREATHING AND NEVER START AGAIN. If you can’t sit through a movie without fucking with your phone then you need to either a) get some Ritalin, b) cease to exist, or c) NEVER come to the movies.

My favorite is how people open up their cell phones to text during a movie, thinking that the light from their phone won’t be seen from everyone above them. It’s not a simple little light in a pitch-black theater. It’s a fucking surefire and it’s blinding me and it’s obnoxious.

There are literally ZERO excuses for texting or talking in a theater. Go ahead and think of one and I will debunk it. Your mom is in the hospital and you want to know her condition? Go to the hospital then! Your babysitter is burning down the house? Get home then! You certainly don’t need to send back and forth texts. “Is the fire spreading or can it wait until the end of the movie?” Come on.

I would love to yank the phone out of a movie texter’s hand just to see what they are writing. I guarantee it will be some shit like this:

MovieTextDouche: This movie is gay
MovieTextEnabler: What movie r u seeing?
MovieTextDouche: Bloody Valentine 3D…I have 3D glasses on. Lol
MovieTextEnabler: Why didn’t u invite me? U suck!
MovieTextDouche: What r u doing?
MovieTextEnabler: Watching Keeping up w/Kardashians. I want her butt. Lol.
MovieTextDouche: Me too. RFLMAO. What did you eat for lunch today?
MovieTextEnabler: A piece of lettuce. Delish!
MovieTextDouche: I had BK. Whopper w/cheese. And a coke. And fries.
MovieTextEnabler: I love BK. I like their fries. A LOT! Lol.
MovieTextDouche: This movie is gay. I’m bored.
MovieTextEnabler: Why don’t u leave and come over here?
MovieTextDouche: I’m havin' too much fun annoying this dick behind me with my texting. LOL. He can SUCK it!

And so on an so forth…

Now, you could say, “Well, why don’t you say something?” However, that’s not the problem. The problem is that I HAVE to. Why should I have to say something? I have to disrupt the theater and probably cause an altercation (because manner less fucks are usually ill tempered as well) because someone is a dickhead? Because they have no church manners? I’m not the theater cops and I’m not Hank Moody. I’m just a simple patron who expects the same courtesy he affords others.

Church Manners. Pass it on. A message from The Way of The Shirey of Latter Day Church Manner users.

That wraps up my annoyances for now. I have plenty of others, which involve baby shit, baby names, parental visits, and Alaskan drivers, but I’ll save those for later. For loyal followers of this blog, I am about to revamp the whole thing and start an actual website. Blogger is fairly limited for what I’m trying to do and very time consuming. I am going to reformat to accommodate more posts, which will help keep me regular (like a column, not a bodily function).

Hopefully, the all new, all better Way of the Shirey will be up and running by summer, but I don’t have a set date. So, be patient! I do have a kid that will be keeping me up at night very soon and I doubt he’ll be like the e-trade baby right of the bat, full of investment and Dreamweaver knowledge. We’ll get him there, though.

Thanks for not texting while reading my blog!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Reviewed by: Paul Shirey

Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

Actors: Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, Mélanie Thierry, Mark Strong, and Gerard Depardieu (Yes, that one).

Movie: 1.5 stars
DVD: 1 star
Overall: 1.5 stars

Vin Diesel plays Vin Diesel as a mercenary hired to escort a hot chick and Michelle Yeoh from Russia to New York for reasons I’m still trying to figure out. Read on.

You’ve seen this movie a hundred times already and it was way better before. Babylon A.D. is a hodgepodge of every sci-fi action flick made in the last twenty years. Take Children of Men, The Fifth Element, Blade Runner, Minority Report, and the Riddick movies, toss them in the ol’ cinematic blender and out comes Babylon A.D….the latest bastard stepchild of the sci-fi genre.

This is one of those movies that feels like they really wanted it to succeed, threw tons of money at it, and everything just fell apart. Vin Diesel is just fine as the mercenary Theroop (like Turok…whatever) if you want to settle for more of the same. Surprisingly enough, Michelle Yeoh is actually quite convincing as a nun/martial arts master (oh, you heard me right). She even cries. So, you know that’s good. Aurora, the chick he’s taking to New York, is hot enough, but there’s no boobage or anything beyond her acting like the typical “chosen one” spazz, so who cares?

The SFX are slightly above average, but mostly on par with XXX, which also sucked. The action is sparse and unfocused, the story is convoluted and cliché and we’re done. Chances are you’re gonna be at Blockbuster or filling up your Netflix Queue and run across this Vin Diesel movie that you never saw in theaters (because you blinked) and you’ll be curious to see if it sucks or not, since you liked him in the Riddick flicks and that car movie with Jordana Brewster, but I assure you, this is one Babylon better left in ruins.

Video: 1:85:1 Widescreen. Not a bad movie to show off on Blu-Ray due to the ripped off visual collage from better-made sci-fi…but you could do worse…like Johnny Mnemonic…or better, like Blade Runner.

Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital for those inclined. Unfortunately, the few moments where the filmmakers could have even attempted something sexy with the sound they didn’t even try. Don’t bother waking the neighbors for this one.

I watched the standard disc version with both the theatrical and unrated versions of the film. The only main difference is a pointless car chase at the end of the theatrical cut, which was omitted from the unrated version (which also ends with a dedication “for my daughters.” Not the best legacy, dude). Other than that, the only extra on this puppy is a bunch of FOX trailers for more movies that failed at the box office.

Diehard sci-fi and/or Vin Diesel fans may find tidbits of interest in Babylon A.D., but there’s hardly a shred of anything memorable. You’ll most likely say, “It wasn’t that bad…” Then there will be a long silence and you’ll look over to whoever you made sit through the whole thing with you and you’ll bow your head and hand over the five bucks you just lost.

Reviewed by: Paul Shirey

Director: David Gordon Green

Actors: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride, Gary Cole, Craig Robinson, Amber Heard, and Rosie Perez

Movie: 4 stars
DVD: 3.5 stars
Overall: 4 stars

Seth Rogen plays a dead-end stoner who witnesses a murder and pulls his dealer, played by James Franco, into the mix and on the run from a vindictive drug boss.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that they just didn’t “get” this movie or felt they had to be stoned to enjoy it. However, I sipped a Diet Coke and ate popcorn and laughed my ass off, drug free. If you’re a fan of Rogen/Apatow style comedy then this is definitely for you. It’s got the improv style comedy that’s been steamrolling through movies like this since Anchorman and it delivers the goods, even if it comes off a little awkward from time to time.

It’s hard to steal the show from Rogen, but Franco and McBride do just that. Franco plays the staring-at-the-wind drug dealer to perfection and McBride is hysterical as the double-crossing dealer, Red (who bakes a cake for his dead cat’s birthday…awesome). Whenever these three are onscreen together you can feel the comedy magic. It’s like hanging out with three of your best friends and talking shit for a few hours. Like Superbad before it, Pineapple Express, for better or worse, is continuing the new sub-genre of “bromance” flicks, which isn’t all-bad, but isn’t all-good either. I guess it depends on how in touch you are with your “bromantic” side.

Surprisingly enough, the action in the film isn’t too bad. It’s not Tony Scott or anything, but it’s a giant leap over something you’d see in a Pink Panther movie. And with more blood. The violence is borderline over-the-top and they play it off in a clumsy manner, which is the way it should be since most drug dealers/stoners aren’t former Special Forces soldiers. Although it’s a bit much to see Seth Rogen suspended from wires Matrix-style, it’s all good fun and big laughs. Ultimately, I think this will gain a bigger audience on DVD, and deservedly so. And don’t believe the hype that you have to be stoned to enjoy this.

I’m not saying it wouldn’t hurt, but…

Also, “Tryin’ to get a mothaf**kin’ scholarship!” is a line we need to spread around. Good stuff.

Video: 2.40:1 widescreen. As mentioned before this is a much better-looking comedy than most. The action scenes are pretty well staged and with enough damage and gore to give your HD a good run. This is one of the few comedies I’d recommend picking up on Blu Ray.

Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital. Like the action scenes, the sound design is above average for the genre. There are plenty of gunshots and a better-than-average car chase that give you the go ahead to crank this one up a notch. Or maybe listening to the inhalation of illegal substances at high decibels is your thing. Either way, it’s a good listen.

There are two versions here, an unrated and rated cut of the film and one with a second disc of extras. I watched the single disc, unrated version, which had plenty of extras to tide me over.

Extended/Alternate Scenes: (9:50)
I could take or leave these scenes. All the best improv is in the movie, and there’s nothing here that will make you start a petition to have these put back in, which are all just missing pieces of scenes already in the film.

Gag Reel: (4:55)
I usually dig the gag reels, but too often the gags aren’t quite as funny to the viewer at home, because they apply heavily to what’s going on on-set. This is a cluster of pseudo-funny moments, but again, nothing special.

Making Of: (21:07)
This is a nice “cliff notes” making of. Not too long or too short and gives a good feeling of how the movie was made. The most interesting aspect was learning that the inspiration for the film came from Brad Pitt’s character in True Romance, which shines a whole new light on Franco’s character.


This is the gold nugget of the extras. Seth Rogen sums up the commentary best by stating that it “feels like a radio show.” Nearly the entire cast and some crew come and go throughout the commentary, as if just dropping by to say a few words and head out. I’ve seen this before and it truly baffles me that people would want to show up for just a few minutes in a commentary or even show up late for the recording session. A few people literally phone it in.

However, it’s a fun commentary, replete with Rogen’s trademark laugh throughout and with the added bonus of numerous stories and anecdotes from all involved, including a story about LL Cool J and how Seth Rogen has seen Rosie Perez naked. If you don’t have anyone to watch the movie with then just turn on the commentary and you’ll have a whole gang with you.

Pineapple Express is highly underrated and is given a bad rap by those who feel it’s just another stoner comedy. It’s got great characters, off-the-wall action, a healthy amount of bromance, and laughs aplenty, which are consistent and steady. Get some friends together and have a good time. In the basement. When your parents aren’t home. Have air freshener handy. Enjoy.