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Weeds Sucks; (500) Days of Summer Does Not

Weeds Sucks; (500) Days of Summer Does Not


Weeds was once a pretty interesting, if far-fetched, Showtime dramedy about a suburban widow keeping her family afloat by dealing marijuana.  The cast and performances were strong – Mary-Louise Parker, Elizabeth Perkins, Romany Malco, Kevin Nealon, Justin Kirk each brought something unique to the table, be it comedic perspective, empathetic longing or whatnot.  The storylines were interesting and there were some pretty staggering plot twists to keep things lively in the first two seasons.  The third and fourth seasons starting veering out of control to unrestrained silliness.

Now it’s the fifth season, and essentially none of the above plaudits still hold true.  Call it The Curse of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Ghost – Weeds is now as fucking stupid as Grey’s Anatomy, maybe (shudder) even worse.  Parker’s “eyes wandering to the far left or right of the screen as she silently slurps the last of her Diet Coke/iced coffee” scenes were heralded as a nuanced take on a widow’s disociation in the first couple of seasons.  Now it just seems like she’s got undiagnosed Asperger’s.  Kevin Nealon’s character is beyond cartoonish and 100% unfunny – you are better off fastforwarding once you see his face, only pressing play when there is no trace off him left.  Perkins’ Celia, initially the meddling bitch that made dicey situation dicier, is now a zero dimensional character that is just a hair beyond Nealon’s in prompting suicidal/homicidal urges.  All that He Said, She Said potential sadly wasted…wait, what?  Wasted potential?  Elizabeth, perhaps you’ve found a home.  Call us.

The writers seem far more interested in having an interesting opening credit sequence.  Hey, Jenji Kohan, we fucking get it – you created Weeds!  Ha – you carved that in a bar of soap!  You are clever, great.  Now make the show stop sucking.  Bring back Conrad, Heylia, and Sanjay.  Kill off Doug, Celia and all Mexican gangsters (except maybe Ignacio).  Thanks, much appreciated.


(500) Days of Summer


Hey, what do you know, two good movies in a row!  What a streak, particularly in this barren summer.  Most of you probably assume I will love any movie with parentheses in the title, but that isn’t true.  (Although parentheses are awesome, allowing you to “break the fourth wall” even though you are already speaking directly to your audience)  Is (500) Days as good as The Hurt Locker?  No, too precious in spots and also featuring a couple of (unneccessary) standard romantic comedy staples – the bumbling friends with no advice to offer and the wise (and profane) beyond-their-years sibling with way too much (good) advice to offer.  Other than those quibbles, though, (500) Days was pretty fresh – I loved the fact that they tell you up front (and in the trailers) that it isn’t a love story and doesn’t really work out for the couple.

It’s a pretty typical story: straight-laced boy Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meets quirky, not-that-conventionally-beautiful-yet-uniformly-desired girl Summer (Zooey Deschanel).  The story is not told in chronological order, so you don’t get the straightforward “does she like me? she likes me!  she doesn’t like me…” routine.  I think every guy has probably encountered some loopy chick like Summer (and does Zooey Deschanel play any other type role?  And is she the same exact person as Maggie Gyllenhaal or what?) at some point, leading to much consternation.  Gordon-Levitt is a great actor, although this is the first time I’ve seen him in something this light since his seminal work in Third Rock From the Sun.  He works just fine here, maybe a tad too earnest at times, but he was able to bridge the gap from breezy to (literally) cartoonish well.  As a bonus, there’s a big dose of Hall & Oates in here, too.  If you are going to go to a romantic comedy, I highly recommend this over that garbage with Katherine Heigl and that 300 dude.  (Side note: Doesn’t that Gerard Butler look a bit too Quagmirey to be starring in romantic comedies?)

giggety
Giggety?


One other thing, Geoffrey Arend, who I saw in the liquor store the other day, is one of the goofy friends in this movie.  As you may recall, he is engaged to Christina Hendricks of Mad Men fame.  Geoffrey may be a great guy, but we still couldn’t figure out how this all adds up.

Arendricks
Maybe they just hope "Arendricks" will catch on?


About to go on safari, yall,

Chilly17

Movie Review: The Hurt Locker

Movie Review: The Hurt Locker


The Hurt Locker is pretty damn good, I want to get that out of the way up front.  Despite my prior service, I usually avoid military movies given the cliched and message-bound nature of most of them.  The glowing reviews I’d read convinced me otherwise about The Hurt Locker; director Kathryn Bigelow has a strong record of thoughtful action movies including Point Break and K-19: The Widowmaker (which I didn’t see due to my previously mentioned distaste for the genre).  Going in I expected some non-mindless action against the backdrop of war-torn Iraq, and I was not disappointed.

The story sounds familiar: a new platoon member swaggers into a military unit and makes a splash because of his maverick ways and disregard for “the rules.”  Sound familiar?  In this case, the unit is an Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal team – the unlucky souls who have to defuse the improvised explosive devices plaguing the troops in Iraq.  This film is interestingly apolitical (at least from my perspective – perhaps I’m a raging liberal now that I am of the unemployed persuasion); the situation appears pretty grim for all involved parties: the U.S. soldiers, the Iraqi citizens and the members of the militant resistance.  The relationship between the EOD teams and the citizens is particularly intense, as everyone in the vicinity of an identified bomb is a potential ignitor, and thus they are in danger of getting their ass shot by the EOD guys if they make any questionable moves.

The story is narrowly focused around three main characters – James (Jeremy Renner), the new squad leader, who joins the unit and flaunts his disregard for Army standard procedure, prefering a wild west approach to disarming various big-assed bombs.  His right hand man is Sanborn (Anthony Mackie), a rule-abiding sergeant who is nervous about surviving the 30ish days they have left in Iraq under James’ adrenaline-charged direction.  Specialist Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), is the most junior member of the team and is riddled with a combination of guilt and fear.  The whole premise of the movie is “Will these guys survive their final thirty days in Iraq?”  The movie is pretty intense; even the male bonding sessions have an edge to them – you won’t really relax until the credits roll.


This dude will almost assuredly be Aquaman
This dude will almost assuredly be Aquaman


The acting is uniformly excellent among the three leads; they maintain an uneasy comraderie despite different perspectives/motivations as to what they are doing and why.  The story mostly focuses on James, an atypical rogue who doesn’t seem to be looking for external validation or glory for his heroic/risky efforts.  It’s unclear what his motivation really is – nine times out of ten in this type movie it’s Some Tragic Event From My Past.  James’ epiphany is pretty perfect, I won’t say more than that.  Overall, an extremely interesting take on the relationship between fear and the things you hold most dear in life (and how the latter can differ dramatically from one person to the next).

The script, from a writer who spent time imbedded with a unit in Iraq, was solid – the dialogue wasn’t forced or overly acronym-laden.  Some of their leisure activities (kicking each others asses) didn’t quite ring true to me, but perhaps that’s because I spent my time on a submarine, where we mostly lounged in our smoking jackets, drinking lattes and eating crumpets.  Apparently, the script was intended for Renner and it shows; he is destined to become a tentpole character soon.  There are a few other familiar faces that pop up, including Guy Pearce and that dude from St. Elsewhere, but the story centers on the bomb unit.  They actually filmed the movie in Jordan, and it was apparently 110-115 degrees.  Wearing a 100 lb lead suit in 115 degree weather shows real dedication to your craft.

It’s ridiculous how thinly distributed this movie is – even in NYC it’s only showing at like three theaters.  I saw it in the same backhallway theater (seating capacity: 30) of the megaplex that I saw The King of Kong at.  It’s a shame that people pay their $12 to see garbage like Transformers II and a quality “action” movie like The Hurt Locker is relegated to the local indie theater.  Go see it, you will enjoy it.  (On the off chance you enjoyed Transformers, you still may like it because stuff blows up and stuff)


90 pound suit probably adversly affects mobility
90 pound suit probably adversly affects mobility



Chilly17

Mini Movie Review: Adventureland

Mini Movie Review: Adventureland

One of the many ways in which my life is awesome is my flexible day-to-day schedule.  For example, on Tuesday we decided to whip up a gourmet meal after we got back from the gym.  Having sworn off during the week drinking, it was unfortunate that we had four bottles of Menage sitting around.  Did I mention flexibility?  Really, if you are off seven days a week, why would you arbitrarily decide that the weekend should be Saturday and Sunday?  Couldn’t Tuesday also be a weekend night, if we decided that was our preferred structure?  Certainly.

So, to make a long story short, I woke up at 12:30 on Wednesday.  I wrote something for this award-winning website and then decided to go to the movies.  At 4:30 PM.  On a Wednesday.  Think about that for a moment.  I basically live like a 15 year old would, if they could.  

 

 

Synopsis – 1987ish.  Coming of age story, with a couple of twists.  Virgin protagonist James has no sense of urgency to do the deed.  Although a nerdy idealist, girls dig him from the get-go, not after a montage where he trys on a bunch of new clothes and funny sunglasses as his sidekick laughs.  Not a high school movie, set in the summer before grad school starts.   Due to his parent’s financial crisis, James is forced to suffer the indignity of working as a carnie at the lame local theme park Adventureland rather than backpack through Europe stoned.  Adventureland is, however, packed with potential love interests (and competition for said love interests).  Will he get the cool brainy chick or the hot stupid one?  Or none at all?  

 

Key characters – James Brennan, thoughtful virgin working to fund Columbia journalism school (probably not a great use of your cash, bud) played by Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid and The Whale, Roger Dodger).  By the way, Campbell Scott from Roger Dodger and Singles was next to me on a treadmill at NYSC last month – he’s appears to be about 75 years old, completely gray (not that gray hair isn’t rad).  Em (Kristen Stewart), James’ semi love interest, is a thinking man’s hot carnie, who likes cool bands but hates her new stepmom.  Joel (Martin Starr), James’ pipe-smoking, Russian literature loving carnie colleague who somewhat bitterly accepts that he’s unlikely to ever get the girl or the dough.  Ryan Reynolds plays Connell, the older, cooler maintenance man dubiously rumored to have jammed with Lou Reed and the object of many of the ladies’ affection. 

 

My Opinion – This is a nice little movie; I’m not sure about the way they’ve marketed it, however, as it’s not in the same vein as Superbad.  It’s not a broad comedy at all (despite certain players’ involvement), it’s more a light drama (think Garden State).  If you sneak a bottle of Goldschlager into the theater hoping for another Old School, you’ll be hugely disappointed.  The cliched boy-becomes-a-man journey has been done several thousand times before, but here they believably focus on establishing sincere emotional relationships (with both friends and love interests) rather than just zany carnal accomplishments.  While the carnie gang seems a bit too intellectual at times, it’s actually a nice break from the typical polarized movie youths who are either complete idiots or total geniuses – this crew is smart but wholly capable of making poor decisions.    

While I might be accused of having a soft spot for movies set in my formative years, the only thing that really gives it away here is the music (which is awesome).  Also, by the later 80’s not all cars were Pacers or Pintos.  These kids drank a lot more than I did during the 80’s.  I guess I was a loser then and need to make up for lost time.

Score: 4.5 Stars (Would I watch this again on cable?  Probably, yes.)  

 

Pros

1.  The story – Refreshing effort from Greg Mottola, who both wrote and directed.  While the final destination is familiar Mottola took a different route to get there (sensitive but without overlong navel-gazing sequences). 

2.  Spot-on casting of the main characters – The core trio of James, Em and Joel were believable and exhibited great chemistry.  Kristen Stewart, though…I’m mean, she’s attractive and all, but, um….she has dead eyes and appears to be a bit of a mouth breather…maybe that’s just her acting style…Martin Starr was awesome. 

3.  One of the characters routinely punched James in the nads, leading to him writhing in pain.  That’s always quality entertainment.

 

Seriously?  Another movie?
Seriously? Another movie?

 

Cons

1.  Horrific casting of the amusement park owners – Is there a rule that Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig have to be in every movie made?  Seriously, I like them both just fine (and in fact I think Kristen Wiig is most excellent and pretty hot for a comic actress) but are they going to play the supporting characters in every film made from here on out?  Are there no other actors who need work?  They didn’t really fit here, I would’ve preferred to see an older couple cast.  I understand director loyalty, etc, but come on.  And, hey, Seth Rogen – the same goes for you, just moreso…

2.  Ryan Reynolds – He did his best work in Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place.  He’ll always be Berg to me.  And now he’s going to be in X-Men Origins: Wolverine even though he’s already played a character from the Marvel universe in Blade.  Won’t this cause a massive ripple through the time-space continuum?  Let’s just cool it with the Ryan Reynolds casting until the Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place movie.  

3.  Jesse Eisenberg – He’s an excellent actor, and great in this film.  But I wish he would have followed the path of being a professional football player so Chris Berman could say “Shaun Hill for 15 yards to Jesse “Uncertainty Principle” Eisenberg!”.

 

Happy Easter!

Chilly17