Sunday, May 30, 2010

Grown Ups... something's missing.

Today I caught Beverly Hills Ninja on Starz. I realized that even though Beverly Hills Ninja is a freaking terrible movie, I just can't help but laugh whenever I see Chris Farley. He just seems like such a fun guy.

So that got me thinking about this movie Growns Ups with Adam Sandler and his buddies, Rob Schneider, David Spade, and Chris Rock. Seems to be kind of a nineties SNL reunion. But of course, Farley is missing. The fifth guy in Grown Ups is played by Kevin James, the only comedian not from SNL. Could this role have been written for someone else? Of course, this is just theorizing.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Road... the scariest movie ever.

Have you heard of this book, The Road, by Cormac McCarthy? I've heard of it, and I've heard people say they love it. If the movie I watched last night is anything like the book it's based on, I don't think I'll read it. Not that it's a bad movie; it's decent actually. It's just so scary I can't imagine getting immersed in it all over again.

The Road stars Viggo Mortensen. His character, known as the father, has survived some kind of judgement day style nuclear war. He wanders the country with his little son during this post-apocalyptic winter. The sky is cloudy and dusty, so plants won't grow. Without plants, the animals die off. Basically there isn't food for humans to live on... except other humans. Gross.

The movie touches on some pretty heavy themes of suicide, justice, and of course cannibalism. The son constantly asks his father if they're the good guys and the answer is always yes, because they don't eat other people. The notion is terribly disturbing, but more than likely realistic. What would humans resort to in that situation? That's what's so scary. Thankfully there's hope with the father and son; they continue to "carry the fire" as they say.

The film is very bleak and gray. Everything looks cold and wet. The future pretty much sucks and it's depressing to watch. I think the director is very successful in his portrayal of the future. He definitely makes his point. Positive moments are so rare in the movie, that when good things happen, they're miraculous. The screen lights up, color returns to the characters faces, and there's laughter. Those few scenes are what make the movie watchable. Otherwise, I don't think I could stomach it.

Now I mentioned before that the idea of humans losing all humanity is really scary, but the movie doesn't stop there. Humans become monsters in the future. They aren't like mutated zombies or anything; it's not technically that kind of movie. The Road is probably the scariest non-horror movie I've ever seen. Not having read the book I did not expect to see the things I did. It's not really grisley or gory or anything, but it is pretty icky. Let's just say if you're not a cannibal, you're cattle.

The Road is effective and thought-provoking. As gloomy as the visuals are, it's shot beautifully. There are some really cool background shots as the two make their way across the country. Viggo's portrayal of a scared and protective father is believable, especially when he starts to question his humanity as well. But unfortunately, I just couldn't get into this movie. It's not that every movie has to be entertaining and all nice and Hollywood, I'm not saying that at all. For me though, there just needed to be a few more postive moments for me to enjoy it. I appreciated The Road, but I just didn't enjoy it.

3 much needed cleaning products...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Well, this is kind of movie related...

I could write a review today... but I'd rather make fun of this defenseless little tree frog. No wonder he's been hiding out all these years.

Why do so many things remind me of Teen Wolf?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Shrek: Forever After

I know. Donkey isn't brown. I couldn't find a gray dry-erase marker.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ebertfest 2010 - Part 2

I slept in Saturday morning because my sister and I were out all night partying with the college kids. We did shots at Kam's, had some Jager bombs at Joe's, and then did some keg stands at an after party. Just kidding. I slept in because I just turned 30 and my body is slowly disintegrating.

We lined up at the Virginia Theater for Vincent: A Life in Color. I had a pretty good idea about what Vincent was, because I knew who Vincent was. If you're from Chicago, and have ever watched NBC news in the morning, you've probably seen Vincent. Or perhaps you've visited the windy city recently and taken a boat ride down the Chicago River - did you see a man dressed in a brightly colored suit dancing on the Clark St. bridge? Well that's Vincent.

Vincent: A Life in Color is a fun and interesting documentary about Vincent Falk. Vincent walks around Chicago all day in these crazy colored suits. He twirls in them and waves at passersby, including tour boats. I first saw Vincent on the morning news, standing outside the studio, twirling around. I thought he was nuts. But as I learned from this fantastic documentary, Vincent is just a nice man, wanting to share his passion with the world.

The director of the film, Jennifer Burns, was a hostess at McCormick and Schmicks downtown, and she would see Vincent strolling by every day. She was confused, like most people, but wanted to know more about him. Jennifer maxed out her credit cards and made a movie, following him around Chicago. And for a first-time director, she's pretty good. I laughed a lot, and there's some pretty emotional stuff that made my sister cry. Not me though.

This film works, mostly because Vincent is such a likeable guy. He's happy all the time. He tells jokes, all the time, and you eventually realize why he does. Vincent had a challenging life. He's almost completely blind and was raised in foster care. You can tell when he interacts with people as an adult, things are a little awkward for him. My guess is that to avoid conversation, he tells jokes and puns. This is just one of many endearing qualities about him. The fact that he's blind, and still manages to get around the city every single day is also remarkable.

Jennifer really brings Vincent to life on screen. We see his every move and every little quirk, and we're even treated to his personal evolution of dance. Jennifer introduces us to Vincent and throughout her film, we become his friend. She also introduces the audience to Chicago. This film, in my opinion, is one of the best Chicago films and will easily become a true classic. Being a Chicagoan myself, I enjoyed seeing my favorite spots. There are also places I've never seen and probably never would, like the store Vincent buys his suits at. I've always loved the city, but Jennifer really brings out its true colors. I actually couldn't wait to drive back home.

The pacing of the film is perfect too. It's never boring and there's just the right amount of history, interviews, and Vincent in the present. When things get a little sad, the next scene is usually something sweet. The editor of the film, Christine Gilliland, should be recognized for her contribution as well.

Jennifer has made a heartwarming documentary that totally engages the audience. She introduces us to a wonderful person that most people, in all honesty, would avoid. In doing that, she's also created a very nice homage to Chicago. So, to all my out of state readers, I recommend you see the film, get to know Chicago and Vincent Falk, and then come for a visit! And if you see Vincent on the street, say hi and shake his hand. Thanks to Jennifer, you are already friends.

4 Awesome Suits

Richard Roeper, a producer, Vincent, Jennifer, and Christine

To make my Ebertfest trip extra special, my sister found this at a vintage record store for 20 cents. Superman practically flies of the sleeve when you open it! Booyah!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ebertfest 2010 - Part 1

Every year Roger Ebert selects a dozen movies that he believes are "overlooked". The movies are then played on the big screen at the Virginia Theater in beautiful Champaign, home of the University of Illinois. Ebert went to U of I and so did my sister. It's been sort of a tradition of ours to attend the fest. It used to be that I would drive down and visit her, but this year we drove together which was interesting. We sang along to every song from Queen's greatest hits. Yeah, we're those people.

Since we both work during the week, we went down Friday evening. We had enough time to check into our hotel, have dinner, and line up for our first movie Synecdoche, N.Y.

Synecdoche was written and directed by one of my all time favorite writers, Charlie Kaufman. Charlie is responsible for crazy and thought-provoking stuff like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich and the film I consider to be a true work of genius, Adaptation. Now if you thought those movies were out there, wait until you see Synecdoche. Let me just say, it's not for everyone. But if you give it a shot, I think you'll definitely be affected. By what, I don't know - but you will be affected in some way I assure you.

Synecdoche, N.Y. is a really intense story about a theater director named Caden Cortard. I only read a little bit about this film beforehand, and it seemed like the main plot was that Caden, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, builds a life-size replica of New York City in a warehouse. And that happens, but nothing can really prepare you for what this movie really is.

Caden obviously has issues from the start. He believes he has every disease in the book, but also projects them onto other people. He thinks his daughter Olive and wife Adele, played by Catherine Keener, are also sick. He even imagines characters on the television are sick. He doesn't have a very good grasp on time either and scenes kind of jump around frantically as if we were sick too.

After Adele leaves him, taking Olive with her, Caden must deal with his issues alone. He starts to slip into what I can only describe as a permanent nightmare. In the beginning, everything that happens to Caden is funny, and Hoffman's brilliant performance lets us know that it's okay to laugh. But after a while things get confusing, for Caden and for us. The audience gets twisted up into Caden's psyche. We don't know what time it is, and we don't know what's real and what isn't. And the movie never explains. It's kind of like watching Lost... if they had canceled the last season. One memorable scene is when Hazel, Caden's new love interest, buys a house that's on fire. It's a really funny scene, but doesn't make a lick of sense. She lives in the house and everything as it continues to burn but never burns down. Obviously this a metaphor for something. Or maybe it isn't. Who knows.

This was the one movie Ebert introduced himself this year. And just a little side note - his speech, broadcast from his MacBook as he pantomimed, was truly touching and I'm thankful I got to see it. Ebert warned the audience that to truly appreciate this movie we needn't not try to figure out what Kaufman meant by it. I'm really glad he said this because otherwise I would have tried to place meaning to things like a burning house. But when you just watch and see it for its beauty and humor, its much more enjoyable.

Caden eventually decides he's going to put on a play that everyone will remember after he's gone. He rents out a giant warehouse to stage his play and goes about building a lifesize New York City. He wants the play to tell a story about real life, about everyone's lives. He says everyone has a story to tell and emotion to convey. So he keeps casting actors to play real people until he fills his city. Then he decides he needs to tell the story of how he creates this play, so he needs more actors to play himself and everyone involved. This continues on into absurdity until there are warehouses built inside warehouses. We know this isn't humanly possible, but it seems so real. And to me that's why this film works. We are trapped right next to Caden in our own personal director's chair. We apply our own ideas to what this movie is. It's like poetry. Kaufman lays the groundwork and we build our own stories. It's just brilliant.

To make the experience extra cool - Charlie Kaufman was in attendance. I watched a Charlie Kaufman movie... with Charlie Kaufman. I didn't talk to him or anything, or even sit by him - we were kind of in the nosebleed section. It was still probably one of the cooler moments of my life.

After the movie, Charlie and four other panelists (producers, journalists, etc.) discussed the film on stage. Charlie is a pretty interesting guy. He seems to be kind of uninterested in Hollywood and budgets and genres and things like that. In fact he made some pretty funny jokes about how this movie didn't produce box office numbers anywhere near their budget. He also went on about how he won't explain anything no matter how many times he's asked. And the audience offered some pretty outlandish ideas about the meaning of it all. But he just laughed and said, "Okay. Whatever you think."

4.5 Stickers. (Might be a 5 after a second viewing.)

Chaz, Charlie and Roger


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