Archive for May, 2011

Minnie Driver “Everything I’ve Got in my Pocket”/ Emmy Rossum “Inside Out”

Posted in Minnie Driver/Emmy Rossum on May 31, 2011 by moviemoses

I’m reviewing these two albums through a very tenuous connection they both starred in Phantom of the Opera together.  That and because I don’t have a ton to write on each individual album so I’m being a little lazy and combining them. If you had me place a bet on which of the two would have a better album I would have put it all on Emmy Rossum. If there was one thing that everyone was saying about the Phantom movie it was that Emmy had amazing singing talent. Her range was incredible and she was trained in opera singing. Minnie Driver on the other hand had someone else sing for her in the movie. Now I can’t really blame Minnie for not having the same range as needed for the movie, but that being said, there was nothing about her voice that really stood out. Little did I know that “Everything I’ve Got in my Pocket” would actually turn out to be a good album, while “Inside Out” is the worst album in my “When Actors Try to Sing” category and will remain the worst (I foresee) for a long long time.

Why is “Inside Out” complete and utter ass? Well you expect the CD to showcase what made Emmy so special in Phantom of the Opera. I expected big numbers which has her bringing the house down with her high notes. What we get is what you would get from an Enya CD if Enya drank a gallon of NyQuil prior to recording. It’s all this atmospheric musak with Emmy mumbling incoherent crap in this low tone. Her voice is the equivalent of John Tesh falling asleep on his keyboard. The reason I can’t really talk about the tracks and whatnot is because I honestly can’t remember a single song. There is not a single track or beat or anything that I can remember in this cure for insomnia. It is almost criminal how wasted the talent for this CD was. Emmy should be more ashamed of this album, than even her starring in Dragonball Evolution.

“Everything I’ve Got in my Pocket” by contrast, was a breath of fresh air. These are mostly light pop or ballads by Driver. The music is composed well with some good hooks and utilizes Minnie to the best of her abilities. Again, in contrast to Rossum’s album, this has several memorable tracks from the title track, to Invisible Girl, Deeper Water, to Down which I’ve even heard on radio a few times. My major problem is I still don’t see anything all that memorable about Minnie’s voice. It seems like any good singer could pick this up and do well by it. But kudos to Driver to getting material suited for her talents and not trying to do too much and get exposed as a weak singer.

So do I recommend any of these albums? Well “Inside Out” should be buried in the desert next to ET Atari cartridges. “Everything I’ve Got in my Pocket” is a more reserved recommendation. This CD is very “easy listening” which probably isn’t everyone’s cup o’ tea. I probably would not buy it either except for the case I was forced into listening it. But if it is your kind of music and if some sample tracks interest you then I guarantee you the rest of the album is just as good. Mild recommendation.

Everything I’ve got in my Pocket

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxzPgddhJAo

Emmy Rossum- Stay

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQ1NWT03vn8

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Don Johnson “Heartbeat”

Posted in Don Johnson on May 5, 2011 by moviemoses

Whenever there is some retrospective on the 80’s, this is always played off as a joke. You get Hollywood D-listers mocking how bad the music is and how bad Don Johnson is at singing. They don’t know what they are talking about, because in the world of actors turned singers this is nowhere near the worst of the list.

I like to think of listening to Don Johnson the same as listening to say Kenny Loggins. We can all mock him for Playin’ with the Boys and laugh at the cheesy music but at the end of the day we love him for his music on Top Gun Footloose, and Caddyshack. As I was listening to the first half of the album, I kept thinking I was expecting this music to accompany some montage from some cheesy 80’s movie. You can’t help but chuckle at the repetitive nature of Don’s songs. After all, we are “looking for a heartbeat”, but we also learn “the last sound love makes is a heartbreak” and also “when looking for love, it is a heartache away”. It is like filling out a MadLibs but replacing all nouns with either “love”, “heartache” or “heartbreak”.

Again, for all the complaining people have about Johnson’s singing, he’s not that bad. True at times he tries for high notes that don’t work but most of the time he does alright. He has a folksy kind of voice which works for the right songs. Like I mentioned with Scarlett, it is not so much the voice but how you use it.

Now I said before, I was loving the first half of the album. It is fast paced cheesy 80’s goodness but we get around to the second half and things start to wear down. There are a few ballads which are just not interesting at all and are easily skippable. The last few tracks he tries to pep things back up again but they don’t have the same spark as the earlier tracks.

Overall I did like this album. This certainly isn’t for everyone. I enjoyed it in a nostalgic cornball 80’s flashback kind of sense so whether that applies to you I don’t know. Would I listen to more Don Johnson based on this? Ehhhhh the jury is still out on that. I actually think he would have a pleasant country voice but he clearly has no songwriting ability. But Heartbeat is a fun album for me overall.

Heartbeat

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULI5kolBpAk

Unthinkable (2010) Gregor Jordan

Posted in U on May 5, 2011 by moviemoses

A nuclear bomb expert now turned Muslim extremist Young (Michael Sheen) sends a video to the CIA. He claims to have planted three nuclear bombs in three cities and if the President does not meet his demands (a public statement he is going to move armed forces from the Middle East) they are going to detonate within two days. FBI agent Helen Brody (Carrie-Anne Moss) is the head of investigating the location of the bombs. The military captured Young and have hired a shadow figure/interrogator named “H” (Samuel L. Jackson) to get the location from Young using any and all means.

This movie is an extended “what would you do” when it comes to torture. Jordan tries to lay out the perfect “ticking time bomb” scenario and repeatedly asks you how far you would be willing to go to get information. The levels of torture go up from approved methods like waterboarding up to beatings, to amputations, to electro shock, to mutilation, and all the way to torturing Young’s family (the titular UNTHINKABLE). At each stage Sam Jackson all but stares into the camera and asks “Should I keep going?”

The Ticking Bomb Scenario (also known as the Jack Bauer Scenario) is a favorite among people who argue for torture. Most everyone would agree that torture is not an accurate means of getting information from a suspect and that other means can be used to much greater effect. Torture is barbaric, goes against our core beliefs, and again, doesn’t seem to yield as good information as other intelligence gathering/investigation would yield. So the situation has to be altered in order to be more acceptable for people to swallow. Much like Unthinkable, the situation gets more elaborate and nonsensical the more you go on. What if you were on a timer? What if there was a nuclear bomb that was about to go off? How about three? How about four!? What if we had the person who made and planted them AND had plenty of time to torture/interrogate as to the whereabouts of the bombs? What if he acted alone so there is no chance of co-conspirators moving the bombs or detonating prematurely if the detect police presence? Do you see how far the writers already have to bend backwards to make this the slightest bit credible?

Even with all that, I could still spend all day dissecting all the plot holes of this movie. Why did Young surrender himself to the authorities? This is not explained. It could be argued it was to confront his oppressors but that just doesn’t fly. What if the torture did work? His overall plans would have been ruined. To make Americans feel ashamed about torture. No, since Young was squirrelled away in some dark hole where no one knew about him. The real answer is they did it for plot convenience. How can this guy make four nuclear bombs? Oh (the movie answers) he is a nuclear bomb expert who turned into a Muslim extremist, stole 18 pounds of nuclear materials as well as millions of dollars from Iranian terrorists. Oooooooooookay, I respond, then why wasn’t every intelligence agency keeping a very close eye on this person who was living with his wife and children in suburban LA? I mean, you would think you would keep tabs on people that have the means and the motive to make and use a nuclear bomb right? I think we would notice this guy shipping 18 pounds of nuclear material, making four bombs, and setting them up all across the country. “Uhhhhhhhh”, the writer replies, “the reason for that is…we wouldn’t have a movie then if people acted in a rational way.” Young then gives his demands. He wants the President to make a public address stating he wants to move troops out of the Middle East. Everyone shoots down that idea because we don’t negotiate with terrorists blah blah blah. Hey, how bout this? How about you stage a fake press conference in which you have the President make this address and then play this for him on TV? You could get some top notch filmmakers to make it seem genuine. No? Oh that would make too much sense. I could go on but you get the gist. The Ticking Bomb Scenario is a myth, and any attempt to construct one reveals how truly implausible it really is.

Now for as much as I just dissected this movie I can’t say I hated it. I was interested in what was happening throughout and it doesn’t hurt to have people like Sam Jackson and Michael Sheen delivering your over the top dialog. And I suppose you could argue this movie does provoke thought on the subject even though it is ham fisted. I know a lot of people are going to be put off by the fact there are many scenes of torture in this movie. While there is a lot of torture, we don’t really see much on camera. That being said, I have heard many complain that it is too intense.

As far as direct-to-video fare goes, this is one of the better entries. The movie is expertly produced with a decent script (okay riddled with holes but not annoyingly bad), and all around good acting. Ultimately this comes down to the taste of the person potentially renting this movie. This movie could be too intense or too preachy a subject for people to spend a night watching. I suppose I’m being somewhat nice because these DTV movies usually suck and this is competently done. So take that for what it is.

Legion (Scott Charles Stewart) 2010

Posted in L on May 4, 2011 by moviemoses

This movie pissed me off. It’s not like I go into a movie about angels fighting with machine guns to be high art, but I expect it to be even mildly entertaining. Legion is an incredibly boring and horribly written movie that almost felt like penance for earlier sins in my life.

This movie makes no sense. And again, I know people are going to jump on me by saying “Oh, the logic in a B movie about angels fighting with machine guns doesn’t make sense? Boo hoo.” The difference is, I am not critiquing this movie by saying it has to conform with reality. I’m saying this movie doesn’t make sense even within the bullshit fantasy world the writers set up for us. When the internal logic of a story doesn’t make sense, then the audience is going to be lost.

In this case, God apparently gets fed up with humanity and decides to kill off all of humanity. In order for his plan to work, he has to kill this specific child who is going to be born in some roadside diner in the middle of the desert. Why? I don’t know and the movie doesn’t tell us. Who is this kid? Is he Christ reborn, is he some new prophet? I have no clue. Why does the child have to be killed? Does it matter if it is killed in the womb or when it is born? I don’t know and the movie doesn’t tell. Plus, this is the god of the Bible we are talking about here. This is the same god who flooded the Earth and sent all kinds of plagues and whatnot. Are you saying this all powerful god can’t make another disaster to kill these schlubs in the middle of the desert? I don’t even need to think so big scale. Why doesn’t he cause the mother to miscarry? Why send scores of angels to come and kill this mother? And even if I granted that ludicrous concept, why doesn’t he send literally millions of angels to this diner to kill the child. We only see about 30 angels at a time attack this diner when before we see thousands upon thousands descending from heaven. Are you saying on the most important part of the mission of destroying mankind you can’t send a few more soldiers to make sure the job gets done? Oh, but of course he doesn’t REALLY mean to kill mankind. You see, god changes his mind on the whole killing humanity thing and it was all a test. That’s nice. It was really nice that you killed billions of innocent men, women, and children so you could teach Gabriel how to be merciful. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Now compare this to a movie I was wishing I was seeing every second this piece of shit was on my TV: Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight. Here you have a similar style of movie. This is a grindhouse style B-movie about a servant of God under siege by demons in some run down hotel in the middle of nowhere. We are told about who he is, what he is doing, and why he needs to survive the night. We are also told the villain and what his powers are. All of the rules of how they can fight/interact are established and they work within the confines of those rules during the movie. So you see, even with a movie with a silly concept, you can have an entertaining film which does not confuse it’s audience. That movie makes sense in it’s own made up universe. Not to mention you had very entertaining performances by William Sadler and Billy Zane.

Legion is also a movie that doesn’t really deliver on the campy fun. Yeah, you get the foul mouthed demon grandmother and the evil ice cream truck driver. Much like a crappy comedy, what you see in the trailer is all there is that is fun in the movie. Most of the movie has our characters moping around a dark diner bickering at one another. These characters are all annoying and I did not care if any of them lived by the end. The action scenes are few and very far between and even when we do get to them they are not any good. Maybe this also goes back to the characters but I just did not care. By the time Gabriel shows up I just wanted the movie over rather than see some lame fighting scene.  The acting doesn’t help this movie either.  I usually love Paul Bettany, but here he has nothing to work with.  Here he is delegated to grumbling out stupid cliches and has no character to develop.

I really don’t see why anyone should see this movie. No matter how low you set your bar or what you are going into this movie for you are going to be disappointed. What may be worse is we are getting a double dose of Paul Bettany and director Stewart in this years Priest and that movie looks even dumber.

Enemy at the Gates (2001) Jean-Jacques Annaud

Posted in E on May 4, 2011 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $70 million

Worldwide Gross: $96 million

Enemy is about Russian soldier Vassili Zaitsev who fights during WWII. Command quickly learns he is an excellent sharpshooter and is presented in propaganda as a hero of the war. Zaitsev does such a good job the Germans send Major Konig (Ed Harris) to hunt him down.

Enemy is a strange movie for me to pin down. I’ve seen it several times but haven’t owned it. Leading up to seeing it again (for the purposes of this review) I thought it was going to suck. After it was all done I asked myself “Why did I think I hated it before?” I ended up liking this movie quite a bit. The cat and mouse game between Zaitsev and Konig is especially fun if a bit implausible. What is also interesting is the shaky relationship Zaitsev has with the military. Zaitsev knows he is outmatched by Konig but can’t really admit to it because the Russians would just as well kill a coward.

The movie is produced well and they do a good job with the battle of Stalingrad. You see completely devastated sections of the city and see some large battles take place. Now I read this movie is based on a book which is in turn based on a real life person. I already dismissed any pretense this was based on real life by the time I popped the DVD in my player. Yes, I know this has been put through the Hollywood ringer to be more ‘action packed’ and whatnot. I am not judging this as a historical epic but as a war theme action movie. In that regard, it does pretty well.

That is not to say it doesn’t have problems. The one that stuck out the largest for me was the “love triangle” between Zaitsev, his friend Danilov (Joseph Fiennes), and Stalingrad resident Tania (Rachel Weisz). Any romantic subplot is out of place in a movie like this and a love triangle doubly so. It is a waste of space, I hated every second of it, and the only purpose is to draw some people out by casting the sexy Rachel Weisz. Also, I’m not all that keen on the casting of Jude Law. He does fine I guess, but all during it I just didn’t feel he completely fit the character. I suppose it also has something to do with being up opposite Harris. You see the contrast when Harris can inspire fear in a few facial expressions, while Law is struggling to keep up with the material.

But overall I liked this movie. I think much of it comes from your expectations from it. Mainly, don’t expect too much from it. If you want to see a good action movie and an interesting villain by Harris, then I think this would be worth checking it out. If you expecting some sprawling war epic or some serious account of the real life Zaitsev then you will be disappointed. Enemy at the Gates does just enough for me to enjoy it.

Macgruber (2010) Jorma Taccone

Posted in M on May 3, 2011 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $10 million

Worldwide Gross: $9.3 million

It doesn’t happen often, but this movie scared me. I can’t tell you the number of times I picked this movie up at Blockbuster for the purposes of this thread, only for me to shiver and place it down just as quickly. I guess it’s the fact that it is an SNL movie that adds the extra stink to a turd. Now I’m not being entirely fair. The Blues Brothers and Wayne’s World are absolutely hilarious movies. However when the SNL movies go bad (The Ladies Man, Stuart Saves his Family, Superstar) they REALLY go bad. So it really didn’t help when this movie is based on a sketch that I didn’t like in the first place.

Macgruber is obviously a spoof of MacGyver. We follow MacGruber as he takes on his arch nemesis Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer). Von Cunth has stolen a missile he is going to launch against Washington and it is up to MacGruber and his two team mates (played by Ryan Phillippe and Kristin Wiig) to stop him.

When spoofing MacGyver, there are really only a few things that you can make jokes about. You can make fun of the fact MacGyver would do cool things with common household items and the fact the show was set in the 80’s (with Richard Dean Anderson rocking a powerful mullet). As you can imagine, you can hit those jokes within the span of your average SNL skit. So what do you do with the rest of your running time? Dick and fart jokes…basically.

You want to see Will Forte naked? You will see that A LOT. You want to see several items placed in inappropriate orifices? Sex jokes? Excrement jokes? Beating a dead horse with the fact the bad guys name sounds like ‘cunt’? Check check check! And since we don’t have nearly enough to spoof with MacGyver, the movie also takes its shots at Rambo and possibly even Road House.

To it’s credit, the movie did make me laugh at times. This type of humor is not for everyone, but if you know what you are getting into, then the movie does a good job in the gross out department. I have to hand it to Forte who really put everything out there (and I do mean everything) in order to get even the mildest chuckle. They earn every bit of their R rating. Ryan Phillippe also does a good job in being the straight man to Forte’s out of control acting. The only depressing performance goes to Val Kilmer. Holy crap does this guy look like he wants to kill himself in this role. It’s strange that the only thing I hear from people when I discuss this movie is how far Kilmer has fallen. I don’t mind at all that a former big actor is slumming it in a movie like this. What I do mind is Kilmer is a complete kill joy. Come on man! Everyone else is down with sticking produce up their ass but you are too good for that?In the end he seems like he doesn’t want to have any fun with the rest of the cast.

It is still shocking that after throwing everything and the kitchen sink in, MacGruber barely crawls past the 75 minute mark. If I were talking about going to a theater to see this movie, then it would be a waste of money. But with my Netflix it is no bother at all to rent it and check it out on a boring night. It doesn’t overstay it’s welcome which is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t love this movie. I went to absolutely dreading it to being mildly entertained. If you like gross out humor or if this seemed at all interesting to you from you liking the SNL sketches, then I think you would enjoy it if you rented it. If you still get that shiver when you pick up the box cover, then I probably would still steer clear.

A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin) 2008

Posted in C on May 3, 2011 by moviemoses

This movie took over a month to finally get through.  I had to buckle down and watch this in like 20 minute segments at a time.  Now this movie is actually a critical darling but this was a torturous slog.  Why?

Let me tell you of the plot points we are given in the first 10 minutes alone.  A couple loses a son to leukemia, another son becomes a criminal/alcoholic/all around fuckup, their daughter loathes the fuckup son causing a schism in the family, another child attempts suicide, and the mother finally gets a disease which will result ultimately in her boiling away from the inside a slow and painful death.  Add in some Holocaust footage and you have…well you have The Day the Clown Cried.

Anyway the mother needs a bone marrow transplant and this prompts the whole family to finally come together again for Christmas.  I know there are supposed to be some lighthearted moments interspersed with heartfelt scenes of family coming together and blah blah blah but I just felt jerked around by this movie.  As I said before, all those plot points literally come in the first 10 minutes and that is not the end of the emotional manipulation at hand here.  There are additional subplots involving a love triangle.  You see, one of the sons had a guy and a girl friend.  The guy friend (even though he was in love with the girl) let the son date the girl because he was unhappy and now they are married and the girl feels cheated out of a choice now because she really loves the guy friend and *head explodes*

You know what this movie is like?  Its like asking a friend “How’s it going?” and having them reply “Well, I’ve got a bit of trouble with the family.  My brother came in from Wyoming and he’s staying at my house cause he’s too much of a cheapskate to spring for a hotel and his wife is an absolute bore and I’m also having some digestion issues.  I have had diarrhea the past few days…”  There is creating complex characters, and then there is dumping a pallet load of exposition in your lap.  There are so many goddamn characters and so much family squabbling bullshit I could really care less.  Oh, oh please give me more bitter arguments with uncomfortable moments.  No, not enough; someone blurt out a rape story.  Ok, we don’t go THAT far but you get the point.

Again this all feels manipulative and not natural at all.  What is truly odd is that the movie wants to have its moments of hilarity but at the same time have this overall tone of ennui and depression and angst.  They all but quote Jean Paul Sartre in explaining their existential crises.  And it doesn’t help that (at least in my opinion) nothing is really resolved or settled.  Yeah, they get along somewhat for Christmas and I suppose you could say its a starting point for a renewed relationship with the family.  I however still envision the daughter hating the fuckup son, the suicidal kid will most likely relapse, and so on.  I realize not everything can be settled and done with in a short amount of time, but still there wasn’t enough change to really think they are going in a positive direction.

I will say if I loved one thing about the movie it is Mathieu Amalric as the drunk son.  I had only seen him before in Quantum of Solace but here he is really good as his character is probably the most well rounded of the bunch.  Yes he had his issues in the past but is seemingly moving on with a very supportive girlfriend who seems to be pushing him in the right direction.  He takes the most initiative in confronting family and changing relationships instead of everyone else who is obstinate and too stuck up in their selfish bullshit to see past their own ego.  Everyone else seems to be caught up in a bit of attention whoring for who has the most painful and F’d up life while Henri tries to make the best of a crappy situation.

Maybe I just don’t get.  I will be the first to admit I have misread movies before: come in with expectations of one thing and got something completely different.  I can also just not get what the director was going for or just not get that subtle French humor.  But at least this time through, this movie was a painful 2 and a half hour marathon of family guilt and endless bickering.  Bah humbug.