The D Train

“I feel there are some movies that are remembered for that one scene. Regardless of whatever happened, good or bad, they are defined by a few frames. Of course, I can’t think of any of the bat, but I’m sure you get the general idea. I fear that’s kinda what’s gonna happen to The D Train once word gets out. Well assuming word even gets out because there were a total of 4 people in the auditorium for my Sat afternoon showing, and I doubt it’s doing much better elsewhere. Normally, I’d sort of resent that type of judgement, but honestly, for this movie, I don’t really care.

Unfortunately, I can’t really tell you what that one scene is. When I’d first heard about this film, I heard it described by it. Then I saw it wasn’t even alluded to in the trailer or any of the promos, and I saw star James Marsden quoted that you should enter this film with an open mind, not knowing too much about it. Roger that, James! Lips sealed. To be honest, I kinda agree with that assessment since I did spend the early part of the movie wondering and focused on when it would happen, just out of curiosity. And while that knowledge did add to my curiosity, it was really the pairing of James Marsden and Jack Black that got my attention. That and a slow movie weekend as films are still too scared to compete against last week’s Avengers.

Jack Black is the self professed chairman of his high school’s alumni committee, working to put together their class’s 20th reunion. Faced with a general lack of enthusiasm (and therefore lack of attendance) from his former peers, he gets a brainstorm. After seeing the once cool kid in a national commercial (Marsden), he believes that if he can get the popular guy to come to the reunion, the rest of the class will follow. Black puts together a fake business trip to fly to LA to visit Marsden, where the two engage in some pretty self destructive hijinks. Marsden agrees to come to the reunion, but once in town, it’s not quite the party Black was hoping for.

Doesn’t sound too bad, right? For some reason (well multiple possible reasons, which we’ll get into), I couldn’t stand this movie. I just felt incredibly incredibly uncomfortable throughout the whole thing. And just so we’re clear, my comfort level had nothing to do with the scene in question. That’s not what made me squirm about in my seat.

First off, while I like Jack Black, I didn’t find his character very likable. And when your leading man is unlikable, you have some major problems. As an actor, I love the guy, but this wasn’t one of his endearing characters I love him for. He was a sad and desperate and not so smart guy, and he only kept on making more and more trouble for himself, digging himself deeper and deeper, and at some point, you stop sympathizing. Marsden, whom I love even more, started off kinda cool, but soon was also unlikable. He was just kinda sleazy and depressed and not in a good place in life, and it was tough seeing someone like that idolized by the other characters.

What may have been the biggest strike against it was how overly complicated some of the set up was. Black had this whole scheme where he claimed to have set up a business deal out in LA so he could get a free trip there, that got complicated when his boss (Jeffrey Tambou) insisted on coming with. It felt like I was stuck in a bad dream, where he kept on making things worse instead of putting a stop to things. That avoidable awkwardness is one of the easiest ways to make me want to run out of the theater. It also didn’t help that I had no idea what their company did, which made it confusing to see them fighting for business without ever really saying why.

Then there were little things. Jeffrey Tambor was great at playing the incredibly not tech savvy boss, but his slow and methodical mannerisms weren’t helped by the slow pacing of the film. Discussions with him over how to Google or send email frustrated me, because it felt just like me having those same talks with my Mom. Also, given my history and high school experiences, I just didn’t like the reunion aspect of the premise. I don’t want to think about high school or who I knew or what classes I took. And I’d rather not spend a whole film focused on someone else doing that.

For me, the whole thing just didn’t work. I’d be interested to see Marsden and Black team up for something better, but I’d be perfectly happy not to ever have to think about this movie again. I’ll award Kathryn Hahn points for effort as Black’s wife, but she wasn’t enough to save this film.

Again, all of this is just how I saw it. On my way out, there was a guy with a few ipads looking for feedback on the film. I filled out the form with less than stellar comments (which always saddens me. I really want to enjoy the movies I see, and I take no joy in tearing them down, often trying to find at least some redeemable quality) and overheard somebody else verbally giving his feedback where he was praising the film. Ratings and scores I’ve seen on Rotten Tomatoes and elsewhere are also more positive. They’re not out of this world, but clearly other people found things to enjoy in it. Besides the eye candy of James Marsden, I didn’t. Sometimes that’s okay. They can’t all be winners

The D Train – \m/ \n”

Shoot ‘Em Up

“A few days ago, I found a Tumblr called Shit People Say to Women Directors. It’s a collection of quotes and incidents that highlight the misogyny in Hollywood. It equally enfuriates and motivates me. I wish I was a Hollywood director. And I specifically want to direct action movies (or at least start there and then branch into Tarantino-esque territory). Why action movies? Two reasons. One – It’s my favorite genre. I know it really well and I would have a blast (possibly involving actual explosions). Two – That seems to be the genre where it’s even worse for us chicks than any of the others, so I wanna be the one to show the boys how it’s done. Die Hard, The Raid, Equilibrium, Terminator, anything starring Jason Statham, these are all the types of movies I’ve studied religiously. And in this future hypothetical scenario where I rule the world as far as action movies go, the film I’d most want my work to resemble is Shoot ‘Em Up.

Every time I update my top 100, this always ends up just shy of making the list. But it really shouldn’t. The longer it’s been since I’ve seen it, the less likely it is to make the cut, which is incredibly unfortunate. This is one of the most awesome, dark, subversive, quirky, and insane action films out there. I still remember the first time I saw it, that opening scene punched me in the face harder than Statham (my favorite action hero) ever did. It takes less than two minutes before the first guns are blazing, and with my favorite Nirvana song (“”Breed””) blaring, I knew I was in for something amazing.

Not too long after the DVD came out, I had a couple friends over. I suggested we watch this. I had them sold just by listing off the cast. “”Clive Owen?!””, the straight male friend said, “”I would totally go gay for him!”” That was quickly followed by the gay male friend saying “”Monica Bellucci?! I would totally go straight for her!””

Right so Clive Owen, tough guy just minding his own business, happens upon a pregnant lady about to give birth. She’s followed by some shady looking characters. Owen intervenes and helps the woman deliver while simultaneously fighting off the baddies. He tries to cart the infant child off to safety, while being chased by boss baddie Paul Giamatti, and enlists Monica Bellucci to take care of the kid while he takes care of business.

The plot kinda makes no sense, but it’s just background noise. A reason for Owen to kick butt and Giamatti to chew scenery. I love the very direct Snakes On A Plane-esque title that tells you exactly what you’re gonna get. Lots of shooting and no \m/ given. While the plot may not be memorable, the action scenes and character quirks certainly are. Owen’s Smith has a very John McClaine type of vibe, where he’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time and mostly just inconvenienced by whatever conscience encouraged him to get involved. Except McClaine never had a shoot out while parachuting out of a plane. Nor did he manage to shoot bullets without a gun (it involves heat and physics and bad ass-ery).

Long story short, this movie deserves a better fate than to fade off into obscurity. It’s too \m/ awesome to let it disappear.”

The Wicker Man

“Classic horror has such a different vibe than current horror. Current horror tends to rely on suspense and big scream inducing moments. Classic horror goes for the slow burn. You might not be jumping out of your seat, but you’ll feel like you want to slither out of it. Things get weirder and more uncomfortable until you realize what it’s all about and then you’re scared. Or just weirded out. The Wicker Man is no exception.

A cop is sent to a small island to investigate a missing girl. He finds this strange community of seemingly pagan devotees, preparing for their spring festivities. It’s practically a musical, as the residents are often found singing songs that sound joyous at initial glance, but are really kinda twisted once you pay attention to the lyrics. And they’re obsessed with the ideas of sex and fertility.

Things just get weirder and weirder as we fall deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. Who is the missing girl? What happened to her? And what the heck are all these crazy people doing? It’s a pretty well known spoiler by now what happens, but I’ll refrain from saying it, just in case. I already knew when I first saw this (it’s actually why I wanted to see it), but I can only imagine how jarring it must be to find out while watching”

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

“With every passing Marvel movie, it gets harder and harder to write them up. That’s not to say they’re not awesome (because they totally are awesome), but by now we know what to expect. And by now, you have opinions on the franchise in general, so it’s not like I need to per(or dis)suade anyone.

Even this one had a bit of a feeling of, we’ve been here before. When the first Avengers came out, it was something that had never been done. All these incredible stand alone movies were being knitted together and we had an insane cast with everyone we’d known and loved. Now it’s like, oh it’s time for this again?

But you know what? It still works. Even though we’ve seen various characters pop up across other’s films, it’s still exciting to see multiple stars team up or secondary characters from each series brought in. The Avengers are all about teamwork, and that’s what’s really on display here. From the way that Thor and Cap can use their hammer and shield together in brilliantly time fight choreography, to Widow and Hawkeye’s BFFF status, to Stark and Banner science-ing together. That’s what’s at the heart of this movie.

Writer/director/demigod Joss Whedon has said that the plan with this one was to tone it down a bit more, get to know the characters moreso than the big action wow factor. He really delivered on that. We got some backstory into some of our lesser explored Avengers, and more emotional insight into those whose stories we know but haven’t dived into as deeply. He also brought in a couple new characters, mostly to add in new visual elements (he claims the existing core all have similar “”punching”” type abilities). I think Scarlet Witch is my new favorite Avenger. I’m considering Halloween costumes. (Side bar: Apparently there was much confusion on set because the two most prominent females were an actress named Scarlett and a character named Scarlet, not to mention the various body doubles for the former).

For two and a half hours, I was transported to my happy place. Yes we’ve been here before, but there’s a joy and comfort in the familiar. We also got some set up for some of the places phase 3 promises to go (infinity stones! civil war! Black Panther!). The middle installment of a trilogy is often the low point, and while our days of watching the current Marvel Comics Universe have certainly come to a middle, we’re certainly not low. On to phase 3!

The Avengers: Age of Ultron – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Saturday Night Fever

“You would think that as a dancer and a film aficionado I would have seen this movie, possibly many times even, but you’d think wrong. It just never really got on my list, until I found it for five bucks at Best Buy a couple weeks ago.

I actually enjoy disco dancing. A couple of my cardio dance DVD’s have disco routines, and I find them quite fun. They’re simple and quick, and not too far removed from jazz, which is my preferred style. The music on the other hand…Well, they’re classics, but only meant to be heard in moderation.

Not a whole lot going on here. John Travolta’s Tony is a dissatisfied teen whose only joy is in dancing (I can relate, but I’m not a teen). It’s mostly just a portrait of life in the disco era. I find it kinda dull, but then again, I’m not of that era. I’d bet lots of people find American Idiot dull, but that’s the angsty tales of my youth.

At least the dancing’s pretty cool.

Oh wow things took a dark turn in the backseat of the car towards the end, and beyond that.”

Strangers on a Train

“I actually watched this over a week ago (longer by the time this future dated entry posts), and I’ve flip flopped the whole time about whether or not I’m going to write it up. The intention was to do so, but I was too lazy to do it in real time. Then I was just lazy.

So I actually sought out this old Hitchcock classic because I’d just finished reading the book a few weeks prior. The book is by Patricia Highsmith, who’s also responsible for The Talented Mr Ripley series. It’s not every day you come across a female writer who’s capable of such dark and twisted (for the time at least) stories. I realize as I say this that I’ve been reading some Gillian Flynn, who is a female writer capable of incredibly dark and twisted stories (Gone Girl anyone?).

Strangers on a Train deals with two men, Guy and Bruno, who meet on a train (Oh I get it now!). In the course of conversation, Guy talks about his wife who is being difficult about getting a divorce while Bruno talks about his controlling and unbearable father. Bruno proposes that he kill Guy’s wife, and in return Guy kills Bruno’s father. The lack of known connection between the two men would make it nearly impossible for anyone to solve. Guy doesn’t take the suggestion seriously, but is just enough weirded out by Bruno to try and stay away from him. Bruno goes ahead and kills Guy’s wife anyways. And this is the point when the movie which had been closely following the book (minus details like altered names, locations, and occupations), deviates in its own direction.

Am I allowed to give spoilers on a film and book that are both over 50 years old? In the book, once Bruno kills Guy’s wife, he hounds him and threatens him until Guy eventually gives in and murders Bruno’s father. The two men are now tied together, and Guy is unable to escape the guilt, especially as Bruno embeds himself deeper in Guy’s life. In the film, Guy goes to warn Bruno’s father, but is caught by Bruno. Bruno then hounds guy, threatening to implicate him in the murder. So in both cases, the suspense is built around Guy, coming from Bruno, but with different intentions. The book was more of an internal conflict and dove deeper into exploring that, shades of gray abound. The black and white film goes more black and white with the characters, painting Bruno as the unequivocal villain. Personally, I think Bruno’s just not the brightest guy (in both instances). Especially in the book, he makes it a habit to hang around and become part of Guy’s life, which negates the perfect alibi he’d hoped to establish. Still, by changing things around, Hitchcock is able to present a more streamlined suspense, that does play better on screen, even if it felt a bit thin as someone who had read the novel”