UHF

“One of the things I’m most proud of (and yet still slightly embarassed about) is the insane amount of Weird Al lyrics that I have committed to memory. Amish Paradise, It’s All About the Pentiums, Smells like Nirvana, The Saga Begins, all songs I know in their entirety. Plus countless other complete or partial songs I know by heart. Hashtag (half) white and nerdy.

A couple weeks ago, I saw him in concert on his Mandatory World Tour. I’d seen him once previously, on the Alpocalypse tour. As to be expected, it was incredible. His shows are more of a production than a concert. Costumes, video clips, choreography, glory. My Facebook status after the show was something along the lines of how you’ve never really lived until you’re in a crowd of hundreds, singing along to “”Yoda”” while waving the light saber app on your phone.

A day or two after the show, I was at the aforementioned video store that I’ve been frequenting the past few weeks as they sell off their inventory. On previous trips, I’d targeted items on my wishlist, so this time I could peruse a bit more slowly and see what caught my eye. And there it was on the shelf: UHF. It was calling to me, like it sensed my arrival and patiently waited for me to purchase it. I’ve seen clips of it here and there (particularly during Mr Yankovic’s shows) but I’d never seen the whole thing thru. Fate, it would seem, was determined to give me that opportunity.

And so here we are. After a rough week that was set right by an awesome yoga class, and walking thru the beginning of a town wide dance party that I would soon be hearing from my window, I sat down to bask in the glory of the weird.

I’ve kinda got mixed feelings about it. As a film, it’s kinda dull. Not a lot happens, story wise. Characters aren’t particularly sympathetic. No pun intended, but it’s kinda weird. But as an extension of Weird Al, each of the segments are funny in their own right. The premise works just enough to let him have all these zany little vignettes, many of which could stand alone in today’s YouTube/Funny Or Die world of video clips. And it’s all very Weird Al humor. The same thoughts were running thru my head watching this as during the show. Basically “”how does he come up with this random random stuff?”” and “”this would not work if anyone else tried it””

So I’m glad that I can check another film I should see off the list. Hopefully it’s the start of a great weekend, the first in a while that I’m hoping to get in a full slate of blog movies at home.”

Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl

“I’m still not quite sure how I feel about this movie. There was a lot to love, but it had trouble keeping my attention, and I can’t quite figure out why. Let’s break it down.

The “”Me”” is Greg. Greg is in high school, where he generally plays nice with the various cliques without being part of one, and he spends his time watching obscure movies and filming his own parody versions with Earl. “”Earl”” is his best friend, though Greg prefers to think of him as a coworker, from the other side of the tracks as they say, who spends his time hanging with Greg. The “”Dying Girl”” is Rachel, a classmate that Greg never paid much attention to, but after Rachel receives her ominous diagnosis, Greg’s mother forces him to go and be friendly with Rachel.

Stuff I liked: the movie parodies, obviously. Although I didn’t always get them. They’re not straight up parodies like the ones in Be Kind Rewind. Moreso they’d be a pun or wordplay off the title, not necessarily following the plot, and just highlighting the one joke. I did like that this kid knew his stuff when it came to movies, from the 400 Blows poster in his room to the Dawn of the Dead patch on his jacket, to the references he incorporated into his dialog. (My personal favorite was “”Captain Phillips pirates, not Pirates of the Carribean”” which is exactly the kind of thing I’d say).

More stuff I liked: the cast. Specifically Thomas Mann as Greg. Here was a high school kid that I could actually stand, and who was just the right level of indie movie quirky (he kind of had a Juno vibe, with less quotable dialog). Actually both Greg and Rachel were incredibly tolerable for high school kids, and they had a couple of intense scenes that they handled with aplomb. There were a couple fun adults in the mix, including Nick Offerman, Jon Bernthal, Connie Britton, and Molly Shannon.

So what didn’t work? Something was off with the pacing. I’d be into things as a whole, but the pacing of individual scenes was awkward and slow (the adults were particularly awkward). The ominious tone surrounding Rachel’s illness didn’t help that much. Still, I’d take a story of friendship in the wake of illness over one of romance during illness *cough**cough*Fault-In-Our-Stars*cough*

Ultimately there was more to like than not, and I applaud how fearless it was in tackling some heavy themes. Sure, there were some things that could have been done better, but for a nice summer indie, it was fun.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – \m/ \m/ \m/”

Inside Out

“It’s always the Pixar movies with the strangest and least likely to work set ups that end up being incredible. Okay, so pretty much all Pixar movies are incredible, and some of them looked as awesome as ever from the beginning, but there’s something special about the truly unique premises. Monsters Inc, Up, Cars, all don’t sound like much on paper, but turned out to be among the best. For Inside Out, I didn’t even blink at the set up, strange as unconventional as it was, because I knew I trusted the force behind it.

For this round, we’re following the emotions inside a girl’s head: joy, sadness, fear, anger, and disgust. These five emotions watch what’s going on and control her reactions accordingly. So really, we have two stories going on at once: our little girl Riley, dealing with her family’s cross counter move, and the emotions working in her head as they have a crisis of their own to deal with.

I know, it sounds weird, but it worked beautifully. I really loved the way that her different brain functions were illustrated: memories colored by the emotions that affected them and moving from short term memory to long term memory, being recalled and shown as needed, core memories creating and maintaining islands for each part of Riley’s personality, the memory dump where things were forgotten, the playground of imaginationland, the train of thought. It all made perfect sense for what they were trying to represent, while still being very fantastical and fun. Immediately after the film, I messaged a friend of mine who studies and researching the brain. I wanted to see what his take was on how things were represented. I was running to the next movie, so we weren’t able to get into it, but it’s a conversation I’m very much looking forward to.

One of the other great things about Pixar is the voice cast, and this was one of their best assembled: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, and a few cameo voices here and there. With an animated film, the actors involved can make or break the film, and these certainly elevated the magic to a whole other level.

So once again, Pixar knocked it out of the park, delivering a unique and heart tugging film that can be loved by children and much bigger children (which is to say, adults) alike. Did we really expect anything less?

Inside Out – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Synecdoche, NY

“I am so completely confused right now. So confused. What did I just watch?

I picked this one up in the first round of buying DVDs from that video store that’s closing and selling off its inventory. It was one of several Philip Seymour Hoffman movies that I had on my wishlist. In this film from Charlie Kaufman, making his directorial debut after writing other well respected but confusing movies such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malcovich, PSH plays a man whose life has fallen apart. In the wake of that, he builds a life size immersive theatrical production that mirrors his real life a little too closely.

“”Real”” is a relative term here. The first half hour or so was mostly normal, and then things started to get weird. I was expecting him to wake up from a dream at any moment, and then it kept on going. And getting even stranger. It finally occurred to me that maybe none of it was real. Halfway thru, I texted a friend who’d seen it recently. He said he’d had a similar reaction and that by the end he thought the whole point was just to confuse you. Well then, mission accomplished.

I did find some useful information on IMDB explaining some of the film. There are pieces of that that I can buy, but the bigger picture is still elusive to me. And not in the almost-have-it-which-means-it-will-stay-with-me way of something like Donnie Darko or Birdman. More of a I-dont-get-it-and-I-concede-that-I-never-will way. Some of the symbolism that’s explained there is kinda cool.

Also, I feel like such an idiot that I didn’t realize the “”Synecdoche”” and “”Schenectady”” are two different words. Or rather, I didn’t realize that there’s a word out there that’s “”synechdoche”” and I just assumed it was the city name the whole time. Dictionary.com says it means “”a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for a part””. The New York setting makes the title a play on words, but using a word that means a play on words. Okay if that much confused you, then just stay away from this movie because it’s all uphill from here.

The movie did have a fantastic cast, anchored by PSH at his best. Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Emily Watson, Diane Wiest, Michelle Williams, Jennifer Jason Leigh. All of them clearly appearing like they knew they were a part of something big. They seemed to have understood their roles better than I did, but if they didn’t, it just goes to further prove what good actors they all are.”

Kids

“I’ve gotta be honest here. This movie made me uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. I had a very hard time getting thru it.

This film is generally attributed to Harmony Korine, even though he’s technically one of 3 credited writers. Pulling from characters in his own life, the film follows a group of NYC teenagers for a day. These kids engage in all sorts of devious behavior including drugs, alcohol, and sex, particularly sex with virgins (which is the proclivity of one of our main kids).

I think what most made me uncomfortable was how casually the kids treated all of it. They talked about their conquests in the same way that I talk about how many movies I’ve seen recently, although I think I have more respect for the movies than they do for their partners. Combine that with their thuggish slang and speech patterns (which is something I generally have a hard time putting up with) and I could feel my skin crawl as I just wanted to turn it off. To be clear, I didn’t want to turn it off because it was bad, but rather because it was so effective. Very much a mission accomplished from the filmmakers. Also, I think the title does a lot of the work in getting that reaction as it emphasizes that these are young kids behaving badly in ways that most adults would never even dream of.

I did find one early scene very interesting, where we were cutting back and forth between a group of girls talking and a group of guys talking. We’d bounce between the two on the same topic, and there’d be such a different philosophy on each side. The boys would say the girls loved something, and the girls would say how much they hated that. Although it also managed to just prove how wrong they were about everything.

One notable thing about this movie is that it was the film debuts of Chloe Sevigny and Rosario Dawson. Knowing them from the rest of their careers, I was able to follow their characters with interest with less negative reaction than the others. When you look at where they started vs where they are now, it’s quite impressive. However, I think I’ll just stick with their later work. I don’t know that I could ever sit thru this one again.”

Jurassic World

“Now THIS is how you do a summer movie. Big action, thrills, humor, twists, over the top shenanigans and giant dinosaurs. All the razzle and dazzle you want while frantically munching your popcorn. I went with two friends, and the three of us were constantly gasping, cheering, swearing, laughing, groaning, and generally reacting to everything.

If you’re looking for a deeper experience than just sensationalized adrenaline, then you’ll notice that this movie has more than a few problems. The story is very superficial and a little we’ve-been-here-before. There’s some predictable “”plot twists””, and don’t even get me started on how the female characters are portrayed. The bright side is that it’s very self aware of it’s flaws. For every trope that it embraces, it smashes another. It respects the original film with some subtle nods sprinkled in: night vision goggles, the rearview mirror, the old park jeeps, Mr DNA, and likely others that I didn’t even pick up on.

So for this movie, we’re ignoring the previously two sequels existed, and we’re picking up down the line from Jurassic Park. Soon after the events of that film, the park was rebuilt and opened as Jurassic World. After ten years, they feel the tourists are becoming jaded, so they engineer a new species of dinosaur, Indominus Rex. Have we learned nothing?

What I find interesting is that the reason given for creating the new species is that the park audiences are getting bored. In reality, everything they’re saying about the park guests is applicable to your casual movie goers. I’d have a really hard time believing that this type of park would get old so quick (how many people still get excited to go to Disney World?), but the world at large is getting tougher to surprise and entertain when it comes to big action movies.

Let’s be honest. This movie is never going to be remembered in the same way that the original film is so widely beloved. That doesn’t make it any less fun, which is what a good blockbuster summer movie is all about

Jurassic World – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n”

Solaris

“Only I would include “”watch a movie”” on my list of chores on a Sunday afternoon. And only I would actually treat it like a chore (ugh, do I have to?). This is actually set to future post on the next Sunday, but the day I’m actually writing it is the day of the Tony awards. So instead of saving the movie til the end of the day, once I’ve played all the World of Warcraft I can handle, I’m reversing the schedule and watching first, playing later. And I’m really anxious to get to the gaming.

Solaris is one of those movies that I always think I’ve seen, until I realize that I haven’t. There’s even been at least one attempt before, but it was unsuccessful (I think we decided we weren’t in the mood to pay attention to a film). So when I first attacked the inventory at the closing video store, I was sure to grab this.

I wasn’t paying too much attention to it as I watched, but reading over a plot synopsis to fill in the blanks, it’s fascinating. George Clooney is a psychiatrist who is sent to visit a space station because of some strange occurrences going on there. And oh are they strange. I’m not sure how much is allowed to be revealed before crossing into spoiler territory, but it’s the right kind of haunting confusion. Questioning what’s real and what’s not, not to mention what’s right and what’s wrong. Yeah, it might feel a bit like all the other similar movies of craziness in space (Supernova, Sunshine, Moon) but it has unique enough twists to stand out.

Also, I’m really digging Jeremy Davies as Snow. But that may just be because my brain keeps calling out Faraday! every time he’s on screen. What? No other Lostaways out there? Just me? We have to go back!”

Entourage

“I love these boys. I’ve followed them since the beginning. From Head On to Aquaman to Medellin to Gatsby and now to Hyde. Oh I’m listing some of Vincent Chase’s movies throughout the series. For eight seasons, we’ve watched these four boys from Queens (and the big shot agent) navigate Hollywood, dealing with each other’s successes and failures, in their personal and professional lives. Vincent Chase (Adrien Grenier) is the big shot pretty boy movie star. Eric “”E”” Murphy (Kevin Connolly) is his best friend and manager, and sometimes producer depending on where you are in the series. Johnny “”Drama”” Chase (Kevin Dillon) is Vincent’s older brother, a fellow actor who’s had less success and a whole lot more attemps. And Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) who’s basically along for the ride. Oh and Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), Vince’s scene stealing agent. Inspired by and very loosely based on Mark Wahlberg’s initial LA experiences, the show ran for eight seasons.

I spent most of the past month rewatching the show so I could get it fresh in my head. As I remembered, the first season isn’t really the best. Most of the focus was on Vince and E, who are actually the least interesting characters. I love them, but I also find them a little offputting at times. Still, the first season was enough to start to make a breakout star of Piven, and by the second season, Ari started to get bigger, less Vince-centric storylines. The second and third was when things really started moving, with the whole Aquaman/Queens Blvd/Medellin stuff playing out. Johnny Drama started to get some meatier stuff to tackle as did Turtle (my favorite of the boys).

I remember that people weren’t as big fans of the later seasons, and I know that on the initial watch I was less impressed with them. Looking at it all again, without a year long gap in between, I think it gets a bad rap. The season long arcs did feel like the natural progression that things would have taken. Okay, so maybe Vince’s season where he was on drugs and dating a porn star was a little bit of a stretch, but I appreciate them trying to change up the game. Although I think his mid-series post-Medellin arc was a better shake up. Still, ignoring all the Eric/Sloan mess and Vince shenanigans, those later seasons are where Drama and Turtle really had their chance to shine. Dillon even managed to score a Golden Globe nod late in the game (Previously, only Piven had broken into the awards races, cleaning up a few years in a row at the Emmys).

Okay, but I’m here to write about the movie not the show. Say what you will about it, but I very much loved the chance to revisit with these boys.

I’m hearing it described as basically being a really long episode, but I felt it more like a really short season. Most seasons revolved around getting all the ducks in a row for a specific movie. Maybe it was the release they were solving, maybe Vince was chasing the role, maybe they were stepping out as producers. The point is, we watched that story unfold over the course of the season, while smaller arcs filled the B plots in each episode. For the movie, the film in jeopardy was Hyde. Not only did Vince star, but he made his directorial debut with this big film, and it was Ari’s first film as the head of the studio. Vince needed more money to finish the film, and Ari had to fight with his father and son duo financiers (Billy Bob Thorton and Haley Joel Osment) to try and make it happen.

Something else the show was known for was its celebrity cameos. In most episodes, some high B or low A lister celeb would stroll by and say hi to Vince. Sometimes they were quick throwaway bits, others they were actually relevant to the story. It was a fun way to add some believability (spell checker says I made up that word) and credibility, also serving as a reminder that hey this guy is a big deal. The movie was overloaded with these, maybe too much so. When it used to be once per episode max, now it was every few minutes someone else was showing up. Most were just superfluous throwaways, but a handful were a bit more consequential. Personally, I really liked Turtle’s arc around Ronda Rousey. Add her to the list of women I want to be when I grow up (alongside Tina Fey and Sofia Vergara).

Writer/director Doug Ellin has said that he hopes to make a trilogy of films, but if that doesn’t happen, this makes a really nice (if late) sendoff. The boys did some guerilla style filming at the Golden Globes this past year for some scenes that ended things in a really nice place. Personally, I would like it to keep going, which I didn’t realize was how I felt until I was in the moment. But if it doesn’t, I can be at peace with it. One last time, let’s hug it out.

Entourage – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n”

Spy

“If you’ve been reading lately, you know I’ve been a bit more sensitive about the portrayal of women on film and the inequality in the industry. While I love my guy movies, I am always happy to see a big female led flick, and when that female is Melissa McCarthy, I am ecstatic. There’s few women who are given many opportunities to lead a film, much less a big summer tent pole, and the fact that she’s been entrusted with so many in recent years is beyond wonderful.

Teaming up once again with Bridesmaids and The Heat director, Paul Feig, McCarthy stars as Susan Cooper, CIA agent who works behind the scenes, guiding her James Bond-esque super spy Bradley Fine (Jude Law) thru a myriad of, um, spy stuff. When a mission goes south and all known agents are compromised, Susan steps up to head into the field and take down a baddie trying to sell nuclear weapons.

The idea is that this is a parody of a James Bond film, without going the full parody route. A little less on the nose than Austin Powers, and more of an actual spy film that happens to be funny. Feig has been quoted as saying that he wrote this film because he thought it’d be the closest he’d ever get to directing Bond. He also said he was intrigued by the idea of having a trio of women leading the film: McCarthy’s Cooper as the protagonist, Miranda Hart’s Nancy as the sidekick, and Rose Byrne’s Rayna as the villain.

Something that I really really loved and appreciated about the homage over parody approach is that the humor didn’t come from our sudden spy bumbling around. She may have been a little out of practice and a little fish out of water, but she knew exactly what she was doing. She proved above all else how smart and adaptable she was to situations. The comedy (on her end) came more out of the unfamiliarity of the field and not out of her own ineptitude.

The rest of the cast helped bring the funny as well. Some deadpan humor from Allison Janney, some just over the top enough villain-y from the aforementioned Byrne (who we’ve learned from films like Neighbors and Bridesmaids can be quite funny), and some character work from Bobby Cannavale. However, the true secret humor weapon was Jason Statham.

Yes, the same Jason Statham whose action star chops I have praised countless times (including the most recent Fast and Furious installment). Turns out, the dude is quite funny. Jimmy Fallon was apparently aware of this, but few others were. Even I’d forgotten that some of the films where he got his start were comedy infused Guy Ritchie films, (Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smokin’ Barrels). In Spy, he plays Agent Ford, another top CIA agent. Although while Jude Law’s spy was your suave Bond, Ford is a little more Ethan Hunt maybe? Best analogy I can come up with, but I mean to say that he’s rougher around the edges. He gets stuff done with some extremely physical stunts and general bad ass-ery. So how does that make him funny? His recurring gag is how he rattles off lists of the more and more impossible feats he’s performed on missions. That and some unexpected moments where his strategy is a bit less conventional is all I’ll say. Seriously though, the man is funny. Even Melissa McCarthy was saying that Statham was the one actor who could make her break character laughing the most consistently and constantly.

Now, if I’m being completely honest, not all of the film worked for me. Every single idea behind it and all the moving pieces I’ve described were solid, but something didn’t quite connect (story issues perhaps) and made some of it drag on. Still, I’m more than happy that this film exists for everything that it is. Who knows, there’s definitely some franchise potential in here, and I for one would love to see that happen!

Spy – \m/ \m/ \m/”

In Bruges

“I start too many of these throw back posts with “”I really should know this movie better”” somewhere in the first paragraph, but no really, I really should know this movie better. This quirky and subversive little dark comedy earned an Oscar nod for screenplay in 2009 and won star Colin Farrell a much deserved Golden Globe that cemented his redemption from being a Hollywood bad boy and signaled the start of a more respectable career and lifestyle. But first he got a chance to play just bad enough, with a cheeky twinkle in his eye.

Farrell appears alongside Brendan Gleeson as a pair of European hitmen hiding out after a job gone wrong. They’ve been ordered by their boss to wait in the quaint little Belgian town of Bruges until he calls them. Gleeson tries to enjoy the town while Farrell is having none of it.

I love the tone of this movie. It’s technically considered a comedy (hence the Golden Globe success), but it’s not exactly a laugh fest. Instead it’s sort of the type of underworld picture you’d expect from the likes of someone like Scorsese or Guy Ritchie, except there’s a good sprinkling of sarcasm and clever one liners. The comedy in the underworld kind of mirrors the fish out of water feeling of the hitmen in Bruges. I keep finding myself chuckling pretty much every time Farrell opens his mouth, and he really sells it like a pro as he says some completely off the wall and/or unexpected things. I’m glancing thru the quotes on IMDB trying to cull a few examples, but they’re all either inappropriate and/or need context. Guess you’ll just hafta watch it for yourself. Until then, I’ll leave you with the trailer.”