Pitch Perfect Is Pretty Great

pitch perfect posterPitch Perfect might be far from perfect, but I still thought it was a seriously enjoyable film. The only thing I knew about this movie going in was that it was about a group of female singers and that’s pretty much it. I had no idea it was set in college — most of the women in the film are nearing or over 30, though that doesn’t really bother me — or that Anna Kendrick was the main character or any of that. Yet, I still really enjoyed this movie.

I wonder, though, if you might have to be predisposed to this kind of flick to enjoy it. It shares more than a passing resemblance to Bring It On. In fact, I’d put those two movies in the same sub-genre with Fired Up and Stick It and that’s a group of films that I enjoy. I guess it’s basically just a sports movie featuring women and sports I’m not familiar with handled with a solid sense of humor. I’m not sure what this sub-genre should be called, but someone should coin a killer term.

Anyway, Kendrick’s a college freshman who wants to move to LA and start paying her dues in the record industry so she can eventually become a producer. Her dad’s a professor who wants her to get an education. For a while she has no interest until he makes her a deal saying that if she joins some kind of campus group and still doesn’t like it, he’ll help her move out and follow her dream. She winds up joining the school’s all female a cappella group, the Barden Bellas, and things move on from there. They have a rivalry with the all-male group (The Treblemakers) that gets interesting when Kendrick’s love interest joins that group. There’s also the Glee-style structure of hitting regionals and semi-finals and whatever.

You can tell from watching this movie, that the director’s cut was probably about four hours long. It feels robust and full, but also like some bits might be missing. We never quite find out why Kendrick is so mad at her dad (though it is better explained in an extended version of a scene on the Blu-ray). There were also scenes with the sexy English or Australian upperclassman DJ at the school radio station and a few other dangling plot points, but even with all that, I still found this to me an incredibly entertaining and fun movie. I’m also okay with not having every single possible detail about a person’s life even though I’m watching only a 2 hour segment of it. That’s how life is and I feel talked-down-to when every small detail is laid out for me.

I have a confession to make that might also contribute to my liking of this film: I was a pretty big fan of my college’s a cappella group the Owtsiders (we went to Ohio Wesleyan University, which was often shortened to OWU, get it?). Just about any time they had a concert I’d go. They always seemed to be having such a good time, it made me wish I could sing. I think the filmmakers did a good job of capturing not only that onstage presence, but also the kind of weird fandom a group like this can engender (seeing the smallest hint of myself in Benji was a little creepy). The sense of fun I got from the Owtsiders was on screen both in the performance scenes and the one where Kendrick breaks and reveals that she, like me, knows the words to Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The USA.”

More than being clever and funny, the movie makes me want to care about Kendrick’s character. I can relate to people with walls up who don’t want to let anyone in for fear of being hurt. I can relate to trying to be so self reliant that you actively shy away from interacting with people. I get her as a character to the core, of course it helps to understand her when all her favorite songs are about being bulletproof.

There was one funny thing I noticed about the cast of this film. While the women are all doing their things and doing it awesomely (Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Ester Dean, Alexis Knapp and Hana Mae Lee kill it), the dudes all reminded me of more established actors. Adam DeVine is doing Jack Black in his performance as Bumper. There wasn’t a moment he was on screen that I wasn’t thinking about Barry from High Fidelity, but douchier. The bigger guy that plays McLovin’s sidekick (I’m still not clear what either of them had to do with the clubs as neither of them was actually in one of the groups) was doing his best Eric Stonestreet from Modern Family impression. Even our two sympathetic mail leads at least seemed like existing characters. Jesse (Skylar Astin) looks like Dane Cook and Shia LaBeouf’s love child and Ben Platt has a minor Napoleon Dynamite thing going on as Benji. I’m not saying these guys all tried to be like other performers, but these things popped out to me while watching the movie. Lastly, Utkarsh Ambudkar looks exactly like my friend Kevin which is a little creepy.

So, no, Pitch Perfect is not a perfect movie. It’s not completely original, the cast is way older than it probably should be and some scenes were probably kept in in service of song and dance numbers instead of story, but as a whole I think it really works. If you’ve been burned by the unevenness or downright silliness of Glee, don’t let it keep you away from this movie. If you love Glee, well, you’ll probably dig this movie too. Also, if you like fun, you should dig Pitch Perfect. After writing this, I actually kinda want to watch the movie again…

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Halloween Scene: Don’t Go In The Woods (2010)

I knew absolutely nothing about Don’t Go In The Woods aside from the brief description given on Netflix: “A group of indie rockers seek solitude deep in the woods. But they soon realize they aren’t alone when a sledgehammer-brandishing intruder arrives.” As I’m a fan of rock-based horror movies like Rock N Roll Nightmare and Black Roses I figured I’d give it a shot, not even knowing until I started the movie on Netflix that Vincent D’Onofrio directed it. I had absolutely no idea that it was a musical, which explains a few of my bewildered tweets last night.

And when I say musical, I don’t mean a bunch of dudes sitting around with their instruments trying to write songs, but full-on, singing-at-the-camera moments as well. The odd thing about the movie, though, is that it reveals itself so slowly that it’s hard to actually figure out what’s going on. For quite a while, it is just the dudes in the band playing, so you think it’s that kind of movie. Then the singing-at-the-camera stuff starts, but we’re well into the movie at this point.

The horror elements also take quite a while to get going. Aside from a bloody woman seen in the beginning of the film, there isn’t another kill or scary moment for the next half hour or so. I will give the movie credit for being so off balance that I was never sure when something bad was going to happen. We get those long, wide shots of people walking around in the woods and since I’ve seen a million horror movies, I’m trained to think something bad’s going to happen. They’re creepy and unnerving even if nothing happens.

Now that I think about it, off balance is a really appropriate descriptor for this movie. Some of the performances are as wooden as the trees surrounding the band and the small army of female fans that show up to hang out. On the other hand, some are really solid. You’ve also got the beauty of the setting set off by the gruesome acts taking place. And, on the same note, some really great music sung by various band members. I would actually buy this movie’s soundtrack if it’s available anywhere (I haven’t seen it, but it might exist somewhere).

There’s also the matter of the ending, which I won’t get into too specifically. I didn’t see the twist coming at first, but it did hit me before the actual reveal, which made me feel smart and stupid at the same time in a head-slapping kind of way. I’m still not exactly sure what happened or how it all worked, but I liked how it was presented, especially the classic slasher homages in there. I also dug the look of the killer which was a masked guy in a black hat and long coat, simple but off putting.

While there weren’t any real scares or jolts for me in the watching of the film, I did find myself a little unnerved and that hasn’t happened in a while. There was just something about this movie, it was slippery and fluid, I couldn’t grab hold of it, but in a good way. I can’t say I liked the movie every moment I watched it, but having seen it, I’m glad I did and am still thinking it over.

Quick Movie Review: Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine (1965)

I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I pushed play on the Netflix Instant version of Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine. I thought it was just another iteration of the AIP surf flicks I’ve enjoyed so much this summer (like Ski Party, Pajama Party and Bikini Beach), but it also happened to combine a few other favorite genres (to varying degrees of success) with some sci-fi/robot stuff going on as well as a spy motiff. Oh, and the bad guy is none other than one of my all time favorite actors Vincent Price absolutely relishing in his role as an evil mastermind. To say the man chews scenery doesn’t quite do his performance justice, he savors that ham like a world-class steak and it really makes the movie.

The plot revolves around Price’s Dr. Goldfoot creating lady-looking robots to rob wealthy men. In a precursor to Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse and The Matrix, the robots are directly programmed for the specific men they’re going after, which is a pretty rad idea seen through the prism of mid-60s sci-fi. Anyway, a couple of guys played by Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman get wise to the plot and try to put a stop to it which leads first to a dungeon scene with cameos by some of their fellow AIP stars, including Annette Funicello, and then into a huge chase scene that includes boats on wheels and street cars.

It’s got all that, plus the trademark wit and thinly veiled sexual innuendo you should come to expect from the surf flicks and on top of all that it stars Price at his hammiest AND has some James Bondian moments (they this element is the weakest of the batch by far), which  makes this like the Voltron of weird subgenre movies for me. And you know what’s even crazier? It was going to be a musical originally, but those bits were cut out, though its unknown whether that was before or after filming started. Wouldn’t it be rad if someone uncovered a full print of this film with those scenes intact? I’d definitely give it another watch!

What We’re Watching: Monday & Tuesday

I find myself with a strange feeling this TV season: a lack of interest. Sure, I’ve got favorite shows I like tuning in to, but it feels like I’ve got a lot less of them to look forward to, possibly because Lost is gone. There wasn’t another show in the history of my television watching career that engrossed me as much as that one and got me so excited about an hour of TV. Maybe it’s because most of the new shows aren’t so good. Here’s the break down for the first section of the week as far as regular viewings go.

For all the years I’ve been in New York, I’ve been looking around for a good syndicated block of reruns between 6 and 8 that would stay consistent and, for the most part, I’ve been unsuccessful. That is until recently. VH1 scored Saturday Night Live reruns from the 90s which have been a lot of fun to watch, even when I’m reminded that that was an era when skits tended to run WAY too long. It’s still fun to see a lot of today’s big stars and musical acts on the show both in the cast and as hosts. It’s even more fun to see long forgotten folks like Finese Mitchel and Sysqo perform. That takes care of the 6 to 7 block and then we bounce over to a local station called My9 which runs How I Met Your Mother. The only problem I foresee is that, with only a few season under its belt, I’ll be rewatching these episodes over and over again.

MONDAY

8:00pm – HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (CBS)
I’ve already gone on record with the potential problems I see with HIMYM, but I still enjoy this show better than most of the others I watch on a weekly basis. I’ve grown to really enjoy these characters, but I still think there needs to start being some resolution to the overhanging “mysteries” or else this one could start feeling a little tedious. Like I said though, great cast and still one of my favorite, most looked-forward-to shows.

8:30pm – RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (CBS)
Rules of Engagement is a show we only started watching because it was on right after HIMYM and nothing else was on, but I’ve actually come to enjoy it. Sure, it’s a jokier type of sitcom with lots of jokes being tossed around that aren’t hilarious, but funny enough to get a laugh. I like seeing Patrick Warburton and David Spade doing their things, plus I find the dumb neighbor/friend guy oddly charming. I’m in it with this series, though if something more interesting came on I think we’d jump ship in favor of that. 

9:00pm – THE EVENT (NBC)
AS regular readers might remember, I wasn’t really all that into The Event when it premiered. I’m even less so now and barely still pay attention while the missus watches. I think she’s getting pretty sick of it too. I spent way too many episodes wanting to slap Jason Ritter for saying “My girlfriend!” so much that I don’t think we can ever be okay again (at least not on this show). I appreciate that they’re trying to move things along at a faster clip, but I just do not care about any of these people or what’s going on. I have the vaguest interest in what’s happening with these supposed aliens (though my money’s on dimensional or time travelers), but I could really just look it up in Wiki at some future date and feel satisfied. Probably moreso because I wouldn’t be wasting my time watching a lackluster Lost wannabe. 

10:00pm – CASTLE (ABC)
I almost feel bad for not liking Castle more. I really like the cast and the dynamics of the characters, but it just feels so hacky lately. From the wacky set-ups for crimes this season (steampunk AND time travel in one episode?!) to the increasingly formulaic plot, I’m getting worn down. How many times can they run across a suspect who lies so well that they completely buy his story and move on only to come back to him or her later in the episode to realize he or she is really the killer? It’s boring and, personally, I expect more from a show with Nathan Fillion on it. Hopefully this one will pick up because the missus still LOVES it, while I just keep thinking about how much better Bones is and wishing Netflix would send the first disc of last season already so we can start the long road to catching up.

TUESDAY

8:00pm – GLEE (Fox)
This one’s completely because the missus likes the show. She’s a big fan of musicals and show tunes and whatnot, so this is right up her alley, which is unfortunate, because I find it to be one of the most wildly inconsistent, sloppy and increasingly gross shows around. Anyone else see the Rocky Horror episode tonight where the teacher actually considered and planned on dressing up in gold shorts and performing a sexually charged number with one of his students? Sure he practiced with the hot red head teacher, but he was actually planning on jumping in and doing that. He’s just one of the many headache-inducing characters on a show filled with them. I’ve heard the argument made that you’re not supposed to expect anything from Glee but high school drama and musical numbers, but I call bullshit on that. The very basis of ongoing fiction of any kind is based in consistent characterization and this show lacks it for the most part. However, I do love Brittany’s throwaway lines. Those are just solid and sound like they’re being written by someone from 30 Rock.

9:00pm – RAISING HOPE (Fox)
I can’t remember the last time I watched this much Fox programming on a single night, but I find myself really liking Raising Hope. It’s clear the show was created by the brains behind My Name Is Earl as both showcase small town folks without much money doing what they can to get by. Hope revolves around a guy discovering his one night stand turned out to not only be a serial killer on death row, but also pregnant with his child. Now he’s raising the kid with his parents who had him at a really young age (his dad looks about the same age as him at times) and his mom’s grandma played by Cloris Leachman. Hope can be a little too weird and a little too jokey at times, but I think it’s starting to hit its stride. Plus, the Halloween episode featured homemade Batman and Robin costumes, so bonus points for that.

9:3opm – RUNNING WILDE (Fox)
Running Wilde, on the other hand, is not a show I’m enjoying much and I’m starting to get the feeling I’m not the only one as Fox decided to run two episodes of Raising Hope tonight instead of one of each, like usual. I am a huge Arrested Development fan, so I should like this show with its use of Will Arnett, David Cross and that fact that it was co-created by Mitchell Hurwitz, but Wilde suffers from two afflictions. First off, it’s not very easy to jump into. We missed the first episode and had trouble figuring out what the relationship between Arnett and the still-hot Keri Russell was. That’s not a good thing for a new show and something that AD suffered from (I still have trouble describing it to friends who missed out the first time around). The other problem is that it just feels like a rehash of old material. Arnett’s playing GOB from AD, Russell feels like Felicity though I never watched that show, plus the premise is a more exaggerated version of Dharma & Greg without the love. I’ll be curious to see what Fox replaces this show with if it does get the axe.

10:00pm – PARENTHOOD (NBC)
Parenthood continues to be one of the best written, most solid shows on television. I’d honestly put it up there with Mad Men. There’s a lot more in Mad Men considering it’s a period piece, but like that show, the Parenthood creators do an amazing job of juggling a small army of fast talking characters, giving each their moments to shine and great lines. Great writing mixed with a great cast makes for great TV, but for some reason I don’t find myself looking forward to this show on a regular basis. I’m happy when it’s on, but never excited for it. I wonder if that’s because it’s a drama and not an action show. I’ll have to think about that. I’ll be back on Thursday with more shows I’m watching. What are you viewing on Monday and Tuesday?

Jimmy Fallon’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” Glee Riff

Three of my favorite tastes do in fact taste great together. Well, I can’t say Glee is a favorite especially trying to go up against Lost, but the songs are fun. Anyway, on last night’s Jimmy Fallon he played this video in which his glee club was trying to prepare for a competition only to find Amy Poehler and the cast of Parks & Recrreation already rehearsing there WITH THE ROOTS. It’s pretty epic.

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Trailers! Trailers! Trailers!

I see a lot of posts on /Film about various movie trailers, but I tend to ignore them until I see them on TV or at the movies. Looking at them on a tiny computer screen just doesn’t do it for me all the time, but every now and then I get sucked in to looking at a bunch of trailers and here are the ones I saw that I’m looking forward to.

Hot Tub Time Machine. Just saw this one on TV today (though a shorter version) and can’t wait to see it.

I discovered The Runaways with the Dazed and Confused soundtrack back in high school and eventually picked up one of their records at a my beloved used record store Boogie Records. So, this movie based on them is definitely in my wheelehouse.

I just stumbled upon the trailer for this Angelina Jolie spy flick called Salt. The plot seems pretty basic in that “wrongly accused person on the run trying to prove their innocence” way, but what I like is seeing an ass kicking woman in the role. I’m not a big fan of Jolie, but this looks promising.

And finally, Cop Out is Kevin Smith’s next movie. I’ve been avoiding the trailers, but was in the spirit and gave it a look. You can’t really go wrong with Tracy Morgan teaming up with Bruce Willis. It’ll be interesting to see Smith, a director I love, doing, not only a movie he didn’t write, but also an action-heavy flick. Hopefully this is his big huge movie.

Casting Internets

If you’re not reading Fantastic Four right now, you absolutely should. Hickman and Eaglesham are killing that book and I recommend it for everyone. This image is so cool it makes my mind hurt and it is now my background. Head over to CBR for the bigger version.

In music news, Green Day’s album American Idiot will be premiering at the St. James Theatre on Broadway on March 24th. I listened to the hell out of that record in college and am actually very excited about the potential here. (via THR)

Today’s Topless Robot list is one of the best, most creative I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s called The 9 Strange Things Found While Searching For Waldo. The above, dubbed Waldo’s Topless Mermaid Orgy had me laughing the most. The whole list is great and I distinctly remember a good deal of these from my personal copy of Where’s Waldo.

Brian over at Horror Movie A Day did an awesome end of the year best/worst list. But this isn’t your typical one, it’s got topics like Best/Worst Anaconda Movie and Best/Worst Movie About A Bunch Of Stranded Soldiers In The Desert Getting Killed By A Supernatural Entity. I think this is my favorite year end list of the bunch. Super Punch has been showing a lot of rad found art robots lately, but this one by David Lipson is amazing. You can buy his work on his etsy page called Lipson Robotics.

This ABC’s song/poem thing starring Mega Man and all the robots he’s fought over the years is just fantastic. Plus, you can let your kids watch it, when you bust out the ol’ NES. (via Topless Robot)

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