On this week’s episode, I’m carrying on with It’s All Connected Part 3! If you want to see where I went after the first and second episodes, you’re in luck! This latest batch finishes up my Mike Flanagan run, digs into the wild world of Stephen King adaptations and takes a few tangents in all the best ways!
I did not have very high hopes for Men In Black 3. When I first heard they were doing another film after the pretty-great first installment and the I-can’t-remember-anything-about-it sequel, I wasn’t super excited. Then I heard that they started filming without a finished script, which is never a good sign and was even less interested. However there were two basic reasons I moved it to the top of the Netflix queue. First, my wife wanted to watch it and I was fairly curious. And two, we got a great deal on a Blu-ray player on Amazon during Cyber Monday and have been itching to take full advantage of that killer picture.
Well, we just finished watching it and I’ve got to say, I was amazingly surprised with how much I dug this movie. I’m not sure if it was the low expectations or that this really is a fantastic movie (I’m thinking it’s leaning towards the latter, really), but this movie really felt like a proper follow-up to the deft mix of action, comedy and sci-fi that made the first one so great. As you may or may not know, the plot for this movie follows Agent J (Will Smith) as he travels back in time to help the late 60s version of his partner (Josh Brolin), Agent K, save the current day version (Tommy Lee Jones). Along the way, he’s also saving the world from a world-killing alien named Boris The Animal in both current and past versions.
The story, which could have gotten overly complicated — especially when you throw in fifth dimensional alien who can see all realities at once — but I thought that screenwriter Etan Cohen did a great job of making everything easy to follow without talking down to the audience. I also thought director Barry Sonnenfeld did a great job with everything from casting younger versions of Tommy Lee Jones and Emma Thompson to keeping the story moving along. Bothcerators get kudos for my two favorite bits in the movie: the fact that the late 60s aliens at MIB HQ all look like they’re from episodes of Star Trek and the whole part with Andy Warhol and the Factory. Warhol played a big early role in the punk scene that I read about in Please Kill Me, so it was fun to see an alternate, funny take on that.
The action and special effects were up there on the same level as the comedy which made this a great choice for really testing out our new Blu-ray player. It all looked so vivid, I could see all the lines on TLJ’s face (which I’m sure he’s not super happy about). At the same time, I could see every aspect of the pretty great looking aliens in both timelines, which is always a plus. Boris was especially awesome looking and well-created. My wife very correctly pointed out that he looks like a less-pale Lobo, which now makes me want a Lobo movie real bad.
But the film also has a heart to it. J wants to know more about K, but K won’t let him in for reasons that become clear(er) by the end of the film. Meanwhile, J finds the past version of K to be a lot more open and happy, so the question of why he changes starts working its way up to the same level as, how are they going to save Earth? A lot of movies with such high stakes (saving the world) tend to lose site of the personal, which is what people can actually relate to. This movie doesn’t have that problem. And, man, the reason they give or K’s distance from J, that was tough but kind of poetic. I have questions about it, but they’re not nagging.
So, all in all, I was very happy with our MIB3 viewing experience from both a story and film perspective AND a visual one. Man, that’s a pretty movie. I really think this Blu-ray thing might have a chance of catching on, you guys.
Hope everyone had a good Memorial Day Weekend, I sure did. Though we didn’t do a whole lot, the missus and I did check out a few movies, two of which were decidedly kid-based. I liked both of them, but one definitely more than there other. Let’s begin!
Last night we watched Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson’s stop motion rendition of Roald Dahl’s book of the same name. I’m a big Dahl fan, though I’ve never read FMF. On the other hand, I’m not a huge Anderson fan, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the movie. In the end, I liked it but the movie never really grabbed me. I loved the stop motion and thought it look amazing, especially when they did the moments where the characters move into the background but the camera stays where it is. It looks like a side scrolling video game in that respect and I kind of dug it. Aside from that, though, the movie looks like exactly what it is: a stop motion movie directed by Wes Anderson. Not being a huge fan of the man, it’s not a huge draw for me, but it looked good enough.
The plot is where the movie lost me. It’s not a bad one, but I feel like the movie might move a little too quickly and not allow the emotions of the plot to sink in. Or maybe I just wasn’t all that invested. I’m not sure what it is, but I didn’t particularly care about what was going on. I did like the voice work by George Clooney, Merryl Streep and the rest, but all they did was make me think that this was like a solo animal-filled Danny Ocean movie with the caper theme. Ah well, it wasn’t a bad movie and I’m glad I watched it because it looked rad, but I won’t be watching it again. I would imagine that Anderson fans will and did dig it though.
On the other hand, I really liked the CGI Cloudy With A Chance Of Meat Balls, based on the children’s book by Judi and Ron Barrett with characters voiced by Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, Anna Faris, Mr. T (!), Bruce Campbell and a slew of others. I know that I read the book as a kid, but don’t remember it too much. The plot of the movie is that Hader’s character builds a machine that converts water into food. The machine accidentally gets launched into the sky where it starts raining food down on the town. There’s a lot of other stuff going on involving him and his dad and him trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to woo the visiting weather girl played by Faris.
The movie got me early on by starting off with young Hader wanting to be a scientist. I love that sense of inventing for invention sake and experimentation that you can only really get in cartoons and kids movies (it’s the big reason I love Meet The Robinsons). Personally, I get bogged down with actual science (not that I’m an expert by any means) and forget that wonder that comes from the youthful idea that you can invent anything you dream up.
In addition, the plot was fun and fast enough to not really let you get bored and it sucked me in right off the bat. The only problem was that the visual quality of the Netflix Instant went in and out, so the amazing CGI (I’d like to see this in 3D) went from being really crisp to being pixelated.
If you’ve got to watch a movie with some kids, I recommend this one!
SNL has been pretty hit or miss this season, but we just saw a rerun of the Joseph Gordon-Levitt and I realized how much I love the Keenan Thompson-starring What Up With That? skits. They’re pretty simple and the same almost every time. Keenan is the host of a BET talk show. There’s always three guests, two of which are real celebs (not the hosts) playing themselves and then Bill Hader playing Fleetwood Mac frontman Lindsey Buckingham. Keenan keeps breaking into song, getting inspired by whatever the first guest is talking about all the while, more and more people jump out dancing, singing or playing instruments. My favorite is Jason Sudekis who is always decked out in a red Adidas track suit and doing 80s hip hop moves. It’s fairly nonsensical, but it kills me every time. Here are all three skits available on Hulu in chronological order.
Of course, the very first clip actually ruins my above description because only James Franco plays himself in this one from October 17th which Gerard Butler hosted. This was the first one I ever saw and it killed me.
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Here’s the episode from the Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosted episode on November 21st. Al Gore and Mindy Kaling from The Office are the guests.
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This is actually the dress rehearsal from the episode that premiered on December 19th. This was the James Franco episode and the talkshow guests are Mike Tyson and 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer. I used the footage from the dress rehearsal because it has some sick dance movies by Tyson himself.
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Back in college, I was a big fan of listening to director’s commentaries. I had only recently been introduced to the world of DVDs with their tons and tons of extra features. The commentaries became a favorite because I could listen to them while working on a paper or while making the drive from home to school on my portable DVD player. After that I kind of fell off the wagon, but a couple weeks ago I hopped back on with a triple feature of commentaries all related to Judd Apatow. Superbad (2007), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) and Knocked Up (2007) were all on the docket and they were all hilarious.
In college, my favorite commentaries were for Kevin Smith movies where he would cram as many people involved in the movie as possible to sit around and offer their two cents. That’s why I like the Superbad one so much. I can’t seem to find a full list online anymore, but I know it included Jonah Hill, director Greg Mottola and Producer Apatow in New York (along with Apatow’s oldest daughter Maude who wasn’t listening in on headphones, but was still in the room which meant Hill couldn’t swear) while the rest were in California. “The rest” included Michael Cera, Seth Rogen, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and co-writer Evan Goldberg. As someone interested in the creation of films, I found this commentary very interesting, though I got a lot of the same information from the podcast Rogen and Goldberg did for Creative Screenwriting Magazine (which you can listen to here or download from iTunes). You of course get all kinds of behind the scenes information, great stories and shout outs to people and things you might have missed. It’s especially fun listening to Hill try and not curse like a sailor. He does slip a few times and gets admonished by Apatow. There’s also a part where Apatow leaves with his daughter and Hill starts yelling at him about being professional. I’m guessing it’s another big gag, but it still left me feeling confused and awkward. Good stuff.
The Forgetting Sarah Marshall commentary was another big group affair with director Nick Stoller, writer and star Jason Segel, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, executive producer Rodney Rothman, producer Shauna Robertosn and Jack McBrayer live from New York. Apatow wasn’t on the commentary, but his company did make the movie, so it still counts. Seeing as how FSM was my favorite comedy of 2008, it’s probably not a big surprise how much I liked the commentary. I like when the people who worked on a movie together seem like they really like each other. Kind of like in the Ocean’s 11 movies. It really seems like those guys have a great time together, which makes the movie even more fun to watch. Like with Superbad, there’s lots of interesting tidbits, with Segel commenting on how specific scenes were taken from his life and how the Dracula musical was something he actually wrote seriously. Sure, a lot of this information can now be read on IMDb, but I’d always rather hear it from the horse’s mouth than just read something on a forum that hundreds of thousands of people can and do contribute to. I guess it’s the reporter in me.
The Knocked Up commentary was a much different animal as it only had three people involved: writer and director Apatow, star Seth Rogen and…Bill Hader? Sure Hader has a bit part in the movie, but he’s basically there to do impressions, toss out mini-factoids and ask questions. Hader explains how he met the Knocked Up gang (the friends in the movie are friends in real life and often hang out together) and also explains that he worked in the same building they shoot his scenes as a film editor. He apparently used to be a librarian on The Surreal Life and a PA on The Scorpion King and a documentary about Star Wars. Like with the others you get plenty of information about the origins of the story, what events were taken from real life, specifics about some of the actors (Ken Jeong was an actual doctor before his turn as the doctor and his eventual role on the excellent Community) and that sort of thing. I especially liked hearing about him working with his wife Leslie Mann and their two daughters. I think she’s hilarious and am really looking forward to seeing Funny People, which will hopefully be coming in my queue this week.
Em and I watched Adventureland yesterday and I really dug it. It was an interesting follow up by Greg Mottola (Superbad) as it wasn’t really laugh out loud funny (though I kept laughing pretty loudly, warranting “shush”-es fromo Em). It’s a story about growing up from the perspective of a recent college grad who studied literature and wants to be a travel writer, but has to work at an amusement park to make money from grad school in 1987. Along the way, he meets plenty of interesting characters (including Bill from Freaks and Geeks, the lovely Ryan Reynolds, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader and Kristen Stewart). But like I said, it’s not as crazy and wild as Superbad, it’s a more subdued movie with a lot more emotion and I can’t help but relate to James (our hero) who has no idea what to do with his life now that he’s done with school and has a degree in English. There’s an Avenue Q song about that right? Anyway, it definitely reminded me of working at Barry’s Bagels back home, meeting weird and interesting people who introduce you to all kinds of stuff.
Anyway, like I said I dug it. A few things of note, we had to turn our subtitles on just to make out what everybody was saying. There aren’t any accents, it’s just that James, played by Jesse Eisenberg is very soft spoken and delivers a lot of under-the-breath lines, which I found to be the funniest. If you turn the volume up too loud, then the damn music kicks in and blows your ear drums (wow, that made me sound OLD). Also, this might be the first movie I can remember where the young stars actually didn’t look old enough to be playing their characters’ ages. Specifically Eisenberg doesn’t look like a college grad, but a high school one. This threw me off for part of the movie because I kept thinking they might get in trouble for drinking in public. I had to keep reminding myself of that. Also, I haven’t seen any of Kristen Stewarts other movies (scratch that, she was the kid in Panic Room? huh) and I definitely didn’t have the strong feelings towrads her character than Ben had, but I can say that, for the most part, this is the least gross I’ve ever seen her. What’s with the greasy hair? I get that you’re pothead, but dress it up a little, you know? High points were when Bill from Freaks & Geeks shows James how all the rides work and when James punches a meathead. All in all, this is a great movie for English majors.