My Favorite Blockbuster “Discoveries” Of 2017

Happy New Year everyone. I decided to celebrate by compiling a series of lists celebrating my favorite films and shows of 2017. Sounds like pretty standard stuff, right? Yup, totally. However, these lists will include not just new films from last year, but new-to-me ones that I enjoyed. This one celebrates the glory of big screen blockbusters, most of which I saw on the small screen because, you know, kids.

First off, I’d just like to reiterate how much I enjoyed Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014) and San Andreas (2015) from director Gary Peyton.  I had a great time watching both of those movies earlier this year and highly recommend checking them out if you’re looking for big budget disaster fare. I also had a silly amount of fun watching Vin Diesel in 2015’s The Last Witch Hunter helmed by Breck Eisner. I think this will make a great weekend movie tune-in type of movie.

Continue reading My Favorite Blockbuster “Discoveries” Of 2017

We Want Action: Hit & Run (2012)

hit-and-run-poster Sometimes it can take a while for my wife and I to decide on a Netflix offering to watch on a Friday or Saturday night. The main problem is the huge number of offerings and a less than clear idea of what kind of film we want to watch. Last weekend I was flipping around and finally just hit play on Hit & Run. We both watched Dax Shepard (who co-wrote and co-directed the film with David Palmer) on Parenthood and went through Veronica Mars together a few years ago. So, it seemed like a good choice and I’m glad to say my instincts were correct.

The film finds real life couple Shepard and Bell playing a couple in a small California town. Everything’s going smoothly for them until Bell’s character gets an interview opportunity for her dream job in LA. The problem? Dax is part of the witness protection program and isn’t supposed to leave the town. He decides to throw caution to the wind and take her on the trip which reveals more of his past than he intended after Bell’s ex informs Dax’s former partner in crime that his pal is heading back to the City of Angels. Things get progressively crazy from there.

A solid mix of car-based action and comedy, Hit & Run felt like a unique film. There’s just as much relationship talk between Bell and Shepard as there are cool car chases, which puts it in a fairly sparse group of films. In other words, Vanishing Point this aint. After reading a bit about the movie, I started liking it even more because it basically came about because Shepard and Palmer had a cool idea for a movie, got together with their friends and got to work. Shepard even used his own car collection in the film and did a lot of his own stunt driving. In that regard, it reminded me of RZA’s The Man With The Iron Fists because it’s just a person taking what they love and putting it on film and that’s always aces in my book.

Quick Movie Review: The Hangover Part II (2011) & Bridesmaids (2011)

It’s weird to say this because I am a big Todd Phillips fan going back to Road Trip,   Old School and Starsky & Hutch, but I don’t remember much about The Hangover. I gave it a glowing review, but, honestly, I couldn’t tell you much about the plot aside from the basics and the reveal of where Justin Bartha’s character wound up really being. As such, I wasn’t super excited about seeing the movie when it wound up being on a double bill with Bridesmaids at our local drive-in. I was however excited about the latter movie and the idea of actually seeing a new movie with our baby in tow (the whole thing worked out quite well, actually).

Anyway, I had a good time with The Hangover Part II. My initial impression from the trailers was that it was basically the same movie in a different setting and it kind of is for the most part, even down to the reveal of where the missing person is. But, you know what? Sometimes it’s just fun to watch characters (archetypes even) doing the things you expect of them in increasingly hilarious–and even action packed–ways. Also, the scenes with the drug dealing monkey made me lose my shit.

My only complaint was that I wish Bartha had gotten in on the action some more. The sequel didn’t have to be exactly set up like the original. I think he’s a lot of fun to watch on screen, but still hasn’t really gotten the chance to shine through. Maybe in the third one they’re talking about.

Side note, I think I could watch Bradley Cooper in just about anything. Dude’s CRAZY charming.

Much like H2, Bridesmaids exceeded my expectations, which is impressive because I was really excited about the flick. I mean, how can you not be intrigued by this poster? There’s a lot of hot funniness bubbling below the surface there. The thing that surprised me about this movie, though, is how misrepresnted it was by its own ad campaign and even the many talk show appearances I saw of various cast members (the missus has a jones for watching Good Morning America, The Rachel Ray Show and The View so I’m seeing all kinds of stuff I never saw before). Even when Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph straight up said it wasn’t like The Hangover-but-with-women they didn’t really seem to nail what the movie is about. See, here’s the plot, contains some plot SPOILERS. Wiig and Rudolph are best friends and have been forever. Rudolph gets engaged to a guy who’s got a great job. She’s been palling around with Rose Byrne’s character because she’s married to the hubby’s boss. So, basically, Rudolph’s gaining access to this more afluent life style and it’s creating a rift between her and Wiig. At the same time, Wiig’s life is in the crapper because her bakery failed, she lives with British freaks and she’s hooking up with Jon Hamm in a role so outwardly skeezy that he might actually be a descendant of Don Draper. Rudolph makes Wiig her maid of honor, but there’s immediately static between her and Byrne.

The trailers made it seem like the story then focused on that rivalry as well as the exploits of the other ‘maids (Melissa McCarthy as the sister-in-law, The Office‘s Ellie Kemper as the co-worker and Reno 911‘s Wendi McLendon-Covey as the cousin) but most of what you see in the ads came from the movie’s first half hour or so as the rest of the flick revolves around Wiig’s slow descent towards rock bottom and madness as tensions rise with Byrne, Rudolph and her ill-fated relationship Chris O’Dowd’s police officer (love that dude’s voice).

So, while it’s not this raucous lady Hangover, Bridesmaids still packs in the laughs–including some amazing gross-out stuff that I had heard about, but didn’t expect to be quite so funny or graphic–but more importantly really gets into the difficulties of friendship and keeping them strong as things in life change. It reminded me of some dude-based movies I’ve seen, but I can’t quite put my finger on which ones. I’m hoping that it’s success will lead to more funny lady comedies that aren’t afraid to have some balls.

Cancelled TV Cavalcade: Kitchen Confidential (2005)

Back in 2005, I had no idea who Anthony Bourdain was, so he wasn’t the draw for me when it came to watching Fox’s Kitchen Confidential. It was all about the cast for me. I had seen Bradley Cooper in Wedding Crashers, one of my all time favorite movies. Sure he played a heel, but you could tell there was a ton of charisma under that douchey role. In addition to Cooper, the show also featured Nicholas Brendon, better known as Xander from Buffy (another favorite series) and John Frances Daley who I first dug in the amazing Freaks & Geeks and later in Waiting… where he played pretty much the same part (kitchen newbie). The cast also included John Cho who I probably wasn’t familiar with yet, Frank Langella (yeah, Skeletor), the lovely Jamie King and Sam Pancake who played Barry Zuckerkorn’s assistant on Arrested Development (another favorite). That’s a lot of goodness all in one package.

After getting really into Bourdain’s show No Reservations and remembering liking the few episodes I saw, I suggested to the missus that we watch the show. It was only two discs through traditional Netflix, but we still burned through them pretty quickly. The title of the show is based on Bourdain’s 2000 memoir and Cooper’s character share’s the famous chef’s name. The plot of the show revolves around Cooper’s washed up rock star chef getting another shot at running a restaurant thanks to Langella’s good faith. Cooper then puts together a team that includes Brendon, Cho and a few others. The key, though, is that Cooper needs to do everything on the up and up because he sees this as his last chance at this kind of opportunity. Another aspect of the show I really enjoyed aside from the performances and comedy, of which there’s a great deal, was it’s various philosophical points about food and cooking. Cooper’s voiceover often reminded me of those scenes in Ratatouille where Remy describes how two different foods taste together. There’s lots of insight from the point of view of cook which I find really interesting. I’m not sure if these things are taken straight from the book (I’ve got my eye out for a copy) or if they were written for the show, but I liked the insight. As my role in our kitchen has gotten more prominent, I find myself drawn towards the world of cooking and restaurants a lot more than ever before, so a kind of insider look at the biz was a lot of fun for me.

We really enjoyed watching the series’ 13 episodes and I highly recommend checking it out. By combining a few well worn elements like a workplace drama and a guy looking to make up for past indiscretions, Kitchen Confidential wound up being something unique and fun. I’m pretty surprised the show didn’t do well, but considering Fox’s past with shows like Firefly and Arrested Development, it should come as no surprise that something with so much potential got the axe so early.

"Look, Another Girl Fight Season Finale"

The above quote was straight from my lovely wife’s mouth as we watched the last episode of the third season of Alias. If you could somehow throw the word “crying” in there it would completely sum up my thoughts on this show. Season 3 really seemed to rehash a lot of previous ideas from the show (a man being betrayed by his spy wife, distrust in the organization, lying to loved ones, bad guys who just won’t die, incredibly sloppy spy stuff and crying. Lots of crying from our bad ass heroine.

The funny thing, though, is that I kind of liked these storylines better than those from the previous seasons. Maybe it’s that I knew what I was getting into when we started. Maybe it’s because the few people whose opinions I’ve heard said it was supposed to get so much worse this season, I’m not sure. I actually enjoyed this season more what with all the Rambaldi stuff taking center stage and twins and other family members coming to light. It’s not a great show, but the ticks seemed to be less (or at least less obvious) and you can see where shows like Lost and Fringe may have had their earliest seeds.

The most impressive element of this show, by far, has been the crazy amount of high quality guest stars they were able to pull in. Here’s a fairly completely list from Season 3: Scott Adsit, Djimon Hounsou, Bradley Cooper (he came back!), Richard Roundtree (seriously, Shaft is following me), David Cronenberg, Terry O’Quinn (he also came back!), Quentin Tarantino (also came back!), Isabella Rossellini (yeesh), Vivica A. Fox, Ricky Gervais (of original Office fame and general awesomeness), Raymond J. Barry, Peggy Lipton (Julie from The Mod Squad and Norma Jennings from Twin Peaks) and David Carradine (another returner). That’s a pretty impressive roster, especially when you consider that many of them made appearances in multiple episodes.

So, I’m curious to see how Season 4 and 5 go. I know there’s a twin or something. And a baby. But, since my expectations are pretty low, so I can’t really get TOO disappointed.

I Am So Psyched For The Hangover

For me, the current wave of awesome comedy flicks didn’t start with Judd Apatow (though much respect him as he’s done most of the heavy lifting). No, comedy started getting awesome for me again (like the previous golden age thanks to the National Lampoon/SNL/SCTV folks in the late 70s and early 80s that I grew up on) in 2003 with the release of Old School, which I’ve talked about before.

Well, Todd Phillips, the mastermind behind Old School, along with Road Trip (2000), Starsky & Hutch (2004) and School for Scoundrels (2006) which I didn’t love, has a new movie coming out soon called The Hangover about three dudes (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis) who wake up Dude Where’s My Car-style in Vegas missing the their buddy the groom. You know what else it has? Mike Tyson and Phil Collins together! (kinda). I laughed so hard the very first time I saw the first trailer, I almost couldn’t stop. i then showed it to everyone int he office and laughed as much every time. It’s the one with Tyson punching a dude, amazing. Well, I’m so enthused about this flick I thought I’d provide you with every trailer I could find with a basic search on YouTube. Enjoy!

Haha, of course, I write this whole thing only to find that most of the trailers on YouTube have had embedding turned off. Well, here’s the one I could find, check for links below.

I

Can’t

Wait!