Bullet Points: Hot Rounds Of Information Goodness

The_Expendables_3_BTS_Dolph_LundgrenHey, look, Dolph Lundgren’s hanging out on the set of The Expendables 3! [via ComingSoon]

ziyi-zhang-crouching-tiger-hiddenZhang Ziyi is in talks to appear in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II – The Green Destiny alongside fellow returning castmate Michelle Yeoh and franchise newcomer Donnie Yen. Director and fight choreography Yuen Wo Ping (Iron Monkey) will fill in for director Ang Lee. [via ComingSoon]

Neill Blomkamp‘s next film Chappie, about a stolen robot with artificial intelligence now, has an official release date: March 27, 2015. [via Collider]

Focus, a racing-based heist film, brought on Rodrigo Santoro (300: Rise Of An Empire, The Last Stand) to play Will Smith’s boss in the film being directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid Love). [via THR]

dead-snow-posterDirector Tommy Wirkola (Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters) hired a trio of actors for his horror/action flick Dead Snow: Red Vs. Dead which teams up the lone survivor of the first film with a group of zombie hunters called The Zombie Squad. Said actors are Martin Starr (Freaks & Geeks, Party Down), Ingrid Haas (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) and Jocelyn Deboer (College Humor). [via Variety]

watch dogsSony, New Regency and Ubisoft are teaming up to make a movie based on Sony’s November 19th-shipping Watch Dogs. [via Hero Complex]

act of valourThe Bandito Brothers utilized real life Navy SEALS when they filmed Act Of Valor. For the sequel, though, they’re focusing on the adventures of a S.W.A.T. team. Scott Wiper (The Condemned) is writing the script. [via Deadline]

Finally, we lost two icons in the world of films and crime fiction this week. Elmore Leonard, whose adapted novels include Rum Punch (transformed into Jackie Brown by Quentin Tarantino) and Get Shorty, passed on August 20th at the age of 87. Legendary director Ted Post (Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, Magnum Force, Good Guys Wear Black) passed away on the same day at the age of 95. Our thoughts are with the families of these two incredibly prolific individuals.

Canceled TV Cavalcade: Party Down (2009-2010)

I don’t remember exactly when my wife and I tried watching Party Down for the first time. I think it was before we finished Veronica Mars (possibly before we even started) and might have even been while she was still pregnant. We watched the first two episodes of the show about a group of LA carterers who all want to be doing something else and then stopped. I’ll get to why in a bit.

To break things down, you’ve got Ken Marino playing the very enthusiastic boss who wants to own his own salad restaurant franchise, Adam Scott plays a former actor just trying to make ends meet, Lizzy Caplan wants to be a comedian/actress, Martin Starr wants to write hard sci-fi screenplays, Jane Lynch was an actress and Ryan Hansen also wants to be an actor. Each episodes features the gang working some kind of event from a funeral to an NFL draft party and sweet 16s to singles parties. The events themselves lead to various misunderstandings, but there are also overarching stories about these people, their relationships and what’s going on outside of work.

Much like Louie, a show whose first season I watched and wrote about over on my dad blog Pop Poppa, the thing that makes Party Down click for me is how real it gets at times. Sure, there are the usual sticky relationships between some of the caterers, but  there are also some real moments of camaraderie between these people who would otherwise not even know one another.

The moments that got to me the most, though were the ones closest to home. Seeing as how the cast of characters is essentially made up of people trying to follow their very-difficult-to-attain dreams, there are several moments throughout the 20 episode series where they question whether their goals are actually attainable or not. As someone who would love to get his act together and write a book or a screenplay, I can completely relate to this. When is it time to finally give up and move on to a job at the Post Office or something? Or isn’t there a time? The great thing about this series is that, one of these low points actually takes place at an awkwardly planned orgy party.

The reason my wife and I stopped watching Party Down the first time around is because the second episode isn’t very good. The mostly liberal caterers find themselves working a college conservative party that Governor Schwarzenneger is supposed to attend. The political angel is actually fine, but Marino’s arc in the episode is just ridiculous and involves him not only dealing with one ruined flag that’s supposed to be given to the governor, but later taking a different flag, dirtying it on the ground right out in front of the party and accidentally setting it on fire. It sounds like something out of an old slapstick movie. I’ve got no problem with slapstick, but it just doesn’t fit the overall tone of the show and didn’t make me want to keep watching. I know a few other people I’ve talked to stalled out here, but I really recommend powering through or just skipping that one and moving on through the rest of the series.

Who Said Cheaters Never Prosper?

It’s weird how similar two movies can be. Within a short period of time (let’s say a week), I watched two movies about kids cheating their way through school only to get caught or quit at the very end of the movie: Cheats and Slackers, both of which came out in 2002. But the similarities don’t end there. Both feature an actor who was on the amazing Freaks and Geeks (Martin Starr in Cheats, Jason Segel in Slackers). Both also feature a former child star (Matthew Lawrence and Michael C. Maronna who you might know better as the elder Pete from The Adventures of Pete and Pete). There are probably several other similarities between the two movies, but I honestly don’t remember enough about Cheats to comment on them. I just got a kick out of the Freaks & Geeks connection.

So, you should be able to guess that I didn’t like Cheats a lot. I had seen Slackers before and was comparing the two movies in my head the entire time with Slackers coming up in almost every way (and I didn’t even realize Segel was in it). In this one, the boys are in high school and have a principal (played by Mary Tyler Moore) to compete with. She’s threatening to put a mark on their permanent records if they cheat again. This breaks the gang of cheaters up until they come back together for one last big cheat at the end of the movie. The cast is alright and there are some genuinely weird moments where the guys con a teacher’s kid into giving them her grade book in exchange for a hand job from a girl the kid liked at summer camp. Now that I think about it, that’s kinda creepy, isn’t it? The characters are a bit too over the top and the whole permanent record things sounds like it was written for a 10 year old who doesn’t know that such a thing doesn’t really exist (they don’t exist, right?). So, overall if you’re going to watch a movie about cheating, watch Slackers.

Because, damn, this is a funny movie. I don’t rank it up there with my big time favorites like Wedding Crashers or Old School, but it holds up as pretty hilarious. And, thanks to the fact that I haven’t watched it since probably around 2002, I didn’t realize how many cool people are in this movie. I remembered Devon Sawa, James King, Jason Schwartzman and Laura Prepon, but, like I mentioned, had no idea Segel was in it Plus, you’ve got a few other interesting people showing up. The main TA in the movie is played Jim Rash who is now the president on Community. He shares an office with Retta who plays Donna on Park and Recreation. Crazy right? There are also fun cameos by Cameron Diaz and Gina Gershon as ladies who can’t resist some of our main characters.

The story behind Slackers is that, these three dudes have cheated their way through college and are ready to graduate, but Sawa gets on Schwartzman’s bad side when he hits on his crush King. Sawa got sloppy on this cheating op and left some evidence behind which Schwartzman found. He blackmails the guys into helping him get King and he won’t tell the administration about their cheating. Of course, Sawa really falls for the girl, everything gets revealed to everyone, people get upset, but, in the end they come back together for one big cheat and everyone’s happy in the end (the poster is basically the last scene in the movie, which is kind of a spoiler).

Even though the basic plot is nearly identical to Cheats, Slackers carries it off with a lot more charm and brings the funny a lot better. Plus, Schwartzman is just hilarious in this thing, he plays his role “Cool” Ethan 100% honest which makes it all the funnier. He’s kind of like watching a young Michael Scott if Scott was even crazier than he is now. Plus, Segel’s as funny as he always is and there are super weird sexual moments that I won’t spoil that had me laughing. And finally, the scams they pull off in this flick are a lot more complicated and interesting. They seemed real too and got me thinking how much bullshit kids have to deal with in school, all these rules they have to follow and how you can easily get around them with a little ingenuity. Now, I’m not saying cheating is the way to go, but I would definitely hire these guys as spies, assuming they don’t cheat their way through those classes.

Quick Movie Review: Adventureland (2009)

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.