Archive for April, 2010

27 Apr 2010

The two dimensions of 3-D

No Comments Features, Published Work

Na’Vi princess Neytiri zooms past awe struck Jake Sully with speed and grace. Flying high on her majestic and swift Mountain Banshee, she circles one of the countless towering trees in the vast and luminescent Pandora forest. Below her are cascading waterfalls and above her float colossal mountains, engulfed in luscious green vegetation.

That is just a small written description of the world James Cameron created in “Avatar.” While these words can evoke powerful imagery in ones imagination, the added realism of viewing this world in cinematic 3-D provides an extraordinarily engaging experience. For many, according to a story CNN posted this past January, their 3-D journey in Pandora was as real as experiences get; so much so, that many felt depressed when the movie ended and they realized that it was in fact, only a movie.

Putting aside those viewer’s loose grip on reality, this is one example of how far visual storytelling has come and what modern 3-D technology has added to the theater going experience.
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12 Apr 2010

Date Night

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Capitalizing on the talents and chemistry of two of today’s hottest comedic stars and an absurd, yet fast paced adventure, “Date Night,” is, well, the perfect date movie.

Steve Carell and Tina Fey star as a couple forced to go wild in the new comedy "Date Night." Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.

Directed by action/comedy veteran Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian”), “Date Night” follows Phil (Steve Carell, TV’s “The Office”) and Claire Foster (Tina Fey, TV’s “30 Rock”) on the most unusual night of their lives.

Wanting a peaceful, yet memorable date night away from the kids, Phil takes Claire to Manhattan’s newest and most expensive fish restaurant. Not surprisingly, the restaurant is booked for months, so in an act of desperation, the couple takes the reservation of the no-show Triplehorns.  During their extravagant dinner, the couple is pulled away from their meal by a couple of goons-for-hire who mistake the couple for the actual Triplehorns. Now forced to return a flash drive the Triplehorns supposedly stole, the Fosters are thrown into a whirlwind adventure in which much action and hilarity ensues.

With only a half hour separating Carell and Fey on NBC every Thursday night, a meeting of the two was bound to happen sometime. That time has come and boy is it better than anyone could have expected. The combination of Carell’s over-exaggerated comedy, mixed with Fey’s awkward, self humiliating humor is a match made in Hollywood heaven. The Three Stooges, Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, and Eddie Murphy and his flatulence have nothing on these two.

While most action/comedies rely on the situations to draw laughs, “Date Night” relies primarily on the deliverance of the dialogue. Sure, the nightclub scene in which Carell dry humps Fey and then proceeds to lick the stripper pole is hilarious by itself, but it is often the two’s improv during dialogue sequences that make that smile orgasm into laughter. Whether it be Carell responding to insult by calling everyone a whore or Fey talking about farting into shoe-boxes, this seemingly mature film is driven by the most immature humor.

When it comes to directing, Levy has never had much recognizable style, but he is always able to pace his films beautifully. “Date Night” is a comedy filled with action, not an action flick filled with comedy. Keeping that in mind, Levy didn’t throw action sequences in for the hell of it, he used only a few select chase sequences to highlight the evolving mishaps of the Fosters. The Audi-taxi hybrid vehicle race through Manhattan is one unforgettable example.

Not unlike “The Office” and “30 Rock” themselves, this movie is fueled by its supporting cast and cameo appearances. As the real Triplehorns, Taste and Whippit, James Franco (“Milk”) and Mila Kunis (“The Book of Eli”) bring a welcomed “WTF” moment to the film. As two white trash hicks who often argue about how painful nipple clamps can be, their ten minutes of screen time is classic.

In his heavily promoted role as the shirtless stud, Mark Wahlberg (“The Lovely Bones”), brings little to character besides his six-pack abs. Most of the comedy from his scenes comes from Carell commenting on how he will commit suicide if he has to stare at Marky Mark’s perfect pecks any longer.

All in all, “Date Night” is a throwaway flick that just happens to be one of the most entertaining movies of the year.

‘Date Night’
Release Date: Apr. 9
Director: Shawn Levy
Starring: Steve Carell and Tina Fey
Rating: PG-13 for sexual and crude content throughout, language, some violence and a drug reference.
Grade: B+

12 Apr 2010

The Runaways

No Comments Reviews

A thick drop of tomato red liquid splatters against the pavement and a giggling girl is heard in the background. The camera slowly pans up to discover that this liquid is blood, trickling down a teenage girl’s leg. This girl is Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning, “New Moon”) and while she is frantically trying to conceal the evidence of her first period, Marie (newcomer Riley Keough), her paternal twin sister, is laughing hysterically.

Dakota Fanning stars as Cherie Currie and Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett in the music bio-pic "The Runaways." Photo courtesy of Apparation Films.

From the opening moments of “The Runaways,” it is clear that this movie intends to be as raw and real as the songs created by the band for which this film was named after.

Based on Currie’s memoir of her experience with the Runaways in the ‘70s, this movie focuses on the formation, explosive popularity and ultimate collapse of the band. The Runaways were formed from the aspirations of renegade female rocker Joan ‘Jett’ Larkin (Kristen Stewart, “New Moon”) to create an all girl rock band. After meeting famous record producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon, “The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans”), the two gather wanna-be rockers from slummy night clubs, including blonde bombshell Currie. A few months and countless grueling practice sessions later, the rough and rowdy Runaways are the hottest new music sensation.

In her first major film production, director Floria Sigismondi brings an intense feel and look to “The Runaways” that only a non-Hollywood influenced director could. As a former music video director, Sigismondi utilizes techniques she used in making videos for David Bowie, The White Stripes and Muse in this film. Interlacing quick cuts from actors to environment, close-ups of characters faces and strong, prominent colors to accentuate the mood, this movie is as much of a visual experience as it is a musical one.

Like seemingly every other music bio-pic though, the film’s downfall comes in its clichéd story. If Hollywood’s idea of how every band or musicians rise and fall is actually true, then there must be some holy checklist that the rest of us are unaware of. If such a checklist were to exist, aspiring musicians must: know (or blow) someone to get a producer that might eventually back-stab you, grow in popularity way too quickly, start using heavy drugs, participate in sexual activities that throw your relationships into turmoil, lose friends and family trust, overdose on said drugs or sex and finally overcome your demons to discover your true purpose in the industry. There’s really nothing to it!

Regardless of the true story, which is what it is, “The Runaways” is powered by gritty and authentic performances from Stewart, Fanning and especially Shannon.

As the don’t-take-any-shit emo guitarist/singer Joan Jett, Stewart nails the role with her laid back approach. Channeling a cocky yet sympathetic attitude, while being able to belt out the famous gruff vocals, Stewart’s impersonation was spot-on. It probably didn’t hurt having Miss Jett on the set to help coach her performance.

As the 15 turning 16 year-old Cherie, Fanning’s journey into womanhood is captivating. The least confident of the punk girl group, her rollercoaster ride to the top of the music charts turns this naive yet somewhat rebellious teenager into a parent’s worst nightmare. In highlighting the effects of sudden popularity, Fanning proves her acting chops reach way beyond the majority of her “Twilight” co-stars.

Empowering females aside, it is Shannon as the eccentric and scarily confident Fowley that steals the show. After “Bug,” his Oscar nominated role in “Revolutionary Road” and now “The Runaways,” Shannon is officially Hollywood’s go-to crazy guy. As if he was the ego of rock music himself, Fowley’s unique approach to producing was not to be questioned.  In trying to rile the girls up he shouts, “Rock n’ Roll is a blood sport… It’s for people in the dark, the death cats, the masturbators, the outcasts who have no voice, no way of saying I hate this world… I want an orgasm!” We have an early frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor people.

Memorably capturing the essence of the ‘70s punk-rock era and the strong feminist push through powerful performances, “The Runaways” is an indie flick that growls with vivacity.

‘The Runaways’
Release Date: Mar. 19 (limited), Apr. 9 (semi-wide)
Director: Floria Sigismondi
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning and Michael Shannon
Rating: R for language, drug use and sexual content – all involving teens.
Grade: B+

09 Apr 2010

Podcast: Hot Tub Time Machine

No Comments Podcast Reviews, Reviews

This week on Movies and the Briss, Jay, co-host Jennie Lindquist and special guest critic Casey O’Lear, Arts & Entertainment Editor for the Nevada Sagebrush, discuss the newest raunchy comedy “Hot Tub Time Machine.”

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Photo courtesy of MGM Pictures.

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09 Apr 2010

Podcast: Chloe

No Comments Podcast Reviews, Reviews

This week on Movies and the Briss, Jay and guest critic Anna Belickis talk about the new erotic/thriller “Chloe.” For Jay’s written review of the film, click here.

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Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

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