Archive for January, 2012

Haywire

January 31, 2012

Get it, girl.

Steven Soderbergh has a reputation for good work because he only does things that interest him. He didn’t make Ocean’s Eleven because he wanted to make a bunch of money, he made it because he knew he could make a good movie. All of his projects come from a place of “This could be interesting, this could be good.” Does he always succeed? No. He is only human, like you and I, but I can not discount his intent. When it came time for Soderbergh to make an action movie he sought out an actress who could actually accomplish the feats all action movies require and we are all the better for it.

Haywire has been described as a Steven Seagal movie with a female lead. I don’t think everyone has used this comparison in a positive manner. Anyone who has taken time to watch the early theatrical Seagal films knows that those films rule and that Seagal, for a time, was unmatched. Is Steven Seagal a good actor? No, because he has no interest playing anyone but Steven Seagal. If Gina Carano spends the rest of her career playing variations on Gina Carano, a woman who kills people with her thighs, we as society should be so lucky.

The plot of Haywire is classic and simple. Carano has been betrayed by those she trusted and she has to beat and bludgeon her way to the truth. Written by Lem Dobbs, who also wrote The Limey, Haywire‘s story is told in a non-linear fashion which allows the film to start off with a bang and then double back to explain just how Carano found herself beating up Channing Tatum in a diner.

I love the way Soderbergh shoots his action so that it is clear and easy to follow. That last sentence is insane but the last ten years of action movies have made it so. Gina Carano can do all this running and kicking and punching so why hide it? Show your skills to world, make them jealous. Maybe that’s why audiences have come to accept the cut/cut/cut editing style; it let’s them know that what they are seeing isn’t real, Matt Damon can’t really kill a guy with a rolled up Time magazine and neither can they and that is Ok. Well America, Gina Carano can actually chase a man down, run up a wall and crush him with her leg muscles. Deal With It. Since Haywire has acquired a Cinemascore of D+ I can only imagine that audiences left the film feeling lazy and insignificant. If a film makes you reassess your life I think it has done something right.

Is Haywire Steven Soderbergh’s best film? No, but it isn’t a trifle either. Soderbergh’s career is a testament to stretching yourself, trying new things, and being daring. Dude made a 4 hour Che Guevera biopic AND an experimental art film with a porn star. And he still hasn’t made a fucking 3-D movie. BOW DOWN.

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Moneyball

January 27, 2012

With all the new free time I have acquired I am catching up on comics unread and movies unwatched. I have watched some duds, a masterpiece, and a one “Yeah that’s fine but Best Picture? C’mon”. That title belongs to mulitple Oscar nominee Moneyball.

I approach Moneyball as a devout hater of baseball since it is obviously the most boring sport in the world. I have no affection for sports in general but baseball is seriously the most boring shit to watch and play. Most sports have a one or the other thing going on. Soccer is a sweat storm. Football cripples people. Tennis is a full body workout with the added threat of mental breakdown. Have you read David Foster Wallace’s piece on tennis? It’s great, and that is coming from a guy who does not give a shit about tennis. I have friends that love baseball and have dragged me to baseball games and attempted to explain the game, the history and legacy of the players and I can’t bring myself to care. I can appreciate that they care and when I took a tour of the Seattle Mariner’s stadium while on vacation I was moved by the tour guide’s emotional recounting of a historic moment that took place at the field. I did not care about the event but I cared that he cared. With all of this baggage I still decided to watch Moneyball.

The gist of Moneyball is that teams with piles of money can buy the good players and teams with less money are stuck with the dregs of society. Brad Pitt’s Billy Beale teams up with Jonah Hill to fight against this terrible system. Jonah Hill has a couple scenes where he sorta kinda explains what his system is but the film isn’t really that interested in how the system works so I had to just go with the flow. The script is by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin but it never buzzes to life. Brad Pitt is fine but unremarkable and Jonah Hill is even less remarkable which got him an Oscar nomination because the Academy will only recognize comedic actors when they learn to stop making fools of themselves and learn that life isn’t just about having a good time. They have to stop making movies full of dick jokes and star in a respectable movie about men and baseball.

There is a really strange scene early on where Brad Pitt goes to pick up his plot contrivance-I mean daughter from ex-wife Robin Wright. Like all movie ex-wives she has taken up with a man who is nothing at all like the hero; in this case a weenie guy who knows nothing about baseball, portrayed by Spike Jonze. I assume the scene is there to let us know that Billy Beane was too much of a man for this woman who requires a nebbish who probably just reads and exercises by going for walks. HE CAN’T EVEN PRONOUNCE THE PLAYER’S NAMES! GOSH!

There are a couple scenes where Beane calls up other team managers and trades players. These scenes have a playful tone but since I never really understood why anyone was doing anything for any reason beyond the fact that the movie has let me know that Billy Beane is a good guy and all the old people are bad guys it all just plays as bouncy rhythms. That was an Up scene. Oh, this a Down scene. And so on and so forth. Would I be wrong in thinking that Zaillian’s austure epic style watered down Sorkin’s punch-punch-punch style? I’m just saying, Aaron Sorkin wrote a very entertaining tv show based entirely at an ESPN knockoff and a very entertaining movie about Facebook. Is baseball that hard to dramatize? Probably. There are a couple moments where Beane explains to Hill’s Peter Brand that he has to learn how to tell players they have been cut from the roster or traded. Hill is apprehensive but he eventually does tell a player they have been traded and everything goes fine and what was the point of that? “In this scene everyone acts like an adult.” Thrills!

Steven Soderbergh had been developing the film with a greater focus on the statistical elements of the source material, but had the film cancelled out from under him which allowed him to making the awesome Haywire so all is well that ends well, right? I don’t know if a all statistics take on this subject would make for a better movie but it certainly would have been less muddled. Since Moneyball isn’t that interested in the stats or the game itself both get a short shrift over Brad Pitt’s angsty sojourns. How much of Moneyball is just Brad Pitt sitting around, mulling shit over? We even get a long take of him pulling off the expressway to turn his car around. It’s a long take. I am not exaggerating. The film takes time early on to introduce various players, coaches and managers played by Chris Pratt and Philip Seymour Hoffman. These characters do nothing except have short terse conversations that have no payoff. Hoffman’s story arc is essentially sad, pissed, smiling. In other words, a waste of time for one of our greatest actors. Pratt is introduced as catcher who can’t catch who is made into a first baseman but then hits a winning home run so ok? Quite an arc you’ve created there.

Moneyball ends with sigh as we learn that other teams have utilized Beane’s statistical strategy to great success, except for Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s. So does Moneyball really work? Maybe, sorta, a little, not really, yes and no. Ultimately, it’s sports so it doesn’t matter anyway.

The Best Albums of 2011: A list

January 20, 2012

Do you need an introduction? Well, I liked all these albums.

20) Patrick Stump – Soul Punk

Fall Out Boy stan for lyfe. Stump has his Timberlake moment and he nails it. The lyrics are cheesy but that’s because he has no time for winks and artifice. Dude wants to dance, girl.

19) Wild Flag – Wild Flag

Carrie wanted to rock again so she assembled a wrecking crew and done wrecked some shit.

18) Spank Rock – Everything Is Boring and Everyone Is a Fucking Liar

Spank Rock has important things to say and ideas to relate but thankfully he still makes booty jams. Go with what you know.

17) Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

In the Foo Fighter’s documentary Back and Forth, Dave Grohl points out that it was miraculous that There Is Nothing Left To Lose won a Grammy and it was recorded in his basement. He was equally incredulous when Wasting Light was nominated this year since it was recorded on tape in his garage. For his next one he should put Butch Vig in his pantry and Pat Smear in the laundry room.

16) Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – Lost In Translation

A really good rapper who loves to rap about being under appreciated and getting head. Well, someone appreciates you, eXquire.

15) Beyoncé – 4 (Deluxe Edition)

The regular version is fine but you need the deluxe version for the song where she convinces her companion (Hov one presumes) to stay home from the club and makes the point that if he stays home he gets to have sex with Beyoncé. Well played, B.

14) Rival Schools – Pedals

Walter still sounds tougher than he looks and Ian is still a casual guitar god.

13) Justice – Audio, Video, Disco

In a way, Justice are taking a piss. But their interviews are so sincere and they say things like “My favorite book is the Bible” and aren’t kidding. They already did their half ass version of Don’t Look Back and now they’re doing a variation on Boston, except their spaceship crashed.

12) Cut Copy – Zonoscope

Divisive, this one. If In Ghost Colours cured cancer than this one took care of scoliosis.

11) Limp Bizkit – Gold Cobra

Wes Borland saved up all his best riffs and didn’t even use them in his own fucking band. It’s like he knew one day he’d want to put on the ol’ body paint and play “Break Stuff” for the millionth time. Fred Durst is now full on hilarious and lacking in apparently any self awareness, naming a song “Douchebag” and taking it’s chorus to homoerotic realms previously unexplored. He also refers to himself by the name “Polar Bear”, as his rhymes are indicative to the native climate of Siberia.

10) DJ Quik – The Book of David

DJ Quik is the kind of guy who will brag about things that no one else brags or even necessarily cares about. But that’s because Quik only deals in tangibles. He really does play piano, write his own rhymes, and once pistol whipped his sister for black mailing him. Also he still has all of his hair.

9) The Rapture – In The Grace Of Your Love

Jesus saves? Alright, just this once. Seeing as you brought all these jams with you.

8) Win Win – Win Win

Banger city, population: these guys. The Glenn Beck parody is on point too and I don’t generally fux with skits.

7) Das Racist – Relax

They’re still funny but most importantly the beats are fire. I’m not mad they put “Rainbow In The Dark” on it since “Rainbow In The Dark” rules so who gets mad when a good song comes on? Not me, that’s for sure.

6) SebastiAn – Total

SebastiAn took his time putting out his debut album, some might say past the sell by date of this particular sound and style of music, in this case ’07 era blog house filter disco. But that stuff is great! And unlike dubstep you can dance to it. Everybody still likes to dance, right?

5) Lady Gaga – Born This Way

What a thrill to have Lady Gaga finally take her philosophy to making music videos and applying it to her music. That philosophy of course is more, more, more, steal, steal, steal. Love it. Her videos are still shit though.

4) Fred Falke – Part IV

Daft Punk make boring soundtracks now and Mylo won’t come out of his house except to yell at Kylie Minogue so Fred Falke rolled up his sleeves and did the hard work for them. I don’t want to say Fred’s a genius or anything but this thing is front to back bangers so maybe he is. Have him take a test and get back to me.

3) Sloan – The Double Cross

Sloan are great. They made another great album. They’ve taken Diddy’s words to heart.

2) Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne

The first time I listened to this album I thought it was good. Then I listened to it again and I thought it was still good but maybe had some other issues. I went back a third time to check out those issues but also to listen to the three song stretch of “Niggas In Paris”, “Otis”, and “Gotta Have It” which is the best 9 minute stretch of any album this year. I went back a fourth time and really started to enjoy the new lyrics on “That’s My Bitch”. The fifth time through I was in traffic and just kinda vibed with it. The sixth time I listened to it I had taken a break so it was all fresh and new again. Definitely started to appreciate Jay’s fire on “Why I Love You” but had started skipping “Made In America” at this point. On my seventh listen I was more amused than irritated by “Lift Off”, which only exists because Kanye was dying to use that NASA sample. On my eighth listen I pondered why they didn’t figure out some way to work “H.A.M.” into the equation instead of as a bonus track. On my ninth listen I was sure that someone should have told RZA to calm down with the ghostly wails on “New Day” so we could actually hear all of the lyrics. That said, just hearing these guys say “Me and the RZA connect” is treat enough. On my tenth listen I reconciled the fact that even if “Who Gon Stop Me” samples dubstep these guys at least take it’s bludgeoning sound to a logical conclusion and take that shit all the way over the top with Holocaust references, since dubstep is sorta the Holocaust of music scenes.  I just listened to Watch The Throne for fun after that. Good album!

1) Friendly Fires – Pala

Friendly Fires are too pure for this world. Even their sad songs are iridescent dance jams. Ed MacFarlane sings like he might die tonight and we’ve got to make the most of it, right now. “Are you ready, there’s not much time.” “Where are we going?” “I don’t know, but we’re going to dance the whole way!”

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

January 8, 2012

Nerd alert

(Warning: spoilers)

Basically the hipster DaVinci Code, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is David Fincher covering himself, delivering limp rehashes of Zodiac, Seven, and The Social Network, without any of the energy, flair or originality of those films. The plot is boring, the thrills nonexistent. The one chase scene is two vehicles on an empty road that lasts about a minute. Then the car flips over and explodes and everyone goes home. Daniel Craig is insanely miscast as a mega-nerd who bumbles around and says things like “Yeah, I’m a bit out of shape” while displaying a washboard stomach and looking like Daniel Craig. He also has multiple sex partners in the film who are all, “C’mon and fuck me, Daniel Craig!” which of course. The character of Lisbeth Salander is more interesting but the film doesn’t trust the viewer to believe that she would have any interest in solving a mystery even though she is introduced as someone who sleuths for a living so she has a lurid rape scene that is supposed to function as the tie between Salander’s interest in Daniel Craig’s research into a missing girl. Salander’s natural intuitive sense and foresight displayed at the very beginning  of the film when dealing with other plot points that occur at the end are ignored because you gots to have that rape scene apparently. Salander and Daniel Craig spend a lot of time staring at their computers and, unlike The Social Network, this bored me. A killer is eventually revealed and he talks forever before being dispatched because he couldn’t just kill somebody, could he? No, he has to explain himself. Then Lisbeth buys Daniel Craig a jacket and the clerk is all, “Nice jacket” and Lisbeth says, “It’s for a friend.” Sadly, Daniel Craig is back with his girlfriend who is actually married to someone else so Lisbeth throws the jacket in the trash and rides off on her bike AND THAT IS THE END OF THE MOVIE. Does anyone know if he finds the jacket in the trash at the beginning of part 2 and realizes what a jerk he’s been?

I’ve seen some reviews that praise the rape scene which is fucked up, right? If you must have a rape scene in your movie(must you? I doubt it) then don’t mess around with how terrible rape is. Irreversible is pretty much the last word on movie rape scenes because it just sits the camera down for between five to ninety minutes(give or take) and just watches a horrible event unfold. The style is the lack of style but it never takes away from the awful power of the event. Irreversible forces the viewer to reconcile with this terrible act. After sitting through that, the rape no longer functions as just another plot point but a damaging, awful life event that scars the characters forever. In Dragon Tattoo it’s just the impetus to get to the cool revenge scene. Salander before and after is unchanged. The scene is pointless. I rest my case.