Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Everybody Wants Some!!   Leave a comment

Fresh off directing one of the most ambitious films ever made, Richard Linklater moves on from Boyhood to young adulthood with Everybody Wants Some!! Titled after the great Van Halen song, Linklater pens a fun and honest look at college life in 1980. Many events in the film are loosely based off Linklater’s experiences as a college freshman athlete.

Our wide-eyed main character Jake starts us off driving down the highway in a ’72 Oldsmobile coupe blasting “My Sherona” before he anxiously arrives at his Texas-based college he’ll be attending for the next four years. Right off the bat we get well acquainted with his housemates/baseball teammates he’ll be living with for the next four years. Linklater smoothly introduces us to a slew of colorful characters that we’ve all probably met before throughout our own college experiences. As different as everyone might seem, there is a fun instant chemistry among the guys. Two evident things they can all agree on is that baseball and chasing tail are the current main priorities in life. One great scene early on is with some of the guys in the car looking for girls to invite to their upcoming party while singing along to every word of The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” I thought if this were today, most people would just be in the back seat texting. This is a time where people engaged with other humans because that’s all there was and I think the film really delivers on romanticizing the benefits of not having constant distractions in our lives. I love that there really isn’t one recognizable actor in this film. They all just look like guys you’d see in college. Not to take anything away from their performances of course, but I’m amazed how Linklater continually casts really genuine people which gives every one of his films a very genuine feel.

I guess “Everybody Wants Some!!” is being compared to his 1993 classic “Dazed and Confused” and rightly so. It only takes place a year after “Dazed” and the loose plot structures are similar. Both films focuses on short time frames. “Dazed” follows several students on the last day of school and ends after a late night party and “Everybody” takes place in the course of a weekend right before classes start. I still feel that both movies have their own swag. College just has a different feel than high school. Some student’s motives are similar like getting trashed and chasing tail, but these characters have more of a sense of who they are or who they’re likely going to be. In high school nobody knows squat. I liked the wise upperclassman character, Finn, who accepts that he most likely won’t play professional baseball but wants to appreciate it while it lasts. Most of the guys are in the same boat as well. They know that they’ve got it good right now being the scholarship athletes they are, but they understand that they’re peons when it’s all over. Call me a youngling, but I also found it fascinating that 18 was legal drinking age in 1980. So of course college wins over high school here.

Everybody Wants Some!! may not pan out to be the cult classic Dazed and Confused has become but I think it’s still a relevant observation of the high rolling college life of 1980. Regardless of the decade you grew up in, there’s a fun atmosphere this movie gives off that’s irresistible. Linklater captures all the subtle details from guys just hanging out talking about records to the cruel hazing that goes on for college freshmen. It also features one of the funnest  soundtracks I’ve heard in years: The Knack, Blondie, Van Halen, Dire Straits, and the Sugar Hill Gang captures the turn of the decade beautifully. And much like the soundtrack Everybody Wants Some!! is a well crafted and sensible adventure of the unknown transitions we all find ourselves stumbling through in life. I highly recommend this comedy as a great end of summer movie watch.

Miles Ahead of the Norm   2 comments

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Moments before Miles Ahead graced the silver screen I sat in an empty theater with my mind racing with anticipation. I was excited, nervous, mostly embarrassed that I was the only twenty something in town interested in seeing a Jazz biopic. But there were bigger fish to fry here.

As a music biopic junkie this is the white whale I’ve been waiting for. Ever since I discovered the incredible works of Miles Davis during my sophomore year of high school I knew there had to be a great movie somewhere in his life. I’ve always considered his work a catalyst for opening up my taste in music and always thought a movie would have the same influence on the rest of the world. Easy enough.

At around the same time I was being blown away from hearing “Kind of Blue” for the first time, the smash hit biopic of Ray Charles was released. Yes it was somewhat depressing and hard to watch such a beloved artist do such un-PG-like things, but the music was fun, and Jamie Foxx was absolutely electric as Ray. A year later Johnny Cash’s biopic Walk the Line would follow in the same successful fashion. Jon Stewart called it a great remake of “Ray with white people.” Biopics were hot.

Its been over ten years since those movies came out and the music biopic genre has sort of been beaten to death with every cliche imaginable. I mean, did anyone really say to themselves, “Yes, we need a Bobby Darin movie!” or “Hey, I think Mark Anthony and J-Lo would absolutely kill it as Hector Lavoe and his wife!” But they keep coming and they keep sucking. Sometimes we get a treat like I’m Not There Yet or Get On Up, but as entertaining as they may be it’s still hard to escape the dreaded cliches of a music biopic. They even made a movie called Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story which perfectly pokes fun at every cringe worthy trope the genre has to offer: messed up childhood, rise to success, downfall to drugs, infidelity, and then a cheery recovery.

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This is where my nervousness for Miles Ahead comes into play. To be honest I never thought this movie would get made or even wanted it after all this time. I recall Don Cheadle being attached to direct, write, and star in this project for nearly a decade. He seemed like a perfect choice to play Miles. He had the look, range and the coolness down perfectly. But what studio would want to push a biopic of a Jazz musician that the average film goer probably hasn’t even heard of? The backing for the film was definitely an issue, but not as much as Cheadle’s unclear vision for this passion project. He knew an artist like Miles deserved more than just a run-of-the-mill crapfest we’ve seen time after time. And Mr. Cheadle made damn sure that wasn’t the case.

After pitching around ideas with the Davis family, Cheadle finally realized that the most important thing that this film needed to get right was the essence of Miles Davis. In the first scene we see an old Miles lecturing his interviewer: “If you’re gonna tell a story, come with some attitude. Don’t be all corny with this s***.” Suddenly I felt confident this was going to be something different.

We start off in the five year silent period of Miles Davis when he stopped releasing new material. He’s secluded himself into a hermit lifestyle in a messy New York apartment battling a creativity block of epic proportions. Aside from a few flashbacks this is about as historically accurate as the film gets right and deliberately so.

From there we’re introduced to David Brill (Ewan McGregor), a fictional Rolling Stone writer, peskily trying to get the inside scoop on Miles’s silence. They eventually become accomplices. Through this relationship we get some insight on Miles’s past flashing back to his genius work as a young composer and the struggles with his relationships and drug addiction throughout the years. While the flashbacks can tend to feel a bit cliche they blend appropriately with what Miles is dealing with in his current state as a tortured artist. We then find out there’s a secret tape session that Miles may have worked on at Columbia Records. Word gets out about this tape and people want it. Bad people. This is where the movie takes a real left turn. It’s now become a straight up caper with gangsters and gunfights.

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In the midst of all this absurdity, involving one of my music heroes engaging in drive-by shootings that never really happened, I found myself completely immersed in all of it. Thanks to Don Cheadle’s masterful portrayal of Miles and his debut work behind the camera which is nothing short of brilliant. It all works on the same level that Davis’s music works; It’s brilliant but it’s always on the move looking for unique change. The 100 minute flow of Miles Ahead mirrors this exactly. Ewan McGregor mentioned in a real Rolling Stone interview, “It’s less a Miles biopic than an attempt to cast Miles in a caper flick that he *might* like to have been part of.” That’s a hell of a way to change it up.

Miles Ahead may not be perfect in every capacity, but it’s totally committed to what it set out to do. The music selection represents Miles’s essence spot on and is complimented by superb shooting from debut director Don Cheadle. And while some may have problems with the authenticity of the story, it never fails to be an interesting glimpse into the mind of a true genius. “Let’s be musical about this s***. Be wrong strong, otherwise lay the f*** out,” says Cheadle as Davis coaching his band before a studio recording. Thus sums up the ambition of this film perfectly. Miles Davis would eventually make his come back in the early 80’s experimenting with something different, engaging, and miles ahead of the norm.

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HOOKed on Blu-Ray   2 comments

November 1st will most likely mark the pinnacle of my life. Sadly, it will only go down from there. Weddings and child births will just be blips on the radar compared to something I like to call “Hook on Blu-Ray Day.”

This December marks the 20th anniversary of its theatrical release. I was only 5 years old when I saw it on the big screen, but it’s still one of my most vivid and cherished memories. I can even remember before the feature presentation, they played MC Hammer’s “Addams Groove” music video to promote the modernized Addams Family remake. I don’t know why that stuck with me, but it did, and that’s what makes this memory even more awesome.

It amazes me how many people my age still have fond memories of Hook. It also amazes me how many negative reviews were written upon its release. To those reviewers, you remind me of what happen to Peter Pan when he grew up. He lost his sense of fun and fearless attitude. He forgot how to fly, or a better example, he became an adult. So think about what you’ve done, you angry overpaid critics.

As a blu-ray guru I’ve been waiting for this news for quite some time now. If Steven Spielberg’s current track record of high-definition transfers are any indication of what’s to come, then Hook fans are in for a real treat. The 1080p picture will make us think we’re watching it for the first time. Kind of like Peter finding his happy thought again. Bangarang!

David Fincher: Officially “Sunday Nighted” as the New Scorsese and I Hate Blogging   3 comments

Hang in there Davey...

I really hate blogging, but once in every blue moon I’ll have a thought that’s so compelling to me that I won’t know what to do with it. So probably for the second time in my life I’ll forfeit my pride and join the billions of discontent individuals who have no better expressive outlets than to type away their frustrations for all the world to hear or be jeered. So here it goes:

Tom Hooper, just shy of 40 and a first time nominee has won himself an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Directing for The King’s Speech. The film also snagged three other major awards (Best Picture, Actor, Original Screenplay). Now, I don’t want to take anything away from Hooper’s work or the film itself. I loved everything about it. In fact, weeks leading up to the Oscars I was pulling for The King’s Speech to upset The Social Network, directed by David Fincher, which was probably the best reviewed and what seemed like the most heavily awarded film of the year. I was OK that King’s Speech won best picture, but as they announced Tom Hooper’s name for best director, something didn’t sit well with me. I though this was what I wanted. But I felt enraged and could almost hear Sam Quint from Jaws say out of frustration, “HOOPER!!!” I thought American film lovers just found a new guy to hate for robbing our beloved Fincher of his first Academy Award win. Besides, who is this Tom Hooper? All he’s really known for is directing a few descent mini-series (John Adams, Elizabeth I). The truth is it’s hard to hate a guy we’ll probably forget in a year. All we’ll really remember is Fincher didn’t win.

And it’s a real shame, because although, The Social Network may not be the best picture of the year, prior to its pre-production, the novel on which it was based was clearly on paper an untellable story to translate to film. So considering all that had to be plotted out and orchestrated for a remotely interesting story to come across on screen, you would think that it had no business turning out as good as it did. Fincher turned unorganized facts about an accidental billionaire into a deliberately stunning American achievement in the craft of direction and it truly is a travesty that a Brit swooped in and took an award away from a guy whose had more than just a few cracks at it. It felt like an athlete we were all rooting for had just lost in the Olympics and we’ll probably have to wait another four years for another shot.

I am glad though that Fincher is starting to get the recognition he deserves to at least be nominated, because he’s really been making Oscar-caliber films for over a decade and has always seemed to fly just under the radar. His films Seven (1995) and Fight Club (1999) were instant cult classics and are now are praised as two of the best thrillers of the 90’s, but not much love from the Academy at the time. It wasn’t until 2009 with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Fincher earned his first Oscar nomination, but lost to Danny Boyle’s heavily favored Slumdog Millionaire which also took home the Best Picture category.

I really hope Fincher’s career doesn’t pan out to mirror the legendary Martin Scorsese who started directing in 1963 and built an impressive resume with four Oscar nominations for Best Director but came up short on all of them until he finally won on his fifth nomination with the 2006 mafia crime thriller, The Departed, also a Best Picture winner.

Whether Fincher ever wins an Oscar or not shouldn’t matter and I’m clearly over obsessing about the issue, but he already has built himself a legacy that any multi-award winning director couldn’t buy. Fincher touches the audience in very unique ways that make people say, “Hey, it’s a David Fincher film. I’ve gotta see this one when it comes out.” Let’s hear the Tom Hooper fan club say that much about their front-running director.

And now I’m tired and I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing. And this is why I hate blogging.